Yvonne was driving, the shadows getting longer as late afternoon wore on.
“We should be hearing from the others soon,” Sid said. “They’ve got to be about settled by now.”
“We’re gonna get some rest before we take off for Warner Springs, I hope.”
“We’ll have to, sweetie,” Sid said. “I’ll call Clem and see what’s up.”
“Yeah, do that.”
Sid pulled out his phone and hit Clem’s contact. It rang a couple times, and Clem picked up.
“Sid! Where are you guys?”
“Just a sec, I’m gonna put it on speaker.” Sid pushed the button and held the phone near his face. “Hear me okay?”
“Yep,” Clem said.
“Hi, Clem,” Yvonne said.
“Hi, Yvonne. How’s Sam holding up?”
“We’re gonna have to watch him like a hawk,” Sid said.
“You didn’t tell me where you are.”
“Just passed Santa Ysabel ten minutes ago,” Sid said. “We’re almost to Wynola.”
“Oh, hell, you guys are almost here,” Clem said. “No problems on the road?”
“Not since Sam killed those UN thugs north of Warner Springs.” Yvonne said. “How far past Julian is this RV Park you’re in?”
“Just a few miles,” Clem said. “Nice place. We’ve got Ji-Ho’s rig up on a ridge. Nice commanding view of the whole area from up there.”
“No problems on the road?” Sid asked.
“Nah,” Clem said. “The elders, women, and children of the tribe went to an alternate location.”
“Where?” Yvonne asked.
“They ain’t telling us,” Clem said. “Not that I blame them, of course.”
“I know where it is,” Sid said.
“Well don’t tell us,” Clem said. “I want to keep in good with these folks.”
“Understand,” Sid said.
“Here’s Wynola,” Yvonne said.
“Another bustling metropolis,” Sid quipped.
“Be nice, honey. It looks like a cool little town.”
Clem laughed. “I should get off the phone. There’s a meeting starting up in about twenty minutes, and I need to clean up a little. You guys will probably be here about the time it starts.”
“Okay,” Sid said. “Talk to you soon.” He ended the call.
“Well, sounds like things are going well,” Yvonne said.
“I hope the second location is as secure as they think it is,” Sid said.
“Where is it?”
“If it’s the place I’m thinking about, it’s outside of Pine Valley,” Sid said. “Don’t tell anybody.”
“Understand. Pretty close to I-8. Think that’s really safe?”
“Lots of heavily forested nooks and crannies out there,” Sid said. “What worries me are the state records. They probably know about every plot of land owned by the Barona tribe by now.”
“Geez,” Yvonne said.
They rode silently for a few minutes as the road twisted towards Julian.
“We’re here,” Yvonne said as they entered the town. “Always loved visiting.”
“Best apple pie I’ve had anywhere,” Sid said.
“Want to stop?”
“No, let’s get to the RV Park. I want to attend that meeting. Ought to be starting in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Yvonne said. “What street is it again?”
Sid looked at his phone for a moment. “KQ Ranch Road. Looks like a long way on the map, but it’s only about five miles from here. We’re talking ten minutes.”
“Give me a little early warning before we get to the road, okay?”
“Will do, honey,” Sid said. “Pretty around here. Might be a nice place to settle when this mess is over.”
“You don’t want to go back to Dulzura?”
“Too many bad memories there,” Sid said. “I would like to retrieve our RV if it wasn’t destroyed.”
“I know, I miss our home,” Yvonne said. “If we had a few days, I’d go down there and see if we could get it.”
“That’s an interesting idea,” Sid said, putting the phone up to his face. “Hmmm. Only about an hour to get there. We might be able to find a couple hours for a round trip, but what if it’s destroyed?”
Yvonne chuckled. “Then we’ve wasted two hours of doing…what?”
“Depends on when the battle happens, I guess,” Sid said. “They’re going to need my bow.”
“Probably. We getting close?”
“Oh, crap, better focus my phone back on that,” Sid said, moving his fingers on the screen. “Half a mile. It’s a left turn.”
“I’ll bet John and Sarah would like to get their rig too,” Yvonne said.
“Hell, Sam’s got one there,” Sid said. “It’s a small trailer…crap.” His eyes welled with tears.
Yvonne looked over at him, fighting back tears herself. “He only needs room for one now.”
“Might be too hard for him.”
“Might be,” Yvonne said. “That the turn?”
“Where do I go from there?” Yvonne asked.
“The road leads right to the place,” Sid said, trying to regain his composure.
Yvonne made the turn, John and Sarah’s truck following them. They drove the twisty road, then turned into the driveway. Sid pulled all the way forward in the check-in lane, John pulling up tight against him.
“A little chilly,” Sam said as he climbed out of the truck bed.
“Elevation,” John said, helping Sarah out of the truck.
“Might as well go straight into the clubhouse,” Sid said. “The meeting should be just starting.”
