Bugout! California Part 86 – Laundromat


The three Jeeps rolled down the road into the Williams estate, Sid’s in the lead. The veranda of the big house was full of people, sitting around chatting. Yvonne saw the Jeeps and ran down to meet Sid, embracing him the second he got out.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, sweetheart,” Sid said as they hugged.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” she said. “I was so worried.”

“Good, Ji-Ho and Garrett are both on the veranda. I need to have a quick chat. C’mon.”

“Where’s Sam?” Yvonne asked as they walked towards the house.

Sid chuckled. “Walking back with Erica.”

“Who’s Erica again?”

“Widow,” Sid said. “Beautiful. She’s also the person who trained Kaitlyn to fight.”

“Sounds like a match made in heaven.”

“Pretty much.” They climbed the steps.

“Welcome back,” Ji-Ho said.

“Thanks,” Sid said. He sat down on a chair, Yvonne sitting next to him.

“Where Sam?” Ji-Ho asked.

“Walking back with the tribe,” Sid said. “We got attacked by Islamists while we were at their spot.”

“Crap,” Garrett said. “Lose anybody?”

“No, we beat them like a red-headed stepchild,” Sid said.

Yvonne elbowed him, and he snickered.

“Ed with them?” Garrett asked.

“Yes, he’s the leader,” Sid said.

“I thought that Tyler,” Ji-Ho said.

“No, I’m the war chief,” Tyler said, walking up with James and Ryan. They pulled up chairs.

“I invited the tribe to come here,” Sid said. “Hope that’s okay.”

“Good, I was hoping you did that,” Garrett said. “They’re good people. We could use them on our side, and they’ll be safer with us.”

“We hope,” Ji-Ho said.

Clem walked over with John and Sarah. They pulled up chairs close by to join the conversation.

“Where’s Sam?” John asked.

“On the way, on foot, with the rest of the tribe,” Tyler said.

“How many we talking?” Ji-Ho asked.

“Couple hundred or so,” James said. “About half are good warriors. The rest are young and old.”

“Some of the old are smart as a whip,” Garrett said. “More brain power is valuable.”

“That true,” Ji-Ho said.

“Why are they leaving their hideout?” Clem asked.

“We were attacked by twelve Islamists,” Sid said.

“Oh,” Clem said. “Figures.”

“How soon will they get here?” Sarah asked.

“Probably take them a couple days at least,” Sid said.

“I’d say three or four,” Tyler said.

“Yeah,” James said. “Unless we can start picking them up. It’s possible once they get past those big rocks.”

There was a loud horn blast from the gate. Ji-Ho stood up, grinning ear to ear. “Battle Wagons arrive.” He walked down the steps and headed to the gate to meet them.

“He’s like a kid in a candy store,” Sarah said, shaking her head. Yvonne laughed.

“Seriously, but I’m glad we got them.”

“Yep,” Tyler said.

“Where was the tribe, anyway?” Clem said. “We got worried when you were gone overnight.”

“They were at a ghost town next to a mine,” Sid said. “Nice place.”

“I’ve been there, years ago,” Garrett said. “We modeled parts of Dodge City after that place. I’d love to go back someday.”

“The Islamists burned it after we left,” James said, face grim.

“No, really?” Garrett asked. “Those bastards.”

“Were they following you guys?” Sarah asked.

“They’d be on foot if they try it,” Sid said, “and the tribe is heavily armed.”

“Yeah, there’s some of those folks that the Islamists might not want to mess with,” Ryan said.

“Erica, for example,” Sid said. “She fights like Kaitlyn. Found out that she trained her after we had the dust-up. She did a drop, roll, and shoot maneuver that was beautiful.”

“That’s Erica,” James said.

“They’re lining up,” Garrett said, pointing at the row of coaches forming. “I thought you were only going to get six.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Clem said. “I count twelve.”

“Hats off to Ivan,” John said.

“Wonder what’s in that trailer?” Garrett asked. “Behind the green coach.”

“Probably ammo and equipment,” Sid said. “Might as well go down there and check it out. You guys are okay with the tribe coming here, right?”

“Hell yes,” Garrett said.

“Definitely,” John said, Clem nodding in agreement.

“Thank you for being so kind to my people,” Tyler said.

“Are you kidding?” Sid said. “You guys are like family to us.”

“Yes, I agree,” John said. “You saved us more than once, too.”

“And you saved us as well,” James said. “We are brothers forever.”

The group got up and made their way down to the row of coaches. Ji-Ho was beaming.

“Look, they give original request,” he said. “I surprised but very happy. Very very.”

“Now all we need is a couple of drones,” John said. Sid and Clem snickered.

