Archive for May, 2017

The caravan headed for a metal structure that appeared in the middle of an open expanse between the edge of the forest and a distant camp. The road angled toward the structure, and a ravine that ran the full width of the canyon entrance became more evident.

“Well, that’s a hell of a ditch,” Harry commented. “It looks like someone went to a lot of trouble.”

John pointed toward the left canyon wall. “It looks like there was a natural arroyo part way across the entrance of the canyon. They used heavy equipment to extend the trench all the way across before laying out that razor wire on the far side. It’s good to see the old man used the natural terrain to fortify the compound. Now it looks like only one way across the arroyo, that metal bridge.”

Randy’s truck pulled up across from a guard shack and waved. A man appeared at the gateway, gave a wave, and headed for a nearby metal structure and raised bridge.

“It looks like there’s a metal bridge of some kind,” Harry commented.

With the angle of the approach to the rock-strewn landscape, Harry and John could watch the guard reach out and turn a huge metal wheel at the side of the metal support structure. As the wheel turned, chains at the top of a tall metal structure extended and a skeletal platform began to lower toward the abyss of the gap.

“Fucking drawbridge?” Johan asked.

“Looks like it,” Harry answered.

Randy headed down the length of the caravan. When he got to the camper, Harry opened the side window. “Follow the rest and park the vehicle in front of the big building. We have a procedure in place to ensure we’re not bringing infected into the compound. Just stay inside the vehicle, until we get to you.”

“No problem.” Harry nodded. “A few more minutes is not going to kill any of us.”

“I’ll be taking Liz in first. Her father would have my hide if I didn’t. Besides, she needs to see the doctor.”

“Agreed.” Harry hesitated then asked. “Is that bridge sturdy enough for this rig?”

“Shouldn’t be a problem. May not take a loaded 18-wheeler, but it’s designed to carry a good size load. We already had the sides reinforced. Just take it slow and keep moving.”

“Now that’s promising.” John laughed.

A few minutes later the caravan pulled up in front of the Lodge. Harry got out from behind the wheel and walked toward the back of the camper. “You kids sit tight for now.”

“Yes, sir,” Cody answered.

When he got to the back bedroom, Harry used his knuckle against the door frame. Liz lay still. Harry whispered. “Lizzy? Lizzy, girl you’re home.”

She lay still. Harry walked to the side of the bed ready to jostle her awake, but when he saw her face, he stopped still. Liz’s face was flushed and glistened with moisture.

Harry reached down to lay his hand on her shoulder. He shook gently. “Lizzy, wake up now. You’re scaring me.” Liz lay still.

“John, holler at Randy. Liz is unconscious. We need to get her inside right now.”

Harry slid an arm under Liz’s shoulders and then behind her knees. He grunted and struggled to his feet. John rushed into the bedroom just as Harry turned to walk out. “She doesn’t weigh hardly nothing,” Harry complained as he sidestepped through the door and made his way to the side door. “We should have noticed how much weight she’s lost.”

“John followed behind Harry. “We have been a little busy if you’ll recall. You were gimpy, and I had a busted rib or two.”

“We let her take care of us like we were a pair of geriatrics.” Harry lamented as he stepped aside to let John open the side door. Harry stepped out with John, the kids, and dog close on his heels. The dog ran in circles, while the kids danced around excitedly.

Randy appeared. “What the hell are you doing? I told you….” He turned toward the kids. “Quiet!”

“She’s unconscious. You said you have a doctor.” Harry demanded. “She needs to see him now.”

Harry watched Randy slow as they crested a hill. “Guess this is the place. He mentioned stopping and picking up a few more people.”

“Looking like more than just a few. Four vehicles included two large extended-cab pickups with trailers, a suburban and SUV.” John shrugged.

Harry glanced up at Cody in the rearview mirror. “Has she moved?”

Cody moved his head from left to right. “No, sir. She’s still sleeping. My sister is sitting with her, sir.”

John turned to Harry. “I told you, I checked her. Looks like she’s sleeping.”

“She ain’t been right since the ambush. I’ve seen her favoring her side when she thought no one was looking. I hope her ol’ man’s place isn’t far.” Harry answered.

“Randy’s motioning the trucks to move out. Hold back. Looks like we’ve got four more vehicles coming with us.”

Harry pulled to the side to allow Pablo to pull up next to the camper. Harry gave a careless wave. “Picking up a few friends.”

Pablo laughed. “Sí. Y cabras, goats.”

John chuckled. “Makes sense. Goats can live on limited forage and can provide meat and milk. Smart.”

“What we’re attacked or someone tries to follow us?” Hugo asked.

Pablo shrugged. “Señor Randy say we shot them.”

Hugo shrugged. “Sí.”

Pablo nodded toward the last vehicle as it pulled onto the highway. “Señor?”

“Yeah. Got it.” Harry slid the camper into gear and pulled the camper out to follow the last vehicle.

Harry followed the trailer for another ten miles then saw Randy lead the caravan into a turn. When Harry got to the turnoff, he guided the camper across a cattle guard onto what looked like a fire road. It was a gravel trail that was little more than a cattle path. He glanced at the side mirror and saw Pablo pull across the ground gate and stopped.Hugo stepped out of the truck and stepped into the brush and pulled several dried branches from the roadside. He shoved several tree-looking pieces of the brush into the cattle guard. Once that was done, he used two more lengths of the brush to obscure the tracks of the vehicles that had just passed. He tied a rope on each limb and tied the end of the line to the back of the truck. He hurried back to the cab and the truck followed.

