Infected Series Bundle #2 Is Up For A LR Cafe Award!

unnamedYaay! To celebrate that, here’s an excerpt from Infected: Undertow that I just kind of like. Gives you some idea of the hard boiled world this takes place in.


Holden hung up and got out of the car, heading towards the
night manager’s office. It was funny, but after all these years, Sivan
was still the night manager. He was a squat but gaunt man with skin
the color of a caramel macchiato and an indefinable accent that was
almost as comically thick as his mustache, which was definitely a
pornstache to be proud of. He was quick to anger but also quick to
calm down, which was a good thing since it wasn’t always clear what
he was angry about. He was a fighter, though, or had been at some
point; his thick sausage fingers had callused knuckles, the type you
could only earn through years of punching heavy bags or people.
There were rumors that he used to be a “freedom fighter” back in his
original homeland, but no one was sure where that was as apparently
every time he was asked he gave a different answer. That led to
rumors he used to work for the mob—someone’s mob—but he was
too old to be an enforcer now. He was cheerfully crooked, though:
happy to take money and look the other way when drug deals and
prostitution took place in his parking lot, and being as mysterious and
grizzled as he was, no one was brave enough to rob him.

Holden slipped him a twenty, and Sivan told him what room
Newt was in without once looking away from his portable television,
which seemed to be showing a Japanese game show involving
scantily clad girls and lizards. (Surely that made sense to someone.)

Newt’s room was farthest away from the office, which made
sense. The Night Owl was a bunch of single units laid out in an
almost perfect U-shaped formation, and Newt’s room was basically
the bottom of the U, the cornerstone that connected the two arms.
Holden knocked on the door and wondered what he would say if
Newt had a client.

After a moment, he heard stuff shifted away from the door
(Newt was paranoid and often piled stuff up in front of a door,
whether he could lock it or not), and Newt flung the door open wide.
He stared at him a long moment, his pupils so wide you could have
driven a truck through them, and finally said, “You’re not the pizza

What was Newt on? He was standing there in nothing but bluestriped
boxer shorts that couldn’t have been his (Newt often liked to
freeball it), showing a long, lean torso that was almost concave, a
tattoo of a bright green lizard over his left pectoral, and a small
reddish-purple bruise visible near his right hip. His chest was
naturally hairless, save for a bit of barely visible fuzz in the center of
his torso, which Newt always attributed to being half-Filipino. But
since Holden had met some hairy Filipinos, he wasn’t sure what to
make of that.

Newt’s hair was dark and wavy more than curly, but right now it
was a lank rat’s nest of a tangle, and the smell of sweat coming off
him seemed to indicate he hadn’t showered in a while. “Dude, it’s me,

Newt stared at him once more, clearly tripping balls and barely
holding on to the Earth. Holden was about to give up and come back
another day, maybe when Newt was slightly more sober, when he
suddenly exclaimed, “Oh. I thought you’d joined the Marines.”

He wasn’t kidding, otherwise Holden would have laughed.

Newt scratched his head with dirty fingernails. He not only had
a club stamp on the back of his hand, but it looked like he had a tattoo
on the underside of his wrist. It just said “Fuck” in thick black letters.
“Oh, wait—I mean an escort agency. I don’t know what I was thinkin’
of. C’mon in, want some acid?”

“You’re doing acid?” That would explain a lot. Since Newt had
retreated from the door, scratching his ass and revealing a new tattoo
(a small spider on his back, in tramp-stamp location at the base of his
spine), Holden had come in and was almost overwhelmed by the funk
of the room, which smelled like body odor, burnt wires, and mold. It
was dark, the only light a silent television playing flickering pictures
of what appeared to be an infomercial. The covers had been pulled off
the bed and lumped up on the floor, like a nest for a large bird, while
empty booze bottles and orange juice cartons were scattered across
the stained carpet like land mines. He had to look around carefully for
a place to step.

“I think so.” Newt paused. “Or was that yesterday? Fuck if I
know. What month is it?”


That startled a laugh out of him as he sat on the stripped
mattress and picked up a lit cigarette from where it had been balanced
on the top of a Coke can. It looked like a regular cigarette, but the
exceedingly acrid smell of it told Holden it had been laced with
something more potent than tobacco. Holy fuck, he wasn’t dabbling in
angel dust now, was he? “I promised my mother I’d start rehab in
June. Good thing I didn’t specify the year, huh? Could you put that
back up against the door?”

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