Operation Graveyard

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A party in the Florida Keys turns south, when members of the living dead crash the party and start picking of the party goers one by one.

Brian Z
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Untitled chapter

Operation Graveyard

By Brian J. Zylla

I am writing this kind of fast because I don’t know how much time I have left. I can feel myself starting to slip over to the other side. It feels warm and cold all at once; something like an unevenly cooked microwave pizza. I know that might not make sense, but I haven’t written anything since Junior College and that was about twelve years ago. I know haste makes waste, but time is something I don’t have much of right now, so please forgive the grammar. I just don’t want to waste the little time I have. Somehow, in a weird way, writing this is giving me a second wind. Maybe I can last a little longer. I see lights on the horizon and that gives me some hope. Maybe someone will find this and in some way, not just hear the story, but it will be help someone, if there are any more like me out there.

I guess I should begin with a when, where, and how I got to this point. God, I hope someone can read my chicken scratch, fever-pitched writing! So, whoever is reading this, please forgive me for the scribbling, and haste does make waste, but I said that already, didn’t I.

Anyway, about seventy-two hours ago, give or take an hour, it was Friday evening. I was going to the Florida Keys with some friends, if you can call them that. There was Carlos, his girlfriend Eva (God, is she hot), my blind date Isabella (who wasn’t that bad either), and myself. More on them later. We were on the way to an isolated island about twenty miles away from Marathon. It didn’t show up on many maps; that much I know. However, I had been told that is was a great place to lie low…party, get drunk, and engage in other adult activities, if you know what I mean. We were going to hook up with some of Carlos’ friends at the island. Roy, who was one of Carlos’ clients and his girlfriend Maria were supposed to be there. From what Carlos had told me, Maria was smoking hot. I guess Carlos had dated her once upon a time. Carlos himself was a stud in looks. He was half Cuban…or may 100%, who knows. Either way, he was hot and you could tell by women’s reactions that he had the look. I don’t mean like Al Pacino or someone like that. He looked like Jose Conseco. He was tall and smoothly muscular and his smile alone made women melt. He played baseball at Florida International for a couple of years but liked fooling around with the ladies too much. Can’t say that I blame him. If I looked like him, I wouldn’t settle down until I was old…like forty-five or even older. After a brief stay at college, he ventured into investments and landed a job at a Forex company. He told me it was a “churn ’em and burn ’em” company, but that the money was good. Lots of the clients weren’t on the up and up; they were just looking for a place to hide their money. As I mentioned earlier, who cares…they were so-called friends. And as for him and me, we were like the Odd Couple. I am cursed with the frat boy look. I have a baby face and that fat, chubby look no matter what. I am only ten pounds overweight, but always look more as if I am carrying an extra twenty-five to thirty. I look like a moving refrigerator. I’m sure the beer belly doesn’t help, not to mention my five o’clock shadow that never goes away. I know some women like it…but you need the face, which I don’t. I have thick, brown, curly hair that looks like it has never been touched by a comb. Even gel and mousse can’t fix it. I am told I look like I have just woken up from a long winter’s nap.

One might question why a Cuban stud like Carlos and I would be friends or why we even hung around together. I have limited education and people skills, as you can tell from my writing. I cannot fix cars and I am a lousy handyman. I have no problem talking to women. I just usually say the kind of things that make their eyes roll. But I do have a gift. Doesn’t everyone? My gift comes in the form of betting. Especially in football, I just manage to hit it big. I am good at parlays; you know where you bet on more than one game. I guess it is God’s way of saying to me, “You are screwed….You have no skills and you aren’t going to the Big House anyway, so I will bless you with the ability to gamble in order to cement your path to damnation.” Either God has a great, twisted sense of humor or none at all! Anyway, I stumbled upon my gift (I guess most people stumble upon theirs) when I was in Junior College. Listen, if you are a below C student in Junior College, chances are that a higher tax bracket is not awaiting you, well, at least it’s not unless you can land a jump shot, hit a curve ball, or your last name is Bush.

Anyway, my parents had just declared themselves as semi-retired and moved from Florida to Georgia. I know that is the reverse, but they found a nice place near Savannah, I think it was. They asked me if I wanted to move there with them, but I liked the Miami area and the women here, so I opted to stay behind. I decided to enroll in Miami Dade Community College, rented a room, and started working at a burger joint. Well, working fast food and going to school is tough and one day I was super late on my rent. By that time, I owed about $1500. Yikes, I know! That is when it hit me. I was looking for a new job and a new place to live when I glanced at the sports page. I checked out the wagers and the games and it is just seemed to jump out at me. It was virtually calling my name! I took my tips, pawned my computer, and made some bets. I mean, come on, TCU 10 point favorite over SMU! How can you say no to that? Air Force at Colorado State with an over of 40? Come on, Air Force, with their run game and in the snow! Final: Air Force 17; CSU 12. I know, a big no brainer. Then there was Michigan eight and a half over Minnesota. No little brown jug for the Gophers this time! Michigan 27, Minnesota 17…yeah, I know. That parlay made me $1750 that week and the next week I only bet $200, but made $750. The following week I made close to two grand. My career was set and I knew this was my calling. Of course, I did lose at times, but you know it is a gift when you learn from it and put that knowledge to good use the next time. Sorry for going on like that, but my bookie knew Carlos and said he needed to make some quick cash. Carlos had lost a lot in the market, I guess. So my bookie got in touch with me to see if I would help out this guy Carlos. He assured me it would be very profitable. So I agreed. I talked to Carlos and shared my bets and parlay for the week with him. He put down about five grand. I have to tell you, I was real nervous. Not for the reason you might think… the fact that I didn’t really know much about him and his clients. I was nervous because he had this cool air about him. I figured if I hung with a guy like that, I could get the scraps of women and money he threw to the curb. It wasn’t until later that I found out about his investments. By that time, we had become friends, or so-called friends. We hit it off big and started to hang out. I know if I ever lose, I will lose his friendship or worse…like what is about to happen. That is why I am boasting a little. Betting has helped me, but it also got me into this mess.

I feel like I am not going to make it and that I really don’t have anything to leave behind except my knowledge of betting. So, here are some of my rules for success. I never bet on the “Big Three” of Florida. (If you live in Ohio or wherever, it would be different for you). The Big Three are the Miami Hurricanes, the Florida State Seminoles, and the Florida Gators. FIU, FAU, UCF, and USF are all okay to bet on. The thing is, you do not want to get emotional when you are betting. Never bet on more than five games in a parlay. I know six or more is a bigger payout, but trust me, it is a trap. And one more should be an over under. Now, if you are doing an NCAA and NFL the same week, do no more than three games apiece. And I guess I should add, I never bet on the Dolphins either. Of course, there are no-brainers like when the Patriots were a five-point favorite over the Fins. Two of the Dolphins backs were injured and Brady picked them apart. Once again, that is a trap at times. Betting is sometimes like that work…I can’t think of it…that sounds like that hand sanitizer…Purell. Also, you never ever make any betting decisions with more than two alcoholic drinks in you. If you can handle a lot of booze, the cutoff has to be two, but it is better not to drink at all before betting. It might be the liquor talking and you always want to act on reason, not emotion (or alcohol) when betting. That’s why you don’t ever want to bet on your favorite team either. Try not to watch the game either. Your stomach will thank you for that later. Try not to do anything silly like fantasy football. You should choose one or the other, but not both. This isn’t a rule, but it is good advice, which has been handed down to me over the years.

As I said earlier, it is a little boasting I am doing here, and it did get me into this mess, well sort of… Guess it catches up with you in the end. So, I guess I should take my own advice of haste makes waste and get on with it. You know what? This is making me feel a little better. It’s still dizzying though.

Carlos had this trip to the island planned and he wanted me to go as a reward for another big win the past week. Since he didn’t want me to be alone or to be a fifth wheel, Carlos arranged a friend from his past – Isabella – to accompany me to the island. Isabella was a spunky firecracker of a woman. A hot, glowing blonde of 5’4” and 110 lbs., she had a great butt and her breasts were firm, if a little on the small side. She had that cheerleader glow about her like she was always happy. She worked as an administrative assistant in the office next to Carlos. I know this was just a tag-a-long and that most likely there wouldn’t be any action between us. However, the word got out on the the way to the pier that I was good at parlays in football. Isabella told me that if I could pick three winners in college football, she would reward me with…well, you know what. If I did the same in the NFL games on Sunday, we could do it again and go out next weekend. I figured I would take the deal. I mean, Isabella was one of those girls where, since she was pretty, everything was boring to her unless it involved adventure. She really had never had to work at anything. The office job was through her uncle, so I figured I’d play along. It would be a short-lived relationship, I know, but the memories could last a lifetime! Of course, a lot of pretty girls who find everything boring, are also boring in the sack, yet something in her eyes told me she could be wild. By the time we got to the boat, we had hit two games already. The first one was Georgia 7 over Vandy. That was like taking candy from a baby. Some crying on the other side, but the reward is sweet. Georgia 23; Vandy 14. Closer than I thought. Next was Bell State and Army. It was a 1 point for Army, so basically it was pick ’em. I took Army because Dave Letterman went to Ball State. Army 24; Ball State 17. I can smell Isabella. The last was Texas A&M and Kansas State. The Aggies were given three, but it was in College Station. When we hit the island, Texas A&M was up 17 to 10 at halftime.

The sun was just starting to set, and the emerald, aqua-green of the water and the white sand was a postcard in waiting. We pulled the boat into the dock and tied her up. It was just a 25-foot crawler that looked more as if it was used for fishing than anything else. One of Carlos’ clients owned the boat, so naturally I didn’t ask any questions. Carlos was the first one out of the boat. He was wearing green flowered surfer shorts with a light white shirt that wasn’t buttoned. His caramel skin showed off his muscles, namely his abs. God, I hate him…lol! His girlfriend was in a black bikini top. The towel she had wrapped around her waist was the same light color as Carlos’ shirt. It showed off her back bikini bottom underneath. It wasn’t a thong, but it displayed enough of her ripped ass. Isabella wore a bikini with a mixed red and orange flower pattern. She, too, had wrapped a light towel around her waist. Her butt wasn’t as big, but it was nice as well. I was in blue shorts and a tank top. And though I had a good tan, I was just too fat to show anything off.

We could see the big red and white house from the dock. It looked like a cross between a Victorian style and an old Plantation style. The palm trees hid is well. I counted six of them around the house, but they were all around the island too. There was a big Olympic style pool with a big $ in the black marble in the center of the pool. There were several barbeques and plenty of patio furniture. Carlos told us that the house had been used in one of the Hannibal movies. He thought it might have been Red Dragon, but was sure it was the one with Ed Norton in it, whichever that one was. I guess I am supposed to know about that kind of stuff, being a white dude and all. I know The Silence of the Lambs with that Anthony Hopkins dude…wow, that movie still gives me the creeps.

