Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Sheriff Walker returned to his office inside the Comanche County Courthouse, staggered to see the amount of incident reports piled on his desk. “People have been having the recently diseased show up on their doorsteps,” Martha Kinsley sighed as she placed another stack of papers on his desk. “Either these people have all gone nuts or I have for taking them seriously.” The sheriff glanced at Martha. The petite woman with short bouncy blonde hair who ran dispatch and did most of the office paperwork was in her mid-thirties. Only the tiny lines of wrinkles under her eyes, from manning the 911 lines three nights a week from midnight to six, hinted at her age.
The sheriff shuffled through the report names on his desk … Councilman Sears, Judith Banning, Mayor Otter and a long list of others, many of them were business people and those with civic responsibilities. “These aren’t the sort who usually sees swamp gas or a sheet blown off someone’s clothes line and report ghosts,” he said, “and you have to remember … this is Cloverdale.”
“Did I tell you I was born in L.A.?” Martha said as she placed a cup of hot coffee on the sheriff’s desk and opened a box of jelly donuts from White’s Bakery. She leaned over as she slid the donuts toward him and he noticed the two top buttons on her blouse were undone. “I moved here after my divorce looking for some peace and quiet.”
“We don’t have a million cars fouling the air and the traffic jams with snipers,” the sheriff told her with a smile. “But we get enough strange to make up for it.”
“The mayor seems pretty upset,” Martha said. “She’s called twice since you were out … I told her the radio in your car was having issues.”
“It is,” Sheriff Walker said as he took a bite from one of the donuts. “Damn thing won’t work at all … unless I turn it on.”
Deputy Jimmy Chong entered the office and hurried toward his desk. The sheriff called him over and handed him the stack of papers. “What do you make of these?”
“I’ve been through these reports a couple of times,” Jimmy said, shuffling through the paperwork. “All the incidents are about murders or sightings of people who have died recently.”
“So what’s the connection?” Sheriff Walker was impressed by his new deputy’s knack for seeing the obvious.
“Black Rose Cemetery,” Jimmy said grimly. “All these reports are about people recently residing there or about others getting ready to move in. I was just on my way out there. Kelly Weston, the cemetery Sextant, has had some vandalism going on.”
“I’ll go with you,” the sheriff said. He glanced at Martha. “If the mayor calls again tell her I’m putting in a request for a new radio along with the law enforcement budget at the next city council meeting.”
Harry Walton’s love of driving was a thing of the past even though only two months before he’d been infatuated with it. He gripped the wheel of the tanker truck as he rumbled down Canyon Road gathering raw product from all the farmers in the area. If it was up to him, he’s never get behind the wheel of a vehicle again but a young man had to have a job. The Cloverdale Dairy and Cheese Factory employed two others with arms strong enough to lift and dump eighty pound milk cans into the tank and Harry was lucky to be able to do it with only one.
He was in town during summer vacation from Montana State University visiting his cousin when the Lucky Dice Car Club noticed his fifty-six Chevy with the hood scoop and flame paint job and asked if he’d like to become a member. The dozen guys wearing black denim jackets and most with Elvis style duck tail haircuts seemed pretty cool and there were always plenty of girls hanging around so Harry said “Okay!”
A voluptuous blonde named Cindy McCowan who wasn’t afraid to show her figure was giving him the eye and Harry noticed the guy standing next to her glaring. “There will be a test to see if you are worthy,” Frank Hicks said.
“What kind of test?” Harry asked.
“We don’t want no damn chickens in our club …only chicks,” Hicks slapped the girl on the butt. “We go at each other center line at ninety, Vineyard Road at midnight … You turn away before I do … and you’re smoke!”
“How do I know you’ll turn out?” Harry had asked.
“I’m still here aren’t I?” Hicks looked around at the other club members. “Everyone here has had to prove they don’t have hidden feathers.”
It was like two parties each one at the opposite end of a road with everyone drinking beer and listening to music. Harry had straddled the white line revving the engine in his 409 Chevy while a mile away Hicks did the same in a souped up Ford Falcon running a 413. Cindy McCowan showed up for the initiation wearing tight pink pants and a white halter top. “I thought you always rode with Hicks as his good luck charm,” Vern Johnson who was flagging the contest asked as she appeared at the side of the highway.
