Castle Roland

The Runner

by Arthur


Chapter 4

Posted: 4 Feb 16

The Runner

Copyright © 2016
By Arthur

Over the last six days of rebuilding the tandem trailer, Runs-Slow had realised how lucky he was to have found his new brother Peter.

Runs-Slow had all the knowledge of many of the old ways; leather working; hunting; dressing of meat; horse handling and many other skills thought to be long lost by modern man.

Peter on the other hand had in many cases unknowingly picked up a lot of modern knowledge, which at the time to him had seemed pointless.

The long hours spent in his father's garage workshop helping to clean things or watching his father make a set of drawers for his mother; the classes he had been forced to take in high school of metal work and engineering design, while they had only been one hour a week, they had still not been what he was truly interested in. This last six days he was glad it had been forced upon him.

The two boys stood and looked at their creation. Runs-Slow had spent most of his time fetching and carrying for Peter as well as doing all the stitching that was required for the canopy, horse collars and many other needs that arose.

Peter was the engineer. On the first day in the town he had searched high and low for everything he might need. Garage workshops were raided for tools. Any shop still standing was inspected for things like the strong water proof canvas, ply wood and aluminium sheets or steel box sections as well as galvanised pipe.

Lengths of light chain for the traces to be attached to the draw bar of the trailer. Two large coils of nylon rope for halters and reins as well as other aides. Peter had found a small portable welder in one workshop and in another a small portable generator.

The town was then searched in every nook and cranny for gas, even a cup full was added to the supply. Lawn mowers, weed eaters, motor bikes and cars. All were searched and the tanks emptied to make up enough gas to keep the generator going.

Runs-Slow had gone out looking for tackle for the horses but to no avail. He had returned on foot carrying his small pack and rifle, the quad had finally run out of gas some miles away. They were now down to the two horses for transport.

Runs-Slow helped where he could but the main driving force was Peter and his knowledge of modern technology along with his years in high school.

The trailer was not anything like what Runs-Slow had seen before. Peter had explained it was normally used to carry cars and be towed by a small truck or large powerful car.

The tail gate swung down to make a short ramp; the sides were made from checker-plate aluminium and the front was closed in with a small gate made from thin bars. The flooring was also checker-plate aluminium and had small anchor points welded into it.

The two axels were placed a short distance apart at the centre of the trailer for stability and on each side it had long wide mud guards to protect the 17" wheels. The draw bar was a little longer than a normal trailer but that only helped Peter with his design.

Once Peter had assembled all the tools he thought he might need; the real work of design and construction began. By the time Peter finished five days later, the two boys could only be proud of what they saw.

Pete had spent long hours even at night to do all the welding, drilling and adding to make the trailer what they wanted. Runs-Slow had used his own talents to make the tack for the horses. By trial and error Peter had finally come up with a strong working design for the trailer to be easily pulled by the two young, strong horses without making them skittish or wanting to break away.

The finished trailer was a modern take on an old Conestoga style wagon. The flat deck was now covered in with a water proof canvas cover that had been fitted and stitched with great detail by Runs-Slow. It had taken him a full two days just to do the sewing by hand.

The cover could be pulled up to the top of the stainless steel rods that were bowed and fitted into pieces of pipe welded on the outside of the trailer. They were held together by a single length of rod welded on the inside of the frame.

On the tail gate were fitted two spare wheels. The two bolts holding them went right through the tail gate and held the two spare wheels solidly in place.

At the front, the pipe grill had been removed and in its place was a metal tool box spanning the width of the draw bar. On the lid of the box were two bucket seats taken from a disused car. They were bolted onto the lid and could be folded down for the lid to be opened to get tools. They could also be leant backwards so the boys could use them to rest in.

The front of the draw bar where the tow hitch sat now sported a wide cross bar of box section galvanised steel. At its centre was welded a tow ball. On the front side were four eyebolts that had been drilled and welded into place, each had a stainless steel karabiner attached to it for the chains to be attached.

The normal brakes on the trailer were operated by the tow vehicle slowing or they were fixed into the breaking system of the tow vehicle. Peter had thought long and hard over this. He had finally set up a system where they could use a long hand brake for the same use.

The inside of the trailer now looked totally different. The floor had water resistant carpet and along both sides and bolted in place were storage boxes made from ply wood to hold all their possessions and goods. Peter had left one surprise that he hoped would please his friend.

