Read the first episode here.


Chapter 26 – Carter Townes


“Feel like talking yet, Sergeant?”


The accent was perfect. This fucker had been educated in America—maybe even born there. Figured. Use the resources America provides and then turn around to use them against America.

Carter looked down at the cables connecting him to a series of truck batteries. It wasn’t the most sophisticated method of torture, but it could get the job done. Unless, of course, it was Sergeant First Class Carter Townes you were trying to get information from.


These assholes weren’t getting anything.


“You might not be the highest ranking officer,” the Iraqi/American went on. “But, you’re high enough to know something useful. So, why don’t you talk, and I’ll tell Aban, here, to lay off the battery for a while?”


Carter spat out a bit of the blood still lingering from the beating he’d gotten earlier. “Why don’t you kiss my ass?”


“Hmm,” was the only reply the man gave before nodding at Aban. Aban touched the cable to the battery, and a wave of electricity shot through Carter’s body again.


It was unbearable. Every nerve exploded in pain as every muscle tensed beyond capacity. Carter’s body flailed in the chair like he was a fish just pulled from the water, waiting for the fisherman to decide its fate.


Then, the shock ended, and Carter went limp. The talker lifted his head up and stared in his eyes.


“You know, Sergeant, I do have all day. So, what should I kiss now?”






Carter slowly roused as the tugs on his shoulder grew more violent. His eyes drifted open to darkness. Loud whispers from across the diner caught his attention. It was hard to make out what was being said, especially since the sound was broken by a closer whisper. Someone was saying his name.


“Sergeant Townes. Sergeant Townes, wake up.”


With the slight illumination coming from outside, Carter traced the hand on his shoulder up a black sleeve and to a white collar. Matteo.


“Wake up, Sergeant Townes.” Even through the whisper, Carter could hear the panic.


It wasn’t the first time he’d been woken up like this. Carter shot up, ignoring the dizziness the alcohol was still causing. He grabbed Matteo’s arm and leaned in close.


“What is it?”


The sudden movement must have startled Matteo. He stuttered, “D-D-Demons. The demons are back.”


What the hell was he on about?


“What demons?”


“The Empty People. They’re outside.”




Frank had said there would be more time. Carter should have known he’d be wrong. But, it didn’t matter. Surprise attacks were something a soldier had to always be prepared for.


Carter let go of Matteo’s arm and drew his gun, turning to the front of the diner in one fluid motion. A second later, he was peering through the boards of the window at six Empty crossing the road. He looked back and counted. Seven including him and excluding the little girl. Not as many as last time, but their also wasn’t as many Empty, either. He’d have to play this just right, or they’d all end being taken.


And he’d be damned if he let anything take him again.


“Listen up, everyone.” He kept his voice just loud enough for only those in the diner to hear. “We don’t have the numbers we had last time, but neither do they. If we keep this tight and by-the-book,” he shot an accusing glance at Michael, “we can keep them from getting in.”


“Fuck you, Carter.” Michael walked up to him. “Why don’t you holster that gun and play by-the-book yourself?”


“I don’t have time for this, Michael.” Carter stepped around him and focused on Rachel. “Rachel. You, Eliza, Matteo, and Anthony need to take your niece to the cellar and gather the weapons. Leave her there.” He motioned to Hadley.


“Aunt Rachel, I’m scared,” the little girl protested, tugging on her aunt’s shirt. Rachel only looked at her.


“Eliza,” Frank said, not looking at her, but at Rachel instead, “take the shotgun and stay down there with Hadley.”


Rachel looked back and forth between Frank and Eliza. The decision was taking longer than it should have. There must have been something between Rachel and Eliza. But, it didn’t matter.


“We can’t afford to have someone else staying down there,” Carter said to Frank. “There’s only seven of us here and six Empty to deal with.”


“You’re wrong,” Michael said from behind him. He was staring out the window. “We won’t be fighting six. It looks like three of them have split off.” He turned and looked at Carter. “They’re heading for the motel.”


Well, shit. There was no way Carter would be able to get to the ones in the motel or bring those in the diner to them. Not with the air as it was and the Empty already close enough to cut him off. Everyone in the motel was on their own. They’d have to fend for themselves.


But, at least he only had to deal with three now. It would still be difficult but manageable. That is, if everyone got their act together and did what he said.


“Why aren’t we moving, people?”


“Eliza, stay down there.” Frank kept his gaze on Rachel.


After a second, she let her shoulders slump. “Fine. Let’s go.”


The five of them sprinted to the kitchen and out of sight. Carter turned back to the window.


They were close now. Three of them. About a hundred feet away. They spread out more and more, each of them knowing their designated area of attack. It was synchronized—they worked as a unit.


And Carter had to deal with these untrained and undisciplined bunch of individuals.


As the thought occurred, a wave of dizziness washed through his head. He brought a hand up to it and stumbled back a step.


“Damn drunkard,” Michael said, burning holes in Carter’s eyes. “You’d better not get trigger-happy again.”


“I’m fine,” Carter said, straightening himself. “Now get to your God-damned post.”