After deciding that the drainage tunnel was to be her home for the evening, the girl started going through the backpack of stuff he had left for her.
Using the small battery-less light, she went into the first outer pocket, the same one she happened to find the light she was now using. She removed two small cloth bags, one jingled like spare change, the other seemed a little bit stuffed. She opened the change one first.
It held numerous sandwich bags – each with a different denomination of coin, a bag with a wad of cash, a single American express gift card worth a hundred dollars and another note. She started looking at the coins through the clear plastic bags. Why on earth did he stick old dimes and quarters in here? There was even a second bag of quarters that she inspected after the first, this one containing ones minted in the last few years. Another bag held a few very small gold goins, about the size of a dime each – there were only five of them.
Puzzled to no end, she decided to read the note.
Everything in this bag is money, some worth more than others. I will start in order how you should use it and it’s worth.
Amex: Use this first, depending on the event some places will take this over other forms of payment. It is really good for automated payment locations, like gas stations.
Cash: Use second, if stuff is really bad don’t worry about paying more than something is worth with cash, it will soon be worthless. Use the smallest bills you have to.
She stopped reading and looked at the wad, it was about 350 bucks in bills ranging in denomination of 1 to 20 dollars.
Modern quarters: you have ten bucks in quarters from the last few years. This is if you are in a situation where you need to make a phone call, pay a meter, or get stuff out of a vending machine.
Old silver coins: the silver American coins that are minted pre 1964 are no longer currency, they are a commodity, they are 90% silver. The value is hard to say, but will go up as things get worse. For ease of math, figure 10-25 times the face value if you were going to buy something. After people stop accepting cash, they may take silver or gold for what you need.
Gold: those are 1/10th fractional eagles, each worth about a hundred or more dollars, use them sparingly and for big items. The value will only go up.
That was the end of the note. She stuffed everything back into the cloth bag except the cash and prepaid card; those went into her pocket. She opened the second bag and it had sandwich bags as well, but with some aluminum foil, and it’s own note:
This bag has a headlamp, some batteries, and a steri-pen water purifier. The aluminum is for EMP shielding, (im not sure if this was needed or not, but better to be on the safe side,) save it and use it for cooking, signaling, or any other use you can think of. Save the bags, you can use them to hold water or collected fruits, berries, nuts, or other stuff you find along the way.
The steri-pen purifies water with UV light, there are instructions rubber banded around the device.
The headlamp is helpful for two reasons; one, it can keep your hands free while you do things that require light, and two; it has a red LED low light feature, it can save batteries, preserve your night vision, and is harder to see from a distance than white light.
The last sentence chilled her spine and she frantically looked up towards the entrance of the tunnel. It was not that dark yet outside to matter much, but she bet that in half an hour her little hand held light would have cast a beam out of her shelter, letting the whole world know where she was. She turned off the light, found the batteries in the bag, set up and turned on the headlamps red LED.
She looked around the tunnel and grabbed various cans, bottles, and other bits of trash. Then, she placed them in the entrance so that anyone coming in would trip on them, hopefully alerting her in the process. She found a long 2×4 that had somehow drifted to her location during a past storm, and wedged it across the opening, about waist high. Unrolling the sleeping bag attached to the bottom of the pack, she folded it over the wood. Now her contraption would not only slow down intruders, she created a barrier to whatever light she was producing.
Not having eaten all day besides the bagel in the morning, she noticed that she was beyond starving. Looking through the pack, she found a tan bag, about the size of a loaf of bread in the main compartment. The word “cooking” was written in sharpie on the outside. She opened it up and found everything she needed to get one of the many freeze dried meals that were stuffed everywhere in the backpack prepared, mainly a Jet-Boil water cooking device. She remembered when her boyfriend got the thing, she thought he, like so many times before, wasted money on the thing, only to tuck it away somewhere. Apparently it was tucked away for her use. He even showed her how to use it, once again her mistakingly thinking it was his excitement of a new “toy”. Also in the the bag was another water bottle, this being the sixth she found distributed throughout the pack.
As the water quickly boiled, she selected her entree; beef stroganoff. While it was not her favorite, it was something familiar. After eating, she cleaned everything up and repacked her pack if she had to go quickly. She left off her sleeping bag, headlamp and M1 carbine, which was in easy reach.
It was fully dark outside, she could see the glow of fires off in the distance, but felt no fear of them in her current shelter. She set up her sleeping bag, rolled up her outer shirt, stuffed it into a tshirt to make a pillow, and laid down for the night. It took a while to go to sleep, but sleep she did with the sounds of a city dying lulling her into slumber.
