Waiting for the Dead:The Last Town #3(10)

By: Stephen Knight



“What in the hell is wrong with this car?” Sinclair muttered.

“Just stop, Jock,” Meredith said wearily as the lights of the center of town came into view.

“Where, Meredith? Where would you like me to stop?” Sinclair almost shouted.

Meredith pointed out the windshield. “Right there. That looks as good a place as any.”

Sinclair looked in the direction she indicated. A long, low-slung, vaguely horseshoe-shaped building the color of burnt orange sat in the darkness. The sign proclaimed it was the Trail’s End Motel, and in smaller text, Sinclair was informed that every room had HBO, a bathtub, and an ironing board.

What’s more, a smaller sign glowed in the darkness like a happy afterthought: VACANCY.

“You want to stay in a roach motel?” Sinclair was aghast at the prospect. “Meredith, darling, when was the last time anything less than a twelve-hundred-thread count set of sheets came into contact with your sacrosanct skin?” he asked, even though he was more worried about his own skin coming into contact with anything with a thread count south of five hundred ten.

The Ghibli bucked again, almost throwing Sinclair against his seat belt. He cursed. Meredith sighed.

“We don’t have much of a choice, Jock,” she said, the perfect picture of reason. “I really don’t think we’re going much farther.”

“Damn this!” Sinclair shouted. He wrenched the wheel to the right, and the Maserati labored to get into the parking lot. He barely made it to the curb before the expensive car stalled with a lingering rattle. Try as he may, Sinclair couldn’t get the vehicle to restart. Frustrated, he collapsed back into the driver’s seat and regarded the sign towering over him.

“Every room has an ironing board,” he said, bitterly.

“You’d better hurry,” Meredith said. “With our luck, there’s probably only one room left.”

Sinclair looked up as a two-door Jeep pulled into the parking lot. He threw open the door and lunged to get out, but the seat belt held him fast. He unlocked it with a curse and pulled himself out of the Ghibli’s opulent interior. His lower back was stiff and painful, despite the driver’s seat premium padded bolster. Growling in pain, he broke into a jog, heading for the motel office.

“Damn this!” he said again. “Free HBO and ironing boards—damn this!”



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA



Reese was relieved of duty at two in the morning with orders to report back to the hospital by eight. He was also instructed to board an LAPD bus and head back to Hollywood Station to report the day’s activities. As Reese slogged his way aboard the waiting bus, he knew there was no chance of going home tonight—he wouldn’t be getting anywhere fast due to the gridlock. Even if he did manage to make it back to his condo in Culver City, by the time he tried to return to the stationhouse he’d have to do so either on his mountain bike or on foot. And fighting his way through the city as it went to hell wasn’t on his bucket list.

So he sat on the bus with several other officers and watched the scenery slowly roll past as the big vehicle lumbered through the streets that were being kept open for official traffic. It was still slow going, for there weren’t enough cops and Guard troops available to keep the streets completely clear. What should have been a twenty-minute drive was stretched out to almost an hour and a half. A lot of the cops on the bus nodded off, including Bates, who sat scrunched up in a seat with his chin on his chest. Reese tried to do the same, but sleep eluded him. In the dim light of the bus’s overhead lights, he reviewed his notes and tried to mentally prepare his report before getting to the station. That was almost as hopeless as trying to sleep. His thoughts were all over the map, which was to be expected. The work week had started off with what seemed to be a grisly case of cannibalism, where a father had partially devoured his child before attacking a neighbor. It had been horrible, and had pushed Reese far enough over the edge that he had decided to throw in his papers and retire after almost three decades as a City of Los Angeles police officer. Now, the horror and disgust he’d felt at the crime scene seemed distant and quaint. He’d spent the day fighting zombies while trying to keep one of the city’s biggest hospitals open, and that had been an exercise in excruciating dread. Zombies—stenches, as the military called them—were no longer just a thing of film and fiction. They were real, and they were replicating madly all across the city, chasing down the living and tearing them apart. And those Los Angelinos that had been bitten but otherwise managed to survive an attack would soon die from the virus the dead carried, and in doing so, join their numbers. It was like some ghastly perpetual motion machine. Once set in motion, Reese wasn’t sure it could ever be turned off.

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