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The Burnout: Chapter Thirteen

Patty came around and having a hard time breathing quickly came to realize there was a crushing weight on top of her in the form of a large stinking man. He had his face buried in her neck and was kissing her while groping on her chest. In the background, she could hear rough talk and laughing.

Patty panicked and started flailing with both arms which caused her assailant to grab her left arm and pin it to the ground.

"Hold on their little lady, you're gonna like this.." he grunted as he doubled his hold on her.

Patty continued to struggle and the man pulled back his right hand and slapped her across the face.

"I TOLD YOU TO HOLD STILL! NOW MIND ME B**CH!" he roared and slapped her again.

With Patty stunned, he released his hold and rose half way up to undo his belt and pants. Patty fumbled through the haze for her holster but found it empty.

"I got your little pea shooter right her so don't go looking for it. Now you just lay back and enjoy the ride, darling." her attacker mocked.

He then stood and dropped his pants to the ground giving Patty a slim chance to escape this horror.

Her attacker had not managed to undo her cargo pants and she was still wearing her boots. Quickly drawing her legs up into her chest, Patty grabbed the fixed blade knife from her left sock and pulled it out.

She then struck out with both feet together and caught her attacker in the shins causing him to trip backwards over the balled up pants around his feet. Patty dove like a wild cat on top of the disgusting animal and buried her knife into his chest up to the hilt.

Patty went into a deep, dark haze of anger and violence.

She yanked the knife out and plunged it in his chest again three more times before pulling it out and grabbing her Glock from the grass where it lay.

She rolled to her right and faced the scene in the campsite. Some furtive little man had the pot of spaghetti and was shoving the food into his mouth with a pair of dirty little rat like hands all while watching Patty unemotionally.

On the other side of the camp, and partially blocked by trees, the big man with the striped shirt and a another, but fatter man, were holding a near unconcious Lamar between them. Stripe Shirt grabbed Lamar's head by his wavy hair and landed a solid punch across the right side of Lamar's face evoking a howl of laughter from the fat man.

Stripe Shirt turned and his cockyeyed grin disappeared when he saw Patty standing and holding the Glock in her right hand.

"Euly! Get the shotgun, that b**ch got a gun.!" he yelled.

Patty stepped over the dead man's body and barely looked at the ratface creep with the food as she fired two rounds into his chest. She turned automatically to her right and put three more into the fat guy holding Lamar. He let out an audible grunt and fell back his face contorted in pain.

Striped Shirt shoved Lamar forward towards Patty and turned to run into the trees. Patty allowed Lamar to fall face first to the ground but locked her knees, rested her right hand on her open left palm and fired seven spaced rounds into the back of Stripe Shirt as he stumbled through the underbrush.

Patty released the near spent magazine from the Glock and inserted a fresh one from the carrier on her belt. She then surveyed all four bodies before striding towards the one clad in the stripe shirt who started the whole mess. He was lying on his right side wheezing and barely alive as she stood looking down at him.

"Who are you?" he gasped.

"Nobody" said Patty, the Glock still trained on the man.

His right eye rolled around he tried to lift his head to look at her, but was unable to. Patty watched expressionless as the life ebbed from his body, eventually ending with a shudder and rasping exhale of foul breath.

Patty kicked out with right foot and caught the dead man in the temple. Morbidly, his right eye, nothing more than a cheap glass orb, popped from his head and rolled around on the ground in the fading light of the day.


Patty loooked for a moment longer at the one eyed monster before replacing her gun and turing to Lamar. He was curled in a fetal position and moaning in pain. Patty carefully lifted his head and examined his bloody face.

His injuries were bad. His left eye was swollen and cut, as if he had gone three rounds with a prize fighter. At least two of his teeth had been knocked out, his lip bleeding and his face was puffy from the number of blows he received.

He was favoring his right side which made Patty think he might have a cracked rib and she prayed there were no internal injuries. She made him as comfortable as possible and knowing he could not be moved, instead set to the grisly task of moving the four attackers as far from the campsite as she could drag them.

She checked their bodies and found two had wallets with ID's which claimed one was from Marshall and the other from some place called Nesbit which she had never heard of. She collected from the bodies three knives, two lighters, assorted cash and coins, a cheap .32 revolver with a broken trigger guard, two shot derringer in .357, a menacing looking handgun which turned out to be a BB gun, a single shot 20 gauge shotgun, and an odd handful of different caliber ammunition.

In the end, she unloaded the cheap revolver and pitched it into the cattle pond along with the BB gun. The derringer looked useful for a back up and the 20 guage might be a good trade down the line.

It took her nearly two hours, with breaks to check on Lamar, to drag the four bodies into the brush several yards from their camp site. She covered them in branches cut from the nearby trees and secretly hoped that pack of wild dogs would find the bodies and masticate them with prejudice.

Back in the camp, Patty liberally washed herself and changed her clothing feeling she would never be clean again. For the second time in less than a week, she had been assaulted by some piece of trash taking advantage of the situation. Her only comfort came in knowing that she had dispatched each of her assailants permanently, but the damage to her pchyche was also permanent and would have to be addressed at some future date.

In the meantime, Patty moved like a robot and it took all of her strength to tend to Lamar and focus on getting back to Elena once again rather than crawl into a ball and give up.

Patty cleaned Lamar's face and wounds, dosed him with ibuoprofen and put him the tent with both sleeping bags to rest as best as possible. In the meantime, she moved their bikes out of sight, put all their gear together and started cutting down leafy branches to camouflage their tent from passers by. In the morning, she planned on moving their campsite back further from the road and wagered that evil plans are often tempered by laziness.

The night was long as Patty stayed up most of it keeping watch and replaying the evening's events in her mind over and over again. She was angry and frustrated they had let down their guard. She was furious that this power burnout seemed to only bring out every form of filth and violence known to man. Most of all, she worried about Elena and her parents.

What was it like at their home? Sure, they lived in a reasonably rural location but what did that mean anymore? She was in a rural location right now and the presence of barns and cows is no magic shield against crime or deprivation.

Patty's father could take care of himself, but he couldn't stay awake night and day watching Elena. What then? The anxiety and tension were going to tear Patty apart before long and she had to do something other than sit and worry.


The night passed, tense and sleepless, and as the sky lightened, Patty was awoken from her light doze by the sound of Lamar waking. Patty's head was throbbing where she had been struck and without the benefit of a mirror, she was sure she had a black eye or something close to it.

"Hey." said Lamar from the tent, "Patty, are you out there? Patty?"

"Here I am. How are you feeling?" Patty asked as she flipped open the tent.

"Like my body was used as a front doormat at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving sale. How long have I been out for?" he asked.

"All night. They worked you over pretty well. You want anything?" said Patty.

"Sure, but Patty, what about you? Look at your face, did they do that? What else did they.. did they hurt you... well, you know?" Lamar said slowly.

"Rape me? No, they never got the chance and they never will again. I'll make some hot tea and soup for you, hold tight." said Patty.

"I must have been out when it was over. What happened to those guys who attacked us?" asked Lamar.

"I killed them. All of them." said Patty without a hint of emotion.

Patty fired up the gas stove and boiled some water while digging through the bags for a can of soup. She filled two metal cups with water and added honey and a tea bag to each while the soup heated in the pot she liberated from the hotel. The idea of eating grossed Patty out, but she figured she would have to have something before long.

While Lamar slowly ate his soup, Patty armed herself with the .22 and cut throught the brush in the direction the guy with the striped shirt came from to see if there was anything else out there. About twenty yards from their camp, she came across a couple of back packs and shopping bags piled up next to a tree.

Inside, there was some dirty clothes, a few cans of beer, a half empty carton of generic cigarettes, a pint bottle of no name bourbon and one pair of shoes. She felt dirty touching any of it, so she left it all behind for some other loser to find.

She hiked back the other direction and moving away from the camp, found another clearing next to the small cattle pond and surrouned by willow trees. It looked like a good place to rest on the far side and as soon as Lamar was done, she was going to relocate their camp here until he was feeling better, maybe in the next day or so.

She did not want to stay here at all but Lamar needed to recupperate if he was going to travel especially by bike. For all she knew, she had a concussion as well from the blow to the head she received. It was only through dumb, stupid luck she had only been out for a few minutes, before the unthinkable happened. She knew in her head what the outcome would have been. Her being repeatedly raped, Lamar beaten to death, both of them robbed and then left behind like trash.

Never again.

Patty went back and told Lamar they were moving camp. Lamar was actually doing better although his head spun when he stood and his side was still quite painful. He avoided coughing and sneezing as when he did, the pain nearly caused him to black out.

Patty struck the tent and packed everything in the trailer. She pushed Lamar's bike and trailer while Lamar took her's. It took about fifteen minutes to break through the brush and get to the new camp site and another half hour to set up once they arrived. They completed just in time, as they had their first strike of luck as it started raining, but they could sit in the tent out of the rain.

"We'll rest for today and tomorrow and then head out the day after if you are ready, Lamar." said Patty.

"After this, we pass Longview and then Tyler. Those are both decent sized towns," said Lamar.

"I know," replied Patty, "And that worries me. They probably have the same problems as Marshall and with each day, things are getting worse. You know, it's been about four days since this whole thing started and look how bad it's become."

"You and I were fortuitous in our planning, Patty. We had the means and your keen mind, to set us in the right direction early on." replied Lamar.

"Keen nothing, we were lucky. Lucky that you were able to hock your watch for a bike and trailer. I was lucky I survived last night's attack and the one in the alley. Lucky we were able to get out of Shreveport without getting robbed. Lucky that we were able to loot, steal and buy enough food and stuff with stolen money and not get caught. We were lucky, Lamar, nothing more."

"And we will be lucky if we can get home. Lucky if we can even get another twenty or thirty miles closer without being shot, brained by a rock, bit by a dog or attacked by gang of creeps." finished Patty.

"I didn't know about any alley," said Lamar quietly.

"Forget it. I only know one thing, Lamar. I am tired of all of this and I want to see my daughter. And I am going to kill anyone who gets in my way or looks sideways at me from now on. I've had it." said Patty.

The rain fell and Lamar excused himself to use the restroom. He put on his poncho and slowly walked out of the tent and diappeared into the bushes. Patty stood ready with her Glock in the event of trouble, but there was none.

Afterward, she cleaned the pistol while Lamar had something else to eat.

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The Burnout: Chapter Twelve

Patty took the first shift and watched from a distance as groups and individuals stopped along the road and setup makeshift camps. Some stayed as close to the interstate as possible probably hoping the Guard would make good thier promise and provide some modicum of security. Others wandered far from the road for privacy and seclusion.

