The next entry in the series! Read and then let us know what you would do if you found yourself in the character's shoes--the character's actions are guided by guided by your input.
For those new to You Took Away Tomorrow, you can find all of the entries, in chronological order, in the chapter index.
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Chapter 4: Search and Rescue
Jack scanned the Blackwell’s home quickly, taking in any other details. The house sat in the middle of a flat, grassy lot, with a fenced in backyard. The home had a carport built onto the side of it closest to Rourke’s direction of approach, with an open front and closed in, wood-slatted sides. One of the Blackwell’s cars, Brooke’s old Subaru wagon, was still in the driveway, sitting low on flat tires. The home’s front windows did not seem to be broken. There were no lights on inside the home. The home had three entrances that he knew of—front door, side door on the car port, and a door to the back yard.
Jack tried to gather his thoughts to come up with a coherent plan of action, but he was struggling to overcome the adrenaline dump that had just hit him. He could feel his muscles tensing up, his hands going jittery and his heart pounding frantically.
Jack cursed at himself, realizing that he had limited his options by stomping on the accelerator and racing towards the home. He was rushing in, when he probably should have pulled back to come up with a better plan of action.
The group camped out down the street were almost certainly not friendlies, which meant he and Tex were outnumbered and almost definitely outgunned. He couldn’t, in good conscience, abandon the Blackwells. He had to at least check their home. If not, what kind of man would he be?
Because he and Tex were outgunned and outnumbered, they needed to search the home quickly, stealthily, and be ready to get out of dodge at the first sign of trouble. With two trucks racing down the road, Jack had probably already compromised much of their stealth. The booming music may have saved them, though.
If they hadn’t been spotted, Jack decided they might as well try to get out of sight. Jack slowed the truck and keyed his walkie.
“Follow me,” he said, braking, steering out and then backing up the Blackwell’s yard along the outside of the parking lot. Tex backed in alongside him.
“What’s the plan?” the big Texan asked in hushed tones.
“We’re going in, Amy’s getting the AR and holding down the fort,” Jack said, hopping out of the Tacoma, leaving the engine running and the door open. He scanned around—the road, the neighbor’s house, what he could see of the Blackwell’s house. They seemed safe, for the moment.
“Don’t close the doors,” Jack instructed. Amy looked at him quizzically.
“The noise,” Jack said, waving her and Tex back behind tailgate of Tex’s Chevy.
“Tex, keep an eye out, you and I are going in.”
Jack looked at Amy, who was clearly a shell shocked by the situation—but then again, they probably all were. They needed to get over it and get moving.
“Amy, I need you to cover the vehicles until we get back,” he said, handing her the AR pistol. Amy took it.
“You comfortable running this gun?” Jack asked.
Amy nodded. She’d been to the range many times—Kyle had even built her an AR-15 with pink camouflage furniture. She was not an ace with an AR, but she wasn’t a novice, either.
“Is it loaded?”
“Yep. Take off the safety, put the red dot on the target and pull the trigger. Same as on the ones you’ve shot before. There’s a flashlight here, too,” Jack said, pointing to the weaponlight attached to the side of the rail, “Don’t use it unless you have to, and ID your target before you shoot.”
“Ok, I think I can do this,” Amy said, looking over the weapon.
Jack handed her his walkie talkie.
“You have to do this, Amy. Keep this on, we will keep in touch.”
Amy nodded again.
Jack wished they’d trained more, wished they’d come better equipped. But those were only wishes at this point. Now, they needed to keep their heads, play it smart, get in and get out alive.
Jack directed Amy to take position behind the Chevy’s front passenger side tire. It would provide her the best ballistic protection if bullets started flying, and it was in the direction opposite the camp’s location. Leaning out from behind the truck, they could just glimpse the camp, bonfire still burning. Jack paused for a moment, trying to spot any movement silhouetted by the flickering flames. Nothing.
“Tex, stay close. We’re going to try the side door,” Jack said, drawing his Glock 17 from its kydex holster on his belt.
“I got your back, bro,” Tex said, drawing his 1911.
Jack tracked back behind the trucks, which provided greater cover and concealment than walking in front. He and Tex edge alongside the carport. Jack paused, checking the bonfire again. This time, he saw movement—shifting on one of the mattresses thrown onto the pavement—but nothing imminently threatening.
The pair slipped into the carport, sneaking in a low crouch behind Brooke’s Subaru. The tires were slashed, the driver’s window smashed in. They made it to the door without trouble. Jack tried the knob—predictably, it was locked. With the music booming vulgar lyrics, listening for any faint background noises was pointless.
