Authors: Robert Boren
“You two want to come?” Jerry asked.
“I think I’d rather keep scanning,” Jane said.
“Me too,” Jasmine said.
“Okay, be back in a few minutes,” Frank said. He and Jerry went into the kitchen and down through the trap door.
General Hogan was sitting on the couch, reading.
“Hey, general,” Frank said. He looked up from his book. “What are you reading?”
“Hemingway,” he said. “What’s up?”
“We just heard from Jackson. The roadblock on the east bound side of route 40 is gone.”
“Already? Shit. Knew it was coming, but there’s still a lot of stragglers.”
“You think it’s too early?” Jerry asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “We might want to have somebody watching the cameras and monitoring the audio dishes, just in case.”
“Maybe we ought to put folks on duty,” Jerry said.
“On the roofs?” Frank asked.
“Yeah,” Jerry said. “Think it’s too late to call a meeting?”
“In this case, no,” Frank said. “We’re stretched a little too thin.”
“Okay, let’s do it, then. In the clubhouse?” General Hogan asked.
“Yeah,” Frank said. “Let’s go round people up. Hopefully they aren’t asleep yet.”
Jerry and Frank went up the stairs to the barn trap door, and into the coach section, knocking on doors and telling people about the meeting. People started arriving in the clubhouse before they got back.
Jane and Jasmine turned as they heard people coming in.
“What’s going on?” Jane asked.
“Jerry and Frank just called a meeting,” Mary said, looking sleepy as she walked in with Kurt.
General Hogan appeared in the door of the kitchen. “Wow, that was fast.”
“Yeah, we’re used to this,” Kurt said, chuckling. “Something wrong on the road?”
“The roadblock is gone on route 40,” General Hogan said. “We figured we’d better plan some strategy, and start watching.”
“No, really?” Mary asked.
“Afraid so,” he replied.
The Sheriff, Terry, Trish, and Jake came in as a group, followed by Malcolm, George, and Heidi. Jerry and Frank came in last.
“Looks like everybody’s here,” Kurt said.
“Smaller group than I’m used to,” the Sheriff said, looking around, his brow furrowed. “Hope we didn’t set ourselves up for disaster by letting so many people take off at once.”
“We’ve still got considerable capability,” General Hogan said.
Frank went to the front of the room. “Okay, you already know what happened. Jackson called and let me know that the eastbound roadblock on route 40 is gone. That means anybody could just roll into Kansas now.”
“We also know that the enemy has been traveling in shielded vans,” Jerry said. “They came in one when they attempted to attack the hospital that Jeb and Rosie are at.”
Trish looked up at Terry, terror in her eyes. He petted her head. “Don’t worry, sweetie,” he said.
“We need to brainstorm this,” Malcolm said. “Otherwise we’ll get into a tizzy. It might not be as bad as we think.”
“That’s true,” George said. “Remember, they can’t hide a large number of fighters from us. At least not a large enough number to take this place.”
“Ideas?” Jerry asked.
“Man that 50 cal up on the roof of the barn,” Kurt said. “Any van or group of vans coming down the road is gonna have a bad day.”
“Yeah, and put snipers with hunting rifles on the lower roofs to clean up the mess,” Terry said.
“I think that’s prudent,” General Hogan said.
“You know, they could shield the back of a semi,” Kurt said. “They could fit 40 to 50 men in a rig that size.”
Jane got a worried look on her face. “Could we handle that many enemy fighters?”
“If we see them far enough out, yes,” George said. “One thing to remember. There’s no reason for a vehicle like that to be on any of the roads we can see from the roof of the barn. It will make the attack decision easy. We see it coming, we take it out. I suggest we have mortars ready too, just in case. It’ll be harder to shoot into the back of a truck that’s shielded with lead.”
“What if we spiked all the incoming roads?” Jake asked. “I know how.”
“Too much flat dirt on either side,” the Sheriff said. “That would’ve worked well at Gabe’s place though.”
“How many different routes are there to the park?” General Hogan asked.
“On that,” Jane said, bringing up Google Earth on her laptop.
“You’re thinking we should follow them out to the source road and put a sentry or two there for early warning?” asked Kurt.
“Yeah,” General Hogan said. “If there’s ten ways to come in here, we can’t do it, though.”
“Forget it, guys,” Jane said. “We could have enemy fighters coming in from too many directions unless some of the roads are still bottled up. They could come in via I-70, route 40, route 50, or route 96. Even way south on route 160 is a possibility. All they have to do is get to that north-south road, route 27, which they all run into.”
