During a conversation with the amazing band Motorbreath at a recent show, I mentioned that naming characters is actually the hardest part of writing (at least for me). I jokingly suggested using the names of the band members as villains in my upcoming release, DEAD: Snapshot–Liberty, South Carolina. The response I got from Kevin Staley was an overwhelming “Hell yeah!” I reiterated the part about them being bad guys. This was greeted with even more enthusiasm (the word “Hell” was replaced by a much more emphatic expletive). So, at last, I can share another snippet of my upcoming book and let the world see how Motorbreath rides into the zombie apocalypse.
Now, it is important to note that I used these names VERY fictitiously. If you have met any of the guys, they are amazing. Plainly put, they are four very good guys. What I did is take their names and then create an evil persona that is about as far from the real versions while plucking a few nuances that I hope will make all four of the members of Motorbreath say, “Hell yeah!” (Except Kevin who will probably use the “F” word.) So, without further delay, I share another (unedited) scene from DEAD: Snapshot–Liberty, South Carolina which is due to be released in early April. (And yes guys, you each get a copy.)
The four big Harley Davidson Ultra Classics roared out of the Cottages of Clemson development and turned right on Old Shirley Road. Curls of smoke were just starting to rise up from a handful of the residences at their collective backs. The foursome stopped at the intersection and one of the riders raised his hand, giving the signal for the others to kill their engines.
Pulling off his helmet, the one who signaled cocked his head to the side and listened. The other three did likewise and all turned to the left towards the sound. This man was the tallest of the gang, standing just over six foot three. His eyes sparkled with mischief and he always seemed to look like he was thinking of something humorous as a smile continuously played at the corners of his mouth.
“Somebody set off an alarm,” the rider who had called for the stop snorted as he checked the pistols he had on each hip. “That means walkers will be coming from every direction. I guess we bail on this little slice of heaven.”
“Damn, Kevin, and we just started having fun,” one of the riders grumbled.
“No worries, Trunk. We can—” the sounds of diesel engines up the road caused Kevin to stop talking. He eased his bike forward to get a better look at a small convoy rolled out onto the road in the distance and headed towards the highway. “See, Trunk?” Kevin turned to the man who had voiced his displeasure. A big grin split his face and his eyes crinkled with devious joy. “Looks like a new game just made itself available.”
Mark “Trunk” Trees was by far the largest of the foursome. He looked like he spent a good deal of time in the gym before the zombies came. His arms were massive and veins ran like cords down his biceps as he unconsciously flexed his hands. His hair was a high and tight that would make any Marine proud. What little neck he had was hidden by massive shoulders that capped off his broad chest which he liked to show off; that was why he always opted for wearing an open leather vest with no shirt underneath.
“I hope it is more fun than the last one,” another of the riders grumbled. He glanced over his shoulder from the gated community they were leaving. “Those college boys were a bunch of sissies. That last one started crying before we even hit him.”
“Give the kid a break, Animal,” Mark chuckled. “He had just watched three of his friends get pulled apart.”
“Yeah, well that brings me to another point,” Joe “Animal” Spencer said as he absently rubbed the leather saddlebag of his bike. “I get a leg next time. The arms come off too fast.”
“No problem, Animal.” Kevin nodded.
Joe “Animal” Spencer was tall and lanky. His arms and chest were covered with a variety of tattoos. His brown hair was shaved on the sides and the center was styled into a mohawk. He always wore a smile, but those who took a second to really look at the man’s expression could tell that it did not reach his eyes. The eyes gave the impression that true happiness had not touched his soul in a very long time.
Kevin glanced over to the fourth rider who had remained silent through the entire exchange. Bob Capka was not one for too many words. In fact, the last few people who had heard him speak had started to cry after he pulled away from where he had been whispering in their ear. Kevin had no idea what the man said, and if he ever gave it a second’s thought, he would quickly tell himself that he didn’t want to know.
Bob Capka was the shortest man of the foursome. His slight frame was deceptive and secreted under baggy clothing that hid a well-muscled frame. He had long curly hair that often hid his face when they were not on their bikes. Even before the zombies, Bob was never much of a talker. At least not out loud where a lot of people could hear him.
