Barbaras Legacy Chapter 2


Barbara’s Legacy – Chapter 2

Things suddenly took on a look of order, as Barbara realized that the individuals weren’t really just milling around. Each seemed to have a project of some type going, and many had clipboards in hand.

One thing that drew her eyes was a group of youngsters. Instead of the panic that she had felt, and was still feeling to a degree, the children were being supervised and seemed to be checking off items on their own lists quietly and calmly.

Suddenly she looked at Scott. “Wait. This is Corporate Retreat? With a fallout shelter?”

“Dual purpose,” Scott replied. “We have a big family. Building something large enough for all of us without an additional source of income wasn’t going to be possible. Back in the seventies, when business and corporate retreats became common, my parents talked to the rest of the family and got the go ahead to build this place.

“There was additional cost, of course, for the emergency facilities, but the income from the retreat business has more than paid for them, with a nice dividend from the profits every year for each member of the family.

“Quite a few of us work here, but we have outside employees, too.” Scott led the way over to a communications console at one side of the area. “Dad,” he said to the man there with headphones on.

Mr. Toomey set one earpiece off an ear so he could hear as Scott introduced Barbara and then asked his father, “How many staff and clients are here?”

“No clients,” Mr. Toomey replied. “When the terror attacks started, everyone decided to head for home. Everyone we had booked cancelled until things settle down. That is going to be a while, if ever. As far as staff, with no clients, everyone except family was sent home, for the duration, with an extra month’s wages. We may see a few of them start showing up with what is going on now. Speaking of which…”

Mr. Toomey pointed to one of the bank of TV monitors. Got someone coming up in a hurry.” He turned to Scott. “You’re here. You might as well handle it.”

“We getting any fallout yet?” Scott asked, but looked at a line of CDV-717 radiation meters himself. “Nope. Not yet. Don’t have to suit up.”

Scott turned to Barbara. “Stay here. I’ll be back in a while.”

“But…” Barbara tried to protest, but Scott was gone.

“Have a seat and watch the boy work,” Mr. Toomey said, patting the seat of a chair behind him.

Barbara sat down and watched the TV monitors. She saw Scott leave the elevator on the first floor and go to what she now recognized as an airlock entryway. It was the same one she’d come through. She’d seen the one man close the security shutters for the outside door and windows, but had not seen the security doors on the inside doors of the airlock.

Scott disappeared through a door near the entry doors. He didn’t show up on any of the monitors, but Mr. Toomey indicated the monitor showing the now enclosed space between the inner and outer security doors of the entry.

Barbara watched, amazed, as Scott went through the process of bringing someone into the building after it was locked down for an emergency. Though she couldn’t see Scott, she could hear his voice coming from a speaker in the entryway.

First he asked the people… there were three on the monitor that showed the outside of the entry… for their identification. “He’ll be checking a list of employees and other people that have a standing invite to come here in a crises. I happen to recognize the vehicle when it came up. It should be Harvey Jones, his wife, and little boy. They’re on the list.”

Apparently Scott found their names on the entry list, for the security shutter for the door opened and then three people entered the airlock.

“There is a small cabinet on the wall there,” came Scott’s voice. “Take the wand out and run it over yourself and the others.”

“He’s got a remote reading radiation detector like these,” Mr. Toomey said, touching one of the CDV-717 meters on the console.

“Okay,” Scott said. “You’re all three clean. Just a second and I’ll let you in.” The inner security door and regular inner door opened and the three walked into view of another camera. Scot came out a moment later and closed the doors. He began to lead the three toward the elevator.

“What if they had been in fallout?” Barbara asked. “Or the gas, like we avoided?”

The floor has unobtrusive drains in it and there is a shower wand in another cabinet. They would have been told to strip down, put their clothes out a hatch, shower, and put on a simple jump suit and flip-flops we have for people that come in contaminated.”

“And if they didn’t want to do that?”

“Well, it’s not likely that anyone would get that far and not want to decontaminate. Strangers that might show up and demand entrance for some reason would be dealt with outside the entry. If they seemed all right and came into the decontamination area and didn’t want to decontaminate, they would have been escorted off the property under guard by people in protective gear.”

“Guns?” Barbara asked.

“Oh, yes,” Mr. Toomey said. Barbara didn’t respond.

A few minutes later Barbara saw Scott get out of the elevator with the three people. They were immediately met by Mrs. Toomey and went through some type of check in system. When Scott joined Barbara and his father, Barbara asked, “It looks like they are being checked in. Should I be doing that, too?”

“Actually, yes,” Scott said. “Mother would probably be over here in a little while, tugging my ear to get you checked in. Please save me that embarrassment and come on over with me. It’s not a big thing, but it can be important.”

“Mrs. Toomey,” Barbara said, “Are there some forms I need to fill out?”

“No offense girl, but we have to be able to read these. Today’s schools… Anyway. No. I’ll ask questions and write down the answers. We’ll get it in the computer in a while, but we always want a hardcopy record, just in case.”

“Oh,” Barbara said, understanding why Scott didn’t want his mother on his case for anything.

Mrs. Toomey looked at Scott for a moment and then said, “Leave.”

Barbara was a bit disappointed when Scott moved away, but reddened slightly and silently thanked Mrs. Toomey for making him leave when the questions got a bit intimate. Things like her name and address, next of kin, allergies, blood type, and such seemed quite routine.

But then Mrs. Toomey asked, “Pregnant?”


