Blood Trilogy (Book 2): Draw Blood

BOOK: Blood Trilogy (Book 2): Draw Blood
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Praise for DRAW BLOOD

 

“I absolutely love the
Blood
saga—it’s gripping, raw, and inventive.
Draw Blood
is a real nail-biter of a zombie novel that will delight die-hard fans and draw legions of new ones to the genre. Thumbs up!”
—Jonathan Maberry,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Rot & Ruin
and
Code Zero

 


Draw Blood
launches itself at you with relentless terror from the first page to the last. Bovberg, a master of tension, keeps the action taut and breathless, driving the story forward with a combination of excruciating dread and linguistic majesty. In the second book of the series, he reaches new heights and reminds us that we are in the middle of a zombie epic for the new century.”
—Alden Bell, author of
The Reapers Are the Angels
and
Exit Kingdom

 


Draw Blood
is a terrific sequel, propelling the story forward with singular intensity—and a great twist.”
—Craig DiLouie, author of
Suffer the Children

 

“In
Draw Blood
, Jason Bovberg attains a new level of mastery, guiding us with assurance and control into the finely etched, moment-by-moment travails of his characters without once relaxing the tension. The mutating dangers they face leave us and them in the dark as to when or if a next attack will occur. Their fear and uncertainty become ours. The central father-daughter relationship is nurtured with care through its many changes, anchoring a strong cast of characters vividly portrayed. The story arc is both whole in itself and a natural lead-in to the upcoming final book of the trilogy.
Draw Blood
deserves the widest readership possible and consideration for top awards. This one's a keeper!”
—Robert Devereaux, author of
Deadweight
and
Santa Steps Out

 

“Jason Bovberg one-ups himself with
Draw Blood
—this menagerie of grotesqueries is a faster, bloodier, and even more demented thrill ride. The third book of the
Blood
trilogy can’t get here fast enough.”
—Grant Jerkins, author of
Done in One
and
A Very Simple Crime

 


Draw Blood
combines the best things about the
Autumn
series,
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
, and
Night of the Living Dead
into one coherent tale. If you liked
Blood Red
,
Draw Blood
will definitely not let you down.”
—Robert Beveridge, former Top 50 Amazon reviewer

 


Draw Blood
starts off firing on all cylinders and never lets up. It’s a fresh take with all the best elements of the genre.”
—David Dunwoody, author of
Empire
and
The Harvest Cycle

 

Praise for BLOOD RED

 

“An epic addition to the genre,
Blood Red
delivers a nonstop, real-time experience of the End Times—replete with visceral terror, buckets of gore, and, ultimately, a redemptive humanity.”
—Alden Bell, author of
The Reapers Are the Angels
and
Exit Kingdom

 

“Jason Bovberg proves he’s got the goods with a whole new kind of horror novel.”
—Tom Piccirilli, author of
The Last Whisper in the Dark
and
The Last Kind Words

 

“With
Blood Red
, Jason Bovberg infuses a post-apocalyptic tale with a sustained sense of genuine mystery; of having no idea what’s happening to the world and the people around you, or why.”
—Brian Hodge, author of
Whom the Gods Would Destroy
and
Dark Advent

 

“The
Blood
trilogy is must-read zombie fiction—familiar enough to keep you glued to the action, innovative enough to keep you guessing.”
—Craig DiLouie, author of
Suffer the Children

 

“Guaranteed to creep you out!”
—Robert Devereaux, author of
Deadweight
and
Santa Steps Out

 

“You've been to the end of the world before, but never quite like this.”
—Richard Lee Byers, author of
Blind God’s Bluff
and
The Reaver: The Sundering Book IV

 

“Jason Bovberg’s
Blood Red
is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It starts as a slow-burn freak-out and culminates in a series of horror-show set pieces that will forever be etched in my mind. This book made my skin crawl.”
—Grant Jerkins, author of
A Very Simple Crime
and
The Ninth Step

 


Blood Red
is a
tour de f***ed-up!

