So Close Yet So Far

Posted: May 6, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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It was near dawn when the street finally grew quiet. Harry had been on watch since three. When he saw less activity at six, he made his way around the room looking from window to window. The back alley was empty, but there were still a few infected stumbling around the front of the building. The only real threat in the last hour was when half a dozen infected congregated at a window across the street and started pounding against a glass. The glass broke and the infected spilled into the opening. Screams followed, then silence.

Harry raised the window as quietly as he could and leaned out the second story window. He looked toward the Irish Pub at the end of the block. The infected seemed to have Wandered away from the end of the block.

Harry crossed the room to where John rested in a tattered recliner and touched him on the shoulder. “Time to find those little girls.” He turned to wake Liz, but she was already sitting up. “Morning, Lizzy.” He stepped to the bedroom and knocked on the door jam. “Up and at’em Dave. Time to get to work.”

“Why are you doing this?” Liz asked.

Harry shrugged. “Needs done.” He answered as John and Dave came into the room.

“Well, Harry what’s the plan?” John asked with a grin.

“I’ve been thinking.” Harry began.

Dave snorted and John interrupted. “We’re in trouble already. Really think you ought to start thinking at this late date?”

Harry scowled. “And you’re the comedian that always points it out.” He continued. “We can get to the roof from the resale shop, cross the building roofs and then go down the fire escape at the side of the dry cleaners across the alley from the bar. It’s a no-brainer. We get there, find the kids, and then bring the kids back the same way.”

“Sounds easy enough but what about the crazies in the street?” John commented.

“Hopefully, we won’t draw much attention,” Harry answered. “We’ll be back here and having breakfast before they figure out we’ve even been out there.”

Liz pulled on her new shoes and walked to the bathroom. She slipped inside, did what she needed to do then splashed water on her face. She finger combed her hair and pulled a hair band from her wrist to secure her hair back from her face. When she came out, she waited for each of the men to take a turn in the cramped bathroom.

While she was using the bathroom, Harry had retrieved a canvas bag and set it in the middle of living room. When they were all in the room again Harry opened the bag. One by one, each of the men pulled long hunting knives in scabbards and put them on their belts. Rifles were pulled from the bag and each man slung one across his back. Since each man had already been carrying handguns, they were all geared up. Harry reached back into the bag and brought out a holster, hand gun, and knife. He reached around Liz’s waist and after drilling a new hole in the leather belt, it hung at her hip with a knife on the opposite side.

“It’s a Ruger nine mil. Can you use it?” Harry asked.

Liz nodded. “My dad taught me so I’m good.” She released the magazine, glanced at it then slammed it back in place. She looked up with a determined glint in her eyes. “My husband is in the military.  He insisted I practice regularly.”

Harry turned to the small group. “It’s time to do this. We’re going to be quiet until we have no other choice.” He looked at each of them waiting for a nod of understanding.

Harry led the foursome through the courtyard and into the resale shop. At each door, he locked the deadbolt once they moved through them. Once inside the resale shop, they ignored the store front and went to a door at the side of the back room and entered a narrow stairway. They reached a landing, ignored the door at the side and made their way to the roof of the building. Again, Harry opened the roof access door with the set of keys in his hand. John, Harry, and Liz stepped out into the open air of the roof top.

Dave remained at the door. “Man, I can’t.”

Harry looked over his shoulder. “Just watch our six.” When Liz looked questioningly at Harry, he just shrugged. “Long story.”

Liz looked toward the next building and realized they would be climbing up to get to the next roof. John nodded at her to follow Harry. They crossed the roof to the side of the next building. A set of iron rungs had been imbedded into the brick facade.

“One at a time,” Harry ordered. “John, you’re point.”

With a half-grin, John nodded his head and went to the rebar ladder. Liz studied the man as John made his assent. John was the smaller of the two men. Well-muscled arms grabbed at a rung half way up the wall and with the aid of his legs, climbed higher and higher until he got to the top. He pulled the camouflage baseball cap from his head and tucked it into his back pocket. He eased his eyes over the rim of the building. He moved his head from left to right then turned to offer Harry a thumbs-up. He scampered over the short wall and stood next to the ladder still facing toward the opposite side of the building.

Harry pointed at Liz to go next then scrambled up the ladder behind her. With a final look over his shoulder at the opened roof door, Harry followed John and Liz across the roof to the opposite wall.

Liz worried about Dave. While waiting for Harry, she had studied Dave from a distance. Dave seemed twitchy at best. His eyes darted from side to side as if just being in the open was really bothering him. She also saw his hands tremble holding the rifle. Once he stepped back into the shadows he seemed to calm.

Together the trio crossed to the second rooftop then a third building roof. When they got to the last roof on the span of buildings they descended to the roof of the two-story building and crossed to the edge of the roof overlooking the alley. They crept to the edge of the roof to look down at the alley below.

