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Thread: Foreign & Domestic Part IV - Colder Weather

  1. #1
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    Default Foreign & Domestic Part IV - Colder Weather

    Thought I'd illicit some feedback...

    Chapter 1

    Deeks Calhoun awoke sticky from the days long fevered perspiration. His body ached all over. Without moving, he began looking around the room, listening. He didn’t hear his mother’s usual humming. The tiny shack like cabin structure was eerily quiet. With a groan, he rolled out of bed and groggily made his way toward the smell of food. A low flicker remained in the open fire kitchen. On the roughhewn table, he saw the beginnings of a soup and threw a log on the embers to keep it going.

    The cloudless spring sun shone brightly. To Deeks, it only served to accentuate the dingy, dirt covered window… something he knew his mother would have him out there cleaning as soon as he was able. A soft early spring breeze was swaying the tree tops. The cold lifeless limbs of the hardwoods were beginning to release their viselike grip on dormancy as tiny buds were beginning to appear.

    Finally, he thought, grateful for the coming spring and the bounty it would provide.

    He turned and headed into his mother’s room. She wasn’t there either. Her bed was neatly made and the first flower of the season had been placed in a glass of water on her nightstand.

    Deeks suddenly became gripped with fear.

    Had she gone out without me?

    He quickly left the doorway that had been holding him up and checked for her pack and bow. They were gone. The young man hastily stumbled his way back to his room and dressed; forcing his body to cooperate with each painful movement. As Deeks bolted through the front door, he grabbed his slingshot.

    Declan “Deeks” Calhoun had learned the hard way that the tiny weapon and its arsenal of rocks was no match for an angry, starving wolf. He could pick off squirrels and chipmunks easy. If he was close enough and his aim was true, he could stun a rabbit for a short while until he was able to pounce on it. He should have known better than to check his traps with only the rock chucker in his pocket though. His mother, Sonja, had saved him from the mauling and certain death by skewering the emaciated beast. His wounds from the attack had become infected though. Deeks had no idea how long he had been unconscious.

    He approached the chain link fence and quickly began climbing over the obstacle. The metal structure, he was sure, was the only thing that had kept the wolf packs at bay during the extremely harsh and unforgiving winter. Once on the other side, he immediately began scanning the ground to track his mother. His body continued to protest with every step and haggard breathe he took.

    A few minutes of searching the perimeter produced her trail. Sonja was older now. She wasn’t able to climb the fence as easily as she once had. The pair resisted the urge to cut a hole in the fence to allow her easier access to the woods she loved so much. Her trail usually started with a patch of matted earth where she would collapse on the ground after coming off of the fence. As a result, Deeks was able to quickly pick out her tracks. He started following them through the mud and snow into the forest with ease.

    It didn’t take him long to piece it together. The half made soup and the bearing he was currently on told him all he needed to know. He knew exactly where Sonja was headed and quickened his pace. For as long as he could remember, his mother always favored a small meadow and the sporadic underbrush bordering the clearing. It was in this area that the most plentiful roots could be found. If the unrelenting winter snows were finally heeding the call of spring, the bounty might be too much for her to resist.

    Deeks approached the crossroads of a game trail and slowed his pace to listen for any predators. Silently, he removed the knife from its sheath on his belt. In truth, he should have had it in his hand all along. If there were any wolves in the area, they already knew he was there. Depending on how long it had been since their last meal, they either departed the area or were actively stalking Deeks. Their highly developed senses of smell and hearing could never be matched by the young man and his mother.

    When hunting big game, the best he and his mother could ever hope to accomplish was to mask their scent. If they could do so, they had a better than average chance for killing one and harvesting the meat and pelt. All of the predators in the area were inherently dangerous animals. Setting traps was almost counterproductive because Deeks still had to be close enough to put it down with an arrow or spear. Snares worked best for small game, but he never feared for his life if one of them happened to still be kicking when he checked it.

    Confident that he wasn’t being tracked by some hungry carnivore, Deeks continued working his way toward the meadow. He carefully worked his way around a bend in the trail where he noticed a darkened mass near a small clearing. His heart crept up into his throat. Deeks broke into a sprint, not caring what could hear him as he crashed through limbs and cracked fallen debris.

    “No! No! No!” Declan howled into the wilderness as he knelt down to hold her. Tears immediately began streaming down his face. He embraced her tightly and continued to cry uncontrollably. Her body was still warm.

    Deeks had seen his share of death. Men and women he had called brothers and sisters were cut down in front of him during the Clan Wars. None of those deaths struck at his core like this though.

    He lifted his head from its resting place, down feathers stuck to his tear stained face. Declan brushed off the puffy white insulation with his forearm as he started assessing the clearing trying to make sense of the area surrounding her body. She lay a scant ten feet from the game trail they had hunted for years. What he saw in front of him was a trackers nightmare. He didn’t know how long he had been laid up and didn’t know how old the tracks were. Some wolf, bear, and mountain lion tracks were frozen and some weren’t. Other prints littered the snow and mud as well.

    How long has she been out here, he thought. How long have I been unconscious? She should have known better then to go out foraging without me.

    Winter in the Northwest Territories had been unduly harsh. Every living thing in the area was having difficulty finding sustenance, man or beast. He surveyed the tattered remains of her gear and could see that her quiver was empty. Her pack was shredded and her bow was thirty feet from her corpse. Then it occurred to him.

    Whatever meat she had packed must have put the animal’s senses into overdrive.

    He gently laid his mother down in the snow cover, slowly closed her cold lifeless eyes, and picked himself up. Declan stared at her for a moment. Her body hadn’t become stiff in the coolness of the air yet. He watched as Sonja’s arm slowly slid off of her chest onto the ground. His mother had written a final message to him on her forearm, ‘journal’.

    Deeks smiled when he saw the little heart shape she had drawn at the end of the word.

    He lifted his head and started surveying the landscape. He looked for clues and tried to piece together what might have happened. He began following her tracks back into the woods, trying to make sense of the scene that his brain was actively processing. If she had gotten one or two of them, he would have a fresh kill to live off of for the next month. The fur could be used to re-insulate his worn boots. As Declan entered the clearing he saw what he was looking for, three wolves lying on their side with arrows protruding from their hide. He walked over and began inspecting the hides.

    Something’s off. The angle of the arrows doesn’t look right.

    He picked up one of the wolves and attempted to emulate a standing position for the ravenous beast. Once the carnivore was in its more natural horizontal position, it became clear. She had shot them from above.

    Had they treed her?

    Wolf packs were notorious in these woods and were not to be trifled with.

    She knows better than to mess with these things. They must have come up on her while she was collecting roots.

    He looked up into the canopy and tried to determine where she might have been. It didn’t take long. Freshly broken limb stubs were present in a stand of trees just off the clearing. He yanked the arrows from the fresh kills and blood spurted out of the wounds.

    Oh crap.

