ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~
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Hello and welcome, people of Honeyfeed! I meant to have this chapter up a few days ago, but life kinda got in the way with the holiday season in full bloom. If you like the words I've littered this page with, then tackle that "Like" button (and receive a small boost to your badge rank). If you want to litter the comment section with words of your own, then litter away (and receive a big boost to your badge rank), and I'll do my best to reply!
On a side note, the new notification system on Honeyfeed is quite awesome. Just sayin'. ;)
BOOK 1, CHAPTER 8: CONTAGIOUS OUTBREAK
It was a warm and humid day, the type of weather that sticks to the skin and clogs the respiratory passages; that made it difficult for Duke Harrison, officer of the Chicago police force, as he tenaciously pursued his suspect on foot.
The suspect, whose name had not yet been identified, had held a pharmacy at gunpoint less than an hour ago. He was carrying a cloth sack, which aided the police in finding him as not too many people carried such an item. After looting various medications and loading his cloth sack, the suspect had fled the scene without harming anyone.
Still, he had threatened the lives of several innocent people and had to be punished; the suspect was armed and had vocalized his intent to kill.
The pursuit continued down quiet streets. The suspect’s route was erratic and he would periodically change direction and cut through private properties and yards, hopping over fences while clutching the cloth sack like a lifeline.
Officer Duke Harrison, fairly young, tall and sturdy with light brown hair and blue eyes, was not slowed down by the perpetrator’s wild route. In fact, it only seemed to help the officer close the distance to the offender.
When the suspect crossed another street, Harrison noticed a police cruiser rapidly approaching. His partner, Officer Lars Briggs, had attempted to cut off the suspect, but arrived seconds too late. Without wasting any time, Harrison quickly beckoned to have Briggs circle the block. If the plan worked accordingly, they’d catch the criminal between houses before he could make it to another street.
The gap between Harrison and the suspect was narrowing and the suspect was growing tired. Behind a small house, Harrison believed the chase was nearly over. After a quick glance around, the officer could see the suspect had practically cornered himself. Fences surrounded the property, and Harrison was now close enough to grab the offender should he attempt to scale another fence.
There was no escape except through the house … and that was exactly where the suspect headed. To Harrison’s surprise, the man ran straight for the back door of the house, kicked it in, and ran inside.
Without delay, the officer followed, but found the suspect had stopped running. He stood in the kitchen with his hands up, tears and sweat streaming down his face, the medication-filled sack still tightly grasped in one hand.
In less than a second, the officer had his pistol pointed at the suspect; his Heckler & Koch HK45 offered no compromises.
“Get down on the ground!” Officer Harrison shouted. His lungs were sore from the chase, but did not affect his volume. “Get down now!”
“Please, you can’t do this,” the man begged. “I need these drugs!”
“I said to get down now!”
The broken back door creaked as it swung gently on its one remaining hinge. Aside from the recent damage, the kitchen was clean and organized. Shattered glass from the door’s window crunched beneath Harrison’s shoes as he advanced on the suspect, still held at gunpoint. Taking one hand off his pistol to operate his walkie-talkie, he radioed to Officer Briggs and the other nearby officers.
“Requesting backup,” he said into the microphone. “I have the suspect cornered in a small, yellow house …” (he paused to think of the street they were on, but had lost track during the chase) “… and he is being held at gunpoint in the kitchen. Enter through the back door.”
Sobbing louder, the trembling suspect continued to beg.
“Please, officer. You need to help my family.”
Harrison knew the man was armed, or at least had been armed earlier. The desperate look on the man’s face and his pleading words revealed there was probably more to the story. Despite that, the officer’s own safety and the suspect’s detainment were of priority. Once in custody, the suspect could say all he needed.
“I’m giving you three seconds to get on the ground,” Harrison warned, holding his pistol with both hands again, “or I will shoot you.”
The suspect closed his eyes tightly, forcing out more tears as he uttered a soft, high-pitched whine. Dropping the cloth sack, he moved down to the floor facedown.
“Hands behind your head.” Harrison moved into position atop the suspect.
