Sorry You're on Your Own (Part 2)


Chapters 4 through 7

Sorry, Chapter 4:

Ken dropped the goat leg in already crowded sink, soaking in the heat and light after spending three hours watching the dark frozen road. Why the h-ll did Munger make them stand guard anymore anyway? Nobody was going to mess with them. Nobody had in the last three towns and nobody was going to now. They were just too d-mn tough to screw with.

At least they could hang out here for a week or so, stay warm and rest up. The old folks had plenty of food stashed, there was gas in the shed, and there was fresh meat on the hoof. Spider even said he saw a hot girl at the next place up the road when they were scouting and that was only a mile away. Of course, knowing Spider, that was probably BS anyway. But it was something nice to think about while he polished off the pan fried goat with rice and chilies. He was tired after sitting out in the cold. When he had finished his meal he made his way up the creaky stairs of the century old farm house. He considered stopping in to see Connie. But Badger was probably in there anyway, so he made his way to what had been the spare bedroom. The bed was already taken, but emptying the dresser on the floor made a passable mattress and he was asleep in minutes dreaming of a girl waiting up the road just for him.

Bob backed his way off the ridge and out of sight of both the house and barn. The smoking sentry had glanced in his direction a few times, but the goats were milling around in the darkness and that had provided enough cover noise for him to get out of the sight of both sentries.

“What the h-ll to do?” Bob sat in the darkness clenching his rifle. He had been nervous creeping up on the house, but in his camo and paint with the 308 in hand he had thought himself badass enough to deal with anything he’d come up against. Now with two dead people, people he had KNOWN, now he wasn’t so sure about that. First, he had to get away from here. Then he could figure out what to do next. He knew he couldn’t take out all of the murderers. He didn’t even know how many of THEM there were. He’d nearly missed seeing both of the sentries. For all he knew there were more of them somewhere outside and he had no idea how many might be inside. He had seen three men outside and at least three inside. There had been six rifles by the door plus the two carried by the sentries. That meant at least eight men - eight men who didn’t mind killing people. Even if he shot the sentries, he couldn’t get all of the men inside. They could go out the windows on the other side of the house and circle around him, or worse, look for him at the nearby homes including his own.

He’d have to warn the Fleishers. Then he’d have to get his family out of danger.
It took a long time to creep the first few hundred yards away from the farm. But as soon as he got on the far side of the hill, he began to run.

Inside the house, Bill “Badger” Munger looked up from the novel he had found on the bedside table. He relit his pipe with a butane lighter. The old guy had good taste in books. He pushed his toes closer to the fireplace. Too bad the old man had been stupid enough to go for the shotgun. The woman was too old for anything anyway, so they had just finished them both right there in the barn where they found them. Just closing the door kept them out of sight. And with the weather cold they wouldn’t begin to stink until after he had moved on. He hated that smell. Any time they came to a place with a body inside he’d send in the crew to clean it out while he posted guard outside himself.

But this was a real good spot to rest up. His men had scouted the road ahead for a mile and there was only one other home in that whole distance. They could stay here until the food was gone. Then they could keep moving toward the coast to find a nice beach house that Connie would like and settle down. But then what would he do with this bunch of A-holes? He looked across the room at the kitchen table illuminated by a pair of kerosene lamps turned up high. The kitchen was piled high with dirty dishes and half eaten food. A half dozen men played poker and worked their way through the second bottle of whiskey they had found here. The rest of his crew was either on duty or upstairs already.

Maybe he’d get lucky and they’d all kill each other.

Upstairs, Jimmy Ramone pushed open the master bedroom’s door. With a wicked grin he saw the most attractive member of Munger’s band sprawled across the big queen sized bed pouring through the pile of cosmetics found in the house. Like the predator he was he purred “Helloooo.” devouring her with his eyes.

Connie Moore was indifferent to the lanky black kid. “Get lost Spider.”
He thought that everyone called him Spider because he was a second story man serving 10-20 when Badger had sprung him. She called him Spider because she thought of him as a bug who wanted to crawl all over her. She was right about that.

Spider knew that she was Badger’s woman. She was off limits, but d-mn she was hot. How she still managed to look like a $500 whore without electricity was beyond him, but he knew he liked it. She had been working in a club the band had rolled into right after the lights went out for good. She decided that the road looked better than rotting in a dead-end town (figuratively or literally). So she had hooked up with the Badger.

