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Thread: Foreign & Domestic Part IV - Colder Weather

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    East Tennessee


    Not sure, looking back at the Kindle it was copyright in 2013.
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
    John 15:13

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Somewhere in corn country


    Quote Originally Posted by bacpacker1513 View Post
    Not sure, looking back at the Kindle it was copyright in 2013.
    It should have this text on the first page or two after the cover:

    Second DJK Publication House edition published 2014.
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  3. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    East Tennessee


    It is the First DJK Publication, 2013.
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
    John 15:13

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Somewhere in corn country


    Tried to PM you bacpacker but your inbox is full. I can gift you the second edition of Part I since you already have the first edition. Just need to know if you have an electronic or paperback copy and an email or mailing address. PM me with that info and I'll get you all squared away.
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  5. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    East Tennessee


    Thanks bud! That is very nice of you. Didn't know the box was full, need to fix that ASAP. I will PM you the info.
    Thanks again.
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
    John 15:13

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Somewhere in corn country


    Chapter 5

    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 four 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 turned toward the Sheriff.

    “Keys," he demanded.

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

    Grap proceeded to the corner of the 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 and 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 or yell ‘Boo!’ to startle them. Grappler looked nervous enough as it was. So nervous in fact Gregg 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 exiting 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 the newer District Court building was burned to the ground during the initial unrest following President Rayburn’s truncated speech. The Sheriff’s office several blocks away was relocated sometime later, once some semblance of law and order was restored.

    Two deputies detached from the cadre and sprinted forward. Each opened one of the double 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… We even have limited telegraph use.”

    The prisoner shrugged, 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 think I...” he began to say as his focus became more trained on his leg irons.

    Taken aback, Grappler swallowed hard.

    “I don’t believe you were actually capable of thinking anything after losing you wife and son like that. In a different time and in a different place, some head shrink would prattle on about you being in a dissociative state where you can’t be blamed because you didn’t know what you were doing.” 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.

    Inside, Deputy Burnette was fuming. He’d heard stories. There was no way he was going to be able to kill Gregg up close with his bare hands like he wanted. James knew he would most likely be on the wrong end of that outcome. No, it was going to have to be from a distance greater than he could accurately hit with his bow.

    Given the national suspension of the Second Amendment and eventual confiscation raids, only Sherriff’s, Marshal’s, and Secret Service personnel were permitted to carry firearms. Deputies were not permitted any weapons aside from handcuffs and clubs. James had to figure a way into the Sheriff’s lock up. Per the Law Enforcement Localization Act, he was well aware that there was a rifle and ten rounds of .30-06 ammo in the makeshift gun locker. He knew he wasn’t the best shot, but with ten rounds, the odds would be decidedly improved.

    * * *

    “Engine 611,” the man stated as he admired the old steam locomotive. “And we are sure this beast can make the trip?”

    “Yes, Mr. President. My understanding is that its original route took it from Roanoke to Cincinnati so she’s more than capable to make it over the Appalachians,” his aide replied earnestly.

    “And the tracks?” the Commander in Chief asked. “Are we sure the tracks are in good shape?”

    “It’s going to be a month or so before the inspections are complete. They are inspecting over five hundred miles of track, sir. Additionally, the workers need to finish the reassembly and testing of the engine now that we’ve had it moved to this spur.”
    The President barely heard the man’s words. His mind was moving a hundred miles an hour imagining all that he could accomplish.

    “Good…good,” he replied out of instinct more than anything else.

    President Alejandro Calderon had been born the day after 9/11 in Brooklyn, NY. His family had been large growing up, but they were increasingly concerned about the crew he was running with. When the EMP happened, he had been twenty three and the prospect of surviving among the gang activity was narrowing.

    He’d managed to drag as many as twelve members of his family across the Hudson in the dead of winter. Only three survived the first year. Four froze to death before they reached the outskirts of Baltimore one hundred and sixty miles south. The scarcity of food resulted in two more deaths. Gangs and disease claimed the rest.

    Now, his only concern was accumulating as much power and wealth as possible and retaining both for as long as possible. Shredding entire sections of the once sacred Constitution didn’t keep him up nights.
    “Are the population estimates back yet?” Alejandro asked.

    Flipping back through various pages of notes, the aide eventually replied, “We have some rough numbers… so, of the three-hundred and thirty million citizens at the time of the EMP, about ten to twenty percent remain. That’s about fifty million, sir.”
    “Really?” the POTUS answered in questioning surprise. “With all of the bloodletting, I’d have thought it would have been around twenty mil at best.”

    The assistant hesitated to reveal the next piece of information, but could see that his boss was anticipating it.