Anyway, we got to the house a little before sunset. There was a note on the fridge from Roy. The kitchen was like a cathedral. I liked the clear glass fridge the best. Carlos read the note: “Welcome! Help yourself to beer, drinks, food…anything you want…Maria and I went for a hike to check out the rest of the island…be back in time for dinner. Roy.”

Nice touch, I thought. One could see there was plenty of beer and food, but the beer…Becks, no, Bud, no, Corona, yes. Need I say more? There was also plenty of Kraken Spiced Rum, not to mention wine and vodka. So I opened the fridge and grabbed a beer for Isabella and myself. She wanted a Bud, not a Corona, but hey, I never said she was a keeper. Given her body and her looks, I decided to let it slide for the moment. Eva helped herself to a glass of white wine…don’t ask me what kind. And Carlos went for the rum. With our drinks in hand, we then headed for the pol. I stayed back for a second so I could check up on the game. Yes, Texas A&M was up now by 17 with 3:27 left in the fourth. I caught up to Isabella and showed her the score. She smiled and gave me a long kiss on the lips. “Just a taste of what is to come tonight,” she said as she ran her hand down my while tank top, stopping just before my waist. She smiled at me. Sexy as all get out. All I could think was, let’s go Aggies…hold that lead.

I know what you are thinking and let me tell you this isn’t the first time I have used my gift to get some action. There was this waitress at the local coffee shop I went to. She wanted to leave her abusive husband, or at least that is what she told me. I did a parlay for her and won close to six grand. She gave me a thousand and we rolled over four grand the next week. We won, and, as a reward, she gave me two grand and slept with me. She quit her job the next day and hired a lawyer to help her get a divorce. I found out she just wanted out of the marriage. Her husband was a great guy. She had married him just for money and other stuff. I tell you this, fat frat boys like me do get laid. We just need to provide a service, just as some others do, that’s all. And I knew Isabella was an easy catch. If you have the right service, or that right gift, everyone has a price, you know. And, like I said earlier, I know the thing with Isabella will last two weeks…maybe four. You take what you get.

As we got to the pool, I checked again and Kansas State had scored a touchdown and had recovered an onside kick. Shit, that is ten and another touchdown makes it three and a push. 2:15 left!

Eva had dropped her towel and Carlos had taken off his shirt and dropped his shorts. He was sporting a black speedo. Damn, that is a hot-looking couple. I glanced at Isabella to see if she was going to drop her towel. “When we win, you can drop the towel and undress me yourself.”

She responded, “Come on, Aggies! Bear down!”

Carlos and I fired up the barbeque. Soon the smell of red meat and fish over an open flame filled the pool area. We all sat down on the far side of the pool. Even though I had someone, I still felt like a fifth wheel when I compared how good everybody looked. I was still in my blue shorts and white tank top. I just smiled and drank my beer. Isabella moved up close to me, moving her hand across my Johnson. “Not yet,” she said, as she sat down next to me. The sun had gone done by now, but it still felt warm. Maybe global warming or maybe it is just still hot in Florida in October, who knows!

Carlos looked over at the barbeque and sniffed his nose like a bloodhound on the trail. “You smell that?” Carlos said, looking at Eva then at Isabella and finally at me. It was a weird smell, like an over-seasoning of mean. The smell was distant though.

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Maybe it is just leftover meat juices from the last time the barbeque was used.”

Carlos nodded and stated the obvious. “Yeah, but it seems to be coming from another direction.”

I nodded and added, “True.” Carlos got up and Isabella’s eyes became fixed on his speedo. “Hey, if I could wear one, I would.”

Isabella smiled and I could read her mind as she gave me a sly smile. “Hey…I am going to be thinking of someone else when we do it tonight.”

I looked over at Eva and saw her nicely tanned legs. “Sure…so will I.”

Carlos was sniffing the barbeque as I walked over. “No, it’s definitely something else,” he said as he took a sip of rum. With his low body fat, you could see his muscles flex even when he took a drink. Ha, my ab muscle flexes outwards and get bigger when I drink! Carlos shrugged at me and I just smiled back. I glanced back at Isabella and let my eyes take a detour over Eva’s caramel-colored skin. Isabella caught my wandering eye and smiled at me as she looked back at Carlos. Just as Carlos and I stared to head back, we heard some rustling in the hedges near where we were standing. We looked at each other and smirked as the hedge parted like the Red Sea.

I noticed a dark brown hand pushing the bushes apart and figured it was Roy. I looked at Isabella and her eyes grew wide. “Guess there is someone else you will be thinking about too.” Roy was wearing square-cut red shorts. Does every guy but me look like a model? A red and blue-flowered shirt covered his torso. He looked like that Latino version of David Beckham with his lean soccer build. He had slick black hair and even Eva gave him a couple of glances.

Then Maria passed through the bushes. I had to admit that I was in need of wiping away drool from the corner of my mouth. She looked like a Spanish goddess with long, fine black hair flowing down to the middle of her back. It shone as if she had just come from the salon. Her breasts were a perfect D and had a special bounce to them. She was tall and lean, maybe 5’8” and was clad in a red bikini top with a towel wrapped around her waist that seems to conform to her every movement. The red bikini bottom under it bounced up and down like a crate of apples when she walked. Carlos informed me that he had dated her a while back, and all I could think of was how could you have let her go? Guys must kill, fight, and sell their souls for a night with her. Of course, she made the perfect catch for Roy! If they were to show up at a movie studio, you can bet that the producer would find something for them. Come to think of it, I remember Roy saying she had done some modeling for some magazines in South America. I knew Roy was loaded. Carlos just shrugged at me and said, “Don’t ask,” so I figured something wasn’t on the up and up. What a philosophy I have…don’t ask and things will just happen. Why am I in a mess?

“What’s up?” Roy asked in a strong, but smooth Latino accent.

“Not much,” Carlos responded as they shook hands. Roy then pulled Carlos into him and hugged him. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Maria and Eva shaking hands too, so I gathered this was the first time they had met. I looked over at Isabella and shrugged. I guess we were on the periphery of all this. I glanced at Maria; she had that beautiful Hispanic accent that you could just fall asleep to…”Hi, I’m Maria,” she said.

“I’m Johnson…Evans Johnson,” I responded. Of course, it sure didn’t come out as smoothly as Bond and I even looked away when she smiled at me. I couldn’t see myself, but I knew I was as red as her bikini. I’m sure my words sounded more like, “I…I’m…Ev…Evans…Jo…Johnson.” She just gave me a sweet smile that said, it happens all the time. Regardless, she hugged me and I got straight wood…I was so embarrassed, but it felt so good. As she pulled away, she was still smiling at me and I had that nervous schoolboy feel about me. “Yeah, Isabella, you might dream of Roy…but I am dreaming of Maria.”

Then Roy walked up to me as Maria made her way over to Isabella. He had one of those smirks on his face that said, you aren’t one of the beautiful people, so what the hell are you doing here? I offered him my hand and said, “Evans.” He shook it rather limply, as if his hand was low on batteries or as if he thought I should be kissing it, instead of shaking it. I guess I wasn’t one of the ‘in-crowd’ here.

At that moment, Carlos walked up and put his hands on Roy’s shoulders. “This is the guy I was telling you about,” he said. Roy started to smile at me. “Five straight parlays and could be six,” Carlos went on.

“Oh!” I said, figuring that was my cue to speak. “Right…Texas A&M is up and not much time left,” I added, as Roy began to shake my hand more vigorously.

“Cool” Roy said. “I heard you have quite the gift.”

I figured that might just be my invitation to join the ’in-crowd.” There is no such thing as unconditional friendship. It is all based on what you can do for someone else and what you can get from someone else. Roy let go of my hand and slapped my arm. “Let me know when we win,” he said.

I took that as an order. “Sure,” I responded as I stepped aside, pulling out my phone to check the score. Oh well, it is a dog eat dog world, and I am no different.

Anyway, by this time the smell in the air was growing stronger. Carlos inhaled again. “Ready for some barbeque?” Carlos asked, as if their meal were the cause of the aroma. Carlos sniffed again in hound dog fashion. Roy followed suit this time. “You smell it?” Carlos asked Roy.

“Yeah,” Roy said, returning his cool look. “We aren’t alone, you know,” he added.

“Huh?” Carlos retorted with a puzzled look, as he paused in mid-air in the sipping of his rum.

“Yeah, when Maria and I went for a walk, we saw a bonfire at the other end of the beach.”

The girls then approached us and Eva said, “What?” as she took a sip of her wine, while glancing at Isabella. Isabella just nodded at Roy and Carlos and smiled at me.

“Yeah,” Roy said, looking at Maria who was shaking her head in affirmation. “Like I said, Maria and I saw a bonfire…but we didn’t see any people.” As Maria kept nodding her head, he continued, “Yeah, but we did hear some chattering in the distance though.”

Carlos put his drink down and looked at me. I was about to say something, but Carlos beat me to it. “I thought this island was exclusive.” He looked at Roy and added, “I thought it was going to be just us.” A strange look came over Carlos’ face as the odor reached the pool area like a thick rain cloud. It wasn’t an obnoxious smell. It was just different.

“Well, the barbeque is nearly done,” Carlos said. “Let’s eat first and then we can all go and check it out.”

Everyone was nodding in agreement, as Roy said, “Yeah, that sounds like a plan.”

At that moment, my phone beeped. Everyone looked at me as a big smile broke out across my face. “Texas A&M won by ten…that parlay is complete, “I announced.

Roy gave me a look and a nod saying, you are almost in the ’in-crowd now.

Carlos smiled. “And with the NFL games on Sunday, we are going to make a killing,” he said.

Isabella put her arm around my shoulders, kissed me behind my neck, and said, “I’m all yours tonight, honey.”

And on that note, we all ate and drank. Roy and Maria began to get friendly with me…no, not in that way! Roy had made a ton of money off my bet and he gave me his private number to set something up for the next week. Isabella used her foot to play with my friend south of the border, and it looked like it was going to be a good weekend. I felt pretty good about the bets on Sunday.

The odor wasn’t as strong as it had been, but Roy and Carlos had liquid courage in them now. I figured it would be okay since Isabella was starting to get closer to me. Adventure adds to sexual excitement…is that right, or is it the other way around? Whatever. I knew I was getting some.

“Let’s go see our neighbors,” Roy said as a lull came over the conversation around the pool.

“Just started a beer…in a few,” Carlos replied.

“Bring it with you,” Roy returned as he stood up and looked at me. I smiled, stood up, and helped Isabella up.

“Fine,” Carlos said, as he took a sip and got up.

Both Roy and Carlos had put on surfer shorts…green for Roy and blue for Carlos. Thank goodness. I was sick at looking at their junk. The girls had wrapped towels around their waists to cover their bikini bottoms, which is proof that this all wasn’t a dream. If it had been, they would have been in full bikinis servicing me.

