But in these desperate times is anything ever that simple? Chris soon finds himself in conflict with a gang of muscle car driving road bandits, his son possibly infected with zombie blood, his family under attack in an abandoned diner.
And then there's the mysterious monk who comes to their rescue, and the strange cult led by Sister Valerie Rose - a cult that believes sacrificing humans to the zombies is their pathway to heaven, a cult that have set their sights on the Collins family.
Click the "Read More" link below to read an excerpt from
Dead And Buried
Ruby Collins stood on a ridge just outside Agua Dulce and looked across the sixteen miles that separated that town from Lancaster, in the valley below. It was early morning on what was to be the last day of their trek from Los Angeles and, even at this distance, she could see that their journey might have been wasted. Something had happened to Lancaster, something bad.
“What is it?” Ferret said.
“Smoke,” Ruby said pointing out the faint smudges just visible against the pale blue of the sky.
“Doesn’t look like much.”
“Maybe so,” Ruby said, “But smoke coming from so many different places? Can’t be good news.”
“Could have been an accident.”
“I don’t think so, Ferret.”
“We’ll find out when we get there. Come on.” Ruby shouldered her rucksack, climbed the crash barrier and set off walking down the middle of California State Route 14. Ferret followed close behind, humming a tune that was maddeningly familiar. Ruby was about to ask Ferret what it was, when she heard something, the low-throttled grunt of a vehicle climbing the pass towards them. She guessed it to be a couple of miles off yet, but sound could be confusing up here in the mountains, so she pointed Ferret towards some brush and then joined her there.
Ruby crouched in the undergrowth as the sound of the vehicle drew ever closer. As it passed, she got a glimpse of a boxy truck painted in camouflage colors, with a man’s head and shoulders poked through a hatch in the roof. The man had his hands resting on a machine gun, and she was almost certain she recognized him.
For a moment his face hovered in front of her, a name was almost attached to it, a connection almost made. Then it slipped away. Over the last few days this had been happening more and more. Her errant memory had been toying with her, blasting out disjointed little movie clips of remembrance, mostly without meaning. At other times, she seemed to be on the threshold of a breakthrough that remained, frustratingly, just out of reach.
From higher up the pass the vehicle geared down, a sound that seemed to trigger something in Ruby’s mind. A dizzying swoop, a sensation of light-headedness, come over her. Then, as though a light bulb had been turned on, she realized that she knew what the vehicle was. It was a Humvee, and she’d driven in one before - many times before, in fact. But what would she have been doing in a military vehicle? She suddenly knew the answer to that, too. She’d been carrying out missions for the Pendragon Corporation, zombie–killing missions that had originated in Pendleton, California. Another memory surfaced now, attaching itself to the previous one by a tenuous strand - this one was of a graying, slightly chubby man with an amused expression on his face. A feeling akin to elation washed over her as another piece of the puzzle slipped snuggly into place - he was her Uncle Joe, head of the Corporation. Only, he wasn’t her real uncle, he was her…godfather. That’s it, he was her godfather, a friend of her father. And her father was… For a moment, the golden strand of memory threatened to unravel. She clutched desperately to it, determined not to let it go, determined to chase it down until it revealed everything about who she was, where she was from, how she’d come to be wandering the streets of Los Angeles.
Like an old-time movie projector starting up, a new picture slowly constructed itself in her mind. She was in a built up area, standing outside a partially destroyed apartment building. Only this wasn’t L.A. This was…the name of the place eluded her, but she knew that Uncle Joe referred to it as Dead City. She was standing on a street with thousands of Zs swarming towards her. Uncle Joe was there, and someone else, too - a man lying on the ground, crawling across the tarmac towards her, clutching at his thigh, while blood from a wound seeped between his fingers. The man had an athletic build and sandy blond hair. He was her father. His name was Chris Collins, and he lived right here in Lancaster.
“Ruby? Are you okay?”
“What?” Ruby reluctantly pulled herself away from the slideshow flipping through her mind.
“I said are you alright? You look like you’ve just seen a zombie eating boogers.”
“I’m okay,” Ruby said, “it’s just…” The Humvee was approaching again, this time from the opposite direction. She pulled Ferret down into the brush and crouched there until it had passed. As it did she caught another glimpse of the man behind the machine gun, noticing this time the three stripes that decorated his sleeve. She knew who he was now. He was Sergeant Tremlett. He was the man who had tried to kill her.
Joe had told him not to wait beyond sunup, but it was well past midday before Chris reluctantly pulled his Ford SVT Raptor from the rest stop on Interstate 15 and pointed it south. He’d decided to avoid the freeway. If Pike sent men after him, they’d likely follow that route. Instead, he was going to take State Route 18, join up with the 247 at Lucerne Valley, and then with the 62 at Twentynine Palms. He’d follow that bearing southeast until it intersected with Route 95, then head north to Needles, where he’d re-join Interstate 40. He figured that Pike’s men would have given up any pursuit by then. He didn’t think they wanted him that badly.
The road was fairly clear and the surface still in a reasonable state of repair, allowing him to maintain a steady fifty miles an hour. “Will we make it to Flagstaff by tonight?” Kelly said.
“If we push on through, if the roads are all as good as this one, and if we don’t run into any trouble on route, then we should, yes.”
“Great, a reunion with mother,” Kelly laughed.
“We don’t have to go,” Chris said and regretted his tone the minute the words were out. “Sorry, Kel,” he said. “Lot on my mind right now.”
“You’re worried about, Joe, aren’t you?”
“And Ruby, and all of us.”
“Joe will be fine. I sometimes think the old guy’s indestructible. And Ruby, didn’t Joe say she was hiding out in L.A.?”
