Thursday, January 28, 2016
ONE FOR THE BOOKS: PART FOUR
ONE FOR THE BOOKS (A Jacob Slade Story)
By Daniel Skye
PART FOUR: BAD MOON RISING
Thursday, October 8, 2015.
The four of them were holed up in Jacob’s office for the time being, playing pass the bottle as they tried to formulate a strategy. Jacob’s eyes burned from lack of sleep, but the harsh taste of straight bourbon was enough to keep him awake. He took another swig and passed the bottle back to Sheriff Booth.
Drake Furlong was still in awe at Lenore Foster’s actions. At sixty years old, she still had the reflexes of a cat. She had heroically stepped in and saved Drake’s life. The Howler would’ve devoured him had Lenore not intervened.
But Jacob’s powers told him it wasn’t the same Howler they’d been tracking. Another Howler was in their midst. Though he had yet to inform the group of this disturbing news. Things were bad enough as it was.
The government was enforcing a mandatory quarantine to contain the situation and stop the plague of the undead from spreading. All main roads to and from Dorchester were fenced off and guarded twenty-four hours a day by military personnel.
The CDC was brought in to assess the situation, but they offered no solutions. Even if they could find a cure for the zombie virus, it would take weeks, months, maybe even years. And they didn’t have that much time to spare. The government was considering their narrow options. And if Jacob and his friends could not remedy the crisis themselves, the government would do the only logical thing to contain the virus. They would wipe Dorchester off the map.
“This is certainly one for the books,” Jacob said.
“Zombies, vampires, werewolves,” Drake said, rattling off a list of threats they faced. “Who would have thunk it?” Booth passed the bottle to Drake who quaffed some it down.
“Not me,” Lenore said. “I just write about this shit for a living. It’s just fiction. It doesn’t mean I want a werewolf as a pet or zombies chilling in my backyard. I’m not used to this sort of thing.”
“You seemed to handle yourself fine back at the hospital,” Drake said. “Thanks, by the way.”
“Don’t mention it,” Lenore said, smiling benevolently. Drake passed her the bottle and she said, “Cheers. I’ve never needed a drink so bad in all my life.”
“Let’s put our heads together and figure out what the hell is causing this,” Jacob said. “This can’t just be a coincidence. No matter how crazy it seems, there has to be a reason for it. Someone or something is pulling the strings here. We just need to find out who.”
“Could it be that witch out in Westlake?” Booth speculated. “What’s-her-name? I’m drawing a blank.”
“Esther Driscoll?” Lenore said. “The Witch of Westlake, as everyone calls her? I doubt it. I’ve known her for years. And I know she’d never harm an innocent person.”
“But she is capable of such anomalies, right?” Booth continued.
“Esther has powers, but they have their limits. In theory, someone with her abilities might be able to conjure the dead, but not a whole graveyard or morgue. She couldn’t be the one responsible for this.”
“Okay, moving on,” Booth said. “What about Cole Winmore?”
“Cole Winmore is dead,” Jacob assured it. “I saw him die with my own two eyes. Besides, Winmore was a vampire. He couldn’t conjure up the dead. And werewolves and vampires are sworn enemies. Even if Winmore was alive, he’d have no part in this.” Lenore passed Jacob the bottle and he took another swig and set it down on his desk.
“Who else is there?” Booth wondered.
“Who was that drifter who passed through town a few years ago and never left?” Drake asked. “I ran into him once or twice down at Portside Pub. Strange fella. Doesn’t really socialize or hang out with anyone. Dirty looking fella too. His breath smelled like he uses dog shit for toothpaste.”
“Oh, I know who you’re talking about,” Jacob said. “His name is Dustin, I think. Or Dunstan. I can’t remember, but Johnny Gallo and I used to see him down at the pub sometimes too. Always by himself.”
“So the guy’s a loner,” Lenore said. “We can’t prosecute him for that.”
“Duncan Corbin,” Booth said. “That’s his name. Rolled into Dorchester a few years ago and landed a job as a painter. Come to think of it, most of the weird shit that has occurred over the years started when he moved to town.”
