I swore I’d never write a zombie story, but a few years ago, I broke down and wrote one. (Raven Willoughby: Origins which will feature later in this series) Apparently, my muse decided that one just wasn’t enough, so it bugged me until I wrote Free Zone. This isn’t your regular zombie tale, and they don’t eat brains – because EW! Lorelei Ward is a young surgeon, starting her first day as a fully fledged attending physician. The day before, she was in surgery, when there was a massive explosion at a local fertilizer plant. The news showed the photo of a man who was a Person of Interest in the investigation. Somehow, the police think that her surgical patient is that man. She finds them in his room, and he’s cuffed to the bed.
Sending my interns out, I confronted the woman, who had to be a police detective. She had on dress slacks, a coordinating blouse and shoes she could run in. Her hair was pulled back in a severe ponytail. Shorter than me, her head was at a level with my chin, but that didn’t seem to intimidate her at all. All five foot three worth of authority confronted my five foot nine and three quarters.
“Who are you? Why are you harassing my patient?”
“My name is Detective Adele La Rose.” She flashed a badge.
I caught her hand before she was able to put it away. Examining it closely, I memorized her badge number. Wigging my fingers, I insisted on identification from the man who was with her.
“Still doesn’t answer my question, Detective.”
“He’s a suspect in yesterday’s bombing.”
“This guy?” I pointed to the man in the bed. “Want to walk me through that?” I squinted at the shorter, dark haired woman.
La Rose frowned. “Walk you…?”
“Through it. Yes. When is he supposed to have done this horrible thing?”
La Rose checked her notes. “The bomb went off, by remote, at 9:56—”
“Did someone have to actively click a button for it to go off?”
La Rose, and the uniformed officer, gaped at me.
“That’s what by remote means, doctor,” the officer, whose name was West, said. His tone was on the rude side.
“Okay. Well, then I’m his alibi. At 9:56, we were about halfway through his surgery.”
“Surgery!” La Rose sounded aghast. “What for?”
Manu Astor’s eyes went wide and he gave me a pleading look.
“None of your business. It would be a serious legal violation to tell you, since it has absolutely no bearing on this case. Take the handcuffs off him, and get out. You’re violating his rights, and getting in my way.”
The officer raised a curious eyebrow at his boss. She nodded slightly, and he took off the cuffs.
“We were given an anonymous tip that the man we were interested in, was here. And one of your patients.”
“Really? Interesting, since this guy looks nothing like that guy on TV. Did you bother to check his identification, photograph, anything?”
La Rose flashed an angry look at her uniformed companion. “That was, supposedly, already done.”
“Well, fancy that! As a matter of fact, we did have someone in here yesterday, who resembled the man wanted for questioning. But he wasn’t my patient.”
“And you didn’t call us?”
“I couldn’t be sure. I wasn’t going to call, and have him be the wrong man. I didn’t want anyone to come in and harass him, rather like you’re harassing Mr. Astor.”
“Still, if he looked like the man on TV, you should have called.”
“He’s not going anywhere. His injuries were quite extensive. Part of his face was damaged by the chemicals. So, you can understand why there might be some confusion.”
La Rose pinched her lips together. Dark brows furrowed, and she did her best to look pissed off. She did it really well, but I wasn’t having it.
“Lemme ask you something.” I crossed my arms, doing my own pinching and furrowing. “You said it was done by remote, right? You think someone would set off a blast like that, and be close enough to be harmed by it?”
Her mouth went from pinched to open. She and Officer West gawped at me, at one another, and at Manu Astor.
“I don’t know about you, but if I’m gonna blow shit up, I’d like to be as far away from it as possible. We had that young woman in here. The one on TV.”
“What?” La Rose screeched.
“She died. Horribly. Her flesh was melted, unrecognizable. Tell me if a terrorist would do that to herself? Or if a man would do that to his wife and baby daughter?” I glared at West, who wore a wedding ring.
“Not a man alive who would do that to his baby,” he said simply.
“Unless there was something seriously f**ked up about him,” Manu added.
He and West exchanged a look. It was some man thing, but it said a lot to each of them.
“So, I’m thinking, maybe you’ve got the wrong guy—twice.”
“Will you direct me to the other man?”
“I don’t know his name, or where he was taken. He wasn’t my patient. This man here,” I pointed at Manu. “He is my patient. Since part of my job description is to advocate for the health and well being of those in my care, I’m ordering you out. He’s not guilty of anything, and having you here is hampering his recovery. Out. Let my people do their jobs.”
“You can’t—” La Rose burbled.
I drew myself up straight. When I stood like that, I was a little taller even than Officer West. He backed up a step. La Rose looked ready to take it further, but he intervened.
“We should go, Carla, and let this man get some rest. Dr. Ward, sorry for the inconvenience. Mr. Astor, our apologies.”
Manu nodded, waving at him. “I’ll let it slide without a lawsuit, but next time, check your facts.” His voice held such authority, I almost apologized to him, too.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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