It was twenty minutes to eight, an hour or so after sunrise when the group finally turned down the street that led to Max’s house. Along the way they hit a zombie that was just turning onto Max’s street, a slow moving zombie whose back was to them, as he crunched under their car Steve asked, “Hey do you think it is a good idea to run them down like that? I mean, what if they get hung up on the car or something?”
Stewart gave him a look, took her coffee cup, sipped it and replied, “He didn’t seem to get hung up to me.”
“It is okay Steve, we are almost there anyway, we can fish out any parts later if we have to.” interjected Max, fending off a little fight before it happened, “It is the third house on the left there!” Max pointed to a house whose front door was open. There was a body lying in the front yard and the screen door was swinging open in the slight morning breeze. “Oh shit. Sarah! Not Sarah, not Sarah!”
“Easy Max, easy, the zed is dead right? That is a good sign.” Stewart’s brown furrowed in thought, “Hey Steve isn’t that the caddy from your work parking lot? It looks familiar.”
Steve and Tom examined the car closely, Max was too worked up and said, “Stop the car Stewart, stop the car!” while he pulled out the pistol Stewart had given him to replace his revolver.
“I think that is Diane’s car, our boss’s, boss’s boss. A few rungs up the ladder from us. It looks just like it, not a scratch on it either. Nothing like this piece of shit we are driving.” said Steve.
“Yeah I think Steve is right, it could be a different car though, but she was so friggin’ proud of that thing when she got it, we all had a look.” added Tom.
“Stewart, let me out. Unlock the door.” said Max. Stewart had the ability to keep the back doors locked, this car was a police cruiser, after all, she turned to Max and said, “Calm down Max, we are going in, but we are not going to go rushing in.” She slowed the car to a stop parallel to the street in front of the driveway, so she would not have to back out.
“Okay is everybody ready? We all have bullets for all the guns, shotgun shells, pistol bullets? Good. Max I think someone else should lead, me, with you second to tell me where to go. If your wife is one of them I won’t hesitate, you might. Steve you or Tom need to stay with the car in the driver’s seat and be ready to go, the driver keeps the ‘over and under’ rifle that Hank gave us. I get the shotgun.”
Tom agreed to stay with the car and moved to the driver’s seat while Stewart, Max and Steve lined up alongside the car and prepared to move into the house.
Despite the planning Max started towards the house ahead of Stewart, she looked after him, shrugged her shoulders and jogged after him. Worse yet he called out “Sarah!” as he burst through the front door.
Steve paused a second before jogging after Stewart, making the line of them a bit staggered, he was just reaching the front door when Max’s first pistol shot rang out.
Max ran into his living room, past a female zombie who was standing there and heading towards his kitchen, where he saw a confusing scene in his dining room. His table and chairs had been shoved to one side to make room against the far wall. The zombies in the room were standing in the space shouting at each other, they looked almost human, the large male that Max had seen in the bathroom at work had a red face from arguing. Max recognized Nancy, her eyes widened and she started to move when she looked at him. A split second passed then Max started firing bullets into Nancy, trying to get a clean head shot, he was pretty sure he hit her in the neck and chest, the other shot went high or left or right, she was so fast!
Stewart meanwhile was not content to leave a zombie behind her and before entering the kitchen she paused to put two shots into the zombie in the living room. She turned back to Steve and said, “Watch our backs, we’ll call if we need you!” and then hurried towards the kitchen.
The male zombie, Jimbo, quickly grasped the nature of what was happening and taking Veronica by the arm he pulled her close, lifted her up and hurled her bodily towards Max. Max tried to duck, but the stitching and pain in his ribs did not afford him enough agility to do so, he went down in a heap with Veronica on top of him at Stewart’s feet. Stewart was hit high by a chair as soon as she entered the kitchen, by a follow up throw by Jimbo, who was calling out, “Julie bring those guys in! It’s Max! It’s Max!”