“You have an address?” Slade asked.
“I can get one. You want to risk going out there again though?”
“We can’t just hide in my office and wait for them to drop a bomb on us. We have to stop this at its core.”
“It’s a gamble,” Drake said. “But it’s worth checking out.”
“Then it’s settled,” Jacob said and capped the bottle of bourbon. “Let’s move.”
* * *
Booth radioed Deputy Brackett down at the station. He was on phone duty and he was the only one Booth could reach. All he got on the other frequencies was static. None of the other deputies were responding. For all Booth knew, his entire police force had been reduced to fodder for zombies.
He was able to snag Duncan’s address from Brackett and told him to stay by the phone and radio, and urged him not to go outside.
Duncan Corbin had no criminal record, but they still had his address on file. Law enforcement always tend to keep their eye on drifters like Duncan. Drifters usually spell trouble. And that made Duncan an easy suspect.
Jacob Slade had seen and heard it all. And he knew these grisly events were no coincidence. Someone or something was behind it all. And he was going to find out if Duncan was their man. Whatever witchcraft or sorcery was responsible, he intended to put a stop to it.
They drove with their windows up, doors locked. They passed numerous zombies along the way, recognizing a few faces here and there. They could’ve picked a few off as they went along, but they didn’t want to waste the bullets.
Two blocks from Duncan’s place, Booth spotted Gene Carlson, the pawnshop owner who’d given him the silver bullets. He recognized him instantly from his red shoes and corduroy pants. He almost stopped, until he drove alongside him and saw his face.
Gene was missing the lower half of his jaw. He had that cold, glazed over look in his dirty marble eyes. And he looked famished.
“I’m sorry, Karl,” Jacob said. “Do you want me to–”
“No,” Booth cut him off. “I’ll take care of it. He was my friend. And I know I shouldn’t waste the ammunition, but he was my friend and he deserves better than this.”
Booth stopped the car and opened his window a crack, just enough to stick out the barrel of his service revolver. He cocked back the hammer with his thumb and gave Gene Carlson mercy with a bullet to the cranium.
Duncan Corbin’s place was on the edge of town. 2440 Orange Street. Jacob didn’t like the idea of venturing out that far past his office. It was outside his comfort zone at the moment. But their options were nil and they had to see it through.
Jacob knew there were others out there like him and Drake. People with rare, extraordinary abilities. He considered the possibility that Duncan was one of those people. If he was, it’d make sense that he’d keep to himself like Jacob or Drake do. All the pieces seemed to fit. Or maybe it was just fear and paranoia getting the better of the group.
Booth pulled up along the curb and stopped outside of Duncan’s one-story bungalow. The place didn’t look half bad. It was small, but cozy looking.
Booth took a quick survey of their inventory. Jacob had twelve rounds left for his pistol. Booth had three additional rounds for his revolver. Drake was down to his last eight bullets. But they still had a small case of silver bullets at their disposal. And they had the squirt quins from Drake’s garage that they had loaded up with whiskey. Rye can be like acid to a werewolf’s flesh.
They glanced around in every direction, making sure the coast was clear. There wasn’t a zombie in sight.
“What if Duncan isn’t behind this?” Booth said. “But what if he’s a vampire or a zombie? Or what if he turns out to be the Howler you’ve been tracking all this time?”
“Something tells me he’s not our man,” Jacob said. “I’m not picking up any negative vibes. But if he is a Howler, we’ll load up our guns with the silver bullets. And we’ll take one of the squirt guns with us.”
“I’ll carry it,” Lenore said.
“No, you stay here,” Booth said. “It’s not safe. If things get ugly out here or too many of those undead fuckers roll up on you, just take off. Don’t even think twice about it. We’ll be fine on our own.”
“Listen to him,” Jacob insisted.
“You think I’m going to sit this one out?” Lenore chortled. “Yeah, right. I’m coming with you guys. Case closed.”
