“There, all done.” Ravenna said triumphantly as she laid the map down before her.
“Good, let me see.” Rosalie said brusquely, reaching for it. Ravenna handed the map over; Rosalie immediately began to inspect it. Rosalie had been pouring over the map for almost fifteen minutes when suddenly she leapt into the air, in a classic “Eureka” moment.
“I take it you found something?” Ravenna commented dryly.
“Yes!” Rosalie grinned. “Here look at this.” She commanded shoving the map back across the scarred table to Ravenna pointing excitedly at a point roughly in the middle of all the crime scenes.
“What? I don’t see anything.” Ravenna shrugged.
Rosalie rolled her eyes. “Look closer!”
Ravenna returned to the map, her nose drifting closer to the page. “I still don’t see anything…”
“Ah, dear God you’re incompetent, here give me that.” Rosalie snatched the map out of Ravenna’s hands, re-arranged it, and then assumed her explaining. “See, here, look.” She said, punctuating each word with a jab of her finger to a different crime scene. “Each location is within a two-kilometer radius of this central location.” She jabbed at the location on the map enthusiastically.
“Whoa, whoa, slow down there tiger. No need to get too excited.” Ravenna said dubiously, eying the map with skepticism.
“Are you kidding me?!” Rosalie nearly shouted with disbelief. “Don’t you see this? This center point, it’s like the headquarters of this whole conspiracy or whatever.”
Ravenna gave her a flat look, “Dude, you have issues.”
“Oh come on!” Rosalie yelled, standing up. She pushed herself back from the table and took a few steps towards the barred window. Her back was turned to Ravenna as she took a few deep breaths to calm herself. She stared at the mattress still propped there, the way the off-white sheets still clung haphazardly to the top, the remainder forming a pool of cloth on the floor. Rosalie pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration, her gaze shifting to the beige carpet beneath her feet.
“Don’t you think you’re taking this just a little overboard?” Ravenna suggested quietly. She wasn’t trying to upset her friend but all of this…well it was hard for her to accept. If she did believe, well it would turn her whole world upside down. She wasn’t willing to invest in that kind of earth-shattering truth lightly.
“How can you say that?!” Rosalie demanded through gritted teeth. “You haven’t even asked me where the center is!” She added as whirled to face Ravenna, an accusatory look arranging her features.
“Fine then, where is this “center” then?” Ravenna countered tiredly.
Rosalie’s countenance appeared to calm, then very matter-of-factly she asked, hands on her hips, “Where were we last night?”
Ravenna, a little taken aback by the sudden change in Rosalie’s behavior, answered only a bit uncertainly, her eyes rapt on Rosalie’s face: “Uh, that bar, Bandoleer’s or whatever….what does that have to do with it?”
Rosalie ignoring Ravenna’s question completely, continued. “And where did we run into that guy that attacked you?”
“Just outside the…” Ravenna’s face lit up with comprehension, shortly followed by horror, as she finished her reply. “…Oh my God!!”
“Exactly.” Rosalie said with a self-assured nod.
Ravenna’s horror quickly changed to confusion as she continued to try to put the pieces together. “So you, what, think that there’s like some zombie colony living under Bandoleer’s?”
Rosalie, who had been looking rather smug after Ravenna’s epiphany, suddenly looked exhausted. She rubbed her face a couple of times and was staring into the distance as she spoke. “I don’t know exactly. I mean we don’t really have much to go on at this point.” She turned back to Ravenna and looked her right in eyes. “But whatever’s going on that bar is at the heart of it.”
“So what does that mean for us then?” Rosalie asked, slightly afraid of the answer.
Rosalie tapped her fingers on the honey-colored table as she thought about their next step. At last she said, “I think it’s time we paid another visit to that bar.”
Ravenna perking up at the idea, announced eagerly, “Undercover work?! I’m sooo there! But uh, maybe we should change first…” She amended, sniffing the clothes she still wore from the night before.
* * *
“So… What exactly are we looking for?” Ravenna asked a little carelessly as they left their room.
“Uh, honestly, I’m not really sure.” Rosalie admitted a little sheepishly on their way to the Charger.
“Oh…. Ok.” Ravenna paused, her line of thought momentarily broken. She tried again, “So, what are you expecting then? Like for zombies to come crawling from the basement frothing from the mouth?”
Rosalie sighed, she didn’t like not having the answers and being reminded she didn’t wasn’t helping. “Like I said, I’m not really sure, and like this whole “nest” thing, I dunno, it really bothers me.”