I noticed that even though Roy was happy with the bets I had made for him, I was still second fiddle to him. The way he regarded me with an eye roll when I said things, or with comments like, “Yeah…hey, dude, it is the average people that make the world go round” kept me in my place. Still, it was cool. I wouldn’t want to hang around his type for too long anyway. Isabella put her arm around my waist and that made it all worthwhile. I noticed that the more she drank, the more she paid attention to me.

“Let’s go, babe,” said Roy to Maria. She stretched provocatively, obviously debating whether to take her rum and coke along or not, picked it up at the last minute, and stood.

Isabella pulled me closer and whispered, “Hey, don’t forget about me.” I kissed her behind her ear. “We are still on for tonight, you know,” she purred as we started to walk toward Roy and Maria.

“There is a path over there,” said Roy, pointing his hand holding his beer in the direction of a trail that was visible through the underbrush.

“Lead the way,” Carlos said to Eva, as they took each other’s hands.

I noticed that everyone else had some kind of grownup drink, so I figured I should grab one too. “I’m getting a beer. You want anything?” I asked Isabella.

“Whatever you’re getting,” she replied.

“Two Coronas it is,” I said with a smile. With a hop in my step, I grabbed the beer and Isabella and I proceeded to double-time it to catch up with the others. When we reached them, Carlos and Roy were engrossed in a conversation about the market. Something about whether the Yen needed to be bought or sold on Sunday night.

“If we get back early enough on Sunday, let’s hedge it,” suggested Carlos.

Isabella smiled at me and whispered into my ear, “And if we hit the parlay on Sunday, you can hit my special spot again.”

The hair on the back of my neck stood up as straight as my friend down south was. “You got it,” I murmured back.

Maria and Eva were talking about some fashion design stuff as far as I could make out and Isabella was about to kiss me when we all stopped. We had become aware of the sound of drums in the distance. As we focused, we could also hear singing. The drumming and the vocals seemed off beat. I cracked a joke about bad rap. Isabella giggled, but everyone else looked at me as if I were diseased. “Hey, come on. Is there any such thing as good rap? Well, maybe some Rum DMC and Luke Skywalker, a favorite of U of M football.”

The drumbeat had an African feel to it. “Wh…What is that?” uttered Maria as she rubbed her hand across Roy’s back.

“Shhh…shhh,” Roy hissed, raising his hand.

“I think it is coming from over there,” Carlos indicated, while nodding his head to the right.

“Yeah, I think you are right,” agreed Roy.

Roy and Carlos began to walk in that direction with Eva and Maria tailing them. Isabella and I followed along as well. Although I was into Isabella by this time, I couldn’t help but look at Maria up ahead of me and how her butt was purely hypnotizing as she walked. Naturally, I got a little smack from Isabella when she realized what I was looking at. “Like you were looking at Carlos and Roy!” she muttered. She shrugged and kissed me again playfully.

As we began to walk again, I noticed that Eva was standing still, as if frozen in place. Carlos and Roy were about fifteen, maybe twenty feet ahead of us. I figured I would play the gentleman card and walk over to Eva to see if she was okay. “Are you coming?” I asked which I figured was better than saying, “Are you all right?” Eva looked back toward the house and smirked. It sort of reminded me of that story in the Bible…you know, about the one who got turned to salt for looking back?

Anyway, Eva came out of her trance and smiled at me, saying, “Yeah…sure,” Maria, who was about five feet ahead, started to walk back toward us.

“Cool,” I said. I figured that the gentleman card was safe with women like Eva and Maria. I knew I wasn’t going to get any and Isabella was now my prize. “We are coming,” I said to Maria, who smiled at us. I let Eva pass me and then took Isabella’s hand again. “What?” I asked. She kissed me on the check and we started to walk in the direction of the rest of the group.

“Eeeeuuuuw,” screamed Eva, as Isabella pulled me in closer to her. I could feel her fingernails dig into my palms, as we walked forward at a fast pace towards Eva. I saw Carlos toss his beer aside and go back toward Eva. Then I saw it. It was a water moccasin right near Eva’s foot.

“Stay still,” I whispered to her as the snake passed between her feet and slithered into the bushes to the left of her. She was panting as if she had just run a couple of miles. Her whole body was covered in sweat, especially in the good spots. Yeah, I know, bad to be thinking these kinds of thoughts, but I am a man. Just wanted to remind you I keep an active imagination going at all times.
“What was it?” Carlos questioned, with Roy right behind him.

“It was just a snake,” I replied.

“Yeah, but it was big,” Eva whined.

I didn’t even want to think about how dangerous it could have been. Funny, though, that incident with Eva and the snake turned out to be an unrecognized omen of things to come.

Eva needed a hug after that and Carlos was happy to come to her assistance. Hey, I would have, but Isabella needed one too. After all hugging was finished; we resumed our journey through the bushes to the other end of the island. Although we were still on the path and not on the beach, we could see a fire that looked like a campfire.

“Oh my god, what is that?” Maria hissed as she covered her nose. It was the smell of over-seasoned meat. There was a slight breeze and it was blowing the odor in our direction. The girls all made yucky faces, as the smell met their nostrils. It wasn’t that bad, so Carlos and Roy chuckled at them. Of course, I wasn’t a bad boy, so I had to play it nice.

“You okay?” I asked Isabella, who nodded and buried her head in my chest to try to escape the smell.

“Come on, let’s go,” said Roy, as he and then Carlos began to walk toward the beach.

As we walked closer, we could see the movement of people. There was no talking or singing or drumming going on now. The people moved as if in a rush. It sort of looked like the way someone who has broken into your house, tries to leave before getting caught. Carlos looked at Roy, and they then both broke through the bushes to head onto the beach. Maria (gosh what a sexy walk) scurried right behind them. I glanced quickly at Eva and Isabella and we followed right on their tails. Eva seemed to be a bit calmer since the ordeal with the snake. As the three of us emerged through the bushes, we saw that Maria, Carlos, and Roy had stopped. They were staring at the bonfire and the six wooden torches around it. I walked ahead of Isabella and Eva to get a better look. Carlos signaled me to stop. That was when I noticed six people. They looked Caribbeanish, if that is a word. They wore white pants that were cut off a little past their knees. They also were clad in white shirts and red belts. There appeared to be three men and three women. They all wore head covers that looked like hoods from sweaters. I saw that there was one more torch in the middle of them, bringing the count of those to seven. The torches were about 6 feet high, give or take. In the middle of this gathering, there was a pit, which looked something like you would see in a Hawaiian luau. Yup, whoever they were, they were clearly cooking something. We watched them, as Isabella and Eva approached us with caution. It looked like the six of these Caribbean people were headed toward the shore.

I noticed that there were two white boats at the shoreline. “Hey,” shouted Roy, as he walked toward the fire. “HEY,” he repeated in a louder voice. They didn’t look back, just got into their boats. I looked at Isabella, but she seemed to scaring toward the boats, mesmerized by the waves hitting the shore. The six of us scattered around the beach and fire. I looked out at the waves where Isabella was staring. It was dark now, but the whitecaps hitting the shore repeatedly were neat. Despite the darkness, the sea stood out as a murky, shifting liquid.

I looked at Roy, who was walking toward the center of the torches. Then I noticed that Isabella had made her way to the shore. She was standing there, waving at the people who had just left. She waved at them as if they were old friends who were leaving for a long time. In a weird way, she seemed different and had a lost look about her. At that moment, Carlos gazed at me. “What’s up with her?” I just nodded and shrugged at him.

I turned around and saw Roy standing in the center of the bonfire area. I noticed that right in the middle, next to the torch, there was a big hump. It was about three feet high. As I looked a little closer, I realized that this was a grave. Then a tombstone, at least I assumed it was a tombstone. It was a cross, but not your typical one. It was a couple of sticks, which looked to be wrapped around in the middle by hay. At their center was a chicken or a rooster that appeared to have been speared to death. There was some blood on the cross and some had dripped down onto the sand.

“Hey, guys,” Roy said. Everyone but Isabella looked at him. “Check this out,” he added with schoolboy enthusiasm.

As I walked over, I glanced at Isabella, “Hey, Izzy come look at this,” I said.

Isabella looked at me with a partial smile and turned back toward the sea. “Okay,” I heard her whisper, as she waved again at the boats.

As I turned around to the rest, I heard Eva say, “What is it?”

Carlos viewed her skeptically and said, “What do you think it is…it’s a grave.”

Eva took a step back and with a grimace squealed, “Ewww.

Maria joined her with her own “Ewww,” which trailed off after’s Eva’s was finished. She went right into Roy’s arms. Eva apparently thought this was a good idea and slid into Carlos’ arms. And me…I was left with Isabella, who was lost in the crashing of the waves.

“Hey, maybe it was just a funeral,” Roy said, but you could tell that no one, even himself believed that. We all nodded at him in agreement, just in the off chance that he was right.

“What’s up?” It was Isabella as she finally came up to join the group. I smiled at her and she smiled back, but her eyes darted toward the grave. “Oh, my god, is that…?” she asked as she moved in closer to me.

“Yes, it is” Eva confirmed, shaking her head.

Then it was Isabella’s turn to exclaim, “Ewww.” We guys just looked at one another and smirked.

Maria looked at Isabella and said, “Totally!” I don’t know if I have ever heard the word totally sound so sexy.

Roy, Carlos, and I chuckle as Roy gets the evil eye from Maria. “Forget you,” she said.

Roy gave a dazzling smile with his sparking eyes and his pearly white teeth that caused her to blush. “Come on, baby, it was funny,” Roy said as he held her from behind.

For a second, everything seems okay, but here is the spoiler alert. From here on out, it gets gross and gruesome, so if you have a weak stomach, you might want to read on with caution, or not at all. By the way, I hope that my writing so far has been easy for you to read. I can see why someone becomes an author. Writing is very addictive. I think it is also what is keeping me alive. I am sure that whoever is reading this is laughing at my language style. But, from here on out, I need to pick up the pace, so please forgive my grammar and the bloodstains. When you see the bloodstains on the pages, you will know that I am serious.

We have now formed a circle around the grave, looking at each other and trying to figure out what to do. Isabella moves in closer to me. I feel the goose bumps on her skin, but she still has that lost look in her eyes. Suddenly, it seems as if the chicken or rooster squirmed on its stick. It looked like it was trying to move up the stick and get free of the cross. “What the ___?” exclaimed Roy. Although he really did use the “F” word, I will try to keep it clean for my readers.

Maria broke away from him to put bother hands on her mouth. Isabella just pulled me in even closer, if that was even possible. Her eyes appeared to be returning to their norm. “Is it alive?” Carlos gasped, pulling Eva closer to him. Roy just gave him a quick look and shrugged his shoulders at him.

All eyes returned to the grave as Roy said, “Look at this.”

I figured I had been silent long enough and added, “What…what is it?” Isabella held me tight.

