The long awaited visit to Barry's place! Enjoy, comment and share!
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Chapter 15: Guns and Glory
Since they had made the journey to Tex’s neighborhood, it only made sense for him to head in and pick up the extra supplies he was looking for. Their next step was less clear, but they could figure that out while Tex went to work.
“All right, Tex. You head in, grab what you need to grab. Tell those yahoos we’re just going to wait here for you to finish up. We won’t give ‘em any trouble. We’ll figure out where we head next while you’re at it,” Jack radioed.
“Gotcha. We’ll go as quick as we can. Everybody—sorry that this didn’t work out,” Tex replied.
“Not your fault, man. They’re just watchin’ out for themselves, like we would be,” Kyle said over the airwaves.
Tex shouted a brief conversation with the guards, who seemed to agree with the plan. Tex put his truck into gear and eased forward. With the power out, the guards had to manually open the community’s gate. Two of the four guards set to the task, while the other two stood watch. They undid the heavy chain that had been added to reinforce the gate and swung it wide open. Tex drove in, quickly turning out of sight.
“Try to keep in contact, bud,” Jack radioed.
“We will,” Esme’s voice called in response.
The guards closed the gate in Tex’s wake, re-securing the chain and moving back to their original positions. They didn’t seem happy having the caravan of vehicles parked along the side of the road at the entrance, but apparently not enough to pick a fight about it. They cast some annoyed and frustrated glares their way, but otherwise kept to themselves.
It was fairly obvious to Jack that none of the HOA’s impromptu security force had much of a clue what they were doing. Their position had no real cover—they were standing in the open, exposed, with nowhere to run should someone decide to fight their way into the neighborhood. They had also not stopped Tex’s vehicle until they were up-close-and-personal, which would have left them exposed to a sneak attack or similar.
“Hey, Jack—we headin’ to Barry’s place after this?” Kyle’s voice called out over the walkie.
Jack considered the option. Barry’s gun shop, Guns and Glory, was a mile or so away from Tex’s neighborhood. The old Vietnam Vet was a bit of an odd-ball, but a good friend, long time survivalist and endlessly knowledgeable about firearms and other implements of war. Jack didn’t know exactly how old he was—he’d served in ‘Nam in the early 70s, which put him in his mid to late 60s—but he was still pretty spry, thin and wiry for someone his age.
Jack’s group was already loaded down with more guns than they could shoot and a healthy stockpile of ammunition and explosives, so they didn’t need to try to barter, beg or borrow any more firepower from the old soldier. But, Jack knew that Barry had no family in the area, and aside from some shooting buddies and his German Shepherd Rambo, Barry largely kept to himself outside of work. He was certainly well armed and grumpy, but he might also be entirely on his own.
“Ya, we should go check in on him. His place has probably had a big target on it since the crap hit the fan. We could use another trigger-man too, if he’s not doing anything better.”
“Sounds like a plan. Bring the whole caravan?”
“I don’t like the idea of splitting us up. We’ll do a drive-by, see if it looks ok, and then roll in,” Jack responded.
Tex kept in regular radio contact and was true to his word, returning to the entrance of the neighborhood in twenty minutes, cowboy hat atop his head.
“Ready to roll outta here, lead the way,” he called.
The guards re-opened the gate and the caravan was back on the road, Jack’s Tacoma taking the lead position.
The trip to Barry’s was quick, the streets quiet and calm. The afternoon sun was getting late—Jack guessed they had an hour or two of light left.
Guns and Glory was an 80s vintage brick box of a building, worn and tired looking. It stood alone, off to the side of the county road, with a gravel driveway leading the gravel parking lot in back. The original sign, a pair of crossed M-16s across an American flag, was faded from years of exposure to the elements, and an inoperable WWI-era light artillery piece sat in the shop’s front lawn. Burglar bars stretched across the store front’s windows, with layers of firearm and ammunition posters plastered underneath.
Jack slowed, scanning over the storefront. The store was dark, but the power was out, so that was to be expected. The closed sign was hanging in the window. A pair of plywood sheets had been set up outside the shop—one read “Pissed off veteran and his attack dog inside,” the other “Sold out of everything.” The windows and front doors were all intact.
