Mornings within the walled off, reclusive world are the worst part of an already fucked up life. The smell of decay mixed with body order, sprinkled with a constant moaning.
The moaning was worse then the stench at times. A twisted symphony of pain expressed in guttural “Ohhhhs” all day and night.
Tommy stared at the dangling plaster above his head. The room had seen better days but as was the world.
Zombies milled under his window waiting like dogs hungry for breakfast
“Tommy!” Shouted Mary , the station chief.
“You have a phone call.”
Tommy dressed, grabbed his weapons and walked down the neglected wooden steps to the small cafe on the ground floor.
At the bottom of the stairs was a kitchen. The kitchen was immaculate and cooking on the polished stove was a skillet filled with rice, onions, peas and carrots. On a counter to the left was a dozen beautifully polished red candied apples.
Tommy fingered one of the apples and listened to Mary on the phone.
“I understand, Mr. Carter.”
“Tommy O’Neil is the coyote, yes sir.“
“He’s on the way, sir.”
“Listen, Mr. Carter. We give you our word. We will find your daughter.”
“Don’t do that,” Tommy said as stepped into the cafe lobby. In front of him sat a large plate glass window. Mary sat at a small table. A phone sat in the center.
“Don’t promise anyone anything. I am no superhero.” Mary, a thin woman, eyes that understood the horrors of the world, placed the phone receiver in Tommy’s hand.
“Mr. Carter,” Tommy O’Neal began. He sat the phone on his shoulder and slicked back his hair.
“There are no guarantees in this zoo.” He said. “I lost 8 people just yesterday because they wouldn’t listen. “ This daughter is what 22, 25 and a criminal?”
“14, not possible,” Tommy snapped. “They would not push a 14 year old into this shithole.”
“Snuck in! That is ridiculous. No one would sneak into this place. Are you calling from a radio show, your joking right.”
“Your daughter is dead,” Tommy said. “Yes, it’s true. Your daughter has a 15 minutes time-to-live and that has passed.”
“Your apparent sphere of influence has no bearing. The Maxwell-Carter family may have some pull outside the Zoo, but within these walls we make the rules.”
“The Network can be a very powerful enemy, Mr. Carter. I’m just saying, be careful what you wish for… but honestly how much and why should I care?”
Tommy gently tapped the glass on the whiskey bottle. Mary did her best to ignore him and pretended to work nearby.
“I’ll get it myself,” he whispered and she countered by shaking her head no.”
“500,000 credits?” Tommy said with disgust. “What am I going to do with credits. Toss them at the undead?”
His words trailed off as he noticed an odd zombified creature approach the large restaurant window. He pointed with his free hand.
Mary whispered, “I believe those are called satyrs. Half human, half goat.”
“Looks like a demon,” Tommy replied while covering the receiver.
The satyr had a horn twisting from the left side of his head and a second horn, broken protruding from the right side.
It’s fur showed up in patches over its pale, dead human face. Open wounds tracing exposed compound fractures.
“When did they start putting the Freaks in here?” Tommy said as he swept up the bottle of whiskey and poured a second shot.
Tommy swallowed and Mary took the bottle from him. “Your not finishing this bottle,” she said.
“I am listening to you Mr. Carter. You would like me to rescue your daughter and your daughter just happened to slip into a prison full of zombies… and other monsters… with a stone that has the power to create or take away life. So this is a mission to save the world. Did I get that right?”
“Fuck off, with your goddamn super hero mission. I ain’t no super hero. Do it yourself then.”
“I want something else. I want you to have me released. I want out of this shit hole.”
“How did she get the stone.” Tommy asked. “A family of thieves, I see. That certainly makes this job more interesting and more valuable. The Stones haven’t been free from the Maxwell-Carter family for four years.”
He paused, “Mr. Carter this must be embarrassing for you. You seem that type.”
“No one outside the prison will not do shit for 50,000 credits,” he said, replying to Mr. Carson. “I doubt they would step into this zoo for 100,000 and they are definitely not looking for your daughter in West Ransom. They may take your money though.”
The smell of candied apples drift into his nose.
“Mary, can I get a plate of your awesome fried rice and a candied apple. I love those candied apples.” Tommy said waiting for a response.
“Sure thing, I got you. Anything else?” Mary said.
A glass of water, please.” Mary disappeared into the kitchen of the diner.
“Are you changing your offer for this job, Mr Carson. You have no other options.”
“500,000 credits, guaranteed by the Carter family and Northeast territory… Nice. Where do you believe they were heading.
“That’s a three station hop and some of the most populated areas of the city. Still very likely she is already dead but I promise I will do my best.
“How will you guarantee I get paid? I am on the inside of this hell on earth zoo. The Blackguards are corrupt as hell and I can’t get out.”
“The Garden. Sure. The Network’s central station. I’ll meet you at the top.
Tommy placed the phone on the receiver. “Looks like we have another suicide job, Mary. Can you call…”
“They are on the way, already. Held up at station 11. Will be here in an hour.”
“You are my favorite station chief, Mary and I love your apples. Gawd.” He said as he bit onto the candied dessert.”