“Hey, looky what he found.” Spider pulled a glittering necklace from his shirt pocket. Connie’s eyes showed new interest, she favored him with a smile and rolled on fresh lipstick.

Bob ran until the cold air hurt his lungs. With the rifle at port arms he decelerated across Fleisher’s frost whitened yard letting himself stop by banging the rifle’s butt-stock against the door. Then knocking with his fist until his neighbor hollered down that he was on the way. Eric Fleisher was 54 years old, sported six colorful tattoos, a full grey beard and an immense beer belly. He had been without work since his equipment had run out of diesel and after half a bottle of wine he was none too happy to be routed out of bed in the middle of the night. He yanked open the door looking like evil Santa in his underwear carrying his daughter’s aluminum softball bat.

“Eric, you gotta get your family out of here.”
“What –?”

“No time. 8, maybe 10 men killed the Emmons. They’re still there but I don’t know for how long.”

“I’m getting my family out of here. They could be on the move before the sun comes up.”
“Bob, WHAT THE F-CK are you talking about?”

Bob didn’t wait. He didn’t have time to argue or answer questions. In minutes he was back home calling from the yard so he didn’t get shot when he walked through the door.

After a moment, Eric Fleisher realized he was d-mn cold standing in his shorts with the front door wide open to the frosty air. He leaned the bat against the wall. He wasn’t sure what scared him most: that his next door neighbors had been murdered, or that he’d been point blank with a camouflaged, face painted man holding a gun before he realized what a dumb thing it had been to open the door in the first place. He sat down heavily in the hall chair. The world had gone to sh-t since he ran out of beer.

At the top of the stairs Gert Fleisher felt her 16 year old daughter pull out of her embrace. Amanda looked at her mother. After the Adams had resurrected the possibility of a hot shower in the 16 year old’s world, she’d believe anything Bob Adams said. “Mom, we’ve got to go NOW!”

Sorry, Chapter 5:

Amanda Fleisher pulled away from her mother who started down the stairs. Back in her room Mandy relit the candle Bob had seen her blow out an hour earlier. She threw her suitcase on the bed and began to pile in clothes and shoes. She threw in two framed pictures from the wall and her keepsake teddy bear. She chose a pair of sturdy black jump boots that had been in fashion the year before and layered up with ski pants and a sweater. By the time she bumped the thirty pound bag down the stairs, her father was dressed and coming back inside. He had retrieved a Smith & Wesson short barreled revolver dangling a trigger lock from his truck. Unable to find the key in the dark – he cut the cable with a pair of bolt cutters and loaded it from the half box of ammo that had ridden in the glove compartment.

Gert Fleisher didn’t quite know what to do. She was shocked to see Bobby Adams show up in camouflage with his face painted like some Halloween GI Joe and carrying a rifle in the middle of the night. He had always seemed so nice. They had dinner with his family just hours ago. He had brought them venison just a few days ago when she had sent home the books for his boy Robbie. But could they really believe him? She tried to talk to Eric as he pulled his rifle out of the closet.

Eric didn’t want to worry his wife needlessly. “Look, I don’t know if the kid knows what he was talking about or not” he told her. “Just go pack up food and enough clothes for a few days, while I go check it out.”

He handed her the .44 Bulldog. “If anybody messes with you. Just pull the trigger.”

Eric didn’t really hear what his girls said to him after that. His mind was busy working out a plan. Ike and Hannah Emmons had been good friends of his. The least he could do was go see if they were still alive.

He pushed aside the bowling bag on the top closet shelf. The old green and white box of Remington ammo was still there. There were still 8 loaded cartridges alongside 12 empty cases. It would have to do. He worked the bolt back on the old Springfield trying to ignore the rust. His father had carried this rifle in WW2. The scope had been broken some how decades ago and although Eric had taken it off to have it fixed, he never had managed to get around to it. But the old 30-06 still had iron sights and he knew it would fire.

He pulled on his jacket. “Be right back.” He kissed his daughter square on the forehead when she handed him his glasses at the door. He told her “Anything happens, you drag your butt to the Adams’ place.”