“Looks abandoned, guys,” Tex said.
“Naa, he’s there. There’s a church down the road we can turn around at. Let’s go back,” Kyle called.
“How about just you and I go in there, Kyle? Barry won’t recognize anyone else, and he might be a bit jittery or overwhelmed at this point.”
The last thing they needed was Barry getting trigger happy and opening up on them with his belt-fed.
“Sounds good to me.”
The caravan pulled into the church’s parking lot—a little country style church building of a denomination that Jack had never heard of. They pulled around and the rest of the vehicles parked; Kyle pulled his F150 alongside Jack’s truck.
“We’ll be right back. Any sign of trouble and we’ll bail. Stay in the vehicles, keep an eye out and stay ready to move. Got it?” Jack instructed, waiting for affirmative replies from the rest of the vehicles. The group called in, and then he and Kyle headed off back to the shop.
Jack rolled down his window and slowed to a crawl as they came up on the shop and turned into the driveway. Over the crunching of his tires on the driveway’s gravel, he also could hear barking coming from inside the shop. Rambo hard at work. A good sign, though not a guarantee that all was well.
Barry’s familiar two-and-a-half-ton military truck and camper trailer were in the parking lot as usual. The trailer had been painted olive drab green to match the Deuce, and Barry used both to haul himself and a stockpile of guns, ammo and surplus gear to gun shows throughout the region. They were one of the shop’s familiar trademarks, and Jack considered it another good sign that they were still in place. The rear door looked intact, too.
They parked close to the shop’s rear entrance. Jack picked up his Noveske AR pistol, clipping the weapon into the single point sling he already wore slung over his shoulder. He looked over at Kyle, who had parked alongside him.
“Let me knock, you watch my back, all right?” he called into the walkie.
Kyle nodded, opening his door. Jack emerged from his pickup, holding his carbine in a low-ready position and moving in towards the shop. Kyle fell in a few paces behind him. Both left their engines running and doors open, ready to run at a moment’s notice.
They stopped at the rear door, peering in through the aged, sticker covered glass to the darkened shop inside. The store’s few windows, covered with posters, meant that very little daylight made it through to inside. There were no signs of movement inside the shop. From what Jack could see, the shelves and display cases looked fairly bare.
Jack pounded on the shop’s door and waited. He could hear Rambo’s barking pick up in pace and intensity, but there was no sign of the dog. That gave cause for concern—usually, the dog had free range of the shop. There was no other response to their knocking. Jack and Kyle exchanged glances.
“Barry, you in there? It’s your buddy Jack!” Jack said, knocking on the door again, even louder. He felt the door give under force of the knock, very slightly. He paused and tried it—the door was open and unlocked.
“Aww crap,” Kyle said. Both men hurriedly stepped out of view of the door, backing alongside the store’s rear wall.
Jack sucked in a breath—something was wrong. They exchanged glances, both knowing the right thing to do.
“We need to go in, don’t we?” Jack said. Kyle nodded.
“I sure hope he’s not just on the crapper.”
“Sitting on the crapper would be the best case,” Jack said. He tugged back his Noveske’s charging handle, confirming that he had a round in the pipe. Then he reached over to his walkie’s handset and keyed the transmit button.
“Something’s wrong here. We’re going to check it out,” he called.
There was a pause, and then Tex’s voice called back.
“Copy that…be careful.”
Jack and Kyle exchanged nods again, then Jack shifted to the edge of the doorway.
“Moving,” he whispered.
“Move!” Kyle responded.
Jack plowed forward, shouldering open the door and flipping the Noveske up to the firing position. He rushed through the doorway, moving towards a pallet of .50 caliber ammo cans for cover. He keyed his light as he moved.
The LED kicked out its blinding spotlight, illuminating the shop for a moment. An island of display cases and gun racks sat in the middle of the store, with worn industrial shelving flanking it on all sides. Two of the display cases had been smashed open and boxes of ammunition had been knocked off of shelves and onto the floor. No one was immediately visible inside the shop, but they could easily be hiding in a row of shelves or behind the display cases.
Kyle moved in quickly behind him, a single step behind. They waited for a moment behind the pallet of ammo cans, anticipating the deafening boom of gunfire. Nothing happened, and the store was quiet, save Rambo’s furious barking.
