The Getaway God, the next Sandman Slim book from Richard Kadrey is released on Thursday and we’ve got a little sneak peek of the first chapter for you below…
Sandman Slim must save himself—and the entire world—from the wrath of some enraged and vengeful ancient gods in this sixth high-octane adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.
Being a half-human, half-angel nephilim with a bad rep and a worse attitude—not to mention temporarily playing Lucifer—James Stark aka Sandman Slim has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya—the old gods. But their imminent invasion is only one of Stark’s problems right now. LA is descending into chaos, and a new evil—the Wildfire Ripper—is stalking the city.
No ordinary killer, The Ripper takes Stark deep into a conspiracy that stretches from Earth to Heaven and Hell. He’s also the only person alive who may know how to keep the world from going extinct. The trouble is, he’s also Stark’s worst enemy . . . the only man in existence Stark would enjoy killing twice.
You’d think the end of the world would be exciting, but this apocalypse is about as much fun as dental surgery.
Take the current situation. Sitting at a dead stop in traf-fic, as lively as a stone angel over a tomb. Not one car has moved in ten minutes. It’s bumper to bumper on Sunset Bou-levard, which is nothing new, but this kind of traffic is 24/7 these days, as it seems like half the city is hightailing it out of Dodge all at once. And the rain. It’s been coming down non-stop for two weeks. It’s like L.A. lost a bet with God and the old bastard is pissing his Happy Hour whiskey all over the city. Which, when you get down to it, isn’t far from the truth. This isn’t how I figured I’d ring in the apocalypse.
“Any time now, Jeff Gordon,” says Candy from the pas-senger seat. “I thought this was supposed to be a car chase.”
“By current L.A. standards, this is a car chase.”
“Current L.A. seriously blows. And I think my boots are starting to grow gills.”
We’re in an Escalade I stole in Westwood. I hate these showboats, but it can handle the flooded streets and gets me high enough over the other cars that I can keep an eye on a cherry black ’69 Charger up ahead. There’s a guy inside that U.S. Marshal Wells, grand high shitbird boss of the Golden Vigil, wants to talk to.
“I should go up there, rip the fucker’s door off, and stuff him in the back of the van.”
“And you could take a brass band so no one misses the show. Your boss would love that.”
“He wants discreet, but he knows I’m not good at discreet. I swear he did this to me on purpose.”
I reach for the Maledictions in my coat pocket. Drop them and the lighter on the floor on Candy’s side. She picks them up and taps out a cigarette.
“Marshal Wells is a man of God,” says Candy, grinning.
“He only has your best interests at heart.”
“Abraham was a man of God and he almost did a Jack the Ripper on his kid to prove it.”
“See? You get off light. Your father figure just sends you out in the rain to drown.”
Candy flicks the lighter and sparks a cigarette. Hands it to me and rolls down her window to let out the smoke.
I say, “Wells is a father figure like I’m one of Santa’s elves.”
“There you go. You’re getting into the Christmas spirit. I’ll have to get you a pointy hat with a bell so you feel like a real elf.”
“You already gave me the Colt. I thought that was my present. And I gave you the guitar.”
“That was different. Those were ‘We might die tonight’ presents. And it was November, so they don’t count.”
“This is just you angling to get another present.”
“It’s the end of the world, sweetheart. Crack open the piggy bank.”
“We spent the piggy bank on Max Overdrive.”
“That’s your problem. I already have something picked out for you, so don’t try to weasel out of this. I want a real damned present on real damned Christmas morning.”
I puff the Malediction. Brake lights go dark in the distance.
“Yes, ma’am. Anything else? Eight maids a- milking maybe?”
“Are they hot maids? ’Cause I never had a nine- way before, so, yeah.”
Somewhere far away a car moves. More brake lights go off ahead of us. In the distance, I actually see a truck inch forward.
“It’s a Christmas miracle,” shouts Candy. “God bless us every one.”
Like some great wheezing machine no one has fired up since D- Day, cars around us begin to creep tentatively forward. I take my foot off the brake and let the Escalade roll.
At that moment the sky opens up. I hit the windshield wipers, but a second after the glass goes clear, it’s drenched again. I roll down my window and stick my head out. The Malediction is instantly soggy. I spit it out. The sky has gone dark gray, dulling the colors on all the cars. In the downpour I lose sight of the Charger.
“Do you see it?”Candy has her head out her window.
“It’s about a block ahead,” she says. Then, “Wait. It’s got its signal on. I think it’s turning. Yeah, there it goes.”
Traffic lurches to a stop. Horns honk. People shout at each other.
“Wait. He’s gone?”
“Yeah, around the first corner.”
It’s a sea of brake lights again. No one is going anywhere.
“What?” says Candy.
“I’m about to call in that brass band. Get your head back inside the car.”
“Now you’re talking.”
Traffic is ass to nose again. I put the Escalade in reverse and ram the car behind me. Put it in drive and ram the car ahead. Reverse again, then drive the van up onto the side-walk. I hit the horn and floor it.
Angelinos are used to desert heat and chocolate- colored smog skies. Rain is kryptonite to these people, so there’s hardly anyone outside. The few rain birds hear me coming and jump out of the way. The only casualty of my sidewalk Le Mans is a sign outside a café and a bench outside a Chinese restaurant. No one’s used the damned thing in weeks and no one will until the world ends, which means it shouldn’t even be there, so fuck it.
I turn hard at the corner. The rear end of the van fishtails and hits a mailbox. Letters explode like New Year’s confetti over the stalled cars.
“Jerk,” says Candy. “Now people’s Christmas cards are getting wet.”
“Will you shut up about Christmas and help me look for the car?”
Traffic is a little lighter on the side street, so the Charger could still be ahead. Or have pulled off into a parking lot or another side street.
