Earlier that morning, the day Tookes went to the propane depot, Leon Scott watched Bookbinder stride purposely down the hill. The chill in the fall morning air made his breath visible as he walked. He’d spent the last hour in an early morning strategy meeting with The Four. He looked calm and in control.
“Listen up. Colonel Bookbinder is here. Attention!” Shouted Scott.
Nineteen men came running out of various places around the barn. They lined up in two straight rows and stood at attention on the gravel parking lot they used as the parade ground. Scott stood off to the side, facing the men.
“Colonel Bookbinder, Sir. Fire teams M1, M2, M3, and M5 present,” Scott reported. “M4 is out running a perimeter check, due back in 20 minutes,” said Bookbinder’s newly promoted Lieutenant.
“Command has need for medical supplies, communications equipment, and fuel for cooking,” said Bookbinder.
“M2, you’re on homeland patrol, so you’re sitting this out. M1, we’re going to the police station to secure assets necessary to the mission. M3, your mission is to take the CVS off route 29 in downtown Culpeper. This is a hostile environment,” said Bookbinder pausing while he looked at the men assembled in front of him.
“Understood, Sir,” Said Scott.
Bookbinder nodded, “The number of infected is expected to number in the tens of thousands in Culpeper, and you’re heading right to the edge of a residential area. Your orders are to breach the CVS, acquire medical equipment and supplies, over the counter and prescription drugs. You are not to fire unless contact is overwhelming. Men, this is a silent mission. Get in and get out, no noise, no attention. Grab the assets and go. You leave in 5 minutes. Do you understand?”
“Sir, yes sir!” shouted M3’s team members.
“M3, take the two explorers, grab your gear and go. Dismissed!”
“M5, your orders are as follows. Breach and clear the plastic surgery center on the corner of 1st and Market St. Obtain medical equipment, including diagnostic imaging equipment that can be transported, sutures, IV bags and kits, and any drugs you can find. We’re setting up a clinic here, so make it complete boys,” said Bookbinder.
“Sir, yes Sir,” chorused the men of M5
Bookbinder continued, “Mission parameters are the same as M3, no gunfire unless absolutely necessary. You’re one block off the center of downtown Culpeper, the highest population density area for fifty miles. Do not draw attention to yourselves. Breach gently, make sure you can lock the place up securely when you leave. We may need that clinic in the future, and we may need it fast, I don’t want to have to re-clear the building if we have a wounded man bleeding out. Once you secure the premises, remove any corpses, and haul them away from the building. We don’t want it to look like anyone’s been there. M5, do you understand your mission?”
“Sir, yes sir!” the members of M5 replied in unison.
“Good. Take the Ford Dually and the white F250. You know Tookes loves that white pickup, don’t wreck it. M5, you leave in five minutes, dismissed!”
“M2, ready yourselves for homeland patrol. You leave when M4 gets back. Dismissed!”
When everyone was gone except Bookbinder’s own team, he continued with the orders.
“M1. Our mission is two-fold. Command has directed us to recon the state police headquarters. They’ve also tasked us with keeping an eye out and being ready to back up any of the other teams as required. Our mission at the headquarters is to acquire police assets, vests, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, and vehicles.”
“Men, The Four are heading to the propane depot. Their mission is to secure cooking fuel for Mrs. Tookes. They’ve got the most open area, and they’re a little cocky. We’ll need to back them up if they get in over their heads.”
“We leave in five minutes also. Get to it men, dismissed.”
Charlie headed quickly down to his room in the grooms cottage to gather his stuff. He’d taken the small one room cottage for himself. He let anyone to use his bathroom at almost any time, his door was never locked. Inside the small, cozy cottage he knelt down at his foot locker, unlocked it, and retrieved his weapons. He almost never openly wore even a side arm on the property, both as a show of respect for the children in the area, and to show that he was confident in their safety. He did carry a small frame 9mm handgun concealed in the rear waistband of his pants; he’d been carrying that weapon for 15 years, and just didn’t feel right without it.
