Delbert took us out back and showed us our digs. It was an old fashioned aluminum travel trailer like out of the 50's TV shows, but it was in great shape on the outside. We went in an found the interior was the like the outside and in good condition for such an old trailer.
There were three beds including the fold out up front by the hitch so we had to figure out who would sleep where, but it beat a tent on the cold ground.
"I suggest you make yourselves at home and don't go wandering around outside. Might get yourself hurt that way." said Delbert on his way out.
No worries, I thought. I am going to sleep in a real bed tonight!
We all changed and dropped off fairly quickly. While there was no bedding, our sleeping bags and existing blankets were enough considering how tired we were.
I had been asleep for a few hours when I heard a loud noice outside which forced me awake.
There was one, two, three reports from a gun of some sort followed by a long bbbrrraappp from what sounded like an automatic weapon. And it wasn't very far away from the sound of it.
"What the heck was that?" shouted Curtis from the front of the trailer.
"Who cares? Get down, it sounds close!" I shouted.
We hugged the floor and I reached up and dragged my shotgun down with me. I was wearing sweats and socks and I grabbed my boots and while laying down, laced them up. Next, I pulled down my coat and yanked my back pack out from under the bed.
"Keep your gear close if we have to bail, guys!" I shouted over the nearby gunfire.
I worked my way over to the door and cautiously pulled it open. The shooting was coming from our right and sounded like it was on the other side of the field from the back of the house, but I could not see anything.
I was about to go outside when I saw someone rise up in the dim light out in the field and slowly make their way towards the house. That made no sense as if it were Delbert or the others they would not appear to be sneaking as this person clearly was.
I stepped outside and keeping my head down, worked along the back of the house to the corner where the figure had disappeared. When I peered around the corner, I saw the back of someone who I did not recognize or know working their way to the front of the house.
I readied my shotgun and followed, only stepping when it appeared they were until we reached the front corner of the house.
When the figure turned the corner I saw for a moment it was some man with a dark beard and carrying a military type rifle along with a satchel over his left shoulder.
He stepped onto the porch and I lost site of him. I went to the corner myself just in time to see him trying the knob on the front door. It was locked, but clearly this was not going to stop someone sneaking up on a dark house in the middle of a gun battle.
My gut told me the shooting was a distraction so a closer individual or group could move in. My hunch was right when the man on the porch took two steps back and leaned over the rail and in the direction of the barn, let out one loud whistle. A signal if there every was one.
"Put down that rifle and your hands over your head," I whispered.
The figure ignored the request and slowly turned on his heels, his rifle already rising as he moved to his left. Here we go again..
I squeezed the trigger and easily caught him at midsection. He flew across the porch and his rifle clattered to the floor. At that same moment, two guns started firing in my direction from the yard between the house and barn.
I worked the action and dropped to the floor. Once flat on my stomach, I aimed at the first muzzle flare and fired in that direction. It worked as I watched the rifle fire arc and drop off. The other shooter on the right slowed for a moment, before changing his aim to close in on my position.
The shooter clearly had a semi-auto rifle with a decent punch as splinters were raining down on me from the rail, posts and house as his rifle found their wide mark.
I worked the slide on the shotgun and then crabbed my free left hand out in the dark trying to find the rifle dropped by the first shooter.
My fingers touched what felt like a sling and pulled it towards me. At that same moment, I could hear someone panting heavily just down the stairs from the front porch. It was clear he was only a few feet away from me and was going to have a bead on me in my open position lying on the porch.
I jumped when the front door of the house jerked open and a long burst of very loud rifle fire emitted from within. It raked the porch and across to the left clearly stitching its way across the shooter. Something found the target when I clearly saw in the muzzle flash generated light someone stand and fly backwards like a ragdoll away from the porch.
The rifle fire from the house ceased and for a moment, it was completely silent as best as i could tell with ringing ears. The shooter in the house lowered the rifle but I could hear a handgun action being worked.
"Who's out there? C'mon out or I'll shoot and let Delbert bury you in the compost heap." said a slightly shaky female voice.
"It's me, Mike. Don't shoot. I'm by myself but I got to standup first." I asnwered.
I stood and walked towards the front door holding my shotgun in my right hand and the rifle by its sling in my left hand.