“In your period?”

“Uh… Yes.”

“Pad or tampons?”


“Light or heavy?”

“Heavy now…”

“Okay,” Mrs. Toomey said, lifting the clipboard up against her ample chest. “That does it. Should have Scott show you around and get you a bunk.”

“Oh!” Barbara said, suddenly remembering Scott had pulled her out of the truck so fast she’d forgotten to bring the Wal-Mart bags that were here suitcase. She mentioned it to Mrs. Toomey.

“We’ve got stuff in just about all sizes. We’ll get your personal things when we know everything is clear.” Mrs. Toomey looked around, saw Scott, and called him over.

“Show her the ropes.” With that Mrs. Toomey went over to another console, near the communications console, and gave the papers she’d just filled out on Barbara’s behalf to a teenaged girl already entering the data from the Jones.

It would be several days before Barbara learned all about the family complex, but Scott showed her the shelter before assigning a bunk in one of the women’s dorm rooms. Even with just the brief tour, Barbara felt safe, protected from all the bad things going on out in the real world.

Scott was watching the communications monitors when Barbara found him the next morning after getting up and going to the bathroom. One of the women in the family had shown her where to get one of the jumpsuits. While not particularly flattering, it was comfortable and quite serviceable Barbara found.

“Where is everyone?” Barbara asked, walking over to Scott.

“Fallout is light right now. Everyone but a couple of us is upstairs in the secondary shelter doing activities.”

“Fallout?” Barbara asked, fear pumping adrenaline into her system.

“Real light.” Scott looked at Barbara and saw the fear. “Don’t worry. We’re perfectly safe here and even in the main basement. If it doesn’t get any worse we really wouldn’t have to even sleep down here, but that is the way we’re set up. If it does get worse, we’ll spend our time down here until the radiation fades.”

It suddenly occurred to Barbara that they weren’t doing anything special about the air. “What about the air? Isn’t it contaminated? And water?”

Scott didn’t laugh at her lack of knowledge about nuclear fallout. He knew a couple of preppers that had trouble believing the air itself didn’t become radioactive. Neither did the water. But if you didn’t know that, it was a very scary thought.

“The air is filtered. We have Bio/Chem filters as well as particulate filters for fallout. The air itself doesn’t become radioactive. Only the fallout particles are radioactive. They are filtered out and accumulate in a safe place where we can dispose of them.

“Water is the same way. We have a lot stored, and have three wells that serve the compound, plus there is the lake. The lake is for pleasure use and fire protection, but we can draw drinking water from it if need be. If it is, it will be filtered and treated to make it safe. Like air, the water itself doesn’t become radioactive due to fallout.”

“Oh,” Barbara said. “I didn’t know that. I thought…”

“It isn’t something a person just knows. I’ve had training since I was old enough to understand. My family’s preps started back during World War II and just became more extensive during the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

“I don’t think it’s ever really been discussed in my family,” Barbara said.

“Speaking of your family,” Scott said, “I’ll try the telephone lines again.” Scott plugged a simple touch-tone telephone into one of dozens of different types of electrical jacks mounted to a copper sheet fastened to the wall beside the communications desk.

“Still nothing,” he said and saw Barbara’s disappointment. “I just tried the Amateur Radio bands. They are still just filled with static. As soon as it fades, if the telephone doesn’t come back up, I’ll try to find an Amateur Radio operator near you home. See if they can contact your parents.”

“You can do that?” Barbara asked.

“Depends on who survived and where. I’m not getting any radio or TV, be it commercial broadcast, shortwave, or Amateur. I have no idea how broad the attack was. All we can do is wait.”

Barbara nodded, fighting back tears. Scott motioned to one of his cousins, who came over and took over the communications console. Scott took Barbara into the kitchen area of the shelter and helped her prepare a breakfast. It was normal home fare, and when Barbara asked about it, Scott explained that one of the first steps of taking shelter was moving all fresh food to the shelter so it could be used up first and not be lost to spoilage.

After her breakfast Scott took Barbara up to the main basement. “How do you have power?” she asked him, suddenly realizing the structure did have power.

“We have commercial power,” Scott replied as they stood and watched several of the youngest children playing a game. “When it goes down, like it did due to the EMP, our generators kick in. And we have quite a bit of photovoltaic power, but not nearly enough to run the whole place. As best as we can tell, the PV system is still working, despite the EMP. There was a lot of concern beforehand in whether or not it would survive.”

Seeing her interest fade from what he was saying, to the children, Scott took Barbara over and introduced her to his cousin Shelly, who was watching and playing with the children. “I could use some help,” Shelly told Barbara with a smile.

Barbara gracefully folded her legs beneath her and took one of the toddlers from Shelly so she could help her play the game. Scott made himself scarce. His family would accept Barbara amongst them without a word. He wanted to check on a few things around the place and didn’t particularly want Barbara to know he was doing them.

With one of his brothers and a cousin, Scott suited up in a Tyvek protective hooded coverall, put on rubber boots and respirator, and added rubber gloves to go out and check the property. The cameras weren’t showing anything untoward, but Scott wanted a walk around inspection and his father and grandfather both agreed. All three men went armed, just in case.

With Scott in the lead with a CDV-715 survey meter, the three checked for hotspots around the property and placed small flags to mark them.

They took only as much time as required to do the inspection and then hurried back to decontaminate and return to the shelter. The individual dosimeter each man wore indicated an accumulated dose of less than 0.5 r. Not something they wanted to do every day, but acceptable for the information gathered.

