The next morning, we decided to do one more thing for these poor guys before hitting the road. Well, two things actually. First, Chuck put together breakfast consisting of oatmeal, Tang and two cans of fruit.
Then we offered to take Todd with us, (if his place was nearby) and drop him off at his folks place since he was hurt and walking would be out of the question.
Finally, Chuck reached under the seat of the truck and pulled out the go bag he had put together which had some protein and candy bars and some single serve meals and gave them to the guys with the instructions that they ration it and make it last.
I pulled Billy aside and asked him, "What else do you guys have for supplies? Do you have a way to make fire, a knife, a tarp or anything like that?"
"None of us had matches or a lighter before then because we weren't smokers but we found a lighter near the house. We have a couple of kitchen knives we found at that house, our clothes, a couple of blankets and not much else".
I went into my bag and pulled out a spare Bic lighter and two emergency heat reflecting blankets and gave them to Billy.
"Here, it's not much but it might help. I need you to collect all the empty water bottles from yesterday and today and let's refill them from our water bucket. Also, get the empty cans from dinner and breakfast and hang on to them. From now on, I want you to boil water in a can for a few minutes and then transfer it to your empty bottles. That way you can at least keep a supply of clean water on hand.
"OK, we are going to take Todd to his folk's house near Caldwell and then we have to move on. I wish we could come back and carry each of you home, but we don't have the gas and still may not have enough to get home as it is."
Billy and the others thanked us for the food and help, wished their friend Todd well and watched as we drove off. Caldwell was not far from where we were and we made it in about an hour due to road conditions, wrecks and my own paranoid caution.
Todd's family had a modest home outside of Caldwell in a neighborhood of about twenty other houses each on one acre. When we pulled up, several people came outside to see who we were. More than a few were armed I noticed.
Todd's parents came out of the house and lost it when they saw Todd. They had assumed he had died during the attacks and were relieved to see him back home again. We were invited in and they offered to share what little food they had for repayment, but we knew we couldn't take anything from them. I did however ask if they could spare some gasoline and Todd's dad gave us five gallons siphoned from their dead GM pickup. They also let us refill our water containers as they had a hand pump agricultural well with clean drinking water.
After a short visit, we wished Todd well and headed out. We decided to go north avoiding Caldwell proper and stick to farm to market roads for the meantime. The map said the next town was called Hobbs and since there was not a clear path around it, we decided to take a chance and roll through and hopefully be quickly in and out of town.
We drove along for about fifteen minutes talking about Billy, Todd, Randy and the others and were feeling pretty good about what we had done. In spite of all the bad stuff that was happening, it was nice to be part of a good thing and helping out others. Even if they were Longhorns!
We came to a slight turn in the road and as we came around the bend I knew what was happening five seconds before it happened. A car was parked diagonal on the shoulder with the nose blocking the lane I was in. As I slowed and steered around it, there was another car, also parked in the same manner, immediately on my left forcing me to go slower. As I banked the curve, two cars blocked the entire road in front of me which caused me to slam on the brakes.
"Get out of here!" the voice in my head screamed.
But to go back in reverse would have been a task with the two disabled cars behind me, but it did not matter. More than a dozen men with long guns came from all sides of my trapped truck.
"Hands up! Keep your hands where we can see them!" they shouted.
I could tell Chuck was about to freak and without looking at him I murmured, "If they wanted us dead we would already be dead. Be cool..."
My door was ripped open and a strong hand pulled me from the vehicle and to the ground. A huge bald guy with wearing a Carhardt jacket pointed a the business end of a Glock in my face and told me to be still. Then he flipped me over like a pancake, yanked my arms behind me and ziptied my hands together.
I heard Curtis squawking about his rights and arrest warrants and then the sound of a *slap* which most likely was received by Curtis' face. I was yanked to my feet and the big guy half dragged me away from my truck to a parked pickup truck with the tailgate down.
I was patted down and all of my pocket contents were dumped on the bed. I was then pushed on the side of the road into a sitting position behind the pickup truck. Chuck joined me a few moments later followed by a very red faced Curtis. Everything happened in less than a minute. I then watched helplessly as several men opened all the doors on my beloved truck and started ransacking it of its contents.
The three of us were jerked to a standing position again and laid face down in the bed of an old pickup which took off with a start. I could hear my truck starting up behind me, but could not see what was happening because of the way I was laying. The truck lurched down the road for about ten minutes before making a right hand turn, then another and then abruptly stopping. My mind was racing but eventually I decided that whoever these people were, they were probably going to kill us. With my family gone, stripped of all my belongings and considering the shape of the world these days, it did not seem like such a bad ending but I was scared all the same.
