The big hunter let out a grunt of pain. The zombie had grabbed his calf with its supernaturally strong fingers--the same leg he had twisted chasing the voodoo priestess across the cemetery earlier that day. He drew his suppressed 9mm from the long shoulder holster and placed the muzzle against the forehead of the snarling beast. Thumbing off the safety, he moved his trigger finger less than half an inch. The report of the 147 grain hollowpoint was a loud “clack,” sounding more like a small firecracker than the handgun itself. The contents of the creature’s skull exploded out the back, scattering fluids and rotting brains down the back of the creature. It slumped to the ground, dead once again.
Pete McCarthy stood and looked across the vacant lot toward the bustling French Quarter, making sure that his fight with the creature had gone unnoticed. It was the middle of February in New Orleans, two days before Fat Tuesday, and the Mardi gras festivities were in full swing. With the noise of the fireworks, parties, and raucous music, there was no chance his shot was heard even a couple hundred yards away. He scanned in all around him, first to Henriette Delille St, then at the houses to the southwest. The big hunter turned back north, toward Treme St, and spotted the waiting panel van. He watched as David threw open the sliding panel on the side and hop out onto the sidewalk. The smaller hunter started across the lot, looking around to make sure they weren’t discovered. Pete nodded at his mentor and turned to the church to the northeast, and the gaping doorway to the basement.
“I’ll get the corpse. You watch for cops or critters.” Pete leaned down and grabbed the tattered clothing of the zombie.
David looked at the big man’s leg, “Did you get bit?”
Pete shook his head as he dragged the corpse to the van. “Nah, it never got close. It didn’t even get through the leather with its fingernails. Great idea for the clothing, by the way.”
“No problem. Putting leather inside the jeans seemed like a smart way to help protect from a bite.” The smaller hunter kept looking around as they reached the van. Pete all but threw the corpse into the van.
Finished with removing the body, Pete turned to look at the man he had trained under for the last six months. Like Pete, David was former clergy. Where the two men differed was David’s training in the highly specialized art of monster hunting as a part of a highly secret order of Catholic priests trained by the Vatican. Armed with the knowledge and training from the church, David had become one of a handful of priests who traveled around and hunted monsters, at least until fight with a particularly nasty revenant had resulted in permanent knee and shoulder damage. The church had paid the hunter a very generous retirement, commissioning the former hunter to help train any new initiates that the church recruited.
“So. That one came out of the church.” Pete indicated the still open doorway. “Should we go down to see if anything else was raised?”
David reached past the big hunter and grabbed a duffle bag with his good arm. “How about we do this one a bit smarter?”
Pete nodded and grabbed his own bag of armor. Closing the sliding door on the van, the two men walked across the lot and up to the side of the building nearest the open doorway. Pete grabbed a small flashlight off his belt and thumbed the tail switch. The bright tactical light lit the doorway and the room beyond. A quick scan of the corners and the two men went down the short steps, with David closing the door behind them.
Once the door was closed, Pete examined the room. It was some sort of classroom, and for younger children according to the size of the desks. Pete heard David’s bag hit the top of a desk and set his on a different one. Pete drew his custom STI 2011 again, this time attaching a combination light and laser. Flicking the switch on the light to standby, he held it up and pointed it at the door. As his finger entered the trigger guard, the light flicked on, illuminating the doorway and putting a bright red dot in the middle of the circle of light. He lowered the pistol and set it on the desk.
The big hunter reached into the black bag and pulled out a pair of fingerless gloves, some forearm and shin pads, and a collar for his neck. The gloves and collar were reinforced kevlar for strength against bites. The forearm and shinguards were a composite shell, with reinforced kevlar straps and sleeves. Pete looked over at David and saw he was putting on the same gear.
Once finished, Pete grabbed his pistol from the desk. Extending it out in front of him, he walked over to the classroom door. Receiving a nod from his mentor, Pete opened the door and swung to the side, tactically sweeping his pistol across the hallway and around the corner. David’s venerable Colt Python covered the opposite side as he swung around to face Pete. A quick nod, and Pete was out the door, his bulk filling the doorway.
