Title: Wine, Biscuits, and Scrabble: A Survival Guide to the Impending Apocalypse
Fandom: Black Books
Characters/Pairings: Bernard, Manny
Length: ~5,000 words
Rating: PG
Spoilers: None
Warnings: Zombie-killing, mild gore
Notes: Written for Zombie Fest 2012 (zombie_fic_ation), over on Livejournal!


Wine, Biscuits, and Scrabble: A Survival Guide to the Impending Apocalypse

It was half past eleven and far too early entirely for Bernard to be up. But still, up he was, choking on the taste of last night's cigarette smoke and corner-shop wine – still fully clothed, thankfully – wandering into the kitchen and searching his pockets for a lighter.

"Bernard? That you?" called Manny from the other side of the curtain. He sounded chipper – much too chipper for Bernard's liking.

"No," croaked Bernard angrily, brain not yet engaged. "It's… the other one… Brendan…" He trailed off, mumbling, filling the kettle and switching it on, then promptly grabbing hold of the bottle of wine sitting on the table and marching out to the front of the shop.

He was greeted by a most unpleasant sight. From where he stood, in his chair he could see the back of Manny's great golden, fuzzy head. He blinked a couple of times, turned around, went back into the kitchen, and came out again. Manny was still in his chair.

"What—?" he growled to himself, wondering if the best course of action would be to hit his dim-witted dogsbody a crack to the head with his bottle of wine. He decided against it, as the bottle was open and he only had two or three more left. "Manny!" he barked, and Manny gave a little start.

"Ah! Bernard! Good morning!" He stood up and hopped away from the chair, gesturing for Bernard to sit down. Bernard did so wordlessly, glaring at him. He continued glaring as he searched atop his desk blindly for his glass and filled it with wine. "How are you this morning?"

"Awful."

"Excellent! Sleep well?"

"No."

"Fantastic! Now, Bernard, I'd like to talk to you about our advertising—"

"Manny."

"Yes, Bernard?"

"Shut up. It's – no – it's too early in the morning for this. Advertising—What—Manny, what's the manner? Why are you acting like that? What's going on?"

Manny was all but hopping from foot to foot, wringing his hands. His eyes were wide and he looked rather anxious. "Nothing, Bernard, it's just that – well – we haven't had a single customer in all morning and I've been going over our takings and – well—"

"Get on with it!" snapped Bernard, as Manny hesitated.

"Well we haven't been taking in a lot of money and I think you should look into advertising Bernard I think it would be a really good idea for the shop and I think you should start treating the customers a bit nicer too otherwise we'll have to sell the shop and sell all the books and we're gonna be homeless Bernard and everyone will laugh at us!" said Manny, all in one breath.

"Mm-hm," said Bernard, lighting a cigarette and taking a sip of wine. "And what else have you been doing all morning?"

"I tidied the shop," said Manny, gesturing, taking Bernard's lack of emotive response for acceptance. Bernard looked. All the books had been placed neatly on the shelves, tucked away in what was probably alphabetical order. The ones on the table had been rearranged into tidy piles, with little cardboard signs alerting potential customers to what each pile contained.

Bernard stared. He got up, nudging Manny to the side, and made his way slowly around the shop, running his fingers over the spines and the shelves, finding an absence of dust. He turned. Manny shuffled nervously.

"MANNY!" he roared. "WHY HAVE YOU TIDIED MY SHOP?"

"I'm sorry, Bernard, I'm sorry!" squeaked Manny, holding his arms up in a feeble defence as Bernard grabbed his morning's work and began throwing it at him. "I was just bored—There were no customers—I didn't know what to do!"

"You stupid – stupid – little man," snarled Bernard, advancing. "Who d'you think you are, hm? This is my shop. You can't just come in here and—You're not Dobby the House-Elf, y'know!"

At that moment the door to the shop opened, and Bernard said, sneering, "Watch this, then, Alan Sugar."

He turned, and donned his best false smile, which wasn't very good. The customer was walking across the shop floor, blankly, headed in the direction of the far bookshelf, and didn't seem to notice him.

"Hello, sir," said Bernard, wincing slightly with the effort of smiling, following him closely. "How can I help you? Can I get you a book, or… something?"

Manny watched dubiously from his corner. The customer gave no sign that he had heard Bernard. But he didn't continue his search for a book either. Instead, he wandered in a seemingly aimless sort of way around the table, tripping over the scattered books Bernard had thrown.

