Gil parked the blue coach in the cow pasture, between the red coach and the gray coach.
“Why here?” Tisha asked. “There’s more room over there.”
“My friends are in the coaches on either side,” Gil said. “C’mon.”
They went out the door, into the cool darkness. Robbie and Morgan were there to greet them, Justin and Katie following a moment later.
“You made it!” Robbie said. “Any problems on the road?”
“Not a one,” Gil said. “You remember Tisha, right?”
“Of course,” Robbie said. Morgan smiled at her.
“Hey, brother,” Justin said.
‘Hi, Gil,” Katie said. “Hi, Tisha.”
“Hi yourself,” Tisha said, smiling, getting closer to Gil.
“Who’s still out there?” Gil asked.
“Only Tex’s coach and Ted’s coach,” Robbie said.
“Should we be worried?” Tisha asked.
“Tex’s coach was last to leave,” Justin said. “Ted should’ve been here by now, though. Something might have happened. I saw Jules and Sparky running into their rig a little while ago.”
‘If it were bad, we’d know about it already,” Morgan said.
“Probably,” Robbie said. “Might have just been a call from Ivan.”
“Hope so,” Tisha said. “We’re still in danger.”
“I know,” Morgan said. “I’m scared all the time. If they get us back, we won’t live long.”
“They aren’t going to get you back,” Robbie said.
“Look, here comes another coach. Can’t see the color yet.”
“It’s yellow,” Robbie said. “That’s Tex’s coach.”
It parked a few spaces away from them, and the door burst open. Alexis ran down the steps, stopping in front of the group, looking around, trying to get her bearings. She was trembling.
“Alexis, what’s wrong?” Morgan called out.
“She’s gone,” Alexis said. She ran out into the pasture, towards a stand of trees on the far border.
“Dammit,” Morgan said, getting up. She ran, trying to catch Alexis. Katie got up.
“I’ll go,” Justin said.
“Stay here,” Katie said as she took off.
Tex came out slowly, Karen by her side.
“My God, what happened?” Robbie asked.
Tex shook his head in despair. “Where’s Jules and Sparky?”
“I think they’re in their coach,” Justin said, pointing to it.
“Thanks,” Tex said. He rushed over, Karen staying by his side, glancing back at Gil with a hurt expression.
“She still wants you,” Tisha said.
“No, that’s not what that look is,” Gil said. “Something really bad happened.”
“Let’s go look in their rig,” Gil said.
“I’m not getting out of sight of our women,” Robbie said. “If they go much further, I’m going after them.”
“Me too,” Justin said.
“We’ll go,” Tisha said. “C’mon, Gil.”
Gil nodded and they trotted over to it.
“Good, Alexis stopped,” Robbie said, watching as the three women embraced in the middle of the pasture. A blood-curdling scream came from Tex’s rig.
“Uh oh,” Robbie said.
Tisha raced out of Tex’s coach, Gil following her, pulling her to a stop and taking her into his arms.
“Shit, I’ll bet somebody’s dead in there,” Justin said. “Who else was in that coach?”
Robbie took out his phone and went to the notes.
“You’ve got all of the coaches cataloged, don’t you?” Justin asked, shaking his head.
“This whole thing will make a good book,” Robbie said. “Lily. Dammit. Morgan said she was right on the edge. Said they were hardest on her at the jail.”
Gil and Tisha walked over, Gil’s arm around her shoulder.
“Lily?” Robbie asked.
Gil shook his head yes, grim look on his face.
Tex came out of the black coach with Jules and Sparky, Karen still by Tex’s side, as if she was afraid to be more than inches away from him. Dana and Shelly followed, both crying. They went into Tex’s coach as Alexis came back, Morgan and Katie with her.
“I’m so sorry,” Gil said.
“Me too,” Tisha said. “That must have been horrible.”
“I should’ve known better than to leave her there,” Alexis said, tears running down her cheeks.
“Don’t blame yourself,” Morgan said. “You knew she was having problems. You knew that she wasn’t well.”
“Tex is taking this as hard as I am,” Alexis said, looking down. “Lily wasn’t the only thing. I had this fantasy that my family was still alive. Tex and Karen convinced me that they’re not.”
“What do you mean?” Robbie asked.
Alexis started to talk, but burst into tears.
“Don’t worry about it now,” Morgan said.
“No, I need to talk about it,” Alexis said. “My dad was in Camarillo when the Ventura bomb went off.”
