Tam raced back inside and scanned the waiting room for Ollie. His grey ponytail stood out. She grabbed his shoulder and spun him round. “My car was stolen,” she said.
Ollie was suitably shocked, but seemed more surprised by something else. “Are you okay?” he said.
“Fine, but I need a ride,” she said.
“I saw you leave,” he said. “How’s your boyfriend?” He had a puzzled expression. Tam suddenly got that he figured Caleb must be dead.
“He’s okay,” she said. “Better than most. They made a discovery. Listen, can you drive me into Rounlin and run all the red lights?”
The big man was having a hard time keeping up. He stammered for a second, then shook his head and started again. “I’m real sorry girl, but I don’t have wheels. I walked here.”
“You walked? With a Victim?”
“No, on my lonesome.” He tried to say it as if it wasn’t a big deal. But Tamara could see the anxiety coming through on his face.
“On your own?” she said. “What are you doing here?”
He was cornered. He couldn’t not answer. Still, he tried to evade the question with a nervous laugh before committing himself. “I’m unemployed and there’s a zombie epidemic. I want to be around the action. If I wasn’t here I’d be at home watching reruns. This shit’s history. Why not?”
“Ollie,” said Tam. “Jesus.” Ollie shrugged sheepishly.
“Look, I’m leaving again,” she said. “You mightn’t see me next time. So long.”
“Hey, I’m here if you need me,” said Ollie. “For now.” She left him on a sour note, sensing they would not meet again. She didn’t blame him, but felt slightly disgusted by him now. It was over.
Tam went back to try and persuade the guard to allow her through the Death Door. Amazingly, he recognised her. Maybe Rand had given the guy specific instructions. But he wouldn’t let her in without a guide. He told a Steward to “Take her to Special Holding.”
She ended up back in the hall full of cells: an improvised prison of chainlink fences. She asked random people for Zelinski or Rand. The two of them turned out to be on a coffee break. They were just standing next to a wall, smoking, with plastic coffee cups in their hands.
“My car’s been robbed,” said Tam.
“Aw, what? How did that happen?” said Rand. “Somebody needs to think about security here. But who the hell’s going to do that?”
By the time he was finished talking, Zelinski had made a decision and gulped his coffee. “I’ll drive you,” he said.
Tam was slightly afraid of the man. He was stressed to breaking point. But she couldn’t think of an excuse to refuse. Within a minute they were at the other side of the courtyard, where Trauma Centre staff were parked slightly more securely than the public.
Zelinski owned a clean Ford Focus. His back seat was full of discarded clothes. They left by a back entrance and headed towards the centre of Rounlin. Orange light fell on ordinary people walking, on closed stores, on flat, clean streets.
“How long have you been at this?” said Tam. The clothes in the back implied that Zelinski had changed several times and slept in the car.
“Couple of days,” he said. “Might as well be pissing in the ocean.” Tam glanced at him curiously. The doctor she thought of as a trapped coyote launched into a rant that opened her eyes.
If half of what he said was to be believed, doctors and nurses from all over the country were now slaves to METMA. No payment or conditions had been established. They were expected to work through the epidemic out of patriotism, and would be labelled as traitors if they tried to dodge the draft.
But METMA’s strategy was impossibly vague, only at the drawing board stage. One: Keep the Wrecks from spreading. Two: Find answers about the infection. With no specific plan as to how this should be achieved, doctors were ‘expected’ to inject Ep Rex victims with everything under the sun until a better idea came up. It was like something the Nazis would do. There was no co-ordination between the centres. Zelinski was certain the same experiments were being tried in different places without the results being shared. Many were doing nothing. Some had collapsed. He couldn’t stop because of the Army. They were watching the Wrecks… but also the scientists.
“In the last two days,” he said, “I’ve personally killed six people by exposing them to poisons. I…” he couldn’t finish. His hands almost crushed the steering wheel. So this is how you tear a man apart with rage.
Tamara was wise enough not to try to persuade the man things weren’t so bad. He knew the truth of the matter better than she did. They cruised the town, looking for the glare of anything open late, or early.