Three biters and a sprinter came to visit, all of them dying on the traps laid around the shopping center. Harriet won the race, so Jeff checked each time. Chae managed to stay calm each time, she started to trust them unconditionally.
Each time Jeff stumbled back to Harriet, muttering. He knew he needed to, it wasn’t the biters and sprinters that were a problem. If a Wight wandered into a trap, they’d be boned. A flimsy trap like that wouldn’t kill it and they’d lose an entire perimeter of defenses to take it down.
Jeff unbuttoned his pants for the fifth time, slipping them off his legs.
“Got another one?” Harriet said, lounging on the mattress.
“False alarm.” Jeff shuffled next to her, giving her a kiss. “We didn’t rodent proof the traps. We should put some food out in the back to draw them away.”
Harriet slipped her arms over his shoulders, smiling behind a second kiss.
“We need to see about looking around.” Jeff pulled away. “The people are who we should be worried about. What if they’re cannibals or something?”
“Or aliens. We haven’t run into those yet.” Harriet said, letting out a lithe laugh. “I don’t think anything would surprise me any–”
An explosion wracked the building. The intercom buzzed. Jeff tumbled over Harriet, off the mattress, and onto the cold floor.
Harriet scurried to the intercom. “What the hell is going on down there?”
“I– I think someone threw a grenade,” Chae said, “The truck is–”
“Oh, hell no.” Harriet threw aside the intercom and grabbed her rifle and settled into sniping position.
Jeff pulled himself to a shaky stand, grabbed his pistol and followed her. “I want to take a moment to say, I told you so.”
The Humvee lay tipped on the lot, spewing a plume of smoke into the sky. No signs of people or the undead.
“Get me a megaphone.” Harriet ground her teeth. “I need to set these bastards straight before I put holes in em’. Oh, and a shirt.”
The intercom buzzed again. Jeff scooped it up. “What’s up?”
“What’s up? We have crazy people throwing explosive at us.” Chae’s voice lowered. “And I saw someone wave to me. I think they think I’m a prisoner.”
“Why would they think that?” Jeff tucked the intercom under his chin while looking for clothes.
“It might be the hamster bottle you put on the wall, asshole.”
“Hey. It’s a joke. Well then wave em’ off. Harriet’s gonna talk them down as soon as I get–”
“No way. That crazy woman will just make it worse. I’ll talk to them. I have something I can use.” The line went dead.
“Is there a reason you’re standing around?” Harriet said.
“Uhm. Chae went rogue.” Jeff said, slipping into a pair of pants. “She said she’s gonna talk to them.”
“What? That useless twat is just gonna get us killed.” She paused to consider. “Well, one of them might come out. That’s a free shot at least.”
“H– Hello?” The speakers crackled to life around the parking lot. “My name is Chae. Please don’t attack me.”
A thick silence hung in the air. Harriet traced the buildings slowly, waiting for a response. Near one of the bushes, a man stood, pulling a megaphone to his mouth. He wore mud caked clothing and his hair “Let the girl go and we’ll let you crawl back wherever you came from.”
“Let her go?” Harriet glanced back at Jeff. “They think we’re holding her hostage?”
“Just don’t shoot anybody.” Jeff settled next to her with a grimace. “Yet.”
“It’s complicated.” Chae said, “But I’m not a prisoner. There’s three of us and–”
“A military trick.” The man spoke over her, feedback pinged about the air. “They’re using you to lure us out. Oldest trick in the damned book.”
“What book?” Harriet muttered, placing a finger on the trigger.
“Don’t.” Jeff raised a hand to her shoulder.
“Shouldn’t you be getting me a shirt?” Harriet growled without moving the speaker from her sights.
“But the view’s better like this.” Jeff said, smirking.
“Save the flattery for when these guys are dead.”
“I’ll say it one more time.” The man said, his voice tense. “Let her go or we blow the building sky high.”
“He’s bluffing,” Harriet said, “We’d know if he wired it. We checked the place from top to bottom.”
“Don’t,” Chae said, “They’re assholes, but they’re not military. Their names are Jeff and Harriet. If you meet them you’ll understand.”
The man lowered the megaphone, hesitating.
“That little– I can’t believe she told them our names.” Harriet took aim. “Sorry buddy. Negotiations have closed.”
“In that case. The deal’s off.” The man reached up, pulled away his mask to reveal a shock of short black hair. He tossed aside his megaphone and shouted instead. “I doubt it’s a coincidence. Harriet Bridgley, if you’re not too chicken to own up. The only thing keeping you alive is my desire to rip you apart with my bare hands.”
Harriet lowered her rifle, the color left her face. She set aside her rifle and stood on the spot. “You look real good for a dead man.”
Richard blinked, tuned his eyes downward, and raised a hand to shield his temple.
Harriet let out a whooping laugh, and wrenched backwards from Jeff’s hasty tug.
“Here, a shirt,” Jeff said, frowning.
“Oh thanks. Totally forgot for a second there.” She took it from him, slipped it over her head.
“Old friend of yours?”
“Yeah. It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before. ” Harriet laughed. “Don’t tell me you’re jealous?”
“A little.” Jeff peeked over the roof’s edge. Richard was a good looking guy: Tall, dark complexion and not the type he’d want to fist fight. “You dated this guy?”
“No. He’s just seen me topless before.” Harriet smacked Jeff in the stomach. “Long story. Short version I’m not sure I’m his type. So you don’t need to worry about it.”
They hurried down the stairs to find Richard had been joined with two men and a woman dressed just like him.
“Don’t like the military, huh?” Jeff eyed the Humvee’s wreckage. “Then why you dressed like them?”
“So we blend it, of course.” Richard scowled over at Harriet as she approached.
She drew close, pushed Jeff aside and twisted Richard into a headlock. He let out a yelp. “Big man are we. You’re paying me back for that Humvee, twerp.”
“H–how was I supposed to know it belonged to you?” Richard said, gasping.
“Dick, meet Jeff. I’ve been shacking up with him for the past few months.” Harriet aimed him so he could look up at him. “If you or your cronies lay a hand on him, I’m going to be much more angry than I am about the Humvee. We clear?”
“Crystal,” he said.
“Nice to meet you.” Jeff gave a cursory wave.
“What about your ‘captive’?” The woman of Richard’s group spoke.
“Chae? Oh she’s the living proof that you thugs are going to be kissing my ass to get what she has: a cure and a reliable means to take down the biters. ”