“After we see what this Chevy can do I might have to trade up to GM,” she said giving Harry a wink.
Be cool and don’t lose your nerve Harry told himself as Vern looking through binoculars and signaling with his arm dropped a pair of girl’s yellow lace panties and he tromped on the gas pedal and began to accelerate. Hicks has done this many times before.
At a mile apart it should have taken the two cars no more than thirty seconds to meet but for Harry it felt like forever. He kept waiting for Hicks to turn out. The black Ford hurtling toward him looked something out of a horror movie. It wasn’t until the last split second that Harry yanked the wheel to the left and by then it was too late. Hick’s car crashed head-on into the front passenger side and spun him in a complete circle twice before the crushed car became airborne, flew over an irrigation canal and then rolled seven times across a corn stubble field coming to rest against the trunk of a giant cottonwood tree. The doctors all said he was lucky to be alive.
Harry was in Cloverdale General for a month and there was already grass growing on Hick’s grave when he got out. Cindy McCowan had visited him the after the first operation but after she found out his left arm was useless and would always just hang there she hadn’t been back.
Harry shook his head to clear the memory. The sun came out from behind some clouds and he turned on the radio. It was one mile to the next farm. Dee Dee Sharp was singing Mashed Potato Time. Static suddenly faded out the song the same time as Harry noticed a plume of dust rising on the gravel road ahead. Frank Hick’s voice broke through the buzzing like scratches escaping from a 45 record. “You turn away before I do … and you’re smoke!”
Harry couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the black Ford Falcon barreling down the center of the narrow road coming right for him. He knew this time he wouldn’t turn as he accelerated and shifted gears. This time he’d become the smoke … and perhaps rise to a better place.
As Jimmy parked the county patrol car next to the Sexton’s Buick, Sheriff Walker noticed Kelly Weston’s new Hispanic assistant shoveling fresh dirt from a trailer; obviously the soil was intended to level out disturbed graves. “Who said the dead rest in peace?” Sheriff Walker shook his head as he and Jimmy surveyed the damage.
“These are all new graves and we always get some settling,” Weston said. “That’s one of the reasons I hired Julio to help with both kinds of planting. He doesn’t just have green thumbs this guy could grow potatoes alongside bacon in a frying pan. Lately he’s been working double shifts with the vandalism. It looks like someone attached a chain and yanked the vaults right out of the ground and stole the bodies.”
“That’s all Cloverdale needs: its own Doctor Frankenstein,” Jimmy said looking at the dozens of violently open graves.
“Tomar un descanso y habla con nosotros!” (Take a rest) Sheriff Walker called to Julio Hernandez. He’d ran a background check on the man before he was hired and although he suspected the married man with three children’s immigration papers were forgeries he seemed okay … everyone has to eat. The man was a wanderer never staying in one place for long.
“Siento causar estos problemas,” (sorry for the problems) Julio said as he wiped his hands on a rag taken from the back pocket of his ragged but clean jeans. He took an energy drink from his back pocket and drank half. The sheriff thought he looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
“There is no reason you have to be sorry,” the sheriff said. “You didn’t pull these bodies out of these graves did you?”
“Cuando empieza nueva vida puede partir incluso la roca.” (When new life starts it can split even rock,) Julio said. His eyes were wide showing white all around. “La suciedad de estas tumbas fue empujada hacia arriba desde abajo!” (The dirt from these graves was pushed up from below!)
Jimmy was busy making notes on a pad. “I was right,” he said. “This cemetery is the connection to what’s happening. Every one of these defiled graves is related to our reports of people seeing the dead.”
Julio went back to shoveling and the sheriff finished talking to the cemetery Sextant. “We now know where the dead are coming from.” John told Jimmy as they drove back to town. “Now we have to find out what’s bringing them back to life.”
Leston Neville sat in the passenger side of the black Ford while Wendy drove. She looked good for a dead woman two months in the grave. The blood smeared baby began to cry and Leston noticed a binky with a plastic ring on the seat next to the infant. He moved a soiled blanket and tried to insert the pacifier into the baby’s mouth. Part of the infant’s lower jaw fell away leaving a gaping hole running into the squalling body. The crying sound was louder now and much lower like a trumpet suddenly turning into a bassoon. “Don’t just sit there gawking!” Wendy screamed. “Fix it!”
