If you don't like the Weather Chapter 4


If You Don’t Like The Weather… - Chapter 4

Dr. Hughes checked Jake straight away. He had nice things to say about Abby’s medical expertise and Brenda’s nursing skill. June took Brenda under her wing and began to teach her more nurse skills, with Jake as training dummy.

Bruce got with Cap and they went over the garden plans, now to include plants useful for medical needs. Bruce had brought growing potted plants and starter seed, besides the dried herbals he had. Cap took him around the local area so he could learn what was available locally.

While Bruce worked with Cap, Frank was doing the same thing with Jeb, in terms of the camps communication systems and electronic security. Also discussed were the physical limitations of the camp as it was currently set up.

Julie got with the women in Jake’s family and offered her services as an experienced and avid home canner and dehydrater user.

Dr. Hughes family was offered help in rearranging their vehicles, primarily the trailers, for easier use, but Brian and the others found out that the Dr. Hughes family MAG already had everything arranged for easy use.

Brian saw the hesitation in Dr. Hughes when he was asked for a basic inventory of what they had brought with them. But the hesitation was only there for a moment, as Brian had given the doctor a copy of the existing inventory of the camp. Brian was pretty sure that his comment about it being the common inventory, made the difference. The doctor would provide an inventory of likewise common inventory. Neither group would know completely what the others had.

Dr. Hughes expressed extreme surprise at how well stocked the camp already was, with none of the original residents having been preppers before the weather events had occurred. Brian told him about Tony’s research and how he’d spent hours of time going through it before he began buying supplies and equipment.

After two days of getting acquainted and adjusted to the new situation, Brian called a group meeting. Anthony was on monitor duty and Samantha was keeping an eye on baby Steven, while working on the schoolwork Gloria had given her. All the rest sat or stood around the large common room for the meeting. Jake had been moved to one of the large sofas.

Brian was standing and just started talking when everyone was gathered. “Okay. I thought we needed this meeting to get everyone’s opinion on how we’re set up and what we should do, if we can, to improve things. Even if we need to stay here or not.”

Four people started speaking at once, but three fell silent, to let Cap speak. “Boss, I intended to bring it up anyway, but with the number of people we have now, we’re going to need a lot more garden than I was planning on. Bruce and I were talking and decided that root crops should still do well as long as we don’t get too awful cold here, but other things are going to be difficult to grow enough using manual methods. If there is any way to get a couple of good sized green houses, it would be good.”

“He’s right,” Bruce said immediately. “Greenhouses should be high priority.”

“Okay,” said Brian. “What else?”

Callie spoke up next. “Any way we can get more indoor plumbing? The main cabin is overloaded with this many people, even with some using the outhouses.”

“I’m concerned about that, too,” Frank said. “I’ve checked some things out with Cap. The septic system was designed for some pretty heavy usage, but only for short periods of time. A second system should be considered. Probably with a couple new bathroom/shower rooms in a new structure.”

“Could we add another washer to that?” asked Helen. “Maybe a dryer, too. It’s going to be rough drying clothes in the winter on a clothesline.”

Before Brian could reply, Dr. Hughes spoke up. “Our little washer/dryer unit in the motor home can be made available. I don’t know how much help it would be.”

Next Jake brought up the subject of security. “The X-10 motion sensors are working pretty good, but are there ways to improve our security?”

“We might be able to help there,” Dr. Hughes said. “Frank has some things in his toy box that might help.”

“Yeah,” Jeb said. “We were talking and I think we can do a few more things to make it harder to get to us without our knowledge, and be able to make a better response if someone does get close.”

There were several long moments of silence. The newcomers had been told about Suzy’s death by intruders, though without many details.

“A lot of it is electrical and/or electronic,” Frank said. “With the other things being planned, we need to be able to generate more electrical power than we are now.”

Brian nodded. “What else?”

“The horses are going to need a long term food supply,” Julie said. “Are there farmers or ranchers around here we can trade with for hay and grain? If we had more pasture area it wouldn’t be much of a problem, but…”

“We’ll have to check,” Brian replied. “Abby, the vet that worked on Jake, might know. We’ll contact her about that.”

“I’m assuming we can hunt some to supplement stored food,” Alvin said, speaking up for the first time. “We have a good landing dock on the lake, but I didn’t see anything but an old sunken wooden canoe. Fishing could be important, but shore fishing will never bring in enough for the effort expended.”

“What about a source of fuel for when the diesel and gasoline run out?” asked Dr. Johanson.

Brian let out a long breath. “I don’t know. I’ve read something about bio-diesel… But that requires either used oil or oil crops…”

“Could maybe do a barter or trade if one of the locals can set up a bio-diesel operation,” Frank said.

“Speaking of barter and trade,” Callie said, “What are we going to have to barter? We don’t have much money in reserve. And Brian thinks that it might not be worth much pretty soon.”

Everyone looked around at everyone else. Brian wasn’t prepared to say he had plenty of cash and precious metals. He suspected Dr. Hughes was in the same boat. “Okay,” Brian said after a moment, “Lets think about some of these things that have been brought up at this meeting. We’ll meet again in a few days and see what everyone has come up with. Is that okay?”

There were nods and voiced yeses and the group began to break up, people regrouping to talk. Brian motioned to Dr. Hughes and joined him outside on the porch. “I have quite a bit of cash stashed,” Brian said quietly. “I think we should use it up while we have the chance. Assuming we still have a chance.”

“I think we will, if we go south for our sources. And I, too, have cash available for improvement to the camp. But we should act quickly.”

“With communications down it means we pretty much have to scout everything out. Could be pretty fuel intensive,” Brian mused.

“We’ll have Frank see what he can find out on the Amateur bands first. Might save us quite a bit of fuel.”

“Didn’t think of that. Good idea.” With that, Brian went to his cabin and Dr. Hughes went to the Newell.

Three days later, when they held another meeting, everyone that had brought up wants and needs at the previous meeting had lists of solutions. Brian and Dr. Hughes read them in turn as the others sat or stood quietly.

