I'm giving away a free signed copy of the Shifting Steam Anthology this weekend to the first person who finds me at the convention. You can check my twitter feed @MissouriDalton, for clues and such like. I am trying to be found at this juncture. Though clearly at the typing of this, I am bustled inside my hotel room.
Before I bid you adieu, for your reading pleasure an excerpt of The Night Shift!
The Night Shift
Sharp, sweet and smoky tendrils of scent followed us. The stone floor beneath my feet was getting slick as Simon bled on it -- he ran just in front of me. Behind us the howls were starting. Throaty, piercing sounds that made your hair stand on end and burned into your memory as surely as that time you walked in on your Great-Aunt Shirley in the bathtub.
Simon -- my partner in this case and an unhealthily good looking young man several years my junior -- had been injured during what had been supposed to be a simple reconnaissance trip. The creatures behind us were ghouls; a nest of them had gotten together in a section of the Old City, and we’d been trying to make a count before taking affirmative action.
I wanted to set fire to the whole damn complex, but somebody overruled me.
“I see the stairs!” Simon shouted over his shoulder.
I looked up, spotting the sliver of sunlight that was our escape hatch. The ghouls wouldn’t be able to follow us out into the light, thank God.
After a moment’s thought, I caught up to Simon and slung him over my shoulder with a grunt. “You see one, shoot.”
“Yes, sir.” He wasn’t particularly surprised to be manhandled, I’d done it before -- not to say the boy was injury prone but… He rested the butt of his shotgun against my shoulder, and I went for the stairs. The howls were getting closer as I took the first step, and Simon fired a warning shot that sent a sharp blow to my shoulder as I absorbed the recoil. I ignored it for the time being and kept going.
At the top of the stairs I set him down, shoving him through the open doorway and turned on the crowd of ghouls that had paused just out of reach of the sunlight. They were ugly bastards. Unlike zombies, ghouls didn’t rot after they dug themselves out of the ground -- they dried. It was particularly unattractive. Several of them had huge distended stomachs to go with the long claws and pointed teeth. They’d fed recently.
“Hi guys.” I smiled and pulled the grenade I’d been saving out of my pocket. “Bye guys.” I jerked the ring out and tossed the grenade amongst them, throwing myself out the door, slamming it shut and running. “Fire in the hole!”
Simon took off and the explosion went off about five seconds later, blasting bits of building, and ghoul, into the air. Simon and I continued our retreat to the van, climbing in and shutting the door. The reinforced panels would keep off the worst of it, though I could hear the tinging as bits of stone and wood and bone struck the exterior.
“That was fucking insane!” Simon snapped, lounging against the wall of the van and panting. “You’re nuts.”
“Aw, it wasn’t as bad as the siren in Humbolt Park and you know it.”
“One of these days, Adder, you’re going to get me killed.”
“Not today.” I took a closer look at his injury, a nasty gash along his side. “We’re heading to the hospital. Bronson, start her up.”
The slender, salt and pepper redhead started up the van without further prompting and took off fast enough to leave tire behind on the concrete. “You blew something up again,” he complained.
“No choice.” Well, there’d been a choice, but I’d liked mine.
“How bad is it?”
I looked at Simon, noting he had passed out. “He’ll be okay, just hurry.”
Simon wasn’t particularly stalwart about pain, it seemed he’d pass out at the drop of the hat -- if you didn’t know why. Simon had been diagnosed with narcolepsy, because what was really wrong with him was too unbelievable for the medical community.
“Is he out?”
“Like a light.” I maintained pressure on the wound. “I’m fine too, thanks for asking.”
“I assumed you were, because you weren’t complaining.” He took a sharp turn that knocked me into the wall. “Now hush.”
Bronson wasn’t technically my superior; we were basically equals, but I still tended to do as he said. For one, I was almost certain that if I pissed him off he’d curse me. Bronson was, after all, a witch.
I refrained from mouthing off and concentrated on keeping Simon from bleeding to death. All in all, not a bad day of training.