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Terror in Texas

Posted: June 16, 2018 in Book I Terror in Texas
TERROR IN TEXAS and DEAD TEXAS ROADS, 2 books in the “Torn Apart Series” are NOW available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited. Order and enjoy an undead thrill ride.
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Terror in Texas

Chapter 1

The Warning

“Don’t stop, no matter what you see, just keep driving.” Captain Brian Jameson’s voice cracked with emotion. “Get as far from the city as you can, as fast as you can. When you get to your dad’s place, tell the General, they used drones with aerosols to attack the bases. It’s worse than anything we ever imagined.”

“But Brian, I don’t have….” Liz interrupted.

Brian interrupted. “It doesn’t matter what you don’t have, Liz. You and the girls have to leave NOW if you’re going to survive! Remember, I love yo….” The line went dead.

Liz called back twice, but each attempt went straight to voicemail. She tried a third time and got a busy circuit message. She tried texting, but the circuit only produced an error message. Too much cell traffic was not a good sign. She remembered the same issue with the cell phones during the last big storm on the coast.

She pulled her nine-month-old, Claire, from the half-filled shopping cart and walked out of Walmart without looking back. She drove to Fort Sam Houston Elementary School on Nursery Road in San Antonio.

When she looked in the visor mirror, she saw the paleness of her complexion and the panicked look in her eyes. She kept hearing her husband’s voice repeating, NOW, NOW, NOW, over and over again.

When she got to the school, she made her way down the white tile hall to the front desk.

The receptionist looked up from her computer screen. “Hi Mrs. Jameson, what can I do for you today?”

“I need to pick up Amy. We’ve had a family emergency.” Liz answered as she glanced down at her watch. “She’s in Miss Helen’s class.”

“Sure.” The receptionist answered. “Just give me a few minutes to contact her teacher and have her brought to the office.” The woman picked up the phone, spoke to the teacher then smiled back at Liz. “She’ll be here shortly.” She turned back to her computer.

Liz stepped back into the hall. Claire pulled at her mother’s hair and giggled. Liz rocked back and forth nervously. “Ready for a car ride, Claire Bear?” Liz asked as she patted the baby’s back.

While she waited, Liz did a mental inventory of the diaper bag contents: a can of dry formula and a box of plastic baby bottle liners, at least half a dozen diapers, four bottles of water, wafers, a change of clothes, an extra blanket, and three protein bars. If she drove straight through, she could make the ten-hour drive with only stopping for gas and maybe take out from a Micky-D or the gas station.

“Mommy?” Amy smiled questioningly. “Where are we going?”

Liz jumped at the touch of her daughter’s hand against her bare arm. She wrapped her fingers around Amy’s hand.

“Thank you.” Liz made a quick nod at the receptionist, and the teacher’s aid that had brought Amy from class then turned toward the door. She glanced down at Amy and answered. “We have to go see grandpa. We have to hurry.”

When she got to the car, Liz got the baby settled in her car seat with a bottle, Amy belted in her booster seat. She got behind the wheel and pulled out of the parking lot. Liz stopped at the first Shell station she saw, filled up the tank, and grabbed a handful of snack bars and extra bottles of water.

She drove the surface streets to the closest on-ramp and entered the freeway. She turned north on the interchange to out of the city. With each passing minute, traffic slowed and grew more and more congested as more vehicles joined the choked freeway. Sirens screamed in the distance.

Liz studied the traffic. It was a lot more than rush-hour beginning early. They neared the military base and traffic slowed to a standstill. Liz looked around and saw they were stuck behind a row of older retail buildings. The brick structures included half a dozen businesses while the back parking lot was surrounded by an eight-foot hurricane fence. It all looked just a little run down and tired with the dumpsters and trash blowing around the alley and rear parking. From what she could see, the buildings included a bar at the end, a nail salon, retail stores and two buildings that were so non-descript, they could be anything with their overhead doors.

“Mommy, aren’t we going to Grandpa’s house?” Her daughter asked.

“Yes, honey…as fast as we can,” Liz answered. With her foot on the break, Liz looked over her shoulder and studied her daughter. “What are you drawing, Amy?”

Amy held up a sheet of paper. Inside a red heart was written, Claire & Amy. Amy beamed. “See, Claire and Amy love Mommy.” She passed it over the seat to Liz. “I made it for you.”

“Thank you, sweetie. I love it.” Liz smiled and passed it back to her daughter. Put it in the diaper bag so I can keep it.” She gave the sheet of paper to her daughter and turned back at the stalled traffic ahead.

The city streets she saw below the freeway were just as congested as the highway. Now they were at a standstill. She couldn’t get off the freeway, and she would have the same problem on surface streets. She turned on the radio.

The station reported a terrorist attack on two bases in San Antonio and two other Texas cities. Within hours of the attack, unusual assaults and soldiers attacking other soldiers was reported. That had to be what Brian was talking about. Liz waffled between wanting to know what was happening and not wanting to alarm or frighten Amy. Liz finally turned off the radio. She now understood the attack had somehow caused people to violently attack anyone they came in contact with. The base was overrun, and the violence was spilling into the civilian communities surrounding the base. They were barely a mile from Ft Houston. They were in trouble. Nothing could change the fact they were in deep trouble.

Frustrated drivers honked and jockeyed for small gaps in the traffic. Liz looked at her phone. The charge had nearly depleted. She pulled a charger from the glove box and plugged in her cell phone.

Traffic had not moved for the last thirty minutes. Liz glanced over her shoulder at the girls while she drummed her fingers against the steering wheel. The baby was sleeping in her car seat, while Amy was reading since Liz had turned off the radio.

