Luke took two slow steps backwards, stopping when he collided with something warm and solid. He squinted into the darkness of the alley, wishing not for the first time that he'd thought to grab a torch.
"Torches are pretty out of fashion in the mortal world," Marnie had told him when he'd said it out loud, her fond smile telling him he'd said something she thought was dumb, if endearing. "They went out with pitchforks. Most people use flashlights now."
Torches were still pretty standard in Halloweentown, but he didn't bother saying so. It was bad enough that he needed the assist; considering his people generally lived in hollowed-out coves in cliffs and his own parents lived in the gnarled mass of roots under a particularly large tree in the heart of the forest, he should just be able to see in the dark to begin with.
The crackle of magic and a flash of blinding white light brought him back to the moment at hand, and he glanced over his shoulder in time to watch two vaguely person-like shapes crumple to the ground at the mouth of the alley. A second later another figure lurched into view, and Luke didn't need super-goblin sight to recognize who it was.
"Xavier, over here," he called, just loud enough to make the figure stop in mid-lurch and turn toward them. It lurched in their direction, stopping just short of Marnie and letting out a muffled groan.
"I tried to tell you all that a field trip was a bad idea," Marnie said. The warmth of her back against Luke's disappeared as she stepped forward, wrapping an arm around the zombie who was staring at her as though he wasn't sure who she was. "Humans are very sensitive about the zombie apocalypse."
"You know this is all because of your exchange program," Luke told her, his back to them as he crossed the alley to make sure the two zombie hunters Marnie had stunned weren't in any danger of coming to any time soon.
"Yes, thank you, I don't really think now is the time for 'I told you so'," Marnie answered, and Luke rolled his eyes before he turned back to her. "Xavier, what happened to the others?"
The zombie gestured vaguely down the street in the direction that Luke assumed the bus had disappeared. Which meant Bennie and a busload of zombies were out there somewhere, either being hunted by idiot mortals with the modern-day equivalent of pitchforks and too much time on their hands, or scared and hiding somewhere while they waited for a rescue.
"Great, so I guess we're going on a zombie hunt of our very own."
"Yep," Luke answered, dragging Xavier back out of the way while Marnie waved her hands in front of her to open the portal. "Not you, buddy," he added when Xavier attempted to lurch out of his grip and back toward the street. "You're going back to Halloweentown where no one wants to bash your skull in."
Xavier winced, shoulders sagging as he let Luke steer him into the portal. Luke let go just in time to avoid being sucked through himself, and once he was clear Marnie waved her hand to close the portal again.
"So what's the plan?"
Marnie shrugged and glanced toward the street, then back at Luke. "We follow the angry mob, of course."
She leaned up long enough to plant a kiss on his cheek. "For luck," she said, flashing a grin so bright he didn't need a flashlight to see it, then she headed out of the alley, and all Luke could do was shake his head and follow her.