“Don’t take long. Depending on their injuries, revenants will revive in five to ten minutes.”
She paces back and forth while I rework the na’at. The clicking of her boots echoes down the alley. She isn’t like the woman I was talking to in the bar. More like a tiger waiting to eat an antelope it took down.
“What kind of gun was that?” I ask.
“Compressed CO2, like at an amusement park. Mine is more powerful and fires sharpened silver-coated stainless-steel bolts.”
“It’s not necessary for revenants, but the silver allows you to also use them against verdilacs, beast men, and other undesirables.”
“You’ll have to let me try it sometime.”
“After you take me to your donut shop.”
“Are you really here to get into the movies?”
“Of course. I’ve wanted to come to Hollywood for a long time, but I was needed at home. My erotic career was going well. I made money and had ample time to do my family’s real work. Now, though, I’m needed here. It wasn’t hard to get Simon to invite me. I’m going to be in a big-budget Hollywood movie and still have time to do my other work. This is what you call a win-win, yes?”
“You think there’s more Drifters out there?”
“If there are three here, there are many more. How many is the question. We believe the numbers must be dealt with now before things become intolerable.”
“How do you know about all this?”
“My family has done this work for centuries. In the old world and the new. I’m Roma.”
“My grandfather would shoot you for using that word.”
“I’ve been shot for less.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“Let me make sure I have this straight. The cavalry just now rode into town and it’s a Czech Gypsy porn-star zombie killer. Have I got that right?”
She crosses her arms and looks at me like if we weren’t on a timetable she’d kick my ass.
“Forgive me. I didn’t think my life would seem so strange to Lucifer’s alcoholic cowboy assassin.”
“I wasn’t criticizing. I’m just trying to get everyone’s résumé straight. Last night you were a pretty girl at a party and tonight you’re Catwoman.”
“Secrets quickly revealed often seem more profound than they really are.”
“Everything’s profound when there’s guns and zombies.”
She taps her wrist.
“Ticktock, Wild Bill.”
“Done. How does that look?”
I hold out the na’at to her. She takes it and spins it easily, making thrusts, jabbing the air. She drops into a strong forward stance, mimes pushing it through a body and yanking it back out. Whatever else she is, she’s comfortable with weapons.
“Church will revive first. Bring him to me and I’ll show you how it’s done.”
I kick the other two aside and pick up Church. He’s already starting to twitch.
“Lean him against the wall, facing away from us.”
I do it and get behind her.
“Your weapon isn’t perfectly designed yet, but you’ll fix it when I show you a real one. It’s best to go in through the back so you aren’t forced to rip out the rib cage and organs. Thrust the weapon at heart height through the back with an upward motion so you slide between the ribs. Try not to pop it out the front of the body. The blades will expand inside the body and grip the spinal column. Spin the blades to cut away connective tissue and pull sharply using your body weight. Only when the spine is out is the revenant dead.”
Church groans. His body straightens as much as it can, but stays facing the wall. Without its brain it doesn’t occur to it to turn around.
“You can do the next one,” she says.
Brigitte collapses the na’at as small as it will go. Stands at a forty-five-degree angle to Church’s body, resting most of her weight on her back leg, and then swings the na’at over her head. On the third rotation, she snaps the na’at out like she’s throwing a blade. The weapon extends in a second, spearing Church in the back. That wakes him up. He groans and wiggles around like a fish on a line, reaching back with his one good arm to grab at the na’at. Brigitte gives the na’at a sharp snap to the right. Church stiffens. The blades are a Veg-O-Matic in his dead guts. Brigitte crouches and jumps, not an easy thing in her boots. When she comes down she shouts something in Czech and drops her weight back. Church’s back splits open and his spinal column pops out like the handle on a one-armed bandit. This time he goes down and stays down.
Brigitte retracts the na’at and hands it to me.
The second Drifter is dressed in brown shorts and shirt. Some kind of delivery guy. He’s pulling himself to his feet hand over hand, using the Dumpster like a ladder. His back is to me. When he’s upright, I spin the na’at and toss it.
It goes all the way out his front and one of the barbs hooks on the edge of the Dumpster.
When I pull the na’at, the Dumpster moves, too, and the Drifter has to do a little soft shoe to stay upright.
Brigitte sighs and walks to the Dumpster. The Drifter lunges for her and she calmly spins and catches him with a roundhouse kick to the head. While it’s dazed, she climbs onto the Dumpster’s lid and kicks the na’at free.
“Don’t talk. Kill it.”
That might be the sweetest thing a woman’s ever said to me on a first date.
I snap my wrist the way she did, but the barbs are still out the front of the guy’s body. The spinning helps dig through his chest, but I get stuck on his rib cage. I’m pushing and pulling the guy all over the alley, like I’m the worst puppeteer in the universe.
“You’ve shit it all up. There’s no finesse here. Use your strength. Just rip it out.”
I take half a step forward and then snap back, using all my body weight to pull. The Drifter’s back explodes as its rib cage, lungs, heart, and spine spill out onto the alley floor. The stink is worse than a Hellion outhouse.
“Now you know why we try not to do that,” Brigitte says.
“Thanks, Nurse Ratched. Haul up the other one. I’m getting a feel for this.”
Brigitte sets the third one upright. It takes one drunken step toward her. As she steps back, her left boot heel comes down on a chunk of the delivery guy’s liver. Brigitte wobbles for just a second, but it’s just long enough for the Drifter to lunge forward and grab her wrist.
