Bugout! California Part 148 – Boxcars

Clem and Sarah watched as Jules and Tex left the saloon. The argument across the street flared up again, Willard and Garrett laughing, telling the others about the situation.

“Sam is so glad to see those guys,” Clem said.

“You know anything about them?” Sarah asked.

“War buddies, basically,” Clem said. He got up and went behind the bar, getting some ice for his glass. “You want another.”

“Don’t know if I should,” she said. “Oh, what the heck.” She drank down the last few drops and slid the glass to him. He made the new drinks, shooting a glance at Willard, who gave him a thumb up.

“I can’t believe Susanne and Elmer,” Sarah whispered as Clem sat next to her again, leaning in close.

“Hard way to live,” Clem said, “but then you don’t know what’s between a couple. The make-up sex might be a big part of their dynamic.”

Sarah blushed. “That’s what they were talking about, huh?”

“Did I really just say that?” Clem asked.

She touched his shoulder. “It’s okay. We’re both adults, you know.”

“I guess,” Clem said, taking a sip. “This stuff has me going pretty good.”

“I’m drunk,” Sarah said. “Been a lot of years.”

“You aren’t slurring as much,” Clem said.

She giggled. “You’re slurring more. I think it’s kinda cute. You never drank that much back at the RV Park.”

“Oh, I drank quite a bit,” Clem said, “but up to a certain point, I hide it well.”

“You’re beyond that point tonight,” Sarah said, shooting him a grin.

“Maybe a tad.”

“How much is a tad?” she asked, her eyes dancing with his.

“More than a smidgen, I guess.”

She punched him playfully on the upper arm. “That’s not an answer.”

“Sure it is,” he said. “Maybe not a good answer.”

She laughed, then took another sip of her drink. “My head feels tingly.”

“I’m sure it does. Mine does. I like it.” He smiled, turning to look at the table, where the others were chatting and laughing. “They’re having fun.”

“You want to join them?” Sarah asked.

“No, I’m having a better time with you. We can if you want to, though.”

The doors creaked, swinging as Anna walked in.

“Uh oh,” Sarah whispered. “The jig’s up.”

Clem snickered.

“Garrett, you ready to go?” Anna asked.

“Everybody, this is Anna,” Garrett said. “The woman of the house.”

She smiled, shaking her head. “How much have you had to drink?”

“Quite a bit,” Garrett said. “Come join us.”

She sighed, then came over. “Where am I gonna sit?” Garrett pushed back and patted his lap.

“Not in this lifetime,” she said, pulling a chair next to his from the next table. She sat down, and Garrett introduced her to the others.

“Well that was interesting,” Clem said. “At least she doesn’t look mad.”

“She’s totally infatuated with Garrett,” Sarah whispered. “Look at them. That’s nice.”

“It is,” Clem said, moving closer to her. Then the arguing across the street started again, and he laughed.

“They haven’t gotten to the fun part yet, I guess,” Sarah said.

Clem looked at her, studying her eyes, quiet for a moment, then snapping out of it and looking away. He took another sip of whiskey.

“Mine’s almost out already,” Sarah said.


“Not so sure that would be a good idea,” she said, “you having another?”

“I’m thinking about it. I’d like to, but I’d probably regret it.”

“Then don’t,” she said. “I think I’ve had enough.”

“Anna’s taking Garrett home,” Clem said, watching the couple get up and say their goodbyes. They went out the door, the sound of horse hoofs starting, fading away as they headed down the street.

“Maybe I should be going too,” Sarah said.

“I’ll walk you home,” Clem said.

“That would be nice,” she said, getting off the stool. Clem did the same. They were part way to the door when the arguing started again.

“Geez,” Clem said.

“Hey, there’s open rooms in the hotel, if you want to stay there instead of the peanut gallery across the street,” Willard said.

Sarah thought about it for a moment. “All my stuff is at the boarding house.”

“Whatever you want to do,” Willard said. “The keys for the empty rooms are hanging on the wall behind the front desk.”

“Who’s watching that?” Clem asked.

Willard chuckled. “Me.”

Ted, Sparky, and Sam cracked up.

“Remind me not to leave you in charge,” Sam said. “Just kidding.”

“I’ll walk you to the boarding house to get your stuff, then back to the hotel if you’d like,” Clem said.

She looked at him. “That’s too much bother.”

