Saturday, August 3, 2019
WHEN ADAM HAD BEEN nine years old, all he wanted to be in life was a super hero. Just like the masked crusaders that battled against evil each month in his comic books.
His dad wanted him to be a plumber, but even at nine Adam was aware that plumbing sometimes involved dealing with other people’s bodily waste, and he wasn’t about to go that route. He wanted to be like Captain Might and help people. Yes, fixing someone’s sink, unclogging their toilet, replacing a leaky pipe, all of that helped people, just not the way Captain Might would do it.
On his tenth birthday, Adam’s father had taken him to his first comic book store. Until then, Adam had only ever gotten comics from the local gas station. He’d never imagined that there could be such a place that sold nothing but comics. It had almost been the best day of his young life.
That was the day fate reached out a hand and changed things for Adam forever.
As they were leaving the store with a bag full of new books, a man with a knife stepped up to them in the parking lot. He wanted their money. Adam had never been so afraid. But then, as his father was about to hand over his wallet, a figure in blue came out of nowhere and tackled the man to the ground. Adam had nearly screamed with excitement. They were being saved by a real life, genuine super hero.
However, as the figure in blue wrestled the knife from the mugger’s hand, Adam could see that this was no costumed crusader. There was no cape, no mask, only a uniform with a badge. It was a cop. A plain, ordinary human being with no super powers at all.
And yet, rather than feeling disappointment, Adam had found himself filled with admiration.
It was right then and there that Adam had decided to be a cop. He couldn’t help but think about it now. He’d made it his mission to protect and serve, just like Officer Horowitz had done did that day in the comic book store parking lot.
So really, when faced with choice of leaving the safety of the Gas and Stuff, to wade out among the crowd of animated dead, to put his life on the line to save that of a little girl with a strawberry allergy, there wasn’t any choice at all. Of course he was going out there.
Adam approached the old couple.
“Ma’am. Sir. I’m Officer Adam Vance. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. If you would point out which car is yours, I’ll go retrieve the girl’s shot.”
“I’m coming with you,” Norman said.
“Sir,” Adam said, turning to Norman. “This is my job. I can’t ask you to put yourself in harm’s way.”
“You ain’t asking me,” Norman said. “I’m volunteering.”
Adam scowled and as he shook his head, Norman continued.
“I’m afraid I insist. You’re gonna need me out there.”
“If you go out there with me, I can’t guarantee your safety. My first concern is that little girl right there.” Adam threw a thumb at Emily, who smiled. “I might not be able to protect you out there.”
“Trust me,” Norman said. “This is what I do.”
“Okay then,” Adam said. He didn’t like it, but there wasn’t time to argue. “We’re gonna need some sort of plan.” He turned back to the old couple. “Point the way, Mister—”
“Gilkey,” the old man said. “Robert Gilkey. And this is my wife, Connie. Our car is the one there, the white Toyota, just to the left of the entrance. Here…” Robert dug in his pocket for a moment before producing a large key attached to a fob with the manufacturer’s logo on it.
Adam thanked the couple, pocketed the keys, and walked over to the front of the store. Norman joined him.
“That’s a lot of zombies to get through,” Adam said.
The zombies, meanwhile, all began to crowd around that one section of glass where the two stood. They clawed at the glass and bit at the air. Adam found it all more than a little horrifying.
“You see that old Scout back there?” Norman pointed to an area back behind the milling mass of undead.
“I can’t see much of anything but these monsters,” Adam said.
“Good point,” Norman said, then turned to Tracey. “You have a gun in the store?” he asked her.
“No,” she said. “I have a small bat behind the counter.”
“That’ll work, I suppose. Okay, he turned back to Adam. Here’s what we’re gonna do. You and I will slip out the back. We should be in the clear back there. Tracey will lock up behind us and we’ll make our way around the west side of the store.”
“Okay,” Adam said. “What then?”
While there was a small part of him that felt offended that this guy in the fedora was taking command, there was a whole lot more of him that was glad for it. While Adam had always done well in each of his tactical drills, and he was an excellent shot, he’d never before been put to the test like this. He found it all a bit unnerving.
“Let’s get out there and see what we’re working with first. Here.” Norman handed Adam his gun back. “You’ll need this.”
“You said they couldn’t die,” Adam said, holstering the gun.
“They’re already dead,” Norman said. “I said they can’t be stopped. But a few well-placed shots will knock them over and buy us a little time. Aim for the head.”
“Okay then,” Adam said. “Let’s get this done then.”
Tracey let the two out of the back.
“I’ve never seen it this dark,” Adam whispered as the door locked behind them. “Can’t even see the stars.”
Norman didn’t respond as they made their way west along the edge of the building. They arrived at the front west corner of the store with no trouble.
“There are so many of them,” Adam whispered after having a look around the corner. “They have the Gilkey’s car surrounded.”
“There’s my Scout,” Norman said, pointing to the back west corner of the lot where an old SUV sat parked, all by itself. “See it?”
Adam could and so he nodded.
Norman motioned him back and the two made their way in silence back around to the rear door.
“I want you to go around the other side of the building. Come at the Gilkey’s car from the east,” Norman said.
“What are you going to do?”
“I have some weapons in my Scout,” Norman said. “That’s where I’m going. I’ll clear the deadies out. Once I do, you get that shot and you get right back here. Don’t wait for me. Get back inside. I don’t know how long I can distract them.”
“I don’t know,” Adam said.
“Look, Officer,” said Norman.
“I think by now you can call me Adam, sir.”
“Okay, I will. But then you gotta stop all this sir nonsense. I’m Norman.”
“Alright, Norman. I’m just not comfortable with this plan. It hinges on you, and no offense, but not only are you a civilian, you are, to me, a perfect stranger.”
“I get it, Adam. I truly do. Would it help if I told you that your breath is horrible?”
“What?” Adam hadn’t been expecting that. It was all he could do not to raise his voice. “How is that supposed to help?”
“It means that I’m comfortable around you, Adam.” Norman put a hand on his shoulder. “I trust you. Enough so that I felt okay telling you something that I knew would embarrass and humiliate you. Who else but a friend would do that?”
Norman smiled. It was big and cheesy and beamed out at Adam through the dark.
Adam wanted to be mad, knew that he should be, but looking at Norman now, and thinking about the situation they were in, all he could do was laugh quietly.
“That was one big load of B.S.,” Adam said.
“Yeah,” Norman said. “I know. Did it work?”
“It did,” Adam said. “Let’s do this.”
Within moments Adam was at the front east corner of the building. From here he was closer to the Toyota. He pulled the keys from his pocket and waited. He could see Norman’s Scout, its front pointing toward the highway. Norman stood being it, the rear door open wide. He couldn’t quite tell from where he was, but it looked like Norman was belting something around his waist.
Then, Norman slammed the door shut and turned. As if they were one entity, the zombie mass turned to see where the sound had come from.
“Howdy,” Norman said in a loud, clear voice. Then, with a wink, he tipped his hat, just slightly. “Y’all mind stepping away from the building?”
There was a sound, like a massive sigh as the horde moved toward the lone man. Then to Adam’s amazement, Norman threw his coat open wide, and there, hanging low on each hip, were a pair of guns. Suddenly, they were in his hands—Adam hadn’t even seen him draw—and Norman opened fire.
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