EARTH’S SURVIVORS: Home in the Valley from Dell Sweet

EARTH’S SURVIVORS: Home in the Valley from Dell Sweet


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Mike and Candace

West of Manhattan

September 3rd

“Nobody,” Ronnie remarked as he clicked off the CB and stepped down from the truck.

“Maybe the weather,” Alice said as she took his hand.

“May be,” Ronnie agreed with a smile. He bent forward and kissed her softly.

“You do that so well,” Alice told him. She had that secret little smile on her face, the one that turned up the corner of her lips. The one that had made him say yes when she had asked to join them.

They had met her and the small party she had been traveling with the day after they had left Billy’s camp and started on their way. Ronnie thought back on it now. That had been more than two months before. They had spent those two months just trying to get out of the city, past all the stalled traffic that went on forever, and into a place where they could actually have trucks, drive, make time. That day they had still been driving, or trying to. They had come around a curve on a barely held together state route that paralleled the thruway and there they had been: A truck parked in the middle of the road. Mike had locked the brakes up; the curve had not given much warning. Alice had been standing at the front of the truck and she had never even flinched.

Mike had stopped a good fifteen feet away. When he and Ronnie had stepped from the truck she had hit Ronnie with the smile. He had fallen right then. No arguments.

“Could’a killed us,” Toby Black had said. He was the leader of the six party group. “Shouldn’t ought to drive so goddamn fast.”

Mike was speechless; it was Ronnie that had fired back.

“That may be,” Ronnie had allowed,” But maybe you should give a little thought to parking in the middle of the road too.”

“On a goddamn curve,” Candace added, barely cracking a smile.

“Yeah, well,” Toby said. He seemed to consider a few moments, tugged at his graying beard, and must have decided to say nothing. He had just nodded, dusted one hand against his jeans and extended it to Ronnie. “Toby,” He had glanced from Ronnie to Mike to Candace, nodding as he did. “This’s Andy,” he had nodded at a skinny man who stood a few feet away. “Galloway over there, Flint at the back of the truck, Lucy sitting inside there and Alice right here.” He had tried to slip one arm over Alice’s shoulders, but she had smiled and shrugged it off.

“And who are you,” she had asked Ronnie. Behind him Candace had chuckled.

“Ron,” he had said.

She had taken his hand and held on, her eyes on his own.

“Listen, you can stay to dinner with us if you like. Fresh venison, killed a deer a few hours back.” Toby had pointed at a fire where what looked like both haunches of a small deer had been spitted: Fat dripping and sizzling.

“Yeah,” Candace had agreed. “We’d be glad to.”

“Yeah,” Mike had added. His stomach had been growling so loudly he had been sure that everyone could hear it. He had reached in, shut down the truck, and then shifted his rifle to his opposite shoulder as he shook hands with the others including Alice who had finally let go of Ronnie’s hand.

A little work had secured some late corn from an overgrown nearby field, that and the venison had made an excellent dinner.

“So where you folks going to,” Toby had asked.

“Alabama,” Mike had answered around a mouthful of corn. “Dammit this is good.”

Toby had laughed.

“There are, I think, more deer than there are people. Could have had a cow, in fact, but it would have been a waste of meat,” Alice had said.

They had traded small talk as they ate, sharing road information. Toby was bound for Manhattan, even after he had talked to them. Mike had shaken his head. The man was stubborn; there was no changing his mind. Mike had offered them to join with them and continue on to Alabama.

“Maybe,” Toby had agreed. “I might come back and look you up, but I got to know for myself.” They had been getting ready to leave a few minutes later, having refused politely the offer of spending the night, when Alice had asked if they would accept only her since the others didn’t want to go.

“Yeah,” Ronnie had said, nearly immediately. Toby had not seemed surprised although more than a little let down. He had, had a hard time hiding his frown. Ronnie smiled now thinking about it.

“What,” Alice asked.

“Thinking about how I like the way your mouth turns up at the corner the way it does,” Ronnie said. He reached forward and pulled her to him, at the same time walking back to the fire and Candace and Mike. Alice laughed.

“Dead,” Ronnie repeated to Mike and Candace.

“Kind of weird,” Candace said. “I mean, it’s been chatter, chatter, and chatter the last few days and now it is dead; doesn’t make sense.”

“Is strange,” Alice agreed. “But we’re also further away from the city. Maybe all that chatter was the city… Or most of it.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Mike agreed. “We need to find a map and see what is near. Maybe the largest cities close by were destroyed.”

“I imagine they were: When we came this way it was the same. The few times we got close to a city it was bad. Destruction, the smell was horrible, and the sick ones too,” Alice said.

