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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2015 6:37 am 
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Cats are ok, with the right sauce, but they are "stringy." :D

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 1:55 am 
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The Swede stood at the open barn doors, sniffing loudly. Clearly the farmer enjoyed the earthy smells of hay, straw, manure and cattle. Trey enjoyed the smell as well and the memories it brought back, unlike Joker, who all but held his city bred nose. The quiet convict kicked some dried dung "They haven't spent much time in the barn lately."

The men walked out into the pasture looking at the grass. "The rule of thumb is two cows per acre, the owner probably sold his calves and a few older cows before winter". The Swede led to way down to the creek, saying "at least the creek isn't seasonal". He began to follow the fence, to see just how large the pasture was. Here and there trees provided shade for the rolling acres and the brush had been cut back from the fence line.

The four strand barbed wire fence also looked to be in good shape. The wire was stapled to oddly shaped, but tough locust posts. The thief looking around like a tourist, stepped into a fresh cow paddy, and said a few choice words about beef that wasn't on his plate. His companions chuckled as he wiped a boot off on the tall grass clumps. Trey thought about how if wood ran out in the winter, dried cow chips would make a serviceable, but smelly substitute.

The men made the turn where the fence changed directions, disappearing over the brow of a hill. Mature hardwoods replaced the open fields on the other side of the barrier. Trey noted the black berry bushes reaching for the sun, absent among the trees. Canned preserves on fresh bread sounded delicious. The next corner was found within a stand of smaller oak trees, where a gray squirrel scolded the trespassers.


The peaceful walk was accompanied by the calls of birds, and once the distant call of a crow. Exiting the trees, they startled a fat and lazy groundhog that ran for his burrow. The bank robber thought that the only thing missing for this to be a normal day, would be the sound of a chainsaw, or some other intrusion of modern life.

Joker straying too near it's sunning spot, caused a Black Racer to zip away into the woods. The smaller man jumped, demanding "What the heck was that?"

"What was what?"

"It was on the ground and really fast, it went over there" the thief pointed toward the tree line.

"Probably a Racer, it won't hurt you."

"A snake?"

"Um, yeah."

"Snakes aren't that fast" the smaller man said doubtfully.

The next ten minutes were spent listening to Joker count the ways the nature really sucked. The ex-soldier, with his back to the speaker, tried not laugh and the farmer just shook his head. The trio passed the half a dozen cows who raised their heads from grazing. The bovines confronted with the novelty of humans, stared until they were out of sight.

After making the final turn, the fence was paralleled by a trail, worn by hooves on the way to the barn and all uphill. Fields once again took their place on the other side of the barbed wire. Back at the barn, Trey wiped the sweat from his forehead with a shirt sleeve , asking "What's the verdict?"

"This place will hold a lot more cows than what are there now. "

"We saw some on the road between Grove City and New Castle."

"Did you see any stock trailers in your travels?"

"We didn't notice any, but we weren't looking for them either. We'll take a drive over that way, wanna come along?"

The trucks traveled the back roads coming out on South Center Street extension west of Grove City. The rotten smell in the air was from the goons destroyed by the laser just to the east. Continuing south the trucks connected with route 108, west of Slippery Rock. To the west was New Castle, although they had no intention of driving that far. Joker stood in the bed, holding onto the cab for a better view. He pounded on the roof when he saw the fence off to the north side of the road. "That's where we saw them, I think".

"I believe you're correct. Good eye, now we just have to get over there" the men looked at the steep bank ending in a dry creek bed. The next road going north had driveways leading to a variety of homes, from hippie ramshackle to yuppie steel and glass. The turnoffs that had to be explored, as often as not ended in fields or dead ends, where locals came to dump old refrigerators or sofas.

The trucks came to an intersection where the paved road east was actually marked with a name sign. The asphalt turned to gravel after a mile or so. Trey stopped when he saw the bodies on the road. The zed remains had been pulled aside far enough for a vehicle to pass through. Breathing through his mouth, the ex-soldier inspected several of the bodies on foot. The one similarity was a bullet hole in the head.

Farther down the road planted fields, surrounded by new looking barbed wire bordered the road. The party reached a driveway with a mailbox bearing the name Barker painted in red. The drive was blocked off with heavy farm gates, a reinforced wire fence going both directions, was backed up with a palisade of wood pallets. A girl of twelve or thirteen popped up from behind a pallet. The youngster with black hair said "Go away", before ducking back under cover.

Joker turned on his charm "Hello, we mean you no harm. We don't see many people these days."

The girl popped up again "I said go away" before disappearing.

"We have a farm, we're looking for unclaimed livestock. We saw some cattle from 108 a while ago."

The black head appeared "They're ours, now go away. Pa said I can shoot after two warnings."

"Is there anyone else we can talk to?"

The young guard popped up with her rifle resting on the top of the pallet "No, go away."

"OK, our place is up by Mercer if you ever need help". The felons laughed, putting the truck in gear and drove away.

"That was some schmooze job" Trey smiled at his friend. "I'd call it success since she didn't shoot" the thief replied with his own grin. They drove for a mile before turning down a rutted dirt road, passing a beat up mailbox sitting on its post at an angle. Dwarf fruit trees had been planted on both sides of the potholed drive. The road ended in a clearing where a dilapidated home took up most of the space. Part of the building looked like an old time log cabin that had been added onto.

Joker swung the truck around in a circle, stopping next to the Swede. "I bet the neighbors have an eye on this fruit" the quiet man stated. "No cows anyway". The Swede made his sweeping turn to follow the other truck. Before clearing the miniature orchard they saw trouble ahead. Joker spoke one word into the mike of the CB "Trouble".

Two red trucks were parked on both sides of the dirt drive, however there was room to drive out between them. A man with a shotgun stood blocking the way, backed up by others staying behind the vehicles. Joker eased to a stop saying "Schmooze time". Not seeing a threat, the three convicts exited the vehicle, during that time the man with the shotgun under his arm pulled three fingers of Redman from a pouch. With a practiced move he neatly tucked it into the side of a cheek.

"Chew" the man extended the pouch in the criminal's direction?

"Thank you, no. Gives me heartburn" Trey spoke up.

The shotgun wielder nodded in understanding, not insulted at the refusal. The two groups looked at each other, neither wanting to be the first to speak. "My daughter said you didn't seem like you were looking for trouble" he pointed over his shoulder with a thumb at the young lady they had spoken with.

"We have a farm up that way" Joker waved vaguely to the northeast.

"Mercer" the man grunted in sympathy, like it was a big city.

The thief was at a loss so the Swede took over. "We have cattle, but the pasture is under stocked. Figured to round up some more that didn't belong to anyone, since they won't make it through another winter on their own. Saw some from 108 awhile ago and thought we'd take a look here."

Nodding that their plan made sense, he held out a hand "Alister McDonald". The three felons introduced themselves while shaking the callused hand. With another thumb over his shoulder Alister said "Family, we had to close that pasture, the movement was attracting those abominations". Alister looked each man in the eyes , then continued "The thing is, we figured this area is ours".

"No hard feelings, we'll move on" the Swede informed the Scot. "And good luck to you and yours". Alister smiled for the first time, moving off the road. The two groups exchanged waves as the felons drove away. Joker pulled to a stop, looking both directions at 108. The Swede pulled alongside "Where to now?"

"What do you know about buffalo" Trey asked?

"Um, nothing."

"This is a joke, right" the thief asked?

"I'm serious, a local guy raised them, he even had his own restaurant. It' not very far from here. We wouldn't have to worry about hay for the winter, if they had enough range."

"I guess it wouldn't hurt to take a look" the quiet man agreed.

The trucks followed 108, drifting down the long slope to route 19. They had room to pass by a vicious three car crash in the intersection. Joker ghoulishly stared at the blackened skeletons in the tangled metal. The fire had burned hot enough to consume everything that wasn't metal. 108 turned left then right to go up the hill, Joker crossed route 19 as directed, taking a narrower road up out of the valley.

The road was surprisingly straight and level on the top of the plateau. The restaurant was closed until the thief set his skills to work. The smell of the rotten meat from the coolers was nauseating. The smaller man began scooping up the hard slabs of jerky off the counter and shelves. He was stuffing his haul into a shopping bag when some fuzz was noticed on several pieces. The bag was dropped in disgust and kicked into a corner.

The trucks took the paved drive next to the store, after stopping to open the gate. A barn and farmhouse lay ahead, surrounded by thirty year old trees. Pulling up in a gravel parking area near the barn, the trio looked and listened for ten minutes. They cautiously approached the barn, which smelled clean and proved to be empty. The fences, rather than being built with barbed wire, were heavy gauge cable. The Swede tugged on a cable, then looked at his companions.

"Is that them" Joker asked, pointing out black blobs in the distance? The men squeezed into one truck and drove along a rough track next to the fence. When they stopped, the curly haired animals stared at the felons. The felons stared back, amazed at the size of some of the animals. "The goons wouldn't mess with those things. They'd get flattened" the thief stated.

"I don't think we should mess with them either" the Swede added.

"This fall we'll get a few of the young ones once it stays cold. See if they taste as good as I've heard" the ex-soldier decided. "We'll have to keep our eyes open for cows, I guess."

On the return drive, Trey had his partner make a turn just outside of Slippery Rock. Houses lined both sides of the road, dwindling to just the town side. The trucks stopped at a tall fence along the road, the packed bare earth was just starting to sprout grass. In the rear of the area, the fence sagged away from the supporting posts. "This guy raised Elk" Trey told the other men.

"Not anymore" the thief laughed.

The sound drew a pair of figures from the back of the house. The man and woman still wore winter coats, blacked from their leaking bodies. "I always thought this was too small an area for that many animals, now it's their turn" the bank robber said. The two zombies rattled the fence in front of their spectators. Fixated on the small man they hissed loudly. "That's right bitches, it's Joker" he yelled at the reanimated humans.

Once Joker grew bored with poking the goons with his spear, he shot them both in the head. "I told you they hissed at me" he told the Swede with satisfaction. The trio arrived back at the cattle farm, having accomplished little that day. The Erie group was nowhere to be found and they called it a day. The Moreau brothers greeted them at the gate, anxious to know what they did that day. The youngsters were disappointed, until Joker began telling lies about how many buffalo they'd seen and how big the animals were.

The thief grumbled the next day at working in the field. The Swede had decided to begin breaking new ground. The louder the small man grumbled, the larger the hidden grins grew. After supper Joker sulked on the porch, soaking his sore hands in a basin of water. He was left to look after Rose, the rest of the farmers drove out to the cattle farm.

Only the cattle greeted the farmers, demanding more than grass to eat. Trey helped distribute small of amount of grain to each of the occupied stalls. The Swede drove his truck into the fields across the road. The grain fields were green with weeds, although the hay fields could be cut anytime. The bank robber's back hurt just thinking about swinging a scythe to cut the amount of hay that would be needed.
Eventually it might come to manually cutting hay, although he wished to put off the evil day.

"We better talk with Zach Taylor" he told the group.

After breakfast Joker stayed at the farm to keep an eye on things. Everyone else, including Rose and her wheelchair, piled into the trucks for the short ride. The Swede and Peach walked up to the farmhouse by themselves , while the others waited. Two trucks full of heavily armed people arriving at the door might be misconstrued. Peach waved the trucks in from far up the lane, she hopped on the running board when the trucks passed.

The grandchildren playing in the yard, under Mrs. Taylor's watchful eye, were wary of the strangers. Their interest in Rose, with her cast and chair, soon had them asking questions. The grandmother insisted on hearing the whole story, once she found out about the plane crash. By the time the men started toward the barn, the children had lined up to sign the cast.

