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Saturday, 23rd August, 2008, 02:03 PM #261
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
McKinley Boulevard: Conclusion
Archive climbed up out of the hole to hand Kristian’s unconscious body to Clara. Hammer sat propped up in one corner, nursing his bruised ribs.
“Did you find Gideon?” she asked hopefully.
Archive slowly shook his head. He had found Gideon. Pieces of him, sacrificed on an altar down below. But Clara didn’t need to know that. He’d also found Dave’s corpse, but nobody seemed to be concerned about him.
“Why don’t you take Kristian outside?” said Hammer. “Diana’s just woken up too, she’s waiting for you.”
Weeping, Clara took Kristian and left.
Hammer peered down the hole. “Did you find what we came for?”
Archive nodded. “There was a sorcerer living in the sub-basement, a Tsathogen.” He tossed hammer a gold pocket watch and chain. On the inside of the cover was etched, “Cedric Ruell Hedge.”
“Tsathogens are very rare; only seven are known to exist, but they’re extremely long-lived. Tsathogens are tied to their temples, and once they outlive a normal human lifespan they’re physically restricted to its boundaries. Hedge was down there for God-only-knows how long, sacrificing orphans to Tsathoggua. And in return he was protecting this place from detection. He thought he had slaughtered enough orphans to summon an incarnation of Tsathoggua, but he wasn’t able to control it. When Hedge died, the other cultists abandoned the orphanage and relocated the children.”
“Any leads on the orphans they placed?”
“I found the corpse of a little girl down there, along with her doll.” He placed the doll reverently at the edge of the hole. The doll was the same one from his dreams. “According to this ring,” he held up a tin ring, “her name was Sophie Ennis.”
“That’s not much to go on.”
“The files were mostly destroyed, but I was able to make out one name: Robert Monroe-Tyler was sent to Yuma Flats, New Mexico.”
“It’s a start,” said Hammer. “So you found everything of value down there?”
“Yeah,” said Archive. “Why?”
Hammer put a grenade to his lips and pulled the ring with his teeth.
“Wait, what are you doing?!”
“This wasn’t an official mission. There’s no STREETSWEEPER team to clean up after us,” he tossed the grenade into the hole. “I’d get moving if I were you.”
Archive jogged out of the house with Hammer limping behind. There was a shudder as the grenade exploded in the foundation below.
With a horrible crunch, the house suffered a catastrophic collapse. Sagging beams gave way, and the section of the house over the abandoned temple crashed into the ground.
Clara and Diana looked on in shock.
“Good thing we got you out of there when we did,” said Hammer as he limped past them to his car. “Gas leaks can make people see a lot of crazy things.”
- EN World
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Sunday, 24th August, 2008, 01:43 PM #262
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Chapter 18: Closed Casket - Introduction
This scenario, “Closed Casket,” is a Cthulhu Now scenario by Brian M. Sammons from Chaosium’s Secrets. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!
Our cast of characters includes:
I finally moved into my house and was ready to try out my brand spanking new gaming lair. Unfortunately, that meant a few things: 1) my players would have to take the ferry to Connecticut, and 2) I would have to actually get my lair set up. As a result of these two obstacles, we lost one of the PCs (Archive) as well as one of the miniatures (Hammer). What was supposed to be a series of scenarios for several agents turned into a cozy duo against the world.
- Game Master: Michael Tresca
- Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero) played by George Webster
- Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
And yet it works. Action horror, especially, works best when the odds are against the heroes. And in this scenario, where I stole liberally from the remake of the Hills Have Eyes, if one agent goes down they both go down. It turned into something of a road-trip buddy movie at the beginning, and then went south fast.
Because this was an unofficial mission, the agents didn’t have their usual firepower. That worked just fine here (it doesn’t work as well in later scenarios, as you’ll see), forcing the agents to think creatively. I also made it very clear that the bad guys don’t want to kill the characters…they have something far worse in mind. This made fighting to survive more urgent and more than just a battle of hit points.