    “We also estimate that of the remaining citizenry comprising the twenty-five to fifty-five year old demographic, over ninety percent have seen some form of combat at one time or another. On the plus side, most them are now unarmed, so that’s good, right?”

    Brushing off the man’s question, the President asked, “And how many are in the Southwest Territories?”

    “Uh, hold on a sec, I’ve got that somewhere,” the man stated as his flipped more pages. “Here it is… it looks like we’ll unload approximately five million when the Mexican Government purchases that region.”
    “Are they finally capitulating on the limiting of Nevada and California to the 37th parallel?”

    “Seems that way. They appear to be content with grabbing Las Vegas and San Diego to Fresno, sir.”

    “And the price? They good with a dollar an acre?”

    “Yes, sir,” his man-servant replied. “That’s almost a billion dollars headed to the U.S. Treasury.”

    The two looked and at each other with poker faces until Calderon smirked.

    A handful of nanoseconds passed before they both began uproariously laughing.

    * * *

    As dawn crested the mountain range to the east, Deeks was already packed and preparing to head out. In the back of his mind, a thought was gnawing at him. What if I just torched this place?

    But then, just as quickly, he talked himself out of it. Sonja and Hoplite had argued about this location and now he knew why. Burning the shanty to the ground would only expose the cave and its treasure. He was sure neither of them wanted the contents exposed to nefarious people. Well, it wasn’t like there were many passersby in the last decade or more, but it was a risk and a gamble he knew neither of them would want him to take.

    With the weather still hit or miss given the arrival of spring, he didn’t dare unpack any of the cold weather gear. If he knew anything about the Northwest Territory, it was that the weather could turn in an instant.

    Using a pair of pliers, he untwisted the strapping holding the fence to the poles for two sections of the chain link fencing. This allowed him to push the jog stroller underneath with minimal effort and snagging. As he finished refastening the last of the wire, he took stock of the shanty from a distance.

    With a sigh, he reached into the cart and retrieved his grandmother’s notebook containing the map and directions.

    Sure hope her landmarks are still there, he thought as he looked it over for the umpteenth time.

    He quietly closed the book, tossed it back inside, and started pushing. Through the clear panel on the top of the contraption, Deeks could see all of his water bladders wiggling. Sonja had warned him repeatedly in her writings to bring as much water as possible given the elevation and lack of water sources between his location and his father.

    He wished he’d had more time to create some extra water vessels out of the wolves’ innards. In the end, he made the calculated decision not to create additional bladders out of the stomach material as the firewood he had on hand needed to be used for the curing of the meat. Bringing water to a boiling several times for the soaking and scrapping of the stomach material would expend precious resources. The weather was cool as it was still early spring. Soaking rains were sure to make an appearance. Ten bladders would have to suffice given his grandmothers excessive instructions.

    Sonja had spent a considerable amount of time plotting her grandson’s course from Bend to Logan, Utah. If he followed her route and timelines, excluding detours for stranger avoidance, Deeks could refill his water supply every three to five days if places like Chickahominy Reservoir, Malheur Lake, Antelope Reservoir, and Bruneau Arm still existed. There were so many unknowns regarding the state of the nation’s dams and reservoirs after the EMP twenty years earlier that Sonja was hesitant to get his hopes up. She repeatedly stressed that he fill all containers whenever possible because there were no guarantees anymore.
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  7. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Somewhere in corn country


    Chapter 6

    Basilia held her son as fiercely as her frail sixty plus year old frame would allow. She hated it when her family was separated. Abelardo had barely left the farm, let alone Vinton County, after saving his mother from being executed with Samantha and Josh’s daughters. She never had to worry about him doing something crazy or ill-advised, but Jesus was different. He craved action and adventure. It was one thing when he was off with Josh fighting a subversive campaign. At least then she didn’t know where he was or the risks they took or the danger he was constantly in. But this? This was a different beast entirely.

    Her eldest son and a trio of nearly septuagenarian men were about to attempt a near cross country journey to recover and enlist the aid of two of their wayward ‘sons’. Nationally, things were far calmer than they had been even just a few years ago, but rumors still persisted. There were ‘tolls’ for river crossings and the occasional bandit lurking on less travelled roads. Either one prepared to accept nothing short of a traveler’s first born in trade for safe passage. Even if they managed to avoid those, there was always the brutality of Calderon’s troops to be leery of.

    Many people were still looking for family and friends after the largest mass migration since sod busters and wagon trains roamed the prairies. This was called being ‘on the road’. Most were harmless and actively avoided others, but some could become aggressive. Knives, clubs, and hatchets were the weapons of choice since the firearm purge. If a traveler didn’t barter or know how to defend themselves they were often left unconscious in a ditch and penniless.

    Josh grabbed the reins from their resting place on the wagon and looked down at his wife. She smiled softly at him and then began absent mindedly petting one of the horses.

