Dimensions in Death. Book 2
By The Brothers Washburn
Jolly Fish Press Copyright © 2014 Andy Washburn and Berk Washburn
All rights reserved.
Camm shook her head in frustration. "Come on, guys! It's already Sunday morning. I cannot believe it is almost three a.m." Peering nervously into the dark shadows looming on every side, she tried to hustle her two girlfriends back to their dorm.
Ever since her brush with death the year before in the abandoned Searles Mansion, Camm felt vulnerable in the dark, especially after midnight. Sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning, she awoke drenched in sweat, tormented by vivid nightmares that always ended in a deep stone dungeon piled high with the skulls of small children.
Camm had learned to work through the sleepless hours doing homework and anything that could be done while locked away in her private dorm room with all the lights on. She did not come out until the sun was up and daylight again ruled the world.
Right now, all she wanted was to be back in the dorms, safe and warm in her little room, where the lights all worked and the air smelled fresh and clean. She had no patience for a casual stroll through a dark, abandoned corner of the Yale campus, but her friends, Sally and Martha, were difficult to hurry. Both were inebriated and a little unstable on their feet, especially Sally.
Sally, a freshman like Camm, was short and shapely, on the plump side, with a pretty face and long, dark hair. She enjoyed life, laughed easily, and always looked for a reason to be happy. She and Camm had become friends because they complimented each other so well. Camm was the responsible one, who made sure they both studied and got to class on time. Sally made sure they both had fun along the way.
Martha was a first-year law student, but was only eighteen months older than Camm. She was extremely smart, even for Yale, but her appearance was quite forgettable: average height, average build, nondescript hair, and an honest, but unremarkable face. In social gatherings of more than two or three people, she was awkward and had little to say.
Martha had started college at a young age, and managed to graduate in two and a half years by going straight through. She had graduated from Brigham Young University — a Catholic at a Mormon school. She had come to Yale anxious to let her hair down and party a little.
Camm gently nudged her two friends along a sidewalk that cut across campus. They had just reached a small street lamp posted along the way, when it blinked twice and went dark. Camm scowled. She did not like it when lights went out for no apparent reason, not since the events in the Trona mansion.
It was spring in Connecticut, and the air still carried a chill. The night sky was thick with clouds and an oppressive dampness hung over them like a heavy shroud. Looking ahead, Camm saw another lamp twenty yards further down the sidewalk, in the direction of their dorm.
She pointed. "Hurry, head for that light. Let's get out of the dark."
"Why are we going home so soon? Things were just getting fun." Sally didn't sound upset, but then she never did.
Camm had reluctantly agreed to come with Sally to the fraternity party because she knew that once Sally started drinking, she would need someone to watch out for her — someone who didn't drink. It wasn't that Camm was morally opposed to drinking so much as she had witnessed how drinking caused Sally to lose her inhibitions as well as her ability to exercise good judgment. In Camm's opinion, there was no excuse for that.
"You were about to have more fun than you counted on." Martha laughed, then hiccupped. She was slightly drunk, but still acutely aware of what was going on around her.
Camm liked Martha because she had no hidden agendas and was one of the few people Camm knew who was smarter than she was. Martha had sought out Camm's friendship from their first meeting, and with Martha's easy-going personality, she was easy to like.
As they reached the safety of the next lamp along the sidewalk, it blinked twice before going out, exactly as the previous light had done. Camm's scowl deepened. Placing her balled fists on her hips, she twisted about, intently searching the deep shadows. A heavy sigh escaped her lips, sending curling, twisting vapors into the cold air.
"That's odd," Martha observed, "for lights to suddenly go out like that." Sounding remarkably sober, she watched Camm with increasing interest.
"Let's go back to the party," Sally whined with a smile. "It was just getting fun."
A group of boys had been escorting the tipsy Sally upstairs to show her "a big surprise," when Camm intervened, deciding it was time for them both to leave.
The boys had been clearly unhappy with the unexpected change in plans, but had been no match for Camm's will and determination. When Martha saw her dorm mates leaving the party, she decided to go with them since she was bored and just reading some old magazine she had found lying around the frat house.
Camm lifted her head and carefully sniffed the air. Seeing Martha's puzzled look, Camm asked, "Do you smell anything bad? Like rotten eggs?"
Martha raised an eyebrow. "Rotten eggs?"
"It's nothing." Camm shrugged it off. "I don't like it here in the dark. Let's keep going."
The darkness and cold seemed to conspire against Camm, surrounding and enveloping her in its icy grip. This was unpleasantly familiar to Camm. Staring around, her stomach clenched as nightmarish memories bombarded her.
