Chapter Eighteen – Truth’s Blood

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I wish the govt. shut down could be couched in terms of what it really is.  Deciding to raise the debt limit is deciding to print money out of thin air to pay for things we can’t afford.  But you wont ever hear it described that way.  Truth’s Blood takes a look at one possible outcome.

CHAPTER  EIGHTEEN

 “Germany will militarize herself out of existence, England will expand herself out of existence, and America will spend herself out of existence.”

 Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, 1917, the year of Russia’s Revolution

 The sun’s orange glow was barely discernible through the early morning mist when the group began packing the Land Rover.  Thomas had offered to drive everyone to the trailhead Roger sought and it was going to be a very tight fit.

Amidst the flurry of packing activities, Thomas turned back for one last look at the cabin.  Would he lose this too?  The thought pierced him through with memories of Davis and the times they’d spent together here.

Roger interrupted his thoughts, indicating he was ready to go.  The course he’d plotted kept them away from the main forest roads for much of their trip, but that meant more miles.  Thomas emptied the spare gas cans into the tank.

The Land Rover strained under its load and lumbered down the short drive to the gravel road that would take them deeper into the forest.  The sun was not yet over the mountain tops and the dark forest dared Thomas to enter.  He wondered if he’d made the right decision to leave the cabin.

The cramped and stuffy Rover was running smoothly and Thomas soon reached the first of two main forest service roads they would be required to take. Here goes nothing.  Thomas thought.  It was only a mile and a half to the next gravel road where they would turn off and leave the pavement, but Thomas was feeling exposed.

The first mile came and went without incident and Thomas was beginning to relax, but after rounding a corner, shortly before their turnoff, a pickup shot out of the brush and blocked the road.  Two men stepped in front of the truck, waving for them to stop and Thomas began to slow down.

“Don’t you dare stop, Thomas.  Continue slowing down but when I say go, hit the gas and go around the pickup on the left side.  Use the ditch,”  Roger urged.

“Jeff, is your shotgun loaded?”

“Sure is.”

“Keep it down until I say go.  Everyone else get down on the floor.”

Thomas let the car slow until they were within about ten yards, then floored the gas and dove for the ditch on the left side of the road when Roger yelled.

Gunfire erupted immediately, exploding a window near the back of the Rover in a shower of glass.  Jeff and Roger returned fire with sawed-off shotguns, taking down one of the two men.  The Rover careened through the ditch, hit bottom and bounced out on the other side of the pickup, straight into a hail of gunfire.

A bullet pierced the windshield just over Roger’s head and the sound of hot lead striking the Rover intensified.  Roger fired back from his position on the floor and cut another man down but not before the Rover absorbed more punishment.  In the back, Jeff drew down on the attacker’s last gun and ended the assault.

Roger was yelling, “go right, go right”, as they approached a fork in the road, but Thomas was traveling too fast.  The Rover fishtailed and rose up on two wheels before righting itself and landing upright.

“Is everyone all right?” Roger yelled.

“I’m all right,”  Jeff said.  “But I’m sure some of the equipment is damaged—probably saved my life though.”

Then Mary cried out that she’d been hit.

“How bad is it?”

“It’s her arm.  We need to stop so I can have a look,”  Joan ordered.

“Find a spot we can stop Thomas.”

But steam was rising from under the hood and Thomas was already pulling over.

Roger spread the group out in a defensive perimeter before rejoining Thomas.

Joan looked up at both men.  “Shotgun.”

Mary was trying to be tough but whimpered and began to cry instead.  “I’ll get her bandaged up,”  Joan said.  “Go on Thomas, she’ll be all right.”

“Come on, we need to see what’s wrong with the engine.”  Roger put a hand on Thomas’ shoulder and led him to the front of the car where coolant was pooling on the ground.  A quick inspection revealed the radiator was damaged beyond repair.

“Change of plans,”  Roger stated.  “We were going to abandon your car when we got to the trailhead anyway, so any problem with just driving it until it stops?”

Thomas nodded, “Not much we can do for it here.”

“Get everyone in the car.”  The group quickly loaded up and got underway.

Roger spread the map out on the dashboard.  “In about half a mile you’ll see an unimproved dirt road on your left.  That’s the one we want.  It dead ends after a few miles but we’ll probably over heat before then anyway.  It’s our best shot at shortening the distance to the trailhead while gaining some elevation at the same time.”

