Bugout! California Part 54 – The Tent

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Sparky was driving a UN Van, Robbie in the passenger seat, Justin in the back.

“Hate this part of town,” Sparky said. “Freeway access sucks. What’s that street name again?”

“Oak,” Robbie said. “We could’ve taken the 405 to the Harbor Freeway.”

“Maybe we should have,” Sparky said. “Jules said there might still be a checkpoint at PCH and Vermont. Didn’t want to risk it.”

“We’re getting close now, at least,” Justin said. “Just make a left on Lomita and a right on Narbonne.”

“Wish we knew for sure about that checkpoint,” Robbie said. “Be easier to get home that way.”

“I know, kid, but we’ve got plenty of time.”

“I haven’t seen any checkpoints since we got off the freeway,” Justin said.

“Yeah, they’ve pulled back big time,” Robbie said.

“That’s why Ivan is calling us up to the bay area. We have enough people on the ground now to insure that they don’t come back.”

“But there’s still a checkpoint at Vermont?” Robbie asked.

“It’s going to get hit tonight if it’s still there,” Sparky said.

“We’ve got plenty of weapons in the back,” Robbie said. “Maybe we ought to wait until the attack and join in.”

Sparky chuckled. “No, Ivan needs us up north. We don’t want to be killed here.”

“There’s Lomita,” Robbie said. Sparky pulled into the left-turn lane and waited for the light.

“How is it safe for Gil to hang out at his grandparent’s house?” Justin asked. “Wouldn’t they have looked there?”

“It’s been a rental for years,” Robbie said. “You know Gil’s family. They have property all over South Bay.”

“Yeah, the enemy tends to look for residents, not owners,” Sparky said.

“Okay, that make sense,” Robbie said.

The light changed and they made the left onto Narbonne.

“Haven’t been around here for a while,” Sparky said. “You can’t have horses here anymore, can you?”

“Nope, unless you got grandfathered in,” Justin said. “Most of the people that did are dead or in nursing homes by now, I imagine.”

“You have horses, Sparky?” Robbie asked.

“Oh, hell no,” he said. “My sister had one when we were kids. At first the stable she was using was in Lomita. It got moved up to PV.”

“Turn left when you get to PCH,” Justin said. “I think Oak is only a block down. Turn right.”

“Got it,” Sparky said. “How are your women holding up?”

“Katie’s gone from shell-shocked to really pissed overnight,” Justin said. “I’m worried about her.”

“Morgan was quiet this morning,” Robbie said. “Quiet but defiant.”

“There’s PCH,” Sparky said, making the left.

“Hey, look at all that smoke down the street!” Justin said.

“I’ll bet that used to be the checkpoint,” Robbie said.

Sparky got a nervous expression on his face. “Dammit, wish we weren’t in this UN Van.”

“Yeah, what if the guys that took out the checkpoint see us?” Robbie asked.

“Gil have a car?” Sparky asked.

Robbie nodded yes. “Yeah, kind of a beater, but it runs pretty good.”

“If we can stash this out of sight, we ought to take it,” Sparky said. He turned right on Oak street. “Okay, how far down?”

“Gil said to veer left after the mobile home park,” Robbie said. “It’s the first house down the little street.”

“Got it,” Sparky said. “You told him what we were coming in, right?”

“Yeah,” Robbie said, pulling out his phone. He hit Gil’s contact and put it to his ear.

“Robbie, you guys almost here?”

“Yeah, Gil, we’re on Oak street right now. Is there a place where we can put this van that’s out of sight?”

“The garage,” Gil said. “Might have to move a few things. Why?”

“The checkpoint down PCH got hit, from the look of it. We don’t want our guys to attack us because we’re in this van.”

“Oh, so you want me to drive, then?”

“Yeah, man. That work?”

“Sure, no problema,” Gil said. “I’ll get out in the garage and get it ready. See you in a few.”

Robbie ended the call. “He’s getting the garage ready for us to pull in.”

“Perfect,” Sparky said. “I’ve seen a few people checking us out.”

“There’s the street,” Justin said. “See it?”

“Yep,” Sparky said, making the left.

The house was right at the front end of a small tract of custom homes, covered in redwood-stained wood with a nice front yard behind a picket fence. The garage was against the block wall of the mobile home park. Gil was in the garage moving paint cans and boxes over. He waved them inside.

