~ Chapter Ten ~

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The sun was at it's highest and the infected were at their most active.

Holloway peeked his head out of the subway entrance to see if the way to the shop on the corner of the street was clear. It was the closest safe-spot to their current position and to their destination—which was just two blocks away from the corner store.

Very few infected were in sight and, luckily, the only ones in the vicinity weren't even looking in Holloway's direction.

"Follow me. Quickly." He said and kept low as he ran to the shopfront.

Carter waited just inside the entrance to keep an eye on the wandering infected and waved a hand behind him signaling for the group to make a run for the shop.

As the group joined Holloway, they crouched along the wall.

Wasting no time, he crept around the corner to continue up the street.

There were plenty of vehicles that hid them well as they remained low and traveled along the walls of the buildings.

They were at the entrance of the apartment building in no time.

Holloway didn't go inside. Instead, he waited for Carter to catch up and return to his place at the head of the group.

"Terrence? Max?" Carter summoned the men to his side. "You know what to do."

They nodded their understanding, removed their saturated backpacks and retrieved their weapons before leaving the group to enter the apartment building.

Not even needing to speak to each other. They moved with precision and efficiency. A routine perfected over time. Over many months on the road and of scouting places to take refuge.

Everyone else waited as patiently as they could while continuously scanning for infected. They looked like a group of meerkats watching for predators.

Mere seconds passed before Max was by the entry and waved the all-clear.

The group hurried into the building and shut the door behind them.

It was dark and stuffy inside. The stench of mold made many of the survivors cough and resort to covering their noses with their shirts.

Terrence stood beside the staircase that led to the apartments on the upper levels. He watched the stairway and waited. Another part to his routine.

The group took a moment to relax. The safety check wasn't over, but for the time being, they weren't in any immediate danger.

"Perri?" Carter called for her in a hushed tone—just in case the group weren't the only people in the building.

She joined Carter and a few of the other men near the stairs.

"Since this is your missing-person search. You and Max will scout the upper levels until you find the apartment you're after. Fair?" Carter barely showed any emotion whatsoever when he spoke.

"Yeah. Okay." Perri didn't argue. She didn't particularly care.

She turned to Skeet and Gavin.

"I don't want you to go." Said the boy. And the look on Gavin's face said the same thing.

Perri took off her knapsack and offered it to Skeet. "I won't be long. Will you look after my bag for me while I'm gone?"

Skeet nodded and took the soggy bag but shifted his gaze to the floor.

"Hey. One more thing?" She tilted her head to the side to get Skeet to look at her. "I need you to look after this guy too. He's hopeless without me." And she gave a pointed nod at Gavin, who tried to stifle the grin that tugged his lips to the side.

"You got it." Skeet replied.

She picked up her tomahawk and opened her mouth to say something to Gavin but—

"Come on. Let's go." Max interrupted.

Perri peered over her shoulder placing him in her view. He fiddled impatiently, flipping a hatchet in his hand, over and over.

"I'll be back soon. Promise." She assured her companions before ascending the stairs with Max at her side.

~~~

Perri and Max continued up three stories without coming across any infected.

Only rubble, trash, and the remains of anyone who had stayed behind when the epidemic began and died there—either from being killed by the infected, or by opting out themselves.

The pair went room by room, level by level. And for the most part in silence.

They rounded a corner to climb the next flight of stairs but stopped.

Both gaped at the sight before them, their brows knitted together, and they shared a look.

"After you." Max jested.

Perri frowned at him before loosing a throaty sigh. "Fine."

She went up several steps until she reached the enormous blockade.

There was a wall of furniture obscuring the top of the stairs. But, it looked a tad too organized.

Someone put this barrier here. Perri thought to herself. Maybe it was her.

At hip level, there was part of a television cabinet. The cabinet doors faced outward and it seemed too perfect. Too well-placed.

Perri bent over and opened one side first to peer inside. She smiled.

Not just inside. But, all the way through to the other side of the blockade.

"Here, hold this." She held her tomahawk behind her while continuing to examine the short tunnel.

When Max didn't take her weapon, she twisted her body to look at him. "Max?"

"Huh?" His brows rose, and he went stiff. He wasn't paying attention. He'd been staring at her...

"I said hold this for me."

"Oh." He cleared his throat and took her axe.

She squinted at him. "Why don't you watch my back. Not my ass."

Max scoffed.

She turned back to the cabinet and climbed inside.

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