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"I'm Home Guard." Ian scoffed. "Either you join, or you get thrown into detention. Indefinitely. That's the deal. It's basically a paramilitary force that's been granted the rule of martial law over the entire quarantine zone. They recruit a lot people from the inside, because, well, how many volunteers are you going to get from the outside to go into a quarantine zone? They take you to this center they have set up west of town, give you some worthless day-long crash training course, assign you a rank, and off you go. Because of my experience, they cooked up a medical lieutenant rank for me. Everybody else keeps busy doing the rounds patrolling residences and taking daily urine tests, then separating out the infected from the uninfected. We were supposed to bring anyone who tested positive to the center, where they were going to keep them all in that Wal-Mart warehouse over there. But now it looks like all the squads are pretty much just 'expiring' positives on the spot." Ian looked at me with a mixture of awe and fear at what he was about to tell me next. "They're getting away with killing people because there's a legal loophole. Anyone who tests positive, technically, is already dead."

I didn't understand.

"What do you mean dead? How is that possible? That doesn't make any sense."

"Do you remember Chris Trevino? That new doctor kid?"

I vaguely remembered a young doctor who'd started at the hospital just about the time Shawn was finishing up his physical therapy. But I didn't know what he had to do with anything.

"Yeah, I remember him. I guess so. Why?"

Ian had been driving toward my parents' house, but now he turned off the unpaved road that lead around to the back side of their property.

"Well, you'll meet him soon," Ian said. "Chris'll be able to explain everything better than I ever could. He's a good guy. Young, a little high-strung, but a good enough guy. We've been helping each other out. He sort of defected from the hospital when the Home Guard took it over. After Bob Hershel died, he asked me if I knew where he could do an autopsy without anyone finding out about it. I found him a place."

I thought about Ian shooting Mr. Hershel that night. It already seemed like so long ago when Morgan had fallen into her coma. The last I'd seen of her, she'd been hidden away in my dad's hayloft.

"And Morgan?" I asked. I was terrified that she wouldn't have known what to do when neither Bryce nor me had come back to the loft for her. What if she'd been caught by the Home Guard?

"Morgan's . . . safe," Ian said.

But he didn't say anything further. I could tell he was holding something back that he didn't want to tell me.

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DEAD IN BED By Bailey Simms: The Complete First BookWhere stories live. Discover now