This is the first story in my Last City Stories collection. The plan is that in the end there will be novels and short stories. It is part of the world I created for the World of the Dead series, but the focus is different.
The Last City Stories is centred around the last human city (at least as far as the inhabitants know) in a world filled with zombies. It has been twenty years since the world died and there is one city that is completely zombie free. The city of New Hope.
These are basically noir themed stories in a post-zombie world.
A word of warning, this story is disturbing. There are references to pedophilia and necrophilia in it.
It wasn’t right.
It was supposed to be a divorce case, check out a cheating husband for the wife, give her proof so she could divorce his ass. Of course, he was a Duchene which made it more complicated, but he was a minor one.
The wife came into my office, just another day. She was an older woman, the kind that instantly told you she had money. We don’t have a lot of those near the docks.
“You don’t look like a private eye.”
“Rick Kendall at your service, and yeah, I’m a licensed investigator.”
“Okay, I’m Grace Duchene. I need someone to look into my husband.”
“Duchene? Not sure I’m going to take this one, sorry.”
“I can pay. Well.”
“Okay, yeah, so what’s the job?”, I asked.
“I think he’s cheating on me. I need to know for sure before I look at divorce. He used to be affectionate, now he’s distant, closed. He doesn’t come to bed with me anymore.”
“That’s not a great sign. I can do a surveillance job on him. It’s not going to be cheap though.”
“Yes, of course. I can pay, there aren’t a whole lot of options for this sort of work.”
“Yes, and most of them are going to be so scared of your husband’s family they won’t even talk to you. I’m willing to chance it though.”
“Nothing much to lose I guess.”
We talked price and then she gave me what little she knew of Gordon’s schedule. Grace was still a beautiful woman, long silver hair, a white suit. She looked like someone from before.
I set up outside of Gordon’s office. The Duchene’s had him set up running a small food processing warehouse. There was a spot across the street that I could camp out at and I had a decent telephoto lens.
Gordon was a bit soft, he had the typical Duchene colouring. Reddish blonde hair, freckles, pale skin. He was balding. It wasn’t a great look. To be honest I was wondering why Grace even cared about a putz like this. He was rich sure, but that was just his family money. He was obviously on the lower end of the spectrum for a Duchene. He didn’t even drive to work, took a horse and carriage. Not a public one, he wasn’t poor, but no car for Gordon.
He went into the building and I snapped pictures. I found his office pretty easily, it was on the top floor because of course it was.
That night Gordon went to the old man’s bar. Good old Tony Duchene. The bar was a dive, pre-zombie place believe it or not. It showed every year on it. I sat across the street. As soon as the Duchene’s moved in the public moved out… fast.
The window was so covered in grime that I couldn’t see anything inside. I knew I had to get in, there was no way I could complete the job if I stayed outside, so I made my way around the back.
Now, I know, it wasn’t the smartest thing. The alleyway stank. Horsepiss mixed with hobo piss. There might have been some beer in there as well. It didn’t matter, I took the job. I was an idiot to do it, but I owed a lot of money and I like my kneecaps.
One thing I have going for me is the look. I look like a kitchen worker, maybe a gardener. I know I’m never going to win a beauty contest. Hell, Gordon is way better looking than me, but that works to my advantage. There’s nothing memorable about me.
I checked the back door. It was clearly the kitchen door. Locked. A decent lock too. It took me about fifteen seconds. I’m good with a set of picks. I slipped into a back hallway, garbage bags piled up. I could hear the kitchen just ahead so I snuck over, keeping close to the wall so I could get a look inside. There were only two people working, one doing cleanup and one chopping stuff. I figured all the other staff were waiting on the Duchene’s. The place was filthy, no standards. I knew Tony was an animal, but that’s no excuse to let your kitchen staff be this lax.
The thing was I needed to get past those two, get into a spot where I could see what was going on. Normally I’d slip the guys a few bucks and tell them to take a powder, but this was Tony Duchene. Letting someone see his business was a good way to get fed to zombies.
I questioned my brains for getting involved in this again. If I hadn’t owed Maurice so much money I would have turned it down, but Grace was paying three times my day rate.
The other direction down the hallway led to a flight of stairs going down. A basement. That meant I had a chance. I started down, the stairs were unlit. There was a door at the bottom, thick metal. It was locked, but the lock was no better than upstairs. I listened for a moment then picked it.
