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The Burnout Chapter Thirty One

The camped that night on the outskirts of Wills Point, a small town of about thirty five hundred residents. After leaving Grand Saline, the passed through Fruit Lake and Edgewood without problem and continued west to their current location.

Dinner that night was the rest of the ham along with potatoes and carrots and found everyone subdued and cranky. The road and the constant travel were wearing on all of them. They constantly had to be on the lookout for trouble, for water sources, to be concerned if the stranger coming towards them on foot, bike or horseback was up to no good or just another refugee like them.

After eating, Patty pulled out the Ruger 10/22 and handed it to Brad.

"Here, take this. And here are the extra magazines for it and two boxes of spare ammo. Lamar and I split all the ammo when we left Shreveport in case we were separated and one was not left with an empty gun and now way to reload it." she said.

"Um, okay, but you said..." said Brad before Patty cut him off.

"Forget what I said. Rules have changed. Just keep it for now. Give me that .243. I'll carry it from now on."

Patty then went to her back pack and took out a small make up compact. She then took out her knife and looking in the mirror, began to hack her off shoulder length hair.

"What are you doing?" said Candace. "You're cutting all your hair off? Why?"

"It's in the way." said Patty in a plain voice.

Patty finished the crude cutting job and then pulled on her old baseball cap down low. To complete the look, she added her sunglasses and then looked from side to side in the small mirror at her appearance.

"How do I look?" she said to nobody in particular.

"Like a boy." said Catelyn.

"Good. You might want to do the same thing. Sorry to say it, but being a woman traveling alone makes you a target to the wrong sort of people. I wish I would have done this before I left Shreveport." she replied.

Afterward, Patty started going through her bag and separating clothing and other things into two piles. When she was done, she put one pile bag into her bag. The others she stuffed into an old plastic grocery bag and tossed aside. She then stood, stretched, removed the magazine and cleared the Glock and called Candace over.

"Candace, come here. Here, hold this." And she handed the Glock butt first to the teenager.

"Don't worry, it's not loaded, but I want to show you how to check if it is. There work this back and see? No round. Now look at the base, no magazine, right? Okay, we got that out of the way, stand like this. Now, hold the gun with this hand and put your other underneath. Got it? Now raise it up and point it like this.." she said.

For the next fifteen minutes, Patty showed Candace how to aim and dry fire the weapon. She admitted that it was not the best thing for the firing pin to dry fire it, but she knew the inexperienced girl would probably drop the gun with the first round if she was not comfortable with handling the weapon.

Afterward, she reloaded the magazine and showed Candace how to ready the pistol. Then she cleared it again and put the gun away.

"I don't think you're ready yet, but I want you to know how to use this in case I am not around, okay?" she said to Candace looking her in the eye. Candace nodded and asked,

"Why, where are you going? You're not going to leave us too are you?"

"No, I am not planning on it, but you never know what might happen." Patty said solemnly and then she went back to her pack and sleeping bag.


They pulled out early the next morning not knowing what hoops they might have to jump through at the next town on the map. Within an hour, they were at the city limits of Wills Point and received a big surprise.

There was the usual roadblock they had become accustomed to at each of these small towns and this one was no different, with a small exception. When they pulled their bikes up to the roadblock and man came forward from the phalanx of guards behind the impromptu barricade.

"We know what you're here for, but you heard wrong. We don't have enough to share so go on back where you came from." he said.

"Huh? I don't know what you are talking about? We are trying to get home to Dallas and the road goes through your town." said Patty.

"Sure you are. You heard about the relief supplies like all the rest and now you've come on down to get your share, right? Well wrong. We don't have enough for you or anyone else. There's only enough for our town and our people. Beat it." he replied.

"Relief supplies? That's a bunch of bull. There is no relief going on, I should know. We traveled all the way from Louisiana and there's no relief effort going on everywhere. Even if there was, we don't want any of your stuff, we just want to get get home!" shouted Patty.

"Hold on a minute." said an older voice with more than a hint of a deep Texas drawl. "There's no reason to get all fired up, we've all got a case of the nerves these days. Next thing you know, that little lady will pull that Glock and start putting holes everywhere."

An older man wearing blue jeans, boots and  a work shirt with a star pinned to the front came forward. He held up his hands at waist height to show he was not holding a gun or pointing one at anyone.

"Who's the boss of this little group here? I suppose it's you ma'am?" he asked Patty.

"I guess so. So what's it going to be?" she asked.

"I don't know yet. Here's the deal and you tell me how to play it, alright? We got a truck load of needed supplies courtesy of Uncle Sam this morning and since then, we have had a parade of welfare folk showing up with their hands out." he said.

"I had no idea, we didn't see any truck and it's not like it was advertised on the TV now was it?" asked Patty sarcastically.

"She's lying, Earl. Let's cuff em, frisk em and send them on their way." said the little man next to the lawman.

"Put a sock in it, Gus. Now lady, I don't know if you heard about it, if you're funning me or telling the truth. How am I supposed to know?" 'Earl' asked Patty.

"Okay, Sheriff Taylor, let's make it easy for you, okay? There are four of us, three teenagers and one seriously tee'd off mom wanting to get home to her five year old daughter a hundred miles from here. Do you really think all you big old men, well, not you, (Patty looked at the little man who spoke first) can't keep us away from your truck load of spam and toilet paper?  C'mon.." she asked.

"I don't know, I've seen some ticked off mama bears in my time. How do I know you aren't checking the place out for some gang or something? There's been talk around here you know?" he asked warily.

"How any gangs let pretty young teenage girls with Bible school t-shirts on run around doing their dirty work. That's gotta be a new one." Patty said with a smile.

Earl laughed. "Alright, you can pass through, but me and one of my guys is going to walk with you just to be sure."

"Suit yourself." said Patty.

Once they got started, Patty asked about the aid and what was going on with the relief.

"They said there were from FEMA. They had a number of trucks in a convoy and were hitting some of the smaller towns along this way. We only rated one truck based upon the number of people we had and how many stranded folks we took in." Earl, who turned out to be the local constable admitted.

"We've heard rumors, but it seemed just that, rumors. Did they ask for anything when they dropped off the supplies? Lists of people? Guns? That's what we heard east of here, but I didn't believe it. Sounded too much like a conspiracy theory they tossed around on the internet." replied Patty.

"It's not a rumor. They asked me to turn over any guns in the property room as well as any military style weapons the police owned or that were owned by private citizens. I told them they were welcome to whatever I had in the property room. We're a small town and that totaled up to an old shotgun, a broken BB gun and a .357 revolver somebody found on their property last year. It had more rust than my first pickup truck."

"Well, they asked me to tell folks to turn in their non-approved guns, they had a list for that, or they couldn't drop off aid. I told them that it would take all day and asked them to leave the supplies and they could come back in the next few days and I'd have all the guns they requested ready to go. That satisfied them for the time being because they left the truck load and moved on." he finished.

"Are you going to do it? That doesn't seem right letting the government take weapons from people who have to defend themselves. We've been attacked or harrased a half dozen times and while we aren't carrying AK-47's, we'd be dead if we didn't have what we do now." stated Patty.

"I didn't say I agreed with what they were doing, but the town needed the supplies. We were just about out of cats and dogs to go in the stew pot." Earl said in way which could have been the truth.

"I see. What about people? Did they have a list for that too?" asked Patty.

"Yep, mainly political folks. You know, anyone who might have run the local electoral board, raised campaign money for anyone or the local state reps. Said they were trying to get the state government on its feet and they needed the folks with the most experience to pitch in." answered Earl.

"That's strange." remarked Patty.

"Either way, they're coming back tomorrow and they want the guns on the list as well as anyone who might fit their profile." said Earl.

"What sort of guns are on the list? I'm just curious but as you can tell, we aren't exactly looking like Rambo here." she said.

"It's bigger than you think, sort of like the stuff on the Assault Weapon Ban, you remember that? But more of it. For instance, they want any sort of AR or AK style rifles. Anything that can carry more than nine rounds including handguns. They want any rifle, shotgun or handgun which might have been used by military forces such as those Russian rifles that flooded the market a few years back."