Jimbo, then reached over and broke off a wooden table leg, as easy as someone would snap a twig, and advanced quickly over to Max on the floor. Underneath a screaming and yelling Veronica, Max could hardly move, his gun hand was sticking out from under her body and he fired off a lucky shot that somehow caught Jimbo in the thigh, momentarily spinning him around. Veronica, instead of pulling herself towards Max to bite and rend him with her teeth, pushed herself up and rolled sideways off his body.
“Fucking asshole!” Jimbo screamed as he tried to duck, get closer and hit Max with his table leg all at the same time. He succeeded in none of his efforts, missing Max because he was not close enough and while he was able to duck, the close quarters could not get him out of the way of Stewart’s shotgun, which caught him on the left shoulder, neck and head, flipping him completely end over end, his table leg went flying up into the air to be snatched by Veronica as she climbed to her feet. She spun and hurled it at Stewart with deadly force. Taking it full in the chest Stewart let out a small moaning sound and fell back into the living room.
Veronica turned, looked at the overall situation, picked Nancy up and hurled her out through the back patio doors onto the patio. Badly shot and now sporting a few deep cuts, Nancy was still clinging to her undead life.
Meanwhile Max scrambled to regain his feet. Steve, seeing Stewart fall back into the room, rushed to her side, Stewart said weakly, “I’m alright, Go help Max.”
“Sure, you just stay here and cover our asses.” Steve said proping her body up against the wall. He then pressed his pistol into her hand and asked, “Can you lift it? Stewart! Can you shoot it?!”
She nodded ‘yes’ and said, “That bitch was Nancy's girl, Veronica? I’ll be okay, I’m wearing my vest, I just. Got. The. Wind…” and she passed out.
“Fuck! Fuck! Stewart! Goddamn it!” hearing more shots and the sounds of fighting from the kitchen, Steve looked around the living room for any remaining threats, seeing none he made the decision to help Max. Crawling over to the shotgun he picked it up, stood and headed into the kitchen. Reloading the shotgun with extra shells he had in his own pockets.
Max stood up and leveled his pistol at Veronica.
“Fuck, don't move! You're Veronica, right? Don’t Veronica, don’t!” Veronica didn’t listen and picked up a chair to throw at Max. Max shot her, he missed her head, but she flinched when she threw and the chair ended up embedded in the drywall next to Max’s torso.
“Fine bitch, just die!” and he aimed more carefully and pulled the trigger, the first shot was loud and on target, striking Veronica directly over her heart, she staggered back through the patio doors, a second later she came flying back through them at Max, halting at the sight of his pistol about eight feet from her head. The silence was audible as he pulled the trigger. Click. He was out of ammo.
“Shit!” Max leaped backwards and pulled the chair from the wall, swinging it around he met Veronica's charge with it. He felt the stitches in his stomach rip out as he did this and let loose a feral scream as he turned with the chair.
Veronica surged forward pressing Max back, the force of her rush pinned the top of the chair to the wall behind Max and one of the legs slid into her rib cage impaling her with her own momentum. “Fuck!” she screamed, one of her hands did not seem to be working right anymore. Stepping back from Max the chair was pulled from his hands and she then tried to pull the impaled leg out of her torso with her one good arm. For all of her strength it was not working!
Max stumbled and tried to follow up on Veronica’s weakness, when he found moving around was too painful he fumbled in his pocket for the extra bullets he had there, remembering Stewart’s instructions he pulled the slide on the pistol back and carefully put a bullet in the chamber. Veronica went down on one knee, seeing Max reload the gun, she half rose and scrambled for the door, yelling, “Julie! Get in here!” Max popped the clip out of the gun trying to concentrate on three things at once which was not making his job any easier, first he had to load the clip again, there was no spare with the pistol, second he had to watch Veronica, and third he had to try and remain on his feet as blood poured down the front of his stomach. One bullet, two bullets, three bullets, four, Veronica reached the patio doors and lurched outside, still yelling for Julie. As she went Max could still hear her grotesquely pounding on the chair leg, trying to get it out.