    He started looking around, first in the foreground then further away in the background. Declan removed his ratty, fur lined bomber hat so his ears could detect any movement or breathing more efficiently. Without taking his eyes and ears off of the forest before him, he silently replaced the arrows in her quiver and slung it over his head. Careful to not step on any fallen limbs, he slowing began backing his way toward his mother.

    If her body was still warm too, and the viscosity of the wolf blood was still able to ooze from the puncture wound, the pack wasn’t far away. They hadn’t finished slaking their blood lust.

    Deeks desperately wanted to throw one of the wolves across his shoulders and double time it back to the camp, but he knew he was still too weak. Reluctantly, he bypassed the fresh meat. The added weight would only slow him down further if he needed to run.

    As he stood over his mother’s body, he contemplated carrying at least her back. He swiveled his head looking, listening, and smelling anything and everything in the vicinity. His decision was made for him when the distant howl of the pack leader resonated off of the mountain side.

    “****!” he exclaimed and wrenched the remnants of his mother’s pack off of her corpse, grabbed the bow, and started running as fast as he could back to the camp.

    He heard the pack members answer the call of their leader. Even though Deeks hadn’t seen them, they had at least caught a whiff of him. They were coming for fresh meat.

    Declan’s breathing accelerated rapidly as his chest began to burn from the cold. He reached up and tried to remove an arrow from the quiver so he could at least shoot while on the run. Every time he thought he had a grip on one though, the running motion would bounce it out of his grasp.

    “Damn it!” he muttered in between his quick breaths of frigid early spring air.

    He eventually stopped trying as the task was futile and pointless. He’d never be able to hit anything while in an all-out sprint. Instead, he reached down to his waist and removed the knife from its scabbard. The shiny blade glistened in the sunlight.

    The cracking of low hanging limbs could be heard behind him as the pack narrowed their focus and triangulated his position. As Deeks ran, he slid one of his arms back through the strap until he was carrying the tattered remains of Sonja’s pack on only one shoulder. When he was at the apex of a curve in the trail, he quickly slung it off of his shoulder, heaving it over a dormant briar patch and into the woods. He hoped that the diverging scent trails might confuse them long enough to make it to the fence.

    The throbbing in his leg was almost unbearable. The wound from his last encounter with the wolf pack had not fully healed. The infection had not been completely excreted from his body and continued to sap his strength. In front of him he could his salvation, the fence line.

    One hundred yards!

    He glanced back in time to see the tail end of one of the wolves dive headlong into the briars. Deeks could hear the yelp and a whimper over his labored breathing.

    Without warning, a wolf flew out of the brush in front of him. He couldn’t stop now. With a full head of steam, Deeks made his choice and charged the beast standing his ground. The two were on a collision course.

    As he neared, Declan let out a thunderous holler and startled the animal. Unsure whether to attack or run, the wolf hesitated. Deeks continued to scream at the bewildered carnivore as he approached. He quickly side stepped the on-rushing animal and struck a crippling blow with his brandished knife as he ran by. The wolf cried out as the physically taxed young man thrust the blade between its shoulder blades, severing its spine.

    When he was within a few feet of the fence, he launched himself at the chain link. Using the flexibility inherent to its design, he quickly vaulted himself over the top of the structure. He landed on his face with a thud.
    Content to lay in the safety of the enclosure, Deeks took inventory of his various aches and pains. His heavy, labored breathing resulted in the inhalation of dirt from the face planting.

    The young man laid prone, motionless, save for the rapid inflation and deflation of his chest cavity. The chain link gave a rattle and Deeks quickly lifted his head to see his pursuer snarling on the other side. He quietly sat up and looked at the carnivorous beast. With his knife still in hand, he watched as the filthy animal paced back and forth along the fence snarling at him. To Deeks, it looked like the animal was using it to scratch an itch.

    Come here you little bastard, he thought. I’ll scratch your itch.

    He observed the malnourished pack hunter for a few moments. When he noticed that the animal’s snout was caked in fresh and drying blood, he found his resolve. In a surprise offensive thrust, Declan rammed the blade through chain link and struck just behind the front leg. He gave the knife a quick twist to ensure that the heart muscle had a gaping wound that wouldn’t heal. The wolf howled and then dropped after a few feet.

    Deeks stood and observed the area beyond the perimeter fence. He needed the meat, but didn’t want to wind up on someone else’s plate either. Confident that the rest of the pack wasn’t lying in wait, he quietly climbed back over the fence to retrieve his kill. He started to bend down to pick up the animal and then remembered a clan member’s words, ‘Before you do anything, you better make damn sure that sum bitch ain’t breathing.’

    Unflinchingly, Deeks removed his knife and thrust it into the animal’s skull. “Sum bitch is dead now,” he said aloud.
    Hannibal ad portas

  2. #2
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    Chapter 2

    Given his weakened condition, Deeks used two freshly cut limbs and some leather straps to create a one man litter. He purposefully configured the strapping to create a shoulder harness. This allowed him to venture back out bow at the ready. He would need the contraption to drag all of the carcasses back in as few trips as possible. The retrieval of his mother’s body would have to wait and he hated himself for it. He didn’t want to have to make the decision, but meat was meat.

    On his way to retrieve her corpse, he stopped and picked up the pack he had thrown over the brambles. Inside the backpack he found the root she had collected before being cornered. He stood there staring at it, wondering, why had she gone out alone?

    The next hours were spent digging, fighting tears, and resting. Deeks placed her body in the cemetery next to the only person he knew she doted on more than him. The carving above her grave read, Emily Chastain.

    “I’ll carve your wooden cross when I’m stronger, Mom,” he said to himself as he slumped down in the dirt, exhausted.

    The rest of the deceased were clan members that had been thrust together haphazardly as travelers went looking for sanctuary and sustenance all in an effort to escape the clan wars. Deeks had a faint memory of someone referring to them as ‘foot dragging refugees’. Most of the buried in this particular line of graves all helped to raise him, or so his mother had told him. He scanned the names on the weather worn markers and wished that the names meant something to him; Lily Summers, Alysin Baker, Chester Daniels, Emily Chastain.

    Deeks looked up and briefly counted the other cross shaped markers that were erected and tallied the dead. According to his late mother, eight of the graves had been dug on the same day many years ago. He would have been in the ninth had Emily not sacrificed herself for him. The glancing blow Declan received from the rough hewn spear effectively cleared his mind of any memory from that day or any day prior. The adopted son of Gregg and Emily Chastain lost both his parents that day... one in mind, the other in body.

    Once he had repacked the grave, he stood and stared at the mound of fresh dirt. His watched with eyes blurred by tears as the last of the setting sun descended below the horizon. When the darkness became all consuming, he stepped between the two graves and knelt close to Emily’s grave marker. He sniffled as he swept his hand through the coolness of the grass that had taken hold above her final resting place.