The turnoff was overgrown with wild current and other brush but Thomas gunned the Rover straight through and onto a rough and rutted road.  Fallen rock and large fissures, cut by rain and snowmelt, combined to make passage slow and difficult.

The Rover continued pulling its way up the mountain but the rising temperature gauge soon pegged out hot.  Thomas knew it wouldn’t make it much further and after pulling a particularly steep rise, the car lost power, coughed a couple of times, and died.

For a moment, the only sound was the hiss of steam coming from under the hood.  Then Roger got them moving.  Packs were pulled from the back and the group prepared for the hike ahead.

“Water bottles were hit,”  Jeff noted.  “Probably got some other damage as well.”

A quick inventory revealed half of their water was gone.

After gearing up, Roger led the way and Thomas brought up the rear.  On any other day Thomas would have enjoyed the sun.  Still, he couldn’t help but relish the pine scented air, even though his mind raced with the events of the last few days.  I’ve lost my son, abandoned my house and cabin.  I’m following someone I just met, trusting he is right about getting us to safety on the other side of the mountains.  How can any of this be real?

What was real were Mary’s wounds.  Though not life threatening, she was in no condition to hike rough terrain.  Thomas gave her a shoulder and the group soon fell into a rhythmic stomp of boots, heavy breathing and intermittent groans. The further they climbed, the more the forest closed in, and Thomas began waking up to how vulnerable he felt.

By the time they reached the roads end, Mary was exhausted and lay down under the spreading branches of a white fir.

Roger doubled checked his map while Joan and Thomas tended to Mary and then asked, “How’s Mary doing?”

“The bleeding has slowed and she insists she can go, but she needs to rest awhile,”  Thomas said.

“All right, but we still have about a thousand feet of elevation to gain.  It won’t be easy traveling cross country, but we don’t have much of a choice.”  Roger was pointing to his map.  “Our best route is to contour along this ridge to the south and then switch back about here to gain the last four hundred feet of elevation.  It’ll be slow, but I think we can make it to this lake by dark.”

A short while later Roger led them into the brush while encouraging everyone to be as quiet as possible.  Mary took Thomas’ arm for support and the two fell in line at the rear.

Thomas had never imagined hiking through terrain like this.  Blackberry vines—Roger called them “wait-a-minute” vines—tore at him constantly and tree limbs grabbed at his pack.  Downed trees often blocked their path and climbing through them was exhausting.  He wondered how long Mary would last.


Monk was up early for what he anticipated would be a quiet little service.  Rose had no known family and most of her friends consisted of the Langs and Wests.

Sad souls strolled into the empty worship hall and took up seats of reverence in respect of the kindly old lady.   When the soft thud of heavy hearts was all that could be heard, Monk got up to say a few words.

“All of us here know how difficult life was for Rose these last few years.  Yet, she never failed to greet me with a smile or warmly receive me into her home.  What a wonderful example for the rest of us as we face a difficult and uncertain future.”  Monk rubbed his eye.  “I’m really going to miss the old gal.  She was a true friend.”

After a few words from the pastor, the simple service was concluded and the proceedings were moved to the West’s house.

Gray skies presided over the short and somber graveside service on a grassy knoll at the south end of the West’s property.  Atop the hill, under three large junipers, Gary had prepared a grave with his backhoe and moved a boulder to the site to serve as a headstone.  With only a hammer and chisel, he’d already begun inscribing the dates and would soon add her name.

A short prayer was said and a light breeze played through tall grass as the men lowered a handmade, plywood coffin into the grave.  Barb laid a bouquet of wild flowers on top and the men tossed in shovels of dirt.  Rose certainly knew the Lord and Cliffson was picturing a young and healthy Rose, dancing in a green meadow with her Savior.  It was how she left them that he couldn’t get out of his mind.

Heads bowed in sadness, it was a quiet collection of boots that returned through the pasture, the soul of each pair contemplating their loss and the increasing odds of striding their last mile.

Barb prepared a warm meal and the comfort of friendship was shared by all, for those are the greatest resources the earthly bound have for healing.    By the end of the evening the balm of companionship and comfort of good food had, at least temporarily, eased the pain of their loss.

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