The lights came on. The first word I could manage was, “Ukk.”
I blinked. I appeared to be in the same alcove, albeit now on the floor, on my left side, in a small puddle of drool. My left arm was outstretched, my hand spasming now and then, the knuckles smacking the wall when it happened.
My head hurt. My muscles felt sore and too loose. I willed my arm to stop that stupid twitching. It refused.
Fine, whatever. I forced myself to sit up. I was behind the counter. I used it to pull myself to my feet, leaned against it while I dug out my cell phone. Three missed calls and five texts, all from David. I called him without checking any of them.
“Hey,” I said. I expected it to come out in something other than a dry croak. I sounded like Hamilton. I cleared my throat and tried again. “Hey.” Better.
“Are you okay?”
“No. I’m pissed off.”
“That bitch ambushed me. Zapped me with something. A cattle prod, I think.”
“You know any other bitches? Wait. Don’t answer that.”
“Elizabeth, are you okay?”
“Yeah.” I straightened up. “Ow.”
“Stahlberg hit you with a cattle prod?”
“I guess. I didn’t smell her. Moss was wearing cologne. Could’ve been a stun gun, but she must’ve hooked it up to a car battery.”
“Are you at the mall?”
“Yeah, the old security office. There’s a used condom on the floor. Shit, I hope I didn’t have my face on it.”
“You sound funny. Hyper.”
“Could be the two million volts still running through me, I suppose. Really, I’m fine.” I stepped away from the counter. My legs gave out. I hit the floor on my butt, not far from that deflated Durex. I stared at it while I said, “Maybe you’d better meet me here.”
* * *
David Talks to the CDC
He pulls up the CDC’s website on his phone after finishing his interviews with the witnesses and store manager. There’s a 1-800 number at the bottom of the home page, and he punches it in while he wanders to the large appliance section. He leans against a dryer while the line rings. He expects a recorded voice, some offering of menu options, punch this button, that button. But the phone clicks, buzzes for a second, and then is answered by an actual human being.
“Fisher.” He sounds male.
“Hello?” David straightens up. He has no idea what to say next. Can I speak to the zombie hunting division? Sure. Try that. My girlfriend’s a werewolf and we’re hunting this zombie from McDonald’s? Another winner.
“Can I help you, Deputy Mercer?”
Interesting. “I’m calling about two of your agents.”
“We don’t have agents.” A pause. Then, “Not officially, anyway. I’m assuming you’re calling about Moss and Stahlberg.”
“You assume correctly.”
“And Joshua Hamilton.”
“What the hell is going on here? Why are you so interested in–“
“How about you just stay quiet and assist my two unofficial agents to the best of your abilities, you and your little pet werewolf? If you’re considering marrying her, I’d give serious thought to genetic abnormalities in your offspring.”
The line went silent. David stared at the phone screen. “What the hell?”
* * *
“What the fuck?” I said, after he’d told me about the phone call. “Your little pet werewolf?”
He winced. “I probably should’ve left that part out.”
“What did he say after that?”
“Nothing.” We were at a four-way stop, on our way to the baseball field. He checked for traffic. “He hung up.”
“Well, he sounds like a perfect asshole.”
“I think it’s time we called McNair.”
“Oh yes. Let’s call the sheriff and tell him that the subject of his clandestine manhunt is a zombie. And to make him believe us, I’ll reveal that I’m a werewolf.”
David ran a hand through his blond hair. “All right, it wasn’t a perfect idea.”
“Let’s just find Hamilton, kill him, and go home.”
“You think you can do that?”
“He wants me to, Mercy. Better that, than whatever Moss has planned for him.”
David was quiet. It bothered me. I was still a bit twitchy from the cattle prod. Made my mouth want to run more than usual. I said, “He’s already dead.”
“He’s up. Moving around. Talking.”
We reached the high school. The ball field was behind it, reachable either by a maze of small unpaved side streets or through the student parking lot. We chose the parking lot. I unbuckled my seat belt.
“I just wonder,” he said, “about Josh’s soul.”
My fingers tapped my thighs. David was a bit more religious than me. He went to church on his few Sundays off. I avoided the places except for funerals and weddings. “Don’t do this,” I said. “He’s a zombie.”
I said, “He asked me to kill him. Begged, in fact.”
David parked the car. We got out, on the look-out for the unofficial agents. No sign of them. We walked to the field. No sign of Josh, either. Not even a whiff of Axe-tinged decay.
“Shit,” I muttered. “Now what?”