Posts Tagged ‘truths blood’

I hope this finds you well and looking forward to another chapter of my book.  Have a good week folks.

CHAPTER  SIXTEEN

 “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.”

 Otto von Bismarck

 The stress of the day’s events had taken their toll on Thomas.  Somehow he’d managed to find a way out of town and was just now turning onto the dirt road that would take them the last few miles to the cabin.  The calm of the forest was a soothing balm for his frayed nerves, but did little to quiet the roar of his thoughts and he couldn’t get the image of the head staring back at him from atop the Rover’s hood, out of his mind.  Thankfully, Mary was still asleep.  He reached over to grasp her hand and hoped a good night’s rest would help.

His first sight of the cabin brought a flood of emotions.  It looked the same as it had when the family was there for a week the previous summer, but had an empty and forlorn air to it now.  Thomas couldn’t help but think of the time spent here with his son and the memory stabbed at his conscience.

After helping Mary inside and stowing the supplies, Thomas used the remaining light to have a look around.  Finding nothing out of place he took a seat on the front porch steps and listened to the pines whispering in the breeze.

I need to take stock of our supplies.  Lynching’s?  I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  What could have happened to Davis?  Poor Mary.  How did it come to this?  His mind struggled to take it all in.

There was the decision to leave the Mercedes outside instead of storing it in the garage.  He would never have done that before—and the decision to drive through the crowd, running people over if necessary.  It seemed as though there was a part of him rising up inside he’d never met before. Until now he wouldn’t have believed he was capable of running over someone.  I’m a civilized college professor who teaches tolerance and acceptance.  I don’t conduct myself in the same way as the unwashed masses.  Am I being forced to change?  No, a man always has a choice.  So what is this other side of me I’ve never seen before?


At the front door Cliffson kissed Jean good bye.  Then turning to Zach, put a hand on each shoulder and held him at arm’s length.

“Zach.  Sorry to leave the moment you get home, but I need you to keep an eye on the place and keep your mom safe while I’m gone.”

“I will Dad.”

“Watch yourself when you go outside.  Be prepared for anything.  People are short of food, fuel and money and will do anything to get them.  And the people that made it over the mountains before the passes were closed may begin showing up soon too, so keep a weapon with you at all times,” Cliffson said.

“We’ll be fine. You can trust me Dad,”  Zach said.  “Just bring Dustin home safe.”

“We will. I just hate leaving you and your mother here alone.”  Cliffson hugged his son and turned back to Jean.  “I wish we could have gotten away a little quicker, but we should be home late tomorrow.  It’s gonna be all right.”  He gave her another hug and turned to go.

Monk was waiting in the driveway with his late model Ford pickup.  He’d just returned from Gary’s to fill the tanks with diesel.  Cliffson put his bag in the back and climbed in the cab.

“Monk, I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you or Gary for this,”  Cliffson said.

“Hey, what do you think friends are for?”

“I know, I know,” Cliffson said as they backed out of the driveway.  “But it’s asking a lot and you could be putting your life in danger.”

Monk took a slurp of coffee.  “Times are changing mate.  Ain’t no one gonna be lounging in no easy chair anymore.”

It was becoming more dangerous to be out at night so when the road topped Juniper Butte, the men were relieved to see few headlights stabbing at the dark.  Monk fired up his CD player with Black Oak Arkansas’ “Jim Dandy to the Rescue,” and with a smile turned to Cliffson, whose own look caused Monk to reach back and turn it off.

With that, Monk pulled out his cell phone and teased Cliffson.  “I know you gave your boy my phone number so ya better be figurin’ out how to use that thing.”

“Some relic from the downfall of our society?”  Cliffson replied snidely.

“No, that would be paper money,”  Monk parried.

“How do you turn it on?”

“Green button, right in the middle.”

Cliffson was shining a small flashlight on the phone.  “All right, I found it.”

“You heard anything more about what’s happening on the west side of the mountains?”  Cliffson snapped the phone shut and leaned back in his seat.  “Those poor people; it sounds like civil war over there from the little I’ve heard.”

“Yes sirree Bob.  The crush of people attempting to flee the city collided against the mountains like a massive tidal wave and then fell back on the waves that followed.” Monk smacked his hands together.  “Lot of folks ain’t gonna be around to greet tomorrow’s rising sun.”

A gloomy spirit was plaguing Cliffson’s thoughts.  “With the cities going up in flames or torn up by mobs, there’s not going to be much left of the world we knew Monk.”

“I’m afraid you’re right about that.  You know how lucky your son was to escape?” Monk asked.

“That’s not something I’ve wanted to think about.  And I still don’t understand the Chinese motives for doing it.”  Cliffson shook his head.

