Brinker’s Contract, by Michael A. Kechula
“Do you believe in zombies,” asked the beautiful, leggy lawyer representing Galaxy Pictures.
“About as much as the Tooth Fairy,” replied Brinker, a private investigator.
“I’ll bet you’d change your mind if Galaxy Pictures offered you a lucrative contract to find some.”
“Why come to me? This town’s full of hungry PIs who’ll do anything for a buck.”
“You’re the only private investigator in Los Angeles who used to be a successful bounty hunter. If you found elusive fugitives, we figure you could find zombies. But before I say more, I’d like you to sign a confidential nondisclosure agreement.” Removing a document from her attaché case, she handed it to Brinker.
“Hmm,” he said. “It says when I sign this you’ll tell me about one of Galaxy Pictures’ confidential projects. And if I mention it to anybody, especially to Galaxy’s competitors, your company will prosecute me to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Right. If you violate this agreement, I’ll make it my personal crusade to ruin your life. I assure you, Mr. Brinker, I’m very good at my job.”
Brinker couldn’t believe how such a gorgeous, innocent-looking woman could sound like a Mafia bone buster.
He signed the agreement out of curiosity.
Tucking the document into her case, she said, “Galaxy is planning to produce a spectacular new movie. Something no studio has ever dreamed of, much less attempted to produce. This will be the biggest project in the studio’s history. I’ve read the script. It’s dynamite. We expect ticket sales in the billions. Plus it could lead to a dozen sequels. Mr. Brinker, Galaxy intends to make the first movie in history that includes real zombies.”
Brinker chuckled. “That’s the craziest thing I ever heard. Zombies don’t exist. Better inform your boss in case he hasn’t heard.”
“You’re wrong,” she said. “I’ve been to Haiti. I’ve seen one. Let me get to the point. Galaxy Pictures will hire you to go to Haiti and capture three dozen of them. We have lots of parts to fill in the new movie. However, you must include one female to play the key role—Queen of The Zombies.”
“What happens after I snag them?”
“Take them to the airport where we’ll have a chartered airliner waiting to fly them back here to Los Angeles. The company will pay $5,000 for each one you capture, as well as $500 per day for expenses. And once the zombies reach Los Angeles, you’ll receive $100,000 bonus. Do you believe in zombies now, Mr. Brinker?”
“For that kind of money I’d believe there was an Emperor of Mars, and deliver him to Galaxy’s main gate. By the way, is it true that zombies eat human brains?”
“No. That’s an invention of Hollywood.”
“What do they eat?”
“Human intestines. Don’t worry—you’ll be protected. Our model shop has developed tummy armor that’s thin, extremely strong, and very flexible. We’ll fit you before you leave. Make sure you wear it when you go zombie hunting.”
“How long do I have to catch them?”
“I’ll do it,” Brinker said.
Four days later, Brinker arrived in Haiti. He was in a holiday mood until he stepped off the plane. Though he’d been in a lot of weird places during his bounty hunting days, none had ever made him feel so creepy. Something about the atmosphere seemed unholy. Ethereal sounds of jungle drums rode on humid breezes, fading in and out. Strange voodoo symbols festered on graffiti-covered walls. He found himself getting the willies.
On the way to the hotel, he asked the cab driver where he could find zombies. The driver laughed and said he’d seen too many horror movies.
The hotel clerk said the same thing.
Somebody knocked while Brinker was unpacking his suitcase in his hotel room. A chambermaid entered, carrying a vase of flowers. “Compliments of the hotel,” she said, putting the vase on a table.
When Brinker handed her a tip, he noticed a small black figurine with two heads and red eyes, hanging from her cheap-looking necklace.
“That’s very interesting,” he said.
“What is, Sir?”
“The black thing on your necklace. What is it?”
She tucked the figurine inside the top of her maid’s uniform. “It’s nothing, Sir.”
“Then why did you hide it so quickly?”
“It is not for the eyes of unbelievers. Please, Sir, I do not wish to anger the gods.”
“I must leave now,” she said in a shaky voice.
“See this? It’s five American dollars. It’s yours if you answer my question.”
Grabbing the money, she said, “Mazuzu and Azolu. The jungle gods who protect me from zombies.”
Brinker dropped another five on the table. “So, I assume you’ve seen zombies.”
She picked up the money. “Yes. Many times. Like everyone else in Haiti.”
“I have ten more of these five-dollar bills. They’re yours if you sit for a few minutes and answer some questions.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Let’s start with your name.”
“Well, Bahody, here’s the situation. I made a bet with some of my friends back in America. They said zombies don’t exist. I bet them $10,000 that they do. So to win the bet, I must find some zombies and take their pictures as proof. Where can I find them?”
“Zombies prowl everywhere in Haiti. Especially tonight under the full moon.”
“Perhaps you can tell me exactly where to go, so I can find some, especially females.”
“You should never have made such a bet,” she said. “Especially about the living dead. It’s bad juju.”
“I’ll take the risk. Tell me where to go.”
“Café Rico,” she said. “Not far from this hotel. It’s an unholy place. They say rats drop dead when they get too close.”
“When I get there, who should I see to get in touch with zombies?”
“Don’t go. You’ll lose your soul.”
“It’s more important that I don’t lose my $10,000 bet,” he said. “How do I get there?”