"Hey! You! I'm talking to you!" shouted Bernard, but the customer ignored him and made his way back out of the door, not shutting it behind him. "See?" said Bernard, following him and slamming the door shut. "They don't want to be treated nicely. They come here to buy books, not to be spoken to nicely. If they wanted to be spoken to nicely they'd go to a playgroup or something."

"But that's just it, Bernard, they're not buying any books—" Manny was about to launch into an explanation of how their business was falling apart when the phone began to ring.

"That's just it, Bernard, they're not buying any books," Bernard squeaked mockingly, storming back to his seat and swigging from his glass of wine as Manny moved to answer the phone.

"Hello? Hello, Fran. Yes, I am. Why? What's the matter? … Fran? ... Fran, it's all right. Just calm down. … Yes. Yes, I'll be there as soon as I can. … Well, who's going to mind the shop? … All right, all right, calm down. … Yes, we'll be there soon. Yes. Yes, okay. Bye!" He hung up.

"Who was that?" asked Bernard.

"That was Fran," said Manny, sounding worried. "Her key's broken in the lock to her flat. She's trapped!"

"Oh, no," said Bernard, "that's awful. Here, what's this?" He picked up a shiny new book that was sitting at the edge of his desk.

"That is a new release," said Manny. "We had several of them delivered this morning. I was reading it. It's quite interesting, actually. It's, um…" He leant across to look at the book. "One Thousand and One Things You Need to Know In Order To Survive the Zombie Apocalypse."

Bernard flicked through the book. "It looks rubbish." He tossed it to the side.

"It's not," said Manny. "It's very thought-provoking. Just think, Bernard, if a zombie apocalypse were to happen right now—"

"Yeah, but it won't, will it?" said Bernard, as the door opened once again. "The only thing that's in danger of happening now is me running out of wine. Look!" He grabbed his bottle by the neck and dangled it. "Empty!" Grumbling, Manny went to fetch another bottle from the kitchen.

As he left, the new customer wandered closer to the desk, staring at the shelves. Bernard stared at the customer. It was one of those youths. Bernard hated youths. He had never been one himself. The youth seemed impervious to his glares, though, and reached for a book with its filthy fingertips. It pulled one from the shelves, decided it was not to its liking, and tossed it to the ground.

"Oi," said Bernard, lighting another cigarette. "Don't do that."

But the youth didn't seem to hear him. Instead, it pulled out another book, and, this time without even so much as glancing at the cover, threw it to the floor.

"Hey!" said Bernard.

Grunting, the youth reached out with its other hand, grabbing fistfuls of books and pulling them out of their neatly aligned positions, unbalancing the shelf as it did so.

"Hey!" said Bernard again, getting up, wine bottle still clenched in his fist. "What the hell d'you think you're doing, eh? Manny's just tidied that! Oi! I'm taking to you!"

He was right in the youth's face, and was still being ignored. The youth's eyes were staring blankly forwards as it continued wrecking the place.

"Right, that's it, you filthy little urchin. You stop this right now or I will not be held responsible for my actions."

The youth grunted, moved a couple for steps to the left, and continued what he was doing.

"For God's sake!" snarled Bernard impatiently, gesticulating with his empty wine bottle. "Are you deaf or what? Can't you—Oh, my God!"

With a loud clunk, his bottle connected with the youth's skull, knocked off its head, and sent it tumbling across the floor, neck ripped open unevenly and blood leaking out. Its body collapsed with a heavy thump. Bernard stared in horror. Manny came out of the back of the shop, whistling and carrying an unopened bottle of wine.

"Sainsbury's finest, this. Good call, Bernard." Bernard turned to stare at him, pale white and horror-struck. "Bernard? Whatever's the matter?"

"You know that, erm… You know that customer we had in, there, a while ago?"

"Yes. The youth, with the cap, and the starey eyes. Why? What's happened to him?"

"I think," said Bernard, "and I don't want you to freak out when I say this, okay? But I think I may have killed him."

"What? Oh, my God, Bernard, no, you can't've! Are you sure? What happened? Oh, my God, Bernard!"

"You see, I knew that was how you'd react. You just need to stay calm, okay? CALM DOWN, MANNY, FOR GOD'S SAKE, AND LET ME THINK!" Bernard suddenly realised he was still holding the bloodied wine bottle – rife with his prints – and dropped it to the ground. "Eugh."

"Oh, my God, Bernard, what are we going to do? What are we going to do?" said Manny, and then he said it again. He seemed to be quite stuck.