“You’re asking me to think Chinese and I don’t even speak it,”  Monk chuckled.

Cliffson eyed him closely.  “Those folks want their money and I don’t blame them for that, but I can’t get my head around what they’re up to.  You think we’re going to see more incidents like what happened in Bend?”

“You mean the executions?” Monk asked.

“Yep.”

“People are getting desperate, but the Chinese don’t care and won’t tolerate anyone stealing their food and supplies.”

“Not the time to be leaving Jean and Zach home alone.  I don’t like it Monk.”

Monk nodded in agreement.  “But right now your other son needs help, Cliffson, and that’s just what we’re going to do.”

The two and a half hour trip through the rural farm and rangeland of north central Oregon was uneventful.  Cliffson settled back and dozed on and off, while wondering if he was up for what lay ahead of them.  He’d never done anything like this and questioned how he would react.  A person likes to think he can do what’s required of him when the time comes, he thought, but how can you really know?

Monk was piloting the truck across the Columbia River Bridge at Biggs, when a drunk stumbled into the middle of the road and confronted them with a pistol.  The shots missed and Monk slammed the pedal to the floor, directing the turbo charged truck straight at the man.  For a moment the drunk was frozen in his tracks and Cliffson was sure Monk would run him over, but at the last minute the guy fell to his side and Monk veered just enough to avoid him.

On the other side of the bridge Cliffson was just getting his breath back.  “You could have killed him Monk.”

“Settle down Cliffson.  You don’t seem to grasp how things have changed and if you want to see that son of yours home safely you’d better start figuring that out.”

“But would you really have run him down?”

“Cliffson, he shot at us with the intent to kill, and yes, I would have run over him given no other choice.”

Monk’s calm demeanor annoyed Cliffson.  How did he adjust, or adapt, so quickly?

On the other side of the river the focus quickly turned to Dustin and again Cliffson questioned if he had the requisite courage for the job.  His 40 cal. Glock and .223 rifle weren’t as comforting as he thought they’d be.  Monk had also fallen quiet, but Cliffson knew that for him there would be no questioning and the silence was nothing more than Monk clearing his mind of everything but the job at hand.  It wouldn’t be long now.

When they passed mile post 23, Cliffson felt his hands get sweaty and began to fidget in his seat.  Near mile post 24 a pair of eyes stared out at him from the brush.  It was only a deer but it keyed him up all the same.

Monk sat in the glow of the dashboard lights and seemed quite at ease, though he remained quiet.  When they passed mile post 26 he looked at Cliffson and winked.  “It’ll be all right big guy.  Take a few breaths to settle your nerves and just follow me when we get there.”

Mile post 27 came and went.  Cliffson looked over at Monk who kept on driving.  A little further and Monk pulled the truck off the road and doused the lights.  After retrieving their gear from the back of the truck, the two men climbed the roadside bank and began walking back towards the gravel pit while Monk explained he wasn’t going to stop there without knowing what might be waiting for them.  A shallow moon provided just enough moonlight to allow them to see where they were going.

Cliffson watched his breath rise up in the cool night air.  He was breathing harder than he should be.  The smell of burnt rubber and metal from Dustin’s burned out car assaulted his senses and he knew the gravel pit was nearby.  Looking down from the edge of the pit they could see the outline of the van but saw no sign of human activity and continued around the rim, searching for the trail Dustin had told them about.

Sagebrush obscured the rarely used trail.  In the dark the men missed it and had to backtrack to find it.  A cold trickle of sweat was seeping down Cliffson’s neck.  Where was Dustin?  Their attempts to contact his cell phone had gone unanswered.

It was slow going and Cliffson was wondering how much further when Monk brought them to a halt at the edge of a rim where the trail dropped into a slight valley.

“Where could Dustin be?” Cliffson whispered.

“Obviously he’s not here to meet us so we’re gonna have to assume something’s happened.”

Cliffson shuddered.  “I have to get my son back, Monk, let’s go.”

“Now hold on, we can’t be goin’ off half cocked.  Let’s watch this cabin for a moment.”

Cliffson was dying inside, but he knew Monk was right.  They took seats at the canyon’s edge and watched the cabin disappear in the dark whenever a cloud passed in front of the thin moon and then reappear afterwards.

“We need to draw them out and separate em.”  Monk spoke softly, as if talking to himself and Cliffson knew he was preparing to go.

They descended the trail slowly, stopping to listen from time to time.  The cabin remained dark and the only sound Cliffson could hear was the blood pounding in his head.

Fifty yards from the cabin they separated.  Cliffson swung wide, to cover the left side of the cabin.  Monk belly crawled to a position near the front door and burrowed into the ground behind low sagebrush.

