Bugout! California Part 91 – On the Ridge

Ji-Ho got off the call with Jules, heart pounding in his chest. He was getting a little weaker every day. His hands trembled as he sent the text. He got replies right away from most of the people at the Williams Estate, and could hear the whir of motors as the coaches went into siege mode in their new locations around the property.

“Tribe out of cell range,” he muttered to himself, but then there was a ding. Sid replied, thanking him, and saying he’d spread the word. He and the others in Jeeps had their walkie-talkies on. Ji-Ho smiled, then put his own coach into siege mode. “Hope Garrett’s men in place.”

He got into the driver’s seat and brought the sight in front of his face, scanning the area with it. It was quiet. No movement at all. Then he heard the sound of horses, and grinned. Garrett’s men. He turned the sight in the direction of the sound, seeing a handful of mounted men ride up to the front of the house. He left the coach to meet them.

“Garrett,” Ji-Ho said. “You got text?”

“Felt it buzz, but haven’t checked yet,” he said as he got off his horse. The others stayed mounted, their eyes darting around nervously. “What’s up?”

“Heard from Ivan through contact named Jules. Three hundred men massing in Dulzura. Two hundred following tribe.”

“Just as we thought,” Garrett said, pulling his Winchester out of the scabbard as he walked over. “Pretty sure about where the ones in Dulzura are. We have some people watching them now. They’re hiding their numbers pretty well, though. They’ve only seen about fifteen men around.”

“Maybe not there with fifteen.”

“We’ll find out soon enough, I reckon,” Garrett said. “Might be better to go make an assault instead of waiting for them to come here. They might just get close and start lobbing mortar rounds. That wouldn’t be good.”

“How about men going to tribe?” Ji-Ho asked.

“They’re at least half way there,” Garrett said.

“Good. Where enemy location? Maybe we take a little drive with battle wagons.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Garrett said. “They’re in a compound between Highway 94 and Marron Valley Road. Used to be a church retreat. We can probably park on those two roads and blast them, but we’ll need to move if they pull out the mortars. My men are on their way to Dulzura now, on horseback. I’m sending four hundred men in there.”

Sound good, but you look worried,” Ji-Ho said.

“They’re well equipped. Better than usual.”

“Wonderful,” Ji-Ho said. “More than mortars and RPGs?”

“Gaz Tigrs. I think you have them on firepower, but they’re more maneuverable.”

“Good thing we have new grenade launchers. M19 should handle. Save ammo on mini-gun.”

“You guys ready to move out?” Garrett asked.

“Yes, I send text. Send south on 94. Half group split off on Marron Valley road. Okay?”

“Perfect,” Garrett said. “We’re going to have ourselves a turkey shoot.”

Ji-Ho sent the text to his people as Garrett walked back to his horse. He rode off the property. Engines around the park fired up.

***

“Well, are you going to fess up, or what?” asked Shelly, glaring at Jules. Her heart was beating fast, her face flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and anger.

“What you want me say?” Jules said. “I did work for Ivan before, and work for him now in war, but not in mob for many years.”

“Why did you let me think you were a mobster?”

“Why you assume I was?” Jules asked.

“Don’t answer a question with a question,” she said. “Nothing pisses me off more than that.”

“I sorry,” Jules said. “You put me under pressure.”

“Boo ho. Answer the question.”

“You reveal everything about yourself to me?” Jules asked. “I not know about background, and I don’t press.”

“You’re avoiding the question,” she said. “You should have corrected me when I said you were a mobster.”

“Why, you just think I use to get in pants, no?”

“I’m not that shallow, you know,” Shelly said softly. “You’ve hurt my feelings.”

“Sorry,” Jules said, eyes tearing up. “I like you. Been burned before because of wealth. I didn’t want you to think of me as rich guy. I wanted you to think of me as person.”

“But what you did made me think of you as a criminal,” she said. “I need to be away from you for a while. Turn around so I can get dressed.”

