Chapter 33-8: Detour

Posted: October 27, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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~~~

The Ashtabula Waffle House was still a few hours away on foot. They’d consulted their maps of the area and realized, as they were sure the bad man also knew, that the shortest distance from where they were to the Waffle House was to continue north through the woods. It had been the direction they’d been pushed towards all along. Unfortunately, their maps did not consider the topography of the area as Gina, Tony and Diane had to traverse rough terrain, hiking slowly up steep wooded hills and descending into equally challenging valleys. They had been hiking for most of the morning and they were exhausted. They reached a grassy plateau and decided to stop.

“This is bullshit,” Diane said, collapsing to the ground and landing on her ass. “How fucking big are these woods?”

“The deeper into Ashtabula County we get, the more wooded it becomes,” Tony said. “It’s a big fucking county, by the way.” Tony stopped and leaned his back up against a tree. “We’re almost clear of the woods. Probably another couple of hours tops.”

“We should stop here and rest while we can. We’ll be of no use to Nine or anyone else if we get hurt stumbling around exhausted,” Gina advised. “We’ll need to be sharp and ready when we confront this asshole.”

They both turned to her. It was the first time she’d spoken in hours as she’d kept her distance throughout most of their march across the woods. Tony had tried to talk to her once, but was shrugged off with, “Just leave me be and let me think this through. You wanted to play this his way… well… now I need to figure out how to turn this to our advantage… somehow. ” Tony and Diane had wisely kept their distance after that.

Gina looked ahead of them toward a point where the land dropped off through skeletal tree limbs. “You hear that?” she asked.

They all got quiet.

“Sounds like a river,” Diane said. “Want me to check it out?”

“No,” Gina said. “I need a few minutes to get my head on straight. I’ll go check it out. You two stay here and rest. Just shout if something’s coming up on our asses.”

“You do the same,” Tony said. “And don’t wander off too far. We need to stay together out here.”

Gina flashed him a mock salute and started toward the river.

When she was out of earshot, Diane asked, “What’s eating her?”

Tony shrugged his shoulders. He suspected that Gina was frustrated by the whole turn of events starting with invading the bad man’s home, and leading up to now, knowingly walking into that maniac’s hands. “She’ll be okay,” he finally told her, not knowing if he meant that for Diane, or if he was trying to convince himself.

Gina started down a small hill, following the sound of the river, as she weaved in and out of a copse of younger trees.

The ground leveled out again as she cleared the trees and found the river.

She immediately stopped and gasped.

At the edge of the river, there was another body. This time it was a man knelt over in the fetal position as though he were praying. As she moved closer she noticed that the man’s hands and feet were missing. His head was lying in the mud directly in front of him as if the man were bowing down to it. The man’s back was facing her. His shirt had been ripped open, revealing a one word message:

DETOUR

Beneath the word was an arrow pointing east, upriver.

He’s fucking with us again, Gina thought. He’s been out here, one step ahead of us every time. That fucker had no intention of waiting us out at the Waffle House. He’s changing the rules as he goes, however he sees fit for his own damn amusement!

Gina looked back up the hill. The others had not started after her yet. She was thinking about Tony and trying not to imagine him lying in the mud, like this poor man, with his head lying beside him.

We can’t keep doing this. The bad man’s just toying with us. He’ll lead us somewhere we aren’t prepared for and that’s when he’ll spring his fucking trap!

She thought of Tony, recaptured, slowly tortured, and then thrown back into the darkness to rot… like Marvin.

No… I won’t allow it!

Before realizing what she was doing, Gina approached the body, picked up the head and tossed it into the river. She watched as the strong current carried it west and out of sight.

Gina examined the river. It was shallow enough to cross and loaded with large stones scattered about the center. To her right, near the bank on her side, she spotted a group of larger stones big enough to hide behind.

She looked back again. What are you thinking, Gina? She dismissed the voice of reason and turned toward the body. I’m done playing this game. I won’t let this happen to him… I can’t.

With a rough kick, she knocked the man prone and then leaned down and grabbed his legs.

She looked back up the hill again. No Tony. No Diane.

They’ll be looking for me any minute. Move your ass!

Gina dragged the corpse into the river. She struggled against the current, but managed to get the body hidden behind the large rocks.

She could hear them now, calling out her name.

Gina was out of time. She ducked down into the river, her body leaning over the corpse, as she tried to keep herself and the man hidden from view behind the rocks.

