When a zombie hunter has no zombies to hunt, they're basically useless.
I speak from personal experience.
When I woke up and felt like being mobile, I realized with a jolt that I couldn't put weight on my left leg. This epiphany came to me the hard way.
"I'm starving," I announced to the crew the day after our fight. As I launched myself out of bed, I saw Ty and Hadlie come rushing forward to catch me, but, alas, it was too late. I did a face plant on the carpet, moaning as pain shot up and down my leg. I heard Brain stifle a laugh and was angry at myself for being stupid.
"Um, Shaw? You sort of need crutches," Hadlie unnecessarily informed me as Ty helped me back onto the bed.
"No, really?" I asked sarcastically. She huffed. Brain cackled.
"Oh, and you're welcome, Shawster," Brain said.
"For what?" I asked, ignoring the suffix he added onto my name.
"Saving your life. I totally kicked butt!" Brain answered. I moaned again but it wasn't in pain. Ty needed to start keeping his annoying ego in check around a copy-cat Brain. You know what they say, "monkey see, monkey do". Unfortunately, Hadlie and I have two monkeys in our crew who just do stupid things and copy each other.
"Err, right. What happened to the remains of the men of the Alamo?" I asked them.
"Mason and Jake took care of that. They're supposed to drop by sometime today to check up on us. Or, more specifically, you," Ty said curtly.
What was up his butt?
"Hey, guys, I have some girl things I need to discuss with Hadlie. Go to your room and try not to get kidnapped by zombies this time, okay?" I bided. Ty rolled his eyes but hauled Brain off anyway to their room.
"What's wrong with Ty?" I asked and resisted the urge to laugh. That is the immortal question, isn't it?
"Jake was making goo-goo eyes at you last night and Ty got jealous," Hadlie said, happy to spill the beans. I swear that child should be a gossip writer or something.
"Jake? He's twenty four or something. I'm still seventeen. Like, gross," I said, disgusted.
"Shaw, do you know the date?" Hadlie asked. I thought for a minute and realized I didn't, but what did it matter? Who cared what date it was?
"No," I answered. She pulled out her pocket calendar from her backpack. Today's date was October twenty third.
October twenty third.
"Happy birthday!" Hadlie exclaimed.
You know how most people really look forward to their birthdays? I'm not one of them. Like, yay, I survived another year. Kudos to me. Is it really that big of a deal? So I don't really advertise the date because I really don't care. But Hadlie loves birthdays and she's known that mine was coming up for weeks now. She's probably been counting down the days.
Suddenly, the whole Jake-looking-at-me-with-goo goo-eyes thing made a lot more sense. Me being eighteen just sounded so much more… mature. To both me and boys. I, however, have no interest in doing what the law allows me to do. Not yet, anyway.
"Ty noticed Jake's interest, obviously, and isn't real happy. We're just having a little party. You know, some cake that I bought, a few little gifts. Oh, you should go buy a lottery ticket!"
"A party?" I asked, trying to keep the distaste from my voice.
"Yeah, a really small one. Hopefully Jake and Mason won't stay very long," Hadlie said sheepishly.
"Oh, um, you know, Ty gets all protective," she said but I knew that wasn't the real reason. She knew something she wasn't telling me.
"Hadlie, just come on! Tell me! As a birthday present to me?" I begged. She bit her lip and I knew she really wanted to tell me.
"No, I promised Ty. Brain doesn't even know and I only found out because Ty talks in his sleep sometimes," Hadlie said.
"He talks in his sleep?" I asked.
"Yeah. He, um, never mind. Boys! You can come back in!" she called before she could ruin whatever Ty's plans were for me.
When they walked in, Ty kept his face passive but I knew he was dying to know if Hadlie had spilled anything. I knew his too-casual walk and the way his eyebrows twitch when he's nervous. Call me obsessive, but if I know anyone, I know Ty.
"So, when are the guys supposed to come over?" Brain asked.
Then, like it was planned, someone knocked on the door.
"Kill me now," I swear Ty muttered but I gave him a questioning glance and he looked back at me innocently.
