Book: Recovery (2015)

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I sat patiently, waiting, after the sound of the helicopter’s rotor faded away into the distance.  Just because they’d flown out of earshot didn’t mean they were leaving.  I was pretty confident that was the case, but then they could simply be leaving the area and making a big circle to come back from a different direction.  Low and fast over the rooftops, suddenly appearing overhead without anyone on the ground having enough advance warning of their approach to take cover.

Not at all beyond the realm of possibility, and the thought had occurred to me because I’d done the same thing a couple of times in the past.  Well, had gotten the pilot to do it, but it all works out the same.  If your target is in the area and isn’t expecting you to suddenly show back up it’s a great way to catch him unaware.  It had worked both times I’d done it and I wasn’t about to be impatient or foolish enough for it to work on me.

So, I sat there and watched the infected wander around through the insurance office’s front windows.  More had arrived and there were too many to count, more females than males.  I had a plan to deal with them when the time came to go get Katie and Dog.  I just had to be patient and stay quiet and still until then.

The afternoon was wearing on, long shadows from the handful of trees in the area stretching across the pavement when I finally was comfortable the Russians weren’t coming back.  Moving to the back door I peeked through the spy-hole, seeing three males just standing there where the dead soldiers had been.  Maybe they could still smell the blood and were sticking to the area waiting for a meal to appear. 

I didn’t know and didn’t waste any time trying to figure out why they would do something.  Cracking the door open I looked through the gap to make sure there wasn’t a larger group that would pounce as soon as I stepped out, but other than the three the alley looked clear.  The males heard the sound of the door opening and as one, spun in my direction and snarled.

Lifting my rifle I fired three quick, suppressed shots, stepping over the bodies and looking around to make sure I was still alone.  Not seeing anything, I hefted the Russian grenade launcher and sighted on a two-story business on the next block behind the alley.  I pulled the trigger twice, sending two high explosive grenades on their way. 

Grenade launchers are nowhere near as loud as a rifle or pistol when fired, but they still make enough noise to give away your position.  I was already in motion when the first grenade struck the air conditioning unit on the building’s roof and detonated with a thunderous explosion.  I was back through the opening and pulling the door closed behind me when the second one arrived.  I didn’t see what it struck, but it was loud too.

Flipping the lever to lock the deadbolt, I moved through the gloomy interior to look out the front windows.  The street was already clear of females who had instantly responded by breaking into a sprint towards the sound of the grenades.  There were still males visible but they were all moving in the same direction the females had gone.  Away from the department store.

I gave them half a minute to open some distance before quietly slipping out the front door and running down the street to where Dog and Katie were hiding.  Yanking the front door open I entered the store with a great deal of caution.  I didn’t believe any infected had made it inside but I wasn’t going to take a chance.

There weren’t any in the front of the store and I glanced over my shoulder through the windows to check the street before pushing into the storage area.  Street still clear, I nudged one of the swinging doors open with the muzzle of my rifle, stepped up to hold it with my back and scanned with the night vision scope.  Still nothing. 

“It’s me,” I raised my voice to let Katie know not to shoot when I began pulling boxes out of the way, and also to draw out any infected that might be in hiding.

Nothing charged at me screaming or began a slow, shambling walk in my direction.  Quickly I moved to the stack of cartons on the back wall and started tossing them aside, unconcerned with being neat or tidy.  I grinned when a box tumbled out of the way and Dog shoved his head through the opening to greet me. 

I stopped working long enough to briefly ruffle his ears then widened the opening until he jumped through.  Katie followed, extending her arm out for me to help her clamber free.  Pulling her to her feet I crushed her against me and kissed her.

“I missed you, too,” she smiled when I stepped back.  The smile disappeared when she saw the blood soaking my clothes.  “What happened?  You’re bleeding!” 

“Nothing,” I said, trying to dismiss it.

“What was nothing before can kill you now,” she said, taking the light off her rifle and scanning around.

Spotting a green cabinet labeled first aid, she rushed over to the wall and opened the door.  She rummaged through until she found what she wanted before returning to me and making me take my vest and shirt off.

“We don’t have time for this,” I complained as I unbuttoned my shirt.

“Shut up,” she said, leaning in to see.

