( xiii )
Red was driving fast, almost recklessly, to the cemetery. His phone was on speaker, while he was driving with one hand. With his other hand, he was trying to chew his hamburger as much as he could to sate his hunger.
“Check the bait again! Still alive? Ok. Now go locate this grave for me” Red spoke to the agent in charge of the cemetery ground while chewing on his food. “First name: Gabrielle. Last name: Côté. C-Ô-T-É. Côté. Yeah, with the little hat on top of the O.”
“Can you explain what’s going on?” Leila whispered inquisitively.
Red ignored Leila’s question. “Find it fast! I want it found by the time I’m over there.” Then he hung up the phone.
“You better slow down Red. With fog this thick...”
“How long does it take for the hemovore virus to incubate?” Red interrupted Leila while slowing down his car in order to turn on a curve.
“Around eighty to ninety hours, if the host survives. Why?”
“We do have a rogue in town. But my gut says that whatever killed those people in the cemetery, is not the rogue but what it tried to kill.”
“What do you mean?”
“Around four to five days ago a woman died, murdered in her home. The murderer left bleach and plastic wraps in the scene. The victim’s boyfriend, who had a restraining order, happened to be at the scene and got his ass arrested. Okay so far?”
“Seems to make sense so far.” Leila responded.
“Now, what if the boyfriend just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time?” Red accelerated. “What if she just happened to be the target of a rogue who was feeding on her, and the boyfriend just shows up. Instead of completely draining her of her blood, the rogue gets spooked and leaves. The hemovore strain is already in the bloodstream. With all the bleach and plastic sheet at the scene, the boyfriend can scream out that he’s innocent all he wants, but the police won’t give a shit. The jury certainly won’t and the judge won’t either.”
“What does it have to do with anything?”
“She was buried at the same parish cemetery where the attack happened.” Red pressed on the accelerator harder. “It’s not the rogue, but the victim waking up on a feeding frenzy.”
“Shit!” Leila exclaimed.
“Prepare yourself” Red’s car was approaching the parish’s perimeter. “We’ve dealt with rogue feeders before. I’ll try to incapacitate her but if she’s too much of a trouble, we’ll do what we’re trained to do.”
Red’s car came to a halt. Both of them got out of the car and approached the agent stationed near the exit.
“Status, agent Gemini!” Red yelled out while ordering his agent to follow him with a motion of his hand.
“The bait is still attached to its post. Alive, but spooked. Kept chewing on the string to escape.” The agent replied.
“Are all the zodiacs posted here?”
“Other than agents Capricorn and Libra, all the zodiacs are present. You took them with you this morning.”
“Tell them to stand by, and stay put, but tell them to be prepared.” Red took out his gun from his holster. “Have you found the grave?”
“Yes. Agents Aquarius and Taurus are digging at the very moment.”
Gemini led the pair to the gravesite where the agents were still busy with their shovels. Gabrielle Côté’s name on her brand new headstone was glistening with dew.
“Good job folks! Gemini, notify the agents at the parish and everyone on-site to be armed and ready!” Red looked at Leila as Gemini carried out his orders. “I know you’re good but are you sure you don’t need a gun? I got a bad feeling about this one.” Leila took off her gloves, readied her claws and smiled back.
“Boss. You need to see this!” An agent emerged from the hole.
Red and Leila both approached the dig site to inspect. The coffin in which lied Gabrielle’s corpse had a hole in the mid-section. Freshly removed dirt was falling inside.
“Sagittarius, open the lid. Leo, have your gun ready. Fire only on my command.”
Leo got out of the hole and drew his rifle’s sight at the coffin.
Agent Sagittarius opened up the lid. But as soon as he opened it, he turned around and vomited uncontrollably.
Inside the coffin, there lied the half-eaten carcass of Gabrielle Côté. Her belly seemed as if it was burst open from her core. Inside the cavity where her abdomen used to be, there were carcasses of mice, squirrels and the decomposing severed head of a young woman, whose eyes have been plucked out. The stench of decomposition and the smell of formaldehyde from Gabrielle’s body emanated as an infernal concoction that churned everyone’s stomach around the dig site.
“At least… At least we found the head”, Red muttered in horror as Leila started to gag.
Without any warning, all of a sudden, Gabrielle’s corpse started to writhe and groan. Unable to open her eyes due to the eye-cups and glue, placed by the embalmer, holding her eyelids in place, unable to speak or let out a sound due to wires holding her jaws shut, she started moaning and groaning and her head started twisting beyond the natural capability of any living human being. Her vertebrae popping mixed with the sound of her groan made all the seasoned and experienced agents’ faces pale.
Recovering from this horrid sight, without a moment of hesitation, Red aimed at the corpse’s head and emptied his gun. Immediately, the muffled moaning and writhing stopped, and Gabrielle’s remains finally found their peace, at last. Leila and the agents stood there, stupefied, still trying to process what just happened.
Red approached the hole and stood there to examine thoroughly. “Leila.” He pointed his finger around the corner of the coffin. “Come take a look.” There were holes around the coffin spaces, dug horizontally into the ground.
“Remember those tunnels we found in the morning?” Red shuddered in horror, as gunshots were suddenly heard, originating from the parish. Flashes of lights escaped through the tinted windows of the church, and hellish screams echoed on the burial ground.
“I don’t think they were made by groundhogs.”