As twilight gave way to darkness, Patty was amazed at the number of stars which appeared in the night sky. It had probably been decades since people we able to see certain constellations and stars this close to the city and it would be something they wouldd have to get used to.

In addtion, there was the prevalent sounds of the night such as crickets, birds and some creatures larger stalking the grass and scrub away from the highway. Patty allowed herself to wonder about Elena and prayed the little girl knew she was alive and was doing all she could to make it home. She knew her parents were watching over her daughter and that the child wanted for nothing, but never the less, the reality of separation was depressing.

She wondered about her two brothers and her sister and how they were doing. One brother lived near her parents which was good to know. But her other brother lived in Missouri while her sister lived in Florida. She had no idea if they would be able to make it back to Texas or if she would see them again.

Patty was shaken from her thoughts by the sound of loud voices coming from the direction of the road. There was some sort of argument going on between several people and it sounded like it was getting more heated by the moment. Suddenly, four gunshots were fired followed by a woman's scream, then more shouting.

Patty readied her shotgun and watched the road, which was more than two hundred yards from her position and well away from the fracas. Then as soon as it started, it was over. There were more voices and the sounds of people moving, not towards her, but away and closer to the road. Soon, the only sound was of a woman wailing in misery.

"What's going on over there?" asked Lamar from behind her.

"I don't know, but it sounded like a fight which ended in shooting." replied Patty not taking her eyes from the direction of the shooting and fight.

"Go on back and get some sleep, we need to be well rested for tomorrow." she added.

Lamar went back in the tent and she heard him moving around before it was quiet again. Patty watched and road and nothing more happened during her watch.


Lamar took over in the middle of the night and Patty slept for a few hours before waking before dawn. While she slept, she had a dream of Elena, wearing a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack, standing alone on the side of the road. The little girl was crying, hungry and mobs of dark strangers with no dicernable features were passing her by ignorning her cries.

At that moment Patty sat upright, awake and in a cold sweat. She could no longer sleep so she changed and put on her new cargo pants, boots and a tshirt. She stuck the boot knife in her sock and put on her gunbelt and holster and went out of the tent.

There, she found Lamar eating canned peanuts and drinking one of the few Diet Cokes he grabbed from the hotel and sitting near the tent in the gray light.

"Anything happen?" she asked.

"Not at all, just some talking and people moving around." Lamar said.

"Let's take down the tent and pack up before we eat. Then I want us to check over the bikes and trailer and get going." said Patty.

The quickly broke down their tent and packed it and the sleeping bags into the trailer. Then Patty went over both bikes and checked the tire pressure and condition of the chains. Lamar put together a quick breakfast and packed up some snacks for the road which they would each carry.

"The goal is to reach Marshall and get more water either along the way or there. Let's get going."

They walked their bikes to the interstate just as the sun was starting to rise behind them in the east. A few other people were stirring but none were getting started as early as they were. They mounted their bikes and started riding at a slow but deliberate pace. Patty was wearing her Glock in her new holster and had the .22 on a sling across her back. Lamar had the shotgun slung across his back and his cargo pants pockets were bulging with spare shells.

Patty had gone over the gun with Lamar last night, but he had not fired it yet. She hoped his brief training was enough and he would not actually have to use the shotgun.

Just before they started biking, Patty saw a small Thomas the Tank Engine backpack sitting open and empty on the side of the road. she quickly turned and rode away.

They road for a few miles before they saw the "Welcome to Texas" sign on their right. Beneath the sign, a family had set up a tent and campsite and were just breaking down when they rolled by and waved at Patty and Lamar. They waved back and kept riding west bound.

Marshall was a good sized town and Patty hoped it was still functioning and there would be a chance they could get some more supplies like water if it was available. They still had plenty of cash and Lamar was willing to part with more of his gold jewelry if need be.

"Patty, back in the hotel, when you confronted Dee, you seemed to change before everyone's eyes. It was effective, but did you mean to do that to scare her or was that some side of you I've not seen yet?" asked Lamar as they cycled.

"Yeah, that. I was hoping you would forget about it, but I'm sure that made you uncomfortable. No, I was not pretending, that was the dark side of me."

"I was the youngest in my family and when I was in junior high, I got caught up in the whole Latina gang thing. I wasn't in a gang, per se, but my friends and I were into that culture because we thought it was cool. We talked like we were tough and tried to dress like we were gangstas, but in reality, we were just being stupid kids."

"We would go to the mall and pick fights with other groups of girls. We would do all those hand signs that gangs use and dress in our colors and talk trash, but most of the time, it was a big act. At least at first."

"Some of the girls I ran around with went down the gang path and never came back. It was very real and very dangerous so I am thankful I got straight before it got any more serious."

"What changed it for you Patty?" asked Lamar as he navigated around a stalled Toyota in the right lane.

"I had a teacher who told me, quote, 'Your intelligence will be judged in the first ten seconds by the way you talk to people you have never met before'. She said the bad grammar, the slang, describing everything as 'like this, you know' marked me as ignorant and that would affect my ability to get into college and have a meaningful career."

"After that, I changed my way of speaking, worked harder on school, got heavily into sports and never looked back." said Patty.

"Smart teacher you had." said Lamar.

"I thought so. But all the same, yesterday, when that Dee woman started making comments about my life and started talking about my daughter, that did it. The Mama Bear came out in me, if you know what I mean?" said Patty looking over at Lamar.

"Patty, I want to ask you about something, and I don't know ah... how to go about this. You shot a man yesterday in the hotel lobby. Do you want to talk about it? Now mind you, I am not being judgemental only that, you must be going through something inside, I can tell." said Lamar hesitantly.

"I don't want to talk about." Patty responded with finality.

The rode in silence for a few moments, avoiding stalled cars and occasional walkers who were oblivious to others on the same road.

"You said your parents were watching, Elena? Do I have that right?" asked Lamar obviously trying to change the subject.

"Yes, they were taking her to their home after school.. wait, I did not even think about that. When things burned out, they were still at my home. I wonder if they stayed there or went to their house? I mean, my dad would have driven his truck and.." said Patty and then she stopped talking.

"We that's me again." said Patty hitting her helmet with her left hand, "My dad drives an ancient pickup he restored himself. He works for a paint and body shop and drives this 1960 Chevy pickup everywhere. He even has a name for it, Rosa. I am sure that old dinosaur Rosa started right up."

"That's good to know, isn't it?" said Lamar.

"What about you, Lamar? What about your wife, Ellen? What do you think she did after the burn out?" asked Patty.

"Well, she sells real estate and had probably not left the house yet that early in the morning. I bet she didn't leave the condo and to tell you the truth, we don't know many of the people who live around us very well."

I hope she went to the Albertsons near us and picked up some things, but we just aren't big grocery store people. We eat out alot, get take out foods and mainly shop at Whole Foods or other specialty stores. As you imagine, that has been worrying me."

"But I know Ellen. She will wait as long as she can for me to get back and if she had to go somewhere, she would most likely go to her best friend's Trudy's house, but that's way up in Preston Hollow, which is quite a way from our home." he said.

"I am sure she is fine, Lamar. It's only been a few days and I think the problems we have seen are limited."

They biked along 20 and soon came to a wide spot where the east and westbound lanes separated and the exit for Wenchow appeared. There was a small shopping center on the north side of the highway featuring a truckstop and Dairy Queen. The DQ was closed, and several of the windows were broken out.

The truckstop had several trucks parked in front and more than a few presumed truckers sitting around in the shade of their rigs in law chairs or on the ground. Patty and Lamar slowed down and as they passed, a man with a cowboy hat and beard sitting next to a red Peterbilt waved them over.

"Howdy! Come on over and take a load off!" he said with a big grin.

Patty and Lamar looked at each other, shrugged and figured it couldn't hurt and seeing as they were both obviously armed, would make a poor target for crime.

"Hi," said Patty as she rolled to a stop. "You look comfortable."

"Doing the best that I can. My name's Earl Montgomery, did you folks come out of Lousiana?" he asked.

"We did, Lamar Hughes and this is Patty Valdez" replied Lamar holding out his sizeable right hand.

"Lamar, Patty, nice to meet'cha. How are things out that way? We've had a few folks passing by, but none could give us the low down." said Earl.

"We came from Shreveport and are trying to get home. When we left, things were just starting to get bad. Daylight robberies, food starting to run short, water pressure out. Some of the city was fine but other parts were bad we heard." said Patty.

"Well, I can't promise you things are better up ahead. Where y'all headed?" asked Earl

"Dallas/Fort Worth" said Lamar and purposefully keeping it vague.

"I heard there was problems in the South Dallas already, but that was yesterday and came second hand from a feller and his family heading to Mobile. He was coming out of Canton and met some folks who said South Dallas went nuclear the day of the Blowout. Folks looting, burning houses, stealing." said Earl.

"The Blowout? Is that what they are calling it? In Shreveport they were saying The Burnout." said Patty.

"Blowout, Burnout, the Shutdown, the Burst, Ejection Day.. I have heard it all. I tell you what. We've all been trapped here since that day on account none of our rigs can start. We figure we'll just set tight until something gives and we got a thumb it home." laughed Earl.

"How are you eating? Is the truck stop still functioning?" aske Lamar.

"Oh, you can still go in there and they got some stuff. But there's almost twenty rigs parked out here. Mervin is hauling a load for Walmart. Birtha Fultz is hauling a less than full for Gander Mountain. And I got a load for Aldis among other things back there. Following me?" he said looking at Lamar and Patty with one eye closed.

"We're sitting on a pile of food, water and other stuff! Ha ha! So we just opened up the back and started a picnic. We barbequed up a bunch of steaks from a reefer the first day, but most of that went bad. So we're just getting by on what we got." he said slapping his leg.

"Would you be willing to sell us some water?" aske Patty. "Or can they sell us some in the truck stop? We wanted to get some more before we moved on and figured we would have to wait until we got to Marshall."

"Well, maybe. What you go to buy it with? I don't want to take any dollars no more, 'sides, I got plenty of Charmin." asked Earl.

"We could part with some jewelry but it seems like we are overpaying." said Lamar.

"How about a turn with the purty lady? Sounds like  fair deal to me, sissy boy." said a voice from to their right. Leaning against a nearby trailer stood a tall, skinny man with a four day growth of beard and wearing a baseball cap.

Patty was about to say something, but Earl beat her to it,

"Watch it, Bannister. We told you to stuff that nasty talk and if you don't, you know the rest of us will drive you out."

"sez you." Bannister strolled over towards Patty and in doing so, ran his shoulder into Lamar as he passed.

"See here, you back off from that lady.." said Lamar.