“That’s what he said, yeah.”
“You don’t believe him?”
“I was planning on pressing the issue with him. Never got the chance.”
“I need to go to the bathroom,” Samantha said from the backseat.
“We can’t stop now, honey,” Kelly said, turning to face her. “Why didn’t you go at the rest stop?”
“As if. Did you smell that place?”
“Well, you’ll have to hold it in now.”
“But I can’t,” Sam whined.
“That’s okay, honey,” Chris said. “We can stop for a minute.”
“Not much time for a number two,” Charlie chipped in.
“Gross! Mom, tell him not to say that.”
“Charlie!” Kelly said in a mock reprimand.
Chris pulled the truck onto the shoulder. “Right, there’s some brush over there,” he said. “I’m going to have to go with you, just in case there are snakes or anything. Jojo, Charlie, you guys get out of the truck too. Joe, watch the right side of the road, Charlie, you take left, Kel…”
“Yeah, I know,” Kelly said, sliding in behind the wheel. He knew that Kelly thought he was being paranoid about this little drill he’d trained them all in. Still he’d rather be prepared, than live to regret it.
“I need to go too,” Jojo said.
“Then do it at the side of the truck,” Chris said. “And don’t let Luigi off the leash, don’t let…”
Chris had hardly spoken the words when Jojo reached for his fly and dropped Luigi’s lead. Right away, the dog made a run for the brush. Charlie started to go after him, but Chris called him back. “Leave him be! I’ll round him up in a minute. Right after I –”
“Dad, I really need to go,” Samantha said.
“Yes, sweetheart,” Chris said and walked with her into the brush.
While Samantha picked out a spot behind the bushes he surveyed the surroundings. The two-lane blacktop ran in a straight line across a plain of white sand and sparse vegetation. To his left a range of low mountains framed the horizon, up ahead, heat devils played on the tarmac. It might have been the most desolate place on earth.
“You about done there, Sam?”
“Almost,” she said, and it was then that he heard Luigi barking.
“You boys keep a look out,” Chris said, “but don’t leave the truck. Any sign of trouble you get on board, got that?”
Charlie and Jojo both nodded earnestly, and Chris turned to Kelly. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, and gave her a look. He knew that Kelly understood. If anything happened, if anything went wrong, she was to hightail it out of there with the kids. But the expression on her face said she wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t leave without him.
“Kel,” he said, and even to himself he sounded like an overly stern parent.
“Yes, I know, I know,” Kelly said.
Chris unslung the AK-47 from his shoulder and trotted in the direction Luigi’s had gone. Fifty yards from the road he picked up a dry riverbed, with a steep bank to one side that blocked off his view of the truck. Luigi had stopped barking, but that didn’t worry him too much, the dog seldom barked. What was of greater concern was why Luigi had started barking in the first place.
“Lou,” Chris called, and heard Luigi respond with an excited whine. Chris rounded a curve in the riverbed now and saw Luigi, belly flat to the sand, head resting on his paws, staring towards a depression in the riverbank where an overhang of dry scrub grass formed a makeshift shelter.
“What is it boy?” Chris said and walked towards the dog. Luigi’s attention was firmly focused on the bank and Chris followed his gaze and squinted into the darkness. A pair of yellow eyes stared back at him and he instantly lifted the AK to his shoulder. Then he heard something, a whimper and a low-pitched growl, and as his eyes adjusted he could make out the shape of the coyote, and the pups suckling at her.
Chris let out a breath through his teeth and felt the tension ebb from him. “Come on boy,” he said, “I think you’re barking up the wrong tree here. This mom has her hands full with her kids. She hasn’t got time for the likes of you.” He took Luigi’s leash and started back towards the road.
A sound reached him then, the roar of an engine being geared down, and as he emerged from the riverbed, he spotted the car - a blue Chevy Camaro - slow to a stop next to the truck. Two men got out of the vehicle. One walked towards the cab, the other stood with his back to the Chevy, surveying the road, his hand resting on the butt of a pistol.
Chris sized up the situation. Despite the lack of concealment, the men appeared not to have seen him. They were focused only on the truck. But without cover he knew he wouldn’t be able to sneak up on them. And charging them wasn’t an option either. That might spark a gunfight, with his family caught in the crossfire. He stepped up his pace to a brisk walk, and shifted his grip on the AK, holding it at an angle, so that they’d be left in no doubt as to the firepower he was packing. Luigi trotted beside him, a mix of growls and anxious whines emanating from his throat.
The man leaning against the Chevy spotted him now, and pushed himself upright before whistling for his friend. Luigi lurched at the lead. “Easy boy,” Chris said. He was just thirty feet away.
“That’ll be far enough,” the guy at the Chevy said. He was tall and thin with lank, fine hair that looked almost white and flowed out from underneath a tan Stetson. One of his arms was covered in tattoos, the other pale pink and devoid of decoration. He reminded Chris of the blues guitarist, Edgar Winter.
The other man popped his head out from around the truck now. He was the polar opposite of his companion in appearance, stocky and olive-skinned, his head shaven, a goatee beard decorating his chin. He cracked his face into a broad smile that looked almost genuine. “What’s up, homes?” he said and stepped from the cover of the truck with Jojo in front of him, a pistol pressed to his head.
“Let him go,” Chris said. “I won’t tell you twice.”
“No need to get testy, homes. This is just insurance, you come running out of the desert trailing that wolf and packing that machine gun, what are we supposed to do?”
“What do you want?”
“Just to do a bit of business.”
“We’ve got no business with you, so why don’t you let my son go and we’ll be on our way.”
“Now that’s where I see things a little different, homes. You see this here’s a toll road, and as you driving on this road you have to pay the toll.”