Ailments Of The Undead
Note: Thanks to Deirdre for the use of her unstoppable Tanner cold germs.
Josiah looked over at his young friend and winced. He knew Vin had been lagging on Friday, but he had thought it was from a lack of sleep and that the Texan would be fine for Sunday night - Halloween. Looking at the young man today, he could tell by the runny nose, watery eyes, pale face and shivers that Vin was in the grip of a bad cold. "Vin " he began before Tanner cut him off.
"Im all right, Siah," he assured before being taken by a wet, hacking cough. "Ill be fine tonight."
It was a statement Josiah might have believed had Vin not started sneezing and coughing again. Shaking his head, he only hoped Vin wouldnt get worse. Josiah wasnt sure hed ever seen the man look paler. Knowing he had to at try to get Tanner to go home and rest, he tried again. "You look like the undead, Vin. Why dont you just go home?" His plea was met with a watery blue glare.
"Im fine," Vin reiterated.
Josiah shook his head and headed for the car.
Each year on Halloween night, a gang of local boys would go to the graveyard next to the church Josiah attended and knock over headstones. The vandalism cost the families of the deceased and the church a lot of money to repair. This year, Josiah had volunteered to watch the cemetery to try and keep the damage from reoccurring. He had mentioned his vigil at work and Vin had volunteered to help out.
Now, seeing how sick Vin was, Josiah almost wished he hadnt said anything.
The two men arrived at the graveyard just before sunset. Josiah gave Vin a tour of the various areas, pointing out the more popular locations for breaking headstones. "Be careful over here," Josiah advised, leading the Texan around a bend. We have a new grave dug, but the vault isnt in yet. Still, it wouldnt feel all that great to fall in should you lose your footing."
Vin nodded his agreement and suppressed a shiver wondering when the temperature had dropped so much and why Josiah didnt seem affected by it. Before he could comment, however, Vin was overtaken by a sneezing fit that left him breathless. Knowing Josiah would once more tell him to go home, he croaked, "Im fine!"
Josiah sighed and headed off to his location by the entrance. He would keep an eye there while Vin patrolled around the cemetery itself.
It was a few hours later that Josiah heard the whispers and hushed giggles of teenagers. Moving away from his position, he found them headed toward the open grave.
Vin had been patrolling as best he could. He found that, periodically, he would need to rest as his body made known its desire for sleep. Having just settled on a boulder in the cemetery, he was surprised to hear the sound of youths moving toward him. Standing, he began a stealthy walk toward the noise. He had the teens almost in sight when his foot slipped and he found himself falling. He didnt have time to shout or cry out before he landed at the bottom of a large hole.
"Great," he whispered. "Just what I need - trapped in a grave on Halloween."
Releasing a sigh, he stood and brushed himself off, thankful to find that he wasnt injured. Taking in his situation, he determined that he should be able to get out if he could get a handhold up top.
Walking up to the side of the hole, Vin reached his hand over the edge of the grave and clamped firmly down on an ankle.
Josiah had just come upon the area where the kids were when he stopped in his tracks. He witnessed a pale, dirt-spattered hand reach up out of the ground and grab onto the ankle of one of the youths.
A scream of terror issued from the youth as his friends turned to see what the problem was.
The youth who had been grabbed fell to the ground and started kicking as a dirty, mussed head appeared over the top followed by a torso.
By this point several of the kids were screaming. When the dirt encrusted body was finally on the grass, it let out a low grunt and started to stand. Three of the eight boys took off running then and there.
By the time the figure, whose pale skin was almost glowing in the moonlight, stood to his full height, three more had taken off. The boy whose ankle had been grabbed stared up in horror at the sight before him.
It was then that the being from the grave let out a series of sneezes and coughs.
The boy who was still standing raced forward and pulled his friend to his feet before dragging him toward the exit amid incoherent cries about zombie germs.
Vin stood watching the retreating forms and swaying slightly in place.
Josiah took in the sight of the beleaguered Sharpshooter and shook his head. Hearing the fading sounds of the terrified teens, he tried and failed to stop the smile that appeared on his face. As he moved closer to Vin, his grin turned into laughter. Finally reaching his friend, he shook his head. "I dont suppose theyll be coming back anytime soon," he observed.
Vin shrugged and coughed again.
With a sigh, Josiah rested a hand on Vins shoulder and said, "Now that weve had independent confirmation that you look like the living dead, would you please go home, take some medicine and get some sleep."