The centre of the trailer was empty and left plenty of space to walk down the middle. The canvas cover was five feet above them, with the trailer standing only two feet above the ground it gave them a pretty low profile. Behind the two front seats and bolted on each side of the trailer, were two gun racks Peter had taken from two vehicles so their fire arms would always be handy while they travelled.

Peter took Runs-Slow into the trailer and then looked at him a little nervously. After taking a deep breath. he reached down and before Runs-Slow could ask any questions, pulled out two lower sections. One from each side of the trailer and from under the storage boxes and fitted them together with a latch at each end. Peter stood up and looked at Runs-Slow. The teen seemed to not know what the two fitted boxes were for.

With a sigh and a little embarrassment, Peter took a rolled foam pad and opened it out then laid in on the new platform. Runs-Slow smiled as he saw the platform change instantly into a bed just wide enough for the both of them. It would be better than lying on the cold ground when winter came from the north.

Runs-Slow even surprised himself when he reached out and hugged Peter. The return hug was also welcome. Once they stocked their new trailer they would be ready to move on northward. Winter was coming and the further north they travelled, the worse it would get.

The rest of the day was spent loading everything they had accumulated into the storage boxes on either side of the trailer. Above the last storage box, Peter had fitted a two ring gas cooker. The gas bottles were under the bench that served as the locker.

As night came on, Peter pulled out the two piece bed and connected them together with the small hooks at each end, laying the pad on the bed top. Peter looked at Runs-Slow as if to ask if the other boy wanted to sleep with him on their new bed. Runs-Slow's smile said it all. This was to be the first of many nights that the two boys slept together.

The morning was still and cold. Winter was definitely not far away. It was time to move and look for new places, the hunt for Runs-Slow's cousin must continue.

As the strange contraption moved out of town. Peter was surprised how quiet it was after the roar of the quad bike. There was only the clop, clop of the horse's hooves and their heavy breathing as they pulled the trailer from the town.

Peter watched Runs-Slow as he handled the horses reins, or more likely, the rope that made up the long reins. The jingle of the light chains mixed in with the sound of the horses as Runs-Slow took them up to an easy trot.

Even though the trailer must have now weighed close to two ton, the four rubber tyres and well greased axels made it an easy pull for the two large horses. Peter sat beside Runs-Slow and watched how his friend handled the reins. He would have to also learn so Runs-Slow could take a break.

Runs-Slow had told Peter that he liked to run and when Peter was finally capable of taking the horses, Runs-Slow would like to run alongside to keep up his fitness. It would also give the teen a chance to keep a better watch for unwanted guests or danger along the way.

The trailer ran silently as the two boys sat in the well sprung bucket seats. Peter had fitted a wide piece of checker-plate as a foot rest and it served them well as they sat back in well sprung comfort. Peter wondered what the wagon train travellers of old would have thought of this modern twist on their old swaying and creaking Conestoga's.

On the second day, Runs-Slow gave one set of rope reins to Peter so he could feel how to use them. The two boys had agreed that on the third day, Peter would take both reins and Runs-Slow would go on foot beside the horses head with a lead-rope for safety. Runs-Slow wanted to run. He needed to keep in shape just in case they were set afoot at some time.

The morning of the third day was chilly, winter was now really close. They had left the land of the Navajo far behind and were now well into the lands of the Ute. After all this time they had still not seen anyone. That could be good for their safety or bad for any help if they ever needed it.

Runs-Slow had stripped right down to his bare necessity of clothing. The brief breech cloth, his long moccasins and the red head band to keep his long flowing black hair out of his eyes.

With his left hand on the lead rope and his rifle at the trail in his right, Runs-Slow waited for Peter to get the horses moving. It was his friend's first chance to try controlling the horses on his own. Runs-Slow would only use the lead rope if trouble arose. He wanted Peter to be and feel in charge of the horses.

The day started at a slow walk as Peter tried to get a feel for the horses. Handling two of them was a little different than only one like he had done yesterday. His confidence was only boosted by the fact that his friend was there in case he was needed.

Within an hour, Peter had the horses trotting at an easy pace. Runs-Slow was running beside the right hand horse in an easy loping stride. Even after an hour the young boy had not broken into a sweat as he glided along beside the far larger horses, the lead rope was slack in his left hand as he ran.

