The drone of the helicopters driven by the Oñate zombies was still ringing in my ears when I turned to Pearl. We embraced tightly. Vida, whining persistently, wanted to be part of the hug. This was the dreaded battle for which we had prepared for so many weeks and we had survived!
We clung to each other for a long moment.
“When you love birds are finished cooing,” shouted Filomino, our assault leader and trainer, a thick sarcastic tone to his voice, “would you kindly join the rest of us. After all, THERE IS STILL A DAMN WAR ON!
That jolted us back to reality.
“Listen up!” Filomino shouted to the rest of our zombie comrades. They were just now coming out of where they had taken shelter during the copter’s aerial blitzkrieg.
“I just filled in Jerry at the Park Service about the Oñate’s aerial assault on us. He’ll bring a team out here and make it look like a van full of teenagers, smoking too much grass, accidently set the van on fire. Jerry’ll handle the clean-up as well . No one will ever know what really happened her today. Jerry’s worried, he says he hasn’t hear from the training camp for hours. We got to double time it back to the camp and see what’s up. Let’s go!”
Within minutes, we had all scrambling to get back into the vans and were on the road again, headed to our hidden training camp in a secret part of the Joshua Tree National Park.
As we drove along the desert road, bordered by Joshua trees, ocotillo and cholla cactus, I wondered how the Onate helicopters had so easily found our caravan. Had they been following us from the start? And if they knew where we were, did they also know about our secret camp? I could see that a similar thought must be going through Filomino’s mind. He drove fast, with an intensity that revealed his worry. As we got closer to the camp I began to worry about what we might find.
My fears were soon justified. On the horizon I saw a plume of smoke rising from our hidden boulder enclave.
We soon approached the narrow secret entrance to the training camp. But the dead Joshua tree that usually hid the entrance to the box canyon had been thrown to the side. A beat up VW –not one of our vehicles–was smoldering near the secret entrance.
Filomino stopped the caravan. “Arm up,” he shouted, as he donned his helmet. “They might still be around! Proceed with caution!”
We broke up into three groups as Filomino had taught us and approached the passageway cautiously.
All except Vida that is. No sooner had I opened the van door than the brindle boxer mix shot out and raced through the entrance into the camp. I knew Vida would not have run into danger.
“I think they’re gone,” I said. And walked confidently through the entrance behind Vida.
What I saw brought me to a dead stop. All three of our camp buildings were smoldering, two completely burned and one partially destroyed. But is wasn’t the burned out buildings that held my attention. My eyes were riveted to three bodies lying face down in the middle of the training area. It was the training camp staff, the zombie cook, his assistant and the techie that kept our computers working. Each had a dart drilled through the forehead.
It took a moment for the rest of the group to assemble before the horrific tableau. No one said a word. We just stood there and stared at the friends we had known who were now dead.
“But where’s Mr. Nez?” A voice from the group asked.
“He’s in Los Angeles,” said Filomino, walking up to the nearest corpse. “There was trouble reported at Mission Poderosa that he had to attend to. Luckily he wasn’t here.”
Filomino looked down at the three dead zombies.
“Listen up! Put their bodies in the fourth van. The rest of you, spread out and look for your personal belongings or any evidence that would link this site to us. Take whatever you find and put it into the fifth van. We head back to Los Angeles in an hour.”
Pearl and I went immediately to the barracks building. There wasn’t much left to it. The roof and sides had burned down and only part of the wooden floor with its cement foundation remained. We picked through the lockers where we kept our personal belongings. Somehow, the metal lockers had survived the fire. We found an unburned box and loaded it with personal stuff belongings to members of our group.
True to his word, an hour later Filomino was driving the lead van out of the now not so secret training compound. Within a short time the caravan of vans brandishing the “Camp Hascawalla Religious Retreat” logo was racing west along Highway 62 toward Los Angeles. We had driven in silence for about twenty minutes when Pearl voiced the question that was on everyone’s mind.
“What do we do now?” Pearl asked Filomino.
“We go back to Mission Poderosa headquarters at County General and regroup. We conduct an internal review and we find out who the traitor is. And then we make him…or her pay dearly.”
Copyright 2013 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.