“Sick?” Mike asked.

“You haven’t seen them yet?” Alice asked.

“I don’t think we saw as much of the really bad stuff I have heard on the radio…” Candace paused for a second. “Back there, Manhattan, when we were with Billy, we heard some bad stuff out of the city. I mean like horror movie stuff. People looking dead but still walking around… Going without food for days, but not dying; attacking other people,” She shrugged. “Had to kill them, the ones that told us said so: Had to kill them because they were just gone. Come right at you and try to kill you if you didn’t… Some kind of bad sickness,” Candace finished.

“Zombies,” Alice said with a small nervous laugh.” She held her hands up when Mike and Ronnie shook their heads almost in unison. “I know, I know. They are not zombies, living dead, whatever, but I’m telling you I’ve seen them and they are bad shit, bad shit. They may as well be zombies. No real thoughts seem to be going on in there.” She tapped her head with one finger. “They will attack you. They will try to kill you, eat you” She shrugged. “Not zombies, some sort of disease, but it is some very bad shit.”

“Like… Like plague of some sort,” Candace said.

“Yeah… Yeah, but they keep moving. I mean they should be dead, right? Their necks are swollen, faces black and blue, skin all messed up, running sores, this mass of black lines, like infection, running all through them, under their skin; but they don’t die. It’s like they are rotting on the bone, but they keep moving somehow. I don’t get it, but I have seen it a dozen times. Crazy too, not rational, I mean they are attacking and trying to eat other living people, how is that rational? Head shot, yeah, maybe you could kill them some other way too, but you don’t want to be screwing around, because maybe they’ll bite you. I have seen what happens to those who get bitten; they get sick pretty fast… A day or two tops. And in just a few hours they got those little black lines running off under their skin. Like I said, bad shit.”

“Jesus,” Mike said. “Billy told us about some that were camped near them. They didn’t even know it. They live like animals, nests in the woods, darkness, got one of their women, never found her, never found them, but the smell in the clearing was bad… Like death. And a few from the city told other stories. Central Park is overrun with them. Thousands of sick and dying, only they aren’t dying for some reason, like… I don’t know, like they can somehow stay alive when they shouldn’t be able to stay alive.” He shivered involuntarily. “Little spooky… I can see why some are calling them zombies.”

Alice nodded. “Difference is these are real. I think zombies are a made up thing, these are something goddamn close to that, but they’re real. And there are some who seem sane, or… Calculating, I know that sounds even crazier, it’s like they evolve into something else… Some higher form of insanity that is so far gone they’re almost, well, sane again.”

Silence held for a few moments, Ronnie broke it.

“But a shot to the head does it, huh?”

“Yeah, works every time. I mean, it sort of makes sense. Whatever the hell it is keeping them alive it requires them to have a brain so they can at least function on that… Well, on that animal level, I guess. No brain, no functioning at all.” Alice nodded once she finished and the silence held again for quite some time. This time Candace broke it.

“Well,” She squared her shoulders, “I guess if they look suspicious it has got to be a shoot first ask questions later sort of deal then, right?”

“Yeah,” Mike agreed.

“Yeah,” both Ronnie and Alice chimed in.

Candace leaned forward and threw a few heavy chunks of wood onto the fire. Night was not far away and the shadows were closing in fast.

“There were stories about that shit the planes sprayed on us,” Ronnie said after a long pause.

“Like?” Candace asked.

“Billy said he heard about it more than once. Almost all of us have stories about planes spraying stuff on us. I saw it back in Watertown, I… I think it was the next day… March 2nd, maybe March 3rd. We were up there in the Southern Tier… Raining all goddamn day, remember? Planes flying overhead: I remember seeing them. Blue shit… You guys?”

“I don’t remember the blue shit… Seems I remember the planes, but I thought, I don’t know, military transport planes. I really didn’t think about it until we got back to Watertown and there were no troops there at all. I expected them to be,” Mike said.

“I remember planes,” Alice said. I was in Schenectady… Planes, I remember thinking the Army had arrived, but they just flew over real slow, cargo doors open, that was weird, I half expected paratroopers to jump out… No blue stuff though, not that I remember… Why? What was it about?”

“I remember the blue shit,” Candace added, as Alice finished. “What was it about? What did Billy say?”

“Some government shit designed to strengthen us,” He held his hands up as everyone spoke at once. “I didn’t say I believed it. Hell, Billy said every time he tried to nail someone down about what they heard and who they heard it from, they would get all sketchy. Oh, it was a soldier I met on the road, told me he knew because the planes flew out of the base he was assigned to, but no name of the base no facts about it, just like a… You know what it reminded me of? Like an urban legend. They get going the same way. Always sketchy details, low on facts.”

