The Walking

The Walking

by Bentley Little
The Walking

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Overview

The Walking by Bentley Little

The dead are getting restless...

Across the country, they have risen. And they seem to have a mission....

The walking has begun...

No one knows why they are walking. No one knows where they are going. And no one can stop them....

They are here.

From the acclaimed author of The Store, The Ignored, and The Town comes The Walking-and it's going to make Bram Stoker Award-winner Bentley Little the biggest name in horror. He's already got the critics screaming....

Bentley Little...

"...grabs the reader and yanks him along on a terrifying ride."-Gary Brandner

"...keeps the high-tension jolts coming...unlike anything else in popular fiction."-Stephen King

"...has created nothing less than a nightmarishly brilliant tour de force of modern life in America."-Publishers Weekly

"...is must reading for Koontz fans."-Harriet Klausner

"...is thinking person's horror." -Los Angeles Times

"...is a must for those who like horror with a bite." -Richard Layman

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781587674624
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Sales rank: 1,226,652
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


Now


1


"I knew it." Sanderson kept repeating the words like a litany. "I knew it."

    Miles Huerdeen did not look at his client's face. Instead, he focused his attention on the contents of the folder spread out over the top of the desk: photos of Sanderson's wife walking arm in arm with the purchasing agent of his company, credit card carbons from the hotel, a copy of a dinner bill, a list of phone charges for the past two months.

    "I knew it."

    This was the part of the job Miles hated the most. The investigation itself was always fun, and as long as he didn't think about the consequences, he enjoyed his work. But he did not like to see the pain that was caused his clients by the information he gathered. He hated even being the messenger of that hurt. It was one of the paradoxes of this job that the work which was most rewarding was that which was most devastating to the people who hired him.

    He glanced up at Sanderson. He always felt as though he should say something to comfort his clients, to somehow apologize for the facts he presented to them. But instead, he stood there poker-faced, feigning an objectivity he did not feel.

    Sanderson looked at him with eyes that were a memory away from tears. "I knew it."

    Miles said nothing, looked down embarrassedly at the desk.

    He was relieved when Sanderson finally left.

    The detective business was nothing like the way it was portrayed in movies.Miles hadn't really expected it to be, but he hadn't known what to expect when he made the decision to become a private investigator, when he'd forsaken his business classes and enrolled in his first criminology course. He'd known it wasn't going to be Phillip Marlowe time—glamorously seedy office, shady clientele, fast and loose women—but he'd half expected Jim Rockford. Instead, he'd ended up working in an environment not very far removed from the one in which he would have found himself had he continued to major in business.

    Only he now made a hell of a lot less money.

    At least he was working for a real detective agency, and not an insurance company, as so many of his fellow graduates were doing. He might be entrenched amid the trappings of a corporate world—desk cubicle in a high-rise office, quotas and timetables he had to meet—but sometimes he was allowed to go out in the field, follow people around, take clandestine photos. Sometimes he could pretend he was Phillip Marlowe.

    Phillip Marlowe with medical insurance and a good dental plan.

    He filled out the form for billable hours, and sent it in an interoffice envelope along with a labor distribution time sheet to the bookkeeper. There was nothing more he could do here this afternoon, so he decided to leave a little early. He had to stop by the library tonight anyway, which would make up for any work-hour discrepancy.

    He waved to Naomi the receptionist as he waited for the elevator. "I'm out of here," he said.

    She smiled at him. "You're dust in the wind?"

    "I'm a puff of smoke. I'm history. I'm gone."

    The elevator arrived, and he gave her a James Dean low sign as the metal doors closed.

    Outside, the air was cold, or as cold as it got in Southern California. Miles put his hands in the pockets of his jacket. As he walked next door to the parking lot, his breath blew out in pulls of white steam before dissipating in the breeze. It had rained sometime since lunch. He hadn't noticed it while in the office, but now he saw that the streets were slick and cinematically reflective. The water and rain puddles made it seem more Christmassy to him, made the tinsel trees on the lampposts and the small blinking multicolored lights outlining the doors and windows of the buildings seem not quite so inappropriate, lending the entire street a festive holiday air.

    He'd been feeling kind of Scroogy about Christmas this year, though he wasn't sure why. Usually Christmas was his favorite season. He loved everything about it: loved hearing the same damn Christmas carols played in each store he went inside, loved the repeats of the old television specials, loved buying presents, loved receiving presents. Most of all, he loved the decorations. Though he did not contradict his friends when they complained that stores put out their decorations too early, that the whole season was far too commercialized, he secretly would have been happy had decorations gone up before Halloween. He saw nothing wrong with making the Christmas season last even longer.

    But this year, for some reason, he'd felt a little out of it. Though he'd seen the decorations, heard the music, even started buying some of his presents, it hadn't seemed like Christmas to him. He'd kept waiting for the feeling to kick in.

    Now it had.

    He walked between a Mercedes and a BMW to his old Buick, humming "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" under his breath.

