The Bluff – Part 2

Posted: October 20, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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Tate got in the rig and pumped the choke before pushing the starter. The motor roared to life.

“Ready for this?” Tate answered.

Bill nodded with a grin. “Sure thing.”

The gate opened and three pickups rolled through the opening with Doyle’s rig close behind. Tate shifted into first and followed. She glanced in the side mirror and saw the gate sliding back in place just as she made the first curve.

“So, you think we can do all this?” Bill asked.

“I hope so. If the three men in the pick-ups can get the FEMA trailers without a problem and we find semi-trailers at Walmart loaded with canned goods… With us all going to Boerne and not splitting up, we have a real good chance.”

They drove past the cluster of vehicles they had passed when they turned off Highway 16 the day before. The smell of the scorched earth as they passed still hung heavy in the air.

“I’m afraid we need more people,” Tate commented to no one in particular.

“The FEMA trailers are on the edge of town. Walmart is only a mile further down the road so it’s on the edge of town, too.” Bill added.

“RVs would be a lot nicer. Why FEMA trailers. ”

“They include an air conditioner, a furnace, water heater, LP gas supply, water supply and plumbing, appliances, ventilation fans and able to be towed. Besides, no one should be around there. The RV lot is in the middle of town.” Bill chuckled. “That asshole with the teenage boys, Stewart…thought he ought to get the pick of the RV lot. He was all excited about it until Phil told him; he would have to get it himself if he wanted one.”

“At some point, we’re going to have to make a run to a home improvement store for plumbing supplies,” Tate commented.

“We’re gonna need a lot of stuff. Most of it is gonna be dangerous to get, but there’s no way around it.” Bill answered.

“How many acres does Phil have fenced?”

Bill screwed up his face, obviously pondering the question. “Best I can guess fifteen/sixteen acres. There’s deer fence around three sides. Deer fence is taller and sturdier than barbed wire, but a heavy truck or a herd of those monsters could bring it down.”

“Three sides?” Tate asked.

“There’s a two thousand foot drop at the back of the property. It’s why Phil bought the place. Defense. Only problem was when he got hurt. He had back surgery about a month ago, but it didn’t seem to have solved the problem.

“Usually there’s physical therapy involved after something like that.”

“He was supposed to be cleared for the physical therapy, but Beth got caught waiting for us and the world went to shit.” He paused for a minute then spoke softly. “I haven’t really thanked you for saving Ben. He wouldn’t have lasted much longer up there.”

Tate laughed. “I didn’t do much. I drove up, he jumped into that seat. We picked up Doyle and drove up the hill.”

“You took a big chance trying to come after us.”

“Again, we didn’t do much. We blew shit up and now you have Roger and Stewart on Phil’s doorstep. I’m not sure Phil’s real excited about that either.”

“Look.” Bill pointed where the lead truck turned off the highway into a lot with hundreds of white trailers. Rows of trailers were lined up. The man in the lead vehicle ran up to the gate with bolt cutter in hand. A minute later, the three pickups pulled into the parking lot.

Doyle and Tate pulled to the side of the road and waited outside the gate to watch for trouble. John, Roger and the young father ran to the first row of trailers. They did a quick inspection of the trailers including tires and trying the doors. They worked together getting each truck backed up to a trailer and connected to the hitch. Within fifteen minutes, they headed out the gate. Roger jumped out of the last truck and reconnected the chain with the shank of the padlock.

John pulled alongside the rigs. “You’re up. Sure you don’t want us to wait?”

“We’re good,” Doyle answered.

He shifted into first and his truck began to roll forward. Tate waved at John and followed Doyle.  She glanced in the side mirror to see the caravan of white trailers head back to Phil’s compound.

Tate was beginning to grow more and more uncomfortable with the layout of the compound; one way in, one way out.

Trying to shake off the sense of foreboding, she glanced at Bill. “What do you think of all this? I slept through the first twenty-four hours. By the time I figured out something was wrong, the world was a clusterfuck. I feel a step behind of everyone else.”

“What do you mean?” Bill asked.

“Is there any chance this is regional or is the state going to be overrun by the dead?

“Regional or state? I don’t think so.” Bill answered.

What about the rest of the country?” Tate asked.

“We’re all in deep shit. The states around the affected areas won’t be able to close the borders completely. The infected WILL get through or around anything they set up. Maybe isolated towns and communities will be able to wall themselves off, but the states, no. The key is going to be to hold out.”

