Authors: Robert Boren
“When Kurt was there talking with her, gunfire started up in the distance. He got real concerned and ran out of the store. The gunfire increased, and then she heard big explosions. She ran out in the back, and saw the sky lighting up in the direction of the RV Park.”
“Enemy fighters,” Howard said. “They might have taken out the park.”
“I doubt it,” Scott said. “She saw Kurt and some black guy come back to town in their jeep, and park by the road.”
“They were watching for more enemy coming in,” Howard said. “You sure we want to be hitting these folks, Scotty? Maybe we should be fighting with them.”
“Why would we want to do that?” Scott asked.
“Well, this is our country too, you know,” Howard said.
Scott laughed hard. “The enemy creates chaos, and that’s exactly what we want. It makes the game easier and more fun. You know that, right? I’d rather help the enemy than stop them. They’ll never win, but they’ll keep up the Wild West atmosphere for quite a while.”
Howard just looked at him and shook his head. Bailey giggled.
“C’mon, Howie, let’s make the pancakes,” Kerry said.
“Still no cell service?” Gabe asked.
“Nope,” Hilda said.
“Yeah, I got nothing,” Earl said. “What’s the next town?”
“Monarch,” Gabe said. “Shouldn’t be too much further, but we probably won’t have coverage till we get close, because of these damn mountains.”
“Continental Divide,” Earl said. “Glad we aren’t doing this in a motor home.”
“Yeah, seriously,” Gabe said. “Wonder what happened to that van?”
“I don’t know,” Earl said. “I’ve been watching. Can’t see them back there with all of these curves. I haven’t seen them peek around, even after the longer straight sections.”
“I liked it better when we could see them,” Hilda said. “We’re liable to run into something blocking the road, going around one of these bends.”
“I know,” Gabe said. “Starting to get light, at least.”
“Hey, I got bars!” Earl said. “Checking GPS now.”
“Yeah, me too,” Hilda said. “Look, there’s the town down there.”
“Yes, that’s Monarch alright,” Earl said. “I’m calling Jackson.” He tapped the number.
“Earl, thank God,” he said, sounding worried.
“Uh oh, what happened?”
“The RV Park got attacked. Shielded semi-truck. About thirty guys.”
“Oh, no. Did we win?”
“Yeah, barely,” Jackson said. “Where are you guys?”
“Just heading into Monarch.”
“Hell, you’re only about thirty miles from us. We’re just going through Poncha Springs.”
“Good, Jackson, that’s a relief.”
“You guys seen that van?”
“No, not since we got off in Cimarron,” Earl said.
“Well, we should see you guys within the hour,” Jackson said. “Take care, and keep your eyes peeled.”
“You too.” Earl put his phone back in his pocket.
“We got attacked at the park?” Hilda asked.
“Yeah, lead-shielded semi-truck,” Earl said. “Thirty guys.”
“But they didn’t overrun the park?” Gabe asked.
“No, we won,” Earl said. “Wish I had details. The good news is that we’re only about thirty miles away from Charlie’s SUV and the Humvee.”
“Thank God,” Hilda said. “Glad you’re driving now. These switchbacks are pretty tough.”
“Yeah, but the road is nice and wide,” Gabe said, “and it’s almost light now.”
“How are you holding up?” Earl asked. “Getting sleepy?”
Gabe laughed. “Are you kidding? I’m so full of adrenalin that I’ll be going for days.”
“Slow down, this one is tight,” Hilda said.
“Yeah, sorry,” Gabe said, slowing the Suburban. “Got excited to meet with our friends, I guess.”
“Every time we go around one of these curves, I expect to see that van in the middle of the road,” Hilda said. “Or worse.”
“Yeah, me too,” Earl said. “Wish you had a sunroof in this sucker, so I could shoot in any direction.”
“Maybe you should have gotten into the front,” Hilda said.
“The bad guys have wanted to follow us, so far anyway,” Earl said. “I can shoot right out the back window from here.”
a big sweeping turn,” Gabe said, trying to slow down, hitting the gravel on the side of the road for a second.
“Look out!” Hilda yelled, looking ahead. The van was in a turnout on the left side of the road. They started rolling into the lanes, trying to make Gabe stop. He gripped the wheel harder and sped up. Earl got his rifle out the back driver’s side window, firing a shot, hitting the passenger side door. The van kept coming, and Gabe sped up more, just barely squeezing between the front of the van and the guard rail, touching briefly on the passenger side. Earl fired again, hitting the person in the passenger seat, blood flying around the front of the van.
