The Race – Chapter 15

“Holy shit,” Vince said. “That was exciting. You see that string bean jump on the big guy? Man, I thought they were all done right there.”

“They’re getting close to the last cameras we installed,” Don said.

Zeek sniffed. “Ol Greasy’ll get it done before they get much further. Dude’s a beast.”

“This is important,” Don said. “We need to know how this dynamic is going to behave—start to finish—before we begin distribution. If family or…” Don frowned as he tried to find the right word. “Let’s just call it love. I don’t want to get into the chemicals and hormones right now. But if that is enough to overcome the effects—”

“Did it just get warm and fuzzy in here?” Vince said.

“We need to see how this ends.”

Zeek crossed his arms and watched the monitors. “And I’m telling you, the end is coming right up. The girl’s good as gone. Her boyfriend’s gonna kill himself chasing after her. And the other two—look, here we go.”

The older female, Angie, bounced from wall to wall as she ran full-tilt after her sister and the boyfriend. Her face was contorted in a scream as she ran. The infrared cameras had picked up her husband somewhere behind her, darting from screen to screen, but he wasn’t showing on any of the feeds.

The cameras were motion-sensitive and automatically switched the monitor feeds to live activity. The last panel on the far-right monitor flashed to a very narrow shaft ending in a barricade of thick wooden planks. That part of the mine had been sealed off long ago, most likely for safety reasons, and Zeek had put the last camera at the top of the barricade looking back along the tunnel. The angle was slightly downward.

The Mechanic walked straight toward the camera. He smiled, his rough face glistening with blood. The girl was on his back with her arms around his neck, burrowing in like she would never let go.

“He’s gonna do it right here,” Zeek said, mostly to himself. “This is like his cave. Nothing can come up on him from behind. He’ll wait for the others to come in, then they got nowhere to go.”

Vince bounced on his toes.

“I want notes on this,” Don said. He turned and pulled a clipboard from one of the heavy metal shelves left behind by the mining company. He also grabbed two full hypodermic needles, one filled with a green fluid and one with orange, and slid them into the pocket of his lab coat.

The Mechanic walked toward the barricade without slowing. He peeled one of the planks off with one hand and pushed the others. They swung out of view. The Mechanic walked beneath the camera and disappeared. The barricade fell back into place, then the only thing moving on the screen were dust motes.

The room was silent for a moment.

Vince pointed at the screen. “Did everybody just see that?”

“That’s not right,” Zeek said.

“Motherfucker made himself a door?”

“Where does it go from there?” Don asked.

Zeek’s eyes were wide. “How should I know? The mine was shut off.”

“Apparently not,” Don said.

Vince pointed again. “This is bad. Guys, this is bad.”

The boyfriend barreled into view. His headlamp blinded the camera for an instant, then he staggered toward the barricade, his eyes frantic. He was yelling something. He turned in a circle. His face whipped toward the barricade and he froze, listening. He reeled toward the planks and pressed an ear to one of the cracks, then stared down at the board the Mechanic had ripped off.

“Shit,” Vince said.

Don held the clipboard near his mouth. “Don’t do it. Don’t do it.”

The boyfriend shoved the barricade and fell through. Then he was gone.

“Dammit!” Zeek kicked the cooler.

“We still have the husband and wife,” Vince said. “That’s enough, right? That’s what we need to see?”

The woman reeled into the last feed.

“Come on, sweetie,” Vince said. “Sit tight and wait for hubby.”

She sprinted forward, lowered her shoulder and tried to break through the barricade. The planks swung and let her through. The last they saw of her was a look of pure shock as she disappeared and the boards slapped back into place.

“Well, shit,” Vince said.

“Look.” Zeek pointed at the top-left feed on the monitor.

The husband was an inch from the lens, staring back at them. His eyes were milky in the infrared. He opened his mouth and bit the camera. The feed died.

“Um,” Vince said.

The next feed showed a flicker of movement, then went black.

“He’s in pitch dark right now,” Zeek said. “How can he see the cameras?”

The next camera showed the husband standing half off-frame. The woman’s backpack dangled from his hand. He swung it back, then up toward the camera, and the feed died.

He stood at the end of the barricaded tunnel, breathing hard and staring at the camera. He walked toward it and reached up. Ripped it off the wall and brought it down to his face. Sniffed the lens. Fog spread and faded. He turned the camera to show the barricade. His hand touched the planks and pushed. The door swung open and the camera moved inside.

A flurry of movement and wide, frightened eyes flashed across the feed before it went black.

The room was quiet.

After a few seconds Vince turned and gave his best Big Pharma rep smile.

“So. Who’s going down there to fix this?”

And then you said: