"Bren, you can let go of me now."In the Halliday backward, Grace flitted from guest to guest, her black graduation robes flowing as she walked. Her friends and fellow grads, Piper and Yesi, added to the bustle, socializing with the gathered families. Brenna edged towards the Halliday home, keeping away from the centres of attention. She sipped on her cola, trying to focus on the music instead of the vast throng of people celebrating. Her uncle emerged from the crowd carrying a plastic cup half-filled with beer and approached the young woman. Brenna flashed him a smile.
"Try no skin. Detective, are those things for real?"
"Detective, I know it's a long shot, but I think I know where they're going."
"Anyone got an idea?"
"Not enjoying your sister's party?" Keith asked.
"I am." Brenna forced herself to smile more. "Just, it's a lot of people."
"I get it. Rae's inside. You know how her empathy gets. Maybe you should go in and keep her company for a bit."
"I don't know. Rae needs time to herself."
Keith grinned. "You don't have to be in the same room as her."
"Oh?" Brenna realized what her uncle was saying. "Oh. No, I'm good. Really."
"Are you sure, Brenna?" Keith rubbed her shoulder with his free hand. He paused. "Do you hear sirens?"
Brenna perked her ears. Over the music and the din of conversation and laughter, she heard the wail of sirens. "Yeah. I think they're getting closer."
"I didn't think we were being that loud."
"I'll go take a look." Brenna set her drink down on a table. "This is normally a quiet neighborhood." She dashed through her house, giving her cousin Rae a quick wave as she passed through the dining room. In front, away from the party, the sirens were clearer, drawing closer. Tires squealed, underscoring the sirens, as a San Diego police cruiser turned on to the street. Brenna stepped out to the curb to get a better look.
The cruiser screeched to a stop in front of her. Matt got out on the driver's side. "Brenna, great, you're here and safe!" He shouted to be heard over the his siren.
"Matt, what's going on?"
"Everyone has to evacuate." The siren cut off mid-wail. "Now." Matt winced at the loudness of his voice. "Thanks, Damaris."
"Evacuate?" Brenna glanced at the cruiser. She noticed dings and dents on the hood. "Matt, is that a bone on your windshield?"
"I had some problems getting here," Matt said.
Officer Henderson stepped out from the passenger side. "Cars count as blunt weapons."
"Not now, Henderson."
Brenna gave her head a shake. "I'm sure you have a wonderful explanation and I am really happy to see you again, but I can't just stop Gracie's party. Do you know how upset she'll be?"
Matt turned to his fellow officers. "Guys, can you get the rest of the block out of here? I'll handle this."
Officer Cruz winked at Matt. "I'll just bet you will. Come on, Henderson. You take the east side, I'll take the west." The two cops split up.
Brenna stepped closer to Matt. "Can't we talk about this?"
"Bren, there's a, well, an army of skeletons marching this way."
"I know. It sounds farfetched, but I saw them. I ran over them. And they're coming this way."
Brenna turned to her house. "Rae, get Dad and Summer!" She closed her eyes for a moment, then returned her attention to Matt. "How many skeletons?"
"Three columns. Two and a half, since I drove through one." Matt pointed at the way he came. "That's the nearest one." He pointed to the other end of the block. "The others are that way." His arms dropped. "Bren, I think they're coming for you."
"I didn't think Grace would invite them." Brenna sighed. "I'm staying."
"No, Matt." Brenna put her hands on her hips. "I'm staying. If they're after me, then running away isn't going to help. I stay, and everyone in the neighbourhood can escape safely." She reached around Matt's waist. "Besides, I'm not helpless."
Matt pulled her into a hug. "I don't want to see you hurt."
"I don't want to see you hurt, either." Hearing the door open behind her, Brenna let Matt go.
Gary led the way out of the house, followed by Summer and Grace. "Bren, what's up?" He stopped short on seeing the police cruiser, its lights still flashing red and blue. "We're not in trouble are we?"