"And if I don't? What are you going to do? Give me a manicure? Huh? Huh?" said Bannister suddenly turning on Lamar and shoving him repeatedly in the shoulder.

"Get near me again and I'll give you a lobotomy," said Patty drawing her Glock and pointing it less than a foot from Bannister's head.

"Well don't that beat all! The little lady is sticking up for her big wussy friend! Ha!" laughed Bannister.

"Again, back off, scuz bucket. We don't want any trouble but we won't be bothered with, got it?" said Patty, never taking her eye off of Bannister.

"Go on, now" said Earl. "Leave these folks alone and git"

Bannister turned to walk off, but turned back to Patty and made a kissing sound at her. "Come see me when you want a real man sweetheart." he leered and then turned and walked back around the trailer.

"ugh" thought Patty. Earl stood up and said, "C'mon over here." and took them around to the back of his truck.

"Sorry about Bannister. He's from somewhere they don't keep good manners. We tolerate him cuz he's a brother trucker, but most times we are ready to run him off of the lot"

Taking out his keys, Earl opened the rear door of his trailer and pulled himself up into the packed rear. After a few minutes of rifling around inside, he came back to the door holding a case of store brand bottled water.

"Here, hold this." he said to Lamar and then he hopped down and secured the door again.

"Go on and take this on account of Bannister's mouth." he said and then went and sat back down on his folding chair in the shade.

"That was very nice of you, Earl. Is there anything we can give you?" asked Patty.

"A magic carpet ride home, a date with Dolly Parton and a plate of my mother's biscuits. Seeing as you don't have any of that, go on and git home to your kin." he said with a wink.

"Nice talking with you Earl," said Lamar shaking his hand once more.

"Same here, Earl." said Patty. "If I see Dolly, I'll send her your way."

After securing the water, Patty and Lamar saddled up and were about to hit the road when Earl called after them.

"Don't go into Marshall proper but stay on the interstate. They got problems in the north side of the city, ya hear!"

"Thank you," said Patty and they rode back on to the access road towards the interstate.


Patty and Lamar rode onward towards Marshall and started seeing more signs for the city as well as for various businesses which operated (Or used to operate) in the area. They also passed more people on foot headed the same direction but a small number coming from the west.

A few miles outside of Marshall, two men on foot, one with a bloody cloth wrapped around his head, passed them heading in the opposite direction. One called out to them as they passed,

"Be careful of the overpass coming up! There are some kids throwing rocks at people!" he shouted and they hurried on their way.

Patty slowed and stopped her bike and made sure her helmet was on tightly, She also checked her Glock once more and the .22 rifle.

"You had better do the same, Lamar" she said when he rolled to a stop next to her. We might be able to ride by quickly and they will miss us if someone is indeed throwing things at people on the road."

Why in the world someone was letting their kids do something this stupid was beyond her thinking. What were they going to do when someone started shooting at the rock throwing brats?

They pedaled on and easily spied the overpass up ahead and standing on top were at least fifteen to twenty young people hooting and making noise. Consequently, every few moments, they would throw something else off the bridge at anyone passing by, namely, at the people on foot.

Lamar and PAtty came to a disabled car in the right lane about two hundred yards from the overpass behind which stood six people, including a small child. Patty rolled to a stop,

"What are you doing? Waiting for them to stop or something?" she asked.

"No fooling lady. We don't want to get hit going past that bridge especially with this little one here." said a man who was obviously the leader. "You got that rifle with you, why don't you fire a couple of rounds at them and maybe they'll go away or something?"

"Or maybe they'll shoot back with something bigger? No, I am going to avoid shooting at kids throwing rocks unless I absolutely have too?" replied Patty.

Patty looked at the overpass and the both sides of the road. They could pull their bikes up the side but it still meant having to deal with the rock throwers when they got on even ground with them. And Patty wanted only to get past this nuisance and home with as few delays as possibl.

"OK, Lamar, here's the plan. When we get closer put the pedal to the metal and race for the overpass. We are both going to go under on the left side, but quickly move to the right in case they drop something off when we exit on the other side."

Patty looked at the people behind the car and wished them luck and moved out. They had a good one hundred yards to one hundred and fifty yards to build up speed before they came in range of most of the rock throwers. Judging by where the first few missiles thrown their way went, it appeared that some of the hurlers were intoxicated or high, which probably explained their actions.

Patty resisted the urge to look at the throwers and instead focused on keeping her head down and her bike moving somewhat erratically to avoid being a good target. She hoped Lamar was following her lead and keeping up with the extra weight of the trailer.

The worse happened as she was almost under the bridge when a cinder block fell only inches to her right causing her to swerve and almost lose control. She held it together and immidiately sheared to the left as she told Lamar to do. Behind her, she heard a crash and a short cry but still heard Lamar peddling behind her, so she doubled down and made for daylight.

As they came out the other side, somebody yelled, "Dere dey ara!" and a fullisade of rocks and other objects flew their way. A rock about the size of a lime bounced off Patty's back causing her to let out a cry but she kept going. About a hundred yards later, the bombardment stopped, but Patty was too angry to let it go.

She skidded to a stop and pulled the Ruger over her head and brought it to her shoulder. As soon as she sighted on the bridge, most of the rock throwers hit the ground but one or two, drunk or foolish, danced and taunted her. She was about to fire when Lamar yelled,

"Patty, look!"

Patty turned and saw no fewer than a half dozen dogs come charging down the embankment towards the interstate and presumably towards them. They were ragged and mangy looking beasts and made gutteral sounds as they charged.

Patty quickly snapped off three shots in their general direction and actually managed to wing one, surprising even herself. Two of the others stopped and one actually whined and went back to the grassy embankment, but the others kept coming.

"Lamar, get that shotgun out, now!" Patty yelled.

Lamar fumbled the gun around and brought it up to fire, but paused as the safety was still on. Patty fired two more rounds as the dogs were slightly more than ten yards away and showed no intention of stopping. She nailed one, a brown pit bull mix, but the small round only caused it to flinch and keep moving.

At that moment, Lamar fired the shotgun but fired high missing all the dogs. He was able to ratchet the slide and fired a second round which swept the closest dog, a big black chow, off the road into a crumpled heap. That took the fight out at one more of the dogs who slid to a start and instead stood in place barking.

The two lead dogs were now on top of them and there was little Patty could do. She fired the remaining rounds in the Ruger directly into the closest dog as the other charged her and lunged at her.

Patty raised the now empty rifle and brought the butt directly down on the dog's head while simultaneously kicking out at him with left foot. The dog faltered and then barred its teeth and went for her shoe but instead received another butt stroke to it's open mouth.

The entire time, Patty was screaming and Lamar, unable to fire his shotgun with Patty in such close proximity, simply got off his bike in one step and kicked the dog as hard as he could in it's side. The dog stumbled backwards and looked confused at to what set of feet to attack, but his quandary was short lived as Patty pulled her Glock and put a round into its' side and which put it on the ground.

Patty turned to shoot the other dog she had fired the Ruger at, but the miserable thing was limping away on three legs leaving spots of blood on the road behind it. The other dogs were loosely standing around on the embankment, a couple still barking, but the fight clearly taken out of them.

Patty turned to look at the overpass and saw its residents were lined up obviously facinated by the scene of two cyclists versus a pack of strays and she hoped they were sorely disappointed by the outcome. Patty was about to raise the Glock and pop off a few rounds, but was too worn out from the adrenaline rush to make it.

"Let's get out of here before something else shows up." said Lamar climbing back on his bike.

Patty nodded, opened her fanny pack and took out a fresh ten round magazine for the Ruger and replaced the empty one. She then safed the rifle and put it over her shoulder and they headed out warily watching the remaining dogs.

They decided to ride as many miles away from the outskirts of Marshall in the event they were followed and eventually stopped just north of the Brady Branch resovoir on the north side of the interstate. There was a small dirt road which lead to a decent sized clearing and which offered two different ways out.


Patty rolled to a halt and she and Lamar surveyed the area. They would set up the tent first and then Patty would prepare their meal this evening as it fell the Lamar the night before.

Patty topped off the magazine in her Glock and refilled the Ruger magazine as well. She tossed her previous food plans out the window and cooked two dehydrated packets of spaghetti and meatballs using the single burner gas stove. They would have that the remaining fresh fruit tonight before it went bad.

Lamar finished with the tent and raised his arms for a long stretch.

"I have been using muscles I thought I got rid of years ago. My back is killing me but the pain in my calves is distracting me from thinking about it!" he laughed.

Patty was about to say something when the bushes behind Lamar parted and a large man wearing a striped workshirt and blue jeans stepped out. He was in his fifties, balding and one of his eyes was cockeyed and drifted slightly to the right.

He smiled and walked in to the clearing,

"Thought I heard some folks over here. Hey! Looks like dinner is on, too! Man, my timing is still perfect." he boomed.

He then took a long look at Patty before saying,

"And there's dessert too. Well, well, well.."

Patty reached for her Glock but instead felt a blow to the back of her head, saw stars and blacked out.

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SHTF Fiction: The Burnout - Chapter Eleven

Leaving the hotel meant travelling a different direction than either Lamar or Patty had travelled the past few days. After passing the street where the Greyhound station was, they were moving into unfamiliar territory, but it was far from desolate.

The streets were full of others with the same idea, just with different execution plans. There were several bikes sharing the main street with them, but also the expected walkers as well. Some were pushing shopping carts, others pulling wagons and others with ingenious contraptions of their own making.

They saw wheelchairs with store and hospital logos toting both goods and small children. A two-wheeled wagon from a store or restaurant display was full of suitcases and being pushed by two college aged men and accompanied by a half dozens others in university shirts.

In spite of the number of people they saw, they did not see a single moving vehicle although the police officer said they had managed to start a few. But it was no wonder; there was no room on the street, what with the people, stalled vehicles and debris for a car to safely navigate the roads.

On a street corner, an overweight, middle aged woman sat in a wheelchair berating passersby,

"I need someone to push me! My scoooter don't work and I need someone to push my chair! I can't go nowhere! Somebody has to push my chair! What's wrong with you people? One of you has got to help me now!" she shouted.

"Why doesn't she use the wheels and move herself?" asked Lamar as they passed the woman.

"Because for most of her life, she has had one excuse after another and has had someone else pushing all of her wheelchairs in life. She will either push, learn to walk or die where she sits." said Patty without any emotion in her voice.

The real question was where were all these people going, thought Patty. She and Lamar were headed home, but what about all these others? Surely, some must live in Shreveport, but why were they leaving and where would they go? Was the shared belief that "somewhere else" was better than where they currently were? Had the information that this phenomenom was worldwide been shared with all?

