Posts Tagged ‘Liz’

“Damnit, Liz!” Harry cursed as he stepped away from her. “That wasn’t a kid. The kid died when one of those monsters tore out his throat.”

John looked at her with real pain on his face. “You did him a favor. Trust me. If it happens to me, I’d want you to do the same thing. Blow my fucking brains out.”

Liz nodded. “I know, but I can’t help, but think of my girls. It’s making me crazy.”

Harry turned back to face her. “Your daughters are fine. They’re with three men that are better equipped to survive this than anyone else I know. Our job is to stay alive until we find them.”

After an impatient swipe at the tears streaking her face, she nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

They searched the back roads the entire afternoon and when it started to get dark they decided to spend the night in an abandoned gas station.  At first light they headed out again.  Despite Wandering the back roads they saw no trace of the Humvee. By mid-afternoon, they were exhausted and back on a two lane back-top stopped to discuss where to head next. They stood around drinking warm water and eating energy bars.

Harry commented.  “I think we’re ahead of them.  It’s the only explanation.”

“There hasn’t been any sign of the Humvee.” Liz answered. “Maybe….”

“Shush. I hear something.” John interrupted.

All three stood with their heads cocked to listen beyond the normal sounds of chirping crickets and birdsong.

“Motorcycles,” John commented. “At least a dozen heading this way. Coming fast.”

“John, give me your jacket,” Harry ordered as he handed Liz her helmet. “Keep the helmet on while we talk. Liz, tuck your hair inside the jacket. Don’t speak until we find out what we’re dealing with.”

Harry reached into one of the saddlebags and drew out a sleeveless denim vest with a Harley emblem on the back. He threw it to John. “Put this on.”

“What do you want my jacket for?” John asked as he peeled out of his leather. “It’s way too big for her.

“That’s the point.” Harry took it and gave it to Liz. “I don’t want anyone knowing she’s a woman.”

Liz twisted a band around her hair and set the helmet over her head. She slipped into the jacket and then settled behind Harry on the bike. They took off fast heading west on the narrow blacktop.

“We can’t turn and outrun them. Slow down and follow my lead.” Harry called out to John. “John, try to look tough. “ Within minutes, they caught their first sight of the gang racing toward them fast.

John turned back with a fake looking scowl on his face then burst out laughing. “Mean enough for yah?”

Harry scowled. “Man, get serious. This could be bad.”

Liz’s heart raced as the first biker on a custom Harley Davidson soft tail motioned for his fellow riders to spread out. The road ahead of them was blocked by a dozen and a half bikers. They all looked rough and mean.

Two of the bikers pulled up in front of John and Harry. They sat facing the Spyders gunning their engines letting the gang surround them. When there was no escape, they killed their engines.

Liz clutched at the front of Harry’s jacket. He gently eased her hands free of the leather.

“Hang tough, kid,” Harry whispered through the helmet mic. “Whatever happens, don’t speak.”

Liz loosened her grip and straightened up on the seat. She glanced around and counted a total of sixteen riders surrounding them.

They sat quietly, turning off their engines. The gang facing them suddenly began moving apart to let a single rider approach. The rider was a bear of a man with wild black hair barely controlled by a do-rag covering the top of his head. He pulled aviator glasses from his face and studied Harry, John.

Finally, he commented with a sardonic grin. “Hell of a good day for a ride.”

Harry pulled his helmet off and rested it on the gas tank in front of him. “If you don’t mind all the dead bodies walking around, I guess.”

“Right.” He made a loud guffawing sound. “No fucking joke. My name is Willie Ryder. Most people just call me Ryder. Where’d y’all come from?”

“East,” Harry answered. “You?”

“A lot of places,” Ryder answered. “Who you got riding with you on that tricycle?”

Harry’s face reddened by the remark. “My kid. He’s only fourteen. He saw his maw get her throat ripped out by the fuckin’ neighbor.” Harry continued. “I found him in a closet and he hasn’t spoken since.”

Ryder eased his bike up between John and Harry and slammed a fist into Liz’s shoulder. “Gonna have to man up, kid. It’s a rough world out here.” He ignored the flinch of pain and continued. “Where you headed?”

“Way the hell away from here,” Harry growled. “We got family in Montana.”

“You got supplies to go that far?” Ryder reached out and grabbed a bottle of water from the back of John’s bike.

John snorted a protest. Harry answered before it could cause offense. “Hey, not likely. Thought we would scrounge what we needed as we go. You lookin’ for supplies?”

Liz looked over her shoulder behind them. Several of the rough looking bikers had trailers attached to their machines. She raised her hand to Harry’s side. He pressed his arm against her hand in response.

Ryder pointed to the men with a wave. “Fuckers eat a lot. We can always use more supplies. You got anything to share?”

“We can’t carry much, but we passed a jack-knifed trailer outside of Boseman near a railroad overpass. It had pallets of food inside. We took a few things, but the trailer was loaded with stuff. I can tell you how to get there.”

Ryder laughed. “We aren’t real good with directions. I think maybe you need to take the time to lead us to the place.”

“Fuck no.” John blurted out.

“That wasn’t a request.” Ryder pulled a handgun from his waist and pointed it at Harry. “We need supplies, you know where they are. So to make sure you don’t try to double cross us, turn over your weapons.”

“Hey, man, no need for that. We’re glad to see you get stocked up then we’ll part ways. None of us will be the worse for the detour.” Harry answered with a forced grin.

Ryder held out his hand pointedly.

With half a dozen guns pointed at them they had no choice but to comply. Afraid they would search her if she didn’t produce a weapon; Liz pulled the pistol from her waist and handed it to a greasy little man with bad teeth.

“Turn around and let’s go,” Ryder ordered.

Harry made a quick nod and cranked his bike. In orderly chaos, all the riders cleared enough space for Harry and John to turn their bikes around and head back the way they had come.

With helmets back on and the roar of bikes to cover their voices, Harry spoke to John. “Hey, you have to take it easy, John. Don’t give these guys any shit or we’re dead.”

“Pricks!” John interjected.

“Yeah, but we have to deal with them. Liz, if we stop, keep away from the group and your head down. Keep the jacket on and the collar pulled up. You’re small enough to pass for a kid. Don’t speak if you can help it.”

Liz tapped his side to let him know she understood and whispered. “Got it.”

“When we get a couple miles down the road, John try to ease up on the gas. We’ll try to work our way to the back of the pack. I don’t want to be up front when they hit the pack of dead that was following those soldiers if they’re still hanging around the trailer.”

“Got it,” John answered.

Silent tears slid down Liz’s face as she imagined her girls being driven further and further away. They were losing a full day of travel going back to the trailer. Whatever prayer they had of finding the soldiers in the Humvee disappeared as the sun began to sink into the west.

Liz was exhausted by the time Ryder decided to check out a massive fueling station near an interstate intersection. He ordered three of his crew to keep an eye on their guests while the gang cleared the facility. They charged off amid the roar of bikes as if it were a two-wheeled rodeo. Whoops and hollers rose above the sound of the bikes and sporadic gunfire.

Liz was appalled as she whispered into the mic. “They like this?”

Harry shrugged. “Definitely, not the cream of society. We have to be careful, here.”

“We’re so fucked.” John chimed in.

The gunfire grew more sporadic then faded to silence. Ryder reappeared at the edge of the road. His gang stopped amid a volley of curses and laughter when he raised his arm to call a halt.

The biker closest to Harry nudged him in the ribs with a rifle. “Get moving, pops.” He nodded toward John. “You too, shithead.”

Harry and John cranked their machines and moved out with their escort on either side and behind. They accelerated up the ramp leading into the fueling station. The front riders flocked around the fueling islands, each taking turns at the pump. The escorts guided Harry and John to do the same. Once all the bikes were fueled up, they were escorted to the front of the novelty shop.

Harry made a wide turn and walked his three-wheeler bike next to John’s ride facing away from the building. When he cut the engine, he stepped off the machine and turned back to Liz, but she brushed away his hand. She climbed off the bike and stepped behind Harry. The escort guided them into the novelty shop and nudged them toward a bank of tables and benches at one end of the room.

Harry grabbed bags of jerky, cheese sticks and bottles of water as he walked by a display. They walked to the furthest table and Harry nodded to the bench facing away from the room. He guided Liz inside then fell in beside her. John slid into the seat facing the room.

“We’re lucky the electric service is still on,” John commented.

“Won’t be much longer,” Harry answered.

The men removed their helmets while Liz sat still without following suit. Harry nudged her with his elbow and she removed it. She made sure the collar of the jacket jutted up to near the top of her ears.

“I have to go to the bathroom.” She whispered.

John stood and whispered. “Let me check it out.”

He crossed to the hall with a sign overhead proclaiming the restrooms and was halted by one of Ryder’s men. The bearish sized man stood at the hall entrance his massive shoulders blocking the way.

“Where yah think you’re going, dickhead?”

John jabbed his thumb toward the sign. “Unless you’d rather I piss on your boots, no matter to me.” He made a show of going for the zipper of his pants and the guy stepped aside.

The man stomped away with a scowl on his face. “Get in, get done then get your ass back to the table.”

“Got it,” John answered with a wave. “No problem, big guy.”

When he got back to the table, he whispered. “Everyone is ignoring the family bathroom off to the right. You can walk down the hall and she can dodge in there. She can wait until you come out of the men’s then come out and both of you head back this way.”

“Might work,” Harry commented. “They’re all hitting the beer pretty hard.”

Harry stood and stepped aside facing the rowdy gathering. Liz slipped out of the seat and stepped behind Harry. He strode toward the restroom without looking back. He was not challenged at the hallway entrance so he strode forward without glancing at the gang members celebrating the cache of alcohol. When he got to the family restroom door, he hesitated while Liz stepped around him and slipped inside.

She pushed the door closed and activated the lock. She quickly used the toilet and then looked in the mirror over the sink. Her hair was a dead giveaway. She fished in her pockets until she found the Swiss Army knife she had been given by Harry at the bar. She pulled out the longest blade and checked the edge. It was surprisingly sharp.

Liz dropped the jacket and finger combed her hair around her face. She grabbed a handful of locks at the side of her face and slid the blade down the strands. A few seconds later, she was holding a handful of hair. She let it slip from her fingers into the toilet then repeated the procedure until she could finger comb the remains around her face. She worked at the back resulting in the ragged hair brushed at the top of her collar. She gave the front a last brush toward her face then closed the knife.

When she was finished, she used a damp paper towel to wipe what she could of hair that had slipped from her grasp and dropped it into the toilet. She glanced around one last time then flushed. With a push of the handle, the water rose and swirled as Liz watched her past disappear in the blast of water from the tank swirling into the bowl.

A gentle knock on the door interrupted her musing as the water washed away her life. She opened the door and saw Harry’s shoulder.

“Enough time?” Harry asked then his eyes opened a bit wider when he noticed her hair. “Oh?”

Liz slipped on the jacket. “Well?”