Zach and his son were found doing maintenance on the farm machinery. "If you hadn't shown up I was going to visit your place" were the older farmer's first words. Goon activity was the first topic discussed, happily none had shown up at either farm. Not even an eyebrow was raised at the news of the Army's arrival or the destruction of Pittsburgh. "We should have already made a first cut" was Zach's opinion when the subject was raised. The start of haying was agreed to commence in two days.

The children all pouted when the visitors loaded up to leave. Back at the Tilson farm the brothers asked why Joker was sleeping. "Because he's really old" the bank robber stage whispered. "That's what really old people do a lot" making the boys laugh. The thief cracked an eye open "I'm, saving my energy, in case there's an emergency". The dogs acted like the brothers had been gone for days and were soon chasing them around as they yelled "Emergency, emergency."

Copying the Taylors, work was started on the tractor, sickle bar mower, rake and baler. All the moving parts were greased or oiled, depending on the Swede's guidance. The job took longer than it should have since the Moreau brothers were learning on the job. The boys were cleaned up as best as the men could, so as not raise Peach's ire.

The plan was discussed over dinner, after cutting the smaller fields at the Tilson farm, they'd tow the tractor to the cattle farm to keep the noise down. The pilot insisted that she would be fine by herself and the felons decided not to press the point. The boys took turns riding on the tractor on cutting day, until they grew bored and were escorted back inside the wire. Everyone had a chance to drive the tractor in order to break up the monotony. Standing at the far corners of the field, slowly turning your head, was the definition of boredom.

Except for Trey, who seldom had time alone just to think. The amount of effort to get multiple farms up and running was formidable. A giant fence run would be the first order of business, not to mention the number of posts that would be required. A basic fence would have to do to begin with. The new owners could add whatever they thought was necessary. He'd like to have each establishment at least a mile apart in case another epidemic popped up. That was still close enough for mutual defense.

Obviously they'd start at the cattle farm. Joker might like to move there with him if they couldn't get anyone else interested. There would be a lot less hoeing, that was for sure. The Tilson place was more Peach and the Swede's now than his and Joker's. The cell mates were gone as much as they were there to contribute. The problem was that the boys would miss part of their new family no matter which farm they lived on.

At a certain point, those who elected to remain at the prison would be on their own to make a living. Once the fuel turned, there would be no food runs. He was sure Ann, Nick and Derby would be candidates for a farm. Heck they could all go to the Rules farm, there was room there without being crowded. The heirloom seed from the current crop would be the key item for the farms.

By noon the local fields were cut, the tractor was towed and the work began again. The group worked until close to dark, however it would take another day of work to finish. Under Rose's supervision, Alex had opened and heated some canned pasta for super. The boys slept through the hay crew's homecoming and their own simple meal. The men's tan was deeper from the day out, while Peach's skin was red everywhere, not covered by her long sleeve shirt.

Although the feisty young woman was laughed at the next day, upon opening her umbrella, by mid day she was receiving envious looks. The Swede kept an eye on the sky during the day, which seemed like a waste of time to the others. It would rain, or it wouldn't. The farm members had a day off, for the hay to dry. Peach chose to ride to the prison with the felons.

"So, to what do we owe this pleasure" Mr. Swann greeted the visitors.

"We need people to toss hay bales" Peach spoke for the delegation.

The head guard had a puzzled look on his face. "If you want beef next year, we have to feed the cattle this winter" the young woman explained.

"How many do you need?"

"At least eight or ten, more would be better. For two or three days I'd guess, every gets a turn at the heavy lifting" she looked at the criminals for confirmation, who shrugged.

"Get Fatso, he should be able to throw bales two at a time" Joker said with an evil grin.

"How's Thompson working out" the head guard asked?

"Surprisingly well according to the Swede" Trey answered. "Where's Ann and Nick?"

"She shamed the Army into going with them on a food run" the older man laughed. "They went through their Army food pretty fast, although they still have some squirreled away. They had a couple good stories about a day at the beach and zombie strippers."

Peach looked at the two men, who immediately pointed to each other rather than deny the stories. She stomped away muttering something about men. "It wasn't near as much fun as it sounds" the thief told the older man. On the drive home the bank robber explained what happened in Erie, interrupted by Joker who embellished the good parts. They failed to improve Peach's mood much.

Seeing the Swede up in the field, they drove the truck up as close as they could. The quiet convict kicked a clump of the cut hay. "We can start raking tomorrow. There was a goon at the outside fence today. We'll have to stop them before they get onto the field tomorrow."

"One isn't bad, considering all the racket we made. We got most of the loose ones, the rest are shut ins."

An hour after sunup, the tractor began running and the zombies drifted in. All of the dead were singles instead of bunches. Almost none of the ghouls came at the guards, they were fixated on the noise. Other than a few easy shots, those on guard had to run to where the dead had emerged from cover and tease them away from the precious hay. They averaged about a goon an hour. Thompson had become a skilled killer with his pipe.

Joker amused himself making knee and hip shots, before finishing the trespassers. Trey would get up close before firing at their neck. If done correctly, the head would separate from the body, the rotten flesh tearing easily. One head rolled like a bowling ball down the slope, bouncing off trees, until the bank robber caught up to destroy it. Although fun at first, the effort of running through the tall grass was draining as the day wore on.

The raking went faster than the cutting had. After the evening meal, the tractor was towed to the distant fields. The group checked out the equipment at the farm, amused at Joker flinging his tool at the shed's wall, after barking a knuckle. Nobody could figure out why the place had all the equipment and no tractor. At least they wouldn't have to make the double trip required to drag the rake and baler all the way to the new field.

The cell mates walked the outside perimeter fence before leaving the farm. The two goons that were capped would need to be buried later. They discussed the size of the fields they'd work that day, when Joker snapped his fingers. "The quad, we can use it to run the goons down".

"Good idea, I wish you'd have thought of it yesterday" he congratulated his friend, knowing all he'd hear in the future was what a great idea man he was. The Swede and Peach both had "why didn't I think of that" moments when they heard the quad fire up. The guards were stationed where they could see an end of the field. The quad sat in the middle, ready to respond where the operator was needed.

The sentries still did some running to zap the closer goons. The men knew when Peach saw a target, her umbrella would flip up in the air as she raced away. The farther away the zed was, the higher the umbrella would go. The young woman provided quite a few laughs as the day went on, however all were careful not to be caught laughing.

It was still daylight when they finished with the fields. The group took the time to make sure they could hitch the hay wagon to one of the pickups. During supper, the discussion was about how the real work would start the next day. The Swede mentioned that the bailing twine would disappear at some point, the work would all be done with pitchforks. The field work would become a community task.

Everyone was surprised the next morning, that along with the expected help, were most of Illion's platoon. Trey didn't know what the others thought, but he was sure there would be a price for their help. Even more of a surprise was that the Feds showed up as well. The agents acted friendly, although they still managed to avoid the cell mates.

Being a driver was a coveted position once the work began. A few took a turn with the tractor, but most preferred to drive the hay truck. The old style small bales were awkward to carry toward the wagon, with the stiff grass puncturing whatever most workers wore to cover their legs. The convicts were the only two to wear motorcycle chaps. The method was to swing the bale back, then up on the wagon with the forward swing. The thief being one of the shortest, had the hardest time getting his load up on the wagon bed.

The hands on the wagon stacked the bales, to be unloaded by a different group in the barn. A second wagon, took the place of the first when it left. Everyone on the field ended up hot, sweaty and itchy. The Tilson farm was finished by late afternoon A good start was made at the cattle farm before a halt was called. A very few goons showed up to alarm the hands. The soldiers tried using their bayonets, although Joker's spear worked much better.

Supper that night was a quiet affair. Showers were sun warmed water, out of variety of containers. The men, tired of waiting for their turn, had stripped down in the yard. Showering in prison on a regular basis had removed all modesty from the convicts. The Lab, attracted to the water being dumped, thought it was a fun new game. However the Sheppard sat on the porch watching this new development,

The Swede was the only farm member not seeking aspirin the next morning. The thief's groan getting out of bed, made his friend laugh. "You'd be sore too, if the wagon was two feet higher and ten pounds heavier" Joker growled. Groans came from most of the hands when the day's work began. The saving grace was that this should be the last day.

Just before the field was finished, the folks from Erie showed up. Especially embarrassing, was their decision to settle on the cattle farm. They pitched in to unload the hay bales from the final wagon in the barn. Trey's parting words to Trev, were to mark out where they wanted the fence. The group was talking and pointing fingers in different directions, when the hands left for home.

Breakfast was leisurely, everyone taking their time and enjoying an extra cup of coffee. Thompson tentatively volunteered to stay behind so the others could take the trip. He was pleased when his offer
was gratefully accepted. The dogs were loaded to help occupy the children from both groups. Trey and joker unloaded the posthole digger upon arriving.

The criminals inspected the perspective fence location, disagreeing with the post locations as being too far apart. They didn't protest, sure the new comers would change their minds the first time unwanted visitors showed up. Surprisingly, they elected to fence in the old farmhouse, as well as the two newer homes on each side of it. The lack of privacy at the waterworks, left a deep desire for some personal space.

After making two holes, Joker approached Trevor with his demented smile, "Your turn buddy". The process seemed straight forward to the leader, who summoned the teenager with a crook of his finger after the first hole. The occasional rock was defeated with the use of the spud bar from the back of the truck. All the adults took turns running the digger.

Trey took Trevor aside "How about a couple guys take a ride with us. We'll get a couple of truck loads for the fence".

"How many" the gray bearded man asked readily.

"Two or three. It's a bit of a drive, we've made two visits there already, but it'll be enough to get you guys started."

The bank robber had a word with his own group, informing them of his plan. Peach insisted on going long. Joker followed the young woman to the truck with an evil grin on his face. When he was told the criminals were taking his wife along, the Swede replied "Take her", accompanied by a wave. Trev and one of his men waited in their pickup. Trey lost the bet with himself, about how long it would take Joker to get Peach stirred up. Approaching the truck he heard the young woman's voice "I'm not sitting in the middle, and don't call me Missy."

"Do I have to separate you children?"

Her feathers already ruffled, Peach turned on her housemate. "I'm not a child, dammit." The thief looked betrayed, when Peach sat in the driver's seat. Trey rode in the middle, hating having to keep his feet on the hump, he crowded both the passenger and the driver. Two elbows to his ribs stopped Joker from making further comments guaranteed to fuel the woman's fury.

Aside from Joker's comments, Peach was mad at herself. Not only had she allowed the thief to bait her, she had broken the promise to herself to maintain her composure. The woman began plotting her revenge. Arriving at the farm store, the group helped themselves to the last of the fence materials, that hadn't been taken on the previous trips. Closely watched by Trevor, Joker took care of the lone zombie that was attracted to the commotion.

Without a word to the cell mates, Peach hitched a ride back with the men from Erie. Many hands, anxious for protection, made unloading a quick process. Posts were plunked into the drilled holes, the removed dirt was placed back in the holes and tamped. The fence that had been unrolled inside the line of posts, had to be rolled back up and moved to the outside.

During their travels, Trev had written down the locations of newer wire and fence posts along the road.
The following day, Trey and Joker learned how nasty a job it was to take down barbed wire and roll up. Using a screwdriver to pry out the staples, was to risk being stabbed when the tension was taken off the wire. The strands were taken down separately in order to avoid tangles. Trial and error found the best way to roll it up, was to pin the end of a strand between two posts, then start rolling. Grass inevitably was snatched from the ground camouflaging the barbs.

The stock gates were transported resting on the beds and roofs of the pickups. Rope secured them to the front and rear bumpers. Another two days were spent putting the mess together. Despite the cattle bellowing for feed from the humans in the mornings, they rarely were given any, when their demands were met, it was only a taste. The remainder was for use in the cold months.

