Sid, Yvonne, and Clem rolled into the back parking area, a block outside of Dodge City’s main street.
“What now?” Yvonne asked.
“I could use a snort and some conversation about what just happened,” Clem said. “Going to the saloon.”
“Sounds kinda good to me,” Sid said.
“Mind if I go back to our rig?” Yvonne asked. “I’m tired.”
“Sure, no problem,” Sid said. “I’ll walk you there, change my clothes, and meet Clem back in town. That okay?”
“Sure, but don’t get too trashed. We’re seeing too much enemy activity around here.”
“I think we ought to have the battle wagons in siege mode,” Clem said.
“Me too,” Yvonne said. “You gonna take one of the new rigs we got?”
“Nope,” he said. “I kinda like living in the Dodge City Hotel. Reminds me of a vacation in Westworld.’
Sid chuckled. “Oh, really. Got any dance hall girls, I wonder?”
“Stop,” Yvonne said. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Sarah, Clem.”
“Nothing romantic about that,” Clem said. “We’re old friends, that’s all.”
“You just do whatever makes you happy,” Yvonne said. She turned to Sid. “Let’s go, honey.”
He nodded, and they walked down a couple more blocks, to where there were widely-spaced rows of battle wagons, most already in siege mode, lights on in about half of them.
“I think Sarah wants to be more than just friends,” Yvonne whispered when they got out of earshot.
“I doubt it, frankly,” Sid said. “He’s older, you know. By more than a few years. He’s had problems, too.”
“The usual older man problems,” Sid said. “Do I have to spell it out for you.”
“You look nervous mentioning that,” she said. “Worried? You still do fine.”
“I do, but I’m not looking forward to the time that I won’t anymore,” he said. “Clem’s twelve years older than me.”
“That just puts him at seventy-five,” she said. “That’s not that old. I actually thought he was older.”
Sid unlocked the coach and opened the door for Yvonne. After he followed, she turned and hugged him, giving him a kiss which grew passionate.
“Wow, maybe I ought to stay here,” he said.
“No, go and find out what you can, but just remember that I’ll be here waiting.”
Sid laughed. “You don’t want me to drink too much.”
“Yep, and I don’t want you to be out too late either. Might as well use the tools I’ve been given.”
“Oh, brother,” Sid said. “I’m being worked.”
She kissed him again, then whispered in his ear. “I want you. Be ready.”
He smiled as she broke the embrace and walked to the fridge, looking inside.
“You’re something,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ll be back sooner than you expect.”
She waved, and he walked out the door. The evening was cooling down fast, Sid taking his time as he strode back to Main Street. He could hear people. The population of the town had already swelled by a few hundred, most of the newcomers camped in tents to the east. The voices grew louder as he made it to the wooden sidewalk. Light flooded out of the saloon and the lobby of the hotel. Sid pushed through the swinging doors of the saloon. Clem was at the bar with Ed, Sam, and Garrett, Willard behind the bar.
“There he is,” Clem said, smiling as Sid sat on the stool next to him.
“What’ll you have?” Willard asked. “Some of that good stuff?”
“Sure, on the rocks,” Sid said, putting his elbows on the bar. He turned to look at the room, all the tables full. Seth and Kaitlyn were in the back, at the same table as always, staring into the laptop screen, Trevor and Kaylee sitting next to them.
“Jumpin place,” Clem said, taking a sip of his whiskey. Willard slid Sid’s to him.
“Thanks,” Sid said, putting the glass to his lips. “Damn fine liquor.”
“We’re flush, after that last bit that Elmer and I found,” Willard said. “It don’t come out for everybody.”
Garrett laughed. “I’d put it away if my crazy sister shows up.”
“I saw Elmer go over there half an hour ago,” Willard said. “She’s either down for the night, or she’ll stomp over here shortly, ready for a squall.”
Ed laughed, shaking his head. “And I thought the tribe was a soap opera.”
“Mine was,” Sid said. “Where’s Ji-Ho?”
“He wasn’t feeling well,” Sam said. “Hit the sack. I think he wants to be fresh when his friends arrive.”
“When are they due?” Sid asked.
