Shelly watched the dark, scary road unfolding before the coach, glancing at Jules every few minutes, his concentration a comfort to her. When he glanced back at her, she looked away quickly. Stop that.
“How you do?” Jules asked. “Tired?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “You handle this coach well.”
“Others too,” Jules said. “I took lead to keep speed down. Not because good driver.”
“At least we’re next to the hillside going this direction, not that cliff. There’s not even a guard rail in some spots.”
Jules snickered. “It’s dark. That better, can’t see. That cliff is steep.”
“We’ve been on the road for almost an hour,” Shelly said. “How much further?”
“Two hour more,” he said.
“We’re going past Los Gatos, then?”
“No, we go roundabout way to get to Highway 17 corridor. Enemy base in industrial complex. Control for San Jose area and roads into San Francisco controlled by base. We ruin, then move up Highway 17, back to 101. Blow up Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges. Cut link between enemy bases.”
“What about San Francisco?” Shelly asked.
“Leadership elites of UN running things. We take out, with help from Ivan’s people. Blown bridges keep reinforcements from coming.”
Shelly sat quietly for a moment, thinking as she watched the road. “This took a lot of time to plan, didn’t it?”
“Yes,” Jules said. “Not agree totally with boss, but have to tow line, no?”
“What don’t you agree with?”
“UN slugs escape San Francisco by boat. Wait, see.”
“Oh,” she said. “Maybe Ivan has a plan to stop them.”
“Maybe yes,” Jules said. “I asked. He not say.”
“In case we get captured,” Shelly said, looking at him. He looked at her and shook his head yes.
“Don’t worry, we make it. Go on with lives. Maybe I win you over, no? We live happily ever after.” He looked at her again.
She shook her head. “Not now, Jules. Watch the road.”
He chuckled. “Not now better than no.”
“Oh, brother,” she said, a brief smile coming. She lost it before he looked over again. “How long are we staying in the next place? Just overnight?”
“Two or three night.”
“Why so long?” Shelly asked.
“Retrofit for coaches,” Jules said. “Boss made design team hurry and fabricate.”
“What are they doing?”
“Armor plate to cover engine compartment while driving, and armor plate on bottom of rig too.”
“Would that have saved the purple rig? Jordan’s?”
“Ivan think absolute yes. I say maybe.”
“Why only maybe?” Shelly asked.
“Engine harder to disable. That might have saved. Armor on bottom maybe not. Depends on size of charge, type too.”
“But it’s still worth it, right?” she asked.
“Yes,” Jules said. “Best part is second turret.”
“They’re putting another mini gun on?”
“No, M19 grenade launcher,” Jules said. “Automatic. Make ammo last much longer.”
“You’re joking,” she said.
“No, not,” Jules said. “Gimbal and sight design came from Texas. Cutting edge, 3D printed parts. Genius, no?”
“How fast does it fire? Is it automatic like a machine gun?”
Jules chuckled. “No, fire as fast as trigger pulled, like semi-auto rifle. Use 48 round belt.”
“Boy, your eyes light up talking about this,” Shelly said.
“New toy,” Jules said, “but we must remember one thing.”
“Not indestructible,” Jules said. “We must not get over-confident, like Americans with B-17, during war.”
“Before my time,” Shelly said. “Before yours?” She grinned at him when he looked over.
“Please, ten years older, maybe. No more.”
“Than me or the war?” Shelly asked.
Jules glanced at her again, delight in his eyes. “You. What, you think I grandpa?”
“I’m just teasing you,” she said. “That’s okay, isn’t it?”
“Very much okay,” Jules said. “There soda left in fridge?”
“Yes, want one?”
“I like,” he said.
“Okay,” Shelly said, getting up. She went to the back to get them, hearing something from the bedroom, flushing when she realized it was Dana. She headed back to the front in a hurry, soda cans in hand.
“Something wrong?” Jules asked, looking at her face as she came up.
“My timing,” she said as she put the cans into the cup holders.
“Never mind,” Shelly said.
“No, what?” Jules asked.
“Can’t you guess?”
He looked at her blankly. She sighed.
“Dana finally got her wish,” she said, feeling her face turning red.
“Oh, you hear?” Jules asked, smiling. “Good. Sparky need.”
“I thought he was avoiding her.”
“Afraid,” Jules said. “Too much afraid.”
“Of what? Commitment?”
“He not say, but I know.”
“Well?” Shelly asked.
“She’s traumatized,” Jules said. “He knows this. He doesn’t want to make things worse. Afraid of that.”
“Oh,” she said. “Maybe he’s right. Maybe all of us are in that boat.”
“Some, yes,” Jules said.
“You pursue me,” Shelly said. “Doesn’t it worry you?”
“Not after I know.”
“Know?” Shelly asked. “You think you know me? We’ve only just met.”
