Offer Hope

Posted: July 15, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
Tags: , , , , ,

Tate woke to the sound of voices. She glanced around with a deep sigh. Spending the night at Phil’s place was the first time she had slept in a real bed in more than a month. She had forgotten how good it could feel. She stretched out on the clean sheets and decided it was heaven, even without air conditioning. She slipped from the double bed and into fresh clothes she’d brought in from the rig. After using the bathroom, she padded down the stairs to the huge open room on the first floor.

Phil, Doyle and Ben sat at a massive farm table eating biscuits, ham, and eggs. The two men had mugs of coffee while Ben a can of soda.

Phil glanced up and nodded a greeting. “Get yourself some breakfast.” He pointed at the kitchen then continued his conversation with Doyle. “The family went into Bandera the day it happened. I haven’t heard anything since a phone call from my wife saying they were in trouble and headed to my sister-in-law’s house. If they made it there, my family could be alive.

Tate poured herself a cup of coffee. “Is that why you were here alone?”

Phil nodded, but he forced a smile. “Ben’s folks were on the way to Beth’s house too and they were supposed to pack up and head this way as soon as they got there. Something had to have happened and there hasn’t been a thing I could do about it.”

Tate looked at Doyle. He nodded slightly then picked up the coffee cup and brought it to his lips.

Tate asked. “Bandera Falls? Right up the road from where Doyle’s truck ran out of gas?”

Phil nodded. “No. Bandera. It’s the difference of a dozen miles and ninety and nine hundred people living there.”

“We have two rigs. Maybe we could head up there and pick them up in the trucks?” Doyle asked.

“We could take Ben if he knows the address.” Take continued.

“No. I’m going,” Phil stated. “I’ve got weapons and I know how to use them. Ben needs to stay and take care of the livestock.”

Ben jerked his head up from his third biscuit. “I can shoot.” H protested around a full mouth. “They’re my family, too.”

“I know kid. And when we come back with them if the place is overrun, they have nowhere to go. Someone has to protect the compound.”

Ben beamed. “Since you put it like that, I guess, I’m your man.”

Two hours later Doyle and Phil rolled out of the compound in Doyle’s rig with Tate following behind in the Orange Bitch with a trailer attached to a makeshift trailer hitch. Once outside, she picked up the CB mic and turned the radio to a channel they had agreed on using for the operation.

“Ok, Phil. What’s the deal with Ben? You didn’t want him to come with us, why?”

Phil answered. “Last I heard from his folks, they were headed to Bandera. My brother-in-law was going to pick up my wife and the family at Beth’s house. If it’s bad, I don’t want Ben seeing it.”

Tate sighed then answered. “Got it.”

“The sister lives on Old Hondo Hwy. The problem is the only way to get there is to go into town. If its overrun, your little diversion should give us time to get to them.”

“I’m locked and loaded,” Tate answered with a grim smile. “You boys just take care of your end and get the family.”

She laid the rifle on the seat next to her and patted the pockets on her vest. She had three extra magazines and a box of ammunition, courtesy of Phil. There was also a box with six glass bottles half filled with gasoline with rags hanging out of the top. The smell of gasoline was so intense she lowered windows hoping the slight breeze would pull the fumes from the cab.

As she drove, Tate imagined nine hundred monsters lined up waiting for them. She knew it was ridiculous, but couldn’t help it. Now that she had convinced the men she was the best one to create the diversion, she was getting nervous. Talking about her mouth overloading her ass…she’d done it this time.

The world was screwed and she wondered if anyone would survive. People were becoming monsters then attacking the survivors. She hoped the government nuked the people responsible for this mess.

The drive to Bandera was way too short. She followed Doyle as he passed the green sign advertising the city with a population of nine-hundred and thirty-seven people. The radio crackled and Doyle’s voice announced. “Not good, Tate. Looks overrun.”

Tate pulled to the left to get a better view of the road ahead. It was disheartening. The highway ahead was littered with dozens of vehicles. Some stopped in the middle of the road while others were pulled to the side and abandoned with doors left open. Dozens of infected milled around the front of a store front. At the sound of the trucks approaching, the monsters raised their heads and begun stumbling toward the rumbling engines.

“Shit!” Tate picked up the mic and said. “Ok, work the plan.”

Phil answered immediately. “Drop back and follow us. Don’t shoot unless you have to.”

“Got it.” She answered.

Tate stepped on the clutch and down-shifted the Bitch. Doyle pulled away with a rumble of the powerful engine. The horde of infected stumbled toward them with dogged determination. Doyle steered his rig between two vehicles and crushed four infected: two were gray-skinned men wearing dark blue uniforms, another was a child still wearing a big yellow bow in her hair while the last was teenager in a t-shirt and leggings.