    “If anyone asks, we’re setting up trade with towns along the Mississippi,” her husband declared.

    “I know,” she replied sweetly. “You’ll be back by the end of summer. Katherine has already left for town to mail Jesus’ reply to Grappler.”

    “Good…. good,” Josh replied as he lit his pipe.

    Several quiet moments passed before Sam whispered to him, “Please don’t make this your last adventure. Promise me you’ll make it back.”

    The man sighed.

    “You know I can’t, but I will do everything in my power to get back to you. When that’ll be is anyone’s guess.”

    She sighed, “That’ll have to do. Now get down here and give your wife a hug.”

    As Josh made his way down to Sam, Scott was giving Dallas and James the lay of the land.

    “I’ve calculated an average daily distance of about twenty-five miles. That’s about ten hours a day due to the disbursement of goods and the wagon’s reduced load. Given that mileage, if you have to go the entire way, it’ll take you three months. With luck, Grap will have received Jesus’s letter and will meet you in Kearney, Nebraska with Gregg in tow. That’s still a month and half… give or take.”

    “What do you think the roads will be like?”

    “Meaning?” Scott asked confused.

    “You know like trees and crap growing through the pavement slowing us down and keeping us from your average,” Dallas clarified as James looked on. “What about bridges? There are a lot of rivers and streams between here and Utah, man.”
    Scott smiled.

    “All of the latest signals analysis has been incorporated into both the route I have derived and the average daily mileage. You follow my directions and you will steer clear of most major issues. I’ve calculated one night a week in an Inn for warm baths and linens. The rest of the time you’re out-of-doors under the stars.”

    “What have you guys got loaded in this wagon, Scott,” James asked.

    “Oh, just the usual stuff,” the man replied with a wink. “Since you aren’t going to be setting up a hunting camp for the winter, the canvas is staying home, as is the wood burning stove. Instead, you get all of the lightweight gear. I’m trying to keep the weight of the wagon down so you don’t wear out the horses needlessly and can make my average.”

    “So what did we get, Scott,” James asked out frustration.

    Recognizing that he was on borrowed time, Scott quickly answered.

    “Let’s see,” he began as he started pointing. “Not including the items you plan on strapping to your individual horses, there are four hammocks with wool blankets, and assortment of various sized tarps, two hatchets, two axes, a two-man saw, and an ammo crate of dried and cured meats and veggies. I added a grate for campfires, assorted utensils, as well as a variety of spices. I guess you guys could use the knives as additional weaponry if push came to shove.

    “If the hammocks aren’t to your liking, I’ve added a dozen empty burlap sacks. You can stuff those with leaves and grasses to make some bedding. I also included three of my bike-rim crossbows. We can’t spare the extra bolts so you’ll have to be on the lookout for an appropriate material to fashion your own.”

    “Oh,” he declared as he remembered something. “In case anyone falls ill, or becomes injured, I did add one cot and a small tent. Long story short, you guys will need to supplement your food on the road via barter or hunting and foraging.”

    The two wizened men gave each other quick glances. Before either could ask, Scott pushed on a back panel at the base of the wagon bed. A hidden door slowly retracted down exposing a hidden compartment.

    “In the interest of my own self-preservation and plausible deniability, I don’t want to know what you decide to put in there… but here it is all the same.”

    Scott then abruptly stuck out his hand to the two men. As he shook each of their hands, in a clipped tone he offered, “Good luck.”

    “Not so fast young man,” Josh declared as he rounded the end of the wagon. “Did you grab the barter items I specified?”

    “Yes, sir,” Scott declared. “I took the liberty of adding some of the whiskey Dallas procured from his excursions south.” Scott then turned abruptly toward Dallas. “And yes, before you attempt to correct me, I know there is a difference between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.”

    “And, pray tell, how would you know that?” Dallas asked.

    Scott sheepishly responded, “Katherine taught me.”

    The three men began uproariously laughing.

    “Man,” James stated through the laughter, “I’m gonna miss you, Scott.”

    When the shenanigans died down, Josh embraced his son-in-law.

    “You take care of my grandchildren, understand?”

    “I will,” he replied with a sigh.

    “What?” his father-in-law asked.

    “Oh, it’s just Isabel. She’s so much like her mother that I have a hard time keeping up with her is all. Josiah ‘the Second’ takes after me!” he stated proudly.

    Josh smiled proudly. “Scott, the trick is to try and teach her things so she doesn’t realize she’s being taught. At least, that’s what I did with Katherine and her sister. You’d never seen two different kids emerging from the same womb.