Leston put his hands on his head wanting to scream himself but he was incapable of making any but the smallest of sounds. Finally after a mile he was able to squeak out “How?”
Wendy gave him a disgusted look reached over and opened the glove box. She flung a roll of duct tape at him. “Wrap it on good,” she ordered pointing to the jaw laying on the seat, “and don’t worry about Lesty being able to breathe … we passed that turn in the road a few months back.”
Leston noticed one of Wendy’s eyes was slipping from its socket. He reached over and gently tucked it back into place. “Where are we going, Hun?” He was beyond the point of being repulsed.
“To a party,” Wendy said. “To see people who haven’t been alive for years.”
When Sheriff Walker saw the cars crowded on the road ahead at first he thought it was teens having some kind of road racing party. They had the radio blasting and were listening to Three Dog Night sing Mama Told Me Not to Come. Deputy Jimmy Chong thought the same thing and was beginning to slow, hoping to block the road for any juveniles looking to escape whatever illegal thing they were doing when suddenly the sheriff yelled. “Go! Go! Don’t stop! Get us out of here!”
“What the Hell!” Jimmy yelled as he accelerated the patrol car and began to weave between the parked vehicles. Dozens of skeletal fingers reached for the door handles and scratched the paint as he roared through. Several were on the car hood and blocking the windshield either having flung themselves there or been thrown there as the car plowed through the crowd. The car struck something, either a tree or another car. The walking dead covered the outside of the car like a blanket. There was only darkness and classic rock music blaring from the radio. “This is the craziest party that could ever be … Don’t turn on the lights! I don’t want to see.”
Julio Hernandez opened the refrigerator in the tiny camp trailer looking for another energy drink. The Comanche County Cemetery Board had allowed him and his wife Maria to live on county land next to Black Rose as part of his compensation. Even inside the tiny metal house things were better than they had been in Juárez. The Mexican city was filled with violence. Every night he and his wife had prayed that their ten year old son Jose would stay away from the gangs and insist on having a better future. Jose was a good boy … too good. When he refused to join a local chapter of Los Zetas he was found with his throat cut from ear to ear.
Julio had been beyond grief, he had been destroyed. For all the thirty three years of his life he had always been a faithful Catholic and a true believer. “Why me?” he screamed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary hanging on the wall of his house at the beginning of Dia de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) and three days after the funeral. In his rage he had cracked the glass cover. “Haven’t I not given you my whole life?” It could have been lack of sleep or reflection from the crack, but the eyes in the portrait seemed to look down in sadness and in shame.
“What do you ask me for?” A soft motherly voice seemed to come from the portrait.
“Give me the power to bring back the dead!” Julio insisted. “If only for a day or a night … I cannot live without my Jose. I cannot live with this pain!”
“Night it is!” The portrait said just before it went back to being just a painting. And there was laughter in the city … somewhere far away.
The next afternoon Julio thought he saw Jose with a group of younger boys playing on a busy street but lost him in a crowd. Strange things were beginning to happen. His long dead mother and father were sighted by his sister. An uncle missing for years was found buying bananas in the market. They were forced from their home by terrified neighbors, doctors and police who said they were cursed with Bruja Embarcación a kind of mind sickness. Friends told them Jose had gone north looking for them and so they followed. Days were hot and endless ever searching and hiding from immigration people but the nights were worse. When Julio fell asleep his prayers came true. He would raise not only the ones he loved but any recently buried body up within a half mile radius, and more were rising all the time.
This job in Cloverdale Montana seemed like some kind of joke. Working next to the dead and trying to stay awake at night. But they were desperate. “Sólo para una semana o dos,” he had told Maria. “Only until we have money to follow the trail.” He’d tried his best to stay awake, but this was the third night with no sleep. He thought maybe Maria had gone into the tiny kitchen to make more coffee but he found her sleeping on the floor. She looked so peaceful he was almost ashamed at what he’d put her through. He kissed her and lay beside her for only a minute … for only a minute … with a tiny prayer asking forgiveness. “Maria, madre de Dios nos perdone nuestros pecados.”
Just to the south in Black Rose Cemetery the ground began to tremble. Soil and rock was pushed up from below. Not just one or two graves opened … they all did … and the dead began to rise.
TO BE CONTINUED.