Note: you can read past chapters of Preppers on the Run for free here.
“It’s not fair, Dad. They didn’t do anything to us.” Alex glanced into the kitchen where the woman and her little girl sat tied to the chairs. Mason had even gagged them. The little girl looked terrified, tears streaming down her cheeks. “She’s just a little girl, dad.” Alex’s eyes pleaded with his father. Jacob sighed heavily and put a hand on his son’s shoulder.
“I know, son. But there isn’t much I can do. You know how Mason gets when he sets his mind to something.” The young boy turned to stare out at the living room window at their now desolate farm. Beneath the window outside, hidden from Alex’s view, a boy slightly younger than himself crouched with his back against the wall, waiting.
Before the EMP hit, their life was pretty much the American Dream. Alex and his parents had the small farm, and the three of them worked hard to live off the land as much as possible. Chickens, a garden, a bull and dairy cow, along with the medicinal herbs his mother grew. Alex had spent the better part of his sixteen years here. But it was all gone now except for the garden and a few chickens. Alex knew their food supplies were dwindling fast. Mason had insisted on huge meals since his arrival and had already killed the bull and most of the chickens.
“I wish mom were here.” Alex’s statement was matter-of-fact. His mother had died because the EMP affected her pacemaker and it stopped working. His father had done the best he could to keep her alive in the months that followed the EMP, never straying from his wife’s side so that he could be there to perform CPR if her heart stopped. And it had twice since the EMP hit, but the first-time Jacob was able to restart her heart and bring her back.
“I know, Alex. But I’m not sure how to help them without putting you in danger.” Jacob had suspected Mason was trouble when he’d shown up not long after Natalie died. But he had been alone and afraid that he would be hurt or killed and leave Alex alone. Jacob had hoped that perhaps Mason would help protect Alex but instead he simply barked orders all the time and threatened to kill Alex if Jacob didn’t obey.
“Mom would figure out how.” Alex barely whispered the words, but Jacob heard him and knew in his heart that his son was right. Jacob nodded and smiled at his son.
“You know what, you’re right. Let me think on it a bit, okay?” Jacob looked at his son and smiled when Alex shrugged and nodded in agreement. Jacob was proud of the man his son was becoming. The EMP impact and the aftermath had been so much harder than they planned.
They had been prepared before the EMP to live without power and to eat what they could grow or hunt, etc. They had been prepared for how hard it would be to watch friends and neighbors turn on them or to watch them die from not being as prepared. But they hadn’t even thought about Natalie’s pacemaker not working.
The day Natalie died, Jacob had left the house for the first time since the EMP, to go to town. A neighbor had stopped by the farm to let him know someone had an old automated defibrillator that was still working somehow and they were willing to trade for it. Alex who was trained in CPR had been afraid to stay with his mom alone, but Jacob felt the trip into town would have been too hard on her.
So, Jacob had taken a few items to trade for the battery-operated defibrillator that could extend Natalie’s life. He’d only been gone a little over an hour, but when he pulled in and saw Alex sitting on the porch steps, he knew immediately the unthinkable had happened. Natalie’s heart had stopped just fifteen minutes after Jacob left and Alex had tried for nearly a half an hour to perform CPR and start her heart, but he couldn’t do it.
Jacob shook his head to clear his thoughts of the past. He watched as Alex headed outside and across the yard to feed and water the chickens. Then he glanced once more at the mother and daughter he and Mason had kidnapped from near the creek. He was going to have to talk some sense into Mason and hope it didn’t get them all killed.
Robby dove flat under some bushes as the young teen came out the front door. He held his breath and lay as still as possible until he saw the boy enter the barn. He hadn’t been able to hear the conversation between the boy and the man as he hid beneath the window but he did glimpse his mom, and little Susie tied up in the kitchen. He knew he had to do something. He just wasn’t sure what.
