Castle Roland

The Runner

by Arthur


Chapter 2

Published: 21 Jan 16

The Runner

Copyright © 2016 by Arthur
All Rights Reserved

Runs-Slow had been travelling for ten days since leaving the two men to the desert. He had little qualms about their end and had forgotten them as soon as he was a day away. There were more pressing things to do than worry about a couple of ambushers.

Runs-Slow had just refilled his gas tank with the last of his reserves and was now trying to find more. He was sure he had passed through the Zuni lands as was now into those of the Navajo. He still had a long way to go before he could think of trying to find his cousin.

The land around him had not changed a great deal. Most reservations were on poor land and in this area, most were desert or semi desert. He did notice there were a few more real trees around and occasionally there would be a patch of green grass to relieve the sameness of his surroundings.

Runs-Slow had kept his speed down not only to preserve the last of his gas, but to also protect the small plastic trailer with all his goods. He was desperate now to find more gas or an alternative form of transport. He did not really want to dump his trailer and all it carried.

Runs-Slow had been taking his time. There was no hurry and speed would only lead to mistakes, something he could not afford to do if he wanted to survive.

It was late in the afternoon and he knew he was now getting very low on his last tank of gas. As if in answer to his wishes, as he topped a low rise, he saw a small town down below him. Perhaps he could find some more gas there. Runs-Slow eased the bike to roll as quietly as possible towards the empty town.

As he entered the main street, his hopes were dashed as he saw the only service station in the town was just a pile of ashes. Runs-Slow stopped his bike and took up his rifle. He would now go on foot as it was far safer and he would have the silence to help him.

The small town was worse off than he had first thought. More than one shop was also now ashes. It looked as though someone had got there before him. It was not a very good start.

Runs-Slow approached the mercantile store, it was the last shop before the burnt out service station. With careful movements he looked around the ruined door. It looked as though someone had begun to ransack it but had been stopped by others.

On the floor were a large number of empty cartridge cases but most of the stores stock was still on the shelves. As he turned to check out the service station, Runs-Slow thought he saw a faint movement on the other side of the street. Letting his instincts take over, Runs slow dived for the protection of the shop wall before anything happened.

Runs-Slow crawled to the nearest corner and then raised his head carefully to peer through the broken window. Had it not been for his patience, he might have missed the movement across the street. It was not much but looked like a rifle barrel easing through the opposite doorway. Runs-Slow waited and watched.

Runs-Slow could tell by the angle of the barrel that the gunman was lying on the floor behind the doorway. He had to look for another way to approach without being seen or shot at. Looking around, Runs-Slow saw the rear door of the shop. With great care and attention to what he was doing, Runs-Slow moved backwards to the rear door. He would circle around and try to catch the person unawares from behind.

Runs-Slow eased out the back door and saw it led to the burnt out service station. What he saw began to make sense about the whole set up in the town.

Lying in the burnt out forecourt of the service station were two charred bodies. Around them were a mass of empty cartridges from what could have been military assault rifles. Runs-Slow crept passed the station and quickly ran across the road out of sight of the doorway where the rifleman was waiting for him.

Runs-Slow eased along the narrow passage between the two buildings. As he got to the corner, he peaked around to check if he had been seen. With no one in sight, he eased further around the corner until he could look into the shattered window the clothing store.

As his eyes took in the store room, he saw what appeared to be a pair of old sneakers lying on the floor. One of them had a crust of dried blood on them and as he eased further around, he saw two legs clad in jeans. On the same leg as the bloody sneaker there was a bloody bandage.

Easing further forward, Runs-Slow now saw the body of a man lying on the floor. There was another patch of dried blood on the man's shoulder.

The man looked to be thin and his pitch black hair was cut close to his collar. His chequered shirt as rumpled and well worn. It looked as though the man was having trouble keeping his rifle off the floor and his head would occasionally drop to rest on the floor.

Runs-Slow did not want to take any chances. Even a wounded man could be dangerous. Runs-Slow poked his rifle through the broken window and cocked the hammer. The clicking sound had an immediate effect on the man on the floor.

The man seemed to sigh in resignation as he let the rifle drop and opened his hands in defeat. Slowly and painfully, he rolled onto his back to look at the person that had caught him so easily.