Now inside the shop, they could tell that the German Shepherd had been locked up inside the shop’s backroom. That didn’t make sense to Jack—if someone had raided the shop, why hadn’t they just shot the dog?
Instead of whispering, this time Jack hand signaled his move call, and Kyle placed a hand on his shoulder in respond. They moved out, walking along the side of the store, keeping low and edging around the rows of shelving. They found more signs of fast looting: a pile of holsters strewn in the middle of one aisle, a flashlight display case hanging unlocked and plundered almost bare. The shelves were not entirely empty, but certain sections had been picked over—the area of the shop where Barry kept his bulk cases of ammo was entirely bare, but the stacks of twelve gauge birdshot and deer gun cartridges looked untouched.
After sweeping their side of the store and finding no one, the pair crept up to the display cases, popping up and sweeping the other side with their weapon lights. No one.
The two racks where Barry kept his military style rifles were empty, and the remaining gun racks other held only a scattered assortment of oddball long guns—shotguns, old lever guns and worn bolt guns. The shop’s iconic M1919 belt fed machinegun that normally sat proudly atop the center display case was missing. But, despite the stolen merchandise, the store’s sales floor was unoccupied.
They exchanged glances.
“Looks clear,” Kyle mouthed.
Jack gestured to the door that led to the shop’s backroom, where Rambo was being held. Kyle nodded his understanding, and then the men crept forward. Moving alongside the front of the display cases, Jack noticed the two ransacked cases had contained the shop’s selection of Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P and Springfield Armory XD pistols. Other cases had been left untouched.
They moved forward, slipping around the shelving and reaching the door to the backroom. They stacked up on one side of the door, avoiding standing directly in front of it. Inside the room, Rambo sensed their presence and started going positively nuts.
“Who the hell is out there? I’m gonna shoot your faces off if you don’t clear outta my shop!” a voice called out from behind the backroom’s door, startling both of them. It was Barry, though his voice sounded tired and raspy.
“Barry! You ok? It’s Jack Rourke and Kyle MacNab!”
A string of relieved expletives streamed from behind the door.
“I’m handcuffed, beaten up and half blind from a can of mace, but it’ll take more than that to keep me down!”
Jack tried the door and found it locked.
“Are you locked in there?” Jack asked.
“Naa, I’m takin’ a dump and want my privacy! Yes I’m locked in! Kick that door down, ya wuss!”
Kyle stepped in, front kicking the door wide open with his first try. Barry had been duct taped to his office chair, hands cuffed behind his back. Despite swollen red eyes, a broken nose and a mask of blood caking his lower face and beard, the old Vet smiled at seeing them. He was dressed for battle, wearing ‘Nam era olive drab BDUs and a pair of combat boots. Rambo, locked inside his kennel, recognized them too, easing up on his barking.
“It’s all right, Rambo my boy! The cavalry has arrived!” Barry said, calming the dog.
“What the heck happened?” Jack asked, moving in to begin removing Barry’s restraints.
“I got robbed by the damn police! Deputy and a few others rolled up in here looking for some extra firepower—said there’d been an attack or something. I told them I wasn’t about to just hand over my inventory, and one of ‘em blindsided me,” Barry related, pausing to spit a mouthful of blood and spittle across the floor. Kyle used a rag to wipe the blood off of Barry’s face, checking over his wounds.
“Looks like you got your butt kicked, man. But you’ll pull through.”
“My eyes are still burning from that damn mace they used on me. Man, that stuff tickles! I got some handcuffs up on display, you can use the keys from those,” he said. Jack kept a plastic cuff key taped inside the waistband of his pants, just in case, and almost had it loose.
“Already on it,” he said, pulling the key free.
“Good boy, always prepared! Next thing I know, I’m getting swarmed by ‘em. I socked a couple of ‘em pretty good and Rambo was set to tear them a new one, but we got overwhelmed and beat down.”
“You’re lucky they didn’t shoot your grouchy ass,” Kyle chuckled, slicing through duct tape with the trauma shears he kept in his gunshot wound kit.
“I guess they hadn’t gone that bad yet. They locked me an’ Rambo up back here while the rest looted the shop. Said they were sorry, too—buncha hippies.”