This scenario also showed the power of the team’s versatility. Jim-Bean’s ability to heal himself and Hammer’s gun-fu really came in handy. Unfortunately, the creepiest part of the scenario in which the agents travel to a faux town filled with dummies used for atomic bomb testing never happened because the agents were never caught. Still, I felt the ending was suitably climactic.
Defining Moment: A barely conscious Hammer fights for his life as a giant monster drags him to his doom.
Monday, 25th August, 2008, 11:40 AM #263
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Prologue
YUMA FLATS, NM – Jim-Bean flicked the knob on the radio, bored out of his mind. The only reception he was able to get was AM. The tinny sound was painful to listen to.Eat the rich!
There's only one thing that they are good for.
Eat the rich!
Take one bite now - come back for more.
--Eat the Rich by Aerosmith
“The hunt continues for the two missing tourists last seen in Yuma FlatszzzCRSSSSH—“ the radio cut off.
Jim-Bean fiddled with the radio. “Great, now we can’t even listen to the radio.” He fished out his cistron. “Why aren’t we using our cistrons again? I want to use the MP3 player.”
Hammer looked over at his companion from the driver’s side of the Honda Civic. “It’s an unauthorized mission. Remember the Paradise Theater? Richard Jacobs was raised at the Labib Home for Children. Drake thinks it’s tied to a conspiracy to raise cultists across America. And since Drake no longer works for Majestic-12…”
“That’s fabulous,” muttered Jim-Bean.
“We tracked down records at the Labib Home for Children to one Robert Monroe-Tyler, who was adopted by a family in Yuma Flats, New Mexico.”
A sign read: LAST STOP FOR 200 MILES.
“That explains the sign,” said Jim-Bean. “But not why Guppy and Archive aren’t with us.”
“Who do you think tracked Robert this far?” snapped Hammer. “As for Guppy, I haven’t seen him in awhile either.”
The gas gauge started blinking.
“I’d feel better if I had my G36.”
“No requisitions,” said Hammer. “If Sprague found out he’d yank us off the case. I’ve got to pull over to refill the tank.”
“That’s why we don’t have the van, huh?”
“Don’t knock the Honda Civic,” said Hammer. “We blend in better than an unmarked black van.”
“That van has its purpose. This Civic isn’t much protection. Or much of anything, really.”
“Trust me, the van would be out of place out here.” Hammer pulled the car over to an ancient gas station.
“How did we even find this information about Monroe-Tyler anyway?”
“Remember SINNER? Her jog around the Internet? Drake’s been feeding us leads through her.”
On the side of the road, at the bottom of a hill, the gas station had survived years of wind and dust. Around the main building, a tool shed, three gas pumps, a dilapidated well, a water tower, and gutted carcasses of cars from the 1950s accentuated the desolate feeling that prevailed. A few tumbleweeds rolled across the road.
An older man with yellowed teeth hobbled up to their vehicle. “Fill ‘er up?”
“Yes, please,” said Hammer.
“We don’t see too many travelers around here,” asked the old man. “Where you all headed?”
“We’re looking for I-40,” said Hammer.
The old gas station attendant checked the oil and water. “You’re at least six or seven hours away. This is the only southbound road that connects to I-40. From there you can take I-40 to California. But you’ll never make it before sundown…”
“Sundown? Why does it matter if we get to the road before sundown?” Jim-Bean asked suspiciously.
“You won’t get no cell phone reception out here if you get into trouble,” said the old man.
“Why not?” asked Jim-Bean. “Some kind of supernatural fog or something?”
The old man chuckled. “Nothin’ that fancy. Yuca Flats was a testing ground for atom bombs. I wouldn’t be caught dead out on the road at night.
Hammer pondered the response in silence. The only sound was the TING! TING! TING! of the antiquated gas pump.
“You sell other stuff too, right?” asked Jim-Bean.
The old codger nodded. “Some things. Whatcha need?”
“You got shotgun shells?”
An odd expression passed the old man’s face as he caught sight of the pistol holstered under Jim-Bean’s armpit. “Maybe. I don’t normally sell ‘em…”
“I’ll pay you good money,” said Jim-Bean.
“You boys ain’t with the Mob, are ya?”
It was Jim-Bean’s turn not to say anything.
