Anna slid down the wall to sit where the desk had been. Carla held her stance, her gun still drawn. “Now, absolute quiet,” she ordered softly.

We did our best to comply. These Zombies were more aggressive. Weren’t they supposed to just move on? That’s the way it was in the movies, right?

It took all of Jared’s and my muscle to keep the door and barricade still. Eventually, mercifully, they did leave.

When we were sure they were out of earshot, Carla said, “Sorry, guys. I have to save these batteries.” She shut off her flashlight and we were in utter darkness once again. “Who knows how long we will be in here?” came her voice from the blackness. “We’ve got to have light in case of emergencies.”

“Jared...” Anna said, and there was a little movement. He went over her to her and I heard him whisper quietly to her that everything would be okay. A good kid. Tough kid. Glad we had him on our side.

Carl found my hand and held on. Her hand was sweating; so was mine.

“My brother’s coming,” I said. “I can feel it.”

“Call him.”

“Cell’s not working, you know that.”

“It wasn’t working, but maybe now it is.”

Still holding her hand with my right—I was reluctant to release it—I took my cell out with my left and looked at it. “It’s got a bar or two.”

“Try it.”

I did and, amazingly, Joe picked up.

“Joey!” It took all my restraint to keep my voice to an exited whisper. “Where are you?”

“On my way, bro,” he answered. “Figured you were at the observatory. I’m halfway up the hill. Am I right?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “But listen, Joe, it’s not safe here. We’re barricaded in, and locked up—”

The line went dead.

“Shit. Fucking hell.”

“Quiet, baby,” said Carla, gripping my hand tighter. And hearing her own term of endearment settled me down.

Had my brother heard my warning? I didn’t know, but he would be here in less than ten minutes. I had to figure out a way to get him in. God only knew what was going on outside, but it sure as hell wasn’t safe in here, either.

Chapter Thirty-eight

“Jack? Jack, are you there?”

The call dropped. Crap.

“What?” Mike asked.

“He’s trapped in the observatory, and the crazies are there. that’s all I heard before I lost him.” Joe was on fire now. Joe, who was driving, hit the gas harder. “We need a plan now. I bet they’ve locked themselves in.”

“Who’s with him?” Mike asked.

“I don’t know. I hope Anna is, and her boyfriend, probably. Honestly, I don’t know.”

“Okay,” Mike said. “Pull over, dude.”

“Pull over? Are you crazy?”

“Listen,” Mike took a tone of authority. “Pull over for just a second. If we’re going in there, we need to be prepared. That means armed. If the crazies are there, we can’t waste time getting ammo out of the back. We need to move in with guns firing.”

Made sense. A ton of sense. Joe stopped the car in the middle of the street and they jumped out. Went to work.

“Lock and load.”

Trained as they were, it took less than five minutes to lock and load everything they could carry.

They continued on to the observatory.

Chapter Thirty-nine

“So, he knows you’re here,” Carla offered.

“Yeah, but I didn’t get a chance to tell him everything. If I know him, he’ll burst in like Yosemite Sam, guns blasting. He doesn’t know what he’s walking into.”

“Daddy,” Anna said. “If he’s going to be here in a few minutes, we need to cover him. Make sure he’s okay, you know?”

Carla wasn’t having any of this. She switched on her flashlight again, and I could see she was angry. “Jack, we have no idea how many of them are out there. It’s suicide to leave this room right now.”

“And it would be murder to leave my brother out there.”

I knew Carla was thinking of protecting all of us, but I’d be damned if I was going to leave my kid brother outside. I had to let him in. And Mike, too, if he was with Joey.

“I’m with you, Dad.” Anna was firm. “Family is family. What about the democratic vote?”

Carla fumed. Jared was quiet as usual.

“All right,” I said. “Whoever wants to go outside and get my brother, raise their hands.”

Carla was the only one who didn’t, but she was resigned to stay with the consensus.

“Fine,” she said. “This is how we’ll do it. “It’s the safest way. My way.”

We removed the desk as quietly as we could and listened for movement outside the office. Nothing. I was to go first, with the keys for the front door. Jared behind me, then Anna, and Carla in back covering us all. We had to be quiet, and hope that Joe was wise enough to be as well.

I crept through the hallways, staying low in a combat crawl. Finally, I got to the front to wait for Joe and Mike and be ready to cover them.

I waited at the main entrance, ready to unlock the door. Soon, I saw headlights through the thick fog, then an official-looking SUV pull up to the steps.

Thank God. I could just barely see two people in the car. Mike was with him. That was better. As I’d predicted, they got out bearing arms. Armed to the hilt. They searched the premises. Of course, there were Zombies roaming around. Within close proximity, they took down about seven.

They couldn’t have known. They couldn’t possibly have known that the shots would stir those inside.

I unlocked the door, hands shaking. I could hear them coming from all around within the large building, but I couldn’t see them.

Carla started firing, and then Jared did, too. Joe and Mike sprinted up the stairs. I let them in and relocked the door.

Anna screamed at that moment and another shot fired.

Joe and Mike were armed, but it was dark and they didn’t know where everyone was. They didn’t want to fire at the wrong person.

There was no time for polite greetings. “Follow me.” I now trotted down the dark hallway. “It’s us, Carla.” I tried not to speak too loudly. “Me, Joe, and Mike.”

Anna ran to Carla’s side, and Jared followed. We were right behind them but the zombies somehow got between Anna and Carla.

There were dozens of them. Where had they come from? The place must not be secured, I thought from the back of my mind as I tried to rally around them to get to Anna. She was backing herself into a corner, the worst thing she could have done.

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