“Right, I forgot. What do you want to do about him? We can’t bring him to...you know.” He didn’t want Cole to know where they were going.

“Leave him here?” Mike asked.

“Please, God, no,” Cole said.

“Shut up,” they both hissed.

“We could drop him off somewhere,” Joe suggested, “but I don’t even trust him in the car with us.”

“We could cuff him,” Mike offered. “I never knew how handy handcuffs could be.”

“Yeah. But we need to move fast. Find a good vehicle, load it up with ammunition, and be on our way.”

“I could help you,” Cole tried again. “I’ve been reading all the reports and communications. I know a lot.”

“The thing is,” Mike said, “we can’t trust you. We tried that. We saved your life, we trusted you, and what did you do?”

“But you can’t just leave me stranded somewhere, unarmed.”

“Oh, but I think we can,” Mike smiled. He tossed the handcuffs to Joe.

Joe caught them and turned to the Agent in Black. “Hands behind your back.”

Chapter Thirty-one

I knew the park’s side roads like the back of my hand.

I tore up the winding pavement, hugged curves, leaving dust in my wake. Even if Anna and company were safe, I had to see with my own eyes.

Finally, I pulled up to the observatory’s top parking lot. What I saw was worse than anything I could have imagined.

Carla’s patrol car was parked just below the main steps to the great building. She was fumbling with the keys, it seemed, to unlock the front door. Anna and Jared stood to either side of her. The undead, at least a dozen, were slowly climbing the steps.

I pulled my truck up beside Carla’s car. The trio saw me but dared not let their guard down. I honked my horn. Long and loud. The zombies paused and turned in my direction.

“Daddy, no!” Anna screamed. They turned back to her.

I honked again, this time longer. I got their attention back. I honked again and again. I opened my door and stood on the running board. “Hey, assholes!” I hollered. “Over here!” I reached a foot up to the steering wheel and started honking again.

I got what I wanted. They were leaving Anna alone. And Jared and Carla.

I got back into the truck and started loading. Good thing these guys were slow. I had time to load three of the guns. If my hands weren’t shaking so badly, I could have had all four. Three would have to do.

The zombies came closer...and closer.

Although the fog barely reached this level, it was still there and difficult to see. I had a weapon in each hand. When they got close enough, I started firing. Straight for their heads....and away from my daughter and others.

The shots echoed loudly. If any normal person had been around, they would have called the cops. But nobody was crazy enough to come up here. Not now. The public had been warned. Nobody was here except us.

I missed a couple of precious shots and cursed.

Focus, Carter, focus.

One of them was a woman with a gashed neck and blood oozing down. A woman? There went that theory of Anna’s. Splat. Her brains were gone. I turned to the next and did the same. There were too many of them. They just kept coming. How many bullets did I have left?

“Jack!” It was Carla, on the other side of them. “I can’t see you. I don’t want to fire in your direction.”

“Get inside!” I hollered. “Get Anna safe!”

I guess hearing my voice was enough for Carla because she started firing at the ones to my left. I heard more shots on my right; that must have been Jared. So much for listening to me.

There was no time to argue. I whirled around just in time and fired almost point blank. Blood and brain and bone splattered on me.

I took out three more. That these had once been people, neighbors, tourists and even friends, was too horrific to imagine now. Thank God I didn’t recognize anyone. I heard Carla and Jared firing, firing...and then silence. The zombies were gone or dead.

I came around to the other side of the truck where I could see them. Bodies spread out on the ground, everywhere. Then...

“Anna, duck!”

She hit the ground as the three of us pointed our weapons in her direction at once, and took out another one.

Now my daughter was in my arms. She had an iron rod and she was covered with blood. Holy hell.

“Quiet,” I ordered. We stood still. No movement. I glanced at Carla, who was amazingly calm. “Is it unlocked?”

“Yes.”

“Inside. Now. Everyone.”

“I’ve got food and water—”

Carla jerked her head to her patrol car.

I nodded. “Good. We’ll get it. Anna and Jared, get up there. We’ll bring the food inside.”

Jared grabbed her hand and pulled her up the stairs.

Carla had been thorough. She’d thought of food, water, first aid, even a deck of cards. It took two trips for us to carry everything up the stairs. Jared opened the door just long enough to bring the bags inside.

We were just getting the second load together when we heard more crazies in the distance.

“Come on,” I said. We rushed up the steps. Carla tripped, dropping a case of water. Bottles scattered down the stairs. I rushed my load to Jared and then went back to help Carla. Water was our most precious commodity; if the observatory was really closed up, the drinking fountains might not be working.

Outside, they were coming closer. Another fifteen or so. How did this happen so fast?

“Leave the rest,” I told her. She picked up one more and we dashed for the entrance.

Inside, Carla relocked the door. All the doors and windows were glass in the observatory, but they had strong brass crisscrosses barring the way for any intruders. We all collapsed in the main entry, breathing hard.

Anna found her way over to me. “I thought you’d died,” she told me. “Dad, I thought you were gone for sure.”

“Not me.” I tried to sound brave. “I’m not going anywhere, angel.” She snuggled up to me. Rested her head on my shoulder. I could see Jared had conflicted emotions. He wanted to comfort her. Or, more likely, he probably wanted the comfort of his own parents. The thought of his parents worried me all over again.

I held my daughter until we heard movement on the steps outside.

“They’re here,” whispered Carla.

The observatory was dark. Whoever had left last hadn’t taken time to set the alarm. That was good for us. We had to move, though. No more time for comfort.

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