Jack paused, thinking over his next move. They could cross in front of the house and go in through kicked-in front door. He could try to bypass the side door—he had a pair of small lock picks in his wallet, and he didn’t doubt Tex’s ability to smash through the particle board door without breaching a sweat. Or he could just knock and see who was home—Blackwells, bad guys or no one at all. If it was bad guys, they would know the home was under enemy control and would have the initiative.
“I’m going to knock. If it’s not the Blackwells, I’m going to shoot,” Jack whispered. Tex nodded, edging to the side and leveling his handgun on the door.
Jack leaned over and knocked—not just any knock, but the first few notes of a church hymn the Blackwell’s would be familiar with. Then, he moved a pace back, standing on the side of the door, waiting, pistol pointed a gut-level, trigger finger resting on the side of the Glock’s frame, tritium night sights lined up and ready to go.
There was a long pause as they waited in the darkness, breathing slowly and waiting to act. Nothing happened.
“Try again,” Tex whispered. Jack tried again, knocking out the same tune. They waited again, but this time their wait was interrupted.
“Who’s there?” called a woman’s voice from the other side of the door.
“It’s Jack—is that Brooke?” Jack said, lowering his Glock into the sul position—the barrel pointed at the ground, pistol held high, tucked in against his chest but still ready to deploy into action.
There was the sound of the door unlocking, and then it swung opened rapidly. Brooke Blackwell entered the doorway, one arm bandaged and in a makeshift sling, the family’s 10/22 rifle in the other.
“Oh my gosh, I am so relieved to see you guys, you have no idea,” Brooke started, struggling to continue as tears welled to the surface. She waved them into the house; Jack scanned down the hallway, which looked clear.
“Brooke, I just want to make sure: are there any bad guys in the house?” Jack asked. She shook her head.
“A few of them tried. They were coming through the door…I had to…”
Jack smiled, trying to be comforting.
“You did what you had to, Brooke. We came here to get you guys, and I think we need to move pretty quickly. Are Mike and the kids here?”
“I don’t know where Mike is—at work, I think. I’ve been praying that he would get home—the phones aren’t working, there’s no way to get a hold of him, or the police or anyone.”
“Ok—what about the kids?”
“Yes, they’re ok. Scared. They’re hiding in the master bathroom.”
“And are you ok to move, Brooke?” Jack said, pointing to her hastily bandaged arm.
“Yes, don’t worry about me.”
“Ok, we’re going to check in with Amy, then Tex and I will help bring the kids out to the cars,” Jack explained.
Tex keyed the walkie talkie.
“Brooke and the kids are here and ok; we’re bringing them out in a minute. Any problems out there?” he asked.
“Umm, it looks like some of them are awake. I think—ya—it looks like one of them is pointing over here. Not looking good. Go fast, guys.”
Tex and Jack exchanged looks. They needed to move—quickly.
“All right, we’re on our way out.”
Brooke led them back down the side hallway, through the kitchen and into the living room, where they saw the battle scene. The front door, kicked askew. Another man, this one gangly and thin, with a Mohawk, lying dead on his back a few paces in, staring up at the ceiling. The thug’s face was pock-marked with a handful of small bullet wounds—deadly accuracy from the .22 long rifle semi-auto. Brooke had tipped a large bookcase over, the piles of music, church and medical books forming a makeshift firing position that blocked the back hallway.
“Damn,” Tex muttered. They cleared the obstacle, making their way to the bedroom.
The booming music suddenly disappeared, shut off. The camp had, without a doubt, noticed their presence.
“Damn,” both men said simultaneously.
They rushed into the master bedroom. Brooke pointed to a large duffle bag on the bed.
“Our 72 hour kit,” she said. Tex snatched it up, one handed, slinging the heavy bag over his shoulder with ease.
The Blackwell kids were hiding out in the bathtub of the master bathroom, a blanket thrown over them, both looking tired and terrified. Tex picked up Lilly, the oldest, with his left hand, keeping his right free to operate his pistol. Jack did the same with Ash, the younger sibling. The toddler started to struggle and cry, but Brooke stepped in to offer comfort.
“Hey, there’s a group of four guys, starting to walk my way. Get out here…” Amy’s voice crackled over the walkie talkie.
“How fast are they?” Tex responded.
“Umm, half-awake drunken stumbling.”
“All right, we’ll be out in a few seconds. Don’t shoot us.”
Jack exhaled slowly, thinking if there was anything else they needed to do before sprinting for the cars. Mike—they needed to leave a sign for him.
“Brooke, can you write your bug out phrase on the mirror, in case Mike comes back here?” Jack suggested.
Brooke nodded, set the 10/22 on the bathroom sink and grabbed up a tube of lipstick. Within a moment, she had “Jericho” scrawled across the mirror.
