First of all, congrats Beth to winning the Contagium Celebration Giveaway!! I had fun running the contest and plan on doing another one soon! Contagious is being featured on The Bookish Brunette's Zombie Craze in June, so I will put something together for then :) Maybe I'll even have the new covers to reveal!! (Fingers crossed...I'm still waiting for an update on how things are going)
I had mentioned before that a few things would be different in the re-released versions of C and DC. I altered the ending of DC just a tiny bit, mostly changing the setting and the way the action unfolds with Orissa and Rider. I just wasn't happy with the way those two went off alone. It didn't feel right. It was out of character. So I changed it (a while ago, actually) but never got around to posting about it.
With out further ado, here is the revised (but still unedited) last chapter of Deathly Contagious. :)
© Emily Goodwin
“What?” I asked, terror creeping into my heart.
“The Imperial Lords,” Wade said hoarsely. “That is their car. I remember it.” He looked at Hayden with guilt in his eyes. “We thought we killed them all. I-I don’t know how the last one got away. I hit him in his calf. He would have bled out unless…”
“Unless he got help in time,” Rider finished for him. “But there weren’t others. We made sure of it!”
The terror turned into rage. I wanted to track down the guys in the Mustang and slowly beat the life out of them. I wanted to shoot them in the shoulder so they knew how it felt. Feeling suddenly very protective of Hayden, I stepped in front of him.
Hayden bit his lip, still looking at the road. He was thinking and I could tell he wasn’t sure what to do. Ivan looked just as pissed as I felt.
“Let’s kill those motherfuckers,” I said venomously.
Ivan nodded. “I’d love to,” he agreed.
Hayden shook his head. “We don’t know anything about them. They could be just as armed as we are.”
“We outnumber them!” I told him, assuming it to be true. “You can’t fit that many people in a Mustang.”
Hayden nodded and looked at the guys. “We should follow them; keep a safe distance.”
“And if we’re seen?” Rider asked.
“Open fire,” I answered for Hayden.
The guys nodded. “Sounds like a plan I can follow,” Ivan said deviously. “Mess with my boys and you’re going down.”
“The one you shot who got away,” I said to Wade. “I call dibs. I want to crush every bone in his face and cut off his balls and let him bleed to death.”
Hayden gave me a look that said he was startled by my violence.
“You have no idea what it felt like to think you were dead,” I told him. “I want them to pay for what they did. They almost killed you—almost killed me too. Do you remember the pain you were in? I’m not going to let those assholes die quickly. I want them to feel the life slipping away. I want them to bleed and I want them to hurt.”
“You’re scary when you’re angry,” Rider said after a moment of silence.
“Good,” I spat. I was angry, but not at Rider. I hoped he knew that. “We’re wasting time, let’s go.”
We rushed to the cars, which—thank God—were hidden from view by the garage. If those assholes noticed Hayden’s truck, they would have stopped for sure. I sat up front, pistol at my side. We tore down the road, slowing once we figured we more or less caught up with the Mustang. Thankfully we caught it turning onto a road lined with businesses. It was easy to track their whereabouts by the God-awful music. The base was loud enough to wake the dead.
If that was their goal, they succeeded. Hayden jerked the wheel and we flew down an alley. I imagined it going down in a drive-by fashion. The Mustang revved the engine and there was a short, rapid firing at the zombies before it sped off again.
The dumbasses managed to kill three of the seven zombies that wandered out on the streets. Four zombies weren’t a threat. We could run them over if we had too.
“Oh shit,” Rider said. “Don’t turn around,” he muttered.
Behind us, a half dozen or so crawled out of dark corners, out of broken windows, and from behind dumpsters.
“Riss, can you get them?” Hayden asked. “Where’s your bow?”
“In the bed,” I said grimly. “I can get out and—”
“No,” Hayden interrupted. “If it comes to that, we’ll run them over.”
Hearts pounding, we painfully waited until the thumping base disappeared. A zombie sniffed the air and turned towards us. I removed the knife from around my ankle and waited. My window was still rolled down. I saw Hayden’s fingers touch the window control buttons on his side. My grip tightened on the knife.
Half of her jaw was missing. The skin had rotted off her nose, leaving blackened holes were her nostrils should have been. Boney fingers grabbed the door. I pushed myself up and drove the knife into her forehead. I held onto the handle as she slumped down.
Her head hit the door, splattering blood on my lap and the interior of the truck. I used the hem of my shirt to wipe up it up. Hayden put the truck in reverse and slowly accelerated out of the alley. We wound our way through the town. Momentarily losing sight and sound of the Mustang, I felt a flicker of fear inside of me that I wouldn’t get my revenge.
Then we saw it, zooming down the road, sun glinting off the chrome bumpers. Staying far behind, we slowed and only sped up once the Mustang turned off the road we were traveling. We continued our game of cat and mouse for another few miles. Then the Mustang hit the brakes and jerked a hard turn to the left.
