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Authors: Ryan Casey

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Infection Z (Book 2) (8 page)

BOOK: Infection Z (Book 2)
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Fourteen


P
lease
. We… we don’t want any trouble. We’ll walk right out of here. Forget this ever happened. Please.”

Hayden felt his words falling on deaf ears. He stood with his hands in the air as the bald man and the ginger-haired woman at the bottom of the stairs pointed pistols in their direction. Hayden’s ears rang from the sound of the gunshot echoing against the wall. The tastes of the foods he’d fantasised about—canned beans, canned peas, canned tuna—had drifted from his mouth, replaced by a familiar tang of fear. An inevitable feeling.

“The car keys,” the woman said. She was dressed in a grey Parka coat with a furry hood wrapped around her head. She had grey eyes, which just added to the sense of distrust Hayden felt towards these two people. “Slide them over here.”

Hayden looked at Clarice. He didn’t want to give up. He didn’t want her to comply. But he knew she had to. She had to, to survive. She had to if any of them were to stand a chance of getting out of this one.

She crouched down and pushed the keys to the middle of the wooden floor. The two gun-wielders just stared at the keys, keeping their guns pointed in Hayden’s group’s direction.

“We … we were going to wait,” Newbie said. “Wait for you to—”

“Spare us the bullshit,” the bald man said, saliva trickling down his unkempt beard. “We heard you talking. Heard your plans.”

“Then—then you’ll understand. Why we couldn’t trust you,” Hayden said. “You’ll get that. None of us can trust each other anymore. And … and we weren’t going to take all the food—”

“Just the fucking car,” the woman said. “Just a few tins, and the fucking car. Hardly anything. Right? Now—now get on your knees and … and put your hands on the back of your heads.”

Hayden saw the woman pull out some thick looking tape and he realised this was the end. There was no bargaining with these people. They were going to tie him and his friends up. They were going to execute them, right here in the hallway of the cottage.

They were going to slaughter them.

Hayden crouched onto his knees but he couldn’t give up. He couldn’t let himself. “I … We weren’t going to stay here. We heard a transmission. We were going to—to a safe place—”

“Better if you just keep quiet,” the man said. He pressed Newbie down and made sure he was on his knees. He didn’t make proper eye contact with Hayden or any of the others, like he wasn’t comfortable with what he was about to do. “Just—just keep quiet and put your hands behind your backs. All of you.”

He wrapped the tape around Newbie’s back. Defeat filled Newbie’s face. Defeat and acceptance of that defeat.

No. It couldn’t end this way. This wasn’t how it ended.

The woman stood in front of Hayden. Hayden had to do something. He had to act. He had to get out of here. He wasn’t giving up hope. He couldn’t give up hope. His life depended on it. His sister’s life depended on it.

“Hands behind your back,” the woman said.

“We’re just like you,” Hayden said, as he heard the man wrap tape around his sister’s wrists. “We … we’re just like you. Just doing our best to survive. And if we’d known you were here, we wouldn’t have bothered you. We wouldn’t have—”

“Then you … you aren’t a thing like us,” the woman said. And this time, she looked right into Hayden’s eyes. “You have no idea what we’ve done so far to survive. You … you have no idea of the things we have to do to survive even longer.”

Hayden saw a wateriness to the woman’s eyes. A glimmer of regret, of fear.

In the distance, he knew the three men would be getting closer. Soon, it would be five on three.

But right now, the odds were in their favour.

“I’ve had to do bad things too,” Hayden said.

The woman blinked and her eyes twitched away again.

Hayden held his breath.

Lunged for the can of tuna he’d dropped to the floor.

Grabbed it and swung it at the gun in the woman’s hand.

She dropped it right away and Hayden grabbed it, stood up, wrapped his arms around her neck and held the gun to her temple. The man turned and pointed his gun at Hayden as the woman struggled, trying to wriggle free as Hayden pressed the gun harder and harder.