“All right, let’s go,” Tex said.
They moved rapidly through the house, heading out the side door and sneaking back through the carport.
“Hey! Look at that!” a male voice shouted from down the street, far too close for comfort. Jack didn’t chance a look back, but the voices were within 50 yards. They’d been spotted.
“You see that? They runnin’!” another called, laughing.
Jack, Tex, Brooke and the kids were on the other side of the carport, Jack and Tex loading the Blackwell children into the double cab of Jack’s Tacoma. Brooke slid in alongside her kids, the 10/22 still held tightly in her good hand.
With the Blackwells loaded up and ready to go, they just had to figure out how to get out of dodge.
“Amy, what’re we looking at?” Jack yelled.
“Four guys—I think one has a shotgun? They’re standing in front of the house, looking over here. What do you want me to do?”
Jack wasn’t sure. If they were just standing there, looking their direction, gunning them down might not be needed. But, if they were going to open up fire the second the trucks edged around the car port…
“Amy, I want you to drive my truck. Move over here—go behind the trucks,” Jack said. He reached into the Tacoma, retrieving the bandoleer of AR magazines from the duffle bag on the passenger seat as Amy made her way around the two trucks. She passed the AR pistol to Jack and hopped into the driver’s seat.
“All right, I’m going to provide cover fire. Amy, you go first—burn out of here like a bat out of hell. Then Tex. Tex, wait for me, I’m going to jump in the back of your truck. Keep your heads low,” Jack explained. Both nodded in confirmation.
Jack jogged back to the edge of the carport, standing back a foot or so and shouldering the AR pistol. He readied himself, settling into a good fighting stance, then popped out from behind cover. He activated the AR pistol’s light, the LED bulb sending out a wide cone of light in the direction of the four thugs.
The men reeled at the sudden onslaught of blinding light, instinctively pulling hands up towards their eyes, which gave Jack an opportunity to see how they were armed. One holding a pistol gripped shotgun, another holding some kind of black semi-auto handgun, another with an aluminum baseball bat, the fourth seemingly unarmed. All were well muscled, tattooed and mean looking. Then, having gained the information he needed, Jack slipped back behind cover.
Jack changed levels, dropping into a crouch—he wanted to avoid being in the exact same position the next time he moved.
There were sounds of cursing from the thugs, and then came the booming report of the shotgun as a wild shot was fired in Jack’s general direction.
The first shot had been fired. The gloves were off. The fight was on.
Jack dropped out from behind the carport, falling prone and onto his side. The firing position kept his profile low and gave him good enough visibility of the enemy. The thugs were in the same relative position as before, silhouetted by the light cast by the bonfire. Jack flipped the AR’s selector from safe to fire and leveled his optic’s crimson dot on his first targets center of mass and then opened fire. The first shot boomed loudly, echoing through the night.
He depressed the trigger rapidly, firing a quick trio of shots at the shotgun thug. Then, as his first target began to stumble, the 5.56mm rounds having their desired terminal effect, Jack moved his optic to the next target in the clustered group. He settled the Aimpoint’s red dot on another thug’s chest, firing again, and then onto the next.
The AR pistol boomed loudly, hot brass flying from the ejection port and bouncing across the Blackwell’s lawn. Gouts of flame belched from the barrel, the pistol’s Noveske Flaming Pig muzzle brake earning its name. The thugs tried to react, reeling as they attempted to escape the line of fire. None were prepared for the speed and violence of Jack’s attack; in the space of a heartbeat, a half a magazine worth of rifle rounds had been fired into them.
Jack stopped firing and keyed the flashlight again. The cold white-blue of the LED spilled out across the Blackwell’s yard, illuminating the writhing remnants of the thugs. One began to cry out in pain. All were down.
Jack hopped up out of the urban prone position he was lying in, settling into a low crouch that would afford him move mobility. He scanned down the street quickly. Startled movement from around the bonfire as the camp struggled to react to the gunfire. Jack looked back to his friends and waved for them to move out.
Amy stomped on the gas pedal, sending a rooster tail of dirt and grass flying, and then rocketed forward, tires screeching as they searched for traction on the pavement. The truck fishtailed slightly, but then the tires caught hold and the Tacoma raced away into the night.
Jack opened up again with his AR as Amy, Brooke and the kids made their escape in his pickup. Not having clearly identified threats from the camp, he instead took deliberate aim at the car that had been the source of the rap music. He fired off a quick pair of shots into the car’s engine compartment, and then moved to a slower, more deliberate rate of fire. His goal was to suppress the enemy position, keep them scared and running for cover instead of fighting back. While he shot, Jack readjusted his position to just at the edge of the carport, which gave him greater concealment from anyone from the camp who decided to return fire.