Harry winked. “I got a good lookin’ boy.” He chuckled. “Try to keep your head down, though. No telling how many perverts in this bunch.”

Liz chuckled softly. “No problem, dad.”

They made their way back to the table where John was now making sandwiches. He had a loaf of bread, lunch meat, mustard, mayo and bags of chips. He also had several bottles of drinks, everything from water to a collection of sodas.

Liz slipped in the booth and accepted the offered sandwich. It was all she could do to muffle a sigh. The bread was getting stale, but the thick globs of mayo and mustard made up for the dryness. She ate half of the sandwich and then drank a big gulp of water.

Around a mouthful of sandwich, she mumbled. “I didn’t realize how hungry I was.”

Harry nodded as he reached for the makings of another sandwich. “It’s going to get ugly in here if they keep drinking.”

The party cranked up a notch in the novelty shop when two of the bikers started taking pot shots at the mounted deer heads on the walls amid the open rafters. One bullet took out the left eye of the mounted head. Both men laughed and jabbed at each other.

Ryder walked up behind the shooter and cracked him on the head with the butt of his handgun. The other man stepped away quick enough to miss the same assault. Ryder followed and slammed his fist into the man’s face breaking his nose. The man fell to the floor with blood spilling from his face.

“Stupid fucks.” Ryder turned away and crossed the dining room to within a few feet of Harry and John. “It’s hell having to control a bunch of stupid fucks.” He took a swig of beer. “Well, kid, are you getting enough to eat. Looks like you could use some meat on your bones.”

Liz kept her head tilted down and answered trying to lower her voice. “Yes, sir.” She cringed at the squeak at the end of her answer. She ducked her head even lower.

Ryder reached over and slapped Liz on the back. “God damn, kid. It’ll get better. Give it a year and you’ll sound like a man.” He tousled Liz’s hair then nudged Harry. “I can see why he don’t say much. Little shit sounds like a fucking pussy.” He walked away laughing.

Harry’s breath exploded from his mouth. “You okay?” He asked Liz.

She nodded as she gaged on the bite of sandwich. A tear slid down her face. She struggled with the bit of bread and meat, wallowing it around in her mouth until she took a long drink of water and swallowed.

Finally, Liz whispered. “Fucking asshole.”

By dark, Ryder had found the breaker box and turned off the electricity. He said it was to keep from attracting attention, but Harry figured it was to shut down the party. Strategically placed emergency lights left the interior of the building with dim light scattered throughout the building.

Ryder had his men duct tape posters and newspapers over the lower portions of the windows then upturned tables against the glass. Harry, Liz and John helped then settled at the table again.

Darkness shrouded the interior of the store when Ryder posted guards outside the building after securing the back door. Harry and John and Liz stayed at the table opting to stay as far away from the rest of the gang as possible.

Harry mused. We’re as secure as we can be inside of a building with a glass front.”

“That’s not saying much considering whom we’re in here with,” Liz answered.

Harry, John, and Liz moved to the back of the room tried to get comfortable at a table shoved up against the back wall. Liz folded her arms in front of her and leaned her head down. She could no longer fight the exhaustion. John propped his head on one hand and soon settled into slumber as well. Harry slid around to watch the gang members as they settled down for the night. A couple of the bikers settled on the carpet in the eatery with them.

Harry downshifted and the big rig slowed as it rumbled over the narrow speed strips on the side of the blacktop. He steered the rig toward the shade of an underpass.

“It’s time to find a place to stop,” Harry announced. “My ass is gettin’ flat.

Liz protested. “No! We have to catch them.”

Harry answered. “We‘ve only caught a glimpse of the vehicle once, since the alley and nothing after driving past the empty car seat box besides, we can’t be sure it was even them. It’ll be dark soon and we might drive right past ‘em. We can’t just keep driving.”

“But….” Liz protested.

“I agree. We can’t follow a trail we can’t see, Liz”. John argued.

Liz looked back the way they had come. The two-lane road had been pretty clear of traffic since a police roadblock almost five miles behind them. They had eased through the congestion leading up to it using the heavy duty grill on the front of the rig to push cars into the ditch. As they passed, Liz’s eyes were drawn to the empty vehicles. The horror inside each left Liz feeling depressed and hopeless.

Harry pulled the rig into the shadow of the underpass with a hiss of airbrakes. The cab sat in the shade of the overpass when he turned off the engine and slammed his hands against the steering wheel.

“Let’s stretch our legs a little, get something to eat then get some shut eye,” Harry announced. “Keep your guns handy.” He opened the door, leaned out and looked around before jumping to the ground.

John exited the passenger door leaving Liz to climb down on her own. She jumped to the ground then walked around the cab to stand next to Harry. The sun rested at the top of the tree-line to the west painting the sky shades of amber, crimson, and violet. It was a beautiful sight. Standing there in the fading light they were enveloped in a bubble of peace and quiet. No traffic noises, only crickets and night creatures for company.

After John burned the first microwaved meal, he turned over the cooking to Liz. He settled on the bottom step of the truck waiting while she nuked packages of the trucker’s food in the onboard microwave. Harry climbed the side of the embankment to the overpass and studied lights in the distance. After several minutes, he climbed back down to lean against the big rig.

“Nothin’ movin’ out there.” He commented to no one in particular.

“Do you think they’re still ahead of us?” Liz asked as she passed a hot plastic tray of food down using a folded paper towel as a hot pad.

Harry accepted the tray. “Hard to say. They got the kids. I would think they would have to stop. I worry we’ve already gotten ahead of them. It may be hard to keep moving with the baby.”

John accepted his meal. “Liz, knowing they’re with Rangers, you have to know they are being protected. They got a better chance than most kids right now.”

Liz settled in the driver’s seat facing the open door to study the two men leaning on the medium. “I have to believe we’ll find them.” Liz took a bite of the pasta and forced herself to swallow. “After all those years Brian was in combat. I can’t believe he comes home to this nightmare.”

Harry reached up and patted her knee. “Eat up. We’ll do our damnedest to find those girls. Meanwhile, you gotta eat or you’ll blow away.”

Liz tried to smile at Harry as the last remnants of light faded into darkness.

“I ain’t too anxious to be down here since its getting dark,” Harry announced.

Liz tossed her plastic try and turned to Harry. “You can take the sleeper. I’ll take the driver’s seat. It leans back enough for me to sleep there.”

John laughed. “I’ll take first watch. We have to leave the windows open, but I sure don’t figure to be out and about. I can do it from the passenger seat.”

Within minutes, Harry was snoring softly inside the sleeper.

Liz punched at the small pillow she had retrieved from the sleeper and curled up against the door and tried to sleep. The glow of the digital clock announced hour after hour until it glowed eleven. She straightened up in the seat, and nudged John. “Go to sleep, my turn at watch.”

John nodded in the dim light of the dash light. “Get Harry up at three.” He leaned into the door and was snoring within minutes.

Liz’s mood grew dark as the hours slipped away. She knew the chances of finding her children were not good, but she had to keep looking as long as it took. She wasn’t planning to wake Harry, but he interrupted her dark thoughts at three and motioned her to trade places with him.

“I know you’re worried about the girls, but try to get some sleep.” Harry whispered.

Liz climbed into the sleeper and was sure she wouldn’t sleep with the stifling heat but when she laid her head down on the pillow with the lingering scent of Aqua Velva, she closed her eyes and drifted off almost immediately. She woke drenched in sweat to the sound of John and Harry talking quietly.

When she leaned out to join the conversation, Harry asked. “Where were you heading when you had to leave your car?”

“My father’s cabin. He lives up close to a state park out west.” Liz answered. “It’s pretty remote.”

“Did your daughter know?”

“Sure. We talked about it. Amy loves going to the cabin and Brian always said it was a safe place to go if the ‘shit hit the fan’. My father is a bit of a ‘prepare-for-the-worst’ type. Brian and I used to laugh about the cabin.” Liz’s breath caught and she looked away with tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

“What?” John asked softly.

“Brian called from the base when I was shopping that afternoon. He told me to go to my dad’s as quick as I could get there. He said there was an attack on the base and not to wait for him. I started to argue, but his voice got really quiet and said I had to leave immediately to protect the girls. He said not to even stop to pack.”

“Did he say what happened?” John asked.

Liz answered quietly. “No. I heard screaming in the background then the line went dead. I picked up Amy from school and headed out of town. We hit traffic and all the cars just stopped.” Liz sighed. “Hundreds of the infected were headed our way.” She sighed. “The rest you know.”

“Yeah. The creepy sons-of-bitches just came like a wave down the street. People were running and anyone they caught they killed. The dead turned and joined the mayhem.” Harry commented.

“Shhh!” Harry hissed. “I hear something.”

Liz could hear a distant pop, then another and another. Gunfire? The sound grew louder and closer together. Definitely gunfire. As she strained to hear, the roar of heavy powerful engines overtook the pop of gunfire. Liz turned but saw nothing with the trailer blocking the back window.

Harry looked toward the side mirror and cursed. “Fuck!”

He turned the key in the ignition and the big engine thundered to life. He jammed the shift into gear and the behemoth began moving forward. Meanwhile the roar of the coming vehicles grew louder, sounding angry and threatening.

“What is it?” John asked.

“A fucking Stryker!” Harry answered as he shifted to second. The truck moved a modicum faster. “We can’t both fit through the underpass. There isn’t room and that dumbass is not slowing down!”

The Stryker was moving at top speed and obviously the driver intended to crash his way through the opening of the underpass despite the fact a slow moving truck was in his way.

Harry looked toward the side mirror again and gasped. The Stryker, constructed from high-hardness steel with a V-shaped front included a .50-cal M2 machine gun, 7.62 mm M240 machine gun, or Mk-19 automatic grenade launcher. The eight-wheeled vehicle raced toward them at a speed that did not bode well for any other vehicle in its way. Even the big rig and trailer would crumple under the weight and speed of the military vehicle.

Liz caught her first glimpse of the Stryker. They would not get out of the way quick enough. The vehicle thundered toward them without slowing.

There was a deafening roar of acceleration when the vehicle hit the trailer. The renting of metal was painful to hear. The Stryker slammed into the back axle of the cab slamming the trailer forward into the back of the cab. The trailer bounced off the trailer mount and tilted to the left. The V-shaped hull of the Stryker ripped through the side of the trailer and then connected with the side of the tractor itself. The driver of the Stryker roared through the opening he had created by destroying the trailer followed by several more military vehicles.

The cab ripped free of the trailer and slammed into the abutment supporting the overpass, spun around and smashed into the side of the concrete. Harry crashed into the stirring wheel, then the doorframe and as if it was not enough, he was hurled back toward the passenger side of the vehicle. He fell in a heap over the center console.

Meanwhile Liz flew from the sleeper. She reached out to stop the plunge toward the front seat, but the vehicle’s sudden change of directions sent her on a nosedive into the wheel-well at John’s feet. She struck her face against his knee before crumpling into the floorboard hitting her head on the dash on her way down.

