“An immunity,” Doc said. “Lad, as we speak, there are renowned scientists who are studying the concept that exposure of the body to minute doses of a disease could, in fact, build up the body’s defenses against said disease.”
“That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Miss Bonnie said.
“It does sound stupid Doc,” Gunther said. “Get yourself sick to keep from getting sick?”
“A bold gambit to be sure but one that is espoused by the likes of Mr. Louis Pasteur,” Doc said.
“Who?” Miss Bonnie asked.
“That shit head that told everyone they got to boil their milk,” Gunther replied.
“Oh,” Miss Bonnie said. “Fuck him there aint nothing wrong with milk.”
Doc erupted into a long coughing spell. His throat settled down and he kept on.
“Imagine your body is a bare knuckle boxer and the disease an opponent,” Gunther said. “Would a boxer not fair better against an opponent it has briefly fought before? Said boxer would learn all of its opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and be better prepared for a full bout, would he not?”
Slade chomped on his cigar. “But the opponent might just knock you the hell out in the first go around.”
“Possibly,” Doc said. “But unlikely if the match were short.”
Gunther looked at the spilled elixir coating the floor.
“Shit Doc,” Gunther said. “You’ve been guzzling this shit for as long as I’ve known you. Short match my ass.”
Gunther pointed at Townsend. “And if one bite was all took to turn this prick then I’m surprised you’re not a zombie already.”
“Ah,” Doc said as he slowly raised a finger, as if the small gesture was a great task in his weakened condition. “But as young Miles has indicated there are supernatural aspects at play. I have never been one to espouse that science and religion are diametrically opposed forces but rather, science can be turned to for an explanation of what religion cannot enlighten us on and vice versa.”
Miles nodded. “Vampires have been known to trick people into drinking their blood,” the boys said. “Drinking it doesn’t kill a person and the soul fights the vampire’s will for as long as the person lives. The person who drank it unwittingly would never even know what happened unless someone tells him.”
Doc stroked his beard. “I would have to study samples of vampire blood in a laboratory to be certain, but I theorize that while ingesting vampire’s blood into one’s stomach causes no physical harm to the subject until the obvious post mortem zombification, the injection of this supernatural contagion directly into the bloodstream via a zombie bite is such a shock to the system that it instantly kills the victim and subsequently zombifies them.”
Gunther, Slade and Miss Bonnie exchanged confused looks.
“Translation?” Gunther asked.
“Don’t let a zombie bite you,” Miles said.
“Yes,” Doc said. “Oh how I admire the ability of youth to put matters more succinctly than a man as learned as I. At any rate, I have been a regular consumer of the vampire blood infused elixir for many weeks now, since the day I formed my lamentable partnership with Mr. Blythe. Ergo, so much vampire’s blood now courses through my veins that it kept Mr. Townsend’s bite from instantly killing me but…”
Annabelle pouted. Doc looked away from her.
“The more concentrated form of the contagion delivered into my system during my ill fated counter with Frank Buchanan’s tooth is slowly working against me” Doc said. “Slowed by the copious amounts of vampire’s blood in my body yet in due course, I shall eventually become an undead man.”
The group stood around Doc quietly. Miss Bonnie raised her barrel. Gunther pushed it down again.
“Am I going to have to take that away from you?” Gunther asked.
“He just said he’s going to become a zombie!” Miss Bonnie said.
Anabelle knelt down and hugged Doc, who grimaced in pain at the contact. “He’s not a zombie yet.”
The prostitute gently held Doc’s head in her hands. “I don’t know how but we’re going to fix this.”
“No,” Anabelle said. “As long as you’re alive and not a zombie, there’s still hope. Isn’t there?”
Doc’s eyes pointed downward.
“Well,” Annabelle said. “Isn’t there?”
“In theory,” Doc said.
“I’ll take it,” Annabelle replied.
“So what?” Miss Bonnie asked. “We just wait until he turns and bites one of us?”
“Damn it, Miss Bonnie,” Gunther said. “In my entire life I have never left a man behind when he needed me and I’m not going to start now.”
Miss Bonnie looked at Slade, who, in his mind, went to work coming with the most diplomatic answer he could come up with.
“He’s still alive,” Slade said. The ex-marshall looked at Miles. “Anyone ever come back from becoming one of these things?”
“Not that I’ve ever heard of,” Miles replied.
Doc shifted back in his chair and looked up at Annabelle.
“Oh my dear,” Doc said. “How I wish I had known you longer but alas, the curtain most close early on the show of my life, the best act of which was certainly the day I met you. Miss Lassiter is correct and she should be allowed to dispatch me posthaste. Until she does, I am a threat to everyone in this room.”
Anabelle wept. “Doc…no.”
Gunther put a hand on Doc’s shoulder. “Is that what you really want, Doc?”
“It is my good man.”
Gunther shook his head and walked back next to Slade. Annabelle kissed Doc and looked him in the eyes.
“Please…” she begged.
“It is for the best, my dear,” Doc said. “We will always have that thing.”
Anabelle gave her man one final kiss then backed away.
“Do you wish me to read you your last rites, son?” the Reverend asked.
“No,” Doc replied. “I’d prefer to have the matter over with.” Doc looked at Miss Bonnie and closed his eyes. “Fire at will, Miss Lassiter.”
Slade put his hand down on Miss Bonnie’s barrel this time. “Maybe I should do it,” Slade said. “Killing a man is a hell of a thing. It’ll haunt you forever, whether it was justified or not.”
“I got it,” Miss Bonnie replied, coldly.
Miss Bonnie raised her weapon and took aim at Doc’s head. Everyone watched as she maintained her line of sight until finally, she put her shotgun down.
“Son of a bitch,” Miss Bonnie said. “I can’t do it with him all alive and dopey looking and everything.”
Doc opened his eyes. He flicked his right wrist and his spring loaded gun popped out from underneath his sleeve.
“You are a kinder woman than I presumed, Miss Lassiter,” Doc said. “And I can see now it was selfish of me to ask one of you to commit this heinous deed.”
Slowly, Doc rose up out of the chair and onto his feet, his body shaking and struggling to hold up his own weight.
“Adieu, my friends,” Doc said. His arm trembled as brought the pistol to his temple. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Before Doc even pulled the trigger, he crashed face first into the floor.
Gunther, Slade and Anabelle all crouched around him.
“What the hell was that?” Gunther asked.
“I think he’s still breathing,” Annabelle said.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Multiple fists pounded on the church door. The sound of hungry growls poured in through the broken window.
Miss Bonnie pointed her shotgun at the door. “We’ve got bigger problems.”