An Excerpt from Joe McKinney’s The Dead Won’t Die
Halfway down the concourse they came to a wide stairwell. Signs hanging from the ceiling indicated that they led to the main tunnel network, two levels above them. At the far end of the concourse, tunnels branched off in three different directions. Another set of signs above those tunnels directed them to surface access, the airfields and a series of research labs with long, confusing titles that Jacob didn’t even try to figure out.
Jacob walked a little farther down the concourse and squinted at the signs. “Chelsea, what’s your aunt’s lab called?”
“Morphic Field Studies and Application.”
Jacob shrugged. “I need somebody with better eyes than me. I can’t read those signs.”
But behind Chelsea, Kelly looked terrified. She was staring up the escalators, wide eyed, shaking her head.
She turned to Jacob, held up her fist, and clenched it four times.
The non-verbal sign everybody in Arbella was taught to give the rest of their party when there were zombies close by.
Jacob advanced on her position.
Sure enough, coming down the stairs were three zombies in tech uniforms.
A fourth appeared at the top of the stairs and started down after the first three. They had only recently turned, and like the dead bodies Jacob and the others had come across, they showed no signs of injury. They meant the moved fast, and they were still strong. Running from them wasn’t an option. He had to engage them right now. If he didn’t, they’d start to moan and their hue and cry would bring every other zombie within the sound of their voices.
Jacob ran up the stairs, got just out of arm’s reach of the nearest zombie, and fired right in its face.
The woman’s head burst open in thick clumps of hair and bone and blood that oozed down her shoulders before her body even got the message to fall to the ground.
Jacob side stepped the corpse and bumped into the metal handrail that ran down the middle of the stairs. He’d wanted to get above the man in the yellow flight suit in order to put him off balance, but the zombie was faster than Jacob expected, and it closed the distance between them with a few quick steps.
It lunged for Jacob, like it was trying to tackle him to the ground.
Jacob ducked under the man’s hand, grabbed the front of his flight suit, and pulled the zombie down so that it ended up bent over the railing.
Off balance, Jacob went for the shot anyway. He couldn’t afford to let this one stand back up. It was too fast. He fired and landed a glancing blow across the back of the zombie’s shoulders. Bits of the back of the man’s head splashed onto the stairs below him, along with part of his left shoulder.
He turned to face Jacob, his dead eyes showing no pain, no surprise. The zombie collapsed the next instant and rolled down the stairs, landing in a heap on the tiled floor below.
The other two zombies were caught on the opposite side of the railing. They charged Jacob, only to run right into handrail. The reached for him, tore at the air. They snarled and snapped at him like rabid dogs.
But they couldn’t reach him.
Before they had a chance to figure out how to get to him, Jacob took a step back, leveled his weapon, and fired two quick headshots. Both zombies collapsed onto the handrail and then slid harmlessly to the floor.
Jacob glanced toward the foot of the stairs and saw Kelly staring at the second zombie he’d killed. She and Chelsea were okay. Moving quietly and staying low, he climbed the stairs to see where the zombies had come from. Near the top of the stairs he got down on his belly and poked just enough of his head above the top step to see the large junction beyond. It was a huge circular room, probably a hundred meters across, with eight passageways leading off in different directions. A few zombies were milling around the right side of the room, exploring, hunting for noise. Beyond them, filing out of the most of the passageways, were more zombies. Too many to count. More than a hundred though, certainly.
“Shit,” he muttered.
He slid away from the top stair, then rose to a crouch and hustled down the stairs. Kelly was kneeling next to the zombie he’d killed, studying the dead man’s face.
“We need to get out of here pretty damn fast,” he whispered. He hooked his thumb toward the stairs. “We’re about to have a whole lot of company from up there.”
“How many?” Chelsea asked.
“No idea,” he said. “I saw maybe a hundred, but there’s probably more. And if we make any noise we’re probably going to get a whole lot more.”
“Jacob,” Kelly said.
He knew that tone. She was worried.
“What is it?” he asked.
She turned the dead man’s face toward him. “Look at that. There, around the mouth.”
There was a faded, uneven blue ring around the man’s mouth, like he dove face first into a blueberry pie and hadn’t done a very good cleaning up after himself. “What is that?” Jacob asked. “Some kind of bruise?”
“Cyanosis,” Kelly said. “That’s one of the leading indicators of death by asphyxia.”
“You mean somebody strangled him?”
“More like poisoned him with some kind of nerve agent, like a poisonous gas.”
* * * * *
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