"Alright, Derek. We know you did it. You were there when we arrived, the gun was still in your hands. Hell, the first thing you said to our guys was 'I did this.' We have enough there for a solid conviction, so don't bullshit us." Officer Pearson words were terse and solid, a tone he'd come to be comfortable spouting around in the dank, steely interrogation room. He leaned forward and pressed his palms face down on the table between him and Derek Little, the 19 year old murder suspect he'd been tasked to dig through. "Got it?"
Derek looked up from his hands, folded blithely in his lap. His eyes looked sunken and removed, as though he had looked into the face of another universe. There was still dry blood caked to his shirt. "If that's true, officer, why are we here?" His answer lacked sass; it was, in fact, an honest question. Pearson blinked; he wasn't expecting that.
"We want to hear your side."
"Why? You seem to have it figured out already. I killed them."
"What we want to know is why, son."
"Does it matter? They're dead."
"It'll effect the trial, Derek. It could make you eligible for an insanity plea."
"What are you, my lawyer?"
"It was self-defense."
"You shot your mother and a total stranger in self-defense?"
"The man broke into the house. My mother was in the kitchen, making dinner, and I was in the den doing homework. He attacked my mother. I heard the screaming. I grabbed the gun in the desk drawer and went around the corner. There was blood in his mouth, and he had this… frenzy in his eyes. He came at me, fast. So I shot him." Derek poked himself in between the eyes, driving home his point. "Right between the eyes." Officer Pearson's eyes never moved, his expression never changed.
"Who was he?"
"I don't know. I've never seen the man before in my life. He just… broke in."
"Then he killed your mother."
"Yes." Before Derek could get the words out of his mouth, Officer Pearson slammed his hand down on the table and thrust himself up, kicking his chair over.
"I said don't bullshit us, Derek! God dammit! If this stranger killed your mother, why, for the love of fuck, would we have found a bullet from YOUR gun taking a rest between her eyes?" Derek didn't say a word, just looked back down at his hands.
Moments of silence passed with Pearson waiting patiently for a reply. Finally Derek looked back up.
"I killed her." Pearson shook his head and groaned.
"I thought the stranger killed her? Who did the murdering tonight, Derek?"
"He killed her first."
"How can you both kill her?" Silence once again dominated the room, and then Pearson realized the boy's shoulders were shaking. He was crying.
"I think I'd like a lawyer."
Officer Pearson leaned against the door outside of the interrogation room, running a hand through his ragged mop of hair. His wife was nagging him to cut it, but he couldn't find the time. Footsteps from down the hall broke his reverie, and he opened his eyes. "Coroner." He said in greeting.
"Rick." The coroner responded. He seemed unnerved, and kept tapping the manila folder in his hand against his thigh. "Say, Rick, how many shots were reported in the 911 call?"
Rick poured himself a cup of coffee from a nearby table and took a sip. "Two. One for the man, one for the mother." He shook his head.
The coroner nodded, a pensive look resting just behind his glasses. He held up a ziploc baggy from his coat pocket. "Well, we found two bullets matching the rifling on the handgun the boy used." He handed the bag to Rick. Two bullets, twisted and charred.
"But we also found these." He handed a second bag to Pearson, who's brows furrowed as he looked inside. Three more bullets, clinking together in a mocking manner.
"The man. His chest." Rick's mouth opened slightly. "Hold on, there's more. The bullet we extracted from the mother's head was not the primary cause of death. The neck wound we attmempted to treat seemes to be what did her in. A whole chunk taken from her cartoid. She bled out."
Rick closed his mouth and narrowed his eyes, remembering what the boy had said about the blood in the first victim's mouth. "Do we know where these three bullets came from?" He said, lifting the second baggy.
The coroner shook his head. "We haven't been able to match the rifling, but we tried." Rick nodded, his mind working. After a few moments, he handed the baggies back to the coroner.
"Check all 911 reports of shots fired in the last week."
"That's not my job, sir." The coroner responded, sighing. "But Harold thought of that, too. Three days ago, there were shots fired on a farm about half-an-hour north of here. Officers were sent to investigate, but when they got there, no one was home. Even the house that made the call was empty." Rick tapped the side of his nose.
"I've got some sniffing around to do."
Hello?" The silence inside the farmhouse was making his ears ring. He didn't come this way much, for business or pleasure. He'd gotten lost twice on the way to this out-of-the-way villa, up on a hill and surrounded by trees.
"Anyone home?" He called again, pounding on the front door. He heard nothing; no rustle from inside, no cars passing, no cows, no livestock. It was eerie, and made the city-boy uncomfortable.
A few more knocks, and Rick went around the front porch to peer in through a window. The glass was dusty and worn, but he could make out shapes inside. A chair, a couch, a fireplace with no fire… and then movement out of the corner of his eye.
Rick panicked, and before he had time to react he'd drawn his pistol and steadied it firmly in front of him, his heart pounding a rhythm Neil Pert would be jealous of. And then he released his breath, his heart slowing down. Just a man. An old man, a badly injured old man, but an old man nonetheless, stood staring at him from the bottom of the steps leading up to the porch.
The man was badly wounded. His left ear was missing, his clothes were blood-soaked and torn to shreds, and he seemed to be covered in lacerations. Rick slammed his gun back in his holster, tugging at his radio.
"This is Officer Rick Pearson, I need medical backup sent to my location, I repeat, medical backup sent to my location!" His radio beeped an affirmative, and he clambered down the steps, arms outstretched.
"Sir, sir, are you alright? My name is Rick, I'm going to help you. Please, stay still." Rick too another step, and the bloodied old man belched out something between a groan and a roar and lurched forward with one, shambling, uneasy step.
"Sir, please, stay still. Help is on the w—" Rick's words were cut off by another groan, and inhumanly strong fingers grasping his throat. Rick managed to get his own hands up in time to stop the man from continuing the attack, which appeared to be a lunging bite towards his face. Rick barked in fear and panic, and pushed back at the old man.
"ST- HEY— GAH- LET— GO" Unintelligble words were all he could choke out as he struggled against the impossibly strong old man. He shoved forward, and then felt intense pressure against his right shoulder, and a sound of choked rage, before Rick realized he'd just been bitten.
In a purely retalitory manner, Rick pulled his firearm and fired a warning shot. His own ears rang, but the old man seemed unaffected. He fired another shot, and pushed harder, throwing his hips into it. The man stumbled backwards, regained his balance, and prepared himself for another attack.
"Don't move!" Rick shouted, pulling a defensive stance, gun aimed firmly at the old man. "Don't move! Take one step forward and I will shoot!" There was a moment of pregnant indecency, the young man standing firm and the old man wavering. And then, after what seemed like dramatic string orchestra build-up, the old man lurched forward for his last time.
Pop. Pop. Pop. Three shots in rapid succession. Two in the chest, and an errant shot between the eyes. The old man dropped to the ground, dead as a door nail, a stifled groan escaping from between his lips, then waning as the air escaped his lungs and didn't come back.
Rick's heart rate slowed, and he realized he was sweating. A lot. His jaw hurt from keeping his teeth clenched together and his trigger finger felt heavy. He dropped to his knees, and in the distance he could hear the sound of sirens.
"So you called for medical backup, and went to assist the victim, when he attacked you?"
"Yessir. Tried to choke me." Rick tilted his head so the officer could see the bruises on his neck. "I fired warning shots, then got him off of me and told him not to move."
"But he moved."
"So you shot him."
"Yes." The interrogating officer nodded slowly and wrote something on a pad.
"You said the man bit you? Do you need someone to look at it?"
"No thanks, didn't make it through the coat." He shrugged his shoulder to show he was fine. The officer nodded, then walked away, headed in the direction of the EMTs, who flagged him down.
"Sir… I can't say for certain, not until we get this body to the coroner, but it looks to me like the cause of death was not the gunshots. If you ask me, the guy's been dead for three days." The EMT shook his head, puzzled. The officer laughed sarcastically.
"So Officer Pearson shot a dead man." He laughed again, then walked away.
Back at the precinct, Rick took a sip from a stale cup of coffee, staring at young Derek through the one-way window. A voice over his shoulder made him turn around.
"More stuff came back from the autopsy of Mr. Little's two victims." The coroner handed a stuffed file to him. "We found pieces of meat in the man's teeth. Ground into the molars, stuck between his canines. We found some in his stomach too, or what was left of it. The guy's a mess." He shuddered slightly. "Anyway, the meat in his teeth identifies as human flesh." Rick was taken aback, his head moving backwards in a motion of disbelief.
