Dan Wilson drove his new Jaguar down the High Street to the office. The drive from the gated community he lived in had been uneventful. It wasn’t until he approached the city that things began to get dodgy. There were quite a few cars abandoned on the side of the road. Some were smoldering. Some had “Lookie-loo’s”, their heads stuck through open windows. There were even some surrounded by a crowd that pounded on the car.
“Get a job,” Wilson muttered with a sneer. He had little time for layabouts.
As he got closer to the offices, he was sure he caught sight of Paul Donaldson chasing one of the computer programmers down the street. He had his arms outstretched and Wilson was sure he saw a trail of droll as he began to close in on the terrified woman.
“Some things never change,” Wilson snickered. Paul was forever chasing skirts.
Wilson finally got to the Flynn Building, his place of employment. The steel gate at the entrance to the car park was down, as usual. Over the last few weeks, the gate had been electrified, much like those around his home. It kept away any undesirables. There seemed to be more of them every day.
Pressing a three-digit code on his mobile, the gates opened. Two men carrying Thompson guns directed him inside while watching outside. Surprisingly, it was a quiet morning. Wilson pulled the car in. He heard the gates close behind him with a sizzle of current passing between them. Security was a luxury these days. He almost felt sorry for the employees who still had to find street parking.
The lift was waiting for him as he and his briefcase walked through the car park. He confidently strode inside and gave the top floor button a double push. He never quite trusted that the lift would respond on just one hit on the button.
The doors closed. Wilson stared straight ahead. The Muzak that once played had been turned off to conserve electricity. At least, that’s what everyone was told. In fact, the provider had raised its fee for the service. Upper management decided it no longer wanted to pay for bad renditions of varied Eurovision losers and music hall nostalgia. That was their stance anyway. Wilson really didn’t care.
He was headed to the top floor. The company’s chairmen had summoned him. Wilson knew what the meeting was about. It was his idea to insure people against becoming zombies. Now, more people were becoming members of the undead and management was panicking. Wilson was aware that his position was now tenuous but he knew he could remedy the situation and not get the sack.
The “8” above the doors lit and the bell rang. Wilson had reached the top floor offices of Breakman, Lunman, and Dinman, the three partners of the insurance firm. The doors opened to reveal the current secretary. It seemed that the last two had never returned from lunch. Miss Halstead, as her nameplate read, claimed to be on a diet and had no need of a midday meal. That helped her keep her position.
Upon seeing Wilson, she nodded and pointed to the conference room. Opening the double doors, the man found both Breakman and Lunman staring out the large picture windows that served as walls for much of the room. It, once, afforded everyone a great view of the city. Currently, it wasn’t such a view, unless one was a fan of smoke from cars and houses that were now on fire. At least the screams that emanated from the High Street were muffled by the height of the building.
“Doesn’t look all that good out there,” Wilson said.
Both men turned and looked at him, each bearing a scowl.
“We’ll get started on you as soon as Dinman gets here,” Mr. Breakman said.
As if by magic, Dinman walked into the room.
“So, you are returning to the scene of the crime?” he asked.
Wilson said nothing. He knew that the three had missed the point of his promotional campaign. He figured they might and had prepared accordingly.
The three partners took their places at the head of the table. Wilson, now on trial, took a chair at the other end.
“So, Wilson,” Lunman started, “Zombies have begun to spring up like weeds.”
“And you sold how many people Zombie Insurance?” Dinman asked.
“Tens of thousands,” Wilson answered.
The scowls deepened.
“And how quickly do you expect this firm to have to close when all the claims start coming in?” Breakman asked.
“Have any claims come in?” Wilson asked.
“I would think it will be only a matter of time,” Dinman said.
“This firm has survived two world wars, the Blitz, recessions…we even have a plan for Brexit…but this? How do you expect us to survive?” Breakman said.
“We have compiled a list of possible claimants. The total amount we will have to disburse will bankrupt the firm!” Lunman said.
All three paused for a moment. They looked to see if Wilson would break a sweat. All he did was pull out his mobile phone and press a speed dial key. Next, he hit the speaker button and placed it on the table. The three heard ringing on the other end.
James Lawson at Royalty Banque was sitting in his mezzanine office, overlooking the transaction floor. A number of people were walking around, all with a faraway look in their eyes. Some just stood in line at the cash machine, not moving. He noticed Mrs. Olive Palmer in a stained house frock, shambling into the group. She was one of the banque’s most challenging depositors. She always caused a scene. In her hand, she held onto a leash. Lawson noticed what was left of her prized Pomeranian, Chester, was being dragged along.
“Serves the little perisher right,” Lawson muttered.
His mobile rang. Looking at the display, he found it was the call from Wilson that he had been expecting. He, too, pressed the speaker button.
“Royalty Banque, Lawson speaking,” he said.
“James? This is Dan Wilson over at Breakman, Lunman, and Dinman.”
“Hullo Dan. You’re right on time.”
Surprise ran across the faces of the three partners. Wilson smirked. All was going according to plan.
“Yes,” Wilson said. “I set this up so we would be on the same page.”
He turned his attention to the phone.
“How are things at Royalty Banque?”
