Stebbins Little School is full of bodies. It's unthinkable to Desdemona Fox. Children are sobbing as panicked teachers and neighbors beat down their family members outside of the school...or the things that used to be their family members. Parents don't eat their children do they?
Officers Fox and Hammond, along with journalist Billy Trout, are calling it the beginning of the end. This is the zombie apocalypse. An insane escaped serial killer is infecting Stebbins County with a deadly virus, and now the whole world is watching while Fox, Trout, and the remaining inhabitants of Stebbins fight for their life against...what? The undead? The President and the National Guard are ready to nuke Stebbins, PA off the map and cut their losses. But the infection is spreading and fast. Worse, the scientist who created the virus is missing. It's a numbers game as the body count rises; Fox has to contain the infected and evacuate the living before it's too late, and the clock is ticking...
Fall of Night, Maberry's nail-biting sequel to Dead of Night, picks up where the first novel left offon a wild goose chase for a madman and the missing scientist who gave him new "un"-life. Chilling, gory, and hair-raisingly scary, Maberry fans won't be able to read this fast-paced thriller with the lights off.
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Fall of Night
By Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Jonathan Maberry
All rights reserved.
DOLL FACTORY ROAD
STEBBINS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
"This is Billy Trout, reporting live from the apocalypse ..."
The car sat in the middle of the road with the radio playing at full blast.
All four doors were open.
The windows were cracked and there was one small red handprint on the glass.
The voice on the radio was saying that this was the end of the world.
There was no one in the car, no one in the streets. No one in any of the houses or stores. There wasn't a single living soul there to hear the reporter's message.
It didn't matter, though.
They already knew.CHAPTER 2
STEBBINS LITTLE SCHOOL
Stebbins County police officer JT Hammond pushed on the crash-bar and the door opened. There were bodies outside in the school parking lot. Scores of them, crumpled and broken.
JT looked around for movement and saw none. "It's clear."
He stepped outside and held the door as the line of infected people shambled out.
Adults and children.
Billy Trout and JT's partner, Desdemona Fox, came last, each of them holding a small child in their arms.
The National Guardsmen popped several flares on the far side of the parking lot to attract the masses of living dead. On that side of the lot, behind the chain-link fence, all of the Guard trucks sent up a continuous wail with their sirens. The dead shuffled that way, drawn by light and noise.
One of the victims, a man who had been bitten by what had been his own wife and children, stared glassily at the stiffly moving bodies. Then he raised a weak arm and pointed to the soldiers.
"Are they coming to help us?" he asked.
"They're coming," said Dez, hating herself for the implied lie. She told the wounded to sit down by the wall. Some of them immediately fell asleep; others stared with empty eyes at the glowing flares high in the sky.
For a moment it left Dez, JT, and Trout as the only ones standing, each of them holding a dying child. The tableau was horrific and surreal. They stared at each other, frozen into this moment because the next was too horrible to contemplate. Then they saw movement.
JT peered into the shadows. "They're coming."
"The Guard?" asked Dez, a last flicker of hope in her eyes.
"No," he said.
They heard the moans. For whatever reason, pulled by some other aspect of their hunger, a few of the dead had not followed the flares and the sirens, and now they staggered toward the living standing by the open door. More of them rounded the corner of the building. Perhaps drawn by a more powerful force.
The smell of fresh meat.
"We have to go," said Trout.
"And right now," agreed JT. He kissed the little boy on the cheek and set him down on the ground between two sleeping infected. Trout sighed brokenly and did the same. Dez Fox clung to the little girl in her arms.
"There's more of them," said Trout.
"Dez, come on ..." murmured JT.
But Dez turned away as if protecting the little girl she held from him. "Please, Hoss ...?"
"Give her to me, honey," JT said gently. "I'll take care of her. Don't worry."
It took everything Dez had left to allow JT to take the sleeping girl from her arms. She shook her head, hating him, hating the world, hating everything.
"Better get inside," JT warned. Some of the zombies were very close now. Twenty paces.
Trout ran to the door. "Dez, JT, come on. We have to go. We can't leave this open or they'll get inside."
