The Junkie Quatrain

The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter Clines
Tags: Fiction.Horror
    They slipped out through the hole they’d broken in the door. Barney signaled for Derek and Mel to circle around behind the women. Cars lined the street, so they could keep low and stay out of sight. Another gesture sent Charlie scuttling between vehicles. Epi and Chit stayed with the cargo packs.
    The strangers were both women. One was on the chubby side, wearing clothes that were clean and bright. The other one was dark-haired, lean under her clothes, and looked kind of frayed at the edges. The lean one was wearing a pistol on her hip and carried a baseball bat with a weight on the end. She made a point of staying behind the heavy one, Barney noticed. The sounds of their voices finally became words.
    ‘...people’d think that’s kind of awesome,’ said the heavy one.
    ‘Yeah,’ muttered the other. ‘It’s really made my life awesome.’
    As soon as they passed him, Charlie slipped onto the hood of a car. He could be damned quiet when he put his mind to it. The little man set his new rifle casually across his legs and cleared his throat. ‘Hello, ladies,’ he said.
    They twisted around. The ragged one brought her bat up one-handed. Charlie smiled and waved at them.
    Barney gave Sarah a look and she returned a firm nod. He gestured Derek and Mel into position. Monica moved in from the other side.
    The woman made a show of popping the strap on her holster and Monica stepped out from behind a van. ‘Don’t try anything rash,’ she said. She held up the P90 with one hand. It fit snug against her arm.
    The lean woman stepped forward and settled her hand on the butt of her pistol. She glared at Monica, but didn’t draw. The rest of the outsiders made a point of not raising their own weapons.
    Barney took a moment before speaking to reach up and scratch his beard. ‘Afternoon,’ he said. ‘What brings you out here?’
    ‘ Just passing through.’ She was thirty, tops, but the lean woman’s voice was dry. They’d all heard a few voices like that lately. People who weren’t used to talking, or were out of practice.
    These two women hadn’t been together long. Which meant they probably weren’t another team. But Barney needed to be sure. If Bradbury was playing them, his price just went way up.
    He gave her a slow nod. ‘Passing through to where?’
    She sized him up. Her hand was still on her pistol. ‘Just passing through,’ she repeated.
    Barney studied the ragged woman. ‘Did Bradbury hire you?’
    ‘You’re not working for Bradbury?’
    ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ She gave a faint shake of her head.
    She was just a bit too professional.
    Derek stepped forward and wrapped his arm around the heavy woman’s throat. His pistol came up level with her head, an implied threat. He took a few steps to the left and dragged his hostage with him.
    ‘Hey,’ said the ragged woman. ‘Don’t scare her. She’s—’
    The heavy woman screamed at Derek. It was a raw howl of anger. He flinched back. They all did, even her friend. After months of silence, noise was almost offensive to them. Derek smacked her. The shock of it seemed to knock some sense into her and she shut up. The last of her scream bounced off the office building, echoed out over the car dealership, and faded away. ‘Hell,’ he said. ‘She’s infected. Late stages.’
    ‘That settles that,’ said Monica. ‘No one’s going to hire an almost-junkie.’
    Just as Barney thought they might have somehow beaten the odds, a cry came from the east. It repeated and became random sounds and syllables. A few yells bounced down out of the hills behind the building. More shouts came from the freeway behind the car lot.
    Maybe a quarter-mile down the road, something loped out into the open. It could’ve been a thin woman or a malnourished man. It was too far away to be sure. The figure hollered at them, took a few shaky steps, and broke into a run.
    ‘Ahhh, shit,’ said Monica.
    It had barely started

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