“ Darest thou confront that fearful form,
That rides the whirlwind, and the storm,
In wild unholy revel!
The terrors of that blasted brow,
Archangel’s once,— though ruin’d now —
— Ay,— dar’st thou face THE DEVIL?”
Raising the Devil by Richard Harris Barham
June 25th 2010 1340 hrs
Fires raged out of control all down the street, burning figures stumbled out onto the street arms outstretched trying to stop the vehicles that swept past. A body thudded to the sidewalk, falling from the roof six stories up. As the last vehicle passed the broken shattered body it began to flop and roll as it tried to follow.
The line of police vehicles turned and found them selves on a street packed with fleeing civilians.
Dean tried to close his ears to the pleas for help, there was nothing he could do no matter how badly he wanted to. They didn’t have room for any more people, they didn’t have the ammo and the damn sure didn’t have the manpower.
A man threw aside the suitcase he was carrying and leaped onto the side of one of the Armored cars trying to pull himself up onto the roof. He managed to hang on to the side for a block and a half before falling free. He landed sprawled on the street and was just getting to his feet and cursing the police when the infected came from everywhere and buried the now screaming man under dead flesh. When they rose and headed towards the screaming mobs of people he staggered after his new brethren.
The vehicles raced across the south side of town finally pulling into the parking lot of large four story building. Dean leaped out of the SWAT armored vehicle, weapon ready. Covering the area as the four Police vans pulled up behind the Armored car. Everywhere he looked people were running for vehicles or taking off on foot. Where they thought they would go was beyond him. The infected were all over the city now in numbers to large to stop.
“lets Go” he shouted, waving a hand towards the doors of the Command and Evacuation center that had been set up yesterday, after all he had seen it felt like a week ago. They burst through the doors, and saw the last of the cops were heading for the side doors to reach the parking lot where their vehicles where, He wished them luck, they were going to try and find their families in this chaos and get them to the fall back position.
Dean tried not to think about the people still in the building they were leaving behind, everything that could be done to get people out had been done. Now they could only hope their back up plan would work. The thought didn’t make Dean feel any better but it was all they had.
Out in front of the building, the first crackle of gunfire announced the arrival of the next wave of infected. Dean wanted to help, but the plan was in place and they had little time. They charged thought the temporary office area, past a few cops who stood staring as the realization that they had waited too long sunk in. Dean wished them well, hoping they managed to escape and find their families.
They ran through a room filled with overturned cots, and discard blankets, the Refugees who had sheltered were long gone, Dean could only hope they had been lifted out as planned.
They had tried to get to every ones Families, but there just hadn’t been time, the number of infected had risen to fast. In less than Three days Charleston had fallen, it might take another day or two for the infected to finish the job. but for all intents and purposes this was just the corpse of a city now. There were just not enough defenders left to make a difference.
“Cutting it close” Ed his partner said as they entered the emergency stair case, and took the steps two at a time racing to reach the roof. Behind them the sound of gunfire was growing louder, the infected were in the parking lot.
Dean wanted to cry, to scream at the sky, the infected had reached here faster than expected, those who were trying to escape on foot or in vehicles had waited to long. Even in the stairwell, he could hear the screams from outside as more and more men and women were dragged down. Even those that reached their vehicles were doomed, Dean had seen enough to know that anything short of a tank would end up stopped by all the stalls and abandoned vehicles all over the city, if by some miracle they managed to avoid that obstacle a few thousand infected surrounding a vehicle would stop a vehicle dead in it tracks.
They burst onto the roof and ran for the metal platform that the Army had erected just yesterday, it covered most of the roof and allowed four Helicopters to land on the roof.
Dean burst onto the roof, four helicopters waited on the pad, the last few evacuee’s were being loaded as fast as possible. They were a miserable, terrified looking lot and were barely keeping it together.
The officers helping to load the passengers got the last of them moving quickly. They knew that with Dean and his people’s arrival this was going to be the last flight out to the Yorktown from this location.
Once these people were dropped off, the choppers would take to the air once more and try to pick up as many officers and their families at their homes or at pre determined Lz’s along with as many civilians as possible. No one really believed it would be successful, but they had to try.
Dean climbed into the copilots seat and buckled in as the other men piled into the back and strapped in tight. Over the roar of the engine they heard gunfire erupt, shouts and then screams. Dean looked out the window and saw the door to the stair well open. Uniformed cops emerged backing onto the roof, as soon as they were clear of the doorway, they formed a line firing back into the stairwell, falling back towards the helipads.
Ed, feeling sick to his stomach knowing those men were probably doomed, slid the helo’s door open and was bellowing at the men to run for the choppers. Three men, wild eyed but still in control of themselves, hearing promised salvation turned and ran for the second chopper that was ready to lift off.
The rest held their line, they were buying time for the Evacuees to be loaded. Dean could only watch, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes, as the infected, or what ever they were swarmed out of the stairwell, bodies were tumbling. Some rose back to their feet and just came on. For a moment, just a heartbeat it looked like they might be able to hold their position and bottle the infected in the stairwell.
But then an officer ran out of Ammunition, then another and the infected came on, falling on the men, the others were still firing but they went down under ripping hands and tearing teeth. Blood sprayed across the rooftop. only a few escaped to retreat to the helipad.
“Get those choppers up Now.” Ed shouted as he slid the side door of the helo closed. The infected swarmed up the staircase, drawn by the helicopters and the few living still on the helipad.
Dean felt their chopper lift off, but his eyes were glued to the scene below were six men ran for one of the chopper that was just starting to lift off. One of the six spotted a young girl, lost in the confusion, she stood by a metal fuel drum, clutching a doll and crying.
The cop maybe twenty, veered away from the helo and scooped the girl up, The poor doomed man knowing he wasn’t going to make it didn’t hesitated, he charged up as the bird was lifting off and tossed her up into the open door, where another officer caught the girl and pulled her into the cabin. The officer holding the girl refused to look away from the young cop, who fought bravely as he was dragged down half a second later.
Only two of the six cops on the roof made it, throwing themselves into the last Helo as it hovered for a moment a few feet off the pad, the men inside grabbed them and pulled the desperate cops inside. but the rest all the rest, were dragged down screaming, blood sprayed as they were ripped apart. Dean would never forget the face of a man he had known for six years, staring up at the fleeing chopper, one hand reaching out, before he was buried under the bodies of the walking dead.
“ Where to?” Farely, the pilot asked as he circled the evacuation center and police Command and coordination post, every where they could see below the dead were feasting on the living.
“ Home” was all Dean said. The Bird rose higher and then moved north. In the city below, Dean could see lines of cars packing the streets, people were jumping out and fleeing as the dead advanced on them from all directions. The living were overwhelmed, people that tried to stay inside their vehicles were dragged out, those that ran were taken down by sheer numbers as they fled..
Here and there he could see buildings burning. west towards the Navy Weapons center, navy fighters had dropped cluster bombs around the base, and even launched some tomahawk strikes. He had heard that the 81st Transportation battalion had pulled back to the weapons center, and the navy Complex had forted up.
Down below he saw a tanker truck barrel thru an intersection just as a line of National Guard trucks came from the opposite direction. The tanker veered to avoid them and plowed into a Building, and exploded seconds later.
The Septima clark expressway was a parking lot, a burning parking lot where the dead feasted on those who had survived the multi car pile up and spreading fires. The traffic was backed up into the downtown streets, no one was going to get out.
“ Jesus” Steger muttered from the back of the helicopter
“ at least we got every one we could out and to the Yorktown” Ed called out over the intercom as Farely circled the downtown area one more time. Dean remained silent not even sure if that would make much of a difference. At least we got most of emergency supplies dropped on the York town instead of the Evacuation center he thought, a he saw people jumping from rooftops plunging to their deaths to escape the infected.
Dean barely held onto his sanity as he saw the city falling block by block, the undead pouring into schools held by a few remaining police officers who refused to abandon the familys sheltering inside. Fires deliberately set in the hopes it might slow down the undead blazed out of control. Wrecks, explosions, smoke and death piled on death.
“Enough, Farley, get us out of here” Dean finally said just wanting to get out of the area.
Farley brought the Chopper around and headed out over the harbor. “Look at that” He muttered. a flight of Navy Tomcats screamed past heading west, pylons loaded with death.
“ a nuke might do it, but nothing short of that is going to make much of a difference.” Dean commented as he finally tore his gaze away, not even wanting to see the French quarter as they passed over it.
Down below The harbor was as full of chaos as the city, Boats and ships that were able had taken to the water, the big ships headed for open sea were running over flotillas of smaller craft. Leaving spreading wreckage in their wake. Men, women and children who had fled the infected died in the water killed by panic.
Over it all, the worst was the voices on the radio, some screaming for help, others saying a calm goodbye to the world, a few doomed bastards who saw the helicopters even wished them luck.
The four choppers flew across the harbor to the waiting USS Yorktown, where their surviving friends and family waited. The undead who swarmed around Patriot point, having finished eating their way thru the hotels and homes nearby had gathered in the park watching the choppers set down on the deck of the Old Carrier that was now home.
April Tenth 2011 AD (after dead)
Josh, stood in the old washtub he had scavenged, and finished scrubbing the dirt and grime off his body, his mind mulling over how to get his sister back from the raiders who had snatched her almost a month and a half ago. Finished he stepped out of the tub and toweled off, trying not to think of what she was going through. Amanda was only sixteen, sixteen F’ing years old she didn’t deserve this, hell no one deserved this shit. But being taken as a sex toy by a bunch of scumbag losers was too much with everything else they had to deal with.
He dropped and cranked out fifty pushups and then did thirty chin ups on a rack he had installed. Working out usually helped him keep his temper in check. he was sweating by the time he finished and looked at the tub again and knew it was pointless to try to get clean again. he pulled on a pair of dirt bike pants with ballistic plates on the thighs and cups on the knee caps.
He pulled on his heavy motorcycle boots, buckling them up the side and then pulled on a skintight wik shirt before picking up the dirt bike body armor and slipping it on. It resembled nothing so much as some kind of futuristic military knights armor with a clamshell upper back and chest, and articulated torso. Shoulder cups, upper arms protection, elbow cups and forearm guards that completely wrapped his forearms. He buckled the clamshells closed then the torso section. then added the black plastic neck guard that stood two inches over his shoulder..
I’m like a black armored storm trooper he thought not for the first time. he added a web belt with his pistol, and two knives. Bowie knives he thought they were called. He eyed the flat black custom quiver that could hold thirty arrows and had a section to hold the strung custom recurve bow he carried.
He removed the bow and laid it on the ground then strapped the quiver on his back then slipped on his day pack. He hadn’t had to use his pistol against the undead for almost three months. The last time had been when he had shot two of the raiders, and left them bleeding on the street for the undead. he wasn’t proud of that, but at the time he hadn’t been thinking to clearly.
All I really need is a cape and a batman cowl and I’m ready to go he told himself as he checked the various pouches strapped to his belt. Everything he currently wore was black. Non reflective black at that.
Picking up his bow he slipped out the back door and took the long route out of the business complex. He thought about going to Hudson’s place, but the junkyard was out of the way. Hudson had a great place, A bit eccentric Hudson had spent years creating a maze out of the junk, with his entire house hidden at the center of the maze composed of cars and other junk. The only way to reach it was to first find one of several hidden entrances, then wander around the maze. Josh had been there a few times, and had always liked the one tunnel that you entered thru the trunk of an old car. But Hudson wasn’t the most stable of people either, assuming he was even still alive..
It took him almost two hours to work his way across 17 and then get around the housing areas, with out being seen, or heard. Either one would have gotten him killed. Way to many zombies to deal with. he crossed to the east side of rifle range road because there were few homes, roads and business on that side. and he could make better time to the building he used to keep an eye on the Bridge the raiders had used to go back and forth for a while now.
He skirted a marsh remembering a time when he would have just stopped to watch the gold and rust colored plants sway in the breeze. But not any more. Hearing a noise he looked closer and saw two zombies wading slowly thru the marsh, The thick mud sucking the slow moving zombies down to their knees. He debated shooting them with his bow then dismissed the idea. At that pace it would take them a month to get free of the marsh no sense in wasting arrows. He hurried up his pace to get back into the woods that encircled the marsh
Finally, he reached Ben Sawyer road (703) that crossed to Sullivan island. the most dangerous part of his trip. He had to cross a parking lot of an old restaurant and angled east across the wooded area then cross the street. If the raiders had come across the bridge during the night zombies would be thicker than flys on shit. Drawn to the area by the sound of the bridge rotating back into position and the motors of the Raiders vehicles.
He moved from parked car to parked car, most had out of state tags, tourists who had been vacationing and died here. the zombie presence was actually very light today compared to other trips he made out here. Making sure there were no zombies that could see him between the two cars he squatted and watched the zombies on the road who all seemed to be staggering west as if drawn.
He waited for what seemed like hours, till he could move quietly across the street, fighting the urge to run the entire time. Running would be for zombies what blood in the water was to sharks,
He made it to the brush behind the trees on the other side and then began to work his way along the side of the road keeping to the trees and then the thick marsh grass till he could cut back behind the Jet ski rental business that was on the marina grounds. He stopped as he saw two zombies, one was dragging its self across the ground, its intestines tangled around its legs, the other stood staring up at the roof Josh used to watch the causeway and what little bit of the island he could see from here.
He drew an arrow from his quiver and knocked it, drew back aimed and released. The arrow hissed thru the air taking the zombie on the ground in the eye, the broad head point burying itself in the things brain. He notched a second arrow and coughed to draw the other ones attention. It turned slowly seeking the source of the noise and then toppled over as an arrow killed it a second time.
Josh made sure there where no more zombies, before stepping out of the concealing brush and retrieving his arrows. He slipped them back into his quiver then quickly grabbed the ladder he had placed on the ground beside the building weeks ago and as quietly as possible leaned it against the wall. Taking one more look around he made his way to the roof and settled in behind the low wall that ran around the roof.
He sat there just watching the slice of island that was visible and the center span section of the bridge, Occasionally he would glance at the gray sky and then turn his attention to the road where a few zombies wandered around doing nothing. There were times he wondered if they thought about anything at all, were the people they had been trapped in side those rotting bodies with no control over what their bodies did, going insane begging silently to die.
He turned his binoculars to the bridge once more trying hard not to think about what ifs, the Bridge was an old design but a new bridge, a pratt and truss style, bridge that rotated around a central point, the hexagonal shaped control booth sat in the center of the bridge over the roadway. Three men were usually stationed there, turning the bridge when the raiders needed to leave or return to the island. The men were changed out every four or five days.
He was getting tired of running back and forth, from his hiding spot then back here to sneak past zombies, and climbing the ladder he had placed against the wall to sit on the roof and watch for the raiders to cross. But he couldn’t just hide in safety while his little sister was being held captive either.
He had at first thought that there was no way to get to the island by boat, judging from the bullet riddled wrecks here and there on the shore till the day he had been hiking back along the water and had spotted two of the raiders sneaking off the Isle of Palms on the north west side by canoe. He had no idea what they had been up to, but they had come and gone for almost three days. Hiding their canoe each time they were finished. Which told him that what ever it was, their buddies wouldn’t have been thrilled with the idea.
He had spent a couple of days looking for a canoe, finally finding one tied off on a creek. Then he had spent two weeks sneaking back and forth to the isle of Palms in the middle of the night. Sometimes hiding on a small island just off the shore watching the bridge to the Isle of Palms or landing where he had seen the Raiders launch and land from on the Isle of Palms, scouting the area around the landing then leaving before dawn.
He had discovered that the Raiders didn’t post any look outs that far north on the Isle of palms, they were only concerned with guarding the H516 Bridge they had blocked off that connected the isle of palms to the mainland.
From what he had seen they used three buildings they had fortified to guard the bridge but anything north of those buildings they left alone. He could understand why, the undead were thick on the island and the raiders didn’t seem inclined to thin the ranks of the undead
Here on the Ben Sawyer Bridge, from what he could see with his binoculars it was the same set up. a few buildings to house look outs, vehicles used to block windows and doors. every two days he saw a Humvee check out the bridge. Almost like clockwork, almost
Getting to the Isle of Palms was one thing, but Sullivan Island was a different story, they had spotters along the island who would bring any boat under fire till it sunk. and even if he could get onto the island the streets were filled with undead. And even if he could dodge the undead for the first hour, he had no clue where his sister might be.
Now if this was a movie he could just roll under one of the trucks the raiders used, and hang on to the frame and let them carry him across and straight into their base. But this was reality, for now there was nothing he could do but wait and watch till he came up with a plan.
The cool wind was growing a bit stronger and Josh could smell rain on the air. the Building thunder clouds on the horizon didn’t need a genius to know a storm was moving in. he would have to leave soon or go take shelter in the Marina store and office again.