Liz watched the fuel gauge slip below the three-quarters tank mark and turned off the air conditioner. She began to worry if they would even make it to the edge of town before she would need to stop for gas again. When the air in the ten-year-old silver Buick became stifling, Liz worried the girls would get too warm. She lowered both front windows to let in the fresh spring air hoping it would cool the car. After a moment, Liz realized the air smelled wrong. She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. There was an unpleasant scent in the air. Something obnoxious mingled with the odor of exhaust, freshly mowed grass and cooking meat from a nearby Bar-B-Que restaurant. The invading stench was a mixture of a slaughterhouse and an open sewer.

Still considering the nasty odor, she heard shouting and a distant scream and turned to look through the windshield. She leaned toward the window to listen.

A massive four-wheel drive truck with oversized tires roared to life several vehicles ahead of her car. The brake light flashed red, and the driver gunned the engine. It was an angry, demanding sound. The driver leaned out an open window and yelled at a Fiat driver directly in front of him.

“Move it!” He waved in frustration. “Get that piece of shit out of my way.”

The truck driver eased the truck, with its off-road tires, forward to tap the back of the Fiat with the front brush guard. He cursed at the Fiat driver then jammed the truck into reverse and slammed into the minivan behind his truck. He raced his engine and yelled, while both the mini-van and the Fiat drivers made tentative efforts to move out of the truck’s way. But they were trapped by the vehicles in front and behind them as well.

The truck driver jockeyed back and forth again and again. All the while, the driver worked on maneuvering the vehicle toward the grassy decline at the side of the highway, but the vehicles in front and behind had the truck wedged in tight. The truck driver yelled and cursed, but neither blocking vehicle could move enough to free his pickup despite the damage he was doing to the other vehicles. Screams of frustration and anger from all three drivers filled the air.

Liz watched the fiasco, but could only see a limited number of vehicles because of the gradual curve of the highway. There seemed to be a commotion taking place around a UPS truck at the beginning of the turn among the furthest vehicles.

Suddenly two men in khaki uniforms appear from the front of a brown panel truck and stumble toward a car directly behind the truck. Both men walked in an uncoordinated, jerky-stagger that made them appear drunk. Their khaki uniforms sported blotches of dark stains up and down the front. Their lower faces were covered in blood.

The large pickup accelerated and roared forward only to hit the Fiat then backed up while the driver jumped from the car and raged at the driver. Each time he shifted from drive to reverse he rammed into an offending vehicle more violently. Terrified by the vehicular assault, the Fiat driver ran away from his automobile to stand at the side of the roadway screaming a string of profanity at the truck driver. Further ahead, the pair of khaki-clad men made their way to the first vehicle behind the UPS truck and slammed their hands against the sedan’s side window.

Liz could hear yells from the female driver with the thuds of the assault against the glass. Even the truck driver stopped his frantic efforts to escape the traffic jam to watch the exchange. Liz’s heart rate began to quicken. What she was seeing was crazy.

The sedan’s male passenger jumped from the passenger side of the car and raced around the back of the vehicle to confront the two men beating on the driver’s window. The man with bulging arms stretching the fabric of his white t-shirt puffed up his chest to face the two men. He raised a fist and began to yell into at the UPS drivers.

One of the khaki-clad men turned on the passenger and pulled him into an awkward, bear hug. The second delivery driver turned from the car and leaned his head toward a flailing arm of the protesting passenger and grabbed it with both hands. He buried his face against the bare flesh. When he straightened up, his face was covered in bright red blood, and his jaws moved up and down chewing at a hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

The screaming defender thrashed his arms and kicked his feet trying to free himself from his captors. The second attacker leaned into the guy’s neck and shook his head back and forth like a dog tearing at raw meat. When he pulled his face away, blood sprayed across both attackers from the ripped flesh of the passenger’s neck. Suddenly the man’s screams stopped, he quit flailing and slumped against his attackers. The captors dropped the lifeless victim to the ground, and the terrified screams of the sedan’s driver intensified with the attackers redirected their attention at the vehicle’s window.

Liz stared ahead unable to believe what she was seeing. Her breath came in quick shallow gasps. Under her breath, she whispered. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

Unable to even respond to her daughter, Liz watched as more people appeared behind the delivery drivers. All were covered in splotches of blood and looked horribly injured. They moved in the same halting, jerky gate as the USP men. They stumbled toward the pair that had renewed their assault of the sedan’s window.

Several of the new arrivals began their attack on the windshield. The window glass suddenly shattered and arms reached through the shattered glass into the car to pull the woman from the vehicle. The driver screamed and slammed her fists against her attackers then disappeared into the cluster of bloodied bodies.

Liz looked on in horror as more and more bloodied and injured people stumbled around the vehicles and made their way toward her car. The wave of horribly wounded people lurched past the sedan to the next vehicle. A young male driver threw open his door to run, but one of the monsters had gotten too close and grabbed him from behind. The attacker fell on the youth’s back to bury his face in his neck. The monster pulled his face away with a red, dripping hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

More assailants turned their attention to the screaming kid, each tearing flesh from his writhing body. Blood spurted from his arms and legs. Within seconds he stopped struggling. The captors released the body, and it disappeared under the cluster of attackers assaulting the next vehicle. Several monsters got to their feet and stumbled over the bodies toward the next truck.

Bloodied and gore-covered infected pulled the driver of a small pickup from his vehicle and a man in a blood-drenched white shirt grabbed an arm and raised it to his mouth. His teeth dug into the flesh and pulled away with a glob of bloodied flesh. Several of the monsters joined in the assault. One by one they buried their faces into flesh and tore mouthfuls of bloodied meat from live people.

Attackers that couldn’t reach live prey spilled around the victim being consumed to make their way to the next car where a woman had thrown the car door open and was struggling to free a child from a car seat in the back seat. Within seconds, they both disappeared into the mass of bloodied bodies.

