To the Rescue

Posted: June 8, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
Tags: , , , , , ,

“It’s okay, baby girl. I got you.” Matt comforted.

He carried Amy from the bathroom to the Humvee and eased her through the open door to the back seat. When she eased her grip on his collar, he pulled her hands from his neck.

Matt whispered. “I am so sorry, sweetie. I will never let that happen again.”

Jake and Larry mirrored the concern etched on Matt’s face.

Jake huffed. “Man, what the fuck happened?”

Matt answered. “I fucked up. There was an infected woman in the room behind the bathroom. She almost got the kid.”

“Shit!” hissed Larry. “Is she okay?”

“She didn’t get bit, but okay, I don’t know.” Matt studied the two men in front of him.

Larry turned to Matt with his face creased in a deep frown. “You have to get your head out of your ass. You’re hung over and not paying attention. It almost got that little girl killed.”

Jake interrupted. “We can’t take things for granted anymore. It’s going to get someone hurt.”

“I know. I screwed up in the Sand Box, but I won’t be doing the same thing here.” Matt dumped three white pills from the bottle of Tylenol into his palm and dry swallowed them.

Both men nodded. “You got a plan.”

“We get the kids to a safe place as quickly as possible,” Matt answered. “Larry, you drive. Jake and I clear the gate. We keep it tight and quiet.”

Larry chuckled. “It’s about time you stepped up.”

Matt nodded at Jake. “Let’s do this as quiet as we can.”

Jake pulled his machete from its scabbard. “I agree. No point in drawing attention.”

Through Larry’s open door, Matt looked into the back seat and smiled. “It’s going to be alright, Amy. We’re going to take care of you and find your mom.”

Amy gave a tentative smile while Claire cooed and grabbed at her bare feet. Matt straightened up and tapped the window frame. “Button it up.”

Matt and Jake made their way around the back row of storage units and jogged toward the entrance. The red sports car rested where it had crashed into the post. The gate leaned against the side of the vehicle. The impact knocked the wheels from the track and only hung by a length of bicycle chain running from the edge of the gate to the power box.

Jake whispered. “The truck can roll right over the gate, but we have to move the car.”

“Just what I was thinking.” Matt responded.

Matt looked back over his shoulder to see the Humvee had moved to the edge of the building and Larry cut the engine. He could watch them and roll in if things went south, but the sound of an idling engine wouldn’t draw attention.

“We can lay the gate on the pavement and crack a few skulls then put the car in neutral to push it off the post. Once it’s clear, we can run it into the ditch.” Jake whispered.

“I count five. You take the two on the right and I’ll take the two at the back and that poor bastard in the ditch.”

When Jake shrugged, Matt pointed his machete tip toward a shambling figure on the opposite side of the road in a shallow ditch.

The shredded-faced, creature seemed confused by the steep slope of the incline and unable to make its way up to the road. Blackish gore covered his shorts and a sports shirt. A sandal, with a tire tread sole, dangling from one ankle. The infected started up the incline, stumbled then landed face-down on the asphalt. He embedded more gravel into his raw face as he wallowed on the rough road’s edge until he got to his feet again. A few steps later it happened all over again.

“When he hits the ground next time, I’ll take him out. I don’t want him stumbling out of the ditch when I have my back turned.” Matt whispered. “Let’s get the gate down then clear the rest of ‘em.”

Matt remained behind the brick support post at the side of the gate while Jake duck-walked behind the sports car to the opposite side of the gate. When he got to the brick support, he nodded at Matt and together they reached up and tilted the gate upright and off the rail. They slowly eased the wrought iron over and to the ground with only the gentle clatter of the chain.

An infected woman wearing a pink housedress covered in blood turned from the remains in the car. She stuck her nose up in the air, sniffed twice then went back to gnawing on the arm clutched to her face. A large man in gray overalls and a plaid shirt nudged the woman aside and reached into the driver’s midsection. He raised a chunk of liver to his mouth and tore a piece from the bloodied organ. He chewed as dark red blood ran from the corners of his mouth.

Matt walked up to the pair and kicked out at pink dress’ right knee. She fell to the ground in a heap. He turned and swung the machete at the second monster, splitting the top of the man’s skull. The woman rolled to her side and Matt raised his leg and slammed his booted foot into her head. The skull shattered and gray gunk exploded from the inside.

Matt turned to see Jake finishing off the second of two infected golfers. Both had had substantial damage to their legs so they were barely mobile. One had been clutching a nine-iron in his gloved hand and now it lay on the ground next to him.