“I’ll go get ‘em for ya.” He hobbled off.
“We don’t have a shotgun,” said Hammer out of the side of his mouth. “What the hell do you want shotgun shells for?”
“You never know,” said Jim-Bean. “I don’t like the feel of this place.”
“One of your psychic ‘feelings’?” asked Hammer suspiciously.
“Oh don’t start with that now. I explained it to you once already: I was found by the Psychic Research Association. PISCES recruited me from there.”
“I get all that ESP mumbo-jumbo,” said Hammer. “But you took a shotgun blast at point-blank range. Nobody survives that.” He peered at his fellow agent suspiciously.
“Oh, yeah, that…” Jim-Bean cleared his throat. “Look mate, let’s just put it this way: would you rather have a screaming Indian geek with you or a lucky chap who knows his way around a pistol?”
Hammer tapped Jim-Bean’s temple. “As long as that’s all I get.”
Wednesday, 27th August, 2008, 11:31 AM #264
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Part 1a – Ambush
Jim-Bean was torn out of his nap as the car suddenly lurched. “What the hell is going on?” he shouted.
Hammer struggled to keep the car under control. “Front tires blew out!”
The car swerved, zigzagging on the dirt road before crashing against some rocks.
Hammer hopped out of the car to inspect the wheels. “Great.”
The Civic’s tires were shredded, the rims buried into the ground.
Jim-Bean stared at what was left of the tires. Then he looked back at the road behind them. “That’s weird.”
“I don’t see what you could have hit. Both tires go out and there’s not a sharp rock in sight?”
Hammer looked around. The lunar terrain of sand and rocks extended beyond the horizon. In the distance, only the jagged hills were cut out against the sky.
“Screw this, I’m calling for help.” Jim-Bean fished his cistron out of his pocket.
“No wait, you’ll alert Sprague—“
The cistron let out a mournful series of beeps. “Huh. No signal. These things run by satellite, right?’
“Yeah,” said Hammer. He pulled out his own cistron and held it up. “No signal for me either. Satellite can’t get a fix on us.”
“That’s not normal, is it?” asked Jim-Bean.
“No it’s…what was that?”
Jim-Bean looked around. Hammer had shielded his eyes and was pointing.
There was a flash of light coming from a hilltop.
“Guess we start walking,” said Jim-Bean.
Thursday, 28th August, 2008, 11:38 AM #265
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Part 1b – Ambush
Jagged rock after jagged rock, the two agents slowly climbed towards the summit where they saw the flash.
The path opened up between two big stones reaching an intermediate zone before the top—a type of natural labyrinth formed in the rocks by years of erosion.
A swift shadowed flickered behind them.
Hammer and Jim-Bean drew their pistols. Hammer gestured for Jim-Bean to circle around. Then he slowly crept towards the rocky outcropping where the shadow had stopped moving.
Hammer turned, both hands on one pistol. “Don’t move!”
He discovered a scrawny young man wearing a long, dirty trench coat, an old hat, and dark glasses. A filthy scarf covered his face.
“What are you doing here?” demanded Hammer.
The man just rocked in place, whispering to himself.
“Hello? Do you understand me?”
He kept rocking. Hammer exchanged glances with Jim-Bean, who had his pistol aimed at him from behind.
“What are you…” began Hammer. He leaned closer to listen.
“The hills…the hills are watching…the hills are watching…the hills are watching…”
“Listen pal, I don’t know—“
There was a small rock slide behind him. Hammer whirled, pistol at the ready.
Nothing. When he turned back, the kid was gone.
“I thought you had him covered?” asked Hammer.
“I did! But I heard the rockslide and then…is that blood?”
Jim-Bean clambered over the rocks to join Hammer. Sure enough, there was a bloody trail of dark red, smeared across the scree.
“Looks likes whatever it was dragged a body up there.”
The bloody trail was still fresh and disappeared behind another set of rocks a few feet away. Jim-Bean climbed ahead of Hammer.
As soon as he made it around the outcropping on the other side Jim-Bean saw something that stopped him dead in his tracks. Before him on the ground was the corpse of a young woman, disemboweled. She was missing one of her arms.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Something wet spattered Jim-Bean’s hand. He held it up to the light.
