The up-armored National Guard Humvee trundled along the blast-pocked city streets. Dimitri rode in Gomez’ lap looking around at the buildings downtown crawl by.

“We’re not going to make to the TOC in time.” Private Henriks said to the Sergeant Washburn.

“Make for the cathedral, then; we’ll hole up with Captain Krauss’ brother,” Sergeant Washburn said and keyed the vehicle’s radio:

“Hatchling to Bluejay Actual, we’re not going to be home before the sun goes down. We will be stopping at St. Mary’s for the night. Over.”

The radio crackled, “Understood, Hatchling. Will relay to the captain. See you in the morning.”

Through clouds of smoke and dust, they passed under the ever-lengthening shadows of the night.

“Sikorsky, eyes wide. Those fuckers like to come out and play starting about now,” Sergeant Washburn told the soldier manning the Ma Duce.

Sergeant Washburn eyed the world outside the Humvee. So did Private Gomez, and Private Howard, and the cat.

Dimitri watched his world pass by, the blasted and burned out building fronts, the wrecked cars, the streets littered with the detritus of the former inhabitants.

No bodies, though.

After five minutes, it became a tedious repetition and Dimitri curled up on the floor and napped.

And for the first time in years, he purred.

The engine purred along.

They traveled together, a pride of hunters rolling through a steel and concrete jungle.


A blip of the siren and a hailing over the loudspeaker woke Dimitri.

“National Guard! Sergeant Washburn and the 130th cavalry.”

The gorilla-faced SWAT officer guarding the door kept his shotgun at a low ready and said, “And your business?”

Sergeant Washburn stepped out. “We need a place to hole up for the night and we’re too far out from the hospital. Check with Detective Krauss.”

The SWAT officer keyed his mic. “I’ve got a Sergeant Washburn, says he’s with Captain Krauss.”

A static-y tin voice chirped, “He’s fine, Fallucci, have ‘em park in the back alongside the prowlers.”

“Okay, guys, parking’s in the back. Find a spot and come back here. You’re in.”

Dimitri followed the soldiers as they tramped into the cathedral.

He came to a sudden stop as a gigantic Belgian Malinois loomed over him.

The dog chuffed, “You, cat, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Coming in, asshole.” Dimitri twitched his tail and threaded his back through the legs of Gomez, putting the line of soldiers between himself and the K9.

He mewed, “Later, pup.”

The dog barked, “Punk-ass cat!”

His handler pulled at the dog’s leash, reprimanding him, “Brutus, stay.”

The interior of the cathedral was filled with small clusters of people scattered in the nave.

Half were in some sort police or para-police uniforms.

Half were a motley collection of civilians: confused old folks silent praying or laying stretched out on the pews, mothers calming little ones, fathers and older sons armed with shotguns and hunting rifles, lonely middle-aged bachelors, middle-aged cat ladies, stunned college kids.

All caught up in the rapid dissolution and devolution of civil society into something out of Dante’s Inferno.

To Dimitri’s keen ears, he could hear their hushed whispers.

“When are we going to get out of here?”

“No one knows, Karen. Now please shut the fuck up.”

“The whole city? Do you think anyone else is left alive out there?”

“My wife.”

“My father, gone.”

“No fucking way. They’ve been eaten or got away.”

“Except us.”


Dimitri scaled the base of a sculpture group of the Holy Family, a flesh and blood furry addition. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’s cat keeping watch over the flock in the light of candles and LED lanterns.

“Hi! I’m Winchester, Mr. Cat. I’m here with my family.” A chocolate Labrador Retriever came over limping slightly, “How about you, Mr. Cat? Are you here with your people?”

“I came in with the soldiers,” Dimitri said.

Winchester sat on his haunches and cocked his head, perplexed. “An army cat? I never heard of an army cat before. Are you like the police dogs, them K9 boys?”

Dimitri curled up and laid his head towards the dog, “No. I hooked up with some soldiers on a rooftop and went along for the ride. And here I am.”

“Oh. I’m sorry you lost your family,” Winchester lowered his head, “You can join mine if you want. There is the man, the woman, the boy, and the twin girls. They’re really nice.”

“It was a long time ago. I’m an alley cat. But perhaps if they have tuna. You seem like a nice dog, so don’t take me as being rude, but I have to sleep.”

Dimitri scrunched his eyes, then shot them open. “One thing, dog; why haven’t they attacked this place?”

“I don’t know. The old priest man says because it is hallowed ground. The policemen wonder, too.”

“But what do you think?”

The last of the sun’s rays shone through the stained glass.

“I think He is here in this place.”

And Winchester walked away back to his family.


Dimitri woke at a start when the sanctus bells rang.

He looked around, people bolted upright, children whined in muted tones, mothers shushed them, metallic clangors sounded as bullets were chambered, the dog claws clacked on the limestone floor.