* * *
Duncan Corbin answered the door after three knocks. He didn’t look like much of a threat to the group. He was about the same age as Drake and Jacob. He was an unkempt fella with oily hair, baked bean colored teeth, and a beard of epic proportions. Jacob couldn’t tell if he was a lumberjack or a hipster.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Duncan said. “Come in if you’re coming in.” He left the door open for them to invite themselves inside. Jacob went in first and the others followed.
“How did you–”
“How did I know you were coming? Because I’m like you Jacob. I can see bits and pieces of the future. I can get a glimpse inside people’s minds.”
“Were you part of Project Blackbird?”
“Let me see your arms.”
Duncan chuckled and rolled up his sleeves to humor Jacob. Sure enough, branded into the flesh of his arm was the number 119.
“You were part of it,” Jacob said. “I wish I had the time to explain, but right now we have a bigger problem at hand.”
“I know what you guys were thinking,” Duncan said. “It’s not true. I had nothing to do with this. I’ve been locked in here ever since that massacre at the stadium. I want what you guys want. I want peace, resolution.”
“You have any idea who or what is responsible for this?” Jacob asked.
“My powers are like yours. They have their limits. I don’t know the cause. And if I did, I would put a stop to it. But alas, I’m powerless at the moment.”
“You’re not alone,” Jacob assured him.
“I’ve read about you,” Duncan said. “You’ve saved this town from extinction on more than one occasion. You can do it again, Jacob.”
“Is he telling the truth?” Drake asked.
“As far as I can tell,” Jacob said. “He’s not behind this. I’m sure of that. As for me putting an end to this, I’m not so sure. I won’t be able to do it alone. I’ll need help.”
“Well it looks like you’ve got plenty of backup,” Duncan said. “And count me in.”
“Are you serious?” Booth asked. “You don’t even know us.”
“I know that. But I also know if we don’t work together we’re going to die alone. And I don’t feel like getting ripped apart by zombies. It’s not my thing. So if you’re going to fight, I’m going to fight with you.”
“I hate to break up the love fest,” Lenore said, peeking out through the blinds. “But we’ve got company. Zombie company.”
“How many of them?” Jacob asked.
“Two, three dozen maybe.”
“You better be shitting me,” Booth sighed.
“Afraid I’m not shitting you,” Lenore said. “Come look for yourself.” And Booth did just that. All he needed was a peek to confirm his worst fears.
“They’ve got us surrounded,” Booth informed the others. “I don’t know how, but they must have sensed us.”
“Fuck me,” Jacob sighed, exasperated. “We’re trapped.”
* * *
Friday, October 9, 2015.
It was just after midnight. And the horde of the undead had not dissipated as the group was hoping. The zombies that lingered on the property only seemed to attract more of them.
In the time that passed, Jacob and the others got some much-needed rest. Jacob woke before midnight and started thinking of a plan. But the others were spent and had no idea how to get out of this.
“I’ve got nothing,” Booth shrugged. “We don’t have enough bullets to take them all.”
“So we’re trapped here until the government decides to drop a bomb on us?” Drake asked.
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Jacob stated emphatically. “Duncan, you have any matches or a lighter?”
“Of course,” Duncan said. “How do you think my teeth got this way? I smoke three packs a day.”
Duncan went to the kitchen and retrieved a book of matches. He passed them to Jacob, who said, “Apologies in advance for anything that happens to your lawn.”
He took the squirt gun from Lenore that was filled with whiskey and walked to the door. “Karl, on three you open the door. Got it?”
“What the hell are you going to do?”
“Just trust me on this, okay? One…two…three!”
Booth thrust the front door open and Jacob pumped the squirt gun like he was pumped a shotgun and sprayed any zombie that close enough to the porch. The whiskey soaked them, their clothes, and the grass. Jacob passed the squirt gun back to Booth and lit one match, holding it up to the matchbook. He used it to spark all the other matches at once and tossed the burning matchbook into the grass.
The grass lit up in spots like small bonfires, and the flames soon spread to the alcohol soaked zombies. The flames engulfed them and sent them scattering in every direction. But that was just the first crop. There was no shortage of zombies. There seemed to be a surplus in fact, as more of them lumbered towards the house from the streets.