When it was obvious that the two men had finished reading Frank spoke up. “I’ve got a pretty good set of ham contacts all around us, including Branson, Springfield, and Joplin in Missouri, Fayetteville in Arkansas, and Tulsa in Oklahoma. They’re all willing to do phonebook research for us if we want it.”

“Another good idea,” Brian said. “Okay. Dr. Hughes, if it’s okay with you we’ll put Frank on the radio and see what he can find of this wish list before we sent out anyone.”

Dr. Hughes nodded.

“I guess that’s all for the moment, until Frank does the research for us,” Brian said. “Anyone have anything else?”

No one said anything and the meeting broke up, several people going to Frank to elaborate somewhat on the lists they’d submitted.

Frank was good as his word. After another three days had passed, he told Brian he had the information requested. Brian called another meeting.

“Okay, Frank. What do you have?” Brian asked as soon as everyone was ready.

“Well, I’ve found multiple potential sources for everything on the lists. But bear in mind it’s just telephone book address listings. Well, except for a couple, fortunately. One of the guys lives not to far from a nursery in Springfield. They sell greenhouses. He goes out every once and a while. There seems to be someone there during the day. Probably watering the plants, the guy said. They still have water pressure.

“There are a lot of listings in Springfield, besides that one. But they’re just the address and phone number. Now, the other good information has to do with the bio-diesel. A guy in Fayetteville has a small scale set up. He was using deep fryer oil to make fuel, but he can’t get any now. My contact said he’s desperate to get some supplies for the winter. He won’t take cash. He wants food.”

“I really hate to give up any of our stored food,” Dr. Hughes said.

“I agree,” Brian said. “Frank,” Brian asked, “were you getting any feel about food availability?”

“North of St. Louis there isn’t any. People still there are desperate, unless they’re preppers. The further south you go, the better the situation is. The trucks are still running and some food imports are getting through from all three coasts. But it’s getting worse every day. Prices going up as availability goes down.

“One of the hams said there’d been cases of truck drivers in her area just selling the food out of the back of the trailer, instead of taking it to the store.”

“What do you think, Doc?” Brian asked Dr. Hughes.

“If we’re going to get the things we want, we’d better do it now. For a variety of reasons.”

Brian nodded. “I concur. We’d better start planning. Leave in two days?”

“I think we can,” Dr. Hughes said.

The others drifted off as Brian and Dr. Hughes huddled with Frank and his lists of wants and ham contacts and began to plan the trips.

They weren’t able to leave in two days. It took three to get everything coordinated. But on the morning of the fourth day a small convoy left the hunting camp by the back way. Jeb and Brenda were taking one of the semi tractor trailer rigs and heading southwest to Tulsa to pick up what food they could. Jeb whistled when Brian gave him a bank bag stuffed to the gills with twenty and hundred dollar bills. Mostly hundreds.

“Use your own judgment. Get as much as you can with that.”

Jeb and Brenda headed out, with Bruce following in one of the one-ton Fords. Besides the extra 98-gallon auto flow tank in the pickup bed to extend the range of the pickup, there were several barrels of diesel tied down in the bed to supply the semi if they couldn’t get fuel on the road

Jeb and Brenda were well armed, as was Bruce. They were to take the food they could get in Tulsa and go to Fayetteville to get the bio-diesel equipment and supplies.

The hay from the gooseneck trailer had been unloaded, laboriously. Frank and Dr. Hughes would be taking the trailer with one of the Fords to Springfield to do a deal for one or more greenhouses, as well as looking for the materials to build a set of bathrooms, shower rooms, and laundry.

Alvin would be backing them up in Brian’s Chevy Silverado. It too had barrels of extra diesel for the two trucks. All were armed. They left moments after the first team.

Brian brought up the rear in the R320. He would be checking with Abbey about animal feed, and Mr. Johnson about boats that might be for sale in the area. He hadn’t wanted to discuss it on the CB.

Once on the state road, the three parties went their own ways. Brian headed to Abby’s vet clinic. He found her, by herself in a chair behind the reception counter of the clinic, crying.

“What’s the matter, Abby? Are you all right?” Brian asked.

Abby managed to control her tears, and wiped her eyes before stepping up to the counter. “How’s Jake?” she asked.

“He’s going to be fine. We have a doctor in residence now. He said you did a wonderful job working on Jake.”

A small smile curved Abby’s lips. “Just did what I could.”

“It was enough, and more. So… Why the tears?”

Abby’s face fell. “I just had to put down three animals. People are leaving the area and can’t take their animals. A lot of them are just turning the animals loose, but some are bringing them in to be destroyed.”

“Oh,” Brian said softly. “I’m sorry.”

“Better than letting them run loose,” Abby said. She seemed to be under full control now. “How can I help you? You said Jake was under a doctor’s care, so it probably isn’t that.”

“No. Actually, I’m looking for a source of animal feed. Namely for horses and dogs. They came with the doctor.”

Abby’s eyes perked up. “Really? Do you need me to take a look at them?”

“No. they’re fine. It was the feed I was interested in. I figured you could put me on to someone that raises hay, and maybe corn or oats or something, for their own animals and might have some to sell.”

“What about the feed store?”

“I’m looking for a long term supply. I’m afraid the feed store might not be in business much longer.”

Abby frowned. “The weather thing?”

Brian nodded.

“Well, there’s a good chance it will be around for a while, as long as there are customers. Sally is a friend of mine. Of course she sells commercial feed, but she has deals with some of the locals for just what you asked about. Hay and straw, corn, oats, sunflowers… several other things.”

“I see. I’ll stop by there then. Assuming you can give me directions.”

“Sure. It’s just on the other side of town. You can’t really miss it, if you’re looking.”

“Okay. Thanks.” Brian started to turn away. After a moment’s hesitation he turned back to Abby. “Are you going to be okay? With the weather and all…”

“I don’t know. I guess so. I have to stay to take care of the animals. People depend on me.”

To Brian she didn’t look all that certain. “What about food? Do you even still have power?”

Abbey bit her lower lip and shook her head. “Mr. Johnson still has a little left. I may have to go to Branson. I just have to get by. Some how.”

“Well… Like I said the other day, if you need something, contact Mr. Johnson… Or, do you have a CB?”

