I smell smoke, more burnt gunpowder, and blood. I sit in the back with the Twins now, their cries dwindling to sobs. Lynn is bucking up; she has the lighty board out and is watching cartoons without the sound. “Look, Casey. Isn’t that coyote silly?”

Casey sobs, “Y-y-yes.”

The Boy turns back to us and looks out the back. “Casey, it isn’t so bad; we’re almost out of this. Besides, Winchester will protect you.”

He musses my head. So nice.

Casey hugs me, almost too hard. But it makes me happy. I like hugs, lots of hugs.

Then I hear a horrible low rumbling, like something chopping air.

“Oh my God, John, are those army helicopters, the black ones?” The Woman asks.

The Boy looks out the sun roof. “Holy crap, those are Apaches. Three of ‘em!”

We pick up speed.

In place with no trees, just endless brick buildings, we come to a stop.

There is a group of people standing in the road. They are dressed in sacks throwing something over themselves like light-colored dust.


“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“John? What are you going to do? You’re not going to run them over, are you?”

“No. But I’m not stopping. Brian?”

“Yeah, Dad?”

“Watch the sides and the rear. And don’t shoot unless I tell you.”

“Yes, Dad.”

The dusty people surround us mumbling and chanting.

“Lord save us.”

“Lord forgive us.”

“Deliver us from this evil.”

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…”

The Man honks the horn and shows his pistol; the crowd still presses in. The two cars behind us honk.

“Join us.”

More honking.

“Be saved.”




“Repent. Repent.”


“He goeth about the land seeking whom he may devour.”


The Woman looks back. “Twins, get down. Winchester, down.”

I struggle down and the girls join me. We curl up and huddle on the floor.

“John, give me the gun.” The Woman’s voice is hollow. “I’m going to shoot one.”

She lowers the window.

A metal click.


The Twins sob loud and hard. The sharp smell of smoke fills my nose.



Then dead silence, the engine hums, something thumps against the side of the van.

Someone wails so loud it hurts my ears.

It is the Woman.

“What is that?” the Man says.

“I don’t know, what?” the Woman answers

“Yeah, there, to the left. Looks like a SWAT tank. Brian, can you see?”

“Yeah, Dad. It’s a city police APC, alright.”

I get up on the seat next to the Boy and look out the window. Everything is dark and smoky.

“Dad, it’s shot up.”

The sidewalk and street are covered in smears of dark stuff. Our tires go over something that makes a metal crunching sound.

“Someone took out a SWAT APC with some heavy shit,” the Boy says. “Those holes had to have been made by a fifty cal, at least.”

The Woman turns around. “What does that mean?”

“Armored Personnel Carrier. You don’t punch through that plating with a deer rifle,” the Boy says.

“Honey? Who would do that?”

The Man and Boy answer at the same time: “The Army.”

“Dad, why would the cops and the army be fighting?”

“I don’t know, Brian. I don’t know what is going on.”

I see something skitter out from between the tall buildings, in between some cars.

I growl.

Then it is gone.

There is a glow up ahead, a fire; a building is on fire!

The fire roars, filling the street with smoke.

There are some big trucks and men out front with rifles.

“Brian, that’s a Humvee, right?”

“Uh huh, and soldiers in full battle rattle.”

The first soldier we pass points his rifle at us and so do the rest of his friends.

A loud voice booms outside over a speaker, “DO NOT STOP OR YOU WILL BE FUCKING SHOT!”

The Man doesn’t stop, he doesn’t speed up, he doesn’t slow down.

I can smell him sweat.

I see that thing skittering again.

One of the soldiers shouts, “Contact East, three o’clock, prime target. We got one!”

The world outside the van explodes; a soldier on top of one of the trucks makes an awful racket with a big gun.

The Twins wake up and scream.

I wet the seat. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be a bad dog.

We go faster! The shots grow quieter.

