Saturday, 3 a.m. 4505 Old Main Street, Mitchum Bay
I direct the Toyota down the gravel alley behind the shop and turn into the fenced lot marked Employees Only. The gate is open, and the headlights spear a white Cadillac Escalade. I park behind it. It’s my accountant Arny Benoit’s car; the headlights are lighting up his vanity plate, NMBR 1MAN.
Dani nudges my shoulder with the iPad. I look at it.
Whats A doing here?
I shake my head. It occurs to me that it’s a bad idea to park here. I reverse the car into the alley. Across the alley from my shop is the rear parking lot of Sabine River Ford and Toyota’s body shop. I back in and park the Toyota next to a Ford Econoline van with missing fenders.
We get out, Dani writing for the girls to stay in the car. They don’t acknowledge the words, but they stay put. I want to go alone, but Dani refuses, and I don’t want to waste time arguing.
The shop’s back door is unlocked. I open it slowly. We’re in a large bay that can hold up to ten cars. Right now, there are three. My office is at the back of the bay, not far from the double doors that lead to the showroom and the front of the building. My office door is open, and my desk lamp is on. I see Arny seated at my desk, tapping on my computer.
My stomach has been constantly growling. I’ve gotten used to it. But when I see Arny, it cramps painfully. I press my hands to it. My mouth begins to water. I start walking across the dark bay, Dani trailing me.
I reach the doorway. Arny glances up. Then he jerks in my chair and makes a surprised noise–“Urk!”–before shooting to his feet. My chair spins around and around.
“Mack, Jesus, are you okay?” Arny is keeping the desk between us. His face is white, except for two bright red patches on his plump cheeks. His hair is, as always, neatly slicked into place. He’s wearing a teal fishing shirt, brown cargo shorts, and sandals. All suited up for a day at the lake.
So what the fuck is he doing in my office? And why is my safe open? I didn’t even know he knew the combination. Only two people know it, my assistant manager, Roy Perkins, and Miguel–
Things click into place.
Arny is babbling. “You look bad, Mack, sick, are you sick? Hey, let me get you some water, huh?” He starts to move away from the desk, to the mini fridge next to the safe, keeping his back to the wall. His slightly bulging eyes flit from me to Dani.
I want to be angry. Instead, I’m hungry. I pull at the neck brace’s Velcro straps, and Arny jerks at each rip. The brace falls to the concrete floor. Arny screams. Then he bolts around the desk. I’ve been slowly moving toward him this whole time, completely unaware of it. I reach for him. My fingers brush his shirt sleeve, and then he’s in the bay. The back door is open. I thought I closed it.
He makes it halfway across the bay. Then one of the girls–I’m not sure which one–steps out from behind a lowered S-10 pickup. Arny skids to a stop. I hear him say “Alexa?” but he’s never been able to tell them apart, the asshole. Then he screams and spins around. My little girl is latched onto his throat.
Dani and I look at each other for a second before helping her.
– – – – –
Sunday, 4 p.m. 4505 Old Main Street, Mitchum Bay
I parked the Mustang behind Sabine River Ford’s body shop, next to a blue Econoline van that was minus its fenders. The back of Loud Noisez was across the alley, and there was a white Escalade parked there, even though the shop, like most of the businesses on this street, was closed that day.
I started toward the shop, then glanced back and saw the black Camry parked on the other side of the van. I checked the Notes app on my phone. The plate matched the Petersons’. My scalp tingled.
I went to the car. I opened the driver’s door, and the smell that slid out made me gag. I slammed it shut hard enough that the car rocked on its springs. I staggered away from it, into the alley. My Nikes slid on the gravel, and I went to my knees before vomiting vodka-flavored bile.
I spat my mouth clean, then shakily got to my feet. Mitchum Bay P.D. hadn’t made it out here yet to toss the shop. Micah Peterson may have been the owner of Loud Noisez, but he wasn’t the owner of the building. That particular fellow lived in Austin, and his lawyer was currently at the P.D. explaining that whatever might be found in the building had no connection to his client at all.
I trotted to the Escalade. The P.D. couldn’t step foot inside it yet, but there was nothing stopping them from driving by. I wanted to get inside before the patrol car I’d spotted earlier made another pass.
I checked the SUV’s interior. Brown leather everywhere. Tackle box on the passenger’s front seat. I didn’t try the doors.
The smell of the Petersons was faint out here. It led me to the back door of the shop, which was closed, but unlocked. I opened it, stepped inside, then thumbed the deadbolt closed. Their smell was everywhere. My stomach clenched again. I bent over and retched. Nothing came out. I straightened up. My nose tingled.
Usually, I can navigate the dark using my nose. It’s a cool little trick. But the zombie stench screwed that up. I could make out the dim shapes of three vehicles and large, wheeled toolboxes scattered throughout the space, but that was it. I turned on my phone’s flashlight and swept it around. Looked to be an office ahead of me.
I took off the gloves and shoved them in a back pocket. I unbuttoned my jeans, bent down long enough to untie my shoelaces. I can change while clothed, but the end result is I look ridiculous and it’s hard to move. I didn’t think I’d need to wolf out, but just in case.
Something came out of the darkness below my light and slammed into my knees. I fell back. My head cracked against the concrete and the world tilted away from me. What happened next was a confusing blur of present and past.
Something on top of my chest. Something hunched over me.
It was small. It was big.
It was a zombie. It was a werewolf.
It moved for my face. It moved for my face.
I raised my left arm in what would be a useless gesture of protection. My arm will be crunched between sharp teeth. My life will be over. Next stop, Fuckedville.
Maybe not this time, though. Maybe, somehow, I’ve been granted a do-over. This time, I drop my arm. I let the werewolf rip out my throat. I die on a dirty floor in a junk warehouse. I don’t kill anyone.
Except. My right hand is raised, is clutching something. Whatever it is, it’s cold, clammy, feels vaguely like a chamois cloth. The world tilted back to me.
I had an undead little girl by the throat. Her mouth was opening and snapping shut, teeth clicking. Her arms were at her sides. By the time she decided to raise them and try for my face, I’d regained enough of my senses to formulate a brilliant plan.
I punched her in the face. Her nose collapsed under my fist. I let go of her, caught a glimpse of a ragged slash across her throat before I hit her again and knocked her off of me.
I rolled away from her and managed to get to my feet. My head pounded. And, of course, she was coming for me again. I grabbed her head with both hands and snapped her neck.
Her body hit the ground. So did my knees. I put my hands to my face. “Oh God, no,” I whispered into my palms. “No no no.”
I thought I could do this. It was a zombie, after all. The undead. A walking corpse. Whichever seven-year-old child she–it–had been, Alexa or Dayton, it had died last night. The deep cut in her–its–throat proved that.
I sobbed. The sound echoed, and that just made me sob harder.
Then something grabbed the back of my neck.