Cayo Elina 16
Elina was sick. They had come back to their rooms late the night before and crawled into beds that were much too soft to fall almost instantly asleep. As a precaution they had moved the small table and both chairs in front of the door before bedding down, it wouldn’t stop an intruder from getting in, but busting through the furniture would wake them up.
When Gus woke up in the morning, Elina only moaned. He tried to rouse her and found her skin hot to the touch. With some shaking he was able to get her semi-coherent and Elina said she was feeling terrible and just wanted to sleep.
Gus helped her to the bathroom and then back to her bed.
“Why aren’t you sick? It had to be the food.” Elina complained as Gus attempted to fluff up her pillow and get her comfortable.
“No, not food poisoning. You’ve got a fever. I’m going to go find some medicine.”
“Don’t trade away all our supplies.”
“They won’t do you any good if you’re dead.”
“You said you saw me die in a fight, therefore I live through this. Logic.”
Gus hesitated. “I just don’t see you after the fight. I don’t actually see you die in the fight.”
“Nothing is set in stone. I’m going to go find some ibuprofen.” Gus left the room, making sure the door was locked behind him.
Down in the bar he approached Max, who had a table upside down and was working on repairing one of the legs.
“Don’t you ever sleep?’ Gus asked as he approached.
“The gifts of the zombie are strange and profound.”
“Seriously?” Gus asked, curious.
Max nodded, “I spent the first part of the apacolypse afraid to go to sleep, as I killed more and more of them, I needed less and less sleep. Now a ‘full night’ for me is about ten minutes.”
“That’s pretty amazing, I thought everyone needed sleep.”
“I do, I just get mine in a very short period of time. I’ve got a few books on it that I picked up after I started noticing it happen. Did you know that there were people who only slept as little as that before all this went down? And they led perfectly normal lives, they just didn’t have a third of it taken up by sleep.”
Shaking his head Gus asked, “But it was new to you after you started killing them?”
“Yeah, new to me. Where is Elina?”
Max shrugged, “Sorry, food preparation is pretty lax these days, we were short-handed last night, no bouncers and I pissed off the Coronas, who were supposed to be working security for me, you saw how that went. Anyway the regular cook was out so…” Max let his sentence trail off as Gus shook his head.
“I don’t think it was the food. I ate the same thing and I’m not sick.”
“Not many doctors left around these days. I know the Cubans and Americans have some medics on staff, if you want I could try and contact one of them?”
“I was thinking of trying some ibuprofen or acetaminophen first.”
“Oh, yeah, sure. I’ve got a few bottles of the stuff stockpiled. I don’t give it out for hangovers or aches and pains anymore, so I’ve still got a lot of it. This fucking table is shot. Hey, Justin?” Max called one of the bouncers over and told him to drag the table into the open courtyard and use it for firewood.
“C’mon Gus, let’s go get you some modern medicine.”
Gus followed Max back to the storeroom and was surprised to see the shelves were fairly full of goods, most of which were sealed. Max looked around until he found the bottle of ibuprofen he was looking for, “This one expires next, it’s still good, but I have to try and use the stuff near the end of its shelf life first. When it’s gone, it’s gone, eh?”
He tossed Gus the bottle.
“All of it?”
“It has another month before it expires; bring back what you don’t use.”
Gus tucked the bottle into one of his pockets and the two of them left the storeroom, Max, carefully locked it back up once they were outside.
To Gus’s raised eyebrow Max said, “I can’t be too careful, I have three of these old freezers in this dump. Nothing is cold now, of course, I only use the power I have now for the lights and a few hot plates. But the freezer are practically impregnable. I got robbed blind once, now I keep ‘em locked up tight and I know who has the keys.”
“I’m surprised you can keep the place running at all. I would think the food would have run out a long time ago.”
“Too many people died. Some guys just make a living scavenging food…” Max shook his head, “Sorry, that’s the lie I used to tell people, now I don’t. You know who brings me them most food?”
Gus thought about it a minute before answering, “The zombies.”
“You’re pretty sharp. Who can clean out the houses easiest? Zeds. They bring in food from any houses they loot, sometimes fresh plants and meat too. I give them blood, sometimes fresh meat too.”
“What do you get out of it?”
“There is no more getting rich is there? I have to make my living on favors, Gus. I provide a service for everyone involved. It’s not a savory service and everyone knows it, but I get to live another day and protect a few people along for the ride. I like to think I’ve done something to keep the balance in Miami Beach, if not in Miami as a whole. Everyone comes here. They know I can get what they need. In turn it’s in no one’s interest to remove me or mine from the food chain.”
“How many people do you have working for you?”
Max smiled, “Hundreds. All part timers, a few have moved on to open their own places on the fringes of the city and are doing pretty well. I helped a lot of them get set up.”
“More chips to call in if you need to.” Gus said, nodding, “That makes sense. How long do you think you can be everyone’s friend?”
“That is the question, Gus isn’t it? Look I got some business to take care of now.” A few swarthy looking gentlemen with rifles came into the bar. Max picked up a half full pitcher of orange juice and a couple of glasses, “Why don’t you go and give Elina her medicine?”
Gus took the juice and cast a glance over his shoulder at the armed men coming towards Max, “You sure?”
“Who’s looking out for who here? Go on.” Max shooed Gus off as if he were an annoying fly.
Gus made his way out of the bar quickly and noted that several other people were leaving as well, heading outside or back to their rooms. It wasn’t quite the exodus that the fighting last night created, but it was still noticeable.
As he trudged back up to the room Gus realized that he knew what was wrong with Elina; “She’s got the Maxson sickness. Why now? Why days later?” He was still thinking about it as he turned the corner and in the dim light saw that the door to their room was open.