The Woman starts screeching, “John! John! We should’ve stayed at home. I knew it. I knew it. You had to drag us out here. Now we’re fucked, FUCKED!”

“Mommy! Mommy! Stop yelling at Daddy!” Lynn shrieks.

The Man shouts, “Everyone, SHUT UP!”

Everyone shuts up.

Something rumbles; I can hear it. No one else notices. Why can’t they hear it?

“Can you hear that?” I whine.

“You too, dog,” the Man says to me.

“Can you hear it?” I whine again. “Pleeeeaaaasssseeeee.”

A click of metal. “Brian, shut that damn dog up,” the Man says.

I am pulled in tight by the boy, “Hush, hush, Winchester. C’mon boy, hush.”

“Liiiiissssten,” I plead.

A building explodes in front of us. Stone and glass fall on our van. Giant monsters grind along the street in front of us, big guns booming.

The Boy yells, “TANKS!”

An explosion close by shakes us. More guns fire. We swerve onto a smaller street.

“Dad, where are you going?”

“I’m going to try to cut on over to Mulberry Street, then Canal back to Draeger. Keep an eye out.”

The streets outside are even darker and smokier.

We press on; the other two cars are still behind us.

The sun sets; all the world outside is dark now.

“Where’re the street lights?”

“John, Mulberry Street. There up ahead.”

“Alright, kids, we’re more than halfway there. We just have to cut across downtown,” the Man says.

“Yay, daddy!” The Twins breath a sigh of relief. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. It is good they are happy. This has been very scary.

We go fast now. Lots of big tall glass buildings around us.

I can see the yellow glint of the beasts’ eyes reflecting the headlights as we speed by. They can’t get us. We are too fast.

No army in sight. No booms.

This is good.

I see it for a moment; it comes from the side. A silver truck bursts from a side street.

It doesn’t stop.

It hits our rear end.

He doesn’t care.

It’s like he speeds up.

Metal screeches. Glass breaks.

The Man screams. The Woman screams. The Twins scream.

Only the Boy is silent.

We roll over. Everything flies about inside the van. Up is down, down is up. I slam against the roof.

I hear the squeal of tires of the cars behind us. They take off without us.

I hurt.

Everything turns black.


An awful odor wakes me up. That smell of rotten meat and blood. I struggle to get up.

Oh, it hurts!

I look through the broken windows and see feet.



White feet.

I summon a mighty bark. Only a muffled “woof” comes out.

I breathe in, my side aches, and try again.

“GO AWAY! NOW! GO!” I bark, loud and hard.

A sharp-nosed face with an overly large smile bends down and looks in. A string of drool drops from its mouth.

The Boy wakes up, “Uh wah…” and sees the face. “DAD!”

Another face, a black one with glowing yellow eyes, peers in through another window crawling towards us.

The Boy paws at the roof and grabs the revolver.

That hard click again.

And the inside of the van explodes.

The crawling monster slumps flat to the ground, its head a mess of grayish lumps.

Another click, another blast; the white monster jumps up and disappears.

The Twins wake up sobbing, the Man wakes up yelling, the Woman wakes up yelling.

“What the fuck!”

“Mommy! Mommy!”


“Oh God!”

“Dad, get the .45! They’re trying to get us!”

The Man panics. “Alice, find the gun!”

I turn this way, I turn that way, looking for another monster. My hair is raised.

I see more bare feet approaching; the smell gets stronger.

Then someone outside shouts, “Three o’clock, four, five hostiles converging on an overturned van.”

“You don’t need my permission. Light those fuckers up.”

Boom, click, boom, like the duck gun when I used to go on hunting trips. Followed by more shots outside. All kinds: big booms, little booms, quick short bursts of fire.

“Yo, Bierce! Get that pry bar up here.”

“Check ten o’clock, watch the windows, the overhangs.”

I see more feet in dark boots, in shiny dark shoes, run up.

