Page 77


“I think I heard two guns at the same time,” Val said.


Mike closed his eyes, trying to focus on his hearing even though his ears rang from the shots Val had fired through the door. The crawly sensation was constant now and he knew that there were many of them out there. Then the sensation spiked up like someone jabbed a hot electric wire in the back of his neck; he stiffened.


“Mike,” Weinstock said behind him, “what is it?”


“I feel—”


His eyes flew wide and he tried to spin around, but Weinstock was pressing forward too hard. A warning was rising to Mike’s lips and then suddenly Weinstock was whipped backward away from him. White hands seemed to appear out of nowhere and they snatched Weinstock, tearing at his skin.


“NO!” Mike screamed, bringing up his shotgun, but there was no clear shot; Jonatha and Newton seemed to turn in slow motion, but Val lunged forward, grabbing Weinstock’s hand as he fought against the four vampires that had him. A fifth was climbing through the empty window frame—a boy the same age and size as Mike—his friend Brandon.


Val fired two shots and one of the vampires went down, but the others were moving backward so fast and Weinstock was flailing too much. Mike leapt forward and grabbed the doctor by the hand.


“Help me!” Weinstock and Mike screamed it at the same moment. A vampire clamped his hands around Weinstock’s throat and Val fired again; the round clipped Weinstock’s shoulder, but it also caught the vampire in the throat. Weinstock shrieked in pain and suddenly there was blood on his throat and chest.


They were at the window now. Jonatha and Newton beat at them with their fists, Val hammered with the butt of her pistol. She leaned over Weinstock as the whole crowd of them, human and inhuman, hung teetering on the windowsill. She jammed her pistol into a white face and fired, jammed it into a belly and fired. Mike dropped his gun in order to use both hands. Weinstock kept screaming and screaming.


Val shot at Brandon and he fell backward, either hit or falling from loss of balance. He plunged into the darkness.


And then it was over. Two vampires lay dead on the floor. Two others, dead for sure, had been blasted out the window. Mike held Weinstock’s hand, and Jonatha and Newton had handfuls of the doctor’s pajamas. They clung to him, pulling him back from the abyss.


“Saul!” Val said, casting around for something to use as a bandage for his bleeding throat. “He’s hurt—Newt, Jonatha, help me get him to the bed. Mike, watch the window.”


Mike snatched up his weapon and went back to the window, but the assault was over. Two bodies lay on the ground four stories below, but there was no sign of anyone else. He looked up and sideways, just to be sure, but nothing. His friend Brandon’s body was not among the dead and Mike thought he could hear Brandon’s laughter on the wind.


“Christ, he’s bleeding bad,” Newton said. Jonatha started tearing off pieces of sheet for Val, but as soon as she pressed them against Weinstock’s throat they became soaked with blood.


“I think they got the artery,” Val said. Her face was spattered with blood. “How do I stop it? Saul! How do I stop it?”


Panic was in Weinstock’s eyes and he kept trying to speak, but every time he opened his mouth all that came out was blood.


“Saul…what do I do?” she begged. The wad of torn sheeting was soaked; blood ran down her wrist. “Oh, God, Saul…please…help me, please!”


The panic in his eyes was fading now, flowing out of him as the blood flowed. He tried to speak, tried to say something, and Val bent close, listening with all her strength for some clue, some magic trick of medicine that he could give her.


All he said was, “Rachel.”


His eyes stared at Val and maybe in that last moment he was seeing the face of his wife, and maybe the faces of his children; he did not see Val’s face, or the faces of the others who clustered around him, each face shocked as white as the faces of the monsters who had done this. Saul Weinstock stared through them and through the walls and through the night with a fixity of vision so intense and so pure that he might have looked on the face of God.


“No, no, no, no!” Val pleaded, fumbling under the bandages for some trace of a pulse, finding none, finding nothing. Weinstock’s body seemed to relax back, the tension and fear of everything that was happening leaving him. Val bent over him, hugging him to her chest, crying so hard that it shook the whole bed.


Then she threw her head back and screamed.


Chapter 44


1


“Put the guns down and put your hands above your heads.”


Crow and LaMastra both had their shotguns aimed at Tow-Truck Eddie. Everyone else in that part of the wing was either dead or dying.


“Put them down!”


“Not going to happen, Eddie,” Crow said.


“Stand down, Officer,” growled LaMastra. “We’re all on the same team here.”