—Peter Stenson, author of
Fiend

A DARK HIGHWAY PRESS book

published by arrangement with the author

 

Published at Smashwords

 

ISBN (Trade Paperback): 978-0-9662629-2-6

ISBN (eBook): 978-0-9662629-3-3

 

Draw Blood
copyright © 2015

by Jason Bovberg

All Rights Reserved

 

Edited by Lisa Péré

Cover art and design by Christopher P. Nowell

Layout by Kirk Whitham

 

This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.

 

Dedication

 

To my mom, Brenda
Moms don’t fare so well in these wild, gruesome books,
but you fare exceedingly well in this author’s blood-red heart
 

Chapter 1

 

 

“Daddy!”

Michael hurtles into consciousness, disoriented. There’s a cramping pain in his skull, as if the area above and behind his right eye is gripped in the fist of some sadistic villain. He tries to clutch his hands to his head, only to find that his arms are tucked beneath the starched sheet of a wheeled hospital bed. After a moment of clanging panic, he manages to free his arms and cradles his temple, groaning softly.

“Rachel?” he calls, his voice hoarse.

Where is she? Did she call to him? He’s sure that was his daughter’s voice, pitched high in anger.

Wait. Anger? Or fear?

He breathes deeply, forcing the anxiety to subside. His exhalations sigh back at him, echoing off white walls in the room’s heavy silence.

His next thought is about the money.

I’ve been caught.

But when? Where? How?

He curses inwardly, wondering whether Susanna and Rachel already know. Of course they know.

He calls out his daughter’s name again.

Nothing.

He tries flexing the muscles of his extremities, moving his body under the sheet, searching carefully for injury. He feels no cast or splint, and there are only minor aches here and there. But wait—a bandage has been wrapped around his head. Sweat is seeping from underneath it.

It’s hot in here. Why isn’t the AC on?

With some investigation, he discovers a sizable knot high on his forehead. Behind that knot, the pain continues, dull but insistent.

Michael can’t help but imagine that the knot was caused by a police officer’s baton, or the butt of a pistol. Wouldn’t that be something? He imagines employees showing up at his office, coffees in hand, to witness his dramatic scuffle with the cops. It’s something he’s imagined too many times.

It was Michael?
they’d whisper, shaken.
You’re kidding!

He tries to recall his most recent memory, but everything in his skull is shrouded in red fog. His thoughts—even these are painful—open out onto an alarming emptiness. He searches back for yesterday, the day before that, the day before
that
, but there’s nothing he can grab on to, only a jumble of fractured imagery and sound.

Rachel calling to him, Susanna in bed, snippets of conversation at his office, driving the early-morning streets … some kind of blast?

What’s that? A suggestion of violence? Something like a—a peal of thunder? It’s maddeningly elusive, and when he focuses harder on clarifying the memory, his head clamps down on his efforts.

Fragments of memory jerk through his skull, of Rachel yelling at him, of her tears, her teen rage. The seething détente between her and Susanna. Yes,
there’s
a recollection that isn’t tough to conjure. It’s the sad reality of his life. But this is something else.

Isn’t it?

Michael blinks his eyes, trying to clear them, to sharpen his awareness, to rid his mind of this weird sluggishness. He shakes his head a little, instantly regretting the movement. Something feels loose in there, something out of true. After several moments, he’s able to focus his eyes from out of the new pain.

“Wait a minute,” he whispers. “Where the hell am I?”

Although he’s atop some kind of complicated metal hospital bed, he seems to have been wheeled into an administrator’s office—not an examination room. There’s no medical machinery surrounding him, no computer systems monitoring his health … not even a blood-pressure cuff. There’s a desk with a silent computer and bookshelves crammed with medical texts, and there are pharmaceutical posters all over the walls.

