Last Stand: Surviving America's Collapse (5 page)

BOOK: Last Stand: Surviving America's Collapse
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Chapter 10

J
ohn went out the back sliding door and hopped the fence into Al’s backyard. He didn’t want anyone in the neighborhood seeing him going back and forth. He’d already been less than pleased at having to parade Betsy around the whole community.

John knocked on Al’s back door and his elderly neighbor peered out
at him from the blinds. A second later he opened up.

“You had me frightened
to death, John,” Al said, holding a baseball bat.

“Bad guys don’t knock,” John told him as he entered. “I wanted to check in quickly with you and
Missy. See how you’re holding up.”


’Bout as good as one could expect under the circumstances.” Al closed the door. “Did you find Diane and the kids?”

“T
hey’re back at the house, getting things ready.”

“I thought you were leaving?”

“We’ve decided to stay. At least for now.”

Al smiled. “
No bug-out?”

“That tends to be a
knee jerk response for many who like to be prepared for the worst, but it isn’t always the best idea.”

“You still won’t tell me whe
re your secret hideout is, will you?”

“I could, but then I’d have to
—”

“Kill me,” Al finished
, laughing. “Yeah, I know. I think Missy and I would be better off here anyway. Least till this mess is straightened out.”

The two men went into the kitchen. “That’s part of why I’m here
, Al. There aren’t enough supplies at our place to support two extra mouths, I hope you understand.”

“Perfectly.”

“Getting ready for the worst can be a full-time job, which makes it hard when you can’t give it all the hours it deserves.”

“No need to explain. Your only job is to keep your own family safe, I get that.”

“But that doesn’t mean I can’t give you a few simple pointers which might help.”

Al got a glass out of the cupboard and turned the tap on. Cold water was still flowing and he filled the glass and brought it to his lips.

“Did you fill buckets up like I suggested?”

“I did,” Al replied. “Including the bathtub.”

“Good. I’ve got Gregory doing the same thing at our place now. But you need to be prepared for when the water stops and it will.”

“Really?”

“At the very least, your water may become discolored or unsafe to drink and I wanna show you how to clean it.” In some ways, Al was like the father John had never known. Taking a few minutes to help him out wasn’t a waste. Somehow he felt it was his duty.

“What would you suggest?”

“If the color changes or you need to filter water with debris, best thing is to use a coffee filter. If you run out a t-shirt will also work. Next you wanna take an eye dropper and add eight drops of bleach per gallon of water. Shake it well. Then smell the water. If it doesn’t smell faintly of bleach you wanna add a few more drops, but never more than sixteen.”

John went over to the back door. Al’s place didn’t have a sliding glass one
, which was good. “Wedge a chair underneath the handle and nail the feet into the floor. Do the same with the door to the garage but be sure to remove anything from there you think you’ll need.”

“I’ve got some plywood and
two-by-fours out there as well,” Al said. “Should I put those over the front windows?”


Not necessarily.”

“Coming from Mr. Paranoid, a statement like that really surprises me.”

John couldn’t help but chuckle. “I can see that. But here’s my thinking, Al. The best defense you can have in a situation like this is to blend in. If your house looks like Fort Knox, the bad guys will wonder what valuables you’re guarding in here.”

“We don’t have much to steal.”

“Maybe more than you think. Remember, right now paper money is quickly becoming toilet paper. I was at the Publix earlier and the prices for standard items have skyrocketed. Most of the shelves were already empty.”

There was suddenly a worried look on Al’s face, like all of this was becoming real. “My retirement savings.”

John put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry to say that’s probably all gone. These days most of our money’s nothing more than ones and zeros floating around in some computer system.”

“I don’t believe it,” Al said, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow.

