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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