“I don’t know,” replied Roy, still staring at the grave. Maria took her hands away from her mouth, but shook her head. Roy then looked at all of us and sighed. He bent down. “It looks like some kind of drawing,” he said while glancing up at us.

I peered into the grace and saw some drawings made in what looked to be blood. What I saw was an uneven circle, but as I got closer, I realized that it looked like a sun; the kind a third grader would draw with beams of light sticking out in all directions. However, the rays of light were sticking out to the right and then to the left and then to the right and to the left again with no apparent rhyme or reason.

Roy then touched his finger to the blood, much as a detective would do who was gathering clues. He lifted his finger toward his nose and started to sniff it. “I think it is,” he said. We all figured it was, but in deference to him, we all nodded our agreement. He smelled it again. “Yeah, it’s blood all right.” Roy said this with a degree of confidence as if he had smelled blood before. Like I said before, whatever he did for a living probably wasn’t quite on the up and up.

“Ewww” said Maria once again, as her lips pulled together as if she were sucking on a Sour Tart candy.

Roy stood up and wiped the blood from his finger unto his shorts. He looked at us and then back at the grave. Something else caught his eye. “What’s the ___” Just as he was bending over the grave again, a hand shot up like a trident of a Polaris missile from a submarine and grabbed Roy by the neck. It quickly pulled him down toward the grave. Roy fell to both knees and moved his hands toward his neck, trying the pry the hand away.

“Somebody do something!” screamed Maria, as shock registered on her face.

Roy’s face was turning red. Just a note here; I never understood why the person that screams never does anything other than bark out orders. Anyway, I rushed over to Roy, who was not yet at the stage of passing out. I could see his eyes rolling back in his head and his grip appeared to be gone. Carlos had hurried over as well. I could see that the hand from the grave was as black as spades, but it had a lot of white stuff on it that looked like baking powder. Suddenly I noticed that the hand wasn’t so much pulling Roy toward the grave. No sir, it was pulling its body up and out of the grave and it appeared to be doing this with increasing momentum. I was about five feet away and the body was almost out of the grave. Bits of sand were flying off the dude’s body. He, for lack of a better word, was dressed in the same white outfit that the others had been wearing and his whole body was covered in that white powder stuff, which looked to me like lye. There was a sun painted in red or blood on his forehead that looked just like the one we had first spied on the grave. It seemed to glow through the lye.

“Help…him him,” Maria gasped, coupled with some swear words that I will leave to you to guess.

Carlos was now at the grave. He grabbed Roy around the waist and started to pull. The Graveyard Dude seemed to have superhuman strength. He was actually pulling both Roy and Carlos backward into the grave. Roy’s head was near the tombstone, which tilted to the left, but did not fall. This was really strange. By now, I was at Carlos’ feet and was able to move my hands up to his thighs to start to pull as well.

All of a sudden, it was over. The Graveyard Dude was out of his grave. Roy was passed out cold on his stomach and Carlos and I had both fallen backwards onto our butts as the Dude emerged. The creature dropped to his knees and opened his mouth. His big white teeth were heading straight for the soft spot on Roy’s neck. He went in hard, like a vampire on steroids. He just tore away at Roy’s neck the way a tiger rips meat off his dead prey. I swear I never heard a man scream the way Roy did. The high-pitched, deafening sound just bounced around the eardrums. Chunks of neck were flying around like woodchips off something being cut by a Black and Decker saw. Blood was now spurting out of Roy’s neck, creating a puddle on the sand. The Graveyard Dude showed no signs of letting up either. His mouth was covered in blood not unlike a sloppy kid eating an ice cream sundae. I figured at this point there was nothing I could do to save Roy. I registered that Maria was about to go into shock.

Finally, the Graveyard Dude let go of Roy’s neck. I looked at Roy and…the big no duh…the guy was dead. His eyes stared up lifeless and lost with a faint expression of why me? plastered all over his face. By now, Maria was in tears. I don’t like anyone crying, but that was a sign she wasn’t in shock. She walked over to Roy, as the Graveyard Dude was backing off from him. Maria wobbled as if she had had too much to drink. She tripped over Roy’s ankle and her crying turned into a scream. This must have been a dinner bell for the Graveyard Dude. He turned away from Roy and started to head for Maria. I quickly sprang into action. What guy doesn’t when a hot chick finds herself in a perilous situation! Carlos was right behind me. Eva and Isabella hovered behind, hugging each other.

I quickly dove in front of Maria to shield her from Graveyard Dude, knocking us both over. We didn’t have any time to get up, so I covered her body with mine and we started to roll away from the monster. When we finished rolling, she was on top of me, and despite everything, it was still a turn-on for me. No, I didn’t show this on my face. There was panic in Maria’s eyes, but she did get out a panted thanks, as tears rolled down her cheeks. Carlos jumped into action and he went after Graveyard Dude with brute force.

“You motherfucker,” he screamed. I know, I said I was going to keep the swear words out of this, but this was a big no duh as well. He had grabbed one of the torches and was swinging at Graveyard Dude as if he were at batting practice. The force of the swing knocked Graveyard Dude back a couple of feet and he fell on his butt. He managed to get up though and just then, Oh no, another Graveyard Dude arose from the same grave. This one was dressed pretty much the same but it was clearly a female. Maybe it was a husband and wife combo. She was covered in lye as well and also displayed a painting of the twisted sun on her forehead. The only difference was that she had a red scarf tied around her hair.

“Guys,” Eva said as she let go of Isabella. Carlos and I looked over, as Eva’s voice got a little shriller. “Guys, we need to get the fuck out of here.” I saw that she looked like a scared puppy dog.

The Graveyard Dude was nearby. Carlos kicked him and he fell back. I knew that Carlos had had some martial arts training, but still it looked like one of the Kung Fu kicks in a cheap “B” movie. Carlos glanced at the Graveyard Dude, who was now near his wife, or whatever she was. “Yeah,” Carlos responded, and I shook my head in agreement.

At that moment, Maria began to crawl on her knees to get one last look at Roy and say her final good-bye. “No, no,” she was sobbing and sniffling.

I looked at her. “We need to get going,” I said as I started to walk her way. Mrs. Graveyard Dude was quicker. She grabbed Maria’s hand and pulled Maria in toward her. Maria’s arm was now ready for some good eating. Mrs. Graveyard Dude opened her mouth and her eyes grew wide just like someone about to take a big bite of chicken. By now, I had reached Maria’s waist and I pulled her away, but not before Mrs. got a little nibble of Maria’s arm.

“Awww,” Maria keened as she looked at her arm. “You bitch,” she cried as she covered her arm with her other hand. I could see a little blood trickling down her arm. “She fucking bit me,” she screamed at me. I had a pretty good idea what that meant, but didn’t say anything. I noticed Carlos still doing his Kung Fu moves on the Graveyard Dude. He kicked him one last time and the monster fell over near the tombstone. Carlos rushed over to the tombstone. The Mrs. was now headed his way. Carlos pulled out the tombstone, but kept the chicken on it. He turned around and stabbed the Mrs. Graveyard Dude in her heart. “BITCH,” he roared. His red face had a look about it as if he had just climaxed from sex. Some drool came out of the left corner of his mouth. He smirked with a sinister grin.

Carlos stabbed Mrs. Graveyard Dude again. I registered that there was not as much blood as I would have expected. Still, it was a lot, but more like a stream and not a flowing river. Maria gave me a brief hug, but we broke apart to Eva’s “Get that son-of-a-bitch!” Carlos pulled the cross out of Mrs. and went for Mr. Graveyard Dude, who by then was close to him again. Another violent kick sent Mr. flying back once again. Carlos rushed over with raging anger in his eyes. Just as an aside, Carlos was normally calm. The only time I ever saw Carlos act aggressive was in a club when a guy tried to pick up Eva. Carlos informed the guy in a gentlemanly fashion to get lost and the guy called him and Eva wetback watermelon pickers. Funny, Carlos could buy and sell that guy over a couple of times. I thought that was definitely a call for Carlos to get pissed. Anyway, sorry. My bad for getting off track, but all I am saying is this time with Mr. Graveyard Dude Carlos was pissed with fire in his eyes like nothing I have ever seen before.

The Graveyard Dude was trying to get up as Carlos jumped him. “I don’t think so, pal,” growled Carlos as he raised the cross above his head. I noticed that the chicken had come off by now. Carlos was about to drive the stake into the guy’s chest when he paused. I guess he must have seen something in the Dude’s eyes that made him look human for a second or two. He slammed the cross on top of the fellow’s head. I saw a look of relief come over Carlos. The Graveyard Dude tried to take a nice bite out of Carlos’ left arm, but Carlos merely moved it away and took the cross out of the sand where it had fallen. This time Carlos didn’t have a problem driving it straight into the Dude’s heart. As the cross went in, his legs and upper body raised off the sand like one of those foldout beds. The Dude was upright for a moment and then both his legs and upper body collapsed onto the sand. I looked at Carlos. He had a look of satisfaction in his eyes.

Eva viewed the body and said, “I…is…is he dead?”

Maria merely watched, with a bittersweet expression. “Yeah, you got the motherfuckers, but Roy is still dead.” She moved over to Roy’s body and began to sob, “Baby…baby,” as she dropped to her knees and lifted up his lifeless head and placed it on her lap. She was holding it as if it were a baby, just rocking back and forth, chanting, “Baby…Baby,” as if he were going to wake up. And you know what? It worked! Roy woke up, just as if he had been asleep for a long winter’s nap. Maria’s expression morphed into one of pure joy and even her tears seemed to have become happy ones. Her smile lit up the nighttime sky as she whispered, “Oh baby...baby” and kissed him on the forehead.

As Roy moved up to seemingly kiss her back, he ripped away some of her neck. That high-pitched noise of stinging pain filled the air. Maria’s smile and the joy in her face was quickly replaced with fear and loathing. I saw Carlos take a step closer to Maria and Roy, but quickly stop. Roy now had his teeth firmly planted in Maria’s neck and her flesh and blood was flying in the air. Eva’s screams of horror joined with those of Maria like haunted duet from a twisted opera. All I could think to say was, “Let’s go.” And can you blame me?

Carlos glanced at me and said, “Yeah.” He seemed edgy, even bouncy, and more than ready to leave. Eva and Isabella continued to scream, watching with stunned eyes.

“It’s too late for her,” I said as I joined Carlos in the jumping bean mode.

Carlos passed me and started toward the girls. I figured I’d better man up and join him. Isabella had started to walk in our direction, but Eva was still screeching.

“Hurry,” murmured Carlos to me when I stopped to gather up Isabella who had fallen into my arms. She buried her head into my chest. I just had to look one more time at Roy devouring Maria as if she were the weak link in the jungle food chain.

Then, to add salt to an open wound and make things worse, I realized that Mr. and Mrs. Graveyard Dude were heading in our direction. They had bloodstains all over their white shirts. How could they have survived? I wondered. Of course, I knew why the Graveyard people were still up and about, but I was not going to give them the satisfaction of calling them what they really are. I know that sounds silly, but in a weird way it is my way of showing respect to Roy and Maria and any of the rest of us who don’t make it through this ordeal.

