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Beer Run | Book Two The Fog Series | Chapter Six

The Teds ambled forward, and for the very first time in his life, Benjamin realized just how horrible decaying flesh smelled. The Teds smelled like some horrifying mixture of an over-used cat box in desperate need of changing and his grandmother’s car, forever filled with half-eaten fast food. Daisy screamed a war cry and didn’t even wait for the Teds to reach her. She leaped forward with her bat and brought it down hard into a Ted’s skull.

“For the promise of beer!” Elijah exclaimed.

He joined Daisy in her bashing, and by then, the Ted’s were on them. Benjamin struck blindly with his pan, waving it as frantically as he could in the hopes just hitting something and not getting bitten. He was vaguely aware of Sara nearby, slashing with her knife. Blood flew everywhere, falling to the ground like ruby cabochons. Benjamin hoped the Ted virus couldn’t also be contracted through blood, which was likely if saliva could carry it.

But there wasn’t much time to think. It was only a flurry of rotting flash, followed by the metallic clang of his pan. He tried to use his knife, too, striking out. But he wasn’t good with it. His movements became all tangled up.

Alex slashed and swiped with his machete, trying to carve forward a path. But he failed to make much ground. There were just too many Teds, and they were too strong. No matter how many stab wounds or how many bashes were delivered to them, they just kept coming. A Ted managed to get past Benjamin’s pan.

Benjamin yelled in surprise and arched his back, trying to get as far away as he could from the sharp, yellowed teeth that snapped closer and closer to his face. In his panic, Benjamin dropped his pan. He slashed wildly with his knife. The blade struck flesh and went deeper still, striking something hard. Benjamin made to pull his knife out, but it wouldn’t come easily. He grunted and pulled hard, finally managing to free his knife. When he did, the blade swept back, cutting a swath through Benjamin’s mask. He gasped.

A flash of black and blonde. And Daisy was there with her baseball bat. She brought it down on the Ted’s skull, bringing it down with one fell swoop.

With his mask cut, it wasn’t safe. He might not be safe anyway. Benjamin had dropped his pan. When had that happened? Where was it? He had his knife, but he was terrible with it. And there was Daisy and there was Sara, and they were fighting like a pair of war goddesses. And Benjamin, what could he do? Nothing at all.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

He ran.

Benjamin ran right past the Teds, who turned slowly to follow him. The Queen Vic came into view, and this urged Benjamin faster. He ran as hard as he could and slammed bodily into the door. He shouted and pounded against the wood with his fists. They had to let him in! They had to!

He looked over his shoulder and saw three of the Teds coming closer. Benjamin screamed and resumed pounding and punching and yelling. The knob twisted, and the door opened. And there was a shotgun pointed right at Benjamin’s chest.

But Benjamin hadn’t quite expected for the door to open, so for a split second, he stood and gawked. Very slowly, the wheels in his mind began to turn. This wasn’t a Ted. This was a human being with a gun.

“Get down,” the man said in a very clearly fake British? Scottish? accent.

Benjamin ducked, and a loud boom filled the air. The man, presumably the pub owner, felled a Ted with a single shot. Then, another. And another. They fell before him like wheat before the scythe, and Benjamin was so happy at not being Ted chow that he nearly cried with relief.

Benjamin’s friends, drawn by the sound of gunfire, approached, Teds following in hot pursuit.

“Get in!” the pub owner exclaimed, grabbing Benjamin’s arm and throwing him in.

Benjamin stumbled back, getting out of the way. Daisy, her hair stuck to her face with sweat, ran in first. She held the baseball bat, now covered in blood and gore, tightly in one hand.

Sara followed with Amber at her heels. And all the while, gunshots rang out with a practiced efficiency.

Finally, Elijah and Alex burst in.

“That’s everyone!” Benjamin exclaimed.

The pub owner felled one more Ted. Then, he pulled the door shut and locked it. Benjamin leaned against the wall and tried to catch his breath. “Th-thank you,” he gasped.

The pub owner nodded curtly. “The name is Darrell.”

“Benjamin. Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah!” Elijah exclaimed, laughing. “It’s really—”

Darrell pointed the gun right at Elijah. Benjamin shrieked and ducked, although he was nowhere near the firearm. “You two—” Darrel began, indicated towards Elijah and Alex. “If you don’t have your wallets, you’re not staying here.”

“But there are Teds outside!” Elijah protested.

“That’s not my problem. I’m not giving you anything after you left your tab open last time and then got into a fight with a fire extinguisher!”

Elijah groped the back of his jeans. “Rain check?” he asked.

Darrell put a hand on the door knob.

“Wait! Wait!” Alex exclaimed. “I—oh, crap!”

Benjamin reached into his back pocket and produced his wallet. “I have mine,” he said. “Please, let us stay.”

Benjamin offered his debit card, which Darrell accepted with a nod. “Very good,” he replied, sauntering to the bar as if he hadn’t just pointed a gun at two people or slain a bunch of Teds.

“Evil capitalist,” Alex said, “Taking advantage of the little guy!”

“It sounds like you kind of had this coming to you,” Daisy replied. “Sometimes, karma strikes when you least expect it.”

Benjamin pulled off his breathing mask, and with the danger removed, he really had his first chance to look the pub over. There were a scattering of people. Some had makeshift face masks, like Benjamin and his friends did. Others didn’t. Some were fast asleep at their tables, while others danced drunkenly; they must have been in the pub before the virus spread.

“Finally, we at least, can get some good alcohol,” Sara said.

They made their way to an empty place at the bar. Darrell smiled, seemingly more than hospitable now that he had money. “What would everyone like?”

Daisy hopped onto the stool. “I want a pickleback,” she said.

“A what?” Elijah asked.

“It’s what I usually get. You know. Whisky and pickle brine. It’s really good.”

“Huh,” Elijah said. “I’ll try that, too, then.”

Benjamin spotted a menu of mixed drinks and skimmed over the list.

“I’ll have a beer,” Sara said. “I’m not picky about what kind.”

“My, too!” Alex said.

“Irish coffee,” Amber said.

“And I’ll have the Little Pink Bikini,” Benjamin replied, setting the menu back on the table.

Darrell arched an eyebrow and looked at Benjamin like he was a total weirdo, but Darrell didn’t say a word as he went to make the drinks. “So…uh, nice drink choice,” Elijah said.

“It sounded good,” Benjamin said defensively.

“Yeah, if you’re a girl,” Elijah replied.

“Hey!” Sara exclaimed, making a show at looking at her knife. “What’s wrong with being a girl?”

Benjamin smiled to himself. Elijah, the self-proclaimed ladies’ man, had really walked into that one, and now, he’d offended Sara. Now that the threat of Teds was gone, Benjamin could focus on other tasks—like trying to forget the betrayal of his ex and trying to get Sara to notice him. She was a smart woman; surely, she would appreciate Benjamin’s great intellect.

“Nothing,” Elijah said, spreading out his hands in surrender. “I’m just saying that it’s a weird drink for a guy to get.”

“That weird drink actually has more alcohol content than what you got,” Benjamin said.

“Yeah, but is it really worth the cost?” Elijah asked.

Benjamin rolled his eyes. “We were almost killed by the infected. I will get the girly drink if I want to get the girly drink.”

“You should try the one I got,” Daisy said. “It will change the way you drink alcohol. I promise!”

“Daisy, what you got sounds really weird,” Sara replied. “Like, I’m sure you think it’s God’s gift to the liquor cabinet, but…”

Darrell placed the drinks before them. Benjamin immediately grabbed his. It was bright pink with a cherry and a slice of pineapple hanging on the rim, and when he took the first sip, his senses were all submerged in a tropical paradise. This had been a very good choice.

Daisy downed her pickle brine, and so did Elijah. Then, Elijah threw his hands over his mouth. It looked as though it physically pained him to swallow. Slowly, he removed his hands. “That was the grossest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth,” Elijah said.

“I bet you wish you’d gotten the girly drink now, huh?” Benjamin asked. “It tastes like cherries and pineapple.”

Elijah shuddered and pulled his chair back. “I’m going to ask Darrell for something else.”

Benjamin watched as Elijah walked further down the bar. Alex followed, taking his drink with him. Suddenly, Benjamin realized that he was the only guy at the end of the bar, and he was surrounded by three incredibly beautiful women.

“So, Sara,” Benjamin said, “Would you like to try a sip of mine?”

Sara shook her head and took a swig of beer. “No, I’m good,” she said.

“Are you sure? It’s really good,” Benjamin replied. “Really good.”

And while Benjamin tried to persuade Sara to try his drink, which was quite possibly the most cliché way to ever hit on a woman at a bar, Elijah was facing down his own problem: Darrell, Elijah’s newly dubbed mortal nemesis.

So,” Elijah drawled, dragging out the word. “How do you feel about a lock-in? Darrell? Buddy? Pal?”

