Destruction Aftermath, Book 2a
Chapter 36

Copyright© 2012 by radio_guy

It was the four of us with two packhorses to carry radios and weapons and some staples. We would hunt and use available houses along the way. We went over to I-20 to head for Birmingham and Poppa's request. We through Mitch's area and he reported that all was well in the little valley. He told us to be careful in the outskirts of Birmingham. He said, "It's been years since anyone was there or came from there. I'm not sure why but that worries me. Both Laura and I got hugs from him. Bennie and Kevin received hearty handshakes. We rode along I-20 through the mountain section to cross into Birmingham.

We were about to exit the mountain area when Bennie called a halt. He said, "I will trust Mitch feeling uncomfortable about the area. We will take precautions. We will all radio up on simplex with earphones and throat mikes. Second, we will move to the edge of the right-of-way and even get in the trees. We will go slowly. If anything happens, drop off your horse and crawl to cover. We will have our rifles at ready across our laps, also. Mitch is right. No one has been there or come from there in years. We don't know what to expect. Be watchful. Be very watchful."

We tracked along the edge of the right-of-way even though it slowed us down. We came to a bridge and Bennie stopped us. I heard his voice over my radio. "It's too quiet. Let's fade back into the trees and think through a good way to cross safely. This won't be the last bridge we must cross."

We were moving into the trees when Laura said, "I don't think there's anybody out there." A shot rang out and she fell out of the saddle. Bennie and I went to ground and I began to crawl to Laura. Kevin ran to her. As he reached her, there was another shot and he pitched forward over her. I continued to the couple in tears. Bennie had found the source of the shots and returned fire. I got to the two young people only to find them both seriously wounded. Laura had received a shot to her head creasing her skull and Kevin was shot in the chest. They were both breathing and no blood was coming from their mouths. I said, "Bennie, they're both hurt badly." I was crying. So much promise damaged in an instant and for no reason.

Bennie said, "I'm sorry. We'll get them some help. Crawl back to me. Stay very low. I'm not sure I got the shooter and there is more than one."

"Roger," I whispered and made my way to him.

After I got there and cried, I said, "Bennie, there was no excuse for that. I want payback."

"We'll get them and those behind them. We now know there are killers out there. We know how to deal with killers."

We called to Mitch and explained what happened and where we were. We stayed still for a while. Bennie watched for any movement. He felt he or they were across the creek on our side of the road. He had his sniper rifle with scope and was checking the area carefully. I heard Bennie whisper, "Gotcha!" followed by a shot. I followed the direction of his rifle barrel and saw a figure fall backward. "He won't kill again." Bennie said. "I think there might be one more. The sounds of the shots were different. Two different rifles made those shots. I got one. I may have gotten the other. In any event, it's time we moved."

"What about Laura and Kevin?"

"I will pull them back and we can give them first aid. Mitch will be here in two hours with his medical guy and some armed help. The news about them has made a lot of people mad. Jack is sending over a contingent, also, led by Ted and he's bringing night gear. Janice, we can help them by not getting ourselves killed."

"I know. I know. It's hard."

"Okay, take my rifle and cover me. If anything over there moves and I mean anything, shoot it. I will pull them back."

He crawled in and took Kevin and pulled him back to a safe spot we had chosen. "You staunch the bleeding. I don't think anyone will shoot. I'm going after Laura."

He crawled back and pulled Laura back to our spot. She was starting to groan just as he laid her down next to Kevin. We rounded up the horses. Our spot was defensible and we waited for reinforcements. It wasn't long before we heard Mitch's guys gallop up. To our surprise, Ted drove up in two Hummers full of armed and angry people less than an hour later. Even better, Doc Anne was with him along with a full surgical kit and one of her nurses.

Anne had bandaged Laura who was sitting up looking very dazed. Anne and the nurse were working over Kevin very busily. Mitch had two people with a wagon to take them back to Lake Logan Martin once they could both be moved safely. That night, we and the many other people who had watched the young couple with joy passed by them watching and waiting as Doc Anne and the nurse and Mitch's medic worked over him. Laura was going to be okay for sure. She had been creased and had a bad headache. Kevin, on the other hand, was in serious trouble. The bullet had just missed his heart tearing some muscle. It lodged near his spinal cord. It had to come out according to Anne but she was worried that it might cause paralysis. She said, "That's the choice. He'll die if we don't."

