(Please enjoy this excerpt from "Sincerely Dead," my new dark comic zombie novel, available NOW in both Kindle and paperback format from Amazon.Com.)
Natural sunlight hadn’t made its way into the second floor lobby since at least the Truman administration, but we could see beyond the window that sallow electric light still burned. When we reached the door, Edwin brought his head to the window and peeked through. He took longer than seemed necessary, but when finished, he moved his head aside and looked my way, motioning me to have a look as well. I moved my head toward the window.
Peering through, I saw the lobby was now an abattoir of body parts and severed limbs, its floor slick with blood and offal. The remains of a naked man lay in a far corner, and what remained wasn’t much. One of the Johns who’d taken a powder, no doubt. I thought it a shame he’d lost his head, because it ended up costing him his head. Having seen enough, I moved my own head away.
Glancing toward Edwin, I whispered, “I don’t see anything moving, do you?”
Edwin shook his head. “Even so, we can’t be too careful,” he said quietly. “So, here’s what we’re gonna do. We open the door a crack and see if Paresh is still there . . . and still Paresh, if you know what I mean. Lucy, you keep your hand on the handle and be ready to pull it shut. And you,” he said, looking at me before glancing at my Rossi. “You, be ready for anything.”
I nodded. Stepping back, I put both hands on my gun and went into my crouch. Lucy put her hands on the door handle and prepared to open it. Edwin clutched his umbrella and bent low.
“On three,” he said softly, “and Lucy . . . remember . . . just a crack.” After Lucy nodded, Edwin went on. “Ready? One . . . two . . . three.”
Lucy pulled down on the handle and then pushed the door open an inch. No more. Through the crack, Edwin whispered, “Psst. Paresh. It’s me, Edwin. You still there? You okay?”
Hearing nothing, he began again. “Psst. Hey, Paresh–”
The rest happened in a blur.
Paresh’s familiar Indian-lilted voice shouted.
“IT ISN’T SAFE!”
A head appeared in the window.
Half its face was gone, exposing teeth and gums and sinew.
An ear was missing.
It looked me straight in the eye.
I froze in place.
I recognized the hat.
Inhuman grunts and rasping snarls started coming through the now open door. Next, I watched ten Polish sausage-sized fingers reach through the crack, grab the door, and start pulling it open.
Lucy used all her strength to try to pull the door closed. Almost comically, Edwin pushed his umbrella through the crack and tried stabbing the thing in its legs. I came to my senses.
Aiming, I pulled the trigger once . . . twice . . . three times, blowing away the fingers.
The sharp report of the shots in the narrow hallway was near deafening, though not loud enough to muffle the bellowing yelp that came from the other side of the door. I watched what was now left of the hands slowly slither away.
With nothing pulling against her, Lucy fell backward onto the floor, along the way pulling the door as shut as it would go with Edwin’s umbrella still in it. I looked up and through the window just in time to see a Louisville Slugger fly through the air and bash the thing on its head.
It remained standing though, appearing stunned for only a moment before cocking its head quizzically and turning in the direction of whoever wielded the bat.
Running past Lucy, I grabbed Edwin by the collar and yanked him to his feet before throwing open the door. The creature looked ready to pounce.
Having surrendered the element of surprise, Paresh now held the bat limply in his hands and appeared resigned to his fate. But the undead thing surprised us both. It turned again toward the now open door. The thing and I made eye contact.
Paresh’s horrific blow had knocked the hat off its head, revealing the balding pate of a man I knew had once tried to move heaven and earth in a doomed attempt to regrow his hair. The fingerless stumps of what were once delicately manicured hands now dripped pools of blood onto the floor. The custom suit that was made special for him in the garment district was now bloody and torn.
Still, I’d recognize Carmine Caridi anywhere. We’d worked together long enough. He was one of the two bodyguards I’d given the afternoon off so I could have some private time with Gino.
This was too much.
Letting out a shrieking howl, Caridi raised his bloody stumps of hands in my direction and began moving toward me with that now familiar shambling gait I’d seen so often in St. Pete.
It’s funny what goes through your mind when a zombie approaches. As for me, I was thinking that although my experience with New York zombies was thus far limited, having spent some time in St. Pete, I at least had a point of reference, and I was already sure I liked St. Pete zombies better. What was it Sarah had said about them?
“They only take the assholes”?
Maybe that was it; or maybe, it was just that I didn’t know any of them. But it seemed obvious to me now that my New York zombie experience was going to be a little bit . . . different than the one I’d had in St. Pete. I almost let out a chuckle as the still growling Caridi came within three feet . . . two feet . . . and then I heard someone shouting.
“Shoot it! Shoot it in the head!”
I recognized Edwin’s high-pitched voice. Somewhere in the dark haze of my vision I saw Paresh again prepare with the baseball bat just in case the crazy madman with the gun decided for whatever reason not to use it.
Coming back to myself, I raised the pistol, aimed between Caridi’s eyes, and pulled the trigger. His head exploded. Brains and bone and gristle went flying through the air. Even so, still he reached out and shambled toward me until, just as he was near enough to grab me, he crumbled to the floor like a felled oak.
I don’t know how long I stood there. At some point, I started hearing squealing yowls and wailing moans coming up the fabled steps of the Camelot Hotel, the steps I’d walked up only yesterday in a hurry to have a nice, long sleep. The shambling of what sounded like ten-thousand pairs of feet shuffled up the stairway, getting closer and closer, until someone grabbed me by the elbow, turned me around, and hustled me toward and through the still open door.
Sincerely Dead. The zombie book . . . for the rest of us.
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