Here's a Chuck Dixon double feature snippet! After you read the first chapter of Blooded, keep going for the first chapter of Gomers!
This wasn’t the first time I woke up in a cheap motel wondering how I got there. After three rough divorces, I know the turf. Only not a shack-up as cheap as the one I found myself in this time.
I opened my eyelids as far as I was able. Stained ceiling tiles. Never a good sign. Drop ceilings hide things like mold or bullet holes. I tried to raise my head for a better view. Bad move. Nausea. The room shimmied like I was seeing it in a home video. I caught a glimpse of the plastic alarm clock on the nightstand before my head dropped back on the pillow.
AM or PM?
That’s how hungover I was.
Only this was like no hangover I’ve ever had. I’ve had the dry heaves hangovers. And the ones where your tongue feels like it’s been replaced with a dead slug. And the ones where your eyes can’t seem to look in the same direction. And the headaches. The epic, put-me-out-of-my-misery skullbangers that feel like they’re never going to go away.
This one was nothing like any of them.
I felt like my body had no weight to it. Something like a tingling chill over my whole body but not unpleasant. My head felt funny but there was no pain. No headache at all. I tried to remember what I’d been drinking. The taste in my mouth was tinny. Whatever I’d been abusing the night before, it wasn’t my usual.
It took a year and a half but I managed to turn on my side to face the front of the motel room. A sliver of yellow light under the drawn blinds. Afternoon then.
The room was grim. And it reeked. My nose took in every funky smell like they were in high definition. Spilled beer, cigarettes, sweat, and sex. And something else. A dense, organic smell that was sweet and musky all at the same time.
Walls covered in cheap paneling that shared the secrets concealed by the ceiling tiles. An old Samsung tv was secured to the wall with a bicycle lock. An ancient chest of drawers dotted with cigarette burns. Yard sale paintings of horses crooked on the walls.
There were dried drops on my pillow. I lifted the once-white sheet to find a broad smear of blood fringed with red fingerprints. Some of it was still tacky. The bed was sticky under me. My naked ass came off the sheets with a ripping sound.
Something barreled up my throat from my stomach. I made it to the bathroom, sliding on my knees over the cracked tiles. I tore the shower curtain aside to empty my guts into the tub.
I vomited up what looked like a gallon of blood. Bright red with black clots sliding down the walls of the tub toward the drain.
I was dying. Right?
I ran a shaking hand over my sides and back. No stiches there. No one had taken any vital organs from me. My fingers found a wound on the side of my throat. Two crossed slits about two inches long with the flesh at the edges puckered. Someone had cut my throat and left me for dead.
My hand came back without blood on it. Maybe I was all out of blood. Maybe I was bleeding out internally. I had no idea then how much blood an adult male holds. I do now. But then I figured I must have puked up most of my supply.
On shaking legs, I levered myself off of the side of the tub to get a better look at that cut on my neck.
I didn’t get that far.
Scrawled across the glass of the mirror were words spelled out in blood. My blood.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
Uh-oh! I think I know what just happened, do you? Find out Friday when the Chuck Dixon Paranormal Double Pack is published!
Now, on to the Gomers snipper!
The military vehicles passed them in the opposite lanes going hard and loud.
A long stream of deuce-and-a-halfs, Hummers and army semi-trailers, including a tank on a flatbed, all rolling tight and fast, northbound.
“That’s the third one this morning, right?” Mercy said from the suicide seat of the Coachman.
“Some kind of maneuvers or something,” Uncle Fuller said, watching the trucks flash by on the other side of the grass median.
“Maybe those riots that were on the radio?”
“I don’t know much about being a soldier but I don’t think they bring tanks to a riot.”
“Still, something’s going on,” she said.
“Nothing to do with us,” he said and lit another Camel.
Mercy turned on the dash radio and switched to AM. It was all talk radio, gospel, and Spanish language stations. Nothing more about the riots up north in Philadelphia and Camden. She moved the dial a little more to a country oldies station.
“Keep it there,” Uncle Fuller said.
Mercy sat back and watched the trees go by while some old-school redneck warbled about lost love and getting drunk. She liked riding up front in the RV, but Uncle Fuller’s taste in music had fossilized back in the ’70s. But she could deal with that.
The Coachman was better than riding in the minivan with Mom, Bill Tom, and Raquel. She didn’t miss Mom harping on her for every little thing. And she could do without the way Bill Tom, her mother’s latest boyfriend, watched her when he thought no one else was looking. And Raquel, her little sister, was only six months into puberty and having her time of the month, which turned her usual annoying self into the Bitch Queen of the Universe.
Her other ride option, which was no option at all, was in the crew cab of the pickup. Hard to tell which smelled worse: Doe at the wheel or the four hundred gallon tank of used motor oil sloshing around in the truck bed. Doe was a first cousin and named that for all the John Doe warrants out for him from Maine to Florida and as far west as Indiana. He smoked a lot and didn’t talk hardly at all.
