We had been walking steadily for about a half hour. Lazaro De La Tierra, boy zombie, Pearl Gonzalez, the most beautiful zombie woman in the world, were being led by the mysterious Mr. Nez through a secret lit tunnel in the catacombs of the Los Angeles River drainage system. It all had a sense of unreality to me. Finally we came to halt before a metal door.
“Now that wasn’t such a bad walk was it?” Mr. Nez asked.
Neither Pearl nor I were in much of a mood to say anything.
He fiddled with the security box next to the metallic door and once again fed a code into the touch pad screen. The door opened, reveling a hallway leading to the main room of the zombie safe house.
“Which by a comodius vicus of recirculation brings us back to the safe house under Olvera Street!” he said, motioning us in.
“What do we do now?” I asked, taking a seat inside the large room.
“The Juan de Oñate thugs were waiting for you outside the Olvera Street shop. That means we were followed last night.” Mr. Nez replied as he began to hurriedly shuffle documents from a desk in the room into a large leather bag.
“They may not know about the safe house, but they probably suspect it. In any case it’s too dangerous to stay here. It’ll take me a few minutes to close up shop here.”
“Where are we going?” Pearl asked.
“The lab. Its safe. But we’ll have to make sure we’re not followed.”
After a few minutes he had filled the leather bag with all the documents he needed. Mr. Nez then went to the center of the room, moved aside a rug with his foot, and revealed a trapdoor in the floor. He lifted the trapdoor. Inside I could see another control panel.
“Step to the center of the room,” he commanded.
Pearl and I complied. Mr. Nez pushed some buttons on the control panel and then a remarkable thing happened.
The walls in the room began to move!
The walls seemed slide back into a recessed area behind them. Simultaneously, from the sides of the recessed area other walls slid in to take the place of the original walls. Within moments the antique and high tech gear of the safe house were gone, replaced by walls and artifacts that made the room look like an abandoned storage area, complete with spider webs and dust.
“Wow!” Pearl said, “pretty cool!” Mr. Nez smiled as he saw our reaction to the unexpected transformation.
“ If they’re determined they’ll eventually find out this safe house. But if they’re in a hurry, when they come down from the shop upstairs and open this door they may just think it’s a basement storage.”
“Let’s go!” he said.
I started toward the door leading to the upstairs shop on Olvera Street.
“No, not that way.” Mr. Nez said. He pointed to the hallway leading to the Los Angels River tunnels. “We’ll go back through the storm drains.”
I went back to the door that led to the tunnel that had brought us to the safehouse.
“Not that way either,” Mr. Nez said. “We’re going back through a different tunnel.”
He led Pearl and I to another door which opened into yet another lit tunnel, similar to the one we had just been in.
We began walking.
Before long we came to another junction of the storm drains. When we go there Mr. Nez sealed the large metal door behind us and motioned us toward another passage.
“This storm drain will take us back outside but upriver, we come out in a hidden area covered by trees. Even if they are still waiting for us, we should be able to give them the slip.”
We entered the storm drain. This one was bigger than the one we had been in before, we could actually walk on our feet instead of hands and knees. But we still had to hunch our shoulders. It didn’t take us long to come to where the pipe emptied out into the Los Angeles concrete riverbed. As Mr. Nez had said, the opening was covered by overgrown bushes and trees that had taken root. The helicopter that had been raining deadly metal darts at us was nowhere in sight. We scurried down the cement slope to the riverbed below.
After a short walk, we found ourselves under another bridge. We hiked up the slope to a cement path leading to the street above.
When we reached the street level, I could see where we were. This was the Broadway Street bridge that connected my old neighborhood of Lincoln Heights with downtown Los Angeles!
An ice cream vendor’s truck parked on the street near us. Mr. Nez went directly to the back door and knocked. In a moment the door opened, revealing none other than Mr. Brown, my old Boy Scout leader!
“What took you so long,” he said.
“Thanks for coming, “ Mr. Nez replied.
“Lazaro, Pearl, good to see you guys! Mr. Brown said. “I heard about your close call. Get in the cab.”
“Mr. Brown to the rescue!” I said.
“A scout is always prepared,” he replied, indicating the ice cream truck.
The three of us joined Mr. Brown inside the cab of the ice truck. He went to the driver’s seat and started up the engine. Within a few minutes we were traveling north on Broadway, back into Lincoln Heights.
As we drove along I could see the relief in Mr. Nez’s face.
“You can relax,” he said to us.
“Is this lab far from here?” Pearl asked.
“We’ll be there in just a few minutes,” he replied.
Mr. Brown drove the ice cream truck east along Daly Street. Soon we were passing Mission and Daly where the County Morgue was located. Then we continued to Zonal, and suddenly Mr. Brown took a left and headed up Zonal to the USC/County General Hospital.
I knew this hospital well. My mom’s friends were often convalescing here because it catered to the poor. I remember many times accompanying my ‘ama to visit La Señora This and La Señora That. Twenty stories high, it was the highest building visible from Boyle Heights where I had grown up. But what were we doing here?
Within a few moments, Mr. Brown stopped the ice cream truck in from of the main hospital entrance. A series of rising wide cement steps led to the hospital entrance.
It took a moment for it to sink in.
“Mr. Nez,” I asked increduously, “the lab is located here? At the County/USC General Hospital?
“Pretty nifty cover, eh?” he replied. “It’s convenient for us in many ways. Not the least of which is the proximity of a never ending source of cadavers for our resuscitation experiments.”
“You mean…” I began.
“Of course,” Pearl exclaimed, “the county morgue!”
Copyright 2013 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.
This blog was previously published on Latinopia in March of 2013.