After the Apocalypse
Chapter 72: A Horse of the Same Old Color

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

“Left,” said Dave. “We told Steve the White Horse was still standing. If he went to Metamora, that will have been his first stop.”

“Makes sense,” agreed Mark.

Lou showed his agreement by turning cautiously onto the road, then accelerating to about thirty. They rode in silence, stunned by the decimation around them - trees were toppled, houses were flattened, and there was very little that remained standing. Several times along the trip they were forced to go around pieces of debris which blocked the road and at one point, all three were forced to get out an move a large branch which blocked their passage.

“Didn't you say you and Tim had gone this way before?” asked Mark.

“Yeah, but with no snow, the shoulder was a lot safer; you could see the edge and stuff.”

“This snow should make Steve easier to track,” said Lou.

“Not if he's still on foot,” said Dave. “The blowing would have covered up his tracks almost immediately.”

They plowed through the unblemished snow of the road for about fifteen minutes before the White Horse hove into view.

“Let's stop here,” said Dave. “I'd rather come up on anyone who might be in there quiet-like.”

“Are you sure,” asked Mark. “Steve might have a gun, surprising him might not be a good idea.”

“Look, I don't care what you guys say, he's not a murderer!” objected Dave.

“I never said he was,” said Mark. “But the last guy he shot had surprised him. I'd rather not be the first accidental death in Winter Camp History.”

“No kidding,” said Lou. “It'll just give Bollman something else for the trivia quiz.

The tension broke and the three shared a quiet laugh, then debarked from the vehicle. Lou spun his keys off the ring so he could lock the doors and leave the engine running.

“Uhm, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather you didn't lock the doors,” said Dave. “If something happens, I don't want to be waiting around for you to work the key.”

“It's not exactly a high crime zone anymore,” agreed Mark.

Lou grinned sheepishly and unlocked the doors. The three of them made their way down the street, taking up a roughly triangular formation with Dave in the fore. They walked the half block to the White Horse, then paused at the entrance, uncertain how to proceed.

“Steve, you in there?” cried Dave. “Hey, if he's in there, I want him to know who's coming,” he continued, observing the stunned looks on his partners' faces.

“No problem,” said Mark. “Let's just hope no one else is in there.”

They waited a few moments and, hearing no answer, gradually opened the door. The inside was a shambles. It looked as if someone had looted the place.

“Think it was Steve?” asked Lou.

“I don't know,” replied Dave, “let's check around a little more and see if there's any clues as to who or how long ago this happened.”

A quick search of the dining room yielded a crude hut made of tables and lined with cloth napkins and tablecloths. After regarding it carefully for a minute, Dave reached in and rooted around a bit in the bedding, looking for something to show that it might have been Steve who had made this temporary shelter. All he found were some under-baked potatoes.

“This is a good sign,” he said. “It looks like the bedding was arranged with more on the bottom than the top, which would mean whoever it was knew something about winter survival. The potatoes were probably heated up in the kitchen and used to warm the bed. It could be Steve.”

The other pair nodded their agreement and they moved to the kitchen together. Like the dining room, there were some signs of recent occupation, but nothing conclusive.

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