Returning Favors

Posted: December 30, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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  • The trucks driven by Jake, Jenkins and Dreschel arrived with Tate in tow.  It had only taken an hour after leaving Matt at the intersection.  The camp residents had all turned out to watch as the vehicles rolled through the gate. Two women hurried to the gathering of children and hustled them to the playground and out of the way of all the activity.  The soldiers and civilians alike grinned and waved at the drivers of the caravan of vehicles.

    Once all the vehicles were inside the gate and the barrier was secure again.  Two soldiers resumed guard duty.  Tate put the white rig in park and waited while Jake, Dreschel and Jenkins jumped from the cabs and conferenced with a small bookish looking man with thick glasses.

    Tate pulled a cigarette from her pocket and lit up and watched.

    Jenkin pointed to the rigs.  “Alright Novack.  Figure it out.  We’re tired and we need to get these trailers off loaded.”

    Novack pushed the glasses up the bridge of his nose.  “Well, Mr. Monroe didn’t tell me where to place the containers.”

    “We’re placing the two containers on the east side of the gate.  We’ll be putting them end to end for now.  We’ll park the trailer at the far end.”  Jenkins advised.

    An older women with gray hair and glasses walked up. “Canned goods need to be closer to the food truck.”  She brushed her hands across the front of a white butcher’s apron.  “I can’t carry cases of canned good across this camp ground.”

    Novack moved his head from left to right.  “Now Joan, we don’t have room to pup a container there.  If you need supplies, one of us will assist you.”

    The woman turned to the military dressed man.  “I won’t have time to chase someone down in the middle of cooking, Mr. Larry.”  Joan argued.

    The man she called Larry stepped up and placed an arm around the woman’s shoulder.  “Now, Joan, I promise me or one of my men will carry cases of goods when you need them. All you have to do is ask.”

    “Well, if you promise.”  Joan answered.

    “You got my word.”  Larry winked.

    Tate chuckled when she saw the woman’s face redden.  “Well, that’s a smooth talker.  I’ll have to remember that.” She mumbled to herself.

    Larry turned to the four men. “Where’s Matt?”

    “Turned off to give a bunch of infected another direction to head besides back here. He shouldn’t be more than an hour or so behind us.” Jake answered.

    Larry shrugged. “Okay, I’m heading back to the barn. I got a couple of the boys mucking out the stalls and promised to teach them to ride if they did a good enough job.” Larry walked off with a wave. “You got this covered?”

    “Sure.  We’ll get the shipping containers up front by the gate and our new friend’s trailer along the back fence.” Jake answered. “We’ll introduce you later.”

    “Look forward to it.”

    The scavenging crew had been back at the camp nearly three hours and in that length of time they moved the shipping containers and the trailers to the edge of the fence.  They parked the trailers and trucks at the back edge of the recreation center and food truck.

    The trailer with the cases scavenged from the train was close enough to keep an eye on yet, far enough away to be out of the way of normal camp traffic. The doors of the containers stood open exposing a plethora of goods for all to see. Tate disconnected the trailer and drove the white rig to a small maintenance shed near the trailer used by the soldiers to listen to radio traffic.  Tate had glanced inside when the female soldier had called out a greeting.

    “New arrival?”  The soldier called out from inside a small camper.  “My name’s Lawson.” She stepped out into the afternoon sun.

    Tate nodded.  “Yep.  Name’s Tate Hamilton.”

    “You came in with Jenkins and his crew?”  Lawson asked as she wiped at the moisture on her face.

    “They pulled me out of my wrecked rig.”  Tate answered.

    “You should go to the manager’s office and let Amanda take care of it.”  Lawson answered.

    “This place has a manager?”  Tate asked.

    “Hell no.  She’s our resident prego.  Baby due in a couple weeks.  She was a nurse.  Closest thing we got to a doctor.  Don’t know who’s gonna deliver her baby…that’s a whole ‘nother complication.  Anyway, it has living quarters and the Sergeant and his men sleep up there.” Tate raised a brow and she continued. “Not like that.  Amanda takes care of the Sargeant’s kids when him, Jake or Larry aren’t around.”

    “He has kids?”

    “No. Not really.  Two little girls he found when this shit storm hit.”

    “Oh. What you doing?” Tate asked.

    “Communications, sorta.”  Lawson answered.  “Mostly, I just listen.  The Sergeant thinks we should just listen for now.  I monitor our hand radios on channel 19 and a CB.  It’s a decent unit, but we don’t get shit for reception.  We need a taller antenna.  We’re in a bit of a valley here.”  Lawson reached inside the camper and handed Tate a bottle of water.

    “Thanks.”  Tate answered.  “Sounds boring.”

    Lawson laughed.  “Better than out there.”

    “Yeah.  You think I can use a few tools.  This is a new rig to me and I’d like to look it over before I need to go out again.”

    “No problem.  I’ll call one of the kids to take you to see Amanda.  She can check your head.”

    A few minutes later she was led off to meet Amanda.  After a brief doctoring and told she would probably have a scare she returned to cleaning the white truck’s engine.