“Yeah, well, that’s one hell of an urban legend,” Candace said.

“Yeah, but the thing is there is always, they say, some seed of truth there,” Ronnie said thoughtfully.

“Maybe is,” Mike agreed.

“All I know is those things are real. We’ll have to be careful,” Alice said. The silence fell and held this time.

“Well,” Mike said at last. “Sleep beckons.” He looked over at the tents they had been using. “Maybe tomorrow, take some time, pick up bigger trucks… Maybe taking a chance sleeping outside isn’t smart.”

“I was going to mention that,” Alice said. “They might not bother us… Seem to hate fire, bright light. But if they did,” she shook her head. “I don’t want to go that way.”

“Me either,” Candace agreed.

Mike sighed. “Why don’t you two sleep…? Ronnie, you too, I’ll take four hours and then wake you for the next four.”

“Done deal,” Ronnie agreed. They all rose from the fire, Candace stretched up and kissed Mike.

“Be okay?” She asked.

“Perfect.” he kissed her again. “Listen… Why don’t you and Alice sleep in the truck, you know, just to be safe?”

“I second that,” Ronnie agreed. “I’ll take the tent. You guys can do most of the driving tomorrow; let us nap a little to catch up.”

“After we get better trucks we can sleep in,” Alice added.

“After,” Mike agreed. Candace stretched up on her tip toes and kissed him once more. She left without another word.

“Sure you want first?” Ronnie asked.

“I’m good,” Mike agreed. He watched Ronnie walk away and then turned toward the black landscape and the trees that surrounded them, wishing he had not parked so close to the woods.


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Earth’s Survivors SE 4 The Story of Candace and Mike Dell Sweet

Earth’s Survivors SE 4 The Story of Candace and Mike Dell Sweet

Earth’s Survivors SE 4 The Story of Candace and Mike Dell Sweet

Earth’s Survivors SE 4. The Story of Candace and Mike


This is Copyright protected work

This material is NOT edited for content


THE EARTH’S SURVIVORS SE 4

The story of Candace and Mike

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet

Earth’s Survivors: SE Four: the story of Candace and Mike is © Copyright 2017 Wendell Sweet, all rights reserved.

Additional Copyrights © 2010 – 2012, 2014, 2015 by Wendell Sweet, All rights reserved

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


In the Trees

The eyes watched her and the other cows from the cover of the trees. The hunger was terrible, all consuming, and it came in crashing waves. The impulse to feed seemed to be the only coherent thought she had. It was hard to think around, hard to think past.

A few weeks ago she had been… Been? But it did no good; she could not force the memory to come. A name came, Donita. She had been Donita; she knew that, but that was all she knew. And a name was not everything she had been. She had been something else… something more, but she could not get to whatever it was. Something that did not wander through the woods: Something that was not driven by all consuming passions that she could not understand.

She turned her eyes up to the moon. It pulled at her. Something in it spoke directly to something inside of her., something deep, something she believed had always been there, but there had never been a need to address it because it lived under the surface, out of her line of thought, sight… below her emotions. Now it didn’t. Now it ruled everything. It was all she could do not to rush from the trees, find the smell that tempted her and consume it. Eat it completely. Leave nothing at all. Oh to do it… To do it…

Her eyes snapped back from the moon, and a low whine escaped her throat. The calf, sated, had wandered away from her mother. Behind her, the boy made a strangled noise in his throat. She turned, gnashed her teeth and growled. The thin, skeletal boy fell back, hungry but frightened. She could feel his fear. It fed her, tempted her to taste him, but he was no food for her. She knew that much. It was a sort of instinct… Drive… Something inside of her. The boy was not her food. The boy was not her sustenance: He was one of her own; corrupted. And corrupted flesh could not feed and sustain itself on corrupted flesh. Fresh flesh was needed, live flesh. Fresh human flesh, she corrected.

The boy trembled and grinned sickly, his one good eye rolling in his head. The other eye was a ruined mass of gray pulp sagging from the socket. A great flap of skin below that socket had curled and dried, hanging from the cheek. He felt at it now, carefully, with his shrunken fingers. She hissed at him and his hands fell away. She turned her attention back to the wandering calf that was nosing ever closer to the edge of the trees.

She desired human flesh. She needed it, but it didn’t absolutely have to be that way.

Two nights ago it had been a rabbit. The night before that she and the boy had shared a rat. The night before that they had come upon the old woman. She thought about the old woman as the calf wandered ever closer to the line of trees.