A steady deep voice announced, “Everyone, defensive positions.”

What the hell is a defensive position? Dimitri thought.

Hushed worried whispers rustled through the nave. “Movement to the northeast,” they said. “50 yards, 16 hostiles keeping to the shadows.”

Worried fathers moved to the side aisles, packing hunting rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

Dimitri mounted a narrow transept window.

From his perch, he could see everything; below, he noted Winchester circling around his humans, a dad, a mom, a young man, and twin girls.

“They’re going to try rushing us!”

An old woman babbled.

A bang sounded outside of the cathedral.

A policeman shouted, “Taking fire! Third floor across the street to the north. Window in the middle floor of the building.”

Then another blast, followed by another, until one gunshot couldn’t be distinguished from another.

Dimitri darted under a pew eyes wide, ears cocked.

A security guard ran down the central aisle racking a shotgun before disappearing into a side entrance.

The wonderful stained glass windows broke and spilled onto the floor and shattered.

Dimitri eyed the men running to the outer walls.

He stalked alongside Private Gomez and his squadmates.

Gun blasts rocked the interior of the cathedral.

A SWAT officer worked the bolt of his sniper rifle. “Shooter at Woolworths down!” he called.

Dimitri’s hair stood up, peering into the narthex where Sergeant Washburn and his men were taking up position. He could see them: walking death.

“Light ‘em up, boys! Fuck these assholes!”

Pale predatory faces, shark-like teeth set in blood smeared lips lit up in the fire flashes. The hordes of walking death pressed towards the entrance to the church and stopped.

It wasn’t the bullets that halted their steps.

Just as they closed the last 20, they crashed, unable to go further.

Sitting ducks. The squad and two cops unleashed bursts of fire into them.

M855 62 grain projectiles tore into skulls, ejecting brains all over the steps leading to the Cathedral.

Dimitri crept forward despite the awful racket.

Fascinated, he watched the ichor spill out of the six monsters as they dissolved into puddles of filth.

He climbed to an unoccupied window to watch the scene play out below.


The walking death moved in clusters, frenetic and furious. One knot made their way through the gunfire to the side of the church.

Private First Class Karlajic and Private Lee, two stranded Screaming Eagles, crouched in the cramped transept entrance.

Lee glanced over to Karlajic. “Weird how they can’t come into the church.”

Karlajic shrugged and settled his SAW. “I’ll take it. After a week of running and gunning these fuckers, it’s fine by me if they can’t eat my face.”

The darkness about them grew thick enough to claw.

Lee shouldered his M4 a Karlajic set his SAW to “rock ‘n roll.”

Karlajic said, “Stay frosty. Can you feel ‘em? You feel ‘em coming?”

Lee didn’t need to say anything; the warm summer’s night took a frigid edge.

“Nine o’clock at the edge of the alley; something’s moving.” Karlajic said and took up the slack of the SAW’s trigger.

They each took a solid bead.

Objects flew through the darkness crashing against the entryway and shattering.

Gasoline fumes filled the air and their nostrils.

A flare was sparked to life outside.

Karlajic squeezed off a five round burst, “Molotovs!”

Lee followed his tracers and sent lead downrange.

The flare arced through the air, crossing paths with the outgoing rounds.

The portal entry exploded into flames.

Karlajic laid on the trigger and shouted to Lee, “Go now, get some of those rent-a-cops and fire extinguishers.

Lee safetied his weapon and ran back to the nave calling out, “Fire in the east entrance!”

He dashed for the crossing.

Two bank guards unlucky enough to be caught downtown when the city was sealed came running, fire extinguishers in hand.

The old, the women, and the young sat clustered in the pews near the altar, grim and long-faced.

Father Shannon, a young priest who had stayed behind when the bishop had evacuated, prayed:

“O glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, defend us in battle and in the struggle which is ours against the principalities and Powers against the rulers of this world of darkness, against spirits of evil in high places.”

The darkness grew creeping into the vaulted ceilings, lanterns dimmed, candles sputtered.

Dogs, police and civilian, barked an alarm.

The civvie dogs, including Winchester, barked, “Go away! Go AWAY!”

Brutus of the K9 unit barked, “East side! They’re flanking to the east.”

Howls and shrieks from outside grew in intensity intermingling gunshots.

Lee hastened back to Karlajic, the security guards pulled the pins on the fire extinguishers and edged Karlajic out of the way.

The white clouds of fire retardant dust filled the narrow passage.

The guard looked at his partner. “Jim, try not to breathe it in.”

Miffed, Jim shot him a cross look. “I know, Neal. I know my job.”

The flames died.

Neal opened his mouth to say let the army deal with this shit.

