The door burst open and Antonio ran in still carrying the pistol and shoulder holster.
"Get your stuff, we gotta get outta here!" he said.
"Slow down, what's going on?" answered Patty.
"We just got our packs off and my feet are killing me." whined Candace.
"A bunch of guys are coming this way and they don't look like they wanna play golf. C'mon get your butts up we gotta go or I'm gonna leave you!" Antonio replied.
Patty went to the front window, barely parted the dusty blinds and looked out onto the range. Sure enough, there were two groups of young men coming towards the building, a group of seven and another group of three. Both were about one or two hundred yards from the building, but appeared to be talking casually while they walked.
"They don't look like they are in too much of a hurry. Are you sure they saw you?" asked Patty.
"You can't take chances. Daytime, more of them then us, they got guns, this place is the only thing out here. Add it up and it spells trouble. If they find us, we got no way outta here. Get it now?" Antonio said to Patty.
"Okay, I get it. C'mon everyone, saddle up. Let's get out the door and get moving. Maybe they'll let us go." said Patty.
Patty put on her backpack, but knew she couldn't carry Brad and he couldn't either. While she debated on this conundrum, Antonio reached over and snatched the bag from her.
"Give me that. Hell, if you gets caught, I can have what's in it." he said as he put it on his back.
Patty, put Brad's sports bag on one shoulder and hefted the M4, checking the safety quickly.
"Candace, you are going to have to carry that carbine and the .243. Put the big gun all the way over your head and shoulders and carry the M4 around front. Catelyn, you keep that Ruger handy. Antonio, did you put the shells back in your gun or do you need me to reload it?" asked Patty.
"Lady, I learned to load this gun real fast when I saw them coming. Let's get outta here!" he replied.
They opened up the door and realized once they did, there was little they could do to avoid being seen, but they went out anyway. Seconds later, one of the men approaching yelled something, pointed their way and the group starting moving faster toward their location. The five went out the door, turned right and moved quickly to the rear of the building and the field beyond.
Once they got to the open area, Patty yelled at Antonio,
"Take them over there and find some cover! "I'm going to try and slow these guys down!".
Antonio did not need to be told twice, he ran after Brad, Catelyn and Candace, and pushed them toward the edge of the property which was bordered by low bushes and a street beyond.
Patty turned back to the building, went to the corner and took a quick look around. All ten men had come together in one group and were less than thirty yards away from the front of the building. One saw her and yelled to his compatriots,
"Get that b**tch!" and raised a baseball bat over his head.
Patty looked down at the M4 and switched the fire control to Select. She then poked it around the corner with the weapon at shoulder height and yelled back.
Patty fired controlled three round bursts at the oncoming mob. It had the effect she wanted. Nearly all of them dropped to the ground voluntarily except for Baseball Bat who took a burst to his chest.
"SH*T!" yelled one of them.
Patty fired one more burst and then started running. While she ran, she removed the magazine, but could not get another clear of Brad's bag, so she moved the carbine to her left hand and pulled the Glock from it's holster.
She was about ten yards from the bushes when the first shot went over her shoulder. Seconds later, the Ruger sounded from in front of her as Catelyn sent a few rounds over her pursuers heads. Patty prayed the teen wouldn't hit her in the process with friendly fire.
Patty reached the bushes and found the other four spread out and laying on the ground. Only Brad did not have a weapon pointed at the oncoming attackers. Candace fired but stopped after only five or so rounds.
"They're running away." she said.
"Yeah, you better run suckas!" yelled Antonio as he fired the .357 with a thundering roar.
"Save your ammo, they're too far away." said Patty as the last man ran behind the range office.
Patty squatted down and watched the building for a few minutes and did not see anyone coming back into view from either side.
"Let's not wait for them to get their courage back. Let's get moving. Which way Antonio?" she said.
"C'mon. We gotta get across this street and we can cut through the other side of the campus. There's a creek we can take so nobody can see us." he replied.
"Is it like this all the time?" asked Patty.
"Yeah, if you wander around this town with two teenage girls, big ole bags of stuff and some flash guns. Say, when you gonna let me shoot that other machine gun? I wanted to get all scarface on those dudes. Say hello to my little friend!" Antonio added.