On the fifth day in the shelter, with the outside radiation already dropping rapidly after a peak of only 50 r/hr plans were being made for an off-property expedition to see how the locals had faired. There was still no communication with the outside world and no one had shown up at the compound.

But the entire building suddenly shuddered, barely enough to be felt, but discernable. Scott’s grandfather was on the communications monitor and pointed to one of the cameras pointed toward the north. He’d seen a flash of light from it, but nothing else showed for several minutes. Then the unmistakable mushroom cloud slowly rose into view. “Springfield,” the elder Toomey said. “Second… or maybe a third strike.”

Five hours later the radiation level on the property began to rise again. The fallout dust was visible on the camera monitors. Scott’s grandfather, as patriarch of the family, announced the fact that they were going to be in the shelter for some additional time. Most took it quite well, having grown up with the risk of nuclear war, and the means to prepare for it.

“My parents?” Barbara asked, coming over to join Scott at the monitors.

“I’m sorry,” Scott said softly. “We still haven’t been able to contact anyone. With this further attack, it is going to be some time still before we can even attempt to communicate with someone in the area.”

Barbara moved away, to be by herself, the tears slowly rolling down her cheeks. Scott felt a dull ache in his belly at not being able to help her. Over the next month, before it was safe to exit the shelter again, Barbara kept herself busy helping with the children. It seemed to give her some solace and it allowed the parents to get away from the responsibility for a few hours at a time.

A few days before anyone left the shelter, the various radios began to come alive with traffic. Though just about everyone in the shelter already believed it, the contact confirming other survivors was a welcome relief.

But the news wasn’t good. The initial terrorist attacks had been minor compared to the devastation the nuclear exchange had brought to the world. No one seemed to know exactly how it started. Who launched first, or even who was the ultimate winner, if there was even such.

Amateur radio operators from around the world gave details of local destruction, with huge loss of life. There were small battles for supplies going on everywhere people had survived, but the infrastructure had not.

As soon as they had the big picture, Scott got on the air and began calling for anyone in the Dover, Delaware area. Scott and Barbara were both elated when an answer came soon after they started calling. It was an unlicensed operator in the Dover area. But his news deflated the elation. He was still in his shelter and the radiation level was still above 50 r/hr.

His estimate was that Washington, D. C., just west of Dover, had taken at least five separate nuclear warheads, one of them several days after the initial attacks. He planned to stay in his shelter for at least another two months. After that he would have to go out, whether the radiation was down or not. That was all the food he and his family had.

Barbara looked over at Scott, her right hand to her mouth, eyes again rimmed with tears. “Two more months of not knowing?” she whispered and turned away.

A few minutes later Scott had both sets of grandparents and his parents in a private discussion. They each made a token effort to dissuade Scott from the plan he’d just proposed. But they were family and if it meant as much to Scott as it apparently did, they would support him. He was going to take Barbara to Dover as soon as they could get things ready for the extended trip.

The word traveled through the family grapevine quickly, but Scott made sure he was the one that told Barbara about the trip. He didn’t want it to be a rumor she just overheard.

When he told her, she grabbed him in a hug, “Oh, thank you, Scott! Thank you. I don’t know if I can tell you how much this means to me.”

“You don’t need to,” Scott replied. “My family means more to me than anything else. The risks might be higher going now. But then again, it might be more dangerous later. Whichever, if you’re willing to take the risks, so am I.”

“I am. I will never be satisfied until I know the fate of my parents.”

“Okay. Now it will take a few days to get things ready. It will be slow going, so you’re going to have to plan on being on the road weeks, if not months. Don’t worry about food and such. I’ll take care of that. You just need to have personal items for that length of time.”

Barbara had stepped back and was watching Scott intensely as he spoke. She nodded.

“There is one more thing…” Scott’s words trailed away, afraid of what Barbara would say when he continued. “I want you able to defend yourself. Part of getting ready for this trip, for you, will be learning how to handle a pistol and a carbine.”

Scott saw the flash of resistance in Barbara’s eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared. “If that is what it takes to go, I’ll do it,” she said, eyes taking on a determined look once she’d made the decision.

“Find Grandpa Morris. He’s taught most of the family to shoot. And to swim.”

“My mother taught me to swim,” Barbara said softly, apparently a fond memory coming to her.

Scott let his grandfather do the firearms training, without interference. He was busy getting his truck ready for the trip. Though the un-refueled range of the truck was 2,400 miles, almost exactly the distance to Dover and back, using pre-war road choices, Scott wanted more range. He expected detours. Many of them. As well as delays and possibly side trips. The possibilities of finding diesel fuel available on the trip were slim and none in Scott’s opinion.

Between the need for additional fuel and having plenty of supplies for a trip that could take many weeks or even months, Scott opted to put a bed shell and pipe rack on the truck as well as take a trailer.

Scott had several offers by family members to go along with him in convoy, just in case of trouble, but Scott declined. He wasn’t going to put anyone else at risk. For the trip so soon after a nuclear attack was going to be a series of risks, small and large. There was no way to tell how survivors along the route would react to someone traveling through their territory, all of which would probably be heavily scavenged and short of supplies.

The day before they were to leave, Scott took his Grandfather Morris aside and asked him, “She going to be able to cover my back and watch out for herself?”

