Club Zed was hopping; plenty of ZDF troopers were out blowing their hard earned rations. After checking their handguns at the door Kate and Tom entered the dimly lit club. Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” Pounded their eardrums through the speakers.
After a bit of dancing they found a booth and sat down. The restaurant volume was only mildly migraine inducing as opposed to the dance floor.
A few moments later the waitress came over, “Hi Kate, was my Farah good today?”
She put on her best false smile, “Yeah Sabihah, she was fine. A couple of boys, I wanted to toss over the fence and let the zombies have them.”
“What will it be?”
They ordered a couple of meat rations worth of burgers and some pre contagion beers. As Kate began taking her ration book out of her purse Tom shook his head.
“It’s on me tonight.”
“But how can you afford it? I know you’re usually down to your last coupon at the end of the month.”
He smiled in his smug way that was beginning to annoy her, “Don’t worry, I got the bounty on that Berserker. It was pretty hefty.”
The drinks arrived and all was well with the world. The papers could grade themselves for all she cared.
Tom put down his drink, “That reminds me, you should have gotten at least ten common bounties.”
She didn’t care, common infected weren’t worth much.
Out of the corner of her eye Kate saw someone approach their table. She looked up and her heart leapt. A very drunk grieving mother stood before her. The woman’s dark hair was tangled and matted, her clothes wrinkled and stained. She staggered around, not unlike a zombie herself.
“You let my son die!” she yelled just as there was a lull in the music. All eyes in the club fixated on them.
“Maria… I… no.”
“Why we trust una puta like you to care of our kids?”
She could feel Tom becoming tense next to her, “Ma’am why don’t we get you another drink?”
“Shut it maricon!” She swore at him. Her drunken gaze swung back to the teacher, “You let my little Pepe get sick! You let THEM touch and infect him!”
The bouncers were moving through the crowded club but they were still too far away. Kate could tell Maria had been planning this a long time.
“I’m sorry. I failed.”
“Yes you did. Puta madre!” She yelled as she reached inside her jacket.
Tom swung his half full mug striking Maria in the head, sending a spray of beer across the room.
The bouncers rough handled Tom who didn’t struggle. He ended up tossed out on his ear.
“Would you please just search her?” Kate asked as she was being herded toward the door.
One of the large bouncers finally agreed and had Sabihah do it.
A few moments later the waitress found a tiny .22 caliber revolver in the unconscious woman’s jacket pocket.
Outside on the cub Tom was busy dusting himself off.
“How did you know?”
“Know what?” He asked as he held a handkerchief up to his bloody elbow.
“That she was going to shoot me?” Kate replied, “They found a little twenty two in her pocket.”
The school sniper shrugged, “She had murder in her eyes.”
One of the bouncers came out, a hefty guy weighing over two hundred and forty pounds, perfect for tossing out unruly patrons. In his hands he carried two plastic trays, “Sorry about that Tom, we didn’t hurt you too much did we?”
“Nah, Jerry I know you’re just doing your job. You can’t cut anyone slack or it’d be chaos in there.”
“Here you go. Nice piece by the way.” He said as he offered him the tray.
Tom took out his STI long slide, ten millimeter double stack 1911, reloaded it and holstered the weapon. “Thanks, I picked it up during the initial outbreak.”
“There were some nice deals back then weren’t there?”
Tom nodded as he took his two spare magazines.
“Here you are Ma’am.” The bouncer said as he handed her the tray containing her .40 caliber Glock and spare mag.
She took it and put it back on her hip. “Thanks.” She looked back at the club entrance, the music thumped through the closed doors. “So what’s going to happen to Maria?”
He shook his head, “I don’t know, I’d imagine they’ll take her to St. Browning Hospital and then jail, but old Jerry here doesn’t really care after they leave the club.” He took the now empty trays, “If you’ll excuse me.”
Kate turned to the lightly battered sniper, “Thank you for the wonderful evening.”
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault our night was ruined.” He said as he began walking toward the truck.
“It’s alright, I don’t feel like boozing it up anymore anyway.” The young redhead said as she climbed up on the passenger’s side. “Take me home.”
Tom cranked the diesel engine and backed out of the parking lot.
The adrenaline was starting to wear off and Kate began shaking, she wasn’t sure why. Her fiancée turned on the heater, but she wasn’t cold.
“Yeah?” he asked busy navigating toward The Blocks.
“If you hadn’t been there… I’d be dead.”
He slowed down as the green light ahead turned yellow. “Kate, we all have too many if’s, don’t think about it.”
But she couldn’t stop. She could almost feel the sharp pain where the little .22 caliber bullets would have entered her chest. Death would have taken a long time. Lying in agony as her lungs filled with blood.