Tony and Diane reached the bank of the river.

Diane had already spotted the tracks along with what looked like dried up blood. “Something happened right here,” she told Tony. “I see footprints, maybe Gina’s. But then, there’s these strange marks here.”

Tony came over. He looked out of breath and frantic. “Is it her? Did something happen?”

Diane studied the tracks and said. “Gina was standing right here,” she said, pointing to the footprints. She then pointed to the rest. “And this looks like something heavy was dragged into the river.”

Tony almost punched a tree. “Fuck! He has her, doesn’t he?”

Diane didn’t know how to answer. She looked into Tony’s desperate eyes and said, “She was standing, and then it looks like someone was dragged into the river. I would say something bad happened right here, but that’s all I can say for sure.”

Tony turned north, staring across the river. “They couldn’t have gotten far. Let’s cross and keep pushing north until we catch that prick.”

Before Diane could respond, Tony was already splashing his way across the river.

“Tony, hold on!” The hunter tried to catch up to the big man, who was behaving rashly, driven insane with worry.

Gina waited for them to disappear and then stepped out of the river. She put down her pack, opened it, and retrieved a 9mm handgun. Then she started east, following the river upstream to the appointed detour.

Now we do this my way, she thought. Gina didn’t feel guilty for misleading her friends. They were relatively safe now. Tony would surrender to save that kid… Diane, too. This is the only way we win this.

Gina continued east with her gun out, finger resting near the trigger. She had no idea what the bad man had in store for them, but she knew he wanted Tony… so she took him out of the equation.

As far as Nine… well… she would try her best to save him, but this was war now, and collateral damage was sometimes unavoidable.

~~~

Nine was back in the van with the sack over his head. He wasn’t bound this time, which either meant that the bad man was careless or that he didn’t consider him much of a threat.

Intimidation is definitely not going to be a survival strength of mine, he thought.

They were moving slowly. His head screamed for a Tylenol after experiencing every bump in the road. So far, they hadn’t turned left or right, or turned around. Just one straight shot.

He desperately wanted to remove the hood, just to see where the body bag was, and if the meat had moved, but the bad man was watching him through a mesh partition at the front of the van. If he was caught trying to remove the sack, he’d probably lose a finger… or worse… so he resisted the urge.

The van stopped abruptly, causing Nine to fall forward off the bucket he was sitting on. He landed directly on top of ‘you know who’ and he swore he heard a moan. “Fuck me!” he cried out, quickly backing away from the bag.

The back doors of the van burst open. The bad man rushed inside and roughly lifted Nine up beneath the armpits and tossed him outside the vehicle.

Luckily he landed on his side. Fuck… he’s strong… and that hurt!

He heard the bad man jump from the back of the vehicle and approach him. Nine braced himself for a kick to the stomach that never came.

Instead, the bad man ripped off his sack, leaned in toward him, and asked, “So which was better, the ride or the landing?” He laughed hard at his own joke and then slapped Nine on the shoulder. “Sorry, Meat, just havin’ a little fun before we get started. You ready?”

Nine looked up at him from the ground. “Ready for what?”

The bad man raised his arms wide and said, “We’re here!”

Nine turned and noticed a two-story house. It looked like a modernized version of a log cabin, with brown aluminum siding instead of wood to create the illusion. That’s when he understood that the dirt road had actually been a long private driveway. He noticed a mailbox near the front door with the name SAMPSONS stenciled across it. “Well… it’s been ages since we’ve visited with the… Samson family. What’s the occasion, and what ever will I wear?”

The bad man forced a laugh. “Come on, funny man. Help me move the mystery meat into the house. We’ve got a few things left to do before your friends arrive.”

Nine got to his feet.

The bad man pulled the body bag from the back of the van and let it hit the ground.

Nine winced.

The bad man turned and held his arms out impatiently. “Well… what are you waiting for? Get over here!”

He turned toward the woods to his left and considered running.

“And when I eventually catch you,” the bad man said, anticipating his thoughts while reaching for a rifle from the front seat of the van. “I’m going to make you wear your girlfriend’s flesh for clothing, right after I carve into her chest the kind of coward you were.”

Nine’s shoulders dropped. “Can’t blame for me for thinking it… can you?”

“Of course not,” the bad man said with a laugh. He retrieved his portable CB radio. “Now… get your sorry ass over here and make yourself useful.” He pointed at the body bag.

“You want me to carry… him… I mean… the meat?”

“Just put it over your shoulder. You’ll be fine. I’m tired of carrying bodies today.”

Nine took a deep breath. Yeah, first it starts with me doing the heavy lifting, next thing you know I’m digging the fucking graves, too.

The bad man chambered a round into his hunting rifle. “Get to it, funny man.”