The old woman had been good. They had brought her back here and her bones lay here still, in the weeds at the edge of the clearing behind her. She turned and gazed back past the boy into their makeshift campsite, searching for what was left of the old woman, finding her bones where they lay at the edge of the clearing they had made. She turned back to the field, watching the calf as she remembered the old woman…

The old woman in the ditch

They had come across the old woman at near morning. Near morning was the best she could do. Time was not a real concern to her anymore. The concept held no meaning. She understood near morning because the sickness, the sickness that began to send the searing pain through her body, had started. The boy had already been whining low in his throat for an hour in pain. It was like that whenever the night began to end, when the morning was on the way, soon to be.

She remembered sunlight. Her old self had needed sunlight just as she now needed darkness, absence of light. That had been Donita as well, but a different Donita.

They had been crossing the rock filled ditch to get to an old house on the other side. The basement of the house was what she had in mind: Quiet, private, darkness. She had been scrambling down the steep, sandy side when the scent had found her eyes and froze her brain.

That is the way she thought of it. Frozen. Everything… everything besides that smell of flesh was frozen out. The boy’s whining, the coming dawn, the constant hunger in her belly, the moon silvery and bright so far up in the night sky, nothing got by that desire. Urge. Drive. It consumed her, and it had then.

It had touched her eyes and then seeped into her brain; then it had spread out into her body. Her legs had stopped moving and she had nearly tumbled all the way to the bottom of the rock strewn ditch before she had caught herself, her head already twisted in the direction of the smell. Her ears pricked her tongue licking at her peeled, dead lips.

She could smell the old woman. Knew that she was an old woman. It was in the smell: Somehow it was in the smell; and her flesh, her fear. The boy had slammed into her then, still whining, and nearly knocked her to the ground.

She had come up from that near fall in a crouch, and the boy had slammed into her once more, so she had grabbed him to steady him. He had thought she meant to kill him and had pulled away, but a second later he had caught the scent and they had both gone tearing down the ditch.

The Old Woman

The old woman had heard them coming. She had begun to whine herself, replacing the boy’s whining which had turned to a low growl. The panic had built in her as she heard them coming. Her heart pounded, leapt, slammed against her ribs, bringing pain with it. The pain rebounded and shot down into her broken leg, the leg that she had broken the day before trying to scramble down into this ditch to reach the house across what was left of the highway so she would have a safe place to stay. The pain slammed into her leg, and she cried aloud involuntarily. A split second later, the female slammed into her.

She had been on her belly. The pain was less that way. When the female hit her, she drove her over onto her back. A second after that, she was ripping at her flesh, biting, feeding and she could not fight her. She was too strong, too… Animal strong. And then the boy hit her hard, pouncing on her chest, driving the air from her lungs, and before she could even react, catch her breath back, he was biting at her throat.

She felt the pulse of blood as he bit into her jugular, and it sprayed across his face. She felt it go, felt her consciousness drop by half, her eyelids flutter, flutter, flutter and then close completely. And the biting was far away, and then it was gone.

The Feasting

The boy had her throat, but Donita had been biting her way into her chest. She had felt her heart beating, and she had been gnawing against her ribs when she felt it stop. They had calmed then, loosening the grips they had on her, and settling down to feed.

~

She glanced now at the calf that was less than three feet from them, its huge moon eyes staring curiously at them. The calf did not know death, had not seen it, she thought. It knew its mother’s tit, the sweet grass of the spring field, the warmth of the sun and nothing else. It edged a little closer.

~

She had killed the old woman. She had no use for her at all. They had eaten so much of her flesh, that she was useless to them. Couldn’t sit up all the way. The boy had taken one arm off at the shoulder and carried it away like a prize.

Donita had eaten so much that she had vomited, but that had only forced her back to feeding until she was once again filled. She had looked around the ditch and spied the rock. The old woman had come back already, and she was trying to raise herself from the ground, trying to raise herself and walk once more. She had picked the rock up from the ditch. A big rock, but she was powerful, and she had smashed the old woman’s skull in as she had tried to bite at her. They had dragged her into the woods a little farther down the road, this place where they still were.

~

She turned again to the calf. The calf was not what she wanted, but the calf would have to do for now. She let her hand fall upon the boy’s thigh and they both sprang at the calf.

The calf did not have the time to react. It did not even bawl. One second it was standing, and the next it was on its side, Donita’s teeth clamped tightly across its throat. A second after that, it was sliding across the dew wet grass and into the woods, one wild eye rolling and reflecting the silver of the waning moon, as Donita and the boy dragged her into the trees.