The infected man in the ditch turned at the commotion and began fumbling to his feet again. Matt took three quick steps to the prone figure and jammed his knife into the top of the man’s skull. He hurried back to the sports car and tried to ignore the gore that had once been the woman driver.

Matt jammed the shifter into neutral and manhandled the steering wheel to the left while pushing back against the doorframe. With the gentle slap of Jake’s palms against the front fender of the car, the vehicle moved.

They pushed the vehicle around a bright yellow parking barrier and into the grass filled ditch. The engine of the Humvee roared to life in the distance as the car crashed into the ditch leaving only the bumper, back axle and truck visible.

Matt turned and waved and the vehicle moved forward.

“That was a crime against a good looking car.” Jake brushed his hand together with a grunt.

“You really wanted to ride around with what’s left of the last driver still inside?” Matt asked as he turned to walk toward the Humvee.

A distant moan drew both men up short. Matt turned back to the road. He heard the crunch of gravel under foot but could only see the dim shadows of morning light.

Jake followed his gaze and pointed as half a dozen figures emerged from the gloom stumbling toward them. Matt held up his hand to stop the Humvee. Jake and Matt jogged into the road and studied the dead as they approached.

They would have to take them out or go over them once they got in the vehicle.

“This sucks,” Jake commented.

Matt held up his machete for Larry to see then pointed at the approaching dead. He took several steps away from Jake. “I’ll take the three on the left then if you need help with the others.”

Jake snorted. “Like I need your help with anything.”

He grinned as he stepped forward and took a round-house swing with a machete at a thin, stumbling man with half his face frayed. The top quarter of the man’s head caved and the body slumped to the ground. Jake stepped over the body and a second swing took out a lumbering overweight woman with arms covered in dozens of bites. With the impact of the machete, the gurgling moan from her torn and ragged throat silenced. She fell to the ground in a quivering heap.

Matt lopped off the head of a teen, stepped back then stabbed his machete into the eye socket of another. The monster stumbled over the gate and landed face down at his feet. Matt slammed the machete down and split the crown of its head. He looked up just in time to see a pair of bloodied hands inches from his shoulder.

Matt spun around and jammed his elbow into the middle of the face, shattering nose and bones around the eye socket. When the infected stumbled back, Matt swung the blade into the middle of its forehead. Matt turned just in time to see Jake kicking the knee from under the last infected. When the blonde-haired woman slumped to the ground, Jake slammed the knife into the side of her head.

Both men stood together panting as they stared at the mayhem they had visited on the miserable beings that had once been living, breathing people. They had been people with lives, loved ones and futures. Now they would all stay where they had fallen.

Matt looked at the last of them. The woman had been pretty before the gray complexion and blackened lips. Her neck and bare chest hung in shreds exposing a single silicone implant. The other side of her chest was nothing more than a gaping wound.

“And I thought the Iraq sucked,” Jake commented as he wiped the black sludge from his blade on the woman’s skirt.

“Let’s go,” Matt answered as swiped his blade against the back of another monster.

Larry drove up in the Humvee and threw damp rags at them. They climbed in the vehicle after wiping blood and gore from their clothes with a wet rag Larry had tossed at each of them. He guided the vehicle through the quiet morning streets avoiding the roaming infected as much as possible until they left the suburbs and found a farm-to-market road.

They drove for an hour before it looked safe enough to stop and change the baby, fix a bottle and eat some breakfast. Matt dug in the stash behind the seat and opened plastic trays of pasta to pass around.

Larry accepted a tray of pasta then scrunched up his face toward the back seat making Amy giggle. “I’d rather have cereal for breakfast. You couldn’t have picked some Coco-Puffs?”

Matt held out his hand. “No milk. If you don’t like it, hand it back. I’ll eat it.” He laughed.

Larry pulled the tray back into the front seat. “You’re mean.” He made a thumbs-up sign at Amy and she mimicked it laughing.

Jake and Matt chuckled at Larry’s antics. After they finished eating, Amy changed Claire and they tossed the diaper into the grass. She looked embarrassed then whispered. I have to go to the bathroom.

Matt sighed. “We’re going to have to do things a little different now. We don’t have a bathroom handy. Have you ever been camping, Amy?”

She moved her head from right to left. “No.”

Matt took a deep breath. “We had to learn in the Army. Now we’re going to show you how it’s done.” He looked toward the front seat. “Larry will show you while Jake and I keep watch.”

Larry snorted then opened his door and climbed out of the vehicle. He opened Amy’s door and helped her out of the Humvee. He held out his hand and she took it in hers. She followed him around the front of the vehicle.