There was a long pause as the two looked at each other. For Runs-Slow it was a bigger shock than he thought it would be. The rifleman was not a man but a teen much like himself. He was also not white but looked to be a half cast. The two boys looked at each other in wonder. Runs-Slow was the first to speak. "Aho brother. I am Runs-Slow of the Chiricahua. I do not wish to kill you, so do you give your word not to cause me any trouble?"

"You have my word. I am Peter Fox and I need help."

Runs-Slow walked to the open door and entered. As he walked in he gently pushed the rifle aside just in case Peter did not honour his word.

"You are badly hurt. Is the bullet still inside your shoulder and leg?"

"No, they went right through but I need help to clean them properly. I've been stuck here since yesterday because I didn't want to take a chance more of those men were still around."

"What happened?"

Runs-Slow looked around the store for clean cloth and water as he listened to what Peter told him about the shooting while he began to clean the two wounds.

"I came down from the north. I was just looking for food or anything I could use. I was in here looking for new clothes when those men arrived. They didn't even call out but just started shooting from the mercantile shop. I got lucky and winged one of them and then they made a run for the service station. One of them hit me in the leg and I couldn't run from here. I guess I got lucky and hit the gas tank or something but the other man shot me in the shoulder just before the station blew up and killed them. I've been stuck here since. I heard your bike come into town and thought you were some of their friends coming back."

"You look to be of the People. What is your tribe?"

"I'm not sure. My father was from Washington State and I think my mother was half Paiute, at least that is what she told me a long time ago."

"Then you are of the People. How did you come here?"

"I had an old truck but the other three men took it when the station blew up, so I guess I'm stuck here unless you can help me."

"Let me fix your wounds then we can talk more and work out what to do. Have you eaten since yesterday?"

"No, I couldn't get out of here."

"Let me finish the new bandages and then I will help you to another place and get some food. I have seen no one for days so I think the other men are no longer around. We should be safe for the night and I will keep guard as well."

Runs-Slow finished the bandaging and then helped Peter to get to his feet. Being a little smaller in build than Peter, Runs-Slow had a bit of a job helping him to cross over to the mercantile store. After leaving Peter in the store, Runs-Slow went back to the end of town to get his bike and trailer and drove it slowly back to the store.

After parking the bike under cover, Runs-Slow went inside to see how Peter was getting on. He found his new friend fast asleep near the back of the store and seated in an old rocking chair. Not wanting to wake Peter, Runs-Slow went through the store to see what he could make for a meal. It didn't take long before he had a pot of stew warming.

Once the food was hot, Runs-Slow woke Peter and handed him a bowl of stew along with a hot drink. The two sat in companionable silence as they ate. Once finished the two young teens were ready for sleep. Runs-Slow helped Peter to a laid out bedroll while he himself went closer to the door and lay down there. Anyone wanting to get in to hurt the two boys would have to step over him first.

As the first hint of morning light filled the store, Runs-Slow rose and went to look around the town, just to make sure there were no others around. Satisfied they were both alone, Runs-Slow returned to the store to awaken Peter. They would eat and then he had to try to find fuel for the bike. He would also search for anything that may be of use in the future.

It was a foregone conclusion that Peter would go with him. He had a few things already in the trailer that his new friend could use, but it did not stop him from taking anything he thought they might need. Fuel was the hardest to find. Runs-Slow, along with the helpful suggestions of Peter, went from vehicle to vehicle to siphon gas from any tank he found with fuel.

A search of the main store room also produced a number of small 1 gallon tins of gas normally used for lawn mowers and other small gardening equipment. The addition of a couple more rifles and shot guns gave them plenty of extra fire arms.

With the scrounging of fuel cans and vehicle fuel tanks0, Runs-Slow managed to fill three of his own spare containers. He now had enough fuel for another ten days or so. Peter would ride on the bike with him. It would be more comfortable than sitting high on the trailer. It would also allow him to keep watch as Runs-Slow watched the trail ahead.

With more than half the day gone while he was searching, Runs-Slow decided they should stay one more night. It would also help Peter to heal just a little more. He would be of no use to Runs-Slow if he became too sick to help in an emergency.

