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The Burnout Chapter Twenty Four

Peri stayed hidden in the bushes while the dregs of humanity passed her by on the rural road. She had quickly gotten off the interstate once she came to the mobs fighting over whatever food or supplies were left, but cursed herself for having lost Patty's trail. She prayed that Patty, that tub of lard Lamar and those bratty kids were the first to be robbed, beaten and suffer worse things when the violence flared.

For now, Peri's only hope was to take this dumpy state road north and hope she could find some way to get started on her plan again. She had a few contacts in Canton and with the right persuasion, (and a willing ally or two) she could move west to her hideout on the lake.

After the walkers had passed her by, she continued north, but took cover when a large mob headed the same direction she did. Shortly after, she heard the conflagration and gunfire to the north and detoured through an empty farm field and then again through a copse of trees. Some two hours later, torn by brambles, underbrush and thorn, she came to the outskirts of a hole in the wall named Winona.

Besides sounding like the name of a boozy country singer, the town instantly made her cringe at the thought of small town toothless hicks blabbering away in rundown churches and spitting tobacco juice of the floor at the local watering hole. Worse, this place, Winona, had some strange glow or power over it which turned Peri's stomach. She did all she could to avoid going through town and continued north cross country.

After what seemed like an eternity, the town slipped behind her and she faced only a two lane country road. Behind her, she could see a small white steeple of a church further south and clearly, the source of her misery. She dwelt for a moment on her absolute and rabid hatred for all forms of traditional religion, especially those in small towns, the lair of her late father.

Lost in thought, she did not notice the old pickup truck until it almost ran her down but managed to stop by stomping on its worn out brakes and swerving to the side of the road.

"Lord have mercy, girl!" shouted the driver jumping from the cab. "I almos' hit ya! Are you okay, dear?"

Peri almost ran away, but quickly adapted to the moment,

"I... I.. where am I? They left me here... those people.. those animals" before breaking down into tears.

"There, there. Oh my, you were with that mob, wern't you? Look at those scratches on your arms and legs. I need to get you to the church and have someone look you over." the driver said.

"oh please, no! not back there in that town! Is there a doctor or hospital you can take me to? Many of those men.. they took turns.. I don't want to be pregnant or have a disease... please, is there a doctor nearby, but not in that town?" Peri pleaded.

"Sure, sure.. In Big Sandy, up the road. They got a clinic, ain't big, but they have nurses and stuff there. C'mon and get in my truck and I'll have you there in no time, little lady." said the older man.

Peri got into the front seat of the old pick up with the gentleman's help and put her head back as if she was both exhausted and in dire pain. The driver turned over the ancient vehicle engine and headed north up the same road.

"My name's Snuffy and don't you worry about a thing. We gonna get you to the clinic and all checked out. Were you with other folks or were you alone?" he asked.

"I was with a group, but we were separated and had planned on meeting up in Canton in a week or so. Maybe they came through here in the past few days? A woman on a bike, Hispanic, with a middle aged man also on a bike. They may have had three teenagers with them as well." asked Peri on a whim.

"Why you must mean Miss Patty and Mister Lamar! You's in luck cause they just moved on this morning. Why they's probably in Big Sandy or near there right now. After we get you to the doctor, I'll check the roads and try and get them to you!" said Snuffy.

Peri smiled to herself and evil blossomed deep within her.

"You are so kind, Mr. Snuffy. Providence has smiled on me at last."


Patty rolled to a stop west of Big Sandy and the others halted behind her.

"I still can't believe the nerve of those people." Patty exclaimed. "A tax to ride along a public road simply because it crosses through their town. If there were someone or some way I could call and do something about it, why I..."

Lamar smiled and said, "I would have hated being a car dealer who sold you a lemon, Patty. The scorn of a woman..."

Even Patty had to smile at that. "Well, at least they did not get anything. Did you see the way that young cop was looking over Candace? Imagine what sort of tax he wanted?"

They had arrived at the outskirts of Big Sandy an hour or so ago and were stopped by a roadblock manned by local PD and volunteers. Due to the problems with looter and bandits, a tax was instituted on all passers by and could only be paid with gold, silver, coinage or valuable barter such as food or ammunition.

