Why should you care? Well, December 4th is when my new book, Then a Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, hits the digital shelves for $4.99. But you can preorder it now for just $2.99!
This book collects four novellas into one volume. Three of them I wrote a number of years ago, one of them is new, and I'd like to use this time to talk to you about it. In fact, I'd like to provide you with a bit of a preview.
Going through the book, the four novellas, I wanted to share with you one chapter from each. Not the first chapter from each, as some previews do, but some of my favorites.
Today I have something for you from the third story to appear in the collection: The Undead of the Night. This is Chapter Twelve: Hatching the Plan.
TRACEY LOVED ZOMBIES. MOVIES, television, books, comics, the media didn’t matter. If there was a zombie or two involved, she consumed it.
Yet now, as she took her place behind the counter, watching the creatures beyond the glass, living one of the stories she had immersed herself in time and time again, she thought she might want to give mysteries a try. Maybe even romance.
Regardless, she was done with the zombie genre.
“The plan is simple,” Norman said as everyone stood around the counter. “I’ll go out the back door and make my way to the pumps. By then, Tracey will have one of them running.” He looked to Tracey.
“Pump Four,” she said. It’s closest to the creatures out there.”
“Pump Four it is,” Norman said. “I’ll soak the shufflers in as much gasoline as I can. I mean, once they realize I’m out there, they aren’t gonna give me that long, but I’ll do my best. Once I’ve done what I can, I’ll drop the nozzle and run. That will be your queue, Tracey, to turn off the pump.”
“Got it,” Tracey said. “Though I can’t quite see the pumps over the barricade.”
“I’ll be your eyes,” Connie said.
“What do I do?” Emily said. The little girl had woken just minutes earlier and had been listening silently as the grown-ups made their plans.
“You’re with me,” Connie said. “My eyes aren’t as good as the used to be so I’m going to need you, sweetie.”
“Okay,” Norman said with enthusiasm. “Connie and Emily are making themselves useful. But, we need someone to start the fire.”
“I can do it,” said Doctor Gilkey.
“Oh no you will not,” Connie said.
“I need to do my part,” he said. “I’ll be okay.”
“You are going to stay right here,” Connie said. “With me. With Emily.”
“She’s right,” Dan said. “You aren’t going out there. You got that little girl to think of.” He turned to Norman. “I’ll go.”
“Me too,” Luke said.
“No you’re not,” Dan said. “You’re gonna stay in here and let me do this on my own.”
“Not gonna happen,” said Luke.
“It only takes one person,” Dan said.
“What if you die out there?” Luke said.
“I won’t,” said Dan.
“But what if you do? Dan,” Luke looked down for a moment and cleared his throat. “You’re my best friend, man. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. If you don’t make it—”
“I’m gonna make it,” Dan said.
“But if you don’t,” Luke said. “How am I supposed to go on knowing that I stayed inside? What am I supposed to tell your mom?”
“Luke—” Dan said.
“No,” Luke interrupted him. “I’m going with you. We’re doing this together. That’s all there is to it.”
Dan smiled. “Okay, you’re the boss.”
“Damn right,” Luke said.
The two then engaged in a rather intricate handshake that Tracey couldn’t quite follow.
“Okay then,” Norman said. “That’s settled. Dan and Luke will bring the fire. We have matches in the store, I presume?” Norman asked Tracey.
“I can do you one better,” Tracey said. “How about a pair of road flares.
“Those will do nicely,” Luke said. “But maybe we should each take two, or three. You know, for backup.”
“Good call,” Norman said. “Connie, Robert, and Emily. Once you see me drop the nozzle and you let Tracey know, the three of you head out the back door and go straight back, as far as you can go. You’ll either hit the barrier, or you won’t. If the barrier is down by the time you get there, you just keep going. Adam will go with you.”
“I can’t move fast, but I think I can fire a gun while on crutches if need be,” Adam said.
The three nodded.
“Tracey, once you’ve shut off the pumps, you follow them out.”
“Got it,” Tracey said.
“Dan and Luke, you’ll go out back with me. I’ll go west, you go east. You hang back and watch from behind the east front corner of the building. Once I’ve dropped the nozzle, you two make your move with the flares.”
“What if we can’t see you?” Dan said. “There’s gonna be a lot of those things out there. I don’t want to throw a flare while you’re still pumping gas.”
“Good point,” Norman said. “Okay, how about this. Once I’m done, I’ll drop the nozzle then fire three shots into the dirt.”
“If you’re going to do that, then there’s no need for me to watch you and tell Tracey when to shut off the pumps,” Connie said.
“Another good point,” Norman said. “Okay, slight change. Here’s what we’ll do.”
But, as Norman went through the plan once more, Dan cut him off.
“Why can’t Luke and I just come around with you?” Dan said. “I mean, what’s the point of us going east while you go west.”
“Well,” Norman said. “I don’t know.”
“Have you ever done anything like this before?” Tracey asked.
“Look,” Norman said. “I never said I was the best when it came to strategy. Me, I prefer just jumping in feet first with both pistols firing.”
“Okay,” Adam said. “But that’s not going to work here, is it?”
“You got a better plan?” Norman asked.
“I’m sure if you give me a moment I’ll come up with something better than what you keep pulling off the top of your head,” Adam said.
“Will you two shut up,” Tracey said. “This is what we’re going to do.”
Tracey went through the plan. She’d taken most of what Norman had come up with already, she just made it better. When she’d finished, everyone had agreed that her plan was sound.
“You’re going to be okay in here by yourself?” Adam asked as the rest made their way to the back door. “I can stay if you want, go out with you.”
“I’ll be fine,” Tracey said. “You look after them. I won’t be too far behind.”
“You sure?” Adam said. “I don’t feel right leaving you behind like this.”
“Go,” Tracey said. “You’ll just slow me down.” She smiled.
Adam smiled back, patted her once on the shoulder, and hobbled on down the hall. She knew how he felt about her, and he was sweet, good looking even, but his breath…
She could always carry mints or something. The thought made her smile even more as she followed the group to the back door.
Once they were all out, she locked up behind them and then took her station at the counter. She turned on Pump Four. She put in a prepaid amount of a hundred dollars. She didn’t think Norman would need to pump that much, but she felt it better to have more and need less then need more and have less.
Now all she had to do was wait.
She couldn’t see the pump through the barricade, but to the right, she saw movement outside the window. Sure enough, it was Norman moving in.
There was nothing for a moment, but soon she heard the muffled sound of someone shouting out there in the lot. A feeling of dread seeped into her. Who had shouted? Was someone in trouble? She was about to climb onto the counter to get a better view when the living dead turned as one and moved away from the building.
For just a moment she thought about running up to the glass and looking out at the lot. She didn’t like that someone had been out there shouting. It was wholly unexpected and filled her with worry, but as she stood there stuck somewhere between action and inaction, a gunshot sounded outside. Her queue to move.
She shut down the pump and ran to the back. As she reached the door, slid the key into the lock, and pulled the door open, she heard a second gunshot, followed by a third and a forth. That wasn’t part of the plan. Something had gone wrong. She didn’t have long to think on it however. As Tracey stepped out into the night, something struck her on the back of the head and everything went black.
You can preorder the book now for your Kindle, Nook, or any other device by clicking the cover below, or going to penguin.steevenorrelse.com.