After the Apocalypse
Chapter 24: Shop Smart

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Steve and Lou pulled into the parking lot of the K-mart cautiously. They hadn't seen any survivors yet, but this was the most likely spot to find a few of them. The lot was in shambles, but only a handful of cars could be seen in the growing darkness. Lou reached behind his seat and came up with a large flashlight. Steve grabbed the shotgun and the two of them exited the vehicle about forty feet from what had one been the front entrance of the K-mart.

"Just a minute," said Steve, "Let's take a look at a few of these cars before we try to look inside".

The two of them moved to the nearest vehicle and peered inside. The car held a single passenger who was slumped against the passenger door of the car.

"Same as always," said Lou, not eager to look at another dead body.

"I don't think so," came the reply, and Steve opened the door to the car. He reached in and rolled the body over. The man in the car had clearly been shot, with a gaping wound in his chest. Choking back his bile, Steve touched what was left of the man's chest.

"He's cold. I hope that means this happened a while ago. Just the same, why don't we get one of the other shotguns."

"Good thinking," said Lou, as he moved back to the Explorer and opened it.

Thus armed, the two of them began a slow search of the K-mart. The store was largely demolished, with huge sections of the roof caved in, but there was no sign that anyone else was around. Steve took his bearings from the front door and promptly headed to the left, about forty feet back from the front edge of the wall.

"What the.." asked Lou, before Steve interrupted him.

"This K-mart's laid out a little backwards. For some reason, they kept all their food and stuff on the left side of the store instead of right in front of the registers like most of 'em. I don't think we'll get much more than Spam though. We probably should clear out of here and try Meijer's."

"Sounds good to me, but let's swing by Grundy's and ACO first".

"Deal."

The two of them walked the short distance to Grundy's automotive. It wasn't nearly as badly damaged as the K-mart had been and they could actually make out a few of the shelves. The roof creaked ominously as they entered though and they were eager to depart. Steve headed down the center aisle, which was choked with rubble. He got about halfway down before he spotted the highway flares. He wasn't sure what he'd do with them, but flares could have a variety of applications in their current situation.

Lou proceeded down the right side of the store to the very back, where he found the batteries. Some of them had fallen and cracked when the tremors had hit and the area immediately around them was melted by battery acid. A foul smelling vapor rolled across the floor. Steve retraced his steps and then joined Lou. The two of them helped themselves to ten batteries in all, each of them making two trips to take them back to the car. On their third and final trip, they grabbed a half-dozen power inverters that were on a shelf near the batteries.

On their way out, Lou suggested they take a look at the Radio Shack and see what they could find in the way of radios and other equipment. Mark's big ham set would come in handy for outside communications, but their new living arrangements might make radios and walkie-talkies more useful. Lou headed out to the car loaded down with two large CB radios, a reel of antenna cable, several packages of batteries and eight small FM band transceivers. Steve remained inside to package up the remaining batteries and see if there were any other interesting items.

Their moment of indiscretion nearly cost them dearly; as Lou stepped awkwardly through the shattered front window, he heard the menacing sound of a shotgun being racked. As he struggled to regain his balance, he saw that there were actually two men standing out there, both in full urban camouflage. The larger of them held the shotgun and the other one addressed him.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" asked the smaller man.

"Just a little looting," said Lou, not willing to tell them the truth.

"Looting, huh. Why so many radios? Where are you from?"

"I'm from Lapeer. I figure I can sell these things."

"Sell 'em? To who?", not waiting for an answer, the man continued, "I figure you ain't from around here, and I figure you just might have some friends somewhere, maybe even some food. Hell, you might even have some women."

"Take it easy mister," said Lou, "I told you, it's just me".

"Warren, see if you can't persuade this fella to tell us the truth," suggested the man and his compatriot moved forward, lifting the shotgun butt up in preparation for striking Lou. Lou dropped his arms and moved to defend himself, but it turned out to be unnecessary.

A sudden roaring sound came from behind him and the man's chest exploded in a gout of thick red blood. The smaller man turned, trying to bring his pistol to bear on this new threat in time, but he was too slow. Steve fired the second barrel and the rat-faced little man joined his friend in Hell.

Steve stepped out of the store calmly and moved towards the bodies to check them. Lou stammered for a moment, looking for an explanation, but Steve answered his questions with a single phrase.

"I don't intend to lose."

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