Joker was happier away from the farm the last couple days. Peach was so solicitous toward him it was embarrassing. The smaller man was being served first at the table. She cut his food and would blow on it to cool it down to eating temperature. No matter how irate he became, a kind smile was always plastered on her face. The boys were puzzled, but the men kept their attention on the plates to hide their smiles.

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Last edited by Groucho on Mon May 25, 2015 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 1:45 pm 
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Hahaha! This is great! I like the drawn out work that they have to do. Very accurate. Keep them coming!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 5:43 pm 
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Really enjoying the story. Thanks.

Small info insert here.
1. It's called "buckin' bale's" when someone throws them up on a trailer and/or stacks them.
2. Cut hay has to "cure" for a few days in the field. If you don't the moisture will generate enough heat in the bale's stacked in the barn and burn it down.


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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 6:04 pm 
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Thanks for the info Nancy. My father volunteered me to help a great uncle at baling time on his dairy farm. I don't recall the bales sitting in the fields, but then it was long enough ago that the details are fuzzy. I clearly recall that it was hot, stuff kept poking through my jeans and the wagon was too tall.

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:59 pm 
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Awesome chapter.
Please give us MOAR!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:52 pm 
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The Swede had been distracted helping the Erie people get set up. The final day, his house members insisted that he stay on the farm. The Moreau brothers found the new youngster less fun the longer they were around them, and elected to stay home also. Used to having the run of the farm, they didn't understand not wanting to be more than fifty paces from the adults. The next several days were spent getting things on the farm caught up to where the quiet convict thought they should be.

One evening, Trey quizzed Rose about what type of plane she needed. "A single engine, some flavor of Cessna would be nice, since that's all I've ever flown. But when you come right down to it, I'll settle for whatever we can get."

"There's two airports we can look at, but neither will be goon free. "

"We have a couple solar chargers, stick them on a couple batteries. If one won't start, we jump to another plane" Joker suggested. "Or fuel them all up, Rose can show us how to do a startup, try them all at the same time" the thief said seriously.

"If we find more than one plane. That's a lot of sneaking around, maybe more than one visit" the bank robber said working the problem. "We'd still have load extra fuel and supplies."

"We don't do that at the hangar, Rose can land on a road near here" the comment getting a less than enthusiastic look from Rose.

"Or" Trey drew out the word "We know of a deserted airport an hour's drive from here" which was more to the pilot's liking.

"The bird will be heavy taking off, I'll need a lot of room" Rose pressed for using an actual runway.

The adults failed to notice the brothers listening. "You're leaving" Alex asked shocked? Lucas stood slightly behind his brother , holding onto the older boy's sleeve with tears in his eyes.

The wheelchair bound pilot motioned the brothers to her side. She lifted Lucas to her lap saying "I'll miss you guys, but I don't know what happened to my family. My father isn't a young man and he's all alone, since my Mom died" she finished starting to tear up. "I'm not leaving tomorrow, I have to get this thing off first" she tapped the plaster cast on her leg. Then I'll have to get some muscle back."

The two boys walked back to the living room as a unit, behavior they hadn't exhibited since the first weeks after their rescue. The dogs followed, giving what comfort they could. The brothers sat together, fingering the talismans that their father's possessions had become. Peach was in the kitchen, washing the dishes from the meal Joker had prepared. She hadn't realized how fond of Rose she had become either.

The felons hadn't foreseen the reactions the discussion caused. They knew Rose had always intended on traveling on. The pilot was a temporary inconvenience, a problem to be solved that might get the FBI and the Army out of their hair. They liked the girl and wished her well, however she was a passerby, someone that they'd never see again.

Mr. Swann's call on the radio was taken as an excuse by the cell mates to skip out on the day's drudge work. "What did he want" Trey questioned the driver?

"I didn't ask, and don't care if it gets me away for a while" the smaller man answered.

"Don't tell me you're afraid of a little hard work?"

"Just not every day, I keep telling you I'm management."

"You managed a day off."

Two of the agents were in the box, neither man made any type of friendly gesture during the felon's entrance. "It might be better if those three just disappeared" the thief offered a suggestion.

"The thought had occurred to me. But even if they disappeared without our help, we'd still get blamed. Then Illion would feel obliged to do something about it. They didn't try to stop Barton or us, so I don't know what they'll report that won't make them look bad.

Swanny watched the partners park and walk to the door. "Illion is up in the old man's office" he greeted the pair. Walking up the hall, the men chatted about what needed done and what had been accomplished. The lieutenant sat at the warden's desk studying a map, watched by Sgt Matters lounging on the couch. A larger map that had been discovered somewhere was pinned to the wall. Colored push pins marked the penitentiary's location, as well as the Bass Islands.

Trey and Joker took seats without being asked, leaving Mr. Swann to lean against the door jam. "It looks like you want to go get the bad guys" the bank robber broke the silence.

"They've been killing peaceful citizens, so yes, I want to go get them."

"You have zero intelligence on that bunch, but I bet they have way more people than we do. You're poking a hornet's nest, then flying back to New York City."

"I'm not going to try to capture the island" the officer said, annoyed that his plan hadn't even been heard yet.

"Well, that's good news" Joker said, rolling his eyes.

"I'll sent scouts for a look around."

Trey stood and walked to the map "They call it a lake, but think of it was a inland sea. . The bottom is paved with fishing boats, not to mention the ships that went down. The south shoreline is a couple hundred miles long. Those guys could be landing anywhere". He pointed at the Catawba Peninsula "This is the closest land, but it's in the middle of nowhere. The towns are seasonal tourist towns they probably cleaned out already".

"That leaves the bigger places like Cleveland and Toledo, which have at least as many goons as Erie does" the ex-soldier continued. "It's a hundred miles to Cleveland and another hundred to Toledo."

"Scouts at Catawba could see ships leave the island" the lieutenant said. "They could drive east or west along the shoreline".

"Sure, if they aren't seen from off shore or run into some goons. What if the bad guys don't go to the same place every trip to let the goons settle down?"

"We don't have anything else to do. And you have a pilot."

"Who, if you ask her nicely, might see about getting you guys a ride back to where you came from. I don't know how she'll feel about being the eye in the sky. We still have to go swipe a plane for her" Joker inserted his opinion.

"At least think about it" the officer asked? The two friends had glanced at the Sgt several times, unable to gauge how he felt about the plan. Mr. Swann was equally good at hiding his feelings. "I doubt I'll be able to stop thinking about it" the bank robber answered in ill humor. The walk back to the parking lot was a quiet one. Derby was leaning against the convict's truck waiting.

"So what did you think of the plan?"

"Does everyone know about it" Joker asked?

"Probably not. It wasn't hard to figure out between the maps he was looking for and the people he talked to."

"No intelligence and no security either" Trey said sadly.

"What are you guys doing today" the black man asked?

"We're shopping for airplanes" Joker said brightly.

The thief drove out the gate, stopping the F150 when it reached route 19. "Which way?"

"You want to do this today?"

"Sure, why not?"

The driver followed directions taking them south. He started to make the turn onto 422, but friend directed him straight across the highway. "We always go that way" he questioned.

"Because we were going to the same place every time. It's a bad juju to go the same way, if you don't have to."

The road curved back and forth, crossing a small stream at bottom of a hill. They made their way up the side of the small valley passing older ranch homes. Except for the length of the grass, some looked pristine. Others had broken windows, with possessions strewn about the yard and driveway. Pausing when they reached route 68 to look around "Left" Trey instructed. The thief braked again, in front of the Hostess day old store.

A trail of pastries led from the open door to the parking lot, paved with tire smashed containers and wrappers. A few sparrows hopped hopefully among the wrappers, looking for a crumb that was missed during the feast months ago. "I wonder if there is anything left" the driver asked. "I could use a pie".

"If there is, it'll be hard as a rock".

"Be right back" the thief grinned, jumping out onto the road. His gun barrel led the way into the building. The smaller man was back in minutes. "You could use this for a hockey puck" he said with disappointment. Stripping the paper wrapper from the stale fried pie, he tossed it over where the birds could peck away for a couple days.

The small airport was easy to locate. The red ball markers hung from the power lines along route 68, so the pilots wouldn't strike them landing or taking off. The gate was open, so they drove in slowly. The low fence was all that separated the field from the Farm Show grounds. The truck passed the closed up airfield office and out to the south end of the runway. A white airplane lay crumpled in the grass just past the end of the blacktop.

The partners stood next to the pilot's door, watching the goon strapped to the seat struggle to get to them. The creature's chest looked flat, probably from colliding with the yoke. "I can smell gas, I wonder why he crashed" Joker asked?

"If he wasn't a regular, I bet he came in too high over the power line, then set down too hard."

The thief shrugged, putting his spear point through the zombie's eye. The four small, open hangars were empty with the exception of a single engine with a dismantled motor. Joker prowled the area, while Trey checked the fuel tanks. "We have some fuel" he said when his partner returned with two beat up fuel cans. The first can began leaking from an almost invisible crack in the bottom as soon as the siphoned fuel entered the can. Removing the cap of the second, they could tell from the loose fit it wouldn't seal.

They drove away, with nothing to show for their efforts. At the farm store they'd raided for fencing, the truck turned on a narrow side road. Still driving south, they passed homes on both sides of the road. None of the goons they saw were near the road and mostly by themselves. They threaded through a loose crowd of the dead in a small village, then entered farm country. "I hope you know another way home" Joker said.

The road swayed back and forth for no apparent reason, other than the boundary lines of the farms. Across the overgrown fields, the distant clumps of trees often hid the farmhouses , all but a flash of siding through the gaps between the trunks. Large patches of tall thistles, with their purple tops, had claimed sections of the fields next to the road. A hawk circled low like it had found lunch.

The road turned sharply right, then straightened out again for a ways. Reaching a thick woodland, they could see the road turning back left ahead. Trey motioned to slow down, then had his friend turn into a parking lot next to a pile of cut stone. "The airport is through those trees, it should be ok to drive through the field."

"What's with the stone" he indicated the pyramid of rough cut stones twenty feet tall?

"Vietnam memorial."

"Out here in the middle of nowhere?"

"It's the thought that counts. Civilization is right over there, past the county airport."

Shaking his head, the driver crept through the former field. The truck turned to face away from the trees and stopped. The men geared up, pressing the doors closed with a subdued click. The ex-soldier led the way into the trees. Joker followed, staying close enough to catch the limbs Trey held back as he passed. The spies stopped every twenty feet to look around and listen. Nothing was heard, but the buzz of insects and the calls of birds.

The woodland ended and the cell mates stopped while still in the cool shade. Tree limbs stretched out into the open to catch their share of sunlight. The binoculars studied the county airport through an opening between the leaves. Open field lay before reaching the runways, beyond that were the buildings backed by more trees. The thief took a knee waiting for the report.

"There's a plane by the restaurant, and a small crowd surrounding it. They're just standing there."

"A restaurant?"

"Yep, it was kind of neat. The planes would taxi right up to the place. The food wasn't bas either."

The men moved into the open, bent over at the waist since the land sloped up to the tarmac. On hands and knees, they studied the crowd again, before moving to the right. A single building on their side of the taxiway blocked the goons view. Trey, hat off, peered with one eye around the corner of the whitewashed block wall. Joker wiped his forehead with a sleeve, missing the shade of the forest.

The felons sipped water from the canteens thinking. "This is as close as we can get before they see us. I'd hoped the hangar doors would be open. We can go back and circle around through the trees, maybe there are doors or windows in the back side. "

"Screw it, we're here. Those doors will have to be opened anyway if there are planes inside. If there's nothing there we just go back to the truck. Otherwise we throw the doors open. I'll take the crowd for a walk, while you check the machinery" the small man said.