It was all Matt could do not to burst out laughing when Larry demonstrated squatting and waving at his butt with a wad of toilet paper. After a quick look around he pointed to a nearby bush and deliberately turned his back. Amy disappeared out of sight. A few minutes later she reappeared with a grin on her face. She and Larry walked back to the Humvee.

“All set?” Matt asked.

Amy answered with a thumbs-up.

They drove while the rising sun climbing toward the apex of midday. They made terrible time. They had to turn around and take side roads when they neared major roads. The roads were all congested with traffic and any place with traffic was overrun with infected. Matt figured they had traveled less than fifty miles when they stopped again to eat a mid-day meal. After another bathroom break, they got back in the Humvee to head northwest again.

After a few minutes of driving, they reached the top of a hill and Larry stopped the vehicle. They sat on the asphalt strip of highway staring at a graveyard of cars along both sides of the road. At the side of the road near the base of the hill was a roadside rest park that stretched back from the road at least a three hundred yards to the edge of an open field. Scattered across the parking lot were bodies; bodies of the dead and the undead alike.

The three men studied the open fields around a rest park trying to make sense of the scene when Jake pointed at the center of the chaos where several buses had been parked.

“This must have been an organized evacuation by the military. They probably picked up a few infected among the survivors before they realized what was going on.” Matt commented. “Only explanation I can imagine.”

“It would explain what we’re seeing.” Larry sighed. “There’s military tents and a vehicle or two.”

The trio debated about traveling through the confusion of vehicles. They saw the vehicles had been pulled off the road and parked in a neat row at the edge of the park. The remains of a temporary camp had been strewn around the center of the park. Several civilian vehicles were sitting with doors open at the back of the park while three military vehicles sat amid the disorder at the road edge.

“We don’t have a choice.” Matt finally whispered.

Larry slipped the vehicle in gear and let it begin to move forward while they watched the chaos in front of them.

Movement could be seen among the scattering of vehicles. A few walking bodies took notice and began to move toward them, then more and more they began the halting march toward the Humvee. The moaning rose above the sound of the Humvee’s engine.

“Look! A Stryker on its side.” Jake interrupted. “Infected are bunched around it.”

“Do you think anyone is in there?” Larry asked as he stepped on the break.

Matt studied the vehicle tipped on its side at the side of the road. “If there is, they’re trapped with all the infected stumbling around.”

Larry reached for the radio on the dash. He pressed the transmit button twice.

“Hello! Hello! Is someone out there?” A voice called out from the speaker. Several voices could be heard then a male voice responded again. “Transmit again please.”

“Don’t we ever get a break?” Larry turned toward the back seat.

Matt leaned forward and reached for the mic. After clearing his throat, he spoke. “Who am I speaking to?”

“PFC 1st Class, Mark Jenkins, sir. There’s seven of us in here.”

A second voice broke in. “We’re trapped in the Stryker. You gotta get us outta here!”

“Okay, Jenkins,” Matt answered. “Tell your boy to calm down. We’ll do something.”

“How many men with you? How soon can you get us out of here, sir?”

“First, don’t call me sir. Matt is fine. To answer your question, there’re only three of us and a couple kids we rescued.”

“Two kids?” The female voice gasped. “You only got two kids out of the bus? Oh, God.” The voice lamented.

“Kids out of the bus? What are you talking about? We had the kids with us. We haven’t gotten any kids out of a bus.”

“You have to help us get to the bus next to the bathrooms. When things went to shit last night we put a bunch of kids in the bus. I came back to get a driver, but Major Bishop ordered us to evacuate. When we refused to leave them, he rammed the Stryker out of his way.” Jenkins answered. “We got trapped in here with all the infected. The prick took off and we haven’t been able to get back to the bus.”

Matt mulled over what he was hearing as he saw dozens of the undead begin shambling in their direction. He pointed to the bus and Jake brought binoculars to his face. He studied the bus surrounded by at least a couple dozen of the undead.

“We are so fucked,” Jake commented. “They’re in there. It looks like a taco truck at a construction site. There’s at least a couple dozen infected standing around or pounding on the side of that bus.”

Matt sighed. “Okay, Jenkins. Give us a minute.” He looked to Jake in the front. “We can’t take a chance going in there with guns blazing?”

Larry shrugged. “The Humvee is big enough to carry half a dozen men on the roof and running boards, if we can get to them without getting overrun.  It would be a rough ride to the bus but then what? There’s the infected around the bus too.” His voice trailed off.

Matt pressed the button on the mike. “Jenkins, do you think you can open the back door?”

Jenkins answered. “Yes, Sir. The ass end of the Stryker is tilted up, but I’m pretty sure we can prop it open and get out that way. I take it you guys have an idea.”

