Sid watched Yvonne driving the Jeep as they raced down southbound on Route 79.
“We’re making good time,” Yvonne said, glancing at Sid.
“No traffic,” Sid said. “Not that there’s usually any traffic out here.”
“I’ve had one eye in the rear-view mirror most of the way, after what you and Sam pulled back in La Quinta.”
“Wonder how far along the other group is?” Sid asked.
“I suspect we’ll be hearing from them soon,” Yvonne said.
“I’m worried about Sam,” Sid said.
“Yeah, I can tell. Wondered when you were gonna bring that up.”
Sid sighed. “He’s in a rage. Never seen him like this. We’ll have to watch him.”
“What do you think he’ll do?”
“Take chances where he shouldn’t,” Sid said. “Kill people for fun. Not care if he gets killed.”
“He’ll probably settle down,” Yvonne said. “That last thing was right after he lost her.”
“Connie,” Sid said, feeling the tears again. “I can’t believe she’s gone.”
“I know, sweetie,” Yvonne said. “We’ve lost others. Remember what happened at the RV Park.”
“I know,” Sid said. “I never really had time to mourn the others. It’s going to hit me eventually.”
Yvonne glanced at him, seeing the tears running down his cheeks. “I think it’s hitting you now.”
“Harry and Nancy,” Sid said. “I loved them both. They probably got tortured.”
“Let’s not think about that,” Yvonne said. “Nothing we can do about it. It’ll just push us to the place Sam is right now.”
“It’s not bad to be pissed at what they did,” Sid said.
“I know, but it is bad to get reckless,” Yvonne said. “It’s bad to let hate consume you.”
Sid was silent for a while, Yvonne glancing at him every so often, not knowing what to say. She hurt, as he did, but the reaction was different. It wasn’t anger. It was fear of loss. Fear of losing humanity and compassion. She knew there’d be more killing. Would it change her and Sid? Would they ever be normal again?
“How’s our gas?” Sid asked, breaking the silence. Yvonne looked at him.
“I’ll be okay,” he said. “Don’t worry. I’m not going over the edge. I want to kick the invaders out, and I’ll fight hard for that, but I’m not losing myself.”
Yvonne teared up. “That’s what I was thinking about just now. I’m so glad to hear you say that. It’s what I fear most. Even more than the battles.”
“Being consumed by hate?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I hate the enemy,” Sid said. “I’ll kill as many of them as I can, but I won’t let it destroy me.”
“I understand,” she said. “We do need to gas up. Check around, okay? I see something up ahead.”
“On it,” Sid said, pulling his phone out of his pocket.
“Coming up fast. Wonder if John needs gas too?”
“I’ll call him,” Sid said.
Sid chuckled. “Sunshine Summit has a small gas station. It’s not a bustling metropolis, that’s for sure.”
“I think there’s only one pump, in front of a market,” Sid said.
“Good, then we can grab some food too,” Yvonne said.
Sid called John.
“Hey, Sid, need gas?” John asked. “There’s a place coming up.”
“That’s what I was calling you about,” Sid said. “Yeah, we need gas. There’s a store there too. Maybe we could grab some food.”
“Read my mind,” John said. “See you there.”
“Okay,” Sid said. He ended the call and looked at Yvonne. “You heard.”
“Yeah,” she said. “You want to drive for a while?”
“Sure,” Sid said. “I dozed a little bit back in the hill country.”
Yvonne saw the market. “Perfect, on the right side of the road. Easy in, easy out.” She watched John turn into the driveway, and followed him. They took opposite sides of the single pump.
“Not much to this town,” John said as he pumped his gas. Sid nodded in agreement. Sam sat up in the truck bed.
“Hey, Sam, get much sleep?” Sid asked.
“Yeah,” Sam said. “Worked out pretty well.”
“You want to ride in our Jeep for a while? Get out of the wind?”
“Thanks, Sid, but I think I’ll stay in the bed. Could run into problems. It’d be easier to handle from back there.”
“Suit yourself,” Sid said.
“I’m going into the store,” Yvonne said. “Want to go, Sarah?”
“Sure,” she said. They walked there together.
