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Authors: Robert Swartwood

Tags: #Fiction, #Horror

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BOOK: The Dishonored Dead
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Philip punched the side of the van. Through gritted teeth he said, “Forgive me, sir, but don’t you care about the men that have just been lost?”

“Of course I do, Lieutenant. That’s all I’ve thought about. But first and foremost I am a Hunter, and just like you and Conrad I have sworn to uphold the Hunter Code to—”

“Fuck the Code. That thing was written over a thousand years ago. Times have changed. And the more we fuck around here, the more chance Moss has to escape.”

Philip had advanced on the captain, leaving only a foot or two between them, but Norman held his ground. Staring back into Philip’s face, he said, “I will not give you permission to do this.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but this is something that needs to be done.” Philip stepped around Norman, headed toward the rear door. “If you’re not going to do anything about it, I will.”

 

 

Stairs ahead of
him, the existing room on his left, a couch and recliner and TV, gray potted plants, and he heard a child yelling, a woman screaming, a dog barking; he heard footsteps farther back in the house, heard Philip still shouting and then glass breaking as Michael and Kevin broke down the backdoor, the thunder of their boots on the linoleum.

 

 

Norman did not
move, did not turn in the slightest. He stood with his arms at his side, his hands balled into fists.

“Stop,” Norman said.

Philip stopped walking.

“For the record, you do not have my permission to do this. But if you must go, do me one favor.”

“What’s that?”

“Take Conrad with you.”

“Sir,” Philip said, “I really don’t think that would be the best course of action right now.”

“I don’t care what you think, Lieutenant.” Norman kept his back to Philip. “If you do this, you must take Conrad along. That’s an order.”

 

 

He hurried into
the kitchen and found everyone there, Moss and his wife and children, a boy and girl, kneeling on the ground, the wife and children crying, a gray retriever barking. Philip shouted, “Did you really think you’d get away with it? Huh? Did you?” and kicked Eugene Moss in the stomach, kicked him a second time, and when the man’s wife screamed for him to stop, Philip used the butt of his pistol to smack her across the face.

 

 

Once everybody had
left and it was just the two of them, Norman looked straight at Conrad and said, “You know why I want you to go along, don’t you?”

Conrad shook his head.

“Because I don’t trust Philip in situations like these. He’s hardheaded and reckless and I want to make sure nothing goes wrong. We are Hunters, Conrad, not the judge and executioner.”

 

 

“Enough!” Conrad shouted.
He walked deeper into the kitchen, his boots crunching the cereal that had been scattered on the floor. “That’s enough, Philip. We have them. Now we’re going to take them in.”

The gray retriever continued barking at Philip, taking a step forward, taking a step back, its hackles up, its ears tilted down.
 

Gun in one hand, Philip grabbed the back of Eugene Moss’s shirt and yanked him to his feet.

“Not yet,” he said to Conrad. “Not until we’ve had a little talk first.”

The dog kept barking, drowning out the woman screaming and the children crying, and when Philip asked Eugene Moss if he could shut the mutt up, the man didn’t answer.

So Philip did the only reasonable thing.

He shot the dog in the head.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12

 

 

 

They took the
family into the existing room, shoved them down on the couch. There wasn’t enough room and the little girl, the youngest, had to sit on the mother’s lap.

Philip had put his gun away, had gone through the kitchen drawers until he found what he wanted. Now he stood in front of Eugene, holding the carving knife in front of the man’s face. Some sunlight streaked through the curtains, illuminating the floating dust motes, and flashed off the edge of the blade.

“Not quite a broadsword, but it’ll have to do.” Philip placed the tip of the knife to Eugene Moss’s forehead. “You love the living so much I’m guessing you won’t mind expiring like them.”

Eugene Moss stared past the knife up at Philip. “Please … please don’t hurt my family.”

“That’s up to you,
Sergeant
Moss. If you give me names, addresses, all contact information of everybody that was involved, I won’t be forced to hurt your family. I know you didn’t pull off that bomb all by yourself. That was too much firepower for one man, even if he is a crooked cop. Maybe you were the one that placed it there, but you weren’t the one that organized it. Come on, we both know you’re not smart enough for that.”