“I can’t blame you. My purpose in coming over here wasn’t to unnerve you. Most everyone out there’s running around thinking it’s only a matter of time before things return to normal. I don’t think they will, not for a while, and many people won’t live to see that day. In another few days the reality’s going to settle in and when it does, the situation might get ugly. I want you to be ahead of the curve, Al. You’ve been a good neighbor over the years and I want you to at least be somewhat prepared.”

Al nodded, vaguely.

“Good. Now, after you’ve secured those entryways, you need to think of a safe place in the house you and Missy can flee to in a worst-case scenario.”

“We do have that guest bedroom in the basement.”

“Perfect! You’re going to turn that into your safe room. Use that wood you mentioned to reinforce the door and the frame. Then add a doorjamb that you can bolt to the floor. Bring down a cache of food and water so you can wait out any bad guys who show up.” John produced the Ruger SR22 and the box of ammo. “This here is your last resort and it sure beats the hell out of that baseball bat you’re using now.”

“Oh, John, you know I don’t like guns.”

“Yeah, I know, but liking’s got nothing to do with it. If someone breaks in here and means you or Missy any harm, you need to be ready. A .22 caliber bullet won’t cut a man in two, but it’ll be enough to wound and maybe even kill.” John took a minute to show Al the basics of how to use it. Loading the magazine, flicking the safety on and off, pulling the slide and how to control his breath when squeezing the trigger. “Once you’re done, that safe room will become your new bedroom. No more sleeping upstairs. It’ll take you too long to get down there if someone comes in the middle of the night. You finish all that and then if you have time you can start booby-trapping windows and doorways. Nail boards at the foot of every window, upstairs and down, are a nice easy deterrent. Use your imagination.”

Al was holding the gun as though it were a venomous snake.

“Handle her well and with the respect she deserves and she won’t bite you, I promise.”

“Sounds like something my wife would say.”

The two men laughed and John could only pray that Al would implement what they’d talked about.

Chapter 11

J
ohn, Diane and the kids busied themselves over the next few hours fortifying the house. The strategy was similar to what John had recommended for Al. The truth of the matter was, if bad guys wanted to get into your house, nothing was going to stop them. You might reinforce your front door and add ballistic security glass, but what good would all that do when someone drove a truck in through your living-room wall?

John recalled seeing house
-to-house searches conducted in Iraq. Many of the families there lived behind walls with strong gates and the Marines had simply knocked the gates down by smashing into them with their Humvees. If there was a will, there was a way. That was what made John’s approach somewhat different from many of his colleagues in the prepping community. Funneling intruders into designated kill zones was part of his strategy. Forget trying to keep them out. Wound them getting in with razor wire around the inside edge of windows and sharpened nail boards designed to pierce all but the toughest boots. Then lead them down a hallway where the barrel of a shotgun awaited them.

Ironically, John’s strategy meant slightly breaking his own rules. The sliding door and windows at the back of the house would all be boarded up on the inside a
nd out. The front of the house—the side visible to the average passerby—would look normal. Criminals who snuck around back would become discouraged and opt for knocking down the front door or breaking a window. If the first few obstacles didn’t deter them, then John’s next trick would surely do the job. A single hallway led from the front of the house to the kitchen and the basement. It was a nice choke point where John had installed a five-by-five-foot AR500 ballistic steel plate with a gun port and a slit allowing him to see. The metal plate was speced to withstand most small arms.

If that didn’t stop or dissuade the
intruders, then they could flee to the basement and the pod. The pod hatch was set in the floor behind a false wall. Anyone who chopped through the basement door and came after them would find nothing but an empty room. Of course, these were scenarios John filed away under the absolute worst case. It was his neighbors he worried about the most.

A shed in
his backyard held most of the wood and other building material left over from various construction jobs he’d been on. Mounting the plywood boards over the back windows and sliding door took the most time, especially since it was similarly reinforced on the interior as well. Gregory helped him, while Emma worked on the nail boards.