"Sounds like a plan, walk nice and slow, maybe they'll think we're family."

The pair started across the hot pavement, keeping an eye on the crowd with barely turned heads. Stopping for a minute after every ten slow steps, was painfully slow progress. They were well over halfway to their goal before the movement caught the attention of the goons. The dead eyes of three of the creatures were turned toward the felons.

After ten minutes of waiting, the men took a slow step forward. The watching goons also took a shaky step or two. Like a flock of birds, the movement of their fellows, focused the entire group on a possible meal. Five more slow steps were made, mirrored by the dead who finally kept walking. The criminals gave up the charade, running to the hangar closest to the mob.

The hangars were more like large garages with high ceilings. Each building would hold at least three aircraft, with multiple slide up doors, wide enough to permit a plane to exit straight from its parking spot. Windows in the big doors were high enough that Trey would have to jump for a quick look inside. Luckily, the smaller mechanic doors opened for the thief with a turn of the handle.

The gap between the searchers and the dead widened, since they were having no luck. The buildings they checked were either empty, held low wing or multiengine craft or a combination of what they weren't looking for. the first high wing Cessna they found, shared its space with twin engine missing its propellers. The ex-soldier was operating the chain fall controlled door as fast as he could, leaving his partner to run ahead.

The third door Joker threw open hit resistance and bounced back closed, barely missing his head as he jerked it back. With a snarl on his face, the small man put his shoulder to the door and pushed. The resulting crash from inside brought a smile to his face. Through the open door, a large man who had fallen back into a supply shelf was sprawled on the floor was visible.

The thief, at first elated at besting a big guy, was also confronted by a female and her brood. With one foot inside the building he quickly scanned the bays seeing nothing of use. A high wing, single engine sat in the far bay, but it looked old and apparently was painted by an amateur with a roller. It was nothing to inspire confidence in its abilities. He slammed the door shut in the face of Madame zombie.

The family of five was once again trapped inside, scratching at the door. Flying out of Philadelphia with three sick children they had been unable to land near Pittsburgh. Desperate for fuel, the father had turned the plane north, sighting the small airfield was a relief. Landing right at dusk, they pushed the craft inside, hoping to get fuel in the morning. Neither parent was feeling well and they watched their children turn one by one during the night.

Having no luck, the thief ran back to the hangar just as Trey finished raising the door. The crowd had approached within twenty feet of his partner, so he sprinted past striking the dead with his spear, like a boy with a stick running along a picket fence. The bank robber, seeing his friend had the mob well in hand, began checking the plane.

He pushed a wheeled mechanics ladder over to the plane. Climbing the stairs, he felt the ladder settle down onto the rubber coated feet. Rapping the underside of the wing below the fuel tanks with his knuckles, he decided it sounded full. Climbing higher, it took three tries to get the cap off the tank. The small flashlight's beam reflected off the liquid inside. The ladder was moved to the other wing to repeat the procedure.

The access panel in the cowling allowed him to see the cables were clean and connected to the battery. The wheels felt hard when he kicked each one, between quick scans of the area for threats. Despite the sunlight flooding through the open door, the flashlight was still needed while searching the tool chests. He found the solar chargers in a tangled mess inside a locker by the door. During the process of patiently sorting out the rats nest of wires, Trey kept up a running commentary about the parentage of the slipshod mechanics.

The alligator clips fit onto the battery terminals, with the solar panel fitting neatly onto a bracket on the top of the cowling. Happy that no goons had interrupted him, he also worried about his partner. Removing the wooden chocks from the wheels, the ex-soldier put his weight behind getting the bird to start rolling. With a series of starts and stops, to avoid it getting away from him, he moved the craft out where the sun would shine on the panel.

The slope that was to prevent the hangar from flooding, allowed the plane to roll forward. Bracing himself to stop the forward momentum, he felt his boots sliding on the smooth tarmac. The plane came to a rest further outside than he had hoped, but there was no help for it. Breathing heavily, he looked around for Joker. Moment caught his eye, that was the last of the mob being led into the forest at the end of the runway.

Touching his gear to ensure nothing was missing, Trey jogged past the restaurant and down the airfield drive with the rifle in his hands. Bushes blocked his view at the end of drive resulting in his almost running into a second mob. Spinning just out of reach of the dead hands attracted by the movement Joker's bunch, he made two big jumps away. Between the jog and the fright, his heart was pounding and he swore at himself for being sloppy.

The second mob was led across the narrow strip of lawn and into the woods. Staying just in front of the group, they eagerly followed the bank robber. Moving as quickly as the forest floor would allow, the dead were left behind. Dropping down the steep bank of a creek, that had over time carved deeply into the landscape, he moved toward his cell mate's direction. He knew with the single mindedness of the dead, they would pile up in the bottom of the creek.

Trey made his way over the slick rocks and around the pools of almost stagnant water, with only a small rill of water leaking downstream. At a bend of the waterway where the view was blocked by a large tree with most of its roots exposed hanging over a deep pool, he stayed to the outside of the bend in a deposit of sand. A quick moving figure made the bank robber jerk to a stop falling back onto the water smoothed rocks.

Joker seeing only a figure tried to stop on the slippery stream bed, slipped falling into the pool with only the top of his hat remaining dry. He burst from the once tranquil pool with water in his eyes, waving his weapon back and forth. Through grit teeth Trey whispered "Don't shoot, don't shoot".

Wiping water from his eyes, the small man growled "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

"Me" the bank robber snarled back, rubbing a numb limb? "You were the one running down the creek".

The thief up ended the rifle with one hand, letting the water drain out. Trey struggled to stand upright and his friend pulled the magazine and ejected the round to check the barrel for obstructions awkwardly, trying not to use his left hand. The taller man winced putting weight on his left leg and the smaller man bit back a groan trying to operate the charging handle with his left hand. "Are you ok"?

"No, are you?"

"No."

"I figured on doubling back to the truck, but I don't think I can climb that bank" Trey said, eyeing the side of the stream they needed to scale. "The goons probably heard your swan dive".

"Well I can't climb it with one hand, so we should leave."

The ex-soldier moved slowly from tree to tree limping, with his cell mate watching behind them, practicing sighting by resting the front of the rifle in the crook of his elbow. The men headed away from the airfield and their ride home. At the edge of the trees they found a small neighborhood of older homes. Joker cleared the nearest house by himself, leaving his companion outside to watch their back trail.

Trey collapsed on a couch in the empty home and Joker softly closed the door, quickly ducking down when the dead emerged from the trees. More dead had survived the fall than was hoped and the combined mob flooded the yard on both sides of the house. Several had the annoying habit of bumping their way down the old style wooden siding.

Once the mob had moved on, it left behind two troublesome members who were reluctant to leave the criminals hideout. The thief snuck out the door to spear the goons, sloppily with one hand, before returning. Trey rested on the sofa stripped down to his underwear, his leg resting on a pillow. The small man was amazed when he opened the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. He had rarely seen so many prescription pills in one place.

Both men took a mild prescription painkiller, reluctant to take the more potent drugs in case they were forced to move on. The cache of medical supplies included some elastic bandages, as well as instant cold packs. The rock had deeply bruised the back of the ex-soldier's leg and he spent a restless night. It didn't help that the thief constantly grumbled about everything needing two hands.

Wearing only a towel, since his wet clothing was draped over the kitchen chairs, he managed the cleaning and lubricating of the weapons. First it was holding the weapons between his knees and later it was opening cans of food which Trey refused. If he had been in a better mood he would have smiled at the sight of the heavily armed thief, clad in only a towel, peering out the windows at the surround area.

Exhausted, the ex-soldier fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, despite his discomfort. Upon waking, he spied his partner, dressed in slightly damp clothing, looking through the window with a serious look on his face. Seeing his friend was awake, the small man crossed the room staying below window level. "The goons are back. I thought they'd keep walking until they were in Butler".

Trey noticed the wrap around the thief's sprained wrist. "How's the wrist?"

"A little better. The dead are on the road, but scattered. I wonder what brought them back?

"Who knows!"

"How's the leg?"

"About the same. I'm not going to be moving around today. Is any of the chili left?"

"It's been open all night, I wouldn't eat it. How about some pears?"

The dead were far enough away that Joker was comfortable using the can opener. He watched Trey eat the warm fruit with a spoon. Looking away when the juice was slurped from the can.

"What are you, five years old?"

Trey ignored the comment, but replied with "Oh nurse, please fetch me a bedpan."

Joker bit his tongue, found a pot in one of the cupboards and lined the bottom with a dish towel for silent elimination. Presented with the apparatus, the bank robber grunted in pain moving into position.
"I can't go if you're going to watch" he told his grinning cell mate. The small man tiptoed down the hall to check the back windows.

"They've been out there since it got light out, and do not seem inclined to move on. If we stay long enough, they'll find us. I can slip out the back and draw them away, then return with the truck" the thief laid out his plan, making it sound easy.

Trey considered the plan, knowing Joker would sooner or later claim he saved Trey's like , not once, but twice. Although, he admitted to himself, they were both bad situations. "You're right, we can't stay with them hanging around."

"OK", the smaller man said, squatting to look at the back of the injured limb. "It's a nice shade of purple, with just a touch of yellow. Can you get dressed?"

"I'll manage."

"I should be back in a half hour."

The thief raised the window in the back bedroom as quietly as possible, Using both hands when the window's play canted against the frame. The rifle, spear and web gear went out first, followed by their owner. Checking both corners of the house, he moved to the next home staying low so he wasn't seen from the road. The unpruned shrubbery helped conceal him, however the bushes also made observing the goons difficult.

Each step took him farther north and closer to the truck. He'd just moved between the fourth and fifth house, when a voice whispered "Hey mister". Joker turned toward the sound, bringing up the rifle while back pedaling. A distinctly female voice went "eeek" accompanied by a mop of red hair ducking away from the window. The startled felon backed into the wooden framed sandbox, plopping down on his back and banging his head on a large, yellow, metal, child's truck.

Joker saw stars, rocking from side to side, holding his injury with both hands, with a metallic taste in his mouth. He heard the voice whisper "Hey mister, are you OK? "

He looked at the window where a second redhead had joined the first, although he could barely see over the window sill. Still rubbing his head, the thief approached the window holding a finger to his lips.

"You should be more careful" the boy advised the older man in a whisper.

"Can we come with you" the girl asked.

"Are there any more of you in there" the small man asked suspiciously?

"No", the girl answered, like it was a ridiculous question. "Just me and my brother."

"Look, my friend is injured. I'm gonna lead the goons away, then come back with the truck. We'll pick you up before we go."

"Do you promise" the redheads asked in unison?

"Yes, as long as the zombies don't get me" the thief replied with an evil smile.

The children watched out the front window, when the strange little man began yelling at the dead, from a front yard two houses down. Since they had been on their own, they had seen people run away, freeze, scream and shoot. They had never seen anyone deliberately attract attention to themselves.

"Get over here you bags of puss" Joker yelled, waving his rifle over his head. He continued when the crowd moved in his direction "You stupid, ugly, stinking pieces of rot". The diminutive felon stood still, berating the strung out mob until the leader hissed at him, only feet away. An insane grin was plastered across his face when he tapped the cannibal on the head with his spear. "Tag, you're it!"

The loose mob was led up the road by their prey. The human wove from one side of the road to the other, allowing time for the ones behind to catch up, never moving faster than a walking pace. He turned up the driveway of big A-frame home, skirted the house and plunged into the trees at the end of the back yard. He clearly heard the goons pushing through the branches behind him.