Nerves shook Cliffson’s hands like a strung out stranger and tall sagebrush scratched at his face as he padded over sandy soil and crept near the cabin.

There was no sign of activity from within the cabin and when the night grew still Cliffson knew it was his turn to act.  His thundering heart threatened to leap from his chest when he ran to the left corner the cabin.  From there he could view the front door and along the wall to his left, leading to the back of the cabin.  After pausing for a moment to collect himself, he stepped away from the side of the building and heaved a heavy stone at the front door.

The crash it made splintered the night and he swiftly dashed back to the corner of the cabin, banging against it hard in the dark.   Cliffson heard the clump of boots moving inside.  Then a lantern came on in the front of the cabin and the front door opened a crack.  Come on, Cliffson thought, you need to step outside.

Seeing no one, the little guy stepped out onto the porch, perfectly silhouetted by the yellow light from inside the cabin.  He held a pistol and a flashlight clamped between both hands, and swept them back and forth, stabbing into the dark.

Cliffson stepped behind the corner of the building to avoid being seen.  A few seconds later he heard the crack of Monk’s crossbow.  The pistol and flashlight fell to the ground, followed by a bubbly, gurgling wheeze.  The little guy grasped at his neck, twisting and turning before pitching forward into the dirt.

Moving from behind the corner of the building to approach the front door, Cliffson was nearly knocked to the ground when the thin wall of the cabin exploded in front of him.  He dove for the dirt and a second shot exploded immediately above him.  Then another shotgun blast tore through the wall slightly ahead of him.  So much for drawing both men outside.  Yet another blast tore through the wall and Cliffson burrowed into the ground.  Enough!

Moments later the big man came out the front door holding Dustin for a shield in front of him and a shotgun in his right hand.

“Step out where I can see you before I take his head off,” he bellowed.  Cliffson knew once he exposed himself he was likely dead.  Where was Monk?

“I’m counting to three.  If you don’t show yourself by then college boy gets it”,  he snarled.

“One”

“Two”

“Three”

“I’m right here.”  The calmness of his own voice surprised Cliffson.

“Throw down your gun and step out where I can see you.”

Cliffson shuffled little by little to his right, buying as much time as possible.  With his hands raised he stepped into the yellow light cascading from the cabin.

“Drop the gun,” the big man demanded.

“Let my son go, and I’ll do as you ask.”

“Like hell!  You’re in no position to bargain.”  His throaty growl rattled the wood sided cabin.

“Let my son go.”

“How touching.  Daddy’s come for college boy.  What do you think sonny, you’ve seen what I’m capable of, think the old man’s up to it?”

Dustin remained silent.

“All right chickenshit,”  Cliffson bellowed and threw his gun to the ground.  “Drop your gun.  Just you and me fat man.”

The valley shook with the big man’s laughter.

“Sounds like fun, but first I take care of your little boy.”  He raised the shotgun and Cliffson’s voice filled the valley.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

Dustin fell away from the big man who unexpectedly dropped his gun and clutched at his right knee.  Sticking out from the back of it was another of Monk’s arrows.  Then Dustin was on him with a sweeping soccer kick to the groin.  For a moment nothing happened as the big man stiffened, before grabbing his heritage with one hand and landing a massive blow with the other that sent Dustin sprawling.

Cliffson landed a round house right, square on the big man’s nose—like dad had always said—it staggered the man but he still didn’t go down.  Instead, the big man grinned a wicked smile and reached behind his back to withdraw a massive, curved knife.  The blade gleamed even in the cabins tallow light.

Cliffson jumped back, then heard a dull ring and saw the big man fall to his knees before sprawling on his face at Cliffson’s feet.  A smiling Monk appeared in the doorway, iron skillet in hand.

Dustin was back on his feet, unsteady as they were, moving towards the door.  His left eye was already swollen shut and blood was leaking from his nose.  He moved past Monk to lead them both inside.  Cliffson grabbed the blade from the big man’s meaty palm and followed.

Dustin led them over creaking wood floors to a damp and musty smelling back room.  Judging by the holes in the wall, Cliffson knew this was the room the shots had been fired from.

A candle dimly smoldered in the corner next to a wooden chair where the girl was tied.  Her eyes flew to the knife Cliffson was carrying and she struggled to free herself.  Dustin knelt beside her and tried to explain she was safe but she shrieked against the gag in her mouth and fought all the more.

Then Dustin reached for her shoulders and held her firmly. “You remember me—from the diner—and then on the road?  My name’s Dustin.”

A sudden look of recognition swept across her face and Dustin removed the gag from her mouth.  “Please get me out of here, get me out of here now,” she cried.