    “Take Layla for instance. Her world is entirely black and white, right and wrong. There are rules and they are meant to be followed, no matter what. Katherine… she on the other hand, lives entirely in a world shaded in gray. Maybe this rule applies, maybe it doesn’t.”

    “I can see that,” he replied.

    “It got so frustrating that I told the girls they were gonna have to trade off every other day. One day we would do something that interested one and the next day the other. That way they both learned equally. Isabel and Josiah are the same way. My only advice would be to use what you know. Use that and outsmart the ten year old little girl.”

    Scott chuckled. “You make it sound so easy, so matter of fact. You know that infuriates me, right?”

    Grinning, Josh replied, “You have no idea…”

    * * *

    Even though his grandmother’s instructions specifically stated for him to not load a weapon due to his faulty memory, Deeks did so anyway. He begun remembering random things each time he read and re-read her journals. For instance, just by reading the lettering on each of the handguns, he knew he had a Beretta M9 and Sig Sauer M11 in his push cart. Both had clips that held fifteen rounds and one in the pipe. That last little tid bit came from a memory of his father, or at least the only father he’d ever known. Regardless, to him, that was thirty-two chances to stop whatever his issue was, should it present itself. Another memory told him that in the time it took him to fire all of the available rounds, he’d only be able to fire two to four arrows, depending on how aggressive he was with the trigger. Plus he had the added back up of three extra magazines for each weapon system. He kept the weapons safely stowed. One was loaded and remained hidden under blankets in the carrier. The other was situated in the small of his back, tucked under his belt to help hold it in place. He remembered seeing Hoplite stick a weapon there once.

    The sun was beginning to set behind him. For the last half an hour he’d been looking for a good place to hold up for the night.

    Getting out of Bend, Oregon had been uneventful. The town had been deserted for years. Sonja’s landmark of Horse Ridge Natural Resource Center gave him all of the information he needed. He’d successfully made it approximately fifteen miles in one day. He didn’t even feel tired. The cart was carrying the load, not him. All he had to do was push. There were some inclines, but nothing he couldn’t power through. As he looked at his map, he thought, three days to the first watering point. Deeks then looked at the bladders. One was empty and another was half full.

    “Not bad”, he said to himself.

    As he looked back to the west, he took in the view and tried to determine his needs for the evening. He had limited food stocks for the time being so he didn’t necessarily need to forage or hunt. The air felt dry, and the slight breeze he’d felt a few hours earlier had increased slightly, but the temperature was dropping as evening approached.

    Could be rain, he thought. Better strike up a camp.

    Turning back to the road ahead, he continued his movement forward. Deeks began searching for a decent spot. Someplace that would provide natural cover from any approaching weather and passersby. He had the tarps, but preferred to not have to unpack the cart if at all possible. After several dozen yards he found what he was looking for.

    Over the new green growth of spring stood a tree struck by lightning. It was relatively devoid of its bark. He pushed the jog stroller over to the brush and removed the machete. He chose a thin area and started hacking his way towards the tree. Deeks progressed about twenty feet and stopped.

    Burying the tool into the limb of a tree, he collected some of the cuttings and headed back for the stroller. He pushed the little wheeled device a few feet into the opening, turned, and then concealed the opening with the fresh limbs to hide its entrance.
    The young man pressed forward at a steady pace, alternating between progress with the machete and retrieving the cart. When he went back for his possessions one last time, he scanned his surroundings. The road could no longer be seen from where he stood. If he went back a few paces, it was barely perceptible.

    And we’re done.

    Leaving the load at it final spot, he went back to the machete and continued to work his way toward the tree. Not having to make a trail wide enough for the wagon made the trek and the job far easier.

    His instincts had been correct. The lightning strike peeled the bark off of the old growth hardwood. He found chunks of it strewn all around trunk and the surrounding area. It took a couple of trips, but he collected what he needed. Continuing to use the machete, he harvested a sapling that would be long enough to span the distance between two others. Once he de-limbed that, he retrieved the paracord from the cart.

    Deeks lashed the scrub hardwood between two others around thigh height. Once it was secure, he took chunks of bark and began lining them up side by side until he’d closed off three sides. Satisfied with his handiwork, he headed into the woods with his machete. Choosing the most leaf laden limbs, he assembled a pile of a couple dozen. Using bits of vine he’d collected along the day’s journey, he attached the various limbs to his ridge pole.

    Having worked up a decent sweat from the endeavor, he stepped back to admire his lean to.

    “Well, if Mother Nature dishes out more than this can handle, I’ll wrap myself in a tarp and collapse the lean to on top of myself as camouflage.”

    * * *

    Deputy James Burnette was on a mission. For days he had followed and tracked his bosses every move. He’d gone so far as to carry a small notebook with him at all times so he could jot down notes and observations.
    The Sheriff was an infuriating creature of habit, actually.

