The parking lot was nearly empty. Only three vehicles sat against the curb. Helfron peered into each one, checking the level of fuel. Only one had a non-electronic tank and it read only less than a quarter full.
Shannon kept watch. The day was growing hotter fraying her already stretched nerves. This is what it feels like to be exposed, she thought. Mentally she chided Helfron for his task. It may have been needed, but her concern was the guests. Any people still alive might not approve of anyone, cops included, of looking through their car. If wasn’t even a certainty that any survivors would want to join their little group
“Come on, Dennis. Shit. You’re taking all day.”
“Almost done,” he said, opening the rear hatch to the last vehicle, an older Jeep Grand Cherokee. He shut the hatch carefully, bumping it with a hip to latch it fully. “Nothing worth squat in any of these. If the owners are dead or… whatever,” he paused, taking precious moments Shannon felt like they didn’t have in thinking how to phrase his words. “If they’re dead,” he said finally. “We can use the gas or the vehicles themselves to get the hell out of here.” He jogged to Shannon, looking over his shoulder.
“Not thinking this’ll blow over any more?”
“The way I see it, we need to start thinking like this is it; the end of civilization. Time to start thinking about minute to minute survival. Let’s start the sweep, room by room.”
Shannon didn’t feel the need to respond. He was right. What she worried most of all was that if lycans she normally hunted were operating in the light of day then the end was certainly more permanent than transitory.
The first five rooms were empty, three of which had been abandoned in such a hurry as the occupants had left the doors standing open. The sixth was where they found the scattered luggage for a family. A handmade blue and white-checkered bear lay on a bed next to a stuffed Scooby Doo holding an equally stuffed box of Scooby Snacks. It was logical to assume that the animals belonged to the zombie children Deidre had seen earlier.
Shannon didn’t know whether she should feel relieved by the small amount of blood in the room.
“Looks like these people bugged out pretty quick,” said Shannon.
“Got smart; took the kids and hit the road.”
“Not according to Deidre.” Shannon told a condensed version of Deidre’s story. Helfron wasn’t surprised to hear about Greg. He laughed at that, but he found the kids interesting; more so with the lack of accompanying zed-head parents. She finished holding the stuffed bear, wondering what the children had been like.
“Nothing we can do here,” Helfron said, tossing an empty 9mm ammunition box aside. Under the tossed blankets on the other bed was an empty box for .45 ACP ammo. “One of them liked your caliber,” he muttered, turning to the door.
Shannon heard Helfron’s breath catch and she spun around. A wild-eyed man stood in the doorway, pointing his own M1911A1 at them. “Put the bear down,” he said, teeth gritted. “Now! And then back away, weapons on the ground, and hands up. I’m being nice just by not shooting you both.” Helfron stood his ground even as Shannon told him to do as he was told. She placed her pistol on the floor and backed up. She could see the man’s unblinking eyes and his finger start to squeeze the trigger. It was clear the guy had the will, the training, and maybe even the experience.
“Do what he says, Dennis. He’s not screwing around.”
Shannon urged the man not to shoot, and ordered Helfron to do what he’d been told. The man’s finger squeezed a bit more. She could hear the pistol’s sear move. He was about to put the last few ounces on the trigger to fire.
Helfron finally did as he was told. Shannon didn’t know if she should be relieved or more worried. Under the right circumstances she could heal quickly from a gunshot wound while Helfron would just be dead. She didn’t think the man would execute them both, but it was hard to tell with people’s state of mind in the current world.
Shannon could smell the man’s determination mixed with fear. Lingering close by was the scent of a woman in the worst kind of pain.
“Take it easy, okay?” She hoped to get the man to relax his trigger finger. He’d eased up some, but not much. He was in his mid thirties and kept his hair cropped at the scalp. She was sure that if he had hair it would be standing on end. “No one wants to hurt you. Are you lost? Maybe looking for somewhere to go?” Shannon realized that the man was concentrating on Helfron, but on her. Instinct or training, the man knew the real threat was Shannon. Or maybe the bear meant the world to him. He kept his pistol focused one her, even after she laid it back on the bed like a priceless, fragile heirloom.
“What are you doing here?” asked Helfron.
The man, presumably the father, walked in, keeping distance between him and Helfron. He gripped his 1911 with practiced hands. Though he was afraid, his hands did not shake.
“I asked you a question.” Helfron sounded annoyed.