The door opened slighly wider and I stepped into the pitch black house. I stepped on numerous rifle casings on the floor and walked carefully into the inky blackness as not to fall.
The door was still open and I could see in the dim light from outside a figure standing just off to the side.
"Were you hit?" she asked.
"No, I don't think so. Pretty shaken up though. Who were those guys?" I replied.
"Raiders, trash, who knows? They drew our fire down near Jose's place and these three came in for the kill. There may be more out there so we gotta keep it quiet and dark until Delbert says so." she said.
"Which one are you? Tracy or Brenda?" I asked.
"Brenda, Tracy's the younger one and is an idiot. It's not hard to tell us apart after that." she said.
"I'll remember that. Hey, I am going to move over here near the wall away from the door. I need to check my shotgun and safe this rifle I picked up."
"OK, just watch your step. I don't want you tripping and blowing your brains out," she said.
I moved to the right and ran promptly into a table or something and barked my shins. I said nothing and knelt down until I found the low coffee table with my hands.
I set the strange rifle on the ground and reached into the pocket of my hoodie and pulled three new shells out and loaded them into my shotgun. After setting the safety, I carefully set the gun down on the floor.
I then ran my hands over the new rifle. It had an adjustable stock, a high capactity magazine but no scope or night vision site. I carefully removed the magazine and worked the action until the round in the chamber popped to the floor. I set the safety and put the rifle aside.
I then sat down on the floor and looked at the dark shape near the door.
"So, is this a normal night on the farm, Brenda?"
"No, normally we make a bonfire, slaughter a goat for a sacrifice and then howl at the moon all night." she deadpanned.
"That's it? Girl, I went to A&M and where I come from, that's called Homecoming." I said which made her laugh.
"You're the smart one," she said finally. "You're the one who made it this far, aren't you?"
"Me? Smart? No, that's Chuck. I'm the sucker. The designated driver. The responsible one. The one who gets to sleep in the dorm lobby because his roommate has a girl over. No, I'm not the smart one, I just get stuck with the bag."
"Mom said to watch out for you," said Brenda,"You're not the bad guy, just the one to watch out for."
"I don't know your Mom and she doesn't know me. Hey, this is creepy. Why don't you and your Mom talk about something else? Like who won Post-Nuclear American Idol? I don't want to be the subject of your conversations"
I didn't have to worry. The front door was blocked for a moment and in walked some big figure. I grabbed my shotgun, but did not have to once the voice spoke,
"Put that away, ugly. You made enough of a mess out front for me to clean up. You okay Brenda? Looks like you got the last one?" he said.
"I'm fine." said Brenda, "They were popping away at junior here so had to do something. He had the clear jump on all three and he barely got two of the jerks".
Delbert stepped into the room and turned on a maglight. He played it around the room until he found a Coleman lantern which he lit and then closed the front door.
Delbert looked me over and said,
"Where're your two pals? Hiding under the bed?"
"I guess. Say, what happened out there? When I came outside, I found one guy and two more showed up who were with him. What was going on on the other side of the farm?" I asked.
"A group of five or more folks attacked a watch post we have over there. Turns out it was a diversion so the three little pigs could make a run on the house. They thought we had a limited number of people and with most of us out, they could loot the place." replied Delbert.
"What happened to the people who started this over there?" I pressed.
"Got 'em, or at least most of them. There are four dead and a trail to the fifth. He won't make it long, Jose's dogs are after them." Delbert said.
"Were they firing some sort of automatic weapon? I heard one when the shooting started."
"No, they weren't, we were. It's funny the stuff that turns up when folks are looking to trade for food." remarked Delbert.
"So where did they come from? Austin? Around here?" I asked.
"You sure ask a lot of questions, ugly. No, they did not come from Austin. They came from somewhere else and that someplace is causing me some consternation, I tell you what." said Delbert
Just then Celina came in from the back of the house. She was carrying an AR type rifle, wearing a load bearing vest and had some strange goggles sitting on top of her head.
"Brenda? You okay baby?" she asked.
"I'm fine mom. It was like you said, they came right to the front door, nearly lined up. Mike got two, and I got the other." Brenda replied.
"He did, did he?" Celina raised her eyebrows at me.
I shifted uncomfortably and decided it was time for me to head back to the trailer. Delbert had other plans.
"Where you going, ugly? We got a bunch od dead guys to take care of. C'mon."