Authors: V.A. Brandon
part three: infected
Copyright © 2014 by V.A. Brandon
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced without express written permission from the author except in the case of brief excerpts embodied in published reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Amy and her friends seek refuge at Green Hill Clinic, an abandoned asylum that once housed wealthy mental patients. The relative isolation of the place gives them some freedom and time to plan what they will do next.
Unfortunately for them, plans don’t always turn out the way they should.
Amy parked the station wagon on the side of an empty road, attempting to get a hold of her emotions. Behind her, she could hear Marie still weeping quietly. As for the rest of them, they sat there in mute silence and stared ahead, lost in their own thoughts.
Time slowly ticked by. Like a person awakening from a vivid nightmare, Justin suddenly jerked straight up in his seat.
“I think we should go back,” he declared, breaking the heavy silence in the car. His voice was soft, but dead serious.
“And why would we want to do that?” Patrick demanded at once, his eyes wild. “Haven’t we been through enough already? What are you, an adrenaline junkie? It’s like you
having a Runner breathe down your neck or something!”
Patrick was ranting, as usual, but his tirade wasn’t exactly without its merit. What was the point of returning to Central Creek Mall? Why would Justin even suggest such a thing?
Amy shook her head. “I’m not going back there,” she said firmly. “I don’t ever want to see that place again.”
“Hear, hear!” Patrick added in, his voice shrill.
Daniel coughed quietly in the backseat. “Might I ask why you wish to return there?” he asked carefully.
There was a long pause. “I just feel that we need to make sure,” Justin replied finally. “We need to make sure that Mr. Kang is really dead –”
“You did not even try to change his mind!” Marie burst out, upset. Amy wasn’t sure who she was accusing – Justin or her husband. Or both. “You could have tried harder . . .” She trailed off, dissolving into quiet tears again.
Heavy silence reigned once more. To an extent, Amy understood what Justin was saying, but her revulsion of Central Creek Mall overrode everything else. She was
going back there.
Justin wasn’t finished. “Look . . . all I want to make sure is he’s dead. What if something went wrong? I can’t bear the thought of him lying there on the ground bleeding to death.” He cast a hopeful glance at Daniel. “Maybe if you and I went back to make sure –”
“I will not.” Daniel sat up, his gaze steady as it landed on Justin’s surprised expression. “I am sorry, but my responsibility is to my wife. Mr. Kang made his decision. Let us respect that and leave him be.” His eyes turned soft. “You are a kind man, Justin. I am sure Mr. Kang would have appreciated your concern.”
Justin’s shoulders drooped considerably as he released a deep sigh. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Sorry, everyone. Let’s head to the farm, then.” With reluctance, he settled back into his seat, when Amy suddenly swiveled her head around, staring at the back windshield. Her eyes narrowed.
“Someone’s coming this way.”
“What do you mean?” Patrick cried out, but his panicky question was soon answered.
The sound of a speeding car reached their ears.
Before they could even think of what to do, a red sports car slammed into the rear end of their station wagon, causing everyone to shout out in surprise. Walter fell off Marie’s lap and landed at her feet, his pained yips getting lost in all the commotion.
Within seconds, the sports car drove off and disappeared over the hilly road.
“Is everyone okay?” Justin asked when the wagon jolted to a standstill.
Amy nodded, wincing, as she rubbed the base of her neck. “Except for the whiplash, I think we’re fine.”
Daniel stepped outside to check the damage. Minutes later, he returned, looking relieved.
“There is a big dent, but it is not so bad,” he informed them. “One of the brake lights is smashed, though.”
“Hope we don’t get a ticket for that,” Justin joked before turning to Amy. “Hey,” he said, studying her face, “you’re looking a little green there. Want me to drive?”
She nodded, grateful for his offer. After exchanging places, Justin steered the wagon back onto the empty road, frowning as his gaze frequently returned to the rearview mirror. He seemed preoccupied about something.
Patrick fidgeted in the backseat, trying to get comfortable. “Did you see the jerk who hit us?” he asked, looking peeved.
