Last Stand: Surviving America's Collapse (6 page)

BOOK: Last Stand: Surviving America's Collapse
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Chapter 13

utside, not long after, Al tapped John on the shoulder and offered him a Budweiser.

took it and twisted off the cap. “I think we should begin setting up some sort of committee.”

“What for?”

“Might not be long before we need to start making decisions collectively. It’s always best not to wait for a crisis to know who’s in charge.”

Al nodded. “I suppose it can’t hurt to start spreading the word. I think Dan Foster used to work in the mayor’s office before he started his own law practice. I could have a chat with him.”

John took a bite of a hot dog and set it down on a paper plate. “Hmm, hold off on talking to Dan just yet.”

Oh, did you hear what happened on Silversted?” Al asked.

“No, I didn’t.”

Al ran a wrinkled hand through what was left of his graying hair. “The street runs parallel to the interstate and apparently yesterday a few dozen folks came knocking on doors, asking for a place to stay for the night.”

“You mean the
ones who were stranded on the highway?”

“Looks that way. I believe they were all taken in, fed and given a place to sleep.”

John took another swig of his beer, touched although worried at the same time.

“After the power went out
, a bunch of them continued on to work while the rest turned around and headed home. It was the ones who got all the way into town and found their offices closed who got stuck when darkness fell. In a situation like this, that’s all most folks want anyway, right? To find a way home.”

What about the police?” John asked. “Any word on whether they’ve been out at all?”

“Sally Wright from
Maple Lane was saying she saw a number of them in groups of five or six. On some sort of patrol. Says she asked, but they didn’t know what had happened to cause this.”

“Didn’t know or wouldn’t say?”

“Hmm, not sure.”

“How were the cops getting around?” John asked.


That makes sense. I wonder how they get anyone to the station though.”

Al laughed. “
I wondered that myself. I guess the bad guys ride on the handlebars or something. But Sally also said she went to over to the Publix this morning to get a few things and found the shelves had been stripped bare.”

“That so?” John said, not the least bit surprised.
Maybe now the seriousness of the situation would begin to sink in.

Over by a group of kids playing horseshoes on a neighbor’s lawn, John spotted
Emma. She was with Brandon and the two of them were sitting on folding chairs, giggling.

Al followed John
’s glance. “It’s a fact of life, you know.”

“What’s that?”

“Falling in love. Happens to us all. The lucky ones at least.”

“I know, Al.
Emma’s a good kid. I trust her implicitly. It’s this boy I’m not sure about.”

“Well, they’re out in the
open when they could be hiding out of sight. That oughta count for something.” Al looked down at the empty beer in his hand. “Want another one?”

John shook his head and Al sauntered off to the cooler.

He wasn’t alone for more than a few seconds before he heard a voice behind him.

“They’re quite fond of each other, aren’t they?”

He turned and found Tim Appleby, Brandon’s father.

John nodded.
“They seem to be. Although it can’t hurt to keep an eye on them. Kids do have a habit of doing silly things.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Tim said, smiling. “We were young
too once.”

John didn’t know much about Tim, other than
that he worked as a musician, playing piano in hotel bars downtown.

Tim rubbed his hands together
, twiddling his fingers as though he was prepping for a recital. “I’ve been hearing from some of the neighbors that you think this is gonna last more than a few days.”

“I know it will, Tim, but no one is really willing to accept that yet.”

“Can you blame them? I spent a stint living up in Montreal back in the late Nineties. In ’98 we were hit with one of the worst ice storms in history. Two million people without power for a full week. And let me tell you something. I never had so much fun in my life.”

John shook his head. “Yeah, I heard about that. Were there cops on the streets?”

“All over,” Tim said. “I’ve never seen so many cop cars. A few incidents of firewood and generator thefts, but overall people muscled through it. If they can last a week, then so can we.”