Over the next five days it became a pattern for the two travellers. Peter would ride the trailer and Runs-Slow would run alongside the horses. He revelled in the freedom his running gave him and the confidence Peter gathered as he handled the trailer and horses with more and more skill. It let them now cover close to thirty miles a day without over extending the horses strength.

They always stopped a couple of hours before dark so they could set up camp and take good care of the horses. During the time before dark, Runs-Slow would try to teach Peter about some of the old ways as well as telling him about how to hunt, what to watch for in signs or which plants were safe and which were not as they saw them during the day.

For Peter it was a whole new education. In some ways he felt deep inside it was meant to be but at other times, when he thought of those he had lost, there was a sadness. Even with his new found friendship there were still times that his loss was hard to overcome.

They had got to a place that Runs-Slow thought was the end of the Ute lands. They were now closing in on the lands of the Shoshoni. It would be a long run north before they would turn east for the central plains and the lands of the Sioux.

It was in these lands that Runs-Slow had hopes of finding his lost cousin. He was not sure why he thought as he did but it was all the hope he had at this time. Until he was proven wrong, he would follow his instincts and let the Divine Creator lead his footsteps.

It was coming close to the time they would have to find shelter for the coming winter. Even a boy raised in the heat of one of the hottest deserts on earth was not fool enough to think he could travel in the northern winter. His new brother also told him of what a northern winter could do if they were caught outside.

For the next few days the two boys watched for a place that would survive the winter storms that the north could bring. While they were still a little south of the worst of it, they did not need to take chances. The one favourable commodity they had was time.

Far to the north of the two boys, Clarry and Liam were getting ready to break their last camp. It was very noticeable that there was a heavy frost on the ground. Winter was on its way. It was time to turn south.

Clarry looked at his maps, they were now in the north of Indiana. Turning south would take them into central Illinois. With luck they would find a place to stay out the winter somewhere in northern Missouri.

Clarry hoped that they would make it before the winter snow storms hit them. If not, then they would wait it out in Illinois and then make for the warmer states of Kansas or Colorado where he hoped there was a little more life than what they had seen so far.

Each morning before they set out, Clarry would check over the trailer and then do a running check on the Land-Rover making sure the water and oil levels were right and the fuel tank was topped off before starting the old car up to warm while they finished packing their goods away.

Each morning they also went through a now well practiced list of weapons readiness and safety. For two boys that had once been almost totally gun shy, they now handled their various weapons with a comforting familiarity. Clarry noticed that Liam never let his little sawn off be out of his reach. If Clarry would allow it, Liam would have slept with it by his side. It was not to be, as much as Liam assured his big brother it was safe.

They had been on the road for no more than two hours when their luck ran out. Clarry had been watching a large bank of dense grey clouds move towards them. Anyone from Maine could recognise those same clouds, winter had caught up with them early.

Clarry began to search rapidly with his eyes. About two miles away he could just make out a solitary house on a small rise.

It was surrounded on two sides and the rear by a thick stand of trees and the front was open to the south. For the first time since leaving their home, Clarry pressed down on the accelerator until the old Land-Rover was pushing its upper limits of sixty miles an hour. The trailer at the rear rode solidly behind but it also caused the lack of extra speed.

Clarry pulled up in front of the old house just as the first freezing blast of wind hit them from the side. There was no time to lose.

Pulling the car as close to the front of the house as he could get it, Clarry warned Liam to stay where he was and keep watch while he went to see if there was anyone inside.

With a pistol in his hand, Clarry tip-toed up the wooden steps. He was sure that if anyone was home they would have heard the sudden arrival of the vehicle, even in the high wind that was blowing.

Clarry knocked on the door with the butt of the pistol then stepped back just in case. The wind whipped his hair around and his bones already felt the chill that was in the air.

With no reply to his loud knock, Clarry tested the door. It was locked. There was no other option but to take a chance. With the wind building and the first flakes of snow now dropping, Clarry made for the side and rear of the house.

When he reached the rear door, Clarry almost laughed as the handle turned and the back door opened with a squeak of dry hinges. The house smelt musty but it did not have the acrid smell of death. Clarry quickly closed the door and ran to unlock the front door.