SE 4: The Story of Mike and Candace. The most popular group from the website writings were Candace and Mike.

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Some changes and Private Investigations short story

Some changes and Private Investigations short story Posted by Geo 07-24-17

Happy Monday! Things are proceeding with the Sixth Earth’s Survivors book and the decision has been made to make that book the last book in the series. I don’t make the news I just report it. With Dell out of the circle there were bound to be changes to the way things run here.

The other thing that will change soon is the short stories that Dell once published on Amazon. Those will be put in a collection. Really just an effort to clean things up a little.

As for me I will continue to write the Zombie Plagues and it will remain on Amazon only. I do make the decisions on that series. To the best of my knowledge nothing else will change.

I will write this blog on Monday’s and pass along news and updates. I think that the changes that are coming will be good for those of us left here. Dell will write on Fridays when he can. If he can’t I will cover, when I can’t he will cover; same as it has been.

As far as Dell goes: The step away is for health reasons. If something changes in the future I will print it, but I won’t go over and over it. I don’t want that, you don’t, neither does Dell. The unpublished Earth’s Survivors books and the rest of his work are going to a friend. They will decide what to do with that work, or even if anything should be done with it. As for everything that is on the table right now I will look at it all and make the decisions project by project.

It’s summer here in New York, but the weather is rainy. Later this week we are supposed to get colder weather and then more rain. That will teach me to complain about the heat.

Here is a short story from Dell. He has several dozen unpublished short stories I hope to compile for him soon…


PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS

Copyright Dell Sweet – 2015 by Wendell Sweet and his assignee’s. All rights reserved. Dell Sweet is a publishing name owned by Wendell Sweet, independAntwriters and their assignee’s.

This preview is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This preview may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this preview with another person, please point them to this blog entry at Geodell.pcgeos.com.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Nine Fifty-Nine A.M.

I lowered my wrist to my side, settled myself back into the shadows of the treeline and raised my binoculars to my eyes.

I swept the back deck and rear entrance, shot across the fence to the next house in line: Nothing; and nothing. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I had been wrong all along.

Being a private detective isn’t all thrills. Most of the time it’s doing exactly what I was doing: Sitting and waiting. For hours sometimes, with little to show Other times you just happen to walk into the middle of something, get everything you need in those few seconds and feel a little guilty about even charging for it, let alone keeping the retainer… If there was a retainer… But of course I always fight past that. After all money, making a living, is why I do this job.

Apparently this job wasn’t going to be one of those kinds of jobs, but what kind of job was it going to be? Hard to tell.

I was watching the house of Paul and Melinda Fields. At Melinda Field’s request. She was a friend of my wife Joan. So you would think that the request would have come from my wife to help her friend, but it had not. It had not come that way at all. It had come instead in the form of a phone call to my office. Melinda had called and asked me to meet with her, and she asked me to keep it quiet. She didn’t want her friends to know, meaning my wife too, I concluded.

I was okay with that. You get a lot of that sort of thing as a private eye. People think odd things, maybe they’re even a little paranoid. If a woman or a man thinks his or her loved one is cheating on them they sometimes want to keep the information as quiet as possible. They want to know. You’re the private dick so it’s okay if you know, but they don’t want anyone else to know.

This was day two and I was about to burn up the retainer. I had nothing at all to show for it. But as I said that is the private detective game most of the time. Waiting and seeing. I simply hadn’t seen anything. Well, almost nothing. Apparently Paul did keep things from his wife. Right now for instance he was supposed to be at his office. He wasn’t of course. Joan had left for work, but he hadn’t. And more than once he had checked the windows as though he were expecting someone. Peeking out of the drapes, sliding the deck door open and peeking out before he stepped outside sipping his coffee as he looked around and then quickly stepped back inside. Odd.

Odd, but not exactly indicative of much of anything at all. He had done nearly the same thing yesterday and I had wasted nearly four hours watching him pace the deck, check the windows, pace the kitchen, refill his cup, pace the deck some more, and then finally get in his car and drive to the office in the early afternoon.

Paul Fields was a contractor. Not one of the big ones, but not one of the small ones either. They lived in a nice subdivision. Melinda sold real estate. Between the two of them they did very well. She drove a nice BMW and he drove a new Ford pickup. One of the big ones with the big price tags. It looked as though it had never hauled anything in its life. All shiny black and chrome. Lots of chrome.

The man lived in Jeans, work boots and button up chambray work shirts. He was in his early forties, looked thirty five. Fit, attractive in some ways. I could see why she might think he was  screwing around. I just didn’t see any evidence of it if he was. Maybe, I thought, I should have run it past Joan. Maybe she felt this same thing a few times a year, once a month. Who knew. The only thing that had stopped me was that Melinda had made it a condition of hiring me. And so I hadn’t.

