Helpless – Part 2

Posted: April 14, 2017 in Book I Terror in Texas

Brian pulled his legs from the window ledge and sat upright.  He got to his feet and turned to study the four sleepers now only shadows in the gloom. He turned back to Billy’s flushed face visible in the moonlight through the windows.

“What is it? Is it midnight?” He whispered.

Billy pointed through the window. “No! There! I can see lights.”

Brian wiped his eyes with the back his hand and studied the dark shadows in the distance. He got to his feet, squinted and leaned closer to the glass. After a full minute, he was ready to give Billy hell for waking him when he saw a flash of light. Suddenly there were three more flashes in quick secession.

“Gunfire?” Billy asked.

“You got the keys to the truck?” Brian demanded. “Stay here and keep watch until morning. If I don’t make it back, you know where to go.”

Billy handed Brian keys. “The truck has a full tank. Are you sure you should go?”

“I don’t want someone or something to sneak up on us. Besides, there might be someone we can help.” Billy looked unsure, and Brian continued. “You see any other vehicle than this truck headed this way, you load up and head out the back. Drive like hell. I’ll catch up.”

“Got it,” Billy answered. “I’ll be watching. You want me to get the others up?”

“I’ll take Leon with me but let the other’s sleep for now.” Brian walked to Leon and gave him a shake. Leon jerked away grabbing for a big knife at his side. “Easy, big guy.”

When Leon realized it was Brian, he flopped back against the pile of T-shirts. “Boss, you scared the shit outta me.”

Brian shrugged. “Come on. We have to check out something.”

Leon stumbled to his feet and stepped into his boots. “What’s going on?”

“That’s what I want to know,” Brian answered.

Brian and Leon grabbed a couple go-bags and climbed in the old truck.

The eighty-nine Ford 150. It had original red and white paint and interior though a little worn was in good condition. When Juan had examined the motor, it was evident it had been well cared for. Brian had debated because the standard tires had been replaced with wide, deep tread, off-road versions. The truck would be top-heavy, but at least the engine and muffler hadn’t been modified.

Just as Leon pulled the passenger door closed, Brian slammed the big engine into gear. He stomped on the gas heading for the parking lot entrance.

“Lights!” Leon commented as he clung to the dash, “We need lights!”

“No, we’re going in stealth. I had Juan take out all the light bulbs in the breaks.” Brian answered. “Only headlights left.”

“Where are we going?” Leon asked.

“There.” Brian pointed to two flashes of light. “I want to know who’s doing all the shooting.” The truck turned onto the narrow blacktop and headed toward the gunfire in the distance. Leon rolled down the window and stuck his head out. “I can hear it. Some of it sounds like automatic weapons. Not a .22 for sure.” Leon called over his shoulder.

Brian turned the steering wheel, and the truck left the highway for a narrow side road heading toward the small war in progress. The truck bounced over the rough road, and half a mile from the station could hear the roar of several big engines as heavier gunfire echoed in the distance.

“What are we gonna to do?” Leon settled on the seat and picked up a military rifle with the muzzle pointed out the window.

“We’re stopping in that grove of trees and check out what’s going on.” Brian drove another three minutes while the gunfire got louder and more sporadic. He pulled off the road and backed into a corpse of scrubby trees. He turned off the engine.

Both men jumped from the truck.

“What’s the plan, boss?” Leon asked.

“Follow me, but not too close. If anything happens, head back and get the hell outta here. You and Billy load everyone up and move out.”

Brian jogged to the side of the road with Leon following ten feet behind. The two men hurried between dark shadows until they neared the crest of the hill. Brian took a knee and pulled a small pair of binoculars from his vest and studied the scene below. Leon moved closer and waited in the dark shadows of the overhanging trees alongside the road.

Below in the middle of a small clearing sat half a dozen vehicles. Two heavy duty pickups blocked the road in front of a minivan and truck. The second pair of trucks had blocked their retreat. The van and truck driver had tried to evade the attacker by driving into the trees on the side of the road and gotten trapped by a small stand of trees. They had made their last stand, and it had not gone well.

Four bodies lay on the pavement where they had been drug from the shadows of the trees. A young woman and teen girl had been forced to their knees in the middle of the road. A man in front of them was laughing and poking at the older woman. Each time he reached for the teen the woman slapped the man’s hand and pulled the girl closer. Even at a distance, Brian could hear sobs of terror from both.

Brian tore his eyes from the women and examined the men dressed in camouflage. After a barked order from the man harassing the women, the dozen or so people milling around each seemed to find purpose. Trucks were pulled off the road, supplies were removed from one of the pickups, and a fire was built on the side of the road. One of the men put a coffee pot over the small fire.

Two men began scavenging supplies from dead bodies. They drove a knife into the eye of each body before dragging them away from the camp. Three people went to the disabled vehicles and pulled supplies and personal items from inside each. Suddenly there was a yelp of excitement.

One of the men reappeared from the minivan with a quart bottle in hand. He passed the black-labeled bottle to one of the offenders spreading out a sleeping bag. The man took a long draw on the amber liquid then gave it to another person. Within minutes several of the men were passing the bottle back and forth. Some stopped at one drink and gathered bedrolls and laid down near the fire.

A man gave some gruff orders and the group as a whole drifted to the side of the road where they quickly built a fire and began heating cans of food and a coffee pot.

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