"They say I can keep my sidearms as well as those of any other authorized law enforcement officers, but we can only use shotguns for long arms or bold action rifles. No more military style guns like AR-15's, you know. A bunch of the folks in town don't like what those FEMA guys were asking for. Said we should stand up to them since they work for us, not the other way 'round. But I don't want a blood bath on my hand. These folks here, they are my neighbors and friends." Earl said.

"I don't wear a tin foil hat when I'm not riding my bike across East Texas, but that sure sounds suspicious. Doesn't it to you too? I mean with millions without power, hospitals shut down, few running vehicles and so many folks starving, gun control would be the last thing on my To Do list. What about you?" asked Patty.

"They claimed it was to restore order and public safety. That there are too many scared Americans using guns they don't need in an unsafe and unauthorized manner. That the only way to get people working together again toward the collective goal of restoring our country, was to get people dependent upon each other for security and no through the use of military style weaponry." said Earl in an almost monotone repetitive voice.

"Well, what are you going to do?" asked Patty as they neared the other side of town and closer to the road block on the western side.

"It's not a problem, really. All of the folks providing security here are deputized by the highest ranking law officer in town, me. And we don't have any of those scary assault weapons here. Nope, we're a poor rural town and nobody can afford one of them high dollar AR guns. Nope, we can only afford what we got around here to protect the farm." Earl said with a wink.

"Thank you for letting us pass, Earl." said Patty.

"Not a problem. You get home to that little girl, now you hear?"


After they rode out of sight of Wills Point, Brad rode along side Patty and asked her about the exchange back in town.

"I think somebody in Washington figured this was the best time for them to 'fix' America and make it the way they want it to be once and for all." said Patty.

They rode on for an hour before Patty stopped for a water break and to check the map. She noted that while there were going to be more pockets of people ahead, the larger town of Terrell was their next big obstacle they would face. She was measuring the distance and figuring the time when she heard a deep long rumble a distance behind them to the east.

When she finally realized what it was, she yelled to the others,

"Get off the road and under cover! Now!"

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The Burnout Chapter Thirty

Everyone picked at their food that night, that is everyone except for Brad who ate quickly and then resumed his watch at the edge of the camp. Patty pitched the tent in the low light of the fire and sent Catelyn and Candace to cleaning up and off to bed. Then she went to Brad.

"Hey, how's it going?" Patty asked quietly.

"Fine." said Brad.

"Do you want to talk about today? We haven't had much of a chance with the trip and Lamar leaving and all, but I'm here if you want to?" said Patty.

"I'm fine. Don't want to talk about anything." snapped Brad.

"Okay, I won't push it. Let me tell you something before I leave you alone. Right before we left Shreveport, some guy trapped me in an alley and tried to rape me. If it wasn't for some dumb luck and divine intervention, you and I would probably not be having this conversation right now.

"After it happened, I never told anyone. Instead, I went back to my hotel and blamed myself. I shouldn't have been walking alone. I shouldn't have been dressed like I was. It was my fault, I attracted that scuz bucket. All of those things. And you know what? I was wrong. It wasn't my fault and even though I killed him and have to live with that for the rest of my life, what I don't have to live with is the blame for what he did.

"He attacked me. Rape is a violent act, it's not sexual, it's about control. He wanted to control me and as long as I blamed myself, he kept winning. That's it. And I won't let him or anyone else determine how I feel about myself.  I'll be over on the other side of the camp, I can't sleep and if you want to talk, I'll be there."

Patty got up, but Brad spoke before she could leave.

"He didn't do anything to me, just talked." Brad paused and gulped and then started again, "Well, he slapped me around, but he said he was going to do stuff to me and then kill me slowly.

"Patty, I'm not gay or anything, am I? I mean, maybe that is why he wanted to attack me because he thought I was.. you know.." said Brad looking down.

"That has nothing to do with it, Brad. Like I said, what his kind does is just another form of violence like hitting someone. You didn't do anything wrong so stop blaming himself. It's not your fault." said Patty quietly but firmly.

"Anyway, I don't want to have some "gay or not gay" talk with you. That's something for someone else like your parents or something. But I have seen the way you look at Catelyn, so I don't think that's an issue." Patty said with a small smile.

Patty put her hand on Brad's shoulder and went to the other side of the camp where her bike and gear were. It was a quiet night and other than the sounds of crickets, she heard nothing out of the ordinary. She took out her small LED flashlight and went through her bag for clean clothing and a change of socks. Then she cleaned up and laid out her sleeping bag, but did not lay down. Rather she sat cross legged with the Ruger in her lap and thought things through.

Without the second bike trailer, they would have to spread the heavy stuff around. She kept a mental count on the food and figured they easily had enough fresh food (courtesy of Stubby) to last he rest of the week. Then they would have to rely on the freeze dried foods and the few remaining canned goods they had left which might last four mouths three days or so. Not good as they still had several miles to go.

Lamar was right. There were too many delays and it was taking too long to make real headway. But it wasn't the kids fault. They might be young, but they were strong and had more energy than a middle aged person like Lamar. And there were, when they wanted to be, optimistic to a fault.

Finally, she realized that she would have to escort these kids all the way into north Dallas before she could make it home to Aledo. That meant a detour of at least forty miles, maybe more. In the morning, she decided to check the maps of Dallas and see if there was a better way to get where she was going.


The next morning, all four dragged themselves awake each quietly expecting to see Lamar waiting for them. They were each disappointed to see he was nowhere in the vicinity so the hard part, distributing all their gear, became the first order of business.

Patty stoked the fire and put on a camp coffee pot and make the kids drink a big cup laced with creamer and sugar and then fill up on water. After a quick breakfast, they loaded up and went back to the highway to resume their journey.

It was around noon, under a scorching sun, that they reached the outskirts of Grand Saline. In contrast to Mineola, the town was guarded, but not closed up to passers by. At the entrance to town, dozens of dead vehicles were positioned to keep travelers on the road. Guards were waiting for them as they approached the gate leading into town.

"Okay folks. If you want to pass through town we need you to stick to the main street and go straight through to the other side. If you get off the main street, you may be detained or even shot. We have no spare food or goods for sale, but if you have a skill or something you think we may need, feel free to ask at the table underneath that flag just ahead. Any questions? Okay, keep your weapons holstered and don't point long guns at anyone. We will take that as a threat. Go on through." said a taciturn man in a sweat stained brown police uniform.

A few yards from the gate, which had been constructed of chain link fence and erected across the two lane road leading into town, there was another square shaped construction of wood and chain link fence with a small window facing the street. Next to it stood four men holding long arms underneath a large U.S flag flapping in the wind. On both sides of the street, fencing and abandoned cars lined the street creating an adhoc barrier between the road and the town on either side.

A sign hung over the square shelter which read as such:

We need the following goods. Fair trades and barter available.
Antibiotics, anticoagulants, insulin, pain killers
Ammunition, .223, .308 and 7.62 x 39
Bottled gas butane or propane
Sugar, coffee, baby formula

Patty's group passed and noted the forlorn man and woman sitting inside the shelter watching them pass uninterested. "Things are going fast, at least these people are trying and not stealing like the last group" thought Patty.

The ride through the town was interesting in a few respects. No matter what the size of the lot, yard or green space, there were clearly vegetable gardens marked out and tended by dozens of people of all ages. There were clothes lines strung between houses with freshly cleaned clothing and bedding flapping in the breeze. While there were no running vehicles, every vehicle had been pushed to form the barricade or pushed out of the way. All had obviously been emptied of gasoline as every gas cap was open.

Nearly everyone had some sort of gun in hand or in a holster on their belt or otherwise. There were numerous guards along the way, some as young as ten and others well advanced in years. As they passed a large parking lot, they saw more than three dozen people were lined up and being served food cafeteria style under an open sided blue and white striped tent. Behind the tent, on a homemade spit, the carcass of a mid sized animal was skewered and turned slowly over a fire. There was a large white posterboard sign next to the tent which read "Groups Five and Six Only!" in bold black letters.