He dug thru his daypack and pulled out a power bar with one hand while still watching the island, or to be more accurate what little bit of the island he could make out from this distance. Opening it one handed he took a bite and chewed slowly. His eyes fixed on the building where a man paced on the roof keeping watch on the bridge.
His attention was to focused as a result it took him moments to notice the low throbbing sound of a motor, when he did he tensed realizing it was growing louder.
He could see nothing on the Sullivan side, no trucks approaching the bridge, and the bridge was not rotating to let a vehicle pass. He turned and looked back down the 703 and saw a huge military looking truck with something that looked like a giant plow blade attached to the front. A man stood in the back manning a large military machine gun, like he had seen in movies. he also noticed something odd that stuck out about two feet that seemed to be attached to each wheel.
Behind the military truck was a tough looking off road van. He had never see anything like it. jet black, with a few bullet holes. A brush guard made from what looked like three inch pipe and huge winch mounted to it. a row of flood lights and fog lights were mounted over the roof, and it was jacked up four inches with big tires.
Behind that was some kind of old Brown suburban looking vehicle, jacked up as well with off road tires, and a man on another military machine gun, smaller than the first one, stood up thru a ring in the roof watching the zombies and the area around them.
Josh ducked down, they might be raiders that had left while he was sleeping or going back for more food. He damn sure didn’t want to be seen. He peered over the lip of the roof and watched as they parked in front of the Marina’s Main office. and then all but the men in the First truck dismounted and the man who manned the machine gun on the brown vehicle. A total of five men and one woman,with a sword no less, hit the building like a swat team.
The other five men, from the Brown vehicle, in Army uniforms took up a defensive position around all three vehicles watching the zombies approaching them.
He puzzled over this for a moment, the bridge still wasn’t in motion, and it usually would have been to let a raiding team back across. He had seen the raiders use a radio several times to get the bridge to move, but these men didn’t. maybe they were looking for him, maybe they had spotted him the last time he was here, and were now sending groups out across the Bridge from the isle of pines, to try and catch him.
He didn’t think so, he couldn’t see them wasting gas to catch on lone teenage boy, so maybe these guys were from a different group, one the raiders had pissed off, and they had tracked the raiders back here. it was possible, a lot more possible than the raiders wasting time and fuel to catch him.
Who ever they were they were not there long, with in five minutes they were finished and climbing back aboard their vehicles, then left running down zombies as they drove away to the west..
Josh waited for a while, listening to the motors fade in the distance. Knowing that who ever they were, they were drawing the undead away making it easier for him to get back to his hide out.
The wind began to pick up and the water in the channel began to get really choppy, the dark clouds finally swept across the area. Thunder rumbled overhead and Josh saw lightening flickering across the sky like nets, I’m not going to be able to make it back to the hide out today he decided.
This storm was going to hit any moment now and he didn’t want to get caught with out a safe place to shelter. There is the Marina office, he thought. Gazing at the building for a moment then made up his mind.
Josh checked the ground around the building he was hiding on, seeing that it was clear of undead. He rushed down the ladder as the first large drops of rain began to fall. He headed for the office and saw a zombie turn ahead of him. it hadn’t heard him over the wind but it damn sure saw him.
he slid to a stop drawing an arrow from the quiver on his back, as it broke into a slow run, he drew, aimed and loosed. The broad head smashed thru the things eyeball and buried its self in the back of its skull.
Josh rushed forward retrieving his arrow, the rain pouring down around him. He looked around quickly but saw no other undead. If he had seen any more he would have had to have to head for his hide out, so as not to risk becoming trapped in the Marina office there was no way he was going to be trapped in a small room and die of thirst and hunger if he could help it..
He rushed up the cement steps and was thankful the strangers had closed it when they had left. Josh pushed open the door and stepped inside. Closing the door, he spotted a steel block on the floor behind the door that must have been used to prop the door open during nice weather. He slid the block against the closed door as an added precaution
The windows that covered three walls of the Store/Office of the Marina were so dirty they were opaque from the dirt and grime that had built up on them. Which meant he could move around quietly with out having to risk being seen by zombies and still get plenty of light from the sun, when the sun was out at any rate.
On the floor were overturned racks the flyers and Brochures they had once held were scattered around them in the dust. The counter was covered in dust, and hard to see in the dim light. Shelves loaded with Tshirts, caps, and other memorabilia had at some point been pushed against the back wall clearing the main floor.
As the storm rolled over the Marina, he moved into a supply closet feeling safer in the enclosed space with the door open he sat on the floor and ate a mountain house meal and listened to the rain beat down on the tin metal roof. Finally finished with his dinner, he rose and checked the front door just to make sure it was still closed.
Lightening flashed outside washing the world outside with brilliant white light that washed through the room leaving spots in his eyes. It was like those scenes on TV of the red carpet outside the Oscars, where photographer’s cameras were flashing constantly. A barrage of light that just went on and on then darkness took over once more.
Josh stayed crouched in place till his eye sight had cleared and then moved back towards the closet, where he intended to shut the door and read by flashlight for a while. Reaching the closet he stopped dead in his tracks as lightening flared again and he saw the silhouette of a man standing on the walk that surrounded the office and store.
It was in profile and sent chills up his spine as he saw the hunched shoulders, the spindly arms. The oddly shaped head with some weird bowl like hat, and the huge beak nose that looked like it reached almost to the lips. Something about that figure sent tremors of fright through him.
Josh stood frozen, part of him wanting to just hide in the closet. The other part to terrified to let that shape out of his sight. He crouched and notched an arrow, not wanting to use his pistol unless he had to. The next flash of lightening and he saw that the zombie had moved towards the front door and now was standing facing the window. It was trying to look inside, he knew it was, like it knew some one was inside.
Josh had no idea how long he crouched there watching as the thing moved back and forth along the walkway, trying to look in.
When the he heard the door rattle, He was certain it was the wind, but if that zombie heard the noise it might move to the door and stand there for days licking the damn glass.
Shaken by that idea he couldn’t stop shivering or tear his eyes away from the windows, where the thing prowled back and forth, each flash of lightening would find it at another spot.
The storm slowly faded in intensity, and Josh remained crouched his legs aching. Then finally he stood and slung his bow across his back and drew the pistol. The bow was great for one or two of them at a time. but there might be more out there than the one he knew was out there. .
He gave his legs time to stop hurting before he moved carefully to the door and checked to make sure the block was still in place. Abruptly the room lit up around him from another flash of lightening and he had to keep himself from shouting and jumping away.
A silhouetted filled the glass in the door, he was no more than eight inches away from the zombie on the other side. The silhouette tilted its head as if it had heard the sharp intake of breath that had slipped out of Josh at the sight.
It lifted a hand, and slowly placed it where the handle was. Josh stared as the door rattled again and Josh knew, knew it in his soul that the thing out there was no ordinary zombie, it knew he was inside, how it he had no idea. But it did. And it was trying to figure out how to get to him. What the hell was going on zombies didn’t act this way. He shrugged helplessly and moved deeper into the small room, ready to bolt into the closet if it got inside and there were more behind it. if it was alone he would fill it full of arrows till it couldn’t move.
He had no idea how long he waited staring at the windows. his skin crawling his stomach knotted with fear, watching that figure at the door, and then between flashes of lightening it was gone. He still didn’t dare move, he just waited in case it was a trick to get him to open the door.
When the storm finally burned itself out, Josh hadn’t seen the thing at any of the windows in a while. He wasn’t going to wait any longer, he slipped on his pack, and moved to the door.
He moved the block away from the door, then slowly opened it a crack and peered out onto the rain-slicked street. It looked clear, not a zombie in sight. Or a person for that matter. . He slipped out and closed the door behind him then moved around to the far side of the building and leaped over the low rail into the brush.
He was going to stay along the channel for a while, it was safer and there was a house he had cleared and stocked a month ago, he would stay there for the night. no way was he going to stay around here. Tomorrow he might start looking for the group he had seen at the office.
Ed poked at the food on his plate; the rehydrated steak and veggies were less than appetizing. He ate alone today, not really wanting company. He was to wired and to tired to deal with people at the moment.
A plate thunked down across from him as Dean took a seat. “ this shit sucks Donkeys” Dean remarked as he jabbed at the food with his fork. Food what a joke, but it did beat starving Dean thought.
“ A bit descriptive, but accurate.” Ed replied, then jabbed a piece of steak and shoved it in his mouth. “ Like rubber too” he said once he swallowed.
“ so what did you think of the guys we met yesterday” Dean asked between mouthfuls.
Ed shoved his plate away wishing he had a cold beer to wash it down.. “ seemed honest enough. If they had wanted to shoot, they had the firepower to finish us off, and I think they know how to use the weapons they carried.” He said his mind wandering for a second.
Dean saw the look and chuckled. “ stop with the sexual fantasies partner, concentrate.” He said chuckling again.
“ right now anything to get my mind off the after taste of that shit!” Ed said jabbing his fork at the plate of food with distaste.
Dean studied his friend and Partner for a long moment “ Carrie is worried about you” Dean said finally. Ed snorted Rachael, Deans wife, always worried about Ed. She had, years back, become the big sister Ed had never had and was always worried about him.
“ I’m Aces, no biggy” Ed said just a bit to fast. Dean only sighed as he moved the empty plate out of the way and planted his elbows on the table.
“ Bullshit partner, you look like shit. You didn’t sleep again last night did you?” Dean asked locking eyes with Ed.
“ okay, okay. Just some dreams, nothing big. Dreamed about that day” Ed said in a low voice so no one would overhear. There had been rumors for the last few months about some people having the weirdest dreams, and Ed did not want to add to the stories.
“ your apartment again” Dean asked as he lifted the cup next to him. as Ed nodded, Dean took a sip of the tepid water.
“ its not your fault he wasn’t there Ed. You tried to get him to stay there, and you tried to find him when he left.” Dean reminded him in a low voice. ds being gay was something Ed didn’t want getting around, though in the last two days of the chaos last June, he had been willing to out himself to save his boyfriend of six years. His secret had remained just that when Joe couldn’t be found. And Ed had kept that secret ever since so as not to add to the tensions the Group of survivors already had to deal with.
“ I know, Dean and that doesn’t bother me any more.” He fell silent for a moment then “ Brian was in my dream last night, we talked. It was like the other dreams, the strangest most real dream Ive ever had. I woke up feeling pretty good, got up went to the bathroom and then went back to bed. And that’s when I had the old nightmare again.” Ed replied.
“ the one with Brown” Dean asked. Ed nodded, Jasper Brown had been the biggest case Ed and Dean had been involved with. a serial killer, Serial Rapist and Child molester. The man had, had no morals, no guilt and had led the FBI and then Local PD on a long chase across most of the US for Years before he had ended in Charleston.
He and Ed had almost caught Brown three different times, but he had been a step ahead of them. Brown had been a meticulous planner, a Genius who had enjoyed playing Law enforcement like a well tuned violin.
Ed had been the one to finally catch the slimy shit, a month before the world went to hell, And that only thru a combination of luck and skill. Brown had enjoyed taunting Ed, and that had been what ultimately led to his capture in Eds Apartment complex where Brown had been hiding and spying on Ed. Brown had vowed revenge on Ed and the city of Charleston in particular.
When the news that Brown had escaped from Custody in Nashville where the Feds had taken him to stand trial for a murder he had committed there. Ed had been certain Brown was on his way back to Charleston. But then two days later the dead rose and Jasper Brown didn’t matter in the least after that.
“ that’s the one, though it was a bit different last night, but still pretty much the same. The warehouse, Emily Salinger hanging there, bloody and disfigured. Her son dead on that saw horse. And that prick escaping. Always escaping. Why the hell couldn’t I dream of the day I caught him. not … what I saw that day. zombies are bad, but what the bastard did to that woman and her son was worse, far worse than the what zombies do.” Ed said his hands starting to tremble as adrenalin flooded his system.
“ anyway back to the outsiders, why did you tell them where we are anyway” Ed asked almost desperate to change the subject. Dean couldn’t blame him, and let the moment slide away.
“ seemed like the thing to do, to foster a bit of trust. And to be honest Ed, if they meant us harm do you think they would have let us leave, so we could warn every one here about them. and you saw those semi trucks they were hauling. They might actually be able to help us.” Dean said, he didn’t have to tell Ed that the food on the YorkTown was getting tight even though that wasn’t general knowledge nor was the knowledge that the raiders had hit their one major food supply place, which they had secured from zombies months ago losing four men.
The Raiders had stripped it bare they even took the damn shelves. Which left only the military planes loaded with supplies they had secured at the airport, as the only secured supplies they still had. Dean knew it was only a matter of time before the Raiders hit the airport and stripped the planes bare. The problem was getting it all back here and the time it was going to take.
“ Assuming they want to help, and assuming we are willing to pay the price for what ever help they offer.” Ed pointed out. Dean nodded in agreement.
“ I had Farley use the Helicopter Radio to transmit the message but there was no response. I thought about sending Farley up river to see if he could spot them. but he wants to save the fuel he has until we can get the choppers to the airport and refuel.” Dean said.
“exactly who was he wanting you to contact anyway Dean, I think you forget to mention that part to me.” Ed asked.
“apparently some one eyed guy has been tailing them and sniping at their group, mostly going for the kids in their Group. From what Jared said, they managed to slip the guy for a few hours and got the kids with guards onto boats on the copper river, He is trying to let them know he is in the area and when they can rendezvous.” Dean replied.
“it didn’t occur to you that it might be a trap or something did it.” Ed asked, surprised that Dean had been willing to do something that risked the whole group here on the Yorktown” Ed asked, then regretted it. Dean had done his best to keep every one here going since the dead rose. He had dealt with the fears, the depressions, the suicides, he wasn’t going to risk the group now by being stupid Ed told himself.
“don’t even Ed, you know better.” Dean said then looked down at the table for a moment. “I believe him Ed, I cant explain why, but I do. They had us outnumbered, they could have just attacked taken the survivors as prisoner and tortured them and found out about the Yorktown, but they didn’t. and you weren’t looking Jared in the eye when he told me about what that one eyed killer did to a kid in their group just to Get to Jared because the kid adored Jared. He wasn’t lying not one bit. That’s a man who loves kids Ed, and he will protect them even if it means he dies.” He paused again, then shrugged. “and we are running out of time Ed, another month or two, and we are dead. Im willing to try and trust a man who loves kids to help us survive.”
Ed nodded and let it drop, if there was one man whose gut feelings Ed trusted it was Dean. “so why didn’t you send Farley up river to try and make contact..” Ed asked instead. Dean gave him a grateful look for the change of subject.
“he doesn’t want to add any more time on the engines than he has too, and they don’t have the fuel to range to far, with out refueling out at the airport before flying what amounts to a search.” Dean replied.
“ Farley just wants to make sure theres enough fuel to escape if it goes tits up around here” Ed commented.
“ Cant say I blame him to be honest” Dean said as he rose and picked up his plate. “ see if Steger and his people want to take a trip, so we can get those choppers filled up tomorrow.”
“ on it” Ed said as he scooped up his own plate and carried it to the kitchen, where some of the children were waiting to wash the dishes.
Dean hadn’t said anything to the others but he was already considering alternate sites, just in case something happened here. and with out help or a miracle something was going to happen here.
the next morning, Jared walked out onto the dock and just stood there shirtless enjoying the chilly morning wind off the ocean blow over his skin as the sun rose in pinks and red.
The first light of the morning, glittered on the crest of the waves, setting them to fire. Like some CGI magical moment in a movie, Jared thought.
He stood there till the sun was fully over the horizon and he heard Jill come up behind him. he couldn’t miss the way she walked, and the mental image of the sway of her hips set parts of him in motion he really didn’t want to be in motion at the moment.
“ Morning” she said sliding her arms around his waist and leaning her head against his shoulder. “ Are you going to work out this morning or just stand here like a lump.” She asked, her breath hot on his skin.
“ The work out I want at the moment is not one most of the camp would like to watch” he muttered as she laughed softly.
“ Dog, I meant martial arts. You have people waiting to learn, and Tucker over heard some one mention the Duck and he is eager to get to working on the thing.” She said pulling away from him, with a sigh of Frustration on her part.
“ hour and half is all we can spare this morning, and I want every one on the teams to get their asses up and work with Ashton too, we are going to have to do a lot of house clearing soon enough. I want them ready, Ill probably get on that too, things have changed since I was in. it would be a smart move to be on the same page with every one else.” Jared said as he ran a hand thru his thick Red hair “ and I need to get Stephanie to cut my hair.”
“ Speaking of, if you don’t get her on a real team soon, she might just scalp you.” Jill said with a grin. “ I wonder how youll look with a shaved head.”
