Bugout! California Part 102 – Heart

Shelly and Jules went back to their rig after shutting down the meeting.

“I’m a little upset with you,” Shelly said when they got inside.

“I know, I saw look,” Jules said. “That not bad as came out. Ivan knew I would act. He didn’t have to tell.”

Shelly sat down on the couch. “We’re really on our own for the rescues, though, aren’t we?”

“We run operations on own,” Jules said. “With equipment provided by Ivan. So yes and no.”

“Geez,” Shelly said.

“Still mad?”

Shelly sighed. “No, I get it. It bothered me a little that you made that point to the others before you made it to me.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re mine. I’m first. That’s why.” Shelly stood next to him and hugged him. “Listen to me. Sorry. That sounded so childish.”

“No, not,” Jules said. “I keep in mind, be more careful. You right. You number one. Always.”

“Good, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear,” Shelly said, looking up at him. They kissed, and then her phone dinged. “Wonder who that is?”

“Check,” Jules said, letting her out of his arms. She sat back on the couch and picked up her phone.

“It’s the other women,” Shelly said.

“Which?”

“All of them,” Shelly said. “They want to meet. You mind if I go?”

“Of course not,” Jules said. “You not need permission. You are adult, no?”

“Thanks,” she said, getting up.

“Where?” Jules asked.

“House.”

“Take pistol,” Jules said.

“Why? You always have yours? I thought it was safe here.”

“Yes, I always have gun either on me or nearby,” Jules said. “I plant few here and there.”

“You have one in the house?” she asked.

“High cupboard, above fridge,” Jules said. “You need ladder, so take own, okay?”

“Okay,” Shelly said. She went into the back, grabbed her 9 mm auto, and came back out, slipping it into the back waistband of her pants. “There.”

“Good. Have fun with friends. I see later.”

“I don’t think this is a social visit,” Shelly said. “Be back soon.”

She left the coach, walking into the dusk. Other women were getting out of their coaches.

“Hey, kiddo,” Karen said, joining her. “Who called this meeting?”

“Well, the broadcast text came from Morgan,” Shelly said. “Haven’t heard anything else.”

They climbed the steps onto the porch and went into the living room of the house.

“Would you like coffee?” the maid asked as the women came in.

“I want to be able to sleep tonight,” Morgan told her, “but I’ll ask when everybody shows up.”

The rest of the women arrived and looked for places to sit, the maid bringing in some folding chairs.

Morgan got up in front of the room. “Thanks for coming. The maid offered to make coffee. Anybody want some?”

A couple hands went up.

“I’ll use the small pot,” the maid said, hurrying into the kitchen.

“What’s up?” Shelly asked.

Morgan hesitated for a moment, waiting for the chatter to die down. When it was quiet, she stood up.

“Thanks for coming,” Morgan said. “I had a thought, and wanted to discuss it with you all. It came to me after the meeting this afternoon.”

“We’re all ears, sister,” Tisha said.

“Yeah,” Katie said. “What’s on your mind?”

Morgan’s expression became serious. “The conversation about using the rescues as a recruiting tool. Remember that?”

“My boyfriend kinda stepped in it,” Katie said. “Sorry.”

“I wasn’t offended by that,” Dana said.

“Me neither,” Allison said. “I thought it was a good idea, actually.”

“So did I,” Morgan said, “but we can’t make that choice for others. I have a suggestion. After we complete the first rescue mission, let’s get on the air with Ivan and tell our story.”

The room exploded in murmurs. Haley stood. “I think that’s spot-on. I’ll go along with that.”

“You think Ivan will go along with it?” Karen asked, glancing at Shelly. “Or Jules?”

“Jules will go along with it,” Shelly said. “I can guarantee you that.”

“But how about Ivan?” Dana asked.

“I don’t know,” Shelly said. “I’m sure I can get Jules to talk to him about it.”

“Did you lower the boom on him after the meeting?” Dana asked.

Shelly chuckled. “No, but I did tell him that I wanted to know about stuff like that before he went public with the whole group. If it pertains to him, that is.”

“Why?” Dana asked.

“They’re together,” Karen said.

“Oh,” Dana said. “I thought that was coming. Good for you.”

“Does anybody here have a problem with this idea?” Morgan asked.

