Novel by David Smith
Available through Amazon and his official website.
“The strength of two connected neural pathways is thought to result in the storage of information, resulting in memory. This process of synaptic strengthening is known as long term potentiation.”
“Who can say where inside a man’s body his soul is kept? Who can pinpoint a part of his brain, or even a single synapse, and say this is or is not the essence of that person? Can one body be possessed by two souls, and if so is one equally as guilty of the crimes committed by the other?”
Jane and I already have our guns in our hands, ready in case of a sudden Zyg attack. Inside the warehouse it’s artificially lit with low wattage bulbs, so neither day or night. A Zyg will usually only attack at night but if it’s starving it’d attack regardless of the time of day or the absence of complete darkness.
‘The Sheriff must have gotten out from somewhere,’ says Jane.
‘Skirt the internal walls,’ I say, ‘There has to be another door.’
We keep our backs to the warehouse wall as we head left looking for another personnel door. It doesn’t take long before we spot it, small, this one made of steel with a security window mounted at eye height. I reach it first. There’s a handle I grab and twist but it doesn’t move. I rattle it hard but to no effect. The door doesn’t budge.
‘No use doing that.’
It’s the voice of the Sheriff coming from the other side of the door. I hear the ‘ca-chink’ of a gun being loaded. I recognize the sound and remember the Sheriff always used to take a Benelli Nova shotgun with him when on highway patrol duty just in case of trouble. I carefully move my head up towards the security window and take a quick look. The Sheriff is standing about five yards directly opposite the door. Sure enough he has the Benelli in his grip and is pointing it at the door.
The quick glimpse of the Sheriff tells me all I need to know. I immediately recognize that look in his eyes. I’ve seen it a thousand times before when I was a Detective in the SOS. It’s a crazy look, the look that says ‘I’ll kill you, my mother, anyone alive that tries to harm my child. I’ve known the Sheriff years and he’s always been a steady guy. But the Sheriff I knew wasn’t drenched in a Zyg’s pheromones. I jerk my head down and move away from the door so he can’t pick up from the outside where I am.
‘Martha’s dead, Red,’ hollers the Sheriff, ‘Died giving birth to our son.’
I signal to Jane to move away from the warehouse wall in case the Sheriff starts blasting shells through the wall.
‘They’re just kids,’ he shouts, ‘Like any other normal kids, ‘cept they need those vitamins they can’t get from everyday food. There’s no wrong in ‘em. It’s not their fault, see? A few folks like me managed to hide their kids away here. We give ‘em regular food but the kids need to feed off people. So, I go out nights and pick up waifs and strays, bums, low life, anything I can pick up wandering the highway. I bring ‘em here and let ‘em loose. These people are drifters, Red. They ain’t got kin that’ll miss ‘em…they’re our kids Red. You understand, don’t you? You gotta do whatever you have to do to take care of your kids…you understand that, don’t you Red?’
A shotgun blast hammers through the side of the warehouse wall, the buckshot peppering the containers the other side of the walkway. Thankfully none of the shot hits me or Jane. I dive on the floor, Jane a split second behind me, and we scurry across the concrete floor on our stomachs towards the safety of the stacked containers.
‘Don’t hang around by the doors, Red,’ hollers the Sheriff, ‘I’ll be waiting if you try to break out.’
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
‘The kids are hungry, Red. Can’t you hear them crying out in pain. Do the right thing. Go see ‘em. Make ‘em better.’
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
The Sheriff pumps three more shots at random spots in the wall. We hear the buckshot zing over our heads and thwack into the sides of the containers. We lie still for a few seconds, our bodies pressing hard against the concrete floor.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
The Sheriff is firing at the outer wall at random. I figure he has a stack of boxes of shells and will stay there pumping buckshot through the wall until he thinks we’ve moved off. If we hang around it’ll only be a matter of time before we get hit by one of his random shots. There’s no point in trying to put a slug into the Sheriff. His shotgun has far greater fire power than our hand guns. Our slugs would never pierce the warehouse wall. We have little choice but to head away from the outer wall into the labyrinth of containers and take our chances with the Zygs.