"It's not a machine gun and that's the best way to get killed or use up all your ammo." said Patty.
"But you did it back there and it is a machine gun. I watch movies." replied Antonio.
"With the odds against us, I took a chance that the Select fire on the carbine would make them think twice about messing with us. And no, its not a machine gun, but I agree, you do watch movies. Probably too many." Patty said dryly.
"Whatever. Anyway, I been thinking about where you want to go. The fastest way is to get across campus and then cut over and down Coit to Beltline or Arapaho over to Addison. Where does that boy live anyway?" Antonio asked.
"You know, I don't know. I never thought to ask the exact address as I figured we would get close and he would lead us down the right street. Brad? What's your address and can you show us on the map?" asked Patty.
"Yeah, it's off of Spring Creek close to this private school on the west side of the Tollway." he said.
"Cool, as long as we aren't near the airport. That place is creepy." added Antonio.
They walked on for a few more minutes, (with several looks behind them to make sure they weren't followed) before they came to a concreted sided creek which wound it's way through the campus. Antonio pointed at the map at where they would go before leaving the creek and cutting near a big street named Campbell which intersected Coit Road.
"Off a Coit there's a bunch of neighborhoods, you know, houses and people. Until you get down to Spring Creek and then it gets bad. Best thing to do is cut over to Belt Line but then follow the Tollway to.. forget about it. Just follow me, we'll get there. Hey, when we get outta the creek, I wanna eat something solid. Gimme one of those army meals." said Antonio.
"We are going to need more than that. We didn't sleep last night and I think everyone needs a break. Like for a few hours at least. Any ideas?" asked Patty.
"Oh yeah," said Antonio. "I know a place we can crib at."
They followed Antonio from the creek, through another field, behind some apartments, past a burned down fast food place and then made a quick dash across a wide street full of dead vehicles. They saw no one during the whole trip but they heard things, like the sound of a running motor and smelled others, the odor of food cooking on a wood fired grill which indicated people, good or bad, nearby.
They came to a long strip shopping center which had several high end restaurants and stores. Antonio took them to the rear of the center and through a metal fire door he had long ago jimmied, into a high end furniture store. In the back, several couches, arm chairs and pieces of furniture were covered in plastic and labeled with inventory numbers.
Leading them through a maze, Antonio took them to a darkened corner where a couch and end table were uncovered and clearly showed signs of use.
"Man, I haven't been back here in a week or so. Nobody else moved in yet so we cool. Find a chair and let's eat." he said.
Patty handed an MRE to Antonio and then went through the remaining food making a meal out of freeze dried camp food (with water heated over to emergency candles in a soda can) and a couple of left over pop top cans from the CVS across the street from her hotel in Shreveport. That morning seemed like a million years ago.
Afterward, everyone staked out a place and make themselves comfortable for a nap. The journey being what it was, everyone dropped off quickly with very little conversation.
Patty was not sure how much time had past, but she awoke to the sound of whispering and giggling nearby. Opening her eyes, she noticed that the chair where Candace had been was empty, her pack and the carbine left nearby. Stiffly she rose up and went around a stack of furniture and found Candace and Antonio sharing a large stuffed armchair, having an animated conversation.
Rather than butt in, she retreated quietly and went back to the couch she had been resting on. She was thankful the kids were near their homes. There were some problems Patty had no intention of dealing with.
Patty sat down and checked her carbine and the Glock. She had already replaced the thirty round magazine she used most of at the golf range, now she took inventory of actually how much ammo they had for the rifles.
There were originally eighteen full magazines they had obtained from the contractors and she estimated she had fired the equivalent of three of them during the past twenty four hours. There were about one hundred loose rounds of .223 in the contractor's backpacks, but after that, without resupply, they would run out of ammunition if similar shootouts occured.
She had plenty of ammo for the Glock and the Ruger of course, as well as for the twenty gauge if push came to shave. But thinking about the ammunition made her think about Lamar and she wondered if he had made it back to the city as well. If he did, he would be far to the south of them near downtown where he and his wife lived. She realized she would never see him again especially now that she was in such a large city. In a way she understood why he had left and in passing, had no ill will toward him in light of things. She hoped he found his wife well and knowing what he learned over the past couple of weeks, would manage.