When a shot from outside took the red fire extinguisher out of his hand.

He drew his side arm and pumped three rounds out the door into the night.

“Fuck this, Jim. Shut the door!”

Jim dropped his extinguisher and slammed the door before the last of the clattering echoes died out.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here!” Jim said and turned to Karlajic and Lee, “You can take this shit from here.”

The two guards sauntered back to their post near the noncombatants at the center of the cathedral.

Dimitri crept along in the shadows away from the transept, back to Gomez’ fire team.


Yellow eyes watched.

The gunshots died down.

Sergeant Washburn talked with the man called “Krauss,” “I agree that they’re running out of ‘prey’ inside the cordon. We haven’t seen a single civilian in two days.”

Krauss put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “Explains why we’ve been having more of these massed attacks. I don’t know how much longer we can hold out. We’ve been here for a week.”

“Same at the hospital, sir. State level command has cut off all communications,” Washburn said.

“And the regular army?”

“Nada. Won’t talk to us.”

“Fucking typical,” Krauss said, about ready to spit in disgust, hauling to a stop just as he remembered where he was in the narthex.

“We’re just a writeoff, like everyone else left behind when the cordon went up.”

“But what the hell is their endgame in all this? Even those boys from the 101st have been cut off—” Krauss’ eyes went wide and his head snapped back.

He spoke loud now, “Fallucci, James, and you, Dowd; come with me. Sergeant, if you please.”

Fallucci, James, and Dowd walked over, decked out in full battle rattle, M4s dangling in front of their chests.

Dowd said, “What’s up?”

Krauss dropped into a conspiratorial tone, “We need more pieces to the puzzle. And I think we need to talk to those boys from the Screaming Eagles.”

Dowd asked, “Karlajic and Lee?”

“Yeah, those two. But my feeling is they’ll be less than forthcoming.”

Dowd cocked an eyebrow, “First, we kicked the shit out the feds, now we’re gonna interrogate the army?”

“Oh yeah,” Krauss pointed at Sergeant Washburn, “but I want you start the questioning. They might be willing to talk to an NCO.”

Washburn shrugged, “Kinda doubt it, since we aren’t in the same command. But if not, I wouldn’t be opposed to putting a boot up their ass.”

Krauss checked the chamber of his M4. “Okay, let’s go talk to them. East transept. Now.”

Dimitri followed along under the pews as Krauss led the men to the east transept.

Karlajic was reclining against the wall of the passage while Lee kept watch.

Washburn took the lead. “Lee, Karlajic, we need to talk. Now.”

Karlajic stood up, “About what, Sergeant?”

“About what your command’s endplay in this shitshow is.”

“How would we know what that is? We’re just grunts.”

“Well, there have to have been some clues filtering down the chain of command. Were you told a specific date operations would be a wrap?”

Karlajic’s eyes went to the side. “I don’t need to tell you anything. I’m not in your chain of command.”

Krauss pounced and seized the collars of Karlajic’s uniform in a namijujijime choke.

Lee wheeled about-face to end up looking down the barrel of Dowd’s shotgun.

Dowd said, “Relax, Private, this is all under control.”

As Karlajic went limp, Krauss released him, letting Karlajic slump against the wall.

Fallucci stripped away Karlajic’s SAW.

Krauss spoke in a hard tone, “Again, Private First Class. Tell us what you know about when the wrap up was supposed to be. And let me remind you that they left you here, same as us.”

Karlajic’s head lulled side to side for a bit until the blood flow returned to his brain.

He glared at Krauss.

Krauss cocked his hip, about to drive his size 11 tactical boot straight through Karlajic’s face.

“Okay! Okay!” Karlajic blurted out. “All our operations were supposed to clear out by the 20th, firm. I don’t know fuck all more than that.”

Krauss crouched on his haunches and glared right into Karlajic’s face. “Was that so hard? We’re not the fucking enemy here.”

Washburn cried out, “Fuck! That’s tomorrow.”

Dowd opened his hands, “And…okay?”

Sergeant Washburn turned to Dowd and Krauss, “A full troop pullout usually means—”

“—saturation bombing,” Krauss finished for him.

A smack sounded; Fallucci stood over Karlajic grunting out a harsh whisper, “Thanks, asshole.”

“Lay off. It isn’t his fault and I doubt genius here knows enough to understand what he had,” Krauss said.

The morning’s rays spilled through the tattered remnants of stained glass. Krauss was still deep in conversation with fathers Shannon and Conover.

Between that and running back and forth between Fallucci, Dowd, Sergeant Washburn, and the radio to coordinate with his brother Captain Krauss, Detective Krauss was wrung out.

But day had well broken and the men who had been standing guard all night racked out.

Nothing more to do but rest for the hell coming with the night.


For all installments of “Felis,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1