"Well," said Bernard, looking about, "first thing's first. Help me get rid of the body."

"What?" said Manny, stopping abruptly in his chorus of what do we do, what do we dos. "Bernard, you can't – you can't do that. We have to tell the police!"

"We don't have to tell anyone," said Bernard, realising he was somehow without cigarette, and patting himself up and down in search of one. He put it in his mouth and lit it. "It was just one of those youths, right, and they're the scourge of society. People would thank us for getting rid of him. They would, Manny. I've read about it."

Manny, in a panic, decided that this was true, and also, he was scared of Bernard hitting and possibly killing him, too. Who knew what a self-confessed murderer would do next?

"Well, what should we do with it?" he asked, advancing slowly to where the body lay.

"You take that end," said Bernard, gesturing to the headless neck. "I'll take this. We'll take him into the bathroom. Make him look like he's having a quiet dump. No-one will notice the smell."

Silently, Manny complied. They had gotten the body halfway across the shop before Manny accidently knocked the head with his shoe, and it rolled face-up. He screamed, dropping the body, which crashed to the floor, and Bernard, startled, rushed to cover his mouth with his own hand.

"Shh! Shut up! You're going to get us caught!"

When Manny had stopped waving his arms up and down in a panic, Bernard removed his hand.

"Us?" said Manny. "This was all you, Bernard!"

"Oh! Oh, was it? It was all me when you were standing over there, Mister What Do We Do What Do We Do? It was all me when you agreed to hide this body? No, Manny, you're an accomplice now, whether you like it or not. If I'm going down, you're going down with me."

Manny stared at him, and at the head on the floor, and then back at Bernard, and then at the head on the floor, and then did a double-take. "Bernard, look!" He pointed. "Its eyes! They're blank!"

"Yeah," said Bernard, turning to look. "He's dead. Oh, God, I'm going to have to apologise to his family, aren't I?"

"No, I mean…." Manny strode to the desk and lifted One Thousand and One Things You Need to Know In Order To Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. He flicked through it frantically. "It says here, Bernard, that zombies' eyes are completely white-ish yellow." He bent over to examine the head, as Bernard scoffed and went to lock the door to prevent witnesses. "He's got no pupils. His skin is grey. Bernard, I think he's a zombie."

"Give me a break," muttered Bernard.

"No, really," said Manny, leafing through the book desperately and examining diagrams. "You might not have committed a murder at all. Not if he was already dead." He gasped suddenly. "And that customer you tried to help earlier! I thought he was just scared off by your customer service skills, but what if he was actually one of them? What if that's why we haven't had any customers? What if there's hordes of the undead roaming the streets at this very moment? Bernard – what if we're living in the beginning of the zombie apocalypse?"

"Manny, I've told you, would you ever stop reading those books? Do you really think," he peered out the window, "that these shambling passers-by, with their blank faces and shuffling footsteps, and their arms held out in front of them, and their God-awful haircuts, and their constant moaning, are zombies? Really, Manny? What planet are you living on? And what on earth is that smell?"

Bernard's eyes met Manny's for a moment, and they both realised the undeniable truth in the same instant.

"Oh, no," Manny gasped softly, looking at the now-dead zombie on the floor of the bookshop, while Bernard made his way to the desk and picked up his new bottle of wine.

"Ahh, but it's too early in the morning for the zombie apocalypse," he grumbled.

/

From somewhere in the depths of the cavernous drawers in Bernard's desk, they found a hammer and nails. They managed to scramble together enough wooden boards and planks to block out all the windows at the front of bookshop. As Bernard began to hammer the last nail into the board over the door, he turned to Manny and began to say, "Don't you think you're going a bit overboard with this whole thing?"

As he got to "whole", a greying hand punched its way through the loose board and fixed itself around Bernard's throat. Bernard screamed. Manny, who was watching with a saucepan strapped onto his head, screamed too, and charged forward holding an enormous book above his head, bringing it down and snapping off the wrist. The hand fell to the floor with a sound like a dead fish. Bernard looked to Manny, unimpressed.

"I had that under control, you know. And why are you wearing that, take that off, you look ridiculous." Bernard lit a cigarette and shuffled back to his desk, where he took a seat. Manny, with a distasteful look on his face, nudged the still-wriggling hand under the nearest bookcase with the toe of his boot.

"This is the nearest thing we have to a helmet!" he said indignantly, rapping the stainless steel top of his saucepan-hat. "They're going after brains, you know, Bernard, that'll be the first thing they reach for."

