Authors: Robert Boren
“Three people in her clan?” Kurt asked.
“He’s talking about Red Dagger, Jason Beckler, and Earl Wilson,” Sherry said. “The world is better off without those creeps. Especially Beckler.” There was intense hatred in her eyes.
“What makes him so bad compared to the others?” Kurt asked.
“Jason started abusing me when I was about fourteen,” she said, starting to cry.
“You were a participant,” Malcolm said.
“Yeah,” she said. “It was that or die.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” Malcolm said. “You stay on here. Say nothing to Howard or Scotty about me. Tell me every time they call, and let me know when Howard gets back.”
“What’s in it for me?” she asked.
“You get to go back to the life you had before Scotty called you,” Malcolm said. “Unless you help them, of course.”
“Anything else?” she asked.
“Yeah, try to find out where they are.”
“If I ask them that, they’ll know,” she said.
“I understand. Just keep your ears open and ask the right questions. Pay attention to details. We have a deal?”
She leaned on the counter, thinking for a moment.
“I guess I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” she asked. “Yeah, all right.”
“Good,” Malcolm said. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
“One last thing,” she said. “The VHS tapes.”
“Don’t worry about them,” Malcolm said. “Let’s go, Kurt.”
The two walked out the doors, putting their pistols away before ducking out.
“You really think she’ll stick around?” Kurt asked.
“Yeah,” Malcolm said.
“Why would she?”
“She knows that I could chase her down, and it’s pretty obvious she’s on those VHS tapes,” Malcolm said. “I used to do interviews with folks like her for a living when I was still in the department. She’s scared. Really scared. We might actually be the best hope she has, and I think she knows it.”
They got into the jeep and headed to the RV park.
Rosie sat in the semi-dark room, watching the monitors as Jeb slept. The doctor came in.
“Still looking good?” he asked.
“Yes, he look good,” she said. “Sleep for long time, should wake soon.”
“I’m glad we could get everything,” he said. “He might always limp, though.”
“If can walk, limp okay,” she said. “Thank you. Good job.”
“He’ll need a fair amount of rehab, you know. Is there anybody in your group who could help him?”
“Yes, me, also another nurse, and a doctor,” Rosie said. “How long he stay here?”
“At least two weeks. Depends on how he recovers. He’s no spring chicken, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” Rosie said.
“There are things I can do for you, too,” the doctor said. “To fix your knees.”
“No money,” Rosie said.
“I don’t care,” he said. “You’ve been drawing a salary here, as far as I’m concerned. We haven’t needed to watch Jeb. IC care is expensive, and you’ve been doing a lot of it.”
“Well, maybe after Jeb back to normal,” she said, smiling. “Any more bad guy here?”
“No, it’s been quiet since that last incident,” the doctor said. “The army sent more troops here. They’re in town watching. This hospital is the only one in miles. They’ve decided it’s worth protecting. We have a lot of their people here now.”
“That good,” Rosie said.
General Hogan, George, and the Sheriff approached the smoking semi-truck out in the field, eyes darting out in every direction.
“Wish we wouldn’t have had to torch the whole thing,” General Hogan said.
“I’m glad we did,” the Sheriff said. “We don’t need one of these guys shooting us before they succumb.”
“Malcolm and Kurt are on their way back,” George said, looking at his phone. He chuckled.
“What?” the Sheriff said.
“I’ll tell you later. Let’s concentrate on this for now.”
“Not much left of the fighters,” General Hogan said. “Look at that mortar. It’s not one of ours.”
“Really?” George asked, inspecting it. “Chinese.”
“Figures,” General Hogan said. “They still want revenge for us blowing up their man-made islands.”
“That was several years ago,” the Sheriff said.
“Yeah, I know, but that doesn’t matter,” General Hogan said. “Most people don’t know how close we got to a hot war over that.”
“Look at all that lead,” the Sheriff said, looking in what was left of the trailer, and the surrounding ground.
“We ought to gather it up,” George said. “I saw all the reloading stuff in the workshop, just down the steps from the trap door in the barn. We could make a lot of bullets.”
“I’d only use it for the pistols and the AKs,” the Sheriff said. “Pure lead would foul the hell out of the hunting rifles.”
“True,” George said.
The Sheriff pulled a screwdriver out of his pocket and took the license plate off the trailer. He did the same with the cab.
