Alex watched the Mustang disappear in the distance, then he turned and looked at the others who had been left behind. Some were grumbling that they hadn’t been able to go in the only working vehicle, while others turned and plodded back toward the building.
For a moment, Alex was undecided about what to do. Head toward Melissa’s office or toward home? He couldn’t do both. They were in opposite directions.
“What are you going to do?” Jack, a man who worked in Alex’s office, asked him.
Alex shook his head, his lips flat. “My wife’s in Salt Lake, but my kids are in Sandy. What about you?”
Jack looked off in the distance like the answer lay somewhere just out of reach. Then he turned to Alex with a frown. “Guess I’m going to walk home.”
“Which is where, exactly?”
“I’m all the way down in American Fork.”
That was miles south of where Alex lived. Alex chewed on the inside of his lip as he contemplated his options. He hated the idea of Melissa trying to make her way home on her own, but with multiple options of streets for her to follow, he had no idea which way she would go. Then he thought about his three children, all on their own.
Clenching his jaw in frustration, he exhaled through his nose, then came to a decision. “I’ll walk with you, but I want to take Ninth East.” That would probably be the shortest path to take him home. And with any luck, maybe he would somehow run in to Melissa. Still, he knew it would be out of the way for Jack.
Shaking his head, Jack said, “I was thinking State Street.”
State Street was nine blocks west of where Alex wanted to go—too far out of the way. “Thought you’d say that.”
Knowing there would be safety in numbers, Alex decided to try to persuade his friend. “You know, State Street’s going to be a more dangerous route than Ninth.”
“Why do you say that?”
“More shops along there. Don’t you think they’ll be hit by looters? Could get dicey.”
“True, but Ninth is nine blocks east of where I need to go.”
Alex nodded. “Tell you what. Let’s take Seventh East. Kind of a compromise.”
Jack laughed. “It’s tempting, but I’ll take my chances on State Street.”
Though it would have been nice to have backup, Alex understood Jack’s reluctance to go out of his way. “All right.” Really though, Alex would have backup. Just a different kind. He brushed his hand against his right hip, a grim smile lifting his lips as he felt the hard bulge of his Glock 19. He was glad he was carrying today. He often left his weapon at home, but after all the craziness of the Covid pandemic and the civil unrest that seemed to be a constant around the country, he felt a little safer knowing he was armed. He’d tried to get Melissa to carry—she’d gotten her Conceal Carry Permit—but she hadn’t felt the need, even though she had a small pistol, a .380.
Wondering if Jack carried, Alex asked, “You armed?”
“Always,” Jack said with a grin as he adjusted the pack on his back.
Rather surprised—Jack had never seemed like the kind of person who was into guns—Alex raised his eyebrows.
“You?” Jack asked, his forehead furrowed like he doubted it.
“Yeah,” Alex said, his expression neutral.
“Really?” Jack’s tone held a note of disbelief.
“Why so surprised?”
“Just didn’t peg you as the type.”
This brought on a hearty laugh. “I thought the same thing about you.”
Shaking his head, Jack chuckled. “You think you know someone, and then they surprise you.” He pursed his lips. “Guess you never know about people.”
This was truer than Alex wanted to consider, although he knew he had to. Because now that society was on the brink of collapse, people would become more unpredictable than ever, putting everyone in danger. “Well,” Alex said, “Best of luck to you.”
Jack nodded. “You too.” With a nod, Jack turned and walked toward the road.
Shaking his head but smiling, Alex decided to gather a few supplies before he started his trek. He didn’t have a backpack, but he knew at least one of the people who’d gotten a ride with Colton usually had one. Alex went back inside the building, then into the man’s office before rummaging through his desk. It didn’t take long to find what he was looking for. Smiling tightly in triumph, Alex carried the backpack to the break room, which was illuminated by the sun streaming in through a large window on one wall. First, he dumped out the contents to see what was already in there. A flashlight, a small first aid kit, a nice pocketknife, a couple of books, and a few other odds and ends that Alex didn’t find useful.
Guess he didn’t want to take the time to grab his pack and chance losing his spot in the Mustang, Alex thought. Well, it was a huge blessing to Alex to have this gear. He put the items he wanted to take back in the pack, then set six bottles of water inside. Next, he liberated a dozen granola bars and several other snacks. Who knew how long it would take to get home? He would need the energy the food would provide.
As soon as he was done, he walked out of the building and into the parking lot. Four of his coworkers stood in a group. Alex knew all of them lived either west or north of Salt Lake, so not in the direction he was headed. Alex gave them a wave, then he walked to the nearest cross-street and turned south.