“Got the son of a bitch,” Earl shouted, as Gabe tried to keep the big SUV under control. He hit the next turn a little too fast, and was against the guard rail again, sparks flying, but he kept control as they careened forward.
“Here they come,” Gabe said, checking his mirror. He rolled down the back window from his side console. “There you go, Earl. The window’s down.”
“Thanks,” Earl said, taking aim, trying to hold steady as the car raced around the curve.
“There’s another van in front of us,” Hilda yelled. “It’s slowing down.”
“I can’t get a bead on this guy,” Earl said. “Every time I do, they get hidden by turn.”
“Time to play chicken,” Gabe shouted. “No guts, no glory.” He raced towards the van, which was attempting to block the lanes like the first one did. Hilda’s eyes got wide as they closed in.
Earl’s gun went off twice. “Take that, cretins!”
“Holy crap!” shouted Gabe as he headed for the small crack between the van and the guard rail. “This is gonna be tight!”
Gabe’s SUV hit the front corner
of the van and the guard rail, slowing him down but not stopping him. The van spun around and slammed into the ditch on the left side of the road. Earl pointed his rifle out the driver’s side back window again, firing until he ran out of bullets, as Gabe kept driving, a little too fast for the turns.
“You get that other van?” Hilda shouted.
“The one behind us?” Earl asked as he reloaded the rifle. “Yeah, I hit the driver.”
All of them got buzzed by the short range app.
“Uh oh, one of the guys from the back of that first van got into the driver’s seat, I’ll bet,” Gabe said.
“The other one is moving again too,” Earl said. “Keep your speed up.”
“I’m calling Charlie,” Hilda said, getting out her phone as the SUV drove wildly around the next curve.
“Hilda, what’s going on?”
“We’re under attack! On the road. Two shielded vans.”
“Oh shit, my phone just buzzed, Hilda. Just a sec.”
Hilda looked over at Gabe. “Charlie’s phone just buzzed. Wonder if they’re close enough for it to be these guys?”
Earl fired a few more rounds, hitting the driver in the first van. It rolled to a stop against the guard rail, the other van coming around it at high speed.
“Look!” Gabe shouted. The Humvee came flying round the corner, guns blazing at the second van. Then Charlie’s SUV came into view, following it, guns sticking out the side. They joined the Humvee, firing into the van, which had rolled to a stop. Gabe pulled into a turnout, and he and Earl piled out with their rifles. They ran over in time to see the first van explode.
“Wow, what caused that?” Earl asked.
“RPG, look,” he shouted back, pointing to Private Brown, holding the weapon, putting in another round.
“That other van isn’t moving,” Earl said. Then there was another explosion as the RPG hit it, causing the van to burst into flames.
Charlie ran up to Gabe’s SUV and gave Hilda a hug. She was crying, but with a smile on her face.
“Oh, sweetie, I’m so glad you’re okay,” Charlie said.
“Me too,” she said, sobbing, holding him tight.
“What’s that Humvee doing?” Charlie asked.
“Pushing that burning van over the cliff,” Gabe said as he walked up.
There was a loud creak as the van started to go over the side. The back door flew open and four men tried to climb out, but Earl, Dobie, and Jackson shot all of them dead as the van rolled down the steep hill.
The Humvee was getting behind the second one now, pushing it along, men screaming inside as the flames seeped out the side door. Nobody got out of that one, and it rolled down the cliff.
“Nice work!” Jackson shouted to Private Brown. He nodded and jumped back into the Humvee. Jackson got behind the wheel of Charlie’s SUV, and both vehicles joined Gabe’s Suburban in the big turnout.
“Anybody have hits on their short range apps?” Jackson asked as they all got out.
“Only the cretins over the cliff,” Private Brown said, nodding in the direction of the smoke behind them. “Hope we don’t start a forest fire.”
“So what now?” Charlie asked.
“High-tail it home,” Gabe said.
“Aren’t you a little tired to be driving?”
“We can split it up,” Gabe said. “But I’m fine right now.”
“Okay, then I suggest that we follow and guard the rear with our Humvee,” Private Brown said, Private Jennings nodding in agreement.
“I’ll take the lead,” Charlie said. “What to ride with me, honey?”
“Yeah,” she said.
“I’ll ride with Gabe and Earl,” Jackson said. “I’m well rested. If Gabe needs somebody to spell him, I can take the wheel.”