“In my truck. My ex-husband used to talk on it all the time. I don’t turn it on much.”

“You can contact us directly on Channel 3,” Brian told her.

“I will.”

Brian left, still worried about Abbey. He found the Feed Store without trouble and talked to Sally about becoming a customer.

“I hate to say this, but I might just shut down. I tried to get another order of commercial feed in and they doubled the cost. One of my local suppliers said they would only take gold in payment now. Where am I going to get gold?”

“I can pay in gold,” Brian said.

Sally’s eyes widened. “You can?”

Brian nodded.

“Well, then… I guess if I can get product, I’ll sell it to you for gold. We’d have to reach an agreed upon price.”

“See what your suppliers are will to take for the goods. I’m sure we can come to some equitable arrangement.”

“I’ll give it a shot. Do you want something now?”

Brian shook his head. “Not at the moment. But I’ll be in touch. You can reach me if you want, on Channel 3 on the CB if you have one.”

“Ok.” Sally stuck out her hand and Brian shook it.

His next stop was at Mr. Johnson’s store. Brian was surprised when he walked in. Though most of the canned food shelves were empty, the meat and produce aisles were stocked and appeared to be busy.

“You seem to be doing okay,” Brian told Johnson when he had a moment between checking out customers.

“Yeah. Made some deals around the area for fresh food, including some meat.”

“So I see. You think people around here are going to stay?”

“Some,” Johnson said, sadly. “I think most will eventually leave if it gets worse than the last news that was available said. The weather experts were talking highs in the fifties in the summer around here, with the winter lows down below zero regularly and probably a lot of snow.”

“That was what I’d heard, too, before everything went down. And I doubt electricity will be back up. Don’t know about fuels like diesel, gasoline, heating oil, natural gas, and propane. Won’t be a tree left if everyone starts cutting down trees willy nilly for firewood, if there aren’t other fuel choices.”

“I’m lucky there,” Johnson said. “Got a three thousand gallon propane tank here for the store and a thousand gallon one at home. Happened to fill both of them just before all this weather stuff came up. I’m good for at least a year, both places.”

“What are you doing about your meat? Do you have some sort of alternative cooling system?”

“Not yet. Thinking about an ice house for next summer. I’m just not sure if all this fuss will be going on next year or not.”

“I think it will. An ice house would be a good idea. What are you doing right now?”

“Pressuring customers to take more than they can really afford so it won’t go bad.”

“I tell you what, we’ll take anything that you can’t sell before it goes bad. Well before. We’ll keep half, and can half of it for you to resell. The jars and rings would have a refund value so we can get them back. Most of them, anyway. We’ll eventually run out of lids, but I guess that’s just the way it is.”

“That sounds like a good deal! Okay.” Johnson shook Brian’s hand to seal the deal.

“What are you doing about payment for what you sell? Brian asked.

“Mostly trading stuff back and forth and trying to keep the prices down. Still taking cash, though I’m about to quit that. Can’t get ahold of my bank in Branson. Don’t know if cash money is going to be good any more. I like your idea of gold, but no one seems to have any.”

“What business we do with you will be in gold or trade goods, your choice.”



“Well, I’m taking in quite a bit in trade. I think I’d like to get some gold.”

“Let me look around and see what we might be able to use out at the camp,” Brian said. He began going down the rows of shelves. Many were empty. There were still plenty of non-food items on their shelves, except for toilet paper. There wasn’t any on the shelf.

One of the things that caught Brian’s eyes was several cases of canning jars. There were still plenty of boxes of lids and rings, too, which surprised Brian. He waited until Johnson was free again and asked him about the jars.

“I’m a little surprised myself,” Johnson said with a shrug. “You in the market?”

“Yeah. I’ll take them all. Pay in gold. How much.”

“Lord, Brian, I don’t know what they’re worth in gold!”

“I paid one of my employees off in gold at $500.00 per ounce and silver at $13.89. That’s a 36 to 1 ratio between the metals. Makes the silver coins come out in round number values. If that sounds okay, figure what the stuff is worth and I’ll pay you in gold and silver.”

Johnson went to get a handheld calculator and began to figure out the sale while Brian continued to look around the store for possibilities. Other than the canning supplies, Brian made it a point not to take all of the stock of any one item. He didn’t want to be considered a hoarder. He bought quite a few non-food items that he knew the camp could use eventually. Or they could be used for barter.

After Brian had loaded everything in the R320, he went back inside the store to talk to Johnson again. “The main reason I camd in, Mr. Johnson, was to ask you about boats on the lake. You know anyone already wanting to sell before this happened?”

“A couple. And a couple looking to get out of here, but don’t want to just abandon their boat. And then there is one of mine.”

“You have a boat you’d sell me? What kind?”

“Small run about. Had it for fun fishing and some skiing. Only has a fifty horse on it, but it does okay on the lake.”

“How much?”

Johnson pulled out his calculator again and began pushing buttons. A bit reluctantly he asked Brian, “Would you give seven ounces of gold and thirty-six ounces of silver? That’s based on four thousand for the boat, motor, trailer and the miscellaneous gear that goes with it.”

“I figure I can trust you. Okay.” Brian counted out the coins, giving Johnson a mix of denominations without being asked. Johnson would need the different values if he was going to start trading in gold and silver.

Brian also got the names and addresses for the other boat owners that Johnson knew that wanted to sell. He made a couple more deals, both in cash, for another runabout, a sixteen foot jon boat, and two canoes and a kayak.

The runabout was on a trailer, which he hooked to the R320. The man that sold him the jon boat, canoes, and kayak helped him load the jon boat on the runabout, along with the outboard motor; and the two canoes and kayak on a roof rack that he threw in on the sale.

Brian took it easy going back to the campground. The roof rack didn’t fit the R320 that well and he kept expecting the canoes to fall off. But he made it with everything intact.

It was still early enough to take the boats down to the lake shore and get them in the water. Cap went with Brian. So did an eager Anthony. Jake was well enough to take a turn at the communications center, leaving Anthony free to help Cap in the garden. When Cap went, Anthony asked to go along and Brian said okay.

