Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dead On Arrival (Zombie D.O.A. Book 4)

"An action packed adventure that steps of the gas and hurtles down a twisting road at breakneck speed."

Even before Chris Collins has reached California he's been given a warning - stay away or die! But after three years on the road searching for his daughter he's not about to give up.  

Now Chris is in a race against time to save Ruby. To do so, he must fight his way through zombie-infested Los Angeles, taking on not only the Zs, but gang bangers, Corporation soldiers and an old friend who seems determined to hinder his progress.

He'll meet a three-year-old with incredible powers, win the WBC middleweight belt and finally come up against the madman who started the whole epidemic and who plans to conquer the world at the head of a zombie army.     

The question is, will Chris find Ruby in time? And if he does, can he save her from what she's become?




Click the "Read More" link below to read an excerpt from

Dead On Arrival







one


“Kiss me,” Kelly said.
“What?” I was standing with a face full of soap, trying to shave in the Audi’s side mirror.
“Kiss me,” she repeated, “It’s my birthday.”
“Can it wait?”
“No,” she said, and planted a firm kiss on my lips coming away with soap on her nose, while Giuseppe looked on with his head tilted to one side.
“I’m eighteen,” Kelly said. “Old enough to become an elected representative in some states.”
“Probably old enough to become president these days,” I said.
“President Kelly, I like that.”
“Well, President Kelly, as your first executive duty, how about rounding up this stuff and getting it into the car so that we can be on our way as soon as I’m done shaving.”
“Yes, sir,” Kelly said and saluted smartly.
We were just a day out of Whelan and had spent the night some twenty miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was hoping to push on today and maybe make Flagstaff by nightfall.
After Kelly had packed everything into the SUV, I filled the tank with a few of the five-gallon gas cans that Hooley had given us. With the gas cans now used up, I cleared a space in the back storage area to create a den where Giuseppe could curl up and go to sleep. Then we got back on the road. It felt good to be moving again, watching the miles slip by and knowing every turn of the wheel was bringing me closer to Ruby. I’d even broken my old rule about staying off the main roads and was now driving directly down Interstate 40, with not too many obstructions and making good time.
  “So what do you want for your birthday?” I asked Kelly.
“Oh, I’ve got everything I need right here, cruising along through the desert with my two best guys, in this fancy SUV.”
 “How about spending it with your mother?”
“We’ll be there today?”
“All things considered.”
Kelly was silent for a while and sat looking out at the barren landscape. “I’d rather be with you,” she said.
“Now, you know that’s not possible.”
“Why not?” she demanded.
“You know, I’ve got to go –”
“To California, yes. So what, it’s not like another country or something.”
“It might as well be. Look Kelly –”
“Forget it. Just drop me in Falstaff. Maybe my mom can give you some baby sitting money.”
“I was about to say –”
“Forget it.”
 I’d found out over the past few weeks that Kelly had a decidedly stubborn streak, so I changed the subject, “How’s the big guy doing back there?” I asked. Giuseppe was obviously enjoying his little den, and looking back I couldn’t even see him curled up in the storage hub.
“Look out!” Kelly shouted, and as I turned my eyes back to the road I saw that a woman had stepped directly into our path and was standing with her hands held together as if at prayer.
I stood on the brakes and the Audi came to a pretty civilized stop, hardly even swaying as it decelerated. 
The minute the car stopped, the woman came running in our direction frantically waving her arms. I did a quick three-sixty-degree sweep of the surrounds. We were on a flat plain of red desert earth and creosote bush and scrub grass. In the distance I could see arid flat-topped mesas, but close by there was nowhere to spring a trap from other than a dusty old diner about eighty yards down the road and to my right. I flipped open the glove compartment, took out my .38 and slid it into my waistband covering it with my shirt. “Wait here,” I said to Kelly, and opened the door, just as the woman reached the Audi.
“Help me! Please!” the woman screamed. “My daughter, she’s not breathing! She’s not breathing!”
The woman looked mid-twenties with dirty blond hair and a faded floral dress. She was barefoot and her feet looked bloody and swollen. “Please!” she said, “Please help us!” She threw her arms around me and I could smell booze and sweat.
“Wait up,” I said easing her away from me. “I need you to calm down. Where is your daughter?”
She looked at me with crazed, tear-stained eyes, then half turned and pointed. “The diner,” she said.
Of course, it would be the diner, the only place in probably a hundred miles that someone could spring an ambush from. Still what could I do, this woman said she had a sick child and I could either call her a liar and drive away, or I could check it out.
“Get in,” I said.
“Oh thank you, thank you sir,” she said and ran around the car to the rear passenger side and clambered in.