“Well then what’s your theory there Sherlock? Why can’t the “zombies” travel any farther than two kilometers? Think they can’t get back fast enough before the sun crispy critters them?” Ravenna replied her tone even more careless now and edged with sarcasm in order to hide the growing apprehension she was feeling in the pit of her stomach. She wasn’t used to Rosalie not having all the answers either.
Her gaze was trained on the motel as they continued to make their way to the car. There were two reasons she couldn’t look at Rosalie: one, she didn’t want her to see her face and see the doubt and concern under the bravado; and two, she wasn’t sure she could handle seeing any doubt or concern on Rosalie’s face right now either. So her gazed wandered over the motel taking in the aged but well-kept façade which was painted, yes, tan. She wondered if they’d gotten a deal for buying so much tan paint… It was a two story building, squat to the ground but long so as to make up for its lack of stories and fit a decent amount of rooms. It was situated in a standard motel L-shape with an office and lobby a the tip of the short leg leading into a few rooms before making a sharp turn left where the rest of the L and the rooms were located. On top of all the tan the motel had opted for chestnut trim on its railings and doors making the whole building look as if a giant nut had thrown up in the middle of a parking lot. She supposed it was meant to look earthy and fit in with the mountain feel. In her astute opinion they had failed miserably, especially since the since was done in a navy blue and a pale yellow and completely at odds with the rest of color scheme suggesting there must have been renovations at some point to bring the building back up to date but no one had bothered about the sign. Well it bothered her, she noticed details, she liked details, they were what made things interesting and it was the details that had drawn her to psychology. She wasn’t the only one who noticed details though…
“No, no, no.” Rosalie scoffed. “Besides we’re talking about zombies here, not vampires. Zombies do not simply light up in the sun, they just look really gross when you can really see them.” She added matter-of-factly as she unlocked the car.
“Well then..?” Ravenna prodded. She knew she was being a pain in the ass and she really wasn’t meaning to she just—she just, well she just didn’t know what else to do.
Rosalie who was clearly started to get irritated with the conversation, interrupted Ravenna by slamming the door she had just opened, cutting off the sentence Ravenna had started. “I DON’T KNOW OK?!” She exclaimed. They stared at each other wide-eyed over the roof of the car; Rosalie looked away first and took a deep breath in an obvious attempt to calm down before turning back to Ravenna. “Look, let’s just go find out.” She finally said, gesturing in the general direction of the bar before sliding into the driver’s seat and starting the car.
Ravenna, only slightly shocked by Rosalie’s sudden outburst, hesitated for just a second before climbing into the passenger’s side. “Alright, let’s go… jeeze calm down.” Ravenna mumbled glancing side-long at Rosalie, who gave her a look that would have made anyone else run for cover, Ravenna had the good sense to at least flinch. Rosalie ripped the car into reverse and tore out of the parking lot, muttering angrily to herself the rest of the way to the bar.
* * *
“Ummm… No thanks.” Ravenna said through a tight smile sidling away from her pursuer.
He pressed on, unperceptive of her “seriously stay the fuck away from me” body language. “Oh come on beautiful, just one drink.”
“No seriously, I’m fine.” She reiterated before adding, “Besides, I got a friend waiting for me.” She then rushed away from the bar carrying two drinks, back towards the booth Rosalie occupied, before he could say another word.
“Never thought I’d see the day,” Rosalie laughed as Ravenna slumped into the brown cracked vinyl booth seat.
“What day?” Ravenna demanded curtly. She pushed Rosalie drink toward her and then busied herself trying to shift the vinyl beneath her just a little so that it wouldn’t dig into her ass so fiercely. This field trip was just not going her way.
“The day you turned down a free drink!” Rosalie grinned broadly, as she accepted her drink from Ravenna.
Ravenna turned from the vinyl to her cohort, scowling. “Hey!” She protested.
Rosalie shrugged unapologetically. “Come on, you gotta admit it’s pretty rare.”
“Alright, ya I guess it is.” Ravenna acceded before taking a sip from her drink.
Rosalie let out a light scoff. “That’s what I thought.” She sipped her drink in turn.
“That guy was a creep anyway.” Ravenna continued, absently stirring her drink with the thick black straw she’d been given.
“Really? Like how? He actually looks kind of cute if you ask me.” Rosalie inquired, visually perking with interest as she glanced over at the man in question.
Ravenna shook her head as Rosalie’s lack of sympathy. “Whatever, you can have him then.” She paused to take another sip. “Besides, you just like him 'cause he’s tall.” She accused.
“What can I say? I love me a tall man.” Rosalie shrugged, her lips set in a smile of approval.