“Some of our men might not like it,” Brianna said.

“It’s not their choice, honey,” Tisha said. “Besides, from what I can see, you’ve got Stacey wrapped around your pinky. He probably won’t object.”

Brianna smiled. “He’s stronger than he appears, but you’re right. I can convince him. He’ll be worried about me, though.”

“Let’s be honest, all of our men will be a little worried about this,” Katie said. “I know I can convince mine. Do any of you really think you can’t do the same?”

“I want to do it,” Dana said. “It won’t be easy, but we need to do this. There’s still people who support the UN in Northern California. They need to know what the UN is doing.”

“Exactly,” Morgan said. “Do we have an agreement? Does anybody object?”

“We might want to wait until after we do the final rescue,” Shelly said.

“Why?” Morgan asked.

Dana stood up. “I think I know why. The enemy might decide to kill the women at the other two locations before we can rescue them.”

“That might happen anyway, you know,” Karen said. “At the very least, we’ll go up against a more prepared facility for the second and third rescues.”

“Crap, you’re right,” Shelly said. “Didn’t think about that. We really need to do all three at the same time.”

“We don’t have enough people for that, do we?” Brianna asked.

“No, we don’t,” Morgan said. “These missions are going to be dangerous enough as it is. Some of us might get killed.”

“We need to recruit help,” Allison said. “Or at least go to Ivan and talk to him. He might be willing to help, if he knows we’ll go on the air with him and talk about it.”

“You might be right about that,” Shelly said. “Want me to call Jules over, and have him get Ivan on the phone?”

“When?” Morgan asked.

“Now,” Shelly said.

“No time like the present,” Dana said. “I say we do it, but should we also call our men over? This affects them too, you know.”

“It’s still our choice,” Tisha said.

“I agree,” Dana said, “but let’s get real. These men are in love with you. How would you feel if they launched into something like this without talking to us about it?”

“You’re in the same boat, dearie,” Tisha said.

“Kinda sorta, I guess,” Dana said, “but that’s not the issue here. Do you guys agree with me or not?”

“Maybe we should do it tomorrow morning instead of now,” Katie said.

“Anybody want to wait until tomorrow?” Morgan asked.

There was silence in the room.

“I’ll call Jules,” Shelly said.

“Yeah, I’m calling Cody,” Allison said.

The rest of the women pulled their phones out and called or sent texts.

Morgan stood back up after a couple minutes. “Any of them not coming?”

Nobody said anything, and then the men started to filter in, many of them looking nervous as they took seats next to their women.

“What going on?” Jules whispered, sitting next to Shelly.

“Something that will make you proud, I hope,” Shelly said. “Think you can get Ivan on a call with us tonight?”

“Ivan?”

“Yes,” Shelly whispered.

“Probably. What about?”

“Morgan is doing a good job of explaining it. I’ll let her talk.”

Morgan stood back up, Robbie sitting next to where she was standing. “Thanks so much for coming. I know it’s already been a long day for many of you.”

“No problem, little lady,” Tex said. Karen snaked her arm around his shoulders, looking at him with pride.

“What’s this about?” Cody asked.

“It’s about the conversation we had in the meeting today about the rescue missions,” Morgan said. “Remember Justin’s comments?”

“Oh, crap,” Justin said. “I’m sorry.”

“Stop,” Morgan said. “I’m glad you said it. We have a proposal. Well, a couple of proposals.”

“Go on,” Jules said. “We listen.”

“After we do the rescues, we want to go on live TV with Ivan and tell the people what the UN has done to us,” Morgan said.

There was a hush over the room for a moment.

“Won’t that be really hard on you?” Justin asked.

“Yes,” Morgan said. “We don’t care. There are still people up here who believe the UN is helping them. They need to know what’s really going on. It will help us win the war.”

“But you’ll live with the public knowledge of this for the rest of your lives,” Stacey said, looking at Brianna. “Sure you’re okay with that?”

Brianna looked at him. “I’ll need lots of support from you, honey, but you’re already giving me that.”

“What was second thing?” Jules asked.

“Can I handle this one?” Shelly asked.

Morgan nodded, and the group watched as Shelly walked to the front.

“Okay, we’ve been told that there are three locations where women are being held,” Shelly said. “During our conversation tonight, we realized that once we do the first rescue, the women in the other two locations will be doomed.”