“For how long?”

“Logic tells me the bodies will eventually rot, but how long it takes is anyone’s guess. We can see it in some of the bodies even now, maggots and decay. But if that’s the case, all we have to do is hunker down and survive. The problem is, there is always fertile ground for additional infection.”

“So the best chance to survive is to find a place to hold out.”

“Yep. That’s all we can do.” Bill commented. “Phil has a pretty good set up. You can stay with our family?”

“I have a family of my own I want to get to.” When this job is over, I’m going to head out west to my cousin, Randy’s place.”

The CB crackled to life. “Tate, got your ears on?”

Tate grabbed the mic. “10-4. Go ahead.”

“Coming up on the Walmart. A few infected stumbling around out front but overall it looks pretty quiet. Stewart says it wasn’t a twenty-four-hour store. There’s a chance it closed before the town got overrun. Follow us around back, but not too close.” Doyle advised.

“Roger…” Tate dropped the mic.

She watched Doyle turned off the highway and follow the drive around the side of the store. She turned the wheel and guided the Bitch around the corner and saw Doyle back under the hitch of a white trailer parked at the back door. A second truck sat to the side still with the cab attached. A quick glance at the back and they saw the security seal was intact.

Tate and Bill jogged over to Doyle just as he walked back from the dock. She pointed with her thumb over her shoulder. “The trailer out by the fence is still loaded. I could see the seal on the back door. We need to take that truck out there. It’s good to go if we can find keys.”

“Are we going to have to go inside?” Bill asked with a frown of concern.

“Not until we check out that rig,” Tate answered. “Both trailers are from the distribution warehouse…Non-perishables for the grocery shelves; probably came in together.”

Doyle chuckled. “The drivers probably left together in the missing rig.”

“If that’s the case, the driver of the rig out there might have left his keys.” Tate added then looked at Bill. “You can drive it, right.” He nodded and she continued. “Look for the keys. If you find them get the rig started and be ready to roll.”

Bill jogged off toward the truck. A moment later, he opened the door and climbed inside.

Tate turned back to Doyle and asked. “Is this one sealed?”

Doyle shrugged. “No. I don’t see the seal.

“Then we go inside the warehouse,” Tate announced. “No point in taking an empty trailer. If it’s been off-loaded, we load it back up.”

Doyle slapped his hand on the cab door. “Hey Stewart, bring your crowbar and get out here, buddy. It’s time to earn a living.”

Stewart climbed out of the truck with the look of a deer in headlights. “I’m not prepared for this.” He whined.

“Let’s get this done,” Doyle announced.

Tae rolled her eyes at Doyle and he only shrugged and walked away.

With machete in hand, Take followed Doyle to the access door at the side of the dock. Stewart followed half a dozen paces behind. His head swiveled from right to left and back again. They climbed the stairs silently until Stewart missed the bottom step and nearly tumbled off the concrete.

“Christ! Get a grip, guy.” Tate snarled.

Doyle laughed. “Don’t be so hard on him. He’s not used to hunting zombies.”

Tate snickered. “Neither am I, come to think of it.” She stepped back with a hint of a grin. “Big strong he-man, by all means go first.”

Doyle flashed a grin over his shoulder. “Eat shit, little girl.”

“You first, old man,” Tate answered. “Smells like plenty around here.”

Doyle raised a hand to the door knob. He rotated his wrist, but the knob didn’t move. “I guess we do it the hard way.” He held out his hand to Stewart. “Crowbar, buddy.”

Stewart looked around, hesitant to pass the metal rod to Doyle. “I won’t have a weapon!”

Doyle scowled. He grabbed the end of the machete he was holding and poked the handle toward Stewart. “Don’t hurt yourself and don’t lose it. I want it back.”

Stewart accepted the machete and passed the crowbar to Doyle.

Doyle shoved the end of the bar into the crack between the jam and the door. He leaned into the bar and they heard the screech of metal against metal. He made a quick pivot and the door latch popped free and the door opened a few inches.

The three stood still listening. Tate could hear Stewart’s breathing as he shifted from foot to foot. Tate waited while Doyle tried to hear sounds from inside. She tried to control the hint of panic she began to feel at Stewart’s agitation.

Doyle opened the door a little wider and sniffed.

