After the Apocalypse
Chapter 77: Question and Answer

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Leaving the White Horse, Dave, Mark and Lou began checking some of the surrounding buildings. It didn't take long for them to notice the store had been looted, although it was difficult to tell exactly what was gone. Mark began picking up some of the candy and other items that appeared undamaged.

"This is hardly the time to start snacking," sneered Dave.

"True," replied Mark evenly. "But as long as we're here, we might as well gather whatever supplies we can. That way, even if we don't find Steve, we won't have wasted a trip."

Mark's logic was irrefutable and Dave and Lou began shifting rubble and picking up items as well. Each of them had a double armload which they carried back to the waiting truck. They got into the truck and drove to the White Horse. They then debarked again and began searching for signs of Steve's departure.

Dave spotted the telltale signs of the snowmobile first. And all three of them began following the tracks west. They proceeded on foot as the road was too choked with rubble for Lou's truck to negotiate it easily. After travelling about three hundred feet, they saw something odd. The track was there, but another track seemed to intercept it. The second track was flatter, and there were no signs of snowmobile tracks.

"Think someone's after him?" asked Lou, giving voice to the concern they all felt.\

"I'm not sure," said Dave. "I can't think of a trackless vehicle this narrow which could keep up with a snowmobile."

"We really don't know this is him, do we?" asked Mark.

"No, but it seems like a logical assumption" said Lou.

"Okay, so assuming this is Steve, what's chasing him?" asked Mark.

"Nothing," said Dave, who had moved a few feet further up the road. "If I had to guess, I'd say whoever this is has a sled of some kind attached to the back of their snowmobile; we spotted it there because he had kind of a wide turn, but there are more turns here."

"Why would he take a sled full of stuff and head away from camp?" asked Lou.

"Not sure. Maybe if we can figure out where he went, we can figure out why."

Lou headed back to get the truck while Mark and Dave tried to clear some of the larger rubble. It wasn't easy, as much of it was buried beneath a foot of snow. When they'd come this way before they'd at least been able to see things. It took them nearly an hour to get from the White Horse to 24, a trip that normally would have been less than 10 minutes. When they finally got their they saw that the tracks turned and went right, towards Lapeer.

Lou cautiously turned onto 24 and accelerated. Since most of the buildings along 24 had been set further back from the road, it was fairly clear of rubble and they made good time following Steve's fairly obvious trail.

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Joe woke up much later. He hadn't meant to sleep so long, but he had been more tired than he realized. Dave lay next to him, still sleeping. He got out of bed quietly so as not to disturb Dave and got dressed. His clothes, he noticed, had been cleaned and dried. He stepped past the curtain into the main room.

"Good morning!" came Emily's cheerful voice.

"Morning?" asked Joe.

"Yes, it's Sunday morning, you and your friend have slept for more than twelve hours."

"Wow. So where are the kids?" asked Joe, noticing they were nowhere to be seen.

"They're out getting some water, they should be back soon."

"I see. Is there anything I can do to help?" asked Joe, suddenly remembering his manners.

"Not right now, but maybe later." said Emily, somewhat cryptically.

"You saved my life -- all you need to do is ask and if it's in my power I'll do it."

"Oh, it's nothing that serious," she said. " So where are you boys from?"

"Detroit."

"And you're up here camping at the Scout camp."

"Yes,": said Joe, uncertain how much he should tell her. He was a pretty shrewd judge of character and Emily seemed alright, but he didn't want to put the rest of the campers and their families in danger.

"How many are you?" she asked.

"Not too many," said Joe, deliberately evasive.

"Still don't trust me yet, eh? Well, I can't say as I blame you. I'm not entirely sure I trust you either. You and your friend were sure carrying a lot of weapons for a couple of Boy Scouts. Some of them looked like police issue to me."

"We weren't sure the town was going to be safe," said Joe, deliberately ignoring the implications of police-issue weapons.

"It's not," said Emily, "especially for you. Strangers killed Nick Whately and the Deacon and his men would love to catch up with them. Some of his boys are likely to shoot first, then ask question."

"I see."

"On top of that, the Night Razers probably wouldn't be too happy about a bunch of Boy Scouts raiding for supplies."

"Night Razers? Who or what are they?"

"Remember I said we had militia hereabouts? Well, they're the ones who go around at night and blow things up. They came by here and tried to convince me to bring the kids and join them, but I don't trust them. I wish my son had never gotten involved with them."

"So why are they destroying things?"

"I dunno, some kind of foolishness about not looking like we had any valuable targets. If you ask me, they're doing more harm than good."

"I suppose there's some truth to that, but you said they were using radios. Wouldn't that attract attention?"

"They were using some small walkie talkies, nothing too powerful. When I said I didn't want to join them, they asked us to maintain radio silence."

"Radio Silence?"

"Yes. My son has a ham radio down here. I had tried radioing for help when we first came down to the shelter. They warned us that we shouldn't make any more transmissions or they'd have to confiscate the set. I haven't fooled with it since."

Some of the pieces were starting to click for Joe. These Night Razers must be the ones who are using a directional antenna; they must have picked up Mark's signals and be trying to trace them. He wasn't sure what they'd do if they succeeded, but he was pretty sure it wouldn't be good.

"How many of these guys are there?"

"I don't really know, ten or twelve I think, but they have a lot of weapons and they're well-organized."

As Joe considered that, he heard the slam of the door above. Jenny and Timmy were returning; they each had a large pot of snow, which Emily put on the stove to melt. Emily began setting plates of eggs and bacon on the table and Joe went to fetch Dave, who emerged from the bedroom at that exact moment. As the four of them sat down, Emily added a steaming bowl of hash browns and some freshly baked biscuits to the table.

"Everything smells great," said Joe sincerely.

"Sure does," agreed Dave. "way better than that crap Jeff's been serving us."

Timmy said a blessing and the five enjoyed a hearty breakfast. As Dave nursed his second cup of coffee, Emily sent the children back outside to look for more canned goos.

"Are you sure that's safe?" asked Joe.

"Should be. Besides, I have to ask you that favor now."

"Yes?"

"Do you have room for us at your place? We're doing okay so far, but eventually someone's going to come looking for us to take what we have. I'm not sure we'll be able to stop them."

"And you think we will?" asked Joe.

"Better than a grandmother and a couple of kids? Yes."

"Well, you're welcome of course, but it would be best if we took most of what you have with us."

"Share and share alike," added Dave.

"Of course," said Emily, "but I'm not sure my son's truck can hold it all."

"We'll go get ours and come back."

"Wait until after dark - you'll attract less attention. Until then let's get things ready for the move."

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