Three police cars blocked the road ahead. Six police officers were standing behind the cars. Four of them were dressed in uniform, the other two, a man and woman, were in plain clothes. They wore tactical vests and all six of them aimed a gun at us.
It'’s not often that you see police with guns around here, but when you do, they usually carry the same type of guns. These six had a mixture.
Two of them held double-barrelled shotguns; one held what looked like a sniper rifle, the plain-clothes each had a pistol, and the one in the centre of them all, a middle-aged woman, held a magnum. It looked just like the one Eastwood used in the '‘Dirty Harry'’ movies. It looked even bigger and a lot deadlier in real life.
“Just leave, Bruv,” Dexy said. “Get us out of here.”
“They have guns aimed at us,” Jim shook his head. “They’’re not fucking about.”
The middle-aged woman with the Magnum and the two officers holding shotguns moved around the police cars and headed towards us, their guns constantly aimed in our direction.
One of the officers stood by the passenger side door of the Ford and raised his shotgun until it was level with Dexy'’s head. The second officer, who sported a thin moustache that he looked barely old enough to grow, stood next to his colleague with his own shotgun aimed at everyone in the back seat. The middle-aged woman tapped the barrel of her huge pistol against the driver’’s side window. Jim pressed the button and the window whirred its way down.
“Good morning,” the middle-aged woman had a cheerful yet stern tone. “I'’m Chief Inspector Price.”
Jim nodded his head, but said nothing.
“Over there, you have Constable Berry,” the officer at the passenger side window lifted the barrel of his shotgun in an unspoken greeting. “And Constable Wood,” the officer with the not-quite-there-yet moustache raised his eyebrows.
Chief Inspector Price’s jet-black hair was in a bun pulled back so tight that it threatened to tear her face off. She had cold, blue eyes and thin, pale lips. I silently prayed that Jim was not going to piss her off.
“How can we help, you?” Jim asked, looking at the officers behind the police cars.
The Chief Inspector smiled, reached into the Ford and snatched the key out of the ignition. She then opened the car door.
“Step out of the vehicle, please sir,” she said; the barrel of her gun was only inches away from Jim'’s temple.
Jim sighed heavily and got out of the car. As he did so, the two officers in plain clothes moved away from the Police cars and headed towards us. The plain-clothes man wore beige trousers and a pink shirt, while the woman wore tight jeans and a thin black jacket over a red top.
The sniper? He stayed where he was.
“Now, where are you all heading?” The Chief Inspector asked.
“We'’re trying to find somewhere safe,” Jim lied.
The plain-clothes officers had now reached the Ford.
“Good morning, Sir,” pink shirt said. “I'’m Detective Inspector Mason and this is Detective Constable Palmer.”
“Charmed,” Jim offered a blatantly fake smile. “Why have you stopped us, was I speeding?”
D.I. Mason ignored Jim’’s sarcasm and poked his head into the car, looking around at us before finally grinning at Dexy.
“Well, well,” he said with a wink. “If it isn'’t '‘Sexy Dexy'’. How'’s it going, Dexy?” He looked back at Dodge. “Oh, and your little brother. Very cosy.”
“We didn'’t do nothing wrong,” Dexy told him. “Just let us go, yeah?”
Outside the car, D.C. Palmer was searching Jim.
“Looks like you'’ve been in the wars,” Mason said, looking over at me.
“It'’s nothing,” my hand instinctively reached up and touched the throbbing black eye that he was referring to.
D.C. Palmer had found the gun and knife on Jim. On seeing the weapons, Constable Berry rushed around and stood behind him.
“Going to war?” The Chief Inspector asked.
“Look,” Jim was trying his best not to antagonise them. “It'’s absolute hell out here. We need the fucking protection.”
“Do you have a license for this firearm, Sir?” The Chief Inspector already knew the answer but asked anyway.
“What?” Jim said. “No, I don'’t have a fucking license. Are you people aware of what'’s been happening?”
The Chief Inspector nodded her head at Constable Berry, who quickly turned his shotgun around and smashed the butt of it into the back of Jim'’s head. Jim held his hand up to the fresh wound and turned around to face his attacker.
“You fucking c...” He was unconscious and on the ground before he could finish the sentence.
“Take the weapons, D.C. Palmer,” the Chief Inspector said.
“Aw man, this is bullshit!” Dexy opened his door and jumped out of the car.
“Give me an excuse, scum,” Constable Wood pressed both barrels of his shotgun against the back of Dexy'’s head with quick and deadly intent. “I will blow your brains all over this road.”