“This will work,” Sparky said as he pulled in slowly.

“Man, am I glad to see you guys,” Gil said as Robbie and Justin piled out of the passenger side. Sparky came out of the driver’s side and walked over.

“This is Sparky,” Robbie said.

“Nice to meet you,” Sparky said, shaking hands.

“Likewise,” Gil said. “Thanks for this.”

“Nice house,” Justin said.

“Yeah, it’s pretty rustic for So Cal,” Gil said. “I tried to talk my folks into letting me live here, but it draws a pretty good rent. More than I can afford.”

“Looks like you’re doing a renovation,” Sparky said. “Let’s close the garage door before somebody takes notice of the van.”

“Good idea,” Gil said. They got out and he clicked the remote he was carrying. The door came down and they went into the house. “We were between renters when things went nuts. Then our contractor fled the area, so here it sat.”

“Wow, this is rustic,” Justin said. “All those beams. Very nice.”

“Yeah, nice fireplace too,” Sparky said. “You got some things to take?”

“My 30-30 rifle and some clothes. I’ve got some food in the fridge. Want me to throw it into the ice chest? It’ll fit in my trunk.”

“Don’t worry about the food, we’re outta here soon anyway,” Sparky said. “Where does that side garage door come out? We need to move weapons out of the van.”

“In the back yard,” Gil said. “I’ll show you.”

They went to the back of the house and out the door into the private backyard.

“Not large, but it’s got good fences and shrubs,” Sparky said, looking around. “This would make a decent safe house.”

“Think so?” Gil asked.

“Yeah, it’s secluded, but you can still see anybody who comes down that driveway.”

They went into the garage and picked up the weapons.

“There’s a small rug we could roll these into,” Gil said. “What the hell is this?” He pointed to a large weapon.

“That’s an M60 machine gun,” Robbie said. “Those are a blast to shoot.”

“No pun intended,” Justin said. All of them chuckled.

“Yeah, the rug is probably a good idea,” Sparky said. “Want to back your car up in front of the garage?”

“Sure,” Gil said. “We can get away with opening the garage door again, right? For a moment, at least?”

“Yeah, it would look better if we’re carrying out a rug,” Justin said.

Sparky nodded in agreement as they went back into the house. Gil went out the front and backed his ancient Ford sedan into the driveway. Then he rushed into the house and wrapped his 30-30 in a big bath towel. “Ready?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Sparky said. They went out, Gil locking the front door.

“Where’s your car?” Justin asked.

“Left it at work,” he said. “This was my grandpa’s car. We had it stored here for a while.”

“What year is that?” Sparky asked.

“It’s a ’78,” Gil said. “Don’t worry, it runs great.”

“Okay,” Sparky said.

Gil opened the garage door and the trunk. They loaded up, then Gil shut the garage door and got into the driver’s seat. “Ready to go?”

“Yeah,” Robbie said.

“Which way?”

“Let’s avoid that checkpoint,” Sparky said. “Head back to the 405.”

“Yeah, get on at Crenshaw,” Justin said. “No checkpoints along there.”

Gil drove them away.

***

It was nearly two-thirty in the morning when the team arrived back at the big camp. The tribal elders were there to meet them, wide awake even at that hour.

James ran up to the elders. Tyler, Ryan, Zac, and the others followed, all of them in tears.

“Go ahead and be with them,” Seth said to Kaitlyn. “I’m going to stay back and let your people have some time.”

“Yeah, me too,” Angel said. “Go ahead, Megan.”

They both nodded and ran over to the group.

“Maybe we ought to go sit on the ridge and watch for a while, so the warriors up there can join too,” Seth said.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Trevor said. “Let’s do that.”

“I’ll go too,” Kaylee said.

They walked down the road towards the ridge and climbed up.

“Who’s that?” one of the three warriors asked.

“Seth, Angel, Kaylee, and Trevor,” Trevor said.

“What do you want?”

“We’re here to relieve you so you can go be with your people,” Seth said.

“Oh,” the warrior said. “Should we?”

The others nodded, and they started down the ridge.

“Thanks, man,” the warrior said.

Seth nodded, then sat down, M60 next to him.