“About four hours, if they don’t run into problems.”
“They’re coming all the way from Sacramento in one day, with the roads how they are now.”
“The roads aren’t bad further north,” Sam said. “Things have settled down nicely thanks to Ivan’s efforts up there.”
“And thanks to the citizens, let’s not forget,” Clem said. “Californians have exceeded my expectations.”
“True that,” Sid said. “Where’s Sarah?”
“Stop that,” Clem said, smiling. “There’s nothing there. Really. Besides, she’s still mourning. John hasn’t been gone for that long.”
“I miss that man so much,” Sam said, raising his glass. “Here’s to him.”
The others joined the toast.
“Clem told you guys what happened out there, right?” Sid asked.
“Yep,” Sam said.
“Sorry about your men,” Sid said to Garrett.
“Thanks,” he said. “That was tough. Wish we had a better way to track them. Maybe those cameras will help.”
“There’s a bunch of armed off-roaders coming with Jules,” Sam said. “We ought to enlist them to join the patrols.”
“How safe do you guys think we are here?” Sid asked.
“We’re getting thousands more people, and a lot of them are armed with military weapons,” Garrett said. “It’ll be an armed camp. I don’t think the enemy will continue to hit us. We’ll kill too many of them.”
“The enemy forces in Mexico are moving north again,” Seth said in a loud voice. “I think it’s because those forces from the south are almost with them.”
“Dammit, I knew that’s why they were waiting,” Sam said. “Thanks, Seth.”
“No problem,” he said. “We’re gonna hit the rack pretty soon. Want me to leave the laptop?”
“Nah, all of us have phones,” Sam said.
“Okay,” Seth said, unplugging his power supply. He got ready to leave with Kaitlyn, Trevor, and Kaylee.
“Seth’s a lucky kid,” Clem said. “His woman is a looker.”
“You got that right,” Willard said. “Makes me wish I was about sixty years younger.”
The men laughed.
“You guys hear any more about the forces in San Diego?” Sid asked. “The air support?”
Clem chuckled. “You’re here to find out the latest, then you’re going back home, aren’t you? Yvonne wants to get a report, I’ll bet.”
Sid snickered. “How’d you guess? We’re both interested.”
“I tried to talk Anna into coming over, but she decided to hang out at the ranch house instead,” Garrett said.
“Erica wanted to stay at home with Mia, of course, but she wants info too. We’re all in the same boat.”
Clem laughed. “Good reason to be single. I’ll have another drink, barkeep. Should I open a tab?”
“You guys can drink for free,” Willard said. “In fact, everybody can drink for free, as far as I’m concerned.”
Garrett eyed him. “I don’t want no drunken brawls in town, though, okay Willard? Take it easy with folks we don’t know.”
“Of course,” Willard said, sliding a fresh drink to Clem.
“Thank you kindly,” Clem said, a twinkle in his eye.
“In the morning we should go follow the tracks, and figure out where those UN Peacekeepers came in,” Sid said.
“I second that,” Garrett said. “Hell, I’ll probably go with you if Anna doesn’t have plans for me.”
“Plans?” Sam asked.
Ed chuckled. “Moving right in, is she?”
Garrett shrugged. “She’s the woman of the house already. What can I say. I wanted it.”
“What time tomorrow?” Sid asked, downing his drink.
“Not too early,” Garrett said. “I’m gonna drink a tad more. Things are gonna get way too busy around here when we get the large influx.”
“Sounds like you’re thinking more than a tad,” Willard said. “Think I’ll join you.”
“Yeah, until Susanne shows up,” Clem said.
“She can only pull that crap with Elmer,” Willard said.
“That’s a true statement,” Garrett said. “I love my sister and all, but I don’t understand how he can put up with that.”
“You probably don’t want to know,” Clem quipped. The others cracked up.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right about that,” Garrett said.
“How about nine?” Sid asked, getting off the stool.
“Nine thirty, okay?”
“Done,” Sid said. “See you guys in the morning.”
Sid left the bar, heading back out onto the wooden sidewalk, re-tracing his steps. He caught Sarah out of the corner of his eye. She rushed across the street from the boarding house.
