"So what's the plan, Patty?" asked Lamar as he pushed his loaded bike and trailer and tried to keep up.
"We have to put some miles between us and the The Weird Sisters. I figure it will take them a few hours to get those horses back and hitched back up. Not to mention the problem they are going to have without any guns and anyone able to walk up and help themselves to their stuff." replied Patty.
"Why didn't we just take that wagon? I mean, we're walking and it's hot." moaned Cassie.
"I told you no whining. You want to live and see your family again, you need to put a sock in it and learn to save your own life instead of waiting for someone like me to do it." snapped Patty.
"She's got a point, Patty. Why did we leave those horses and the wagon behind. It was as good as any way to travel all things considered." said Lamar.
"I'll give it to you straight. First, we need to start keeping a lower profile and that means fewer attractions. That wagon was a neon sign to everyone and we don't have the numbers or ability to defend it from every weirdo we come along.
Second, we are leaving the interstate in just a few miles and are going to start taking secondary roads and maybe some other creative ways to get home. The wagon would have only slowed us down looking for a road the horses could travel on and limited where we could go. Third, horses need food, water, rest, shoes and a whole bunch of other stuff that takes time and resources we don't have.
"Finally, that wagon was dirty. Dirty like a car driven by a child rapist or a house where a murder took place. I don't have any fond memories of it and can't say I would want to ride around in it." said Patty stonily.
"I know one thing, I don't think I can ever drink orange kool aid again," grimmaced Lamar.
"I wouldn't worry about that, it's going to be next to imossible to get in a few weeks. But if it's any consolation, before we left I dumped that big thermos out onto the road." said Patty with a smile.
"OK, you three. Tell me your names and ages." said Patty to the three teens.
"I am Cassie and this is my twin sister Katelyn. We are both 17." said the weepy blond.
"I am Brad and I'm 18." said the young man.
"So what were you three doing in the middle of nowhere." asked Patty.
"We were coming back from a Students Against Drunk Driving convention in Memphis and were almost home when the van stopped running. Do you know what caused that?" asked Katelyn.
"Something to do with the sun. So it was just you three?" asked Patty.
"No. Our sponsor teachers, Mr, Haskel and Mrs. Eddington were with us along with five other kids. Mr. Haskel left after the van broke down and went to Longview to get help. When he didn't return, Mrs. Eddington went two days later with one of the other kids."
"A few days after that, we were out of cokes and snacks and we kept fighting and arguing about stuff. The other four kids went off looking for food and to walk home yesterday and we haven't seen them since." said Cassie stuffing a handful of dried fruit mix into her mouth,
"It was real scary at night because people started walking around checking cars and trucks looking for food and stuff. We finally started hiding in the woods off the road so they wouldn't find us." said Katelyn.
"So what? You were going to sit there and wait for someone to help you? What were you doing the whole time?" asked Patty.
"Staying alive," said Brad finally speaking.
"I checked several of the abandoned cars and found some useful things other people had left behind. Like in one car I found a lighter, in another a machete and in another a two liter bottle of soda. We drank the soda and I kept the bottle to store water in." Brad said.
"When it rained the other day, I used an umbrella and a wind breaker to run water into the bottle. I then beat an old hubcap into a bowl to boil the water so we could drink it. I got a squirrel with rocks, but Cassie wouldn't eat any of it." he finished.
Patty looked over at the young man and was slightly taken aback.
"You're a regular Daniel Boone, Brad. Good for you." she smiled.
"Not really, I just watch alot of reality shows. Hey, I wanted to ask you about the guns you took from those women. I'd like to have one if I can. It's been hairy the last few days, the kinds of people coming by and looking at the girls. The whole time I was wishing for some kind of gun, so can I have one?" Brad asked.
"I don't see why not, they're not mine, i just took them. Do you know how to use one?" responded Patty.
"I have a .270 and a shotgun at home, so whatever you have I can probably shoot." said Brad with appropriate amount of teen age bravado.
Patty stopped her bike and dropped the kickstand. She took the rifle Chris was carrying and handed it to Brad.
"it's a .243 and here's a box of cartridges. Besides that, we have a couple of shotguns, a .44 and some other stuff from the wagon and of our own. When we get to a point where we can rest for a couple of hours, We'll figure out what you girls are going to carry, ok?" said Patty.
"Guns are icky," said Cassie. "Besides, did you know more people are killed by guns in the United States then any other country on earth."
"Whatever, you're such a wimp, Cassie. Patty, right? I'll take one. I have no plans on getting raped or robbed, I just want to get home." said Katelyn.
"Have you ever fired a gun before?" asked Patty.
"No, but I can learn." replied Katelyn,
"Well, let's wait until we stop and I go over it with you, alright?" said Patty.