“Slow. Shambling actually. Things are walking around the floor. Some things are standing in line at the teller’s stations. There have been no deposits lately; even fewer withdrawals. I have a line at the cashpoint booth, but it’s the same crowd that’s been there for the last day and a half. No tellers right now. I don’t think they are at lunch as the takeaway shop doesn’t open for another hour. Our last teller, Mr. Stoneman, headed for the Highlands last Wednesday. The Palace said that Scotland was still safe. I should mention that no one has heard from the Palace in several days. Rumor has it they flew to Ireland. The plague hasn’t hit there yet.”
“Never mind all that,” interrupted Dinman. “What about our accounts?”
“Dan! You didn’t tell me you had company.”
Wilson smiled. “Yes, the gang’s all here.”
“Gentlemen, your accounts have remained untouched since the outbreak. Every Quid is still here, safe and sound.”
“Safe?” inquired Lunman.
“We have armed guards around the vaults. Our computers are running on reserve generators, which are solar-powered. No need to worry about petrol. Our programmers are given safe conduct to and from their households daily. Normal business hours, you know. And I am overseeing it all.”
Lawson took a moment to watch the drama on the bank floor. Mrs. Palmer and the portion of Chester continued to circle the crowd as if they were looking for a manager.
“Even in death,” he muttered. “Is there anything else you need Dan?”
“That is what I think the gentlemen here wanted to know. Thanks for your help, James. I’ll be in touch soon for another update.”
“You’re welcome, Dan. Guess I’ll go back to work. Hopefully, all this unpleasantness will be over soon.”
There was a click heard as the line disengaged.
“You see, gentlemen,” Wilson began, “the policy made clear that if someone was to become a member of the shuffling dead club, they could collect if they made a claim. But zombies are incapable of speech, thought, or actions, other than eating. All of these are necessary in order to make a claim.”
Wilson looked over the partners. Their mouths hung open in awe. The man wondered if the three had just turned.
“What does any of this prove?” asked Breakman. “Our exposure is still extreme!”
Wilson had always thought Breakman was the dimmest of the three.
“Don’t you see?” Wilson began. “We have just been in contact with the busiest banque in the Empire. More transactions go through their offices than all the banques in the Commonwealth combined! Yet, no money is leaving our accounts!”
The light had yet to go on in the partner’s minds. Exasperated, Wilson tried one more tack.
“Zombies don’t need money!”
There was no plainer way to say it.
“Those who have turned won’t make a claim.”
“And what of the survivors?” Dinman asked.
“What about them? They’ll be so busy running for their lives, they won’t have time to fill out the forms! Which movies do you watch? It’s like this in every zombie video nastie they make.”
“Wait,” Breakman said. “You based your entire plan around a film?”
“Multiple films. They all end the same way. Money is never an issue. Survival is paramount. It seemed like the perfect way to get rich.”
Lunman began to smile. ‘He gets it,’ thought Wilson. The partner gave a brief explanation to the others. Soon, the same smile was on all three faces.
“You’re much smarter than we took you for,” said a beaming Breakman.
“You should all check to see the balances,” suggested Wilson.
“Capital idea!” said Dinman.
The three crowded around the computer terminal and entered their passcodes. In a moment, they laughed and pointed at the amounts in the accounts. They looked up with huge smiles, which faded rapidly as they saw the gun pointed in their direction.
“Sorry, gentlemen,” said Wilson. “I have more to my plans.”
He slid a pad and pen to them.
“If you will kindly write your passcodes on the paper for me, I’d really appreciate it.”
“And if we refuse?” asked Breakman.
Wilson smiled and shook the gun. The three sighed and began to write. They slid the pad back to Wilson.
“Thank you, gentlemen. Now, please step away from the terminal.”
Wilson walked over. The partners could do little but watch. Wilson logged out. Then, using the passcodes, logged back in. They all worked. He looked up and smiled. With a few swift keystrokes, Wilson changed the passcode and logged out.
“You won’t get away with this!” said Lunman.
“Hmm. I think I may already have.”
Wilson hit the intercom.
“Miss Halstead, would you come to the conference room? And please bring your steno pad.”
“Yes sir,” came the answer.
In a moment, the secretary entered. She saw the partners in the corner of the room. Wilson stood by the door.
“I’m sorry Miss Halstead. This is not personal; just business,” Wilson explained.
The gun made its report. The bullet passed through her heart. Miss Halstead landed in a heap. Wilson looked at the body.
“There are no hard feelings I hope,” he said.
He turned his attention to the three still cowering in the corner.
“Now, gentlemen, I leave you with a personnel problem. I’m sure when Miss Halstead comes back, she’ll want a raise. She may even want a piece of the partnership. Remember, a nice meal is always helpful in negotiations. Good day.”
Wilson closed and locked the doors. Chairs were shoved under the knobs, sealing the room. Yells of defiance turned to ones of fear and pleas for help as Miss Halstead had already become what the firm might call a ‘claimant’. Wilson went to the elevator and pressed ‘G’ for the car park.
The Jaguar zipped down the High Street toward Royalty Banque. Lawson was waiting by the gate. As Wilson approached, he opened it and the car pulled in.
“Got everything?” Lawson asked.
“Let’s get the money and go!”
“We take the funds out in Euros and head for Ireland. What’s good for the Royal Family will be good for us.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Wilson.
Neville Goslinger was born in the United Kingdom. Originally trained as an accountant, he worked as an auditor for several banks. Finding the job distasteful, he took up writing horror. He is currently working on a collection of Horrid Haikus as well as a horror/crime drama novel. Neville’s experience in the business world is excellent fodder for characters that often get their just desserts…but not always.