“There’s dead in here.” He whispered. “Lights on. Tate move to my right…Stewart kicked the brick against the door to hold it open then follow on the left. Watch your backs.”

Doyle opened the door and fanned his light from left to right and back again. He stepped into the gloom with Tate close on his heels. She scanned the shadows with the beam of light and saw the first infected at the far end of the warehouse. Stewart kicked the brick under the door then stopped at the doorway.

Tate turned at the reduced light. “Get out of the doorway!” She whispered as she realized the trailer had been emptied. Dozens of pallets sat around the warehouse in a semblance of order.

Stewart finally stepped forward. His flashlight jerked from side to side in a nervous attempt to illuminate the dark.

“Calm down folks…” Doyle advised. “I’m going to the overhead door and try to get it open. Cover me and take care of any infected that stumble my way.”

“I got it covered.” Tate said as she moved further into the gloom.

Doyle side stepped to the overhead door and began struggled with the chain.

Facing the shadows moving in the dark, Tate glanced over her shoulder at the bottom of the chain used to raise the door and saw a padlock securing the chain to a hole in the track. Doyle stuck the tire iron in the hasp and began to pry.

The moan of an infected grew louder in the maze of pallets. Tate took a step toward the movement and whispered toward Stewart. “Heads up over there! I can’t tell where it is.”

Tate heard the lock snap just as a man in blue pants and shirt moving into view. One arm hung at his side useless. The other arm and bloodied hand reached out as he stumbled closer. A second moan announced another infected and then a third.

“Shit! Doyle. We got a problem.” Tate stepped forward and met the first infect man with a swing of the machete. The blade connected with the side of the man’s head. The man fell to the concrete floor in a heap.

“Shit! Shit! Oh God!” Stewart screamed. “I can’t….” He turned and ran. He disappeared out through the door stumbling over and knocking the brick aside as he passed.

“Fuck!” Tate cursed. “Prick! Doyle, there’s two more in here and the dick head skated. Get that fucking door open NOW!”

“Got it,” Doyle answered.

The overhead door rolled up with a screech of metal wheels on the track. Light spilled around the trailer of the truck.

Tate stepped deeper into the warehouse and swung at the second infected. Doyle spun around and connected with the last monster. He took out the man’s knee, then as the monster struggled to get back on his feet Doyle brought the tire iron down on its head with a bone-shattering blow.

“Damn that prick!” Tate swore. “The bastard left us.”

“I’m getting the second door….we need to get more light in here.”

“Go ahead….I got you covered.”

Doyle crossed to the next door and jammed the tire iron in the padlock. It snapped and he threw the door up toward the ceiling and the warehouse was filled with afternoon light.

Tate studied the warehouse from left to right and back again. She saw a door leading into the front of the store. Two pallets had been parked in front of the swinging doors blocking the entrance to the warehouse. Pallets loaded with soda had been pushed in front of the door and left there. As she looked around she noticed cases of food had been opened and the remnants discarded in a pile near the dock at the far corner.

“Doyle.” She whispered as she pointed toward the door. “What do you think?”

“Infected on the other side.” Doyle looked at the bodies. These three got trapped. “They had food and water. Only problem, one of them got bit. Turned and infected the other two.”

“That must have sucked,” Tate mumbled as the first moans from the store beyond could be heard.

Doyle looked at the back of the truck and with the jerk of his arm, had the door to the trailer open. He turned the beam of his flashlight into the recesses. The trailer was nearly empty.

“Let’s get this done,” Tate added. “I can hear them.”

She walked to an electric pallet jack and pulled it to a wooden platform loaded with cardboard boxes labeled the house grocery brand. Doyle saw a second jack on the opposite side of the warehouse. He made his way to it and slid it under a pallet of bottled water.

“I can run this one, it will be faster,” Tate told Doyle as she rolled the second pallet on the trailer.”

“Fine. Get what we can, then get out of here. I got a bad feeling.”

“Fine, let’s get moving then. Where is that prick, Stewart? We need to get him in here helping us.” Tate complained.

“Leave him out there. I might shoot him, the worthless piece of shit.” Doyle groused.

The sounds of the infected grew louder as they shuffled pallet after pallet onto the truck. When Tate saw a pallet of plastic bins used in the health and beauty section of the store, she slid the jack under it and headed for the truck.

“What are you getting that shit for? We don’t need fucking women’s makeup!”

