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Wade grabbed onto the door as the truck lurched in and out of a particularly large pothole. Normally, he would grouse about taxes and the government not doing their job. But as far as he knew, there wasn't a government to complain about anymore. If someone had asked Wade before, he would have said the best government was no government. Well, he thought, there's no government now, and it's not the paradise I thought it'd be. So he squinted his eyes and mentally grumbled about that.

He, Curt and Aaron shared the cab of a large, white box truck. It had become pretty standard for Tom to ask someone to bring it along. Wade agreed with Tom on this. Better to just haul those Sick off as soon as we can then let them mill around for a while before we go back and get them.

What Wade wasn't used to, and didn't like, was being in that truck. He and Dylan usually drove their own vehicle. He braced his feet against the floor and stiffened as they headed for another bump so he wouldn't flop against Aaron. He wanted his brother here.

He and Dylan worked so well together, speech was almost unnecessary. Working with anyone else, especially going to battle with anyone else, felt like he was entering the fight with two broken legs. It's wasn't that it couldn't be done, but Wade was unsure how to go about it. Sighing loudly, Wade ran a hand down his green flannel jacket and looked out the window at the wintering forests and hills. He'd get through it somehow.

When the group arrived at the field, they parked the trucks and jumped out, thumping against the cold, hard ground as they did so. The air was bitter and sharp so early on this grey morning. An eerie tranquility hung over the land that Wade had not expected. No sick could be seen. There was just an empty field with a bit of wire fencing around it, and the wind blowing up a bit of the powdered snow that lay here and there.

Tom gathered the men around him. "Must of moved since this morning," he said.

Grunts and nods of agreement circled the group.

"Well, our tracker's down," Tom said, "anyone else able to take a stab at it?"

"I'll take a crack at it," Wade said, "and anyone willing to help. I know I'm just a greenhorn next to Dylan, but I'll do my best." He looked around the area. "Sure do wish there were more than a few patches of snow though, instead of all this hard ground."

Wade picked up a couple of volunteers. Joe, a friend of Dylan, and Hershel, who had moved up from Colton after he had lost all of his family. The three set off across the field looking for any compressions, scrapes, and if they were fortunate, threads or bits of clothing that got left behind or caught on something. Others in the group walked the road with binoculars in the hopes of seeing something.

Joe pointed out a small mark that could be a scuff but Wade wanted to circle the field. It would seem as though that many sick they would leave more sign than that. Joe and Hershel agreed.

"Ya know," Joe said, "This is close to where Dylan got shot."

Wade nodded his head. "Yeah, the thought had occurred."

"Probably right on the other side of that treeline. We should check it out when this is done. Maybe somethin' there that'll tell us who did this."

Heartily agreeing, Wade said, "Nothin' I'd like better." He thought as he scanned the field again. This was a good walk from the cabin. If someone had deliberately shot Dylan, they would have had to follow the couple as they walked to the deep woods, waited for them to come out and trailed them here. In addition, they would've had to have chosen the best place to wait to get a good shot. It wasn't like there was a trail from the cabin to Dylan's spot so it would have been a good guess on their part. It wasn't likely this was a spur of the moment decision.

And, while he was thinking on it, Wade wondered what Tricia had been doing all the way out here anyway? He shook his head. He needed to concentrate. Wade stuffed all that way back in his mind, in an area that could've been named 'Can't Do Nothin' About That Right Now Anyways'. Then he went back to work.

Hershel, doing his best at this tracking thing, crouched down to get a closer look at the ground. "Ya know what I think," he said, "I think we are real bad at this."

"Ya," Joe said, "we suck."

"Yep," Wade said, "and the worse thing is we know it." At the same moment, his eyes lit on a bit of pink thread caught on a little bramble in among some tall grasses. Wade pointed it out, and the three men rushed over to it. The little thread fluttered in a small burst of wind like a flag trying to draw their attention.

"Look!" Joe said his arm extended to the woods. Wade cursed, and Hershel sighed.

There was no question about where the Sick had gone. The trail was wide and clear, the grass was trampled, and the snow was scuffed. They had gone into the woods.

"Why," Wade complained, "do they always go and do that? It's not like they can think straight. It's harder to catch them in the woods then to pick the fly dung out of a batch of pepper. Why can't they, just once, line up real nice for us at the road like kids on their first day of school?"

Wade, Hershel, and Joe were directly across the large field from the group of men. Hershel waved the others over making sure they saw him before turning back to the woods. They could hear the crunch of the frozen, hard grass as the men got closer almost as if they were walking on broken glass.

The three men peered into the woods, trying to see as best they could down the thick, darkened trail. Then Wade blew out a breath, steeled himself and walked forward.

Wade hardly heard a sound as the group moved through the hushed forest. There was nothing for a while. Then, through the trees, he saw a flash of pink ahead of him. He pointed it out to Tom, and they all crouched down.

Tom had told them that Tricia had counted nine sick. What she hadn't mentioned is that most of them were children. 

The men hung their heads, shaking them. A couple scrubbed their hand down their face. All felt their stomach turn. Almost all of them had dealt with Sick children at some point. Most still remembered them in their nightmares, if nowhere else. This disease's entire course was sad and disturbing but never more so then when they dealt with the young ones.

A/N: Poor Wade! Stuck in this mess without Dylan. Are you enjoying these Wade chapters? If so, please comment or click that little star below. :)

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