~~~

Tony watched two of the face-painted Lunatics near the back of the trucks walk off toward the upper level ramp. The other three were separated, the trucks sitting between them.

He smiled. They’re switching out with the ones upstairs. That leaves three. He turned to Diane and pointed toward the two that were rotating.

She watched them walk off and nodded.

They both understood that the odds wouldn’t get any better.

Tony took the lead, stepping out from behind the pylon with his crowbar down along his side. Diane followed, single file, using the big man as concealment.

They approached the first Lunatic at the front of the trucks. A man in a leather vest, wearing a Yankees ball cap was leaning against the grill, his assault rifle lying on the hood beside him. The man’s face paint completed his look of some sport’s fanatic.

As Tony approached, trying to appear bored, the man looked up and did a double-take, almost knocking his rifle off the truck rushing to reach for it.

“Whoa!” Tony said, raising his free hand. He kept coming. “It’s just us.”

For a moment, the Lunatic looked confused. He didn’t recognize the big man, but his face paint threw him off. He raised his rifle, then lowered it slightly. “Who the fuck are you?” he said in a younger voice.

By now the other two were moving toward the front.

Tony laughed, trying to play the part. “Wow. Don’t shoot me. I don’t want to do this shit either. But the Boss sent us to relieve you.” He kept moving.

The young Lunatic lowered the gun a little more and sighed. “No one’s supposed to relieve us for hours,” he said. “Where the fuck did you come from?”

Another Lunatic, a woman with dark hair tied to the sides in ponytails, stepped around one side of the trucks to join the Yankees fan. She was equally confused, but also kept her rifle lowered, grateful that she didn’t have to do the talking.

The third Lunatic was still somewhere near the back of the convoy and out of sight.

“Got fucking turned around trying to get in here,” Tony said. “This place is dark as shit.” He was within five feet now.

The face-painted ponytail girl gasped. “I know this dude!” she said. “He’s that fighter in the pits!”

Yankees Fan shot her a confused look.

Tony’s heart was racing. He tried not to think about how young both these Lunatics were. They clearly were just following orders and not happy about it. He tightened his grip around the crowbar. They were close enough now.

Let the anger loose. Fight quick. Fight hard. Forget just as quickly. Repeat.

“What?” Yankees Fan said. “This guy? No fucking way.”

“I’m telling you… he’s the damn Champion!” Ponytail Girl said, starting to raise her rifle. “He’s not one of us!”

“Hey, who’s that with you?” Yankees Fan also started to raise his weapon, noticing Diane’s feet behind Tony’s.

Diane stepped out from Tony’s left side, her crossbow raised over her right shoulder causing her to twist her head all the way back around to line up the shot. She was quick… and accurate.

The Ponytail Girl dropped her rifle. The crossbow bolt struck her right between the eyes. She managed to scream once before falling forward.

“Shit! Fuck!” Yankees Fan was out of time. Tony brought the crowbar down on top of his ball cap three times, crushing the young Lunatic’s skull. He collapsed to the ground, beside the girl.

They could hear footfalls echoing across the concrete, coming from farther off. The other two were coming back.

“Tony! Down!” Diane yelled. She’d already grabbed the fallen woman’s rifle.

Tony had just enough time to spot the third Lunatic, an older man with balding hair. His face paint made him look like a retired clown. The man was peering out from the back of the first truck, trying to get a clear shot.

Tony dropped to the ground as the sound of automatic rifle fire ripped across the garage, missing Tony and striking a concrete pylon in the dark.

They could hear running now. Shouting.

The balding man moved around the side of the first truck, trying to get a clear shot on the big man.

Tony was moving around the other side of the truck.

Shit! This is not going to end well! he thought.

The balding man caught up to him. “Gotcha!” he said with a shit-eating grin. He aimed at Tony’s head.

Diane fired the rifle from beneath the front of the truck, shredding the man’s legs.

The man fell to his knees, shouting out in pain.

Tony got up, let out a guttural cry, and swung the crowbar to the side, crushing the man’s jaw into the grill of the truck.

Diane rolled out from beneath the truck and immediately followed the sound of the approaching Lunatics coming up from one side of the trucks. From the prone position, and with no way to brace the front of the rifle, she tucked the butt stock into her shoulder and opened fire on two fast-moving Lunatics, making them scatter back toward the rear of the convoy.

Tony was already moving along the other side of the trucks. He surprised one Lunatic, a tall man with long hair, who nearly collided with him. Tony grabbed the barrel of the man’s rifle and ripped it from his hands. He swung the crowbar along the man’s right knee, causing him to cry out and fall back. The Lunatic stared up in horror as the big insane man’s shadow fell upon him. “Please…” he begged, staggering off toward the darkness. “Just let me go! I… I won’t tell anyone!”

There was no compromise in Tony’s blood-thirsty eyes.

The man stumbled into the dark.

Tony raised the crowbar and let it fall repeatedly on the screaming Lunatic’s flesh, splattering himself with the man’s blood.

Diane was up and moving along the other side of the trucks, trying to make herself as small as possible. She’d drawn a hunting knife she’d selected from Taven’s stash and held it out in front of her. The second man, a chubby out-of-shape Lunatic, was trying to catch his breath. Diane rushed toward the gasping man who attempted to blindly shoot from around the back of the convoy. She stabbed him in the arm, causing him to drop the weapon. The man stumbled back away from the trucks as Diane retracted the blade.

“Wait!” the man yelled at the crazy one-armed woman. He raised his hands defensively.

Diane swept the knife at them, cutting two of the man’s fingers clean off.

The man yelled out in pain as Diane stepped in under his arms and sent the hunting knife up into his rib cage. The man collapsed, falling on his back. Diane jumped on top of him and stabbed him four more times in the chest. She stopped and wiped the blood off her smeared painted face.

“Diane,” Tony said from behind her.

She turned and saw her bloody friend and was horrified. There was still blood dripping from Tony’s crowbar. What did we just do? She stared into the dead man’s open eyes that she just butchered. They said it all. She raised her bloody hands and stared at them.

“Diane!” Tony said again. “We gotta go. They’ll be more of them coming after hearing the gunshots.”

She nodded and got up off the dead man, leaving the blade in his chest.

Tony was already moving toward the back of the last box truck. He opened the door and stopped.

It was empty.

“What the fuck?” Diane said, stepping beside him.

“No,” Tony said, shaking his head. “No… no… NO!” He ran up to the second box truck and opened the door.

It too, was empty.

“No…” Tony’s arms felt heavy. He dropped the crowbar and let his shoulders fall.

