Max took the lead heading up to the second floor, with Officer Stewart behind him and Steve bringing up the rear. It came as a surprise that Steve did not make any remarks about Stewart’s ass, which probably saved his life. As they approached, the second floor landing high above them in the stairwell the fourth floor door swung open. They could all hear a shuffling sound on the top landing, but could not quite see anything. Max switched to, a slower, quieter pace and listened intently as he approached the door leading to the second floor. The shuffling sound continued above them.
“Should we yell out?”
“Fuck that, no way,” said Steve.
“We don’t know that they are zombified yet, they might be human.”
“We can’t leave them in our exit, either Steve.” whispered Officer Stewart, “What if we have to make a hasty retreat; we don’t want to be dealing with this guy in the stairway.”
“Look, he or she or it will hear us on the PA, I’ll watch the stairwell from Kirkpatrick’s office and if no one comes out the door we know we have zombie issues here, right? Why find trouble?”
Max found both arguments reasonable; however, he was in favor of just yelling up the stairwell to see if he got a response.
“Wait, what if I snuck up the stairs for a peak? I could motion to whomever it is to get them to join us if they are still human?”
“Hmmm… It should be me, I have the gun.” stated Stewart.
“No-no, I should go, I have a bat, and it would be easy enough to whack someone if they are shambling along, right? Almost no danger at all.”
“Yeah like the bathroom?”
“Hey! I didn’t know what I was up against then! Plus I had dropped my bat!”
“Fine, fine if you think you can handle it go ahead and go…”
“Hello!?” a man’s voice called from the top floor landing, “Is someone down there?”
“Oh sure, see! You let it know we are here!” whispered Steve angrily.
“What are talking about, the guy is alive, and he is calling for us. Why are we still whispering?”
They all heard someone coming down the stairs, “I can see you there. Why won’t you answer me?”
Sure enough the trio saw a face peering down at them through the railings, the face stopped coming down the stairs, waiting for an answer.
“Sure we are here,” said Stewart, “Who are you? I am Officer Stewart, with the Denver P.D..”
“A police officer! Friggin-a! You gotta come up here, old man Sawyer went insane and killed Rhonda Pulcher and attacked me! I locked him in the break room; he does not seem to be thinking too well and can’t get out. Come on!”
“No, you come here, where we can see you. Sawyer will have to wait we are trying to get to somewhere else. We have to do one thing at a time right now that is it, come on down here. What is your name?”
The figure coming down the stairs was a young male, maybe twenty-two; he had brown hair and a straight, lanky build. He had an I.D. card and name badge, but it was still too far away to be read. He came forward slowly, but steadily and seemed to be favoring one arm. His pant leg on one side was coated with blood.
“I’m Tom. Tom Eby. I work in ITC, networking. Who are these guys?”
“I am Max, this is Steve, we work for George Gains down in Licensing, and I think you reset my password for me about two months ago when I locked myself out, you work night’s right? What happened to your arm and leg?”
“Gains, yeah, I keep the batch processes going and help out any of the early birds who have problems in the morning. Sawyer friggin’ grabbed my leg and tried to bite me. Bite me! Couldn’t believe what I saw, I saw him munching down on Rhonda in the break room, I went to go back out and slipped on all the blood, none of it is mine, but it made a mess. Anyway, I punched Sawyer in the face, musta broke his nose, cause he backed right off and let me go. I crawled out the door and slammed it behind me. You know that file cabinet by the break room? No? Yeah you probably don’t get up to the fourth floor too much. Anyway, Joe and Frank blocked me in the break room one night as a joke by moving that cabinet in front of the door. I just heaved it over, I got it about halfway over the door and Sawyer couldn't get out. I think I sprained my shoulder.”
“You were alone in ITC? Where were Joe and, uh, Frank?” asked Max, struggling to remember the people who operated the help desk during the day.
“They called in sick last night, leaving me and Sawyer to hold down the fort, it was kinda busy too, with only two of us. Anyway, Sawyer took off about six for a break and never came back, no big deal the last batch jobs ended around five-thirty so we were in the dead phase of the shift until the early people got in, even then it is pretty slow this time of day. I was supposed to be off by now and I wanted to go home, but no one came in, no one called in either. I hated leaving the TC, uh, Tech Center, empty, but I had to go, I am, or was, tired. That is when I found Sawyer and Rhonda. I went back to the TC and could not get a line out, all busy. I texted one of my local buddies and told her to call the cops for me, cause I could not get through to them by voice, she said she did.” To Stewart he said, “I thought you were them. I guess it really doesn’t matter, you’re here now.”
Max quickly went through what the rest of them had been through and explained that they were trying to get to Kirkpatrick’s office. Tom had no weapons with him. After a brief debate, they decided to continue to Kirkpatrick’s office and see if they could figure out how to operate the PA system.