The next morning, Runs-Slow checked everything in the trailer and got ready to leave the small town. Runs-Slow helped Peter onto the back of the bike, taking care to make sure he was comfortable and did not have any pain from his two wounds.

Peter now carried a new rifle while Runs-Slow still kept his own ready on the handle bars up front. With a last look around, Runs-Slow put the bike into gear and started back for the highway. They would follow that for a few more miles and then turn off onto a secondary road. He was now sure that he was well clear of the Zuni lands and well into those of the Navajo.

The land around them had changed only marginally from what Runs-Slow had already travelled. It would be some time before they came to the better land of the northern tribes.

As before, Runs-Slow travelled slowly. Not only to conserve fuel and keep watch on the road ahead, but to also try to make Peter's situation improve and not relapse from his wounds. In the evenings, Runs-Slow set up camp, started the pot cooking and then changed Peter's bandages. Each day showed an improvement of the wounds and, after six days Peter was almost better. There had been no infection and the wounds now had a firm crust to seal the opening of the bullet hole.

The previous day they had turned off the highway and onto a secondary road. It was still easy going but they were now headed more north/west than directly north. Runs-Slow had told Peter that he felt it would be safer to stay on back roads as he thought most people would ride the highway.

For the last six days they had still not seen any other people. From his seat on the back of the bike, Peter kept a good vigil as they slowly motored ahead. The trailer had been ideal so far but Runs-Slow was trying to think ahead. As time passed there would be less and less fuel to keep the bike running. He had to find another way and he did not want to lose the trailer and its carrying capacity. Not with two of them working from it.

They had travelled for another day when they came into another small farming town. Most of the shops and houses had been ransacked but Runs-Slow decided they should stop and look around. In the back of his mind he still wanted to find another means of transport.

Peter was now able to move around a lot better, although Runs-Slow had cut a cane for him to ease the pressure on his wounded leg. The two boys stayed together as they looked through the remains of the town. It was Peter that came up with the idea after seeing a larger car trailer parked untouched in a driveway.

"Can you ride a horse Runs-Slow?"

"Of course I can. Who of the people cannot?"

"I can't. I never had the chance to learn."

"Why do you ask?"

"If you could catch two horses we could probably be able to fix this trailer to be towed by horses. It's large enough for both of us to ride on and carry far more things for us. We just need two horses and some work to change the front tow bar so we can attach the horses."

"That sounds like a good thing. Can you think of what would be needed to make the trailer good for horses?"

"Yes I think so. I may need a little time to perfect it but it can't be too hard."

"Good, if you can work on that I'll go and see if there are still horses around. This is a farming town like the others we have passed. There should be horses somewhere. I'll unhook the trailer and take the bike to look. Keep your rifle by your side at all times and keep watch all around, you can never tell when someone might like to steal this from us."

"I'll do that. how long will you be away?"

"I don't know but I will be back before dark even if I find no horses. Just be careful and keep watch while you work."

"I will. I'll try to get something cooking for our dinner as well. I'm not really a good cook but it can't be that hard."

"Good, I will see you before dark."

Peter watched as Runs-Slow left the centre of town towards the surrounding countryside. He then turned back to look at the larger car trailer. His problem was how to attach something so that two horses could be attached to pull the trailer.

Peter went into one of the houses close by. After looking through rooms, he finally found what he was looking for. Peter carried the sketch pad outside and, along with a handful of pens and pencils, sat with his back against a nearby post and began to draw his ideas on the pages.

Peter found his main problem was not knowing how wide or long the tow bar would have to be. That part he would have to wait until his new friend returned. Next he worked on fixing a seat at the front. From there came the idea of putting a cover over the trailer so they could sleep inside if they wanted to. Peter got down to work with his designs. They would be rough at this stage but once he had horses he could improve on them.

It was late in the afternoon when Peter thought he heard something far off. Taking his friends words seriously, Peter took up his rifle and went outside to look around. The sound was coming from the same direction that Runs-Slow had gone but, he had been told to be careful and not take any chances.

Peter grasped his rifle closer as he limped to the end of town, always staying close to the walls of buildings for cover. When he got to the end of town he looked out towards where Runs-Slow had gone. In the distance he saw movement but it was not what he expected to see.

