January 22nd 2018, Devon, England
‘Pull in here.’ The fat man said, ‘Maybe there’s something to eat.’
The man driving the truck obeyed and swung the pickup truck off the motorway and onto the slip road. The sign advertised hot and cold food and tea and coffee, along with the universal sign for public toilets. The slip road gave way to a car park which they circled twice as they watched the windows in the building. Once they were sure the building was empty, they checked the cars that were dotted around. Everywhere looked empty. Abandoned cars, abandoned building.
‘That pickup looks familiar.’ The fat man said. ‘Take us over there.’
The driver pulled up beside the abandoned pickup truck which was parked at an angle under the branches of a willow tree in the corner of the car park.
‘I don’t believe it.’ He said. ‘That’s our truck. The one that that punk, Lambert, stole.’
‘You’re right boss. Looks like he dumped it here.’ The driver said.
‘Maybe. Or maybe he’s here.’ He said. ‘Come on. We’ll walk up quietly, surprise the sneaky bastard.’
Climbing out of the pickup, the fat man was joined by the driver and a big man from the rear passenger seat. They walked slowly towards the doors of the main building, checking the windows with each step. Nothing. No sign of anyone. They continued on, the driver first, then the fat man, and then the big man followed up the rear. They were close now and the building looked like it had never been touched since the outbreak.
‘Go check the door.’ The fat man commanded the driver.
The driver walked ahead and was about to reach out his arm to try the door when a crashing sound filled the air and the driver felt something on his leg. Looking down, he noticed a thin nylon string pressing on his shin and he closed his eyes in shame. He should have expected trip wires and booby traps.
‘Idiot.’ The fat man shouted. ‘Go on, try the door. They know we’re here know anyway.’
He stepped over the trip wire and pulled on the door.
‘It’s locked.’ He shouted.
‘Well then unlock it, idiot.’ The fat man snarled.
The driver looked around for something heavy to smash the glass. Walking over to a low wall, separating the car park from the walkway, he kicked at it and knocked a section over. He picked up a clump of bricks that were cemented together in a solid lump and hurled it at the glass entrance doors. One door cracked but the other door that took the brunt of the assault shattered into a thousand pieces of pea sized glass.
The men cautiously entered the building, ignoring the smell and concentrating on listening for any movement. The fat man signalled for his men to split up and search the building. The big man headed to the café hoping to find some food and the driver headed to the back of the building where the public toilets were located. Standing and waiting while his men searched, the fat man was certain someone was in the building. He could feel it and if they tried to run, he would be in the doorway, waiting for them.
* * *
Jason heard the crash from the trip wire and immediately leapt up from his cosy bed in the mini fortress. Before he could react, he heard the shattering of the glass doors at the entrance to the service station. It was too late to do anything now, if the intruder was in the building, it would be extremely difficult to leave the mini fortress and get in to a better position without being seen. For the time being he was stuck.
Amanda was awoken by the shattering glass and sat up straight, a look of shock and then worry on her face. Putting his finger to his lips to signal her to remain quiet, Jason moved over to the entrance of the mini fortress and carefully pulled some plastic crates over it. With any luck, the intruder would assume that the newsagents had been trashed and the mini fortress was just a pile of left over rubbish.
Watching through a small gap in the plastic crates, Jason saw a man slowly walk past, his eyes were darting from left to right as he cautiously moved down the corridor towards the public toilets. Jason edged out of the mini fortress and watched as the man went through the door into the gents toilets. At the same time, he could hear pots and cutlery crashing and cupboard doors being opened and slammed shut. There were two intruders, he thought. Maybe more. Just as that thought entered his head, he heard the crunching of shattered glass. A third man was at the entrance. Two options went through his head, he could sit it out and hope they didn’t discover the mini fortress or he could take them on one at a time. He decided that taking them on was the better option. There was a good chance that they would be discovered in the mini fortress and he couldn’t fight all three of them in the confined space. Amanda protested to his decision at first, not wanting to be left on her own, but then she too came to the conclusion that it was the better idea.
Jason edged out further until he could see the entrance. Standing there, shifting his weight from leg to leg, was the fat man who had held them both prisoner before the winter. Jason shook his head and gave a silent chuckle, what were the chances of bumping into these guys again, he thought. This time he would finish it. They had caused him too many problems and he had come to terms with the fact that he was now a survivor and these men were getting in the way of him and Amanda surviving.
The fat man stared dead ahead down the corridor and then he looked over toward the café, eager to see one of his men come back with some news. In that brief second of the fat man looking away, Jason sprang to his feet and charged across the corridor, hiding in a small alcove. Peering around, he waited for the fat man to turn his gaze away again and then he bolted down the corridor and into the Gents toilets, carefully pushing the first door open. He entered the small hallway and gently pushed the inner door open. He couldn’t see anyone in there. Moving in slowly, he checked behind the door, the most obvious place to hide. No one was there. In front of him were six cubicles, all of the doors were closed. Jason didn’t see the intruder leave the Gents, so he determined that he must be in one of the six cubicles. Treading carefully and using just one finger, Jason edged the first door open and peered in. Empty. He did the same with door two. Also empty. Two down, four to go. He did the same with door three, as his heart beat faster. Empty. And then he had an idea. He backed away and then did his best impersonation of a Screamer, loud enough to scare someone in the room but not too loud that the other men would come running.
Jason heard a rustle and could imagine the intruder stiffening with a scared look on his face. Then came the sound of a gun being cocked and slide of the door lock. Jason moved into cubicle three and waited. First he saw the gun and then the intruders outstretched arm. First mistake, Jason thought. Without hesitation, he grabbed the gun and slammed an elbow into the intruders face. Stunned, the intruder released his grip on the pistol and stumbled backwards into the cubicle. Jason jumped in after him and wrapped his arm around his neck, tightening it until the intruder wriggled as he tried to breathe. Shutting out all emotion, Jason held his arm tight around the protesting man’s neck as his lungs hunted for air. And then the body fell limp and Jason released his grip, his face hard and emotionless. Stepping out of the cubicle, he was determined to eliminate the others who had intruded into what was now his home. He walked through the first door and then peered around the second door and down the hallway to where the fat man was standing, blocking the entrance, as if waiting for someone to come running.