Ya'll Can Go To Hell, I'm going to Texas
Sanford was sitting in the cafe drinking coffee and reading the internet classified ads on his telephone.. It was a pretty day. The coffee was black as sin and hot as hell, he had a good WiFi signal, and there were a lot of scantily clad young women in the Cafe for his viewing pleasure.
Hell...he might even have a slice of Apple Pie. With Ice Cream. He'd have an excuse to stay longer.
Then he saw the ad. It was an innocent enough looking little thing, little did he know that it would change his life for ever.
WANTED: GOLD!!. You bring us gold. Be a modern day prospector. We provide all the equipment. You do all the work. We each keep half the profits. Call Rex Mason at (1-xxx-yyyy)
Huh...very odd. Imagine that....him, a prospector walking around in the desert with a donkey. Not likely. Sanford thought about some of the places he'd visited as a child with his Mother's Father. Gold...yeah probably, but he'd need a jeep....or a helicopter to even get there, much less bring any of it out.
Sanford banished the ad from his mind. He had more important things to consider. The the middle button on that buxom young waitress's blouse for example. How much longer could it stand the strain. He WOULD have that apple pie ala mode after all, he'd sit and watch for a little while. He'd need more coffee too, and a Thermos of coffee to go.
Sanford completed his run that day and pulled into the yard. He parked his truck and walked inside the office. He had a bum leg from the war and walked with a cane. When he opened the door to the office Sanford found the boss to be there also. Sanford was always the last one in on Friday's... This was bad.
"Hello Sanford" said the Boss, not making eye contact.
"Hi Boss, what's up?". ......real bad,.....the Boss was acting strange.
"I've go bad news" said the Boss....finally looking at Sanford" I have to let you go. Here's the money we owe you".
Sanford was shocked. This came right out of the blue. No warning at all.
"Sorry. I got a Pink Slip myself " his Boss said. "Early this morning. I hung around here till I could tell all you driver's the bad news in person. It ain't right to be notified by a note tacked to the door. I've had that happen to me. You're the last one in. The company has been bought. The new owners want everyone gone by tonight. You'll have to clean out your truck right now. I'm sorry but there's no more time. It's over".
Sanford had cleaned out his truck and sorted through his stuff. He'd had to discard a lot of stuff. He could only keep what would go in the saddlebags of his old motorcycle. He'd borrowed the company pickup for one last run and dropped off everything else that he couldn't use at the Salvation Army overnight drop.
After that he got on his old WWII Indian Motorcycle that he'd inherited from his dad. He snapped his cane into place across the handle bar. He drove to a diner. He needed to do some thinking. Hot coffee would help.
What was he going to do now he wondered as he tripod-ed into the diner and found a table? His thoughts kept returning to that stupid classified ad. It seemed to be stuck in his head. A meme they called it. He had a meme in his head. A Gold Meme. He could certainly use some gold. The waitress brought him a cup of coffee.
Sanford tried to ignore the ad but for some damn reason it just wouldn't go away. Nothing for it. It seems that he'd have to scratch this itch. Sanford stirred took a sip of the coffee. Too hot. He sat the full coffee cup on the table. He sat back made the call on his cell phone.
"Ex-centrifugal Engineering, Donna Speaking. How may I help you?"
"Uh...about that classified ad?"
"Yes...may I have your name please?"
"Begley..." Donna interrupted. ".yes Mr. Begley. One moment please.....processing...processing...done. YES! Mr. Begley. You are just who Rex and I want. Please come by the office and I can bring you up to speed on our new program. It seems to be just what you are looking for"
"I didn't know I was looking for anything"
"Uh.....I dunno. "
"I'll see you at 7 PM next wednesday. Here are the directions to our locale."
Donna rattled off directions to the E.E. office in Dallas. Sanford barely had time to activate the record function on his smartphone.
Please be prompt". she said and hung up.
"Seven PM? At night? What was..." but the line was dead.
Sanford was still sitting there thinking about the phone call when a number of, middle eastern 'youths' barged into the diner. They were obviously looking for trouble. One of young men saw Sanford sitting alone with a cup of coffee...staring into the distance.
The young thug swaggered up to Sanford's table and picked up his coffee. Sanford was a bit startled by this invasion of his personal space and leaned back a bit. The bully smirked at Sanford and drank the coffee. He drained the whole cup.