It was blood.
Above them, perched on a rock, crouched a woman with an impressive build. She wore old clothes covered with dust, and a derby hat on her head. Binoculars hung from around her neck. She had no face, as if it were totally covered with wax; just two little holes for nostrils and no ears. Her mouth was like an open wound sliced in her skin. Her eyes were the only features that give her any human resemblance at all. Using her hands, the thing devoured an arm.
“Son of a—“ was all Jim-Bean got out before she leaped from the outcropping onto him.
Her fetid breath, rife with the stench of rotting meat, made him gag. Jim-Bean struggled for his pistol, but she had his weapon arm pinned in a vice-like grip.
“Shoot her!” shouted Jim-Bean.
The muffled retort of four silenced pistol shots jolted the woman’s body, but her maw kept snapping at Jim-Bean’s throat. The bullets seemed to have little effect.
Jim-Bean smashed across the face with his free forearm. She released his pistol arm and, grabbing his forearm with both hands, bit down hard.
“BITCH!” shrieked Jim-Bean. He shoved his pistol into her gut and pulled the trigger.
The impact of the bullet sent her tumbling backwards. She started loping away like a mad gorilla.
Taking careful aim, Hammer fired another volley of bullets. The woman fell down face first, collapsing into the rubble.
Jim-Bean nursed the angry red wound where the woman had bit him. “What the hell was that?”
“I’m not sure,” said Hammer. He bent down to inspect the corpse of the young woman the thing had been eating. “But now we know what happened to those missing tourists.”
Friday, 29th August, 2008, 12:08 PM #266
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Part 2 – The Crater
They had been walking in the hot sun for hours when they finally came across the end of the road.
About a hundred yards ahead, a mound of earth blocked the road like a wall, extending hundreds of yards on either side.
Reaching the top, the crater was easily three hundred yards in diameter .It has been turned into a graveyard for cars, trucks, trailer homes, motorcycles.
“Tires!” shouted Jim-Bean, scrambling down the slope into the crater. “If we can find two tires…”
Minutes later, Hammer and Jim-Bean met at the lip of the crater.
“Nothing?” asked Jim-Bean.
“Not a single good tire,” said Hammer. “The cars all seem to be in good condition, as if they were pushed into the crater, but they’re almost all missing their tires.”
“The ones I found had tires,” said Jim-Bean, but barbed wire was wrapped around them. He kicked a nearby car. “Damn it!”
Hammer wiped the sweat from his forehead. “That leaves just one option. We have to walk back to the gas station.”
Jim-Bean crested the rise and stared at the horizon. “Sun’s going down. It’ll be dark soon.”
Hammer checked the ammunition on his Glocks. “The old man’s warning about getting caught out in the middle of the night is starting to make a lot more sense.”
Saturday, 30th August, 2008, 01:20 PM #267
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Part 3a – The Gas Station
Clouds passed, revealing an almost full moon. The wind blew around the dark gas station. A rusty tea pot sat on a pile of trash and whistled as the wind blew.
Hammer and Jim-Bean arrived at the gas station, exhausted.
“Hello?” shouted Hammer.
No answer. The two agents nodded to each other and, drawing their pistols, circled around opposite sides towards the back of the gas station.
A wooden outhouse door slammed back and forth in the wind.
“Rudolph!” sobbed a voice. “I got buckshot, ya hear?”
Hammer crept up to the outhouse door. Jim-Bean arrived on the other side. With a nod, Hammer kicked it open.
Inside the outhouse was the gas station attendant, in tears, holding his shotgun tightly. He was obviously drunk.
“Freeze!’ shouted Hammer. “Drop the shotgun!”
“My wife…she didn’t want to leave…she wouldn’t move to town even when the state police ordered us to. The kids grew up in the mines…like animals.” He smiled through his tears. “What kind of place is that for children?”
In a split second the old man set the shotgun under his chin.
“No, wait—“ said Jim_Bean.
BANG! The old man’s brains splattered in the outhouse.
“Jesus,” said Hammer. “I couldn’t stop him…”
Suddenly, voices echoed around them from different directions.