Peter waited and watched as the small dots got closer. Finally he got up and walked out into the road as the small dots got bigger and showed his friend on the bike with two large horses following along behind. They had to get closer before he could see the rope holding the horses to the slow moving bike. They had their new transport. All that was needed now was to rework the trailer to take them and anything more they found in the town.

Runs-Slow pulled up close to Peter. The two horses stopped and began to look for grass as they snorted their approval of the halt.

"Aho brother! What have you found for us to use?"

"This tandem trailer will be best. I know a little about welding but nothing about horses or how we can fix them to pull it."

"Leave the harness to me. I'll find something to work with as long as you can fix the trailer. I have very little gas left so we will have to stay here until we can make the trailer ready."

"Will we be safe here?"

"I don't know. We will just have to be careful. What do you need for your welding?"

"Well we have no electric power, but if I can find the right gas bottles I can use brazing instead but I'm still not sure how we make the trailer for the horses to pull it."

"I have an idea but let's get the horses settled in a safe place and then we can talk about it. Between us we should be able to come up with something that will work."

Runs-Slow jumped off the bike and took the lead with the two horses. He then went to find a place close by to peg them out so they would have both feed and water.

Once he was done and felt the horses would not roam and had plenty of feed and water, Runs-Slow went to find Peter. He found his new friend in the same place they had spent the previous night. There was food cooking and he was ready for a rest. It had been a long day.

As they ate, the two boys talked over how to fix the trailer. Many ideas were thrown out as unfit or not suitable for their needs. Finally they came up with an idea that looked as though it would work. The next morning would be spent trying to find what they needed. It looked as though they would be staying for a few more days yet.

Far away to the north, in fact it was only a few miles from the Canadian border, a young man looked down at the drying blood on the floor of the house. Tears fell from his young eyes as he tried to reconcile what had happened. His head ached and his vision was still a little blurry. The blood caked on his temple told of where the pool of blood had come from.

Clarence (who preferred to be called Clarry) O'Rourke was seventeen and had come from a large family. Now there were only two of them left. Himself and his little brother Liam. The younger boy was still in hiding and would not appear until Clarry called him to do so.

The last twenty four hours had nearly been the total undoing of the family. Clarry's parents and two older brothers died when the virus hit the small town. It left him with the responsibility of his little brother, ten year old Liam and his two sisters. The elder was only sixteen and the other was fifteen. Now both of them were also gone.

Clarry felt as though his whole world had just collapsed around him and there was little he could do to stop it. They had been happy to stay in their small home after the disaster. It was a place they all knew and they felt safe there.

For the last two months they had found peace and had all worked to keep their family together. Now it was once again torn apart. The men had come late in the night. The attack had been sudden and brutal. Clarry had just managed to get Liam into hiding in the underground cellar before the men broke down the door, knocked Clarry to the floor with a vicious punch and then started on the two young girls before they could run.

The rape of his sisters while he was trussed up and made to watch only fuelled the flames of hate that Clarry never knew he had. When the six men had finished, they had tied the girls up and took them out to their vehicle. The last man out the door had turned suddenly and fired a shot at the boy on the floor.

Fortunately for Clarry, the bullet had just skimmed across his temple and while it knocked him back on the floor and sprayed blood about, the man must have thought he was dead as he left without looking back. How long he was unconscious, Clarry had no idea but the ropes holding him bound had somehow come loose enough for him to free his hands and then his feet. It was time to get his brother and find a way out of this town. There was nothing left for them now.

Clarry went to the hidden door in the floor of the kitchen and called out to Liam. He heard a muffled answer and it took only seconds for him to open the hatch and free his last remaining sibling. There was much to do and he would find the time later to mourn the loss of his sisters.

Clarry looked out the kitchen window. The sun was sinking once again into the west. He had been out of it nearly all day and most of the previous night. There was little hope of finding his two missing sisters now. He would have to concentrate on his little brother. To this end he began to make plans to get far away from this place, it held too many memories, some good but lately most were bad.

Later that night, after they had eaten and Clarry was sitting on the family sofa holding a crying Liam tightly to his chest, Clarry began to make plans and he would have to make a list of what they would need. Clarry hoped that the men had not found his father's pride and joy sitting under a canvas cover out in the small garage.