Dez reluctantly moved toward the door, backing away from the child she had to abandon. Trout reached and took her hand, and when she returned his squeeze it was crushingly painful. He pulled her toward the door as the first of the dead stepped into the pale glow thrown by the emergency light.
"JT, come on, let's go!" Trout yelled.
The big cop did not move. He held the little girl so gently, stroking her hair and murmuring to her.
"JT!" cried Dez. "We have to close the door!"
He smiled at her. "Yeah," he said, "you do."
They waited for him to come, but he stayed where he was.
"JT?" Dez asked in a small, frightened voice. "What's wrong?"
JT kissed the little girl's forehead and set her down with the others. Then he straightened and showed her his wrist. It was crisscrossed with glass cuts from the helicopter attack.
"What?" she asked.
He pushed his sleeve up.
That was when she saw it. A semicircular line of bruised punctures.
Dez whimpered something. A question. "How?"
"Upstairs, when those bastards tackled us. One of them got me ... I didn't see which one. Doesn't matter. What's done is done."
Then the full realization hit Dez. "NO!"
It was all Trout could do to hold her back. She struggled wildly and even punched him. The blow rocked him, but he did not let go. He would never let go. Never.
"No!" Dez yelled. "You can't!"
The dead were closing in on JT. He unslung the shotgun. Across the parking lot the last flares were fading and the trucks turned off their sirens, one by one.
"Go on, honey," JT said.
"No goddamn way, Hoss," she growled, fighting with Trout, hitting him, hurting him. "We stand together and we fucking well go down together."
"Not this time," JT said, and he was smiling.
Trout could see it even if Dez could not, that JT was at peace with this.
"No! No! No!" Dez kept repeating.
"I'm going to keep these bastards away from those kids as long as I can," said JT. "I need you to go inside. I need you to tell the National Guard to do what they have to do, but make sure they do it right. They got to wipe 'em all out. All of them."
What he meant was as clear as it was horrible.
"JT—don't leave me!"
He shook his head. "I won't ever leave you, kid. Not in any way that matters. Now ... go on. There are eight hundred people inside the school, Dez. There are children inside that building who need you. You can't leave them."
And there it was.
Dez sagged against Trout and he pulled her inside and held her tight as the door swung shut with a clang.
They heard the first blasts of the shotgun. Trout didn't hear the next one because Dez was screaming.
* * *
JT stood with his back to the line of bite victims, holding the shotgun by its double pistol grips, firing, pumping, firing. There was almost no need to aim. There were so many and they were so close. He emptied the gun and used it as a club to kill as many as he could before his arms began to ache. Then he dropped the gun and pulled his Glock. He had one full magazine left.
He debated using the bullets on the wounded, but then he heard the whine of the helicopters' rotors change, intensify, draw closer; and he knew what would happen next. He just had to keep the monsters away from the children until then. Soon ... soon it would all be over, and it would happen fast.
He took the gun in both hands and fired.
* * *
Inside the school building, huddled together on the floor, Desdemona Fox and Billy Trout held each other as bullets hammered like cold rain on the walls. It seemed to go on forever. Pain and noise and death seemed to be the only things that mattered anymore.
And then ... silence.
Plaster dust drifted down on them as the roar of the helicopters' rotors dwindled to faintness and then was gone.
"It's over," Trout whispered. He stroked Dez's hair and kissed her head and wept with her. "I won't ever leave you, Dez. Never."
Dez slowly raised her head. Her face was dirty and streaked with tears, and her eyes were filled with grief and hurt. She raised trembling fingers to his face. She touched his cheeks, his ear, his mouth.
"I know," she said.
Dez wrapped her arms around Trout with crushing force. He allowed it, gathering her even closer. They clung to one another and sobbed hard enough to shatter the whole ugly world.CHAPTER 3
STEBBINS LITTLE SCHOOL
The gunship hung in the air like a monstrous insect. Except for the heavy beat of the rotors there was no sound, inside or out. Sergeant Hap Rollins, the door-gunner, crouched behind the M134 minigun, mouth acrid with the gun smoke he'd swallowed, his ears ringing with remembered thunder. Thousands of shell casings rolled around his feet, eddying like a brass tide as the Black Hawk and its crew waited.
