Following

Posted: May 18, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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“Where did they go?” Liz screamed at Harry’s back. Her words were lost amid the roar of the motorcycle engines and moans of the infected.

John pulled ahead on his Harley with Harry following close behind. He weaved between vehicles and clusters of monsters. When one of the dead stood in his way, he calmly raised a handgun and fired, then roared past with Harry in his wake.

Liz pressed her face against Harry’s jacket, horrified at the mayhem of crashed cars and cannibalistic monsters clustered over bodies in the street. She felt exposed and vulnerable despite the fact both motorcycles seemed to be heavy-duty and designed for the open road. Harry’s black bike sported full seats, armrests and saddlebags big enough to accommodate a small child in each. John’s bike was similarly decked-out, but a deep green in color. They barreled out of the alley only to be forced to a crawl when they turned on the main street.

The infected that heard the bikes bolted upright and stumbled after them. Liz clung to Harry while the bikes eased around two cars locked together by smashed and tangled fenders. Blood splattered the inside of the windows and windshield of both vehicles. Through an open door, she could see a bloodied child’s car seat in the back seat of one of the vehicles.

Liz’s breath caught in her throat. Her girls. Where were her daughters? Where was her husband? Was her family safe?

A dozen or so infected stumbled out into the street from an opened doorway across the street as they passed. Those drawn to the roar of the bikes were within arm’s reach. Liz slammed her hand against Harry’s shoulder.

“They’re coming!” Liz shouted.

When Harry saw the hands reaching toward Liz, he gunned the bike and swerved to the left. He hit the curb with a jolt then bounced to the sidewalk. John gave a puzzled look at Liz’s frantic pointing and yells. When he looked where she was pointing, he saw the approaching horde. He roared a curse then gunned his engine to follow Harry.

They sped down the sidewalk until Harry turned off into an alley that exited into a darkened industrial park. They stopped behind two big rigs backed up into a loading dock. Both men cut their engines. Liz climbed off the seat and the men backed the bikes down a ramp into the shadow of the big rig.

“What are we doing?” Liz asked.

“This is bad.  Worse than I thought it would be.”

John agreed. “We can’t keep doing this. The bikes draw the fuckers like a dinner bell to the mess hall.”

“Got that right, man,” Harry answered. “But I’ll be damned if I’m leaving my bike.”

John looked around. “We need something bigger if not quieter.”

Liz looked up at the cab of the truck behind them. “Maybe you won’t have to. Give me a minute.”

Harry looked at her. “What the….”

Liz ignored his question and climbed to the gas tank at the side of the truck cab. After taking a breath, she tapped her knuckles on the side of the sleeper behind the cab. She clung to the side mirror as she looked inside. She slapped her palm against the window a bit louder. No sound came from inside and no bloody face appeared.

Liz peeked inside and called over her shoulder. “No keys.” Her voice and face mirrored her disappointment. “And no driver inside either. Let’s take it.”

“Good idea.” John chuckled. “One step at a time, Lizzy.” He kicked the stand under his bike and walked to the cab. He reached up to help Liz to the pavement. By the time she stood on terra firma, Harry had kicked his bike stand to the concrete and stepped off his bike.

John reached up and pulled at the door handle of the truck. It was locked. He shrugged and went to his bike, opened a saddlebag to pull a thin length of metal from the inside. He stepped up to the door and slid the metal down the glass to the inside of the door. A moment later, there was a soft click from inside the door and John opened it. He slid into the driver’s seat only to reappear a few minutes later shaking his head.

“I looked in all the usual places. No spare keys.” John announced.

Harry shrugged. “Let’s see if we can get inside the warehouse. Most likely the driver is still here. It’s the only way we’ll get the bikes into the back of the truck anyway.” He turned to Liz. “Stay here until I make sure there’re no infected inside on the loading dock.”

Liz frowned. “It’s too dangerous for you to do it alone. I need to help.” She walked toward the ramp and metal side door three bays down.

Harry shrugged. “If you’re sure.”

“If I don’t start defending myself, I’m dead. I won’t do my girls any good dead.” She answered.

When she got near a massive dumpster, she saw a three-foot piece of rebar. She pulled one free and nodded at Harry.