Eric waited just long enough for his eyes to adjust to the night. His breath smoked out reminding him of the three cigars he was hiding in the truck. Who knew when he could get more? As he stepped into the road he thumbed five of the long ‘bullets’ into rifle’s magazine, pushed the top one down and slid a sixth into the chamber before he closed the bolt. He put one of the two remaining cartridges into each jacket pocket and threw the empty box away.

He paused a moment at the curve in the road half way to the Emmons’ place. Looking into the bright starry heavens he saw the big dipper tipped like it was half spilled. A half remembered Bible verse came to mind unbidden “He shall pour out his wrath.” Lumbering forward and shaking his beard he thought “I wonder if it means them or me?” He made sure the safety was pushed off and walked on. He could see the goat farm laid out before him. The kerosene lamps burned comfortingly in the kitchen windows. Everything must be fine. He walked toward the porch peering into the darkness.

Lounging by the side of the porch, Karl Larson was cold and bored out of his mind. He was on the sixth and last cigarette he was allowing himself tonight. That’s how he made it through sentry duty. Three hour shifts with 2 smokes per hour. That made it bearable. He was down to half a carton and not Marlboros at that. He had stood so many watches in the last couple months that he barely paid attention any more. So he could hardly believe it when some old dude walked right down the middle of the road toward him with a rifle pointed out front. He flicked his smoke away and clicked the selection switch from SAFE to 3 round burst.

Eric saw someone flick a lighted cigarette butt away from the porch. The smoker brought two hands to bear on his rifle and began to raise it. Eric’s rifle was already pointed out front. Oh F_CK that skinny punk wasn’t Ike Emmons! Eric yanked the trigger without even trying to get the rifle to his shoulder. At this range he couldn’t miss.

The first .223 bullet Larry Pulaski fired from the tree line just 10 yards to Eric’s right smashed through the bottom of the bearded giant’s right shoulder blade and cut its way out of flesh an inch from his spine. The second punched through his right tricep, passed between two ribs, ripped a hole through both lungs and smashed through a rib on his left side and broke his left arm just below the shoulder pushing the bearded giant sideways six inches. The last bullet of the three round burst passed harmlessly through his beard and buried itself in a tree not far from where Bob had crawled twenty minutes before.

Karl saw the muzzle flash from the old Springfield and felt rather than saw the BOOM. A 165 grain bullet smashed through his right elbow, knocking a piece of bone the size of marble off the ulna.

The last thing Eric Fleisher saw was the previously unseen sentry standing up from where he had sat on the far side of the road and grinning, “I saved you sorry Azz Karl!”

Sorry, Chapter 6 -

The sound of gunfire echoed away as the night crept in around the edges of Eric Fleisher’s vision. Karl Larson’s carbine lay speckled with blood on the frozen ground at his feet. Blood pulsed through the fingers of his left hand as he tried to hold the pain in. He wasn’t sure if the arm would stay on if he let go of his elbow. He tried imagined what life would be like in this post-hospital world without use of his right arm. He wondered how much of the precious antibiotics Badger would let him use if he got an infection.

Pimple faced Larry Pulaski came across the road grinning like a yellow bearded hyena. He’d watched the intruder come straight at the front door for the last 400 yards. He’d been waiting for Karl to challenge him. That was Karl’s job as door guard. Back when they had radios that worked Larry would have warned him of the approach. But as it was, Larry had really had to fight with himself whether to let the fat man bump off the smoking sentry before he dropped him. At the last instant he figured he’d better take him out or Badger would jump all over him for letting the old guy get by. One thing nobody wanted to do was p-ss off Badger. He’d learned that back when Munger had been wearing the badge that earned him his nickname.

Before Larry reached the still twitching body in the yard, Bill (Badger) Munger was in the door with his Glock trained on the corpse barking questions and orders. “What the h-ll happened? Mike cover the back! Nate get your ass out the door and watch the road!”

Larry and Karl told their stories just as they had seen it unfold. Spider Ramone appeared with a carbine in hand and began to search the dead man’s pockets.

“Sheet, I seen this guy up the road at the next place, yesterday.”

Badger holstered the Glock on his hip, picked up the Springfield and jacked the fired case out of the chamber.

“All right you cons. You’re lucky we all aren’t already dead. This guy might not be alone. Karl, pick up your f – ing rifle and get inside. You should have been paying attention. Larry, you let him get shot. Go patch him up.”

