William Doonan

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MedicineLand: Chapter Sixty-One

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Adam did his best to keep up with Rocky.  “If I had known we were going to jogging, I would have worn my leotard,” he said as Tim Murphy sprinted ahead to have a look at the Lundt Castle from the west.

“Please stop talking.” Rocky stared at the text message from Julia.  “Come quickly.  Come packing.  One unfriendly contained.  Billy not well.  Possible dozens more unfriendlies summoned.  Avoid telepathic channels, hence no voice.  I want to go home, baby.”

They had parked about a mile away from Lundt Castle, and moved on foot from there.  Rocky and Adam were headed down to the boathouse where they would meet up with Tim Murphy.

“Dying here,” Adam told himself, and ran straight into the back of Rocky’s hand.  He looked down the path and saw a cop watching their approach, one foot resting on the bumper of his cruiser.  “Oh shit.”

“Shut up,” Rocky told him.  “I need you in front of me.”

“For what?”

“Don’t ask.”  Rocky started walking slower.  Napa County police.  Now why the hell were they here?  He shut his eyes in angry wonder when Adam called out to the cop.

“Hey there, Officer.  What brings you out tonight?  Hey, is this Goundhog day?”

The cop said nothing.

Adam stopped when he came to within about fifteen feet.  “Hey, do you know what month Groundhog Day is in?”

The policeman took his leg off the car and removed the sunglasses that were unnecessary at this time of the evening.

“What about fourth of July?” Adam inhaled.

“What are you doing?” Rocky demanded.

“Shoot him.”

“Excuse me?”

“Shoot him,” Adam said loud enough for the man to hear.

The cop took a step forward and peeled the velcro from his safety holster.

“No, no.”  Rocky brought the Glock into full view.

“Shoot him,” Adam said.  “He’s a zombie.”

“He’s a policeman.”

“And a zombie.  They are categorically nonexclusive.”

Rocky shot the policeman in his chest as he pulled out his gun.  “How could you tell?”

“Pentane,” Adam said, prying the gun from the dead policeman’s hand.  “It’s a hydrocarbon.  It’s detectable in the breath of schizophrenics.  I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but I smelled it on the last three zombies too.”

“So you’re sure about this?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Fuck.  I just shot a cop.”

“I’ve done worse,” Adam said.  “One time in Alabama, I ran over a possum.”

“We have to get the car off the road,” Rocky told him.

“Do we now?” Adam asked.  “Because I’m tired as shit, and I’d just as soon drive this car to the boathouse.  We can put the cop in the trunk.”

Rocky nodded.  He drove, and they waited in the boathouse for an agonizing half an hour before Tim Murphy crawled up from under the dock.  “What took you?”

“I saw the cop car and I wasn’t certain,” Tim said.

Rocky told him about the cop.  “So what’s the story?”

Tim Murphy breathed heavily.  “I counted fourteen,” he said, “but there could be more.  Clustered in three groups.”

“What does that mean?” Adam asked.

“Half a dozen men, if you want to call them that, are hanging out on the front portico.  They’re like the zombies we had back at the house, clueless but determined.  Four others are just west of here by the river.  There’s a little fleet of decaying paddle boats, shaped like swans.  They’re actually sitting in the paddle boats.  You could see them now except for the trees over there.  The rest are hovering around the servants’ entrance.”

“So what do we do?”

“I think we should move now, take this cop car.  We can’t do it on foot because me have to move the crippled kid.  And you know what, I think something is about to go down, so I think we should move now.”

Rocky nodded.  “Except we don’t know Julia’s situation.”

Adam let loose a ghastly fart.  “It’s been building up,” he said.  “Julia is likely not saying anything because she’s unsure if they can read her thoughts.”

“Can they?” Rocky asked.

“I doubt it,” Adam said, “I don’t think they can read her mind, even if they can project their thoughts into hers.”

“Then we go,” Rocky said.  “Quietly.  Before somebody activates their zombies.”

“Agreed,” Adam said.

Tim Murphy checked his weapons, the three pistols he wore and the shotgun he held in his hands.  “Once we move, it is very possible we will experience a reaction.  So I suggest that we take this police car and drive it up the main driveway and into the main salon.  We’ll have to take three low steps but this is a Chevy Caprice and it can handle that.  Then we extract our people with extreme violence.”

Rocky nodded.

“Rock and roll,” Adam said.

Written by williamdoonan

August 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

MedicineLand: Chapter Sixty

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“It smells like dead things in here,” Carson observed, then apologized in deference to Billy’s body, which they had laid out on the tile floor near the ballroom fireplace.