Suddenly Max was pushed from behind as Steve rushed into the kitchen, he lost hold of the clip, tracked it with his eyes as it fell down in slow motion to the tile floor. Steve looked at Max, offered him an arm to steady him and said, “Sorry Max!” then headed towards the patio door.
“Hey Steve, wait! The clip man, I don’t think I can bend over, get me the clip!” Max yelled to no avail at Steve’s back. Max heard the shotgun go off and he went to his knees to try and reach the clip himself, he managed to reach it as another shotgun blast went off.
Outside Steve ran into a strange scene, Veronica was near one edge of the house, she looked to be running away, supporting Nancy as she went, two other female zombies were wrestling over a little boy, who clutched a tire iron in one hand, beneath the boys feet was the body of a woman, another zombie, Steve thought. He leveled the shotgun and fired at the woman holding the boys right hand, the shot took her in the chest and splattered the six foot fence with gore as it tore through her body, she did not let go of the little boy when she fell, but tugged him backwards, putting all three of them in a line. Steve walked forward to get a side shot on the other zombie, once he had her lined up he fired into her neck, decapitating her, she immediately let go of the boy and fell, the chest shot woman pulled the boy to her and used him as a shield. Steve did not fire for fear of hitting the boy and used the time to reload more shells into the shotgun.
“Shit! Max! One of them has a boy, looks like your kid maybe!” Steve shouted out.
Max heard Steve shout, he had just jammed the clip home and re-cocked the pistol when he saw the male zombie in the kitchen rise up, the zombie held out his hand, as if saying, “Stop” and Max did not fire.
“Where are my wife and kids?” Max asked him.
“In the attic, we didn’t do anything to them. Let me pass and I’ll leave, you don’t shoot, we both walk away. This was a dumb-fuck idea from the start. Revenge, why bother?” said the man.
“I can’t, you know I can’t let you go, you will just kill more people, I can’t.” replied Max.
“Wait, wait a minute, you’re Max, right?” Max nodded, “They call me Jimbo, and I don’t have a beef with you, even though you shot me I will just walk away and never bother you again, but if you shoot me again, well, you better shoot real good, ‘cause if you miss I will tear you limb from limb. Then, after you I will go and get your wife and kids too. You understand? You ain’t looking too good Max and that little thirty eight pistol you got there is not too accurate anyway, just let me go and we are even, you get your kids, I get to live, everybody is happy.”
Max was interrupted by another shotgun blast, part of the shot passed into the kitchen through the back door and he heard Steve yelling, “Oh pig-fucker!”
Outside Steve was trying to get a shot on the zombie woman and was creeping closer to her when he was struck from behind by a lawn chair. Veronica had thrown the lawn chair despite still having one of the dining room chair legs thrust through her body. With a final pull the dining room chair came out and she raised it in front of her to fend off Steve's next shot, which came in her direction. Steve had spun around to see who had thrown the chair, which was too light to have really hurt him, he raised the shotgun as Veronica finally pulled the chair impaling her out, then fired a shot at her. The shot went through the chair, but missed her completely, it continued past to hit Nancy as she was trying to stand up on the patio. The effects of this shot were horrendous, it caught her at the right breast and literally blew her entire shoulder and arm off, spinning her around to face the house. Nancy stood there for a moment longer then fell on her face and lay very still.
Veronica tossed the remnants of the dining room chair at Steve and followed it up with a flying tackle. They went down in a heap, Steve dropped the shotgun to have the use of both hands, but Veronica was by far the stronger. They wrestled around ineffectively while Cory watched, he struggled but the woman holding him tightened her grip and stood up awkwardly. The zombie wanted to help out Veronica but did not want the boy to interfere again, so she tossed him over the six foot fence in the yard behind Max's house. Cory hit a pine tree, breaking off branches and spinning head over heels as he did so. He came to a rest in the dirt below the tree, winded, but otherwise unhurt.
Max looked at Jimbo, Jimbo stared back and said, “C’mon man, I walk out, you go help your friend and get your wife and kids. Just do it.”
Nervously, Max replied, “What about them? In the backyard?”