“Doomed?” Justin asked.

“Yes,” Shelly said. “Think about it. They might just kill them as soon as they find out about the first rescue, or they might fortify their positions so much that we can’t mount a rescue without losing our team.”

“Or they might move them to a different location,” Sparky said, “so we can’t find them.”

“Yes, that’s another possibility,” Shelly said. “We want to hit all three locations at once. We think that’s the only way.”

“What if there are more than three locations?” Robbie asked.

“We can only react to what we know about, partner,” Tex said.

“Our forces not large enough to pull three at same time,” Jules said. “You know this.”

“We want to ask Ivan for help,” Shelly said. “What do you think?”

Jules got up and walked to the front, joining Shelly and Morgan. There were tears running down his cheeks.

“You okay?” Shelly asked, looking at him. He bent down and kissed her forehead, and then turned to the crowd.

“I’ve never been more proud than today,” he said. “Such bravery. Such resolve. I’m stunned.”

The other men applauded, the women looking around the room.

“Then you’ll talk to Ivan?” Morgan asked.

“We all talk to Ivan. We get laptop set up with camera and do video conference. I set up now. Anybody object?”

“You sure he’s available tonight?” Tex asked. “You know how he is sometimes.”

“He’ll talk to us,” Sparky said.

“Yeah, I agree,” Ted said. “This can win the war in California for him. He’ll understand that right away, but he’ll ask hard questions, so we’ll need to be sharp. That man is wicked smart.”

“Yes, is,” Jules said. “Come on up and help me get conference set up. I shoot him text so he be ready.”

“Sounds good, partner,” Tex said, coming up.

Shelly put her arms around Jules, looking up at him. “I love you so,” she whispered.

***

Zac, James, Ryan, and Tyler drove up in the Jeep, followed by Kenny and Bradley driving a battered pick-up truck, the back holding several deer. They all looked worried.

Sid saw them and rushed over. “Wow, looks like we’ll be eating well.”

“Meat, anyway,” Tyler said, getting out of the Jeep with the others. “What happened? We heard gunfire in the distance. Couldn’t tell if it was coming from here or not.

“Did Silver Wolf make it back here yet?” James asked.

Sid laughed. “Does he really make you call him that?”

James smiled. “No, but I like to show respect. His warriors mostly call him that.”

“I’m calling him Ed, but I’m not one of his warriors,” Sid said. “He’s been here and left again. He didn’t call you and tell you what happened?”

“No,” Tyler said, looking more worried.

“We got attacked by two waves of enemy fighters,” Sid said.

“You obviously beat them,” Zac said, eyes darting around.

“Yeah, we beat them, but they accomplished their objective,” Sid said, face looking grim.

“Oh no, who’d they kill?” Tyler asked.

“The prisoner,” Sid said, “and two of Garrett’s men who were guarding him.”

“Crap,” James said.

“Did the assassin get away?” Tyler asked.

“Nope, Anna shot him,” Sid said.

“Nobody else got hurt?” Zac asked.

“No,” Sid said. “We killed thirty-four enemy scumbags.”

“So where’s Ed, then?” Tyler asked.

“He went looking for a person named Black Crow.”

Tyler glanced at the other warriors, his brow furrowed. “What did he do now?”

“We think he planted the prisoner’s RFID chip in his room. The assassin knew exactly where to go. He ignored the chips in the shed with the bodies from the earlier attack.”

“I knew it, man,” James said.

“Yeah, we should have banished that jerk weed,” Kenny said. “He probably told the enemy about the ghost town.”

“That’s what some others have said,” Sid said.

“Somebody see him plant the chip?” Tyler asked.

“No, but Anna told Ed that he was helping with the bodies. He had access.”

“Dammit,” Zac said. “If Silver Wolf finds him alone, he’s liable to get killed.”

“You’re right,” Tyler said. He hit Ed’s contact and put the phone to his ear, brow furrowed, waiting through the rings. He ended the call after almost a minute. “This is bad.”

“He probably can’t hear you if he’s in that damn hovercraft of his,” James said. “You know how noisy it is. Leave him a message to call back.”

“He’ll know when he sees the call,” Tyler said. “This scares the crap out of me.”

“Yeah, me too,” Ryan said. “I think we’d better get ready to go after him.”