The apprentice hunter’s light illuminated the hallway ahead of him, showing four different doorways, three of them closed. The first door, to his left, opened onto another classroom. The desks were scattered about and upended. He carefully searched around the room while David stood in the open doorway, watching the hall. Finding no other creatures, living or undead, Pete whispered a low, “Clear.” He then approached and tapped David on the shoulder, and the smaller man cleared out of his way.
Swinging to his left again, Pete led the way to the next classroom, this one on the right. Abut six feet past that door was the yawning portal of an open door. Once again, the big hunter swept into the room. This classroom was about twice the size of the prior two and was uncluttered. It took a bit longer to make sure nothing was hiding in wait for the hunters.
As he walked to the teacher’s desk, Pete tripped over a carelessly laid rug, causing him to stumble and crash into the big wooden desk. The noise was overly loud in the near silence, and he let out a string of soft cursing.
David turned from his vigil in the hallway and quietly inquired, “You okay, Pete?”
The big hunter’s reply was caught short as he saw the figure behind his mentor. Before he could cry out a warning, the zombie hit his mentor hard, bearing them both to the floor.
David was unprepared for the attack, and his big revolver was knocked out of his hand to clatter across the floor. He tried to turn, pummeling the undead creature and trying to force the creatures head away from any exposed skin. The veteran hunter reached down to his hip, scrambling to find the large Bowie knife attached at his hip. As he found the hilt and gave a heave, drawing the knife from its sheath, David felt a terrible burning pain in his upper arm.
Pete was horrified as he watched the zombie’s deadly jaws clamp down on the relatively unprotected bicep of his mentor. The big hunter raised the suppressed pistol to zero in on the creature’s head, and the world seemed to go still. All conscious thought left his mind as his vision and awareness became centered on the small red dot floating just a hair above the enlarged sight at the end of the five-inch barrel. The front sight lined up perfectly with the small bar on the rear sight and Pete’s finger twitched. Three-and-a-half pounds of pressure applied to the trigger, and the gun bucked slightly in his big hands.
The zombie’s head exploded, the gore spraying over the hallway and onto the wall across from David. The veteran hunter recoiled slightly, then scrambled out from under the now-still corpse. He shakily climbed to his feet.
DIt was forty-five minutes later that the pair of hunters threw the second corpse into the van. They had cleared the rest of the church grounds and had found no other undead creatures. David left a note with his card for the priest and had called and left a message with the archbishop’s office. Those actions would mean that the police would not be called.
David cut his sleeve up to his shoulder and peeled back the mangled fabric. It was soaked with blood, and the wound was starting to ooze a yellow pus. Pete gave a soft sob as he saw this sure sign that the curse had been transmitted to his mentor, “Dammit, David. It’s already set in. I’m sorry I missed that zombie.”
The older ex-priest laid a hand on his apprentice’s shoulder, squeezing it briefly. David into Pete’s eyes. “I’ve taught you everything that I can, and it is your job to continue God’s work. The Vatican already has my recommendation.” A racking cough shook the veteran hunter.
Pete’s eyes misted with tears when David grimaced, feeling the filth run through his body. His mentor continued, “You know what to do. This wasn’t your fault, and you can’t hang onto it. Contact the Archbishop when you are done. He will make arrangements for you. Go with God and remember what I taught you.”
The veteran hunter lay down in the van next to the two corpses already resting there. As he closed his eyes, David said, “You need to hurry. I can feel the virus taking over.”
Pete once more drew his pistol and put the muzzle to his mentor’s forehead. Tears were clouding his vision as he pulled the trigger again. The dull thump of the suppressed shot echoed in the van’s interior, and Father David Cato’s lifeless corpse settled among the other bodies.
Making the sign of the cross over his mentor, Pete’s deep voice cracked as he said, “Ego memini me.”
Written by Bryan Donihue, Published 07/18/2017