John slammed against the dash, then back into the side window where he ended up slumped against the door, stunned by the impact.

“Fuck!” John whispered as the truck settled and stopped rocking. He reached down, wrapping his big hands around Liz and pulled her back against his thick chest. She was out cold.

“Harry? Man, you okay?”

“Fucking assholes!” Harry mumbled as he stared at the Stryker through the shattered remains of the windshield. After a moment, he turned the key and the only sound was a distant click under the hood. The massive engine remained silent.

He watched the convoy of military vehicles follow the Stryker around the wreckage of their truck. It included three troop carriers, two Humvees, and two additional Strykers. Not a single driver slowed or braked. They sped away.

Once the roar of the engines disappeared, the quiet was unsettling. John turned Liz face up and brushed the hair from her face. Blood streamed from her nose and her eyes remained closed. She was limp in his arms.

“Is she alive?” Harry asked.

John pulled a rag from behind the seat to wipe the blood from her face. “Out cold but I think she’ll be alright.”

Harry shook his head to clear the fog then carefully helped John straighten Liz’s legs and arms. His fingers slid down each limb and finally stopped at her face. He pulled the rag from John and held it against the cut at the side of her head.

Liz’s eyes fluttered and she gagged. She coughed blood and John turned her head to the side. Blood streamed from her mouth and nose, she wheezed and coughed a spray of blood across the cab.

A moment later, she jerked fully awake elbowing John in the jaw. When he yelped she stopped thrashing and reached up to the rag. Harry pulled his hand away and she pressed it against her nose. Her eyes focused on the John.

“Sorry.” She mumbled as she slid off John’s lap and balanced on the edge of the passenger seat.

“Give it a minute, Lizzy. You were out cold.”

John opened the passenger door and slid outside to stand next to the rig. Harry pushed her back against the seat.

After a few minutes of Harry fussing over her and John pushing at her hair, she pulled away and balanced herself on the seat.

Harry used a bottle of water to dampen a rag and held it out to Liz.

She dabbed the cloth at her face and whispered. “Assholes! They didn’t even slow down, did they?”

“Nope.” Harry answered. “Just kept going like their asses were on fire.”

She pulled down the sun visor in front of her and peered into the mirror. She dabbed at her damaged nose and the cut on her forehead. The blood flow had stopped on both.  She used the wet rag to clean her face. Harry pulled out a first aid kit from the center console and opened a couple Bandaids.

Liz looked around when she was finished and tried to understand the odd angle of the truck cab. When she looked back at John, she saw he had a goose egg on the side of his head that was quickly growing dark with bruising. Harry was bruised and battered too.

John grimaced as he twisted and his back cracked. “Fuck heads.”

“Let’s figure out what’s the damage for now.” Harry opened the door and slid out of the cab. Before Liz could follow, he looked back toward the trailer and cursed. “We are so fucked!”

Liz eased herself from cab with Harry’s help. John came around the front of the cab. When the trio stood on the asphalt, they could see the damage done to the rig and trailer, too.

“Damn.” John cursed.

Together, the trio walked to the back of the trailer to study the damage. The trailer had jack-knifed off the trailer mount. Two of the tires on the driver’s side were shredded. The back of the cab on the passenger side rested against the concrete wall of the overpass while the trailer tilted at a crazy angle.

Harry sighed. “Should have known it was too good to last.”

“If they scratched my fucking bike.” John hurried toward the trailer door. Harry and Liz stumbled after him.

Harry studied the trailer angle. The front end sat on the ground while the back end was slanted up several feet higher than normal. Liz stopped and stared.

Harry whistled low. “This is going to be a problem. That asshole took out the whole rig.”

Liz looked back down the road in the direction from where the military had come. The road was straight and level for at least a mile where it turned into a stand of trees. Liz ignored Harry and John as they debated the damage and studied the kaleidoscopic of color in the distance. She focused and squinted until she realized what she was seeing. Her breath caught in her throat. She could see a mass of infected stumbling toward them in the distance.

“Guys, we got a bigger problem than a few scratches on custom paint and chrome.”

Harry turned to follow her gaze. “We gotta get moving.”

Liz stood at the back end of the trailer where John had propped open the doors. All their carefully gathered supplies were in a pile at one side of the tilted trailer. The bikes hung suspended in mid-air from the tethers used to secure them at the back of the trailer.

“How are we going to get the bikes over the edge and to the ground?” John asked.

Harry walked back to the back of the cab. He found a heavy box and opened the lid. Inside, he rooted around until he pulled out several tie-downs, a heavy-duty screwdriver and hammer. “We gotta make this quick. Lizzy, grab that canvas bag in the cab to carry food. Fill it with whatever you can find and think we’ll be able to use.”

Liz ran to the truck, climbed in the sleeper and rooted through the previous owner’s cabinets and cubbies. She found the duffle and started pulling out the clothes. When she caught a whiff, she realized it was the driver’s dirty laundry. She dumped the remains of hash-marked, tighty-whities then threw in an army blanket a couple bar towels, first aid kit, firearms and grabbed each of their packs. She climbed out of the cab with a final look and ran to the back of the trailer.

Harry and John rigged a pulley system from the roof of the trailer. They threaded tie-downs through the roof of the trailer then created a sling. Once it supported John’s bike, Harry played out the length of the tie-down while John guided the bike over the back edge of the trailer. When the bike rested on the ground, John untied the sling.

“Get a move on, man. We got company coming fast.” John called out.

Liz tied her and Harry’s packs to the back fender of his tri-wheeled bike. John motioned her toward the trailer and made a step up with his entwined fingers. “Get what you can, but hurry while we get Harry’s bike down.”

Liz flung the near-empty bag into the trailer then reached up to pull herself into the gloom. She scrambled around the last bike and scuttled over pallets to bust open boxes. She threw cans of stew, fruit, beans, and meat into the bag. As an afterthought, she stuffed three rolls of toilet paper in an end pocket. She dumped in a box of tampons and a bottle of antibacterial soap then stuffed some odds and ends in another pocket from a pharmacy tote. She pulled the bag to the opening and pushed it over the edge.

With that done, she used the blanket to ease two cases of water over the edge. She stacked the water cases near John’s bike.

“Gotta hurry, folks.” John warned as he looked over his shoulder toward the approaching horde.

Liz turned to see Harry struggling to get the front wheel of the second bike over the edge of the trailer floor. He was having a hard time hauling the weight of the bike up and over the raised lip of the trailer. Liz pulled herself back into the trailer and added her weight to his. With a sudden jerk, the wheel cleared the edge and jerked free. The bike swung out.

“It’s over! Ease it down. Hurry!” John yelled as he pulled the guide strap away from the trailer and toward the ground. The drop was not exactly controlled, but left the bike in one piece as far as Liz could see.

Harry jumped to the ground and reached up, but Liz waved him away. He grabbed the supply duffle and pulled two bungee cords around the bag on the back of his three-wheel bike. John picked up the cases of water and stacked them on his bike and tied them down. They each picked up packs and stowed them.

The trio struggled to ready the bikes as they kept a wary eye on the pack of predators’ getting closer as the minutes ticked by. The infected were barely fifty feet away by the time both bikes were ready to go. Harry threw his leg over the side of the bike and pulled Liz onto the seat behind him.

“Let’s go!” Harry yelled.

John’s bike roared to life, he kicked it into gear and gave it gas. The bike made a slow turn away and began moving away from the approaching horde.

“Come on, Harry…I’m feeling a little exposed here.” Liz yelled.

Harry pushed the starter and machine coughed and failed to crank. “Fuck me!” Harry cursed.

“We gotta go, Harry!” Liz pulled her gun and pointed it toward the nearest infected ready to fire while she clung to Harry’s back.

Harry reached under the gas tank of the bike and gave a valve a twist as he called over his shoulder with a grin. “Forgot the shut-off.”

He pushed the starter again, and the machine coughed then roared to life. The dead were close enough for Liz to see the clouded eyes. She could hear their moans and the stench grew made her gag. It was hard to believe only a few days ago they had been regular people with normal lives.

She saw a woman in a sundress with a sandal dangling from one ankle limping toward them. Behind her was a teen with pink hair and black eyes and a carpenter still wearing his tool belt. A hammer dangled from a leather loop hitting the carpenter’s leg with each halting step.

Harry yelled. “Hang on Lizzy, this is going to be rough!”

He fired a head shot to take out the carpenter. “Cover me!” He shouted as he jammed his handgun in the chest holster and twisted the throttle.

“Go!” Liz screamed as she pointed her handgun, took aim and fired.

The bullet passed through the teen’s neck then hit a smaller child stumbling along behind her. Liz fired again, but the shot went wild and hit a monster still wearing a dress shirt. A chunk of shirt and flesh tore away but the monster barely noticed the impact. The arm fell to the monster’s side barely clinging to the shoulder by a few tendons and flesh but he kept stumbling toward them.

Harry turned the bike around and headed away from the approaching horde. John fired two shots before he holstered his weapon and roared ahead. Harry gunned the engine and Liz was slammed against the seat back. She holstered the handgun as they sped away from the horde.

When they cleared the horde, Harry settled into cruising speed, Liz leaned into Harry’s back and tears slid down her face. She had shot a child. She had seen the boy’s head explode and his body crumple to the ground.


Posted: May 18, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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“Where did they go?” Liz screamed at Harry’s back. Her words were lost amid the roar of the motorcycle engines and moans of the infected.

John pulled ahead on his Harley with Harry following close behind. He weaved between vehicles and clusters of monsters. When one of the dead stood in his way, he calmly raised a handgun and fired, then roared past with Harry in his wake.

Liz pressed her face against Harry’s jacket, horrified at the mayhem of crashed cars and cannibalistic monsters clustered over bodies in the street. She felt exposed and vulnerable despite the fact both motorcycles seemed to be heavy-duty and designed for the open road. Harry’s black bike sported full seats, armrests and saddlebags big enough to accommodate a small child in each. John’s bike was similarly decked-out, but a deep green in color. They barreled out of the alley only to be forced to a crawl when they turned on the main street.

The infected that heard the bikes bolted upright and stumbled after them. Liz clung to Harry while the bikes eased around two cars locked together by smashed and tangled fenders. Blood splattered the inside of the windows and windshield of both vehicles. Through an open door, she could see a bloodied child’s car seat in the back seat of one of the vehicles.

Liz’s breath caught in her throat. Her girls. Where were her daughters? Where was her husband? Was her family safe?

A dozen or so infected stumbled out into the street from an opened doorway across the street as they passed. Those drawn to the roar of the bikes were within arm’s reach. Liz slammed her hand against Harry’s shoulder.

“They’re coming!” Liz shouted.

When Harry saw the hands reaching toward Liz, he gunned the bike and swerved to the left. He hit the curb with a jolt then bounced to the sidewalk. John gave a puzzled look at Liz’s frantic pointing and yells. When he looked where she was pointing, he saw the approaching horde. He roared a curse then gunned his engine to follow Harry.