It gets darker the further into the honeycomb of stacked containers we go. We don’t run, we move cautiously, checking every corner, every gantry above us. The howling of the Zygs has stopped, a sure sign they know we’re here and are on the hunt for our flesh. We can still hear in the distance the occasional shotgun blast against the side of the building. The Sheriff must be keeping up his vigil to ensure we don’t try to break out of the building back at the main entrance doors. The air inside the warehouse is still and cool with a musty odour, like old rotting carpets.
‘What the fuck are we going to do, Jake,’ whispers Jane as we walk down the centre of the isle marked Main Street.
We’re practically back to back as we edge along together, each protecting the other from a sudden attack from behind.
‘I don’t know,’ I whisper back, ‘Can you detect any of them?’
‘Don’t be stupid,’ she hisses back, ‘they’re fucking glorified vegetables, not Dreeks or Torps!’
Hardly the language of an international diplomat, but when you’re locked in a vast warehouse that may be overrun with vicious killer Zygs the use of expletives is to be expected.
‘Sorry,’ I say, ‘…how about planting visions in their heads to make them sleep or something?’
‘Yeah, possibly, when they get near enough. The trouble is the only way I’ll pick up on when they’re close enough is when they attack, and that might be too late, especially if they attack me first.’
‘Should we go deeper in or try to get back out to the perimeter?’
‘The perimeter is our better bet,’ she says, ‘but we’ll have to stay well away from any doors. The Sheriff might not be acting alone. If there’s a bunch of them pumping shot in at any random noise they hear near a door that’d be bad news for us.’
‘We could always go back and wait for the Sheriff to leave. He can’t stay out there forever,’ I say.
‘I reckon he’s done this all before many times, and he knows exactly how long he’ll have to wait before the Zygs pick us off. He’s not going anywhere just yet a while.’
We keep going slowly forward till we come to a dimly lit intersection. I edge my head round the corner. The path between the containers fades into darkness off into the distance. It’s too long to see the end of this corridor but logic tells us it must be the outer wall. The path looks clear and unobstructed, no Zygs.
‘Looks okay. Do you want to risk it?’
‘Come on,’ she says, stepping into the path and heading off right a couple of steps ahead of me, ‘let’s see how far we get.’
Ahead of us a section of the warehouse has a metal gantry running above it for about fifty yards, criss-crossing with other intersecting corridors. A set of metal steps leads from the corridor we’re on up to the gantry, then up to the level above. In the dim light I can just about make out that the metal steps eventually go as far as the sixth layer of containers. I point my gun at the steps as we get nearer to them.
‘How about going up a couple of levels? That way if a Zyg attacks at least we’ll know it can only come from in front or behind. It can’t drop out on us from the top of one of the containers.’
‘Seems sensible,’ she says and we edge towards the steps.
We reach the steps and start to climb. We try to move as quietly as we can but the metal steps are hollow and creak noisily when we put our weight onto them. The metallic rattle echoes through the building like an alarm shouting, ‘Hey kids! Here we are! Feeding time!’ I’m just thinking to myself that this is a bad idea when Jane stops dead on the steps. We’re at a level between the first and second layer of containers. Each container is stacked on top of the one below resting on a steel girder frame about two feet in depth. Something catches Jane’s attention.
‘Give me your phone,’ she says.
‘It’s back at the bar,’ I remind her.
‘Shit!’ she says, ‘You got any matches or a lighter?’
‘Don’t use ‘em,’ I say. Again she expresses her disappointment with my lack of being prepared.
‘What’s up?’ I ask.
‘There’s something in between the containers,’ she says, ‘It’s too dark to see.’
There is an emergency light on the outside of the gantry. It’s not lit up but I guess it must work when the power shuts down. I reach up and take hold of it with both hands and wrench it off its mounting. I figured right. It has a battery built into it so that if the power to it ever fails then the light comes on. It’s not exactly a halogen beam but it’s sufficient for what we need now. I hand it down to Jane. She takes it and lowers her head with the light beside her face and twists round so she can check between the two containers. She immediately recoils and spins back, dropping the lamp with a clatter. It bounces down the steps and shatters on the concrete floor beneath us. Jane looks like she’s going to vomit, gasping for air and fighting to retain the contents of her stomach.
