By Jeremy Wilfinger
Officer Frank Capet pulled into the police station and parked his patrol car in the empty stall marked number thirteen. It was past midnight, the moon shining brightly as Frank turned off the engine, exiting the vehicle along with his partner-Max Powell. They walked towards the station's rear entrance as the automatic doors slid open, several officers jogging out toward their cars. The rearmost officer, John Talbot, was still trying to buckle his gun belt as he chased after them.
"Hey, John! Where you going? I thought you had the night off?" Frank asked.
"Supposed to be. Raines called me in-I had to cancel a date with your sister."
"Doesn't she hate cops?" Max asked.
"Nah, just her over-protective, asshole brother." John replied. Frank elbowed him in the shoulder as he ran past. "Hey! Her words not mine!"
"Break her heart and I'll break your face!"
"Yea, yea." John said, cinching his belt snugly. "I'm more worried about the crazies that come out on a full moon."
"Be safe, John!" Max said. John waved in reply, hastily entering his patrol car.
The automatic doors were still open as Frank reached the station, Max close behind. They were less than ten steps in the door when Lieutenant Raines rounded the corner, clipboard in hand, cheeks red from shouting.
"Capet! Powell! I know it's been a long night but we've got record nine-one-one calls and I need you to pull a double." Raines said, waving a hand dismissively as they started to object. "I already called in all the off-duty and on-calls we got and I've had it with the complaints! I need you guys back out there. Take a shower, grab a soda, whatever you need-but be back on the street within the hour."
"Dispatch this is Capet in car thirteen-we are on site, responding to request for officer assistance at two-one-six Hammond Drive, over."
"Roger that, thirteen-be advised suspects may be armed. Make contact with officer on site and report back immediately, over."
"Solid copy, dispatch." Frank replied, exiting the patrol car along with Max. They flanked an ambulance parked just outside a tall apartment building, hands resting on the grips of their nine-millimeter pistols.
"Frank, I've got two bodies here, looks like the EMTs."
Frank walked past the open rear doors of the ambulance to get a better view. A gurney lay on its side, one of the handrails twisted free of the frame, next to the two prone bodies. Both of them had been savagely assaulted. Blood was still pooling from the traumatic wounds to their face and neck, as Max knelt down and pressed his fingers against the man's throat.
"Check the other one." Frank replied, drawing his pistol with his right hand and reaching for his radio with the other. "Dispatch this is Capet, we've got two bodies here-requesting back-"
Multiple shots erupted from inside the apartment building lobby.
"Shots fired! Shots fired!" Frank yelled into his microphone, leading the way to the apartment lobby. He pushed the heavy glass doors open, Max covering him as they both entered.
Across the street from the apartment, a grimy figure in a leather jacket watched the officers enter the building, a bloody and mangled handcuff dangling from his wrist. The figure shuffled forward into a puddle, blood mixing with the grimy water, turning it a sickly shade of pinkish brown. Behind him, a half dozen others shuffled forward, drawn by the sound of the gunshot.
"Officer down!" Frank yelled into his microphone. "I repeat, Officer down!"
Inside, the lobby was clean and sterile, with polished tile floors and comfortable looking couches. There was no doorman in sight, only an empty chair next to a simple desk a few feet away from the elevator directly ahead. To Frank's right lay a police officer, his body facedown next to the staircase that wound its way up to the second level, a long smear of blood on the handrail.
"John? John!" Max asked, turning the body over. "My god!"
John's face was covered in blood, a chunk of flesh lodged in his teeth, a bullet hole between his clouded eyes.
"It looks like he got a piece of whoever killed him."
"Dispatch, this is Capet, Officer John Talbot is dead. Where the hell is our backup?"
"Multiple patrol cars en route, ETA two minutes."
"Frank… his weapon's gone." Max said, staring at the empty holster.
"We'd better find it. Come on."
Frank charged up the stairs, following the periodic smears of blood to the fourth floor, where the door to the stairwell exit was still ajar. He paused by the doorway, peeking around the corner, Max following closely behind. Footfalls from the floor above them drew their attention. An Asian woman carrying a basket of dirty clothes gasped when she saw their pistols trained at her, and dropped her basket.
"So sorry!" She said, her voice a whisper.
"Ma'am, I need you to go back upstairs to your apartment," Frank said. "We have a situation here, but it's under control. Lock the door and await further instructions."
The woman ran back up the stairs, leaving the spilled basket of clothes where they lay. Frank turned his attention back to the fourth floor corridor, peeking around the corner once more. A janitor's cart could be seen sticking out of the doorway in apartment 401. The janitor moved his body to an unheard beat as he pushed his cart out of the doorway, closing the door behind him.
"Sir, I need to see your hands!" Frank said, walking out into the corridor, training his pistol on the janitor.
"No hablo Ingles!" He said, dropping his broom as he raised his hands.
Concerned neighbors poked their heads out of several apartment doors, an older Latino woman emerging from the doorway of apartment 402.
"Officer what's going on? I thought I heard gun shots!" She asked.
