Authors: Darrell Maloney
By Darrell Maloney
This is a work of fiction. All persons depicted in this book are fictional characters. Any resemblance to any real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Copyright 2015 by Darrell Maloney
This book is dedicated to:
Roxanna Holliman Jared
MSgt Billy Gene Holliman (USMC)
Without the loyalty of his readers, a struggling writer is merely struggling.
For the latest information about this book and the author’s other works, please visit
he story thus far…
Dave and Sarah Anna Speer had been preppers for years. Many of their friends ridiculed them. Sarah’s own mother called them foolish for wasting their time and resources when they should have been putting money aside for her grandchildren’s’ college fund.
Dave and Sarah countered, “A college fund won’t do them much good if they don’t survive to college age.”
They felt something was coming. They didn’t know what, exactly. And they didn’t know when. But they figured it wouldn’t hurt to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Their kids could always work their way through college as they had.
Besides, working one’s way through college built character.
For several years Dave worked a part time job and applied each of his paychecks toward their prepping project. He and Sarah were able to stockpile an impressive amount of dried foods, bottled water, ammunition and fuel to help them survive a catastrophe of any magnitude.
And they taught themselves and their daughters survival skills as well. Their daughters, Lindsey and Beth, could not only fire a handgun and an AR-15 rifle, they could disassemble and clean them as well. Dave still had to help little Beth get the hand grips on and off, but it wasn’t that she wasn’t willing. It was that her hands were too small.
And Dave didn’t mind. He was proud of them. And of Sarah, who learned skills of her own. How to hunt and trap small game. How to can not only fruits and vegetables from her garden, but excess meats as well.
As they became more and more proficient at prepping, they became convinced that the most likely threat facing the earth would be massive solar storms which would bombard the planet with electromagnetic pulses, or EMPs. The EMPs would short out virtually anything that ran on electric or battery power. And the earth would essentially be thrown back into the Stone Age.
Or at least the mid-1800s.
But it would seem like the Stone Age for a world whose citizens had forgotten the lost arts of hunting and gathering, and relied solely on supermarkets to supply their food.
The one thing the Speers had no control over was the timing of the event. If they had known it was coming, Sarah would never have taken her daughters to a wedding in Kansas City.
For it was that fateful day, while Sarah and the girls were in a United Airlines 747, that the earth went black.
The power went out at almost the precise minute they were scheduled to land. And Dave, still in San Antonio, was left to wonder whether the big airliner crashed to the ground, or made it to earth and landed safely.
Dave struggled not only to survive, but also with his emotions. He went through a long bout of depression and considered giving up. Life without Sarah and his babies wasn’t worth living.
The only thing that kept him from committing suicide, as many millions of people around the world were doing, was the possibility that they’d made it and his family could be together again someday.
He somehow carried on day to day in a newly harsh world, watching the smoke from burning buildings cast a hideous pall over his once proud city. By night he counted the gunshots he heard, not knowing whether they were suicides or marauders sweeping through nearby neighborhoods, plundering and killing as they went.
By mid-summer he’d decided he couldn’t take it anymore. The not knowing was driving him insane. He kept a diary of his personal thoughts, intending to leave it behind if he didn’t survive and his family somehow made it back to find him gone. It helped him cope, but it wasn’t enough.
When he finally decided to travel to Kansas City it was mid-summer. Too late. He’d protected enough parts from the EMPs to get his Ford Explorer running again, but not to fix it if it broke down along the way.
A more realistic scenario was that a band of outlaws would take it away from him. For a running vehicle was worth more than its weight in gold.
If Dave lost his wheels he’d be afoot on a thousand mile journey. And if he left now he’d still be out there, far from home, in the dead of winter.
He decided to wait it out and go in the spring. Waiting would be hard, but now he had a mission to prepare for.
And a reason to survive.
What followed was the harshest winter on record. Dave survived by isolating himself in a tiny safe room, sleeping by day, and staying up all night. Nighttime was the only time he could safely burn a fire, for he lived in a house that appeared to be vacant.
And vacant houses don’t have smoke coming from their chimneys.
Over the brutal winter Dave befriended a Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy and his wife. Frank and Eva had a working ham radio and put him in contact with another operator in the Kansas City area. And Dave received some disheartening news.
“There was a massive prison break from Leavenworth Penitentiary,” Frank’s friend told Dave. “Hundreds of prisoners got away, and most of the guards were already gone to be with their families. There was no one left to round up the convicts, and most of them are still in the area, raising havoc among the residents.”
“But Leavenworth is a military prison. Surely most of their inmates were merely deserters and drug users.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Dave. Leavenworth held the same dredges of society, the same violent men that all prisons hold. The military has murderers and rapists just like the rest of society.”
