Lawyers vs Zombies: The Legal Dead
Although it's not the next project I'm working on, the idea for this novel came to me not too long ago and won't leave my head.
The following passage is very unpolished, but is the opening sequence I came up with that made me possibly want to write this book. Read it over, and let me know what you think about it.
Would you read a book like this?
The lawyer from the District Attorney’s office rapped a short ditty on the table in front of him. The courtroom was silent, awaiting his examination of the witness. Still Steven Basciano did nothing, tapping his fingers idly, a thousand-yard stare in his crystal blue eyes. The look was intense, but he made no motion of any kind other than that staccato rhythm his fingertips continued to pound out on the tabletop.
There was a polite cough from somewhere in the room, echoing uncomfortably throughout the very tense chamber. Anyone looking at the judge could see by the bristling of his unibrow that he was on the verge of bursting forth in beration at the silent attorney, but still Basciano sat unmoving behind his desk.
Beside him, his associate in this trial – a very pretty brunette by the name of Jessie St Claire – began to look worriedly at the lead prosecutor sitting next to her. She needn’t have fretted, as without any warning, Steven Basciano sprang to his feet and, buzzing with energy, two-stepped toward the defendant on the witness stand.
“Mr Guerrero,” the prosecutor said breezily, one hand held in his pocket while the other gestured in a broad sweep. Basciano was a clean-cut man with a handsome but fairly characterless face. Despite the power and enthusiasm of his current performance, it was difficult to detect any underlying emotional investment in any of his words. “I know you won’t deny that you’re a zombie.”
“Objection Your Honor,” said the defense counsel with a weary but adamant shout. “Prejudicing the jury.”
“Sustained,” the judge agreed, shooting Basciano a stern look. That single eyebrow settled further down over his beady eyes as the judge further explained, “No more use of the ‘Z’ word, Mr Basciano.”
“My apologies,” the prosecutor said with an off-hand air. “Old habits. Mr Guerrero, you are a Postlife Citizen, are you not?”
The man on the witness stand, pale skin, graying hair sticking out in ragged clumps, only seemed to snarl at the bullish prosecutor.
“I’m waiting,” Basciano said in a petulant tone. “May I remind you of the oath you took only a few minutes ago? Answer truthfully: are you, or are you not, a member of the group which is known in some circles as the ‘Formerly Living’?”
When the sullen fellow on the stand still kept his tongue, the judge was forced to turn his unpleasant gaze upon the defendant. “Mr Guerrero, answer the question.”
Scowling at the attorney standing casually before him, Guerrero spat out, “Yeah. Course I am.”
Basciano gave his trademark almost-but-not-quite-a-smile which some found to be quite infuriating. “Thank you.” Wandering back to the prosecutors’ desk, he retrieved a manilla folder and gesticulated with it in the direction of the bench. “You know what’s in here?”
Guerrero shrugged without changing expression.
“Let the record show,” the prosecutor wryly delivered to the court reporter, “that Mr Guerrero gave a noncommittal response.” Turning back to the witness stand, Basciano continued: “This, Mr Guerrero is the crime scene report. You know how the victim met her untimely end?”
Scowling, the defendant opened his mouth reluctantly to respond, when Basciano cut him off – slamming the report back down on his desk somewhat theatrically.
“Of course you do. Sorry. You are the one who committed the crime, after all.”
“Objection!” defense counsel said angrily, half-standing in protest.
“Give it a rest,” Basciano said wearily, not even looking at his opponent. “The nature of the crime is not under dispute, nor is the identity of the perpetrator. We’re arguing about the details here, the motive, the circumstances of the crime.”
“Whether or not it is a crime,” the defense attorney blustered, “is exactly what we’re establishing.”
The judge nodded, scrunching his fat face. “Sustained. Tread carefully, Mr Basciano.”
A hint of irritation touched the prosecutor’s face then, and he briefly exchanged gazes with the worried-looking lady on his side of the court, his co-counsel on this case. But the troubled expression was fleeting, and by the time Basciano turned back to face the judge and witness his face bore no trace of the crack that had shown in his armor.
“Very well. Allow me to rephrase. You killed Ms Kroekemeyer – this is not in question – so you are familiar with the mode of her passing. True?”
Guerrero glanced worriedly at his own lawyer, but after a moment sighed: “Yes.”
“Splendid.” Basciano smiled – an adornment to his chiseled features that somehow failed to reach his stern eyes – and shoved his hands casually into his pants pockets. “So you know that the deceased had her brains eaten.”
“Her brains were… missing,” Basciano corrected himself breezily. “Mysteriously missing from the crime scene. I have no idea where they can have gotten to.”
A wave of light tittering swept over the sizeable crowd, which reflected in a merriment finally dawning in the prosecutor’s eyes.
“Mr Basciano,” the judge warned.
“I know that discussion of crimes committed against the Currently Living by the Formerly Living can be fraught with dangers of prejudice and bias, and all sorts of other nasty things. Certainly I wouldn’t wish for this court to believe that the District Attorney’s office held any kind of ill-will towards our beloved Postlife Citizen community.”
Everyone in the room held on to the prosecutor’s words, breathlessly anticipating the conclusion to his statement. So many things could go wrong with this line of inquiry, and the most troubled face in the room belonged to Jessie St Claire at the prosecution desk. Evidently, she did not trust her co-counsel to say the right thing at this juncture.
