The first round struck Brad in his right shoulder. He spilled off the bike backwards and landed on his backside on the hard road. The second round bounced off the road in front of Patty and ricocheted upward, missing her face by inches. It was so close, she could see the dull gray round pass by like a lead colored hornet.
Patty dumped off the bike and dropped behind a dead Nissan sedan, pulling her carbine around in front of her.
"Everyone, get down!" she yelled and immediately fired five rounds over the top of the hood without aiming.
The rifle was unfamiliar to her and for a moment she wished she had the Ruger, but mentally slapped herself for the lapse of judgement. She had no time to turn and check on the others but instead, had to determine where the shots came from. She didn't have to wait long.
There was a shout from nearby and three or four different firearms fired simultaneously in her direction. Things happened so fast, it was hard to determine where the shots were fired from and what type of arms were used. The rounds slapped the Nissan and the ground around her, hammering the cheap exterior, breaking the window glass and punching through the rear end of the car.
Patty waited, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Sure enough, there was a momentary pause as their attackers stopped to reload or see the results of their handiwork. Patty instead rolled to her left and came to a rest behind the engine block of the Nissan, rose up and fired over the hood in a sweeping semi-circle in their direction.
Once she dropped to the ground, she dumped the magazine and replaced it with a fresh one, shoving the spent mag in the left pocket of her cargo pants.She looked back to see Brad was against the center divider of the tollway and Catelyn was holding a t-shirt or rag against his bleeding shoulder. Candace had her head down and was squated against a mini van which was providing cover to all of them for the time being.
"Candace! Get Brad's rifle! Now!" Patty hissed at her.
A voice came from the road ahead.
"Don't waste your time, mister! Stand up, toss out your guns, give us them two girls and your stuff and we'll let you go!" it said.
Patty fired two rounds from the carbine and then squatted back down. She needed to convince these a**s that she wasn't the only one armed or shooting back. She pulled the.357 from her fanny pack and the Glock from her gunbelt. She lay down flat on the ground and looked carefully for any sign of movement from beneath the Nissan. Ten seconds later she saw something move in the grassy area off the road ten yards front of her.
She fired both guns, alternatively at the figure. Somebody grunted and then more shooting came from the same general area. Patty set the handguns down and picked up the carbine. She rolled behind the trunk and fired two rounds and dropped back down again.
Candace scooted up behind her with the M4 in one hand and dragging the .243 with the other. Patty turned and saw that Catelyn had put Brad's left hand on his wound and now had her Ruger ready.
Patty pointed at the two girls, made a shooting gesture with her free hand and then held up her left hand to the two girls with three fingers. She slowly counted down and once the last finger was down, all three of them let loose with a volley has well aimed as possible without standing up.
After a moment, the same voice came back.
"Quit using up all them bullets. We got you surrounded. Just give up them girls and we'll call it quits!" it said.
"Well, at least he is changing his demands." thought Patty.
But Patty knew they were stuck. The sun was setting and perhaps if it got dark, they could get over the center divider and make a run for it. It would mean leaving behind the bikes and most of their gear, but it appeared to be their only option. She was reaching for her pack from the bike when another medley of shots rang out effectively stopping her from reaching it.
Patty picked up both handguns and fired over the car to nobody in particular. She then put both away and made ready to charge these goons and make her stand. She decided she would tell the girls to get Brad over the wall once she started shooting and she would continue to fire until all three guns were empty. Hopefully, that would give them enough time to get away.
But them things changed again. Something flew overhead and landed with a crash of breaking glass in the direction of the attackers. At once, the smell of something burning hit her nostrils. Moments later, another flaming object flew by and the same threatening voice ahead screamed in pain. Patty wasted no time.
"Get Brad up and over that divider! Hurry!" she yelled at Catelyn. Candace scooted back and tossed the .243 over the wall along with her backpack. Catelyn grabbed her backpack as a number of shots were fired but not in their direction but to something or someone to their rear.
Patty had the ability now to grab her backpack without being shot at and tossed it over the divider. She then grabbed a handful of smaller bags and a water container out of her bike trailer and tossed them over as well. Looking back once more at the bikes and for anything worth taking, she pulled herself over and squatted down next to the girls.
"Psst!" came a voice to their right.
Patty turned and saw a black face in the twilight hiding behind a dead pickup truck.
"C'mon! Get over here, they won't wait long!" he hissed.
Patty pushed Catelyn and Candace forward and tried to get Brad to his feet.
"Girls! You're going to have to drag Brad. Put on your packs and take his arms."
