I drove for nearly 20 hours, only stopping to use the bathroom and stretch our legs. We finally arrived in San Diego, California and grabbed a newspaper to look for any apartments for rent. We called a few of them and set up the appointments to look, but we knew that first priority was to be able to find our source of food. I called all the local butchers, but they refused to talk to me on the phone regarding their choices of meats. They all told me there was a law passed in the last few days where it was illegal to talk to anyone over the telephone regarding what types of meat a butcher supplied, and how much quantity they had on stock. None of them, save one, would offer any further information and hung up on me after their spiel. The save one butcher simply added to the end, however it’s not illegal to stop by and talk about it. We gathered his butcher shop’s address and headed that way.
Susan was a bit suspicious that he gave us that tip, and worried that he would call the cops. We both knew why the law was passed, and it was so we could be tracked easier, and kept under the eye of the government. We got out of the car in front of the butcher shop and headed toward the front door. The butcher quickly came around the counter and turned around the open sign to ‘closed’. He looked at both of us and quickly nodded to his right. He made a quick movement with his hand which I thought meant go away. We were confused, we were sure he left us that hint for us to come over, but now he’s pushing us away.
As we were walking back to the car, I saw something to my left and stopped. At the edge of the alley the butcher motioned for us to follow him and disappeared back into the alley. We looked at each other, and started walking cautiously to the alley. When we reached the alley we seen the butcher entering the side of his shop. Looking behind us, we made sure no one would be able to see us enter through the side of the shop, and walked to the door. It was already closed, so I tried the handle, and found it locked. Not sure what else to do, we knocked lightly. The door opened slightly and the butcher stuck his head out.
“If you need a lot of meat for a lot of money I’m your guy…but I only deal with the best kind of meat for your folk. That’s right, I know what you are, and I’m not even going to lie. I hate that I have to do this, but my family needs the money to get out of town as quickly as possible before the government starts taking control over the smaller shops.” he said.
“How do I know this isn’t a setup? If I buy something from you, you could just press a button and we’ll get hauled away” I asked.
“I’ll tell you what; I’ll give you a free sample. If you like it, you can buy more. If you still think something is going on behind the curtain then no hard feelings and you can go without prejudice.” he said.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better, how about this. We come inside, you give us that free sample, and if you turn on us, we’ll turn on you.” I said.
He stood silent for a minute, clearly weighing his options in case we should turn on him anyway. “Deal, but I have to warn you, I will carry my shotgun while you’re eating. So if you turn on me even though I’m telling the truth I’ll be able to defend myself.”
I nodded and we walked in to the side door together. He nodded to a small table and chair and went to the front to close the blinds. He shuffled past us and when he came back he was carrying two plates. There was a healthy helping of meat on both plates. I sniffed at the meat and immediately knew it was human. I looked at him, raising my eyebrows and asked “Where’d you get it, we don’t want any part of some murder so you can get your family out of here.”
“Don’t worry man, the coroner is my brother. He wants out with us, so any John Doe’s that appear (and there are 3-4 a week) come to me. They don’t even document the J.D.s any more since we have so many. I get a steady supply of J.D’s and he gets a free ride with my family when we get out of this place. I can see it in your eyes, you believe me now. So I’ll tel l you what. I’ll supply you one prepped stiff a week for you to share with your girlfriend, and you’ll supply me with $200 each time. How’s that sound?” he said.
I thought back to Jasmine handing me the envelope. She gave us $11,000 in cash. That was to help us get to wherever we needed to, get a place to live, and help get us started making connections for food. With the information the butcher already gave us about the plethora of J.D’s and the knowledge that the government has plans on taking over the small butcher shops, I knew that our time with this butcher was limited, even if he didn’t make enough to move out his family. I countered with, “How about this. I’ll give you $5,000 up front and you get me a meeting with your brother. When you guys are gone we’re going to need to know where these Does are most prominent. We won’t kill anyone, but have no problem feeding off the fresh stiffs. Until you guys are gone, we’ll get our supply from you, so you can continue to make money, but our stiffs will be paid up front with the 5 grand.”
He sat there for a minute in silence, then spoke up saying “Let me call my brother really quick.”
We quickly ate the sample while he chatted with his brother. A few minutes later he came back in, and sat a chair beside our table. He sat there waiting for us to finish up, and when we pushed our plates away from us he spoke, “My brother agrees to meet with you. He will give you all the information you’ll need to find the Does for when we leave. He also thinks it’s a good idea that the John Does stay at the same pace as they are currently. When we leave maybe you guys could do a little business on the side with some of your zombie buddies.”
“Listen pal, we’re not zombies. Yes we eat only meat, but we are not dead, we don’t just eat brains, and we have a fully functioning brain. In no way are we like zombies, the media just loves that terminology. They make us sound like we’re all evil, but really man we’re just trying to survive.” I said.
I reached into my jacket and pulled out a wad of cash. I counted out $2500 and told him that he would get the rest after our meeting. It was obvious to him that we had the cash so he agreed without a fuss.
“When is the meeting?” I asked him.
“Tomorrow morning, at the old bridge on the west side of town. You’ll know it when you see it; it’s the only one that looks green. It used to be made of iron, and the rain turned it green over the last 200 years. Anyway, be there at 9 AM with the rest of the money. Was that enough food to last you through tomorrow? I’ll have some more meat for you ready by our meeting.” he said.
“Plenty, listen we owe you a lot. We’ll see you tomorrow morning.” I said, standing up out of our chairs. I held out my hand to shake his and he said “No offense buddy, but I don’t want to risk getting infected and spreading it to my family.”
I nodded and we headed towards the door. When we got back out to the car, we made our way to a hotel. Checking in, we both agreed it would be safer to sleep in the same room in case something should happen.
“Welcome home Susan” I said turning my back towards her in bed, “Welcome home”