“ she doesn’t want to find out how Ill get revenge if she does. Hell Ill have houses built just so she has something to clean.” He retorted, turning and giving Jill a lopsided smile.
It took almost two hours to finish the Class that morning, and Ashton spent almost the same amount running the teams not on duty, thru house clearing and combat drills. Jared was tempted to put off the scouting mission he wanted to run today for later in the week.
But the persistent feeling he was running out of time wouldn’t go away, which didn’t help him when he wanted to be as prepared as possible which meant He needed more time. Truth is he should have expected some one to be on the island. nothing was easy these days. He would love to wait for Ben Cross to get here with his soldiers and equipment, assuming they showed up at all. With that kind of manpower he could sweep those assholes of that island in a heartbeat. Well wish in one hand spit in the other, he told himself with a half smile.
Jared figured he had maybe two more weeks, three at the outside to get those kids on to the island. That at least was the feeling he got, so they were going to have to run drills when they could, scout and scrounge needed gear and supplies all at the same time.
Today how every they had to make it up by Cooper River and try to contact Ori. Even with out the message he had asked Dean to relay for them, he knew Ori was most likely sitting tight, waiting till he heard something from Jared or one of the others, before risking every ones lives on betting Jared was ready to rendevous and had forgotten to call.
He also didn’t want to move the camp any closer to Mt. Pleasant with out finding a really secure area. what they had seen yesterday had been sobering. When he had driven down towards Mt. Pleasant and found that close to the city the The High way was a parking lot filled with undead.
Knowing Dean had come from Patriots point, and knowing about the main highway being full of undead meant that Dean and his people had to have gone north and around to the Airport and then up 17 to meet Jared’s group. he couldn’t have gone south from the point with out hitting the highway to cross Shem creek. And with that many undead there was no way they could have gotten through. So north it was, and north they would scout out. Anything to avoid large numbers of undead.
Today’s vehicle line up was beast two, Jared’s van and Steve’s Truck driven by Ashton’s team. Beast two would haul a case of extra ammo, and other gear they may or may not need. Rob had spent two hours setting up a pintle mount in the bed of Steve’s truck for the SAW, it could be removed in case they found a fifth wheel trailer, the trailer would be far more useful to haul any needed supplies.
The IH Scout was starting to have a few problems and being down one fuel truck, they also couldn’t risk using a vehicle that sucked fuel like the scout did. So despite Steve wanting them to use Ori’s Land rover, Jared had decided on the truck. It was taller, held more cargo if needed, more people and was better set up to deal with some of the marshland around here. the land rover was a great vehicle all the way around. But Steve’s truck was custom from the tires up and made to handle extreme terrain.
Rob finished the last touch ups to the com gear installed in the back of the Deuce and tied the long whip antenna down. He Jumped down and waved at Jared, who was walking up with Jill talking quietly.
“ Its done, you just have to turn it on and you should be able to talk.” Rob said.
“ Thanks.” Jared said looking at the antenna then into the back of the deuce at the unit.
“ I know you wanted it in the Van, but the Deuce has a generator that can power it, I don’t think the alternator in the Van puts out enough to power that radio as well as every thing else.” Rob said, making sure Jared understood his reasons for the sixth or so time.
“ its okay Rob, I got, its not a biggy unless the undead swamp us. That’s why I’m taking Stephanie to man the Radio” Jared said with a grim smile.
“ Your what” Jill asked surprised.
“ shes doing well with the martial arts, practices every chance she gets, Ashton said she has picked up every thing he has taught her, and she never makes the same mistake twice once its pointed out to her. so I’m going to risk it and give her a job on this mission. Commo.
Besides, Linda released Angela Simmons to Ashtons team so he is up to six trained men. It’s a good way for Stephanie to get some experience out there and decided whether she really wants to be a gunslinger, hell if we had arty id make her a gun bunny. Sting bikini camo, a camo cotton tail. Maybe some ear…” Jared broke off with an umpf as Jill Gibb slapped him. “ You have been around Mary for to damn long.” He groused rubbing the back of his head. Then stopped talking so suddenly that jill turned to see what he was looking at.
“ oh my” she muttered hiding a smile. “ I think some one else has been around Mary to long” Jill said
Stephanie strode up to the vehicles, wearing black leather pants she had armored up with thick leather on her thighs, and combat boots. A bustier that she had riveted metal plates on to as armor. She wore a short leather coat which she had attached leather plates to on the shoulders and collar, then strapped on a combat harness over that. The HK was slung across her back and she had two pistols on her hips. At least she was wearing a shirt under the bustier or the amount of revealed cleavage would have distracted even male zombies Jared thought, trying not to stare the back of his head hurt bad enough as is
“ I think you just lost the apocalypse dominatrix title” Steve said in a low voice to Jill who shook her head smiling. .
“ Don’t worry babe, your still my apocalyptic hoochie momma.” Jared said helpfully.
Jill lifted a finger in warning. “ stop while your ahead Jared” she warned with a smile.
“ What did I say” Jared asked Steve as Jill turned back to Stephanie.
“ Don’t get me involved, I have two women to deal with I don’t need Jill and Mary talking to them. those four are a terror when they get rolling.”
“ Traitor” Jared muttered.
“ Idiot.” Steve replied with a grin.
“ Shut up” Jill told them both.
Jill walked up to Stephanie, the two women hugged then started talking softly. Jared and Steve both saw the soldiers in Ashton’s team suddenly pay a lot closer attention to both women. Steve laughed, he knew exactly what that line of thought was going through their little minds. Jared didn’t seem to be upset in the least. Why should he, Jill could beat every one of those men into paste if they pissed her off. and Jared’s mind had probably went right where the soldiers had gone too. Steve thought with another laugh.
The small convoy rolled out twenty minutes later, with beast two leading the way.
Ten minutes after that, the whine of a 2 stroke motor wound up, and the ultralight took off, with 15 year old Ben at the stick.
Ben was in his element now, once Jared had started treating him like man and let him learn how to fly Ben realized he loved it. oh he knew that there was no way that Ronny would ever let him touch the Duck. B ut Roger had promised him once they were settled in someplace he would get an old trainer and teach Ben how to fly a real plane.
He cut across the woods and flew over the Town of Awendaw, then turned slowly to follow 17, spotting the trucks just ahead. “ I’m up” Ben said over the radio, trying to sound military. “ go ahead, scout out ahead of us for a mile or so. There should be an airport not to far up” Jared told Ben over the radio “ Roger that and out.” Ben said. Proud that he remembered that. He gave the ultra light more power and left the convoy behind. He knew that the wireless camera mounted in the nose was recording everything so he made sure he didn’t screw up.
Ben sat back enjoying the sensation of flying, he buzzed along the road passing over a road block, this must be what its like to be a bird he thought as he gazed down at the buildings below. the parking lots around the various buildings were full, there were even wrecks and a huge amount of ambulances at one end. On the roof was a large red Cross. to the west Ben could make out what looked like an airport.
“ your not going to like this, boss” Ben said deciding not to use Jared’s name on the radio. “ there’s a hospital up here, right on the road. and there are lots of the walking dumb asses in the parking lot.”
Jared tossed a look at Steve, who shrugged and mouthed I didn’t teach him that. “ thanks, do you see the Airport.” Jared asked.
“ Sure do, the road to the airport runs right past the hospital” Ben replied as he turned the ultra light to the west.”
“ can this get any better” Jared asked sarcastically, Hospitals would be packed with the undead. unless they were lucky enough that most of the zombies had left the area.
“ Sure there could be a clown in the parking lot. You know clowns sometimes visit and work at hospitals” Steve said as Jill giggled, she actually giggled Jared thought.
“ Don’t worry Steve, yuk it up. but the next time I talk to Bridget I might remember a specific Bar in Frankfurt, you know the one. Had a great floor show.” Jared said with a smug smile.
“ bastard” Steve muttered then started laughing.
The airport was mostly isolated with a single airstrip and small passenger terminal. Fuel yards, and other facilities were scatted along the north side of the landing strip, with the entire area was encircled by a fence.
Ben swept over the Airport once, then circled back staring in surprised. there were helicopters down there, with people around them he knew they were people because they were pointing up. Some were running from the back of a military plane with boxes in their arms that they loaded into one of the helicopters.
“ Jared, you gotta see this. There’s people at the Airport, doing something with some helicopters and a big military airplane.” He said excitedly over the Radio forgetting what little ComSec he had learned..
Jared cursed; the boy should have had enough sense not to go saying shit like that on the air. Nothing for it now anyway, the turn off to the airport was just ahead.
“Lets risk it” Jared said to Jack who drove beast two. “ Turn towards the airport and lets hope the zombies in the hospital parking lot don’t follow us” remembering the last time he had stopped at an airport in a big town.
Dean watched the ultra light circle the field, and then head east along the road, their scanners had caught the quick broadcast from what sounded like an excited kid to Jared. Which had calmed him down somewhat. He had hoped to keep the choppers a secret for a variety of reasons, but it looked like now that was blown. Just like Jared having an ultralight available was no longer a secret. Well both sides were going to have to deal with learning to trust each other or they were going to have to start shooting.
“ Ed go to the gate and let them in. so they at least wont cut the Chain or lock. “ Dean said. the last thing he needed was for the undead to get in while they were gone, clearing this place had been hard the first time around. Ed turned and strode towards the Hum Vee, Gathering the men he wanted to go with him. Of course they were all former SWAT. Dean thought.
They had found the Humvee at a check point and brought it out here a couple of months ago, so they had wheels to get around the airport or escape if needed, when they flew in..
Only a fool would assume that just because they had cleared the entire airport that something couldn’t happen that would allow the undead to get back inside, There was no reason to take a chances, one moment of overconfidence or slip in observation and a man could die a really nasty death. And Dean had no intention of having his ass chewed off.
“ Hurry up and get that stuff loaded.” Dean said turning back to the men who were offloading the plane, wondering if Jared and his people were about to make a play for the supplies that the Yorktown needed. He hoped not, but if that was what he had planned Dean and his people would fight for it. they had barely gotten a tenth of the supplies off the one plane. Using the helicopters to ferry the stuff to the Yorktown, limited the amount they could carry. He had debated on securing a semi, but the only ones he knew of were either stuck in huge traffic jams that would take days to clear enough to move the rigs, assuming the undead didn’t manage to kill you while working. Or they were in areas that had so many undead it was impossible to get to them with out people dying.
I guess my plans on stripping the planes before any one else showed up and found them aren’t going to work out after all, he thought.
Ten minutes later he saw the monstrous looking Deuce leading two other vehicles, his eyebrows rose as he saw a six wheeled Ram pick up and the black, heavy duty off road Van. Ed’s hummer took up the rear. But the Manned SAW in the back of the truck would do a lot of damage if a fight occurred.
The vehicles came to a stop, and Dean gave a hand signal for his men to relax. Especially Hanson, who still thought and acted like a cop. Right down to the intimidating stare and stances. Dean had never really thought about how provocative it actually was till after the zombies had arrived.
That kind of Behavior had gotten more than one surviving officer shot by people both on the Yorktown and the few survivors they had encountered around the area. All of whom had taken it as a threat and were not going to back down in the face of danger, or lose their supplies and safe house just because some one thought they could control a situation by acting intimidating or threatening. Those days were long gone. Acting threatening in todays world and you got shot.
Jared hopped out of the passenger side of the van, leaving his rifle propped on the seat. Armed only with his pistols, a tomahawk and knives.
There was a time when Dean would have thought that was a over the top and more gung ho wanna be than anything else. But in todays world, Weapons were vital.
“ morning Dean isn’t it.” Jared said smiling as he walked up. His eyes sliding to Hanson who waited quietly with his Official stare going full bore and his hand resting on his pistol. Idiot Dean thought. Jared seemed totally relaxed and unconcerned about Hansons Attitude which told Dean that Jared was not impressed or intimidated.
“ I told my pilot to land the ultral ight to save gas hope you don’t mind.” Jared said even as the ultralight came down in something less than a picture perfect landing. Jared’s jaw tightened as the small craft bounced hard twice before finally settling down and rolling to a stop.
“ C130’s nice birds.” Jared commented looking at the two military planes. Dean eyed him levelly; noticing the soldier on the SAW was relaxed and just watching. But Hanson kept drawing attention with his intimidation stance.
Ed had exited the hummer and stood watching Hanson, there was something wrong with the whole scene in his mind. In fact since Dean had brought back word of Jareds offer to help the men and women on the York Town Hanson had been acting hostile to the whole idea. Up to calling Jared’s People looters and thieves and wasn’t to happy when His own wife asked him what made Him any different when he was wearing clothes and eating food taken from stockpiles and business’s that didn’t belong to him.
It was an odd situation, but something about Hanson had grated on Eds nerves for the last few days. And he was definitely acting aggressive towards Jared who so far seemed to ignore the non verbal provocation. Which just seemed to piss Hanson off royally.
As Dean and Jared talked, every one, but Hanson seemed to relax. Ed also wasn’t the only one watching Hanson grow more annoyed as the minutes ticked by.
“ Farley, I want you to take Steve there and Allen to their camp. pick up the doctor and what ever else she needs that you can actually carry. Then fly her back to the Yorktown with Steve. “ Dean said breaking off his conversation with Jared. Farley nodded and headed for his bird, to warm it up. Allen wasn’t to happy to be riding guard on a total, well armed, stranger, who was bigger then Ed. But he didn’t protest or argue.
Ed half expected Hanson to explode but the other man held his tongue. Though the vein pulsing in his temples looked about ready to explode.
“ Steve hang on for a second.” Jared called out. Ed saw suspicion flare in Hansons eyes.
“ While your there, get Rob to find some guys and empty one of Semi’s. Have Erik drive it over here so they can load up most of this stuff and get it back to the carrier Before some one else shows up and empties the planes. And make sure Erik has some one decent riding shotgun.”
Again Ed expected an explosion and again Hanson held his tongue. I wonder how much longer that Herculean effort will last, Ed asked himself.
“no problem, I’ll send Kevin with him.” Steve said.
In minutes the chopper was on its way north. Ed saw the look on Hansons face and thought for a moment that Hanson was going to start something but Hanson simply turned away and headed back to the plane.
Ed breathed a sigh of relief but was damn sure this wasn’t over by a long shot.
** ** **
Linda finished her last exam, and tousled the kids sandy brown hair. “ your good to go” she told him. he smiled at her and almost ran out of the room. Linda stretched and looked around the sick bay of the old carrier.
It had been a long and somewhat exciting day. The entire camp had almost flipped out when the Helicopter had landed outside the fence. then Steve and another man wearing black tactical’s emerged from the chopper.
She had rushed to gather her things and made sure that Mary knew she was in charge before Linda left. the ride across the zombie infested town had been sobering to say the least. Especially when they flew over a major interstate that was filled with cars, and the undead.
They had landed on the carrier’s flight deck where she had been met by more people than she had seen in months, It had been a decidedly surreal situation.
Linda stretched again and hearing footsteps out in the hall, she smiled automatically as she heard some one enter the bay. She turned and was actually surprised to see Jared. “ Jared” she said. “How did you get here” she asked, remembering how much he hated flying.
“ Linda, hope you had a good trip here” he said, looking tired. “ we drove here, escorting a rig full of supplies, in exchange Dean their Leader let me use their Radio.”
“I would say my trip was better than being on the ground. We all should learn how to fly” she said with an almost equally tired smile. “ except for you of course”
”Ill stick with the ground as much as possible thanks” Jared said. “ the ride over here from the Airport was, lets just say interesting. So what do you think of the folks here?” he asked.
“ Well they seem nice, hearing how it went down here it makes you wonder how any of them managed to stay sane.” Linda said as Jared passed her a flask.
“ apple cinnamon shine, its smooth stuff” Jared told her as he looked around the bay with interest..
She opened the flask and took a sip and smiled in appreciation. “ good stuff. I miss having a drink here and there.” she said as she closed the flask and passed it back to him.
“so how are they?” He asked sitting on an examination table.
“ mostly good, the usual vitamin deficiencies, a few have the flu. One has a broken bone in his foot. Several have PTSD, at least that’s my guess. One, well he needs a pace maker. And even if we had a pacemaker I have no clue how to implant one.” She said as she rose and began to shut off the portable devices.
“ that sucks I take it the Doc cant help either?.” Jared asked, Linda shook her head. Jared shrugged, this was the new world, they were just going to have to accept things like that. ” as far as PTSD I think most of us have it” Jared commented as he began to gather up her things and repack them. “ but do any of them have dreams?”
She finished placing the portable EKG machine in its shock and water proof case and turned to him. “ a few, well at least a few that were bothered by some very real dreams and just needed to talk about it. I’m thinking theres more that have had them but wont talk about it.”