    Every Tuesday and Thursday he left the town and went hunting for game with his nephew. He bathed every Wednesday and Saturday evening at Molly’s Inn and Tavern. The only time James had seen him remove the key ring was while his uniform was being laundered as he bathed. The man was a widower, lived in a small structure on the edge of town, and his bedroom had one dingy window that didn’t afford him a clear line of sight. As a result, he had no idea where the keys might lay while the man slept.

    James was becoming desperate. He couldn’t explain it. The building pressure was all consuming.

    He needed the key to the lockup.

    Gregg Chastain had to pay for what he had done, Presidential directives be damned.

    As he sat observing from the shadows, he watched as Robert Townsend’s faithful barmaid Annie walked into the Sheriff’s office. James removed himself from his perch and crept to Gregg’s bar laden cell window to listen.
    By the time he was in position, he caught the Sheriff finishing a brief conversation with her.

    “Yeah, I imagine you two have a lot to talk about. I’ll be out front on the porch if you need me, darlin’.”

    “Thanks, Kyle,” he heard her reply.

    James crouched down behind a forgotten rain barrel to further hide himself from sight.

    “Gregg freakin’ Chastain! That was the big secret you wouldn’t tell me?”

    “So you know?”

    “The whole flippin’ town knows your name now, Gregg… or Robert… or whatever you’re calling yourself these days!”

    There was no reply from the prisoner that James could hear, but he did notice the unmistakable sound of the springs under the cot squeaking under his shifting body weight. That was followed shortly by boots on wooden planks.
    “You know, you coulda told me the truth.”

    There was a sigh.

    “So whydidya do it?”

    James heard the prisoner chortle.

    “Which one?” Gregg replied.

    “The man up in Cascade.”

    “Ah, Tyler Dent. He was an unfortunate soul who had crossed paths with me and some of my associates during the Clan Wars.”

    “That wasn’t the name on the charge sheet I read. Said his name was Baxter Motlow.”

    “Yeah well, I knew him before he changed his name, and he knew mine. So, instead of just moving on and leaving the other be, he felt it was a better idea to try an’ tie up loose ends… as it were. He lost.”

    “His family has a different story.”

    “And I can’t wait to poke holes in it at trial. Did I ever tell you my father-in-law was a trial attorney?”

    “Father-in-law? You never even told me you were even married.”

    “Yeah, I was married once…” he began reminiscently. “Her name was Emily. Even had a son, well sort of. She wasn’t able to carry our child to term. A neighbor up the road was murdered by a guy named Mahtab.” He then quickly added, “He was one of Suhrab Esfahani’s followers.”

    “Why do I know that name?”

    “His brother Abbas is the one who turned off the lights. Anyway, Mahtab, as best we can figure, he and his little merry band of lunatics had been watching the farm. They saw that we were about stash the last of the contents from one of the Federal Reserves and offed the boy’s family. Emily and I adopted him as our own.”

    James sat there behind his rain barrel shocked at what he was hearing. Gregg Chastain knew where the only remaining cache of gold was hidden?

    “Wait. What? I thought that was a myth. A legend.”

    “Which part?”

    “The gold,” she replied. “Do you know what you could do with that?”

    “Yeah, and that’s why I’m taking that little secret to the grave. It won’t bring my wife and son back.” Gregg exhaled deeply and added, “That was twenty years ago. I’m sure they moved it or melted the bars down and spent it by now.”
    Outside, the deputy heard the Sheriff shift his body on the rocker he’d been sitting in. The creaking startled him back from his daydreaming euphoria.

    “So what happened to your wife and son?” she asked.

    “They were murdered by a neighboring clan as we were negotiating a truce,” Gregg stated bluntly.

    Annie quickly covered her mouth as she exclaimed, “On my gosh!”

    A few quick seconds passed before James heard, “Is that why you…”

    “Yeah, that’s why.”

    “So this Tyler Dent? What did he have to do with any of it?”

    “With my wife’s murder? Nothing, as far as I know. He was just someone we had come across during some trade trips between friendly clans. We’d met and he knew my real name and what I had done to end the Clan Wars in the Northwest Territories.”
    “What did he do that he didn’t want you to talk about?” she asked confused.

    “Easy. I knew that he had been selling weapons and ammo on the black market. If one hangs we all hang, ya know. Plus, we had a little dust up when I busted him for putting less powder in his reloads. His family knows this. He had a number of people looking for him. That and he came at me first with a piece of firewood from behind. Still have the knot on the back of my head. Look, feel here…”

    She felt it and then retracted her hand.

    Thinking a moment, she finally asked, “What do you want me to do with the bar?”

    “I’ll sign it over to you so you can sell it to Toliver,” he replied bluntly.