‘Severed heads, rotting severed heads, dozens and dozens of them.’
She fights her nausea hard, pulling in the stale air in long gulps, clutching onto the hand rail of the metal staircase.
‘They’re scattered right across the tops of all the containers,’ she says, ‘Zyg trophies. The bodies’ll be stacked somewhere near, probably in the empty containers. They’ve been feeding the Zygs here for years, Jake.’
‘We gotta get out of here,’ is the only helpful advice I can muster.
It’s then we hear it, a scampering on the metal gantry above us. We’ve got company.
We hear it but don’t see it. It’s too fast for us as it bolts across the gantry above and disappears into the shadows. Jane and I instantly have our guns ready, holding them against our cheeks with both hands, ready to spin and shoot should the thing leap down on us from the gantry or attack from between the containers.
‘Let’s get back down,’ she says.
We edge backwards down the steps of the gantry towards the floor. At least one Zyg knows exactly where we are, probably more. It’s a question of whether the one that’s near us now is hungry enough and bold enough to take us both on at the same time. Zygs never hunt in packs, so there’s a strong probability the others won’t attack until after this one has finished and either one, or both of us, or the Zyg, is dead.
When we’re both back on the concrete floor I edge along the front face of the first container at the bottom of the gantry till I reach the door.
‘Let’s see what’s inside,’ I say to Jane.
It’s a single door kept closed using a thick, long bolt through a set of metal eyes. There’s no lock keeping the door secure, so I unhitch the bolt and slide it open, while Jane watches my back in case the Zyg decides it’s time for it to attack us. The door is stiff and I have to use a lot of strength to swing the door open. It’s a big door, about eight feet high and four feet wide, held to the container by a series of hinges, but it swings open easily once it’s on the move. I pull it round till it’s flat against the side of the container.
There’s no light inside, so it takes a couple of seconds for our eyes to adjust to the gloom inside. The container is full of old junk, what looks like the contents of a garden shed and a garage, rusty and old. Most of it is stacked against the rear wall of the container in a huge, tangled pile of old crap. There’s the rusting carcass of an old Harley Davidson Shovelhead leaning against one of the side walls, the front wheel missing, cannibalized for spares then dumped. Old clothes are piled over it, and a battered old wheelbarrow slung across the top.
I take a step inside the container, Jane watching my back. At first I think it’s just junk, nothing of any use to us at all. Then my brain starts to work. Piled up against one side of the container are tins of paint, old clothes, bottles of spirits, turpentine and paraffin, materials that could be useful in making a fire. The main double doors at the front of the warehouse are made of wood. I figure we could burn our way out if we could get near enough to the doors without being hit by one of the Sheriff’s random shotgun blasts through the walls. I spot a stack of empty liquor bottles and the germ of a plan starts to form in my mind.
‘Let’s make a few bombs,’ I say to Jane.
It doesn’t take long rummaging through the junk to find enough of what we need. I line up ten empty liquor bottles. The tank on the Shovelhead is still over half full of petrol. I find a short length of garden hose from amongst the junk and use it to siphon the petrol into the liquor bottles, half filling each one. I rip an old cloth into strips and soak them in petrol before using them to plug the necks of the bottles, leaving about six inches outside each one to use as a wick. I pull down the old wheelbarrow and stack the impromptu Molotov cocktails in a ring around the centre, the wicks trailing over the edge of the wheelbarrow.
I find a suitable sized empty paint tin and fill it to the depth of about an inch with white spirit. I put the tin on the floor next to the Shovelhead, rip off the spark plug lead and unscrew the plug. I push the spark plug back into the magneto lead socket and drop it in the tin of spirit so it’s just on the surface. I then balance up the motorbike, flick the ignition on and release the kick start. I stand on the lever and press down with all my weight. At first nothing happens, the lever just chugs downwards. The engine probably hasn’t been turned over in years. I try again, nothing. On the sixth attempt a spark ignites the spirit in the paint tin. We have fire. I grab a piece of cloth and use it to wrap round the tin and lift it carefully then place it in the centre of the ring of Molotov cocktails.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ I say to Jane.