“No it’s not, and the night air will do both of us some good.”

“All right.” They went out the doors, walking down the wooden sidewalk, then crossing the dusty street, entering the front door of the boarding house. “You can wait down here. No need for two of us to go up all those stairs.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Clem asked.

“I feel quite a bit better already,” she said, trying to ignore the angry words as she got to the stairwell.

Clem sat on a couch in the parlor, looking around at the replica décor Susanne had used. The yelling finally stopped, Clem wondering if Sarah wouldn’t just stay there instead. She came down the stairs a couple minutes later with a bag in her hand, her face red.

“What happened?” he asked.

“They’re into the fun part now,” she whispered. “I heard more than I wanted to.”

“Oh,” Clem said, laughing. “You can stay here if you want, then.”

“No, that will bother me as much as the yelling, I suspect, especially now.”

“Why especially now?”

“Because of the drinking,” she said, smiling as they walked out the door.

“Feels nice out here,” Clem said.

“Very nice. At least it helped the flush on my face.”

They strolled across the street and onto the wood sidewalk, going past the saloon.

“Looks like the rest of them called it a night,” Clem said.

“They’ve been on the road,” Sarah said. “They’re probably beat.”

“Probably.” There was a dim light on in the lobby of the hotel. Clem opened the door for Sarah, and followed her to the front desk. The wall behind had mail cubby holes and hooks, about half of which had keys.

“Which one are you in again?” she asked.

“Room twelve,” he said. “Nice view of the street.”

“Room eleven is open,” she said. “I’ll take that one. Still makes me a little nervous being alone, you know.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Clem said. “Perfectly understandable.”

She picked the key off the hook, and they headed for the stairs, climbing up next to each other.

“There aren’t bathrooms inside the rooms, are there?”

Clem laughed. “No, this is old-school. Men’s and women’s rooms, with showers. Down at the end of the hallway, towards the back. They’re not bad. Good pressure in the showers. Kinda nice after what we’ve been living with.”

Our rooms are adjoining, aren’t they?”

“Mine is adjoining with one of them. Not sure if it’s eleven or thirteen.”

They got to the top of the stairs and headed down the hallway, getting to Clem’s room first.

“Well, which is it?” she asked, as he unlocked his door.

“Yours,” he said. “Let’s make sure it opens.” He followed her down to her door and watched her unlock it.

“It’s fine,” she said, looking inside. “Would it bother you if we had the adjoining doors unlocked?”

“You look nervous,” Clem said. “You gonna be okay?”

“I’m just used to sleeping close to somebody I know, that’s all,” she said.

“I don’t have a problem,” he said. “Might want to knock first, though. I don’t have any PJs.”

She giggled. “Oh my.”

He started for her door.

“You can just use the inside door if you want,” she said.

“Okay,” he said, looking nervous.

She smiled, giving him a quick hug. “Thank you for being such a gentleman.”

“Gentleman?” Clem asked. “Even with my off-color remarks?”

She smiled. “I was pretty drunk earlier. You could’ve talked me into almost anything.”

He shrugged. “I could say the same thing, you know.”

She looked at him funny, but then smiled. “Okay, good night.” She kissed him on the cheek, and watched him open the door. Then he laughed.

“Shoot, I have to open the second door from my side. Been a while since I’ve been in one of these rooms, and my brain still isn’t firing on all cylinders.”

“Still feeling it some, huh?” she asked.

“We drank a lot. Don’t you feel it anymore?”

“I’m still half drunk,” she said, following him to the door. “See you in the morning.”

Clem nodded and left. She could hear him open and close his door, and then he knocked on the inside door. “You still decent?”

“Kinda,” she said. “Open it.”

He unlatched the door and pushed it open. “There, we know everything’s hunky-dory,” Clem said, not looking at her.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“You said you were only kinda decent,” he said.

“I was talking about my mental state, silly,” she said, laughing. She walked towards him. “Maybe we should’ve drank some more.”

“I’d better go to bed,” Clem said, looking embarrassed. He slipped back through the door, leaving it ajar. Sarah stood staring at it, a sly smile on her face.