    Sonja never said a word when she would catch Deeks lingering through the remote outpost cemetery. It had always been her hope that his hovering near, over, and around Emily’s grave would jog a memory. She had tried to tell him the truth one time, but he had grown so dependant on her that she had been unable to break through the wall his mind had constructed.

    Deeks abruptly stood, brushed the dirt from his knees, and picked up the Bible he had left on top of his mother’s pack. He read a passage like she had done countless times. When he finished, he slowly closed the book, crossed himself for some unknown reason, and walked away.

    The remainder of the evening was spent in the kitchen of the small cabin. He quietly wept as he finished making her previously half made soup.

    As he placed Sonja’s Bible back in her room, Deeks estimated that she had read that book to him, cover to cover, over fifty times throughout the years. In his twenty two years, the young man had only seen a handful of books. Most were burned for fuel in the early days after the HANE. The ones he did see were manuals on how to breakdown and fix machines, weapons, and equipment that the clan elders told him had once dominated the landscape. The only useful book he had ever read, though, was an herbal and medicinal plant identification book.

    Deeks always had the feeling that they were hiding things from him, or at a minimum, being less than forthright with their collective answers to his adolescent questions after the accident. He shook off the memory.
    After he finished his dinner, he threw one of the few remaining logs on the fire.

    “Firewood’s running low,” he said out of habit.

    He then turned and fully expected to see his mother sitting in her chair reading. Damn.

    As a distraction, Deeks went and picked up the only possession he had, a guitar. He couldn’t recall who gave it to him, but Sonja beamed every time Declan picked up the instrument and played the songs she had taught him. It did have someone’s initials carved into the back of it. ‘JGS’ was just as meaningless to him as the names on the grave markers. He strummed it a few times, but couldn’t bring himself to play anything. His mind was in a fog.

    With a full stomach and a clouded mind, he replaced the guitar in the corner and went for firewood. Physical exertion always helped him ‘clear the mechanism’.

    Clear the mechanism, he thought with an inward laugh. Carlos had used this verbal cue to remind Deeks to slow down, cleanse his mind, and think. He, along with his wife, Heather, had been the last leaders of the clan. Deeks knew them only briefly, but at least he did remember them. They, like many others, had returned east after the winter snows had melted almost a decade earlier.

    I wish they were here. He’d definitely know what to do, he thought reflectively.

    Deeks was barely fourteen when the remaining inhabitants had departed to find family and start new lives. The only residents had been he and his mother ever since. There was something special about their location though. He had seen Carlos and Sonja arguing about it the night before they left. He knew that much at least. Unfortunately, no one had ever told him any more than that.

    * * *

    The sign reading, ‘Welcome to the Oregon State Defense Force, Bend, Oregon,’ dangled from the chain link and flittered in the cool early morning breeze. On any day but today, it sounded like the wind chimes his mother made. Today though, it was an annoyingly obnoxious reminder that he was alone.

    “Today’s a new day,” he said to himself and exited the bed.

    First things first, he thought and headed straight for the privy.

    On the walk over to the structure, he noticed that his leg didn’t ache quite as much as yesterday. There was still some soreness from the wound and infection however. On his way back, Deeks stopped and visually inspected the amount of wood in the stack.

    “Please be enough,” he said to himself as he grabbed an armful.

    He carefully placed some kindling and several of the split pieces into the underground firebox for the smokehouse. Gingerly, Declan stood back up and went to the shed to retrieve the strips and chunks of meat he’d processed the night before.
    The previous night’s sleep had been evasive and fitful. As a result, he spent several hours using the dancing light of a campfire to process most of the wolf carcasses. Deeks had practically been born with a carving knife in his hand thanks to Heather. As a result, he only needed to spend about an hour on each as he gently claimed the hide and gutted the filthy beasts.

    Before lighting the fire though, he careful skewered the larger pieces with a metal rod. “Rotisserie chicken,” he said to himself, emulating Heather. He never understood the joke and had rarely seen a chicken, let alone the rotisserie kind. ‘Must not be a common breed,’ seemed like a safe comment. Heather thought it was the funniest thing she’d heard in years. Shaking off the memory, he hung the biggest pieces first, closest to the roof. Several feet below that, he placed the dangling jerky strips he’d pierced with several spliced together metal clothes hangers.

    Clothes hangers, that was another thing he never understood. According to the women that had helped to raise him, there was once a time when people had so many clothes, they needed a special room to hang them all in. He shook his head at the flood of memories clogging his mind.

    With the meat hung and the fire lit, Deeks busied himself in the makeshift kitchen. Without his mother there to handle the collection of greens, he needed to inventory everything. This had always been her task. He always took care of the meat collection, butchering, and curing. Now he had to do it all. On top of that, the wood stack was running low.

    By the time he finished with the kitchen, the sun was high in the sky and his stomach was rumbling. Without Sonja there to remind him, he had forgotten to eat breakfast. Declan walked over to the cast iron wood burning stove and placed the pot of soup back on the grate and went outside to check on the fire for the smokehouse again.

    After letting the soup warm a little, he dipped the ladle in for a portion. As he sat in silence sipping at the concoction, he replayed the last days events in his mind's-eye. First he had been mauled while checking his traps, a few days went by before his body had fully succumbed to the infection. Then there were a handful of days, he estimated, that he lay unconscious as his body fought for survival. After that, he could only remember his mother’s contorted body splayed in her meadow. Then it dawned on him.

    “The journals!” he declared.

    Deeks shot from his seat and went straight to the little wooden bookshelf above her bed. There they all were. Seventeen of them lined up in a pretty little row across the plank. As he pulled each of the stitch bound books down, he couldn’t help but wonder why her last dying act was to scribble ‘Journals’ on her forearm.

    He remembered how excited she’d been when they’d found a stack of ten under a pile of rubble in what Sonja had called a book store. Another mystery.

    It took two trips to bring them all into the more well lit kitchen. As he scanned the cover of the top book, he saw his mother’s unmistakable handwriting. The label read: Volume 12. He shuffled through the pile and reviewed each cover from a half dozen before he found the one titled: Volume 1. As he greedily opened the notebook, the wind dislodged a single piece of paper. He watched it as the folded note wafted down to the floor.

    He quickly picked it up, retook his seat, unfolded it, and began reading:

    My Dearest Declan,

    I am not your mother. If you can reconcile yourself with that statement, then, and only then, may you read my journals.


    Deeks stood up abruptly. In so doing, he spilled all of the journals that had been on his lap onto the floor.

    “WHAT!” he exclaimed.

    His mind went instantly blank. He didn’t know what to think… no idea what to say or believe. Then, just as suddenly as everything disappeared, his consciousness started pulling long forgotten memories. One or two came back at first, then, eventually, a raft of information clogged it all up and confused him. Slowly, he sat back down and continued reading.

    I know this may seem confusing, but you were born Declan Edward Wrigley on or about January 26, 2023 in the State of Ohio.

