“Looks like they’re waiting for that group we ran into,” Banks says, her voice sounding like she took something stronger than ibuprofen for her ankle. “Why are they out on the bridge on foot though? And where the hell did they get all those working vehicles?”
“From military bases or people like Lee, I suppose,” I answer one of her questions while trying to figure out the answer to her other.
We’re halfway between the two bridges when the four vehicles marked with red eagles pull away from the banks, to make their way west. Over my shoulder, I see Lee pause after just having turned onto the bridge and everything clicks in my head.
“Reverse! Now, Lee, it’s a trap!” I yell into the microphone and hope to God there’s time.
Then the explosions start and it’s not just the three bridges on this side of town that almost instantly crumble. Turning around, my eyes fall on Banks’s shocked face before looking past her and seeing a cloud of black smoke and flames coming from the direction of the town center.
Thinking fast, Javier makes a U-turn and speeds back to the tank. The hatch pops open and Dylan is the first one out of the turret; he scrambles down the back of the vehicle, quickly clearing its path as it totters on the remains of the road that are still falling away into the icy river below it.
Aiden’s head emerges, but I can see him looking down and yelling something just before he clasps his ears.
The tank fires off another artillery round and takes out a large van that seemed to be stuffed with men. Aiden climbs out, turning to stick his hand down into the hatch pulling out a large duffle bag before Lee finally emerges.
They make it back to the road just as the last part of the bridge gives way, taking Lee’s prized possession with it. Taking the time to get everyone arranged in the remaining vehicle, I bristle with anger—knowing that Tyton will continue on until he’s stopped, and I really wanted to be the one to stop him.
Everyone sits quietly as I drive us through the streets and roll up to the school, which is now little more than dust. Just when I’m about to vomit, down the block a figure steps out and Scott hails me. I continue down to him but unable to speak when I get to him.
“One of the women had started evacuating the kids, I guess the Red Eagles weren’t secretive about their plan to blow the school to hell if anything went sideways,” Scott tells me.
“Is there anything we can do?”
“I don’t have an answer for that today,” he tells me, looking as beat as I feel. “Maybe come ask me again in a few days?”
Removing my glove, I reach my hand out to shake his. “I will.”
That night, after I’ve recounted everything to my dad, I see the tears shining in his eyes.
“I was selfish,” he tells me, looking ashamed. “Being isolated up here for so long, I only thought about my family and checking on Dale.”
“That isn’t true, Dad,” Shelby softly scolds him. “We got them the food from those trains, which gave them the idea to go looking for others. That helped everyone in town.”
“In the spring, we’ll make sure they have seeds for planting,” Elsbeth says and I turn, my jaw dropping in surprise to see her wrapped in Lee’s arms.
“Firecracker.” Russ’s voice is as dry as sandpaper when it wakes me up.
I shake my head, hopelessly trying to clear the cobwebs as I reach for his forehead. He grabs my hand and pulls it to his mouth for a kiss.
“Was I delirious the last couple of days?” he asks me, squirming on the bed in his endless pursuit of finding a comfortable position. “I’m trying to sort through what was real and what I was dreaming.”
“Why don’t you tell me what you’re talking about, and we’ll sort through it? Like a hospital edition of Truth or Dare.”
“You told me you’d murder me if I died.”
“Yep, that happened.”
“Max told me he’d murder me if I hurt you.”
“Well, I didn’t hear that, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen.”
“And Tyton got away? Unfortunately, I think that actually happened.” He looks every bit as frustrated as the rest of us.