Chapter 1

Morning Light – Day 1

Annie rolled over and glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand, then squeezed her eyes shut in frustration. It was the first day of her forced vacation. She refused to crawl out of bed before nine o’clock. The glaring numbers said it was barely seven, and there was only a hint of light shining through the vertical blinds. Annie scrunched her pillow under her head and closed her eyes in a vain attempt to evoke sleep. She waited to hear the sound of the big blue monster trucks picking up Monday’s trash and recycling.

Suddenly a nearby siren shattered the quiet, and Annie realized she heard multiple emergency vehicles in the distance. Annie pulled the pillow over her head to escape the world, trying to recapture some sense of peace for her first day of doing nothing, but an uneasy feeling invaded. Why so many emergency vehicles? Was there an accident at the local water treatment plant?

The doorbell rang, and Annie’s Ring Doorbell App on her phone chimed, then the person pounded on her door. Irritation escalated as Annie mumbled. “The world hates me!” Annie reached for her Android and swiped the screen. “What the hell?” It was the neighbor from down the street that barely spoke to her when their paths crossed. “Now, what could she want this early?” Annie looked at the screen and was more than a little puzzled. Sandy, usually looked like she was having tea with the mayor’s wife. Not today. Today she looked like death warmed over.

Sandy pounded on the door again with the heels of both hands. “Annie! Annie! Please, someone has to help me!” Sandy pleaded.

Annie activated the intercom on the cell phone screen. “Sandy, give me a minute!” She climbed out of bed and jerked on a ratty terry-cloth robe over her pajamas.

“Help me!” Sandy wailed. “Gil’s dead! George, Gina, Mary, and Chris. All dead. Everyone is dead!”

Annie got to the door running her hand through her short, curly, blonde hair while Sandy continued to rattle off the names of neighbors. Annie closed the screen on her phone, dropped the device in her pocket, and jerked open the door to see a woman she barely recognized.

Still in her nightgown, Sandy had swollen red eyes with streaks of eye makeup running down her cheeks. Her face was strained and drawn with stress. Sandy appeared to have aged ten years overnight.

Sandy grabbed Annie’s arm as soon as the door opened, digging her nails into Annie’s bare skin. “My Gil is dead; they’re all dead,” Sandy’s voice trailed off as sobs stole her breath away.

“Stop it!” Annie jerked her arm free, leaving a trail of red welts across her arm. Annie stared at the four narrow red lines with beads of blood when she realized she was hearing an infant’s wail next door. Annie looked toward the neighbor’s house and saw both cars in the driveway. What was going on? The young couple had three kids, including an eighteen-month-old that had a good set of lungs. The day was turning into a shit show. “Why don’t the Burtons feed that kid? Christ!” Annie asked as she rubbed at her temples. “I can’t think with all this noise from sirens, screaming babies, and your howling.”

“They’re probably dead! Like everyone else….” Sandy looked horrified at the realization, and suddenly her knees buckled.

Annie reached out and caught Sandy just in time to make a clumsy effort to ease her to the floor. Annie grabbed a cushion from the couch to slide under Sandy’s head. Slowly Annie began to realize just how different the world sounded outside. There were noises that you never really noticed until they were no longer there; cars on the streets, trains in the distance, sirens, yard crews mowing, planes overhead, echoes of life all around. The emergency sirens that were once infrequent now were a constant assault on her hearing.

Suddenly there was the muffled sound of an explosion in the distance, then another. Annie walked to the back door and looked out. A dark spiral of smoke rose from a private airport a few miles away. She walked back to the front door and saw several dark columns of smoke rising from the metro area at the front of the subdivision.

“What in the hell did I sleep through?” Annie asked as she picked up the television remote and turned on the local news channel. Unfortunately, the station was replaying canned programming that should have ended hours ago. Annie scanned networks until she found a local station that looked to be a live broadcast.

Annie watched the screen in amazement. The picture on the screen was strange. Replacing the slick, professional newscaster who usually sat behind the desk was a frazzled-looking woman sitting in front of the station logo. The woman with tattooed arms, dressed in a white t-shirt, blew her nose and swiped at her red eyes impatiently as she read from her phone screen. Finally, she glanced up, held up a hand, and said. “Just a minute, folks, I need just a minute.”

She ran her hand through her messy spiked hair while her pale face, void of make-up, made it obvious she wasn’t used to being in front of a camera. She finished reading from the screen, looked up, and cleared her throat. “Look, folks, I’m not qualified to be in this chair, but I’m what you get right now. At 3:47 this morning, the staff at this station suddenly collapsed and died. What little information I have leaves little hope of anyone else coming in anytime soon. At this point, I have no answers to explain the deaths, but a few people are suggesting these deaths are linked to the third vaccine push across the country. This station pushed it, so; my guess it stands to reason. I didn’t get that poison injected into my ass. Let me continue. This administration rushed it, claiming it would include the variants; well, it’s just another failure just like all the other shit lately.” She drew a deep breath and struggled to control her emotions. “So draw your own conclusions. What little we do know is, deaths are greater in large cities where the heaviest concentrations of the vaccine were administered.” Again she paused to read her phone screen.

“Right now, I’m sure of one thing, this phenomenon has occurred across major cities, the country, and from the information I just received, foreign ships are docking in Galveston as we speak. What does that mean here in Houston? Are they here to help? How could they get here so quickly unless they knew ahead of time what was going to happen? Are ships docking in other port cities? So many unanswered questions. I’ll keep asking the questions as long as I can and share what I learn. Meanwhile, I know it has been devastating for this country since the national news is offline. Find the living, be strong, and work together.” 

While the young woman spoke, Annie stared at the flatscreen. “Well, that pretty well explains we’re screwed, and the government did it or allowed it to happen,” she whispered.

Annie turned down the volume and walked to the door, and looked out at the street. She listened for any hint of movement of people in the mortally wounded world. The baby began crying again with a new sense of urgency. Annie walked back to the bedroom and changed clothes. Time to put on her big girl pants.

Annie walked back into the living room. She leaned down and shook Sandy’s arm, “We have things to do if the world has gone to shit,” She announced. Sandy’s eyes fluttered as she frowned, and a tear slid from under her lashes. Annie continued. “You have to get up; we have to get that baby if she’s all alone.”

Sandy struggled to the couch. “We have to find someone to help.”

“We are someone! We’re going to do something,” Annie answered. “Come on, get to your feet, now.”

She stood, and Annie walked toward the door. She hesitated long enough to ensure Sandy followed before Annie continued out into the morning sun when she got there.

“Dogs are going to be a problem one of these days,” Anny commented as they heard the barking of dogs locked in houses down the street.

“We should let them out,” Sandy mused.

“Hell no. The dogs will be attacking people in packs before long. Better to leave as many as possible to die locked in houses,” Annie answered.

“Oh, God. I never considered that,” Sandy whispered.

It only took a couple of seconds to cross the yard to the Burtons’ house. Annie could hear the eighteen-month-old wailing inside the small track home. She looked at Sandy. “I don’t suppose you have a key?”

Sandy looked puzzled. “Why would I have a key to their house?”

“Never mind. Grab a brick from the flowerbed,” Annie ordered.

“What are you going to do?” Sandy asked.

Annie sighed, walked to the border of the flower bed, and picked up a stone. She examined the door and decided on the rectangle of glass closest to the doorknob to break. Annie tapped the windowpane, and it shattered. The crying from the baby grew even louder. Annie slid the brick around the edge to clear the shards before she stuck her hand in and turned the lock. She opened the door slowly and took a step inside.

Sandy hesitated. “I can’t,” Sandy whispered. “They’re dead.”

“Yes, you can. I’ll need your help. Go to the kitchen and find a box of trash bags or laundry basket to collect the baby stuff,” Annie ordered.

Annie pushed open the door and walked inside. After a brief hesitation, Sandy followed Annie into the house. The layout was similar to Annie’s house. Track homes were like that. She walked into the living room and turned toward a hallway to the left. Annie followed the sound of the sobbing child. She glanced at the doorway at the end of the hall but ignored it. Annie was sure she knew it held the dead parents.

She glanced into the first opened door and saw bunk beds. Annie sighed at the sight of the colorful quilt on the top bed and dark tuft of hair on a bright yellow pillow. A small boy of about five appeared to be sleeping on the bottom bunk. He looked so peaceful it was hard to imagine he would not jump up and race to the table for breakfast any minute. Annie pulled Billie and Jamie’s door closed for the last time and quickly moved to the open nursery door with Becky’s name hanging from a bright pink bow.

Annie walked to the nursery, and when the child saw her, she stopped crying and reached out. After hours of unanswered wailing, the infant would even settle for Annie. Annie picked her up, wrapped in a blanket. “Oh, poor baby girl, you’re a mess, aren’t you,” Annie crooned as she walked back into the hall with Becky in her arms. “Sandy, see if you can get a bottle for her. She’s dirty and has been a while, so I’ve got to clean her up in the bathtub,” Annie called out.

Annie carried the baby to the hall bathroom and turned on the bathwater. She pulled a towel off the rack, set the baby down, and peeled off her filthy sleeper and poopy diaper. Once put in the warm water, the infant stopped fussing for a few minutes. Annie quickly washed the crusty brown mess covering her from waist to ankles, wrapped little Becky in a towel, and carried her back to the nursery. By the time Annie laid the towel-wrapped baby on a daybed in the nursery, Becky had begun to whimper again.

“I got what she needs.” Sandy held out the bottle, and little Becky grabbed it greedily. “Her mother must have just gone to Sam’s; she has two cases of powdered formula in the cabinet. I put the cases by the front door. There was a couple of laundry baskets in the garage to put the other supplies in them.” Sandy looked around. “I saw a travel crib in the living room. We can take that for her, too.” Sandy pulled a bag from the closet and began gathering baby clothes, diapers, creams, and supplies. “The boys?” She asked.

“Saving grace is they didn’t suffer. Neither boy shows signs of distress,” Annie answered.

Sandy stood up. “Gil looked so peaceful,” Her voice caught. “I guess that’s something.” She sniffed as she leaned down and continued packing.

Annie grabbed a disposable diaper from the stack Sandy had set on the end of the day bed and a onesie from clothing she removed from drawers. “Get everything you can find. We’ll get plastic tubs at Walmart. More clothes too. We’ve got a few days; then we have to be out of here.”

Sandy stopped and turned to me. “What do you mean?”

“We can’t stay. We’ll see if we can find more people while gathering supplies, but we have to leave. We can’t stay this close to the city.”

“Leave?” Sandy stopped her collection and stared at Annie. “Why? We have everything we need. Supplies will never run out.”

“Do you know how awful this place will be? We have dead bodies up and down the street. This place will be beyond ripe within a week. Then the power will go out. Water will quit running, too. There will be lawlessness soon enough. By then, we need to be gone,” Annie commented.

“I can’t leave my husband like that,” Sandy protested.

Annie sighed. “Finish packing the baby clothes. We’ll discuss it later.”

“Hello? Is anyone there?” A trembling young male voice called out from the front of the house.

Annie handed Becky to Sandy. “Stay here. You hear shouting, take the baby, and hide.”

Annie walked out of the nursery and down the hall to the living room and saw a teenaged boy. He looked shell-shocked. “Hi. What’s your name? I’m Annie.”

“Josh. Josh Matthews,” He answered with a catch in his answer. “Can you help me? My family is dead. I don’t know what to do.” His face tightened as he fought the urge to cry.

He looked so lost, Annie reached out to embrace him, and he melted against her. He wrapped his arms around Annie and wept against her shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Josh,” Annie whispered as she patted his back. They stood together for several minutes until he finally straightened to swipe at his wet cheeks.

“Sorry, Ms. Annie,” Josh whispered.

