LIEUTENANT MARTY “BUCK” MCDONNELL
Whenever Buck sat at his desk, he always felt like it was a farce.
It didn’t matter what was going on in the world outside. Somehow, sitting at the desk was odd. Strange. It didn’t matter that he had been sitting behind it, day in and day out, for years now. He still felt like he needed to be out there on the streets, where he thought the real work happened. Yes, promotions were great. And his wife was happier, knowing that he was safely tucked away in the police station, out of harm’s way. But his soul was never satisfied. Not until the day they heard the military rolling into the city, and he knew that everything was about to change.
Four weeks had gone by. Four whole weeks, but it had seemed like years. The whole city was a disaster. People had taken to hiding, if they hadn’t been affected by the change. If it wasn’t them, it was someone they loved, and the skies were often filled with the sounds of their sorrow. Buck stood to his feet, adjusting his bullet proof vest. Since the city went on lock-down, he refused to take it off. Even when he was home, where he had reinforced the walls and windows with scraps of steel, where he encouraged his wife and kids to hide in the basement while he was gone for their protection.
But he didn’t mind. Really, he didn’t. In all honesty, it made him feel alive again. It was his excuse to get back out on the streets, dispensing justice, providing protection, and making sense of the chaos that surrounded them all. He felt like he was doing good again. He was where he belonged.
It was late. He wasn’t sure how long he had been there, fixing reports about the current supplies they had, or where ammunition had gone, and how much. It would have been overwhelming to most, and others who remained at the station didn’t have the stomach for counting bodies or injuries. Buck, on the other hand, knew that it was part of life. Someone had to do it. It might as well be him.
He stretched his arms up over his head, and paused when he heard a scrape of metal on gravel. Like a door being inched open. He was alone in the station. He always sent everyone home before it got dark. The darkness made it unsafe, especially with the electricity as spare as it was through the city. Buck never worried, though. He always had his father’s trusty old shotgun with him, just like he did that night, and he never missed.
He stood stock still, straining his ears to hear any other sounds, like the shuffling of feet across the dirty lobby that his office overlooked, or whispered words in the darkness. When he didn’t hear anything else, he silently made his way to the door to the stairwell. Despite his large stature, he could move with the grace of a cat. Something he learned to do from his time on the streets, and those skills never disappeared. He simply had to bring them out, dust them off.
He listened hard once more. He was greeted with silence. He twisted the handle of the door, slowly, slowly, careful not to make a sound. The door creaked, and so he only pushed it open halfway. Peering out onto the landing, he saw nothing. Heard nothing. Had his ears been playing tricks on him? Or were the Crazies becoming more intelligent?
His brow furrowed, anger stirred in him, and he started down the stairs. There was no sense cowering like a coward upstairs, waiting for whatever it was to find him. He wasn’t afraid. His gripped his shotgun more tightly, steeling his nerves, pushing away the fear burning a hole in his chest. His heartbeat pounded in his ears, taking one ginger step down the stairs after another.
He was in the lobby, and there was no one around. The front door was indeed cracked, and the single, dimly glowing bulb from the lamp out in front of the station spilled light in onto the floor. Suddenly, the sound of a dog barking filled the night, seeping in through the open door, making Buck jump. His heart fluttered like a caged bird, and he clutched at his chest, breathing hard. He recognized that bark. It had been a long time since he had seen him, but he had helped Buck out of a few tight spots with some Crazies. He always took off and hid before Buck could catch him. Buck wondered if he was patrolling his territory that night, just like he was.
He flicked on his light, tired of playing games. He combed the lobby for footprints, and found none. He saw no light, heard no breathing. What had come in there? There was a dashing sound, and his flashlight caught the briefest glimpse of a cat, darting out of the front door and into the night. Buck sighed heavily with relief, willing his heart to rest. It was just a cat. Not a Crazy.
He wiped at his sweating forehead, and locked the front door, securing it with all six locks that had been installed; retinal recognition, fingerprint recognition, the five part digital password, body heat scans, voice recognition, and a steel padlock. He trudged back upstairs to his desk, where he shut off the solitary desk lamp that he had on. He grabbed his jacket, his bag with the extra ammo and supplies, and headed back downstairs. It was best if he left for the night. Any other work that he needed to do could be done in the daylight, with other people around. Besides, he thought it would be best to spend some time with his wife. Not tell her what happened, of course. She would fret. But he never took the time with his family for granted. And they didn’t need to know how often he wielded his gun. They would sleep better at night thinking that their Dad and husband was as brave as he made himself out to be.