“Oh,” Robbie said. “I’m so sorry.”
“What about your mom and sister?” Katie asked.
“They were in Moorpark. Most of the people died from fallout there.”
“There’s a chance they might have survived,” Robbie said. “If they got out quick enough.”
“My mom’s too clueless for that,” Alexis said. “She was waiting for my dad to come home the last time I talked with her. I started looking on the internet on the way down here. People in Moorpark were told that everybody in Camarillo died. She would’ve heard it by the time I talked to her. It was two days after the bomb went off.”
“So you’re going to stay with us, then?” Morgan asked.
Alexis shook her head yes.
“I’m glad,” Morgan said.
“Me too,” Katie said.
“I wish I would’ve realized it earlier,” Alexis said. “I would’ve tried for Tex.”
“Tex?” Tisha asked.
“He’s going all out trying to win Karen over. They fought for the first half of the trip.”
“About what?” Gil asked.
“You, mostly,” Alexis said.
“Dammit,” Tisha said.
“Trust me, you have nothing to worry about, if you’re really interested in Gil,” Alexis said. “And Tex is just on fire for Karen. He’s gonna win her over. It’s already happening.”
Tisha was quiet for a moment, thinking. “I knew she wanted him, but I did too. I made my play fast, so I could cut her off at the pass. I’m such a bitch.”
“No you’re not,” Gil said, “but you’ll have to trust me. I’m not interested in Karen. I’ll always be nice to her, because of her dad, but like I told you in the coach, I never was interested in her.”
Robbie and Justin shot each other a glance and a knowing smile.
“What?” Gil asked. “Oh, never mind. I don’t care.”
“I do,” Tisha said. “What?”
Robbie chuckled. “You are exactly one hundred percent Gil’s type of woman. I caught his reaction when he saw you.”
“Yeah, seriously,” Justin said.
“Okay, guys, don’t? Okay?” Gil asked.
“Tex said the same thing,” Alexis said. “That’s what got Karen upset at first. Then he went on to explain to her why she was more suited to him. It was actually entertaining, because they didn’t know we were listening. Got a laugh out of Lily. Maybe her last…oh God.” She broke down crying again. Morgan and Katie both held her, Tisha leaving Gil’s side to join them. The men looked on helplessly.
“I should go see if Tex needs help,” Alexis said. “I need to apologize to him and Karen too. I tried to leave the coach in the last town. They had to force me to stay. If they didn’t, I’d be in real trouble now.”
The group watched as she hurried back to Tex’s coach.
“Wonder what’s taking Ted so long?” Robbie asked. “He left pretty early in the lineup. He should’ve been here by now.”
“Who’s with him?” Morgan asked.
Robbie looked at his phone again. “Green coach. Haley, Stacey, and Brianna.”
“Here comes an ambulance,” Katie said, pointing. “They’re heading for Tex’s coach.”
“They’re going to take the body away,” Morgan said. “I don’t know how to contact her brother.”
“Me neither,” Katie said. “She never told me her last name.”
“She told me,” Tisha said. “Smith. Not going to be much help.”
“Geez,” Gil said. “Hey, here comes another coach.”
“It’s Ted’s coach,” Robbie said. “Finally.” He ran out to meet them.
“He just loves that guy, doesn’t he?” Katie asked.
“Yeah,” Morgan said. “Kinda like I feel about Sparky.”
Robbie watched as the door of the coach opened.
“Hey, Robbie,” Stacey said as he came down the steps, followed by Brianna.
“I was worried about you guys,” Robbie said. “What took so long?”
“Remember those two guys who used to show up at the restaurant every once in a while? The guys that he never charged for drinks?”
“Not sure I know who you mean,” Robbie said.
“George and Malcolm,” Stacey said.
“Oh, crap, those two scare me. Especially Malcolm.”
“I liked him,” Brianna said.
“Me too,” Stacey said. “I’m more scared of George.”
“They aren’t joining us, are they?” Robbie asked.
Ted came down the steps. “No, son, they aren’t joining us.”
“What, then?” Robbie asked.
“They’re heading to Kansas. Needed me to vouch for them with the National Guard unit up on the Nevada/California border. They’re going through on I-80.”
“Kansas?” Robbie asked.
Haley came down the steps and stood next to Ted, then noticed the ambulance. “Oh no, what’s with the paramedics?”
“Lily. She killed herself on the way here.”
“Oh no,” Brianna said, starting to cry. Haley hugged Ted and sobbed. Stacey and Robbie looked at each other, not knowing what to do.