"We're evacuating the neighborhood, sir," Matt said. "I need everyone to leave in an orderly fashion through your backyard." He pointed back towards the house.
"I'll get everyone out." Gary returned to the house.
"Brenna, what's going on?" Grace asked.
Brenna faced her cousin. "Summer, did your hot friend mention anything about raising a skeleton army?"
Summer blinked. "No? What?"
"Skeletons? Brenna, really?" Grace crossed her arms. "This is a poor joke."
"It's no joke, ma'am," Matt said.
"Bren, keep him. I like being called 'ma'am' like that."
"Grace, go help Dad, okay?"
"No way. No one wrecks my party and gets away with it. Where do you and Dad keep the baseball bats?"
Matt shook his head. "I can't let you stay."
"Do you know how to fight the supernatural?"
Brenna pulled at her sister's arm. "Grace."
Grace slapped at Brenna's hand. "Mom trained us both."
Summer nodded. "My mom did the same with me and my sisters. We're not leaving, either."
"I can't protect you if you stay," Matt said.
Brenna smiled. "You won't be. We'll be protecting you." She stood on the tips of her toes, pressing close to Matt. Her arms wrapped around his neck. She pulled him down to her height, then kissed him.
Grace rolled her eyes. "Really, Bren? Now? God!"
Matt pulled back. "Your sister has a point."
"Bren, baseball bats."
With effort, Brenna stepped back from Matt. "Hall closet, unless you moved them to the garage while cleaning."
Grace ran back to the house. As she entered, Dawn, Aurora, and Rae all came out. "Brenna, dear, what's going on?" Dawn asked.
Rae staggered back a few steps away from Brenna. "Jeez, girl, take a cold shower already."
Brenna's cheeks flushed a deep crimson. "The woman who tried to kill me is sending an army of skeletons this way."
Dawn raised an eyebrow. "You never mentioned someone trying to kill you."
"I didn't want to worry Daddy."
The faint sound of clattering footsteps caught people's attention. "We'll talk afterwards, young lady," Dawn said. "We need weapons."
"Grace has gone for baseball bats."
"Good." Dawn turned to Matt. "Officer, do you have anything in your car that can help?"
Matt shrugged. "Everything we have is for use on living people. I don't think tear gas and tasers will work on the walking dead." He looked down the street. "Cruz, Henderson, get a move on!"
Grace returned with a large green sports bag. She opened it, talking out an aluminum bat. "There's only three."
Dawn took the bat from Grace. "You and Rory take one. Summer, Rae, stay back behind us."
Cruz ran back to the group. "Larson, I thought you were evacuating your girlfriend. Why are they still here?"
"They're staying," Matt said.
"Make them leave. I managed to get all my houses out of here."
"Novotny girls never run," Dawn said. "We also know more about fighting the supernatural than your entire police force combined. Kindly stay out of our way, thanks."
Cruz turned to face Dawn. "Excuse me?"
"Damaris, a word?" Matt said.
Summer pointed to the end of the block. "No time." The tramping sound grew louder as the front rank of the skeletal column marched into view.
Dawn hefted her baseball bat. "Pardon us. Brenna, front and center. Grace and I will flank you. Rory, go after any that get by us."
Matt pulled out his baton. "Cruz, don't argue."
Cruz sighed. "Fine. Henderson, show time!" She, too, drew her nightstick. "What about her?" The officer pointed at Brenna.
"I'm good." Brenna willed the Soul Blade into existence, a shining white shaft of light. After a moment, the Blade turned blood red. "Everyone, please give me room. I don't want to hurt any of you by accident." Brenna walked into the middle of the road, ignoring Cruz's gaping expression. She stared down at the army of skeletons as they approached. "Everyone ready?"
"McCoy's sending everyone he can."
"I know what I'm doing!"
"I mean, if this was a zombie movie, we'd just aim for the head."
"There's too many and they're all after you."