Judy Whittaker poured herself a serious brandy. All right, she knew she probably shouldn’t, but this case had aroused some old demons. Outside, the night shone with the images of the reclaimed Hague, its spires and skyscrapers, a familiar sight for sore eyes and an acheing heart.
She was conflicted, no doubt about it. She had been Hal’s disciple, back in the days when they were campaigning against the decriminalisation of assisted suicide back in the ‘Teens, when the latter issue had caused the use of referenda for public opinion purposes to boomerang and hit the evangelical community solidly on its ass. Of course, with the Zombie War, that debate had been well and truly lost across most of the western world now. Most jurisdictions there had decriminalised euthanasia as a response to pharmaceutical shortages and triaged medical care.
She’d lost her faith somewhere in the process, but at the same time, she’d gained some kudos as an international prosecutor in the aftermath of the Zombie War. It’d helped to salve the other loss. She still had an image of her husband and little boy in her wallet, even if creased and lost colours had intervened as the years had accumulated.
Hal. What do you say to an old friend who tried to betray the human race? Of course, he wouldn’t see it like that. And she thought she knew why. Oh, she knew what the Net called him- “the Other Breed of Monster.” Person Zero had stimulated several hundred acts of sabotage and combatant and civilian deaths from those acts, because of Hal’s movement for “zombie personhood.”
She hadn’t seen Rochelle Cantwich with her husband, and in the course of researching the case, he’d found out why. ‘Shell had been caught in Dallas in a Christian music studio making a single with her rich, honey-laden voice, and Hal had watched as a zed bit deeply into her arm. And then, in a matter of minutes, her face and body had discoloured as her mind rotted and instinct took over, her eyes had become white and opaque to light, and her teeth were bared in a mindless snarl of aggression and hunger.
But Hal didn’t see it that way. Of course not, how could he? They’d been together for the best part of twenty five years, and she’d fought off breast cancer with her husband’s love and heartfelt assistance. Theirs was true, heartfelt love and it was all the more senseless and barbaric when shambling, corrupted parodies of humanity had torn them apart. After that…
Why couldn’t anyone else see? It was Shell. She was the reason why Hal had perhaps gone a little mad after he’d lost the woman he’d loved so much. He had been unable to admit that his wife had died in a very real sense after the zombie bite had obliterated her consciousness and intellect, and killed Shell. That thing wasn’t Judy’s cousin and Hal’s beloved wife. It was an animated corpse.
Hal Cantwich hadn’t wanted to admit that. He still wanted to believe that some vestige, some fragment of that beautiful woman with her nightingale voice still resided inside the broken, wild-eyed thing that had lurched down the Dallas street toward him…until the sniper fire had ended its temporary existence. But Hal had only seen Shell and had screamed and yelled at the rooftop sniper, until a burly marine had stepped in and plunged a hypo into his shoulder.
After that, he obviously hadn’t let go. He’d covered it up with political polemic and religious rhetoric and pretended that there wasn’t any personal motivation for his betrayal of humanity to the zombies. He had refused to talk to anyone about the frozen heart at the core of his being and soul and the fissures in his mind that really motivated him. But…
But, of course, they did. And that meant that when the International Criminal Court offered her the prosecutor’s position, she knew that she was the best person for the job. Despite Hal’s past friendship and despite her own acheing void inside at the loss of Rochelle too, Hal’s actions had caused death and destruction on a massive scale. She’d listened to the testimonies from the New Zealanders who’d lost their sons and daughters at the climatic battle of One Tree Hill and the fall of Auckland.
She finished her brandy, wiped away a tear, gathered together her case notes and the expert evidence, touched up her mascara and lipstick and steeled herself for her part in Hal’s trial, as head prosecutor.
When she walked into the court room, Hal lost his composure for an instant as their eyes met. Then the moment of sanity and human connection faded, madness took over again, and the man who’d married her beloved songbird cousin and shared her struggles with her was lost.
Three months later, after he’d been extradited back to the United States to await the judgement of the ages, she’d watched his death sentence carried out on CNN and gotten blind, raging drunk that night, mourning for two lost friends and everything that she’d lost.