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OCTOBER - DAY 1

THE UNDEAD PLAGUE


"I'm convinced neither death nor life

Neither demons nor angels of light

Shadows present a future bright

Can separate us

From the love that will lead us on

To the hope when all hope is gone

'Til the day heaven calls us home

We are survivors"

- Matthew West, Survivors


GRAVES

Carl Graves yanked his hands from his coat pockets and shivered against the cold, autumn air. It wasn't the chill making him shudder, but a nameless terror worming around in his gut. Call it premonition, instinct, or his Goddamn spidey sense. With the impossible staring him in the face as big as life and twice as ugly, the old gunslinger understood intuitively that sanity had taken a dramatic powder. He could only trust that the world had lost its marbles and not him.

He had no insight into the future. He couldn't possibly know that he would soon be spending months traveling in the close company of strangers, while constantly facing death from a virtually immortal enemy. For now, the only hint to the degree to which his life would change came from the morbidly obese Lazarus rising with the morning sun.

Graves gaped at the fat man balancing unsteadily on his feet in a tangle of frozen swamp grass. Letting out a puff of breath, he shook his head and wondered in stark amazement, How is this asshole not dead?

By rights, Massey should be pushing up daisies. People don't climb back to their feet after taking a double tap to the heart. Graves knew better than most that it doesn't work that way. In his twenty years working for the DiMarco crime family, he fired enough lead into the human body to fill a dump truck. Not once did his contracts ever get back up for more. This guy was a masochist of the highest order.

The fat wop should be a chilling lump of inanimate flesh, bleeding and shitting all over the decomposing leaves. Instead, he tottered like a baby learning to walk, while growling at his two surprised killers with the ferocity of a wounded tiger.

"What the fuck?" Graves shouted, his voice echoing in the stagnant forest. He glanced at the shaking gun in his young companion's hand. "Ah, useless prick! How the hell could you have missed his heart twice?"

"I didn't! Look!"

Graves scowled at his young protégé and yanked his own gun from its concealed shoulder holster. If he didn't need the kid to help dig Massey's unmarked grave afterwards, he might almost be tempted to finish this mess with two bullets.

Not that there was much chance of that happening. At the end of the day, Tommy was a DiMarco too, which meant he was untouchable - useless, stupid, and utterly worthless, perhaps, but untouchable, nonetheless. He figured he'd stand a better chance of molding the dying creepstain shambling towards him into a hired gun than this dumbass kid. At least Massey had the balls not to go down without a fight.

"Never send a monkey to do a man's job," he grumbled.

Without blinking, he fired off a clean shot into the pudgy bastard's chest. It punctured his body right alongside Tommy's tight cluster of bullet holes. The kid had a good eye, and now that he caught a closer look at the damage, Graves admitted that Tommy had a point about his grouping. If he missed the heart, it was only because the boss' former accountant didn't have one.

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