“Clem in the saloon?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Sid said, stopping on the sidewalk, leaning against a hitching post. “Why? Problems?”
“I heard he almost got killed today,” she said.
“Now where’d you hear a thing like that?” Sid asked.
“Garrett told Susanne,” she said. “He’s too smart to lose. Was he doing something stupid?”
“No more than the rest of us,” Sid said. “Hell, Yvonne helped us a lot. Killed two of the snipers. Clem did well out there, too. He got those cameras placed. They’ll give us at least some view of that area.”
“I don’t think you guys should be taking him out there,” she said softly.
“He’s younger than he looks, you know.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s never told you that?” Sid asked.
“I know he’s older than you and John.”
“He’s only seventy-five,” Sid said.
“Really? I thought he was in his eighties.”
“I’ll tell him you said that,” Sid said with a wicked grin.
“Don’t you dare,” she said. “He’s still in there, huh?”
“He, Garrett, and Willard are gonna drink a little more. It’ll be too crazy to do that around here after all the additional people show up.”
“Thanks,” she said, turning towards the saloon.
“Where are you going?”
“Maybe I’d like a few drinks too,” she said. “Go home to Yvonne.”
Sid chuckled, and headed back to the coach. It was dark, except for the reading light in the bedroom.
“Sid?” Yvonne called from the back.
“It’s me,” he said, shuffling along in the dark. He bumped into the kitchen counter.
“Turn on a light, silly.”
“I’m coming straight there,” he said, walking to the back. She was under the covers with a book in her hand.
“Well, what do you have to report?”
“Lots more people arriving tomorrow. Sam and Ji-Ho’s buddies should be here.”
“They’re driving straight through?”
“Apparently,” he said, pulling off his shirt. “We’re going back out to follow the trails of the UN Peacekeepers tomorrow morning.”
“Garrett’s interested. Not sure who else.”
“I’m going,” she said. “What else?”
“Seth said that the lower group of enemy fighters has caught up with the big group, and they started moving again.”
“Oh, God,” she said. “That all?”
Sid pulled off his pants and climbed into bed, laying on his back. “Yeah, that’s pretty much it. We teased Clem a little bit about Sarah, and teased Garrett a little bit about Anna.”
“It’s not nice to tease,” Yvonne said, rolling over the top of him and settling in.
“So are you, I’ve noticed,” Yvonne said, kissing him gently. “I like it.” Their hands roamed on each other, the conversation slowing. Then Sid laughed.
“What?” Yvonne asked, stopping her movement for a moment.
“Sarah met me on the sidewalk while I was on my way here.”
“Oh, really,” Yvonne asked, looking him in the eyes. “Why?”
“She wanted to know where Clem was. Susanne told her what happened.”
Yvonne snickered, then went back to kissing Sid, on his mouth, then on his neck and chest. He was kissing her back now, focused on the nape of her neck.
“I’m liking this,” he whispered.
“Did she go home?” Yvonne asked, moving her head closer to his.
“Duh,” she said.
“Oh, Sarah,” he said. “You’re not helping my concentration.”
“So deal with it,” she said. “Tell me.”
He sighed. “She went to the saloon, said she was gonna drink with the others.”
Yvonne stopped, backing up to see his face. “No way.”
“I’m serious,” he said. “Get back down here.”
“You know what she wants, don’t you?” Yvonne whispered.
“She wants to tell him to be more careful, I expect.”
She shook her head, getting up higher, then sinking herself onto him, moaning. “She wants this.” Sid watched as she shuddered over him, moving faster, already out of control, crying out as the passion took them over.
The bobtail truck and several vans were lined up on the dark street in an industrial area, just south of Sacramento. A handful of college-aged men and women were loading the back with computer and audio equipment. Ben Dover walked out the door of the rented office suite, which stood between two larger spaces for manufacturing and storage.
“That everything?” Ben Dover asked, looking in the back of the truck at the equipment packed inside.
“Yes sir,” said a young man with dark shaggy hair and an olive complexion, having the look of a TV star. “Are we leaving now?”
“Yep,” Ben said.