The driver of the large truck doubled his efforts to free his pickup of the two vehicles that wedged him into the traffic jam. The massive Ford slammed into the small Fiat, sifted the truck into reverse and stomped on the gas. The truck hit the minivan, and the bumper jumped up the low-slung hood leaving the vehicle with one wheel off the concrete.

The driver turned the wheel and jammed the truck into drive. The rear wheel on pavement burned rubber and caught enough traction to flip the truck to the side crashing down against the guardrail shattering the window and windshield. The driver escaped the vehicle and vaulted over the guardrail and disappeared down the incline.

Liz watched in the waning afternoon light as two more women were pulled through shattered windows. Terrified screams filled the air. More of the infected headed for the next car while a man struggling to release his seatbelt to escape was surrounded and disappeared under the assault.

People threw vehicle doors open and ran from the wave of blood-covered aggressors working their way from car to car toward Liz. They would get to her car in a matter of minutes. They would come for Liz and her daughters.

Liz’s car was trapped. There was no way to pull off the highway with the guardrail at her right and vehicles blocking her in front, back and to her left. There was a tide of murder and mayhem rolling toward them, and she was powerless to drive away. She looked at her ten-year-old. Amy’s face. It mirrored her own horror at the sounds coming closer by the second.

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

“We’re getting out of here!” Liz answered urgently.

“I’m scared,” Amy asked. “What’s happening?”

“Unbuckle the baby, now. Hurry honey. Then get the diaper bag.”

Amy unsnapped the car seat harness on Claire then pulled her sister to her lap. Meanwhile, Liz crawled over the console to the passenger seat. She jerked open the door and crawled out of the vehicle. She opened the back door just as Amy reached for the strap of the diaper bag. Liz took the baby while Amy scrambled out of the car dragging the bag behind her.

Liz dropped three bottles of water in the bag and stuffed the bag of snacks in the baby’s bag. Looking over her shoulder at the advancing attackers, Liz grabbed Amy’s hand and pulled her between two cars. At the edge of the highway, they climbed over the metal guardrail. Clutching Claire to her chest, and still holding Amy’s hand, Liz faltered down the steep incline toward the distant fence stretching across the back parking lot of the row of businesses. When she glanced over her shoulder, she saw some of the infected had noticed the escaping throng of people and were beginning to follow.

The infected weaved between vehicles and headed toward the barrier. Liz looked back and was relieved when the monsters seemed baffled by the thigh-high wall. They stood at the railing reaching out but were stymied by the metal barrier. Suddenly, their outstretched arms and leaning bodies overbalanced and they fell over.

They lined up at the barrier and one by one the infected face-planted into the gravel on the other side. The first creature with a shaved head and biker jacket tumbled over the barricade skinning the flesh from half his face. He stumbled to his feet, got overbalanced and hit the ground again. He fell halfway down the incline stopping folded into a cluster of oleanders. One after another of the infected leaned over the guardrail until they fell. More and more of the tattered and torn monsters pressed against those leaning into the barrier until none could move temporarily.

Three of the monsters were halfway down the incline when a large overweight woman in a bloodied housedress fell over the fence and began to roll. She hit the trio. The monsters ended in a huge pile of limbs trapped under the woman when she landed on her back. With her head downhill and with bodies on either side, she rolled back and forth unable to move.

More and more of the monsters fell over the guardrail, got up and began making their way toward those trying to escape. Dozens of people raced past Liz and the girls, but none offered to help them. Liz knew they were on their own and quickly being left behind to suffer a horrible fate.

Liz grabbed Amy’s hand. “Run! Honey, we have to hide!”

They ran from the roadway toward the eight-foot hurricane fence, Liz looked up and down for an opening. She had to find a place her children would be safe. Desperate, she turned toward the end of the fencing looking for an entrance and saw nothing.

Near panicked, Liz saw a dip in the ground under the woven metal fence behind what appeared to be a bar or eatery of some sort. She could see a neon sign at the front of the alley. Boxes surrounded a dumpster midway from the front of the building, near a side door.

Liz dragged Amy toward the divot in the ground. Shoving the baby into her daughter’s arms, Liz fell to her knees and tore at the weeds in the hole. When the grass was cleared, she dug into the soft, wet earth with her bare hands.

After a full minute, she pulled at the bottom of the woven fencing testing the size of the opening. The wire gave way several inches and the opening was almost big enough for her daughters to get through. She dug frantically ignoring the pain of breaking and tearing nails. She glanced over her shoulder. The infected were less than a hundred yards away.

“They’re coming!” Amy whispered frantically.

As the first of the street lights blinked on, Liz realized she was out of time. She jumped to her feet and pulled at the fencing with all her strength. It was now or never. She ignored the guttural moans growing louder and closer by the minute.

“Put Claire down and crawl through the opening,” Liz ordered.

“Mom?” Amy looked at Liz with a puzzled look on her face.

“Now! Hurry, Amy. Do as I say.”

Amy laid her sister on the grass, and the baby started crying.

“Lay down. Slide through head first. Quick, honey.” Liz whispered.

Amy began to cry but did as told. Liz pulled up on the fencing with all her strength creating an opening just big enough for Amy.

“Now! Slide through.” Liz whispered frantically. “Use your heels. Get through as quick as you can.”

Amy lay down on the grass with her head at the opening. She kicked her heels into the ground while she pulled at the weeds on the other side. When Amy was through, Liz released the fence and fell to her knees.

“I’m sorry, sweetie.” Liz cooed as she picked up Claire. She pushed the bag toward the opening. “Pull the bag through, Amy. Hurry!”

Amy gave a tug and the bag caught in the middle of the opening under the fence. Liz pushed, while Amy pulled on the long strap. Her eyes grew large. “Mommy, they’re coming. Please hurry.” Liz scooted around on her butt then placed her foot against the bag and kicked. The bag burst through, and Amy fell to her bottom.

