Home > The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(13)

The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(13)
Author: Lisa Shearin

Yasha exited off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, onto Atlantic Avenue, went about two miles, and turned left into a small industrial complex. The sign on the storage unit office read “Climate-controlled units available.”

“I take it you sprung for climate controlled?” I asked.

“Naturally.”

“Thank you.”

Even in winter, I’d imagine a mummified anything had a scent you didn’t want to experience.

Yasha pulled up to the keypad on a pole, just in front of the gates. He looked in the rearview mirror at Ollie.

“Code.”

Ollie hesitated, then sighed. “Eight, two, five, seven, three.”

Apparently giving away a mummified monster arm for free was tough for Ollie, even if it meant saving his own.

Yasha punched in the numbers, there was a loud click, and the gate started to slowly roll back. Meanwhile, Ian was trying to see everywhere at once, and doing a fine job. As far as I could tell, no one had followed us. Unfortunately, that included our security team protection.

“Shouldn’t our guys be here?” I asked.

Ian’s silence was answer enough.

“Any chance they did some kind of ninja commando thing and are waiting for us at the unit?”

Silence again, this time with crickets.

I didn’t put my hand anywhere near my gun; Ian would probably confiscate it if I did, but a real gun was a comforting weight under my coat.

The gate rattled to a close behind us, and Yasha drove to unit number 313. While I wasn’t fond of the number, 666 would have been worse. Ian kept his eyes on the gate until it closed, while it had occurred to me that those ninja commandos could just as easily be from the opposing team.

The road that went around and between the buildings hadn’t been plowed, but Yasha didn’t let that slow him down.

He grinned at me in the rearview mirror. “No problem. Is like Siberia.”

“You’ve never been to Siberia,” Ian said, his eyes still scanning for any movement other than our own.

“True. But does not mean is not like Siberia.”

Until now, Yasha hadn’t said a word since Ollie had joined us. He had limited any and all communication to glares and scowls. I would have said it was his and Ian’s version of good cop/bad cop, except right now, Ian wore the same expression. On second thought, it was how Ian always looked when he had to deal with Ollie—or almost anyone else for that matter.

Ollie directed Yasha to the front of a two-story building with a pair of iron-bar-reinforced glass doors. Inside was what looked like a freight elevator and a steel door that probably led to stairs.

“Looks like the only way in,” Ian said to Yasha. “Did you see any fire exits?”

“Nyet.”

“Where’s your storage unit?” Ian asked Ollie.

“Second floor, last one on the left.”

Ian just looked at Ollie.

Ollie raised his hands defensively. “If someone came in to randomly rob units, mine would be the last one they’d get to.”

Ian’s expression didn’t change, and I knew neither did his opinion of Ollie.

“It doesn’t seem like such a good idea now,” Ollie admitted.

“I’ve got news,” Ian said. “It wasn’t a good idea then.”

“I stand guard,” Yasha said. He got out of the SUV and pulled a sawed-off shotgun out from under his seat.

“And keep our exit open,” Ian told him.

Yasha grinned crookedly. “Don’t I always?” He looked at me and his grin broadened. “Scream if something jumps at you.”

I tried for a grin; it felt more like a grimace. “Don’t I always?”

There was another keypad mounted on the wall next to the doors.

“Same code?” Ian asked Ollie.

“Yes.”

Ian keyed in the code, the lock clicked, and we were in.

• • •

Ian had insisted that we take the stairs.

Ollie had started to complain, took one look at Ian’s face, and kept his mouth shut.

I took the stairs whenever I could. Not because it was good for me . . . well, actually that was the reason, but not why you’d think. Ever since Ian had told me about getting trapped in an elevator by three shapeshifters who’d chosen to be giant rats for the evening, I had a newfound appreciation for the StairMasters at the company gym.

The stairwell and elevator doors opened into a single, long hallway that ran the length of the building. Ollie’s unit was at the far end, next to the lovely dead-end concrete wall.

“Same code?” Ian asked Ollie.

“Yes.”

Ian sprinted to the end of the hall, leaving me and Ollie to keep up. He punched in the code on yet another keypad, reached down, and lifted the rolling steel door.

We were hit in the collective face by dust and that pungent, musty smell that always signaled “really old stuff” to my nose. I sneezed. I was allergic to dust and mold, which wasn’t a potentially fatal condition—unless you found monsters for a living, creatures that generally didn’t lair in hypoallergenic conditions. People who sneezed didn’t sneak very well.

