(This is the last post from Eulogy. The entire book is now posted in my blog. I would appreciate any critiques you may have. If you took the time to read it all, thank you! 🙂 I certainly hope you enjoyed it.
Anna was driving like an old pro, this Mark was proud of. He knew she was a survivor and he couldn’t imagine anyone he’d rather be with on this weird post-apocalyptic journey. The first few days had been uneventful; they had stopped at a hardware store and filled his trailer with gas cans. Then they had stopped at a gas station and pried open the lid to the tanks and used a modified kerosene pump to fill all the cans.
They had made incredibly good time, they were completely self-efficient, and didn’t need to stop unless they needed to use the bathroom. Whenever one of them needed to they would just yell out “BIO”, it was a term Mark had picked up from an online video game he used to play, meaning: biological function.
They rode side by side when traffic permitted, traffic Mark thought was a morbid way to think of it. Usually being stuck in traffic meant you were trying to get somewhere. Now it meant you were dead, or at least stuck trying to get around the dead.
Alex had picked up a nice CB at the ATV store, this he had attacked to the 4 wheeler, and ran it using batteries. He had tried regularly to get a signal, and a few times he thought he had heard something. He was a bit downhearted that he had not once in three days heard a single voice.
It had rained several times the past few days, and he was worried they would get sick. They were riding along steadily, and he had the CB on as usual draining battery after battery. There was a loud burst of static and then he heard, “ello…one……there.” He stopped and killed the engine. Anna did the same.
Mark ecstatic threw off his helmet and grabbed the hand set, “Hello I hear you!”
“E…got…sumbody….ed.” It sounded like a woman’s voice, but was hard to tell.
“I can barely hear you,” Mark yelled at the handset, sure they were having as much trouble hearing , as he was.
“We..ear you..ine, lease..on’t ell.” Came a different voice, an older man maybe, hard to tell.
Anna giggled at Mark, Mark smiled back. “Sorry, we can only hear bits and pieces of what you are saying.”
“Copy, will try..nd..alk..lower..so you can..ear us.’ Slowly spoke what he was now sure was a woman’s voice.
“Thank you, we are on 4 wheelers, and my CB is running off low battery power.” Mark told them.
“Copy, ow many are ith you?” Asked the man.
“Just two of us, we have only seen one other person alive, he was sick, got sick after everyone else was dead, he tried to kill us.” Mark told them matter of fact like.
“We are lad you re safe. There are our of us, be areful, some of the ealthy vivors are killing eople oo.” The static filled voice of a younger man broke through.
He understood every word, then thought to himself, that’s just fucking great, survive this bull shit just to be attacked and killed, what the hell could someone possibly want, everything is free. Then it hit him, he had thought the diseased man who had attacked them had only done so because he was delirious. Then every movie, book, news article, expose, and story he’d ever heard about rape. They would want the women. He tried to shake this thought off.
Anna noticed the distressed look on his face and asked. “What’s wrong Mark? This is great, there are more people.”
“Nothing sweetie, just a bad thought is all.” Then he continued into the handset. “Copy, we are somewhere on 77 just north of Bluefield, we started out near Philadelphia. We are clipping along at about thirty miles per hour, but we don’t get stuck at roadblocks.” Mark answered.
“at’s smart. E have umthing for traffic ams.” He thought he heard the guy chuckle.
The ladies voice came through again, “e are in orth arolina.” Then after a loud burst of static, “east of aleigh.” By this time Anna had their map out, and he again felt grateful for her.
She had her finger on Raleigh even before he had gotten a good look at the map. “That’s why you’re the navigator.” She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
“Not far,” came the older man’s voice.
The woman again, “we ure could use ome more company, we onna run out of tories oon.”
“What do you think?” Mark asked Anna.
“May be a good idea, hard to hear what they are saying, but I don’t think people warning us of danger, would try to hurt us.” Anna replied. That was all the assurance Mark needed.
“We are on our way, we will be there as soon as we are able. Will you wait?” Asked Mark anxiously.
“o ourse we I’ll wait or you.” Came the woman’s voice, she sounded cheery even through all the static.
Mark and Anna agreed to check in with them periodically, but knew that the reception they had gotten had to have been a fluke, They were still inside West Virginia, at a place where even the best car tuner could barely pick up a local station.
They drove harder and longer than on any other day since leaving the park, they had only spoken briefly about the man who had attacked them. Mark felt pity for him, but was not sorry he had killed him. Worried how Anna may have taken this information, he winced when she began to speak. He was expecting to be admonished for having such a callous attitude, but she hadn’t. She had in fact told him that she was glad he had done it.
She said, “you have saved my life on two separate occasions, the second time you risked your life in doing so. I owe you more than I can ever repay. Even if I save your life ten times today and twenty times tomorrow, I am only able to do so because you saved me first. I am yours, always and forever.”
She stared unblinking at him as she said this, he thought he could feel the heat emanating from her eyes. He began to speak, but found he could not. His eyes never left hers until she broke contact. She had kissed him, and awkwardly they had made love.
They were like any kids, although she had been repeatedly raped, she was still as much a novice as he was. They explored each other with rabid curiosity, this too skinny boy and a too skinny girl. They were truly in love, and knew their roads however twisted and long, were forever entwined.
It had been two days since the dog attacks, Alex was still in a great deal of pain from the gunshot, and his head wound had become infected. Sherry had used one of the remaining Hazmat suits to care for him, it was cumbersome, and made tending Alex’s wounds a great deal harder. This caused him extra pain, but he never once complained.
While Alex was under Sherry’s care Red had surveyed the work he had done to the large military vehicle, and with Alex’s blessing had started doing some work to it himself. He used the hummer and went exploring a bit, he took a gun, as would become the new fashion. He had found a large scrap yard and had been going and returning with loads of steel he added to the monstrosity.
From Alex’s tent, he saw that Red had done some serious work, Sherry had him sealed up in the tent for most of two full days, until she was sure he was not infected with the virus. He was no worse for the wear, just terribly sore.
Red had given him a walkie talkie at some point so he wouldn’t feel alone. And he could ask if he needed help. These were good people, and he was very glad to have encountered them. He had a few feverish dreams until the antibiotics and aspirin had knocked it out of him, and he finally felt like himself.
They had just gotten off the CB after talking to a young guy somewhere up in West Virginia. Red had hopped in the truck to talk to him, Sherry was in the jeep, and Alex had climbed in Sandra and Phil’s car. They had them all brimming with excitement. They were on their way, soon the four would be six. The kid whoever he was had sounded excited to talk to them, and they couldn’t wait to hear if he had any more news.
Sherry along with caring for Alex, had taken it upon herself to reorganize their supplies. Beth had offered to help, and they had done quite an efficient job of this. They had made a ledger, to show what they had in stock. It was busy work, something to keep their minds off things, and so they would feel like they were contributing.
Red had gotten directions from Alex and had set off the next day, in search of the armory. They were waiting on the kids and Red decided another big truck like Alex’s was just what they needed. He hoped their party would continue to grow, and he wanted to be prepared for the time when it did.
Red surprised them all when he pulled back into camp with not one, but two large vehicles, he had gotten another five ton identical to Alex’s with the exception of the modifications they had done, he was towing it with a semi wrecker.
Alex said, “Nice one Red, nothing’s gonna stop us.”
“I just thought we could use the extra room for supplies, and the wrecker was just to cool not to take.” He smiled.
Beth hadn’t spoken very much the past few days, she had been in a state of shock, and slowly but surely seemed to be coming out of it. “Nice work.”
“Now if you think we are moving all that stuff into that truck well you’re certainly mistaken mister!” Sherry said with a grin.
Red set out again no sooner than he had arrived with the big trucks. Alex fell back to sleep before he returned and snoozed a deep and dreamless sleep.
Alex woke to the sound of the semi’s air brakes relieving pressure. Red was lowering the massive truck so he could do some modifying it appeared.
“What’s up boss?” Asked Alex as he approached Red operating the giant wreckers controls.
“Well it occurred to me, that loaded down as your truck is, and the added weight of all that steel, you may need a bit of a push in some of the tighter areas.” Red replied.
It’s then Alex saw the large tractor tires Red had picked up, “So you just want to play giant bumper cars?” Alex smirked.
This is how they spent the next few days, cajoling each other, collecting things, and just relaxing, it had rained heavily for over a full day and the travelers they were awaiting had stopped to wait it out. They didn’t mind. They made modifications, some practical, some impractical. Red had added a makeshift periscope to Alex’s truck while Alex was asleep one day and painted a pirate flag on the driver’s side door.
Today the new guys would arrive, and they would be on their way. They were all anxious, even Beth seemed to be opening up a bit more. Red was seeing more of the girl he had met that first night at the campsite, he was glad, she had a normal reaction to a horrible event.
Alex had spoken with Mark a few times as they had waited, he asked if he knew how to drive something so large, and Mark had assured him, if you teach me, I will be fine. He hadn’t thought to ask Beth, he found himself acting geeky around her, and would find a reason to be anywhere else at just that time.
He was sitting by his truck watching the wind wave the branches of the pines lining the interstate. It put him in mind of some giant ancient concert taking place within and without everything on the earth. Only the trees could hear the music. So they swayed along with the rhythm.
“I don‘t bite you know.” Beth said shyly snapping him out of his reverie.
“I, I didn’t.” He stuttered.
“I’m sorry, I am being stupid as always.” He saw tears form in the corners of her eyes, and as she turned to walk away he grabbed her hand.