From out in the dark parking garage, the sound of a single person clapping half-heartedly filled the silent space.

Tony and Diane backed away from the trucks and scanned the darkness.

“God damn!” came a familiar voice. “That was some brutally savage shit!” A long-haired woman in a long leather coat stepped out of the dark, both her guns drawn, her arms to her side. “I’m glad I let that play out. Those poor fucks didn’t even know you were coming.”

Before Tony could react, the leader of the Lunatics raised one gun and said, “Don’t even. This was over a long time ago, big guy.”

From all around them, twenty Lunatics crept out of the darkness, guns raised and aimed at the two bloody imposters. The trucks were surrounded.

Diane looked to Tony.

Tony closed his eyes and clenched his fists. What have I done?

Briana stepped up and started pacing around them, shaking her head and laughing. “Shit… you two really impressed the hell out of me… I mean that. You may not have been Lunatics when you put that shit on your faces… but you certainly look like Lunatics now. Fuck… me.”

Tony opened his eyes and stared down at the bloody crowbar. He looked up and caught Briana’s glare.

“Yeah,” she said. “You still feel it, don’t you? You want to pick that bloody stick up and ram it into my face. Don’t deny it. I can see the murder in your eyes… I can almost smell it coming off you.”

Tony didn’t move.

Briana holstered her guns and stepped within Tony’s grasp. She sized him up and smiled. “I can’t tell you how much I’m… aroused… in this moment. Seeing you all fucked-up with all that blood on you… hell… I’d fuck you right now.”

“You’re crazy,” he said. “Just shut up and kill us already.”

She laughed. “Oh… I’m not going to do that… not yet, anyway. We’ve just started this fucking shit-show.” Briana glanced at Diane. “And you! Fuck! Not bad for a gimp. I’ve clearly underestimated your… ferocity.”

“Go to hell,” Diane spat, locking eyes with the Lunatic Leader.

Briana raised her eyebrows. “Wow! There’s just no holding back from either of you. No fucking fear… at all! I like it!”

“Who tipped you off?” Tony said. “Was it Herbie?”

“Doesn’t matter,” she said, walking off. “None of it matters.” She made a rolling gesture with her gloved right hand as she started walking toward the upper level ramp.

On cue, the Lunatics moved in and seized them.

Tony tensed up but let them bind his hands behind his back. He looked over at Diane. She refused to look at him.

The Lunatics pushed them forward after Briana, who led them toward the upper deck.

On the second level roof, there were at least a dozen more Lunatics.

Tony sighed as unspoken questions were answered.

He saw Wendy and Herbie, bound and on their knees. They’d been beaten up and gagged.

“Fucking bitch,” he cursed.

Briana laughed. “That’s right. Caught these two earlier in the evening. Been watching them since they entered the Murder Shops—nasty place. We’re just gonna have you and Diane wait up here with your friends while we wait for the rest of your crew to show up… assuming we don’t catch them at Splash Landing.”

Wendy and Herbie stared up at them looking terrified and defeated.

The Lunatics placed Tony and Diane next to the others.

“I don’t suppose you want to tell me where your other friends went?” Briana said, lighting up a cigarette. “Devil’s in the details… and we just didn’t get all of it from our source.”

Diane’s eyes went wide. They don’t know where Nine, Joe and Taven went because I didn’t know about the rest of the plan when I told her!

Briana saw Diane’s surprise. She smiled. “That’s right… you know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you, Diane?”

Tony turned to the hunter.

Diane said nothing.

Briana laughed and took a drag off her cigarette. “Gotta watch who you trust in this town, girl. You just learned that the hard way.”

Diane closed her eyes and whispered, “Nadia.”

Tony nodded. He looked over at Herbie. The fat bartender just stared at the ground like a man who already knew he was dead. “Hey,” he said, getting Herbie’s attention.

The bartender looked at him.

“Thank you,” Tony said. “I was wrong about you.”

Herbie attempted a half-smile and nodded.

“Oh… isn’t that fucking touching,” Briana said. She came over and kicked Herbie in the side of the head, knocking him over.

Tony tensed up and started to rise.

“Don’t!” Briana warned, pointing in Tony’s face. “The rest of you I still need. But this one… this fat fuck… I could kill him right now… If you push me.”

Tony eased up.

“Again,” she said. “Anyone want to save us some time and tell me where the others are hiding? No? Well… I guess I’ll just have to shoot the bartender anyway.” She drew her gun and aimed it at Herbie.

“Wait!” Wendy said. “Don’t shoot him!”

Briana flashed a wicked smile over the sites of her handgun. “Got something to tell me, girl?”

Wendy looked over at Tony and Diane with uncertainty.

Tony didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t say anything, Wendy,” Herbie gasped. “She’ll just shoot me anyway. Bitch has been wanting to for a long, long time.”

Briana rolled her eyes at Herbie and sighed. She smiled at Wendy. “Sorry, girl. He’s right. Had to try, though.” She aimed the gun.

“Don’t!” Wendy cried out.

Just then, the parking garage shook as an explosion from somewhere south boomed across the night.

All the Lunatics looked at each other nervously.

Briana raised her weapon. “What… the… fuck…was that?” she said.

One of the Lunatics pointed toward an old building, up in flames to the southwest.

Briana holstered her weapon and walked over to that side of the roof to investigate.

“I think it’s the theater,” one of them told her.

“Of course, it’s the fucking theater,” she hissed. Briana turned and stormed back over to Tony. She leaned over and yelled in his face, “Why the fuck would your asshole friends do that?”

Tony smiled. “Distraction,” he said. “A little late, though.”

“Excuse me?”

“You asked where my friends were. There’s your answer,” he said.

Briana stood up and balled her fists. She let out a heavy sigh and said, “Do you have any fucking idea what you’ve just done?”

Tony gave her a confused glance.

She laughed at his bewildered expression. “You really don’t know, do you?”

Tony just stared. “We needed a storage building to blow up to get your attention off the garage,” he volunteered. “Doesn’t matter now.”

“A storage building,” she said with a sneer. “Just who the fuck is running your shit-show of a plan? That was no storage building.”

Tony waited.

“For someone who wanted to rescue trucks full of people… you certainly picked the worst target to blow up.”

“What does that mean?” Tony said.

“It means, asshole, that the theater is where we keep them all, locked in cages, until we ship them to Mosquito Creek. Those friends of yours that you just came to save… you just blew them the hell up.”

Tony looked over his shoulder at the burning building. “What the fuck?”

“What the fuck is right, Tony,” Briana said. “You just blew up our current shipment… and then some. You have no fucking clue what this means… and the trouble you’ve caused!”

Tony was in shock. Then understanding dawned on him. “How many Lunatics did you pull from the theater to be here?”

“Enough to leave that place vulnerable,” she said. “Why?”

Taven! This is what he wanted all along! He looked at his friends then back at Briana. “The theater wasn’t the distraction… we were.”