The tribal women came over to look at the deer, some of them stopping to greet their husbands.

“Tyler,” Mia said. “I’m so glad you’re back. You hear what happened?”

“Yeah, I heard,” Tyler said. “I’m worried sick about Ed.”

“Why, where is he?”

“Trying to find Black Crow,” he said.

“By himself?” she asked, looking scared.

“Yeah, unless he took somebody along on the way out. Anybody missing?”

“Not that I can think of, but I’ve been with the kids all day,” Mia said. “Haven’t wanted to be away from them for more than a few minutes after what happened earlier.”

“We’ve got the apps to warn us now, at least,” Tyler said.

“I know,” she said. “I’d better get to it. Nice looking deer.”

“There’s plenty out there,” Tyler said. “It’s poaching, of course, but the state isn’t in a position to enforce anything.”

Mia nodded and walked to the other women, who were chatting about where and how they were going to do their work.

***

Trevor was sitting on the coach in his rig, messing with the RFID apps. Kaylee came out of the bedroom.

“What are you doing? You’ve been messing with that thing for more than an hour.”

“I know, I’ve got to plug in my phone pretty soon. These apps suck a lot of juice.”

“So set it aside and tend to me,” Kaylee said.

“Don’t tempt me,” Trevor said, flashing her a smile.

“You aren’t done yet, are you? What are you looking for?”

“Ed hasn’t come back yet. Heard about it from Tyler a couple hours ago. Thought I’d keep watch.”

“What are you looking for?” Kaylee asked, sitting next to him.

“Small groups of icons showing up within about twenty miles of us in all directions.”

“Oh,” Kaylee said. “Evidence that Ed’s been snatched.”

“Exactly.”

“Dammit,” she said. “I’ll go get my phone. It’s got a full charge. Plug yours in.”

Trevor nodded, smiling at her. “Thanks, honey.” He got up and took his phone to the kitchen counter, plugging it into the charging cord. Kaylee was back in a few seconds, the app already loading up.

“Will you teach me more about the apps?” Kaylee asked. “I’ve barely touched them so far.”

“Sure.” Trevor took her phone and started looking again, taking the time to explain how it worked to her in greater detail. They worked together for twenty minutes.

“Hey, look,” Kaylee said, pointing to the lower left-hand corner of the screen.”

“There it is,” he said, using his fingers to zoom in. “Four. Out in the middle of nowhere.”

“Text the others,” Kaylee said.

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” he said.

“What’s that lake?”

“Barrett Lake,” Trevor said as he sent the text. “I told them to come over here.”

“Wasn’t Barrett lake the spot where the trail started?” Kaylee asked. “The trail that the tribe came on?”

“I think so,” Trevor said.

There was a knock on the door. Kaylee got up and opened it. Sam, Tyler, James, and Sid came in.

“Still showing?” Sam asked.

“Yeah,” Trevor said. He showed the screen to the others.

“Ed couldn’t have gotten that far this fast, even with the hovercraft,” Tyler said. “He’d run out of gas, for one thing.”

“Where’d they come from?” Sam asked.

“Don’t know,” Trevor said. “I was only going out about twenty miles. I went further in this direction kinda by accident.”

“Yeah, that’s more like fifty miles away,” James said.

“What if this Black Crow person is holding Ed out there, and this is the enemy team coming to get them?” Kaylee asked.

“Crap,” James said. “This isn’t good.”

“No, it’s not,” Sam said. “Is there a faster way for us to get into this area than the way we went in to meet the tribe?”

“Yeah, you could use the highways and come down from Barrett lake,” Tyler said. “You’d be risking a lot of exposure, though.”

“We have the apps now,” Sam said. “They can’t sneak up on us.”

“Expand the view and look for other clumps of icons,” James said, “in the directions we know they could be coming from. North, to the west and the east. They must have a base someplace up there.”

Trevor nodded and started zooming out more. “Oh, boy, look at this. Descanso. Oh, and look at Julian. Guess some of them stuck around after they kicked us out.”

“We need to talk to Garrett’s group and the rest of our folks,” Sid said.

“Yep, you’re right,” Tyler said. “I’ll send the texts and get a meeting set up.”

To be continued…

 

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Copyright Robert Boren 2017

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