Read Madness Rules - 04 Online

Authors: Arthur Bradley

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BOOK: Madness Rules - 04
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Not knowing exactly what he was doing, but figuring that it couldn’t possibly hurt, Mason reached down and pulled the
PTO
knob. Almost immediately, the engine whined as the output shaft engaged the truck’s hydraulic systems.

But that was it. Nothing else happened.

Okay, he thought, let’s put this truck to work. Moving from left to right on the control panel, he began by pressing the
Hopper Start
button. The night was suddenly filled with screams as the two-thousand-pound hopper paddle tore off arms and legs, sweeping several of the infected from the rear hopper into the main storage bin.

Something heavy hammered the roof, and dimples began appearing on the inside of the headliner. Mason didn’t know if they could pierce the sheet metal with primitive weapons, but he didn’t want to find out. He stomped the brake pedal and watched as several of the infected tumbled off the back of the truck. Then he pushed the gearshift up into low and started forward again. He didn’t know how much longer he could continue the back and forth motion before one of the creatures got inside with them.

Meanwhile, Bowie continued snapping at hands as they tried to reach in to unlock John’s door. John was all but overwhelmed by the pure chaos and seemed content to let Bowie do his bidding.

Mason swerved right, scraping the side panel against jagged cars to peel away some of the attackers. There were sounds of footsteps above them as more of the infected found their way up top. He raised his pistol and fired three shots through the roof, watching as a man swan dived off the side of the truck. Using his knees to steer, Mason quickly dropped the spent magazine, slapped in a fresh one, and released the slide. Eight rounds in the gun and eight left on his belt—not nearly enough for the army of crazies that continued to grow around them.

Hoping to make it harder on those riding up top, he reached down and hit the next button on the control panel,
Packer Start
. A huge metal wall inside the compacting bin slowly pushed forward, crushing what was left of those who had been swept in from the hopper earlier. It did little, however, to deter the half a dozen people crawling along the rooftop.

Continuing to work his way down the control panel, Mason hit the
Top Door Open
button. The whine of the engine changed pitch again as the roof of the storage compartment slowly slid rearward, sending several people falling down into the compacting bin. He quickly pressed the
Packer Start
button again, crunching them into contorted mounds of meat and bones. He left the door open, hoping that it would make it harder for others to come over the top.

“There!” John shouted, pointing up to their left. “It’s Jules!”

A lone figure stood atop a tall stack of cars, waving her arms in the air. It was Jules all right, but getting her into the truck was going to be a trick. There was no way for them to stop without being completely overwhelmed. Mason only saw one way to rescue her, and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

“Hang out your window and yell for her to jump onto the truck,” he instructed.

“Are you kidding? They’ll kill her.”

“It’s the only way. If she can get into the compacting bin, I can close it up and keep her safe. It’ll be like riding in a tank.”

John started to argue the point but quickly realized that they were out of options. He slid out the window, sitting on the edge of the frame, and waved for Jules to drop.

“Jump into the hopper!”

Jules moved to the edge of the stack of cars and looked down as the garbage truck approached. The drop wasn’t far, maybe five feet, but the timing would have to perfect to land not only on the truck but to thread the needle and fall directly into the hopper. She readied herself.

“She’s only going to have one shot at this. I’ll slow, but I can’t stop.”

John nodded. “She’ll make it.”

Mason swung close to the cars and eased off the gas.

“Now!” he yelled.

Even before John motioned for her to drop, Jules was already in the air. She landed on the roof the truck and then rolled backwards, tumbling into the open bin. Mason immediately hit the
Top Door Closed
button, and a few seconds later, they heard a shotgun blast from deep within the belly of the truck.

John turned to him with a worried look but said nothing.

Mason steered the truck around a sharp corner and dropped the transmission into second. The infected continued to give chase for a few blocks but soon fell behind. Mason leaned back against the seat and enjoyed the wind rushing in through the missing windshield, a welcome reminder that the only thing ahead of them was the dark open road.

With the fight over, Bowie scooted across the seat and laid his head on Mason’s lap. He seemed utterly exhausted.

Mason reached down and gently stroked the dog’s ears.

“Take it easy, boy. We’re safe now.”

 

 

 

 

As soon as they cleared the outskirts of Elizabethton, Mason pulled the garbage truck over to the side of the road. He opened the bin’s top door and climbed up on the roof. With only the shine of moonlight, it was difficult to see down into the hopper.

“You alive in there?”

The reply was a few choice words.

He laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“I’m waist deep in blood and other things I don’t even want to think about,” she said, standing up and shaking off some of the slop.

“At least you’re still breathing.”

 She handed out her shotgun.

“Give a lady a hand, will you?” she said, reaching up with both hands.

He reached down and hauled her out.

Jules was a mess all right, covered from head to foot in blood and every manner of human waste. But as far as Mason could tell, she was uninjured. Given the dramatic rescue, that in itself was a miracle.

John called around from the cab of the truck. There was terrible worry in his voice.

“Marshal, is she okay?”

“I’m fine!” she hollered back. “Marshal Raines, you’ve got to get me somewhere I can wash up. John can’t see me like this.”

“Are you kidding me? He isn’t going to care what you look like.”

“Maybe not, but I do. Seriously, Marshal, you have to help me.”

Mason looked around. “There’s not a hose on the truck, but I suppose we can stop at the Doe River. We’re going to cross over it in less than a mile.”