Now it was Tex’s turn. He stomped on the Chevy’s accelerator, the big diesel engine roaring. Instead of rocketing forward, the old pickup truck shuddered lurched a few feet, shuddered and then died.
Jack glimpsed back, exchanging looks with Tex.
“Don’t worry, she does this sometimes,” Tex yelled, working the ignition and the gas pedal.
“Now is not the time!” Jack called back in between shots.
Inside the Chevy, Tex cursed himself silently, while simultaneously offering up a prayer to whatever gods governed the functioning of old diesel engines.
“Come on, baby, don’t let me down now,” he said, turning the engine over, waiting for it to catch.
Gunfire cracked out from the gang camp as someone began to return fire. It was not accurate, aimed fire, but a wild spray of bullets across the Blackwell home and in Jack’s direction. Jack keyed his flashlight again, the wide beam illuminating a thug awkwardly holding a folding stocked AK and taking cover behind the trunk of one of the cars. Jack opened fire, bullets sparking across the car’s trunk. The thug disappeared from view.
The bolt on Jack’s AR was locked to the rear—the magazine entirely spent.
“Tex, if you can’t get it running, we’re going to have to ditch it!” Jack yelled while he changed out the magazine, dumping the empty mag, drawing a fresh one from his bandoleer and sliding it into place in the AR’s mag well.
“You hear that truck? You want to get abandoned? Come on and start!” Tex yelled in frustration. He jammed his foot to the floor as he tried the ignition one last time. The diesel roared to life.
“Yeehaw, baby!” Tex cheered, slamming a hand on the dash. He popped the truck into gear and started forward.
“Rourke, get in!” Tex yelled. Jack jumped up, hauling himself over the Chevy’s side and rolling into the bed. He slapped the back of the cab, signaling that he was in and ready to move.
Tex accelerated away. From the bed of the Chevy, Jack opened up with his AR-15, firing rapidly into the car where he’d seen the AK-47 wielding thug. With the truck moving at high speed, bouncing and swerving, accuracy was next to impossible. But Jack only needed to keep heads down and allow them to escape unscathed. A dozen rounds went down range as the diesel belched black smoke and propelled them onwards. No return fire came from the camp.
The 80s vintage Chevy smashed through an old card table in the middle road, the bull bars and oversized off road tires sending the aged particle board flying. Soon they were turning off the Blackwell’s street, tires screeching, the Chevy’s body shifting as Tex took the turn at high speed. Tex could see Jack’s Tacoma up ahead, racing away into the night.
“Amy, we’re right behind you. Everyone ok?” Tex said into his walkie.
“Yep—we’re ok. Where are we going?”
“Not sure yet—head towards Jack’s house.”
Jack kept watch behind them as the Chevy raced onwards, checking for any pursuers but finding none. He let out a long breath, emotions and the reality of what he’d just been through pouring over him. He’d just been in a gunfight. He’d just shot and almost certainly killed several people. His hands were shaking.
“Suck it up, Rourke,” he told himself.
He knocked on the Chevy’s back window—Tex reached around and slid it open.
“You all right back there, buddy?” Tex yelled.
“I’m good,” Jack said, scanning over his body to make sure that he was, actually, unhurt. No blood gushing was a good sign.
“What’s the plan?” Tex asked.
Jack wasn’t sure.
“We need to find out how bad Brooke’s arm is. Might need to go to the hospital-- Mike might be there, too.”
“I’m gonna smack that guy when I see him—not coming home to protect his family.”
Now wasn’t the time, Jack thought.
“Tex—radio Amy and have her find out.”
They pulled out onto a main road. Tex radioed in the question, and Amy replied a few moments later.
“Holy crap guys, she got shot when they were breaking in. I can’t believe that! She bandaged it up—it doesn’t look like its bleeding bad, but oh my gosh, a gunshot!” came Amy’s response.
To Jack, the next move seemed clear—they needed to get Brooke to the hospital. But, with this level of chaos going on and the utilities down, what would the hospital look like? Under control or overwhelmed with throngs of injured and little way to help them? Would they be able to help? Would it even be safe? The hospital was further in towards the city, away from Jack’s home and their planned route. It seemed like Brooke had gotten the wound under control all ready—was it worth the time and potential risk? Could they return home? Should they run the rest of their planned trip?
There you have it! What would you do? Try for the hospital? Head home? Complete the rest of the trip as planned? Why?
There you have it! What would you do? Try for the hospital? Head home? Complete the rest of the trip as planned? Why?