Meg ventured back to the counter. “So, what did you find?” she said. “Food? Money?”
Elayne laughed. “The food went south weeks ago,” Dianna said. “It was already pretty well picked over, and believe me, we're lucky for that. As for cash... well, we're pretty much back on the barter system, except the main commodity is fuel. That is what we have here.”
“In a McDonald's?” Meg said incredulously.
“Not gasoline, of course,” Dianna added. “Biofuel, which is vegetable oil, which comes down to plain old kitchen grease. Most of our diesels can run on it, and so can Davey, Monstro and Horace Horsehauler. There's still a batch of the stuff in the fryer, and there's drums of it back here; we're still counting them. For the drums, we'll probably just call the boys to roll 'em out, and we can pump out the stuff in the trap with Yellow Pup. I'm thinking a hose through the drive-thru window... Can you go check the back?”
“Certainly,” Meg said. She hefted the rifle Carlos had given her and stepped outside. George followed without a word. As their footsteps receded, Dianna looked out the window, and swore.
“Roighta, now we can get down to business,” Carlos said as the new arrivals pulled in. One was Big Red, the A108 cargo van, and the other was a T2 Bus camper. The driver of the Bus was a mild-mannered man of perhaps 45, accompanied by a woman about ten years younger. Carlos strode up to the Bus, and pointed to the burning station. “Harry. We're going to put out that fire.”
The driver was named Henry Harrington, and he was a former professor of materials engineering. He took one look at the fire, and shook his head. “It can't be done, Dr. Wrzniewski,” he said. “To be sure, it could be put out, but it would take equipment we don't have.”
Carlos shook his head. “Wrong answer, Harry. We're going to put that fire out, and you're going to tell me how to do it.”
“Dr. Wrzniewski,” Harrington said, “perhaps I didn't make myself clear enough: The standard equipment of a typical fire brigade would not be adequate for a fire of this type. They would bring in a specialized vehicle with several thousand gallons of chemicals. Now, what do you think I have that could possibly work as a substitute?”
Carlos grinned. “Perhaps I didn't make myself clear: That fire is going to be put out, therefore we will put it out, therefore we can put it out. An' I already have a few ideas, I just want your expert opinion on what will work.”
“Well, if you put it that way,” Harrington said, “I suppose we have three materials we could work with: Water, gasoline... and, of course, my specialty.”
“Welcome aboard, Harry,” Carlos said. They walked up to the cargo van together. Carlos took only a brief glance over his shoulder at the sound of gunfire.
One end of the drive-through was blocked by a van that had jumped the curb and two more cars that had crashed into it. Meg and Joe circled back around the other way. Janie waved to Meg from the top of a slide.
The kudlak was right outside the drive-thru window, with its back turned. If the window had not been shut, Dianna could have put the muzzle of the Luger right to the base of its skull. After a moment's pondering, she dropped to one knee, resting one wrist on the cashier's counter. She fired twice, and twice more. The bullets did not shatter the glass, but left it nearly opaque with fractures. She heard a protracted scraping, but not the decisive thump of a fall. She stood up and leaned closer to the window, hoping for some glimpse of what was outside. The hint of a shadow was enough for her to take one step back before a pair of pale hands thrust straight through the glass. She grabbed for her cane, but overreached and lost her balance.
Lady Elayne burst in, just in time to see Dianna fall and skid just out of reach of a kudlak that leaned through the window to grasp at her. At least two more kudlaks were pressing in behind the first. Elayne had a Tommy Gun at ready, but she instinctively dropped to Dianna's side. Dianna met her concerned gaze and said, “Wasn't worth the window.” Then she kicked the grasping kudlak in the ear and emptied the Luger into its skull.
There were five kudlaks jostling outside the drive-through window, in addition to two already down. One immediately looked up, or whatever it was they did, as Meg peered around a corner made by the space between a second entrance and the playground fence. It came straight for Meg. It made three plodding steps before she felled it with three bullets to the head. Two more came at her straight away, and one more was moving to join them when it took a magnum slug in the spine. Meg fired five shots at another and hit it at least twice, once in the ear and then in the back of the head as it reeled; it howled as it dropped. But her last two shots cleanly missed the second attacker, which wore a tattered Mac's uniform. The last kudlak turned to join the attack, giving no heed to a stitching volley of full auto fire from the Tommy, and the first one that Meg had felled sat up.
The kudlak in the uniform advanced with loping steps, changing course slightly to avoid the reviving kudlak underfoot. That gave Joe time enough to lunge in front of Meg. He held his totem doll in one hand, and in the other a rusty machete that looked like it would be more effective as a bludgeon. “You are dead,” he said sternly, and the kudlak actually halted. “Go to the dead. Go forth with the Traveler.”
He thrust the doll in the kudlak's face. If it did any good, it was only to save his own life. The kudlak shoved him aside with a guttural grunt, straight through the glass of a second entrance. Then it lunged for Meg, just as she managed to slap a new clip in the gun with her trembling hand. The trembling abruptly stopped as a leathery hand stroked the bandage on her arm. Then there was a brief lapse in her consciousness, which ended when she registered a clicking sound. Then she discovered that she was pulling the trigger on an empty gun, pressed to what was left of the head of the uniformed kudlak at her feet. She raised her eyes to see the other two, standing within a yard of her and just staring.
If they had pounced upon her then and there, Meg could scarcely have been less terrified. Their eyes were clearly sightless; one had lost an eye to her own gun. Yet their faces oriented perfectly toward her, with only a hint of their characteristic bobble-head swaying, and even that seemed menacingly purposeful. They stepped forward slowly and simultaneously. Suddenly, Meg found herself seized from behind and lifted off the ground. She screamed and kicked until Joe set her down, just outside the worst of the broken glass.
“Get down!” George shouted from behind the counter. They complied, and he emptied the revolver. His only hit blew the jaw off the first kudlak through the door, and the sole effect was that it lurched back and bumped into the other, one-eyed kudlak. After a moment of mutual discombobulation, both sidled to either side and resumed their advance in perfect lockstep. The one-eyed kudlak gave a hiss and took a longer stride as it stepped over Joe's doll. A suspicion dawned in Meg's mind as she remembered something Daniel had said, about the revenants spreading out more with greater numbers. She looked over her shoulder, and sure enough, five more were advancing toward the smashed doors where they had come in.
Then she cried out at a sound of a slamming door inside the restaurant. Rhythmic goosesteps sounded from the direction of the bathrooms. As the first of the new arrivals shuffled inside, another strode in to take the lead. A good look at the face only confirmed what Meg somehow already knew.
It was Greg.