Mike Robson stood behind the barricade of Jersey barriers. To his rear lay the southern ramp to Tukey Bridge. Ahead of him, Portland was silent and surprisingly deserted of rotters. That only increased his apprehension of having sent out Dravko and Tibor to scout the area. He reasoned that being vampires they had the best chance of surveying the city and making it back on their own. They had been gone for over three hours and should have returned long ago, unless something had happened to them. He stared into the night, wondering what lay in the darkness.
“Where are they?”
“Don’t worry. They’ll be back soon.” Natalie Bazargan reached out and slid her hand into his, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
Robson appreciated the gesture. He couldn’t help but notice that, as she spoke, Natalie scanned the area to check on her Angels, making sure the twelve girls were in place and prepared to defend against an attack.
Not that he could blame her. Everyone who had survived the expedition to Site R to retrieve the vaccine to the Zombie Virus was unusually jittery, which was to be expected after watching so many of their group get killed in the underground complex. And that didn’t include the three they had lost on the way to Pennsylvania. Because of this, he had chosen an alternate route home that went due north through the countryside before swinging east in central New Hampshire, bypassing the rotter-infested cities they had driven through on the first leg of their journey, not to mention the rape gang they had encountered outside of Barnston. The return trip added more than a hundred miles and two days to their travel time, although it did have the advantage of avoiding major population centers. At least it had until the group reached Portland, where they found that Route 95, the primary highway running parallel to the Maine coast, was impassible due to a multi-vehicle collision that blocked all the southbound lanes and created a “gawk factor” traffic jam heading north. Backtracking to the Maine Turnpike, the group cut across to coastal Route 1 and again headed south until they reached the city limits where a roadblock across the Tukey Bridge barred their path into the city. The presence of the abandoned barrier didn’t bother Robson as much as there being no signs of a struggle or of rotters. Because his gut feeling told him something wasn’t right, he had sent out Dravko and Tibor to investigate.
Right about now, Robson regretted being so damn overcautious.
“We should have tried to maneuver around that accident on 95,” he said, more to himself than anyone else.
“It wouldn’t have worked,” Natalie reassured him. “The Hummers would have been able to navigate the median, but the school bus and Ryder would never have made it.”
Robson glanced at his watch for the hundredth time. “I shouldn’t have sent them out on their own. We should have made a dash for it.”
“That worked so well for us in Glens Falls and Montoursville.” Natalie sighed and squeezed his hand tighter. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“It’s true.” Robson had lost too many people retrieving this damn vaccine, and had compensated by becoming cautious. Maybe too cautious. Being overly hesitant could just as easily get them killed.
“There!” Natalie let go of Robson’s hand and pointed toward movement in the darkness. Robson raised his Atchisson AA-12 assault shotgun, an automatic version of a shotgun that held twenty rounds in a drum magazine. Off to the left and right, Ari and Emily raised their M-16A2 semi-automatic rifles into firing position. Farther out, several of the Angels had heard Natalie’s exclamation and moved closer to provide fire support.
Dravko and Tibor emerged from the shadows.
Emily lowered her weapon. “Honey, call out to us next time before you get your fool head shot off.”
“You would have missed, little girl,” replied Tibor in his East European accent. His grin took the edge off of the insult.
“What took you so long?” asked Robson, the relief evident in his voice.
Dravko sat on the top of the Jersey barrier and swung his legs over. “Whoever planned out the defense of this city knew what they were doing. They almost succeeded in keeping it rotter free.”
“So Portland is infected?” Robson’s shoulders drooped.
“Yes, but it won’t affect us.” Dravko reached under his jacket and pulled out a tourist map of downtown Portland. He stepped over and spread it out across the hood of the Humvee. The downtown area sat on a peninsula bordered to the north by Back Cove and to the south by an inlet. Route 1 ran west of the downtown area, cutting off the peninsula from the rest of the mainland. Dravko pointed to the interchange south of the bridge spanning the inlet. “There’s a huge roadblock set up here and nothing’s getting by. We saw at least thirty or forty cars parked in front of it, probably people trying to avoid the traffic jam on 95. Between the barricades and the vehicles, there’s no way we’re getting through that.”
“Then we’re screwed.”
“Far from it.” Dravko ran his finger along the eastern coast of the peninsula to where a smaller bridge, the Casco Bay Bridge, crossed over onto the mainland. “This is Route 77 into South Portland. There’s a small roadblock on the far end, a pair of police cars blocking the bridge, and a couple of dozen rotters beyond that. The police cars are parked nose-to-nose, so we should be able to shove them aside with the Ryder. Once we’re clear of the bridge, we can cut through the suburbs and pick up the main road a few miles to the south.”
“What about rotter activity in the downtown area?” Natalie asked.
“Minimal. Like I said, whoever mapped out the defenses for this city did a great job. Trucks and Jersey barriers are lined up all along Route 1, so nothing made it in from outside the city. Chain links fences have been erected along the main road downtown, trapping the living dead in the residential and dock areas. There’s a dozen rotters at most in the street between here and the bridge.”
Robson studied the map. It looked easy enough. Less than three miles stood between their current location and the bridge that crossed over into South Portland, with only a handful of rotters in between. It should be easy. However, many times before he had thought that and lost lives in the process.