“Daddy,” said the voices with a high-pitched whine. “Daddy…daaaddyyyy…daddy…”
“What the hell is that?” shouted Jim-Bean, trying to point his pistol everywhere at once.
The voices became louder and louder, omnipresent. “Dad-dy…dad-dy…daaaddyy…daddy…daddy…”
Then all was silent.
Hammer wiped the blood and brains off of his face and raised his Glock, hands shaking. “Be ready for any—“
Before he could finish the sentence, a hand pickax whistled through the air at Jim-Bean’s head.
Jim-Bean twisted to get out of the way. The pickax speared his shoulder, and the forceful impact spun him around.
The commotion provided a screen for a charging behemoth with long, scraggly gray hair wielding a huge pickax.
Hammer fired four shots into the half-man to no avail. With a roar, the pickax slashed across Hammer’s torso, catching him across the ribs. The blow sent him reeling, trailing a ribbon of blood.
Jim-Bean unleashed the entire clip of his SIG-Sauer into the thing’s back. It whirled with a devious grin.
Jim-Bean threw his SIG to the ground and dove into the outhouse, slamming the door behind him.
The Wildman crept up to the door, sniffing it, pickax in both hands. “Daaaady,” he whispered in a high-pitched voice.
The wooden door of the outhouse exploded outwards as the full blast of a double-barreled shotgun caught the man full in the face. His headless body fell backwards, twitching.
Jim-Bean reloaded the shotgun with two more shells, shells that he somehow knew to purchase before he even had a shotgun. “I’m not your f$@#ing daddy,” he said to the bloody corpse.
Sunday, 31st August, 2008, 11:50 AM #268
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Part 3b – The Gas Station
Jim-Bean entered the empty gas station store. The wind blew through the broken windows.
“Hang in there Hammer,” said Jim-Bean, dragging Hamer’s semi-conscious form behind him. “Once I find a first-aid kit I can patch you up and we’ll get out of this hell hole.”
He dragged Hammer past the empty shelves, behind the counter and past the bead curtain separating the two rooms. The light bulb above the dining room table was on.
He pushed the last door leading to the back room. There was a wall mounted phone in one corner. He tried it.
“What a surprise,” said Jim-Bean. “Doesn’t work.”
Through the window of the back of the station he could make out a pick-up truck.
Jim-Bean pawed through a drawer. It was full of money, jewels, watches, credit cards…a real fortune. After a moment he found the first-aid kit. Then he spotted a key chain hanging from a nail next to the desk. He snatched it up, then paused.
Partially hidden in the dark were a few family photos and a few newspaper clippings from the 1950s pinned to the wallpaper. On the aged photo Jim-Bean recognize the old gas station attendant in his younger days, next to his wife and children. They were abnormal and gruesome looking. The headlines of the clippings explained the origins of these horrors: “Miner Town Evacuated,” “Miners Refuse to Abandon Their Lands by Hiding in Mines,” “Military Destroys Miner Town.” A couple of more recent articles mentioned the disappearance of two tourists in the region.
Jim-Bean counted the number of children in the photograph. There were six.
“Two down, four to go,” he said.
Monday, 1st September, 2008, 04:10 AM #269
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Part 4a – Magic Time
Jim-Bean patched up Hammer as best he could. Then he dragged him out to the truck.
He turned the key. After a moment the truck started.
“All right, time to get the hell out of here. Hang on Hammer, this might get bumpy.”
His companion groaned. Hammer was in shock from the blood loss, but he clutched both of his pistols as if his life depended on it.
The truck lurched forward. Jim-Bean gunned it.
He caught a brief glimpse of something that looked like a dinosaur’s spiked tail snaked across the road and then the tires blew out.
Jim-Bean struggled to control the wheel. “Damn it, not again!”
The car’s tires shrieked as he drove on just the rims. Something thumped in the back of the pickup truck.
Without looking, Jim-Bean fired his SIG over his shoulder. There was another thump on the roof.
Jim-Bean slammed on the brakes and whatever was on the roof bounced off the hood and into the road. The thing slowly rose up, swinging a spiked chain overhead. It had a cleft lip and malformed jaw.
