Killing Angels will be released on July 22nd and that is just 7 days away! So, here is the second of two preview chapters to help wet your appetite. If you missed the first preview chapter, you can get it here. If you’d like to pre-order the e-book so that it is waiting for you first thing on Monday, you can do that here.
The wheels of a Dodge Challenger turned on an empty road in Baton Rouge. There were no traffic lights, or even police to stop the car from speeding. There was only the road that stretched ahead, and it was a road that had no end. Dead leaves spiralled about the car’s exterior as it breezed past a deserted McDonald’s. The golden arches were dull and lifeless, and the building’s front windows smashed. The vacant and eternal eyes of a Ronald McDonald statue stared out at a big, quiet nothing and smiled.
“Man, I miss Big Macs,” said Darnell with his hands on the wheel.
“What was that?” said Karina. She strained to hear over the music that Darnell had cranked up to full blast – ‘Yesterdays,’ by Guns N’ Roses. Darnell turned the volume down and repeated what he said.
“I said that I miss Big Macs, how about you?”
Karina scrunched her nose at the imaginary Big Mac in her head.
“I was more of a Five Guys girl.”
Darnell cocked a mischievous eyebrow in her direction.
“Really? I didn’t know that about you.”
“Why would you?”
“You should have said before if you like having Five Guys inside you. I’ve got friends.”
Darnell felt Karina’s death glare without having to see it. It burned a hole into the side of his face.
“Jeez, alright, I’m kidding, okay? You just can’t beat a down and dirty Big Mac is all I’m sayin’.”
“It’s dirty alright, just like that sick brain of yours.”
Darnell’s eyes drifted from the road and glanced sideways to get a good look at Karina. Anyone that knew Karina couldn’t help but look at her, as she never looked the same way twice. The Karina you met on a Sunday would look different to the Karina you met on a Monday, and that Karina, in turn, would look different to the Karina you met on a Tuesday. Her features were always the same, it was the paint on top that changed. She always painted her body from head to toe with whatever pattern she decided to go with that day. Darnell shuddered to think how long it took her to apply something like that every morning, but apply it she did. She somehow even got all of those hard to reach spaces on her back. Darnell could not recall seeing her natural skin at any point in the almost two years he had known her. Today she had gone with an aquatic theme. Schools of fish swam about her ocean coloured body, with the occasional shark or whale chasing them down. There was even a giant squid reaching out across her face with its long tentacles. A submerged fisherman was doing his absolute best to swim away from its grasp, but his future looked to be a short one judging by the agonised expression on his face. Everything she painted had such intricate detail. You could stare at her for hours and still find something that you hadn’t noticed before. Darnell wished that he could say that Karina was his, but she wasn’t. Karina didn’t belong to anyone.
“What are you looking at?” Karina asked.
Darnell didn’t realise he had been staring so long. He promptly turned his eyes back to the road.
“I used to watch you,” he said.
“What the fuck is wrong with you today?”
“No, no, not like that. Jesus. I’m not some fuckin’ weirdo or somethin’. I meant that I used to watch you on TV. I just realised that I never told you that.”
“It doesn’t matter. It was a long time ago.”
“Not that long ago, just all this shit makes it seem that way sometimes. I used to watch Renegade Wrestling every Monday night. ‘The Painted Bitch’ they used to call you, right? ‘The Painted Bitch’ Karina Katana. Man, you and Lucha Dora had some wars.”
Karina looked out the window at the mention of Lucha Dora. She saw rats as big as dogs scamper away at the sound of the engine noise approaching. They had to scamper less and less these days. The world was theirs to inherit.
“We were friends really,” said Karina. “All of the rivalry was just for show. She was a good person. Loved her family.”
“What about that dude who was the champion? Killer Rex. What was he like?”
“I don’t want to talk about him,” she said in a tone that invited no argument.
“Oh, that’s cool. We can talk about whatever you want.”
An awkward silence fell between them and held for a while. Darnell reached for the volume control dial when it seemed like Karina wasn’t going to speak again, but then she did, and he pulled his hand away.
“Every time you bring a car back to New Sodom it has a V8 engine, why?”
“Are you kidding me? Haven’t you ever seen Mad Max?”
She shook her head and looked a little embarrassed.
“No fucking way. We’re raiding a Best Buy on the way home, cause the next movie night we’re gonna have a Mad Max marathon. All of them.”
“Okay, I’ll watch Mad Max, but what does that have to do with the cars?”
“Well, Mad Max is a badass motherfucker that takes no shit from anyone. He lives in a world that ended a long time ago and fights his way through one situation after another in his V8 Interceptor. The V8 engine is the only engine worth driving during the end times. If you haven’t noticed, the end of the world is all around us, and here’s me driving this beautiful V8. Mad Darnell ain’t gonna take any shit, and he needs a car that shows that.”
Karina laughed and snorted simultaneously. Darnell smiled at her sideways.
“What? What’s so funny?”
“You. You’re such a dork.”