He nodded and turned around. She got dressed quickly and left the coach, walking into the midday sun. Karen saw her, and raced to catch up with her as she walked.

“Are you okay?” Karen asked.

“I’m pissed,” she said.

“Did Jules do something to you?”

“He’s not being honest with me,” Shelly said, slowing down, looking at her. “He’s a phony.”

“Did he trick you into doing something you didn’t want to do?”

Shelly stopped. “No, it’s not like that. I’d better not talk about it right now.”

“Okay, whatever you want,” Karen said.

“How’d it go with you last night?”

“Tex is trying so hard,” Karen said.

“Is he getting anywhere?”

Karen sighed. “Yes, he is. Part of it is me. I’m starting to recover from the bad times, I think. I tried to put myself in the dreams last night. I couldn’t go there.”

“Why would you even try that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe to see if I’m getting better. To see if Tex is helping me.”

“How about the coach?” Shelly asked. “The bedroom?”

“That didn’t bother me at all. We both slept in there.”

“Is he still pushing you?”

Karen laughed. “I told him he could have me last night if he wanted to.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” Karen said. “He wouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“He said he knows I’m not ready,” Karen said.

“Is that true?”

Karen was silent for a moment, then looked at Shelly. “Yes, but I’m getting closer.”

“You’re starting to like him,” Shelly said. “I can see it in your eyes.”

“He told me that he loves me last night,” Karen said softly.

“That’s a good thing, though, right?”

“I kinda forced it out of him,” Karen said. “I don’t know what I should do.”

“Just relax and let whatever happens happen,” Shelly said. “He’s not rushing you. Take advantage of that.”

“I’m coming to that conclusion,” she said. “Why are you so mad at Jules? Seemed like you two were getting closer.”

“We were on a call with Ivan, and he slipped in a comment about Jules wanting to take me back to the farm.”

“Why would that make you mad?”

“He let me believe that he’s a mobster,” Shelly said. “Honesty is important to me.”

Karen stared at her for a moment. “This is what you want, though, isn’t it? Maybe you should give him a chance.”

Shelly looked into her eyes, her face turning red again, anger flashing.

“You knew.”

Karen looked down for a moment, then back at her. “Yes, I knew. Tex told me.”

“You didn’t tell me, after our talks? Dammit. You’re as bad as he is.”

“I’m sorry,” Karen said. “Don’t be mad. Think about it.”

“I can’t be around you either,” Shelly said sharply. “Leave me alone.” She hurried away from Karen, out into the big field behind the house, crying now, the feeling of humiliation washing over her.

***

“Listen,” Sam said. “That sounds like Jeeps coming.”

“I think you’re right,” Erica said, stopping for a moment, wiping sweat off her brow. The mid-afternoon sun was beating down hard on them.

“Wonder how far back they are now?” Sam asked, taking a drink from his water bottle. He offered it to Erica, and she took a swig.

“Don’t mind my cooties now, eh?” she said, smiling. “I hope we live through this.”

“Sounds like there’s a message in that comment,” Sam said.

“Oh, please,” she said, handing the bottle back to him. “Us women understand looks like you’ve been giving me for the last couple days. When we get past this, better pencil in a few days of alone time with me. I’m gonna wear you out.”

Sam chuckled and shook his head. “See that next ridge? Maybe we can see the enemy from up there.” He pointed at a rocky ridge to the left of the trail ahead of them.

“Maybe,” Erica said. “If those vehicles we heard were the Jeeps, things will be moving quickly, I suspect.”

“We’ll need Garrett’s men to take on the Islamists. They’re on horseback, so they may be a little while longer.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Erica said. “They can go as the crow flies. Good chance that they’re close by already.”

“Hope so,” Sam said.

They started the long climb up to the ridge, getting on top after about half an hour.

“Well, if we want to look, we’ll have to go over there,” Sam said, pointing to the right. “See those rocks up there?”

“Yep,” Erica said. “That’ll cost us a little time.”

“True, but might be worth it. C’mon.”

