Pastor Stone mopped his forehead with the old bandanna, one foot still on the running board of Stubby's old pickup.
"Lord, I have never seen such a sight in all my years. The gates of hell have indeed opened and last days are upon us." he said wearily.
"Pastor, what's happening out there?" asked Patty.
"They have taken over the interstate. It's a mob, there are hundreds of them and you either join or die. They are like locusts, eating everything in sight and burning the rest. Every vehicle on the road has been stripped and burned and worse of all, a group has broken off and headed this way." said Deputy Conkle.
"We have been telling folks along the way to get out and head to Winona, There might be enough folks to stop the mob there and turn them back. Maybe make it a bad idea to keep going and go back to 20 and stay there." added Pastor Stone.
"What do you need us to do?" asked Lamar.
"It's not your fight, young man. You get Patty and the kids and head on north and get to your homes and family." said Stone.
"Nonsense," replied Patty. "You have welcomed and fed us, we won't let you alone. Besides, we have guns and there are at least three of us who know how to use them well enough. That's three more guns than you'll have without us."
"You're in," said Conkle interrupting the conversation. "Get what you need and come back to town as fast as possible. We figure we got anywhere from a few hours to a day before the first of the mob arrives. I take it they will be stripping some of the farms and houses to the south first and that'll slow them down some."
Patty and Lamar headed back to the church and the the three teens.
"Lamar, we need to get all of our stuff together for a quick get away should things go south in a hurry. I want Cassie and Katelyn to stay with the bikes and trailers while you, Brad and I help out with the defense of Winona." said Patty gravely.
"You mean we need to abandon these people if the town's defenses don't hold? Is that really what you want to say?" asked Lamar.
"Yes, it is. We have to get those kids how to their families and I think that is what you want to do as well, isn't it? Don't try to make me feel guilty or get try to take the moral high ground on this one, Lamar. These people are very nice and I plan on helping them, but I don't plan on leaving Elena an orphan." Patty replied.
"I'm not, but what's your plan? If the town falls and this mob overruns things, what are we going to do? Where will we run?" he asked.
"That's why we need to have our stuff ready to go. I think the girls need to take the bikes and hide in the woods further down the road north of town. If the fight goes good, you or me goes and gets them and we plan on leaving when the time is right. If things don't go our way, then we meet them in the hiding place and head north as fast as possible." said Patty.
"What if we both get, um, killed? I don't have much experience shooting guns at mobs of hungry people." Lamar asked wryly.
"I know, I have thought about that too. Just keep your head down and hope these mob people have a problem with armed resistance." said Patty.
At the church, Patty refilled all their water containers and reloaded gear between the old and new cart. She also checked the bikes and their food supplies. Patty took the .243 rifle she had given Brad and checked it thoroughly. They only had about twenty rounds for the gun and there was not another she could give him for a backup as she gave the twenty gauge to Katelyn, (after a brief handling crash course).
Patty would take her Glock and the Ruger while Lamar would carry the Mossberg. They both decided Lamar would keep the derringer although neither believed it would be useful for more than a paperweight.
After preparing as best they could, all five left the church with the girls going north away from the fight and hiding in the bushes about five hundred yards down the road. Cassie, of course, complained constantly about having the leave the comforts of the church and having to push her bike with the cart attached. Brad, Patty and Lamar would take bikes to the town which would help if they had to depart quickly.
After separating, the three road into town and saw what preparations had been made. The main road was blocked with multiple staggered layers of dead vehicles the result of which would force anyone entering the town to have to navigate their way around them. In addition, nearly every glass bottle was being pressed into service as a molotov cocktail as there was plenty of gas and few vehicles to use it in.
The town had fewer than six hundred residents leaving about one hundred and fifty defenders available many of whom were younger than expected or much older. The gravity of the situation was not lost on the bulk of the town apparently; it was fight or die.
Patty and the two men made their way to the area in front of town hall where they were assigned to the group watching the main road. Two other groups were assigned to delay actions further south while a smaller group, comprised of senior citizens and teens to act as an auxiliary. More than two dozen shooters had taken to the tallest buildings in town for sniping duty.
Most weapons were shoulder fired and designed for shooting small game and not people. The exceptions were a handful of semi-automatic rifles provided by the town police, the local gun/hardware store and an odd hermit who lived outside of town and who provided from his "curious firearms collection". Deputy Conkle was particularly interested in a highly modified M3 submachine gun which was presented along with twenty other weapons for those who did not have one.
Ammunition was another particular problem. Some weapons only had enough rounds for one load before they ran dry. Realizing the shared problem, Patty volunteered one of her two bricks of .22 ammo for the fight. It was accepted gratefully.
The organizing and work went well into the afternoon when a horse rider rode quickly into the town. Everyone knew trouble was on the way as there was no missing the pall of black smoke coming from the road south of town.
The rider came to a halt in front of the small courthouse, took off his hat and turned to the upturned faces around him.
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