"Most of it was identified as belonging to the boy's mother. From her neck, so the boy isn't lying about that." Rick shook his head, disgusted, but the coroner went on. "Here's the best part, though. Some it was also identified as belonging to the man you shot yesterday." Alarm bells triggered in Rick's head, and he turned around stiffly.
"The meat. In the man who broke into Derek's house. Some of it belonged to the man you shot yesterday. We've identified him as Hank Earls. He owned and operated the farm you were at yesterday, but that's all we have so far. We still don't know the connection between him and the would-be robber Derek killed."
Rick closed his eyes. "Did the investigation team find anything on the farm?"
The coroner was silent for a moment, then started. "Oh, yeah! Get this. As if the meat wasn't enough, the rifling on the bullets match the weapon belonging to Mr. Earls. It seems the two were fighting. I'd have to say Earls got the better of the mystery intruder, what with three gunshots…" He shook his head. "But with the way things turned out, I don't know."
"Do we have an identity for the man? What he was doing at Earls' farm?"
The coroner shook his head. "The guy didn't have any identifaction on him. His teeth are rotted through to hell, and his fingers are a mess. Save for identification of the remains by a family member, there's almost no way to identify the guy. He's a John Doe… and he was before Derek killed him."
"What do you mean?"
"Something's wrong with the guy. A disease, or something. I can't explain it. All tests we've run come back as him being dead BEFORE he broke into the Little residence."
"Killed by Earls?"
"Hard to say. Three slugs that large in anyone's chest would be enough to kill him, but we're still a bit fuzzy. Like Earls and Derek's mother, the cause of death is ambiguous." Rick's head snapped around.
"I killed Earls." The coroner shook his head, running his fingers through his dusky hair.
"You'd think so, Rick. But why do you think no one's been on your ass? Why you haven't been up for review? As far as me and my team can tell, you fired three shots into a cadaver. I don't understand it, and I'm willing to put my medical license on the line to figure out exactly what the fuck is going on. Um, pardon my language."
Rick turned back to look at Derek, his eyes narrowing. "Have the press put a picture of the unidentified body in the paper. Wait, clean it up first. Yeah. See if anyone comes forward. We need to find out who he is."
Rick was running, running, running, from an old man who looked a lot like Earls. The man was torn to shreds, but all Rick could see were the bullet holes. Two in the chest, one in the head. They sprayed blood like a fountain, soaking Rick and the world around him in it's stink. Earls didn't speak, only moaned. Groaned. And then rang.
Rick jerked his head upwards, startled eyes whipping around wildly. His phone rang again. He settled down and breathed a sigh, lifting the receiver to his ear.
"Rick, it's Dave. Someone called in an hour ago. They know who our mystery man was." Rick didn't bother saying goodbye. He clicked the receiver down and stood up. He had fallen asleep in his office. He promised himself some coffee on the way to Dave's office.
Rounding the corner from the hallway, mug in hand, Rick was greeted with the sight of Officer David Caruthers sitting on his desk in front of a slim woman. A redhead. Rick smiled to himself.
"Dave." He said, lifting his mug in greeting.
"Oh, Rick. Melinda, this is Officer Rick Pearson. He was the one who arrived on the scene. Rick, this is Melinda." They shook hands stiffly. She was uninterested in anything but professionalism.
She started in without an invitation, cold and sharp. "The man, the one you folks are calling a John Doe, is my father." Rick's face fell, and he lowered his mug.
"I'm so sorry, Melinda. This must be hard."
"Don't be patronizing, Mr. Parsons."
"Pearson. Officer Pearson."
She pursed her lips. "Indeed. In any case, I hated the bastard and what he did to my father and I haven't spoken to him in ten years, not since I left New York, but that's him alright. What he's doing here, I don't know."
Rick sat down in the chair behind Dave's desk. "What do you mean?"
"He lives in New York. With his girlfriend, and probably some hookers." She frowned. "He wasn't much for travelling. But that's definitely him."
Rick took out a notepad and a pencil and wrote down Melinda's name.
"Gary. Gary Grant." Rick wrote that down too.
"Do you have any contact info for his girlfriend?" She looked repulsed at the idea.
"I haven't spoken to him in ten years, and as such I don't maintain a steady line of communication. No, I don't have his contact info. My brother might, though. They talked every once in a while."
"Thank you, Melinda. And your brother's name?"
"Eric. Grant, yeah. He lives down the street from here. We moved down together. He works at the bar, but he's probably at home."
"Yeah… yeah, that's dad alright." Eric looked crestfallen. "He wasn't a great man, but he deserved better than a slug between the eyes."
"Your sister said he lived in New York. Do you know what he's doing down here?" Rick took the picture of the body back from Eric and slipped it into his folder.
"Yeah. I mean, Dad and I stayed in touch. I know Melinda hates him, but I believe in forgiveness. He was coming down to visit me on his way to LA. I hadn't seen him yet. He must have come in early."
Rick nodded, then slid a pictre of Hank Earls across the coffee table.
"As far as we know, this is the man your father was last seen alive with. Do you know him?" Rick studied the picture, then nodded.
"Hank. Comes into the bar sometimes. Don't know him so well, though, and I don't know why my father would know him or what he would be doing at the farm."
"What did your father do for a living?" Rick prompted. Eric laughed darkly.
"Smoked and drank, mostly. He gambled as a hobby and got into debt as an extracirricular. I paid for his trip down. He was in some trouble back in New York. Owing money to the wrong guys, cliches like that." Rick nodded, writing more in his notepad.
"What was Mr. Earls like?"
"Hank? Crazy old coot. He came in once a week at best and would drink for hours, talking all kinds of crazy shit." He shook his head. "He'd complain of noises from the forest a lot. Aliens, he said. We stopped listening after a while." Eric got up and went to the wetbar on the other end of the couch, pouring himself a scotch. "He was into conspiracy theories. Says he heard a story once of an underground government bunker for weapons testing back in 'Great War' he called it. We never knew which war he was talking about, but he said his farm was built right on top of where it was supposed to be." He offered the cop a drink, scotch, no ice.
Rick accepted it graciously, and took a sip. "He bought the land to look for it, didn't he? Just a guess." He took another drink.
Eric nodded, smiling slightly. "Said he took to farming because he never did find it. But he talks about it all the time, says there's still experiments going on down there. By the time he gets to that point, he's usually drunk and hard to understand. Like I said, no one listens, and as far back as this town goes, no one's heard of no bunker." Eric shook his head. "Poor old guy. Always seemed so harmless."
Rick stood up, putting his notepad in his pocket. "But you have no idea why your father would be up at his farm?"
Rick shook his head sadly and walked with Rick to the door. "Can't say that I know." He laughed suddenly, heartily, alcohol-fueled. "Unless he was looking for the bunker too! Goodnight officer."
Rick came in through the garage door, as quietly as possible. It was 11 o'clock, and his son would be in bed. He didn't want to wake him.
Closing the door behind him, Rick shrugged his coat off and sighed.
"Rick?" The voice startled him, and he dropped his coat and whirled around, ready to fight. His wife was standing at the foot of the stairs in a sheer nightgown, a wine glass in her hand. "Why are you home so late?"
Rick smiled and took her into his arms, kissing the top of her head. "Work's been murder." He snorted. "Literally." He sighed.
"Bobby was asking if a bad guy shot you." Evelyn shook against Rick's chest. "He even got me to worry. Can't you check in, babe?"
Rick kissed her cheek and then her lips. "Of course, sweetheart, I'm sorry. It's just stressful." I also shot a man today who may have already been dead, he thought. But he didn't open his mouth. His wife didn't need to know how fucked up work was. "Let's go upstairs so I can… check in." He nipped at her nose, and she giggled, turning around and strutting upstairs.
Rick's cell phone rang. Groggily, he slapped at it until he could answer it successfully. "H… ello? Whoever this is, I hope you know it's three in the goddamned morning."
"I'm sorry, Rick, I know. It's Dave, down at the precinct. I think you should come down."
"What have we got?" Rick asked. The coffee in the foam cup warmed his hands, and he through briefly how much of a cop movie cliche his life had become.
The coroner shook his head. "Remember how I told you Gary Grant had meat in his teeth and stomach, and we identified most of it? Well, there were pieces we couldn't identify." Rick put the pieces together.
"But now you know whose flesh it is." The coroner nodded in response.
Rick followed the coroner down the hallway and took a left. Into the morgue.
"The morgue?" The coroner didn't respond, but instead keyed his way into the exam room. A body covered in a white sheet was lain out on the table, the edges draping down almost to the floor. Rick set his coffee down on the counter and crossed his arms. "What is this?"
