The day that all this shit started, if you would have asked me how things could get worse, I simply would have replied that they couldn’t. In fact, I probably would have had that same answer for you for several days following that first one. Somewhere along the line, though, I learned my lesson—that things can always get worse. But there should be a limit, you know? I mean, there has to be a limit, doesn’t there?
First of all, a guy like the Cupcake shouldn’t have a family. A guy like that, you just figure Satan opened up the gates of Hell for a little air and accidentally let him out. He doesn’t have a brother, because to have a brother, that means he had to have had a mother. And you don’t want to contemplate the poor bitch that spawned a guy like Cupcake.
But now there’s Larry. That’s the second of all: these guys are like killing machines. Cupcake and Larry? Where the hell do they get their names?
They sit on the far side of the fire, talking and giggling. I’m doing my damndest not to hear what they’re saying. Concentrating on ignoring them. I lose my concentration for just a second and hear Larry talking about some woman he skinned. Mob boss’s wife, apparently. I know that a story like that should make me lose my appetite, but I’m still hungry as shit.
The stew looks good and smells good, but I just can’t do it. Sarah’s munching away, which sort of surprises me. I figured she would be the one to have a problem eating the McMurphy stew.
I stare down into my bowl, tuning out Cupcake and his brother. At this point, I’m actually more afraid of my team than I am of the monsters that are constantly hunting us. One psychopathic serial killer is fine and dandy, but they made up half of us now. I dump my stew out on the sand and figure what the hell—it’s not like Cupcake would have had a problem killing us, anyways. No matter how many lunatics are surrounding you, you can only die once.
“So what the hell?” I ask. My voice sounds loud and croaky, too raw for the quiet desert night. Everyone stops eating and looks at me.
“Would you care to specify, my fine boy?” The ground drinks the broth quickly, leaving chunks of meat between my feet. I’m watching it, and I realize that I’m not entirely sure if it was Cupcake or his brother who just asked me the question.
I look up and speak to Larry. “What the hell are you doing out here? I mean, I know that I’ve always enjoyed going out for some midnight desert killing, but I didn’t realize it was such a popular sport.”
“Oh, you’d be amazed what would pass for sport these days,” Larry chuckles. “But to answer your question: my brother and I had arranged to meet in Vegas. This was long before all of this happy crappy went down, of course.” He waves his arms around, I suppose to indicate that “this happy crappy” he’s referring to is the end of the world.
“We both got a bit sidetracked,” Cupcake chimes in, “But we’ve always known how each other ticked, so there were no worries. I knew that Larry would make it out to Vegas, and he knew that I would.”
“That’s great, but the thing is, we aren’t in Vegas.”
“Of course we’re not in Vegas—Vegas has more buildings and less sand.” Larry laughs at his own joke. When no one joins him, he stops. “Tough crowd. Cupcake and I always have back up plans. You don’t stay alive in this business without contingency plans, don’t cha know.”
“You had a contingency plan for the end of the world?” Sarah asks.
“The end of one world, chickie. Not the end of the world.”
“That’s enough, Larry,” Cupcake grumbles.
Larry looks a little shocked. “You haven’t told them yet? What kind of a team have you assembled?”
“It’s not a team,” Cupcake says. “I picked ‘em up on the way—the boy has somethin’ goin’ on with his head, and until I have it figured out for sure, I’d like to keep him close.”
“And the girl?” Larry stares at Sarah with a hungry look in his eyes. A freak like that, he doesn’t get off on rape alone. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been listening to his stories all night—just that look in his eyes is enough to tip you off about what kind of a lunatic Larry is. Of course, I have been witness to his stories.
“She’s with me,” I tell him, trying my best to be threatening.
He laughs. “And that means? What, like two for the price of one, cutie?”
“It means that one of us can get you, smartass. I don’t care how fast you are—you fuck with her, and I’ll take you out.”
He rolls his eyes and looks over at Cupcake. “Is the lad serious?”
“Unfortunately, he thinks he is.”
Larry giggles a high-pitched giggle and slurps up the rest of his stew. He leans over to put his bowl down, and he’s suddenly at my throat, teeth gently wrapped around my Adam’s apple. Fucker’s fast—I didn’t even see him move.
Strange thing is, I’m pretty fast, too, apparently, because my knife is right there at his throat. We aren’t killing each other yet, just a little sparring of the lunatics. I force him back, using the blade to push his throat away. He licks my neck before he backs away, and I’m sure that if I had indulged in any McMurphy soup, it would be coming back up right about now. There’s nothing homophobic about it—the guy’s just evil, plain and simple.
Worse than Cupcake, which is hard to believe.
“He’s fast,” Larry says to Cupcake. He’s still staring at me, and the blade is still barely touching his throat—he won’t back up that last step, and there’s no way that I’m lowering it until he’s back on the other side of the campsite.
“Seems to be getting’ better,” Cupcake replies, unconcerned. I want to look over to see if he’s really as bored as he sounds, but I don’t dare take my eyes off Larry.
“Another time, then.” Larry laughs, and turns to walk back to his place by the fire. I want to say something clever and insulting, but the guy moves like greased lightning, and I’m not sure I could get that lucky with my knife a second time. Besides, I’m not sure if just gutting him would be enough.
“That was pretty impressive,” Sarah says from beside me. She doesn’t sound like she’s being sarcastic, but I have to look over to see for sure. She looks a little impressed, which even in these crazy times, can still make a guy feel kinda cool.
She’s crazy as a shithouse rat, but she’s still really hot. It’s not enough to make me horny—there’s still too much carnage and gross shit around, not to mention the fact that I can’t even remember the last time we bathed—but it’s something to file away for later.
“So what’s the plan?” I ask Cupcake. “Now that we’ve had supper and your little family reunion, what’s next on the program?”
Cupcake looks at me, contemplating whether he’s going to take my family reunion remark or not. I’m still scared of him, but after dealing with Larry, I have a feeling that if he comes for me, I can at least hurt him…not much, but at least a little. You’d be amazed how comforting a thought like that can be sometimes.
He decides to let my mouthing-off go for the moment. He smiles, and any confidence I had left over from my Larry encounter dissolves.
“Vegas, baby. Vegas.”