“Not what it is. Vendors fill those shelves. It’s how they bring in shampoo, toothpaste, soap, over the counter drugs like Tylenol and Cold meds, and feminine products. It includes everything we need to be healthy that doesn’t come from the pharmacy.

“Fucking feminine products…” Doyle carped.

“The blocked doors slammed against the pallet and one of the pallets moved a few inches. Both Doyle and Tate jumped at the sound. The door bounced open and infected got a glimpse of them in the warehouse. They jammed arms through the open door then pulled and pushed at the barrier.

“Natives are getting restless,” Doyle observed wryly.

“Move it old man. Get that last pallet. I think we need to get out of here.”

Doyle pushed the pallet and jack into the truck then grabbed the left door and pulled it closed. He threw a latch then hurried over to close the right door.

Doyle reached for the chain and closed the overhead door. While he pulled at the second chain Tate disappeared into the gloom. A crash and then the sound of tumbling bottles and pallets echoed through the massive warehouse. Bottle caps shattered and the sound of carbonated drinks spewing out muffled the sound of moans.

“Damn it, girlie! Let’s get outa here.”

Tate reappeared with three-liter sized bottles of cola in her arms. Tate and Doyle bolted for the side door. Just then a scream from outside drew them up short. Doyle skidded to a stop, Tate nearly stumbling into him. He peeked out the door.

Outside, Stewart danced around trying to avoid two infected making a real concentrated effort to make him the main course on the lunch menu.

“Help!” Stewart screamed. “You’ve got to help me!”

Tate stepped around Doyle still clutching her prize. “You left us you prick! Why in the hell should we help you now?”

“Please…” He pleaded as he stabbed at the closest of the infected. He stumbled away nearly tripping on his own feet.

Doyle followed Tate through the doorway then turned to wedge it closed while Tate walked to her truck and placed the bottles inside. With machete in hand, she turned to face Stewart’s predicament. Two additional monsters had stumbled forward.

Doyle stepped up to a bloodied man in a t-shirt and shorts. His body was torn and battered. His head tilted at an awkward angle and bobbed with each step. Doyle swung the tire iron and took him out with a blow to the crown of the head.

“Defend yourself, you pussy!” Doyle yelled.

He looked toward Bill who had opened the door ready to help Stewart but with a wave of Doyle’s hand, Bill closed the door and remained in the truck.

Tate walked up and used the blade of her machete to hamstring two of the monsters. She stepped back and sneered. “Take ‘em out now, asshole.”

Stewart’s hair was standing on end while his face glistened with moisture. He raised his arm to swing then again stepped back. “I can’t!” He fell to his knees, sobbing.

Tate stepped up and dispatched both monsters. Doyle was taking out a massive woman in a bloodied house dress. Tate turned to the last with a shrug and swung the machete. She split the teenager’s skull with a solid connect to the back of the head.

The only sound was Stewart whimpering into his hand. Doyle picked up the machete from the ground and pulled the man to his feet.

“You’re going to get someone killed! Tate snarled at Stewart.

Doyle pushed him toward his cab. “Let’s get out of here.”

Doyle backed his rig under the trailer and with Tate’s help, they had the trailer secured and were ready to roll.

When they were done, without saying more, Tate headed to her rig. Her chest ached to scream and yell at the man Doyle was now treating like a child. She fumed as he opened the door for Stewart and helped him into the passenger seat.

She opened the door and climbed in her own rig. She released her breath when she cranked the motor and shifted into gear. She wanted to kill the coward. Not once but twice, he’d put people in danger.

Two hours later she stood in front of Phil. “He’s going to get someone killed.” Tate raged. “Bastard left us to deal with the infected in the warehouse then couldn’t even deal with them when his own skin was on the line outside.

Phil moved his head from left to right. “Some people have a hard time dealing. Afraid he’s one of them.”

“No shit,” Tate fumed.

Doyle reached out to place a hand on her shoulder. “He’ll do better next time.”

“Not with me,” Tate stated. “I’m leaving tomorrow morning. I’ve got family. I’m not hanging around waiting for that bastard to get me killed, because he’s a chicken-shit.”

“You know you can stay. We’d like you to stay.” Phil pleaded.

“Are you going to live up to our deal? I need fuel and supplies.” Tate answered.

Phil looked stricken. “Of course. We’ll provide as much fuel as you can use and plenty of supplies.”

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