    His father was sleeping on the couch when he arrived home, lying on his side in a modified fetal position, one arm curled under his head like a pillow, the other hanging loosely over the edge of the sofa. He was snoring softly, a sound barely audible over the voices of the newscasters on the television. Miles stood there for a moment, looking down at his dad. People were supposed to look younger when they slept. They were supposed to look peaceful, innocent, childlike. But his father looked older. Awake, his features reflected his relatively youthful mental state. But asleep, Bob Huerdeen looked every bit of his seventy-one years. His skin, a leathery cross-hatching of lines and wrinkles, sagged shapelessly over his thin cheeks; his discolored scalp could be seen through the thin back-comb of sparse gray hair. The expression on his face was one of resignation and tired defeat.

    This was what his dad would look like when he was dead, Miles thought. In his mind, he saw his father lying in a casket, eyes closed, arms folded across his chest, the expression on his lifeless face the same unhappy one he wore now.

    The image disturbed him, and though he had not intended to wake his father up, he walked across the room and turned on the light, noisily announcing his presence with a series of false coughs.

    Rubbing his eyes, coughing himself, Bob sat up. He blinked back the light, then glanced over at his son. "Home already?"

    "It's after six."

    Bob rubbed his eyes. "I had that nightmare again."

    "What nightmare?"

    "The one I told you about."

    "You didn't tell me anything."

    "I told you last week. The one about the tidal wave."

    Miles frowned. "A recurring dream?"

    "It is now."

    "Tell me again."

    Bob shook his head. "I knew you never listened to me."

    "I listen. I just forgot."

    "I'm in the kitchen, cooking myself breakfast. Pancakes. I look out the window and I see a tidal wave coming toward me. It's already crashed, and now it's a wall of white water and it's knocking over buildings and houses and everything in its way. I try to run, but it's like my feet are stuck to the floor. I can't move. Then the wave hits, and I'm thrown against the wall, only the wall's no longer there. Nothing's there, and I'm struggling underwater, trying to hold my breath until I reach the surface, but there is no surface. The wave keeps moving, and I'm trapped inside it, being carried along, tumbling over and over, and I can feel my lungs and stomach start to hurt, and I open my mouth because I can't keep it shut anymore and I have to breathe, and water floods down my throat, and I can feel myself dying. And then I wake up."

    "Wow."

    "It seemed damn real, let me tell you. Both times."

    "Jesus. You ever have a recurring dream before?"

    "Not that I remember."

    Miles smiled. "Maybe we really are going to have a tidal wave or an earthquake or something."

    His father chuckled. "Knock that crap off."

    But the old man didn't sound as derisive as Miles would have expected, and for some reason he found that unsettling.


    After dinner, Miles did the dishes, then told his dad that he had to go to the library and do some research.

    "You're not doing it online?"

    "Sometimes you need an actual book."

    His father nodded. "Mind if I tag along?"

    "No problem," Miles said, but he was surprised. He couldn't remember the last time his dad had been to the library. Hell, he couldn't remember the last time the old man had read a book all the way through. Ever since they'd gotten cable, his father had given up the paperback westerns that had previously occupied his spare time and had not even bothered to finish the business magnate biography through which he'd been slogging. Now, when he wasn't out playing poker with his buddies or going to senior citizen meetings, his dad lay on the couch watching old B-movies and reruns of forty-year-old TV shows.

    Miles picked up his wallet and keys from the breakfront. "There something you need to get?"

    "Just thought I'd look around. Can't tell what I might find."

    "Let's go."

    They walked out to the Buick, and for once his dad didn't put up a fight and demand to drive. Thank God. His father's reflexes and road-handling skills had declined precipitously over the past few years, and if there were some way to contact the DMV and get a man's driver's license revoked, Miles would've turned his father in without a second thought. He could only hope that when his father had to get his license renewed next year, he would fail the test.

    The library was surprisingly crowded for a weeknight. Students primarily. Most of them Asian. Aside from the occasional runaway, he seldom came into contact with kids these days, and his perception of the younger generation was formed mostly by movies and television. Which was why it surprised him to see what looked like normal, happy, well-adjusted teenagers laughing quietly, talking together in low voices, and copying notes while sitting around large round tables piled with books.

    Perhaps society wasn't doomed after all.

    His father immediately wandered away, and Miles headed over to the bank of monitors and keyboards that had replaced the card catalog. It still felt strange to him to be using a computer in a library, and though the machines were part of both his work and his everyday life, he mourned its intrusion into this world. It seemed incongruous to him. And unnecessary. There'd been an article last week in the Los Angeles Times about magnetic storage media and the rapid pace of technological change. The gist of the article was that storing information on computer discs or CDs required translating technology—a machine to read the encrypted information and translate it into words—and that things were moving so quickly that a lot of information was being saved in dying formats and would be impossible to retrieve even ten years hence. Written words, however, needed no interpretive mechanism, and information stored in books and printed on acid-free paper would remain easily accessible far longer than those using newer storage methods.