The man adjusted his aim to Helfron. “Normally I’d answer a cop, but there’s no government anywhere so piss on you.” He aimed the pistol at Shannon. “You, move away from the bed. I haven’t killed either of you yet because you haven’t done anything stupid. Don’t change that.”
“Buddy, if you point that gun at me again…” Helfron took a half step toward the man.
“Yeah, you’ll make me sorry. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not worried about that shit anymore.” The man moved closer to the bed once Shannon complied. Shannon briefly looked into his eyes. They were red and puffy.
“All I want is Checkers, the Scooby, and the Pooh Bear my kids left behind. That’s all, nothing more. I don’t care what you do after that. I just want those stuffed animals.”
“The kids, two girls between five and eight, and a boy around eleven or twelve, are they yours?” Shannon’s mind was clearer than Helfron’s. All Helfron saw was a gun being pointed at him. Shannon saw a man in pain that had just caught two looters in his room.
“They were. They’re dead now.”
The father collected the two toys and moved through the blankets looking for the stuffed yellow bear. Helfron made a move to the father to take him down, but the father’s foot became caught in a blanket and he fell. Helfron’s chance at being macho evaporated.
The father fell onto his back and fired. Helfron’s chest took two rounds in the chest. His bulletproof vest stopped them, but not the third follow-up shot to the face. The father had fallen into the perfect position to kill Helfron.
Shannon lunged toward the father, but her forehead met the steel slide of his weapon. The blow sent her reeling to the foot of the bed. Shannon cursed her stupidity at being taken by a human as the father placed the hot muzzle of his .45 against her left temple.
He climbed on top of her, but there was nothing sexual about his intentions. His left arm hugged the two found stuffed animals close to his chest. “All I wanted was the animals. Damned if I wasn’t right when I said people were stupid. Do you want to die, too?” His eyes were cold and his teeth clenched. He pressed the muzzle harder into her forehead.
“You’re going to kill me too, aren’t you?” The sizzle of hot metal against her warm flesh stood out against the pulse pounding in her ears. Her future was unsure and Shannon saw no harm in asking a simple question, even if it was her last and a very stupid one.
“No. No, I’m not that far gone. You just tried to help your friend even if you might be looters. I don’t care either way, but I’m not going to kill you. I should though. I can’t begin to tell you how easy it is to kill someone once you’ve killed your own children.”
His statement caught Shannon off guard. She didn’t know how to react to what he’d said. “You killed your kids? Are you out of your fucking mind?” Her voice rose and she fought to keep an uncontrolled change from occurring.
“They were undead, but yeah, I killed them. They didn’t come after us once they turned but…” His eyes finally blinked to hold back tears. “They killed two other people. Ate them like wild fucking animals. I couldn’t let them do it again. Somebody had to do something and it might as well be a parent, right?” A tear rolled down his left cheek. “I’m going to get the Pooh Bear, and then I’m going to leave, all right? And you, you’re not going to do anything stupid, right? I’m not going to have to kill you, too, am I?”
Fear coursed through Shannon for the umpteenth time in the past twenty-four hours. The father couldn’t have known that she was a werewolf, but like humans a head shot, even with regular ammo, would put a lycan down for good. And she had no doubt that he would do it. He showed that killing somebody, even a cop, had been very easy for him. Finally she forced words from her mouth. The air that came with them was dry and it seemed as if the desert had taken refuge in her throat. “Yes,” she said, trembling. “You’ll get no trouble from me. Take them and go. I’m just going to stay here a while.”
“Thanks,” the father said, rising from her chest. He located the missing stuffed bear and left without saying anything further. He ran through the doorway, clutching the toys tightly to his chest, pistol still in hand, but held at his side.
Shannon didn’t move for almost a minute. Then she stood, and walked to the door. She was surprised to see the father and a redheaded woman sitting together in a minivan. The mother held the toys to her face as the he held her. The woman’s body shook with her sobbing. The father was crying with her.
She watched the parents, saddened for their loss, and for her own. She swallowed a sudden lump in her throat, and realized that she too was crying. The father looked up at her, and then the mother. The father nodded to Shannon, put the vehicle into gear, and left. Shannon simultaneously wished them luck while cursing the father for killing Helfron.
Her tears did nothing to vent the anger, and her complete of helplessness. With a rage filled howl she let the change take her over. At the last minute she unbuckled her gun belt. Her already ruined waitress uniform barely held on thanks to a few strained stitches.
