Fighting the Dead:The Last Town #4By: Stephen Knight
“You know what I mean! Calling a meeting at the end of the business day is preposterous!”
Corbett shrugged. “Special circumstances, Hector. Special circumstances.” He looked at Booker. “Up to you guys to figure that out. Circling back to weapons training: I’ll ask Danielle Kennedy to assist, since she has all the training we need and pretty much everyone knows her. For advanced training”—Corbett pointed to the men sitting in the auditorium behind him—“we have some skilled personnel to turn to, as well. But it would be better if we were to notify the townspeople and let them know the reasons for doing all of this, and like I’ve already said, the sooner the better.”
Hector started to bloviate again but was interrupted by the radio Grady wore on his belt. “Fourteen, copy.”
“Sorry,” Grady said as he reached for the microphone clipped to his left shoulder. “Fourteen, go ahead.”
“Fourteen, reported 10-50 at the two-mile marker on 395. Corrections bus from upstate. Can’t get through to the Highway Patrol. J four.”
Grady raised his brows. “Ten four. Clear and direct.” He got to his feet and looked over at Booker. “Sorry, gotta go. Some sort of traffic incident involving a bus.”
“A corrections bus?” Corbett asked. “Prisoner transport?”
Grady shrugged as he walked around the table. “Don’t know. I guess the other guys are busy, so I won’t know anything until I get out there.”
Corbett turned and looked at his bodyguards. One of them nodded and stood up, moving to form up on Grady. “You want some company, Chief?”
“No,” Grady said. “I don’t. But before I go, when were you considering this ‘weapons training,’ and where did you want to hold it?”
“On my land. I’ve got fourteen acres, and a big berm laid out to keep any stray rounds from going anywhere but into the desert,” Corbett said.
Grady nodded and looked back at Booker. “I’d let him do it, Max. It’s not going to hurt anything.”
“I’ll take that under advisement,” Booker said. “You sure you don’t need some help?”
Grady shot him a thumbs-up and continued walking toward the door. “I’m good to go.”
Sinclair watched as Los Angeles slowly died and became resurrected. That was the wonderful thing about twenty-four-hour news channels, the truth was always exposed—or, he well knew, at least what part of the truth fit the agenda. He had no idea whose agenda might include broadcasting the rise of the shambling dead, but it was on the telly, and Sinclair never passed up the opportunity to stay abreast of current affairs.
And current affairs told him that Los Angeles was beginning to die, just like New York had, and Washington, and Philadelphia, and countless other US cities. He had tuned in mostly to find out about what was happening in New York, and had been momentarily pleased to see his condominium building, the revered 15 Central Park West, silhouetted against a smoke-filled sky but still standing tall and proud over Central Park. A Central Park that was full of military helicopters that were being overrun by legions of dead. Sinclair had watched in horrified fascination as the video feed continued to broadcast over a satellite link, even though the camera—doubtless mounted to a new station remote unit—had long been abandoned. Creeping figures tottered across the park’s Great Lawn, overwhelming guards by sheer numbers alone. And interspersed here and there were faster ones, those who hadn’t been damaged too badly in their transition from life to death. They could still move, and fast. They didn’t seem to tire and slowed only when they were hit by a hail of bullets, or fell upon a living person. When that happened, the dead mounded over their unfortunate quarry, ripping it to pieces. Sinclair watched as the dead surged aboard running helicopters, ignoring the gunfire, savaging their crews. Two helicopters lifted off, but several of the dead managed to get aboard one of them. The aircraft heeled over and crashed back to the ground, its slashing rotors obliterating several zombies before it came to a halt. In what seemed to be seconds, the aircraft was overrun by a tidal wave of necrotic bodies, and the zombies flailed about as they each tried to gain their pound of flesh.
Sinclair knew then that he would never return to 15 Central Park West.
But now, the news was mostly about Los Angeles. The City of Angels was more spread out than the Big Apple, so the disease grew more slowly. But it did spread, until the local authorities couldn’t contain it anymore. A great herd of the dead shuffled along Interstate 405, attacking stranded motorists caught in the nearly motionless traffic, a great conga line eating its way to the north while another moved to the south. Several California Highway Patrol vehicles were overwhelmed, the patrolmen there killed as they tried to flee, their bodies illuminated by the sporadic flashes of emergency lights. News helicopters captured everything, zooming in so Sinclair could watch as the patrolmen met the most grisly of fates in full 720p, which was the highest resolution the blasted hotel’s television could manage. It was enough. By the end of it, Sinclair felt himself sickened by what he had seen.