    The stack of books, which I’m sure are scattered in front of you at this point, contain all of the information you need to find the only father you’ve ever known, Gregg Chastain. He was married to my daughter, Emily. You were adopted by them shortly after your birth. By birth or blood makes no difference, you are, and will forever be, my grandson. Please remember that, always.

    The memory loss from your wound was both a blessing and curse. No child needs the memories of the horrors you witnessed, but the loss also robbed you from knowing your mother’s love.

    Use the information contained in my journals to locate your father. He can help you fill in the missing pieces and together, the two of you can return home. That is where your story begins and also where it must end.

    I have prepared you as best I can. You already know how to survive on your own, but you need to be with people. Isolation is not healthy, you need to find what remains of the only family you’ve ever known.

    I have loved you since the first day you came into our lives.

    Sonja


    Deeks slumped back in his chair. It was true, he had been injured by the spy that killed eight of his clan’s members. The spear had pierced through Emily’s shoulder before… before… He hadn’t realized it, but he was rubbing the scar under his mop of hair. He did so for several minutes as he contemplated her words.

    Most of his thoughts were questions, he had so many questions.

    “She wouldn’t lie to me,” he said with conviction. “No,” he declared, “She’d never do that.”

    Declan Edward Wrigley slid from the chair, shuffled through the array of fallen notebooks, and spent the next several days reading and re-reading every word his grandmother had written.
    Hannibal ad portas

  3. #3
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    Chapter 3

    “Robert?”

    The name meant nothing. The man standing over the three incapacitated men barely recognized it. Reflex, instinct, muscle memory, or whatever people wanted to call it had always been an innate quality within him for as long as he could remember.

    “Robert? Hello? Are you OK?” the waitress asked concerned.

    “ROBERT!”

    Slowly emerging from the haze, he languidly turned his head toward her and replied, “Huh?”

    “Are you OK? Are you hurt?”

    A quick mental diagnostic gave him his answer, “I’m good.”

    Suddenly realizing where he was, he quickly looked around the crowded bar. All of the customers had backed away from the four as soon as the fight started. Robert’s temper and fighting skills were almost the thing of myth. As a result, it was no surprise to the onlooking patrons that he had dispatched them in fairly short order.

    “It’s all over folks,” he declared. “Go back about your business,” the bar owner offered. He then turned to the waitress and said, “Annie, grab those men from the corner booth. Have them help drag these guys out of here.”

    Robert bent down, grabbed the main agitator under his arms, and started marching toward the front door.

    In the days after the HANE, some twenty years earlier, the citizenry had practically burned all of the major cities to the ground. As a result, the population of Logan, Utah was a hodge-podge mix of regional inhabitants and former members of various clans that had managed to survive the nightmarish trinity of the ‘Great Die Off’, the Second Civil War, and the Clan Wars. The ones still retaining an ember of spunk or bravado always tried to intimidate their way through the small towns. Most of the time, it worked.

    The seemingly quiet owner wanted nothing more than to be left alone. To him, trouble always seemed to find those that were actively trying to avoid it. He kept his observations to himself and began to busy himself by re-setting the table and chairs that had been displaced during the violent, albeit brief, bar fight. The patrons, accustomed to such foolery, quickly went back to their drinking and gambling while Annie and the others removed the unconscious from the floor.

    The young barmaid found her friend behind the bar tending to customers when she finished. The pair quietly resumed their nightly activities. At midnight, Robert announced ‘last call’ to the moans of those still imbibing.

    Once the last of the patrons had departed, she locked the door behind them. Annie stood there a moment. She watched as people staggered back to their homes.

    “You won’t find what you’re looking for just by staring out that glass,” Robert said from behind her as he tidied up.

    “I know,” she replied with a sigh. “One day,” she stated contemplatively.

    “One day my butt!” he retorted. “Where do you think you’d go? You don’t have the slightest clue how to navigate your way through those bad lands. Why can’t you just be content with the relative safety of Logan?”

    She slowly turned toward him and leaned against the doors.

    “I don’t know. I guess I’m looking for some adventure… a little excitement. Something other than being a mother. I’m too young for that!”

    The comments caught him off guard. They immediately brought memories and images of Katherine and her sister, Layla. He half smiled. “So what do you call what we had here tonight? That wasn’t exciting enough for you?”

    “That was just you setting a few loudmouthed drunks straight. I can see that anywhere,” she said with a wink. “I want to see where the rivers lead. I want to follow a game trail or a foot path or a wagon trail through the wilderness just to see what’s out there.”

    Robert scoffed at the notion. “You know what’s at the end of that game trail… a bear or a mountain lion or a pack of wolves, that’s what!”

    Annie crossed her arms in defiance. “Who’s to say I couldn’t just throw caution to the wind and make a go of it? People do it all the time. I’ve saved up all of my wages and Ms. Tolliver gives me most of the scraps from her kitchen for meals.”

    “Sweetie, I love you like you were my own, but it’s truth tellin’ time,” he began as he stood upright. “You don’t know how to track, trap, skin, or preserve anything,” he declared as his ticked the list off on his fingers. “You’ve never shot a bow or a gun.
    Once you leave the town limits, what’s you plan? Hang out on the outskirts and sneak back to Ms. Tolliver’s porch for the scraps she leaves out?”

    “I’d figure it out!” she answered forcefully. “I have money for supplies and such.”

    “Having supplies won’t be enough. What are you going to do when you’ve exhausted those?”

    He paused then offered a suggestion. “You know what you need?”

    Annie shrugged.

    “What you need is a guide. Find someone headed the same general direction and tag along with them. They could train you on what you need to know while you’re on your way,” Robert replied trying to be helpful.

    Then a thought occurred to her. “Why don’t you teach me these things? I know you know how to do all of those things. I see you sneakin’ back into town with a fresh kill all the time. Which reminds me,” she continued as she started to head down the same dead end path she had tried countless times before.

    “How come you don’t want people to know that you know how to do stuff? I’ve seen you do things to men in this bar that no one in this town can do. Where’d you learn to fight like that?”

    “We’ve had this discussion, Annie,” he stated with a glare as he went back to cleaning up.

    “I literally have no one else, Robert. My mom and brother died in childbirth and my father drank himself to death. Who else do I have that can teach me anything?”

    “I said no, Annie,” he declared forcefully, but followed with a more compassionate, “I can’t be the one to teach you.”

    “I know where he learned how to do all that stuff,” a voice declared from the darkness of the balcony above.

    Startled, Robert snapped his head. Before he could visually acquire the speaker, there was a crash at the front door! The glass broke, shattering on the floor as the pair were flung open with a swift kick!

    Robert quickly grabbed Annie and placed her behind him. He then reached under the bar and withdrew a well-worn club.

    “State your business or I swear I’ll split every last one of your skulls!” he growled.

    The man on the balcony slowly moved into what little light there was. The star of gold glinted in his chest.