Ian looked around inside the unit; his expression a perfect mix of disgust and disbelief. “Ollie, we need to have a serious talk about your choice of inventory.”

So this is where Ollie had stashed the Egyptian mummy that had been in his shop—and two more to keep it company. There was also a more modern coffin that was hopefully empty, though thankfully closed. There were also chests, unidentifiable things, and various-sized cardboard boxes.

The dearly departed residents of his storage unit didn’t bother Ollie at all as he squirmed his way to the back. We didn’t need to tell him to hurry. The inside of Ollie’s storage room wasn’t the only thing that resembled a tomb. It was entirely too quiet out here, too. A mausoleum kind of quiet. Just like Yasha had never been to Siberia, I’d never been in a mausoleum, but I instinctively knew what one felt like. The creeps were the least of what I felt.

The sound of intense rummaging came from behind Ollie’s mummies.

“Got it,” he announced.

Have you ever noticed that when one big thing went right, everything else went straight to hell in a take-out box?

There was a heavy thump on the roof directly above our heads, immediately followed by more thumps farther back toward the elevator. Someone was on the roof, several someones, actually.

I froze. “Our guys?”

Ian’s gun in his hand told me otherwise. Shotgun blasts from the front of the building where Yasha was confirmed it. The big Russian was good, and a werewolf, but there was only one of him.

Ian ran down the hall to cover the stairs and elevator. “Move it!” he shouted back at us.

My survival instincts had kicked in, and they sure as hell weren’t telling me to run toward gunfire, but the way we’d come in was the only way out.

Before Ian could reach the end of the hall, both the elevator and stairway doors opened and three white camo-clad and armed men stormed through.

Not men.

Ghouls.

They’d look like men to Ian and Ollie, but my seer vision screamed—

“Ghouls!”

My brain did a quick flashback to SPI orientation. Ghouls ate human flesh, preferably while it was still alive; but in a pinch, corpses would do.

But either the pictures in the company manual hadn’t done these things justice, or proximity magnified fear. Ghouls looked more or less like humans, but the resemblance ended there. Their eyes were solid black, but would roll over white like a shark when they fed. Their jaws were longer and their mouths wider to make room for jagged teeth. Their skin was a pasty whitish gray. But a more applicable problem in our case, they were next to impossible to kill. We’d had a ghoul from time to time back home, but I’d never run into a whole passel of the things.

Ian opened fire. The pair that’d come up in the elevator were hit and went down, one of the bodies trapped between the closing elevator door. Half a second later, both ghouls were trying to get up. Ian put another bullet between the eyes of the third ghoul that’d come up the stairs. He went down twitching, but the twitching didn’t stop. Still twitching equaled not dead, or in his case, not dead again. More ghouls were coming through the stairway door.

Ollie was pushing his way out of the occult junk pile between the two upright mummies and was clutching what looked like a big gym bag. I reached in to grab him and the bag and pull them both out when one of the mummies fell out of the unit—and on top of me, knocking me to the concrete floor.

That mummy saved my life.

The unit’s steel door slammed down, missing me by inches, and severing the mummy’s legs at the knees. Ollie screamed from inside. I jumped up and grabbed the door handle, desperately trying to pull it up. It didn’t budge. I panicked. The door must have locked.

“What’s the code?” I yelled over Ollie’s screams.

I jerked on the door again. Though if the door had been locked, it still would have had some give. This thing was anchored to the floor. I wasn’t a weakling; something was keeping that door down.

Drowning out Ollie was the scream of metal being torn back as dust fell from the ceiling.

The roof.

Above Ollie’s storage unit.

I pulled on that door with every bit of strength I had. What seemed to be fused to the concrete floor a second before now flew open.

The metal roof had been peeled back like a sardine can, exposing bright blue sky—and Ollie being hauled through the opening by two white camo-clad ghouls. They were attached to a hovering helicopter by a pair of quickly retracting zip lines pulling them up into the big chopper’s open door. One ghoul had Ollie, the other had the bag with the arm.

Ollie was screaming, but I couldn’t hear him over the rotors.

I pulled my gun and aimed it at the ghouls, then the helicopter. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t get a fix on either one. The ghoul was holding Ollie in front of him like a human shield. The ghoul with the arm was safely behind the ghoul with Ollie. He saw me and grinned, his jagged teeth yellow against the white of his camo. Silver bullets wouldn’t kill these ghouls, but they’d definitely kill Ollie.

   
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