Chapter 13: Evac
Before figuring out their next course of action, Tex and Jack agreed to search over the battlefield. They called Amy and Kyle up to man the forward guard post, enabling them to provide better cover and observation while Tex and Jack were occupied on the road.
They checked the three downed guerilla fighters and confirmed that both were indeed very dead. Up close, Jack could see the same Slavic features and beards, RealTree camouflage clothing and olive drab Chinese chest rigs that the self-proclaimed “Will of Allah” had had. The machine gunner looked to have a vest of soft body armor on underneath his jacket—lighter than the rifle plates Jack wore, and insufficient to stop incoming rifle rounds. The others were unarmored, relying on faith and luck to protect them—a strategy that had proved fatally unsuccessful.
They moved to check the ambulance. The back of the ambulance was unoccupied, the guerillas having made off with their injured comrade. In the cab, Officer Bowman was also dead—the sniper’s shot had hit him in the neck, likely killing him instantly. His eyes stared blank and unblinking out the windshield.
They dragged the bodies to the side of the road, placing them in a row, with Bowman separate from the three guerillas. Weapons were piled off to the side.
Next, they jogged to the bullet-riddled green Expedition, weapons shouldered, scanning the vehicle through their weapon’s sights. The driver was still and unmoving, quiet in a pool of blood. Satisfied that the vehicle was empty, they moved to search it.
“Cars, incoming from the north,” crackled Kyle’s voice over the radio.
Tex and Jack bolted, jogging to the safety of the forest at the edge of the county road. Taking up a crouched position behind the brush, Jack keyed the radio again.
“What are we looking at?” he asked.
“Two minivans and a station wagon…look like just passing through.”
Jack flipped his optic into place, popping out from behind the brush just enough to get a clear view of the road. The trio of vehicles hurtled in from the north, keeping bunched up closely as if moving in a caravan. They did not really slow, despite the smashed ambulance. They did tap the brakes for the bullet riddled Expedition, but only to swerve around the big SUV and the dead man just outside the door.
As the vehicles passed, Jack saw the common stick figure family bumper sticker on the back windshield of one of the vans—mom, dad, two girls, a boy and a dog. All were loaded packed to the brim with luggage. In a few moments, they were gone out of sight. Jack could only wonder where they were headed and hope it was some place safe.
“All right, you’re clear,” Kyle called in.
Tex and Jack jogged back out to the wrecked Expedition. Jack could smell gas fumes heavy in the air.
“Let’s do this quick, man,” Tex said.
They threw open the back of the Expedition, both drawing in a breath at what they found.
“Holy crap,” Jack said.
“These boys weren’t messin’ around.”
Inside the back of the SUV lay a veritable arsenal of weapons and ammunition. Most noticeable was an RPG-7 that lay atop the pile, with a loaded rocket in place and a crate of extras ready and waiting. Tex whistled.
“How the hell do you get a hold of a rocket launcher?”
Alongside the RPG-7, the guerrillas had a bin of loaded AK magazines, ammunition cans filled with belts of linked ammo for the machinegun, unopened metal “spam” cans of Russian 5.45x39 ammo, a cheap rolling suitcase filled with various grenades and a big black duffle bag.
Jack pulled the duffle out, Tex pitching in to help move the heavy bag. They unzipped it, finding more weaponry inside—a pair of side-folding AKs, a suppressed UZI, an MP5 with a Surefire fore-end, a ‘Nam era M-16 and various handguns.
“Damn,” Tex said.
Jack was at a loss for words.
“Where would you even get all of this stuff?”
“I don’t think these dudes were from around here—probably can pick up this stuff at the corner store where they’re from.”
They moved to the cab, finding broken glass, blood and spent casings. In the front seat, they found a collection of radios—a CB, police scanner, walkies and a HAM handheld—more AK mags, smoke grenades and a small daypack. Jack grabbed the daypack, unzipped it and found it full of $2000 stacks of twenties and $10,000 stacks of hundreds.
“Need to buy a new car?” he said, tossing the bag to Tex.