Ravenna rolled her eyes, and took another drink.
“What?” Rosalie chuckled, tried turning into in a cough and failed. Ravenna raised her eyebrow in question. “So anyway… You said he was creepy. Define “creepy.”” Rosalie resumed, apparently over her coughing fit.
“I dunno.” Ravenna sighed. She didn’t really know how to explain why she disliked him so much. She was used to men accosting her and could generally slough it off with ease, but something about this guy…it just gave her a bad feeling. “He was in here last night too, and wouldn’t leave me alone. He began to get really angry when I kept turning him down, it started to scare me a little bit.”
It was Rosalie’s turn to raise her eyebrows. “Was that it? Just a case of coming on too strong, and getting a little pissy ‘cause you managed to withstand his many charms?” Rosalie asked sarcastically. “Or was there something else?” She added, this time serious.
“Ah I dunno Rosalie. I mean it’s hard to explain. Let’s just say I wouldn’t wanna find myself alone with him under the best of circumstances, never mind anything else.” She took a long pull off her drink to distract herself from the jitters she got even talking about the creep.
“Think he could be our guy?” Rosalie ventured. Her interest had piqued again, though this time in a much different way. If you suspected a guy might be a zombie controlling serial killer it kinda removed him from the romantic pool—well for her anyway.
“Maybe. I guess anything’s possible…” Ravenna peeked over her shoulder to see if the guy was still sitting at the bar. He was.
He’d advanced on her almost immediately after they’d arrived at the bar an hour earlier. Although, she had to admit it hadn’t been the most inconspicuous entrance. They’d walked in just as the last song had ended and before another one had had time to begin. Everyone in the bar had simultaneously turned to look at them. She and Rosalie had paused awkwardly for a moment before Ravenna had moved towards the bar on the west side while Rosalie snatched a booth against the north wall. The guy, Ravenna thought his name was David—David… something. She was pretty sure it started with an “E” at any rate. She may have been a freak for details but man, she just sucked at remembering names.
Approximately three seconds after she had edged her way up to the bar, he had re-introduced himself and offered her a drink. She’d politely turned him down, but every time she went back to the bar he was at her again. Of course, Rosalie could have gone to get the drinks instead, but she found the whole thing much too funny to relieve Ravenna of her persistent suitor. It was true he wasn’t bad looking; Ravenna couldn’t deny that, as if Rosalie would have ever let her anyway. He was about six-two, tall; the way Rosalie liked them. Ravenna herself preferred someone closer to her own height, five-ten, five-eleven or somewhere around there. She didn’t want to have to find a chair or a ladder to kiss a man, ‘course Rosalie always thought that’d be funny. “The best part about a tall man is that you can climb them!” She would always laugh whenever Ravenna brought it up. David Last-Name-Unremembered had bright blonde hair the color of butter, almost as yellow as blonde can be without the assistance of a hair salon. And to top it all off he had big grey eyes, framed by an impressive set of lashes—why are guys lashes always so much nicer than women’s?—and would have been striking if not for the slightly disturbing look she always found in them.
Just then he turned to look at her; Ravenna swiftly dropped her eyes and gazed at the table as if there was something of great importance carved into it. The look in his eyes had been sort of flattering, if you liked being appraised like a piece of prize beef. Rosalie never missing a beat, and noticing Ravenna’s obvious discomfort, glowered at the creep, her eyes clearly saying “Back Off!” She kept at it until he finally looked away; even glaring a bit longer to make sure he didn’t try to stare at her friend again. Eventually her gaze softened and settled on Ravenna who was still seemingly mesmerized by the table. Apparently Phil had been here more than few times and really liked big butts.
“Hey man, are you okay?” All traces of her earlier humor had vanished from Rosalie’s voice. She was all concern now.
Ravenna gave a small nod while still looking at the table. Eventually she looked up, this time at the wall, and said, “Ya, I’m fine. Like I said he just makes me nervous.”
“No doubt. You were right. That guy is a creep. Don’t worry though, I got your back.” Rosalie reassured, glancing menacingly at the man.
“Thanks Rosalie that actually means more than you might think.” She met her friend’s eyes and gave a small, sad smile. “I know I sounded all gung ho about this earlier but that guy just really threw me off.”
“No problem. Now, where were we?” To an outsider it may have sounded like Rosalie was rebuffing her friend but in truth she was doing what she knew Ravenna wanted her to do: move on. She knew Ravenna wouldn’t want to even think about the creep anymore, never mind talk about him, so she’d give her something else to think about. Before Captain Creepy’s festival of staring she had been trying to explain to Ravenna the “theory” behind raising a zombie, but so far not a lot of it had stuck.
