Non spoiler tease for Infected: Life After Death

No release date yet, beyond May, but here’s a snippet from the upcoming book. No spoilers, so even if you haven’t read Infected: Prey and Infected: Bloodlines, you can read this, no harm, no foul. Well, there’s some bad language, but you should be used to that from me by now.

****

Roan was shaking and feeling both edgy and slightly ill when there was a knock at the door. He was sure he couldn’t do this, but the drugs cast a comforting pall on his panic. He had nothing to worry about. She‟d take one look at the crazy, homeless guy look he currently had going on and run away screaming. Problem solved.
Roan opened the door on a short woman wearing a blue, floral-patterned dress and thick, black-rimmed glasses that were endearing in their obvious ugliness. She was maybe five-two, her figure stocky but not completely unappealing, which also described her open, moon-shaped face, which was unadorned with makeup and a bit on the plain side. Her hair was a poufy black halo surrounding her head, the curls tight but natural, and something about her seemed to suggest the word “matronly,” even though she was probably in her late thirties at best. From her dark eyes, which were almost perfectly black, and dusky skin, he had the impression she was Filipino, which was confirmed when she introduced herself. “Are you… Roan McKichan?” she asked warily, blinking up at him owlishly.
He nodded, then forced himself to talk. “I am, yes.”
She held out her hand somewhat awkwardly and said, “I‟m Dalisay Dormer. I was told by a police officer that I should hire you.”
He shook her hand, feeling unbelievably awkward. She was a brave woman, which meant he was going to have to think of a way to scare her off. Still, old habits kicked in, and he invited her in before he caught himself. Damn it! She trailed a scent of floral perfume that made him sneeze, even though it wasn‟t that strong at all; it was just that perfume never did his nose any favors.
Once she was inside, he gestured to the sofa, and once she sat down, she told him her story. Her husband, Ron Dormer, had presumably been killed two years ago when the Black Lightning Fireworks factory blew up in one of the worst industrial accidents that had occurred in this state in some time. Eight people had been killed and seventeen injured; one man had lost an arm and an eye, if Roan remembered the news coverage correctly. One of the corpses had been burned and maimed beyond recognition, and it was believed that the corpse was that of her husband, a deliveryman who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Eventually DNA testing was done to confirm this, although various bureaucratic snafus and general incompetence meant that the DNA results hadn‟t come in until last week (!). The DNA said the corpse was not Ron Dormer—it was the corpse of a man named Jeremy Halva, a man who had been reported missing by his wife five days after the explosion. She had had no idea he was at the factory or why he would be there.
It was at this point that Dalisay started crying quietly, and Roan, really feeling the drugs kick in now, was forced to search his own living room and kitchen for Kleenex.
“So he’s not dead. I should be relieved, and I am. But on the other hand, I‟m not. He‟s out there somewhere, alive. He must have seen the news coverage, he must have known that he was the suspected corpse, and he never came forward. He never came home.”
Roan found the Kleenex and put the box in front of her on the coffee table. She nodded her thanks and took one. “It hurt so much when I thought he was dead that I didn‟t know if I could go on. I thought I was finally getting my life in order, and now… now it hurts just as much as if he‟s died again. Why would he do that? Why would he let me think he was dead? Did he hate me so much?” She paused to use the Kleenex and fight to keep her tears under control. Her grief was genuine, palpable, and Roan could feel it resonating with something inside of him.
The death of a spouse was almost unbearable. And it really fucking pissed him off that this asshole had taken advantage of an accident and a mangled corpse to hit the highway. If that was what had happened—it was possible there was another explanation, but he didn‟t care about that at the moment.
Was this why Gordo recommended she hire him? Because Gordo knew he’d be sympathetic to a widow? That fucking bastard! See if he ever helped him on a cat case again. “Were you having marital difficulties at the time, Ms. Dormer?”
She shook her head. “No. And please, call me Dalisay. We were fine. I hesitate to use the word content, but… we were. We had no real problems. We even had a barbecue planned that weekend. Ron loved to barbecue.” She grimaced as if holding back a surge of sorrow or rage; Roan couldn‟t tell which. “Why would he do this? If he was unhappy, he could have told me….”
“Men disappear all the time,” he told her, which was true. A sizable portion of missing persons cases every year were people—usually men—who just one day decided to walk away from their lives and start over somewhere else, or who committed suicide and were never found. It wasn’t as common as, say, extramarital affairs, but it happened enough that civilians would probably be shocked if they knew the number. “The new wrinkle in this is that he knew his ass was covered by some other poor bastard’s corpse.”
She crumpled the Kleenex in her fists and held it in her lap. “Can you help me find him?”