“I’ll stay in the front car with Duchess if that’s okay,” Dobie said.
“Good, we could use the firepower up there,” Charlie said.
“We’ve got more fire power in my Suburban, so if we run into anybody in front, you folks try to move out of the way,” Gabe said.
“Alright, let’s haul ass,” Charlie said.
Malcolm and Kurt kept watching the pinch point until noon.
“Think that’s long enough?” Malcolm asked.
“Yeah,” Kurt said. “I’ll send a text to the guys that we’re coming in.”
“Tell them we’re checking the truck stop first,” Malcolm said. “I want to meet Sherry.”
Kurt sent a text and watched his phone.
“They said fine,” Kurt said. “But be careful.”
“Always,” Malcolm said with a grin. He fired up the jeep, and they drove back onto the truck stop parking lot.
Sherry looked up as the two men walked in. “What the hell was that last night?”
“Enemy fighters,” Kurt said. “They tried to attack the park back there.”
“Now why would they want to do that?” she asked, looking both of them over.
“Probably because of all the enemy fighters we’ve killed over the last couple of months,” Kurt said.
“You look real familiar,” Sherry said, looking intensely at Malcolm. “You with these guys?”
“Yeah,” Malcolm said. “And who might you be?”
“I’m Sherry,” she said, looking at him warily.
“I’m Malcolm. Nice to meet you.” He held out his hand to shake, but she backed up, fear in her eyes.
“What are you doing here?” she asked softly. “I know who you are.”
“I know who you are too,” Malcolm said, with a sly grin.
Sherry’s hand reached behind the counter for something, and Malcolm pulled out his handgun and pointed it at her. “Freeze.”
She pulled her hand back, looking terrified. Kurt looked on, shocked, but pulled his pistol out and pointed it at her too.
“You really back with Scotty and Howard?” Malcolm asked.
“Scotty died,” she said, looking down.
“Like hell he did,” Malcolm said. “He’s been busy. I’ve been watching.”
“Why do you even care?” she asked.
“Oh, just a hobby of mine,” Malcolm said. “What have you been up to lately?”
“Nothing. I’m not with those creeps anymore. I’m only doing this for the money.”
Malcolm laughed. “Maybe. I haven’t seen any of your handiwork since you got married. How did hubby die, again?”
“I didn’t do it,” she said. “Natural causes.”
“So why are you even back here?” Malcolm asked. “This isn’t exactly a garden spot.”
“My mom died and left her place to me,” she said. “I’m not going back with those guys. That’s over.”
“Then you won’t mind helping me find them,” Malcolm said.
Sherry was quiet for a moment, and then a sly smile came over her face. “You don’t have anything on me. I don’t want to get involved at all. If those guys win, they’ll kill me.”
“Why do you think we don’t have anything on you?” Malcolm asked, still smiling. “There was quite a library of home movies down in that dungeon. We’ve only looked at the old film reels so far. Howard had a starring role. There’s a big box of VHS tapes we haven’t gotten to yet. Maybe we’ll recognize you in some of them.”
“So come back to me when you find something,” Sherry said.
“Think we ought to take her and throw her in one of those cells?” Kurt asked. “We could use the bloody one that Saladin died in.”
Sherry got a terrified look on her face.
“We don’t need to do that, do we, Sherry?” Malcolm asked.
“I don’t know exactly where they are,” she whispered, looking down. “I wasn’t lying when I said I’m not with them anymore.”
“Okay, then start from the beginning,” Malcolm said. “Why are you running Howard’s truck stop?”
“They called and made me a good deal,” she said. “I get to keep all the proceeds until Howard gets back. Then I’m done with them.”
“Why did they need you to do that?” Malcolm asked.
“They were east of the Mississippi when those nukes went off. Howard got delayed. He had deliveries coming.”
“So what happens when they get back?”
“They say I just go back to what I was doing before,” she said. “I don’t trust them. My bags are all packed at my place. No BS, you can go check if you want. If Howard comes back here by himself, I’ll stick around and watch. If Scotty shows up with him, I’m gone.”
“You won’t get away from them,” Malcolm said. “They’ll hunt you down if they want you.”
“She’s going to run if we don’t take her back with us,” Kurt said.
“No she won’t,” Malcolm said. “I chased down and killed three people in her clan already. I’ll find her quicker than Scotty and Howard will, and she knows it. She didn’t have my attention before. Now she does.”