Waiting for the Dead:The Last Town #3(6)

By: Stephen Knight

“I was just wondering that,” Booker said. “Are you going to arrest him?”

Grady grunted and shook his head. “I don’t think that’d be a very smart thing to do right now, Mayor.”

“Arresting that mad man would be just the smart thing to do!” Hector Aguilar said. Booker sighed internally. Aguilar was always fuming about something, and as much as Booker disliked and distrusted Barry Corbett, Hector actually hated the man with a passion. Booker knew it was nothing more than childish jealousy—Corbett was the captain of a multinational corporation which generated billions of dollars of profit every quarter, whereas Aguilar’s pharmacy and the handful of rental properties he had in town didn’t come anywhere near that. Sure, Aguilar lived better than most of the locals, but he was miserly when it came to giving back to the community. Booker thought it was oddly funny that the extremely liberal Aguilar guarded his earnings almost viciously, whereas Corbett, the living stereotype of the conservative one percent complete with Gulfstream jet, was paying it forward.

“Why don’t we finish this first, then decide,” Chief Grady said, a reasonable tone in his voice.

“Please,” said Gemma Washington. Her small, wire-rimmed glasses were perched low on her nose, making her look like some matronly school marm.

“Fine, let’s go through the rest of Corbett’s juvenile fantasy novel,” Aguilar said with a contemptuous sneer.

It took them the better part of two hours just to get a firm understanding of the concepts that Corbett was proposing. Booker was amazed. The transition to the town would be epic and profound. Corbett actually believed that the outside world was, in essence, coming to an end. And he wanted the town to be ready for it when it happened. Booker pushed the binder away from him and leaned back in his chair, trying to decide how he felt about it all. A lot of what he had just read left him terrified, while other parts seemed comforting in their sensible and rational approach.

Booker didn’t know what to think. Did he want Corbett to be wrong? Or did he want him to be right?

The others were stirring now, finishing up their reading. Booker stood up and ran a hand through his hair.

“Well, that was a lot to digest,” he said. “I think I’m calling for a bio break.”

“I think I’m calling for a laughing break,” Aguilar said. “Clearly, Corbett is a raving lunatic.”

Booker waved the comment away. “Yeah, we’ll get to that in a minute.” With that, he excused himself from the chamber and headed for the bathroom. Grady followed him, and Emma excused herself to the ladies room. When they returned to the chamber, Aguilar was still sitting in his chair, arms crossed over his chest, his dark brows beetled in consternation as he watched them approach.

“Well, I don’t think we have very much to talk about, do we?” he snapped.

“Let’s try and keep our cool, Hector,” Booker said. “No matter what you think of Corbett, he is right about one thing. The world’s not a better place today than it was yesterday, and things are only getting worse.” He looked to Grady. “Why don’t you go first, Chief. Tell us what you know about things, before we get to what we have to discuss.”

Grady settled into his chair and steepled his hands before him in that curious way of his. “Well, locally, we did have an occasion where someone turned into a zombie. And the people I talk to in the county law enforcement community have seen a lot more. There’s no cure, and even though the talking heads on the news say the virus is transferred by contact with an infected, that’s probably not the case. Like Corbett said, the government is putting that out there to try and head off panic.”

“Should we be panicking?” Gemma asked.

Grady swallowed before answering. “I shot an old man who turned into a zombie today, after he tore the throat out of one man and was trying to take a chunk out of one of my officers,” he said. “I’ve never had to shoot anyone before, and that alone makes me uncomfortable. But to your question, Gemma—the truth? Can’t answer for anyone else, but I know I’m panicking a little bit.”

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