Badger, leaned the 30-06 against the house, picked up his own SWAT issue carbine and slapped a magazine home. “Paul, go tell Monkey and Enzo to stay in the trees 200 yards out, guard the house and don’t shoot us on the way back in. Then you go sit on that curve in the road and kill anybody that comes this way.”

A mile up the road, Gertrude Fleisher heard the four shot barrage. The single bark of the larger rifle came clearly over the muffled burst of lesser reports. It was louder than the shots she had heard earlier in the day.

“Oh My” she thought, “What if that big fool he’s killed someone?”

She began to pace. Maybe it had been warning shots. It was over so fast, it couldn’t be a gun battle. If Eric were in any danger, he’d keep shooting. But there HAD been shooting. Even if no one was hurt, that meant that there was trouble. That meant that maybe Bobby Adams was right. She stopped in mid step realizing that the Emmons must REALLY be dead!


The girl came in wearing her coat and carrying their long haired cat Quincy. “Mandy, go next door and tell Mr. Adams that your father went to check on the Emmons and that someone has been shooting.”

Mandy nodded and did as she was told. On the way out she dragged the heavy suitcase outside. She might not come home for quite awhile and wearing clothes from the neighbors really didn’t appeal to her. She dragged the suitcase to the pool shed before she trotted down the driveway and up the hill.

Half a mile up the same hill, Bob and Nancy Adams exchanged a look when they heard the gunfire echo up the valley. Ten year old Rob’s eyes looked like saucers. They were already 600 yards away from their house and working cross slope up the forest clad mountain. Each carried a backpack which had waited by the door carrying three meals and a full change of clothes. Nancy carried a second bag of medical supplies. Bob carried a duffel holding a three man tent with its own collapsible fiberglass poles and another holding water bottles, a filter, and three tightly rolled blankets. Nancy carried her own rifle. It was an SKS-M model with a thirty round magazine. Her backpack carried two more loaded magazines in easily accessed side pockets with Velcro closures. Rob carried his own single shot 22 and a pocketful of ammo (more to make him feel safe than to actually be used for defense). None of them carried lights.

“Keep going.”

Bob ran ahead crunching through the fallen leaves, snapping twigs as they slapped his face and broke over his body until he had crested the next ridge. He dropped the bags there. A twenty yard wide shelf here allowed the family to be out of sight from below even with the tent set up.

“If I can, I’ll be back at sunrise. You can watch the whole slope from here. Shoot anybody that comes over the ridge before sun up… and keep praying.”

Nancy nodded and kissed him, unsure if she’d ever see him again. She trusted his judgment to evacuate the house. She wasn’t so sure about the wisdom of running toward a firefight. She watched him disappear into the forest shadows realizing that he had the easy job. She’d have to both calm the fears of the boy at her side and stay vigilant to protect him even if her husband never came home.

At the curve in the road Badger directed his team to split into flankers and circle the house. Spider told him that the house lay on the left side of the road, had a fairly big yard and no cover within 40 yards except the above ground pool and shed.

The former SWAT officer was pleased with the way that the team responded to his signals. They maintained distance from each other and muzzle discipline as they took up positions at each door and a couple of the ground floor windows.

Finding himself as the last officer on duty in the detention center after the sh-t hit the fan, Bill Munger had an epiphany. He could either walk cell to cell and shoot the cons he was responsible for, turn them loose, or forge them into his own version of the dirty dozen. He spent two days interviewing each potential member. Nobody had anything to lose. In the end, he had the two he was unsure of execute the two who openly defied him. That left him an even dozen men who he had taken on a swath of looting that would have made Black Beard blush. He had $25,000 in hundred and fifty dollar bills stitched into his body armor cover. He had a gorgeous woman at his whim, and did whatever he wanted to all day long. What more could he want? He figured he’d work his way to a warm southern climate and set up a kingdom in some little beach town. If the lights ever came back on, the cash would help him get a new start someplace else. The band of cut throats had lost two men in the first week, but the rest had proven to be just what he was hoping for. They were keeping him well fed and providing enough loot to keep Connie happy. When the food ran out at the farm, they would keep working their way south over the winter. But first they had to take care of business tonight.

Ken and Spider took point on the right hand side. They were both thinking the same thing. “Whoever reached the girl first gets the first turn.” That was the rule. The downstairs was dark, but there was a candle burning in a bedroom window upstairs.