One of the things Joker had learned from Trey, was setting a course through new ground. His pace quickened, opening the distance between himself and the goons. Checking his back trail, the pursuers were out of sight. The small man moved a hundred yards north, then changed to a northwest direction. Twenty minutes later he stood at the edge of the trees, using the binoculars to check out the area around the truck.

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Last edited by Groucho on Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:16 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Thank you for moar story. This is great! :)


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Your truely a superb writer.
And I'm officially a MOAR zombie for your story.


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Thanks for the new chapter need MOAR :clap:


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MOAR please this is a great story


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Moar please, sir?

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So sorry for the delays. Several unforeseen events are in motion. Thanks for reading.

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Trey, engaged in getting the trousers over his bad leg as painlessly as possible, paused hearing his partner agitate the dead. The criminal had no idea how he was going to get his boot on. Fighting to get his other leg in the jeans, he was startled by a knock on the window. A girl with her hair badly in need of a comb, looked through the window. A second head briefly appeared above the window sill before falling back out of sight. "Hey mister, can we come in?"

"Sure, the door isn't locked, but wipe your feet" he said whimsically.

The children opened the door, looking around cautiously, before entering. Trey wondered if they were naturally wary of all strangers, or just strangers in their underwear. "Are there any more of you out there?"

"No, you sound like the old guy."

The bank robber grinned at their description of the Joker. "I'm Trey."

"I'm Bridget and this is Sean" the eldest said.

"We're Irish" the youngest of the redheads inserted into the conversation.

"Did the old guy tell you he was going to fetch the truck?"

"Yeah, but we didn't want you to forget us. We looked in the other houses until we found you."

"Why are you in your underwear" Sean asked puzzled?

"I hurt my leg and I'm trying to get my pants back on."

The children moved a step back toward the door. "You didn't get bit, did you" Bridget asked?

"No, I fell on a rock."

"You should be more careful" Sean sagely advised the adult.

They watched him struggle to his feet, seeing the purple bruise on his leg. After pulling his pants up, he settled on the arm of the couch, keeping the bad leg straight. The children, judging him a safe person, helped with the boot, tying it securely. The girl, after looking in both directions, darted out the door. Returning with several boards, one of which was almost the correct height, once a small pillow provided some padding.

Trey tried a few awkward steps, deciding it would do to get as far as the truck. he offered his thanks to the helpers. Shrugging into the web gear, he noticed the boy's fascinated look at the rifle. Holding the weapon out, Sean accepted it saying "It's heavy" in a surprised voice.

Taking the gun back he settled onto the couch again. "We have a place north of here. It has high walls, a big gate and we don't see many of the dead, often. There are other people there, it has been a safe place since all this started."

"Why are you down here" Bridget asked?

"We were looking for an airplane. The county airport is right over there" he pointed over his shoulder with a thumb.

"Are you a pilot" the youngest asked?

"No, a friend of ours is a pilot. She was injured when she crashed her plane. Do you have anything you want to take with you" the felon changed the subject, curious about the children?

"Nope" the girl answered. " We just move from house to house when the food runs out. It's better to go at night, if you're quiet. When the door is locked, there are bad things inside."

Trey was curious to know about their family, but decided to wait until they volunteered the information, if they ever did. Still, in his opinion they had done well to have survived on their own. He was just glad to have found them before another winter arrived. According to his wristwatch, Joker should have returned five minutes ago. Trey decided not to worry for another half hour.

Joker sighed at having been off on his line of travel, however at least the truck's location was still clear. He was so very tempted to walk across the open field, but the way the last two days had gone, tempting fate was a bad idea. Moving back from the edge of the forest, the thief traveled parallel to the overgrown field. The woods became denser the further he walked, forced deeper into the trees by the berry brambles until he saw signs of their passage the day before.

The heat waves shimmered off the black paint. Opening both doors, the smaller felon was sure he could bake a chicken in there, if only he had a chicken. The seat was painful to the touch, as was the steering wheel. Sitting on a carefully folded shirt and wearing work gloves, he avoided leaning back against the seat. The air moving through the open windows helped cool the inside.

The truck followed the tracks it had made on the way in, through the gravel parking lot, to make a left turn. The road ran past the south end of the airport runway, separated by a chain link fence. Joker made a mental note to come back and take the barrier at some point in the future. The goons were absent from what he could see. After a quick look around at the intersection with route 8, he turned left toward Butler, driving under the dead traffic light.

Trey's directions were vague at best, if he saw a bar on the left, he had gone too far was especially helpful. He saw his turn just as the road started what looked like a roller coaster decent. Not having seen the house from the front, he wasn't sure where they'd spent the night. The thief was spared driving until he saw the A-frame and counting houses backwards, by the red heads running from the house. He thought he was too far along until his cell mate hopped outside using a board for a crutch.

The truck drove onto the grass past the end of the gravel drive, stopping with the passenger door even with the steps. "You going to ride inside, or should I throw a mattress in the back" the driver asked?

Trey looked up at the sky "It's too hot to ride in the bed".

With the back door open, Trey sat on the edge of the seat pushing with his good leg, while Joker pulled with his hands under his friend's arms. The packs were placed as a back rest against the door. The children piled into the from seat with the thief. A spirited disagreement took place about who had to sit in the middle. He took no offense with the children that he might have held with adults.

Bridget gave in, letting her brother have the door seat. "What's this" the girls asked clicking the CB mike and twirling the knobs?

Joker backed down onto the road slowly, so as not to bounce the patient. "That's a radio, we only use it in emergencies."

"Wasn't this an emergency?"

"Nope."

"We found a radio with batteries " Sean said. "We never found any music stations, though'"

"Where we're taking you, they watch movies on TV" the thief was correct in assuming that bit of news would excite the brother and sister.

"What kind of movies?"

"The kind with lots of kissing" came from the back seat. Sean pretended to vomit out the window, fending off elbows from his sister.

The driver took a left turn onto route 8, then another left turn at the bottom of the hill. The children were thrilled to be driven again, after depending on their feet for so long. Connoquenessing creek was on the right side of the road. This time of year it would have been bare of trout fishermen anyway. Maybe in a few years there would be good sized wild trout in the waters, instead of put and take fishing courtesy of the state.

Joker slowed, in spots where the road was rough even back when the roads were being looked after. At a cluster of homes the truck turned right and once it was across the iron bridge, made a sharp left. The road was cut into the side of the ridge that rose steeply, a sharp drop on the left and a high bank on the right. Occasionally the road leveled, but never for very far. Trees on both sides of the road cast shade on the vehicle, and with the windows open, made for a pleasant drive.

Most of the driveways they passed, led to farms or home out of sight as they passed. The driver slowed where the surface had become gravel, where a barn and farmhouse almost sat on the road. "Hey, there's a cow mover" the thief called out. Laughter erupted from the back seat at the announcement.
"Whatever it's called" the driver said sourly.

The truck backed down the drive so Trey could take a look. "Just what we need I'd say, good find." the comment designed to placate his partner. " Drive around back and see if they have any cows."

The truck backed up further to see if there was a view of the pasture. "Something's been eating the grass, but I don't see any cows" the smaller felon reported.

"We'll have to come back with some help. Too bad it's so close to town, we could have moved someone in here". Joker steered the truck back onto the road. The number of homes increased and they paused at a traffic light. "The white church, the cemetery and the armory are that way" Trey pointed south. "Let's go straight here."

Sean was still amazed at riding on four wheels, however Bridget seemed anxious at being in a town. At the next light the taller felon again pointed out south as the way back to 422. Sean moved away from the window, seeing several dead as they rolled through the intersection. To the left, what once had been a tiny mall, was now a major shopping center. Trey was curious to see how it looked.

A surprising number of cars were still in the parking lot. He estimated two dozen goons were walking around. Unfortunately, it appeared that the doors to Chinamart were wide open. Other stores were too far away to tell what sort of shape they were in. Continuing to drive, the surrounding area were die hard farms, being encroached on by the suburbs. The intersection with route 8 was populated by a mob of the dead. Joker cut through the parking lot of a grocery store, to get out onto route 8.

The brother and sister had ducked down upon sighting the mob. They peeked out the windows after feeling the vehicle pick up speed. The group was quiet until Joker slowed, with the I-80 crossing just ahead. The driver explained to the nervous siblings, that he would check the interstate and be right back. "It's all clear" the thief said on his return. "We should call the farm, Swanny too."

"Hand me the mike" the bank robber instructed.

"It won't reach" his cell mate said crossly. The smaller man grumbled about having to do everything, in between calling for Peach and Mr. Swann. Rose answered at the farm, sounding relieved that the criminals were in one piece. The prison, never answered any of the calls, despite attempts on different channels. "You'll have to stay at the farm tonight" he told the young survivors.

The Moreau brothers met their guardians at the gate. Trey assured the pair that he and Joker were just a little banged up. Lucas was fascinated by the red haired brother and sister accompanying the convicts. Alex was worried that he and his brother would be replaced in the cellmates affections. Peach raised her eyebrows seeing the new children.

The young woman took the siblings under her wing, supervised the scrubbing off months of accumulated grime from the criminals' latest find. Bridget glowed after being cleaned up, while Sean took the procedure as a personal insult. The two were dressed with clothing from the closet full of items that had been found in various homes.

"How do you think Alex and Lucas feel about you bringing home more orphans" Peach asked Trey, who sat on the porch with his leg up?

"They're not staying" Joker stated forcefully.

"Oh, so you'll just drop them off at the prison, with nobody to look out for them?"

"Are you suggesting that we should have just left them out there? There's Ann" Trey said after hesitating. "We're full up here."

"No, I'm not saying you should have left them. But nobody at the prison wanted to look after Alex and Lucas when you found them. I doubt things have changed there" Peach argued. "If you bring home strays you have to take care of them buster" her words were reinforced by a forefinger poking his chest.

"We're aren't here half the time" Joker whined in desperation. "Besides, there's no more room".

"Well, you two will just have to sleep in the barn" Peach informed the pair before flouncing away.

"No good deed goes unpunished" Trey said smiling.

"This isn't funny man" the smaller felon replied.

"Aw, come on, four kids can't be any harder than two. We can fix up rooms in the barn, how hard can it be for a construction genius like yourself."

The partners had a long talk with the Moreau brothers, leaving Alex reassured and Lucas baffled. Peach settled the three boys in one room, giving Bridget a room of her own. Joker set up a cot next to an amused Thompson. "This is our place" he said sadly. After the evening meal, the thief had laid out a plan for three rooms in the bottom of the barn.

"I don't think we should have rooms in the bottom" Trey said.

"Why not? We have stone walls down here."

"Up top the goons can't even touch the walls, except around the big door."

"Yeah, well it's cooler down here now. It'll be warmer in the winter and we can put a hatch in to climb up if we had too. The main door is smaller and will secure better, plus you have to put the corn somewhere after it's picked" the smaller man held up a finger with each point he made.

"There aren't any fields of fire from down here" Trey argued back for the fun of it. The children's arrival went unnoticed. From the main door they watched the interplay between the two men. "What are we talking in materials" the bank robber changed the subject?

Sean and Lucas ran over "Can we help."

"Absolutely" the thief replied with a winning smile he reserved for children. Though they grew bored and drifted away at all the talk of lumber and hardware. A list was generated with everything they'd need. Real beds, underlined twice, took the place of honor at the top of the notebook page. Although by morning, the thief had to admit the cot was cooler than a bed in hot weather.

Lucas and Sean were best friends by the end of the second day, Alex and Bridget had declared a cautious truce. The felons sat around nursing their wounds for several days. Rose questioned the pair in detail about the airplane and the airport. The Swede was happy to hear about the "cow carrier" Joker had discovered.