I lowered the glasses, slipped a cigarette from my pack and lit it, and then settled back to smoke as I watched. I know, they’ll kill me, but isn’t life killing us all every day? I know, I know, excuses. I got a ton of them.

I took a deep drag and blew the smoke out my nose. I glanced at my watch. Another hour and that would be it.

It was about then that things got interesting. Paul had, had the drapes open on the rear sliders. They suddenly swept shut. My first thought was that he was about to leave for the office, but out of the corner of my eye I caught a taxi drift up to the curbing a few houses down and stop. It sat idling for a few moments and then the back door popped open and a woman stepped out and hurried off down the walk toward Paul’s house.

I got the camera up and snapped a few dozen pictures before she was out of my line of sight, but who knew what they might be worth? She was moving fast and her face was not fully turned toward the camera. She had one hand up, brushing at her hair as she walked. I changed the card and slipped the other into my pocket. I hated to be short when I needed to shoot.

There was a gap in the drapes. I couldn’t see much through the shadows as I focused with my binoculars. The digital camera didn’t offer much better on zoom, but I clicked a few shots off anyway. Many times I had found the money shot in the pictures I didn’t think would be worth anything at all. I then began to scan the second floor bedroom drapes for movement. There was a set of sliders there too that opened onto an upper deck.

A little movement caught my eye so I kept the lens focused there. Something or someone brushed up against the drapes, they stuttered open for a brief instant and I clicked off another dozen shots out of habit. You just never knew where the money shot was going to be, or if there was even going to be one, but if you didn’t shoot you couldn’t get anything.

I put in another hour, but there was nothing much to see. I had just about made up my mind to shift my cover to the front of the house just in case she slipped out earlier than I thought she would, when a Yellow Cab rolled up to the curb of the house next door, and then coasted to a stop, presumably, out of my line of site in front of Paul’s house. I cursed under my breath. Piss poor planning on my part. No other way to see it. I could have gotten a clear shot of the woman, whoever she was.

All in all it made no difference though. The retainer was shot, and most people never went past the retainer. He was fooling around with someone, most likely, and maybe one of the shots I took would even be enough for Melinda to recognize who the woman was. If though, proof was all she was after, she had that.

I retreated back into the woods and made my way to a dead end service road where I had parked earlier, tossed my gear onto the front seat of the beat up old Dodge I used for surveillance, and followed it in. A half a day shot. I had another case to look into, a simple straight forward process serve. I had some good information on where the person should be, hopefully she would be. Maybe it could be a slam dunk kind of day. Well, except for missing the exit shot. I cursed once more under my breath as I keyed the old Dodge and headed back into town.

Nine Twenty-Seven P.M.

I shifted into park, dropped the keys into my coat pocket and levered open my door. At the last moment I turned and retrieved my binoculars, camera and the small .380 I usually carried when I was somewhere where unexpected things might happen.

The process serve had been a bust, I was tired and grouchy. I palmed the small gun in one hand. I had found myself in the woods more than once on surveillance jobs. Bad neighborhoods a few times too. The .380 was small in my hand, but a large comfort in my head.

I had started with the gun after a friend of mine who worked for the PD and moonlighted as a private eye, small stuff, mostly process serving, had been ambushed by an angry husband he had been trying to serve divorce papers on. He’d been shot four times and had barely survived the hurried ambulance trip to the hospital emergency room. The PD career was done, and the private eye stuff too, although a few of us threw him a bone when we could: When he was sober. I decided I’d rather have something to show.

I had nearly bought a .44 caliber, but one test fire had convinced me to leave that for something smaller and hopefully non fatal. I know, I shouldn’t really be concerned with that. After all if I am going to have to use a gun to defend myself it should be capable of laying someone down. I just haven’t been able to believe in it yet. I have flashed the .380 twice and ended violent confrontations right there. My ex-PD friends say don’t pull it unless you mean to use it… Maybe… Someday.

I dropped the camera and the gun into my other coat pocket, wound the binocular strap around my hand and walked around the back to where my office is. Joan and I have a deal. I don’t track whatever I have been walking through all day into the house and she won’t divorce me. She was that passionate about it. I emptied my pockets, slipped off my boots I used for the woods, which did, I noticed, have something that could have been mud, bear shit or even dog shit that I could have picked up crossing my own back yard, on them. Joan’s poodle, Mister Tibbles. We’ve agreed to hate each other. I thought about a sniff test, decided to pass, I never could distinguish poodle shit from bear shit anyway, slid on my slippers and walked the shoes to the back door.