“Don’t … don’t you dare shoot,” Hayden shouted. It didn’t feel right. It felt like somebody was shouting through him, using him as a vessel. “Don’t shoot or I’ll … I’ll shoot her. I swear I’ll shoot her.”

The man kept on pointing his gun at Hayden, his cheeks growing red. Newbie looked on with wide eyes, and Clarice turned from Hayden to Newbie to the man, like it was all some kind of confusing nightmare.

“You … you wouldn’t dare,” the woman said.

Hayden pressed his gun harder into the soft cushion of the woman’s temple and he heard her wince. “I’ll shoot her. If you don’t lower your gun and let us—let us leave here with these cans and your car, I’ll shoot her.”

There was silence between the five of them for some time. Hayden stared into the man’s eyes, and the man stared back at him, gun flailing. The woman breathed deeply, tried to struggle free, but Hayden just kept on holding the cold edge of the trigger and pressing the gun closer to the woman’s head.

“Let us go,” Hayden said. “Untie my friend, my sister, and drop your gun. If you do that, we’ll … we’ll let you live. But if you don’t. If you don’t, I’ll …”

Hayden couldn’t even say the words. All of what he was saying felt alien, unreal. And he knew he was doing what he had to do to survive. He knew he was making a horrible call, but a call that had to be made nonetheless. But merely pretending to be a killer was hard enough. Definitely harder than the video games suggested, that was for sure.

The man lowered his gun. “Please. My friends … they’ll be back soon. They’ll be back and if they find us like this, they’ll—”

“They won’t get back here before we’re done. So make your choice. Make your choice right this second or I’ll … I’ll make it for you.”

The man shook his head. He looked at Hayden like he was some kind of monster. Beneath Hayden’s grip, the woman kept on wriggling, gasping for air.

“I … Just let Sammy go.”

“Dave, just shoot,” the woman said, coughing and gasping. “He’s … don’t risk losing the car. Don’t risk—”

Hayden covered Sammy’s mouth. He didn’t want her putting any ideas in Dave’s head. “Put your gun on the floor and untie my sister, untie my friend. Then we’ll be on our way.”

Dave looked at Sammy and shook his head. “I … I can’t—”

“Do it, Dave,” Sammy said. “Just … just do it.”

Hayden didn’t know what Sammy was encouraging him to do, but he covered her mouth again, covered it despite her teeth biting into his coat, threatening to pierce their way into his forearm. “Untie them. Now. Hurry the hell up.”

Dave sniffed. He held his shoulders upright. His gun was right by his side now. He stared right into Hayden’s eyes. “I’m … I’m sorry for this. I really am.”

And then he lifted the gun and pointed it at Clarice’s head.

Hayden didn’t even think.

He pulled the gun away from Sammy’s head and fired the trigger three, four, five times.

Fired it at Dave’s chest, at his neck, into his head.

Dave tumbled to the floor. Blood spurted out of his neck. The top of his skull had blown off but he had a look of shock in his eyes, like the very last thought he’d had was one of amazement, one of awe.

Sammy let out a stunned gasp. She dragged herself away from Hayden’s loosening grip and crouched in the pool of blood oozing out of Dave’s dead body.

Hayden’s hands shook.

He stared at the mess on the floor in front of him.

Stared at the blood, the cracked bone, felt the trigger of the gun underneath his sweaty fingers.

He’d killed a man.

He’d shot a live man dead.

He was a murderer.

Fifteen

A
lly Harbridge knew
something was wrong the second he pushed open the cottage gate and stepped onto the pathway.

“Hold up,” he said, raising a hand at Bob. “Something’s not right.”

He couldn’t place exactly what it was that didn’t seem right. Not immediately.

And then he saw the rectangular space to his left.

“The car,” he said. “Fuckers took the car.”

He rushed down the pathway towards the cottage. The front door was ajar. He’d just about had it up to his neck with these pricks back at the cottage. Dave was a decent guy, but Sammy was a handful.