“You make me nervous.” Was all he got out. She grinned, tears streaked her cheeks falling from the most beautiful green eyes he had ever seen. She was stunning in the afternoon light.
He guided her and she sat beside him, sniffling as she went. “I make you nervous, but why?”
“Under any other circumstances I don’t think I could even say this, but the world has changed, and I am changing with it.” Even after that declaration, he found the words still tried to balk his will. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He finished with a very serious look on his face, as if he believed saying these words, would cause him some horrible affliction, but hadn’t.
It wasn’t that she had never been called beautiful, it wasn’t that she believed herself ugly, but the way he had said it, and the look in his eyes, had completely taken her by surprise. She was speechless, she leaned into him, and kissed him on the cheek.
He could see her tears had returned, but this time he sensed no sadness. He hugged her to his chest and they sat like that a very long time.
Mark and Anna made it to where they were camped at 6:14PM that evening. They warmly greeted each other, pleasantries were exchanged. Alex and Beth had gotten them each a clean bucket of water, and sat up curtains behind one of the trucks so they could freshen up.
While they bathed, Sherry and Red managed to cook up a very tasty meal, of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dinner rolls, complete with a large onion. Sherry made a gallon of her world famous Iced Tea, “well it’s world famous in Tennessee, where I’m from.” She told them defiantly, grinning all the while.
This had even been a surprise to Alex and Beth. Red on one of his outing’s that day had found a restaurant, and although the last of the power had gone out, the food in the freezer was still good and frozen. They were all glad he did.
They all had so many questions to ask, and so much on their minds, but none spoke during dinner, after Red said the blessing. “Dear Lord, thank you for this bounty we are about to receive. Please allow it to nourish our bodies. We thank you dear Lord that you decided to spare us, we know not why, but we do know you have a plan for us all. Thank you for this one last home cooked meal, because you only know when the next one will be. Amen.”
The all chimed in, “Amen.” Then there was only the sounds of eating.
They each in turn surveyed those surrounding them, unable to keep the thought of “why us”, out of their minds. Mark kept wondering what he had in common with these people, he had been worried about coming to meet these strangers. He was worried for Anna’s sake. He had calmed considerably when they had said they had two women with them. He hadn’t told them that the person traveling with him was a woman until after he knew that.
They had all eaten their dinners, and were stretching, it was still quite early. Red said, “Ah, almost forgot, one more thing.” He disappeared into the semi wrecker and came out with several bags a few minutes later. One was full of cigarettes and cigars he had all sorts of brands. The other bag was full of beer.
He took out a large cigar and a beer, then handed the bag to his wife. “Hey, these beers are cold.” Sherry was surprised.
“Truck has a fridge in it, and I know smoking is bad and all that, but all the cigarettes and cigars won’t be fit to smoke before long.” Red smiled.
Sherry looking in the bag smiled, he had remembered what brand she smoked, and had gotten her a full carton. She leaned over passed the bag to Beth then turned back and kissed Red deeply. They all drank and smoked to their hearts content, then pair by pair all headed off to sleep. Alex and Beth had been the last to go.
“Would you lay with me a while? I think I would enjoy that. Only if it’s ok and you don’t mind?” Beth asked Alex.
He stood and took her hand, they walked back to his tent and slept curled in each other’s arms.
All Together 20
The night before they collectively decided to wait until breakfast to tell all their individual stories. They had all agreed and most had lain that night thinking how to explain what all they had seen and heard. Sherry and Beth had the shortest stories to tell, allowing Red to take over and start from the moment he had met Sandra and Phil at the manager’s office. He added how strangely they had acted, and how aggressive Sandra seemed to be.
Alex was grateful for Red’s small attempts at letting him know he was not at fault for the confrontation with Phil and his unstable wife. The stories continued till nearly lunch, Anna had shared much of her story at the reformatory but she had skipped the most horrid parts she had been trying to forget. These parts she was afraid to share with anyone other than Mark.
Mark started his story all the way back days before his father had died, he liked talking about his dad. Everyone seemed to enjoy his story, as much as one can enjoy such a story. Knowing that the ending will be the most unbearably tragic ending one could imagine even before the telling has a tendency to put a damper on the subject matter. Apocalypse.
Alex was last to start and everyone had listened with great interest at everyone else’s story, the mood quickly changed when Alex began. Alex was a natural story teller. He is able to draw you into the story. He can make you see just what he saw and just how he felt.
Everyone had cringed when Alex told them of what the neighbor had asked and as he told how he squeezed the trigger and nothing happened, he could see the strain on the faces of his audience. He could see their longing for someone to burst in and save the day, but this was his story, and it was not a happy story.
Alex had tastefully left out the pills and liquor. He told of his accident, but not how or why it happened. He thought to himself, I was just upset. I am better now. No need to make people think I’m crazy. When he finished everyone was staring at him. He felt a little uncomfortable, until he realized the expressions on these people’s faces was not one of hatred, mistrust, fear, or any of the other things he had half expected to see when he told his story.
The looks on their faces could best be described as adulation mixed with pity. He was at a loss when Red chimed in. “Alex we’ve all had a hard road so far, you did what you had to do. Don’t be sitting around here thinking we got bad feelings towards you for what happened. Seems to me, you probably saved all our lives. That woman was terribly ill and I don’t think her husband was much better off than she was.” Red paused and looked around at all those faces surrounding the long dead campfire, signaling now was to the time to add their two cents worth.
Mark, spoke next, “look, we have seen it firsthand. There were bodies everywhere, some appeared to have been healthy and they were shot and killed. It looks like a lot of people just went crazy, if ya ask me to much of the population was relying on pills to get by. Everyone ran out of pills at the same time, that’s my guess.”
Sherry spoke next, “I think you may be on to something young man. We need to be careful.”
“I agree totally, that was something I wanted to bring up, security.” Red added.
“What do you mean?” Asked Beth.
“Well, as Alex told us he was attacked and nearly killed by that man at the store and as I and Alex said earlier, there was Sandra and Phil. Mark you and Anna were attacked also. Then there were the bodies at the Wal-Mart.” Red pointed out.
“We are all with ya, so what do you suggest?” Asked Sherry.
“Well,” Red paused a moment collecting his thoughts. “We have no choice but to assume that these were not isolated incidents. We need to be proactive, we have 3 large vehicles, perhaps we should follow Alex’s lead and modify them a bit for our needs. The hummer can be used to scout ahead seeing what obstacles lay ahead. It’s just a thought I had.”
“Sounds like a pretty good idea.” Stated Alex.
“I added some support to the plows on the front of your truck, I was thinking after hearing what has happened to all you guys, maybe we should add some plating to the trucks. This way there will be something between us and any would be assassins. I found a nice supply of steel not far from here.” Said Red.
“All in favor say I.” Sherry told them.
“We have a lot of supplies, but we don’t know what may happen on the road. Maybe we need to get a fuel truck in our convoy, I don’t like the idea of having to stop, if we carry all that we need with us we can make it all the way to the Rocky Mountains without stopping. Then again, we have no idea how many people we may meet.” Alex had collected what he could find. But knew it would never be enough. Then after a brief pause added, “Think of it as packing for a trip your never coming back from.”
“It’s like the old question. What three things would you take with you on a desert island?” Beth said.
“Well we aren’t going to do without, not for a while anyway, I was thinking of heading up near Yellowstone, somewhere out in one of the national forests, so there will be no stores nearby. We will have to take everything we can. Then after we are settled, we will have to travel to stock up.” Replied Alex.
“Well this is going to take us probably the rest of the day and maybe part of tomorrow, so we had better get busy.
They sat a few seconds, then Mark rose first, and Anna followed suite, “Ok what can we do?” Asked Mark.
Alex was already trying to figure out how to attach plates to the sides of the trucks, he hoped Red was more knowledgeable than he himself was. He stood and wandered towards his truck and the pile of scrap metal that he and Red had already amassed.
“Well I think you and Alex had talked about you driving one of these trucks here.” Red said as he approached Mark pointing towards the truck that had yet to be modified.
“I can learn, if you are willing to teach me.” Answered Mark, earnestly. “ Then he added, Anna can learn also. So we can switch off. He saw a wee bit of a reproachful look on her face, he shrugged at her and she gave a nervous smile.
“Well if you’re willing to learn, I can’t ask for more than that. They are really very simple, they are just big is all. He set off with Mark and Anna in tow, he noticed Alex had out a measuring tape, and was measuring his truck meticulously taking notes of every dimension of the large motorized beast.
Sherry and Beth were the last to rise, each of which lit a cigarette after everyone else had made way to their various chores. “Well Beth, want to go shopping?”
Beth perked up at the cheeriness in Sherry’s voice and answered, “sure thing.”
That day turned to two days, two days turned to three, no one was unhappy they had not left yet, the second day as they were finishing up work armor plating their trucks they had gotten a signal on the CB. They used the radios constantly, never going more than fifteen minutes without someone just saying, “hi, everyone ok?”
They would tell jokes back and forth as they remembered them. Everyone was in good spirits, there were three more survivors coming to join them. They couldn’t have been more pleased. Mark and Anna were both comfortable with the large vehicles, Red who had paid his way through college driving a rig had taught Alex to drive the giant tow truck.
The vehicles all looked like some fierce futuristic fighting machines. There were hinged slots to be open when driving, Red had set up a clever system so that all you had to do to close the slot was to pull a rope he had tied inside the cab, this would pull free a small pin he had put in place holding the slots open. The windows had several peep holes large enough to fire a rifle out of. These side pieces and the steel over the windshields had been the thickest they could find.