"A 911 call came in from the area by that farmhouse you investigated. Someone had found her in their backyard, apparently dead." The coroner took a corner of the sheet and rolled it back, revealing her legs. He rolled the left one over to reveal a grisly chunk was missing from the calf. "A bite, it looks like. She died from the ensuing infection."
Rick bent down to look. "An animal? Coyote, or a cougar?" The coroner shook his head.
"No, look at the edges of the meat here, where it's been torn. And up here, along the thigh." He rolled the sheet back further, revealing a string of bruises encircling her leg. He put his hand down and grasped her along the bruises. "A human hand, and human teeth."
Rick stood up sharply. "Someone bit her? No, they didn't just bite her… they tried to tear her up." He thought back to what Derek said about Gary, the blood in his mouth, the chunk missing from his mother's neck. "Is it a drug? Some kind of heroin cocktail or something? This sounds like PCP behavior." The coroner nodded in agreement.
"That's what we're thinking. We're currently running toxin tests on Gary Grant, but I'm afraid it's been too long to catch anything." Rick nodded to himself silently, reflecting.
Without warning, and loud enough to make Rick lose 10 years off of his life, the dead body moaned, a loud, long, other-wordly growl of air passing through it's throat.
"JESUS CHRIST!" Rick exclaimed, backing up against the wall. The coroner laughed.
"Don't worry, officer, everyone gets a scare from that. It's just the body releasing itself from rigor mortis. Stored, stale air in the lungs rushing out the throat and vibrating the vocal cords. Terrifying, I know. Don't worry." He grabbed the blanket near the top of the body and started to pull back. "Dead as a doornail."
Before the blanket could be fully removed, the coroner screamed in pain and jerked his hand back, trailing blood along the floor. Rick started again, panicked, and started forward to check the coroner's wound.
"Jesus, her teeth are sharp!" The coroner exclaimed, wrapping his wound. "Somehow I cut my hand on her teeth." He shook his head, mumbling to himself about safety.
Rick ripped the blanket off of the body and looked at her. She looked pretty dead, her eyes rolled back in her head. Blood oozed from the corners of her mouth, but he wasn't convinced it was all the coroner's. She was pretty scratched up, and if he didn't know anything about dead bodies and times of death, he'd say the skin was rotting. He shook his head.
"Girl would have been pretty when she was alive. What is she, 20?" The coroner turned around, nursing his wound.
"21 actually. Her name was Maria Carpenter. She lives up north, not far from that farm you were at earlier. Her mother made the 911 call."
"So if it's a drug of some kind…" Rick narrowed his eyes. "The farm, you said? Do you think, maybe, Earls was manufacturing this drug and using his farm as a drug market? Son of a bitch. That would explain why Grant was up there, and why they fought." The coroner nodded in agreement.
"That makes a lot of sense. What are you going to do?" Rick pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose, sighing.
"I'm going to get some sleep. And then… I don't know. I'll send Dave to the bar, ask around about Earls, see if he can find anyone who knew him. Me, I think I'm going to go back to the farm." He picked up his coffee, and finished it in one draw.
The sun was high, and there wasn't a cloud in sight. A perfect day, Rick thought, to be at a farm. Too bad his affairs were a little darker than one would hope. He put his car and park and shut it off, but didn't get out. He looked around. In front of him was the tiny rundown farmhouse from the other day. The police tape had been removed and it was once again just a farm. To his left, farther along down the road, was a large brown barn, falling apart. One of the large doors was off and leaning against the side, the insides permamently open. His gaze lingered there, and he decided to start his investigation there.
Gravel crunched under his feet as he made his way to the barn, his eyes alert and his ears pricked up. Of course there was nothing but silence, but that's what he had thought last time. And last time he'd killed a man. He barked a laugh. Reportedly killed a man.
He reached the barn door and decided to draw his weapon. Unsnapping his holster, he drew his .38 and kept it lowered as he made his way forward. He poked his head through the doorway and looked around. Nothing. There weren't even stalls. He shook his head. Hay was strewn across the floor haphazardly, and dirt was kicked up every which way. There was a ladder to his left, leading up to a loft.
Something stank. A lot. His lip curled as he brought his arm up to his mouth. He took one more look around, and something at the base of the ladder caught his eye. Stooping down, he saw blood. It wasn't congealed, but it looked… thin. Watery. He stood up and holstered his pistol. He needed to collect some of that. There was an evidence collection kit in his glovebox.
Something landed on his shoulder with a soft splotting sound. It smelled. He reached his hand up to wipe it off. Blood. Something thicker as well. A piece of … meat?
He raised his head slowly, one hand on the butt of his pistol. Before he could draw it, a body landed on him, forcing him to the ground with its dead weight (most of its weight was comprised of stink). He struggled and thrashed, trying to get the corpse of off him. He managed to free himself and stood up, dusting himself off and catching his breath. He reached for his radio to once again call medical backup to the farm, when the corpse grabbed his leg and pulled it out from under him, bringing him down.
"SHIT. LET ME GO." He used his free foot to kick at the man's head, but his grip was strong and unyielding. "I am an officer of the law! This is assault, and I am armed!" He shook his leg and tried to free himself. He drew his pistol, and once again fired a warning shot.
"You fucking druggy!" He kicked at the man's head again. "Fuck you! Let me go!" His ankle slipped free and he scrambled backwards and up, steadying the barrel of his gun on the drug addict worming on the ground. He pulled up his radio.
"10-108, Officer Pearson, at the Earls farm up north. Requesting a second unit and a medical unit." He holstered his pistol and pulled out his handcuffs. "Quit moving, motherfucker." He kicked the man's legs open and cuffed his arms behind his back, then lifted him up by his shirt onto his feet and dragged him out of the barn door, trying not to get bit by the raging addict the whole way.
"You motherfucker. You're going to sit in my car until backup comes, you got it?" He opened the back door to his car and threw him in the back. He slammed the door shut and stepped back, watching.
The man in cuffs growled, roared, screamed, snarled, lashed his teeth. He threw himself against the window repeatedly, trying to break his way out. Rick narrowed his eyes. What kind of drug was this? He'd seen people OD on PCP who weren't this bad. The man was bleeding from the corner of his mouth and his eyes seemed dead and vacant. Sirens, then tires on gravel. He hadn't realized how much time had passed.
A door slammed, and Dave lifted his arm in greeting, heading over.
"Thanks for not killing this one, Rick." Dave said, his mouth twitching into a mouth.
"That's not funny." Rick shook Dave's hand. "I had suspicions that this place is being used to manufacture and sell drugs, so I came up to investigate, when this guy," Rick kiced the tire of his car. "Jumped on me in the barn."
Dave peered in through the window, shaking his head. "Looks like drugs to me. Good intuition. Listen, Rick." Dave straightened and turned to his partner, taking his sunglasses off. "The coroner is… well, he's dead."
Rick started, blinking. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Seems he had an accident in the morgue. Cut himself on something. He… well, he got a fast infection. Wreaked havoc on his brain. They're doing the autopsy now. I meant to call you, but you radioed in before I could." He shook his head. "It was a mess. I'm glad you didn't see it." Rick cleared his throat, then opened driver's side door.
"I'm going to take this guy in, get him processed. You know how it goes. I'll check in on the coroner." Dave nodded, but didn't say anything. Rick sat down and started up the car, trying his best to ignore the incessant moans and groans coming from the backseat.
"You were there with him when he cut himself, right? What happened?" Rick looked from the body of the coroner up to the medical examiner. He couldn't remember off the top of his head, and he was sure his stare was vacant. The medical examiner raised an eyebrow. "The hand? The scratch that gave him the infection?"
Rick nodded. "Oh yeah, yeah. Uh we were looking at the body of this woman, I think her name was Miranda… C something. He scratched himself on her teeth. Scared the piss out of me. It looked pretty bad."He nodded again then looked down at his body.
And then blinked, leaning in a bit farther. His skin looked like it was starting to rot.
"When did you say he died?" The medical examiner checked his clipboard.
"Would have been about eight this morning. Why?"
"He looks like the first man in all this, that Grant man. Like he's been dead a few days."
The medical examiner nodded. "I saw that too. I think it's whatever infection he caught. A virus or something. I think it's releasing the oxygen from his body at an accelerated rate, causing rapid decomposition, and that's accounting for the smell." He turned to a counter and pulled out some rubber gloves, pulling them onto his hands with a taut snap. "Wanna help me move him off the table onto a gurney?" He handed Rick a pair of gloves.
Positioning himself at the head, Rick slid his hands underneath the body's shoulders. It felt weird, being on this end of a coroner, looking down at this lifeless face. The examiner counted to three, and they both lifted and stepped to the side.