We were hauled out of the truck, stood up and found ourselves not in some empty field but standing in a parking lot behind an older building. We were obviously in some small town and there was activity all around us. There were several other older vehicles in the parking lot and many people moving back and forth carrying boxes from the vehicles into the building.
A big guy with a police uniform of some sort took my arm and led me into the building while Curtis and Chuck were led away in different directions by others. I was taken inside which so I figured they weren't going to kill me yet. I mean, who would want to go to the trouble of killing me, then have to clean up the mess and then drag my body back outside for disposal?
I was taken into the building which appeared to be a government office, like a courthouse or police station, and then taken upstairs where I was led into a small room with a table and two chairs. It was an interrogation room right out of TV or it sure looked like it.
I was told to sit in one of the chairs and then the police officer left me in the room alone, my hands firmly zip tied behind me. There was no need in trying to escape or wander around as the room had no windows and featured noting else other than the table and chairs. I noticed then that the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling was lit so they must be getting power from somewhere.
While I waited, I tried to go over my situation and if there was anything I might of noticed which might give me a clue as to what was going on. Some of the guys who grabbed us were wearing police uniforms while others were in civilian clothing. The truck we rode in and the other vehicle I saw were older model pickups like my International which means they did not have EMP-proof vehicles either. They obviously have power generation which we had not seen since the war and an organized structure as well. It might mean that there is a functioning government in place and they are just playing it safe with strangers. I guess I would just have to wait and find out.
After about twenty minutes alone with my thoughts another man, also in a police uniform, entered the room. He was about fifty, overweight, with small beady eyes and long, greasy dark hair going gray and which hung over his forehead. He set several of my personal articles on the desk including my wallet which he carefully examined (including the cash inside) before setting it aside and holding up my drivers licence.
"Michael Brewer or Dallas, Texas it says here. Mr. Brewer you mind telling me what you are doing so far from home?" he said
"I attend Texas A&M university. Or at least I think I do. I don't know if they are going to have classes there any time soon."
"I see. I am curious Mr. Brewer, you and your traveling companions have a running vehicle and a large quantity of supplies including food and water. Where did you get it all from? Did you steal it?"
"No, sir. The truck is mine and the registration in the vehicle has my father's name and the our home address. The food came from my dorm room or was stuff that Chuck purchased before the attack."
"You realize you also had a loaded firearm in the front seat of the vehicle which is clearly against state law and in violation of emergency laws invoked since the crisis began?"
"My shotgun? Yes I know it was in the truck and I probably did not have it in the approved condition for transport, but I also have not seen any police around keeping the bad guys under control either. I think someone needs to address that glaring problem as well."
"Don't get smart with me, Mr. Brewer. You are not in any sort of position to pop off, you hear me boy?"
"Mr Brewer, do you have a criminal record?"
"Have you ever been convicted of a crime or spent time in jail or prison?"
"No, but you can run a check on my licence can't you? I mean I don't have a record but you don't have to ask me to find that out, you just have to look in your computer or whatever you guys use for that sort of stuff, right?"
Ignoring me, the fat cop went on, "Mr. Brewer, there have been a large number of crimes committed by persons like yourself as of late. Small groups and gangs rolling around in stolen vehicles robbing, raping, looting and what not"
"We are not a gang. Chuck, Curtis and I go to A&M and we just trying to get home.."
"Like I said, Mr. Brewer, your vehicle contained food, water, a firearm, and other critical supplies. It's been more than two weeks since The Day and here you are with food and a running vehicle. Sure looks suspicious, especially for a group of... college boys." he said this time with distaste.
"Like I said, the truck is mine and.."
He cut me off, "Was yours. The town of Hobbs and the county are under special law due to the extreme conditions. All food, running vehicles, firearms, medical supplies and other materials deemed necessary for the the greater good of the population are to be commandeered by the appropriate authorities."
"That's not fair. That's my truck. My dad and I rebuilt it. You can't just take it!"
"I can't? Watch me, college boy. Be lucky I don't lock up you and your little friends. We got a nice jail in the basement, Who knows? Maybe we can find you a room mate to keep you company and make you forget about the little truck daddy bought you."
The door opened then and another officer entered the room.
"Uh, Holtz? Bill wants to see you upstairs. And he says to bring this kid with you." he said.
Holtz, I guess that was his name, stood up and glared at me. "Get up college boy. You got a world of trouble now if Mr Hough wants to see you.