Liam was relieved to see his brother appear through the now open door. As soon as he got the all clear signal from Clarry, Liam jumped from the car and ran for the door. Clarry grabbed his little brother and pulled him into the house out of the now howling wind and snow.

Clarry looked around; there was an old fashioned pot belly stove in one corner of the front room. Beside it was a stack of wood that would be good for one day. Warmth was now their priority, the rest could wait until they had searched all through the house.

Clarry was surprised by what he found in the pretty modern kitchen. There had been electricity available in the house but for some reason the owners had installed a wood burner stove.

Clarry surmised that there must then be a good supply of cut wood somewhere. After a further search he found that the water was drawn from a deep well. Fortunately it had both an electric pump and an old fashioned hand pump that was set in one corner of the kitchen. They now had water and heat, the rest could wait until the storm broke.

Clarry quickly set the fire in the small pot belly. Next he sat Liam at a front window after running outside for one of his favourite books. While Liam watched and read, Clarry went for a look around the house.

Off the kitchen he saw what might be a door that led down into a cellar, he would leave that for later. Leaving the kitchen, he walked through the rest of the downstairs rooms. One was for visitors, another was more of a study or home room, the last was a large bathroom.

Clarry went up the stairs to the upper floor. The house had been built in an old style. It had been standing for a long time and, even now it held just about everything to make a home comfortable.

Upstairs, Clarry found three bedrooms. Two were untouched but the third, the master bedroom, had been stripped of its bedding. The old iron frame bed stood barren and empty as Clarry looked around the room. It did not take Clarry long to realise that everything was not right in this room, there was a faint underlying scent of death.

Clarry looked closer and it did not take long for him to see what was wrong. Under the bed frame he could make out a dark stain that someone had tried to clean up. Next he also now saw that the wall behind the head of the bed had also been stained by something dark. There were also small pock marks in the plaster wall.

Clarry thought he now knew why the house was empty. With a little reverence he quietly closed the door and went back to one of the other bedrooms.

Liam looked up as his brother shuffled down the stairs. In his hands he hauled a double mattress. Liam went back to his book, he was satisfied that Clarry knew what he was doing.

Clarry dropped the heavy mattress close enough to the pot belly for warmth but not too close to cause a fire in the night. As he let the heavy mattress fall, Clarry saw a single sheet of paper flutter off the small coffee table to the side of the pot belly.

With his usual respect for others goods, Clarry picked up the paper to replace it on the table. An unconscious glance filled in some of the story of the house and its owners. A quick glance to an old picture on a nearby mantle also gave him a better understanding.

The picture was of two very old people. They looked to be in their late seventies or early eighties. Behind them was the front door of the old house. The paper in Clarry's hand told of what he thought had happened, after the heading of a local bank it read:

Final notice

Vacation of premises for the purpose of mortgagee sale.

Clarry read no further. He now thought he knew the reason for what he had seen upstairs. The old couple had preferred to die in their own beds than let the bank take what was their family home while they still lived. Clarry muttered something under his breath that he would never repeat in public before turning back to the stairs. He had to find some quilts for the bed they would use that night. Tomorrow he would set to work to try and make this a temporary home for the winter.

Liam read his book for as long as there was any faint hint of daylight coming through the window. When it got time for Clarry to light an old oil lamp and start to cook a meal in a single pot placed on top of the pot belly, Liam closed his book and then truly looked around while Clarry worked at stirring the pot.

The pot belly was stoked up as the two boys snuggled together under two thick quilts. The howl of the wind had eased a little but the light build up of snowflakes on the window sills outside told them it was still snowing. They would look out in the morning to decided what or if they were going to stay or go on.

Far away to the south west of where the two brothers were, Carlito stood looking down the mountain trail. He spat out some of the dust from the unused road and looked far out into the barren desert scene below him.

As he watched the shimmering heat rise off the distant sands, Carlito thought he could faintly make out a spiral of dust being raised by something moving at speed. He could not make out any details but it did appear that there were a number of vehicles far out and speeding away from his present position.

Carlito had a pair of powerful binoculars in the Humvee but did not bother to get them out; he now had validation that there were others still living and there was a chance of company if he wanted to pursue it.