    Which made him wonder why the library had ever scrapped its card catalog, a series of beautiful oak cabinets that were not only functional but added immeasurably to the library's ambience.

    Sighing, Miles sat down on a stool. He had jotted down several keywords, and he went down the list, typing them in and then writing down each book and periodical reference that appeared. He was working on a case for Graham Donaldson, one of his oldest clients, a lawyer who was currently filing a discrimination suit on behalf of an African American man who'd been fired by Thompson Industries. Miles had already gotten some information from an inside source at the corporation, but he wanted to bolster it with some background. None of the information he'd received from the source was admissible in court, but then Graham was gambling that the case wouldn't even reach that stage. Thompson was extraordinarily concerned about its public image, and Graham was counting on a settlement. Just in case, though, he needed some fallback data.

    It was amazing how easy it was to dig up background information. People on the outside always thought he spent his time walking city streets, canvassing neighborhoods, interviewing people, paying bribes for info, using hidden mikes and cameras to listen in on conversations. But sometimes a short trip to the library and a few hours of reading provided him with everything he needed. That wasn't the case here, but he did find two books and one article in a business journal that would prove useful.

    His father was already through, sitting on a bench near the front counter, and the old man stood, silently handing Miles his pile of books. Miles gave the librarian his card and glanced down at the titles his dad had chosen: Past Lives, Future Lives; Perception and Precognition; Witchcraft and Satanism in Early America; and The Prophecies of Nostradamus. He frowned but didn't say anything until the two of them were outside and in the car. Strapping on his shoulder harness, he casually motioned toward the materials between them. "What is this all about?" he asked.

    "What?"

    "Your books."

    "Do I have to have my reading list approved by you?"

    "No, but—"

    "Okay then."

    "But you've never been interested in the occult."

    "I am now." The old man looked at him stubbornly, but for an instant the defensiveness faltered. A flicker of uncertainty—fear?—crossed his father's features, but it was gone before it really registered.

    "What's going on?" Miles asked.

    "Nothing."

    "It's not nothing."

    "Just drop it, okay?"

    There was anger in his father's voice, and Miles held up a hand in surrender. "Okay. God, I wasn't trying to make a federal case out of it."

    But he thought of his father's dream and felt uneasy. He was used to working on hunches, following feelings, but it was usually in the pursuit of facts, and it was the nebulous occult aspect of this that troubled him.

    He backed out of his parking spot and pulled onto the street, heading toward home.

    His father changed the subject. "I know you're not seeing anyone right now, but do you have any prospects?"

    "What?" Miles looked at him, surprised. "What brought this on?"

    "I'm just curious. It's not natural for a full-grown man not to be interested in sex."

    "First of all, I don't even want to talk about this with you, and, second of all, who says I'm not interested?"

    "You don't seem like it."

    "I'm going through a dry spell right now."

    "Awful long dry spell."

    "Why are you suddenly so concerned about my love life?"

    "A man gets to a certain age, he wants to know that his son will be settled and happy and taken care of when he's gone."

    When he's gone.

    Maybe his father hadn't changed the subject after all.

    Miles kept his tone light. "You planning to die on me?"

    "I'm just asking." Bob grinned. "Besides, no man likes to think that he's been a failure as a father, that he's raised a son who's a pathetic loser and can't even get a date."

    "Who can't get a date?"

    "When's the last time you went out?"

    "Well, there was Janice. That was almost a kind of sort of semi-date. In a way."

    "She was married! And you just went out to lunch!"

    "She wasn't married. She had a boyfriend."

    "Same difference." Bob shook his head. "Thank God you're not on a ball team. I've never seen a man strike out as much as you."

    "It's not that bad."

    "What about Mary?"

    Miles' face clouded over. "I haven't seen her in a long time."

    "That's what I mean. Why don't you call her up, ask her out?"

    Miles shook his head. "I can't. I couldn't. Besides, she's probably seeing someone else by now."

    "Maybe not. Maybe she's in the same boat you are. Who knows? Maybe she's just waiting for you to call."

    Miles said nothing. He couldn't tell his dad that Mary was not waiting for him to call, that he had seen her outside a movie theater several months ago, dressed to the hilt, looking gorgeous, laughing happily and intimately touching a tall athletic-looking man wearing an expensive sports coat.

    "You can't tell," Bob prodded. "Call her and see. It can't hurt."

    It could hurt, though, Miles thought. He turned away. "No, Dad. I'm not calling her."

    "You'll be alone until you die."

    "I can live with that."

    Bob sighed. "That's the sad part. I think you could."

    They drove in silence for several blocks, and it was Bob who finally broke the silence. "You'll never do better than Claire. You know that, don't you?"

    Miles nodded, staring straight ahead. "I know that."

    "You should have never let that girl go."

    "I didn't let her go. She wanted out, she wasn't happy, we got a divorce."

    "You could've fought a little harder."

