Resident Evil: Field of Blood (Fireheart Fury Book 1)

Chapter 1

Sara gazed restlessly out of the picture window behind the cash register at TruCare Pharmacy. Night cloaked the streets in black shadows, and the rush of New York City traffic had dwindled to a trickle. The nine o’clock hour brought a lull to the store that sorely tried Sara’s patience and sanity.

Sighing gustily, she drew her smartphone, searching through the myriad app notifications abstractedly. The Google News app opened then opened, and its contents arrested her attention.

“Sixth woman reported missing in a rash of mysterious kidnappings.

“Tiana Franklin, age 24, was reported missing three days ago after she failed to arrive for work. Franklin’s employer, Casandra Giordano, store manager of TruCare Pharmacy located in Blackmont, notified the authorities after repeated attempts to contact Franklin.

“‘When she didn’t show up by the third day, I knew something was wrong,’ says Giordano. ‘Tiana always called or texted if she wasn’t coming in; she was a responsible, conscientious worker. I left countless voicemails and text messages, and I never got a response. That’s when I knew I should call the police.’

“The authorities continue to investigate the disappearances, but so far, there are no leads in the case. Police warn women to be on high alert; avoid being out late at night, and if possible, don’t travel alone.”

Sara felt her blood run cold.

“Psst! Hey, Sara!” hissed Carmen, her evening shift co-worker. She made her way down the analgesic aisle languidly sweeping the floor.

Sara started violently, and hastily flung her phone behind the counter. She looked up at Carmen then exhaled in relief. “Ah, Jesus, Carmen. You scared the hell outta me. I thought Breckel was coming.”

“No, but he’d be on the war path if he saw you on the phone. Remember how he confiscated mine last week?” Carmen said. “Bastard might be watching the cameras; usually is.”

“I know. I’m just so damn bored.” Sara quickly pulled out a roll of paper towels and a bottle of multipurpose cleaner and set to work polishing the counter. “There. If he ogles the monitors, he’ll see me working.”

“You look kinda pale. You okay?” Carmen asked in a hushed voice.

Sara kept the wads of paper roving about the counter. “I was just reading a news update. You know those kidnappings that have been happening lately? A new one was reported a few days ago. A girl from Blackmont.”

Carmen sidled up closer, stopping to paste a plastic welcoming smile on her face as two customers entered. Her smile vanished when they passed, her expression growing grave. “Another one?”

Sara nodded slowly. “Yeah. The scariest part is that this girl worked at a TruCare.”

Carmen’s eyes widened. “Oh, my God. That’s the third TruCare employee that goes missing! What could a kidnapper possibly be looking for from a retail employee?” mused Carmen.

“Certainly not ransom,” Sara quipped despite the lead that seemed to suddenly gather in her stomach.

Carmen snorted. “Telling me!”

“All jokes aside, I’m worried. I’m stuck with the night shift. Breckel would never let me change shifts; I don’t have enough seniority. And God forbid the stores should close early while the case is being investigated,” Sara remarked.

“Are you kidding? That’d take an act of God!” Carmen laughed. She quickly sobered up. “Seriously, though, Sara, keep your eyes peeled. This is getting really scary, and I know you gotta close tonight.”

“Yeah, that’s not a real comforting thought,” Sara sighed. By the time the store closed, the streets would be all but abandoned. The district’s businesses would be nothing more than darkened windows and locked shutters. Then there was the long walk down the subway tunnel…

“Can’t somebody come pick you up? At least on late nights like this,” Carmen inquired.

Sara hesitated, embarrassed to admit the fact that she had no one to call on at all. She shook her head. “Nah; I couldn’t do that. It’s way too late to be bugging anyone to come all the way downtown. It’s okay, I’ll just be extra vigilant, that’s all.”

Carmen clicked her tongue. “Yeah. Well, if I were you, I’d seriously consider getting some mace or pepper spray. Can’t be too careful. This is 21st century New York; it’s a jungle out there.”

Sara chuckled lightly, and with that, both girls returned to their work.