Every store they passed was closed and many were boarded up. Next to a closed Chinese restaurant, a group was cleaning out the grease trap and pumping it into a large plastic bin on wheels. Patty had no idea what they would do with that stinky stuff other than make some biofuels. Her belly rolled when she thought it would be recycled for food in some way.

The last thing they saw was a small white building with a stage constructed in front of it. Hanging from a long beam suspended over the stage were five bodies in various degrees of decomposition. Candace stopped her bike and retched on the street.

"Come, don't look." said Patty to everyone. But Patty looked long enough to see the signs strung on each of the decaying bodies. Looter. Thief. Murderer. Looter. Rapist. Justice was swift, she thought before turning away herself.

Finally, they came to the end of town and another gate. The guards opened the gate and waved them through without a word and they rode on.

"We're going to need water before tomorrow." Patty said to the three teens as they rode. "If you see a body of water, a creek, pond or anything, let me know. We will have to stop and filter some more before we move on."

On their right, about two miles out of town, there was a sign for 'City Lake' which looked innocuous. It was well within sight of the road and there were a few boats on the lake, all oar powered, and manned by fishers obviously trying to supplement their post-Burnout diet.

Patty wheeled her bike over and took out the Katdyn and all of her containers. She directed the kids to do the same and then started filtering water. They managed to fill all of their containers and after drinking as much as they could (and pouring the somewhat cool water over their heads) they topped off and mounted up to continue their journey.

As they walked toward the road, they were greeted by a pleasant faced older man carrying a pole and tackle box in one hand and a sixteen gauge pump shotgun in the other. Walking on one side was a black and white cocker spaniel and on the other, a boy aged about six who was carrying a Sponge Bob fishing pole and bucket.

"Afternoon, folks. Are the fish biting?" he asked as they approached.

"I am afraid we did not do any fishing," replied Patty. "We just came for some water."

"Goodness, I hope you didn't drink out of the lake, young lady!" said the startled man.

"Oh, no. We have a water filter and cleaned it well first. Thank you for asking. Do you live around here?" replied Patty.

"Good, good, don't want you to get sick. Sure, I live just across the road a mile or so over. Live with my wife, my two boys, their girls and all my grandkids. Good to have us all together, right Tyler?" he said to the young boy.

"Yep, grampa.!" said the young man.

"We got together after the lights went out, safer that way. Now you young people look like you're going somewhere far away, am I right? Where to?" he asked.

"Dallas and then Fort Worth. Well, it's been nice talking to you, but we have to make this daylight work for us. Say, is there anything up the road we should be aware of? Any problems?" Patty asked.

"No, pretty quiet out this way. We heard stories about east of here and of course, down south, but nothing here other than the usual livestock thefts, drifters and a bad group here and there. But we're managing. Can't wait until the government gets things going again. They had a fella come into town last week said he was from FEMA and said they had emergency supplies on the way."

"The only bad part was they asked us to round up unnecessary guns and make a list of folks who were causing problems, but I figure we can burn that bridge when we get to it" the elderly gentleman finished.

"We heard about that back east, but we haven't seen any relief trucks or airplanes." said Patty. "Oh well, I am sure those things take time. Well, we best be on our way."

"Right enough. You folks take care." said the main with a wink. "C'mon Tyler, let's go catch a whopper."

As the two walked off to the lake,  Patty stared at them until Brad spoke.

"I wonder what you have to do to get on a list of people who cause problems. Back in Grand Saline they hang them before they can make any list. Seems stupid." he said.

Patty looked at him, but kept her opinion to herself. Then they rode west towards home.

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The Burnout Chapter Twenty Nine

Patty would give Lamar credit later on; what he lacked in skill he made up for with ferocity.

After Lamar tackled their wild hillbilly attacker, he ended up on top of the man with his knee directly on top of the shoulder wound caused by Patty's gun. This put their unnamed filthy belligerent in tremendous, blood curdling screaming pain. Paying no attention to his protests, Lamar began landing wild, wild windmill punches to the man's head and upper body.

All the while, Lamar yelled into the man's face.

"I have had enough of this &%#! Enough of you !&%#! of &%!#! in my face!"

Eventually, his diatribe turned into a nonsensical barrage of gibberish as if he were in a religious fervor and speaking in tongues.

The bloodied man stopped screaming and eventually his struggling beneath Lamar's large frame ceased as well. Yet, Lamar failed to stop his tantrum or his punishing beating of the still body beneath him. Catelyn sat on the ground, her shotgun empty in her hands and her mouth in a disbelieving "O" shape. Patty moved forward but Lamar lashed out, pushed her to the ground and continued his rampage.

"Lamar. Lamar, stop" said Patty quietly. "It's okay, it's over."

Lamar appeared to slow down and his chest began to hitch as a tide of adrenaline fueled emotion receded within. His angry tirade turned to tears and he began to cry in a deep wail. Patty went to him and put her arms around the big man's shoulders.

"It's not supposed to be this way! I had a career, a home, a wife! We are not supposed to do this! We are not .. I am not an animal!" he cried before falling off the lifeless body and landing on the ground.

"Catelyn. Catelyn. I need you to get up and help Brad up as well. Then I want both of you to go back to where the bikes are and check on Candace, okay?" said Patty quietly.

Catelyn broke from her trance, nodded and helped Brad, now awake, to his feet. Brad pulled away from her and grabbed his discarded jeans from the ground and shamefully turned away from everyone and put them on. He then grabbed his shoes, which were tied together and left on the ground, unknotted them and put them on as well. Then he stomped off through the woods with Catelyn hurrying to catch up with him.

"Great" thought Patty. "I have to deal with Lamar and now Brad as well. And all I want to do is just get home."

Lamar slowly sat up and looked briefly at the crazed attacker's body before turning away and standing up. He   did not bother to sweep off the leaves, twigs or dirt on his body, he simply turned and walked back towards where the bikes were through the woods.

Patty stood and collected her things, checking the Glock carefully. Then she fired two rounds into the lifeless body of the man on the ground. Just to be sure.


Back at the road, Patty found the group standing around with the exception of Candace who was asking everyone "What happened?" and being roundly ignored.

Patty walked up and put her hand on Candace's arm,

"Don't worry about it right now. Are you okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine. I heard the shooting and yelling and now nobody will talk to me." Cassie pouted.

"I need everyone to get their stuff together and follow me. We are going to go back the road a mile or so and cut through there. I want everyone to be on their guard and stay together." Patty announced.

Brad ignored Patty and picked up his .243 rifle which there were only four rounds left for after the battle in Winona.

"I need another gun," he said to nobody in particular holding up the rifle. "This one only has four bullets left and I am going to need more. Give me that .22 Patty, you can't use both guns at the same time."

"No, Brad, I won't. You need to calm down and get on your bike and do what I say." Patty replied.


"It's okay, Brad. He's dead and you can't kill him again. No, I won't give you the .22 or any other gun until you calm down. Now get on your bike and let's get out of here, he may have had friends or family around who might not look kindly on his death." Patty said slowly and deliberately.

Brad looked down at the ground and then the rifle in hands, then put the strap over his shoulder and mounted his bike. With that, the group started off and followed Patty down the empty county road.


A few hours later, they had successfully, and wordlessly, circumnavigated Mineola and were back on the state highway heading west. Patty had to keep looking back at Lamar who simply stared off into the distance and said nothing, but followed her directions without question or comment. His hands were scraped, scratched and starting to swell from the beating, but he said nothing.

Patty kept her eyes peeled and soon found a small dirt track leading off the road which she cautiously took and found it led to another clearing, but well off the highway. The next town on the map was Grand Saline, but it was several miles away and the road between the two towns was dominated by open fields, small forested sections and farms. There were nothing of any size between the two small towns other than single dwellings or abandoned buildings.