“You saw him?” Marie was taken aback.
“Yes, I caught a brief glimpse of his face.”
Amy was intrigued. “What did he look like?”
Patrick paused. “I think it was Mr. Kang.” Then later, he added in confusion, “But he was bald.”
That he would say something so ludicrous, especially at this time, was mind-boggling. Amy gawked at the older man, speechless. Could a person be
insensitive? Had the man no feelings at all?
Sensing the quiet anger in the car, Patrick grew defensive. “Look, I’m just saying –”
“You’ve said enough,” Justin cut in, his voice stern. “Even you should realize how insane that sounds. How can a dead man be driving a car?”
“Maybe the driver was an Asian man, but Patrick thought it was Mr. Kang because he thinks Asians all look the same.” Daniel lifted a questioning brow. “Is that what happened?”
Uncertainty filled the older man’s eyes as he fumbled for an answer. “I . . . I’m not sure.” His hunched posture indicated his deepening doubt. “And I don’t appreciate your comment, Daniel. I’m not a racist,” he mumbled, mostly to himself.
Amy settled into her seat, shaking her head. “Let’s go,” she said to Justin. “We’ve wasted enough time as it is.”
“All right.” Justin gazed at the rest of the group through the rearview mirror. “Everyone, keep your eyes open. If you see anything that even resembles a shack, let me know. We’ll need to find shelter before it gets dark.”
By evening, they were still on the bumpy road, flanked by fields and silhouetted trees in the distance. Slouching in her seat, Amy rested her feet on the dashboard and dozed on and off. The rest of the afternoon had been pretty uneventful, for which she was grateful. She felt the lull of sleep about to overtake her again when the wagon crawled to a stop and Justin leaned forward, staring at a patch of land to his left.
“Do you guys see that?”
Amy immediately sat up, peering intently. There was a low, rusty fence around a spacious plot of land. But sitting on top of the hilly horizon was the silhouette of what looked to be a dilapidated mansion.
“Think we should check it out?” Justin asked.
“Definitely,” Amy replied, excitement in her voice. “It looks like the perfect spot to stay for the night.”
“We must be careful. There might be Runners inside,” Daniel cautioned.
Slowly, Justin drove the station wagon around the fence and went past an old sign that read:
GREEN HILL CLINIC
. He parked the car beside a broken fountain, gazing up at the mansion with narrowed eyes.
“This place looks very old,” Marie said, observing the weeds and rambling vines twisting around the pillars and over the walls.
Nodding, Amy got out of the car. “Looks like it was abandoned years ago. The place is a mess.”
The rest of the group got out as well. Justin opened the rear door and grabbed his baseball bat and Daniel’s fire poker.
“Daniel and I are going inside to check out the place. I want the rest of you to stay here and guard the car. Is everyone okay with that?”
Nods all around. After Justin handed the fire poker to Daniel, the two of them headed toward the entrance and pulled the door. The hinges squeaked loudly as the door swung open.
“It is very dark,” Daniel muttered, peering inside. “Maybe we should take a few glow sticks –”
“Wait!” Marie hurried over to the car and rummaged through the boxes with one hand, hugging Walter with the other. She let out a triumphant sound when she found what she was looking for.
Amy shook her head in wonder. “You always think of everything,” she breathed, staring at the narrow flashlights in Marie’s right hand.
“Please tell me you got batteries as well,” Patrick said.
“Of course.” She reached down again and pulled out a pack of AA batteries, waving them in the air. “And we have more inside the box.”
Minutes later, each person had a flashlight. While Justin and Daniel went in to check out the mansion, Amy stood outside with Marie and Patrick, flashing beams of light around the unkempt lawns and wooded area just below the hill. She shivered, wondering if there were Runners lurking in the trees.
Walter released a soft whine, and Marie immediately put him down. “What is wrong? You have to pee?” When he lifted a paw, she turned to smile at the others. “We will not take long. Please call out when Justin and my husband return.”