“It’s just musty.”  Julia tried to make sense of the situation.  They found Lundt Castle without a hitch, their directions being adequate and a castle being a castle.  No electricity.  But when she opened the blinds in the ballroom, she almost gasped.  The setting sun hung over Lake Berryessa like a party lantern.

Alice stood beside her and watched as more ducks than she thought possible took flight at once.  “I could totally live here.”  She turned to take in the massive room.  Powder blue wallpaper peeled everywhere, and the sagging pine floor was spotted with white paint chips that had exfoliated from the ceiling eleven feet above.

“It’s a fixer-upper.” Carson looked around.  “A little spackle, a couple of beanbag chairs, this could feel like home.”

Condor Nyle stood staring out the window.

“Are the ropes too tight?” Alice asked.

He said nothing, kept staring until she asked again.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “No.  Thank you, but no, and just so we’re on the same page here, I think technically it was a bungee cord you tied my hands with, and it was quite flexible.”  He tossed it to Alice and rubbed his wrists.  “I’m not going to run away while the young man still has his gun on me.  Can we just have scouts honor here or something?”

“What do you think, Julia?”

“What?” She turned from the window but said nothing.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Condor Nyle said.  “I was here the night Grace Lundt died.  Many of us were.  Errol, of course.  Ethel Barrymore was here.  Charles Chaplin, and a young bandleader from New Orleans named Louis Armstrong.  Maybe two hundred people.  Nobody knew Grace had taken the pills.  Poor Arthur never believed she had done it intentionally, but she had, you see.  She hadn’t made a film in more than two years, not since A Bride for Count Yorga.”

“I don’t think I saw that one,” Alice said.

“Almost nobody went to see it.”  He opened the French doors and stepped out onto the terrace.  “And it’s a shame really, because it was a wonderful film.”

“Could you please back away from the edge?” Carson said.  “I’m not sure I trust that railing, and there’s quite a drop to the lake.”

Condor Nyle ignored him and walked to the edge.  “In the final scene, Yorga stands on the balcony of his castle,” he stepped up onto the crumbling cement railing.  “Silvie, that’s Grace’s character in the film.  Silvie has just told him that she could never love a vampire, which seems judgmental if you ask me.  So Sylvie runs from the castle.  The camera pans from the castle to her feet and then holds on her face.  Now cut to Count Yorga, standing alone on his balcony, his cape fluttering behind him.  He holds up his hands and cries out to the only friends he has left.  ‘Creatures of the cold night,’ he cries out, ‘I command you.  Wake from your slumber and give chase.’”

Alice clapped.

Condor Nyle bowed and hopped down from the ledge.

“So what happened then?” she asked.

“Then the zombies came.”

“The vampires you mean.”

He nodded.  “Yes in the film they were indeed vampires.  But sometimes in life you have to work with what’s at hand.  Sometimes in death too.”

Carson screamed.

Julia and Alice swung around to see Billy St. Clair lifting him from the chair.  The shotgun fell to the floor.

“Get the gun,” Carson yelled.

Alice ran but Condor Nyle proved surprisingly quick.  He dove at her and caught her legs, bringing her to the ground.

Julia lunged and grabbed his hair with both hands, pulling off a wig and falling back in the process.

Alice punched him in the face.  Condor Nyle roared.  Crouched on his hands and knees, he tried to regain his balance.

“Do what he says,” Julia shouted as Alice prepared to kick him.

“He didn’t say anything.”

“Do it.  Leave him alone.”

“Do what?”  She followed Julia’s gaze and saw Billy St. Clair squeezing Carson’s neck.

“He said he’d tell Billy to kill him,” Julia said, the fear evident in her voice.  She heard his words crystal clearly though he hadn’t opened his mouth.

“When did he say that?” Alice demanded, more angry than afraid.  She kicked him hard in the face.  “Tell him to put him down or I’ll kick you to death right now.  And no more fucking telepathy.”

Condor Nyle stared angrily, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth, the last of the sunlight reflecting off his bald head.  He grinned and Billy St. Clair squeezed tighter.

Alice kicked him two more times as Julia dove for the shotgun.

Billy dropped Carson, who fell like a beanbag onto the floor, wheezing as he tried to catch his breath.

Julia pointed the gun at Billy who was coming straight for her.  “Tell him to stop or I’ll shoot him,” she told Condor Nyle.

“So shoot him,” he said, wiping blood onto his sleeve.  “He’s just an extra.”

“If I have to shoot him,” Julia yelled, “I’ll shoot you next.”