“Shit. Shit. Shit.”
On the next block is a row of warehouses. Distribution points. The kind of places that get goods from big ware-houses and parcel them out to regular stores.
“There,” says Candy. “By the open loading dock.”
I look to where she’s pointing and spot the Charger. It’s sideways to the dock and the driver- side door is open; not parked, but abandoned. I stop the Escalade and get out. In-stantly, I’m soaked. My frock coat, motorcycle pants, and boots weren’t made for this Noah’s ark bullshit. It feels like I’ve gained twenty pounds before I take a step.
Candy comes around the van. I start across the street.
“You got your gun?”
She holds up her Swiss folding pistol. Unopened, it looks kind of like a skinny lunch box. She’s covered it with stick-ers from some of her favorite animes. FLCL. Ghost in the Shell. Blood. Appleseed. She pushes a button and the lunch box unfolds like a matte- black Transformer into an extended 9mm pistol with a shoulder stock. She grins. She always grins when she gets to use her gun because she thinks she’s Mod-esty Blaise and who am I to tell her she’s not?
“I’m going in the front. Go around the side and see if there’s a back way in. If you can’t get through it, make sure no one gets out.”
As she starts away she says, “Be careful.”
“I’m always careful.”
“Right. That’s how you got all those scars. From being careful.”
I wait for her to disappear around the side of the building before I go in. I jump up onto the Charger’s hood and from there onto the dock platform.
It’s at least twenty degrees colder inside the warehouse. I spot maybe fifteen people working. Carrying boxes and driving forklifts. It’s a meat- packing plant, prepping orders to take to butcher shops. I can see my breath in front of my face.
Wells gave me a photo of the man I’m supposed to follow but I don’t see him among the faces up front. I head into the back of the plant to the big freezer. The entrance is covered with a thick plastic curtain with slits every couple of feet so forklifts can pass in and out. I grab a clipboard off a nail on the wall and stroll past a forklift coming the other way.
Inside the freezer the real cold hits me. This isn’t muggy L.A. showers weather. This is penguin country. I swear my wet clothes start freezing to my body.
They must be doing good business at the warehouse. The freezer stretches away in both directions, full of sides of beef on nasty- looking meat hooks. I don’t want to go in unarmed, but I might as well try the discretion thing as long as I can. I take out the na’at instead of my gun. The na’at is a weapon I picked up in the arena in Hell. It collapses to no longer than a cop’s riot baton, but can extend like a spear or a whip. It isn’t always a quiet weapon because of all the screaming, but it’s more subtle than a Colt pistol.
I snap open the na’at into a spear shape and move through the meat forest as quietly as I can. This might be a mistake. Maybe I should have checked the office first. But Wells didn’t say anything about the guy working here and most people when they’re scared head as far from the front door as pos-sible. That’s back here. Still, after staring at row after row of dead cow, I’m getting bored and hungry. Then I spot a different kind of light a few rows ahead. It’s softer and more diffuse than in the rest of the freezer, and tinged in pink. I head for it and find Mr. Charger. He’s not alone.
Thirteen of them stand in a circle in an open area in the back of the freezer. By open area, I mean there aren’t any sides of beef hanging back here, but there’s a hell of a lot of meat. They’ve made a whole cathedral of the stuff. Arches made from ribs, livers, hearts, and leg bones all frozen to-gether. A vaulted ceiling from muscle trimmed from sides of beef hanging on high hooks. Their flesh church even has nave windows made of stitched- together sheets of pig caul. The light back here is a milky crimson.
All thirteen of them, six men and seven women, smile at me. Big and toothy.
“It took you long enough to find us,” says Mr. Charger.
“Sorry. I took a wrong turn at the pork chops.”
“No worries. You’re here. That’s all that matters.”
I know I should watch the crazies, but I can’t take my eyes off the meat Notre- Dame.
“I love what you’ve done with the place. Ed Gein chic.”
“Thank you. It took some time to get it just right.”
“Who’s your decorator? We’re finishing my new place and there’s all this leftover chorizo. Maybe we could use it for a rumpus room.”
Mr. Charger doesn’t say anything because he’s watching me as I see it.Not all the meat in the church is animal. There’s a human body cut into six pieces— arms, legs, torso, and head— hanging like nightmare piñatas over the smiling circle of freaks.Mr. Charger says, “Do you understand why you’re here?”
“If you think I’m going to be the next one hanging from those hooks, you’re extremely mistaken.”
Normally, I could probably handle a flock of unarmed fruit bats. Hell, the freezer is big enough that I could just run away if I broke a nail. But these particular fruit bats are all armed. Each holds a wicked- looking motorized meat saw, like an oversize electric knife. Outwardly they all look calm, but they’re sweating, even in this cold. They smell of fear and adrenaline. The sweat steams from their bodies and collects at the ceiling like incense in their mad church.
Mr. Charger shakes his head.
“We’re not here to hurt you. You’re here to help us.”
“How did you know I was coming?”
Mr. Charger looks around at his friends.
“God told us.”I shake my head.
“I’m kind of acquainted with God and I don’t think he told you dick.”
A thin redhead from the back says, “We mean the true God.”
“Oh hell. You’re Angra worshipers, aren’t you? Is that what this is all about? I don’t mean to cramp your little chautauqua, but my boss wants a word with you. How about you put down the saws and you can come and be crazy where it’s warm?”A chuckle goes around the circle.“I’m not going with you because I’m not here for you. You’re here for us,” says Mr. Charger.
“If you’re selling candy bars to go to summer camp, I’m tapped out right now.”
Mr. Charger raises his meat saw. I move my weight onto my back leg, ready to move when he tells them to rush me.
“We don’t want anything from you except to be our wit-ness.”
Without another word or a signal, all thirteen of them raise their meat saws to their throats.