“ why so interested in dreams” Ed asked from the hatch. He stepped inside and shut the hatch. Linda looked embarrassed but Jared didn’t react. He just filed away the fact that Ed could move very quietly for such a big man.
“ A lot of our people are suffering from nightmares. We were just curious if you folks were experiencing the same thing.” Linda replied. Ed shook his head he was certain they had a more specific interest than that but he decided not to pursue the topic for the moment.
“ Dean wants to talk with you before you go.” Ed said. “ and I want to thank you for your help, both of you.” Ed said holding out a large hand.
Jared smiled as he took it. “its what we do.” he said with sincerity.
Dean was waiting for them when they reached the flight deck. The chopper was already spinning up to take Linda and Kevin back to the camp.
“ I want to thank you.” Dean said as Jared shook his hand. “ Hopefully we can work together in the future. Those supplies we got back here will keep us going for a while…”
“ tell me a day you need the rig again and I’ll have it waiting to haul the rest of your supplies back here” Jared said.
“ why?” Dean asked curious as he looked at Jared. “ why help total strangers.”
“ theres not a lot of people left in the world, I don’t mind helping the decent ones.” Jared replied. “ we have all that we can use at the moment except for fuel. that we are in short supply of. But once we get to where we are going, that wont be much of an issue”
“ you really are determined to take that Fort” Dean said shaking his head in disbelief.
“ Both of them” Jared replied. Then shrugged “ We have to, the kids we have with us wont be safe till we do.”
Dean gave him a long look then let the topic slide. He wasn’t so sure that any where was safe, but the forts had to be safer than almost anywhere else. “ Stick to the route Ed used to bring you here. there’s not usually a lot of zombies on it. but if you get off it you will end up close to downtown and trust me the center of town and the interstate where it passes thru downtown is covered with those things.” Dean said.
“Thanks we will, see you in a few days.” Jared said, then turned and escorted Linda to the chopper where Kevin already waited to fly back to the camp with Linda.
Ed moved cautiously thru the old warehouse, keeping in eye contact with Dean. He could hear the other two officers off to his right.
Swat had the outside covered and there really was no place Jasper Evan Brown could go that there wasn’t at least two officers waiting. He gritted his teeth as he heard a woman moan in pain. Dean shook his head silently tell Ed to wait, till they were sure where Brown was. not that Ed or Dean would give fuck if that sick asshole ended up Dead. But Higher up wanted him alive to stand trail. So they would do their best to make sure that Brown was arrested.
Finally, the signal was given and he and Dean rushed around the last stack of crates weapons up shouting “ Police, drop you weapons and lay on the floor.” The sight he saw was burned into his mind for the rest of his life. A woman dangled from the ceiling, the flesh of her torso hung in strips. Her breasts were gone. That she was still alive was a miracle. A small boy, Dead Ed prayed, lay strapped naked to a saw horse and what had been done to him was beyond any description a sane person wanted to think about much less see.
He heard a door close and knew instantly that Brown had entered the old office in the corner of the warehouse. Ed didn’t think he moved, there were other officers there to help the woman, but he wasn’t letting that sick bastard escape not this time, he rushed the door and didn’t even bother to try the knob, he hit the door with his shoulder, all 290 pounds behind it, and the door burst open. Dean knowing his partner to well was right behind him. Ed barreled into the room pistol leveled, sweeping it from side to side. but saw nothing. Dean moved past him and peered into the reception area with its main door. they both knew it had been padlocked from the outside and a sniper covered it just in case.
Ed checked the supply closet but it was empty.” Rooms clear” he said pointing to the staircase that led upwards to the small second floor. They both knew there was an open landing, almost a balcony and what had once been as supervisors office up there.
Dean nodded his agreement and Ed started up the stairs keeping his weapon ready. Dean followed covering any gap that Ed might leave open. The balcony was empty, but with six officers down there now with the woman. They knew Brown couldn’t have climbed down with out being seen. Hearing voices below, they both felt better knowing that two more officers had their back and brown wouldn’t come out of hiding and hit them from behind.
Ed planted a size 12 boot into the door, the small latch popped out of the frame and the door smashed open with Ed and Dean right behind it. they cleared the dusty room quickly. There was only a battered old desk, with a broken chair that sat on a faded linoleum floor that was peeling up in places.
The room was dimly lit but they could see an old calender on the wall with a top less Miss March, and several travel posters. But there was no sign of Brown.
“ where the hell could he have gone” Dean asked puzzled, and very angry.
The world seemed to twist and shadows flowed together, the walls melted away and Ed found himself in another room, and knew he was dreaming. The room was his old bedroom, his bed sat there with rumpled sheets, a dirty uniform lay over the back of his computer chair. A band of sunlight from the window, cut the room in half. He could smell a hint of his old cologne and musk.
Something moved behind him, he turned reaching for his pistol and realized he was naked. He had just come from the shower. Pain flared in his stomach as he was stabbed. A hand, dust dry and papery but strong grasped his shoulder and spun him around throwing him to the ground.
He hit and lay still his breath gone, someone straddled his thighs, and then more pain as a knife carved strips out of his back, and a hand grasped each strip and pulled it free. He couldn’t even scream.
“ you thought, you were tough didn’t you fag boy. You thought you could stop my work. You were wrong again. but don’t worry my works moving right along stay out of it and youll live. Cross me again and you die.”
A hand reached between his legs and grasped him and then hot pain as he was emasculated. “ gonna taste so good.” The cold voice laughed “ going to eat you all up, if you get in my way.”
He woke a scream trapped in his throat; pain still rippled thru his body his mind confused. His hands immediately dropped to his groin and he started to calm as he realized he had been dreaming.
He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and then lit the lantern that sat on the metal stand next to the bed, and sat there wiping at the sweat that beaded his forehead. The room reeked of sweat and fear.
Why he dreamed about the Salinger case was beyond him, and that last part had never happened what the hell had that been about.
He rose and dragged on his pants and boots, he clipped his pistol to the waist band before he unlatched the door and stepped in to the passage and made his way to the flight deck for some fresh air. god knew he needed it.
Mikhail ignored the sobbing teenaged girl, who lay on the floor next to his bed. It grated on his nerves but at the moment it meant little. He dressed slowly remembering his dream from last night. Having a dead man feed him intel on a target was such a refreshing change.
So Jared was trying to ally with a bunch of cops to attack the island, well good luck with that one Mikhail thought with a laugh. You might find not all of them are so happy with you mister soldier.
“ boss, we are almost ready to go.” Daryl said from the doorway, not looking into the room. “I will be along shortly thank you” Mikhail said. He drew the knife at his side and knelt by the girl. “ when I get back, you had better be under control of yourself. You don’t like being here, but the alternative is being shoved out the door. and you know whats out there don’t you.” he asked placing the tip of his knife under her chin and lifting it, forcing her to look up into his eyes, or risk getting cut open.
He pulled the knife away and she nodded madly. “do what I want with out question when I want and you will continue to live. upset me and you become one of the walking dead. Do we have a deal.” He said. She swallowed heavily and tears ran down her cheeks but she nodded. “ good. Find something slinky for this evening I have something special in mind. I’m sure you wont like it but I will. But at least youll keep living.” He said slapping her on her butt and smiling hungrily.
Rising to his feet he walked out the door with out a backward look. She was less than nothing, only a tool for him to get physical satisfaction. If she played her part well, she would live for a while longer. If not, well, there were more of American whores left out there to replace her, not many, no. but enough and when they were gone he would shed no tears when the last American went extinct..
Mikhail climbed into the American Hum Vee admitting to himself that it was a much better Vehicle than anything the old Soviets had produced. Which only made his dislike of America even deeper. Not that it mattered there was no America left, just scattered Americans hiding in the ruins of their home. And that made him feel so much better, that the same thing had happened to his home didn’t bother him. those that survived would be stronger than before the Rodina would rise stronger than before with out the taint of the west. .
Hopefully when this was over he would have the satisfaction of destroying what little was left of America. Not out of some noble cause for his own nation, the one that was the home of his heart. no self honesty compelled him to admit it was simple pride and hatred. No other reason.
The garage door opened and the Hummer pulled out into the press of undead as soldiers in prepared positions inside the garage fired at the zombies closest to the door while Music blared across the street drawing the majority of the zombies away from the door that started closing the moment the hummer was clear. As soon as the door clanged shut The soldiers inside cut down the zombies who had made it inside, using melee weapons while others stood ready behind high sandbag positions to shoot if the zombies should take down the Line of soldiers using hand weapons. .
Mikhial smiled as the Hummer moved down the street rolling over the undead who got in its way, as they drove other vehicles had joined them and they rammed their way through the crowd speeding for the bridge that was even now being moved into position.
Dean was in a good mood, the sun was out, the bad weather seemed to have broken. The after storm smell of water and damp earth filled the air. He didn’t even mind the zombies at this moment. He was just happy to be alive. He never really liked Park Drive, to many business and access to subdivisions. But there were rarely undead on the road, unless you turned off where the Pickney elementary school was. where kids had died then eaten the panicked parents who showed up to pick their children up from school when the emergency first struck.
Nothing creepier in his book than little kid zombies, he thought. well except for the topless dancer zombie that had looked like it was actually trying to get him to stare at its breasts by arching its back as it came at him. Disturbing, creepy and disgusting he thought.
They were almost at the airport and hopefully, Jared would be there waiting already. Dean just wanted to get this done so they didn’t have to come back except to fuel up the choppers, and they used them so rarely that next year might be the earliest they need to refuel.
“ theres the turn” he told Randal unnecessarily. Randal slowed and took the turn off of Park Drive and onto the tree-lined street, they hadn’t gone more than ten feet when the world went crazy. The Explosion lifted the Hum vee off the ground and flipped it, as It hit the ditch in front of the Day care center it rolled three times before coming to a stop.
Ed riding in the Armored car right behind the hummer, stared as the Vehicle carrying his partner and best friend rolled, a wheel torn free by the IED, went sailing off across the street to smash thru the plate glass window of a modeling studio. The hummer came to a rest smoke rising from the motor and Ed could see a flickering orange light of fire..
Ed only had a moment to take all that in then Gunfire ripped out, Ed saw muzzle flashes from the roof of the modeling studio just ahead and to the right of where the street curved towards the west.
Six more shooters appeared on the roof of the day care center, firing down on the Downed hummer. The vehicles were essentially caught between two fields of fire.
Allen didn’t wait for orders, he yanked the wheel and pushed down on the accelerator. The Old Armored car surged forward just as an ATGM roared by, missing them by six inches and blew a hole in the road behind them sending chunks of asphalt and dirt vomiting into the sky.
Campbell in the package truck swerved instinctively to avoid the explosion of the IED and smashed into an abandoned Pickup truck on Park Drive just past the turn and the downed hummer.
The last vehicle in the line a Humvee pulled up behind the package truck and the former Officers inside bailed out seeking cover behind their vehicle.
Allen slammed the armored car into reverse and backed up using the Armored car to shelter the passenger side of the downed humvee. Angling the car so it was half in the ditch.
Ed leaped from the Armored Car, and dropped to the ground to look into the hummer, as bullets smacked into the underside of the hummer. Steger, Fields and Upton emerged from the armored car and laid down suppressing fire, trying to keep the Men on the roof the day car center down while Ed checked the wreckage.
Dean lay unmoving on the interior of roof of the Hum vee, Alvin Green lay next to Dean, he looked dead. Vahn the driver was dead for sure, the side of his head had been crushed in by repeated impacts with the door frame. Ed reached in and grasped Dean by the shoulders and pulled him free of the wreckage. The hummer itself providing cover from the slime bags on the day car, and the armored car covering the right side from the force on the modeling studio rooftop..
He almost smiled as he checked for a pulse and found it, faint but steady. Something moved in the wreckage drawing Ed’s attention. Green was rolling over, his face a ghastly whitish blue, his cloudy eyes fixed on Ed and then he began to crawl. Ed stared for a moment, he had known Green for five years, he had been to the mans wedding, celebrated the birth of Greens first child with him. Ed had spent both good and bad times with Green.
Ed leveled his M4 and pulled the trigger, flinching as Greens head blew apart. And now I get to tell his wife how he died. Ed thought bitterly. Trying not to notice the overwhelming smell of blood and feces that filled the air.
Mikhail sat on the roof of the children’s prep school, directly across the street, from the Day care, smiling at the Carnage below. He watched as one of the cops leaped out from behind the package truck, on Park drive and ran for the armored car, no doubt going to help the fallen. So noble of you, and so damn stupid. It’s a good thirty feet. Mikhail thought as he leveled his sights on the running cop and let him get two steps away from safety before he blew the mans head off. Red mist hung in the air as the body fell to the ground. And thirty feet is just to far for you. he thought with a chuckle
He laughed as he ducked down but no return fire came. He popped back up he had laid his fields of fire very well. the cops were pinned down. If they tried to run they would be cut down. If they stayed there they would run out of ammo long before his men did and then die. And if they waited just a hair to long the approaching undead would get them. it was a win,win all the way around in Mikhail’s book. American police had always been so annoying, so smug. Well paybacks are a real bitch as you say, he thought with a smile.
He watched as another cop stuck his head up from behind the Humvee that had been the last vehicle in the cops little convoy. Mikhail let the man leap to his feet thinking he had a clear run, then shot the cop straight thru the heart. The body tumbled back behind the bumper Let his friends put a bullet into his head if they want to. Mikhail thought and grinned as he heard a single shot.
His little ambush was working out quite well actually two of the vehicles were trapped in a triangle of the day care center, the modeling studio and the prep school where Mikhail crouched. The package van and the last Humvee were still on park but that allowed all three buildings to fire on them as well, but they could retreat to the south side of their vehicles and get under cover more or less from most of the incoming fire.
What it also allowed was the zombies from down the road that had been wandering around the elementary school to wander onto Park Drive and head towards the noise, while more came from the west.
You should look behind you boys Mikhail thought as he watched two zombies, who had emerged from a stand of woods that skirted Park Drive just behind the day care. They were coming up behind the cops who were focused on the roof top threat from the day care center. He smiled as the portly zombie in a blood stained tshirt fell on one cop, and as the second officer jumped up in shock and tried to shoot the zombie eating his friend, Mikhail shot him in the shoulder allowing the second zombie to drag the man down.
The officers in the package van were smarter than the ones he had just shot, they were staying put using the package van as cover. and watching their rear, at least judging by the zombies that got to close to the back of the van and were dropped.
Mikhail lifted his rifle once more as he saw a flash of color near the overturned Humvee. He smiled and started to stroke the trigger when the sound of a whiny motor came out of nowhere. Mikhail dropped to the roof and saw an Ultra light fly over head, then shoot upwards gaining altitude as some of his men fired on it. Mikhail cursed soflty in Russian that ultralight could only mean Stone was some where nearby.
Ed crouched over Dean, firing at the men on the roof of the Day care, the only ones he could get an angle on. Steger, had been hit in the shoulder but was still in the fight, already having picked off two men up on the day Care centers roof.
The appearance of the ultra light, gave him a moment of hope. Then someone from behind him, probably on the roof of the prep school shoot out the plate glass doors and windows of the day care center and the undead that had been pressed against the glass trying to get outside and reach the source of the noise came stumbling out.
He peeked around the side of the downed hummer and saw the ripped and torn bodies of the little kids and some adults before he ducked back into cover.
“ Ed, get Dean into the armored car, we are going to try and break out” Steger called out. Ed didn’t wait, he grabbed Dean praying the ambushers didn’t have another ATGM.
Allen was shouting out the door at Ed to hurry the fuck up. Fields and Upton were at the front of the car, splitting their firing between the ambushers on top of the modeling studio, and at the zombies spilling out of the shattered plate glass windows of the day car center. .
ED could hear Campbell’s HK still firing and Randal’s Mossberg booming by the package van. So they were still alive Ed thought. Bullets spanked off of the armored Car. Thank God they don’t have AP rounds.
“ hold on almost there” a voice said over their radios. The voice was unexpected, Ed’s head jerked around. The taut grim expression on his face faded replaced by hope. ” The calvary is on the way”. Jared Stone said.
A minute went by, then two. then in the distance Music could be heard and the roar of heavy engines. Then like a miracle the modified Deuce appeared around the curve. The Ma Deuce it carried began to hammer out rounds raking the Roof of the Day care center.
The Deuce climbed a curb and rolled through the Parking lot just north of the Day center. It never slowed as it plowed between two parked cars, sending them spinning away in a shower of sparks and the scream of metal on metal. One of the spinning cars took out six zombies before it came to a stop in the middle of the parking aisle.