“When my friends come for me, they’ll bring an army,” Condor Nyle said, but he nodded, and Billy stood still.

Written by williamdoonan

August 22, 2013 at 11:47 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifty-Nine

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“I’m looking for Julia,” Adam said into the microphone at the gate.

“She’s not here.”

“Is this Rocky?”

Silence.

“OK, I’m Adam,” he began.  “I was here for the… the monster mash.  Remember, I’m a burley sort of guy, muscular.  Listen, the sporty gay fellow lent me this car so I’m bringing it back, and I need to talk to Julia.”

Adam counted down from ten.  The gate began opening when he reached seven.  He spotted the police car as he drove toward the house.  California Highway Patrol.  Rocky Shannon walked toward him.

“You called the  police?  Adam frowned.

Rocky shook his head.  “Be cool.”

“Born that way, sport.”  Adam slapped him on the shoulder.

“There’s a cop in the house interviewing Tim.  You will say nothing.”

Adam shook his head.  “You called the  police?  “I hate cops, always have.”

Rocky cracked the beginning of a smile.  “I do too,” he said.  “ Julia’s mother called them.”

Adam followed him into the house, where Tim sat across from a cop who had to be close to retirement.

“Damnedest thing,” the officer said.  “I mean, escaped convicts?  The warden up at Folsom Prison said that they didn’t even turn up missing until after you caught them.”

Tim Murphy shook his head.  “I guess it just proves that crime doesn’t pay.”

The officer leaned back.  “I mean how is it that a prison doesn’t even know that there’s been an escape?  You said they didn’t have a vehicle, right?”

“Didn’t see one.”

“Anyway, I appreciate your time.  Do you suppose these three tunneled out?”

“I couldn’t say.”  Tim walked him to the door.

“And they never said a word, any of them?  Not even to tell you to sit down or freeze?”

“Quiet as church mice.  Maybe they agreed beforehand not to speak.  Maybe they had southern accents or something, or lisps.”

“Maybe, sure.  Well, likely as not they didn’t all three have lisps.”

“I guess we’ll never know. ” Tim shook his hand.

“Not at the rate they’re spinning this yarn up at Folsom,” he said, walking out to his car.  “Those corrections fellows can be awfully tightlipped.”

Tim locked the door and stood looking out the window until the police car had driven off.

“You were great,” Adam shouted.

Tim Murphy spun around, his hand reaching instinctively for the holster which, because of the recent visit, was not present.

“Sorry,” Adam said.  “I forgot you didn’t hear me come in.”

“I still might kill you.”  Tim moved into the study to find Rocky.

Adam lumbered in after him and sat gently on the edge of the desk.

Rocky stared at the computer screen.  “This is not good,” he said.

Tim Murphy slid behind the desk.  He stared at the screen and chuckled.  “Somebody needed a court order for that.  What line is the modem on?”

“I just switched to satellite.”

“They can’t get through the encryption.”

Rocky looked up at him.  “Says who?  Do you know anything about encryption?”

Tim shook his head.  “Billy set it up.  He bought it and installed it.”

“Can we include me in the discussion?” Adam asked.

“Phone tap,” Tim told him.

“How do you know?”

“We have a little program,” Rocky said.  “We have a guy who keeps an eye on our things, and that guy just noticed the tap.  And here, we also have all points advisories on my vehicles, all four of them.  Officers requested to call in and to pursue with extreme discretion.”

“Even the pickup truck?”

Rocky shook his head.  “Not the pickup truck.  Looks like they don’t know about the pickup truck.  State police only, no city or county.  Isn’t that curious?  Why would it be state only?”

Adam picked up the humidor and smelled the cigars.  “Because someone at the state level wants to monitor your movements.”

Rocky looked over at him.  “Yeah, I got that.  I’m just trying to figure out why.”

“Because you’re the zombie master,” Adam told him.  “If someone high up really wanted to figure this all out, it would be obvious that you and your wife are the ones to watch.”

Rocky stared at him.

“How about this,” Adam began, “we drive to the hospital in the Audi.  There shouldn’t be state cops on city streets.  Then we’ll switch cars.  They won’t know about my car.”

“I think that’s a plan,” Rocky said.  “We’ll lock the house down tight, right Tim?  Alarms, gate electricity, catapults ready and oil on a slow boil.”

“What about the gay fellow?” Adam asked, “the one who lent me the car.”

“Billy’s dead,” Rocky told him.  “And he wasn’t gay.”

“Says you.  Dead how?”