Clarry's father had brought his family to the states ten years ago. In his younger days he had been a member of the feared Sinn Fein but once married and with a growing family, he had put aside his hatred of the British and settled down to raise them with good old fashioned Irish standards.

Clarry's father was a died in the wool, proud and staunch Irishman. The language and traditions had been upheld and each and every child had been brought up in a respectful and polite manner. Ten years ago he had decided to move his family to the states. They had settled in this small town where his father had worked hard as a mechanic. They had made the trip by boat and not by the normal airline as was more popular. The reason for the boat was all put down to the need to take with him his pride and joy.

Clarry had once asked why, with his father's distaste of the English had he insisted on transporting the Ex-military long wheel base Land-Rover. His father's reply almost surprised Clarry.

"You see son, while I have little or no time for the English, they did make one thing that surpasses every other vehicle ever made and that's the old Land-Rover. They don't rust because they are made from Aluminium. Their small four cylinder engine does not even know how to break down and their four wheel drive system will take that old bus up the side of a brick wall without slowing down. If you ever need a vehicle that will never let you down but is also easy to repair if you ever need to... then the old girl is the one to have."

Clarry now had a new perspective on the old Land-Rover. He had been in it when his father had taken the whole family far away to the seaside. Six kids and two adults in the vehicle and it hardly even slowed. In mud, sand or snow, the old Land-River had never let them down. Even when the locals had laughed at the quaint little car among their large gas guzzlers.

The old Land-Rover still looked as good as it did the day his father had bought it at a military auction for disused equipment. He had then used the money that would have given them an easy flight on a plane to pay for the cargo costs on a ship. The family travelled on the ship with the car, his father would not have it any other way.

The duel axel trailer, which was also out in the back of the shed, would give him a greater carrying capacity. He would need to check it over as it had not been used since last year's vacation. It also was from the same auction and had been a mobile workshop. His father had told him it was for the troops that they called 'tail end Charlie', the last vehicle in a convoy that would stop to repair anyone that broke down when in convoy from one place to another.

The large trailer had everything in it. Fuel cooker, food storage bins, a small generator and more tools than he knew what to do with. There was even a small electric welder that could be plugged into the generator. There was a place for personal items down the centre of the trailer and the sides dropped down to reveal the tool kits and supplies. The thick and strong canvas cover could be opened out and supported by four poles, became a large tent with the trailer as the back wall.

Clarry sat with Liam curled up beside him most of the night as he filled page after page with what he thought they might need. His family had never had guns in the house. His father would not hear of it. Now he had to change his way of life or lose both of theirs.

Clarry had never had a gun in his hands in his life. After the disaster with his sisters, his view changed. No one would ever hurt them again. The men had taught him a costly but valuable lesson, when it came to their safety he would not hesitate. No one was going to hurt either of them again, not while he had breath in his slim body. The famous Irish temper was now close to the surface and only god would help anyone wanting to do the two of them any harm.

Clarry was not aware that he had fallen asleep, it was the soft voice of Liam that made him open his eyes to a new day. There was a lot to do but first he had to get cleaned up. The dried blood was going to be a bitch to clean off and he didn't want Liam to worry too much.

An hour later and Clarry was ready to meet a new day. Taking up his long list, he prepared to get to work. There was a lot to prepare and many things to be found before they could leave this small town of bad memories.

It took most of that first day just to check all the equipment they already had as well as starting the old car and pulling out the heavy trailer to be checked over as well. Liam helped his big brother as much as he could, he did most of the fetching and carrying of the smaller and lighter items as his big brother packed and checked things off his lists.

The raid on every house and store in the town almost made Clarry feel guilty but the picture of his two lost sisters drove him on with a determination he did not know he had. Occasionally he would see little Liam stop and a few tears would appear on his young cheeks. Clarry could do nothing but admire his little brother when he saw the boy shake his head and turn back to his tasks with a face like thunder. The small boy was turning his sorrow into a new strength and no one was going to stop him from finding the men that took his older sisters.