Dustin used the knife to cut the rope that bound her to the chair.  When he stood and gave the knife back to Cliffson, the girl buried her face in his neck.  She was tall and her long raven hair cascade across his face and shoulders.  Hesitantly, he put his arms around her while sobs of relief broke free and racked her body.

When the tears subsided Dustin let go and stepped to the side.  She immediately moved back against him, snaking an arm around his waist and rest her head on his shoulder.  Then, wiping away tears and replaced strands of stray hair, a small, almost embarrassed smile broke across her face.  “Hi.  My name’s Kate,” she sniffed.  “Sorry, sorry for the scene, it’s just…”

“It’s all right,” Cliffson said. “You’re safe now.”

Kate looked up at Dustin.  “I can’t believe you came back.”  She buried her head in his chest again and he squeezed her just a little with the arm he held around her waist.  “I’d lost hope of anyone coming to help me.”  The tears came again.

“But I didn’t really do anything,” Dustin said.  “I followed you here but they caught me.  I was tied up and gagged out there in the other room and didn’t get free until that monster took me outside.  Dad and Monk did everything.”

“Are you hurt anywhere, did they….” She interrupted Cliffson, “No they never touched me.  The little guy wanted to, but the big man wouldn’t let him, saying something about getting more money for clean merchandise.  They were headed for California and I think they intended to sell me to someone in the sex trade industry.”  She broke into tears again and turned to the shelter of Dustin’s arms.

“Well, who’s ready to get out of this place?”  Everyone turned to look at Monk and then broke out in laughter.  Monk was standing in the doorway, still holding the iron skillet.

“Gonna make us some breakfast, Gunnhildr?” Cliffson asked, and that brought even greater peals of laughter, allowing the tension of the moment to melt away.

Dustin looked at Kate. “Are you ready to go?”

“I’ve been ready from the moment you walked in here,” she said.  The only person in the room to miss the twinkle in her eye was Dustin.

Monk led the way out but abruptly stopped at the front door.  The big man was gone.

“He can’t have gone far,”  Cliffson said.

Monk immediately took to the trail. “Let’s go.”

They moved as quickly as they dared, but like a wounded bear, feared the big man could be lying in wait.  After gaining the rim at the edge of the valley Monk’s flashlight began picking up signs the big man had used the trail.  He was dragging his wounded leg and digging a noticeable ditch in the dirt with his boot.  Occasionally they found spots of blood.

Holding up his hand, Monk stopped.  “Hear that?” Everyone listened.

“I thought I heard a car door slam.”

Well, we know it ain’t Dustin’s.  Cliffson’s thought.

Sounds of the Volkswagen coming to life resonated in the dark and the group gave chase.  By the time they got to the road the van was gone, though the echo of its retreating engine came back from the forest.

Still, Dustin and Kate were safe and for the moment that was all that mattered.  Monk led the way to his pickup and the rest of the group followed.

Dustin got in back of the king cab and slid to the side giving Kate plenty of room, but she slid close and put her head on his shoulder.

Cliffson climbed into the passenger seat and looked up at Monk just in time to see him wink that crazy one eyed wink.

“So Monk, why didn’t you take the guy out?”  Cliffson asked after they were underway.

“There was no back door and I could only see part of him through the window.  I had to stand on a rickety old chair to take my shot through the window.”  Monk reached for a thermos of bad coffee in preparation for the drive home.

“Old buddy, you amaze me sometimes.”  Cliffson smiled.

“Wasn’t that hard a shot.”

Cliffson chuckled.  “That wasn’t what I was thinking.  Picturing an old boy like you climbing through that window brings quite a sight to mind.”

“You best be glad I could old man,”  Monk quipped.

The sun was burning the wrapper off a new day when they approached the Columbia River.  Looking in his rear view mirror Monk saw Kate and Dustin snuggled together, both fast asleep.  Crossing over the bridge Monk woke them up. “Anyone back there hungry?”

Kate mumbled something about coffee and burrowed a little deeper into Dustin’s chest, but Dustin was hungry. “Biscuits and gravy, right old man?”

Cliffson turned to have a look at him.  “And maybe a rib eye steak for that eye of yours.  Didn’t anyone teach you to duck?”

“No,” Dustin responded. “I was only taught to hit the guy in the nose.”

Cliffson chuckled. “But that wasn’t his nose you hit, was it?”

Monk pulled into the parking lot of an empty truck stop hoping the diner would be open.  Everyone climbed out and made their way to the front door which Dustin found unlocked.

It was dark inside and Cliffson rang the silver bell on the counter while the others took seats at a table in the corner where they could monitor the parking lot and front door at the same time.

A short little man with black hair in a greasy crew cut appeared from the back room.  “Can I help you folks?”