“We put the mines in a perfect spot,” Angel said. “There’s no way to get around them.”

“Yeah,” Trevor said. “Where’s your uncle, sweetie?”

Kaylee smiled. “He wanted to be available when the elders started talking about next steps. I’m glad he’s there.”

“Yeah, me too,” Trevor said. “How’re you feeling?”

“Tired and scared, but good. Happy to have won.”

“That’s how I feel,” Angel said.

“You and Megan got to talk a lot on the drive to and from,” Kaylee said.

“Yeah,” Angel said.

“You think you’ll get along?”

“She’s the most interesting woman I’ve ever met,” Angel said, eyes welling with tears.

“Crap, you’re already in love with her, aren’t you?” Kaylee asked softly.

“Pretty much,” Angel said. “We’ll see where it goes. She’s definitely a strong-willed woman.”

“So’s Kaitlyn, but I like it that way,” Seth said. “I don’t know how this is going to go, but I’m hopeful…and excited.”

“How do they feel about you guys?” Trevor asked.

“That’s impossible to answer,” Angel said. “I don’t know her well enough yet.”

“She’s pretty interested,” Kaylee said. “She was asking the right questions about you.

“You talked to her?” Angel asked.

“When we had to make a pause for the cause,” Kaylee said. She looked at Trevor. “No jokes.”

Trevor, Seth, and Angel snickered.

“Crap, I should have known better,” she said, her face breaking into a smile.

“So, do women talk often when they’re squatting in the bushes?” Trevor quipped.

“I said no jokes,” Kaylee said as the men laughed. “Oh, never mind.”

“I’m just teasing you, honey,” Trevor said.

“You’ll pay,” she said, shooting him a wicked smile.

“Uh oh,” Angel said. “So what about Kaitlyn? Am I the only one who has to get embarrassed?”

“I didn’t embarrass you, I just said she asked about you.”

“Well what did you say?”

“I told her you were a serial killer,” Kaylee said. Trevor laughed out loud, then covered his mouth.

“Hope they didn’t hear that down there.”

“Don’t worry, Trevor, we’re far enough away,” Seth said. “Let’s just make sure that we keep serious enough to watch, though, okay?”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Trevor said. “Sorry.”

Kaylee looked at Angel. “Don’t tell her about this conversation, okay?”

“Okay,” Angel said.

“I told her you were hard working, loyal to a fault, responsible, and funny, but easily hurt by women,” Kaylee said. “See, that’s not so bad.”

“Easily hurt by women?” Angel asked.

“Melissa,” Kaylee said softly. “Remember how long it took you to get over her.”

“Oh,” Angel said. “Yeah, that one tore me up. I can see myself falling that hard for Megan. Hope it goes better.”

“Melissa wasn’t a nice person,” Seth said. “I was so pissed at her.”

“Let’s not talk about that, okay?” Angel asked.

“Okay,” Seth said. “Sorry.”

Trevor scanned the area. “Looks pretty quiet out there. We have an advantage, you know. They don’t know where we are, so they might drive into sight with their headlights on.”

“Until it gets light, at least,” Seth said.

“What about Kaitlyn?” Angel asked, looking away from the road for a moment.

Kaylee laughed softly.

“What’s so funny?” Seth asked.

“You better watch out,” she said.

“Why?”

“You’d better not tell her about this. Ever. Deal?”

“Should we pinky-swear?” Seth showed a nervous smile, and she rolled her eyes.

“When she talked about you her eyes teared up,” Kaylee said. “That’s a lot of emotion. She’s probably going to be a roller-coaster ride. Might turn out to be a little clingy. Probably a little jealous too.”

Seth smiled. “She told me that.”

“You get along well with her?”

“So far,” Seth said, “but let’s be real. Time will tell. We’ve only just met.”

“Probably won’t take long. Trevor and I are in a new relationship, and I have a pretty good idea where that’s going,” Kaylee said. “We haven’t even…you know.”

“Wow, this is an open conversation,” Trevor said, looking embarrassed.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she said. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Trevor said.

“Hey, Kaylee. Trevor,” Ji-Ho said from the road below them.

“Wonder how much of that he heard,” Trevor whispered.

Kaylee grinned at him. “He practically shoved you into my arms, so who cares,” she whispered. “Yeah, Uncle. What’s up?”