“Stop,” Brock’s voice came from over the walkie.
“Why?” I answered.
“I know where that road leads,” he told us.
“What is that?” I asked.
“A state mental hospital.”
My blood turned ice cold. “What?” I asked again, even though Brock had been perfectly clear.
“It’s a mental hospital. With a maximum security ward for the criminally insane. Orissa, tell Hayden to pull over.” Having heard Brock, Hayden let off the gas. The SUV pulled up next to us. “I’ve been here before,” Brock told us. “It was a long time ago, but I didn’t forget. That road leads to the hospital.”
“I believe you,” Hayden told him.
“What should we do?” Rider asked from the backseat.
“We should check it out,” Hayden said with a nod. “Brock, do you know your way around?”
Brock shook his head. “I was here six years ago, volunteering with my psych class. I know they added to it since then. It’s well built, strong, and easily guarded. Next to our compound, I would say it’s the safest place to live out the outbreak.”
“And?” I asked, my palms sweating. “Is there a way we can get a look at…at anything?”
“Yeah, well, I think.” Brock nodded. “There is—or was—a greenhouse farm behind the hospital. It was used for therapy, like taking care of plants helps anyone,” he mused and shook his head. “There was some sort of incident and two patients and a guard got killed. They shut it down and now it’s empty. I know there was a story on the news about it right before I got shipped out. I don’t know more details,” he said apologetically.
“Can we get there on a back road? I don’t want to be seen,” Ivan said.
“I think so.” Brock looked out the window and chewed on his lip. “We have to go back to town and turn. Then we should be able to find it.”
“Or,” I said, opening the glove box. “We can find out for sure.”
“Let’s get back into town first,” Hayden suggested. “We stick out right here.”
We turned around and sped into town. With trembling hands, I spread open the map, located where we were at and traced the path around the hospital.
“Be prepared for anything,” Hayden told me quietly. “If it’s bad…Riss I don’t want you there.”
“If it’s bad, it’s because we are killing them,” I told him. “Hayden, I’m getting your revenge.”
He just nodded and put his hand on my thigh for a second before turning the truck around and speeding through the town and onto the road that would take us behind the hospital. My heart was hammering in my throat, my pulse bounding through my body when the greenhouses came into view.
The roof was collapsed on the closest one and another was covered in ivy. I let out a small breath of relief; they weren’t being used at all. I doubted the sons of bitches who shot Hayden gave a crap about the greenhouses anymore. I put the knife back in my boot, an M9 in my waistband, an M16 around my neck, and ammo in my pockets. Ideas of what kind of pain I would inflict first flashed through my brain.
Moving slowly, we crouched our way around the greenhouses, which were all empty. The back of each greenhouse had a large, garage-style door that could manually be lifted and lowered. Thinking it would be good to keep our cars hidden we moved the truck and the SUV inside and closed the door.
We layed down and army crawled through the trees and tall grass. My body hummed with adrenaline. The hospital was surrounded by two rows of twelve foot fencing with rolls of barbed wire at the top. Looking through the scope of my rifle, I could see a man with a gun walking the perimeter. He walked briskly down the fence, looked around, and walked just as quickly back into the hospital.
“If we can get closer we can shoot him,” I whispered.
“I can shoot him from here,” Hayden told me. “I just can’t see him anymore.”
“Look,” Ivan said quietly. “There’s a dry irrigation ditch. It goes around the building. If we use it, we can see what it’s like on the other side.”
“Ok,” Hayden said. “Let’s do it.”
“Someone should stay here to keep watch,” Brock suggested. “Since they seem to use that as an exit. The trees offer good enough cover.” Using his gun, he motioned several yards over to a thicket of bushes and trees.
“I’ll stay,” I offered, hoping that guy would come out of the mental hospital and I could get a clear shot.
“Me too,” Rider offered and clicked on his walkie-talkie. “I’ll let you know if anyone comes out the door.”
Ivan nodded. “Watch and report only. We’re not even going to think about opening fire until we know just who we’re dealing with.” His eyes were on me. I nodded, and as much as I wanted revenge on the people who hurt Hayden, I knew he was right.
“Be careful,” I blurted, not happy with the fact that Hayden was leaving the safety of the thick tree line.
“You too,” Hayden said quietly. He put his hand on my cheek and gave me a quick kiss goodbye. He went first, making sure the coast really was clear. Once in the ditch, he waved the others in. My heart beat faster and faster as they moved away. Sweat rolled down my forehead.
“Riss,” Rider whispered. “Let’s go.”
I nodded and crawled forward, right behind Rider. He would occasionally stop and risk a look above us. We crawled, stopped, looked, and continued, going slow as we wound our way around trees. The thin forest was full of weeds, bugs, and rocks. My hands burned but I didn’t have time to even think about the pain.
