When I came out of the closet, Harlow had found a box of matches. The room was lined with thick white pillar candles, and she began to light them.
“There’s a pool out back,” she said as she lit the last candle. “It’s a little skuzzy, but maybe tomorrow we could clean it and go swimming. It might be the closest thing we have to a shower for a while.”
I still had my messenger bag looped over my shoulder. I pulled it up over my head, along with the gun and set them on the bed. My tennis shoes had been very nice Converse before I wore them all to hell, and I slipped them off. When I sat down on the bed, my feet throbbed painfully.
“I don’t wanna walk tomorrow,” Harlow said. “I don’t think I can do that much again.”
She sat on the bed next to me, and I looked over at her feet for the first time. They were covered in bloody, swollen blisters.
“Holy hell!” I gaped at her wounds.
“I know. When I pulled off my socks, they were full of blood.” She stared down at her feet wearily for a second, and then looked sharply at me. “Don’t worry. It was all my blood. Those are army grade boots, and they don’t have any holes. I double checked.”
“Those boots are killing your feet, though. They’re way too big!” I wanted to get up off the bed and take them from her, so she couldn’t let them mutilate her feet anymore, but I wasn’t ready to move just yet.
“But they’re great for kicking in zombie’s heads.”
“Yeah, but I haven’t seen you kick any zombie’s heads since I met you.” I shook my head. “You can get gangrene and lose your feet. And there’s no way you can go swimming like that.”
“What? Why not?”
“The water is probably contaminated with the virus, and you have open wounds,” I said. “Even if it’s not full of the zombie virus, it’s probably has something that would cause a major infection. In fact, come here.”
“I am here.”
“Come closer. I don’t know why you argue so much. Have I led you wrong yet?”
She sighed and scooted over to me. I put her feet on the bed, setting the argyle sweater underneath them. I reached in my bag and dug out a bottle of alcohol. Beck had told me to always be sure to pack plenty of bandages for wrapping wounds and lots of alcohol. It might not stop the zombie virus, but it would suck to die from tetanus.
“This might sting,” I warned her, and before she could protest, I poured it on her feet. She let out such a shrill scream, I would’ve thought someone cut her leg off. “Harlow! Shh! It’s okay!”
Within a minute, I heard feet pounding up the stairs, and Blue threw open the bedroom door, gun in his hand. I reached for my gun, but I only put my hand on it.
“Is everything okay?” Blue scanned the room.
“Yeah, I was just cleaning her feet.” I pointed to Harlow’s damaged appendages.
“Are there zombies in there?” Lazlo shouted from somewhere down the hall.
“No, it’s all clear,” Blue yelled back at him and lowered his gun.
“You used to be a doctor, right?” Harlow asked him. “She’s killing my feet.”
“Do you want me to check them out?” Blue offered, stepping closer to where we sat. “I mean, I wasn’t board certified, but I can clean a few cuts.”
“Yes, please.” Harlow nodded and glared distrustfully at me.
“Alright, whatever.” I threw my hands up and stood, wincing at the pain in my own feet. “She’s all yours, Doc.”
Blue took my spot on the bed and talked to Harlow, reassuring her that everything would be all right, and examined her feet. After a few minutes of listening to him soothe her, I was convinced that he didn’t have plans to rape and murder us.
I excused myself to get some food. Since I was hydrated and a little rested, my stomach remembered that it was starving.
The downstairs was lit with lots of candles, too. Thank god for Crate & Barrel. Lazlo stood by the patio doors in the living room, but I went into the kitchen without saying anything to him.
He left a can opener out on the counter, and I used it to open a can of salmon. I grabbed a fork, eating it right of the can, and I made my way back to the living room.
“The cat is swimming,” Lazlo nodded to the pool out back. That’s what he’d been staring at. Ripley freaked him out.
“I think lions like water.” I swallowed down the salmon and walked over to watch her. The pool had an algae film to it, but she dog paddled through it.
“So where do you come from that they have lions?” Lazlo gave me a sidelong glance.
“We found her on the way here,” I shrugged and took another bite. I didn’t want to talk about where I came from, or remember the quarantine or Beck or Sommer.
“I was in L.A.,” Lazlo explained, as if I asked. “I lived in a bunker under a house after the virus really started spreading. Then three weeks ago, we ran out of food.”
“So you’ve been living in a bunker throughout this whole thing?” I glared at him, but he was too busy watching Ripley to notice.
“Through most of it,” he said, oblivious to my icy tone. “When shit started hitting the fan, I bought this house in the hills with a bunker underneath. It was me, my bassist, his girlfriend, and a friend of mine from high school.
“I asked my mom to stay with us.” His voice got lower as he went on. “But she was at home in Toledo and didn’t want to fly out. And at first, I think we went in the bunker almost as a joke. We didn’t think it was really as bad as they were saying. We didn’t think …” He trailed off.
“What happened after you left the bunker?” I asked.
“They all died.” Lazlo shook his head, trying to shake it off, but his voice was thick. “Within a week. The only good thing is that they were all killed. None of them ever got infected.”
“How did you survive?” I asked. To be honest, I was a little shocked that he had been the brains of the operation.
“Don’t know,” Lazlo shrugged. “Luck. I hid out in an old recording studio for a while. I left to scavenge, and I found Blue last week. Without him, I wouldn’t have made it this far.” When I didn’t say anything, he smirked at me. “He’s Canadian, you know.”
“I did not know that,” I said, but I wasn’t sure why it mattered either.
“Listen for when he says ‘about.’ It’s a hoot,” Lazlo grinned. His abrupt shift in emotions bugged me, so I turned back to the kitchen. “Where are you going?”