CHAPTER 2 The Corpse Whisperer

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November 20th

"Stormy!" I yelled into the pitch black, my voice wobbling as my board rolled over the bumpy road. The first signs of morning had yet to light the sky, but I didn't have to worry about waking the residents—no one had returned to the Bywater post-Storm. There was nothing to come home to. Not yet, at least.

I held up my flashlight, which at this point felt like a natural extension of my arm. I was never anywhere without it. The gas lamps on houses became fewer and farther between when you left the Quarter heading east, until there were zilch in the destitute area, where my crew was rebuilding houses in the Lower Ninth.

"Stormy!" I yelled again, my eyes flicking back and forth to the ground, looking for potholes that could send me flying into the next state.

When I got to the train tracks, I hopped off and kicked the board into my hand. I'd attempted the jump a few times before, but it never ended well after I'd been up most of the night.

"Stormmmmy!"

Movement came from the decrepit porch of an abandoned house, and Stormy sprang out of a tire. That's why she always smells like rubber.

"There you are, girl. Don't scare me like that."

She yapped, running down the stairs to me.

I bent down to pet her as she rubbed her head into my palm. "Do I have a treat for you today." I pulled a crumpled ball of tinfoil from my knapsack and removed the strip of bacon from it.

Her eyes widened, but she didn't go nuts like I expected.

"I saved this for you." I held the bacon close to her nose so she wouldn't bite my hand off when she smelled it.

But she just stared, as if confused.

"I know it's been a while since you've had table food, but really?"

I held it out for a couple more seconds, but she remained disinterested and then nudged at my other pocket.

"Fine, more for me," I said, and crammed it in my mouth. Man, you know this place is screwed up when the dogs won't take bacon.

I wondered if she was sick. I'd never be able to get her to a rescue shelter for a checkup. The last time I tried to take her somewhere was the only time she'd ever bitten me. She made it perfectly clear that she did not leave her hood.

She lit up as I pulled the old tennis ball out of my pocket. I hurled it, and she took off. I dropped my board and kicked off after her, just like every other morning on my way to work. She brought the ball back, and I threw it again, feeling the tightness in my arm after the night of flying.

I stretched my arm over my shoulder as my board bumped over the shitty road.

When I threw the ball again, an undeniable sound sent a chill ripping up my spine: a shotgun cocking. My board skidded out from under my feet, and my hands shot up. The flashlight crashed to the street.

"I'm just on my way to work!" I yelled, heart racing.

"Work?" came a voice from the house to my right. "Now, I know that's some bull."

Stormy ran back, jumping up on my legs, barking, not understanding why we stopped.

"There ain't no work around here, boy. You loot, we shoot."

"I'm not a looter!"

A beam of light shone my way, and I slowly turned toward the voice. All I could make out were two male silhouettes on the porch of a house that no longer had a front wall. One guy held a flashlight, the other a shotgun.

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