After they stopped, Patty ended up having to do most of the work of setting up camp and getting dinner going. Brad went off by himself at the edge of the camp and sat cross legged and cradled his rifle staring off into the woods. Lamar parked his bike, took his back pack, changed his clothes and then washed his hands liberally with soap and water. Then he came to Patty.

"I am going to strike out on my own in the morning. I don't want to be held up any longer by the kids, you or all these delays. I need to get back to my wife and this is taking too long. Let's split up the gear you and I bought and I will be on my way at first light." he said.

"Lamar, wait.." Patty implored.

"This isn't open for discussion, Patty. If you push me, I'll just leave tonight, I really don't care any longer. So let's get this straightened out now or I'll just take what I need and go, got it?" he said.

"Okay, Lamar, if that's what you want to do. Please bear in mind that I have to get these kids home so take that into account when we divvy up the supplies." said Patty coldly.

"Not my problem, Patty. I won't go into how much this joyride has cost me and what a disaster this has been. I don't blame you. You had to deal with the same animals and pieces of cr*p lowlifes I had to, but it was your decision to rescue these kids and slow us down. It was your decision to stop in Winona and help those people. It was your decision to let Brad lead us into that mess this afternoon. It has been your decisions that have led us to one tragedy after another.

"You have a daughter to get home to and if you would stop for one moment, we would not be doing all this stopping and thinking and talking, but instead, you and I would be riding full force for Dallas/Fort Worth to our families. No more. I am getting out of here and getting home." he said forcefully.

"Do whatever you want Lamar," said Patty. "We'll manage."

For the next hour, they divided the freeze dried and remaining food they had acquired in Shreveport. After some consternation, Patty conceded the shotgun to Lamar, but took back the derringer she found he had stowed in his pocket. Seeing no reason to keep the extra shotgun shells, she handed them over and he in turn, gave her the extra .22 and 9mm ammunition he was carrying.

"Hey, if you going, I am too." said Brad getting his things together.

"Sorry, kid, you'll just slow me down. Stay here and take care of your friends. It's the least you can do considering how much we have done for you and your two girlfriends." said Lamar abruptly.

"Lamar, what's going to happen to us? We need to stick together." whined Candace.

"Will you just grow up? I am sick of your non-stop whining and crying. Did you get the memo? The world ended, you brat. It's grow up or die time." said Lamar.

"Lamar, why don't you just go now?" said Patty forcefully. "I don't care what you are going through, you are acting like a world class jerk. Just get on your bike and go, we don't need you here anymore." She then went to Candace and put her arm around her shoulders.

"Fine," huffed Lamar. "Look, I don't want to be a jerk, just, I can't stay here anymore. Everyday I am losing more of ... who I was. That guy, or someone like him, might be trying to get my wife. I can't stay and do this anymore.. just... good luck."

And then he wheeled his bike and trailer back down the dirt path to the highway and disappeared. Patty turned and looked at the three teens. What was she going to do now?

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Marital Bliss and the End of the World - Short Story

I published this short story on a popular online fiction forum and now bring it here for my readers who may not have seen it. Don't worry, there is more of the burnout coming soon.

Entry One -

She received word her mother passed away and with it came the usual heartache and grief. Her husband, faithful through eleven years of marriage, stood by her side as she completed the final arrangements and cleaned out her late mother's home. When all was done, the lawyer presented her with a check containing her mother's complete finances, life insurance and the title to her small home. After final expenses, she was left with about ninety thousand dollars.

Considering what to do with what was the largest amount of money this middle class couple had ever seen at one time, her husband asked if she had considered investing part of it in a piece of land in the country. "It could be for our retirement" he suggested. Images of a country cottage, a scenic view and a nearby quaint town filled with antique stores flooded her mind. He offered to investigate possible locations and would run everything by her.

Entry Two

He told her he found the perfect place. It was one hundred miles from their home, on open land with a creek running through the property to a small lake nearby. It sounded wonderful. They went the next weekend for a day trip to see it and while he was ecstatic, she was less so. The land was far off the main road and was actually down a small dirt track. The nearest town was not a pleasant country village with a main square and antique stores, but instead featured a truck stop, package store and run down Dairy Queen. The home on the land was not a cottage, but a falling apart farm house with an attached double wide mobile home.

Before she could register her objections, he proudly showed her the title to the place with a broad smile. "It only cost fifty thousand dollars, so we have plenty of money left for remodeling". She forced a smile and tried to act happy.

Entry Three

He had spent every weekend and was using all his vacation time getting the house ready. The third week, she went with him to see his progress. She found the property littered with lumber and building supplies, as well as most of the gutted farmhouse kitchen fixtures, but little else done. She did find he had built a shooting bench and clearly had spent quite a bit of time practicing judging by the number of spent shells and empty beer bottles.

With the skill of a diplomat, she suggested that they find someone nearby who could work on the remodel full time as he had to return to work. In the end, she located a reasonably priced handy man, outlined the work and gave him a timeline for completion. While she had to take an additional twenty five thousand dollars of her dwindling money supply out of the bank for the work, she was sure they could unload the rural disaster and recover most of her money when all was said and done.

Entry Four

The home remodel was nearly complete and the house actually looked decent. The manufactured home had to stay on the property as the cost to haul it away or sell it was prohibitive. He suggested that they could rent it out or use it as a guest home for friends when they came to visit.

She said nothing and made plans to put their rural house on the market.

Entry Five

The war in the middle east finally erupted and while it took a few weeks to spread, it did. With it came the specter of nuclear war and the couple had to decide what to do. He suggested that they relocate, temporarily, to their country home. Out of fear, she agreed. They cleaned out the bank account, went shopping for food and other supplies, buttoned up their city home and trekked to the country.

He had taken a leave of absence from work but instead, was offered a package to leave permanently as work was down at his job. He took a final check for two months salary and rubbed his hands together with glee. It was possible that the end was finally here and he would be prepared for the worse.

Entry Six

Two days later, she was still unpacking their things, hanging curtains, putting away groceries and making beds. He was often outside, "puttering around" in his shop or making preparation plans. Shortly afterwards, his brother and wife showed up with their three children, dog, two cats and hamster. "Of course you are welcome!" he exclaimed before she had made it outside to greet them.

Later, he explained that it was great she would have another lady to spend time with and to help with the chores in the kitchen and around the house.

Entry Seven

The war was heating up and he discussed events with her one evening. "We have to be ready for the long term. Make a list of what we will need. You know, food, water, clothing, that sort of stuff. I will be in charge of guns and ammo and you get the rest. We have the rest of your mother's money and my severance from work to spend".

She spent the next week driving back and forth to the distant Walmart and the grocery store with her sister-in-law buying canned goods, batteries and extra socks, not only for herself and her husband, but for his family who had brought little with them and even less spending money. He went to the sporting goods store and spent his entire severance on ammunition and one very expensive rifle with all the accessories.

Entry Eight

As feared, the war went nuclear in one day and in the same amount of time, was over. They were cut off from the civilized world and her husband was the only one who saw this as a positive event. Shortly afterward, a man stopped by their front gate and told them the locals were forming a group to deal with the situation. He was invited to a meeting which he immediately jumped at the opportunity to attend.

Before leaving, he told her to consider a vegetable and fruit garden while he was out as they would need the food in the future when their stored food ran out. He also reminded her it was laundry day and he was out of clean underwear. Then he left.

Entry Nine

The next day, he went to another meeting to discuss the latest news with the group and to talk about things. He left her with a selection of hand tools and large bucket of seeds. "The kids and my sister in law will pitch in" he said as he left.

She ended up doing most of the work while the kids played in the creek. Her sister in law claimed she had a headache and went to lay down.

Entry Ten

He dumped a set of 1950's text books on the kitchen table that morning. "You are going to have to start home schooling those kids. My sister in law never finished high school and isn't good with learning like you are." She watched him walk out the door as he went to "putter" in his shop with his brother. They were going to work on a project.

Later, he asked what the ladies had planned for dinner. She did not tell him that his sister in law was only able to burn water and was useless in the kitchen. He told her to let him know when dinner was ready. Then he went to inventory his tools with his brother.