Thinking of Elena, Patty also had to put out of her mind the plight of all the children she saw. Even though they were presumably with their parents, family members or caregivers, many had looks of trepidation and uncertainty. Children crave safety and normalacy and many had probably been in the final days of the school year when this burnout of technology happened. Now, just a mere few days later, they were plodding along the road and witnessing their parents obvious stress and concern over their welfare.

The main street eventually would lead Patty and Lamar to the Interstate on which they would head west and directly to their homes. Patty was certain they would be forced to travel along the service road rather than on the highway as that was how things were before.

Although the travel was slow, they soon worked their way to the edge of town and at that point passed the airport. There were at least two large commercial airliners crashed nearby, the hulks still smoldering. Black smoke hung in the air along with the fumes of burning fuel, insulation and the sweet, sick stench of burned flesh.

In spite of this maelstrom of destruction, the worse she had seen yet, there will still people, many people, crowded around the terminal building and parkinglot. They were the people who had left the hotel, been on standby or simply waiting for their flight when the Burnout happened. And now, paralyzed through shock, remained waiting, waiting for another flight to arrive and take them to their destinations. Patty reckoned it would be one hundred years before that techology would return.

Moving on past the airport, they arrived at I-20, they found many of their fellow riders and walkers were heading directly onto the Interstate as if was perfectly normal. Patty and Lamar huffed up the entrance ramp and saw the road was populated with disabled vehicles and hundreds of people traveling both east and west. There were also armed soldiers and military vehicles as well which surprised Patty and Lamar.

There were about twenty soldiers dressed in BDU's and armed with M16s. There were two Hummers parked on the shoulder and others parked further down the road. Patty's curiosity got the best of her and she wanted to ask them what was going on, and she was not alone. Each soldier had dozens of passersby peppering them with questions surrounding them.

Patty rolled to a stop as close to one of the troopers as she could and tried to listen to the snatches of conversations..

"Air National Guard.. safety on roads.. government attempting to organize.. food, water or supplies.. continue to your destinations.. "

Frustrated, Patty turned back to Lamar,

"I can't hear what they are saying but they are National Guard from what I understand and what is on their uniforms, but it does not sound like they are here other than for public safety and to keep the peace." she said.

"We should just keep moving and maybe one of the other soldiers further down the road can answer our questions. Whatever they have to say, we still need to get home and there is no sense in trying to fight this mob." said Lamar.

"You're right, let's get going." replied Patty.

They pedaled west and due to the crowds, dead vehicles and debris, they were forced to start and stop frequently and to avoid crashing into others. It was a frustrating experience.

"This is worse than rush hour gridlock" observed Lamar. "I hope it thins out when we get out of town."

"It is about ten miles to the airport and that's on the edge of town. Then we have another twenty or so miles to the Texas border from what I remember. I think this all depends upon where these people are going." said Patty.

The made about a mile before Patty biked over to the shoulder where another Hummer was parked and three soldiers stood nearby. As Lamar said, there were fewer people stopping here for information so Patty was able to speak with one of the servicemen, a young man with two stripes on his sleeve and wearing full battle gear.

"Hi, I am sure you are sick of answering the same questions over and over again, but can you tell me what is going on?" she asked with a smile.

"Sure, no problem. The earth has been under a solar storm for the past few days and when combined with our atmosphere, most small electronics were disabled world wide. The federal government has a national relief effort underway but it is taking time to get things moving.

We are with the Lousiana Air National Guard and have been federalized to help with the relief effort. Right now, our communications are still under repair, but we have some rudimentary systems working for command and control. We hope to have food, water and medical aid available at central locations shortly and we ask the public's assistance and patience in the meantime." he answered in a robotic and prepared fashion.

"Your vehicles are still running?" asked Lamar. "Are their plans to get some type of mass transportation available for all these people?"

"Many military systems were hardened for electro-magnetic anomolies and about half of our vehicles are functioning. Many railway trains are still operational, but they have no switching, communications or GPS systems available, so other systems have to be designed and deployed before they can be used. We also have some aircraft functioning, but there are no transponder or VLR systems functioning either.

We don't have the heavy lift capacity to move civilians at this time, but are working on possible solutions. Right now, the focus of the U.S. Military is get as many of our people from overseas and their dependents home as soon as possible to help with the relief effort. We are also working on allocation and disbursement of resources from public and private sources for the greater good." he reported.

"I see. Is the military providing security along all of the Interstate? We are trying to get to the Dallas/Fort Worth area." asked Patty.

"Our unit is only tasked with I-20 to the Texas border. We are spread thin, but if you do have any problems, pull to the side of the road and wave one of us down. We cannot provide transportation, food or water, and can render aid for emergenicies only and direct civilians to known locations for supplies.

If you don't have any more questions, I have to get ready for patrol. Excuse me, ma'am." he said and broke off the conversation.

Patty looked at Lamar and jerked her head to the side to indicate that they should move on before discussing the conversation. Once out of earshot, Patty spoke first,

"Sounds like they are making this up as they go along. Half of their vehicles are not working, communications are limited and most support systems and infrastructure are not functioning."

"And what about that 'disbursement of private resources for the greater good'? What greater good and whose resources?" asked Lamar. "Does that mean someone down the road is going to divvy up our supplies for everyone else and leave us hanging?" he added.

"I know, I caught that too." said Patty. "Let's keep moving, but start thinking about where we are going to stay tonight, we will need a camp site but away from the have nots, if you know what I mean."

They decided to stop short of the Texas border by about seven miles around 5PM. While some people were continuing down the road, many more were doing the same, stopping, setting up a rudimentary camp site and eating. It wasn't five minutes after Lamar and Patty stopped and were going through their gear when a young couple with a little boy approached them in the field where they were.

"HI! Do you mind if we camp near you guys? It's always better to have safety in numbers don't you think?" the young man said.

The couple had a large baby stroller loaded with things and each wore a backpack. The little boy, who was about four, had a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack and was wearing yellow sunglasses.

"Sure," said Patty, "We don't own the ground so camp where you want."

"Great, say, you wouldn't happen to have a couple of bottles of water would you? We are just about out and Ian is real thirsty." said the young man with a sheepish smile.

"So that's it, huh?" asked Patty. "Safety in numbers? But you really just want a handout, right? And only some water? If you are asking for two bottles of water, I'll bet you don't have very much food either? And probably need some toilet paper, a tent, blankets and so on, right?"

"Hey!" said the young woman this time, "You guys are loaded down with stuff and we don't have anything. Are you going to let a little boy go hungry while you feed your fat faces?"

Patty was about to explode again, when Lamar intervened.

"Rather than get upset, suppose we work out a trade? I mean, why come asking for welfare if you have something of value you can purchase something with, right? You don't want to be labeled as a bum do you?"

"No, I suppose not," said the young woman, "But what do you want? I'm not sleeping with you! I am a married woman!" she shouted.

Lamar waved his hands in front of him, "As am I, madam. What do you have to trade?"

The young man reached into his back pocket and took out his checkbook,

"I could write you a check.."

"Oh, please" said Patty rolling her eyes. "OK sweetie, you got any jewelry? Gold, silver, diamonds? Either of you have a gun or ammunition? We'll take that for trade."

"Say what?.." said the young woman before her husband intervened.

"I have my class ring and Shelly has her engagement ring, wedding band and some earrings, but none of the earrings are real gold. We also have my baseball card collection and a Hummel figurine that my mother-in-law gave Shelli. Any of that worth anything to you?" he asked hopefully.

"You brought baseball cards and figurines but not water or food for your kid? I've heard everything now." said Patty.

"We had to get out of our apartment because some guys were breaking into people's homes and the water was out so we grabbed some of our possessions and figured we would just go to a refugee center or something.

Instead, we were told to go to the interstate because the Army was supposed to be handing out supplies. And when we found out they weren't, well, we hoped someone would help us. We didn't know any better, honest." the young man pleaded.

Patty sighed and looked down at the ground.

"Here's the deal. I am going to give each of you some water from one of our containers and one extra bottle for the kid. Then I am going to give you each some food, but I want most of it to go to the kid.

Then I want the three of you to go back to Shreveport and find a church or something like that and see if they will help you. I suggest you keep an eye out for a store that might still be open and taking cash or be willing to trade her engagement ring for some food or other supplies. You might even try and do the same with those weekend warriors up on the road there.

After I give you that stuff, we are going to move somewhere else to camp, but don't follow us or ask for anything else because we won't give it and are willing to protect our stuff if we have too. Got it? Finally, I am only doing this for the kid and not for you two.

In the future, if you survive this and get a second chance, I suggest you make better plans with your son in mind rather than your own short term needs."

"Thanks for the lecture, lady. Now are you going to help us or what?" said the woman with her hands on her hips.

"You might want to have a talk with your wife or whatever she is when we get done here, kid. She's gonna get you killed before long." said Patty to the young man.

Patty pulled a two liter bottle from the trailer and poured the litle boy a cup of water and stood there while he drank it. Then she gave him another. She then took a single water bottle from her bag and put it in the little boy's backpack.

She took a banana out of her bag and although it was mushy, held it out to little Ian,
"Does this look good? I thought so. Let me peel it and you can have it, ok?"
Ian took the fruit from her hand and starting stuffing it in his mouth.

"Let momma help you with that" said the young woman, her eyes glazed over staring at the banana.

"Back off and wait until he's done, sister." said Patty firmly.

Patty took out a roll and broke it into a few pieces and handed it to the little boy a piece at a time. Then she put an apple into his small backpack.

Finally, she took out a protein bar and fed it to him until it was gone. Then and only then, did she hand a hard roll and apple to his parents. While they were eating, she slipped one can of tunafish, a can of fruit cocktail and a candy bar into the little boys bag and put her finger to her lips and said "Shhh" to him. He nodded and sat down on the grass while his parents ate.

Patty used the same cup as the little boy had and gave the parents each two cups of water and then put it away.

Then she gathered the rest of her stuff and pushed her bike away. As she and Lamar walked off, the little boy said "Fank you." and waved. The parents were too busy eating to say anything.

"What a mess," said Patty. "I have a feeling we are going to be seeing lots of that and we only just got started. I only gave them something because my parents are watching Elena and I am thankful for what she has."

"From now on, I am staying away from people, especially those with kids, as much as possible. And you make sure I do, Lamar."

They mounted up and rode another mile or two before pulling off the interstate and crossing a field and picking a campsite. They broke out the tent and sleeping bags, but Patty took the time to reorganize and sort through their gear.

She divided the dehydrated foods between her backpack and Lamar's with the idea being if they had to abandon their bikes in a hurry, they would have a good supply of light weight food.