“We’ll talk about this later, boss,” Robbie said. “I’m so glad to see you.”
Jules and Sparky came out of the coach, Tex and Karen following in a moment, Alexis behind them. The paramedics carried out Lily’s bagged body and loaded it into the ambulance. Jules saw Ted’s rig and trotted over, Sparky and Ted right on his tail.
“Hey, what the hell?” Jules asked. “Where you?”
“Sorry, Jules,” Ted said. “I had to help some friends on the way.”
“Who?” Tex asked.
“George and Malcolm,” he said.
Tex’s eyes lit up. “They gonna join us?”
“No, they’re on their way to Kansas,” Ted said. “I helped them get a pass to travel over I-80.”
“You didn’t tell him, I hope,” Sparky asked.
“Nope,” Ted said. “It was hard not to, especially when he started asking about Ji-Ho.”
“What are you talking about?” Robbie asked.
“Ancient history, kid,” Sparky said. “Saladin damn near killed George, and that incident led to a really bad bout of PTSD. If he knew that’s who we were fighting here, he would’ve stuck around and risked his neck to kill him.”
“Let’s talk,” Jules said. “High level meeting. Main house. Let others on team relax for night.”
“You want me there?” Robbie asked.
“No, you’ll need to sit this one out,” Ted said. “You okay with that?”
“Of course,” Robbie said. “I’m so glad you’re okay.” He turned and left, Stacey, Brianna, and Haley following him.
“That kid loves you,” Sparky said.
“The feeling is mutual,” Ted said. “That’s why I want to make sure he doesn’t become part of Ivan’s organization when this is over.”
“Understand,” Jules said. “I remember agreement. I not break.”
“Okay, gentlemen, let’s go.”
They walked towards the big house.
Trevor was driving Ji-Ho’s rig. Tyler was sitting in the passenger seat, sleeping. Kaylee came up to the front.
‘How you holding up?” she asked.
“I’m okay,” Trevor said. “Your uncle okay?”
“He fell asleep. I’d never seen him cry before. I feel so horrible.”
“Me too,” Trevor said.
“The others still behind us?”
“Yeah. That’s Sid and Yvonne up in front of us. James, Zac, and Ryan are behind us, Kenny and Bradley in the last one. I can’t believe that’s all that survived.”
“John and Sarah are asleep now too, but Sam’s been awake the whole time, sitting in the dinette,” Kaylee said. “Hear anything else from Seth or Angel?”
“No. They’ve got their phones off now. Me too.”
“Oh yeah. Duh. Mine’s off too. How much further?”
“To Dulzura? On the roads we’ve got to deal with, another twenty minutes. Those guys ruined the road from the back side. We have to go in from the west, on Highway 94.”
“You think this is safe what we’re doing?” Kaylee asked.
“Not really,” Trevor said. “We’re in trouble. Real trouble. We need more ammo for this thing.”
“It’s bullet proof, though, right?”
“Yeah, but if we can’t fight back, all they have to do is stuff some explosives underneath us and we’re toast,” Trevor said. “Wish we could trust Ji-Ho’s warehouse. He told me he has more ammo there.”
“You really think the enemy knows about that location?” Kaylee asked. “We know they’re aware of this one.”
“The enemy captured Matt and Emma, plus Gus and his whole team. They all knew where that place was. You know the enemy got it out of at least one of them.”
“Crap,” Kaylee said. “This sucks.”
“Understatement of the year.” Trevor looked at her and smiled. “At least I’ve still got you.”
“Yes, you do,” she said, putting her hand on his shoulder. “Getting tired of driving?”
“Nope,” he said.
“Hey,” Tyler said, waking up. “You can sit here. Does the coffee maker work while we’re driving?”
“It will if I turn on the generator. That sounds good.” Trevor hit the generator button and it started. “There you go.”
“Sit down next to your man,” Tyler said. “I’m gonna pick Sam’s brain for a while in the dinette. You guys want coffee?”
“The chief doesn’t have to make coffee,” Kaylee said softly. “I can do it.”
“I’m the chief of nothing now,” Tyler said, on the verge of tears.
“There’s still the other place,” Trevor said.
“If that isn’t already destroyed, I’ll be shocked,” Tyler said. “Nothing I can do about it now. Maybe when we get this thing re-loaded.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Trevor said.
Tyler went to the kitchen counter and took the coffee maker out of the lower cupboard. Kaylee sat in the front passenger seat.