"Yeah, ok, the stretcher is over here, now on three we start walking. Ok, one… two…" Before the first letter of 'three' came out, the coroner sprang to life in the most heinous and violent way possible. With a thrashing arch, he kicked back the medical examiner and twisted hard in Rick's hands, freeing himself. His head snapped back, his jaw hanging loosely, and his eyes rolled upwards lazily, locking onto Rick's face. They retained their vacant stare and lifeless glaze, but somehow had a life all their own.
For the umpteenth time in the last three days, Rick panicked and backed up, putting distance between himself and the remains of the coroner. On the other end of the room, the medical examiner leapt up, a scalpel in his hand.
"Hey!" Rick shouted, stopping the coroner's forward leaping charge with a swift stomp kick to his midsection. "What the fuck is happening?"
"I don't know! I don't fucking know! I thought he was dead!" The medical examiner rushed forward and drove his scalpel home in the coroner's spine.
He didn't even flinch. Didn't slow down. Didn't stop. Rick put his back against the wall and pushed hard against the corpse, causing him to stumble backwards. With his free hand, he grabbed his coat and holster from the wall, fumbling with the snap to free his pistol. Before he could figure it out, the coroner was on him again, knocking him to the ground.
"Help! Fuck me, help!" He shouted, wrestling with the dead weight. "The fuck, he's trying to bite me!" He shoved the web of his thumb and forefinger into his throat, holding him at bay.
The medical examiner grabbed his hair and ripped back, hard. "Go, get your gun!" The deceased coroner twisted around and grabbed his arm, biting down, tearing hard. Meat and muscles twisted, snapped, and flew. The medical examiner screamed and plunged a scalpel into the coroner's eye, roaring with rage and pain. "Get him! FUCK!" He pushed back, and there was a grotesque twisting sound, of snapping steel, and as he reeled backwards, his right arm didn't go with him.
Rick scrambled for his gun, but he couldn't take it. Lurching forward, he fell to his hands and knees and emptied his stomach onto the floor. Again, and again, until there was nothing left to empty. Only then did his head clear, and only then could he draw his pistol in semi-full confidence. He pulled back the slide and spun around, looking for the coroner. All he could focus on was the medical examiner in the corner, passed out from blood loss, his right arm missing from his elbow down. He could feel his stomach rising again, but rather than vomit, he stood up, spinning around, looking for the coroner. It took him a second to realize that the room was empty, save for himself and the maimed examiner. The door on the opposing wall had blood smears on it. He swore to himself silently, and started forward.
The station was silent. He checked the clip in his weapon, and looked around. Not the kind of silent that spoke of emptiness, though. It was as though the world was taking in a massive breath before a scream. Looking at the floor, Rick saw blood drops. A trail of them, probably from the medical examiner's arm. He shuddered remembering the sound of a man getting his arm ripped off, then took his first step forward, following the trail of blood. He had a strange mental image of Hansel and Gretel, but with drug addicts and psychopaths instead of innocent children, and the idea made him smile uncomfortably.
He hadn't heard it at first, but on the corner of his hearing he could hear a small wail. Like a woman in pain. The cries of terror. Rick sped up from a steady walk to a stinted jog to a full out run, covering ground faster than his mind could process everything that was in front of him. He slid to a halt at the end of the hall. From the left, the wailing grew louder. He whirled around.
Ahead of him was the station workout room, the mats littered in blood and shredded flesh. His stomach gave another resisting kick to his brain, but he started forward anyway. The stench in the workout room hit him like a hoof, and he covered his mouth with his shirt. Against the far wall, half in a locker and half out, a woman was missing part of her leg and enough to graft a midget human. Laying next to her was an arm. It wasn't hers, and it wasn't the medical examiners. He turned in slow circles, looking for another person. Instead, he found the medical examiner.
Rick took a step back and blinked. "You awake, buddy? Fuck, look at you. You didn't wrap that up? Shit, you lost a lot of blood. I'm going to call an ambulance." He reached for his cell phone, when something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head, and the bloody locker with the body was empty. He lowered his cell phone from his ear and turned back to the medical examiner.
"Did you se-" He was cut off by a heavy blow to his shoulders, and he stumbled forward. Twisting, he came face to face with Locker Woman and all of her skinless glory. She roared like a banshee, screeching hard and lashing her teeth, spraying meat and blood and saliva and God knows what else all over her face. He struggled hard to keep her head from his.
"Fuck is wrong with you!" He shouted, trying to get his gun between them. She pushed him hard, lunging as hard as she could. She wanted him dead, and he didn't know why. The face belonged to Karla, he remembered that much. She was a good person, and a decent cop. He could have sworn she was dead, missing that much skin. "Christ! Come on!" He fired a single warning shot, and she stopped dead, the top of her head exploding upwards like an overripe melon. Rick screamed wordlessly, his head swimming, no idea what was going on. Whatever these people were doing, they were just as susceptible to bullets as any other drug-addled loser. His struggle with the woman had lasted only a second or two, but somehow the medical examiner had gotten out of sight, dripping thin, watery blood all over the place.
"Oh god." The realization hit him hard, and he pulled the slide back on his gun, chambering a round. The medical examiner wasn't himself. And if Locker Woman was any indication, he'd probably be coming for his throat. That is, unless Rick got to him first. It was self-defense, right? Rick had a family to think about. But the medical examiner was gone. He swore under his breath. The guy was dangerous, and he needed to find him and take him down.
Pieces started falling into place for Rick as he started forward. The man who broke into Derek's house was the same as all these people; aggressive and feral. If the boy was telling the truth, and the man did bite his mother, his mother would have… no, that's silly. She wouldn't have come back from the dead. People don't do that. There's a reason it's called "death". Whatever happened, though, Derek's mother became like this. Feral and aggressive and wild. That would explain why Derek had shot her.
The bullets in Grant's chest came from Earls' weapon, and if that's true, then Grant probably got to Earls first. Which would be why he was the way he was when Rick killed him. But why did the medical examiner turn? Was there residual drugs on teeth of the woman? And what of that man he had arrested in the barn?
And with that, Rick had a horrible thought. The man he had arrested. He'd been processed, and he was in the holding cell downstairs. Anyone watching him wouldn't know what Rick knew now. They weren't safe. He ran to the stairs, and stopped at the top. The image of a bloodbath downstairs halted his footsteps and drew his breath short. Would he be ready for this? Before now, he'd been able to handle one at a time, and barely at that. If there were three, four, five down there, would he be able to handle it? He remembered the armory was on the floor he was on now. He turned around and tried to remember which way.
They seemed pretty feral, was there a chance they functioned beyond their base instincts? Could they hold and operate a weapon? Locker Woman didn't attempt to wrest for his gun. He stopped at the armory door, and keyed in his information. The door released a burst of air and slid open, and greeting him fully was a room full of weapon. Assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, snipers. Riot guns, riot shields, gear. Everything he needed. He grabbed a pistol and slid it into his empty holster, and tucked the one in his hand into his belt. With little thought and full confidence in his decision, he lifted a shotgun off the rack and checked the ammo, dumping some shells from a box into his pocket. He turned back to the door, then decided on a riot helmet, setting it firmly on his head and fastening it into place. He lowered the blast shield and headed back to the stairs.
Rick felt like a badass motherfucker. Nothing could get his shit now, and he felt confident to head down to the holding cell. Before he could take a step, he heard a grunt behind him. Whirling around, he cocked his shotgun and raised it to his shoulder. The medical examiner had found him again, and was waltzing forward with a shuffle in his step. Rick cleared his throat.
"Sorry, man." The shotgun kicked back against his shoulder, belching smoke and fire from the barrel. The medical examiner took it hard in the chest, whole chunks ripping from his frame. His face took some buck as well, and his jaw disappeared in a spray of blood and gore, leaving the tattered remains of his tongue to flop wildly. He stumbled backwards, groans sliding from his ripped up throat like worms, but he did not fall. Rick grunted, stepped forward, and kicked a heavy boot into his chest, knocking him backwards. Pulling his pistol, he aimed squarely between the eyes and fired a single shot, the report echoing up and down the hallway. The examiner stopped thrashing, stopped moaning, just… stopped. That was that, then.
Rick turned back to the stairs.
He hadn't heard it before through the beating of his own heart in his ears, but now that he'd seemed to find his violent, murderous center, it was a little more clear. There was moaning from downstairs. Rick shook his head. It sounded like a group of these guys. Intermingled in the moans were screams. Terror and fear and pain, slowly dwindling, being taken over by grumbling throats.