“How’s Sarah taking this?” Sid asked.
“Hard,” John said. “Yvonne?”
“Same,” Sid said. “How you holding up, Sam?”
“I’ll be okay,” he said quickly, not making eye contact.
“You sure?” John asked.
“I said I’m fine, man,” Sam said. “I know it hasn’t fully hit me yet. Been through this before.”
“You have?” John asked.
“Yeah, but I don’t want to talk about that now. Hear from the others?”
John and Sid glanced at each other. “Nope,” Sid said. “Maybe one of us should call Clem.”
“You want to?” John asked.
“Sure,” Sid said. “After we get back on the road.”
“Here come the girls,” John said, nodding. “Slow pump.”
“Yeah, looks like it’s from the 60s,” Sid said. “Hope the gas is okay.”
“Deadsville around here,” Yvonne said as she walked up with Sarah. “I think the clerk was surprised to see us.”
“There might be enemy activity around here,” Sam said, eyes scanning the area. “This place was a popular spot for off-roaders to fuel up. Been here before.”
“Really?” Sid asked. “I’m sure I’ve driven past here before, but I’ve never stopped.”
“The clerk seemed awfully nervous to me,” Sarah said. “She kept glancing towards the back of the store.” Sam froze, focusing on the storefront.
“Really?” Yvonne asked. “Didn’t notice, but I was in the aisle looking for stuff longer than you were.”
“You guys should have led with that,” Sam said, hand on the M60.
“Well, we’re both done fueling,” John said nervously. “Maybe we ought to get out of here before we find out what she was nervous about.”
“They have video monitors inside the store?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, they had a camera pointed at the pump, and one pointed at that propane tank over there,” Sarah whispered. “Why?”
“I’d rather take them on here than on the road,” Sam said. “Drive over by the side of the store. See the bathroom? Good reason for us to be there.”
“What are you gonna do?” Yvonne asked.
“Check out the situation,” Sam said. “Maybe the girl was nervous because her boyfriend was there or something. If it’s nothing, we’ll be on our way.”
“Okay,” John said. “Don’t get rash.”
“I won’t,” Sam said.
They got into their vehicles and drove to the parking spots on the left side of the store, near the bathrooms. Sam looked around, then got out of the truck bed with the M60 in his hand. He snuck to the back of the building and peeked around.
“Dammit,” Sarah said. “I don’t like this.”
Sam trotted back over, hugging the wall of the store. “There’s a UN Van parked in the back. Nobody’s out there. I’m going to duck into the bathroom. You guys get back on the road. When they come out and try to follow you, I’ll blast them.”
Sid nodded. “You drive for now. I’ll man the rifle.”
“No, I’ll man the rifle,” Yvonne said. “I’m a better shot than you. I’m getting in the back.”
John chuckled. “Sarah, you drive, and I’ll get in the back of the truck with the BAR.”
“Okay,” Sarah said, trembling as she opened the driver’s side door. “Keep your head down.”
“Don’t worry,” John said.
The two vehicles backed out of their parking places and headed slowly to the driveway as Sam ducked into the bathroom. He listened at the door, until he heard the van start behind the building. He looked in the mirror over the sink and smiled at himself, then cracked the door. The van cruised by slowly on the same side of the building. He leapt out the door and opened fire, shooting into the back of the van, which swerved and ran into the gas pump curb. One of the UN Peacekeepers appeared with a hand gun, and Sam fired, hitting him in the chest. Then he ran up to the van and looked inside the passenger door. He heard movement and ducked as a pistol round came at him, breaking out the front windshield. Sam stuck the barrel of the M60 in and pulled the trigger, hosing the back compartment with lead. There was a scream. Sam looked inside, seeing a young Islamist holding his stomach, blood everywhere.
“Don’t shoot!” he cried. Sam smiled and shot him in the head, then checked out the body in the driver’s seat. Half his head and a chunk of his shoulder was gone from the initial shots.
Sam saw Yvonne and Sarah drive back into the lot. He waved to them, then rushed inside the store.
“My God, what happened out there?” yelled a young woman, trembling with fear. She was in her early twenties, Hispanic, with a pretty face.
