After the Apocalypse
Chapter 112: The Ambush That Wasn't

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

When John Howey looked back at the events of the encounter, he was unable to shake his amazement that both sides had been so disciplined. Only one shot had been fired-and that by the Flock against their own man. An objective bigger than any before captured at Winter Camp had been achieved.

As Ron Atkins pitched forward into the snow, no one-on either side-knew immediately how to respond. The remaining members of the Flock looked one man to the next-looking for someone to take the lead. Jeff's first reaction was to assume that the shot had come from a Winter Camper, but he stuck to the plan and kept quiet. None of the Flock moved to assist their fallen comrade, which was the puzzle piece that finally completed the picture for John.

"That shot came from them," he thought. He motioned to his team of defenders to press forward into the clearing. As they kept their weapons trained on the invaders, he began issuing orders.

"Jeff, Jerry, Woods-you guys look after this guy. See what kind of first aid he needs and give it to him. Everyone else is with me." The Flock members slowly stood in disbelief and the numerous Winter Camp defenders emerged from the woods and closed around them, tightening in on all sides. John then addressed the four still standing.

"Gentlemen, you have one more chance. Five, four, three, two-", and all of them left their weapons, raised their hands, and walked toward John.

"No one told us there'd be this many guns," mumbled Peterson as the quartet closed ranks in surrender.

"What you don't know can hurt you," said John, whose hearing was acute. "Assuming for a moment that we care, what did they tell you?"

"Don't answer him, Peterson," said Landers. "You don't gotta say anything."

"True," said Ron, "but you might find that things will go down easier for you if you cooperate. The choice is, of course, your own."

Atkins' injury appeared to be serious, but not life-threatening. Jeff and Jerry quickly tended to the bullet wounds in his shoulder-the bullet had exited, meaning that no surgery would be required, but the exit wound looked the more severe. Nonetheless, the first aid supplies at Beaver Creek would be more than enough to treat him. As the trio led Atkins away, Dave Milon collected the intruders' weapons and easily identified the shooter. He kept that information to himself, though-while it would be useful soon, there was too much else going on to pay much attention to that just now.

A relatively peaceful surrender was only fourth on the list of possible contingencies the Winter Campers had been planning for, so while the broad outline for what came next was in place, some details had not been fully fleshed out. Protocol in this case dictated that anyone surrendering on camp grounds be taken back along their path to the closest empty cabin for interrogation, far from the residential center. In this case, that meant back up to Hilltop. As important as it was to avoid revealing any more information about the camp to unfriendly invaders, it was just as much an advantage here that Hilltop was far from Rawhide and the other prisoner, so no undesirable communication could occur.

Once again, interlopers in camp necessitated a briefing of the entire crew. As Woods and Jerry went to work cleaning and dressing Atkins' injuries, Jeff told the story of the expedition.

"Five men came into camp through Trout Lake-again. We confronted them at the old OK Corral site. This gentleman"-he gestured toward Atkins-"wisely chose to surrender immediately, for which he was thanked by his friends with a bullet to the shoulder. That, however, was the only shot fired. Once John figured out when the shot came from, we were able to move forward and essentially capture the others."

"Where are they now?" asked Doug.

"En route to Hilltop, where we'll get what information we can out of them. I have no doubt that our new camper here will cooperate with us without the need for further encouragement. We shall see if that holds true for the rest."

"Any need for anyone else up there?"

"Not just yet. Once we do our initial interrogation for the basic facts, then it'll be time to send Doug, Mark, and the Coopers in like we did last time. Until then, we'll just let the team do their job."

"Where are we going to house these five?" asked Katie, who had taken a heightened interest in shelter issues. "That Rawhide cabin?"

"Probably not the best choice," said Doug. "We don't know yet if there's any connection between these guys and anyone else we've seen." Doug dropped his voice a little-he wasn't sure how much Atkins knew or was listening for and didn't want to give out any unnecessary information. Atkins, however, wasn't paying any apparent attention to the rest of the crowd. "We may need yet another cabin. It won't be easy to run a prison camp, but I suppose it's possible that they won't pose a danger anymore."

"Still, if they were coming in armed and probably dangerous, it may not be safe to release them," said Mark. "We may have 5 new residents for a good long time-they probably already know too much."

"Suppose they were just an advance party?" asked Allison. "Is anyone patrolling that road right now?"

"Yep-we considered that possibility too," said Jeff. "There were 20 of us in the intercepting party. Three came back with our shooting victim there, leaving 17. Since there were four other invaders-who were disarmed at the scene, incidentally-we'll leave a dozen guys at Hilltop and send the 5 others on a mounted armed patrol."

"That's awfully dangerous, isn't it?" asked Jeanne.

"Everything's dangerous now, at least for a little while. The 5 on patrol will be volunteers who know the risks and accept them. And the horses will be a significant advantage. They'll be able to see farther and stand a better chance of escaping if they find anyone else."

"They won't find any," said Atkins, somewhat weakly. "At least, no more of us. I don't know about the Razers."

Everyone turned toward the newcomer in some disbelief, both because he had entered the conversation and because pretty much everyone had assumed that the invaders were Night Razers. "Exactly who is 'us'?" asked Mark, and the interrogation-though unintended and necessarily brief-was on.

"Deacon Whateley's people."

"The Flock, you mean."

"Shepherds. Sort of sergeants in the Deacon's table of organization. The Flock is the rest of his followers."

"So why'd you come here?" pressed Carrie. "Maybe you need to tell us more!"

"Maybe he needs to rest right now," said Jeff. "This man has been shot. He needs some serious recovery time. When he's feeling up to it, we can find out more about what's going on in Lapeer."

Jeff and the guards led Atkins off to Clearwater so he could rest away from the hubbub of the central cabin. The crowd in BC drifted away to other concerns-while this was a big event, everyone knew that bigger news was near in the future.

"So if I understand correctly, this guy was not one of the Razers?" asked Doug, to no one in particular.

"Sounds like it. So if he-and the other four, for that matter-are with the Flock, what's their motive for coming in here ready to attack?" said Mark. "They're probably not looking to silence the radio, so we're back to revenge."

"Which means we're still at least somewhat in danger," said Carrie. "So what can we do?"

"Not that I think it matters a lot if revenge is the motive, because then we're all at serious risk, but we might start by identifying the specific people who might be known targets," said Mark. "I think most of them are already on the defense force and can take care of themselves, but if the Lapeer crowd has made any sort of identifications, the rest of us might do well to know who they're really interested in. That may apply to anyone who's crossed either of the Lapeer bands."

"So we don't find ourselves creating a lot of innocent-bystander victims, right?" said Carrie, catching on slowly.

"Exactly," said Doug. "As unsettling as it might be, I think the safety of everyone depends on getting that information out there."

"Do we know who we're talking about here?"

"Well, there's Steve, of course," said Doug. "Who was part of the crew in Lapeer when we had that battle?"

"Dave Woods and Joe Hall brought the Coopers in, and that was at the same time as that firefight," said Mark. "And then there were Lou, Dave Milon, Mark Hunt-was that all?"

"Don't you have all that logged in that journal you've been writing?" asked Katie in a somewhat joking manner.

"Logged? Sure. Memorized? Not yet-after all, it's up to 77 pages so far."

"In a month? That's a lot of writing."

"A lot has happened."

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