, Tim, but this isn’t going to last a week. Won’t even last a month. I know it’s hard to believe, but there’s a very good chance it could be months, maybe even a year before things start returning to normal. Until then we’re getting a crash course in what it was like to live in the 1800s.”

The color faded from Tim’s face.

“I know the party mode is still in full swing,” John went on. “And hey, everyone handles things in their own way, but sometime in the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours, we’re gonna need to have a meeting for the residents of Sequoyah Hills to sort out issues of food and security. Tactically speaking, we’ve got the river at our backs. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to create a series of checkpoints so we can be sure who’s coming into our neighborhood.” John suddenly remembered something. “You own an old Mustang, don’t you?”

“Yeah, a 1973
. Just finished detailing her.”

“Have you tried running her since yesterday?”

“No, I just assumed she wouldn’t work.”

“I suspect she’ll run just fine.
In fact, if push comes to shove she may come in handy. I’ve got a ’78 Blazer myself which still runs just fine. At the meeting, we’ll need to see who else has an older car that we could use.”

“That makes sense
. Let me talk to some people and see what I can get going.”

All right. Thanks, Tim.”

t mention it.” Tim paused. “There was another reason I came to speak with you.”

I’m all ears.”

“I just wanted to let you know that
Brandon is a good kid.”

“I’m sure he is.”

Tim smiled and walked away. Diane came up to John a few minutes later and wrapped her arms around him.

“You finding the same thing I am?” she asked.

“Denial, you mean?”

She let out a worried laugh.

“Yeah,” he said. “But it’s not all bad. I’ve been spreading the word that we need to have a meeting for all residents of Sequoyah Hills.”

“And people seem receptive?”

“So far. Al was telling me the Publix was completely cleaned out. It’s only a question of time before the hunger sets in.”

He saw the concern growing on her face.

“We’re still in a good spot, honey,” he told her. “No need to worry. We’ve got plenty of food, a safe place to sleep and a house that’s nicely fortified. Compared to the rest of these free-spirited partygoers, we’re well ahead of the curve. Besides, if the crap really does hit the fan, we’ve always got plan B.”

Diane hugged John tighter.

“I spoke with Brandon’s father just now,” he said.

She looked up at him. “And?”

“Seemed nice enough. Told me about a disaster he lived through up in Montreal years ago and what a great time he had.”

She laughed. “Oh
, boy.”

He has a ’73 Mustang that might still work.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I sense a but in there somewhere.”

John’s wife knew him too well. “Tim’s a musician.”


“Before yesterday it wouldn’t have mattered. But as things progress, anyone without a useful skillset will be in real danger.”

Chapter 14

he next morning, John unsealed the hatch and emerged from the pod to a loud booming noise. It sounded like it was coming from upstairs. He climbed back down the ladder into the pod and got his S&W, checking to make sure the magazine was full.

“What is it, John?” Diane sounded concerned.

“Not sure,” he told her. The kids were awake too now. “Wait down here till I give the okay. Seal the hatch behind me after I leave.”

“Need some backup?” Gregory asked.

“Thanks, bud, but not this time.”

“Be careful,” Diane said as he climbed out again.

No sooner was he topside than he heard the pounding again. John slid back the false wall and headed upstairs. Early-morning light trickled in from outside. Whoever was making that racket was sure persistent. Once upstairs, he saw that it was coming from the front door. He slipped into the living room and peeked out through the window. Al was there, hammering his fist a final time before walking away. John hurried and pulled open the front door.

“Al,” he said,
sliding the S&W into his drop-leg holster. “If I didn’t know any better I might have shot you.”

His neighbor looked out of breath and John knew right away it was serious. “Come quick.”

They ran down to the end of the street. A crowd had gathered, many of them in their pajamas. Some of the older women were wearing robes pulled tightly around them.

“What’s going on?” John asked
, breathing deeply.

One of his neighbors named Peter Warden, a
gym teacher over at the junior high, was coming toward them with an armful of blankets. “We heard shots this morning and saw figures with guns running through the neighborhood.”