I slid back behind the wheel and said to Kelly, “Get me that first aid kit under your seat, and a bottle of water.”
“She was feverish,” the woman sobbed, “And then she just stopped breathing.”
I drove the Audi the short distance towards the deserted diner, a grimy old building with a dead neon sign that said, ‘Sal’s.’ The woman was out of the car before it had even stopped and was now indicating for me to follow. “Through here, through here,” she said.
I took the medical kit and water from Kelly and told her to stay in the car, and then I followed the woman inside.
The diner was small and grubby, with a counter to one side and a few booths to the other. Even after all this time it still smelled of greasy fries and burgers. The woman led me to the last booth in the row where a blond girl of about three was laid-out on the red vinyl. I knew right away that the child was dead, her lips tinged blue, her eyes staring sightlessly at the ceiling.
“Do you know CPR?” the woman said. “Maybe if we gave her some aspirin? Maybe if…”
I kneeled and placed my head on the child’s chest, felt for a pulse at her wrist and at her throat, held my hand close to her mouth and tried to detect a breath. There was none.
I got to my feet, looked at the woman and slowly shook my head.
“No!” the woman shrieked, “No, she can’t be! You’re lying!” She picked up the tiny corpse and cradled it to her. “You’re lying,” she said again and staggered towards the door, sobbing.
“If there’s anything I can do,” I said after her. “Can we give you a ride somewhere?” I followed her to the door and pushed through the dirty fly screen and my eyes took a second to adjust to the brightness. As they did, I saw Kelly, standing off to the side of the Audi. There was a man standing behind her, his arm around her waist, a blade pressed to her throat.
“That’ll do, mister,” the man said, then to the woman, “Thelma, check him for a weapon.”
The woman laid the dead child gently down in the dust, and walked towards me. “Mighty Christian of you to stop for us like you did,” she smiled through a mouthful of rotten teeth. “Only been two cars through here this whole week, and the last one damn near run me over.”
Thelma pulled the .38 from my waistband. “Well looky here,” she said, waving the gun in the air.
“Quit fucking around with that thing,” the man said. “Hold it on him.”
Thelma stepped back and leveled the gun at me, sighting over the barrel and making firing sounds. “Bang, you’re dead!” she giggled.
“I told ya to quit fucking around with that thing,” the man said. He was tall and gaunt with long, greasy black hair and blackened teeth to match Thelma’s. He had a scar across his cheek, and one of his eyes was milked over.
“Listen,” I said, addressing the man. “We don’t want any trouble. We’ve got food and water in the car that we’re happy to share with you. We’ll give you a ride if you want, wherever you want to go. Just –”
“Oh. I’ll be riding alright,” the man laughed, “I’ll be riding this pretty little thang like a hog.” He ran his tongue along Kelly’s neck and when she struggled he tightened his grip on the blade. “Try me bitch, and I’ll cut ya!” he spat.
  I sized up my options and they weren’t great. If I made a move, it had to be for Thelma. But even if I managed to overpower her without getting shot, the man had a knife on Kelly and could slice through her throat in an instant if he chose to.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” the man said. “We’re going to get into this krautmobile of yours and we’re going to ride away. Worst that can happen to you is you’re stranded at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Maybe you can charm the next sucker to come along.”
“Okay,” I said. “Take the car, just leave the girl alone, she’s only a child.”
“Don’t look like no child to me,” the man said. “Not with these pert little titties. No sir, this little lady’s coming with us. But don’t you worry none, me and Thelma’s gonna show her a time.”
Thelma sniggered, and then the man said, “Now, we’re going to mosey on out of here. If you’re going to make your move, now’s the time, although I’d advise against it. You try anything, and your girl dies, plain and simple.”
I looked at Kelly and I could see where his knife had drawn a faint line of blood across her throat. Her eyes looked frantic, disbelieving.
“Thelma,” the man said, “Scoot over here and open this door. Keep that gun on him just the same, you hear.” Thelma backed over to the rear passenger side and worked the door open.
“Now the driver’s door, you’ll be doin’ the driving sweetheart, so get her started.” Thelma opened the driver’s door while the man backed into the vehicle pulling Kelly with him. I heard the ignition turn over.
“Now shoot the son of a bitch!” the man suddenly screamed.
I’d been poised, wound up like a spring, ready to move if a chance presented itself, so when Thelma fired I threw myself left and to the ground. She fired twice more and I felt a tug on my shirt, then a stinging sensation in my bicep. I rolled and she fired once again and this time the bullet creased my forehead dazing me. In the next moment, I heard the Audi burn rubber and I was on my feet and running. The vehicle kicked up dust and did a shimmy and I almost caught it before it hit the tarmac. But then Thelma floored her and the Audi accelerated and headed west.
I stood in the middle of interstate 40 and screamed after it like a soul in hell.