They had driven the trucks following Alex as he tested out his makeshift dozer, which worked quite well. He flipped a few vehicles and was sure he would break something, but he had not. He put their work through its paces and it was good. Once at the scrap yard they used winches and pulleys to set the heavier pieces into place for welding. Red was excellent at this and taught Mark how to weld, and filled Alex in on the parts he had missed in his classes.
The time had come for them to leave. They all stood around surveying their convoy of vehicles. Alex said aloud to everyone, “Well looks like we are about to film the remake to one of the Mad Max movies.”
Red, Sherry, Alex, and even Anna laughed. Mark and Beth just looked puzzled. Alex explained, “Mad Max was a movie franchise starring Mel Gibson that took place in a post-apocalyptic world. They drove stuff like this.”
Mark and Beth both shrugged, “guess ya had to of been there huh,” offered Mark.
“Guess so,” agreed Beth and the both laughed.
Everyone grinned at this. Their spirits were as high as they had been all along. They felt as if they were making progress. They felt alive, no longer despairing about what they had lost. They were focused on the future.
They loaded their gear and made plans to travel at least twenty miles. They would then wait on the new arrivals who were driving motorcycles and wouldn’t have an issue catching up. They wanted to get an idea of how slow going the traveling would be. They were going to carefully plan their route and distance goals for each day. They set out not knowing what the road ahead held for them but they were optimistic.
Jakobs and his crew had slowly made their way through Tennessee waylaying any travelers they found. They stole their gear and left the bodies of the victims hidden out of sight. Jakobs, as was his habit inspected each group looking for a suitable wife to replace the whore he had murdered. His hopes were always doused. He began to wonder if there would be a suitable woman left for him to take. He was careful not to let one of his men slip up and alert the group he was following of their presence. He would show himself but not until he was ready.
He had worked out a plan to help him with his conquest. He knew he had to be subtle and was a little worried one of his killers would blow it for him. The men he traveled with were the most vile he had ever met. They accepted his leadership and no one questioned his orders. Why would they? He thought I let them do whatever they like. They are free men.
He dreamt at night that he had not escaped the confines of the police cruiser and would wake with leg cramps so sever he would nearly cry out. He thought they were just remnants of the strain he had put on his muscles while he was wearing the shackles. “Fucking pigs!” He spat aloud at this thought.
Jakobs’ group was very well stocked now. They each drove a large truck all loaded down with anything one would need. All stolen and the former owners murdered. Jakobs had no hand directly in their killings but he was responsible just the same. “Their business, not mine.” He would tell himself aloud to quell any feelings of guilt which were trying to arise.
As they neared the larger group, “Alex and Red’s group,” he called it he admonished his men to leave people alone. They sulked like children when Jakobs forbade them to stop the two women and three men who had passed them on motorcycles. They had quickly pulled off to the side of the interstate and hid. Yes Alex and Red, they were the ones to win over. The others were following them just as his group followed him.
He was waiting to meet up with them at a place where they could take what they wanted and leave quickly with options for multiple routes. He wanted his guys to split at the same time; he just didn’t want them to know that.
The kid was pretty smart and Jakobs knew he could be useful. The rest were almost animal like. They lived and breathed anarchy and death. They, Jakobs noted all seem to have some sort of mental disease. Once there was no one to give them rules they did just what they wanted when they wanted. Jakobs was the only law they had now and he didn’t care what they did as long as it did not interfere with his plans.
Jakobs spent every night intently listening to his CB trying to figure out how many people they had now and when more were arriving. More importantly he wanted to know how many women they had and how old they were.
So Jakobs quietly stalked Alex and his group careful not to be noticed. They didn’t have to be close he knew where they were heading so he was just waiting until he knew they had what he needed. He even considered taking two women.
This idea he dismissed. He was looking for a wife and that was all. He didn’t think it would be right to take two because two would be harder to break at once.
Their journey had been fairly uneventful. They were meeting new people gradually at first but then with more frequency. These new travelers were all happy to be with a larger group and to Alex’s dismay they all seemed to look to him for guidance.
One day Alex confided in Red, “Red these people act like I am in charge or something. Before all this happened I could barely guide my ass off the couch to go to the toilet.”
Red chuckled at this and then earnestly to Alex he said. “Great leaders seldom choose to be leaders. It is chosen for them. You have strength in you; you stepped up when I could not. If not for you that girl over there,” he pointed to Beth, “my wife, and I would probably all be dead. I froze you see. I couldn’t shoot him. I am sorry. You have risen to the occasion my friend. You possess all the qualities of a great leader.”
Alex looked on dumbfounded as Red spoke; he wanted to balk but did not interrupt.
Red continued, “You don’t want to be a leader. That is the number one sign of a great leader, no desire for power. You do everything for the betterment of the whole and not yourself. It was your idea everyone got behind so I believe you’re stuck with the moniker, Boss Man.”
Alex just grinned and said, “Thanks Red.”
Alex and Red spoke a great deal as the days wore on, everyone in their steadily growing convoy listened as they goofed and joked. Occasionally others chimed in. They talked about building an entire compound so they could defend themselves. People would say what skills they had and how they could help.
The feeling of hope spread like wildfire through the group. With each day the hopelessness that all once shared faded. It was always a bit tense when new arrivals came; everyone would stare looking for signs of sickness. Many had had violent encounters with other survivors and were wary. As the group grew these feelings were washed away. The group’s mantra was “Strength in numbers.”
Some that came were injured and Sherry ever vigilant tended their wounds. It had begun to wear her down because she barely slept. By the beginning of the second week they had a second nurse traveling with them. She had been out of town when the virus struck traveling to a wedding. She heard the news and drove her truck into the woods off the side of the highway and waited it out. Her truck had been stocked with food and drinks for a charity drive. By luck she hadn’t had time to deliver the food before leaving town. Her name was Ruth and after her arrival Sherry slept for the better part of a day.
Things were coming together fast and happily. No one fought or bickered. The convoy grew.
Little did they know Jakobs was listening as well. He made note of how many people they spoke of traveling. He knew there were at least a dozen women or more with them now. There were even more men he guessed but they never said the exact number on the CB.
Jakobs’ men grew restless and he knew he would have to meet up with this group soon before his animals were foaming at the mouth. He hated laws and rules but he could see from these killers that they were necessary for some. He was not the one to institute and enforce them. He was his own man and would not be told how to live or what to do. So he did not want to tell another man how to live. Take away a man’s freedoms and you take away your own he thought.
He was closer now to them than he had ever allowed his group to venture before. He stopped his truck and they all followed suit. He had them gather around as he picked up the transmitter.
“Hello?” He spoke.
“Hello, we hear ya.” came Mark’s voice.
“Hey we heard ya talking the other night and started heading in this direction.” Jakobs was cool and calm. This new manner of speaking unnerved even the most hardened of the killers he travelled with.
“You should have yelled at us before now then, we have a nice sized group. Safer to travel with numbers ya know?” Mark replied.
“Well we ran into some trouble with some other survivors we met so we waited and listened but you folks seem friendly enough.” Jakobs laid it on thick.
“Hey my name is Alex,” he had overheard and jumped in the conversation.
Jakobs knew his voice well he had been monitoring it for nearly two weeks now. “Jakobs here, I am traveling with four other men five people in all.”
“Well why don’t y’all come join us we can have some coffee and get acquainted.” Alex had a knack for saying the right thing the right way to put wary travelers at ease before they came to join them. He just didn’t know this was no wary traveler. He was about to let a pack of murderers into their midst.
“We sure will buddy, that sounds real nice. I haven’t had a good cup of coffee in ages.” Jakobs had not lied. The prison coffee would have been better suited for use as paint thinner.
Jakobs could see the way his killers grew antsy. They too knew there were women in this group. They wanted to have some fun. Jakobs thought a man with no conscience in a world without consequences was a dangerous thing.
Alex relayed their position and told Jakobs they’d be anxiously awaiting their arrival. Jakobs already knew where they were. He had never been more than five miles from them for days careful not to be seen by passersby.
Before setting out Jakobs addressed his men, “listen close now, we can’t screw this up. I am finding me a wife and I don’t care what y’all do after that. I suggest getting you a woman and disappearing. There aren’t many left ya know?” He looked from man to man and they all nodded agreement at his tyrants gaze. Jakobs enjoyed the power of being the leader.
“This thing that killed everybody was no accident and these fools banding together are making a huge mistake. A large group is easier to find than a small one. Those foreign bastards will be here to claim their prize one day and I ain’t going to be a sitting duck when they come.” Jakobs could see from their cumulative expressions that this idea had never crossed their minds.
Jakobs continued, “If you think our rules were bad wait till you have to follow theirs.” He cleared his throat and thought a minute. “Listen we got to be calm a few days and then we will make our move.”
They all reluctantly nodded agreement. Jakobs saw the disdain on all faces but the kids. He would have to assess the situation quickly make his choice and get the hell out before these murderous fools thwarted his plans and got him killed.
They arrived at the meeting spot an hour later and had all eyes on them. Jakobs exited his truck with a un-Jakobs like smile on his face and walked right up to Alex and pumped his hand as if they were long lost best friends. They made their introductions and Jakobs one at a time shook everyone’s hand that came out to greet them. Silently he took note of all the women he saw.
He looked Anna over and was not noticed, she had been attractive before whoever smashed her face had done their handy work he could tell. She was also young, but not to young a perfect specimen. Then he saw the remnants of bruises on her legs. She was wearing shorts and he noticed that the bruises were mainly on her inner thighs and she walked with some discomfort. She was not what he needed. He assumed she had been beaten and raped and somehow survived. He wasn’t sure but from what he saw he doubted she would be able to conceive.