“Any more UN thugs around here?” Sam asked, eyes darting around.
“No, it was just those two today,” she said.
“What were they doing here?”
She took a deep breath. “They were here to assault me. Again. They aren’t the only ones. There’s two other groups that show up every day or two.”
Sam lowered his weapon and approached the counter. “What’s your name?” he asked softly.
“Izzy,” she said. Her eyes glanced around, her lower lip trembling.
“I’m sorry. They’ve been attacking you for a while, haven’t they?”
“Several times a week,” she said. “Been going on for almost a month.”
“Why do you stay here?”
“They know where my parents live,” she said. “They told me if I didn’t go along, they’d kill them.”
“You know where they’re base is?”
“Warner Springs,” she said. “They’ll probably show up when these two don’t report in.”
“What do you know about the base?”
“Not much,” she said. “Overheard a few things. They used to be in Julian. Then Santa Ysabel. They got chased out of both places.”
Sid walked in, Izzy’s eyes getting wide as he approached.
“We good?” he asked.
“Izzy here says there’s a base in Warner Springs,” Sam said. “She overheard them talking about being pushed out of Julian, and then Santa Ysabel.”
Sid smiled. “Those are the folks we’re gonna fight, aren’t they?”
“Damn good chance,” Sam said.
“What are you guys gonna do?” Izzy asked.
“You need to split,” Sam said. “Before they send a team to look for those dead slugs. Where are your parents?”
“They’re in Warner Springs too,” she said.
“You need to convince them to flee,” Sam said softly. “You know that, right?”
“My dad won’t leave his house,” she said. “It’s all they have left.”
“He doesn’t know what you’ve been going through, does he?” Sam asked.
She looked down, shaking her head no. “I’m so ashamed.”
“This is not your fault,” Sam said. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Not one bit.”
Sid looked at her, compassion on his face as he understood. “We should take her with us.”
“No,” Izzy said. “Please.”
“Look, this is your choice, but hear me out, okay?” Sam asked.
She nodded yes, still trembling.
“We’ve got a force who’s going in to protect Julian and wipe these cretins out. After we do that, you’ll be safe again.”
“We hope,” Sid said.
“Yeah, we hope, but the chances are good. You should come with us. We’ll take you to your parent’s house. You convince them to take off for a week or two. This will be over before too long.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “What about this place?”
“You have co-workers?” Sid asked.
“The night person,” she said. “Nobody else that I know of.”
“Call him,” Sid said. “This job isn’t worth it. If the UN thugs come back, they’ll probably kill you.”
“What’s going on in here?” Yvonne asked, walking in. “We need to get the hell out of here.”
“You’re with them?” Izzy asked.
“Yeah,” Sam said.
She thought silently for a moment, then picked up the phone and had a hushed conversation, smiling at the end.
“Well?” Sid asked.
“Jorge is coming, and he’s bringing some of his friends with guns,” she said. “He’s the night guy. Got really pissed when I told him what’s been going on.”
“Pissed is good,” Sam said.
“You coming with us?” Sid asked. “We’ve got to go.”
“No, thanks,” she said. “Jorge’s brother will drive me to my folk’s house.”
“Okay, good luck,” Sam said. “Let’s get out of here.”
Sid nodded, and they met Yvonne by the door.
“Gonna tell me what that was all about?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you in the car. Let’s go.”
Yvonne nodded, letting Sid into the driver’s seat this time. She took the passenger seat. He drove out to the driveway and turned right onto Route 78, John and Sarah following with Sam in the bed.
“Well?” Yvonne asked.
“Those cretins had been using her,” he said. “You know…”
“No,” Yvonne said. “Pigs. No wonder she looked so sad.”
“We learned something important. Warner Springs is where the new base is. Wonder if the others know that?”
“It’s pretty far from Julian,” Yvonne said, looking at her phone.
“Yeah, but it’s an easy drive. I’m gonna try to get Clem.” He pulled out his phone and hit the contact, then punched the speaker button. It rang twice and clicked.
“Sid! How are you guys?” Clem asked.
