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Monday, February 15, 2010

White Pickups, Episode 22


Cleve heard the banging downstairs as Tim grew quiet. He locked the apartment door and hurried back to the bedroom.

“Red!” he rasped. “Someone’s downstairs!”

Tim looked up at Cleve from the floor and shook his head.

“Dude… listen. Do you think Rebecca would have wanted you to just give up like that? We’ve got trouble!”

Tim shook his head again, but pulled himself up, bracing against the nightstand as he stood. He brushed the empty pill bottle with his hand; it rolled off the nightstand to the floor. Tim picked it up, gave it a sour look, and threw it into the closet. It buried itself in her clothes then fell. “I didn’t want her to give up, either.” He looked at Rebecca, reaching down to stroke her brown hair one last time.

“Yeah. Plenty of time to think about that later.” A door slammed shut from down below. “Whoever it is, they just found the stairwell,” Cleve said. “We gotta get on this like now.”

“Whatever,” Tim said, looking at Cleve again. “They won’t be coming straight here, will they?” He paused a moment. “Decoy.”


Tim stood, crossed the room, and yanked a full-length blue dress out of the closet, kicking the pill bottle into the corner. “Get down to the far end of the hallway. I’ll hold it out the door with a broom handle. He’ll focus on the dress, you take him down.”

“Damn. That might work.” Cleve ran to the front door and watched the hall as Tim plodded into the kitchen for a broom. “Yeah, he’s still on the second floor. Keep your bod out of the hall, okay?”

“Sure.” Tim unscrewed the broom from the handle, then ran the handle through the arms of the dress. “There’s a stairwell on the other end. Make sure he doesn’t come up behind you.”

“Gotcha!” Cleve ducked and bolted down the hallway. Tim hung the dress out the door and waited.

After a long minute, the stairwell door they had come through slammed open, followed by a shout and gunfire, too loud in the confined hallway. The dress puffed backward, as in a wind, and Cleve returned fire: two shots, a yelp, and a clatter.

“Don’t try it!” Cleve yelled. “Red! C’mon!” as he dashed past the dress. Tim dropped the handle and stepped out, pistol up.

A skinny guy with dirty blonde hair and a scraggly beard leaned against the stairwell door, holding his bleeding left arm and scowling at Cleve. He wore jeans, boots, and a Harley t-shirt. A ball cap lay upside-down on the floor, near a deer rifle. Cleve kicked the gun away, not taking his eyes or his pistol off him. Tim hurried to join Cleve.

“Red,” Cleve panted, “I’m gonna cover this little shit. You run back and grab three electrical cords. Don’t matter what they come off of, or if you have to rip ’em off whatever they’re attached to, just get ’em. And a towel.”

“Um — right.” Tim hustled back to Rebecca’s apartment to fetch the requested material. Her PC and monitor provided two of the cords; he took the third by cutting it off the desk lamp. The bathroom had a towel that still smelled of Rebecca… he let the grief have its way for a few seconds, then hurried to rejoin his friend.

“Yeah, that’ll do,” Cleve said. “On the floor, asshole. I’m gonna bandage your arm first. You just stretch it out from you.

“Red: you cover him. Put your pistol on his neck. If he tries anything funny, just shoot him.”

“I ought to let you shoot me,” the attacker said, still standing. “Better that than letting you faggots have your way with me.”

Cleve’s left fist slammed the man’s head into the stairwell door; his knees buckled. “Watch your mouth,” he said. “Some of my best friends are ‘faggots’ — and none of ’em would want to dirty themselves on you. Now. Lay down.” The attacker shook his head, but sunk to the floor.

Cleve dragged him face down, then nodded to Tim and pointed at the man’s neck; Tim jabbed his neck with the muzzle. Cleve stretched out the wounded arm, cut a strip from the towel, then used the strip to bandage the wound. As he worked, he checked pockets and relieved the gunman of a spare ammo clip and a boot knife. Then he used the lamp cord to bind the gunman’s hands behind his back, then tied the two computer cords together and to his ankles. “That should do it,” he said. “Now he can walk, but he can’t run.”

“Are we gonna carry him down the stairs?”

“Yeah… unless you wanna drop him out a window. Or just throw him down the stairs.”

“Why go through all the trouble of bandaging him or tying him up if we’re just going to kill him?”