“At least as good as half the family can. She picked up the skills quickly, just as most people do that have never had any experience. It will all be in the willingness. She was determined to learn. I think she’ll pull her weight, when the time comes.”

Scott noted that his grandfather had said when and not if. He felt the same way about it. The chances were extremely high that they would need to protect themselves sometime, somewhere during the trip.

“What did she choose?” Scott asked. He saw a small smile on Grandpa Morris’ face.

“As a matter of fact, your Steyr AUG. She liked the feel of it and the compactness over the AR’s. As you thought, she didn’t like the heavier recoil of the 7.62 x 51 weapons, though she did try. She’s much better with the 5.56mm.”

Scott shrugged it off. He would have brought the AUG anyway, to use where situations dictated it. He was sure his cousin Bernie would loan him one of his AUG’s. Bernie had two. It could act as backup to Barbara’s and give him a carbine if he needed one. “Probably want to sell it to me,” Scott thought, with another shrug.

“What about a handgun?” Scott asked.

“She didn’t have any problems handling any of them. When I explained the advantages of semi-autos over revolvers, she went with my old GI Colt .45.”

Scott was more than a little surprised. That customized Colt was his grandfather’s pride and joy. “You don’t have to do that, Grandpa,” Scott said.

“Want to,” he replied gruffly. “It fit her hands perfectly and she shot it better than any of the others, even the lesser calibers. She might as well have it. I’ve still got plenty of others.”

“Only if you’re sure, Grandpa.”

“I am.”

Scott nodded and then asked, “You got her all equipped?”

“Of course. A gun’s not much use without the things that go with it. She’s got plenty of magazines for each gun, and extra rounds. Boxed for the .45 and in stripper clip bandoleers for the AUG. Kept it simple for load bearing equipment. A leather pistol belt with six pouches for the Colt and a musette bag for the AUG mags.”

“Can’t ask for better than that for a beginner on a trip like this. Thanks Grandpa.”

“No problem, boy. Despite being from where she is, I think she’s got mettle.” Grandpa Morris suddenly grinned. “She did put up with you getting here with her.”

“Good point, Grandpa.” Scott left his grandfather to his own devices and went to find Barbara. Everyone was still sleeping in the sub-basement shelter, but Barbara, along with several others, had been assigned rooms in the housing section of the corporate retreat building.

Scott found her in her room, doing a bit of last minute packing. “Your family has been more than generous,” she told him after she’d opened the door when he knocked. “I’ve got plenty of clothes. Boots. Winter weather gear. Everything I need.” There were tears in her eyes. “How can I ever thank them all and repay them.”

“Just by telling them,” Scott said. “That’s all that is needed. You don’t have to try to repay item for item. You’ve been pulling your weight. That’s all that counts. You’ve been a big help with the little ones.”

There was a surprised look on her face. “I never would have thought that I would do that. Enjoy working with kids.”

“You’re good at it,” Scott said. “All the mothers say so.”

“Well, I’m glad I could be of help.”

“We’ll leave right after breakfast tomorrow morning. Check everything over good this evening. Won’t have much chance after that. If we don’t have it when we leave, we do without it.”

Barbara nodded. “I understand. I’ll be ready.”

Scott left it at that, and left her to finish up. He went down to the shelter and got on the radio to contact the man in Dover they had talked to from time to time. He couldn’t raise him, and feeling antsy, he decided to check over the truck and trailer one last time. It was getting dark and Scott looked up at the night sky. There was just a touch of haze, normal now, filtering the light of the full moon.

When he went in he noticed that Barbara didn’t eat much. He found himself in the same boat. He just wasn’t hungry. But he was tired. He went to bed early.

Scott felt energized the next morning when he went to the kitchen area of the shelter. Barbara was already there, talking to his mother while she fixed the two of them breakfast. Scott got a look at her eyes. They showed excitement equal to his.

It surprised Barbara when Mrs. Toomey hugged Scott and then turned around and hugged her. “You take care. Both of you.” She hugged Barbara again and while she was holding her, said, “I hope for the best for your family. We’ve all been praying for them.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Toomey,” Barbara said when she was finally released.

“Look out for Scott. He tends to get himself in trouble.”

Barbara smiled. “I will. I’ve noticed that about him, myself.”

The rest of the family was getting up and trailed out in ones and twos to say good-bye, as much to Barbara as to Scott. Good-byes finally done, Scott and Barbara got in the truck and Scott headed it for the driveway.

Both were lost in their own thoughts, and spoke little, but both also kept a very good lookout for problems or danger. Barbara commented early on how eerie and quiet things were. There just wasn’t anything moving in the quiet morning air. No birds. No planes in the sky. Nothing.

Scott took a look at the CDV-715 radiation meter sitting on the consol between the bucket seats. The needle was barely coming off the peg. They were fine as far as radiation danger for the moment.

They had discussed the route they would try to take a couple of days previously. Both agreed that there would probably be less trouble following state and county roads and the occasional US highway than trying to take the Interstate system unless it was necessary.

They’d also discussed stopping if and when they saw people. The agreement was to simply play it by ear, but to always be cautious. The first test of that agreement came late in the afternoon. There were some people on horseback going east, into Van Buren, when Scott approached them from behind.

He slowed significantly, so as not to spook the horses. “Keep the AUG ready,” he told Barbara calmly. She nodded and readied the carbine, keeping it on her lap out of sight. Scott rolled both front windows down with the controls on his door.