Entry Eleven

Soon after, her husband said, "Looks like your garden is going great. I got all the jars and lids out of the basement for you to start canning with. Speaking of which, what's for dinner tonight?" Then he went hunting with his brother. They went every day and usually came back with nothing, but blamed it on the locals killing everything before they had a chance.

When he returned, he and his brother's family ate and then went about their respective past times. He enjoyed reading in the family room while she did the dishes.  By the time the kitchen was cleaned, he had gone to bed leaving her alone to pick up the family room and catch up on laundry.

Entry Twelve

He pushed his plate away signifying he was done and stood up from the breakfast table. "Great meal, ladies." he said and then he went outside to go to a meeting with some of the locals.They were concerned about raiders from the city and they were going to make some plans and discuss their different guns and ammunition. He was going to bring his new rifle and explain how much ammunition he had purchased before things went downhill.

She picked up his dirty dishes and his families' and washed them by hand in the sink.

Entry Thirteen

He came home late and asked where dinner was. She explained that the brother's family had eaten most everything she had made that night. She also told him they were running out of packaged and canned food and had only the garden and whatever meat he could hunt for the time being.

He went in the pantry and took down the last can of Spam, opened and ate it. Afterward, he told her she did a bad job and once again, left all the planning to him. He went to bed and left her in the kitchen.

Entry Fourteen

The next morning, he handed her a list of chores he expected her to get done. "These are your jobs". Work in the garden. Can more fruit and vegetables. Homeschooling. Laundry. Organize and inventory their remaining food. Prepare breakfast and wash the dishes. He was going to go and inventory his ammunition and clean his rifle. Later, he had a meeting to attend with some of the locals. As he left, he said, "No reason to get angry. I am only trying to help."

Entry Fifteen

She spaded the last of the soil onto the compost heap which was significantly larger than it was yesterday. By next spring, the soil would be full of nutrients and ready for the garden, in fact, she expected a bumper crop. Before she walked away, she noticed his hand was sticking out of the freshly turned soil. She promptly piled two more shovels full of dirt on top and went in the house to do some reading about his new rifle. She had his family to deal with and wanted to know what she was doing when the time came.

In retrospect, living in the country wasn't so bad after all. After all, nobody would hear the shots in the middle of nowhere.

The End



The Burnout Chapter Twenty Eight

"Did you hear that? It sound like Brad." said Patty.

"I heard something. I couldn't tell." replied Lamar.

The four, including Catelyn and Candace, were sitting in the shade near the bushes where Brad had gone looking for the road which they needed to take to get back on their way home to Dallas/Fort Worth. Brad had been gone about twenty minutes and Patty was beginning to worry.

Getting to her feet, Patty started towards the bushes when Lamar called out.

"I'll come with you.." he said as he started to get up.

"No you stay with our stuff. Catelyn, you come with me and Candace you help Lamar. Ya'll keep your eyes open for trouble." replied Patty.

Patty checked her Glock and was happy to see that Cately had brought along the shortened twenty gauge shotgun she was given. They both poked around the bushes until they found a suitable, but scratchy, place to cut through. Like Brad, they found that the bushes opened up into a tree covered, but clear area. Brad however, was no where to be seen.

"Maybe we just heard something else?" said Catelyn.

"No, it was Brad and he sounded like he was hurt or in trouble. C'mon, let's go this way but keep your eyes open for anything. Most of all, stay quiet. I want to be able to hear him if he's hurt." ordered Patty.

They walked no more than ten yards when Patty noticed the leaves and ruts in the dirt which suggested something had happened in this area. It was confirmed when Catelyn spoke quietly nearby.

"Look. This is that machete he took with him. And look here, one of his shoes!" Catelyn said.

The machete was laying on the ground, but Catelyn had already picked up the shoe and was holding it out for Patty to see. Patty quickly looked in all four directions looking for anymore clues or signs. She noticed what looked like tracks in the still damp ground going off to the north through the trees. Within seconds, she found what was nothing more than a rabbit trail leading through the densest part of the forest .

"Okay, Brad would not have gone this way being so close to where we were. Something has happened to him. You keep that shotgun pointed at the ground but if you see anything, I want you to fire whatever you have in it and then run back to Lamar, got it?" she hissed.

"Okay." replied Catelyn in a wavering voice.

"I need you to be strong for me, Catelyn. This is Brad's life we are talking about here." said Patty sternly while grasping Catelyn's arm.

"I will." she said quietly.

Patty turned and walked carefully, but determinedly down the trail through the undergrowth and under the dark shadows of the pines and oaks towering overhead. After a few tense moments, she nearly tripped over something which turned out to be Brad's other shoe. "Good, we are on the right trail" she thought to herself.

The trail wound through the undergrowth before splitting into two paths. Patty paused and held up her hand to Catelyn to be still as well. She then listened for a moment before turning to the path to the right and sped up her pace. It was not long before they heard what could be voices close by.

They broke through the bushes where the path disappeared to see a small clearing where sunlight spilled from the opening in the trees above. There was Brad on the ground, but their view was blocked by the back of a large man in overalls who was standing and tugging Brad's pants off the young man's legs.

"Hoo hoo! We can have a party right here my purty little thing!" the big man heaved, clearly out of breath from his dash through the woods or through his obscene excitement. Whatever the case, he did not hear Patty approach from behind as she brought up her pistol.

"Patty!" shouted Brad which caused the big man to drop Brad's pants and spin around. He was incredibly quick as he dropped to the ground and crabbed backwards to his right positing Brad between him and Patty's aim.

"Oooh, lookee here! Who's this, boy? Ya mama? Or you her little play thing? Come to get her boy candy, huh? What ifs I don't want to give you up, purty boy?" the large man taunted.

He then reached into the back of his filthy overalls and produced a large Bowie knife which he placed against Brad's neck after jerking him to his feet.

"How you want him, mama? Sliced, diced or french fried? How about you and that little thing with you come on down here before I cut him open like a pig?" he said pulling Brad closer so that their faces were side by side.

"No. Let him go or you will die." said Patty solidifying her grip on the Glock and planting her feet firmly on the ground.

"Oooh, he is so yummy I could eat him up." the man replied pushing his face against Brad's. "You two put down them guns and come on over here. And take off them clothes, too. I gots time for everyone today!"

Catelyn moved forward towards Brad's all while keeping the shotgun on her shoulder and pointed at Brad and his captor.

"Oh sugar, you wanna use that scatter gun you gonna put purty boy's face all over the bushes. But don't worry, I'll open him up first." he said slowly applying pressure with the knife to Brad's neck causing a tiny thread of blood to spill beneath the blade.

Brad moaned and struggled before his face went white and he went limp against the big man. His attacker tried to pull Brad up with one arm but could not keep the knife applied to Brad's neck at the same time. His body was now no longer covered by Brad's completely and Patty took the shot.

The round struck the big man in his meaty right shoulder but it was enough to get his attention and cause the knife to fall to the ground. With his same speed, the man shoved Brad's limp body towards Patty and ran sideways into the trees, followed by a single gauge shot by Catelyn, albeit went high to avoid hitting Brad.

Patty fired two rounds as well, but they could tell by the crashing in the bushes, he had made it away into the cover of the trees.

"Brad!" Catelyn shouted running up to his body lying face down on the ground. She turned him over and saw that the cut on his neck was superficial and clearly he was only unconscious and not dead.

"We don't have time." said Patty. "Get him up. We'll have to walk him between us back to the bikes. Get his pants, hurry!"

Candace grabbed Brad's jeans and rolled them quickly but carefully so his pockets would not empty onto the ground. Then lifted him off the ground underneath his left arm while Patty did the same on the right. At that moment something flew through the air and crashed on to the ground near their feet.

They both saw it was a fist sized rock and Patty wasted no time in firing two rounds from the hip in the general direction of the missile.

"Let's go now before he finds his target!" said Patty to Candace.

