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Fight to Live: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller (After the Outbreak Book 2), page 1

 

Fight to Live: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller (After the Outbreak Book 2)
 

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Fight to Live: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller (After the Outbreak Book 2)


  Fight to Live

  A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller - After the Outbreak Book 2

  Dave Bowman

  Copyright © 2017 by Dave Bowman

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  About the Author

  Prologue

  Nick looked out at the front yard below. The night vision rifle scope gave him a clear view of the property. He shifted in the cramped space of the loft, every muscle tense.

  The faint sounds of Charlie, Liz, and Jessa moving around had died down. That meant everyone was in position and waiting for his signal.

  He heard the attackers before he saw them.

  Another car door was shut quietly on the road, and gravel crunched underneath heavy boots.

  They avoided the driveway, sticking to the woods as they climbed the hill toward the cabin. Then they came into view, one after another, each holding a rifle. Each new man emerging from the woods to approach the cabin made Nick’s chest tighten more. But he paid that no mind.

  Fear, pain – those things were a given. What mattered was pushing through them to do what needed to be done. His focus was on the task at hand. Every nerve, every muscle was ready.

  The attackers communicated silently with hand signals. They fanned out in the dark night to surround the cabin.

  They thought they had the upper hand. Sure, they had more men and more guns, but they weren’t expecting Nick to be watching their every move from above with night vision. They weren’t expecting Nick to be ready and waiting for them.

  The plan had to work. They had come too far, and lost too much, to fall prey to these lowlifes now. And he wouldn’t let that happen. Nick could take care of these men. From his sniper’s nest, he’d pick them off one by one.

  He had to wait for just the right moment to begin. There was no room for error.

  His mind flashed to the most vulnerable members of the group who were waiting in a safe place, hidden deep in the forest. If he made any mistakes, he couldn’t bear the thought of what might happen to them.

  He pushed that thought out of his head. He wouldn’t fail them.

  Nick was even more determined to protect his friends. He wouldn’t let them fall victim to these murderers.

  Almost, almost.

  One of them broke out into a run, charging toward the front door.

  Now!

  1

  Like most of the country – and most of the world – the northern New Mexico resort town was empty. What had once been a small but bustling community of locals and a never-ending stream of tourists was now silent, except for the sound of the wind blowing through the cottonwoods.

  A truck engine abruptly broke that eerie quiet. Nick Redmond drove his Silverado into the narrow valley, looking uneasily up and down the road.

  Though he had been to this town many times before with his family, now he barely recognized the village without the usual flurry of activity: tourists flitting in and out of shops, deliveries to the restaurants, and the sound of children playing and dogs barking. The sounds had always been in the background, so commonplace that he had barely noticed them.

  Until they were all gone. Now, their absence felt heavy, and the town had become dark and cold. Before, Nick had come to this town with his wife and son to shop for souvenirs or eat lunch while on vacation in New Mexico. Those days felt so long ago, and the mission he was currently on made the contrast between the old days and the new even sharper.

  Two nights ago, his new home and makeshift family had been attacked. They had managed to defeat the invaders, but the experience had affected them all, leaving them on edge and wary. There had been damage to their home, as well – two windows had been broken. Rather than risking a trip to Santa Fe to a home supply store to replace them, he had decided to scavenge the windows in this small resort community.

  Driving through the small downtown and into the residential end of town, he and Charlie selected a high-end faux-adobe home with lots of windows, and parked the truck in front.

  "Keep watch out here," Nick said, slamming his truck door closed. “I'll go in to check it out.”

  Having received no response to his knocks on the front door and windows, Nick chucked a rock through the glass panel of the front door and let himself inside.

  Glancing around, the large home appeared to be vacant, though recently lived in. Dishes and food remains were scattered here and there through the living space; papers and books were strewn about. He walked to the French doors leading to the backyard. A few recent mounds of earth confirmed what he suspected: this had been the home of Hosta victims.

  He bounded up the steps on the wide staircase to check the bedrooms upstairs. The children's bedrooms were empty, with the beds unmade and the rooms disordered like the space downstairs. The master bedroom revealed who had dug the graves: a dead body lay twisted up in the sheets on the bed. Thankfully, he had died facing away from the door, so Nick was spared the sight of the distorted grin the virus victims wore in their final living moments.

  Nick shut the door and went to fetch Charlie.

  "All dead inside," Nick said to Charlie, who was waiting by the truck. Nick motioned for him to follow him indoors.