Bernard made a face.

"Here." Manny scampered into the back of the shop, saucepan handle clanging against the doorframe. Bernard took a resigned drag on his cigarette. Manny emerged seconds later, a neon-green bicycle helmet in his hands. "You ought to wear this." He pushed it onto Bernard's head, leaving one strap dangling and one tangled in his hair.

"Ow! Hey! I thought you said you didn't have a helmet."

"Well, that one has holes in it," said Manny, and went back into the kitchen, leaving Bernard to contemplate this.

When Manny emerged again, he was wearing a pair of oven-gloves, and had under his arm a new bottle of wine and a box of Scrabble.

"Oh, God…" Bernard looked at him dolefully.

"Now, don't be like that, Bernard," said Manny. "What we have to do is make the best of this situation. I thought a game of Scrabble might be the best way to do that. Now, are you familiar with the rules, or shall I—?"

"No. Stop," said Bernard, as Manny did a bit of juggling and managed to place both the box and the bottle on the table without dropping either. He leant forward and put his head in his hands. "I'm not… playing Scrabble. I'm not… There's the invasion of the living walking undead zombies or whatever you call it out there and look at you." He looked up. Manny made a puzzled sort of face. "You're wearing a saucepan and oven-gloves. This needs to stop. Manny? Why—Why are you wearing oven-gloves?"

Manny looked at his own, overlarge and fluffy hands. "I thought, just in case, you know, they get in somehow, and—and they bite me, so as not to pass the infection—The book said—"

"No." Bernard shook his head. "No. Take them off. Take them off now. You look like an incapable chef."

Resigned, Manny took his gloves off, flung them onto the desk in a huff, and sat heavily in the chair in front of the desk – which he had to pull up first, because it had somehow been pushed to the side, probably when he was using it as a potential defence against the approaching zombie hordes. "What do you suggest we do, then? Got to the pub and wait for this all to blow over?"

"Not the pub, no," said Bernard. "That would be ridiculous. Too many zombies. Do pass the wine, though."

"What? Oh. Right." Manny complied, resting his chin on one hand miserably. "I suppose we could both do with a drink."

"Ha-ha, don't think yourself so lucky." Bernard didn't bother with pouring; instead, he drank straight from the bottle. "I've only two more bottles left after this and I'm going to need them. You're the one who fancies yourself as the zombie-killing Jesus. You go out there and sort out the vast legions of the unclean. I'm just going to sit here and have a nice quiet drink."

"Don't be ridiculous, Bernard. I'm not going out there alone."

"Well, do what you want, just don't expect me to kill any more of them."

"Okay, well, I suppose we could always—"

"We're not playing Scrabble."

/

Later, with the windows boarded and deadened fingernails scrabbling at the shell of the building from which they could smell the fresh, living bodies, Bernard and Manny sat wearing oven gloves, saucepan and bicycle helmets strapped to their heads, makeshift body armour constructed from chopping boards and cupboard doors strapped to their torsos, wine glasses in hand, playing Scrabble.

"'Zombify' isn't a proper word," said Bernard, shifting and trying to reach past his door-armour to push Manny's squares from the board. "You don't get any points for that."

"Whaaat? What do you mean?" Manny's voice was slurred slightly; he wasn't as used to the wine as Bernard was. "It is so a proper word. What's happened to them, then?" He gestured clumsily to the boarded-up shop front.

"They've been, um… Oh… Whatsit." Bernard smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand and then attempted to top up his wineglass. The last of the bottle's contents dribbled into it with a plip-plop sort of noise, and even though he shook the thing, it was unwilling to give up any more of its treasure. Bernard set it down with an irritated clunk. While he wasn't looking, Manny recorded his new score.

There was a banging at the window, louder than it had been before. Both Manny and Bernard looked around. Their defence was beginning to shake a little from the weight of the dead bodies shifting around out there.

"Oh, God," said Bernard. "You know what this means, don't you?"

"We're going to need corrugated iron!" said Manny, sounding disorientated. "You know… like they use in the military."

"No," said Bernard. "Shut up. I'm going to get my coat." He left.

"Why?" said Manny, and then realised. "Oh, to buy the corrugated iron. Right behind you Bernard!" While he was gone, Manny recorded his score again. Then he stood up and scampered to the window, just to re-inspect his handiwork. The zombies were thumping at it. Manny peeled it back and peered outside. He was greeted by a roar and a snarl, and a hand reaching through immediately, grey and green and rotten, to claw at his throat. "Now, now," said Manny, and pushed it out again, moving a bookshelf to over the weak area. He turned with the intention of going to the kitchen to gather zombie-killing equipment, and he was halfway there when the phone rang.