A black officer, Officer Lars Briggs, entered the house through the broken door with a hand on his Smith & Wesson M&P 9 pistol in its holster. His shaved head had a sweaty sheen while he assessed the situation. Harrison acknowledged Briggs with a quick nod, then immediately locked handcuffs around the suspect’s wrists.
“I’m placing you under arrest,” Harrison said, reciting the lines automatically and without much thought, “for armed robbery, improper possession of prescription medications, endangerment of human lives with a firearm, and evading arrest.”
Harrison held the man in place while Briggs put on nitrile gloves and searched the man’s pockets. Inside the man’s jacket was a breast pocket holding a small Ruger LC9 pistol matching the description given by the pharmacy workers, and Briggs carefully removed it, checked the safety was on, found three bullets in the magazine, and placed it on the floor nearby. The only other belongings the suspect carried were typical, including his wallet, keys, cellphone, and a small pocket knife probably intended for self-defense.
Several other officers had arrived. After the man was seated in the back of Lars Briggs’s police cruiser, Harrison and Briggs spoke with each other.
“His name is Ivan Dudek.” Briggs was holding the suspect’s driver license and read the information to Harrison. “Forty years old, just had his birthday last week. His address matches the one for this house. He lives here.”
Harrison thought about it briefly, wiping the sweat from his brow.
“With the way he was running from me,” Harrison said, “I wouldn’t have guessed he was actually heading anywhere specific. But it seems like he was just going home.”
“He surrendered as soon as he made it inside, you said,” Briggs said. “Does that mean he only wanted to make it here?”
“Can’t say.” Harrison shrugged. “I’ll have a word with him now.”
Ivan was still sobbing in the back of the cruiser when Harrison approached and opened the door.
“Do you understand your rights?” Harrison asked.
The man was still sobbing, but he nodded and uttered a vocal confirmation.
“Why did you rob that pharmacy?”
Attempting to calm himself down enough to speak clearly, Ivan sniffled and took a deep breath. His face quickly straightened, wet with tears.
“I needed medication,” he muttered grimly. “We couldn’t afford any because we don’t have health insurance.”
“You mentioned your family,” Harrison said. “Are they in danger?”
“They’re sick.” Ivan blinked his eyes and sniffled again. “I just wanted to make them better. That’s all. And I knew I couldn’t just persuade the pharmacists to hand over the medicine, so I had to take it by force.”
“Your I.D. says this is your home, correct?”
“Yes, I live here with my family.”
“Is your family home?”
Ivan nodded. “Yes. My wife and youngest daughter.”
“Does anyone else live here?” Harrison asked.
“I’m going to have a word with them. In the meantime, you’ll remain here.”
“Please, officer. They’re very sick. I don’t think they should be disturbed.”
“I just need to have a short talk with them. It won’t take long.”
Ivan slumped back in the seat as Harrison closed the door. He walked back into the kitchen where Briggs and two other officers were discussing the events.
“Detective Ulysses Townshend is on his way,” Briggs told Harrison. “He took great interest when hearing about the stolen medication.”
“What sort of medication was it?” Harrison asked.
The contents of Ivan’s cloth sack had been laid out on the counter. As Harrison examined them, Briggs explained.
“Antibiotics, mostly,” he said. “Some anti-inflammatories and anti-diarrheal. Some of them are just stronger versions of over-the-counter products.”
“Not your typical meth-making ingredients or abused substances.” Harrison thought it over. “Ivan told me just now that his family is sick. They should be here somewhere, so I want to have a word with them. Seeing these particular drugs makes me think that Ivan was being truthful, at least partly.”
“I’m surprised they haven’t shown up yet,” Briggs commented. “In all the ruckus, you’d think they heard and would come to see what happened. Unless they have reason to hide or flee.” He paused for a moment. “Or if they’re too sick to act.”
“I’ll go look for them. Should be a wife and daughter. Care to join me, Lars?”
“Sure thing, Duke,” Briggs replied. He turned to the other officers in the kitchen. “Hold tight for now. We’re going to check on the suspect’s family. I’ll be right back.”
