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Asa woke up with a jolt, after a nightmare about trying to outrun a forest fire. He had one second of awareness before the pain announced itself with a vengeance.
The cops stood shoulder to shoulder, making a human blockade, not only hiding the men being hustled to the van from view, but also trying to intimidate anyone who might be thinking about attacking. Roan made sure he was in the center so he was both the most exposed and had the best view of the restless crowd.
Somewhere near the person with the Where Is Our Civil Right To Be Safe? sign, a chant of “Kill the cats!” began anew, and Roan wondered what was wrong with him. In the face of this incoherent mob violence, he should have been afraid, but he honestly wanted to anger them more. He wanted to grab Lieutenant Ramirez and tongue kiss him before transforming into a lion, and he really didn’t even like Lieutenant Ramirez (he was way too fidgety, and Roan hated his porn stache). Something in him just lived to be contrary. If he couldn’t have their respect, he’d accept their hate.
As the officers started coming out with Kim and the undercover stunt double, Roan noticed an almost Brownian motion in the crowd, and he saw the ghostly pale scalp of a man pushing forward, so wan his skin was almost the exact same color as his off-white hooded sweatshirt. He was elbowing people aside and reaching into his pocket, and Roan knew in that second he wasn’t going for his phone. “Gun!” he shouted, diving into the crowd.
There was screaming, cops shouting in their radios, people running one way or another, but the man was focused on Grant, and Roan was focused on him, so much so that the crowd of people around him, even those he was reflexively shoving aside, dwindled away to mere spots in his peripheral vision. Noise was nothing—all drowned in the blood pounding in his ears and the growl burbling up from his throat.
The man had managed to pull the gun out of his pocket before Roan was on him, tackling him and riding him to the ground, hands firmly grabbing his wrists and pinning them to the asphalt parking lot. The man, tall and lean but still fairly strong, tried to buck him off, but Roan had had too much experience riding guys (ha) and wasn’t moved. “Motherfucker!” the man shouted, spittle spraying from his lips. “Cat-fucking fascist p—”
To Roan, the bones in the man’s wrist felt like fish bones, fine and fragile, and with just the tiniest squeeze they crackled like dead leaves under his fingers. The man screamed incoherently, arching in pain, as the gun fell out of his useless hand. Roan saw a fast-moving blur in his peripheral vision, a bigger, chunkier guy pulling a baseball bat out of one of the cat-drowning sacks and charging him. He was vaguely aware of a cop—maybe more than one—yelling “Freeze!” But he ignored it as much as the man did.
With a snarl, he jumped, and slammed bodily into the man, who was too surprised and hit too swiftly to react. He went crashing to the parking lot, still managing to hold onto the bat, and as he brought it up, Roan caught it and yanked it out of his hands, throwing it across the lot. Although the Vicodin was helping to keep his anger in check, he still felt a sharp, deep pain in his jaw as it shifted, and tasted blood. “Who else wants some?” he roared at the onlookers. The ones who didn’t want trouble had already fled; those who were considering whether or not to join the fray if there was any chance of winning were still loitering about, and most were in the dangerous demographic of men in their late teens and early twenties, the probable age group of the would-be assailants. The sideliners stared at him in goggle-eyed horror, and he could smell the sudden fear like a toxic spill of vinegar. The fight was over; no one wanted to chance it.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Batman, couldn’t you leave some for us?” Thompson carped. He was the cop that looked not unlike a young Jim Brown and had been at the head of the escort line. Roan wouldn’t have minded tongue kissing him; he was much more attractive than Ramirez.
“Oh, he’s always been a show-off,” Dee said, kneeling beside Roan and putting his EMT kit on the ground. Yep, ambulance teams were standing by, and since they were at a hospital, it seemed almost silly. There were doctors inside—why couldn’t they use them? Probably some damn insurance thing.
Dee looked him in the eye, an eyebrow raised in concern, and asked, “You okay, Ro?”
It was probably the Vicodin, but he felt much more in control of himself. The lion hadn’t come out enough to run away with him. It had just come out enough to distend his jaw a bit. Oh, and allow him to throw a body slam on a guy trying to assault him with a bat. And break a man’s wrists like they were made of spun sugar. Okay, so the lion had come out a bit more than he intended. At least no one was dead, himself included. Roan wiped the blood away from his mouth and said, “Peachy.”
“I can’t breathe,” the man beneath him gasped, obviously breathing but wincing in pain all the same. Roan got off of him, and he rolled over on his side and curled up into a fetal position, holding his ribs.
“You know, if you just Googled this red-haired bastard, you’d have saved yourself a world of hurt,” Dee scolded him, snapping on a pair of rubber gloves. Roan stood and noticed Shep and some other paramedic he didn’t recognize were attempting to work on the gunman, who was still screaming and writhing in pain. Three cops were standing around them, but only one still bothered to have his Taser out. Roan visually confirmed the paddy wagon was gone; Grant and the other cops got away, as they were supposed to have done. Mission accomplished.
He rubbed the back of his neck and scanned the rest of the lot, freezing as soon as his eyes fell on a cameraman for Channel Five standing crouched beside an SUV, the helmet-haired “action news reporter” beside him (his name was Chip or Flip or some damn cartoon name). Roan only needed to see the blow-dried wonder’s mouth moving in profile to know he was saying to his cameraman, “Tell me you got that.”
(An excerpt from Infected: Shift)
|What I Write||
I specialize in mashing up genres. I hate to be categorized, so I throw open a lot of doors. This may work better for some people than others. I’ve also won a couple of Rainbow Awards.
Infected: Prey, Infected: Bloodlines, Infected: Life After Death, Infected: Shift, Infected: Lesser Evils, Infected: Freefall, Infected: Undertow, Infected: The Lost Weekend,Infected: Epitaph, Infected: Paris, A Little Death, Thunderballs, Josh of the Damned Complete Collection (Pretty Monsters, Peek-A-Boo, Triple Feature 1, Triple Feature 2: The Final Checkout), Strange Angels, Merged, City of Monsters, DMZ, the Infected Holiday Special, Infected: Holden, Hearts of Darkness, and Lochlann. You can also find me in the anthologies Closet Capers, A Loose Screw, Won’t Back Down,Keep The Stars Running, Private Dicks: Packing Heat, and Fairytales Slashed: Volume 7.
I would like to finish one more novel before the world completes its transformation into an endless hellscape. I may be too late already.