For her part,
Diane emptied the freezer, salvaging what she could. Last year they’d purchased a Heartland Wood Cookstove, a beautiful work of art that harkened back to the pioneering days of the 1800s. This was where Diane would operate the pressure canner. The pod in the basement already had a pantry with canned meat, vegetables and fruits. But this would allow them to preserve most everything from their deep freezer that wasn’t processed. The kids liked boxed pizzas and a few of them were left over from Diane’s trip to the grocery store before the EMP hit. For efficiency, they’d decided to start with the food that would go bad first.

Bugging
out, if it came to that, did raise another set of challenges. Sure, he, Diane and the kids all had their bug-out bags packed and ready to go, but what else would they be tempted to bring with them in the event they had to flee? Diesel for the truck was a must, along with as much food and water as they could carry. Then there were the medical supplies and a whole host of other considerations that were enough to make your head spin.

John
kept water and some food in the truck already, along with the row of five-gallon jerrycans filled with diesel on the back. If they had to hurry, they could simply grab their bug-out bags and be gone within minutes.

 

With the rear windows and doors secure and the sharpened nail boards completed, John and the kids worked at attaching close to fifty feet of razor wire along the inside window frames. For that, each of them wore stainless-steel cut-resistant gloves and took their time to ensure no one got hurt. John’s basic medical supplies consisted of sterile pads and gauze, cotton and medical tape, and compresses as well as hydrogen peroxide—enough to treat most any scrapes, cuts or wounds—but he had to keep in mind there wasn’t any emergency room to go to anymore if things were more serious, so the best bet was to avoid getting hurt in the first place.

Just as he
’d suggested to Al, John wanted his family to sleep in the pod. A hand-cranked air filtration system would help provide them with the oxygen they would need.

Beat
after a physically and emotionally exhausting day, John was looking forward to grabbing some sleep. Diane and the kids were already in the pod unrolling their sleeping bags. Using a battery-powered Colman lantern, John went to the gun safe he kept in his office and removed his Colt AR-15, along with his MCR1 Condor Tactical Vest that contained four thirty-round polymer magazines. Next he grabbed his PVS-14 nightvision monocle and walked through the house to ensure it was secure. Confident the house was properly locked down, John headed for the pod. Among the items he was carrying, the nightvision was one of the most important. If looters entered the house at night, he wanted to be able to see them before they saw him.

Chapter 12

B
y day two, for many the reality of the situation still hadn’t sunk in. Standing on his front step, John saw a large group of his neighbors and their children having a cookout in the middle of the street. Some of them had rolled out three propane barbecues in a line and were making hot dogs and hamburgers. Next to it was a table with cases of soda. Bill Kelsaw, a neighbor from two houses down, waved John over. He was wearing a tall white chef’s hat and flipping meat patties. Reluctantly John approached, not sure he wanted anything to do with what was going on.

“You want a burger?” Bill asked
, smiling.

“What is all this?”

Bill looked at him as though he’d just landed from another planet. “John, it’s the block party. Have you already forgotten?” Bill was having a great time. Behind him, kids were playing and shouting in the noonday sun. More neighbors had brought up folding chairs and begun chatting with one another. Then John spotted Al and Missy, mingling in the crowd.

Could he have
already finished those preps on his own?
John wondered.

“We’re not gonna let some power outage ruin a yearly ritual,” Bill was saying. “Hey
, John, why don’t you bring Diane and the kids down? I’m sure they’d love to have a bite and enjoy themselves. John?”

“Huh, no, I don’t think so.”

Bill stopped flipping burgers long enough to put a hand on John’s shoulder. “Let your hair down, man, and live a little.”

Bill was seventy now, a child of the
Sixties. As long there was a drink in his hand and he was having fun then nothing else seemed to matter. He hated anyone or anything that threatened to bring down his high.

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” John said, looking around him.

“Hey, I’ve lived through all kinds of outages, my man. Ice storms, earthquakes. You name it, I’ve done it. You know the one thing I learned, John?”

“No, what’s that
, Bill?”

