It was shortly after four that afternoon when they reached the Grimes farm and set up a camp for the night. Gills stationed guards around the place and then met with the brothers and sister, with Captain Mack along.
“I’m glad you are okay with this. I know it is sudden, but our information was hard won and is accurate. Breakers could hit this place at any time.”
The sister, Carolyn, spoke for her brothers. “We’ve been on pins and needles lately. Always with the feeling we’re being watched. I’m ready to get out of here. I’m just glad we can go lock, stock, and barrel, with your help.”
“The least we can do. We actually need you more than you need us. I think everyone is getting a bargain.”
“We have some things ready to go, but if we could get some help for our two hands and us, we can get everything ready to go by midnight, so we can leave at first light tomorrow.”
“Cap’n?” Gills asked, looking over at Captain Mack.
“I’ve got a couple of farmer types that know the ropes, and the rest of us not on guard can lend a hand wherever we can be of assistance.”
“That’s good,” Carolyn said. “Timmy. You and Bing go with the Captain. I’ll finish up in here.”
Everyone stood and went to put the plan in motion. It was a long night. It took until almost three in the morning to have everything ready. The three tractors, each with two trailers in tow, and the two bob trucks, also pulling trailers, were lined up at the entrance of the barnyard and everyone except the guards got a few hours of sleep.
They fired up the vehicles at five and were on the road before six. This time Matt took the lead, again with three heavily armed men. He would go a half mile and stop to wait for the convoy to catch up to him and then scout ahead a little bit further. When they hit the main road, Matt dropped back and kept an eye on their back trail.
It was good that he did, for just three miles from the marina area, two Hummers roared up toward them. Matt and the gunners bailed out of the G-55 and took to the road ditches. Their heavy fire had the Hummers stopped and backing up before they could get close. Those inside the Hummers exchanged some fire with Matt and his team, but quickly decided they were out gunned for the moment and jumped back into the Hummers and turned to flee. Matt and the others kept firing until the Hummers were out of sight around a bend in the road.
“Anyone hit?” Matt asked.
It was a weak, “Yes,” that had Matt running over to the two men in the other road ditch. One was working on the other.
“It’s not too bad,” said the one doing the treating. “But he’s losing blood. I put on a combat tourniquet, so we need to get him in to Doc to take a look at it.”
“Okay,” Matt said. “Get him into the G-55. I hate to ask but…”
The third man spoke before Matt could continue. “Mitch and I will hang back a ways and keep an eye on the road, in case they try something else. We’ll take Harry’s ammo to replace what we’ve used.”
Matt nodded. “Thanks guys. You did a good job. Be careful.”
It was an anxious Gills that finally got Matt on the radio. They’d heard the shooting, but no one was answering the radio at first. Matt told him what happened and then zipped past the convoy, though he slowed going through the stock animals being herded down the road.
“Let us know as soon as you can what the Doc says.”
“Will do, Gills.” Matt hung up the radio microphone and concentrated on the road. No other cars to worry about, but the pavement was already showing some damage from the elements.
The night before had been a long one. The day following was even longer. It had been decided that instead of camping out one night, with the chance of Breakers people hitting them again, they decided to push on.
It was well past midnight when they turned the stock into the fenced in yard of the large estate that would be their home for a while. The tractors and trucks were shut down, guards posted, and the rest headed home. Carolyn, Tim, and Bing would take rooms in the estate house and the two hands in a nearby house.
Marissa had Gills in a tight bear hug as soon as he stepped onto the yacht. She’d been following the activity on the radio and knew he was on the way. “It is a good thing you didn’t get killed,” Marissa finally said. “Come to bed. You look exhausted.”
“It’ll have to wait, Sweetheart. I’ve got people on guard and they are as tired as I am. I’m going to relieve them one at a time so they can get a quick nap.”
“I should have known,” Marissa said. “Okay. I’ll see you sometime later today. And you will be getting some rest.”
“Don’t ‘Yes, Dear’ me.” Marissa replied giving Gills another hug and a kiss before letting him get something to eat and head back out into the darkness.
Two uneventful days passed before Gills called the leadership together again. “Does anyone think that Breakers will just leave us alone now?” he asked.