The smell hit me instantly. Rot, decay, shit. Zombies. Nothing else smells like that. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust. They didn’t seem to be coming my way.
There they were, chained to the wall, gags between their teeth. A dozen of the things. So the rumours were true. Well, not my job. I needed to figure out Gordon and that was it. If Tony wanted to feed people who didn’t do what he said to the zombies, well, that was his business.
I slipped between them, out of reach of their well-secured arms. They rattled their chains, tried to bit at me. I won’t lie, it was terrifying.
There was another stairwell at the far end of the basement. I took it up. It had a door at the top, a metal grate in the middle of it. I looked through and saw the family, drinking together, talking.
I recognized Tony and Billy as well as Gordon. There were a dozen or so more. The family colouring apparent on all of them. There were also strippers. Girls shaking their butts, grinding on the men of the family. There were a lot of other substances going around as well. Powders, pills, whatever. The guys were doing whatever they wanted to the girls. It was classic debauchery. Not Gordon though. He was staying out of it. Sitting back and looking at his feet. I saw a girl come over, couldn’t have been more than thirteen. Gordon just pushed her away.
I sate and watched for about an hour. Gordon talked to a couple of the other guys, chit-chat about the weather mostly, then he got up and left.
The trip back through the zombies was even scarier than the trip out. I remember thanking the powers that be for the fact that the Duchene’s were listening to music upstairs so the chains rattling down here didn’t carry. I know I would have been the main course for my basement companions if anyone had heard me.
I got out and tried to get out of the alleyway as fast as I could. Gordon was across the street, walking unhurriedly.
I waited and then followed.
Downtown was crowded, it always was this time of the evening. Three million people or so in a city this size, it’s going to be crowded.
Gordon wasn’t hurrying. I was able to keep up pretty easily, using my lack of distinction to my advantage again.
He went straight home. Nothing to report on day one.
I made my way to his office a couple of hours before the factory opened. There was a single security guard, not nearly enough for a place that size. When he went for rounds it was my chance. The lock here was even easier.
Inside it was dark, some light filtered through the high, small windows. An orange hue filtered over the bare concrete walls.
Gordon’s office was upstairs, off of a catwalk. I made my way up. The guard was outside. This place didn’t have anything of value. A bunch of barrels full of grain mostly.
The office door was locked. It wasn’t a problem. I had a video camera with me, a mini-job. It was pre-apocalypse tech. Cost me a pretty penny, but worth every cent. I put it up on a high shelf, pointing at the desk. The office was large, a black leather couch, a desk that screamed “I want you to believe I’m important even though I’m not”, a few chairs, a bookshelf. I set the camera and left.
The next day I didn’t bother tailing Gordon. I had a feeling that the secret his wife suspected was either in his office or her head. I didn’t know which.
That night though, I went back in to retrieve the camera. It was right where I left it, the battery dead — it lasts about fourteen hours. The things we used to make, I can never wrap my head around it.
When I got back to my office I viewed the footage. I have a computer, another piece of pre-apocalypse tech. There’s no way to do what I do without one.
Gordon pushed on a section of wall and it opened. Inside was a girl. Young, younger than the one at the bar. That alone was enough for me. Enough for me to condemn that son of a bitch. The thing was, she was naked, and she was also dead. Well, dead-ish. He had a gag in her mouth but she started trying to bite him anyway.
That’s when I knew. It didn’t really matter what Grace was paying me, I had to end him.
The plan was simple. I snuck back into the warehouse that night. No camera this time. Instead, I loosened the girl’s gag. Not completely. Enough that it wouldn’t hold for long. Then I went home.
In the morning I went to Grace and showed her the footage. The colour drained from her face when she saw it. “Oh god, oh my god.”
“That’s Jose’s daughter. She’s been missing for a couple of weeks. I can’t believe… do you think he killed her?”
“No idea. Seems likely. Necrophilia is illegal.”
“I don’t know what to do. I can’t just leave him. He has to be stopped.”
“Can I get paid now?”
She walked over to a safe in the wall and pulled a stack of bills. “Here you go. How do you deal with this? How can you see this side of people and keep going?”
“Sometimes I do something about it. Your husband though, the Duchene’s are above the law here.”
I let the house. Walked home. I knew that even if she figured out what had happened she wouldn’t report