He strapped on his desert camo combat vest, and slid in the armor plates. The chest strap for his HK g3 attached to D-rings on his vest. The H&K was .308 caliber carbine. It was almost as powerful as the rifle Tookes called Sammie, and just as accurate at ranges out to a hundred yards. It had a collapsible stock which allowed it to be more effective indoors and an ACOG scope for faster target acquisition. Bookbinder carried six 20 round magazines in his combat vest plus one in the rifle, Charlie alone could handle a small horde of infected.
He walked out of his cottage ready to do violence. His men were there waiting for him, already sitting in the explorer. Charlie knew they’d be bringing additional vehicles home, so they were riding packed tightly for the fifteen miles up through town.
They arrived at the police station in no time, the place looked deserted. The building itself was steel, Dalton Reineer exited the front passenger side of the vehicle and advanced on the 8 foot chain link and barbed wire fence. He pulled a large pair of collapsible bolt cutters from his pack and unfolded the handles out to their full twenty-four inches. These cutters were military issue, and easily cut through the padlock that was holding the fence closed.
Reineer removed the chain, looped it through one side of the fence and opened the gate, motioning Hostetler to drive through. On the way to the police station, they’d discussed entry points, it seemed most logical to breach through the back door near the giant roll up doors. There were a dozen police cars parked inside the chain link fence; two of them were explorers with full bull bars and inside prisoner cages.
The team approached the rear door in a formation that they’d practiced in the yard on Charlie’s cabin door a hundred times. Hostetler, Reineer, and Garrett on the handle side, Johnson on the hinge side. Charlie stepped forward with a large Halligan style pry-bar. He drove the forked end into the crack between the latch and the frame, and pried out and right, sending the door flying open to the left.
Johnson caught the door, giving Charlie room to step to the side between Hostetler and Reineer to recover from the prying outside the line of fire from the room. Hostetler and Reineer stepped forward as Charlie was stepping between them in a well choreographed dance. Charlie holstered the Halligan and shouldered his rifle. The two underlings cleared the entry way. They started way back from the door, taking small sections of the room. They stepped up, each step towards the doorway giving them a larger view into the room. They knelt on either side of the door, as Charlie stepped through to clear the blind corner just inside the door.
“Well done boys, that was textbook. Keep your wits about you. Garrett, tell me what you sense.”
“Nothing has been in this room in a long time. No tracks in the dust. I don’t hear anything walking around, Sir,” said Garrett.
“And what else Johnson?” Bookbinder quizzed the men. He never missed an opportunity to drive home their training.
“I don’t see anything moving through the windows. I think we’re good.”
“Dammit Johnson, use your nose.”
“I can’t smell anything. My nose is stuffy,” replied Johnson.
“You should quit smoking, it kills your senses. Would you smoke if it clouded your vision?” He asked again.
“Yes, Sir.” Said Johnson, “I mean no Sir—I mean, I should quit, Sir. I would not smoke if it clouded my vision, Sir.”
“Alright,” Bookbinder said. “I smell rotten meat. I smell stupid zombies in here. They’re not in this room, if they were that smell would have assaulted our noses, but they’re in here somewhere.”
Once the lesson was over they moved as a unit through the building clearing room by room. After the first room when it became clear that the building wasn’t full of infected, Charlie let his rifle hang and once again drew the halligan.
They’d come in via the police entrance, not the front door of the building. Charlie opened the door to the hallway and took a long smell. The stench of months old flesh was stronger in the hallway. Five steps down the hallway there were doors on the right and left. Charlie held up two fingers, and then pointed to Reineer and himself. He pointed to Dalton, Hostetler, and Johnson and pointed at the door across the hallway.
The team split into two groups and on Charlie’s mark each quietly turned the knob and opened their door. Charlie stepped into the gloomy room to see a corpse in a police uniform turn its head towards him. It was wearing glasses and still had its patrolman’s hat on. Its eyes locked on to him. They were milky and white but the hunger stood out in them. The creature walked forward into its desk and fell face-first onto a pile of folders. With the zombie bent over the desk like that, Charlie quickly closed the distance and lodged his halligan into its brain.