  Charlie nodded as Nick's eyes scanned up and down the road before they went back inside. "I think we can get a couple windows that will fit the broken ones back home," Nick said.

  They found two windows in the living room that were the right size. They got to work quickly on the first window, prying off the interior and exterior trim before removing it. While Charlie hauled the window out to the truck's cargo bed and wrapped the window in some old blankets, Nick set to work prying off the trim around the second window.

  As he removed the trim, his thoughts turned to the man lying dead upstairs, and he shuddered, realizing that the town was full of decaying bodies behind its closed doors. He wondered if all the inhabitants of this small town had died from the Hosta virus. Had there been any survivors?

  Or – more importantly – had survivors from the cities moved in?

  An upscale town like this would be an ideal location for survivors seeking refuge from the dangers of the cities. With the scattered springs throughout the area, there was plenty of fresh drinking water. And there was no shortage of fancy accomm
odations. The resorts, spas, and high-end homes meant a survivor could have his or her pick of a comfortable place to live.

  Nick had always considered himself a fairly sociable man, friendly to strangers and new acquaintances. But now that the Hosta virus had wiped out 96 percent of humanity, law and order had gone with it. Even rules of human decency seemed to have disappeared. Especially after three men had tried to invade his lodge, he wasn't in the mood to make new friends. No one could be trusted, at least no one outside the group of friends he had assembled.

  "Charlie!" Nick called out over his shoulder, wondering where he'd disappeared off to. It shouldn't take him this long to pack the window.

  But there was no response to his call. Just the endless silence.

  Nick sighed. The work would go a lot faster if Charlie were working on the exterior trim. Charlie was usually such a hard worker, and Nick wondered what was keeping him outside.

  Nick’s thoughts turned to Jessa, Liz, and Mia back home. He hated leaving them alone, but this chore had to be done. They were taking turns doing around-the-clock guard duty these days, and Liz was on watch that afternoon. They had stationed her in a chair behind the tool shed, the high point of the property. Her leg was still healing, but she could shoot a gun if need be. Though they had taken new measures to increase the security back home, he still didn’t like being away. He wanted to get this work done and get back to the lodge as soon as possible.

  Suddenly, Nick heard the sound of a car engine in the distance. His stomach clenched as he listened to the vehicle go around the first bend in the road that led into downtown. The vehicle was approaching, and it wasn't good news. A car meant strangers. Worst of all, a car meant possible confrontation.

  Nick set down his tools and grabbed his rifle, then crossed the spacious living room in great strides. With his throat tightening, he turned the doorknob and quickly stepped outside.

  His eyes fell on Charlie, who was standing behind the front end of the truck, holding his own rifle. Then Nick looked to the road and saw what had disturbed the unearthly silence in this small town.

  He watched as a sedan approached them on the two-lane state road just a short distance from where they stood. A middle-aged, large, bearded man drove the car, and a younger, thinner man rode in the passenger seat. Nick and Charlie raised their rifles as the vehicle drew near.

  Just before the sedan drove past the driveway, the passenger turned toward them and shifted his gaze to Nick. The hair on the back of Nick's neck rose as he saw the icy, vacant eyes of the passenger. The younger man stared at Nick directly, his flat eyes cold and detached.

  He had seen that look in the eyes of the men who had attacked the lodge two nights before. It was the hardened look of a man without a conscience.

  The car decelerated slightly, as if they might stop after all, and Nick held his breath. The driver looked back at them in his rear-view mirror, his beady eyes studying them carefully as the car slowed down.

  "Go on, there's nothing for you here," Charlie muttered under his breath.

  Finally, the driver’s eyes returned to the road in front of him and he picked up his speed. The sedan disappeared around the next bend.

  Nick and Charlie both breathed a sigh of relief. They had gotten lucky.

  "Whew, that was close," Charlie said, still clutching his Remington. “It looked like they were going to stop for a minute there. And they didn't look like they were the type to stop just to say hello.”

  “No, they didn't look too friendly at all,” Nick agreed, rubbing the back of his neck. He shuddered, thinking of the hostile way the passenger had stared at him.

  "It's just as well," he said. "I'd rather not talk to strangers these days."

  "Yeah, after the other night, I think we're all a little tense," Charlie said, kicking the dirt as if to release tension. "You still want to get that second window?"

  Nick nodded. “Yeah, I think we're in the clear now. Those guys are probably just passing through. And we need those windows bad. Let’s just get this done fast and get out of here.”