    Deputy Burnette couldn’t see the look on her face, but imagined her eyes nearly popped out of head.

    “Oh, don’t look so shocked,” he heard Gregg add. “I don’t have any family, not anymore, and I won’t need the money, not where I’m going… if this doesn’t go my way. Beside, you deserve it. It’ll be enough to take you wherever you want to go.”
    Stammering, she asked, “You’d do that for me? Why don’t I just run it for you until this is all sorted out?”

    “I wish I still had faith in people like you do, Annie. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works anymore. Even though I’ve only owned it for a few years, you’ve been there since you were ten. You’ve paid your dues… and then some.”
    As James shifted around behind the barrel to avoid cramping in his legs, he knocked the empty container. With a ‘thunk’, it struck the side of the building. He quickly grabbed it. The deputy held his breathe waiting to see if they had heard it.
    There was a long silence from inside the jail house.

    Eventually, he heard, “Gimme a piece of paper and a pencil off of the Sheriff’s desk. We need to write this down so there’s no dispute after it’s done. Plus I’ve got some instructions for when I’m gone.”
    Hannibal ad portas

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Somewhere in corn country


    Chapter 7

    Heather stopped reading to the child on her lap and watched from her front porch as Katherine and Layla approached on horseback. “Look who’s here,” she instructed in a whisper.

    “Aunt Katherine! Aunt Layla!” the five year old Tristan squealed as he leapt off his mother’s lap. The young lad bolted down the steps of the porch as quickly and as awkwardly as his little legs would take him.
    Layla was the first off of her mount. “Hey, buddy,” she said as she scooped the young man up into her arms. “What are you guys up to?”

    “Momma’s teaching me to read some more, but I had to wait.”

    “Oh,” Katherine stated playfully as she took the preschooler from her sister. “And why’s that?” she asked as she too squeezed him in a bear hug.

    “Daddy said she we had to let her sleep in,” he replied as he imitated Carlos’s instructions by placing his tiny finger against his lips. “Shhhh.”

    As she bent to let him run freely back to his mother, he asked, “Are you going to keep Grampa Josh out of trouble too?!” he blurted.

    The pair was taken aback.

    The two glanced at each with the same thought, had we been that transparent? It was a complete shock to their system that their sister, let alone their young nephew, knew why they were there.

    “Well, I guess that answers that,” Katherine said as she and Layla began to ascend the steps.

    Heather smiled as she embraced each in turn.

    Carlos is saddling my horse. Come on in. I’ll put the kettle on for some tea. I imagine we have some things to discuss.”

    The stone cottage Heather and Carlos occupied had been painstakingly constructed by Josh and company while she and her husband had been involved in the Clan Wars. After the EMP, and the eventual taking of Columbus from Tim, the former SpecOps soldier felt duty bound to try and get as many of the Combat Engineers back to their hometowns as possible.

    As the Second Civil War devolved into the Clan Wars, the group continuously encountered harassing groups. Most were easily scared off with an adequate show of force. Steadfast resolve and a willingness to pull the trigger took care of the rest.
    Unfortunately for Carlos, when Gregg ‘left the reservation’ to seek his retribution, he took his former CO’s psyche with him. Heather was convinced that only Gregg could return it to him. That was the only reason why she was even entertaining the notion of leaving her family and embarking on a cross country trip. They had their own reasons, but this was hers.

    Before the three were even seated, Katherine asked, “And Carlos is OK with this?”

    “Frankly,” she stated in reply, “He doesn’t have a say in the matter. It’s my father out there, not his. And if we are being honest, I’m tired of the ‘I created a monster’ pity party.”

    Her two sisters stared back at her in disbelief.

    “Oh, didn’t gimme that look. You guys have seen it. Things aren’t so good here right now… if you haven’t noticed.”

    “Maybe you should –,”

    “Don’t you dare tell me to stay and work on it! What the hell do you think I’ve been doing for the past ten years! No, Gregg broke him and Gregg is going to fix him! I don’t know how and I don’t care if he does it at gunpoint, he will fix my husband.”
    Katherine and Layla glanced at one another, but neither spoke.

    Their collective attention was stolen away when they heard Carlos on the porch. “Hey, little buddy. What are you doing out here?”

    “Momma is talking with Aunt Katherine and Aunt Layla.”

    “She is? Well why don’t we go in and say ‘hi’ then.”

    “I wouldn’t. Momma is mad at you again.”

    Heather flinched at the comment and muttered, “Dang it,” under her breathe.

    “Daddy, are you broken like momma says?”

    “Am I broken?” he stated as he repeated the question and sat on the steps next to his son. “Well, let’s see… today I’m not, but I guess I am at other times.”