“Any cab driver should know the way.”
“It’s such a nice evening, I prefer to walk. Who knows, I may even see a zombie or two along the way.”
Clasping her two-headed black figurine, she hoped the gods would forgive her for leading the foolish American to zombies. But she needed the money he offered.
“When you leave the hotel, turn left. Go three blocks. Turn right, and go six more.” She grabbed the money and hurried out.
Brinker strapped on Galaxy’s stomach armor, slipped a blackjack into his pocket, and left the hotel. On the way to Café Rico, he noticed wretched-looking people meandering slowly in the bright moonlight. Many seemed stupefied. He wondered if any were zombies.
Arriving at the outdoor café, he ordered rum. When the waiter brought the drink, Brinker said, “I hear this is the place where I can find zombies. Any around tonight?”
“No, Sir. They don’t come here anymore. They stay away ever since the new owner brought in priests to exorcise the café.”
“Where can I find some?” He flashed a ten-dollar bill.
“They say many have gone to Zambulu.”
“In the jungle. They say it’s a terrible place of black magic and terrifying voodoo ceremonies.”
“How do I get there?”
“I don’t know, Sir. But I urge you, for the sake of your mother, don’t go.”
Brinker gave him the ten and pondered his next move.
After three drinks, he went from table to table offering fifty dollars to anyone who’d take him to Zambulu and back. He figured he’d take a quick look. If it seemed promising, he’d rent an SUV and go back the next day with his zombie-capturing gear.
Nobody would take him.
“What the hell’s the matter with you people?,” Brinker said loudly. “Doesn’t anybody want to earn fifty American dollars? Know what that can buy in this miserable country?”
“Perhaps Mizra will take you,” somebody said. “She’s from Zambulu. Some say she’s a zombie. There she is—in that carriage across the street. The one with the large horse.”
Brinker asked the waiter if the woman in the carriage was a zombie.
“I don’t know. Ask her to come to your table. The exorcist sprinkled blessed salt around the café to keep those monsters away. Zombies cannot cross the salt.”
“Hey, Lady,” Brinker called. “Come over here, and I’ll buy you a drink.”
When she didn’t move, Brinker went to her carriage. “Take me to Zambulu,” he said, waving fifty dollars.
“Do…you…believe?” she asked.
“Believe in what?”
“Yeah, sure. Next you’ll tell me you’re one of them.”
“And I’m Spiderman,” he said, snickering. “Do you wanna make fifty dollars or not? I don’t have all night.”
As they rode slowly along a jungle path, she hummed a strange voodoo melody. It was the weirdest thing he’d ever heard. He found himself so unnerved, he wondered if she really were a zombie.
“Stop the carriage,” he said. “If you’re a zombie, prove it.”
He was astonished when her countenance took on a greenish glow and vibrated.
“That’s a pretty neat trick. I don’t know how you’re doing it, but it might be good enough to convince people in Hollywood to give you a part in a zombie movie. They might even let you play Queen of the Zombies. Not only that, if you point out more zombies when we get to Zambulu, I’ll pay you two dollars for each one. Maybe they can be in the movie too. Is it a deal?”
When he offered to shake her hand, she lunged for his stomach.
Slamming her head with the black jack, he knocked her out of the carriage. When she hit the ground, he heard growls. Dozens of figures with green vibrating faces came out of the jungle and headed toward him.
As he tried to get away, the horse bolted, throwing Brinker out of the carriage. Dazed and disoriented, he didn’t realize he was staggering toward the zombie mob.
Mizra knocked him to the ground from behind. She ripped his shirt open and went for his stomach.
“Stop it!” he yelled, pounding her with his fists. “Don’t you wanna be in a movie?”
He screamed horribly when her teeth pierced his armor and tore into his stomach.
His body flooded with so much adrenaline he managed to break loose and disappear into jungle thickets. He ran until he blacked out.
When they asked him at a hospital how he got there, he couldn’t remember.
Galaxy Pictures paid his medical bills for a few weeks. But when he didn’t improve, they canceled his contract, reinforced their stomach armor, and found somebody else to round up zombies.
Medical doctors couldn’t understand why Brinker’s stomach wound continuously leaked pus. Nor could they comprehend why powerful space-age drugs didn’t stop the flow. They scoffed when he told them it was a zombie bite.
But Haitian shamans understood. Though many exorcised Brinker, pus continued to flow.
Desperate for a cure, Brinker consumed putrid hoodoo potions and sacrificed countless chickens to Mazuzu, Azolu, and all of Bahody’s jungle gods. But nothing stopped the puss and horrible nightmares in which Mizra feasted on his infected guts.
One morning he awoke screaming in a blood-soaked bed. Mizra was chewing his intestines.
Too weak to fight her off, Brinker barely managed to say, “You coulda been a movie star.”
After munching the last putrid morsel in his abdominal cavity, she burped loudly and asked his corpse, “What…is…movie…star?”
Michael A. Kechula’s flash and micro-fiction tales have been published by 149 magazines and 50 anthologies in 8 countries. He’s won 1st prize in 12 writing contests and 2nd prize in 8 others. He’s authored 5 books of flash and micro-fiction tales, including a book that teaches how to write flash fiction. See his publisher’s site at: http://www.booksforabuck.com/ to read a free story or chapter in all of his books.