While Amy got to her feet, Liz pulled the baby to her chest and kissed her forehead. She clutched her close as she covered her daughter with the blanket then guided the infant through the hole.

“Sh…shush now Amy, take your sister. Put the bag over your shoulder. Run and hide.” She could hear the dead coming closer.

“Hurry Mommy! You have to get under the fence!” Amy wailed near panic.

“I can’t. I’m going to run now. Head for the building and hide. Stay safe, and I’ll find you.”

Liz turned and ran. Dozens of the dead followed her while still others leaned against the fence reaching out toward Amy and her sister.

“Mommy!” Amy screamed.

Tears ran down Liz’s face as she ran away.

Second Chance – Part 1

Posted: February 17, 2018 in Book I Terror in Texas

It took nearly a month for Liz to get to feeling like herself. She got up one morning and was up and dressed before she realized she was anxious to face the day. She slid her hand over the slight swelling in her lower abdomen and smiled. Brian would be happy. She, like Will, had decided this baby would be a boy. Brian, like all other men, always wanted a son and they had talked about another child, but Claire had been so young.

Liz took a deep cleansing breath, opened the door, and left the room. She had gained almost six pounds according to Cassie at her last check-up. With the return to health, Liz began spending mornings in the garden while taking over some of the office tasks in the afternoon. There was a constant influx of scavenged materials and needs to be control and monitor storage and distribution. There were color codes, letter codes and even numeric codes. It all depended on who made the request, the current inventory and the trips planned outside the compound. The result was a large metal building nearly bursting at the seams. She was working on a supply wish list when an alarm sounded inside the house. There was someone at the drawbridge. Liz rushed to the front window where Cassie looked toward the gathering in the distance. “What do you see?” Liz asked.

Cassie passed Liz the field glasses she had been using. “It’s a pretty large group. Maybe three dozen people, men, women, and children. Some of the vehicles are pretty old and ratty looking..”

Liz pressed the glasses to her eyes. She adjusted the sight then watched as Will and eight men and four women roll up to the bridge in four pickups. Each of the residents were well armed with rifles and handguns as they exited the vehicles and took a defensive position behind their trucks.

The majority of the visitors had parked two hundred yards from the draw-bridge, while a single truck approached the opposite side of the arroyo.

“What do you want?” Will called out from behind the hood of his truck.

A large man with his left arm in a sling stepped out from the truck and stood clear of the vehicle with one arm raised. “I want to speak to the man in charge.”

“You got him.” Will yelled back impatiently.

“My name is Ben Nascha. We come to help build a community here.”

With a snort, Will answered. “Why would you think we would be doing that?”

“A man who lived at the Eagle Pass Reservation. A man known to Pablo Hernandez.”

“You know Pablo?”

“No,” Ben answered.

“If this man knows about this place why isn’t he talking to me?” Will snapped in response.

“He died. We were attacked by the cartel when they started moving north. They killed everyone and looted everything useable in their path. We had left only a few days before they made it to Eagle Pass.”

“I hate to hear that, but I still don’t know you.”

“Pablo will know of me. I am the brother of the man who died.”

“Maybe, but right now the best we can offer is a place to camp.” Will pointed at the trees in the distance.

“That’s understandable,” Ben answered.

Will started to walk away then turned back to add, “Living here is not a free ride, and we don’t take in the infected.”

Closed Doors – Part 3

Posted: October 29, 2017 in Book I Terror in Texas

“Yeah, before most of the country went dark, there was hope. Now, there’s no place left without the dead rising up to prey on the living. All of the US is probably affected now. Before the Internet went down so was China, Russia, Europe, Africa, Canada, and South America. We have been monitoring a ham radio since day one.” Randy responded. “Believe me, I’d like to be able to say it’s different, but now our only hope is to learn to live with this hanging over our heads.”

Liz heard a woman sitting next to the second Goodman son, Abe, begin to cry.

“It’s hopeless.” The woman whimpered. “What about my baby?”

Cassie stood up. “Honestly, we don’t know. We have three pregnant women in the compound right now. All we can do is watch and wait. We have no reason to believe it has any adverse effects on a healthy pregnancy and delivery.”

Will interrupted. “We’re not here to discuss things we can’t change. Life is as it is. We make this a safe place with what we need to survive then learn to live with the infection. If you’re not willing to be part of that, pack up and move on.”

“But….” Abe began.

“No buts!” Will answered. “Everyone commits to long days working for the community or leave. I’m not arguing or excusing anyone. You’re here as part of the community or not. It’s up to you. I won’t beg anyone to stay.” He slammed his hand down on the table. “Talk to Randy, he’s setting up work crews and prioritizing what needs to be done. Be part of it, or leave.”

With that, Will turned and walked toward the door where he caught sight of Liz. He hurried to her side and squatted in front of her. “What are you doing out of bed?”

“I’m tired of being up there alone,” Liz answered at she wiped at the moisture on her top lip.

“Come on. Let’s get outta here.” Will grabbed her hands and escorted her from the room.

“Dad, please.”

“Liz, you’re exhausted, you have malnutrition, and you’re pregnant. Cassie says you’ve worried yourself sick for weeks.” Will’s expression fail to mask his frustration. “I understand you’re worried about the girls, but Harry told me what happened. The girls are alive. God willing, they will return to us.”

Liz swiped at the tears on her face. “I…I’m scared I’ll never see them again.”

Will smiled sadly. “So am I, honey. So am I.” He led her to a quiet alcove and sat down pulling Liz to the cushion beside him. “I have faith. I choose to believe the soldiers caring for the girls are brave men who will do everything they can to protect them. Harry told me about the car seat box they found. No one stops to get a car seat for a baby then abandons the child.”