In the darkened house, Gert Fleisher had wrung her hands sore twisting her wedding ring and anniversary band. She had packed up what little food they had into a box on the dining room table like her husband had asked her to. But now she didn’t know whether to follow him or her daughter.

The team surrounded the house, waiting for Badger’s signal. He waited ten minutes by the Rolex on his wrist without seeing any sign of activity inside or out. Jimmy had observed this place for an hour the day before while the rest of the group had watched the farm. That watch had paid off when the old couple had both gone into the shed at the same time to milk the goats. The group was able to close on them undiscovered. Munger was still impressed that the old guy had been able to empty the shotgun before he died. He signaled the team forward.

Jimmy Ramone slung his carbine as soon as he reached the wall and went up the drain pipe like a monkey - a “Spider” Monkey. He was at the bedroom window almost before Kenny opened the back door.

Gert heard the door open and ran toward the back of the house to meet her husband.

Stepping inside Ken Anderson heard the approach of softly slippered feet and sidestepped behind the doorway to the dining room. When Gert Fleisher swept into the room, he slipped an arm around her bosom and pulled her close to him while maintaining his hold on the rifle’s pistol grip. The other hand clamped over the woman’s mouth stifling her cries.

“Sh-t” thought Ken, “I got the old bag. Oh well, better than nothing.”

The rest of the team flooded through the rooms sweeping the place from basement to attic in minutes. Spider found nothing but empty bedrooms upstairs. A white cat streaked from under the double bed when he emptied the jewelry box on the second dresser.

Quincy streaked between the stranger’s feet and into Mandy’s room looking for a place to hide. The leap from the chair to the bed upset the candle and it sputtered as it rolled against the synthetic shag carpet.

In the dining room, Gert Fleisher lashed out, but did little damage as her attacker dragged her into the living room. She raked her nails over the man’s face causing him to reposition his grip. Now pinning her arms against her body to keep her from striking back, Ken laid his rifle across a chair and sat down on the couch dragging her with him.

Unable to strike out with her fists Gert tried to pull her arms tight against her body to wriggle loose. When she did, something hard and cold pressed against her arm. She realized that her husband was dead at the same time that she recalled his words “If anybody messes with you, just pull the trigger.” Her hand found its way into her robe pocket and into position on the heavy revolver. She couldn’t get her hand out of her pocket but the voice in her head said. “Just pull the trigger.”

The roar was thunderous inside the small room. Trapped between the struggling bodies of the man and his victim, the bullet could not but find flesh. It hit the side panel in Ken Anderson’s vest. The .44 caliber slug shoved its way two inches deep through Kevlar, flesh, and bone. The vest held but smashed through the flesh on Ken’s ribs all the way to the bone. His fourth rib broke without the bullet ever getting through the Kevlar weave.

Kicking the woman away from him, the man tried to scramble away cursing in pain. Hurled to the floor, burned by the muzzle blast, deafened by the report, and with tears stinging her eyes, Gert pushed the barrel against her attacker with both hands and squeezed the trigger again. The roar seemed even louder but it did not surprise her this time. Ken screamed as the hollow point slug smashed his left hip, broke his pelvis, and ruptured his bowels. She squeezed again. From two feet away the third semi jacketed slug ripped from the dying man’s groin, through his stomach and into the inside of the vest’s back plate.

Shocked at the sudden violent defense Stu Johnson clicked his carbine to full auto. Not willing to shoot into both tangled figures he ran forward, placed his carbine’s muzzle against the side of the woman’s head and pulled the trigger.

Sorry, Chapter 7:

Badger couldn’t believe it. They had cleared dozens of houses in the last two weeks without even a scratch. He had been congratulating himself for the last half an hour on how effective making Karl the door guard had worked. Those cigarettes made him too obvious for sentry duty, but perfect as a decoy. He’d left his least reliable men out of this assignment and sent his best men in. But now he had one man wounded at the other house, and a dead man on the couch in front of him. He was down to just three effective men with him. It was time to get out before something else went wrong.

He picked up the carbine. “Johnson, get that food off the table and …”

Spider Ramone came out of the Fleisher’s bedroom and saw flames racing across the plush hallway carpet. He took the stairs 3 at a time. “Holy Sh-t this place IS ON FIRE!”