Shannon went about destroying the room in a fit of lycanthropic rage. A nightstand, followed by the television shattered against a wall. Great holes, made by furniture and her fists, were made in the drywall. She utilized strength she normally never used. The sink fixed to a wall alcove gave with no resistance as she wrenched it free. She launched it through a window. It landed through the windshield of an abandoned Chevy Chevette. The impact pushed the car back three feet as it landed in the back seat.
Her rage went unabated until she lifted Helfron’s cold body to her face. She stared at his listless head, and then at the blood trickle congealing from the entry wound around the now nonexistent left eye. Though he was dead she still felt his presence, and she began to yearn for his company. She loathed the feeling. This was why she tried her damnedest not to make attachments and broke any she made quickly before moving on.
A startled gasp echoed from the door. Still clutching Helfron’s body she turned to see Rose and Greene. She almost flew back into her rage. Again someone had been able to get physically close to her. Instead she started staring at their horrified faces with a snarl etched on hers. Greene recovered faster than Rose.
“What the fuck did you do?” he said in a low voice, pulling his weapon free of its holster. “What did you do, Shannon?” He yelled it that time. Fear, anger, confusion, and shock energized him into facing her.
“I did nothing,” Shannon said in muted defiance. “I didn’t kill him.” She looked closely at Greene’s hands. His finger started squeezing the trigger. She hadn’t had to dodge a bullet in several years. She felt that she could do it again.
“What did you do to him?” said Greene. He was starting to annoy Shannon.
Rose remained silent behind the hands clasped to her mouth. She stood her ground as Greene inched into the room, pistol aimed at Shannon’s head. Shannon knew her chances of dodging at least four of his shots were excellent, but she knew he’d dumpt the entire fifteen at her. If he got too close she would try to disarm him, and hopefully she wouldn’t kill him. Still her mind formed killing plans on its own. She could easily kill him along with the old lady that had taken her in. All that mattered now was her annoyance with them was growing, and with it the dark red pall of the killing lust.
“I didn’t kill him,” growled Shannon, mind still forming its plans. No, she screamed to herself, fighting against it. “Keep back, both of you. And you, Greene. If you keep pointing that at me I swear to God I’ll fucking kill you.” The bloodlust was reaching a critical point. The smell of blood and released bodily functions acted like an invigorating aphrodisiac. The stink of spill blood and loosed bowels and bladder made her conscious head spin. Never before had she threatened an innocent. Doing so was a mixture of delicious release and despicable revulsion.
“You’re a fucking dog,” yelled Greene. “Nothing but a fucking rabid mutt!” He repeatedly jerked the trigger. He had fifteen rounds, and out of the ten fired, none but one made contact.
Rose screamed with hands held to her ears as Shannon jinked left, right, and low in a flurry of moves that were hard to follow.
A hot round creased her left temple. The shot was mostly near good luck on Greene’s part, and dumb luck on Shannon’s. She ignored the sting and closed with Greene. She witnessed everything, but was helpless to stop her actions. Instinct was in control now, and Greene and Rose were totally fucked.
Without any thought Shannon knocked Greene’s gun out of his hand and grabbed him by the throat. At her tallest in lycan form she could easily hold a six and a half foot tall human nearly two feet off the floor. She was well over seven feet tall, and raising the startled trooper off his feet was painfully easy. Without effort she whipped him back first into the ceiling. Shattered ceiling tiles and aluminum bracing fell to the floor. She did this five more times, destroying a new section each time. She released him in mid throw on the sixth time.
She stepped away, watching him fall face first to the ground. The thump Greene made from landing gratified her seething hatred.
“Filthy meat!” Shannon cried, kicking him into the mirror that hung over the bathroom sink’s empty cavity. “I should fucking kill all of you! Free you from your useless, pitiful lives and this horror movie you think you’re in!” She leaped to his body, lifted him to her face, and sniffed him for any signs of life. He had none. Shannon relished the feeling of her dead prey even though her trapped humanity begged for her to stop.
Rose tried to run, but she didn’t get far. Shannon jumped on her back, breaking it in several places. “You’ll never survive this mess any way! You’re just too goddamned old!” Shannon howled angrily as she bent Rose backwards and then snapped her neck. The sound and feeling the shattering bones made was satisfying. Shannon grasped Rose’s neck. Her fingertips met and she smiled as the older woman’s heart beat slowed, and then stopped.
Shannon was standing back up when a locomotive slammed into her neck. Three inches up and Shannon might not have had to contend with the vengeful pain accompanying the hit. The impact sent her flailing back into the demolished hotel room. Hissing noises filled the air as two more burning sensations lit up her lower abdomen and her left thigh. Shannon remembered someone saying that a hiss means a shot is close while a snap means a shot is farther off. Someone was shooting at her, and coming danger close to ending Shannon’s life. Would it be so bad if it did, she pondered as the pain announced itself to her nervous system.