Driving slowly through the divide, Carlito now knew he had somewhere around one hundred miles still to go to Vegas. The heavy weight of his body armour made him sweat in the heat that surrounded him. Even at this height it was still hot but not quite as humid as it would be when he wound his way down onto the desert proper once again.

Carlito went back to the rear of the Humvee, he took out two bottles of water to replace the ones he had already emptied. In his cooler he still had a number of cans of soda but decided to save his soda stock for the evenings.

A packet of jerky joined the bottles of water as Carlito walked back to the driver's door to continue his journey. It was a relief to rid himself of the heavy armour, he immediately felt the heavy patches of sweat begin to dry through his shirt. With his weapons stored in their place, Carlito started up the Humvee and began the long slow drive to the flat desert sands far below, the far off dust swirl was no longer visible as he turned back and forth around the switch backs.

On arriving at the bottom of the divide, Carlito looked out at the long straight road ahead. The hot sand now shimmered with heat as he slightly increased his speed, he thought he was now no more than an hour or so from the edge of Vegas.

He did not intend to go right into the centre of Vegas but would perhaps turn off onto a highway leading through to either Utah or Arizona. At this stage he was not quite sure which but would finally decide when he got to Vegas.

Carlito planned to stay the night somewhere in Vegas. The long drive so far had taken more out of him than he thought it would. Controlling the heavy Humvee was far more difficult than riding his small motor bike and it had made him stress out a little more than he thought it would.

Carlito saw the Humvee was now down to a quarter tank of gas as he saw the first hazy image of Vegas. The large gas tank had got him this far without having to refill. It was now a matter of stopping early to refill or go on and find a place to rest for the afternoon and night when he could refill and find a good long rest. Carlito decided to go on, he felt he should make it to a rest area before he ran out of gas.

The gas needle was just hovering above empty when he saw a rest stop on the outskirts of the city. There was no sign of anyone else around and only a couple of mangy looking dogs poked around the stopping area. Carlito pulled in and wiped the thin bead of sweat off his upper lip. It had been a long hot drive through the heat of the day.

Carlito now had his first conundrum as he sat and caught his breath. How did he spend the night and what did he need to do to set up a small camp for eating and sleeping. He knew he had to be careful. The dust trail earlier had told him of others around and he was not yet sure he wanted company and especially not bad company.

The heat of the day was beginning to wane as he sat and thought things through. He would need a hot meal, a soft bed and cover from the cold desert night air. It was time to see how good he was at camping out.

Carlito put his armour back on then slung one of the MP5's over his left shoulder. The two pistols were still on his hip as he opened the door and looked around. Carlito decided to leave the door open while he set up camp. If anyone came along unannounced, the protection of the Humvee would do more for his survival than standing out and fighting with no cover.

Carlito went back to the trailer. Opening one of the storage lockers on the side, he took out the small folded tent. It was a two man tent that rolled up into a small bag that was no more than hand luggage. All the poles and pegs were inside the small bundle. Carlito set about learning how to erect the small tent.

It took a little trial and error before he had the oval tent standing firmly on a soft part of the rest stop and close to the Humvee. Next was a matter of food. He took out the small single ring gas stove and rummaged for a pot. Tonight it would just be soup and the last of the single loaf of bread he had left. There was going to be so much he would have to now learn for his survival.

As Carlito sat and ate his soup and the last three thick slices of bread, he was surprised at how quickly the sun sank down and the cold of the desert night settled around him. Even in his heavy armour and with a jacket thrown over his shoulders, Carlito felt the instant cold. It was time to get into his tent for the first time and find some warmth in the thick sleeping bag.

Carlito settled down in the sleeping bag. He then had to get back up because he had not thought to bring any pillows, he had to find something to keep his head comfortable. After fossicking around in the Humvee for a few minutes, Carlito settled on two thick jackets rolled together for a pillow. It was just one more thing he would have to hunt for.

This kind of thing told Carlito he still had a lot to learn about comfort and survival. Carlito's night was not as restful as he hoped. Out on the dark desert there were sounds he had not heard before. Each time he drifted off to sleep, a strange sound would erupt from somewhere outside. Sometimes it was close and at other times it was far off. All of it made for a restless sleep.

When the morning finally came, Carlito felt as though he had had no sleep at all. His eyes were red rimmed and his back ached from the hard ground. There was so much he had to find out about camping. He did not want to spend every night like his first one.

