Valley Of Shadows – Snippet 19

Valley Of Shadows – Snippet 19

“NODs,” Paul replied. “Sorry, night observation device. My boss says that this model preserves depth perception. Currently Mil/Law enforcement only. We’ve tried to get them through our own channels. No dice. If you can’t get those, we’ll consider other models, at a reduced cost of course. Probably going to end up buying even more.”

Tradittore whistled.

“Well, in addition to your love of acronyms, you banks also don’t appear to be scared of big numbers, which is what this is going to cost. I can set up a demo and a pickup for all of it in a week, maybe three.” He refolded the list and tucked it away. “How are you going to pay?”

“Cash, naturally.” Paul was confident on how the conversation would go next.

“No can do, roomie,” Joey replied instantly. “Cash isn’t what it used to be. Nope–you are going to have to do better.”

The banker smiled.

“Bullion.”

“Keep talking.” Tradittore answered, with a wave of one hand.

“Figured as much,” Paul said. He pulled a small rubber-topped vial from his own pocket. He carefully did not hand it over, but turned it back and forth in his hand, the sun striking highlights from the glass.

“Vaccine. First part of a two part series. We’ll add ten complete series of vaccine to sweeten the vig.”

Matricardi’s man looked…amenable. But he was the mobster’s man, after all. You never took the first offer, or the second.

“And?”

“And we’ll teach you how to make more.”

* * *

“How much more can you tell us about Smith, Ms. Kohn?” asked Sarissa Gauge.

“He’s hardly remarkable,” replied Joanna, giving Gauge’s outfit a critical glance. The female half of her personal staff was wearing a severely cut suit close enough in style and color to Joanna’s that it constituted a uniform. Gauge had deferentially chosen heeled ankle boots from Yves St. Laurent that were just one notch less fashionable than those of her director.

Joanna approved. Detailed oriented subordinates were less likely to make an error when it counted.

She resumed.

“Average intelligence, a conventional thinker, the physical type,” Joanna said, continuing to tick off points. “In short, a typical example of the former military banker club, with all the downside that entails.”

“Downside, ma’am?” asked Ken Schweizer. The formerly junior OEM analyst had taken a chance and hitched his star to Kohn during the 2010 hurricane season and had jumped several levels as a result. His attempt at a neatly trimmed beard, intended to convey maturity, was defeated by his narrow features, reducing the effect to that of a rat with patchy fur.

“He will be predictably loyal to Bank of the Americas,” she replied. “He will be singularly focused on a clear mission and therefore easy to manipulate. By now, like some of the other banks, insurers and multinationals that are headquartered in the City, he is weighing the likelihood that this disease is an inflection point. He will be planning on how to keep the bank operating while being ready to respond if the disease has more impact than expected.”

“Can we use that?” asked Gauge.

“Smith and his bank, as well as a few others, not to mention the NYPD, will be important components of the City’s response to this crisis. Now that we have vaccine production underway, the next step will be to consolidate production. The problem is that the projected vaccine demand exceeds the source of raw materials.”

“We have a fairly broad mandate,” offered Schweizer. “And the continued absence of the mayor means that we can continue to work through the first deputy mayor’s staff…

“The secret finding gives us near carte blanche, Ken,” interrupted Gauge. “And we control the daily brief to the mayor, the deputy and the council. What we need is to adjust the crisis further in our favor.”

Joanna favored Gauge with another look before turning to Schweizer.

“We may need to accelerate the processes,” she said. “I am aware that Smith is developing contacts in Cosa Nova. I want you to do the same, and also consider some of the other organized crime factions.”

Joanna watched Gauge hiding her disappointment, resuming her customary businesslike mask.

“Sarissa, I am keenly aware of your contribution, but your efforts to deepen our network in the city council are vital,” she stated, narrowing her eyes. “Further, I want you closer to the district attorney. We must deter premature reconsideration of our new powers until the situation is sufficiently dire that the evolution of OEM can not be rolled back. We need the City to sample a little of Hell.”

* * *

This is what Hell must sound like, Dominguez had thought to himself upon entering the Afflicted Temporary Holding Facility for the first time. Initially the building had been labeled “Secure Infected Temporary Holding” by some dim bulb that hadn’t ever seen the movies, so Dominguez had rapidly changed the name from SITH to its current title.

The volume of the screaming, howling and moaning from the infected rendered normal speech impossible. Efforts had been taken to visually isolate the infected from each other, which seemed to reduce the amount of sound that each zombie made, but the overall volume remained shocking. Worse was the reek–the smell of rot and excrement was a palpable miasma that saturated one’s clothing, even if a visitor didn’t touch anything.

The top cop in One was fairly inured to the aroma now, but the noise level was still stunning. At least it wasn’t feeding time. Ding didn’t like to think about their source of zombie-chow.

One of two facilities, the large Queens warehouse had a small set of offices that was segregated from the honeycomb of hundreds of small chain-link mini cells, each intended to hold one infected. Two of the offices retained ad hoc Visiting Family Room signs from a more optimistic time. There was even a small children’s play area, filled with bright plastic furniture in cheerful primary colors. Those rooms had remained unused for their original purpose, nearly from the start.

The days when a cure was merely a statistical improbability instead of a forlorn hope were already far behind them. Initially, the number of infected held in the ATHF had been low, but once hospitals filled up, there was nowhere else to hold them. Moving the infected was a traumatic and potentially dangerous process. In the interest of simplicity, Ding had decided that rather than move the infected to another location, it was simpler to “process” the vaccine materials onsite.

Therefore, one of the visitor rooms had been adapted into a processing center. Another was a training room.

At the moment, senior police officers were attending mandatory training. That, in and of itself, wasn’t unusual. However, even during a lethal pandemic, Ding still noted the bizarre situation that he found himself in. To be specific, helping to teach Zombie Spine Stripping 101 was still damned disturbing, and the subject matter mandated extreme safety precautions.

Despite the discomfort of their current rig, Dominguez and his students would have happily traded up to the even more uncomfortable environmental suits, but they could no longer be had for love or money.

Dominguez wasn’t particularly unacquainted with human blood. He was not, however, accustomed to seeing so much it. The hooded 3M exposure suit he wore was liberally dappled with red above the waist, and completely red below the knee. The floor wasn’t just tacky with blood; the plastic sheeting lining the warehouse office floor was half a centimeter deep in carmine for a meter in all directions outwards from his feet.

“Easy, easy, just tug steadily.” Another suited figure spoke, the voice somewhat muffled. “If you pull too hard the cord tears and then we can’t get it out.”

The senior cop listened to their trainer, another suited figure. The third participant was his deputy precinct commander, who was struggling to gently pull on the shoulders of the naked corpse of their “subject.” Despite the hip-high gurney that had been placed in the center of the space, the cops struggled to manipulate the uncooperative corpse. Blood and lymph made a firm grip impossible, and the dead weight of the body worked against the team. Ding had recruited, well, extorted a compromised medical examiner to teach his cadre how to strip the spine from a dead zombie. Ding firmly believed that rank had its privileges, including going first and setting the example for the more junior officers whom he had selected.

 

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