It was then Beth walked around the corner of a large semi wrecker where they had fashioned a makeshift shower. She was gorgeous and seemed as healthy and fit as any woman he had ever seen. This was the one he wanted. He decided they would spend a few days with these people and watch their habits. Then he would steal away during the night and take his prize with him.
Beth walked up to Alex and kissed his cheek leaving a big smile on his face. Fool kid Jakobs thought to himself. Let a woman act like that in public and next thing you know they are slutting it up with every man they meet. That would be the first thing he’d have to teach her. That behavior will not be tolerated. He felt a tinge of guilt. If I had of not been so easy on the whore this wouldn’t have happened. I won’t be so easy on miss pretty here.
“So you were a police officer before?” Inquired Red to Jakobs.
“I was a deputy, mostly transported prisoners to and from court.” Jakobs lied.
They sat around and drank coffee telling stories and joking. Jakobs was surprised his merry band of murderers were able to hold it together as well as they did. A few times he caught them ogling some of the women but they went unnoticed.
They ate dinner that night and all retired to their individual camps which made up the whole. Jakobs slept in the bed of his truck as was his habit. He liked the open air and did not want to be confined inside a tent.
The next day Jakobs spoke with Alex, Red, and some of the others throughout the day telling improvised stories to pass the time. He needed them to be comfortable with him and his men and so he kept up the charade. His men had mostly been quiet, even the kid and that was not his way. Jakobs still liked him but he talked a bit too much.
They travelled and slept another night. The day was uneventful and a new smaller group merged with the larger. It was four women and six men. Jakobs knew it was almost time to act, before too many joined them to safely pull off his plan.
“I’m a little worried Red.” Alex confided.
“What about Alex?” Red asked, but he already knew.
“Well that Jakobs fella seems nice enough and the young one he is a bit strange but he seems harmless. The other three kind of give me the creeps. Every now and then I see them looking at some of the women like those poor dogs looked at me. It’s like they haven’t seen a woman in years.” Red could see the sincerity on Alex’s face as he spoke.
“Yeah, I think your right. I have noticed and so have some of the other men. I hope we don’t have any trouble. It’s like what Mark said, ‘all the meds are gone.’” Red was just as concerned as Alex.
They had talked with Jakobs’ men at different times. They had each asked where they were from. Were they married and what they had done before all this happened. It was a common thread of conversation amongst all the new people.
They found it therapeutic to discuss what they had lost and at times they shed tears amongst others who truly knew their pain.
Jakobs’ men were different. Jakobs had not cried and caused no suspicions they just figured him for one of those tough country folk that knew how to choke down pain. His men seemed put offish and closed lipped about their origins. The kid had freely admitted he had lost his entire family. He had not cried but there were the hints of tears in his eyes. His behavior was odd and he seemed somehow overly geeky. No one thought badly of him for it and glazed over any odd comments he made.
It was late in the evening on Jakobs’ second day with Alex’s group. They had meals of various canned foods and warm bottled water. Alex, Red, and Jakobs accompanied by the kid as he often was, were all sitting around a small campfire talking. They all looked up when they heard a scream coming from one of the tents one of their traveling companions had pitched some 100 yards away.
As they ran towards the source Jakobs scanned the alerted faces of all he passed searching for those of his murderous cohorts. There was one he could not find. There number was nearly thirty in all and all were eager to discover the cause of the scream.
Alex, Red, and Jakobs arrived at the tent simultaneously followed by a few dozen others. Weapons were drawn and all were anxious. Alex never hesitated he approached the tent and asked “are you ok in there?”
There was no answer. The silence to his question sent a wave of foreboding through all that heard. Alex unzipped the tent as quickly as he was able leaned down and peered in. His moan of distress was audible to only those closest him. The look on his face when he straightened and turned was not.
She was one of the youngest of the group. She had joined them just a few days earlier. Her parents fell ill while they were at work and managed to keep her secluded in their home. She had been alone nearly a week and was half-starved when she was discovered by an elderly man, his wife, and the rest of the group which had arrived on motorcycles two days prior.
She was nervous all the time and kept to herself. She had watched her parents as they slowly died sitting in her driveway and was having a hard time coping with the loss. That would have been hard for any thirteen year-old.
Mark and Anna made regular trips to check on her through the evening hours and nights. She had accompanied them that day in the oversized truck. She had finally seemed to be coming out of her shell.
Alex could not hold back the tears of rage that welled in his eyes. He could barely keep his feet. The air grew thin as he gasped for breath. Had not Red and Jakobs been there he would have collapsed right in front of the tent.
“What is it? Is someone hurt?” Sherry asked as she pushed through the crowd.
Alex wasn’t able to stop her before she darted into the tent. Her sobs came fast and loud.
“Oh dear God no!” she cried. “Who did this?” she demanded.
Jakobs knew but would not let his face divulge that fact. He kept his expression of concern and bewilderment just as all the rest around him did.
Sherry knelt beside the lifeless naked body of the young girl. Her mouth had been taped and her arms bound with the same material. It appeared she had gotten her hands free and ripped the tape from her mouth long enough to let out a single scream before her attacker plunged a knife deep into her throat. Sherry could hardly catch her breath the poor child’s head had been nearly severed.
Alex and Sherry were the only ones who had seen the body but the rest understood quite easily. The stories of wanton violence they had shared amongst each other were horrific at best. Some had discovered mutilated corpses which had shown no signs of disease. Rapes had been witnessed. Random murders committed for no more reason than someone felt like it. All their minds immediately jumped to the same conclusion. They were all correct.
Alex was quickly gaining his composure. “Everyone out here now!” he demanded. The tears were gone, the rage was not.
Most everyone was there already; even Jakobs’ men were present albeit as far back as they could be save one. Alex scanned the gathered people and quickly knew who was missing. It had been one of the men he had watched staring at the women. One he had sensed would be trouble. This thought would eat at him for many months to come but now was not the time for regret. This was a time for recompense.
He turned to Jakobs and howled, “Where is he?”
Jakobs feigned distress and blubbered, “I don’t know man. I haven’t seen him in a few hours. He was always kind of weird ya know?”
“There” a faceless voice from the crowd shouted. The man was hiding behind a car some five hundred yards away. They saw his head pop up. He heard the shouting which ensued and he began to run as hard and as fast as he could. He had killed the girl and made a slit in the back of tent to escape.
He was barefooted and the asphalt hurt his feet as he pumped his legs as hard and as fast as he was able. He left the interstate and tore through the bushes and brambles. He could feel the briars tearing into his skin from head to toe yet he kept on.
He could hear engines roaring to life as the men began to give pursuit. Alex jumped on one of the four wheelers Anna and Mark had arrived on. He was glad they had unloaded them for a short supply run.
Alex blasted through the woods full force as briars tore into his face, hands, his bullet wound, and the gash on his head, which had not yet fully healed. He was determined to catch this man and kill him. He would not let a man like this live. He knew he could easily track them and possibly kill another of his group.
He wondered how the people who considered him to be some sort of leader would feel about him executing another murderer without a trial. He did not care. He would do what needed to be done.
Almost all of the men went after the killer. Jakobs had not. Only a few of the women gave chase and Jakobs’ remaining men slunk back towards their camps. Jakobs just as the women did looked on as the mob gave chase.
“Run you glorious murdering bastard” Jakobs grinned as he spoke. The time had come, this was his chance. This is not how he planned it nor was he expecting this but it was perfect.
Jakobs pulled his revolver and shot the three men who had not gone. The women began to scream and immediately his men were at his side each armed.
“Get over here girl” he demanded of Beth.
She took a step back and Jakobs shot the woman closest to her in the forehead spattering Beth’s blouse with blood and grey matter. He gave no warning before firing. He knew this window would be short lived and would close quickly, he had no time for idle threats.
“Get the fuck over here now!” He was losing his patience. “I will shoot all these worthless bitches if you don’t move your pretty little ass now!”
She obliged the man that no one had suspected. She now knew the police uniform was loose on him because it was made for someone else. She thought going with this man meant certain death but would not let another die on her behalf.
The men he had arrived with started grabbing at different women. One tried to fight and had been rend unconscious with a blow from the butt of a shotgun.
Jakobs cared not for what his men were going to do he had his prize and he needed to go. He guided Beth to his truck and darted off in the direction they had come from earlier that day. It was growing dark and he wanted to get to the exit three miles back they had passed before nightfall.
He grinned as they flew down the shoulder avoiding stalled cars. The look made Beth’s stomach turn. As the camp was nearly out of sight he saw two more sets of headlights coming in his direction. Well at least two of them got away he thought. He wondered if one had been the kid.
Catching The Killer
Alex was relentless in his chase of the murderer. He followed him over an embankment now noticing his old wounds were fresh with new blood and would need more mending. His arms were shredded. He saw the creek and never slowed it was dusk and he didn’t see the large rock jutting out of the embankment.
The four-wheelers axle struck and he flipped. He left the damaged machine head first and struck the opposite side of the embankment hard with his shoulder and the side of his face.
He never faltered he was up on his feet and still in pursuit within seconds. As he chased he noticed how oddly fit this man was, he would have had to be to keep up such a grueling pace. He didn’t seem the athletic type at all. Alex could envision him working in some office somewhere mindlessly banging on a keyboard then off to home where he’d whack off to some sleazy magazine and eat junk food until he passed out on his mother’s pink taffeta couch.
