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Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:54:06

'We have to burn them,' Edward said, 'we have to burn them all to fucking ash and then scatter it into different bodies of running water.'

'Burn them how?' Gonzales asked.

'I got a flamethrower in my car.'

'This is the basement of a hospital,' Gonzales said.

'Evacuate the hospital,' Edward said.

'We can't order that,' Jenkins said.

'We have killer zombies in the morgue, and unless we can use fire we might not be able to stop them. I think that's an excellent reason to evacuate the hospital,' I said.

'Fuck,' Gonzales said, softly but with feeling.

The zombies were beginning to throw themselves clumsily against the doors, but flesh-eating zombies aren't like the regular shambling dead. They wouldn't stay clumsy; they would learn, evolve into better killers, better predators. I'd never heard of a flesh-eating zombie being kept 'alive' longer than a few days. They didn't hide themselves well enough; we found them and killed them, or vampires did, because they drew attention to all the dead. It had been the Harlequin that had told me that they destroyed rogue zombies the same way they had killed rogue vampires, and for many of the same reasons. It was bad for business in that this-will-get-us-chased-through-the-countryside-by-torch-wielding-mobs sort of way.

The doors shuddered under the next shove. We all looked at the axe handle shoved in the door handles. 'Whatever we're going to do, we need to do it before the doors give,' I said.

Macintosh Call-Me-Mac's phone sounded. Everyone jumped but Edward, Nicky, and Gonzales. Yeah, that included me.

'Mac here. We may need to evacuate the hospital.' He was quiet, and then he went pale. 'Say again, you have reports of zombies on three different floors.'

We were all quiet, listening hard.

He hit speaker so we could all hear and said, 'I've got cops with me, and you're on speaker. Can you please repeat that, Ida?'

Ida said, 'We have reports on three, five, six, and some kind of disturbance in ICU. They called on the hospital line. The line went dead, but I could hear people yelling in the background before the call cut off.'

'What floor is ICU on?' I asked.

Mac held up his hand and opened and closed it twice. ICU was on the tenth floor. That was the floor that Micah's dad was on. I hit Nathaniel's number, because Micah was probably still in with his dad.

Nathaniel answered with 'Anita,' and there was something in his voice that I didn't like at all.

'You have a zombie reported on your floor,' I said.

'I'm looking at it,' he said, his voice odd, as if he were trying to stay quiet and calm so as not to spook it. That didn't really work with zombies.

My mouth was suddenly dry. 'Tell me there are cops with you.'

'Yeah, but, Anita,' and now he was whispering, 'it's not a zombie, it's a vampire.'

'A rotting vampire,' I said, 'so people are reporting it as a zombie.'

Al said, 'Mother of God.'

'We are on our way; barricade yourself into Micah's dad's room.'

I heard a man's voice yell out with authority, 'Stop, or we'll shoot!'

'Shoot, tell them to shoot!' I yelled, and I was starting to run down the hallway.

Mac yelled, 'What do we do with the zombies?'

I realized that Al, Gonzales, Jenkins, and Edward were with us, leaving the two guards by themselves with that fragile door. I slowed, because if the zombies got out ... shit!

Nathaniel said, 'We're in the room. Bram and Socrates are on the door.'

Edward yelled to Mac, 'Evacuate the hospital. We're going to have to burn it.'

'You cannot use a flamethrower inside the hospital, it'll set off the sprinkler system,' Mac yelled.

'What did he say about flamethrowers?' Nathaniel asked.

'That we can't use them; the sprinklers will put out the zombies before they can burn.'

We stopped in the hallway. 'I'm going for Micah and Nathaniel,' I said.

'Anita, do what you have to do,' Nathaniel said.

There were more shots, muffled because now they were on the other side of the room's door. 'I'm coming to you,' I said.

Micah was on the phone. 'Anita, we're safe for now; do your job.'

'I am coming to you.'

'We have a hallway full of police officers. We will be okay.'

'I love you, and I love Nathaniel, but this isn't a debate. I'm coming,' I said, and I hung up on him.

'I've got some phosphorus grenades with me, but I've got more in the car,' Edward said, and held out his car keys to me.

I didn't take the keys. 'I'm getting to my guys first.'

I reached down and took two grenades out of one of the pockets low down on my tactical pants. I put the grenades into his hand and took the keys. 'I couldn't use them in the forest without setting it on fire.'

Edward smiled, a tight, fierce, and strangely happy smile. There was a part of him that wanted to meet a danger that was more dangerous than he was - so far he really hadn't, but he kept looking.

Gonzales said, 'I'm going for Rush.'

'I'll stay with Forrester, Jenkins, and the guards,' Al said. 'Tell Rush ... tell him I'm doing my job.'

Dev said, 'But the sprinklers will put out the grenades, too.'

'Phosphorus burns hotter when you get it wet,' I said. Edward and I had a moment of remembering ghouls running through a stream screaming as they burned. It was old-fashioned phosphorus, and about the only people who still wanted it were vampire executioners. 'Don't die on me,' I said.

'I won't,' he said, and he leaned forward, lowering his voice so the other cops wouldn't hear. 'I've got European grenades in the car.'

I gave him wide eyes, because in parts of Europe where vamps and shapeshifters can be killed on sight just for being, they had grenades designed to burn longer than even the old-fashioned phosphorus over here. They were designed to explode, get nasty burny stuff on the targets, and the burn kept burning until it burned through the target. They were illegal as hell here.

I smiled and shook my head. 'I'll be back with more stuff when I can.'

'I know you will,' he said.

I looked at Al, and didn't know what to say to him. Jenkins and the guards I'd just met, but Al had grown up with Micah.

I heard the doors bang as the zombies started working better as a unit. I'd never seen this many of them without a necromancer in control of them. I should have stayed with Edward and kept them contained. That would have been the best use of resources, but I was going for the loves of my life. Once they were safe I'd save the rest of the world; until that moment the world could take care of itself. Or that was what I told myself as I started running for the elevators with Nicky and Dev at my side and Gonzales bringing up the rear.