Rollins removed his hands from the minigun's handles but his skin and bones still quivered from the vibrations of firing four thousand rounds per minute in a steady flow down into the parking lot. He reached up to his face and with clumsy fingers pushed his goggles up onto his forehead. His eyes burned from the smoke, but as he blinked he could feel wetness on his lashes. It wasn't sweat and he knew it. Rollins wiped at his eyes with the backs of his trembling hands.
Below was a scene conjured in hell itself.
The parking lot of the elementary school was littered with the dead.
A few of them whole, most of them destroyed, torn apart by the relentless plunging fire from Rollins's Black Hawk and the other gunships.
But what drew Rollins's eyes and pulled tears from them was the figure that lay twisted into a scarecrow sprawl by the back door. It was a tall black man. Or it had been. A man dressed in the uniform of a police officer.
A man who had been infected; a man no one and no science could save.
But he hadn't turned yet. That was clear to Rollins and probably to everyone. The man had come out of the school leading a staggering line of sick and injured people.
All infected, all dying. None of them dead yet.
Another cop, a woman, had tried to pull him back inside. Rollins could tell from her body language that she was screaming and fighting to pull the male officer to safety. However another man, a white man, dragged her away and forced her inside the school.
Two of the uninfected getting clear.
Leaving the others outside.
Leaving them to die.
The cop had stood his ground and as the zombies closed around him, he fired and fired and fired. It was the most heroic thing Hap Rollins had ever seen in twelve years as a combat vet.
The man had to know that there was no hope.
So why did he fight?
The answer huddled behind him against the now closed door to the Stebbins Little School. A little girl. Other little kids.
The cop fought like a wild man to keep them safe from the monsters. To make sure that their last memory was not of being consumed. To protect them from that while he waited for the big black insects in the sky to end it all with bullets.
Rollins had been in the best position to fire on the black cop.
And the kids.
The orders came.
The killing began.
The dying began.
And the tears.
Now the infected were dead. All of them. The dying and the risen dead. All of them littered on the pavement and splashed against the walls of the school. Against the building designated as the town emergency shelter.
Rollins was not a deeply educated man, but he understood the concepts of irony and farce.
He wanted to look away from the torn body of the cop and the smaller rag doll figure of the little girl. Wanted to.
On some level Sergeant Rollins felt that it would have been a sinful thing to do. Disrespectful.
Then the helicopter began moving, rising and turning, pulling him away from the evidence of such hurt and harm. As it went, Hap Rollins hung his head and prayed to a God he was absolutely certain had turned His back on this world.CHAPTER 4
PENNSYLVANIA NATIONAL GUARD FIELD COMMAND POST
INSIDE STEBBINS COUNTY
Major General Simeon Zetter watched the live feeds on the screens of four laptops set side by side on the big table. Around him the other officers under his command watched in utter silence. No one spoke. All Zetter could hear was the tinny sound of helicopter rotors from the laptop speakers and the labored exhalations of the men and women around him. Everyone was panting as if they'd all run up a steep hill even though all they had done was watch.
The voice of a Black Hawk pilot suddenly cut through the stillness.
"Zero movement," he said. "Spotters observe zero movement on all sides of the target."
The target was the school.
On the screen, four M1117 armored security vehicles entered through the main gate as machine gunners behind the fence kept watch. The M1117s split and each one began rolling along one side of the school. The vehicles bounced over ragged pieces of the dead.
"Confirmed," said the same voice. "Zero movement."
Zetter heard several of the officers let out deep sighs.
He reached for a microphone and gave a string of orders for his people to expand the ground search using the modified Desert Patrol Vehicles. Lines of these dune buggy–like, two-man vehicles vanished into the surrounding woods and neighborhoods, going where the heavier and clumsier Humvees couldn't.
Then Zetter sat back and let out his own sigh. He got to his feet and turned to the gathered officers, all of whom fell silent.
"This is a tragic and terrible day in American history," he said. "We have all been asked to make hard decisions and to carry them out with professionalism and efficiency."
The officers nodded.
"You are all aware of the political delicacy of what has happened today."