Roan was shaking and feeling both edgy and slightly ill when there was a knock at the door. He was sure he couldn’t do this, but the drugs cast a comforting pall on his panic. He had nothing to worry about. She‟d take one look at the crazy, homeless guy look he currently had going on and run away screaming. Problem solved.

Roan opened the door on a short woman wearing a blue, floral-patterned dress and thick, black-rimmed glasses that were endearing in their obvious ugliness. She was maybe five-two, her figure stocky but not completely unappealing, which also described her open, moon-shaped face, which was unadorned with makeup and a bit on the plain side. Her hair was a poufy black halo surrounding her head, the curls tight but natural, and something about her seemed to suggest the word “matronly,” even though she was probably in her late thirties at best. From her dark eyes, which were almost perfectly black, and dusky skin, he had the impression she was Filipino, which was confirmed when she introduced herself. “Are you… Roan McKichan?” she asked warily, blinking up at him owlishly.

He nodded, then forced himself to talk. “I am, yes.”

She held out her hand somewhat awkwardly and said, “I‟m Dalisay Dormer. I was told by a police officer that I should hire you.”

He shook her hand, feeling unbelievably awkward. She was a brave woman, which meant he was going to have to think of a way to scare her off. Still, old habits kicked in, and he invited her in before he caught himself. Damn it! She trailed a scent of floral perfume that made him sneeze, even though it wasn‟t that strong at all; it was just that perfume never did his nose any favors.

Once she was inside, he gestured to the sofa, and once she sat down, she told him her story. Her husband, Ron Dormer, had presumably been killed two years ago when the Black Lightning Fireworks factory blew up in one of the worst industrial accidents that had occurred in this state in some time. Eight people had been killed and seventeen injured; one man had lost an arm and an eye, if Roan remembered the news coverage correctly. One of the corpses had been burned and maimed beyond recognition, and it was believed that the corpse was that of her husband, a deliveryman who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Eventually DNA testing was done to confirm this, although various bureaucratic snafus and general incompetence meant that the DNA results hadn‟t come in until last week (!). The DNA said the corpse was not Ron Dormer—it was the corpse of a man named Jeremy Halva, a man who had been reported missing by his wife five days after the explosion. She had had no idea he was at the factory or why he would be there.

It was at this point that Dalisay started crying quietly, and Roan, really feeling the drugs kick in now, was forced to search his own living room and kitchen for Kleenex.

“So he’s not dead. I should be relieved, and I am. But on the other hand, I‟m not. He‟s out there somewhere, alive. He must have seen the news coverage, he must have known that he was the suspected corpse, and he never came forward. He never came home.”

Roan found the Kleenex and put the box in front of her on the coffee table. She nodded her thanks and took one. “It hurt so much when I thought he was dead that I didn‟t know if I could go on. I thought I was finally getting my life in order, and now… now it hurts just as much as if he‟s died again. Why would he do that? Why would he let me think he was dead? Did he hate me so much?” She paused to use the Kleenex and fight to keep her tears under control. Her grief was genuine, palpable, and Roan could feel it resonating with something inside of him.

The death of a spouse was almost unbearable. And it really fucking pissed him off that this asshole had taken advantage of an accident and a mangled corpse to hit the highway. If that was what had happened—it was possible there was another explanation, but he didn‟t care about that at the moment.

Was this why Gordo recommended she hire him? Because Gordo knew he’d be sympathetic to a widow? That fucking bastard! See if he ever helped him on a cat case again. “Were you having marital difficulties at the time, Ms. Dormer?”

She shook her head. “No. And please, call me Dalisay. We were fine. I hesitate to use the word content, but… we were. We had no real problems. We even had a barbecue planned that weekend. Ron loved to barbecue.” She grimaced as if holding back a surge of sorrow or rage; Roan couldn‟t tell which. “Why would he do this? If he was unhappy, he could have told me….”

“Men disappear all the time,” he told her, which was true. A sizable portion of missing persons cases every year were people—usually men—who just one day decided to walk away from their lives and start over somewhere else, or who committed suicide and were never found. It wasn’t as common as, say, extramarital affairs, but it happened enough that civilians would probably be shocked if they knew the number. “The new wrinkle in this is that he knew his ass was covered by some other poor bastard’s corpse.”

She crumpled the Kleenex in her fists and held it in her lap. “Can you help me find him?”

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