“Yes, I know. Judge people well. Pick up feelings. You hurt but healing fast. You take charge of self. Stronger every day. I see. I hire you. You understand, no?”
She shook head. “I’m not as strong as you think.”
“Yes, are. You take charge. Brave, confident, capable. That’s what I like. That’s why I chase.”
“Oh, baloney,” she said, smirking at him.
“You wanted me the moment you laid eyes on me,” Shelly said. “You like how I look.”
Jules chuckled. “You pretty, sure. I like. My type. Others in group also beautiful. Some others my type too.”
“Then why didn’t you go after them?”
“I see who you are fast,” Jules said. “Beyond beauty. That why.”
“If I were you, I’d reserve judgement on me for a while,” Shelly said. “Seriously.”
“We see,” Jules said. “I’m glad Dana and Sparky together. Happy for them.”
“Don’t say anything,” Shelly whispered. “Please.”
“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t do,” Jules said. “Give me credit.”
“Sorry, you’re right,” she said. “Want me to open that soda? Kinda hard when you’re driving.”
“Sure, please,” Jules said. She reached over for it, glancing up at him. His eyes were misty. She opened the can and put it back down, then focused on the road, her mind racing through everything.
“This road is getting more narrow,” Shelly said. “Maybe we should slow down a little.”
“Yes,” Jules said, dropping about five miles per hour. “Better?”
“Yes,” she said. “You’ve been down this road before.”
“I’ve been to the hideout before,” Jules said.
“Oh,” she said. “Is it like a safe house?”
Jules chuckled. “No.”
“Then what is it?” Shelly asked.
“It’s winery,” he said. “Very nice one. We’ll enjoy.”
“Won’t there be other people around to see us?”
“No,” he said. “You see.”
They rode for a few minutes silently, Shelly thinking, brow furrowed.
“Jules, they aren’t going to take all of the coaches out of service at the same time, are they?”
Jules chuckled. “You see, mind always working. No, we do two at a time. Rest will be on duty where they can fend off attack. Good, no?”
“Good,” she said. “Sorry, that was a dumb question.”
“Not dumb question at all,” Jules said. “They wanted to do them all at once. I had to say no. If I leave you in charge, you think of and say no too. See why I hire?”
She looked at him and smiled. “Okay, I get your point. My mind’s always crunching, and I look for things that might go wrong. Used to drive my parents crazy, but it’s helped me at work. It’s one of the most important tasks of a Project Manager or a Producer.”
Jules didn’t say anything, just looked over at her and smiled. She looked out the windshield again, and saw lights up ahead, set up on the road. Hand-held lights were pointing down the cliff, shining around
“Jules! Look!” she cried. He saw it, slowing the coach. “Text the others.”
She picked up her phone, tapping frantically on the screen.
“Not sure that roadblock,” Jules said. “I stop after that next curve ahead, where we can see again. We look with binoculars.”
“I’ll go back and get them,” she said. “They’re in the cupboard under the TV, right?”
“Yes,” Jules said.
The road curved inward, putting them out of sight of the lights. Then they curved back outward where they could see them again. Jules slowed to a stop, Shelly looking with the binoculars.
“I think you’re right, that isn’t a roadblock. Somebody crashed or something. Here.” She handed the binoculars to him.
“Yes, see. We can’t drive through there. People notice caravan and talk.”
“What do we do?” Shelly asked.
“See if there road to turn right. Properties back here. Maybe place to pull over. Look at phone GPS. I go slowly forward.”
“Okay,” she said.
The bedroom door opened, Sparky and Dana coming out.
“What’s up?” Sparky asked. “Felt us stop.”
“Something on road ahead,” Jules said. “Lights. People searching. Maybe car went off cliff.”
“What are we gonna do?” Dana asked. “Driving all these rigs through might attract too much attention.”
“That’s what Jules is thinking,” Shelly said, still looking at her screen. “We’re looking for a place to turn off until that blows over.”
“We’ll be lucky if we can find a road where we can turn around,” Sparky said.
“Have faith, my friend,” Jules said.
“There’s a road after the next curve,” Shelly said. “Looks like meadows on either side of the road, and a house at the end. Can’t guarantee that we can turn around.”
“Might be somebody at the house too,” Sparky said.
“Let’s try,” Jules said. “Text others to stay on road. Turn on blinkers.”
Shelly nodded and wrote the text. They went around the corner and saw the road. Jules turned down it, then slammed on the brakes.
“What’s wrong?” Sparky asked.
“Chain across driveway,” Jules said. “Go open, Sparky.”
He nodded to Jules and went out the door, Dana following. Jules and Shelly watched as they shined their phone lights at it. Sparky rushed back inside.
“It’s padlocked,” he said. “Got something that we can break it with?”
“Gun,” Jules said
“No, they’ll hear that up ahead,” Shelly said.
“You right,” Jules said. “Tool box in back compartment. I don’t know what’s in.”
“I’ll look. Keys?”