“This will be quieter,” Liz announced.

Liz pulled two more metal bars free and leaned them against the dumpster. Close on her heels, each man picked up a length of rebar themselves. When they got to the door, Liz raised the rebar and tapped on the metal door then pressed her ear against the metal. She listened. No sounds came inside. After a couple minutes, she tapped on the metal again.

“I can’t hear anything inside. I don’t know if it’s because the door is too thick or if the loading dock is empty.” Liz announced with a shrug.

She pulled down on the metal handle and pulled. The door was unlocked. She peeked inside, but it was dark as midnight on a moonless night. Liz took a deep breath and started to open the door, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her.

John grinned and passed her a flashlight. “Thought we might need these.” He stepped to Liz’s side. “Let’s do it, Lizzy. You open, I go first. Okay? Harry, watch the bikes and cover our six until we get the doors open.”

Harry nodded and stood his ground.

Liz gave a quick nod then pulled at the door. The metal barrier opened silently.

Together they sent beams of light into the darkness. The warehouse was not empty. Two men shambled from between pallets, both covered in blood. Their eyes looked nearly opaque in the glare of the flashlight beams. The younger of the two was a skinny teen wearing a shirt with his name on the breast pocket.

“Fuck!” John whispered. “Get back Lizzy!”

“I’ll take care of the kid. You get the fat guy,” Liz answered as she side-stepped toward the kid.

“If you need help, holler!” John answered.

John swung the rebar at the big guy’s head, then stepped clear of the reaching arms. He caught the dead man low on the neck and his head tilted at an odd angle. The infected barely slowed despite the fact his head bobbed from side to side, as he stumbled forward.

Blood covered hands reached for John again, but John swung the rebar into the man’s knees and the guy toppled to the concrete floor. With both knees shattered. John stepped back and swung the rebar one last time. The monster’s body lay still.

Meanwhile, Liz, filled with pity, looked at the thin body of the monster approaching her. He was young and she doubted he had ever really needed to shave. The sadness threatened to overwhelm her.

While she mourned the life lost, the infected made his way closer and closer. Liz suddenly realized her danger when he moaned. The kid reached for her and she swung the rebar in a wide arc. The metal met the side of his head with the dull thud of shattered bone. The kid dropped like a stone.

Liz dropped the rebar and stood looking down at the body as tears slid down her face.

John picked up Liz’s rebar and handed it back to her. “We need to make sure that’s all of ‘em.”

The warehouse was quiet except for the sound of Liz’s breath catching in her throat.

Finally, John spoke. “He was long gone, Lizzy. That was only dead meat.” He whispered. “You did him a favor.”

“I know,” Liz answered with a sniff. “What do you want me to do?” She squared her shoulders and looked at John as she wiped away the tears on her cheeks.

“Okay, then. I’ll see if this is the driver and you can look into getting the overhead doors opened.”

With flashlight in hand, Liz walked toward the rolling overhead doors.

John patted down the pockets of the fat man. He ignored the blood and gore touching the front of the denim with the top of his fingers. A moment later, he slipped his fingers into a pocket and pulled out a set of keys with a GMC fob on the key ring.

“Bingo.” He dropped them in his pocket and followed Liz to the roll up the door behind the big rig outside the warehouse. He pulled the chain. The door moved a few inches then stopped. “What the hell?”

Liz shone her light on the chain wheel overhead and followed it down to a padlock near the bottom. The loop of the padlock was threaded through the chain and a hole in the track. John cursed under his breath then jammed the rebar between the shackle and the body of the lock. With a grunt and quick snap, the lock popped open.

After jerking the metal loop free, he pulled the chain again and afternoon light spilled into the warehouse around the back of the trailer. Once opened, Harry vaulted up into the warehouse.

“You took a while. I was getting worried.” Harry complained then he noticed the bodies near the door. “Well, fuck. Why didn’t you call me?”

Liz answered. “We had it covered.”

“Let’s get busy.” When John looked puzzled and Harry continued. “Before we load the bikes, let’s put on a few pallets of food and water. Won’t be any Micky-D’s and I don’t want to be scrounging for our next meal. All we’re going to need is a few camping supplies.”