The riders finally heard something and they all stopped, turning the horses to face the truck. Scott and Barbara had both seen the long guns slung over the shoulders of each of the riders. None moved to bring one down and Scott drove up beside them and came to a stop.

“Hello,” Scott said, looking up the oldest of the five men. “We’re passing through. Any thing we should watch out for?”

“Not a good time to be traveling,” said the man. “We’ve had some trouble around here lately. Looking for a couple guys on motorcycles. Been on a rampage the last few days. Watch out for them. Looks like you got a CB from the antennas. Call us on channel 23 if you run across them. I’d keep the woman out of sight. They do some nasty things to women.”

Scott didn’t see it, but Barbara paled and gripped the AUG more tightly.

“Thanks. We’ll keep an eye out. Thanks for the warning. Any word on things east of here?”

“Nothing much,” replied the man. “Could be more fallout that way. We got the Springfield hit, but didn’t get much from Whiteman. Winds were more to the east. Could hit some hot spots.”

“We were expecting it,” Scott said. “My family has a place this side of Branson. You can get them on whatever ham band is running at the time around 7:00pm each evening.”

“We’ll pass that along to the rest of the survivors around here. Might look to do some trading one of these days.”

“So would we,” Scott said. “Thanks again.” He eased the truck forward gently, again not to spook the horses. “Keep an eye on them in the mirrors,” he whispered to Barbara, dividing his attention between the road in front of him and the left hand outside mirror.

“They just seem to be following along behind us slowly,” Barbara said after a few moments.

Scott sped up and pulled away, feeling a bit relieved to be away from them. There’d been no trouble, but there just wasn’t any way to know ahead of time how contact with others would turn out
They picked a spot in another section of the Mark Twain Nation Forest system for their camp that night. It was well away from any towns and Scott thought they could safely camp there, if they put out perimeter alarms.

They didn’t take any chances, covering the truck and trailer with camouflage netting and setting its alarms. With trip cord around the entire camp area the two climbed into the tent, to their separate sleeping bags, after an easy supper of a Mountain House freeze-dried campers’ meal.

Despite the security efforts, neither slept well and decided the next morning to switch off each night for four hour watches. They continued to set up their camp in out of the way places, avoiding potentially populated areas. There were bridges out here and there and finding places to cross the many rivers and streams in Southern Missouri ate up the days.

There’d been some speculation that the woods would be full of people trying to live off the land after a nuclear exchange, but Scott and Barbara didn’t run into anyone in the wilds until after they crossed the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois on I-57. The bridge was still standing, though it had several vehicles stopped on it. Scott was able to maneuver the truck and trailer through them without incident, after studying the bridge through binoculars from a concealed position on the Missouri side of the river.

There was some nearly primordial forest in the southern tip of Illinois and I-57 cut right through it. Scott and Barbara planned to travel a bit further north on the interstate before cutting northwest again on side roads. They were looking forward to stopping at the rest area on the Interstate deep in that forest.

Scott knew he’d made a mistake almost as soon as he pulled off the Interstate onto the access ramp to the rest area. There were three heavily armed men at the edge of the forest bordering the ramp.

“Trouble!” Scott told Barbara. “Get ready to fight our way through,” he added grimly as he floored the accelerator of the truck. The diesel engine roared and their speed began to climb as they came to several more people in the rest stop itself. It looked like half the world to Scott and Barbara as they came under fire from those that were armed in the camp.

Barbara had to get Scott’s AUG from the seat behind him. At least it had a full Beta C-Mag one-hundred round drum in it, as did Barbara’s. Both began firing outward and forward of their path of travel, sending people diving for cover.

A half dozen bullet holes appeared in the windshield and they could hear rounds hitting the sheet metal of the truck and trailer as they drove through the hail of bullets, Scott barely managing to control the truck and trailer with one hand as he fired the AUG with his other, right foot still holding the accelerator pedal to the firewall.

Barbara screamed when two men stood their ground, firing at the truck coming right toward them. The windshield failed completely, followed shortly by the rear glass. Neither man judged the speed of the rapidly accelerating truck and one bounced off the right fender and the other off the left fender.

Scott nearly lost control as he made the swerving turn to get back on the Interstate proper. Scott put his AUG aside and Barbara reloaded his and hers with fresh drums.

“You’re bleeding!” Scott cried when he looked over at Barbara.

Her eyes wide, Barbara looked at Scott. “You are too!”

Scott kept the speed up for several miles, until he was sure they weren’t being followed. He stopped the truck in a spot that gave them a good view of the road in both directions and hurried around the front of the truck. He snatched open the passenger door and carefully helped Barbara out of the cab.

“Where are you hit?” he asked, looking her over carefully.

“I think it’s just scratches from the glass,” Barbara said slowly, carefully analyzing how she felt.

“This one isn’t,” Scott said, lifting her left arm. There was a long slash in her shirt sleeve and it was bloody.

Barbara felt a bit woozy at the sight and Scott set her down on the passenger seat again. Getting the first-aid kit from the rear passenger compartment of the truck he began to slowly and carefully clean the gunshot wound first, and then the small cuts on her face and neck.

He continued to check the roadway, almost frantically, fearful they would be attacked again before he could get the truck back on the road. Scott gave Barbara some water to drink when he was finished working on her and then began a detailed inspection of the truck and trailer. Both were riddled with bullet holes. He cringed at the sight of several holes in the upholstery of both bucket seats.