The five of them walked to the clubhouse door. Clem saw them come in, and raised his hand. He was up towards the front.
“Sam, so sorry about what happened,” Ji-Ho said as they walked up.
“Thanks,” Sam said. “How many did we lose?”
“Only few,” Ji-Ho said. “One Eye was tough.”
“Such a tragic loss,” Yvonne said.
“Yes, is,” Ji-Ho said. “I got last cabin for you. Two bedroom. You can all stay. Also have room in rig for another person or two. Clem’s there.”
“I got my rig too,” Hank said. “Jason and I are both in it, but it’s a bunkhouse model. I’ve got room for a couple more.”
“Thanks,” Sam said as they got to the front by the stage.
“Sam,” Clem said, choking back tears. “I don’t have the words.”
“I know, old friend,” Sam said. “Life has to go on.”
“You sound better than I expected,” Clem said.
“I’m tied up in knots inside,” Sam said quietly. “She was everything to me. She’d want me to go on, to fight. That’s what I’m gonna do.”
They sat down on one of the long benches facing the stage. Tyler, James, Zac, and Ryan were around the podium getting ready. Tyler saw Sam, Yvonne, and Sid. He broke away from the others and walked to the edge of the stage.
“Sam, so sorry to hear about your wife,” Tyler said. “Glad you guys are here.”
“Thanks,” Sam said. “So sorry about One Eye. He was a great man.”
“Yes, he was,” Tyler said.
“They did a good job picking his replacement,” Sid said. “Congrats.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I hope I can do as well as One Eye. He’s a hard act to follow.”
“You’ll do fine,” Yvonne said.
“Thanks,” he said. “We’ll get started in a moment.” He walked back to the podium.
“He’ll be good,” Sid said.
“Yep, that was a great choice,” Clem said. “He dived right in with both feet, too. Impressive young man.”
“Good Afternoon,” Tyler said into the microphone on stage. He was at the podium, the others gathered behind him.
There was a smattering of applause. He held up his hands to end it.
“As you know, the enemy has retreated from Julian. Thanks to Sam, Yvonne, and Sid, we know which city they’re in. It’s Warner Springs, about half an hour’s drive from here.”
“Do we know the exact location yet?” Seth asked.
“No, not yet,” Tyler said. “I propose that we send scouts out to look around.”
“Who?” Ji-Ho asked.
“We’ll ask for some volunteers. James, Zac, and Ryan have already agreed to be part of the team.”
“We’ll go,” Kenny said, standing next to Bradley.
“I’m willing to go,” Trevor said.
Kaylee looked at him, then up at the stage. “I’m going if he is.”
“I’m gonna go,” Sam said. “I suggest that Trevor stays here. He’s going to be needed to run the team that follows us.”
“Follows us?” James asked.
“If you guys get close enough, you’re likely to be seen,” Sam said. “We need to be ready to hit them right away. So the small team needs to go in and poke around while the rest of us are on the way.”
Tyler stood silently for a moment, thinking.
“He’s probably right,” Ryan said softly behind him.
“Yes,” Tyler said. “Okay, Sam, I agree that’s a good way to handle this.”
“Who’s in this second team?” Kaitlyn asked.
“All of us,” Trevor said. “Anybody disagree?”
“You’re right,” Sam said. “It needs to be everybody who can fire a gun. We need to have a decisive victory.”
“I take battle wagon,” Ji-Ho said.
“You mean that huge RV of yours?” Kenny asked.
Trevor laughed. “That thing has a lot of capability. I agree. We take that, but he’s in back when we go in. We don’t want to tip off the enemy.”
“Yes, I get you out of jam if needed,” Ji-Ho said.
“I’m still not getting this,” Kenny said.
“It’s got a mini-gun mounted on a turret,” Trevor said. “And it’s bullet-proof. It also has machine guns in front and rear, and some other neat tricks.”
“You’re kidding,” Kenny said.
“I know about this,” Tyler said. “We rode up with him. I agree with Trevor. We need that vehicle, just in case we run into trouble.”
“You’re forgetting some other folks,” Hank said. “The towns people of Julian. Jason and I know Warner Springs like the back of our hands, and we also know a lot of the people there. We need to be involved in the first team. We’ll find out where the base is a lot quicker that way. You folks will be stabbing in the dark.”
Tyler smiled. “You’re right, of course. Thanks for speaking up. I think perhaps you two ought to lead the away team, then. You okay with that?”
“Yep,” Hank said.
“I’m ready,” Jason said.
“How many of the townspeople would be interested in joining the second group?” James asked.
“At least fifty,” Hank said. “Maybe more. Remember who kicked these cretins out of the town in the first place.”
“They also called for help, though, didn’t they?” Sid asked.
“Yeah, they did, which tells me there’s more bad guys collecting in Warner Springs to attack them,” Sam said. “You know where the request came from, Hank?”