Her fears were not unfounded.
“Still, I will risk being branded a bigot by stating what ought to be plainly obvious to anyone with even the slightest grasp of the facts. I submit to the court that you, Mr Guerrero, went to Ms Kroekemeyer’s home that night with the intent of devouring her brains. And that it was not, as you have claimed, a killing born out of self-defense.”
“Objection!” defense roared. “Is there a question here?”
The judge scowled. “Mr Basciano?”
“I’m sorry,” he said flippantly, that almost-smile making a reappearance. “I thought the question was obvious.” He turned to the zombie. “Did you? Did you go the victim’s house knowingly intent on eating her brains?”
“Of course not!” The undead man’s pallor began to darken, becoming almost healthy-looking due to the fury which had begun to build within his pulseless form. “Allison was a friend.”
“A friend who, by your own admission, had ‘borrowed’ nearly ten thousand dollars from you over the last three years. And never returned a penny of it.”
There was no response.
“You liked Ms Kroekemeyer, didn’t you?”
Warily, Guerrero answered, “Um. Yeah. She was nice.”
Conspiratorially, speaking almost in a whisper as he approached the bench, Basciano asked, “What was her best feature, do you reckon? What did you like most about her? She was very pretty. Was it her face? Or were you more attracted to her, I don’t know, intelligence? You liked her for her brain, is that it?”
A red glow seemed to pass over Guerrero’s eyes for a moment – a reflection from an overhead light, perhaps – before his attorney objected once more.
“If you continue on like this,” the judge grimaced, “I’ll hold you in contempt, Mr Basciano.”
A genuine smile lit up the prosecutor’s face then – brief, but real – showing for an instant how invigorating he found this entire process. But the smug, satisfied mask settled back into place as soon as he began to step away from the witness stand.
“How do brains taste?” he asked out of the blue.
“This is getting repetitive,” Basciano complained idly.
“Then stop repeating your offenses,” the defense attorney snapped in exasperation. “Relevance, Your Honor?”
Holding up a hand in supplication, Basciano said, “In due time, Your Honor.”
Squinting at the smug man before him in the $3000 suit, the judge growled, “You’ve given me little cause to grant any leeway, Mr Basciano.”
“An indulgence, I beg,” he almost grinned as he pressed his palms together. With a sigh, the judge waved his consent; the defense counsel simmered in his own frustration.
Basciano began to pace. “So? How do they taste, Mr Guerrero? Fresh? Gamey? Do brains need a little ketchup before they’re ready for your tastebuds? Inquiring minds want to know.”
The fury behind Guerrero’s polite mask was easily visible, but he struggled to contain it. “I’m not here to discuss my taste in food,” he bit off. “I wanna prove my innocence.”
“No doubt, no doubt,” the prosecutor nodded sagely. “I’m sure you ate Ms Kroekemeyer’s brains in total innocence.”
“Don’t say that!” the zombie spat, rage twisting his features. Those eyes were cast once again in an odd red sheen.
“I’m sure it was completely innocent,” Basciano continued undeterred. “Just because a man bashes in a woman’s skull and scoops out her brains to consume, doesn’t make him guilty of any crime.”
The defendant’s face became a mask of fury, his rough features turning nearly satanic as the rage consumed him.
“Mr Guerrero,” Basciano stopped his perambulation, facing the defendant with hands out of pockets, gesturing in the undead man’s direction. “Just exactly how tasty were the victim’s brains that night? How much did you enjoy devouring every last bite?”
“Not as much as I’m going to enjoy tasting yours!” Guerrero roared, bounding over the wall of the witness stand to leap at the infuriating prosecutor.
Every mouth was agape at this result (except perhaps for Steve Basciano’s) and Ms St Claire was stood in horror at the attack happening right before her eyes. In front of her, back now facing the attacking zombie flying through the air with razor-sharp nails unfurled, Basciano gave a slight wink to his colleague.
He spun round then, a shotgun in his large but capable hands. He must have retrieved it from a hidden rack beneath his desk, but there was no time for anyone to question its origin before Basciano had aimed it right between the glowing red eyes of his feral attacker and pulled the trigger.
The report was deafening in the enclosed space of the courtroom, and many of those present held their hands in agony up to their ears. Basciano stood coolly watching as the zombie’s head exploded, green ghoulish blood splattering the polished floor beneath his feet.
With a horrid squelch, the headless corpse of the defendant splatted in a pile on the ground, motionless at last. More green fluid oozing out all over the otherwise spotless tile.
In shock, the courtroom was silent as the grave, all eyes upon the unmoving corpse in the middle of the floor. Of course, it had been a corpse all along, but the sudden transition between a corpse which walks and talks to one without a head was jarring to even the most jaded observer.
Eyes wide, the judge lifted his gaze to look at the smirking prosecutor who held the still-smoking shotgun in his hands. He opened his mouth to protest, to say something, but no words came out. None came to mind. Everyone, in fact, was speechless at this turn of events.
Almost everyone, that is. Basciano himself casually laid the barrel of his weapon across one shoulder and drawled:
And with that bon mot, he turned slowly, and walked out of the courtroom. In his wake, Jessie St Claire clumsily gathered up their notes and staggered after him.
The people watched the prosecutors leave in stunned silence, unable to believe what had just happened.
On the floor a bubble rose out of the green ooze coming from the zombie’s still corpse, before popping wetly.