There was a set of stairs leading up from the living room. After checking the first floor and finding nobody, Harrison and Briggs took the stairs to the second floor. The house was older, but was in relatively good condition and well-kept. Floorboards creaked under each step as the officers ascended the stairs, and they found themselves facing a hallway at the top.
Briggs called out, “This is the police. Is anybody here?”
No response. Briggs walked over to the first door, which was closed, and knocked on it. Still no response. He grabbed the doorknob and slowly turned it, realizing it was unlocked, then gently opened it to peek inside.
There was a bed in the room. Somebody was lying in it. Briggs opened the door halfway and called to them.
“Excuse me,” he said. “This is the police. I hate to wake you up, but I need to have a word with you. Mr. Dudek has been arrested and is in our custody.”
The person didn’t respond. Harrison stood from the hallway and watched as Briggs entered the room, his heavy shoes leaving clear imprints in the soft carpet. Understanding the person in bed was probably resting due to illness, Harrison felt bad about waking them, but they had a duty to perform.
Briggs walked over to the bed, noticing the person sleeping was a middle-aged woman, likely Ivan’s wife. Almost instantly, he saw she was covered in sweat, looked very pale, and was breathing too heavily for someone sleeping or in good health. Keeping his distance to avoid infection, Briggs spoke to her again.
“Hello?” he said loudly. “Can you hear me? Hello?”
“Are they all right?” Harrison asked from the hallway.
“It appears to be Ivan’s wife,” Briggs replied just loud enough for Harrison to hear, “and no, she clearly looks very sick and isn’t responding.”
“We should probably keep our distance,” Harrison said. “She could be contagious.”
“Right,” Briggs said. “And I feel bad to wake her up. I can tell she needs plenty of rest.”
Once in the hallway, Briggs closed the door quietly.
“Let’s check to see if the daughter is home,” Harrison said. “Maybe she’ll be awake.”
The last room down the hall was another bedroom, and the door was wide open. Various stuffed animals lined the shelves, including several plushies of Cold Fjord’s mascot. On the desk was a candid photograph of Biscuits N’ Gravy feeding a large beaver. Posters lined the walls, including an autographed poster of Canadian punk-rock band Leap Into Traffic and the Ouran High School Host Club anime. The entire room smelled like blueberries.
A person was in bed as well, and it turned out to be a younger woman, probably in her late teens or early twenties. Just like the wife, she was also covered in sweat, very pale, and breathing heavily. Nodding to each other, the officers left the room without attempting to wake her, then went back downstairs to meet with the other officers.
Detective Ulysses Townshend had just arrived. Townshend was a renowned (perhaps notorious) private investigator who had a history of working with Duke Harrison and Lars Briggs. Standing at six feet and two inches with slick, brown hair, hazel eyes, and stubbly facial hair, he could always be picked out among a crowd due to his strong presence (and tan trench coat, which he often wore even on the hottest days).
Townshend was being briefed by another officer who was explaining the stolen medication. Harrison and Briggs walked right up to the detective.
“Hello, Detective,” Harrison greeted. “Glad to see you made it.”
“Of course,” Detective Townshend replied, sounding peppy. “I wouldn’t turn this opportunity down.” He smiled at the officers. “It sounded relevant, so I had to jump onboard.”
“Relevant?” Briggs asked. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, I’ll fill you in later.” Townshend waved his hands dismissively. “Did you speak to the family?”
“They were sleeping,” Harrison said. “They seem to be very sick, and the wife didn’t respond to us at all.”
Townshend shifted his gaze between Harrison and Briggs.
“Did you try to wake the daughter?”
“No,” Harrison replied, “seeing how sick they looked, we decided to let her be after the wife didn’t respond.”
“Hmm.” Townshend held his chin in his hand as he thought. “Are you sure they weren’t deceased?”
“Well, they were breathing,” Briggs said.
Townshend already had his notepad out.
“Heavy breathing?” he asked, his pen in position.
“Uh, yes,” Harrison told him.