Every one of them shook their head. “Well, I’m thinking that perhaps we should take the fight to them.” Gills looked around at the others. The looks ranged from, “What? Are you crazy?” to “When do we leave?”
“Hm,” Gills finally said when none of the others spoke. “Tough crowd. Okay. So what are our other options?”
There was no time for answers. Sitting on the open fly bridge during the much warmer than usual weather lately, the sound of gunfire was clear. All jumped up and headed down to the lower deck. The others took their boats to shore while Gills reassured Marissa, Bridget, and Kila. Matt he took aside and tasked him with getting the Green Dragon ready to take them out to sea if things got close.
“Okay, Gills. You can count on me.”
Gills headed for the other landing craft and headed for shore from the yacht after grabbing a rifle and vest of magazines. It was over before he got to the new farm location. Captain Mack, a bandage on her left thigh where she’d been nicked by a bullet, filled Gills in as Nick and Captain Arenesen checked on their people.
“Had a good response, Captain. Every one qualified turned out with a gun as soon as the shooting started. We got five of them and only one of us was hurt and that not too seriously. Doc’s got her in his clutches now. Well, besides me. This doesn’t count,” Marilyn said, touching her left thigh gently. “And none of the stock was hurt, either.”
“How many total do you think there were?”
“At least seven, not more than fifteen.”
“Hm. Anyone we know among the KIA?”
“The Townies looked them over. Knew a couple. Both that hang out with someone called Johnny Ringo. A something or another Hinkey someone said was one of the dead.”
“It was Breakers bunch then,” Gills said thoughtfully. “But with or without his approval?”
“You could be right. One of the ones that lasted a few minutes said they only wanted some food.”
“So they may be getting desperate. Breakers won’t be happy either way, unless I miss my guess. If some of his guys did this on their own, he’ll be livid. If it was his plan, he’ll still be livid. Hm. Well, let’s do the cleanup. And we’ll double the guards.”
“I’ll see to that. Gotta little payback to take care of.”
Gills nodded. He went over to look at the bodies. All men, all looking gaunt in their death. They’d been armed fairly well and Gills had one of those close gather things up and put them into the G-55. He recognized another of the men when he got a look at him. He was one of the men in Hinkey’s MAG. They’d turned rogue as soon as the balloon went up, Gills figured. “And look where it got you guys,” he muttered.
When things were more or less back to normal, Gills went back to the yacht. The Green Dragon was tied up at the stern deck of the Marissa as usual, but the engines were idling and there were several bags and totes on the deck.
Kila was with Elias, who was in a wheelchair with a blanket around him, ready to go aboard. Matt, Gills saw, was up on the fly bridge, binoculars to his eyes. He’d waved at Gills when Gills brought the other landing craft out, but continued to scan the shore for any attempt to approach the docks.
Bridget and Marissa, both wearing soft body armor salvaged from police departments, and armed to the teeth, were in the main lounge, waiting for him. Gills quickly told them what Captain Mack had told him, and Gills thoughts about it. Both sighed in relief that no one had been hurt too badly.
“I’m not sure I can do this very often,” Marissa said. She ran for the bathroom.
“Morning sickness and stress,” Bridget said. “Oh, my!” She suddenly headed for the next nearest bathroom.
Gills headed up topside. “What do you think, Matt?” Gills asked after filling him in.
“We need to take it to them, just like you said.”
“That’s what I’m still thinking. But we’re going to need to do some recon to find them.”
“I’ll get right on it,” Matt said, handing the binoculars to Gills.
“Not so fast, my friend. We need to do some planning first. And then decide who would be best to go.”
“Bridget is scared to death that I’m going to get hurt. I’d like to see this end so we can get married and go about rebuilding civilization.”
“Yeah. Marissa, too. I’m going to bring it up again. That was what I planned on proposing to the others when the fighting broke out.”
But as Gung-Ho as Captain Mack was, the others weren’t so enthusiastic. Reluctantly, Gills tabled the matter until after Thanksgiving, coming up in just a few days. So the guards stayed in place, and life assumed a more or less normal routine.
A community Thanksgiving was planned and executed, with only one small hitch. All those that provided food complained that someone had either sampled or flat made off with some of the dishes before the meal could be served.
