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Authors: Stephen Knight

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The Last Town (Book 2): Preparing For The Dead

BOOK: The Last Town (Book 2): Preparing For The Dead
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THE LAST TOWN #2

PREPARING FOR THE DEAD

By Stephen Knight

 

Copyright © 2014 by Stephen Knight

Kindle Edition

SINGLE TREE, CALIFORNIA

“H
iya, Max.”

Max Booker looked up from the swath of papers that littered his desk. While serving as the mayor of a town as miniscule as Single Tree, California, wasn’t a very stressful job, it was a bit hard on the eyes. The local government was small, which meant that Booker had to get involved with the finances behind every decision the town council brought up for a vote, as well as smooth any feathers which might get ruffled when he let an initiative’s champion know that there just wasn’t enough money in the coffers for his or her pet project. Single Tree was hardly a wealthy town, but at the same time, it wasn’t broke. Booker’s mission was to definitely try and provide the former without incurring the latter.

He pushed his glasses up on his forehead and blinked a couple of times. When he saw Barry Corbett standing in the doorway to his office, he put down his pen and got to his feet.

“Just the man I wanted to see,” Booker said, putting his palms on the desk. “Barry, did you somehow manage to get permission for airport construction without the town knowing about it?”

Corbett smiled slightly. “Yes, and no,” he said, cryptically.

Booker waved him inside. “Maybe we should talk about that.”

Corbett stepped inside the office, and another man followed him in. Booker recognized Gary Norton—hell, his older brother Warren had gone to high school with him—but they hadn’t exchanged more than a handful of words since Norton had built a new house next to his parents’ home several years ago, when Booker had first been elected mayor. The town’s planning and zoning board had taken issue with the house’s design, citing the fact that it was widely divergent from the rest of the houses on the street. That it was a corner lot caused even more consternation. Folks in Single Tree loved the money people like Norton spent, but they didn’t want their town transformed into Hollywood East, either. There was also some fear that Norton might want to establish another gigantic mansion like Corbett had, only much closer to town. That hadn’t been the case, but Booker and Norton had to ride through the P&Z gauntlet anyway.

“Well, hi, Gary,” Booker said.

“How are you, Max?” Norton responded.

“Gary, maybe you could get the door,” Corbett said as he slid into one of the two visitor chairs facing Booker’s desk. Booker watched as Norton closed the door and ambled to the last empty chair. He settled into it slowly, his face a blank mask.

“So what’s happening here, guys?” Booker asked. “Both of you here together? Doesn’t seem like this is a normal occurrence.”

“It’s not,” Corbett said. “Have a seat, Max. We have some talking to do.”

The unease Booker felt when the two men walked into his office blossomed into full-on suspicion. “What’s on your mind?”

“Sit down, Max,” Corbett said. “And you might want to tell Mary Ellen to hold your calls for a bit, we’re going to need some time.”

Booker eased himself back into his chair. “Well, we’ll see about that. I’m pretty interested about what’s going on at the airport, Mister Corbett. Seems like you might know something about that.”

Corbett made a dismissive gesture with one hand. “Yeah, yeah, I really
did
get authorization to install an instrument landing system, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. That work is going to be postponed.”

“How could you get that kind of arrangement made without us knowing about it?” Booker asked.

“Max, Single Tree does not own the airport. The city of Los Angeles does. Los Angeles is a little different than Single Tree, in that you can actually buy off politicians and the like without doing anything more than handing over money. The Federal Aviation Administration is a tougher nut to crack, but at the end of the day, the administration does what it’s told to do, and I have enough cash lying around to buy some influence. So there’s how Single Tree’s airport managed to get an ILS. With me so far?”

Booker took off his glasses and tossed them onto his desk. “Mister Corbett … what the hell are you trying to pull? I’m impressed with your ability to corrupt politicians, but what does this have to do with our airport? Is there a point to this?”

“Well, yeah. Initially, I wanted an ILS dropped in for safety reasons—there’s a lot of high terrain around here, and even though my pilots are the best and they have the best gear available to them, I want to be able to access the airport when some weather closes in. But that was a few months ago. Now, things are a little bit different.”

“In what way?”

“Max, have you been watching the news?” Norton asked.

“You’re talking about the plague? The one that came from Saudi Arabia, or Russia, or wherever the talking heads on TV decide it came from next?”

“I am,” Norton said.


We
are,” Corbett added.

Booker looked from Norton to Corbett. “Okay, I’m going to presume we’re no longer concerned with the ILS installation at the airport. Now we’re about to move on to the plague, and you’re both going to explain to me why that is. Is that right?”

“Correct,” Corbett said. He looked at Norton. “You mind if I carry this on a bit longer?”

“Not at all.”