“Alright, Bruv,” Dexy raised his arms in submission. “Alright.”
I took the courier bag containing my diary, my record of events, and stashed it in the space between my new prison and the back seat. The Chief Inspector and her group were not acting how I would expect the Police to act. The rest of us didn'’t say a word, instead, we sat and hoped that we weren'’t about to be shot down in cold blood. Barney had secreted himself under the driver’’s seat of the car; I could see his shiny wet nose sticking out from the shadows.
“Right then, Ma'’am,” Mason said to the Chief Inspector. “I'’ll take a look at the gentleman in the back.” He thumbed in my direction.
“Carry on, D.I. Mason.”
He strolled around and opened up the back of the Ford.
“Who’’s that?” He asked, pointing his pistol at the body of my Holly-monster.
“It'’s my wife.”
Her wrists were still tied and she had a bloodied pillowcase over her head. Mason didn'’t know the whole story, so this probably looked quite bad to him.
“Dead body, back here, Ma'’am,” he said. “Get out of the vehicle, please, Sir.”
I got out of the Ford and stood beside Mason. Gemma was still crying in the back seat and Travis looked frozen to the spot. Dodge crouched forward with his head in his hands whispering something under his breath over and over. I couldn'’t quite catch what he was saying but it sounded like, “don'’t shoot us, don'’t shoot us.”
All of the officers crowded around me, except Wood, who kept his shotgun trained on Dexy. Oh, and the sniper was still by the Police cars.
“Did you do this, Sir?” The Chief Inspector asked, waving her free hand in the direction of Holly'’s body.
“She, she’’d turned into one of those things,” I said. “She was dangerous.”
“The Chief Inspector asked you a question,” Palmer stepped up to me, her face inches from mine. “Did you kill this woman?”
Of course, I had, but she had changed into something that wasn'’t my wife. Deep down, I knew that they didn’’t want to hear it.
“Yes or no?” Palmer insisted.
“Sir, you are under arrest for the murder of your wife,” Mason told me my rights while handcuffing my hands behind my back.
“This is bang out of order!” Dexy said. “You can'’t do this, you muppets!”
“I think you'’ll find that we can,” the Chief Inspector assured him. “Arrest him too, Constable Wood.”
“What?” Dexy sounded astonished at the prospect. “What did I do?”
The Chief Inspector stood in front of him, her thin lips twisted in a cruel, unforgiving grin. She was enjoying herself.
“Let’’s start with you being a hoodie lowlife,” she told him. “Put these two in a car, they'’re coming back to the station.”
“What about the rest of ‘‘em, Ma'’am?” Mason wanted to know.
“They can stay,” she pointed at the gun and knife that were still on the car bonnet. “I asked you to confiscate those weapons, D.C. Palmer.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Palmer grabbed the gun and looked into the car at Gemma, Dodge and Travis. Then she looked down at the unconscious mountain that was Jim and slowly pushed the knife across the car bonnet until it fell onto the floor. While we were being dragged away, I saw her raise a finger to her lips, giving Gemma the universal sign of ‘shush’.
At least one of them still had a shred of decency and wasn’t prepared to leave my little girl without some form of protection. Jim’s knife wasn’t as good as the gun, but it was better than nothing.
As we were being pushed into the back of a Police car, Dodge shouted across to Dexy, “I'’ll find you, Dex. Don'’t worry!”
Gemma hadn'’t said anything. I wondered if she hated me.
The Police cars sped away, one of them carrying Dexy and myself. Gemma consumed my thoughts. How was I going to make right with her? How could I earn her forgiveness? What I should have been thinking about was how to get away from these Police officers. D.C. Palmer, with Mason in the passenger seat, was driving the Police car that we were in.
“This ain'’t right,” Dexy said. “You should be helping us, not kidnapping us.”
“You’’ve been arrested, not kidnapped,” Mason said, clearly agitated at the accusation of kidnap. “There’’s a big difference.”
Palmer looked over at her colleague briefly, the slightest of glances before turning her attention back to the road. That glance was easy to read, she wasn'’t sure about this either.
“That'’s bullshit, Bruv,” Dexy said, “I watched those things kill all my boys, the guys I grew up with.”
“What'’s your point?” Mason asked.
“With everything that’’s going on, locking us up seems well shady.”
I noticed small groups of infected on the streets, they milled around like lost tourists, showing no more than a passing interest in us as we drove by.