“It’s alright, Josh. You can stay with us. My friend Sandy and I are trying to figure this out. If you’d like, you can join us.”

Josh nodded. “I’d like that.”

Josh followed Annie to the nursery, and after introductions, they made short work of loading up the baby clothes, diapers, and everything they needed. They stopped at the family minivan and retrieved the car seat.

Josh was a lot of help. He was a big kid and bore his sadness with a strength beyond his years after the initial release. Annie imagined he played sports when she noticed the faded football jersey. It saddened her to think about his family, mother, father, and siblings. She shifted the case of formula and car seat and pushed thoughts of his family aside.

When they got to the house and dropped all the baby supplies, she turned to Sandy. “Okay, we can go get you clothes now. You can’t keep stomping around in your nightgown.”

Sandy protested. “I can’t go home.”

“My clothes won’t fit you,” Annie answered. “I’m five foot two; you’re four inches taller than me. You have no choice.”

“Can’t you go get my clothes?” Sandy begged as she clutched Becky closer.

“No. You have to decide what you want. There will be things you won’t want to leave behind. Josh can watch Becky?” Annie looked at Josh for confirmation. “You don’t mind, do you, Josh?”

“No, ma’am,” Josh answered rather sadly. “I used to babysit my…” His voice trailed off.

Annie interrupted. “Great. You know what to do. If you feel up to it, there is a girl on the news. Would you listen to her? She says this thing is around the country. I’m not sure she’ll have any more news, but maybe she might say something else useful. She said ships were docking in Houston.”

“I don’t know,” Josh answered.

“Try to; it might be important,” Annie added.

Sandy slowly rose from the couch and passed Becky to him. Josh tried to smile as he reached out with open arms. “I just changed her, so she should be good for a while. Becky might finish that bottle and go to sleep. She was screaming for quite a while,” Annie added.

“No problem.” Josh looked near tears. “I’ve changed diapers before, so if I need to, I can do that, too.”

“I’m sorry about your family, Josh. We’ll try not to be too long. You have your cell?” When he pulled it from his pocket, Annie retrieved it and put in her number. “Now, just hit send if you have any problem at all.”

“Okay,” He answered. “Thank you.

“We have a lot to do in the next few days. If you get Becky laid down, do you think you can use the computer on the desk?” When he nodded, she continued. “I wrote the password on the notepaper. Start a list of books from the library on basic medicine, gardening, food canning, hunting, meat processing, and food preservation. We have a lot to do in a short amount of time. We have to plan for a more basic lifestyle, and that will give us a jump on it when I get back.”

“No problem,” Josh responded as he nestled Becky close, and the baby girl slid her thumb into her mouth while her eyes began to drift closed.

Texas Dead Storm

Posted: May 15, 2021 in Book V Texas Dead Storm

Texas Dead Storm is Book 5 in the Torn Apart Series. All 5 books are available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited.

If you enjoyed my books, leave a review, and make those long hours of writing worth all the hard work.

Chapter 1


“Well, honey, if y’all get out there and it’s too much, y’all beat feet right back here,” Bessie advised.

Everyone laughed, and Dan answered. “We’ll keep that in mind. I know we have a lot better chance with the help you and Bennie have given us. Your neighbor’s pickup will give us a better vehicle for the whole group to get there together.”

“Most of you picked up using those guns just fine. Just ‘member, quiet is better. Them dead folks hear a lot better than folks did before,” Bessie added.

Dan glanced around. “We gotta get going, gang, if we’re going to make any time today.”

Britt rushed up to Bessie and hugged her. “I’ll miss you, Bessie. You could come with us.”

“Oh, honey. We can’t leave the farm. My Henry’s buried here, and poor Bennie would be lost.” She patted Britt’s back. “Now y’all load up and move on down the road. God, go with y’all. Me and Bennie will be sayin’ a prayer every night; you have a safe trip.”

Kelly gave Bessie a quick hug and ushered the whole crew toward the F-150 and Dodge Ram pickup.

Dan held out his hand to Bennie. “Thanks, man. You’ve been a lot of help.”

Bennie grinned and pumped Dan’s hand before stepping back and smiling shyly. “I will miss you, Dan.”

Jen hurried up to Bessie and hugged her. “Thank you, Bessie. You’ve helped us so much.”

Bruce, Denise, and Rudy joined the others in the farewell with Bessie, and Bennie then all climbed into the two pickups and waved as they drove through the gate and drove away.

“Are we ready for this?” Britt asked as Bennie closed the gate behind them.

Kelly laughed nervously. “I sure hope so.”

“We’re as ready as we can be, girls. Bessie made sure we each can use a handgun and rifle. We have two trucks, supplies, maps, and we’ve planned out our route. I don’t know what else we can do to be more prepared for this,” Dan answered as he glanced up at the pickup following.

“Bruce is doing better. I was worried when Sarah died,” Kelly said.

“Bessie helped more than any of us could have,” Dan answered.

Kelly spread the folded map out on her lap. “I’m sure glad Bessie helped me plot out a route heading west. She said the best way to go is to head southwest then skirt around Llano. It’ll take us out and around the metro areas of San Antonio and avoid the freeway and interstates, for the most part, then we’ll be on the farm to market roads.”

“This is it, we’re heading west now,” Dan announced as he pulled on the state highway. Dan picked up the two-way radio they had retrieved from the sporting goods store. “This is it, Bruce, we’re turning on 71.”

“10-4, good buddy,” Bruce joked.

Dan groaned. “I’ll shoot him if he does that for very long.”

Kelly and Brittboth laughed. “At least he’s joking,” Kelly answered.

They passed several cars stranded along the highways but saw no one around the vehicles. Britt leaned toward the front seats. “I wonder where the people went?”

“Who knows?” Dan asked as he accelerated and glanced at the rearview mirror to make sure Bruce was doing the same.

They drove in silence for over an hour when Dan slowed the truck as they neared an overpass looking down at the remains of a roadside rest area. Dozens of vehicles surrounded the remains of a large camp that told a story that was hard to witness. The roadside park had bathrooms in a brick structure and a creek along the back of the narrow building, making it a natural place for people to gather together for safety with a water source. They set up a perimeter of cars and trucks for protection. It was hard to tell how many people it had sheltered, but remnants of over two dozen tents remained, plus several tarps flapped from branches in nearby trees. With the slowing of the two pickups and the powerful engines’ rumble, the dead campers began to appear. Mutilated bodies lay scattered on the pavement, and those trapped inside the vehicles started to pound on the windows. Some of the broken bodies on the pavement moved in the harsh morning glare at the sound of the pickups.

The two-way radio crackled to life. “Are you seeing the people at the back of the camp?” Rudy asked.

“Where?” Kelly asked.

“Near the bathrooms. Two kids and an adult. I think they’re infected. One doesn’t have an arm,” Rudy answered. “It’s pitiful.”

“Go! Just go,” Brittcried. “Can’t we just go?”

“They were overrun. We’ve seen enough; we’re getting out of here,” Dan answered as he accelerated. “Tell Bruce to move out.”

Dan glanced at the camp one last time, and more than a dozen infected stumbled toward the rumble of the two pickups. Both trucks accelerated and were out of sight within minutes. When they had driven for an hour, Bruce’s voice called over the two-way radio. “I got a couple of girls needing a bathroom break.”

Dan look from side to side as he slowed, and with no buildings or vehicles around, he answered. “This is as good a place as any.”

“Dan…” Brittwhined. “I hate peeing in the bushes.”

Dan slowed the F-150 and stopped the big pickup. Everyone stepped out of the trucks and were more subdued than when they left Bessie’s ranch. No one seemed willing to go far from the vehicles after seeing the campgrounds, so the guys stayed on one side, and the girls walked to the opposite side to relieve themselves behind bushes at the edge of the road.

“I hate this,” Britt said; she and the other girls did their business while Kelly stood guard over them.

“I know, but we can’t clear buildings just to use a bathroom,” Kelly argued.

“I guess. I just hate baring my butt to the world every time I have to pee,” Britt answered. All four of the girls laughed. Kelly stepped behind a bush for her turn, then quickly reappeared.

When the group had all returned and were standing around drinking water and eating snacks, Jen finally voiced what everyone was thinking. “They were attacked, and all died.”

“It looked like that’s what happened,” Dan answered.

“We’re getting close to Llano,” Bruce announced as he threw away the wrapper from his power bar and opened a second bottle of water. “Are we taking 71 or taking 29 out of town?”

“I’m not sure. We have to see when we get there. It’ll depend on the traffic and if we can work our way through the city,” Dan answered.

“Gotcha,” Bruce answered.

“Everyone needs to be ready for whatever we find. There could be infected, and we might have trouble. You know what Bessie said,” Kelly advised. “If they swarm the trucks, we could be overwhelmed.”

“Stop it!” Denise yelled as she covered her ears with her hands. “I don’t want to hear you talking like that.”

Rudy pulled her hands down and wrapped his arm around Denise’s shoulder. “We have to face the reality of going into a populated area. There can be a lot of infected, and it can be dangerous. We have to get used to it.”

She turned and hid her face against Rudy’s chest. “I can’t shoot people. I’ll never be able to do that.”

Rudy patted her back and whispered. “Now Denise, we’ve been through this. They aren’t people anymore, just dead bodies walking and trying to attack us. They’re monsters now.”

“I keep telling myself that, but I still see people,” Denise whimpered.

Jen made an exasperated sigh. “We need to get past Llano before dark. Shouldn’t we get back on the road?”

Dan slapped Bruce on the back. “You’re right; let’s load up. Everyone good with the seating?”

Jen stepped up and grabbed Britt’s arm. “I think I’ll join y’all for a while.”

Kelly smiled. “No problem. Let’s get in the trucks. Get your bag and come on.”

Jen raced to the second truck and grabbed the bag Bessie had packed for Jen, and shoved it in the back seat ahead of climbing into the pickup. “We got all these supplies; why do we have to have a backpack to drag around?”

“Because if something happens, we each have supplies that will keep us alive, just like Bessie says. It’s why we each have our own gun,” Dan answered. “Something bad happens; we each grab our bag and run.”

“We got guns and knives, so, with the backpacks and the supplies inside, we’d have a real chance of surviving even on foot alone until we find new transportation,” Kelly continued.

Dan started the pickup and accelerated. A glance assured Dan that Bruce was following in the second truck. “That’s why when we leave the trucks, we’re each taking our weapons and packs with us.”

“Got it. Bessie said it enough times. Good grief, Dan,” Jen laughed. “You nag as much as my mother, and my mother sounded a lot like Bessie.” Suddenly Jen grew quiet, and the smile faded from her face.

“Sorry,” Dan apologized. “I just don’t think Denise gets it. She worries me.”

Kelly reached over to lay her hand on Dan’s leg. “She’ll come around. Just give her time. I think the situation with Jason just freaked her out.”

Dan covered Kelly’s hand. “We can’t afford to have someone not carrying their own weight. It’s a long way across the state and lots of dangerous places to pass through. We need everyone willing and able to do their part.”

“Denise will get there,” Kelly answered.

“She needs to be there now,” Dan answered. “We all need to be there.” Both Jen and Britt remained quiet for several minutes, and Dan asked. “Are you two?

Finally, Kelly glanced at both Britt and Jen. They both nodded, and Kelly answered. “Yes, we all want to survive and know what we have to do. We keep the packs with us, and we have to be able to defend ourselves. You guys may not always be around to do it.”

“Now, if you and Rudy can just convince Denise,” Dan sighed.

“I’m sure he is talking to her again,” Kelly announced.

The terrain grew more arid and dry as they traveled west and got closer to Llano. Dan watched the gas gage, and when it slid below the half-tank mark, he picked up the walkie and depressed the button and spoke. “Bruce. Let’s look for gas before we hit Llano if we can. I’m at half a tank.”