Reineer pulled an old office chair away and sent it rolling over towards a giant metal book case that ran the length of the side wall. The mostly empty shelves were painted the same beige color as everything else in the building. A few trophies, a couple awards and a family picture were the only things on the first half; Charlie noted a small selection of paperbacks filling about half of a single shelf towards the end of the room.
The two of them laid the patrolman down on the blue carpet-tiled floor and went to work. Reineer removed the utility belt from the officer, putting a Kimber 1911 frame .45 caliber pistol and four magazines into his backpack. Next he removed a pair of handcuffs from the rear pouch, and slid a Maglite and collapsible baton off the belt, still in their holsters. The flashlight, and baton and hand gun holster went into his pack.
Charlie poked its stomach with his finger.
“Cheap body armor. This is the everyday wear stuff; it’ll stop a three-eighty, but won’t do anything for seven-six-two. Plus, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get the smell out.” Go check on the others, I’ll poke around here and see if there’s anything useful.
When Reineer was gone, Bookbinder set to work checking the man’s pockets. He found a set of keys in the front pocket. The keychain said “World’s Greatest Dad”, and it held a house key and two car keys, one for a Toyota and one for a Chevrolet. Two keys were for Master Lock padlocks, and the last key was to his handcuffs.
Charlie rolled the corpse over, removed the officer’s drivers license from his wallet, inserting it into his back pocket without even glancing at it.
Bookbinder stood up and walked into the hall. The rest of the team was there, ready to move on. “Be sure to take their keys, and get their driver’s licenses. LEO’s often have sizable gun collections at home,” he said, using the common military slang for law enforcement officers.
There were three other doors in the hall, two other doors on the right led to empty restrooms. The third door at the end of the hall had long, narrow vertical glass windows, embedded with chicken wire.
“That door up there will lead to the common area. We’re likely to see greater numbers of infected up there. Stay sharp, stay focused. Hand to hand wherever possible. Move forward on my signal.”
Bookbinder moved swiftly and silently, pressed against the wall until he was at the door. He peered through the window, exposing as little of himself as possible to anything that may be on the other side.
The room on the other side of the doors was the main lobby of the state police barracks. It took Bookbinder almost a full minute to count the walkers in there. They were all in a pack in the center of the room, facing inward. Men and women, inThe pack was, as a whole, swaying gently side to side. Each zombie had their arms spread, resting on the shoulder of the corpse beside them, their heads down, tucked into the smallest space possible. Charlie waved to his man to stay back, and then crept back to them, pulling them backwards to the first room.
“Alright, I counted fifty-two in the lobby. They’re huddled together in a tight group, standing in the middle of the room. There are two seating areas under the big windows in the front, but other than that, the room is mostly empty. I couldn’t see anything to the left, but I think that’s where the receptionist would be, probably behind some bullet proof glass.”
The four men with Charlie looked afraid. This was a major operation, bigger than anything they had experienced yet.
“We won’t let you down, Sir,” said Dalton quietly.
“Son, I’m not the least bit worried about that. We all keep our heads and remember our training; we’re going to walk out of this place feeling unstoppable. Here’s the plan.”
Charlie laid out the plan to the group. When everyone understood, the five of them cleared the rest of the building, leaving the huddle until the end. They moved as a unit, encountering only two undead, both of them dispatched via halligan soundlessly. When they got to the last room of the second hallway, Bookbinder pulled the men together.
“Alright, silence from here out.” Charlie whispered. “This is the room where the receptionists sat. The end of this room has thick bullet proof glass, with a hole cut out for speaking through. The three of you stay here. Creep up on that glass, on your bellies if you have to, do not let them see you.”
Garrett, Hostetler, and Johnson nodded their understanding.
When you hear Reineer and I firing, open fire through the speaking ports in that huge window. When they’re all down, Reineer and I will step in and finish any with our halligans, you three stay in your position and give us some cover.
Reineer and Bookbinder backtracked down the empty hallways to the first set of double doors, creeping the last ten feet sliding along the wall. The doors opened into the big room by a breaker bar. Bookbinder held up three fingers and pantomimed kicking the breaker bar.