    Taken aback by the sight of the man in front of him, Robert slowly placed the club on the bar top and gave a slight nod.

    “Deputies, please be courteous as you take Mr. Townsend into custody. One false move and he will kill you.”

    “Robert? What’s going on? Why are you being arrested?” Annie asked hurriedly. When no answer came, she directed her question at the Marshal making his way down the staircase.

    “What’s he done? Those guys started that fight! He didn’t do anything wrong!”

    “Ms. Carlisle, I’m here for something far more serious than a bar fight… and Mr. Townsend knows it. Please step aside.”

    As the first Deputy approached, Angie lunged around Robert, grabbed the club and started swinging wildly.

    The three men quickly stepped back, retreating, and removed themselves from her reach.

    “Robert?” the Marshall said as calm as could be. “If you don’t put an end to her foolishness I will be forced to take matters into my own hands.” As he flexed and limbered up his fingers, he added, “And just so there’s no mistaking my intent, I do mean that quite literally.”

    Sighing with dejecture, and knowing the man’s skills, Robert replied, “There’s no need for that, Grappler.” While staring at the bar top, in a near whisper, he too added, “And just so we are clear on my intent… if you or your deputies touch so much as a hair on her we’re all gonna have a go, gallows be damned.”

    “Grappler? Who’s ‘Grappler’?” Annie questioned as she turned to face her employer.

    Robert said nothing as he purposefully, but gently, removed the club from her hand.

    “Everything is going to be fine, Annie. Just stay out of the way and let them take me into custody.”

    The bar owner glanced around the room at the faces of the Marshal and his deputies.

    “Nice and easy fellas. No one needs to get hurt tonight.”

    He slowly placed Annie back behind his frame and started to deliberately walk out from behind the bar.

    “I’m gonna come out into the open and then turn and place my hands on the bar. Nice and easy, OK?”

    Once he was in position, as promised, the deputies slowly closed in around him.

    “You look a little heavy, Grap,” Robert offered as the men closed in. “Guess the milk from that government teet you’ve be suckling has been good to you.”

    As cautiously as they could, they finished their approached. The man to his left withdrew his cuffs.

    Robert smiled.

    As the deputy began to move his left arm behind him, Robert used the momentum to spin toward the man and crack him in the jaw with his right. A molar flew across the bar and bounced into a corner booth as the man crumpled to the ground in a heap.
    The other two deputies rushed him in an attempt to subdue the prisoner.

    Using both hands now, Robert grabbed the second deputy by the back of the neck. In a lightning fast movement, he used the charging man’s energy and off kilter balance to thrust his head and torso downward, to his waiting knee.

    Blood exploded from the man’s face as the patella and femur made contact with the bridge of the deputy’s nose.

    The third man leapt through the air over his incapacitated partners and crashed into Robert. The jarring thud from the assault sent the pair back into the edge of the bar.

    The two men tumbled to the floor, punches flew, groans bellowed.

    Annie screamed.

    Grappler stood idly by and waited for the fracas to end. Nonchalantly, he removed a pocket watch and checked the time while the two men struggled on the floor.

    His attention was stolen away when he heard Robert exclaim, “Alright, Grap. Now what?”

    When he looked down, Robert was on his back, underneath the last deputy. The ratchet portion of the handcuff was digging into the carotid artery of the man’s neck.

    The Marshall checked his watch one last time before putting it back in his pocket.

    “You’re old and slow, Robert. Took you a full seventy-three seconds to subdue three men. The man I knew could do it in less than half that time.”

    Annie stood dumbfounded, questions and thoughts flooding her mind. How did these two know each other? Robert never mentioned anyone named ‘Grap’ or ‘Grappler’. What is he being arrested for?

    “Screw you, Grap!” Robert spat. “I’m pushin’ sixty!”

    “Yeah, yeah. Enough’s enough,” the Marshal proclaimed as he removed a concealed Glock from behind his back.

    Robert’s eyes became large.

    “Where’d you get that?”

    “Not your concern,” the man replied tersely. “Release my deputy or I’ll be forced to shoot you in the head.”

    “That’s crap. It’s not even loaded,” Robert stated calling his bluff.

    Pointing the pistol skyward, the Marshal pulled the trigger. Like a clap of lightning, the pistol discharged it’s angry round through the ceiling of the establishment.

    “Do I have your attention now?”

    Shocked, Robert slowly nodded his agreement.

    As he pushed the man off of him, he asked again, “Now what?”

    Grap snorted through his nostrils at the question.

    “Ahh, for starters, I’d say putting the cuffs on both wrists would be a good start.”

    The bartender stood and began to comply by attempting to cuff himself behind his back.

    “Seriously?” Grappler spat. “Cuff yourself in the front! I want to see your hands at all times.”

    Robert smirked. “I forgot I taught you that trick.”

    * * *

    Deeks stared at the back wall in his mother’s former room, crowbar in his hand. He had no idea what it truly took to construct the tempered steel implement. All he knew was how to use it. With a shrug he set the hammer and crowbar on her former bed and moved the steel frame containing the worn mattress across the floor.

    Shaking his head, he went back to the kitchen and reviewed his grandmother’s words.

    Behind my bed is a hidden door. Use the crowbar to pry it open. Take the lantern and walk to the large steel door at the end of the tunnel. The door looks closed, but it is not locked. Inside, you will find your old bike and a pull behind carrier. Hopefully, the tires are still good, but you will need to put air in them. The pump is in the carrier. I pray that they are still good. The entire trip is high plains desert and mountainous so the bike might not be the best option for the entire journey.

    Every chance you get, fill up any containers with water. If the tires are no good, build a litter and hoof it. It’ll take a while, but you’ll make it in a few weeks. Use the map I’ve placed in Volume 12 to navigate your way east.

    She must have been thinking about this for a while, he thought.

    Look through the boxes and crates as much as you like, but do not load ANY ammo in ANY gun! Stay away from the guns and ammo! You don’t know how to use them and you need to wait for your father to teach you again. Load the carrier with supplies and food and a couple of weapons for Gregg. Tell him that the map and firearms are a gift from Sonja. He’ll understand.

    He quickly returned to her room and silently studied the wall looking for a seam. In less than a minute he’d found one, then the other. After some banging and cajoling, the door opened. Behind it lay an inky black abyss.
    Deeks grabbed the lit lantern and started heading into the cavern. After about a hundred paces, the massive steel reinforced blast door came into sight. The enormity of the structure came into sharper focus with each step.

    “What the hell is this place?”

    He went to the non-hinge side and saw that they door was open barely a few inches. Placing the lantern on the floor, he set his foot on the wall for leverage as he grabbed the door edge with both hands. Preparing himself for the herculean effort he felt it was going to take, he took several short quick breaths.

    The last survivor of the Bend, Oregon outpost slowly muscled the door open.