The early morning sun couldn’t quite burn through the fog. Doug had been awake since about four. Jorge was still asleep, in the back of his pickup truck, parked on the north side of Old Highway 80. There were several thousand citizen warriors in the area now, digging in and waiting for the onslaught they knew would come. The waiting was the hardest part for Doug. The enemy had been sitting in the same place, moving only a couple miles towards them in the last couple days. Food and other supplies flowed into the town daily. The rumor was that friends of liberty from around the globe were paying for it all, but there were never names.

“Hey, man, they’re moving,” Jorge said, head poking up from his truck bed. You see that?”

“About time you woke up,” Doug said. “I haven’t looked for a while. It’s like watching paint dry.”

“Look at it, man.”

Doug nodded, pulling his phone out and loading the long-range app, his eyes getting wider. “They’re ten miles further than they were last night when I checked.”

“Look behind them,” Jorge said, climbing out of the truck bed.

“Dammit,” Doug said. “Is that another two hundred thousand?”

Jorge was next to him now. “Looks like.”

“We’re gonna get nailed,” Doug said. He shot Jorge a glance that was nervous but resolute. “This is where I make my stand.”

Jorge smiled, shaking his head. “We’ll fight our best, but when it’s time to split, we need to go. We’re worth more to the nation alive than dead. Don’t ever forget that.”

Doug nodded. “I know, but what’s coming might not be something we can escape.”

“I’m worried for the men who are on the first few rows of claymore mines.”

“Yes, they’re in the most danger,” Doug said, “but our position behind the k-rails won’t stand up to much. You know that, right?”

“I do,” Jorge said. “Feel a little guilty that we’re not in the first couple rows.”

“We’re not fast enough,” Doug said.

“Yeah, getting old sucks.”

“Good morning,” Conrad said, walking to them. “They’re on the move.”

“We saw,” Jorge said. “Still a long walk, though.”

“Indeed,” Conrad said, “and they walked about half the night. I expect them to stop for a little while. We’re still looking at more than a day before they can get here.”

“How’s the recruitment going?”

“We’ve got nearly three hundred thousand here now,” he said, “but the road in is clogged, so they’re slowing some. Both I-8 and Old Highway 80 are backed up to Boulder Oaks towards the west, and to Ocotillo to the east. We’re weighing the possibility of having them leave their cars and walk in.”

“Boulder Oaks is over twenty miles from here, you know,” Doug said, “and if we do that, the backup will go back even further. Our forces won’t get here in time.”

“What about Highway 94?” Jorge asked.

“They’ve got the pass about half-way cleared,” Conrad said, “but it’s going faster now. Time-wise they’re about three-quarters of the way done, from what my sources are telling me.”

“Look at the map,” Doug said. “That will just make the traffic backup worse.”

Jorge put the phone to his face, moving fingers around on the map. “Dude, you’re right. It dumps right onto Old Highway 80, at a spot we know is already gridlocked.”

It is moving,” Conrad said, “but it’s moving too slow.”

“I was right,” Doug said. “We’re going to die here, but I’m ready. It’s where we make our stand. We’ll cut the enemy forces way back, so the number will be much more manageable for the forces further north.”

“But the cars,” Jorge said.

Conrad and Doug looked at him like he was nuts.

“What are we gonna drive on?” Doug asked. “The roads will be gridlocked. We’ll get stuck in traffic when the enemy comes over the border, and we’ll get picked off easily. Better to stay and fight them than to run when we’re gonna get killed anyway.”

Jorge sat down, his eyes showing panic. “I didn’t get it before.”

Conrad looked at both men, the harsh realization showing on his face. “This is our Alamo. Why didn’t I realize it before now?”

Doug chuckled. “Well, on the good side, they’ll build a monument here. People will remember. It’ll be a shrine.”

Conrad smiled. “That’s the best attitude we can have now.”

Jorge nodded in agreement, his expression melting into peaceful acceptance. “I wish we could get the damn Navy to start bombing these guys in Mexico. That would bring them down to a reasonable number in a hurry. Hell, might even end it completely. There’s no cover in that desert. The enemy will be sitting ducks.”

“The brass are playing the long game,” Conrad said. “Why risk widening the war when they know we’ve got enough people to stop the invasion further north?”

“They should say to hell with it and attack Mexico anyway,” Doug said. “Hell, we’ve got half the US Army in Mexico right now.”

“Those forces are being driven by the coalition,” Conrad said, “with our phony federal government. That’s a globalist adventure. We should have every politician who signed off on that shot for treason.”