This had to have something to do with Sammy. Probably seduced her way into Dave’s fucking pants then tied him up while she plotted her grand escape.

“Wait.” Ally felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and he saw Bob, sweat pouring down his cheeks, rifle in his other hand. “We should watch out. Could be the flesh-eaters.”

Ally pulled his arm away. “Only thing that’s fucked up here is that man-eater. But she won’t get her teeth into me when I catch her, I swear.”

He reached for the door and pushed it open. He heard it creak, echoing against the hallway.

The first thing he noticed was the smell. A metallic stench in the air that had become so familiar since the undead started walking. It was so strong he could taste it, too.

The next thing he noticed was the pool of blood on the floor.

Dave lying in the middle of it.

Ally’s stomach sank as he stared at Dave’s bloodied body. There was a bullet wound in the side of his head, and his eyes were wide open, like he’d gone through some kind of shock before his death. Rage built up inside Ally. It was that bitch Sammy. He’d been wrong to trust her. All of them had. Fucking naive and ridiculous, right from the start. “Just wait til I—”

“He … he shot him.”

The voice came from the left of the staircase. Took Ally by surprise at first, until he realised it was Sammy.

Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was holding her shaking, blood-soaked hands to her face.

Ally tensed his jaw. “Tell me what the fuck happened here.”

“They … they took the car,” she said. “They came here and—and tried to raid this place. We tried to stop them but … but things got out of hand. It—it all happened so fast. And … and then he shot him.”

Ally wanted to be annoyed at Sammy. Any excuse to be annoyed at Sammy and he’d take it. But her story added up, in an unfortunate sort of way. There was no car outside the cottage. Which meant somebody else had taken it. “Who was ‘he’?”

Sammy sniffed. She stared at the blood pooling out of Dave’s corpse, which flies were already beginning to gather around.

Ally bit his lip and marched over to Sammy. He grabbed her by the shoulders and stared her right in her fucking pathetic sad eyes. “Tell me who the fuck—”

“I—I think he was called Hayden,” she said. “I think I heard them say Hayden when they were in the kitchen.”

“There was more than one of them?”

Sammy drifted off to looking at Dave’s body again, her cheeks paling.

Ally smacked her across the face with his knuckles. “Hey. I’m speaking to you. There was more than one?”

“Three,” Sammy said, clinching her face. “There … there were three.”

Ally stared at Sammy’s begging eyes and he saw his ex-wife, Claudia. Stupid bitch used to always cry like that—like it’d stop Ally being mad with her or something. He didn’t mean to be mad or angry at any women—or anyone for that matter. And it annoyed him that he
did
get so pissed off with them.

But hitting them made him feel good. Gave him a kick, just like nicotine gave a smoker, or bungee jumping gave an adrenaline junkie.

“I think they said they’re going to a safe place. Somewhere they heard on a transmission.”

Ally felt a small weight lift from his shoulders at these words. “They said that? You heard them say that?”

Sammy nodded fast. She sniffed up another bout of snot. “They—they wanted the car so they could get there. I wanted to fight but when I heard they were going there I stopped. I … I figured there must be another way. I did the right thing. Right?”

Ally wanted to punch Sammy right in her little button nose, send beautiful blood dribbling down over her plump lips and off the edge of her pointy chin. But instead, he put a hand on her shoulder, smiled at her. “I think you’ve done good,” he said. “Thinking outside the box. I like that.”

She tried to force a pathetic little smile that Ally just wanted to wipe away, but he held his calm, resisted.

He moved his hand up the side of her soft, sweaty neck. Pinched the end of her silky ginger hair and rubbed it between the tips of his fingers. “And when you’re good, you know what that means, don’t you?”

Her eyes lit up and Ally just loved it. Loved the spark of life. The spark of hope that he dangled in front of her like a toffee-coated carrot on an orgasm-inducing stick. “Can … can I see him?”