They did as they were told and half dragged Brad towards their mysterious savior. Patty scrambled around in the rapidly fading light grabbing all the loose things she had salvaged from the bikes. The shooting continued sporadically as the fires died down. Patty then crawled over to the pickup and came face to face with a young African American man. He was holding an unlit Molotov cocktail fashioned from a beer bottle in one hand and a Bic lighter in the other.
"Hang on, I gotta gets some room here." he said.
He then lit the old rag wick in the bottle, stood and lobbed it with a strong right arm over in the general direction of the attackers. At once the shooting stopped again and they clearly heard someone say "Oh cr*p!" as the improvised explosive struck.
"Okay, listen up. We got to get to the wall by the side of the road and climb over. After that we're gonna haul butt down the hill to that building over there. If the road trash gets over here, they gonna be able to shoot us in the back so you gotta move, you hear?" the stranger said.
They stood to move when he turned back to them.
"Why you bringing him along?" he said pointing at Brad. "He's gonna slow you down and he's dead anyway!"
"No he's not and he comes with us." said Patty getting in the young man's face.
"Suit yourself, but you're carrying him, not me, lady." he said and then he hurried to the retaining wall bordering the south side of the tollway.
The five made it to the other side and hastilly put Brad over the low wall. Patty was loaded down with both M4 carbines,, her backpack, Brad's pack, a water container and two smaller bags. She wanted badly to go back to the bikes and try to recover anything else they might have left behind, but it was impossible at this point.
They hurried down the hill, Brad's face growing paler by the moment and his feet barely able to hold him up. Catelyn had her arm under his left side while Candace held up his right. Patty was pleased to see that they still held both the .243 and the Ruger and had not left them behind.
At the bottom of the hill, they crossed the service road and made it to a strip shopping center lined with small shops and restaurants which had all their windows and glass doors shattered and hanging open. Moving carefully over the broken glass, they entered a frame shop, went through the front of the store, behind the counter and out the back door all while being led by the young man.
Behind the store was a grassy field bordered by a two lane street running north to south. They made it to the street and loped, (dragging Brad along) hurriedly one block until the reached a larger street. Crossing, they entered a large abandoned two story office building, went through a door behind the receptionist desk and started down a pitch black hallway.
"Don't worry, I know my way around this place. Take my hand and hold each other's hands until we get to the end." the young man said in the darkness ahead.
They all joined hands and walked down a carpeted hallway, the air thick and stifling until they felt themselves pulled to the right. A door was heard opening in front of them and they were pulled inside and heard the door close behind them.
There was a shuffling sound and the young man's face was illuminated as he turned up the light on a small LED lantern. In the dim light, he grabbed a piece of cloth from a nearby chair and stuffed in around the base of the door.
They found themselves in a large, dusty conference room complete with a long table, numerous chairs and a dead big screen televison against one wall. There was a bedroll laid out in a corner along with a small number of personal items piled nearby.
The young man lit another light and the room was illuminated enough for all to see. Patty sat Brad in a nearby chair and pulled open his shirt, inspecting his shoulder, front and back.
"Catelyn, get that first aid kit out of my bag. You know the one we picked up off those guys. Set it here on the table. Okay, it looks like the bullet went through so that's a good side. Here, hold this flashlight up. Okay, he's lost blood, but the wound is not spurting blood so I don't think the bullet hit anything." she said.
Patty went through the extensive first aid pack and grabbed some wipes and then put hand sanitizer on her already filthy hands. Using the wipes and some peroxide, she cleaned the wound as best as possible. She then put a QuikClot bandage on each side of the wound and then wrapped it some gauze as best as she could.
Patty dug through the bag and found a container of anti-biotics, took two out and forced them into Brad's mouth, liberally pouring water down his throat. She then helped him to the floor and using his pack as a pillow laid him down.
"Where did you learn to do that?" asked Candace.
"TV. I used to watch a bunch of medical shows. I don't know if it's right, but I don't know what else to do." she replied.
Patty took a long drink from the water bottle she had and removed and replaced the magazines in her Glock and the M4.
"Candace, Catelyn. Check your weapons and top off if need be. Candace, hold this for me." and she handed the teen Brad's M4.
Patty then turned to the young man who was sitting in a high back chair with one leg thrown over the side watching the scene with disengaged interest.
"Now who do we have to thank for our rescue?" Patty asked him.
"Antonio. And you're welcome." he replied.
"Thank you, Antonio. Who were those guys?" asked Patty.
"Redneck road trash. They come down from the sticks looking for stuff. Everyone still thinks the city is a big grocery store full of stuff for the taking. Bunch a' idiots. What are you people doing wandering around the city during the day? Man, you wanna get nailed or what?" Antonio asked.
"We are trying to get home." said Candace. "My sister and I live off 635 near the Galleria."
Antonio threw back his head and laughed out loud.
