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EPISODE ELEVEN: An Unexpected Friend

The man stepped forward, shotgun raised, headed in their direction. “Hands up where I can see them!” The man shouted as he drew closer to them.

Toby lifted his hands slowly, trying to edge his way to the car. He had to get over to Lyn. If anything happened to her…He had to make sure she was safe.

The man noticed his movement.

“Hey! Stay where you are!” As he came closer, Toby realized the man was holding the gun awkwardly, as though he’d never held a weapon before.

“Sir, we’re stuck. Our car stopped a few blocks away and we pushed it into this lot,” Toby spat out as fast as he could. The man slowly lowered his gun.

“You aren’t from Lighthouse Church?”

Toby shook his head. “We aren’t part of any church. We were just seeing if anyone was inside when this little girl appeared out of nowhere.” He leaned closer to the man. “Do you know anything about this girl?”

The man knelt by the girl. He held his gun behind his back, away from the girl.

“Your name is Katie, isn’t it?”

Her eyes widened. “Y—yes, that’s me.”

“I knew your father,” the man said, taking the girl’s hand, as though he was holding his own daughter’s hand. “What are you doing out here?”

She sniffled. “They said I was sick and not allowed to stay inside anymore.”

The man sighed and looked up at Toby. “Yep. That sounds just like them.” He stood up and reached a hand out. “My name is Brian Miller. I used to be an elder of this church.”

Toby carefully shook his hand. “My name is Toby.” He gestured to the gun, which he still held behind his back like a teenager hiding something from his mother. “That’s an interesting choice of weapon, Elder.”

He laughed. “Oh, this is just a scare tactic, in case any of the Lighthouse folks decide they want to fight.”

“Sir, I’m sorry,” Toby began, “but we need some help with our car. Can you offer us any assistance?”

“There are two other people in that car, aren’t there?” Brian sighed. “I can’t offer you any help with your car. I’m not even that handy with this weapon, to tell you the truth. But I can offer you some shelter through the night.”

Toby stiffened at his words. Shelter. Through the night. The reality of it all hit him in the face: there was no way they were getting to Homestead before the quarantine took effect.

Lyn is going to kill me.

***

She couldn’t tell what they were saying, but at least the man had lowered the gun. Lyn watched as her husband shook hands with the weapon wielder, silently begging Toby to snatch the gun from his hands. They exchanged a few more words, and then they began to walk toward the car, the little girl grasping the man’s hand.

Lyn shifted in her seat. Lincoln was still standing by the trunk, hands in his pockets. She opened the car door and he looked up.

“What’s going on?” He asked. She shook her head. She couldn’t bring herself to say a word to him. The past had come to the surface, but it was too painful to look at. Lyn was afraid that if she acknowledged it, if she said anything to her brother, everything would come out, and this was neither the time nor the place to deal with it all.

How can you let something like this ruin you? You’re not acting like yourself, Lyn. Pull yourself together, she scolded.

Her husband gave her a small smile as he drew closer. She reached for his hand.

“Lyn, this is Brian Miller. He was an Elder for this church.”

The man smiled and reached out to shake her hand. He had tiny spots of gray in his hair, and a thick black goatee. He looked a few years older than her father, but his eyes retained a certain youthfulness that unnerved her. She had spent enough time in front of a mirror to know that her own eyes betrayed stress, anxiety, and maybe even some regret, but definitely not youthfulness, despite her relatively few years. How could this old man’s eyes hold youth?

“Sorry about the scare with the gun,” he said sheepishly, like a middle schooler talking to his crush. “I had to be certain your husband wasn’t one of my enemies.”

Lyn raised an eyebrow. “Well.”

“Brian says that he can provide us some shelter through the night.”

She was about to nod, when his words registered. “Through the night?

Toby tried to speak quickly. “I know, this isn’t what we planned—”

“No, this isn’t what we planned, Toby, this is crazy!” She looked into her husband’s eyes, hoping he would understand. “Toby, if we don’t get back in five hours, they’re going to close the quarantine, and we’ll be stuck out here.”

“Lyn, we’re stuck out here anyway,” he said, his voice getting that strain it did when he was trying not to get upset at her. “This car isn’t going anywhere any time soon. If you want to stay in the car by yourself, then be my guest.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t suggest that, my friend,” Brian said, shaking his head. They both turned to him.

“Why not?” Lincoln piped up from behind them.

Brian looked around at the empty lot. “This place isn’t safe. It doesn’t have any type of covering. If they come out, you’re going to be lunch. Or, actually, considering the time, you’re going to be dinner.”

“If who come out?” Toby slipped his arm around Lyn.

The man leaned forward and lowered his voice to a whisper.

“The zombies, my friends. Who else?”

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