“I know you’re on a journey,” says Theresa. “You’ll never get there by car.”

And suddenly I realize we don’t need to. There are abandoned boats everywhere. The waterways will take us there faster than any road in the city — from Lake Union, through the Montlake cut, all the way to the northern tip of Lake Washington. It’s a short hike up from the lake to my dad’s lab in the old St. Edward’s Seminary.

“We appreciate your concern.” None of your fucking business is what I mean, and I can see she gets it.

“I am concerned. So much so that I’m willing to loan you one of our boats.”

I grit my teeth. The kindness of strangers doesn’t exist in the After. It barely existed before the After. “In exchange for what?”

“We need a healer,” she says, gaze shifting to Levi, then back to me. “And someday we’ll have to leave here. You’re both useful in a fight.”

Lady, you have no idea. Just as I’m starting to wonder if I’m alone in this negotiation, the Viking speaks. “How did you know I’m a healer?”

“I told you, I had a dream. A vision, if you like.”

Stranger things have happened — especially in the last twenty-four hours — and I’m not interested enough to bite. But Levi is.

“Were you part of Paladin?”

Our host raises an eyebrow. “It doesn’t ring any bells. Why do you ask?” Apparently there are limits to divine revelation.

“Because of your superpower,” I guess, wondering what Sasha’s is.

Theresa gives a soft, whispering laugh. “Well I’ve never thought of it that way, but I suppose it is. Were you an experiment, Levi, or were you born with your gift?”

It’s a tiny movement, but I sense it: his hand squeezing the hilt of his sword. He’s not contemplating violence. He’s thinking about his weird origins, and about the parents he doesn’t have. My chest feels tight, and I know this test-tube baby from hell has done something scary to my pathetic Grinchy heart.

“Both,” he replies.

Theresa raises her chin slightly, crossing her long legs under her judge’s robe. “The two of you are important,” she says, “though the precise reason has not been revealed to me. But I’d bet my ragged little flock it has to do with the connection between you.”

I feel his eyes on my profile, and it makes me all squirmy inside. Sitting up, I rest my elbows on my knees, lightly pressing my knife against the tip of my index finger.  “You must realize there are other boats,” I point out. “We don’t need your help.”

 “Maybe not to acquire a boat. But your healer needs rest. And this journey of yours …” She sits back in her chair with a sigh. “People who go searching most often find themselves. When that happens, your outlook may change.”

This is exactly the kind of thing I have no patience for — not before the zombie apocalypse, and certainly not now. “So you’ll let us rest here, and borrow a boat, if we agree to come back. How long would we have to stay?”

“At least until we’re ready to move on. Three or four months? We have almost enough seaworthy vessels.”

“Where are you going?”

“Up the coast. Or maybe down. Until we find a safe harbor. Other survivors. A place that’s free of the damned.” She steeples her fingers over her lap. “I won’t pretend I don’t hope to convince you to remain with us indefinitely. But most critical is I need someone on hand to help our two expectant mothers, should the need arise.”

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