“I’m not quite there, but it might be a good idea. We can watch for a station,” Bruce answered.

Kelly glanced down at the map. “Seems we should be coming up on a few crossroads in a few miles. Maybe there will be a gas station up ahead.”

Dan used the walkie. “Kelly says there are a few crossroads in a few miles. We’ll watch for a gas station.”

“Sounds good,” Bruce answered.

They drove in silence for several minutes when Britt leaned forward and pointed to a sign in the distance. “I see something.”

I hope you enjoyed Chapter 1 of Texas Dead Storm. All 5 books are available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited.

Escape Texas Dead Book 4 in the “Torn Apart Series” is NOW available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited. Order and enjoy an undead thrill ride. Escape Texas Dead

Chapter 1

Come and Go

Ben seemed more curious than alarmed at the still-healing fissure in his forearm. “Well, Doc? What do you think? Can I keep it?”

“It’s not as bad as it was,” Carrie mumbled while she rotated Ben’s arm back and forth examining the flesh under the glaring light. Finally, she announced. “Well, I only see healthy tissue, but with that said, it’ll still take quite a while to heal. I still can’t stitch it.” She looked up and added. “You should be on IV antibiotics for at least five days more days or longer. You should definitely not be going off into the mountains on a camping trip.”

Ben sighed. “Maybe, but the tribal elders have decided to move the camp, and I have to respect their decision. You’ll just have to give me pills.”

Carrie sighed and packed the wound while she tried to provide a laundry list of reasons to remain close to the lodge, but Ben was just as determined to leave. In the end, she bandaged the wound and gave up any further protests. Carrie disinfected a plastic top and bottom splint, taped them together, and finished the dressing with an Ace bandage to hold both halves in place. She replaced the sling over his shoulder and eased Ben’s arm into the sleeve. “There you go. Now, let me get supplies together while you sit there and rest. I don’t want you passing out.”

Ben laughed. “I’ll try not to litter your floor.”


Liz Jameson watched her father, Will Edmonds, greet Ben’s son, Machn, when he entered the lodge. Machn led a black couple with two teens into the great room. Close on their heels was Tammy Robertson, carrying a single bag. Tammy glanced around as if checking into a hotel that was not meeting her stringent standards.

Liz cringed when she saw Robertson examine the room with such a critical eye. She wondered what her father would decide to do with Robertson, the civil rights attorney. As far as Liz was concerned, Tammy Robertson had not made a stellar first impression.

At a sudden commotion, Liz turned to see John Tilman, and Harry Walters saunter into the great room from the kitchen. Both men dressed in jeans and boots looked like bearded mountain men with sidearms strapped to their hips.

When John and Harry saw the black family, John stomped over to the black man’s side and rested his hand on the man’s shoulder and grinned at Liz and Will. “Folks this is the man I was telling you about, Jesse Burns and his wife, Becka. The kids are LJ and Pattie. Jesse and LJ are both experienced mechanics and Becka cooked at a retirement home.” John winked at Pattie. “The little ‘un is just trouble. Gonna be her daddy’s worse nightmare in a few years when she grows up to be the best looking girl in Texas. Gonna be a knockout.” He laughed and bumped fists with the gawky ten-year-old with skinny arms and knobby knees.

When the child smiled, Liz realized it was probably right. Pattie was all arms and legs at ten, but in five or six years, she would be a real beauty. In addition to a golden mocha complexion, she had large dark eyes and full lips that were quick to smile.

Will stepped forward and extended his hand and greeted both Jesse and Becka. “Welcome. We’re glad to have you with us.”

Liz echoed Will’s greeting, and after handshakes and a few words, Will nodded at John and Harry.

John laughed. “Come on, folks. We’ll get you breakfast then we’ll see you settled in your new home. The two men hustled the family off to the dining room.

Liz turned to Tammy. “Dad, this is Tammy Robertson.” This is going to be interesting.

Tammy Robertson struggled to maintain her appearance of boredom. “Sir. Thank you for accepting us into your little community.” She failed at any attempt to hide her scorn.

Will sighed. “You, Ms. Robertson, present a problem to our little community, as you call us. It seems as much as Ben tried to think of skills you could bring to the table, he could think of nothing you would add to our little community. You can’t cook. You can’t shoot a gun. You can’t even build a fire. You admitted yourself every plant you touch withers and dies. The fact is I just don’t have a clue what you offer.”

Liz struggled to keep from laughing while Will continued to study Tammy as he waited for a response.

“Well…I…I….” Outraged, Tammy began then faltered.

Will interrupted the stammering, “Add that to the fact, we’ll have another problem with where to put you. You see, we don’t have living facilities for single adults. Only families.”

Tammy glanced over her shoulder at Machn whose face was the mask of indifference. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

Machn shrugged. “They already agreed to take you. I’m waiting for my father.” He looked at Tammy for the first time since walking through the door. “You are no longer my problem.”

As if on cue, Carrie led Ben into the great room, unaware of the conversation she was interrupting. “He’s as ready as I can get him.” She handed Machn a large box of supplies. “There’re supplies for cleaning the wound, packing material, and antibiotics. For heaven sakes, use the gloves once and throw them away each time you change the dressings. Do it every day. If it’s not completely healed in two months, come back for more supplies. I didn’t do all of this for you to screw it up.”

Machn smiled for the first time. “You’re the boss. Can he go now?”

“If I were the boss, he’d be turning around and heading back to bed, not chasing off to the mountains,” Carrie answered. “Go, but at the first sign of fever or infection, he needs to come back.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Machn turned to Will and Liz. “Thank you. John says you are familiar with the area we will be calling home. You will always be welcome to our valley.”

Ben shook hands with Will and nodded at each Liz and Carrie in turn. “Will, you and your family have been kind in a cruel world. We all face many struggles in the years to come, but we will always be grateful for your help and offered friendship.” He gave a quick nod, and Machn shifted the box under his arm before guiding Ben out the door. Footsteps crossed the porch, and a few minutes later, the motor of Ben’s truck roared to life. The vehicle drove away.

Will turned to Tammy. “What to do with you is still a problem, but for now, you may as well come and have some breakfast.” He led Liz into the dining room, unconcerned whether or not Tammy followed. She followed, but she failed to hide the frown distorted her face.

When they entered the dining room they found, Harry and John sat at the table with the Burns family. The group laughed as if old friends. John continued a story, “And LJ turned on the main valve with Jesse still looking into the line with the shutoff wide open wondering why it wasn’t working.” John laughed.

Jesse slapped his son on the back with a broad grin. “The first shower I’d had in a couple months,” His laughter boomed.

Pattie pinched her nose. “LJ still needs one.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but this may help that issue, young lady,” Will laughed and handed Pattie a plastic bag of supplies before he turned to John. “Put them in the unit next to your cabin. One of the boys stocked it with some basic supplies yesterday afternoon. Maria and a couple ladies put these together for the women coming in. They said the ladies would like the stuff inside. Stop by the store so they can get clean clothes then get these folks settled. Be sure to show them the golf cart and explain the solar system on the water, so everyone gets a warm shower. Once they get their truck unloaded and refueled, they can put it behind the cabin.”

“Got it.” John gave a thumbs up. “We’ll pick up stabilizer for it at the warehouse.”

Will gave a quick nod, then turned to follow Liz and Tammy to a table with the remains of a breakfast of boiled eggs, ham, biscuits, white gravy, coffee, and juice.

Tammy looked at the buffet. “I don’t eat…”

Will interrupted and stepped up to the table, “Suit yourself. Go sit down, and we’ll join you in a minute.”

Tammy picked up a plate, a biscuit, and a glass of juice. She carried the small meal to the table and settled on a chair looking as if waiting to be sentenced, knowing in a sense, that was what it would be.

Liz and Will stood at the buffet, adding biscuit, gravy, ham, and eggs to their plates. Each carried cups of coffee to the table, then Liz went back for juice for both her and her father. When all three were seated and eating, Will continued his conversation from earlier.

“Young lady, despite all you’ve seen, you seem to have failed to grasp the fact that you have nothing to offer to this brave new world. Now, that said, we offer you a chance to become a productive member of society.”

Tammy looked up from nibbling at the dry biscuit long enough to mumble. “Thank you.”

Liz was enjoying the food. She imagined her child and smiled at the thought of him growing with the high-calorie diet of late. Suddenly she was snapped back to the conversation around her.

“And to ensure you stay on track, my daughter will be the one to guide your development of new skills. She will see that you find a niche to aid our community.”

Liz looked on in horror. “I’m sure…”

Will reached over to cover Liz’s hand with his own. “I’m confident that two mature women will be able to work something out.” He stood. “Meanwhile, I have a lot on my plate this morning. Liz, don’t forget to find her a place to sleep.”

Liz sat, staring at her father’s retreating back. Finally, she whispered under her breath, “Coward.”

Tammy laughed. First, it was a chuckle, then she saw Liz smile, she burst into a full belly laugh. Reluctantly, Liz joined in.

Shaking her head, but still smiling, Liz returned her attention to her plate. Around a piece of ham, she asked.”So, back home, did you live in a condo or an apartment?”

“Neither. I inherited an eighty-year-old three-bedroom craftsman from my great aunt,” Tammy answered. “Mind if I get a bit more breakfast?”

“No. Of course not,” Liz answered.

When she came back, Tammy had ham, coffee, another biscuit with packets of butter and jelly. “The house was a mess.” She smiled at the memory as she added.”Probably hadn’t been touched since my aunt moved in when she was a twenty-year-old war bride. The woodwork was beautiful, and just needed a lot of elbow grease. Of course, back then, I was working on a budget, so I did all the painting, water lines, new electrical…oh, I added high-speed internet lines, media, the whole shooting match. It’s amazing what you can learn on Youtube,” Her voice trailed off, and her smile disappeared.

“Sounds like it was a lot of work,” Liz responded.

Tammy chuckled. “You wouldn’t have believed how bad the bathrooms were; crumbling tile, mold, and water damage.” She sighed. “It took three years, lots of nightmares all rolled together. I learned a lot, though. I found out about weight-bearing walls, plumbing, electrical, repairing water damage, installing sheetrock, mud, floating tape. The list goes on and on.”

“You managed the contractors?”

“Contractors, hell!” Tammy laughed. “I did most of the work with the help of a cousin that worked construction off and on. When I had a project, Abe was there. He helped when he could, explaining what to do and why then he left me to it. I know how to do almost anything from electrical, plumbing to tiling.” Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “Abe was with me. He died that night the bandits attacked the camp. He was the only family I had left.”

Liz responded softly, “I’m sorry.”

Tammy shrugged. “Abe told me to survive. Have a good life. I don’t see how that’s going to happen.”

Liz laughed. “We all lost people we loved. Are you ready for that new life?” Tammy looked up and nodded, then Liz continued. “Alright. You have skills. With that said, let’s get your bag and get you settled. We have a community store for non-food supplies, anything from shampoo to clothes.”

“That’s unexpected,” Tammy commented.

“It won’t be endless, but we cleaned out a couple discount stores. Threw it all in a parade of eighteen-wheelers. We still haven’t cleaned out all the trailers.” Liz sighed. “There was no organization to what they collected. They cleaned out a whole clothing department in two sporting goods stores. All sizes of sports and hunting clothes when they went to get weapons and survival gear.” Liz laughed. “After that, we started created search lists. We didn’t need any more soccer uniforms. You’ll see a lot of kids all dressed the same.”

Tammy laughed. “Never know. You may want to start team sports.”

