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Authors: Nancy Holzner


BOOK: Deadtown
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“Holzner’s prose combined with a spunky protagonist
with a dark side, woven together with fast-paced
action, emotional reveals, and engaging plot twists,
—Phaedra Weldon, national bestselling author of
“Fast, fun, and feisty, Holzner’s
is chock-full
of supernatural action, danger, and creatures who do
more than go bump in the night.”
—Devon Monk, author of
Magic in the Shadows
I was there when it hit. I was on my way to a drugstore near Downtown Crossing to buy lightbulbs before a lunch date with Kane. Funny how you remember little details like lightbulbs. One minute, I was in the middle of a crowd of lunchtime shoppers; the next, I was standing alone on the sidewalk, surrounded by fallen bodies. It was as if, on cue, everyone around me had agreed to play dead—except they weren’t playing. I bent to the woman lying facedown at my feet. She’d hurried past me ten seconds ago; I’d admired her leather jacket. Now, her neck was warm, but my searching fingers could find no trace of a pulse. I turned her over. Her eyes were open, their whites bright red, and thin trails of blood trickled from her nose and mouth. She wasn’t breathing. I checked another body, then another. They were all the same—whole and warm, with red eyes and dribbles of blood. And very, very dead.
I screamed and ran, not knowing where I was going; all I knew was that I had to get away before the same thing happened to me. But there was no “away.” Every corner I turned, every block I ran down, was the same. Dead bodies. Everywhere. Dead bodies strewn all over the ground like trash at a landfill. Some wild part of my brain believed I was the only living thing left in the entire world.
Then, three days after the plague, the zombies began to rise. And Boston has never been the same.
“Zombies, demons, and a sassy slayer.
sparks with an incredibly realized world and a cast of
vivid characters. I can’t wait for the next book!”
—Chris Marie Green, author of
The Path of Razors
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author
Ace mass-market edition / January 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Holzner.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form
without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in
violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-15967-5
Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To Steve, for more reasons than I can count
I owe my biggest thanks to the amazing Cam Dufty, who plucked my manuscript from the slush pile and then edited it with equal measures of insight and enthusiasm—not an easy thing to pull off! And thank you, Cam, for your assistance and patience throughout the editorial and production cycles.
Gina Panettieri is an active, engaged, and tremendously helpful agent, and I’m grateful for her advocacy.
Don Sipley created the awesome cover art, and I wish he could have seen my jaw drop the first time I saw it. Thanks also go to art director Judy Murello and to Edwin Tse for cover type design.
Production editor Michelle Kasper and assistant production editor Andromeda Macri kept the production phase running smoothly. Thanks to copy editor Jessica McDonnell for her sharp eye and astute comments—and for saving me from a couple of real bloopers! I also appreciate the excellent work of proofreader Rob Farren and text designer Tiffany Estreicher. And thanks to my publicist, Rosanne Romanello, for her help in getting the word out.
My daughter (and newly converted urban fantasy fan) Tamsen Conner has always been supportive of my writing. Thanks, sweetie!
Finally, undying gratitude and love to my husband, Steven Holzner, who’s published more than 120 books and understands what goes into writing one. He never minded when I’d disappear for hours into my fantasy world. And he bought me endless cups of coffee as I wrote, night after night after night, in coffee shops around town. His love and patience, his support and encouragement, are truly what made this book possible.
TWO RULES I LIVE BY: NEVER ADMIT TO BEING A SHAPESHIFTER on a first, second, or third date with a human. And never,
bring along a zombie apprentice wannabe on a demon kill.
Lately, given my lack of a social life and my kinda-sorta relationship with a workaholic werewolf lawyer, Rule Number One hadn’t presented much of a problem. At the moment, it was Rule Number Two that was giving me trouble. Of course, I’d only formulated Rule Number Two about thirty seconds ago, but I intended to uphold it for the rest of my life—assuming that I’d make it out of here and have a rest of my life to live.
Rule Number Two was thanks to Tina, who—against my orders—had followed me into my client’s dream. I was here to exterminate a pod of dream-demons, and the last thing I needed was a teenage zombie in a pink miniskirt.
“Hi, Vicky. I thought you might need this.” Tina waved my flamethrower, then looked around. “Whoa. It’s
in here.”
didn’t half describe it. We stood in the middle of a huge circus tent, the top stretching up and up until it disappeared somewhere in the stratosphere. Eerie music from an out-of-tune calliope swirled through the air. All around us loomed dozens of crate-sized boxes painted crayon-bright red, blue, and yellow. Suddenly, a box to my right flipped open. With an earsplitting screech, an evil-faced clown sprang out, jack-in-the-box-style. I raised my pistol, aimed, and squeezed the trigger. The bronze bullet nailed the demon-clown right between its eyes. It shrieked, bobbing around on its spring, then dissolved into a puff of sulfurous mist.
“Cool!” Tina brandished the flamethrower. “Let me do the next one.”
“Uh-uh. You’re getting out of here. Now. Before the client wakes up.” I went over and nudged her toward the dream portal, but she shook me off and walked away.
“Don’t worry. Georgie-poo’s sleeping like a newborn baby.”
“Mr. Funderburk to you.”
“Whatever. Anyway, how can he wake up? That was, like, an industrial-strength sleeping pill you gave him. I want to look around. I’ve never been inside somebody’s dreams before.” Her mascaraed eyelashes fluttered against her spongy, gray-green skin. “Well, once, when I was alive, Joey Toma sino told me he had this dream and I was in it.” She sighed. “But I didn’t
I was in it, you know?”
I made a snatch for the flamethrower, but Tina spun around and danced out of reach. As she did, the ground rolled under our feet, sending up puffs of sawdust and making Tina stagger.
“What was that?” she asked.
“A bad sign.” The ground shook again, ominous, like the shudder that runs up your spine before something really,
awful happens. “You’re trespassing in Mr. Funderburk’s dreamscape. You’ve gotta go.”
She laughed. “I bet the earth moved more than that in Joey Tomasino’s dream.”
I grabbed her arm and tried to drag her toward the dream portal, but she dug in her heels. I’m stronger than a human, but zombies have incredible strength—something happened to their muscles between death and reanimation. I couldn’t budge her.
The ground was rippling in steady waves now, making it hard to stay upright. “This is bad,” I said, shaking Tina’s arm. “If the client wakes up, we’ll both fade into dream limbo. You want to be stuck in here forever?”
Tina yanked herself away and strolled across the bucking ground, her arms out like those of a tightrope walker. She stopped beside a box and knocked on its lid. “Yoo-hoo. Any demons in there?”
The box flew open and a figure emerged. Tina stumbled backward and hoisted the flamethrower.
“Don’t!” I shouted.
Too late. A blast of fire roared from the weapon, incinerating the figure and shooting past it to burn a hole in the wall of the circus tent. Tina fell, landing on her butt and dropping the flamethrower. The jet of fire whipped back and forth like an angry snake, igniting more jack-in-the-box boxes, the calliope, the Eiffel Tower—who knows how
got in here, but it was blazing now. I ran over and picked up the weapon, snapping the safety on before the whole damn place went up in flames.
Tina stared at the ashes of the box she’d blasted. “That wasn’t a clown.”
“No, it wasn’t even a Drude.” Drudes are dream-demons, the kind I’d been hired to exterminate. “You just torched Mr. Funderburk’s mother.” No question about it; I’d seen her photo on George’s nightstand.
BOOK: Deadtown
10.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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