"Can we take that break? My feet hurt." said Cassie.
"No breaks, not until we get off the interstate and well away from it. And don't whine like that to me anymore, Cassie. Life's going to get alot harder here on in." said Patty.
They came to the exit Patty was looking for which would put them on state highway 185 north. Patty's plan was to follow it and eventually hookup with Highway 80 and then into Dallas by way of Big Sandy, Mineola and a few other small towns. The route would also bypass Canton entirely which was Peri's original destination.
Patty hoped Peri would have her hands full with trying to save her stuff and get the horses back and would ultimately, not have time to pursue Patty. But just in case that didn't happen, Patty decided to take a detour and another route home. Even if Peri was hell bent on getting revenge, she would have a lot of ground to cover and little chance of finding them.
As they travlled, Patty asked herself more than once why she simply did not shoot the three women or at the very least, Peri, knowing how unhinged the woman was. It would have been easier if Peri would have come at her with a weapon or threatened Lamar or even the kids, but it didn't turn out that way.
Up until now, everyone Patty had shot had been a direct threat to her or someone else. Further, nearly all of her attackers had been armed or were in the process of assaulting her or another person. Peri was not armed and was merely saying mean things. That did not constitute a death sentence in Patty's mind. She hoped she would not regret that decision.
Now on the the state highway, it was a direct contrast to the interstate they had been on for the past few days. There were fewer abandoned cars, fewer people walking and the further they traveled, more signs of people getting on with their lives.
They passed within distance of more than one home where the rural residents were expanding gardens, feeding small livestock or hanging laundry outside. While they saw plenty of people wearing guns or with one nearby, they were also surprised by small acts of random kindness.
A little boy who yelled "hi!" several times and followed alongside to the end of his property, a woman who offered them water from her well (which they gratefully took) and a man who handed them fresh ears of corn refusing any sort of payment and saying, "It's for the kids..".
While it was pleasant, Patty was well aware not to let her guard down and that problem was compounded by the addition of three teens who suffered from varying degrees of naivite.
Cassie was clearly a normal teenager which meant a combination of backtalk, arguments, selfishness and self pity. Katelyn appeared to have a head on her shoulders, but lacked any real world training or knowledge. Brad was self-sufficient and exceptional, but he was also a teen aged boy which pushed the Dumb Belief in Immortality rating to Defcon Five.
Patty had her hands full.
Then there was Lamar. He was feeling much better since he started taking the antibiotics, but with the exception of his late night spying on the three crazies, he spent most of his time looking to Patty to make all the hard decisions. And during those times, he had a tendancy to take it easy a little too much for Patty's preference.
For instance, when the woman offered them the well water, Lamar took a cup and sat down under a tree and took a break, rather than get all their containers and fill them first. That meant Patty was left to do the filling as well as keeping an eye on the teens and the road.
Then, when they received the corn from the kind man, Lamar set down his shotgun next to his bike and went over and chewed the fat with the farmer. What if it had been a trap? What would Lamar have done then? Shouted mean words? Called his lawyer?
It was little things like that which drove Patty nuts. In spite of everything that happened, Lamar still needed to be reminded the situation they were in and his responsibilities to the group.
Thinking about Lamar, Patty's thoughts turned to the pills they had taken from Peri's wagon. If there was anything one could say about Patty was she was prone to think about tomorrow today. The pills, to Patty, were an irreplaceable commodity. Yes, they could get Lamar well, but they could also be used for her family when she got home. So she filled an extra bag, weight be damned, with antibiotics, pain killers and some others she recognized.
Even taking some for herself, she could use the surplus as a very valuable trade item if need be along the way home. And that led her thoughts to additional transportation namely for the kids. Preferrably, three more bikes for them to use. No, she had no regrets about leaving the horses and wagon behind regardless of the Lamar's questioning, the horses would have been more work than they were worth.
And then the kids. What to do about them? Yes, she was going to get them home to wherever they lived in Dallas, but what about the meantime? They weren't her kids. Could she tell them what to do? Was their health and welfare her responsibility beyond making sure they did not get hit crossing the street? What if Brad had a thing for Katelyn and they started... well you know. What then? Technically, they were adults, but...
This was enough to give Patty a headache. At least she had plenty of painkillers if she got one.
Peri pushed aside her hair from her sweaty brow and pulled open the compartment underneath the wagon bench. Inside, wrapped in a red mechanics rag, was a nickel plated, pearl handled .38 pistol.
It belonged to her late father, the stinking, drunk, Bible toting, gambling drifter who wandered in and out of her life from the age of three until just last year. The year she shot him in the head with the same very gun.
Still some more killing left in this gun. Peri opened the cylinder and counted the rounds. She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not...
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