Jane goes ahead as I gently ease the wheelbarrow over the lip of the container and down onto the concrete walkway. There’s no sign of the Zyg. We edge slowly along the main street corridor heading back towards the front doors of the warehouse. The Zyg attack comes suddenly and from out of nowhere. It’s as if it has just fallen from the skies.
The Zyg, this one in the form of a small girl about nine years old, lands on Jane’s head with a crash, sending them both sprawling onto the ground in a bundle of screams and flailing limbs. Jane’s gun clatters to the ground and skids off underneath the metal gantry steps. I drop the handles of the wheelbarrow and jump over to where Jane is entangled with the Zyg in a fight to the death. The thing is on Jane’s shoulders and has Jane’s hair wrapped around its claw like hands, and its legs tight around Jane’s neck. The Zyg is pulling hard at Jane’s head, trying to pull her neck backwards so it can bite at her face. I can’t shoot the thing from where I stand, the struggle between them is frantic and I could easily shoot Jane in error. They are both entangled on the floor, rolling over and over, the Zyg frantically trying to get Jane’s head into a position it can plunge its deadly teeth into her face and start tearing at her flesh. I daren’t shoot, so I do the only thing I can, stand and watch.
Suddenly Jane flips onto her back, almost a reverse somersault, sending her head crashing backwards towards the concrete floor. The Zyg’s head collides with the concrete surface with a sickening thud. For a fraction of a second the thing is still. It’s enough for me.
I step over and put two slugs through its brain. It doesn’t have time to shriek out a death cry. It’s dead before the echo of the shots disappears into the vast warehouse, its head split open from the two shots.
The dead Zyg is locked tightly onto Jane’s shoulders, her hair still wrapped around its fists, and the blood and brains from the creature spattered over her head.
‘Get this fucking thing off me,’ shouts Jane.
I put down my gun and stand over the two of them on the ground below me. It’s while I’m trying to free Jane’s hair from the grip of the dead Zyg that the next attack starts.
The Zyg comes straight out of the darkness from around the side of one of the containers. In one huge leap it hits me in the back and sends me crashing to the floor. My hands are still entangled in the mess that is Jane’s hair and the dead Zyg, so I drag her over with me as I fall onto the concrete walkway. As I tumble to the ground I feel the stab of pain, sudden and vicious, as its strong bite, rips into my shoulder. I twist my shoulders hard and hunch, rolling over and over so it can’t bite into the back of my neck. I feel its hands clawing at my face, trying to find my eyes as we spin, twist and tumble in our fight to the death. It’s like having a mad dog on my back, growling and biting in a slavering frenzy, trying to tear at my flesh with its teeth. I feel its claw-like hands tear at my cheeks trying to rip the flesh around my eyes, trying to blind me.
Then it stops. The attack ceases as quickly as it had started. The beast is suddenly subdued, calm. It relaxes its grip on my back with its legs and lets go of my face.
‘Keep still,’ shouts Jane, ‘Let it relax before you try to shake it off otherwise it’ll take your face off with its grip.’
I do as I’m told. In moments the creature has relaxed completely, as if it’s fallen asleep. I move slowly, gently easing its hands off my face and sliding it off my back. I move to my knees and straighten my back. My face is a mess and I’m covered in my own blood.
‘Get the dead one off me,’ says Jane, almost in a whisper.
I wipe my eyes so I can see more clearly before I disentangle Jane’s hair from the dead Zyg. She shakes her head and stands gingerly, then steps over to the wheelbarrow nearby. She picks up a Molotov cocktail, pulls out the cloth plug and pours the petrol inside over the sleeping Zyg. She then dips the end of the petrol soaked cloth into the flames from the burning tin of white spirit. In an instant it’s a mass of fire. She flicks the burning taper of cloth onto the sleeping Zyg.
