January 9 & 10, 2012
The next morning, re-stocked from a still supply-stuffed Jackson, Serena and Madeline cranked the Power Wagon up and began growling through the deep snow covering the landscape. One mile out of town, Serena stopped the truck and swore.
Madeline was shocked. Serena never cussed.
“What?” She asked alarmed.
Serena clunked the Power Wagon into reverse and turned the truck around.
“We can’t do this,” she said. “We barely made it to Jackson last night. There’s just too much snow and we’ve got some worse elevation to cross. We just won’t be able to make it.”
Madeline said there were lots of supplies in town and it seemed safe enough.
They left the truck parked in the downtown and walked for several blocks checking on a variety of cottages, condos and houses before settling on a corner condo at the end of a cul de sac that had a large, bright living area that faced the Grand Tetons. It also had an entrance that was obscured from the main roadway, several hundred feet away.
It had a fireplace in the living room and, of all the luxuries, a woodstove in the bathroom, that doubled as a heater for a sauna. A walkout deck at the back offered stunning mountain views tucked away from eyes coming in on the main roads, and better yet, a fancy bricked-in barbecue that could serve as a firepit for cooking.
Serena found stocked larders in all four of the units in the condo building, and whistled when she found a .45 handgun in one unit. She grabbed it and the box of shells beside it.
Once they were ensconced in the condo, Serena returned to the truck and drove it to an adjacent street, where she left it in a skewed fashion across the roadway.
Satisfied that they would be as good off as she could manage, Serena informed Madeline, “We’ll stay here for a few days — maybe a week or two. We need to find some snowmobiles — maybe even a snowtrack from the ski hill and head up to Ridley’s. If he isn’t at his cabin, and I doubt he will be, he’ll be where I need him to be — in the park. And then we have to go there. First, we get your strength back up and we make sure we do this right.”
Madeline was fine with that plan. The thought of spending a few nights warm, sleeping in a bed and eating hot food — maybe even have a bath — filled her heart with joy and she smiled widely at Serena.
It had been many weeks since she’d seen that beautiful smile.
The winds of fate were blowing fat and cold when we rolled out of Bend – locked and loaded for bear and lion.
Andy wanted us to travel light, so we headed north in two trucks, including my big Dodge. Andy rode with me up front while Crest sat in the back, his back against the cab to keep out of the wind as much as possible. Calder had mounted the M264 into the box of the truck, giving us a hardcore speartip.
Behind us, in one of the trucks reclaimed from the mauraders from Carson City/Reno, also featuring a mounted machine gun, rode Hex, May and — box-hunkering Calder.
Andy simply pointed forward and said, “go,” when we left our brief home.
We returned to where we lost the little Nissan and rolled east up to Highway 26. I feared that we would come upon a body — the corpse of my first kill — my first victim. Miles rolled past and every drift of snow or bundle of wind-blown shit was a potential body to me. Thankfully, nothing appeared to be an actual body.
The trucks were stuffed full of fuel and we each toted 40 gallons in cans in their boxes.
Our first day out of Bend ended at Prairie City. We saw nothing and came upon no one, though now and then there were signs of post disappearance vandalism.
Andy noted Walla Walla was only a few hours north and Boise was only a few hours east. “There are bound to be bands roaming around,” he stated.
We spent the night in a lavish, sprawling home that defied its geographical location.
The next morning we cranked fuel from an old gas station tank and continued east on Highway 26, through the Malheur National Forest, down Eldorado Pass and over the Brogan Hill Summit to a road bump named Brogan. The distance we’d covered without seeing anyone was making me lose focus. I tore into the small hamlet without thinking of self-defence. Andy looked sideways at me.
“Might want to snap to, Bob,” he suggested. “We’re nearing the fat and juicy part of Idaho.”
His advice was still echoing in my head as we stopped outside another small burg named Jamieson. Andy scanned the road ahead and whistled.
“There we go,” he said casually.