“Come down,” he said. “All. Get rest. We leave in morning.”

“What about the ridge?” Seth asked.

“They have team that slept during day,” Ji-Ho said. “They ten yards behind me.”

“Yeah,” said the warrior who they relieved earlier. “We got this. Go get some shut eye. You guys have done a lot.”

“Okay, thanks,” Seth said.

“How are they taking it?” Kaylee asked Ji-Ho.

“Sad, but lose less than expected,” Ji-Ho said. “They were prepared for all to be dead. This gift to them.”

“But One Eye was such an important person to them,” Angel said.

“They not think like Western or Asian man,” Ji-Ho said. “He honored and missed. Not tragedy in same way as we think.”

“Where we going?” Seth asked as they walked back to camp.

“Not say. Nobody know. If surprise attack, nobody talk. Discuss on road out.”

Trevor chuckled. “There’s a certain wisdom in that.”

“Barona tribe have good culture. I like. I respect.”

They could just make out the house, on the road to the left, and the collection of tents in front of them. It was dark. The fire that was going earlier had been put out, but you could still smell the remainder.

“We won’t get a full night’s sleep, will we?” Kaylee asked.

“Nope,” Ji-Ho said. “Suck up. You young.”

“How did the girls take it?” Angel asked. “The meeting? The memorial?”

“Tears, but proud,” Ji-Ho said. “Good strong women. You treat well. Be men.”

“See you in the morning,” Kaylee said, dragging Trevor into their tent. Seth looked around, hoping to see Kaitlyn, Angel standing next to him.

“Looks like we won’t see them until tomorrow,” Angel said. “It’s okay. Better chance to sleep.”

“You have a point there.” Seth smirked.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” Angel said.

“Neither did I. Good night.”

Seth unzipped his tent and got inside, using his cellphone flashlight to close the door and unzip the sleeping bag. It was too hot to climb in the bag, so he just opened it, spread it on the floor, and got undressed. Suddenly his whole body ached, and sleepiness hit him, in the forehead and then washing all over his body. He laid back, looking at the roof of the dome tent as it fluttered peacefully in the wind. He could hear hushed talking and footsteps here and there, receding into the back of his brain as he drifted off.

“Seth?” a voice whispered.

His eyes jerked open, heart beating. “In here.”

He heard the zipper moving on the door, and then smelled her, an intoxicating mixture of sweat and something else. She came inside, knee bumping his leg as she entered and zipped the tent door closed.

“I’m naked,” Seth whispered. “I’ll put something back on.”

“It’s pitch black in here,” she whispered. He heard her clothes coming off, and then the warm soft flesh of her back was next to him. “We can’t do anything, but we can lay together, okay? Sleep?”

“Oh God,” he said as she moved tighter against him. “Yes, it’s fine.”

“You didn’t come looking for me,” she whispered.

“I wanted to,” he said. “Angel did too. We thought we should let you grieve.”

“Megan’s with Angel,” she whispered.

“Then he’s as happy as I am,” Seth whispered to her. “Can I kiss you? Just once?”

She moaned and turned towards him, the feeling of her shooting through him like a lighting bolt. Their lips touched, a gentle kiss, becoming more passionate. She broke it and looked at him in the darkness.

“Feels like I’d better turn back around,” she whispered.

“Probably a good idea,” he said, moaning as she turned on her side and  spooned into him. “Good night, honey.”

“Good night,” she said, pulling his arm over her waist. They were asleep in a few seconds.

Morning came too fast, light coming through the red nylon, the sound of people floating over the huge group of tents. Seth woke, forgetting for a moment what the warm softness was next to him, opening his eyes to take in the curve of her hips and waist.

“I feel that,” she whispered, turning towards him. He feasted his eyes on her.

“Take a picture, why don’t you,” she said softly, eyes on his. “You want me pretty badly.”

Seth chuckled. “You don’t know the half of it.”

“Well, that gives you something to look forward to someday,” she said with a coy expression, picking up her shirt and pulling it on. She worked on her pants as Seth got dressed.

“Hurry up,” she said. “We need to break down this tent.”

Seth put on his shoes. “We need to break down your tent too, I suspect.”

She giggled. “I did that last night, silly.”

To be continued…

 

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