Bent on Destruction

Posted: July 11, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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“Why were they shooting at us?” Sandy demanded.

“Cause they’re assholes,” Jimmy answered. “Now shut up. You almost got us killed.”

“You heard that scream last night.” Zack added. “My guess is, they killed that woman and are afraid we saw something.”

Della turned back to the back seats. “Please. Just be quiet. We’re not out of this yet.”

Steve navigated the back road driving as fast as he could on the narrow-asphalt highway. All the while, he watched the mirrors for signs of pursuers. His heart hammered with the knowledge one gun could not protect them from three or four well-armed men bent of their destruction. He steered the van through a devastated community turned to the charred rubble of a strip center before he pulled the vehicle behind the remains of a large metal building.

“I think we’re safe now.” Steve turned off the motor. The only sound was the ticking of the cooling engine. He rolled down the window and the smell of charred wood wafted on a gentle breeze.

Jimmy reached behind the seat to scratch through supplies. He handed everyone a drink and a power bar.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t take a lot out of the van,” Jimmy commented.

“We would have lost a lot more than a few pieces of bedding, that’s for sure.” Della agreed.

“We lost a lot. We lost Martha.” Sandy said. “How can you act like nothing happened?”

Steve turned around. “I know what happened to Martha was upsetting, Sandy, but you almost got us killed.”

Sandy protested. “We just left her hanging in that barn.”

“We had no choice.” Della responded. “I’m afraid we’ll see a lot of terrible things just trying to survive. We live in a dangerous world now.”

Sandy retorted. “You mean you don’t care if one of us dies?”

Steve sighed. “No one is saying that. If we didn’t care, we would have left you outside the closet door back at the center. I’m sorry Martha’s gone, but we can’t change what’s been done. She made that choice. All we can do is try to survive.”

“Maybe there are FEMA shelters out there. We should try to find one.” Jimmy interjected.

“Wherever we go, we need weapons to get there,” Della commented.

“How are we going to find guns?” Jimmy asked.

“If my phone worked we could google it.” Zack answered. “Now we’re stuck with yellow pages if we can find a phone book. What’s the closest town?”

Steve retrieved a map from his glove box. After looking over the map, he answered. “Hondo.”

“I don’t think it’s much of a town,” Zack answered. “My folks used to drag my sister and me along antiquing on weekends and from what we saw it was mostly tourist shops and stores.” Zack’s voice trailed off and he looked at his feet. “I wonder if my folks are still alive.”

Steve looked over his shoulder at the big black kid. “Wherever they are I’m sure they’re proud of you. None of us would have made it this far without you.”

Zack looked embarrassed. “Thanks.”

“Now that we all understand how much we need each other to stay alive let’s head out. Watch for a gas station, pawn shops or hunting stores.” Steve advised as he put the van in gear. “Gas is getting to the point where we’re going to be walking soon if we don’t find some.”

They rode in silence until Della pointed at a small mom-and-pop gas station at the intersection of a gravel road. Signs advertised post office, stamps, worms and cold beer and hand-tied flies.

Steve slowed the van as he studied the building and surrounding area. With only two vehicles visible, he released the break and moved the van to the fueling island. Light from inside the small storefront glowed through the large windows at the side of the building.

“They have power.” Della declared excitedly. “I think I see someone inside.”

“Good,” Steve warned. “I’ll fill up the tank before we check it out.”

Everyone waited while Steve inserted the pump nozzle into the gas tank. While the gas tank was filling, he leaned into the window and whispered. “I think I hear big heavy duty engines.”

Della whispered. “Should we leave?”

“We’ll come back when they’ve gone,” Steve announced. “If it’s them, there’ll be trouble.”

The rumbling grew louder. They were moving fast and sounded like they were heading down the road straight for them.

Steve pulled the nozzle from the tank, screwed the cap closed and walked back to the driver’s seat. He slid in behind the wheel and cranked the engine. He put the vehicle in gear and accelerated. The vehicle spun out and he steered it around the back of the building to a side road that headed up a tree shrouded hill behind the store. When the asphalt turned to gravel, he eased off the accelerator and quickly slowed the van.

“I have to pee!” Sandy whined. “Why did you do that?”

Della snapped. “He heard vehicles coming. They could be the ones from the farm.”

“Oh. I still have to pee.” She answered then fell silent.

Della raised her hand. “Give me a minute.” She retrieved the map and studied it a moment. “It looks like this road loops back west a little further down and ends up running parallel to the road we were on for about ten miles then turns back to the state road.”

Steve guided the van down the gravel road to the curve and realized it was following a ridge about a quarter mile above the state road. “I’ll stop when we see the store. You can go in the bushes while I go down and see who that was. I want to make sure it’s alright before we head back down the road.”