His heart fell when he saw the flat on the trailer. It was the only flat they had, a small miracle in and of itself. Fortunately Scott had brought several spare tires mounted on rims. With the engine mounted air compressor he was able to use air tools to change the flat. The tire was shredded and the rim ruined. He rolled it over to the side of the road and down into the ditch.

The engine of the truck had continued to run, so Scott left it last to check. There were a couple of holes in the hood, and one of the headlights was shattered, but, another small miracle, the radiator was okay, as was the fan. There were signs of bullets having struck the engine block, but none had penetrated that he could see. Time would tell if there was damage he couldn’t see.

When he closed the hood, ready to get back in the truck and leave, he saw Barbara sitting with her head back, her eyes closed. He said a little prayer that she was all right and got behind the wheel of the truck.

The next thing he knew he was in the passenger seat of the truck and Barbara was driving it slowly along an Illinois State Highway.

“What… What… What’s going on?” he asked, straightening up in the seat. A sharp pain shot through his right arm, just above the elbow. He looked and felt of the spot. It had been cleaned and dressed. He felt of his face. So had it.

“You sort of passed out,” Barbara said, looking over at him and breathing a huge, visible, sigh of relief. “You’d lost some blood from the cuts and the bullet wounds.”

When he shifted again he felt the awkwardness of his left leg and looked down. There was a long cut in his pants, with a bandage in sight.

“The one in your arm went all the way through,” Barbara continued. “I don’t think it hit the bone, because you’d been using the arm. The one in your leg was just under the skin.” Barbara shuddered at the memory. “It came through the door of the truck and I guess that did something to it. The bullet was all out of shape. That must have been why it didn’t go in very deep.”

Suddenly the truck slowed down, Barbara turned several shades of green and essentially fell out of the truck when it came to a stop. She began to retch beside the truck.

Moving as quickly as he could, Scott got out and went around the truck. He had his hand on her back as she retched, on hands and knees. She finally quit and Scott helped her up. He got one of the canteens and handed it to her, along with his bandanna.

When she’d cleaned up she suddenly started to cry and rushed into Scott’s arms. “I thought you were going to die! There was so much blood… and the bullet holes… and the glass… and…” She started to hiccup and Scott just held her for a long time, her head on his shoulder.

Finally he leaned back, tilted her head back and moved her long hair from her face. “You okay now?” he asked.

There were still tears trickling down her cheeks but she managed to nod. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Don’t be sorry. That was a rough time. I’m a little surprised I didn’t do the same thing. Come on. Let’s put a little more distance between us and them.”

Barbara showed Scott on the map where they were and he took over the driving again. He continued to look over at Barbara from time to time. She was huddled against the passenger door, staring out the open window, her hair blowing in the wind passing through the cab of the truck due to the missing windshield and back glass.

As the day waned, Scott stopped so they could put on jackets. It was late September and already getting cold in the early afternoon. The wind whistling through the cab wasn’t helping. They only put up with it until Scott found a similar model truck and he pulled the windshield, back glass, and driver’s side widow from it and installed them in his truck. He did the same with the busted headlight. Barbara had to marvel at the extent of the tools and odds and ends of repair supplies he had in the truck.

“Never know what we’re going to need on a trip like this. We just got really lucky they didn’t hole anything critical like the engine or fuel tanks. Or us, more than they did, anyway.”

“Yes. This thing really itches all the time now,” Barbara said, not quite resisting the urge to scratch the wound on her arm, despite the bandage.

“I’d heard healing flesh itches. I believe it now,” Scott replied, having his own problems not scratching his wounds. Both had faces that looked like near fatal acne had set in with all the scabs on their faces from the minor, but many, glass cuts both had sustained.

Besides bridges being down, they were now beginning to have to avoid higher radiation areas as they continued to travel north east. There was more and more evidence of nuclear detonations on not only various military bases, but major, and even some minor cities.

Whenever the radiation level began to climb, Scott headed away from it, continuing the best eastward course he could. That sometimes took them on a southern direction, which always caused Barbara to tense up. Only when they were traveling the straightest course possible to get to Dover was she at ease. At least as much at ease as one could be traveling a radiation ridden country.

They had not been able to avoid everyone on their trip so far, but none of the encounters had been as dangerous as the one in Southern Illinois. Scott was even able to do some trading in a small town in Indiana for diesel fuel, in exchange for a case of MRE’s. He was able to refill all the tanks they’d emptied on the way. It made him feel a bit better about being able to get back to Missouri after they’d been to Dover.

It was becoming more and more difficult to find a safe route as they neared the New England States. Twice they found and took shelter in undamaged buildings for three weeks at a time to allow the radiation to fade to a more acceptable level. They had discussed it, and at Barbara’s urging, Scott had agreed to keep traveling when the radiation was as high as 0.5 r/hr, as long as they sought good shelter for a few days after every exposure.

They both became inured to the death all around them. As often as not they had to suit up in Tyvek coveralls and filter masks or respirators to clean out the best places to stay when they were in the higher radiation areas.

Finally they crossed the Appalachians and stayed near the foothills as they cut further north, staying well away from Washington, D. C. But finally they looped around the remains of Baltimore and then cut down to Maryland and Delaware. They sought some type of radiation shelter every night as the levels were the highest they’d been traveling through. Scott knew they were pushing the safe limits for future problems with cancers and other radiation diseases, but it was just too important for Barbara to find out about her parents that he quit mentioning the slowly accumulating doses they were getting, though he did continue to track them.