He handed the binoculars to me.
After a couple of jerky glimpses, my eyes settled on a thin upward spiral of brown smoke, rising from behind a truck parked on the side of the highway.
Andy waved at Hex, who pulled his truck up beside us.
“Think we have a forward post,” he shouted up at Hex, then leaned back and shouted up to Calder. “Look to the northeast side of the highway. See the smoke?”
Looking through a riflescope, Calder replied, “yup.”
“Take it out,” Andy shouted so both Calder and Hex could hear him.
Without hesitation, Hex put his foot down and the truck powered away from us.
We were about a half a mile from the town and we watched as the truck moved away from us, eventually taking its sound with it. A staccato burst of gunfire suddenly erupted — like firecrackers being thrown a block away on a summer night.
Watching through the binoculars, Andy chuckled. “Let’s go.”
We clacked up to the scene and I gagged at the sight of what used to be a human splattered along the side of a truck. The former person was in five or six pieces — the result of being hit by numerous .50 calibre rounds.
“Anyone else?” Andy shouted from the truck at Calder. He shook his head.
May shouted from her seat in the other truck, “Don’t see anyone, but this guy has a radio on his truck.”
“Okay — time to keep moving but all senses have to be aware,” Andy shouted. “We’ve been reported to someone.”
Sixteen miles down the road, we halted before a town called Vale and once again our binoculars showed us the telltale signs of an outpost; smoke and movement.
“More than one at this place,” Andy said. “And they’re ready for us. Let’s head back and move around them.”
We skirted around the outpost and ended up, after some difficulty getting down a road covered with a thick, heavy crust of snow in a small town called Nyssa, near the Idaho border.
We were now behind the Boise Militia’s western front — which faced a remote, lonely landscape. It was because of that that we were able to slip over the thinly manned line, though the word was out that aggressors were present.
Andy said he hoped the militia was concentrating its efforts on covering Interstate 84 and it turned out they were.
Our two heavily armed trucks moved south down Highway 95 and I felt a twinge of longing for my Rocky Mountain home, straight north up that highway. I craved returning to my Lake Cocolalla cabin, to be with Carrie — to love her and to hold her and to never let her go.
Andy motioned me to branch off onto Highway 78 east and we arrived in a small place called Givens Hot Springs, where we stopped to consider our next moves.
“Boise is going to be hotter than hell,” Andy said, looking at a map of Idaho, fluttering in the cold late afternoon wind powering down from the Salmon River Mountains.
We agreed to have a quick nap in a hidden away property outside the village and make a run around Boise under the cover of early morning darkness.
The plan worked like a charm — until we came to a small town named Grand View.
It was 4:30 a.m. when we pulled out of our hiding space and it was still dark when all gorey hell broke loose.
Despite entering Grand View on full alert, we drove into a firestorm.
Rounds tore into the Dodge, shattering the windshield, and one round exploded the rearview mirror.
Crest began blazing away with the machine gun and Andy yelled at me to “get us the fuck out of here.”
Instinctively, I turned the Dodge right and pushed her over a thiny snowy field to a long driveway that led to an old farmhouse. Rounds whizzed past us. One slammed into the right rear quarter panel and I winced, expecting to hear an explosion.
“It’s empty tanks that explode, right?” I shouted as the driveway came to an end and we skidded to a halt. Behind me, Hex had turned his truck to face the highway and Calder was pouring lead toward a target of some kind.
We scrambled from the truck and hit the ground. Andy yelled, “head to that house.”
In seconds we rallied behind a farmhouse. Incredibly, no one had been hit or hurt.
Andy’s plan was simple.
“I’ll be right back,” he said and charged around the side of the house and bolted across a lawn, through a small bush and over a field before we lost sight of him.
We assumed defensive positions in and beside the house, and Hex pushed across the same field, angling toward where he thought the gunfire had come from.
