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The Zombie Dongle
About the Author: Cecily Winter writes in the world of adult and juvenile fiction ranging from mystery to fantasy and beyond. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, standard poodles, and biting cat.

I whistled for Dixie out in visitor parking, but nada. I stomped my needle-heeled boots into the snow, shivering inside the shell of my form-fitting, so-called temp-regulating, Lycra. No avoiding the bounty hunter uniform, but not exactly my fault if my face didn’t match the job. Implants, hydrogen peroxide, and melanin enhancements saddled me with a teen surfer vibe. Not optimal for chasing skips.

Except for the pay-off, so high up there it made my ears ache, I wasn’t thrilled about the new contract—perp to be terminated with extreme prejudice. With my smart-Glock, I banged on Dixie’s windshield. Her engine purred and the operator’s door shot open. Could’ve fingerprinted my way inside if I’d wanted frostbite from glove removal, but no way she was idling—meditating she called it—on my dime. My seat swiveled out, and I glided inside to let the various sensors identify me.

The door closed; the green light came on. “Set your nav for Blue Bluffs, Dixie. Perp’s been spotted up there.”

She’d accessed all the data I’d gleaned before I met with the client, and in her usual staccato said, “Let me put it out there. It’s not his fault.”

“We’re not the prosecutor. We’re collaring a perp.”

No need to spill the real deal ’til she was too juiced to process it. My notebook in her USB port plugged up her opinionating, but she drove out of that parking lot like a tot on a tricycle.

“Move it,” I said.

The download stalled. She’d killed the Wi-Fi. When would I learn? With well-practiced restraint, I let her meditate at an intersection while a funeral procession draped in red, white, and blue bunting inched by. Fifteen years ago, Dixie was a wunderkind of a racecar, but after her first smash-up she wound up in rental. Every crook, sleaze, and nutcase out there had their way with her—drag racing, whoring, smuggling, robbery, vehicular homicide. No wonder she was the poster child for vehicular passive-aggression.

One of her old-time regulars, Nick Sewell, owner of a porn empire and a yen to turn legit got her into acting. In fact, we all hooked up on the set of his cable series State Trooper Arabella Truelove. I’d been a former teen starlet parachuting earthward when I landed the lead role, a sun-tanned, bleach-blonde vixen with a silver racecar for the glamor, a law degree for the gravitas, and a powerful sex-addiction for the ratings. Like Dixie, I performed my own stunts.

In the last episode, which never aired, we’d been tailing the crook’s getaway Lincoln when Nick dropped from the camera scaffolding too late for Dixie’s radar to kick in. She skidded through gore and practically totaled us both on a studio tour bus. Death count four. The deaths were ruled accidental, but Nick’s? He’d never shucked off his porn operation, and I could’ve fingered a dozen grudge-holders itching for payback. The insurance paid mine and Dixie’s reconstruction costs but with Nick kaput so were we.

The caboose car in the three-k procession crept by, and Dixie revved herself across the intersection on a red light. My notebook flooded with data.

“Thanks for that, Dixie.”

“You’re welcome.”

She didn’t acknowledge sarcasm. Or maybe she did only she was better at it than me. The data on our perp’s victims showed 37 deaths and 49 injuries requiring emergency treatment. The first fatalities came a month back, a carload of seniors leaving an Atlantic City casino in the wee hours—markers, blood, and glad rags all over the highway. The perp drove out of NJ and left a blood trail all the way to the Sierra Nevada.

“Good news for the public,” I said. “No killings this past week, only two Christmas shoppers with no serious injuries, one cyclist with a broken leg, and two bikers, one of them in critical care. Perp sighted on Blue Bluffs a half hour ago.”

“Did the client mention links among the victims?” she asked.

I said, “No known connections.”

“They’re people. That’s the link.”

“Estimated time to Blue Bluffs?” I asked.

“Give or take, forty-five.”

This story appears in our MAY 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Terrific story! Thanks.
By Kaye George

Thanks for the lunchtime read, I enjoyed it.
By Linda

I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of hard boiled with science fiction - good job - thanks for sharing
By Richard Bishop

Loved it. Unique! Twisted cars like people, and no one had learned. Brilliant.
By LaDonna Ockinga

It was a great story, I enjoyed it.
By Lenroy La Rocque

Interesting take on an aspect of the future. The Law of UIC (unintentional consequences) as applied to technology and human use of same.
By John Furutani

Very cleverly done! What a unique twist of what the future will hold. Fun, on the edge of my seat, kind of story...
By Nina Ritter

It was an interesting story, confused me a bit at times. Well-written, but it took me awhile to realize Dixie was a smart-car. Very entertaining.
By Frances Dunn

Good story with a nice pace.
By C Mooney

I had no idea what a zombie dongle was until I read this story. Learn something new every day! Snappy language and a thinker.
By Susan Rickard

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