She then divided all the ammunition between the two bags reasoning that if one of them could no longer go on or if they were separated, they other would have ammo for whatever firearm they ended up with. She took a lock blade knife she had purchased and threaded the holder on her gun belt and placed the knife inside. She then removed a fixed blade knife with a four inch blade and put it inside the sheath it came with. Her plan was to put it in her sock on her left side under her cargo pants and boot she would wear tomorrow.

Finally, she took stock of their water, both bottled and in containers, and of all the foods they had scavenged from the hotel and CVS, what they had purchased before hand. While they would need to get more water, there was actually more food than she thought and they could probably make most of the trip eating those foods, but better safe than sorry.

Afterward, she separated out her clothing and tossed the dress shoes which were still in her backpack in favor of the boots she bought at the sporting goods store that morning. She changed out her socks and removed the labels and packaging from the lightweight pants, shirts and rain wear she bought.

When she was finally done and satisfied with her work, she took the plate of ham, rolls and cut fruit Lamar offered her.

"We should save the gas for the stove as long as possible," he said, "Since we will need it for the dehydrated stuff."

Patty agreed and the broached the hard subject.

"Lamar, we are going to have to take turns on watch tonight. Besides the fact that neither of us feels comfortable sharing a tent, we need to be on the lookout for those willing to take advantage of the situation."

"I understand, Patty, but you are going to have to show me how to use the shotgun at the very least. I am more than ready to do my part, but I have no idea what to do with that thing." he said.

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SHTF Fiction - The Burnout Chapter Ten

When they arrived at the hotel, they took the back route so the other guests who might be in the lobby would not see them on their bikes and thus, gather attention they did not want.

The alley was empty as was the rear area of the hotel and they stashed their bikes and went to the further trouble to hide them under a couple of old drop cloths stored in the back for painting. Anyone who happned to go to the trouble to get back there would only see the air conditioning units, some building materials and a tarp covered lump.

The kitchen was empty and dark when they went inside and were about to go in the lobby when they heard shouting and screams coming from within. Carefully peering through the door, they could not see the lobby proper, only the backend of the restaurant. So they quietly went into the restaurant, but left the door slightly propped to cut down on noise.

"Gimme all of it, b**tch! I ain't got all day waiting for you!" shouted an angry voice.

"Please, that's all I have. I am poor like you and I am only trying help.." said a whimpering voice.

"Shut up, you h*! Get over here old man! Gimme that watch! Where is the likkah around here. Dey got a bar but it all empty. You drink it all you old craka a**!?" another voice yelled.

"There's another guest here, on nine. He has money and gold jewelry. He probably took all the alcohol to his room. I'll show you his room and you can get him, just let me go, okay?" pleased the same female voice.

Curiosity got the best of Patty as she knew the other guests were in trouble and the voice that was presumably selling out Lamar out sounded familiar. She lay on the floor and looked though the table legs of the nearest table to the lobby and saw the scene in its entirety.

There were three young men wearing "urban wear"; high tops, baggy pants and baseball caps. Two were armed with sticks or clubs of some sort, but one had a nickle plated automatic and was waving it around like he was in a music video.

The rude old man from last night was laying on the floor but appeared unharmed. The pleading woman was none other than Dee from late last night in the kitchen.

Forgetting about Dee, Patty concentrated on the three thugs and how she might be able to diffuse the situation, but realized force would be neccessary. Patty had taken a handgun safety course and two firearms training classes and both covered situations and scenarios like this, but this was the real thing.

Scooting back into the restaurant, Patty motioned for Lamar to get back into the kitchen. She then instructed him to bring the shotgun and one box of shells from the bike as quietly as possible. She had a plan, but it was a big risk considering Lamar's lack of firearms experience.

Going back to the restaurant, Patty watched the lobby carefully from her concealed spot. Running a head count, Patty confirmed three assailants and five guests in the lobby. She had no idea where the others were and the thugs might still leave after they had robbing and insulting the guests they had captured.

"Go off back there and see what they got hidden, Ralz" said the apparent leader and only one with a gun motioning towards the restaurant. That was bad, thought Patty, the time to act was now.

Crawling backwards she waited until the thug was halfway across the room before she stepped out and shouted,

"You! Put down your weapons and put your hands behind your head. Do it! Now!"

The thugs froze for a moment, the closest staring down the barrel of Patty's Glock with eyes wide open.

"Shut up, b**ch and give me that thing!" said the leader with the gun. "Then I gonna bend you over that chair and schools you." he said laughing and looking at his friends.

Patty did not laugh. A haze went over her and she was back in the alley with the drug addict. His foul breath in her face, his hips grinding against her, his horse voice in her ear.. She drew a bead on the leader and squeezed off three rounds.

The report was deafening in the enclosed space as the thug fell to the floor blood gushing from his solar plexus. Patty turned toward the other man in the back of the lobby who literally screamed, dropped his bat and ran zig zag to and out the front door. The third one who was closest, moved towards Patty when he stopped suddenly and tripped over his own feet.

At that moment, the trademark sound of a shotgun racking sounded behind Patty and broke her shock induced state. She turned and saw not Lamar, but Manuel holding the shotgun with three other young men behind him. The last thug lay on the floor and started pleading,

"Please don't shoot me.. please don't. He mades us go wif him. Please..."

"Shut up," said Patty.

"Hello Manuel, I wasn't expecting you."

"Hello, Miss Patty. We were coming to get the food when we saw this man messing around with the shotgun in the alley. I know him from the hotel and he told us what was happening. You want us to take him outside and put him somewhere?" he asked nodding at the man on the floor.

"That would be great but tie his hands and feet first, alright?" said Patty.

Two of the young men came forward and one pulled a lockblade knife out and cut the useless pwer cords from two of the lamps in the lobby. It was then Dee spoke,

"You murdered that poor young man. What kind of homocidal vigilante do you think you are? Someone needs to get a police officer in here immediately and put you under arrest. And those guns need to be handed over to the authorities as well!"

Patty ignored her and went over and picked up the handgun dropped by the leader on the floor. She gave his body a cursory look and realized he was deader than a doornail.

"Manuel? Do you want this?" she said as she held out the handgun.

"Sure, Miss Patty. I guess you need your shotgun back?" he said.

"I am afraid so, Manuel. We might need it again." Patty replied.

"I knew it! You people are all in cahoots. Where were you when this all started? You probably led them here didn't you?" said the older guy from last night as he snatched his watch off the ground. "As soon as I can find a police officer, I will insist a full investigation takes place and ..."

Patty went and stood in front of him, her Glock still in her hand and his tirade immediately ending.

"You're welcome."

She then turned to Manuel,

"Manuel, check the dead guy for spare magazines or ammunition, they are getting hard to find. Then get your friends and let's divvy up the food, but you probably want to keep an eye on these people while Lamar and I get our things."

Patty went to her room and grabbed everything she wanted, but first filled up all her water containers including the hydration bladder. She also took all the bottles left in the fridge as well as the rest of the mini bar's contents. Shouldering the bag, she went in the hallway and took the last of the bottled water from the maid cart, several bars of soap, four rolls of toilet paper, a couple of the sewing kits and a hand towel and stuffed them into a plastic laundry bag.

She went downstairs and was joined shortly by Lamar, similarly loaded down. They went into the kitchen and worked with Manuel and his family members on the food. Patty and Lamar took a bag of apples, some limes and lemons, a bag of hard rolls, ziplok bags of sugar, salt and flour, some spices and a plastic bag with a half a dozen slices of ham which needed to be eaten by dinner.

The first guests who figured out what was going on and to come into the kitchen was the young man who helped move the couch in the lobby and with him was a young woman around the same age. They both had good sized bags over their shoulders and the man had a pillow case loaded with some things as well.

"Looks like you guys are heading out too. After that scene in the lobby, we packed up and are getting out of here. Is it alright if we take some of the bottled water and any food which might be available?" asked the man.

"At least you are doing something, sure, help yourself. At this point, it's every man, and woman, for themselves to get out of the city. Where are you heading?" said Patty.

"Joplin, Missouri. It will be hard, but I think we can make it if we keep our heads on straight." he said.

"Dan was a Boy Scout and spent four years in the Marines including tours in Iraq. If anyone can get us home in one piece, he can." said the woman looking at her husband admiringly.

"Well, take what you need and get going, you have a long walk ahead."

The kitchen door opened and Dee pushed her way in.

"Mr. Dexter has gone to get a police officer and we will put an end to this racially motivated murder and disgusting violation of the law. This was clearly a hate crime and you can bet I will be testifying in court against you, Miss Valdez, and will joyfully watch when you get carted off to jail where you belong."

"I am shocked that a violent person like you, a typical rabid gun user, is allowed to even have children. What trauma your daughter must have suffered in your so-called home. Fortunately, if you ever get out of prison and get back there, you will find that the authorities will have by then placed your daughter with a loving and open minded family who will most certainly educate her on your past and make sure she is first and foremost devoted to diversity and justice." Dee added smugly.

Patty moved quickly across the room, drew her Glock, shoved Dee against the wall and placed the barrel to Dee's temple.

"Hey, gringa, you want justice? I've killed two men in the past two days since I'm feeling diverse, knocking off a fat cow like you don't mean nothing to me, no more. Got it, ese?"

"You mess with my daughter you mess with me, you hear me, ese? You talk about my daughter again, I'm gonna mess you up!

"Don't nobody wants you around anyway. Even your ugly old partner don't care if you dead or alive no more. The gangstas don't even want you, b**ch. Now get your old butt outa my face before I cap you."

Patty stepped back and Dee fell to the floor sobbing, the others in the kitchen staring at both women.

Lamar stepped forward and said quietly, "It's okay Patty, it's alright" and he gently lowered her gun hand which still had the Glock pointing at Dee. Patty turned and cried into Lamar's big chest, her body hitching and finally breaking down after the past two days.

Dee stayed on the floor, clearly in shock from the confrontation and hesitant to stand in face of the onslaught of rage she dragged out of Patty. She wanted nothing more than to find a hole, crawl inside and wait for this hellion to leave once and for all.


After Patty composed herself, she and Lamar hauled their things out to the alley and went through a quick pack job of the trailer, their backpacks and the panniers. While Patty wanted to redo everything due to her detailed oriented nature, it was Lamar who suggested that they move now and regroup in the event the one thug who escaped brought back friends.

Manuel and his family had brought a large garden cart and a big child's wagon for taking their share of the food and other things from the hotel. In addition, each of the young men had a large pack or bag with them and one of them had thoughtfully loaded his down with rolls of toilet paper and paper towels.