At times like those, Clarry could almost see a bit of his father's stubborn strength in Liam's face and the way he would turn back to his tasks with determination. The anger the little boy had was almost palpable in the air but the little boy held it in. It was during the night that Liam would let his anger come out and the tears would flow as he thought of the things his sisters did for him when he was small.

The last thing Clarry had to do was decide where they would go. Maine was as far north as you could get and he wanted to head south to a warmer, and hopefully, safer place but they were a long way from anywhere. It was time to get out the maps and plan their journey.

Distance was not really a problem. The Land-Rover had a twenty five gallon gas tank, it would give them over four hundred miles of travel before refilling. On the back of the car were two ten gallon metal jerry cans and at the front of the trailer was a rack that sat on the draw bar. It held another ten, ten gallon jerry cans.

Clarry had siphoned every car tank in the town as well as hand pumping gas from the service station tanks. Altogether he had enough gas to cover between two thousand and three thousand miles. He would also have to keep an eye out for chances to refill the jerry cans as they travelled.

Clarry looked over the many road maps his father had collected over the last ten years. Slowly and with a lot of rechecking, Clarry worked out a probable route. Most of their food stuff was canned or dried. It was the weapons that concerned Clarry the most. Neither of them knew anything about firearms.

Clarry decided to spend the last day in the small town for practice and to work out how to use all the weapons they had amassed in their search. He had been surprised at how many guns were in such a small town.

Clarry planned his trip with care. From Maine they would head south but stay well away from major cities or large towns. It would mean using mainly back roads and only use a highway when they were well away from cities.

He planned the route through the top of New Hampshire, skirting Montpelier in Vermont and then cut across New York State through the tip of Pennsylvania and down through Ohio between Cleveland and Columbus.

It was going to be a long trip as they would then have the long haul through Indiana and Illinois. Once there Clarry would decide where they would go after that. He determined he would only go into towns or cites to find gas if the need arose or to replace their food stocks.

The last day before their departure had finally arrived. At the far end of town, Clarry had set up targets in the form of empty bottles and cans. It was time to learn to shoot. He had gone to the small school library to find books about guns and had had no luck. Next, he had gone to the local sports store and he had found everything he needed as well as what seemed to be unlimited ammunition.

Clarry had spent all of the last evening reading every book he had. Much of it had been totally confusing until he had gone and collected each weapon they had. Once the gun was in front of him, he found it easier to understand what the book was telling him. Liam had sat beside him and read along as they both handled the weapons one by one to get familiar with them.

Clarry found a small shotgun for Liam. It was an over and under 410 gauge. He carefully cut the barrels down so it was lighter in Liam's smaller hands. It would be the ideal weapon for Liam as he sat inside the old Land-Rover. The larger rifles and hand guns were going to be used by Clarry although he had put aside a small automatic .22 rifle for Liam.

In the front of the Land-Rover there were three narrow seats. Liam would sit on the far side close to the window. Clarry made a rough wooden box that he set on the middle seat. It was sectioned off to take five hand guns. The barrels were faced downward and the handgrips were close to where he could reach them easily.

All the other weapons were neatly stacked in the back of the vehicle or fastened into a large box in the trailer. Those in the back of the car were ready to hand if they were ever needed as the rack he had put up was right behind his seat and ran the full width of the car.

The two brothers worked hard all day on target practice. Judging distance and sighting had taken most of the morning but early in the afternoon they could see great improvements. Liam especially liked his little cut down shot gun. He would walk up to within ten feet of the target and fire one barrel after the other so quickly it almost sound like they were fired together.

Liam looked so pleased each time he saw the pillow that had been hung up for him as a target, explode into a show of feathers. He went through a lot of pillows which Clarry was only too glad to put up for him. God help anyone that riled the small boy and got too close.

The next morning, Clarry had Liam seated and ready with his small sawn off in his hands. Clarry walked around one last time to check the vehicle and trailer. He knew he had little to worry about, his father had kept the Land-Rover in almost showroom condition, both outside and mechanically. They were as ready as they would ever be. Clarry got into the driver's seat and started the old Land-Rover. The four cylinder engine fired immediately and settled into the familiar purr as he put it into gear and drew away from the only home they had known in America.