“Just start from the beginning, I don’t really remember what you already told me.” Ravenna confessed. She tapped her glass and braced herself for the onslaught.
With that—to Ravenna’s extreme surprise, she was expecting Rosalie to lecture her on how she never listened, she must be more worried than I thought—Rosalie re-organized her papers, bringing the ones she’d already gone over to the front and began again.
“So zombies are not created by some strange virus or the dead crawling outta hell ‘cause it’s overflowing like in Resident Evil or Dawn of the Dead. They’re called from their grave by either a necromancer or a voodoo practitioner. Most of the time after they’ve been put in that grave by whoever plans to raise them.”
Ravenna raised her hand.
“You have a question?” Rosalie guessed, her lips twisting into a sarcastic half-smile.
“Ya, so you’re saying that not only do these people bother these poor dead bastards, they’re the ones that usually kill them in the first place?”
Rosalie quickly reviewed what she’d just read. “That appears to be the case.” She said with a firm nod.
Ravenna frowned, “That’s harsh.”
“Ya tell me about it.”
“One more question.” Ravenna put in before Rosalie could resume.
“Mmmm?” Rosalie replied, lips pursed as she continued to read her notes.
“What’s a necromanner?” Ravenna asked looking confused.
“Necromancer.” Rosalie corrected.
“Ya whatever, what are they? Like a zombie queen?”
“Or king.” Rosalie snickered at Ravenna’s analogy but went on. “They’re actually just a regular person, the term regular perhaps being loosely used, but whatever. Necromancer’s have an innate talent for raising the dead. They’re generally born with it; it’s like a psychic gift. Though it can also be something they’ve learned over time.”
“Gift.” Ravenna snorted.
“Ability then.” Rosalie allowed.
Ravenna tapped her fingers against the table top as she processed this new information. “So what do we do if the person raising these things is a “necromancer”?”
“Well, I’m not sure really, I mean we’d have to put a stop to what they’re doing…” Rosalie admitted reluctantly.
“Ya but how are we gonna do that? You said they’re born with this “ability.” And if not born, then they’ve learned it somehow. You can’t just unlearn something, any more that you can get rid of a skill you were born with.” Ravenna mused as she tried to puzzle it out for herself.
“Ya, I know. But they have to be stopped, what they’re using it for is wrong. And there’s no guarantees that they’d never doing it again after resorting to it once.” Rosalie said dejectedly. She’d left a hint of her plan in her tone but hadn’t wanted to say it out loud for fear that it’d sound too drastic.
“Wait. Do you mean kill them?!” Ravenna asked, shocked.
Ya that sounded pretty drastic…“It’s not as if I want to. But we’d have to find a way to make them quit what they’re doing.” Rosalie said hastily.
“Ya! By killing them!” Ravenna re-iterated. “Are you out of your mind? Wait, I already know the answer. Yes.”
Rosalie waved the whole thing off with a gesture. “Look it doesn’t matter anyway. From what I’ve read true necromancers are very rare, so I’m pretty sure we don’t have one here.” Rosalie explained, dismissing the issue.
“Oh I think it’d matter to them. And what do you mean you’re “pretty sure”? I think we need a little more here than “pretty sure” Rosalie!” Ravenna responded angrily, her voice hushed as she realized they were in a public place.
“Ok…I’m really pretty sure?” Rosalie ventured feeling only a tad uneasy.
Ravenna threw her hands up in disbelief. “Dude!”
“What?!” Rosalie shrugged.
“I’m not getting chomped on again because you don’t know what you’re doing!” Ravenna pointed empathically to the wound on her shoulder.
“Hey I don’t see you doing any better here!” Rosalie countered.
Ravenna paused. Silent. Thinking. “Good point.” She finally muttered. “Ok, so why don’t you think we have a necromancer on our hands?” Best to plow ahead instead of worrying about things beyond their control.
“Well, for one, it’s too sloppy. I mean a necromancer would have been much too careful to leave a trail like this.” Rosalie answered matter-of-factly, as if this were common knowledge.
Ravenna gaped at her. “Trail? What trail? I don’t see any trail! And why would they be so careful? I mean who else besides us would be crazy enough to look for them?”
“That’s ‘cause you’re not looking. And have ever heard of the Witch Hunt? Come on, Ravenna.” Rosalie shook her head as if she were a teacher and Ravenna a student who had forgotten to do their homework.
“The Witch Hunt hunted for exactly that, Rosalie, witches.” Was Ravenna’s rebuttal.