In spite of invoking Reverend Stone and Snuffy's names, the town would not budge. So, Patty and company were forced to back track a few miles and take a series of side roads in order to reach the state highway heading west out of Big Sandy. They lost valuable time and now would have to make up for it by riding later and stopping only when darkness prevented them going any further.

Now, they faced a new road, new challenges and the same old problems with bandits, marauders, stray dogs and stray humans. Patty took a deep drink from her canteen and startled peddling.

"Come on, folks. Daylights burning."

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The Burnout Chapter Twenty Three

The remainder of the mob army had either been shot or disappeared into the rural countryside. They left behind more than one hundred living captives, most of whom were children. Twenty three captives died along with thirty eight of the attackers. Most of what they were carrying had been looted from the homes and farms south of Winona between the town and Interstate 20.

The town suffered six dead and fifteen wounded, one being serious. Being the size it was, Winona had no medical center and relied on the clinic in Big Sandy. Stubby took the most serious cases in his truck while the rest would have to be cared for by the town as best they could.

Conkle collected several guns from the dead, but soon realized they had as little ammunition as the town did.  Further, the attack probably exhausted half of the available ammunition they did have so more would have to be found and soon. Few believed the same raiders would try and attack Winona in the same manner, but none doubted that more problems would soon follow.

Patty and Lamar did what they could to help, but in the end realized their staying would only put a further drain on the town's limited resources. They made their good byes to the few friends they had made and went back to the church after retrieving Cassie and Katelyn from their hiding spot.

"You wanted to take that little girl, didn't you?" asked Lamar about the five year old Patty had helped.

"Sure, who wouldn't? She did not know where her mother or father were and she was all alone." Patty replied.

"So? Why didn't you? It's not like we are turning away lost children this week." remarked Lamar.

"Because if her parents are alive and make their way here, they will find her in Winona. Besides, we are going to be running and possibly gunning to get home ourselves. That's no place for a five year old." said Patty sharply.

Pastor Stone was outside while they prepared their gear and bikes for the next leg of their journey. He asked them once more if they wouldn't stay, at least for a few days, but Patty and the rest were insistent.

"Pastor, you will have a hard enough time feeding the people in town along with all those new children that you don't need us taking more as well." she said.

"Miss, the Lord will provide. Thank you for your assistance and courage. The Lord blesses those who strive in His name." said the Pastor.

"Just ask Him to see us safely home," said Patty.

"I will young lady. You, all of you will be in our prayers. God bless you." he said.

Patty, Lamar and the teens mounted their bikes and headed out to the north, to Big Sandy and then east towards Dallas. Patty was worried as usual.

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The Burnout Chapter Twenty Two

Patty and Lamar rushed to the first barricade along with twenty or so others. They laid their long arms over the roofs and hoods of the dead vehicles and sighted in on the shambling mob coming their way down the two lane country highway. It was misting rain and muggy, the sweat inside clothing was only matched by their damp exterior.

The phalanx bearing down on them was led by shaggy and unclean men, bearing long guns, bats, axes, pipes and clubs. Behind them, clattering along, was a herd of harried women and children, pushing grocery carts and wagons loaded down with plunder and salvage. Along the edges loped dirty men eyeing their charges internal and the town as they crossed the border, scoping all resources nailed down or otherwise.

Riding drogue were the worse of all. Men and teen age boys, tied and pushing loaded hand carts built upon auto axles and tires, straining under their loads of stolen loot and beaten without mercy and followed by those of a worse fate, the chattel; Women and older girls, tied together and herded into the middle of the pack, their fate to be chained and dragged through each attack and then abused nightly as the mob sequestered.

Deputy Conkle, standing alongside a haytruck, held up an old fashioned megaphone, complete with high school emblem, to his mouth, pausing only long enough to take in the sight before him and finally shouting.

"This is the county sheriff department, halt and drop your weapons to the ground! We will use deadly force! Halt and throw down your weapons!"

As if on cue, a line of children, some no older than three or four, were pushed forth to the front of the mob. Each had their hands tied in a daisy chain to the child before and after them in line. A big man, with red beard and long hair, pushed the child closest to him towards the barricades of Winona.