Ally moved his hand further up the side of her head. He heard Bob tutting and struggling at the door. He didn’t approve too much of Ally’s methods, but he put up with them. Mutual respect, that sort of thing. “Depends on whether our new friends get to Warrington or not,” he said. He moved close to Sammy’s ear, felt the heat coming off her skin. “If they do, then you can see your boy again.”

He grabbed her breast, squeezed it so tight that it made Sammy wince.

“If they don’t, then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do. As for your kid, well … we’ll find a way to have our fun with him.”

Ally felt the heat from Sammy’s cheeks dip in a split second.

Heard a little whimper from the back of her throat.

He smiled.

S
arah tried not
to cry out from under the sweaty, shit-tasting gag as the big man called Bob held her by the door and the other man called Ally put his hands all over the terrified woman in the cottage.

All she could think about was Hayden, Newbie, Clarice.

The Warrington transmission.

Home to these people.

The place they were heading.

Sixteen

H
ayden leaned
against the back seat and tried all he could to stop shaking.

Newbie was driving the Range Rover they’d taken from the cottage. His sister was beside Hayden in the back. But it didn’t feel like they were there, not really. It felt like he was alone. Alone with the knowledge of what he’d done.

He’d shot a man.

Murdered him.

But there was another bit of knowledge creeping back into his awareness, rearing its ugly head. A bit of knowledge he didn’t want to accept, or even think about.

But it was coming dangerously close to sneaking over the surface.

“You did what you had to do,” Clarice said, as she stared out of the condensation-covered window of the Range Rover. “I … I’d have died if you hadn’t shot that man. You saved my life.”

She turned to Hayden. Half-smiled. But although he felt the sincerity in her words, he could sense his little sister looking at him differently. Looking at him like he was a killer.

If only she knew.

“What we did,” Hayden said. “Taking the stuff from the cottage. Taking this car. It … it was wrong. You were right about that.”

Clarice shrugged. “They turned out dicks anyway. So that makes it a little more okay.”

“It doesn’t make anything okay. I killed a man. It … it shouldn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t have to kill each other to survive.”

“Always been that way, brother,” Newbie said, glancing in the rearview mirror at Hayden as rain lashed down on the windscreen. “Always been that way.”

Hayden wanted to have another swipe at Newbie but he knew doing so was unfounded. He understood the root of his frustrations, now. The source of his behaviour.

“If you hadn’t shot him, we’d probably all have died—”

“I killed Mum,” Hayden said.

Clarice went quiet. She narrowed her eyes, searched Hayden’s face. “I know you put her to rest. You told me you—”

“She was alive,” Hayden said, the words spilling out of his mouth like water from a leaky pipe. “I … I went to put her down and she was alive. She spoke to me.”

“No,” Clarice said.

“She … she told me to put her down. And … and not to tell you because—”

“Don’t lie about things like this, Hayden.”

“I’m not lying,” Hayden said, raising his voice. His hands shook even more, and nausea filled his empty stomach. “I … I held her hand and then I held a pillow over her face. I waited til she went quiet, til she stopped struggling, and then I took the pillow away and I—”

“You wouldn’t,” Clarice said, shaking her head. Her eyes were watery and filled with tears. “You … you wouldn’t do that to Mum. You couldn’t. None of us could.”

“I did, Sis,” Hayden said, his voice quivery. “I did it. And … and I guess I’ve wanted to say something all along but I just … I just wanted to protect you. I didn’t want you to know the truth because the truth hurts. But I did it because she asked me to. I did it because there was no other way.”

Tears streamed down Clarice’s cheeks. Newbie kept on glancing in the rearview mirror, but he was keeping himself to himself as he focused on the rain-battered road.

