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Forced Exodus

Pandemic Book Two

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THE ROAD TO THEIR SAVE HAVEN IS PAVED WITH DANGER

NOTE: This book was published in 2019, before the recent pandemic. It is book 2 of 4 in the completed Pandemic series.

With their house burned to the ground, the Bronsons accept Jeff and Emily’s invitation to travel to a farm in Central California where they can start over and make a life for themselves.

Joining them on the seven hundred mile journey are Jeff and Emily, Chris and his family, as well as Derrick. But the journey won’t be easy—not with survivors of the pandemic starving and desperate.

With danger lurking around every bend, the Bronsons and the rest of their group will have to dig deep to find a way to make it to their destination unscathed. Good thing they are willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

Scroll down to read the first chapter.

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Chapter 1

Matt

Matt Bronson’s gaze slid from door to door to door as he drove down his street. The same red X was painted on the vast majority of his neighbors’ houses. It was the mark of death, meaning there was one or more bodies inside. A corpse dead from the bird flu. Nearly his entire neighborhood was dead, as was most of the world from what he’d been able to gather before the grid had gone down.

And the stench of rotting corpses. It was a smell he didn’t think he’d ever get out of his nostrils.

It had been a little more than two weeks since the pandemic had exploded and he and his family had hunkered down, but since then their world had gone sideways. Even so, they were still alive, which was more than could be said for the vast majority of the population.

Frowning deeply, he forced his attention back to the road as he drove his truck, which was pulling their fifth-wheel RV, out of their neighborhood. He and his family had been through so much, and now they were at the beginning of a brand new journey. A mix of hope and trepidation washed over him, and he wondered if Jessica felt the same. He glanced over at her. She was staring out of the passenger window with her chin resting on her curled fist.

She turned to him with a melancholy smile. “Do you think we’ll ever come back?”

They’d loved living in their house for the previous two years and the idea that they would never see it again brought on a whole mix of feelings—sadness, anger, frustration. Slowly shaking his head, he lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “I don’t know.” He didn’t want to point out that thanks to the neighborhood cooperative, their house had burned to the ground, so even if they did come back, they wouldn’t have a place to live. Besides, in all reality they’d never return. They were going to start fresh in California. 

Softly sighing, Jessica went back to staring out the window.

Letting his gaze slide to the rearview mirror, Matt checked on Kayla, Brooke, and Dylan in the back seat of his truck. All three were wide awake and completely silent, their eyes scanning the neighborhood.

“Nobody’s around,” Dylan said.

“It’s barely six o’clock in the morning,” Kayla said with a yawn.

The kids had hardly left the house since the pandemic had broken out. Except Brooke. She’d had to venture to their house on her own after both of her parents had died of the bird flu. Well, she and her dog Cleo. Matt looked over his shoulder to see what the German shepherd was doing, but he couldn’t see her. “How’s Cleo?”

“She’s sleeping on the floor,” Brooke said.

“Sorry it’s so tight back there,” he said with a grimace. “One of you can sit up here between mom and me if you want.”

None of the kids volunteered to sit between the adults. Was that because they preferred to be parent-free in the back or because they were nervous about being closer to the potential line of fire in the front?

That thought led Matt to cut his gaze sharply to the houses they were passing. Which houses had the gang members moved in to? He had no idea. All he knew was that at least twenty dangerous gang members had taken up residence in their neighborhood, which was why they’d decided to bug out rather than find another house to move in to. And now they were headed to California with Derrick, Jeff and Emily, and Chris and his family.

Matt’s eyes went to Derrick’s truck, which led their little caravan. Derrick, an ex-military man—as Jeff and Chris were—was watching for trouble ahead. All four of their vehicles had walkie talkies so they could alert each other before they found themselves in trouble. At least, that was the plan.

They rolled through the stop sign that led out of the neighborhood. With no traffic and no police, there was no reason to slow their momentum. Several minutes later they passed the Home Depot where Matt and Derrick had “shopped” a week earlier, then they approached State Street. They were almost to the I-15 on-ramp, the Interstate they would take on their journey to Central California.

The walkie squawked on the console between the seats and then Derrick’s voice came over the line. “Roadblock ahead. Approach with caution. Over.”

Matt’s heart pounded as adrenaline surged. They’d barely left their neighborhood and already they were running into potential trouble. 

“I see the roadblock,” Jessica said, her gaze riveted to the road ahead.

“Yeah.” Matt touched the .45 on his right hip to reassure himself that it was easily accessible. “Me too.” 

“Can’t see around the RV,” Jeff said over the walkie. “What’s the roadblock look like? Over.”

Matt glanced in his sideview mirror. He couldn’t see Jeff’s truck behind him—he was too close to the back of Matt’s RV. But he could see Jeff’s small utility trailer. He could also see Chris’s SUV, which brought up the rear.

“Vehicles blocking the approach to I-15,” Derrick said. “SUV’s and trucks. Men with guns standing behind the vehicles. No way around them.” A brief pause. “Turn right on State Street. We’ll try for the next on-ramp. Over.”

Derrick’s truck hung a right. Matt’s gaze shot to the men who watched them from their protected positions behind their trucks. One man spoke into a walkie of his own. 

Matt began the turn onto State Street, and as he focused on getting his rig around the corner smoothly, he said, “Jess, tell the guys that one of the men at the roadblock just spoke to someone on a walkie.”

She looked at him with fear in her eyes but did as he asked.

“Copy that,” Derrick said in reply.

“Dad,” Kayla asked with urgency as she leaned forward, “what’s going to happen? Are we going to be okay?”

Torn between wanting to reassure her and wanting her to know the truth, he said, “We’re doing our best.” Then, as the RV straightened and they began heading north on State Street, he threw her a smile. “Derrick, Jeff, and Chris are the best. I’m sure we’ll be fine.” He glanced at Jessica, who smiled at him as if to say I know you’re trying to reassure her. Thank you. 

Love for the woman he’d grown to appreciate all the more over the previous two weeks swept over him. He reached out and took her hand in his, squeezing gently.

He checked his right sideview mirror and saw Jeff, then Chris, turning onto State Street behind him. His eyes went to the road in front of him. Only one car length separated him from Derrick’s truck. Not a lot, but they wanted to stay close.

They approached the turnoff to Costco. Remembering how insane it had been when he’d stocked up two weeks earlier, Matt shifted his gaze to the left. He couldn’t see the Costco parking lot from where he was, but he was fairly certain it was empty. 

Nearly a mile before they would reach the next on-ramp. Normally that wasn’t far, but with the unknown stretching out in front of them, the distance seemed enormous. A lot could happen in a mile.

Matt picked up the walkie. “What can you see up ahead? Over.” Matt let his gaze wander over the cars at the car dealership on the left as he waited for Derrick’s reply.

“Looks clear from here,” Derrick said, “but I can’t see what’s on a Hundred and Sixth. Over.”

Matt frowned. They would have to turn left at 10600 Street to get on I-15.

“Hang back,” Derrick said. “I’ll scout ahead. Over.”

“Copy that,” Matt said. Jeff and Chris each said, “Copy.”

They were about a hundred yards from their turn when Matt brought the RV to a stop. 

Moments later Derrick’s voice came over the walkie. “We have a problem. Over.”

* * *

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