It was almost one when I finally went to bed, but I didn’t get to sleep until after two. After screaming and crying and cursing for an eternity in Kevin’s room, I’d started writing. That was how I dealt with a lot of things in life. It helped me clear my mind, or better focus my thoughts on a topic. I had dozens of short essays I’d posted on a blog, and sometimes people read them. Sometimes I’d be able to expand one into an article I could sell to a website or two, and make a few bucks here and there to go along with the rest of my writing.
I’d poured my heart out in a blank notebook I found in Kevin’s room, sitting there on the floor, wailing and moaning my way through the pain until I was spent and exhausted. Minion stayed beside me the entire time, always lying against me no matter how I shifted or sprawled.
I finally got out of bed around seven-thirty, although I’d been awake for half an hour. I scrambled the last half-dozen eggs in the fridge and split them with Minion, who was probably confused out of his mind at this point. His favorite human was gone, and his second-favorite human was feeding him all sorts of good stuff that he wasn’t usually allowed to have. “Don’t get used to it, buster. It’s back to the store-bought stuff tomorrow, and I’m not sure how long that’ll last.” He cocked his head and wagged his tail, as though the whole thing was one big adventure for him.
I still needed to get the chainsaw ready, go back to Walmart or Lowe’s for a few more storage totes, then get the last few things actually stored in the truck. I really wanted to be on the road by noon, but the more I looked at what I had to do, the less realistic that departure time seemed.
While I ate, I flipped around a few of the TV channels to see if anybody was showing anything current or trying to comment on what happened. KDFW out of Dallas showed a variety of feeds from different cameras, but there was no commentary. Dallas didn’t look to be in very good shape. I counted four fires including a large one by the airport. I hadn’t planned on going near DFW anyway, but this cemented my decision.
According to KHOU, Houston wasn’t looking any better. I assumed that most of the chemical plants and refineries had failsafes set up that would keep too much damage from happening, but there was still a fire going on the southwest part of town near the port.
It was a little eerie flipping through some of the cable channels and seeing reruns of Law & Order or NCIS and realizing that the entertainment industry was probably gone, at least as far as anything anyone would recognize.
An hour later, I wasn’t any closer to getting on the road. I hadn’t even left for my last few supplies. I’d started gathering up my electronics, then hit an emotional wall. There was plenty of stuff that I wanted to take with me, but there was no room in the truck for it and I couldn’t see a need for most of it. Kevin’s trophies were a perfect example. The events meant a lot to me. He poured his heart into baseball and loved the game. All of those awards and trophies represented a big chunk of his life. But he was gone, and there was little point in taking what amounted to deadweight with me.
Then I started wondering about my computer systems. I had a laptop that I was going to take with me, but I had a lot of software on my desktop that wasn’t installed on my laptop. Plus, I had an external hard drive that I used to back things up. Sometimes, anyway. I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had backed up my writing files. So should I take the desktop with me? If I didn’t take it with me, I’d have to come back to the house after I picked up Hannah, assuming that we came back. But I had already pretty much convinced myself that there was no need to return to Jasper.
This trip suddenly had much bigger implications. I was probably leaving my house for the last time.
I sighed, then started unplugging everything from the desktop. It would have to go into another tote so that it wasn’t sliding around in the back of the truck. I’d have to make some time somewhere along the trip and copy everything over. But I didn’t have the time to do it now before I left, so it was going to have to go with me.
I did that with my clothes, too. It wasn’t so much a matter of memories there as it was about me trying to be prepared for different weather conditions. Then again, if things were as bad as I was thinking they were, there wouldn’t be a shortage of clothing for me to choose from. I did have a few favorite things, like a Texas A&M hoodie I’d picked up back when Kevin and I visited the campus. I made sure to grab that.
I lost another hour going through the house, trying to decide about different mementos. I had somehow ended up with the photo albums from both weddings. Should I take those? Or leave them here? I wasn’t sure if there was a need to take them because I didn’t know if I’d see either one of my ex-wives again. But if I left them here I’d still be faced with the idea of thinking I needed to come back to recover them. I sighed again then tossed them into another tub.
It was 11:30 by the time Minion and I rolled out of the driveway, heading back into Jasper. I had quite a few things stored in tubs in the back of the truck, but I had probably twice as much stuff tossed into trash bags and cardboard boxes back there as well.