“You sure can.  Menu’s and lots of coffee for starters, oh, and some ice in a plastic bag if you have it please,”  Cliffson replied.

“Be right with you.  My waitress hasn’t shown up just yet so please be patient.”

“No problem,”  Cliffson said.

The café lights came on and Cliffson asked how the man had power.

“The Chinese and some of their truckers come through here real regular.  They promise to supply me with fuel for my generators as long as I remain open.”

Cliffson thought that sounded kind of strange, but did anything make sense these days?  He walked back along a blue counter lined with stools covered in red vinyl to join the others.  After rejoining the group Monk asked, “What’s up with your leg mate?  When you were standing at the counter I could see a stain on the back of your thigh, you all right?”

“Um hm.  I think I caught a pellet or two when those shotgun blasts came through the wall, but I’m all right.”

“Danged if you ain’t the most buggered up sumbitch I ever did know.” Monk kidded.

Cliffson smiled.  “I’ll be fine, I got my son back and that’s all that matters.”

The biscuits and gravy were good enough, and once the waitress showed up, the coffee flowed freely.  Kate had a waffle and shared some bacon with Dustin while he filled them in about escaping from Seattle.  Kate explained how the two men had grabbed her at a gas station in Seattle when the entire city was in a crazy rush to leave.

Then it dawned on Cliffson he hadn’t called Jean so he asked Dustin to call and surprise her.

Kate mentioned she’d also like to call her parents in Los Angeles.

Dustin punched up the number in his cell phone, but there was no connection.  He tried again and got the same result.  Worried glances were exchanged around the table and they quickly paid their bill and got a new bag of ice for Dustin’s black eye.  Upon leaving the diner, two truck drivers walked in the door talking about how they were glad they had CB’s because the entire cell system was down.

A sour feeling filled Cliffson’s gut and it wasn’t the biscuits and gravy talking.  It was the same feeling of dread he’d gotten when Dustin called to ask for help.

They quickly loaded up and headed toward home.  Dustin sat behind Cliffson and Kate snuggled against him, applying ice to his swollen eye.  Monk happened to notice that in addition to the ice, a few gentle kisses were also being applied to Dustin’s eye and forehead for the benefit of their great healing value.  Dustin didn’t seem to mind.

Monk brought the truck up to speed.  Knowing Cliffson was worried about his family, Monk pushed their speed up to a steady 80 miles per hour.  Then he poured some more coffee and settled in for the ride home.

The trip home was uneventful, until the group arrived in Redmond.  Monk reached over to wake Cliffson who rubbed his eyes, unsure of what he was seeing.  No words were spoken as the horrific scene played out before them.

The streets were empty and the hushed air of a morgue lay heavy on the town.  Ragged bodies hung from street lights at nearly every intersection.  Strips of tattered clothing twisting in a light breeze, suggested a fight.  Everywhere the glassy, bulging eyes of the dead watched their passage—some with two eyes and some with one, the missing one having been carved away by the gathering ravens.   There were also bodies dangling from each side of the bridge over the dry canyon and blue lipped heads, spiked atop of each lamp post, maintaining a constant watch with dead flat eyes.

Tension poured from Cliffson’s grip on the door handle and flooded the cab of the truck.

Monk was speeding towards Cliffson’s house when Kate awoke and shrieked at the sight of what had just come into view.  More bodies, this time hanging limply from the fence in front of the Lang’s property.

Cliffson sprang from the truck and ran to the house.  The door was unlocked and he charged inside, but no one was home.  After searching the house Monk approached him and held out a note.  It was from Jean.  “I am at the West’s.  Please hurry.”

Monk drove them north, through the neighborhood, before taking a dirt road short cut to the West’s.  Along the way they passed two other fences with bodies tied to them.  Kate hid her face in Dustin’s chest.

“The bastards” Monk whispered.

“Monk?” Cliffson asked.  The question hung in the air like bad gas while Monk struggled with his answer.

“During World War II, the Japanese captured a number of Australian soldiers on one of the Pacific islands.   The prisoners were taken out to the beach, tied to palm trees and used for live bayonet practice.”

Cliffson groaned.

Monk flew up the West’s long gravel driveway so fast even “Rocky” the black bull looked startled.  Cliffson jumped from the truck before it could roll to a stop and raced for the front door, arriving just as it opened.

Gary greeted him with a forlorn look just before Jean rushed into his arms.   She was trying to be strong but the tears poured from her eyes and he barely understood her when she mumbled, “They’ve taken Zach.”

It was an unexpected sucker punch and Cliffson reached for the nearest chair.   Jean rushed to hug Dustin.  Then the entire group settled in the living room to bring one another up to speed.  Gary further darkened the somber mood when he revealed they had not heard from either of their own kids.  It was beginning to look as if they hadn’t made it across the mountains.

