While everyone had been quick to go for the cars, not many were actually driving. Max and company rapidly discovered an accident about halfway to Tom’s house. A bad accident that came with three lingering zombies feeding on the carcasses of the victims. Stewart backed up, Steve already too close to the pileup, veered onto the sidewalk, taking out a zombie who was turning towards the sound of the cars. He almost got hung up on a mountain bike but when he came down off the curb on the other side of the wreck the bike tore free.
Seeing that Steve had cleared the way, Stewart stopped and started forward again. The two remaining zombies watched the car with rapt attention, but made no moves toward them. Stewart cleared the wreck and started following Steve’s car, which was leaking what looked like fuel out the back. Stewart honked and pulled up alongside Steve on the four lane street. Max rolled down his window and they motioned Steve to stop.
When they stopped Stewart said, “Good driving, seriously I mean it, if you had not veered we could have been picking you out of a wreck. Max, go check Steve’s car.”
Max hopped out and peered under the car, he clearly saw a large hole in the gas tank spilling fuel onto the pavement.
“Not good, gas is leaking everywhere and it looks like your muffler is hanging on by a thread.”
“Fuck. Damn it. This is my car, my car! Now what?” ranted Steve.
Stewart looked around and said, “Hop into the cruiser, no choice, I hope you don’t have anything in there you can live without.”
“Worth my life? Not hardly! I just…you know, it is my car! You never want to see something happened to your car. Or be forced to give it up, not like this.”
Max, between both vehicles, saw the zombies from the wreck peering their way, both were making tentative steps towards working their way up the block towards them, using cover as they came.
“Ah, the zombies are coming; I see two behind us, about half a block away, so quite chit-chatting and move please.”
“Fine.” Steve patted the dash of his car while Tom opened the door on the passenger side, both moved into the cruiser and they were soon underway, at a steady, slow, twelve to fifteen miles per hour. Tom gave directions to Stewart from the back seat and they soon arrived at his apartment complex, they had to go up onto the sidewalk twice more to skirt accidents before they arrived. The place was quiet, no sign of violence or undead, just another normal day in south Denver, quiet and chilly as the sun began to lighten the sky on the plains behind the buildings.
The apartments were set up with outside entrances, almost like a massive cancerous duplex gone wrong. Tom climbed out of the cruiser and Max joined him. Stewart said, “Good you two go and get what Tom needs, Steve and I will hold the fort in the parking lot, we will move the car around the building so any zombies come after us and leave the way clear here. If we honk it means ‘get your asses down here’, if we hear gunfire, we will come up and assist. Everyone clear?” There were grim nods all around. “Good I won’t get worried for ten minutes, anything more than that and I probably will leave Steve with the car and come after you.”
Max followed Tom up the stairs, “What level is your apartment on?”
“Third floor, the top. It has great views though, worth it.”
“You mentioned roommates? How many? Any girlfriends that stay over or pets or anything else that might be moving in there?” asked Max.
“No, nothing. Here you take the shotgun, if my roommates are, are undead I might hesitate, you won’t ‘cause you don’t know them.”
“Makes sense. Safety off? Yeah? Okay, let’s go in.” in a stage whisper, he continued, “It had to be the third floor.”
Tom stage whispered back, “I love you too.”
They got to the doorway on the third floor and it was cracked open, there was blood on the landing and some footprints had been tracked through the blood, going both into and out of the apartment. Max took the lead and softly pushed against the door with the barrel of the shotgun. The place was dark, very dark and the twilight from the rising sun was not good enough to shed any light into the house. A soft blue glow turned on behind him and as he looked back at Tom he saw that he was holding a small key chain light and trying to use it to push back the darkness in the apartment. It helped, but only a little. Cautiously Max stepped into the apartment, whispering to Tom, “Turn on a light, not a bright one if you can help it, or maybe open the fridge. I don’t know where I am going here, whoa!” as he said the last part Max stumbled into something on the floor, it felt like a long pillow weighed down with a lead weight. As he caught himself on the couch Tom brushed by him and shined his light on the floor.
“Oh God! Oh God!” then turned aside and started throwing up on the carpet. He also took his hand off the light plunging them from gloom into total darkness once again. Tom’s sobbing cries grew louder and Max hissed at him, “Pull it together Tom! You gotta pull it together, whatever did that could still be here!”
“No, no you don’t see you didn’t see. Here take this.” with that he grabbed Max’s hand and shoved his key chain into it. Max fumbled for a moment before finding the light and then turned it back on and shone it upon the body. One dead person, a man with severe head trauma. Oh. Oh, no, not good. He was not bitten to death or munched on anywhere so far as Max could tell, just beaten about the head. “I see it Tom. I see it, who would have done this?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, it is so…so…” retching sounds again as Tom once again voided his stomach., “Oh God I gotta pull it together. Peter Hambran, that was one of my roommates, him and Gray, we called him Gray, his real name was Gene. Gene Tandry. They shared one room, I took the other.” Tom stood up and Max heard him make his way into the kitchen, where it sounded like he was turning on lights and opening the refrigerator door. Nothing was happening.
“No lights, no power.” Said Tom.
“Any flash lights anywhere?”
“Er, I keep one in my bedroom on the nightstand, we have some candles though, it was Gray's birthday last Saturday, hold on a sec.”
After fumbling through some drawers Tom struck a match. In that light he watched Tom approach the stove, a gas stove and then Tom light a burner. “Well that works, now for the candles.”