    * * *

    “You know, you could have waited for Annie to go home. She didn’t need to see that,” Robert said as he lay in his cot behind the steel bars of the jail cell.

    “True, but she needed to all the same,” Grappler replied from his reclined position at the Sheriff’s desk.

    The two sat in silence for several moments before the prisoner asked, “Why didn’t you say who I really was? You kept calling me Robert. Why didn’t you call me by my real name?”

    “No need,” he replied bluntly. “That will all become public knowledge during the trial.”

    The incarcerated man scoffed.

    “The hell you say! What trial? As soon as these people know who I am, there’ll be a lynch mob. Everyone around these parts seems to know someone that was there.”

    “Eighty percent of those people are full of it. That’s drunken bar room talk at best and you know it.”

    “Maybe,” Robert stated. “Either way, there are enough that’ll guarantee I’ll be swinging from a tall tree at the end of a short rope inside of three days once that little nugget gets out.”

    Grappler shrugged. “I was charged with tracking you down and arresting you. You killed a man up in Cascade, regardless of…” Grappler began to reply but stopped.

    Robert slowly picked his head up off of the mattress.

    “Regardless of what?” he asked.

    “I was going to say, regardless of our previous relationship, you need to stand trial for that. What you did during the Clan Wars notwithstanding, you need to answer for Cascade. That’s the only charge on the table.”

    The prisoner put his head back down.

    “What do you know of the Clan Wars?”

    The Marshal bolted from his seat!

    “I should kill you where you lay for what you did you son-of-a-bitch!” he hissed.

    Surprised by the venomous outburst, Gregg quickly went up on to his elbows.

    “What did I ever do to you, Grap? I taught you damn near everything you know… you ungrateful schmuck. Oh, but look at you now…” As he resumed his prone position on the cot, he condescendingly added, “A lawman.”

    “I was in that camp not three hours before!” he declared as he withdrew the Glock again. “I was working the back channels with Hoplite you crazy bastard! We were this close to a peaceful solution!” he declared as he held up two fingers. “But that wasn’t enough for you! An eye for an eye became an eye for twenty for you!”

    Robert sat up quickly again at Grappler’s statement.

    “Did you know what their leadership had planned? Did you know that they were going to murder and spear people to death?! Did you?! I swear to Heaven Almighty, if you knew you better not ever let me out of this cell! I will kill you where you stand!”

    “No!” Grappler shot back dejectedly, “No,” he repeated, this time more resigned. “I didn’t know. They played me, all right? Happy now? Had I known I would have done everything I could to stop it! But then you went crazy and you killed everyone anyway! Everyone! You murdered every man, woman, and child as they slept in their beds! I’d be well served to shoot you right here and now. Like you said, there’s plenty of people in these parts that would rejoice at the news. Hell, I could write my own ticket after doing you.”

    “Ah, but crimes committed during the Clan Wars are inadmissible… so says the new royal highness.”

    Under his breathe, Grappler mumbled, “President.”

    In an almost effortless motion, Robert bolted from the bed. As he stood before his executioner, he tore open his high collar button shirt.

    With the scars from his Iranian captivity fully exposed on his torso, Robert dared the Marshal.

    “Screw that though, right Grap? Let’s just throw down right now… chuck the rulebook out the window… You do what you need to do, right Grap?! Shoot me in my chest!”

    Amping up the volume, he added, “You know how, and when, and why I got all of these scars! I got my pound of flesh for every last one of these scars, and then some! Come on! Get yours! Go on! Do it! Put me out of misery!”
    His taunts were vicious and unrelenting!

    “Forget the fact that it was a spy from your clan that killed my wife and my son! I got my revenge! I avenged my family! Get yours… right here! Right now! Avenge your clan, Grap!” Robert bellowed. “I’m right here! This is what you’ve been waitin’ for all these years?! Right?! Go on! Do it!”

    “They weren’t my clan, you lunatic!” the Marshal declared, “The only reason I was there was because Hoplite asked me for a favor. Now, I swore an oath to uphold the law, regardless of my personal feelings on the matter in question.”

    As he placed his pistol back in its holster behind his back, he growled, “Lay back down and keep your mouth shut, Robert! Don’t make me and my deputies come in there and do it for you!”

    “You sissy! You can’t even say my name! What’s my name, Grap?! Go on, say it! Speak the name of the boogieman!”

    “I know your name. I just don’t want to say it until the trial when everyone in town can hear it,” Grappler replied as he turned away from the cell.

    “Don’t turn your back on me you coward! You can’t say my name for fear of the nightmares that come along with it!”

    “Shut up, Robert!” I’m warning you!”

    “Warning me of what? How your weak and flaccid deputies are gonna come in here and make me be quiet? Say my name!”

    “Robert! Robert Townsend!” the Marshal howled.

    “Bull! What’s my name, Grappler?!” The prisoner barely paused before he began spitting out names the man did know. “Josh and Samantha Simmons! Brent Howard! Dallas McKutcheon! James Rooney! Carlos and Heather Rayna! Juan, Basilia, Jesus, and Abelardo Martinez! Philip and Layla Marceau! Scott and Katherine Watson!”

    When he didn’t get the reaction he wanted, the prisoner pulled the one name from the past that he knew would stop the retreating Marshal.

    “Eustace Stokes!”

    It worked.

    As he spun to face the prisoner, he continued, “What’s my name you friggin’ coward?! Say it! Say my name!”

    Before he knew what he was saying, the Marshall blurted out, “Gregg! Gregg Chastain! Are you happy now?!”

    Pausing and lowering his voice to whisper, he concluded. “You’re the devil himself… and Gregg Chastain is your name…”

    Deputy James Burnette had been on patrol when the voluminous conversation had erupted. Now, standing less than three feet away outside the cell window, he could feel himself filling with a rage that only the most homicidal ever felt. He and Grappler both had been working the back channels, only he had family among the members. If Gregg Chastain wanted to be put down, they’d find no more willing participant in the whole of the Northwest Territory.
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  4. #4
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    Awesome start. There aren't many stories that start this far after shtf, me like.
    Common sense is so uncommon nowadays it ought to be reclassified as a super power

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak474u View Post
    Awesome start. There aren't many stories that start this far after shtf, me like.
    Sweet. Thanks. Here comes some more...

    Also looking for thoughts, impressions, and insight from those that have read Parts I-III...
    Last edited by theauthor; 04-04-2016 at 09:32 PM.
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  6. #6
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    Chapter 4

    “So it’s decided then?” the man asked more declaratively than anything else.

    The full moon was low on the horizon, illuminating the darkened room better than the half dozen candles. Everyone was silent, save for the man’s youngest daughter. She carried a pained expression. He saw it. Everyone saw it.

    “It’s perfect,” he stated before she could offer her opinion. “The three of us aren’t going to garner much attention, if any. We can do this. We know where he’s going to be and when. James and his ballistic calculator of a brain could pick him off in his sleep.”