Joan called down from the upper level, probably the kitchen. More specifically the bar that was just off the kitchen. My office was on the lower level. You could translate that as basement and you would be correct. I would only add converted basement.

“Yeah… It’s me,” I called back.

“Be careful in the backyard. I took Mister Tibbles out and I couldn’t see where he went.”

That answered that question. “Uh huh,” I answered.

Nothing else floated down to me. I left the landing and walked down to my office. I transferred the pictures off the two cards, then opened my image program as I dialed Melinda’s number. She picked up on the first ring. Her voice low, sexy. It said Please buy this property from me, baby. Sexist, yes, I know. I try not to be. And I felt even worse about being one because of the bad news I was about to give her.

“Mike,” I said.

“Oh… Mike.” She sounded surprised.

I ignored it as I loaded the pictures and searched through them one by one. “Melinda, I have some bad news…. I’ll send you a report on this, but I thought I should call and talk to you just the same… Instead of you reading it in a report.” I searched through the thumbnails as they came up. “I have a few things left to do, but essentially… You were right, Melinda… There’s no easy way to put it, your husband, Paul is seeing someone.”

I continued flicking through the thumbnails and selected two that might be useful. One shot through the upstairs drapes showed a woman. I ascertained that from the dress she wore. Her face however was turned away from the camera, a blurry blob in shadow.

The second photo showed her hurrying from the cab. Part of her face was obscured by one hand. I would work on both photos as well as I could and try to get something that Melinda could identify. Melinda stayed silent on the phone.

“I don’t know who the woman is,” I admitted. “She outfoxed me and that doesn’t usually happen. Maybe she was being careful or maybe she’s a little paranoid… I…”

“I know who she is, Mike.”

I stopped. “You do?”

“Yes… I… I had hoped you would identify her though… I wanted to be absolutely sure.” She said sure, but she sounded very unsure.

I transferred the two pictures to some other software, started with the first one from the bedroom shot through the drapes, and selected the areas to work on.

“Mike,” Melinda said even more softly.

“I’m looking over a few photos I shot right now. Trying to get a good, clear face shot,” I told her. She sounded on the verge of tears. Like she was unraveling over the phone. It made me wish I hadn’t addressed it over the phone at all.

The face became clearer pixel by pixel. I have a good machine, it didn’t take long, and I didn’t have to bother with the other photo. “The picture’s coming up, Melinda,” I told her, but my words clogged in my throat as the picture finally came up, and I fell silent myself. She spoke into my silence.

“Mike… I would have told you, Mike… Mike?” She sounded panicked.

“What?” I managed.

“I wasn’t sure… Not completely, Mike.”

“But you hired me to find out? Me? Why didn’t you hire someone else?” A hard ball had settled into the pit of my stomach.

“I… I don’t know… I thought… I thought… I thought you would want to know… Mike… Mike I didn’t really think it through. I was angry… Upset… I wasn’t thinking straight, Mike. I wasn’t.” Now it was her turn to fall silent. I could just barely hear her breathing over the phone in the hardness of the silence.

“I’ll send the retainer back, “ I said at last into the silence. “You… You know maybe this was best… I don’t guess I would have wanted one of my friends to be the guy on this… Finding out. It’s just a little hard to think right now.”

“Sure it is,” She agreed. “I’m so upset.” She sobbed once as if trying to choke it back and then the soft sound of her crying came over the phone.

I was not at the point of tears. I was at the point of anger. That hard place where it’s brand new and you can’t seem to swallow it down. I was there, at that place. It’s a hard goddamn place to be and I realized she had been there too, maybe still was. It was also a dangerous place to be.

“I have to get the hell out of here,” I told her. Twice I had found my eyes locked on the .380 where I had set it on the desktop what seemed like a million years ago.

“Me too… It makes me sick to know it for a fact.” She was still crying but trying to get herself under control.

It was spur of the moment, but my mouth opened and with no artifice the words tumbled forth.

“I have a cabin… It’s nearly the weekend… Up in Maine… It’s a drive… Isolated… A good place to think.” Silence from the phone. “If you wanted to… Oh hell.”

She laughed a small laugh, followed by sniffles and a few seconds of silence. “I’ll meet you somewhere?” She asked.

“Airport? … You could leave your car in the long term lot… Pick it up Monday or so…”

“Let me get some things together…” She went back to crying for a few moments. “I’ll just… Just leave him a note.” She laughed again, sharply this time. “You know what, I won’t… I’ll be there in… An hour? An hour, Mike?”

