Trays of food sat empty on their red-and-white plastic tablecloths. Garbage bags filled with floral-patterned paper plates and clear plastic knives and forks sat tied up ready to go to the dump. Gunther-Billy lifted one muscled arm and checked his watch. “It’s time to go. Where are the children, Sherry?”
Sherry frowned, “rememberin’ the dead takes time, GB.”
“So does killing ‘em,” GB noted in his flat affect. “We have a plan to leave at 1300 hours, and it is currently twelve-hundred and forty.”
“They’ll be back,” Sherry insisted.
Skinny Tammy stepped forward, shaking out her bleached-blonde hair, her t-shirt tied up underneath her ample bosom to show off her flat tummy. Sherry tried to love all people, but Skinny Tammy seemed determined to make life miserable for anybody smarter than she was, which was everybody, but especially Sherry. “Sherry doesn’t wanna admit that she wrecked the whole plan by cow-towin’ to two deadhearts. They’ll all be gone by the time you boys get there.”
“Shut up, Tammy! If they’re gone, big success, right? We scared ‘em off!”
GB lifted one hand from his assault rifle and pushed an imaginary block to the side. “If the enemy evacuates, we’ve only pushed the problem off to wherever they set up camp again. If they’re vying to confiscate our guns at the state level it won’t matter where they go. Our mission is to eliminate the threat, not displace it.”
“I want to know why they left their dog,” Jimmy shouted over the growing tension. All eyes turned to him, tapping the butt of his gun on the window as a figure whined and cowered in the other corner. “This is one strange animal – missin’ one of everything. He even qualified to protect against zombies?”
Skinny Tammy marched up and looked inside. “Shoot ‘im!”
A few guns rose, but the clamor died just as quickly. Violence-starved men were eager to cast a villain and take him down, but a crippled dog didn’t match the part. Tammy bit her lip as the adulation was cut short. Reluctant to let it stop, she changed tacks and leapt like a cheerleader. “Are we gonna kill these zommies!?”
“Yeah!” shouted the crowd.
Jimmy’s eyes widened in a silent eureka. “They left the dog because he does attack zombies! This is a good dog who don’t truck with their evil ways, so they left him behind!”
Then Sherry knew she’d been lied to. Her whole community would remember that she was the one that ruined this effort. Skinny Tammy would make sure they never forget. Sherry raised her voice. “They ain’t expectin’ y’all fer another ten minutes. Go now. You can still surprise ‘em.”
GB left and swapped his assault rifle for a sniper before leading the way up the mountain. Sherry drove her scooter up to Jimmy. Skinny Tammy stood there stupidly, scowling at Sherry for stealing the spotlight that, by rights, should always be focused on her.
“Where’s yer kid, Tammy? Make sure he ain’t runnin’ off into the fight with his daddy.”
Skinny Tammy’s stupid thick lips formed an “oh,” and she rushed off to find little Ray.
“Jimmy,” Sherry took her husband’s emaciated arm in hers and looked into his eyes. “Did you eat somethin’?”
“I had some mac ‘n’ cheese an’ a little pork belly,” he mumbled.
“Good boy. Now gimme a kiss.”
His Doberman Jesse beside him, GB lay on his belly at the top of Forsythe summit and peered through his rifle scope in the general direction of the zombies’ alleged location. It didn’t take long to spy a simple red barn. In short order, one of the girls stepped out, pushing the other in her wheelchair. GB had no conception of what would make a person a deadheart. He’d seen a TV show about cults that worshipped monsters and figured maybe these kooks were part of something like that. It was his best guess.
Kooks or no, deadhearts themselves were people, and GB left killing people in Afghanistan. If the zombies were trying to sneak away, his goal was to make chaos so that didn’t happen. He had one shot before they knew they needed to be hiding and darting between cover, so he would use it wisely. If the zombies were smart, they had a structure. If they had a structure they had a leader. He estimated it’d be about twenty minutes until the rest of the tappers made it to the site. If he could pick out the leader in that time and take him out, then maybe the ground troops could hunt the rest down.
The zombie who followed them out the door looked almost comically small and skinny, like a skeleton wearing a zombie suit. He needed a shorthand to keep track of candidates for his assassination. He’d call this one “Skelly.” Skelly followed the deadhearts out and they cupped their hands to their faces like megaphones, seeking the attention of the other zombies. Too far to hear what they were saying.
GB panned down to look at the ground troops’ progress. He’d accounted for a brisk walk, but they were sprinting down the trail. They had nearly made it to the graveyard. He adjusted his estimate. Five minutes to arrival. Meeting with humans didn’t make Skelly the leader. They could be calling the real leader now. He knew nothing, and he was out of time. In moments, the ground team would send them scattering.
“I am such a moron, Jesse,” he mumbled, “I shoulda been up here for hours getting intel instead of down there enjoying the food. Everybody makes these raids look so easy.”
He watched as a fat zombie, “Fatso” arrived, then one that looked like he was wearing some kind of green fuzzy jumpsuit, “Fuzzy.” Did the odd clothing signify rank? The ground team reached the graveyard. Any moment, they’d start shooting or someone would see them. Now or never.
“Live and learn, Jesse. It’s the best we can do.” GB brought Skelly’s head into his sights and squeezed the trigger.
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