Pharaoh had a dream. He was standing by the Nile, when up out of the Nile came seven cows, fine-looking and fat; they grazed in the reed grass. Behind them seven other cows, skinny and gaunt, came up out of the Nile; and standing on the bank of the Nile beside the others, the poor-looking, gaunt cows devoured the seven fine-looking, fat cows. -Genesis Chapter 41
Betsy was able to get the Lexus to the side of the road before the motor stopped sputtering. She knew that it would have been almost impossible for her to muscle over without power steering.
She knew why it had stopped running. The nanny, Bitching Betty, warned her every minute of the low fuel status.
Betsy was not entirely sure where she was. The top-of-the-line SUV had a cloud based GPS system. She had the GPS coordinates but the map was rudimentary as the internet had been shaky ever since crossing into Ohio four hours earlier.
The kids, Henry age 9 and Cammi 6 had awakened as the Lexus slowed and the brush scrubbed the side of the vehicle. “Are we there yet?” Henry asked.
“Not yet.” Betsy said. She felt like crying but that would have to come later.
“What are we going to do?” Cammi asked.
“I am going to call Gramma or Grampa and get help.” Betsy said.
There was no signal for calls but by standing on a pile of gravel thirty yards east of the road she was able to get one bar for data. She sent Kate and Rick a text. “Car problems. Need help.” and she included a snapshot of the GPS coordinates displayed on the vehicles instrument cluster. 42.158112, -84.730938
She walked back to the vehicle and told the kids she needed to wait on the gravel pile for the return message. She told Cammi to get out of her car seat and to sit next to Henry. Then she took the blanket out of the back and tucked it around them. The part of New England she grew up in always had a ‘got stuck’ kit in back and the habit stayed with her.
Betsy got a return text in ten minutes. “What is the problem? Do you need a tow or is it fixable?”
Betsy texted back. “Ran out of gas.”
Back in Eaton Rapids, Rick was perplexed. For one thing, he was a little bit surprised that Betsy was texting him, not Mark. The other thing that baffled him was Mark running out of gas. That was out-of-character. Still, things are what they are.
Rick texted back, “Sit tight. Working on getting help to you.”
Then, as an afterthought he added “What is the security situation?”
Betsy replied “Grim. Mark MIA.” Betsy was not one to waste words.
That lit a fire under Rick.
He was frantic when he called Kelly on the CB. Kelly calmed him down and said he would be right over.
The plan was a quickly thrown together.
Two trucks, one with a tow-bar. Luke in the bed of the lead truck looking forward. Janelle in the trailing truck keeping an eye aft ward. Since both were right handed, that meant Luke was optimally positioned to suppress threats to the left while Janelle would be best positioned to suppress threats to the right of the direction-of-travel.
They took five gallons of gas, gas which was getting very hard to come by.
It took sixty minutes to cover the thirty miles. Betsy was shivering. They poured in the five gallons of gas and the Lexus started.
The convoy returned to Eaton Rapids with the Lexus sandwiched between the two escort vehicles.
Betsy chivied her children into the safety of their grandparent’s home.
Seeing Kate, Betsy dissolved into tears.
Mark had wrestled in high-school and the Coast Guard trained him in the manly art of subduing unruly smugglers or drunks. But there is little he could do with three men hitting him with baseball bats and kicking him. The best he could do was to try and roll with the hits.
Even that proved futile when the fourth man joined the attack. A kick to the head left him stunned.
After beating him senseless, the men took his Glock, wallet, cell phone and watch. Then the leader directed one of the men to shoot Mark.
“But don’t kill him. None of us want to drag his sorry ass out of sight.” the leader said.
Mark was shot with his own handgun.
The man gut-shot Mark. Or so he thought. Mark was lean and fit, his coat was a high-end goose down parka and very fluffy.
The 115 grain hollow point skived a ¾ inch deep groove just below his bottom rib.
Mark grunted. Hunched over, he lurched away from the shooter, around the berm and out of sight.
Nobody followed him. They went back into hiding, waiting for the next vehicle to come into the gas station.
After a hundred yards, Mark’s breaths were coming in gasps. He leaned against a wall and blinked to get the tears out of his eyes. He had trouble focusing. Later, he would determine it was due to a concussion.
He knew he was in a world of hurt. He knew, rather he hoped, Betsy would not come back. She needed to get to Eaton Rapids. He would deal with the hand he was dealt.
He straightened up. He tried to look tough. He walked another hundred yards. Damn! His side hurt. It was hard to breath.
Looking around, he saw he was in an area with many strip-mall type buildings. Seeing one that appeared to be a looted convenience store, and thinking “Why didn’t I see this before we pulled into the gas station?” he stepped through the broken display window and looked for something to bandage himself with.
They say duct tape can fix anything. Mark used some bottled Diet RC cola to repeatedly wash out the gouge in his side. The acidic drink hurt but everything else had been pillaged, even the water. At least the diet pop was sterile. Then Mark put a pad made of coffee filters over the wound and bound it with duct tape.
Mark also repaired the holes in his parka with duct tape. Redneck chic.
Mark’s head exploded in pain as he stepped outside, into the light. Eaton Rapids was forty miles west and sixty miles north of where he stood.
He started walking.
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