As Mr. and Mrs. Graveyard Dude were walking toward us, I took note of their fast and steady pace. It was the way a person walks when he is on a mission. And, of course, we all know what their mission was. “Guys,” I said, “we need to pick up the pace.” I paused to take hold of Isabella’s hand and help her run a bit faster. Carlos and Eva had a dazed look about them. I figure the reality of the situation was setting in.

“What?” asked Carlos.

“They are coming our way,” I announced as Isabella and I slowed down a moment to make eye contact with Carlos and Eva. I pointed at the Graveyard Dudes. Isabella and I started to take off again, but Carlos and Eva merely stared at the Graveyard people like deer in the headlights. “Carlos…Eva, let’s go,” I coached, trying to get the team to play harder, or at all in this case. I noticed that Carlos was finally coming to his senses.

“Yeah, let’s,” he said, as he grabbed Eva’s hand and began to follow Isabella and me.

“Where are we going?” asked Eva, as we headed for the path.

“Back to the house. The boat is at that dock,” I responded without looking back.

“Yeah,” Carlos chimed in.

We had just reached the bushes. Carlos let Eva go first just in case the Graveyard Dudes managed to catch up to us. Eva was two steps ahead of him, when Carlos walked into some kind of a trap. Who set it, no one will ever know, but he had managed to trip over some wire. It tangled around his ankle, so that he was unable to move even though he remained upright. Just then, a machete swung right out of the bushes. It must have been tied to one of the trees and Carlos must have set it off when he tripped the wire.

As the machete swung out, it went toward Carlos’ neck. It looked like one of those scenes you see in a horror movie. But, of course, when Carlos’ head was cut off, his head just dangled on his shoulder like a piece of meat hanging off the edge of a slice of bread. And that gushing blood from the movies that squirts into the air, nope, none of that. There was blood, but it poured down the side of his neck like chucky tomato soup right out of the can. I have to say, we all paused to look what was happening to Carlos. In fact, we were frozen in time and space. I mean to see a friend beheaded right in front of your eyes…I mean…my god. And what must have Eva been thinking? Of course, as I look back, I would rather die that way than be eaten alive. When I was sixteen, I helped a friend of mine with a python that got loose in his backyard. When he picked it up, it put its pointed curved fangs into my skin. The feeling of that stinging numb pain in your arms and veins, as your eyes roll upward in your skill was no fun. So, I can only imagine how it must be to be eaten by a human being. Our teeth, I figure, aren’t built to cut through skin like that, so it would probably be like being bitten by dull snake teeth.

Anyway, we needed to mourn later. I grabbed both girls by their arms, saying, “Sorry,” as I ushered them away from the beheaded Carlos. “We need to go. We will cry later.” Isabella picked up the pace, but Eva continued to stare at Carlos. I roughly took her by the arm, as I caught sight of the Graveyard people advancing toward us. Eva saw them too. “Need to go,” I said, looking her in the eyes. She nodded and we headed back onto the path.

“Yeah…yeah,” Eva sobbed between her tears. She pulled me in tight. I could feel her body trembling like one of those massage chairs in the mall. We quickly caught up to Isabella who by then was about ten feet ahead of us.

“What now?” asked Isabella in a husky tone. Eva was still holding onto me.

“We make it to the pier, get in the boat and get the fuck out of Dodge,” I replied.

The girls nodded their heads in agreement and we started to run, as we saw the Graveyard couple approaching us fast. Suddenly I stopped though. “What now?” groaned Isabella with impatience.

I just gave her a smile and broke away from Eva. I rushed back to Carlos’ body, aware of Isabella shaking her head in disgust. Then she began to hug Eva to try to calm her down. I quickly grabbed the machete and rushed back. “Look,” I panted as I approached them. “We all know what those things are…and if myths about them are true, then the only way to kill them is to cut off their heads.” Finally, it had dawned on me why the machete was there in the first place. It was a trap for the Graveyard Dudes. Someone before us must have known about this or about them. Isabella still eyed me impatiently. “Look, we don’t have a gun…and if we meet up with them, we need insurance,” I tried to reassure her.

“Yeah,” said Eva, as she was waking up from her shock. “That makes sense.” She nodded at Isabella.

“Oh yeah, now I get it,” returned Isabella. The electricity goes up slowly to her blonde head to light the bulb, but she had gotten it.

“Good,” I replied, as I looked at Carlos. “But we need to tread carefully just in case there are any more trip wires…and if we find one…great…we can use an extra machete.”

“Okay,” agreed Isabella, as Eva nodded her assent.

“So let’s go. Just look out for wires,” I added,

We started off for the pier again. Out of the corner of my I noticed that the Graveyard people didn’t seem to be moving as fast. Maybe low on fuel...or blood…whatever. After going for a few minutes, Isabella called out, “I think I found something.”

I moved over to her. “Where?”

She pointed to the left side of a clump of bushes. “Over there,” she responded.

I walked over and yep, it as wire. Well, it was fishing line, but you know what I mean. I cautiously followed it like dangerous breadcrumbs that had been laid out for me.

“Is it a…?” Eva asked, as she saw me pause.

My eyes grew wide. It wasn’t a machete.

“Is it a…?” I heard Eva ask again.

“No,” I replied.

“Huh?” queried Isabella.

“What?” Eva asked Isabella.

I looked at it carefully and smiled. I made my way around the booby trap and saw a double barrel shot gun. I undid it from the fish wire and thought to myself, Wow, are we lucky! This was set on a hair of a trigger. The shotgun was loaded, but no other shells were around. We could have used three, but two would do for now. As I walked back to the girls, I carried it close to my chest. “Why don’t you gals head for the pier,” I said.

“What?” responded Eva with surprise in her voice. “Where are you going?” she added.

“I am going hunting,” I said.

The girls nodded in unison. “Be safe,” Isabella said as she kissed me on the cheek. Eva gave me a half hug, which was the safe thing to do. They joined hands and walked off together in the direction of the pier.

I had only taken five or six steps when I saw the Graveyard couple. Mr. was in front, followed by Mrs. a few steps behind. “Fuck it,” I said as I lifted the gun and prepared to fire. “Ladies first,” I mumbled as I pulled the trigger. BOOM! It was a perfect shot. It split her head wide open in the middle and chunks of meat from her face, mixed with brains and pieces of skull flew into the air. Thick blood oozed down the side of her neck and shoulders. I had to admit, I put on a little smile. Then I cocked the rifle again. Mr. was really close, so I took a step back. It was another perfect hit, right between his two eyes. Maybe because he was closer, his blood just splat from his head like from a water balloon and then his body fell to the ground. I turned around and saw that Isabella and Eva had stopped to watch. They were hugging each other and had a relieved look on their faces.

All looked good, and I planned to join up with them shortly when I spied Roy coming through the bushes. His face had bloodstains on it. His eyes were black and blue as if he had been in a fight. I thought of going after him and smashing his head in with the butt of the rifle, but for some odd reason, I didn’t. As I look back now, I wish I had. What is that saying? Looking back your vision is 20/20 or something like that? I was thinking of the girls though. “Let’s go,” I said as I made my way toward them.

“Okay,” they replied together as I stopped to pick up the machete. When I caught up to the girls, Isabella ran her hands up and down my back with a big, sexy smile. Eva gave me a big bear hug this time. “We should get going,” I said. “We will have time for that later,” I added as we started once again in the direction of the pier. Roy was about thirty feet away from us.

“Should we stop by the house?” Isabella asked.

“I think we should just go to the boat,” replied Eva.

“Good idea,” I agreed.

Isabella smiled and nodded her agreement. I guess once the lightbulb turns on, she gets things faster. We had picked up speed and now saw the house through the trees. The pier was only a five minute walk or so away. Roy was now about twenty-five feet behind us.

Eva asked Isabella if she knew the way, when Izzy had said, “I think we just have a couple more minutes to go.” She looked to me for confirmation. I smiled and nodded at them both. The girls figured it was a good idea to start jogging.

“If we turn to the right and then go in the gravel, we will get there faster,” I said between huffs and puffs. The girls nodded and shifted their movement to the right. We had to go through single file. Eva led the way; then it was Isabella. I paused to see where Roy was. He was about twenty feet away from us.

The path was thick, sandy gravel that felt good on my sandals as I caught sight of the pier. “I think I see it,” cried out Isabella like a kid arriving at Disneyland.

“Yep, that’s it,” I confirmed. I was taller so, of course that is why I had seen it first.

“I don’t see it,” whined Eva, as Isabella pointed 11 o’clock. Eva stood up on tippy toes and looked.

“Right over there,” Isabella called out as she began to run towards it. “See it?” she shouted out in a huffy voice as she picked up her jog to a run. Eva looked at me and I nodded as we watched Isabella run. Once the trail turned off, it was all beach until you hit the pier. Isabella stopped at that point and looked back at us.

“What?” cried Eva, looking first at Isabella and then at me. Both of us started to jog toward Isabella. Then we saw it. It was two more graves. These graves were open with a pile of sand on both sides. It looked more as if someone had just dug them out. We all then looked at the dock and saw some Graveyard people on the pier. There were two of them and from the distance, we couldn’t make out if they were males or females.

“Now what?” groaned Isabella, flinging her hand into the air as panic started to overtake her.

“That’s not going to help us,” warned Eva as she saw me raising my gun.

“Oh yes it will,” I replied as I noticed a shovel near one of the graves. Eva sighed as I walked over and picked the shovel up off the sand. “We don’t need to kill them all…we can use the machete, the gun, and the shovel as weapons. At the very least, we can knock them into the water, so we can get to the boat.”

They both looked at me for a second as if I were mad. Then Eva sighed again. “Fine. I’ll take the shovel,” she volunteered as she took it out of my hand.

“I’ll take the gun,” piped up Isabella quietly. I handed it to her.

Eva gave me the machete. “We all set?” I asked, aware of a glint of panic in Isabella’s eyes.

“What about the keys?” asked Isabella.

“Don’t worry about them,” I mumbled as I started to walk toward the pier. “Carlos keeps an extra set under the helm of the boat next to the flare gun.” I turned around and the girls shrugged and began to follow me. I slowed down a bit to let them catch up.

“So, what’s the game plan?” Isabella asked.

“I will go first,” I instructed. They both nodded. “I will try to get them to the other side of the pier and you two can get your pretty little asses onto the boat.” I gave them a bad-boy wink, or at least that is what I tried to do. “Find the keys and start the boat. I’ll be right behind you.” They both smiled at me and each gave me a hug; first Eva, then Isabella, coupled with a soft kiss on my cheek. “You ready, ladies?”

“Hell no,” wailed Isabella, as Eva shook her head.

“Not really, but I am still going,” said Isabella.