Alex often had such visions of people and in this case he was unknowingly close to the truth. The man’s name was Jason Smith as unassuming as any Alex had ever heard. The only oddity about his name was the lack of a middle name. “My parents just couldn’t agree on one and decided to wait and add it later but they forgot I guess.” He had tried to exhibit humor when he said this but the now dead girl had walked by at that moment and his smile had distorted into something far more menacing than what he had set out to show them. He was good at blending in but his taste for young girls was insatiable, hence his lack of subtlety when in the presence of adolescent girls.
As Alex gave chase so many things about this man ran through his head. Then he began to recall how the other men acted much the same as this killer. Jakobs paid no special attention to any of the women, or had he. Alex was plagued by the thought that he had missed something important. He could see Jakobs mindlessly staring into the distance it seemed. Alex remembered looking in the same direction and at first he saw nothing.
As if on cue Beth appeared from behind the truck which Jakobs was mindlessly examining. Alex thought he saw a knowing grin on Jakobs’ face but dismissed it as his imagination. He had turned back towards Jakobs but his attention was elsewhere. He was sure it was his imagination, now his certainty was fading.
There were far too many people in camp for anything to happen Alex was sure. He wondered how many had given chase and how many had remained. He dismissed this thought. There was killing to be done and he was the man for the job. Despite his own distaste for blood he grinned as he barreled through the woods. He felt nothing but adrenaline and the cool of the wind against his sweaty and bloodied body as he gave chase.
His mind was solely on his prey. Alex was only slightly aware that he was unarmed. His rifle had been dropped when he flew haphazardly over the handlebars of the wrecked four-wheeler. He didn’t care this man had no gun and would have to face him one on one. Alex was far ahead of the rest of his pursuers. This he was glad of. He’d rather do what needed to be done in private.
He had known people who thrived on the spectacle of causing others pain. It was a common situation in high schools all around the world, he assumed worse at some than others. He didn’t want to ridicule this man or seem powerful by what he intended to do. He just wanted it done and over with as quickly as possible.
Even in his rage he understood this man was sick like the poor dogs which had nearly taken his own life. Jason Smith needed to be put down and that was all. He had never cared one way or the other about the death penalty laws and such. He had no political affiliation. He just wanted to survive and that would be made easier without a murdering rapist on his trail.
Jason Smith owed his stamina to the Kentucky State Prison System. He was nowhere near as fit when he had first been arrested for the brutal rape and slaying of the young summer intern at his small accounting firm. As Alex imagined, the murderer enjoyed porn and self-gratification. He preferred DVD’s and the kind he owned were very much illegal in the United States. This was a charge he didn’t even bother fighting once the 200 plus videos were found when his house was searched.
He ordered new videos monthly from all over the world. That had been his only indulgence. With these videos he had managed to keep his urges under wraps.
He would sit and eat greasy pizza from a local pizza place and watch young girls in every imaginable scenario. This had been ok for some time. Occasionally he would hire a prostitute and though they pretended to be young and put on the guise of an innocent teenage girl in distress he just wasn’t satisfied.
His first victim had been a runaway, she did fight but not until he got real rough and this had bothered him. He wanted the entire event to be unscripted and as real as it could be. The runaway was drugged up and fought but not with the intensity he longed for. He had kept her alive for a few days but as the heroin left her system it became to unseemly for him. She would vomit as he had his way with her and she quickly lost all strength.
He had more fun with her after she died than he did while she was alive he would muse to himself. He very abruptly without warning walked up to her where she lay in his basement half conscious and struck her in the base of the neck with an old Louisville slugger. After one last fantasy he rolled her up in a blanket and drove her far into the backwoods of Kentucky and dropped her into a ravine right off the side of a small broken road. He counted as she fell it took five full seconds before her stiffened body reached the rocks below. He had watched the news and perused the paper every day for months but there was no word of a missing girl or any bodies found.
After his apparent success with this girl he was emboldened. He would just wait for an opportunity to present itself. His firm had decided to host a summer intern project for high school age kids and he had luckily been put in charge of interviewing. He was an excellent accountant and very well respected by his peers. They decided that three interns would be sufficient and he had hired two girls and one boy.
They each were assigned to their own accountant and given specific duties to perform. He had interviewed many girls and was pleased to see the two he liked best were also the two with the highest GPAs. He had accepted the boy first so he would not draw any suspicions.
He plotted for weeks as to how he would pull off the abduction. He alternated leaving each day at the time of departure of each girl. He soon knew where they each lived, who they lived with and what their basic schedules were.
After a few weeks of more internal deliberation he switched the interns around so that the girl he decided to take was not working directly with him in any capacity. There were three more weeks left in the internship and he waited until it was complete before he enacted his brutal plan.
His reasoning was to keep suspicion away from himself. By this time he had been watching his target for nearly six weeks and he knew when and where she would usually be on any given day. He knew where her spare house key was hidden. He knew her parents work schedules and both of their places of business. He had taken to driving rental cars telling any coworkers who noticed there was a problem with his own vehicle and the mechanic was having trouble pinpointing the failure. No one was suspicious.
The girl he chose was an advanced student. She was thirteen in the eleventh grade. She had advanced years beyond other students her own age. He was very impressed with her scholastic record. She reminded him of a girl in his favorite movie. This had sealed her doom.
He took her on a Friday and to his delight she had fought like a tiger. She clawed and scratched and she almost got him caught because in his lust filled rush he had forgotten her cell phone. She dialed out to her father’s phone but had accidentally put it on speaker. He quickly wrested the device away and powered it off. Jason knew had she not made this mistake he would have surely been caught before he had any fun at all.
This he should have paid more attention to. She had screamed as he yanked away her smart phone her father had heard the terrifying exchange and immediately called the police. Being the careful parent he was he had installed software that allowed him to track his daughter’s cell phone. She had known and had no issue with this intrusive program.
He spoke with detectives and met them at his home where he could monitor her from his own computer. Jason Smith’s downfall had been the software’s ability to power on the phone remotely. They quickly located the vehicle he had been driving. He had switched cars but within minutes they knew who had the girl.
Regrettably Jason had been more careful as to where he had taken her to act out his greatest fantasy. It was two full days before they found him. He was on his way to dispose of her body. The runaway he had slain had been from Tennessee and no one had any idea she had gone to Kentucky and that alone kept him safe. Once they saw what had been done to the young intern they began cross checking his credit card receipts and realized the half eaten body of another girl had been treated in the same manner.
He was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to die by lethal injection on both counts.
These were all things Alex didn’t know but that was of no consequence. He knew what this monster had just done and he would be shown no mercy.
The fleeing killer was losing his momentum. He ached with every forced step. His legs began to spasm and he stumbled landing hard on his right knee tearing the flesh on a jagged rock.
He could hear the pursuing footfalls through the brush. His pursuer had not faltered. He had heard the crash and thought he was safe. Alex closed in with every second.
Jason gained his footing and forced himself onward but could barely keep a normal walking pace. He didn’t know what they would do to him in this lawless world for what he had done to that girl. He would fight. He only heard one pursuer and knew the rest could be anywhere he had tried to veer left to lose them and gain as much ground as possible. If he could just kill this guy he’d be free.
He hid behind a large oak and readied himself for an ambush. As Alex cleared the brush to his left Jason lunged forward knife raised high and swung at his throat. In mid swing Jason’s leg gave out due the collision with the jagged rock. He fell hard to the ground in an attempt to catch himself his arm twisted and he drove his own blade deep into his side.
Alex was stunned by the encounter and was grateful to be alive. As he watched the murderer slowly bleed to death he was grateful he didn’t have to kill the man. His rage was gone and the sorrow crept in as he watched the life fade from this mad man’s gaze. He felt no sorrow for the dead man as he walked away. His sorrow was solely for the poor girl he had allowed to be slain. Despite his companions assurances that he was not at fault her death haunted him ceaselessly.
Pursuing The Enemy
The camp was in chaos, the screams reverberated from what seemed like a thousand unified voices. It was far from that many but the wanton carnage unleashed upon the bereaved travelers without warning caused pure anarchy.
The pursuers save Alex who did not hear the gunfire over the sounds of the straining ATV returned to camp as swiftly as they had fled. Many thought the shots had been for the murderer assuming he had somehow doubled back.
The scene they found when they arrived brought fresh gales of sorry, pain, and rage. Sherry explained as quickly as she was able. It took Red a full five minutes to quiet the group enough for her to even be heard.
She described the slayings perpetrated by Jakobs without so much as a warning and then she explained how the other two men had taken women as well. She said one man had taken two, the one who had ruthlessly been knocked unconscious was bleeding quite badly so the villain had taken another much younger girl. She was only twelve years old.
The uneasiness and anger grew amongst the travelers and they were growing mad not unlike the bloodlust of lynch mobs Red had read in the old western novels he had been fond of as a child. He did his best to calm the crowd but it was a losing battle.
Five different vehicles with armed men and women gave chase trying to catch up to the kidnappers and Red and Sherry both knew that if they caught up there would be casualties.
“Sug I think we should wait for Alex to get back. He may be hurt. We can’t run off halfcocked like mad people. What if they set a trap?” Sherry was solemn and quite shaken by the events of the past thirty minutes.
“I think your right honey.” As Red spoke he put his arm around her shoulders trying to reassure her.
Mark and Beth had pursued the man into the woods and when the shots were heard they did not turn as the others did but continued to follow Alex’s trail.
