Bugout! California Part 67 – Garrett’s Posse


“There’s the access road,” Sam said. Sid nodded and turned the Jeep onto it, driving past the broken gate in the darkness.

“I’ll stop before the last bend,” Sid said. “You okay, honey?”

Yvonne looked at him. “I’m scared to death. Guess it shows.”

“Check your rifle,” Sam said. “That always helps me.”

“I’m not afraid of finding the enemy here,” Yvonne said. “There’s no reason for them to be here. I’m afraid of seeing my friend’s heads on sticks.”

“Maybe that’s been cleaned up by now,” Sid said.

“That’s the least of our worries,” Sam said as he checked his M60.

“Where’s the ammo?” Sid asked. “Hidden in your office?”

“Nope,” Sam said. “It’s easier to show you than to tell you.”

“Look, see the vehicle?” Yvonne asked.

“Shit, that’s a Gaz Tigr,” Sid said. “It’s blown up.”

“There was a battle,” Sam said. “Good. I hope our people took out a bunch of these bastards.”

Yvonne started to cry softly.

“I should’ve left you with the others,” Sid said.

“No way was that happening,” she said. “I’ll be okay. This was our home. It’s gonna be hard.”

“Well don’t worry about that now,” Sam said. “Stay sharp just in case. I suggest we park this Jeep back by the rear, so we can escape if somebody’s been monitoring the camera.”

“I can get in so the camera doesn’t see us,” Sid said.

“Yeah, I was gonna suggest that,” Sam said.

They went around the first bend, then the second. There was another broken vehicle in the road, almost blocking access.

“Wow, that’s a troop transport,” Sam said as they squeezed around it. “If we come in here with the motor home, we’ll have to get that thing off the road.”

“Your bulldozer is still there, I hope,” Sid said.

“Who knows? The whole damn place might be burned to the ground, you know.”

“There’s the last bend,” Yvonne said.

Sid nodded as he pulled over. “Dark night.”

“That’s probably in our favor,” Yvonne said.

“If there’s anybody here, they’ve probably already heard us,” Sam said. “Or seen the headlights. They’ll have somebody on the ridge.”

“Nobody’s here,” Sid said. “I can feel it. The place is dead.”

“Injuns,” Sam cracked. He chuckled.

“No jokes, paleface,” Sid whispered.

“How can you guys joke?” Yvonne asked, trembling as she grabbed the door handle.

“Breaks the tension,” Sam said. He waited until Sid got out, and then pushed the driver’s seat forward and squeezed through.

They closed the doors as silently as they could.

“I loved this place so much,” Sam said. “So did Conn…”

“Stop,” Sid said. “Later, if the place is clear.”

“Sorry, I’ll keep it together,” Sam whispered.

They rounded the bend, hugging the cliff on the right side of the road.

“Well, the office and clubhouse are still there,” Yvonne whispered.

“There’s lights on up ahead,” Sam whispered.

They got to the gate. The lights were coming from several of the coaches, one of them with its door hanging open.

“Look, no more heads,” Yvonne said. “Somebody’s been here since the battle and cleaned things up.”

“The attack happened at night,” Sid whispered. “Nobody bothered to turn off the lights in the coaches.”

“There’s a light on in the clubhouse too,” Sam said. “See it? It’s the one in the kitchen.”

“Dead Islamist,” Sid said, pointing.

“Why wouldn’t they have taken the body with them?” Yvonne asked.

“Good question,” Sam said. “Maybe our people killed most of the attackers.”

“Maybe,” Sid said. “There were some tough people here.”

“Yep,” Sam said. “I know.”

“Where to first?” Yvonne asked.

“Let’s take a quick look around, and then move the Jeep to the back,” Sid said.

“Okay,” Yvonne said. “Should we split up?”

“You two stay together,” Sam said. “I’m gonna go check the office and the clubhouse.”

Sid nodded and walked towards the first row of coaches with Yvonne. They went into the coach with the door hanging open.

“Should we turn off the lights?” Yvonne asked.

“No, leave them on, and leave the door open,” Sid whispered. “We don’t want the place to look different in the video feed.”

“Oh,” Yvonne said as she climbed in. “Oh, good, no bodies in here. We’ve had squirrels eating leftover food on the counter, though. Look.”

“They were surprised at dinner time.”

“Looks that way,” Yvonne said. “There’s a .45 under the dinette. I’ll grab it.”

“Good,” Sid said. “This place is clear. Let’s keep moving.”

They went to the other coaches, checking each of them, leaving them undisturbed.

“If the place got cleaned up, why’d the lights get left on?” Yvonne asked.

“Good question,” Sid said. “One more coach to look at.”

“They all look okay,” Yvonne said. “To drive, that is.”