Robby lay beneath the bushes a bit longer to be sure the coast was clear. He wished he hadn’t made fun of his mom for prepping. Sure, he paid attention to some stuff, the fun stuff like knot tying and hunting. But he wished he had paid more attention to everything she had tried to teach him. He knew now that his mom had been right all along about the danger. Robby had just come out of the bushes and started back toward the edge of the woods to figure out his next move when he heard hoofbeats. Someone was coming on horseback.
Robby made a beeline for the nearest shelter, the barn. He slipped inside and shut the doors behind him watching through the crack as the man on horseback came into view. The man stopped the horse near a tree by the house and threw the reins over a branch.
“Jacob! Where the hell are ya?” the man’s voice boomed loud as he started up the steps of the house. Suddenly Robby realized he was not alone in the barn. He spun around and was face to face with the teen from the house.
“Who the hell are you?” Alex demanded. He raised his fists as he glanced around the barn taking note of the shovel near the wall. If the kid charged at him, he was gonna get a shovel to the head.
“You have my mom and sister tied up in your house.” Robby didn’t see the point in trying to hide anything now. He was caught dead to rights. He raised his fists too. If he had to fight, he would.
“It wasn’t me. It was Mason. I’m trying to talk my dad into letting them go. He’s such a jerk.” Alex took a step back and dropped his hands. “Maybe we can help each other?” Robby paused and then nodded as he dropped his hands too.
“Okay, what ya got in mind?” Robby asked. Alex grinned. He kind of liked this kid already. And if Robby could help him and his dad gets rid of Mason while freeing his mom and sister at the same time, then why not? The kid obviously wasn’t dangerous. He hadn’t even checked the barn before running in to get away from Mason.
“Well, we get rid of Mason somehow. Then your mom and sister will be free to go, and I and my Dad can maybe survive a while longer on what Mason hasn’t eaten up yet.” Alex shook his head in disgust. “Mason’s such a pig. He killed our bull just because he was in the mood for steak! And then he didn’t even preserve the rest of the meat, so the rest of it went bad before we could eat it.”
“Wow, that sucks. Is he your uncle or something?” Robby was figuring out that maybe Alex and his Dad weren’t the bad guys after all.
“Nah, he’s not even family! He just showed up here one day on that horse after the EMP hit. After mom died….” Alex hung his head a moment. “He just showed up and started acting like he was in charge of everything. He’s crazy. I’m afraid of him. I think my Dad is too.”
“He sounds like a jerk. So, what are we going to do?” Robby was willing to do whatever it took to get his mom and sister out of there so they could get to their retreat.
“I don’t know. But I gotta talk to my Dad too. Maybe with three of us, we have a better chance.” Robby nodded.
“Okay, I’m in.” he stuck his hand out toward Alex. “I’m Robby. That’s my little sister, Susie with my mom. Mom’s name is Sandra.” The two boys shook hands and grinned at each other.
“I’m Alex. Dad’s name is Jacob. And I already told you about Mason. Let’s get you setup in the loft. You can stay there till we figure out how to get rid of Mason.” Robby nodded. Alex turned toward the ladder to the loft. “You’re just going to have to…..” The door to the barn swung open, and there stood Mason.
“What in tarnation is going on in here?” Mason boomed. He grabbed for Robby and caught him by the arm. Robby tried to run out the barn door, but Mason simply pivoted with his back to Alex and kept a firm grip on Robby. “You ain’t going anywhere, kid,” Mason growled. “Alex! Bring me some of that baling twine!” Mason ordered.
“Suck this!” Alex yelled from behind Mason. He swung the shovel as hard as he could toward the back of Mason’s head. There was a loud thunk as the back of the shovel connected with Mason’s skull. He dropped to the ground. Robby was frozen in place, staring at the huge man lying on the ground in the barn. “Run Robby!” Alex yelled. He charged toward Robby, shoved him out of the way of the barn door so he could swing it shut and slide the bar down to lock it. “Plan B, we gotta get outta here before he wakes up!” Alex yelled.
The two boys ran for the house. Alex yelled for his dad who came running out of the house when the boys were halfway to the steps. “What is going on? Who the hell is this?” Jacob pointed to Robby.