"Get! We'ren takin' everything, the food, your weapons, your women and children! Get and lay down before us! All will die!" he yelled.

Conkle was silent, as if he had been born speechless before this monstrosity. Then he uttered one word,


"Screw this." thought Patty, and without thought for her action, drew a bead on the big man and fired her Ruger, the round striking him in his right cheek and driving him to the ground. The children screamed and cried and tried to run, but only succeeded in tangling themselves in the rope and falling down. The shooting started from both sides.

Patty concentrated her fire on the lead attackers, but quickly noticed that two groups broke off from the left and right of the mob and headed into the town from both sides. Patty was about to fire when she saw a big woman about fifty with short straw colored hair, wearing a brown bag like dress and holding a cigarette between her clenched teeth charge the small children in front of the mob waving a stick over her head.

The children screamed and tried to move away from the awful woman but became further tangled and disorganized. Patty aimed and put three rounds through the woman's sizeable torso before she collapsed to the pavement.

The mob army changed tactics when three groups charged forward each using a car hood held in front of them as a shield. Leapfrogging and firing from behind their mobile barricade, they moved quickly towards Winona's main line of defense. They would have made it further had they not been delayed by the actions of the rear guard teams.

Led by a burly man dressed in a Harley vest with Marine Corps emblem, the small group of Winona defenders attacked from the west and split the mob army in two. At that moment, Conkle blew a whistle attached to a lanyard on his belt and the reserve force of senior citizens and teens moved forward and fired into the rear of the attacker's forces. While their shooting was questionable, their determination further scattered the raiders army.

Patty continued firing until she had no target available. A small group of men from the mob had pulled back to the rear of their army and were continuing to use children and others as shields. They were unable to retrieve most of their stolen food or booty and were forced to abandon it in their retreat along with most of their captives forced to carry it.

Conkle blew his whistle twice and most of the defenders ceased firing and waited for orders.

"Ray! Assemble the posse and flank 'em! Roof tops! Give me a position!" he called to the shooters stationed on the few taller structures in what passed for downtown Winona.

"They are regrouping to the southwest, falling back to the treeline!" came the response from someone on city hall.

"Damn, I wish I had a radio." cursed Conkle quietly but in earshot of Patty.

Most of the town defenders moved cautiously out towards the attackers lines now covered with a few dead bodies, dropped weapons, and dozens of captives sitting or prone in the middle of the road. Lamar stumbled forward and stared at the body of a small man whose chest was blown open by a powerful shot.

"I did that.. I did that.." he stammered looking down at the body.

Patty slung her .22 and pulled her Glock and patted Lamar on the arm as she slowly surveyed the scene. She went and helped up a small girl, no more than five, whose right hand was tied to the hand of a small boy lying next to her. The boy had been shot, however, and would move no more.

Patty found the big woman wearing brown who had herded the children forward. She was still alive even though Patty had shot her at least twice with the Ruger and was now trying to sit up. She looked up and gave Patty an evil glare and told her in no uncertain terms to 'go to hell'.

"You first," said Patty and shot the woman through the head with the Glock.

"Easy now," said Conkle from behind her. "Mind what's behind the target before firing. Rules of shooting, you know."

From the south came the sound of gunfire, brief at first and then raucous. A few lone shots and then quiet. The worse was over, for now.

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The Burnout Chapter Twenty One

Pastor Stone mopped his forehead with the old bandanna, one foot still on the running board of Stubby's old pickup.

"Lord, I have never seen such a sight in all my years. The gates of hell have indeed opened and last days are upon us." he said wearily.

"Pastor, what's happening out there?" asked Patty.

"They have taken over the interstate. It's a mob, there are hundreds of them and you either join or die. They are like locusts, eating everything in sight and burning the rest. Every vehicle on the road has been stripped and burned and worse of all, a group has broken off and headed this way." said Deputy Conkle.

"We have been telling folks along the way to get out and head to Winona, There might be enough folks to stop the mob there and turn them back. Maybe make it a bad idea to keep going and go back to 20 and stay there." added Pastor Stone.

"What do you need us to do?" asked Lamar.

