“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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An Excerpt from Richelieu…

Zack Tucker walked along dimly lit Wynkoop Street in North Denver dressed in paramilitary attire, carrying a black tactical backpack and looking every bit to the untrained eye as S.W.A.T.

The pouches on his urban assault vest were loaded with extra magazines for the sniper rifle that he carried in the backpack, as well as his .40 pistol that was safely tucked into its cross draw holster.

On his belt hung a black survival knife. In the Gideon Catalogue of Blades, it was known as Sikarios and the caption underneath the photograph was one word: Lethal. On its handle was the crest of Gideon.

He checked his watch: 1:03 A.M. He had twenty-seven minutes to get into place. He keyed his mic on his headset twice. Through his earpiece, he heard three mic clicks and knew that John Welte acknowledged his arrival.

The red brick building had typical industrial uses; manufacturing, meat packing, steel production or storage. Zack didn’t wonder, neither did he care that it was all a façade.

He glanced up; street lights reflected a sheen off the dark windows. Apparently no one was home.

He made his way around the back and walked by loading docks, long since abandoned, with their square rubber bumpers decaying and flaking to the ground. He noticed the steel roll-up doors, where tens of thousands of pallets, once were wheeled to destinations unknown, and no hint of light from the slit underneath the doors.

Zack walked up a set of stairs onto the dock and paused at the metal door with a small, square window which had been painted over.

He tried the handle. Not that lucky.

Zack dropped to one knee, his black kneepad absorbing the concrete, and unzipped a side compartment on the backpack. He took out a small case.

In less than 90 seconds, he breached the lock and pushed the door open.  He glanced at his watch: 1:09 A.M. Right on schedule.

He picked up his backpack, stepped inside and shut the door. He made sure the latch held the door open. Dark shadows splayed across the concrete floor. He pulled a small LED flashlight from a vest pocket and switched it on.

The attack came with so much stealth that Zack nearly didn’t detect it.

Whatever it was came from behind a pillar holding up the walkway above.

Zack whirled with a roundhouse kick to the head and sent it flying backward into the pillar. It snarled and lunged.

Zack threw a punch into its midsection and heard the umph as it doubled over. Zack brought his kneepad into the head and heard snapping of bone. He brought both hands over where the ears should have been and it buckled to its knees. With one fluid motion, Zack grabbed the hair, bent the head backward and drove the survival knife into the throat, then slid the knife back into the scabbard. Whatever it was collapsed on the concrete in convulsions and Zack never looked back.

He walked down the block wall until he came to another metal door, with a small square window laced with chicken wire.

He noted the glass was missing and he smelled it; ever so slightly, but it was there. Oniony sweat.

With another smell mixed in.

What was it?

Cat musk?

Mothballs?

Flowers?

Some sort of flowers or something.

Carnations?

Roses?

Both?

Neither?

It was weird, sickeningly sweet, like musty granny perfume sitting on the dresser for forty years. Zack could taste it on the back of his throat and he gagged.

He turned the handle and the door creaked open, exposing a stairwell. Up or down? He walked to the down staircase, the smell was strong. He stepped to the staircase going up. Not as much smell, but still there. Zack had to achieve the higher ground advantage. He moved carefully up the staircase with that salty sweet smell blazing in his nostrils.

Two flights, then three, four and five; the stench nearly brought tears to his eyes. He reached the sixth floor and another closed door with a rectangular window in it. Zack peeked through the opening to see the form standing a few feet away. A huge, shirtless, fat man. His abnormally distended stomach hung over his belt and overly developed muscular arms hung at his side.

The man chomped on half a ham.

From his shoulder hung a MAC 10 machine pistol with a suppressor.

Zack extracted Sikarios again from his scabbard.

The odor was more than Zack could stand and he gagged again, but held it back. He glanced at his watch, minutes to go. Zack took hold of the door handle and turned it pulling the door toward him, hoping that it did not squeak.

No such luck.

The man whirled, throwing the ham to one side and Zack was on him.

Zack’s backpack slid to the floor as the man tried to bring the machine gun to bear. Zack thrust the Sikarios into the man’s leg and the man let fly a string of curses. The systematic thwap, thwap, thwap of the bullets, through the suppressor, cut into the wall sending fragments of concrete spraying.

Zack pulled the knife out and thrust again, his hand disappeared into the Jell-O like gut.   Zack heard something and turned the knife upward, severing muscle from fat. The man grunted and brought his free arm down on Zack’s back sending him to his knees. Zack pulled the knife back again and thrust into the man’s groin. The man heaved and slapped Zack on the ear.

Pain exploded through Zack’s skull and lightning shot behind his eyes.

Through the blackness, Zack saw the man bring the MAC 10 around again and he thrust upward with the knife and into the man’s wrist. The man bellowed and released the machine pistol.

It swung down to his side.

Zack rolled under his arm, grabbed the MAC 10, still attached to the strap, stuck it in the man’s kidney and squeezed the trigger. The thwap, thwap, thwap from the muzzle brought the pistol up his kidney and across his back throwing blood and tissue across Zack’s chest and face. The man turned and Zack caught him with the Sikarios under the chin, driving it into his mouth and out the top of his head.

The man gazed at Zack, turning his head like a curious dog, until the whites of his eyes glowed blood-red. Zack extracted the knife and the man crumpled onto the floor.

His head convulsed several times and Zack watched his face contort and his nose flatten against his face. His eyes flashed blood-red momentarily and then sunk back into his skull. His ears shrunk till they were small little wafers on the side of his head. From every pore, crease and on top of every muscle, pustules erupted with thick, black, wiry hair; so that he looked like a very large chimpanzee. His beard was immediate, almost comical; whiskers popped through tiny nubs on his face. His eyebrows bushed and the hair on top of his head unfolded as if it had been wrapped tightly in a bun.

The man’s fingers stiffened and blood erupted from his nail beds as the fingernails cracked and grew. Both his bladder and bowels discharged at the same time and the stench was unbearable; Zack gagged, coughed and then spat on the floor.

“That’s worse than when you were alive.” Zack stepped back and wiped his mouth.

The man’s stomach shuttered and convulsed and Zack saw movement under the skin.

“Oh, God,” Zack said.

He watched the stomach push to one side, then the other; the skin became transparent like pushing too many cans into a plastic trash bag.

Zack took another step back as the man’s body thrashed in spasms on the concrete and whatever was inside of him started to push its way out. The man’s legs spread and Zack saw the crotch of his pants begin to strain against the seams. Whatever it was, wormed its way out of the lower portion of the man’s body.

With a bloody-yellow burst, the man’s legs flew apart as his pants and crotch split and Zack could see a transparent sack of mucus emerge with something inside wriggling and writhing its way out.

Zack threw up on the floor.

So much for stealth.

He drew his pistol and fired several times into the sack. It convulsed a number of times and then lay still, half in and half out of the man.

“Holy, crap,” Zack muttered. “What the freak was that?”

He took a step toward it and then checked his watch.

No time.

Zack grabbed his backpack, scooped up the MAC 10 and headed for an iron ladder leading to a catwalk high above the factory floor.

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