Immediately the Zyg becomes a ball of fire. It leaps into the air screeching in agony, tumbling over and over along the concrete pathway until it hits the side of one of the containers. It’s a sickening sight to watch, the Zyg, in this case taking the form of a young boy about six or seven, engulfed in flames, thrashing and screaming as it dies. Jane is completely unmoved by what she has done, showing no remorse or pity. To her the Zyg is just a dangerous killing machine that has to be neutralized. She is indifferent to the form it takes. Me? I can’t help but see a child, even though logic tells me it isn’t, and that it’s an alien aberration with no right to exist on this planet. My stomach churns at the sight, a child on fire, the screams, the smell of burning flesh. I have to fight hard to stop from being sick, even though moments earlier the thing was clawing at my eyes and intent on killing me for its food.
Time to reflect on the deaths of these creatures is a luxury we don’t have right now.
‘Come on,’ says Jane, ‘There’ll be more soon.’
Jane quickly scrabbles under the steps of the metal gantry, stretching her arm out to retrieve her gun. I pick up mine from the floor and push it into my belt before grabbing the handles of the wheelbarrow with the Molotovs. The sickening stench of the Zyg’s burnt flesh clings to the back of my throat as we move away from the scene of the carnage down the corridor towards the main doors of the warehouse.
‘You look a mess,’ says Jane, half checking me to see what damage the attacks have done, and half watching in every direction for another attack.
We haven’t traveled ten yards before we hear the scampering of feet across the gantry above us. This time we hear at least three Zygs.
‘It’s time to say goodbye to this place,’ I say.
I pick up one of the Molotov cocktails and light the wick from the burning spirit in the paint tin. When the wick is fully ablaze I stretch my arm back then hurl the fire bomb at the side of a container behind us. The bottle smashes noisily against the hard surface, spilling the petrol inside up the wall. Immediately it bursts into a sheet of flames. The container walls are made of thin plastic sheeting and within seconds this starts to melt, exposing the polystyrene block lining the container. This almost immediately bursts into fire, belching black smoke and flames high in the air. It takes only moments before the container above starts to burn. In the still, dry atmosphere of the warehouse every one of the containers is a fire bomb, and as we watch the fire starts to spread. It moves at a furious pace from container to container, flames soon leaping from the walls of the containers up through the gantries towards the roof of the warehouse.
We move briskly in the opposite direction to the fire I’ve started. The next Zyg attacks from behind and above, a little girl, leaping down on us from the space in between a stack of containers we have just passed. I spot it as it falls, wild eyed, claws and jaws ready to inflict as much damage as it can on whichever of us it can reach first.
The slug catches it in the side of its head, a lucky shot. It spins through the air as it continues its descent, blood spurting from its eye socket and screaming in pain. It misses both of us and clatters against the side of the barrow, its head splitting as it hits the metal edge. I can see it’s dead, so I don’t waste another bullet on it. As we hurry along I pick up another Molotov bomb, light the end and throw it hard against the side of a container behind us. I repeat this every twenty yards and soon we are just about keeping ahead of a raging inferno. The vault above us is a mass of billowing flames and dense black smoke. We can hear noises behind us, small explosions as the long ago abandoned contents of the containers burst and burn, the creaking of the girders supporting the containers as they buckle and bend, collapsing stacks of containers, but worst of all, the screaming of Zygs caught in the inferno.
We are yards from the huge wooden doors of the warehouse. The doors and walls either side are peppered with buckshot holes from the Sheriff’s gun. We slow to a halt, then take a few steps backwards away from the doors. Something has changed since we were last here. One of the doors has been moved, opened just wide enough for someone to slide through. We can see the Crown Victoria has been moved about twenty yards directly away from the personnel door.
‘The Sheriff’s inside,’ whispers Jane.
There’s a noise, barely perceptible above the din of the inferno behind us, but I recognize it straight away, the sound of a shell being pushed into the chamber of a shotgun. I turn towards the source of the noise.
‘Damned fucking right I am!’