two 


I watched the Audi accelerate into the distance and I screamed until my throat was hoarse.  Other than Ruby, everything that still mattered to me was in that car and I felt a sense of powerlessness that bordered on insanity. I actually started sprinting along the blacktop, as though I’d somehow find the strength to catch the fleeing car. But there it was now, racing away from me, taking Kelly towards a fate I couldn’t even bear to contemplate.
 Then suddenly, I saw the car veer left, correct right and leave the road. It plowed into the brush and crossed maybe thirty yards, bucking like a bronco, then came to a halt in a fog of red dust. And then I was running, sprinting faster than I’d even run before, oblivious to the burning in my lungs and the blood running into my eyes from the wound on my forehead.
I ran until I was maybe twenty yards from the Audi, now a dust-covered wreck sitting askew on its chassis, its windscreen cracked and blood-spattered. I forced myself to slow and take in a few deep breaths to steady myself. Despite my concern for Kelly, I knew they were armed and I wasn’t.
I skirted around the side of the vehicle towards the driver’s door. Thelma was behind the wheel with the airbag deployed pushing her back in her seat. She wasn’t breathing though and I could see why, the side of her head was a bloody mess, where a bullet had torn into it. The back seat was empty, so I skirted quickly around to the other side where I found Kelly. She was sitting with her back against the side of the car, looking dazed but seemingly unhurt.
“Jesus, Kelly,” I said, rushing to her.
I hugged her and she started crying, “I’m okay, I’m okay,” she assured me, “But you, you’ve been shot.”
“Just a scratch,” I said. “But how? What happened?”
“Giuseppe,” Kelly said and started to cry again.
“Giuseppe?” With all that had happened, I’d forgotten about Giuseppe, asleep in his den at the back of the vehicle. “Where –?”
Kelly pointed towards the brush and following her finger, I now saw Giuseppe lying just a few yards away. I ran towards him and found the dog lying on his side, taking in quick, shallow breaths. I could see blood on his muzzle and as he breathed a pinkish bubble formed on his mouth. Giuseppe looked at me and whined and tried to lick my hand. “What have you done to yourself this time, big guy?” I said and suddenly all of the emotion of the day overwhelmed me and I was sobbing like a kid with a spilled ice cream cone.
I felt Kelly’s hand on my shoulder. “Water,” she said and I took the bottle from her and washed the blood from Giuseppe’s mouth. Then I asked Kelly to pour some water into my cupped hands and the dog made a few half-hearted laps at it. It was then that I noticed the drag marks through the brush.
“Stay with G,” I said to Kelly. I ran back to the car and found the .38 in the passenger footwell. I followed the tracks and found the man lying on his belly in the brush, thirty yards away. He was breathing heavily and it was a miracle he’d made it this far. I flipped him over and I could see that Giuseppe had ripped a sizable chunk out of his cheek, and left deep bite marks across his face. His milky eye had been punctured and now oozed colorless pus. The man had obviously suffered injuries in the crash too, and he now coughed up a mouthful of frothy blood. He looked at me with his one good eye and tried to say something and I fired a round from the .38 into his brain, then kept pulling the trigger even though the hammer fell on an empty chamber.
Later, Kelly would tell me what had happened. After they’d driven away from the diner, the man had demanded the .38 from Thelma. He’d held the gun on Kelly and unzipped his fly. “He said he wanted me to…do something to him,” Kelly said.
But then Giuseppe had risen from his den and the man had found himself face-to-face with an angry 120-pound Akita. Giuseppe had bitten the man in the face and the man had fired off a shot, hitting Thelma in the side of the head. The car had veered off the road and the man had been thrown into the front seats. Ironically, his body had broken Kelly’s forward plunge, saving her from serious internal injuries.
“Giuseppe saved my life,” Kelly sobbed, “If it wasn’t for him…oh, my God, I don’t even want to think about it.” I held her while she cried and as I did I ran my hand through Giuseppe’s fur, this dog who had so often been my savior.