"Very weak Coffee Infidel" he sneered." just like you are."
Sanford just sat there for a minute as if stunned. Then he slapped the table and stood up. He leaned over and got in the Muslim Youth's face.
"Dammit Boy...if that ain't the perfect ending to a wonderful day". and Sanford began to rant...waving his hands...almost frothing at the mouth.
"The neighborhood Tom Cats got to fighting all night over female cats,....Right under my bedroom window. I didn't get much sleep last night."
"The alarm clock didn't go off this morning and I woke up late"
"I ripped my shirt getting dressed....."
" My motorcycle had a flat tire..."
"I got to work late..."
" My accountant called and told me I owed ten thousand dollars in back taxes.".
"My Ex called and told me SHE was behind on rent and she was moving in with ME."
"I had ANOTHER flat tire. This time on my truck"
"...and to top if off my company just got bought out by a bunch of you guys and I lost my JOB!".
Sanford glared at the Muslim who just smirked.
"I couldn't stand it any more!" Sanford was getting louder.
"I'm was DONE. Done do you hear?"
" So I just now filled that coffee cup with sleeping pills. Probably fifty of them, a whole bottle. I was letting them dissolve. I was going to kill myself" Sanford was almost shouting and the Muslim was starting to look worried.
"And you.... and YOU!!'....Sanford was almost screaming now…
" And you came along and drank it". Sanford spoke normally.
"You drank a whole bottle of sleeping pills!" Sanford said conversationally ...and grinned at the thoroughly alarmed Muslim. Sanford leaned closer.
"Buy my company will you!" Sanford spoke in a whisper so only the astonished Muslim could hear.
The Muslim was holding his throat. His eyes were bulging, his hands were shaking and he was looking very alarmed. His friends gathered around him. They pushed Sanford away from their friend. They looked at Sanford with a mixture of hate and pleading.
"Stomach pump,..Hospitals two miles that away" Sanford pointed..." turn right at the fire station...go up the hill. Hurry and you might still save him. Slap his face if he starts acting odd, DON'T let him go to sleep. Slap him HARD if he even closes his eyes. HURRY! Pick him up and carry him...HURRY NOW. Every minute counts!"
The terrorists wannabe's gathered round their loudly protesting friend. Some began slapping his face. Others grabbed his legs and shoulder...they picked him up off the floor. He was kicking and screaming from being repeatedly slapped as they carried him out the door. That is, they attempted to carry him out the door. They didn't fit very well. Somehow, in the confusion, his head got bumped repeatedly on the door frame. He was almost unconscious when the finally managed to exit the cafe. His friends slapped him some more. Some punched him. The door slammed as they left. The sound of tires squealing was heard as they sped out of the Cafe parking lot.
Sanford and the other patrons of the Cafe had watched in amazement. The amazement rapidly turned to amusement. The patrons of the Cafe were all laughing when the young, battered thug, was tossed into the back seat of a car.
"You all can go to Hell"
Sanford quoted to the departed carload of Muslim thugs. He turned back to his table and left a tip for the waitress. He waved to the other patrons as he exited the Cafe..
"I'm going to Texas"
Sanford proceeded to do that very thing. He paid his bill, walked out the door, got on his motorcycle, and drove off into the dark. He was headed to Texas.
Sanford swerved hard to the left just as he approached the overpass. He'd spent the night sleeping under a bridge and was still a bit groggy. Not too sleepy to fall for this trick though. He avoided getting hit by the concrete block that was dropped from the top of the overpass. It was an ambush. There were undoubtedly more than one attacker.
It was a pitiful ambush. They had expected him to be hit by the block. Missing had not been considered an option. They hadn't even thought of the possibility. By the time they scrambled into their 'chase car' Sanford was long gone.
Sanford had exceptional situational awareness. He'd developed that ability when he was in the military. His bum leg was the result of one time that he didn't pay attention enough. He'd learned. He'd honed the skill as a truck driver. He always looked to see what was on a bridge before he went under them. It was a good thing he had. The early morning sun had outlined people on the bridge. Sanford had seen them and dodged.
Fuck. It. Drive. On.