Manuel had the semi-automatic, a nine millimeter, the dead man carried, but when he checked the magazine, there were only five rounds inside. Patty took ten rounds from her gear and handed them over to Manuel.

"You've been a good friend, Manuel. I wish you and your family the best." she said.

"Baya con Dios, Miss Patty. I hope you get home to your little girl soon." he replied.

After the four young men walked away, Dan and his young wife, whose name was Tara, also said goodbye and disappeared quickly.

"You think they will make it?" asked Lamar.

"I sure do hope so." said Patty. "Well, daylight's burning and we have a long way to go."

They climbed aboard their bikes and headed out.

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SHTF Fiction - The Burnout Chapter Nine

Patty found a quiet corner of the lobby away from everyone else and she took stock of what she had taken from her attacker in the alley. The Glock 19 had one magazine in it and it contained twelve nine millimeter hollow point rounds. The other magazine was worse off as it only contained three rounds. The gun was in bad need of a thorough cleaning and she worried what sort of past it had.

The cash counted out to twenty seven hundred and forty three dollars. She knew the money was proceeds from drug sales or some other illicit enterprise, but she made the decision it was compensation for the attack and the scars it would leave.

She decided when morning came she was going to first go the pawn shop Lamar had visited and see if she could purchase or barter for any sort of firearm they might have in stock. She preferred to get a shotgun if possible and a .22 if it was available for a number of reasons.

Lamar made it clear he was not familiar with firearms and she wanted to get something simple he could use. Further, she wanted weapons with common calibers and which would easier to get more of later. If it was possible, she wanted another handgun, a nine millimeter, for Lamar but knew with the waiting period that would be difficult under any circumstance.

In addition, she wanted some personal protection tools which had other uses and which she had overlooked in her initial preparations. A folding knife, a fixed blade knife, a hatchet, pepper spray and possibly a bow, crossbow or slingshot for small game and stealth.

She realized much of what she was thinking about was specifically due to the attack by the drug addict. She realized that she was in a state of shock and internally dealing with the trauma that normally would be addressed by a functioning medical and law enforcement community. Unfortunately, that was not possible and she was going to have to deal with it on her own.

After the pawnshop, she planned on going to the sporting goods store to obtain more nine millimeter ammunition, a holster and cleaning kit for the Glock. She also wanted to look for the other options on her list and consider anything else they might need. Clothing came to mind. More active wear, socks, underwear and possibly another pair of shoes. She had no idea what Lamar had, but assumed it was a combination of dress and impractical clothing a man in high compensation sales might own.

The bike trailer opened up possibilities, and was probably rated to carry one hundred pounds, but that would have to be dominated by food, water and camp gear. And both she and Lamar would to be cautious and not overload it as Lamar would be pulling the trailer and probably was not in the best shape. It also occured to her that they would need additional bike supplies like a patch kit or tubes for Lamar's bike and the trailer. That meant a possible side trip to Hammonds and to see David once more, which wasn't such a bad thing.

Out front, the noise of the group attacking the CVS drugstore died down and it could only be assumed that it had been broached and the stock plundered. She would make an early trip over there at first light to see if anything of value had been overlooked, but it was clear, things were breaking down fast.

Patty went to the window and peered out into the darkness but could see nothing. She had no idea where the rest of the guests had gone, but could hear snoring coming from the bar so she assumed that someone had found a corner to bed down in. Realizing she had not eaten, Patty went to the kitchen all while attempting to bother any of the other residents.

In the kitchen, Patty lit a few of the candles which had been left on the counters and tables and dug around in the food for something to eat. She took a couple of apples, a hard roll, some butter from the slushy ice chests and a can of Coke from the bevarages. She wished she had time to defrost and season some of the meat left for jerky, but knew she did not have time for it. Maybe Manuel could do something with it.

She was just staring to eat when an older woman who apparently was staying at the hotel and who Patty had not met yet came in the kitchen.

"I am sorry to bother you, but I saw you come in here, would you mind if I joined you?" she asked.

"No, not at all. There's food over there if you are hungry, it's not much, but it's more than the police officer said was available out there." replied Patty.

"Thank you, I will." said the woman and she picked up an orange, a bottle of water and a a package of crackers.

"My name is Deidre Crawford, please call me Dee. And you are..?" she asked

"Patty, Patty Valdez. It's nice to meet you Dee." said Patty.

"So, what do you think we should do? Should we stay put or try and find some assistance such as the police? I am starting to think that this may not be the best place to be considering what was going on across the street tonight." said Dee as she peeled her orange.

Not wanting to give too much information to someone she just met, Patty was careful about what she said.

"I am trying to figure that out myself. I am going to go check with a few of the remaining businesses at first light and find out what the locals are going to do and if they have heard anything. After that, I don't know. Where are you from Dee?" said Patty hoping to change the topic

"Louisville, Kentucky. I was here for a conference of low income housing advocates when this happened. I was supposed to go home Friday night. If only I had left on Thursday, I never would have experienced this and would be with my family." she said regrettfully.

"There's no use in getting upset over what you can't change. Have you thought how you might get home?" aske Patty.

"I assume that FEMA or some other agency will be bringing in buses and arranging for transportation because after all, the government is there to meet the needs of the people during a crisis. It's only when certain selfish people are running things or allowing other selfish people to do what they want do we end up with that mess like we had in New Orleans a few years ago, don't you agree, Patty?" responded Dee.

"You know, I had not thought about it that way, Dee." responded Patty more diplomatically than before, "All I know is I can't wait to see my daughter again. Tell me about your family. Do you have any children?"

"Yes, but mine are long since grown and left the nest. My partner and I are considering adopting though since she never had any children." replied Dee.

"What a nice idea," said Patty trying to remain as neutral as possible.

"Now I saw you and that tall man talking in the lobby. Are you two friends? What are his plans? He seems like he is well off and you know how it is, people like that often have connections and the means to get their way, you know?" said Dee pointedly.

"Who? The man in the lobby? I spoke with him yesterday and I don't know what his finances are like. From what he told me, he was on a business trip like myself and is just as concerned as you and me as to how he will get home.

"I think I am going to go upstairs and try and get some rest, Dee. I don't think we have anything to worry about and like you said, FEMA or someone will probably be here in the morning and straigten everything else. It has been so nice to talk with you. Good night." said Patty standing and collecting her trash.

"Good night, Patty. I will see you in the morning." said Dee watching Patty carefully as she left.

Something about Dee made Patty's skin crawl. She could care less about how the woman lived her personal life, but the inferences Dee made about Lamar and people she had never met made her nervous. Dee was the kind of person who could delay or ruin Patty's plans to get out of Shreveport and home to Elena.

Patty was glad that Dee had not asked "how" Patty was going to get into her room and learned about the house keys she obtained. In fact, the less Dee knew about her the better it would be.

In her room, Patty was tired but decided it would be best to organize her things should she need to make a fast getaway tomorrow. She took all of her clothing and personal belongings out and laid them out on the bed. She put aside her business clothing and put her casual clothing into one of the organizer bags from the luggage store.

Next she arranged her food stores and put the freeze dried foods in the backpack first followed by the short term foods in cans and wrappers in next. Then she added her single burner stove, gas cartridge and water filter. Then she put all her water containers in the bathroom to fill in the morning.

She used one of the storage bags for her first aid and hygeine products and another for socks, underwear and one pair of dress shoes for a spare in case she could not find something more suitable.

Afterward, Patty went up to Lamar's room and found him inside, the room lit by a couple of candles from the bar and his front door propped open.

Patty knocked quietly and asked, "Lamar, can I talk to you for a moment?"

"Sure Patty, I was just having something to snack on before bed. What's up?" he said.

"I think we should be ready to leave tomorrow as soon as we have found whatever else we need. Some of the other guests are starting to concern me and I think they may attempt to delay our leaving or help themselves to our things." said Patty. She then went on and told Patty about the angry man in the lobby and Dee.

Lamar listened carefully and said, "Patty, you have had your head on straight this whole time and I will support whatever decision you make. But I have to tell you something, you seem very stressed and distracted by something. Do you want to talk about it?"

Patty paused and said, "Not right now, Lamar, maybe later. My only concern is getting home to my daughter and not getting delayed here or by any other reason. OK?"

"I understand. Let's plan on getting started first thing tomorrow. Judging by tonight's activities, I don't want to be here any more than you do." said Lamar.


Patty woke before the sun came up and felt more tired than she did the night before due to her inability to fall into a deep sleep or get any rest. Rather than sit and try any longer, she got out of bed and cleaned up as best as possible, changed and went down to the lobby.

A few moments later, Lamar came in dressed more casually than she had seen him before as he was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a windbreaker.

"Didn't think I knew what to wear did you?" he said in a voice several decibles lower than his trademark sonic boom. "If there's anything Lamar Hughes knows, and that's how to dress for the occasion."

Patty stifled a laugh and said, "Let's go over to the CVS and see what the damages were and what's available. We don't want to get caught as looters so be ready to run or make a good explaination."

They moved the furniture, unlocked the front door and carefully went out into the early morning lit street. In front of the CVS were several small items which looked like they had been dropped in haste or out of waste by whoever was last in the store.

Stepping over the smashed glass door threshold, they saw the interior had been pillaged but without rhyme or reason. Clearly the pharmacy was targeted as the metal gate over the front was peeled back and left wide open, but other stocks were targeted as well. The coolers were opened and empty of soda, beer and wine. The floors were littered with chip and snack bags most with the contents stil inside but crushed.

There were dozens of cigarette packs and loose cigars on the floors, but surprisingly, many food and random useful things were left undisturbed and ignored. Patty grabbed an empty plastic bag and handed one to Lamar.

"Get any sort of food or small medical items we may need." she said as she scooped a pop top can of peaches off the floor. In a few moments, both their bags were full and they hurried out of the CVS to the hotel lobby. It was still quiet inside, so they went to the kitchen, retrieved their bikes and went out the back door through the alley.

Their first stop was the pawn shop and found that it was unmolested and surpringly, there was someone inside behind the counter. A hunched man came to the door and unlocked no fewer than three deadbolts and let them and their bikes inside.

"It is good to see you again, sir." he said to Lamar. "Do you have something else you wish to relieve yourself of? I told you that bracelet and signet ring were very interesting to me and I am always prepared to offer a good price for them."

The proprietor was an older man in his 60's, with thinning hair, thick glasses, crooked teeth and a two day shadow on his face. He led them into the dark recesses of the store which was lit with only a single Coleman lantern above the counter.

"Hi, Lamar told me about your shop and I wanted to come see it for myself." started Patty.

"How nice, is there something in particular you wish to sell or are you in the market for something?" he asked.

