Now it was my turn to laugh and say "Like that has worked out so well for everyone."
"Yeah. No shit." He replied glumly. We talked a bit more. I told him a bit about the road ahead of him. He told me a bit about the road waiting for us. "What ever you do -- stay out them camps. Hell, don't even go within 40 miles of them. I don't know why you be going this way. Going be tough to squeeze in between all the road blocks and patrols. You should go south then head back up. Got a lot of gangs working that area too. Some serious looting going on from what I hear." He chuckled "Some of them chuckleheads are stealing TV's and such." He shook his head, then added "Plus watch out for them Prius cars and such."
Huh?" That one caught me by surprise. He told me "Them electric cars. The gov loves them. You see an electric car and you are looking at a gov person or someone in tight with them."
"Damn. He was right. I hadn't seen but a couple of them hybrids and they were totaled." He was talking about West Virginia and his people when it clicked in my head. I casually asked him "So you and the boys been together for awhile?"
He replied "Oh no. We hooked up about two weeks ago. They came into town." He laughed bitterly "Town...shit...nothing but a hand full of people nowadays...lot of people drifting here and there...lot of them you never hear from again...so yeah, safety in numbers and all that. Why?"
"Don't know. Let's go see." I started walking over to them. Ricky and Loco were grinning at something Bearded One had said. They looked over and I hit them with the "Danger" sign. Ricky the dumb ass dropped his grin and went stone faced but Loco said something back in reply and laughed. Old Man wasn't following. I stopped and said "You coming?" He shrugged, and I waited until he was next to me before continuing towards the happy little group.
I stopped about five feet from them. Old Man stopped with me. As soon as he did I moved again so I was about three feet from him and had a better angle. I called it anchoring a person. You got someone walking with you and you approach a group just stop. The person with you stops without thinking usually. Then you move again. They never follow because they know it makes them look like a little puppy. A lot of what I did was just playing off cultural wiring and conditioning. Staying out of the pattern" was what Max called it.
The boys looked a little unsure now, Bearded Boy especially. I told them "Well, we're out of here" and grinned. "We got one more thing to do. Y'all don't mind if we poke around in that cart? Of course not. Why don't you two boys stand back a bet." I waited for a couple beats. Sure enough Bearded Boy objected "You're not the law. Why don't you fuck off." He was going to keep going but I drew the Ruger. In the silence that followed I told him "Shut up or die." He shut up.
"Loco. Take a look." I drew the Colt. "Old man. Settle down. We're just looking." I had seen him open his mouth and change his stance.