“Everybody get out!” Badger led the way out the back door. 

On the mountain a half mile away, Nancy Adams heard the muffled shots from inside the house and renewed her prayers over her rifle sights looking downhill. “Dear God, bring him safely home.”

Mandy Fleisher pounded on the door to the Adams’ log house, but no one was home.

Bob Adams heard the shots too. He was only 300 yards away and moving toward them fast. He could see flames licking up the curtains in a bedroom window. He was too late. The strangers had killed the Emmons. Then they had killed the Fleishers. They were working their way house to house, and his place was next.

Well not if he had anything to say about it!

When he was at 125 yards he saw three men come out the back door. The first carried two rifles. The last carried a box. Going to one knee, Bob pressed the barrel of his weapon against the trunk of the closest tree and brought his scope to bear on the man in front who was moving at a fast walk across the yard.

The first went wide past Badger’s head. Seeing no effect, Bob took slow deliberate aim, held his breath and kept on target with eyes open.

“Your will be done Holy God.”

He placed his crosshairs between the lead man’s shoulder blades. BLAM. The man’s head erupted as the FMJ bullet took him through the back of the skull. The corpse hit the frozen ground chest first like so much dead fish. The others seemed frozen. With a burning house behind and a dead man in front, they hesitated.

BLAM! BLAM! The second man went down with a hit to the torso. The box carrier began to run.

BLAM! BLAM! The third set of double taps sent the box carrier sprawling and spilled canned goods over the lawn.

Inside the burning house Ken Anderson came awake as Spider yanked Ken’s vest off. Jimmy knew that the Badger kept his cash in his vest. Maybe Kenny did too. It was worth a look. Hot blood and other fluids spilled out of the vest over his hands when Jimmy searched the pockets. He wrinkled his nose as he fished through bloody pockets to come up with Kenny’s wallet.

Ken gulped air, feeling life run out through the bullet wound in his guts. “Spider” he gasped “Help me.”

Jimmy stepped away from the dying man. He yanked off the woman’s diamond rings and picked up the forgotten .44 “Here’s your Mother F_ing help, Kenny.”

Outside Stu Johnson heard the revolver shot from inside. He looked at the dead man who had been his team leader. Ted Vasquez rolled on the ground nearby. Stu could see the bullet hole through Ted’s bicep in the growing light as the fire spread through the bedrooms and began to light up the yard. Rolling onto his back, Stu pointed his carbine toward the wooded hill and emptied the magazine on full auto. Ted picked himself up and clicked the rifle safety off backing toward the road but unable to find an enemy.

Bob had 14 shots left in the twenty round magazine. He banged two toward the figures caught in the open and ran forward to the next big tree – ten yards forward and two to the left. He rolled around the edge of the tree trunk and pressed the barrel against the tree for a steadier aim.

Ted Vasquez was still backing away, now firing short busts blindly into the tree line. The bullets were shredding brush a hundred yards or more to Bob’s right. Stu Johnson got up and began to run.

Both men had made it into the road. If they rounded the curve they’d be out of sight. Bob emptied his magazine. Both men went down again, but were still moving. One of them was screaming. Bob swapped mags dropping the empty one into a BDU pocket and ran forward turning the scope up to 5 or 6 power. From 100 yards he put three shots into each body including the one on the fire lit lawn last. That’s when he saw the figure backlit against the flames inside the house. In the years to come he would sometimes wonder if he had accidentally shot Gert Fleisher though that would defy logic. Bob’s shot hit Spider Ramone in the center of mass and sent him reeling backward. Spider’s feet came down on Gert’s corpse and he fell heavily backward slamming his head against the floor with a sickening bounce.

300 yards south of the Emmons place. Monkey Mike Unser and Nathan “Enzo” Zweits made a decision. They’d served time enough to the boss man. Judging by the sound of gun fire from around the corner, Badger had finally run into some serious sh-t and now he was on his own. They had been waiting for this. They nodded to each other and headed south without a look back.

At the curve in the road Paul Williams could not believe his ears. There had to have been 50 shots coming from around the corner in the last five minutes and at least half of them were not from a .223. Something was definitely wrong. The dead guy behind him must have been an advanced scout for a large, well armed group. Sh-t what if the old guy really hadn’t even been alone as a scout? What if there were more of them between here and the house? Paul clicked the selector switch to full auto. He wasn’t about to take chances. He began to fall back toward the house in short rushes from cover to cover as flames began to light the sky over the tree tops.