Jules took the keys out of the ignition and tossed them to Sparky. He left, Dana following him to the back of the coach.
“And things were going so well,” Shelly said. She looked at Jules, and both of them laughed.
“Look at us,” Jules said.
Sparky and Dana ran back to the front of the coach, Dana holding a big flashlight, Sparky holding bolt cutters.
“Looks like Ivan knew what to put in the tool box, eh?” Jules said.
“Yep,” Shelly said. They watched Sparky make short work of the chain. Then he turned and gave a thumb up as Dana pulled the chain over to one side of the road. They stashed the tool and flashlight, then rushed back inside.
“Okay, boss, you’re good to go. Hope we don’t get stuck.”
Jules chuckled. “Me too.” He drove forward, looking to both sides with the others.
“Well, it’s big enough and flat enough,” Dana said.
“As long as it’s not too soft,” Sparky said. “This beast is heavy.”
“Yes, very heavy,” Jules said. “House dark. Probably vacation place for rich San Francisco yuppies.”
“I can barely see the house,” Dana said. “So dark back here.”
“Dark good,” Jules said. He turned from the road onto the meadow. “It feel good, but I pull around and face towards road.”
“Yeah,” Shelly said. “Good idea.”
Jules made the turn, the coach moving easy enough, then shut down the engine and lights. “Text others to come in.”
“Already on it,” Shelly said as she tapped the screen.
“I’m going out to take a look with that flashlight,” Sparky said. “We don’t want anybody driving on something they shouldn’t.”
“Check around our tires first,” Jules said.
Sparky nodded, then went out the door, Dana right behind him.
“She stick like glue to him,” Jules said.
“Sparky doesn’t seem to mind, though, does he?” Shelly asked.
“He give in,” Jules said. “She good woman. Glad.”
Shelly looked at him. “I know what you’re thinking. You have to have patience with me.”
“This I know,” Jules said. “Look, here come other coaches.”
They watched as they all came in, some backing off the road onto the meadow, some driving on and turning like Jules did. Sparky and Dana came back in the coach.
“We lucked out,” Sparky said. “The ground is fine, and pretty clear of things that might damage the tires.”
“That good,” Jules said. “Thanks. I go talk to others.”
“I’ll go too,” Sparky said.
“Maybe I’ll stay in here with Dana,” Shelly said. “If something happens, I’ll get us into siege mode.”
“Yes, do,” Jules said. “Thanks.”
The two men left the rig.
“That must have been scary to see from the road,” Dana said.
“Sorry we woke you up.”
Dana chuckled. “We weren’t sleeping.”
Dana looked at her, smiling. “I’m surprised you didn’t hear us. He got me going good.”
“So you’re happy?” Shelly asked.
“Oh, God yes,” Dana said. “I’m already falling in love with him.”
“I figured something happened,” Shelly said. “You look different when you’re together now. The body language is completely different.”
“What about you and Jules? You seem a lot chummier than you did before.”
“Nothing’s going on, but I am getting to like him,” Shelly said. “He’s a good boss. He trusts me. Has faith in me. That’s worth a lot.”
“But what about romantically?”
Shelly sighed. “He wants me. Badly. I could see myself going in that direction, but it scares me to death.”
“Why?” Dana asked.
“What are we going to do when the war is over?” Shelly asked. “We’re so different. I’m not going to go work for Ivan’s criminal syndicate, and that is Jules’s job.”
“Oh,” Dana said. “Maybe I’ll have the same problem with Sparky, although all he ever did for Ivan is run the card club. I have no problem with that. It’s legal.”
“It’s semi-legal,” Shelly said.
“What do you mean?”
“I’d bet money that it’s being used to launder money from some of Ivan’s other businesses.”
“Oh,” Dana said. “Didn’t think about that.”
“He’s a good man, over all,” Shelly said. “I know he’s not in as deep with Ivan as Jules is.”
“What if you fall for him?” Dana asked. “Will you stop yourself from being with him because of this?”
Shelly thought about it for a moment. “If I fell for him, and that’s a big if, we’d have to work something out.”
“You’d want him to quit,” Dana said.
“I don’t know. Maybe. Frankly, I don’t even know if Jules is a US Citizen.”
Dana chuckled. “Sparky told me Ivan the Butcher grew up in Torrance.”
Shelly laughed. “You’re kidding.”
“That’s what I said to Sparky, but he said it’s true.”
“Look at us,” Shelly said. “Involved with mobsters and shooting bad guys. Who’d have thought.”
“I didn’t think we’d get out of captivity alive,” Dana said, starting to tremble. Shelly looked at her, eyes tearing up. They hugged each other, crying harder.
“Oh, geez,” Shelly said. “It’s right below the surface, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but when I’m with Sparky it’s further back.”
“Maybe that’s a good reason to be with him, then,” Shelly said.
“Maybe it’s a good reason for you, too.”
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 2017