About the time the mob discovered the grisly scene at the camp they were finding Alex’s four wheeler. They were frantically scouring the woods searching for any sign of Alex or his trail. He was far easier to pursue when he was riding than when he was on foot. When they heard approaching footfalls through the brush they both tensed. They breathlessly waited.
They each stood at the ready guns raised about fifteen feet apart ready to mow down the murdering bastard when he came into view.
As Alex entered their line of sight they both audibly sighed startling Alex so badly he fell backwards over a root. He had been deep in thought and had no clue he was not alone in the woods. “Oh shit!” Alex exclaimed.
Despite the horrid events the younger two of the trio burst forth volleys of laughter. Alex sitting up seeing such uncharacteristic smiles on the faces of his young friends joined in.
It was Anna who broke the frivolity when she noticed Alex seemed to be bleeding from everywhere. “Oh my God you’re hurt bad!” She bent to him feeling foolish for the hysterics as Mark followed her lead.
“Oh no, I’m just scratched up pretty bad, I’m ok, really.” Alex reassured them.
“You’re pretty tough for an old man Alex.” Mark joked as he helped him to his feet.
The walk back for the three was silent. Alex had only spoken once when he noticed the curious looks of Mark and Anna. “He’s dead, fell on his own knife.”
The two never questioned whether it was the truth or not, not even in private. They later told everyone just what Alex said. Alex wondered how saying that would have gone over before. He wondered if a detective would have accepted that answer as freely as these people did.
The journey back seemed to take a long time and all were glad when they heard the commotion coming from camp. They were drained and Alex wanted nothing more than to give the poor child a decent burial and then sleep. He ached from every joint and the thought of one more step made him cringe.
As they approached they noticed eight or nine different vehicles were no longer there. They had grown accustomed to lining up the trucks to create a wall to avoid surprise canine attacks. It was one of the unwritten rules of the convoy they had become. There were holes and almost immediately Alex realized whose vehicles were missing. They were Jakobs’ men’s trucks that were gone and five others.
The only one that remained was the Durango the kid had picked up a few days earlier. Alex saw him sobbing behind the wheel. Alex assumed for a moment that the missing vehicles had gone looking for the man he had watched bleed out a few miles back in the woods.
As they were passing the kid, the kid looked up and panicked. “It wasn’t me, I swear it. It was Jakobs. He is the one that made us come, just him. I like it here with you guys. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt!” It was hard to discern the words but Alex managed.
“What they hell are you talking about?” Alex asked, it was then he saw the leg of one of the newest arrivals protruding from behind the wheel of one of the large trucks. It was bloody, his heart sank.
He bolted around the corner and saw what Jakobs, the new object of his rage, had left for him. He nearly collapsed when he was filled in on what had taken place.
Without a word he began packing a bag. He took only guns and bullets. He shrugged off Sherry’s attempts to dress his wounds. He climbed on Anna’s pink four-wheeler. Under any other circumstances this would have been funny but no one even thought of grinning. He did not speak, only nodded when he was wished well and told to be careful. He’s got Beth. It was all he could think of.
He understood from the kids blabbering that this had been a planned attack. The girl was not an intended diversion but had just happened. Jakobs had taken advantage of the situation. He would decide what was to be done with the kid when he returned, if he returned.
Alex wondered as he drove off in the direction Jakobs had fled how many more situations like this had already transpired and how many more he would be responsible for. He understood now that he was what passed for law in these hardened times.
The Hunt For Jakobs
Alex followed swiftly, his rage growing with each passing mile. Jakobs had at least a forty-five minute head start on him and he wasn’t trying to let it grow. He knew that he would most likely encounter one of the other abductors on his way and it was even possible that the mob that pursued would catch him first but he dismissed this thought. Jakobs was a murderer but stupid he was not. He would have to find him fast. He had to think like Jakobs.
He knew it would be stupid for them to head straight down the interstate. They would run the risk of being over taken during the night. The smartest thing to do would be to exit the interstate and back track or even hide out until their pursuers had given up the chase.
Alex didn’t take Jakobs for the kind of man that hides out so he assumed the former would be Jakobs plan. He would exit somewhere ahead and back track perhaps continuing in the same direction as the convoy shifting directions further ahead.
Jakobs didn’t exit at the first off ramp he couldn’t maneuver, the exit he intended had been fully blocked in every direction. This caused him to travel several miles further than he had originally intended. This had not thwarted his plans he knew, but it was an irritation. He knew someone on a smaller vehicle like some of the travelers used he had just murdered would have little difficulty catching up. He was a good shot but he knew to underestimate your foe is foolish. He had to gain ground and get around those law makers. He had begun calling the members of Alex’s group the law makers in his head. They were the type who sentenced him to death for what they called a crime. He was no criminal it was his God given right to protect his family and that bitch destroyed it.
“Till death do us part bitch!” He spat at the steering wheel, chilling Beth further.
“Please mister, I didn’t do anything to you.” Beth begged as sweetly as she could.
“No, I reckon you didn’t but I ain’t gonna kill ya if that’s what you’re thinking. You’re gonna be my new wife. The last one cheated on me and gave me a bastard son that weren’t mine. You be a good wife and what happened to her won’t happen to you!” To punctuate this last comment he slapped her hard on the side of her face with the back of his hand then added. “Don’t speak unless spoken to. Women and children are to be seen and not heard.”
Beth was stunned and involuntarily sank into the seat as far from this crazed man as she was able.
Alex could see Beth terrified in his mind and his rage grew worse. He was already swerving threw the stalled cars at a haphazard pace risking life with every jerk of the ATV’s handlebars. He was half mad with the hunt. He imagined Jakobs bent and broken beneath his boot heel. This caused an evil grin to creep onto Alex’s face.
He reached the first off ramp. And saw that in all directions it was impassible. He did not tarry, he throttled the machine onward.
Jakobs exited at the first semi-open ramp and picked his way through the streets trying to get out of sight and down any open side roads he could find. He knew he was being pursued. He knew the men he traveled with would give some cover. He wasn’t sure if they would be smart enough to leave the interstate. He didn’t care, they weren’t his problem.
He was driving as fast as he dared not wanting to crash and risk injury to him or his prize. He knew he would have to start over if he accidentally killed his new wife. He didn’t relish the thought of going through the entire ordeal again.
Every so often Alex saw fresh tire marks on the sides of the embankments as he followed. He didn’t know who the tracks belonged to. He kept his break neck pace.
Only one of the two killers that followed Jakobs was smart enough to exit the interstate. The other was not so smart he continued on straight and sideswiped a panel van blowing his driver’s side tire flipping the truck he was driving four times coming to rest upside down. His captive had been thrown from the cab and died on impact with the rear bumper of an old pickup truck.
He was knocked unconscious and hung there upside down with a broken leg until the mob caught up.
They drug him from the truck with vengeance in their hearts and murder on their minds the rubbing of the freshly segmented pieces of his femur shocked the man awake. He screamed and begged as they drug him free of the wreckage.
All five of the vehicles had pursued him straight down the interstate they were so wound up it had not occurred to them to exit. They had passed two of the fleeing abductors and their captives completely oblivious to their oversight.
They screamed and yelled at the murderer who was begging for mercy until the first shot was fired into his leg and then they all began shooting. They shot until the man was not even discernible as human. He no longer had form, just a lump of meat on the asphalt.
One group gathered the body of the dead woman and set off toward the convoy the rest continued their pursuit of the murderous kidnappers.
The hunt for Jakobs 2
Alex was relentless in his pursuit. He exited at the first open exit just as Jakobs and the other kidnapper had done. Alex found it easy to follow their trails and quickly realized at least two vehicles had passed this way.
They left fresh tracks on the sides of the congested roadways in the moist shoulder. He hoped the trails stayed together.
To his dismay he found a fork in the road and he could discern by the markings one vehicle had gone left and one had gone right. He had no way of knowing who had passed here so without hesitation he veered right and throttled the ATV.
The stalled cars grew fewer as he got further from the interstate, he was grateful for the speed the open roadways afforded him but he knew any benefit he reaped would be reaped as well by his quarry.
He nearly crashed numerous times, just missing a stalled van in a blind corner. He was risking it all to save these girls, to save his Beth.
Beth travelled almost solely with Alex now and they shared a tent. They were in love and even in these most strained of times it felt good. They were happy they had each other. They were both equally grateful for each other. Alex had never felt this way for anyone and Beth had told him she had not either. They were sometimes embarrassed when they were caught kissing by their travelling companions. They would both blush and Beth would nuzzle into Alex’s neck to hide her rosy cheeks.
Remembering this Alex nearly broke the throttle on the pink four-wheeler he was pushing it to its limits. He had to get to her. He wanted her safe, he needed her safe. She was everything to him and everything she would remain, even if it cost him his life.
Alex traveled on, encountering wrecks at nearly every intersection he came to. Even as he got further into the more isolated areas he saw this to have been a common problem. This made his tracking easier. The truck he was following had been forced to leave the blacktop numerous times.
This he was glad of. “I am coming you fucking bitch!” He screamed at the road ahead. “Oh I just may enjoy watching you die.” He whispered and drove on.
Alex could see a wide intersection ahead. No houses around only deserted farmland. There was no wreck here. He had three options; he sighed as he took a hard right only slightly releasing the throttle.
He drove until he found a wreck covering the road in its entirety. He cursed under his breath and headed back in the direction he had come.
He took another right at the empty intersection and continued his maddening pace. Again after five miles he encountered a wreck covering the blacktop with no tire marks visible on the shoulder. He knew which direction they had gone.