Jacob switched clips to make sure he wasn’t wasting the silver bullets. They would still need those if they survived this affair.
He opened fire, but at that distance, he missed almost as much as he hit. “Run for it!” he screamed. “Go for the car! I’ll hold them off!”
Booth went first, shielding Lenore who traveled behind him. Drake followed and capped two zombies along the way that got too close for comfort. They made it to the car, but Duncan stayed behind.
“I’m not leaving you,” Duncan told him. “We have to go now.”
They made a run for the car, but there were still too many of them. And Jacob was down to his last three bullets. One crept up behind him, and he turned, firing a single shot, and ripping its head from its shoulders.
They bumped and pushed their way through the mob, avoiding their teeth like the plague. They made their way to Booth’s car, and crammed into the back. Zombies clawed at the windows and drooled over the glass as Booth started it up and floored it down Orange Street, making a sharp left turn at the stop sign without braking.
“Where are we heading?” Duncan inquired.
“Fuck if I know,” Booth said. “Anywhere but your place.”
“The pub,” Jacob said. “Head there.”
“This isn’t really the best time for a drink,” Drake said. “The whole town is turning zombie.”
“We’re not going there for drinks,” Jacob said. “There are people there. I can sense them. There might be trouble heading that way. We have to help them.”
* * *
Jackie Winters had a craving that she could not satiate.
Unlike the zombies, it was not the flesh she craved. All she desired was the blood.
She had an appetite for death and a thirst for plasma.
Jackie Winters was deathly pale. She looked worse than Dane Hall. But when she looked in the mirror, she could not even see her own reflection. If she had, she would have recognized herself.
She looked like she had aged two hundred years in a matter of days. Her curly blonde locks had turned to the color of chalk dust. Her ears were pointed and looked like they could cut you if you touched them. And she had a mouthful of jagged, razor-like teeth that required vital fluids.
But with half the town turned zombie, Jackie was running out of victims to feed on. Vampires cannot feed on the blood of the dead, or undead for that matter. The blood is poison to them. So she had to find new victims, living ones.
She stalked the streets in search for that evenings prey. The dim glow of the streetlamps burned her eyes. So she stuck to the shadows…until she saw the headlights of a vehicle approaching.
Jackie’s new body had granted her extraordinary new powers and agility. She leapt up into the night, ascending over ten foot and landing on the hood of Booth’s cruiser.
“Jesus!” Booth exclaimed.
“What the hell is that?” Jacob asked from the backseat, fumbling for his gun. He only had two rounds left. But they still had the case of silver bullets from the pawnshop.
“I don’t know,” Booth said, squinting through the windshield. “I think it’s…my God, I think that thing is Jackie Winters. She’s a young girl, student, very sweet.”
“She doesn’t look young to me,” Lenore said from the passenger seat. “She looks ancient.”
“Are those…are those fangs?” Booth gasped.
“She’s a vampire,” Drake said. “Just like Dane Hall.”
“What the fuck is going on around here?” Duncan asked.
“You’ve missed out on a lot,” Jacob said. “I’ll catch you up later. Karl, speed up. See if you can shake this bitch.”
Booth stomped down on the gas pedal and swerved from lane to lane, trying to shake Jackie from the hood. But she was defiant. She refused to let go.
“Hold on,” he said and popped the emergency brakes. They spun out and just missed a telephone pole as Booth’s cruiser hit the curb and came to a dead stop. They all looked up and saw Jackie still clinging to the hood, her fangs showing, already stained bright red.
Booth backed off the curb and floored it in reverse, but Jackie had a death grip on the hood. She needed fresh blood, and she wasn’t giving up without a fight.
“We’re going to have to kill her,” Jacob said. “It’s the only way.”
“I don’t have any garlic or holy water handy,” Duncan quipped. “And I left all my stakes at home.”
“We don’t need garlic or crosses or wooden stakes,” Lenore said. “We have silver.”
“What?” Drake said.
“Silver works on vampires,” Lenore told them. “In theory.”
