Sunday, 1 July 2012

NoHo Noir: There is no Contingency Plan

There is no Contingency Plan for the Zombie Apocalypse
Written by Katherine Tomlinson
Illustration by Mark Satchwill

It was 101 degrees outside but Esme had cracked the car’s window to avoid breathing in the stale alcohol fumes her partner was breathing out. The metabolized bourbon mixed with toxic levels of garlic from the pizza he’d eaten at lunch had formed an almost visible aura around him. The smell was so thick she wondered if it would explode if she flicked her lighter.
Some days she really missed smoking.
“We should all go out sometime,” Edgar said, for at least the fourth time since they’d clocked in. He was newly hooked up with a skanky badge bunny he’d met in a bar and was looking for validation for the relationship. Considering he’d thrown away four years of sobriety to be with his new love, Esme was not a big fan. She already knew more than she wanted to about “Lucinda” from the pictures on Edgar’s cell and the stories he chose to relate.
She didn’t even listen to the stories anymore, just nodded or grunted every once in awhile.
“You’re not listening Esme,” Edgar said.
“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve got a little bit of a headache.”
“Caffeine withdrawal,” Edgar suggested smugly. He drank Maker’s Mark like it was mother’s milk but didn’t like coffee. She had tried to be inconspicuous about her attempts to cut back on coffee in the wake of a scare with some breast cysts, but Edgar had noticed and driven her nuts with questions until she finally admitted what she was doing.
She was about to say something scathing about there not being sobriety chips for caffeine when the call came over the radio.
“Dispatch, say again,” Edgar said.
“You heard me Edgar,” the dispatcher said, in total violation of protocol. “You’d better get over there fast. The uni who called it in sounded pretty freaked out.”
Esme was already turning the car around.
“It was only a matter of time before they showed up in Los Angeles,” Edgar said.
“There is no ‘they,’ Edgar,” Esme said.
“You saw the memo, same as me,” he insisted.
“This is L.A.,” Esme said, “somebody’s shooting a movie.”
Edgar made a noise that sounded like “humph.”
Esme sighed. It was bad enough that everyone on the force had been working overtime on the homeless serial killer case. When the stories started coming in about cannibal attacks and zombies eating dogs, and the shift briefings started including warnings about designer drugs, everything got amped up another notch.
She knew Edgar was just clowning around to annoy her but some of the kids actually believed zombies were real.
But then, Esme guessed she couldn’t blame them when news stories were actually reporting that voters thought President Obama was better suited to leading the country in the face of an alien attack than Mitt Romney.
In the face of an alien attack, God help us, Esme thought.
“I wonder if it’s a fast zombie,” Edgar said.

When Esme and Edgar got to the park, there was a crowd milling around an officer who was unsuccessfully trying to set a perimeter.  Two guys were kneeling on the ground with their hands clasped behind their heads. One was wearing full-on zombie makeup, the other had gory “wound” makeup on his neck and torso.
The zombie was crying.
One of the uniforms saw Esme and Edgar approaching and double-timed it over to them.
“What’s going on?” Esme asked.
“Ah, coupla kids were filming without a permit and …”
“You’re the one who called it in?” Edgar asked.
“Yes sir,” the kid said, blushing.
“Outstanding,” Edgar said and patted the kid on the shoulder as he made his way to the center of the scrum.
“I didn’t see any equipment,” the cop said sheepishly. “They were using lipstick cams. And people had called 911 claiming there was a guy in the park eating someone else’s face.”
His voice trailed off. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Esme wanted to tell him that it could have happened to anyone but she just wasn’t feeling it.
She started toward the two wannabe Tarantinos but then something on the edge of the crowd caught her eye.
A fat girl in a too-small halter top was struggling with a skinny guy who seemed to be trying to pull it off.
People were edging away from them but no one was moving to intervene. The girl was screaming but there didn’t seem to be real fear in it.
Esme read the two as a couple but you never could tell. The girl was slapping at the guy with what looked like real force.
Esme started toward them but Edgar got there first. He grabbed the skinny guy and shook him like pitbull shaking a kitten.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Edgar yelled.
Edgar had a low tolerance for men who abused women. Normally Esme found that one of his best features but she didn’t like the idea that he was breathing alcohol into the face of a citizen who might later want to make a report.
“You like hurting girls?” Edgar demanded.
The skinny guy just gawked at Edgar, flailing his arms and trying to jerk out of his grip.
“Stop it,” the fat girl cried. “You’re hurting him.”
Shit, Esme thought. Just another couple into exhibition-style foreplay.
Esme slowed her roll just as the skinny guy reached into Edgar’s coat and pulled his weapon right out of its holster.
Edgar made a grab for the gun but the skinny guy danced back, balancing the heavy gun in both hands, pointing it directly at Edgar’s face.
Later, Esme would not even remember pulling her own gun, but she would remember spreading her feet into a regulation shooting stance and calling out, “Drop the gun now!”
The skinny guy didn’t react but by now the fat girl had realized that something really bad was about to go down.
“Put it down Cory,” she yelled.
“Listen to your girlfriend Cory,” Esme echoed.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Cory said with a sneer, not moving to comply with Esme’s orders.
Out of the corner of her eye Esme caught the girl’s reaction to his statement.
He’s hurt her feelings, she thought. And now he’s not going to do what she asked because he has to show that she is not the boss of him.
Whoever she is.
Esme was still processing this when she saw Cory’s finger tighten on the trigger. “No,” she yelled and fired at the same moment Edgar lunged for the gun.
Her partner’s shoulder exploded in a mist of tissue, bone and blood.
Cory dropped the gun and staggered back, his face covered with splattered gore.
He looks just like a zombie,” Esme thought.

1 comment:

  1. Nice mix of the current rage with classic Tomlinson NoHo Noir. Well written as always. And so the natural question... what happens next?