Authors: N.C. Reed
He shook off those thoughts as Terry started moving. He was next. And he couldn’t be distracted right now. One thing at a time.
Find the ‘house’, and then worry about what they would be facing. Terry went to cover then, and George was moving. Trying not to think about the last time the three of them had done something like this. Far, far from home.
Billy was starting to worry. It would be dark, soon, and they’d had no word at all from the others. Toby and he had shared the duty of checking the other windows, always careful to stay out of sight. They had lunched on MREs. Not exactly the quality of food they were used to, but they could heat them with the enclosed heat tabs, so they were at least hot.
Tasty wasn’t a requirement for MREs, Billy knew.
“Hadn’t they ought to be back, by now?” Toby asked, worry plain on his young face.
“Maybe,” Billy tried not to let his own concern show. “But they might have found something. And they weren’t on no set schedule, neither,” he reminded the younger man. “We’ll see’em when we see’em.”
“They could at least call in, let us know they was all right,” Toby observed.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Billy shrugged. “If they found what they was lookin’ for, then usin’ the radio might not be a good idea. We’ll just have to wait’n see. Don’t forget, them three was soldiers. Done been to war and what not. Ain’t likely they’ll run into somethin’ they can’t deal with.”
Toby nodded at that, and settled back in to wait. They didn’t have long, as their radio chirped a few minutes later.
“Coming in,” George’s voice was clear, but quiet.
“We copy,” Toby answered, as Billy took up his rifle. Soon, three shadowy figured emerged from the trees opposite the house, making their way in. Billy watched behind them, making sure no one was following.
Ten minutes later, they were all seated downstairs, the three tired men gobbling MREs as they filled their friends in.
“They’re in the damn Wal-Mart,” George snorted. “All that talk about The House, and we find them living in a Wal-Mart.”
“Makes sense,” Billy mused, thinking. “Plenty o’ food, water, clothes and such. Guns, ammo, you name it. Pretty good idea.” The three soldiers stopped eating as one, looking at him.
“Well, it is,” Billy shrugged. Pete was the first one to speak.
“Son of a. . .I never thought about none of that,” he admitted. Terry chuckled.
“Me either. Billy, I ever tell you how much I like it when you’re around?”
“I. . .why?” Billy asked, cutting off his own answer.
“You always see through the smoke, that’s why,” George answered for all of them. “You see things plainer, easier, than we ever seem to.” Billy shrugged at that, not knowing what to say. Or if it was a compliment or not.
“Told you,” Toby smirked again at Two Bears, who threw the younger man a middle finger for his troubles, though smiling as he did so.
“Anyway,” George went on, “we watched the place for about three hours. It’s about an hour’s walk from here, if we’re humping good. We counted eleven men, in all. Just lounging around outside, sometimes, like they ain’t got a care of no kind.”
“They don’t think they do,” Terry shrugged. “No one’s opposed them yet. And they have no reason to think anyone will.”
“See any sign of people bein’ held?” Billy asked. George nodded.
“Saw one man who was a prisoner for sure, and five women. One teenager. Probably more inside, especially if Regina was right and they’re keeping kids in there. No way to see how many, though, from where we were. Or anywhere else. Not without getting inside.”
“And I can’t find a way to do that, without someone noticing,” Pete added. “They may not be all that sharp, but someone knows at least enough to keep all the doors guarded. We can take’em easy enough, but if they get off an alarm, then we’re looking at a gunfight. And the odds aren’t on our side.”
“So we got a plan?” Billy asked, leaning forward.
“Well, we got the start of one,” George nodded. “Let’s see what you two think about it.”
The talk lasted well into the night.
“Well, I think we’re about ready to go,” George announced.
It was roughly two hours until dawn. The plan was to be in place by sun-up. It appeared that this bunch liked to be up late at night, so they might just catch them still asleep.
They had a simple plan. Simpler was always better, in Billy’s opinion. Less to go wrong. Less to remember. Less likely to mess up.
The ‘red box’ had contained a number of goodies that the three soldiers in the group hadn’t counted on having, including three fragmentation grenades, and a half dozen of Billy’s homemade napalm bombs. All three had been impressed with them.
They also enjoyed the two MP-5's, complete with six mags each.
“Billy, where did you get this stuff?” Terry asked.
“Made them napalm jars.”
“What about these?” Pete asked, holding up one of the sub guns.
“Found it,” Billy shrugged, truthfully. All three snorted.
“Yeah, right,” Pete snickered. “Anyways, I don’t care. It’s nice to have.”
“True that,” George nodded. He was still carrying the M-4 rifle Billy had given him. He hadn’t bothered to ask again where it came from. He was just glad to have it.
“Okay, so we know what we’re doing, right?” Terry asked, getting the discussion back on track. Everyone nodded.
