We counted five, but every moment we waited in the Land Rover their number added. Each wondering in and out of the house like they owned the place. One thing was for sure, there was no frantic activity, whatever had happened was hours ago.
“Where now?” McCole said.
“Nowhere,” I said turning to Cassie as I held her hands between the two compartments. “We have to check inside, they could be hiding somewhere, scared to come out,” I said keeping my eyes on Cassie, not letting her lose hope. She nodded, widening her eyes and McCole didn’t complain, with his pale skin and laboured breath, he was in no position. I drove slowly, the cold wind still blowing through my missing window, I kept the sealed up window of the passenger side between me and those things as we rolled passed the house to get a better look, drawing out any more that lingered to trap our friends. We counted eight that took up to follow, who snaked around the corners as I kept our pace slow, Cassie watching out the back, my eyes ahead waiting to race off from any launching side on attack we had hope of defending.
Driving as far as we could stomach, Cassie heaved open the back door and mentored by McCole, spent a full clip despatching the tail in our wake. This time with speed, we were back outside the house, a tire iron and a small shovel in our hands, not wanting to draw them near with the thunder of the guns. We left McCole with the engine running, his gun aimed through the back window.
Inside the house was quiet, but the smell was anything but. It reeked with that stink I never wanted to get used to, the forewarning stench that could mean only one thing in this new world. The hallway was littered with bodies, Cassie peering close to my shoulder, our eyes trying to get as much information as they could so we could be sure it wasn’t one of our friends, her family, laying with their heads bashed in. We stepped over three bodies, blood thick and long congealed, but fresh blood too, someone who’d been defending themselves, their trail, their handprints up along the walls, heading to the kitchen and we followed.
The trail stopped among the scattered contents of the kitchen cabinets littering the floor, the fridge upended, barring the shallow larder cupboard which I’d found empty of anything of use. I paused looking on at the wooden door, heard something behind the wood and realised why the fridge was in front, looking up when movement creaked on the boards above, my finger to my lips as I took my place in front of Cassie. Together we scanned the dining room to find everything as we left it, out meagre supplies still in the centre of the table untouched. They’d had no time to collect them up before leaving, or before, but stopped myself from thinking any further.
Movement above again cut my search short, the small bathroom was empty, despite the splash of blood up the door, the living room window still barred and the light blocked by the great wall unit. Nat’s discarded, blooded bandages were still on the floor and the pieces of the puzzle locked into place. The floorboards creaked directly above.
Each step groaned with my weight, my head upturned as I summited to the top floor. Dark patches stained the floral carpet, they weren’t there when we left in the morning. The door to the bedroom where Zoe had been so protective of Nat was closed. The master bedroom where I’d changed was open, where Cassie and I had made our connection, there was no one waiting to attack, the bed almost fresh, but Cassie didn’t follow. She was in the kids bedroom and her tears were easy to hear, but when I arrived the room was empty, covers thrown to the side.
The bathroom door was left wide, the sink stained pink, but otherwise there was no sign, leaving just the one door unopened, the one room where we knew danger lurked.
All was not as I’d expected, Nat was there but it was just her body standing, eyes white and sunken in her sockets. A quick look around the room told me Zoe had not been taken, hadn’t suffered the same fate. I did the deed, saying goodnight as I caught her body and laid her to rest, covering her with a sheet from the bed.
It felt so wrong leaving the house, felt like I was abandoning them, like I was leaving my last connection to my friends. Where had they gone? The question rattled around my head as we rolled along, Cassie unable to add anything to my self questioning, despite my assurances they’d got out alive. She couldn’t take her eyes from looking out from the rear door as we rumbled along the road and out of sight.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One