three


Kelly had some bruising to her ribs but she was otherwise okay, in spite of the trauma she’d been through. She was a tough kid, Kelly. Despite her slight frame she was a stayer. The more serious problem was Giuseppe. He’d been thrown forward when the car had left the road, crashing into the front seat. I’m no expert but it looked like he’d broken a few ribs and maybe one of his front legs. I wished that Yonder could have been there to take care of him.
The Audi, of course, was a write-off and we had no choice but to head back to the diner. We were hundreds of miles from the nearest town and, what had Thelma said, they’d seen only two cars in a week along this stretch of road. All we could hope was that there’d be someone along some time soon and if there was, that they’d stop for us.
On my first trip back to the diner, I carried Giuseppe, trying my best to be as gentle as possible, which was not easy lugging a 120-pound weight across uneven ground. The big guy had to be hurting, but he only whimpered once or twice. I made a comfortable bed for him and salvaged a strip of metal from one of the chairs and splinted his injured leg.
Then Kelly and I ferried back and forth between the wrecked vehicle and the diner and moved our supplies across. I was glad now that I’d allowed Hooley to oversupply us. I didn’t know how long we were going to be stuck at Sal’s Diner, but we had enough food for a couple of weeks. The more pressing problem was water. Even if we rationed we’d maybe have four or five day’s worth. I buried the corpse of the child that Thelma had left behind and I set up a barricade in the road out front to stop any traffic. Kelly patched up the flesh wounds I’d sustained and we waited.
On day two, Kelly asked me about Rosie and I told her how I’d met Rosita Morales Collins and how I’d fallen in love with her on our first date. I told her about Rosie’s pregnancy and about how we’d planned to name our daughter Ruby and about the terrible events in New York. I told her how Ruby had been taken from me and how I’d spent three years trying to find her and how I was determined to find her still.
“Do you miss her? Rosie, I mean?” Kelly asked when I was done.
“Yes” I said. “Yes, I do.” And although that was true, the Chris Collins that still missed Rosie was a different man to who I was now. He was someone who seemed to me more like a casual acquaintance than a past version of myself.
“I’ve got something I want to tell you, Chris.” Kelly said suddenly. “Something I’ve been meaning to tell you for a long time now.”
She paused, and I raised my eyebrows prompting her to continue.
“I love you, Chris,” she suddenly blurted.
I didn’t mean to laugh, but this sudden admission caught me totally unawares and I couldn’t stop myself.
“Well, I’m glad you find it funny,” Kelly said crossly.
“No, wait, Kel,” I said still giggling, “I didn’t mean it like that, you caught me by surprise, that’s all.”
“Well, I do,” Kelly said adamantly, “So you can take it any way you like.”
“Listen kid,” I said, “It’s just a crush, you’ll get over it, once you’re in Flagstaff you’ll meet someone your own age and –”
“First off,” Kelly said, “Stop calling me kid, second, don’t tell me how I’m supposed to feel.”
“Okay, I apologize. I didn’t mean to patronize you, but seriously, I’m old enough to be your father.”
“Oh yes,” she said. “Because it’s normal to father a child at ten years of age.”
“I mean, have you ever even had a boyfriend?”
“Is that important?”
“Look Kelly,” I said, “I’m flattered, I really am. You’re beautiful, and you’ll make some man very happy some day.”
“Just not you,” she said, and there were tears in her eyes. 

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