Fighting the Dead:The Last Town #4

By: Stephen Knight

Bates shook his head. “Those people are going to need more help than what we can give, Reese.”

“No.” This came from another plainclothes detective, a skinny man named Marsh who worked the Gang and Narcotics desk at Hollywood Station. “No, the Bowl is where we need to go.”

Bates frowned and looked at him. “Why the hell for?”

“Because I heard that the sheriff’s department special operations division was up there, and they have MRAPs,” Marsh said. “We get our hands on one of those things, we go wherever we want.”

“How do we know if they’re still there?” Reese asked. “Has anyone been able to establish contact?”

No one could provide him with an affirmative, so Reese was inclined to forget about it. But the thought of having a heavily armored vehicle was attractive. He’d seen several of the department’s MRAPs in the past, and they were definitely rigged for heavy duty. Driving over dozens of stenches wasn’t likely to even slow them down.

“Bates, what do you think about obtaining an MRAP?” he asked.

Bates pursed his lips, thinking about it. “Not something I’d turn my back on. But what if we get up to the Bowl and it’s a shit storm? We going to turn our back on those people?”

Reese didn’t know how to answer that. It galled him to allow civilians to face the dead alone, without the support of the LAPD. He’d made the same general argument to Colonel Morton only hours before, but that was when engagements with the dead were still considered less likely. Now, it was almost constant. Reese and his men had their squad cars and the RV they sat in, but that was about it. Helping the citizens of Los Angeles now was pretty much a pipe dream.

As he was trying to frame a response, someone pounded on the door. It was locked, so Reese leaned over and opened it. Colonel Morton stood outside, dressed in full battle rattle. He looked up at Reese from the street outside.

“Reese, we’re pulling out. The hospital’s been shut down, and my troops have been ordered to establish a perimeter around the Hollywood Bowl. You have any instructions from your superiors?” the big National Guard commander asked. He practically spit the words out, and Reese didn’t need a degree in psychology to know the Guardsman was still pissed with the way Reese had treated him earlier in the day.

“No. Our stationhouse has been overrun, and contact with remaining elements of the LAPD are pretty much screwed,” Reese responded.

Morton nodded, though Reese could see he didn’t like the news. “Your guys are welcome to come with us. We’re arranging for ammunition resupply up there, and another two companies of infantry are going to be deployed from the staging area at Griffith Park. There are a couple of thousand people up there who will need our help, and we have to secure the area until we can get enough aviation assets in to lift them out.”

“What about the rest of the people in the hospital, Colonel?”

Morton looked at Reese directly. “The medical staff is pretty much gone, Reese. You can stay here and empty bed pans if you feel you need to, but our orders are to displace and head to the Bowl.” The hulking Guardsman leaned into the command post RV and looked around at the other cops standing in the vehicle’s tepid interior lights. It was getting dark outside, and Reese noticed that Morton had a pair of night vision goggles attached to his helmet. “You don’t seem to have a lot of manpower left, Reese. You won’t be able to hold out for more than five minutes if one of those waves gets through, and when they come, the aviation guys tell me they’re a thousand strong.” He looked at Reese again. “You’d better come with us. Cedar-Sinai is lost. No doctors, no nurses, no medical staff. Ambulances aren’t bringing in new patients. This place is a dead zone.”

Outside, the big .50-caliber guns opened up again, ripping off longer bursts. Morton stepped backward and looked toward San Vincente Boulevard, pulling the stock of his M4 into his armpit. The weapon looked almost like a toy in his grasp. The engagement heated up, and Reese heard more small arms join in the fun. Reese saw the muscles in Morton’s jaw stand out in stark relief as he clenched his teeth before the Guard officer turned back to the interior of the RV.

“Okay, we move out in ten minutes. Feel free to form up on us. If not, good luck.” With that, Morton slammed the command post door closed. Reese leaned over again and locked it.

“Okay, how many guys do we have left here?” he asked.

“Twenty-two,” Bates said. “We lost three. Don’t know where they are, but they’re not answering their ROVERs, and no one’s been able to find any bodies. They either got up and walked away, or they got taken down and dragged off somewhere.”

“We going with the Guard, Reese?” Marsh asked. His narrow face was sweaty and he had a pinched expression, like he’d just sat on a thumb tack.

“Let’s get the bus. We’ll take the CP and the bus, and maybe a couple of squad cars. Not so sure they’ll be the best protection, but at least people will know who we are when we get close to the Bowl. Last thing we want is for the sheriff’s department to light us up,” Reese said. “So yeah, I guess we’re going. No reason to stay if we’re just going to die. Anyone have any rebuttals?”

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