Clarry had made a clip board for the maps so he could keep watch on where to go and which places he had marked to be avoided. There was a light drizzle falling as they moved out of the small town. The swish, swish of the wipers kept the Perspex windows clear as they drove out onto the open road.

Liam was sitting up on a thick cushion so he could see more easily through the windscreen. Neither boy used the seat belts, Clarry had said they may need to get out quickly and the belts would only slow them down. He did not plan to drive faster than he felt he was capable of. One thing they had on their side was time and there was no need to speed and get into trouble.

Clarry drove all day and only stopped for a cold meal at midday. Late in the afternoon Clarry looked at the map. They had made good time and he saw where he had marked a dot for a camp site. It was on the edge of the lake in upper New York State, just over the border from Vermont.

When they pulled into the empty park, Clarry was happy to see no signs of anyone around. The stillness of the lake and the silence in the park was almost reassuring. Only the sound of birds disturbed the quiet as they pulled up on the shore of the lake.

Clarry had turned the vehicle around to face the road in case they needed to make a fast getaway. They had not seen a single person the entire day but he was not going to take any chances. Clarry reached behind the seat and took out the lever action rifle. After tucking one of the pistols in his waist band, he stepped from the vehicle and once again checked the land around them.

When Clarry was happy that they were totally alone, he signalled for Liam to join him. The two boys looked at the tranquil lake and smiled to each other. There was just enough time for a quick swim and then it would be time to cook and sleep.

Clarry stood on the bank as Liam splashed around in the shallows. Neither boy was a strong swimmer but that did not stop them from having a little fun. When Liam had had enough, he ran naked from the water and took up position as guard after he had dressed and watched while Clarry had his short splash.

Clarry had pulled out the tent cover from the trailer. After quickly cooking eggs and smoked bacon, the two boys sat side by side to eat. They would get an early night and be on their way early in the morning. Liam snuggled up close to his brother, he still missed his sisters and needed the comfort of family so he could rest at night.

The next morning they were up early. After a cereal breakfast and a hot coffee for Clarry, the two boys got into their car after breaking camp and left for places unknown. Clarry was well aware he would have to shoot game to keep meat in their diet. How to butcher it was another matter. It was something he had no idea how to do. It was time to keep a watch for a library.

They drove for more than two hours before he found what he was looking for. They were now almost in the middle of New York State. The small town they were now in had what looked like a good library, he hoped it had what he needed.

Clarry was too wise to just drive helter-skelter into the town. Stopping outside, Clarry watched and waited as he inspected what he could see of the town. Apart from a few dogs wandering around, there seemed to be no one alive and there was the distinct old smell of death.

Clarry gave it another half hour before getting back in the Land-Rover and driving towards the middle of town. What he thought was the library looked to be on one side of the small square. On the other was the church and the third side held what looked like the council chambers. The fourth side had a street running from it lined with closed stores.

Once again a twinge of conscience ran through Clarry as he forcibly broke into the library. The crash of breaking grass even made the two boys jump as though expecting someone to appear and arrest them.

It was dim inside the library although there was just enough sunlight streaming through the windows to faintly see the mass of books on the many shelves.

Clarry walked around the shelves until he found the section he wanted. It was mainly all about "how to do" stuff. Clarry began his search for a book on butchering. It surprised Clarry to see so much information available if only one were to look for it.

Clarry found a book that would help him but, in the process he picked out a few more that he thought may come in handy as the two boys travelled onward. On his return to the front of the library, Clarry saw Liam with an arm load of books. He smiled at his brother as the boy dropped his arm load into a trolley nearly filled with other books.

"What have yee there Liam?"

"I got all the books I always wanted to read. Is it Ok to take them? Please Clarry, it's not really all that many."

Clarry smiled and just nodded. He saw that one lot of books neatly stacked on top was the full series of Harry Potter, Liam's favourite story book. Clarry shook his head, added his own books to the trolley and pushed it outside with Liam running alongside with his sawn off shot gun at the ready.

Back at the car, Clarry carefully unloaded the books into the back of the Land-Rover. It was a tight squeeze but he made it work, especially those belonging to Liam. His little brother deserved something of his own.

Clarry started the car and drove westward. They would stop for the night just inside the border with Pennsylvania. They would stop early so Liam had time to read a little of his favourite book before dark.


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