With a crash, the spiked chain smashed through the windshield. Jim-Bean fired a few shots back at him. The chain caught hold of the cracked windshield and was torn clean off.
The chain snapped towards the front of the truck again; this time it slapped around the side of the windshield and dug into Hammer’s shoulder. He groaned in pain.
“Son of a…”
The chain went taut as the thing outside of the car pulled hard. Hammer screamed as he was dragged halfway out the front of the car.
“Gun beats whip,” said Jim-Bean. He fired at the chain wielding mutant, but it snapped the chain back and rolled out of the way. Hammer howled as the chain tore out a chunk of his shoulder.
Jim-Bean clawed Hammer back into the cab.
“Don’t worry Hammer, I won’t let ‘em kill you.”
“I don’t think…” he gasped, “they want to kill us.”
Jim-Bean peeked over the dashboard. “Tell that to the freak with the magnum.”
He ducked as a bullet hole punched through the dashboard, through the driver’s seat, and out the back of the cab.
“You saw…” rasped Hammer, “what they did…to that girl.”
“That’s not gonna happen to you mate, not while I’m on the job.” He blindly fired his SIG over the dashboard and then reloaded. “Besides, I taste terrible.”
There was a roar followed by the shriek of metal as an axe tore through the passenger’s side door. The entire door came off its hinges to reveal a deformed, bald giant with a child’s face. A thick, primal cruelty snapped in his asymmetrical, protruding eyes. His large smile revealed pointy shark-like teeth.
With another roar, the giant grabbed Hammer by the ankle and tore him out of the truck cab.
Jim-Beam aimed his SIG, but the other cannibal forced him down further into the cab with cover fire from his magnum.
The giant giggled as it dragged Hammer through the dirt.
The agent twisted and brought both Glocks to bear at the giant’s head. It cocked its head at him like a curious dog.
Hammer held both triggers down.
The grip on his ankle twitched several times, then released.
Hammer closed his eyes, barely holding on.
Then the chain whistled overhead, snagging his leg. The cannibal mutant started dragging the chain back towards him, arm over and over arm.
From the cab, Jim-Bean took careful aim and fired at the chain. It snapped in half. The thing holding the chain fell backwards and scrambled into the darkness.
“Well,” said Jim-Bean after a moment. “I guess we’re going to stay here for a little while.”
Tuesday, 2nd September, 2008, 11:29 AM #270
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Closed Casket: Part 4b – Magic Time
“Find anything?” asked Hammer, still recuperating. He had spent much of the night stitching his own wounds.
“There’s a tunnel that goes down somewhere dark,” said Jim-Bean. “So I covered it in gasoline and lit it on fire.”
Hammer sniffed the air. “That explains the smell. Do you think it’s safe?”
The station shuddered. “To set the basement beneath a gas station on fire? Probably not.” Jim-Bean looked out the window. “I set the junkers outside on fire too. I figure someone’s got to see that and investigate eventually.”
“They’re not going to let us leave you know.” Hammer was painfully counting out the bullets for his Glocks and loading each one.
“Oh I know. I saw a photo of the old man’s brood. He had six really ugly kids. We’ve killed three of ‘em. That leaves three left. Pretty good odds.”
“For a guy who got stuck with a pickax and shot up a few times, you look fine to me. How’s that bite?”
“I’m fighting off the infection.” Jim-Bean shrugged. “Just a little mind over matter—“
He was cut off by shouting outside of the station. Hammer craned his neck to look out the window.
“You think you’re gonna take over this family just cause Pa is dead? Think again, Bobbie!”
The young man they caught earlier was hurled through the burning circle of vehicles that outlined the perimeter of the station.
“You wanna hang out with the outsiders and their fancy cars? You can burn with ‘em!”
His scarf and overcoat caught on fire. He half-scrambled, half-crawled towards the door, rolling to put the flames out.
“What the hell is going on out there?” asked Jim-Bean.
“Family business,” said Hammer. “I think that’s our Robert.”
