Author’s note: I had a major idea for the story occur to me whilst writing this chapter. It took some story reengineering, so that’s why this took so long to get this upâ€¦
For those of you who haven’t seen the Journey Of St. Laurent before: You are now reading an online serial pulp novel. If you didn’t start at the beginning, you may want to do so. Chapter 1:Â Down By The Bay. This serial is the sequel to my first novel, Oasis.
I appreciate typo alerts.
Chapter 12 â€“ Getting to Know You
I pulled over and let the kid hop out.
The redhead told him to hurry. She still held the rifle on her lap, with the muzzle pointed in my general direction. Other than that, she just stared at me.
I looked down at my hands. They were covered in blood. In fact, blood was all over my feet, my knees, my chest, and my forearms as well. By then the blood was dark, almost black, and dry, flaking off in patches. I must have looked pretty bad coming back from the wreck.
When I had arrived on the scene, there was one dead, one in critical condition, one unconscious, and one in shock. By the time I had left, there were two dead, one still in critical condition, one in shock, and one whole new victim with a bullet wound in the shoulder. And of course another new victim unconscious.
I rolled my eyes. Great nursing, Corbin. Good thing you were there. Really made a difference.
The redhead turned her shoulders a little toward me. “What’s your name?”
“Corbin St. Laurent. Yours?”
“London. And that’s Michael.”
I stared straight ahead. “Nice to meet you, London. I’d shake your hand, but I’m afraid it might not be sanitary.” I paused, then raised up my right hand. “My hand, I mean.”
She gave no smile for my attempted joke. Not even a hint. “Yeah.”
I took a moment to study her face. Her freckled jaw was set. Her green pupils were a little more dilated than they should have been. Her gaze only occasionally darted to one side or the other, as if she were expecting trouble to arrive at any moment.
I guessed that at some point during the wreck her brain had switched from regular processing to survival mode. She was actually handling things remarkably well, inasmuch as she hadn’t had a total breakdown yet. At some point she’d probably start acting a little more human. At least, that’s what I hoped.
Michael finished up and climbed back in.
I put my hands back on the wheel. “So where are we headed?”
Michael didn’t look up. “My house.”
I looked back at him. “Where’s your house?”
London turned. “Michael, shh. Where are you going?”
“First to Baytown, then I’m not sure.”
“We’d like a ride as far East as you can go.”
I pulled back onto the road. “Sure thing. After all, you’ve got my gun.”
Apparently, she didn’t think that was funny either.
We were only able to go another couple of miles until we ran into a police roadblock that forced us to exit the freeway. There was one cop standing near the barricades, talking to the driver of a white minivan, probably making sure that everyone did indeed leave the freeway. I considered stopping and asking him what was going on, but decided he’d most likely be a little suspicious of the gun in London’s hands and the blood all over me.
I pulled as far to the right as I could and tried to pretend that the Jeep was invisible.
It must have worked, for neither the policeman nor the other driver gave any indication of noticing us.
Now that we were back on slow city roads, I flipped on the radio and started scanning for some kind of local news. When I found a station we learned what was going on. The UFO sighting had caused dozens of crashes of varying seriousness all over the city. Freeways were being closed left and right. When emergency crews had a chance to help all the injured and clear the wreckage, they’d be reopened. In the meantime, the news people urged everyone to follow the president’s advice- stay calm and stay home, don’t travel. There was also a report of how conspiracy guru Alan Jex was right and beat the president to the punch by several hours.
Stay home? Maybe. But stay calm? Not possible.
It had been a while since I had last been in San Antonio and I wasn’t sure which roads I should be following. I just guessed at what might be the best way to get us across the city.
As we drove around, I began to notice a definite change in people. Nobody seemed to be walking anywhere. Almost nobody was outside at all.
We did drive by a street that was being blocked off by a few garbage cans, a broken down car, and a stack of wood. There was a line of guys walking from the closest backyard with arm loads of more wood. None of them looked very friendly.
In fact, none of the few people we saw were looking friendly. Even before they could see that I was filthy with a caked-on mess, other drivers were doing their best to stare us down.
The only stores that appeared to be getting any business were the grocery stores. We passed one HEB supermarket that had cars parked in every stall and folks double and triple parked into every row. A line of hopeful shoppers went out the door and wound around the building.
And why shouldn’t everybody be freaked out? Aliens just buzzed the city.
The evening was coming on, but the heat wouldn’t break for another couple of hours.
It was really beginning to wear, and there was no mistaking it- I was getting tired. To top it off, we weren’t getting across the city very fast. It occurred to me that I might be better off waiting until morning and then heading for Baytown. If Samir was going to be released today I wasn’t going to make it there in time anyway.
We’d better find a place to stay the night.
Over the radio came reports of lootings in some of the worst neighborhoods. One convenience store was completely cleaned out by a gang. One shop owner who had tried to ration his wares among his customers had been dragged into the street and beaten. Other stories included late night vigils that were planned at churches and coffee houses, empty movie houses, and of course there was continued useless urging from the White House to “carry on as usual.”
I turned it off.
The whole country was simmering with fear, and things could boil over in a hurry. I had to get to Baytown before everything went to pot, or I might never get there.
