The Case of the Coming Dead

The body belonged to Timothy Gibson, small town punk known in his youth for street racing and gambling. Now in his mid-30s he’s lying dead on a farm just outside my town. Three bullet wounds to the chest and a bloody baseball bat lying next to the body are all the evidence I need for cause of death. The bat was smeared with blood all the way down to the grip. As I looked closer I noticed the girl hit hard enough that strands of Gibson’s red hair stuck in the cracks.

“What did Mr. Chase say?” She asked without looking from her equipment.

“Pretty much what he said to the uniform; mainly that Mr. Gibson here appeared at his window about an hour ago demanding to be let in. Chase told him to get out and off the property. Perp didn’t, he fired. That’s the bullet holes in the main window. Gibson stayed on his feet and Chase went out onto the lawn to finish him. That is when Gibson got on top of him and got him to the ground. The granddaughter, Josie, heard the gunshots, woke and found the two wrestling. He says she then came out with the bat and beat Gibson’s head in. This seems pretty open shut, don’t you think?”

“They say never make assumptions, each case is different.”

“How’s the old man holding up?”

“Fine, under the circumstances, he seems more worried about the kid though.”

“I don’t understand this,” Jane said.

“What’s up?” I ask, almost absentmindedly as I write details of the bat in my notepad.

“The liver temperature. According to this he’s already dead.”

I turn to her wondering what she means by that. “Isn’t that obvious? If he were alive you wouldn’t be here.”

“No shit,” she starts. She looks around again, scratching her neck, a motion she does when she’s confused on something. “It’s not that. I know he’s dead. According to Chase this guy starting banging on the windows no more than three hours ago. That’s when they started fighting and the granddaughter, Josie, beat his head in with the bat.”

“OK?”

“But his liver temp, the way it reads. Rick, it says he’s been dead for seven hours already.”

“Could there be something wrong with the equipment?”

“I don’t think so. I mean it could be. I mean hope so, otherwise it he rose from the dead and attacked a family. I’ll know more at autopsy,” She says.

“Other than issues with the equipment is there anything else I should know?”

About a week had passed between Tim Gibson’s death and Jason Mulroney’s visit to the station. In the previous week I had returned to the farm and interviewed Josie Chase, who pretty much recounted her grandfather’s order of events.

Mulroney arrived at seven o’clock as I was getting ready to go home, having finished my paperwork early for once. Nevertheless I led the man over to my desk, pulled out a chair and gestured. At first I wasn’t really sure about what to make of the man in a blue satin L.A. Dodgers jacket, wrinkled Darth Vader t-shirt and oily blue jeans. His black hair looked more like a mane than a haircut and hung around his sharp narrow face, making him look like a witch.

“Have a seat Mr.?”

“Mulroney. Jason Mulroney,” He said with a wide grin of perfect white teeth, extending his hand. We sat down.

“OK, Mr. Mulroney. What can I do for you?” I asked, pulling out my notepad and wrote Mulroney’s name on the top of the page.

“I represent a group called the Zombie Awareness League, or ZAL.” He passed me a small business card with the address and phone number printed on the front. I glanced at the card and put it into a coffee cup with pens and a variety of business cards collected over the years. ‘ËœThe Zombie Awareness League’ I thought, waiting for the man to laugh and admit to one of my friend’s putting him up to it.

“The Zombie Awareness League?” I said aloud, trying to let the ridiculous sounding name sink in.

“Zombie? Like the living dead?”

“You don’t believe me.” He remarked.

“Not particularly. What exactly are you here for?”

“I believe I have some information regarding one of your cases.”

“And which one would that be?”

“The Tim Gibson case.”

“The attack on Chase Farm?”

“Yes, Detective.”

“That’s a closed case, sir. Mr. Chase and his granddaughter were attacked and-“

“That’s not what happened, at least, not the whole of what happened.”

“So you’re saying he wasn’t the one who attacked the Chases?”

“He was. But his attacks weren’t simply assault and a failed robbery. Prior to the incident at Chase Farm, Tim was working with us in regards to reports of zombie activity in your area. As you know he was a native of the town and he felt his knowledge of the area could benefit us once we learned there was, what we call, a Massive forming on the outskirts and beginning to move inwards.”

