Authors: Z. Allora
By Z. Allora
Stiff Rain Press
Copyright © 2012 Z Allora
Edited by Kris Jacen and Juli Simonson
Cover art by Les Byerley,
Published by Stiff Rain Press
2665 N Atlantic Avenue, #348
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
Electronic format ISBN: 978-1-62344-008-4
Warning: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Electronic Release: December 2012
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and occurrences are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or occurrences, is purely coincidental.
To my PFLAG chapter: I wanted to say thank you. You gave me a place to breath, to be myself and to find friends. Hugs to all of you! Seeing each of you gives me hope and is a piece of happy I carry with me! (Now shut this book and DON'T read it)
To Ally Blue: You planted the zombie seeds in my head. I tried desperately not to allow them to grow. But the cheerleader image did me in.
To My Dewy Beta, MMD and Angel boy: Thank you for all your efforts as my fabulous betas. I appreciate it.
To Eden Winters: You are the main reason I haven't picked up and started to walk back up north. Thank you for removing 'walk' from my vocabulary and all the assistance you've given me!
To Thursday Euclid: I appreciate all the advice, wisdom and Thursday-isms you've shared. Your friendship rocks harder than your boys (& we both know that's saying a lot).
To Stiff Rain Press, my line editors and to Kris Jacen: Thank you all for bringing my zombies to life. Now let's stop zombie prejudice one story at a time!
To S: Thank you for your love and support. You are my everything and my happily ever after.
Chapter One: The Pickup
Uncle Franz was once again screaming angrily, “Kai! Kai! Get your ass up here!” There was nothing new about this because his uncle was always yelling or causing a commotion instead of doing the work that needed to be done around their small family winery. Kai looked out over fields feeling pride at what his hard work would hopefully produce. His uncle didn’t seem to care that it was almost the growing season, and there was a lot to be done before the grapes could safely be brought to harvest.
“Yes, sir!” Kai shouted up to the house as he turned to hike up the hill. It was an old stone house built by his great grandfather. The Bauers had lived in Ostringen, Germany for generations. The rock structure was sturdy, but it was in grave need of repair. Uncle Franz had let things go for the last ten years, so small fixes turned into giant overhauls.
There was a fancy car on their gravel driveway. Kai sighed. The debt collectors had probably sent reinforcements. No matter how much money he gave to their creditors, his uncle seemed to drink it away, racking up more bills in the process. It was an uphill battle, but someone needed to take care of his younger cousin.
After his parents had died ten years ago, Kai had been sent to live with his abusive uncle. His parents had always avoided contact with the man, and now he knew why. However, his uncle and cousin were his only living relatives. The only bright spot was getting to know his little cousin better. Ulrich was a couple years younger than Kai, but the kid quickly turned into his best friend. They were inseparable.
Kai washed his hands at the side of the house with the hose as he thought of what he could say in terms of damage control. He grimaced as he looked down and saw his clothing covered in dirt and grime from the fields. He brushed himself off as best as he could. His wet hands were turning the dirt into mud on his shirt. Maybe the creditors would see how hard he worked and give them an extension so they could keep the tiny vineyard and house.
“You’re a mess, boy.” His uncle tried to cuff him in the back of his head as he entered the house, but the large, dark-skinned stranger stayed his uncle’s hand.
“Don’t lay another hand on this boy. He’s ours now,” the man’s deep voice claimed. His uncle’s eyes flashed with anger but even he wasn’t stupid enough to go against a man that big.
What? He was whose? “
Excuse me. I’m a mess. Should I change?” Kai looked at his furious uncle and knew there would be hell to pay later.
The fair-skinned, shorter man stepped forward with his hand out. The guy was so pretty he could have passed for a female in the right light. “That won’t be necessary. I’m Beau Renou.” He gave Kai a stunning smile as he shook his hand lightly.
The black man held out his hand but not before giving Uncle Franz another look of warning. “Lafayette. Nice to make your acquaintance, Kai Bauer.” The big guy squeezed Kai’s hand tight in a manly handshake that almost hurt.
“You’re not from around here?” Kai asked in English. Their German was good, but he could hear a very strange accent to it.
“Definitely not.” Beau laughed and looked over at Lafayette, who grinned at him before frowning at Kai’s uncle again. “We’re Americans.”
Kai thought he’d caught a break. Americans were usually pushovers for a down-on-the-luck story. “Look, the harvest isn’t for several months, but with the upcoming weather predicted I know it will be a good year. Please just give us a chance.”
“A chance?” Lafayette asked in German. “A chance for what?” He looked around the dimly lit stone house.
Kai answered in English, “To pay.” He didn’t want his uncle to follow the conversation.
“No need to pay us. We are here to pay you.” Lafayette amended, “Or for you, actually.”