Shaking his head side the side Jimbo answered, “No man, no, I can’t control them, but if you let me go I won’t help them and won’t bother you again, I promise.”
Hating himself Max nodded once and gestured with his gun for Jimbo to leave. Jimbo didn’t hesitate for a second, he turned and lurched through the doors, once outside he saw what remained of Nancy, ‘The bitch still isn’t dead!’, he thought to himself. Seeing Veronica wrestling with one of the humans on the ground Jimbo was tempted to help, then opted to just move on. Bobby was out there somewhere, they could start their own gang, as he left though Jimbo could not help but stomp viciously on Nancy’s head as he passed, ending any thought of her ever controlling him again. Jimbo went to the side of the house, saw the police cruiser out front and opted to cut through the back yard of one of Max’s neighbors, working his way slowly and keeping cover between him and the street. Concentrating he mentally called out to Bobby, “Bobby, you got that boy? I am in real need of nourishment right now!”
An answer came back, “He got away, I have a girl with me now.” Jimbo could tell which direction and the approximate distance from him where Bobby was and immediately set off in that direction sending, “You’re away from where I thought you would be, we’ll talk in a few minutes. Get under cover somewhere.”
Max watched Jimbo go with some doubt, he paused to check his gun and then stepped through the broken out patio doors into the backyard.
Steve was in trouble with a capital ‘T’, and he knew it. 'If I don’t get this bitch off me I am going to die!' his body surged with adrenaline and he flopped and rolled away from Veronica and her friend, standing up he backed towards the swing set in Max’s yard, looking about for a weapon. He spied the shotgun behind Veronica, definitely out of reach. Veronica was no slower than Steve at getting up and he was surprised she did not rush him. Then he saw she was coordinating with her friend, 'Not good.' he thought, then said, “Ladies, maybe we can work this out?” playing for time, time for Max to get out here, he hoped.
Veronica leered at him and said, “Sure buddy, just stand right there and I will make it quick for you.” She too looked around and spied the shotgun lying on the ground, “Oh man you're dead we got you! Not so tough without your gun are you?” As she bent to pick up the shotgun Steve knew he had to rush her or face getting shot and there was nowhere to run, no cover except the swing set.
He rushed towards Veronica like a bull when she was still bending over, she saw him coming and struggled to pull the gun up and shoot him. At the same time her friend intercepted Steve from the side, tackling him in mid-tackle. They both went down while Veronica yelled, “Roll clear so I can shoot him!”
In an ironic twist Steve found himself clinging to the zombie woman so Veronica could not get a clear shot. The shotgun exploded in a loud blast. 'So this is what it feels like to be on the barrel side of a shotgun when it goes off.' Steve thought to himself, at the same time he was yelling loudly and trying to force the zombie woman on top of him. She was stronger than he was and managed to pull away, Steve rolled away as another round from the shotgun went off. He got to his feet in a rush, turning he saw Veronica pumping the shotgun one handed, she stepped in closer to him and when the barrel was about two feet from his stomach she started to pulled the trigger.
A shot rang out from the back patio and Veronica staggered under the blow of yet another gunshot wound, snarling she fired the shotgun point blank into Steve’s stomach. Steve stood there for a second, not quite understanding what had just happened, slowly the world started spinning and growing fuzzier. He saw the grass, the sky Max wildly shooting almost in slow motion, the back fence with a small arm and body climbing over it, then he saw no more.
Max saw the shotgun go off, a spray of blood and pellets erupted from his friend’s back. Steve stood there for a long second, not falling over and Max had hope that maybe Veronica had just winged him, then he started to spin around and Max saw the full extent of the damage, the shot was dead center out of Steve’s back.
“No!” Max shouted.
Veronica turned towards Max and fired the shotgun again as he continued to shoot at her, the gun clicked on an empty chamber and Veronica took a shot to her good upper arm in return. The shotgun fell unwillingly from her hand. Seeing this Max shifted his aim and his third shot was at the other zombie that had started to move towards him, catching her in the stomach, which barely slowed her. Veronica ran towards the six foot fence on the side of Max’s yard, she could not move either of her arms very well and did not even try to climb the fence, instead she took a flying leap. She did not clear the fence, she hit it about four feet up, a very good jump that enabled her to bend her torso over enough to fall into the yard next door out of sight. Barely pausing she got up and continued running through the backyard following the same path that Jimbo had taken moments before.