“Kate, I’m here. It’s going to be all right.”
She looked at the freshly unshaven man; his brow wrinkled with concern. “I’m fine, don’t worry about me, or you’ll crash.”
Tom sighed and turned down Ammo Drive, one of the main roads in Safe Zone. It lead up to the Black Forrest ammunition factory, one of the largest pre contagion bullet makers in the country.
Illuminated by security lighting and headlights were “The Blocks,” low rent apartments. Tom pulled up to the front gate and a bored guard with an SKS carbine asked for his ID.
Kate leaned across the front seat and shot the guard a smile, “Mr. Mendez he’s with me.”
His eyes widened slightly, “Well… uhh have a good night Ma’am.”
“Thanks.” She said as she waited for him to retract the gate. “Umm Guy?”
“Aren’t you going to… open the gate?”
The guard coughed, “Umm of course, sorry.” He quickly turned the key and hit the button behind the counter.
As they drove in and parked Tom chuckled, “He’s probably jealous.”
Tom turned off the truck, “He was almost drooling.”
It was her turn to laugh, “Why would anyone drool over me? Besides he’s in love with the Russian foreign exchange student who lives here.”
It took him a moment to register the meaning of those words, “So… what’s her story?”
“Why do you want to chase her?”
He rolled his eyes, “Of course not, but why is she here?”
“Russian foreign exchange student… take a wild guess.”
The sniper rolled his eyes as he opened the door and ran around the truck before she could get out. He opened her door and took Kate by the hand.
“When did you become such a gentleman?”
“I could drop you if you’d like?”
Grabbing her Sig rifle from the backseat she took his hand and hopped down from the jacked up truck. “Oh… you might want to bring your rifles in.”
He paused before retrieving the cases; maybe tonight… he let the thought hang as he grabbed the heavy .50 caliber case. Barrett made good weapons, but they weighed a ton.
Out in the mostly grassless courtyard a scrappy group of kids were busy playing Zombie Tag including a couple of her first graders.
George ran up to her and smiled, “Hey Mrs. Morris! I saw a zombie after school today.”
“That’s nice, where?”
“It was just sitting up on the roof of the old church out in the dead zone.”
She knelt down and ruffled his hair. “Well if it was up there, how did you see it?”
He rubbed his eye with a dirty finger, “Umm… well I kinda, borrowed my brothers binoc-lers.”
“Ahh I see. So what kind was it? A Bezerker, Shrieker, Crawler or something else?”
“Well what was it doing?”
“I don’t know… just sittin’ there.”
“Sitting?” Zombies didn’t sit around.
The boy continued, “Then it saw me and stared at me. It looked mad.”
“Stared at you? Like your eyes met.” She shuddered, “Zombies usually just stare off into nothing.”
“Yeah… I felt weird in my stomach. Then it ran off. So bye!” George said as he disappeared among the pack of children.
The teacher stood up and headed for the building. It was probably nothing, kids made up strange stories all the time. Didn’t they?
Kate opened the stairwell gate and began climbing the stairs to the sixth floor. The elevators had crapped out the day before everything went to hell. A repair crew had been called and was scheduled to come out for a Thursday that never came.
At the end of the hallway a tall thin raven haired woman was running the reloading bench. She looked up at the approaching couple.
“Hello Kate, did you bring this man for me?” she said with a thick Russian accent.
The teacher blushed, “Umm… no. Tatiana, this is Tom Lewis. Tom, Tatiana.”
He shook her hand, she had a firm grip. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Yes, I am Tatiana Karamov. From where they still make real woman. Russia. I am a pilot for ZDF helicopters.”
“William Jefferson Clinton Elementary Sniper.”
The Russian woman smiled, “Ah, so you are one Kate has been smooching at work.”
“Tatiana!” The teacher protested.
The raven haired woman shrugged and pulled the handle on the reloading press. “He is a very lucky man. Maybe you share him?”
Kate just shook her head and unlocked her apartment door.
“What? He is not man enough for two?”
The teacher just grabbed him by his collar and pulled the sniper in her room. She closed the door, locking it and softly cursed all crazy Russian women. Seconds later she wrapped up in Tom’s arms and kissed him.
A few moments later, they found themselves a few weapons and magazines lighter sitting on her well used couch. “So… why did you have me come in… this is new.”
“I’ll let you go home now if you prefer.”
He coughed, “No, no this is good, but why now?”
The teacher sighed and pulled out her hairband allowing her crimson locks to drape her shoulders, “After nearly dying I decided that what other people think is typically bullshit. So why worry about it.”
“Ah… good idea.” He said as he kissed her neck.
Just as things became interesting the air raid alarm went off.