It was still chilly in the first light of dawn as Carlito pushed through the flap door of the tent. He would make some hot coffee and open a box of cereal for breakfast. Once that was done, Carlito realised he would need to refuel the Humvee and break camp. Carlito kicked himself, he should have refuelled last night.

If he got caught by someone with bad intentions, he was a sitting duck. With an empty gas tank he would not be able to escape them. It was another lesson he had learnt. From now on he would refuel at the end of each day and before he got his camp set. He had to start thinking more about his survival than just pushing forward to some unknown destination.

Refuelling was slower than he thought it would be. He had to run the hose from the trailer tank to the Humvee and then hand pump the fuel into the vehicle. It was a laborious job and he was glad when it finally finished. It was just something else he would have to get used to.

There was so much to learn that he had not expected. If he was going to make it to somewhere safe he had to think out more of what he was doing or where he was going. Carlito sighed as he realised for the first time how little he knew about basic survival.

The sun had now been up for over an hour when Carlito took his place in the driver's seat. Before starting up the Humvee, he took out his map book and looked at where he would go next.

It was noticeable that he would now have a long drive ahead of him and all of it was through some of the roughest desert in the country but where would he go?

Carlito looked at his options; he could head slightly south into Arizona down 95 or turn north and head up 15 into Utah. Did he want to go south or was it better to head north but into colder climes with winter not far away. Carlito sat and pondered.

Both ways had advantages and disadvantages. He had to think of what his chances were of finding friendly faces and safety. Carlito now regretted his lack of survival skills and his own indecision could end up being the death of him. Now was the time to be more like his dead father, make a decision and stick with it come what may.

Carlito made his decision. He would head north into Utah and hope for the best. Highway I15N would take him in the direction of Cedar City and, although he did not want to go into the city itself, he felt he had a better chance of finding things he had overlooked when preparing for his escape.

It was going to be a long hard drive. It was a stretch of more than 170 miles from Vegas to Cedar city and was going to be only the beginning of the journey and most of the early driving was through the desert. After that it was still not going to be easy. He still had no idea where he was finally going to head.

Carlito now knew he could not push the speed of the heavy Humvee. The strain on his smaller body was too great to take liberties with the beast of a vehicle.

Carlito allowed himself three and a half hours for the trip. It was more than in a comfortable and lighter sedan but it gave him a margin for error. Something he was quickly learning to do in this new environment.

Carlito started the Humvee and began to wend his way through Las Vegas. The one time city of pleasure was now a ghost town. There was no sign of life apart from wild dogs and other animals trying to find food to survive. He had carefully marked his map on the route through and out of Vegas and onto the turn off for Utah.

Carlito had been travelling for close to two hours. He had driven through the city of St George and then the smaller town of Washington. He was now just entering the part of the highway that ran alongside the Zion State Forrest. Suddenly something caught his attention, what he saw had him slamming on the brakes as hard as he could press with his foot.

Carlito knew from his map that he was not far from the town of Kanarraville so Cedar City was not far away but his real focus was on the figure hobbling along the side of the road.

It was not only the matter that the figure was hobbling but that he was almost naked and looked to be in a bad way. Carlito pulled the heavy Humvee to the side of the road. He then put on his armour one more time and took up one of the MP5's as he opened the door and looked around for anyone else in the vicinity.

Being satisfied that he was alone except for the struggling figure on the side of the road, Carlito stepped from the Humvee and walked towards the injured figure. As he got closer he saw the figure look up. Not only was the face young but it showed fear at the arrival of someone new.

The long blonde hair was dirty and unkempt, it also showed a patch of blood oozing slowly from a wound high on the scalp. The teen's body was bruised and small cuts also oozed blood. He had the typical blue eyes and even through the dirt on his face, Carlito could see a certain youthful beauty to the boy. As usual for Carlito something began to stir below his waist.

The boy was dressed only in a torn and dirty pair of green boxers. His feet were bare apart from a pair of dirty socks and he was helping himself to walk with the aid of a short tree branch.

Carlito tried to smile as he quickly went to the boy's side.

"Let me help you, what happened?"

"I...I...they tried to kill me."