Kevin and Michael returned from searching the house, shaking their heads at Philip to tell him they didn’t find anything. The mother and children sat clustered on the couch, sobbing. Conrad stood in the corner, watching the family but finding more interest in those floating motes of dust.

“Please,” Eugene whispered, “don’t hurt them.”

Philip removed the tip of the blade, pointed it down, and shoved it right into Eugene’s thigh.

Eugene cried out, began shaking on the couch, his wife and children starting to scream again, and for some reason Conrad was reminded about his meeting hours ago, how Eugene was not feeling anything right now, not true actual pain.

Philip yanked the knife back out. He stepped away and wiped what decayed flesh and muscle tissue there were off the blade onto the upholstery of the recliner. Then he turned back to Eugene, grabbed his head, and placed the tip of the knife so it was just a centimeter away from man’s left black eye.

“Names, Eugene. Give me the names, addresses, all contact information, and I won’t blind you. But maybe you want me to blind you. Maybe that way you won’t be forced to watch the rest of your family tortured to expiration.”
 

Philip leaned in, his mouth only inches away from Eugene’s ear.

“Is that what you want? Do you only want to hear them tortured, not see them?”

Eugene Moss whispered, “Please, I am begging you—”


Begging
me? You have no fucking right to beg for anything.”

Philip stabbed Eugene in the leg again, stabbed him a third time, and when he went to stab him a fourth time the boy shouted, “Stop it, you monster! Stop it, stop it, stop it!”

The mother, holding her daughter on her lap, had attempted to cover both her own eyes and her daughter’s, while at the same time keeping her son’s face hidden. It hadn’t been an easy task, and the boy had witnessed almost everything so far. Now, at the sound of his voice, the mother screamed and turned to him, told him to hush, be quiet.

Philip laughed. He looked at Michael and Kevin, grinned, and said to the boy, “What did you call me?”

The boy burrowed his face into his mother’s arm, and when Philip took a step toward him Eugene Moss stood up.

“No,” he said, “don’t—”

“Sit the fuck down!” Philip kicked Eugene back onto the couch. He turned back to the boy, took an extra step, crouched down in front of the boy and held the tip of the knife right at the boy’s head. “What did you call me?”

The boy tried to burrow his face even farther into his mother’s side. Philip grabbed his arm, pulled him off the couch. The boy cried out, screaming for help, and once again Eugene Moss started to stand, started to protest, but Kevin stepped in and pushed him back down onto the couch, raised his gun and held it right at man’s face.

“Settle down, Eugene,” Philip said, dragging the boy into the middle of the existing room, “I just want to talk to your son here. He says I’m a monster and I want to tell him what a monster really is.”

He bent down, pulled the boy back so the boy was forced to look up into Philip’s face.

“You see, little boy, I’m not the monster here. I’m trying to do a good thing. I’m trying to protect the world from zombies and the zombie lovers like your old man over there. Yes, that’s right, he loves zombies so much he came to where I work today and planted a bomb that destroyed the entire building and expired about twenty of my men. Now tell me, little boy, which one of us here is the monster?”

When the boy didn’t respond, when he kept trying to pull away, Philip said, “Fine then, you want a monster, I’ll give you a monster,” and he pulled the boy close to him, held his arm around the boy’s neck, brought the knife up to—

Conrad said, “Stop it.”

Philip paused. He kept his back to Conrad in the doorway when he said, “This better be fucking good.”

“Moss’s file.”

Still holding the squirming boy, still with his back to Conrad, Philip said, “What about his file?”

“It said he has three children. Get it, Philip? Not two. Three.”
 

 

 

After that it
didn’t take very long. Michael and Kevin went back to search the house, this time more thoroughly. Philip released the boy back to his mother. Eugene Moss had turned in the couch and embraced his entire family, whispering to them, telling them that everything was going to be okay, when upstairs Michael called down.