“What were the other symptoms?” the detective asked, scribbling.
“Sweaty and pale,” Briggs replied.
“Were they running a fever?”
“We didn’t touch them,” Briggs said. “We were worried about catching it.”
Ulysses Townshend snapped his notepad shut.
“I’ll gamble that they did,” he said confidently, pointing his pen at Briggs, “and that they had coughing, severe diarrhea, headaches, numbness and tingling in the toes and fingers, and loss of appetite.”
“What makes you say all that?” Harrison asked. “Is this related to something else?”
“It could be,” Townshend said. “Let me speak with the robber.”
Briggs pointed to where Ivan was sitting in the police cruiser before he and Harrison joined the other officers in the kitchen. Townshend walked over to the car and opened the back door to confront Ivan.
“Hi,” the detective greeted. “I’m Detective Townshend. What’s your name, sir?”
“Mr. Dudek, I’ll need to ask you some questions. My fellow officers discovered two females asleep in your house. Are they your family?”
“Yes, my wife and daughter.”
Townshend was already writing in his notepad, his pen movements looking over-exaggerated and wild.
“It’s reported that they’re sick. Is that correct?”
“Yes, sir,” Ivan answered dully. “They’re very sick. They need medication. That’s why I stole them.”
The scribbling on Townshend’s notepad was audible.
“Why not take them to the hospital?” he asked. “They didn’t respond to the officers. It could be an emergency.”
“We have no money and no insurance!” Ivan choked as emotions took over. “I wanted to do what I can.”
“Well, it might not have been the smartest thing to do,” Townshend replied.
Ivan began to sob, but calmed himself quickly.
“I was desperate,” he squeaked.
Townshend looked at Ivan, feeling pity for the man’s situation. However, there was a much bigger picture needing to be mapped out before any sympathy could manifest.
“When did they get sick?” Townshend asked, already scribbling in his notes before Ivan could answer.
“Four days ago. At the same time.”
“What were the symptoms?”
“First it was coughing, sneezing, and headaches. Then they started getting feverish. After two days, they stopped eating and had stomach problems. And yesterday, they started losing the feeling in their fingers and toes.”
Townshend looked up from his notepad. He understood Ivan was in a world of distress, so the detective had to force himself not to smile because his assumptions of the symptoms were true. Looking back down at his notepad, he took a deep breath.
“We’ll have your family transported to a hospital,” Townshend told him. “I suspect that this is a life-or-death situation for them. They sound likely comatose at this point and will need immediate, extensive care. I know you have money and insurance issues, but think about what’s more important here.”
Ivan’s face scrunched up as he fought back the tears. He nodded quietly, balling up his handcuffed fists.
“One more question,” Townshend said. He showed his notepad to Ivan, indicating to what he had been scribbling during his investigation. There was an intricate doodle of a tomato with tiny little legs being chased by a T-rex. “Does this drawing look okay?”
The confusion was clear in Ivan’s expression.
“T-rexes … didn’t eat tomatoes.”
Townshend frowned before snapping his notepad shut.
“Everyone’s a critic,” he muttered, slamming the car door shut and walking away.
The night was cooler after sunset, but the smothering humidity continued to linger under the overcast sky. Traffic never ceased as the evening crowds filled every sidewalk and street corner. Everyone was enjoying the nightlife before the autumn chills swept through the following months.
Officers Duke Harrison and Lars Briggs were off duty and having coffee in a coffee bar famous for its homemade walnut biscotti and buttery croissants. Detective Ulysses Townshend joined them to take a break from his investigation. They had received word a disturbance had occurred around Revere Park earlier that day, but the case had been assigned to other officers.
“I really did take a guess at their symptoms,” Townshend explained while stirring some salted caramel cream into his coffee, “so I was surprised when Ivan nailed it in his answer.”
“But was it relevant to something you knew?” Harrison asked.
Townshend perked up.
“Actually, it was,” he replied. “There had been several other reports over the past week involving a similar disease going around. It’s pretty recent news and still rather unknown, but it concerns me.” He took a sip of his coffee and let his thoughts sink in. “I think we should go public with it.”
