Bugout! California Part 51 – Trails and Tracks

“We’re going to have to split up for a while,” Kaitlyn said as they got to their vehicles. “Can’t tow the off-roader all the way from here.”

“You’re right,” Seth said. “At least until we get past that dry creek. It won’t be that long, though. We can run with our lights all the way this time.”

“Which do you want to drive?” she asked.

“Your choice,” Seth said.

“Okay, I’ll take the off-roader again,” she said, getting into it. Seth kissed her once more and then got into the Jeep as others around them loaded up. The caravan took off slowly, heading through the darkness.

They stopped after they got past the dry creek and hitched the off-roaders back to their tow vehicles.

“You doing okay?” Seth asked Trevor.

“Yeah,” Trevor said. “How’s Kaitlyn?”

“Shook up,” he said. “She’s off with Megan for a minute.”

“All done,” Angel said, walking up to the others. “Megan and Kaitlyn needed a short break.”

“Maybe I’ll go join them,” Kaylee said.

“Go ahead, sweetie,” Trevor said, watching her walk away.

“How’s she taking this?” Angel asked.

“She’ll do better now that we can ride together,” Trevor said. “I saw her crying in the rear-view mirror.”

“Glad Ji-Ho didn’t get hurt,” Seth said.

“Seriously,” Trevor said. “Here they come.”

Kaylee walked up to Trevor and hugged him, cheeks wet with tears. Kaitlyn walked up to Seth.

“I’m glad we’re back together again,” she whispered, hugging him.

“Me too,” Seth said. He helped her into the Jeep.

Megan was silent, clinging to Angel for a moment. Then they got into their Jeep.

“You gonna be okay?” Angel asked her as he started the engine.

“I’m going to mourn for a while,” she said, looking at him in the light of the dashboard. “I lost family.”

“I know, honey,” Angel said. Then he paused, looking at her. “Sorry.”

“Sorry for calling me honey?” she asked, a faint smile growing on her face. “That was the nicest thing that happened to me tonight.”

Angel looked embarrassed as he drove forward, behind Seth and Kaitlyn’s Jeep.

“Have you ever lost somebody close?” Megan asked.

“My father died in the Gulf war,” Angel said. “I never knew him, though. I didn’t have to go through the event. It was hard on my mom.”

“I’ll bet,” Megan said. “Were you ever in the service?”

“No,” Angel said. “That would’ve torn my mom apart.”

“She still alive?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I hope, anyway. She lives with my step-father in Torrance.”

“Do you like your step-father?”

“I love him,” Angel said. “He’s the only father I’ve known. He was with her before I can remember.”

“They stayed in Torrance even after all the problems?” Megan asked.

“They’re pretty good at keeping a low profile,” Angel said. “It’s hard to get out of Torrance now, with the martial law situation. Remember that they started it earlier there than out here.”

“One Eye told us about the rebellion there,” Megan said. “About Ivan the Butcher.”

“Ji-Ho knows him. That’s how Seth, Trevor, and I got involved in the resistance.”

They rode silently for a while. Megan moved closer to Angel and put her tiny hand on his thigh. “I’m glad you’re with us. Are you going to stay?”

“I don’t know,” Angel said. “Probably depends on Ivan and Ji-Ho.”

“If you leave, can I go with you?” she asked.

“You’d do that?” he asked, glancing at her.

“In a heartbeat,” she said. “The tribe is gonna be hunted down now. We don’t have a good place to go. The bad guys will find our camp.”

“I know,” Angel said. “Only a matter of time. Not sure that you’ll be any safer with us, though.” He glanced at her. She was staring at his face with an intensity that made him nervous.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t ask to come with you because it would be safer. I asked because I want to be with you. Is that okay?”

Angel glanced at her again. “You had me from the moment I laid eyes on you.”

She smiled. “Me too. Funny how that works sometimes.”

“How come you aren’t with one of the tribal guys?”

“I’ve had them as boyfriends before,” she said. “I was in love with one of them once. I don’t have anything against them, but I’ve run the course with the ones who are still around and un-married. There’s no match.”

“I’m sure you broke a few hearts,” Angel said.

“I can be a real bitch,” she said. “Think you can handle that?”

“We’ll see,” Angel said. “I can’t imagine you being much of a bitch, frankly.”

She chuckled. “Give me time. On the good side, I love hard. You’ll know when you have me completely. I can be pretty intense.”

“So I’ve heard,” Angel said.

“Who told you that?” she asked.

“James and Ryan and Tyler,” Angel said. “They didn’t say nasty things. They just said you were a handful. Same with Kaitlyn.”

She laughed again. “Kaitlyn. Now there’s a whole other story.”

“What?”

“When she sets her sights on a man, she gets downright fierce.”

“Fierce?”

“Yep, that’s what I said,” Megan said. “Don’t get me wrong. I love her. She’s my best friend. She’s like a sister. Just don’t mess with her man.”

Angel chuckled. “How do you think she feels about Seth?”

“Oh, God,” Megan said. “She’s already in love with him. He has no idea what he’s in for.”

“Really?” Angel asked. “They just met.”

“Yeah,” Megan said. “She’s a little faster than I am.”

“How much faster?”

“A little,” she said. “I’m not ready to have your babies right this instant, but I’m very interested. Infatuated, even.”

“Wow, you don’t hold back much,” Angel said.

“Is that a problem?”

“No, not at all,” Angel said. “I like smart honest women. Never was much for games.”

“Good,” she said.

“You’re fast enough to run off with me,” Angel said.

She smiled at him in the darkness. “Do you think that means I’m as hard over as Kaitlyn?”

“Maybe she’s not ready to run off with Seth,” Angel said.

Megan giggled. “I wouldn’t put money on that. What’s the deal with Trevor and Kaylee?”

Angel snickered. “There’s one I didn’t expect.”

“She’s deeply in love with him,” Megan said. “I could tell right away.”

“How?”

“The way she looks at him,” Megan said. “You haven’t noticed that?”

“It’s hard to tell what’s really going on. You know what happened, right? Her old boyfriend and Seth’s old girlfriend took off together. Left Ji-Ho’s group.”

“I know, Kaitlyn told me. They got captured. Probably killed.”

“Emma was a dish,” Angel said. “A blonde beauty. They probably kept her around for a sex slave.”

“Eewwww,” Megan said. “You guys didn’t try to rescue them?”

“We didn’t even know where to start,” Angel said. “Seth wants to find her.”

“He’s not still interested in her, is he?”

“No, not at all,” Angel said. “I think he’s already in love with Kaitlyn. I know Seth better than anybody. We’ve been friends since the third grade. I can tell.”

“Kaitlyn will be happy about that.”

“Don’t tell her I said it,” Angel said.

Megan chuckled. “I won’t need to. She’ll pick up on that fast. Probably already has.”

They got to a smoother part of the road, the caravan speeding up.

“Good, won’t be too much longer,” Megan said. “I’m so tired. I just want to sleep for like twelve hours.”

“I’ll miss you every minute of that,” Angel said.

“No you won’t,” she said, staring at him again.

***

Sid, Yvonne, John, and Sarah sat in the waiting room.

“It’s been over an hour since we’ve heard anything,” Sarah whispered.

“I know,” John said. “I’m worried sick.”

“Sam didn’t look too bad,” Sid said.

“He might have internal injuries, or a concussion,” Yvonne said. “He did look a lot better than Connie. I’m really worried about her.”

“The enemy could come here after us,” Sarah said.

“Yeah, that’s possible,” Sid said. “I’ve been keeping my eyes towards the windows.”

“What do we do if they show up?” Sarah asked.

“Fight,” Sid said.

“We might have killed everybody out there,” John said. “When we were firing the mortars at that second group, I didn’t see anybody get away.”

“Good,” Sid said.

A nurse walked out. She was middle aged with a tidy figure, hair dyed auburn, and a confident demeanor. Her name tag said Grace.  “You friends of Sam and Connie?”

“Yes,” Sarah said. “You have news?”

“Sam will be released in a few hours,” she said. “He’s got a couple broken ribs and lots of bruises and abrasions, but other than that he’s fine.”

“What about Connie?” Yvonne asked.

The nurse’s face went grim. “She’s in critical condition, about to go into surgery.”

“For what?” Sid asked.

“Internal bleeding. The surgeon thinks he can stop it, based on the x-rays, but you never know for sure until you get in there.”

“Oh, no,” Sarah said. “What are her chances?”

“Better than fifty-fifty, but not by much,” the nurse said. “She had shrapnel in one side. Not deep enough to be life threatening. What did you guys go through?”

Sid and John looked at each other, then back at her. “We’d rather not say,” Sid said.

The nurse sat down close to them. “You’re resistance, aren’t you?” she whispered.

“Like I said, we’d rather not say,” Sid said.

“It’s okay, but I’m on your side. They’ve been here a lot, throwing their weight around. Some of our girls have disappeared, and that’s gotten worse since they tried to put in martial law.”

“Tried?” John asked.

“Yeah, they must have needed resources elsewhere, because most of the UN folks and their Islamist friends left the area a few days ago.”

“They’re probably being sent to help along the coast,” John whispered. “Ivan the Butcher has been giving them fits.”

“Shut up about that,” Sid said quietly. “We don’t want to attract any attention.”

“Well, your secret is safe with me,” the nurse whispered. “Hope you killed a lot of those creeps. My name is Grace, by the way.”

“John, Sid, and Yvonne,” Sarah said. “And I’m Sarah.”

“Good to meet you,” Grace said. “I’d better get back in there. Sit tight. I’ll let you know how it goes. There’s food machines down the hall, to your right.”

“Thanks,” Sarah said. Grace went back into the emergency room.

“Dammit,” Sid said. “Doesn’t sound very good for Connie.”

“Wonder if she ever regained consciousness?” John asked.

“Shoot, we should’ve asked,” Yvonne said.

“Don’t worry about it,” Sid said. “Doesn’t matter. If she’s lucky, she’s stayed unconscious.”

“What are we gonna do next?” Sarah asked.

“Good question,” John said. “Hopefully the group made it back to camp okay.”

“Think they’re there already?” Sarah asked.

“They should be by now,” John said.

“I hope they didn’t go poke around that canyon before they left,” Sid said. “There might be more booby traps down there.”

“Yeah,” John said. “I hope they just went home. Wonder who will lead them now that One Eye is gone?”

“They’ll have to elect a new leader,” Sid said.

“The whole tribe?” John asked.

“Probably just the elders,” Sid said. “If it’s anything like my tribe, that is.”

“We might not be welcome anymore,” Sarah said.

“No, that won’t happen,” Yvonne said. “We’ve proven ourselves. They’re gonna treat our group and Ji-Ho’s group with respect. I can promise you that.”

“She’s right,” Sid said. “We’ve fought together twice now. Friendship with us is something they’ll want to cultivate.”

“I’m hungry,” John said. “Sid, let’s go check out those snack machines.”

“Okay,” Sid said, getting up. “You two want anything?”

“Later,” Sarah said. “I’m too keyed up to eat.”

“Me too,” Yvonne said.

Sid and John walked down the hall together.

“You really hungry?” Sid asked.

“No, I wanted to see what the back door and the back of the parking lot look like,” John said. “We might want to move our vehicles back there so we can get to our long guns without rushing out the front door.”

“Good idea,” Sid said. “You’ve got your pistol on you, I hope.”

“Yeah, and Sarah has one in her purse, too,” John said.

“Good, so does Yvonne.”

“There’s the machines,” John said, nodding as they walked by. “They’ve got a coffee machine. That I could use.”

“Those coffee machines are dicey,” Sid said.

John cracked up. “Hell, when I was in manufacturing, I lived off that coffee. It’s not so bad.”

“Uh huh,” Sid said. “There’s the door, see? End of the hall.”

They walked over and looked out the glass door to the back parking lot.

“There’s space back there,” John said. “Should we move?”

“There’s no alarm on this door,” Sid said. “Wonder if we can block it open with something?”

“I wouldn’t bother,” John said. “We should go out one at a time anyway.”

“Okay, then I’ll slip outside and look around a little,” Sid said. “If it looks good, I’ll get your attention, and then walk around the front and get my Jeep. Then I’ll wait for you to get your truck.”

“Deal,” John said. He watched as Sid disappeared out the door.

“What’re you doing?” Sarah asked, walking up the hallway to him.

“Moving the cars in back, just in case,” he said. “Yvonne stayed up there?”

“Yeah,” Sarah said. “Anything good in the machines, or did you just come here to check out the back of the building.”

“Both,” John said. “I’ve got to wait here until I get a sign from Sid. Then I’m gonna get a cup of coffee.”

“Machine coffee?” she asked with a smirk.

“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” John said. Sid came to the back door and gave a thumbs up sign, then took off.

“It looks good,” John said. “Let’s get that coffee.”

Sarah rolled her eyes as they walked back to the machines. John stuffed a couple quarters into the coffee machine and hit the button or extra strong black coffee.

“That’ll probably melt a spoon,” Sarah said as the cup came down, the coffee and water mix dropping into the cup.

“Cool, it’s poker cups,” John said. “My work buddies and I used to play.”

“Poker cups?”

“Yeah, there’s a poker hand on the cups. They’re all supposed to be different. Low man paid for the next round of coffee.”

Sarah laughed. “Men. You guys will bet on anything.”

John took out the cup and sipped it, a smile coming on his face. “This is good. Try it.” He handed the cup to Sarah. She took a sip, looking surprised.

“Okay, it’s not bad,” she said. “Get me one too, okay?”

John nodded and dropped more coins into the machine. “Punch in what you want. I’d better get to the door before Sid gets back.”

“I’ll join you in a minute,” Sarah said, watching him walk away.

Sid got to the back door a minute later. John let him in.

“Looking good?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Sid said. “How’s the coffee?”

“Not bad,” John said. “Sarah’s getting a cup now.”

“She came back here?”

“Yep, she was interested in what we were doing,” John said. “See you in a few minutes. Watch the door.”

“Will do,” Sid said, watching John slip out the door. He headed to the machines. “Hey, Sarah.”

“Hey,” she said, pulling her cup of coffee out of the machine. “Up for some coffee?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Sid said, putting coins in the machine. “I think I’ll have cream in mine.”

“Lightweight,” she said, smiling. “It look better in the back?”

“Yeah, a little,” Sid said. “If we get attacked by a decent sized group, they’ll surround the hospital, so it probably doesn’t make that much difference.”

“Lovely,” she said, sipping her coffee. “I’ll go to the back door for John if you want to head back out to Yvonne.” She walked to the door and waited.

“I’m right here,” she said, coming into the vending machine alcove. “What’s John doing out there? Saw him in front.”

“Moving the car to the back,” Sid said. “Just in case we need to get to the long guns in a hurry.”

“I figured,” Yvonne said. “I’ll take some of this coffee, I guess. Don’t want to be the only person asleep out there.”

Sid nodded and fed more coins into the machine. “There you go. Punch up what you want.”

Sarah opened the door when John walked up. He had a terrified look on his face, and ran down the hall to Sid, Sarah trying to keep up.

“Slow down, dammit,” she said. “What’s wrong? Are they here?”

“No,” John said. “Sid, you have Ji-Ho’s number, right?”

“No, but I have Clem’s, and some of the tribal member’s numbers,” Sid said. “James and Tyler. Why?”

“I just saw five UN Vans and several Gaz Tigrs racing down the street towards the depot,” John said, trying to catch his breath.

“No,” Yvonne said.

“They’re gonna see the tracks,” Sarah said. “They’ll follow them right back to camp.”

Sid nodded, hitting a contact on his phone. He walked away, phone to his ear.

***

Kaylee drove the Jeep, Trevor next to her, Winchester cradled in his lap.

“You can put that in back, you know,” Kaylee said, glancing at him.

“Something doesn’t feel right,” he said. “I’d feel better holding onto this, just in case.”

“Suit yourself,” she said. “What do you think is gonna happen now?”

“We’ll need to figure out a safe place to hide out,” he said.

“You think they’ll find the camp?”

“Yep, much faster than anybody thinks,” Trevor said.

“Why do you say that?”

“We’re leaving tracks,” Trevor said. “If it were all compacted roads we might be safe enough, but too much of this is burro trails. Our tracks will stick out like a sore thumb.”

“Dammit,” she said. “This isn’t over yet, is it?”

“No,” Trevor said.

“I was hoping we’d get some us time tonight.”

“This is the world we live in now, honey,” he said, staring at her.

“Stop that,” she said.

“What?”

“I feel you staring.”

“You don’t like it?” Trevor asked.

“I like it a lot,” she said, “but we’ve got to focus. I want us to stay alive.”

Trevor’s phone buzzed. He pulled it out and looked. “Your uncle.”

“Put it on speaker,” she said. “I want to hear too.”

“Okay,” Trevor said. He answered the call and put it on speaker, holding it near Kaylee. “We’re on speaker, Ji-Ho. What’s up?”

“Who with? Just Kaylee?”

“Yes, she’s driving,” Trevor said.

“Hi, Uncle.”

“Hi, Kaylee. We got trouble.”

“I was afraid of that,” Trevor said. “What?”

“John saw five UN Vans and few GAZ Tigr vehicle on road in this direction. They see tracks, come get us.”

“GAZ Tigr? What’s that?” Kaylee asked.

“Russian Humvee,” Trevor said.

“Yes, he right,” Ji-Ho said.

“How long ago?” Kaylee asked, eyes wide.

“Few minute,” Ji-Ho said. “We spread word.”

“There’s a fork coming up in about three miles, and it leads to some hills,” Trevor said. “I saw it on the way out. Maybe we all ought to turn down that and set up an ambush.”

“What if they follow original tracks back home instead?” Ji-Ho asked.

“We might be okay,” Trevor said. “The road there is wide and compacted. Our tracks shouldn’t show up as well. We should look when we get there.”

“Good idea,” Ji-Ho said. “I spread word. Pass us up when road get wider. You lead us there.”

“Roger that,” Trevor said. He ended the call. “You heard. We’re taking the lead.”

She looked at him, face more calm. “You always know what to do.”

“I’m just making this up as I go along,” Trevor said. “Hope it works. GAZ Tigrs have a lot of firepower.”

“More than we have?” Kaylee asked.

“No, but those our mobile. We have to get out of our vehicles and fight them from the ground.”

To be continued…

 

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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.

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