Conrad’s phone rang. He walked away with it to his ear.

“First time I’ve seen him scared, man,” Jorge said.

“Yeah. There’s got to be something we can do.”

“We’ve got nothing to do but wait and think,” Jorge said. “We’ve dug in as much as we can. Maybe we can come up with a plan.”

“Listen? Hear that?” Doug asked.

Jorge stopped talking, then his expression changed. “Crap, man, that sounds like a train.”

“That’s what I’m thinking,” Doug said. “You ever seen trains on that track?”

“Not for years,” Jorge said. “That line goes below the Mexican border, then back up. All the problems got it shut down.”

“Dammit, we might have enemy here already,” Doug said. They both ran off the road to the tracks. Jorge put his ear to the rail.

“Yeah, it’s a train all right.”

“Let’s get our guns,” Doug said, rushing back towards their spot on the road.

“Wait, it might be our side, you know,” Jorge said, rushing after him. “It just dips into Mexico by TJ. The US Navy probably controls that whole area.”

“Better safe than sorry,” Doug said, picking up the M60 he’d been issued, loading the belt of ammo.

“Is that what I think it is?” Conrad asked, running over.

“Yeah, man, it’s a train,” Jorge said. “We’ll be able to see it in a minute. You think it’s our guys?”

“Nobody told me anything,” Conrad said, “but that’s not unusual.”

Four engines came into view, the train starting to slow as it approached.

Conrad got a huge grin on his face. “That’s ours. Look at the artillery on those flatbeds! That’s American stuff. Looks brand new!”

The train continued past them, a long freighter with twelve flatbeds, two artillery pieces on each, and a long row of boxcars behind it. It chugged to a stop, and a Marine officer jumped out of the first engine, followed by a couple staffers. They trotted over to where Conrad was, men leaving their positions to look.

“Who’s in charge here?” he asked in a loud voice.

Conrad stepped forward. “Nobody is officially,” he said. “I’ve been coordinating.”


“Conrad,” he said.

“I’m Lieutenant Colonel Meyers. We’d like to place these artillery pieces, but we need to do it in a hurry. There’s three more trains on the way.”

“Tell us how we can help,” Doug said.

“Yes, we’ll all lend a hand,” Jorge said.

The boxcar doors opened, men climbing out, filling the area towards the rear of the train, all of them with packs and weapons.

“Holy crap,” Conrad said. “How many men per boxcar?”

“With equipment and supplies, about sixty per car,” he said. “The other trains are all box cars – each have about 150.”

“How many men on this train?” Doug asked.

“Just over five thousand,” Meyers said. “I heard you’ve placed rows of claymore mines.”

“Yes sir,” Conrad said, “and we’ve done a considerable amount of digging in. Most of our men have top-shelf weapons now, too. M4s and M60s, plus RPGs and other nice toys. The number of enemy troops coming is a problem. You know that, right?”

“What’s the number of citizens here so far?” Meyers asked.

“We’re getting close to three hundred thousand, and there’s a lot more coming in on I-8, but the road is pretty clogged now. It’s slow going. Some of them won’t beat the enemy here.”

“These tracks cross I-8 to the east,” Jorge said. “We’ve got people stopped there too. Maybe we can get a whole bunch of people to drive off the road and get onto the boxcars – then we could ferry them over here. That would free the road up for more cars, too.”

“I like that idea,” Meyers said. “Last time I looked at these new apps, the enemy was thirty miles away. We’ve got about a day, and there’s more trains coming past these three. We’ll have at least nine total. Well trained Marines. Top notch.”

“We still won’t have enough, though,” Conrad said. “We’re talking just under ten thousand men per train if you can hold sixty per boxcar. There’s seven hundred thousand enemy fighters on the way.”

“We’ll soften them up a lot with this artillery,” Meyers said.

“Yeah, but I’ll bet we can’t use them until the enemy crosses the border,” Doug said, shaking his head.

Meyers smiled. “Yep, those were the orders from General Sessions.”

“Dammit,” Conrad said.

“That jackass left the country with some of the other traitors at the Pentagon,” Meyers said. “They probably know something’s coming. Screw them. We start shelling the enemy positions as soon as we can get these pieces off the flatbeds.”

“Then let’s get them off the flatbeds,” Conrad said with a wide grin.

To be continued…


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