They pulled Brad into the bushes onto the rabbit path and hurried while nearly dragging the still unconscious Brad between them. They soon heard the sound of crashing trees and bushes behind them as their attacker regained his nerve and came after them. Patty took the lead and dragged  Brad her lungs burning and her legs growing shaky by the minute.

"Lamar!" Patty yelled through the darkness and trees.

The crashing continued until they saw the large man, now with blood streaming down his side from the wound to his shoulder and sticks, leaves and dirt hanging from his sweaty hair. His eyes were wild and rolling and he ran at them from the right side only feet away.

Patty barely had time to get her Glock free from its holster when the man struck her and knocked the gun and all three of them to the ground. He rolled off her and sprang to his feet, his eyes darting around for the fallen gun.

Patty reached out and kicked his leg, but it had no effect as he spotted the fallen weapon and went to retrieve it with a huge smile on his big ugly face. He had just reached it when Patty pulled her knife from it's sheath and Catelyn pulled the trigger on the shotgun.

The blast caught the overall clad man in his side and knocked him with a grunt off his feet. The shells were only bird shot and while the distance was minimal, the penetration was as well. He grabbed his side and then reached back for the gun which was still on the ground. Catelyn pulled the trigger again and the only sound was a tiny click. The shotgun was empty.

Patty jabbed out with her knife and caught the man on his arm before he could reach the Glock. He rose his head and growled at her and slapped out with his right hand and running it across the sharpened four inch blade. He howled and pulled the bloody fingers to his body and tried to get the Glock again, but Patty had it by the barrel and drew it away.

The big man screamed and lunged towards Patty this time and she barely was able to crawl backwards by inches from his grasp. She lost her balance as she fell over Brad's unconscious body and prepared herself for the inevitable crush of the disgusting man upon her.

Just then the trees parted and an equally large man barreled through and tackled the bloody attacker. It was Lamar.



The Burnout Chapter Twenty Seven

Patty was right. It was a hard slog.

They took the county road north by northeast and followed the winding turns past numerous small homes, trailers and patch work farms interspersed with brush and stands of pine. Along the way, they saw a few of the houses and mobile homes were occupied, but many were not.

Some of the structures had clearly been abandoned for some time. But most of the others bore signs of hasty retreat - front doors and garages left open, children's toys abandoned, personal possessions left casually behind and finally, signs of struggle and destruction. More than one home was partially burned or featured broken windows and kicked in doors.

The homes and buildings which were occupied housed paranoid residents armed and peering from behind shuttered window or impromptu barricades of cars, trash, firewood or other debris pointing long arms their direction as they passed. Nobody, save for a dirty little boy with his chubby finger wedged firmly up his nose, said anything as they hastily rode by.

The county road ended abruptly, and after standing atop a fence and grasping the lower limbs of a tree, Brad pointed that the farm to market road they were looking for was just across the field in front of them. Dismounting and working together, the five heaved their bikes and trailers over and under the fence and then pushed them across the damp ground to the other side and the waiting road.

The day was hot and humid and all stopped for a drink before mounting up and riding due west on the farm road to the next junction. They were fortunate as the map showed two of of the upcoming roads were connected meaning there would be no fence hopping or cross country travel. At least for now. The worse stretch was yet to come.

Patty refused to stop and told the others, namely Candace, that the next meal would be dinner and until then, they were free to root whatever snack food they could find in their bags if they were hungry. Bathroom breaks would be short and hasty. There was no time to waste as long as they were so close to Mineola and off their path home.

A couple of hours later, they came to another dead end, this time, blocked by heavy trees and brush.

"Well?" said Patty looking at Brad. "We know the county road is on the other side of this mess, but how will we get through? Do you want to turn back and find an easier path back the way we came?"

"Let's try this. How about I take a look a ways into the brush and see how far we are from the next road? We'd kick ourselves if the road was only a hundred or so yards away, wouldn't we?" he said.

So Brad took his machete from his pack and found an entrance point and crawled, hacked and pushed his way through the thick brush. He was surprised when he found the thicket only went a few yards in and then opened up to a trees with plenty of space between them to walk or ride the bikes over the leaf covered ground.

It was darker in the trees however, with the shade and lack of sunlight. Brad peered into the gloom and tried to see where the road might be, but had no luck. Rather than turn back, he walked into the glade hoping to find the other side where the road might be. He walked for about ten minutes before he came to another stand of heavy bushes and upon parting them, he immediately saw another clearing and what appeared to be, through a break in the trees, the road.

However, his reverie was broken when he noticed something else in the clearing he had overlooked. The remains of a large campfire with a pile of dirty clothing next to it. He looked more carefully when he noticed a fly covered heap just off to the side when revulsion and then nausea struck him. The remains of a person, a small person judging by the size, laid partially dismembered and covered with insect, dirt and leaves. He realized then what he had stumbled upon and he turned to run back to the others.

Brad did not realize he had become disoriented in his travels through the brush and his obsession with finding the elusive county road. He ran for a few minutes before he realized he was going the wrong way. Pausing to catch his breath, he carefully looked up at the tree cover and tried to determine the position of the sun and hopefully, the direction he was headed.

He walked carefully back in his steps and found the scene of cannibalistic horror and then carefully made his bearings again before heading out in hopefully the wrong direction. He was elated when he noticed several landmarks in front of him which he remembered and knew he was only moments from joining his friends.

He heard the crunching of leaves only seconds before the shout pierced his ears.


Brad turned and was tackled by a big man with long dirty hair, unshaven and wearing only a pair of stained overalls. The wind knocked out of him, Brad was unable to yell before his attacker tossed him like a rag doll around on the ground and punched him repeatedly in the head and torso.

The man laughed with an insidious giggle and appeared to never tire or lose strength as he pummeled Brad and played with him like a cruel house cat having caught a helpless mouse. Brad struggled to get to his feet but with each move, his legs were kicked out from underneath him and he found himself on the receiving end of even more beatings.

Finally, his attacker stopped and hunched back on his knees and regarded Brad laying there prone and breathless on the ground. He reached out and squeezed Brads calf and then tossed it back to the ground.

"You almos too purty to eat, boy! But fun's fun and we got's to get piggy in the pot. So c'mere and quit fightin' me boy. You aint gonna mind this a lil ole bit when we's all done, now is ya?" he taunted.

Brad was disgusted and overwhelmed at the same time. He was done for and there was nothing he could do about it. Except for one thing. He screamed at the top of his lungs.



The Burnout Chapter Twenty Six

The ride west went without a hitch for the first few hours. They first town they came to was a wide spot in the road called Hawkins and as they were to see again and again, a road block had been set up for entry into the town, but not across the state highway. A half dozen men were setup behind two disabled newer model trucks while a few others hunkered down in makeshift fox holes twenty yards or so off the road.

They stared at Patty's group as they passed which irritated Patty to no end.

"Why does everyone out here stare? What's the deal with people in small towns? Why can't they say something like 'Hi' or 'Keep on riding'? Instead they stand there and stare like they can't get their pea brains to do two things at once." Patty groused to herself.

"What's up?" said Lamar noting the look on Patty's face.

"Nothing, just remind me when things get back to normal and I am in my car driving in East Texas that I am never, ever going to stop in Hawkins and spend one dime." she replied.

"Don't forget, Hawkins has the bomb." said Lamar and he rode ahead with a smirk on his face.

"What? Oh, whatever." Patty shouted after him.

The state highway was flat and open in front of them and took them through one more small town called Hoard. Unlike its' implied namesake, Hoard did not have any barricades or guards, only a few bored people sitting in front of a closed mini mart smoking home rolled cigarettes and drinking some clear liquid from mason jars. "I'll bet that's not water" thought Patty.

Afterward, they passed a few people on foot and another couple on bikes going the other direction, but nobody said a word. They merely passed with their heads down or staring straight in front of them. The look said fear to Patty.

"This has gone on for too long," thought Patty. "A week or so ago, we were all Americans and in this together. Now, we are each individuals or drawn together into tribes concerned only with our next meal and safe place to rest. Authority is meted out by bands of men hiding behind dead cars or laying in holes in the ground. Their bellies growing empty as they protect their families from potential predator while wondering if the man next to them is holding out on the others. This will not play out well."

