Chapter Twenty-three

Blood, bone and grey matter covered the bright green grass field as the five men fought their way closer to Carla.

Joe and Jared paired up back to back, Jared fighting off the oncoming undead as Joe cleared the way to Carla. By now, Jack had seen them, along with Mike, slaughtering his way from home base.

Joe was the closest though, and he could see Carla had been roughed up. She was barely recognizable, covered from head to toe with blood and sweat. He shouted to her. She turned to him and he tossed her a handgun. He overthrew a little high but she jumped to catch it, and then emptied it in seconds into the nearest pair of zombies trying to climb onto the truck’s hood. But it bought enough time to bring Joe and Jared closer. When they reached her, Joe gave her his last gun. Carla jumped off the car, fighting for her life, for their lives, too.

Soon, all six of them fired with their backs to the SUV. When the guns were emptied, they used their knives. And the zombies kept coming, drawn by the smell of fresh blood and driven by the blasting music, which looped over and over. The living humans were at the end of their ropes, exhausted, fighting, and killing one mindless fiend after another.

“Look!” Jared hollered, and pointed.

Tearing into the field came the Escalade, with Julie behind the wheel. She hauled ass to reach them. Mike smiled, perhaps at the thought she had decided she couldn’t carry all the weapons Mike ordered her to and she had made the executive—and smart—decision to bring everything to them.

But Julie looked terrified. She wouldn’t open her door until the rest rallied to the back and opened the trunk. Mike jumped in and threw out weapons, whatever he came upon first. The group caught them and renewed their attack.

* * *

Of course, Jared spotted Anna first.

She was wielding a baseball bat at any crazy that dared to approach. Anna was strong now, Jared could tell. She battled with fury and strength he’d never seen in her before. She fought off the closest enemies and arched her body into the battle, eager for more. Jared saw that she had some ammunition of her own laid out; where she had obtained it didn’t matter. He was sorely impressed.

But Jared also detected the redness within her eyes, and in an instant understood everything going on with her. She was changing, fighting both emotionally and physically. Surely she was at war within, having the zombie urges and yet fighting for the human side of things. How strong his girlfriend was to fight off the physical and mental illness that pervaded her body and changed her to a super-strength zombie. He admired and loved her all the more.

“Anna!” he roared, and pointed to her so the others would also notice her.

Anna managed to create a space for them to run to near one of the dugouts. She cleared the way, swinging left and right, lopping off zombie heads as she swung. Everyone moved toward her and toward the dugout. Julie jumped out of the car and found Mike, and from then on remained by his side.

Once inside the dugout, they fled deeper through an underground hallway. Anna tore some lockers free, and with help moved them to the entrance, blocking off their enemies.

* * *

Cole heaved a shoulder into the locked closet door for at least the fifteenth time. Finally, it crashed open.

He limped to the window, the pain in his kneecap excruciating. As his fingers dug unsuccessfully at the broken-off pen embedded in the back of his knee, he groaned and watched them come together as a unified and organized force. His rage at the sight of Julie coming to their aid added to his growing insanity. I should have killed that bitch!

The girl had taken most of his ammunition. But not all. His gaze fell onto his bag of tricks, and his face transformed into something evil. Hell, he felt evil. Enraged. Bloodthirsty.

The motherfuckers are gonna pay!

Cole turned his back on the view and dragged himself to a nearby desk. He opened the drawers. Nothing. He moved from that desk to another, finding a pair of scissors. You can do this, he told himself. He grabbed a stack of paper from one of the printers, rolled it up. He would need to clench down on something. The Press Room had a bar; he moved slowly to it and reached for a bottle of whiskey, opened it and drank deeply. Then he reached around to the wound at the back of his knee, found the open gouge. He dug the scissors around the broken pen and waited for the nausea to pass. Clenching the paper in his mouth as hard as he could, he caught the pen with the scissors’ tip and pulled.

* * *

When Cole came back to consciousness, he wasn’t sure how long he had been out. Yes, the pain was still there, but lessened a great deal with that pen fragment out. Still, he couldn’t bear weight on his leg. And blood continued to pour from the wound. He shoved a wad of tissues in the hole, crying out as he did so.

He fashioned a makeshift crutch out of a mop from the closet. He envisioned snapping Julie’s neck, and would’ve gladly done so if she’d been there with him. He never dreamed she had it in her to betray him, and come to their aid.

But for Cole there was always a Plan B. He drew his backpack close, and checked the contents inside. He eased himself carefully into the chair and waited patiently for the smoke to clear and dust to settle outside.

Chapter Twenty-four

Jack smiled broader than he thought he could, proud of the damage the group had done. They had killed literally hundreds of the undead. If only the music would stop, they might wander off. Who knew that hard rock and roll could raise the undead like this?

“Never thought I’d get sick of that song.” said Brice. “I’ll never think of Eric Gagné the same way again.”

Everyone stood together in the shadows of the dugout, watching the vile creatures roam above them, insane with anger and a hunger that would never be satiated. Jack wondered how far along his daughter was in the zombie transformation process. But she hadn’t turned completely, not yet. There was time, and he could almost feel her fighting the rabid rage within.

Try as he might, he couldn’t help thinking about the water cure, or more accurately, the drowning cure.

“I’d say let’s just get the hell out of here,” he told Joe and Mike, as they stepped together toward the dugout entrance. “But we still have something to take care of.”

His brother nodded. “Someone, you mean.” He stepped forward a little more and pointed up to the Press Room. “Bet your ass he’s up there, planning something more.”

“We don’t know if he’s still in there.”

“Oh, he’s not going anywhere.” Anna’s voice was dark. “I don’t think he can walk.”

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