Ground Zero – 4
For the first time in his career, Edward had to pause to throw up and then he downed a drink. His examination of Vivian Morris went about as far as it could go before he got sick. It wasn't just the sight and smell of her, it was the thought of what had occurred.
“I need a investigative team,” Edward told Dr. Lange, head of the Centers for Disease control in his first telephone conversation back to headquarters. “Body removal and another team of virologist. We have to trace this thing. We need to find out exactly what it is.”
“ You've only been there three hours, Ed. What in the hell …”
“Over eight hundred bodies. One just thawed enough for me to examine … my God, Bill.” Edward grabbed his flask. “This woman … these people … this … thing. I’m scared to death.”
At first his soft laugh carried over the line, then Dr. Bill Lange, breathed outward. “You’re very serious.”
“Yes. Yes, I am. Bill.” Edward paused to take a sip. “I don’t even know if I’ll end up with it, for as much precaution as I’ve taken. This thing is like nothing I have ever seen. Nothing. And it’s fast, my God, is it fast. Last phone call out of this town was placed a few days ago, that’s when I guess the town died.”
“When did it hit there? Any guesses?”
“No more than a week.”
“Tell me about it,” Edward said. “I just did my first examination and I got sick. Sick, Bill, Underneath what was left of her skin … and I say what was left because the victim either scratched her skin away or it tore from within. And what was beneath it … it was like tar, looked like tar and smelled like bile. Everything inside was desecrated. Internal organs barely recognizable. They were mush. If there was any blood left in the victim’s body, it was too thick to pass through the veins, and just seeped through any bodily orifice it could find.”
“Where … where did it start?” Dr. Lange asked. “Any idea.”
“I’d be guessing,” Edward replied. “But I’d say it was inhaled. Maybe it started as a respiratory ailment, who knows, but it hit the digestive system and ate through it like acid.”
Edward laughed. “We need a new word for it. Trust me. Septicemia is a walk in a park compared to this. And you know what the worst part is?”
“There’s worse?” Dr. Lange asked.
“Oh, yeah. The brain. Barely touched. That tells me the victim knew every single thing that was happening to them. This woman, felt every single ounce of pain and sickness and my guess is she went through an agony that was inhumane.”
“I’m disbursing as many units as I can to you. They’ll be there by the end of the day,” Dr. Lange said. “Have you tried the neighboring communities?”
“I am keeping the State police at bay and out of those towns just in case. I’m scared. There’s a town thirty miles north of here, one forty miles east. The last phone call went to Lincoln. Those are small towns. But Billings … it’s only seventy miles away.”
“This hit fast, do you think it broke boundaries?” Dr. Lange asked.
“It should have under normal circumstances,” Edward said. “But these aren’t normal. You have every day folks, dead cowboys in pickup trucks with shotguns on every single road leading in and out of town. This makes me wonder if there is a BSL-4 lab around here. Maybe a resident here brought in the germ, knew it was released and they shut down and sealed in the town. Set up an aid station, prepared for it. Kept it down until everyone died.”
“Someone knew it was this bad?”
“Without a doubt. My only hope is they shut down this town fast enough.” At that instant, Edward’s eye lifted to the opening of the lab door. “My team just returned. Let me call you back.”
Dr. Lange told him he was assembling more teams and the conversation ended.
Using the intercom, Edward told Harold to double disinfect, then waited for him to walk into the office portion.
He knew by the look on Harold’s face, he had more information.
“We found a whole bunch of bodies,” Harold said. “Maybe a hundred or more.”
“There’s eight hundred plus people in this town, of …”
“No.” Harold stopped him. “Let me finish. We found a bunch of bodies. Apparently infected … but they didn’t die of our sickness. They were shot.”
Edward as barreled over by the news. “It can’t be.”
“Single shot to the head. Men, women, children.”
“Someone finished off the town.”
Harold shook his head. “Nope.. Someone killed the people who weren’t going to die from the illness.”
Edward ran his hand down his face with a hard sigh. “What the hell? Why?”
With his question came a ‘thump’ on his desk. Harold tossed a sealed bag, and in it, what looked like a journal.”
“What is it?” Edward asked.
“You’re answers,” Harold replied. “Someone documented everything. I only skimmed through, but I’m pretty certain,” He pointed to the journal. “That right there, solves the mystery of what happened to this town.”