"Let's move!" Grabbing both her companions by the hand, Camm pulled them toward a large brick building with a portico lit by several flood lamps. Upon reaching the building, all its lights blinked twice and then went black, leaving the trio in obscure darkness, deepened by cloudy skies that blocked the moon and starlight.
Martha's face filled with concern as she glanced nervously at Camm. Sally was still totally oblivious to the coincidence of the lights going out.
"Why can't we go back? I wanna go back to the party — it was warm there. Let's go back. Okay?" Sally held on to the last syllable, dragging it out into a long, plaintive whine.
Ignoring Sally, Camm glanced around for a stick, a rock, anything that could be used as a weapon, but then realized that if what she feared was happening was actually happening, a stick or rock would be of absolutely no use anyway. Their only defense was to stay in the light.
A row of spotlights gleamed from across the wide grassy quad where a distant building loomed out of the darkness. "Quick," Camm whispered, pointing across the quad. "Let's go there — those lights are still working."
Stepping off the sidewalk, she led them out across the grass, her friends struggling to match her pace. Their only light came from remote sources — barely illuminated buildings or faintly visible street lights. Making matters worse, a thin fog rolled in, silent and evil, as if intent on obscuring their vision even more. Camm was becoming desperate for light of any kind — anything but the hated darkness and what it might be hiding.
Their feet made a crunching noise on the frosted grass. There were no other sounds. The darkness and heavy mist combined to cast a deathly pall over the three girls and everything around them. Old, unpleasant feelings grew in Camm's gut, overpowering feelings of terror she had hoped never to feel again.
This can't be happening, she thought desperately. Not here in Connecticut, not all the way on the other side of the continent. Besides, I saw it die — we watched it die!
Grabbing each of the other girls by the elbow, Camm tried to quicken the pace. She felt a desperate need to get into the light.
As they approached some thick bushes growing in the quad, a man-like figure suddenly leapt out at them. Blocking their path, it crouched before them, arms upraised, legs spread and knees bent. The creature's face was hideous, half human, half predatory beast, with deformed eyes framed by thick, bushy brows. Below a large, distorted nose that appeared to be badly broken, its mouth gaped wide, showing immense teeth, pointed and unevenly placed. Though the creature made a loud growling noise, the grimacing face appeared paralyzed, barely moving.
Again, the thing sprang toward them, reaching out with both hands in a menacing manner as it swayed stiffly back and forth on unsteady legs.
Sally began to scream in a horrified, high-pitched voice that squeaked. Her legs danced up and down as if she were riding a stationary bike, while her arms fluttered back and forth in a helpless manner. Martha, her face white and taut, did not scream, but stepped behind Camm, seeking protection from her taller, albeit younger, friend.
Camm's whole body had gone stone cold, but she showed no outward reaction, except to take a boxing stance with both fists up in front of her face. Holding her left arm directly in front with the elbow pointing down, she used her left fist as a shield before her face. The right arm was cocked back at a forty-five-degree angle to the left arm, the right fist ready to lash out.
The horrid figure jumped forward again, thrusting its fixed face up close to Camm, continuing to growl through unmoving lips. Camm's reaction was instantaneous — she landed a right cross hard on the figure's big nose. The sound of crunching cartilage echoed through the quad. The creature stumbled backward, lost its footing, and fell with a plop on its rear end, the same horrid expression frozen on its face all the while.
The growling noise stopped. In its place, a muffled voice said, "What'd you do that for?"
Reaching up with its right hand, the figure grabbed itself on top of its ugly scalp and yanked its own head clean off. Sally stopped screaming and froze in disbelief at the act of self-decapitation. Martha watched, fascinated.
But instead of becoming headless, another head and face appeared beneath the horrid one. The new face belonged to Mark Zelbolski. He brought his left hand to his face to hold his nose. Blood flowed from both nostrils. Looking up at Camm with a pained expression, he repeated in a nasal voice, "What'd you do that for?"
Mark had been the best looking guy at the party. Tall and dark with perfect features, he was one of those guys who was almost too good looking. His face would have been pretty on a woman — would have been. His once perfect nose now pointed off at an obtuse angle. He sat in the frosty grass, legs splayed out, trying to stem the blood that flowed out his nose, past his mouth, over his handsome dimpled chin, and onto his expensive designer shirt.
The terrible mask he'd worn lay like a dead thing on the grass next to him.
Camm stared down at Mark's dejected form. He could not have known he was dealing with Camelot Mist Smith, who had been taught basic boxing moves by her best friend and next-door neighbor, California Gold Jones, or Cal for short — both Camm and Cal hated their formal given names. Mark also could not have known that Camm despised being scared or startled and did not tolerate threats from anyone, not even someone as popular and good looking as Mark. Even Cal had had to learn that lesson the hard way.