I smiled at them.

“Fuck it, let’s get on with it,” said Isabella, feigning confidence as she lifted the shovel. Her eyes indicated that she was ready to do battle.

“Cool,” I said. Isabella gave me a gentle smile and I wondered about her, but we needed to get going.

As we walked onto the dock, Eva was right behind me and Isabella wasn’t far behind her. I have to admit that I had a nauseous feeling in my stomach as if I had had too much to eat, but I wasn’t about to back down now, not with those two gals on my tail. “Here we go,” I announced, forging ahead toward the first Graveyard Dude. I swung for the first Dude’s head and missed, but as he went for me, I was able to push him towards the water with the point of the machete. “Go!” I shouted at him, feeling that his skin was soft and sponge-like. I knew I couldn’t take the machete away from his body to strike him, because he would be able to get a bite in. “I’m going by,” I heard Eva say as she passed me. She was a little timid at first. She paused to look at the Graveyard Dude, but I gave her the eye and that made her pick up speed.

I kept pushing the Graveyard Dude back the way a police officer does when maintaining crowd control. I saw the other Graveyard Dude approaching me. “Go!” I hissed at Isabella who appeared to be glued to the pier. “GO ISABELLA…RUN…..NOW!” And she did. But as she took off, she dropped the gun and didn’t look back. I watched it fall into the water. Eva began to head back toward me. As she got closer, I saw that she had the eyes of a killer. I figured she was fueled by revenge for Carlos.

“You got this one?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“Then this one is mine,” she spit as she passed me, heading straight for Graveyard Dude #2. Her killer look was short-lived though. I watched her make the same pause that Roy had. Maybe there is something the eyes of a Graveyard Dude that makes one slow down. A voodoo spell, maybe.

“Do it,” I encouraged her, as I kept pushing my own dude back toward the water. However, because of her brief hesitation, the Graveyard Dude was able to lunge at Eva. He didn’t bite her, but he did knock her to the side. She lost her balance and it looked like she was going to fall into the water. I had to let go of my dude and rush over to catch her before she fell. I grabbed her by her towel and started to pull up to get to her waist. No, I did not cop a feel, or whatever the expression is. Eva was able to regain her balance, but I did hold on for extra security. Eva gave me a brief hug as she got her bearings. As she was pulling away from me, we heard the boat starting up. Way to go, Izzy! Say what you want about blondes; when it came down to a life or death situation, she came alive, hands down. I could smell the fresh diesel fuel coming from the boat. I never thought I would be happy to smell that, but I was. As I said, the boat was about twenty-five feet long and looked like a fishing boat. It did have a queen-size bed underneath for what Carlos called, ‘motion in the ocean.’ Plus, it had a minibar with a small fridge for beer and sodas. Eva and I looked at each other. “When the going gets tough, the Blonde comes through.” Eva chuckled lightly at that.

“Hey, guys!” Isabella called out as she moved to the bow of the boat. Eva and I had begun to walk toward her and Eva waved. “Watch out!” Isabella shouted, as the Graveyard Dude nearest to Eva appeared to be inching his way toward her leg. Eva quickly jumped out of reach of the Dude, as fast as if she were stepping over hot coals. I gave the Graveyard Dude a kick and noticed the shovel. I went for it, as he tried to stand up. I whacked him and he went flying into the water. The sound of his body hitting water as he plopped in headfirst was music to our ears. I guess the sound of splashing water caught the attention of the second Graveyard Dude, who paused briefly in his thus far unsuccessful attempts to fight me off. I happened to notice that Roy had now made it to the beach, and was coming our way as well. I considered him the least of our problems at this point, but I still like to mention him. Eva then took a couple of steps towards the boat. I guess the creaks on the dock made the other Dude look our way. “Wait, Eva!” I said, but Eva was already running right into the other Graveyard Dude. Who is the Blonde now?

I could even hear Isabella scream, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Eva got such a good kick to the Dude’s groin that even I felt it and wanted to throw up. As the guy dropped to the ground, he was able to grab’s Eva’s ankle. He got in a little nibble, just as she kicked him in the face.

“UGH!” cried Eva, as I rushed over to her. I was able to pick her up, and she literally fell into my arms.

“Is she all right?” asked Isabella, but I chose not to answer.

“Can you make it?” I asked Eva. She nodded and put her arm around my shoulder. She was dragging her left leg as if it were a wooden stump. She was moving the way you see the injured soldiers move in those war movies. She seemed to be in pain and wailed every time she moved her leg.

“Is she okay?” asked Isabella again.

I just nodded as we made our way up the ladder. It was only six steps, but it felt like sixty miles.

Isabella had a bewildered expression on her face, as if she didn’t know whether to come down to help us or not. “She’ll be fine,” I whispered, with two more steps to go. Eva gave me one of those looks. “Go back to the bridge,” I told Isabella.

“You know I am not okay,” Eva said softly to me.

“We’ll see,” I returned with some hope in my voice, but maybe not enough.

“Should I start to pull out?” asked Isabella.

“Yes,” I responded, as Eva and I arrived up on deck.

“I’ve been bit…” Eva started to say, but I cut her off before she could say it again and spread panic to Isabella.

“You’ll be all right,” I whispered to Eva. “She’ll be all right,” I said to Isabella. “We need to get going, honey,” I added to Isabella, who looked at me with a confused glance. She had seen the wound on Eva’s ankle. It was the first time I had gotten a good look at it. It was about an inch, maybe an inch and a half long, and it wasn’t bleeding as badly as I had expected. But it sure had gotten black and blue in a hurry. “Look,” I said, shifting my gaze back and forth between the two of them, “we are about fifteen to twenty minutes away from Key West. Miami is too far. We need to get her there and then they can give her the medical attention she needs.” Eva nodded her head as if hope were entering her veins. Isabella just continued to look baffled. “But we need to go,” I said.

“What?” Isabella perked up as I walked over to her.

“Before she turns,” I whispered into Isabella’s ear.

It didn’t matter. Eva heard me. “Tie me up,” she pleaded. I looked at her and tried not to get turned on. “Look, downstairs is a bed. You can tie me onto it. That way, if I change, I’ll be secured.”

I looked at Isabella. “Yeah, okay,” she said.

“Cool, but we really need to go,” I said as Eva put her arm around my shoulder again.

“I’ll help,” Isabella offered.

“Okay. We will both get her down the stairs and onto the bed, but you have to stay to tie her up. I have to steer the boat out of here.” Am I mad passing up on that one?

“Okay,” Isabella responded with a note of relief in her reply.

With Isabella’s help, we were able to get Eva down more quickly than I had imagined. The bed was in the middle of the downstairs. It had a blue blanket on it with a gold anchor in the center. It had a wooden headboard with posts at all four corners. I thought for some reason it was a queen-size, but it was only a twin. Apparently, things look bigger when you are out to sea.

“There’s some rope in the chest at the end of the bed,” instructed Eva. It was a small wooden chest about four feet wide and two feet tall. There was rope, another flare gun, and some white powder, which I guess we all know what that was.

“You good?” I asked Isabella, s she helped Eva down onto the bed. Eva smiled at me.

“Yeah, give me the rope,” Isabella commanded.

I tossed Isabella the rope and as she nodded to me, I said, “I am going up.’

“Okay,” Isabella returned.

As I was climbing back up the stairs, I heard Eva said, “You’d better gag me too.” I snickered as she added, “Just in case I bite.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Isabella stuff Eva’s mouth with a hanky and then tie a red bandana around her mouth. Then she crossed her right arm over her left arm and started to bind her wrist. Wish I could have watched more, but we needed to get going. I figured that Eva was going to turn and there was no more hope for her. However, I thought that maybe if we could get her to the Keys, possibly they could study her and maybe somehow that would help someone else someday. As I walked onto the bridge, I heard a muffled moan of “too tight.” I chuckled to myself as I started to back the boat out and away from the pier. It was a simple hand control with a forward and a reverse. The helm was small, silver, and round. I could hear Isabella coming up the stairs as she said to Eva, “I’ll check you in a few.”

Then I heard a subdued, “Okay.”

I could feel Isabella put her hand on my back. “Hey,” I said. “Is she secured?”

Isabella nodded at me as she kept running her hands up and down my back. “Let’s forget about the Sunday games,” she said. As I smile, she continued, “Tell you what? You get me out of here…my uncle works at the hotel at Disneyworld. What you say we go over there and just relax and screw…I know that sounds silly…”

“No,” I interrupted, trying not to smile. “I think that after this we deserve to get a little Goofy.” We both laughed at that.

As I pulled away from the dock, I saw that Roy was now on it. I also noticed the Graveyard Dude still in the water. “What are you doing?” asked Isabella as I made a U-turn to the other side of the dock.

“Some unfinished business.” I picked up speed and headed right for the Graveyard Dude who was splashing about. Isabella gave me a smile as we ran him over and paused with the rudder over him. The sound of skin getting torn up by the gnashing or spinning metal was music to our ears. We grinned at each other.

“Good,” said Isabella with a sinister look. “Do it again.”

I put the boat in reverse and ran him over again. The water became tinged with the red of blood. I then pulled the boat toward Roy. The Graveyard’s mangled body just floated on top of the water. Isabella gave me a look of approval, but I wondered at what I was doing next. I slowed the boat down close to where Roy was, behind the other Graveyard Dude.

“Honey,” Isabella exclaimed impatiently, “he’s gone.”

I shrugged, “I know,” as I reduced speed still more and reached toward the flare gun. Isabella smiled as she handed it to me. “He was our friend,” I said. “Well, he was Carlos’ friend.” I saw that I had an extra flare; otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it. By then, Roy had caught up to the next Dude. I aimed and fired. The Graveyard Dude in front of Roy’s head exploded as his body fell to the dock. The flare was slowing in its momentum, but hit Roy right in the head. His body lit up like a Roman candle on the Fourth. It looked like a light show of red and blue. His skin was nearly translucent. Roy’s body shook and then fell into the water. Steam and sizzle filled the water. “Now we can go,” I said to Isabella. She smiled and gave me a quick kiss.

“We are about fifteen minutes away from the Keys,” I announced, as Isabella moved around so that she could face me.

“I’ll check on Eva in a few,” she purred as she ran her leg up mine.

“Sure,” I said.

“It’s not the first time I tied someone up, “ she whispered seductively and when I smiled back and trained my eyes to hers, she added, “and hopefully it won’t be my last.”

“Yeah, I hope so and likewise,” I sputtered as she leaned over and kissed me on the lips. Isabella bounced up and nearly bit my lip as we hit a rogue wave. I wasn’t more than three to five feet, but it did the trick.

“Wow,” Isabella moaned as she pulled me in closer to her. I let go of the helm and we were about to kiss again when we heard a banging noise from the compartment.

“What’s that?” asked Isabella from where I held her nestled softly in my arms.