    Miles didn't reply. He'd thought the same thing himself. Many times. He'd agreed to the divorce, but he hadn't wanted it. He'd loved her then, and he probably still loved her now, though he told himself that he didn't. It had been five years since the final papers had come through, and not a day went by that he didn't think about her. In small ways usually—a brief second wondering what she'd say about this or that—but she'd remained in his life as a ghost, a conscience, a measuring stick in his mind if not a physical presence.

    The truth was, they probably did not have to get divorced. No other people were involved, no other lovers on either of their parts. Her sole complaint with him was that he had too little time for her, that he cared more about his job than he did about his marriage. It wasn't true, but he knew why she felt that way, and it would have been easy for him to correct. If he had just been willing to bend a little, to admit his mistakes, to stop bringing work home, to spend more time with her and be a little more demonstrative with his feelings, they would have been able to survive. He'd known that even then, but some small stubborn part of him had kept him from doing so, had insisted that though the fault was his own, it was her responsibility to solve the problem. If she really loved him, she would understand and forgive him, she would put up with anything he did and be grateful. She was already meeting him more than halfway, but he thought she should have gone all the way, and their problems had escalated from there. Divorce had been the ultimate outcome, and though it was not something he had wanted, he had been unwilling to avoid it.

    Miles glanced over. His father was still looking at him.

    He sighed. "Dad, it's been a long day. Let's just drop it, okay?"

    Bob held up his hands in disingenuous innocence. "Okay. Fine."

    They pulled into the driveway, and Miles parked the car, pulled the emergency brake. Bob picked up his stack of books before getting out, and once again Miles' gaze was drawn to the volumes.

    Witchcraft and Satanism in Early America.

    He picked up his own materials and followed his father into the house.

    Instead of camping out on the couch as he usually did and falling asleep to the sounds of sitcoms, Bob retired to his room, bidding his son good night and closing and locking the door.

    The Prophecies of Nostradamus.

    Miles still felt uneasy, and though he got himself a beer and sat on the couch for a couple of hours, trying to sort through the information he'd gathered, he could not really concentrate, and he gave it up early, going to bed well before his usual time of eleven o'clock.

    But he couldn't sleep.

    After tossing and turning for what seemed like an eternity, he got up, turned on the small television on his dresser, watched part of an exercise infomercial, then turned it off and walked over to the window, staring out through the crack in the curtains at the cloud-shrouded winter moon.

    He thought about Claire, wondered if she was sleeping right now.

    Wondered who she was sleeping with.

    He glanced back at the empty bed. It had been a long time since he'd had sex. And he missed it. He tried to recall what Claire looked like naked, tried to bring to mind the specifics of her form, but time had blurred her body into the generic. Hell, he could not even recall any details about Mary. He remembered places and positions, but the sensual knowledge ordinarily borne of intimacy was not there. Perversely, he could see clearly in his mind the nude form of Cherise, a one-night stand from three years ago.

    Sighing, he walked back over to the bed. He masturbated joylessly, perfunctorily, and finally fell asleep thinking of tidal waves and witches and dreams that predicted the end of the world.


2


Miles felt tired the next morning when he went to work, and it was noticeable enough that Hal commented on it when they met in the elevator.

    "Looks like you just came back from a long night at the prison orgy."

    Miles smiled wryly. "Thanks."

    "To quote the great Dionne Warwick, that's what friends are for."

    "You have food in your beard," Miles told him.

    The burly detective quickly ran his fingers through his thick facial hair. "Gone?"

    Miles grinned. "I lied."

    "Jackass."

    The doors opened on their floor, and Hal stepped out of the elevator first. He waved to Naomi at the front desk. "Honeybunch! How are you this beautiful morning?"

    The receptionist was on the phone, and she frowned at him as she put her caller on hold. She put down the handset and looked from Hal to Miles. "I know it's foolish to ask, but did either of you read the memo yesterday?"

    "What memo?" they said in unison.

    Hal looked at Miles, chuckled. "Great minds think alike."

    Naomi smiled tolerantly. "The memo that was placed in your boxes, the memo stating that the phones will be out of service this morning. They're rewiring for the computers and putting in new fiber-optic lines. They should be finished around eleven or twelve, but until then everything has to go through me. My line and the pay phone are the only two in service."

    "Guess I didn't read that one," Miles admitted.

    Hal shook his head. "Great. I have about a gazillion calls to make."

    "Better break out those quarters," the receptionist said sweetly "I can't tie up my line."

    "Thanks." Hal lumbered off toward his cubicle.

    Naomi picked up the handset. "Oh," she said to Miles, almost as an afterthought. "You have a client. She's been waiting about ten minutes. Said Phillip Emmons recommended you."

    Miles nodded in thanks as she pressed a button on the phone and began talking once again. He strode down the wide central aisle toward his workstation. Phillip Emmons. Old Phil could always be counted on to throw some work his way. It had been awhile since he'd seen his friend, and he promised himself that he'd give Phil a call later in the week and the two of them would get together.