Jake and Mason came in and hugged me (Jake's was a bit too long for my liking; I didn't dare look over at Ty). They had a small gift sack and Hadlie got a cake perfect for six people out of the fridge. So then we all made awkward conversation. Brain was prattling on about technology to Mason, who looked like he'd rather be anywhere but there. Jake was enthralling Hadlie and me about how they disposed of the Alamo guys. Basically they just threw the remains into the graveyard where some animal would eat it. Jake made it sound intense but it wasn't that interesting. He was looking at me eagerly the whole time, so I pretended to be enthusiastic but was failing. Fortunately, he didn't seem to notice. Unfortunately, he kept talking.
Finally, after we'd eaten some cake and I'd opened the present (it was a necklace with the letter "S" charm), I pretended to be exhausted so the guys would leave. And I really was super tired but more eager to know what Ty's big thing for me was.
I didn't have to wait long.
Right as the door shut behind the Carter guys, Ty looked at me with a small smile.
"Hadlie, I trust you can take care of Brain?" he asked, not looking at her.
"I don't need taking care-!" Brain started but Hadlie yanked him to the boys' room without letting him finish.
"We're going out to dinner. There's a little Mexican food restaurant around the corner. Can you make it over on your crutches?" he asked, coming to try to help.
"How else would I get over there?"
"I could always carry you."
I didn't know if he was serious or not.
"I can make it," I said lamely. He grinned and together we headed off to dinner.
It was great, really. We just talked about everything and laughed. And I fell more and more in love with him. So typical; girl falls in love with her best friend. Not much about me is cliché, but that is.
"I feel so idle," I told him near the end of the meal. He looked at me from across the table, half a chip in his mouth.
"How so?" he asked around the food.
"I feel like I should be fighting someone. More specifically, a zombie."
"Shaw, really? You just fought with Alamo veterans. Let's lay low for a while. Enjoy peace. Hakuna matata!" he said with uncharacteristic freeness.
"I know, I know. But we're zombie hunters. If I'm not fighting one or going to fight one, I feel off. Like something is wrong, you know?"
"We may need to get you back to bed," he said and waved the waiter over for the check.
"What are we paying with?" I asked randomly.
He grinned sheepishly.
"So I'm paying for my own birthday dinner?" I asked and giggled.
"Well I don't have any money!" he exclaimed and I laughed.
"Okay, okay," I said. There was a pause while the waiter came and took the money Ty had put on the bill tray. And I noticed a woman with blond hair and a hollow face standing by the kitchen doors. When a waiter burst out with some food, the smell of enchiladas and something came with him. Then I recognized that something.
"Um, I don't feel idle anymore," I said in a monotone. Ty followed my gaze and frowned.
"Let's just not bother her. She looks innocent enough. Come on, Shaw! It's your birthday and you're hurt. Let's just go back to the hotel so you can get some rest. Don't worry about her; she's not hurting anyone," Ty begged but right as he finished his last sentence, the woman with the blond hair pulled a pistol from her old-style purse and shot an elderly man right in the head.
"Harmless, huh?" I asked.
The restaurant patrons went bonkers and it seemed like Ty and I were the only ones who had actually seen the woman fire the gun. She turned and trotted off, her low heels clapping against the floor and then onto the pavement.
Ty hauled me up by my waist and then swung me into his arms, my crutches banging against his back where I held them.
"This isn't necessary; she's leaving," I hissed to him, embarrassed.
"Do you really think I'm going to take chances with you?" he asked back.
"Ty, just put me down," I told him. I knew he didn't like the prospect but he did as I asked.
"I wish I'd had my camera so I could've snapped a picture of her," he said a minute later. I nodded my agreement.
"She looked in her late twenties. Blond hair, I couldn't see her eyes, and a dress that looked like it belongs in the fifties," I recalled.
"She looked pretty," Ty noted. I rolled my eyes.
"Yeah, the dead are a real catch," I responded.
I laughed in spite of myself. Ty can be quite the wit.
"So you want to go after her?" he asked as we neared the hotel.
"That's going to be a positive on that one, captain," I answered. He groaned.
