Cayo Elina 59
Ricardo was right, the fighting wasn’t over; it wouldn’t end for three more days. The street fighting turned even more viscous and it wasn’t until all three factions, under Perry, Elina and the zombie leader met that they could decide on a coherent strategy to deal with the equipment the Cubans possessed. In the end, they started targeting the officers and special forces troops, who were holding the common soldiers in line, the last night the Cuban army, what was left of it rose up and killed or captured most of their officers after they refused Perry’s offer of surrender.
The morning of the fourth day, the highest-ranking officer left on the Cuban side met with the coalition’s representatives and they ironed out a ceasefire. They later found out it was because Ramon had led some of the remaining drafted Cubans in a brutal night of slaughter against the more solid special forces that the commander agreed to the ceasefire at all. Two days after that the Cubans surrendered, they gave up their equipment and agreed to be held until the coalition granted them parole, something Perry wanted to do as quickly as possible and Phil, the zombies leader, wanted to as slowly as possible. Part of the compromise for Phil’s help had been giving over part of the city to him and his band, to try and form a more peaceful co-existent between the living and the dead. The dead far outnumbered the living and possibly could have forced the issue, something Phil brought up many times in the negotiations following the Cuban surrender.
Elina contested Phil at every turn, not forgetting where he had sent his ‘political dissidents’ and how many people’s lives that had cost her. Elina insisted that Miami Beach be part of the human territory, Phil insisted it remain with the zombies. In the end they both got it; it was declared a mutual city, the rest of the city was fairly evenly divided. The area around the makeshift Naval base would be a ‘humans-only’ area, likewise the zombies would have a human free zone which pretty much took everything south of old highway forty one and west of the south Dixie highway, a huge track of real estate, but, as Phil pointed out, they had more citizens to house. Shared areas also included everything on the east side of that same highway and the entire set of islands down to Key West.
For all purposes, the only real ‘shared’ area was Miami Beach, very few people felt comfortable living with the dead so close to them. Miami Beach was the exception primarily because Perry asked Elina to settle there to keep an eye on things. The gangs, with Hector’s encouragement were planning on returning to the area too.
Phil warned of other zombie leaders moving their forces south and made no bones about the fact that he needed help to keep them at bay and his idea of help took the form of three things: blood, criminals sentenced to death, which would be given over to him to reanimate, and air support from Perry’s remaining helicopter. He and Perry were still working out details, but both agreed it was a situation that needed to be watched.
The Germans stuck around a month before topping off their tanks from Perry’s refined fuel and vowing to return if they found nothing for them in Europe.
“We’ll never see them again.” Gus said.
He, Elina, Hector and Ricardo were gathered at Max’s, sitting at the corner of the bar. Paul, the mutt who had been entrusted to the bar maid, was lying behind them on the floor, chewing a piece of wood. The place was packed, with more than forty people sitting at the newly constructed furniture, about half of the patrons were dead, and the other half were islanders, neither group seemed uncomfortable around the other.
“You ‘see’ this or just conjecturing it?” Ricardo asked.
“Conjecture, but England is still there, so there is something in Europe for them to find and I doubt we will see the Feist again.” He was wearing dark sunglasses that Elina had found for him, despite the shady lighting in the bar.
“Or Ambros, that poor s-o-b.” Ricardo said, prompting the others to raise a glass to their friend.
After the obligatory drink they grew quiet for a while, finally Ricardo broke the silence, “So what now?”
Everyone looked at Gus, the position of his head didn’t change, his eyes stayed facing forward on the newly replaced mirror hanging behind the bar. He nodded very slowly. “That is the question, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to take a couple more weeks to just…sit.”
“We do that and we’ll all be drafted by Perry or Phil or Cayo Council, hell even the gangs or the Cuban representatives will come calling.” Elina said. “You know Ramos wants our help to keep an eye on the Cubans.”
Gus nodded; he knew it was true; Perry had already requested the four of them to act as intermediaries to a half dozen little problems. “So? Any thoughts?” He finally asked.