More and more of the infected stumbled toward them. Those monsters that didn’t make it quick enough to approach Doyle’s truck before it passed stumbled after the rig down the middle of the road. Tate rolled over them.

The stench rose up in a nasty cloud of putrefaction. The fumes from the jars of gasoline made it impossible to close the windows. Besides, she needed to be able to use her firearms if Doyle got into trouble. She swallowed the bile rising to the back of her throat and picked up the mic.

“How much farther?”

“Two more blocks. Then we take a left. Try to block access and entertain the masses while we get around the curve in the road right after the turnoff. Out of site, should be out of mind, hopefully.”

“Got it. When you get out of sight, I’ll turn on the music and pied-piper my way to the ball field. After I set off the diversion, I’ll haul ass back to the intersection. Just get the family.”

Tate accelerated and closed the gap between the trucks. She slowed when Doyle’s brake lights flashed and the truck downshifted. She could see the sign for Old Hondo Highway ahead and gave Doyle room to turn off. She downshifted again and stopped in front of the highway.

She revved the engine and turned on the iPod. Speakers on the dash blared music by the Cranberries. The sound drew more and more of the infected to her. When Doyle’s rig disappeared around the curve she stepped on the clutch and shifted the Bitch into gear. She wanted to make sure she continued to keep the interest of the walking dead. Painstakingly slow, she began to move forward. She blew the horn, revved the engine and shifted to second as the music blared.

The Bitch was surrounded by monsters. The ones in the front of the rig fell under the press of the brush guard and knocked down some of their brethren in the process. Dozens of infected were falling under the massive tires. As she accelerated, more monsters turned and followed. She watched as at least a hundred monsters stumbled after her. She grinned as she realized it was working. With a little luck, she would give Phil plenty of time to gather his family.

It was a painfully slow trek to the far side of town and the baseball field. She drew more and more of the monsters to her. Finally, she saw the big lights sticking up over the buildings in the distance. She looked at the digital clock on the dash. It had taken half an hour to get to park. She gunned the engine and raced down the block.

Tate accelerated away from her followers and rolled over the fencing at the side of the ballpark. She stopped on second base, grabbed the music player with the mini-speakers and she jumped from the cab. She ran to the trailer, set the player under the metal tripod then dragged a cinder block from the trailer. She positioned the stone under the trailer tongue and pulled the pin on the hitch. She ran back to the cab and climbed back inside just as hundreds of monsters spilled into the ball field. She cranked the Bitch and began rolling forward.

Tate flicked a grill lighter and used a piece of duct tape to keep the flame fueled. She dropped the end into the cup holder then passed over the flame the end of a gas soaked rag hanging from one of the bottles. When the rag caught, she eased it out the window and tossed the jar about five feet from the trailer. The flames exploded with a whoosh. She repeated the process three more times then eased off the clutch and accelerated toward the back fence.

She hit the hurricane fence then jerked the wheel to the left and tossed two more lit bottles of gasoline at the break in the fencing. She accelerated for half a block then turned down an alley and slammed on the brakes. She killed the engine.

The Bitch sat still and silent while Tate grabbed her rifle before climbing from the cab. She hurried to the corner of the building and peeked around the brick. The scene on the ball field was horrendous. Hundreds of infected had followed her through the opening then stumbled toward the trailer and the blaring rock music. They shuffled into the flames around the trailer. They had hoped the flames would draw in the infected but protect the anchored tripod with the butane cylinder mounted on the top. The first part worked. Not so much the second. Flames didn’t discourage the infected from bunching up and jostling the trailer.

Phil had mounted the tank then used a roll of plastic wrap to surround the tank with nails and ball bearings. Now, all she had to do was hit the valve and blow the tank. She hoped she hadn’t over stated her skill.

Tate pulled the rifle to her shoulder and sighted the valve of the cylinder. She took a deep breath then released. Her heart raced when she saw half a dozen infected stumble through the flames and stagger across the road toward a nearby wood structure.

There were hundreds of monsters milling around the blaring music with at least a quarter of them near enough to the flames to catch fire. She took a breath, released it and squeezed the trigger. The shot took out a bald man with flames climbing up his leg. He fell into the firestorm.

“Shit!”

Tate took a deep breath and blew it out in frustration. She pulled the rifle back to her shoulder. Without hesitating she drew in a breath, released it, and fired again. This time the projectile sheared the valve at the top of the tank.

The detonation was deafening. Tate fell back from the corner to the ground. Windows overhead shattered. Glass rained down on her. She dropped the gun and fell to her knees with her arms covering her head. Scorching air burst out from the ball field along with chunks of projectiles hitting the brick of the building. Tate huddled against the wall of the building.

When the only sound was the roar of the flames, Tate stuck her head around the building. The ball field was pure carnage. Hundreds of the infected were scattered around the grounds in pieces and lay unmoving while even more were on fire and stumbling over the shattered bodies.