Briggs nodded, saying, “We could contact the news stations and have them make a public service announcement.”
“I remember a recent case involving a similar illness,” Townshend said. “Unfortunately, the infected person was murdered by his close acquaintance.”
“That’s too bad,” Harrison said.
“But here’s something peculiar,” Townshend said with a smirk. “The murderer was arrested. He pled guilty, and he said he committed the crime to avoid infection due to contagions. The symptoms matched up with the Dudek family.”
Harrison was quiet. Briggs cleared his throat and looked out the window.
“Sounds like a nasty illness,” Townshend said, leaning forward. “I mean, to kill a person you knew well just to avoid getting it.”
“Ivan’s family looked in very poor condition,” Briggs added. “You made sure they were admitted into a hospital, Townshend?”
“Uh, yes,” Townshend confirmed. “It was actually Ivan. He made the ultimate decision. I feel bad for him, really. He made a stupid choice robbing that pharmacy, and now he still has his family to worry about.”
“He messed up, but it’s taken care of now.” Harrison leaned back. “I’m just glad there were no casualties.”
Townshend took a sip of his coffee, then added some sugar.
“I’ll wait for the coroner’s report before making my next decision,” he said. “I’m curious about these illnesses. If it’s something like the flu, it may still be worth requesting a public announcement from the news stations to warn people. At the very least, we can potentially make a lot of people’s lives easier. That will be enough until more is learned about the disease.”
Briggs yawned and checked his cellphone.
“It’s getting late,” he said, sliding his coffee mug a few inches away. “Better get home to the wife.”
“Yeah, me too,” Harrison added. “My kid needs me to check his homework, otherwise he’ll never get it done.”
“Alright, gentlemen.” Townshend took a big gulp of coffee. The combination of cream and sugar was just right, but the coffee itself was lousy. “I’ll probably be up for a few more hours. Call me if you need anything.”
Harrison and Briggs glanced at each other.
“Need something?” Briggs asked. “Such as what?”
“I don’t know, just to chat. The life of a private eye can get drab.”
The officers glanced at each other again.
“Uh, you have a good night, Detective,” Harrison said with a courteous smile.
Townshend remained at the table alone. He watched the traffic creep by the café, thinking about his wife back home. He thought about how beautiful she had been before marriage, and how her weight had piled on after the years. She had a gorgeous voice that shrieked at him night after night, nagging him about things he couldn’t remember as he gradually mastered the technique of tuning her out. Beckoning to the waitress for a refill on his coffee, he was ready to stay out of the house for another evening to indulge in the peace and quiet.
Andrew Norris prepared for class in the teachers’ lounge before Lyonbole Public High School entered session. He was joined by Beth Sonnet, the young home economics instructor, and Ned Jackson, who taught social studies and geography.
They had all heard the major news headline for the day, either from the Chicago Sons-Times news article or the NBBC 50 Chicago television broadcast. A serious disease had been spreading through the city, and the teachers of Lyonbole had taken it upon themselves to ensure the safety and health of their students.
“Will Charles make an announcement today?” Mr. Norris asked. He was shuffling some papers pertaining to the day’s lessons. “He’s the principal, so I assume he’ll be in charge of deciding how to handle it.”
Beth Sonnet looked at her bottle of unsweetened tea. At age twenty-nine, she was the youngest teacher at Lyonbole, and was very likeable due to her sweet personality that paired well with her gentle face. Her bright orange hair was topped with her usual red ribbon bow with white polka dots.
“I’m not sure what he’ll do,” Mrs. Sonnet replied glumly. She sighed, fearing for her students’ well-being. “Even so, I’ll make my own personal announcement at the start of every class. The kids need to know about this.”
Mr. Jackson nodded in agreement. “It’s an unknown disease. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention will probably step in soon. They probably have already, shoot.”
“It’s scary, isn’t it?” Mrs. Sonnet shivered at the thought. “Diseases spreading like this. What’ll happen if it gets out of control?”
