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Elliott was quiet all the way back to the beer festival; Junie didn’t know why they were headed there after fighting their way out of it, according to the little Elliott had revealed.

“Everything okay?” she asked him.

“Huh?” he asked, starting a little.

“You okay?”

“Not really,” he confessed. “But I’m glad you’re okay.”

Confused, Junie looked at him funny. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?” Bob asked her the same question all time; also he had a tendency to lowball prices.

Elliott gave her a bemused smile and shook his head. “No reason I guess.” He glanced back at the cargo hold full of coffee. The smell of it filled the van and it was a like aromatherapy to Junie.

“How are you going to brew all this? You don’t have a machine or a grinder,” he said.

“Oh ye of little faith,” she replied.Therereplied. There was always a way.

They were following the SWAT van through the deserted streets, and there were no zombies to be seen, which seemed odd. Just about everywhere they had been was full of the undead but now it seemed as though they were alone. It was hard to believe this started less than two days ago.

They had planned to pull over a few blocks from the beer festival to scout it out, so when the SWAT van pulled over Junie tucked the coffee van in behind it. A few spatters of rain hit the windshield and Junie looked up: typical Northwest, raining out of a clear blue sky.

Higgins waved at them to indicate they should stay in the van and he, Roger and Shavian slunk down the road and around the corner, armed to the teeth.

If he got bitten, should we really be sitting here with him? He could be dangerous.

Bob! Don’t say things like that about Elliott. He’d never hurt me.

Yeah, but what if he’s not him?

Him who?


What about him?

Never mind.

Junie did glance over at Elliott’s hand and the red marks it bore. It looked like a bite at first glance but now she wasn’t so sure. Bob seemed to think it was but what did he know? He was just a game show host that lived in her head: that hardly qualified him to diagnose zombification.

You could win this BRAND NEW CAR, full of humans with brains!

BOB, stop it!

Still, she was worried, not for herself but for Elliott. He was enough things he didn’t want to be already, the poor boy, he didn’t need to add zombie to the list. He was rubbing the wound absentmindedly, staring out the windshield at Shavian as she disappeared around the corner.

Fipps got out of the SWAT van and came around to the driver’s window of the Treeville van. Junie rolled down the window and greeted him.

“Didn’t get a chance to say much earlier,” he said, leaning against the van. “But I wanted you to know I’m glad you’re back.”

Reality was pretty hazy for Junie most times, but the fact he didn’t say he was glad she was safe, as everyone else had said or implied, cut through the fog and registered. Strange.

“Thanks, me too. I was coming back, you just saved me the trouble of finding you. I saved the coffee but I missed everyone. Especially Elliott. He takes a lot of looking after.”

Fipps laughed out loud. “You ain’t lying .”

The others returned from their scouting mission with good news.

“The initial attack was pretty bad, but they fought ‘em off,” Roger said. “We’re all clear to go back if we want. Which I do.”

The others filed into the armor truck, and Fipps looked back once at Junie and waved.

When they arrived at the beer festival, the guards recognized them and let them back in without hassle, though why they kept referring to Elliott as “officer” she had no idea. They parked the vans near the loading docks.

Junie didn’t drink beer much, her drink of choice being set quite firmly, but she had to admit that this place seemed pretty nice. There were people everywhere and they were all smiling and having a good time. Better yet, Elliott and Roger and her other friends were among them, grinning and looking happy for the first time since all this started. Roger went immediately to a local brewer handing out glasses of thick black beer; Elliott had chosen a lighter IPA and Higgins had a bottle of something that looked cheap and American.

Jackson had vanished into the crowd and good riddance; Junie didn’t like him and Bob didn’t like him as a contestant. Fipps was also gone, but he re-emerged quickly, and Junie’s heart swelled a little: he was holding two coffee cups and held one out to her.

“I didn’t know what you like so I um… took a shot in the dark, so to speak,” he said with a smile. Junie got the joke and grinned back at him, thrilled: a shot in the dark was one of her favorites. She leaned toward Fipps’ cup and took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment.

“Triple shot latte… two-percent… one sugar… “ She sniffed again. “Raw, I think.”

“Damn girl!” Fipps exclaimed. “Exactly right. But-“

“But… it’s not hot enough. It’s only about a hundred and twenty degrees.” She gasped and took another deep breath. “They burned the shot! Have you had any of that?”

Fipps shook his head and she cautioned him not to sip. “Take me to this stand. They need a talking to.”

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