“Hey, drone do job well,” Ji-Ho said. “Almost take out Saladin.”

“I agree,” John said. “We’re just teasing you.”

“I know,” Ji-Ho said. “Where Kaylee and Trevor?”

“Probably enjoying each other in the first battle wagon,” John said.

“John!” Sarah said.

Yvonne chuckled. “They’re like newlyweds. Good for them.”

“That good,” Ji-Ho said. “Here come. See?”

Trevor and Kaylee trotted over.

“Wow, uncle, how come we got so many?”

“Ivan surprise,” Ji-Ho said. “Nice. You move to one of these. I move back into my original rig. My stuff there.”

“Okay,” Trevor said, “but don’t you want one of the new ones? They’re safer and have more fire power.”

“No, I want my old one,” he said. “It home. Comfortable for me. You more important. World belong to young.”

Kaylee shot a worried glance at Trevor. He nodded.

“Wonder what that was about?” Yvonne whispered to Sid.

“I don’t know,” Sid whispered back. “Maybe Ji-Ho is sick.”

“I hope not,” she said. “He’s our connection to Ivan.”

“Yep,” Sid said.

Ji-Ho climbed into the first coach, with black paint on the sides and front. “Come, let’s check siege mode.”

Kaylee and Trevor climbed the steps.

Seth and Kaitlyn walked over, followed by Angel and Megan.

“Wow,” Seth said. “Look at these.”

The motors in the coach whirred as the shields moved into place. Then two turrets raised from the roof, the mini-gun in back and a smaller turret near the front.

“What’s that again?” Kaitlyn asked.

“That’s an M19,” Sid said. “Automatic grenade launcher.”

“Whoa, dude,” Angel said. “That thing looks bad-ass!”

“Seriously,” John said, looking at it. “Belt fed, see?”

“Where’s the rest of the tribe?” Kaitlyn asked.

“They’re coming on foot,” Tyler said. “Be a few days before they get here.”

“Where’s Sam?” Angel asked.

James snickered. “He’s walking with Erica.”

Kaitlyn’s eyes lit up. “Really? That’s great.”

“Hold your horses,” Sid said. “They aren’t together yet.”

“Emphasis on yet,” Ryan said. “Those two were made for each other, kinda like two other couples I can think of.”

Seth’s face turned red, but he pulled Kaitlyn close. “I hear you’ve been requested to do a job for your chief, Tyler.”

“Yep, as long as that’s what you two want.”

“It’s what we want,” Seth said.

“Yep,” Angel said. “When?”

“Can we wait until the tribe gets here?” Kaitlyn asked. “I want my mom and Erica to be there.”

“Of course,” Seth said.

Ji-Ho came out of the coach, smiling. “What you think?”

“That thing is awesome,” Angel said.

“It safer than old model. Armor underneath and in back to protect engine while under way. Grenade launcher make big difference too. Plus better electronics. Little less headroom in front of coach when turret not out, though. Have to watch head.”

“How we gonna divvy these up?” Seth asked.

“We meet,” Ji-Ho said. “When Sam back with other chief. I will give one to Trevor and Kaylee, though, and take back original.”

“Are these battle-proven yet?” Sid asked.

“No,” Ji-Ho said. “Team in north getting retrofit to match. They see action soon. I get report, tell.”

“Good,” Sid said. “There’s always the unexpected.”

“Yes, true,” Ji-Ho said.


Morgan woke next to Robbie. The bedroom of their battle wagon was comfortable. She felt safe and happy for the moment, but two things were bothering her. The coming battle was one. The other was more important, provided they survived. Her mind was going over ways to discuss that one with Robbie. She got out of bed and went into the salon to turn on the coffee maker. She could hear the muffled sounds of a saw cutting metal in the big warehouse, which, luckily for them, was about seventy yards away from where they were parked.

“Hey,” Robbie said, walking out, scratching his bed-head.

“Wow, you look so debonair,” she said to him as he approached. They embraced and kissed. “Brush your hair.”

He glanced at himself in the reflection of the microwave door, then chuckled. “Okay, that’s bad.” He went into the bathroom and got out his brush.

“Want coffee?” Morgan asked.

“Hell yes,” Robbie said. “I’m still waking up. You kept me awake too long last night.”

She giggled. “You didn’t seem to mind.”

“I didn’t,” he said, walking out. “Better?”

“Yes, thank you,” she said. “We could both use showers.”

“Seriously,” Robbie said, sitting at the dinette. “Glad we have a couple of days to relax before we have to fight again.”

“You and me both,” she said, watching the coffee maker sputter as it finished brewing the first cup. She took it out of the machine and set it in front of Robbie, then put her cup in and changed the pod.