“Dead we don’t know how, and how dead we don’t know.”  Rocky filled him in on the details Julia had shared over the phone earlier, back when the secure phone still seemed secure.

“Are we going to have some guns or something?” Adam asked.

Tim hoisted a big duffel bag onto his shoulder.  “Oh you better believe we’re going to have some guns.  Do you know how to use one?”

“Not really, but I have one, a little one.  That’s what I used to say about my penis.”

Rocky and Tim stared for a moment.

“OK, hey, that’s why you’re the zombie master, not me.”

“Great.  Hey where are we going anyway?” Adam asked.

“Napa,” Rocky said.  “And please don’t call me the zombie master.  One of the few things we can be sure of is that if there is a zombie master, she is a female.”

“I don’t think so,” Adam said as Rocky keyed in the final alarm sequence.  “I think it’s a dude.  This is some old voodoo thing.  I’ve been thinking it through.  Ruth Black is a high priestess of some sort, but she needs a chemist, a Bizango chemist.”

“What the hell is a…?”

“Some kind of a West African pharmacologist.  Look, they’re mixing up some very old, very powerful recipies.  And my sense is that this is a guy thing.  Ruth Black is the boss of it all, the high priestess.  But she’s got other priestesses who are subordinate to her, like Millicent Sorrows, and young Karen, who’s probably still in training.”

“You’ve been thinking this through,” Rocky noted.

Adam nodded as they got into the car.  “But Ruth Black is in charge because she has a very special Bizango chemist, one who she very likely trained, one who works just for her.  And he’s probably more powerful than any man alive today.”

“What’s so special about him?” Rocky asked as they drove though the gates, then watched in the mirror as they closed behind the car.

“What’s special about him is he’s old.  They get more powerful with age.  Remember that telepathy thing, I think they get better at it over time.  And this chemist is probably older than any other that ever lived.  He’s one of them.  That’s Ruth Black’s secret; she has a Bizango chemist who’s an immortal himself.  A zombie maker who is himself a zombie.”

Rocky shook his head.  “It doesn’t work on men.  It kills men or it rots their brains.”

“See that’s the part I haven’t figured out yet,” Adam admitted.  “He’d have to be a very special man.”

Written by williamdoonan

August 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifty-Eight

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“He’s Condor Nyle,” Alice explained, “the guy who left this compound to Ruth Black in his will.”

Julia frowned.  “But he’s not dead.”

“Yeah, there seems to be a lot of that going around. ” Alice hustled Condor Nyle into the back of the van.

“This is the coolest,” Carson said from the driver’s seat.  “You played the archaeologist in Curse of Amenhotep.  Boris Karloff played the mummy.  Isn’t that ironic?”

Condor Nyle tried unsuccessfully to free his bound wrists as they turned onto the road.  “This is kidnapping,” he said, staring at Billy St. Clair’s body on the floor next to him.  “You have no right to detain me.  And no it’s not ironic.  Lon Chaney, Jr. played the mummy, not Karloff, and what is it you find ironic about it?”

“It was Karloff,” Carson said.

“Chaney.”

“Karloff.”

He frowned. “Yes, maybe it was Karloff.  It was so long ago.”

Carson smiled.  “Karloff found himself playing Frankenstein for decades.  Frankenstein was a zombie.  And now you’re a zombie.  Isn’t that special?”

“Ha Ha.”

“Let me ask you a question,” Alice ventured.

“I don’t have to tell you anything,” Condor Nyle spat.  “You have no call to mistreat me like this.  I insist you let me call the police.”

“Is it true you had an affair with Errol Flynn?”

He looked up at her.  “Oh, my dear girl,” he began.  “An affair?  It was nothing of the sort.  When I think about that beautiful man, I remember the years we spent together.  Not openly, of course.  The world wasn’t ready.  But we loved each other until the day he died.”

“And Lionel Barrymore as well?”

“Oh good heavens, no.  He was very ugly.  And about as romantic as a bag of dirt.  Now where are you taking me?”

“That’s a good question,” Carson said.  “What do you say, boss?”

Julia was holding the map close to her face, not looking happy.  “Napa.”

“I dislike Napa,” Condor Nyle interjected.  “Although the wine is superb.  Take me to the police at once.”

“Fine,” Carson said, turning sharply, unexpectedly onto the Sutterville exit.  “Let’s do that then.  Let’s head to the police station.”

“What do you think you are you doing?” Julia asked.

“Trust me,” Carson said.  “Let’s go.  Let’s get some fingerprints.  I’ll even call ahead to have some TV crews there.  Once people hear that you’re still alive, there will be some explaining to do.  How old are you now?  153?”