“’Cause we ain’t.” Cleve picked up the rifle; it looked like a military replica. He slung it over his shoulder. “We’re taking him back with us. Roll him over onto his back… yeah. Now we each take an arm, and we’ll drag him. His boots can bounce on the stairs for all I care.”

They hoisted the wounded attacker, still groggy from Cleve’s punch. Cleve pushed the stairwell door open, pointing the pistol up then down, and peered down. “Clear. I think it was just him. Let’s go.” They dragged him down the stairs, his boots clunking on each step.

Nearing the ground floor, the captive started to struggle. Cleve reversed his pistol and tapped the man’s lips with the butt, lightly. “You wanna lose what’s left of your teeth?” The man shook his head. “Then you won’t start yelling or give us any kind of trouble, right?” He shook his head again. “Good. Let’s go.” They pushed through the door and into the lobby.

“You son of a bitch!” Tim said, dropping the captive; Cleve’s grip slipped and he dropped to the floor. “Our bikes!”

“Yeah. That’s what I figured he was doing,” Cleve said, looking at the wreckage. “Looks like he stomped the wheels and threw the bikes around a bit.”

Tim kicked the captive, who grunted and cursed. “I oughtta kill you right here and now for that!” He kicked one more time, then pointed his pistol at him. “You think this is funny? I had four grand in that bike!”



  1. Good episode. Sorry about the bikes. I'm a bit sorry, they didn't think to bring the bikes to a safer place, but I guess they couldn't take them upstairs very well. And they wouldn't have been thinking in terms of a creep like that out for just pure destructive "pleasure".

    I'm thinking also that this new guy is just going to bring them trouble when they get him back to their place of safety.

  2. Thanks, Cone. You're right, they weren't expecting trouble even with the heightened state of alert, and there wasn't much choice about stashing the bikes. They probably could have brought them into the lobby, instead of leaving them in the foyer where they could be seen from the sidewalk.

    The new guy might not last long enough to give trouble…

  3. I agree with Coneflower. The captive will likely lead to no good. Very exciting installment, Far.

  4. This episode is rather dark, but events like that are all too realistic. Given that so many people here in the US have been raised on what some might call a culture of casual violence and a near-total disregard for anyone not of their own subgroup/clan/whatever, it's not at all hard to imagine some of the less-clueful survivors acting out their prejudices or hatreds from before-the-Fall.

    It is especially not too difficult to imagine the surviving bible-thumpers making part of the country into their own little Republic of Gilead (with nods to “The Handmaid's Tale”) convinced that is was “those wicked ways of the past” that brought down the wrath of the almighty upon them, instead of merely their own gluttonous appetite for petroleum and for all the high-flying things enabled by petroleum. (if you need to see this sort of mentality in the present tense, just visit Texas)

    Dare I say that in a post-apocalypse sort of future, folks will have to take care of their own security?

    Great episode :)

  5. Hey guys!

    Thanks, Boran… I'll admit the next couple of episodes deal with the captive, but don't want to give too much away beyond that.

    Nudge, you been reading my mind? :) The thing that I haven't explained, since the voices in my head haven't explained it to me, is why those guys didn't just drive off in the first place. I suppose fear of the unknown could have a lot to do with it.

  6. Far, mind-reading is something that requires almost a spiritual type of Van Eck phreaking, only without technological interfaces ~ that's as best as I can explain it. Err, no, I can't do that.

    Good question ~ people could have a lot of different reasons for not joining the drive-offs. How many might look at a mostly-disappeared rest-of-society and decide it's the perfect time to begin anew? Would folks who traditionally eschew automobiles, and who don't keep them around anyhow (like the Amish), be pretty much immune to the seduction of metal? Holy folks too might be of that metal-resistant type.

  7. @Nudge and Far, I wonder how GLBT people would fare after the peak oil crash. Because already the religious types are ratcheting up the antigay rhetoric. Already some fundamentalists think that replicating Uganda's proposed "kill the gays" bill ( http://wakingupnow.com/blog/uganda-kill-everyone-video/comment-page-1#comment-1890 )in this country would be a good thing. I think they're wrong. Dead wrong.

  8. Nudge, Ed, sorry about not getting back here sooner. I'll talk a little about this in the #23 comments…

  9. Some Japanese spammer has fallen in love with this post and wants to crap all over it, so I'm closing comments on this one. Apologies in advance if you have something relevant to say here, you can post it in #23 or the latest.



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