    The woman waiting in the client's chair of his cubicle sat perfectly still, staring out the windows of the office at the Hollywood hills. A pretty brunette, wearing a tight blouse with no bra and a short trendy skirt, she saw him coming and stood at his approach, extending a hand.

    Raymond Chandler time.

    "My name's Marina Lewis."

    He shook her hand. "Miles Huerdeen." The first thing he noticed was a wedding ring, and his hopes, faint as they were, faded. He smiled, motioned for her to sit. "What can I do for you, Ms. Lewis?"

    "Call me Marina."

    "Marina."

    She waited for him to settle in behind his desk, then took a deep breath. "Phillip Emmons recommended you. I mentioned to him that I was looking for someone ... that I needed some help ..."

    "What's the problem?" Miles said gently.

    She cleared her throat. "My father is being stalked, but the police refuse to do anything about it."

    Miles nodded calmly, professionally, but inside he was revved up. Finally a real case. In pulp fiction terms: a gorgeous dame and a targeted old man. What more could he ask for? "Who's after your father?" Miles asked.

    "We don't know. That's what we want you to find out."

    "How do you know he's being stalked?"

    "We weren't, at first. I mean, there were little clues. He'd come home and the back door would be unlocked, though he was sure that he had locked it. Stuff like that. Things that could have been imagination or coincidence. But last week, right before we came out here to visit him, he got a phone call from a woman who said he was marked for death. She described the inside of his house perfectly, like she'd been there, and said she was going to kill him in his sleep. And then, a few days later, she called again and started saying weird stuff about things that no one would know but people in our family. Then, two days ago, he was nearly run over by a black car with blacked-out windows that swerved to hit him as he was crossing the street. He only escaped by leaping onto the sidewalk and jumping into the doorway of a jewelry store."

    "You told this to the police?"

    She nodded.

    "What did they say?"

    She opened her small handbag, drew out a card, and passed it across the desk to him. "I talked to this guy, Detective Madder, and he said there was nothing they could do until something more concrete occurred. He wrote down the information about the phone call, took a description of the car, and then basically told us that it was going in a file and wasn't going to be acted on. Then he gave me this card and told me to keep him informed. My father didn't even want to go to the police, I convinced him to, and after that he became adamant about handling this by himself. So I'm here on my own. He doesn't know anything about this."

    "We can't provide protection," Miles said. "We're an investigative firm, not a security company—"

    "I know," she interrupted. "I just want you to find out who's doing this and why. After that we'll either go to the police with what we have or ... or figure out something else."

    Find out who's doing this and why.

    As juvenile and stupid as it was, he felt energized. He was in his own movie now, and this made up for all those boring bureaucratic cases he was ordinarily forced to handle. He took out a pen and notebook. "Your father lives where?"

    "Santa Monica. 211 Eighth Street."

    "And you and your husband?"

    "Arizona. We're only out here for a few weeks. My husband's a writer, and he's meeting with some movie people about optioning his book."

    "So how much longer will you be staying in California?"

    "Probably another week or so." She paused. "Unless something else happens. I'm a teacher and I'm supposed to be back at work on January second, but if my dad's in danger ..."

    "We'll try to clean this up quickly." Miles smiled at her and she smiled back. "Your husband's a writer, huh? I assume that's how you met Phil Emmons."

    Her face brightened. "Yes! Phillip's been a godsend. Gordon met him at a horror convention in Phoenix last year, and he's the one who helped him find a movie agent. We're only out here today because of Phillip."

    Miles smiled. "Yeah. He's quite a guy."

    Marina cleared her throat embarrassedly. "He mentioned something about 'reasonable rates.' I don't know how much you charge, but we can't afford too much. If you could give me an ... estimate, let me know what we're looking at ..."

    "Don't worry about it. We—"

    Naomi stuck her head around the corner of the cubicle. "Miles, phone."

    He raised his hand. "I'm with a client. Get a number and tell them that I'll call them back."

    "Miles, it's an emergency. Your father. He's in the hospital."

    He was instantly up and out of his chair. "Take care of her!" he shouted to Hal, motioning back toward his cubicle as he ran up the aisle toward the front desk. His heart seemed to have stopped, and his chest hurt by the time he reached Naomi's chair because he'd been holding his breath. He let out a huge exhalation of air, reached over the desk, and grabbed the phone, pressing the blinking light on the console. "Hello?"

    "Mr. Huerdeen?"

    His heart was pumping again. Not just pumping, pounding. He could barely hear over the sound of the blood thumping in his head. "What is it? What's happened?"

    "I'm sorry, Mr. Huerdeen, but your father has had a stroke."

    Stroke.

    It was not something he had expected, not anything he had ever thought about or even considered. Miles' mouth felt dry, and for a second he was afraid that he'd forgotten how to speak, but the words finally came out, weak and fearful. "How ... how did it happen?"

    "He was at a grocery store when he collapsed. The manager immediately called the paramedics, and they rushed him here. We found your name and this contact number in his wallet."