Liz whispered. “We did.” She fell against her father’s chest. “I hope you’re right.”

“Liz, you did what you had to do. There was no way Amy could have kept up with you. All three of you would have died. Now, quit second guessing everything you’ve done. “ He wiped at her face with a white handkerchief then handed it to her. “You’re sick because you’re underweight and pregnant. Your job is to take care of yourself and my grandson. And that’s order.” He smiled. “I want a healthy mom and baby boy when Brian and the girls show up.”

“Yes, sir,” Liz answered.

Maria appeared and reached out to Liz. “You are up? I have been so worried. Come, señora. I fix you a nice snack. You too skinny. Niño needs a healthy madre. I make taquitos.”

While Will nodded at Sam Goodman to follow him to his office, Maria led Liz to the kitchen. Maria sat Liz on a chair in front of a wooden table. She quickly pulled a pan from and overhead the rack and put it on a burner. Maria opened a refrigerator and retrieved a handful of items. She moved to a cutting board made quick work of chopping onions, potatoes, and peppers. “I make them just how you like them,” Maria added as stepped to the stove and turned on the burner.

“There you are,” Cassie announced as she walked into the kitchen. “It’s time for your medication.”

“What is it? I still feel like shit.”

“An antibiotic. I’m increasing the dosage. I have to wing it a bit, here.” Cassie answered. “Since I don’t have much testing available, I’m using a broad spectrum antibiotic. I think you’re fighting a kidney infection. But that’s just based on the back pain and my comparing a slide to pictures.” Cassie sat a couple pills in a small plastic cup on the table. “Don’t throw away the cup.” She laughed. “Keep drinking lots of water, too.”

“Are you sure that’s all it is?” Liz asked as she examined the dark haired woman face.

“As sure as I can be. You’ve complicated the issue by not eating worth a shit for the last few months and being pregnant but other than that, I’m pretty sure.”

Maria sat a plate with three taquitos in front of her. “You eat it all. Sí?”

“I’ll try.” Liz chuckled.

“And take the antibiotics as soon as you’re done,” Cassie ordered.

“Yes, accident,” She said firmly. “Time to isolate the sick, no matter who they are. If someone fails to get up and you don’t get a vocal response, take precautions. That’s all we’re asking. The man involved in this incident had a snake bit. He didn’t tell anyone, and neither did his wife. He died and attacked his family.”

“You mean that could happen to any of us?” One of the Goodman women asked.

Will answered. “As terrible as that sounds, yes. It’s important to take care of each other, so come to the clinic, so illnesses and injured are treated.”

Liz realized why her bedroom door had been closed when anyone left and why they always knocked and waited for her to respond before entering. She covered her bulging middle. What would happen to her baby? Was she sick because she was pregnant and was it because of the virus? With a wave of dizziness, Liz slipped into a chair at the side of the room. After a couple deep breaths, she calmed and looked around the room. She realized she didn’t know most of the people. There were two distinct groups. Each crowd clustered together acting more than a little suspicious of the other. She recognized Pablo, Miguel and their extended family and gave the women a quick nod and smile of recognition. Elaina and her mother, Maria whispered at Pablo and Miguel. Both men turned toward Liz and smiled. They turned back to the assembly, their faces still looked.

The goat rancher, dressed in overalls, sat next to a graying woman with the two younger men, and women approximately that appeared to be the younger generation. Two teenagers sat on the other side of the gray-haired lady. Randy stood next to Liz’s father. Not far from him, sat John and Harry.

Will raised his hands to quiet the assembly then continued. “Now that we’ve settled that, let’s work on setting some priorities. I realize we still don’t have enough folks to do everything we need to get done yet, but for now, we’ll do the best we can. Safety and becoming self-sufficient is the two most important tasks at hand. Planting the new gardens need to be done by the end of the week to take advantage of the remaining growing season. At the same time, we need to finish fencing the goat pen back at the Goodman cabins.”

Mr. Goodman stood up. “Me and mine can work on it. I ‘magine two days and we’ll be finished. The wife and girls are milking twice a day. We’ll keep what we need and bring the rest up here. You can pass it along with who you want. I got a spot picked out to put in our own garden…”

Will interrupted. “Sam, this is a community effort, I think you seem to be missing that point, here. You and I obviously need to discuss individual efforts, but for now, let’s move on.” He turned to Randy and nodded.

Randy began. “We still have to try to gather livestock and supplies while we can. We’re not the only people trying to create a secure stronghold to live. As time goes along, more and more infected will leave the cities and make it more dangerous out there. As people get more desperate out there, some groups will be raiding others to survive.”

“What makes you think the government won’t get this under control. Early on, there were reports of the CDC working on a cure.” Glenn Goodman interrupted.

“Have you heard something I don’t know about? We’ve had a couple people monitoring communication channels and the Internet. Unless you know some other means of communications, we don’t.” Will asked.

“Well….” Glenn mumbled.

Liz descended the stairs to the great room to a cacophony of voices from the dining room. Some voices were raised and sounded angry. She made her way to the front desk to hear voices of a meeting taking place in the dining room. From the size of the gathering, she imagined all the adults in the canyon compound were present. Liz leaned against the check-in desk to catch her breath. She grimaced at her own weakness but refused to let it deter her. Liz made her way to the door and stopped.

Will Edmonds voice rose above the din. “Everyone has to contribute, and that’s the bottom line. Your herd of goats produces milk, and that means we all benefit from it. But that can’t be your only contribution. At some point, the goats will need to become part of the food supply chain in a more meaningful way.”

An unfamiliar voice countered. “When we agreed to come, we didn’t know it was going to mean moving into a socialist state. You can’t just take our livestock to feed a bunch of Mexicans.”