The poor machine screamed as he headed back once again to the intersection. He rode on frantic and unaware of the fact tears had begun to flow from his eyes. He began to feel his pursuit was pointless but he would not give up. He would chase them for the rest of his life if it was what it took.
He quickly regained the trail and saw where it appeared the abductor had stopped to relieve himself. There were empty beer cans beside what appeared to be a sizable puddle of urine.
Alex gave the empty road a maniacal smile and shouted, “you been holding that a while you scared bitch. I am coming for you. You are mine!”
Alex had to stop and fill his tank from a gas can strapped to the rear of the pink quad and other than that he paused for nothing. He had lost time at the intersection and could not afford to do that again.
He worried the long miles running wide open would damage the off-road vehicles transmission but despite his abuse the pink machine held up.
It was nearly nightfall when he saw the tail lights a quarter mile ahead. It was a pickup truck but whose he did not know, he was too far away. He had been pursuing this man and the man’s captives for over four hours. He felt nothing, No thirst, no pain, no hunger, no fear, all he felt was rage.
He kept the ATV’s lights dark and as carefully as he dared followed the killer waiting for the moment he could attack. He prayed the man would stop to piss again. He wasn’t going to warn him just pull out his rifle and end this chase as quickly as possible.
Alex had grown terribly impatient before the truck finally stopped. He did not hesitate. He was a quarter of a mile away. It was full dark now and he walked right towards the truck. He could hear screams and didn’t dare run for fear he may be heard. “I am coming baby.” His rifle was hanging on his shoulder unusable in the dark. He had a 9mm Beretta in each hand a round chambered in each and both with full clips.
He heard more screams as he covered the short distance which in his mind stretched an eternity. He realized these screams were not Beth’s but a different woman’s. His heart sank. This woman deserved to be saved just as much as Beth, but Beth was his woman. He needed this over post haste.
When he was close enough he could see illuminated by the dim dome light that the woman was being choked as her vile attacker pleasured himself. There was a second woman unconscious beside the struggling woman face down surrounded by a halo of blood.
He did not hear Alex approach and the look of surprise when Alex grabbed him by his hair and drug him backwards causing him to fall hard on the asphalt would be etched in the poor woman’s face for the remainder of her life.
Without a single word Alex shot the stunned pant less man in the face three times. He climbed in the bed of the truck and asked the woman if she were ok without a single glance in her direction he was checking on the seemingly unconscious woman.
“She’s dead. He spoke and covered her with his jacket tucking it beneath her head so it would not blow off on the trip back.
“Can you drive?” He asked the sobbing woman shocking her from her hysteria.
“Yes.” She stuttered.
“There are two more who took hostages, you need to get back and I have to go find them.” He said numbly, then added. “Follow me.”
She did as he said. She had trouble navigating the way in the dark but Alex managed to guide her. The trip back was slow and arduous. It was very late when he got her back to the interstate. She was reproachful and afraid when he bade her goodbye. He felt guilty considering the ordeal she had just endured. This he could not help; he was going after Jakobs and his girl.
Jakobs had been ever vigilant watching his rear view mirror as he went. He kept the windows down even as the cool of night crept in he did not run the heater. He was listening for any would be pursuers. His gun never left his lap.
Beth had inadvertently fallen to sleep at some point but he never let his guard down even from her. She had been too long with the backwards thinking law makers and he knew she may try to escape and the thought that she may even try and kill him crept in to his mind.
“I’ll have you in chains if that’s what it takes missy.” He whispered to the sleeping girl.
Jakobs found a deserted logging road and slowly backed the truck far enough down so that anyone following would pass right by without a clue they were there.
Beth stirred as he did this. “What are you going to do?” She sleepily whimpered. For this act of malcontent she was punched hard in the face. The blow sent her falling into wonderful dreams.
Jakobs used duct tape to bind her hands and legs and laid her in the bed of the truck beside him and fell fast asleep.
Alex headed back to the fork in the road and headed down the left side this time. Even with the lights on it was hard to see what was coming. He made his way to the first intersection and to his dismay there was no blockage. He could see no signs of which way they had gone.
He had to wait until the morning; it was as dark as any night he could remember. He dozed fitfully and dreamt only of Beth. He woke her name caught in his throat just as dawn was breaking. He scoured the area and in the gloomy light he saw a cigarette butt. It was the type Beth sometimes smoked and it was a little further down one side than the other.
“Oh thank you God, you brilliant girl I love you so much.” He topped off the four-wheelers tank and blasted down the road.
Jakobs woke at precisely the same time as Alex. Jakobs undid Beth’s legs and allowed her to pee under his watchful eye of course. He gave her a can of beans to eat and despite her loathing for this man she gulped them greedily. She didn’t usually eat much and hadn’t eaten at all the day before.
He freed her hands so she could eat and she was hoping he wouldn’t rebind them. To her great pleasure he did not. She needed them free to leave her markings for Alex. Alex was smart and if he were following she knew he would know the things he found were from her and not just random garbage.
She only had a few cigarettes and she wanted to mark everywhere they turned with something. She had first dropped the butt of one and later last night when Jakobs believed her to be asleep she had flicked the remainder of that cigarette out just after they left the road they were on.
She feigned sleep as Jakobs busied himself with his flight avoiding wrecks where they came to them. She always kept something in her hand ready to drop. She would lay her head on her arm to obscure the view from Jakobs and she noticed he had started being lax with his gun. It was still in his lap but he no longer kept a firm grip as he had done for hours the night before.
She ran out of cigarettes and buttes a few hours into the day. They had to stop to refuel and he bound her again. Once he resupplied his gas cans and filled the trucks gas tank he again released her and fed her. He gave her a can of peaches this time. And plainly in front of him she threw the empty can out the window. What he didn’t see was that she had tucked a piece of the duct tape inside.
This went on all day. Alex unbeknownst to Jakobs was steadily gaining ground. His ATV wasn’t faster but it was far more agile navigating the congested byways.
Alex had a few close calls that day and was disheartened when the transmission of his ATV began to whine and periodically jerk. He was not a forgiving operator; each time he was slowed he gunned the machine when he was free as if he were a drag racer in some high performance nitrous powered funny car. It was taking its toll. He kept his eyes open for a replacement he knew that he could lose Jakobs and his girl forever if he got stranded in the middle of nowhere following a trail of garbage and cigarette butts.
Jakobs thought women were dumb. He knew God made them from Adam’s rib to please man, but what a joke that was to him. “You can’t get a decent days work out of one without a strap.” He used to chuckle and say to his bastard son, just as his father had told him as a boy.
Jakobs sense of superiority over women was slowly proving to be his downfall. His wife had another man’s son right under his nose. This thought angered him; he slapped Beth hard across the face. She believed from the blow her scheme had been found out. She shied away but could only move so far in the cab of the truck.
She waited for him to stop and the beating to begin, or worse she thought. Nothing happened; Jakobs spat at the floor board and kept on driving without a word.
She stifled a sigh of relief faking a sneeze when Jakobs glanced towards her. A few minutes later they made another turn and she dropped the top from her now empty cigarette pack with a small piece of duct tape stuck to it. She didn’t know if this was going to work but she had to fight a smile knowing that this man so full of himself was being fooled by a little ole girl.
Alex found sign after sign and a few times had to double back until he was sure he was following the right trail. She left a peach can for him, pieces of cigarettes, pieces of toilet paper, small pieces of trash from the floorboard of the truck, and they all had duct tape stuck to them to let Alex know he was on the right path.
He was happy simply because he knew she was alive and well enough to be leaving signs. He hoped this meant she was well at least.
The second night came and Alex knowing there would be signs slowed his pace but did not stop.
Jakobs pulled into an old coal processing facility and taped Beth up for the night. Jakobs did not see when Beth dropped another sign at the entrance just as they left the road. She had dropped the biggest one yet. It was the remainder of her cigarette pack with toilet paper stuck in it and a big piece of duct tape attached. She knew that if Alex was following he wouldn’t stop for the night if he had something to look for.
Alex’s tenacity and singleness of purpose frightened her sometimes but more than anything it made her feel safe with him. She knew if he were out there he would find her. She just worried that Jakobs, who had little trouble killing, might get the drop on him.
Alex drove all through the night. Somewhere he heard a rooster crow. It was four in the morning. He was exhausted and hungry but he knew his diligence may yet pay off. He used the lights of the four-wheeler and his mag light at every junction and found the make shift bread crumbs which had been left him.
He was driving slowly, the machine was getting close to breaking down he knew and was looking for a replacement when he saw something in the road ahead. He quickly shut off the engine and killed the headlights.
He drew a 9mm from his bag and carefully walked towards the object in the road. It was Beth’s cigarette pack. There was no intersection here and it took him a moment in the dark to discern the mouth of the old drive, He crept closer and saw to the side was an old broken down sign with an arrow which read deliveries.
He slowly walked down the old long deserted dirt road. There was a low muddy patch and it was here he carefully shielded his flashlight and illuminated the ground. There were fresh tire tracks. Alex’s adrenaline was pumping. He felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck. Despite the chill he could feel sweat begin do bead on his forehead.
“I caught you, you bitch.” He hissed. Alex could feel every nerve in his body tingle. He was going up against a madman who was armed and willing to kill. Jakobs had proven that. He would do whatever it took to get what he wanted.
Alex was willing to do whatever it took to free Beth. In contrast to her he considered his own life forfeit. It was hard with such limited light and he was careful not to give himself away with the flashlight but he managed to track the tire marks to a large building.
It was nearly pitch black inside, Alex was kneeling just to the left of the big open bay door. In the dark the building seemed to go on forever. He kept the light off and stared into the darkest part waiting for his eyes to adjust. He was tired but his blood was pumping hard and fast.