Condor Nyle fumed.  “Is it necessary to be cruel?” he asked.  “I’m only 117.”

“Well you don’t look a day over 55,” Carson told him.

“I take care of myself.  I eat right, no dairy.”

“Shut up,” Carson told him.

“Why Napa?” Alice asked.  “Why not go to the lab?”

“Because we don’t have a good clue as to who might be lurking at the lab,” Julia said.  “It would not be a good time to run into the police or whoever else might turn up.  And I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Ruth Black or Millicent Sorrows.”

“You think she might come for us still? Why would she?  She has Karen. Why bother with us?”

“Why bother with us?” Julia repeated, looking up from the map.  “You think this is done, Alice?  I don’t think so.  We know too much.  They’re going to need to make their peace with us, or…”

“Kills you, is what comes to mind,” Condor Nyle interjected.  “If you’re lucky, they’ll kill you.  If you’re lucky.”

“Shut up,” Alice and Julia yelled in unison.

Carson’s watch buzzed.

“Dialysis?” Julia asked.

Carson said nothing.

“We need to get you to the Med Center.”

He shook his head.  “I don’t need it.”

“You need it.  I don’t care how good you feel.”

“I don’t need it.”

Alice leaned over the seat.  “What are you talking about?  You could die.”

Carson shook his head.  “I have very little to think about most nights.  Except you.”  He turned and gave her a grin.  “So I’m well attuned to my bodily needs.  And I don’t need dialysis right about now.”

“How long has it been?”

“Three days.”

“No way,” Julia shouted.  “We’ve been through too much together and I’m not going to let you die just because you’re feeling healthy.”

Carson grabbed her hand.  “I don’t need it.  I’m not sure why, but I don’t need it.  I know my body in ways that you haven’t even begun to know yours.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

“We’ll head to Napa for now, then if you need to, we can phone in an emergency to Kaiser’s Napa dialysis clinic, but for now, let’s just head to Napa.  Then I have to try to remember the way.”

“What’s in Napa?” Alice asked.

“Lundt Castle.” She pulled the big key chain from her jacket pocket.  “Rocky has an option to buy.  Anyway, I figure it will be the last place anyone would look for us.  Rocky and Tim will come tonight.  Then we can make a plan.”

“Lundt Castle,” Condor Nyle repeated.  “Take 80 west to 128, then south around Lake Berryessa.  You’ll see it there, it overlooks the lake.”

Julia and Alice turned to stare at him.

“How do you know where it is?” Alice asked.

“Dear girl, I could tell you of the parties they used to throw.  Arthur Lundt loved parties.  Once they even had a dancing bear.  And Grace loved the swan boats.  She drank quite a bit, but she was one of those women who could pull it off.  Those boats were heavy and you had to pedal a lot, but they were something to look at on a summer night, passing back and forth as the band played.”

Julia turned and stared at him.  “I thought it wasn’t supposed to work on men.  Only women, but it worked on you just fine.  You don’t seem to have any brain damage.”

He shrugged.  “Let’s just say I was born with something that most men are not?”

“What’s that?” Julia asked.

“An ovary.”

Carson let out a healthy burst of laughter.  “You’re kidding.”

“It’s not nice to laugh at those who are different from you, young man.  I might have thought you of all people would understand that.”

“An ovary, huh?”

“They removed it when I was thirteen.  And that was the end of it.  It had no impact on my life at all.  None whatsoever.”

“Until you met Ruth Black,” Julia said

Written by williamdoonan

August 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifty-Seven

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“The invincible Rocky Shannon needed my help.”  Rick Biondi was sitting in Rocky’s kitchen drinking beer from a can.  “I never thought I’d see the day.”

“We all need help from time to time,” Rocky said, relieved now that the brush with law enforcement was over.

“My debt is now fully repaid.”

Rocky looked out at the pool.  “You never had a debt with me.  You can consider this a favor.  I owe you one.”

“Indeed you do.”  Biondi smiled.  He pulled another beer from the paper bag.  “You’re lucky I was in Sacramento this afternoon.  You’re lucky the governor was in Sacramento this afternoon.  Otherwise things wouldn’t have gone down the way they did.”

“I’m impressed, really,” Rocky said.  “Tell me how you did it, Rick, because those were not police officers who came to my house.”

Biondi drank half a can.  “When I got your call, I was having cofee in the capitol building with a friend of mine, a guy who advises the governor on issues of civic law enforcement.  I told him I had a very influential friend who was in an immediate bind.”