“Shortly after the mountain passes were closed, the Chinese swept through town rounding up all the young men.  It had to have happened right after Cliffson and Monk left town,”  Gary explained.  Those who resisted were either shot or hung.”

“You can control far more people with fear than you can with any army,”  Monk added.  “But why were some bayoneted?”

“No one knows for sure, but a lot of it happened near places where people resisted and Chinese soldiers were killed.   People were rounded up to be used as examples I guess,”   Gary replied.  “It’s why you see women, children and old men out there.  No one is to feel safe.”

Cliffson looked to Jean and shuddered at the thought of the bodies hanging on his fence at home.  “How did you escape?”

“It all happened so fast.  They grabbed Zach the moment he opened the door.  I tried to fight them but the men threw me down and held me at gun point.”  Jean couldn’t hold back the tears and had to stop. The rest of the group waited patiently until she could continue.

“There was a lot of shooting somewhere to the north and the soldiers rushed out to join the fight.  When they left, I ran out the back door and released Welfare from his cable.  He ran to the truck where they were loading Zach.  I heard him yelp before one of the men came after me.  I ran for the field, but they must have called him back because he turned around and left to join the fight to the north.  At first I hid in the barn, but that seemed too obvious, so I moved to a more concealed place behind one of the rock walls.”

Cliffson looked up.  “But the bodies?  When did that happen?”

Jean continued,  “After the fighting was over I saw small groups of soldiers going house to house taking people away at gun point.    I don’t know if they had orders to collect a certain number of people or not, but it seemed that way.  The prisoners were marched to the fence and tied up.  Cliffson, one of the people they killed was the widow Rose.

“When they left, I snuck back to the house and wrote the note you found.  I didn’t feel safe staying there, so I went back to the pasture and did my best to stay out of sight until I got to the Wests.  It was dark and I don’t think anyone saw me.”

“Smart girl,” Cliffson said.  “You never saw Welfare again?”

“I looked for him in the driveway after the truck left but he wasn’t there.  I think they took him with them.”

Gary mentioned he’d heard they were looking for Monk.  “The Chinese only went to houses in town and haven’t come out here yet.  Since you weren’t supposed to leave the county you can tell them you were staying with us.”

“I appreciate that.”

Barb fixed a light meal and the group considered what to do next.  Monk finally spoke up.

“Look folks, we’ve been through hell the last couple days.  This can wait until tomorrow.  Let’s get some rest and meet at the Lang’s tomorrow afternoon.  Right now I just want to get some sleep.”

Everyone agreed and soon Monk was driving them home.   The bodies hanging from the fence renewed everyone’s nightmare.  When they got out of the truck, Cliffson shook Monk’s hand and thanked him for going to rescue Dustin.  Both agreed to meet early in the morning and deal with the bodies.

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There will always be those who treat your work in a negative way.  When you write, you expose yourself in a way few will ever expose themselves.  Don’t let it deter you.  If writing is what you want to do, then go after it with gusto!  This is a long chapter.  Get comfortable and enjoy it as the pace of things picks up.

 

CHAPTER   FOURTEEN

“In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation.  The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.”

 Leon Trotsky

A frenzied mob rolled through the Valley University campus, smashing windows, turning over cars and setting fire to the library.  Thomas raced his Mercedes across university grounds, staying just ahead of the crowd and narrowly escaping the firebombs thrown at his car. He was deep into down town traffic before realizing the entire city was engulfed in flames and looting mobs.  The radio reported fires and rioting spreading along the entire west coast.

 Thomas was caught in standstill traffic when a ghastly scene unfolding at the intersection ahead stole his attention.  My God no, this can’t be happening.  His grip on the steering wheel tightened, as if to better grasp reality, but his mind struggled to comprehend the horror in front of him.

 A black man, dressed in a business suit was forced into the back of a pickup parked on the grass under a large oak tree.  His brief case had just been opened and the apparent leader of the group was throwing handfuls of money into the air for the surging mob to chase.  Thomas inched closer and the chant of the crowd filtered through the locked doors of his car.  Kill the rich.  Kill the rich.  Kill the rich.

 Next a rope was thrown over one of the oaks massive limbs and placed around the man’s neck.  The crowd chanted its approval.  Unwilling to believe what he was seeing, Thomas shook his head as if to dislodge a bad dream, but the apparition became more real with each passing second.

 Nervously working his way through the slowly moving traffic in hopes of slipping past the crowd, Thomas was nearly through the intersection when the pickup drove off.  The business man swung and struggled—the throng of people went mad with approval.

 Thomas looked away.  These kinds of things aren’t supposed to happen.  We have got to leave town—maybe up to our cabin.