“They have to come through Sharon Springs to get here,” Kurt said.
“Yeah, but there’s a lot traffic around there,” the Sheriff said.
“There’s still only one way to get on the roads to us, though,” Kurt said. “It’s the same road we came on, back behind Howard’s truck stop. It’s a pinch point.”
“You know the roads pretty well, don’t you, Kurt?” Malcolm asked.
“Yeah, I used to visit Chet every so often,” he said, brow furrowing. “Why?”
“Perhaps you and I ought to take cruise over there and watch the pinch point,” Malcolm said.
“That would take two of our best snipers off line,” General Hogan said.
“You’ll still have enough, and we could come up from behind if anything happens here,” Malcolm said. “We’ll hear it. Nothing like a little cross-fire.”
“If Kurt goes, I’m going too,” Mary said.
“Can you shoot?” Malcolm asked.
“No,” she said.
“Honey, think about this for a minute,” Kurt said. “We’re liable to have wounded people coming in. What are we gonna do if we lose you?”
“Why does it have to be you?” she asked.
“Because I know the town, and the roads,” Kurt said. “If Charlie was here, he could probably get by, too. Maybe even Hilda. They’re both gone.”
“Alright, alright,” Mary said. “Don’t you dare get killed.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” he said.
“What else?” Jerry said.
“What do we already have set up?” General Hogan asked.
“Well, the M107 is already on the roof of the barn,” George said. “With ammo, ready to go. We need somebody not afraid of heights to be up there with me, and a couple good hunting rifles.”
“I can join you up there,” Terry said. He glanced down at Trish. She nodded slowly back at him, worried but resigned.
“So can I,” Heidi said. “I even know how to fire the beast, remember?” George looked at her, and pulled her close, smiling.
“We set up the lower roofs already,” Kurt said. “Did it when the Capitol Reef attack was happening. All we have to do is send men up there with rifles. We could be ready in less than two minutes.”
“The mortars are set up too,” Jake said. “I helped with that, and got training on them from Jackson.”
“Okay, then I suggest that we have somebody on the roof of the barn starting now,” General Hogan said.
“Everybody agree?” Frank asked.
“All right, let’s go,” Jerry said.
Hilda was still driving, the road getting darker, switchbacks just starting up. They were off the wider part of the road now.
“You okay?” Gabe asked. “Want me to take over?”
“We can’t stop now,” she said, looking in her rear-view mirror.
“It’s still hanging back,” Earl said. “You think they’re wanting to follow us back?”
“Why would they?” Gabe asked. “They already know where the RV Park is. I think they’ll make a move before that.”
“What’s the next town?” Hilda asked.
“Should be Cimarron,” Gabe said. “We’ll get cell coverage back there, I suspect.”
Earl was looking at his phone. “I got a voice mail somewhere along the line. Coverage must be in and out.” He pushed the play button and put the phone to his ear. His expression changed, a worried look washing over him.
“Uh oh, what?” Gabe asked.
“Charlie’s SUV just passed into Colorado a little while ago,” Earl said. “The roadblock on eastbound 40 is gone.”
“Son of a bitch,” Gabe said. “I hope the guys at home are getting ready.”
“Me too,” Hilda said. “Starting to get a little more curvy now. I can’t see the van most of the time.”
“Don’t go too fast,” Gabe said. “Some of these curves are gonna be tight, and this isn’t a sports car.”
“I know,” Hilda said. “Maybe if it’s safe to stop in Cimarron we can switch.”
“Okay with me,” Gabe said.
“We’re getting closer now,” Earl said. “I’ve got bars. Looking at GPS now.”
“Here’s a straight section,” Gabe said. He turned to look behind them. The van showed up, but it took longer than he expected.
“Why are they staying back so far?” Hilda asked.
“Hope we don’t run into another van in front of us,” Earl said. “Could be a trap they’re trying to run us into. Cimarron is coming up pretty quick. We’ll be there in less than ten minutes. I’m calling Jackson.” He put the phone to his ear.
“Oh, good, Earl, you’re back in range. Where you guys at?”
“About ten minutes outside of Cimarron. The van is behind us, but keeping its distance.”
“Uh oh. We’re on route 50 now, almost to La Junta. We’ve been blasting along at about 90 most of the way. Doesn’t look like the road is going to get twisty until after Pueblo.”
