PART 3, SECTION 15

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I told them everything I'd seen and heard that morning. I described the dark SUV and the military police who took Ian and Shawn away.

My dad put down the phone. Danielle began crying hysterically. Tyler tried to comfort her, while Haley just stayed curled up in a little ball on a kitchen chair.

"Where have you been?" my mom asked again.

"I've been out looking for Shawn," I lied. "With a friend of his," I added, remembering that my dad had seen Bryce that morning. I decided that the best way to keep my family from telling anyone about Morgan was not to tell them that she was even still here on the property. "I'm going back to the house to lock up. I just have to have something to eat first."

"Are you sure about that, Ashley?" My dad was concerned. "You be damn careful."

I nodded. "I will."

"There's a service for Mr. Hershel tomorrow morning. I'd like you to be there."

"Sure." I nodded again. "Okay, I will."

I hadn't eaten anything for a day and a half. I was starving. Despite Morgan, despite Ian and Shawn's disappearance, I had a strange, intense craving for a hamburger and a milkshake. I couldn't get these things off my mind, and yet it was hard to imagine ever having a chance to eat a hamburger again. It already seemed like some exotic, foreign meal. Instead, I had to make do with a roast beef sandwich and a glass of milk. I piled the meat high and skipped the mustard. I made a second sandwich and packed it into a plastic bag for Bryce.

On my way out I parked my car next to Bryce's behind the barn where it was hidden from view. I made sure no one was watching when I opened the shop doors. I closed them behind me and climbed back up into the hayloft.

"How is she?" I asked Bryce.

"Maybe a little better," he said. "I think. Just a little."

Morgan's breathing was still coming in quick rasps, and she was still running an extremely high fever. But it did seem like maybe her breathing had regulated a little. It was hard to tell in the dim light, but maybe some of her color had even come back.

It's hard to explain how happy this made me.

"Brought you a sandwich." I handed the plastic bag to Bryce.

He was sitting cross-legged, keeping a close eye on Morgan even while he began to eat.

"So I have to confess something," I said. . .

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