“Walter can pee here,” Amy said, waving a hand at the tangled grass and dirt at their feet. “And it’s dark. I don’t like the idea of you going somewhere far, where I can’t see you.”
Marie smiled again. This time, she looked embarrassed. “I have to go, too,” she said. “Do not worry, Amy. We will only take a minute.” And with Walter leading the way, she hurried around the building and disappeared from their sight.
Amy tossed a bored glance at Patrick, studying his features. Objectively speaking, the older man was classically handsome, with well-defined cheekbones and a head of chestnut-colored hair. If it weren’t for his personality, she would have found him quite attractive.
“What did you used to do for a living?” she blurted, out of the blue.
Startled, Patrick whirled around, and the beam from his flashlight caught Amy right in the face. Instantly, she threw a hand up to shield her eyes.
“Jeez, Patrick! Put that thing down. You’re going to blind me.”
“Sorry.” He sounded contrite.
Amy blinked hard, seeing spots dancing across her vision. To her left, she could hear Patrick moving around. She blinked again and jumped when she realized that he had sidled up right next to her.
“I’m not telling, not until you tell me what you used to do,” he drawled.
Ye gods, is the man flirting with me?
Amy straightened, trying to ignore how close he was standing beside her. It had been a mistake asking him a friendly question. “Nothing much. I graduated from college, and then I got a sales assistant position for a while. I quit that to fly across the country and visit Justin.”
“Interesting. Are you two a couple?”
“We used to date, but we’re just friends now.”
“That’s too bad.” Patrick smiled, revealing a set of straight teeth. Amy briefly wondered if they were veneers. “Can you guess what I used to do in my former life?”
She sighed and threw a hand up. “I don’t know. Were you a stripper?”
“Well, I don’t know! You told me to guess.” To be honest, she could see him as a boy toy to some rich sugar mommy in her sixties.
He glared at her, indignant. “I was an actor. A damn good one, too.”
“Is that so? Have I seen you in any movies?”
“I had roles in several soaps and TV series. A patient here, an estranged cousin there, a victim of a brutal crime . . . they were all good stuff.”
He was talking about minor, insignificant roles. “Did those jobs pay well?” she asked, genuinely curious.
Patrick’s shoulders hunched a little. “Not really. I mean, I had to support myself with a night job. I worked as a waiter at one of the local fancy restaurants. It paid the rent and bills.”
“I see.” To Amy’s chagrin, she found her heart softening. She
see. Wasn’t that what she had been doing after college? Working in sales to support her dreams of becoming a professional writer? That she and Patrick had something in common rattled her a bit.
Sounds of approaching footsteps reached her ears, and she turned around to see Justin and Daniel exiting the mansion.
‘The place is empty,” Justin said, smiling. “It’s a bit dusty, but there are plenty of rooms.”
Daniel cast the beam of his flashlight over the building’s exterior. “I think this place used to be an asylum,” he said thoughtfully. “An asylum for rich people.” He paused to look at Justin. “I saw a basement under the mansion. It has barred rooms with heavy locks on them.”
Well, that was creepy. Amy shuddered at the thought of past mental patients, screaming and scratching at the walls below while saner patients drank refreshing lemonade and enjoyed the luxurious comforts of the clinic’s estate above.
Justin shrugged it off. “None of that matters. It has a roof, steady walls, and most importantly, it’s
. That’s good enough for me.”
They moved the boxes into the foyer and parked the station wagon where it would remain well-hidden from outside eyes. When they finished, Daniel frowned, looking around him.
“Where are Marie and Walter?”
Before Amy could answer, Marie came running over to them, breathless as she carried Walter in her arms.
Amy placed a hand on her hip, her expression stern. “You said you’d be gone for only a minute!”
“I went for a walk with Walter.” Marie smiled, shooting a nervous glance at her stony-faced husband. “And guess what we found?”
When no one said anything, she continued on. “We found a flowing stream in the woods! It is drinkable water.” Her eyes turned dreamy. “We will be able to wash our clothes, and also have baths.”