By the time they’d got them all in the water, the engines tested, and then tied up securely at the dock it was time for supper. Both of the groups that had left checked in by radio that evening before everyone went to bed, excluding the one that had monitoring duty. Both had found suitable commercial places to stay the night. Both motels took cash. Each team kept a rotating watch during the night, just in case.

With Jake eager to be doing something, even if it was just monitoring the radios, Anthony went with Brian and Cap to get the boat Johnson had sold Brian the next afternoon. Like Cap and Brian, Anthony had his rifle with him.

Johnson met them at the small marina on the lake. He was pulling the trailer. Brian looked at the trailer and then the boat. “I don’t see any point in loading her up here and then unloading her at the camp. I’ll just run her over to the camp on the water. Cap can take trailer back.

Anthony was looking eager again, Brian noticed. Brian hadn’t said how Anthony was going back to the camp. With a slight smile, Brian asked, “You want to go back with me and lend a hand, Anthony?”

“Yes, sir!”

Brian and Anthony, with Johnson’s input and help, got the boat ready to go. Cap switched the trailer from Johnson’s pickup to the R320. He stayed at the landing until Brian had the outboard going smoothly and Johnson got off. With a wave, Cap headed back to the hunting camp. Brian had never operated boats much and drove the small runabout quite conservatively.

Much to Anthony’s glee, Brian let him handle the boat for a little while on the way to the camp. They were following the shoreline, and Brian took over the controls again when he saw something on shore he wanted to check out.

There was a large houseboat tied up at a nice dock. Up shore from the dock was an elegant looking log home with what had been a nicely tended lawn leading down to the shore and the dock. The grass was long, and there were weeds starting to show here and there.

The rear of the houseboat had what looked like a sheet tied across it. On the sheet was painted ‘4 SALE’ in bright orange paint.

“What do you say, Anthony? Want to check it out?”

“Sure! That’s a big boat!”

Brian idled the runabout up against the dock opposite the houseboat and killed the engine while Anthony secured a line from the bow of the boat to a dock cleat. As soon as he was on the dock, Brian began to call out, not wanting to take a chance on being taken for a thief.

He almost came out of his skin when a man stepped out onto the deck of the houseboat from within it.

“No need to yell. I’m right here.”

Brian noted the man had a revolver holstered on his hip. “I’m Brian Lanigan,” Brian said. “I saw the for sale sign on the houseboat.”

“You interested or just here to waste my time?” the man asked. He didn’t offer his name.

“If it’s really for sale, and in good shape, I am interested,” Brian replied, his voice even.

“In perfect shape. I keep it that way. Wouldn’t be selling but my wife insists we go south to her mother’s in Florida. She’s already there and the house is sold. I’m just hanging around to sell the houseboat. But I tell you, I’m not going to accept some lowball price because I’m wanting to sell.”

“How much?” Brian asked.

When the man told him Brian’s expression didn’t change, but Anthony’s face had a look of astonishment on it.

“Show us around?” Brian said in reply.

The man showed off the features of the houseboat proudly, going from stem to stern, inside and out. When they were done, Brian calmly said, “I’ll give you a fourth what you asked.”

The man looked ready to do bodily harm to Brian. But then Brian added, “in gold, based on five-hundred dollars an ounce.”

The look on the man’s face turned into one of greed. “Gold! You kidding?”

“Nope,” Brian said.

“How much is that in gold?” the man had to ask.

“One hundred ounces,” Anthony immediately said.

The man looked at Brian for confirmation. “That’s right,” said Brian.

“When can I get it?” asked the man.

“I want a ride first, just to be sure,” Brian said.

“Sure, sure!” The man had the engines started in no time and Brian untied them from the dock.

“Anthony, stay with the runabout,” Brian told the young man.

He was very disappointed, but did as he was told. He waited quietly for the fifteen minutes that the houseboat was away from the dock. When it returned, he moved to tie it up, but Brian called to him. Don’t tie it up. Get me the gray bag and rifle, and then untie the runabout.”

“Hey! What’s going on?” asked the man when he came out onto the front deck of the houseboat.

“Just getting your money. You have anything else you want to take off the boat?”

The man’s hand went to the revolver holstered on his hip. “You try to rip me off and I’ll kill you!” he growled.

“Not going to cheat you. I just don’t trust you.” Brian glanced at Anthony, who still held the gray bag. “There’s a packet of gold coins in the end pouch. Take it out and give it to the gentleman.”

Anthony hurried to do so, and quickly stepped back so the man couldn’t try to grab him.

“You can count it, but I assure you it’s all there. And real.”

The man looked startled. It hadn’t occurred to him the gold might not be gold. “It better be,” he said, his voice even lower and more menacing. The look turned to greed as the gold coins, even in the approaching darkness, gleamed brightly as he counted them.

“Anthony. In the runabout and take it out in the lake a good ways,” Brian kept his eyes on the man.

Anthony jumped to obey.

“Off,” Brian told the man when Anthony was well away from the dock. “Up off the dock.”

Brian’s gun wasn’t pointed at the man, but a slight shift was all it would take to bring it into line. The man stepped off the deck of the houseboat to the dock and began to back away. When he was nearly to the house, Brian turned and hurried inside the houseboat. The engines started right up and Brian dropped the propellers into reverse.

He saw the man draw his revolver and raise it to fire a shot. Brian ducked down, but kept the houseboat backing up at high speed. The man didn’t fire and Brian finally stood back up, slowed the engines and turned the houseboat around.

Anthony was sitting well out on the lake and Brian headed the houseboat toward him. It was the matter of only a few moments to get Anthony aboard the houseboat and the runabout tied off so it could be towed.

“Wow!” Anthony said. He was standing by Brian at the helm of the houseboat. “That was something!”

“I didn’t like doing that way, but I don’t trust that guy. I’m not a hundred percent sure the boat actually belongs to him.”

“Why did you buy it, then?”

“Because I thought it was a good deal. This will add to our possibilities for the camp.”

“That was an awful lot of gold. It was amazing, when he started counting it.”

“Gold is pretty cool, I guess. I think it is going to make a comeback as currency, along with silver. That’s why I converted some of my stocks and bonds when I had the chance.”