Gunshots rang out, peppering the ground near Robert as he made his way to the door. Jim-Bean shoved the table that was in front of the door out of the way and dragged him inside.
All that was left of Robert’s clothing were filthy pants and a shirt. He had elfin features, with pointed ears, yellowish-eyes, and sharp incisors.
“Are you Robert Monroe-Tyler?”
“I was,” he said.
“We’ve been looking for you,” said Jim-Bean. “You were the son of,” he looked at the driver’s license of the old gas station attendant, “Albert Tyler?”
“Adopted,” he said, staring fretfully out the window. “We have to leave.”
“You’re safe in here, for the moment,” said Jim-Bean. He tossed Robert the shotgun. “Know how to use this?”
Robert nodded. Jim-Bean tossed him a box of shotgun shells. “Good. I’m not sure how you feel about your family…”
“Not my family,” said Robert. “The ghouls want me dead. Because I’m different. Because I’m more like you.”
“Not quite like us,” said Jim-Bean with a smirk.
“We have to leave,” repeated Robert.
A loud noise made them all look out the window.
It was the sound of a truck’s horn. A big truck.
Through the heat and smoke, they could make out the shimmering image of a huge white truck cab bearing down on the ring of flaming cars. There was a man tied to the front of it, spread-eagled, screaming as he approached.
“The other half of the missing tourists,” said Jim-Bean. “You’re right, it’s time to get out of here.”
“And go where?” asked Hammer. “We’re trapped in this place.”
Hammer threw one arm over Jim-Bean as he dragged him out the door. Robert followed a second later.
The truck blasted through the flaming wreckage, smashing cars out of the way. It kept on coming with no driver visible at the wheel.
“The foundation,” said Hammer. “You burned the basement…”
The truck crashed through the front of the gas station. With a groan, the floor gave way and the entire station collapsed inwards.
The agents and Robert limped as quickly as they could away from the crash before a great fireball exploded upwards as the truck ignited the gas pumps. The shockwave from the explosion flattened them.
When they got to their feet, three ghouls stood facing them.
Lizard, the one they had faced earlier, had his magnum out. Next to him was Brain, with a hydrocephalic head supported by struts, and Cyst, who had a horrible goiter that consumed much of his neck. Cyst wielded a shotgun. Behind them, the flames roared higher after being temporarily extinguished from the shockwave. It was a regular Dante’s Inferno, with three demons striding towards the damned souls.
“I told ya,” snarled Lizard. “Ya think that ‘cause you’re one of ‘em, you can take over and change our ways? We been living this way forever. And we’re always gonna. And nothin’ you do is gonna change that. I told Pa that but he wouldn’t listen. And now pa’s dead.” Lizard spat. “And now you’re gonna pay.”
The two rows of opponents lined up, smoke and flames raging behind them on both sides. All was silent for a moment but the rumbling of the flames.
Jim-Bean caught sight of Brain chanting. He drew his SIG and fired, but missed. Then everyone started firing.
Cyst and Robert unleashed their shotguns at each other as they closed, missing in the smoke and dust. Hammer unleashed both of his Glocks at Lizard, striking the ghoul in the gut. Before Lizard went down, he fired his Magnum and spun Hammer from the blast.
Another shotgun blast raked Jim-Bean’s side. He advanced on Brain, heedless of his own wounds. Brain didn’t get to finish the chanting; Jim-Bean put his pistol to the ghoul’s head and fired.
Suddenly, Jim-Bean grabbed his wrist. “Not…” he snarled through gritted teeth. “NOW!”
The wound where the first ghoul had bitten him turned his veins into an ugly black spider web up and down the length of his arm. He fell to the ground, clutching his arm in pain.
That left Cyst. Cyst reloaded his shotgun as he advanced on Jim-Bean’s prone form.
“I bet you taste just like chicken,” he said as he pointed his shotgun to Jim-Bean’s head.
Robert slammed into Cyst, ramming him backwards over Jim-Bean’s back. The ghoul windmilled and then fell into the flames, screaming as he went.
Jim-Bean struggled to his feet. The spider web of black veins has faded a bit.
“You’re right,” said Robert, nursing a shoulder wound. “I’m not like you.”