Oswald’s blue eyes cut back and forth between them. His face was florid, his eyes bright. One sleeve of his shirt was torn and there were long scratches carved into the sculpted muscles of his arms. “Crow…I don’t know who’s who or what’s what right now. I just know that everyone in this town has gone crazy. People I know—people I go to church with—have been killing each other!” He took a step forward—half threatening, half pleading. “I saw the organist from my church, Cubby Sanders, a man I’ve known since I was five years old, I saw him bite the throat out of the reporter from Fox News. He killed him and…” He made a sick sound and swallowed several times. “He killed him and drank his blood.” A tear broke from his left eye and rolled slowly down toward his chin. “I don’t understand.”


Crow lowered his shotgun, then reached out and pushed LaMastra’s barrel down.


“Look, Eddie…I don’t how to begin explaining this to you, but there are monsters in Pine Deep. Vampires.”


Eddie lowered his gun, too. “Vampires. God save our souls…”


“Who else is with you?” asked LaMastra. “Where’s Chief Bernhardt? How many men can we count on?”


The big man shook his head. “They’re all dead. Except…except those that are with them. I saw Shirley O’Keefe trying to kill a child, a little boy. I…shot her. In the chest.”


“She didn’t die, did she?” Crow asked, stepping closer.


“No. I had to shoot her again and again. The evil in her was so strong that she didn’t want to die.”


“How many of them are there?” asked LaMastra, looking up and down the hall. “Do you know that, Officer? How many of these things are we facing?”


Eddie straightened. “The gates of Hell have opened and the host of Satan walks the earth.”


“Oh brother,” LaMastra said softly.


“How many, Eddie,” Crow insisted.


“Thousands,” Eddie said dully. “There are thousands of them.” Then his eyes brightened. “But I know who is behind this. If we can find him…and kill him, then Hell will recall its armies.”


Crow looked at LaMastra, who shrugged. “Yeah, we know, too, and if you want to kill that evil son of a bitch, then we’re all on the same team here.”


“Amen to that,” LaMastra agreed.


Down the hall, behind one of the doors, gunfire erupted.


Crow spun around. “Val!”


2


BK led the way and Billy Christmas brought up the rear; between them were over a hundred customers and staff. BK had a heavy tree branch in his hands, the jagged end thick with blood. Billy had a piece of rebar he’d uprooted from a fence line. Less than a dozen of their charges carried weapons. Peppered through the group were customers who had eaten some of the candy corn; these were the only ones in the group who didn’t look scared. A few them even sang happy, trippy songs; some were crying and jabbering in invented languages.


“Incoming!” Billy yelled. “On your three.”


BK spun to his right as a group of figures rushed at them from the shadows. He put himself between them and his group, club raised and ready. The lead figure in the other group had a chair leg. Everyone froze.


“BK…?” asked the leader of the other group.


“Jim?”


Jim O’Rear stepped out of the dense shadows beneath a big oak. Behind him Brinke and Debbie fanned out; each of them had clubs. Kramer was at the end of the line, herding the group forward.


“What the hell is going on here?” Brinke asked as Billy trotted up.


“Christ if I know.”


“I think it’s something in the water,” Debbie said. “Drugs or something.”


“Maybe.” BK looked over the newcomers and saw that some of their party were showing the same dazed detachment. He caught Billy’s eye; Billy gave a small shake of his head. Drugs may account for some of it, but some of what they’d seen could not be explained away by drugs. No way.


BK pointed up the hill. “We’re making for the barn. Two doors, plenty of tools. We can hole up there.”


O’Rear nodded. “Outstanding.”


The groups merged together, friends seeking out friends and giving hugs; strangers embracing the way victims of a shared catastrophe will. The night around them seemed to be expanding—there were fewer screams and they were farther away.


Debbie had her head cocked to listen. “I think it’s…stopping.”


“God, I hope so,” BK said. “But let’s get the hell out of the open. Jim, left flank, Kramer on my right. Billy, watch our backs. Come on—let’s go!”


They started running, heading toward the barn, each of them praying that would be the end of it.


3


“Shhh,” Foree said, holding a finger to his lips, “let me listen.”


He pressed his ear to the steel door of the projection booth. The terrible screams that had torn the night for the last two hours had quieted. The woman who had first asked him if the monsters could get in still huddled close to him. Her name was Linda—a retired phys ed teacher who had come to hear Foree speak because she had gone to see the original Dawn of the Dead with her husband nearly thirty years ago; now she was trapped in the utter blackness of the booth with the star of the film, and everything was so surreal that she felt like she was in a dream. She touched his arm.

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