I was seated at an open bedroom window on the second floor of the house, which seemed to have been abandoned for about a year. I couldn’t see much beside grey, still trees.
Two hundred or 230 yards away, three men with the Boise Militia were having a meltdown.
They’d been ordered to be alert for invaders but they never believed for a second they’d have to deal with them. So they spent the night partying like the mentally deprived bandits they were.
It was in fact quite a feat that some of their rounds actually hit my truck, as Andy estimated he saw “at least 40 beer cans and several bottles of hard booze” when he returned to the farmhouse.
Before then, he charged three drunken and terrified punk crooks who were assigned tasks only trained, professional soldiers should consider. And at that, the finest soldiers wouldn’t have a chance.
The three men didn’t fire a shot before Andy dispatched them with his blade. They didn’t see him or hear him coming.
After dispatching the men, Andy returned, bringing Hex with him.
“We have to get out of here, now,” he said.
A thin fingernail clipping of light cracked across the eastern sky as we stormed back onto the highway and, with machine gunners at the read, sped through Grand View.
Andy directed me toward the interstate at Hammett, where Serena had been days before, and with both trucks side-by-side, we rolled down the dead highway, expertly parting to pass wrecks, right along the spine of the Boise Militia.
The next hour was a testement to their small number as we defied our ways east to near Twin Falls, where Andy ordered a stop to assess our next route.
We were stopped below an overpass at Jerome, just west of Twin Falls. Andy was announcing that we would continue heading down the interstate — “hiding in plain sight” — when a black military helicopter appeared. Framed by the bridge and distant Snake River Plains, it bristled with guns.
No one had time to formulate a thought, let alone take action, when a flash signaled a rocket being fired.
A flash of hot orange filled the right side of my vision as Hex’s truck exploded. The force of the blast incinerated Hex, May and Calder and tore Crest, standing atop my truck, apart. The explosion knocked the Dodge hard, pushing it angrily to the left. Andy slammed against me, thrashing. He flicked the door open and drove me out, again falling on top me on the ground. A metallic explosion precluded another headlong lurch. As the chopper let loose with its M230 chain gun, Andy forced me forward and dragged me to cover behind the cement and steel of the overpass.
My Dodge leapt up and sounded like it whinied as the chain gun tore into it like a school of piranhas on a prime rib roast.
“Stay here!” Andy screamed — his voice barely audible below the cacophony. I couldn’t think of anything, let alone my next move. I nodded. Andy crawled up the side of the overpass, holding the Beretta shotgun. The chopper suddenly appeared above us, sending a gale force of wind down on us, its engines whining angrily.
I couldn’t hear the Beretta as Andy pumped rounds at it. The helicopter arched violently away, its pilot spooked by Andy’s aim, and he skidded back down to me.
“Get to the truck and grab any weapons you can,” he screamed at me. He then ran past me toward the other side of the overpass. As I reached into my smoking, ruined Dodge and fumbled for my Beretta, fortunately undamaged from the ripping the truck took; the chopper dropped back down for another burst of fire.
Andy was ready for them. The Beretta popped silently… one, two, three, four, five rounds… each slamming into the helicopter’s windshield. It took less than four seconds for him to fire five rounds. The helicopter pilot could only react to the threat and failed to fire his final rocket. The chopper veered back and up, out of Andy’s line of fire. Like a demon possessed, he charged forward to stay in sight of the helicopter and fired his final three rounds at it, aiming at the tail roter. Each round caused carnage, with the final one succeeding in spooking the pilot enough to force him to retreat. A thin trail of black smoke trailed from the helicopter as it disappeared from sight.
Andy took a step toward me and I could see that he was bleeding heavily. He’d been shot in the stomach or chest.
The Dodge exploded, sending Andy spinning sideways. I know this because as I was thrown onto my back, against the slope alongside the overpass, I watched Andy’s bloody body fly past before a sweet, delicate darkness covered me.
Ian Cobb/e-KNOWTags: 11:11Ian Cobb
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