The Man calls out, “We’re in here. My family, we’re in here. Help us!”

“Dowd, cover us. Me and Bierce are going to get these folks.”

“Hey, security guy, back me up.”

“Got it!”

“No mall Rambo shit, stay near me.”

“Try the door first.”

The Woman pleads, “Get us out, please, my son, my girls, they’re in the back.”

“Driver’s side’s open.”

Give me the pry bar, help those two out of the front.”

Bright lights shine inside our van.

“ Sir. Ma’am. Can you undo your seatbelts?”

The Man thumps to the roof. “I think my wife’s seat belt is stuck.”

“Please, my children.”

More lights shine inside our van.

“Side door’s jammed. I might need your help in a second.”

A heavy punching sound at the side door, a loud groan.

“Sir, here’s my knife. Can you help your wife? Use the hook to cut her seat belt, but make sure she won’t fall on it. ”


The door pops open in front of me.

“Never mind, Bierce.”

Another bugman in black. “Hey dog, wanna let me in? I’ve got this.”

I stumble past him outside and he runs inside. The only light now is from these men’s bright flashlights.

I am shaky. I wait by the van because I am a good boy.

The bugman calls to his friends, “Hey Dowd, how are we doing?”

“Right now, good. I don’t see any freaks. But let’s not press our luck.”

“Hey kid, I’m Detective Krauss, anything you absolutely need?”


“Okay, good. What’s your name, kid?”


“Brian, gather up what your family needs ASAP. I’ll get your sisters.”

The Boy goes to the back. I follow his movement. I see six men around the van. They’re wearing uniforms and shiny badges. Two of them, the ones called “Krauss” and “Dowd,” are dressed like the bugmen. They all have rifles and shotguns.

“C’mon, boy,” the Boy says to me and then into the van says, “Detective Krauss, I’ve got our stuff. How’s my family doing?”

“They’re good, Brian, a little banged up,” Krauss says.

My family is all outside the van. I limp over to them whining.

Krauss talks to my family, “Okay, folks, what I need you to do is stay together, stay in the middle of my officers. Mom, Dad, keep the girls and the dog between you. I’m Detective Krauss, I’ll be taking team lead. You see something, tell me and me alone; the other officers will be watching their sectors. And please keep your guns holstered,” Krauss pauses for a moment, “if possible.”

The Man speaks up, “How will me and my son know if we can shoot?”

Krauss walks next to him and says in a low voice, “What’s your name?”


“Well, John, if my men take casualties, you have my permission to do whatever is necessary to protect your family.”

Krauss then turns to the Boy, “Brian, can you haul all that stuff yourself?”

“Uh, yes, sir, I think I can.”

“Don’t think. Can you?”


“Good. We’ve got to get two blocks to the Cathedral, where we’re holed up. That is at most 15 minutes. 15 minutes through very dangerous territory. Officer Bierce, you’re the scout. Security Officer Wayne, you’re on the left flank as cover. Officer Jones, take the right flank. Dowd, you’re rear security with Security Officer Thompson trailing left. Everyone got it?”

I see everyone nod, and then they are all around us. One officer goes ahead.

My leg hurts, my hips hurt. I can’t keep up; everything hurts too much.

I am a good boy; I can keep up.

I fall down, everyone stops.

“Halt,” Krauss says.

Lynn and Casey hug me, “Daddy, carry Winchester, he can’t walk.”

The Man picks me up and we go.

From the rear, Dowd says, “We’ve got two, maybe three freaks shadowing us on the right.”

His friend says, “It’s three, want me to give ‘em a dose of buckshot?”

“Do it. Don’t waste any shots, nail the fuckers.”

The shotgun fires; a shriek follows.

“Firing again!”

Krauss yells, “Bierce, we got a clear path?”

“As far as I can see.”

“Keep an eye on those alleys; we know their game.”

“On the left, they’re in the stores following us.” The security man drops to his knee and fires a pistol.

