Friday, October 10, 2014

If the Zombie Apocalypse struck, Portland, Oregon...

Many of you know that the new DEAD book, DEAD: Reclamation is coming soon. Halloween to be more precise (unless you are coming to my book signing on the 25th where early copies will be available). However, some a re mourning the 12th book already as the end. That is only partially true. While the characters that you have come to know and love (or hate) will be taking a final bow, the DEAD: Snapshot {insert town here} series is just beginning. The beauty of the DEAD: Snapshot series is that each book will be a stand alone title. Even more fun, I am compiling my list of towns to wipe out based on reader response! The only time I am not doing that is with the first book. I am setting it in my neck of the woods...Portland, Oregon. (But expect a character from Estacada to make his or her presence known since THAT is where I actually live.)

The following is a sneak peek:


It Begins

“…as reports continue to come in, we will do our best to keep you informed,” the pretty blond talking head on the television said.
Ken Simpson was not fooled in the slightest. He opened his hall closet and pulled the long, black case out from behind his array of coats, jackets, hoodies, and windbreakers.
Walking in to his living room, he glanced out the huge picture frame window to the street. It was just getting dark and there were no signs of kids playing or joggers pounding the sidewalk. He was about to return his attention to the case when something caught his eye. It was the Calloway dog.
Brandy or Bailey or some other alcohol related name. He never cared enough to remember, and that was a good thing. If Ken Simpson knew the name of a dog in the neighborhood, chances are it usually ended up with a pellet in the ass. This dog had never used his yard as its personal toilet. Of course that spoke more of the owner, Ken knew that. But, since he would probably have ended up in jail a long time ago if he’d been shooting the dogs’ owners instead of the dogs—
The dog stopped suddenly and craned its head back over its shoulder. The animal bared its teeth, growling loud enough to be heard in the house. Ken moved to the door and opened it. The Golden Retriever paused and turned his direction. Its collar and leash were on, but the chunky balding man who he always saw at the other end of that bright pink leash was nowhere to be found.
A low moan made Ken look down the street in the same direction the dog was looking. What he saw actually made his knees buckle just a little. The owner of the Golden Retriever was headed this way.


Rose Tinnes followed the winding road as it took her deep into Washington Park. She loved her evening runs even more now that she had shed almost two hundred pounds of useless fat: her husband…make that ex-husband Frank. The last straw had been when she caught him following her in his car.
Frank had been certain that her running was nothing more than a rouse to hide the fact that she was having an affair. He had said that it provided the perfect alibi when she came home drenched in sweat. Maybe if he’d gotten his fat ass off the couch on occasion he would understand that a person can sweat if they actually performed some sort of physical activity that did not involve holding the controller to an Xbox.
At almost six feet tall, Rose was a slender young woman. Twenty-six years old in a week, she was in the best shape of her life physically. The divorce had taken some emotional toll, but she knew she would recover from that in no time. Her shoulder-length hair was brown, but got just a shade lighter in the summer to where she could pass for sandy blond. Her athletic figure had been a source of disappointment when she was younger and many of her girlfriends were starting to look more feminine, but now she was almost grateful. Breasts were a pain when it came to running. Besides, it kept men’s eyes on her face; unless they were fans of legs and buns.
Her earbuds were pumping some nice classical as she pushed herself just a bit harder when she reached the steepest hill of her run. Some folks might like to jam the hard stuff when they ran, but Rose found that classical took her away from the world and almost made her forget that she was running.
She came to a sharp switchback turn and knew that she was hitting the toughest part of her trek. It was sheer reflex that allowed her to leap Justin the nick of time to avoid the figure sprawled across the narrow road.
Her hands swiped at the thin cords, yanking the earbuds free. Out of habit, she had already hit the button that paused her run tracking app. She hated nothing more than being timed while she stood waiting to cross a street; it completely screwed up her average per mile pace.
“Hey?” she called softly. She took a tentative step forward and realized that the dark shadow on the road was from a slowly growing pool of blood.
Plucking her phone free from the armband she wore, Rose quickly called 9-1-1. After a few seconds as the signal bounced its way to a tower, there was the blessed sound of ringing. After over a dozen rings, Rose glanced at her display to ensure she had dialed correctly.
“You have reached the City of Portland Emergency Dispatch Center…all lines are currently busy…” the computerized voice droned.