"Then can we please get you rested before we even start to pursue her?" he begged.
"Are you kidding? We have to start tonight!" I exclaimed.
"Shaw!" he cried, then pushed his lips to mine. His kiss was so long and so full of passion that I couldn't argue anymore.
"We start tomorrow," I gasped after we were finished.
"The next day," he bargained just as breathlessly.
"Tomorrow afternoon," I insisted. "Come on, it's my birthday."
"Fine. Tomorrow afternoon but you have to sleep past ten at least," he replied.
"Deal. Can I ask one more favor?" I asked as we got to the door.
"Sure, anything," he agreed.
"Kiss me again."
When I woke up the next morning, I realized I had both good news and bad news for myself. The good news was that Ty loved me. And I loved him. Yes, it is as wonderful as they say it is. Whoever "they" are. The bad news was that the four of us had to catch a homicidal zombie and my leg was far from healed.
I couldn't decide if one end of the good/bad scale outweighed the other, so I just figured it was a balance. The princess was saved but the dragon was still around. Bitter sweet.
Opening my eyes, I saw that I'd slept past eleven. My natural instinct was to shoot out of bed and start getting the day started. But it was rainy outside and I was cozy in my bed and was in no real rush to search for our mystery zombie woman. Not right then, anyway.
"What the heck?" Brain yelled and Hadlie screamed. Ty rocketed into the girls room, a toothbrush in his mouth and shirtless. His tanned, six-packed tummy was very, very distracting.
"Um, gunshot," I said.
Sure enough, there was a nice little hole in the door and a bullet in the far wall, close to my bed.
"I'm going out there," Brain decided.
"Are you nuts? No way! Get your butt back over here. She has a gun!" I exclaimed, swinging my legs over to the side and grabbing my crutches.
"Shaw's right," Ty reinforced and I nodded my thanks. No need to get romantic with the munchkins around.
"Let's just get dressed and start getting our gear together," I said.
"You think that was a zombie, Shaw?" Hadlie asked, absently rubbing her casted arm.
"Ty and I saw a woman last night who was a definitely a zombie. While we were watching her, she shot a guy. We're going back to track her and see if we can dispose of her before she does anything too drastic," I told Brain and Hadlie. They nodded slowly, processing this.
"Hey, Shaw, um, how are you using crutches with a cast on your wrist?" Brain asked a few minutes later as we were putting gear into our backpacks.
"I've had worse injuries that I had to deal with; this is nothing," I said with a grin. Then Ty looked at me like I was lying. And I partially was. I didn't want him to know that it kind of hurt when I used my crutches but didn't want to bring it up or else Ty would get all protective/obsessive and insist on getting me a wheelchair or something equally as unrealistic.
"Really?" Ty asked.
"Really," I said untruthfully. I met his eyes evenly.
"I don't believe you," he said.
"Okay," I replied.
"Let's hit it!" Brain exclaimed and yanked open the door. And, to our surprise, there was a note on the porch.
To the young man and lady who were at the restaurant last night,
Hello. My name is Elise Montague and I was murdered by the man who I shot last night. It was 1958 and I was twenty-nine years old. His name is was Ted Hobbs and worked with my husband and was interested in me all those years ago. When I refused to be with him, he shot and killed me. As I'm sure you know, technology was not as good as it is today, so my murder went unsolved and is in the back of a filing cabinet in Denver, Colorado. I apologize if killing Ted made things more difficult but I've had the spite in my heart for him ever since I died. Please convince police in Denver to reopen the case and present them with Ted as a suspect. And please forgive the bullet in the door; I wanted you to know you had a note. And please do not come after me. I have more business to take care of. Thank you.
"Uh, we need to catch her before she takes care of any more business," I said to the gang.
"Yeah, but as much as I want to catch her before her next business…let's not catch her. Just leave her alone. She's getting rid of bad people!" Hadlie said.
"There's a better way to get rid of people besides killing them, Had," Ty told her.
"Like, jail," Brain chipped in.
"Yeah. And how many bones does she have to pick with people?" I asked absently.
"Apparently more than one. I have a feeling Ted Hobbs was just one bone in a whole skeleton of revenge," Ty replied.