Reineer nodded his acknowledgement and both men put their earplugs in. Bookbinder started the countdown. One finger, two fingers, and on the third finger, both men kicked the doors open and opened fire. Bookbinder thumbed his weapon to single shot, and aimed each bullet through the ACOG scope. That scope was designed to be fired with both eyes open, allowing him to acquire targets much faster than with a regular scope.
Reineer opened up on full auto, cutting the zombies down. According to their training, the four men with Bookbinder were to lay down rotating heavy suppression fire. Zombies had no fear, but if you put enough bullets into their spine, they did lose the ability to stand upright. A slow dragger was easier to handle than a walker. That bought time for Bookbinder to pick them off one by one with headshots.
At the end of the firing, the room was filled with the smell of gun smoke, and the cluster of zombies was dead, shredded from the volume of bullets pumped into them. At the sound of the doors being kicked open, they wheeled around to be met a hail of bullets. Bookbinder only missed one shot, but silently chided himself for wasting that one bullet.
“Great work, men. You’ve earned your combat stripes today,” said Charlie. “Let’s meet back at the first room”
When the other three arrived in the first room, Bookbinder handed out the orders for the second part of the mission. “Garrett, Hostetler, make your way to the roof, and see how hard it will be to remove the radio tower, then report back. Reineer, you’re with me, we’re going looking for keys, guns, ammo, and vests.”
“What about me, sir?”
“Johnson, you’re on corpse duty. Glove up and search those bodies out there. Haul the corpses from in here out to the lobby.”
“Yes, Sir,” replied Johnson, somewhat less than enthusiastically.
“Yes Sir!” the other men said, as they all went their separate ways inside the building. Charlie knew that the door to the garage was in the next room over. He’d had to breach the door with the halligan the first time through; whichever officer had the keys decided not to leave them on a hook for him right by the door. This time the door swung easily open, and led them into the garage where the SWAT truck was parked.
“Reineer, find the keys to this van please. You might check with Johnson in a few minutes to see if he’s found them,” Bookbinder ordered.
Reineer started searching the garage for the keys while Bookbinder headed for the weapons locker on the far side of the room. Bookbinder’s halligan made quick work of the lock on the arms locker and he stepped into the walk-in closet sized police arsenal. Charlie’s eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning when he entered the locker. Along one of the walls were rows of rifles and shotguns. The other long wall was all handguns, with 30 Heckler-Koch g36K assault rifles standing in racks along the middle. The same gun that Bookbinder himself carried. These super short barrel folding stock assault rifles were perfect for close quarters combat. They were designed for short range accuracy, and substantial rate of fire. At the back was the ammunition locker, which was unlocked. Inside it held 8500 rounds of 5.52×49 ammunition for the assault rifles, various rounds for the shotguns and rifles, including nearly 2000 double-ought buck shot.
Bookbinder left the weapons cage and went to find a cart to load this on in the event that Reineer was unable to find the keys to the swat truck. On the way by the truck Bookbinder looked in the window, and saw the keys hanging in the ignition.
“Reineer!” Bookbinder yelled, a grin on his face.
Dalton Reineer came running in, “Yes sir?” he said, skidding to a halt.
“The keys are in the ignition. Don’t overlook the obvious,” Bookbinder said, clapping the man on the back.
“Sorry sir. I found keys to a bunch of vehicles outside too.”
“Nice work then. Help me load the armory into this thing. I want the central racks too, and every round of ammunition in the cage. Load and save four of the HK’s and four extra mags for each. I’m going to sweet the perimeter and check on Johnson on corpse duty.”
Bookbinder walked out of the garage, back through the lobby of the police station. The door leading outside was standing open. Bookbinder saw Johnson with his weapon drawn, crouched behind a car. The only reason he’d take cover would be if someone had a gun. That meant humans.
Bookbinder shouldered his H&K, and started edging out the door until he could see what Johnson was looking at. Frye and six of his men had pulled up in two Humvees and were mounting their .50 caliber on the turret.
“Frye,” Charlie called out in his best command voice. “We have you outgunned and out-manned! You have no cover, and we have superior weapons. Stand down.” This was not a suggestion, it was an order.