“I think it is coming from the compartment over the starboard,” I returned. When Isabella gave me a blank look, I clarified, “That’s the right side.”

Isabella nodded and started over there. As she unfolded from my arms, I felt an emptiness replace her, as if I were holding a ghost. She glanced back at me as she approached the compartment. “We must have jarred something loose when we hit that last wave, I said. The compartment looked like a white cooler with a blue top. It was over six feet long. Carlos kept the life jackets and raft in there. She approached it gingerly, as if she were walking on broken glass. She looked back at me again and shook her head.

“I don’t’ hear anything,” Isabella said. By now, I had slowed the boat down to under five knots. She took another step. “Whoa,” she exclaimed. “What the ___!” and paused before the swear word came out.

“What?” I asked with curiosity as I let the boat go dead in the water.

“It looks like someone cut the padlock on it,” Isabella returned.

Before I could even get out a “Be careful,” she opened the compartment. The top swung open. Lucky for her, she wasn’t standing directly over it. Unlucky for her, it was another Graveyard Dude. Are you fucking kidding me? It sprung up like one of those ghouls you see in a cheap haunted house. The Graveyard Dude was squirming to get out. I guess the motor skills of at least one of them Dudes were slow. It was kicking its legs and arms as if it were battling a leg cramp in the middle of the night. At last, the Graveyard Dude was able to get one of its arms out, which he proceeded to swing at Isabella’s leg, knocking her to backwards onto her cute little tooshie. He towel flew off, exposing her flowered bikini bottoms.

“Hel…,” Isabella started to say, but she didn’t get the word all out. Maybe she was trying to act all tough or something.

I rushed over and stared at her lying on the deck. Boy, did she look hot! “You okay?” I asked as I slammed the compartment door shut, forcing the Dude back in. She nodded as I secured the lock on the door with a piece of wood.

“Yeah,” she sputtered as I helped her up. She reached for her towel and was pulling it back around her waist. Well, that was short-lived. She was just about to hug me, when we heard Eva moan, “HELP!” Even through the gag, that cry was clear. We both rushed down to the bed. We didn’t say it aloud, but we both had some hope because the scream sounded so human that maybe she hadn’t turned. I went down first, but pulled up short. There were two more Graveyard Dudes and they were at the foot of the bed. Isabella bumped into me as she came down.

“Help me,” whimpered Eva again, as she tried to lift her body up. Isabella had bound her with her arms above her head and legs over each other. I noticed the force of that last moan had loosened the gag and it was resting on her chin now. “Help, guys,” she keened with an edge of panic in her voice. The Graveyard Dudes were near her bound legs. She couldn’t kick them away. Got to hand it to Isabella, she knows how to tie a mean knot. I figured the Graveyard Dudes must have come out of the closet. But how…why…well, we would have to worry about that later. I didn’t have a shovel or anything, but I spied a cricket bat or a whale whacker in the left corner. I quickly picked it up and saw that one Dude was now on the bed. Eva was squirming in all directions, lifting her body up and to the right and the left. I whacked the Dude on its head. It was flung off on the first hit. I smiled at Eva, who showed some relief. I rushed over to him. He was facing the floor, so I didn’t even pause as I whacked him again and again until I saw the dark red blood flowing out of his skull. It took longer than I expected. At first, just a little blood trickled down into his ear, but soon the floodgates opened wide and a river of blood flowed down. Isabella rushed over to Eva. She positioned herself by the headboard At first I thought she was going to untie Eva, but I realized she was just checking Eva over to see how far along she was in turning.

“Stay with her,” I said as I hurried over to the second Graveyard Dude.

I heard Isabella ask Eva, “Are you okay?”

“You gals okay?” I questioned.

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Isabella, reported.

“Now finish the job,” begged Eva.

“Yeah, kill the son-of-bitch,” chimed in Isabella.

I nodded and moved aggressively toward the Graveyard Dude. “This is going to be gross,” I warned, again not looking into the Dude’s eyes. And like the Tootsie Pop Sucker, three was the magic number. The first whack made the Dude dizzy; the second whack mashed in his head; and the third caved in his entire skull. A little blood got on my sandals and some on my calves. Some sprinkles got on my tank top to, unfortunately.

I guess my act of pure violence gave Isabella a shot of courage. She moved off the bed and went toward the first Dude I had whacked. “What are you doing,” I asked her.

“I saw him move,” she reported with a beet red face. Her kick landed her back on her butt again though. The Graveyard Dude was able to move his arm and I guess he tripped her up.

“Isabella!” wailed Eva with panic in her voice. She managed to lift her head up from the bed to survey the scene. The rope was still too tight and her head flopped right back down though. Eva tried to roll to her side to look at Isabella.

As Isabella used her arm to push herself up, the Graveyard Dude was able to get in a quick bite.

“Asshole,” Isabella screamed. As she jerked away, some blood sprayed up and decorated the walls and bed. She was able to regain enough strength to kick the Dude in his head. I tossed her the whacker and she hit him hard, caving in his skull as well. She walloped the Dude with more angry hits as she gradually calmed down. She flung the whacker onto the bed, despite the fact that it was covered with blood and all. It just missed Eva’s feet. She looked down at her wrist. I looked at it too from where I was. It looked more like a scratch, but it had drawn some blood.

“You okay?” I asked as I watched her as she held her wrist and tore off some of the white sheet near Eva’s feet.

“Yeah,” she said with disappointment, as she knew that now she too was going to turn.

“And you?” Isabella asked, while also glancing at Eva. Eva shifted her body back to her backside.

“For now,” she whispered, though I noticed her eye turning a gray color.

I nodded at Isabella and she smiled at me. She began to walk toward me. “How far are we from land?” she asked.

“Well, we were about fifteen minutes…but I had to go dead in the water and the current is pushing us away…so I’d say twenty, thirty minutes tops,” I replied.

She had her hands behind her back and rose up on her toes to kiss me. “Don’t know if I am safe,” she whispered as she moved her hands from behind her back. “I so much wanted to tie you up,” she said as she gingerly held the rope as if it were water about to slip through her hands. “ Guess you get to show me the ropes, though,” she added with a nervous chuckle as she looked down at her wrist. It was beginning to bruise just as Eva’s bit mark had done.

I looked at Eva on the bed and shrugged at Isabella. “Not enough room on the bed!” I said.

She walked over to the right end of the bed and sat down. She put her arms behand her back and around the post. “Do it,” she said softly.

“Okay,” I replied. The rope was in her lap.

I looked at Eva, “You okay?”

Eva did not respond. Her eyes were open, but she had that lost, stoned look.

“Is she?” Isabella asked as I bent down to the floor.

“Don’t know,” I said, knowing that I couldn’t lie about it any longer. I then moved my hands around the post with the rope. I started to wind it around Isabella’s wrist. “Make sure it is tight,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, smiling at her. I tugged on it and Isabella let out a soft moan. She tried to make it sexy, but too many nerves diluted it.

“I’m sure at one point you wouldn’t of minded me biting you,” Isabella quipped, as I tied some rope a little below her knees and moved to her ankles. “But now…” she continued as I put her right ankle over her left and began to tie the rope together.

“There’s still hope,” I said, looking at her nice toned and tanned legs. As I double knotting the rope, I guess in what was a knee-jerk reaction the Graveyard Dude sprang up.

“Look out!” screamed Isabella.

I tried to move as Eva raised her head and gave a soft “huh?” She let her head fall back onto the bed and closed her eyes again.

The Graveyard Dude was on my back and I was able to shake him off, something like if I were shaking off a giant spider. As he fell to the floor, I could feel some blood being shot at me from inside his mouth. I figured it was a reaction from him hitting the deck.

“Did he get you?” Isabella asked.

I shook my head and answered, “No.” I really wasn’t sure though, but I didn’t want to give any cause for alarm. Someone still had to steer the boat. I did feel a slight sting in my back, but didn’t touch it. “You son-of-a-bitch,” I said as I caved in this head to where it looked like non-yeasted bread.

I looked at Isabella. “That should do it,” I said.

“Hope so,” Isabella said.

“Look,” I said, “I’ll check all the compartments and throw these Dudes all overboard.

Isabella smiled at me. I could still feel the stinging in my back though. As I mentioned earlier, I had been bitten once before, but this did not feel like that. I kissed Isabella, then gagged her, and checked the compartment. There was nothing in the compartment at all. I then picked up the Graveyard Dudes one at a time, and threw them overboard. Funny, they were lighter than I imagined they would be. After I threw the last Dude into the water, the sting in my back grew a lot worse. I figured it was from the lifting, but I checked it out anyway. I put my hand up the back of my shirt and then pulled it out. The blood looked old and smelled rotten; not fresh at all. I figured it must have been a scratch from before.

As I started up the boar and made our way to the Keys, I had a moment where everything seemed like it was going to be okay. I even smiled and told myself that Eva and Isabella were going to be all right as well. I think that about after about five minutes or so, I started to feel a little fuzzy around the edges. It felt like when you drink a beer on an empty stomach. I tried to shake it off, but it didn’t work. So, I decided to put the boat in cruise control and start to tell my side of the story. Hence, my comment haste makes waste. I honestly do not know how much time I have left and the ink is starting to run out, or is it my vision. I see some lights off on the horizon. I’m hoping it is Key West. Then again, it looks like the lights are coming to me. Is this what it feels like when you turn? I feel that this writing is really important and, like I said, I hope the person that finds it can put it to good use.

I am not going to go into what if, because I don’t think it matters. If we didn’t go to the other side of the beach and such, I think the Graveyard Dudes would have found us anyway. It was as if someone planted them on the boat. Maybe one of Roy’s drug deals went south? Who knows? Who is Roy again? Right, Carlos’ friend, and who is Carlos? Eva’s boyfriend. Eva is…right. I must be slipping to the other side. What was that? Did a bee just sting me in my neck? God that hurts…can’t even lift my arms…the lights are getting brighter...maybe I am going to the…Nana, is that you? Guess I’d better write my bets down…take the Raiders over the Chiefs and the three points. The Redskins over the Cowboys and the Vikings over the Cards…Oh, wait, I think I remem….

She sat as comfortably as she could in the metal chair. She knew if she moved around, it might snag her nylons, so she tried to sit as still as possible. She watched him with a partial smile as he looked over the report. She looked at his green uniform with all those medals. She noticed how his light green shirt seemed to go well with his aging face, his salt and pepper hair and wrinkles that had started to form on his forehead and around his cheeks. She looked down at her black dress and jacket with white shirt. She sort of sneered to herself, thinking that she never would have looked good in green, so she had made the right choice. Her dress was a little tight for her and/or regulation, but she was rarely in it.