“Toby, you need to be ready at a moment’s notice,” George told the teen. “If we can’t handle this, we’ll need to scram out of here in a hurry.”
“I’ll be ready,” Toby promised.
“Billy, there’s a nice tall building nearby, maybe two hundred yards distant. I’d counted on you having Toby as a spotter, but it’s just you. Can do?”
“Reckon so,” Billy nodded in agreement. “Two hunerd yards ain’t no real shot,” he added.
“Maybe not for you,” Terry snorted. “Seen some couldn’t shoot at two hundred feet.”
“I can,” was all Billy said.
“All right, then,” George looked around once more. “Toby, you make a good check here, make sure everything’s loaded, and we ain’t left anything behind. Billy, you come with me, and I’ll get you spotted. Terry, you and Pete go ahead and get in position, like we planned.”
“We do this right, we’ll be in and done before they know what hit them.”
Billy settled in on the roof, putting the bi-pod of his rifle down. The Harris Bi-pod was a good platform. He made sure there was nothing underneath it, and then set a plastic cartridge box holding fifty rounds down near his right hand. He didn’t think he’d need so many, but he wouldn’t have time to dig more out if he needed them.
George had silently made his way down, and joined Terry and Pete.
The Wal-Mart was sitting among other stores in a large strip mall set-up. There were restaurants, convenience stores, and specialty shops. The Wal-Mart was one of the super-center type stores, and set alone among the other buildings. There was a Lowe’s across the way, as well. Billy used his binoculars to quickly scope the Lowe’s store. It looked intact. He filed that away for later, and turned his attention to the Wal-Mart. Using his rifle scope now, he looked over their target.
The parking lot had several vehicles in it, most appearing to have been long abandoned. Three four by fours sitting near the main entrances looked as if they were in use, the thin layer of dust, dirt, and leaves on the other vehicles being absent. Billy would have to watch those, he figured. If any of the gang inside tried to escape, that would likely be their first choice.
He continued scanning, locating a sleeping ‘guard’ in the entrance foyer. The man had a Ruger Mini-14 cradled in his arms. Billy decided he would probably have to be his first target, unless the others ran into trouble first.
During the night the decision had been made to enter through the garden center entrance. There had been no guard there the day before, and Billy couldn’t see one now, either.
The plan was for Billy to engage the front of the store, while the other three used that distraction to enter the store from the side. In the confusion, the three soldiers felt like they could whittle the numbers down some before anyone realized they were in the store.
Billy looked at the roof, next, and saw a problem. There was a small ‘knocked together’ shack on the roof. Not much bigger than an old phone booth. And there was a man inside it. A man that was looking at Billy through a rifle scope!
There was no time to warn the others. Billy took a breath, let half of it out, and slowly squeezed the trigger.
“Okay, let’s. . . .” George started, only to be cut off by the sound of a high powered rifle.
“Damn it!” he swore. “Let’s get going!” The three men moved.
Their plan had been to enter through the garden center, and there wasn’t time to change that now. If Billy had fired, it was because he had too. They rushed the garden center door, hoping that the element of surprise wasn’t totally lost.
Another rifle shot boomed as they reached the doorway, and George hoped that Billy was keeping the attention of the store occupants. He entered the store first, followed by Terry and then Peter covering their rear.
A man dressed in filthy biker leather was just coming awake where he’d been sleeping inside the door. George didn’t hesitate, putting three rounds into him as the man struggled to escape his sleeping bag. The bag kept moving, and a woman’s head and upper body popped out, a pistol in her hand. The shock of seeing her made George hesitate, even as she brought the gun to bear.
A three round burst tore her and the sleeping bag to shreds. He turned to see Pete, MP-5 in his hands. George nodded his thanks, and Pete winked at him.
“Okay, so maybe all the women aren’t prisoners,” Terry interjected. “Let’s keep that in mind, and get moving. They’ll be getting organized soon.”
The three men continued into the store.
Billy watched the front door as he fed two rounds into the open action on his Remington. He’d taken the man on the roof, then the man at the door, and made sure they stayed down. He rammed the bolt home, chambering a fresh round, and sighted in on the door once more.
A large man with a shotgun came running into the foyer, kneeling to check on the guard. Billy let him stop moving, laying the cross hairs of his scope on the man’s chest. As soon as he was still, Billy squeezed the trigger. A second later, the man fell back onto the floor, a mist of blood spraying out behind him. Billy calmly worked the bolt again, and swept the rifle back and forth, watching for more movement.
He had to be careful at this distance. By now his three friends were inside. He didn’t want to make a mistake.
The third rifle shot, muted this time, was obviously Billy again, the three decided.
“Sounds like he’s cutting the odds some,” Terry whispered. George nodded.
“Assuming one for one, we’ve still got at least seven targets,” he replied. “We’ll have to watch the women. Let’s go.”