  “All right, I'll go around back and pry off that exterior trim."

  After they loaded the two windows up in the truck, they did a quick search of the home for anything useful they could take with them. No one was going to claim the things in the house anytime soon. No sense in letting the stuff go to waste.

  Charlie started in the kitchen, loading up a small collection of canned and dried food and paper goods. In the bathroom, he found some over-the-counter painkillers and toiletries. He smiled when he saw the ladies' skin care products in the medicine cabinet. He threw the bottles and jars in the bag, hoping it would win him some extra points with Liz and Jessa.

  Nick poked around the garage. Jackpot. He found a small gasoline storage tank with wheels and some gas stabilizer, which would keep the fuel viable longer. He also grabbed some bottles of car fluids he could use to top up their vehicles.

  Inside the home, he glanced around the living room. There was nothing they needed. Walking into the home office, he stopped in his tracks. An enormous collection of books stretched across the wall. A smile spread across his face – this would make everyone happy. He couldn't make all their problems go away, but at least he could bring home something good for them.

  He filled up a couple of suitcases he found in the closet with fiction and nonfiction. He knew everyone's morale had been low, and they needed some kind of entertainment to cheer them up. Mia especially had been complaining about the lack of reading material. He found some thick books on history and science that he knew she would enjoy.

  Within ten minutes they had all the new supplies loaded and were back on the road. Nick was relieved to have found windows that would fit the broken ones back at the lodge. The nights were getting chilly, and improving security at the homestead was a priority.

  Charlie took a package of Oreos out of his backpack and tore into the wrapper. "You want any?" he asked, holding the package out to Nick.

  Nick started to refuse, then thought better of it. "What the hell?" he said, smiling, as he grabbed a handful of the cookies.

  Before the Hosta virus, he had been avoiding junk food to try to get his cholesterol down. His wife, Kaitlyn, and his doctor had seemed to conspire against him to restrict all his favorite foods. But these days, beggars couldn't be choosers. Besides, he had a lot more things to worry about than high cholesterol.

  "Now if only we had some tunes," Charlie said. "I sure miss the radio."

  “Same here,” Nick said.

  He had never realized how valuable it had been until it was gone. Even if he didn't like what was playing on the radio or what was on TV, their very existence had meant the world was working. It had meant they weren’t all alone.

  As flawed as it had been, connection with people through technology had been a symbol of modern civilization. Even though the comfort and security they provided had been false, in that moment he wanted to hear a voice, any voice, broadcast using modern technology. Some kind of reassurance.

  But modern civilization had fallen, and with it, all the symbols of security most people had come to depend on. Now, there was no reassurance. Now, Nick had to rely on himself to make sure everything would be okay.

  Nick glanced at the conifer forest beyond the truck window. They would be home in less than an hour, and he settled in for the ride. They were both quiet, lost in their own thoughts.

  A movement in the rear-view mirror suddenly caught Nick’s eye and he looked up. He squinted at what he saw in the mirror.

  The adrenaline instantly began to course through his veins. Charlie, immediately on guard, reached for his rifle and turned around to see what was behind them.

  The sedan that had passed them earlier was now following them.

  2

  Matthew Redmond stood in the pantry of his kitchen, holding a checklist written by his father. Matt had been making notes in the margins of the list as he consumed some of the items. In the two weeks since
the last grocery shopping trip his family had made, he had put quite a dent in the pantry's supplies.

  He wasn't too worried, however, since there were several other closets filled with food stores, as well as a large storage unit outside the ranch-style home with carefully organized and updated supplies of food.

  He went out to the storage shed now, just to look at everything and compare it to his father's meticulous notes. Seeing the stockpiles of food gave him comfort, and he had been doing it regularly the past few days. His parents had prepared well, making sure the home was well-stocked with food, water, medical supplies and all the other necessary elements of survival.

  But it wasn't enough. With his parents and sister dead, Matt was all alone, and he was in desperate need of companionship. Today felt even lonelier than usual, with the solitude weighing down on him.

  Today was his thirteenth birthday.

  Closing and locking the door to the storage shed, he walked past the garden to the edge of the property, where his family members were buried.

  His ten-year-old sister Ashley had died first, and it had destroyed his parents. He was horrified to see them reduced to ghosts of their former selves. The two people who had always been pillars of strength in his life were falling apart. With them, his world was shattering as well.

  By the time the Hosta virus had claimed Ashley, both of his parents had already been gray and ill, and he watched as each day they slipped further away.

 
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