The ambushers on the roof of the day care center shifted fire to the deuce, but the cattle catcher on its front lifted up to protect the windshield. It almost jumped the next curb as it entered the day care parking lot, taking out a corner of the building as it aimed for the front doors and the zombies emerging from the building.
Mikhail swore, that bastard Jared had been far closer than he had thought. Jared must have heard the gunfire and sent the ultra light to investigate. How I hate you Soldier boy Mikhail thought angrily.
He watched as the Deuce plowed over the undead day care students and teachers. two men in the back stood up and began to fire into the undead. Mikhail lifted his rifle, furious and laid his sights on one of the men. But a blond woman popped up in the back of the Deuce spotting Mikhail almost instantly she shouted something and began shooting at Mikhails position before he could even pull the trigger.
He fell back and then scrambled on his hand and knees to far side of the building where his ladder was it was time he decided to leave. .
Ed wanted to shout a warning at the dark green six wheeled Ram Truck that had barreled up into the modeling studio parking lot. They wouldn’t have heard him anyway, and they apparently already knew that men were on its roof as the SAW began driving fire across the roof. While the men in the bed with the Heavy gunner began firing down on the undead closest to the truck.
As soon as it was clear behind the truck five soldiers leaped down and formed a firing line cutting down the undead heading towards them, while the machine gun began to chew away the façade that the gun men on the roof sheltered behind.
He grinned wildly as the Black van pulled up in front of the Armored car and the overturned Hummer. Jared leaped out and knelt in the weeds and overgrown grass, flipping up the ladder sight of the M203 attached to his M4 and sent a 40mm grenade soaring onto the modeling center roof, where it exploded. The rest of his team were out and kneeling firing up at the roof of the daycare.
Jared pivoted on his knee, sliding open the breech on the M203, dropping the spent shell, with practiced ease he slipped another in another 40mm grenade and closed the weapons breech. In one smooth movement he raised the weapon, sighted and pulled the trigger of the grenade launcher.
The grenade arced up and then fell onto the roof of the Day care center and then exploded just as one of the gun men had leaped to his feet, who knew what his reasons had been. He fell off the roof and into a group of hungry four year olds no one put him out of his misery.
“ Jared, that bastard is over there on a roof, across the street from the day care center.” Stephanie shouted over the radio as she fired another burst. “ the one eyed asshole that killed Henry” she yelled furiously.
As much as she wanted to kill the one eyed freak who had killed the man she loved, she knew Jared stood a better chance then she did, and he had even more reason to kill the man.
Jared turned and looked towards the prep school. Ed flinched away seeing the pure fury on the other mans face. It was almost elemental that hatred, Ed thought with a shiver.
“ you get this” Jared said jerking a thumb at the day care as he tossed the M4 back into the van and pulled the slung Colt Command off his back. then charged out from covering weaving across the street heading for the Prep school. not evening pausing as he butt stroked one zombie out of his way and shot another dead that had managed to get this far off of Park drive..
Jared’s team shifted position and laid down covering fire, for Jared. Then they advanced behind him in a leap frog cutting down any undead in their way. While Jareds second team finished mopping up the former models and Mikhails men at the studio.
Jared ran up and pressed his back against the wall of the childrens prep school. He could hear some one trying to start a vehicle. Sliding up to the corner to peer around. Behind the prep school was a fenced in dumpster area, that still held the smell of cafeteria garbage. A small parking area for the Facility bordered by once neatly trimmed hedges. On the western edge behind the hedges were more business, and parking lots, beyond the south side hedges was park drive. On the back wall of the prep school were two doors marked with employees only signs on the doors and card readers next to each door. Undead were coming through the hedges to the west, but they were to far away at the moment to be a threat the ones coming at him from the business beside the modeling studio were much closer, but Steve and the others were cutting them down as Steve raced to reach him.
Jared saw Mikhail leaping out of the Humvee he had been attempting to start. The Russian had a Draganov sniper rifle slung across his back. Mikhail saw Jared at the same time, and smiled. Cold fury filled Jared at the sight of the smirking One eyed Russian.
Stepping out, his rifle leveled, Jared was ready to end this once and for all.
He pulled the trigger just as someone slammed into him. the man had been hiding behind the dumpster waiting for his chance to jump Jared. Grabbing Jareds Rifle the man slashed at him with a knife.
Jared let the Colt Commando go, it clattered to the ground. Jared twisted and hit the ground using a hand spring to get back to his feet. He growled angrily as he grabbed the underfed dark haired guy by his greasy hair and yanked the mans head down to meet Jared’s Knee. The ambushers jaw shattered and his nose broke, Jared let him drop back to the ground, noting the zombies that were advancing around the building drawn from Park Drive by the gunfire. Have a great meal he thought.
Mikhail laughed seeing Jared pulp the other mans face, lifting his pistol the Russian fired off a round. Jared grunted in pain as the bullet tore thru his side. Jareds hand flashed down and then back up filled with a pistol that roared as he returned fire.
Mikhial had already ducked behind the Hum vee. Jared advanced in crouch grinning tightly as he fired. glass shattered and metal shredded, one bullet punched thru a side wall and took Mikhail in the shoulder.
The zombies from the day care center were finally down, as Ed and Fields lifted Dean into the armored car. Jareds men had cleared the zombies from the modeling center, and were now using melee weapons to take out the few zombies that were close enough to become a threat while they pulled back to the Armored car. More zombies were coming from every building in the area. a mass of undead intent on reaching the living.
“ Well Jared it appears as if we do not have a lot of time to kill each other” Mikhail said conversationally from behind his humvee, while he judged the distance between his position and the nearest abandoned auto he could use for cover. The undead were drawing closer in an ever tightening ring. Drawn from the stores behind the school, and from the road, and Jared couldn’t run back the way he had come, there was a crowd of undead between him and his friends. No, he was stuck here for the moment.
“ we have a slight problem Jared, hold tight or find another way back. zombies are coming out the side door you passed” Steve voice said in the ear bud Jared wore.
Jared looked at the now thirty or so zombies he could see at the back of the parking area, and there were more to the south where they were staggering across Park Drive. Crowd to the north and even more behind him, he thought listening to the steady gunfire as His team fought to clear the way to him.
“ trust me theres more than enough time to Kill you, you sick twisted prick” Jared called out, he rushed forward in a ground eating run, leaping the last eight feet to land on the hood of the hummer, Mikhail alerted by the sound of jareds foot falls rose up shooting.
Both their aims were slightly off expecting the other to be in a different position. Jared landed on the hood firing, he was already airborne landing in a crouch facing Mikhila who was faster than Jared expected and was already shifted his aim. Jared desperately threw himself back on the hood and rolled across landing on the other side placing the hummer between himself and Mikhail even as bullets ripped overhead. .
“ One of us is going to have to hold still so the other one can shoot. Or do you want to keep rolling around wasting ammo while the undead are surround us,” Mikhail said with a laugh from the other side of the hummer. He seemed to Jared totally unconcerned with what as going on around them. Jared throttled back the anger that threatened to send him out of control, and slid towards the back of the hum vee.
Mikhail grinned as he rose and raced away from the hummer firing over his shoulder. Jared ducked back behind cover losing sight of Mikhail who slid behind the Car he had chosen and called out. “ I wanted to ask you, how did you feel when you saw that boys body, did it disturb you?”
“ your one sick bastard,” Jared retorted, as he popped out and fired two more shots in the direction of the voice, then pulled back behind the Hummer, ejecting the magazine and placing a fresh one into the well. “ so how did you like losing a finger when you tried to Kidnap My wife” Jared asked.
“ pitiful try Jared, she had firm breasts though.” Mikhail laughed. He was somewhere to the right near the hedges from the sound of it. Jared thought as he kept his temper tightly leashed, he was running out of time. He could see the undead drawing closer, and Steve and the others still hadn’t made it behind the building.
“ you cant win you know, you don’t have a clue what your up against” Mikhail called out then slipped silently across twenty feet and behind another car, keeping an eye out for zombies. “ he watches you, and he will have you Jared. either die at my hands or at his, and trust me you want to die at mine.”
“ what you mean that freak in the bowler hat” Jared said and laughed suddenly at the absurdity of the whole situation. “ doesn’t matter what happens to me in the end Mikhail, you cant touch the three who will end this.” Jared called out. Mikhail was silent at that, he hadn’t thought Jared knew anything about three or the thing in the bowler hat..
“ you know a small part of the puzzle Jared, three do gooders against legions” Mikhail replied.
“ seems that a few things have called themselves Legion before and got tossed out on their ass. You moronic dimwit, Ive seen more dangerous disease infested Ten dollar whores.” Jared said suddenly Channeling pappy.
Jared saw one of the rear emergency doors to the prep school swing open. The zombies with in had finally managed to press up against the emergency release bar and were spilling out into the parking lot, every single dead eye in the lot fixed on Jared. Well im pretty much surrounded on all sides now Jared thought. He could stay and finish this, but
He leaped to his feet and fired off six rounds at Mikhail, Taking the Russian by surprise, most of the rounds shattered glass, or punched into the cars as Mikhail ran for far end of the parking lot. But at least one struck home as Mikhail stumbled but he kept moving Jared looked around and saw his Commando and raced over scooping it off the ground and then ran for the ladder, firing over his shoulder to keep Mikhail’s head down.
Jared blew past the zombies coming out the rear door, almost getting snagged by one but tore free and rushed up the ladder. As Jared rolled onto the roof. A Humvee barrled thru the Hedge from the parking lot behind the prep school, scraping the side of the building directly behind the Prep school plowing into the zombies sending some flying, others were crushed under its wheels.
Jared popped up and fired at the speeding vehicle, but had to duck down as Mikhail opened fire on him. The hummer slid to a halt twenty feet from the crowd of walking dead and the doors flew open on the side away from Jared.
Jared leaped to his feet and fired a burst at the Humvee as Mikhail raced to the vehicle and leaped inside. Damn it, Jared swore silently as he realized it was an up armored Hum vee.
“ another Time Jared, Next time maybe hand to hand. Or maybe something a bit harder to dodge.” Mikhail shouted before he slammed the door shut and hummer turned quickly tearing thru the hedge that separated the Parking area from Park Drive. It bounced as it went over the curb and thru the ditch, then raced up onto park drive plowing over zombies as it raced east.
The mass of zombies that had come out of the side door, were down. Scattered across the weed choked ground. Steve shot down two more zombies, but more were appearing from the various buildings cutting him off from Jared. He was worried Jill might try to use her Katana, and get killed, there were way to many zombies now to try and cut her way to Jareds side.
The undead formed a wall across the parking lots, dead shambling bodies that reached all the way past the stores on the other side. Steve moved forward firing steadily into the growing mass of undead that were coming around both sides of the Video rental place to the left of the prep school.
He was sick of this, sick of leaving bodies every where he went. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t even gross, it was just tiring. He stepped up shooting down a set of twin female zombies in their mid twentys. when he saw something in the corner of his eye coming out of the Side door of the prep school five feet from him.
A zombie, a man in a blue oxford shirt and bloody tan slacks, a late comer to the party, lunged out of the darkness of the prep school, its hands crooked liked claws as it reached for Steve, who tried to bring his weapon around but, he knew with a sinking feeling that it was to late.
The zombies mouth yawned open, and something hissed past Steves Face. the Zombie straightened up like he had been pole axed as an arrow appeared in its head. it fell over and didn’t move. The zombie behind that one didn’t even make it out the door, before an arrow sprouted in its eye socket dropping it in the door way.
Steve took a deep breath and looked around, on the roof of the video store a man in some kind of high tech looking armor waved a bow at him.
At that Moment Steves Ram Truck roared up beside Steve and the Team, the SAW rocking and Rolling under Daws steady aim. Ashton drove over every thing in his path as he headed for the corner of the prep school creating a clear area to the teams front. It wouldn’t last there were far to many undead already closing in around the truck. \
“ get back to the van Steve we got this” Ashton Called over the radio.
Steve wanted to argue, but they were on foot. And no way they could get thru that crowd and if they didn’t fall back now they were going to be surrounded and more men would risk their lives to break them out.
“ fall back to the van” Steve shouted, grabbing Jill by the arm and pulling her after him. She struggled to get loose to go to Jareds help. But Steve wouldn’t let her go he just dragged her with him as he ran along the side of the building heading for van parked on the street. The cops and team three were holding back the undead trying to come around the day care center and from Park drive, but the undead were coming every closer. .
“ heads up” Jared shouted, Steve looked up in time to see Jared leap off the roof in front of them.
“ always looking for the Grand Entrance” Steve said as he let go of Jill who rushed to Jareds side.
“ you know me the attention whore” Jared said as they loped across the parking lot the undead coming from Park drive only thirty feet away now. the mass of dead bodies broke into the odd slow jog they used trying to catch the men and women so close to them.
“ your wounded” Jill said spotting the blood on Jareds shirt.
“ what happens when you get shot” Jared said as they reached the Van and piled inside.
“ Ashton, theres a guy on the roof of the Video store, help him get out of there, he saved my life” Steve said over the radio.
“ looks like some sort of Sci Fi soldier” Jared commented bemused as he dug a pressure bandage out of the glove box and placed it over his wound.
The cops who couldn’t fit into the already full Armored car climbed into Beast two, engines roared as the vehicles started moving. Jared leaned back in his seat, Jill holding his hand. He smiled as he heard the ma deuce and the SAW cutting down the undead. The only direction that wasn’t thick with zombies was the way Jared had come from the airport.
Ben circled the area, praying nothing happened to make him land. The area right around the vehicles were clear of undead, but beyond that, zombies were flowing past business and homes from all directions. It was like watching Ants converge on a piece of food left out at a picnic he though or like that movie he saw once where this guys room was covered in roaches. Just a seething black mass broken up by buildings.
“Jared, I cant tell you how many zombies are headed your way, theres to many for me to count, but you had better get out of there, the way we came is still mostly clear. But any other direction is covered by the stinkies” Ben said over the radio.
“ roger that Ben, Get your ass back to the camp.” Jared replied. “and good luck. Jared out”
“ Roger, out” Ben said surprised that he remembered to say ‘out’ as nervous as he was. He banked and as he started back to camp he saw three Humvees speeding away from the area, plowing through undead.
“ don’t stop for hitch hikers” Jared called out as the column came about. Beast two moved forward its cattle catcher lowered again, clearing and crushing zombies ahead of the convoy.
Dean was safely secured inside the Armored car, with the others as Ed stood in the hatch. Campbell, Hanson and Randal had ran over as soon as Mikhail was forced away from his snipers nest and were now safely in the armored car.
“ We need your Doctor” Ed called over the radio
“no problem, just follow us” Jared replied as the van lurched over the curbs as it turned tightly and accelerated after the Deuce and the lane it was clearing. Allen put the Armored car in behind the van and a moment later the Ram was riding tail end Charley.
Ed sat in the commanders seat of the car, shaken by what had happened and what he had seen as they pulled away. It had to have been his imagination, it had to be, He thought as his mind conjured up the image of the rail thin hunched over zombie in the doorway to the Day care, a bowler hat perched on its oversized head. he broke out into a cold sweat, but said nothing to those around him.
** ** **
Jared Sighed as he sat on the dock watching Jill swim. The water lapped against the cement dock, and the only other sound besides the wind was the splashing as Jill swam around. The air had the tang of ocean salt that made him long for Island life.
His side hurt like hell, and he was still angry over Mikhail getting away, AGAIN. Dean was okay, just a broken arm, cracked ribs and lots of bruising. But he was conscious again and that was good. Dean had lost five men to the ambush. Five good men Jared thought as he lay back propped on his elbows, watching the stars come out. Realizing just how good they had it compared to so many others. It was a strange thought, but it was true. How many today could actually feel safe enough to sit and watch the stars. He dismissed that thought, and returned to the one thing that had come out of today.
The teenaged boy in that odd looking motorcyle armor that had saved Steves life, had shared his knowledge of Sullivan Island and its neighboring island and had promised to show them how to get onto the Isle of Palms with out being seen if they would help him free his sister. Jared was more than willing to help the kid, and already had a plan growing in his mind that he would discuss with Steve in the morning.
He looked up as he heard the creak and rattle of a wheel chair and say Logan Pushing Kevin onto the pier. There were times Jared wished he could leave Logan and Jason off the team. They were too important to others in the group. but they were also dedicated, steady in a pinch and trust worthy.
Logan dropped to sit next to Jared, as he waved casually to Jill. “ Kevin wants to talk to you” Logan said.
“ I can tell him that myself thanks. God sit in a wheel chair and people think you cant, hear, talk or see. “ Kevin said. “ I think its better if I show you” he added.
He locked the brakes on his chair, and levered himself up with his arms. Jared concerned started to rise, but Logan placed a hand on Jared’s arm. “wait” he said.