More nods, but now they were careful. There were three huge elephants in the room with them, and nobody wanted to talk about any of them except the infection. That was safe ground because it was why they were there. The president and the governor of Pennsylvania had mobilized the Guard to stop the spread of an old Cold War bioweapon that had been released accidentally by a former Soviet scientist. That was, by strict military parlance, a cluster-fuck. And the pathogen's virulence was such that it spread throughout the town, infecting virtually everyone. Killing them. And then in a twist of mad science that even Zetter found hard to accept, it brought the dead back as aggressive disease vectors. The risen dead, driven by the genetically engineered parasites that made up the substance of the pathogen, attacked like sharks—mindless, endlessly hungry, and vicious.
That resulted in the second elephant in the room, the one each of them knew would haunt their lives and taint the military here on the ground and the administration in Washington. Acting under orders to sterilize the town in order to stop the spread of the infection, Zetter's command predecessor, Lieutenant Colonel Macklin Dietrich, had ordered the town's emergency shelter—the Stebbins Little School—to be destroyed. It was filled with people, many of who were infected. Every officer understood the necessity for that kill order; most of them even agreed with it.
However, a reporter, Billy Trout from Regional Satellite News, was inside the school. Inside, but connected to the outside world via a live news feed. As the gunships opened up on the building, Trout made an impassioned plea to the world to save the uninfected children. The plea hit every single news service. The media and public outcry was immediate and massive.
And that directly led to the ugliest part of this—at least for the officers in that command center. The reporter's plea was broadcast to the troops outside the building via the school's public address system.
One by one the soldiers at the fence stood up and refused to follow orders. They would not kill the children.
It was mutiny, and one officer—a young lieutenant—tried to nip it in the bud, but he was overwhelmed and, eventually, outranked as a more senior officer—Captain Rice—went to stand with the mutineers.
The president had immediately ordered General Zetter to relieve Dietrich of his post and assume overall command of the situation. Every officer there knew that it was unfair to put the blame on Dietrich, just as it was unfair that the public and the media would demonize them for their actions in Stebbins County.
Actions that, had they not been taken, would have opened the door to a massive and perhaps unstoppable pandemic.
That was the biggest elephant in the room, and nobody there dared talk about it.
Now, another chapter had been completed. Zetter had contacted the reporter and two police officers inside the school and made them a deal. If they sent out every infected person then the school would be spared.
It was a bad deal and everyone—inside and outside the school—hated it.
But it would play well in the media. As well as something like this could play.
Zetter looked at each of his officers and read variations on this story in each pair of eyes. He grunted softly and nodded.
"You all have your assignments," he said. "Let's finish the cleanup so we can all go home."
The officers stood to attention—crisply, silently, and with absolutely no trace of expression or emotion on their faces. Zetter couldn't blame them for not wanting to show anything to him. He was the hatchet man for the administration, and that administration would be looking for more scapegoats to sacrifice on the altar of public outrage. It was how the politics of warfare worked, and it was how that worked probably going back to Alexander the Great.
When he was alone, Zetter sat down and sagged into his chair, feeling all of his years and more that he hadn't earned. He knew that once this was over he was as done as Dietrich. Done and gone.
He wasn't even sure he minded.
Not after a day like today.
He reached for his phone and punched in the number that direct-dialed the White House Situation Room.
The chief of staff, Sylvia Ruddy, answered the phone and then put it on speaker.
"Mr. President," said General Zetter, "we have contained the outbreak. It's over."
Excerpted from Fall of Night by Jonathan Maberry. Copyright © 2014 Jonathan Maberry. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Containment,
Part 2: Broken Dolls,
Part 3: Collateral Damage,
Part 4: First Night,
Also by Jonathan Maberry,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this author. His books are very well done.
I usually dont give books five stars, but this one rocks!!!!!!:-)
Great sequel to Dead of Night.
Picks up right where the first left off and leaves you begging for the next one. I have absolutely enjoyed everything I've read by this author. Fast paced and thrilling. Loved it.
This author does a good job of creating horror with the zombies in the book but the relationship between the lead characters, Billy and Desdemona is so silly that I couldn't finish the book. I have noticed in many of these zombie novels that is the case, like the authors just can't develop human characters that feel "real." It's probably a decent read for perhaps younger readers, teenagers, etc.