Still, roads were closed and I was tired, so I suggested that we find a place to sleep and head for Baytown early the next morning.
London pursed her lips, looked at me, looked at Michael, then looked back at me. “If you try anything, I’ll-”
“Yeah, I know. Trust me, the only thing I want to do is sleep. And shower.”
We passed three motels before we found one where the “no” before the “vacancy” was not lit up. It was a ratty joint, and next door was an even rattier diner.
I never thought something so run down could look so inviting.
I dug out the cash envelope and handed London a couple of hundred dollars. “Okay, you go in and get us a room.”
“I’m not leaving Michael out here with you.”
“Well, I’m not sure the clerk will be all that gung-ho about letting me rent a room. I look like I just walked out of a slasher film.”
“How do I know you’re not going to leave us?”
“You don’t.” I rolled my eyes. “But here are the keys. And you can have Michael take in all the clips for the gun. I’ll be stranded and defenseless until you get back.”
She looked at me, Michael, me, Michael, and then me again. “Fine.”
She was in the office about five minutes when the “no” before the “vacancy” was lit up.
She slammed the office door and got in the Jeep.
I held out my hand for the keys. “Um, no room?”
She squinted at me and shook her head. “Around back. Number seventeen. He wanted a hundred and sixty. Only one bed.”
The room was tiny and smelled like mildew. The TV didn’t have a remote, but it did have several splotches of mystery sticky stuff on the sides and one good glop on the screen. Two lightly padded and worn chairs were crammed in a corner.
If I had walked into a motel room like this a month or a year ago, I would have refused to stay. Things had changed, though, and now I was glad to have any room at all.
The supplies I had purchased near my father’s house were untouched. At least we’ll have something if the rat hole of a restaurant next door isn’t open.
Michael flipped on the TV. Aliens this, aliens that, the President urging us to be calm, UFO whakos in interviews getting their fifteen minutes…
I knew I wouldn’t be getting the real story, so I decided to clean up instead. The clothes in my little bag were dirty, yes, but they weren’t anywhere near as bad as the blood-stained jogging suit I was wearing.
After my shower, I used the tiny complementary soap as best I could to wash out the blood and grime from the clothes. It still looked plenty stained when I was done, but you couldn’t really tell it was blood anymore.
I put back on my cargo pants and the top to my pair of scrubs. If the jogging suit dries off enough, I’ll wash these out in the morning.
When I came out of the bathroom, Michael was still staring at the TV, and London was staring at the door. Her knuckles were white on the rifle, and her breathing was a shallow. Her thin lips were quivering.
She’s getting worse.
“You guys want to go to that restaurant next door? It didn’t look all that good, but we should eat a real meal while we can.”
Michael didn’t look away from the TV. “I want to go.”
London stayed silent and gave a half shrug.
“Let’s go then. You’d better leave the rifle here.”
London didn’t say anything. Sat down the gun and followed us out the door.
The restaurant food tasted about as good as the dining room looked. It was greasy, poorly lit, and had giant rips in the pleather bench cushions. I think the only words London said the whole time were, “Chicken fried steak. Vegetables. Water.” Michael, on the other hand, wouldn’t shut up. He thought the crash, UFO, and gun were about the coolest things he had ever seen.
The more he talked about it, the more the whole situation scared the hell out of me. I hoped the government had a better plan of action than “stay calm.” I hoped, but I knew better. I knew what the major had told me. I knew that unless something was done, we’d all be… okay, so I didn’t know exactly what would happen, but I did know it wouldn’t be pretty. The scenarios in my head involved things like eradication and enslavement.
Whatever it was, Major Glover feared it enough to give me, a civilian, highly classified information. He should be court marshaled and probably tried for treason for doing something like that. Still, what was I going to do when I found Samir? Ask him nicely if he still had a supply of the virus? And if I needed him to get it, how was I going to get him out of jail? I hope he’s even still in jail. And even if I got the virus, what would I do with it?
I can’t just sit around here and do nothing.
After dinner, we went back to the motel, and assumed our places. Michael in front of the TV. London sitting on the bed, clutching the gun and staring at the door, and me stretching out, sitting on one chair and putting my feet on the other.
The information the government had released to the media was extremely vague and repeated ad nauseum. It basically just said we’d had contact for about five years, this is what a UFO looks like, and don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic. Added to the government released stuff were hundreds of cell phone photos and video of UFO flyovers.
As far as I could tell, pretty much every major U.S. city had been buzzed. I did notice that there was no word of any international UFO activity. Weird.
In any event, I got bored of it quickly, so I closed my eyes and passed out.
When I woke up, it was still pitch black outside. The TV was finally off. The room had no working clock and I didn’t have a watch. I would have guessed it to be three or four in the morning.
Oh yeah, and London was lying face down on her half of the bed, crying her eyes out.
Why does everything have to happen in the middle of the night?
I debated just ignoring it and trying to go back asleep, but with all that had already happened, I felt a little responsible for London and Michael. After all, it was kind of my fault that she had to shoot somebody. I wonder if that’s what this is about.
I stood up, stretched, then knelt down by the bed.
Here goes nothing.
Keep reading! Chapter 13 is here.