The ride back to the ranch stayed sedate, despite the unprecedented amount of firearms and ammunitions Devon’s new team had gathered. Devon and Emily rode in the front with his acquired hummer. Dells and Fosters followed close. After Becca’s death, Dells had acted like he might not be balanced. Devon has half expected the Land Rover to pull off into the burning desert, but such did not occur.
They found a few stray zombies along the way and Devon insisted they all be put down. If they were heading toward their ranch, he’d rather try to minimalize any random surprises. What had taken Emily and him hours, took the vehicles a surprisingly short time and before the sun had started its decent, Devon found himself approaching the ranch.
As they drove into the compound, Emily and Devon shared a look that made words unnecessary.
Almost all their vehicles were gone. Strangely, one of the only vehicles left was the monster sized ford that Devon had claimed for himself. “It’s almost like they left it for me,” he whispered to himself.”
Moments later, the four of them were standing outside of their rides. “Not quite the warmest welcome I’ve ever had,” Fosters said, while taking in their home.
“This doesn’t make sense,” Dells added, his anger still evident in every word. “I thought you said you had a huge group of survivors. And where the hell is Haeds? I was hoping to take several years of hell out on his face.”
“Remember, he could be our only hope of finding a cure for the plague.”
“You’ll need blood for tests, right?” Dells sneered. “When we find him, I’ll make sure you get plenty of it.”
“Screw all that for now,” Emily said. “Where the fuck is my brother and everyone else? There aren’t even any dead Walkers here!”
As if in a conscious effort to refute what Emily had said, a single moaning zombie appeared from behind the barn and lurched toward them. “Shut the hell up,” Emily said and then put a well-placed bullet through its eye. A few more showed up, most of them looking like weaker undead with minor injuries and bodies full of cactus thorns.
Once the zombies were dispatched, Devon looked over at his allies. “Alright let’s think about this logically. Your brother knew that four hundred walkers were heading this way. Despite their unexpected departure, it appears that our friends had decided to retreat and the zombies have obviously followed them. I guess the real question is where did they go?”
“This just doesn’t seem like something Spencer would do.”
“Why is he stupid?” Dells said. Emily whirled on him. The sheriff raised his hands. “Hold on. Maybe he thought he was doing us a favor. He still thinks that there will just be the two of you. I doubt he’d want you to return to a camp full of these pukes,” he indicated a fallen zombie with the business end of his M-4.
“Dells is right,” Devon said. “Knowing Spencer and Brown, they’re trying to set up traps or figure out some way to waste Haeds’ army in a strategic spot and they just took the rest of the people along with them to make sure they’re safe.”
Emily fumed for another minute. “I never should have, errrr—okay so what are we going to do now?”
“I wish could relax and get some sleep, I feel like I’ve been up for days, but the obvious answer is-”
“Excuse me for interrupting, but it looks like countless footprints continue on down Reddington pass toward Tucson,” Fosters said.
Devon stepped forward. “Alright, we are already locked and loaded. Let’s give this place a quick once over for any other clues or info and then head after them.”
“I just hope they didn’t head into Tucson,” Emily said.
“Devon gave her a one armed hug. “Me too, Emily. Me too.”
Brown and Spencer led the few remaining survivors back toward Tucson in small quarter of a mile bursts. They would find a defendable area and hold it, firing at the advancing zombies, until they drew too close. Then the small team would jog to their vehicles and drive to the next defendable spot and repeat the process.
Of Haeds there remained no sign.
Each time they needed to retreat, it was getting harder to get Mel to join them. After the death of his friend, the man wanted vengeance and he had enough bullets to make it happen, unless he got overwhelmed. Soon however the remainder of the group found their bullet supply running low.
After reaching another retreat, Brown and Spencer walked to the lip of the incline they had staked out for the next slaughter. They had parked the vehicles on a small hill that gave them an excellent view of the remnants of Haeds army marching at them from below. Overhead, Spencer caught sight of the black shapes of vultures riding the hot thermal drafts, created by the scorched desert sands, and briefly wondered if they waited for them.
“How many do you figure are left?” he asked Brown.
Holding his hand under the lip of his faded cowboy hat, the man replied. “I’d say they’re still a good one-fifty.”
“How many shots you got?”
“I’m pushing into my emergency rounds.”
“I’m not much better off,” The teenagers said. “Mel made all the ammo and he’s acting like he has a stash. You need to ask him for more bullets for us.”
“He’s been acting less than perfectly level headed. I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“What other choice do we have? We can’t waste our last shots just taking down half of what’s left and if we did, that would leave us crippled for whatever comes next.”
“We also need to keep Mel from losing it or we may never get new bullets again.”
They watched the zombies slowly stumble over the harsh cactus filled terrain. Many were filled with thorns and balls from jumping cholla. Any living person would have been crippled in agony, but they kept trudging through the brush headless of all obstacles. The zombies were just getting close enough for them to need to prepare. Already Mel and the punker Wart were standing where the road lead down the incline.
That was when they heard the scream.
This was followed by some cursing and then a load boom as the noise from Devon’s shotgun echoed off the mountains. As one, the rest of the men went charging to the rear. They found Kimberly smashing the head of a zombie who already lay prone along the road. Rollie was firing the shotgun from his wheelchair. Spencer’s eyes opened in alarm. They had gotten too close to Tucson and another group of Walkers had cut them off.
“We’re trapped,” he whispered to himself, and he moved forward and helped Rollie shot down the nearest foes.