Mike Frost was pushing the roller cart down the hallway toward the evidence room. It was unusual for him to still be in the office. This time of day he was usually patrolling in his cruiser.
Mike’s forearms were covered with crude tattoos that he got while stationed at forward operating bases while in Shitholeistan. He did two tours and most of the time was out in the weeds. Weeks and weeks of boredom punctuated by seconds, minutes and hours of terror.
Mike's third hitch was spent recruiting cannon fodder so corrupt political parties could fertilize dusty cobbles in far away lands with American blood and get re-elected. Cynical? Mike was beyond cynical.
Most of the tats on his left arm he had done himself simply to fill the hours.
The roller cart was the kind commonly used by custodians. It had two levels and was made of leak-proof, reinforced plastic. Both levels were, essentially, shallow tubs.
The bottom level carried neatly folded uniforms. The top level was empty.
Mike unlocked to door to the evidence room. As an assistant armorer he had been entrusted with a key.
Moving over to a locker he unlocked the drawer and pulled it open. Inside the drawer were a half dozen, near pristine SKS carbines that had been confiscated on a raid. Unfortunately, the owner of the carbines had gotten word of the raid and departed.
As per protocol, Mike had created video evidence of his crushing the barrel in the hydraulic ram and drilling holes in the receiver to decommission each weapon. Mike pulled the short pieces of concrete rebar that were stuck in the ends of the receivers. He had taken the barrels home before crushing the rebar for the video.
He cradled the rest of the carbine in his hands to make sure no loose pieces were lost. He had carefully center-punched each rivet in the receiver and lined up the drill press before videoing the “destruction” of the receiver. Re-riveting or even running a bolt through the holes would be sufficient to return the weapon to full functionality.
After moving the six partially disassembled weapons to the top tray, Mike was arranging the uniforms on the top when Bud Ommen barged into the evidence room. It took Bud a fraction of a second to take in what Mike was doing.
Mike had been Bud’s training officer and Mike had a low opinion of Bud. Mike found Bud to be thoroughly brainwashed and almost incapable of critical thought.
It was only because of that relationship that Bud did not pull the alarm. “Mike! What in the hell are you doing?”
“I am taking the gap.” Mike said, levelly. “Cali is done.”
“Bullshit.” Bud said. “It is just a rough patch. It will sort itself out.”
Mike stared at him. “Really?”
“What was the first thing I ever told you. What I told you before we got in the cruiser and hit the streets for the first time?” Mike asked.
“You said, ‘Everybody lies.’” Bud replied.
“Why do you remember that?” Mike said.
“Because you said that every time we got into the cruiser. Start of shift, after lunch...every time.” Bud said.
“What evidence do you have that this is going to sort itself out?” Mike asked.
“’Cause the captain said so. And because that is what DeChanauc said on TV.” Bud said.
“That is what the captain said. That is what DeChanauc said. What EVIDENCE do you have that this is going to sort itself out. EVERYbody lies.” Mike said. “Have you looked at your retirement account today? I looked at mine. The balance is zero-point-zero. Have you looked in the stores? Every shelf is empty.”
“The way I see it, I am just re-filling my retirement account.” Mike said as he arranged the uniforms over the SKSs. Then he had to fiddle with the uniforms on the bottom shelf to hide the ammo spam-cans he had pulled from the station's stores.
“The way I see it, you have three choices.” Mike said.
“You can blow the whistle.” Mike said.
“Or you can look the other way and let me get on with my business.”
“Or you can take these keys and empty locker 37-k.”
“What is in 37-k?” Bud asked in spite of himself.
“A couple of .22LR semi-autos and a brick of lead-based ammo.” Mike said. “Your service piece only holds seventeen rounds. You are going to need a long gun and lots of ammo.”
Bud took the keys and opened the drawer. He told himself it was only to look. But then he pulled out the pieces and knew that he couldn’t leave them. Mike had crushed the last two inches of the barrels and they could be returned-to-service in five minutes with a hacksaw.
“You can come with me. We can always use another shooter.” Mike offered.
Bud shook his head. “Naw, I figure I will hunker down with my girlfriend.”
Mike was secretly relieved. If everybody who had been invited showed up it was going to be incredibly crowded in the bug-out shelter.
Mike rolled the cart out to the parking lot and loaded the loot into the trunk of the cruiser. He left his smartphone in the cart in the parking lot as he pulled out.
He took back-roads until he was twenty miles outside of Sacramento. He stopped the cruiser beside where a footpath crossed the road. He removed the loot from the boot, including the weapons' original barrels, and placed them in the culvert that ran beneath the footpath. He had to trust that the pick-up team was in place and would collect the loot.
Mike had seen what a warlord-based government was like when he was in Shitholeistan and he knew that it was better to have teeth than to be helpless. The SKSs and ammo were his ticket in.
Then he drove a half hour to the west before abandoning the cruiser with the keys in the ignition. He lamented that every three minutes of drive time was an hour's worth of walking, but that was just the price of security.
Mike walked a quarter mile into the puckerbrush before removing his uniform and changing into a khaki shirt, carpenter's blue jeans and a cowboy had. He left his ballistic vest on and the long shirt covered his service weapon and spare magazines. Mike stuffed his shirt down the kind of hole rattlesnakes like to use for dens. He packed the trousers into his daypack and started hiking.
A half hour after Mike left the loot a man and a boy, each leading two pack horses came down the footpath. They quickly collected the cargo and stashed it into the pack animal’s panniers and turned back to the north-west.