Kevin stood then slowly let go of his wheelchair and took a step. Jared stared, then a smile spread across his face as he saw the pure joy in Kevins eyes. Kevin walked a slow seven steps away from the chair then walked back.
“ That’s incredible” Jared said, still smiling like an idiot. Kevin nodded as he sat back down in his chair. “ does Mattie know” He asked suddenly.
“ showed her last night, she damn near raped me out of sheer excitement” Kevin said beaming.
The depression that had threatened to overwhelm Jared retreated as he thought about the odds that Kevin had beaten to take fourteen steps. And if he could do that, then by god I can assault the Island I’ve had come so far to reach.
“ I was kinda of hoping you knew some kind of martial arts things that might help me get more mobility.” Kevin said, looking down at his legs. Jared shook his head, then tilted his chin towards Jill. “ but I think she might.”
Jared left them to talk as he rounded up Steve, Gary and Chris telling them what he wanted to do. By the time they finished talking it over, it was close to 1 am. Tomorrow as going to be busy as hell.
** ** **
Ronny looked down at the passing ground, amazed that so much of Mt. Pleasant was heavily wooded. Neighborhoods, shopping centers, and every other element of modern life lay nestled in forest, all but the main roads lay under the shadows of old trees. It wasn’t the normal sprawl seen in so many other towns and citys, where ever block had been bulldozed clear then built on.
Ronny had been pretty amazed to get a message ordering He and Ori to the groups Camp early this morning. Cole had been just as surprised to find himself in charge of the Barge. His ego and confidence had really taken a beating after Mikhail. But Ronny and Ori both thought he was a good leader, and obviously Jared thought so as well, it had also seemed to cut back on the constant angry looks that Frank had been handing out since day one.
He checked his compass and then made a course correction and found himself flying over a highway. The shadow of the plane raced over abandoned vehicles that slowly thinned the further from Mt. Pleasant they flew. Another look at the map and he noted the next and last course correction.
Three minutes later he reached the point and turned east, flying over a gravel road that ran thru thick woods, up ahead he could see a four acre complex, with a dock and two warehouses. RVs were parked three to a group around the warehouse, and the semi’s had been parked along the fence line as an added barrier.
He could see people looking up, and even a few pointed. He smiled as he flew out to sea then came around. Moments later he was setting down in the water and taxing up to the dock, where Jared and several men he didn’t recognized waited.
Ori opened the side hatch and tossed out a mooring line that Jared caught easily and pulled the Duck towards the dock, while Ronny shut down the engine.
They had to wait till a canoe was brought to them before they could disembark. By the time, they reached the ladder on the side of the dock and climbed up. Mary was waiting with a huge smile on her face then wrapped her arms around Ronny for a long moment, as Ori looked disgusted.
“ I swear that man does anything to get out of real honest work” Ori commented as Mary lifted a hand threatening to Gibbs slap him. Ori chuckled then turned to Jared who moved stiffly favoring his left side. “ get shot again” Ori asked like it was an every day occurrence. Which he decided it was starting to become pretty common.
“ yep, the Russian repaid me for shooting his finger off.” Jared said, as Ori reached up and tugged on Jares close to the jaw, neatly trimmed beard and mustache.
“ Jill did this did she” Ori asked with a smile.
“ yes she wanted to grow one but not on her face” Jared replied, then turned and introduced the men standing next to him. “ This Ed Stanton, Charly Steger, Frank Campbell, James Upton and Mike Fields.”
Ori shook their hands noting the patch with a badge sewn to their shoulders. of course the big white letters that spelled out police on the backs of their Combat vests was a big give away too.
“what did you do, rob a bank or get caught speeding again” Ori asked with a half smile.
“ long bloody story, but we can talk about that later, we have some planning to do, and their helicopter should be here to pick up their wounded soon.”
Jared Led them into the warehouse where one half had been cleared of boxes and crates, tables had been set up, and lanterns were hung around the large area shedding cold white light on the scene. The slight smell of old fish mingled with salt from the ocean still hung in the air.
Once every one was settled around the tables, Jared had Ori give an update on his end of the operation. When Ori told of taking the Luxury hotel Barge the Princess, he saw Jared suppress a smile.
Jared waited till Ori had finished, then said. “ I send you to get houseboats and what have you, and you have to take a luxury barge. Beth put you up to it didn’t she” he smiled then looked towards the door, where a young man entered with another police officer. The Officer moved slowly like he had been beaten to with in an inch of his life.
Ed rose and rushed over to Dean and helped him to a seat. Josh just stood near the table not sure what he should do till Jared pointed to chair. “we don’t bite, except Ronny and Mary Keeps him in line most days” Jared said, Josh smiled nervously. He had never been one for large groups. And now he hadn’t seen so many people in almost a year. At least not living ones.
Jared waited till Josh was seated then looked around. “ end of the world and we still have to have meetings” he joked as he gathered his thoughts.
“ we came here to live in Ft. Moultrie and Ft. Sumter. And discovered that both islands are held by raiders, who seem to be working with Mikhail the one eyed Russian bastard. Our orginal plans are screwed. The Isle of palms bridge is blocked and the Ben Sawyer bridge is out of position, both are under observation and so far as we can tell, they shoot any boat that trys to land.
It looks hopeless, I know but I have a plan. Its not perfect and you people are supposed to come up with ways to improve it or show me whats stupid and whats not.”
He looked around for a moment his gaze lingering on Dean who nodded. “ first off we don’t have enough troops for a frontal assault. But Dean the Leader of the Yorktown survivors, has agreed to lend us Six men, possible more depending on who volunteers. In return we seize all the supplies left on the two C 130s at the airport and deliver them to the Yorktown. But after yesterday, its going to take a couple of days for the undead to calm down and hopefully leave the immediate area around the airport and the route to the Yorktown..”
“ as Much as I appreciate Deans folk being willing to help, I don’t see how that increases our chances on a frontal assault” Chris said leaning back in his chair arms crossed over his chest. Jared had expected Chris to be the first to comment.
“ because we wont be doing a frontal assault, we will be hitting them from two different directions, and only when we have as much situational control as we can expect, we launch an attack on the Isle of palms bridge”.
** ** ***
Jill stood on the dock, watching as Ori, and Chad’s team submerged. Bubbles marking their position as they swam around under the water practicing scuba diving, for their upcoming attempt to become amateur SEALs.
Jared was with them, just to keep track of their progress. . They were going to have to do this in the dark, with no lights. But Jared had an idea about how to get them safely to the other side. which was why Ashton and his team along with Ed and the swat officers, the new Team five were hitting a shop that specialized in remote control vehicles as well as a few places Jared had added to the list in the same area. His obsession with grabbing phone books was paying off at the moment she thought with a smile.
With the SWAT teams assistance, they had rounded up all the dive gear they needed and other supplies yesterday. For what ever reason Jared had short timetable, he hadn’t really even explained why to her, other than to say he just had a gut feeling they were running out of time, and that might actually be the whole thing behind his apparent haste.
But regardless of how driven he might be, he was taking the time to run each team thru drills till they dropped. He was determined to prepare them as much as possible for the shock of real combat against the only real apex predator on the planet, other humans. .
Rob was busy building new propane bombs, as well as working on vehicles adding armor and re enforcing the frames and a variety of other upgrades and would be working up to the last minute when they were preparing to leave the compound and head into danger.
Now if she could just work up the nerve to tell him about the dream she’d had last night. She wanted to tell some one any one, but when she tried she just couldn’t. she didn’t want to damage the mood that was growing in the camp at the idea their long trek was almost over. She wouldn’t describe the current mood as happy, there was to much tension at the thought of the upcoming battles. But hope and Optimism were at the top of the list of adjectives she might have used.
Well for every one but one man, she thought as she glanced at the guy Hanson that had arrived an hour ago with two other officers from the York town. The other two she thought were okay. Landon, a lanky black haired, man with thick eyebrows, and deep brown eyes and a ready smile. And Grimes who was a stocky short man with thick brown hair cut close to his skull, with pale green eyes and a frown that never seemed to leave his face, thought he would chuckle every once in a while when someone nearby cracked a joke.
But Hanson, had intensity about him especially when he looked at Jared. it didn’t take a psychic to know that he didn’t like Jared. he was built like many rugby players, solid, thick arms and legs. Broad shouldered, He rarely spoke, even to the two men who had arrive with him. for their part they seemed to keep their distance from Hanson giving him occasional side long looks as if they were not happy with the man.
Landon noticed her watching Hanson and casually walked over his hands hooked in his belt. He stopped close to her looking out over the water to the distant horizon for a moment, the wind tugged at his collar and hair. “ I don’t know whats going on with him, but I promise we are keeping an eye on him.” Landon said in a low voice his back to Hanson.
Jill didn’t respond other than to tilt her head in acknowledgment, then said loud enough for Hanson to hear. “ So, why did you volunteer to help us”
Landon watching the divers move around in the water below them. “ I lost four good friends the other day, its high time we dealt with the assholes on the Island” he responded. “ why is it so important that you people get over there” he asked curious.
“ Dreams, or maybe its just the thought that an island would be safer to live on than the mainland” She replied. “either or take your pick, some of us are following weird dreams, others are going along because an island sounds safe.” Landon looked thoughtful for a moment but if he felt inclined to bring up the nightmares and dreams of the people on the Yorktown, he didn’t show it.
“so are you married” he asked suddenly with a innocent smile.
“ yes, sorry, you’ve met him, the big hulking red head.” she replied laughing.
“ always a day late and a dollar short” he said watching as Ori broke the surface.
Jared surfaced a second later, and she smiled. “speaking of the lump there he is now” she said, rising to her feet as she watched Jared wade out of the water, shrugging of his dive tanks and smiling at her.
No one saw Hanson who glared at Jared for a moment then his face smoothed back into a disinterested look.
Jared studied the maps spread out on the table in his RV. it was close to midnight, and most of the camp was passed out exhausted after another long day of drills. He traced out the route they were going to take with a finger, it was going to be a long paddle, to get to the Isle of palms a full 24 hours trip at least, 36 more likely so they could find some time to sleep. He was damned thankful that Ronnie had decided on loading up the Canoes and kayaks they had found last year. It was one less thing they had to scavenge.
Ed was sprawled out on the couch sound asleep, it had been a long day for the man. Truth to tell it had been a long day for all of them. The drills he had been putting every one thru were intensive, but there was no way he was going to let them go into this with out some training, there wasn’t enough time to make it extensive. But even a week worth was better than nothing. A week was about all they could afford. God only knew what that Russian bastard was up to on the island.
He looked up as Rob entered the RV carrying a duffel bag that clanked as he sat it down on the table. “ thought Id show you the fruits of my labor,” Rob said unzipping the bag and pulling out a silencer and held it out to Jared.
Jared took it and examined it. “ not as heavy as I would have thought” he remarked.
“ Ive got six finished and can have the rest you wanted done in two days” Rob said as he took the silencer back and returned it to the Bag. “ another day or two to modify the weapons to take them. Eric will do most of that unless you’ve got a gunsmith stashed away.”
Jared gave a noncommittal smile, the truth was Ori was a Gunsmith but Ori’s training for his part of the mission took priority over helping Rob. He gave a slight smile as he considered how far Rob had come since all this started. Rob had turned out to be one of the most valued members of the group over the last ten months. The End of the world had allowed some to flourish beyond what they might have been able to do in the old world with out money and free time. “as for the other couple of projects I think a week. I might be able to shave it down to four days, but I cant promise that.” Rob said still speaking
“ that’s fine Rob” Jared said as he folded up the maps and placed them back in the map pouch.
Rob, Jared thought, was more and more looking like a blacksmith, with the thick arms and wide back. He had started getting Stephanie to cut his hair, but the slightly rounded face had slimmed down to all planes and angles, with a constant five oclock shadow. Women had often remarked that Rob had looked like some actor named gosling. Jared vaguely remembered the guy, and didn’t see it, but he knew some of the women in the group did and were still irked about Rob and Erik being gay.
“ Mind if I ask you something?” Rob asked, as sat down across from Jared.
“ ask away” Jared said as he rose and fetched a silver hip flask from the counter and two glasses. He sat and poured each of them a shot and passed a glass to Rob who took it with a look of thanks.
‘ why don’t we just take Sumter, and leave this place alone. I mean why risk all the deaths?” Rob asked quietly, then took a sip of the shine and closed his eyes with pleasure.
Jared rubbed the bridge of his nose with a thumb and forefinger for a moment, and sighed tiredly. “ Ive thought about it, several times to be honest” He admitted. “ but, heres my thinking. If we just hit sumter, one we have to find a way to the island, admittedly that’s easy. But then we have to haul generators, fuel, gear, food, and all our other supplies. And leave our vehicles sitting for some one to steal if they want too. We could leave folks to guard it. but if something happens we wont be able to get to them in time to help and we will have to find a place to fort up for them to stay in.
If something happens on the island, we wont be able to just haul ass and find another place.” He paused watching Robs face for a moment to see if Rob understood. “and finally Mikhail who wants us dead, the kids first, then the rest of us second. Is on Sullivan with the Raiders. What do you think he would do the moment he hears about boats heading for the Fort Sumter.” Jared added, Rob nodded in understanding this time. “Gather up his Goons and launch an attack.”
“ I hadn’t thought about that to be honest.” Rob Admitted.
“ We have to take them out Rob, or the island wont be safe, we don’t even know if Mikhail hasn’t gotten some men onto Sumter to cut us down as we try to land.” Jared added. “ Fort Sumter is honestly a great place for us, but we need a larger place where we have room to store materials, food, fuel, grow crops, and keep our vehicles. And that means Fort Moultrie and sullivans Island. the problem as I see it, is the Dreams. I’m almost betting that Mikhail has been having a few dreams too, sent from the other side of this little war. It’s the only way to explain how he got ahead of us, so often. And the fact that he is on Sulivan means he knows about Sumter“
“ I’ve thought about that Jared.” Rob said, looking uncomfortable. “ wouldn’t that mean that some one with us has been working for the other side. Since before Cole’s people joined us. It doesn’t have to be dreams, not really”
Jared looked thoughtful then shook his head. “ maybe, maybe not. Honestly this whole supernatural shit makes my head hurt. Maybe He knows because he gets just as vague of dreams as we do. The rest is just luck, guesswork and some scouting. Maybe he slipped into our camp and found one of the maps with routes on it. To be honest Rob, I don’t care. If its some supernatural thing, we cant stop it or fool it, if its Because the asshole slipped into camp, hid and listened and or found maps, the guards and patrols we set up might stop him or slow him own. That’s about all we can do.” He said, pouring himself more shine. He was on a binge tonight Rob thought with a silent laugh. Two shots in one night.
Rob stretched for a moment yawning, the rose to his feet. “ Erik is probably wondering what’s taking me so long.” He said with a grin. “ Don’t want him to think I’m messing around with the boss.”
Jared smiled and waved him out of the Rv. then rose and turned off the lights. Unaware that Ed had been awake for the last half of their conversation.
Ed Lay there for a long while in the dark thinking. Not sure if he wanted to believe the whole supernatural angle or not. but every time he thought of his dreams and some of the others he had heard about on the Yorktown. He found himself believing, and that scared him more than anything else.
** ** **
Jared dug his paddle into the water, looking back at the canoes strung out behind him. the sunlight sparkled off the water around him, to the west they could see the marsh and the forest beyond that, and the occasionally vacation homes with long jutting docks to boat houses that sat just beyond the marsh in open water. wispy clouds streaked the sky, and here and there cranes and other birds could be seen winging over the marsh or standing amongst the gold and green plants of the marsh.
“ At least there are no rapids,” Chris called from the bow of Jared’s canoe. “makes it easier.” Jared nodded in agreement.
The day passed slowly as they glided down the intercoastal waterway sticking close to the weeds and rushes of the marshes in case they needed to duck out of sight. As the sun began to sink towards the west Jared saw a small island covered in high weeds with a dense stand of trees. A small dock from jutted out from the island connect to a platform with a fishing shack built on it. The once white paint had faded and was flaking and peeling off the wind scoured boards
Jared signaled to the others to follow him in. He dug in with a power stroke and in minutes was sliding up along the dock. It looked sturdy enough so he tied off, the grabbed his weapon and climbed up to the stand on the dock. The board creaked under his weight but seemed stout enough. as soon as his people were on the dock Jared headed for the woods. “ Team one with me” Jared said quietly as he looked into the woods that covered the island but saw nothing. “ Ed, team six clear the shack.”
Team one spread out into the brush looking around but saw no zombies, no people either. Behind them Team Six, all but one of the, former swat cleared the shack at the end of the Dock in less than three seconds and joined team one on land.