“Charlie? Is that you? Come outside and let’s talk.”
“Stand down Colonel. Weapons down. I will fire.”
“Ok Charlie. We’re at ease. Come on out.”
“Johnson! We clear?”
“Clear Sir. I have Frye.”
Charlie walked out, watching 1 eye through the ACOG scope, the other focusing on targets. If any of them moved, it would be their last move. Charlie walked in a near crouch, sideways to present the smallest target, keeping Frye in his sights.
“What are you thinking? We’re on the same side here,” said Bookbinder.
“We didn’t know who you were, we were just protecting ourselves,” he replied calmly.
“Johnson, did you discharge your weapon?”
“No sir, your orders were last resort only. When I saw Frye’s men watching us from the road across that field, I waved to them. At that, they mounted up and came at me weapons hot. Seeing as I was by myself out here, I thought it wise to find cover. That’s when you came out.”
“Frye, get in your truck. Turn around, and go back to your base. If you approach another of my men with weapons drawn, they have orders to fire.” Bookbinder ordered. “Johnson, did you hear that?”
“Sir, yes sir. Fire at will.” replied Johnson.
“Go now Frye. You may come by the farm tomorrow at noon if you’d like to discuss this incident with my command. Do not make the mistake of spying on us again.” Charlie backed away from the fence as Frye and his men got in their truck, backed out of the spot and took off.
“Garrett, Hostetler, stand down!” Bookbinder called without turning towards the building.
“Sir, yes sir.” Garrett and Hostetler stood up from their prone positions on the roof.
“What’s the situation up there boys?”
“Radio amplifier and broadcast antenna are disassembled, ready to be lowered down, sir.”
“Nice work fellas. Really top notch work here today,” replied Bookbinder.
“Johnson, did you see anything else out of the ordinary?”
“Sir, we had attracted a few zombies, 10 or 15 standing at the fence. No real worry, none were near the gate or making any move to go. About 10 minutes before I saw Frye, they turned their heads and started walking off that way.”
“That’s the propane depot,” replied Bookbinder.
“Men! Double time!” yelled Bookbinder, running inside to grab the swat truck. Frye showing up, zombies heading towards Tookes and crew. His soldiers sense told him something was wrong. A few seconds after that, he heard Tookes’ voice in his head say “There are 200 more coming, and maybe more behind that. I suggest we go to weapons and end this.”
Bookbinder broke into a run, heading for the swat truck. When he got there, Johnson right on his heels, Dalton Reineer was just finishing loading all of the weapons, ammo, and racks into the truck. Bookbinder hit the garage door opener, hopped in and started the engine. He backed it three quarters of the way out of the garage bay and put the truck in park. He climbed up the ladder on the back of the truck as Garrett handed him the first piece of the antenna assembly. Bookbinder then it handed down to Johnson on the ground. They handed the six pieces of the assembly off the roof, then Hostetler and Garrett jumped down onto the roof of the truck. Reineer backed out of the shop with them on the roof, when they passed the Explorer they came in, he stopped the truck so they could jump off the roof.
They parked about a hundred yards from the propane depot. While they were jogging towards the gate, they heard a big truck engine roar to life. They passed a huge group of zombies, maybe 1000 or more coming from way off in a field below the depot. They crossed the last few yards to the propane depot and saw the four of them, the group they called “Command” lined up like a group of super heroes making their last stand.
Leo was a joy to watch. Marshall was fearless, wading into groups of zombies, keeping them at bay with those massive hammers he carried. John was the best gunman Bookbinder had ever seen, and of course Tookes. Charlie hadn’t quite figured out how Tookes was still alive, but he’d gotten the best of Watley and the best of that teleporting zombie at the battle on the front lawn, so he had to have something. He was a good leader and Bookbinder respected him.
M1 advanced in the sideways crouch that they’d practiced. They walked in a straight line. At twenty five yards they took aim and fired. From then it was just aim, fire, aim, fire. They killed all the zombies before they made it up to Tookes’ team.
“There are at least a thousand more that all turned their heads this way right before we heard that first engine start up. We need to get out of here,” said Bookbinder, noting they had both big trucks running now.