Matt added. “Take as much ammo and weapons as you can carry but remember, you’ll have to ride on the roof. We’ll still have to take out stranglers around the bus. Are your men up to it?”

“We’re good for it. If you can get us there, we’ll take care of the rest.” After a moment Jenkins added. “Oh, if you can make a big boom and light a couple fires on the other end of the park before you come for us, it might help. They get real interested when there’s noise and something burning.”

“Good to know, soldier,” Matt answered. “Oh, be sure to take a radio and charger with you when you head out. Be ready. We won’t be coming back after we pick you up.”

Matt outlined the plan and with a few adjustments they were ready to go. With a nod, Larry eased the Humvee around a Passat clipping off one of the open doors with the front bumper. He cut the wheel and headed across an open grassy knoll next to the park at a pace slow enough to ensure the infected stayed interested.

“I guess we’ve got as many of them following us as we can attract. Head out into the open field before you head back.” Matt ordered as he pulled a black-labeled bottle from behind the seat. “When we draw them out as far as we can, we’ll take off back to the two cars on the far side of the park.”

Matt clicked the mic. “We’ll be back in a few minutes. Be ready to exit the vehicle.”

The radio crackled. “How will we know when?”

“Trust me, you’ll know.” Matt laughed.

They lumbered over the open field trying to avoid the deepest of the ruts. The infected stumbled after the Humvee. It was a stumbling parade of the dead.  Larry keep just far enough ahead to keep the infected interested. When they got a quarter mile from the buses, they turned and drove back to the camp as fast as they could. The girls bounced and jostled but in the vehicle raced well ahead of the horde. Larry jerked to a stop between the two parked cars specified by Matt.

“Sure hope this draws the rest of them away from the bus,” Jake commented as he jerked open the door with a rag and grenade in hand.

“Waste of JD, for damned sure.” Matt groused as he stepped to the ground and poured the amber liquid over a t-shirt then passed the bottle to Jake. He soaked his own cloth then passed the bottle back to Larry.

Matt went to the left and Jake to the right. They each carried a hand grenade, an alcohol soaked cloth and a strip of duct tape across their sleeve. They stuffed the rags into the gas tank and taped the grenade to the opening. With a nod from Matt, they each pulled the pins and ran like hell toward the Humvee.

They hit the seats at the same time Larry stomped on the accelerator. The big tires of the Humvee threw chunks of sod and grass as it raced toward the front of the camp. They were nearly fifty feet from the cars when the first grenade went off and flames blossomed from the ruins. The second detonation filling the air with even more debris and a second whoosh of fire mushrooming from the explosion.

Larry ignored the small missiles hitting the hood as he drove back across the parking lot to the Stryker. Larry leaned over and pressed the mic button. “Now dickheads!”

The back door of the Stryker dropped open and soldiers spilled out of the vehicle. Larry skidded to a stop next to the vehicle. Four soldiers jumped to the roof of the Humvee while the last two jumped to running boards on either side of the vehicle.

“Go!” Yelled the soldier outside Larry’s window.

Matt rolled down the window and prepared to pick off any infected that got too close. Jake rolled his window down and aimed a gun out the window.

The Humvee roared through the grassy roadside divider and hit the asphalt of the parking lot with a leap of the front wheels. The vehicle landed with a bone jarring crash then raced across the parking lot. The soldiers on the sides of the vehicle aimed and fired AKs at approaching infected while clinging to the rail at the top of the vehicle.

When the Humvee got twenty feet from the bus, Larry slammed on the breaks and skidded to a stop. The soldiers jumped to the ground and took up positions to begin taking out the infected still hanging around. Jake and Matt jerked open the door and stood on the running boards covering the soldiers back. Jenkins and his team quickly disposed of the remaining infected blocking the bus door and formed a perimeter around the door.

Jenkins kicked two open luggage doors closed, rushed to the bus door then slammed his flat hand against the glass. “Come on kid…let’s go!”

A teen boy of about fifteen had started pulling suitcases from the steps and passed them to a couple more teens behind him and stowed them in empty seats. The youth jerked open the bus door and slid back between two seats.

Jenkins stormed into the bus and quickly cleared the way for the rest of the soldiers to enter. When the last soldier entered, the door was slammed closed.

Matt and Jake jumped back into Humvee slamming the doors as the infected from the fire noticed the activity at the bus and began wandering back.

Larry depressed the mic button and instructed. “Fire it up and let’s get out of here, Jenkins!”

Matt looked back at the bus just in time to see a bloom of black smoke billow from the tailpipe.

A blink of lights and the bus pulled out.

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