"I don't know. There was a bus and a limo with three black SUV's. They tried to grab me and put me in the bus with my friend. We had stopped because I had to go piss. I went into the trees but when I came back they were pushing my friend into the bus. I ran from the trees to help him but two of the guys grabbed me. I tried to fight them off. One of the men, an older guy, said he was a preacher and I had to pay for my sins. Two of the others wanted to...well you it to me. They started to beat the crap out of me and had me nearly naked when I broke away and ran. They all drove away fast when I hid in the trees. Who are you and where did you come from?"

"My name is Carlito, I'm trying to find a safe place to live. The cities are getting too dangerous and there's no electric or water anymore."

"My name is Greg, my friend and I were trying to find the same sort of place."

Carlito could see the boy was exhausted. He needed help quickly so there was little time to waste. Carlito stepped closer and held out his hand.

"Here let me help you back to my Humvee, we can get to Kanarraville and try to find a safe place for the rest of the day."

Carlito saw a look of relief come over Greg's face as he grasped his hand to help him into the Humvee. While the injuries were serious, Carlito did not think they were life threatening. It was not too far to the small town so he decided to take the chance and get Greg into cover before trying to help with the cuts and bruises.

Carlito saw the look of bewilderment on Greg's face as he saw the arsenal laying on the seat of the Humvee. Carlito saw the small shiver as the boy settled back into the passenger seat. He felt sorry for Greg as he had no spare clothes immediately at hand.

Looking behind the front seat, Carlito saw one of his jackets that he had used as a pillow the previous night. Reaching back he drew it to him and then placed it on Greg's bare knee. The boy looked grateful for Carlito's consideration of his condition.

It was about 11am when Carlito pulled into the town of Kanarraville. From what he could see, those ahead of him had ransacked the town for goods but had touched little else. After making sure there was no one around and he had put his armour back on. Carlito told Greg to stay in the Humvee while he looked around the town for a place they could stay in.

Carlito left the Humvee and, with his MP5 in his hands, walked carefully around the town centre. He was looking for a safe place to settle for the rest of the day. He had decided to go no further for now. If the men in front of him were so dangerous he did not want to catch up to them any time soon.

Carlito finally found a small house that would fit their needs. His first thought was to get Greg cleaned up and attend to his injuries, for this he would need a bath tub of some kind and then find a way to heat some water.

Carlito let his thoughts work as he walked back to the Humvee and his waiting charge. He had come up with a rough plan on how to do what needed to be done but it would take a little time.

Carlito drove the Humvee close to the house he had selected as their temporary home. With great care he helped Greg from the vehicle and into the house where he sat him on a comfortable looking chair in the front room.

"Do you know how to shoot?"

"I come from a farming family so yes, I do know how to shoot. What do you have in mind?"

"I have to go and make some things so you can have a bath and clean up, then I can fix your wounds. I don't want to leave you here without some way of defending yourself if any one comes back this way."

"Have you got a shot gun in that armoury you're carrying?"

"Oh yes, I've got the shot gun to beat all shot guns. Wait while I go get it."

Carlito ran back to the Humvee and took out the riot gun. He also slung and extra belt of shells over his shoulder as he turned to go back inside. Greg looked at the gun in Carlito's hands and smiled.

"Now that's what I call a shot gun! Can you slide me closer to the window so I can keep watch?"

Carlito smiled and helped to slide the large chair close to the window so Greg could watch the area in front of the house while Carlito was out.

For some unknown reason, Carlito's mind began to work in a way he had not known before. With the sudden and unexpected arrival of a friend he now saw things differently. There was now a need to think things through and look ahead whereas before he had just been floating along with what he knew.

Carlito looked at the latest challenge. First was a container large enough for bathing his friend. Second was a supply of water to fill the container and thirdly, how to heat the water without electricity.

Carlito decided to work one item at a time, solve the first one and then the second. That way he had a little order into what he was trying to do.

His first challenge was to find a tub of some sort. To this end he walked back through the empty town and looked into every store as he went. It was as he looked into a plumber's hardware store that he saw his answer. At the back of the shop was a large copper tub. What it was really for he had no idea but it was big enough for Greg to sit in and even partially lay down although his knees would be bent.

Carlito walked into the store and tried the weight of the tub. To his surprise it was far lighter than it looked. Carlito took hold of it and lifted it up high enough to carry back to the rear yard of the house. He now had an idea for the next part.