“Perfect. I’ll hang onto the side like the old garbage collectors.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Believe me, a man shouldn’t see his bride with intestines in her hair.”

Mason shrugged. “All right. Hang on tight.”

He climbed down and slid back into the cab. Bowie seemed particularly interested in the smell of something on his hands.

“Where’s Jules?” asked John.

“She wants to clean up a bit before coming up front.”

He looked out his window for her, but she was on the opposite side of the truck.

“Are you sure she’s okay?”

“She’s fine. I told her that she could wash up at the river.”

John shook his head. “I tell you, vanity’s going to be the death of that woman.”

“I’m not so sure. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s going to live a nice long life.”

“You really think so?”

“Sure,” he said. “If Jules proved anything tonight, it’s that she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive.”

 

 

Carl, John, Lucy, and Jules stood in the bright shine of headlights, hugging and crying as emotions overwhelmed them. They had all lost so much—friends, family, and any sense of life’s normalcy. The prospect of losing one another was more than any of them could bear.

Connie stood beside Mason, both of them trying not to gawk at something so intimate and heartfelt. Bowie, however, showed no such discretion as he stared at the family with his tail wagging.

“That was a fine piece of work, Marshal,” she said.

Mason dabbed a wet cloth against the cut on his forehead.

“A little too close if you ask me.”

“What about your truck?”

“I’ll go back at first light and get it. I can’t afford to lose those supplies.”

“And after that, we’ll head straight to Ashland?”

Mason smiled. “As long as nothing else gets in our way.”

“I have a feeling you and your giant dog can deal with anything that gets in our way.” She squatted down to pet Bowie, but when he started licking her face, she quickly straightened. “I just wish he wasn’t such a slobber mouth!” she exclaimed with a laugh.

“We all have our ways of showing affection. That’s Bowie’s.”

She reached over and squeezed the back of Mason’s arm.

“What’s yours, Marshal?”

Mason said nothing as he watched Jules swing young Lucy around in a big circle, both of them laughing with joy.

“Marshal?”

He turned to Connie with a sad smile.

“Come on,” he said, “let’s get some rest. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”

CHAPTER

8

Even standing fifty yards away, Samantha heard the woman scream. It was a violent, angry scream, laced with every possible type of profanity. She wheeled around and hurried back to the shop. When she stepped inside, she saw Tanner sitting in a small chair with his back against the wall. The sawed-off shotgun rested across his lap, and he was looking out through the front window like a man without a care in the world. The woman was still taped up on the floor. She didn’t appear injured, but her t-shirt was now on inside out, and a strip of duct tape was covering her mouth.

“What happened?”

Tanner motioned toward the woman.

“She got angry and started screaming. I couldn’t have that.”

“What made her so mad?”

“She learned a hard lesson,” he said, meeting the woman’s venomous stare.

“What lesson?”

“Never to trust a man when he’s negotiating for honey.”

Nipples tried to say something, but her words were muffled by the tape.

“She had honey?”

“Yep.”

“Is there any left?” Samantha asked, looking around the small store.

“Nope.”

“You ate the whole jar of honey by yourself?”

“Oh yes,” he said, winking at Nipples.

Nipples glared at him, growling.

“And she expected you to let her go for giving it to you? Is that it?”

“That’s right.”

“But you didn’t?”

“Nope. The way I see it is we’re even now. She did me wrong, and I did her wrong.” Tanner rubbed the scab on his side where the blade had nicked him. “I don’t think either one of us will forget the other anytime soon.”

“I suppose that’s fair,” Samantha said, still feeling a bit uncertain as to whether or not she was getting the whole story.

“I’ve always said I’m fair, if nothing else.”

“I’ve never heard you say that.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s true isn’t it?”

Samantha thought for a moment.

“Not really, no.”

He laughed. “You might only be eleven, but you could teach our prisoner a thing or two.”

 

 

They came for Nipples shortly after dark. The same two young men he had seen earlier scuttled around the huge pile of dirt that sat behind the repair shop. Tanner watched them from a thicket of trees about thirty yards away. When the men got to the back of the building, they split, one going right, the other left. The one that went to the right passed directly in front of him, barely outside of arm’s reach.

Tanner let him pass before stepping out and beaning him with the butt of the shotgun. The man fell forward into the dirt without making a sound. Tanner picked up his rifle, a Marlin carbine, and flung it off into the trees. A quick pat down revealed no other weapons. He pulled two long strips of duct tape from the roll and secured the man’s hands and feet. Then, like he had done to Nipples, he put a short length of tape across the man’s mouth. Taping someone’s mouth was risky because it could cause suffocation, but Tanner chalked that up to being a hazard of the profession the man had chosen.

When he was finished, he hurried to the corner of the building and peeked around. The second man had already cleared the opposite corner and was moving toward the front door. Tanner leaned around and waved for the man to come to him, hoping that it was dark enough that he would think it was his partner in crime. Before the man could get a clear look at him, Tanner ducked back around and waited.

A few seconds later, the man hustled around the corner.

“What are you doing? I told—”

He was cut short when Tanner stepped forward and headbutted him across the bridge of the nose. The blow was so powerful that the man dropped his rifle and stumbled back a couple of steps. Never one to leave things unfinished, Tanner brought a knee up into his groin and coldcocked him in the ear. The man bent at the waist and then fell sideways, moaning. Tanner taped him up before doing a quick circle around the building to make sure no one else had joined the party.

BOOK: Madness Rules - 04
11.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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