We rolled up to the gate and Ernie greeted us with the other guy who wore the USS Enterprise hat, George. Both were happy to see us as were most of the others who came down to the gate. Most excited of all was little Tyler who ran right up to Curtis screaming,
"Curtis! Curtis! Here I am! What did you bring me?"
Curtis jumped down from the tow truck and picked up Tyler,
"What's up little dude? Have I got something cool for you."
Curtis went back to the truck and came back holding a yellow ball of fuzz in his hands.
"Here you go, buddy. Your very own chicken. What do you think about that?"
Tyler's eyes opened wide,
"Wow. Is that real? Can I keep it?"
'Careful little guy, he can still break. He's like you, only smaller and yellow and eats bugs, but he's just like you." said Curtis gently handing the chick to Tyler.
"When he, or she grows up, she can make eggs for your breakfast. Pretty cool, huh? But you got to promise me you won't hurt it and make sure it eats lots of bugs and junk, kay?" said Curtis
"I will Curtis, I promise. Mom! Dad! I gotta chicken! Lookit, lookit!"
Everyone laughed at the little kid running around with the chick in his hands. I was sure a few were wondering how big it would get, whether or not there would be eggs and if not, what a nice chicken dinner would taste like. I hope they don't tell little Tyler.
I looked back at Brenda who was standing behind the tow truck cab holding her AK. She then pulled off her stocking cap and sunglasses, which was unusual, and gave me a big smile. Ernie picked up on it because he was on me like flies on a cow patty.
"Well, looks like farm life agrees with you, Mike. How are you doing anyway? Keeping busy?" he asked
"Busy enough Ernie, how are things here?"
"Better now that Holland is gone and the walls have come down. Everyone is pitching in with water and wood and other stuff. Someone figured to set up a trot line in the wider part of the creek and wouldn't you know it, we have actually been catching some fish. Other than that, it's been pretty quiet around here, but..." he trailed off.
"What is it Ernie?" I asked.
"Something doesn't feel right. Like we are being watched. It reminds me of 'Nam and knowing there were VC just beyond the wire waiting for you to make a mistake. Maybe I am getting paranoid in my old age, but I just can't shake this feeling." he admitted.
I subconsiously checked my shotgun as Celina had warned me to and made sure it was ready and spare shells were where I expected them to be. After the last few days, paranoia was an old and constant friend.
Up on the hill, Cranes eyes opened wider and a wicked grin spread across his face.
"Look at that fine piece that just showed up down there," he whispered to Jimmie while eying Brenda.
"And look at the vehicles. They got stuff and more guns. Glad we waited. Scoot back and tell the rest to get ready. And remember what to do. Take out the guys first and then you can have that chick, but don't screw it up, got it?" said Jimmie.
"Rafe will be happy with this haul," thought Jimmie.
We rolled into the camp ground while Arturo, one of Celina's numerous cousins and driving the tow truck and Chuy, who was riding shotgun, turned the truck aroud to face the entrance like Jose had done with the Mustang the first time I met them. Arturo opened the door and stood behind it holding an AR pattern rifle aimed through the door jamb. Chuy sat low in the front seat cradling an AK.
Chuck, Curtis and I went to work unloading the carrots and other vegetables we had brought over along with some of the beef from the Bakers. All of it paid for with the gold jewelry I had given Celina and which I was happy to get rid of and put to good use. We had brought enough for the community for several meals, most of it put together like beef stew or soup, using the foods they had when combined with ours. I also brought enough flour for bread to be had at least once a day or so I hoped.
Everything seemed to be going well unti two things happened.
First, the noise of a rattling car engine punctuated the air and being so alien these days, I knew instantly it was not one of ours.
Next, was the sound of a buzzing insect that traveled past the left side of my head and left a gray streak in the air as it went by.
Then things slowed way down...
A beat up 60's era Ford came rolling around the bend from the left of the campground road and hurdled towards the open gate. There were at least two gunmen hanging out the rear windows rapidly firing rifles in our direction. I saw George grab his left shoulder before letting out an audible "Umph!" and falling to the grass.
Ernie dropped to the ground and rolled to his right while yelling "Down! Down! Everybody down!"
Cutis and Chuck were no longer by my side. Chuck was on the ground crawling towards the door of the welcome center while Curtis disappeared behind me. Then came the short barking sounds of Brenda's AK. Simultaneously, a pickup came rolling from the right hand side of the road towards the tow truck and Brenda. Three individuals were leaning over the cab firing long guns at the tow truck and us.
Ernie was firing spaced even shots at the first car, his .30 caliber rounds peppering the windshield. It veered to the right and slammed into the front gate post easily doing thirty miles per hour and tossing one of the backseat shooters against the door post and knocking his rifle to the ground. I had a clear shot and put a blast of buckshot through his torso sending him back into the car with his head smacking the post on the way down.
The driver stumbled out with blood on his face and Celina's sawed off barked twice with a firey muzzle and sent him backwards as well. She broke her weapon to reload and then tossed it aside and pulled a Colt Python from her holster and started firing at the other vehicle which was now stopped about ten yards from the tow truck and unleashing a torrent of rounds in its direction. I could not see Brenda standing any longer in the back of the truck.
Instinctive stupidness took over and I was about to jump up and run to her aid when a high pitched scream came from behind me. I rolled over and turned to see some of the people from the campers and motor homes running down the hill and being follwed by at least three or four scruffy men who were firing indiscriminately at them. I got up and started back their way seeing as the residents were all unarmed and in a panic.