“You can’t let
Mother Nature control you.” Smoke rose up from a row of burning patties. “Oh, damn,” Bill said, flipping them again and realizing they’d become hockey pucks. Bill scooped them off the grill and tossed them into a trash bin beside him.

The sight of such
waste, especially under the circumstances, was almost too much to bear. “In a week from now you’ll be digging through the trash to eat those burgers.”

Bill stopped, stunned. “Excuse me?”

“Are all of you living in some kind of fantasy land? Don’t you see what’s going on?”

The look on Bill’s face was that of someone dealing with a madman.

“Now take it easy, John. Is this about the burgers I threw out? They were burnt, no one’s gonna want them.”

“Haven’t you wondered
, Bill, why none of the cars are running? Why the phones are all dead?”

“I have
, John, and no one here knows what’s happening because the TV’s not working either. That tends to happen when the power goes out.”

“I was near the interstate yesterday after it happened and you know what I saw?”

Bill shook his head, looking like he didn’t want to have this conversation anymore.

“I saw thousands of stranded motorists abandoning cars that no longer worked and walking down what had become a parking lot.”

Bill didn’t say anything.

“Something terrible has happened
, Bill, and to the degree that it’s possible, I believe I’m prepared to handle what’s coming. Are you?”

John walked away, but he didn’t go home. He went over to Al, who was sitting in a fold
ing chair next to his wife, drinking a beer.

A guilty look spread over Al’s face, like a child who hadn’t done his homework.

“Hey, Al. Hi, Missy.”

“Hi
, John,” Al said, as Missy nodded hello. “Beautiful afternoon, isn’t it?”

“It is. Did you mana
ge to make any headway on what we spoke about yesterday?”

“I did,” Al said. “Still plenty to do
. Was going to do some more after the block party’s done.”

John smiled. “Okay, Al. Just let me know if you need a hand.”

“Will do.”

As he turned to leave,
Missy said, “Why don’t you send Emma and Gregory out for some hot dogs and drinks? I’m sure the other neighborhood kids would love to see them.”

That
was when John spotted Brandon, the young man he’d seen with Emma yesterday. He was sitting by Rose Myers’ maple tree, looking sad and lonely.

 

When John got back to the house, an argument was in progress. Diane and Emma were shouting back and forth at one another. It was unusual to hear fighting in their household. He’d tried to teach the kids that being calm and collected was the best approach.

Diane was at the top of the stairs. “Will you talk to your
daughter?”

“What’s the problem?”

“She wants to go to the block party.”

John shook his head. “
I was just there. None of them have a clue how serious this is.”

Emma
poked her head out of her room. “I don’t see why we’re locked up in this house like prisoners. People are having fun outside and I’m stuck in Alcatraz.”

“We’re doing this for your own safety,” John said. He turned to Diane. “The less in touch with reality those people outside are, the more it jeopardizes our own security.”

“You don’t think any of them would try and take what we have?” Diane asked, worried.

“Who can say for sure
? Hunger can do crazy things to people. But more importantly, if the neighborhood isn’t a united front, we’ll be easy pickings for roving gangs looking to raid supplies.”

From her room
Emma said, “Look outside. They
are
a united front, Dad. We’re the ones on the outside.”

Diane bit her lip. “I hate to say it, but she might have a point. If we intend to stay, even for a little while, alienating ourselves from the neighbors might come back to haunt us.”

John sighed. Under the circumstances, the willful neglect that was going on outside went against everything he held dear, but they did have a point. Adaptability and being able to swallow your pride for the greater good could spell the difference between life and death. History was littered with the bodies of men who’d stuck to their principles and died from inflexibility. He swallowed hard, knowing that putting on a smile while the world around him slowly boiled over would be difficult, but if the community was going to come together to make decisions in the future, he didn’t want to be left on the sidelines.

BOOK: Last Stand: Surviving America's Collapse
9.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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