Rounding the corner onto Lyon Avenue, Danielle was relieved that there were no cars in front of the Family Storage that her parents owned. She steered the Focus into the small lot in front of the building and parked the car in front of the gate. There was bound to be no power to the complex so she would need to open the gate by hand.
She was beginning to despise rolling gates.
She wondered about the people who used to work there. Her parents more or less had just given up on managing the business themselves a couple of years ago. Instead, they let an older woman named Sandy Gunderson live on the property as the manager. As far as Danielle knew, her parents would just collect the occasional check from Sandy in the mail.
Then, of course, was old Bob. He was the security guard. He used to show Danielle his collection of Vietnam stuff. He even taught her how to shoot, unknown to her parents and against their wishes.
Danielle hoped Bob was still alive somewhere, safe.
She cut the ignition and stepped out of the car. Down Lyon Avenue was an older housing development. In the distance, she could make out some figures that were already approaching. The other direction, past Acacia and down toward Esplanade, the main street of the city, were more figures who were also heading her way. Behind her was the district nutrition center for the school district. She made a note of that for later. The storage units were far enough from the main thoroughfare that if she kept quiet most of the ghouls would not be altered to her presence. That was fortunate.
She shut the door of the Focus and walked to the gate. She hooked the end of the gate with the crowbar and began to pull.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Dani’s head darted toward the sound of the voice and saw an old man, shotgun raised. His wrinkled brown skin and white beard were recognizable instantly to her.
“Holy shit, Bob!”
Bob lowered his shotgun and laughed. “Danielle? Is that fucking Danielle Kim?”
Danielle lowered the crowbar and grabbed the gate with her free hand. She was laughing.
“Bob, you old son of a bitch, help me open the gate.”
Bob stepped forward and placed a worn and wrinkled hand on her own. “Baby girl, just punch in the gate code in about a minute.”
Danielle was dumbfounded. “You have power?”
“Only as long as I got fuel. I got a generator hooked up so I can get in and out with little fuss.”
Bob shuffled over to his right, following a power cable that was hooked up to the gate control box. He vanished behind the outbuilding that served as the main office and on-site manager’s apartment.
Soon enough the sound of a gas generator filled the area. Danielle hurried back into the car and rolled up, punching in the code. The gate slid open and she drove through. She was parked just in front of the gate as it rattled closed and the sound of the generator fell silent.
Bob walked toward her and wrapped her up in a hug. It was the most comforting hug she had in what felt like years. He was deceptively strong despite how fail he looked. The man was close to his 80s by now, she had figured.
“Bob, you’ve been here the whole time?”
“Danielle, I live here. Your parents hired me as security, remember?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t know you fucking lived here. Did you marry Sandy?”
Bob laughed and shook his head. “I can’t stand that woman, Hell no. I was living on the lot in my R.V.”
He jerked his thumb back behind him, a few rows back she could make out the empty area where customers were able to store their vehicles. Some RVs and a couple of boats filled the space.
Danielle raised an eyebrow. “This isn’t an R.V. park.”
She paused and rubbed at her temple. “I can’t believe I fucking said that like it fucking matters. I am just so glad to see someone who isn’t covered in blood or trying to kill me.”
Danielle wrapped her arms around Bob. The old man gave her back a reassuring pat.
“C’mon, Danielle, let’s go have some tea with Sandy.”
Sandy Gunderson sat at the kitchen table, staring at Danielle Kim, the daughter of the owners. She wasn’t aware Danielle even still lived in town. Bob sat next to the young woman, pouring some whisky into her mug of tea. Danielle smiled and took a sip.
“I’m so glad you’re alive, Danielle.” Sandy took a sip of her own tea. “Bob and I have been keeping this place locked tight. Nobody was coming here when everything went south.”
Bob scratched at his eyebrow. “Well, nobody living, that is. I’ve mostly been killing those bastards as they come and dragging the bodies over to that old drainage pit near the railroad tracks next to us.” He took a sip of tea, wrinkled his nose, and poured in more whisky. He continued, “It’s usually about two or three a day but they’re starting to really pile up. Smells like shit.”
“We’ve been keeping quiet, so they’ve not been coming around as much.” Sandy sighed. “But, well, since you got here you’ve probably dragged a few of them behind you.”
Danielle set her mug down. “I’m sorry if my coming here is a problem.”
Sandy smiled. “Not at all, it’s just, I hope you’ll do us a favor and help clean up before you leave.”
Bob’s eyes met Sandy’s. “Before she leaves? Hell no, it’s her parents’ place. She can stay if she wants.”
“I’m just saying we only have enough supplies for myself and you, Bob…”
“We can get more supplies.”
Danielle removed the hair tie that had kept her ponytail up and she let her hair fall to her shoulders. “Look,” she said, “as far as I can figure it’s finder’s keeper’s now. I barely had any involvement with this place since my parent’s divorce. So as far as I am concerned, this is your place. I am just here for my Dad’s gun. I’ll gladly help take care of those bastards I brought to your door. but I am planning on leaving town after.”
Sandy smiled. “That’s perfectly fair, your dad’s unit is locked up. Let me find the key. I assume his gun is there.”
Sandy rose from the table and went downstairs. Bob leaned toward Danielle, he smelled of cigarettes, booze, and body odor.
“Danielle, please. We have this place locked down, you can rest up for a while.” He glanced toward the door to the stairwell. “Don’t leave me alone with her.”
Danielle smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder. She squeezed it reassuringly and he placed his other hand on her’s.
“I’ll think about it, Bob. I just need to get that gun, first.”
The pair sat in silence for a moment, happy to see one another. Danielle held her cup of tea over in Bob’s direction and rocked it gently. Bob smirked and poured more whisky.
A sudden scream from downstairs sent the old man and the young woman scrambling to their feet from the kitchen table.
Thank you for reading the fourth installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.