“Ugh,” Sandy complained. “Pee in the bushes?” Sandy folded her arms across her chest.

Della turned around and scowled.

Steve parked the van under a canopy of trees overlooking the building and parking lot below. He walked to the edge of the road and the sloping terrain between there and the rooftop of the station.

As he studied the slope with the scrub trees, brush and briers Jimmy grabbed his arm. “You can’t do that.”

Steve scowled. “I can.”

Zack stepped forward. “It’s not that. We know you can, but we can’t protect Della and Sandy like you can if something happens. Jimmy and I can go down there and take a look.”

After a moment of hesitation, Steve nodded. “Okay. Don’t take chances. Look and see who it is. That’s all. Surveillance then get your asses back up here and report.”

“Got it,” Zack answered. Jimmy saluted with a smirking grin.

Zack and Jimmy headed down the embankment toward the buildings below amid a landslide of gravel and dirt.

“Be quiet,” Steve ordered as they disappeared behind a large clump of bush.

Steve watched the boys pick their way down the first two hundred foot slope. They clutched at small clumps of bushes and trees working their way down the steep incline. Steve finally lost sight of them.

The two young men stopped where at the bottom of the slope ten minutes later and worked their way through the bushes to the back of the building.

Zack pressed his back against the cinderblock wall and worked his way toward the front of the building with Jimmy close on his heels. When Zack got to the corner he peered between the wall and the edge of a fenced enclosure. Jimmy squatted to get a good look at the scene in the parking lot.

Two trucks with massive, off-road tires sat in the parking lot, one truck candy-apple red and the other gunmetal gray. The boys listened as an angry voice rose above the idling engines of two pickups. An elderly couple, presumably the proprietors of the small store, and a middle-aged man, probably a random survivor, was pushed up against the metal brush guard of one of the trucks.

“Which way did they go?” A bearded man demanded.

I wouldn’t tell you if I knew, Willie Baker.” The old man answered.

“You’ll tell me or I’ll shoot you, old man!” He yelled. “They killed my brother.”

The old man snorted. “What did you two do now?” He jerked his arm free. “I ain’t helping you kill someone else. Knowing you and your brother, you probably did something to provoke ‘em. You need to get yourself home and protect your family from the judgment coming.”

“That’s what we’re doing. “Squatters broke into the barn on Uncle Alvin’s place. They tore up the camper and damned near burned down the barn. When we came after them, they shot Joe.”

The old man laughed. “As much as you and the truth are strangers, I doubt that. Speaking of, how did you suddenly come by these fancy rigs? I know those trucks don’t belong to you, two boys. Who did you steal ‘em from?”

A sudden shot rang out and the old man fell to the ground. A red blossom appeared on the middle of his shirt. He lay still, unmoving. Dead.

The old woman screamed and dove at the man with the gun. “Good for nothing bastard! You will pay for this.”

Another shot rang out. The old woman fell to the ground next to her husband.

The sole survivor raised both hands and began backing away.

Willie Baker shoved his gun under the man’s chin. “I want to know which way those bastards went.” He pointed at two of the men with him. “Look around. See if you can track ‘em.”

Zack grabbed at Jimmy’s arm. “Gotta go.” He whispered. “Now.”

Jimmy stood frozen in surprise and shock until Zack jerked him to his feet and pulled him back into the brush. They were turning away as a third shot rang out.

Zack pushed Jimmy toward the path leading up the slope. The ground shifted while vegetation did little to ensure their footing, but arms and legs pumped a frantic escape.

“They killed him!” Jimmy whispered as he reached for a clump of grass to pull himself up to the next stand of scrub trees.

“Climb. Just climb!” Zack wheezed. “They catch us, we’re dead.”

Both young men grabbed at vines and roots from the stunted shrubs pulling themselves higher and into the heavy brush out of sight. They continued the climb until they reached the top of the ridge.

When they got to the top of the ridge, Sandy and Della grabbed at clothes and arms to pull them over the edge of the roadway.

“What happened?” Della demanded.

“Rednecks!” Zack answered as he turned to pull Jimmy back on the roadway with a jerk of his wrist. “They’re looking for us.”

The foursome bolted for the van and jumped inside.

“We gotta get out of here.” Zack declared. “They killed three people. It’s bad. Really bad.”

Steve cranked the engine and eased the van into gear and accelerated. He turned the wheel onto the narrow gravel road. “I hope this road goes clear through. Otherwise, we are so screwed.”

“Don’t matter. We can’t go back that way.” Zack ordered. “They find us, we’re dead. They killed those people at the store.”

Jimmy drew in a deep breath. “You ever see that Burt Reynolds movie with the banjos? Their first cousins are after us.”

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