“The thing is, Dexy,” Mason scratched his thick head of hair. “Even when Britain goes to hell, it needs law,” he pointed to the Police car in front of us. “The Chief Inspector knows what she'’s doing.”
“So what? You'’re her little puppets then?” Dexy said. “She says shit and you jump on the shovel?”
Mason turned to face us and raised his gun.
“If you don'’t shut your nasty little mouth,” He narrowed his eyes. “I'’ll shoot your kneecaps off and leave you on the side of the road. Got it?”
Dexy looked down at his feet and said nothing.
I caught Palmer'’s gaze in the rear view mirror but she quickly looked away. I think she felt guilty. I hoped that she felt guilty, because we definitely needed a friend.
Mason faced front and uttered a self-satisfied “humph.”
We turned a corner and the car in front stopped. Palmer brought our car to a halt and looked back to see that the third Police car in our small convoy had also stopped. Mason grabbed a handheld Police radio that had been sitting on top of the dashboard.
“What'’s going on?” He asked.
Some static replied and then a voice.
“Three bodies in the road,” the Chief Inspector said.
I tried to get a look but couldn'’t see much past the front Police car. The street itself was a normal residential street, houses on either side with gardens in the front. One of the gardens had an overturned car laying in it, the back wheels of which were slowly turning. The garden directly to our right had huge bushes obstructing the view of the house. Other than the crashed car, everything seemed quiet, at least there weren'’t any infected roaming around.
“Andrew and Shaun can move them,” Mason told the Chief Inspector.
I heard the doors of the car behind us open and slam closed. Wood and Berry walked past our car muttering about the unfairness of them having to drag bodies out of the road. Once they had reached the front car, they crouched down and disappeared from view. I looked at the tall bushes again.
“Welcome to the world of shit rolling downhill, boys,” Mason said with a grin while the two officers head toward their task.
“There'’s something...” I tried to warn D.I. Mason and his colleague.
“Shut it,” Mason said.
Dexy looked at me quizzically and then at the bushes. Another movement, like a shadow but solid, more tangible.
Wood and Berry were busy at work clearing the road. They visibly struggled to carry the body of a very overweight woman. Wood had her arms and Berry held the legs. Her green dress was stained with blood and filth.
“There'’s something over there, Bruv,” Dexy inclined his head toward the tall bushes.
Mason and Palmer turned to look at us.
“Over whe...” Mason'’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “Shit!”
A group of at least ten infected came racing out from behind the tall bushes, chomping at the air and baying like hungry wolves. Mason opened the car door and stepped onto the road.
“Watch out!” He then jumped straight back into the car and slammed the door closed.
Wood and Berry saw the ravenous group heading for them and unceremoniously dropped the body they had been carrying. I saw Wood mouth the words “oh my God,” before sprinting toward his car, with Berry following closely behind. The problem with this direction was that the infected were standing between the two Police officers and the salvation of their vehicle.
Two of the monsters leaped onto Wood and tackled him to the ground, he screamed as greedy teeth ripped into his flesh. More of the infected piled on him in their eagerness to join the cannibalistic feast.
Berry sidestepped away from the grasp of another infected with all the grace and style of a professional rugby player. He ran around to the passenger side of our car and pulled open the back door.
“Move!” He screamed at Dexy who quickly shuffled his way closer to me, giving Berry room to sit down and slam the door shut.
The infected that weren'’t attacking Wood had now turned their attention to our car and headed for us. The one in front of them all wore a dark red hoodie, its face hidden in long shadows. It stood beside the car and stared into my window for what seemed like an eternity.
“We need to move, Detective Inspector,” the Chief Inspector’’s voice crackled through the radio.
The Chief Inspector’s car sped off, tyres squealing in protest.
Wood stopped screaming and blood burbled across his lips just as his eyes darkened with the merciful release of death.
I looked up at the infected Hoodie. He stood there watching me, watching all of us. The other infected had grouped behind him as though waiting for instruction. Palmer looked back at me and then at the group of monsters.
“What'’s he doing?” She asked.
I didn’’t know, all I could do was watch. The infected Hoodie held his arm out and pointed a long, bloodstained index finger at us. His lips were moving within the shadows of his hood, as though he were talking. I couldn'’t hear any words, just low, guttural grunts and snarls. We were transfixed, unable to tear our attention away from that hooded beast.
“Get out of there, Mason!” The Chief Inspectors voice boomed through the radio, shocking us out of our almost hypnotic state.