Rider looked up and then flattened himself to the ground. Taking the hint I did too. My breath left my lungs, seeming like a dead giveaway to where we were hiding. I took a deep breath and held it. I closed my eyes, trying to calm my racing heart. I didn’t want to get spotted, and I sure as hell didn’t want to get mistaken for a zombie and end up with a bullet in my head.
After what felt like eternity, Rider looked up again and slowly got to his feet. Concealed by thick, green vegetation, it would be impossible for anyone inside the hospital fence to see us. In turn, it was hard for us to see them.
I silently eased forward with painstakingly slow movements. I dropped to my knees and peered through a break in the leaves.
A deep ditch—much like our moats—was in the process of being dug around the fence. It had to be at least twelve feet deep and ten feet wide. A backhoe sat on the other side of the ditch, teasing us. If only we had one of those, I thought bitterly. An obviously handmade bridge had been cast across.
I looked at Rider and pointed to the bridge. Following my finger, he narrowed his eyes.
“What do you think it leads to?” he whispered.
I shook my head. “Maybe just an ‘oh-shit’ bridge. Ya know, in case they have to run.”
Rider nodded and let his eyes run the length of the fence. “There’s something over there, do you see it? It looks like a dog tunneled under the fence.”
Keeping our eyes on the prison and the area behind us, we slipped a few feet deeper into the thicket, wanting to get a better look and understanding of a possible entrance. If the guys needed that bridge to get in or out of the hospital, destroying it could work in our favor.
Something rustled. Rider and I froze, quickly looking all around us. Rider turned to me and shook his head; he didn’t see anything. I looked behind me, gazing in the direction Hayden was in. He was far from us by now, and the greenhouses that hid our cars were probably a mile away. Carefully, Rider and I pressed forward.
It never occurred to me to look up until it was too late. Someone jumped down, landing hard on my back. I fell forward and the wind got knocked out of me. Another launched himself down at Rider. Rider dodged out of the way and rolled to my side. He kicked the guy on top of me hard in the ribs. The guy cried out and pulled a gun from his side.
“No!” I shouted. I struggled to get my own weapon. The other guy was faster. My fingers closed on my knife right as the shot rang out. Birds took flight, the flapping of their wings echoing off the trees. Rider fell to his knees, his hands on his stomach. Blood pooled around his fingers.
“No!” I screamed again. I closed my hand around the knife and sprang up. “Rider!” I cried, rushing over to him. Tears blurred my vision.
“Riss,” he muttered and started coughing. Blood bubbled from his lips.
I crawled to him, crying. He reached out for me and just as our fingers touched, I was jerked away. I swung my hand around and made contact with who ever had a handful of my hair. He yelled in pain and kicked me in the back, his foot hitting my kidney.
I thrashed forward, desperately wanting to get away and get to Rider. I raised my hand again and brought the point of the knife down on the guy’s foot, causing him to scream in pain.
“Dumb bitch,” he howled and grabbed my wrist. The guy who shot Rider walked over. He laughed when he saw me struggling.
“This one seems like fun,” he said and kicked the knife from my hand.
“I will kill you both!” I threatened. I elbowed the guy who was holding me in the ribs and brought my foot up to smash his balls. His grip on my hair loosened and I was able to pull away. The other guy leaned in to grab me. I reached behind me to get the M9 but it wasn’t there. It must have fallen out when the bastard landed on me.
I didn’t have time to get the M16 from around my neck. Something stuck me in the back of the head. Stunned, I wavered. Then I felt a heavy blow to my knees, causing me to fall. I made one last attempt to get to Rider, who was coughing and gurgling up blood.
“I’m sorry,” I cried. My fingers closed around his. He gave them one last squeeze. I made a mad grab for his pistol. I grabbed it, aimed at my attacker and pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. Unlike me, Rider was smart and kept his safety on. From behind, someone kicked me in the side and then kicked the pistol out of my hands. He raised his foot and it came crashing down on my ribs. A horrible, biting, sharp pain flooded my body. It hurt so badly I could barely breathe.
Hands harshly grabbed a handful of my hair and pulled me back, dragging me over the rough ground. I cried out in protest and in pain when another blow came to my rib cage. Heavy, rough hands gripped my arms.
The guy who attacked Rider picked up my pistol and hit me in the temple. My vision was fuzzy and blood dripped in my face. I struggled to get away, trying to twist and sink my fingernails into my attacker’s skin.
I couldn’t get my feet to work properly. I was a couple yards away from Rider now. I reached up and dug my nails into the guys arm.
“Ah!” he yelled. I heard the familiar sound of a magazine sliding in a gun. The guy stopped dragging me. I felt a bone shattering pain in the back of my head.
And then everything went black.