Liz stood and smiled. “Let’s get you settled.” She led Tammy back in the great room that served as the entrance of the Pine Springs Lodge where Tammy looked around and actually began to appreciate the care and skill it took to create the rustic beauty. At the side of the expanse was the shaved wood stairs and railing leading up to the second level balcony sporting six doors. Liz led Tammy to the front door where her bag lay.

“This place is beautiful. I heard it was going to open as a hunting lodge.” Tammy commented.

“The website went live two weeks before the attack. A few calls had already come in inquiring about hunting trips,” Liz answered. “Now we worry about who saw the site.”

Tammy picked up her small handbag, and Liz led her up the stairs to an open bedroom door. She turned the wooden plaque on the door to read occupied then prompted Tammy inside. “This will be your room, right next to Dad’s. My room is at the other end of the balcony if you need anything.”

“OMG!” Tammy whispered. “Here?” She looked from the dresser with the TV and DVD player to the woodstove, the curtained window, two queen beds with quilts, to the small bath, and closet.

“I can’t say you’ll always be alone since it has two beds, but for now, this is where you can rest your head. We still have six half-finished cabins and expect more survivors to find their way here.”

“What do you mean?”

Liz laughed. “We have the supplies to finished more cabins. Being this remote, Dad had materials brought in by the truckloads. He just completed phase one. It was cheaper to get all the materials at once. Besides, with the storage sheds of supplies, workmen could always find what they needed.”

“Sure, isn’t anything just around the corner up here,” Tammy agreed.

Liz grinned, “Come on. If you’re up to it, we’re going for a ride and pick up clothes, and I’ll show you around.”


John hung on the side of the truck and guided the Burns family down a gravel path a few hundred yards from the lodge. They rounded a stand of trees, and he pointed to his and Harry’s cabin and explained they shared the home with two children. Cody and Trace who now stood outside the bungalow waving excitedly. John directed Jesse to back up to a second cabin nearby. Cody and Trace ran to the cabin after they parked.

“The general imagined anyone coming up here for hunting would come in groups, so the cabins are set up pretty well for families. The construction was scheduled in two stages with eventually a total of sixteen cabins in total projected. What you see nearest to the lodge is the first group, and that first segment of cabins is completed. They’re rustic, and not fancy, but serviceable.”

“Remember, we lived under tarps and on the run for months,” Jesse laughed. “I’m sure what you can provide will be a hell of a lot better than what we’ve been facing for the last few months.”

Next, to Jesse, Becka sniffled and wiped the back of her hand at the corner of her eye. “It’s perfect. It feels like heaven after the way we’ve been living. She leaned into Jesse and hid a sob. After a full minute, she pulled away and smiled. “Sorry. Guess I’m just a little overtired.”

John laughed. “You haven’t even seen inside.”

Jesse parked the truck, and the family jumped out to find Cody and Trace standing at the cabin waiting and excited to meet the new arrivals.

While the boys played it cool, Trace walked up and grabbed Pattie’s hand. “I’m Trace. You want to be my friend? I have a candy bar. You want some candy?”

Pattie looked shell-shocked, then giggled. “My name is Pattie, I like candy.”

John raised his hand. “Trace, calm down. Pattie and her family are moving in, so you got plenty of time. Let me show the family around then you girls can get to know each other.”

“Yes, sir,” She answered, still with a smile creasing her face. She sat down on the steps with her chin in her hands. “I’ll wait right here.”

“Okay folks. Let’s do the grand tour.” John opened the door with the key and gave it to Jesse. “We’re pretty trusting around here. Of course, none of us have much to steal, so not much point in locking doors when a cabin is not in use.” He stepped inside to the small cabin with a sitting area, a kitchenette with a coffee pot, microwave, a few open shelves with dishes and cups, a sink and back door. John pointed at a darkened hall. “Down there are two bedrooms and up above is a loft with twin beds. There’s a full bath with a shower. Each cabin has a cistern setup that catches rainwater from the metal roof. The water is filtered and used in the showers and toilet. Well, water feeds both sinks and is potable. The water heaters are solar-powered and on-demand. The storage batteries can also be charged by heat from the stove during winter, but you have to remember, you leave a bunch of lights on, and the batteries run out you get a cold shower and are left sitting in the dark.” John laughed. “That’s freezing cold showers in winter. Also, keep in mind, the cistern is the only water source for the shower. Run it dry, and you’ll be hoping for rain and taking spit baths until it does.”

Pattie looked confused. “What’s a spit bath? Sounds, gross!”

Everyone laughed.

“We’ll discuss it later, Pattie. What about meals?” Becka asked.

“All meals are served at the main lodge. Three a day. Breakfast is between six and eight, lunch is served from eleven to one and dinner between five to seven. Now that said, and shit happens, so exceptions are made, and if you come back late, there will be some around to reheat something.”

“Thank you. I think we can work with that. If you need help in the kitchen, I have experience in the area,” Becka volunteered.

“I’ve already discussed that with Will. They’ll be glad to know that you’re willing to help in the kitchen. Now that said, we need to discuss some rules we’ve established around here. If someone gets sick or injured, no matter how minor, they see the doc. Someone goes off-site, they get screened at the lodge. No exceptions.”

“No problem. It sounds reasonable.” Jesse agreed. “Where is the garage? You said something about me and LJ working there.”

“Will agreed it would fill a real void that we have. I’ve been filling in, but I just don’t have the skill, for damned sure,” John answered. “Oh, I almost forgot. Be sure to close bedroom doors at night. Knock and don’t enter until you’re sure the person inside is okay no exceptions.”

“Why?” Becka asked, looking a little confused.

“You know what happens, now. We all have to take precautions. Whether it’s a child or an adult, if a person is sick, be careful about going into a room.”

Suddenly understanding, Becka whispered. “We’ll remember.”

“There’s a battery clock, and a couple LED lamps around. They’re rechargeables, and small solar charger is in the desk drawer. It’s up to you to keep the extra’s charged.” John headed toward the door then turned back. “Jesse, if you want to follow me. There’s a solar-powered golf cart in the garage. The boys rolled it out into the sun this morning so it should be charged up. You can start using it at lunchtime. It’s up to you to keep it charged.”

Jesse stuck out his hand to John. “You folks have done so much. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“You’re part of the community now and will be filling a need,” John answered. “You folks get cleaned up, and familiar with the place. I’ll be at the maintenance shed down by the community store if you want to ride down to pick up some clothes. Otherwise, Trace will be hanging around since she’s excited to have a new friend so if you need anything, she’ll probably know who, what, when, or where. We did clean out a Bass Pro, so we have shoes and clothes. Not much for style, but it’s new.”

Harry added. “We have a lake about a mile back in the canyon that is stocked with trout and catfish if you’re interested.”

Jesse laughed and gave him a thumbs-up. “LJ and I will be ready for that fishing trip when you have time.”

If you enjoyed reading the first chapter of Escape Texas Dead, remember, all the Torn Apart books can be found on Amazon.

Image  —  Posted: May 15, 2021 in Book IV Escape Texas Dead

SURVIVE TEXAS DEAD, Book 3 in the “Torn Apart Series” is NOW available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited. Order and enjoy an undead thrill ride. If you enjoy, please leave a review.


Survive Texas Dead

Chapter 1

Strength in Numbers


Liz Jameson clung to the man from Pine Springs Canyon. “You don’t know how glad I am to see you,” Liz whispered. “My father? Is he alive?”

Randy Matherson laughed. “That old goat is just fine.” He stepped back to get a better look. “You’re skinny as hell, but at least you’re alive! So glad to see you and the girls got off the base. Where are Brian and the munchkins?” He turned to the camper and called out. “Hey, Amy! Don’t I get a hello from my favorite girl?”

Liz leaned into his arms and Randy. “They’re gone!” She sobbed against his chest. “I lost them.” Her knees buckled, and she collapsed. “Brian and the girls are gone.”

Randy reached down to pull Liz into his arms and held her against his chest protectively while he glared at Harry and John. “What in the hell is she talking about? The kids and Brian are GONE? Are they dead? What’s wrong with her?” Randy demanded.

“The kids are not dead. Last time we saw them, they were with three soldiers. It’s a long story. As for Lizzy, we’ve been on the road since the day this shit happened. I think she’s exhausted, she hasn’t been eating, and then add, worrying about her family.” Harry shrugged helplessly. “For now, bring her into the camper then we can talk.”

Randy made a curt nod then followed the two strangers toward the camper. On the way, he nodded at Miguel. “Take the trucks back to that stand of Pin Oaks about ten miles down the road and set up camp. Leave room for the camper to pull along one side. Be sure to use a Dakota Fire. I don’t want the light being seen after dark. That house burning is going to draw enough attention. We don’t know who’s out there looking for survivors.”

“Sí, Senor Randy,” Miguel answered then jogged back to the three men standing at the side of the vehicles. After a brief conversation, they got into the two trucks and left.

John stepped into the camper and called out. “It’s okay kids. Come on out.”

Cody and Trace appeared in the back bedroom doorway looking a little like deer in headlights.

“This is a friend of Ms. Lizzy’s. Come sit down so we can put her in the bedroom. Cody, can you bring a couple wet towels and a bottle of water?” When Cody gave a nod and stepped into the kitchen nook, John led Randy through the camper.

“Is she dead?” Trace asked.

Harry laughed. “No, of course not. She’s just not feeling well and really tired.”

John pulled fluid-stained sheets from the bed and stretched a comforter across the bare mattress before answering. “She’ll be right as rain, soon enough.” Randy deposited Liz in the bed, and he continued. “Why don’t you two sit with her and let us know when she wakes up.”

Trace took the wet towel from her brother and laid it on Liz’s forehead. With big sad eyes, she watched the men walk to the sitting area at the front of the camper. Cody hunkered down on the floor, with his back pressed against the foot of the bed to watch the men in the room.

Harry settled his ample bulk on a bench seat and slid his hand across his thick mustache then down his beard, “My name is Harry Walters, this is John Tilman. Lizzy has had a tough time. She told us about her dad’s place up in the mountains. I take it you know each other pretty well.”

Randy nodded. “Couple years now. What happened to the girls? You said they were with soldiers?” Randy asked.

Harry sighed. “We got no way of knowing. Lizzy had to put them through a fence to protect them and led a bunch of infected away. By the time we met and made our way across a half dozen rooftops to get to the kids, they were picked up by three soldiers. The alley was getting overrun with the infected, men yelling, and then gunfire. There was no way to let them know we were even there. Anyway, we tried to follow, but we lost ‘em. We’ve been trying to find them, but they seem to have disappeared around Kerrville.”

“In other words, they’re probably dead,” Randy answered.

“No. We don’t think so. We saw a message on a trailer. It was something Lizzy recognized.” Harry continued. “Before we could check out the area we got ambushed and had to spend some time in the camper yard recuperating. Then the kids and their father showed up. Things got complicated, and we ended up here. It’s been hell convincing her she can’t keep going on like this. I put a stop to it for the baby’s sake.”


“Yeah, Lizzy is pregnant.” Harry nodded.

“What about her husband, Brian?” Randy asked.

John folded his arms across his chest. “No idea. She said he warned her. She tried calling him several times when she was leaving San Antonio then they got trapped, and she lost her cell phone. I know from everything we saw on television early on, the base was overrun. We have no idea if he survived.”

“All we know now is we need to get someplace safe. We got an exhausted pregnant woman and two malnourished kids that just lost their dad.” Harry lamented. “And we’re a couple old goats too beat up for this shit.”

Randy nodded. “We’re only sixty miles from the canyon. We’ve been out searching for supplies. Tomorrow we’re making a stop in Van Horn then we’ll be heading back to Pine Springs. If you don’t mind a little side trip, we should be home before dark.”

Harry glanced through the windshield toward the collapsed house and dying fire. It had been a hot fire that burned the dry out wood quickly. “We’d better move out before the smoke draws attention.”