Kevin recalled their most recent stretch in the Greenville County Detention Center. One of the loudmouths in their pod simply could not keep his mouth shut in the day room where the television was mounted. Bob had gotten up from his seat and walked over to the kid that Kevin guessed to be in his late teens or early twenties. The kid had started to “nut up” when Bob approached. It was clear that he thought a fight was about to break out. But Bob had just stared at the kid, arms folded across his chest. Eventually, when the kid had run out of steam and began to get nervous, Bob had gestured for the kid to lean forward. It was like watching a damn hypnotist, Kevin remembered thinking. Bob had whispered in the kid’s ear, and then just returned to his seat.
The kid had left the day room. Not a peep was heard the rest of the night. When it was time to cell in for count, that was when things got crazy. All of a sudden, the cops were running into the pod after the one doing count had called for assistance. The kid had hung himself. Since he’d been alone in his cell, there was nobody to officially blame and it was called a suicide. Kevin knew better.
Nobody in the pod said a word in the day room during television time for the rest of the duration that Kevin, Joe, Mark, and Bob were in the lock up. Kevin couldn’t swear, but he thought he actually heard a few people sigh with relief when the four were done with their time.
“I say we follow those trucks,” Kevin announced cheerfully. “I bet they are heading back to someplace with more people. Besides, I think Clemson is burned out. It took us four days to find that last little group that was trying to hide out. Hardly worth the time and effort.”
“Sounds good to me,” Mark said with a shrug.
“Beats doing nothin’,” Joe chimed in.
Bob popped his bike into gear and started off in the direction that the trucks had gone. Kevin smiled and jammed his head back into his helmet. “I guess that’s a yes from Bob.”
The four bikes roared along until they neared the driveway that the trucks had exited. Dozens of zombies were stumbling out, obviously drawn by the departing trucks that had just left.
Bob had already stopped, shut down his bike, and climbed off. He was standing in front of a lone zombie. It would reach for him with slow, clumsy attempts and he would bat the arms down and push it away. This part always sort of creeped Kevin out.
For some reason, Bob always wanted to toy with the first zombie he was about to kill whenever they encountered a group. The way he tilted his head first one way and then the other was a lot like the zombies themselves; which made what he was doing even a bit more creepier.
Joe was second to arrive and got off his bike. He had a huge knife in one hand and a three foot long metal spike in the other. As he passed Bob, he jammed his spike into the zombie’s temple.
“Jeez, Bob, just kill the damn things,” Joe snorted as he stepped up to the next one and brought his knife up under its chin, driving it to the hilt and then jerking free in one swift motion.
Kevin held his breath for a moment and watched Bob. The man had turned and was watching Joe wade in and start taking down the leading zombies of this small mob. After a moment, Bob headed over to one of the walking dead, an elderly woman who was reaching with her gnarled hands as he stepped up to her with his aluminum baseball bat. With one swing, he snapped the knee inwards and sent the body to the ground. Moving methodically, he stood over the downed figure and then used the barrel end of his bat like a pile-driver and smashed it down once…twice…three times until the skull burst open like an overripe melon.
Kevin let out the breath that he had not been aware he was holding. Setting the stand for his bike, he hopped off and turned to look at his array of weapons. Besides the pistols he wore at his hips (and only used in an emergency since gunshots seemed to bring out zombies by the hundreds), he had three machetes, a very nice saber that he took off a zombie that had been dressed up as some Civil War re-enactor, two batons removed from a pair of zombie policemen that he had left dangling from a bridge by a length of cable around their ankles, and a briefcase full of assorted knives.
Cupping his chin with his right hand, he absently stoked his reddish-blond goatee as he considered his options. At last, he decided on the saber. It was just too nice not to get some serious use.
Clipping the scabbard to his heavy leather belt, he drew the weapon and slashed at the air a few times to warm up his arm. Lunging and dancing back and forth like any of the swordsmen he had ever seen on television or in the movies, punctuating each movement with a “Ho!” or a “Ha!”