Max noticed a small hand appear on the back fence, as he watched a small boy pulled his head above the fence line, there was blood running down his face. As he pulled himself over the fence Max could see he was still clutching a tire iron. It was too soon to tell if he was a zombie or not, but given a choice Max would rather face a zombie child than a zombie woman any day of the week.
Max leveled the pistol at the zombie woman coming towards him, hoping he had one more bullet left, as she approached to within four feet he shot her once in the head and she dropped spinelessly to the ground.
“Is Amelia okay?!” yelled the boy as Max turned towards him.
Lowering the gun, and moving towards Steve, Max replied, “Who?”
“Amelia! She found me in the hotel.” As if that explained everything. He continued to climb over the fence and Max could see he had a large bruise on his back that was oozing blood through his torn shirt, in addition to the cuts on his head. As his legs cleared the fence Max saw more of the damage, a bloody cut running down his right leg, dripping blood and finally there was another cut on the top of his left foot that was also bleeding, one foot was bare, the other had a large flip flop on it. Seeing Max watch him Cory said, “I had flip-flops that I stole from a convenience store, but one of them flew on the roof when she threw me over the fence. Amelia got me more shoes in the car. I think my game boy is broke too.” He took a small square of plastic out of his front pocket and showed Max, there was a long crack running across the front of the device and despite Cory’s insistent pushing of what Max assumed was a power button, nothing was happening.
Looking at the carnage in his backyard Max contrasted it to the small boy pressing the buttons on his game. His life had become a surreal nightmare. Going over to Steve he knelt down and checked his friend. Steve's eyes were rolled back into his head, he was not breathing, but his mouth was moving feebly open and closed, open and closed. Then that movement stopped too and his friend was deathly still. Tears wet the corners of his eyes and he stood watch over his friend for a moment, waiting to see if he would rise from the dead and reloading his pistol in case he needed it. After a couple of minutes of vigilance Max decided that Steve wasn't coming back. He turned back towards the house, dragging the boy along with him as he went, carrying the bleeding boy over the broken glass littering his back porch. As he carried him over the glass Max said, “My name is Max. What is your name?”
“Cory. Is she okay? Is Amelia okay Max?”
“I don't know, I didn't see her in the house, so...I don't know.”
As they entered the kitchen Max set Cory down well clear of the broken glass, the boy ran yelling towards the living room “Amelia! Amelia! Where are you?”
Stewart was leaning up against the wall halfway from the living room to the kitchen, a trickle of blood was coming out of the corner of her mouth. She grunted and rolled over to her hands and knees, as Max brushed by her.
Once in the living room Max called up the stairs, “Sarah! Sarah, if you are there it is me! Max! Sarah, are you up there?”
Cory had gone out into the front yard and was looking wildly around, calling for Amelia.
Cries of “Daddy! Daddy!” came muffled from upstairs and Max bounded up them two at a time until he was standing underneath his attic access door. The floor was covered with loose insulation and next to the door in the ceiling was a hole through the drywall, blood was smeared along one side of the hole. As Max watched a small face appeared in the hole and looked down at him.
“Nick?” Max called up to his son, “Is everything okay buddy?”
“No mom is hurt, something pulled her leg down into the floor and hurt her, she is bleeding really bad, help her dad!” Max's son said.
Another voice joined his son's, “Max is that you?”
Nick's face was pushed aside rather quickly and Max found himself staring at Amelia, the secretary from work.
“Amelia? How did you get here?”
“I drove, I thought you would be here when we got here.”
“We thought you were dead. When did you get here?”
“About twenty minutes ago. Let me push the ladder down.”
Amelia moved sideways and Nick's face reappeared, dirt streaked and anxious. The swinging door opened and the rickety wooden stair ladder unfolded.