"Hello," he chirped, lifting the receiver. "You're not one of the zombies, are you? I'm afraid you can't come in. We're closed."

"Zombies? What are you talking about?" said the voice on the other end. "Manny, I called you ages ago, where are you?"

"Oh, my God, Fran!" said Manny. "I'm so sorry, I forgot! I'll be with you right away! Bernard's just gone to get his coat, and then we're going to kill the zombies. We'll save you, don't worry!"

"Well, I should hope so, because I called the people in charge of refitting locks and they promised they'd be round in an hour and that was over two hours ago, and I've been stuck in here ever since – hang on, did you say zombies again?"

"Yes, I did, but I have to go now, Bernard's ready. See you in a bit!" Manny hung up as Bernard strode into the shop front, drawing on a cigarette, his coat buttoned in an awkward sort of fashion over his cupboard door.

"Who was that, one of the zombies?" asked Bernard. "I hope you told it we were closed."

"It was Fran," said Manny, "and don't worry, I did."

"Good. Here. Take this." Bernard pulled a large carving knife from his pocket.

"What's that for?" asked Manny.

"Killing zombies," said Bernard, reaching into his pocket and extracting a packet of party rings.

"I see," said Manny, examining it. "Excellent. Very shiny. That'll come in handy." He took a couple of practice jabs with it, swinging it dangerously close to Bernard.

"Hey, hey, hey, watch it, now," said Bernard, who was opening the biscuits.

"What are those for?" asked Manny. "To distract them with? That's a brilliant idea. The main part of a zombie's diet, according to the book, is sweet, sweet human flesh, but I suppose if they were really hungry they would eat sweet, sweet iced biscuits as well."

"Heh?" said Bernard, taking a bite from the one he was holding. "'Snot for the zombies, they're for me. I need my energy." His words were muffled by crumbs. "Okay. Ready? Let's go."

He turned to leave, and Manny followed. "We'll need to rescue Fran after we get the big metal shields. She's trapped in her flat and I promised her."

"Metal shields? What?" Bernard turned to him and scowled. "Manny, you're drunk. Stop talking. Just stop. We're going to get more wine."

"Wine?" Manny looked puzzled. "But—But—Bernard! What about the zombies?"

"What about them?" said Bernard, reaching for another biscuit, and offering the packet to Manny, who took one as well. "We'll just go to the off-license, get a couple of bottles, and then, I don't know, we'll rescue Fran, and when we come back—Ah!"

"What?" Manny accidentally sprayed him with crumbs in his excitement and Bernard gave him a death stare, flicking them from his jacket as he replied, "We'll get into Fran's and hide. If there aren't any zombies there, she's safe, and then we can… I don't know. We can distract them with biscuits or something."

"Excellent," said Manny, as Bernard turned and began working at the door. "Biscuits. Perfect. Bernard, have I ever told you you're something of a genius?"

"Eh?" said Bernard, who was unscrewing the planks of wood. "Whuzzat? This is difficult, wearing these oven gloves."

/

As expected, the streets were littered with debris from the various shops that lined them. Windows had been smashed, and the good trailed from them and tossed about. Posters were ripped from walls, and bits of things hung from the branches of nearby trees, which had inexplicably shed their leaves.

"You don't think they're zombies, too, Van Helsing?" asked Bernard, pointing.

"But, Bernard, I thought Van Helsing—"

"Oh, shut up. What, do you own a bookshop or something?"

The street seemed eerily silent and the weather was, for one reason or another, overcast and muggy, and made everything seem slightly off-colour. Manny privately thought it was quite nice, as it added to the heroic, zombie-slaying feel of the whole thing. Bernard thought it was perfectly miserable, and he lit another cigarette to stand and stare at the desolate scene before them what he imagined was a romantic and melancholy sort of way.

They stood there, the two of them, in their mishmash of protective gear, looking bulky and clueless, Manny brandishing a carving knife with Bernard standing (tactically) slightly behind them. It was quiet for a moment, and they thought this must be what it was like to be the last two men on earth, when a zombie leapt from behind a dustbin and went for Bernard's throat.