She lays into the guy hard with fists, knees, and elbows, hammering him and twisting her arm to break his grip. A living guy would have let go just from the pain. The problem is that Drifters don’t feel pain and none of her shots are quite hard enough to lay him out because she’s still ice-skating on the guts of the other Drifter.
I swing the na’at and throw. It hits the Drifter square in the back and this time it stays inside. Wrist snap and pull. His spine pops out of his back like a bony jack-in-the-box.
I run over to where Brigitte is leaning on the Dumpster, scraping pieces of lungs, muscle, and who knows what else off her boots.
“I’m really sorry about that.”
“Do you know what these boots cost? Of course you don’t because if you did you’d be shitting yourself.”
“Sorry. I don’t have money, but I can walk into any store in the world and steal you another pair.”
“I’m not worried about the boots. Simon will buy me all the fucking boots I want. I’m worried about what I’ll tell him happened to them.”
“He doesn’t know about your hobby?”
“Simon can be a sweet man, but ninety-nine percent of his IQ is in his cock. I’m his trophy fuck and he can’t conceive of me as anything else.”
“Too bad. He’s missing out.”
Brigitte looks around at the gore-filled alley.
“I’ve seen neater kills, but I’ve also seen worse.”
“I need to call someone about this. I can’t leave a bunch of corpses lying around Carlos’s back door. I know some people, the Golden Vigil. They have all kinds of resources. They can handle this kind of thing.”
“I have people, too. They know how to dispose of revenants. Besides, I don’t much like your Vigil.”
“What do you have against them?”
“They’re the government. They’re police. That’s enough.”
Can’t argue with that. I let her call her people.
I go back into the bar. Carlos is closing up, putting glasses in the washer, dumping ice in the sink, and wiping down the bar top.
“Brigitte is finishing up out back. The bodies will be gone soon.”
“I never thought I’d see anything in here scarier than those skinheads that used to come in, but you always manage to surprise me.”
“Don’t worry. We’re going to check this out and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Está chido. I’d appreciate that.”
“This is probably a bad time to ask, but can I still get a burrito to go?”
Carlos looks at me for a second.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
I go into the men’s room and check myself in the mirror. I don’t look too bad, but there’s more blood spatter than I’d hoped. I slip off my shirt and hang it on a hook on the back of one of the toilet stall doors. I turn on the spigot in one of the sinks and wait for hot water.
A minute later, Brigitte comes in, slapping her cell phone closed.
“My people are on their way.”
“Who are your people?”
She goes through the same routine I just did. Looks in the mirror. Doesn’t like what she sees and turns on the water in the other sink.
“Where did you hang your shirt?”
“There’s hooks on the toilet doors.”
She takes off her blouse and comes back to the sink in just her bra and skirt.
I keep my eyes to myself, scrubbing the last drops of dead guy off my arms and face. I should probably do something about my boots, too, but I’d feel kind of stupid shining my shoes next to a half-naked woman. I can wait until I get home.
Brigitte dries her face with a paper towel.
“How do I look?”
“Like thrill-kill Mona Lisa.”
“No, you fool. Look close. Is there any blood? On my neck? My arms? Check my back.”
“Good,” she says, and pushes her hair back with her wet hands.
“Now I’ll do you.”
She turns me into the light and inspects my face.
“You missed a spot.”
She uses her thumb to rub something off my cheek. Then my forehead. Her fingers move around and hold the back of my head. Her arms ripple where the muscles work underneath her skin. So different from the pretty girl at the Geistwalds’ party. And the rancid meat we just left in the alley. Her heartbeat and breathing are up. She runs her other hand over my chest.
“I like your scars.”
And just like that, we’re kissing.
My hands move down her back and up her sides. I can barely remember what it’s like to be this close to another body without trying to punch or stab it. Brigitte’s skin is smooth in a way that feels brand-new. Is all skin like this? Have I really forgotten everything about bodies that isn’t about killing them?
I run my hands up Brigitte’s belly to cup her breasts. She reaches back to undo her bra and tosses it on the sink. We catch ourselves in the mirror and how ridiculous we look. Making out in a bathroom. Tracking gore on the floor. Brigitte smiles up at me and pushes me back with surprising strength into the stall where I hung up my shirt.
I sit down on the toilet and she follows me in, closing and locking the door behind her. She drops down onto my lap, straddling me, and we’re kissing again. Her skirt is pushed up and she’s moving her hips up and down over the hard-on that’s been tucked away in my pants for eleven years.
Maybe she’s part mind reader because she reaches down, unzips me, and lets my cock flip back against my belly. She reaches down and wraps her hand around it.
“What about your pal Ritchie?”
“You talk too much.”
She lets go of my cock and stands up, reaches under her skirt and slips her panties off, balancing on one leg at a time with the sure and practiced motion of a sniper taking aim.
“You should know I haven’t done this in a long time.”
She lowers her hips, grabs my cock, and slides me into her. The feeling is both familiar and strange, in the same way that everything happening is both familiar and strange. The good news is that bodies are bodies, and even if your brain is on overload, sense memory takes over when you feel her body start to move. After a couple of fumbling tries, we fall into a gliding rhythm and our bodies seem to sync up, Brigitte coming down deeper and deeper as I move up into her.
My hands move back up her body, cup her breasts, and pinch her nipples. She leans back, pressing her hands and arms against the stall walls while thrusting down hard with her hips. Every few strokes, I put my hands on her waist and hold her there, deep inside her, then let her go and we fall back to our rhythm.
We’re both panting and covered in sweat. Gutting Drifters was a walk on the beach. This might kill us.
Something blares from across the room, bouncing off the tile walls. It’s a short loop of Johnny Cash singing “Ring of Fire.”