“Wonder if any paper made it through the inferno?” George asked, as he climbed into what was left of the cab. The glove box was melted shut. He pulled out his knife and pried it open. “Yes! There’s a bunch of stuff in here.” He pulled a plastic bag out of his pocket and put the contents in there.
“Shit, look at these,” General Hogan said.
“What’s that?” the Sheriff asked.
“Nerve gas mortar rounds,” General Hogan said, his brow furrowed. “We’re lucky they didn’t get blown up. Looks like they were next to the other mortar rounds over there.”
“Wonder why they didn’t use those?” the Sheriff said.
“I know why they didn’t use them,” George said. “I was up on that barn, remember? We had a good wind, and it was blowing from behind the park, in this direction. If they would have used this stuff, it would have gotten them, not us.”
“Shit, that’s right,” the Sheriff said. “Let’s take this back with us. The wind almost always blows in this direction. Might be a good last ditch weapon.”
“Yeah, but look those rounds over carefully,” the General said. “If they’re damaged at all, we don’t want them.”
“Okay,” the Sheriff said. He saw a metal box about thirty feet away from the mortar, and went over to get it. He shook the dirt out and put the nerve gas shells and the other mortar rounds into it. “Gonna need help carrying this back.”
“Here comes Malcolm in the jeep,” George said. “I’ll flag him down, and we can load them into the back.” George waved his arms, and Malcolm turned the jeep towards them, going into the rough field, slipping into four-wheel drive.
“Quite a mess, huh?” Malcolm said, getting out. Kurt got out and followed him over.
“Glad you guys showed up when you did last night,” George said.
“Seriously,” General Hogan said.
“Can we load this box into the back of your jeep?” the Sheriff asked.
“Sure. What’s in it?” he asked.
“Mortar rounds, including some with nerve gas.”
“Holy shit,” Kurt said. “We keeping that?”
“Yeah, just in case,” General Hogan said.
“The wind blows in a good direction for us to use this as a last ditch defensive weapon,” George said. “Let’s load it up.”
George grabbed one end of the box, and the Sheriff got the other end. They walked it over to the jeep, with Malcolm behind them. He opened the back and they lifted it in.
“Anybody heard from Charlie or Gabe?” Kurt asked.
“Yeah,” the Sheriff said. “They got attacked on route 50, a little ways from Monarch. Two vans, lead lined.”
“What happened?” Kurt asked.
“They won,” the Sheriff said. “I’ll fill everybody in on the details when we get back to the clubhouse.”
“Yeah, we got a lot to talk about,” George said. “When do we expect the away team to get home?”
“Hopefully inside of four hours,” the Sheriff said. “Assuming they don’t run into any more trouble on the road.”
“Let’s go back,” General Hogan said. “I think we’re done here.”
“George, why don’t you ride with me,” Malcolm said. “You too, Kurt.”
George nodded, and they all got in. The rest of the men walked back.
“So, you met Sherry, huh,” George said. “Read your text. You left her there?”
“Yeah,” Malcolm said. “We’ve got her working for us now.”
“She one of the clan?”
“Many years ago, yes,” Malcolm said. “She doesn’t want back in.”
“Then what’s she doing at the truck stop?”
“Howard got delayed, stuck east of the Mississippi.”
“Oh, the nukes,” George said. “Figures. That means they’re probably where you thought they were.”
“Yeah, I’m betting they’re in Ohio again. We’ll have to watch for mayhem in that area.”
The jeep pulled up next to the clubhouse. The three men piled out. “Where are we putting this nerve gas?” Malcolm asked.
“I think we ought to put it in that front office,” Kurt said. “That way if any of them leak, we’ll be more likely to have it blow away from us.”
“Not a bad idea,” Malcolm said. “We aren’t really going to use this stuff, are we?”
“Maybe,” George said. “Would have helped us last night. You know we’d probably be toast if you guys wouldn’t have been out there. A mortar round on top of that barn would have taken us out.”
The men got the box out of the jeep and carried it to the front office building. They loaded it in there, under the front desk, and then left, shutting the door.
“Who has the keys?” George asked.
“Charlie, I think,” Kurt said. They joined the others, who were just walking in from the field.
“Nerve gas is in there,” Kurt said.
