Death Warmed Over - By Kevin J. Anderson


I’m dead, for starters—it happens. But I’m still ambulatory, and I can still think, still be a contributing member of society (such as it is, these days). And still solve crimes.

As the detective half of Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, I’m responsible for our caseload, despite being shot in the head a month ago. My unexpected murder caused a lot of inconvenience to me and to others, but I’m not the sort of guy to leave his partner in the lurch. The cases don’t solve themselves.

My partner, Robin Deyer, and I had built a decent business for ourselves, sharing office space, with several file cabinets full of pending cases, both legal matters and private investigations. Although catching my own killer is always on my mind, paying clients have to take priority.

Which is why I found myself sneaking into a cemetery at night while trying to elude a werewolf hit man who’d been following me since sunset—in order to retrieve a lost painting for a ghost.

Just another day at work for me.

The wrought-iron cemetery gate stood ajar with a Welcome mat on either side. These days, visiting hours are round-the-clock, and the gate needs to stay open so that newly risen undead can wander out. When the gates were locked, neighbors complained about moaning and banging sounds throughout the night, which made it difficult for them to sleep.

When I pulled, the gate glided open on well-oiled hinges. A small sign on the bars read, MAINTAINED BY FRIENDS OF THE GREENLAWN CEMETERY. There were more than a hundred ostentatious crypts to choose from, interspersed with less prominent tombstones. I wished I had purchased a guide pamphlet ahead of time, but the gift shop was open only on weekends. I had to find the Ricketts crypt on my own—before the werewolf hit man caught up with me.

The world’s a crazy place since the Big Uneasy, the event that changed all the rules and allowed a flood of baffled unnaturals to return—zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, succubi, and the usual associated creatures. In the subsequent ten years, the Unnatural Quarter had settled into a community of sorts—one that offered more work than I could handle.

Now the quarter moon rode high in the sky, giving me enough light to see the rest of the cemetery. The unnatural thug, hired by the heirs of Alvin Ricketts, wasn’t one of the monthly full-moon-only lycanthropes: He was a full-time hairy, surly beast, regardless of the time of month. Those are usually the meanest ones.

I moved from one crypt to the next, scrutinizing the blocky stone letters. The place was quiet, spooky . . . part of the ambience. You might think a zombie—even a well-preserved one like myself—would feel perfectly at ease in a graveyard. After all, what do I have to be afraid of? Well, I can still get mangled, for one thing. My body doesn’t heal the way it used to, and we’ve all seen those smelly decomposing shamblers who refuse to take care of themselves, giving zombies everywhere a bad name. And werewolves are experts at mangling.

I wanted to avoid that, if possible.

Even undead, I remain as handsome as ever, with the exception of the holes left by the bullet—the largish exit wound on my forehead and the neat round one at the back of my head, where some bastard came up from behind, pressed the barrel of a .32 caliber pistol against my skull, and popped me before I got a good look at him. Fortunately, a low-slouched fedora covers the big hole. For the most part . . .

In the broader sense, the world hasn’t changed much since the Big Uneasy. Most people go about their daily lives, having families, working jobs. But though a decade has passed, the law—not to mention law enforcement—still hasn’t caught up with the new reality. According to the latest statistics by the DUS, the Department of Unnatural Services, about one out of every seventy-five corpses wakes up as a zombie, with the odds weighted heavily in favor of suicides or murder victims.

Lucky me to be on the interesting side of statistics.

After returning to life, I had shambled back into the office, picked up my caseload, and got to work again. Same as before. . . sort of. Fortunately, my zombie status isn’t a handicap to being a private detective in the Unnatural Quarter. As I said, the cases don’t solve themselves.

Days of investigation had led me to the graveyard. I dug through files, interviewed witnesses and suspects, met with