She glanced over at him again and he was still reading the report. She looked again at his medals. Then she looked down at her own. She had just two rows and one big one with a silver ship and waves on the side. She noticed that he had put the report down, so she straightened out the edges of her jacket as she sat more erect. He had taken off his reading glasses and leaned back in his big leather chair, gently putting the end of the glasses in his mouth. He smiled at her and she smiled back. She had seen that smile before. It wasn’t his mouth that smiled as much as it was his eyes. She knew there was some attraction there, but strictly on his part. She was in her late twenties and he was double her age, if not more. The man leaned forward and picked up the report again. He put his glasses back on.

“So, this is it?” he asked her.

“Yes, sir,” she replied with a quizzical expression. She mustered up a smile. “Well, I mean as for as the report goes…sir,” she added.

He tossed the report back onto his oak desk and removed his glasses once again. This time he set them to the left. “And?” he asked sternly without losing his smile.
“Sir?” she queried.

“And, Lieutenant…what happened to the people on the boat?” he asked with a smirk.

“Well, Colonel, when we got to them, they were about three miles off the Keys,” she was smiling back at him. He gave her a look and waved his hand to indicate that she should continue. She cleared her throat and went on. “When we got on board, the guy who wrote the journal was dead…or so we thought…his eyes were lost and we figured he was turning.”

“Well, did he die from that?” the Colonel asked.

“That we don’t know…one of the men shot a tranquiller at his neck. When he got up, he looked like he was turning…so….”

“So?” he repeated as she just looked at him. “Was he turning?” he asked this, his smile turned to a stern grin.”

“Well,” she returned, “he did have traces of human blood on him.”

“But?” he prompted her.

“Well, as it said in the report, he had traces of virus blood, and his eyes were gray…so when we arrived on the boat and he started to wake up, one of the men shot him,” the Lieutenant finished.

“I see,” replied the Colonel. “Causality of war,” he added softly, as if it were just another day in the office.

She sighed quietly.

“Go on, Lieutenant,” prodded the Colonel.

“Yes, sir.” She adjusted her seat. “So, he was dead. He wasn’t bitten, but he did have some of the virus in him.”

“Really?” asked the Colonel.

“Well, yes sir…he probably inhaled some of the blood off what he called the Graveyard Dudes. (She snickered at the name) And, although he might not have become one, he was affected by it,” she smiled.

“Interesting…and the girls?” asked the Colonel.

“Yes, sir…I was getting there,” she said as he gave her a very stern look.

“Continue,” the Colonel said as he returned the smile to his face.

“Thank you, sir. They were underneath; tied up. I guess the girl Eva was bound on the bed and Isabella (she paused for a moment to be sure she had the name right) was tied up at the end of the same bed. Both girls had been bitten. The one on the bed…”

“Eva,” said the Colonel as he picked up the report and then placed it back onto his desk.

“Yes….Eva had already turned, so we put her under. The other gal was asleep, so we played it safe and put her under as well.”

The Colonel stared at the report, but he didn’t pick it up this time. “And where are they now?” he asked.

“We brought them back to observe. They are being contained in the lab,” the Lieutenant responded.

“Very good,” said the Colonel, nodding his head in approval.

“Thank you, sir,” she said, but her tone indicated that she was not really sure he had given her a compliment.

“Are they still under?” asked the Colonel.

“They were when I came here almost an hour ago,” the Lieutenant answered.

“Very well,” replied the Colonel as he sat back in his chair. When we are done here, get a blood sample and let me know.”

The Lieutenant nodded at him. “Yes, sir.”

“The sooner we can get it, the sooner we can use it,” the Colonel continued.

The Lieutenant sat back in her chair, trying not to sigh again, but it still slipped out in spite of her efforts.

“You a little bit uncomfortable with this, Lieutenant?”

“No, sir,” she replied unconvincingly.

“I was like you once…well, I never looked good in a dress,” the Colonel chortled.

She smirked but then broke into the smile.

“I know this was your first mission. And, you did an outstanding job. It all worked like magic…the people at the house had no idea what was happening. They thought they were, as the guy in the report put it, Graveyard people. He didn’t know that it was just your team that set it all up. With the help of some Black Ops and being so close to Gitmo…funny what a little shoe polish and baby powder can do,” the Colonel said with another chuckle.

“They were bamboozled,” the Lieutenant mumbled under her breath.

She got a sideways glance from her boss, who then broke into one of those fatherly smiles that says, “Is everything okay?” The Colonel looked at her full on and told her, “I mean you should take some pride. And trust me; I went through the same feelings when I was in Vietnam. But you were serving a higher purpose here. This virus can be dropped in a terrorist country and then we can contain and quarantine that region and they can be ill…and the fact that it can be transmitted by breath…all the better.’

“I see your point, Colonel,” she says and sits up more erect.

“And did you read this shirk…this guy doesn’t know a vowel from a verb. Like ‘Purell.’ I mean, it’s ‘purloined.’ But ‘idiot’ and ‘intelligence’ both start with the letter ‘I,’ don’t they, “said the Colonel with a hearty chuckle and a grin.

“Yes, sir,” she replies.

“Makes you feel good that you went to the Academy, doesn’t it?”

She smiles at him, knowing that he is right about that. Even when she was young, she knew the safe path for her was the military.

“And with what is about to come…you and your boyfriend will always have a job. The New World awaits us,” the Colonel continued.

“Yes, sir, but…”she begins.

“Like I said, ‘causality of war.’ he went on with on omniscient smirk.

“But somewhere civilians, sir…”

“You think everyone that dies in a terrorist attack is guilty?” he says more sternly, his grin belying his tone.

“No, sir,” she says, trying to hide her disapproval.

“Plus, they weren’t all so innocent. I mean that Roy guy was a drug dealer tied to a cartel in Columbia. His girlfriend knew it and turned a blind eye, so she could live the high life. Carlos was a scummy investment broker that used his firm to hide Roy’s money. And Eva was just like Maria.”

“And Isabella and the guy who wrote the report?” she asked the Colonel.

“Evans,” he says. “Right,” he scoffed. “He as a bookie, or what have you. What purpose did he or Isabella serve? They are lucky they went first.”

“But Isabella, she is…” the Lieutenant begins.

“Well, she is dead, isn’t she?” asked the Colonel.

The Lieutenant can only nod her head.

“So, she did serve her country after all,” he says boastfully.

“Very well, sir,” she responds, as he glowers at her. “And now what?”

“Well, you are going to write up two reports; the first one that the people on the island were killed on a drug-related charge, and the second…for my eyes only…on what really happened,” the Colonel says says as he picks up the report. “I like that name ‘Graveyard Dude.’ Change the operation name from ‘Shredder’ to ‘Operation Graveyard’…forget the ‘dude’ part,” he says with a chuckle.

“Yes, sir,” she says as she stands up. She tugs her jacket to align it with her dress and catches the Colonel looking at her. She smiles and says, “And may I ask what you are going to do, sir?”

“Well, if this guy is as good as he says he is, I’m going to put 10k on the games.”

She shook her head, “Sir?” she said to make sure she had heard him right.

“I said…I am going to put 10k down on the games that he mentioned in his report. Heck, it’s not my money, it’s from the boat, and if I lose, heck, I’ll say I just needed a screwdriver.” The Colonel chuckles at the end and puts his hands behind his head.

The Lieutenant shakes her head and smirks. She takes a step towards him and pauses as the Colonel says, “I can get that fishing boat, I had my eyes on. Hey, that’s your service.” He continues to snigger as he takes his hands away from his head and moves his body closer to the desk.

“They are called ships,” the Lieutenant says quietly.

“Huh?” asks the Colonel distractedly.

“We don’t call them boats. We call them…never mind,” she pauses with a little fluster in her tone.

“So?” the Colonel says, holding up the report.

“Fine,” she responds. “Put me down for a couple grand,” she blurts out, not believing she has just said that. He raises his eyebrows at her in disbelief. “Okay, make it five grand.”

“Atta girl, you deserve something nice…maybe a new dress or something?” the Colonel says.

“I don’t…yeah, okay,” she says as she takes a step toward the desk. “What should I do with the report?”

“After you have typed up the two new ones, shred it,” the Colonel says.

She takes the report. And the girls, she thinks to herself. He waves his head dismissively through the air. Yeah, just because you don’t say to get rid of them, doesn’t make it any better. She smiles, “I understand,” she says, as she takes the report.

As she starts walking, he says, “I’ll be at the pub. Why don’t you bring the reports and your team there? We will celebrate…a job well done and the killing we are going to make with the football games/”

“Yes, sir,” she responds, as he continues to look at her.

“Be sure to wear your civilian clothes…don’t want people to know what we are doing,” he adds guilefully.

“Yes, sir,” she says. “Is there anything else, sir?”

“No,” he responds, but then pauses. “Is your boyfriend going to be there?”

“Sir, he is in the Gulf,” she replies, as the Colonel’s smile widens. “He is a Seal, you know.”

Even that doesn’t wipe the smile off his face. “That’ll be all, Lieutenant,” he snaps, as he starts to pick up the red phone on his desk.

“Sir,” she responds, as he doesn’t look at her. As she does her about-face, he looks up. He studies her gait as she leaves his office. He then puts the phone back down, as he looks at the glass door that says ‘Colonel Harris.’ He smiles and begins to dream of his boat….

She walks into the hallway and salutes a couple of enlisted people who walk past her. The white floor and walls seem to have a blinding effect on her today, as she enters the room with the shredder in it. She closes the door and leans up against it for a moment. She sighs and looks at the big, gray shredder standing in the middle of the room. She is oblivious of the sounds of computers and generators. It is all white noise surrounding her. She sighs as she opens the report and begins to shred it. She feels a little of herself being ripped apart. In a way, it was like a short-lived relationship. She felt in some weird way that she had bonded with these people. Sure, they may have been drug dealers and not on the up and up, but still they were human beings. However, as each piece of paper disappeared into the machine, she felt a second wind coming on. Her sighs and frowns were gradually being replaced by a satisfied smile, as she fed in the last piece of paper. She nodded and turned off the shredder and then walked out of the room. Just one more stop for her and then she was done. Anyone who thinks there are only twenty-four hours in a day never served in the Military.

She walks into the hallway that resembles a hospital. She pauses at a white door. There is a small handle on it and an 8” x 11” window on it. She peers into the room and sees the white padding on the walls. It appears to be vacant at the time. Suddenly the Lieutenant jumps back, as a face hits the window. It is the face of a young girl. She has blood coming out of her mouth and around her reddened eyes; there are ugly black and blue bruises. It looks like she has been in a fight. The guys wanted to keep her dressed in her bikini, but the Lieutenant has had her put into white pj’s. The girl smacks her head against the window again. This time the Lieutenant just looks at her. She stares at the mixture of blood and snot that stain the window and slowly run down the glass like slime from a snail. She waves at two guys dressed in blue scrubs who are passing. They nod back and go in another door. “Bye,” whispers the Lieutenant, as she continues to make her way down the hall. She pauses for a second, tilting her head. She can’t remember whether that was Isabella or Eva. She smirks, then smiles and begins walking again, No matter. In a few moments, it is not going to make any difference anyway.

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