The Night Shift, Part III

This is final installment of a three-part story. If you haven’t yet, you can read part one here, and part two here.

No sooner had the green goo spread to the Rock Star display than the door chimed and four more creeps swooped in. Agile bastards. Ugly, too. All red eyes and spitting mad. They cleared the magazine racks and the candy aisle before Reece or I could say boo.

“What do we do?” I yelled, but my words came out, “Whumma-shu-ah!”

Reece slipped one of the fiercer knives from her bag and, holding the point, tossed it to me. It dropped into my hands and my fingers gripped the molded handle. Perfect balance. Finest craftsmanship.

“Go for the kill!” she yelled, wielding two smaller knives, and she set on the sucker running at her. Caught him with one knife in the belly and the other in the eye.

Two more raced down the aisle toward me. I ducked behind the cardboard Godaddy girl, my feet slipping on green splatter and my heart pounding in my head. What was I doing? I didn’t know anything about gutting monsters. I was just Ted, the night clerk.

Then they batted the girlie away and I didn’t have time for indulgent thinking. The bigger one was on my right. Matted hair hanging in his eyes. The smaller ran a black tongue over his lips. I took a step back. And another. The cold of the beer case crept through my shirt.

“Reece?” My voice pinched in my throat. I heard a scream over by the coffee island. Didn’t sound human. The big one reached for me and instinct took over. I braced my back foot against the base of the cooler and pressed forward with the blade. It punctured through and kept going. The beast screamed as green oozed down over my arm.

I couldn’t pull the blade in time to cut the other smaller one. It leapt on me, clambering on my back and digging its fingers into my shoulders. I kicked the big guy off my knife and his body fell back with a squish. I stabbed blindly at the bastard on my back. I didn’t feel the blade stick, but his scream ripped through my skull. He released his grip and fell, leaving a slick of goop down my back. I turned to see Reece, breathing heavy, two knives poised in her hands.

“Thanks.” I shook the monster juice from my sleeve.

“Don’t thank me yet.” She looked past me toward the door. “There’ll be more. Their blood emits a chemical that attracts others. Works like a — ”

There came a banging from the back of the store.

“Well, that was quick.” Reece wiped the knives on her jeans. “This place have an emergency cutoff switch?”

“Of course.”

“Destroy it.”

She ran for the automotive aisle. I ran for the bullet-proof box. Grabbed the fire extinguisher and smashed the crap out of the plastic casing covering the kill switch. Then I smashed the crap out of the switch itself. Bits of plastic and metal fell to the linoleum. Reece raced toward the front door, her arms full.

“Grab your keys. Let’s go.”

I locked the door behind me and looked up through the glass to see Tina walking toward me. Eyes red. Arms reaching. Spit dangling from her mouth. Gathered around her were a dozen or more nightwalkers.

“Get away, Ted!” Reece called from the pumps.

But my eyes were fixed on my boss. She slammed her palms against the glass. “I’m disappointed in you,” she growled. “You were supposed to be oblivious. Too stupid to figure it out.”

Reece’s voice came behind me again, closer. “Get. Away. Ted!”

She’d rigged a contraption out of hoses, duct tape and oil funnels that stretched from pump number five all the way to the door. And she worked that makeshift flamethrower with the same steady hand I imagined she used to torch sugar on fou-fou egg tarts. The flames ignited a chain reaction through the cans of WD40, toilet cleaner and all the other kinds of chemicals she’d stacked around the front of the store.

We’d barely run far enough, when — boom — the blast shattered the night.

Later, after the fire’d burned to coals and she’d doctored my scratched-up skin, Reece pulled out her ULTIMATE EDGE bag once more. Sharpened a clean knife and stabbed two Vienna sausages out of a can. Held them over the heat. “So, what are you going to do now, Ted?”

The first hints of dawn tantalized the deserted street. I pushed the ashes of what had been the store with my shoe. “No idea.”

“You’re pretty good with a knife.” She held the perfectly browned sausages out to me. “I could use a sous-chef.”

I blew on the sausage before taking a bite, wondering what else this woman had up her sleeve. “Let’s talk about it over coffee.”

I was gonna need something bitter with no cream or sugar before making any decisions. That was for damn sure.