    “Why are you broken? Can’t Gammy Basilia fix you?”

    Carlos laughed a little at his young son’s logic. “Ya know how when we ask you to do chores and you have a tantrum and you don’t know why.”


    “You don’t know this, but sometimes you behave that way because you’re tired or hungry, and sometimes you just don’t want to do them because you’d rather be doing something else, like fishing with Uncle Dallas… but sometimes… sometimes you just have no idea why you behaved that way.”

    “Yeah, but momma says she’s gonna whoop me if I don’t straighten up when I act that way.” Then Tristan leaned in real close and whispered, “Don’t tell momma but I got her fooled. I still don’t wanna do the chores and I ain’t been whooped yet.”
    The father embraced his son and replied, “Yeah, little buddy. You got her fooled alright.”

    The father son moment being observed by the sisters nearly brought each to tears.

    “It’s different when you’re all grown up though. There are days when it’s really hard for me to get out of bed and do my chores and I don’t know why. And believe me, nobody is whooping me to get me to do anything.”
    “Because you’re so big?”

    Carlos chuckled again. “I wasn’t like that when I met your mother so it’s frustrating to her. That’s why she’s mad at me sometimes.”

    “Is it because of the stuff you saw before I was born?” the child asked bluntly.

    “Where did you hear about that?” his father asked concerned.

    “Momma was talking to Grandpa Josh…”

    Heather burst through the screen door, “And now it’s time to say our goodbyes. Come here you little squirt!” she proclaimed playfully as she hefted her son up from under his arms.

    Carlos stood and watched the exchange as Katherine and Layla stayed in the house out of the way.

    He did however, offer the obligatory, “Ladies,” in their direction.

    “Daddy and Uncle Scott and Uncle Philip are gonna take real good care of you and your cousins while we’re gone, OK?”

    “OK,” Tristan replied. “Don’t worry, momma. I’m gonna fix daddy. You’ll see. I got tools and everything!”

    His mother laughed mightily as she kissed him on the cheek and set him back down, “I’m sure you will, baby. Go say goodbye to your aunts while daddy and I talk, OK?”

    Like a shot, the boy took off toward the screen door to the waiting arms of her sisters.

    His parents strode down the steps toward her horse.

    “Ya see that?” Layla whispered.

    “See what?” her nephew asked concerned.

    “See how they’re holding hands?”


    “That means that they still love each other.”

    “Really?” Tristian stated shocked. “Well I’m never holding Sally Stryder’s hand again! The other boys say she has cooties!”

    His aunts loved on him and squeezed him harder every time he made proclamations like that.

    “I’m so sorry, Carlos. I didn’t realize… I shouldn’t have said anything,” Heather began feverishly apologizing.

    “Relax, relax. It’s fine.”

    “It’s fine? I just threw you under the bus.”

    “You don’t think I hear what people say about me? You think I want to be in this funk? Maybe you’re right. Maybe the key is Gregg. Maybe I need you to leave to force me to hunt, and gut, and skin again. Maybe part of the problem is everyone keeps coddling me. Maybe I need to be depended on again. Tristan needs to eat so I’m going to be forced to do some things I haven’t done in a while. I don’t know,” he declared helplessly.

    “All I do know is that I love you and that won’t ever change. I’ll come back to you. Plus, there have been more good days than bad recently so I’m taking that as a sign.”

    Heather wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a hug. As the couple began to break their embrace, she instinctively gave him a peck on the lips. However, this time, Carlos did not release her. Slowly, somewhat assuredly, her husband leaned toward her. Without asking and without provocation, he gave her a longer and more meaningful kiss.

    The pair remained this way for some time.

    Eventually, Carlos withdrew.

    “You come back to me in one piece… physically and mentally. This family can only handle one crazy parent at a time.”

    His wife smiled, “Will do.”

    As she walked toward the house, he playfully smacked her butt.

    “Watch it mister!” she warned playfully. “That’s how we got the first one!”

    Her husband tauntingly replied, “Oooooooo! The big bad momma bear is gonna get me.”

    She scowled at him playfully and then turned toward her sisters, “You guys mind if we swing by grandpa Brent’s grave on the way out of town?”

    * * *

    The horse and wagon caravan cleared the rise with about an hour of daylight left in the day, but even that was fading fast. Below them lay the town of Noblesville, Indiana, behind it lay a wall of water. The four men observed the horizon, silently calculating the track and timing of the storm. Each of them had been caught in one type of storm or another over the last twenty years. The consensus was unanimous, hail storms were the worst, followed closely by rain. Without a word, the pace was quickened.

    Just as the light sprinkle was set to turn into downpour, then eventually a deluge, the group turned the corner and entered the open barn door of the livery. The stable hand quickly grabbed the reins thrown to him by Josh and tied to the horses up.
    “How much for a night or two?” Dallas asked as he, James, and Jesus dismounted into a cloud of dust.