They scrambled off the trail and onto the jagged ridge, trying to keep behind the bushes and trees as best they could, making it to the rocks in ten minutes. They climbed up behind a big boulder and peered over.

“Crap, look,” Sam whispered. “They’re closer than they were. They didn’t stop for the night.”

“Well, at least they’re as tired as we are,” Erica said, looking with her brow furrowed. “We could take a few pot shots and pin them down.”

“That’ll give away our position,” Sam said.

“They already know where we are.”

“True. Let’s see if we’ve got cell coverage.” Sam pulled out his phone and looked, then hit Sid’s contact, giving Erica a thumb up sign.

“Sam,” Sid said. “Hear us come in, I suspect.”

“Yeah,” Sam said. “We’re up on the last ridge. The Islamists are not far behind. I can see them well. Could take some potshots to hold them. Maybe we should bring mortars up here and let them have it.”

“If we don’t do something quick, they’ll be past the kill zone,” Erica whispered.

“What was that?” Sid asked.

“Erica just said if we don’t slow them down fast they’ll be past the kill zone. She’s right. Where are you?”

“With the main group,” Sid said. “Ed is with me, and Tyler, and a few others.”

“Where are Garrett’s men?”

“Just sent them the GPS coordinates. They’re about half a mile away. Not far since they’re on horseback. They’ll be here quickly.”

“I think we should fire on them, but all we have is an M16 and an AK-47.”

“Where exactly are you?” Sid asked.

“Use Find My Friends on your phone,” Sam said.

“Oh, yeah, forgot about that.” He laughed. “Hell, you’re only four hundred yards away. Hit them. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Ed’s got my M60 in the back of his hovercraft. Bring it along, okay?”

“Okay, and we’ve got BARs with us too. See you in a few. Hold them down.”

Sam ended the call, and looked over at Erica, who already had an Islamists in her sights. “Fire.”

She smiled and pulled the trigger, exploding the Islamist’s head.  “That got their attention. Looks like an ant hill after pouring gasoline on it.”

Sam nodded and opened fire with his M-16, taking out several Islamists as the others fled, screaming in Arabic.

“Look, some are trying to go around that way,” Erica said. “See them?”

“Good eye,” Sam said as he aimed and fired.

“Some on the other side too,” Erica said, shooting several men. Then gunfire erupted from below, hitting the front of the ridge, rock chips flying.

“They’ve made our position,” Sam said. “Keep your head down.”

Erica nodded and fired again, hitting two more Islamists as they tried to scurry out of the kill zone.

Shots came at them from the left side of the ridge, hitting rocks again.

“Dammit, there’s another group over there,” Sam said. “This isn’t good. They’re on two sides of us.”

“Can you see them?” Erica asked.

“No, but I have a pretty good idea where they are. I’m gonna watch. Keep an eye on the first group.”

“Okay,” Erica said, squeezing off a couple more rounds.

Sam’s phone dinged. He looked at it. “Sid. He’ll be up here in about two minutes. They’re setting up the mortars. Asking for coordinates.”

“You know how to do that?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Sam said. His comment was punctuated by another shot from the left, whizzing over his head. He aimed and fired several times into the bushes, a man screaming below. “That got their attention.” He texted the coordinates for both groups of Islamists to Sid.

More gunfire came at them, Erica having to slip down for a moment. When it stopped, she moved over a few feet and took aim, killing several men who were trying to rush up the side of the hill.

“We have the advantage,” Erica said, “at least with position.”

“There’s a lot of them down there, and we’ll run out of ammo before too long,” Sam said. He fired again to the left, hitting a couple of men. “They were trying to set up a mortar.”

“Crap,” Erica said. “Where’s our friends? I’m almost out of ammo.”

“Me too,” Sam said. Then there was a pop from behind them, and the area to the left exploded. “Whoa, nice shot.”

“Seriously,” Erica said. Another pop came from behind them, and there was an explosion in front of the main group. “That one was short, sweetie.”

