Windfall – Part 1

Posted: November 18, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas

Southwest Storage provided a trailer that was not specifically for container transport, but would do with a little bit of redneck ingenuity according to PFC Dreschel. Matt accepted his assurances, he could make it work. Now the caravan of Humvee, crane truck and two big rigs with trailers made their way toward the abandoned train.

Matt’s hands were shaking as he drove the Humvee around half a dozen infected milling around an intersection. He needed a drink. He reached between the seats and spun the cap from a bottle. He tipped up the bottle and took a long pull at the amber liquid. He recapped the bottle and slid it back between the seats. He relaxed as the warmth reached his belly. He wanted more but needed to keep a clear head and that was the only thing that held him back.

He glanced up at the review view mirror and saw Dreschel go out of his way to roll over the dead he’d dodged on the roadway.

“Damned kid acts like it’s a game….” Matt mumbled to himself.

The trip to the train took nearly an hour. Less than a mile from the five-mile stretch of road running parallel to the track they saw a big rig and trailer had jackknifed blocking both lanes of the narrow road. Matt could see the end of the train in the distance. Can’t any of this shit ever be easy? He picked up the mic for the radio.

“There’s a road block ahead,” Matt announced into the radio.

“That wasn’t there before,” Jake’s voice answered.

Matt responded. “Don’t anyone move. I’m gonna check it out.”

He drove closer to the trailer and stopped the Humvee. Opening the door, he stepped out of the vehicle with a quick glance at the neck of the clear bottle.

With a sigh, he reached back inside to grab his rifle before settling a boney hat on his head. He clipped the radio to his waist then pressed the transmit button and ordered. “Stay put until I can figure out what’s going on.”

Matt stepped away from the vehicle and made a quick scan of the area. To the left, the train track rose above the roadbed covered with a tangle of briars and vines. He looked to the right and noticed an aged tangle of barbed wire fencing separating the roadside from the woods beyond. There wouldn’t be any surprises coming through the woods.

He began walking toward the big rig. As he got closer, he realized he was stepping in a dry trail of fuel from a ruptured gas tank on the big rig. There was a hint of the gasoline smell in the air. He scanned the surrounding area but saw no movement. He walked to the trailer and examined the closed trailer door. He wondered what was inside, but decided against opening a locked door right away.

He stepped around the end of the trailer and saw a second tractor wedged into the apex of the jack-knifed tractor and trailer. He looked in the cab of the jackknifed tractor and saw a body slumped against the windshield.

As he walked away he heard a slap on the glass. He turned back to the cab and realized the sound came from the second tractor resting on its side. Matt walked closer.

The windshield was a spider web of lines. He stepped to the fractured glass and tried to look into the cab, but could see nothing inside. He tapped the glass and a bloodied hand slapped against the inside of the glass. The hand fell back leaving a clear red print. Matt jumped back, his breath drawn up short.

“What the fuck?” He whispered then brought the radio to his face and he pressed the button. “There’s another rig in front of the jackknifed tractor and trailer. Got movement inside”

“Live or dead?” Jake asked. “Want me to come up?”

“Stay put. I’ve got it.” Matt answered. “We’re gonna have to do something to get the rigs and trailer off the road.”

“I can move them out of the way with the crane,” Dreschel announced.

“Give me a minute.” Matt responded. “Let me check this out first.”

“Make it quick or I’m heading up there,” Jake called out.

Matt walked to the front of the bright orange cab and noticed a spray of bullet holes across the front of the grill. The front tires were shredded. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw the glint of bullet casing spread across the asphalt about thirty feet further down the road. It looked like two or three dozen casings. Someone had sprayed the front of both rigs with bullets. The shredded a front tire caused the drivers to lose control.

The second rig must have been moving really fast and when the driver tried to avoid the orange rig in the middle of the road, jack-knifed. He looked over his shoulder again but didn’t see movement in the bullet-riddled, blood-splattered windshield of the second rig.

When he saw nothing to cause immediate concern, he stepped back to the orange cab and propped his rifle against the hood. He used the brush guard to climb up to the side of the cab. He made his way across the hood to the door and sleeper. Once balanced on the door he looked through the closed window. He watched for movement inside the darkened cab. When he could see nothing, he pulled a pin light from his pocket and pointed it into the gloom. He saw a pile of bedding including a foam mattress on the passenger door. He tapped on the window.

Inside, the lump moved and a hand slid from under the clutter. A horse whisper called out. “Don’t shoot….”

“Hang on. We’re gonna help you.” Matt pocketed the pen-light and clicked the radio. “Got a survivor! Jake, come give me a hand,”

A moment later, Jake was climbing to the side of the cab. Matt pulled at the door handle, but it was locked. Jake used a tire iron to the shatter the window. He reached inside and released the lock then pulled the door open.

“How do you know it’s not a deader?” Jake asked.

“The dead people can’t talk,” Matt answered as he lowered his legs into the cab. He stepped on the center console then reached down to pull the foam mat from the pile resting on the door.

“Hey. I’m going to start moving stuff off you. Just hang on.” Matt advised the driver. The only answer was a deep groan.

The response made Matt wonder about the wisdom of crawling into such a tight enclosure and not knowing if the person was dying or not.

“You need to talk to me, so I know you won’t eat my face, dude,” Matt commented.

The weak voice came back. “I don’t kiss on the first date.”

“It’s a fucking woman!” Matt blurted out as he shoved debris back into the void of the big rig’s sleeper. He got his first glimpse of the person crumpled at the bottom.

“Glad you’re smart enough to know the difference,” The voice whispered hoarsely.

Jake roared with laughter from above. “Love it when a woman puts you in your place.”

With the last of the cab’s contents moved, Matt could see the woman with short spiked dark brown hair with orange tips. A stream of blood from a gash in her forehead mingled with clumps of hair plastered against her forehead.

The woman reached out and Matt pulled her to her feet. Matt could see she was nearly as tall as him when she moved to the side in the confines of the cab. She wore a white wife-beater undershirt that displayed a trim and well-muscled body. When she reached out to steady herself, he got his first glimpse of a tattoo peeking over her shoulder.

“Well, soldier, are you going to help me up there or are you just going to stand there gaping?” The woman asked with a hint of annoyance.

“Sorry.” He stepped out of the way to allow her to step up on the console then pushed her up toward the opened door overhead into Jakes waiting arms.

When she was through the opening and Jake was guiding her to the ground Matt watched through the shattered windshield. The tattoo trailing down her left arm was a brightly colored vine of tropical flowered that ended on her bare shoulder originated somewhere under the back of the undershirt.

The colors of the tattoo included vivid greens, golds, shades blue, and pink that rippled across her flexing bicep. At her shoulder, the head of a black panther peeked from the vines. The green eyes of the cat glowered at Matt when the woman glanced over her shoulder toward the truck.

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