 More and more people were taking to the streets and it seemed to take forever for Thomas to navigate traffic and the growing crowds, before arriving home.  The upscale neighborhood where he lived remained quiet, but Thomas was forced to detour around an ugly mob just a few blocks from home.

 The tires yelped at his hard stop in the driveway and Thomas sprinted across the lawn to his front door, but froze in his tracks just inside where Mary lay on the sofa crying. Gently wrapping his arms around his wife he held her and whispered, “Honey, we have to leave.  It’s not safe to stay in town.”

 “I can’t do this, I just can’t do this,” she kept repeating.  “We’ve lost our son and the world has gone crazy.”

 “I know sweetheart, but we can’t stay here,” he said soothingly.  “We need to go to the cabin.  Go get in the Land Rover while I throw a few things together.”

 She sat up and stared at him through blurry eyes.  “Leave our son!  You’re not taking me away from my son.”

 “I’m not taking you away from him.  We are not safe here.”

“NO, no I won’t go,” and she collapsed in tears.

 Thomas gathered her in his arms and carried her to the Land Rover.   His eyes caught on two red cans of gasoline in the corner of the garage and he quickly secured them to the back of the Rover.  Think Thomas think.  What will we need?  He dashed back inside and began filling two paper bags with canned goods.  The propane tank.

 Thomas tossed the canned goods into the back of the Rover and rushed to grab the tank from the barbeque.  Finally, he pulled two sleeping bags from a plastic storage bin and tossed them into the back seat.

 The garage door inched open and Thomas revved the engine in anticipation.  Then the door was up and he hit the gas, shooting out into the street.  That’s when he saw the Mercedes.  Oh to hell with it.  We need to get out of here.  But the thought stuck in his mind.  He was opening his door to get out and move the car inside when the approaching mob caught his attention.  It was the same group he’d seen earlier and they were less than a block away.

 The angry crowd blocked the road in both directions and was closing in.  Mary whimpered and curled up in her seat.  “Hang on Mary.  We aren’t letting these losers take us down.”

 Thomas slammed his door and mashed the gas pedal to the floor.  The Rover plummeted straight towards the crowd with Thomas on the horn.  At the last moment the crowd realized he was not going to stop and parted as if he was Moses honking at the Red Sea.  Stones and bats pelted the Rover and two windows cracked under the attack.

 The Rover was nearing the edge of the mob and Thomas was taking his first breath in what seemed like hours, when a human head landed on the hood and lodged against the windshield.  Blood splattered across the glass and Mary shrieked uncontrollably.  A strip of flesh flapped from the end of a stubby neck and Thomas shuddered at the vacant, glassy eyes peering into his soul.  Then a flow of blood emptied from the corner of its mouth and Thomas swore he’d seen the tongue move.  The head lingered a few moments longer before rolling off the hood to bounce along the pavement.

Keep your own head Thomas and find the safest routes with the least traffic.


 “Dustin, they’re nearly on us,”  Chris yelled.  Chris was turned around in the seat looking backward out the driveway and encouraging Dustin to step on it.  “Run them over if you have to, they’ll kill us.”

 Dustin floored the gas, the tires squealed sharply and the car was propelling into the surging crowd.  A loud crunch and scream broke through the roar of the mob attacking the car.

 “Go, go, go, go,” Chris yelled.

 The car was nearly surrounded by people beating on the windows and tearing at the door handles.  Dustin dropped the clutch and the car lurched forward to race down the street, backfiring once when he shifted gears.

 “Agghhhhh,  Ahhhhh,” Dustin screamed.  “I hit that guy.”

 “They gave you no choice.  You saw how they attacked the car.” Chris shouted.

 Dustin was still yelling.  “I hate it.  I hate it.”

 Thwack!

 A bullet smashed through the rear window and lodged in the car frame between the front and rear passenger windows, directly behind Chris’s head.  Chris was screaming, “drive, Dustin, drive!”

 Though they needed to get to Interstate 90, Dustin knew the freeways would be jammed with people attempting to flee the city.  Instead, he drove north, taking side streets when necessary to skirt congested areas.  In every direction they witnessed storefronts being smashed and buildings looted.  Other stores were set on fire, and looters shot other looters to steal what had just been stolen.

 Dustin took them north as fast as he could in an attempt to bypass the gridlock surely taking place on the freeways.  If only they could get north to Highway 2 they might have a chance to escape.  Though they would need to cross Interstate 5 at some point, Dustin was looking to get as far north as possible before attempting to do so.

 The men continued north and crossed the Boeing Freeway without incident.  Dodging traffic and angry knots of people they eventually made it to Evergreen Way and approached the city of Everett.  There they decided to take their chances on I-5 instead of going into town.