And then a gunshot. Rick started. And another one. And another. Someone or a couple someones were down there trying to stay alive. Survivors. For some reason Rick had assumed the whole place had been overrun, or empty. He didn't even think there were other people here. Other trained officers. He bounded down the stairs, cocking his shotgun with a satisfying 'kathunk'.
Rounding the corner and sliding to a halt on the bottom stair, Rick raised his shotgun to eye level, burying the butt in his shoulder, and scanning the room. It was a mess. Lights were hanging off the ceiling, sparks were flying, file cabinets were tipped over, papers, files, folders all over the floor. Smashed computer monitors. It was a riot zone. Rick moved forward, scanning left and right with his weapon.
He turned a corner and checked the holding cell. Empty, and smeared in blood. He was unsurprised, and the fact that he had expected this upset him. He turned back around. Not an assailant in sight. No one. He went back into the main offices. The door into the lobby was still closed, which was a good sign. No sign of the mystery shooter or shooters. He looked around the room again, and a pile of file cabinets caught his eye. Stacked up in front of a door, it seemed pretty intentional. He leaned forward towards the doorjamb and cleared his throat.
"Hello?" He called. Loud enough for them to hear, but not loud enough for any wandering crazies.
"OH GOD help us oh Jesus I thought we were alone!" came the simpering reply. A woman. "I was here picking up my son, when… I don't know. Something happened. I don't know." Rick pushed the file cabinets to the side, and jimmied the knob. The door swung open, and Rick stepped inside, removing his riot helmet. A woman in a smart pantsuit sat down with her 16 year old son. Typical punk kid with a fauxhawk and a chain that he probably had 'ironically'.
"My name is Rick. Pearson. Rick Pearson. We need to get out of here. How'd you get in?" He knelt down and helped up the woman and her son.
"The officer helping me with my son. He threw us in here and told us to hold still until he came back. He was so nice. C… Caruthers, I think he said. Is he ok?" Rick shook his head.
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out." He drew the spare pistol from his holster and handed it to the boy. "Just like a camera. Point and shoot. Aim for the heads. Get outside. If you can get into an open area, you'll be fine. Go home. Lock the doors. Who knows if it's just here in the station. And be nice to that. I will be looking for you and getting that back. Now go. Front door is through those doors." He stepped back and pointed at the doubledoors on the other side of the room. "Go through there, that's the lobby. Then straight ahead. Don't stop."
"You're not coming with us?" the woman asked, taking the pistol from her son and checking the rounds herself. "What? I have training." Rick shook his head.
"No. I can't. I have to find Dave." He put his helmet back on and strapped it in. "Good luck."
Rick lowered the blast shield on his helmet and followed the woman and her son to the front door. He waved a wordless goodbye. He wasn't ready to look outside yet. Whatever was going on, he still had business in the station. He closed the door, then threaded a powercord through the handles and tied it shut. He'd face the world eventually, but he wanted to find Dave.
He turned back towards the precinct, and listened closely. He didn't hear anything. No moans, groans, gunshots, shouts. Nothing. But the station was a big place.
He checked the rounds in his shotgun, and moved the pistol from his belt to his holster. He remembered Derek. His head whipped up. He as in the interrogation room on the first floor, on the other end of the station. Dave might have gone there, and so that too was where Rick would start.
Stalking forward through the mess on the floor, Rick braced himself for anything. Was Dave still alive? Or was he… one of these things? He wasn't ready to think about having to pull the trigger on Dave. He chose to block that out of his mind. He wasn't paying attention to where he was moving to, and he stepped on a file folder which slid out from under him and he came crashing down.
He dropped his shotgun and slid along the floor away from his grip, and his shin struck a computer monitor. Crying out in pain, he rubbed at it, stumbled back upwards, then froze in place.
Further on down the hall, he could see the hunched over form of… someone, he didn't know who. There were sickening splotching sounds, the sound of wet rubber hoses… Rick could feel his stomach rumbling again. It was the sound and the smell more than the sight, over anything. He stood back up as slowly as possible, trying not to draw it's attention. If it hadn't heard him spill forward, he might be ok getting to his shotgun.
Too late. The sound of used condoms slapping around cement eased up, and the man on the other end of the hallway lifted his head. It reminded Rick of those discovery channel shows he'd seen of meerkats. He tried not to giggle. Something was wrong with him.
The man turned towards Rick slowly, jowls bloody and dripping, like a faucet overrun with kool-aid and corn starch. Vacant dead eyes locked with Rick's, and he roared inhumanly, staggering to his feet. Almost like a cartoon, he couldn't quit gaining solid ground. Rick launched himself forward and slid on another file folder, skittering onto his stomach again and knocking his gun further away. Unfortunately for him, the psycho at the end of the hall seemed a little more capable of getting to his feet, and Rick's heart leapt when he heard the sound of feet pounding on the ground.
He tried to push himself forward but he couldn't scramble fast enough. His assailant tripped over a computer monitor and slid the rest of the way to Rick, grabbing him hard with insanely strong fingers, growling maddeningly, leaving a trail of blood and gore on the file folders.
Rick tried to wrest his arm away, but found himself in an awkward position depriving his upperbody of most of his strength.
He used his free arm to wrest his helmet from his head, and brought it down with as much force as he could on his attacker. There was a grunt, but it was not of pain, but the grip on his arm laxed enough for him to roll away on top of his shotgun. He leapt up, the boomstick firm in his hands, and fired a shot that missed errantly, blowing a computer monitor into component pieces. He pumped the barrel hard and reaimed his shot, firing another round.
The man's head exploded and his body rocked hard as if shocked with more voltage than he could handle, and then went limp, pooling in it's own blood. Rick wiped gore from his shirt and pants, and docked the empty shell from the barrel.
"Fuck you." He said. He was glad no one was around to hear that, because it was neither witty nor clever. He turned back to the hallway and saw the corpse this man had been feeding on, and his stomach sank, dragging his heart down with it. Was it Dave? Could that be his friend?
He turned the desecrated body over with his toe, but the face was too damaged and torn apart to make out. Hair was the wrong color anyway.
Further down the hall, from somewhere in the direction of the holding cell, Rick heard gunshots. The sound made his heart leap and he spun on his toe and hurried on down the hallway.
He made it three feet before he felt like someone punched him in the shoulder. He stopped dead in his trucks and dropped his shotgun. His knees gave out on him and he tumbled downwards like a bag of dirty laundry. He coughed hard, and looked down at his right shoulder. Blood? When did he get blood on him?
Then the pain set in. His throat was dry but he screamed anyway, writhing backwards. It took him a second to realize he'd just been shot in the shoulder.
"FUCK!" He shouted. "FUCKING SHIT CHRIST OW THIS HURTS." He rolled onto his hands and knees and tried to stand up.
"… Rick?" Rick shook his head. He was hearing things. "Rick! Christ, brother, you're still alive!"
He lifted his head back towards the direction he was headed and saw Dave, dropping his pistol, running towards him. He stood up, hand pressed against his shoulder. "Dave. I was looking for you."
"Christ, Rick, I'm so sorry. I… I thought you were one of them. They've got me freaked out, I'm not even thinking. I thought I was alone. Shit. I didn't mean… at least I didn't hit anything. Come on, I have wrap over here."
Rick followed him down the hall towards the holding cell. "What are you doing down here? Where's Derek?"
"That's why I came here. I locked those people in the office and came to find Derek. I wanted to get him out of here but… well, he didn't get far." Rick remembered the body in the hallway.
"What's going on, Dave? What happened?" Rick asked, letting Dave wrap up his shoulder with a roll of gauze. There was a long moment of silence.
"Did you ever see Night of the Living Dead, Rick? You know, George Romero." Rick didn't respond. The very notion that Dave was suggesting zombies was nothing short of insanity to him. "I'm not kidding. Those people. Grant, Earls, the guy who jumped you in the barn. They were all… they were dead. There's no other word for it. They were dead as disco, and yet here they are, attacking us. Trying to kill us. I don't know what it is but they're… they're… fuck. Zombies, man."
Rick snorted. "That's ridiculous. It's some kind of PCP thing. Zombies are just in the movies, Dave." There was more silence.
"Yeah, yeah. It's silly. I dunno. I still don't know where they came from, though, that's what counts. Do you have any idea?"
Rick stood up and checked the ammo in his shotgun.
"Yeah, I have an idea. Do you know what it's like outside?" Dave shook his head.
"I don't know. I think it was just us… we might have isolated all the infected here. Either that, or killed them." Dave winked. "Why?"
"We've got to get back to Earls' farm. Everything centers around there."
