Pretty much all I could see was a narrow field, covered in snow, tucked between a pair of hills where the mountains flattened out toward the plains.
I adjusted my binoculars.
At the field’s far edge, a barn came into focus. It was old, tilting slightly. Abandoned.
I couldn’t spot anything else. Or anyone. Just an empty field beneath a gray sky.
I was pretty sure I’d seen something move, though, just as I’d ridden around the bend.
I nudged Kaypay forward. The snow was deeper on the north side of the ridge. But by this late in the winter, my sister’s horse had weathered much worse. She trudged forward stoically.
“Ashley!” Chris’s voice echoed from up the trail. “Steak breakfast! Fucking fresh steak breakfast! Cooked to order! A hot meal. Come on. Ed’s gonna think we don’t respect his culinary genius. And I’m starving. Seriously. Literally starving. I swear to God I’m gonna Donner-party your ass if you don’t pick it up.”
There was another flash of movement. Just beyond the distant barn. I was sure of it this time. And now that I’d rounded the bend and reached Chris, I had a better vantage point.
“I saw something.” I stopped Kaypay and raised the binoculars again.
“Probably just a stage three,” Chris said. “I’m sure at least some of them have found shelter somewhere.”
It had been a cold winter. The last time I’d seen any stage-three positives had been during an earlier supply run, more than a month ago. They’d already expired, though: a couple of teens, frozen to expiration, locked in an icy embrace at the lookout above town.
But the movement I’d seen in the distance below wasn’t the stilted lurching of a stage three. I wanted to make sure what I’d spotted wasn’t a Home Guard ranger on patrol. I was as hungry and cold as Chris, but the last thing I wanted was an ambush.