Standing in the shadow of a stack of storage containers is the unmistakable bulk of Sheriff Jude Stenton, his shotgun pointing straight at us. In one swift movement he steps out of the shadows and strikes Jane hard across the side of her head with the butt of the gun. The movement is practiced and efficient, every ounce of the Sheriff’s muscle being transferred through the weapon into the blow. Jane didn’t even see it coming. No sooner has the butt crashed into the side of her head than she’s out cold, dropping like a rag doll to the floor. The Sheriff swings the shotgun round and points it at my stomach.
‘Put the gun down,’ I say but it’s pointless.
I can see the crazed look in his eyes as he steps out of the shadows towards us. I’ve seen that look before on the faces of parents that I’ve caught protecting illegal Zygs, their bodies and minds controlled by the pheromone cloud the Zygs produce. I know he’ll kill us for trying to harm his Zyg. I know he’s got the drop on me. I won’t have a chance to lift my gun and take a shot before he blows my stomach out of my back. This is it, the end of the road.
‘Do you realize what you’ve done?’ he says as he steps towards me, a look of sheer hate on his face, ‘You’ve killed innocent children! They’re just fucking kids. You and that bitch deserve to…’
The attack comes from out of nowhere. The Zyg hits the Sheriff full in the face travelling at a phenomenal speed, the impact knocking the Sheriff over onto his back and sending the shotgun flying through the air towards me. The Zyg spins through 180, its teeth gripping hard on the Sheriff’s face as it turns, ripping a massive chunk of flesh from his cheek bone. In an instant the creature is astride the Sheriff biting and clawing at his face. I take a moment to react, and it’s a moment too long. By the time I’ve retrieved the shotgun the Sheriff is a mass of blood, the creature biting into his eyes and sucking out the retinas.
One in the Zyg and one in the Sheriff.
The Zyg leaps in the air squealing and lands on the concrete in a mass of blood and busted bones. The Sheriff doesn’t move. He’s already dead. I hear another Zyg off to my right, that scream they sometimes make just before an attack. I grab Jane by one of her wrists and pull her hard across the concrete floor towards the double doors.
The fire has caught hold in the roof. The girders supporting the roof are buckling in the ferocious heat and panels of red hot metal start to drop down near and around us, clattering hard against the concrete floor. One panel thuds into the body of the Sheriff, its sharp edge slicing off his legs as easily as a knife slicing through warm butter. Jane’s still out cold. I pull hard at her arm to get us through the doors.
The smoke is black and thick and it’s cloying at my throat as I pull Jane the last few yards towards the gap in the doors. I hear another Zyg’s scream, then another, this one only yards away somewhere in the smoke. I heave at Jane’s body with all my might and stumble through the gap in the doors to the sweet, fresh air outside. I let go of her arm and step back to the door, putting all my weight into trying to move it the couple of feet needed to seal the warehouse closed. As the door starts to move and the gap closes I feel the thud, thud, thud of bodies hitting the other side of the door. At least three Zygs pound into the other side of the door in an attempt to smash through it to get to us. I pick up the shotgun and fire shells into the door at random. Then I drop the shotgun, lift Jane up onto my shoulder and run as hard as I can towards the Crown Victoria hoping like hell the Sheriff’s left the keys in the ignition.
We’re a couple of miles up the highway from the warehouse before I decide to pull over to check on Jane and assess the damage. She’s still out cold but I can see the damage the Sheriff’s blow has made to the side of her head. The skin is broken and there’s a little blood, but I think she’ll be okay. It was a clean hit, a sharp jolt from the butt of the shotgun jerking her brain around in her skull in a single movement. She’ll have one hell of a headache but I doubt there’ll be any permanent damage. There are a few patches of her scalp that have had the hair torn clean away, and I know she’ll be as mad as hell about that, more so than the blow to her head. She needs a clean up and a few sticking plasters but she’ll live.
I need a clean up pretty soon too. I have a deep gash in my shoulder from the Zyg’s bite, a split lip and busted nose from the encounter with the Dreeks earlier and I’m covered in blood, mud and the part contents of a Zyg’s head. I get out of the car and go round to the boot. Inside the pocket on the right hand side is a first aid kit. I take it out, throw it on the back seat then get back in the car and drive on a little further. I spot what I’m looking for, a farmhouse half way up a hillside. I take the dirt track up towards it.