They sped down the sidewalk until Harry turned off into an alley that exited into a darkened industrial park. They stopped behind two big rigs backed up into a loading dock. Both men cut their engines. Liz climbed off the seat and the men backed the bikes down a ramp into the shadow of the big rig.

“What are we doing?” Liz asked.

“This is bad.  Worse than I thought it would be.”

John agreed. “We can’t keep doing this. The bikes draw the fuckers like a dinner bell to the mess hall.”

“Got that right, man,” Harry answered. “But I’ll be damned if I’m leaving my bike.”

John looked around. “We need something bigger if not quieter.”

Liz looked up at the cab of the truck behind them. “Maybe you won’t have to. Give me a minute.”

Harry looked at her. “What the….”

Liz ignored his question and climbed to the gas tank at the side of the truck cab. After taking a breath, she tapped her knuckles on the side of the sleeper behind the cab. She clung to the side mirror as she looked inside. She slapped her palm against the window a bit louder. No sound came from inside and no bloody face appeared.

Liz peeked inside and called over her shoulder. “No keys.” Her voice and face mirrored her disappointment. “And no driver inside either. Let’s take it.”

“Good idea.” John chuckled. “One step at a time, Lizzy.” He kicked the stand under his bike and walked to the cab. He reached up to help Liz to the pavement. By the time she stood on terra firma, Harry had kicked his bike stand to the concrete and stepped off his bike.

John reached up and pulled at the door handle of the truck. It was locked. He shrugged and went to his bike, opened a saddlebag to pull a thin length of metal from the inside. He stepped up to the door and slid the metal down the glass to the inside of the door. A moment later, there was a soft click from inside the door and John opened it. He slid into the driver’s seat only to reappear a few minutes later shaking his head.

“I looked in all the usual places. No spare keys.” John announced.

Harry shrugged. “Let’s see if we can get inside the warehouse. Most likely the driver is still here. It’s the only way we’ll get the bikes into the back of the truck anyway.” He turned to Liz. “Stay here until I make sure there’re no infected inside on the loading dock.”

Liz frowned. “It’s too dangerous for you to do it alone. I need to help.” She walked toward the ramp and metal side door three bays down.

Harry shrugged. “If you’re sure.”

“If I don’t start defending myself, I’m dead. I won’t do my girls any good dead.” She answered.

When she got near a massive dumpster, she saw a three-foot piece of rebar. She pulled one free and nodded at Harry.

“This will be quieter,” Liz announced.

Liz pulled two more metal bars free and leaned them against the dumpster. Close on her heels, each man picked up a length of rebar themselves. When they got to the door, Liz raised the rebar and tapped on the metal door then pressed her ear against the metal. She listened. No sounds came inside. After a couple minutes, she tapped on the metal again.

“I can’t hear anything inside. I don’t know if it’s because the door is too thick or if the loading dock is empty.” Liz announced with a shrug.

She pulled down on the metal handle and pulled. The door was unlocked. She peeked inside, but it was dark as midnight on a moonless night. Liz took a deep breath and started to open the door, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her.

John grinned and passed her a flashlight. “Thought we might need these.” He stepped to Liz’s side. “Let’s do it, Lizzy. You open, I go first. Okay? Harry, watch the bikes and cover our six until we get the doors open.”

Harry nodded and stood his ground.

Liz gave a quick nod then pulled at the door. The metal barrier opened silently.

Together they sent beams of light into the darkness. The warehouse was not empty. Two men shambled from between pallets, both covered in blood. Their eyes looked nearly opaque in the glare of the flashlight beams. The younger of the two was a skinny teen wearing a shirt with his name on the breast pocket.

“Fuck!” John whispered. “Get back Lizzy!”

“I’ll take care of the kid. You get the fat guy,” Liz answered as she side-stepped toward the kid.

“If you need help, holler!” John answered.

John swung the rebar at the big guy’s head, then stepped clear of the reaching arms. He caught the dead man low on the neck and his head tilted at an odd angle. The infected barely slowed despite the fact his head bobbed from side to side, as he stumbled forward.

Blood covered hands reached for John again, but John swung the rebar into the man’s knees and the guy toppled to the concrete floor. With both knees shattered. John stepped back and swung the rebar one last time. The monster’s body lay still.

Meanwhile, Liz, filled with pity, looked at the thin body of the monster approaching her. He was young and she doubted he had ever really needed to shave. The sadness threatened to overwhelm her.

While she mourned the life lost, the infected made his way closer and closer. Liz suddenly realized her danger when he moaned. The kid reached for her and she swung the rebar in a wide arc. The metal met the side of his head with the dull thud of shattered bone. The kid dropped like a stone.

Liz dropped the rebar and stood looking down at the body as tears slid down her face.

John picked up Liz’s rebar and handed it back to her. “We need to make sure that’s all of ‘em.”

The warehouse was quiet except for the sound of Liz’s breath catching in her throat.

Finally, John spoke. “He was long gone, Lizzy. That was only dead meat.” He whispered. “You did him a favor.”

“I know,” Liz answered with a sniff. “What do you want me to do?” She squared her shoulders and looked at John as she wiped away the tears on her cheeks.

“Okay, then. I’ll see if this is the driver and you can look into getting the overhead doors opened.”

With flashlight in hand, Liz walked toward the rolling overhead doors.

John patted down the pockets of the fat man. He ignored the blood and gore touching the front of the denim with the top of his fingers. A moment later, he slipped his fingers into a pocket and pulled out a set of keys with a GMC fob on the key ring.

“Bingo.” He dropped them in his pocket and followed Liz to the roll up the door behind the big rig outside the warehouse. He pulled the chain. The door moved a few inches then stopped. “What the hell?”

Liz shone her light on the chain wheel overhead and followed it down to a padlock near the bottom. The loop of the padlock was threaded through the chain and a hole in the track. John cursed under his breath then jammed the rebar between the shackle and the body of the lock. With a grunt and quick snap, the lock popped open.

After jerking the metal loop free, he pulled the chain again and afternoon light spilled into the warehouse around the back of the trailer. Once opened, Harry vaulted up into the warehouse.

“You took a while. I was getting worried.” Harry complained then he noticed the bodies near the door. “Well, fuck. Why didn’t you call me?”

Liz answered. “We had it covered.”

“Let’s get busy.” When John looked puzzled and Harry continued. “Before we load the bikes, let’s put on a few pallets of food and water. Won’t be any Micky-D’s and I don’t want to be scrounging for our next meal. All we’re going to need is a few camping supplies.”

Liz nodded. “We have to hurry. The soldiers are getting farther away all the time.”

John grabbed a pallet-jack and started loading pallets stacked with boxes on to the trailer. He didn’t seem to be too discriminating because Liz noticed he included a few pallets with the name Johnson and Johnson on the products. He even included a pallet of toilet paper. By the time he had quit, John had loaded three pallets of water, Dinty Moore Stew, Corn, Peas, Beans, Tuna, and case after case of Chief Boyardee canned pasta.

Within ten minutes, the floor of the trailer was filled with pallets creating a narrow alley to the front of the trailer. John took a final pallet and moved the product to the side and swathed it in shrink-wrap plastic. He did it with a second pallet and Liz realized he didn’t really care what product he was loading since it was all paper goods. He was planning to use it to protect the motorcycles when they were loaded.

When both men were satisfied with the loading, they jumped down and walked to their bikes. They walked them around to the ramp leading up to the side door and brought the bikes into the warehouse.

Liz called out. “I need a bathroom before we go.”

“Be careful,” Harry called out. “You see anything hinky, holler.”

She picked up her rebar and headed deeper into the gloom. She found a door, eased through and looked for the bathroom. She walked slowly deliberately placing one foot in front of the other. She strained to hear any sounds from the offices beyond. She walked past the warehouse manager’s office and glanced inside. She stopped suddenly and stepped inside. She grabbed a plastic bag from the waste basket and dropped half a dozen cans of spray paint in it.

She stepped back into the hall and saw the restroom sign tacked to a door next to an open break room. She peeked into the half opened door and flipped on the light. Nothing jumped out at her. She stepped inside and leaned the rebar against the wall and used the toilet. When she was finished she turned toward the sink and washed her hands.

Liz didn’t recognize the person staring back at her from the mirror over the sink. She looked tired. When tears threatened, she hurled the paper toward the wastebasket and picked up the rebar. Out in the hall she stepped back into the break room and grabbed a plastic bag from the counter, kicked in the front of a snack machine and quickly pulled bags of cookies, candy and chips into the bag. When she was done, she made her way back into the warehouse.

The two men had finished loading the bikes on the trailer, secured them and then slid the trailer doors closed. They lowered the open door to the right.

“I’ll get the last one.” Liz opened one of the cans of spray paint. She used the spray paint to draw a huge heart on the back of the door and added C & A, Love Mommy. She stowed the can and pulled the chain to lower the door. When it neared the loading bay floor, she dropped to her knees and slid to the ground outside at the edge of the trailer.

The trio climbed into the truck with Liz slipping between the bucket seats to sit on the edge of the sleeper. Liz threw her bags aside.

“How are we going to find the soldiers?”

Harry cranked the engine and the truck roared to life. He pressed the clutch and shifted into the first gear. Harry cleared his throat as he shifted the big rig into first gear. “I’ve been thinking about that. They’re military and they need baby supplies. They’ll be stopping along the way. I think we head the direction we last saw them heading. North West.”

“And watch for signs,” John answered. “Sounds like a plan.” John opened the bag Liz had handed him and opened the top. He leaned toward Liz. “Snacks?”

Liz grinned and grabbed a Snickers bar. “I usually don’t eat candy but since the world has gone to shit I guess it won’t matter how I look in a swimsuit this summer.”

Harry stuck his hand into the bag. “That a girl.”

They pulled out of the business park and a few minutes later faced the congested streets. The big rig was a monster of trucking technology. It sported a metal frame in front of a grill that mowed down any infected that had the misfortune of being in its path. Metal screamed as the truck squeezed between vehicles or bounced metal off the steel wrapped around the headlights.

Despite the power and ramming capabilities that allowed them to make good time, they saw no hint of the Humvee as they moved through the streets. Even with the monster engine there was no way through some of the massive traffic jams. Time and again they had backtracked, but in the end, they always moved west.

After the first hour, Liz began exploring the sleeper behind the seat. Inside she found a small frig, loaded with cold drinks and several containers of food in plastic trays. They sat on the shelves of a storage cubby and would only require warming in a microwave. A quick look around and she saw the door above the open shelf. It was the smallest microwave she had ever seen.

It was near dawn when the street finally grew quiet. Harry had been on watch since three. When he saw less activity at six, he made his way around the room looking from window to window. The back alley was empty, but there were still a few infected stumbling around the front of the building. The only real threat in the last hour was when half a dozen infected congregated at a window across the street and started pounding against a glass. The glass broke and the infected spilled into the opening. Screams followed, then silence.

Harry raised the window as quietly as he could and leaned out the second story window. He looked toward the Irish Pub at the end of the block. The infected seemed to have Wandered away from the end of the block.