"I was wondering what your selection of firearms looked like. I understand you have a few and it all depends upon what they are of course, but I have been looking to purchase a shotgun or .22 rifle." said Patty as non-chalantly as possible.

"Ah yes, in these trying times, the exercise of the Second Amendment becomes such an important right. Yes, come right over here miss and let's see what we have." he said.

On the wall behind the counter were about a dozen long rifles while in the glass case, there were only four inside. Only one looked of interest; it was a classic GI model Colt .45 1911. Patty paused briefly before looking at the long weapons. She spied a pump shotgun and asked about it.

"This Miss, is a Winchester Defender in twelve gauge. Excellent for home protection and personal defense." he said as he carefully laid it out on the counter.

"I am familiar with it," said Patty as she racked the slide to see if it was loaded which is was not. She then carefully studied the barrel and stock before asking about the price.

"That particular weapon is available today for the low price of twelve hundred dollars young lady."

For a moment, Patty was stunned and then said,

"Twelve hundred? That seems odd as that shotgun is what, about two hundred fifty, three hundred tops in the stores? What makes it so special?" she asked.

"It is available and there are no background checks needed for purchase. There are shortage of firearms for sale at present due to a variety of factors and I may not have this one available at any price come tomorrow." said the proprietor before placing the shotgun back on the rack.

"What about the Ruger 10/22? Same pricing model?" asked Patty.

"Same model? Perhaps, but for your comparison shopping, that rifle is eight hundred dollars." he calmly replied.

"Okay, Lamar, I think I have seen enough. David said he will part with that Marlin and the Remington for my earings, so I am going to have to deal with it. Thanks, Mr....?" said Patty turning towards the door.

"Cooperman. If you don't mind, what earrings are you speaking of? I might be interested in them and if so, would be willing to consider a discount on the weapons I showed you." said Cooperman quickly.

"Well, I can show them to you, but I have a deal with another vendor down the street who is expecting us this morning. I only wanted to see what you had and were willing to part with. Here.." said Patty holding out her diamond earrings.

"Oh, diamonds, I see. What are they? One half, three quarter carat?" he said

"One carat total weight. Anyway, I appreciate your time, Mr. Cooperman, you have a good day. Say, did you hear about the CVS down the street getting looted last night? There were about ten people who tore the bars off the windows and the gates off the pharmacy. What a mess they left. Oh well, we have to get going, c'mon Lamar." said Patty.

"Hold on if you please, Miss. What sort of price were you looking for those earrings. I have some lovely things and could also part with cash if you are interested." said Cooperman.

"Mr. Cooperman, I have a Marlin 60 .22 rifle and a Remington 870 waiting for me down the street in exchange for these earrings and one hundred dollars cash. Mr. Hughes and I really have to get down to the other shop as the owner is closing his doors by noon today so he can relocate all of his stock elsewhere. The police we spoke with said looting in this area is about to go through the roof and we can't miss that deal." said Patty and then she closed her mouth and stared at Cooperman with a blank look.

Copperman paused, looked at the rifle rack and then said, "I can match that price, however, I would need Mr. Hughes signet ring as part of the deal."

"No deal." said Patty as soon as Cooperman finished speaking and then turned and started our the door with her bike.

"Alright, alright. Both guns for the earrings and one hudred dollars cash." said an exasperated Cooperman.

Patty stopped with her back to Cooperman and slowly turned around and sighed.

"Alright. Maybe I can make a deal with David for some ammunition or other things and his feelings won't be so hurt. I hate ruining a relationship like that."

"Ammunition? While it is illegal for me to actually "sell" ammunition, per se. I do have some available and for a donation, might be willing to let go. The preferred donation amount is one dollar a round." said Cooperman.

Five minutes later, Lamar and Patty exited the store with the two long guns, fifty rounds of .22, twenty five twelve gauge shotgun and ten nine millimeter rounds.

"Why didn't you get more while were were there?" said Lamar. "He would have sold us more if we asked for it."

"Because I wanted him to think we were broke and were going to spend our last dollar at his store. He wanted to feel like he got the upper hand and that worked our well for us in the end. Besides, if we get to the sporting goods store, they may have even more of what we need." replied Patty.

"Who's David?" asked Lamar.

Patty smiled to herself, "Don't worry about it, let's hurry."

The bike trip over took about thirty minutes this time as Patty and Lamar had to avoid a couple of burning buildings and one uncertain looking group of people. When they finally made it to the sporting goods store, they found the door locked but a man was standing inside with a shotgun.

"No cash, no sale." he said through the glass.

Patty displayed a few hundred dollars of her money and the man opened the door slowly.

"May we bring our bikes in as well? We don't want to lose them." said Patty.

"Sure, just keep them here by the door, no dragging them around the store." said the man.

Looking around the dim store, Patty was amazed to see at least half the stock gone and empty racks and shelves.

"Do you still have ammunition?" she asked the clerk holding the shotgun.

"Sure, but we are limited in certain calibers. Go on back and Dill will help you, but don't try anything funny, we are all armed." he cautioned.

Patty and Lamar hurried to the back and found that most of the firearms were sold or stored away, but there was still ammo on the shelves behind the counter.

"Can I help you?" asked the Dill, Patty presumed.

"Yes, I need two hundred rounds of nine millimeter hollow point please, fifty twelve gauage with forty rounds of buck shot and the rest slugs. I also need one brick of .22 as well." she said.

Dill piled the boxes on the counter and asked, "What else?"

"A holster for a Glock 19, three spare magazines, a cleaning kit, some Hoppes, two long gun cases, two long gun slings and any spare magazines, any size for a Ruger 10/22" she replied.

"Only have the ten round magazines for the Ruger, got the rest of your list though. Hope you brought cash for this because there are no discounts." he said.

"What's my total so far?" asked Patty.

The clerk did some figuring on a nearby pad, checked it a second time and then wrote it down on a slip of paper and put it in front of Patty. Without hesitating, Patty pulled out four one hundred dollar bills on the counter and slid them over.

THe clerk paused, smiled and said "What else?"

"We are done here but need to look over the camping supplies and clothing. Oh yeah, boots, I need some boots and so does he." Patty said.

When they were done and an additional five hundred dollars lighter, the bike cart had the new gear inside as did the panniers on Patty's bike. From the sporting goods store they were able to get two spare inner tubes, a pump and patch kit for the bikes so they decided to skip going by the bike shop which made Patty a bit sad, but the clock was ticking.

The rode quickly back to the hotel with the plan of hiding their bikes, packing their gear and spending one last day in the hotel before leaving for home.

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SHTF Fiction - The Burnout Chapter Eight


Patty felt bad that Lamar had sold his Rolex to get the supplies she said they needed and figured there must be some way to repay him. She went to her room and retrieved a pair of diamond studs her ex-husband had given her when Elena was born. They were only one carat total weight, but figured they must be worth something.

Lamar told her that he traded his Rolex for the bike and trailer at a pawn shop just a few blocks away and since she did not want him to know her plans, she left without telling him and on foot so she did not have to reveal the location of her precious bike.

There were still quite a few people out on the streets and most were caught up in their own problems. Any store which appeared to have food was the most popular location and people hurried in and out with bags purchased with their remaining cash Patty was sure.

There was also a different vibe in the air that Patty had not felt yesterday or even this morning. As another night fell, the city was chlostrophobic and stifling. As if air could not penetrate the forest of concrete and steel and the deafening void left by the silence of machines made it no better.

Patty was looking for the pawn shop when she noticed her shoelace was untied. She paused for a moment by the entrance to an alley when someone jerked her into the darkness between the buildings.

Patty fell to the ground and scraped her knees which hurt. She was momentarily stunned when a hand grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to her feet and shoved her face first against a wall. The most hideous smell hit her as her assailant pushed against her from behind and hoarsely whispered into her ear,

"Say mama, you so fine. What you doing out by yo self. Nay Nay gonna take care of you real good. We going to partay and get down in our little love crib. C'mon baby, quit squirming around and let's shack it up."

Patty was disgusted by his odor and nasty voice in her ear. Anger welled up inside of her as this creature jepordized her only chance at getting to her daughter and home. She acted.

She rammed her elbow as hard as she could into the mans solar plexus and simultaneously slammed her foot down on the top of his right foot. He exhaled retched smelling air from his open mouth and released his grip slightly.

Patty pushed off with both hands against the wall and they fell to the ground with Patty landing and putting most of her body weight on her attacker's chest. Patty rolled to her right and attempted to stand, but her assailant grabbed her leg causing her to trip.

The unknown man got on all fours and tried to crawl over to Patty, but she was faster and in better shape. She scrambled to the wall just beyond his reach and yanked the improvised club from under her shirt and turned to face her attacker.

He was disgusting. His hair was matted and dirty. His teeth brown, rotting and chipped. His clothes were of no color, stained and torn. He reeked of urine, beer, cigarettes and the unmistakeable odor of drugs. He was trying to pull something from his pants when Patty realized it was a gun. She put all of her weight on her left foot as she stepped forward and brought the club down on the man's head.

For a moment, nothing happened, he just stood there with a blank look on his face. Patty brought the club up and down one more time in the same place and blood began to flow off her attacker's head and down his face. He still had the same blank look on his face as if he was totally oblivious to his injury.

Not taking any changes, Patty swung the club right to left and hit the man across the side of his head and heard the improvised weapon crack. She then pivoted back on her turned left foot and kicked out with her right foot into his chest. The man fell backwards and the gun spilled from his pants to the ground.

Patty dove and grabbed the gun and fell back against the wall, pointing it at the man as he thrashed around on the ground. What seemed like hours was only seconds as the life ebbed from Nay Nay's abused body.

Patty sat in the dirty alley staring at the dead man's body in front of her. She then looked around and realized that nobody had heard the fight and obviously, had not come to her aid. It would have turned out much worse as she surely would have been raped and probably murdered by this maniac.

Patty looked at the gun in her shaking hand. It was a Glock, she knew that much. Upon careful scrutiny, she saw it was a Glock 19, a nine millimeter. She carefully removed the magazine and seeing it was loaded, worked the action but a round was not chambered. She replaced the magazine, chambered a round and carefully moved toward the dead man.

His eyes were still open but lifeless, his face covered in his own blood. Patty carefully checked for a pulse and found none. She looked over the body and noticed the mans bulging pants pockets. Reaching in the closest pocket, she removed several plastic bags containing clumps of a graying white substance which she deduced was narcotics of some sort. She pulled all the contents out and saw that was all that was in this pocket.

She checked the other pocket and found the spare magazine to the Glock. It only contained three rounds, but she placed it aside to keep. She emptied the same pocket and found a funny looking pipe, a lighter, a huge wad of money and a packet of cigarettes.