Rosalie continued, unaffected by Ravenna’s doubt. “Ya, and they burned anyone who was remotely suspected of witchcraft, and you’ve got to admit this stuff is pretty witchcrafty. I mean it’s not your normal apple pie flavor of human that can raise the dead Ravenna.”
“Harrumph. Well maybe it’s a new necromancer and they just haven’t learned to control their…whatever it is.” Ravenna suggested, pouting slightly; she resisted the urge to cross her arms over her chest.
“I thought about that, and I just don’t think it’s that likely. Like I said, these people are born with this, this “ability.” It’s something they learn to control early on or they end up like the undead pied piper, or worse in an institution. From what I’ve read, it’s not very pretty. Besides, whoever it is sent that one after you, and that takes control.” Rosalie finished her speak by raising an eyebrow, daring Ravenna to argue with her logic.
“How do you know they sent it after me?” Ravenna asked skeptically. She really didn’t like the idea that she had been specially targeted by some crazy asshole and his undead buddies.
“Well, it sure as hell didn’t try to tear me up, and it didn’t go after you until you were alone, so I’d say it’s fairly safe to assume it’s you he wants.” Rosalie pointed out.
Ravenna sighed, Rosalie had a decent point. “Alright. What is it then? And what do we do about it?”
“You really don’t listen do you?” Rosalie retorted with an exasperated shake of her head.
Now there’s the response Ravenna expected earlier. “I listen…sometimes.”
Rosalie just shook her head again and plowed on. “I think it’s a voodoo practitioner, which means that these zombies were created using a spell.”
“What kinda spell?” Ravenna’s eyes narrowed. She didn’t like that the word “spell” had just come out of her friend’s mouth. It sounded just a little bit to hokey for her tastes, especially if it was her life on the line.
“Puffer fish.” Rosalie answered, reading from her notes and nodding her head slightly.
“Puffer fish?” Ravenna asked, taken aback.
“Yes, puffer fish.” Rosalie answered, and then recited from the paper in front of her, alternating with brief explanations. ““To make a zombie, a voodoo practitioner makes a potion that consists of mainly the poison of the puffer fish that is given to the intended victim.” Which is actually one of the strongest nerve poisons known to man; it’s basically like an uber narcotic, the clinical drug norcuron has similar effects and is used during surgery. “This causes severe neurological damage, primarily affecting the left side of the brain.” The left side of the brain, you know, controls speech, memory and motor skills. “The victim suddenly becomes lethargic, and then slowly seems to die. The victim is taken to the hospital, then perhaps to the morgue and finally is buried. Then, at the voodoo practitioner’s leisure does he come to retrieve the victim, now become a slave, as a commodity.” In fact, at one time it was said that most of the slaves who worked in the sugar cane plantations of Haiti were zombies, cool eh?”
Ravenna may have zoned out once or twice during Rosalie’s fun science facts moment, and was engrossed in pulling the lint off of her sweater. “Ya… if you’re a nerd.”
“Jerk.” Rosalie scoffed. She set her notes down on the table and took another swig of her drink. She sat there silently until Ravenna finally realized she’d said all she’d planned to say.
Ravenna looked up after a few moments silence. “Ok so we now know how zombies are made. Do we at least know how to un-make them?” She asked hoping against hope that was the case.
“Well like I said, the zombies are made using a spell, which as I just explained utilizes the puffer fish potion, and luckily for us this spell can indeed be broken.” Rosalie felt a chill down her spine as she finished talking and turned towards the bar. The creep was watching them again. She gave him another warning glare, and fortunately enough Ravenna seemed to excited to notice the exchange.
“Well alright! Now we’re getting somewhere! How can we break the spell?” Ravenna grinned, eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas.
Rosalie turned back to her friend and drummed her fingers across the beaten wooden table top a few times before answering. “Well there’s a lot of lore on zombies, but I think nailing them to their grave beds should work. It seems to be the common theme throughout most of the lore and is linked specifically to voodoo.”
Ravenna nodded, accepting this method with surprising ease. It was just great to finally have a working strategy. “Ok… how we gonna nail them to their grave beds?”
“I was thinking a wooden stake through the heart and into the ground would do.” Rosalie shrugged.
“I thought we weren’t dealing with vampires.” Ravenna said smugly.
Rosalie gave her a withering look. “We’re not. But I figure this is our best bet.”
“Sounds to me we got ourselves a god damn plan! High five!” Rosalie bumped knuckles with Ravenna, who wore a triumphant smile.
“So… how we gonna do this?”