~~~

Tony was moving recklessly through the woods. All he could think about was losing Gina and what it would mean if the bad man snatched her up right under their noses.

Can’t save them Tony. Never could.

The bad man’s message haunted him as his heart pounded in his chest and his muscles ached as he pushed forward past the point of fatigue, unable to stop for fear of losing another one.

Lydia… Heather… Mary… Samantha…

He thought of them and so many others who had perished around him. Tony could not lose Gina like this. He refused to accept it.

“Tony, slow the hell down!” Diane shouted again.

She finally got through as Tony stopped more out of exhaustion than anything else. He turned, out of breath. “Anything?” he asked.

Diane stepped in front of him and gave him a solid push. “You stupid fuck! How can I track her if you’re stampeding through the damn woods and trampling over all the tracks? Besides, I can’t even keep up, you’re acting so damn crazy!”

Tony calmed down a little. “Anything?” he asked again.

“No… nothing, Tony,” she said in frustration. “But I might be able to pick up her trail if we double-back-”

“No! We’ll lose her if we go back!”

“We’ve already fucking lost her, you stubborn ox! That’ what I’m trying to tell you. We don’t even know if she’s even still heading north. Did you consider that?”

Tony looked dejected. “I’m sorry. It’s just… I’m fucking losing my mind over this! She was only out of our sight for a few minutes, and that fucker got her anyway!”

“I get it, Tony,” she said. “I know she means everything to you. Trust me, I get it.” She quickly looked away, feeling like she’d just betrayed her true emotions for Nine.

Tony took a deep breath and looked north. There was nothing out there but more damn trees and rough terrain. Gina could be anywhere. “Okay,” he finally said. “We’ll head back just enough for you to pick up the trail.”

“Thank you,” she said. “But I have to tell you, Tony. I haven’t seen anything that indicates she went this way. Something feels ‘off’ about all this.”

“What do you mean?”

“If the bad man dragged her off, I should clearly be seeing signs. Even if he’s carrying her, there should be staggered tracks, and he’d be moving much slower, but there’s nothing.”

“Okay, let’s start back,” Tony said.

“I’ll lead,” Diane insisted. “Stay out of my fucking way… please.”

Tony nodded. “Just… find her, Diane. Shit can’t end like this. We need to get them both back.”

Diane quickly wiped a tear from her eye and nodded. “I’ll find the damn trail, Tony. I promise.”

They headed back south toward the river.

~~~

The bad man led them into the foyer of the dark house.

Trying not to think of the body slung over his shoulder, Nine focused on the family portraits lining the hallway. In most of them, there was a father, mother, and a teenage son not much younger than him. Exiting the foyer, they stepped into the living room. Nine stopped and gasped. Chairs were knocked over, lamps shattered to pieces across the hardwood floor, a large picture that had fallen in front of the fire place, depicting a nature scene, looked like a bowling ball had struck it… and there was blood all over the place, especially on top of a glass coffee table. Something very violent had occurred here.

“Mr. Bad Man… Sir… if you don’t mind me asking… where is the Sampson family?”

The bad man flashed him a devilish smile. “Mr. and Mrs. Sampson are currently out marking trails for me,” was all he said. “Keep moving.”

What the hell does that mean? Nine started moving again. And then it occurred to him: He never mentioned the Sampson son. That’s when he thought about the body over his shoulder again. This thing’s light enough…

The bad man stopped just before the kitchen and turned to a door on the right. “We’re taking the mystery meat down here.”

“Is it the basement?” Nine asked, stopping again. “If it is, then I have to strongly object. Basements are a big damn ‘no no’ in any zombie apocalypse. In fact, it’s rule #6 on what to definitely not do in the apocalypse, and sixes are never good news anyway-”

“Shut up.”

“Okay.”

“Basement. Now.”

Nine started moving.

The body over his shoulder suddenly came to life.

“Shit! Fuck! Damn!” Nine cried out, as he dropped the squirming body bag and backed into a wall.

Someone was moaning, kicking and punching at the bag, trying to get out.

“Damn it!” the bad man barked at him. “Clumsy fuck! Now you did it.” He approached the body bag, knelt down and cocked his fist back. With his other hand he reached down and held the head portion of the body bag still. Within the bag, someone started screeching. The bad man
punched the bag three times until the meat was still.

Fuck me. Nine was sure whoever was in there had to be dead now.

“This one’s a nasty fucker. Took all the meds I had left in the van to put this one down. Resilient to pain, too.” The bad man shook his head and started unzipping the bag. “But I know what to do with the defiant ones. You crush their spirit, then their hope, and then you turn them into stew… piece by piece… or you become their god and make them love you.” He laughed, stopped, and turned to Nine. “And even if nothing else works, I don’t mind, because that’s when I get to carve ‘em up.” He pulled out his knife for emphasis. “You see, when you take their eyes away… it’s like all the fight in them just slips out through the sockets, like the air oozing out of a punctured life raft. That’s the best. That’s when you know they’re done… and then they become very pliable.” He resumed unzipping the body bag. “This one might make the jar. But I won’t get my hopes up.”

Oh Christ! Nine saw the bruised face of the bad man’s latest victim.

It was Gina.