In the rear yard, Carlito looked at the red brick patio. After searching for something to use as a lever, he pried up a number of the bricks and set them in an oval shape to sit the tub on. It was rough but would do the trick. He might even use the tub for a bath of his own after Greg was finished.

The next idea was staring him in the face as he turned back to the house; on the patio stood a small BBQ grill. It had a gas line running into a cupboard underneath the grill. Carlito went to the BBQ grill and opened the cupboard. The gas bottle was sitting there. After lifting it to see if it was full, Carlito began to dismantle the grill and remove the burner.

Once he had the burner disconnected and the gas bottle in his hands, Carlito went back to the mounted tub and slid the burner under the tub. It was too tight a fit so Carlito got to work on more bricks to build the surround a little higher.

Half an hour later and he was satisfied. He now had a tub and a way to heat water. All he had to do now was find enough water to fill the tub. It was time to take another walk. He did not think they would have open water supplies in the town, he had to find another way.

Carlito walked back into the main street. After looking around for a source of water he looked up, the answer was right in front of his face all the time. All he had to do now was find a way to carry what he wanted as the towns water tower sat high on a rise just out of town. Carlito thought that the large round metal tank was almost laughing at him for not seeing the obvious so much sooner.

All Carlito now needed was a way to carry enough of his find to the tub. He began to walk through the town again to wait for an idea to surface. It was down a side alley that he saw what he was looking for.

At the back loading bay of a store he saw a plastic wrapped pallet of white plastic five gallon drums. Carlito went down the alley for a closer look. They looked to be ideal for what he wanted, now all he need was a way to carry enough of them to fill the tub.

Carlito looked at the drums and estimated he would need at least ten of them to give Greg a decent bath. Now all he had to do was find a way to carry them from the water tower to the house and tub. It was just another challenge he had to find an answer to.

Carlito's problem was solved by the use of a hand cart. He was able to load twelve drums into the cart before it was full. The extra would give him enough for a bath of his own once Greg was set.

Carlito pulled the hand cart up the rise to the water tower. At least, he thought, it would be easier going down with full drums than pulling it uphill.

It took a little time for Carlito to find a way to get water from the tower. The padlock on the valve was old but strong. This is where his years in south LA came in handy. With a piece of wire and two lengths of thin metal, he soon had the lock off and water flowing into the first of the drums.

Half an hour later found Carlito fighting valiantly to slow down the fully loaded cart. It was not as easy going downhill with full drums as he thought it was going to be but he persevered.

Carlito finally made it to flat ground in the main street of the town. He was now so much closer to his goal and his new thought process had given him new insights into surviving in this new world.

Carlito made it back to the house and began to empty the drums into the tub. He was happy to find that it took only eight drums to fill it up enough for a good bath. It left him with four for his own washing.

Carlito pushed the burner under the raised tub and opened the gas line. Using the battery lighter he had found with the grill, he set light to the burner and then adjusted it so it did not burn out the bottom of the tub.

Carlito watched and waited as the heat began to warm the water. When he felt it was hot enough, he turned off the gas and went back into the house to get Greg. He found the teen asleep in the chair. His fear and injuries had finally caught up with him. Carlito almost felt bad about having to awaken him but he need to get clean and his injuries attended to.

Carlito woke Greg and then helped him outside to his waiting bath. At the sight of the steam coming off the water, Greg did not hesitate to drop his torn boxers with little thought as he quickly slipped into the waiting water with a loud sigh of satisfaction.

Carlito left Greg to soak as he went back inside to find soap and towels. His groin was throbbing as he saw how easy Greg slipped off his only covering. Carlito pushed at the hard bulge in his jeans as he hunted for soap and towels. He had to get his mind off what he had just seen.

Carlito returned to the tub with soap, towels and wash cloths. He was immediately struck by the gentle smile on Greg's lips as the boy laid back as far as he could to luxuriate in the hot water. His aches and pains were fast disappearing as he soaked. The arrival of Carlito with his bath needs almost went unnoticed but Greg's mind was still working on his good fortune to meet such a great looking teen. Perhaps the loss of his friend in the attack would not be so bad after all.

The last thing that needed doing was for Carlito to find a first aid kit and care for Greg's injuries. He found a small one in the bathroom of the house. There were enough things in the kit to do the job.


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