Some of you know that my older son, Nick, is currently undergoing his field training as a member of the Baltimore city police department. (Please save the concerned references to The Wire; believe me, I know.) He’s been calling me every couple of days to share the latest amusing anecdotes about life in the part of the city to which he’s been assigned, a neighborhood known as Marysville. Much of what he’s related has consisted of relatively low-level interactions between him and his training officer and the general populace. Yesterday and today, however, the stories he’s had to tell have been of a different order, altogether, and given some of what I’ve noticed on the web this weekend, have me more concerned— more worried than I like to admit.
The first incident occurred around dinner time, yesterday, when he and his training officer responded to a call for backup to a domestic disturbance. They arrived at a modest house whose front door had been broken open by a large stone planter, which partially blocked the doorway. Inside the house, a middle-aged man was brandishing a baseball bat at the much younger, and bigger, man who was standing on the front step. Apparently, the young man was responsible for the baby swelling the belly of the middle-aged man’s daughter—who was somewhere inside the house—and was also involved with one of the local gangs, the White Rhinos, who, despite their name, are not to be trifled with. When the homeowner had seen the younger man walking up the sidewalk, he had locked the door and called the police. He did not answer the young man’s knocking, after which, the young man stepped back, noticed the stone planters flanking the front step, and wrestled one of them up and over his head. He threw it into the door, which burst inwards. By that time, the first police officers had reached the scene, and were putting out the call for backup that Nick and his training officer would answer. They had seen the young man heft and throw the planter, so had their hands on their guns as they shouted for him to back away from the door. When Nick stepped out of the car, these officers had drawn their guns and were pointing them at the young man, who had not yet answered their calls to step back from the house. Complicating matters, the homeowner was brandishing his Louisville slugger at the young man, daring him to come one step closer, and from her place somewhere behind him, his daughter was screaming and crying.
Nick drew his own gun as the young man finally stepped back from the doorway and bent to pick up the other stone planter. It was quite the sight: each one was easily a couple of hundred pounds, yet this young man wrapped his arms around it and hefted it off the stoop as if it were a quarter of that weight. The cops, Nick included, were screaming at him to drop it, to put the planter down, which, even at the time, sounded absurd. Yet when the guy heaved it at them, and it struck the windshield of the first cruiser, it smashed a hole through it. That was enough for one of the cops: he shot the guy once, through the chest. The young man staggered back, but remained on his feet. At first, Nick thought that maybe the round hadn’t struck the young man dead center, but no, the hole in the guy’s sweatshirt was clearly visible. It wasn’t bleeding, which made him wonder if the guy were wearing some kind of body armor under his sweatshirt. All the cops were still shouting, telling the young man to lie down, but not only did he remain standing, he started to walk towards them. Because of where they were positioned, neither Nick nor his training officer could get a clear shot at the young man without endangering the homeowner behind him, but Nick was fully expecting the young man to collapse as his wound caught up with him. He did not, and the same officer who’d fired the first shot did so a second and a third time, tracking his shots up the young man’s torso as he went. His fourth bullet struck the young man in the face, under the right eye, and all at once, the guy dropped where he was. Things after that were fairly chaotic: once Nick and his colleagues had swarmed forward to check on the young man, who was indeed dead, there were calls to be made for an ambulance, for additional officers to support the investigation that was now required. It was, as you might imagine, a fairly intense experience for an officer still in training, and we spent a good deal of last night discussing it. It was strange, Nick said, but he couldn’t get over the lack of blood. He’d checked: that first shot looked to have gone clean through the guy’s heart. He should have bled all over the place, but even after he was down, there was no blood to speak of.
This was on my mind throughout the day, today, as I skimmed what seemed to me some of the more…extravagant stories making the news, popping up on the web. When Nick called tonight, those reports were the first thing he mentioned. Once I told him that yes, I’d seen them, but didn’t really give them much credit, he asked me if I were sure. I wasn’t, but didn’t a virus that could reanimate the recently deceased seem to be pushing the limits of believability, just a little? It did, Nick said, but the guy from yesterday? The M.E. wasn’t done with his examination, yet, but the word was, the young man he’d seen walking around, who’d thrown a stone planter forty feet at him and his fellow officers, had been dead for between twelve and fifteen hours when he’d done so. Nor was that all. Something had gone down last night—some kind of big operation involving the guys on the night shift and a group of feds who weren’t wearing any identifying logos on their body armor but whose orders command had told the night shift crew were to be followed without question. No one would say anything very definite, but apparently, they’d conducted a raid on a building that had been under surveillance as one of the way stations the White Rhinos used in their human trafficking operations. There was some kind of huge basement under the place where things had gotten pretty hairy. Today, everyone on Nick’s shift was given a handout detailing a set of behaviors to be on the lookout for ranging from aimless wandering to extreme, bath-salt-style acts of violence. The streets had been quiet, but there were rumors of things happening elsewhere, in D.C., Philly.
“You know,” he said before we hung up, “I know you’re not really into guns and all that, but maybe you should think about getting a shotgun or something. Just in case.”
“I’ll think about it,” I told him. To be honest, I already was. And I was wondering if it was already too late for that.
For more stories of the unfolding Zombie Apocalypse, check out Erin Underwood's site.