Three men in green T-shirts and cargo pants were piling into a military Humvee. Liz saw one of the men pull a baby quilt from his shoulder and toss it into the back seat before slamming the door. He slid in the open driver’s door and cranked the engine.

A large black man was getting into the passenger side. He disappeared into the vehicle and reached out to close the door just as an infected man in a blood stained suit grabbed the door and pulled it back open. While the Humvee motor roared to life, the black man fought to close the passenger door.

The driver stepped on the gas and without waiting to see what the passenger was going to do John raised his rifle and fired. The infected man fell to the ground. The door slammed. Hard.

Before anyone could yell or act; the vehicle sped toward the alley entrance. Seconds later, it disappeared around the distant corner with a dozen or more infected following the roar of the massive engine noise.

“My girls!” Liz cried.

Harry pulled a pair of binoculars from his pocket. He studied the ally below. “They have your children. It’s my guess your girls were in the dumpster. I don’t know how the soldiers found them, but they have them now.” He pointed to a white bundle on the ground. “It looks like they were there long enough to change a diaper.”

Liz fell to her knees in relief. Then she looked up in horror. “How will we find them?”

Harry pulled her to her feet and urged her back the way they had come. “Come on John get moving. We have to try to catch that Humvee.”

John laughed and gave him a thumb’s up sign. “Head’em up, move ‘em out, asshole.” He took off at a jog with Liz and Harry following close behind.

Together, the trio raced across rooftops and down the rungs to the roof of the resale shop. They made it to where Dave held the steel door open. All three were more than a little out of breath. Together, they hurried down the stairs only to be stopped by Harry at the bottom access door leading into the shop. He raised his hand and everyone stopped.

He leaned close to the door and placed his ear against the wood. Finally, he turned back to the others. “We got a problem.”

Liz’s breath caught in her throat. Every minute they stood here, the soldiers and her daughters got further away. “We don’t have time to just stand here.”

Harry leaned back to whisper. “I hear footsteps on broken glass out there. I think they broke the front window and now they’re inside the store.” Harry whispered.

“We have to get out of here.” Liz lamented.

John ignored Liz and asked. “How many do you think?”

“Can’t tell’, but I hear shuffling steps from more than one or two. Survivors wouldn’t be moving around that much.” Harry answered.

Dave descended the steps to stand by Harry. John joined them. “Liz, take the keys.” He handed her a key ring by a brass Sledge key and continued. “Dave goes first, then John. They’ll be between you and the rest of the room. Quick as you can unlock the door, let John through then follow him. Take the key with you so we can lock the door from the outside. I’ll come through last, slam the door hard then you can lock it.”

Dave opened the roof door and slid through the opening with his handgun drawn. John followed and stepped deeper into the gloom of the store room. The curtain in front of the back room lay on the floor. The two men stepped closer to the door. Liz peeked around John and her breath caught in her throat. The front window and glass door at the front of the store had been shattered and half a dozen infected were silhouetted against the morning light. The silhouettes of the infected milled around at the front of the store.

Liz stepped around the men and crept toward the side door that opened into the atrium between the thrift store and the bar. When she was half way to the side door, Harry pushed the door open a few more inches to accommodate his bulk. A hinge squeaked. Liz and the three men froze.

The infected stopped. In unison, they raised their faces and sniffed at the air. After a heartbeat, they turned toward the back of the store. Limp arms rose as they turned toward the sound and began walking toward them.

Dave planted an open palm on Liz’s back and pushed her toward the door. “Move!” He ordered. He was so close on her heels his ragged breath ruffled the hair at the back of her neck.

The infected honed in on the movement and each began stumbling toward the back of the store. A low moan came from the few infected at the front of the store. More of the infected from outside tumbled through the half wall into the store and stumbled through the door.

“Hurry!” Harry ordered. “The jig’s up.”

Liz rushed to the door and jammed the key into the brass lock. With a twist of her wrist, the lock clicked free and the door opened. Dave pushed her through, tearing her hand from the key. She stumbled into the courtyard. Dave, John, and Harry darted through the opening without firing at the approaching infected. They pushed the door closed with a slam.

Harry pushed his foot against the door and turned back to Liz. “Keys!”

Liz’s breath caught. “They’re on the other side of the door.”

“Fuck me!” Dave murmured. “I pushed her through before she could pull the key out.” He stepped back to the door where John and Harry held the barrier against the infected pushing on the other side.

Dave handed his rifle to Liz and reached for his handgun. “I got this.”

Harry slipped his rifle to his back and pulled his own handgun from the holster on his hip. John nodded at each man in understanding.

“We can only open the door wide enough to slip your hand through,” Harry stated. “Give us time to clear the door before you reach for the key. Lizzy, keep hold of his belt and don’t let him get pulled in.”