"It's not your fight, young man. You get Patty and the kids and head on north and get to your homes and family." said Stone.

"Nonsense," replied Patty. "You have welcomed and fed us, we won't let you alone. Besides, we have guns and there are at least three of us who know how to use them well enough. That's three more guns than you'll have without us."

"You're in," said Conkle interrupting the conversation. "Get what you need and come back to town as fast as possible. We figure we got anywhere from a few hours to a day before the first of the mob arrives. I take it they will be stripping some of the farms and houses to the south first and that'll slow them down some."

Patty and Lamar headed back to the church and the the three teens.

"Lamar, we need to get all of our stuff together for a quick get away should things go south in a hurry. I want Cassie and Katelyn to stay with the bikes and trailers while you, Brad and I help out with the defense of Winona." said Patty gravely.

"You mean we need to abandon these people if the town's defenses don't hold? Is that really what you want to say?" asked Lamar.

"Yes, it is. We have to get those kids how to their families and I think that is what you want to do as well, isn't it? Don't try to make me feel guilty or get try to take the moral high ground on this one, Lamar. These people are very nice and I plan on helping them, but I don't plan on leaving Elena an orphan." Patty replied.

"I'm not, but what's your plan? If the town falls and this mob overruns things, what are we going to do? Where will we run?" he asked.

"That's why we need to have our stuff ready to go. I think the girls need to take the bikes and hide in the woods further down the road north of town. If the fight goes good, you or me goes and gets them and we plan on leaving when the time is right. If things don't go our way, then we meet them in the hiding place and head north as fast as possible." said Patty.

"What if we both get, um, killed? I don't have much experience shooting guns at mobs of hungry people." Lamar asked wryly.

"I know, I have thought about that too. Just keep your head down and hope these mob people have a problem with armed resistance." said Patty.

At the church, Patty refilled all their water containers and reloaded gear between the old and new cart. She also checked the bikes and their food supplies. Patty took the .243 rifle she had given Brad and checked it thoroughly. They only had about twenty rounds for the gun and there was not another she could give him for a backup as she gave the twenty gauge to Katelyn, (after a brief handling crash course).

Patty would take her Glock and the Ruger while Lamar would carry the Mossberg. They both decided Lamar would keep the derringer although neither believed it would be useful for more than a paperweight.

After preparing as best they could, all five left the church with the girls going north away from the fight and hiding in the bushes about five hundred yards down the road. Cassie, of course, complained constantly about having the leave the comforts of the church and having to push her bike with the cart attached. Brad, Patty and Lamar would take bikes to the town which would help if they had to depart quickly.

After separating, the three road into town and saw what preparations had been made. The main road was blocked with multiple staggered layers of dead vehicles the result of which would force anyone entering the town to have to  navigate their way around them. In addition, nearly every glass bottle was being pressed into service as a molotov cocktail as there was plenty of gas and few vehicles to use it in.

The town had fewer than six hundred residents leaving about one hundred and fifty defenders available many of whom were younger than expected or much older. The gravity of the situation was not lost on the bulk of the town apparently; it was fight or die.

Patty and the two men made their way to the area in front of town hall where they were assigned to the group watching the main road. Two other groups were assigned to delay actions further south while a smaller group, comprised of senior citizens and teens to act as an auxiliary. More than two dozen shooters had taken to the tallest buildings in town for sniping duty.

Most weapons were shoulder fired and designed for shooting small game and not people. The exceptions were a handful of semi-automatic rifles provided by the town police, the local gun/hardware store and an odd hermit who lived outside of town and who provided from his "curious firearms collection". Deputy Conkle was particularly interested in a highly modified M3 submachine gun which was presented along with twenty other weapons for those who did not have one.

Ammunition was another particular problem. Some weapons only had enough rounds for one load before they ran dry. Realizing the shared problem, Patty volunteered one of her two bricks of .22 ammo for the fight. It was accepted gratefully.

The organizing and work went well into the afternoon when a horse rider rode quickly into the town. Everyone knew trouble was on the way as there was no missing the pall of black smoke coming from the road south of town.

The rider came to a halt in front of the small courthouse, took off his hat and turned to the upturned faces around him.

"They're here."

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