The prison returned to the air after several days of absence. Mr. Swann blamed undefined electrical problems. "What did you guys want" Swann asked.

"We found a couple of kids" Joker answered, looking around the room before continuing. "Peach won't let us drop them off with you." Mr. Swann's response to the complaint was loud laughter. "It ain't funny man, were sleeping in the barn".

"Well I guess you could have left them out there". The thief signed off after getting zero sympathy.

Several days later the convicts sat on the porch after breakfast, discussing getting supplies to start on their rooms. Trey's leg had improved with the rest they'd had. He could walk with only a small limp. Joker no longer even wrapped his wrist. The two men were kicking around ideas where to pick up what they needed, when the children rushed up.

"The Swede says there's goons at the back gate" Alex relayed breathlessly, the first to arrive. The four young ones were given their orders to stay on the porch. The cell mates collected their weapons, then walked rapidly in the heat, to the back of the farm. The farmer stood at the edge of the cornfield facing the gate. Seven of the dead hungrily eyed the three, when the mostly absentee owners arrived.

The leader, that had picked up followers here and there was from Erie. She had managed to find her way down route 8, following vague movements ahead of her. Birds landing in trees, debris blowing in a breeze or animals crossing the road had kept her moving. A doe and her fawns that had never seen humans before attracted the group's attention.

The animals had returned to daylight habits since the people had disappeared. The fawns were intrigued by the slow moving ghouls, ignoring their mother's attempts to move them out of the area. The pair followed her willingly once they caught a whiff of the dead odor. Appearing to moving away from the pursuers, the deer were actually making a long slow curve that threw off sight trailers.

The former mother of four had never returned from an effort to find food for her brood. What clothing remaining on the bodies, was tattered by the branches and brambles that had stripped away the rest of the cloth. Much of the rotten flesh had been peeled away with clothing, giving the dead a skeletal look. The stop action, monsters of the old sword and sorcery movies he loved, jumped into Trey's mind.

"That's the worst looking bunch we've ever seen" Joker spoke the other men's thoughts.

"Country zombies, the townies don't look like that" Trey voiced his opinion. "Those don't look like they can even raise their arms."

"Across the road" the younger man asked?

"If they can make it that far" Joker laughed.

The adventurous criminals crossed both fences to tease the dead into following them. Avoiding the hot sun in patches of shade, they'd wait for the slow moving creatures to catch up to them. Toward the house, where the children watched, there was no further shade. Without a word, the thief jogged off to the front gate. When he returned, he presented his partner an umbrella with a flourish.

Trey felt stupid sheltering under the white covering with colored flowers on. However, he had to admit it was cooler than without it, when the two men baby walked just ahead of the mini mob. Estimating the distance the sun had traveled, the bank robber guessed several hours had passed. The ghouls were put down as they stumbled over bodies from the first days of the farm.

"This smell would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon" Joker said looking over the zombie graveyard.

"So let's go get the backhoe."

In agreement, the pair drove the back roads to where they had left the machinery. Towing it back kept the noise down and saved the fuel it would have used. Trey insisted on taking the first turn. His friend watched until he couldn't stand it anymore. "Get out of there. Let me do it or we'll be here all day."

"Yes sir boss, whatever you say boss."

The small man began scooping holes in the ground, then pushing the remains in with sideways swings of the bucket. The dirt from the next hole was used to cover the ghastly rotten flesh and bare bones. The mounds would settle with time and the next rains. Trey's work was neater, but the thief was much faster. He finished by moving the dirt from the first hole next to the last waiting grave. "If we have to, we can just cover the next batch with a shovel".

Neither man wanted supper that evening. They could almost taste the horrible smell from the dead. After scrubbing down twice the odor seemed to linger. In the barn they dressed in clean clothing and burned the old clothing on a fire in the field, downwind of the farm. "Next time we bury them right away. Masks would be a good idea too" the bank robber said.

"Do ya think" the thief asked sarcastically?

In the morning the cell mates only picked at the food, making the dogs happy with the leftovers. They hung around with the kids and worked a little with the Swede. The next day they made a lumber run. Two of the houses used as supply dumps had most of what they needed to get started. The framing of the rooms went slower than it should have, due to having the four children help.

The thief tied the 2x4 walls to the barn's wall by driving longer nails into gaps between the stones. Not having enough plywood to finish the job, what they did have, went on the corners, bracing the shaky walls. "Didn't we see plywood somewhere" the thief asked.

"Yeah but you didn't want to move it."

"Well, let's go get it."

Trey rubbed his chin with the back of his hand "I'm not sure I remember where it was."

"Don't look at me, I get all twisted up on those back roads."

The convicts cruised the familiar looking roads, stopping to check garages where they may have seen the plywood stacked. The day was half gone by the time their search ended. "We'll need more, but this should cover the outside walls" the smaller man said. The truck backed up to the stack and the loading went quickly. They'd checked the home on the previous visit, there was nothing of use left after the exterior doors were removed..

Driving home Joker broke the silence "What happens when we find more kids?"

"It's not like we find someone every time we go out. Five kids in six months is hardly worth worrying about" his friends replied.

"Yeah, but what if?"

"So we start the Mercer County home for wayward children."

"And who runs the place?"

"Thompson. Surely one of the women is tired of living in the prison. We can fence in a farm with a couple of houses nearby, make a big compound out of it. The Rules place would do nicely, the work is already done. One of us can take turns staying there."

"You have all the answers, you worry me sometimes" the thief said with a grin.

"I'm very intelligent" the bank robber shot back with a smile of his own. "Seriously, they prison won't work out long term for the amount of people there. It's too close to the interstate and there isn't enough room to raise their own food. We can't pick the bones of the old world forever, welcome to 1850."

The truck backed through the double doors of the barn. The siding was nailed up as it came out of the bed. Moving the vehicle resulted in very little carrying of materials. Standing on the bed rails, they managed the upper course without needing a ladder. "I want a ceiling too" Joker said, looking at the construction critically.

"Why, you going to hang a chandelier?"

"No genius, the dust from up top will cover everything. Besides I can't have an escape hatch with no ceiling" Joker said seriously.

Trey presented Rose with one of the M-16's from the farm's armory and the ex-soldier began training her. He started by explaining how the weapon functioned and basic disassembly. The young woman was frustrated at her inability to put the bolt carrier group together as easily as it was taken apart. Trey took his time, knowing that with enough repetition she would get it.

Rose was drilled on changing magazines and charging the rifle. The pilot and the youngsters practiced their marksmanship with .22 rifles down by the barn, just outside the wire. The Moreau brothers were proud of being the best shots, although the other shooters were new to firearms. There were some safety concerns when the new shooters tended to wave the barrels around in all directions.

Joker drafted Thompson to help look for wood to finish the rooms. He was surprised that Peach insisted on coming along. Over two days, enough supplies were scrounged up from several sources to finish the new residences. The Swede was dead set against cutting holes in the barn's floor, but tired of arguing with the insistent thief.

Thompson and the convicts spent several more days finishing the rooms. Each room received a roof access and the way into the barn above was located over the middle room. A short but sturdy 2x4 ladder was secured to the framework at each end. Joker framed the hole through the floor of the barn, that was cut with some difficulty through the aged oak floor planks.

The cell mates accompanied the Swede to visit the Erie bunch every couple of days. The quiet convict taught them what he knew about cows and provided a book with some information that the convicts had picked up in their travels. The trio helped spread manure on the fields that would be plowed in the spring. The group from the big lake had found some seed and were happy to find out they would receive a share of the heirloom seed to build on.

The cell mates broke the news to the Swede during breakfast, that he was helping them get cows. Thompson was eager to go also, because he'd rarely been more than a couple miles from either the prison or the farm. The black pickup had a hitch, but no draw bar, so the other truck would do the hauling. Trey was running out of back roads they hadn't used. He knew other routes, however they were the long way or through previously populated areas.

The bank robber decided enough time had passed and took their previous route to the airport. The village was empty of goons this trip. "But where'd they go" Joker worried.

"Too bad we don't have a pilot to scout thing out for us" Trey said seriously. The thief worried when his partner made statements like that. The only goon they saw lay on the side of the narrow dirt road. It was still dangerous, but all busted up. The ex-soldier pointed out the skid marks "Someone nailed him with a fender". After spearing the busted up ghoul, the two trucks moved on.

The Swede was annoyed when the lead truck stopped by the airport fence. Trey stood in the bed of the black truck taking a good look around with the binoculars. The pair began taking down a section of the chain link. With a sigh, the two farmers got out to help. "Cows" was all the quiet man said.

"We're multitasking here" Joker informed him with his crazy grin. Two men went down the row, removing the wire securing the fencing to the posts. The other two started rolling up the chain link. With one truck bed full, the group moved on, leaving the remaining rolls to be retrieved in the future.

At the farm, the Swede backed up to the stock trailer, before doing anything else. At least they would have it in case the group had to run. The tires needed air, but that would have to wait until right before they left. The noise they made had brought no inquisitive visitors. The house was cleared first to prevent any surprises. The signs pointed toward the absent owners having survived for some time after the dead became a problem for the living.

The barn proved to be empty of threats also. The Swede was like a kid in a candy store, delighted that the silo held feed and a decent amount of grain was present. Over the months, rodents had devoured some of the feed. "We need big trucks" he told the others with a smile. The barn doors were shut, preventing the cattle from seeking shelter.

The men split into pairs, following the fence line in opposite directions. The chief farmer had provided halters made from the roll on binder twine in the barn. The parties lost sight of one another due to the rolling terrain. "This is a lot of ground to cover" Joker panted while climbing a hill.

"They'll be in the shade when it's this hot" Trey replied.

From the brow of the hill the convicts surveyed the surrounding area. Seeing nothing, they continued the hike. The smell of rot from the woods put them on high alert, however the source was a dead cow.
"What are you doing" the smaller man asked his friend who was circling the carcass.

Carnivores had clearly been at work on the dead beast. Ignoring the disgusting odor Trey leaned closer. "These are knife cuts, somebody wanted steaks for supper. From the meat missing, I'd guess it was one guy who took what he could carry, maybe a couple weeks ago. I wonder why they never came back?"

The convicts, with empty canteens, arrived back at the barn. The Swede and Thompson waited in the shade with two cows and large grins for the losers. "They were right down there" the Swede pointed. "There's a couple more, but the trailer only holds two."

Trey listened while filling his canteen from the water can he had the foresight to set in the shade before beginning the search. The hot and tired men watched the braggarts attempt to get the cows in the trailer. The process involved pulling on one end and pushing on the other along with some strong language.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Joker waited until the loading was finished saying "Man, why didn't you wait for us, I was looking forward to that part". The Swede hit the start button on the compressor, holding a hand to his ear indicating that he couldn't hear what was being said. The thief stomped away having failed to needle the farmer.

The noise of the compressor failed to attract any visitors. Retracing the route from the last trip, the bank robber agreed with his friend it was strange that the goons weren't at the mall. The intersection with route 8 was also deserted. Trey fully expected to find the goons ahead of them, still following the trucks from last time.

The trucks reached I-80 not catching up to the deadheads. The cattle hauler waited in the shade at the truck stop and the cell mates went forward to check out the four lane. Expecting to see nothing as usual, Trey was shocked to see people. Joker picked up on his partner's body language, popped his head above the railing for a look. The bank robber raised his binoculars, to see the others staring at his position

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 11:09 am 
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"This smell would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon" :lol:

good one!!

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Great update! Thanks for the MOAR! I do I fact love this story, one of my favorites! Thank you for continuing to put out great work!

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Great story so far!