Corbett looked back at Booker. “Max, listen. This is going to be tough for you to deal with. Just keep in mind that my concern is the town. Nothing else. If things are heading the way I think they are, only the town and the people matter. I’ve been here for my entire life, off and on, even though I have the ability to go anywhere and do anything. It’s always been about the town. The community. The people.”

“Running for office, Mister Corbett? I don’t think you can buy off this electorate. You might have been born here, but you’re not
from
here any longer,” Booker said, and he couldn’t control his acidic tone. Even though he had no personal unpleasant experiences with Barry Corbett, he was ideologically uninclined to trust men of great wealth. In Booker’s mind, men like Corbett presumed the preservation of that wealth eclipsed all else. While Booker didn’t feel money was the root of all evil, the old man had just told him he’d used it to corrupt the political process, and that pissed Booker off something fierce.

Corbett only smiled at the jibe. “Thanks for the feedback. Anyway, yes, this is about the plague. Whatever’s happening out in the world is something we’re not going to be able to control. Moscow is about to be overrun by millions of walking dead. The Middle East is going under. There’s some sort of massive firefight going on inside western China. Israel is in complete lockdown. Europe is about to pull the pin and follow their example, though getting the Europeans to do anything unanimously other than awarding more paid time off is going to make that kind of tough. Rio is on fire, and not just because the women are so gorgeous, but because a lot of them have turned into carnivorous corpses. There are breakouts in LA, New York, Miami, and several other cities—everywhere there’s a major airport. And tomorrow, the US economy officially tanks. Per barrel prices of oil will hit two hundred twenty-three dollars, and that’s just at the market open.”

Booker took it all in stride. He’d certainly been aware of what was going on in the world, and he didn’t doubt that things were dire. Just the same, he didn’t—he
refused
—to buy what Corbett was telling him.

“Nice story,” he said. “Is that what you tell the Republican and Tea Party Super PACs?”

Corbett smiled again, but this time there wasn’t a ray of friendliness in it. “Just to get this out of the way, Democrat and far-left organizations love my money probably
more
than those on the right. Just in case you were wondering, since I’m pretty sure you haven’t made much in the way of donations to alternate parties.”

“Say it isn’t so,” Booker said.

“So listen, this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to call an emergency meeting of the town council, one that’s closed to the public. We’re going to tell them what’s happening, and that the town is going to be protected—but we’re going to be a little light on the details. With your permission, I’ll get with the police and fire department and square them away later today. They’ll have to be our partners in this. The rest of the town doesn’t need to be pulled into the fold just yet, but eventually, they’ll start asking questions. Those questions might lead to some unwanted investigations, so”—Corbett continued speaking even as Booker held up a hand, trying to get a word in—“we need to get things moving fast, and get the big ticket items developed quickly so they can be finished before things really hit the fan.”

“We should talk to Victor Kuruk, too,” Norton added, and Booker wondered just why in the hell the leader of the Indian reservation to the town’s south should be involved.

“Good point, hadn’t thought of that,” Corbett said. “They’re good people, mostly, so we shouldn’t leave them out in the cold if we can help it.”

“What the
hell
are you two talking about?” Booker snapped.

Corbett and Norton looked at him squarely. Booker kept his eyes on Corbett, so he was surprised when it was Norton who finally spilled the beans.

“Max, it’s come down to this: the zombie apocalypse is starting, and we need to fortify this town to keep our people alive.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

“W
hat do you
mean, all flights are cancelled? This is
outrageous
! Do you know who I am?”

The ticket agent manning the desk at the gate looked harried as hell, but as soon as Sinclair played the celebrity card, his eyes narrowed into slits and he clenched his teeth. He glared at Sinclair and, for a moment, the talk show host feared the younger man was actually going to hit him.

“Yeah, I know who you are,” the man said. “You’re Jock Sinclair, that lobsterback blow-hard who keeps telling Americans they’re just a bunch of gun-toting assholes who shoot kids and blow up other countries. By the way, your flight’s cancelled.” He pointed at his nametag. “My name’s Juan Vega, the one from New Mexico, not the one from California. There are two of us here with that name, so make sure you mention the right guy when you call customer relations.”

“I God damn will!” Sinclair fairly shouted. He couldn’t believe the nerve of the little worm.
A common
worker
? Standing up to
me?

“Jock,” Meredith said softly, tugging at the sleeve of his navy blue blazer.

Sinclair ignored her. “How can
all
the flights be cancelled?” he said to the ticket agent. “Tell me that again, how can
every
flight out of Las Vegas be cancelled?”

“Because the FAA has called for a full ground stop, just like after 9/11,” the young man said. “You remember that, right?”

“Remember it? I lived through it! While you were still probably sucking your mother’s sagging tits in Mexico, I was
living
through the attack on New York!” Sinclair said. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he felt a surge of heat course through him like an electric shock. From the corner of his eye, he could see the rest of the passengers who were to fly to Los Angeles easing away from him.

BOOK: The Last Town (Book 2): Preparing For The Dead
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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