“We can’t keep dodging the factions forever.” Hector said. “And we can’t keep saying, ‘we’re almost recovered.’ Face it, Gus, you were fit two weeks ago. And the rest of us were better long before that.”
“Well, I have an idea, I suppose.” Gus ventured.
The other three leaned in close, drawing Max’s attention; he wandered over polishing a heavy glass mug with a filthy towel. Elina looked up at him and scowled, “What? Max?
He scowled back, “Just making friendly now that I’m caught up. What’s the big secret? That you’re hitting the road?”
“What? Where did you hear that?” Ricardo asked, looking around suspiciously.
Max shook his head and followed that with a shrug of his shoulders. “Figure you’ve got to go or end up doing enforcement for someone and I don’t think you’d like that too much. All of ya are hard headed and independent, it’s a wonder you’re even friends.”
“Well, Gus? Is that it? I figured we travel, but which way? North or South?” Turning towards Max Elina cast an accusatory eye on him and asked, “Or does the rumor mill already have an answer to that too?”
Max raised his hand defensively and backed away, “Wild horses couldn’t drag it out of me, lady. Got a client, be right back.”
“You know what’s funny?” Gus asked rhetorically, watching the bartender saunter away, “I can’t see Max. Not at all. Just like you, Elina, he’s off the grid. Him and Ann Marie, this whole place is turning into a super human haven.”
“Definitely a step down the social ladder. It doesn’t surprise me though, those two never evacuated, so they’ve seen plenty of fighting. You don’t survive this long and not pick up something along the way.” Ricardo said.
“Yeah, and it keeps you guessing too, I wouldn’t want life to get boring for you.” Elina added.
“So…give.” Hector said, “Which way did you and Max decide we should go?”
Gus laughed and answered, “South first, to see if we can’t get the rest of the islanders back into the fold. After that, well, after that I’m thinking we need to go investigate the source a little closer.”
“I knew it! You own me a pint Hector!” Ricardo laughed as he finished of his cup.
“Aw, I didn’t think we’d go there, too many zombies. Too many super zombies, I mean. It was a bet worth making, besides, Gus said ‘south’ first, not north, so technically you owe me a six pack.” Hector said, he held up a hand to Ricardo’s complaint, “Don’t worry I’m good for it, he said we had a deal.”
Ricardo’s frown turned around and he said, “Why don’t we call it a draw?”
The group set about planning their trip, including how to break the news to Perry and the other people of importance around town and Max left them to their planning. Ducking into the back room to wrestle another barrel of beer to the front he was met by Ann Marie, she looked around briefly and saw that they were alone and gave him a quick peck on the lips.
“They leaving, Max?”
“We knew they would go.” he answered, “Too much trouble if they stayed.”
“You give them any advice? On where to go?”
Max scowled and shook his head, “You know I wouldn’t do that.”
“Not even if…”
“Not even if.” He answered tightly. “Some things are better left buried, Stewart.”
“Shhh…Don’t call me that! You know it’s not safe here!” she chided him, “It’s bad enough you kept your name.”
“You’re the one that slipped up on that, as I remember, not me.” Max said, leaning in for another quick kiss.
“Enough! We’ve got a business to run. I have to ask one more thing though, do you think the world needs more gods running around in it?” she asked.
Max tilted his head slightly and rubbed his unshaven chin, “Not much we can do about it, is there? That’s just the way it is, whether the world needs it or not. I just hope they come down on our side of things, when the chips are down.”
Stewart nodded, “They will, they’re a good bunch of people.”
After Max shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘wait and see’, she helped him carry the keg out to the bar and they once again lost themselves in the work of running the place.
(Writer's note: This is the ending I'm going with, HOWEVER final pre-editing of the novel is not complete, anyone reading this message [which will be removed once it gets sent off to the editor; Horror Zedits and Last Writes] is going to have great lobbying power, so, if you don't like the way it ended, shoot me a line and let me know how you feel.)