He has the distinct impression that this room was hastily abandoned at some point. The wheeled office chair behind the desk has been flung back against the small, shaded window, and there are papers on the floor beneath it. This is almost certainly a hospital, but it’s hot and humid and soured by the smell of something rotting—definitely not the usual cool antiseptic odor—and the cloying scent of smoke.

This isn’t about the money at all
, he realizes with a dark hope.

Something, somewhere, is burning. He doesn’t sense immediate fire danger, but it’s close. Too close for comfort.

His gaze moves to the floor on the other side of the room—and locks on the bloody footprints there, leading from his bed to the closed door.

Michael’s heart is hammering in his chest.

He attempts to lurch up from the bed and search the area further, but his skull won’t allow it. When he half-rises, the lump on his forehead seems to expand and screech. He clutches his temples again, stops moving, but he can’t keep his squinting eyes off the blood, and now he sees more of it, in handprints on the sheets. There’s blood all around him. Michael feels helpless fear rising through the center of his chest like a cold spike. A droplet of sweat finds his wide-open eye, stinging it, and he swipes at it, blinking hard.

Blood has soaked into the sheets and dried. This isn’t his blood, is it? He can’t feel a wound. On the floor, the footprints are also mostly dried, but they remain tacky in spots. Whatever happened here happened mere hours ago. Perhaps minutes.

Regardless of its source, why hasn’t this been cleaned up?

He considers calling out again, then decides that might be a bad idea.

Not yet.

He tries to piece things together in his mind, even though he’s having trouble concentrating. The very act of concentrating brings on fresh misery. He feels as if the screaming pain in his head wants to yank him back into unconsciousness, but another part of him is flailing for answers and clarity. His body moves restlessly.

At that moment, a clank sounds above him—a metallic clatter, followed by something dragging. Michael flinches and glares upward. The loudness of the prolonged scrape only clarifies the haunting silence of the rest of the hospital. He hears no movement outside his door, no activity in the near distance, no voices. He doesn’t even hear any traffic noise outside the window beyond the desk, and yet it’s broad daylight. Assuming this is actually a hospital, why is it so deathly quiet?

Is this some kind of revenge?

He feels a sudden cold calm take hold of his veins. Are his employers capable of savagery? Locking him up behind soundproof walls for the purposes of some kind of torture? He laughs nervously for a moment, trying to dismiss the notion.

Is he here to be punished?

He would return the money. He would gladly return it—with interest. Perhaps, afraid of bad publicity, they would even keep the whole thing quiet. Michael was never the ringleader anyway. That was undeniably Steven. He doesn’t have a paper trail proving that, but come on. Just look at the guy.

Above him, the dragging stops for a moment, then continues.

“Christ, what is that?” he can’t help but whisper.

Michael experiences a difficult moment in which he can’t even remember waking up minutes ago. He feels adrift in his own consciousness. Maybe this is some trauma-induced dream. He desperately needs to establish some kind of foundation for whatever reality he’s found himself in.

He shuts his eyes and thinks of Susanna. Sees her face, smiling. Beckoning him. He locks onto her, begging his brain to hang on to one thought.

His wife.

She should be here. Where is she? Why isn’t she here, next to him? The unanswered questions fill him with dread. But perhaps she
was
here, and she had to leave. For whatever reason.

Perhaps she was forced to leave.

And Rachel, too.

Rachel.

Here, now, are some memories. Last night?

There was another blowout, wasn’t there? A blowout culminating with Rachel angrily dropping into the passenger seat of Tony’s Subaru and high-tailing it away, her spiteful words still echoing throughout the house. Susanna shrugging, having already given up on her stepdaughter months ago.

Did something happen after that? Could his injury have possibly resulted from a domestic squabble?

God, he hopes not. But it’s possible. Tony can be volatile when he’s worked up. He’s sometimes startlingly defensive about Rachel’s positions on matters that should remain private, that should remain between the walls of their home. Michael has never seen him get physically violent, but yes. It’s
possible
that this is all the result of something at home and doesn’t involve work at all.

Damn it, it’s possible.

