“Don’t forget that freaky housekeeper thing. She was like the Terminator. With a bad wig and knives.”

“Do you think it’s dead?”

Arika and Dylan were leaning against the front of Kane’s truck, arms folded against the cold, debating what to do next. Their attention was fixed on the farmhouse, on the front door, which they’d left open in their haste to escape. The evening was dark, the house even darker, but they knew if Hugo came stumbling outside they’d know it from his pasty white skin. As to what they would do in that event, neither of them had thought that far ahead.

“Course it’s dead,” Dylan said. “It’s a zombie.”

Arika didn’t seem to get the joke. “I can’t see an axe in the back doing much to something already dead.”

She was watching Kane, who was pacing in the mud, unable to stand still. He was concerned the charm controlled more than just Hugo, which meant all hell might break loose now the charm was destroyed. He reached the gate, turned and started walking back to them. The wrench was in his hand, swinging by his side. When he neared the truck, he turned and walked back to the gate.

“If it’s still running around, we can’t just leave it there,” she said, staring at the wrench in Kane’s hand. “What if it escapes and hurts someone?” She rubbed her arms. “Maybe we should go back and barricade the basement, pile up furniture against the door. That might buy us some time, if it’s still alive … or animated … reanimated … whatever.” She looked at him. “The powder of Vraith … do you think it could work on zombies?”

Dylan shrugged. “Like an all-purpose poison? – or acid?” He shook his head. “I doubt it. The Messenger came from another dimension. The powder didn’t kill it; just sent it back.”

“Do you know where he kept it? … the powder? In the lab?”

Dylan grunted a laugh. “If you wanna go back there, be my guest. That thing is a monster and I think we pissed it off.”

“Was it in the lab?”

“I dunno. He only gave me the one flask. It could be anywhere.”

“What did it look like?”

“Red. Powder. In a glass flask.”

She screwed up her nose. “I don’t remember seeing any red powder down there. Brick-red or fire-engine-red?” When Dylan didn’t answer, she went back to staring at Kane. “I thought breaking the charm would kill it.”

“No, just controlled it.”

She glanced at him in annoyance for stating the bleeding obvious. “He super-charged that thing; all that rigging. I’m sure it wasn’t just for cosmetic appeal. I wonder how many more of those things he’s built.” She gazed into the distance. “Simon will know what to do.”

“Bullet in the head usually works with zombies. Not sure your peashooter will do it, though,” he added. “Not for something that size. We need a real gun, one that’ll blow its big fat head off.” He yelled at Kane, “Hey Kane, can you get a real gun? – one with exploding bullets? We need to shoot ourselves some zombies!”

Kane turned to him. “Is that something you learnt from that bastard Waite?” he shot back.

Dylan cringed. “Movies,” he piped.

Kane went back to them, swinging the wrench like a baton. His worry had manifested as anger and he was trying hard to control it so he could stay focused on what to do about the mess they’d left in and under the farmhouse. He had to remind himself his brother’s ordeal had hardened him – toughened him up – which wasn’t a bad thing. Better a Dylan making crude comments about zombies than one depressed and susceptible to nutjobs like Waite.

“I can’t get a real gun,” he said, his voice steady. “And even if I could, I don’t know if I could blast a guy’s head off.” He waved the wrench in the air. “Even if he is already dead.”

“I don’t think the axe in the back stopped it.”

“It was the only way I could think of to stop it.”

“I bet you it’s still walking around,” said Arika.

“Yeah,” agreed Dylan. “You have to destroy a zombie’s brain to stop it.”

“In the movies at least.”

“Hey, if we can find another axe, we could chop its legs off. That’ll slow it down.”

“May as well chop its head off and be done with it,” Arika offered.

“Oh yeah.” He glanced at Kane. “I’m thinking we’d need a chainsaw for that – that thing had a neck like a tree trunk. Hey Kane, what should we do? We can’t hang around here all night. I’m freezing my arse off.”

When Kane didn’t reply, he asked, “Do you think Wilfred is still alive?”

“No.”

“I saw that thing throw him against a wall. He might be hurt.”

“He’s not hurt. He’s dead.”

“But –”

“He was rotting. Like an apple.” At the memory of Wilfred’s skin turning a fungal green, Kane tasted vomit in his mouth. No matter what awful things the man had done – and threatened to do to them – it was traumatising to see a man die and rot in front of his eyes. “The centuries caught up with him. Now shut up and let me think.”

“What will the police make of all this? Do you think they’ll believe us? We might need evidence – like pictures. We should have taken pictures.”

Kane glared at his brother. Why was it the one time he wanted him to stay quiet was the time he refused to shut up?

“A supernatural problem needs a supernatural solution,” said Arika. “Should I call Simon?”

Dylan reached for the Necromonicon. He opened it on the truck bonnet and began turning over pages. “Maybe there’s a zombie annihilation spell to fix this. Like the star-eye thing that makes all the dead things drop dead.”

“Shut that damn book!” yelled Kane.

Dylan stared at him.

“No more magic. Now shut the book before it starts – sending out mystical energy and … turning us all into toads.”

“You need magic to fight magic,” Dylan muttered.

“Close it. Now.”

“Okay, okay.”

“Kane,” said Arika, “we can’t take any chances those things will get loose. We should call Simon. He’ll know what to do.”

“There might be more of those slug things around,” added Dylan. “We need to warn the police before they go in.”

“Don’t forget that freaky housekeeper thing,” said Arika. “She was like the Terminator. With a bad wig and knives.”

Kane fixed his eyes on Wilfred’s farmhouse. They didn’t know the half of it. He hadn’t had a chance to tell them about the army of the dead, and he wasn’t in a hurry to do it either. His pulse quickened at the thought of what had happened to him down there in the pitch black: dangling like a worm on a hook after that psycho Gilles tried to push him into the pit.

“Do you think the old guy is okay?” asked Dylan.

“Oh yeah,” said Arika. “You never told us about him.”

Sebastian. He’d survived being held captive for forty long years, tortured and starved, and then along comes Kane and feeds him to a giant slug. Unless the door held. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility; in which case, there was an urgent need to send down a rescue team.

“Call Simon,” he said to Arika.

“Are you sure?”

He wasn’t. But he wasn’t keen on calling the police either. They would be totally unprepared for what was waiting for them, no matter how much he described the horrors he’d seen. And with his brother’s involvement in Wilfred Waite’s affairs, there was no telling how much of the blame might attach itself to him once all the evidence came to light. It wasn’t worth taking the risk. Not when they had an alternative.

“Call Simon.”

They all stared at the farmhouse. The evening was still and cold, a light mist resting on the damp ground. The farmhouse door stood open like it was waiting for someone or something to leave.

Suddenly a dog howled, making them jump.

“Who’s Simon?” asked Dylan.

Read Chapter 33: Hugo

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