“She … you say she spoke. You—you didn’t give me a chance. To say goodbye. You didn’t give me a chance to—”

“Because you’re my little sister and it’s my duty to look out for you,” Hayden said. “And you wouldn’t have liked what I did. What I had to do. You wouldn’t have liked seeing Dad in the state he was in. You … you would’ve had to deal with the sound of their fucking necks cracking, the feel of the life drifting out of both of them …” His voice gave way completely for a few seconds, and he had to regain his breath. “I couldn’t let you live with witnessing that. I just couldn’t.”

Clarice looked like she was about to say something else through her tear-soaked lips, but she just closed her mouth and turned away to look out of the smeared window.

Hayden stared at her. Looked at her greasy dark hair, her skinny frame. Always a skinny kid. Probably something to do with her hatred for any of the foods Mum and Dad used to serve for them. At one stage, measures got so desperate that she was literally eating a bowl of Coco Pops without milk three meals a day. It was Hayden who finally convinced her to eat more and more, step by step. Told her eating her greens would make her even prettier.

She took to it, held on to Hayden’s word, like she always did. And remarkably enough, eating those greens did keep on making his lovely little sister prettier.

She’d had every reason to trust him.

Except now.

Hayden didn’t say anything else to Clarice. He didn’t want to push her buttons too hard. She needed time. Time to understand. Time to get her head around what he’d told her. And he wasn’t proud of what he’d told her. He wanted to keep it from her. Keep her wrapped in cotton wool for as long as the pair of them survived.

But he felt better. Just getting the confession off his chest made him feel free.

He just hoped to God that feeling free was a good enough return for the short-term shattering of his sister’s emotions.

Hayden leaned forward and looked through the front windscreen. “How we doing?”

Newbie side-glanced at him. He cleared his throat. “Doing just fine. Should be at Warrington in forty minutes or so at this rate. Providing we don’t run into any obstructions. Or worse—infected.”

Hayden nodded. He stared at the tall evergreen trees either side of them. There was no sign of any zombie apocalypse going on at all out here in the countryside, but for the occasional piece of loose rubble on the road, or a fallen tree that Newbie had to swerve the car around, unsorted in this new world lacking any kind of emergency services. “We’ve done alright to now. You … your kid. D’you know whereabouts in Warrington they lived?”

“Eighteen Astley Road. Just on the outskirts. Google Street Viewed it enough times. Hell, I even turned up a few times. Thought about walking in there, wrapping my arms around my Amy. Couldn’t bring myself to do it. Couldn’t strike up the nerve. Probably for the best considering the restraining order. But not anymore.”

Hayden patted Newbie lightly on his shoulder and leaned back into the car. He didn’t want to argue with Newbie about the risks of going somewhere just outside the centre of a town. But it wasn’t just because of the risk of military and undead. It was because sometimes, it was better to keep the past in the past. A part of Hayden wished he’d never gone back home—as cruel as that was to his dying mum, his zombie dad, and his terrified sister.

But it was just a small part of him. A small part that niggled away like a stubborn spot, resistant to the squeeze.

“You … you did the right thing,” Clarice said.

Hayden turned around. He wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly.

Clarice was staring ahead at the front of the car, but it didn’t really look like she was focusing on anything in particular.

“I … What do you—”

“With Dad and … and Mum. You did a brave thing. And you came for me. Got me out of that house. I … Thank you.”

She turned to Hayden. This time, she smiled at him with warmth, smiled at him like she always used to smile at him when they were both kids. When he’d bought her a lolly from the school tuck shop, when he’d helped her with her maths homework.

He smiled back at her and then he heard the thud.

“Shit,” Newbie said.

Hayden spun around. Newbie was struggling with the steering wheel, lifting his foot up and down on the accelerator. “What is it?”

But Newbie didn’t have to answer.

The engine thudded again, again, again.

The Range Rover slowed to a halt, right in the middle of the torrential rain.

And in the silence, beyond the sound of the rain pattering against the metal car roof, Hayden heard the echoing gasps of the undead …

BOOK: Infection Z (Book 2)
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