For the circumstances, she slept surprisingly well. Waking with the sun not shining yet, just providing a light dawn glow, the girl readied for the day. After getting fully packed, she wanted to get moving and into the park before too long. Her body resisted the demands placed on it, but she pushed through as she led her bike to the tunnel entrance. Stopping for a moment, she looked both ways into the aqueduct, to see if there was anyone else using this route. Satisfied she was relatively safe, she stepped out, swung her leg over the bike, and began riding.
The channel took her into the park, but she could not stay on it forever. She found a spot with a bank she could traverse and moved to the top. She was in the area of the park that was still maintained, and not considered “wild”. There was a small bathroom building, a parking lot, a large open area, some picnic table, and a huge polo field. The field surprisingly held at least a dozen tents in various locations. There were people milling about, including a few children, so she felt a little safer with their presence.
It was a risk, but the girl knew this was probably going to be the last time in quite a while to get such a comfort, so she headed to the building that held her affection – the bathroom. Walking her bike, she approached the building and noticed the door was wide open. She entered and said loudly “is anyone in here”? no one responded so she pushed her bike into the small bathroom and leaned it against the wall. She dropped her backpack next to it and pulled out the small hygiene kit from the pack, as well as one of the bikes water bottles. She spent a few moments in front of the mirror, inspecting the bruises and cuts she endured the previous day. While they were definitely painful, none appeared to be permanent. She took some enjoyment in brushing her teeth, washing off some of the dirt, and using one of the baby wipes to clean up. With that done, she moved her gear into the handicap stall to use the bathroom. The toilet was used and due to the lack of running water, could not be flushed. Luckily it was not that bad, and better than the bushes to the girls way of thinking.
She finished up and went outside. There were a few young kids, about eight to twelve years old hanging around the building. All were looking at the old-style gum ball machine with distant eyes.
As discreetly as she could, she took out the bag of modern quarters from their sack and put one of the coins in the machine. The kids looked at her with expectant grins, and after a quick nod from her, the youngest cranked the handle. They were rewarded with a huge blue ball of sugar.
The girl, in turn placed a quarter in the machine for each of the other kids so that they all could have their own. As the last one ran away with their prize, the girl heard a stern masculine voice behind her.
“I saw what you did for our kids”
She slowly turned around, her hand moving to her belt line. “I meant no harm, they looked like they wanted a treat.” As she was finishing her statement, she was all the way turned around, and faced with a bear of a man, easily six foot six, and over three hundred pounds.
“Oh, of course not!” he said with a big grin that melted away the harsh exterior of the man. “I wanted to thank you, and offer to share some of our breakfast with you.” The girl hesitated for a little bit, that the man rightly picked up on as apprehension “Don’t worry about taking food from someone’s mouth. From the way you’re decked out, I’m sure you know what’s going on. We unloaded our fridges as soon as this happened into coolers and onto game carts for the travel up to here. Our families have some horses stabled over behind the polo field here, and we are planning to bug out through the park to the north west. We don’t plan on taking the coolers that far with us, so we are trying to use it up.” the man said in explanation. With a smile and wave he said, “c’mon, let’s go get some steak, eggs and tomato slices – best meal you’re going to find in the city, I guarantee it.”
She couldn’t help but trust and like the guy, so with a nod she followed him over to the camp.
He introduced her to his wife, brothers, and associated family members. All thanked her for the sweet gestures on behalf of their respective children.
The man’s barrel of a wife was humming slightly as she whipped up the best smelling food the girl had ever smelled over a few simple camp stoves. Just as the man stated there were steaks, a pile of eggs, and some sliced tomatoes that had some sea salt sprinkled on top of them.
When the chow call was made, she noticed that two of the men stayed at opposite ends of the camp, and did not come in for breakfast – each with a rifle slung over their shoulder. This prompted her attention to the fact that everyone had a weapon of some kind attached to their body, even the man’s portly wife had a shoulder holster with an automatic pistol.
It did not alarm her, it just made her more aware of how unaware she actually was, and that this family would probably be just fine on their journey.
The breakfast was better than she anticipated. The woman was able to coax the best flavors from the simple ingredients used and it just tasted fantastic.
After breakfast, the group quickly and professionally started dismantling their camp. The girl thanked everyone for their hospitality, and wished them well on their journey – which was returned in kind. She gave a hug to the man’s wife and filled her hand with quarters as a way of final goodbye.
She jumped on her bike and started into the park.