"Oh my god, that's funny. What were you out doing? Shopping? You think you gonna just ride your little bike to the Galleria to mommy and daddy? Hell, ain't nobody going over there. Is you all from there?" he added.
"Brad lives in Addison and Patty lives in Fort Worth. Why can't we go over there?" asked Catelyn.
"Hell, girl, the Razas got the Galleria and everything around it to LBJ and over. You want to go through them, be my guest. But you ain't gonna see your folks until they done with you." he said.
"Great." said Patty. "What's happened here? How do you know all this?"
"You must be new around here, girl. Dallas is getting carved up by those with the means, know what I mean?" said Antonio as he reached into a gym bag on the table and took out a Lance cheese and cracker snack wrapped in celophane.
"City is still holding downtown and the hospitals. DHS has both airports including the one in Addison and a whole bunch of other stuff. The gangs got the rest if they can hold it. Everyone else is just trying to keep their heads down and stay alive. Like me." he said through a mouthful of crackers.
"Why aren't DHS and the city working together? Isn't that what they are supposed to be doing? I don't get it." exclaimed Patty.
"Girl, DHS is doing it's own thing. They got all the guns, helicopters, planes, them Hum-Vees, everything. They is taking what they want and shooting at anyone who comes near them. I stay away from them mo'fos." Antonio replied.
"Okay, well, we need to get out of here. Girls, I don't know what to tell you, but I don't think it's safe right now to get you to your parents or Brad home either. We can go to my parents and you can stay there till things calm down, alright?" said Patty.
That started Candace crying and Catelyn's eyes to water up as she held her sister.
"Ah, sheet, that's all we need. Look lady, you got to move on before someone hears all this blubbering, you hear?" said Antonio to Patty.
"Hold on, tell me something. Why did you help us anyway?" asked Patty ignoring the two crying girls.
"I was checking those stores near the tollway and saw you coming down the road before those guys jumped you. I figured if I helped you, you might give me something. Think of me like a businessman helping providing you a service and you providing me one in return." he said with a smile.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, kid. Ain't no way..." said Patty abruptly.
"Hang on, sister! I don't roll that way. Whatchoo think I am? Like those guys out on the road? Sheet, you're hurting my feelings. I was hoping you had something better to eat then this junk." Antonio said holdling up the last cracker from the pack. "And I'll take one of those machine guns you got too, seeing as I don't have no gun and you got plenty and not enough folks left to shoot them."
"No guns, I don't know you or trust you. Yet." Patty added diplomatically. "But here," and Patty tossed Antonio one of the MREs from her backpack.
"Beef stroganoff. Don't know what it is, but it's better than fruit rollups and prezels." replied Antonio ripping open the package.
Patty left the girls and dragged all of their gear over to the other side of the room and took inventory. They had lost the tent, both tarps, her sleeping bag, her tennis shoes, the camp stove, the dutch oven, Brad's machete, the camp hatchet, the last of the dried fruit, the cheese from Snuffy and of course all four bikes and the trailer. It seemed like there were other things missing as well, but she couldn't keep it straight in her head.
They still had their packs, most of the food including the freeze dried stuff purchased long ago in the Shreveport sporting good store as well as the MREs from the DHS contractors. And their guns. They managed to get all of them out of there but unfortunately, she could only find one of the spare ten round magazines for the Ruger 10/22. The other must have fallen along the way.
Brad had kept his share of the spare magazines for the M4 in a shoulder bag he wore which Catelyn fortunately took with her as they fled the tollway. Patty filled the two magazines she used at the gun battle from the small supply of spare rounds they found in the contractor's bags as well as topping off the .357 revolver.
Antonio went about his business, but soon had all of his meager possessions packed up.
"Well, ladies, and shot up guy, it's been fun, but I have to be on my way. Can't stay in one place too long or I might end up like him." he said pointing at Brad who was asleep on the floor.
"Hold on, Antonio. I have a proposition for you." said Patty. "You like to be a businessman huh? Well, here's the deal. I have to get these girls and Brad somewhere safe and I could figure this wasn't the place. You know the lay of the land and we could use you as a guide."
"You help me navigate our way out of here and we'll share what we have for food with you the whole time you're with us. And when our agreement is done, you can have one of the carbines. In the meantime, I'll give you a down payment. Besides three more MREs, you can have this rifle for now and until we are done." Patty held out the .243 to Antonio.
"I don't want that big ol' Daniel Boone rifle. Give that magnum you got in your bag instead." Antonio replied.
"So I'll take that as a yes. Fair enough, here's the .357. Now remember, you pull any funny stuff or try to leave us and I'll break my end of the contract, deal?" said Patty.
"Your end? What you talking about?"asked Antonio.
"That I won't shoot you in the back." she replied.
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