Harry crossed the room to where John rested in a tattered recliner and touched him on the shoulder. “Time to find those little girls.” He turned to wake Liz, but she was already sitting up. “Morning, Lizzy.” He stepped to the bedroom and knocked on the door jam. “Up and at’em Dave. Time to get to work.”

“Why are you doing this?” Liz asked.

Harry shrugged. “Needs done.” He answered as John and Dave came into the room.

“Well, Harry what’s the plan?” John asked with a grin.

“I’ve been thinking.” Harry began.

Dave snorted and John interrupted. “We’re in trouble already. Really think you ought to start thinking at this late date?”

Harry scowled. “And you’re the comedian that always points it out.” He continued. “We can get to the roof from the resale shop, cross the building roofs and then go down the fire escape at the side of the dry cleaners across the alley from the bar. It’s a no-brainer. We get there, find the kids, and then bring the kids back the same way.”

“Sounds easy enough but what about the crazies in the street?” John commented.

“Hopefully, we won’t draw much attention,” Harry answered. “We’ll be back here and having breakfast before they figure out we’ve even been out there.”

Liz pulled on her new shoes and walked to the bathroom. She slipped inside, did what she needed to do then splashed water on her face. She finger combed her hair and pulled a hair band from her wrist to secure her hair back from her face. When she came out, she waited for each of the men to take a turn in the cramped bathroom.

While she was using the bathroom, Harry had retrieved a canvas bag and set it in the middle of living room. When they were all in the room again Harry opened the bag. One by one, each of the men pulled long hunting knives in scabbards and put them on their belts. Rifles were pulled from the bag and each man slung one across his back. Since each man had already been carrying handguns, they were all geared up. Harry reached back into the bag and brought out a holster, hand gun, and knife. He reached around Liz’s waist and after drilling a new hole in the leather belt, it hung at her hip with a knife on the opposite side.

“It’s a Ruger nine mil. Can you use it?” Harry asked.

Liz nodded. “My dad taught me so I’m good.” She released the magazine, glanced at it then slammed it back in place. She looked up with a determined glint in her eyes. “My husband is in the military.  He insisted I practice regularly.”

Harry turned to the small group. “It’s time to do this. We’re going to be quiet until we have no other choice.” He looked at each of them waiting for a nod of understanding.

Harry led the foursome through the courtyard and into the resale shop. At each door, he locked the deadbolt once they moved through them. Once inside the resale shop, they ignored the store front and went to a door at the side of the back room and entered a narrow stairway. They reached a landing, ignored the door at the side and made their way to the roof of the building. Again, Harry opened the roof access door with the set of keys in his hand. John, Harry, and Liz stepped out into the open air of the roof top.

Dave remained at the door. “Man, I can’t.”

Harry looked over his shoulder. “Just watch our six.” When Liz looked questioningly at Harry, he just shrugged. “Long story.”

Liz looked toward the next building and realized they would be climbing up to get to the next roof. John nodded at her to follow Harry. They crossed the roof to the side of the next building. A set of iron rungs had been imbedded into the brick facade.

“One at a time,” Harry ordered. “John, you’re point.”

With a half-grin, John nodded his head and went to the rebar ladder. Liz studied the man as John made his assent. John was the smaller of the two men. Well-muscled arms grabbed at a rung half way up the wall and with the aid of his legs, climbed higher and higher until he got to the top. He pulled the camouflage baseball cap from his head and tucked it into his back pocket. He eased his eyes over the rim of the building. He moved his head from left to right then turned to offer Harry a thumbs-up. He scampered over the short wall and stood next to the ladder still facing toward the opposite side of the building.

Harry pointed at Liz to go next then scrambled up the ladder behind her. With a final look over his shoulder at the opened roof door, Harry followed John and Liz across the roof to the opposite wall.

Liz worried about Dave. While waiting for Harry, she had studied Dave from a distance. Dave seemed twitchy at best. His eyes darted from side to side as if just being in the open was really bothering him. She also saw his hands tremble holding the rifle. Once he stepped back into the shadows he seemed to calm.

Together the trio crossed to the second rooftop then a third building roof. When they got to the last roof on the span of buildings they descended to the roof of the two-story building and crossed to the edge of the roof overlooking the alley. They crept to the edge of the roof to look down at the alley below.

Three men in green T-shirts and cargo pants were piling into a military Humvee. Liz saw one of the men pull a baby quilt from his shoulder and toss it into the back seat before slamming the door. He slid in the open driver’s door and cranked the engine.

A large black man was getting into the passenger side. He disappeared into the vehicle and reached out to close the door just as an infected man in a blood stained suit grabbed the door and pulled it back open. While the Humvee motor roared to life, the black man fought to close the passenger door.

The driver stepped on the gas and without waiting to see what the passenger was going to do John raised his rifle and fired. The infected man fell to the ground. The door slammed. Hard.

Before anyone could yell or act; the vehicle sped toward the alley entrance. Seconds later, it disappeared around the distant corner with a dozen or more infected following the roar of the massive engine noise.

“My girls!” Liz cried.

Harry pulled a pair of binoculars from his pocket. He studied the ally below. “They have your children. It’s my guess your girls were in the dumpster. I don’t know how the soldiers found them, but they have them now.” He pointed to a white bundle on the ground. “It looks like they were there long enough to change a diaper.”

Liz fell to her knees in relief. Then she looked up in horror. “How will we find them?”

Harry pulled her to her feet and urged her back the way they had come. “Come on John get moving. We have to try to catch that Humvee.”

John laughed and gave him a thumb’s up sign. “Head’em up, move ‘em out, asshole.” He took off at a jog with Liz and Harry following close behind.

Together, the trio raced across rooftops and down the rungs to the roof of the resale shop. They made it to where Dave held the steel door open. All three were more than a little out of breath. Together, they hurried down the stairs only to be stopped by Harry at the bottom access door leading into the shop. He raised his hand and everyone stopped.

He leaned close to the door and placed his ear against the wood. Finally, he turned back to the others. “We got a problem.”

Liz’s breath caught in her throat. Every minute they stood here, the soldiers and her daughters got further away. “We don’t have time to just stand here.”

Harry leaned back to whisper. “I hear footsteps on broken glass out there. I think they broke the front window and now they’re inside the store.” Harry whispered.

“We have to get out of here.” Liz lamented.

John ignored Liz and asked. “How many do you think?”

“Can’t tell’, but I hear shuffling steps from more than one or two. Survivors wouldn’t be moving around that much.” Harry answered.

Dave descended the steps to stand by Harry. John joined them. “Liz, take the keys.” He handed her a key ring by a brass Sledge key and continued. “Dave goes first, then John. They’ll be between you and the rest of the room. Quick as you can unlock the door, let John through then follow him. Take the key with you so we can lock the door from the outside. I’ll come through last, slam the door hard then you can lock it.”

Dave opened the roof door and slid through the opening with his handgun drawn. John followed and stepped deeper into the gloom of the store room. The curtain in front of the back room lay on the floor. The two men stepped closer to the door. Liz peeked around John and her breath caught in her throat. The front window and glass door at the front of the store had been shattered and half a dozen infected were silhouetted against the morning light. The silhouettes of the infected milled around at the front of the store.

Liz stepped around the men and crept toward the side door that opened into the atrium between the thrift store and the bar. When she was half way to the side door, Harry pushed the door open a few more inches to accommodate his bulk. A hinge squeaked. Liz and the three men froze.

The infected stopped. In unison, they raised their faces and sniffed at the air. After a heartbeat, they turned toward the back of the store. Limp arms rose as they turned toward the sound and began walking toward them.

Dave planted an open palm on Liz’s back and pushed her toward the door. “Move!” He ordered. He was so close on her heels his ragged breath ruffled the hair at the back of her neck.

The infected honed in on the movement and each began stumbling toward the back of the store. A low moan came from the few infected at the front of the store. More of the infected from outside tumbled through the half wall into the store and stumbled through the door.

“Hurry!” Harry ordered. “The jig’s up.”

Liz rushed to the door and jammed the key into the brass lock. With a twist of her wrist, the lock clicked free and the door opened. Dave pushed her through, tearing her hand from the key. She stumbled into the courtyard. Dave, John, and Harry darted through the opening without firing at the approaching infected. They pushed the door closed with a slam.

Harry pushed his foot against the door and turned back to Liz. “Keys!”

Liz’s breath caught. “They’re on the other side of the door.”

“Fuck me!” Dave murmured. “I pushed her through before she could pull the key out.” He stepped back to the door where John and Harry held the barrier against the infected pushing on the other side.

Dave handed his rifle to Liz and reached for his handgun. “I got this.”

Harry slipped his rifle to his back and pulled his own handgun from the holster on his hip. John nodded at each man in understanding.

“We can only open the door wide enough to slip your hand through,” Harry stated. “Give us time to clear the door before you reach for the key. Lizzy, keep hold of his belt and don’t let him get pulled in.”

“Let’s do this,” Dave answered.

Without hesitating, John slid his foot back from the door. The infected on the inside pushed and the door lurched open wider then John and Harry intended. Dave stepped closer and reached out.

Harry yelled. “Not yet, man!”

John threw his weight against the door while both Harry and Dave fired into the darkened room beyond. John struggled against the mass of bodies’ unrelenting press against the barrier. Despite the hands still reaching through the opening, Dave grabbed the keys in the lock.

Suddenly his body slammed against the narrow opening between the door and door jam and he dropped his gun. Liz was jerked into his back. She pulled back while Dave yelled and pushed back from the door. Harry fired into the mass of bodies inside the building.

John pulled at Dave trying to free his arm while Liz pulled at his belt with all her weight. Harry grabbed Dave’s shoulder and fired his handgun into the dark. Suddenly Dave was free. He tumbled to the ground with Liz under him. The keys fell from his hand as he rolled off Liz. The keys slid across the flagstone walkway.

John slammed the door shut and kicked the toe of his boot against wood. Bodies slammed against the door and it bounced open a few inches. Harry pushed his bulk against the metal and it slammed closed again. John threw his weight into the barrier.

Liz scrambled to her feet grabbing the keys as she rushed to the door. She added her weight while she fumbled through the jangling ring for the correct key.

She found the key and aimed it toward the lock. The door bounced open. Harry and John grunted against the strain as they pushed it closed again. She jammed the key into the lock and gave it a turn to the right. The pounding from the other side continued, but the lock held.

“Well, fuck me. That was scary.” John commented from behind Harry.

Harry reached down to pull Dave to his feet and saw him clutching his left arm to his chest as a rivulet of blood trailed down his hand. Two of his fingers were gone. Dave gave Harry a crooked smile.

“Well, this kinda sucks.” Dave sighed. “I guess we know what this means.”

Liz reached for the bottom of her t-shirt to pull it off, but Harry stopped her. She looked from Dave to Harry. “What? We have to stop the bleeding!”