It’s a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. As we drive near to the house I know whoever lives there will have followed our dust path from leaving the highway all the way to their front door. Sure enough a man and a woman are waiting on their porch when I round the bend at the top of the long driveway. It’s a middle aged couple. She looks homely and friendly, but not so much him. He’s tall and lean to the point of being skinny, sun baked craggy features and a frown that would curdle milk. Worst of all he’s holding a shotgun in his right hand, and I can tell by his body posture he’s not at home for folks that want to visit.
I drive up to the porch and stop the car, their eyes on me all the way. I flip open my wallet to show my badge as I open the door and step cautiously out of the car.
‘Police officer. We got a little problem here,’ I say, ‘I’m Detective Jake Redwood. My colleague has suffered a head injury and we need help right now.’
The man eyes me up and down, then takes a step across the verandah to get a closer look at my badge.
‘Oh my!’ says the woman looking through the car window at Jane’s unconscious body, ‘Help me get her inside Josh.’
‘Hold on, Mary,’ he says to the woman, ‘Just wait up.’
‘But Josh,’ she protests.
‘I said just wait up,’ he snaps at her. Then he half lifts, half points his shotgun at me and says, ‘If you’re police then why haven’t you called this in? You got a radio in that thing, don’t yah? So why come here?’
‘The radio’s busted and we don’t have a cell phone,’ I lie.
‘Mary,’ he says, ‘Phone the cops. Tell ‘em we got a black and white here with a couple of beat up people ridin’ it, and one of them claims to be a cop. See what they say.’
‘She needs help right now,’ I say.
‘That’s as may be,’ he says, ‘but this stinks. You ain’t coming across my threshold till I checked you out. Mary, make that call.’
The woman gives a short nod, the nod of obedience, well practiced over many years. She turns and heads for the door.
I don’t want to hurt these people. They were happily getting on with their lives till we showed up, a car full of trouble for them. I have to make a decision, though. If the woman calls this in to the local police we’re as good as finished. In a few minutes there’ll be troops in Chinooks hovering above us, and I doubt I’ll be as lucky as I was last time. So I have to do something to stop the woman making the call. I edge away from the patrol car as I talk to the man with the shotgun.
‘We had a bit of trouble with a nest of implants holed up in that old warehouse back there,’ I say, moving in a wide arc around the man on the porch, ‘See that column of black smoke? We got attacked by the implants when we were checking it out. We had to set fire to the place to escape. My partner got hit by falling debris.’
He watches me with unflinching cold eyes as I move around him.
‘D’you think I’m dumb?’
‘D’you expect me to believe that bullshit? They got rid of all those fuckers years ago. Now tell me the truth before I blow your head off.’
‘I’m telling you the truth,’ I say, but I can clearly see he doesn’t believe a word I’ve said.
‘Lie down on your stomach,’ he says, raising the shotgun to his shoulder and pointing it at me.
‘Wait a minute!’
‘Down in the dirt, scumbag, before I blow you away.’
I have no choice. He’s too far away for me to rush. I’d be dead before I made the porch. I sink slowly to my knees.
‘You’re making a big mistake,’ I say.
‘Really,’ he says, ‘On your face.’
I flop forward into the dirt and lay still.
‘Spread your arms and legs,’ he says, and I do as I’m ordered.
‘Well, Detective Jake Redwood,’ he says, all friendly, ‘I’ll bet the farm there’s a reward out on you and your woman. If there is then I intend to collect.’
The woman reappears at the farmhouse door.
‘Josh,’ she calls over, ‘Be careful with him. According to the Deputy these two are wanted for killing a woman and two men back in Polk. The Dep’s got a bunch of people on their way over right now, but he says shoot ‘em if you have to.’
‘Great,’ I think as I lie there with my face in the dust, my bad day just getting worse, ‘What the fuck do I do now?’
End of Part Three