“That was smart. I sure am glad you asked my family to come here. The things I’ve been hearing on the ham radio are scary. Kind of like what just happened. People are fighting over food and stuff.”

“I’m afraid it might get worse. That’s why we go armed. Just in case.”

Brian’s VHF handheld radio broke squelch and Jake’s voice was calling him.

“Calling Brian. Calling Brian. Come back, please.”

“This is Brian,” Brian said, bringing the walky-talky up to his lips.

“Where are you guys? We’re getting worried.”

“We had a slight delay,” Brian said. “but everything is okay. If you would, have someone go down to the dock and shine a light out. It’ll be dark by the time we get there.”

“Will do,” Jake answered.

It was another twenty minutes before Brian and Anthony spotted the light shining out from the shore. Brian headed the houseboat in and ran it slowly up to the sandy shore. There was no room at the dock.

Anthony jumped off the front, the painter in his hand. He tied the houseboat off to a tree and started back to get his rifle. “Mom!” he cried when Alexandra grabbed him up in a bear hug.

Half the camp was there watching.

“I was worried about you!” she said, slowly releasing him.

“I was with Mr. Lanigan!”

“I know. But mothers worry.”

“I need to get my rifle,” he said, finally able to step away from his mother.

“He did quite well today,” Brian told Alexandra. “He’s turning into a fine young man.”

Cap finally spoke up. “When I left you, you were in a runabout. Care to explain the houseboat?”

Brian grinned. “It followed us home?”

“It was amazing!” Anthony said, coming up to the small group, the Ruger 10/22 slung over one shoulder. “He just up and bought it! Just like that!”

Brian noted that Anthony didn’t go into details, after glancing at his mother, and then Brian.

“Saw a bargain and bought it,” Brian said, winking at Anthony. “No big deal.”

“Right,” Anthony said. “No big deal, I guess.”

“Well, come on. Both of you. Supper is getting cold,” Alexandra said. She, Anthony, and Brian joined Cap and the others standing on the dock, and then they all headed back to the camp.

“Did the teams check in?” Brian asked Jake as soon as they were in the main cabin.

“Yeah. The Doc and them are camping out. Jeb’s team got another motel.”

“Any success?”

“I think so. They were both kind of closed mouthed about things.”

“We’ll just have to see when they get back. They may not want to say too much, in case people listening in zero in on them.”

“Good point, Brian. So what’s new? You and Anthony are late.”

“Bought a houseboat for the camp to use,” Brian replied.

“Just like that?” Jake asked.

Anthony was grinning. “Just like that,” he said. “It’s a cool boat. So is the new runabout.” He started to announce that he’d driven it by himself, but decided that might be better kept between Brian and himself. Instead he asked, “Anything happen while we were gone?” He put his rifle in the gun rack by the front door.

Jake laughed. “No. You didn’t miss anything too important.”

“But there was something?” Brian asked.

Jake sighed. “Well, yeah. Things are getting worse all over. Especially up north. And Europe is going crazy. The first storm is still going apparently and crossing Europe. People are heading south there, just like they are here. North Africa is in the same boat as Mexico. More refugees than they want to handle.

“And if I’m judging correctly from the ham reports I’m getting, the second storm has dropped south into Washington and Oregon and turned southeast. It may track further south than the first one. Hard to tell just from the various radio reports, but that’s the best I have.”

Brian nodded. “Going to get worse before it gets better. No doubt in my mind.”

“Will we be okay here, Mr. Lanigan?” Anthony asked, his former exuberance now changed to worry.

“Well, even in the previous big Ice Ages that lasted for hundreds of thousands of years, the ice didn’t come down this far. I think we’ll be okay. If push comes to shove we can head south ourselves. I just think it will be safer here than with the teaming hordes of refugees.”

“Anthony,” his mother said, “Come get your supper and get ready for bed. You’ve had a long, and I suspect stressful, day.”

He started to protest, but realized that would make him sound like a boy. “Yes, Mother,” he replied instead.

A pleased Alexandra led the way to the table, with Brian right behind and Jake hobbling along on the crutches that Caroline had brought as part of her pharmacy supplies. Helen, with baby Steven in one arm sat down at the communications desk and took over the monitoring duties.

Brian was up early the next morning, intending to check out the houseboat in greater detail. He’d stopped at the main cabin to get a cup of coffee, knowing at least one of the women would be up to start the preliminaries for breakfast and would have coffee available. He met Bianca coming out of the main cabin just as he was going up the steps.

“Brian!” Bianca called out. “Hurry! I was just coming to get you. There’s trouble in town!”

Brian followed Bianca inside. Gloria was at the radio. It had been her turn to start the coffee and Bianca had asked her to watch the radios while she got Brian.

“What is it?” Brian asked, taking the chair that Gloria vacated.

“It’s your Mr. Johnson,” Bianca said. “He called in just a couple of minutes ago, asking for you.” She looked at Gloria. “Anything else when I was out?”

Gloria shook her head.

Brian picked up the microphone for the CB and called for Johnson.

Johnson replied immediately. “Brian! You guys need to look out. There’s a couple hundred refugees that might be headed your way. They’re like locusts. Taking everything not tied down. Held me at gunpoint to empty out what they wanted in the store. Have a couple big trucks running, plus several horses.”

Johnson paused for a moment, but then spoke again, his voice low. “I’m worried about Abbey and Sally. Both are on their own. There’s bunches of women and kids with the refugees, but there are some independent men I think could be real trouble for women on their own.”

“I’ll be in as soon as I can,” Brian said. He saw Anthony come in. “Anthony. Get Cap. Tell him we’re going to town into some trouble.”

“Yes sir!” Breakfast forgotten, Anthony hurried outside.

Brian grabbed a couple of the VHF handhelds from their charging rack and went outside himself. As he hit the door he told Bianca, “Let me know anything that comes in.”

“I will, Brian.”

“I’ll go,” Anthony said as he ran up with Cap.

“Not this time, Anthony. I want you here with Jake, Dr. Johanson, and the women. Just in case. Keep your rifle with you, and plenty of magazines, just in case.”