“Young man, you have been given a safe haven, homes for your family, your brother’s family, your parents, and younger siblings. Did you expect to show up and contribute nothing?”

“Our livestock is not community property.” The young man protested.

“Shut up, Glenn!” A gravelly voice interrupted. “Son, you’re making an ass outta yourself.” After a brief grumble, the older man continued. “What you have outlined sounds reasonable as long as the herd size maintains numbers for healthy breeding stock. We’re grateful for the offer of a safe place to raise our families. As for the suggestion concerning closing all bedroom doors at night, I can see the wisdom in such an action.”

Cassie added. “From what we’ve found on the Internet we know the virus has mutated since the initial attack and become an airborne pollutant that spread far beyond the initial attacks. There are now reports of people dying of natural causes and reanimating well away from the initial attacks. Considering that, if we each follow this simple rule, we can stop accidents like we had a few days ago.”

“Accident? You call that an accident?” Another voice protested. “Three people died.”

Aftermath – Part 2

Posted: September 30, 2017 in Book I Terror in Texas

Matt threw a wave over his shoulder and kept walking. “Fine by me.”

Matt walked into the house to find a home life of sorts. Amy was sitting in the middle of the small den playing with Claire. Jake and Amanda were sitting on the couch and hovering over the new baby while Larry sat in the kitchen cleaning a handgun. Matt settled on a kitchen chair.

“You look like shit,” Larry commented as he slid an oiled rage through a gun barrel. “What’s with the look?”

“Do you realize two-thirds of the people here can’t defend themselves?” Matt answered. “We keep bringing in people that are damned near helpless.”

Larry nodded. “So what’ve you got in mind?”

“Not sure but I plan on figuring it out before tomorrow morning. I’ve been thinking. We need a fallback for the kids so the adults can protect the camp without them being in the middle of it.”

“We’re all doing what we can.”

“No. Most of the women have been too busy to learn much. None of them are carrying guns or knives. That has to change.”

“I’ve got the older kids training. The fact is they’re getting pretty good.” Larry answered. “I think they would be able to protect themselves from one of the infected. I’d like to start firearms training, but we’d have to use pellet guns or paint guns to keep the noise down.”

“We have a good setup here. We have the fence across the front and the west side of the grounds, the pond at the back and the bluff at the east. But if something happens and we get overrun, we’re trapped. We need a back way outta here; either across the pond or down the bluff.”

“There’s a trail back behind the barn that follows the lake and heads back into the thickets. I have no idea where it goes.”

“We need to explore all those options,” Matt answered as he rubbed at the stubble on his chin. “Let’s get Jenkins and one of the men over here in about an hour and talk this through. If this is going to be our home, we all need to be able to fight for it.”

After a quick shower, Matt settled down in the recliner. Claire crawled across the carpet to reach up. Matt tickled her under the chin, and she grinned. She bounced on her toes and reached up.

“She wants you to pick her up,” Amy announced. “Claire Bear walked today.”

Matt grinned and reached down to pick up the toddler. Claire pulled at his damp hair, giggling and making faces. Matt turned to Amy.

“You doing okay princess?”

“Yes, sir.” She answered as her smile faded. “Claire misses mommy and daddy.” She looked at her feet. “I do too.”

Matt looked down at Claire then at Amy. “I’m sorry. I guess we’ve gotten sidetracked, haven’t we?” At her sad nod, he continued. “We’ve been helping a lot of people, but I promise, soon.”

“Okay,” Amy whispered.

Matt forced a cheerful smile. “What did you do today? Did you have fun?”

Aftermath – Part 1

Posted: September 23, 2017 in Book I Terror in Texas

The camp was quiet for a time after the bus drove away. Without the dark cloud of Billings’ radical ravings hanging over everyone, life slowly began to be returned to the usual buzz of activities. Every once in a while even a bit of laughter and joy could be heard from the children on the playgrounds.

Maggie and the girls were given clothes and supplies. Both of the preacher’s campers were cleaned from top to bottom. Anything left behind that Maggie Sanders didn’t want was either trashed or cleaned and returned to the “trade” storage container for future distribution. Maggie and the girls moved into the larger of the two campers and settled in.

By six that afternoon, Jenkins and his men’s had returned. They parked the pick-ups then Jenkins walked up to Matt with a quiet smile.

“Billings’ wife never shut up. The whole way, she went on and on. God this…God that…judgment going to smite us all for letting that harlot kill God’s anointed. You get the picture.”

Matt grinned. “I’m glad to be rid of them. Where did you leave ‘em?

“We left them at a farm house in the middle of nowhere. I parked the bus, got out, and closed the door and flattened all the tires. Oh, a dozen dead bodies came stumbling out of the barn as we were driving away. I figured it would give them something to worry about besides us.

“You think they’ll make it?”

Jenkins shrugged. “Frankly, I hope not after what they did to Maggie’s family and the others.”

“Can’t say I feel much different,” Matt admitted. “But they got more of a chance than Billings gave the others. We sure didn’t need that crazy shit around here.”

Matt looked across the camp and realized how many people it now included. He glanced toward the playground where a dozen children from five to eleven played. The five teens brought in on the bus were in a corner with Larry learning how to defend themselves. Soon they would be ready for real firepower. As it was, they carried spears, and he would bet the kids could hold their own.

Even Carl, the young man with Downs Syndrome, was practicing. Despite his usual ungainliness, he was learning to defend himself. Matt smiled. They had kids who were becoming warriors. Larry ended his class and walked back toward the office while the kids went their separate ways, still carrying their spears.

“You got quite a gathering here,” Tate commented as she walked toward Matt.

“I guess about fifty or so adult.” Matt looked troubled. “Most could barely take care of themselves when they came.”

“What do you mean?