That lead her to think about the others over the past few weeks. The people in the hotel. The busboy who had been so kind. The young couple from the Midwest. Dee and that rude old man. The pawnshop owner. The kind truck driver. The people in Winona. So many people and she had forgotten most of their names. Too many events in such a short amount of time. It would come to her later she was sure.
Here, in a city of more than one million people, things had finally broken down past the point of repair. She had seen such a limited area, but magnified times ten, one hundred, or one thousand more streets, neighborhoods and communities and the damage was beyond comprehension. The world would never be the same again.
What would the world Elena grow in be like? That reminded Patty that Elena was fifty of so heart breaking miles away. Maybe less, but never was the gulf so wide as it was now. Had her daughter given up? Had she forgotten what her mother looked like? Would she remember her when she finally saw her? What if she didn't want Patty any longer? What if she found out the terrible things her mother had done to get home?
Patty's world was shrinking. She was falling and getting smaller. She did not realize she had fallen asleep.
The sound of thunder. Patty awoke and clutched her Glock. The sound again, but instead of gunfire it indeed was thunder as she soon heard the sound of rain drops on the ceiling. She looked up and saw Antonio sitting nearby going through his bag.
"It's good when it rains. Bad folks stay inside, don't want to get wet, so its easier to get around. Puts out the fires too. Everything burning up these days." he volunteered without being prompted.
He pulled a black plastic garbage bag from his bag and flapped it out straight. He then carefully tore the top seam and then twice more along the edges. Admiring his handiwork, he looked up at Patty,
"I ain't got another for you and them, so you gonna have to figure out your own way to stay dry."
"I'll be fine. Everyone else still asleep?" said Patty.
"You and Candace seem to get along well."
"I knew you saw that. Yeah, she's cool."
"I hope you too didn't take any chances while the rest of us were sleeping."
"Lady, you still be tripping. You think that all a brother's got on his mind, don't you?"
"No, only what every teenage boy has on his mind. You may not believe this, but I was once in high school."
"Naw, she's .. sad like right now. You know, don't know about her family. That's not cool to hit on that."
"That's very mature of you, Antonio. So, do you know how to get to Brad's house or close enough to it."
"Yeah, I can do that."
"Good. Can I ask you something?" asked Patty.
"Be honest, how likely is it that we are going to find Brad's family or the girls?"
"Not. They probably normal. Normal folks got it first. Standing around, waiting for the police or FEMA to show up. Normal folks ain't got no gun and those that got one are afraid to use it cuz they think they'll get a lawsuit. Normal people went up to DHS for help and got shot. Normal people sat in their home while gangs were burning them out of it. Normal people went to the grocery store for food and got bashed upside the head." he said while poking through his bag.
"I thought so. I am going to need your help when it comes to that if it does." said Patty.
"Sure, but don't make no difference. They got no where to go." said Antonio.
"I know." replied Patty.
A few hours later found the five hunched over, dressed in whatever kept them dry, trudging through the wet grass or across water filled gutters as a moderate, but soaking rain fell down. The rain extinguished smoldering fires as Antonio said it would, but left a stench in the air of wet insulation, molding paste board and rotted furniture.
They walked without rest or hesitation. Brad, still recovering with his left hand holding his wounded shoulder from time to time, took the lead, stopping only when Antonio directed him away from potential trouble areas.
By dusk, they had come to the outskirts of the airport and the scene contrasted with the totality of their journey until then. An corrupt island of modernity surrounded by the horrors of a third world dystopia. There were search lights probing the sky, the sounds of engines revving, trucks moving and amplified voices carried through the humid air. And there were gun shots. Single, slow, and plodding pops puncuated by occasional full auto outbursts, the firearm equivalent of a tempuer tantrum.
The airport occupiers had clearly established a field of fire around the facility which constituted a no-man's land. The streets were filled with burned, bullet pocked vehicles. Dead bodies lay scattered on the ground, with some long decomposed while others appeared to be only a few hours old. The group kept well away from the periphery of the airport and took cover each time an aircraft took to the sky or rolled in for a landing.
With darkness coming, they were able to avoid obvious detection and continued their trek to the southwest where Brad purportedly lived. His excitement was apparent as he pulled away from the group and hurried toward his neighborhood and his street. They were shocked by what they found.
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