Jason Johnson stepped through the gate. It wasn’t much, but in that single step, he had gone from being an inmate and “guest” of the Oregon Department of Corrections to being a free man. Well, sort of anyway. He still had a parole officer to report to, but he knew that was going to be temporary. He would be walking the straight line this time.
This latest stint down had cost him everything. Apparently that had been what it took for him to decide that he needed to make some major life changes. He’d walked away from the gang inside. That had been tough. The subsequent assaults to try to get him to change his mind had been futile. If nothing else, they had convinced him that he was on the right path.
The large city bus pulled up to the stop and he climbed aboard. The driver gave him that look. It was obvious. The old version of Jason would have said something nasty to the obscenely overweight man who had given him the stink eye as he swiped the state-issued card that would provide him with bus fare for the next forty-eight hours. This version simply smiled politely and walked to the rear of the bus.
Sitting down, he took a moment to look around. It had been seven years this time. An old home invasion he had actually committed before his last stretch had come back to haunt him. One of the guys on that ride had been busted for some major shit. He had dropped dimes on everybody in the crew in order to get a deal put on the table that would not see him strapped to a table and given the lethal needle.
Jason stared out the window as the bus rumbled past a strip mall. He spotted a coffee shack and his mouth began to water in response. Then he saw something else that made him question his eyesight. Reaching up, he tugged the cord that rang the chime indicating the driver needed to stop at the next bus stop.
He jumped up as the bus slowed. The driver seemed to give the brakes an extra hard tap which sent him lurching forward. Jason’s eyes shot up and locked on those of the driver as he scowled in his big rearview mirror.
“Not worth it, pal,” he whispered to himself.
The doors opened with a hiss and Jason gripped his small carry bag and jumped off. He would catch the next one. He still had a few hours before he needed to be at his PO’s office. He had seen something, and if he saw what he thought he saw, maybe he would start off on a good foot with whoever got his case. Besides, when he got on that next bus, it wouldn’t be right in front of the Columbia River Correctional Institution. Maybe the driver would just treat him like every other passenger.
Jason ran across the lot and headed for the alley that ran alongside the strip mall. There was a dingy cinder block wall that made an alley along the side of the mall and allowed just enough room for a pedestrian or bicycle.
As he got close, he could hear something odd. It sounded like wet slurping or smacking, like somebody with really bad table manners. That had him puzzled. He rounded the corner and froze.
He had believed that he had spotted a possible rape in progress. He had seen the figure grab the other and drag it down. Jason had just assumed…
“My God,” he breathed.
A body was, in fact, sprawled on the asphalt. There was a dark pool spreading out from it. However, the attacker was not raping the victim. In fact, the attacker was a woman. But her face was a dark mask. He knew it was blood despite the early morning hour preventing any real light as gloomy shadows struggled to maintain their foothold for just a while longer.
The victim was on his back. Despite the relative darkness, Jason could see that the man had been ripped open at the belly. The woman had had her face buried in that ugly tear until he arrived on the scene. Now, her head was up, something dark and thick dripping from her mouth and landing with a wet splat on the concrete.
Jason backed up and turned to run, but a bright flash of white light blinded him momentarily and caused him to halt. The light blinked off and an older lady emerged from her car. She eyed Jason with suspicion. After all, it was barely six in the morning, and here he was at the edge of the alley running alongside the strip mall, caught in the headlights just as he was obviously about to flee.
“I don’t want any trouble,” the woman warned in a shaky voice, Her hand went into her pocket and emerged gripping a phone.
“Call the cops!” Jason exclaimed.
He glanced over his shoulder just as the woman in the alley was taking her first steps his direction. But then the man on the ground sat up, his insides spilling from the hole torn in his gut. The older lady with the phone looked confused.
“Call them…NOW!” Jason spun and backed up, his eyes not daring to leave the sight of the pair heading his way from that dark alley. He heard an audible gasp as the pair emerged.
Good, he thought, now maybe she will call—
The thought vanished when he heard the thud and a soft clatter. He spun to see the woman lying unconscious on the ground, her phone a few feet away where it had skittered after her hand relaxed and let go.
Without giving it another thought, he ran to the woman, scooped her up and carried her to the car. The driver’s side door was still open and he shoved her in, pushing her awkwardly over to the passenger’s seat.
As he put the car in gear and stomped on the gas, he had the briefest thought. Maybe I would have been safer in prison.

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