Sarah’s sister’s farm was just a few miles from Leavenworth prison. Could his family have survived a plane crash, just to be murdered by escaped inmates?
The thought didn’t do much to ease Dave’s state of mind.
Finally, the spring thaw came, and Dave set out on his long journey.
Along the way he made the dreadful mistake of wandering into the wrong town in search of a spare car battery.
Blanco was a corrupt town ruled by a vicious man. John Savage seemed to take it personally that Dave dared steal a battery from an abandoned chain auto parts store. And Dave was beaten almost to death by Savage’s henchmen.
He was saved by a woman. A woman with flowing red hair named, appropriately, “Red.”
Red was an enigma. She was beautiful but distant. She was the kind of woman all men desired, but who would be had by no one.
She was as tough as any man. “Texas tough,” her father once called it. And she had no time for romance.
Red was on her own mission. She wanted to find the man who killed her husband and young son. And then who went a step farther and killed her father.
She knew who he was. Had a good description of him. She even knew where he went. To a city called Lubbock at the base of the Texas panhandle, some two hundred miles away.
What Red didn’t have was answers. Not all of them, anyway. She suspected that Jesse Luna was responsible for the killings, but she had no proof. And there seemingly was no motive. Luna, if she could find him, was the only one who could provide her answers.
Since they were headed in the same direction, Red and Dave teamed up for a time. Red nursed her new friend back to health and protected him from further harm. As payment, Dave decided to deviate from his quest and to help her find the man she hated enough to kill. “Two guns are better than one,” he pointed out. “And you saved my life. I can’t let you go in there alone.”
But Red was something else besides beautiful and tough. She was as stubborn as an old mule and independent to a fault. She abandoned Dave and left behind a warning: “Don’t try to follow me. You’ll never find me. Go find your wife and daughters, and perhaps we’ll meet again someday.”
Dave pressed on to Kansas City and found Sarah being held at gunpoint on her sister’s farm north and west of the city. The farm had been overrun by convicts.
And now Dave, a former Marine and loving husband and father, was their only hope.
Dave was in the forest, two hundred yards away from a house he recognized. It was a house he’d been a guest in, when he’d flown to Kansas City three years before to go fishing with his brother in law.
He remembered it being comfortable and cozy. He remembered remarking to Karen and Tommy that seeing the way his in-laws lived made him wonder.
Whether he and Sarah should sell their home in the suburbs of San Antonio and buy their own farm, away from the city and all the perils that came with it.
He’d put the discussion on the back burner when Lindsey loudly protested.
“Na-uh, don’t even go there, Dad. There’s no way you’re taking me out of my school and moving right after I finally got myself a decent boyfriend. And besides, I wasn’t cut out to be a farm girl. I hate mosquitoes and I hate hard work. And I hate getting dirty. I’ve never had any desire to rope a cow or milk a bull and I only learned how to ride a horse because you made me.”
Dave was drinking a cup of coffee and blew some out of his nose when Lindsey said “milk a bull.” It reminded him of an old joke about how to keep livestock happy, but he let it pass. It was an “R” rated joke and his audience was a “G” rated crowd. And besides, little Beth had decided it was her turn to speak.
“I wouldn’t mind living on a farm, Daddy. I could take care of the pigs and gather the eggs every morning and work in the garden. Can I drive the tractor too?”
Lindsey had looked at her little sister, shooting daggers with her eyes, and said, “Suck-up.”
Beth responded by saying, “Besides, Joey’s not a real boyfriend anyway. He doesn’t even have a car, and all you do is sit on your bed all night long kissing into the telephone and telling him how much you love him. It’s so sweet it’s sickening.”
Lindsey chased her out of Karen’s kitchen and into the expansive yard in front of the house, squealing every step of the way.
Dave asked Sarah, “Should we go after them, to make sure they don’t murderize each other?”
“No. If they do, we’ll have fewer mouths to feed. And besides, they’ll end up seeing something out there… a firefly, a bullfrog, a praying mantis… something that will intrigue them and fascinate them and make them forget all about their argument.”
Dave walked to the screen door and looked out of it, and saw that what Sarah said was true. The girls were on hands and knees beneath the clothesline, studying something in the grass.
It was the same clothesline he’d seen Sarah standing beneath a couple of hours before, hanging laundry while a strange man held a gun on her a few yards away.
Dave resisted his first urge, which was to charge the man, take the rifle away from him, and shove it down his throat.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to. But he was a realist. He had a lot of ground to cover, and he was unarmed. He’d be shot before he made it even halfway there. And even worse, Sarah was right between them. She might get shot too.