There came a loud popping sound in the distance, almost like a crack of thunder.
“Wait, did you hear that?” asked Darnell.
“What? The sound of you being a dork?”
Darnell turned the music all the way down. Another loud pop, followed by others in quick succession.
“No, that. Sounds like there’s a gunfight up ahead.”
“Should we go around?”
“Nah, we should probably check it out. Lemme radio the others.”
Karina passed the walkie talkie over to Darnell.
“Gus, Cormac. Did you guys hear that? Over.”
Gus and Cormac were driving a truck filled with supplies a little further back. Darnell could see them cresting on the horizon in his rear-view mirror. The Irish accent of Cormac responded.
“We heard it loud and clear, Darnell. Over.”
“We’re gonna go check it out. Close the distance and stay close, we’re not sure what we’re getting into yet. Over.”
Darnell drove towards the sound of gunfire until he felt he was close enough to sneak a peek. He brought the car to a stop and grabbed a pair of binoculars from the glove compartment, looking into the distance.
“You’re not going to believe this,” Darnell said to Karina.
“What is it?”
“There’s a shooter on top of a Five Guys building.”
“No way. He’d better be shooting some cows so he can make me a burger.”
“No such luck, I’m afraid.”
Indeed, there was a single man on top of the Five Guys restaurant, and he was holding off an attacking force with a scoped rifle. Darnell surveyed the opposing force as they changed cover positions, always working their way closer to the restaurant’s entrance. He spotted a couple of tattered police uniforms in the group that numbered at six people in total.
“Looks like he’s holding off Governor Barnes’ men. I guess that makes our mind up for us. Remy wants one of them taken alive and brought back to New Sodom for interrogation.”
“Fine. How do you want to play it?”
“They don’t know we’re here yet. I think that it’s time for a good ole fashioned drive by.”
“What about the sniper?”
“If he’s an enemy of Governor Barnes, then he’s a friend of ours.”
Darnell signalled his intentions over the radio to Gus and Cormac and took a moment to put himself into the proper mindset.
“This music won’t do at all. Pass me the CD wallet.”
Darnell flipped through the selection until he found something to his liking.
He rolled down the window and placed an Uzi submachine gun on his lap. He popped the CD in and revved the engines while he waited for his track to come on. ‘Hit em up,” by Tupac Shakur. He shouted along with the opening line as he accelerated into battle.
“THAT’S WHY I FUCKED YOUR BITCH YOU FAT MOTHERFUCKER!”
The attacking force had their backs turned to the Dodge Challenger as it approached at speed. When they finally heard the engine over the gunfire, they were too slow at turning. Darnell pulled hard on the steering wheel, skidding the car so that his open window faced his targets. He threw out his shooting arm and the Uzi submachine gun sprayed bullets in their direction. He hit three in one swoop before the other three ran in search of better cover to shield them from both angles of fire. Of the three that Darnell hit, two were dead, but one still cried out in agony, clutching at a wound in his side.
“Oh good, one of them is still alive,” said Karina. “We can just grab him and go.”
The sniper on the roof finished him off by exploding his head. He cried out no more.
The cavalry truck arrived up behind the Dodge. Gus and Cormac both exited the truck with their weapons already in hand. Darnell and Karina got out to join them. Gus was an overweight, plaid shirt, trucker hat wearing, giant of a man, with big, meaty forearms and a ZZ Top beard. The Irishman, Cormac, was an almost comical sight by Gus’ side. He was thin and wiry with a shaved head and an open leather vest that had no shirt underneath. All over his body were the kind of tattoos that only kids thought were cool, like flaming skulls and naked ladies. They were all inked under a fresh, red sunburn on his pasty, white, Irish skin.
“Just once,” said Gus as he made his heavy-set approach. “Just once I’d like to go on a supply run without having to shoot at something.”
“Relax, big fella,” said Cormac. “It’s not like you couldn’t use the exercise.”
“Who needs exercise when they’re going to outlive the world?”
“Let’s focus on outliving today first before we worry about outliving the world. What’s the plan, Darnell?”
“Well, the Five Guys sniper doesn’t seem to be interested in us, so I say we just march on their position with guns blazing while he keeps them pinned where they are.”
“I love that old west shit,” said Cormac. “Fuck it, let’s do it.”
“I knew I should have taken maintenance duties today,” said Gus with a sigh. “You never get shot at when you’re mopping toilets.”
All four of them marched side by side and fired their weapons at the parked cars that the three men had taken cover behind. Glass smashed and punctured tires hissed as they ripped holes in the car bodies. One of the men behind the cover was stupid enough to stick his head out, only to promptly have it taken off by the sniper.
“He’s a good shot with that thing,” said Cormac with a hint of admiration. Only the two men in blue uniform were left.
“You’re outnumbered,” Karina called out to them. “There’s four of us, and two of you, plus that sniper on the roof makes five for us. I guess you could call this the Five Guys standoff in more ways than one.”
She looked over to Darnell for approval, but he just shook his head and visibly cringed.