“Sweetie?” Sam asked. He texted to Sid as another shot towards the left group blew up below. A large secondary explosion went off. Then there were shots from the extreme right side. Erica moved quickly over towards Sam as he texted frantically to Sid with the third location.

“They’re getting around us,” Erica said. “I’ve only got about ten rounds left.”

“Dammit,” Sam said. A mortar round came down right in the middle of the main center group, more secondary explosions going off, but there were new shots from the left side.

“Where’s those bigger guns?” Erica asked.

“Almost here, I hope,” Sam said as he fired on the left side group. “Dammit, I’m out.”

Another mortar popped, and a round came down on the right side.

“Short again,” Erica shouted as the gunfire from below ramped up. Sam texted to Sid, and then Tyler, Ryan, and James arrived, with Sam’s M60, two BARs, and a bunch of AK-47 ammo, which they handed to Erica.

“Thank God,” Erica said, loading her magazines as fast as she could.

“You guys were out of ammo?” Ryan asked.

“There’s a crapload of Islamists down there,” Sam said as he picked up the M60. “This is gonna get their attention. He opened up, spewing rounds all along the bottom of the hill, catching the Islamists rushing up by surprise, killing most of them. Then Ryan and Tyler opened up with the BARs, one on the left side, the other on the right. Erica was back in action now, firing at the right position.

“They’re going to get around us,” James said, firing a BAR into the main group. “They keep coming. We can’t hit all of them from here.”

Mortar rounds fired, three at almost the same time, exploding in all three enemy positions.

“No secondary explosions that time,” Sam said. “They’re moving around us. Dammit!”

There was the pop of a mortar from in front of them, and the area behind the ridge exploded.

“Oh, no!” James yelled.

“I see where they are,” Sam said, firing a volley into a wooded area on the right, killing the men who were manning the mortar. Several more rushed in to take their place as Sam texted the position to Sid.

Gunfire erupted behind them.

“They’ve gotten to the tribe,” Ryan shouted. “What do we do?”

“Unless we want several hundred more joining them, we’d better stay up here,” Tyler said.

“Keep your focus,” Erica shouted. “There’s more coming up the middle, see them?” She opened fire, the others joining her with the BARs and M60, stopping the group just before they were hit with a mortar round.

“Yeah, take that, suckas,” Ryan shouted.

“Stay sharp,” Sam said, his brow furrowed as he fired on yet another group, rushing in from the left side.

“Where they all coming from?” James asked. Gunfire intensified behind them.

“How many good fighters do we have with the tribe?” Sam asked.

“Quite a few,” Tyler said. “It won’t be easy for the enemy, but if Garrett’s men don’t show up in a hurry, we’re toast.”

“Yeah, there’s too many of them,” James said.

“Don’t go soft on us, boys,” Erica shouted, firing again on a group that was rushing up the hill from the right group. “C’mon, help me!”

Tyler and Ryan opened fire with the BARs. Sam was still busy with the enemy on the left side, the massive firepower of the M60 keeping them at bay.

Another mortar round flew at them, flying too far, but closer than the first one.

“Where’d that come from?” Sam asked.

“Right side,” Erica said, firing at the position. “I just wasted their team, but there were others right there. We’re gonna get hit again.”

Sam rushed over with the M60 and fired at the mortar, breaking it, setting off the ammo box next to it.

“That’ll hold them up for a few minutes,” Ryan shouted. Then he opened fire on the middle group again, hitting a mortar team starting to set up, then firing on the mortar tube and the ammo box, setting it off.

“Nice job, man,” Tyler said.

Another large group ran towards the ridge from the left, stepping over the bodies of their dead compatriots. Most of them were mowed down by fire from the BARs, but then another group followed.

“There’s too many of them,” James shouted.

“Wait, listen,” Erica said. She looked over at Sam and grinned.

The pounding of hundreds of horse hoofs approached from behind them.

To be continued…

 

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Copyright Robert Boren 2016

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