This is a prequel, rolled out in installments, to my first book “Blood-Soaked and Contagious“. The lovely revived people here are graciously allowing me to post it for your enjoyment. My plan is to drop about 1000 words on you every week. Please feel free to comment, email me, or follow me on Twitter @crawford4033.
Just to get you up to speed, the setting is Arlington, Virginia—right across the Potomac river from Washington, DC. Zombies started showing up about a year before the events of the prequel. Martial law was lifted six months after the world went to hell, mostly because it wasn’t helping and the soldiers were needed elsewhere.
So, without further interruption…
Long Haired Zombie-Killing Freak #1
“He hangs out in the dumpster next door to our building.” She was trying to speak to me calmly, but her cool was fraying at the edges. “He brings…people…back to the dumpster.”
“Horrible noises?” I asked, quietly, trying not to disturb her too much. Poking fragile people means you get lots of client shards all over the floor.
“Yes,” she breathed, clutching her jacket, “the noises are horrible.”
“Worse than hot sex two doors down in a small dorm?”
Why in the world did I ask her that? You would think that after a year of freelance zombie execution, I would have more tact. Unfortunately, I have about as much tact as my targets do.
“What?” Her carefully shadowed eyes opened horribly wide. For a moment, sitting there dumbstruck, she looked like a Yorkie Terrier with a thyroid condition.
“Right. So. Horrible noises, you say?” I scratched my head. I hadn’t bathed in about four days. Water and electricity weren’t regularly available…unless it rained and you walked outside with a long metal pole, cursing God.
“Yes.” She seemed a little more at ease, back on the comfortable footing of simple questions.
“I’m going to assume, since you came here to Marvin’s bar—looking for me—you’d like me to come and kill your noisy neighbor.”
“Yes. But it’s a zombie…aren’t they already dead?”
“Well, it’s a philosophical issue as much as anything… They were dead. Now they’re not.” I shrugged, and took a sip of my beer. “They’ve got a heartbeat, neural activity, and they bleed pretty well. They’re also wicked fast, and their fingernails have thickened into claws, usually.”
“They eat people!”
Miss Malley was starting to fray for the second or third time. Most people, a year into the slow-form zombie apocalypse, didn’t dress as well as my potential client, or walk around without a dust mask on. She either still had money and position, or she was bug-fuck crazy. My instinctual jury was still in recess about her.
“They smell and they eat people!”
“They do, indeed. They eat people who are infected with the virus. The people they eat come back to life as zombies themselves.” I nodded. “That’s how it goes.”
“But they’re not people anymore!”
“I’d have to say the jury is still out on that issue. They don’t give a rat’s ass about working, but they’ve got all their memories from before they died.” I could tell I wasn’t doing anything to make her feel more secure.
“Sh. Relax. Drink your drink.” I patted the back of her hand with my fingertips.
“Will you kill it?” Her question came out as a teary whimper. “Please, will you come and kill it?”
I’m a practical man. There was something I wanted to know before I accepted the job.
“How will I be compensated for risking my life to rid you of a loud, messy, pest?”
Louise Malley’s eyes started to track properly at the mention of payment for my services. Perhaps payment was a concept she was more comfortable with than re-murdering people. Who can say? Not I.
“What do you usually charge?” She actually squeezed her arms together, making her bosom plump up between the halves of her jacket. It looked like two Chinese pork buns mating.
Not unappetizing, but not what I had in mind.
“Well, Miss Malley, in these turbulent times when cash is mostly useless, I prefer hard goods. I don’t know how things are for you, but we subsist on trading around here.”
“You want,” she heaved a sigh and batted her eyes, “something in trade?”
“Yes. Durable goods. Food. Medicine. Gas.” I admit, I was frustrated with her and slightly turned on by the idea of a good…trade. “Your breasts are making my beard fluffy, but I really need supplies more than a roll in the hay.”
“Oh. Well.” She sighed, deflating the mating buns, along with my heart. “Do you know the hardware store up the street?”
“Yes, the one that was secured so well that no one can break into it.”
Whoever had locked the place down did it with welded steel plate. I looked it over once, thinking I could pull the trade goods sword from the stone and be king of all bartering. Maybe, if I had a source for plastic explosives, I could have made my way inside. Without a big bada-boom or heavy equipment, there was no way.
“My family owns that building. If you kill this thing, we will remove the security measures, and you can have the store.” She smiled and it was wicked. “You can have the store and everything inside. Of course, you’ll have to discourage looting on your own.”
I would have kissed her, but the speed of her changing mood made me restrain myself. Somewhere, hidden in all this, was a catch. No one, and I mean no one, gives away something that valuable for zombie removal.
Unfortunately for me, even with a catch, the offer was too good to refuse.
“Miss Malley, you have a deal.”
She smiled at me with perfect, straight, brilliant white teeth. Her grey eyes sparkled with genuine…something…and she held out her hand to get a “team spirit” shake from me. I let her have it, European-style: a single shake.
“Mr. Stewart, I am so grateful! We will sleep better at night, knowing this thing is gone!” My client gushed. “When we can we expect you? As soon as possible, I hope!”
“I’m free tomorrow. I will need an address from you, otherwise, I’ll be wandering around like an idiot.”
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry!” Miss Malley pulled a sheet of paper from her jacket, giving me a tantalizing glimpse of her dim sum cleavage. “This is the address. We’re on Clarendon Boulevard at 2300. The dumpster is in the alley near 2350.”
I knew the address. Prior to the world going to pot, it was a hot address for young Politicos and high-paid employees of government contractors that were thick on the ground in Rosslyn and Arlington. My favorite steakhouse used to be across the street. There were cold nights when I dreamed of their dry-aged Delmonico, a heavy red wine, and creamed spinach.
Like so many things, it didn’t survive the first riots and subsequent martial law.
©James Crawford, 2012