After the Apocalypse
Chapter 71: On the Run!

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Charlie kicked in the front door of the abandoned garage; he stayed high and Peterson was down low, both had their shotguns leveled, expecting the men trapped inside to put up a fight. They were a little surprised when they didn't see anyone, but they cautiously entered the garage, using hand signals, where necessary to coordinate their movements. The remaining shepherds stayed outside, intent on preventing the escape of the men inside.

They scoured the building carefully, moving from north to south through the bays, then into the office. At the office, Peterson paused to look in the window, then shook his head - he couldn't see anyone inside. Landers pulled the door open and looked around. He could see a slight outline on the floor where the two men had slept, but the room was clearly empty. Frustrated, he tipped over a table in anger, but there was nothing beneath it.

“Think they'll find us?" asked Dave, his hands resting comfortably on the Desert Eagle he hoped he wouldn't have to use.

“I don't know," said Joe, “I hope not. I don't want to kill anyone, it'll just make things harder.”

Luckily for the pair, Joe had spotted the shadow moving through the wreckage of the hospital as he had descended from the roof. Once they got inside they had gathered their meager belongings and sought shelter in this mechanics pit, pulling the metal cover back to try to hide themselves. Unfortunately, if they did get spotted, there would be no choice but to fight. The pit was connected to the other two pits and to a small storage area, but there were no other exits from this lower level. On the positive side, the storeroom contained quite a bit of equipment for the repair and maintenance of diesel engines. The equipment itself was of little value, but it at least implied that this area had escaped earlier detection.

The sounds coming from above grew louder. Joe could pick out at least five or six voices. They were trying to figure out how the two of them had escaped from the building.

“Get back," whispered Joe, “they're going to open the cover.”

“They didn't say that," objected Dave.

"I know, but they're too loud. I think they're trying to make us think they've missed them.”

Even as Joe spoke, he began pushing Dave towards the storage area. Sure enough, no sooner had they cleared the pit than the cover slid back abruptly. A moment later, the pit was brightly illuminated by flashlights. Though they didn't dare move close enough to see the men, it looked like there were at least four different beams playing over the pit.

“Leave that one open, and let's get the next one," said a voice above. “I want them all open before anyone goes down there.”

The other men grunted their assent and all but one of the beams disappeared. Joe crept out of the storage area and made his way quickly to the last pit, pausing only to grab a screwdriver they'd spotted earlier. He could hear the men moving above him. It sounded like they were working on the middle pit. He jammed the screwdriver into the latch of the pit, then headed back to the storeroom. He froze momentarily as the lid of the pit came up, but they hadn't seen them.

Meanwhile, Dave had made a discovery of his own. On the floor of the storeroom, beneath some boxes he'd found a large open drain. The edges were rough, as if someone had cut it out of the concrete rather than having poured it. He peered down the hole, but could see very little. When Joe returned, Dave pointed at the hole. Joe smiled and quickly lowered himself. It was a tight squeeze in his winter coat, but he could make it. He began climbing down.

As soon as Joe was clear, Dave lowered himself into the pit. He could hear the men above cursing. They'd found the last pit and were having trouble opening it. He got a few feet in, then reached back up to yank on the boxes. Working as carefully as he could, he drug the boxes back into position over the hole, covering it as best he could from below. A few moments later, he clambored down the hole to join Joe.

When they reached bottom, both of them were covered in black oil. The hole led into the town's sewer system.

“Thank God for unscrupulous businessmen," joked Joe.

“I guess," said Dave. “What now?”

“I think we want to go that way," said Joe, pointing what he hoped was south.

“Why?”

“Well, those guys came from the north, so...”

“Fine with me. Think they'll follow us?”

“I don't know. They seemed pretty determined, but the sewers might be more than they bargained for.”

“I know this wasn't how I planned to spend my morning," said Dave, “but it is kind of cool down here.”

“I'm just glad the town's all but dead," said Joe, “and that it's winter; otherwise, I think this would be a lot more unpleasant.”

“No kidding,” said Dave, carefully picking his footing as they moved south in a half-crouch, half-crawling posture.

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