“You told him what I told you?”

“That they were zombies, as you put it?  Of course not.  I told him that you had a home invasion that had been thwarted by your own security, who were armed extralegally, shall we say.  Too many weapons.  This man I’m speaking of works in Corrections.  And if that sounds like a coincidence, let me assure you that it isn’t.  Those guys virtually own the state capitol.  So if I sit my ass down for coffee, the ass next to mine works for Corrections.”

“What did you tell him, Rick?”

“I told him that you could be counted on, that you were a friend, and that I’d be a friend.”

Rocky took out a pen.  “What was his name?”

“Don’t be stupid.  I asked him how long it would take him to intervene.  And you know what he said?”

“Tell me.”

“Escaped felons,” he said.  I shook my head and he repeated it several times until I said it too.  Then he made one call.”

“So the cops just turned around and went home?”

“You’re goddamn right they turned around and went home.  What state do you think you live in?  When the Corrections people speak, even the police behave.”

“Then the men who came were Corrections officers?”

Rick shook his head.  “No.  They were off-duty Corrections officers.”

Rocky nodded.  “I had the permits ready, the story prepared.  They didn’t even ask about our weapons.”

Rick Biondi finished his beer.  “I did good, Rocky.  Not one single question about your wife, who, let’s face facts, is in it up to her eyeballs.”

“Careful.”

“Withdrawn.”

Rocky watched a spider retreat to the edge of an ornate web that spanned from the refrigerator to the ceiling.  “So where are they now?”

“Who?”

“My zombies, Rick,” Rocky picked up a broom and tore down the web.  “Where are my zombies?”

Biondi pulled another beer from the paper bag.  “You know, my whole life, I thought you were the coolest of the cool.  Back there in Philly, on the street, you were always the man.  Maybe I never got over that until now.”

Rocky helped himself to a beer.  “I remember this one time,” he began, “back in the day, me and Billy, and Big Tim, do you remember big Tim?”

Biondi nodded.  “Guy the police killed about five years or so ago in Jersey when he hoisted the ticket box at Meadowlands.”

“That’s the guy.  So anyway, I was crewing for Big Tim.  Billy had a job working at the mall at Radio Shack and a girlfriend who worked at the record place.  They shared an access door and we were going to take them both that night.  In and out in 30 seconds, like they say.”

“But it never goes that way, right?”

“Not normally, but this time it did.  Billy and the girl had things worked out with the assistant managers at both stores.  They didn’t even have cameras all over like they did back then.  So Big Tim hits the Radio Shack, and Billy and I take the record store.  Billy flashes a BB gun he just bought three stores down and the girl pretends she’s all afraid, but she’s more excited than scared.  We’re out in under a minute.  Not a hitch until Big Tim asks me for the credit card receipts.”

“Why did you need credit card receipts?”

“That was my question.  Apparently, Big Tim had told his girlfriend that this was going to transpire, so she spend almost five hundred dollars on records, charging them to her Mom’s credit card.  Back then credit cards weren’t phoned in, you kept the slips and then submitted them, so if the slips were stolen, the purchases were free.”

“So Big Tim wanted to go back.”

“Yeah,” Rocky said.  “And it’s never a good idea to go back after a robbery.  But Big Tim drove right back up to the record store we had just robbed.  He got out of the car and told me something.  He told me that he’d never been afraid of anything, that all you had to do in life was keep your cool and you could rob the same store night after night.  He walked in and came out with the credit card slips.  We burned them later in a bonfire out by Seaside.”

“He was a good man, from what I remember of him.”

“He was,” Rocky agreed.  “So what this means for us is that I am deeply grateful to you, but I’m not afraid of your Corrections boys, and I’m not walking away until I finish this.  So where are my zombies, Rick?”

Biondi shook his head.  “It’s out of my control now.  You might need to let this one go.”

Rocky stared at him.

“They’re at Folsom Prison, in a special lockdown part of the infirmary.  I’ll tell you this, Rocky, the guys there didn’t seem all that surprised.  There’s been some talk lately about this sort of thing and the Corrections guys are interested.”

“The Corections guys are interested,” Rocky repeated.

“They’re running some tests.  There’s even a private contractor that says he can deliver a product for similar but less drastic results.  This is the first time anyone has actually seen what might be possible.”

“Might be possible for what?”

“For prison reform.  Do you know how much our state pays on incarceration?  And if high-placed people in the Department of Corrections are interested, do you know who else is going to be interested?”

Rocky said nothing.