The lighter might be useful as would be the wad of cash. The rest she left on the ground. It was then she realized she had been touching everything with her bare hands and wondered what would happen if the police came along. Would they believe her story? Would they take her in and arrest her? How could she contact her family or an attorney? No, the best thing would be to get out of here as quickly as possible.

She picked up her club and since it was cracked and probably not much use, she tossed it into a nearby dumpster. She shoved the spare Glock magazine, the cash and lighter in to her fanny pack along with the handgun. She then said a small prayer for the unknown attacker's soul and hurried out of the alley, but kept her hand inside the pack wrapped around the butt of the Glock. It made her feel safer.


Patty went directly to her hotel forgoing the pawn shop, a voice in her head singing to her - [you just killed a man, you just killed a man... i had to... i had to.. I have to get to Elena..]

She passed the front desk and snapping out of her shock induced haze, noticed Somers was no longer there but instead, a young African-American woman was standing behind the counter reading a paperback.

"Ma'am?" she called when Patty came in. "Do you need to be let in your room? I can have the bellman help you."

[you just killed a man.. you just killed a man.. i had to.. i had to.. leave me alone..]

Patty jumped at the sound of the young woman's voice.

"Why yes I do, thank you. What happened to Miss Somers?" Patty asked.

"She left. Some customer got mad at her and they got into it so she picked up her stuff and said she was going home. There's only me and a couple of us left here now. I don't know when they're going to get the lights on, but I hope it is soon. It's getting creepy down town,"

Patty shuddered and thought of the man in the alley, [dead.. dead.. patty killed a man...]

"You don't know how much I agree with you. How many guests are left in the hotel? Are you still planning on closing it down in the next few days?" asked Patty.

"I don't know, ma'am, but more left today. I don't know where they're gonna go to, ain't no taxis or cars running." she replied. "But nobody told me about closing up. It won't matter because I don't think anyone is gonna come back to work soon."

Just then, the front door opened and a man wearing a red polo shirt with a badge over the breast and POLICE written across the back, dark pants, and a gun belt walked in. Patty's heart fell fearing it was the police and they were going to arrest her for the death of that drug addict in the alley. [they found you.. they found you.. they found the dead man..]

"Do you have any water?" he asked in a tired voice.

"Sure, it's not very cold, but we have some, here." and the desk clerk handed the officer two bottles from behind the desk.

He opened one and drank deeply before speaking again.

"What's the situation here?"

"We have a few guests still left, there's no power and we stopped serving food." replied the clerk.

"Well, you are better here than in some of the other parts of the city. We are riding bikes and horses." he said looking up at Patty and the clerk, "We managed to get a couple of old tube radios to work downtown and rigged them up to car batteries, but we can't transmit, only listen. Not that there's anything going on out there.

"You know it's the whole world like this? Not just Shreveport or Lousiana, but the whole world? They don't know what caused it, but we are all in deep doo doo for sure. We are riding horses again! It's like the old west!" the police officer said in a frustrated voice.

Patty's heart sank. She always assumed that maybe Texas or otherr places were alright. That maybe help would come from "somewhere else" and everything would be better someday.

"You said you got a radio to work but has anyone managed to get a car or truck working?" Patty asked hopefully.

"Yeah, we got a couple of old cars to start up. And by old I mean early 60's, straight carburetors, spark plugs, no electronics at all. But there's only a few of those available and the roads are clogged with non-running vehicles, so that didn't work too well. Nope, the best bet has been bikes, horses or walking. Maybe it's different out of the city where there's more room, I don't know."

"You say you stopped serving food? Did you run out or something?" he asked.

"No, we still have some stuff left, but we can't cook it and there's no refrigeration. Once the ice all melts, the meat and stuff will go bad and there's nothing we can do about it." said the clerk. Patty said nothing knowing that Manuel and she had other plans for any leftovers in the kitchen.

"You should see the suburbs. All the stores have been stripped clean and now the restaurants and people's homes are being targeted. There's no stores in downtown so people who live near here are going out to suburbs to find stuff. It's a matter of time, but unless we get a miracle, there's going to be a bunch of starving people soon. Never thought I would see it in the USA."

The officer stood up and adjusted his gun belt.

"Can I get another one of these?" he asked holding up the empty water bottle.

"Sure, here you go," said the clerk.

"Make sure you lock the front door when the sun goes down and keep the other exits locked as well. If you have enough people, both working or guests, I would set up someone to keep watch. There's not enough cops, in fact, most didn't even come to work. How could they?. Ya'll take care." and he walked out the front door.

"That does it, I'm going home." announced the clerk.

"Who's gonna watch the front desk? I'm not going to. You better get someone from the other hotel down here or I am going to go home too!" said the bellman in the corner.

[they gonna get you.. you killed a man... ] "SHUT UP!" Patty screamed to herself in her head.

"Hold on," interjected Patty. "Look, it's going to be dark soon and it won't be safe trying to walk home this late. You know, the best thing for us to do is what the police officer said and get everyone down here in the lobby and lock the place up.

How many people are in the hotel and which rooms are they in?" asked Patty.

"About twenty and they all over the place. I can write down the rooms and you can go get them if you want." the clerk said.

"I am sorry, but what's your name miss?" Patty asked the clerk.

"Tawana." she replied.

"OK, Tawana, there's safety in numbers and we are all in this together so let's find a way to make things work. I will go upstairs and start getting people downstairs while you and him lock the front door and the rear doors, got it? Good, let's get busy." said Patty

Patty started on the second floor and did not stop until she had reached the ninth floor. She needed activity and purpose to exorcise the dead man from her mind. She ran from floor to floor sprinting up the stairs, throwing open stairwell doors and pounding on guest room doors.

All in all, she had located sixteen of the twenty people still in the hotel and had directed them all downstairs. Surprisingly, she had not found Alphonse or Lamar yet.

Once back in the lobby and out of breath, Patty stood next to the front desk and let everyone know what was going on. Outside, the sun had set and only a handful of candles were keeping the darkness back.

"Alright everyone, we had a police officer come by about an hour ago and he gave us some information about what's going on and what we need to do." said Patty

Immediately, the small crowd began to talk at once and asking questions until Patty held her hands up for order.

"Please, listen to what I have to say before you all start talking. First up, this power outage is everywhere, not just this city, but the entire world. Second, the situation in town is not getting better but worse. He said there was looting and theft going on in many parts of the city in fact. Finally, he said that we needed to keep the doors locked tonight and setup a watch downstairs to keep an eye on things."

Again, everyone began to talk at once.

"What is the hotel doing about this?"
"Why didn't that policeman stay here and protect us?"
"Maybe he was lying. Did you think of that?"
"I need to get back to Los Angeles and I need a phone. Did that cop have one?"
"Who's in charge here? I want answers!"

Tawana went behind the counter and retrieved her purse and book and slipped out the front door as did the bellman right behind her.

Patty went over to the front door and locked it. She then pulled down the blinds on both front windows and verified they could not open. Next she went around the useless crowd and through the kitchen to the back. She went out in the alley and got her bike and then Lamar's and wheeled them into the kitchen, but stowed them in the janitor's room she found earlier.

She went back into the lobby and immediately, an older man wearing a bathrobe and ascot, of all things, over his dress slacks and shined shoes confronted her.

"Alright, miss, what's happened to that girl at the front desk? Where is the staff? When is dinner going to be prepared and served? I demand to know what's going on around here and when power is going to be restored." he ordered.

"You act like I work here, I am a guest just like you. I was only trying to pass along some information which all of you might find necessary but clearly you and the rest want to complain and have someone else take care of you. Good luck with that." Patty said.

"A guest? I thought you were a maid or something. Hmmph. You people are always in cahoots with each other. You people and your kind were probably the cause of this mess in the first place. I always said we needed to close the borders and halt immigration for about fifty years until things stabilized. Instead, we have a mouthy rabble making a mockery of our society and ..."

"Why don't you shut up you old windbag? You can't even feed yourself and that's my fault? Now get out of my way, somebody has to be the grownup and and do the heavy lifting around here. By the way, you look like an idiot in that bathrobe. Go put some clothes on." barked Patty.

Patty brushed past the older man and went to the front of the lobby where she started pushing a couch against the double doors. Another guest, an older woman came over to help and then a young man. They shoved the couch against the doors and then Patty directed them to start extinguishing the candles in the lobby and herding everyone to their rooms or to the back of the dining room, out of sight of the front door.

Just then, there was a pounding on the front, glass doors of the hotel and to where Patty went running, her hand inside the fanny pack wrapped around the butt of the captured pistol. However, when she saw it was Lamar, she told him to hold tight while she pushed the couch out of the way and unlocked the door.

"Patty, I was wondering where you went off to earlier and i went out looking. It's good you locked up the doors like this, there is a group of people trying to break into the CVS across the street." he gushed.

Ushering Lamar inside, they pushed the couch back in place and then braced it with some additional furniture. Going back to the restaurant, Patty asked about Alphonse and his whereabouts.

"He left already. I went by his room while you were gone and his door was open and it looked like he packed up and headed for Arkansas. There were some shopping bags left in the room along with his laptop and other electronic stuff." he said.

"Lamar, let me ask you a few questions. First, when you went to that pawn shop, did you purchase everything from there or just sell them your watch and get the bike?" asked Patty.

"I sold them the watch and acquired the bike and trailer from them. They wanted my other jewelry, but I put them off figuring the money leftover from the sale of the watch was enough, and it was." he replied.

"I see. When you were in the pawn shop, did they have any guns for sale and available?"

"Sure, they had a few I think. I don't know much about guns, but I think they had some long ones and some handguns behind the counter. Why?" Lamar asked

"Because tomorrow, you and I are going to go over there and see what we can purchase or bargain for. We need to get at least a gun each for protection," said Patty. "We are also going to over to the sporting goods store I visited and see about ammunition and some other supplies."

"Alright, but I think you might be over exaggerating. I am sure things will be fine..."

There was a loud crashing sound and Patty and Lamar went to the window and peered into the dark street. They could see a bobbing flashlight and the outlines of a few people standing outside the CVS. A group of four or five people was trying to break into the store and making a racket.

"I don't think I am exaggerating, Lamar. Do you?", Patty said.

Patty walked back to the rear of the lobby, the whole time keeping her hand on the gun. It was then Patty realized they did not have the key to their rooms upstairs because the bellman had gone. Not wanting to attract much attention. Patty took out the LED flashlight she had in her fanny pack and checked the bellstand and the front desk. She found several keys and figured she would have to try them all for now.

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