    "Oh, God," Miles breathed. "Oh, Jesus." He leaned back against the wall for support, closing his eyes. He had a sudden picture in his mind of his father reaching for a can of soup and falling on the linoleum floor, taking shelves of groceries down with him, dying among strangers who had come to the store to buy food and were now dispassionately watching an old man take his last breath on their way to the produce department.

    "He's stable right now, but he's not conscious, and we're keeping him monitored in the CCU. He's most likely suffered some brain damage, although we won't know the extent of it until—"

    "What hospital?" Miles demanded.

    "St. Luke's on—"

    "I'll be right there." Miles slammed down the phone just as Naomi reached her desk. "Have Hal take over that client for me." He hit the elevator's Down button. "I'm not sure when I'll be back."

    "Is your father all right?"

    "He's had a stroke." Miles slammed his palm against the button again, as if trying to hurry the elevator, but when there was no immediate response, he sprinted toward the stairwell door. "I'll call!" he yelled back to Naomi.

    And then he was in the stairwell, taking the steps two at a time, leaping the last few to each landing. On the ground floor, he dashed through the building's lobby and out to his car in the adjacent lot.

    St. Luke's. That was over on Winnetka, close to home. His dad had probably been shopping at Ralph's.

    Somehow, knowing where it had happened, knowing the physical layout of the location, brought it home to him, made it more immediate, less abstract, and the panic flared within him. Thankfully, though, it did not seem to impair his judgment or coordination. He did not have to fumble through his key ring to find the car key, did not have to work with shaking hands to get the car started. If anything, he seemed to be thinking clearer than usual. Everything seemed to be in sharp focus, he had total control over his movements and thought processes, and he sped out of the parking lot, past a Salvation Army Santa, and onto Wilshire, zooming effortlessly into a convenient hole in the traffic.

    His luck did not hold.

    All of the streets leading to the Ventura freeway seemed to be under construction, and it was like one of those horrific stress dreams. He'd sit in congestion for two blocks, then finally turn down a side street until he hit another major thoroughfare, only to have the same thing happen all over again. It took him twenty minutes to drive six miles, and by the time he reached the freeway, he was a nervous wreck. His jaw hurt from clenching his muscles, and through his mind ran the dozens of death scenarios he'd imagined while waiting for stoplights to change.

    It was clear sailing from then on out, however, and ten minutes later, he was in the hospital elevator, heading up to the Critical Care Unit. His chest felt tight, and though he knew it was only from stress, he could not help thinking that if he was having a heart attack, this was the best place for it to happen.

    There was a nurses station backed by a wall of monitors just past the elevator, and Miles quickly walked over to the one person who looked up at his entrance, a young Asian man wearing blue scrubs. "I'm looking for my father, Bob Huerdeen. He had a stroke and he's supposed to be in the CCU."

    It came out as a single frightened sentence, and he was half expecting to be told the worst, but the man was nodding before he'd even finished speaking, walking quickly around the counter to join Miles. "He's in room twelve. Follow me."

    Room twelve was halfway down the hallway and, like seemingly all of the other rooms on this floor, had a big window opening onto the corridor so that the medical personnel passing by could do instant visual checks on the patients inside. Miles saw his father before he even walked into the room. The old man was hooked up to machines, IV tubes had been inserted into one extended arm, and he lay there, still and unmoving, eyes closed, as though he was dead.

    Miles followed the—intern? doctor? nurse? attendant?—through the open doorway into the room. He'd steeled himself for an onslaught of emotion, but none came. There was no sadness, no tears, no anger, only the same fear, dread, and panic that he'd been experiencing since Naomi first told him his father was in the hospital.

    Inside, the room was silent, the only sound the persistent beep of heart-monitoring equipment. Miles cleared his throat before speaking, and the noise was deafening in the stillness. When he spoke, his voice was a reverent whisper. "Are you the doctor?"

    The other man shook his head, whispering also. "I'm an intern. The doctor is on his rounds. He should be back in fifteen minutes or so, but I could get him if you want."

    "So there's nothing ... life-threatening? I mean, my dad doesn't have to have emergency surgery or something?"

    "Your father almost died. Could have died. As it is, he may have suffered some serious brain damage. But we have him on a blood thinner, and he's being given medication that will break down any clots."

    Miles shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't understand. Is that what caused the stroke?"

    "A stroke usually occurs when blockage in one of the arteries breaks off, travels through the bloodstream, and becomes lodged in one of the blood vessels of the brain. This is what happened to your father. There's not much we can do about the stroke that already occurred, although the doctor will talk to you more about that when he sees you. The anticoagulant and blood thinner he's being administered are to prevent additional strokes. They often come in waves, the clots dislodging sequentially or in pieces, or dislodging other blockages farther down the line, and this hopefully will prevent that from occurring."

    Miles was listening, but he was looking at his father. He turned back toward the intern only when the other man stopped speaking.

    "Would you like me to get the doctor?"