“I’m still having a hard time believing all this, Mr. Mulroney. This is a fascinating story and I’m sure it would make for an intriguing Twilight Zone or X-Files somewhere, but in here we deal with facts and evidence. Not horror stories made from you and your friend’s imaginations.”

“I have proof,” he said suddenly before pulling a glossy black and white photograph from his bag and slaps it on my desk. “Look at this photograph.”

‘ËœHumor him,’ I thought to myself. ‘ËœLook at the photos, and say some bullshit about checking into it before gently ushering him out the door. The photograph was a crowd of people, roughly 30 or so, inside a small store. I recognized the store’s interior from an arson I helped the fire chief look into 3 months ago. The fire claimed the lives of twenty people. Who set the fire, and why the people didn’t escape, is still up to some debate.

“What am I looking for?” I asked, genuinely at a loss for what I was looking at.

“You’re the detective, detect,” he exclaimed.

It was at that moment that noticed three things; the date at the bottom reading, the clock on the back wall and a man standing directly under it. The date and time matched the findings of the investigation, which meant that this photograph was taken just an hour prior to the blaze.

“The fire at Reed’s Grocery wasn’t arson? It was somehow zombie related?”

“Very good. We could use someone of your caliber on our team. You’re someone whose presence could give us more credence to the public.”

“I’m sure you could. But tell me this; if the US government is aware of this so-called ‘ËœComing’, then why not simply tell us. Why not just tell us outright.”

“It already has. Just last week the CDC released guideline on how to cope in case of a Zombie emergency. Sure, it’s presented as tongue-in-cheek, but its message is all together real. As for why they don’t do a media blitz, I’m sure it’s for public safety.”

“Wouldn’t it do more harm to not warn the people?”

“What, and risk what happened with the War of the Worlds fiasco in the 1930’s? No, the government learned its lesson’s from that one.”

“Orson Welles was working on behalf of the government — “

“Of course, why else would was it presented as news bulletins. It was a test, you see, to discern how the public would react to when something like this would happen. It was at that point that they decided the ‘Ëœless is more’ approach.”

“The uprising will happen, detective,” he says with confidence. “You have two choices; you can join us and help fight or you can sit back and watch more of your town be destroyed. You should take a drive to that farm. I think you’ll find that Tim Gibson was just the beginning.”

I tried the Chase farm three more times with them all going into the same message. “Son of a bitch,” I muttered as I grabbed ZAL’s card before going after heading out.

About a half hour later I found myself parked outside the house owned by Jeremy Chase. As expected the house was in complete darkness. As I turned the car around I caught a glimpse of a figure leaned up against the white siding. I stopped the car and turned back around to focus my head lights on the figure. It was then I noticed the figure was a girl, no older than 14, wearing a loose fitting Disneyland t-shirt and jean skirt. Even with her hair over her face I recognized her as Josie Chase, the owner’s granddaughter. I got out of the car and headed toward the girl.

“Josie?”

When I reached her I put my hands on her shoulders and the girl let out a painful whimper. Slowly the girl lifted her face toward me. She looked toward me with an expression that seemed puzzled, as though she recognized me but couldn’t exactly place from where.

“Josie, its Detective Campbell. Eric Campbell. Do you remember me?”

“Camp — bell..” she repeats. A small smile creases across her face. I move my hand off her shoulders and find it covered in a thick black. Josie grabs my clean hand and squeezes hard.

“Hurts,” she says looking directly into my eyes.

“What hurts?”

“Back.” She turns herself around and I see the entire back of her shirt covered in the same black stuff that had come off my hand. Only it wasn’t on her shirt, but rather coming through her shirt. Slowly I lift the back of her shirt and as I do so inadvertently pull off pieces of flesh as her back is covered in similar spots of necrosis similar to those of Gibson. I pull the shirt down and assure her I’ll get her help.

I put the girl in the back of my car, knowing there was only one place to take her. As I drove back out the dirt road leading from the farm I could made out shapes in the fields on either side, vaguely human, their inhuman moans and howls echoing through my sanity as the crimson moon hung low against the pitch black sky.