    The boy said nothing. Merely pointing to a posted sign with bold print that read:

    Trading in ammo is illegal… so don’t ask!
    Overnight Stay
    Copper - $5.00 or 50 grams
    Silver - $0.50 or 12 grams
    Gold – 1 gram
    Feed - $0.10 per kilo
    Blanket - $1.50
    Leather Work - $2.00 per hour
    Vet Services - $5.00 per hour

    “Well, I guess that answers all of my questions,” James declared as he handed the young man his reins.

    “Payable in advance, sir.”

    “Does your boss barter?” Josh asked as he climbed out of the wagon as gracefully as a seventy year old man could.

    The boy looked up slowly and scanned the faces of the four men before him, like his father had taught him. Without saying a word he surmised that the man speaking to him was the one in charge.

    The young stable hand simply nodded at the old man, took the reins from the other three, completed the task of placing each of their horses in an empty stable, and then effortlessly hopped a side wall.

    He then proceeded to open a previously unseen stairwell door and call upstairs, “Paw, got some men down here that want to barter with you!”

    The clunking of boots on worn wood plank floors jarred dirt and debris loose over their heads as the boy’s father walked to the staircase. By the sound of the shuffling and scrapping, it was apparent he had a leg injury. When the man was about halfway down, he asked, “Well, whatdoyou boys got that’s worth something?”

    “Depends on what you need, now doesn’t it? You Cartwright?”

    “That’s right. Name’s Dexter Cartwright,” he proclaimed as he exited the doorway. “Name’s on the sign. Everyone just calls me Dex. Where you boys ride in from?”

    With a sly look on his face, James’ smooth baritone announced, “McArthur.”

    Dex’s head shot up in an instant.

    “Well I’ll be!” the livery owner declared joyously. “What are you guys doing here?!”

    Handshakes and hugs were shared at the unexpected reunion of battlefield brothers.

    “Ya’ll passing through or will you be here a while?” the old friend asked excitedly.

    “Just passing through I’m afraid,” Josh answered casually.

    Before he could say anymore, Dex called for his son, “Alex, come over here! I want you to meet some friends of mine.”

    The boy, who’d been hiding behind an innocuous vertical timber, emerged and went to his father’s side.

    “Which one is the boss? Think hard now. Look at the body language. How did they speak to you? Did they offer any clues?”

    The boy looked over the faces again before slowly raising his hand to point to Josh.

    “Good job, son. That’s right. That’s Colonel Josh Simmons. The big one is James Rooney. The one watching the weather is Dallas McKutcheon… and the last one over there is Jesus Martinez.”
    “They the ones you fought in the war with?”

    “They’d be the ones,” he declared. He quickly turned back to employer mode, “Now you go ahead and get those saddles off them horses, then get ‘em fed and watered. When you’re done, tell mother we’ll be dining out tonight. So get washed and dressed proper.”

    “Yes, sir,” the child replied instinctively and went about his business.

    “What was that all about?” James asked casually.

    “Just the first of many lessons in an attempt to teach the boy to be more observant of his surroundings and the company he keeps. So where are ya’ll stayin’?”

    “Down the street at the Inn… assuming they have rooms to spare that is,” Dallas replied without taking his eyes off the rain.

    “Good, nice soft beds, excellent baths. Nothing better after a couple days ride.”

    Dex took in their demeanor, much like he had taught his son. No one looked him in the eye for long and all four seemed as if they were antsy.

    “Speaking of being observant… ah, there is a matter of payment. Plus, and dare I say, but you boys look like you’re on a mission of some sort.”

    Josh began to open his satchel and retrieve a small leather pouch of coins as he asked, “And what makes you say that?”

    Dex laughed uproariously.

    “You four… leaving McArthur… together,” he declared through his own laughter. “That’s clue enough for a blind man to see!”

    His old friend absent mindedly placed five dollars’ worth of coins in the man’s hand. “Got some place we can talk?”

    “I figured as much. Come on. Follow me.”
    Hannibal ad portas

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2012


    Wow I just came across this an hour ago. This one said part 4 so I was trying to find the other three parts. Once I started reading this I was hooked. Thank you!

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Somewhere in corn country


    Quote Originally Posted by dallanta View Post
    Wow I just came across this an hour ago. This one said part 4 so I was trying to find the other three parts. Once I started reading this I was hooked. Thank you!
    Glad you are enjoying it! Parts 1-3 have already been published and are available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. I came to this forum some years ago as I was working on Part I so I publish sample chapter freebies as a thank you for all of the assistance I received over the years.
    Hannibal ad portas

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