“I’m infected.” Dave answered quietly. “It doesn’t matter.” He wrapped a red bandana around the stump of missing fingers and hand then held it out to Harry.

Without a word, Harry tied a knot at the top of his hand. When he was done, he nodded toward the club door and hurried John and Liz across the patio.

“Come on, we have to keep moving.”

The infected continued to slam against the resale shop door. The door-frame groaned under the strain.

John looked toward the door. “It ain’t gonna last long.”

Harry grabbed the keys from Liz and hurried to the bar door without another word. Dave picked up his handgun with his right hand and jammed it into his belt. When the door was open and Liz, Harry and John were inside, Dave put his hands on the key.

Dave pushed the door closed and spoke through the door. “You know I couldn’t have gone anyway.”

Inside, Liz heard the key turn in the lock. She peeked through the small window at the top of the door. Through the glass she watched Dave walk to a patio table and sit down facing the resale shop. He pulled the spent magazine from his handgun and replaced it with one from his pocket. He pulled a cigarette from a pack in his pocket and lit it. He inhaled deeply then aimed the gun at the resale shop door.

Liz slammed her hand on the window and called out to Dave. Harry pulled her away from the window and pushed her toward John. When she tried to protest, he just moved his head from left to right and nudged her into following as John moved toward the rear of the bar.

They rounded the corner of the bar and walked into the back room. As they passed by the bar, the men each grabbed backpacks. Liz followed suit with a final look toward the patio door.

“If we’re going to catch that Humvee, we have to get out of here, now,” Harry commented.

John opened the door to the back room. When they hurried in, Liz saw a makeshift motorcycle repair shop. A huge tool box with sat to one side with a drawer still open while a work bench was built against the back wall.  An assortment of lifts, and apparatuses were mounted in front of the farthest wall.

At the front of the room was an overhead garage door. Three decked out motorcycles faced the garage door. Harry dropped his backpack into the saddlebag on one of the bikes and held out his hand for Liz. She handed over her backpack and dropped it into the opposite side.

“You’ll ride with me. John will ride point.” He grabbed a remote from a table and turned to John who stored his own supplies. “You about ready?”

“Good to go.” John answered.

Harry swung his leg over the massive Harley then held out his arm to guide Liz to the seat behind him on the bike. “Let’s ride.”

They were mounted and ready to go when they heard the first of the shots. They froze. Liz counted; the first five were quick and then six, seven, eight. Each one made her jump. After a brief pause a single shot sounded, then nothing. A hot tear slid down Liz’s face.

The bikes roared to life. Harry held up the remote and the garage door rolled open. John led out then Harry gunned the motor to follow. Liz wrapped her arms around Harry’s waist.

“Hang on Lizzy! This may be a little hairy.”

River Rats

Posted: April 26, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
Tags: , , , ,

Liz pulled herself to her feet and ran. She could hear the infected getting closer. They were stumbling down the embankment all around her. She heard moaning and faltering steps following her, but she was focused on escaping the infected in front of her. She didn’t have time to look over her shoulder.

Tears slid down her face as she dodged around outstretched arms. She prayed sending her girls through the fence would keep them safe. With her they had no chance, they would have died. She could only pray Amy would find a safe place to hide.

“Run Amy” She called out. “Hide! I WILL find you!”

Twenty minutes later, Liz was exhausted and could barely stay ahead of the infected still following her. She had no choice but to keep running away from her daughters if she wanted to survive. Even though she was leading a growing crowd of infected away from her daughters, she was also moving farther and farther away from them herself.

Her sides ached, her breath grated in her throat, but she kept moving and dodging around the blood-covered, creatures. Their reaction to her passing was slow and confused. By the time the infected grabbed for her, she was out of their reach. She just had to keep moving and not let them close in around her.

Liz’s mind fought to make sense of the horror movie come to life. What could cause people to turn on each other and tear flesh from their victims? Liz was terrified for her husband and daughters. She prayed they would stay safe.

She passed three vehicles and noticed a van parked at the side of the street with a side door open. She had outpaced the closest infected and dodged around the stalled cars. She duck-walked around the car nearest the van keeping low enough the infected could not see her. She eased up to the van and peeked inside. When she saw no movement, she slipped inside and slowly slid the door closed as quietly as she could.

The van smelled of insecticides and chemicals. The smell was so overpowering she had to fight gaging. She looked around and noticed one of the sprayers had been tipped over and chemicals had spilled on the floor of the van. She righted the sprayer and used a rag to mop up the liquid and dropped the cloth out the window. With the chemical smell saturating her sinuses, she couldn’t tell if it helped much.

She squatted behind the front seat near the open window and balled up a wad of her white sun-dress skirt and covered her mouth and nose. She took shallow breaths while she listened to the infected stumbling past the van still looking for prey.

An hour later, she peeked out the window from behind the seat. She crawled to the back of the van and looked out the back window. She saw nothing moving on the sidewalks or street. She made her way to the front seat and looked over the seat through the windshield. A few of the infected stood before a door half a block away but otherwise the street was clear. She figured it was as good as it was going to get. It was time to get back to her girls.

Liz slowly slid open the van door glad to finally escape the chemical smell. Her head felt light and her stomach rolled in protest. She stepped out into the night air and took a deep breath to clear her throbbing head but instead was forced to her knees by a gnawing pain in her stomach. She vomited again and again, unable to move.

The insecticide made her violently ill. After several minutes, she had nothing left to throw up and her stomach began to calm. She rose to her feet looking from side to side, ahead and behind. If any of the infected had taken notice, she would be dead.

She took a steadying breath and stepped around the side of the truck and made her way to a darkened doorway. Her heart pounded as she moved out of the shadows and sidestepped along the side of the building to the next doorway. She fought against nausea as she made her way down the block, doorway by doorway, building by building. She came to the first cross street and stopped to catch her breath.

When her pulse steadied from the exertion and the sound of blood pulsing in her ears silenced, she could hear growls and slurping nearby. She imagined a starving animal would make such sounds after a fresh kill. She forced herself to look around the corner and her breath caught.

Three infected soldiers huddled over a body laying a few car-lengths down the street.

She had to get across the juncture without being noticed if she were going to get back to her girls. She cursed under her breath. Her skirt billowed around her as if a white flag of admission of defeat. At least her sandals made little noise on the pavement.

Liz gathered the unruly skirt in her fist and took slow deliberate steps to cross the intersection. All the while, she watched the feeding trio. Every breath she took was slow and deliberate for fear the infected would hear.

She spent the next three hours working her way down one street to the next, detouring around a gathering only to return to the path again. One detour was several blocks out of the way because the surrounding infected were all heading toward the street in front of a balcony where a man sat on a deck chair, gulping Jack Daniels and hurling curses and bottles at the assemblage below.

Despite the detours, she was steadily making her way back to the small strip center where she hoped her girls were hidden.

Just thinking of the monsters with their hands on her children made her tremble with fear. Liz’s breath caught. They had to be alive. They had to be safe.

She came to the corner of the fence surrounding the retail buildings at the side of the freeway. She saw the brown UPS truck in the distance and realized she was within blocks of where she had put the girls through the wire fencing behind the buildings.

When she looked from the alley to the freeway above the shopping center, dozens of infected milled around the cars. She looked back to the street and saw even more of the creatures in front of the row of buildings. She would have to make her way past a herd of monsters to get to her daughters.

She crouched low and hurried to the end of the block where she used an outstretched hand to catch the corner post of the hurricane fencing. Being so close, all Liz could think about was getting to the girls. She stepped around the corner. So close…so close.

She stopped at the side of the building, ready to slip across the open street to the next building. She peeked around the brick corner and her breath caught. Two infected men were on the street stumbling in her general direction. She stepped back into the shadows and watched as they stopped and milled around near a body lying on the street.

The monsters tilted their heads upwards.  Liz could hear them snuffle at the air. They sniffed left then right then back in her direction again. She realized they could smell her and began to slink back deeper into from the street when a sudden scream in the distance distracted the dead focused on her.

The monsters turned and headed toward a side street where the moans and growls of several infected announced they had spotted prey. The two monsters disappeared into a side street to join their brethren.

Liz hurried toward the neon sign at the end of the next block. She was so close. Yet she felt the distance between her and her girls was still so far with even more infected ahead in the middle of the street. She stopped and looked around the corner of a doorway.

She groaned in frustration. The street was chaos, cluttered with cars and wandering infected attacking anything that still moved. Doors hung open on some of the vehicles while windows were shattered on others. Writhing torn bodies remained belted in their seats.

In the street, the infected clustered around the body of a living person, pulling and gnawing their flesh, exposing white glistening bones covered in gore. Their final screams of terror mingled with the sound of deep-throated moans made by the undead.  More sounds of terror emanated from inside a building down the street.

Liz eased away from the corner and tip-toed her way to the side of a parked car keeping it between her and the meandering infected wandering the streets. She slowly raised her head over the hood of the SUV and saw half a dozen infected heading in her direction as if they knew she was there. Her breath caught as she looked over her shoulder. More and more of the infected were moving down the street in her direction. She ducked behind an open car door and peeked over the window. She reached into the car looking for a weapon. She grabbed a heavy flashlight lying at the side of the driver’s seat.

Suddenly two men bolted from a nearby building. Still looking over his shoulder at his pursuers, the leader almost crashed into the back of an infected woman. Both men skidded to a stop and turned toward Liz. She saw the terror on their faces as the closest man changed direction and ran toward the alley across the street. The second man followed suit.

The infected in the vicinity turned at the commotion. The leader slammed his fist into the face of the nearest infected. It was a bone-shattering blow. When he pulled his hand away it was covered in dark blood and gore. The strike left the infected with one eye dangling and bones caved in around the eye socket. The creature still reached out and grabbed the retreating arm.

Before the man realized it, the monster was taking its first bite. The man screamed in pain as two more attackers fell upon him. Staring at the attack on his companion, the second man crab-crawled backwards into the arms of three more infected. His screams filled the night.

“God.” Liz whispered as she fought the bile building at the back of her throat. Suddenly she could hold it no more. She retched and bile spilled onto the ground. How could she survive this? How could her children survive?

Still crouching behind the SUV, Liz jumped at the sound of a muffled moan behind her. She straightened up ready to jump to her feet and run, but a cold hand grabbed her shoulder holding her in place. She opened her mouth to scream, but her voice failed.

Frozen in fear, she waited for the pain of the monster’s teeth tearing into her flesh when suddenly she was drenched in cold sticky goo. She jerked away from the cold hand only to be grabbed again from behind.

A thick arm circled her waist as a meaty hand covered her mouth. She was pulled away from the prone infected on the sidewalk while a deep voice ordered. “Be quiet if you want to live!”

The arm around her pulled Liz from the sidewalk into the dark recess of a cave-like entrance. Her feet left the concrete sidewalk and scraped across wood planking. Once inside, a heavy wooden door closed quietly across the opening and a bolt slid into place.

She mumbled curses and orders to let her go while clawing at the hand covering her mouth. She kicked out, but the soft sandals made little impact against the heavy boots of her captor.

