PART 5, SECTION 15

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I leapt up, expecting to find Home Guard troops raiding the granary. But when I peered from the silo door, the granary yard was empty. And silent.

The gunshot had come from inside the granary itself.

I raced across the yard, trying not to trip in the weeds. I flung the wire-hinged door open and hurried into the dim interior.

My eyes adjusted to the light.

Bryce was still lying on the granary floor. Chris and Ian were standing over him.  Chris stood with his arms folded, staring down at Bryce, holding a pair of tweezers. Nobody was speaking.

Bryce was motionless. He was holding a small pistol in his hand. He clutched it loosely at his throat.

I stepped closer.

Now I could see that the back of Bryce's head was missing.

A chunk of his skull had been blown off by the pistol. A mass of tiny larvae was streaming from the wound. Almost immediately each one of them writhed and died, as if contact with the open air killed them.

Chris picked up one larva with the tweezers and dropped it into a vial.

"What did you do!" I screamed. "You didn't have to kill him!"

"Ashley." Ian rubbed his forehead. He looked exhausted. "We have to keep quiet."

Chris slipped the pistol out of Bryce's hand. He tucked it into a holster concealed under his own shirt.

"We didn't kill him," Chris said. "He asked me for a gun. I gave one to him."

Ian looked at Chris warily, but he looked too defeated to make any objection.

"What should I have done?" Chris asked.

"Not give him your gun!" I struggled to keep my voice as low as possible. Was this the fate they had in mind for Morgan too?

"And then what?" Chris answered, angrily. "You think I could have treated him? Even if I had any more antibiotics, which I don't—I gave the last dose to Morgan two days ago—I couldn't do a anything about his severed spinal cord. Could I? He was miserable. He asked for a gun, and I gave him one. Am I really going to tell him no? And just watch him progress to stage three, in that state? Just let him live in a nightmare for four or five months until he expires? Forget it. I'm not doing that."

"Where's Lindsay?" I looked around the granary. "Where's his son?"

"They're in the silo with the others," Ian said.

He stepped behind me and put his hands on my shoulders, trying to calm me down.

"Ashley," he whispered, "Lindsay agreed with Chris about giving him the gun. We put her and the kid in the silo before he did it. Mrs. Thomas is taking care of her. Lindsay seems pretty tough. She's handling it. The kid's too young to know what happened."

I turned from Bryce's corpse and pulled away from Ian.

"Just sit down for a minute," Ian said, pulling back the chair at Chris's desk.

I sat. But I was afraid that Ian wasn't acting with enough urgency. It was only a matter of time before the Home Guard discovered the granary, especially if other people already knew about it. They'd even had a name for the meager resistance movement. They'd called it the Underground as if everyone already knew exactly what that meant. Somehow word was getting out that we were sheltering positives here.

We had to act fast. I tried to focus on coming up with a plan for what to do. It was the only way I could suppress my conflicted emotions about Bryce's death.

"We can't stay here," I said. "They'll find us here. They're going to search the whole ranch."

"No, we can't stay here. You're right." Ian looked totally at a loss. "But where else can we go? I didn't count on having this many people. I was going to drive around looking for an empty house. Maybe someplace the Home Guard has registered as unoccupied. But finding something like that could take days." He glanced at me, chagrinned. "I know we don't have days, Ash. I'm trying to figure something out. I just need a little time to think about the right place to hide. Because just yet, I'm sorry, but I'm not coming up with anything."

An idea that had been floating around my consciousness since last evening suddenly surfaced.

I knew of a place where maybe we could hide. . . 



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