Five miles before the next exit, a highway sign was flashing to tell drivers to be prepared to stop. State trooper cars, blue lights whirling and flashing, were parked behind barricades placed across both lanes. Troopers on the shoulder directed traffic onto the exit ramp. The staties wore surgical masks. Mercy saw that some of them had shotguns out and ready. One had a rifle cradled in his arms, an ugly black thing with a curved magazine. There were a few cars pulled onto the grass median with no drivers or passengers in sight.
Uncle Fuller slowed down for the exit. The crucifix swung from the rear view on its beaded chain as he tapped the brakes enough to holler out to a trooper, asking what was going on. The trooper only waved on with more emphasis, stabbing his hand ahead, eyes hard over the top of the paper mask.
“Still think this is nothing to do with us?” Mercy said. Uncle Fuller grunted and powered up the exit ramp.
Mercy’s smartphone lit up playing “Fallout Boy.” It was Mom in the minivan following behind.
“Mercy? What’s going on?”
“We don’t know, Mom.”
“What’d that police say to your uncle?”
“He didn’t say nothing, Mom. Just waved us on.”
“What’d Fuller ask him?”
“Same thing you’re asking me, Mom.”
“Tell her I’m pulling off into that K-Mart up ahead,” Uncle Fuller said.
“You hear that?” Mercy said into the cell.
The phone went dead. Mercy sighed heavily and tossed the cell phone to the dash hard enough to bounce it off the windshield.
“You know, you don’t need to be a bitch alla the time,” Uncle Fuller said.
She looked at him, brows furrowed, eyes mean.
“Like that.” He laughed and turned his eyes back to the road.
“I don’t like how she treats me,” Mercy said.
“That ain’t it and you know it.”
“Then why don’t you tell me what it is, Dr. Phil?” she said with a crooked smile, eyes still mean.
“She told me you want to go to school. College. And I’ve seen you reading that GED book.”
“And why can’t I go to school? Learn something?”
“You’ve learned plenty of knowledge out here on the road. You knew more about human nature at ten years old than most girls learn their whole lives,” he said, slowing as he came to the rear of the stopped column of cars.
“Maybe I’m tired of always moving. Spending half the year on the road. Maybe I’d like to stick in one place. Learn something different. Talk to someone who isn’t a cousin of mine for once,” she said, gazing ahead to where a group of men were pushing a stalled pickup off the road. Horns hooted encouragement.
“Well, that’s between you and your mother,” he said, pulling up as the traffic ahead began to inch forward.
“And there it’ll stay,” she said with a bitter smile.
They gathered in the K-Mart lot. The lot was close to full so they had to park in a row of far spaces near the road. Cars were pulling in and pulling out. Some parked on the walk in front of the store. People were pushing loaded carts from the store. More people crowded the entrances.
Mom and Bill Tom were busy talking to Uncle Fuller. Mercy took the opportunity to bum a beer from the cooler Doe kept in his truck bed by the oil tank. Doe made a chirping sound and she tossed him a cold Miller.
“Is there a hurricane coming or something? Looks like a hurricane,” Doe said, leaning back in the open door of his cab after his first pull on the can. His usual Marlboro burned between his yellowed fingers like a natural appendage.
“Nothing on the radio but bullshit,” Mercy said.
“Sure looks something like a hurricane. Everybody shopping like Jesus was on his way.”
“Look at the sky. Not a cloud.”
“I mean the people. They’re stocking up on shit like there’s no more shit left. At a K-Mart, for Christ’s sake. You know what that means, right?” Doe said, nodding toward the crowded storefront.
“What?” Mercy said.
“Means the Walmart ran out of shit.” He grinned, showing the silver tooth in the middle of his uppers.
“Is that a beer?” Mom said, leaving the conference by the RV to charge back toward the pickup.
Before Mercy could answer her mother swatted the can from her hand. Foam went everywhere.
“What’d I tell you, Doe?” her mother said, voice rising, her own Marlboro waggling where it was pressed in the corner of her mouth.
“What? She ain’t driving.” Doe shrugged.
“You’re riding with us, Mercy. Get in the car with your sister,” Mom said, taking Mercy by the arm.
“Where are we going?” Mercy asked.
“This county road takes us to Harrow. There were new developments going up last time we were through here.”
“That was only last year,” Doe said, crushing his empty in his fist.
“Fuller says two years. We passed it by last year,” Mom said and turned to follow Mercy to the minivan.
“Could be right,” Doe said and climbed behind the wheel of the pickup.
Mercy got in the rear seat of the minivan beside her little sister. Raquel never left the minivan and her eyes never left the monitor set in the back of the driver’s headrest. The movie on the screen was something with cheerleaders. Tinny music escaped from her earbuds. Her full attention fixed on the movie.
“Nice to see you too, sis,” Mercy said and strapped in.
Keep your eyes peeled to the LMBPN Facebook page on Friday to see when the ‘Zon releases this double pack! You know when you get a Chuck Dixon book you're going to get one hell of a ride!