In a few more moments, they had him free. Barry rubbed at his wrists, standing a bit wobbly. Jack noted that his leather holster, which always held a 1911 of some make, was empty.
“The Deuce is still there, right?” Barry asked, freeing Rambo from his kennel.
“It’s still there. The trailer is too,” Kyle answered.
“Looks like they hit your inventory pretty hard, though,” Jack added. Barry popped a head out the door way, cursing under his breath after glimpsing what little remained on his stores shelves.
“Well, at least they didn’t get their greasy hands on my personal collection,” he said. He made his way over to the paper strewn desk in the office, starting to move it away from the wall. Kyle pitched in and quickly they had it out of the way, revealing an air conditioning vent covered in a thick layer of dust. Jack radioed back in a report on their situation.
“Either of you boys got a multitool I can borrow?” Barry asked, crouching in front of the vent. Both did—Kyle handed his over, already open to the screw driver. Barry went to work, unscrewing the screws that held the vent in place.
“So, what made you stop in this afternoon? I know you’ve got guns and plenty of bullets for ‘em—you need more or something?” he asked.
“Naw, Barry, we wanted to check in on you. We were in the neighborhood and had a feeling we should swing by,” Jack explained.
Barry had the first screw out and was working on the next.
“Mighty nice of you fellas—you probably saved my life. If you do need anything out there, you’re welcome to whatever is left. I’m getting outta town before this gets any worse. This place is done for, and I can’t hold it all my lonesome.”
“Where are you headed?” Jack asked.
“I’ve got a place up the mountains for times such as these. Cabin, stockpile of food, and ammo, and a few other tricks up my sleeve,” Barry said, finishing up on the second screw, then yanking the vent back and delivering a swift kick with his combat boot. The sheet metal snapped and the vent clattered out of the way.
Barry ducked into the vent and came out with an OD green duffle bag, backpack and two .50 caliber ammunition cans. He popped open one of the ammo cans—a 1911 and a stack of magazines, some loaded, some not, rested on top of boxes of .45 ACP. Barry slid one of the magazines into the pistol, chambered the top round, flipped the safety on and then placed it into the holster already on his belt.
“Good to be armed again. Bastards took my M14, too,” Barry muttered.
Moving his attention to the duffle, Barry rummaged around inside it and came out with a canvas bag. He unzipped that and withdrew a clunky looking submachine gun that Jack recognized as a WWII vintage M3 grease gun. A big suppressor extended from the end of the barrel.
“But I always have a plan B. One of these babies got me through ‘Nam. Quieter than mouse farts with this thing on,” Barry said, withdrawing a loaded mag from the bag and slipping it into the mag well. He pulled the bolt to the rear and then flipped the dust cover into place.
“Nice,” Jack said.
“I saw you on the radio there talkin’ to somebody—how many in your group? What’s yer plan?” Barry asked.
Jack and Kyle exchanged glances.
“We’ve got four families total—four men, four women and kids. We were planning on heading up to a patch of land we’re leasing until this blows over, but we’re not entirely sure.”
Barry looked at them, clearly thinking something over.
“Well, you’re welcome to come to my place, if you want. I don’t have a lot of room in the cabin, and it ain’t much for creature comforts, but I imagine it’ll be better than sleepin’ in the bush, if that’s what you’re planning. Heaven knows I could use the extra manpower,” he said.
“We may have to take you up on that offer,” Jack said.
Barry rummaged deeper into the duffle, coming up with an ALICE H-harness equipped with two canteens, pouches filled with more magazines for the grease gun, a smoke grenade and various other pouches. He threw the suspenders over his shoulders and buckled the belt up.
He reached into the duffle again, retrieving something long and wrapped in rags. He held it fondly in his hands.
“Something else I used in ‘Nam. Pulled if off a dead NVA Major.”
He peeled the rags off, revealing the familiar shape of a Japanese katana. The sword was old and simple in construction, with a worn brown sheath and the handle bronze and black in color, with gold accents. Jack could only wonder at the story behind the blade.
Barry grinned at them proudly, unsheathing the blade a few inches to show the shining steel.
“All righty boys—now I’m ready for zombies!”