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Sometimes in the news, “luck” is just a matter of “capitalizing on someone else’s pain.”

March in Wisconsin is very different from March in California. The day of the funeral was gray and cold, with patches of snow dotting the struggling lawn of the O’Neil family cemetery. Emily’s family had been in the area long enough to have their own graveyard. If the old zombie flicks had been right about the dead clawing their way out of the ground, the funeral would have been a blood bath.

Fortunately, that’s one detail the movies got wrong. The earth was smooth beneath its uneven blanket of snow, save for the darker, recently dug patches in front of three headstones near the west wall. Folding chairs were set up on the central green and people sat close together, steadfastly not looking toward the displaced ground. A woman who bore a vague resemblance to Peter—enough that I was willing to tentatively place her as a cousin, if not a sister—murmured to her companion, “They’re so small.”

Of course. Cemeteries are an oddity in this modern world; since most bodies are cremated, there’s no need for them unless you’re fabulously wealthy, strongly religious, or clinging to tradition with both hands. When you do have an actual burial, you’re not looking at the iconic rectangles of disturbed earth that you find in pre-Rising movies. Modern graves are little circles in the grass, big enough to hold a handful of ash.

The mingled Ryman and O’Neil clans were dressed in the mourning editions of their Sunday best: all blacks and charcoal grays, with the occasional hint of off-white or cream in someone’s shirtfront or blouse. Even the little girls, Jeanne and Amber, were wearing black velvet. Shaun, Buffy, and I were the only attendees who weren’t related to the family; the senator’s security detail—a combination of the campaign agents and the new guys from the Secret Service—had stopped at the cemetery gates, guarding the perimeter without disturbing the ceremony. We were the privileged few, and everyone knew it. More than a few unpleasant looks had been tossed our way by the relatives as we moved into position.

Not that I cared. We were there for Peter, for Emily, and for the news. What the rest of the family thought didn’t matter.

“ and so we have come together, in the sight of God, to commend the mortal remains of His beloved children into His keeping, to be held in trust, no longer subject to the dangers of the world, until the day we may be reunited in the Kingdom of Heaven,” said the priest. “For His is the Kingdom, the life and the glory, and through His grace may we be granted everlasting life. Let us pray.” The family bowed their heads. So did Buffy, who was raised to a faith beyond “tell the truth, know the escape routes, and always carry extra ammunition.”

Shaun and I didn’t bow. Someone has to keep the lookout. After checking to make sure my shoulder cameras were still recording on an even keel, I turned my head, surveying the cemetery. It was completely indefensible; the low stone walls were more for delineation of boundaries than anything else and wouldn’t have kept a determined horde of zombies out for more than a few minutes. The gates were spaced widely enough to make the whole place little more than a big corral for humans. I shuddered.

Shaun caught the gesture and put a hand at the small of my back, steadying me. I flashed him a smile. He knows I don’t like being outside in poorly defended areas. He doesn’t feel the same way; open spaces just make him think something worth poking is bound to come along sooner than later.

The service was winding down. I schooled my expression back to grim serenity and turned to face forward as the priest closed his Bible. The family rose, many of them in tears. Most turned to head for the gates, where cars were waiting to take them to the reception at the funeral home. Nothing says “deeply in mourning” like canapés and free beer. A few remained, still looking toward the graves as if shell-shocked.

“I just feel so bad,” murmured Buffy. “How can things like this happen?”

“Luck of the draw?” Shaun shrugged. “Play with big animals, a little amplification is almost guaranteed. They’re lucky it waited this long.”

“Yeah,” I said, frowning. “Lucky.” Something wasn’t right about this whole setup. The timing, the scope—you need safety precautions on a scale most millionaires wouldn’t bother with to operate a horse ranch, even several miles from the nearest town, and you need to have them upgraded on a regular basis. If something went wrong, it would be contained in a matter of minutes. They might have to torch a barn, but they shouldn’t have lost anyone. Certainly not three family members and half the working staff. “Shaun, get Buffy back to the van, okay? I’m going to give my regrets to the family.”

“Shouldn’t we come, too?” asked Buffy.

“No, you go back to the van. Call Rick, make sure nothing’s caught fire while we were away from our screens.”


Shaun reached around me to take Buffy’s arm. “C’mon, Buff. If she’s sending us away, it’s because she wants to poke something with a stick and see what happens.”

“Something like that,” I said. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Okay,” said Buffy, letting Shaun guide her toward the cemetery gates. I turned to study the remaining members of the family. Peter and Emily were there, along with several other adults who looked enough like one another to be close relations. Emily had one arm around each of her two remaining daughters. She didn’t look like she’d slept for a week, and both Jeanne and Amber looked like they were finding their mother’s embrace more than a little smothering. Peter seemed older, somehow, his farm boy good looks strained by the speed and severity with which everything had gone wrong.

He caught the motion of my head as I looked toward them. He nodded slightly, indicating that it was safe for me to approach. I answered with a thin smile, beginning to pick my way across the slushy ground.