“And if that doesn’t work, a bullet to the heart, regular or silver, will put her down for sure,” Jacob said. “It worked on Dane Hall.”
Booth jammed on the brakes and Jacob swapped clips, adding the silver bullets to his gun. Booth’s gun was already loaded with them.
“You want to do the honors?” Booth asked.
“Something wrong with your gun?” Jacob said jokingly.
“I’ll do it,” Duncan said. “You guys saved my life back there. You could have left me for dead, but you took me with you. This is my chance to return the favor.”
“We really misjudged this guy,” Drake said.
“Here,” Jacob said. “Take my gun.”
Duncan accepted his pistol and opened the door. He got out and closed it behind him, telling Jacob to lock it again. Jackie slid from the hood and eyed her potential prey. As old and decrepit as she appeared, she moved deftly and with lightning speed.
Duncan fired shot after shot as she zig-zagged around the bullets, avoiding every one. Duncan reminded himself that they needed to conserve their ammunition. So he took his time with the next shot and aimed carefully.
The bullet nearly grazed her, but she leapt out of the way just in time and came down top of Duncan’s shoulders. All her weight brought him down on his back and she crawled over his body, clutching at the nape of his neck as she brought her teeth down, piercing his throat.
“Karl, give me your gun now!” Slade shouted. Booth tossed him his revolver. He opened the door, sprung out, and before Jackie could react, he fired one bullet that zipped through the air. It entered the skull, just above the eyes, and reduced Jackie to a pile of ash.
“I’ll be damned,” Drake said from the backseat. “Silver bullets work on vampires too. Good to know for future references.”
“Duncan,” Jacob gasped. The blood was spurting from his neck in rapid jets. And there was nothing Jacob could do to stop the bleeding. He wasn’t going to make it. “I’m so sorry,” Jacob whispered. “Thanks for saving our lives.”
“Jacob,” Duncan said, struggling to speak. “I’m having a vision…Look for the boy with copper hair…Go to pub…You have the power to stop this.” Those were Duncan’s last words.
“What did he say?” Drake asked when Jacob got back into the car.
“He was babbling, delirious. He told me to look for the boy with copper hair.”
* * *
The windows of Portside Pub had been boarded up inside and out. The door had a deadbolt lock to discourage after-hour intruders. But it wasn’t going to deter the group. They’d come too far and seen too many good people give their lives.
Booth pounded on the door and addressed himself as the sheriff. He heard noise on the other end and seconds later, the door was open and Horace was rushing them inside. As soon as they piled in, Horace locked the door again.
“I didn’t think there was anyone else out there,” Horace Weaver said. “Anyone human that is.” Horace was the proprietor of Portside Pub and had offered shelter to any survivors.
There wasn’t a huge crowd, but the group was glad to see others had survived. Adam Ridley was there with his parents, but Jacob didn’t even notice him at first. He sat in one of the booths in back, using this time to continue his sketches.
Deputy Brackett had abandoned his post to join the survivors. And Karl was glad he defied his orders. They needed all the help they could get if they were going to save the town.
Artie Clay, the man who had acquired the hardware store from Harold Moss, was there. Kim Kruger was in attendance, sans her children. It was awful what had happened to them. But Kim felt worse about Drake’s sister. Though Drake held no grudges against her. There was no time for petty grudges in this situation. It was life and death.
The group joined Artie, Horace, Kim, the Ridley’s, and the other survivors at the bar. The only one who refused to sit with them was Jeffrey Gross. He chose to keep to himself.
Jeffrey stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. But it wasn’t his thumbs that Jacob was interested in. He was studying his middle and index fingers, which appeared to be symmetrical.
Lenore had warned him of this. Jeffrey was the Howler they’d been tracking all this time. Jacob wasn’t certain of it, until he used his powers to look deep into Jeffrey’s mind. There, he witnessed the gruesome demise of Harold Moss by something that was more beast than man.
Jacob could not alert the others without altering Jeffrey as well. All he could do was let the clock tick and wait for Jeffrey to reveal himself…
To Be Continued With Part Five: END OF DAYS