“True, but some of them haven’t left this park for years. Wouldn’t trust the tires.”

They went into the last coach, finding the same thing as they did in the others. Evidence of surprise. No damage. Rotting food on the counter. Musty smell. Bad food in the fridge.

“Let’s go find Sam,” Sid said.

They walked back towards the front of the park.

“Hey,” Yvonne whispered, pointing. “That main camera up there is moving. It’s tracking us.”

“Dammit,” Sid said. “C’mon, let’s get out of range.” They ran in a crouch towards the office. Sam was on the porch, leaning against the railing.

“Didn’t find anybody, did you?” Sam asked.

“That camera was moving around,” Yvonne said, out of breath. “Tracking us.”

“Yeah, man,” Sid said. “We’d better get the hell out of here.”

“We don’t need to leave,” Sam said.

“What are you talking about?” Sid asked.

“This place is being used as a trap,” Sam said. “There’s a couple hundred dead Islamists and another fifty dead UN Peacekeepers in the clubhouse. Looks like a lot of them were tortured to death. The Islamists are stacked like cord wood and covered in pig blood, and there’s several pig carcasses laying on the pile with them.”

“What?” Yvonne asked, starting to walk towards the clubhouse veranda.

“I wouldn’t go in there,” Sam said. “It’s nasty, and it stinks. Luckily the doors and windows were closed, or we’d smell them out here.”

“Who do you think did this? Regular Army?”

Sam chuckled. “Only if the army went back to Colt Single Action Army revolvers. Found quite a bit of 45 Long Colt brass on the floor in there. Lot of 30-30 brass too, and some 44-40. Even some 45-70.”

Sid smiled. “You know who this is, don’t you?”

“Garrett,” Sam said. “Looks like they took their hobby to a new level.”

“You mean those crazy western nuts that live off Campbell Ranch Road?” Yvonne asked.

“Yeah,” Sid said. “You think they’re working that camera out there?”

“Could be either them or the enemy,” Sam said.

“Well, if it’s the enemy, they’ll be here soon,” Yvonne said.

“I got a phone number for Garrett,” Sam said. “It’s not in my cellphone, though. I was just about to go check for it in the office. Wanted to head you guys off before you went into that clubhouse.”

“What if the enemy shows up?” Yvonne asked.

“We’ll give them the welcome they deserve,” Sam said. “You might want to move the Jeep back to the rear of the park, just in case.”

“You don’t look very nervous about this,” Sid said.

“Some of those bodies have only been there a day or two,” Sam said. “I found horse tracks around the back of the clubhouse too. If the Islamists show up here, we’re probably gonna get some help.”

“How many people does Garrett have?” Yvonne asked.

“Hard to say,” Sam said. “Judging by the carnage in there, he must have a fairly strong group.”

“You did a talk for them once, didn’t you?” Sid asked.

“Yeah, about Special Forces Tactics. These guys are good. They didn’t need much help from me.”

“How many people were there?” Yvonne asked.

“I don’t know…maybe fifty or sixty.”

“I’ll go move the Jeep,” Sid said, trotting back towards the gate.

“Wait for me,” Yvonne said, running after him.

“You buying this?” she asked when they got to the Jeep.

“What’s to buy? Nobody else would use those kinds of guns.”

They got into the Jeep and Sid drove them through the gate.

“But why would they be doing this?” Yvonne asked. “It’s not like they spent much time with us.”

“Remember those two CHP officers? Officer Ryan and Officer Patrick?”

“Yeah,” Yvonne said. “Of course. Their heads were on spikes, remember?”

“They were both members of this group,” Sid said. “Glad I never pissed these guys off.”

“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t know that.”

Sid parked the Jeep by the trail leading into the back country. “This ought to be good enough. I doubt we’ll have to flee, though.”

“I hope you’re right,” Yvonne said as they got out. Sam was in the office when they got back to the front of the park. They went inside.

“Find it?” Sid asked.

“Yeah,” Sam said, holding up a slip of paper. “Was just waiting for you guys to get back. I’ll call him now.”

“I’m going to watch out these windows,” Yvonne said.

Sam punched the number into his cellphone, then hit the speaker button. Sid got close, and they listened to it ring. There was a click.

“Garrett,” a gruff voice said.

“Hey, Garrett, it’s Sam.”

There was silence on the line for a moment.

“You’re alive.”

“Yeah, Garrett, I’m alive. Sid’s right here next to me, and his wife is in the room with us.”

“Yvonne,” Garrett said. “Hi, Sid.”

“Hey, Garrett, how are you?”

“I’m good,” Garrett said. “Where are you guys?”

“We’re at my park,” Sam said.

There was silence on the line for a moment.