~~~

It was one of the longest hours of her life. Gina had never let the paranoia creep in as much as she did hiking up that river. She expected an ambush at any moment from any direction. She had been so adamant about screwing up the bad man’s plans that she’d never considered the foolishness of exposing herself, alone in this foreign wilderness.

She began to let the doubts creep in: What if I was intended to find that body, and that asshole tricked me into heading east just to have a better chance at getting to Tony? What if I missed something along the way and now I’m traveling too far up river? What if Tony and Diane figure out what I did and catch up to me? What if I can’t stop him by myself? What if Tony’s already dead?

She stopped. “Shut the fuck up, you noisy bitch, and get your head on straight,” she scolded herself. For some reason, she was having difficulty reaching down into that cold, dark place for the emotional numbness and mental detachment that usually protected her when she needed to be the ruthless leader who did what was necessary, no matter how morally controversial her actions became. She knew what needed to be done, without compromise, and she intended to find the bad man and kill him immediately. Nothing else could factor in to her resolve or else she might doubt herself when the moment arrived for her to act quickly and without moral trivialities. Consequences for her callous acts were swiftly swallowed up in the black hole born of her insatiable anger and intense sadness.

Gina understood that she was the only one qualified to handle such an evil man and that there was no reasoning or bargaining or pleas for mercy that would stop him from enacting his revenge on Tony. People were going to die. Gina was willing to accept that Nine might be sacrificed, as well as herself, but as long as Tony survived, she could live or die with this decision.

All at once, she found what she was looking for.

Gina looked up toward the right and spotted the top of a house on a bluff overlooking the river, buried back amongst the trees. A minute later she found an old deteriorated dock along the river, and a dirt road that wound away from it and up toward that house.

She took a deep breath and let the anger in. All her fear was sucked into the blackness beneath as she became the killing machine.

There were no more dubious second thoughts, no more protests from her conscience, no petitions to God to grant her victory; she was operating far below the realm of God’s grace. Gina had a single objective and would do whatever it required to achieve it… and that was the end of it.

When she was halfway between the river and the house, any doubts that she had found the bad man’s lair were silenced when she discovered the third body.

As she drew closer, Gina saw the remains of another man. He was kneeling at the base of a tree, facing outward, his arms and legs stretched back around the tree and tied up. A bloody sack covered his head. The man wore a t-shirt with blood seeping though, like it were a thin strip of gauze placed over a wound. She knew that was where the message would be.

She carefully lifted the bloody t-shirt to reveal two words not carved this time, but painted in blood across the man’s stomach. It read:

GOTCHA

Her eyes went wide in horror when she realized her fatal mistake. She lifted her gun too late.

The man, presumably tied to the tree, brought his arms back around suddenly. One reached in and raised her gun arms up above his head, the other hand reached in while she was exposed, and put a Taser to the side of her neck.

The electric shock immediately caused Gina to convulse, drop her gun, and fall prone to the ground. She twitched like she was having a seizure as she struggled to breathe.

The bad man removed the bloody hood and looked down at his prey with his grotesque smile. “Hello, Meat. I had to adapt quickly to your unexpected move… but it was a fatal one, for you. Thanks for making my plans so much easier to accomplish.”

He touched her again with the Taser and continued to shock her until she passed out.

~~~

Next Episode 34-1

Previous Episode 33-7

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 33-8: Detour” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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