By Leilani Raven Katen
” When life closes a door, it opens a window. And then, zombies climb in and eat you.”
Gregory was disappointed he couldn’t go on his adventure, but we had our duties. So we dropped Gregory off at the mortuary entrance and headed on our way.
I avoided eye contact with Detective Roe as we drove downtown, where the murder scene was. There was an awkward silence in the car. I would occasionally look over at him to see if I could catch a glimpse of embarrassment or any emotion in Detective Roe’s facial expressions. But instead, he stayed quiet, brooding as usual. Images of his back and the masculine shapes of his shoulders entered my mind, and I imagined how they would feel pressed against my body. I bit my lip, looking over at Roe. He caught me staring, slightly rolling his eyes, “It’s okay. I don’t care.” He says, pulling out a cigarette, then lighting it. He rolled down the window.
The breeze felt nice. It blew through my hair; I closed my eyes, letting the afternoon sunlight hit my face as cars drove passed us. I felt a little delusional from the sleep deprivation. I let out a wide yawn, Detective Roe didn’t look at me, but he smiled as he took puffs of his cigarette. Before that embarrassing moment back in his bedroom, I woke up to my phone ringing. I realized Detective Roe’s jacket covered me from the morning chilled air. Any woman would be flattered by the gesture, but the heavy cigarette smoke coming off it made me want to throw up. But I was still slightly surprised by it. Detective Roe reminded me of those guys you avoided at the bar, the ones you don’t take to morning brunch or take trips together. He seemed like such an asshole the first time I met him. Why put on such a mask to end up doing something like that. I checked myself back into reality; I was making the typical woman habit of over-analyzing a gesture that probably didn’t mean anything. God, I need sleep, I thought.
We were two blocks from the crime scene, but a long line of traffic stopped us. We both stepped out to see if there was a way around it, but there didn’t seem to be any way of getting out without waiting. Then, finally, detective Roe saw a car leaving a parking spot near a coffee place.
“I guess we are walking,” I say, grabbing my things.
As we approached the crime scene, Hotel Casa La Vida, a crowd of multiple news crews and curious bystanders behind a yellow line guarded by a few officers stood in front of us. Sirens rang, and a couple of helicopters hovered above us. Candace Evergreen was right in front of the crowd; I wasn’t surprised to see her.
Candace and I have a history together; She was my brother’s long-time high school sweetheart, as Joey would announce her. Unfortunately, they ended their relationship after our parents died. I didn’t want to assume that I was at fault for their breakup, but he did leave Harvard, leaving her behind to take care of me. Everyone was in the living room, talking about our happy memories of our trips. Funny baby stories of how chaotic we were; I hadn’t seen Joey for a few minutes. I walked over to his room and overheard him talking on the phone. I pressed my ear on the door to hear better,” Candace, please listen. No, I’m not coming back. I can’t leave Teresa all by herself. She’s my sister! How can you ask that of me?. I’m all she has left. It is not because I want to see someone else. Look, I have to get back out there. We can talk later in the week. I’m sorry…” Joey says, ending the call. He opened the door, surprised,” What are you doing, Pterodactyl? You doing okay?” Joey asked. Joey had dressed in a cotton-black shirt and jeans, his hair curly with red and brown locks.
“You don’t have to stay! I can take care of myself!” I yelled, breaking down, tears flowing down my face. I rubbed my snot on the black-laced dress my mom made me. I kneeled and hugged my knees tightly, continuing to cry louder, catching the attention of the others. Silence surrounded my cries.
Joey bent down, sitting on the floor in front of me. Joey wrapped his arms around me. He was holding the broken pieces of my heart gently.
His phone rang again. Joey handed me off to one of our relatives, Aunty Shirley. She smelled of heavy perfume and macaroni. When Joey returned to his room, I pushed Aunty Shirley off and ran outside. I heard her calling out to me. Aunty Shirley’s voice got quieter the further I ran. I kept running as fast as possible away from there; away from the emptiness of the house, filled with family members I barely knew; away from the walls filled with memories of my parents that will forever haunt me with the silence of no longer hearing their footsteps, the way they talked and argued in the kitchen about my brother and me. Laughed loudly on movie nights.
Finally, I came back to the house being empty. Joey waited outside on our cottage-style porch; there used to be a swing in front of the window, but my dad took it down to replace the chains after they returned from their trip.
After everyone left, Joey and I stood at the front door looking at the paper cups of juice and leftover paper plates filled with food scattered around from what people brought over as gifts, as if we had an appetite to eat their casseroles and cream pies. Then, I walked to the kitchen, where my parent’s liquor cabinet was. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and two shot glasses.
“Do you think that’s a good idea, T?” Joey asks, looking at me concerningly. I looked up at him, and a tear escaped my swollen eyes. “Just one…” Joey says, grabbing the bottle and pouring us both a glass. Joey watched me drink it. The burning in my throat felt excruciatingly painful, but it took the pain away that sunk into my heart as the hours passed, thinking of the dirt settling on top of my parent’s decaying bodies.
A few days later, Candace shows up at our doors. I opened the door, and she rushed in, pushing me out of the way. “Where is he?! I wanna talk to him!”. She yells, running through the house, checking every room to see if she could find him…
“He’s not here…” I said, leaning in the doorway of his room. I never liked her, but I understood where she was coming from, from a woman’s perspective.
