Note: the first 4 chapters are available here.
Once the camper pulls up, Yesenia and I hop in.
"Drive back the way you came," I tell Marcella, who nods.
"Wait," Zoey says from the passenger seat. "I'm kind of hungry."
Marcella glares at Zoey, who looks back at her and shrugs. I turn to Yesenia, whose hand I'm still holding. I pull some money out of my pocket and give it to her.
"Go get them something," I tell her. She nods and heads back out the door. Zoey sticks her own head out of the passenger window.
"I want a milkshake!" she yells.
Since we're already curbside, I reach over and kill the engine.
"Tell me what happened," I say.
"We went through the crossing, no problem," Marcella says. "And at the next stoplight,
jumps out the door. Simple as that." Alice
"I yelled at her," Zoey says. "But she just kept going."
I think back to the last time I fed on
. It's been almost 24 hours. Alice
"When Yesenia gets back," I say. "You're going to take me where
got out." Alice
"What are you going to do to her?" Zoey asks. She's looking out the windshield as she asks this.
"Zoey!" Marcella hisses.
I put my hand on Zoey's shoulder, which makes her flinch. I squeeze until Zoey's eyes meet my own.
"I'm going to bring her back," I tell her.
I lead Zoey to the back of the camper. Just as she sits on the edge of the bed, I strike, drinking deeply, drawing out more than I usually take. Zoey passes out and I let her fall back onto the bed.
There's a knock at the camper door. It's Yesenia, carrying two bags of food and a cardboard cupholder full of drinks. I hold the door while she climbs into the camper and sets the food down on the dinette table. She lifts a large cup and pokes a straw into it.
"They were closing up, but they sold me what they had left," she says. "And I got her milkshake."
I point towards the back of the camper.
"Drink it yourself," I tell her. "She's going to be out for a while."
A few minutes later, Marcella says, "We're here."
"Stay close and wait for my call," I say. Then I step out into the street.
We're in Calexico, at the intersection of Imperial and Second. I make it to the curb before the light turns green, and I watch as the camper rolls slowly away westward on Second.
It's been roughly an hour since
ran away. Traffic is heavy, both in the street and on the sidewalk. I close my eyes and breathe deeply. I take another breath. There. A kind of acidic, flowery tang that registers like a faint flare of heat behind my eyes. A small glow that takes all of my concentration to sense. I turn until the glow is at its brightest. I open my eyes. Alice
She went north. And she's not far away.
I start walking up Imperial. It's hot, but it feels good.
And I'm surrounded by prey, which nearly intoxicates me, even though I overfed on Zoey. People shuffle past, and I almost lose
's trail when a succulently pregnant woman waddles by me. She's short and fat and heavy with twins, and I'm tempted to abandon Alice for this feast. Alice
Six blocks later, I'm standing on the sidewalk outside a motel lounge. Behind the one-story lounge -- and the chinese restaurant it splits the building with -- two-story stacks of rooms squat in rows that go back a whole block, all of it covered in pink stucco.
The place is packed with humanity. The air is pungent with them. I can hear them breathing and talking and grunting and fucking. And
is in there. Alice
I take out Elmore's cellphone and dial. Zoey picks up after the first ring.
"Did you find her?" she asks.
"Yes," I say. "Where are you?"
"In the parking lot of a mall down
I tell her where I am.
"Start driving here now, and call me when you get here," I tell her.
I close the phone and pocket it.
It's a typical lounge, with booths along the walls and small round tables spread across the floor. Against the back wall is a small stage next to a giant jukebox from which the Eagles are blasting, as well as 6-stool bar. The light is low and red from strings of holiday lights, with votive candles flickering on every surface. It's dark, loud, and crowded. I figure there's 80 people in here, including a quartet of couples swaying together on-stage.
I walk up. The four men stop talking and stare at me.
"I need to take my friend home," I say.
The bullet-headed thug on
's left puts his arm around her shoulders. She's taller than he is, which makes his gesture all the more comic. Alice
"Maybe," he says. "She don't want to go home with you."
They all chuckle at this.
"Let's ask her," I say. "
, let's go now, okay?" Alice
She seems to hear me, but her eyes won't focus. She just squints in my direction but doesn't respond.
"I don't think she's hearing you, bro," says Bullet-head. Again, his compadres chuckle.
"She doesn't look so good," I say. "I really think I better take her with me."
As I say this, I lean forward and put my hands on the upper shoulders of each of the bigger goons. And I squeeze, just hard enough to not snap their clavicles. The goon on my left just kind of slumps in open-mouthed, wordless agony, but the goon on my right has better reflexes. He yelps and takes a swipe at me with his fist, which flails harmlessly against my ribs. I dig my thumb deeper into his neck flesh and he starts acting just like his friend.
"Now," I say. "You are going to get up and let my friend out so we can leave. Understand?"
I give a little extra squeeze, and the goon on my left actually starts gurgling.
"Ok, ok," says Bullet-head.
I let go and everyone starts sliding out of the booth. Except for
, who, without anyone to lean on, has started to slump forward. I reach in and take her arm and guide her out. Just as I get her standing, Bullet-head makes his move. Alice
He pulls a knife from under his jacket. He's fast. But I'm faster. With my left hand, I catch his wrist just below the knife, slide my hand up over his, and squeeze, crushing nearly all of his finger bones. The knife clatters at his feet. He groans and goes down on one knee, but none of his buddies even reacts. His third friend, the shorter one who'd been sitting on
's right, has gone completely blank, as if he doesn't even see any of this. In fact, no one in the whole lounge seems to have noticed what's been happening. Alice
I start leading
towards the door, but she shrugs my hand off her shoulder and turns back towards where Bullet-head is kneeling and staring at his broken hand. Alice
"I don't feel so -- " she says, and vomits directly into Bullet-head's face.
My phone is buzzing, so I pick
up, sling her over my shoulder, and head out the door. Alice
Read Chapter 6 here.