They moved thru the woods quietly finally seeing a Run down Vacation home through the trees. As they drew closer Jared could see parts of the roof were gone, some of the windows were missing glass. A raised stone Veranda with Rustic wooden furniture covered in leaves served as the front porch. The door stood open, revealing little more than a shadowy interior that was indistinct with distance.
Jared whistled softly and waited for a moment then whistled again. after five minutes, no undead appeared so he led team one into the house. The living room was covered in fallen dry wall, leaves and the moldy refuse of what had been modern life. Jared looked up thru the hole in the ceiling and saw sky thru the hole in the roof above.
Stepping thru the arch into the Kitchen they found an old gas stove, and a wood burning stove in the corner, next to the back door. the counters looked modern, as did the refrigerator. But most every thing else was old-fashioned Kitchen hardware.
The hallway that led to the bedrooms was short and filled with shadows. The first two bedrooms were wide open and fairly intact. The one at the end of the hall was closed, Jared hesitated then knocked. A moment later something bumped against the door.
Sound carries on water, and Jared had decided to keep any gunfire to an absolute minimum even here on the island just in case. If case Mikhail or the people he had hooked up had people on some of the islands near by the might hear and alert Sullivan and the isle of palms to their presence. Not that he believed they had, but it was better not to take chances.
He drew his tomahawks and kicked the door as hard as he could just to the left side of the knob. He was actually surprised when the entire door ripped free of the wood and it and the zombie on the other side fell to the floor. But the second zombie, a rail thin woman who looked to have starved to death lunged for him. he kicked her in the chest, breaking bones and sending her flying. He stepped in on top of the door pinning the zombie who was wiggling out from underneath the door, then planted his tomahawk in its skull.
The woman was climbing to her feet, when Josh loosed an arrow, that hissed past the team members and struck her in the eye and sent her back to the ground unmoving.
“ damn man, don’t do that again.” Steve snarled, tossing a look at Jared, he had argued about adding Josh to the team for the lack of training. But Jared wanted him close by since he was their only real source of Intel on the island.
Jared looked around the bedroom that reeked of undead then walked over and looked into the bathroom which looked like a water park in miniature. “ These people certainly loved their bathroom” he said turning away.
“ House is clear” Jared said over the radio.
“ roger, house clear, proceeding on island sweep” Ed Replied.
The sunset was something spectacular that evening as they sat on the Veranda, a fire burning in the circular stone lined fire pit.
“ does it strike any one else as odd that we are going to war, in a world infested by zombies, in canoes.” Logan asked suddenly smiling at the total strangeness of the situation.
“ not so much odd as surreal” Steve said as Chris groaned.
“ see you got him started using big words again” Chris complained. “ what the hell does surreal mean. “
Jared laughed. “ it means strange or weird.”
“ in other words odd” Chris said laughing. Steve grinned and flipped him the finger.
Logan looked around at the shadowy woods, that rustled in the gentle evening wind. The last orange and gold light from the sunset was fading into aquamarine and purple. Stars glimmered overhead. “ I’m almost tempted to move back here after this is all over, fix the place up and settle down” he said suddenly.
There was soft laughter around the fire, “ he’s already gotten island fever” Chris said. Seeing the look on Logan’s face, Jared knew he was serious. For what ever reason, the man, young as he was, had fallen for this small island.
“ might as well bed down for the night, Ed you and your people have watch till midnight, mine will take from midnight on.” Jared said as he unrolled his sleeping bag, stripped off his shirt and sprawled out on top of the bag and was sound asleep in moments.
Hanson paced around the Veranda as the others slept, a few of his fellow officers were still awake and talking quietly around the fire. It was close to midnight, and they would have to wake Jared and his band of assholes.
He glared at the sleeping man, from the safety of the darkness. Ed and the others seemed to like Jared and his men. Why he had no idea, that bastard was the kind before the zombies that would have thought he was better than a cop. The kind that would have back talked, and been insulting.
The kind Hanson had never liked and had ran in every chance he got. He loved the laws that kept People like Jared from mouthing off to him. uppity veteran, there was a reason people like him had been on watch lists. A danger to society, and now they could run around with guns, and do what they wanted.
He knew Ed had been suspicious when Hanson had shown up as a volunteer, maybe the others were too. But that didn’t bother him, he had come hoping to see that jack ass get killed. Assuming he actually was brave enough to get out in the real and dirty world and risk his precious hide. No he doubted that Jared would be real fast to leap into a real fight.
“ Then help him get killed. “ a soft voice said from the shadows near the corner of the house. Hanson stopped dead and peered into the shadows at the shadowy indistinct skinny man and for some reason didn’t shout out an alarm. There was something compelling in that voice that seemed to be in his mind, which was flatly impossible.
Then with a start he realized it knew what he had been thinking, there was no way he had been talking out loud. “ Kill him and your wife will never suffer in hell, I can promise you that.” Hanson shivered at the cold, lifeless tone. Images of his wife in torment filled his mind, almost overwhelming him. but underneath it all he felt a seething hatred for not only Jared but some one else in the group. that feeling fled as fast it came to him.
“ you all right” Upton asked from the veranda. Hanson shook himself, his mind had to be playing tricks on him. the figure in the shadows was gone. He stared for another moment then shook himself.
“Yeah Im fine, I just thought I saw something.” Hanson replied as he turned back to the veranda. “ its time wake them up” the short glance he gave Jared almost smoked with hatred.
** ** **
They left at dawn, a gentle wind blowing across the water. The sea water looked black with gold topped waves. They could hear the wind in the reeds and marsh grasses, the rustle of trees on the shores of small islands. Logan broke into a smile as he saw two dolphins swim thru the canoes then dive deeper and vanish from sight a moment later.
Jared had at least erred on the side of caution where the currents had been concerned, and had adjust their projected time on the water accordingly before they had even left. they took several breaks, to let their shoulders and backs rest from paddling.
Between currents, and the wind, it was a much rougher paddle than the less experienced would have thought. by night fall, they took a break on a small island less then two miles from the Isle of Palms.
They set up a quick camp and ate MRE’s not wanting to risk a fire, Chris spotted a 45 foot sailboat drifting by. The sails ragged and torn, no one visible on the deck, she was pulled forward by the current, empty and dead. The group was silent as they watched the ghost ship pass, eventually vanishing into the distance. after that Jared had every one, secure sling swivels and loose gear with tape so that there was no jingling or other sound to draw attention.
They took shifts to nap, and by midnight, Jared had every one up and back in the canoes, making sure that every one had applied cami face paint.. The moonlight glittering off their wake and the swirls of water disturbed by their paddling. They passed Dwiess island and slid around to enter the seven reaches, a waterway that cut across the west side of the island.
At first the Isle of Palms was only marsh and sand, then trees appeared in the darkness backlit by the moon. Then dark homes and other buildings loomed beyond the trees. Jared kept an eye on Josh who finally started pointing towards the shore.
They slide thru the marsh following a narrow waterway with few problems till grounding on a sandy area just North of the Marina behind a housing area nestled in thick trees.
Josh leaped out bow in hand and scanned the area, but saw nothing moving. Jared climbed out and pulled the canoe up and then pulled out their packs and other gear. In minutes both teams were on the ground and kitting up.
Six rifles and six pistols had been fitted with silencers, Jared had chosen a second pistol to be fitted with the silencer not wanting to ruin his Mk 23. he hooked the commando to his pack, then strapped on the quiver for the cross bow he had chosen to carry till they had no choice but to use firearms. Steve carried an AR fitted with a silencer and Chris still carried the MP5SD4, which had a built in silencer.
Josh who had claimed to have reached the bridge over 517 led the way. They crossed open grassy ground then crossed Waterway drive. They all were Trying not to think about all the homes just down Waterway or just across the narrow bridge. Homes where the undead were certain to be hanging around..
Reaching a stand of tree’s, they squatted in the darkness under the boughs of the old oaks watching the open grassy area beyond. Finally seeing no immediate threat they moved across the field, roughly South East. Josh led them across Morgan Pt drive, and thru another open area of grass. Houses and condos to the west of them, and the trees and homes east of them.
Josh had already explained that he wanted to keep close to the west side of the island, just skirting the Marshes. Claiming that it was the only way to avoid the large amount of zombies that roamed the streets. Most of which were clustered closer to the bridge where people and vehicle traffic lured in the undead.
They had maybe two hours before sunrise, Jared thought as they skirted homes staying near the water. he didn’t bother to look at his watch, he could tell by the position of the moon in the sky. So far they had covered some ground with the only really hairy spot when they had cut thru the corner or a housing area then across the marina parking lot. they had crossed the road, worked their way through the yards of several more house, to get to another cleared area, then slogged thru a marsh with homes on either side of them.
Steve spotted the zombie first, as it emerged from some bushes, it didn’t seem to have seen or heard them. but as soon as it saw movement it wheeled and started towards them. Steve lifted his rifle and fired off two rounds. the sound was slightly louder then snapping fingers, the zombie staggered and fell. but two more appeared behind it.
Josh swore silently as he heard the shots behind him, just ahead their path jogged around a finger of trees and he saw two more zombies appear. Just bad luck he supposed as he lifted his bow, notched, aimed and loosed. The first zombie staggered the arrow taking it in the throat. His next arrow took in it the nose and dropped it to the ground. he heard several shots behind him. the silencers were working well enough he thought, he sighted on the next zombie and saw in the moonlight a girl in shorts and a white tshirt darkly stained. He idly wondered if she had been single before she had died. He notched and had to take a moment to aim, the darkness was a problem he had rarely faced. He loosed and she dropped quietly to the ground.
“ lets go,” he whispered as he started forward at a jog, retrieving his arrows as he went by. Finally, they reached a man made waterway, lined with small boats. Josh pointed east. “ from here it gets bad, on foot is possible, but from here on out, the undead just get thicker and thicker.” He whispered to Jared. The undead were drawn to the areas where the Raiders had posted sentrys and used vehicles, which is the only reason why so much of the north side of the island was almost, ALMOST, clear of the undead.
“ vehicles” he asked as he looked towards the dark home and felt a shiver up his spine.
“ a few cars, and couple of jeeps. “ josh replied so quietly Jared almost couldn’t hear him. “ but if they don’t start, the noise will draw every undead in the area.” he pointed out. Jared nodded silently josh was right about that, and after sitting so long. Most of those vehicles would be deader than a door nail.
“ how did you do it.” Jared asked.
“ on foot and very carefully but with this many people, I don’t know if we can get by them. most of them are down around the causeway, around the Red and white, a store that some of the raiders are holed up in, they watch the causeway from the roof.” Josh said.
Jared glanced at the sky, and saw a line of gold and red on the horizon. “ we don’t have a lot of time left. think did you see anything that might help us get to that damn store.” He whispered.
Josh shook his head, “ I crept thru the woods along the backsides of the houses, theres one on 19th I cleared to stay in so I could watch the store, but that’s as close I ever got”
Jared nodded to himself, praying Ori was right and that zombies couldn’t sense them beyond the normal senses available to a man, sight and sound.
He motioned for every one to cluster around him. “ we are going on the streets for a block or two, use cover. Keep silent. Keep your buddies in sight and touching distance. if things hit the crapper, you and your buddies run for the water.” he said softly, noting that it was lighter already. Another hour tops and the sun would be over the horizon.
He waited till it had been passed to men to far away to hear his whisper, then said “ lets go single file down the street. You know your zones, keep it quiet.” He said then pointed at a obviously scared Josh. He was the only only one with two buddies, but he wasn’t about to let jill out of his sight in this crap.
Josh led the way to the tree shrouded street, where Jared laid a hand on his shoulder to stop and then slipped on his NVG’s and turned them on. He could see four zombies wandering down the Tree lined street, oblivious to the trash and leaves that had built up since last year. A derelict car sat half on a lawn its front end smashed against a large old oak with spreading limbs and Spanish moss dangling from its branches.
He hoped that Ed had turned on the NVG’s he had given him to lead his team. “ stay at my side” he told Josh. It was almost pitch black under the trees as Jared ghosted forward barely disturbing the littered ground. he looked around carefully then lifted the silenced pistol and fired, the weapon was barely louder than a cough. and it only took him five shots to take all four down.
He stared forward again scanning the yards as they passed, the front doors of many homes stood open, a dropped suitcase here, a fallen bicycle there. a station wagon with the back still open half filled with luggage and boxes. a dropped box, in a drive way busted open and half crushed and stained with what he was positive was blood.
Behind him he heard a silenced weapon fire, then another. As here and there a zombie wandered out of a home or around a wall.
He stopped suddenly wanted to throw up as he saw a zombie come out of an open garage, the kid might have been five when he had his throat ripped out, and was still dressed in the footy pjs, with sesame street characters. The sick feeling passed but a rage filled him at the sight. He shoved it down deep, and shot the kid, who fell backwards into the garage and out of sight. If he lived to be old that was an image he would never forget, he thought as he replaced the spent magazine with a fresh one. He passed a baby stroller, but didn’t even look, he just pushed it quietly out of the way. Not caring to see what might be strapped inside.
Josh suddenly pointed at a large old three story white antebellum home with copper sheathing on the red roof. A Covered balcony ran around the top floor of the tower room. “ that’s it.” he whispered into Jareds ear. Jared nodded and crossed 20th street almost peeing his pants as he saw the ranks of undead two blocks down.
He slipped up under the trees, and scanned the trash filled yard, where limbs, leaves, old newspapers, candy wrappers and other crap had blown up. there was one zombie on the wrap around porch, standing and staring in the windows. Jared holstered the pistol and drew his Tomahawks.
He made it to porch silently, but as soon as he stepped on the old wooden porch, a board creaked and the zombie turned and saw him. its mouth spread open as it started forward, hands grasping for him. he ducked right under a flailing arm. One tomahawk smashing into a knee cap. As the zombie fell forward he pivoted and slammed the other tomahawk into its head. He moved to the door, but Josh stopped him pointing to the top of the door frame.
“is there a match book stuck in the doorframe” Josh asked in a whisper.
“yes” jared replied seeing a match book had been sliped between the door and the jamb.
“ okay the door hasn’t been opened since I was last here” Josh whispered. Jared nodded but wasn’t willing to trust it. who knew if one of the raiders had stumbled on the house and saw the match book and decided it would be fun to let a few zombies in for who ever might be using the place to hide in. or some one might have used the back door.
The light was growing stronger, Jared noted, they really needed to hurry. He opened the door and as soon as his team was inside led them to clear the first floor, while Ed closed and locked the door and then led his team upstairs to clear the second floor. They both regouped and searched the third. By then the sun was up.
Jared entered the tower room and looked east where he could see commercial buildings above the tree tops. With his binoculars he saw six men on the roof of the building in the center of the U shaped complex. With the window open he could hear a soft sound that sent shivers up his spine when he realized what it was It was the sound of hundreds if not a thousand or so feet shuffling around, and the rub of cloth against cloth as a mass of undead moved together.
“ steger can you take these guys” Jared asked as he stepped back passing his binoculars to Steger, who took a look and then nodded. “ good, lets get comfy.” Jared said. “ Steve get the radio set up. I want a watch on the stair case to the first floor, just in case. No one is to go to the first floor. Don’t want to risk one of those things seeing some one thru a window. Lets watch our buddys out there and see what they do and how they do it. then tomorrow morning Steger here will introduce them to his little friend.” Jared said, ignoring fuming Hanson who seemed unable to deal with stress well, in jareds opinion at any rate.
All day the group observed the watchers on the store roof, there were never less than three or more than six. And always the same people. Jared began to think that maybe those six people were the only ones in that buildings. But he would have to wait and see what tonight brought.
What he could see of the streets thru the trees, was nothing but zombies. just like Josh had first told them. he was going to have to go with plan 2. and that was going to take a bit more time to arrange. “ Steve get on the horn and let Dean know that we are going with plan two. nothing else okay. I don’t want them figuring out we are on the island till we are ready for them to know, just in case they are listening in.”
Jared paced the room, occasionally glancing at the pictures on the wall, of an attractive young couple on the beach, or on a boat, or other scenes common to people on vacation. What a fucking waste he thought bitterly. If I had a choice I wouldn’t get involved with this whole good vs evil war. How good can you be to wipe out the innocent along with the evil, corrupt and the guilty.
“ might as well get out one of Robs little toys and get it set up for operation.” Jared said motioning to Logan. Logan opened a duffle bag and pulled out a large remote control vehicle with eight wheels, then removed a cd player and some kind of batter pack from the bag and then read through the hand written instructions Rob had supplied. Logan quickly connected the wire harness’s and seated the cd player and battery pack into their places on the device.
“ Looks good” Logan said rocking back onto his heels. Eyeing the device.
“ what the hell is that for?” Hanson asked almost derisively.