The Indian motorcycle he was riding was the only thing that Sanford had of his father's. The motorcycle was an old Indian 841 that his father had inherited from HIS father. Sanford knew precious little about either of his ancestors, or how this machine had come into his grandfather's possession. His grandfather had died long before Sanford was born and his father had died when he was young. Sanford's father had been a 'Tunnel Rat' of Viet Nam War fame, and had not returned from his last mission.
Sanford didn't think too much about any of that. He did think highly of his Motorcycle though. It was his baby even if it was twice his age or more. He kept it in top condition. They had better be in good shape, he and the bike, because riding from Ohio to Texas wasn't all that easy. Not now, as the encounter at the bridge had demonstrated. Highway robbery was more than just a term these days.
The best route was the remains of old Interstate seventy to what was left of Interstate forty-four. He would take forty-four to old U.S. Highway Sixty-Nine and then follow Sixty-nine the rest of the way into Texas. Once in Texas he was almost home free. E.E. had an office in Dallas.. He planned on following sixty nine to US Seventy five and then into Dallas. From there he had directions to E.E's location.
Some of that route was no longer passable after the MeltDown, in a few places it went through cities. Sanford wasn't going through a city if he could help it. Not in this day and age. Most especially he was NOT going through St. Louis. He'd go around. He'd take the loop, and only because there were no other bridges even remotely close over the river.
The advantage of a motorcycle was that it could go where many other vehicles could not. It could by pass many road closures. Sanford's motorcycle had originally been designed as a desert warfare bike for WWII. Sanford's grandfather and later his father had modified it to eliminate it's original gear box problems, they had beefed up it's suspension and had added a larger tank for extended range. The old bike would go a long ways on a tank of low grade gas, and it would go almost anywhere. Roads were not a requirement.
Even so...going from Ohio to Texas in a little over five days in this day and time, on a motorcycle, was going to be a challenge. For some reason Sanford never even considered missing the appointment the voice on the phone, that Donna lady, had set for him. So he took off. Shortly he was on interstate seventy heading west.
Other than the incident at the overpass Sanford had no significant trouble in Ohio, nor Indiana. Indiana had suffered less from the MeltDown than most eastern states because it's citizenry was well armed. Bandit gangs did NOT live long and prosper in Indiana. The citizens saw to that. The Feebs didn't do well there either. Indianapolis was even fairly safe, safe enough to top off his fuel tanks. Sanford even manged to get a bite to eat and grab a few hours of sleep.
Not so Illinois. Illinois had been a 'gun free zone" prior to the meltdown. Today it was a war zone. Sanford wasn't looking forward to crossing Illinois.
They tried to get sneaky before he even got to Champagne. Didn't people pay attention? Sanford guessed not. Someone had strung a wire about neck height across the highway, supposedly no one would notice it until too late. Sanford noticed. All he had to do to avoid that little trap was to lean forward over his fuel tank. He passed under the wire with a foot to spare. As usual the fools weren't expecting a miss and their chase car was too slow.
And so it went. Just one damn thing after another. At one point Sanford had to go off road and through a wheat field to avoid a road block. He could do that, and did. He could jump a ditch also. His pursuers could not. Driving nose first into a ditch at forty miles per hour probably killed someone. Sanford had no sympathy.
Sanford was NOT looking forward to St. Louis.
East St. Louis was where the trouble began in earnest. Hardly anyone traveled the roads in that area. It was definitely out of the ordinary when suddenly there was traffic. Naturally he traffic was closing in on him, shooting small arms. That was generally a bad sign. Sanford was a hard rabbit to catch and his pursuers were miserable shots. Sanford managed to avoid the automobiles , the truck and their occupants that were shooting at him and were trying to run him down. He also managed to avoid potholes in the highway. Even before the MeltDown East St. Louis had nasty roads. Since the MeltDown they had gotten worse.
Sanford dodged a pot hole full of water big enough for a duck to swim in but the pursuing truck did not. The trucks left front tire sank into the pothole so far that the truck's bumper hit the ground. That pothole was DEEP. Then the trucks wheel hit the far end of the pothole and came to an abrupt stop....the truck kept going. The back end of the truck over took the front. The truck tipped over and began to roll...at sixty or seventy miles per hour. Pieces of truck and pieces of people began to fly in various directions. The other vehicles that were chasing Sanford mostly avoided the rolling wreck. Mostly. Some joined in. Eventually they became just another smoking wreck on the highway. Their partners stopped and tried to help but there were very few survivors.