    "Yes," Miles admitted. "Would you?"

    The intern smiled. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

    There was a chair against the wall by the foot of the bed, and Miles pulled it to his dad's side, sitting down. Lying there, eyes closed, a tube shoved up his nose, the man on the bed did not even look like his father. Not only did he seem older and thinner, but the features of his face appeared to be altered. His nose looked larger than it did ordinarily, his chin longer and more pointed. The teeth that were exposed between pale, partially open lips were much too big and much too white, out of proportion with the rest of the face. Only the single exposed hand, connected to the arm in which bottled nutrients and medication were being intravenously fed, seemed familiar.

    He recognized that hand.

    The sight of it, for some reason, brought on the tears that previously wouldn't come. Looking at the veined, mottled skin, the bony, excessively lined knuckles, he could conjure up images of the past that were not prompted by the still face, the sheeted body. He saw that hand helping him climb the metal ladder out of the YMCA pool, spanking him when he shot the Werthers' dog in the butt with a BB gun, showing him how to tie knots for his Boy Scouts merit badge, dribbling a basketball.

    It was this that made him cry, that triggered the emotional outburst for which he'd been prepared.

    He touched his dad's hand, patted it, held it.

    And when the doctor came in, five minutes later, he was still crying.

What People are Saying About This

Michael Prescott

A waking nightmare, a dark landscape peopled by all-too-human characters on the brink of the abyss.
— (Michael Prescott, author of The Shadow Hunter)