    “But, honey,” Sam offered gently. “You guys don’t move and hustle like the thirty year old versions you used to be.”

    “She’s right, Monsieur,” Philip added. “Perhaps Katherine and I should be the ones to go.”

    “I won’t stand for it!” Josh declared in rebuttal. “You each have families that need tending. The well-being of my grandchildren is paramount… which is why it has to be me, James, and Dallas.”

    “Don’t you think that for this very reason we should be the ones going?” Katherine asked. “Someone is bound to recognize you guys… you were seen by a lot of people in a lot of places during the Civil War. That’s not to mention that you spent most of the ensuing years hiding in southwest Virginia.”

    “No!” Josh proclaimed forcefully. “My generation screwed it up and my generation will fix it.” Pausing to collect his thoughts and his breathe, he added, “The decimation of the United States population was the direct result of the Esfahani brothers. Within months of the UN troop withdrawal, President Culpepper declared martial law in an attempt to begin the rebuilding process. As a result, civil liberties were suspended or outright revoked. The stupid solar flare knocked everyone offline. That’s when the confiscation of materials, medicines, weapons and ammo, as well as food stores began in earnest and became a near daily occurrence. You saw the tactics employed. Brutal doesn’t begin to describe it. Thankfully, Sarkes convinced him to adhere to what remained of the Constitution and he only served one more term.”

    “Well that didn’t work out too well for Sarkes. Someone assassinated him and crippled Agent Monahan for life weeks later, God rest his soul,” Layla inserted.

    Dallas interjected, “Katherine, you were recovering from the barbarity of Tim and his wife and didn’t get a chance to see what we saw. The very men and women that helped save the country from a ‘New World Order’ were hunted down.”

    James jumped into the fray and added, “By the time you and Layla started having children, the inevitable had already started. Americans, the true blue ones at any rate, refused to stand by while their rights were eroded away. The willing dismantled what remained of the US government apparatus through bloody conflict,” James added. “But, since nature abhors a vacuum, we wound up with the Clan Wars.”

    “When they finally do get around to writing history books again,” her father continued, “It’s not gonna be a series of pretty chapters. Region states and familial clans attacked one another with abandon for resources until an uneasy peace was declared between them. One man came to the fore out of the ashes that was once The United States of America… now he’s even worse. Killing him is the only way. It’s not open for debate.”

    Eyes shifted around the room. No one could refute the summation of the last two decades.

    “If you guys are hell bent on putting this guy down, then so be it,” Katherine stated bluntly. “But answer this, what’s your plan for after? And I’m not referring to your escape. How do we know that the next guy won’t be just as bad?” Throwing her hands up in defeat, she concluded, “I’d just feel better if there were someone younger to watch your six is all I’m saying, Dad.”

    “Has anyone spoken to Carlos and Heather?” Sam asked.

    The room turned reflective and sorrowful.

    Katherine looked Sam in the eye and gently shook her head ‘no’ as she answered, “He hasn’t picked up a weapon since Gregg, still refuses to even butcher small game and livestock.”

    “Does anyone even know where Gregg is?”

    Again, the eyes darted around the room, this time with more hope than before. They’d all heard the rumors of his revenge long before Carlos and Heather had returned. Years would pass and a new rumor would emerge, ‘he was living with an Indian tribe’, ‘he died in a bar fight’, ‘he was a gun for hire’, but none of them had any basis in fact.

    Slowly, from the darkness of the corner, a figure stood.

    “Si, Senor. He’s in big trouble.”

    The room slowly turned toward the man.

    “Grappler is on his trail.”

    * * *

    Once again, time had gotten away from Deeks. The rumbling in his stomach was his ever present alarm clock. When the volume increased, he reached into the pile and tore off a piece of meat. As he took a step back to observe the provisions he had accumulated, per his mother’s instructions, he sighed.

    Mom thought of everything except for the weight of all this crap! How am I gonna transport all of this?

    Reflecting on his last thought, he scoffed, and corrected himself, grandmother.

    Shaking his head at the inventory, he began assessing everything; his skills, his journey, her words… I know how to survive.

    Deeks walked back over and began removing items with this new mantra in mind. After a few minutes, he was left with a pile half it’s original size which only contained essentials. That, plus the dried meat and what he could manage to trap and forage, would get him from his remote outpost in Oregon to his father somewhere in Utah.

    As he loaded the items into the pull behind bike carrier, he began talking to Sonja as if she were there.

    “OK, three tarps and several hundred yards of paracord, check. Cold weather gear, got that,” he proclaimed as he folded the jacket and pants and placed them on top of the tarp and rope. “Wish you had told me we had boots in this damn cave,” he stated incredulously as he wiggled his toes inside his new footwear and threw an extra set with three pairs of wool socks in the carrier.

    “Axe, machete, folding entrenching tool, and matches… thank you for the matches by the way. Grabbed some wire from that spool over there for snares as a precaution like you said, but I still think they can smell these. All I really need is a willow tree or some vine.”

    The young man stopped and stared at what was left.

    Before him lay his bow and quiver, two 9mm pistols, two rifles, and three ammo cans. The two rifles were as dissimilar as they could be. One was flat black and contained a lot of plastic. The other had worn brown wood everywhere.

    Without hesitating, he swung the bow and quiver over his head and stashed the pistols in between the folds of the tarps. Deeks closed the lid on the middle container holding the loose 9mm rounds and heaved it into the carrier.

    There’s no way I can carry all three cans!

    Trying to solve the problem, he picked up a rifle in each hand and felt the weight. It wasn’t even a contest.

    “Sorry, Dad. Looks like you’re only getting the M-16 and not the M-1 Garand.”

    The names of the weapons were as foreign to him as the damage either weapon could do. With the decision made, he closed the lid on the NATO rounds and loaded the last can into the carrier. Prior to closing the third, he grabbed two handfuls of the 30-06 ammunition and threw the loose rounds in the carrier. “Maybe someone wants to barter.”

    Before closing the flap over the pull behind, he checked the tires one last time, and then placed the pump in with the rest of the supplies.

    Deeks kicked the kick-stand up and started pushing toward the door. He was encouraged when his muscles realized that there was hardly sixty pounds in the carrier. The weapons and ammo meant the least to him. He had already decided. If push came to shove, they’d be the first thing he jettisoned.

    As Declan cleared the blast door, he thought, can I even ride this thing?

    “Only one way to find out,” he declared as he swung his leg over the seat. It felt unusual, but familiar at the same time. Placing one foot on the pedal he pushed off.

    He used his momentum to coast at first, but quickly remembered to place his second foot on the other for balance. Just as he started to exert force to propel himself, the chain snapped. The metal snake clinked its way through the cranks before eventually falling to the floor.

    Deeks put his foot down and got off of the contraption. He quickly put the kickstand down and walked around to the other side of the bike. Squatting, he picked up the chain. Inspecting the two ends only served him with more dejection.