Opening the front door, Dave and Rick were nearly blinded by the afternoon sun. After the dark shambles of the precint, sunlight was a much welcomed commodity. Dave pulled a cruiser from around back and Rick climbed into the passenger seat. "Things seem normal out here… though I haven't seen any other cars. That could be a good thing. No… crazies. Nothing that I see wrong, off the top of my head." Rick shook his head. "I want to know that everything is okay in this city. To do that, we need to make sure the drug or whatever it is that's doing this is cut off at the source."
"You still think it's a drug, Rick?"
"Fine, zombies. But this didn't just happen. An outside source is causing this, a virus or bacteria or drug or some kind of terrorist attack or something. We need to figure it out and stop it before this city goes down."
"Right. So we start at the farm why?"
"Grant, the first one we heard of. His son Eric works at the bar on main, and Earls was a regular there, spoutin' off about some bunker underneath the land he owns. We know Grant killed Earls. We need to know what turned Grant. Hit the sirens."
The streets were vacant, and there was no resistance for the cruiser. They drove in silence up 78th all the way north to the Earls farm, coming to a halt outside the limits. Rick cocked his shotgun. "We're looking for the bunker."
"Oh come on, Rick. That's just some bullshit spouted by a drunk farmer. Even if it does exist, this farm has been up here for generations. If he didn't find it within those years, why would we find it now?" Dave turned the car off and checked the ammo in his handgun. "Magic? Divining?"
Rick opened the door and got out. "Nah. He was a crazy farmer. We're cops."
They started out headed towards the barn. "I didn't get a good look last time. Guess why." Rick narrated as they passed through the doors. "You go do a walk around outside and I'll check inside.
Rick looked around, chewing on his tongue thoughtfully. There was literally nothing to see. The ladder to his left, ad the other three walls. He kicked up some hay, some dirt, dug around a little, but no indication of an entrance of any kind. He let the barrel of his shotgun rest on the ground. Dave knocked on the side of the wall, and he turned around.
"Trees, rocks, grass. The field is that way." He pointed out the north wall. "And there's a grain chute that way." He pointed at the western wall.
Rick sighed. "Pretty typical farm stuff, I suppose…" He looked at the ladder. "But… why does Earls have a grain chute, with no grain silo? Did you see where it went?" Dave shrugged.
"Dropped into a rivet in the ground. Not a hole, just a… dent, I guess. I figure he kept it there until he shipped it." His eyes widened. "You don't think…" Rick rushed past him and around the corner to the grain chute.
Riveted together scrap metal held the thing together, but even so it was rusty and old, resting on old supports. It could come down at any time. Rick followed it to its end, a wide mouth large enough for him to lay down in, also rusted and old. The ground beneath it appeared just as solid as the ground in the barn. He stomped on it.
"Son of a bitch knew about the bunker. He found it, and he was fucking using it. For… I don't know. For something." He looked around. "Dave, you got your emergency shovel in the cruiser? Go get it."
Dave came back with a survival shovel. Not the best, but definitely better than using their hands. Rick stood right underneath the mouth of the grain chute and jabbed the shovel down into the dirt. A hollow thunk. He shovelled some of the dirt off and then widened the gap.
"It's… it's a fucking door, Dave. Jesus." He levelled his shotgun, took aim, and fired three shots. The wood was thin, old, and rotted, and gave way cleanly underneath the bite of the buck. Rick blew a hole wide enough to climb down, and when the dust settled and his senses returned, he nearly gagged.
"Do you… do you fucking smell that? Christ, smells like the morgue down there, Rick! What the fuck is going on?" He stumbled forward, shielding his mouth with his arm. "We're not going in there, are we?"
Rick started to reshell his shotgun. "Earls has been dumping bodies." He pointed back towards the barn. "He takes them in there and dumps them down the chute into this bunker. I don't know if he was a serial killer, or worked for the mob or something, but that's what's down there. Listen." Rick pumped his shotgun, then stopped talking.
Moans. A lot of them. they started low but as more light poured through the delipidated hole, they increased in frequency. They could smell the two officers, and they were going insane.
Dave choked back another vomit. "There's… so many. Is this where they're coming from?"
Rick set his gaze on the hole. "Grant found out. Probably heard about it from his son. Grant found out about the bunker, but he thought there was money down there. Gold. Or drugs he could sell, something. Something he could pay his debts with. He snuck onto the land to break in and get it, ended up stumbling onto Earls' secret. Probably got bitten. Infected with whatever virus or drug is doing this. Came back up for help, he probably turned up near the farmhouse… and got Earls."
Dave didn't say a word, but drew his pistol. After a moment of silence he stepped towards the hell.
"So I guess we gotta clean house. Shit."
They widened the hole by stomping down on the plywood. "I don't see any stairs."
"I can't imagine Earls would want to go down there. No stairs means no one goes in and no one gets out." He nodded.
"Well then, Richard. If your theory is right, how did Grant get in, and then back out?" Dave turned to look at him. "He was injured, too. I doubt he would have climbed."
Rick was silent for a moment. "Here, keep widening this hole, I have an idea." He jogged off the platform and into the bordering woods. Dave watched him go, then shook his head and got to work with the survival shovel, breaking down pieces of the platform. The smell was getting stronger, and he had the image of these beasts gathering underneath the platform, waiting for them to come down. Waiting for their next meal. They'd been down there a long time. Dave imagined they were very hungry.
Rick came back dragging a ladder behind him. "I figured Grant would have a plan to get down. If he knew about it, he'd know he'd need supplies. Just a hunch." Dave backed off, and Rick lowered the ladder down the hole they'd made. Dave pulled out his flashlight and flicked it on, shining it down the hole. Empty. Rick peered in. "Where do you think they are? I can hear them, and I can smell them. Where are they?" Dave shrugged, and put his light in his mouth.
"Only one way to find out." He hopped on to the ladder and began his descent, rung after rung. Each step rung out hollowly in the dark concrete chamber, and Rick held the ladder steady until he got to the bottom. "All clear, Rick! Come on down, I'll hold it."
Rick slung his shotgun over his shoulder and began climbing down. The air got clammy the closer to the bottom he approached, and his instincts were telling him to climb back up and just move to another town. But he carried on, foot over foot, hand over hand, until he touched bottom and clapped Dave on the shoulder.
He got his shotgun back to the ready and flicked the light on the bottom of it on, swinging the barrel to and fro. It was a small chamber, ten feet by teen feet at best. There was a single door in the wall. Well, entranceway. It lacked a door. That's the direction the scent came from, and the smell. The officers pulled SARS masks from their belts and slipped them on.
They started down the hallway, and it wasn't long before the moaning grew louder. Silhouettes pulsed and massed at the end of the hallway, pressing into themselves and expanding outwards, like a sea of an unknown black mass. It pressed into the hallway, but stayed more or less contained within the room that it opened up into. Dave stopped dead, and Rick turned around.
"You ok, Dave? We're armed. We'll be fine." He said, extending a hand to him for a fistbump.
Dave shook his head. "I have two extra clips and the one in my gun. You have what, 8 rounds, a few spares, and a pistol with an extra clip? Look how many are in there, Rick!" He lit up an emergency flare and tossed it into the room. The silhouettes were given depth and definition, and they were both lost for words.
Finally Dave spoke. "You know that movie Ghandi? How at the end, there were all those people? And it holds the record for most extras onscreen?" Rick nodded mutely. "We don't have enough bullets for this." Rick nodded again.
"We don't have a choice. Do you have any other weapons? We both have our billy clubs." Rick used a free hand to slide his from his belt and swing it open. "A severe beating may be good enough." Dave scoffed.
"Christ, Rick, look how many there are."
"Do you want to turn around, Dave? I won't stop you."
"I'm no coward, you bastard." He lifted his pistol. "Why aren't they attacking us?"
"They can't see us. We're behind the light source. And they probably can't smell us over the scent." Dave nodded. "How do you wanna do this?" Dave cleared his throat.
"Quickly." They each let out a battle cry and surged forward, warriors in a cement tomb.
Rick fired the first volley, and broke the spell of silence that held the beasts in place. His shotgun barked loudly and echoed, the sound ricocheting like a bullet in a bucket, nearly defeaning them both. The buck sprayed out like a tongue of fire and death, ripping up every bit of flesh it touched. Rick didn't think his shotgun could take out more than one at a time, but he was pleasantly surprised when he saw three headless bodies fall to the ground. These things didn't offer much resistance to his gun.
"Aim for the heads!" He shouted, pumping the barrel backwards and firing another round. The corpses knew they were here, now, and they fought against each other to struggle forward, moaning and crying and screaming, fingers grasping forward. They plugged the entry way with their seething mass, providing the most convenient target Rick may have ever faced in his life.