The caravan spent another two hours winding through scrub oaks, rock formations and a terrain that got steadily more rugged. Canyon walls gradually grew up from the rough landscape in the distance. Soon, the vehicles were swallowed by the wilds of Guadalupe National Park.

Harry growled as the camper bucked and rolled at yet another dry gully crossing. “Damned road sucks. I wonder how much longer.”

John pointed at a building in the distance.  It was not what he had expected. As they drew closer, he could see a large log structure on a distant hill. The lodge was a two story log structures with a metal roof of forest green. Additional buildings could be seen through the stands of trees. On either side of the trees in the distance could be seen the towering faces of the canyon.

“So this is it. Pine Springs.” John whispered.

“I’m clueless. The only one I’ve even talked to has been the preacher. I was hoping to get a few of the girls into separate quarters. It’s one thing to have a dorm for kids…but all the adults in the Rec Center with them, is a pain in the ass. No one is getting any sleep between the snoring, kids giggling, and going to the bathroom all night long, it’s fucking circus. Then add all the bitching…shit.”

“Is there more units at the camp?” Matt asked.

“At least three. They’re not in the best shape but movable. Maybe with a little cleaning and a new mattress or two, they’ll be serviceable. We can keep looking for campers if we head back toward one of the bigger towns.”

“Hell no! We make due. No one’s heading into that cluster-fuck.” Matt growled.

“What if we get a bunch of tarps from that home improvement store or look for some place with tents?” Larry suggested.

“Tent’s might work if we can find a sporting goods store or a rental store. They have those big white ones like they use for weddings.” Matt offered. “Get a couple portable air conditioners and generators, maybe. But then we’re back to making way to much noise.”

“I’ll talk to the team and see if anyone knows of a place that might have supplies we can use to expand our living space.”

“Meanwhile, let’s go over to Billings and put half those women in the empty camper. It’s stupid for all those women to be in one camper. The damned waste tank will be overflowing by morning.”

Matt and Larry walked across the parking lot to the furthest pair of campers. They got to the preacher’s trailer and tapped on the door with the end of a flashlight.

“Billings? We need to talk.” Matt called out. He could hear a harried discussion then the door opened a couple inches.

“What do you want?” The man in coveralls growled.

“I want to talk to Billings,” Matt announced. “Get him out here, or I’m coming in.”

“He’s busy.” The man retorted.

Matt sighed. “You were starving, and now you have a full belly. Either Billings gets out here, or you can load up that fucking bus in the morning and drive on outta here.”

The door slammed, and a frantic conversation took place behind it, then it reopened, and Billings appeared. It was evident he had been in bed. When Billings opened the door to speak Matt caught a glimpse of a young girl in a white shift staring at him. Her hair was a tangled nest while red marks marred her young face. Her eyes were red and puffy.

Matt turned and whispered to Larry. “Assemble the men and make sure they’re armed. Tell Jasper and Joan to get the kids in the Rec Center.” He whispered.

Billings watched as half a dozen uniforms in addition to Larry lined up behind Matt. “What is the meaning of this?” He puffed up his chest and did his best to look authoritative.

“Get out here. All of you. And leave your fucking guns inside.” Matt ordered as he pulled his handgun. Larry and the men behind him raised their weapons.

Billings started to close the door, but Matt slid the Mag Light into the opening. “What do you want? You don’t have the right to order….”

Matt grabbed the door and jerked it open with Billings still clinging to the barrier. He stumbled outside. Matt caught him and pushed him to the ground.  With a nod to Larry, he was searched, and then pushed to his knees.

The remaining men stared at the scene, unsure what to do. Matt reached into the camper and pulled the rifle from the man wearing coveralls. Matt raised his handgun at the men. The little girl’s eyes were big as saucers.

“You men get out here! Don’t make me shoot you,” Matt ordered. “I’ve had a long fucking day, and you’re pissing me off.”

Larry and the soldiers took control of each man as he came outside. Matt walked inside the camper while the remaining men were each searched then forced to their knees next to Billings with zip-ties on their hands.

Matt nodded at the second camper and ordered. “Everyone out of there, too.” He walked into the men’s camper where the child still stood trembling. He sat down at the table while the girl stood staring at him. The child was terrified.

“My name is Matt. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I’m here to help you. Can you tell me your name and how old you are?”

“Mary.” She answered as tears slid down her cheeks. “I’m twelve.”

“Is your father one of those men?” He asked.

She moved her head from left to right then answered. “My daddy’s dead. I don’t have no family.”

Matt was confused. “Your mother is not one of those women?”

Mary squared her shoulders. “No! My family’s dead. Some sick people came into the camp. Daddy locked me in the camper, then he and mama and two other men tried to kill them, but they got hurt.”

“What about the preacher and his men?”

“They didn’t come out to fight them.”

“When it was over, they were covered in blood, and the preacher said they would get sick, so the men shot ‘em all. Just like that, they shot them.”

“Did the other men have families?” Matt asked.

“Yes. There was a lot of yelling and screaming. They killed Becky’s mom when she pointed a gun at the preacher. The other man’s wife and two daughters are here. Becky’s daughter is my age. They came got me and said I belonged to them now.”

Matt struggled to control the rage that was building. He wanted to kill the bastard. After taking several deep breaths to steady his voice, he asked. “Did he hurt you?”

“Yes.” Mary turned toward the door and whispered. “He said he was saving me.”

Matt jumped to his feet with his fists clinched. When he saw Mary shrink away, he realized her fright, and he sat back down. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’m just so angry right now.”

“Can I shoot him? He did it to my friend, too.” Mary asked.