John cranked the engine and slipped the camper engine into gear before commenting. “We got less than half a tank of gas, but I’m pretty sure we can make it sixty miles.”

Harry chuckled. “Yeah. This is a gas guzzling bitch for sure, but easier on my ass than my bike.”

“It’s settled then.” Randy directed John almost ten miles down the highway to a dirt path heading back into a thick a stand of Pin Oak, briars and scrub grass. They drove half a mile from the highway then turned sharply, into an open camp area. Randy pointed to an opening between the two vehicles. John parked the camper and turned off the engine. Randy opened the side door to the waning light of late spring. The cooling breeze was a welcome relief to the afternoon heat of the stuffy camper. Harry waved at John as he headed to the rear of the camper. “I’ll be out after I check on Liz and the kids.”

John glanced around. “Looks like a pretty good place. No main roads just through those trees I take it.” Randy looked confused, and John laughed.

Harry walked up and answered. “Inside joke. We stopped and parked in a bunch of trees one night. Figured we were good.  Far enough off the road and all. The next morning our truck was surrounded by dead fucks.”

“Not something to worry about here.” Randy slapped his hands together. “I’d like to hear more about your trip, but for now let’s get busy. My guys will set up some traps at the perimeter. If you two don’t mind, we’ll split the watch three shifts, two each for four hours.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “Sounds like a plan. We can take care of that while Lizzy and the kids get a good night’s sleep. When we hit that town tomorrow, we’ll check to see if we can get filled up while you get your supplies. Might be better for Lizzy and the kids to have the air conditioning when we head out.”

Liz stood in the doorway watching the two men frowning. “So, I guess you have it all worked out?” She said crossly.

Both men turned, and Harry began. “Now, Lizzy. We’re just….”

“I know what you’re doing. You’ve decided I don’t get a say in anything that happens. When did I suddenly become a helpless female?” She railed. “This is not circling the wagons protecting the women and children time.”

“Now Lizzy. You’re in the family way and….” Harry began then grew quiet when he saw the scowl on her face.

“I think it’s time I see to making the camp.” Randy escaped with a quick nod to Liz.

John looked at Harry, then Liz and quickly followed. “Wait up I’ll help.”

Harry started to speak, but Liz held up her hand. She turned and walked back into the camp and dropped to the seat next to the table. She felt tears threatening and bit her bottom lip. The ache for her children was overwhelming.

“Ms. Liz. What’s wrong?” Trace asked sadly.

Liz took a shallow breath and squared her shoulders. “Nothing. Let’s see if I can get you a couple clean shirts and boxers. You can get cleaned up, and I’ll get your clothes washed. They’ll be dry by morning.”

An hour later Liz and the kids were clean. The water was fast moving and clear in the small creek. Using a bar of soap, clothes Liz washed shirts while John and Harry set up camp with Randy’s men. Afterward, the men sat around a small campfire getting to know each other.

“Spyders?” Randy asked. “You got that far on tricycles?”

“Fuck you, asshole.” Harry laughed. “We did alright until some assholes waylaid us on the outskirts of Odessa.”

John poked at the dying fire. “They blocked off streets, kinda random like. It looked like accidents, abandoned vehicles. Not really suspicious like. We didn’t suspect a thing. I hit the cable then it was too late. They strung a steel cable across the road and when I hit it caught between my wheel and handlebars. I think it was supposed to catch up in the wheels of a vehicle and stop it. Instead, it threw us for a loop. We managed to pick up rifles and packs from the bikes and crawl off. We made it to the edge of town and hid out in a camper lot until the kids, and their dad broke into the office. Who knows, the gang chasing them could have been the same men that attacked us.”

John looked at the camper then continued. “There was a dead fuck in the cashier’s booth with a case of water and a few candy bars laying on the counter. The kids hadn’t eaten in a couple days and were hungry. The father broke in and got bit.”

“That’s tough,” Randy answered as he rose. “Well folks, let’s get some rest, we got a big day tomorrow.”

The next morning Randy led the caravan of three vehicles to the hill overlooking Van Horn. It wasn’t much of a town. Main Street was six blocks long. At one end of the small cluster of buildings were the school, a drug store and Quick Stop while at the other was a veterinary clinic, a single island gas station and Rosita’s Cafe advertising fry bread and taquitos. Several buildings in between were empty storefronts. Clustered around the retail center were several dozen houses and a few large metal buildings.

Vehicles were stopped haphazardly up and down the streets. In the distance the Randy could see, a heavy-duty truck had been driven up the two steps into the glass front of the school entrance. There were neither people or infected on the streets. The small town was eerily quiet.

Randy, Harry, and Miguel met in front of Randy’s truck. “Where is everyone?” Harry asked in a hushed whisper.

“I don’t see a soul. This can’t be good.” John added.

“I don’t know if we’re lucky or not with the vet and gas station across from each other,” Harry commented.

“We’ll go to the veterinary office while you gas up that gas guzzler first. You roll into the station and with your crew. Pablo and his son will keep watch.” Randy announced.

“Sounds good. We have a dry lift siphon pump we found in the camper garage. It’s not fast but works with the ground storage. After we fill up, we’ll get inside the store and see what we can salvage.” Harry added.

Dead Texas Roads

Posted: June 16, 2018 in Book II Dead Texas Roads

DEAD TEXAS ROADS, book 2 in the “Torn Apart Series” is NOW available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited. Order and enjoy an undead thrill ride.

Dead Texas Roads

Chapter 1

Stay or Go


Phil Baker made a compelling argument for Tate and Doyle to remain at his high bluff compound in the Hill Country of central Texas. When he had finished his speech, he let the subject drop. Tate Hamilton, once a long haul truck driver, was left to mull over her options, stay at the protected refuge or leave and find her family? Phil’s retreat was a safe place to stay, but if she stayed, she would never learn the fate of her mother and sister in Houston.

Phil spun the wheels of his chair and rolled toward his wife sorting bedding for the latest arrivals. There were a lot of people to feed at Phil’s compound and sleeping arrangements to make. Phil’s family included his wife and two girls, John and Mary with two kids, Bill and Janice, Ben’s parents, and Gina, with her baby. The couples and Gina each ended up in bedrooms while the kids were left to sleep on pallets on a second story sleeping porch.

Doyle turned to Tate. “Well, what are your thoughts?”

Tate shrugged as she picked up her own quilt and walked toward the leather couch. “Guess I’ll think about it.”

Doyle and Tate, as outsiders were offered the sizeable L-shaped couch in the den. She threw her quilt over the seat and back to retrieve later if she got cold. Doyle threw a pillow on a pallet on the floor and within minutes was snoring softly.

Ben, Phil’s nephew Tate had rescued, complained he was too big to bunk with the little boys, and he didn’t want to hear the young girls chatter all night, so he opted to sleep in the den with Doyle and Tate. He curled up with an Army blanket and pillow on the short section of the sofa opposite Tate.

Tate and Doyle offered to be part of the guard rotation, but Phil declined. He announced they deserved at least one night’s sleep. John and the other guards walked outside leaving the occupants of the house to settle down for the evening. Phil disappeared to his third story look-out in a cubical on the roof, and the room grew quiet.

Tate shifted her position for the third time in as many minutes trying to get comfortable. She slid the cushion, under her butt, back in place then folded her hands behind her head while she listened to the guard’s heavy steps on the boards outside the window, as he strolled the wrap around porch. She lay awake thinking about Phil’s offer of a place to stay.

“Psst,” Ben whispered. “Tate, you awake?”

With the moonlight through the windows, Tate studied him. “Yeah. I’m awake.”

“You know, I played a lot of games on my X-box. One was killing monsters. This is like that in real life.”

“Yeah. I supposed that could sum things up pretty well,” Tate answered, wondering where the conversation was going.

“I’m not sure I can do it,” he whispered; his voice catching. “They‘re people.”

Tate swung her feet around to rest on the floor. In the moonlight, she could see Ben huddled against the arm of the couch, with tears glistening in his eyes.

“You can’t think like that. The walking-shit-bags aren’t people now. They’re just dead bodies moving because they were infected by an engineered virus.”

“But…” he whispered.

“But nothing. If you hesitate, you’ll be a danger to yourself and everyone around you. I know this sucks Ben, but you have to forget they were people and see only monsters ready to tear you and your family apart.”

“Are we going to make it?” he whispered. “I mean people. Can we recover from this?”

“All we can do is try to survive.” Tate sighed. “You need to get some rest, now. Things will have to change for sure.”

Ben slid down on his end of the couch. “I guess you’re right. Good night.”

Tate closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but instead mulled over her and Ben’s conversation until exhaustion took over.

Tate woke to the smell of coffee when dawn barely peeked through the trees. Phil’s wife, Emma, was busy in the kitchen making biscuits and white gravy with ham. By the time Phil appeared, Doyle and Tate were already moving around. When they had both gotten a cup of coffee, he asked them to follow him outside. He rolled out on the porch in his wheelchair and pointed Tate and Doyle to two woven-willow chairs.

“Have you thought about our conversation?” Phil asked.

Doyle slapped his leg and snorted. “I’ll be damned. You really want us to stay?”

“This is a big decision you’re making, considering you have known us for less than twenty-four hours,” Tate answered.

Phil nodded. “I got a chance to see you both in action. With me being in this damned chair, we’ve only got four able-bodied men, and that’s counting Ben as one of them. That’s not enough. If these people are going to survive, I have to have good people to help.”

Doyle nodded. “I ain’t got anyone expecting me; I was just looking for a place to hunker down. I’ll take you up on the offer.” He turned to Tate. “What about you, girlie?”

Tate looked at Phil, unsure of what to say. “Since I left San Antonio, I’ve been heading to my cousin’s place. It’s remote, and I’m hoping my mom and sister made it there.”

“The roads are pretty bad right now; lots of cars and dead out there. Maybe it would be safer to wait a week or two before you head out, again,” Doyle advised.

Phil added. “I don’t want to pressure you, but Doyle might be right. The roads have all the city folks trying to get somewhere safe and ending up being part of the problem. That’s exactly what happened in Bandera and Bandera Falls. Out-of-towners brought infected with them. Only took one or two to take down both towns.”

“You might be right,” Tate mumbled.

“You could stay here and wait it out.” Phil offered.

“I appreciate the offer, but you have too many people already for a four-bedroom house,” Tate answered.

Phil chuckled. “I agree, accommodations leave something to be desired. I’ve been thinking about it, too. If you help us with the housing situation, and you still want to go, I’ll add two full fifty-five-gallon drums to my previous offer. That would be an extra hundred gallons of diesel, plus supplies to get you to your family.”

“All that for a day of hauling?” Tate asked.

Phil shrugged. “Yep. That’s the deal. But if you change your mind along the way, you’re still welcome to stay.”

“What did you have in mind to solve the housing problem?” Tate asked.

“There’s row after row of FEMA trailers lined up in Boerne about twenty miles south on Hwy 46. If we could get three or four of those brought back here, it would alleviate the housing issue real quick. We’re going to have to upgrade the septic system eventually, but water is no problem. I have two wells. We’ll have to do some plumbing work and lay some piping, but otherwise, we should be alright.”

Tate laughed. “It sounds like it’s more than a couple days of work.”

“Yeah. If we can add a couple trailers full of provisions, we’d be set for months,” Phil answered.

“It looks like you’ll need a few more than that,” Doyle pointed toward the gate. “Look outside the gate.”

Tate and Phil turned toward the gate and saw three vehicles sitting outside the wrought iron barrier. John and Bill with rifles in hand rushed out of the house and up to where Phil sat staring at a pickup, van and sedan.

John asked, “What are we going to do about them?”

Phil reached for the wheels on his chair and rolled toward the gate. “John, you and Bill cover us.” Both Tate and Doyle followed Phil.