“We just had some action. In a little burg called Sunshine Summit, where we were gassing up.”
“Sunshine Summit? Not much of a town. Been through there a few times. You say you got into more action?”
“There were some UN thugs having their way with the clerk,” Sid said.
“Sam happened,” Sid said. “We tricked them into following us, and Sam splattered them with his M60 before they even got off the lot.”
Clem was silent for a moment. “That must have caused a big ruckus. Think anybody noticed?”
“Everybody is keeping indoors around here,” Sid said. “The UN must be throwing their weight around. Oh, and one of the people in the UN van was an Islamist.”
“All three are dead,” Sid said. “We learned from the girl that there’s a base in Warner Springs.”
“Oh, crap, really? That’s been the main topic of conversation with people in the caravan. Do you know where, exactly?”
“Nope,” Sid said. “We’re on our way there now. Maybe we ought to do a little low-level poking around.”
“Let me chat with some of the others before you get too far into that,” Clem said.
“How far are you from Julian?”
“Almost there, actually,” Clem said. “Ten minutes out.”
“Good, then chat with them and get back to me,” Sid said. “Honey, how long till we get to Warner Springs?”
“Not long,” Yvonne said. “Twenty minutes’ tops.”
“You hear that?” Sid asked.
“Yeah,” Clem said. “I’ll call rather than wait. Get back to you soon.”
“Got it,” Sid said. “Thanks.” He ended the call. “I’m slowing down a little. Hit John’s contact, okay?”
“Will do,” Yvonne said, picking his phone up off the center console. She hit the contact and put the phone on speaker.
“Sid, what’s up?” John asked.
“Just got off the phone with Clem. They’re about ten minutes away from Julian. They didn’t know about the base in Warner Springs.”
John chuckled. “Good. They want us to stake the place out? Look for the location of the base?”
“Probably,” Sid said. “Clem said he’d talk with them right away and get back with me.” His phone beeped.
“That them?” John asked.
“Yeah, let me try to conference them in. Wish Sam was in the cab.”
“I’ll open the back window and he can put his head in.”
“Good, do that. Be right back.” Sid made the connection with Clem. “Hold on, I’m patching you into a call John and I were on.”
“Roger that,” Clem said. Sid completed the connection.
“Okay, hear us, John?”
“Yeah, Sid, and I got John on, and Sarah.”
“I hear you both,” Clem said. “I’ve got James, Hank, Jason, and Ji-Ho on the line with me.”
“Perfect,” Sid said. “You told them what’s up, right?”
“We hear,” Ji-Ho said. “Very good. At least narrow down to city.”
“Should we stick around there and find the location?” John asked.
“No,” James said. “Come here first. We’ll put together a team to reconnoiter.”
“I agree,” Hank said.
“You sure?” Sam asked. “We have to pass right by anyway.”
“None of you have had much sleep,” James said. “We need to plan this out carefully. If you guys go in there and fail, we’ll have a hard time accomplishing our mission. They will either launch an attack before we’re ready, or flee to another spot. We don’t want to lose the advantage you guys just gave us.”
“I’m agreeing with them,” Clem said.
“Me too,” Ji-Ho said. “Come home. Rest and relax a day or two. Then we make up team. Nail them good. Maybe use battle wagon with mini-gun.”
“Sam, you okay with that?” Sid asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Makes sense.”
“Good, then we’ll talk soon,” James said. “How long till you get to Julian?”
“Honey?” Sid asked.
“Forty-five minutes at most,” she said. “Of course, we do have to run right through the center of Warner Springs and a couple other towns.”
“They see vehicles?” Ji-Ho asked.
“They saw them in the video feed from the pumps,” Sarah said. “Saw that when we were in the store. Not a good picture, though. No way did they get license numbers.”
“Good, then proceed with caution,” James said. “See you soon. We’ll ice up some beer for you.”
“Yep,” Clem said. “We just pulled into town.”
“Talk to you later, then,” Sid said. “Anybody got anything else?”
“I’m good,” Sam said.
“Okay, talk to you guys soon,” Sid said. He ended the call, then looked over at Yvonne. “You look relieved.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” she said.
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2016