As soon as her voice broke the silence inside the car, the infected that had been standing quietly behind their Hoodie leader now rushed at us, fists punched at the windows, teeth gnashed at the air. Palmer’’s window buckled under the weight of an infected fist and a myriad of cracks spidered their way across the safety glass.
“Let'’s go, Kate!” Mason yelled.
Kate Palmer didn'’t wait to be told a second time. She swerved the car to avoid the bodies in the road and we were soon racing along at what felt like the speed of sound.
“An ambush,” I said the words beneath my breath.
“They killed Andy,” Berry said.
“I know, mate,” Mason rubbed his forehead.
“They ambushed us,” I said, louder this time for everyone to hear. “They put bodies in the road and waited.”
“Don'’t talk stupid!” Mason retorted. “They can'’t think clearly,” he sounded as though he had almost convinced himself. “They can'’t talk, they can'’t make a nice cup of tea, and they most certainly cannot set traps.”
“But they did,” I said. “That was a trap. You saw the Hoodie, we all did. He was communicating with them.”
“Shut it, you'’re talking bollocks,” Mason looked across at Palmer. “Get us back to the Station, Kate.”
“Right,” Palmer said.
It wasn'’t long before we caught up to the Chief Inspector'’s car.
“Good to see you'’re okay,” her voice said through the radio speaker. “Did Constable Wood make it out?”
“No,” Mason closed his eyes. “They killed him, Ma'’am.”
There was silence for long moments before the Chief Inspector spoke again.
“I see,” she said. “We'’ll regroup at the station.”
“Yes, Ma'’am,” Mason placed the radio back on the dashboard and sat back into his seat with a long, deep sigh.
“This is all kinds of messed up, Bruv,” Dexy whispered in my direction.
I nodded in agreement.
My thoughts returned to Gemma, Dodge and Jim. I hoped that they’’d gone back to the shop or found another safe place. If they remained stranded in the middle of the road with an injured Jim, then anything could happen. In spite of all the things I disliked about Jim, I needed him to keep my daughter safe.
“Home sweet home,” Mason said.
The Police station loomed before us, a huge building of concrete and barred windows. The Chief Inspector'’s car pulled up outside the main entrance and both she and sniper got out. Sniper stretched his arms and yawned. Mason was the first out when we had parked up.
“What the hell happened?” The Chief Inspector asked.
“They came out of nowhere, Ma'’am,” Mason told her.
Palmer helped me out of the car and Berry gave Dexy some help, albeit a little rougher.
“I want those two in a cell, put them in number five,” the Chief Inspector said.
“Yes, Ma'’am,” Palmer pushed us both towards the entrance. “Let'’s move it.”
“Then, we all need to have a talk,” the Chief Inspector added, “in my office.”
All the officer'’s nodded in agreement and headed inside.
Palmer split off from the rest of them and frogmarched us towards a huge wrought iron gate.
“Kate, is it?” I asked.
“D.C. Palmer to you,” she pulled open the barred gate that led to the cellblock.
“D.C. Palmer, then,” if she could have looked into my eyes she would have seen my best puppy dog expression, but alas, she was behind me. “You know you shouldn'’t be locking us up. We could help each other; our group could come and join you.”
“Yeah, like safety in numbers, right?” Dexy said.
“Exactly. Please, don'’t do this. Don'’t lock us away.”
“Sorry,” she said, “but I have to follow orders.”
“No. No, you don'’t.”
“It'’s the chain of command,” she stepped in front of us and opened a cell door. “You’’ll need to speak with the Chief Inspector.”
She unlocked our handcuffs, directed us into the cell, and slammed the door behind us.
“Well, tell her I'’d like a chat, then.”
“I will,” she turned the key and the lock snapped into place.
Her footsteps grew fainter as she walked back down the hall and then I heard the main gate swing shut and the lock click into place.
Dexy kicked the cell door. “This is a load of crap, Bruv! They'’re out of order!”
We both fell silent when we heard groaning and scraping sounds coming from some of the other cells on the block. The sound quickly escalated into a discordant symphony of howling and snarling.
“They…” I could barely believe what I was about to ask. “They'’ve got those things in here?”
“Sounds like it, Bruv,” Dexy slumped down onto the stone bench that ran along the left side wall of our cell and buried his head in his hands. “These arseholes are all kinds of messed up.”
I sat down next to him.
“Maybe the others will find us,” I tried to sound hopeful, as though I believed it myself. “Maybe they'’ll reason with the Chief Inspector, convince her to let us go.”
“Nah, Bruv,” Dexy eyed me with cold certainty. “We'’re on our own in here.”
He was right, we were on our own.