“I’d rather not think about it,” Mr. Norris said with optimism. “But we need to consider the possibility that this could escalate.”
“Right.” Mr. Jackson agreed. “It’s important to start taking precautions now.”
The door to the room opened with a pronounced creak. Principal Charles Stark entered the room and walked directly to the coffee maker. He removed the coffee pot and sniffed the coffee, making a slight grimace before pouring himself a steaming cup.
“Good morning, Charles,” Mrs. Sonnet said happily.
“G’mornin’,” Mr. Stark grunted.
“Did you hear the news today?” Mr. Jackson asked. “There was a public safety announcement.”
“Disease and such.” The stout principal slammed the cup of coffee in a single gulp. Didn’t the freshly brewed coffee burn him? “Is that it?”
“Uh, yes,” Mr. Jackson said, “as a matter of fact.”
“It’s all over the news,” Mrs. Sonnet added.
Mr. Stark sighed and set his empty cup in the sink.
“I’ll make plans to announce it today,” the principal said flatly. He loosened his tie. “Be sure to stock up your soap dispensers, cover your mouths when coughing and sneezing … all that kind of stuff.”
“Gotcha,” Mr. Norris replied.
Mr. Stark walked out of the teachers’ lounge. As soon as he closed the door behind him, he encountered a smiling Lavi.
“You made the right move, huh?” the angel said with a smirk. “That’s uncharacteristic of you. Are you having a change of heart?”
“Don’t patronize me,” the demon snorted. “You’re one to talk.”
“I don’t know what you mean, Baal.”
“You’re lying and conniving,” Baal said, grinning ironically. “Since when did you holy rollers condone that kind of behavior?”
“I don’t condone it,” Lavi replied. “I just use it against you, just as you use it against me.”
Baal snorted again, this time loudly, as if suppressing a laugh. He walked away, leaving the angel behind. Lavi opened the door to the teachers’ lounge and greeted everyone there.
“Good morning, Leon,” Mrs. Sonnet said happily.
“How are you?” Leon Kampton asked, taking a seat at the table with everyone else.
“I’m good,” Mr. Jackson told him. “Did you hear the news today?”
“Disease and such.” Mr. Kampton leaned back in his chair. “Is that it?”
Mrs. Sonnet chuckled. “That’s exactly what Charles said.”
“Word for word,” Mr. Norris added.
Mr. Kampton stared at the ceiling. He was silent for a moment, pondering a multitude of different things. When no sufficient words in all the human languages (past, present, nor future) came to him, he straightened himself out, smiled gently, and nodded.
“Sounds like him, doesn’t it?”
Lyonbole Public High School’s hallways were filling with students who were still half asleep. The events and lessons for the day were already laid out in Mr. Jackson’s mind, as he expected another day of the same old grind. When he entered the classroom, a few students were already settling down for the period, and they were the same early birds who followed the same punctuality nearly every time.
However, there was a notable variance thrown into the mix of punctual students — Erik Hawthorne was sitting at his desk, talking with other students.
“Hey, not too sick to skip school, Erik?” a boy said jokingly.
“Not today,” Erik replied with a smile. “I actually feel pretty good.”
“Just don’t get me sick, okay?” another boy said, patting Erik on the back.
“No guarantees, dude.”
Erik and the two boys laughed.
Mr. Jackson made eye contact with Erik, who smiled courteously, and the teacher smiled back. Taking his seat, the teacher looked at his attendance sheet and thought about not having to mark Erik as absent again. It was ironic, though, how news of a spreading illness had made the major headlines, and the one student who was notorious for being sick had actually shown up for school.
The room filled up and the bell inevitably ushered in another school day. In accordance to the day-by-day routine, Mr. Jackson started by taking attendance. However, it was peculiar when Mr. Jackson had to mark Chris Findale as absent, who always had a perfect attendance as far as the teacher’s memory served.
Marilyn Collins sat at her desk throughout homeroom, occasionally glancing at Chris’s empty seat. She had nobody to talk with, and quickly grew bored as she used pages from her notebook for origami.