A sign on their right said Mineola, the next town, was ten miles ahead. On their left, a large forested area began and for some reason, Patty recalled it was the beginning of a state forest of some kind or another. The trees were a mix of pine and oak and stood tall and green against the gray skies.

"Patty, are we going to stop in Mineola or ride past it and stop?" asked Brad.

"I doubt any of the motels are open in Mineola. I imagine they will watch us pass through, detour us around the town or make us go back the way we came." she replied.

"I thought the law or something said we could travel on the public roads without being bothered. At least that's what we learned in school." said Brad.

"Sure, but times have changed. I don't blame what some of these towns are doing to protect themselves. Imagine if Winona believed that the mob had the right to an open road hadn't done anything when they rolled through." she replied.

"I guess. But I wish they would just let us pass through so we could get home. This is taking forever." Brad complained.

"That, I agree with, Brad." said Patty.

"What's that smell?" asked Catelyn.

"What, hmmm, that is strange. It's the smell of something burning, that's for sure. Look over above the trees, smoke." replied Patty pointing at the forest on the left.

A wisp of white smoke rose up from the forest probably a hundred or so yards into the trees. As they passed, Patty tried to look into the trees, but could see nothing, but thought she heard voices speaking deep in the shadows.

The odor from the fire was stronger as they rode near it. It was meat or something similar cooking and smelled both sweet and rancid at the same time. Obviously, someone had killed an animal and was cooking it off the road, but was not very good at remaining furtive and their actions only served to draw attention.

Before long, the smoke and odor fell behind them and they continued on towards Mineola. It was around then, they saw the first sign. A billboard had been haphazardly painted over with white house paint and written in black spray paint was a simple message.

"KeeP Going. No Food hear. Will Shoot Looters!"

"Well, they know how to make newcomers feel welcome." said Lamar wryly.

Soon after, they came to another billboard done in the same manner.

"NO Stopping In Town. Closed to Outsiters"

"Should we turn back?" asked Lamar to Patty.

"No, they specifically said to keep going, so let's do that." she replied.

It took another hour before they reached the edge of Mineola. The barricade was much more elaborate than others they had seen and was manned by uniformed men all heavily armed. Already, there were four other people on foot standing outside the blockage speaking to a tall man carrying a semi-auto rifle across his chest.

"Say, it looks like the military is here." said Lamar.

"I didn't know the military wore beards or had long hair." said Patty gesturing at a couple of guards on the far left of the road. Both men had beards and one had long hair underneath is baseball hat.

"Hang on, folks. Stop right there for processing." said the tall man in their direction as they rolled to the stop at the barrier.

"Processing? For what?" asked Patty.

"Just hang on. We got a few people here before you. One at a time." he replied.

A few moments later, the four people were ushered inside the barricade and directed into town by two more uniformed guards.

"OK, what we got here. One, two, three, four, five of you. On bikes. Alright, I need you to declare all firearms and weapons on your person and be prepared for a full search and inventory of your property." the man stated.

"Hold on. What right do you have to search us and our personal possessions?" asked Patty.

"By right of the state and the city of Mineola. This area is under martial law and the control of the town militia operating under the precepts of the Texas State Guard." he replied. "Now, we can make this easy or hard, how do you want to work it, folks?"

"Texas State Guard? Is the state finally getting its act together? What can you tell us?" asked Patty.

"Only that the state has authorized all local and county governments to make whatever preparations they see fit to deal with this crisis and provide for the greater good." the guard replied.

"How did you find out? Do you have working communications? A radio?" Patty blurted.

"Nope, a couple of fellers rolled in here in a helicopter working out of some base nearby. Told us to get ourselves organized and to hold the line as long as possible until aid was distributed. Said we were going to get priority relief supplies if we did as we were told, so that's what we're doing. Now, let's get those weapons out and declared." he replied.

"Wait, what did they tell you to do and when is the relief operation starting? We have been dealing with this mess for two weeks and haven't seen any sort of supplies or military operations." said Lamar.

"Easy. We are to make a head count of all entering and leaving town. We are to take an inventory of their supplies, means of transportation, ages, home addresses and intention. That means finding out where you are heading and why. Finally, we are to confiscate all guns and ammunition. Do that and the aid starts rolling in from the government warehouses. Food, medicine, toilet paper, the works. It's pretty cut and dry folks, so can we cut out the jawing and get down to business? I got a job to do." the tall man said, visibly irritated.

"What if we say no and turn around the way we came?" asked Lamar.

"You're free to do that if you want, but listen here and listen good. You do and don't come back this way again. For all we know you're checking the town out for raiders and looters and want to see how we operate." the man said gravely.

"We are neither, we are just trying to get home." said Patty. "Look, we don't want any trouble. Yes, we are armed and you'd be crazy not to be if you were out walking these roads. And if you let us go straight on through the highway to other side of town, we won't be any trouble. You can even escort us if it makes you feel better."

"Sorry, miss. Nobody goes through armed and everyone is subject to search and inventory. We got a lot of scared and hungry people in town and we can't afford to have anyone wandering through without giving something up." said the man.

"Oh, that's it. Alright, we'll just go back and figure another way home." said Patty turning her bike around. "But you are making a mistake in letting us walk away. We actually know quite a bit about what's going on to the east and south of here which might be valuable to you. But you just keep operating in the dark and see how that works out. See ya."

The guards went back behind their barricades and assumed their spots as Patty and company turned around.

"Hey lady. You might want to know something too before you ride away too fast. Foods running real short and guess what some of locals are eating? I'll give you a hint. Your big friend looks like a blue plate special." yelled one of the guards and which caused all the others to break out laughing.

"Ugh" thought Patty. "Come on everyone. Let's go back a ways and then we can figure out which way to go from here."


They rode back about a half a mile and found a wide spot to hunker down and figure out their next move. Patty pulled a worn map and carefully traced the route they had taken so far until they came to Mineola.

"OK, we should be about here. Now look, there is a farm to market road just back a mile or so and it goes south and around to the west. From there, we can take this county road and come out about a mile or so from the edge of town. If we ride to that spot, just to the end of the county road, we can lay low and then move after dark. I imagine they probably have road blocks and guards, but I bet they can't see very well at night. What do you think?" asked Patty.

"Probably would work," said Lamar. "I really don't want to go all the way back the way we came and start over."

"I bet they are expecting it." said Brad quietly. "Look, they are searching people and taking their stuff for some government goon. I am sure a bunch of other people have tried the same thing and they have moved their blockades and look outs to deal with it."

Patty stared quietly at Brad for a few moments before speaking.

"That makes a lot of sense. OK, take a look at the map. What do you think is a better route?"

"The hard way. Those guys looked lazy and acted cocky. See this county road going north? Take this and follow it up to farm to market forty nine. Take that north east and then this county road going north and then west." Brad replied.

"But that county road ends, Brad. It dead ends and goes no where." replied Patty.

"I know. Would you watch that road? Of course not. But look, its a hop skip and jump from this other farm to market and then to this county road to the west and then one more and we're on the other side. Easy peasy and no one taking pot shots at you or going through your underwear drawer." Brad said.

Patty stared at the map and realized it might work.

"We'll have to go cross country in a few places to get where we are going. It'll be a tough slog, especially with all our stuff." she said.

"Sure, but wasn't that one of the reasons we left the wagon and the interstate? I think that's what YOU said wasn't it?" said Brad with a smile.

"OK, you got me. Alright, Daniel Boone. Why don't you lead the way and we'll follow you for a while, deal?" said Patty.

Everyone mounted up and rode the mile to the county road cut off. As they started, Candace finally spoke since leaving camp this morning.

"He meant they are eating people, didn't he? That guard at Mineola, that's what he was talking about when we left wasn't it?" she said.

"I think so, Candace. I think so." said Patty quietly. "Let's go."

