Searching for Dr. Harlow (from A FULL DECK OF ZOMBIES):
By Michael A. Kechula
Copyright 2007 by Michael A. Kechula. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated, copied, or transferred without written permission of the publisher
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This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is coincidental
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SEARCHING FOR DR. HARLOW
"Do you believe in zombies?" asked Winston Dithers.
"About as much as the Tooth Fairy," I said.
"My friend, Dr. Rolf Harlow, believes they exist. In fact, he took a sabbatical from the university and went to Haiti to find one."
I chuckled at Harlow's stupidity. "A zombie hunter, eh? What's he gonna do if he finds one?"
"Bring it back here to Chicago. To conduct experiments. Problem is, I haven't heard from him for several months. I've inquired with the US Embassy and Haitian government, but their replies have been ambiguous. I'll pay you twenty thousand plus expenses to find him. Ten thousand in cash right now, and the balance when you deliver him."
Sounded like easy money. I agreed to find Harlow.
Two days later, I arrived in Port Au Prince. I've been a lot of weird places in the world, but none have ever made me feel so creepy. Something about the atmosphere seemed unholy. Ethereal sounds of jungle drums rode on humid breezes, fading in and out. Wretches meandered aimlessly, looking stupefied. Weird voodoo symbols festered on graffiti-covered walls. For the first time since I was a kid, I found myself getting the willies.
Nevertheless, I got to work immediately. I showed Harlow's photo to taxi drivers and street vendors. Everyone shrugged indifferently.
Harlow's letters to Dithers had mentioned Hotel Balzac and Bahody, a middle-aged chambermaid who'd befriended and mothered him. I headed for the hotel to find her.
"And if you find Dr. Harlow, will you arrest him?" the rotund woman asked when told I was a detective.
"I'm not a police detective anymore," I said. "I retired and opened my own detective agency in Chicago. One of Harlow's friends hired me to find him and take him home. His friends miss him."
"I miss him too," Bahody said, eyes filling with tears. "Every full moon, I sacrifice a chicken, begging the gods to bring him back, even if it be from the dead."
"Don't worry. You'll see him again. I promise I'll find him."
"You'll never find him. My sister speaks to voodoo gods. They say he's lost forever. Zombies stole him."
"Nonsense," I said. "Zombies don't exist."
"Is that what they taught you in Chicago?" she asked. "If so, they teach lies."
"Zombies are nothing more than characters from overactive imaginations. They were invented to scare people into complying with laws, especially in remote villages where police are nonexistent. Chances are, people won't molest kids, rape women, or kidnap if they think they'll be turned into zombies when caught. Haiti isn't the only place in the world where phony tales control the population through fear. I could name a dozen other nations that have legends just as goofy. Hey, it works. I'm all for law and order. Call them zombies, vampires, werewolves, or whatever. Keeps people home at night and off the streets. The more scared they are, the less likely they are to commit crimes."
"That's not what Dr. Harlow, believes. He's a very intelligent man who knows the truth about zombies."
"He may be highly intelligent, but he was a fool to come here to search for something that doesn't exist."
"Don't you dare call my white son a fool!" She folded her arms and added, "I have nothing more to say."
I pulled a twenty from my wallet and laid it on the table. "Tell me what happened the last night you saw him."
She grabbed the money. "It was the night of the full moon. The air was foul. The drums spoke of doom. I begged him not to walk to Café Blanc alone. He wouldn't listen."
"Why did he go there?"
"I don't know."
"Where is it?"
"Don't go there," she said. "You'll lose your soul."
"My soul? When will all this lunacy end? Zombies. Souls. Stop talking nonsense and tell me how to get to Café Blanc!"
"No. It's an unholy place. Even rats die when they get too close."
"Then I'll get directions from the concierge."
"If you must go," she said, "take this for protection." She tried to push a small, black, red-eyed statue into my hand.
I called her a stupid, superstitious woman and stormed out.
A waiter at Café Blanc remembered Harlow. "He drank much rum with a voodoo priest, a dangerous man from Destrudo. They left together."
"In the jungle. They say it's a terrible place with zombies and terrifying voodoo ceremonies."
I couldn't find anyone who'd risk driving me anywhere near Destrudo.
"Perhaps Mulu will take you," someone whispered. "They say she's from Destrudo. A strange woman who talks slowly like a zombie. Some say she's wife of a white zombie. There she is now."
I approached her battered jeep. "Take me to the white man who lives in Destrudo," I said, waving twenty dollars.
"You...do...not...fear...to...ride...at...night...with...a...zombie?" she asked. Her breath reeked of jungle rot.
"Save the baloney for gullible tourists," I said boarding the jeep.
"Nope. Let's go. I don't have all night."
"Foolish...American," she mumbled.
I snickered at her ludicrous words and slow speech.
Ten minutes later, I was on the verge of screaming. While driving manically through jungle paths, her skin took on a greenish glow. Before I could jump from the jeep, she slammed the brakes.
"There's...the...white...man," she said, pointing to a jungle clearing.
Something with a greenish glow approached. It had Harlow's face!
"Dr. Harlow," I called. "I'm Oscar Brown. From Chicago. I'm a friend of Winston Dithers."
Moaning, he approached and touched my face. His fingers were icy. The stench sickened me.
As I tried to grab and cuff him, putrid teeth ripped flesh from my cheek. The pain was horrendous. I tried to get away, but tripped.
Suddenly, both were biting my face like mad dogs.
I don't know how I got away. I raced through the jungle like a madman until I blacked out. I don't know how I got back to the city.
* * * *
Since that horrible night in Haiti, my cheeks have dripped pus continuously. Modern medicines can't stop the flow.
Many shamans have exorcised me. I've sacrificed countless chickens to voodoo gods. I've consumed putrid, hoodoo potions. But nothing heals my wounds, or stops Harlow and Mulu from invading my dreams and feasting while I sleep.
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