The guards were quizzed but none of them had seen anything.
“I don’t like it,” Matt told Gills. “It is hard for me to believe that any of our people would steal. They’re all getting good food and enough of it.”
“That would mean we had someone sneak in and then back out.”
The two exchanged a quick look. “The farm!”
Gills and Matt excused themselves and headed for the new farm area at a fast walk. They got there almost in time. The blood and gut pile was still steaming in the cold air. One of the calves had been killed and gutted behind the house being used as a barn. They checked the seed stocks that were to be used to plant the gardens and fields come spring.
It wasn’t that big of a loss overall, but any loss put them at risk. Suddenly afraid of what they might find, they went looking for the guard that was assigned to the farm for that hour. They were rotating out on an hourly basis so everyone could celebrate the Holiday.
They found no signs of anyone. But before they left, the next scheduled guard showed up. “Wess, who are you replacing?”
“I don’t know, the young man said. “The Cap’n just said to come replace whoever was on duty. It was one of the townies.”
“Hm. Okay. Well, we’ve been hit, so keep an eye out and stay out of sight. Radio at the least sign they might come back.”
Wess blanched slightly. “Oh. Okay. At least it is only an hour.”
“Yeah,” Matt said. “We’ll make sure your relief checks on you.”
Wess nodded and headed for the converted barn.
“Let’s get back and talk to Nick,” Gill said. He and Matt headed back to the celebration. Once there, Nick told them that none of his people were scheduled until that evening. A quick conversation with Captain Arenesen and Captain Mack, and they realized that there’d been a major screw up in the scheduling.
When the quiet investigation continued, it was determined that one of the townies had volunteered to Captain Mack that they would take a shift since they didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.
“One of my people?” Nick asked. “Who was it?”
“You know,” Marilyn said, “I don’t remember him saying his name. Pretty small guy. Really rough beard. Clothes a mess. Mumbled more than talked. Carried a beat up .30-30.”
“Bluenstien!” Matt said and Nick sighed.
“I thought we were done with him,” Nick said. “He’s been begging food and trying to buy all sorts of things. Seems to have plenty of cash, but no one is selling. Money is just about useless.”
“I may have a fix for that,” Gills said, “But more on that later. The point is, was he alone or working for Breakers?”
“I can’t see him doing it on his own,” Nick said. “He’s too big of a coward. And it would take some time to butcher that calf alone. I think there were probably two or three of them.”
“My thoughts exactly. So, the meeting was to decide whether or not we go after Breakers group.”
“Maybe they’ll leave us alone now,” Nick said, but not very forcefully.
Marilyn was shaking her head. “It should buy us some time, but probably not much. This is shaping up to be a bad winter despite the short warm spell. January and February are going to be brutal unless I miss my guess.”
“That is my feeling, too,” Captain Arenesen said. “If we’re going to do it, let’s take our time and plan it out thoroughly. When we go, we will have to be prepared to wipe them out.”
Gills had listened to each of them. “I’d rather do it sooner rather than later,” he said.
Marilyn seemed about to agree with him, but said, instead, “Perhaps they are right. We need to get ready for the upcoming weather. Once we get things put by and then ready for next spring, then we can go after him. I don’t think he has enough men to bother us much at the moment.”
Gills couldn’t do much with just him and Matt, so he acquiesced. He didn’t like it, but that was the way it was going to be.
Along with the garden harvest and butchering of everything but the breeding stock, thoughts turned to the Christmas cruise. The danger of an attack at that time was high, everyone conceded, so a plan was put together to leave a guard force behind, to be amply compensated for their service. There were enough to make it very unlikely that if Breakers did attack, that they would be able to drive them off.
A couple of ex-military had come up with some lethal and non-lethal traps to help prevent access to the animals if the guards had to fall back and hole up if the force was too large. That satisfied even Matt. Gills was the only one having second thoughts about the cruise. And he simply wouldn’t voice them. Bridget was excited, but Marissa was much more so.
Elias seemed to be doing somewhat better and was up and about for short periods of time. Doc checked him over and declared him fit to go and participate by giving Marissa away.