Some of the neighbors milling around were armed with d
eer rifles and pistols.

“They hit two houses at the end of the street
,” Al said.

“Who’s they?” John asked
, confused.

Peter shrugged. “No one knows. Men with guns
. And they ransacked Paul Hector’s place.”

“Who else?” John asked.

“Tim Appleby.”

’s heart dropped. Emma would be a wreck once she found out. “Is everyone okay?” He was following Peter now as he approached the Hector family home. All five family members were sitting on the front stoop. Peter handed them each a blanket and then turned back to John. “Everyone here is accounted for, but there’s still no word from Tim or his family.”

“How many of them are there?”

“Four,” Peter answered. “Tim, his wife Kay, son Brandon and daughter Natalie.”

John motioned for Al to follow him and the two hurried down to the corner of Willow Creek a
nd Pine Grove where the Appleby home was located. A handful of neighbors were coming in and out of the house. The garage door was open. John entered from there and noticed at once Tim’s car was gone.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” John said.

Al stopped to catch his breath. “But how could anyone steal a car that didn’t work?”

He had a ’73 Mustang. When the EMP hit, it knocked out anything with a microchip. Older cars, like his and Betsy, were largely immune.”

They entered the house. John figured whoever
had done this was long gone, but drew his pistol anyway. You never knew if a bad guy had been wounded during the assault and was waiting in a closet somewhere. He checked behind him and saw Al with the Ruger SR22. “Keep your finger off that trigger until it’s time to shoot,” he told his neighbor. He stopped before a handful of others assembled in the house. “Has anyone conducted a thorough search of the house yet?” he asked.

A teenaged boy raised his hand. “I looked upstairs and didn’t see anyone.”

“Okay, each of you, go in the kitchen and grab a weapon of some kind. Go in groups of two and start a fresh search from the basement up. Keep an eye out for places in closets and behind doors where someone could be hiding. Al and I will start upstairs and meet you back here on the main floor.”

They spent the next ten minutes tearing the house apart without finding a soul. The place looked like it’d been ransacked. A j
ewelry box lay on the floor, its contents spilled out like the guts of a slaughtered calf. A sinking feeling was building in John’s gut. Whoever had done this might have taken Tim and his family hostage.

They reached the main floor and continued searching, but it was already clear they weren’t going to find anyone. The other group emerged from the basement. “Anything?” John asked.

They shook their heads.

“Maybe they managed to escape on their own,” Al suggested.
“Got in the car and drove as far away as they could.”

John nodded. “I hope you’re

Chapter 15

ohn sent a group to check the remaining houses on Willow Creek and call whoever was still inside. It was nearly ten o’clock by the time all the families had assembled. There were thirty-two houses on their street and at least two to four people from each house. Only one of them stood empty. The Wilsons had moved out in the early spring before selling—Andrew Wilson was a doctor and could afford to keep the second home. Right now Andrew’s medical knowledge would have been handy to their little group.

A ladder from Paul Hector’s garage would be John’s podium. It was important that eve
ryone could see him clearly, even though the thought of taking charge of these people still didn’t sit well with him. John was a man who normally kept to himself, minding his own business. Al was one of the few neighbors he spoke to and even Al knew very little about John’s prepping lifestyle. Without being too cloak-and-dagger about it, secrecy was an important part of successful preps that many overlooked or flat-out ignored. And John understood why. You spent loads of time and money to weather a SHTF event and couldn’t let anyone but your family know any of the details.

Al cleared his throat.

Dozens of eyes looked back at John. He swallowed. “As many of you already know,” he began, “two houses in our neighborhood were attacked last night. The Hectors aren’t real hurt, but we’re still not sure what happened to the Applebys.”

cried out and covered her face with her hands. Diane pulled her close. He wished he’d had more time to tell her beforehand, but things were moving fast now and time was of the essence.

