Zombies in the Grass will be Book 4, Time of Zombies series. Although it will have many familiar faces I’m introducing two new characters; Captain Willa Zara knows the army is wrong with using forced soldiers, but the army is all she’s ever wanted and known. Danny Lopez is a woodland Robin Hood with his band of children who he will do anything to keep out of the army and the senseless deaths of fighting hordes of the undead who just don’t stop.
Chapter One (unedited)
Summer 0002 A.Z. (After Zombies)
Camp Natomas, California
1300 hours. Last circuit of camp done for morning rounds. Three altercations stopped. One over water rations and two over fraternization with camp population. Pvt. Williams sent to Isolation bunker.
Willa threw her pen down. Why couldn’t they call it what it was—rape. The men were using the holding camp as their own personal brothel. Reports to the higher-ups were being ignored, or she feared, the behavior condoned to keep the men in the service.
“Captain Zara?” a voice whispered at her open door. “There are new arrivals at the gates.”
She turned in her chair. “Orders are to turn all refugees away, send them to Sacramento.”
“This group is being escorted by our guys.”
Slamming her chair under her desk, she grabbed her cap and followed the soldier to the front gates. Her eyes widened. These weren’t refugees. They were too well-fed and clean for one, even the small children. For the other, defiance shone in their eyes. They hadn’t been brought willingly to the camp. These were holdouts, defying the Governor’s Orders.
A tall man in army-issue stood in the front of the group. Anyone could get camo gear these days from army surplus and sporting goods stores, but this man wore his like a badge of honor. Along with the buzz-cut and ramrod stance, his whole appearance screamed career army.
Willa sighed deeply. They could use someone like him, but they were being brought in as prisoners. The delta region had been swept and only Ryde had managed to fend off the radio orders for over a year to join the army or die. Her heart fell to the pit of her stomach. Too much killing. Too much everything. They had to make him and his group fall in line. With the lack of grown soldiers under her command, she didn’t have a choice.
“Commander Jack Canida,” the man barked as a line formed to process them in.
“Honorary title or real,” she said, writing on a pad in front of her.
“I served in Iraq and Afghanistan before the zombs. General Richard Stone gave me the field promotion before the army deserted us in Brentwood.”
The man stared straight ahead, not even bothering to look at her. She added a check beside his name in the military experience column. If they could get through his anger issues he could be an asset to the camp. She glanced at the group as they crowded around the man and watched his every move. Their eyes said they’d followed him to hell and back and would continue to do so. She allowed herself a small smile. This didn’t have to be any more difficult than it was. If he went with the program, the others would follow.
He pulled two females forward and wrapped arms around them. “My wife, Lila and our daughter, Selena.”
Willa couldn’t prevent another small smile. The young daughter glared down at her with her father’s attitude.
In mere minutes, they had the small group processed in and handed tent assignments and maps of the camp.
“Is this all of your group, or can we expect more to show up later?”
Tears formed in the wife’s eyes as the commander’s jaw tightened with a crack and a vein pulsed in his temple.
“This is all that’s left once your boys got done attacking us. We had over forty people at the Ryde Hotel. Eighteen is all I have left and most of them are children.”
She stood. “I’m sorry, sir, but the governor’s orders are clear. Join or die. Be thankful the army needs soldiers or you all would already be in front of a beheading squad and the children trained to go to war.”
The wife grabbed his arm as he tried to step into Willa’s space. “Jack, don’t,” she whispered.
“What about the children and the mothers with small children?”
“We have quite a few children and a need for teachers and babysitters.”
He smirked at her but the smile didn’t reach his bloodshot eyes. “And what counts as a child these days?”
Wincing, she caught her breath. “Fifteen is the conscription age these days, but it may be fourteen by the end of summer.”
Zombies in the Grass should be available by late summer/early fall.
Jill James, romance writer