I shield my eyes from the morning sun as I step out of the RV. The steps haven’t been lowered yet so it’s just one big step down. The group is talking amongst itself when Claire and Luke join them. I notice almost immediately that John is not present. I glance about, but he’s nowhere I can see.
“Chase?” I hear someone say. Their tone implies it isn’t the first time they said my name. I notice that the whole group is looking at me, and I offer them a smile.
“Yehp! That’s me. What can I do for you?”
“Where are we?” Charlie asks from the back of the group.
“Uh,” I scratch my head and step closer. “Someplace called Twin Oaks. It’s not on the map. John said it’s probably some secret land of celebrities and rich people? I’m voting secret government city.”
“All things considered, with the cars and the gates, secret celebrity society sounds reasonable,” Claire states.
“It’s also a ski resort,” John chimes from the other side of the RV. I move toward the back of my vehicle and catch him just as he rounds the corner to join the group with a pamphlet in hand. “And a golf resort, spa getaway, horses, wine, blah, blah.” He flips a pamphlet over. “Best-kept secret in California. Join the Twin Oaks community and join the most exclusive of the Elite… It’s a place for people who know they’re rich and want to get away from the rest of us.
“Oh, I hope they got hit hard!” Luke snickers. “Bunch of elitists versus Zombies, I bet their mon-” He is cut short as Claire slaps him upside the back of his head. He glares at her as he ducks away.
“They were all people, too. They were probably just tired of the paparazzi and media hassling them at every turn,” Claire returns Luke’s glare before turning to John. “Chase said there were celebrities?”
“Yeah, a few.” John passes by me and offers one of the pamphlets to Claire. “They don’t list names, but they elude to having a dozen or so A-list celebs.”
John moves through the group to unfold a map across the hood of his truck. “I pulled these from the realtor’s office over there,” he points over his shoulder without looking. “Part of a welcoming package or something. But, anyway; it looks like there is a hunting supply shop up and around the corner. I think what I want to do is split into three groups-”
“Why do we always split up?” Claire interrupts. “Wouldn’t it be safer to keep together?”
“I want to get this done quickly. In and out, and back on the road North,” John responds.
“Sure, but, if we all go in one group to each stop then we would cut our time at each location and let us all transport more in one trip… plus, safety in numbers.”
“I ain’t seen anything to make me think this place is dangerous,” Charlie adds his two cents. “Bunch’a snobs probably fled the town once they heard the news. Off to wherever rich people go to when there’s danger. Secret bunker in the mountain or whatever”
“Alright,” John steps forward, raising his hands to call for silence. “Alright. In the interest of fairness, we’ll put it to a vote. All in favor of splitting up?” Lucy, John, and Charlie raise their hands.
“In favor of keeping together?” Claire asks, raising her hand. Luke raises his hand alongside hers. There’s a brief moment of silence before they all turn to look at me. I stare at them like a deer in headlights.
“Chase?” John says. “You have an opinion?”
“What? Uh, oh, yeah…. um,” I state, eloquently. “What they said,” I point at Claire and Luke. “Safety in numbers, and such.” I see a bit of disappointment in John’s eyes as he nods.
“It’s a tie,” John says. “So, as group leader, I’ll break it. We split.” He turns and faces Claire. “I get your concerns, but this place is dead quiet right now. If there is an active group they’re not nearby. Best to get this all done before the return or pass through. Besides, a population this size; only a handful would have turned. The rest would have fled or died.”
Claire crosses her arms over her chest and leans on one hip, but doesn’t protest any further. I bite my lip; I hate seeing disputes amongst the group.
John is usually a pretty cool guy; open to ideas and opinions and more than happy to accept one if he thinks it’s better. But, the hard part is convincing him it’s better and not just different. Charlie, however, will agree with just about anything John says, especially if it’s in opposition to Claire. For whatever reason, he despises that girl. It was his idea to get her out of their van and have her stay in my RV. I’m guessing if it weren’t for Lucy’s, Charlie would have ditched Claire somewhere a long time ago. He refuses to talk about why, and Claire just says she’s too liberal for him.
I haven’t pressed the matter.
“Claire and Luke, grocery store,” John begins delegating. “Canned foods and anything that isn’t moldy. You know the drill.” Luke nods and Claire just raises a brow to let him know he was heard. “Chase, Lucy, hit up that gaming shop around the corner; weapons, knives, camping gear, anything that looks useful. Maybe some tools?” I nod. “Chuck and I,” he motions to Charlie, “will head to the police station. Maybe they have arms or body armor. Small town, but a rich town, so who knows what they have stocked.”
John checks his watch and suggests we all meet back in 2 hours before disbanding the group. I notice Claire roll her eyes as she turns. I’m sure she’s probably complaining on the inside about always getting grocery duty and having to babysit Luke, as she puts it. She turns sharply and heads off down the street with Luke on her heels. Charlie moves off to his van, climbing into the driver’s seat, John climbs in shortly after, and they drive off.
I smile at Lucy.
“Get that dumb grin off your face,” she says, grinning at me in return. “Rich people sporting goods; golf and tennis rackets. Not beer pong and hacky sacks.”
I feign a groan of dismay, but immediately perk up and start walking down the street.
“Golf is fun too,” I state cheerfully.
Lucy shakes her head at me and waves ahead of us. “It’s just around the corner.”