Scott wasn’t having any luck making contact with the man in Dover, but his regular contacts with the compound in Missouri assured him the man was still there and transmitting on a fairly regular basis.

Finally, two days before the first Christmas after the start of the war, Scott made contact on a two meter frequency.

“You caught us just in time,” the man said. “We’re heading out the day after Christmas. We’ve all suffered effects of radiation poisoning and can’t afford to stay here any longer.”

“Were you able to contact the Wadsworths?” Scott asked. Barbara was looking on intently.

“Sorry, buddy. We never did. The risk was just too high.”

Barbara bit her lower lip. “Scott?” she asked.

“We’ll get there,” he said, hanging up the radio’s microphone.

Scott pushed the limits of safety, but they turned down Barbara’s parents’ street midmorning of Christmas day. There were three inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing lightly. There was nothing stirring. No animal life was evident. There were no tracks in the new snow.

Many of the mansions lining the street had burned. When Barbara saw her parents’ house, still intact, she jumped out of the truck and ran for the front door.

She’d left her AUG behind, but she was still armed with the Colt, Scott knew. He started to pick up the AUG to take to her, but left it lying and took his M1A with him as he went to join her. He locked the truck with the remote and hurried to catch up with her. She was already at the front door.

Scott saw her struggling with a key, but her hands were shaking so bad she couldn’t get it into the lock. He slung the M1A and took the key from her. When he had the door open Barbara pushed past him into the entryway, calling, “Mother! Daddy! Mother! Daddy!”

Dead silence was her only answer. Frantically she moved through the house, checking each room in turn, upstairs and down. Scott was taking a closer look at the living room and kitchen areas when Barbara headed down to the basement.

When she screamed, Scott couldn’t tear if it was horror, fear, or elation, but he took the steps down to the basement two at a time, the M1A ready.

“They survived!” Barbara told Scott. “Look!”

Scott looked over the makeshift fallout shelter. With the deep basement and masonry construction of the house, and the extra efforts on the actual shelter space, Scott thought that Barbara’s parents might very well have survived the initial days of the war.

But from the looks of the litter and trash, they hadn’t had much food to live on after the fact. “They must be around here close,” Barbara said. “They wouldn’t go far, I’m sure.”

Suddenly, a bad feeling filling his body, Scott said, “Let me check around. You keep looking for a note or something upstairs.”

Scott had expected resistance to his suggestion, but perhaps Barbara was having the same feeling he was. She calmly went upstairs and began going through the rooms again. Scott found the French doors to the back yard. He immediately saw two mounds of dirt, with a hole between them.

It wasn’t until he came up to them that he realized one of the mounds was a filled grave, and the other one an open grave. It wasn’t empty. There was a makeshift cross at the head of the filled in grave. It had Barbara’s mother’s name on it. Scott assumed the body in the second grave was that of her father. He’d buried his wife and dug his own grave, and then laid down and died in it.

Barbara was waiting for Scott when he came back in. There were tears streaming down her face and she held a sheet of paper crumpled up in her hands. Scott took her in his arms without a word. Huge sobs wracked her body as she cried.

Scott didn’t know how long he held her after he picked her up in his arms and went to a sofa to sit down so he could hold her on his lap. She cried herself out in his arms and fell asleep. Scott didn’t want to wake her and sat with her until early afternoon, when she began to stir on her own.

“It’s them, out there, isn’t it?” she asked Scott in a small voice, making a small motion with her head toward the French doors.

“Yes. Let me finish filling your father’s grave and you can say good-bye to them.”

Scott was afraid she was going to follow him outside, but she stopped at the French doors and watched him as he took up the shovel still in the mound of dirt from Mr. Wadsworth’s grave. It took almost an hour to complete the task and every time Scott looked, Barbara was still at the French doors, watching.

Mr. Wadsworth had made a cross for himself, as well as the one for his wife. Scott tapped it into place with the shovel. When he turned around Barbara was walking toward him. She took his hand in hers as she stared down at the graves, the one covered in pristine snow and the other a mix of raw earth and snow.

The wind began to pick up and Scott made a move to go toward the house. Barbara didn’t resist and walked with him in silence. When they were inside, she handed Scott the paper she’d been clutching so tightly.

While she sat on the sofa in silence, Scott read the letter. It had been started by her mother, and finished by her father. It was about what he had expected, except for the last lines.

‘I’m afraid we have not left you much to sustain you in this crisis. There is a modicum of cash in the safe, and a legacy from your grandfather he wanted me to pass on to you when you graduated from college.’

“You’ll want to keep this,” Scott said, handing her the paper.

She took it and looked up at Scott. “What do I do? Where do I go?”

It hurt Scott that she would ask. He thought he’d made it clear that she was more than welcome at the family compound. “I hope… you’ll go back with me. Join my family as a friend, if you don’t want to join me as my wife.”

“Your wife!” Barbara looked at Scott for long moments. “But I’m… just a nobody now. With nothing.”

“You think it matters to me?” Scott cried. “I’ve loved you from the first. Before that. Before all this happened.”

Slowly Barbara stood. “Scott… I can’t say I felt the same way… but as we traveled, I must say the thought crossed my mind. I thought you thought of me as a poor little rich girl with nothing to offer.”

Scott took her in his arms and kissed her. “Now what do you think?”