"Good metaphor," I complimented. The side of his mouth quirked up in a very Ty-like smile.
"So, whenever you want to put on a shirt, that'd be great. We kind of have a zombie to catch," I said to him.
"You dislike my nakedness?" he asked. Hadlie choked back a laugh.
"Go put on a shirt, you arrogant cheese head," I shot back.
Brain was in stitches on the floor and Hadlie was leaning against the wall, hysterical tears coming out of their eyes.
"It wasn't that funny!" I exclaimed.
"You love him so much you can't call him worse things than a cheese head. I want you two to be in a romantic comedy or something!" Hadlie laughed.
"He said 'naked'!" Brain chortled.
Brain's immaturity had hit a new low.
We followed the hazy path as far as we could, but the rain washed away too much of it. Brain's gear was in waterproof cases but the rain was coming down harder and harder. I was worried that we'd never be able to find Elise Montague after this storm. Water was seeping into the plastic trash bags that were protecting mine and Hadlie's casts and I'd slipped twice.
"Let's head back, guys. I don't want anyone getting sick," Ty suggested but I was hesitant. I'm nothing if not persistent.
"A few more blocks. If we can just find where she went…" I said but Ty closed his eyes the way he only does when he's trying to be patient.
"Shaw, Hadlie has been crying because she's miserable and in pain. You're hurt. Brain's getting frustrated. And I'm getting a cold. Let's go," he said.
I looked longingly at the sidewalk but decided he was right.
"A few more blocks," I hedged anyway. I didn't wait for an answer, swinging my crutches out. One slipped on the wet pavement and I sucked in a breath, certain I was about to eat asphalt. Ty's arms grabbed me before I hit the ground.
"Are you sure?" he asked in my ear. I shivered, both from cold and from Ty being so close to my face.
"Let's go back," I replied.
"Good thinking, Einstein."
I scowled at him before gesturing to everyone to start heading back. Hadlie and Brain seemed to sigh in relief. Walking back was horrible because I knew that I'd gone too far, pushed them too much. Hadlie and Brain were still pretty young. And Ty was just looking out for me. I should cut them some slack.
"Hey, guys, I'm sorry," I told them when we'd gotten back to the room and changed clothes. Hadlie still didn't look happy with me. Neither did Ty. Brain was the only one who seemed okay.
"It's okay. We understand that you want to catch her. Maybe the weather will be better tomorrow," Brain said brightly.
"Maybe," I agreed.
"C'mon Brain, let's go," Ty said. He held the door open for our youngest member and then the boys disappeared into their room. Ty was obviously beyond frustrated with me.
"Why did you make us stay out there for so long?" Hadlie asked quietly a few minutes later.
"Because I felt like I had to prove to Ty that I could still function with my injuries. Which is stupid. And I just really want to find Elise Montague. I'm so sorry, Hadlie," I told her, my voice breaking. This week has just been too stressful.
"I understand. But he knows how strong you are. In fact, he kind of wants you to show some weakness every once in a while," she shared. I raised my eyebrow.
"How do you know this?"
"He told me. Ty tells me everything he can't tell you. Mostly because it's about you."
"Oh. Okay. Um, well, I'm sorry. Forgive me?" I asked, feeling awkward.
"Of course," Hadlie replied and hugged me. "How could I be mad at you? You're like my best friend."
We said our goodnights and went to sleep. Well, Hadlie went to sleep. Ty came in the room about five minutes after I turned the light off.
"You know I'm not mad at you, right?" were his first words. He bent down next to me and held my hand.
"Yeah, I know."
"I'm not even frustrated with you anymore. I understand where you were coming from. And I love you, Shaw. I love you a lot."
"Anymore?" I asked. He laughed softly.
"Of course I was frustrated with you earlier. You weren't being fair to anyone. Including yourself," he acknowledged. He was so right.
"I know. And I am really, really sorry. And I love you too. A lot," I said awkwardly. He squeezed my hand a little tighter.
"Goodnight," he whispered and gave me a quick kiss before going back to his room.
And the good times just keep on rollin'.