“You still there?” Sid asked.

“You guys shouldn’t be there. You see the big camera panning around?”

“Yeah,” Sid said.

“Crap, then they’ll be coming, I reckon. I got to go make a few phone calls.”

“We saw your handiwork,” Sam said. “Impressive.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Garrett said.

Sam chuckled. “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. You might want to pick up your brass, though. Not too many people are using old black powder rounds anymore.”

“Well, you always were the sharpest guy in the room,” Garrett said. “Listen, some of our Islamic friends are headed your way. I’d take up positions around the clubhouse, but not too close.”

“Why?” Sam asked.

“As soon as these cretins show up, they start walking around with their cellphones, and they always end up at the clubhouse. They never look anywhere else. It’s like they can see their dead with those things.”

“How do you guys know when they arrive?” Sam asked.

“We have some folks close by, who’ve been keeping watch,” Garrett said. “I got a couple of text messages. Probably them. I was asleep for a while.”

“Okay, we’ll let you go and get out of sight,” Sam said. “We know how to avoid the camera.”

“Good, see you soon,” Garrett said. The call ended.

“I’ll be damned,” Sid said.

“Let’s get out of here, you two.”

Sid and Yvonne followed Sam out the door, guns in hand, and snuck around the camera, getting into the bushes about forty yards away from the clubhouse.

“Wonder how long they’ll be?” Yvonne whispered.

“Who, the enemy or Garrett’s folks?” Sid asked.

“The enemy,” she whispered.

“I hear vehicles,” Sam said. “Listen.”

“You’ve got better ears than Yvonne does, and that’s saying something,” Sid said.

“I hear it now. You think that’s the enemy?” Yvonne asked.

“I’m certain of it,” Sam said.

“Why?” Yvonne asked.

“Garrett’s men will come on horseback. They’re probably already here.”

“Not Garrett,” Yvonne said.

“No, the force they keep here all the time,” Sam said. “Saw the hoof prints.”

“Here they come,” Sid said. “Another Gaz Tigr, and a truck. Shit, how many men do they have?”

“Don’t think we can take them?” Sam asked.

“Three of us and a few old-west reenactors?” Yvonne asked.

“They’re getting out,” Sam said. “Don’t fire. Let’s see what they do.”

“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing,” Sid said.

The Islamists made their way through the gate, looking around nervously. Then one of them got out front, following his cellphone like a divining rod.

“Wow, he’s going right towards the clubhouse all right,” Sid whispered, hands sweating around his rifle.

The lead man got to the veranda and went to a window, looking in. Then he shouted something in Arabic, the others rushing to the windows. Several men on horseback bounded out from behind the clubhouse, and about fifteen more came up from the back end of the park, firing their cap and ball pistols, dropping several Islamists as smoke billowed around them.

“Hands up!” shouted one of the men, holding an 1873 model Winchester in full western garb. The Islamists turned and dropped their weapons as the rest of the mounted men approached.

“Holy crap, what century is this?” Yvonne asked.

Some of the other western folks got off their horses, collected weapons, and sat the Islamists down along the veranda.

“These assholes never learn,” said one of them. The Islamist he was next to looked up at him, and said John Wayne fairy in a perfect English accent, which got him a cowboy-booted kick in the face. The Cowboys hooted and hollered. One of the Islamists got up and tried to run. The man with the 1873 Winchester dropped him, smoke billowing around his rifle. Then he leaned over on his horse and spit chewing tobacco onto the ground.

There was the sound of many horses coming up the main road, and Garrett appeared with a large group of men. The Islamists stared at them in terror.

“Hey, Sam, where are you guys?” Garrett shouted.

“Over here,” Sam said. “Hold your fire. I don’t think I want to mess with you guys!”

A few of the men chuckled as Sam, Yvonne, and Sid stood up.

“You know what to do with these creeps,” Garrett said. He got off his horse and walked to the bushes where they were.

One of the Islamists bolted for the road. Garrett whirled around, drew his pistol in a flash and hit the guy right between the shoulder blades, black smoke flooding around his gun.

“You’re really using black powder?” Sid asked.

“Tried to buy ammo or smokeless powder since martial law started up?” Garrett asked, striding towards them, his leggings and spurs making noise as he went.

“I’d think finding a place to buy black powder would be even tougher,” Sam said, shaking Garrett’s hand.

“Who said anything about buy? We can make this stuff. Have to be careful, though. Easy to blow yourselves up with this crap, and it’s illegal to have as much in possession as we do.”

“That’s a Colt Single Action Army,” Sid said, looking closer at Garrett’s pistol. “Your pals have old cap and ball revolvers.”

