Author’s note –
For those of you who haven’t read any of 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.
Thanks also to Jordan Johnson, Sasquatch & Toothy for commenting. Oh, yeah, and IrishKing750 on twitter.
I love hearing from folks. It makes this whole writing process that much more fun.
As always, typo and grammar alerts are more than welcome.
Chapter 19 â€“ Gas and Grub
Apparently the empty light on the dashboard was a little lenient, as we had to drive a good twenty minutes to find a gas station that had signs of life. When we did find one, I almost passed it by. The station itself was not in horrible shape or anything. The glass wall to the store was unbroken. The pumps were still there. Even the lights were on.
It was the guards that bothered me.
That’s right. I said guards.
On either side of the pumps was a camping chair. Filling these two camping chairs were two young men, probably in their late teens. Each boy held a shotgun.
Normally, this kind of thing would be a signal to drive as fast as I could in the opposite direction. As I thought about it, though, I decided that the guards with guns were probably a good thing. The place had not been looted, and it mostly likely still had gas to defend.
London saw the guns too, and laid my new rifle across her lap. She gave me a nod that said, “Just in case.”
I pulled in and approached the first boy.
He wore grease stained coveralls, and had his hair pulled back in a ponytail. He was also chewing on something.
He stood. “What can I do for ya?”
“I’d like to buy some gas. You boys selling?”
He just nodded.
“Ten a gallon.”
I lifted an eyebrow. “That’s a little pricey, don’t you think?”
The other boy stood. “That what the old man set the pump to. We can’t change it.”
I pointed to my bag in the back. “I’ve got to get out some cash, okay?”
The longer haired boy took a couple of steps closer to watch where I was reaching. He must have seen the rifle in London’s lap, as he took a shooting stance and raised his gun halfway up.
London touched my arm. “Hold on, Corbin.”
I looked up into her green eyes.
She stared back and bit her lip for just a second. “It’s my turn to pay.”
The long haired boy shuffled a bit closer. “What are you all doing?”
London looked over at him. “You still take credit cards?”
The second boy nodded. “As long as the machine still works.”
She leaned toward me and produced a credit card from her back pocket. “You guys have any food in the store?”
“Yeah. What do you want?”
“I don’t know, can I go look around?”
He shook his head. “Just tell me what you want, and I’ll go get it.”
London cocked her head to the side. “That’s dumb. Why can’t I just go in?”
“The old man don’t want no stealing.”
She squinted her eyes and shook her head, too. “That’s stupid. Do I look like a hardened criminal to you?”
She argued with the attendant a little more, but ended up buying two rounds of microwaved burritos, four pizza-stick things, a couple cans of stew, and five bottles of Gatorade. Including gas, the total bill came to four hundred seventeen dollars.
London was livid. Her face flushed until it was almost as red as her hair. “You profiteering, blood sucking, low life, backwoods, inbred, stupid sacks of thieving monkey-”
“You all have a nice day.” The long haired attendant thrust the two grocery bags of food onto Michael’s lap and smirked.
I drove off before London could jump out and pound his smug face in.
Somehow, it was comforting to know that London might actually have a worse temper than mine.
The day was hot and we were all more than a little hungry. We found a little city park, and pulled up under a tree so we could wolf down our glorious feast in peace.
London set Michael free to play on the monkey bars for a few minutes so that he could spend some of his long pent up energy.
I climbed out of the Jeep. “So, what were you two doing in Texas?”
London watched her brother. “Six Flags. Dad couldn’t get away fromâ€¦ uh, Michael’s mom didn’t want to go.”
“Michael’s mom isn’tâ€¦”
London folded her arms and her voice sounded a teeny bit offended. “Oh, no. He picked her up after Mom left us.”
Oops. Better change the subject.
“So where’d you learn to shoot?”
She tightened her folded arms. “I used to go shooting all the time. We had a ranch.” She tightened her jaw. “Dad had to sell it in the divorce.”
Nice, Corbin. I wonder what other happy memories you can dig up.
“So, what’s the plan now? I mean after you get to your dad’s place.”
London stared straight ahead. “Well, leave Michael there, for one thing.”
“You won’t be staying?”
She flared her nostrils and sucked in a breath. “Michael’s mom won’t allow it. Not that I’d willingly sleep under the same roof as her anyway. We, uh, don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things.”
“So where will you be going?”