There were few eyes without tears. Ted was more upset than I had ever seen him. I went to him to give him a hug and he grabbed me tightly and sobbed. "Those two are such a happy couple just made for each other, like you and Bennie and Jack and Shirley. Their lives are an inspiration to others. The group that did this will pay!" He raised his head and screamed out, "Cowards, you will pay for shooting that young couple!" His voice echoed into the night.

War had been declared upon Preservation and the aggressors would find it was a bad idea!

The next morning, Ted took one Hummer and started across the creek as the other took up a guard position. At that same time, Bennie and I crossed the creek and made our way down to a position where we could watch and shoot. Some poor fool made the mistake of shooting at the Hummer and paid for his mistake when the machine guns on both vehicles opened up hosing both sides of the road. Anything that moved was subject to being shot. It took them two tries to get a stick in the air with a white flag on it.

Ted had a loudhailer on his Hummer and it said, "Come out. There are no guarantees. You shot two of young people from ambush without warning. Either fight and die or take your chances!"

The flag waved more widely back and forth. After a few moments, six men stood close to it.

Ted's voice came again, "If you just stand there, we will mow you down! Everybody, and, I mean everybody, men and women, come out and surrenders or everybody can fight and die. No exceptions!"

Slowly, more people stood and came out to the road. Bennie and I saw that there were still fifteen or so hanging back. Bennie radioed Ted and Ted came on the loudhailer saying, "There fifteen or so of you to my left. You can come on out by the count of three or we will kill you where you hide!" Almost immediately, he said, "One, two, three!" He didn't pause. If he had said, "Four," it would have coincided with Bennie's shot killing one of them. The rest quickly stood and came forward with hands raised high. There were about thirty men and twenty women now standing out in the roadway.

We circled around and came onto the road. There was a group of young people from babies to teenagers with four women watching over them. They were lightly armed. Bennie and I approached them carefully. I said, "The rest of your party has surrendered up ahead. Drop your weapons and start moving up to join them. Anyone who doesn't do as we say will be shot. We lost people to your ambush and won't tolerate any heroics." One of the women made to draw a pistol and I shot her dead with a quicker draw. I kept my pistol out. "You heard me! Move up the road!" That got them started.

We went to the other side of the road back into the trees and began the process of returning to the creek and looking for targets. Bennie whispered to me, "No more warnings. They know the score and can just die where they hide." A few hundred feet later, we found a group of four and Bennie started shooting. The last one managed to stand and raise his hands before Bennie got to him.

I shouted, "Get on the road and move up to the creek or you'll die, too!" He moved quickly. We continued on in the woods. We didn't find any more hiding and slowly approached Ted and the Hummer after warning him of our approach by radio.

We came to Ted and conferred. Ted said, "Do we go through questioning or just kill them?"

I said, "As much as I want to take them all out. Some may be comparatively innocent. I say we ask questions but they've got to be really good to live."

Bennie said, "Okay, I'll pick one and Janice and I will start." He went over to one man and said in a loud voice. "We have decided to question you rather than just kill you all. Your lives depend upon your answers. You started this by shooting two teenagers from our community from ambush without warning. We are not inclined to be kind. If anybody tries anything, we will shoot." He paused and said in a normal voice, "You're first. Follow me."

The man didn't move. Bennie drew his pistol and gut shot him. As he fell, he looked at the next man and said, "Do you want to follow me?" The man shook his head and Bennie gut shot him also. The two were moaning and slowly bleeding out. Bennie looked at the next. "You're number three." His pistol was pointed at the guy's gut. "What'll it be?" The man looked nervously at his mates on the ground and slowly stepped forward. Bennie led him about fifty feet away from the rest. I followed.

We all stopped. I said, "Who are you people? What's your story?"

He cleared his voice and stammered as he spoke. "We don't have a name for our group. I'm from west of Birmingham and others are from the general area around Birmingham. Mark and Joe were our leaders. We had been raiding stores for years. They decided we should head east for Atlanta.

"We send scouts ahead and anyone armed is shot while any others are taken captive. We had never run into anyone who could fight us successfully."

Bennie said, "Which ones are Mark and Joe?"

He said, "They are the two you just shot."

Bennie then said, "Who was on the scout team?"

"I'm the last one left. The shooters are both dead. I was supposed to fire at you two but I just couldn't pull the trigger."

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