Home > Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(5)

Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(5)
Author: Jamie McGuire

“Halle was hungry,” I said.

His attention was already on the men. Some of them were starting up the Humvees, and others were opening the oversized gate at the end of the yard.

“What are they doing?” I asked.

Dad turned away from Halle and spoke softly, “There are reports of the virus in our state. The National Guard isn’t coming. The governor gave those guys permission to take the military vehicles to the roads running in and out of town to make sure no one who’s infected gets in.”

Women and children began to cry. Voices got much louder as the Humvees pulled out of the gate, and the young men chained it shut again. Other men rushed to their own trucks, heading to the highways leading out of town.

“Have you called Mom yet?” I asked. “What about Mom? Did you tell them to let her in?”

Dad was in a deep conversation with Tom.

“Dad? Dad!”

“Not now, Jenna.”

“Have you talked to Mom?” I said, unrelenting.

He stopped his conversation, breathed out a controlled but frustrated sigh, and shook his head. “Your grandma said she talked to your mom earlier. She was still in surgery. She’s busy.”

I pulled out my phone. It was almost time for her to get off work. Chloe had been out of school for over an hour, and she hadn’t texted me yet.

“I’m calling her.”

“Jenna, don’t.”

“I’m calling her!”

Halle lifted her glasses and wiped her eyes before watching me. I touched the screen and then held the phone to my ear. A series of beeps came through the speaker. I tried again.

“Can’t get through?” Dad asked, unable to hide the alarm in his voice.

Once the beeps started again, I hit End. “You should have let me try earlier!”

“Jenna, calm down,” Dad said.

I tried texting Chloe. A minute passed, and then a little red icon popped up next to my message showing that it hadn’t gone through. After a brief moment of panic, I noticed the worried look on Halle’s face, so I swallowed back my fear.

Dad put his hand on my shoulder. “She’ll be here, Jenna. This is the first place she’ll come when she leaves the hospital.”

I held Halle against my side. “Hear that? We’ll see her in an hour or two.”

Halle touched her forehead to my stomach and shook her head.

I knelt down, waiting until Halle’s eyes met mine. “She will, and she won’t let anything stop her.”

Halle hugged me, and Dad hugged us both before coaxing us back into the building. Instantly, the air was hot and stale. The tension was thicker, and Halle felt it, too. Something twinged in my chest as she squeezed my hand tight.

The governor wiped his brow with a handkerchief and then shoved it back into his breast pocket. “We’ve got three dozen men on patrol. They’re experienced hunters or marksmen. Rest assured that we’ve got Anderson locked down.”

“I’ve got family who are trying to get home!” a woman shouted.

After more yelling, the governor motioned for everyone to settle down. “The infection has spread to our state. If they’re not infected, they’ll be allowed in. But I’ve heard several reports that the interstate has shut down.”

The crowd exploded again.

I clicked on my phone to check the time. Mom should be halfway to Anderson by now.

Commotion from the yard interrupted the shouting citizens inside. Several people rushed out to see what it was, and then more yelling ensued. The door was left open, and a series of popping noises, like fireworks, echoed from down the road.

“Stay here,” Dad said, leaving us just inside the door before stepping out into the yard.

“What is that?”

“Is that gunfire?”

“The boys are shooting!”

“What are they shooting at?”

Wailing weaved together and formed a symphony of fear and anguish. It was stifling and stuffy inside the building and chilly outside. The sun was lower in the sky, and I knew it would only get colder.

“Dad?” I said when he returned. “Do we have to stay here?”

“The chief wants us here while people are choosing to stay here.”

“I didn’t bring my coat.”

“You’ve got one at the house.” He patted my back while looking past me to warily scan the yard.

“Halle only has her jacket. Maybe we should go to the house and get some of our things?”

He nodded. “We will.”

“I don’t want to spend the night here.”

“Me either,” Halle whimpered.

Dad glanced around the room. “People are getting sick fast. It’s probably not a good idea to be in here with all these people.”

I agreed.

“Tom,” Dad called his chief over.

Tom shouldered past several people to get to us. He always seemed fairly devoid of emotion, except for the occasional chuckle. His voice was monotone, but his eyes were kind. He didn’t stand much taller than my dad’s five feet nine inches, but being the chief, he didn’t scare easily. In that moment though, fear flashed in his eyes.

“Have you heard from either of your girls?” Dad asked.

Tom shook his head, looking a little lost. “Nope,” he sighed. “Connie’s phone quit working about an hour ago. They were both trying to get home from college, and they were taking the interstate. I’d told them that would be the fastest route home coming from Greenville.”

Dad made a face. “They’re together?”


“They’ll take care of each other,” Dad said, glancing at Halle and me.

Tom showed a moment of appreciation and then looked around. “This group isn’t going to stay calm for long. We’ll need everyone ready to help the police when the panic starts.”

“I wanted to talk to you about that. I was hoping to take the girls home. Maybe we should instruct everyone to go home. It doesn’t seem safe, having everyone grouped together like this, when an infection is spreading fast.”

“I said the same,” he said quietly. “The governor instructed the police to keep everyone here. They just went outside to get their rifles and gear.”

“Christ, that’s going to make it worse.”

“I know it. They know it. The governor is just doing the best he can, and they’re following orders.”

“What the hell does the governor know about riot control?” Dad growled.

Tom put a hand on Dad’s shoulder. “Not a damn thing.”

Dad stiffened. “They can’t force us to stay here.”

“I don’t think they’ll shoot ya, but you’ve got to stay, Andy. It’s your job to help these people.”

“I’m a father first, Tom.”

Tom looked down at Halle and me with a sympathetic expression. “We’ve all got a job to do. You do what you think is right.”

He walked away, and Dad watched him, his jaw moving beneath his skin.

I checked my phone again for the time and for any messages from Mom or Chloe. Nothing.

“Is she almost here?” Halle asked.

“Almost,” I said, not sure if I was telling the truth.

The brakes of a military truck squeaked in the street near the armory’s entrance, and then more people came in through the front doors.

“Are they giving people rides?” Halle asked.

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