A man with a bat in his hand stepped out of the front vehicle. His eyes darted from left to right as if expecting an attack at any moment.

Phil rolled up to within a dozen feet of the gate and looked out at the three vehicles. Doyle and Tate stood on either side.

Outside the gate sat a relatively new Ford F-150, a minivan, and an old Chevy Impala. Tate stepped away about ten feet from Phil to get a better look at the occupants. There were two men still sitting in the truck the leader had been driving. In a light green minivan smeared with blood set a young couple with the heads of two small children peeking over the front seats. The Impala sat behind the van with an old man wearing a baseball cap and a gray-haired woman at his side. The back seat seemed to be filled with boxes and stacks of supplies.

Phil scowled at the man outside the gate. “George, what do you want?”

“Your little escapade at the ball field yesterday burned down the Electric Co-op. A bunch of us were staying there. We need a place to stay.”

“Who’s in this WE, you’re talking about?” Phil asked.

Tate turned at the sound of running steps behind them. Ben followed by John and Bill raced to Phil’s side. Ben cupped his hand and whispered something at Phil.

George opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted when Phil demanded. “What are you trying to pull? You have more vehicles down the hill from my property.”

The driver of the Impala stepped out of the car and walked up to the gate. “Shut up, George. I told you this was not a good idea.” The old man turned to the gate. “Phil, twenty of us got out of the co-op. We got women and children and have nowhere else to go.”

Phil nodded at Ben, John, and Bill. “Call them up here. Pull up to the gate, one at a time. The vehicles will sit outside until we bring ‘em in one at a time. Everyone gets checked for bites before they step through the gate.”

George started to protest, but Phil raised his hand. “My place, my rules.”

“I’m the mayor of Bandera –” George protested.

“And this ain’t Bandera! Anyone don’t like my terms, turn around and go back down the bluff.”

The portly, old man looked at George, one last time before calling out. “The wife and I agree to your terms, Phil. I’m sure the rest will.” He turned to George and added, “If you got a problem with it, George, pull aside, and let us start lining up at the gate.”

George got in his truck and pulled to the turn-around at the side of the wrought iron fence. He parked the F-150 but stayed behind the wheel.

The old man headed back to his vehicle, stopping to speak to the couple in the mini-van on his way. The green van rolled up to the gate, both front doors opened, and the man herded his wife and two children to the gate. Quietly, without a word, the couple stripped to underclothes and turned around slowly, then dressed and undressed the kids. Phil nodded to Ben, and the gate rolled open.

The woman picked up the kid’s clothes and hurried to the passenger door with the kids in tow. They jumped inside and the man drove through the gate. Ben closed the barrier behind the van.

“Stop!” Emma Nolan stormed through the front door of the house. “Phillip Nolan! You will not do what I just saw, again!” She yelled at the open windows of the van, “I’m sorry!”

John waved the van to the side the compound. The Impala moved to the closed gate and stopped. Three more vehicles rolled up behind the Impala.

Emma rushed to Tate and pushed a handful of sheets into her arms. “We’re civilized human beings and will not be traumatizing women and children. No more strip searches for women in front of all these men. We’ll do the inspection behind these sheets.” She turned to Phil with a pointed glare.

Phil held up his hand in surrender and called out for two pieces of rebar. A minute later, Ben ran across the yard with two six foot lengths of metal.

Emma crossed her arms and John rolled back the gate wide enough to walk through. Tate joined him with the stack of sheets in hand. She tied a corner of fabric to a spiked length of wrought iron fencing then another about five feet away. She tied two more sheets, at either corner. By then, John had pushed both pieces of rebar into the ground. Tate tied the ends of the second and third pieces of fabric to the stakes. She used the fourth sheet to finish off the enclosure. When she was finished, she had a sheeted enclosure.

The older couple got out of the car, and the woman grinned at Emma. “Bless you, dear. I appreciate this.” The woman stepped into the enclosure and a few minutes later called out, “I’m ready.”

Emma tapped Tate’s shoulder. “That’s you, dear.” She turned to hurry back to the house.

Cringing, Tate stepped to the sheet and pulled back the edge of the sheet that allowed her to peek inside.

The old woman smiled. “It’s alright, honey. I ain’t got nothing you haven’t seen in the mirror.” She made a slow turn and at Tate’s quick nod, began redressing.

Tate turned back to Phil and gave him a thumbs-up. The Impala entered the compound and parked next to the mini-van. The elderly woman joined the young family on a nearby picnic table in the shade of a large oak.

The occupants of three more vehicles went through the inspection, then came through the gate. Only the F-150 sat outside. The old man walked up to Phil. “Don’t know if you remember me, Phil, I’m Bradley Wilson. I’m not much for telling tales, but you better be careful with George. He’s losing it.”

“Who’s with him?” Phil asked.

“His two boys,” Bradley answered.

“You can’t leave us out here,” George called out from the window of the F-150.

Phil called out, “You know what it takes to come in.”

“I got my boys. I’m in charge of this group,” George protested. “I need to be in there to take care of them.”

“Do what I ask then,” Phil demanded.

Finally, George spoke to his sons, then slowly stepped out of the truck. Both younger men followed. They stepped up to the gate and began removing clothes. Following their father’s instructions, they unbuttoned their shirts and removed them then loosened their belts and pants to pulled them to their knees. Meanwhile, George stepped out of his loafers, then pulled off his shirt, and his pants down. He scowled as he turned around.

Phil nodded, then rolled over to the boys.

The older of the two young men appeared to be in his late teens or early twenty’s while the other looked no more than fifteen. The older had stripped off his shirt and pulled down his pants to hang around his knees, then stood without turning. The younger man stepped out of his boots, then slipped off his pants. He did a quick turn, and when he saw Phil scowl, he turned again more slowly.

After looking over George and his younger son, Phil gave the man a quick nod then turned back to the older brother and sighed, “Boots off. I want to see your legs and feet.”

The young man turned to his father, and George protested, “Damn-it! This is bullshit! Open the fucking gate!”


TERROR IN TEXAS and DEAD TEXAS ROADS, 2 books in the “Torn Apart Series” are NOW available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited. Order and enjoy an undead thrill ride.

Terror in Texas

Chapter 1

The Warning

“Don’t stop, no matter what you see, just keep driving.” Captain Brian Jameson’s voice cracked with emotion. “Get as far from the city as you can, as fast as you can. When you get to your dad’s place, tell the General, they used drones with aerosols to attack the bases. It’s worse than anything we ever imagined.”

“But Brian, I don’t have….” Liz interrupted.

Brian interrupted. “It doesn’t matter what you don’t have, Liz. You and the girls have to leave NOW if you’re going to survive! Remember, I love yo….” The line went dead.

Liz called back twice, but each attempt went straight to voicemail. She tried a third time and got a busy circuit message. She tried texting, but the circuit only produced an error message. Too much cell traffic was not a good sign. She remembered the same issue with the cell phones during the last big storm on the coast.

She pulled her nine-month-old, Claire, from the half-filled shopping cart and walked out of Walmart without looking back. She drove to Fort Sam Houston Elementary School on Nursery Road in San Antonio.

When she looked in the visor mirror, she saw the paleness of her complexion and the panicked look in her eyes. She kept hearing her husband’s voice repeating, NOW, NOW, NOW, over and over again.

When she got to the school, she made her way down the white tile hall to the front desk.

The receptionist looked up from her computer screen. “Hi Mrs. Jameson, what can I do for you today?”

“I need to pick up Amy. We’ve had a family emergency.” Liz answered as she glanced down at her watch. “She’s in Miss Helen’s class.”

“Sure.” The receptionist answered. “Just give me a few minutes to contact her teacher and have her brought to the office.” The woman picked up the phone, spoke to the teacher then smiled back at Liz. “She’ll be here shortly.” She turned back to her computer.

Liz stepped back into the hall. Claire pulled at her mother’s hair and giggled. Liz rocked back and forth nervously. “Ready for a car ride, Claire Bear?” Liz asked as she patted the baby’s back.

While she waited, Liz did a mental inventory of the diaper bag contents: a can of dry formula and a box of plastic baby bottle liners, at least half a dozen diapers, four bottles of water, wafers, a change of clothes, an extra blanket, and three protein bars. If she drove straight through, she could make the ten-hour drive with only stopping for gas and maybe take out from a Micky-D or the gas station.

“Mommy?” Amy smiled questioningly. “Where are we going?”

Liz jumped at the touch of her daughter’s hand against her bare arm. She wrapped her fingers around Amy’s hand.

“Thank you.” Liz made a quick nod at the receptionist, and the teacher’s aid that had brought Amy from class then turned toward the door. She glanced down at Amy and answered. “We have to go see grandpa. We have to hurry.”

When she got to the car, Liz got the baby settled in her car seat with a bottle, Amy belted in her booster seat. She got behind the wheel and pulled out of the parking lot. Liz stopped at the first Shell station she saw, filled up the tank, and grabbed a handful of snack bars and extra bottles of water.

She drove the surface streets to the closest on-ramp and entered the freeway. She turned north on the interchange to out of the city. With each passing minute, traffic slowed and grew more and more congested as more vehicles joined the choked freeway. Sirens screamed in the distance.

Liz studied the traffic. It was a lot more than rush-hour beginning early. They neared the military base and traffic slowed to a standstill. Liz looked around and saw they were stuck behind a row of older retail buildings. The brick structures included half a dozen businesses while the back parking lot was surrounded by an eight-foot hurricane fence. It all looked just a little run down and tired with the dumpsters and trash blowing around the alley and rear parking. From what she could see, the buildings included a bar at the end, a nail salon, retail stores and two buildings that were so non-descript, they could be anything with their overhead doors.

“Mommy, aren’t we going to Grandpa’s house?” Her daughter asked.

“Yes, honey…as fast as we can,” Liz answered. With her foot on the break, Liz looked over her shoulder and studied her daughter. “What are you drawing, Amy?”

Amy held up a sheet of paper. Inside a red heart was written, Claire & Amy. Amy beamed. “See, Claire and Amy love Mommy.” She passed it over the seat to Liz. “I made it for you.”

“Thank you, sweetie. I love it.” Liz smiled and passed it back to her daughter. Put it in the diaper bag so I can keep it.” She gave the sheet of paper to her daughter and turned back at the stalled traffic ahead.

The city streets she saw below the freeway were just as congested as the highway. Now they were at a standstill. She couldn’t get off the freeway, and she would have the same problem on surface streets. She turned on the radio.

The station reported a terrorist attack on two bases in San Antonio and two other Texas cities. Within hours of the attack, unusual assaults and soldiers attacking other soldiers was reported. That had to be what Brian was talking about. Liz waffled between wanting to know what was happening and not wanting to alarm or frighten Amy. Liz finally turned off the radio. She now understood the attack had somehow caused people to violently attack anyone they came in contact with. The base was overrun, and the violence was spilling into the civilian communities surrounding the base. They were barely a mile from Ft Houston. They were in trouble. Nothing could change the fact they were in deep trouble.

Frustrated drivers honked and jockeyed for small gaps in the traffic. Liz looked at her phone. The charge had nearly depleted. She pulled a charger from the glove box and plugged in her cell phone.

Traffic had not moved for the last thirty minutes. Liz glanced over her shoulder at the girls while she drummed her fingers against the steering wheel. The baby was sleeping in her car seat, while Amy was reading since Liz had turned off the radio.