“You gonna screw around all day, or are you gonna step in here and get to killin’?” Mark snapped as he grabbed a teenaged boy version of the undead by his hair and drove the knife in his hand deep into the side of its head.
“Oh…sorry,” Kevin laughed.
He jogged over to the closest zombie and went into a whirling spin just as he got within range. His saber bit deep into the shoulder of the zombie. The man in the tattered business suit did not even seem to notice as he reached out for Kevin with grasping hands that brushed his heavy leather jacket.
“Crap,” Kevin muttered as he brought up a booted foot and kicked the Business Suit Zombie away.
Taking a step back and gripping the weapon with both hands, he raised his arms and then brought them down hard with an overhead chop. The blade split the skull at enough of angle that the left third of the zombie’s head came away, exposing the dark gore of its putrefying brain.
It took the four of them just about five minutes, but eventually the entire little mob was sprawled all over the entrance to the parking lot of a Lowe’s. The alarm had continued to ring the entire time and now shadowy figures could be seen wading out of some nearby trees as well as coming from both directions along the two lane road that the signs called Issaqueena Trail.
“Mount up!” Kevin called.
“But there’s more of them thing coming,” Joe complained.
“Dude, I don’t think we’ll be running out of zombies any time soon,” Mark guffawed as he swung a leg over and brought his bike alive with a roar.
Bob walked past Joe, not even bothering to glance at the man as he wiped off his bat and slid it into its place before mounting his bike and starting the engine. Easing forward until he was next to Mark and Kevin, Bob paused to grab a band from his wrist and pull his hair back into a ponytail.
Joe looked around, his eyes almost seeming to give off a longing as he watched the approaching zombies. Kevin didn’t think that the man had ever been quite the same after that one had grabbed him by the arm and bit down on his shoulder while they were looting that senior center.
Kevin also believed that the only thing that had saved Joe was the fact that the old man hadn’t been wearing his teeth. The gums had nibbled ineffectively on Joe’s denim shirt, leaving a gross stain of drool, but that had been the extent of the damage. Ever since that incident, Joe had been on some sort of mission where he give the impression that he wanted to single-handedly rid the world of every zombie.
Twice the man had peeled away from the formation when he spied a small cluster of the walking dead. Kevin and the others had always gone after him and stepped in to help with the kill, but Kevin didn’t think the man noticed…or cared. He was so solely focused on bringing destruction.
That had been demonstrated to the fullest one time in particular. Joe had pulled away and actually just dropped his bike on its side to go wade into a group of eleven walkers. Kevin had sighed and then turned his own bike to go render assistance. He parked and was just climbing off when a hand grabbed him. It was Mark. The big man shook his head.
“Just let him do his thing,” Mark Trees had rumbled.
Kevin had pulled away and taken a step towards the melee, but then stopped and found himself waiting and watching. Joe had been like a very tall Tasmanian Devil as his arms whipped around in a flurry of head strikes and crippling shots that would take a zombie off its feet so that he could move in for a killing blow. When it was over, the man hadn’t even acknowledged the trio who had stood by watching the ordeal. He had simply walked to his bike, pulled out a fresh batch of wipes and given himself a good cleanup.
As they drove down the highway now, distant specks on the horizon marked their quarry. The little convoy seemed to be driving the speed limit. Kevin’s smile widened as they drew closer by the minute.
“Slow down!” Mark yelled, pulling up close to Kevin. “We might spook them. I don’t care what the TV shows say, a motorcycle doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell against a truck.”
Kevin nodded and let off the throttle. He hadn’t survived that breakout of the jail’s intake center, a shootout with a handful of state troopers, and a very large horde of the undead that had surrounded them in that diner where they had crashed for the night that one time, just to become road kill for a bunch of scared little country mice that took off at the first sound of a useless burglar alarm and a small mob of zombies that numbered fewer than a hundred.
Yes, Kevin Staley thought as he smiled big despite the bug that had just flown into his teeth with a crunchy splat, I have the whole zombie apocalypse in front of me, and I’m going to milk it for all the insane chaos I can manage.