The man whispered into her ear. “I’ll move my hand, but you have to be quiet. Okay?”

Desperate to be free, she made a quick nod.

The arm around her waist and the hand covering her mouth fell away and she was free. Her freedom came so quickly she fell to the floor with the loss of support.

“Sorry lady, I couldn’t take a chance you’d scream and bring the rest of the crazies down on us.” The deep voice apologized. He reached out to help her to her feet.

Liz drew a deep breath into her lungs and looked up at the bear of a man in front of her. She accepted the calloused hand and he pulled her to her feet.

As soon as was she standing, she pulled away to get a good look at her savior and his two companions.

As her eyes adjusted to the dark, relief faded. She had been saved by a trio of rough looking bikers. From the frying pan to the fire, she thought.

Her rescuer had hair long enough to tie at the back of his neck with a length of leather. He was a big man well over six foot with the lower half of his face covered in a thick, dark brown and gray beard.

She felt diminutive when he leaned toward her. Between the mustache and beard, a gentle smiled separated the unruly facial hair. His eyes mirrored his smile.

“You okay, lady?” He asked.

“You killed him,” Liz whispered as she looked down at her sundress covered in gore and her own vomit. She couldn’t tell which smelled worse.

“Yeah. They would’ve torn you apart if I hadn’t got you outta there.” He answered.

She began to tremble. “Thank you.” Slowly, Liz looked around. “My name is Liz Jameson.” She turned to the door. “But I have to leave now. I need to find my children. I put them through the fence behind a bar down the street and left them. I told my daughter to find a place to hide and stay until I came for them.”

“You can’t go back out there now.” A second voice stepped to her left and placed a hand on the door. “The town is overrun with those dead fucks.” He laughed hoarsely. “It’s a fucking Zombie Fest.” The man folded his arms over his chest.

“My name is Harry.” The bearded man stuck out his hand. “Harry Walters and this puny fella next to me is David Simon and that’s John Tilman. Look, I understand what you’re saying, but you can’t go out right now.”

“I hate to tell you this, but if they’re out there, they’re probably dead already.” John commented with a scowl.

“No!” Liz gasped.

Harry stepped up and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “We’ll figure something out in a little bit. If you die, you can’t help your young’uns.” When she didn’t answer, he let his arm drop and led Liz to a door marked private. “Let’s find you some clothes. You’re covered in Zombie shit and smell like puke.”

He turns to his companions. “Dave, watch the door and John, you stock up the bikes in case we have to leave in a hurry.”

Liz allowed herself to be led away unsure of what else to do. The blood from the infected was beginning to get tacky and dank on her skin. Not good, Liz thought. It smelled foul and toxic.

She looked around the room and realized they were in a run-down sports bar of some kind. The center of the back wall included a display of bottles behind a chipped and scarred bar-top. To the left of the alcohol display was a gas grill, a toaster, and chest freezer. On the opposite side sat two glass-fronted refrigerators sporting a collection of bottled beer, water, and soda. An old style television sat on top of the second refrigerator. At Liz’s raised brow, Harry shrugged.

“It’s a private club, sort of,” Harry commented at Liz’s look. “Don’t look so scared. The three of us are old toothless dogs.” He chuckled.

“Where are we going to find clothes?” Liz asked. “I don’t imagine you keep a collection of women’s clothes lying around.”

“Well, Lizzy, there’s a patio through that side door and it leads to the resale shop next door.”

Liz looked around and found they were leaving the bar and stepping out into an open courtyard. At the far end, a wrought iron gate with a smattering of ivy protected the open space from the street. Three small tables and a half dozen wrought iron chairs were arranged on a concrete patio. One of the tables included remnants of someone’s lunch. In a distant corner, something was covered with a blanket. It looked like a body.

Liz hesitated when she realized it could mean only one thing. “What?”

Harry sighed. “Edith.” He guided Liz toward a second door. “It’s her resale shop we’re going to. She called, said she wasn’t feeling well. We offered to drive her home, but she turned us down so we said we’d check on her later.”

“We kinda forgot about the call since we were watching all this crazy shit on the television and talking about what we’d do if we saw one of those crazies. We heard someone scratching and beating at the patio door.

“John opened the door and she fell into the bar and attacked John. I swear she was trying to eat his face. Anyway, Dave grabbed a crescent wrench on the bar and caved in her skull. After that, we couldn’t decide what to do with the body so we drug her outside and covered her up. Dave was pretty friendly with Edith, living in the apartment upstairs and all.”

Liz glanced at Harry. “I’m sorry. It sounds terrible.”

Harry just shrugged. They crossed the courtyard and Harry took out a set of keys from his pocket and opened a second door. He stepped inside a dark store room and crossed to an open door. He reached inside and a single dim light in a bathroom came on. He pushed the door closed leaving only a narrow beam of light.

Harry nodded toward the front of the store beyond a dark curtain stretched across the room. “We can’t turn on more lights or they’ll notice. When you’re out there, duck down and stay behind the racks. There’s glass across the front and we don’t want one of those crazies to look inside and see us.”

The store was a typical resale or second-hand store. Racks and rows of clothing filled the place. After a quick scan, she realized the children’s clothes were up front and women’s clothes hung on racks to the right of a main walkway.

Harry stood to the side with his arms folded across his chest. “Get a couple sets of whatever you need. There’s a shoe rack on the far side. Myself, I don’t much care for someone else’s toe jam in my shoes, but under the circumstances you can’t be too picky, I guess.”

Liz gave a quick nod and made her way to a rack of jeans. She pulled a pair of size six from the hanger, stepped out of her sandals and into a pair of pants. She decided they would do, buttoned the waist, and left them on. She pulled two more pairs from hangers. After a quick examination, to make sure they weren’t shredded on the legs she draped them over her arm and moved on to a rack of t-shirts.

She glanced over her shoulder toward Harry and saw he was watching the front window. She pulled four dark colored shirts from the rack then headed toward the front of the store where racks of new underwear and socks were displayed. As an afterthought, she grabbed a card of hair bands.

When Liz got close to the front window, she ducked below the checkout counter to make her way to the display. After a quick perusal, she found the right size socks, grabbed two packages from the shelf and retrieved a package of boy’s briefs when she didn’t find anything but frilly scraps of nylon for women. She stooped behind a row of racks displaying purses and bags. She grabbed a backpack from the display.

As she walked away, she stuffed clothes in the bag keeping one shirt out to put on after she got cleaned up. Her last stop was the shoe rack.

She found her size but saw nothing she thought would be practical so she moved down the aisle to the boys shoes. She found a pair of boy’s work boots with a steel toe. She picked up her foot and pressed the boot to the bottom of her bare foot. With a shrug, she settled on a stool and slipped on socks and the boots and tied the laces.

After her four-minute shopping spree, she made her way to the back of the store staying below the racks. She nodded toward the bathroom. “I need a minute?”

Harry shrugged. “Feel free. Try to be quick.”

Liz slipped inside leaving Harry in the dark. She looked in the mirror and realized how much blood covered her neck and shoulder. She jerked up the dress and turned the water on. She grabbed a clean handful of skirt soaked it in water and began scrubbing at the gore still clinging to her skin.  She scrubbed the wet cotton against a white bar of soap and cleaned her skin. When she was satisfied she no longer bore the remnants of carnage, she splashed water on her face then dried with paper towels. She pulled a white wife sleeveless wife-beater undershirt on, then a cotton t-shirt.

She finger combed her shoulder length hair and used one of the hairbands to pull it back from her face. She fought it, but tears glistened in her hazel eyes. Her oval face was void of makeup but still flushed from exertion. Where was Brian? Where were her children? Were they safe? Please God.

“You about ready, Lizzy?” Harry whispered through the door. “The natives are getting restless out front and I don’t like being in here with all that glass.”

“Sure,” Liz answered. She slipped a t-shirt over her head and picked up the backpack. Being small busted made the lack of a bra a non-issue. She squared her shoulders and stepped into the gloom of the darkened store.

“You get everything you need?” Harry asked.

“I need my daughters,” Liz answered.

“I hear what you’re saying, but right now we can’t do anything. “It’s dark,” Harry answered as he locked Edith’s shop. “The streets are crawling with those fucks.”

When they stepped into the bar, Liz could smell cooking meat.

“Hey. Are you two hungry?” John asked from behind the bar. He held up a beer and nodded toward Liz.

Liz sighed. “Water, please.” She dropped the backpack at her feet.

Harry settled on the bar stool next to Liz with a deep sigh. He unbuttoned his sleeves and rolled up the cuff twice. He stared into the mirror behind the bar while he clutched the opened bottle in front of him. Finally, he took a long swig of beer.

“Beer tastes like shit with the smell from outside creeping in here,” Harry complained.

Liz glanced at him then turned back to study the pictures taped to the cracked mirror. She saw images of young soldiers that included Harry and his two companions. Despite the picture being at least 35 years old, she could recognize the three younger versions of the men.

John laughed. “Far as I’m concerned, beer has always tasted like cow piss. Only now you can smell it, too.”

Liz continued her musing while they discussed beer. She imagined the trio was Viet Nam Vets so Harry and his friends had to be at least sixty years plus in age. All three wore jeans, heavy chambray shirts and leather vests with an emblem with a caricature of an angry rat holding a machine gun. The two-word moniker, River Rats, was embroidered in gold and black thread. The angry rodent was surrounded by a medallion edge of bamboo.

Harry chuckled. “So you’ve been drinking a lot of cow piss so you’d know what it tastes like?”

John coughed. “Fuck you. Harry, you’re a disgusting fuck.”

Harry just grinned back and raised a hand with the middle finger extended.

Liz felt the corner of her mouth raise at the good-humored ribbing and continued her assessment. John was a man of medium build with dark hair thinning at the top. His eyes sported a fan of lines at the side and she imagined the hazel color sparkling when he laughed. The laugh lines at the sides of his mouth were hidden by more than a five o’clock shadow hinting at the number of days spent away from home.

Dave was the smallest of the trio. He was a nervous man that seemed to be more distressed by their confinement than the other two men. He would pace from side to side then suddenly stop in front of the door, open the peephole then peered through the opening at the streets beyond. After several minutes of watching, he would close the opening and begin pacing again.

Dave’s dark blonde hair was thinning and looked as if it had not been washed in days. A strong jaw hinted at having been a good looking man at one time, but now his mouth seemed to be in a perpetual frown. When he reached up to smooth back his hair his hand trembled.

Harry glanced over his shoulder. “Dave, come on over and have something to eat. We got a mission.”

Dave glanced toward the peephole in the door then turned back to cross the room to the bar. “Mission?” He mumbled. “Right. Good to go.”

Harry sighed. “When things calm down, we have to help Lizzy here find her kids.”

“It’s almost full dark. Maybe we can get out tonight.” John commented.

Laughing without humor Dave answered. “Haven’t you watched any of those Zombie movies? Those bastards don’t sleep.”