“Yes, Sir!” Anthony was off like a shot to get his rifle from just inside the main cabin door. Normally he put a couple of extended magazines for the Ruger 10/22 into his pockets, but this time he took the fishing vest his mother had modified for him. It held ten of the extended magazines.

Cap was headed for the R320, looking like he was loaded for bear. Brian came out of his cabin equipped likewise. After watching the SUV leave, Anthony went inside. People were milling around and Jake was back at the radios. Bianca was filling him in.

“Cap has shown me were all the motion detectors are,” Anthony told Jake. “I’m going to go check them all.”

“But Anthony!” Alexandra said, intending to stop him.

Jake cut her off. “Let him go, Alex. He’s almost a man now and needs to feel he’s pulling his weight.” Jake looked over at Anthony. “Even though he already is.” He spoke directly to Anthony then. “Take a radio and be careful. Tell me each time you intend to test a sensor.”

“Yes, sir, Uncle Jake.” Anthony was off, not running, but at a hurried pace.

“Oh, Jake! I don’t know…” Alexandra said, stepping over to the door to watch her son.

“He’ll be fine, Alex,” Jake reassured his sister-in-law.

“I hope so,” she said, and headed for the kitchen. She needed something to do. As they came in to the common rooms from the bedrooms, the women and Dr. Johanson all checked their weapons in the rack by the front door.

Brian was taking it fairly easy, as he didn’t want to mark up the road too much, but he was hurrying. “Sometimes I think we cut the main road too soon,” he said absently.

“Maybe. Maybe not,” Cap replied.

They didn’t see anyone around as they drove up to Johnson’s store. Cap waited outside, his rifle at the ready, while Brian cautiously went into the store. “Mr. Johnson! It’s Brian. You in here?”

“Yeah, Brian,” Johnson replied, stepping out from behind the register counter, a single action revolver in his hand.

“You’re hurt!” Brian said when he saw the cut on the right side of Johnson’s face.

“I was just about to bandage it when you drove up. I dropped behind the register. Wasn’t going to take another pistol whipping.” He hefted the old Colt Peacemaker .38.

“Put it down for the moment and let me look at that cut.”

As Brian cleaned and dressed the wound using the supplies that Johnson had already gathered up and put on the register counter, Johnson began to explain what had happened to him.

“They all showed up at once. I heard someone say they’d camped just outside of town to let those on foot catch up and rest some before they came into town. It was just a swarm. One of the leaders, though I don’t think he’s the number one boss, came up to me and stuck the barrel of an automatic in my belly and told me to keep quiet and I wouldn’t get hurt.

“The rest just started taking things out to one of their trucks. I got a bit mouthy with the guy guarding me and he whacked me across the face with that automatic pistol. They took what they wanted and left.

“As they were leaving, one of them said they needed to find the feed store for the horses and a vet to look at one that had come up lame. I called as soon as they were gone, and got out my gun from the office. Bunch of low life Yankees!”

Brian put the final strip of tape on the bandage on Johnson’s face. It had been no mere feat to bandage him while he’d been talking.

“Okay. If you’re okay here, we’ll go check on Sally and Amy. Or do you want to come with us, in case some of them come back?”

Johnson shook the old Colt. “Let’em come! I’m ready for them now.”

Brian would have preferred Johnson come with them, for his own safety, but he understood and respected Johnson’s need to protect what was his. Brian filled Cap in on what Johnson had told him while he drove to the Feed Store.

The group had been there and left. Sally was nowhere to be found. The store itself was as much of a mess as Johnson’s. Brian headed for Abby’s clinic. When he saw a large group on the street ahead of them Brian quickly whipped into a side street, hopefully before any of the refugees had seen them.

Turning onto a street parallel to the one they’d left, Brian goosed the R320. He made a sliding turn onto another side street to get back on the main road to the clinic. Brian picked up as much speed as he dared when he was back on the main road.

He checked the mirrors. He couldn’t tell if the refugee mob had speeded up or not. The tires squalled a bit when he hit the brakes when he turned into the clinic parking lot. Out of the SUV, Brian stepped back onto the road and looked toward town. No sign of the refugees at the slight turn in the road they’d come around.

“Keep an eye out!” Brian told Cap, and then ran to the front door of the clinic. It was locked. He banged on it a couple of times. “Abby! Abby! It’s Brian Lanigan! Open up!”

Brian stepped back when he heard the door locks being turned. As soon as the door was open Brian grabbed Abby’s arm. “Come on! We have to go. There’s a mob of refugees on the way.”

“I know!” Abby said.

Brian saw Sally step into view. She was carrying a double barrel shotgun. “You got away. Good. We were worried that… Well… You know. Both of you. Come on.”

They didn’t waste any time, except that Abby used to lock up the clinic office again. When they came out of the building Cap was leveling his rifle over the hood of the R320. The leading elements of the refugee mob were less than a quarter mile away. Everyone climbed into the SUV and Brian took off again, away from the mob.

He circled well around the town and took the back back way in to the camp. Sally was shaking when Brian helped her out of the SUV. Brian handed Cap the shotgun. She was barely capable of holding it up at the moment.

Callie led both women into the main cabin. Both were frightened and near to going into shock. Dr. Johanson began to examine them as soon as Callie had them in the cabin.

Anthony joined Cap and Brian where they continued to stand by the R320, talking. He went with them when they went in to talk to Jake.

Brian asked Jake to get Mr. Johnson on the radio if he could. Johnson answered almost immediately and Brian took the microphone when Jake handed it to him. “We found Sally. She was at Abby’s. The Feed store was trashed kind of like your place. Haven’t had a chance to find out what they took, if Sally even knows.

“She was with Abby when we got there. We got them both out before the mob got there. Just. How are you doing? You want us to come in and pick you up?”

“No, but thanks, Brian. I’m okay now. I think they’re done with me. But I won’t be taking any chances. I’m locking up the rest of what I have and lying low for a couple of days. Give those two my best.”

“Will do, Mr. Johnson.” Brian handed the microphone back to Jake.

“Anthony went to check all the perimeter sensors. We’re in pretty good shape for early warning.”