“Yeah, my boss,” Hank said. “The Sheriff.”
“Does he know where the base is?” Tyler asked.
“No,” Hank said. “Asked him a little while ago. He has some suspicions.”
“Where?” Sam asked.
“There’s a place on the north side of town,” Hank said. “It’s an abandoned resort. He thinks they might be there, based on comments from some of the locals. It’s the first place we ought to check, and it’s pretty easy to sneak up to. Lots of cover.”
“When are we going?” Seth asked.
“I suggest we time it so the first team arrives in early morning,” Hank said, “when it’s still dark. We hit them with the second team at first light, if the first team can find the location.”
“Good, that gives us time to sleep, then,” Megan said.
“Yes, I suggest everybody hits the sack early tonight,” Tyler said. “We need to be up by about three am.”
“Sounds like a good plan,” Sam said.
“We be ready,” Ji-Ho said.
“I’ll talk to the townspeople,” Hank said. “We about done here?”
“Yes,” Tyler said. “Unless there’s any questions.”
Nobody said anything, so the group started to disburse. Sid looked at Clem and Sam.
“Something on your mind, Sid?” Sam asked.
“Does that fancy camera at the Dulzura park still work?” he asked. “The one you can turn around?”
“Haven’t checked for a while,” Sam said. “Why?”
“If we survive this battle, it’d be nice to go get our rigs. It’s only an hour’s drive from here.”
Sam got a grim look on his face. “I don’t think I can go back there.”
“You don’t have to,” Yvonne said. “You mind if we do?”
“No, as long as you don’t get killed,” Sam said.
“I might be interested in that,” John said.
“Honey, no,” Sarah said.
“Don’t you want our home back?”
“It’s probably blown apart anyway,” Sarah said.
“That’s why I was asking about the camera,” Sid said. “Think it can turn around and see our coaches, Clem? You set it up.”
“If it still works, we can move it in that direction,” Clem said. “That’s a big if, of course.”
“You have a rig too, Clem,” Sid said. “Maybe you’d want to go along.”
“I might at that,” he said. “Better think this through, though. It might be dangerous. Very dangerous. I’d suggest we forget about the camera and risk the time to go there without trying to look.”
“Why?” Sid asked.
“The enemy knows what the IP address of the video feed is. They might notice that somebody manipulated the camera. Might tip them off to set up a trap.”
“Crap, he’s got a point,” John said.
“Yes, he does,” Sam said. “Of course, we could get there, set up an ambush ourselves, and then manipulate the camera. Might have a good chance at killing the bastards who nailed our friends.”
Sid and Yvonne shot each other a nervous look.
Tex drove the yellow rig through the darkness, feeling lonesome. Alexis and Lily sat next to each other in the dinette, chatting about what they were going to do when they were let go. Karen sat on the couch alone, sulking since they left, which was more than an hour ago. They were passing Gorman, the big rig handling the grade well considering its weight. Tex couldn’t even feel the Jeep they were towing behind them. He hadn’t seen any of the other rigs for a while. Jules had the rigs leave at ten minute intervals so they wouldn’t look like a giant caravan on the road. That was good and bad. His eyes darted around, dwelling on the rear-view mirrors much more than normal.
“Mind if I sit up here?” Karen asked softly.
“I’d love it, little lady,” Tex said. “Was getting a tad lonely.”
“I don’t really want to talk,” she said. “I just had to get away from Frick and Frack back there. The chattering was getting to me.”
He smiled, glancing over at her, taking in her beautiful face and thick red hair. “It wouldn’t have worked anyway.”
She shot a glance at him. “What are you talking about?”
“You and Gil,” Tex said. “I saw what happened.”
“Nothing happened,” she said.
Tex chuckled. “You got aced out by that little hottie. You got pissed, and you’ve been sulking about it for the whole time we’ve been on the road.”
“Shut up,” she said. “I said I didn’t want to talk.”
“Okay,” Tex said. He reached for the radio and turned it on, finding a country-western station. He turned it up and sat back, enjoying the music.
“Oh, please,” Karen said. “Gonna slop the hogs when we get to camp?”
“Now that’s not nice,” Tex said, trying not to laugh out loud.
“You’re messing with me,” she said softly. “Stop it.”
“I’m not messing with you,” Tex said. “Not really. Not much, anyway.”
“I don’t think you’re charming,” she said. “I know what a drugstore cowboy is. Do you even like girls?”
Tex laughed again. “This is going to be a long drive.”
“Well then just stop talking and we’ll get along fine,” she said.
“That will make the drive even longer, so you can forget that.”
Karen sighed. “Why do you want to talk to me anyway? I’m a bitch.”
“You’re hot,” Tex said. “I’m just your type, unlike Gil.”
She laughed. “Oh, really? This ought to be good. Please enlighten me.”
