The Bluff – Part 1

Posted: October 16, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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Tate watched as Phil studied George’s oldest son. Finally he turned back at his father. “What’s wrong with him? He’s sweating like a pig.”

“Nothing!” George answered. “He’s tired, and hot. We all are.”

John walked up to the gate and studied the young man as he swayed on his feet. He turned back to Phil and whispered. “He’s bit. Look at his right leg.”

Phil took a closer look and he saw dark threads stretching up one leg from the waistband hanging at the top of his boots. “He can’t come in.”

The young man turned to his father with a questioning look on his face.

“You and the boy can come in, but he’s bit. He’ll turn.” Phil stated.

George dropped to his knees. “I can’t leave him.” After a sob, he added. “Just take Jason.”

“Dad?” The younger boy called out. “I want to go with you and Dell.”

“I can’t leave your brother. You’ll be safe here.”

John opened the gate wide enough for the boy to walk through.  When Jason didn’t move, John looked to George and he nodded.

John took Jason by the arm and led him through the barrier. “Come on boy.”

Jason and John walked through the opening and the gate closed behind them with a loud clank as the security latches engaged. George got to his feet and together with his son pulled his clothes back on.

Jason walked up to the gate and wrapped both hands around the wrought iron. “Dad? Please. Let me come with you.”

George pushed his older son toward the truck then turned back to Phil. “Take care of my boy. When this is over, I’ll be back. Jason better be here.”

“He will be…unless we’re all gone.”

The F-150 pulled away amid a spray of gravel. The truck fishtailed until George eased off the gas and righted the vehicle. It headed back down the narrow road toward the highway. John led Jason away while Bill, Doyle and Tate walked up to Phil.

Bill continued to stare at the gate. “I don’t like the prick, but I wouldn’t wish that on even him.”

“Nothing else to be done. I am not about to let someone that is infected in here.” Phil spun the chair around and headed toward the house and called out. “Ben.”

The boy ran up to him. “Yes, Uncle Phil.”

“Get up to the roost. Keep an eye on the road and Bandera Falls. I want to know if anything moves toward us. Walking or riding.”

“Yes, sir. Can I take Jason with me?” Ben asked.

Phil nodded. “Do that and try to keep him from worrying too much about what’s going on.”

Ben disappeared into the house with Jason in tow.

Tate looked toward the new arrivals that stood in front of their vehicles. Beth came rushing from the house with a tray of sandwiches and plastic bottles of water. She herded the people to a couple picnic tables with several benches. When they were settled and eating Phil rolled up with his entourage.

“I know some of you, the rest I’ll get to know soon enough. We don’t have room for any more people in the house, but with your help I think we can make arrangements that will be tolerable. In the meantime, everyone will be expected to help keep the place secure and feed everyone. Meanwhile, just remember, you’re on my property so what I say goes.”

Phil turned around and motioned for his brother-in-laws, Doyle and Tate to follow. When they got to the house he led them into a back room with a large desk. He rolled to his position behind the desk and motioned the others to find seating.

Phil propped his elbows on the desk and rubbed at his temples.

John sighed. “What in the fuck are we going to do with all these people?”

Phil slammed his hands against the desk. “What we have to do.”

Tate and the men spent the next hour making lists and prioritizing jobs. It was decided the three car garage would be cleaned out and the space used as living quarters until something better could be arranged. Sanitation issues were not an immediate problem since a fully functional apartment had been built at one end when Phil and Beth first moved to the bluff before the big house was built. The apartment would provide a full bathroom with shower and a functional kitchen with a gas stove so cooking.

“The FEMA trailers are going to be even more important now. People are going to get real tired of staying in the garage.” Tate commented. “Until the last week, when the electricity went down, we all enjoyed air conditioning. It’s going to be a hot summer and people will be getting pretty tired of the heat inside that metal building.”

“I know,” Phil answered. “We got a lot of shit to worry about.”

John nodded. “We need to trim back the brush around the fence.”

“I agree,” Phil answered. “But we have to get those trailers and more supplies in here first. We don’t have enough to feed all these people for very long.”

“The food situation is the priority. Is there a big box store anywhere close?” Tate asked.

“There’s a discount store outside Bandera.” John answered.

“Alright. We settle them in and then head out tomorrow.” Bill announced.

It was a long day settling the new arrivals into the garage. There was plenty of spacee, but in the end, it took an executive decision to decide who would take the two bedrooms in the garage apartment. Phil announced the older couple got one bedroom and the second would be used by the young couple with two young children.

When a middle-aged man tried to protest, Phil pointed at the gate and the man quietly accepted the bedding and army cot Phil had pulled from a storage closet. His wife and two teen sons accepted their bedding and quietly set up cots in the corner next to him. The woman sat down on the cot as if waiting to be served.

Ben and Jason set up cinder blocks and one by eight-inch boards to make shelving around the side and back walls and half a dozen plastic tarps over ropes created private enclosures. By the time everyone was assigned sleeping quarters and fed an evening meal, they were more than ready to go to bed.

The next morning Tate rolled off the couch at the first gurgle of the coffee maker. She got in and out of the bathroom right after Beth and ahead of the men. The older couple, Iris and Roger Spencer had volunteered to cook for the second group out in the garage so Beth and her sisters were only cooking for the family household.

Tate picked up a cup of coffee. “You know, Doyle and I could have slept on cots outside with Roger’s group.

“Nonsense. You and Doyle are family now. You saved our Ben. You put yourselves in danger to come after the rest of us.”

Ben’s mother, Janice nodded quickly and added. “You saved my son. Bill and I can never do enough to repay you.”

Tate squirmed at the praise so she changed the subject. “It’s hard to imagine you walked all that way. That’s a pretty long trek for the kids.”

Beth sighed. “For a while, I didn’t think we would make it. We took turns carrying the little ones, but we had no choice.” Beth looked embarrassed. “They followed Bill and Janice when they drove in. John, Mary and I had been shooting at the monsters and killed my SUV the day before. When Bill and Janice drove in, we just kept firing. They got inside, but we hit the radiator of the van. We were just so scared. It took a while to figure out only head shots. Then we started running low on ammunition.”

“I can understand that, but there was the explosion.” Doyle responded.

“Oh, that was Bill. He decided he could slow them down so we could get out the back door, over the fence, and up to the ridge. He opened the valve on a small propane tank and taped a wood match to the door resting against a striker. He figured he had a few minutes before they could push the door open, but he barely got out the back door.” Janice chuckled. “Wish you could have seen his face. His eyes were big as saucers by the time he scampered up the ridge.”

Tate chuckled and Janice continued. “We knew we were in a terrible situation and still in danger, but we stood on that ridge just laughing.”

“I’m glad he’s going with me. He sounds like a man who can think on his feet.” Tate laughed.

The men wondered into the kitchen to grab cups of coffee while Phil rolled up to his spot at the end of the table. He looked around the large table. Beth set a cup of coffee in front of him.

“Everyone knows their job, right. I wish I were going with you.” Phil complained.

Bill held up his hand. “We’ve had this discussion. You need to get the yard ready for the trailers. Everyone left here will need to work together and you’re the only one that knows what should be done.”

Beth sat biscuits and homemade apple butter on the table then passed around bowls of grits. Everyone settled down to eat without further discussion. After a final cup of coffee, everyone got up and drifted toward the door.

Beth stood at the door and handed each a bag. “It’s only a sandwich and an apple and two bottles of water. Bring the bottles with lids back, please. We need to recycle.”

Tate accepted a bag and headed to the Bitch with Bill close on her heels. He carried his own bag and a rifle and wore a handgun in a holster at his waist.

“You ready for this?” Bill asked.

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