“How about a new house?” Tex responded, looking in the bag.”
They found more bags and four full jerry cans in the back row, not taking the time now to open and inspect all of the contents.
“We’ve gotta move this stuff. We can’t just leave it here for anyone to stumble on—or blow up,” Jack said.
“Agreed—let’s grab my truck,” Tex said.
Jack keyed his radio.
“There’s a considerable amount of, uhh, stuff out here. We’re going to get Tex’s truck and then bring it all back to the house,” he explained.
Fiona’s voice broke in.
“The kids are getting antsy out here. Is it safe to come back to the house now?”
Tex and Jack exchanged looks.
“Well, hun, we were thinking that it might be safest to leave for a while, in case the guerrillas came back for a fight.”
There was a pause.
“Ok then—can we come back and help pack up?”
Jack considered what to do. He figured they would have some time before the jihadi guerrillas tried for a vengeance attack, if they were going to try for one at all.
Tex grunted, heaving the duffle over his shoulder.
“I’ll go get my truck. I say bring ‘em back in. We can use the help loading everything up.”
Jack nodded. They would swing by and pick up the cached vehicles on the way out, and having them in place still gave them a backup plan should they need to evacuate the house in a hurry. He called to Fiona, telling them to hurry back in and start loading the vehicles.
Tex hustled back to the house with the duffle bag of guns and was back in minutes with his truck, backing it in. Then, they spent the next several minutes piling the weaponry and gear into the pickup’s bed. They used a siphon and extra gas can to retrieve some of the vehicle’s fuel, but were only able to get a few gallons out.
Finished, they paused, looking at the Expedition, unsure of what to do with it.
“Should we torch it? I feel like we should burn the thing up for some reason,” Jack said.
“That’s the pyro in you speaking. Not sure how that would help our cause, though.”
They returned to the neighborhood’s entrance, where the battle had begun, and added the weaponry from the fallen guerrillas to the back of Tex’s truck—two AK-74s, the RPD and the sniper’s rifle, as well as the magazines carried by the dead men. They also relieved Bowman’s corpse of his sidearm—not wanting to leave it lying around in the open—and his radio, which still appeared to be in working order.
With the gear loaded, both were winded and sucking in air. The hours of activity and the constantly changing events, combined with little rest were catching up with them. Jack felt weak and wobbly on his feet. He sipped on the Camelbak attached to the back of his plate carrier.
“What I wouldn’t give for a nice long afternoon nap,” Tex said.
“I’ve got a backpack full of cash that I’d gladly exchange for a few hours of peace and quiet,” Jack added.
They pulled into the driveway. The other group was just arriving in from the forest, the kids looking tired, sweaty and scared.
Jack stepped out of the cab and gathered the group together.
“Guys—we’re planning on heading to the bug out land, at least ‘till things blow over. A little camping trip. Any major objections?”
He scanned over the faces around him—his wife, two sons, Tex and Esmerelda with their daughter, and the Blackwells. All looked to be in various stages of exhaustion. The kids—all young—were on the verge of tears. Jack had to wonder how they would all fare making the trip to the hunting lease. It was a little over an hour away with clear roads, but they had no idea what condition the roads were like now. Could he stay awake and drive safely for four or five hours? Could the others? Would they be sharp enough to make good decisions if it came down to it?
No one really objected to the plan, and Jack could tell that they would move forward with their remaining strength, but they were all running on fumes. He wasn’t sure if that remaining strength would be enough. They needed to rest and recuperate before trying for the journey. There seemed to be no impending danger beyond a counter attack from the jihadis, and that could be avoided by moving to pretty much anywhere else.
“Hey, Tex—your place is not too far from here, and I am sure it’s safe enough for now. The bad guys, if they decide to come back, won’t know to go there. We could go there and get some rest for a few hours before trying to make the journey out of town. How does that sound?”
Tex broke a smile.
“Sounds good to me. Means I can get my hat, too!”
The others all agreed.
“Ok then, we’re not sure when we might get back here, so let’s do a good job packing, but let’s go as fast as we can, too!” Jack said.
