Cole moved around the room; Anna heard the click of a lighter and soon smelled cigarette smoke. “I have a little more work to do,” he said. Anna heard a door open. “Oh, and don’t forget your girl here. You are chained now. She isn’t. I’m sure she will hear you if you try to escape, or make too much noise. And I bet she’s ravenously hungry. Oh, and you are going to have a choice to make. Soon.”

“What choice?” asked Carla

“Never mind for now.... I’ll be back.”

Anna listened to the door open and shut, followed by a key setting the lock. Hunger raged as she tried to focus on his footsteps quickly fading away.

Chapter Twenty-one

Anna and Carla were alone together at last. Anna could sense Carla’s tension, her anxiety. She understood that Carla had no idea what condition Anna was in. Anna could feel Carla watching her, could sense Carla’s emotions. Anna was hungry now, yes. Hungrier than she had ever been in her life. But she clung to her fading humanity


Silence pervaded the room.

“Carla, are you there?” Anna knew she was, but asked anyway.

“Anna? Are you... are you okay, honey?”

“I don’t know how long that fucker will be gone,” Anna struggled to hang on. Fight the cravings! She heard the anger in the voice. The hate. “But I’m here. I’m strong. And I want to live.”

“Oh, my God,” Carla’s voice was one of relief. “You’re back. You’re... fighting it, aren’t you?” Doubt mingled with hope.

“He doesn’t know,” said Anna “I started to come around in the car. Sorry... I didn’t know if I could talk to you or not. It’s hard to explain.”

“It’s okay, Anna. Your dad and uncle, and everyone else will come. And, I’m not done with that bastard yet.”

“Neither am I,” Anna said, evenly. “But I really need some water.” She swallowed, hard, forcing the saliva down. “First thing’s first, though. He mustn’t know that I’m changed. I’m strong now.... He’s going to use you somehow, Carla. He gave you some kind of choice. I’m stronger than you, so let him use me! I can do it, whatever it is... and keep him off of you.”

“No, I can’t allow you to do that,” said Carla, firmly. “I’ll figure out how to buy us more time.”

“But what are we facing out there?” Anna asked. “Where are we?!” She began to panic, but controlled herself, breathing deeply.

Fight it, Anna. Fight it.

* * *

Cole retrieved the suitcase from the SUV. A suitcase nuke. Or, more accurately, a nuclear warhead housed within a steel case lined with protective padding in case of radiation.

Like that’s going to matter soon, he thought, while wheeling the case carefully in front of him.

Only 60 pounds, but it packed a wallop. The explosion would be about half what it was at Hiroshima, or 6 megatons. And it didn’t take much to set this baby off either. A coded detonator, and a small explosion that literally rammed the two uranium tubes together.

And that’d be all she wrote for this nightmare. At least in L.A.

He was doing his job. Nothing more, nothing less. Just as others like him, around the world, were doing their jobs, too. To contain this nightmare. To save this sorry world from itself. And if he could take out the two Carter boys with the crazies, well, all the better. And if he could actually watch them suffer, too, even better still.

He had a little plan for that. A plan with front row seats to watch them suffer.

The arrogant pricks.

For now, though, he searched for the perfect spot for the bomb, until he sheepishly realized it wouldn’t really matter where he put it. The stadium would be gone whether he threw it in the bathroom or shoved it under a seat.

Still, he needed it out of the way and to keep it dry. Mostly, he needed to keep it safe from prying eyes.

And from the crazies.

* * *

Hours passed.

Cole returned, and seemed pleased with himself. Carla ignored the asshole as best she could, while trying not to give away the fact that Anna was, in fact, quite coherent. Carla also knew Anna’s coherency would last only for so long, before she devolved into a....

She couldn’t think about, and so she refused to.

Cole left again, keeping Carla chained. She felt so tired and began to fall asleep. Exhaustion became to hard to resist.

* * *

Anna crouched in the corner. Waiting.

Staying still was agony. She held the pen that Carla had told her about, a pen she had fished from Carla’s jeans, which had been a challenge since both of their hands were either cuffed or tied. But she had gotten it, and now she held the ballpoint pen tightly in the palm of her hand, thinking of all the places that were vulnerable on Cole’s body. She knew what she would do, but she had to wait for the right moment.

Think of something else....

Anna distracted herself by running through all of the constellations in her mind. First alphabetically, then chronologically. She fought her urge to get up, get out. She felt wonderfully powerful, and had never struggled so hard in her life to remain calm. She pictured her father, and remembered Jared. They were good men. She allowed herself to think of Jared... naked.

Anna had carefully loosened the knot that held the pillowcase around her, a short while earlier. Then, she made herself wait. Patience wasn’t her strongest virtue, and she reminded herself repeatedly what was at stake. Her life. Her father’s. Jared’s. Her uncle, Mike and Carla. She had to wait until the perfect moment.

She was in the middle of naming the stars in Latin when Cole suddenly returned.

Carla awoke with a slight moan.

“The time has come,” he announced.

“What time?” asked Carla, disoriented for a moment. Then Anna heard her jerking herself upright.

“You have a choice. Are you my girl?”

“What the hell does that mean?” asked, Carla, sounding confused.

“Choose, or I will choose for you.”

“What are you planning, asshole?”

He laughed. “That’s the fun of it. You’ll find out soon enough.”

“Okay... I’m your girl,” Carla affirmed. “Take me, do what you will. But you’re not going to win.”

Anna heard him take her cuffs off the file cabinet, then snap them on again, likely behind Carla’s back. She didn’t hear anything more except the door opening and then locking from the outside.

Chapter Twenty-two

Mike froze when the stadium lights turned on.

J.R. Rain Books | Horror Books | Walking Plague Trilogy Series Books