“That’s good work, Anthony. Thanks.”

“I just want to help,” replied the teen. Brian smiled. “Have you had breakfast yet?”

“No. I was out watching and listening for anyone.”

“Well get yourself some lunch. Tell whoever is working that I’ll be in after a little while to get a sandwich or something.”

“Yes, sir. I’m starving.”

“Boy has a good head on his shoulders,” Brian told Jake. “Your family can be proud of him.”

“I agree.”

“Well, I’m going to get something to eat. I want to see how Sally and Abbey are doing, anyway. Let me know if something comes up.”

“You know I will.”

Brian went into the kitchen to see if there was anything left from lunch. He found Anthony eating a sandwich.”

“Here you go,” Callie said, handing Brian a small plate with a sandwich on it. “Thanks. How are Sally and Abbey?”

“Dr. Johanson said both were close to going into shock from the fear. They had a bite to eat and are laying down now.”

Brian continued to stand as he absently ate the sandwich, thinking. Suddenly he asked Anthony, “Where’s your mother?”

“Hanging wet laundry, I think,” he replied, eagerly taking the second sandwich Callie handed him.

Brian set the plate down, still with a quarter of a sandwich on it. He headed out the back door of the cabin. Sure enough, there was Alexandra hanging up wet laundry on the clothesline, along with Gloria and Helen.

“Alexandra, can I talk to you a moment?”

“Sure, Brian. What is it?”

“I need Anthony to do a special job. It shouldn’t be too dangerous, but he will be on his own for fairly long periods of time.”

“Oh, Brian! He’s still just a boy!” There were long moments of silence. “He’s all I have…”

Brian nodded and started to turn away.

Alexandra put her hand on Brian’s arm to stop him. “What… What is it you want him to do?”

“You know we have sensors out for perimeter alerts.”

Alexandra nodded.

“Well… They are good, but don’t give us as much warning as I would like if a large party is involved. There is a point where the county road goes right down by the lake before it gets to us from the direction of town.

“I’d like to put Anthony in one of the runabouts to do some fishing and keep an eye on that stretch of the road. It’s the most likely approach for that group of refugees to take to get to us if they find out about the camp.”

“Oh, my! In a boat? By himself? How would that group find out about us, anyway?” Alexandra looked scared. For Anthony, Brian was sure.

“There are people in town that know about the camp. We’ve been pretty secretive, but still, someone might say something. They might even find us by shear luck. There is a good chance they’ll be taking the county road south, anyway and could happen onto our entrance.”

Alexandra hung her head. “He’s so young… But he would dearly love to be helping more. He likes being on the radios, but with Jake…” She looked up into Brian’s face. “If you think he’ll be safe…”

“I can’t guarantee it, Alexandra. But I do think the risk is minimal or I wouldn’t suggest it.”

“Okay then. Just make sure he knows just to warn us if he sees something.”

Brian nodded. “I most certainly will. If he doesn’t want to do it that way, I won’t let him out there.”

“Okay,” Alexandra said softly and went back to hanging up clothes.

Brian went back into the kitchen and Callie directed him to the radio desk. “He wanted to give me a break,” Jake said, “but I’m fine for now. He said he was going out to the gardens to see if Cap needed him.

When Brian got out to the newest of the garden plots, he found Anthony. Cap had him hoeing weeds. “Sorry, Cap. I need Anthony. He has a new duty.”

“Hate to lose a good worker like him. Came out on his own to help.”

“I know. Jake told me where to find him. You going to be okay without him?”

Cap nodded toward Samantha. She was hoeing near Anthony, though not as quickly or expertly. “Sam is good. Just young. Going to be a bit lonely for her if Anthony isn’t going to be helping with the garden anymore.”

“I’d planned on that, but I think you’re right. It will only be part of the time. The rest of us can pull the duty from time to time.”

“Anthony!” called Brian.

Anthony turned around and waved, and then hurried toward Brian when Brian made a ‘come here’ motion.

“I’ve got another duty to add to your chores.”

“Yes, Sir,” Anthony replied without a flinch.

“Leave your hoe and come along.” Brian said, heading toward the lake through the forest. He noticed that Samantha gave a rather forlorn look at them as they left.

“Now,” Brian said, “This should be fairly easy, but it will be boring. I need you to take a shift out on the lake fishing and watching that stretch of the road that is visible from the lake out there a little ways.” Brian pointed in the direction he meant.

“Yes, Sir!” Anthony replied, his eagerness evident. His face fell for a moment when Brian insisted he wear a life jacket whenever he was out on the runabout.

“I didn’t last night,” Anthony protested, but quickly added a ‘Yes, sir’ when Brian insisted.

Johnson had thrown in quite a bit of fishing gear when he’d sold his runabout to Brian. Brian and Anthony went through it and then Brian went out on the lake in the boat to show Anthony where he wanted him to be, and for him to get some practice running the boat.

Anthony was a quick study, and had shown himself to be trustworthy. Brian was sure he would do just fine on his own. They went back into shore and Brian helped Anthony change the portable fuel tanks and refill the empty ones from the fuel tanks.

“I’ll get my rifle and a radio and be right back,” Anthony said when the boat was ready again for use.

Brian smiled. The boy thought things through. When he came back down to the dock, Brian told him, “Check in every hour on the hour. We’ll come looking if you miss a radio check.”

Again the polite, “Yes, sir,” and Anthony was taking up position at the steering wheel of the runabout. He cranked the engine and Brian stood and watched from the dock as Anthony carefully edged away and then headed out onto the lake at slightly more than an idle. He understood the need to conserve fuel.

When Brian went back up into the camp he saw Alexandra looking toward the lake, though she couldn’t see the lake itself through the trees. She turned and went back to her work as Brian headed in the cabin to tell Jake he’d be on the houseboat checking it out.

Barring an attacking force having a navy of their own, the houseboat would provide a good quick getaway if the camp was overrun. The big twin 250 horsepower Mercury outboards would drink the gas if they used it much at high speed, but the boat would have some uses, as would the runabouts and jon boat. The canoes and kayak less so, but better to have them than not.