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The Burnout Chapter Twenty Five

Peri kicked the unconcious body of Stumpy until he rolled over into the underbrush. Before she walked away, she leaned over and relieved his sleeping body of the large revolver and gunbelt he wore. Another gun can always come in handy she thought to herself.

Stumpy had complained about a headache from a lack of caffeine. He was a rabid coffee drinker and his wife had limited him to two cups in the morning which was not enough to keep the inevitable withdrawl headaches away.

Always thinking of others, Peri offered Stumpy something from her stash and ten minutes later,  he nodded off and allowed the old truck to drift to a stop on the right hand side of the road. Lugging his body out had been the hardest part up until now. That and deciding whether or not to put a bullet in the old man's head in case he sent others after her.

But Peri reasoned a shot might bring unneeded attention so she pulled him to the pavement and left him in the underbrush next to the old highway. She then checked the truck and headed north, but not before hiding her red hair under Stumpy's old cowboy hat and putting on his worn denim jacket. The efffect might get her through a few spots up ahead.


Patty dragged her sleeping bag over to the camp area and started laying it out in the tent. Brad had the dutch oven set up and had something cooking which smelled great to the hungry group. Except Patty. "What if some mob or group smells dinner cooking?" she thought. Shivering at the thought, she checked her Ruger and Glock and looked around the area but fortunately found nothing.

As the afternoon grew later (and dark clouds gathered overhead), the group of cyclists turned first off the highway down a farm to market road and then onto a smaller, dirt road which led to a stand of trees. A quick survey of the area showed they were far from any structure, shelter or group of people.

Brad dug a shallow pit, gathered firewood and lay the fire. He took the dutch oven and some of the food they purchased from Stubby and set to making a camp meal for all to enjoy. Patty, ever vigilant to the point of being obsessive compulsive, checked everyone's bikes and gear. Catelyn asked Patty for some additional feminine supplies and then asked what she could do to help. Candace on the other hand complained about her feet and said she was going to rest until dinner. Patty belayed that action and put Candace to work filtering water.

Lamar finished setting up the tent and then fashioned a second shelter out of the two tarps they had on hand. He also dug a small latrine behind some bushes and put a blanket around it as a shelter.

They were about to take out dishes and cutlery when the deep rumble of thunder sounded from the east signalling an approaching storm. With dinner read, everyone dished up food and brought the dutch oven to rest just inside the tarp structure on a flat rock. The rest of their gear was taken into the tent and everyone ate quickly in the clearing while watching the sky apprehensively.

Withing fifteen minutes, the first drops began to fall, scattered at first, then steady and finally, in a downpour. The camp fire sputtered and hissed as the rain doused it leaving a gray mess of ash and wet, half burned wood. The tarp structure, in spite of Lamar's best attempts, leaked and forced the girls into the two man tent leaving Patty, Brad and Lamar to argue in the rain.

"Lamar, you take the guns and stay in the tent with the girls. I have my rain gear and will be fine in the shelter." ordered Patty.

"I will not. It is inappropriate for a middle aged man to be in such close confines with two teen age girls he is not related to nor hardly knows. You're a woman. You stay in the tent and Brad and I will deal with the elements." Lamar replied.

"Nonsense, the last thing anyone is thinking is propriety at this time. I don't need you hanging around in the rain and getting sick. Get in the tent." said Patty.

"I'll get in the tent.." interrupted Brad.

"No." said Lamar and Patty at the same time.

In the end, all three hunched down under the spreading boughs of large nearby tree with one tarp held over their heads, their hair plastered to their head and miserable. After an hour, the rain had no intention of letting up and Patty regretfully went to the tent to check on the girls and try and get some rest.

The next morning, stiff from sleeping on the ground and sore from Candace's repeated kicks to her side in the confines of the tent, Patty emerged and found Lamar wrapped in one tarp and Brad in the other like cocoons asleep under different trees. The rain had ended but the sky was still overcast and the ground was naturally soaked and muddy.

Patty retrieved the gas camp stove from their wet belongings and set up under another near by tree and set about boiling water for tea, instant coffee and oatmeal. There was no sense in trying to make some bacon in the dutch oven as it was now half full of rain water and the leavings of their dinner. Patty wiped it out with an old rag and set it to dry hoping it would not rust too bad.

While she waited for the water to boil, Patty retrieved her wallet from her backpack and looked at a picture of Elena. The little girl seemed so much like a stranger and a dream and it broke Patty's heart. She felt the first tear slide down her cheek when a soft voice spoke behind her.

"You okay?" said Candace.

"Um, yeah, sure. Just waking up, that's all." said Patty wiping her eyes on her shirt sleeve.

"That's your little girl." said Candace.

"Yes, that's Elena." replied Patty.

"She's very pretty. She sits at the window each day waiting for your arrival." said Candace.

"I'm sure she is. Are you hungry?" asked Patty raising an eyebrow at Candace's strange statement.

"You are going to see her again, very soon." said Candace ignoring Patty's question. "You saved their lives and are now closer to home than you were yesterday and the day before. Just keep one foot in front of the other and don't stop believing in yourself. They are praying for you to succeed and you shall persevere in spite of these trials and tribulations."

Candace stood up slowly and went back into the tent without saying a word leaving Patty sitting there with her mouth open. A few moments later, Patty heard the teen snoring softly away from the tent.
It seemed all Candace did was whine and complain and now to speak so strangely and "Why was she referring to everyone in the third person?", thought Patty.

A few moments later, Lamar stirred and said without getting up or opening his eyes,

"Who's there? What's going on?"

"Nothing, go back to bed Sleeping Beauty." said Patty. She wanted a few minutes alone with her thoughts before having to explain everything. And she realized she would not say another word about this mornings events until she spoke with Candace again.

Eventually, everyone woke up including Candace who as the last to make an appearance and whose only words were, "I'm hungry. Do we have to ride today or can we take a day off?"

Their gear was wet and all the bedding and most of the clothing they were wearing needed to be hung to dry. Everyone took turns changing into dry clothes and then hung their things along with shaking out the tent and both tarps.

"We can't ride to the road  in this mud." said Lamar. "We will have to walk the bikes and trailers back to the highway and clean them off there."

Patty agreed and insisted that everyone eat a big brunch (it was later than they thought) and drink plenty of water. With her boots weighed down with heavy mud, Patty removed them and tied them together to hang on her handle bars. She then changed into her sneakers and loaded the rest of her gear into her pack and panniers. The trailers will filled and the tent and tarps stowed away.

Patty eyed her Glock and felt it was fine for the time being. She also checked the Ruger and all three ten round magazines she had for it in her fanny pack. With that, the five started pushing their bikes out of the trees and back to the now muddy dirt road they had come down.

The trip was agonizingly slow at this point as the pushed their muddy bikes back to the farm to market road. When they reached it, they took a half an hour to scrape mud off both tire and shoe before mounting up for the next leg of the ride. Mud clods flew off their tires and hit the rider on either side or behind leaving everyone grumpy and irritable. It also did not help that the rain left the day muggy and humid.

Within a brutal hour, they were back on the two lane state highway heading west again towards Dallas. Patty estimated they would have about five good hours of riding before they would have to consider their next rest stop. She also decided they would only stop for brief water and bathroom breaks until that time as to take full advantage of their limited travel time.


Some miles to their east and outside of Big Sandy, Peri woke up inside the cab of Stubby's old truck. The roadblock outside of town forced her to detour and then the rain came shortly afterward. Not knowing the area very well, Peri pulled the truck off the road and parked it next to a falling down barn and waited for the rain to end.

Now that the rain was gone and the day was starting to lighten, Peri studied a folded road map she found in the glove box of the pickup.

"That b**tch will keep going west to her brat daughter." thought Peri. "I am sure she is taking the state highway and is probably riding right down the middle of the road with her pack of losers"

Peri imagined herself driving the old pickup full speed into Patty, Lamar and the teens from behind and knocking them all to the ground. Those that were still alive she would gun down on the road. Except for Patty. No, she was going to make Patty die slow and painful.

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