Liz nodded. “We have to hurry. The soldiers are getting farther away all the time.”

John grabbed a pallet-jack and started loading pallets stacked with boxes on to the trailer. He didn’t seem to be too discriminating because Liz noticed he included a few pallets with the name Johnson and Johnson on the products. He even included a pallet of toilet paper. By the time he had quit, John had loaded three pallets of water, Dinty Moore Stew, Corn, Peas, Beans, Tuna, and case after case of Chief Boyardee canned pasta.

Within ten minutes, the floor of the trailer was filled with pallets creating a narrow alley to the front of the trailer. John took a final pallet and moved the product to the side and swathed it in shrink-wrap plastic. He did it with a second pallet and Liz realized he didn’t really care what product he was loading since it was all paper goods. He was planning to use it to protect the motorcycles when they were loaded.

When both men were satisfied with the loading, they jumped down and walked to their bikes. They walked them around to the ramp leading up to the side door and brought the bikes into the warehouse.

Liz called out. “I need a bathroom before we go.”

“Be careful,” Harry called out. “You see anything hinky, holler.”

She picked up her rebar and headed deeper into the gloom. She found a door, eased through and looked for the bathroom. She walked slowly deliberately placing one foot in front of the other. She strained to hear any sounds from the offices beyond. She walked past the warehouse manager’s office and glanced inside. She stopped suddenly and stepped inside. She grabbed a plastic bag from the waste basket and dropped half a dozen cans of spray paint in it.

She stepped back into the hall and saw the restroom sign tacked to a door next to an open break room. She peeked into the half opened door and flipped on the light. Nothing jumped out at her. She stepped inside and leaned the rebar against the wall and used the toilet. When she was finished she turned toward the sink and washed her hands.

Liz didn’t recognize the person staring back at her from the mirror over the sink. She looked tired. When tears threatened, she hurled the paper toward the wastebasket and picked up the rebar. Out in the hall she stepped back into the break room and grabbed a plastic bag from the counter, kicked in the front of a snack machine and quickly pulled bags of cookies, candy and chips into the bag. When she was done, she made her way back into the warehouse.

The two men had finished loading the bikes on the trailer, secured them and then slid the trailer doors closed. They lowered the open door to the right.

“I’ll get the last one.” Liz opened one of the cans of spray paint. She used the spray paint to draw a huge heart on the back of the door and added C & A, Love Mommy. She stowed the can and pulled the chain to lower the door. When it neared the loading bay floor, she dropped to her knees and slid to the ground outside at the edge of the trailer.

The trio climbed into the truck with Liz slipping between the bucket seats to sit on the edge of the sleeper. Liz threw her bags aside.

“How are we going to find the soldiers?”

Harry cranked the engine and the truck roared to life. He pressed the clutch and shifted into the first gear. Harry cleared his throat as he shifted the big rig into first gear. “I’ve been thinking about that. They’re military and they need baby supplies. They’ll be stopping along the way. I think we head the direction we last saw them heading. North West.”

“And watch for signs,” John answered. “Sounds like a plan.” John opened the bag Liz had handed him and opened the top. He leaned toward Liz. “Snacks?”

Liz grinned and grabbed a Snickers bar. “I usually don’t eat candy but since the world has gone to shit I guess it won’t matter how I look in a swimsuit this summer.”

Harry stuck his hand into the bag. “That a girl.”

They pulled out of the business park and a few minutes later faced the congested streets. The big rig was a monster of trucking technology. It sported a metal frame in front of a grill that mowed down any infected that had the misfortune of being in its path. Metal screamed as the truck squeezed between vehicles or bounced metal off the steel wrapped around the headlights.

Despite the power and ramming capabilities that allowed them to make good time, they saw no hint of the Humvee as they moved through the streets. Even with the monster engine there was no way through some of the massive traffic jams. Time and again they had backtracked, but in the end, they always moved west.

After the first hour, Liz began exploring the sleeper behind the seat. Inside she found a small frig, loaded with cold drinks and several containers of food in plastic trays. They sat on the shelves of a storage cubby and would only require warming in a microwave. A quick look around and she saw the door above the open shelf. It was the smallest microwave she had ever seen.

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