The night rolled by, and Sara observed the waning hours with growing trepidation. At ten o’clock, Carmen’s shift ended, and Sara had watched her board her boyfriend’s car wistfully. The bustling streets had gone silent, and Sara began to see the city as a haunted ghost town.

At last midnight arrived, and the store was officially closed for the night. Sara watched her few remaining co-workers disperse as the night manager pulled down the shutters. Some traveled together, others headed for the parking garage to their vehicles. Sara swallowed hard as she turned her feet toward the subway station, walking as quickly as she could.

Suspicious of every lone figure she saw, Sara finally boarded her train. The trip was thankfully uneventful, and Sara was relieved when the train finally pulled into her neighborhood. There was still the four-block walk to face, however. Sara sped down the street, wary of every shadowy pocket, ears perked for the slightest sound. The darkness of the night seemed heavy and unnatural, and the rustle of fallen leaves brought on by an occasional breath of wind sounded too much like conspiratorial whispering to Sara’s frenzied mind.

TruCare employees going missing. But why? And where will they strike next?

At last Sara came to her building. Looking about cautiously, Sara entered. She quickly but carefully ascended the single flight of stairs and hurriedly entered her apartment.

Making certain the door was locked and chained, Sara sagged against the door in relief. She breathed a tremulous sigh then proceeded to her room where she flopped down on the bed. Safe at last.

Her fear having passed its climax, and the adrenaline having subsided, Sara began settling in for the night. She slipped into a nightshirt, prepared a bowl of ramen noodles and switched on the TV and gaming console. Sara loaded her usual favorite zombie shooter game Unholy Alliance.

Before a half hour had passed, Sara found herself unable to continue the game. The creatures, usually so entertaining to shoot and bludgeon, were suddenly too disturbing to even look at. The mood music and sound effects became oddly unnerving. With a frustrated flourish, Sara shut the game and TV down and shoved the bowl of untouched noodles into the refrigerator.

“Jesus, Sara, you really need to get a grip,” she chided herself as she headed into the bathroom to brush her teeth. “Things’ll look brighter in the morning; they always do.”

Sara hummed to herself as she brushed her teeth, trying to keep herself cheerful and calm. A distant but distinct noise immediately silenced her. Sara froze, the icy thrill of terror streaking down her spine.

She quickly shut off the water and laid down the toothbrush. Sara looked about wildly for something to use as a weapon. The only thing available was the wooden plunger. Foolish a weapon though it was, Sara seized it, gripping the handle with white knuckles.

Quietly, Sara stepped out into the tiny foyer, her soft ballet slippers making no noise on the linoleum floor. She held the plunger in a batting position and slowly walked toward the bedroom. She peered in cautiously and was relieved to find nothing, but her heart palpitated almost painfully. Trying to control her breathing, Sara carefully headed for the living room and kitchen.

She held still, struggling to listen past the throbbing of her heart and the roaring of blood in her ears as she surveyed the rooms. Several tense moments passed before Sara was convinced that all was clear. Calming herself by an effort, she lowered the plunger. “Could’ve been anything. Maybe somebody tossed a trash bag out a window or something,” she mused as she headed back to the bathroom.

As Sara passed her bedroom, she was suddenly aware of a chilly draft. Heart racing, she turned to look into the room. She was seized with horror at the sight of her window standing wide open, the thin curtains billowing in the October night wind. Before she could move, a figure attired in black, face shrouded by a black mask, appeared before her. Sara’s eyes went wide with terror and her lips parted to scream, but a gloved hand clamped over her mouth, silencing her.

Turning her abruptly so that her back was against his chest, the attacker quietly drew a jet injector and approached it to her neck. Sara thrashed about wildly, shouting muffled pleas and struggling vainly to push the attacker’s hand away. The next moment, there was a sharp burst of pain and hot pressure as the injector delivered its unknown contents. Sara’s eyes rolled up into her head as she slowly went limp in her assailant’s grip. Then the world went deathly silent and black.

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