“Home, I guess. That’s my apartment in Kansas.” She frowned and nodded back at the cooler. “Now I want to hear your story.”
I took a deep breath and let it out as slowly as I could stand. I did say I’d tell her.
So I told her. I told her about the terrorists giving the virus to people under the pretense of free West Nile Virus vaccinations. I told her how the infected people became mindless zombies, seeking only to spread the virus further. I told her how the city of Oasis struggled until the virus had taken all but a handful of survivors. I told her how I had been shown that the virus can affect the aliens, and how because of fear the government had destroyed all the virus samples they could locate. I finished up with how I had been commissioned to deliver the portfolio to Jex and then track down the last remaining terrorist and his stash of viral samples.
It was quite a story, I know. But considering the fact that we had seen a UFO, and that UFOs had attacked several U.S. cities, maybe my story would almost seem believable. Maybe, but probably not.
When I was finished, London just stared at me and muttered something to herself.
I looked up in the sky, talking about it had worked up my emotions a little. I half expected to see another craft.
I looked over at London and saw that she was pointing. I turned and sure enough, a middle aged guy in a yellow polo shirt was walking our way.
“Keep an eye on your brother.”
I strolled toward the man. I tried to relax and be as nonchalant as possible, which is always a lot harder to do when you’re actually trying.
He raised his hand in a “hello” wave. “How are you folks doing?”
I nodded back. “We’re doing alright. You live around here?”
He put his hands on his hips. I could tell he was trying to be all nonchalant, too. “Yeah. A couple of houses down. I just figured I’d come see if you folks are all right. My wife and I didn’t recognize your Jeep and nobody’s been to the park for a couple of days.”
I noticed a bulge in his pocket. It was almost certainly a gun. See if we’re all rightâ€¦ His wife sent him to check us out and chase us off.
“I know. Everything’s been so crazy.” I pointed back to London. “I’m trying to get those two back to their father’s place in Georgia, but traveling as of yet has been a little, well, expensive. And long with all the road closures.”
The man took a good look over at the feisty redhead and then at her brother. He shifted his weight and relaxed one arm, but kept his hand near the full pocket.
“You just waiting for the convoy, then?”
“It was about the only thing on TV today. The national guard and whatever part of the police they can round up are escorting a bunch of shipping trucks throughout the day. Just to get things moving again after the attacks. There’s a lot of folks hurting for supplies right now.”
“And when is this convoy supposed to come through here?”
“Well, one’s supposed to come out of Houston on I-10 at about seven tonight. And one more in the morning, also about seven. And we’re maybe thirty minutes out of Houston.”
“And I-10 is-”
“You just head down this road, turn left on Willow Drive, which will wind around like all get out, but eventually you’ll come to the freeway.” His shoulders dropped and his breathing deepened.
Probably glad to give us directions out.
“Oh, one more thing. Is there a pharmacy around here, or a medical supply house, that might still be open? One that might have supplies for diabetics?”
He pursed his lips and stared at me for a minute.
I got the feeling he was trying to decide if I was a good guy or not.
My grungy look must not have won him over. He shook his head a little. “Just get on I-10 and head back toward Houston. About three exits. There’s a hospital, that’s probably your best bet right now. There’s plenty of signs. They’ve been trying real hard to get the hospitals back open.”
I nodded. “Hey, thanks for the help.” I instinctively held out my hand to shake.
He looked at my hand, but didn’t move his away from his pocket. “You’re welcome. Good luck.” With his tone of voice, he might as well have said, “Now get out of here before I shoot you.”
Things weren’t going to get any friendlier, so I nodded again and headed back toward the Jeep.
Before leaving, I took off my shirt and put on the scrub top. We were heading toward a hospital, and anything to make me look more nurse-like might be helpful.
I also told London about the convoy and the hospital. She was okay with making a stop there and waiting for the convoy.
The man had been right. Willow Drive did wind around like all get out, and there were plenty of signs that led to the hospital.
When we got to the hospital though, my heart sank.
Around the main entrance and emergency room doors hovered probably twenty people each. Some looked sick. Some looked hurt. All of them looked hot and tired. It didn’t look hopeful for getting the supplies I wanted, but it looked even less hopeful for these people who were already waiting to get the help they were seeking.
Still, it never hurts to ask, so I parked on the far end of the parking lot in the only shade I could see and had London shove the rifle in its store box and under the back bench.
Then we all hopped out and went to see what was going on.
Keep reading! Chapter 20 is here.