About halfway down some road, I saw an SUV moving, the first vehicle I’d seen out and about since this thing started. It was Ramiro Thomas, our constable. He flipped his emergency lights on and off and rolled his window down to wave me to a stop. I pulled over and got out. Minion bounded out and barked at the SUV a couple of times before making his way around to sniff at the tires.
“Adam, how are things?” He was overall a pretty laid-back guy the few times I had ever interacted with him. He had a deep, kind of gravelly voice that seemed to be more intimidating than his size. He was only about five foot seven, so I don’t know if he had actually cultivated that effect in his voice to compensate for his size or if it just came naturally.
“All things considered, I’d rather just be waking up and finding out this is all some weird dream.”
He nodded. “I take it Kevin didn’t make it?”
I shook my head. “Buried him yesterday morning. Out in the lake.” Neither one of us spoke for a long time.
“Sylvia made it. Haven’t heard from the kids, so we’re not very hopeful.” He picked up a notebook from the passenger seat of his car then started jotting. “You been in touch with anyone else?”
“Rory Wilson is okay, or at least was yesterday.” I told him about Rory’s wife and son. Then I filled him in on what I had seen at the jail
“Desilva? Part of that sounds like him. Part of it sure don’t. I can see him staying there until somebody relieved him. Really hard to wrap my head around the idea of him killing those guys in cold blood though.” He pulled his cowboy hat off, tossing it on the dash.
“I’d never met the guy before the other day. He sure seemed pretty hard-core about staying. And I had suggested that he turn those guys loose, but he was just as adamant about them staying as he was about him staying. I obviously didn’t see it happen, so I can’t say for certain. I couldn’t figure out how to go back in the surveillance system and review the recordings. Maybe he didn’t do it. Maybe somebody else came in and dragged him off. But the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong, you have to admit.”
He nodded. “I ain’t proud of it, but I’ve arrested people on less evidence. Anybody else you run into?”
I shook my head.
“Stephanie Diaz is the only person from any level of government that I’ve been able to get in touch with so far. We’re not really trying to organize anything yet, but we are trying to let people know that we are here and trying to get a handle on who’s left. Thirty or so in the city. Maybe another dozen here in the precinct. None of my deputies are answering the phone or the radio.” He was quiet for a long minute, then cleared his throat. “If you see anybody else while you’re out and about, let them know. Got my number, right?”
I nodded again. “I don’t know that I’m going to be seeing too many more people around here.” I told him about my travel plans. “I’m not sure I’m coming back. I don’t really have anything here to keep me here.”
He nodded. “I get it. If you’re heading out of state, it might not be a bad thing to go back to the dealership ‘n see if you can find one of their dealer tags. Might keep you from getting into too much trouble down the road. Any cops who survived this are likely to be wired pretty tight. If you get stopped and they’ve got contact with a dispatcher, that truck won’t show up as being registered, so somebody could give you a hard time about taking it. But you put a dealer tag on it, and they shouldn’t be able to say boo. Dealer tags don’t have car information assigned to them, because they switch them around so much.”
Anything that would make my life a little easier on the road was a good idea. “How’d you know?”
He smiled. “I was looking at that truck last week. My old Dodge is about done, and I like the topper. Then I saw it was missing yesterday when I drove by.”
“Speaking of missing…” I told him about the Jasper officer I’d found by the school.
“You still got that rifle?”
I jerked a thumb toward the back seat.
He opened his door. “Let me look at something real quick.” He got the rifle out, cleared it, then looked closely at the selector switch and grunted. “You real fond of this?”
“I grabbed it because I thought it couldn’t hurt to have a rifle and because I wasn’t sure it was safe to leave there. Not particularly attached to that one, but I’d hate to not have any rifle at all, you know?”
“Reason I ask is because it’s select-fire, so it’s restricted ownership. Remember what I said about cops being wired tight? The one I carry is semi-only. You want to trade? I can get away with having one like this easier than you can.” We spent a few minutes swapping things between the guns, then headed our separate ways.
I liked that he was looking out for me. He was like that with everyone, though. You had to work pretty hard for him to actually arrest you unless you had a warrant. But even then, he could probably talk you into getting into the back of his patrol car on your own.
Copyright © 2019 Bob Mueller
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