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Please. :mrgreen:

_________________
Most of my adventures are on my blog http://suntothenorth.blogspot.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
My Introduction With Pictures: http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... 10&t=79019" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Graduated with honors from kit porn university


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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:39 pm 
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What the guy above said :D


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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 10:20 am 
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Joker could only see a dot in the distance with a naked eye, that must be the travelers. Even with the binoculars not much detail was seen. "One, maybe two vehicles" Trey said. "Three or four people is all I can make out. They know we're here, so they must have a telescope or something with serious magnification. Would you be so kind as to bring up the truck and tell the Swede to pick another route."

The smaller convict shrugged, stood and walked away with no attempt at concealment. At the truck he picked up the radio mike "This is one calling two, we have a possible contact with people, you are requested to disappear". The thief idled the truck forward stopping just short of where he figured it could be seen by whoever was down the interstate. "What now" he asked when he rejoined his friend?

"We wait and see what they do."

"Why? Let's just take off."

"To get news, our duty to help humanity, blah, blah, blah."

"Maybe they aren't friendly."

"It looks like we're about to find out" the ex-soldier said watching a vehicle approach leaving another behind. The two men took position behind their truck with their backs to the brush. Nobody would be able to sneak up on them, but the criminals could disappear into the thick cover if necessary. The travelers paused at the top off ramp to look around. A man stood in the bed looking over the cab that held two riders. As it rolled closer, the felons could see the new model Ford was missing paint on the dented fenders and hood. The headlights were painted black except for narrow strip and signal lights were blacked out. The man in the bed held an old M-60 point vaguely in their direction. The threat was dampened by the foot of linked ammo belt that dangled from the weapon, though it was still dangerous.

The driver and gunner stayed in place, but the passenger emerged onto the road. A half empty bandoleer held shells for his short barreled shotgun. Their clothing had seen hard use and it had been awhile since the last bath, haircut or shave. The men stared at each other for several minutes before speaking. " I'm Tito" the leader spoke not bothering to name his followers.

"Trey" the bank robber said. "That's Joker".

"You like our gun" Tito stated.

"Sure, but it's an old weapon with a short belt."

Tito shrugged "Ammo for it's almost gone. Everything is almost gone, got any gas?"

Joker got the nod from his friend. The short gas cans from the Pittsburgh trip were set on the pavement. Tito waved at the driver who scooped up the cans "I'll wait here". The truck went back down the exit ramp to the other vehicle. "Found the gun at a road block some locals threw up that was overrun, it makes everyone feel better just knowing we have it".

"It would make anyone up to no good reconsider" the ex-soldier replied.

Tito licked his bottom lip out of nervous habit. "Any idea what's west of here?"

"New Castle is out that way. It wasn't such a good place before this all happened. We only went into town one time and haven't been back. Then we lost two men bypassing it. We've been north to Erie a couple times, it was OK to get just get in and out, but we sort of know the town."

"We went to Pittsburgh. The Army had a bomb that burned the town up" Joker spoke for the first time. "It even burned up the river".

Tito regarded the smaller felon, thinking his leg was being pulled. "You can't burn up a river."

The thief started to bristle, but his partner jumped back into the conversation. "It was a chain reaction thing using the river. The river valley was on fire for thirty miles down to the first bend. The city has to be toast and it probably ran up both the other rivers. We could see the smoke for almost a week."

The traveler looked at the two men unable to tell if they were spinning a tale. It didn't matter anyway since they were moving west. "Anything else we might need to know?"

"There is a group up around the Cleveland area that made some raids that we ran into. It turned into a shooting affair" Trey added.

"Thanks, it's nice to know what's ahead for a change."





During the mutual silence that followed the exchange, Trey decided to extend a helping hand. "There are a couple places up the road that were never checked out" Trey replied. "You can follow us. Or there's some cars further west that are bound to have some fuel. Your choice".

"Houses?"

"Yep, probably something to eat there, clothes too".

"And you're just going to let us have it?"

"We've helped some others" Trey answered watching Tito's people pull up. The hopeless faces looking out of the open windows were hollow eyed and stretched tight.

Tito made his decision "I appreciate the offer, but the last time we were helped it ended in a big gunfight. That was back when there were a lot more of us".

"If it makes any difference, there's some soldiers and couple stray FBI agents at a place you could go to" Joker spoke up for the first time. "Look at your people, they're on the edge man". Tito shook his head silently. "OK, we can give you a little more gas" the thief said, thinking he would never understand citizens. He refilled the gas cans with nothing else to add. "Thanks for the info and gas" the traveler extended a hand holding three shotgun shells.

"You better hang on to those", Trey dug the emergency supplies out of the pile of gear in the back of the truck. "You got a couple of bags"? What food and first aid equipment the felons had, was transferred to the plastic shopping bags produced by the travelers. After thanking the cell mates, the small convoy set off down the interstate. The last car in line paused, the inhabitants considering their options, then sped off after the rest of their group.

The drive back to the Erie farm was quiet. Bad luck or a bad decision would be the end of the group living on the road. The next hard knock would shatter some the fragile people they had seen. It was hard for the partners to think of anything else. Arriving at the cattle farm, they answered the Swede's questions, watching the cows that had been unloaded.

The cattle expert thought it best to keep the new animals separated from the established herd for a few days. The stock was unloaded inside the fence guarding the homes. The hand pumps would provide water and the overgrown lawn the grazing. The group would have to round up something to hold the water. The concerns about the large animals being around the children were unfounded, the beasts were quite docile.

The day arrived when it was time for Rose's cast to come off. Ann called on the radio to arrange a time for her to be brought in. Trey thought to make it an outing and take everyone, however Thompson declined, volunteering to stay behind. Rose had the back seat of the seldom driven Mercedes all to herself. Alex rode shotgun, keeping up a commentary about everything he saw. Lucas stuck like glue to his new best friend Sean in another vehicle.

There was a small gathering awaiting the patient at the prison, the entertainment situation being what it was. Nick was there to relate his experience with his cast. Joker, in an uncharacteristic display of tact, kept his opinions of Dr Doom to himself. Illion and Tooker were present, hovering on the outside of the crowd, wanting to talk with Rose at some point.

Ann pushed the young pilot into the infirmary firmly closing the door behind her. Those waiting could hear voices inside the room that were replaced by the high pitched whine of a cast saw at work. The faces of the children spoke of silent pledges not to break any limbs. When the saw stopped, the sounds of plaster cracking began.

Illion drew Trey down the hall where Tooker waited. "Did you talk to her" the Lieutenant asked anxiously?

"She's not going to fly away tomorrow" the bank robber laughed. "It will take some time to get her leg in shape. Give her a couple days, then stop out at the farm" Trey suggested. The conversation was interrupted by Rose making her appearance. The repaired leg was sickly white and thin from lack of use.
Peach insisted the pilot remain in the wheelchair. The group stayed to eat in the dining hall, the closest any of them had come to eating out since moving to the farm.

Rose sat on the seat of the German car like a normal person for the ride home. The young woman celebrated with a real bath in place of the sponge baths she had during the long weeks. Her therapy started the next day with the children showing her the chickens, cats and the new rooms in the barn. Within a couple days, accompanied by the youngsters, the young lady was walking the double fence protecting the farm.

Trey was surprised that the Army and FBI waited a whole week before showing up after supper one evening. The group, along with a delegation from the prison, met in the shade under the porch roof. Once everyone had a glass of cold well water or warmish soda cooled as well as the cold water could make it, the meeting started. Tooker spoke first about a reconnaissance flight over the "Burgh" and the surrounding area to see the effects of fizzy bomb. Rose was receptive, thinking she could swing by on her flight out of the area, using the radio to make a report.

Illion received the fish eye when he brought up the spy mission over Lake Erie. Trey was proud of her when Rose made some of the same arguments he had. The Lieutenant showed the area on his big map, quoting straight line distances. Trey pointed out it would be a bad idea to fly straight there and back. He suggested flying to Erie, before turning west and continuing on out of sight before turning back south again. "Otherwise you may as well drop leaflets with our location marked on a map".

Rose promised to do some calculations on flight time and fuel usage, however she made no commitment . The meeting broke up, with the outsiders hopeful, but the residents concerned the assholes from Cleveland would find the plane's base. The adults from the farm, talked about the mission after the others left.

As close as they could tell, the round trip would be very close to five hundred miles. Rose stated that in calm weather that distance was doable on one tank of fuel. However, with a head wind she'd have to be prepared to refuel. The bird's tanks held a little over fifty gallons total. It was unlikely, but possible, she'd need two tanks. Fueling outside Erie made no sense, since it was so close. A pit stop would have to be on the Ohio end of the flight, if needed. The alternative was to shorten the flight time and risk being spotted by eyes on the ground.

Trey kicked around the idea of a chase car. He didn't mention they'd be positioned for a rescue mission if necessary. Joker was sure they had picked up a state Atlas for Ohio, although he had no idea what they had done with it. The logistics of the trip flipped through his mind. Two days to drive to western Ohio and two days back. Fuel for the trucks and plane, ammo and food for six to eight men. Maybe two more days to place Illion's spotters. But first things first, they needed an airplane.

Rose became more anxious over the next two weeks. Stealing a plane from under the noses of the dead was jangling her nerves. Having to trust the cell mate's selection of a proper aircraft did little to calm the young pilot. Her statement that she was ready for anything, resulted in a challenge to a foot race the following day. Peach set the course, from the porch to the farm's back gate, then return to the porch.

The racers ended up consisting of all the residents. Joker protested as soon as Rose stepped out onto the porch. "That's cheating. you can't wear sneakers."

"Why not" Rose and Peach asked?

"You were wearing boots when we found you" the bank robber pointed out. The two friends displayed their above the ankle footwear. "Wearing sneakers over broken ground is begging for an injury."

"This is hardly broken ground."

Trey put an arm around Rose's shoulders in a brotherly manner "I'm sure the dead will honor your call for a timeout while you change foot gear."

"But Peach is wearing sneakers" the pilot argued.

"She was wearing sneakers when she bushwhacked Joker" the comment caused Peach to blush. "We're going with the premise that if your plane crashed, the sound would attract the dead. Unless you're figuring on just running down a road, sneakers just won't do. You get out of sight and change direction, remember? So you'd be running across fields and through woods, maybe some crawling or climbing thrown in."

Rose returned stomping the boots she hadn't worn since the crash. "They're stiff" she informed the waiting racers. After tying the laces, she bounced up and down before nodding her head. Rose wanted to stretch before running, however she knew what the criminals would say. Everyone lined up, when Trey shouted "Ready", Lucas and Sean started running. The boys laughed as they sped away, many of the faces turned to look at the thief.

"Don't look at me" Joker denied any involvement.

"Set, Go!

Rose paced herself as she would have if running from the dead, in a race of unknown distance. The competitors past her going in the opposite direction, except the cell mates running on each side of her. At the corner of the cornfield Trey tugged her sleeve "This way". Joker crossed behind her and the two men sprinted away along the fence.

The young woman was thinking some very naughty words by the time she reached the next corner of the field. She squatted where the felons were. "If you can't see any goons, you're in the clear" Joker said, keeping his eyes on the far corner as if goons might appear. They backed up, then turned a walked quickly away bent at the waist. At the barn, the experts made her do a "stop, look and listen" drill again.

"That was easy enough".

"Except you'll have a weapon or two on you" Trey said.

"And a small pack with essentials" Joker added.

Joker washed the breakfast dishes and Trey dried. Rose watched Peach looking at the partners whispering back and forth. The thief was shaking his head no, while the bank robber was nodding his head yes. Trey whispered again pointing an index finger at the smaller felon, who had a resigned look on his face. The ex-soldier leaned on the table over his hands appearing very satisfied. "Get your gear and we'll steal a plane."