“Most of the women are pretty helpless. Only half a dozen or so had the skill to fight back if they got in trouble.”

“Larry is doing the training for the kids, why not the women?”

“We try, but the women are pretty busy between wiping noses, chores around camp, and all the damned laundry,” Matt observed as he walked away. “Not enough time, and not enough people to train ‘em.”

“Then do something about it,” Tate called after him. “I’m moving into the small camper. And you still owe me a trip to Hondo.”

Rescue – Part 2

Posted: September 18, 2017 in Book I Terror in Texas

Brian looked at Billy and pointed at Leon who had appeared at the far edge of the camp. He raised a hand and held up two fingers. Six down; where was Juan? Brian glanced toward the shadows where the last guard had been stationed. He didn’t see the guard, but Juan was still missing. Brian took two steps toward the next sleeper to the right. He moved closer and was hovering over the man when an angry yelp pierced the quiet. Brian pounced and quickly jammed the blade in the man’s head then jerked it free. He leaped to the next man while the man rolled to his knee trying to get to his feet. The man reached for a handgun, but Brian kicked out, knocking the weapon from his hand before he could bring it up and aim. A quick grab and Brian pulled the man’s arm behind his body and jabbed his knife into the man neck. The man’s free hand clutched at his neck while his knees gave way. Brian rode the body to the ground and made a second stab at his temple. He stepped free, just as a man a few feet away raised and fired his handgun. Brian fell on the man as the camp devolved into chaos. Brian captured the shooter’s wrist with his free hand. The momentum drove them both to the ground. Together they rolled and fought for control of the gun. Left, right, a fist slammed into Brian’s head. He fell back, taking the massive man with him. He pushed the guy to the side and pushed the barrel of the man’s handgun toward his chest and covered the finger on the trigger with his own. He squeezed. The explosion drove spikes in Brian’s eardrums, but the man grew still. The gun sent the bullet the man’s sternum through the top of the man’s head. Brian rolled free of the body gasping for breath. Time went from slow motion to double-time in a heartbeat. Gunfire exploded around him. The sounds of struggle invaded Brian’s world with a quick three-sixty and realized they had five men still standing. He jumped to his feet, grabbed the handgun from his last kill and fired twice. The first shot took off the head of a man raising a bat to swing at a limping Juan. The second bullet hit a man taking off half his face. The impact spun him around then he dropped to the ground. Juan limped across the camp to help Leon where he struggled with another man. Brian got to his feet and ran toward the outlaw left to guard the two women.

Brian stepped free, just as a man a few feet away raised and fired his handgun. Brian fell on the man as the camp devolved into chaos. Brian captured the shooter’s wrist with his free hand. The momentum drove them both to the ground. Together they rolled and fought for control of the gun. Left, right, a fist slammed into Brian’s head. He fell back, taking the massive man with him. He pushed the guy to the side and pushed the barrel of the man’s handgun toward his chest and covered the finger on the trigger with his own. He squeezed. The explosion drove spikes in Brian’s eardrums, but the man grew still. The gun sent the bullet the man’s sternum through the top of the man’s head. Brian rolled free of the body gasping for breath. Time went from slow motion to double-time in a heartbeat. Gunfire exploded around him. The sounds of struggle invaded Brian’s world with a quick three-sixty and realized they had five men still standing. He jumped to his feet, grabbed the handgun from his last kill and fired twice. The first shot took off the head of a man raising a bat to swing at a limping Juan. The second bullet hit a man taking off half his face. The impact spun him around then he dropped to the ground. Juan limped across the camp to help Leon where he struggled with another man. Brian got to his feet and ran toward the outlaw left to guard the two women.

The man had gotten to his feet during the chaos and rushed to hide behind the two women. He held a gun to the younger woman’s head and watched the last two of his friends killed, his eyes big as saucers. A quick glance and Brian knew the guard was the last man standing. When the man remained hunched behind the woman, Brian slowed his pace. “Stay back!” The man shouted. “I don’t want to have to shoot anyone.”

Brian stopped when he got ten feet from the man. He dropped the confiscated gun and raised his hand, palm out. “Look around. Your friends are all dead.”

“Friends? Hell, you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“Please…don’t hurt my daughter.” Pleaded the middle-aged woman. “She’s all I have left.”

“All I want is outta here, lady.” The man whispered.

“See we can work this out. My name is Brian. What’s your name?”

“Henry Dodd. I have to go back. If I don’t go back, they’ll marry my girls off to one of those fake survivalist nut cases.” Henry answered.

Brian heard Leon and Billy approaching from behind. He raised a hand. “What are you talking about?”

“These assholes are not my friends. My neighbor was a big-time survivalist. He talked me into coming with him to their camp when this shit happened. I took my family. Hell, how was I to know it was a bunch of nut cases. When we got there, it was either join up and be part of it or die. If I die, they have my wife and four daughters.”

Leon stepped up behind Brian. “You believe ‘em?”

The older woman stood up and held up her cuffed hands. “I believe him. He tried to stop them when they killed my husband and son. He wouldn’t let them rape us.” She looked back over her shoulder. “I don’t think he meant us any harm and I don’t believe he would have hurt my daughter.”

She reached out, and Henry gave her the handgun, then he held up his hands while the woman held out the gun to Brian.

Brian rushed closer to take the gun. “Get away from the women.” He ordered.

Henry got to his feet as only a defeated man can. His shoulders slumped, and a resigned expectation of dying was evident with every step.

“Give me the key to free the women, then sit your ass down,” Brian ordered.

Henry handed over the key then sat down on the trampled grass. “What are you going to do with me?”

Brian walked up behind him and quickly used zip ties to secure his hands. “That’ll depend on what you tell us.”