    Tate finished her work and even worked in a shower and a change of clothes.  She stood close to the communication’s trailer and watched the festivities. The soldiers and civilians alike were celebrating the haul with soft drinks and cans of lake-chilled beer.

    Having spent the afternoon at the barn, Larry walked up to the cluster of soldiers and accepted a beer. “Well, looks like we made a good haul. I have a couple things to discuss with Matt. Is he up at the house?”

    “He hasn’t made it back.” Jake answered before glancing over his shoulder toward the gate at the edge of the camp grounds. “I figured he’d be back by now.”

    “Do you think we should go out and look for him?” Dreschel asked.

    Before anyone could answer, Lawson called out from inside the communications trailer called out. “Shut up!”

    Larry put two fingers to his mouth and whistled. The shrill shriek silenced the buzz of voices. The crowd stood frozen in quiet.

    “I heard something. I think it was the Matt.” Lawson, yelled. “Shut up!”

    Tate closed the pen knife she was using to clean oil and grime from under her fingernails. She stepped to the corner of the trail under the open windows.

    A voice broke through the static.  “Monroe to … ly… head… to … Or… Bitch…. Ov… n Out.

    “What did he say?” Larry asked.

    The woman soldier answered. “I couldn’t tell. There was a lot of static. I couldn’t get anything else except “bitch” something.”

    Tate turned and walked back to the white truck. During the few hour she had tossed out the personal items from the previous owner and taken inventory of what was left in the tool box and stored in the multitude of cubbies. She had cleaned the unit, got the sheets washed and with the help of a couple of the women, found all she needed to make a new home.

    She climbed inside the truck cab and turned the key.  She checked the gages and lights, then cranked the engine.

    She put the truck in reverse and made a k-turn. When she cleared the campers and maintenance shed, she headed for the entrance. When the guard made no move to open the gate, she called out the window.

    “Open the fucking gate or I’ll go over it!”

    The soldier hustled to the chain securing the gate and removed it. After a minute, he swung the heavy gateway open.

    Tate eased off the clutch and the rig began to roll forward. She glanced into the side mirror one last time to see Jake and several soldiers running toward her. She gunned the engine and left the camp grounds behind.

    They could catch her with a Humvee, but she didn’t think they would bother. She figured she owed the damned soldier. She was going to repay the debt. She wasn’t one to owe anyone anything.

    She knew where Matt had turned off to lead the infected fuckers away, so she figured she could back track. She could find him. Save his drunk-ass and then…well. She wouldn’t owe him for the truck.

    She turned the CB on channel 19 and then spent the next hour back tracking the roads to the turn off Matt had taken. She headed toward the orange truck they had moved to the side of the road. When she got there, she was disappointed to see half a dozen infected standing around.  At the sound of the truck they turned and stumbled toward her.  She took out three with the truck but the last three had to be taken out with her handgun.  When Matt still didn’t appear, she called out.

    “Monroe! Hey, you around here?”

    The only reply was another three infected stumbling between the two trucks to reach toward the open window. Tate sighed. “Come on ass-hole. If you’re around here give me a sign.”

    Again the only response was the pitiful moans of the infected.  Tate reached behind the seat to retrieve a machete. She put the truck in park and then got onto her knees in the seat. She leaned out the open window and raised her blade and brought it down on the closest head. When the body slipped down to the asphalt, the remaining two monsters stumbled closer. Tate finished both and then pulled herself onto the side of the tuck. She slid over the bench seat and climbed out the passenger window to the top of the door of the Orange Bitch.

    She squatted on the door looking down into the small compartment than had been her home. It hadn’t been disturbed since she had left. She used the steering wheel to ease herself inside. She spent a couple minutes to grab her pillow, and then stuffed clothes into a second pillowcase. She took one last look around and was satisfied she had found everything salvageable from the cab. She tied the bundle and then made her way out of the truck and back into the cab of the white truck.

    Tate slipped the SD disk from her truck’s into the navigation slot of the white truck. She scanned the area for a few minutes and then zoomed in at the intersection nearly ten miles down the side road where Matt had turned. Half a mile beyond was a grid of streets.  Since she was sure it was the road Matt had taken, she thought she could imagine what happened.

    It would be the place to set up a road block if they were protecting a community.  They could turn traffic away.  She could imagine Matt’s surprise when he realized what he had delivered to their doorstep.  He was caught in the line of fire and couldn’t make it to the cross roads so he would have headed out cross country.  She decided, there was only one way to head, back to the highway across open scrub grass and mesquite to the Bitch.

    If he was headed for the highway, then she had a pretty good idea which direction to head to find him but it was nearly dark.  She decided to wait until morning.  She picked up the mic and clicked the button.  She listened but there was no reply. If he was out there he wasn’t listening or unable to respond.

    She backed up the white rig and rolled over the cattle guard heading south and parked a quarter mile from the road.  If he came toward the Orange Bitch, he would stumble right into the white truck.  If not, she’d head out to look for him at dawn.

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