She dumped about half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide directly into the wound.  It hurt, but I’m a big tough guy and didn’t complain.  Much.  Patting the area dry she smeared the raw flesh with antibiotic ointment and slapped a large gauze pad on top, securing it to me with white medical tape.  I started to put the bloody shirt back on, but she stopped me and told me to take my pants off.

“Great idea, but we really don’t have time for that,” I said, drawing an exasperated sigh as she rolled her eyes.

While I took my boots off and peeled the blood soaked pants down my legs, Katie cracked open one of the boxes she’d been hiding behind and dug through, checking sizes on the Levi’s that spilled out.  Finding a pair, she tossed them to me and moved to a rack on the wall where new shirts were stored. 

Selecting something that would fit, she held it up while I pulled on my new jeans and stepped into my boots.  I finished dressing quickly, tied my boots and situated the vest back on my upper body.

“Is it clear outside?”  Katie asked when I finished changing.

“So far,” I said.  “The Russians left a couple of hours ago.  The infected are distracted and we should be able to make it to the car and get out of here.”

Leading the way, I headed for the front of the store.  Dog fell in next to my right leg as I walked.

“Nice toy, Rambo,” Katie said, tapping the grenade launcher and looking at the bandolier of spare grenades draped across my upper body.

“The Russians had one and I just had to have it,” I said as we reached the front door.

The street was still clear and I pushed out through the swinging door.  Katie handed me the car keys and we jogged down the street to where I’d left it parked against the bus.  I breathed a sigh of relief when we got close enough to tell the canon fire from the HIND hadn’t damaged it.  Pushing a button on the key, the lights flashed and the door locks popped up.

I took a moment to pile my new toy and its spare ammo into the back seat with Dog then slipped behind the wheel and cranked the engine.  The Dodge rumbled to life and I tisked when I saw the fuel gauge settle at less than a quarter of a tank.  I wanted to get on the road and make as many miles as we could before it got dark and I had to lower my speed, but we were going to have to stop for gas before leaving Dodge City.

Steering around the wrecked vehicles I’d used for camouflage I headed for the small highway we’d taken to get into town.  As I turned on to it I looked up at the rearview and saw several females in hot pursuit.  They’d been attracted by the snarl of the exhaust but we had too much of a head start for them to be a threat.

I accelerated hard, heading back to the east to pick up the northbound highway that would take us to the Interstate.  We had only covered a couple of miles when we passed the last sign of civilization.  It was a small gas station with a Tastee Freeze built in where the service bay used to be. 

The terrain was almost perfectly flat and I couldn’t see anything between the horizon and us.  Hitting the brakes and cranking the wheel I turned around and roared back to the gas station, sliding to a stop next to the access panels for the fuel tanks.

“Same routine as last time,” I said, releasing the trunk and hood before I jumped out.  “Keep an eye on the road from town.  There were some females chasing as we turned onto the highway.”

“As long as you get me a vanilla swirl from the Tastee Freeze,” Katie said sweetly.

She moved out into the middle of the road, Dog at her side, and stood facing west with her rifle up across her chest.  Once the fuel was pumping I checked the oil and needed to add a quart.  The Dodge was finally showing signs of the torture I was putting it through. 

There was a small booth that sold snacks and other necessities to travelers.  Next to the door was a wire rack that held a few bottles of motor oil, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid.  The cap that covered the oil filler neck in the Charger was labeled with the type of oil the car needed, 5W-40 full synthetic if it matters, and there were half a dozen bright yellow bottles of Pennzoil in the display.  I dumped one of them into the engine and tossed the rest into the trunk as gas began gushing out of the filler neck.

“Females coming,” Katie called.

“I need two minutes,” I said, dashing to disconnect the power to the pump from the battery.

“That’s all you’ve got,” she said.

I slammed the hood and looked up as I grabbed the pump off the ground and disconnected the two hoses.  The sun was low and charging directly out of it were several figures.  Dumping the pump into the trunk I started coiling the hoses as she began firing at the swiftly approaching females.

Hoses stowed, I slammed the trunk and stepped into the road next to her.  Rifle up, I began firing and together we finished off the last of the females.  Ahh, couples therapy.  Who the hell needs Dr. Phil?

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