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He sat on the ledge this time, not content with just leaning over and watching. Trapped in the apartment building, he wanted to get as close as possible to what might remain of civilization. Following a good rain, the streets below were quiet and vacant. Even the vermin that liked to scurry down the street throughout the day were absent. He wondered if their numbers, too, were dwindling or if they just didn’t like the damp streets after a storm.

The sound of the stairwell door banging open surprised him, but he didn’t turn his focus away. There could only be one person that would be up on the roof at that exact moment, besides himself of course, and he knew she wouldn’t need a greeting to start talking.

Sure enough, her voice boomed through the empty, almost eerily quiet air. “I need you to get down and come over here.” Her voice carried a rare quality his wasn’t used to hearing from her. If he hadn’t known any better, he would call it authority.

“Why don’t you come take a seat next to me and we can discuss whatever is troubling you calmly, like adults?” he could tell she was worked up, and something about the way she got so excited made him want to twist the rubber band a few more times to really wind her up.

“I’m serious, Davidson. I need to talk to you.”

“I am serious as well, my Cherie. Why don’t you just scoot on right up here next to Big Papa and let him take all your worries away.”

“Davidson!” her voice rang loud through the deserted streets below. Whatever she had fought with Sebastian about this time really had her hot and bothered. He decided it best not to tempt fate too much and spun his legs around and hopped down off the ledge in one fluid motion.

“What seems to be the problem, m’ lady?”

“When was the last time you saw Hayley?” she asked as she marched right up to him, arms crossed against her chest. Her shirt had started to dry, but it was still mostly see through. He fought to focus on the words coming out of her mouth while his eyes strayed south.

Her opening question threw him for a loop. He expected a ten minute tirade about how she couldn’t handle spending so much time so close to her brother. After all, that’s one of the main reasons she had moved so far away from home when she started college, at least she claimed so. Or he expected a somber request for his opinion on Sebastian’s eating; if he thought she needed to give up more of her ration to her brother. These were the typical topics of discussion. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen Hayley; he couldn’t even remember the last time he had reason to talk about her.

His brow furrowed as he thought. He was so used to being on water assignment with Lenore that try as he might to rack his brain, he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen Hayley. Troubling. He was typically so good at such tasks.

“Been a while hasn’t it? Doesn’t that concern you a little? Or at least make you wonder why?”

“Maybe William has her doing a different schedule than she normally-”

He couldn’t finish his sentence before she cut in, “She hasn’t shown up on any assignment detail for over two weeks now. Two weeks, Davidson.”

“Maybe she’s sick.”

“That’s what Nathan claims. And I believed him for a while. But I stopped by to drop off their water after the storm today, and not only wouldn’t he let me in, but he wouldn’t even open the door more than a crack. And when I asked to say hi to Hayley to see how she was doing, he wouldn’t allow it.”

It sounded suspicious, but from the look of it, Lenore had already made up her mind and he didn’t want to just jump on the bandwagon. He knew first hand how quickly a mob mentality could transpire and knew just how dangerous that could be. “Maybe he’s just worried that she’s contagious and didn’t want to risk getting you sick as well. It’s not as if we all have stellar immune systems right now, Lenore.”

“Why didn’t he just say that then, instead of going on the defensive automatically?”

He was clearly there to be a sounding board while she worked out her own theory. “You want to just go ahead and spit out what you are thinking then?”

She paused and took a deep breath before she opened her mouth to speak again. “I think she’s infected.” Her voice dropped severely, and at first he wondered if he even heard her correctly.

“Come again?”

“You heard me,” she snapped, her voice returning to its elevated volume.

“Lenore, come on.” The truth was, it kind of made sense. And that made him extremely uncomfortable. “Even given all the strange happenstances, that still seems like a bit of a leap.”

“Weeks, Davidson. No one has seen her in weeks. Nathan barely leaves his apartment, and she is never with him. And when I offered to give him supplies, or anything she might need that they had ran out of, he flat out declined the offer. Something is wrong, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Who says you need to do anything?”

Her stance hardened. “Are you kidding me? If there is even the remote chance that she might be infected don’t you think, I don’t know, we ought to tell someone?”

“So you want to tell Anna and William?”



“Okay, what?”

“So tell them.”

She stared at him, dumbfounded, and he had to suppress a laugh. The look was hysterical, but he could read the crowd and it was clearly not the right moment for some nervous laughter.

He threw his hands in the air for a moment before dropping his arms and stuffing his hands into his pockets. “I don’t see what you are so worked up about. If you think there is a legitimate chance that she could be infected, and it definitely sounds that way, then it is something you should bring to the group. Something like that could hurt us all. We don’t know how this thing spreads. No need to be exposing ourselves to an unnecessary risk.”

In a move he never would have anticipated, she leapt forward and wrapped her string bean arms around him in a shocking hug. He responded by patting her back awkwardly. When she pulled away, just as quickly, he was stunned to see she was almost in tears. “I’m sorry, that was stupid. I’m just glad to hear I haven’t lost my mind.”

“Well, now, come on. I never said that…”

She socked him in the shoulder, and he smiled, finally feeling the familiar balance return to their friendship. “I’m going to go talk to William before I change my mind. I’ve been on the fence about telling anyone for a week now, and I’m afraid if I wait any longer, I’ll change my mind again. And then it could be too late.”

She hurried off without another word, and he stood watching her retreating form. The enormity of her words settled down upon him, and he hoped upon all hopes that she was just jumping to the worst conclusion possible. Because if they had an infected among them, the troubles that surrounded them outside the boarded up doors of the apartment complex were just the beginning of their nightmares.

He walked numbly over to the ledge, gripping the soggy concrete until a sharp edge dug into the palm of his hand. Hayley, infected. The implications were simply unreal. He stared down at the streets below him, and saw life returning to the view. The lifeless bodies limped around aimlessly, searching for the missing stray vermin. While he could still hear raindrops falling from plant leaves on the roof, and off other roofs and from rain gutters, the familiar sounds of groans were starting to fill the quiet air once more.

An infected among them.

He prayed to God she was wrong.

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