Liz watched the fuel gauge slip below the three-quarters tank mark and turned off the air conditioner. She began to worry if they would even make it to the edge of town before she would need to stop for gas again. When the air in the ten-year-old silver Buick became stifling, Liz worried the girls would get too warm. She lowered both front windows to let in the fresh spring air hoping it would cool the car. After a moment, Liz realized the air smelled wrong. She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. There was an unpleasant scent in the air. Something obnoxious mingled with the odor of exhaust, freshly mowed grass and cooking meat from a nearby Bar-B-Que restaurant. The invading stench was a mixture of a slaughterhouse and an open sewer.

Still considering the nasty odor, she heard shouting and a distant scream and turned to look through the windshield. She leaned toward the window to listen.

A massive four-wheel drive truck with oversized tires roared to life several vehicles ahead of her car. The brake light flashed red, and the driver gunned the engine. It was an angry, demanding sound. The driver leaned out an open window and yelled at a Fiat driver directly in front of him.

“Move it!” He waved in frustration. “Get that piece of shit out of my way.”

The truck driver eased the truck, with its off-road tires, forward to tap the back of the Fiat with the front brush guard. He cursed at the Fiat driver then jammed the truck into reverse and slammed into the minivan behind his truck. He raced his engine and yelled, while both the mini-van and the Fiat drivers made tentative efforts to move out of the truck’s way. But they were trapped by the vehicles in front and behind them as well.

The truck driver jockeyed back and forth again and again. All the while, the driver worked on maneuvering the vehicle toward the grassy decline at the side of the highway, but the vehicles in front and behind had the truck wedged in tight. The truck driver yelled and cursed, but neither blocking vehicle could move enough to free his pickup despite the damage he was doing to the other vehicles. Screams of frustration and anger from all three drivers filled the air.

Liz watched the fiasco, but could only see a limited number of vehicles because of the gradual curve of the highway. There seemed to be a commotion taking place around a UPS truck at the beginning of the turn among the furthest vehicles.

Suddenly two men in khaki uniforms appear from the front of a brown panel truck and stumble toward a car directly behind the truck. Both men walked in an uncoordinated, jerky-stagger that made them appear drunk. Their khaki uniforms sported blotches of dark stains up and down the front. Their lower faces were covered in blood.

The large pickup accelerated and roared forward only to hit the Fiat then backed up while the driver jumped from the car and raged at the driver. Each time he shifted from drive to reverse he rammed into an offending vehicle more violently. Terrified by the vehicular assault, the Fiat driver ran away from his automobile to stand at the side of the roadway screaming a string of profanity at the truck driver. Further ahead, the pair of khaki-clad men made their way to the first vehicle behind the UPS truck and slammed their hands against the sedan’s side window.

Liz could hear yells from the female driver with the thuds of the assault against the glass. Even the truck driver stopped his frantic efforts to escape the traffic jam to watch the exchange. Liz’s heart rate began to quicken. What she was seeing was crazy.

The sedan’s male passenger jumped from the passenger side of the car and raced around the back of the vehicle to confront the two men beating on the driver’s window. The man with bulging arms stretching the fabric of his white t-shirt puffed up his chest to face the two men. He raised a fist and began to yell into at the UPS drivers.

One of the khaki-clad men turned on the passenger and pulled him into an awkward, bear hug. The second delivery driver turned from the car and leaned his head toward a flailing arm of the protesting passenger and grabbed it with both hands. He buried his face against the bare flesh. When he straightened up, his face was covered in bright red blood, and his jaws moved up and down chewing at a hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

The screaming defender thrashed his arms and kicked his feet trying to free himself from his captors. The second attacker leaned into the guy’s neck and shook his head back and forth like a dog tearing at raw meat. When he pulled his face away, blood sprayed across both attackers from the ripped flesh of the passenger’s neck. Suddenly the man’s screams stopped, he quit flailing and slumped against his attackers. The captors dropped the lifeless victim to the ground, and the terrified screams of the sedan’s driver intensified with the attackers redirected their attention at the vehicle’s window.

Liz stared ahead unable to believe what she was seeing. Her breath came in quick shallow gasps. Under her breath, she whispered. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

Unable to even respond to her daughter, Liz watched as more people appeared behind the delivery drivers. All were covered in splotches of blood and looked horribly injured. They moved in the same halting, jerky gate as the USP men. They stumbled toward the pair that had renewed their assault of the sedan’s window.

Several of the new arrivals began their attack on the windshield. The window glass suddenly shattered and arms reached through the shattered glass into the car to pull the woman from the vehicle. The driver screamed and slammed her fists against her attackers then disappeared into the cluster of bloodied bodies.

Liz looked on in horror as more and more bloodied and injured people stumbled around the vehicles and made their way toward her car. The wave of horribly wounded people lurched past the sedan to the next vehicle. A young male driver threw open his door to run, but one of the monsters had gotten too close and grabbed him from behind. The attacker fell on the youth’s back to bury his face in his neck. The monster pulled his face away with a red, dripping hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

More assailants turned their attention to the screaming kid, each tearing flesh from his writhing body. Blood spurted from his arms and legs. Within seconds he stopped struggling. The captors released the body, and it disappeared under the cluster of attackers assaulting the next vehicle. Several monsters got to their feet and stumbled over the bodies toward the next truck.

Bloodied and gore-covered infected pulled the driver of a small pickup from his vehicle and a man in a blood-drenched white shirt grabbed an arm and raised it to his mouth. His teeth dug into the flesh and pulled away with a glob of bloodied flesh. Several of the monsters joined in the assault. One by one they buried their faces into flesh and tore mouthfuls of bloodied meat from live people.

Attackers that couldn’t reach live prey spilled around the victim being consumed to make their way to the next car where a woman had thrown the car door open and was struggling to free a child from a car seat in the back seat. Within seconds, they both disappeared into the mass of bloodied bodies.

The driver of the large truck doubled his efforts to free his pickup of the two vehicles that wedged him into the traffic jam. The massive Ford slammed into the small Fiat, sifted the truck into reverse and stomped on the gas. The truck hit the minivan, and the bumper jumped up the low-slung hood leaving the vehicle with one wheel off the concrete.

The driver turned the wheel and jammed the truck into drive. The rear wheel on pavement burned rubber and caught enough traction to flip the truck to the side crashing down against the guardrail shattering the window and windshield. The driver escaped the vehicle and vaulted over the guardrail and disappeared down the incline.

Liz watched in the waning afternoon light as two more women were pulled through shattered windows. Terrified screams filled the air. More of the infected headed for the next car while a man struggling to release his seatbelt to escape was surrounded and disappeared under the assault.

People threw vehicle doors open and ran from the wave of blood-covered aggressors working their way from car to car toward Liz. They would get to her car in a matter of minutes. They would come for Liz and her daughters.

Liz’s car was trapped. There was no way to pull off the highway with the guardrail at her right and vehicles blocking her in front, back and to her left. There was a tide of murder and mayhem rolling toward them, and she was powerless to drive away. She looked at her ten-year-old. Amy’s face. It mirrored her own horror at the sounds coming closer by the second.

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

“We’re getting out of here!” Liz answered urgently.

“I’m scared,” Amy asked. “What’s happening?”

“Unbuckle the baby, now. Hurry honey. Then get the diaper bag.”

Amy unsnapped the car seat harness on Claire then pulled her sister to her lap. Meanwhile, Liz crawled over the console to the passenger seat. She jerked open the door and crawled out of the vehicle. She opened the back door just as Amy reached for the strap of the diaper bag. Liz took the baby while Amy scrambled out of the car dragging the bag behind her.

Liz dropped three bottles of water in the bag and stuffed the bag of snacks in the baby’s bag. Looking over her shoulder at the advancing attackers, Liz grabbed Amy’s hand and pulled her between two cars. At the edge of the highway, they climbed over the metal guardrail. Clutching Claire to her chest, and still holding Amy’s hand, Liz faltered down the steep incline toward the distant fence stretching across the back parking lot of the row of businesses. When she glanced over her shoulder, she saw some of the infected had noticed the escaping throng of people and were beginning to follow.

The infected weaved between vehicles and headed toward the barrier. Liz looked back and was relieved when the monsters seemed baffled by the thigh-high wall. They stood at the railing reaching out but were stymied by the metal barrier. Suddenly, their outstretched arms and leaning bodies overbalanced and they fell over.

They lined up at the barrier and one by one the infected face-planted into the gravel on the other side. The first creature with a shaved head and biker jacket tumbled over the barricade skinning the flesh from half his face. He stumbled to his feet, got overbalanced and hit the ground again. He fell halfway down the incline stopping folded into a cluster of oleanders. One after another of the infected leaned over the guardrail until they fell. More and more of the tattered and torn monsters pressed against those leaning into the barrier until none could move temporarily.

Three of the monsters were halfway down the incline when a large overweight woman in a bloodied housedress fell over the fence and began to roll. She hit the trio. The monsters ended in a huge pile of limbs trapped under the woman when she landed on her back. With her head downhill and with bodies on either side, she rolled back and forth unable to move.

More and more of the monsters fell over the guardrail, got up and began making their way toward those trying to escape. Dozens of people raced past Liz and the girls, but none offered to help them. Liz knew they were on their own and quickly being left behind to suffer a horrible fate.

Liz grabbed Amy’s hand. “Run! Honey, we have to hide!”

They ran from the roadway toward the eight-foot hurricane fence, Liz looked up and down for an opening. She had to find a place her children would be safe. Desperate, she turned toward the end of the fencing looking for an entrance and saw nothing.

Near panicked, Liz saw a dip in the ground under the woven metal fence behind what appeared to be a bar or eatery of some sort. She could see a neon sign at the front of the alley. Boxes surrounded a dumpster midway from the front of the building, near a side door.

Liz dragged Amy toward the divot in the ground. Shoving the baby into her daughter’s arms, Liz fell to her knees and tore at the weeds in the hole. When the grass was cleared, she dug into the soft, wet earth with her bare hands.

After a full minute, she pulled at the bottom of the woven fencing testing the size of the opening. The wire gave way several inches and the opening was almost big enough for her daughters to get through. She dug frantically ignoring the pain of breaking and tearing nails. She glanced over her shoulder. The infected were less than a hundred yards away.

“They’re coming!” Amy whispered frantically.

As the first of the street lights blinked on, Liz realized she was out of time. She jumped to her feet and pulled at the fencing with all her strength. It was now or never. She ignored the guttural moans growing louder and closer by the minute.

“Put Claire down and crawl through the opening,” Liz ordered.

“Mom?” Amy looked at Liz with a puzzled look on her face.

“Now! Hurry, Amy. Do as I say.”

Amy laid her sister on the grass, and the baby started crying.

“Lay down. Slide through head first. Quick, honey.” Liz whispered.

Amy began to cry but did as told. Liz pulled up on the fencing with all her strength creating an opening just big enough for Amy.

“Now! Slide through.” Liz whispered frantically. “Use your heels. Get through as quick as you can.”

Amy lay down on the grass with her head at the opening. She kicked her heels into the ground while she pulled at the weeds on the other side. When Amy was through, Liz released the fence and fell to her knees.

“I’m sorry, sweetie.” Liz cooed as she picked up Claire. She pushed the bag toward the opening. “Pull the bag through, Amy. Hurry!”

Amy gave a tug and the bag caught in the middle of the opening under the fence. Liz pushed, while Amy pulled on the long strap. Her eyes grew large. “Mommy, they’re coming. Please hurry.” Liz scooted around on her butt then placed her foot against the bag and kicked. The bag burst through, and Amy fell to her bottom.

While Amy got to her feet, Liz pulled the baby to her chest and kissed her forehead. She clutched her close as she covered her daughter with the blanket then guided the infant through the hole.

“Sh…shush now Amy, take your sister. Put the bag over your shoulder. Run and hide.” She could hear the dead coming closer.

“Hurry Mommy! You have to get under the fence!” Amy wailed near panic.

“I can’t. I’m going to run now. Head for the building and hide. Stay safe, and I’ll find you.”