Though everyone had their own set of weapons, Brian took a few from his stash in his supply cabin down to the houseboat, along with several cans of ammunition for them, just in case.

As a matter of course, whoever was on monitor watch tried the various lines of communications that had gone down, since they had in the past gone up and down. Jake called Brian into the main cabin that afternoon to tell him that one of the news networks was up again.

Brian hurried in and joined the others that were watching the news cast. The news reader looked haggard. There was none of the background activity usually visible behind the person on the news desk. There was only the one man and the camera didn’t change at all during the broadcast.

“For anyone that can hear or see this broadcast I must warn you I don’t know how long we can stay on. We’re on backup power at the moment and are nearly out of fuel. Here is the news as we have it.”

The man looked down at the papers in his hands. “There is now a series of blizzard like storms around the entire northern hemisphere. The temperature around the globe is dropping in both the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. Though the devastating storms that have hit the northern hemisphere do not seem to be developing in the southern hemisphere, our meteorologists and climatologists are saying that if this continues, the southern hemisphere will eventually be affected in the same way.

“There is heavy snow cover in the United States approximately north of the I-70 corridor across the country. Though that is not hard and firm, it seems prudent that anyone north of the I-70 line take measures to survive where they are, or move southward.

“Mexico and the United States are in a state of war over United States citizens taking refuge in Mexico. There is steady fighting along the border and south as US troops push the Mexican authorities back toward Mexico City. Much of the surviving military of the United States, apparently acting without orders, is setting up huge refugee camps in northern Mexico.

“We still don’t have any word from any government official except for the seemingly random elected official that did not go to ground when this situation first started. What word we are getting is that everyone must make do the best they can under the circumstances.

“Widespread martial law has not been declared. There seems no one is there to declare it. Local instances of martial law have been reported, with many cases of combat between the self appointed martial law authorities and the general population in those areas.

“Initial reports that we had that indicated some relief attempts originating in South America, Southern Africa, and Australia have not proved to be true. Attempts to communicate with authorities in those several nations have been in vain. There seems to be no help available for those in the worst affected areas. We can only hope that help will be forthcoming from nearby areas outside the worst of it. People must help people or…”

The man spoke a few more words, but the microphone had cut out. The screen went black a couple of seconds later, and then the white of no signal. Jake continued to try other communications links, but the only things still active seemed to be the network of Amateur Radio Operators that had developed as the events themselves developed.

“That’s it for now, I guess,” Jake said, turning to look at the hopeful faces. “We’ll just have to keep trying.”

“Okay,” said Brian. He ran his hands over his face and then back over his lengthening hair. “It seems more and more likely we’re going to be on our own for the foreseeable future, if not permanently.”

“What about moving south. Like a lot of the others are doing?” asked Bianca.

“We can discuss that,” Brian said, “But we need everyone here in a meeting when we do.” He turned back to Jake. The out teams reported in?”

“Not yet.” Jake looked at his watch. “Should be in another few minutes.”

It was coming up on supper time and the women whose turn it was to prepare it left the group to start the preparations. Everyone else stayed in the common room to wait for the contact from their loved ones.

It wasn’t long. Jeb called in first. He sounded cheerful. “We have had success,” he said, after the communication was established. “We should be home tomorrow, late.” He said nothing else except to sign off after Jake had acknowledged his words.

Dr. Hughes call in shortly thereafter. “We’ve had some trouble, but everyone is okay. Will be at the camp by tomorrow afternoon.”

There were murmurs amongst those listening, but all had been told that there would be very little information transmitted over the radio in fear of someone being able to locate the out teams or the camp.

Brian went out and waited for Anthony after the communications. He came in right on time, just as darkness was falling. Brian tied up the runabout and Anthony slung his rifle over his left shoulder and picked up a string of fish with his right hand. Brian took the stringer and Anthony stepped onto the dock. He was smiling.

“Nice string of fish,” Brian told Anthony, and meant it. There were seven nice fish, of several species.

“I just kept whatever I caught, unless it was too small. I thought we’d need all the fish later we could get.”

“Good thought,” Brian said. “We’ll make that standard.” Brian filled Anthony in on the recent communications as they walked toward the camp.

“I hope no one got hurt,” Anthony replied.

“Me, too,” Brian said. “Me, too.”

Everyone did their work the next day, but often cast glances at the point the back trail entered the camp. It was three in the afternoon when Dr. Hughes pulled into the hunting camp. The gooseneck trailer was loaded to overflowing. Brian noted with surprise the trailer Alvin was pulling with the Chevy. It was a three axle fifth-wheel flat bed. And on it were a mid-size Bobcat skid-steer loader and some attachments. Every other inch of space was filled with boxes, as were the beds of the trucks that were clear of the fifth-wheel trailer hitches.

Dr. Hughes stretched and walked over to join Brian. “You said there was trouble?” Brian asked.

“Take a look at your truck.”

Brian did so, walking over as Alvin exited it. “Jeez! That looks like bullet holes!” He looked at Alvin. “You okay?”

“Missed me clean. Don’t know how. Missed the engine, tires, and fuel tank, too. Took one in the radiator but I pinched it off after things settled down.”

“They came out of nowhere,” Frank said as he joined them.

“Let’s wait and let everyone hear at a meeting after supper,” Brian said.

It was fine with the men. Dr. Hughes and Frank went to their wives. Brian noted that Alvin went over to Bianca and they shared a hug. They seemed to be getting close since Suzy’s death.

Before anyone could do anything else, the semi truck and trailer Jeb and Brenda were in came slowly up the track, followed by Bruce in one of the Ford one-tons. The load in the back of the Ford was higher than the cab, but was tarped down and Brian couldn’t tell what it was.

The three in the group left their vehicles and went over to where the others were congregated. All three were smiling. Until they saw the Chevy pickup. “What happened?” Bruce asked. Is everyone okay?”

After assurance that all were well, the three began explaining all at once their trip. Brian shook his head. So much for waiting for the meeting. As soon as the first few words were out, Dr. Hughes, Frank, and Alvin all joined in, telling their stories. The talking continued as they all went inside. Brian pieced it all out in his head over the next few days.

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