“Yeah, we saw you guys carry it over,” the general said. “Good place to store it. Let’s get a meeting started.”
The other men nodded, and they walked towards the clubhouse.
Frank and Jerry rounded everybody up
for a meeting. Jake turned on the big screen TV and had the camera displays running, giving them a better chance to catch any more enemy fighters on the way. Everybody carried arms with them, even Mary.
Frank stood at the front of the room. “Okay, everybody, let’s get started.”
The general walked up and joined him, putting his phone back in his pocket. “I heard from my son. They’re making good time now. No sign of anybody following them since they took out those two vans.”
“Where are they?” Jerry asked.
“Just west of Pueblo.”
“Good, Pueblo is only a few hours away,” Frank said. “Anybody heard from Rosie?”
Jasmine stood. “She called me about an hour ago. Surgery was successful, but Jeb will be in the hospital for at least two weeks.”
“Things okay out there?” Kurt asked. “They got attacked, didn’t they?”
“Yes, but it’s been quiet since then, and the army put a bunch more people there.”
“Why?” the Sheriff asked.
“Mom said they want to protect the hospital,” Jasmine said. “It’s the only one in the area still up and running.”
“All good news,” Frank said. “We need to decide what to do about this place.”
“Is it likely we’ll continue to be attacked?” Mary asked.
General Hogan got up. “We don’t know for sure. It’s possible they’ll continue to poke at us, but they’re under increasing pressure from the army. The enemy isn’t moving forward anywhere in the world now. They’re in retreat and being rounded up. Survival is becoming more important than revenge.”
“How about Mexico?” Jerry asked.
“Same thing as here,” General Hogan said. “We’re rounding up the enemy at this point. They’re done.”
“Those two high ranking people still south of Texas?” Jake asked.
“I’ll check,” Jane said, turning to her laptop. “Yes, they’re still there.”
“I wouldn’t worry about them,” General Hogan said. “The army knows about them. Let’s let them handle it.”
“They haven’t moved for a while,” Jane said. “The icons were in this position last time I looked, a few days ago. They might be dead.”
“Hope so,” Frank said. “So, the issue at hand. Do we stay here, or do we go elsewhere?”
There was a murmur though the room.
“I’ll throw out an opinion,” the general said. “Unlike the recent past, we are almost certainly in a time where the enemy will be waning.”
“So you’re saying it will become less and less likely we’ll be attacked here,” Jake asked.
“Yes,” the general said. “That doesn’t mean we’re completely safe. It’s just a different circumstance than you’ve seen.”
“How many groups like us still exist?” Jerry asked.
“Quite a few, but none of the others have as large a target on their backs as this group does,” General Hogan said. “The game has changed, though, and we need to take that into consideration. Before, they wanted to get ahold of Frank, to stop their command and control system from being compromised. Now the cat is out of the bag. As I said earlier, it’s only about revenge at this point. They know they’ve lost.”
“These guys will create as much terror and mayhem as they can, though,” Jerry said.
“True,” General Hogan said. “Our society is in a different place. We’ll see terror attacks on a level we haven’t before. It will be tough, but they will diminish over time.”
“Yeah, suicide attacks aren’t a good long term solution,” Jake said, laughing. “Eventually you run out of bad guys unless there’s a way to replenish.”
“Yep,” General Hogan said.
“How about the serial killer problem?” Trish asked.
Malcolm stood. “We have more info.”
“Go on,” Frank said, leaning on the stage.
“Howard is gone. Kurt and I got our proof this morning.”
“Where is he?” Trish asked.
“On the wrong side of the Mississippi,” Malcolm said. “It’s hard to cross now because of those nuclear attacks.”
“How do you know?” Jake asked.
“Howard enlisted an old friend to run his truck stop while he’s away. Her name is Sherry. She used to be a participant in this serial killer clan. We made a deal with her this morning.”
“A deal?” Trish asked.
“Yeah,” Malcolm said.
“What’s the deal?” Frank asked.
“We told her to continue on at the truck stop as if nothing has happened, but she is to tell us each time they call.”
“Will she?” the Sheriff asked.
“Yeah, I’m sure she will,” Malcolm said. “She didn’t want to get involved with these guys again. She’s been dormant for years herself. The last person she did in was probably her husband, although that is a little hard to prove.”