Candace looked down at his fixed bed and then back at me. “Has he had anyone over?” she asks, sitting down on his bed. I shook my head at Candance.” How long will he be gone?” She asked, smiling, but her eyes said sadness. I used to envy her once.
Candace was a gorgeous blonde with long legs. She had a kind of rare confidence about her, Intelligent. But, after seeing how broken up Candace was about losing Joey, I saw her differently. She is like everyone else.
“Joey should be back soon. He went to grab groceries…” I responded, looking down, kicking my feet into the carpet.
“Can I wait for him?” Candace asked, putting her hands together with a begging motion.
I nodded and left her in Joey’s room.
Joey got back an hour later. I overheard a commotion in the kitchen as Joey put the groceries away.
“Candace? what are you doing here?” Joey asked, surprised.
“I missed you! I couldn’t leave our conversation the way it was… I love you…” Candace responded. I didn’t hear anything else after that. It was hard to hear behind my room door. Finally, after a few minutes of silence, I walked out and heard moaning and shuffling in Joey’s room. I quickly grabbed my glass of water and went back to my room.
We pushed through the growing crowd. Officer Charles saw us trying to go through. “Move! Get out of the way! Detective Roe! Agent Paragani!” He shouted over the noise of the questioning news crews and obnoxiously curious crowd of civilians crowding the gates to the hotel. Detective Roe and I flashed our badges, and we finally got to the gate; Officer Charles, with his commanding mustache and toothpick in his mouth, opened the gates, holding the crowd back. We entered the hotel, flashes of lights from cameras; Candace recognized me,” Teresa! Teresa!” She yells, pushing people out of the way to get to the front. I turned to look at her and back at Detective Roe.
“Who is that?” Detective Roe asks me, looking back. Candace looked disappointed, but she smiled at him.
“No one, let’s just go…” I say, leading us to the stairs. I continued,” It’s on the second floor in room five…They closed off the second floor entirely and asked the front desk for information on who checked in and out…” I said as Detective Roe interrupted me.
“Wait, why are they asking for information on who checked in and out? We know who killed those people…What I mean, What killed those people…” He whispered.
I rolled my eyes,” I asked for that information because we don’t know enough, and they don’t need to know what we know unless they need to. . It is better to play it cool and like we don’t know “who” rather than reveal the “what.” We should play it out as a typical case. “I said, not realizing how close we were talking. I felt his eyes, looking to my eyes and back down to my lips. “What?” I said. I didn’t realize how pretty his eyes were; a little bit of aquatic blue and green was in the center of his eyes.
Detective Santos came up to us,” Santos, there you are,” Detective Roe said, turning to face Santos. A couple of K9 units are sitting in a car nearby, barking. Detective Roe kept becoming distracted by their barking. Then, as Santos was explaining what information he got from the front desk and talking to the local people, suddenly Detective Roe drops to the ground as if something had hit him in the head. “Something is coming…” he says, gripping his head.
As the words came out of his mouth, an uproar from above us instantly drew our attention. We came out from under the balcony, looking up towards the room. Suddenly, a police officer was thrown out of the hotel room and pushed over the balcony hitting the ground head first. He landed behind where we stood. We turned around, and the officer’s arm was torn off and missing, and blood splattered the ground surrounding his body. Coming out of the room, the decomposed body reanimated zombie, covered in black vines, feasting on a police officer. The officer shrieked and struggled to get out of its grotesque hands. Finally, the zombie released him, and the officer held his neck to stop the bleeding. The zombie moved to another officer nearby, sprinting, arms reaching for him. The officer pulled his gun quickly, shooting the zombie in the chest. But the zombie kept rushing for him. Tackling him to the ground and taking a massive bite of his face, blood seeped out as the zombie tears a piece of his cheek off, throwing it to the ground. He yelled an agonizing cry, trying to push the decaying zombie off him.
As I watched the destruction unfold, “We need to get everyone out of here!” I said, yelling. I continued,” Officer Charles! Move the crowd! Do whatever you can! Detective Roe! follow, engage and assist!”. Detective Roe nodded, cocking his gun quickly, following my lead.
We climbed up the stairs to the second floor;
Detective Santos quietly called over a couple of EMTs hiding behind a maids cart at the top of the stairs, signaling them to come down. They hurried down the stairs, padding down each step. “Look…” Santos whispers, pointing to the zombie chewing away at his prey.
Whatever controlled the zombies was contagious. The officer who was attacked had turned into one of them. He kneeled, eating a maid near the elevator. He had torn her maid’s outfit from the belly, pulling her organs out and shoving them into his mouth. Slurping sounds and bones cracking as he devoured the poor woman, she stared at us; lying on the ground, she was dead. Suddenly, black vines crawled up and down the skin of her face and legs. Her eyes filled with darkness instantly got up and ran, looking for her next meal. Her organs were still spilling out; a trail of her organs followed as she sprinted through the next hallway. I felt my phone vibrate. I looked at the caller ID, and it read; Gregory. I picked it up, and Detective Roe worded the words silently,” seriously…now?”. I told him it was Gregory. I turned down the volume. “I think we have a problem…” He whispered. I could hear noises, like pounding on the door in the background of his call. “I need your help…” He continued, whispering. The growling sounds got louder. Gregory grunted as if he was holding something heavy. “I don’t know how long I can keep them out…” he said, breathing hard and short.
To be Continued
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