Elijah was certain that only Darrell—and perhaps, the apartment chairman—could resist his many charms.

“I think it sounds great,” Alex said.

“I do, too,” Darrell replied, “Assuming you have money, of course.”

Elijah winced. “Come on, now. You aren’t really going to throw us out if we don’t, are you?”

Darrell crossed his arms. “Considering the amount of that bar tab…”

“We told Ted to come back and pay it,” Elijah said.

They hadn’t, but it was really easy to blame Ted for things. Especially now that he was dead and couldn’t call anyone out for lying about him. Elijah wrinkled his nose. Vaguely, he knew that he ought to be sad about Ted’s demise, but Ted really had been more useful dead than he had been alive.

Nicer. Dead Ted was nicer than alive Ted. This was, of course, aside from the newly zombified Ted trying to kill them all. That had been more terrifying than it had been nice.

“But you’re not really going to throw us out in the street with the Teds, are you?” Alex asked.

“Teds?” Darrell echoed.

“It’s what we’re calling the zombies,” Elijah clarified. “See; we felt so bad about what Ted has done—not paying bar tabs, eating all the Pop-Tarts, refusing to tip the pizza delivery guys—that we thought the best way to memorialize his memory was to name the zombies after him.”

“Also, it’s kind of funny,” Alex added. “In a morbid, Edgar Allan Poe kind of way.”

“That sounds more like Flannery O’Connor than Edgar Allan Poe,” Darrell said.

“Who?” Elijah asked.

Darrell pinched the bridge of his nose and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like, why couldn’t I have been trapped in my bar with just the hot girls?

But Elijah was sure he must have misheard; Darrell would never speak so unkindly to him. “I know you, though,” Elijah said. “You aren’t going to throw us out.”

“I will in a heartbeat,” Darrell countered. “I’m running a business here.”

“It’s literally the apocalypse!” Elijah argued.

“That’s all the more reason to make sure I’m getting money. Business is down! The Ted’s are driving everyone away!”

“That’s not fair,” Alex said.

“Don’t lecture me on what’s fair,” Darrell replied.

So how were they supposed to get money? It wasn’t as if Elijah and Alex could just take a leisurely stroll to the bank. Elijah rubbed his chin and tried to remember if anybody owed him money. Then, he remembered.

Elijah grinned. “I’ll be right back, Darrell,” he said.

Elijah sauntered back to the bar, where Benjamin was talking to Sara.

“I’m telling you, Sara. You should try this one next. You’ll absolutely love it,” Benjamin said.

“You keep saying that,” Sara replied, “And again, I will tell you that I am perfectly happy with my beer.”

“Yo,” Elijah cut in. “Benjamin, buddy, pal.”

Benjamin raised an eyebrow. “What have you done?”

“Nothing!” Elijah replied. “Alex and I just need your deposit on Ted’s room, so Darrell doesn’t throw us out with the Teds.”

Benjamin shook his head and pulled out his wallet.

“How did you get in a fight with a fire extinguisher?” Amber asked.

Elijah rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I’d had a little too much to drink.”

“Clearly,” Sara chimed in.

“What? Like you’ve never almost tore apart a pub,” Alex said.

Right. Because everyone had done that.

“I was banned from a Target once,” Daisy said.

“Why?” Sara asked.

“Licking the salt lamps.”

Benjamin raised his eyebrows so high that they nearly disappeared into his hairline. “What?”

Daisy shrugged. “I wanted to make sure they were real salt lamps and not just a rock lamp masquerading as a salt lamp. It seemed like a solid plan.”

Benjamin distractedly handed over the cash for his deposit. Elijah cheered as he grabbed it. “Welcome to the family, Benjamin,” he said.

Benjamin shook his head as Elijah rushed back down to the opposite end of the bar. “I have the money,” Elijah said, slamming the bills onto the counter.

Darrell scooped them up and counted quickly through them. “Fine,” he said, “But if you so much as look at my fire extinguisher—”

“That will not happen,” Elijah replied. “After all, I’ve just had my dream come true. I’m locked in a pub full of booze and women. The only way this could be better would be if a talent scout swooped in. Nothing can go wrong now…”

Hopefully, a talent scout of the non-Ted variety. Elijah ordered another drink and returned to his seat beside Sara. As he did, he met Benjamin’s gaze. They both liked Sara. Elijah realized it in an instant, and he grinned. More than beautiful women, sometimes, Elijah just liked a challenge.

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