I couldn’t stop my fingers from trembling. Not as they shifted from 2nd to 3th gear, not as they fiddled with the radio, not as I wrung them again and again, urging the movement to stop. I hated the power he had. I hated how easily he could get to me. How easily he could make my heart pound with rage and fear. How easily he could remind me that I was his to abuse. One day I would show him what it was like to be afraid.
I adjusted in my seat, sitting more erect, shoulders pressed back, breath drawn in. “One….” I licked my lips and drew in another deep breath, “Two…..” I felt my pulse calm, the tremors in my hands lessening for the first time in 15 miles. I felt my lips lift into the soft suggestion of a grin.“Three.”
I glanced into the rear view mirror, meeting my own reflection with a determined nod. My moment of weakness, of feeling, was passed; the job at hand regaining my attention. I opened the glovebox and retrieved my department issue phone. 12 missed calls.
“Holy shit.” I muttered to myself, eyes lifting from screen to road and back, the traffic moving slow enough that I felt I could scan the messages without risking a collision. I tapped the screen twice to dial out, and was met with the voicemail recording of my supervisor. I hung up, and dialed again. 5 minutes of trying to no avail, and I changed the number. An instant later the watch commander answered.
“Lieutenant Harrison.” He sounded distracted.
“Good morning, Lieutenant, its detective Chase. I am trying to make contact with Lieutenant Marshall. Is he available?”
My ears perked up at the sounds of sirens in the distance, but despite my maneuvering to get a better view, I couldn’t see any movement beyond the sea of cars ahead of me. Wherever they were going, they wouldn’t make it quickly.
“He is in the field. St. Anthony’s hospital on Harmon Ave. You have a radio on you detective?”
“I can dig it out, yes Sir.” I answered, reaching to retrieve the warbag with one eye still on the road.
“I recommend you turn it on, Detective. Let us know if you don’t make contact.” The call ended. I tossed the cell onto the passenger seat and rifled through the hastily packed bag for my radio. Finding the cool plastic I tugged it from its place and clicked it on, almost recoiling with the barrage calls that poured, scratchy and muffled, from the tiny black speaker.
“David 36 to Lincoln 3.” I spoke clearly as soon as a moment of silence allowed me to do so. No answer. I tried again. “David 36, Lincoln 3.” Nothing.
“Dispatch, David 36.”
“36, go ahead.” Came the prompt, but exhausted answer.
“I'll be enroute to Lincoln 3’s location. Please send call notes.”
“Copy 36.” Dispatch answered. The beep of a delivered message rose from my phone. I scanned it. The hospital had requested assistance with a few violent patients. Not something that would usually warrent the attention of a lieutenant. I knit my brow, flipping the switch to the blue and red lights concealed in the grill of the jeep, and passing a line of cars on the right until I could reach the next exit. The chorus of honks did not deter. Marshall could yell at me when I got there.
For what felt like an eternity, I wove through cars and pedestrians, all panicked, all going nowhere in particular. The drug induced stupor, that we in the department refered to as 'the Zeke issue' that caused random, and often violent behavior, had put the entire country on edge. But this? It couldn't be related to all that. I was never one to underestimate the mob, years of social psychology and police work had ingrained that lesson thoroughly enough, but neither had I expected them to come out in such full force over so little. A few people had been bitten, no one I knew of was dead; it was hardly the worst epidemic the world had faced. Yet the air felt heavy with worry. It seemed any instant the traffic jam would turn to looting, the looting into burning, and instant by instant the entire city would combust into chaos. Perhaps I was just being paranoid.
I glanced over my shoulder in the direction of Woodridge, the hospital in which Caroline was living. I couldn’t see it, its extensive estate nearly 30 miles outside the city limits, but took comfort in the fact that there was no twisting smoke rising from it either. They were well hidden away. No mob was close enough to damage her. I took the driveway reserved for emergency vehicles and filed into the overfilled parking lot of St. Anthony’s Hospital. People poured in and out of the main entrances like ants, pushing wheel chairs, carrying supplies.