    Rocking back and settling on his butt, he thought, figures.

    He stared at the ceiling of the rock formation for several minutes, just breathing and thinking. He brought his head back down and turn it toward the carrier. Declan was suddenly filled with renewed hope.

    Attached to the arm connecting the carrier to the bike was a third wheel which had been retracted up out of the way. He’d barely noticed it before.

    Rolling from his butt to his knees, he leaned over the back tire. A simple clasp pin was all that held the two together. He released it and pulled the aluminum bar out of the mated socket. Pushing the useless bike out of the way, it crashed to the dirt after only a few feet.

    Deeks examined the third wheel. A compression nut affixed to a black circular knob moved when he turned it. That caught his attention because the wheel began to loosen from the bar. Smiling, he twisted it again and again until the third wheel swung down unencumbered and was now perpendicular.

    He set the arm down and the wheel collapsed. Idiot.

    The now excited young man picked the arm back up, let the tire swing back down, and quickly turned the knob to clamp it in place. Grabbing the aluminum frame, he pushed the cart back and forth. The small wheel rotated three hundred and sixty degrees.

    “We’re cookin’ now!” he proclaimed to the empty cavern.

    While the sound of his voice echoed off of the walls, Deeks leapt up and went behind the carrier. A foam laden push bar was already affixed to the back of the cart. He eagerly grabbed ahold and started walking forward. As he headed toward the doorway in the back of the shack he had called home for so many years, he changed his mind. He entered the cavern behind the blast door and retrieved the M1 and the third box of ammo. As he exited, he suddenly remembered something.

    Stopping, he turned, set the lantern down, and walked back to the blast door. He pushed, heaved, cajoled, and cussed his way to closing the door as much as possible.

    Once he was back inside the structure of his hovel, he closed the opening and replaced his mother’s bed against the wall. The darkness of the interior struck him as odd. Deeks went to the lone window and looked outside.
    “It’s night?! How long was I in there?”

    In actuality, he was somewhat relieved. The fact that it was night would force him to stay another day or two, assess his chosen supplies, and be fully prepared for his journey. The only thing he was certain of was that he would definitely be taking his grandmother’s notebooks and a single photo album. She had made that one of her conditions… and Deeks was a rule follower. He didn’t know any other way.

    * * *

    Grappler opened the cell door with an uneasy feeling. He didn’t care that Gregg had his back pressed against the far wall. He knew the man well enough to know he was most likely feigning compliance. He didn’t even care that there were seven men standing behind him. All he truly cared about was getting his prisoner to the courthouse.

    With that thought in mind, he quickly closed the door and relocked it. Handing the keys to one of the deputies he stated, “Wait here.”

    He then approached the Sheriff sitting at his desk.

    “Keys,’ he demanded.

    With a look of disdain and hesitancy, they were eventually placed in his hands.

    Grap proceeded to the corner of the sheriff’s office and unlocked the makeshift gun cabinet. It was nothing more than some old T1-11 plywood nailed into the shape of a narrow rectangle with a makeshift door that had been hung on the wall.

    Grabbing the 10-gauge, he quickly loaded the double barrel, and went back to the cell.

    “OK,” he proclaimed as he shoved the weapon through the bars and pointed it at Gregg. “I’m ready.”

    The door unlocked with a clunk as the tumblers turned.

    “Robert Townsend, these deputies are going to approach you. They will place you in handcuffs and leg irons and lead you arm in arm to the courthouse. It’s time for the jailbird shuffle, comprende? You are not to resist them in any way. Do you understand my instructions to you?” Grappler stated.

    The prisoner nodded his head.

    The cell door swung open, making a racket with the grinding of metal.

    “Walk to the center of the cell, get on your knees, and extend your arms.”

    Robert smiled. “It’s your world, boss.” he replied with a smirk, but did as he was instructed.

    The deputies approached apprehensively and began their task. Robert never moved. He resisted the urge to flinch and yell ‘Boo!’ to startle them all, but Grappler looked nervous enough as it was. So nervous in fact he feared that he might get shot by accident.

    Once the chains were in place, Grap offered, “Gentlemen, help the prisoner to his feet.”

    Within minutes the men were headed through the Sheriff’s office door. The brightness and warmth of the sunlight was a welcome respite. The prisoner was content to take his time so the feeling would last as long as possible. Aside from the bystanders that were now standing idle and whispering, no one spoke.

    As he ascended the old stone steps of the historic Cache County Courthouse, the dangling chains clunked and clanked against the worn marble. Built in 1883 and restored one hundred and twenty five years later, it managed to avoid any major damage during the ensuing chaos of the previous two decades. The structure was re-commissioned to its original function when it’s newer counterpart in the District Court building was burned to the ground during the initial unrest associated with President Rayburn’s truncated speech. The Sheriff’s office several blocks away was relocated some years later once some semblance of law and order was restored.

    Two deputies detached from the cadre and sprinted forward. Each opened one of the doors leading into the courthouse. The prisoner, along with the rest of his armed escort, entered the building unencumbered.

    “Hear anything from the old gang?” Gregg asked out of nowhere.

    Surprised by the question, Grappler stumbled over his words. Eventually, he found his footing.

    “I haven’t been back in Ohio for some time. Send a few letters to Jesus every now and again.”

    “We have mail again?”

    Grappler chuckled, “Yeah, dumbass. Been around for a couple of years now.”

    The prisoner shrugged. “Never had a need and never thought to ask I guess.”

    Gregg took a few more steps, paused, and then turned toward the Marshal.

    “I am sorry for what I did. In case you were wondering… I...” he began to say as his focus became more trained on his leg irons.

    Taken aback, Grappler swallowed hard.

    “You weren’t actually capable of thinking during that time.” The lawman sighed, and added, “But that’s not why you’re here.”

    “No, I know. I just thought you’d find some solace in hearing me say the words. I do feel remorse for most of them. I can’t change what I did or who I am… or what I am.”

    The Marshal shook his head slightly before replying.

    “We’ll talk more after you’ve seen the judge.”

    Gregg nodded.
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  7. #7
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    Well now this is one of the best starts I have seen in a while. I love going forward so many years to see where things have ended up at.
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
    John 15:13

  8. #8
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    Quit wasting time here and get this thing on the market. Looks good. I may have to go reread 3 to catch up on characters again.
    Once on safari in deepest darkest Afganistan we ran out of Gin, and were compelled to survive on food and water for several days.


    I typically carry a flask of vodka for snakebites. I also carry a small snake.- W. C. Fields

  9. #9
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    I think I'm gonna go back and read all 3 again.
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
    John 15:13

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Somewhere in corn country
    Posts
    275

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    Quote Originally Posted by bacpacker1513 View Post
    I think I'm gonna go back and read all 3 again.
    Do you have the first or second edition of Part I bacpacker?
    Hannibal ad portas

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