“Should’ve known,” screamed Deidre from the parking lot of the diner. She was over eighty feet from Shannon and armed with a US military M16A3 with scope.
Shannon peeked over the Rose’s body and saw the woman she dared to call friend, advancing on her with a purpose. Shannon didn’t waste much time in counting her lucky stars that she hadn’t been killed. Deidre was pissed and that counted for sloppy marksmanship that wouldn’t last.
She fought through her new found panic, fear, and pain as she launched herself off the pavement, grabbing the railing to the second floor above and swinging herself up.
5.56mm rounds hit the base of the concrete walkway as. Shannon burst through a door not caring if the room was empty or not.
Relief filled Shannon as she scanned the room for trouble. It was empty, and she was grateful for that. She low crawled to the door and slammed it shut, ashamed at her cowering position. “I’m a fucking werewolf,” she snarled aloud. “I shouldn’t be hiding. I should be hunting.” She shook her head at the thought that she sounded like a James Bond villain from the sixties.
She took a deep breath and then examined her wounds. The wounds were healing, but they hurt like that son of a bitch Greg always referred to when he got stupid with a knife. The neck wound had stopped bleeding thanks to the hair around it, and blood dribbled from her stomach and leg wounds. The thigh wound wasn’t that bad. It was a deep graze and had nothing on the stomach wound. She tried not to look at that one. The wound sucked itself in and out in slight pulses as her body pushed the foreign object to the surface. It would be another twenty or thirty minutes before she was healed, and time wasn’t someone she was on good terms with at that moment.
Deidre was coming. She was coming, and checking her weapon’s ammo as she ran up the stairs. Shannon could hear Deidre’s approaching footsteps, and smell her sweat and anger even through the death that surrounded them. She was simultaneously proud and pissed off at Deidre’s determination. Deidre was the type that engaged a target until it was dead. Running was never a first resort in her life and Shannon knew that. She knew she had a minute, maybe less, before Deidre found her.
Shannon looked around the room, kicking herself mentally for letting herself get boxed in. That had been the human overruling the lycan in a bad way. A wolf of any stripe would never have made such a stupid move. It was a given that Deidre had time and extra magazines on her side. Deidre also had multiple fall back points if things became too much while Shannon’s exit strategy was limited to breaking down a wall, which would leave her back exposed, or trying to go through a pissed human female with a fully automatic weapon. Like it or Shannon had a fight only situation.
Shannon could hear Deidre moving down the open air concrete and steel pathway, kicking in doors one at a time. Each crash/boom of the doors flying open had a different timing to it as the noise came closer. She listened and breathed in the rank fear and rage that Deidre now cloaked herself in.
Deidre’s odors brought Shannon back fully to the reality of her actions. Remorse would only go so far in getting past what she’d done. The situation made her face that fact that she’d have to do something to Deidre, and not about her.
Deidre was at the last room before Shannon’s refuge. Shannon winced in pain as she crouched on the other side of the broken, hinged barrier. She heard Deidre pause. She’s looking the frame over, thought Shannon. Deidre knew she had Shannon; she just had to devise a quick and decisive plan to engage the rogue lycan.
Shannon didn’t give her that chance. She burst through the door and leapt over the railing before sprinting on all fours toward the diner. Deidre hadn’t been on the other side of the door. She’d moved to the adjoining room, intent on ambushing Shannon through a false-walled side door that joined the two rooms. Shannon had forgotten about the doors that joined a few rooms together on that floor. Was it luck or God that had made her move before Deidre could catch her? Shannon didn’t know either way. She muttered a prayer of thanks anyway, wondering why God would even spare her after what she’d done.
Deidre appeared through the door Shannon had fled through. She fired at Shannon, using the scope this time. A round hit Shannon in her right calf. She dove through the diner’s doors shattering one of them. Tears of pain filled her eyes and shards of glass glistened brightly on her coat.
More shots greeted her as she slid across the checkered floor. Kelsey was behind the cook’s window, firing wildly. She looked scared; her aim was wilder than her eyes. Rance was crying, begging for his mother to stop.
Shannon heard the clack of a semiautomatic pistol slide locking back. She was confident that Kelsey was out of ammo, and didn’t know how to reload. Shannon stood, panting heavily and the wont to kill rose in her once more. Her lupine jowls parted in a sneer of hatred hunger, and bloodlust. She watched the single mother try to fit a new magazine into the 9mm Beretta she held.