“Maybe we should meet there, Jackson.”
“Nah, we’ll get there too far ahead of you guys.”
“Okay. We’re going to stop in Cimarron for a second, so Gabe can get back behind the wheel.”
“Good. Watch out, that might be where the bad guys make their move.”
“Could be, Jackson. Hope they aren’t following us into a trap somewhere along the line.”
“I know, me too. You guys keep your eyes open. We’ll see you soon.” Earl put his phone away.
“They’re cranking,” Earl said. “Going about 90 most of the way. They’re already at La Junta.”
“Hell, that’s not too far from Pueblo,” Gabe said. “There’s the turnoff for Cimarron.”
“I’m taking it,” Hilda said, steering the vehicle down the long ramp. The surface streets were quiet. “Wish there were more people around.”
“We getting gas?” Earl asked.
“Shouldn’t need it yet,” Gabe said. “Good place to trade off though. I don’t see the van behind us.”
“This is the only off-ramp, right?” Hilda asked.
“Yeah,” Earl said. “We ought to lay in wait for them. They’ve got no place to hide on this road.”
“Exactly what I’m thinking,” Hilda said. “Let’s get on the side street over there. It’s dark. They won’t see us before we see them.”
“Good idea,” Gabe said. “Pull down there a ways and then make a U-turn. I want us pointing back at the road.”
“Got it,” Hilda said, making the turn. There was a driveway she could K-turn in about a block down. She did that while Earl kept his eyes peeled at the highway. They pulled up and parked about thirty yards back.
“Let’s switch quick,” Gabe said. “Close the door when you get out. We don’t need the dome light shining the whole time.”
“It will anyway,” Earl said. “All newer cars do that.”
They switched, and waited for the auto-dimmer to shut down the dome light, holding their breaths.
“Finally,” Hilda said in the darkness. “We didn’t miss them, I hope.”
“No, I’ve had an eye on the road the entire time. If there’s no other way down here, we’re good.”
“Let’s just relax for a few minutes,” Gabe said.
The sat silently, watching the road. Gabe adjusted the seat and the mirrors.
“This town must roll up the sidewalks at about eight pm,” Earl said. “Deadsville.”
“I’ll bet it’s nice to visit, though,” Hilda said, looking out the passenger side window. “They kept a lot of old buildings from the wild west days down there.”
“I’d look, but I think I need to watch the road on this side,” Gabe said, chuckling.
They sat silently for another fifteen minutes.
“Well, that long enough?” Gabe asked.
“Yeah,” Earl said. “Need gas?”
“Might as well top off,” he said. “I need a bathroom break, too.”
Gabe fired up the SUV and made a right turn, driving down to the gas station. It was the only lighted building he saw. He pulled in and got out to gas up, eyes scanning the area, as Jackson and Hilda hurried to the store.
“Evening, folks,” said the clerk behind the counter. He was in his late teens, with straight black hair tied in a ponytail behind his head.
“Evening,” Earl said. “Any other ways into town other than this road?”
“Nope, this is it,” he said. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Earl said. “Pretty dead around here.”
“Usually is unless one of the festivals is going. Nice quiet place to live.”
“It’s beautiful here,” Hilda said. “You guys have a restroom?”
“Yeah, back there,” he said, pointing. “Help yourself.”
Hilda went back. Earl looked out the front window. “Those real buildings down there?”
“Yep, although some are from the early 1900s, not the 1800s. Seems they saw the value of that style even then.”
“I’ll bet the movie helped,” Earl said. “And the novel. Edna Ferber, right?”
The clerk laughed. “No, no, you’re confusing this with Cimarron County in Oklahoma,” he said. “That story was about the land rush. This was just a cattle stop.”
“Oh,” Earl said, sheepish grin on his face.
Hilda walked out towards the front of the store.
“My turn, I guess,” Earl said.
“I’ll go back outside,” Hilda said as she passed him.
“Have a nice trip,” the clerk said, smiling.
Earl joined Hilda and Gabe in a few moments.
“Be right back,” Gabe said, as he trotted to the store.
“Think we’re gonna make it?” Hilda asked.
“Yeah, probably,” Earl said.
“I have a bad feeling,” she said, looking down the road.
George sat up on the roof of the barn with Heidi, the soft breeze blowing through their hair. They heard rustling at the trap door, and turned to see Terry climb up with two rifles. Then he turned and helped Trish onto the roof. She looked nervous.