The next twenty minutes were a whirlwind of activity as the group loaded up the vehicles and raced through the house, grabbing last minute supplies and belongings. They’d already had much of it packed and ready to go, so it was a matter of tracking down the last bits and then loading it all into the vehicles. Food, cases of water, cans of magazines and ammo, bins of camping gear, bags of clothes and personal effects—they were soon running out of space and strapping things to the roofs of vehicles. Jack wished that he’d bought a cargo trailer to help transport stuff, but that opportunity had long since passed.
Jack hooked their pop-up camper to the back of his family SUV, and Tex did likewise with his big camper trailer. More gear was lashed to the roofs of these.
They strapped a tarp over the top of the confiscated jihadi weaponry, not wanting to drive around town with a Pakistani gun market’s worth of armament exposed firepower. Jack looted smoke grenades from the guerrillas’ grenade bag, distributing them so that each vehicle had at least one.
“What are we going to do with the rest of this stuff?” Tex asked.
“Let’s get it out of here, first. If we run into a police force that looks stable enough to keep it under control, we turn it over—at least the rocket launcher and some of the other stuff. Ammo and mags we probably keep. Otherwise, it’s probably safest with us. Sound good?”
“Sounds good, bud.”
The Rourke’s flock of chickens, crammed into a big dog crate borrowed from a neighbor’s open garage, were a last minute addition to the supplies.
With the vehicles loaded to capacity and the kids being strapped into their car seats, Jack took a moment to step back and look at his home. They’d done a good job loading up, but there was only so much they could cram into their vehicles and trailers. He considered making a couple supply runs—he really wanted his solar panels and battery bank, as well as some more of the food and tools—but would have to play that by ear and see how smoothly the short trip to Tex’s house went.
He jogged down to the guard post at the road, relieving Kyle and Amy so that they could load up their few belongings for the trip.
While he stood watch, Jack used Bowman’s police radio to call in a brief, anonymous report of the police officer’s death and the battle between the guerrillas and a unarmed band of responsible armed citizens. He warned that the jihadis were still on the loose and likely monitoring police bands. There was no response on the other end of the radio, though it looked to be in working order.
A few minutes later, the ready call came over the walkies.
“We’re good to go,” Tex’s voice said.
“Hey—I need some supplies out of the ambulance,” Mike added.
“We’ll stop on the way out,” Jack replied.
The convoy moved out, away from the Rourke home, leaving it boarded up tightly. They pulled onto the county road, stopping alongside the wrecked ambulance. Mike hopped out, hurrying into the back of the vehicle with his paramedic’s bag at the ready. Jack pulled security for the convoy, keeping a watch on the road for any signs of trouble. A minute or so later, Mike emerged, laden down with medical supplies.
With the work complete, Jack and Mike loaded up and the convoy set off on the short journey to the cached vehicles. Jack and Kyle made the short hike back into the forest, with Jack leading the way to the cache site. It took them a few minutes to clear the branches and stow the camo nets, but soon the vehicles were free and they drove out, rejoining the others on the road.
“All right guys, let’s roll out. Say some prayers and keep your eyes open,” Jack said into his walkie, waving to Fiona and his kids in the other vehicle. Link was crying, exhausted. Porter was holding his stuffed dog—his favorite—tightly in hand, looking tired and nervous.
The risks of leaving their home weighed heavily upon Jack; he was bringing his wife, young children, and really the whole group out into the chaotic, unknown world. He knew it was the best, most logical plan of action at this point, but he couldn’t shake the feeling of uncertainty.
“Let’s just get to Tex’s house, get some rest and go from there,” Jack told himself.
Tex honked from behind him. The radio crackled.
“Let’s get a move on, bud!” the big Texan called.
“All right, stay close and do not stop for any traffic lights or stop signs. Let’s get to your place quick.”
Jack put his Tacoma into drive and accelerated away, the others keeping close behind. Jack kept one hand the steering wheel, the other on his Noveske AR-15 pistol, hoping that he would not find need to use it once again.