“Enough.” Harry walked to the peephole and looked outside. “If we can’t make it any sooner, we’ll wait until morning. The crazies are chasing anything moving right now. Good chance they’ll wander off when there’s no one to chase.”

Liz sighed. She closed her eyes and prayed softly. “Please God, send angels to watch over and protect my daughters.”

“Amen,” Harry whispered behind her. “We’ll do what we can, Lizzy. I promise.”

The evening was filled with terror. Screams continued to shatter the stillness as the night grew dark. Safe inside the bar, Harry, John and Dave took turns watching through the peephole in the heavy wood door. Liz took comfort in not hearing the scream of a child.

The infected moved up and down the street until they would suddenly congregate in front of a window or door. They would pound and push until the barrier gave way or glass shattered then they would stumble inside. Those who ran for their vehicles were quickly surrounded. They would try to dodge and weave around the bloodied bodies only to be pulled to the ground and devoured. Their terrified screams echoed through the night until they fell silent, time and again.

One such attack happened right in front of the bar door. They hid behind the door, but no one made a move to open it. They knew it would be a fatal mistake. The victim’s screams finally stopped. Liz stood by with tears sliding down her face.

Harry took a deep breath then whispered. “Let’s go upstairs and get some rest. Dave, can we use your place to crash again tonight?”

Dave looked as if he would protest then shrugged and turned toward a side door. “Sure.”

When Liz followed them up the side stairs she realized Dave had lived above the small bar in the apartment for several years. The one bedroom apartment included worn remnants of carpeting and the barest of furnishings. He had a few pieces of living room furniture, a dinette table, and two chairs while the bedroom held a battered dresser and a neatly made double bed. A couple cots and sleeping bags had been stacked in the corner.

Dave offered the bed to Liz, but she insisted she wouldn’t sleep so she could rest on the couch. As it was, none of them got much rest, the rest of the night was filled with the screams of those unfortunate enough to be found by the infected. As soon as it got quiet, another unfortunate soul would be torn from their hiding place and the terrified screams would begin again.

The men took turns watching the street from the second story windows while Liz curled up on the couch to worry if her children were warm and safe. As the night wore on, tears slipped from her eyes until finally exhaustion pulled her into a fitful sleep where she dreamed of Brian.

Her husband’s arms held Liz close. “If anything ever happens, head to your dad’s cabin. The General and I have plenty of supplies stocked up. It’s important you don’t wait for me. Get in the car and get there. I’ll find you.”

Liz sighed. “We can’t leave you.” As she stroked his face.

Brian pulled Liz away. “There’ve been things going on that really scare me, Liz. We live too close to the base for you and the girls to be safe. If I’m not able to protect you and the girls, you have to do like I say and if the base ever declares an emergency you have to leave right away. No question. Go to your dad’s and I’ll know where to find you.”

Liz snuggled into his arms and fell asleep knowing Brian would always be there to protect them.

“Don’t stop, no matter what you see, just keep driving.” 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 arousals 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 voice mail. She tried a third time and got a busy circuit message. She tried texting but the just hung up and 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 full shopping cart and walked out of Walmart without looking back. She drove to Fort Sam Houston Elementary School on Nursery Road.

When she looked in the rearview mirror, she saw her face and hoped no one noticed the paleness of her complexion or the panicked look of her eyes. Her shoulder length blonde hair could use a brush but she didn’t want to take the time. 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 turned to 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 Liz’s hair and giggled. Liz rocked from left to right and back again. “Ready for a car ride, Claire Bear?” Liz asked as she patted the baby’s back. While she waited, she 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, two changes of clothes, an extra blanket and half a dozen 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 a 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 turned toward the door. She glanced down at Amy and answered. “We have to go see grandpa. We have to hurry.”

Liz got the baby settled with a bottle and pulled out of the parking lot. She stopped at the first Shell station she saw after leaving the school. She filled up the gas tank, grabbed a handful of snack bars and half a dozen bottles of water.

She drove the surface streets to the closest on-ramp and got on the freeway. She turned north out of San Antonio at the interchange. Over the next twenty minutes, traffic slowed and grew more congested as emergency vehicles joined the overcrowding.

Liz studied the traffic. It seemed rush hour was 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 old retail buildings.

The brick structures probably included half a dozen businesses. 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 lot. From what she could see, the buildings included a bar at the end, a nail salon, a couple retail stores and two buildings that were so non-descript, they could be anything.

“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 C & A. 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 passed the sheet of paper to her daughter and turned back at the stalled traffic ahead. The city streets she could see below the freeway had grown even more congested right along with the freeway traffic. Now they were at a standstill. She couldn’t get off the freeway and even if she could, it was no better.

She turned on the radio. The station was reporting a terrorist attack, then unusual assaults and groups of soldiers attacking other soldiers on the base. Liz waffled between wanting to know what was happening and not wanting to alarm or frighten Amy. Liz finally turned off the radio.

She realized the terrorist attack had somehow caused people to become crazed and 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 was nearly depleted.  She pulled a charger from the glove box and plugged in the phone.

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

Liz watched the fuel gage slip below three-quarters tank 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 began to grow hot she began to worry 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, she realized the air smelled wrong.

Liz sniffed and wrinkled her nose. There was a scent in the air. Something unpleasant mingled with the odor of exhaust, fresh mowed grass and cooking meat at a nearby Bar-B-Que restaurant. The invading stench was a mixture of slaughter house and an open sewer.

Still considering the unpleasant odor, she glanced through the windshield when she heard shouting and a distant scream. She leaned toward the window to listen but a massive four-wheel drive truck roared to life a few vehicles ahead. The driver held his foot on the break and raced the truck engine. He 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 again then jammed the truck into reverse and slammed toward the mini-van behind the truck. The truck driver raced his engine and yelled at the mini-van driver. Both the mini-van and the Fiat made tentative efforts to move, but they were trapped by the vehicles in front and behind them.

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

Liz watched the cars ahead but could only see beyond a couple dozen vehicles because of a 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.

Liz watched two men in khaki uniforms appear from the front of the 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 red stains.

The massive pickup continued pulling forward and backing up while the driver doubled his verbal abuse of the two offending drivers. Each time he shifted from drive to reverse he rammed into the offending vehicles more violently. Terrified by the vehicular assault, the Fiat driver escaped his automobile and stood at the side of the roadway screaming abuse.

The pair of khaki-clad men made their way to the first vehicle behind the truck and slammed their hands against the sedan’s side window. Liz could hear yells from the female driver and the thuds of the assault against the glass when the truck driver stopped his frantic efforts to escape the traffic jam for the moment.

Liz’s heart rate began to quicken. What she was seeing was crazy. The sedan’s male passenger jumped out of the car and raced around the back of the vehicle to confront the two men beating on the driver’s window. He was a muscled man with bulging arms stretching the fabric of the white t-shirt. Liz could see he imagined his physique would be enough to intimidate the two men.

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 faced against the bare flesh. When he straightened up, his face was covered in blood and his jaws moved up and down chewing the hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

The victim, screaming in pain and rage, thrashed about trying to free himself from his captors. The second attacker leaned into the man’s neck and shook his head back and forth like a dog. When he pulled his face away, blood sprayed across both attackers from the ripped flesh of the man’s neck. The passenger’s screams stopped, he quit flailing and slumped against the attacker. The captor dropped the man to the ground and the terrified screams of the sedan’s driver intensified when the USP men 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 own assault at the windshield. The window glass suddenly shattered and arms reached 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 starred on 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 stumbled 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 attacker pulled his face away with a red, dripping hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

More of the attackers turned their attention on the dying kid, each tearing flesh from his writhing body. Blood spurted from his neck and within seconds he quit struggling. The captors released the body and it disappeared under the cluster of attackers assaulting the next vehicle. Several attackers got to their feet and stumbled over the bodies toward the next vehicle.

More attackers 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. More 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.

Those 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 truck of the two vehicles that wedged him into the traffic jam. The massive truck slammed into the small Fiat, jammed the truck into reverse and stomped on the gas. The truck hit the mini-van 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 guard rail shattering the window and windshield. The driver escaped the truck and vaulted over the guard rail and disappeared down the incline.

Liz watched in the waning afternoon light as two more women were pulled through shattered windows. Their screams filled the afternoon. More of the infected headed for the next car and the 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 be at her car in a matter of minutes. They would come for Liz and her daughters.

They were 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 faced mirrored her own horror at the sounds coming closer by the minute.

“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 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.

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 guard rail.

Clutching Claire to her chest, and still holding Amy’s hand, Liz faltered down the steep incline toward the distant fence that stretched across the back parking lot of a row of businesses. When she glanced up behind her, she saw some of the infected had noticed their escape and were beginning to follow.

The infected weaved between vehicles and headed toward the barrier. Liz glanced over her shoulder and was relieved when the monsters seemed baffled by the thigh-high barrier. They stood at the guard rail reaching out but were stymied by the metal barrier. Suddenly, their outstretched arms and leaning bodies overbalanced and they began falling over the barrier.

They lined up at the guard rail 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 barrier skinning the flesh from half his face. He stumbled to his feet, got overbalanced and hit the ground again. He tumbled halfway down the incline where he got caught on a cluster of oleanders.

One after another, the infected leaned over the guard rail until they fell. More and more of the tattered and torn people pressed against those leaning into the barrier until none could move.

Three of the monsters were half way down the incline when a massive overweight woman in a bloodied housedress fell over the barrier and began to roll. She hit the trio. The four ended in a massive pile with limbs trapped under the woman lying on her back. Having landed with her head downhill and with bodies on either side, she was having little luck with rolling over.

More and more of the monsters fell over the guard rail, got up and began making their way toward those trying to escape. Dozens of people passed Liz and the girls. Not on offered to assist. They were quickly being left behind to suffer a horrible fate.

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

As they ran from the roadway toward the eight-foot hurricane fence, Liz looked up and down the fence line for an opening. They had to get away. She had to find a place her children would be safe. She turned toward the corner of the distant corner of the fencing looking for an opening and saw nothing.

Near panic, she saw a dip in the grass under the metal fence behind what appeared to be a bar or eatery. She could see a neon sign at the front of the alley. Boxes surrounded the massive dumpster midway from the front of the building.

Liz dragged Amy toward the divot in the ground. Shoving the baby into her daughter’s arms, she 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 few minutes, she pulled at the bottom of the woven fencing testing the size of the opening. The wire gave way several inches, but the opening wasn’t big enough for her to get through yet. 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 light 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, baby.” Liz whispered.

Amy began to cry but did as she was 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. “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 grass on the other side of the opening. 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 and 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 shoved. 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 getting 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 find a place to 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 the Amy and her sister.

“Mommy!” Amy screamed.

Tears ran down her face as Amy backed from the fence clutching Claire close. She stepped away from the reaching arms and watched her mother run around a distant corner of fencing and disappear behind a brick building. When she could no longer see her mother, Amy adjusted the strap on her shoulder, turned, and ran toward a blinking neon sign.