~~~

After the theater exploded shortly before dawn, citizens of New Cleveland awoke with panic written all over their faces. Lunatics scrambled from everywhere, headed to the source of the explosion, while fear mongers filled the streets, lighting their own fires with exaggerated conversations ranging from an outside attack on the town to looters causing havoc from within. Everywhere, people glared at each other with suspicion, trying to protect what was theirs and looking desperately to anyone for answers.

The blue-haired girl in the camo jacket weaved in and out of the crowd, trying to stay hidden and keep moving. Every time another Lunatic patrol raced by, she fled into another dark alley, expecting to be arrested or shot down at any moment.

Joe had reached Ollie’s Oasis when the explosion went off. After finding no one at the bar, she continued toward the pavilion near Harper’s Run, hoping Nine would be there to explain what was happening in all the confusing hell that enveloped the town.

When she finally reached the Black Jack tables, Joe imagined seeing the odd young man waiting for her. Instead, all she saw were more terrified faces gathered beneath the pavilion as if the place offered some sort of protection. She searched the crowded pavilion for Nine or any of his friends but found no one.

Joe felt incredibly alone.

Everything’s going bad, she thought, trying to hold in her tears and stop acting like a baby. After they capture the others and find out what we did to that theater, someone will mention me and they’ll hunt me down, too! She stopped near Nine’s favorite table and tried to calm herself down. Get it together. You know this town. You know where to hide if it comes to that. Just stay cool.

Someone grabbed her shoulder from behind.

Joe jumped and turned, half-expecting to see the monstrous Taven with the sharp teeth who had finally tracked her down to devour her.

“There you are!” came a familiar voice.

Joe’s eyes went wide with surprise as recognition set in.

~~~

Next Episode 52-5

Previous Episode 52-3

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-4: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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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