A short time later two burners and four birthday candles were burning, casting the main room of the apartment in a dancing light of shadows. Max shut and locked the door to this light. He then grabbed a blanket off the back of the couch and spread it out over the late Peter, obscuring his corpse from view.
“Well probably anyone, thing, else would have been out here by now. Four doors down the hallway. Two bedrooms, a bathroom and a closet?”
Tom nodded, “My bedroom is on the right. The last door on the right.” Tom got up and headed to the hallway. He peeked in the closet first, nothing. Then swung the partially open bathroom door open, his candle light was enough to determine nothing was in there. He hesitated and went to the left door. Max approached with two feet, watching both doors with wary eyes. Tom swung the door open, letting a wave of foul odor out as he did so. So many things happened at once that Max once again felt like he was in a slow motion movie. First he saw the remains of a man on the bed. Then he saw the man’s hands and feet were tied to the bedposts. Movement. He turned to see a naked man, no a zombie fling himself towards the door. Tom dropped back onto his butt. The zombie seemed to hang in the air, Max raised the barrel of the shotgun while keeping the butt against his hip, he fired and struck the zombie’s neck and lower face. Tom screamed as the headless corpse landed on him. The zombie on the bed had his, it's, hands tied to the bed posts above his head, his feet were similarly tied to the corner posts at the foot. Tom was screaming. Max took a moment to let his eyes readjust from the flash of the shotgun blast. Someone was yelling for Tom to shut up. 'Oh it is me.' Max thought, trying to quiet down, then he turned to help Tom up, saying, “Shut the door Tom, shut the door man!”
Tom complied shutting them in the hallway and blocking out the scene in the bedroom. Max wasted no time opening Tom’s door, he was surprised to see a bald headed young man pulling on a shirt, barely visible in the the glare from the parking lights through Tom's window. “Freeze!” Max shouted, and it worked! He thought to himself, 'I always wanted to do that, now I think I know why some police like their jobs.' The man pulled his head through the opening and looked with bleary eyes at Max, “Who’re you?” he demanded in a scornful voice, “The cops? No you ain’t a cop, you got no light.”
While Max was pondering that bit of language, the man continued to pull on his shirt. Max then said, “I said freeze asshole! No I ain’t no cop, I’m the guy with the shotgun! Fucking stop moving, right fucking now!”
The man, let out a sigh and soft “She-it” then stopped reaching for his pants, which lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. Max started to ask a question, but Tom beat him to it, screaming, “What did you do? What did you do? What are you doing in my fucking house, you asshole!?”
The man recoiled a bit, enough for Max to see he was not wearing anything from the waist down. Good. Men without pants oughta be easier to control, right? The man gathered the covers around him and stared at Tom and Max and said, “Nothing, you ain’t nothing, I got nothing to say to a couple of queer boy fagots. Go fuck yerselves.” He then proceeded to stand up, blatantly drop the covers and stoop to get his pants on.
Max reached forward and swung the shotgun barrel at his head, “I told you not to fucking mo-“ BOOM, the sound of the shotgun going off was louder in this room than it had seemed moments before in the other bedroom. The bald man, pants half on fell over backwards clutching the side of his head and bleeding profusely. Max’s face registered surprise and instinctively he reach forward to help the man up, catching himself only when he realized what he was doing. 'Oh fuck!' he thought, 'I just shot a man!'
“Okay, o-fucking-kay! Goddamn it, don’t shoot me again! Shit! Shit! Shit on your Jewish-fag asses!” He still struggled with one hand to pull up his pants while clutching the side of his head with the other. Max pointed the gun at him and said, in a shaky voice, “I said: Don’t MOVE, you goddamn stupid fuck!” The bald man stopped moving, an awkward silence then ensued the man continued to bleed and Max could hear the dripping of his blood onto a magazine of some sort that was on Tom’s floor. “Tom, get your stuff. Now Tom.”
Tom scrambled to move to his closet, opening it he pulled out a backpack and started tossing clothing onto his bed, lastly he threw on a sleeping bag. Finally when the pile was finished he lifted up the foot of the bed and fumbled around underneath it until he came up with a black backpack, with a small metal plate that had the word ‘Port’ written on it. The smaller backpack had a durable looking rubber grip on the top and Tom set this pack by his legs as he stuffed the larger pack with his clothing. To Max he said, “Make him tell us what happened or kill him. I gotta get some stuff outta the bathroom.” Tom walked out leaving both doors open while he rummaged around in the bathroom.
Max looked at the bald man and said, “Talk. Now.”
The bald man began, “Nothing much happened, I came up here looking for a place to stay, there are zombies running all over everywhere and this place looked safe enough, I bedded down he-“
Tom came back in with contact lens solution, glasses cases, a tooth brush and other personal items which he put into a pouch on the side of his pack. “Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. No way you woulda stayed here with a zombie in the next room and a body outside in the living room. My roommate’s body you asswipe.”
The guy started again, “Fags. I knew it! You're god-damned fags. Just like Billy Jo and his butt-buddy there. You want the real truth queer? We busted in here to protect this place, this whole place and your butt-buddy friends told us to go to hell. See what happens when you don’t want our protection? This”, he waved his hands around, “happens. Dumbshits.”
Tom leaned over his bed one more time, fumbling for something alongside it and came up with an aluminum baseball bat, he stood up and leaned over the bald man, saying between clenched teeth, “You did this. The zombies did not do it you lying fuck.” He pulled the bat back and Max yelled, “Tom!” at the same time that gunfire erupted outside.