A woman I did not recognize ran towards me screeching and tried to grab me. I pushed her to my left and tried to get a clear field of fire on any of the attackers, but there were too many camp ground residents in the way. I watched that nice old guy Cooper step out of his camper and start firing a revolver from only a few feet at the closest attacker hitting his target forcing him to grab his stomach and fall to the ground, his rifle firing wild rounds into the air.
One of the attackers broke off to his right and was heading directly towards the tent area. I thought I saw Hartman pushing his wife down while dragging one of their other kids along side.
"Where was Jose and Delbert?" my mind screamed. "We are getting killed here!"
It was then I heard the little voice scream, "My chicken! Come back chicken!" and saw little Tyler running across the open ground directly in the field of the oncoming attacker. Mr and Mrs Hartman were screaming. The air was a confusing cacophony of gunfire and shouts. Tyler and the gunman were mere feet away from each other and the murderer was moving as a demonic killing machine on auto pilot, firing, firing and firing. Then I heard Curtis shouting,
"I got you little buddy, I got you...!"
"Now" said Delbert from his vantage point on the nearby hill.
Jose's Remington 700 chambered in 30.06 boomed. The bolt worked and fired again. Down in front of the camp, the head of one of the attackers in the second vehicle exploded.
The remaining attacker in the second vehicle turned to look behind him in the direction of the new firing before his body began to spasm uncontrollably as Arturo fired round after round of 7.62mm tearing his body apart.
Brenda looked over the cab of the truck and seeing it was reasonably clear, snapped a half dozen rounds off at the other crashed vehicle taking out all the glass on both sides and winging the only remaining gunman left in the car.
Crane rose and stood from behind the car, glass shards falling from his hair, his teeth pulled back in a snarl, he started to say some filthy expletive to Brenda when a .357 round from Celina's Python tore through his open mouth and out the back of his head. His body collapsed like a stringless marionette and fell to the ground.
I ran forward, tunnel vision on the gunman near the tents. He had stopped and I could see the action of his rifle back and open. He reached methodically for a new magazine before looking up with bloodshot, souless eyes at me coming. He pulled back the bolt and was about to raise the rifle when my shotgun fired and cut him in half. I worked the action and fired a second round into his head before it hit the ground.
I was about to go to Tyler when I heard a scream behind me. I turned and was lifted off my feet by a huge bear of a man flashing something in his right hand. I hit the ground with a thud and being on a slight incline, we both rolled a few feet before stopping. I saw stars and felt his knee dig into my chest as he raised his right arm, a nasty butcher knife clutched in his dirty hand. His left hand was pushing my right shoulder into the ground pinning my upper arm.
I shouted, "No!" and raised my left arm and managed to grab his massive forearm in my hand and hold it barely, but he weighed much more than me. My right hand was trapped partially under my body and as I wiggled it out, it passed my back pocket where I felt a bulge. It was the .25 I had picked off dead Red a hundred years ago.
I yanked it free and thumbed off the safety, the mans dirty arm now pushing down the knife inches from my face. He took his left hand off my shoulder and put on the back of his right hand for one final push to bring the blade home into my head.
I raised the little hand gun over my hip and pulled the trigger resulting in subdued pop. The attacker grabbed his left side and stopped pushing long enough for me to fire once more, this time hitting his head by the left eye socket. His remaining eye rolled back and he fell on to my left side.
I kicked him off me while clutching the handgun tightly. I looked to my right and saw one more of the attackers falling backwards with multiple gunshot wounds. There were sporadic shots being fired, but they were fewer. Then it died down entirely.
I heard moans, screams and crying as I stood there my chest hitching. I was about to go back to the gate and Brenda when I heard Mrs. Hartman scream,
"No! Oh God, no!"
I stumbled around and saw Curtis and Tyler both laying in a tangle on the ground a near the body of the gunman. Mrs Hartman and Mr Hartman were kneeling on the ground nearby and trying to crawl their way to where their tiny son and my friend lay.
I hurried over and grabbed Curtis' shoulder.
"Curtis! Is Tyler okay? Move over and let me see..."
I flipped Curtis over thinking he was merely playing or something. It was then I saw the blood and first thought it was Tyler, but I was wrong. The little boy looked up at me as I moved Curtis and he started bawling his eyes out.
"Mommy! Mommy!" he cried. Mrs. Hartman grabbed Tyler and pulled him into her chest, her eyes flowing with tears.
It gave me the time to see Curtis. His chest was a bloody mess and dark blood pumped out with each breath he gasped. I shoved my finger into the wound trying to staunch the ghastly flow.
"Hang in there buddy.. hold on. We are going to get you all better, just be still.." I whispered.
"Mike, is that you Mike?" Curtis gasped.
"I'm here, hang on don't talk, We are going to.. do something.. get help... Celina is coming she'll know what to do.." I gasped
I heard foot steps and Chuck slid to the ground on the other side of Curits.
"Curtis? Oh cr*p. Curtis, lay still. We have to stop the bleeding" Chuck said whether to me or Curtis, I don't know.
"Mike?" Curtis gasped, "Can we go home now? I want to see my family. They don't know where to find me. They'll think I let them down again. Oh, God, Mike, I have to go home.."
"You haven't let anyone down Curtis. Nobody. You are the best son anyone could ask for. Your family is so proud of you right now." I said, my face inches from his.
"Mike? My family? Where are they?" his voice barely audible.
"We are right here Curtis. Right here. You're never been alone.. we've always been with you.. always" I said.
Curtis smiled and then his eyes rolled back and a final rattling breath escaped his lungs.
Next The Final Holocaust