"Right now?"

"Sure, why not?"

The tense pilot sat through the quiet ride south. Approaching the airport, Trey broke the silence "See, you know the way as well as I do, you'll be fine". Rose felt unexpected relief that the bank robber would be flying with her. Joker would meet them back at the farm. The truck idled up to where the fence use to be, stopping next to the rolls of chain link. Trey held the binoculars up to his eyes "There's a couple goons by the restaurant, but we're good to go".

Joker bumped the truck across the field and up onto the runway. He turned off onto the taxiway and stopped next to the Cessna the convicts had readied. Rose began checking the plane, forcing herself to be slow and thorough. She couldn't help looking over her shoulder occasionally at the dead walking in her direction. The criminals stood where they had a good view in all directions, waiting patiently.

The moment of truth arrived, with crossed fingers, she began the start up procedure. She was sweating in the heat of the cabin when the propeller began turning. The engine caught, running roughly for several minutes, then smoothed out. She gave the felons a thumbs up, who waved her over to them in return. With the throttle set to idle, she exited the cab.

"Target practice" Trey told her pointing at the dead people. "You might need your rifle, though". The embarrassed woman ran to the truck for her rifle. The ex-soldier talked her through the manual of arms which had fled her brain. The moving targets were dangerously close before a round connected with a goon's head. A black mist filled the air behind it, the former airport manager teetered back and forth before falling.

Trey confidently dropped the second with his suppressed handgun, leaving the remaining ghoul to Joker's spear. Rose looked at the small man in a whole new light due his preferred method of dealing with the dead. "Come on, let's go" the thief told the now confused pilot. He ran to the aircraft pulling her with him. Getting her head around the plan, she ran wide around the propeller and they both scrambled aboard.

Joker put on the seat belt and removed the atlas from his pack. Rose started the plane moving, the small wheels transmitting the bumps from the smooth a looking taxiway to the occupants. Trey followed the Cessna out to the runway prepared to eliminate any unexpected problems, however none appeared. The air was dead still, but force of habit made the pilot face into the wind. He watched the bird make it's run and leap into the air.

The thief held his breath until they were airborne. The seat was hard and looking at his surroundings, he could only describe them as Spartan. He'd thought it would be fancier, not like the cab of a backhoe. The Cessna circled as it climbed above the bank robber. Rose rocked the craft to waggle the wings before setting off south. They saw the black truck driving north on the back road.

"Relax, everything it fine" the young woman told the nervous thief. "You guys could have told me the plan you know."

"It's his plan, he thought you'd have the jitters" making the pilot frown.

"Why didn't he come?"

"Weight. That's the road we want" the small convict pointed ahead. The Cessna lined up to follow route 68. Joker could see the figures below, close to all the routes they had driven. On the ground the area had seemed deserted. The dead were scattered except for the towns they passed. Joker pointed out a side road on the edge of Evans City. "That's the road we follow on the way back". Rose was unimpressed with the small town's history with zombie movies.

Unlike the previous trip, the main street was empty of the dead. The thief recognized the train they had driven around. Reaching Zelienople, it was clear nothing short of a tank would have been able to drive through the crowded streets. The numbers of the dead increased the farther south they flew. The hills above Rochester were alive with ghouls and more were present at the edge of town. None were on the slopes. Either they were afraid of the steep descent, or they rolled all the way down.

Rochester was gone, burned to the ground. The government project fires had climbed out of the valley consuming the city. The dead stumbled through the rubble. The parts of town in the river valley were different. The buildings were completely collapsed and what were once cars or trucks were now small piles of metal.

The flight turned down the river, seeing some places where the fire had moved away from the river, and others where destruction was limited to the valley. Any dead in the valley could not have survived, their remains probably covered by ash. The burn area at the bend of the river was more like a plain old forest fire. The cleared area about the interstate bridge acted as a fire break, with no damage below it.

The aircraft turned back upriver. The observers could see piles of debris at the bend of the river. More items, large and small, could be seen just below the surface of the water. The sides of the valley were denuded of trees and undergrowth. The bridges were all damaged, more so on the upriver side, the framework collapsed onto what was left of the road bed. Rose flew under the taller structures where the concrete pillars had taken a beating.

The dams for the locks had survived untouched except they provided a collection point for water borne debris. The lock buildings were history, however the gates still looked usable. On a whim, the thief had the pilot pop out of the valley for a quick look at the airport. It looked the same except the large number of the dead gathered there.

The flyers looked upstream for the first glimpse of Pittsburgh. The rivers gave a clue where the city should be, however all the tall buildings of downtown had been leveled. Point Plaza had disappeared altogether, leaving the river wider at that point. Joker motioned to go south over the cliffs. The reaction had been blocked by the steep slopes, although what came out of the bridge tunnel had been focused like a blow torch. That was the only area outside the valley where they had seen total destruction.

Up the Monogahela River the reaction had died out on the second sweeping turn, to be replaced by fire. Up the Allegheny River the first soft turn failed to stop the event, but the sharp turn at Blawnox had done the trick. Fire had burned north, spreading out from the river for miles. Joker smiled at the thought of that bastard Barton being turned into dust.

The pilot set a course for home, following the interstate most of the way. The thief's maniacal grin signaled that he had located the prison. "Buzz the walls" the small felon ordered. Rose shrugged and began losing altitude. The plane circled lower and lower, attracting attention in the form of a growing cloud in the courtyard. Both occupants laughed at the crowd, ducking on the last pass when the wheels cleared the walls by ten feet.

Joker could imagine the urgent radio calls the farm was receiving. Shortly, Rose repeated her low level pass over the fortified farm several times. The residents jumping and waving egged her on. The smaller figures of the children, with their boundless energy, continued after the adults had stopped. The thief admitted out loud that this was the way to travel these days. They flew off in search of a place to land.

The pilot circled to gain height puzzling the small felon. "We're going to land, why go up?"

"Options" Rose replied. "We can see more higher up. If the engine quits at this altitude, there won't be a choice where we land". Recalling removing Rose from the crashed Cessna made the thief think that maybe flying wasn't the way to travel these days after all. Their circle was wide enough to have a look at the roads around the farm.

The young pilot was looking for a straight road that was close to level. Her wrecked Cessna was, unfortunately, in the middle of the nearest landing area. The thief couldn't help looking down at the place he called home on each pass. The fourth pass he saw a reflection of light from the knoll just east of the farm. Joker snatched the binoculars hanging by their strap from the back of his seat.

"I saw something" the small man said, trying get a look out the window as the knoll passed from view behind the plane making it's turn.

"What" Rose asked, alarmed by Joker's tone of voice.
"I think somebody's on the knoll scoping out the farm. I saw a flash of light."

"That could of been anything."

"Yeah, except we didn't see it on each pass. Just this last time" the thief was becoming worried about the children at the fenced compound.

The anxious thief fretted until the circling plane allowed him a view of the farm through the pilot's side window. The glasses refused to stay pointed where he wanted them in the unstable platform. He leaned over the pilot's arms, seeing everyone still in the yard between the house and the barn. Rose had only one hand on the yoke, by reaching over the criminal's back. Her other arm was pinned to her thigh by Joker's body.

Rose was yelling in the diminutive felon's ear, trying to keep the aircraft straight and level, but failing. Pulling back to his side of the aircraft, the small man turned in his seat onto his knees, muttering to himself as he dug through his pack. Finding the hand radio he began calling the farm with no answer. He knew they were all probably too far from the radio to hear it, but it had been worth a try. Keeping his voice calm despite the growing worries he began trying to contact Trey.

Trey once again viewed I-80, although at a different crossing. He was north of Grove City, where he had to drive under the interstate. On a whim he'd driven through town and past Wally World. The bank robber took his time with the binoculars looking for movement before approaching the crossing. He'd climbed the bank and looked carefully in each direction. The abandoned cars showed no sign that the travelers had stopped there as suggested.

Enjoying some alone time, a rare commodity these days, the ex-soldier sat on the overpass abutment, boots dangling over the forty foot drop. The magnified view revealed a clear back trail from town. The road ahead had already been checked and he debated about stopping at the prison for some barrels and their hand pump. Four barrels o AVGAS should do it the felon thought. Just for fun, the FBI should be involved with the work.

Leaving his perch, he picked his way carefully through the Crown Vetch planted on the slope to control erosion. It would have been easier to use the path from his climb, however it went against the criminal's nature to follow the same route when it could be avoided within reason. Before reaching the dusty black pickup he could hear static on the radio.

Trey was surprised it was the hand radio, rather than the CB. Holding the radio, the bank robber waited for it to come to life again. Nobody he knew should have been within range of the handheld, so he waited to eavesdrop. What sounded like Joker's voice called "Jack of diamonds to three of clubs". Thinking if they were still airborne the range would be extended. "Go" he replied.

"Eway avehay away otterspay outsideway ethay armfay" came the transmission, raising the ex-soldier's eyebrows.

Taking a moment to work out the message, he replied "Atway isway ethay ocationlay?"

"Ethay ollknay orthnay ofway ethay ousehay".

"Econray" was the one word reply. As the engine turned over, Trey wondered how much life the batteries in the radios had.

(http://www.wordplays.com/pig-latin)

"We have to get down" Joker told Rose. "The closer to the farm the better".

"It'll be noisy" the pilot cautioned.

The thief thought for a moment, then directed her west. The pilot checked the fuel gauge and turned west. Gradually losing height, so the hills and trees would help muffle the engine noise, the plane turned back east. Rose was nervous flying at such a low altitude, her hands were tighter than usual on the yoke.

Still well northeast of New Castle, every road the pair had looked at was disqualified for one reason or another. Stalled cars, gravel, the dead, bends in the road or bridges made them continue the search. On the verge of opting for the noisy landing, Joker spied a solution. The million dollar home, with a huge expanse of lawn sat in a valley.

"The grass is too tall" Rose argued against a landing.

"They kept that lawn like a golf course" the thief argued back. "There won't be any holes or bumps to watch out for".

The Cessna crossed the proposed landing area at an angle to miss the large home and surrounding trees. "What about the brick wall" the pilot asked?

"It's only six feet at the most" the small man said, indicating the fence that circled the property as far as they could see. "No higher than the chain link you flew over on takeoff. And the gate is closed, so no goons are in there".

Rose swallowed the lump in her throat "If we get killed, I'm blaming you". The pilot lined up her approach, aiming right at the house and losing altitude. Joker cringed just before they crossed the wall, sure they would hit it and cartwheel across the green expanse. The wheels touched down with a thump, the aircraft sliding slightly from side to side. The flaps and almost invisible, upward slope, slowed the single engine craft.

Rose taxied closer to the home, then using the throttle turned the aircraft facing back the way they had come. "If we have to get out of here, I don't want to be messing around" she explained. still, she took the time to chock the wheels upon exiting the craft. She ran to catch up with the convict walking toward the house. "I thought we were going to the farm".

"Do you want to ride or walk" the thief asked? "It must be nice to have money" he sighed, looking around.

"Yeah, but were they happy" the young woman asked in return, thinking of her rich but useless classmates?

"If they weren't happy, they were doing it wrong" Joker shot back with a crazy grin.

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Three men and a woman trapped in a building, send help. If you can't send help send two more women. Groucho Marx-Duck Soup

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 7:07 pm 
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Happy! Happy! Happy!

Thank you Sir Groucho.

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thanks Groucho .


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Thank you.
Wonder what kind of car they'll get stuck with? ;)
Something small and fast or a giant luxury gas hog?
Thanks for the long chapter.


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Much thanks for the new chapter, great stuff as always :clap:


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