Rachel and Susanna have never been close—far from it—and that’s been a source of frustration for all of them. Michael has felt tension, regret, and sadness in equal measures over time, above all wishing that he’d introduced Susanna into their home in a different way. Now he can’t even remember the specific cause of last night’s argument—only that his reaction to Rachel’s behavior was probably careless. Too many nights, he has skulked off to bed, having missed an opportunity to reconnect with her, to start mending bridges.

He pinches the fingers of his right hand against the bridge of his nose, while using his left hand to cradle his forehead.

Things have changed. Things are different for Rachel. But, damn it, it’s time for her to grow up. He loved her mom as much as she did, but she’s gone. Has been gone for years. That’s not Susanna’s fault. Still, he can’t deny that ever since he brought Susanna home after the Christmas party at work two years ago, Rachel has drifted. His beautiful girl, with whom he became so close after Cassie’s death, is all but gone to him now, on the verge of leaving their home with her born-of-convenience boyfriend to begin her own life. Michael lies awake some nights, Susanna nestled against him, his thoughts locked on the notion that Rachel will hate him forever.

Michael deflates at these memories.

But his breathing has calmed, and his heart has stopped threatening to leap from his chest. His hands fall to the bed.

Nobody knows about the money.
He repeats the words in his head, forcefully.
That’s not it. Nobody knows about the money.

Another metallic rattle sounds from above the ceiling, and he flinches again.

Then he hears something like far-off firecrackers.

So much for calm.

“Okay,” he says to the empty room, “what the hell is that?” Against his better judgment, he puts some force behind his voice, calling, “Anyone out there?!”

No response.

“Hello?” he tries, before the pain of his injury shuts his mouth down. He grits his teeth, waits for the pain to subside.

I need to get out of here.

Being careful to keep his head steady, he maneuvers the bed sheets off himself, finds that he’s still in his work clothes from this morning.

He remembers putting these clothes on. Doesn’t he? Is that a real memory or something cobbled from past memories? Can he really pin it to this morning? He doesn’t know. But why is he fully clothed in a hospital bed? And why are his shoes still on?

What kind of half-assed operation …?

He edges his legs off the side of the bed, letting gravity take them. He experiences a strong wave of nauseating vertigo until his feet hit the sticky floor, and then he stays planted there for a full minute while his inner ear rebalances and focus returns to his vision.

His eyes catch on the doorknob’s lock, which appears to be engaged from the inside. The knob itself is smeared with dried blood. He stares at this conundrum for a full minute without moving. His breath comes in heavy inhalations while his heart thuds. One hand is locked on his forehead again, as if to keep his brain from leaking out of the wound.

Feeling it imperative now that he remain quiet, he begins shuffling toward the window, very carefully, his shoes making loud sticky sounds on the bloody floor. The imbalance doesn’t completely go away, and his steps are unsure. He’s almost certain he shouldn’t be walking. If this were any normal kind of hospital situation, some doctor or nurse would be reprimanding him to get back in bed.

But this is far from a normal situation.

Too many questions are forming themselves in his injured mind, demanding answers, and he’s more than a little reluctant to discover those answers.

As he makes his way gingerly past the big desk, he sees a complicated-looking phone next to the dark computer, and so he goes to that first. He doesn’t want to sit in the office chair, because he thinks he might end up just staying there, unable to lift himself out of it. He leans against the desk and picks up the receiver, places it against his ear. There’s no dial tone. He punches some buttons, but there’s nothing. The digital readout is blank. He drops the receiver back into its cradle.

“Great.”

He gets past the desk and makes it to the window, despite the fact that his skull feels cleaved. He feels that if he were to take his hand away, the bone would crumble to the floor in shards. He reaches up his other hand to lift the blinds, and the muted brightness is enough to nearly blind him. It’s a flare of searing pain right in the center of his brain. After some moments, he can open his eyes again into slits.

The world is on fire.

BOOK: Blood Trilogy (Book 2): Draw Blood
11.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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