“Thanks,” Robbie said. “Wonder if we get to check out the main part of the winery?”

“I’ll bet they want us to stay out of sight,” Morgan said, grabbing her cup. She sat across from him and took a sip. “Mmm, that’s good.”

“It is,” Robbie said. “You look like you want to tell me something.”

“I do,” she said. “I’m a little nervous about it.”

“Uh oh,” Robbie said. “Everything okay?”

“I’m late,” she said.

He looked at her blankly.

“I might be pregnant, silly,” she said.

“Oh!” he said. “Really? How sure are you?”

“We need to get a test kit,” she said. “I’ve never been pregnant before, so I might be wrong. My schedule stays like clockwork most of the time, though, so this is very unusual.”

“Maybe nerves are messing with your internal clock,” Robbie said.

“I doubt it,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot worse than we’ve seen lately.”

“True,” Robbie said, looking deep in thought.

“What do you think about it?”

He was silent for a moment, Morgan looking more and more nervous.

“Honey, settle down, okay?” he asked. “I see the wheels turning. Nothing would make me happier than having a baby with you. Really.”


“But nothing,” Robbie said. “Would you be willing to keep the baby if we find out you are pregnant?”

“Yes,” she said softly.

“Good, because that would be my choice too. The only thing I’m worried about is providing for you while we’re at war.”

“Providing for me?”

“Keeping you safe and healthy,” Robbie said, “and as stress-free as possible.”

“Well, it could be a lot worse,” she said. “At least I know for sure that its yours.”

“Oh, crap, I didn’t think about that. Those cretins weren’t using protection.”

“Nope,” she said. “I had a period since you rescued us, though. We’re good.”

“Thank God for that,” Robbie said. “We should get married.”

“Do you want that?”

“Yes,” Robbie said. “Hell, I already consider us married. Don’t you?”

“I do,” she said. “It would be nice to make it official, though.”

“Make an honest woman out of you, huh?” Robbie said. “I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have you.”

“I feel the same,” she said.

Robbie got out of his seat.

“Need something?” she asked.

He knelt in front of her, and took her hand. “Morgan, will you be my wife?”

She teared up immediately. “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” he said. “I love you so much. You can tell, can’t you?”

“Yes,” she said softly, “and yes, I’ll marry you.”

He stood, pulling her up into his arms and kissing her tenderly.

She broke the kiss and snickered. “Wow. Morning mouth and coffee.”

“I don’t care,” he said, coming in for another kiss.

“Oh, what the hell,” she said, kissing him hard. “If we keep this up, we’ll end up back there again.”

He picked her up. She squealed.

“What are you doing?” she asked, eyes dancing.

“Taking my woman,” he said, carrying her into the bedroom. They went at each other with passion.

“Whoa,” she said when they were done, laying on her back next to him. “That was intense.”

“It was,” Robbie said, pulling her hand to his face, kissing the back of it. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Likewise,” she said. “You could’ve had me earlier, you know.”

“It wasn’t time yet,” Robbie said.

She looked over at him. “Actually, I think you’re right about that. We probably would’ve developed into a couple, but it would’ve been different.”

There was a knock on the door. “You guys up?”

“Justin,” Robbie whispered. “Hope they haven’t been there long.”

“Oh, crap,” Morgan said, an embarrassed smile on her face.

“Be out in a minute,” Robbie shouted. He and Morgan got dressed, and bolted out into the salon, Robbie going to the door. Katie and Justin were standing outside. “Come on in.”

“Hey, guys,” Katie said. “Sorry if you weren’t up yet.”

“They took our rig in for the retrofit,” Justin said. “They took Gil’s in too, so I suspect they’ll be here in a minute or two.”

“Here they come,” Robbie said, looking past Justin as he came in. “Come on in, folks.”

“Good morning,” Gil said, holding hands with Tisha. She smiled as they came up the steps.

“Have a seat,” Morgan said. “Coffee?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” Gil said.

“Sure,” Katie said.

“Uh oh, what happened?” Tisha asked, eyeing Morgan. “You look like the cat that swallowed the canary.”

Morgan and Robbie shot each other a glance. Robbie shrugged.

“We’re engaged,” Morgan said, face turning red.

Tisha chuckled. “Knocked you up, did he?”

“Tisha!” Gil said.

“No, it’s okay,” Morgan said. “I might be pregnant. Not sure yet.”

“We would’ve done it anyway,” Robbie said.

“Yeah, I could see it coming,” Justin said.

“What about you guys?” Morgan asked.

Justin snickered. “I knew you’d go there.”