I nodded and then realized she couldn’t see that. And so I told her I would meet her there in an hour. I clicked off, slid the phone into my pocket and just sat there for a moment. My eyes dropped back down to the gun and it seemed to hold me hypnotized for a length of time. Like a spell I had to break. I forced myself to look away. I got up and walked away from it. I went up to our bedroom and filled an old suitcase.

I half expected Joan to walk in, see what I was doing and stop me, but she didn’t. I expected her to say something when I came back down the stairs and crossed through the kitchen to the back door, but again she didn’t. If she was sitting there in the gloom of the bar area or had migrated farther into the shadows of the living room, I couldn’t say. She said nothing. Mister Tibbles growled lightly and that was it.

I moved the car, backed my Jeep out of the garage and out into the street. A few minutes later I was cruising the interstate through the darkness, heading for the airport.

I hope your week is great! Check out these series below…


ZOMBIE PLAGUES AMAZON:


KINDLE: The Zombie Plagues: Billy Jingo: His fingers felt at his lips: It was not going to be fine. There were chunks and pieces of his lips attached to both lips. Thread woven from one to the other had held them together. https://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Plagues-Billy-Jingo-ebook/dp/B00VDAFFHO

PAPERBACK: The Zombie Plagues: Billy Jingo: Tommy awakened. He blinked; squinted and tried to see better. No good; pitch black and although he was a man who had little natural fear he had begun to panic right then.

https://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Plagues-Billy-Jingo/dp/1980509255


KINDLE: The Zombie Plagues: Doomed: War begins:
Two minutes of climbing and they were at the back of the parking lot. From the square it probably looked as though there were no one there. Fine, Mike thought. https://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Plagues-Doomed-Geo-Dell-ebook/dp/B00VIFXXW8

PAPERBACK: The Zombie Plagues: Doomed: The end has come. Polite society is gone. No police; No government and no protection. It’s time to fight to stay alive. When society crumbles and it is only you against the world; can you survive? https://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Plagues-Doomed-Geo-Dell/dp/198051027X


KINDLE: The Zombie Plagues: Southland: If society collapsed today could you survive? Follow the survivors as they pick themselves up and try to rebuild their world. A world with no government… No protection… A world where the dead do not remain dead… https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00W1TDLD6

PAPERBACK: The Zombie Plagues: Southland: He stepped out of the truck to the ground testing the leg. Dark blood covered a large area of the outside pant leg just below his hip and the blue denim fabric was shredded and burned. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980510393


KINDLE: The Zombie Plagues: Wilderness: “They won’t come. In the city they knew how to get around… Out here,” Patty waved her arms around, finally lifting them to the sky. “They wouldn’t know what to do. Couldn’t sneak up on us.” She shook her head. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07X148XZ5

PAPERBACK: The Zombie Plagues: Wilderness: They filled their tanks two hours after dawn at a collapsed gas station next to the interstate. A hand operated Kerosene pump made the job quick. The only hard part had been locating the underground tank. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1689434295


KINDLE: The Zombie Plagues: Zombie Fall: The attack came fast when it came. Mike only remembered the details after the fact.
Molly had, had the right side, Tim the left, Mike had taken a lead of fifty feet or so right up through the middle of the tall grass. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07X7CSB7Z

PAPERBACK: The Zombie Plagues: Zombie Fall: The zombie hit the ground in front of him, thrown back by the force of the bullets: A huge section of her side blown away, one arm gone, but she had no sooner hit the ground than she was rising to her feethttps://www.amazon.com/dp/1689464321


KINDLE: The Zombie Plagues: Return: They were parked in the middle of the highway. There were three dead zombies lying scattered in the highway. They had been living in the SUV when Zac and Amanda had happened along. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07X5MDR81

PAPERBACK: The Zombie Plagues: Return: She laughed and took another deep hit off the joint. Okay, she admitted to herself, forty-eight, she had been a beach baby and the sun had played hell with her face and skin. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1689478268


KINDLE: The Zombie Plagues: To Build A Nation: The finale to The Zombie Plagues series:
Donita walked down Eighth Avenue towards Columbus Circle. Behind her a silent army followed, numbering in the thousands. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07X86FLRT

PAPERBACK: The Zombie Plagues: To Build A Nation: The finale to The Zombie Plagues series:Donita walked down Eighth Avenue towards Columbus Circle. Behind her a silent army followed, numbering in the thousands. From the circle they would take the park. https://www.amazon.com/dp/168969615X


I hope you enjoyed the short story. Have a great week and we will see you on Friday! Geo