"Ma'am-everyone! I need you to go back inside your apartments and lock the doors!" Frank said, trying his best not to shout.
"Not until you tell me what's going on! Why are you pointing a gun at Ramon?"
"Do you know this man? I saw him in apartment four-oh-one a second ago." Frank said, lowering his weapon to a resting position, but keeping his eyes on Ramon.
"Ramon lives on this floor. He has for many years."
"Do you speak Spanish?"
"Tell him to go back inside and lock the door." Frank said, the woman translating his command into Spanish. The janitor, along with everyone else in the corridor, complied.
"Max, check the door knobs. One of them is likely to have some blood on it." Frank said, and the two of them moved down the corridor, checking one door at a time.
"Frank, I think I got something. Look at four-fourteen."
"Yea, I see it."
As they took their places on either side of the doorway, Frank pounded on the door with his fist. Sirens blared in the distance, approaching fast.
"LAPD. Open up!" Frank said, but there was no reply. "We should wait for backup."
"No!" Max replied. "We need to find the bastard that killed John before they get away. Kick it down!"
Frank frowned for a moment, and then took a step back-sucking in a deep breath as he lunged at the door. Splinters burst in all directions as the door flew open, the officers charging in and searching for hostiles. The apartment was large with a fully stocked kitchen, cappuccino maker, and well-stocked wine rack. A comfy white couch faced the big screen TV that dominated the living room, flanked on either side by bookcases.
"Yo, Frank, you see that!"
"What? I got nothing."
"Look at the bookcase-I think I see a light."
Frank approached the bookcase carefully. He stepped on a bit of glass, the crunch making him flinch. He looked down at the wooden box near his boot, and angrily kicked it-scattering blood slides across the carpet. As he reached the case, he knocked several books off the shelf to get a better look at the light. He tugged at the side of the case, and it swung open smoothly to reveal a hidden passage.
The hall was small and short, ending at an open steel door, warped reflections of light flickering off the steel walls. Raised voices echoed through the chamber.
"I think I hear someone." Frank said. "Cover me."
"LAPD! Come out with your hands up!" Frank shouted, setting a brisk pace as he approached the open door. He peaked around the corner and saw a glimpse of a silhouette inside the room, surrounded by beakers, cages, and other laboratory equipment.
"Where is it? What is it?" A man shouted, pointing a standard police-issue firearm at a woman to his right. His left hand trembled, blood trickling down his fingers into a puddle on the floor.
"I don't even know if it will work!" The woman shouted.
"Hands! Let me see your hands!" Frank shouted.
"You don't have a clue what's going on!"
"You killed a cop! Put it down or I will fire!"
"It was self defense!"
Shots rang out from outside. Low caliber pistol shot at first, followed by heavier gauge shotgun rounds.
"Attention all units: Officers under attack outside the Hammond apartment. Repeat: Officers under attack."
"What the f-" Frank began. "Max-find out what's going on, then get in here!"
"Dispatch this is Powell, I'm inside the Hammond apartment." Max said, walking over to the window. By the time he got there, the gunfire had stopped. He looked out the window, his eyes roaming over the ambulance, the overturned gurney, the squad cars parked outside. It took him a moment to realize the two EMT's bodies were no longer in sight. "I don't have a twenty on the officers outside the Hammond Drive apartment-I can't see anything too clearly from the fourth floor!"
Screams erupted from downstairs.
"Powell, this is Lieutenant Raines. What the hell is going on over there?"
"I… officer this woman, she made this thing, she-urgh! I can't… stink straight."
"Put the gun down!"
"Sun… lick-no! I… wick… slick… watching…" He said, pointing at the wall with his trembling hand.
"Stay where you are, miss. Sir, put the gun down! I want to see your hands!"
"Hams... bands… plans fans... neeb demicine…" The man mumbled, the gun slipping out of his hand as a fit of vomiting seized him, spattering blood and grime over the counter.
"There's been an outbreak! He's infected!" The woman screamed.
"Down on the ground!" Frank shouted, but the man just kept vomiting. "What the hell is wrong with him? What is this place?"
"Someone broke into my apartment… you have to listen to me. He's been infected."
"I… I don't even know what to call it." The woman replied, as the man slid down the counter and collapsed onto the floor. Frank stepped forward and kicked the gun away, stooping to check the man's pulse.
"No… he's not."
"I just checked his pulse!"
"Listen to me-you have to shoot him…"
"What did he mean when he said you made this? What the hell is this place?"
"It's a lab… I-I know it looks bad. My husband and I-we were trying to find a cure for this… whatever this is."
"Who builds a secret lab to find a cure?"
"I don't have time to explain. You've got to trust me."
"I'm about to put cuffs on you!"
"You've got to call it in. Tell them to place the whole city under quarantine. Look," She said, pointing at the man. "It's starting."
Frank looked down at the body, unable to believe his eyes. The man groaned as he rose to his feet, cloudy white eyes staring up at Frank.
"I was wrong." The woman whispered. "It's already too late."