Liz turned and ran. Dozens of the dead followed her while still others leaned against the fence reaching out toward Amy and her sister.

“Mommy!” Amy screamed.

Tears ran down Liz’s face as she ran away.

Second Chance – Part 1

Posted: February 17, 2018 in Book I Terror in Texas

It took nearly a month for Liz to get to feeling like herself. She got up one morning and was up and dressed before she realized she was anxious to face the day. She slid her hand over the slight swelling in her lower abdomen and smiled. Brian would be happy. She, like Will, had decided this baby would be a boy. Brian, like all other men, always wanted a son and they had talked about another child, but Claire had been so young.

Liz took a deep cleansing breath, opened the door, and left the room. She had gained almost six pounds according to Cassie at her last check-up. With the return to health, Liz began spending mornings in the garden while taking over some of the office tasks in the afternoon. There was a constant influx of scavenged materials and needs to be control and monitor storage and distribution. There were color codes, letter codes and even numeric codes. It all depended on who made the request, the current inventory and the trips planned outside the compound. The result was a large metal building nearly bursting at the seams. She was working on a supply wish list when an alarm sounded inside the house. There was someone at the drawbridge. Liz rushed to the front window where Cassie looked toward the gathering in the distance. “What do you see?” Liz asked.

Cassie passed Liz the field glasses she had been using. “It’s a pretty large group. Maybe three dozen people, men, women, and children. Some of the vehicles are pretty old and ratty looking..”

Liz pressed the glasses to her eyes. She adjusted the sight then watched as Will and eight men and four women roll up to the bridge in four pickups. Each of the residents were well armed with rifles and handguns as they exited the vehicles and took a defensive position behind their trucks.

The majority of the visitors had parked two hundred yards from the draw-bridge, while a single truck approached the opposite side of the arroyo.

“What do you want?” Will called out from behind the hood of his truck.

A large man with his left arm in a sling stepped out from the truck and stood clear of the vehicle with one arm raised. “I want to speak to the man in charge.”

“You got him.” Will yelled back impatiently.

“My name is Ben Nascha. We come to help build a community here.”

With a snort, Will answered. “Why would you think we would be doing that?”

“A man who lived at the Eagle Pass Reservation. A man known to Pablo Hernandez.”

“You know Pablo?”

“No,” Ben answered.

“If this man knows about this place why isn’t he talking to me?” Will snapped in response.

“He died. We were attacked by the cartel when they started moving north. They killed everyone and looted everything useable in their path. We had left only a few days before they made it to Eagle Pass.”

“I hate to hear that, but I still don’t know you.”

“Pablo will know of me. I am the brother of the man who died.”

“Maybe, but right now the best we can offer is a place to camp.” Will pointed at the trees in the distance.

“That’s understandable,” Ben answered.

Will started to walk away then turned back to add, “Living here is not a free ride, and we don’t take in the infected.”

Closed Doors – Part 3

Posted: October 29, 2017 in Book I Terror in Texas

“Yeah, before most of the country went dark, there was hope. Now, there’s no place left without the dead rising up to prey on the living. All of the US is probably affected now. Before the Internet went down so was China, Russia, Europe, Africa, Canada, and South America. We have been monitoring a ham radio since day one.” Randy responded. “Believe me, I’d like to be able to say it’s different, but now our only hope is to learn to live with this hanging over our heads.”

Liz heard a woman sitting next to the second Goodman son, Abe, begin to cry.

“It’s hopeless.” The woman whimpered. “What about my baby?”

Cassie stood up. “Honestly, we don’t know. We have three pregnant women in the compound right now. All we can do is watch and wait. We have no reason to believe it has any adverse effects on a healthy pregnancy and delivery.”

Will interrupted. “We’re not here to discuss things we can’t change. Life is as it is. We make this a safe place with what we need to survive then learn to live with the infection. If you’re not willing to be part of that, pack up and move on.”

“But….” Abe began.

“No buts!” Will answered. “Everyone commits to long days working for the community or leave. I’m not arguing or excusing anyone. You’re here as part of the community or not. It’s up to you. I won’t beg anyone to stay.” He slammed his hand down on the table. “Talk to Randy, he’s setting up work crews and prioritizing what needs to be done. Be part of it, or leave.”

With that, Will turned and walked toward the door where he caught sight of Liz. He hurried to her side and squatted in front of her. “What are you doing out of bed?”

“I’m tired of being up there alone,” Liz answered at she wiped at the moisture on her top lip.

“Come on. Let’s get outta here.” Will grabbed her hands and escorted her from the room.

“Dad, please.”

“Liz, you’re exhausted, you have malnutrition, and you’re pregnant. Cassie says you’ve worried yourself sick for weeks.” Will’s expression fail to mask his frustration. “I understand you’re worried about the girls, but Harry told me what happened. The girls are alive. God willing, they will return to us.”

Liz swiped at the tears on her face. “I…I’m scared I’ll never see them again.”

Will smiled sadly. “So am I, honey. So am I.” He led her to a quiet alcove and sat down pulling Liz to the cushion beside him. “I have faith. I choose to believe the soldiers caring for the girls are brave men who will do everything they can to protect them. Harry told me about the car seat box they found. No one stops to get a car seat for a baby then abandons the child.”

Liz whispered. “We did.” She fell against her father’s chest. “I hope you’re right.”

“Liz, you did what you had to do. There was no way Amy could have kept up with you. All three of you would have died. Now, quit second guessing everything you’ve done. “ He wiped at her face with a white handkerchief then handed it to her. “You’re sick because you’re underweight and pregnant. Your job is to take care of yourself and my grandson. And that’s order.” He smiled. “I want a healthy mom and baby boy when Brian and the girls show up.”

“Yes, sir,” Liz answered.

Maria appeared and reached out to Liz. “You are up? I have been so worried. Come, señora. I fix you a nice snack. You too skinny. Niño needs a healthy madre. I make taquitos.”

While Will nodded at Sam Goodman to follow him to his office, Maria led Liz to the kitchen. Maria sat Liz on a chair in front of a wooden table. She quickly pulled a pan from and overhead the rack and put it on a burner. Maria opened a refrigerator and retrieved a handful of items. She moved to a cutting board made quick work of chopping onions, potatoes, and peppers. “I make them just how you like them,” Maria added as stepped to the stove and turned on the burner.

“There you are,” Cassie announced as she walked into the kitchen. “It’s time for your medication.”

“What is it? I still feel like shit.”

“An antibiotic. I’m increasing the dosage. I have to wing it a bit, here.” Cassie answered. “Since I don’t have much testing available, I’m using a broad spectrum antibiotic. I think you’re fighting a kidney infection. But that’s just based on the back pain and my comparing a slide to pictures.” Cassie sat a couple pills in a small plastic cup on the table. “Don’t throw away the cup.” She laughed. “Keep drinking lots of water, too.”

“Are you sure that’s all it is?” Liz asked as she examined the dark haired woman face.

“As sure as I can be. You’ve complicated the issue by not eating worth a shit for the last few months and being pregnant but other than that, I’m pretty sure.”

Maria sat a plate with three taquitos in front of her. “You eat it all. Sí?”

“I’ll try.” Liz chuckled.

“And take the antibiotics as soon as you’re done,” Cassie ordered.

“Yes, accident,” She said firmly. “Time to isolate the sick, no matter who they are. If someone fails to get up and you don’t get a vocal response, take precautions. That’s all we’re asking. The man involved in this incident had a snake bit. He didn’t tell anyone, and neither did his wife. He died and attacked his family.”

“You mean that could happen to any of us?” One of the Goodman women asked.

Will answered. “As terrible as that sounds, yes. It’s important to take care of each other, so come to the clinic, so illnesses and injured are treated.”

Liz realized why her bedroom door had been closed when anyone left and why they always knocked and waited for her to respond before entering. She covered her bulging middle. What would happen to her baby? Was she sick because she was pregnant and was it because of the virus? With a wave of dizziness, Liz slipped into a chair at the side of the room. After a couple deep breaths, she calmed and looked around the room. She realized she didn’t know most of the people. There were two distinct groups. Each crowd clustered together acting more than a little suspicious of the other. She recognized Pablo, Miguel and their extended family and gave the women a quick nod and smile of recognition. Elaina and her mother, Maria whispered at Pablo and Miguel. Both men turned toward Liz and smiled. They turned back to the assembly, their faces still looked.

The goat rancher, dressed in overalls, sat next to a graying woman with the two younger men, and women approximately that appeared to be the younger generation. Two teenagers sat on the other side of the gray-haired lady. Randy stood next to Liz’s father. Not far from him, sat John and Harry.

Will raised his hands to quiet the assembly then continued. “Now that we’ve settled that, let’s work on setting some priorities. I realize we still don’t have enough folks to do everything we need to get done yet, but for now, we’ll do the best we can. Safety and becoming self-sufficient is the two most important tasks at hand. Planting the new gardens need to be done by the end of the week to take advantage of the remaining growing season. At the same time, we need to finish fencing the goat pen back at the Goodman cabins.”

Mr. Goodman stood up. “Me and mine can work on it. I ‘magine two days and we’ll be finished. The wife and girls are milking twice a day. We’ll keep what we need and bring the rest up here. You can pass it along with who you want. I got a spot picked out to put in our own garden…”

Will interrupted. “Sam, this is a community effort, I think you seem to be missing that point, here. You and I obviously need to discuss individual efforts, but for now, let’s move on.” He turned to Randy and nodded.

Randy began. “We still have to try to gather livestock and supplies while we can. We’re not the only people trying to create a secure stronghold to live. As time goes along, more and more infected will leave the cities and make it more dangerous out there. As people get more desperate out there, some groups will be raiding others to survive.”

“What makes you think the government won’t get this under control. Early on, there were reports of the CDC working on a cure.” Glenn Goodman interrupted.

“Have you heard something I don’t know about? We’ve had a couple people monitoring communication channels and the Internet. Unless you know some other means of communications, we don’t.” Will asked.

“Well….” Glenn mumbled.

Liz descended the stairs to the great room to a cacophony of voices from the dining room. Some voices were raised and sounded angry. She made her way to the front desk to hear voices of a meeting taking place in the dining room. From the size of the gathering, she imagined all the adults in the canyon compound were present. Liz leaned against the check-in desk to catch her breath. She grimaced at her own weakness but refused to let it deter her. Liz made her way to the door and stopped.

Will Edmonds voice rose above the din. “Everyone has to contribute, and that’s the bottom line. Your herd of goats produces milk, and that means we all benefit from it. But that can’t be your only contribution. At some point, the goats will need to become part of the food supply chain in a more meaningful way.”

An unfamiliar voice countered. “When we agreed to come, we didn’t know it was going to mean moving into a socialist state. You can’t just take our livestock to feed a bunch of Mexicans.”

“Young man, you have been given a safe haven, homes for your family, your brother’s family, your parents, and younger siblings. Did you expect to show up and contribute nothing?”

“Our livestock is not community property.” The young man protested.

“Shut up, Glenn!” A gravelly voice interrupted. “Son, you’re making an ass outta yourself.” After a brief grumble, the older man continued. “What you have outlined sounds reasonable as long as the herd size maintains numbers for healthy breeding stock. We’re grateful for the offer of a safe place to raise our families. As for the suggestion concerning closing all bedroom doors at night, I can see the wisdom in such an action.”

Cassie added. “From what we’ve found on the Internet we know the virus has mutated since the initial attack and become an airborne pollutant that spread far beyond the initial attacks. There are now reports of people dying of natural causes and reanimating well away from the initial attacks. Considering that, if we each follow this simple rule, we can stop accidents like we had a few days ago.”

“Accident? You call that an accident?” Another voice protested. “Three people died.”