Sanford drove off.
And thus it went around the east side of St. Louis. Various petty crooks and wannabe highway robbers would reach out for Sanford and draw back a bloody nub. It was almost comical how stupid and inept they were. Sanford was almost laughing when he drove out onto the bridge crossing into Missouri.
He stopped laughing.
The Bridge was out. A big portion of the pavement it was just gone. There was a significant gap between Sanford and Missouri.
He looked behind him and saw movement in the far distance. Vultures were approaching. They thought that he was trapped. Sanford wasn't trapped. He could always jump into the river. Never EVER let them take you captive. They invariably have women and children. You know how well THAT will work out.
But not yet. A rolling parking lot, what most people call an auto transport, had almost nosed over into the gap. It had stopped just it time, the front wheels of the tractor were actually hanging in space. It's upper deck was empty also. No cars. It looked like just the thing. It would make a peachy launch ramp. Sanford lowered the car hauler's rear upper deck, like the driver would if he were going to load cars. The ramps lowered just fine with no power, going down. Sanford drug out the two three foot ground ramps and attached them to the lowered upper deck. He now had a jump ramp, ready to launch.
It was about time....bad guys were getting drawing near.
Sanford needed room to get up to speed in order to jump off the ramp. He drove toward his attackers. Their forerunner, another motorcycle, was a little bit too close. Sanford would have to do something about him. As he sped toward the approaching motorcycle Sanford unlimbered his cane which was clipped across his handle bars. It was, in fact, no ordinary cane. Sanford had built it himself.
He flicked a release and a foot of razor sharp steel extended from the bottom of the cane. Sanford now had chopper . He kept his weapon low as he approached the oncoming motorcycle, concealed from view. He steered right at the oncoming biker. It was a game of chicken.
The other biker chickened out barely in time and swerved to one side...only to meet Sanford's slashing blade. The now headless biker drove a bit further and crashed. The severed head sailed through the air for a ways , hit the ground, bounced a few times...and rolled into the ditch.
Sanford clipped his cane back to his handle bars, did a screaming U-turn and accelerated madly toward the prepared auto-carrier. His enemies were fast approaching and they were shooting as they came. Spray and pray on full auto. Just wasting ammo.
Sanford hit the ramp like a bat out of Sunday school....his opponents were right behind him but were too busy shooting and missing , that they didn't see the gap in the bridge and couldn't stop in time. They , and Sanford sailed off the end of the bridge. Sanford, however , was, however a great deal higher in the air than they were due to his take off ramp.
They all flew across the gap. Only Sanford was high enough to land on the pavement on the opposite side. All the other vehicles, ....didn't.
Perhaps a dozen vehicles, everything from more motorcycles to various cars and light trucks......splashed. Far , far below the bridge they splashed into the river. Hitting the water at that speed from that height would be the same impact as ramming into a sidewalk. There were, again, no survivors.
Sanford barely had the fuel to make it into the old truck-stop at Cuba Missouri. He drifted in on fumes. Amazingly enough the old place was still open for business..and it had a motel. He fueled, fed , rented a room and went to sleep, with his motorcycle in his motel room..and his chopper unsheathed and at the ready.
He slept pretty good that night. Fighting his way across Illinois had been tiresome. He slept till he woke up. S and S, opened the door and pushed his bike outside. They attacked before he even mounted.
It was tiresome. Sanford wasn't in the mood. Had he not spent the last two day fighting similar trash he'd have probably let them live. Not now.
He spun off the bike , stomped, kicked and backfisted a few of his attackers. He forearmed, spear fingered, elbowed and head butted a few more. He took out a knee cap or two with his cane and a number of windpipes. He didn't even bother to the blade...these guys weren't good enough to bother getting it dirty. Cleaning a bloody blade was a chore.
One of the things he'd done earlier in life while in the military was take a instruction here and there in martial arts. While in Thailand he'd taken Shoto-kan Karate. While in Korea he'd taken Tae-Kwon-Do Karate. Oddly enough he'd learned Moto-boru, the Okinawan variation of Karate, while in Greece. He had brown belts in all three. The poor young thugs never had a chance. It had been a good morning's work out and now Sanford felt ready to take on the day.
And he did. Nothing much happened ...until he got to Joplin and met the cat.