Tam was lulled by the assured sound of the Lexus idling along. She felt tired. She hadn’t slept much. There were now six other Wrecks with Caleb. They had a natural tendency to cluster. The new additions were a young teenaged boy and a jogger pockmarked with bullet wounds. Though any distinctions blurred when it came to Wrecks. They were basically clones of Epsilon Rex.
There were more streetlights here, and less trees. More dumpsters and less paddling pools. More burned-out cars. More bloodstains. More corpses. The window of an appliance store was smashed and Tam saw people staggering in and out of there. They were looting the place. A guy who must have been in his sixties, and had his arm in a sling, gingerly tried to avoid spearing himself as he skidded on glass with a microwave under his good arm. They weren’t being attacked by the zombie horde. “They’re infected,” said Rand.
“What the fuck are they doing?” said Tam. It blew her mind. This man was going to die in two days and he was spending his time burdened by the weight of a stolen microwave.
Rand stopped suddenly. Tam checked her mirror. One of the Wreck pack had stopped. The rest seemed to sense its departure from the pack. They made eye contact. Then they marched down a side street. Rand had to back up. Now they trailed the pack. They quickly came to a messy storefront: some kind of auto shop. “Mickey’s Wheels” was written over the wide shuttering at the front. Either side of the door were the wings of anonymous cars. The proprietor had studded the walls with old license plates, which Tam imagined was illegal. The only thing visible in the open doorway was the flat front of a grey van sticking out. Then Mickey appeared.
He was drunk, and he was armed. For some reason he had chosen to wrap himself in what looked like old animal skins. He even had a stag’s head balanced on top of his own, complete with antlers. He shouted at the Wrecks. They approached his shop with no sense of irony whatsoever. Micky brandished a shotgun. The Wrecks hurried with arms raised. The gun boomed. One Wreck was thrown to the ground, and struggled on the tarmac like a beetle on its back. The second shot hit the next Wreck in the face at close range. That was something spectacular. In fact, of all the things Tam could say she’d ever seen, that exploding head was unique. The Wreck’s scalp remained intact and sailed a few feet like a frisbee.
It was only a double-barrel. Mickey sensibly backed up while he reloaded. Tam’s adrenaline had surged once again. She and Rand watched with their mouths hanging open. Tam supposed that one of them could get out and light a Molotov Cocktail, but they were as likely to blow up Mickey and his shop as to save him.
When he was backed up to the shuttering, Mickey suddenly raised the shotgun once again and blasted away twice, fast. Three Wrecks went down. One of them was Caleb. Tam gasped. It was hard to see her boyfriend shot, even under the circumstances. Mickey backed up some more. This time, he disappeared into the darkness of the shop. Tam heard an odd squeaking sound. She turned. It was Rand, clutching the steering wheel. “Come on,” he whispered through gritted teeth.
There were only two Wrecks left. They had to go single file to squeeze past the van parked in the door of Mickey’s Wheels. Then there was a blam. Then another.
Short pause. Then, a redneck hollering, whooping, cheering and cursing. Mickey emerged from the door of the shop. He’d cleaned them all up. He reloaded as he checked the status of his assailants. One of them was definitely still moving. And as for Caleb, it seemed that Mickey couldn’t remember actually hitting him…
Mickey was standing right over him when Caleb lurched up. He grabbed Mickey by the wrist and throat. Rand and Tam both jumped in their seats. It was so fast, effective and soundless that Tam could only think of a stunt from a movie she’d seen once. It didn’t look physically possible. He dragged Mickey to the ground like a shark dragging its victim underwater. Mickey screamed. But his gun arm was pinned. Caleb’s teeth flashed. Blood spurted. Caleb hung on to him for a while longer, then let go and stood back as if he was embarrassed by what had just happened.
“He was playing dead,” Rand said breathlessly. “Jesus Christ, he’s just getting better and better.”
They sat still and watched as Caleb mopped up the Epsilon Rex around him by eating samples of flesh from dead compatriots. The one who’d been shot in the chest did the same. Then they moved on. Mickey gripped the side of his head and cursed them the whole time. He had lost an ear.