Patty and Lamar rushed to the first barricade along with twenty or so others. They laid their long arms over the roofs and hoods of the dead vehicles and sighted in on the shambling mob coming their way down the two lane country highway. It was misting rain and muggy, the sweat inside clothing was only matched by their damp exterior.
The phalanx bearing down on them was led by shaggy and unclean men, bearing long guns, bats, axes, pipes and clubs. Behind them, clattering along, was a herd of harried women and children, pushing grocery carts and wagons loaded down with plunder and salvage. Along the edges loped dirty men eyeing their charges internal and the town as they crossed the border, scoping all resources nailed down or otherwise.
Riding drogue were the worse of all. Men and teen age boys, tied and pushing loaded hand carts built upon auto axles and tires, straining under their loads of stolen loot and beaten without mercy and followed by those of a worse fate, the chattel; Women and older girls, tied together and herded into the middle of the pack, their fate to be chained and dragged through each attack and then abused nightly as the mob sequestered.
Deputy Conkle, standing alongside a haytruck, held up an old fashioned megaphone, complete with high school emblem, to his mouth, pausing only long enough to take in the sight before him and finally shouting.
"This is the county sheriff department, halt and drop your weapons to the ground! We will use deadly force! Halt and throw down your weapons!"
As if on cue, a line of children, some no older than three or four, were pushed forth to the front of the mob. Each had their hands tied in a daisy chain to the child before and after them in line. A big man, with red beard and long hair, pushed the child closest to him towards the barricades of Winona.
"Get! We'ren takin' everything, the food, your weapons, your women and children! Get and lay down before us! All will die!" he yelled.
Conkle was silent, as if he had been born speechless before this monstrosity. Then he uttered one word,
"Screw this." thought Patty, and without thought for her action, drew a bead on the big man and fired her Ruger, the round striking him in his right cheek and driving him to the ground. The children screamed and cried and tried to run, but only succeeded in tangling themselves in the rope and falling down. The shooting started from both sides.
Patty concentrated her fire on the lead attackers, but quickly noticed that two groups broke off from the left and right of the mob and headed into the town from both sides. Patty was about to fire when she saw a big woman about fifty with short straw colored hair, wearing a brown bag like dress and holding a cigarette between her clenched teeth charge the small children in front of the mob waving a stick over her head.
The children screamed and tried to move away from the awful woman but became further tangled and disorganized. Patty aimed and put three rounds through the woman's sizeable torso before she collapsed to the pavement.
The mob army changed tactics when three groups charged forward each using a car hood held in front of them as a shield. Leapfrogging and firing from behind their mobile barricade, they moved quickly towards Winona's main line of defense. They would have made it further had they not been delayed by the actions of the rear guard teams.
Led by a burly man dressed in a Harley vest with Marine Corps emblem, the small group of Winona defenders attacked from the west and split the mob army in two. At that moment, Conkle blew a whistle attached to a lanyard on his belt and the reserve force of senior citizens and teens moved forward and fired into the rear of the attacker's forces. While their shooting was questionable, their determination further scattered the raiders army.
Patty continued firing until she had no target available. A small group of men from the mob had pulled back to the rear of their army and were continuing to use children and others as shields. They were unable to retrieve most of their stolen food or booty and were forced to abandon it in their retreat along with most of their captives forced to carry it.
Conkle blew his whistle twice and most of the defenders ceased firing and waited for orders.
"Ray! Assemble the posse and flank 'em! Roof tops! Give me a position!" he called to the shooters stationed on the few taller structures in what passed for downtown Winona.
"They are regrouping to the southwest, falling back to the treeline!" came the response from someone on city hall.
"Damn, I wish I had a radio." cursed Conkle quietly but in earshot of Patty.
Most of the town defenders moved cautiously out towards the attackers lines now covered with a few dead bodies, dropped weapons, and dozens of captives sitting or prone in the middle of the road. Lamar stumbled forward and stared at the body of a small man whose chest was blown open by a powerful shot.
"I did that.. I did that.." he stammered looking down at the body.
Patty slung her .22 and pulled her Glock and patted Lamar on the arm as she slowly surveyed the scene. She went and helped up a small girl, no more than five, whose right hand was tied to the hand of a small boy lying next to her. The boy had been shot, however, and would move no more.
Patty found the big woman wearing brown who had herded the children forward. She was still alive even though Patty had shot her at least twice with the Ruger and was now trying to sit up. She looked up and gave Patty an evil glare and told her in no uncertain terms to 'go to hell'.
"You first," said Patty and shot the woman through the head with the Glock.
"Easy now," said Conkle from behind her. "Mind what's behind the target before firing. Rules of shooting, you know."
From the south came the sound of gunfire, brief at first and then raucous. A few lone shots and then quiet. The worse was over, for now.
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