Lucky kept his bow at the ready as he strode through Chinatown. The day had only just begun but he didn’t want to waste any time. Eyes darting from shadow to shadow, he kept away from alleys and abandoned cars; anything that could hide a Crazy.
Being first and being quick was how he had survived on the streets. And though he still didn’t really understand what had happened in the last month, he was determined to survive it. He’d left the others back at the auto shop; partly because he worked better alone, partly because he wanted to show them he was useful. The group of survivors all had their own skills but Lucky’s main attribute was his knowledge of San Lazaro and he intended to use it.
CHUNG WAH NOODLES. He remembered this place: a big restaurant with the name spelled out in red. Outside were numerous abandoned vehicles and the usual selection of rotting bodies. Some were Crazies killed by humans; the rest were humans killed by Crazies. The smell was horrible and Lucky realized he was actually getting used to it. Peering through the windows, he saw no movement within. One hand still on the bow, he eased the front door open and slipped inside.
The restaurant seemed deserted. Several chairs and tables were upturned and many meals had been left unfinished. Lucky knew to listen first, check if his arrival had disturbed anyone – or anything. But he heard nothing. He picked his way between the tables and paused only when he found himself opposite a mirror. In some ways he looked the same as he always had: compact, athletic; unruly black hair, light beard. But he reckoned his eyes had acquired a hardness in recent weeks; in the days since everything had changed. He lowered the bow and let out a long sigh. Lost in thought, he almost missed the danger.
The mirror saved his life. The male Crazy had been hiding behind the counter and came at him with arms outstretched, eyes bulging. Lucky spun around, knowing he didn’t have time to use the bow. He planted a heavy kick on the Crazy’s chest. As it staggered backwards, he drew his knife and sliced its neck open. The Crazy collapsed, leaking dark blood, Lucky wiped his knife on a nearby tablecloth and replaced it in his belt. At least he’d saved an arrow.
Once past the kitchen, he reached an unlocked storeroom at the end of a corridor. He carefully opened the door, entered, and smiled when he saw what was inside. As the door clicked shut behind him, he surveyed the shelves. They were full: packets of noodles, tins of fruit, bags of rice. There was enough here to keep him and the others going for weeks. He took his backpack off and was about to start filling it when he heard something outside the door.
Lucky turned, retreated and nocked an arrow. The door opened to reveal a tall, overweight man pushing a shopping cart. Resting on that cart was a shotgun which the interloper instantly raised. Lucky aimed his bow at the man’s head because his chest was protected by a bullet-proof vest. Underneath it was the uniform of the San Lazaro Police Department. Lucky had never much enjoyed his encounters with them and guessed this one wouldn’t be any different.
‘This stuff is mine, hobo. You better move on.’
‘Strong words for a man with an arrow pointed at his face.’
The officer – who looked to be about forty – nodded down at the trolley. ‘I just went to fetch this. The food is mine.’
‘Plenty here to share,’ said Lucky.
‘Why should I? Lot of mouths to feed.’
‘Me too. Listen, man, there’s enough danger out there without us turning on each other. I’ll lower my weapon if you will.’
The officer considered this for a moment then put the shotgun down in the trolley.
Lucky lowered the bow. ‘You’re police. Is there still a force?’
‘Is there still anything?’
‘You know what caused it – the Crazies?’
‘I don’t think anyone does – yet. Heard some military chatter on the radio about “protocols” but we’re not sure what it means.’
Twenty feet behind the police officer, two female Crazies appeared in the corridor. They wore the same clothes and appeared to be waitresses. They possessed the same vacant stare that Lucky had observed on all the people that had undergone the awful transformation.
‘Damn,’ he said. ‘I thought I checked everywhere.’
‘Allow me,’ said Lucky.
The officer moved aside as Lucky raised the bow and fired. The arrow struck the first Crazy between the eyes. It toppled over but the second woman strode towards them.
The officer aimed and pulled the trigger. The blast took the Crazy in the chest, splattering the pale walls with blood and flesh.
But it wasn’t over. Two, then four more appeared in the corridor.
‘I don’t want to waste more ammo here.’
‘Neither do I,’ said Lucky.
The officer pointed at the window at the rear of the storeroom. ‘It’s open. I made sure there’s a way out.’
‘We won’t be able to carry much,’ said Lucky. ‘If we load rice into your cart and block the corridor, that should hold them for a while.’
The officer nodded. Before the slow-moving Crazies reached them, they had loaded six heavy sacks of rice onto the cart. Turned sideways, it fitted neatly between the walls and was enough to halt their silent enemies.
The officer also had a pack and both men now claimed as much as they could from the shelves. By the time they left, ten Crazies were in the corridor and the cart was coming loose. Using a shelf to climb up, they clambered through the window and lowered themselves to the ground. Lucky found himself in a narrow alley covered with graffiti.
The officer pointed over his shoulder. ‘I’m heading this way.’
Lucky nodded in the other direction. ‘What’s your name?’
‘I hope so – for your sake.’
With that, Buck turned and marched away along the alley. Wondering if he would see the officer again, Lucky checked his bow then sprinted back towards the street.