Moving from the garden center, the three men worked their way through toys to the hardware section, and from there to sporting goods. As they worked to clear that area, another man jumped up in front of them. They recognized him as the man from yesterday with the AR, from the patrol they had followed.
The man opened fire with the rifle, shooting from the hip. George threw himself to the floor as the rounds chewed up the shelves around him. Terry Blaine raised his rifle, and three rounds tore through the ‘mall ninja’ in quick succession, putting him down for good.
Pete yelled a warning, and opened fire as two more men appeared, coming from the auto service area, one still in his skivvies. He liberally hosed the area with the MP-5 on full auto, cutting the two men down in a literal storm of bullets.
The noise of the gunshots, inside the store, was almost deafening. The three of them had worn electronic ear plugs that mitigated the sound, but it was still loud. Even the best hearing protection could only do so much, and still let them hear what they needed to in order to survive.
“Four to go, plus the women,” Terry called. They kept moving.
Billy watched as two men exited the grocery side doors, heading for the Chevy Blazer sitting between the two main entrances. He sighted on the lead figure, and loosed a round. The target was moving, which made the shot more difficult. The round Billy had intended for the target’s chest, struck him instead in the right arm. The blow put the man on the ground, and left the arm useless. Ignoring him for the moment, Billy sighted on the second man.
The second target had hesitated as the sight of his friend hitting the ground. Instead of seeking cover, he looked wildly around, firing his rifle in all directions.
That simply made it easier for Billy to put a .308 round into the center of his chest, which he did two seconds later. The man hit the ground as if he’d been de-boned. Billy turned his rifle back to the wounded man, to see nothing. The man had taken those few seconds to find cover.
And Billy had no idea where he was.
Inside, the three former soldiers were again moving, heading through the housewares section carefully. Their element of surprise was now gone. Worse, they had no way of knowing if any of the other women would be prisoners, or perpetrators. That made their work slower, and more difficult.
George looked down one aisle, only to see an armed man at the other end, looking the other way. George ducked back, signing to his friends. Peeking around the endcap again, he could see that the man was still there, obviously expecting them to be coming down the main aisle. He raised his rifle, taking aim. Before he could shoot, Terry shouted a warning.
“Action front!” George instinctively ducked, just as the man he was targeting turned, spraying round after round in his direction. George scrambled for cover as yet another man, the one who had prompted the warning from Terry, cut loose with a shotgun. George was showered with bits and pieces of plastic and rubber containers as the two men chewed through the items still on the shelves trying to hit him.
Terry Blaine brought his rifle to bear on the shotgun armed man, letting go with a pair of three round bursts. He didn’t score a hit, but did make the man hunt cover, which was good enough for the moment.
Meanwhile, Peter Two Bears was working his way around the other side. He knew what aisle George had been looking down, and made his way to the opposite end of the same aisle. Going prone, he moved forward just far enough to see the man still crouched in the aisle. Moving the MP-5 forward along the floor, he triggered another burst down the aisle, and was rewarded with a scream of pain as the nine millimeter rounds tore into his target’s feet and legs. Satisfied, he scurried back behind the counters, and out of the line of fire.
There was still one active shooter, and at least three women, unaccounted for.
Billy searched the parking lot on row at the time, looking for the wounded man that had disappeared. He knew the man was hurt, and losing blood. Would probably lose the arm, if he didn’t get medical attention, whether Billy found him or not.
But he was still a threat to the men inside the store, if they needed to exit through the front.
He kept looking.
Terry had ran down the aisle opposite of George as soon as he’d forced the man with the shotgun to seek cover. George was now in a position to keep the man occupied, and was shooting steadily to keep the man’s attention. Terry eased around the shelving, making sure his way was clear, and moved slowly toward the shooter’s back.
Suddenly a large woman with wildly unkept hair lunged out of the aisle, pointing another shotgun at him. Caught by surprise, Terry threw himself into the next aisle as buckshot rattled the shelves behind him.
“I got him!” he heard a woman’s voice screech in delight.
“Shut up!” a man’s voice demanded. “There’s more than one!”
We should have watched longer, Terry decided. They had assumed the women were prisoners. Some of them might be, he allowed, but at least two were part of the ‘gang’.
Know better than to make assumptions, Terry, he chided himself. He drew his pistol, and crawled back to the endcap. Using it for cover, he peered around the very bottom of the shelf, and saw the woman was still standing there. But looking back down the aisle at the man.
“I know I hit him. . . .arggh!” Her claim was cut short as Terry took advantage of her poor discipline to pump three .45 caliber rounds down range, striking her square in the chest with two of them.
“Damn you!” the man swore, seeing his partner fall. He erupted suddenly from his cover, shooting the shotgun from the hip as fast as he could work the pump action. George was forced to pull back under the hail of buckshot. At this range, the shotgun was far deadlier than his rifle.