He fell to the ground in a flurry of failing limbs, shrieking, attempting to spit his cigarette into the zombie's eyes. The ash blinded it for a moment, and it fell back, stumbling and groaning, swiping at the affected area with the back of its hand. Manny took this as his cue to slice its head off.

As it collapsed in two separate pieces with a pitiful whimper, Bernard pulled himself to a standing position using the railings, and Manny stood back, looking triumphant. They stood gazing at their first kill in silence together for a moment (Bernard thought it resembled one of his more regular customers, and he was glad, because he'd always hated that bastard) before they turned to each other and Manny said, "Off-license, then?" and they set off.

/

The outside of the off-license was crawling with the beasts, but Bernard was grateful that at least the owner of it had been able to board it up before they'd reached it. He seemed to have done it from the outside, though, because, from where Bernard and Manny crouched behind the dustbins, if they squinted they could make out Jim, the proprietor, wandering the street with the zombie horde, the top of his head cracked open and some brain spilling out.

"Good on you, Jim," growled Bernard, entertaining the thought of a limitless supply of free wine.

"What are we going to do?" asked Manny. "We can't buy any wine now. Not if Jim's one of them."

Bernard looked to his hairy manservant, then back to the zombies. "Why don't you take that nice carving knife of yours—No." He held up a hand. "Hear me out. You take that carving knife – which I was nice enough so as to bestow on you, you ungrateful little toe-rag – and you go out there into the middle of them and draw as much attention to yourself as possible, and when they come for you, you kill them!" He made stabbing motions. "And while you're attacking them I'll go and steal – er – borrow some wine."

Manny looked to his carving knife, then at his zombie-killing mentor, and wondered why Bernard was the zombie-killing mentor when he himself was the one with all the knowledge. He opened his mouth to argue this point, but then shut it again, because Bernard was beginning to light a cigarette in a threatening way, which suggested Manny would receive a rather painful little burn if he did not comply. "Alright, fine. But be quick about it, Bernard, we can't leave Fran all on her own."

Bernard snorted. "I shall take as much time as I need to select the appropriate variety. Now, go." And he shoved Manny into the middle of the crowd.

Manny charged forward with a battle cry of "HIIIIIII-YAHHHH!", waving his knife as though it were a machete, and Bernard rolled his eyes as the zombie's head began to roll to the floor. He left his hiding place with great stealth (or as much as he could manage), and crept along the outskirts of the crowd, until he reached the building, where he began to use his screwdriver to lever the board from the wall. The corner snapped off. He crawled inside; it was dark, but the shattered board let in a large shaft of sunlight, allowing him just enough light to see the labels on the bottles of wine. The shop looked just as he remembered, minus the windows.

"Now, then, let's see," he said, and took his time pondering over which was the best sort of wine to drink during the invasion of the walking dead. Oh, he intended on taking them all, but it was merely an issue of which would be the most appropriate to drink first. He could hear groaning and yelling and squelching and slicing outside, but paid it no heed. He was mumbling to himself when he felt a hand rest gently on his shoulder.

"'Scuse me, hold on, give me a moment," he muttered, then looked up into the deadened eye-sockets of Jim, the proprietor. He screamed, stumbled backwards, and hit the counter. Jim wandered slowly towards him, hands reaching out, groaning incoherently. Bernard, at a loss for what to do, and having seen it in the movies, brought the bottle of wine he was clasping by the neck down hard on the countertop, shattering it to pieces and sending wine splattering everywhere. The vibrations burned his hand, but he took one look at the jagged edges of the glass and charged (with a Manny-style battle-cry) at the approaching corpse.

Jim fell as Bernard landed on top of him, stabbing him repeatedly with the bottle-end. He twitched violently as Bernard severed his neck. Just as the job was done and Bernard stood proudly, looking around at his wine-splattered killing and thinking it looked very dramatic, Manny entered the shop, wiping sweat from his brow.

"Well," he said, short of breath, "I think I got them all."

"You didn't get this one," said Bernard, pointing. "Next time I give you a job to do, Manny, try to do it right, yeah?"

Manny hung his head.

"Well, as long as you've learned your lesson," said Bernard, straightening his coat and lighting a cigarette, "it's on to Fran's zombie-proof abode. Maybe she'll do a better job of protecting me than you will," he added, glaring at Manny.

"Sorry, Bernard."

"Don't worry about it. Here. Have a biscuit."

They divided the packet between them, knowing they'd need their energy for slaying/avoiding the zombies on the way to Fran's, and on the way out, Bernard snaffled several bottles of wine.