“Robby. His mom and sister inside.” Alex darted past his dad followed by Robby. “Dad, I hit Mason with a shovel! He was gonna hurt, Robby. We need to leave NOW!” Alex called over his shoulder as he and Robby entered the house. Jacob was running now to catch up with the two boys.
“Alex, Is he Dead?” Jacob’s tone was worried. Alex shook his head. Robby was untying his mom, and Alex took the gag from Susie’s mouth and started untying her.
“Don’t think so, Dad. But I don’t think we should wait around to find out.” Jacob nodded. He glanced at Sandra.
“I am truly sorry. You all are free to go.” Sandra nodded. She turned and hugged Robby tight and then took Susie by the hand.
“Let’s go, kids,” Sandra said. She started for the door but stopped when Robby didn’t follow her. “Robby, Come on!” Sandra knew time was of the essence. She was truly afraid that this man might change his mind about letting them go.
“No, mom. We have to help them get away too. They can’t stay here with Mason. He’ll kill them when he wakes up, Alex said he’s mean and is eating all their food.” Robby glanced at Alex who was pulling stuff from the cupboards and putting it in a duffel bag. “We gotta take them with us, Mom!” Robby’s eyes were pleading with his mother.
“Oh, Robby.” Sandra looked from Robby to Alex and then to Jacob. It was clear that the two boys had formed some kind of bond. And Jacob had been the nicer of the two men. He hadn’t been mean to her and Susie.
“Ma’am I truly am sorry ‘bout scaring you and your little girl. I was afraid for my son. Mason can be pretty unpredictable.” Jacob wasn’t sure what else to say. “I understand if you can’t forgive me, though. But take my son here with you. He knows his way around this land. He can help you.” Jacob reached under the counter and pulled out Alex’s bug out bag along with his own and the one that was packed and ready for Natalie to use. He handed Alex one bag. Then he turned and held Natalie’s bag out to Sandra. “It was my wife’s. She doesn’t need it. Take it to replace what Mason took.”
Sandra took the bag from Jacob and put in on her back. “Thank you.” She turned to Robby. “You sure about this, Robby? You trust him?” She pointed to Alex. Robby nodded. “Okay, then we all leave together.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. You won’t regret it. Alex will take care of you like he would his own mama, I know he will. I’ll keep Mason from following you as long as I can. Take Mason’s horse for you and the little one. It’s still tied up to the tree outside.”
“No.” Sandra paused and took a breath. “You’re coming with us too. If Robby trusts your son, then you obviously raised him right. I won’t split a boy and his father. But if you hurt my kids, I’ll kill you myself.” Sandra gave Jacob her best Mama bear look. He nodded.
“I won’t. You have my word.” Jacob gave her a half smile. “Okay then, Alex get whatever supplies you two can fit in your bags from under my bed. I’ve been hiding them there from Mason. I’m going out to the barn to tie him up while he’s still out, so we’ll have a little more time to get a head start. Jacob headed for the door and turned back to Sandra. “We’ll take the horse anyhow. Just in case.” Sandra nodded.
“Dad, don’t. What if he wakes up?” Alex was worried about his dad going to the barn alone. Robby was already heading up the stairs.
“It’s okay Alex; I got this.” Jacob tapped his shoulder holster to remind Alex he had his gun. “Just help Robby get as much stuff as you can carry right now, so we have enough for all of us. Load the saddlebags on the horse too. Don’t worry about sorting it. We’ll do that and lighten the load once we are further away.” Alex nodded and headed up the stairs after Robby. Jacob went out the door toward the barn.
Sandra hugged Susie tight and rummaged through the rest of the kitchen cabinets for anything else they might need before they got to the BOL. She didn’t plan on telling Jacob where the BOL was or even that there was one until she was sure she could trust him. But at least for now, it looked like she would have his help to protect Robby and Susie which would be a plus if this Mason guy did wake up and come after them.