Dave rushed forward, his pistol out at arm's length. He wasn't firing rapidly, but in short, trained, aimed bursts. Rick smiled. Dave was a well-trained marksman. He knew what he was doing.
The force of the bodies pressing against the wall eventually broke through the physics barrier, and they collapsed in on each other and surged forward. They weren't fast, but they were persistent and nigh unstoppable.
"Back up!" Dave shouted, backpedaling in example. "Back up to the ladder and thin them out!" Rick listened, moving backwards just slightly faster than the approaching mob.
They dropped easy, but there were a lot, and sweat stung Rick's eyes. He had lost count of how many shots he fired, but when his chamber clicked empty, and the spare shells in his pockets gone, he drew his pistol and pulled the trigger.
They were choked in a hallway, and facing a relentless opponent. Countless hordes of an enemy who knew no pain, no fear, no exhaustion. Could not negotiate, could not surrender, could not even speak. Dave's final clip clicked empty.
"Fuck." He barked. Rick tossed him his spare clip, and before long he clicked empty as well. They had their backs to the ladder now.
Rick turned to look at Dave, whose gun was hanging useless from his fingertips. "What now?" He asked. Dave looked at him and pulled out his billy club. Rick frowned.
"Joking or not, it's our only hope." Rick shook his head and drew his own club, swinging it open.
"Don't get bitten." Rick said. Dave nodded grimly, and they both swung forward.
It was grim business. They told Rick when he made it onto the force that his club was durable and everlasting. That it could give a beating, and take a beating. He couldn't imagine they had accounted for this contingency, but he swung away. Every back pull splattered brains, blood, teeth, eyes, gore all over the walls and all over themselves. Rick coughed, and his eyes watered. To his left and slightly behind him, Dave carved his own path through the bodies.
"We have to get to the other side! Into the room!" Rick shouted. "There's more room in there, and there's gotta be something else!" He started moving forwards. He felt like a weed whacker, except weeds were zombies.
He took a step forward and slipped on gore. As he felt himself falling, all he could think was how pissed he was that this happened again. Evelyn would give him crap if he admitted to falling three times in one day. He might just edit this part out of the retelling.
If he got a retelling.
He hit hard on his right shoulder and rolled into it, ending up on his back, his club held in front of his face like a defensive shield. They were on him in a matter of seconds.
He hit hard on his right shoulder and rolled into it, ending up on his back, his club held in front of his face like a defensive shield. They were on him in a matter of seconds.
He was exhausted. He could barely hold his club up, but he tried. He kicked an approacing body in the knees, bringing him down, then rolled over and buried the tip of his club into the face. The squelcing sound it made as he buried it in was sickeningly satisfying, but took too much time. Someone landed on his back and pulled at his neck, his shirt.
Rick tugged on the club stuck in the zombie's face, but it budged slowly. He screamed wordlessly and bucked like a horse, headbutting the thing in the face with the back of his skull.
Dave swept in out of nowhere like an angel, his black iron club burying home in the back of its head. Its last dying cough sprayed blood and saliva over the back of Rick's neck. Dave kicked the thing off of his weapon, and Rick looked up.
"Gotcha, buddy. You owe me." Rick shouted with rage and aggression, and whipped the club out of the zombie's head sideways, tearing a gap through its face, and windmilled his arm upward, catching a zombie behind Dave in the jaw, and then with a follow up blow to the skull, crushing it like a rotten watermelon.
Rick straightened himself and wiped his shirt off. "I couldn't pull it out."
Dave smiled. "I bet you fancy yourself the king of England." He turned back towards the room. "We got most of them, save for a few stragglers in there." Rick pointed with his gore-soaked club into the large room ahead of them.
"I see some machinery in there, and a table or something. I don't know." Rick started forward, taking out a straggling zombie before he entered the room. "Looks like a medical station. Or a lab."
Dave came up behind him. "What are we hoping to find out? What caused it? You think it started here? Earls dumped the body, something in here must be bringing them back, right?"
Rick shook his head. "We did our part here, Dave. We've cleaned this place out." He turned around and looked at him. "I know everything I need to know, and we need to get back up there. I have a family. I need to know they're ok."
Dave nodded. "And if they're not?"
Rick started walking back towards the ladder. "Fuck you, Dave, they're fine."
The drive back to town was silent. Rick periodically buzzed the station, hoping for a response, but all he got was silence. He couldn’t escape his own mind, and he leaned his head against the window of the car, closing his eyes.
Evelyn had asked him to call in every once in a while, check up with her. He’d gotten so caught up in his work, he’d forgotten. What if they weren’t ok? That wasn’t something he wanted to think about, but he found himself unable to focus on anything else.
After a while, Dave spoke up. “Do we have a plan? I mean, we didn’t get a good look at the town before we left. The place could be overrun.” He sighed. “And we’re out of ammo. Should we stop at the precinct and pick up some?”
Rick didn’t respond right away. “Rick?”
“Yeah, sorry. I… I don’t know Dave. I think I’m done with this. I’m going to get Bobby and Evelyn, and I think we’re going to leave.”
“Yeah. Move in with my sister for a while or something. Even if everything is alright…” He looked at Dave, then out the windshield. “This town still belongs to the dead.”
The tires of the cruiser crunched lazily along main street. It was eerily silent, empty and devoid. Rick immediately become uncomfortable. “Pick up the speed, Dave. I live off 10th.” He directed his friend towards his house. Unbeknownst to him, his leg started bouncing nervously, and he could feel sweat collecting on his brow.
His house came into view, and he had Dave pull into the driveway behind his Volkswagen. “Pop the trunk. I want the shotgun.” Arming himself with the cruiser’s emergency weapon, Rick turned the front door of the house. The setting sun cast long shadows along his driveway, a tall, solitary figure. He felt a bit like a sentinel.
“Evelyn?” He shouted at the house. “Evelyn, it’s Rick! Are you home?”
Silence. Rick swallowed a knot of air in his throat and looked at Dave, who nodded towards the front door. Rick pumped the shotgun and started in towards the house, motioning for Dave to wait at the car.
The front door was unlocked. This was not a good sign; being a police officer, Rick had everyone in the house in the habit of locking the door at all times, especially if he wasn’t home.
It swung open unencumbered. “Evelyn?” His voice was shaky now, unconfident. The house was still in order; nothing was knocked over, no mess, no signs of a struggle. He cleared his throat and called his wife’s name again. The kitchen, the living room, the downstairs bathroom, the study. All empty. He climbed the stairs steadily, the barrel of the shotgun shaking so bad from left to right he wasn’t sure he could hit anything.
The bathroom, his son’s room, the guest room, the music room, the master bedroom. Once again, all empty. Rick dropped the tip of his gun and breathed a heavy sigh.
He pulled his cell phone and dialed his wife’s number, starting back down the stairs. Ring. Ring. Ring. No answer. This unnerved him. He closed and locked the front door behind him out of habit.
“Is… everything ok?” Dave asked nervously. Rick turned to face him, his face hard and unreadable.
“No one was home. The house was empty.” He raised his cell. “Evelyn isn’t answering, either.”
Dave didn’t say a word, but got back into the car. Rick joined him in the passenger seat, dialing Evelyn’s number again. “I bet she went to my sister’s. That was always our plan; if there was an emergency, she would go to my sister’s and I would meet her there. That’s where I need to go.”
“Well, we’re going back to the precinct. We can replenish our am-“ Dave slammed on the brakes and they both lurched forward. “Look. Over there.” He pointed out the windshield.
Shuffling towards the cruiser was a small child. Rick leaned forward, and his eyes widened.
There was a gash in the girl’s stomach, and everything resembling a vital organ inside of her was spilling outwards like an overflowing grocery bag. Her intestines had begun to unravel and we’re trailing along behind her in the rocks. Dave covered his mouth with has hand. The little girl’s dead and vacant eyes were locked on the car, and she was moving, slowly but steadily, towards them. Rick’s voice wavered.
“The town. It’s been overrun. How… how did this happen so fast? What even fucking happened?!” He slammed his fist hard into the dashboard. “God dammit, what’s going on!”
Dave laid his foot down on the gas, his eyebrows furrowing together tightly, his mouth splitting open into a deathly rictus. “FUCK.” He slammed his foot into the gas and the car roared in defiance. “YOU.” There was a loud thump and a soft squash as the police cruiser rolled over the dead girl with enough force to bring down a wall. She bounced up and hit the windshield, cracking it inwards. Rick covered his face and shouted.