“Sorry about your motor home,” Kaylee said.
“That’s the least of my worries,” Trevor said. “You can replace stuff. Not people.”
“I know,” Kaylee said. “I heard John and Sarah talking. There’s probably more RVs at this park in Dulzura. Maybe we can take one.”
“The enemy might have torched them all,” Trevor said. “Might have taken a bunch of them too.”
“Look, Sid has his right blinker on. I think he wants to pull over.”
“Good,” Trevor said. “I don’t want to just drive into this place.” He put on his right blinker and started to slow down.
Tyler came over with a cup of coffee for both of them. You guys like it black?”
“Yep,” Trevor said.
“Me too,” Kaylee said.
“Sid wants to talk, huh? Leave the generator on. I’ll bet everybody could use some coffee.”
“There’s a big turnoff,” Trevor said. “Perfect.” He turned off the road and parked, watching the other two Jeeps park behind him. Kaylee got the door. Sid and Yvonne were already there.
“You guys want coffee?” Kaylee asked.
“Oh, hell yes,” Yvonne said as she climbed up, Sid following.
John and Sarah were sitting up on the couch now. “What’s up?” John asked.
“We need to chat,” Sid said. James, Zac, Ryan, Kenny, and Bradley came inside.
“How far are we?” James asked.
“Fifteen minutes, give or take,” Sid said.
Ji-Ho came out of the bedroom, yawning. “We stop?”
“To talk,” Kaylee said.
“That coffee I smell?” Bradley asked.
“Yep,” Tyler said, brewing cups and handing them out.
“Good,” Ji-Ho said. “No bad guys on road?”
“Nope,” Trevor said. “Nobody’s on road at all except us.”
“All right,” Sid said. “We don’t want to stay here long, so I’ll get to the point. I want to drive into the place with the Jeep and check things out, just in case. The enemy knows about this place.”
“When we get in we can mine road,” Ji-Ho said. “We got. In storage compartment. Claymore mines and vehicle mines.”
“There a back way out of this place?” Tyler asked.
“For four-wheel drive vehicles, yes,” Sid said. “Not for RVs. Not a chance.”
“What are we gonna do there?” James asked. “Why bother, if the enemy knows about this place?”
“I’ve got a lot of ammo stored there,” Sam said, getting out from behind the dinette table. “No fifty cal, I’m afraid, but I’ve got more ammo for the M60s and the forward and rear machine guns on the rig.”
“Wouldn’t the enemy have found them?” James asked.
Sam chuckled. “Not where I hid them. Remember this is California.”
Ji-Ho laughed. “Yes, you right about that.”
“There’s motor homes and trailers there too, right?” Tyler asked.
“There might be,” Sam said. “Depends on what the enemy did before they left. They might have taken them or burned them.”
“We’re liable to see some nasty things there,” Sarah said. “Body parts and such.”
“You don’t think the authorities would have cleaned that up by now?” Kaylee asked.
“Hard to say,” Sam said. “The enemy killed most of the local police. Since there isn’t much out here, who knows what’s happened since then. Maybe nobody took over for them, or maybe we’ve even got squatters living in the park now.”
“What a wonderful thought,” Sarah said.
“Okay, I think you guys ought to stay right here,” Sid said. “I’ll go check it out. Ji-Ho, you still got those walkie-talkies?”
“Yes,” Ji-Ho said. “All charged up.”
“Good, give me one of those and keep the other one on. If it looks good, I’ll call you.”
“I’m going with you,” Sam said.
“I’m going too,” Yvonne said.
“No problem,” Sid said. “Let’s go. You guys keep your eyes open.”
“Okay,” Ji-Ho said. “We do.”
“Maybe we should go too,” James said.
“No,” Tyler said. “If any of our tribe survived in the alternate location, they’ll need every one of us.”
“I agree,” Sid said. “See you soon.” He held the door open for Yvonne and Sam, taking the walkie-talkie out of Ji-Ho’s hand on the way out the door.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Kaylee said.
“About us or them?” Sarah asked.
“Both,” Kaylee said. “Don’t worry, I’m not psychic or anything like that. It’s just nerves.”
James laughed. “Yeah, that’s what Kaitlyn’s good for. She’s got good intuition.”
Kaylee giggled. “I don’t know about that, but she’s a good judge of character. She’s got herself a really good man.”
They watched out the windshield as the Jeep took off down the highway.
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