Bob reloaded. The flames pouring out the second floor windows of the house illuminated everything within 100 yards. Nothing was moving. Well inside the darkened tree line he worked his way around the yard and headed toward the Emmons’ farm. He was torn between a desire to hurry and fear of being spotted. His ears were ringing so he had to force himself to deliberately travel slowly to avoid making noise. He knew that he hadn’t gotten all of them, yet.

The moon was still rising. Could it still be before midnight? The stars showing through leaf cover were startlingly bright. He eased up to the ridge behind the goat shed remembering that his neighbors lay dead inside of it and this time knowing what the smell was. Something inside him turned cold and hard.

Two men carrying rifles stood on the porch peering into the darkness. There were no lights on inside.

Larry and Paul had known each other since they were assigned the same cell eighteen months before. They were in fact very much alike and both thinking the same thing. They should high tale it out of there, but if Badger wasn’t dead he’d kick their asses for not doing what they were told. So they said nothing and peered into the darkness up the road toward where flames were clearly illuminating the night sky.

Inside the house, Karl’s right elbow throbbed like a MF. He couldn’t hold a rifle, let alone use it effectively and he wasn’t under any orders to stay on sentry duty. Whatever was going on up the road, it wasn’t his problem. He told Connie that he thought she ought to pack up in case Badger came back with orders to clear out. She flipped him off and told him to get out of her room or she’d shoot him again herself.

He went downstairs and carefully lit one of the oil lamps to begin packing his own kit with his good arm.

From directly across the road, Bob looked into the house as the lamp was lit. At only 75 yards away the men on the open porch were easy targets even with the scope back on 3X. He could drop them before they could get inside. But the man lighting the lamp could drop out of sight as soon as the shooting started. Better take him out first.

The first shot broke Karl Larson’s right arm and the tumbling bullet went through his ribs sideways clipping two and sending shards of bone into his lungs before it came to rest inside the upper left chamber of his heart. The glass bottomed kerosene lamp hit the floor like a Molotov cocktail splattering lamp oil over everything within six feet of the foot of the stairs as the still burning wick hit it.

Bob’s second shot at the falling figure went low, harmlessly hitting the bottom of the window frame.

The third shot hit Paul Williams in the guts, smashing his vertebrae. Paul’s clenched fist sent a stream of jacketed projectiles through the living room windows in a long burst as he fell heavily against the side of the house.

Bob’s fourth and fifth shots missed Larry Pulaski as he dove and crouched behind the ornamental railing. Larry aimed at the muzzle flashes and yanked on his trigger trying to fire back without realizing that his safety was still on. Bob’s sixth shot splintered the railing and sent splinters through the crouching man’s face and hands. The next spun him violently backward punching through the Kevlar vest, sternum and lungs. Bob hit both figures slumped on the porch with another bullet each just to make sure.

With eleven bullets left in the magazine Bob saw a figure moving inside. Flames had begun take hold of the frame house. He thought he heard screaming but his ears were ringing from the shots he had fired. Someone was moving on the stairs inside, their way down was blocked by flames, but that was their bad luck. He emptied the rifle at the silhouette.

In the morning, Bob looked at the smoking ruin of the farm. Nothing but goats had moved within the range of his vision as the entire house was consumed down to the foundation. From the rise 200 yards away he could still feel heat coming off the red hot embers filling the basement almost to ground level. About midnight he had identified Eric Fleisher by the light of the burning farmhouse. That had prompted him to make a circuit of Fleisher’s place. He found it fully engulfed in flame as well. His own home looked dark and untouched. It was then he wished he had bought radios to let Nancy know that all was well. But it was too risky approaching the ridge in the dark. If she shot him it would have been his own fault. But now as the frozen dawn washed pink and bright over the dark horizon he hurried up the hill and into her arms.

They approached their home together. After watching the house for an hour, they had started across the yard only to see Mandy Fleisher emerge from her hiding place in the poultry shed. Eventually they would collect all her worldly possessions from her suitcase in the pool house and she would move in with them. But for now, it was enough to know that they had made it through the night – on their own.

By  Groovy Mike

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