“Without a strong man, you’re just empty passion with a pretty face,” Tex said.
“That sounded a little sexist,” she said. “Sounded kinda insulting, too.”
“Well, to me, and to Gil too,” she said.
“Gil’s plenty manly, and Tisha was made for him. He’s gonna curl her toes good, mark my words.”
“She’s more of a bitch than I am,” Karen said.
“You don’t get it,” Tex said. “She’s only a bitch outwardly. I talked to her for a while. It’s all show. A façade.”
“What do you mean?”
“She tries to come off aloof and tough, but when she finds somebody who works, she commits completely. She mates for life. She’ll follow her man anywhere, and she wants to be under his control.”
“Listen to yourself,” Karen cracked. “That’s really sexist. It’s brutish and low. It’s a total turnoff.”
“The truth hurts,” Tex said.
“The truth hurts,” she mocked. “Maybe I should go back to the couch.”
“Maybe you should, but you won’t.”
She started to get up, but then stopped, and sat back down.
“What’s the matter?”
“Frick and Frack are watching this. I can’t go back there now.”
“It’s not funny,” she said, her face turning red.
“Now that is gorgeous,” Tex said. “I can see your face going off like a beacon, even in near dark. And with that red mane of yours. Wow.”
She shot him an icy glance. “You’re pretty full of yourself. I should’ve fought for Gil.”
“You would’ve just killed his spirit,” Tex said. “You know it and I know it.”
“Bull crap,” she said. “You don’t know Tisha as well as you think you do. She’s a real ball buster. Gil’s gonna have his hands full.”
“He’s gonna have his hands full all right,” Tex said. “Exactly like both of them want. You won’t be able to get between those two. Nobody will.”
“So how am I gonna kill his spirit, exactly?”
“Gil is a great guy, but he’s not dynamic enough for you. You’ll get bored. You’ll either dump him or make his life a living hell by blaming him for your own unhappiness. You’d never commit to him the way Tisha is going to. She’s gonna worship the ground he walks on. Probably already does.”
“Oh, brother,” she said. “If that’s what I’d do with somebody as strong as Gil, then I’m doomed.”
Tex chuckled again.
“Knock that off,” she said.
“No. I’m driving. Deal with it.”
She stared at him again for a long moment, then sighed.
“You see what I’m talking about?” Tex asked.
“What do you want from me?”
“I want you, at least until we get bored with each other.”
She laughed. “Like that’s going to happen.”
“It might, and it might not,” Tex said. “You’re an interesting combination. I’m smitten. I’m gonna try for you.”
“Oh, so I’m an interesting combination, huh?”
“Yep, you’re just my type. You want to be taken hard, but once you’re in it, you want to keep your options open. You’d never commit one hundred percent to anybody. Get bored and you’ll be looking around for a better deal. I’m the same way. That’s why I’ve never been married.”
“You think you know me, but you don’t know crap,” she said.
“Have it your way. What’s the longest relationship you’ve ever been in?”
“None of your business,” she said.
She sighed. “About two years.”
“But you were done long before it ended, weren’t you?”
She sat silently. “Why do you have to push so hard? After what I’ve been through.”
“Well, you’re right. You’ve been through hell and you didn’t deserve it. I’ll take special pleasure in killing as many of these UN creeps as I can in your honor.”
“That’s supposed to make me feel better?”
“No,” Tex said. “Only you can do that, but you can let me help.”
“So, let me get this straight. You think I’ll have this hot, passionate love affair with you, and then we’ll part ways as soon as one of us gets bored. But I can rely on you? Seems kinda sketchy to me.”
Tex smiled at her. “I’m starting to break through, but you aren’t really getting it yet.”
She stared at him blankly for a moment, and then rolled her eyes. “This is pointless. It’s just doubletalk.”
“No, it’s really not,” Tex said. “I know that your own happiness is the most important thing to you. You will run your life to manage that. I’m similar. I’m extremely attracted to you. I think you’re attracted to me, too. If we get together, we might both choose to be together until the day one of us dies. Or we may choose to part, or to have an on again, off again relationship. I would never try to trap you in a situation you no longer wanted, and I wouldn’t take that from you either. I think you’d understand.”
She chuckled. “You’re the kind of man my mom warned me about. Talk up a story, get what you want for as long as you want it, and then get out of it.”
“Which is exactly how you are,” Tex said. “We know our own. And don’t make it sound like there’s no commitment there. If we’re together, even temporarily, you’d be on my white list.”
“Oh, give me a break. White list? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’ll always hold you in high regard. I’ll always come running when you’re in trouble, no matter what. I’ll be a life-long friend, even if we don’t end up being life-long lovers.”
“That sounds corny as hell. I’m going in the back. Maybe I can sleep.”
“Go ahead,” Tex said. “Think about it. I got my point across. Your move.”
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