“That’s right.  The governor.”

Written by williamdoonan

August 12, 2013 at 9:50 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifty-Six

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Carson waited quietly, listening to the leaves, letting the cold air wash over him as watched the doorway.  The door swung back and forth in the wind.  He stared at the corpse that rested neatly on the floor twenty feet away from the little alcove where he had parked his wheelchair.  It was Billy, Rocky’s friend.  Carson had checked him out first thing.  He was scientist, and he knew a dead man when he saw one.  No pulse, no heartbeat, no warmth.  He was dead, though these days, who knew?

He had entered Ruth Black’s compound the same way he had last time.  He parked the van about a quarter of a mile away and then moved quickly, as quickly as he could on the manual wheelchair toward the main house, but it soon became clear that nobody was there.  The doors were open and the outhouses stank.  Some little animals had the run of the place now, some little groundhogs or something.

He checked the dormitories first, then made his way to the main house where he found Billy laid out on the floor.  That was two hours ago.  Now he waited.  Not a patient man by nature, Carson had learned to appreciate the down time that paralysis and dialysis afforded.  Sometimes the best thing to do was to wait and watch, and he didn’t have to do either for long.

He heard the man before he saw him.  Quietly, the man entered through the front door and looked around the living area.  He looked to be in his fifties, and he wore a thick cape over a down vest.

Carson smiled as the man locked eyes with him.  “Easy now,” he said.  “Just be calm.  I want to talk to you, that’s all.”

The man jumped back, probably considered running for it, but he could not have missed the double-barreled shotgun that Carson had pointed.  “Who are you?” he asked, backing up slowly.

“I just want to talk to you,” Carson repeated.  “What are you doing here?”

“This is my house,” the man said.  He moved forward and knelt by Billy’s body, looking closely at his face.  “I think he’s dead.”

“I think so too.”  Carson released the wheel brakes and rolled out slowly from the alcove.  “I need you to tell me where they went.”

“Who?”

Carson shook his head.  “I’m in no mood.  Tell me where they went.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man said.

“You do.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“I do,” Carson told him.  “And I know you’ve been looking out for them.  But I need to find the girl.  I have some love for the girl.  Not romantic love, it’s hard to express.  Let’s agree that I need to find her and you know where she is.”

The man shook his head.  “They left in a hurry.”

“But the girl was brought back here.  Karen was brought back here, right?”

The man stared at Billy who lay motionless on the floor.  “Yes.  Her mother brought her back here.”

“Her grandmother,” Carson corrected him.

“Whatever you say.  But they left in a hurry.  They were certain the police were right behind them.”

“And they left you because you’re expendable.”

“No.”

“This zombie didn’t turn out right, did he?”  He pointed at Billy.  “So they sent you back to get rid of him.”

“No,” the man said again.  “This one tried to stop them so they had to kill him.  And I’m not expendable to them.  I’m not.”

Gravel crunched outside as a car approached.

Carson cocked the shotgun, ejecting two perfectly good shells.  “I suck at this,” he said.  “You always think that you have to cock it again at an opportune moment.  But don’t worry, I put a lot of shells in.”

“I don’t want to deal with police,” the man said.

“They’re not police.  They’re my peeps, my homies, my posse.”

“How do you know?”

Carson pointed to the little foam speaker in his ear.  “We’ve been in contact.”

Alice ran up and hugged him.

I’ve excited a girl with my presence, Carson told himself.  And that’s not half bad.

Julia fell down onto Billy’s body and felt everywhere for some sign of life.  “They left him as a message,” Carson told her.  “He can be fixed.”

She turned to look at him.

“Can’t he?” Carson asked the man.

The man looked down at Billy and sighed.  “Probably.”

Julia stood up.  “What’s going on, Carson?”

“It seems they packed up and shipped out.  But we have this guy to help us find them.”

“And who is he supposed to be?” Julia asked.  “Nice cape, by the way.”

Carson smiled.  “Tell them.”

The man frowned.  “I was just here to help, that’s all.  I’m not part of this at all.”

“Whatever,” Julia said, “so who are you?”

“I’m Condor Nyle.”

Written by williamdoonan

August 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifty-Five

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“I need you to get back to the lab,” Julia told Carson.  “The police are going to be here any moment.”

Carson slid the van door open.  Tim Murphy had changed one of the flat tires and filled the other with sealant.

“Will you please not take all of those guns?” Julia asked.  “This is bad enough without you hurting yourself.”