Dave slammed on the brakes and fishtailed the car, swinging it around in a hard 180. Rick clung to the door and kept his eyes shut. The cruiser skidded to a halt, but only for a second, before Dave slammed on the gas again and hit the little girl in the road with as much speed as he could get. Again he slammed on the brakes, but this time he opened the door and got it, running at the girl on the ground. Spittle flew from his mouth as he screamed angrily, sweeping his foot in a high soccer arc, catching the side of her head and splattering it across the road.
Rick climbed out of the car and stood next to it, watching him, unwilling to step forward. He could see his shoulders shaking.
Minutes passed, and Dave turned around, his face once again a mask. “Fuck this city, Rick.”
“No. It’s too late. You need to leave. There’s nothing left for you here in this God-forsaken city. And I mean that literally.” He looked at the headless corpse at his feet. “God’s forgotten about us.” Rick breathed out heavily, unsure of what to say.
“Let’s go, Dave. You can come with me to my sister’s. We’ll figure out what to do from there.”
Dave shook his head. “What’s the point? I’m not married, have no girls. No kids. My parents are gone, and I was an only child. I have nothing left. I was born in this city, and I lived my whole life in this city.” Rick didn’t like this kind of talk. “I need to die in this city.”
Rick started forward. “No, Dave, you don’t. Come on. Let’s get out of here. Everything is fine elsewhere. You can start a new life. It’s just a town.”
Dave drew his empty pistol and looked at it, then reached into his pocket. “You think I want to live in this world, Dave? Do you think I’m young enough that I can adapt to this?” He turned around and stomped down on the corpse of the little girl. “You think we can learn to live alongside these things? I don’t want to live like that, Rick!”
Rick scrambled forwards. “What the fuck are you saying, Dave? This isn’t like you, not at all!”
“How old was I when my parents died, Rick?” Dave asked without turning around.
“Come on, D-“ His friend whipped around, whipping his arm wildly.
“FUCKING TELL ME, RICK! HOW OLD WAS I WHEN THAT DRUNK BASTARD KILLED THEM?”
“I was eight years old, Richard. I was eight when the only two people I had in this world were taken from me. How is that fair?” He sank to his knees in the middle of the street, his back to the bloody corpse. “What kind of world does that to a little kid?”
Rick crouched down in front of his friend, who still refused to cry. “Life throws you curve balls. Sometimes it takes your parents, and sometimes it takes the whole town.”
“You think this is a joke, Rick? You think you can smile and make jokes and I’ll realize you’re right and stand up and everything will be ok?” He pushed Rick away. “My parents were all I had, and they got taken away. After that, all I had was this town, and now that’s in shambles and condemned!” He shot to his feet.
Rick stood up as well, except now he was angry. “You think you’re the only one affected by this, Dave? You think you’re the only one who LOST anything? I don’t know even know if my family is alive anymore! I was right there beside you when this place came tumbling down! In the precinct, I came to FIND you. I risked my life for you! How dare you say you have nothing left!” He pushed Dave now, a harsh shove against his chest. “We’re all watching our lives fall apart."
Dave stared at his friend, his partner, eyes wide, and then furrowed his eyebrows. “Maybe, Rick. Maybe now you’ll feel the pain of loss that I’ve felt.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a single bullet, chambering the round and clicking the slide home. “Maybe now you’ll understand.” He nestled the barrel of the gun into his temple.
Rick’s eyes widened and he stumbled forward, grasping for the gun. “N-“ but was cut off when Dave brought the cold metal of the butt against Rick’s head, knocking him out cold.
The sun hurt Rick’s eyes. The windshield of the police cruiser was dented in and glass dust kept getting all over the dashboard, but he couldn’t find himself able to care. He had woken up less than an hour ago next to the corpse of a little girl, and the much fresher corpse of his best friend David Caruthers.
Rick was now alone. He had no idea how things fell apart so fast. Somehow, between the time he arrested the man in the barn and now. The only other people he had seen besides Caruthers since the coroner came back was those people in the closet. He wondered if they had made it fine, and where they had gone.
He was on the freeway headed north towards his sister’s house, and he had yet to see another car. Every once in a while, the shuffling figure of the walking dead shambled by, making a half-hearted attempt to grab the cruiser.
Rick felt numb. He felt lost, alone, and powerless. He had know idea what was going and if there was anything he could do about it. He dialed Evelyn’s phone again. Straight to voicemail.
Dave had been his best friend for years, and partner for a number of those years. Rick had always felt that the loss of his parents had forged him into a stronger person, which is what made him such a good cop. But this… everything that happened, had broken him down. Rick wasn’t as strong as Dave, and if he broke underneath the threat of eternal loneliness, what chance did Rick have?
Then again, Dave had no one to live for.
Rick’s thoughts turned once again to Evelyn and Bobby, and he focused away from the suicide and back towards his sister’s house.
The closer he approached to the big city, the more undead he saw. They shuffled quietly, alone or in droves, ignoring his car. The sight of so many made Rick’s heart heavy. He didn’t have any guns in his car. There was an emergency hatchet in the trunk, but that was it.
He approached the street his sister’s house was on and stopped the car. He counted no less than 20 shuffling corpses loitering around the area, so he equipped himself with the hatchet. He was in no mood to fight, but he could see the house up ahead, and he’d do what it took to get there.
The good thing about zombies was that they weren’t particularly fast. Rick used this to his advantage, jogging ahead. A few were close enough to take a brave swipe, but a hammer-strong blow from his hatchet put that to rest. The pick on the other end of the blade worked perfectly, penetrating skulls like a hot knife butter. Rick hated that analogy. He could not ever imagine a situation where someone would be handling a hot knife, but it seemed apropos here.
He made it to the driveway without consequence, and turned around. He’d drawn their attention, and they were shuffling towards him. Slowly, but they were dogged in their approach. A large group had somehow been alerted on the other end of the street, and they were making their way over as well. He turned back to the house.
“Evelyn!” He shouted. His voice was strung thin with desperation. “Bobby! Larissa!”
He swore he heard crickets over the moaning. He started towards the doorway, when he realized it was slightly ajar. Once again, his heart sunk. He couldn’t count how many times this had happened.
“Fuck.” He swore, bounding up the steps of the front porch and kicking the door in.
“Evelyn! Bobby! Larissa!” He heard something upstairs. Footsteps. “Hello?”
He rushed the stairs, taking them three at a time, his hatchet forgotten on the floor. “It’s me, Rick!”
He reached the top of the stairs and slid to a halt. His sister was standing at the other end of the hallway, staring at him.
What was left of her, anyway. It looked like she’d gone down hard. Her clothes were ripped all to hell, and her left arm was gone entirely. Her jaw was hanging off of one hinge, and she began her lurch forward.
Rick doubled over and emptied the contents of his stomach for the second time. Straightening, he stared his sister in her rotting face.
“Where’s Evelyn?” She didn’t respond, just lawled forward, her one arm raised. “Where is she? Did she come here?” Larissa continued forward, and Rick grew angrier.
“You’re my sister, Larissa. We’ve always had each other’s backs. Always. If they were here or called you, you need to tell me.” Silence. Rick realized tears were streaming down his face. He touched his cheek.
After all that had happened, he’d not had time to cry. He couldn’t find time to slow down enough to let the weight of his situation pull him down, but here he was sobbing. Perhaps it was the dead sight of his sister. Perhaps it was the knowledge that he may never find Evelyn and Bobby. Maybe it was the helplessness, the feeling of a rat lost in a maze with no prize. Maybe it was being alone, or having no idea what happened, or where these things were coming from. He shook his head and screamed.
He screamed until his throat ripped and he could feel blood in his mouth. He screamed until his lungs collapsed inwards. He screamed until his vision turned red and his fingers shook and his knees weakened.
Rick had been unable to bring himself to kill his sister. She was already dead, she didn’t deserve to be killed again. Instead, he locked the door behind him. She would stay in that house forever.
He had no way of finding his wife and son. She had not answered any of the 36 calls he’d made, and they weren’t at his sister’s, now a mausoleum. He could not imagine… he cleared his throat. He could not imagine they were still alive.
He stepped off of the porch, his hatchet in hand. He wiped sweat from his brow. As far as he knew, he was the only person alive. Perhaps on the entire planet. The zombies had gathered around the house now, swarming in like flies to a light. He braced his foot behind him.
If he was the last person alive on the entire planet, that means he was all that was left. He deserved life more than a corpse did. He deserved this planet more than a corpse did.
He hefted his hatchet in one hand, growling.
This was HIS world now.
Author Information: Soapdish
Story Title or Titles: C.S.I. Raccoon City (working title)
Original Source: 4chan, /x/ imageboard
Date: Unknown. Posted by Kain Pathos Crow at the Foundation wiki on 27 Sep 2008.