Brian crept toward the guard practicing the stealth skills his father-in-law had taught him while they hunted. The sentry stood in the shadow of the truck smoking a cigarette. Brian chose to take out that guard since it required the longest approach and he decided he had the skill to accomplish the task. At least, he hoped so.

When the moon slipped from behind a cloud bank, Brian could see the man wore a plaid shirt and sported scruffy hair poking around the bottom of a baseball hat. As Brian drew closer, he caught a whiff of the man’s unwashed body. The amber glow of his cigarette provided a beacon to track his movements as he strolled back and forth, never more than twenty feet from the camp. The scruffy man yawned and rolled his head from side to side, then turned from the dark shadows of the nearby trees and back toward the light of the dying fire. Brian smiled, knowing any chance of retaining night vision disappeared each time he looked into the flame of a lighter. He dropped the cigarette butt on the ground and used his boot to grind it into the dirt. Brian moved forward with the crinkle of cellophane from another cigarette pack being opened. The man still stared at the dying campfire. Brian moved closer. Close enough. He rose up like a dark wraith and drove his military blade into the guard’s kidney. The man gasped. While his hands reached for the cause of such sudden pain, Brian grabbed the man’s forehead, pulled the blade free then slid it from left to the right across his throat, then into the brain. When the body slumped, Brian eased it to the ground without a sound. He looked to his right and saw Billy completing the same maneuver on his assigned guard then gave a thumbs up.

Brion gave a quick prayer that Leon and Juan were taking care of the guards on the opposite side of the camp. He retrieved the guard’s rifle and hat, put the hat on his head, and walked slowly toward the camp full of sleeping men, hoping if anyone noticed his approach they would think he was the guard coming in. Billie disappeared into the shadows of one of the truck.

A minute later, Brian stopped at a second truck and stopped to look inside, no keys in the ignition. He looked at Billy and held out his hand with a thumb pointed down. For a split second, Brian worried about Juan and Leon eliminating their targets but dismissed it. It boiled down to trust. They would do their job. He could do nothing to help them. All he could do was eliminate as many enemies as possible before the shit hit the fan. The more men he and Billy took out, the fewer they would have to deal with when the operation went sideways. Brian stepped around the truck and walked toward a sleeping man. As he drew closer, he heard a deep rattle with each breath. Suddenly the man rolled from his back to his side and coughed. Brian froze. The sleeper took a rattling breath and groaned, then lay still and began snoring softly again. Brian stepped closer and squatted over the prone figure. He tightened the grip on the handle of the blade then drove the steel into the head of the man lying on the musty smelling sleeping bag. He gave the knife a twist then pulled it free from the skull.

Billy appeared out of the shadows and squatted over a prone figure, made a similar move, then rose slowly. He moved toward the next sleeping outlaw ready to take another life.

“Hey, about time you woke up.” Harry chided Liz as he rushed toward the bed with Cody and Emma close on his heels.

“Miss Lizzy, we’ve been waiting for you to wake up. We got a house to live in. It has running water and a toilet and everything.” Emma announced.

Liz looked at her father.

“The kids wanted to stay with Harry and John. We put them in the cabin south of the barn. It’s the one with two bedrooms downstairs. We put twin beds in the loft.” Will added.

Liz looked at Harry and John. Both men were cleaner than she had ever seen them. Harry had trimmed his beard but still wore a do-rag on his head with gray hair neatly bound with a band at the nape of his neck. John was clean shaven and looked relaxed for the first time since she had met him.

“I got a full belly.” Cod patted her rounded middle then asked in all seriousness, “Are you getting better?”

“I can see that.” Liz smiled at the brother and sister. “I’m doing the best I can. Are you two doing alright now?”

“We’re good.” Answered Cody with a hesitant smile. “We have lights at the house. We get to eat a lot.”

“They got horses. Did you know they have horses?” Emma said excitedly.

“No.” Liz smiled. “I guess that is a new addition.” She looked to Will.

“Lots of things have changed.” Will chuckled.

Cassie interrupted. “All right. Everyone move along. My patient needs her rest.”

When the room cleared out, Cassie started to walk away, but Liz called her name. “A minute, please.”

Cassie turned. “Sure.” She forced a smile.

“Now, I want to know what you’re trying not to tell me.”

Cassie squared her shoulders. “Best case scenario is appendicitis; worse case, a tubal pregnancy.” She whispered. “Either way, I’m not a surgeon.”

“But you have medical training.”

“Sure, I can perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat the common cold, set bones, and monitor patients, but that’s a far cry from being qualified for doing surgeries,” Cassie protested.

Liz sighed, “I guess you’re continuing education will have a steep learning curve.”

“Try to rest. The antibiotics you’re receiving seems to be resolving the current issue. Let’s pray it’s not something that needs surgery.” Cassie closed the door to the hall then added. “Someone will be in the next room. Just ring the bell if you need something.” She stepped into the next room and came back with a cup. “If you keep the ice chips down, I’ll bring some clear broth in an hour or so.”

Liz spent another day in the ward then talked Cassie into removing the IV and letting her move to her two-room suite on the second floor. The main room included a queen-sized bed and a small sitting room. The second room was once used by the Amy and Claire. It still held Claire’s baby bed and two twin beds and small chest f toys. When she saw Liz look longingly at the reminder of her lost children, Cassie closed the door to the second room.

The terrible abdominal pain had disappeared, and everyone including Liz crossed their fingers and prayed the antibiotics had resolved the problem. She spent two days staring at the wall, then on the third day she got up bright and early and put on clothes that she had left at the Lodge. She cinched the belt at her waist and decided it was enough to keep her pants up. She pulled on a t-shirt that had belonged to Brian. They had always been an oversized, but now they really seemed big. She walked out of the bedroom and crossed the balcony to the curving stairs where she met Cassie.

“Well, I guess this means you’re feeling better,” Cassie said.