“What do you mean he might want me?’ Emily asked as they kept moving higher into the foothills of the Catalinas.
Her dad stopped. “Well honey, there were bad man out there long before this mess started. We only have to imagine that the terror and isolation will just make things worse.”
“But I’m only thirteen. Wouldn’t he want Jewels instead?”
The former EMT looked her way and brushed a strand of dark hair behind her ear. “Maybe not hun, because he knows I’d bite his-”
“Jewels!” her father said in a loud voice.
“Will you guys quit arguing,” Spencer said. “I think we got some real problems.”
Emily heard something, once familiar, but almost forgotten…the barking of dogs.
“How many?” he father asked while joining her brother on a rise.
“Looks like three,” Spencer said right before the noise of shooting competed with the barking.
Her father grabbed Spencer and all of them dashed behind an outcropping of stone. “Looks like German Shepherds, which means they might be trained. This guy could even be a former cop.”
“Why would he release his dogs and shoot as us if he wants to capture me?” Emily asked.
“We don’t know that for sure,” he answered. “He might think we’ll be back every other day trying to steal his crops. Hell, he might want to eat us.”
“Gross,” Spencer said, while putting a round in the chamber of his forty-five.
“This whole world is gross,” Jewels mumbled.
Her father grew serious. “One thing we do know is that this guy is an idiot. He heard us shooting, so he knows we’re armed and he’s coming after us anyway. All this shooting will draw in zombies, but we’ll be safe from them up here and we’ll have a better vantage to shot him down.”
“What about the dogs,” Spencer asked as they saw the three canines running up the hill toward them.
“Again, idiot. I’m not sure why he kept three dogs alive through a year of the apocalypse just to have us waste a few bullets on them.”
As if to drive the point home, the dogs drew close.
Her father spoke again. “Okay, everyone but Jewels get on your stomachs and get ready to shoot those mutts. Jewels, draw back, and be ready with your pick, just in case one gets through. Emily, far left dog. Spence, far right.”
Emily took aim at the dog racing toward them. In the past the idea of shooting a dog would have filled her with dread and she probably couldn’t have done it. But after shooting former humans in the head for a year…
The dog gave one yelp and its body bent double right before it crashed into a cactus.
Her father took the other down with ease, but Spencer appeared to be having trouble and the last dog was only yards from him. Emily took aim and put a bullet through its head.
“Hey, I would have gotten it. You should give me a chance.”
“We did give you a chance.”
“Kids, this in not the time. We-”
A loud voice from below interrupted him. Emily caught a quick glimpse of a man in full riot gear before he ducked behind the side of a building. “You assholes!” he yelled before spraying the mountainside with bullets. Dirt and chips of rocks flew around them. “You’ll all die slow for what you did to my dogs.”
“What a dumb ass,” Spencer said. “What’d he think would happen?”
But then something attracted their attention. Emily heard a moan from behind them. At first she thought zombie, but it turned out to be much worse. Jewels lay on the ground clutching the right side of her stomach. Pool pooled under her hands. She’d been shot.
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