“I’ll be fine.” Carson rose up into the van on the hydraulic wheelchair platform.  He bent forward as the shotgun caught the roof panel, pivoted on the back of the chair, and connected with his behind, lifting him before it tumbled onto the driveway.  “Safety first,” he said.

“You were right,” Julia told him.

Carson made his way to the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition.  “About what, Professor?”

“About the X chromosome.”  She walked around the van and reached through the driver’s side window, put her hand on his.  “For all of the strange things we’ve seen and heard over the past couple of weeks, this much we can at least be sure of, there is at least a genetic trigger somewhere on the X chromosome.”

“It’s not fragile either,” he said.  “It would be sturdy, and evolutionarily very old, maybe three million years.”

“I was thinking seven.”

He turned to look at her.  “You know why Millicent Sorrow’s powder didn’t work on me, don’t you?”

She nodded.  “Because you’re genetically different than most men; because you have muscular dystrophy.”

“That’s right.”

“So it’s near the centromere.  Carson, we could finish the whole X chromosome array.  If we worked around the clock, how long would it take us to task Prometheus through the whole X?”

Carson grinned.  “Maybe seven weeks.”

“Too long,” she said.  “Working around the clock?”

“Nine days?”

“What are you, Scotty from Star Trek?  Give me a serious answer?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I’m tired of guessing, but I’ll get on it as soon as I’m done with the job at hand.”

“No.  You’re not going to go see Ruth Black,” Julia told him.  “Let Rocky take care of this.”

“Fuck Rocky,” Carson blurted out.  “You want me to sit this out, then fuck you too.  I got poisoned and kicked out of my own vehicle.  And you think all I can do is sit behind a computer?  Well I can do more than that.”  He put the car in gear and backed up.

“Please,” Julia called after him.  “I’m sorry, Carson.  That’s not what I meant.  I don’t want you to get hurt.  And you don’t have bullets for any of those guns.  The bullets are locked up in the basement.”

Carson held up the lock picking kit his uncle had given him years back.  “And locked up very well, I might add.”

Julia rushed inside, passing Tim Murphy who was busy tidying up, putting away the remaining weapons and ferrying pieces of Adam’s elaborate still to a plastic bin that would be hidden behind a basement wall.  She found Rocky in the den.  He was standing at the closet leafing through an open file cabinet drawer.  She felt him stiffen when she hugged him.

“Rocky?”  She put her hand on his cheek but he pulled away.

“What?” he asked stiffly.

Julia took a step back and felt the tears come to her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but this has me on edge.  You know, when you marry someone for better or for worse, it starts out with the assumption that death is the worst.”

Julia nodded, still upset.  “I know.”

“And I can’t do police,” he told her.  “Never could.  I wish you had told me you were going to call the police.”

“It wasn’t something planned, but you know, we had to do something.”

“A little warning,” he said firmly, returning to the file cabinet.  “I have to stay here.  As does Tim.  I have to find the copy of his gun permit.  The police will be asking for that since he shot a man. And then it’s going to be a mess.  And I have to find Billy too, which I can’t very well do right now.”  He slammed the file drawer shut.  “I’ve got three major real estate proposals before the state right now.  The governor will be looking at them this week, so it’s not a good time to be embroiled in a scandal.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I know I brought this on, but it’s not something I saw coming.”

“I’ll be telling the police you weren’t here,” he said.  “So I want you to take the old pickup from the barn, right now, and drive the back road around the rice field.”

She nodded.

“Don’t come back here.  Don’t go to work, and don’t go to the condo in San Francisco either.  The police might want to talk to you.”

“Rocky, I think it’s not just the police we need to be worried about.”

He stared at the computer screen.

“I know you won’t be happy to hear this but I need to find Ruth Black.  I need to find Karen.”

Rocky took a Cite Loana cigar from the humidor, the anniversary cigars.  “I know you do.  And I’m going to help you do that, but I have to get ready for the police first.  So keep in touch with me by phone.  Use only the code numbers.  Wait for this bit to be over and I’ll help you.  If you need to run and hide, hide here.” He took a key ring from the blotter and wrapped her hand around it.

“What is this?”

“Keys.  The house is going to be under too much scrutiny for the next while.  We’ll operate from a new place.”

“Where?”

“Lundt Castle, in Napa.  We flew over it, remember?  We’re trying to buy it from the state.  We’re doing some appraisals, so we have keys.  And it’s unoccupied.  I’ll meet you there tonight.”

“She took the keys.

“You have to go,” he said, kissing her.  “The police are about four minutes out, so you have to go.”

Written by williamdoonan

August 5, 2013 at 9:19 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand