Archive for February, 2016

Up A Creek – Part 1

Posted: February 27, 2016 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS

Brian steered the truck through a maze of vehicles abandoned along the roadway. Billy pulled out a map, studied the multi-colored lines and plotted a route to a west bound state road.

“Next right.” Billy directed. “Then down two lights, we should hit an industrial area with a lot less traffic and fewer chances of infected people.”

“Where are we going?” Paula asked.

“To the Air Force Base.” Brian announced. “I’ve heard aircraft coming from that direction, I think they’re evacuating from the base. I want to get us there before the place is overrun or closed down.”

“What about my family?” She fired back.

“What about them?” Brian glanced at her. “I’m not running a bus service. My only goal is to get the hell outta the city. You got a better idea, let’s have it.” When she didn’t answer, he continued. “If any of you want to go off on your own, we’ll help you find a vehicle and you can head out.”

Paula looked at Billy and he answered. “Don’t look at me. The man saved my life. My family is out of state and I’m stickin’ with him.”

Paula folder her arms across her chest and adopted a stubborn pout.

“You saw what we saw Paula, don’t be stupid.” Billy interrupted. “You wouldn’t last an hour on your own.”

Brian sighed. “Where was your family? Here in town?”

“No. Houston.” Paula answered.

“They evacuated Houston two days after the attack. All we can do is get to safety and then try to contact the Red Cross. They’ll be setting up some kind of a registration system.” Brian answered. “Your family would want you to be safe. In the meantime, we stay safe and pray our families are as well.”

Paula raised her chin and answered softly. “I guess you’re probably right.”

“Hang on back there!” Brian called out as he slowed the truck to maneuver around yet another accident. Dozens of infected spilled from the store fronts mid-block.

Juan slapped his hand on the roof of the cab. “Got company coming, man!”

“Got it. Hang on back there. Don’t let anything get close.” Brian answered.

“We’ll manage. Just keep moving and get us to the air field.” Leon added.

Brian steered the truck to the edge of the street and rolled over multiple torn and battered bodies of the infected. The brush guard hit flesh and they fell under the massive wheels. The truck rolled down the hill, over a curb into a yard then back into the street again.

More and more of the infected were drawn to the sound of the motor revving. A few of the infected tried to reach over the edge of the bed but the moving vehicles slipped from their grasp. Others stumbled into the side of the truck, only to fall under the huge wheels. Brian steered the truck past the last of the vehicles that blocked the access to the main road heading toward the Kelly Field.

Slowly Brian brought the truck to a stop at the top a hill overlooking the bas. They studied Lackland Airforce Base and Kelly Field in the distance. Hundreds of vehicles had been pushed to the sides of the streets around the air field creating massive barricades around Kelly field leaving only a few streets with access to the base. Those had been closed off and were currently under siege by masses of the infected.

Behind the barrier, the airfield was a beehive of activity. Even from the distance they could see the main entrance was a canyon of abandoned cars parked end to end. A second level of cars had been added to the barrier only upside down creating a barrier that was twice as high and unmovable. At some point, concrete barriers had been brought in to line either side. It was a formidable effort, but it was failing.

The infected were massing on either side of the barrier. They moved between buildings to be drawn toward the sound of the helicopters and aircraft staging on the runways. Thousands of infected pushed against the barrier only held back by piles of bodies created by the constant barrage of gunfire from the men on several tripod guard posts around the field.

It was obvious this was a concentrated effort to evacuate the remaining survivors from the city. Access to the field was closed off and a collection of uniformed and civilian defenders were attempting to hold the line until the surviving people within the compound could be evacuated.

“We have to get in there now or we’re fucked.” Dale announced though the back window.

Ignoring the comment, Billy asked. “How are we going to get in there?”

“We’re not. No way to get to the field before it’s overrun.” Brian pointed to a distant tower as it fell when the stacked cars nearby toppled over. “Hold on! We need to get moving while the mob is focused on the airfield.”

They weaved through congested streets for thirty minutes then Brian stopped at a loading dock behind a strip mall. He backed up to an overhead door. Across the back was painted the name of a camping and hunting supply store.

Juan jumped from the bed of the truck with Leon close on his heels.

“Are we spending the night?” Leon asked.

“No. We’re getting in here to stock up. There’s no way to get out of the city now. Leon Creek goes south all the way to the Medina River. We’ll take it to get out of the city. ”

Brian stood at the front of truck with a rifle resting across his arm. Paula and Margo disappeared behind a small stand of bushes. Both returned with a look of relief on their faces. Back at the truck Juan started handing out water and packets of snacks.

Dale leaned against a barrier at the side of the building. He took a long draw on the bottle. “We can’t keep eating this shit. I need some real food.”

Everyone turned toward the sound of a distant boom. After a brief silence, there was another explosion, then another, and yet another. Each one followed by several smaller booms. White smoke and dust billowed up toward the gathering storm clouds overhead.

“You hear that? The city is lost.” Brian nodded. “We need to get out of the city. The military is taking out the last of the bridges. It’s too late, but they’re trying to quarantine the infected. No one else will be leaving the city, at least by the roadways. You saw the air field. It’ll be overrun within the next hour.”

“They’re trapping people in the city with those monsters.” Dale lamented.

“Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling you what I think. It was a matter of the greater good. They are trying to save the rest of the state.”

“Then there’s no way out.” Paula gasped. “We’re dead!”

“That’s why we’re here. We’re going to get rafts or canoes, whatever we can find and go down the creek until it runs into the Medina River.”

“It’s a fucking creek.” Dale protested.

Hidden Away – Part 2

Posted: February 21, 2016 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS

They drove deserted vehicles and abandoned stores. They passed a cluster of buildings in the distance but no one seemed to want to explore it. When Zack pointed toward the ranch, Steve frowned. “Too close to the road. Too many abandoned vehicles. There could be infected around.”

The pickup weaved around yet another abandoned vehicle while the light quickly began to fade as the sun dipped below the rim of a distant tree-covered ridge. A glimmer of light flashed against glass in the distance and they saw a small cabin on a high ridge. They neared a gravel road that turned to the right and disappeared into the trees.

Zack stopped the truck. “Well, what do you think?”

“It would be off the beaten path, for sure.” Steve answered. “Let’s try it.”

They turned onto the gravel road heading up trees. The path climbed the side of a hill. The further they drove, the steeper the slope at the side of the road and the narrower the path grew.

Della sat up in the seat and whispered to Steve. “Are you sure about this?”

“No but there’s no place to turn around right, now.” Steve answered. “Keep going, Zack.”

They drove another mile over deep ruts and washes then the path widened at a cattle pen and shed.

Zack eased the truck to a stop. “What now? It looks like the wrong road.”

“No. I see the cabin through those trees. I think the road loops around the shed. Wait here.” He stepped out of the truck and followed the path to the back of the shed. He disappeared for a few moments then came back to announce. “We’re still going in the right direction. I can see a cabin. It looks pretty narrow ahead, but if we get beyond there the cabin is right ahead. Let me check it out.”

Steve retraced the narrow path to the back of the shed and then around a stand of trees. Ahead he could see the hunting cabin. It was a narrow trail that looked to be used by four wheeled ATVs in the past, but nothing recently. He limped farther down the track and saw an open yard in front of the cabin. He made his way back to the truck and climbed inside. On the way back he rolled half a dozen large rocks to the side of the trail.

Steve limped back to the truck and announced. “It’s doable.” He climbed in the truck. “Around the back of the shed, head up the trail.”

Zack did as directed. When he pulled around the shed, he slammed on the breaks. “That’s not wide enough!” He stared at the narrow trail with the rough drop off to the left and the steep rise of dirt and brush o the right. “I can’t do this. We’ll go over.”

Steve placed his hand on Zack’s shoulder. “You can do this. Just keep your left tire on the trail. The slope on the inside is gentle enough that you can drive on it. It’ll tilt the truck, but the tires are big enough to climb over a few rocks at the side of the road. The trail is wider around just beyond there.”

“You can do this Zack.” Della echoed.

Zack chuckled nervously. “Okay, at least ya’ll get out, just in case.”

“Good idea. Della, you four get out. I’ll ride with Zack.” Stave answered. “We’ll pick you up on the other side.”

The three women and child stepped out of the truck and waited as the vehicle pulled ahead. They watched as the massive vehicle rolled toward the narrowing of the trail. Zack shifted into low gear and the sound of the engine growled.

The tires rolled forward with Steve urging Zack to guide the truck toward the upper slope. Zack turned the steering wheel to the right. The front tire climbed up the incline while the left tires rolled along-side the drop-off at the side of the trek. Zack’s brow glistened with perspiration.

“Am I good?” He asked. “I can’t see the road.”

“You’re doing fine.” Steve leaned out the window judging the distance. “To the right. More to the right. The tire can roll up the rocks at the side. Slow and steady, now.”

Zack struggled against the steering wheel forcing the front tire up the incline. The truck moved forward. The cab tilted at a steep angle. Gravel and dirt slid down the canyon wall.

The women followed. All the while, Millie spoke of cooking on a wood stove. She spoke of cooking grits, collard greens and smoke-cured meat. When Della gasped, Millie grabbed her arm and insisted she be supported demanding her attention.

“Della girl. I need your help. I ain’t as strong as I used to be.” Millie insisted.

Darlene continued to watch as Millie forced Della to ignore the truck rolling past the wash and pay attention to the old woman. She frowned knowing full well Millie was trying to keep her mind off Steve and Zack. She turned to look at the edge of the road and her heart quickened when she saw the sheer drop off mere inches from the tires of the truck.

Steve hung out the passenger window waving his arm and encouraging Zack to hold the right wheels straight as the vehicle rolled over the rockslide at the side of the trail. Suddenly, the back wheel bounced off the last bolder and the truck settled flat on the trail again. Zack let the truck roll forward another ten feet where the road widened and slammed the big truck into park.

“Fuck!” Zack cursed as he jerked open the truck door and jumped to the road. He bent over taking several deep breaths. Finally, he stood up, his eyes still wide with fright.

He looked back at the narrow pass. “That was really screwed up.”

Steve wiped the moisture from his face and forced a laugh. “You’re the man. Let’s get moving.”

After retrieving a bottle of water and taking a long drink, Zack opened the back door of the extended cab. He made an exaggerated bow and hustled Della, Darlene, Penny and Millie inside. “I will be doing some road work on the trail before we come out of here.” He announced as he settled behind the wheel.

Steve laughed. “Might be a good idea.”

Della sighed. “I don’t think my heart could watch you do that again.”

Millie chuckled. “I wasn’t worried.”

Della, Millie and Darlene, with Penny in her lap settled in the back seat while Steve watched the gate close behind the truck. Zack accelerated.

“We need to get away from here as quickly as we can. I don’t want to be in the area if that bunch decides they don’t want deserters.” Steve advised.

“They looked military.” Darlene commented. “Since when does martial law include taking over a town and killing civilians?”

“It’s not supposed to.” Steve answered.

Steve pulled out a map and folded it in fourths. He found Utopia on the map and traced his finger across the paper. “Thirty miles back we can catch a farm to market road, ten-fifty to twenty-seven forty-eight and head north toward Leakey.”

The truck passed several small side roads before Zack eased off the accelerator and began to break. “Don’t think we’re goin’ that way.”

Ahead on the road an eighteen wheeler had tried to pass a pickup and gone off a narrow bridge. The truck driver had misjudged the clearance and the rig had ended up on its side blocking the entire bridge.

“Back up.” Steve ordered. “Careful, man.”

Zack slipped the gear shift into reverse and swung his arm over the seat to look through the back window. He eased off the break and accelerated. The truck strayed from side to side as Zack backed down the road. “I’m not good at this.”

“Doing fine. Ease up on the accelerator and you’ll stop overcorrecting.” Steve advised.

“Got it.” Zack slowed.

“Look!” Della shouted. “In the distance at the top of that hill.”

A string of motorcycles crested the distant rise and raced down the blacktop toward them.  Steve pulled a pair of binoculars to his face and studied the riders.

“Back up to the next side road and get the truck off the road, Zack. They’ll have to get past the overturned trailer and when they do we need to be long gone.”

“What did you see?” Asked Della.

“Looks like a rough bunch of bikers with a military vehicle leading the way. After what we saw in Utopia, we can’t take a chance on them catching up with us.”

Darlene clutched at her daughter behind Zack. “Please hurry.”

Zack waved his hand, “Working on it, Ms. Darlene.” He accelerated a bit as he got better at guiding the vehicle in reverse.

“There. To the left.” Steve pointed to a side road.

The truck sped past the intersection and Zack slammed on the breaks. The truck skidded on loose gravel at the side of the blacktop. Amid yelps of surprise, the truck swayed to a stop. Zack slammed the gearshift into drive and whipped the vehicle around to the gravel road. He accelerated and followed the curve of the road out of sight.

“Stop!” Steve ordered.

Zack complied. The only sound was the ticking of the cooling engine. A few minutes later they heard the sound of the approaching motorcycles from behind the stand of trees at the edge of the road.

“Did they see us?” Della asked.

“I guess we’ll know soon enough.” Steve answered. “Stop here.” Steve looked back, hesitated then gave a quick nod. “Real slow, pull off to the left under that tree and behind the brush.”

Zack did as he was told but Della interrupted. “Why are we stopping?”

“We need to know where they go.” Steve announced. He started to exit the truck, but Della caught his arm.

“You can’t do that. Your legs are not healed. You’ll be crawling before you get a hundred feet.”

Steve opened his mouth to protest, but Della rested her hand on his shoulder. “If we have to know, I can go back, but you can’t. You have to take it easy if you’re going to be any good to us.” She took a breath then continued. “Besides, what difference does it make? If they head into Utopia, we can do nothing about it. If they saw us, we need to be gone.”

Steve hesitated then answered. “You’re right.” He eased the door closed and slid back in the passenger seat of the truck. “Let’s move, Zack. Slow and easy. Try to make as little dust as possible.”

Zack guided the truck down a narrow dirt road. When the road veered to the south Steve directed them to a fire road heading north.

“Are you sure?” Della protested. “This doesn’t look like much of a road.”

“It’s a fire road. It goes through the canyons and will take us past some really sparsely populated areas. We have enough supplies for now.”

Darlene leaned toward the front seat. “Do we have enough gas?”

“We picked up two five gallon cans and they’re stowed in back.” Steve answered. “During our time in Utopia, Zack and I picked up a few extra supplies. Since, we’re going to head northwest I think we can avoid populated areas at least for a while.”

Della nodded. “Sounds good.”

Darlene reached out to cover Millie’s wrinkled hand. “I think it’s a good idea. It seems the best of humanity is not the only survivors. “

Zack chimed in. “You got that right, between the military and now those bikers.”

Steve agreed. “Legitimate military wouldn’t have taken control by killing people. I think the residents of Utopia are in for a rough time.”

Time passed slowly as they followed the isolated fire roads though the rough bare rock strewn canyons and wooded valleys. Penny pointed at deer grazing along the road. She laughed at Zack when he started singing nursery rhymes and soon they were all singing together. When she grew tired, she settled in Darlene’s arms and napped.

It was those quiet times Millie started talking quietly about life without modern conveniences. “Being share-croppers, my people were poor. I didn’t use an indoor toilet until I was near thirty years old.” She chuckled. “When I was a child my folks killed and cleaned squirrels, rabbits, possum, and raccoon. You name it and my mamma could make it for dinner.”

They stopped from twice to rest and eat. After a quick trip to the bushes they would pile back in the truck. Any time, they stopped they listened for motorcycles in the distance and looking over their shoulder.

Late that afternoon and several hours after passing Garner State Park, Zack tried to flex his wide shoulders and asked. “It’s getting late. Are we going to stop tonight?”

Steve answered. “I know we’re all tired. If I read this map right, we should be coming to a farm to market road in the next couple miles. Turn left and we’ll be going west again. In that area we should see a few small camp grounds and maybe a hunting cabin or two. First place we come to, we’ll check it out.”

Escape

Posted: February 13, 2016 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS

Liz kneeled next to Harry and unlaced his boot. Liz pulled an elastic wrap from her bag and began wrapping his ankle. Harry cringed when she tore off the end and jerked his foot.

“Is it too tight?” Liz asked as she slipped his boot back on his foot.

“No. It’s fine.” Harry responded as he leaned down and tucked the laces into the top of the boot. “How are YOU doing? Are you okay? The baby?” He sat up and studied the scratches on her arm.

“We’re fine. Why did they do that?” Liz asked.

John held his side while he gulped water from a plastic bottle. “They probably wanted our supplies. They probably weren’t expecting someone on a bike. If they had been they would have put the cable neck high. That would have been ugly.” He chuckled. “It didn’t do much good with all those glass jars. My bike is useless I heard the fork crack when I hit the barricade.”

He spilled water over a red handkerchief and dabbed at the abrasion on his arm. He wiped at his hands, then dried them on his pants leg.

“It’s a miracle none of us ended up with broken bones.” Harry picked up his bag. “Let’s find a place to hunker down.”

Liz rose and brushed gravel from her pants then pointed at a distant sign mounted on a structure. “There, behind that fence.”

Both men stood and looked to where she pointed. Dozens of luxury campers were parked on a massive parking lot.”

“Happy Holiday Camper Extravaganza?” John asked.

“Why not? We’re at least four miles from the assholes that ambushed us. They have no way of knowing which direction we’ve been going and besides that, it’s late enough they won’t follow us if they’re smart. They’ll clean out what they can and get back to their hidey hole.” Harry answered. “Maybe we’ll find a vehicle with enough gas in the tank to get the fuck outa here.”

“What I was thinking.” Liz answered with a shrug.

Harry got to his feet and picked up his pack. “It’s more of a plan then we had before. Let’s go.”

Harry led John and Liz down an alley, across a blacktop to the gate of the Happy Holiday Camper yard. When John reached for the lock, Harry pulled his hand back. He pointed to a pickup sitting at the side of the hurricane fence.

“We go over the fence. If anyone comes sniffing around the gates will be intact. Hopefully, they won’t figure there’s a reason to come inside.”

Harry climbed into the bed of the truck. He reached down and picked up a rubber mat from the bed of the truck. He threw the mat over the barbed wire strands at the top of the eight foot fencing. Pulling down at the edges, he nodded at John. “You first.”

John climbed to the top of the cab, grabbed at the top of the mat and pulled himself to the top of the fence with a loud grunt. After hovering there for a second, he swung a leg over, found a foothold, and then swung his other leg to the inside of the fence. He dropped to the ground, landing hard. He pulled himself back to his feet groaning.

Harry nudged Liz. “Let’s go. We’re pretty exposed here.”

Liz quickly duplicated John’s maneuver then landed on the ground with a lot more. She turned to John to give a smug nod and noticed moisture glistened on John’s face.

“Are you alright?”

John whispered. “Might have a couple cracked ribs.”

Liz and John reached up and grabbed at the mat and held it in place while Harry duplicated their maneuver. When they all three stood at the base of the fence, Harry pulled the mat off the fence and pulled it behind a camper. He pointed toward the front of the parking lot and a massive building. Three vehicles had been parked near the front door. Each had the name of Happy Holiday Camper Extravaganza stenciled on the sides.

“You think any people are in the building?” Liz whispered.

“I think we have to check it out. We don’t have much in the way of food. We can see if there’s a snack machine inside and try to find keys to the vehicles. We can check them out then get into one of the units at the back of the lot. Watch the lot numbers and let’s get an idea of their numbering system.”

John readied his gun. “We might be able to siphon gas from vehicles.”

Harry limped toward the building with John and Liz following. He got to the building and looked in the glass windows across the front. They could see through the gloom into multiple cubicles. Everything seemed to be in order. No walking corpses, no blood or evidence of struggle.

Harry turned to the others. “Let’s go around the building and find a better place to get in. Breaking glass will let someone know we’re here.”

He led the way to the side of the building. There he walked to a side door and tried the door knob. It was locked. Harry moved on but nodded toward two sets of head-high windows with glass louvers.

“That might be an option.”

He followed the building around to the back where a repair shop was located. Garage doors included glass panels so they got a good look inside. Nothing moved. They completed the circle of the building.

“Looks good.” Harry announced. “Let’s go to the bathroom windows.

“The bathroom?” Liz whispered.

“Louvered windows. Only thing it can be. Head high.” Harry grinned. “Venting.”

They hurried back around the building to the window. Harry reached up and pulled at one of the glass slats. It wiggled but remained in place. He reached for his hand gun, turned it around and tapped gently at the edge. The glass moved. He slid his hand to the opposite side and did the same. A moment later, he slid the glass from the guides. He repeated the process until the glass sat in a stack at his feet.

John nudged Harry. “Give me a hand.” He held up a foot.

“That’s not going to work.” Liz chuckled. “Even if you could get up to the window, you’ll never get through the opening. Give me a boost.”

John looked to Harry. He shrugged after he looked at Liz and then back at the narrow opening.

“You be careful.” He passed Liz a LED light. “Make damned sure the bathroom is empty before you climb in there. No looking around on your own, just get to this door and get it open.  Understood?”

“Yes, worry-wart.” She quipped. “I’ll be careful.”

Liz nodded and John laced his fingers under her boot. She grabbed the sides of the window and flicked the light and shinned the beam around the inside of the bathroom. It was a men’s bathroom and smelled faintly of urine and bathroom cleaner.

“It’s good.” Liz called over her shoulder as she pulled herself onto the window sill.

She pulled her left leg through the opening, eased the rest of herself into the bathroom, where she found footing on the cabinet at the side of the sink. She eased her right foot down from the window and stood on the sink listening. Finally, she stuck her head out the window.

“Going in. Be ready.”

Liz slid to the floor, crossed the room and reached for the door knob. Her heart raced. She pressed her ear to the door. She had to wait until her heart rate slowed before she realized the only sound was the dripping of the faucet behind her.

She took a deep breath and turned the door knob. She looked through the narrow opening and saw a row of empty cubicles to the right. Enough light shown in from the front windows to assure her it was empty. She opened the bathroom door enough to a step through and out into the hall.

It was so quiet she heard only her own breath and the dripping faucet. She crossed the ten feet to the side door and shined the light on the door. She pushed at the bar and the door eased open.

John slid the last glass panel back in the window then followed Harry into the building. They stepped pulled the door closed behind them. “Don’t shine the light toward the front windows. We don’t want anyone catching a flash of light and coming to investigate.”

“Got it.” Liz answered.

Harry moved toward the front of the building. “We clear it, get what we can, find some keys then find a place to hunker down for the night.”

They rounded a corner and saw an infected man standing inside a glass enclosure. The man slammed bloodied hands against the glass of the teller window. John started for the door, but Harry grabbed his arm.

“No. Leave him. We leave it as it is.”

“There’s half a case of water on the counter and a handful of food in there.”

“Not enough there to take a chance on getting hurt.” Harry answered. “Let’s check out the rest of the building, first.”

They cleared the offices then the repair shop. They were alone except for the infected man in the small teller’s office. In the shop they found a hand siphon pump and hoses. They found keys to all three vehicles in one of the offices.

When they were finished, Harry turned to John and winked. “While we decide which vehicle to take, Liz can gather supplies from the break room?”

“Fine, give the woman the stinky job.” Liz complained.

Harry raised an eye brow. “Who us? You think we’re being sexist?”

Liz smirked. “Of course,you are two of the most politically incorrect people I’ve ever met. But since the world has gone to shit and I know nothing about what you might need, I guess I’ll see what I can get out of the break room that’s salvageable.”

John clutched at his side and gave Harry a lopsided smile. “Did she insult us?” He whispered.

“Probably.” Harry laughed and turned back to Liz. “Stack it by the side door. We’ll pull one of the vehicles around to load up.”

“Got it.” She answered.

Liz walked into the snack room and the array of machines. The smell was noxious from the spoiled food. She found four cases of water. When she opened a supply closet, she found boxes of snacks including meat jerky, pasta and soup cups, dried fruits, crackers and cheese, and boxes of candies and chips.

They found keys for campers and a map of parking assignments. On a wall in an office they found a board listing campers scheduled for service and pick-up. Next to each entry on the status board hung a keyring with vehicle and door keys. After an extended debate they chose a camper scheduled for pick-up the day of the attack hoping they would find full tanks of water and gas. Ten minutes later the truck was loaded and the trio drove toward the back of the parking lot.

By the time they got to the camper, John’s breathing had been reduced to shallow puffs with every jolt of the truck.

“There. That one.” Liz announced.

“Good.” Harry commented. “We check it out, if it works, you take John inside and I’ll off load the supplies then take the truck back up front.”

The unit was a class C motor home. The cab-over vehicle on a truck chassis was only eighteen feet in length. The white over tan unit was covered in a thin layer of dust. Harry pulled the pickup next to the camper door.

“Do you think we should be left with only the camper for transportation?” Liz asked.

Harry nodded. “I think it’s worth it to keep anyone from noticing activity here.”

Liz led John to the camper. She pulled the keys from her pocket and opened the camper door.  and to a bench seat. She guided John to a bench seat then walked to the driver’s seat and turned the ignition on. All the gages came to life. Harry sat a case of water on the dinette table and turned to look over Liz’s shoulder to read the gages. He glanced at a second panel and tapped the panel.

“Well?” Liz turned and asked.

“We’re even better than good. It’s great.” Harry announced.

“I’ll help you get the supplies in. Then we need to look at John’s ribs. He looks bad.” Liz answered as she turned the ignition key.

Major William Bishop stormed into the city hall with Lieutenant Mason close on his heels. “What in the fuck was that?” Bishop scowled at Mason. “I told you no trouble before we had the place locked down.”

“Bastard pissed me off.” Mason protested.

“Fuck it. They would have gotten their shorts in a knot anyway soon enough.” Bishop settled in the mayor’s plush chair behind the desk. “Now they know we’re in charge.”

“The city council is locked in the holding cell in the basement.” Mason announced.

“Good. Close the windows so it warms up down there. No food or water until tomorrow night. That ought to soften them up. Meanwhile, get men on the gates. No one comes or go without my authorization.”

“What about the mid-day meal?” Mason asked.

“Go ahead and open the mess hall at one. Put up a sign announcing all residents are required to register with the military office in Utopia effective immediately. Set up something on the first floor to facilitate registration. I want name, age, where they’re living and any usable skills recorded. Get a couple men over to the office supply and pick up supplies to make ID cards. ”

Mason answered. “We can use locals to do the paperwork and a few of our men to enforce it. But why do you want to know who’s here?”

“The ID cards will control who consumes resources. It will also let me know who could be trouble and give us a chance to confiscate weapons.”

If they want to eat, they’ll have to sign up.” Mason laughed.

“Exactly.” Bishop answered. “Meanwhile, get a couple men out to the guard posts on both ends of town. Send that little prick, Carter in here. He’ll serve as my aid.”

“No problem. He’s downstairs.”

“When folks go to eat, find half a dozen office drones and set them up in the front office on the first floor. Make sure they have enough office skills to set up the ID system. I want registration to begin this afternoon.” Mason got up to leave and Bishop called out. “Tell Carter to bring me back some lunch.”

Three hours later six women stood in front of Bishop. “Who can use a computer and a spreadsheet?” Two of the women raised their hands. “The rest of you have office skills?”

All four nodded. Bishop pointed to an older woman. “Were did you work?”

“The medical clinic.” A middle aged woman answered.

“Good. You’ll go with one of my men and inventory the drug room in the clinic. I want the inventory by tomorrow morning. Get out.” Bishop tossed Mason a key ring. “Get someone to go with her.”

Mason pushed at the woman’s back and guided her toward the door. He disappeared for a few minutes then returned.

“All taken care of, sir.”

Bishop stared at the rest of the women for a full minute. “You have until tomorrow morning to develop a plan to register all residents and have the ability to issue ID cards within the next twenty-four hours. You will be expected to get the registration and issuance completed by the evening meal Wednesday. At that point in time, any resident without an ID cards, will not eat.” He paused then added. “Any questions?”

“What do you want on the ID card?” A woman with red hair asked.

“Where did you work?” Bishop asked.

“Downstairs. Permitting office.”

“Good. You know your way around here. You’re in charge until you screw it up, Red?” Bishop continued. “I want name, age, address of where they’re living and any usable skills. You have two hours to come up with samples registration form and IDs.”

Red gave a quick nod and turned to the door then stopped and turned back. “My name is Angie. I’ll help, but these girls are not to be harassed by your men. That dick-head and his men have been leering at them since we walked in the building.”

Bishop burst out laughing. “Fair enough. My staff,” He used his arm to indicate the small gathering of women. “are off limits. Mason, pass it along to the men.”

“Yes sir.” He made a sloppy salute.

Angie gave a quick nod. “Thank you.” She turned and left the room with the other women following behind.

Bishop stood up and walked to an overstuffed couch just as Carson walked into the door carrying a covered tray. He settled in front of the coffee table and motioned toward Carter.

Carter set the tray down and Bishop reached for to uncover the tray. He set the napkin aside and began to eat. Around a mouthful of pasta, he looked up at Carter.

“Clear my desk including the drawers. Throw all that shit into a box and get it outta here.” He dismissed Carter with a tilt of his head then and took another went back to his meal.

He turned to Mason. “Get rid of the shit on the south end of the school down by the gym showers and turn it into a barracks. Get half a dozen men and find furniture and twin mattresses in the empty houses. Use a truck. Get some of the women to do the laundry. I want clean cloth and this bunch of dipshits looking like soldiers again.”

Mason chuckled. “Some of the boys are getting a little ripe, that’s for damned sure.”

“There’s a two story house behind the court house and across the street from the school. You and I will be moving in this evening. If anyone is living there, move them out.”

“Yes Sir.”

An engine roared to a stop in front of the town hall and Mason stepped to the window. He watched Ollie Ford pulled his bulk from the vehicle.

“It’s the town clown,” Mason commented. “The fat sheriff from the gate.”

Bishop tilted his head toward the door. Tell Carter to stall the dick-head until I finish lunch. Make sure a couple men are outside the door to enforce it.”

Mason disappeared then stepped back into the room. Bishop took his time as he enjoyed the meal. When he was done, he got to his feet and walked to the window and looked down at the entrance to the school across the street.

A small gathering of civilians had arrived at the cafeteria for the noon meal. They stood around obviously discussing the sign now posted at the door. Angry glares were turned toward the town hall from time to time.

Bishop turned back to Mason. “Let him in.”

Mason opened the door and Ollie Ford charged into the room. “What the fuck is going on here? I’ve been told the city council is in the holding cell in the basement. There were shots fired. Townsfolks assaulted?”

“Sheriff Ford!” Bishop interrupted. Sheriff Ford fell silent and Bishop continued. “Now, if you are calm we can discuss the fact your city council attempted to assault one of my men. As a result there were shots fired.”

Brian led the group down the stairs to the exit and stopped at the door. “Billy and Paula go around to the passenger side. I’ll keep an eye on the driver’s side while Leon and Juan make sure Margo and Dale get in the back? Once you’re in the truck get to the roll bar and hang on. The minute I crank that engine every dead fuck within a ten blocks radius will be heading our way. We’ll just keep attracting attention so don’t lose that duffle bag. We’ll need that ammo.”

Brian passed the bag to Leon and he hiked it up on his well-muscled shoulder. “Got it covered, boss.”

Brian looked at each person in the party. “We’re crossing open ground so keep your eyes open. Move quickly and stay together.”

Billy, Juan, and Brian each hiked backpacks over their shoulders. Leon adjusted the gun bag and reached out to Margo. She reluctantly placed her hand in his. He gave a quick nod. “We got this, right.”

Margo tried to smile, but it looked more like a grimace.

Juan leaned toward Dale with a wide grin. “Keep up, hombre. I ain’t letting no dead fuck bite me in the ass, because you can’t keep up.”

Dale hiked up his drooping pants and tightened his grip on the table leg. “Fuck you.”

The group made their way down the dark stairway to the bottom floor of the building. Brian peeked through the small glass window at the top of the door and saw a nearly empty parking lot. He pushed on the door and eased it open slowly. Looking around one last time, he stepped out into the sunlight squinting at the glare. Once everyone was out of the building, he moved from the sidewalk to the asphalt of the parking lot one step at a time. The others followed close behind.

“Slow and easy, folks.” Brian whispered. “Quiet.”

Brian hurried across the parking lot with Paula and Billy close on his heels. Following them was Leon clinging to Margo’s arm. Juan with Dale in tow began lagging further behind with each step.

Dale gasped for breath. Juan slowed and motioned at the insurance salesman to move more quickly.

When Dale caught up to him, Juan whispered with a voice tinged with irritation. “Want another cigarette? Hurry the fuck up!”

Brian and the group got over ten yards before the first infected noticed them. He unlocked the doors with a push of the button on the key fob. “Move it, people!”

The click of the button sounded loud with the deafening quiet of the city. Billy, still holding Paula’s hand, veered off to the left when he saw the blink of parking lights on the truck.

An infected woman stumbled from behind a mini-van and headed for the group. Three more infected took notice and turned to make a bee-line across the parking lot toward them.

“They’re coming! We have to go back.” Margo shrieked.

“The door locked behind us. Run faster, woman.” Leon ordered just as Margo stumbled and pulled from his grasp.

She fell to her knees dropping the chair leg with a loud thud on the asphalt. Leon reached down, and yelled. “Get up and run!”

He took three quick steps toward the infected woman and swung his metal chair leg. The heavy metal made contact with the side of the infected woman’s head. A patch of scalp peeled off her head as it jerked to the side but she didn’t go down. Leon back stepped to take another swing only to stumble into Dale.

Juan seeing what was happening, side-stepped avoiding the tangle of legs when both men went down. He raised his metal bar and slammed it down on the infected woman’s head and she collapsed on top Leon’s legs. Juan reached down and jerked the body off Leon and pulled him to his feet.

“Come on amigo.”

Leon turned to Margo still crumpled on the asphalt and swung out with an open hand. He slapped the side of her face. “Shut up and get up or we’re leaving you.”

The slap silenced her screeching. Leon turned and pulled Dale to his feet. “Move it man!” Both men headed for the truck.

Juan grabbed Margo’s arm and pulled her to her feet then released her. She picked up the improvised weapon and ran after Leon, Dale and Juan toward the truck.

“In the truck, now!” Brian called out as he watched another infected approach.

The gray-fleshed man dressed in a shredded white shirt covered in dark splotches of dried blood snarled. The monster growled and reached toward Brian.

“Not likely,” Brian roared back as he kicked out and caved in the man’s knee. When he went down, a quick thrust of Brian’s knife into the eye socket put the monster down.

Billy got to the passenger side of the pickup and opened the door. He jerked the door open and ordered. “Get in and get over.”

While she scrambled into the cab, Billy turned to slam his table leg into the head of a blood and gore covered child monster.

Leon got to the truck and threw the canvas bag over the edge of the bed. He glanced around then stepped on the extended hub of the back wheel and vaulted into the truck. He turned just in time to see Juan push at Dale’s wide butt as he reached for the top of the bed.

Dale grunted and hung there unable to pull his own weight into the bed. Leon grabbed the back of his pants and hauled him into the truck bed and dropped him in the bed unceremoniously leaving him lay in a heap.

Brian intercepted another monster as it made its way around the front bumper of the truck. He stepped out and swung a table leg into monster’s legs. When the infected woman went down, he slammed the table leg down hard on her skull.

Juan jumped to the top of the wheel and climbed into the bed of the pickup.

“Don’t leave me…Help!” Margo slammed her hands against the side of the truck then reached up while trying to step up on the wheel.

Brian turned around and frowned. “Guys?”

“We got it.” Leon called out.

Brian climbed into the cab and behind the wheel while Leon and Juan each grabbed an arm and jerked Margo into the bed of the truck just and three more infected slammed against the back fender.

Juan pushed Margo toward the roll bar, while Leon pulled Dale to the front of the truck to lean against the cab. Brian cranked the engine and the big truck roared to life.

Billy slid open the window at the back of the cab. “Good to go back there?” He called out.

Leon slammed a hand on the hood. “Get us out of here. We’re drawing a crowd.”

Brian stomped the gas and the truck bowled over three infected. The cluster of infected, pounding at the side of the truck bed, were quickly left behind. Margo yelped in surprised and Leon slid an arm around her waist while she grabbed the roll bar.

Juan laughed and swung a chair leg at the head of an infected man with dreadlock as they drove past. The impact crushed the side of the man’s head and sent him reeling away.

“Home run!” Juan laughed.

Brian and Billy found a military truck in the motor pool. The garage door was still open and a front tire lay next to the truck.  It explained why the vehicle was still in the motor pool. With Brian standing guard, Billy checked the tire’s pressure then bolted the tire on the front of the truck as fast and quietly as he could. Once they climbed in the big truck, they felt semi-safe for the first time since the attack.

They point the light truck away from the Army base and headed out of town only to be t-boned by an out of control panel truck. The panel truck sheared the front wheel and pinned the Army vehicle against a barricade. A horde of infected noticed the commotion and turned toward the sound of the accident. One and all started stumbling toward the trucks. Billy grabbed his rifle and ran around the front of the vehicle. Brian retrieved his own weapons and collected the duffle with extra ammo and a pack filled with water and food.

Brian led Billy past to the van where a quick glance verified the driver was beyond help. They escaped the slow moving horde only to be driven into hiding by another mob of infected. They hid long enough to catch their breath then ran again. They spent that first afternoon making their way west. Near dusk they broke into a small office building where they found the first three survivors.

Brian glanced over his shoulder at the trio gathered together watching him expectantly. The two women, Paula Mendoza and Margo Dixon, were both exhausted, but were in pretty good shape to be locked in the building for days with only bottled water, soda and snack machine fare to survive on. The fifty-plus year old insurance salesman, Dale Witman, was overweight and had the wheeze of a long-time smoker. Dale patted at his pockets every few minutes looking for that illusive pack of cigarettes he had long since smoked.

Brian was waiting for the return of the latest addition to his group of survivors. The two surviving members from a construction crew, they had encountered, were doing a little recon mission. The two men, Leon Jones, a short black guy with mad skills with a hammer and Juan Campo, who claimed to be one hundred percent American to anyone who dared to call him Mexican were tough men that Brian was glad to have around.

Billy sat on an office chair, a handgun lying on the desk in front of him, his eyes constantly drifting toward the door of the office as if expecting a monster to stumble in at any moment. He was a good kid, but a little overwhelmed at the moment.

When Brian wasn’t running, scavenging, or planning their next move, he worried about his family. He prayed when he got to his father-in-law’s place. He imagined when he got there he would see Liz and the girls standing on the wooden porch of the lodge. He had to believe they were waiting for him so he could keep going….

“Please, God, protect them.” Brian whispered as he turned to face the sound of Leon and Juan opening the office door.

Leon stuck his head into the office. “We’re good, bro.”

Juan nodded. “Sure thing, man. We took out a window on the second floor. We could click the locks on both vehicles. We saw the lights blink so batteries are good.”

Brian crossed the room and followed the two men into the hall. “Well?”

Juan announced. “One of the vehicles is at the back of the lot and looks like it’s a ten year old piece of shit. The other is a big GMC all decked out with roll bar and big tires. It’s parked three rows back and just left of the main drive, maybe ten yards from the door. Most of the people must have left early so there’re less than half a dozen vehicles scattered around the lot.

Leon nodded. “We can get to it, easy enough. The ladies should be alright but good old Dale is gimpy since he fell, coming up the stairs yesterday. Add that smoker’s wheeze, well, who knows?”

“Does the big truck have an extended cab?” Brian asked.

“Not so lucky. But it’s a big fuckin’ ride,” Leon answered. “Three people in the cab, rest of us can ride in bed. It has huge tires and a lift kit. Once we’re in the bed, nothing will be able to reach us as long as we stay away from the sides.”

Juan looked excited. “When I was looking for the keys on the big security guard, I found a gas receipt. It looks like he filled up the gas tank that morning, both the main and reserve tank.”

“Show me the truck.” Brian grinned with real optimism for the first time in days.

They walked across the hall to a window in another office and the two men pointed out the big blue truck with a confederate flag stencil on the back window.

Leon chuckled. “I always wanted to ride in a big-ass redneck truck like that.”

“Well, you get your wish, Leon. Let’s get our people and get the hell outta town.”

He led the two men back into the office. “Okay folks,” He looked at the anxious faces of the two women and Dale looking at him. “We’re ready to move.”

Billy jumped to his feet. “Yes sir. I have all the rations stowed in the four backpacks we found. The extra magazines are good-to-go. Extra firearms loaded and ammo stowed in the duffle. I pulled off the metal legs from a couple tables for weapons.”

Brian looked at the handguns on the table and nodded toward Juan and Leon. “Pick up your weapons and extra magazines, gentlemen. Billy’s got everything ready to go.” He turned back to Dale and the women. “Pick up the table legs, folks. We do this nice and quiet.”

“Where are we going?” Dale asked as he rubbed at the stubble on his chin.

“We’re not taking a chance on the car lot. Juan and Leon located a truck that belonged to one of the guards. Only problem is the truck is in the middle of the back parking lot and a few infected people are wandering around back there.”

Paula took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and picked up a table leg. “I’m good. We’ve changed into the running shoes you found.”

Billy glanced at Dale as he got to his feet and laughed. “Yeah, the pink looks good on you, man.”

“Fuck you, kid.” Dale groused.

“You can’t expect me to hit someone on the head with a table leg.” Margo glared at the others.

Brian took three steps toward Margo. “Look, lady. I’m trying to keep us all alive. That means we all work together.”

“They’re people.” Margot argued.

Billy stepped up and handed the woman the metal cylinder. “They’re dead. They will tear you apart if you don’t bash ‘em in the head. The LT has done everything he can to keep us all alive and being quiet is part of the deal. You can’t do it, fine. Stay here. We’re leaving.”

“Fine.” Margo mumbled as she accepted the weapon.

Brian nodded at Dale and he picked up a metal table leg with a scowl. “I’ll drive.” Juan tossed him the keys ring. “We’re taking one vehicle and it’s the big blue truck in the parking lot. We found receipts and we’re pretty sure it has a full tank of diesel. It will be a bitch getting everyone in, but with the big tires and lift kit, everyone will be safer in the long run. All we have to do is keep moving. Billy and Paula will ride in the cab with me. I want the rest of you getting in the back as quickly as you can. Any infected get close, swing at the head as hard as you can and put ‘em down.”

Billy nodded at Paula. “You’d better be quick crawling in the cab.”

Paula whispered. “agujero del culo.”

“I think she likes you.” Juan winked at Billy.

“I can tell. She called me an asshole.” He grinned.