“Are you saying you don’t want to marry me?” Katie asked. She shot a grin over at Morgan and Tisha, both of whom cracked up.

“See what you started, man?” Gil asked.

“Seriously, dude,” Justin said.

“Answer the question,” Katie said with false outrage.

“We’ll discuss it in private,” Justin said, twinkle in his eye. Katie stopped, staring at him.

“What?” Justin asked.

“You would, wouldn’t you?” Katie looked him in the eye.

“Like I said, we’ll talk later.”

Tisha cracked up.

Gil laughed. “Hey, what if I asked you?”

Tisha stopped laughing for a second, looking at him, and then started laughing again. “Honey, you’d have a harder time getting away from me than you would getting me to marry you. Trust me.”

“Yeah, I could see that,” Robbie said.

“This conversation is getting too dangerous, man,” Gil said.

Katie felt a buzz, getting a scared look on her face. “Shit, that’s my phone.” She pulled it out of her jeans pocket.

“Who is it?” Justin asked.

“I don’t recognize the number. She answered it, her eyes getting wide. She hit the speaker button.


“Steve? Oh, my God, you’re still alive?”

“Yes, Colleen and I are still alive. How about our group? Everybody survive?”

“Yes,” she said, smiling through tears. “What are you calling from. Not a cellphone, I hope.”

“Nope, a land line at the laundromat.”

“Steve, dude, so glad to hear from you,” Gil said.

“Seriously, man,” Justin said.

“You still where you said you were going?” Robbie asked.

“Yeah,” Steve said. “It’s safe here. Never had the UN or the Islamists around, and there’s a bad-ass sheriff here who watches the place like a hawk. I’m doing deputy work for him part time now.”

“Wow, excellent,” Katie said.

“What are you guys doing?” Steve asked.

“We’re fighting for Ivan,” Justin said.

“Who? You don’t mean the guy on the video?”

“Yeah, that’s who we mean,” Robbie said.

“It’s pretty crazy, dude,” Gil said.

“Robbie just got engaged to Morgan,” Katie said.

“No way,” Steve said. “Colleen and I are married. We have a baby on the way, too.”

“You’re kidding,” Katie said. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Steve said. “Wish I was there with you guys.”

“Stay where you are, if you’re safe,” Robbie said. “We’re in danger all the time. You don’t want that.”

“Maybe you guys should come up here.”

“Eventually we might,” Justin said. “When the work is done.”

“You and Katie are still together?” Steve asked.

“Yes, we are,” Katie said. “Gil’s got a girlfriend too.”

“Tisha,” Gil said.

“Hi,” Tisha said.

“Good for you, man,” Steve said.

“I’m a happy camper,” Gil said.

“Where are you now?” Steve asked.

“We’d better not say over the phone,” Robbie said.

“Yeah, better not to go there,” Katie said. “We’ll have lots of crazy stories for you when we get through this.”

“We all know how to fight now,” Morgan said. “Things are different. If you’ve avoided that, you’re lucky.”

“How come you haven’t called before now?” Katie asked.

“Our cabin has no cell coverage,” Steve said. “I was sitting in here doing laundry when I saw the phone.”

“You’re doing the laundry, huh,” Gil asked.

“Colleen is at work,” Steve said. “She has a full-time job now. I’m only working part time, so I’ve been doing things like laundry and housework.”

Gil and Justin glanced at each other, grinning, ready to pounce.

“No, guys,” Robbie said. “This is cool.”

“Oh, they were gonna mess with me, eh?” Steve asked. “Some things never change. Sorry, guys, but I don’t care. I love her so much. We have a nice life.”

“I know the feeling,” Robbie said.

“So does Gil,” Tisha said.

“Okay, okay, so do I,” Gil said.

“Me too,” Justin said. “I hope we can all get together again.”

“We will,” Steve said. “Uh oh, got to go. The Sheriff is calling me.”

“Take care, brother,” Katie said. “I love you.”

“Love you too, sis.”

The call ended.

“Wow, didn’t expect that,” Katie said.

“I figured he didn’t make it,” Robbie said. “Glad I was wrong.”

“I knew he was alive,” Katie said. “In my heart. I was afraid he was captive or something, though.”

“They don’t tend to keep men alive,” Justin said. “You gonna tell him everything?”

“I don’t know,” Katie said. “Do you guys think we’ll survive?”

Everybody was silent for a moment.

“Geez, are we in worse trouble than I thought?”

“Oh, I think we’ll make it,” Robbie said, “but there’s a lot we’re gonna go through to get there.”

Morgan leaned into him, on the verge of tears. The others sat silently.

To be continued…


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Copyright Robert Boren 2017


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