“What I’m trying to say is, throw down your weapons and give yourselves up, and you can still live to see another day.”
“Bitch, if you don’t shut that mouth of yours, I’m going to put something long and hard in it!” one of them shouted back. Darnell, Gus, and Cormac all turned to Karina simultaneously with open O faces, wondering what was going to happen next.
“Could you grab my bag for me, please? It’s in the car.”
“Sure, Karina. Whatever you want.”
Darnell fetched the bag without question and handed it to Karina.
She rooted around inside of it for a moment, tossing aside one useless item after another, trying to reach the depths of a bottomless pit.
“A-ha! I knew it was in here.”
“Are you insane!?” said Darnell with his hands on his head. “You’ve had a grenade stuffed in the bottom of your bag this whole time? What if I’d hit a bump in the road and it went off?”
She smiled with her painted lips.
“It’s about to.”
She pulled the pin and tossed the grenade behind the cover point. A synchronised ‘Fuck!’ rose up from the men behind it and they ran in opposite directions into open terrain. The car exploded into the air. Karina dual wielded a pair of pistols and opened fire on her first target. She hit him right in the butt cheek, and he dropped, holding his ass. She spun on her heel and fired at the other as he ran, clipping him in the leg. The sniper on the roof took aim and was about to deliver the finishing blow, but Cormac spotted him and fired a couple of warning shots just below the sniper’s position.
“We need them alive,” Cormac shouted.
“Correction,” said Karina as she marched towards the cop she shot in the butt cheek. “We only need one of them alive.”
She kicked over the butt cheek cop as he tried to crawl away, and mounted herself on top of him.
“I’m gonna need you to open wide for me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”
The cop opened his mouth.
“Wider! Good. Just like that.”
She put the gun in his mouth.
“Now suck it.”
His eyes opened wide.
“You heard me.”
She could feel his body shaking beneath her thighs as he started to fellate the barrel.
“Make it sound like you enjoy having something long and hard in your mouth.”
The cop started to make moaning noises as he worked the barrel up and down. Tears and snot streamed down his face as he whimpered in between forced moans.
“Karina? This is getting kind of weird,” said Darnell from behind her.
“Don’t worry, I’m almost done.”
She pulled the gun out of the cop’s mouth and wiped the saliva off on his shirt.
“Thank you,” he mumbled. “Thank you, thank you!”
Karina smiled down at him blankly, and he stopped thanking her when he saw the look in her eyes.
“When you get to Heaven, tell them how you got there.”
She pulled the trigger and blew his brains out. The blood splattered back onto her painted body.
“Jesus! What the fuck!?” Cormac shouted. “And I thought that I was supposed to be the sick fuck around these parts.”
“I can see how you came to be called ‘The Painted Bitch,’“ said Darnell.
“Can we go now?” asked Gus. “We have what we wanted. The other guy’s not going anywhere with that bullet in his leg.”
“Hi,” came an enthusiastic voice from behind them. “I’m Gary. Gary Chambers.”
It was the sniper from the roof. He still held the rifle in one of his hands, and the other hand he extended out in friendship, but they all just stared at it.
“I get it,” he said as he retracted his hand. “Cautious around people you’ve just met. That’s smart. Very smart.”
Gary Chambers didn’t look like much to be cautious of with his tucked in white shirt and giant, oversized glasses. He had the look of someone who was a pencil pusher in his past life, but that image was at odds with how well he handled that rifle. Gary pointed at the cop with the bullet in his leg.
“You might want to kill him too. I’ve dealt with these guys before. They’re bad news, let me tell ya.”
“Just you? Out here? All alone?” said Gus in a disbelieving tone.
“Well, just me and Wanda.”
Wanda was a pigeon that Gary kept in his Five Guys hideout. It cooed affectionately in its cage as they entered. Gary fed it some seed.
“Lots of seed still left in the abandoned pet stores. Not many people caring for pets anymore, you see. Wanda here has been my best friend through thick and thin, so it’s only right that she gets the best. She’s my little queen, and she has stopped me from going insane these past two years.” Gary leaned over and gently tapped at the cage while making a kissy face towards the pigeon. “Haven’t you, Wanda? You stopped me going insane. Yes, you did. Oh, you’re a good girl. I love you so much.”
Darnell looked and saw stacks and stacks of pigeon-related magazines on the counter.
“Uh-huh. Look, we gotta bounce. People are expecting us back home. You and Wanda take care now.”
“Oh, I see,” said Gary in a deflated tone. “I’ll just stay here then. It’s been nice meeting you all.”
Darnell had every intention of walking away, but Karina elbowed him in the ribs and cleared her throat. Darnell sighed to the ceiling and turned back to Gary.
“Although, I suppose we could make some room in the truck if you’d like to come with us. Remy gets the final say on whether you stay with us or not though.”
Gary’s face instantly brightened up.
Wanda cooed a question at Darnell with a sideways head tilt.
“Yeah… Wanda too.”