“Huh?” Kai was lost.
They were here to pay for him?
Beau’s smile lit up his face as he filled Kai in. “Your uncle agreed for you to come to America with us. We have some…work for you to do.”
The way the guy hesitated on the word ‘work’ made Kai suspicious. “What? What work?”
Lafayette cleared his throat. “We can discuss that later…on the plane.”
Shaking his head, Kai stated a simple fact. “I can’t just leave.” He struggled to remember why. Other than his younger cousin there was nothing left here but bad memories, hard work, and abuse. His uncle was awful. He had no friends. School was over, and it wasn’t like he could even afford to go to the local college. He really hoped he could find a way to send Ulrich to Heidelberg University so the boy could have more opportunities in life.
“We paid off your uncle’s debts and gave him enough to live on.” Beau gave him more information that still didn’t tell him what they wanted with him.
“You’re going, boy.” His uncle sneered as he pointed a finger in Kai’s face. “You ungrateful cur. I got you a good job.”
But why bother asking? He knew his uncle had no clue. He looked at the two strangers. They seemed nice enough, but he couldn’t just pick up and go. “My younger cousin, Ulrich. I, um, can’t really leave him here.”
Lafayette glared at his uncle. “Ulrich will be fine. Your uncle promised he would not be harmed in any manner.” His German words were bitten off harshly, ensuring everyone knew what he implied if things didn’t go as promised.
Ulrich’s blond head stuck out of the bedroom and he said, “I will be fine. Go!” He hurried over to hug Kai and whisper, “It’s an opportunity for you to get out of here.”
“I don’t want to leave you.” Kai clutched tight to the only thing that made sense in his world after he lost his parents. How could he leave Ulrich behind?
“I don’t want you to go either, but you can come back for me.” He stepped back with tears streaming down his face as he tried to smile. “Or maybe I can visit you.”
With an exchange of looks between the strangers, Lafayette started typing into his phone. Beau smiled at Ulrich and touched him on the shoulder. “Tomorrow you will be getting a computer system. Someone will be here to install it. This way the two of you can stay in touch.”
“I always wanted a computer,” Kai’s uncle said, as if he would know what to do with one.
Lafayette stopped using his phone and stepped up into the man’s space. He towered over him as he spelled it out. “You will not touch it or Ulrich. You will spend the money we gave and will continue to give if our instructions are followed. If not…”
“Um, yes, sir.” Uncle cowered resentfully.
Kai had never heard his uncle so submissive. Even in town he usually played the big man, although everyone knew he was just a piece of shit.
His cousin reassured him. “See, you’ll still be able to keep tabs on me.” He leaned in close again and spoke in English. “Go. I can
you are supposed to go. It is how it should be. It will make things right…somehow.”
Neither of them understood Ulrich’s moments of clairvoyance, but they learned not to question their accuracy. Kai didn’t like it, but he nodded. “Okay. But we’re talking every day.”
Lafayette looked up from typing into his phone. “A phone will be delivered to you, as well.”
Beau batted his eyes at Lafayette before grinning. “And a few other surprises.” Turning his head, he glared at Kai’s uncle. Beau may have been smaller than Lafayette, but appeared to have the ability to kick Uncle Franz’s ass too. “We will be watching you.”
Lafayette clicked his phone off and slid it into his pocket. “Time to go,” the big man said as he was heading for the door.
“What? Already?” It was all happening so fast Kai didn’t have time to take a deep breath.
“I already gathered your stuff.” Ulrich went into their room and brought out an old duffel bag.
“Thanks.” He grabbed his cousin tightly into a hug, not wanting to let the kid go.
When they broke apart, Beau spoke to both of them in English. “We will be coming back for Ulrich.” Not seeing the surprise in Ulrich’s eyes, he said, “But you already know that, don’t you?”
Ulrich nodded once and gave Kai another brave smile. “Go now and call me.”
Without a word to his uncle, Kai grabbed his bag and left the small vineyard on the hill. He left the tiny town behind the day before his nineteenth birthday. If it weren’t for leaving Ulrich behind it would have been cause for complete celebration.
Chapter Two: Zombie 101
The plane ride seemed long. Kai enjoyed the special treatment of business class, which included being able to lay down flat in his seat. It seemed decadent to be lying around watching movies and eating delicious food. If he were home, he would still be in the fields tilling the soil.
There was a stopover in Newark where they went through US Customs. Lafayette had all the necessary paperwork filled out. Then they took a small plane to South Carolina.
Every time Kai asked for clarification on the job, Lafayette gave him vague descriptions of a club. He decided once they arrived it would become clearer. It wasn’t like he had any real choice. Besides, it couldn’t be worse than working in the fields from sun up to sun down while his uncle spent all of the hard-earned money like it was growing on the vines.