“Let’s do this,” Dave answered.

Without hesitating, John slid his foot back from the door. The infected on the inside pushed and the door lurched open wider then John and Harry intended. Dave stepped closer and reached out.

Harry yelled. “Not yet, man!”

John threw his weight against the door while both Harry and Dave fired into the darkened room beyond. John struggled against the mass of bodies’ unrelenting press against the barrier. Despite the hands still reaching through the opening, Dave grabbed the keys in the lock.

Suddenly his body slammed against the narrow opening between the door and door jam and he dropped his gun. Liz was jerked into his back. She pulled back while Dave yelled and pushed back from the door. Harry fired into the mass of bodies inside the building.

John pulled at Dave trying to free his arm while Liz pulled at his belt with all her weight. Harry grabbed Dave’s shoulder and fired his handgun into the dark. Suddenly Dave was free. He tumbled to the ground with Liz under him. The keys fell from his hand as he rolled off Liz. The keys slid across the flagstone walkway.

John slammed the door shut and kicked the toe of his boot against wood. Bodies slammed against the door and it bounced open a few inches. Harry pushed his bulk against the metal and it slammed closed again. John threw his weight into the barrier.

Liz scrambled to her feet grabbing the keys as she rushed to the door. She added her weight while she fumbled through the jangling ring for the correct key.

She found the key and aimed it toward the lock. The door bounced open. Harry and John grunted against the strain as they pushed it closed again. She jammed the key into the lock and gave it a turn to the right. The pounding from the other side continued, but the lock held.

“Well, fuck me. That was scary.” John commented from behind Harry.

Harry reached down to pull Dave to his feet and saw him clutching his left arm to his chest as a rivulet of blood trailed down his hand. Two of his fingers were gone. Dave gave Harry a crooked smile.

“Well, this kinda sucks.” Dave sighed. “I guess we know what this means.”

Liz reached for the bottom of her t-shirt to pull it off, but Harry stopped her. She looked from Dave to Harry. “What? We have to stop the bleeding!”

“I’m infected.” Dave answered quietly. “It doesn’t matter.” He wrapped a red bandana around the stump of missing fingers and hand then held it out to Harry.

Without a word, Harry tied a knot at the top of his hand. When he was done, he nodded toward the club door and hurried John and Liz across the patio.

“Come on, we have to keep moving.”

The infected continued to slam against the resale shop door. The door-frame groaned under the strain.

John looked toward the door. “It ain’t gonna last long.”

Harry grabbed the keys from Liz and hurried to the bar door without another word. Dave picked up his handgun with his right hand and jammed it into his belt. When the door was open and Liz, Harry and John were inside, Dave put his hands on the key.

Dave pushed the door closed and spoke through the door. “You know I couldn’t have gone anyway.”

Inside, Liz heard the key turn in the lock. She peeked through the small window at the top of the door. Through the glass she watched Dave walk to a patio table and sit down facing the resale shop. He pulled the spent magazine from his handgun and replaced it with one from his pocket. He pulled a cigarette from a pack in his pocket and lit it. He inhaled deeply then aimed the gun at the resale shop door.

Liz slammed her hand on the window and called out to Dave. Harry pulled her away from the window and pushed her toward John. When she tried to protest, he just moved his head from left to right and nudged her into following as John moved toward the rear of the bar.

They rounded the corner of the bar and walked into the back room. As they passed by the bar, the men each grabbed backpacks. Liz followed suit with a final look toward the patio door.

“If we’re going to catch that Humvee, we have to get out of here, now,” Harry commented.

John opened the door to the back room. When they hurried in, Liz saw a makeshift motorcycle repair shop. A huge tool box with sat to one side with a drawer still open while a work bench was built against the back wall.  An assortment of lifts, and apparatuses were mounted in front of the farthest wall.

At the front of the room was an overhead garage door. Three decked out motorcycles faced the garage door. Harry dropped his backpack into the saddlebag on one of the bikes and held out his hand for Liz. She handed over her backpack and dropped it into the opposite side.

“You’ll ride with me. John will ride point.” He grabbed a remote from a table and turned to John who stored his own supplies. “You about ready?”

“Good to go.” John answered.

Harry swung his leg over the massive Harley then held out his arm to guide Liz to the seat behind him on the bike. “Let’s ride.”

They were mounted and ready to go when they heard the first of the shots. They froze. Liz counted; the first five were quick and then six, seven, eight. Each one made her jump. After a brief pause a single shot sounded, then nothing. A hot tear slid down Liz’s face.

The bikes roared to life. Harry held up the remote and the garage door rolled open. John led out then Harry gunned the motor to follow. Liz wrapped her arms around Harry’s waist.

“Hang on Lizzy! This may be a little hairy.”

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