Fog in California’s Central Valley was a creature not to be trifled with. It swallowed up buildings, cars, and people without a second thought. The fog took more lives than automatic weapons. A trickster on par with Loki, it manipulated distances, making people believe they had plenty of time to slow down, when in actuality they were seconds from becoming intimate with the rear bumper of a semi truck. Surviving the fog was the most difficult part of life in the valley. Or so Meghan thought.
Meghan Sterling tugged the scarf around her neck tighter and tucked the ends into the too-big uniform jacket hanging off her shoulders. Cold crept in on the heels of the fog. The warehouse parking lot she patrolled was damp, freezing, and didn’t make her job any easier. Whose brilliant idea was it to become a security guard? She cursed and shoved her gloved hands in her pockets. It was time to make another pass around the back quarter of the property. Whoop-dee-doo. More weeds and fog. And being forced to deal with the two men stuck working the graveyard shift with her.
Walking with her chin tucked into her scarf, Meghan made her way to the rear of the massive warehouse. Why farmers were so protective of a warehouse full of oranges, she had no clue. The money paid her expenses, but it wasn’t worth the frostbite and vampire-like work hours. She’d need a month-long vacation on the beach when the job was finished.
“Let’s grab a bite to eat,” a male voice said from around the corner of the warehouse.
Meghan stopped before she stepped into view, listening to her coworkers, despite the lack of movement, which made her colder. She had no desire to trade not-so-witty banter with them any time soon. They were okay on the eyes, actually possessed brains, but ran out of non-manly things to talk about after five seconds in her company. She couldn’t make herself pretend to be interested in the Superbowl.
“All you think about is your stomach, Jarlan. Give it a rest. We’re not done here. You can eat on the way home.”
“I’m tired of fast food. When’s the last time you sat down to a nice warm meal, Rich?”
“Too long to remember, but we agreed to this job. We can’t leave Clara to watch the place by herself.”
Jarlan laughed. “She’d piss herself watching shadows if she knew the truth.”
Meghan held her breath. Six months of lurking and waiting were about to pay off. She tucked in closer to the warehouse wall. The heel of her boot caught a pebble and ground it into the asphalt. The noise was deafening to her ears. This is why I’m not a ninja.
Cover blown, she plastered a smile on her face and stepped out to meet them near the back door, measuring her pace so it didn’t look like she’d been listening in. “Have the oranges turned into man-eating monsters yet?”
Rich shook his head and grinned. “No, not yet. All’s quiet here. What about the front, Clara?”
Meghan rolled her eyes, afraid for just a second they’d stick from the cold. “Not even a roach. What’s the point of babysitting produce at three in the morning?”
“Money.” Jarlan clapped Rich on the shoulder with one of his massive hands.
Could the guy be any bigger? He should be in the WWF, not in the middle of nowhere California. Then again, if he was who she thought he was, his size had a purpose. She needed to keep an eye on him.
“Money isn’t everything, friend.” Rich tucked a strand of his long brown hair into the knit cap pulled down over his ears. “We’re almost done for the night. Will you be okay by yourself until dawn?”
Nodding, Meghan waved them off. “Nothing ever happens out here. If something does, I’ll eat my boots.”
Jarlan’s hazel eyes fell to her feet. “Not much leather there. You’d have better luck getting a full meal out of a rat. They’re big enough out here, away from the city.”
Rats? Meghan had been trained to face a lot of things, but rats made her skin crawl with their naked tails and sharp teeth. Out in the sticks, they were the size of cats. She stole a look around the employee parking lot. Something skittered over the pavement near the eastern fence line. Her shoulders tensed. Please, don’t let it be a rat. She’d much rather face anyone stupid enough to cut the fence with three security guards standing in eyeshot.
A leaf tumbled into the jaundiced light puddled on the asphalt. Meghan shook her head and rolled her shoulders to shake off the tension.
The big man laughed. “Try not to bludgeon any foliage to death while we’re gone. If something posing an actual threat does come along, use the phone in the guard’s office. Stay out of the warehouse. Without the code, you’ll send an alert to the police and I’ll be stuck doing enough paperwork to level a forest. Take care, Clara.”
About the Author
R.C. Murphy spends her nights writing urban fantasy novels and a slew of short stories for her blog, The Path of a Struggling Writer. By day she is a not so mild-mannered housewife, wrangling vampires, demons, and various other nasty creatures. R.C. has joined forces with fellow writers, artists, and actors to form the Zombie Survival Crew where she reviews movies, TV shows, as well as penning articles on important survival skills.
Email: RC.Murphy5150 (at) gmail (dot) com