“We’ve searched the
house and there are no signs of the family or the ones who did this. We know they were armed and were looking for food and other valuables. Our hearts and prayers go out to Tim and his family. Let’s hope they’re safe and sound.”

Some members of the crowd bowed their heads
and whispered silent prayers. Others stood stunned as though this were all some movie they were watching on TV.

I’d just spoken to Tim yesterday about organizing such a meeting, but hoped it wouldn’t have been under these circumstances.” John sighed, hating this next part. “I know wild rumors have been floating around since the power went out about what’s causing all this. I also know many of you are keenly aware this isn’t your ordinary grid-down scenario. I spent close to ten years in the military, experiencing things I don’t care to mention so none of you would ever have to. Seems all that was for naught. I believe that two days ago our country was hit with something called an EMP.”

The crowd began to murmur.

“In short, gamma rays from the detonation of a high-altitude nuclear missile caused an oscillating electric current and in turn an electromagnetic pulse which wiped out all electronic devices within a huge blast radius. A single missile exploding four hundred miles over Kansas would be enough to knock out every electrical device over the continental United States. Apart from a solar flare, I can’t think of anything else that would stop cars and fry cells phones and computers all at once.”

“We’ve been nuked?”
Peter said incredulously. He’d been the one to bring blankets to the Hectors this morning.

“If I’m right, then it looks that way,” John
told him. “But I wanna caution all of you that without some sort of confirmation from the military, we shouldn’t assume we’re at war. I tried telling you folks earlier, but my words fell on deaf ears.”

“It’s so hard to believe,” a neighbor named Rose Myers exclaimed.

“But we haven’t seen the worst of it yet,” John went on. “Most homes in major cities have a few days’ worth of food and water. Once that’s done, it’s only a question of time before the rule of law completely breaks down.”

“The water’s already stopped,” Al said. “Tried my tap this morning and only a few drops came out.”

“There’s still water in your pipes and in your water heaters,” John said. “It’s important when we’re done here that at least one member of your household be in charge of collecting what’s there. It’s also important moving forward that any water consumed be boiled first, since the treatment facility likely stopped working before the water was cut off. Now we can’t save all of Sequoyah Hills, but we can at least help protect those of us on Willow Creek Drive. I propose we immediately move to elect a committee of six men and women to make decisions on securing our street.”

“Why don’t we just vote
on everything?” Peter asked.

John shook his head. “Having
to assemble everyone on the street to make decisions will cripple us. It’s best to have a small governing body who can then disseminate the decisions.

Each member of the committee will be responsible for a different area. Food-gathering, water filtration, security. That sort of stuff. The remaining residents will be divided under committee leaders and tasked with carrying out specific jobs.”

Sounds to me from the way you’re talking like you won’t be in the committee?” Al asked John.

“I’d prefer not to,” he told them. “But I’m happy to help in any other way I can.”

Paul Hector came forward. “My family was almost murdered last night. I had to hand over all the food we had to criminals. What’ll happen when they return and I have nothing left to give them? We need someone with military experience on the committee.”

Everyone present agree
d. John shrugged. He could see Diane in the crowd and she didn’t seem thrilled by the idea, but there was little else they could do. Things were getting worse, no doubt, but the situation wasn’t bad enough to bug out and leave all these people to fend for themselves. Not yet at least. John swallowed hard. “For now, I’m happy to act as an advisor to the committee until we secure the area.”

That seemed to satisfy people.

“Willow Creek is a cul-de-sac,” John went on. “There’s one way in by car and one way in by foot from the park at the other end of the street. I suggest while we’re assembling the committee and having our first meeting, the rest of you push stalled cars and trucks in the way to create a roadblock where Willow Creek meets Pine Grove and a barricade and checkpoint at the cul-de-sac by the park.” He looked to Peter. “Would you mind overseeing that?”

Peter nodded. “I’m on it.”

John turned to Al. “Now we gotta figure out who’s on this committee.”

BOOK: Last Stand: Surviving America's Collapse
10.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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