“Yeah, those cap and ball pistols have a problem I can’t get used to. Once you’re out of ammo, you’re out for too long. That’s why everybody carried two. The advantage to them is that they don’t require brass. Just lead, powder, and primers.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Sid asked, shaking Garrett’s hand. “You guys are making your own black powder and loading your own bullets for these museum pieces you’re carrying?”

Garrett chuckled. “We can make everything except the brass, and that’s still available all over the place. Nobody thought to put black powder cartridge cases under any kind of control. You can order them over the internet.”

“Yeah, but you still got to fire them out of those old weapons,” Yvonne said.

“Hey, we’ve all practiced with these a lot more than we have with modern firearms,” Garrett said.

A shriek came from inside the clubhouse, and then the sickening sound of bones breaking.

“What are you doing to them in there?” Yvonne asked.

“Less than they do to us,” Garrett said. “Trust me. They took some of our women.”

“From town?” Sid asked.

“Yep,” Garrett said, grim look on his face. “I’d rather not say more than that.”

More screams came out of the clubhouse, and a couple of pistol shots went off.

“You guys weren’t thinking about moving back in here, I hope,” Garrett said. “It’s not safe. It’s also a valuable way to lower their population.”

“I need to pick up some ammo I stashed here, and then we’ll be on our way,” Sam said. “As far as I’m concerned, you guys can keep this operation going. I’ll take the place back after the war.”

“You might have to tear down that clubhouse and rebuild,” Garrett said. “You’ll never get that stench out.”

“Yeah,” Sam said.

“What happened to the rest of the group?” Garrett said. “Anybody left?”

“Clem, John, and Sarah,” Yvonne said. “That’s about it.”

“Where’s your wife?” Garrett asked.

Sam started to speak but broke into tears.

“She was killed in a battle,” Yvonne said softly.

“Oh no,” Garrett said. “I’m so sorry. She was a great lady.”

“Thanks,” Sam said, trying to compose himself.

“There any safe places to hide out around here?” Sid asked.

“Yeah, Dulzura and the surrounding area are safe now. We patrol it constantly. The Islamists and the UN know not to show up.”

“Who’s patrolling it?”

“Men like you see down there,” Garrett said. “We’ve expanded our ranks. We’ve got seven hundred now, and we’re growing. People are fed up. They’re taking this region back. This park is the only place they attack around here anymore, and none of them survive.”

“If somebody gets away, you’re liable to have more enemy fighters here than you can handle,” Sam said.

“Uhhh, they can already see some, remember?” Yvonne said. “The camera.”

“Yeah, we use that camera to show ourselves when we haven’t had any action for a while. They used to send people here automatically after each group disappeared. Love to know what they’re thinking. Maybe they think it’s ghosts or demons killing their folks.”

“They aren’t gonna like that pig blood situation in there,” Sam said. “But still, you guys could get caught with your pants down in this place.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Sid said. “You can take horses back into these canyons and be very hard to catch, and there’s entrances to that kind of country in almost every direction from this park.”

“Yep, this place is perfect for what we’re doing,” Garrett said. “We’d be in trouble if they had choppers, but since this is so close to San Diego, they don’t dare.”

“We’ve got a large motor home and several vehicles. Fourteen people, plus another four not too far away,” Yvonne said. “Any suggestions for a safe haven in town?”

“Go to the old Williams place,” Garrett said. “There’s a big house plus a setup for more than one RV. There’s another coach there too.”

“Think that crotchety old man will give us the time of day?” Sid asked.

Garrett got a grim look on his face.

“Uh oh, what happened?” Sid asked.

“He was one of the first casualties after the UN and their heathen friends rolled into town. They tried to take his land over as a base. He fought them. Lost, of course. They wiped out his whole family and several friends.”

“Dammit,” Sid said. “Sorry for the disrespect.”

“Not a problem, he was a crotchety old man. None of us liked him much. You really only got eighteen people?”

“Yeah,” Sid said. “Had quite a few more just hours ago. We were fighting with the Barona Tribe. Most of them got killed in the last battle, along with some townspeople from Julian and Wynola. Long story. We’ll tell you about it over some whiskey sometime.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Garrett said.

Sam’s phone buzzed. “Crap, they’re wondering what we’re doing,” he said, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “Ji-Ho. Sorry. We’re okay, but we can’t come here. I’ll get the ammo and we’ll be back soon. We have a place to go.”

Sam put his phone away.

“They pissed?” Sid asked.

“No, just worried,” Sam said. “We best be going. The William’s place is on Dutchman Canyon Road, right?”

“Yep, you can’t miss it,” Garrett said.

“Where’s the ammo?” Sid asked.

“Back end of the park,” Sam said.

“Perfect, that’s where we parked the Jeep,” Yvonne said.

To be continued…


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