“Dispatch, David 36. I’m out at St. Anthony’s. Requesting code 3 backup. It appears looting has begun.” I spoke into the radio’s mic without waiting for their response.
“David 36. Be advised, 10 units are already inside. Further backup is unavailable at this time."
I tossed the radio aside to slip on the heavy Kevlar vest I kept stored under my seat. I opted to secure my sidearm in a holster at my hip, storing the shoulder holster in the warbag. I wanted as much movement as I could manage, and the vest always made it difficult to use. Clipping the radio on the opposite hip, and the mic on my shoulder I took a moment to debate how I should proceed. I landed on cautiously, and opened the door.
I slipped my cell into my pocket and zipped up the war bag, securing it under my seat where the vest had been. I locked the car and with badge displayed and adrenaline peaked, moved with light but deliberate steps toward the main entrance.
The inside was chaos comparatively. People lined up at the information desk, crying, screaming, demanding. Nurses fought to keep patients from leaving, some still attached to IV’s even as they fled.
I lifted onto my toes, eyes searching over the crowd for any brothers in blue who might be scattered throughout the crowd. BAM BAM BAM.
The masses collectively dropped, scrambling on hands and knees, ducking for cover as the shots rang off the high ceilings. My pistol was in hand before I realized it, my back pressed against the wall. “David 36, shots fired! shots fired!” I called into the mic.
An officer backed into view, shooting down the hallway from which he had appeared. His arms and face were bloody, the AR15 in hand loosing repeating 3 round bursts.
I ducked low and approached with caution, “Detective coming from your right.” I called over, being sure I was heard and understood before closing the distance. He looked at me panicked, “Help me bar the doors! They’re coming! They’re coming!”
He let the AR drop to his side and bolted toward the double doors. I obeyed, careful to stay out of the line of fire as I peaked around the corner, surprised the Officer was not using the same precaution. Like a flood the group moved. Hands bloody, bodies distorted, moving at a pace that made every cell in my body scream to bar the doors. I pulled them shut, and jammed the locking mechanism in place.
The officer, still shaking, pulled his cuffs from his belt, securing one to each handle in a makeshift lock. “Get out! Get out now!” He screamed to the room of terrified onlookers. The room cleared with no further encouragement.
I grabbed the officer by the shoulders, spinning him to look at me. “Where is Lieutenant Marshall?” I ordered, hoping the pure force behind my voice would bring him to reality, if only for a moment. The doors behind me rattled on their hinges.
“We have to go!” The officer urged, tugging me toward the exit. I glanced over my shoulder, watching the door struggle under the force of so many hands.
“Where is Lieutenant Marshall?” I asked again, keeping pace now without his urging.
“Dead!” He screamed, “All dead! Every one of them! The Zekes. Oh God, the Zekes.”
We reached the outer doors, and when the last of the others had fled, locked the entrance behind us. “The Zekes? No, this isn’t,”
“I know what I saw! The bitten. They are violent, moving like I have never seen, oh God, oh God.” He shook his head, still backing away from the locked doors. “We need to get out now! We need to,”
The officer’s back hit the ground with a thud. The two searching hands of the patient tearing into his throat with the same relentless force that had yanked him from his feet. Without a word I put two rounds into the attacker's chest, the full weight of his now lifeless form slumping onto the officer. I dropped beside him, shoving his attacker aside with one braced push.
The wound was too wide, too deep. I pressed my hands into him all the same, blood pouring between my fingers with each fading heartbeat. His eyes, blue and filling with tears searched mine in horror. I could hear, I could feel, the gurgling of his last breath.
I stood, wiping my brow with my wrist, searching for whomever might try and pull me off my feet and tear into me. “Fuck." I whispered.
“Officer down.” I spoke into the mic, hearing the autopilot in my own voice, wondering why I didn't hear sirens,“St. Anthony’s is in lock down. We need,”
The doors of the main entrance shook, the faces of the violent pressed against the glass, clawing, slamming. I took the AR15 from the officer, shoving two spare magazines from his belt into my pocket. I turned on my heel and started toward the jeep in a sprint.