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The Walking 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous 9 months ago
I love Mr. Bentley's books, they seldom if ever disappoint me. As long as he keeps writing I will keep reading. A fan from the first book, no matter what pseudo name he used.
Anonymous 10 months ago
This book reads like a Twilight Zone episode; it begins as generally mundane with a subtle hint of mystery and strangeness. It's a descent into an increasingly disturbing world that feels both sluggish and abrupt. The shifting atmosphere in the story juggles the reader between two distinct feelings: unease, like feeling the hairs standing up on one's neck and disgust, like feelings of nausea. Jarring and intense, Bentley excels at throwing the reader into chaos and then dragging them back into perceived normalcy.
Lindsie More than 1 year ago
Bentley Little is one of the best horror authors to date. "The Walking" started out to be fast pased, but the ending got slow and the "showdown" was ptretty quick and easy. Also, Bentley Little usually adds a lot more gruesome details, and this book had very few. But all in all the bood was pretty good, and i would reccomend it to fans of Little and the horror genre.
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T-Bones More than 1 year ago
I gotta say Bentley Little held my attention with this title and I really wish some horror movie director would start filming this movie. This book had a great plot and was very well thought out. I will be hunting down Little books like crazy now.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my third Bentley Little book (The Resort and The Town) and by far the least enjoyable. I did enjoy the other two I read and will definatley read more of his work. I understand that The Association is good as is The Store.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of Dean Koontz, you will definately become of fan of Bentley Little. I personally rate him better than Stephen King!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the second Bentley Little book that I have read and I must say that I was very impressed... I genuily loved this book and plan on reading it again...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Greatest Book I've read in a long time but there is one last request and that is how about a movie? to keep horrer lovers in their seat at the theatres? and to keep the movie biz on a roll!. Just a thought but keep up the good writting!.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first Bentley Little book I read. I finished the book but didn't find it at all scary and it just kind of dragged on. Thank goodness I bought The Mailman and loved it. I have ordered all of Bentley Little books and look forward to each one. A lesson learned, if you are not crazy about the first book you read of an author, give it another try, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. The people, places and events were outstanding. For me, it was a visual experience that will endure. I enjoyed the way the past was woven with the present. Isabella was such a horrible creature! I'm eagerly anticipating Mr. Little's next novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had heard plenty of great things about Bentley Little's horror fiction, and about the comparisons made between he and Stephen King, so I bought Little's latest dark tale, The Walking, and gave him a try. Unfortunately, what I thought was a truly great idea for a horror novel panned out to be long and boring. I really hate to slam this book because it did have some good scenes in it, however, I felt that it lacked true horror quality. Little has little King in his style of writing -- in my opinion. I never listen to the rave reviews, because they are hardly ever true, and broke my cardinal rule for this book because King and Koontz had said it would be a good read. King and Koontz must have read the cut version because I felt as though this book was far too long and would have made a better novella. I liked the entire idea behind Wolf Canyon and the town of witches, however, I was expecting Little to paint a truly gruesome sight with having these corpses crawling out of their graves and walking toward the lake. Nothing like that here. Little just tells us they're dead and we have to take his word for it. He should have shown us through his words. A better title for this book would have been called The Shambling. This book just didn't do it for me. But I'm not going to give up on Little just yet. I'm going to read his The Store next and hope for chills and thrills. I actually think The Walking would be better if George Ramero made it into a film.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bentley Little is amazing. Despite the fact that genre magazines refuse to review his books, despite the fact that his books are nearly impossible to find in stores, he keeps turning out the best horror fiction since the heyday of King. THE WALKING is Little at his best. Believable characters, fascinating plot, good scares and some truly original images that will stay with me for a long time to come--nothing new for Bentley, his bleeding hair-covered church from THE TOWN still haunts me. He doesn't get the respect he deserves, but i for one wait for each new Bentley book with bated breath.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After an absolutely chilling beginning, 'The Walking' takes a hike downhill. A disciple of Stephen King, Little shows signs of emerging from King's immense shadow, but he doesn't do so with this book. The story of the walking dead who won't lie down degenerates into a silly witch's-curse scenario that ends up reading like an R.L. Stine novel. In the hands of a more mature writer (such as Graham Joyce, whose 'Dark Sister' is an entirely believable tale of witchcraft), this story might've been exceptional. While 'The Walking' is worth reading for its truly chilling scenes, it is not the Horror Event of the Year, despite its luminary billing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bentley Little, long a cult favorite among die hard horror fans breaks out with his best book! In THE WALKING, Little has devised a plot that incorporates the past into the present, the unknown with the known and revenge with justice. The book is told from two fronts: the era around turn of the 20th Century and present day. The first 8-10 pages are pure genius and show how impossible it is to stop reading this great book. In the parts marked THEN, Wolf Canyon is land the U.S. government gave a band of witches to develop as their own city in the Arizona desert. William is the founder/leader of the witches that includes Jeb Freeman, his best friend, and Isabella, a strange, vicious witch that all other witches are leery of...and for good reason! All is going well until Isabella decides to show what she is really made of. The govt. Decides to build a dam, putting Wolf Canyon in the middle of 2 dams...except nobody told the witches and then the water came... NOW consists of Miles Huerdeen and his father Bob live a ho-hum life together in Southern California...until Bob's heart attack. Miles is a private investigator and finds himself trying to make sense of a client's father's weird actions. Miles also stumbles across a body that has been literally torn in half...right down the middle! He thinks this is a pretty unique way to die but none of his business until his dad dies...but he doesn't go quietly, instead he 'walks' in circles until one day he leaves...and nobody can find him. Meanwhile, Miles' cases are tied together by a list of names of people recently and brutally killed... all having a linked past with Wolf Canyon. In comes a mysterious homeless lady who says all this has to do with 'Wolf Canyon and the Walkers'. On to present day Wolf Canyon, which is now a lake. The homeless lady informs Miles of the history of Wolf Canyon and the part she and Miles' father, Bob, played. The climax is a culmination of the past meeting the present. The way Little weaves past characters into his novels gives a sense of reality that some writers don't achieve. Characters from THE SUMMONING, THE REVELATION and, even another appearance by the pen name Bentley once used, Philip Emmons, helps out Miles. Little's characters are well-rounded, the dialogue moves the plot along nicely and the whole idea of dead people walking in circles gave me the creeps! THE WALKING also contains some of the most violent and vicious gross-out scenes in recent memory. Beware all other writers of horror...Bentley Little has arrived!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book does not live up to its hype. While the story itself isn't bad, it gets bogged down in numerous flashbacks obviously intended to set up the backstory, and because the reader learns early on the big secret of the novel's curse, the flashbacks become tedious. Mr. Little strikes me as a Stephen King wannbe who lacks the skills and rich appeal of King. In short, The Walking lacks depth; it's a short story padded with enough scenes to make a novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Stephen King and Dean Koontz quotes sucked me in, but it was the power of Little's writing that kept me reading. This guy is good! THE WALKING reads like King at his peak--great characters, strong sense of place and no-holds-barred horror. Wow! I didn't know they wrote 'em like this any more. Sure to be a classic
harstan More than 1 year ago
From the beginning of time, they were burned at the stake for being who they are and most went into hiding, migrating when their identity was about to be revealed. William rejects the notion of a God that says, ¿Thou shall not suffer a witch to live¿ and dreams of a place where he and his kind can live without fear of persecution and lynching. He petitions the President of the United States for land. The President grants him land in Wolf¿s Canyon, Arizona Territory.

Eventually, William met and married Isabella, a self-proclaimed witch who proved her talent with a demonstration. Over the years, the community grows and William becomes the de facto leader, but behind his back Isabella plots to take control. When she commits a heinous crime, he realizes she is not a witch but something else. He destroys her, but she remains haunting everyone long after her death.

In the present, Wolf¿s Canyon has been flooded thanks to a new dam. Isabella reaches out from the grave to take care of descendants from the original town and some of the dam workers. However, everyone seems to act strange and dangerous, and there is no William alive to remedy the situation.

Bentley Little writes horror tales that are so creepy and scary, readers will leave the lights on throughout the house while nightmarishly sleeping. THE WALKING is the genre at its best, matching the top works of King, Koontz, and Straub. The several subplots are told in flashbacks that add to the fascination and terror. Ironically, Mr. Little is a giant in the world of fiction.

Harriet Klausner