I knelt with my forehead against the cool linoleum of the bathtub. I was feeling better. Lucky I hadn't taken time to eat breakfast.
There was a tap on the door.
"What?" I said.
"It's Dolph. Can I come in?"
I thought about that for a minute. "Sure."
Dolph came in with a washcloth in his hand. Linen closet, I guessed. He stared at me for a minute or two and shook his head. He rinsed the washrag in the sink and handed it to me. "You know what to do with it."
I did. The rag was cold and felt wonderful on my face and neck. "Did you give Merlioni one, too?" I asked.
"Yeah, he's in the kitchen. You're both assholes, but it was entertaining."
I managed a weak smile.
"Now that you're through grandstanding, any useful observations?" He sat on the closed lid of the stool.
I stayed on the floor. "Did anybody hear anything, this time?"
"Neighbor heard something around dawn, but he went on to work. Said, he didn't want to get involved in a domestic dispute."
I stared up at Dolph. "Had he heard fighting from this house before?"
Dolph shook his head.
"God, if he had just called the police," I said.
"You think it would have made a difference?" Dolph asked.
I thought about that for a minute. "Maybe not to this family, but we might have trapped the zombie."
"Spilled milk," Dolph said.
"Maybe not. The scene is still very fresh. The zombie killed them, then took the time to eat four people. That isn't quick. At dawn the thing was still killing them."
"Seal the area."
"The zombie has to be nearby, within walking distance. It's hiding, waiting for nightfall."
"I thought zombies could go out in daylight," Dolph said.
"They can, but they don't like it. A zombie won't go out in the day unless ordered to."
"So the nearest cemetery," he said.
"Not necessarily. Zombies aren't like vamps or ghouls. It doesn't need to be coffins or even graves. The zombie will just want to get out of the light."
"So where do we look?"
"Sheds, garages, any place that will shield it."
"So he could be in some kid's tree house," Dolph said.
I smiled. Nice to know I still could. "I doubt the zombie would climb if given a choice. Notice that all the houses are one-stories."
"Basements," he said.
"But no one runs down to the basement," I said.
"Would it have helped?"
I shrugged. "Zombies aren't great at climbing, as a rule. This one is faster and more alert but . . . At best the basement might have delayed it. If there were windows, they might have gotten the children out." I rubbed the cloth on the back of my neck. "The zombie picks one-story houses with sliding glass doors. It might rest near one."
"The medical examiner says the corpse is tall, six feet, six-two. Male, white. Immensely strong."
"We knew the last, and the rest doesn't really help."