Vin tried to glare at Josiah, but was too tired to build up much heat. With a shiver coursing down his body, he sighed and nodded his agreement before trudging toward the entrance, Josiahs quiet laughter following him. "S not funny," he protested as a clump of dirt fell off the back of his jacket.
Josiah just laughed harder.
Vin glared at Josiah. "Its not funny!" he reiterated for what must have been the thirtieth time that morning.
Vin had gone home after the previous nights adventure, taken some cold medicine and sunk gratefully into bed and sleep. When he woke up, he made his way to the bathroom and was horrified by what he saw, suddenly understanding why the teens had been terrified and Josiah was laughing. With a heavy sigh he had showered and prepared for work.
He had been at his desk for about ten minutes when Josiah came in, asked how he was doing and then started chuckling again. Vin understood why the situation was funny and, had he not felt so miserable, would have joined Josiah in his laughter. Instead, he just slunk lower in his chair, huddling over the warmth of his morning coffee.
"Whats not funny?" Nathan asked, stepping into the room as Vin started sneezing. He sighed and wished Vin had stayed home. Somehow Vin didnt just get normal colds like everyone else. No, Tanner got mutant colds that, should they infect anyone else, said person would have to go to the doctor in order to stand a chance of getting better.
Grabbing several Kleenex, the Texan glared at Josiah. "Nothing," Vin said, adamantly, daring Josiah to contradict him.
Josiah chuckled softly and started working, the sight of the pale hand reaching out of the open grave and the look on the boys faces still vivid in his mind.
Nathan settled in to his seat and began working, deciding he would ask Josiah later.
Soon the sound of Vins keyboard joined them.
Into the quiet, Josiah said softly, "Who knew the undead could catch a cold?"
Nathan looked up as Vin growled and threw a ball of paper at the Profiler. He would definitely need to get the whole story on this. Just as he was trying to figure out how to get Josiah to spill the beans, he heard JD and Buck coming in.
"Im telling you, Buck, the newscaster said it was true," JD declared, waving his hands as he tried to get the other man to believe him. "There were eight of them who all saw the same thing."
Vin heard the conversation, groaned and allowed his head to fall forward onto his arms. He wasnt going to live this down; he just knew it.
Josiah started chuckling quietly.
Nathan looked back and forth between the two, knowing somehow they were involved in whatever JD was going on about.
"JD," Buck said, stopping in the middle of the office, "they were eight teens in a graveyard on Halloween. They were probably high as kites and hallucinating."
"But they werent!" JD denied. "I saw the interview! The kid said that a hand reached up from the grave and grabbed his ankle. Then the zombie pulled himself completely out of the ground and started chasing them. It even was sneezing and coughing on them!"
Buck snorted in disgust. "Thats the stupidest thing Ive ever heard," he chided. "First, theres no such thing as zombies," he instructed. "And second, even if there were, what cold germ in the world would be able to infect the undead?"
"A Tanner cold germ," Josiah observed quietly earning him a glare and a "shut up" from the suffering Texan.
"Aint never going to happen," Buck reiterated, taking his seat. "Zombies. What next? You going to tell me Chris wears black cause hes a vampire?"
"Whos a vampire," Chris asked, entering the office.
"JD said you are," Buck said, a mischievous smile on his face.
"Did not!" JD refuted.
"They were talking about the news report about the zombie in the graveyard last night," Nathan informed.
"Zombie, the walking undead," Ezra defined as he stepped into the room.
"Ezra listens to the news," JD stated. "Hell tell you."
"Tell you what?" Ezra asked, suspicion heavy in his tone.
"About the zombie from last night," Buck said, skepticism in his voice.
"Ah, yes," Ezra said. "A prime example of a lack of news."
"So you dont believe either?" JD asked, disappointed.
"Believe in a human returning from the grave with a cold?" Ezra queried. "The only germs powerful enough to infect a corpse are those from Mr. Tanner," he observed.
"Hell, it probably was Vin," Chris said as he entered his office. "Lets get to work."
Nathan looked at the Sharpshooter as Josiahs laughter boomed through the office. Ezra, Buck and JD just shook their heads as they settled at their desks.
Vin placed his aching head back on his arms, sighed and whispered, "S not funny." He turned his head slightly so no one could see the smile that crept onto his face.