Krauss moves to the Boy, “Brian, take the left flank with Wayne there with your hog leg.”

More shots; I can’t follow them all. Pain seems everywhere now. We go faster.

“They’re trying to close in on us.”

“Form up in a file and push!” Krauss orders.

“There, on the right, on the side of the building.”

“Got ‘em! Firing!”

“Flash out at nine o’clock.”

“Eyes down, don’t look.”

The night lights up like the day. The air shudders.


“John, draw that .45 and stay ready.”

The Man sets me down and clips the leash to my collar, “Winchester, boy, you have to keep up.”

I try.

My legs buckle.

“Oh, fuck it,” Krauss says, “John, take my AR-15. Selector’s on semi. Just put the red dot on what you want to go away. Lab’s not that big, anyways.”

Krauss hoists me in one arm, drawing a pistol with his other hand.

“Bierce!? How much further!” Krauss says while breathing hard.

“Another 100 yards at most, sir,” Bierce calls back.

Krauss stops and sets me down. He takes a black box off his shoulder with a wire to his belt. “Kristoff, this is Krauss. We’re approaching, one hundred yards out coming from the west. Five officers and a family of five civvies: man, woman, an adolescent male, and two school-age girls. Don’t shoot. Copy.”

The black box talks back to him, “Got it, 100 yards to the west. A group of ten, five officers, and a family of five. We’ll be waiting. What about you?”

“I’m a little hung up, about a minute behind, I’ve got a dog.”

“Gotcha, Krauss. I’ll be waiting with Old Faithful.”

“Watch over me, pal. Over and out.”

Krauss raises his voice and says, “Alright, everyone, stack up on the family and make a break for the Cathedral, NOW!”

My family starts jogging away with the other officers. The girls whine, “But Winchester…” and recede into the darkness, lights bouncing, off to a large stone church.


“Stay with me, Winchester, we’re just going for a nice night stroll,” Krauss says to me. “Just five minutes. Right, good boy?”

I follow along stiff, very slow, but I am able because I am a good boy. I smell them going towards us again. I stop and turn to growl in their direction. Krauss points his gun and light in the direction I sense them coming from.

It ducks behind a mailbox. Krauss shoots at it twice. A shot comes from the direction we are heading. The thing behind the mailbox slams against the pavement in a wet mess.

“Overwatch,” Krauss says to me as he check around us, “pretty cool, eh doggo?”

Bare feet slap against the pavement behind us. Krauss whirls around and shoots.

It doesn’t stop.

Again, he fires.

It is on top of us. Krauss lets go of my leash as it knocks him down.

I fall to my side and watch as Krauss fires two more shots as the thing chokes him.

I lose my fear and rush in, biting the thing in its forearm. I sink my teeth in all the way; it tastes foul. It gasps and swats me in the head, grabbing me by the nape of my neck.

I growl and bark, “FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE!”

Its hands tighten around my neck.

Its face explodes.

I fall to the ground; the pavement is hard.

I can only cry out, “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” over and over again.

Krauss is shouting, “Fire free! Fire free!”

I am swept up and sail through the air.


There is a candlelit forest of stone arching over my head. I am laying on soft bedding. The Twins are sleeping next to me. All around I hear people praying together, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…” in soft hushed tones.

Krauss sleeps sitting upright at the end of the pew. I paw at him; he wakes up.

“Hey, Winchester. We made it.” He turns around. “We’re safe in here. They won’t come inside.”
I sit up wracked with pain and see my family at the other end of the pew resting and nodding off.

As I look towards the front, I see a thousand candles must be lighting this church. Ahead is a golden sunburst surrounding a plain white disk on an altar.

Krauss strokes my head. “Well, boy, I’m going to patrol. Take care of them, killer.”

All the people, so many people, so quiet, speak as one, “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.”

This is a good place, I think as I fall asleep again.


For all installments of “Cave Canem,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1