Children's Crusade
Chapter 19

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

The steel bolt handle was cold under Jeremy's hand. He pulled it back sharply and shoved the door open, then jumped back from the gaping black rectangle. The pistol in his other hand was up and ready before the door banged into a metal storage cabinet in the other room. The door bounced back, slammed closed, then creaked to a stop two thirds open. Nothing moved in the dim light of the small windows set high into the walls. He kept his aim about head height and waited. Nothing moved. No sound came from the darkness, just a charnel smell of blood overlain by something else.

Behind him he heard the distinctive sound of the AK's safety lever. His back itched at the thought of Chuck covering him with a weapon he didn't really know how to use. He backed away from the door. "Chuck, watch the front door, just in case." He waited for Chuck to move before he moved up in a crouch. "Okay, lets go."

It wasn't really dark enough for him to need his flashlight, the real reason he wanted to pull it out was to put off going into the room just a little longer. He took a step forward and looked both ways down an aisle between cabinets against the wall, and shelves full of stuff He moved to the right, because that end was closer. Alex followed, .45 held ready.

Jeremy turned the corner, weapon ready, the back end of the store was windowless. The only light filtered down the length of the room past the shelves half full of pawned items. The the deep shadows of the middle aisle were empty. but the far aisle held a tangle of bodies. He aimed at them, watching.

They didn't even twitch. He took a few steps forward before Alex pulled him back. "Wait." Alex grabbed a ski pole from a rack and tossed it on the corpses, then took another and walked forward. He poked at them, then pointed to one sitting against the wall. "Looks like he took care of them, but they bit him first. He knew what would happen."

The ones bunched in the aisle had all been shot in the head. Jeremy turned to the other one. The back of his head was spread over the wall, but the old man's face was almost peaceful. "I know him, he owned this place." He pulled the M-1 carbine from the old man's cold fingers and checked it. There was a magazine in the well, and a round in the chamber. He undid the ammo belt, pulled it free, and slung it crosswise over his shoulder. "If they're in here, they must have followed him in, and if he shot himself..." Jeremy ran to the back door, pushed it closed and shot the bolt home. He flipped on the lights, then checked the aisles again.

Alex was already checking them. They went back up the middle aisle together, checking

under the shelves just to be sure, then moved back into the front part of the store. Alex handed a Cricket and a hundred round box of ammo to Larry. "Give this to Darrel and tell him to watch the apartment door, then go down in the bus and make sure it doesn't go anywhere. Ask Bobbi-Jo to come up, and send up anyone who can shoot."

"Liz and Becky" Jenny interrupted. "Becky's a really good shot and Liz won't shoot anyone by accident."

"Okay," Alex said "Send them up, and some more of the guys." Alex pointed to the display of candy near the register. "Chuck, get that together and pass it up, then we'll pass the guns up to you." Chuck resented being told what to do, but eventually he moved.

Jeremy jerked his thumb to the back room. "There's a couple more in there, I'll get them." He picked up the key ring and hurried to the wire caged shelves. The key to the padlock was on the ring. Inside he found a couple more automatic pistols, another twelve gage, a hunting rifle and a sealed UPS box he'd been hoping for. He slung the carbine and the other longarms, stuffed the pistols in his pockets, and carried the box in. It was heavier than he expected, a lot heavier. He handed over the other things so Alex and Jenny could load them, then slit the box open. Inside was a metal case with an integral carrying handle. A faded sticker on it read 'Olympic Village, CO'. Underneath the metal case was a shrink wrapped case of ammo. Match grade .22 LR in 50 round boxes, According to the label there were five thousand total. No wonder the box was so heavy. The metal case was locked but the key was taped to it. He opened it. Inside, a long barreled pistol lay encased in padding. It looked like a futuristic ray gun.

He touched the words on the metal. 'Walther-SportWaffen' and in another place 'GSP-Expert'. Something Jenny had wanted, but hadn't had the nerve to ask for. He carefully lifted it out, made sure the chamber was clear, then held it out to his sister. "Dad got this for your birthday, it's used, but still in good shape."

Her eyes widened and tears formed in them. She took the pistol and held it to her chest. "Oh Jer, I hope he made it home okay."

Jeremy had to swallow before he could talk. "Maybe he'll be mad I spoiled the surprise, but this gives you an extra two months to practice for the state championship." Next year's event would never be held, and both of them knew it. They hadn't seen anyone alive except for that convoy. Jenny'd had a slim hope for a place on the next Olympic team, but not anymore. He wondered how many years it would be before they held the games again. Most of the kids on the bus thought the army would take care of the problem, but there were too many of the cannibals. The whole town seemed abandoned. He grabbed some plastic bags and put the weapons they'd already loaded in them, then grabbed a couple more, popped the lock off the other counter and filled them with knives.

Jenny filled the magazines for her pistol, loaded it and tucked it inside her jacket. "I'm going upstairs, you guys hurry." She grabbed the rest of the crickets and some more ammo. "We gotta get everyone out of the bus, so we need to clear the rest of the building fast."

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