“Where are we going?”
“I can’t say,” Ben said. “We can never stay in the same place for long. This is just routine. You know that.”
“So, we aren’t going to the southern base, then?”
Ben eyed him. “What’s your name again?”
“Eric,” he said. “Just joined you last week.”
“Uh huh,” Ben said. “You ask too many questions.”
He looked embarrassed. “Sorry. I’m still feeling my way around with this organization.”
“How did you find out about us?”
The young man shot him a worried glance. “Friend of Ivan’s.”
“What’s his name?” Ben asked, thinking about where his gun was.
The young man didn’t answer right away.
“I’m waiting,” Ben said.
“I can’t remember his name. It’s on the tip of my tongue. It’s one of those Russian names. Somebody who knew him in grade school, back in the old country.”
“Okay, never mind,” Ben said, walking away. When he was out of sight he sent a text to Ivan, telling him about the exchange.
“Oh, there you are,” Eric said, coming around the back of the truck. “Which vehicle do you want me in?”
“Third one from the back,” Ben said as his phone dinged with the text return. After Eric walked away, he looked at it. Kill him now.
Ben’s heart was in his throat. He’d killed since this started, more than once, but it always got to him.
“Hey, Eric,” Ben yelled. “Forgot about something. I need your help. Come over here.”
Sean, one of Ben’s other people, had watched what was going on. He got close to Ben and whispered. “I’ve got your back. Don’t trust this one.”
“Get by the door of the suite,” Ben whispered. Eric was back, trying to force a smile on his face as he approached.
“C’mon,” Ben said. “We’re going into the back-office. We need to dismantle the desk in there and take it. We’re short on those where we’re going.”
“Oh, that was what the text was about?”
“Text?” Ben asked, following the young man into the office suite.
“I heard one come to your phone.”
“Oh,” Ben said. “Yes.”
They got to the back office, Ben closing the door behind them. He pulled his weapon. Eric whirled around, his eyes getting big. His hand went behind his back.
“Freeze or I’ll shoot,” Ben said in a loud voice, knowing that Sean would hear it.
Eric raised his hands above his head. “Don’t shoot.”
The door opened, Sean rushing in with his pistol in a two-handed combat grip.
“He’s got a gun in his back waistband. Get it. I’ll cover.”
“My pleasure,” Sean said, reaching around and pulling the small pistol out. He stuck it into his pocket, then frisked Eric. “Clean.”
“Who are you working for?” Ben asked.
“I can’t say,” Eric said, starting to tremble. “They’ll kill me.”
“If you don’t say, I’ll kill you,” Ben said. “Make your choice.”
“How did you know?”
“You think Ivan grew up in Russia,” Ben said. “You weren’t prepared well by whoever sent you.”
Sean laughed, then got a serious expression on his face. “He might have friends around.”
“All they wanted me to do was tell them where you went,” Eric said.
“Yeah, so they could come kill us,” Sean said.
Ben shook his head. “They probably think we’re going to the same place Ivan is going. Like we’d do that.”
“Can you just let me go?” Eric asked. “Please? I won’t tell anybody.”
Ben ignored him, turning to Sean. “Get the others on all of our vehicles with the bug detectors.”
Sean nodded yes and left the office.
“Who are you working for?” Ben asked again.
“The UN,” he said softly.
Ben sighed. “I already knew that. If it were anybody else, you’d have an RFID chip. Who specifically are you working for?”
Gunfire erupted outside. Eric lost it, crying now, begging for his life.
“You have a frigging wire on or something,” Ben said, pointing the gun at his head and firing. He poked his head out of the office, watching as his small team was killed by a group of UN commandos. “Dammit.” Grabbing his gun, he bolted towards the back of the facility, slipping out the door and running into the shadows. The sound of gunfire went on for another minute or two. Then he pulled out his cellphone, loading the demolition app. He pushed the button, and a large explosion went off, pieces of bob-tail truck flying high enough into the air to be seen from behind the building. A quick text to Ivan, and then he disappeared into the night.
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas Book 1 is now just 99 cents in the Kindle Store! Free in Kindle Unlimited! 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