Tate imagined she had attracted at least half of the town. She picked up the rifle and got to her feet and turned back to the truck. Her breath caught when she faced an infected man. He looked like a reject from a horror movie with half of his face gone and gray hair covered in carnage. He raised his arms, his hands reached out to her as if to draw her into an embrace.

Tate swung the butt of the rifle up and connected with the side of his head. He staggered back a step but the impact failed to take him down. She followed with a swift kick out with her foot and caved in his knee. His leg buckled and he fell to his knees. Tate raised the rifle and fired. The man collapsed in a heap.

Tate turned away from the body in time to see half a dozen more infected heading her way. She ran to the cab and climbed inside. She cranked the engine and jammed the Bitch into gear. She shifted through the gears as it picked up speed and she made her way around the side streets back to the highway.

The radio crackled to life. “Tate? You got your ears on?” Doyle’s voice asked.

“I’m here,” Tate answered. “I’m headed back your way. Got the family?”

Doyle sounded dejected. “Long story. Let’s head home.”

“What?” Tate asked.

“Family is gone. The house is destroyed. The occupants held off a horde before the place was overrun.” Doyle added.

Tate sighed. “I am so sorry, Phil.”

She turned left a final time and went to the end of the side street. She slowed and looked to the left and then to the right. She was on highway sixteen. She turned right and headed back to Old Hondo Highway.

When she got to the intersection she saw Doyle’s rig sitting at the intersection waiting. He saw her and pulled out ahead of her. She followed.

Forty minutes later, they pulled up to the gate and waited for Ben to appear. Instead, a bear of man strolled out of the house with a big grin on his face. He gave Doyle and Phil a careless wave and opened the gate. Doyle and Tate pulled the rigs through the gate. When the man had closed the gate he jogged to the passenger side of Doyle’s truck and jerked open the door.

Phil reached out to be caught in the arms of the big man.

“You son of a bitch!” Phil pounded on his companion’s chest. “Beth? The girls?” Tears were streaming down his face.

“All fine.” The man picked up Phil and headed across the yard as if his weight was nothing. “They’re a little tired, but fine now that they’re home.”

Tate and Doyle followed the pair as the big man carried Phil to the house. Doyle leaned over and whispered. “I’ll be damned. If you had seen what we did, you’d be amazed any of Phil’s family is here.”

Tate asked. “What do you mean?”

“There was blood and bodies parts everywhere. Shell casings, and at some point there had been an explosion. We figured everyone was dead. I thought the man was going to climb out of the cab when he saw the house. I convinced him to let me look around. I told him it looked like people got out, but honestly it didn’t.”

Tate slapped his arm. “I’m glad you were wrong.”

Doyle laughed. “So am I, believe me.”

By the time Tate and Doyle got to the house, Phil had been deposited into his wheelchair and was surrounded by a bevy of people; two men and the bearish man from the gate, four women, and half a dozen kids from toddler to teens.

When Doyle and Tate got to the porch, Phil introduced his wife, Beth and two daughters. Then he introduced John and his wife’s sister, Mary, then Martha and her husband, Bill, Ben’s folks in addition to the handful of children. A woman with a small child in her arms stood off to the side of the group.

“Gina, come here, honey,” Phil called the woman closer.

The woman stood, unmoving. Beth stepped to her side. “I told you it would be alright, honey. Phil is glad you’re here.”

Tears welled up in Gina’s eyes. She clutched the child so tightly the baby began to whine and fuss.

Phil reached out with a calloused hand. “Gina, you’re safe here. You belong to our family, now. You and the child have a home with us. You don’t have to be afraid of anyone hurting you again.”

The young woman began to weep and Phil opened his arms. She fell to her knees in front of Phil and leaned into his arms. Together, the man, the child, and young woman clung to each other for several minutes. Finally, Gina sat back and smiled.

“Thank you,” Gina whispered. “He’s dead.”

Beth stepped up and wrapped an arm around Gina. “Let’s get you and the baby cleaned up. The last three days of walking and hiding wasn’t easy on any of us. We’ll get you settled in a room. The girls won’t mind using the sleeping porch. It’s time we all get something to eat and rest.” She led the woman away.

The rest of the family disappeared into the house leaving Doyle and Tate to sit with Phil.

“I led you on a wild goose chase.”

Doyle shrugged. “Hey, we got rid of a lot of infected. Maybe it’ll be easier to scavenge supplies from Bandera now.”

“You’re a good man, Doyle. As for you, Tate, you’re an even better man.” He said with a chuckle. “That was pretty ballsy doing what you did. You made a hell of a boom. Sure was a lot of black smoke when we left town. I hope the whole town didn’t burn” Doyle laughed and Phil continued. “Both of you know how to take care of yourselves. I can use good people around here. I would like you to stay.”

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