Another figure, wider and stumpier, now emerged from behind the thick bushes with a mask in hand and stomped toward Camm. "I can't believe you did that. Who do you think you are?" he demanded. "You can't just start slugging people in the face."
With exaggerated force, he flung his mask to the ground and kicked it away.
Camm, quickly recovering her composure, calmly replied, "It seems that I can."
She was talking to Dwight Pearlsmith, one of the boys who had been escorting Sally upstairs for the big surprise. He had been the most threatening when Camm pulled Sally away.
Martha raised a discreet hand to her face to hide a smile. Sally had stopped screaming, but looked around confused, trying to figure out what had just happened.
Dwight jabbed his forefinger in Camm's direction. "Who do you think you are? You just slugged Mark in the face! You probably broke his nose!"
Martha tried to suppress a giggle. "Oh, there's no doubt about it. His nose is definitely broken."
Camm noticed a small black box in Dwight's left hand. It had several buttons and a toggle switch on it, as well as a small radio antenna. Pointing at the box, Camm asked accusingly, "What's that in your hand?"
Dwight belatedly hid the box behind his back.
Martha responded for Dwight. "That is the remote-control device they were evidently using to turn off the lights as we walked by on our way home."
Ignoring Martha, Dwight tossed the box into the bushes behind him. Swearing and waving his arms, his face flushed red with anger, he advanced towards Camm. When she didn't back away, he planted himself right in front of her and shouted, "Who do you think you are?" Before she could answer, he leaned in eye-to-eye to yell accusingly, "You broke Mark's nose!"
"What'd you do that for?" It was more a plea than a question from Mark, who sat with blood flowing freely from his nose. His eyes were wide, like he was about to cry, and he looked confused as if he had no understanding of what had just happened.
Dwight resumed pointing his finger at Camm, now jabbing it directly into her shoulder for emphasis. "You can't just slug people in their faces, breaking their nose any time you want."
"Breaking their noses," Martha corrected, still trying to hide her smile. She sounded particularly tickled by the current turn of events.
Camm did not back away from Dwight's jabbing finger, but gave him a serious scowl. "Back off, cowboy," she warned. "Right now!"
"Or what? You think you can fight me? Get real! Just who do you think you are? Wonder Woman?" Dwight laughed and continued to jab her in the shoulder.
Camm smelled the sour odor of beer on his breath. His eyes were bloodshot, bright red. She stepped forward with her left foot and resumed her boxer stance.
Dwight hesitated, and then, smirking, jabbed her hard one more time in the shoulder. "What?" he challenged with a snarl. "You gonna do something about it? Huh, girlie? I'd like to see you try. Come on! What ya gonna do?"
Camm had always been taught by her parents, teachers, and pastor that you never threw the first punch in a fight, but if someone else did, it was okay to defend yourself.
Cal gave different advice. He said if it became obvious a fight was unavoidable, then throw the first punch and make it count. If you took the other guy down first, fast, and hard, the fight wouldn't last long. Cal took his own advice and few people messed with him. Camm decided not to wait to see what Dwight was going to do next — she took Cal's advice.
She danced lightly from foot to foot, and then planted her left foot firmly ahead of the right as she leaned in with a quick left jab, punching Dwight solidly in the right eye.
Shocked by the unexpected jab, Dwight stumbled backward, but quickly recovered his balance, holding a hand over his smarting eye.
Mark watched in amazement. "What'd you do that for?" he asked plaintively.
"Owwww!" Dwight howled. "Who do you think you are? Man! You're out of control! Someone really needs to slap you hard up side your head."
He still wasn't down and was again moving in on Camm. But she was faster. Stepping forward with her right foot and leaning in with her body weight, Camm brought her right fist around in a combination roundhouse right cross, striking Dwight on his left eye.
This time his whole body lurched back. He staggered, trying to regain his balance, but stumbled over Mark and fell hard next to him on the grass. "Ouch, ouch, ouch!" Dwight shouted and rolled around on the grass, yelling and swearing as he covered both eyes with his hands. He looked like a small child throwing a temper tantrum.
A sharp pain throbbed in Camm's right index finger where her fist had struck Dwight's skull above the eye. She kept her expression neutral, not letting her face betray the pain.
Mark, Martha, and Sally all looked at Camm in awe, mouths hanging open.
Dwight finally quit thrashing around and peered up at Camm the best he could through swollen eyes. "You stupid ape! You are in so much trouble. I'm going to get you kicked out of school! I'm bringing criminal charges, too! You can't go around punching people like some big ol' hairy Amazon. I'll see that you're expelled, not just suspended!"
"I don't think so, Dwight." Martha calmly stepped out from behind Camm.
"What do you know? You little twerp!" Dwight snarled. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Mojave Green by The Brothers Washburn. Copyright © 2014 Andy Washburn and Berk Washburn. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
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