After five minutes he began to see shapes in the dark. Long defunct coal bins were strewn through this old place. He slowly entered the building being careful to make no sound. He was overly conscious of his breathing. It seemed a symphony in his ears as he strained to listen for any sign of Beth or her captor. He was hoping to hear Jakobs snoring away but didn’t.
He crept around the wall of this huge empty place. Had he been wrong he wondered. Perhaps they were here and left. Perhaps those were somebody else’s tracks altogether. Then he heard a familiar sound, a slight sleepy whimper. He recognized it. He would lay at night beside Beth and would fall asleep listening to this sound.
He wanted to shout out her name. To do so he knew would be his greatest folly. He had to be careful. He followed the feint sound to its origins. Tucked away in the corner was Jakobs pickup truck. He spent a long time carefully circling around as to not be caught off guard or to warn of his presence.
He was thirty feet from the truck, pistol drawn safety off, round chambered when three things happened.
He saw a flash of light from high up on a catwalk, heard a thunderous boom, and it felt as if his left thigh had been stabbed through with a fire hot poker.
Alex fell hard and managed to scramble behind one of the massive coal bins. When he tried to ascertain the damage to his leg he became aware of Beth’s screams.
“Alex, oh dear God Alex. Are you hurt, is it you? Please answer me.” Beth was frantic squirming hard against her bonds begging them to break. Willing the harsh tape to lose its grip and free her.
Alex was in a great deal of pain but he made no sound. He had seen this scenario played out many times on television shows, in movies, he had read it in books, and he had even played it in video games. He was playing dead and he meant to do it properly.
Jakobs chuckled at the girls cries. “Shut that mouth you stupid bitch.” He was full of himself. He heard no sound from the law maker he had just shot. He was either unconscious or dead or soon would be. He would finish him off if that was what was necessary. Any man who tried to tell another man how to live deserved no better than death and he would oblige Alex to that end.
“You think I’m dumb don’t ya? You really are fucking stupid if ya think I didn’t notice ya throwing stuff out all this time.” As Jakobs spoke Beth sobbed. She had gotten Alex killed and now she was probably next. Then she shuddered it will be worse to live.
Alex could hear Jakobs speaking and noted the change in the sound of his voice. He was moving. Alex quietly removed his shirt and used one of his pistols to make a tourniquet for his leg. He was bleeding very badly.
Jakobs had his eyes and ears trained on the spot where he had shot Alex. He was sure he had hit him. He wished he could have shot him with his big handgun but at this range and in this light it would have been a luck shot if anything. He used his rifle instead. He decided to wait him out. He’d probably bleed out in five or ten minutes.
“Girl I’m going to hurt you for this real bad. You’re gonna find out what living with pain is like if you don’t learn to mind me.” Jakobs spat at the darkened building. He then got very still and stopped speaking.
He quietly crawled away from the coal bin making sure it was in between him and Jakobs. He could hear Jakobs’ footfalls on the old rusted walkway and gauged his distance by this.
Beth could do nothing but cry, she had never felt more helpless in her entire life.
Alex was fully awake and despite his wound and exhaustion had grown quite accustomed to the darkness of this place. He shimmied up on to a low loading dock and crawled behind a steel guard for cover. He readied his rifle and began scanning the darkened building in the direction he believed Jakobs to be in.
It wasn’t long before Alex could make out the outline of the killer high above the floor. He was poised just above a ladder seemingly trying to decide if it were safe to come down yet.
Jakobs silently stood there for a solid twenty minutes not speaking or moving. He began to descend the ladder Alex waited till he was about twenty feet down and fired. The first shot went wide and hit the wall behind Jakobs. Jakobs tried to climb back up.
Alex fired again and caught Jakobs in the shoulder. He clung fast to the ladder and let out a yelp much like one of the dogs Alex had shot. This hesitation gave Alex the shot he needed he fired again and Jakobs fell.
Alex couldn’t see where he landed but he heard breaking boards and an audible thud. It took Alex ten minutes to crawl to the truck, he nearly lost consciousness several times.
With great effort he managed to open the tailgate and climb in. He fell onto Beth’s legs and felt himself passing out. He fought the urge and squirmed higher and chewed through the duct tape which was binding her hands. Once she was free he passed out. During her rescue Beth had been speaking but Alex had no idea what was being said.
Alex had lost a great deal of blood and was delirious.
Jakobs couldn’t move. Something was broken and he had been shot in the shoulder. He remembered now. He dropped to fool the kid. He fell making him think he had been shot again. He surely would have hit him had he stayed still on the ladder. His shoulder was bleeding a great deal, this he could feel. He wasn’t sure if the bullet had passed through or if it were lodged in there.
That damn kid tricked me. This was his last thought as his eyes rolled back and he lost consciousness.
Alex woke two days later with the sun blinding him in the early morning light. He was warm despite seeing the breath of those outside the window of his rolling hospital bed. He was in a big SUV on a gurney. He ached all over and he could feel the bandages on his legs. He saw Beth sound asleep beside him and with a warm smile dozed off knowing that she was safe and they were together again.
2 Years and 11 Months Later
Alex sat in the remains of the burnt out fortress. He had named their settlement Keira after the little girl he had watched die in that long ago parking lot. The pretty sign Beth had painted over the main entrance hung charred and unreadable.
They had spent many months building and fortifying this place to prevent being attacked. These very fortifications had been their undoing. The walls charred black and covered in soot still stood. Alex wondered how long it would be before Mother Nature reclaimed the materials they had used as their own to build his home. A chilling thought crept into his mind, a long ago memory he hadn’t visited in many years. “Ashes to ashes dust to dust.” That had been the only thing he remembered from the day his parents and baby sister had been buried.
He convulsed and began coughing uncontrollably coughing up black phlegm. He thought aloud, “It has started, I will be dead soon.” At this declaration he drank deeply from the bottle of liquor, and then vomited.
Aloud he spoke to the dead walls in this cold place that had once been so full of life. “John I did as you said, I found survivors and we found a safe place. Why did this happen?”
Alex had been on a gathering mission, he had been gone for several days keeping in contact the whole time at regular intervals. Beth had not gone because she had not been feeling well. Alex didn’t mind, being alone from time to time truly helped him appreciate his new life here with Beth. “My wife.” He cried.
He really didn’t understand what had gone wrong, and how did they get infected. When he arrived he found only three survivors. Only two of these three could speak and one of those was his wife.
He found Beth badly burned on both of her legs, she had managed to crawl to their favorite spot. The place they spent hours talking about the future, what their kids would be like and how things would be for them when they grew up. It was nearly too much for him to take, his heart breaking could have been heard for miles around had there been anyone there to hear it.
Alex fell to his knees at Beth’s side but with all her strength she screamed at him to get away once her eyes focused enough to see it was him. He had a great deal of trouble speaking, “what happened to you babe?” Silent tears spilled down his cheeks.
It was hard to breathe even here because the wind kept changing blowing the smoke towards where Beth had settled to die. Alex again attempted to touch her and she again at great pain to herself yelled for him to stop. He couldn’t bear seeing her in such pain.
Just loud enough for him to hear Beth said, “Alex I am infected, I am going to die soon, but you have to go survive. I know this will be hard for you but you must. I can’t really tell you what happened here because I don’t know.” She stopped choking and spat up the green phlegm Alex had dreamt of for almost two full years after they arrived here.
“Who did this to you? Why?” He stammered, feeling the old panic taking hold as he knelt there helpless to help the person he loved more than anyone on earth.
“All I know was that I heard engines and yelling in a foreign language, before I was even out of bed there was a huge explosion. Fire tore through the entire place. It spread so fast. I managed to slip out the rear. They were here and gone so fast. They didn’t want anything but to kill us. I was burnt pretty badly but I knew you’d be here soon, so I thought me and the baby would be ok. Then I began coughing.” As if on cue she again started choking.
“God no,” he cried.
“It’s OK Babe you will meet your child in heaven, but not yet you must live, it seems God has a larger plan for you than anyone can guess.” She was crying but had an oddly peaceful look on her face.
“I can’t do this alone, I need you.” He demanded with no real conviction his strength was waning and he felt as if he would collapse.
“You gave all these people hope, they are gone now and it happened fast that is the one good thing.” She was searching through her fevered mind trying to find the right words to comfort him, they did not come easy. “You read history you know how things are, hope is worth its weight in diamonds. To live one day with hope is better to live an eternity with none.”
Alex suddenly felt panic and dread over take him, he wanted to just curl up on the pile of ashes by his feet and die, but more over whelming was the urge to get out of here. He loved this place more than any other he had visited in his life. It was here he came to the realization that his brother and all those he had loved before the virus were dead. He had come to terms and moved on. Now it has started again.
Alex had combed the entire area and checked each room, it was then he realized others must have survived or had not been in the compound when it was attacked there were at least twelve bodies unaccounted for but he had no idea who was dead or who was missing. The fire had erased all identifying markers from the dead.
He tore out of the blackened tomb and collapsed under a nearby tree panting, coughing, and then throwing up undigested liquor. As he passed out all he could see in his mind’s eye was him brutally slaughtering faceless men as they begged for mercy in a language he could not comprehend.
He woke early the next morning with death in his eyes and hate in his heart, he was not sick as he had first thought. His coughing and choking of the previous day were merely symptoms of smoke inhalation. He went to where he had buried his wife and unborn child and softly spoke, “I will kill them, I will kill them all, I swear it.”