“Learn how to shoot and reload that thing before using it, bitch!” Shannon’s conscious mind screamed for her wolf ego to stop. She couldn’t. She charged at Kelsey, unheeding the wound in her leg. Her leap over the counter was clumsy and poorly thought out. She failed to clear the obstacle, and her left shin hit the steel counter edge facing her. She slid over the counter and landed forcefully onto the floor. It gave Kelsey and Rance a short reprieve from the Shannon’s promise of pain.
Pushing herself up, Shannon got a glimpse of the bullet peeking out from the calf wound. The body was healing as it should, but Shannon didn’t know how much more of the pain she could take. Her calf screeched in protest as she flipped over to examine the wound more closely. Her body worked at the projectile, and blood seeped from jagged hole. It was the stomach wound that gave her the most trouble. She’d never been gut shot before. She’d been told that it sucked, but this was totally unexpected. She was still bleeding profusely from that hit.
Shannon breathed in deeply. It was a reflex against the pain, and she swore as she felt the lump of metal twist its way back toward the entry hole. She was running out of time if the werewolf DNA wanted Kelsey and Rance dead. Sooner or later she would run out of the needed juice to continue pursuit or she’d pass out from the pain and blood loss. Being a werewolf didn’t mean she was totally unstoppable.
The diner’s door opened almost silently. Shannon heard it and knew that a cooler, more collected killer was closing.
“I think I just shot Shannon,” Kelsey screamed from the back. “What do I do? I think it was Shannon. Oh my, God! I’m so sorry! I think I shot Shannon!”
“Shut up,” snapped Deidre. “Trust me when I say shooting Shannon wasn’t a bad thing.” Deidre’s feet made none of the usual squeaking noises on the linoleum floor. Shannon could still hear the air moving with the suction Deidre’s sneakers made with each cautious step. “Come on, Shannon. I don’t want to kill you. I just want to fuck you up really, really bad.”
Kelsey, whether out of naiveté or she didn’t hear Deidre, came from the kitchen toward Shannon. Shannon had moved closer to the counter’s edge in an attempt to somehow kill the three remaining survivors. She kept ordering herself to stop the madness, but the bloodlust urged her forward.
A tennis shoed foot stepped in front of Shannon. It belonged to Kelsey.
Shannon’s wounds joined her human consciousness in screaming for her to stop. Kelsey tried to utter something, but the sound was the equivalent to a cartoon mouse’s utterance at being surprised by a cat.
Shannon grabbed Kelsey by her ankle, and swung her like a bludgeon at Deidre before Deidre could fire her rifle. Neither made a sound as head met head with a responding comedic thonk sound.
Deidre fell backwards as her trigger finger jerked reflexively on the trigger. She collapsed in an unconscious heap. Shannon held Kelsey limp body over her head. Her intention was to repeatedly smash the woman against the linoleum covered concrete floor, relentlessly trying to destroy every bone and every muscle she could. Rance’s terrified cries stopped her.
She turned angrily toward the boy. The urge to pummel him with his mother until he stopped was upon her. The only thing that stopped her was the sight of him and his intentions.
There stood a five-year-old boy, holding a pistol with no hope of controlling it let alone hitting his target. There stood a brave boy who would do whatever it took to save his mother. The human Shannon asked her wolf self if she was willing to kill a child as brutally as she had killed Rose Jiller and Steve Greene.
She lowered Kelsey to the floor, unsure of what to do next. Never had she lost control in her lycan form to that extent. Now she had, and the repercussions were something she had to think clearly about.
Rance said nothing in between deep hitching sobs. His pistol wavered as he kept it aimed at Shannon. Any other time the object of destruction wouldn’t have been threatening to Shannon, but in his hands it might as well have been the grim reaper’s scythe.
“I’m sorry, Rance,” said Shannon, feeling the beginning of tears come to her clearing mind. “I’m so sorry. Please,” she said, approaching him with an outstretched hand. “I’m not going to hurt you.” Her words and voice were alien to her. She stepped toward him, both hands outstretched now, beseeching him for forgiveness as much as for him to lower the pistol.
She started changing back to human when something punched her in the chest. The room spun and darkness closed in on her. If this was death, then Shannon Morris welcomed it.
is work is copyrighted by Jason McKinney 2016. Any comment, suggestions, or recipes you want to share? Find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.mckinney.3766.