As it was, he was alone and he was going to drown his best friend to save his friend’s life. He hoped. He was mostly sure that was the cure.
In order to do this, he needed to get Joe alone. Mike remembered his previous heightened senses, especially that of smell—something which Joe and Stetson would surely pick up on. Most likely, they would catch Mike’s scent as human again. That would be disastrous. So this shit that was coming down had to be quick and dirty.
Mike pulled onto the highway shoulder and got out of the car. Just to his right, there was a small, private beach, but it was winter, so this particular beach wasn’t too populated during the night. He felt it was safe enough.
He entered the restroom. He checked the toilets; there were only two in the men’s room. The place was empty. He walked out onto the sandy beach. There were a few campfire rings made of large rocks. Mike prayed for luck. The first one was cleaned out. So was the second. He ventured a little further, and found that the third fire ring still had some firewood. One large piece of wood in particular. He hefted the weight of it. It would do.
Mike thanked whatever gods were helping him and carried the large, heavy log into the restroom. He put the trash can into the larger handicapped stall and buried the wooden log underneath some used paper towels.
Mike washed his hands to get rid of the gritty charcoal from the half-burned log. He returned to his car. Other vehicles sped by at an alarming rate.
Everyone speeds in California, he thought to himself. He kept to the right side of the car and let the air out of the back right tire.
Then Mike Mendoza called his best Navy buddy, Joe Carter.
“I got a flat tire and the spare is bad.”
“So, how far away are you?” Joe asked as he frowned into the phone.
“About eight miles,” Mike answered from the side of the highway. “I’d run the distance myself, it would be a piece of cake. But I’m not clothed for running. And the beaches are private around here, I’m pretty sure. Can you pick me up?”
Mike knew that was a lie, of course, as there were no private beaches in California. Hopefully Joe wouldn’t pick up on that.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another, Joe thought to himself. Joe had been ecstatic that Mike was coming down and was on board with their plan. Now they were going to have to be careful to not attract any attention whatsoever.
Sunset Beach was a kind of ritzy, but also a sleepy, kick-back community and all they needed for their kind of party was one houseful of people—human flesh. Yes. Yes.
Joe was almost past self-control. He’d waited for Mike to come celebrate and now this. Mike needed Joe’s help.
“Joe?” Mike’s voice came through the cell phone. A wash of brief anger rushed through Joe’s veins. There was a small amount of control left, though. If he had to pick up Mike, then so be it.
“I’m here,” Joe said grimly.
Stetson was listening to Joe’s half of the conversation with growing anxiety. Stetson was intelligent. He thought he smelled something fishy, and not from just the ocean nearby. He shook his head at Joe, but Joe ignored him.
Perhaps it was fate that caused Joe to ignore the doctor/scientist in his mind. Instead of letting logic dictate his actions, emotion ruled him at the moment...and Mike was his friend. In either case, Joe got directions to where Mike said he was stranded and hung up.
“You’re sure about this?” Stetson asked.
“Of course, I’m sure,” Joe answered defensively. “But I really don’t want to drive the car I stole. Can’t take any chances.”
“There’s a car in the garage,” Stetson reasoned. “I think the keys are hanging by the door. It’s safe. Use it.”
Mike Mendoza waited by the bathroom door until he saw a car pull up behind his. He remained hidden in the shadows as he watched Joe get out and look around.
“Joe?” Mike made a retching sound.
“Mike, where are you?”
“I’m in the bathroom,” Mike said and coughed for good measure. “I’m sick, Joe. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Are you feeling okay?”
“You’re sick?” Joe frowned. Joe relished his strength now and almost couldn’t remember what it was like to feel ill. But maybe this was some phase of...whatever it was. “Maybe you shouldn’t come with me, then.” Joe felt a little guilty, but he and Stetson had plans that night for some decent flesh. The craving was overpowering.
“No, don’t leave me here, please,” Mike begged, gagging a little more. He had to lure Joe into the bathroom. This was his only chance. “I bet it was some...bad meat, you know? I’ve been really careful, but maybe that deer wasn’t a good choice.”
Joe Carter was torn. He was so hungry. He’d just driven a car that smelled of human flesh and he had to eat.
But Army buddies are for life, Joe reminded himself. And if he could just get Mike back to the cottage, well, if Mike didn’t want to join them in their first nightly hunt, he could stay and babysit that son of a bitch Cole, the Agent in Black.
“You’re in the bathroom by your car?” Joe asked.
Mike hid his relief. It was going to work. Had to. “Can you come in here? I think I need a little help to the car.”
“All right,” Joe agreed. “But you’re gonna have to get better, man.”
“I will, I know I will. I’m hungry, and I can smell...”
“Stop,” Joe said. “I am, too, bro. I can barely stand it. On my way.”
Joe could hear Mike groaning as he neared the restroom. Shit. He hadn’t planned on this. All he could think of was getting Mike into the car and getting this over with, and then....
Joe’s overpowering cravings left him completely unprepared when he entered the bathroom and Mike jumped out. The log came crashing down toward Joe’s head.
“What the fuck—”
Before he could finish his sentence, Mike slammed the hard wood into his face, and then his gut. Joe was surprised and dazed only for a second, but that was all the time Mike needed. He whipped out the handcuffs Carla had given him and slapped them onto Joe’s wrists.
“Hey! Are you insane?!”
Mike had wanted to get Joe’s hands behind his back but Joe’s instant fury and strength scared him. Joe’s eyes gleamed red—a deadly red—as he brought his hands up, ready to bring them down on Mike, who was now up against the wall.