“Hey, Philip,” he shouted in a cracked, excited voice. “You’ll never guess what’s hiding up here.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 13

 

 

 

With the expired
mutt’s leash and collar, they dragged the zombie child down the steps. Kevin brought up the rear and kicked the creature every couple of seconds to keep it in line, while Michael lead it with the leash, smiling as he talked.
 

“I can’t believe I missed it before. I’d already checked the closet in the one bedroom, didn’t see anything, but when I went back the second time I heard this whimpering. I mean, fucking jackpot or what?”

The zombie child was no older than ten. It wore a T-shirt and sweatpants, the sweatpants stained with fresh urine. It was crying, real actual tears streaking its living face, and its hands clawed at the collar wrapped around its neck as they brought it into the existing room.

Eugene Moss and his family became even more agitated when it was clear their third child had been found. The floating dust still caught in the shaft of sunlight—Conrad couldn’t seem to look away from those swirling motes—became frantic as the mother screamed again and the children renewed their cries. Eugene himself tried to stand up again, tried to speak, but he was kicked back down onto the couch and told that if he moved again he would earn a bullet in the head just like his dog.

When the zombie child was brought into the existing room, saw its family on the couch, it cried out and tried to run to them. Michael yanked on the leash, jerking the zombie back. The ground disappeared from beneath its feet and it fell down hard on its rear. It cried out in pain and its weeping was even more intense than that of its dead brother and sister.

“So,” Michael said, “I did pretty good, huh, Lieutenant?”

Having placed the pistol in his pants pocket, Philip now held the carving knife with his arms crossed. He looked more stolid than ever standing there, watching the zombie child squirm about on the carpet, still clawing at the collar around its neck.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Considering that you should have found this monstrosity the first time you checked the upstairs, how happy with you should I be?”

Michael was silent.

“I hate to say it, but I have to give Conrad the credit here. If it wasn’t for him, this little piece of shit would still be hiding. Good work, Conrad.”

Conrad didn’t acknowledge Philip. He just stood there in the corner of the existing room, his arms crossed, watching those dust motes that seemed to be dancing in the shaft of sunlight.

“So, Eugene,” Philip said, “what’s the name of this thing?”

The zombie child lay on the floor, rolling its face into the carpet as it cried.

When Eugene answered, his voice was barely a whisper.

“I can’t hear you, Eugene.”

“Kent.”

Philip repeated the name once, slowly, as if trying to see how the single syllable rolled off his dead tongue. He got down on his knees, set the carving knife aside, and clapped his hands at the zombie.
 

“Come here, Kent. Come here, boy.”

The zombie continued crying into the carpet.

Philip looked up at Eugene and shook his head. “Doesn’t make much of a pet, does it?”

Eugene said, “Please, I am begging you—”

“Stop fucking saying that. It really pisses me off, and you don’t want to piss me off anymore than you already have.”

Philip grabbed the carving knife, stood up, and slowly approached the zombie. Eugene Moss’s wife started crying again, saying no, no, no, grabbing her two other children and trying her best to avert their faces.

“Come on, Kent,” Philip said, “I just want to say hello. Don’t you want to say hello to me?”

The zombie stopped crying and lay completely still.

“Just say hello, Kent. Please? If you say hello, I’ll leave you and your family alone. I’ll forget all about what your dad did today. Everything will be forgiven. But first I want to hear you say hello. I want to hear you speak.”

Philip lowered himself to the floor right next to the child, whispering to it, telling it that everything would be okay if it just said hello, and for some reason Conrad was reminded that Philip was renowned for the fact that the first zombie he had ever killed was his sister. He had been eight at the time, his sister two years older having just turned, and his father had actually debated with Philip’s mother whether or not they should try to hide her from the authorities. But young Philip would have none of it. He attacked his sister, broke her neck, then went after his traitorous father with a knife and almost expired him too until the police arrived and broke it up.

It was then Philip knew he was destined to become a Hunter.

BOOK: The Dishonored Dead
6.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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