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“I have.” I indicated one of the zombies. Before amplification, she’d been a slender young woman, no heavier than Buffy. The wound that killed her the first time stood out livid and red against the still-pink flesh of her throat, and the fabric of her pale gray University of Oklahoma sweatshirt was stained bloody. “Recognize her?”

“Should I?” Shaun leaned closer to the fence. The zombie bared her teeth and hissed, increasing her attempts to break through. “She’s definitely not one of my exes, George. I mean, she’s cute, but way too dead for my tastes.”

“Like you have any exes?” Shaun has dated as much as I have, which is to say “not at all.” Buffy usually has five or six paramours at any given time, but Shaun and I haven’t ever bothered. Other things keep getting in the way.

“Well, if I did have exes, they wouldn’t look like her. Fill me in?”

“She was the cheering section at the senator’s presentation.” She’d looked a hell of a lot better when she was alive. I didn’t remember seeing her after the Q&A broke up. If she left promptly and got caught on the street given her body mass, she’d have had plenty of time to reach full amplification and rise again. It wasn’t a difficult scenario to imagine. A young college student comes alone to a risky meeting in a public place and leaves the same way. No one would have been there to help her. A single bite is a death sentence, and not everyone has the guts to call the police and request a bullet to the brain before it gets too late to avoid rising.

Whoever she was, she died alone, and she died stupid. I couldn’t help feeling bad for her.

“Oh, jeez, you’re right.” Shaun leaned closer still, moving well out of what most people would call the safe zone. All five zombies were clustering around the same stretch of fence now, hissing and snarling at him. “That was fast.”

“This isn’t the primary pack. They’re too fresh.” The most decayed of the zombies would still have been able to pass for human in a dark alley, assuming he could keep himself from trying to eat anyone in range. “Something had to bite them.”

“Or one of ’em dropped dead of a heart attack,” Shaun said. “You’re right. The rest are south, harassing the guards.” He gave the fence an assessing look. “I’d put this at what, twelve feet?”

“Shaun Phillip Mason, you are not thinking what I think you’re thinking.”

“Sure as hell am. Keep ’em distracted, okay?” He didn’t wait for a reply before backing up, getting a running start, and launching himself at the fence. His fingers caught well above the reach of the tallest of the zombies. His toes didn’t fare quite as well, but that didn’t matter much—steel-toed combat boots are too tough for even the infected to gnaw their way through. Laughing at their moans, Shaun began pulling himself up toward the top of the fence.

“Next up, we have my brother, committing suicide,” I muttered and focused the camera on him, tapping the pad at my belt again to dial Buffy. “Don’t fall, ass**le, or I’m telling Mom you did it for love of the dead girl.”

“Bite me,” Shaun called back. He swung his leading leg over the top of the fence and stood astride it, with one foot hooked into the chain on either side. Unhooking the crossbow from his belt, he loaded the first quarrel.

“Not while I’m breathing, oh brother mine.”

“Buffy here,” said Buffy’s voice in my ear.

“Buffy, you getting the feeds on this? I want any positive IDs you can pull on our friends. You can cross-reference the one in the sweatshirt with footage from the—”

“I’m on it. Her name was Dayna Baldwin, age twenty-three, political science major at the University of Oklahoma. I’m running lookups on the other four. I have a few possible matches, but there’s nothing confirmed.”

Shaun pulled back the catch, taking careful, almost affectionate aim on the nearest of his admirers. I directed the handheld camera toward the mob as a crossbow bolt appeared in the center of their leader’s forehead. He fell and two of the remaining four were suddenly distracted with cannibalizing his remains, leaving two to menace Shaun. The virus that drives the infected is only in it for the meat. Zombies generally choose the living over the dead, but something that won’t put up a fight is always better than nothing at all.

“Keep looking,” I said. Shaun reloaded his crossbow, moving with calm, unhurried precision. I have to give my brother this: He’s damn good at what he does.

“Of course,” said Buffy, sounding affronted. She hung up, presumably to focus on her cameras. We’d get a clearer picture of everything that had happened once Shaun finished having his fun and we could get back to the van. If there’s a square inch of convoy that Buffy can’t get on film, I’ll eat my sunglasses.

Shaun was taking aim on the third zombie when I realized there was something wrong with the quality of the moans. They were getting louder and moving against the prevailing wind. I dropped the camera, hearing its case crack as it hit the ground, and turned to look behind me.

The leader of the zombies—another familiar face, opinionated Carl from the after-meeting—was ten feet away and closing fast, moving at that horrible, disconnected half-run that only the freshest zombies can sustain for long. He must have died even more recently than Dayna, because he’d been up and moving around less than an hour before. That implied multiple bites and a group attack, possibly by the pack that Shaun was in the process of dispatching.

Six more zombies followed the ill-fated Carl, moving at speeds ranging from a half-run to a shamble. Pulling the pistol from my belt, I shot Carl twice in the head, turning to aim at the zombie behind him. I didn’t have enough bullets. Even if I were as good of a shot as Shaun, which I’m not, eight bullets and seven zombies didn’t leave me in a position with much of a margin for error. I was already down below the one-for-one divide, and that made survival a lot less likely. I pulled the trigger and the second zombie fell.