“That is how we are going to draw off some of the undead” Jared said with a tight grin, Hanson wasn’t his favorite person in the world. And he would prefer not to talk to him. But I am in charge so suck it up and deal with it, Jared told himself. “its remote we can drive down the road from here, and turn on the cd player. Which has a lovely selection of Lawerence welk to annoy the zombies who will be eager to follow it in an attempt to shut Lawerence up. its range has been increased and an onboard computer will turn on the Cd player after a set time.” Jared explained.
“why Lawrence welk, are you trying to kill us” Ed asked as Steve laughed softly.
“ no if I were trying to kill I would just have played Queens bicycle on eternal loop” Jared replied.
“ I still don’t get it, this thing wont draw off enough of the undead down there for us to get to the Store. In fact you just seem to have gotten us trapped in this house. we draw any attention and this place will be surrounded.” Hanson muttered.
“ have faith, things are not what they seem. The islands population was some where around a four and a half thousand before Z day. I’m guessing that only 2500 hundred to three thousand are still here.” Jared said.
“ guess, your guessing. Even that number is insanely low, Ive seen what a few thousand of those thinks can do to a small armed group. “ Hanson said loudly then lowered his voice. “ how do you figure that half to a third of them are still here.” he asked sarcastically. “ you see what kind of idiot you allied us with.” he said turning to Ed. “ an idiot and a fag leading us to disaster” he snarled, Ed started to rise his large hands balled into fists. “ yeah I knew, half the force fucking knew you were butt pirate.” Hanson said then turned back to Jared. who just smiled at him. “ well answer the question boy.”
Jareds expression never changed, Steve tensed as he realized Jared was just on the edge of beating the shit out of the self important little shit. Ed was ready to kill him, but was settling down as he realized none of the men he had thought his secret was safe from knew and didn’t seem to care.
“ keep your voice down MR. Hanson” Jared said emphasizing the MR, instead of Officer like he suspected Hanson wanted to hear. “ I base it on past experience, and the fact that there are an awful lot of cars and Boats gone, if you didn’t happen to notice it on the way here. but it doesn’t matter. The actual numbers around the store and the bridge, will vary day to day. some of those things will wander off. they even tend to travel in packs. And if there are more locations where the Raiders are calling home, say like a hotel. Theres going to be a large crowd there too. But why it really doesn’t matter is, that we wont do much more than observe till Plan two goes into effect.” Jared turned to Josh dismissing Hanson with out another word. “ are there any vehicles in the garage here.” he asked ignoring the furious cop who realized not one of his fellow officers had spoken up to support him..
Josh nodded “ A Ford Explorer, and some kind of car. Don’t really know what it is other than its small and looks like half of it was left off.” Josh said.
“ Chris go with josh down to the garage, just don’t get seen, and check out the Explorer.” Jared said as he walked over and pulled out a compact unit from his pack and tossed it to Chris. “ use that on the battery its one of those portable car jumpers.”
“ what is plan two” Hanson asked angrily but much quieter. “ plan two means we take out the observation points with sniper fire, draw off the zombies, engage if we can. And your people will be using helicopters to drop a Team on the Roof of the store. Sgt Ashtons team to be exact.” Jared said absently as he looked out the window again. “ hang on josh tell me again how the raiders are set up.” Josh stopped half way out of the room then stepped back and swallowed still tense from the almost confrontation but then found his voice.
“ From the small island I manage to reach and watch from, I could see a strip center with a Subway sandwich place, they had used cars to box in the parking lot around the front of it. and seemed to spend most of their time on the roof. I cant say for the Red&White, you can see what I saw from here. but Id bet they did the same thing in front of that store. Then there’s a reality place across the street from the Subway, that lets them watch the bridge too. Same set up but I never saw anyone there.” he kept talking telling them about the various comings and goings he had observed, but nothing that really helped.
“all right, lets get settled in, we have a day or two before we can do anything.” Jared said.
The weather was holding, bright and sunny. With no air conditioning it got very warm in the house, Upton at one point opened some windows to let the ocean breeze in, but the reek of the undead mixed with salt was so strong they had to shut the windows with in minutes. It took hours for the smell to reach tolerable levels again.
They had sat sweating and watched the zombies move around. It was odd actually. Sometimes they couldn’t see a single one on the streets they could directly observe then like a gate being opened, a crowd would suddenly move down the road. a parade of dead flesh, staggering, stumbling, crawling and walking. And then they would vanish around a corner or into the distance swallowed by the tree lined streets.
It struck Steve that they were on patrol, which was patently absurd, zombies could barely walk, much less come up with a reason to patrol. Chris had suggested they were bored which was stupid, but made as much sense really as zombies running patrols.
Jared had given up on a slow silent assault to take the island, they needed to secure the cause way fast and hard. Any response from the raiders would be hampered by the number of undead on the streets in the area, just as much as Jareds people would be, well maybe his people wouldn’t be as constrained, he told himself thinking of the Beast.
He assumed that once the trucks appeared at the Barricade on the causeway, many of the undead would head down the causeway to reach the people they could hear there. he had no doubt that they could take all six of the men they had seen so far on the roof of the store. It was the other two buildings that he wasn’t so sure about. Chris had assured him that he could get the Explorer started, it seemed that who ever had lived here had stored gas, and judging by the empty bottles of fuel stabilizing was aware of the fact Fuel could go bad and wanted to make sure his cache remained viable.
Chris had drained the tank and cleaned the fuel lines and the tank before refilling with the stored fuel. So as long as it started the first try they possibly stood a chance of getting to the subway store and securing it before the Assault.
They sat quietly, taking turns to watch the roads and the store roof. Sometimes talking quietly. Hanson sat by himself, blank faced. But no one believed for a moment that he had forgotten his little tiff with Jared and his insults towards Ed. His outburst had taken his fellow officers by surprise, but Ed was obviously highly respected by them, because they practically ignored Hanson at this point. Which grated on the already furious cops nerves. by night fall of the second night, Jared sat watching out the window, where he could see the idiots on the store roof had lit a lantern. that had to draw undead likes flys to honey. And ruin their night vision.
He heard Eds heavy tread enter the room and the big man stopped by his side. “ couldn’t sleep” Jared asked not surprised, Ed had seemed to have nightmares all the night before.
“ no, just being here, seems to be bad on my sleep” Ed replied as he lifted the Night vision binoculars that Jared and his crew had found in an outfitters shop near the smokies. “I don’t know how you manage to sleep so sound” Ed remarked as he scanned the street.
“ it’s a military thing, you learn to sleep anywhere and anytime you get the chance. And I have jill to cuddle with “ he said with a grin.
“ lucky you” Ed replied. “ I keep having the same damn nightmare, about a case I was on just a few months before the day.”
Jared didn’t know what to say, but part of him wondered about that. was it a normal dream. Or one of those dreams. He stayed silent deciding to let Ed take it further or leave it be.
They both were quiet for a while in the dark room, with only spills of moonlight thru the windows to light the room.
Ed watched the street the scene tinged green thanks to the light amplifying binoculars, watching as a zombie crossed the street, it stopped in the center of the road and turned and for a moment he could swear it looked right at him. it didn’t move, just stood there. it had been a well built man before he had died. Now half its face was gone, as well as its ear.
Ten minutes later a female zombie appeared and stood next to the other one. “take a look at this,” Ed said quietly. Jared moved to his side and quickly found what Ed was looking at. He was just about to ask a question when a third zombie, a child this time staggered into the street and stood beside the other too. Like some weird undead family, posing for a picture, they faced the house silently unmoving.
Three, three zombies Jared thought, there was a message there. but what, what did it mean. Did it mean anything at all, he wondered. God I hate the surpernatural. Ed suddenly hissed thru his teeth in either fear or surprise. Jared wasn’t sure which. “ what is it” he asked. “ left side of the street from the three we were watching” Ed said his voice tight.
Jared shifted his aim to the area panning around and finally saw, clearly, what so many had talked about in his group. The zombie stood next to a tree, leaning out so only part of it was visible from the waist up. its gnarled bony hands clutched at the tree bark as if to keep itself upright, it was skinny, as if it starved to death. Its oddly shaped, narrow triangular face peered up at them, stringy hair floated around its face from the wind. The bowler hat it wore, cast a deep shadow that obscured its milky eyes. As Jared watched, its thin lips twisted into a quivering grin. he could hear Ed step back away from the window as if trying to escape its sight. Jared blinked slowly, almost afraid to take his eyes off the thing.
“ I know its not possible, but I know who that fucker was, and theres no way he could be here, not as a zombie. No way in hell.” Ed muttered.
Jared pulled the binoculars away from his eyes to look at Ed, but could see little in the darkness. He looked back at the street and it was gone, in less than thirty seconds it had vanished from sight. The three zombies in the road, suddenly moved, turning to stagger and limp off down the street away from their hiding place.
“ what the hell is going on” Jared asked aloud, he turned to Ed, “ you know who bowler hat is.”
“ you’ve seen him before?” Ed asked.
“ I haven’t but some of my people have, some dreamed about him. Neither was a great experience from what I’ve been told” Jared replied, still shaken himself. “ hang on Ed” Jared said as he went and woke up Steve, and Chris. He wanted Steve to hear this and some one had to keep watch, so he passed Chris the NVB’s. then sat on the floor next to Ed in the darkness, with Steve squatting in front of them.
“ we just saw that bowler hat zombie” Jared told Steve, before Steve could say anything Jared added. “ and Ed says he knows who he was, is, what ever.” Steve stared at the Ed who sat in the darkness. To say Steve was surprised was putting it mildly.
“ bowler hat as you call him, was named Jasper Brown, a serial Killer, Rapist and Child molester. Who as far as we know of Killed twenty six people in five states, I was one of the people who finally helped catch the bastard.” Ed said.
“ shit that’s it, that’s why he seemed familiar to me every time some one tried to describe him. he was transferred to Nashville and escaped like a day or two before Jun 23rd, there was a big deal about it, on the news and then the zombies showed up and people had something worse to worry about.” Steve said quietly. He could barely make out Ed nodding.
“ we tried to hold him here, but the Feds pulled strings and got their way to take him to Nashville, the bastard vowed revenge on me, The department and the city as a whole.” Ed commented, shivering with a fear so intense it brought tears to his eyes.
“ Are you sure its him though” Steve asked.
“ absolutely, he is a lot skinnier than he was, almost skeletal but its him. but how did he get all the way here from Nashville, zombies cant move that fast.” Ed replied.
“ maybe he hitched a ride “ Steve said trying to joke. But no one laughed. “ Mary was the first to see him in Nashville on the 24th. People have seen him off an on almost every where weve been.” Steve said wishing Jared would speak.
They all three looked up as Jill glided into the room and knelt next to Jared who filled her in quickly. J ill was stunned but sat there and listened to Ed talk about how he had finally captured brown and the threats of vengeance. “ the SOB always scouted out his killing grounds and found tunnels or storm drains,or what ever to escape if we figured out where he was killing people at.”
Jared sat there listening his mind going over details, but he kept coming back to the three zombies on the road earlier. And then it hit him. “ the three “ Jared said aloud, Ed gave him a questioning look. Jill nodded in understanding and even Steve who had harbored doubts about the whole rule of three thing silently agreed.
“ what is the three” Ed asked. Jared sighed and then smiled at Ed in the darkness. “ well I guess If I’m going to sound like a raving lunatic I ought to start with the dreams.”
Ed listened with out interrupting as Jared talked about their escape from the Nashville area, their trip to the camp, Seth the insane rapists. The dream that set them on the road to Sumter. The farm, and what Gayle had shared with them before she was killed, The dreams that others had, had about loved ones and bowler hat. And the sightings of the zombie through out their trip.
When he finished Ed was looking at him intently. “ the boy, Billy. That was Browns MO. He loved doing that to kids. he kept a woman in a closet for a year down in Florida just like that Girl Anna, he treated her the same way. He spent a week hiding in one couples attic watching the woman thru peepholes he made, raped her but kept her alive till her husband got home, subdued the man and made him watch as he raped the woman again and cut strips of her flesh off as he raped her. he killed the husband after sexually assaulting him with a statue then castrated him and let him bleed to death.” Ed said, disgust and anger dripping from every word.
“ Jesus” Jill said softly. “ but it cant be him, I mean even if that’s his body. Hes a zombie. Zombies only eat people. not torture them or rape them” She said .
“ Remember Seth’s Friend.” Jared said thinking about what Mikhail had said in the Prep school parking lot. “and Mikhail said something about I’d rather die at Mikhails hands than at HIS hands, when he was talking about who or what he was working with. I took a guess and mentioned bowler hat. He seemed surprised I knew that much.
The three. Remember Gayle talking about threes and multiples of threes and how the dark, loved to mimic and twist what the light did. Maybe this Brown is part of the Evil three, Gayle as much as told us that we would face it. the Champion of the Dark remember Jill. Brown, Mikhail, and some one else on that island are the three she warned us about. and there could be more groups of three out there she said as much.
I mean don’t you find it curious that a band of raiders just happens to move onto the island we are headed for right at the beginning of spring. A band of raiders that seems to have welcomed Mikhail with Open arms, face it they gave him men, equipment and weapons that’s not the sign of a suspicious raider. Now suddenly I see bowler hat while standing next to the one of the two men still alive who could identify him. and the three zombies that just stopped there in the road, Drawing Eds and then my attention as if trying to get us to look there and notice bowler hat.” Jared paused for a moment.
“ And that explains why Mikhail has been so intent on Killing the kids, This jasper brown somehow influences him, or he willingly wants to help Brown carry on his work.” Jared said thoughtful, Ed started at that.
“ that’s what the voice said in my dreams, the last few weeks. ‘You thought you could stop my work. You were wrong again. but don’t worry my works moving right along stay out of it and you’ll live. Cross me again and you die’ it says. Its Brown, that dream is just like the ones you described, more real than any dream. Makes my skin crawl for hours after I wake up.” Ed said. They were quiet after that, and the sun seemed to take forever to rise for them. but the nightmare outside the windows of the house wasn’t dispelled with the light.
** ** **
Mikhail woke and rose from the bed with out lighting the lantern. the girl, bruised and battered whimpered in her sleep as she felt him move off the bed. He smiled at that thought, fear always turned him on. he pulled on his pants, buckled on the belt that held his holstered pistol and slipped out of the room. Stepping over Daryl who slept on the floor in front of his door, in case Mikhail desired anything during the night. He smiled at that too. Daryl had become so scared and so loyal he wanted nothing more than to please Mikhail.
He had plans on inviting Daryl to share his woman with just because he knew it would tear her up emotionally, just for a change of pace.
The new sexual fantasy kept him warm an toasty as he walked down the hall as if drawn to another room in the old Hotel. The door was unlocked, so he stepped into the room that was dark except for the moonlight streaming thru the window. casting a soft silver light on everything in the room.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, and suddenly knew he wasn’t alone. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the shadowy silhouette of his partner. “ I take it they are on the island now” he said. There was in imperceptible nod of agreement, but he could feel the agreement in his mind. “ Soon, it happens soon.” The familiar cold voice whispered in the back of his mind. at times, like now. Mikhail could almost feel the strain the thing was under just to get words out. “ The work is all that matters”
Mikhail for half a moment could see a flashing montage of images, women, children, tortured and worse. He could feel a perverse pleasure, a need, or hunger greater than any it had ever had and life, a dark twisted life now gone.
He was no stranger to torture, even enjoyed it to some degree. What he really loved was how it affected his targets. It was a shame really that he had never been able to get jareds woman. he would have enjoyed leaving body parts for the man to find, till Jared finally in desperation turned himself over to Mikhail to save his womans life, and die right along side her. Aah such a thing would have been wonderful Mikhail thought.
There were times he wondered though, how much of what he felt, and remembered wasn’t tainted or tinted by his partners mind. how ever much it might have been he knew that he had never had qualms about using torture as an means to an end. He had to make sure that he survived to get to the kids or at the very least they were in range of Parks final weapon. He hated to lose, and frankly he was tired of Jared and bad luck.
He realized that he had stopped wondering about his mental state weeks ago or about the reality of his partner. Then grinned, insane or not, he was having fun, had a mission. It was important to have a job he thought, even at the end of the world.
“ I’ll deal with it, just the way I told you the other night.” Mikhail said, then rose and left the room. In the darkness something laughed, if there was a tinge of fear to that laughter no one would have noticed.
The moon sank in the sky, uncaring about the ruined world below it. it didn’t see the smoke the debris, the trash and wreckage that filled streets of cities and towns. It didn’t notice or care that billions that had once stared in wonder at it, or dreamed of walking its surface were now almost all rotting corpses that were a mockery of life. it didn’t even notice that the International Space Station, was slowly dipping towards the atmosphere and would soon fall burning to the planet that had birthed it.