In answer, Barbara eagerly kissed him back. When they finally separated, Barbara, eyes shining, said, “I know you’ve put yourself in additional danger for me. We should get away from here as quickly as possible, because of the radiation.”

“We’ll at least take some time for you to gather a few things to take with you. There are bound to be things you want. And don’t forget the money and your grandfather’s gift to you.”

“That money isn’t worth anything now,” Barbara said. She smiled a wan smile. “Never thought I’d ever say that. But you’re right. Some clothes and things. Keepsakes. And I should get whatever it is my grandfather left me. He died when I was little. I don’t really remember him. He suffered a lot during the depression and World War II. I think that is why my parents never wanted me to want for anything. Because of his experiences. My father told me once my grandfather was a miser before he died.”

Scott moved the truck and trailer into the garage, he and Barbara pushed her parents’ cars out of the way. Both were exhausted and had a quick supper before going into the basement to sleep. Early the next morning Scott helped Barbara go through the house. She wound up taking quite a bit more than she’d first planned, the idea of making a home for herself and Scott now influencing her plans.

It was an afterthought that she swung away the picture in her father’s study to get to the safe in the wall. Scott whistled when he saw the door of the safe. “Could be a lot of money in there,” he said with a laugh. “That thing is huge.”

“I really doubt it,” Barbara said. “My father was big on banks. He very seldom carried much cash.” It took her a couple of tries to get the safe unlocked, and then Scott had to swing the door open. Not only was it heavy, it apparently hadn’t been opened in several years. But a solid tug by Scott had it open.

“See,” Barbara said, handing Scott a stack of bundled bills. “Not very much, like he said.”

“These are hundreds and twenties,” Scott said. “Even some thousand dollar bills. They haven’t been in circulation for years. This isn’t small change. Or… Wasn’t. Still worth keeping. Might be a collector’s item some day. Especially the thousands.”

“I guess I should take these papers, too,” Barbara said, handling Scott a couple of portfolios containing legal documents.

“Absolutely. It’s the deed to the house and property. Life insurance papers. Stock certificates. Everything a successful businessman would have. Never know. These could be important to our children… more likely our children’s children.”

Barbara took out the last item on the top shelf. It was a fancy wooden case. She looked in the safe shelf, but couldn’t find a key. It took Scott just a moment to force the simple lock. He handed the case back to Barbars.

She gasped when she lifted the lid. Inside was a well worn Colt 1911A1 military issue pistol and six spare magazines beside the one in the pistol. There was a box of fifty rounds of FMJ ammunition, also GI issue.

“Your Grandfather’s service pistol, no doubt,” Scott said.

“Mother and Daddy must not have known what was in here. They hated guns.” She looked at Scott. “I should probably give your Grandfather back his, don’t you think?”

Scott shook his head. He was very pleased to give it to you. I’d hang onto both of them. Can never have too many guns.”

Barbara smiled. “Good. I like being a two pistol woman.”

That had emptied the upper shelf of the safe. The lower shelf contained what turned out to be four canvas bags.

“Scott,” Barbara said after trying to take the first bag out of the safe, “This is heavy. Do you mind?”

Barbara moved out of the way and Scott stepped up. “Sure,” he said. “They all are pretty heavy,” he added as he took down the four identical canvas bags.

“What in the world could your grandfather have left you in canvas bags?” Scott asked.

“I don’t know,” Barbara said. She opened the first bag and gasped at the sudden gleam of gold coins.

“My lord!” Scott said, “There are hundreds of them,” as he opened another of the bags. When all four were open, there turned out to be two bags of Krugerrands and a one-thousand dollar face value bag each of pre-1965 silver dimes and quarters.

“Your Grandfather lived through the depression and the gold recall of 1933. He must have converted every dollar he could into gold and silver coins as soon as it was made legal again in 1975.”

Scott looked at Barbara. “Do you think your father knew what these were?”

Barbara just shook her head.

“Your Grandfather had great foresight,” Scot said. “Just before the war, sold off a few at a time to not affect the price too much, these would have been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with gold trading the way it was. Several hundred thousands. Now they’re just worth a few hundred thousand. In equivalent goods and services.”

“You’re kidding!” Barbara said.

“Nope. I know gold. Our family has been holding it from about the same time as your grandfather. We used it a couple of times to finance projects when gold prices were high, but we always converted back to gold as soon the price dropped again. You, alone, now have as much as my entire extended family, once gold becomes the currency of the land again. And I think that will be very soon.”

Barbara couldn’t think of anything to say, so she kissed Scott a couple of times.

“Uh…” Scott said, mostly in jest, but with a real glimmer of fear in him, “You’re not going to run out on me now that you’re richer than me, are you?”

“Half of it is yours,” Barbara said softly, “so I’m not richer than you.”

“But I can’t…”

“You want me, you have to take my money.”

“Now how am I going to argue with that?

They spent another night at the mansion, and then began to retrace their route. Knowing where useable bridges were, and where trouble spots were, it took significantly less time to get back to the compound than it had taken to get to Dover. Once there, both were eager to have the marriage ceremony conducted by Scott’s Uncle Titus, a sometimes preacher and sometimes lumberjack.

Scott turned out to be right. The one-thousand-dollar bills did become valuable collectors items for their grandchildren, one of whom selected to help repopulate the east coast, living in the Wadsworth mansion and starting a maritime shipping business.

Copyright 2007
Jerry D Young