 Atop the overpass crossing I-5 Dustin slowed the car to look south towards Seattle.  About a quarter mile away two burning cars blocked the freeway, narrowing it to one lane.  Further south, a massive, oil slick of a cloud rose above the Seattle skyline.

 With traffic reduced to one lane, the freeway to the north was wide open.  Dustin sped down the entry ramp to I-5 and raced north to the junction with Highway 2 and Stevens Pass.


 Cliffson ran his hands over his face.  Prickly stubble reminded him it had been a while since his last shave.  The tension left him on edge and Jean was rubbing his shoulders, but there was nothing they could do but wait.

 “Cliffson, let’s go outside to the garden.  I’ll take the phone with us so we don’t miss any calls.”

 “Sounds good hun, the fresh air won’t hurt.”

 The carrots needed thinning and they each took a place at opposite ends of the row.  “Isn’t it strange how getting your hands in the soil has such a soothing effect?  Almost like grasping reality itself.  You feel that?”  Jean asked.

 “Sure do.  There’s something missing in a person’s life when they can’t get their hands in the soil. ”

 It was then Mrs. Crank sauntered up and leaned against the pole fence in front of the Lang’s property.  Standing there with hands on hips, her condescending attitude filled the air like a cheap perfume.

 “Hey there plowboy, playin’ in the dirt again?”

 Just digging your grave, Cliffson thought.  “Thinning carrots and weeding the beans is all.”  Cliffson tried to sound amicable.

 “I love green beans—I’ll have to come back by when they’re ripe.”  Cliffson pictured an evil tempest forming a dark cloud of spite over her head.

 “Why don’t you grow any of your own?” Cliffson asked.

 “Me?  Why would I want to do yard work?  We’ve got money, we don’t need to grub around in the dirt like you folks.  We just buy what we need and pay the illegal’s to keep our place looking nice.  And they’re grateful for the work too.”

 Cliffson was smiling now as he stood to straighten his back.  “I’m sure all that green will make a nice salad for you someday.”

 “Hmmph.” She turned her back and strutted across the street to a neighbor’s house.  The air freshened immediately.

 “Somehow wisdom has just never caught up with that woman,” Cliffson said.

 “And I don’t think is ever will.  What gall,”  Jean answered.  “She’ll be hungry someday and find out all that money isn’t as sweet as she thinks it is.”  Jean took up a watering bucket and began watering the tomatoes.

 “Did you see all the new raspberry shoots?” Cliffson asked.  “Doing their natural free born spring time thing.”

 “Yes, I did.  We need to pot some up to sell.”  Jean set down her watering bucket and walked to the nearest row of raspberries.

 “Without power we’ll have to put up a sign on the fence instead of advertising on the web.  Maybe we can do some trading.”

 “Got it covered hun, I’ll get a sign made,” Cliffson promised, while dusting the dirt from his knees.  “Maybe trade for some pre 1965 coins.”

 The raised brick flower bed stretching across the front of the garden was in full bloom and the couple stood together enjoying the sight of their bees exploring each blossom.  Cliffson suggested they walk over to the hives and watch for a bit.

 In the apiary the air was full of bees making their way in and out of the hives.  “When I had the hives apart last week they looked pretty good.  Each has good numbers, except for this hive here.”  Cliffson pointed to a hive on the end.  “But I think it’ll come around.”

 “Bringing in a lot of pollen, aren’t they?”  Jean enjoyed the bees nearly as much as Cliffson.

 “Certainly are.  Making a good nectar haul too.”  Cliffson smiled.  “Honey in the making.”

 Jean took Cliffson’s hand.  “Let’s go back inside.  Maybe Dustin will call soon.”

 Cliffson was in the garage removing his boots when the phone rang.

 “Dad, we barely made it out of town.  It’s crazy up here, but we made it and are on Highway 2 headed over Stevens Pass.”

 “Stevens Pass?” Cliffson wondered.

 “Yes, the only way we could get away and avoid the freeway traffic was to come north along Highway 99 until we thought it was safe to get on I-5.” Dustin replied.

 “Good thinking son.  Will you have enough gas?”

 “No, that’s the problem. We’ll have to find some somewhere.  My roommate Chris is with me and I’m taking him to his parents place near Ellensburg.   Chris thinks his dad might know a farmer who has fuel.”

 “All right, Dust, please be careful and you might check in with your brother when you can.  He is driving home from Boise right now.”

 “Sweet.  I’ll check in with him soon.”

 “Keep us posted.”  Cliffson hated to let him go.

 “I will.  Bye”

 The wait was going to be unbearable, but there was little to be done.  Jean suggested she could use his help with the laundry.  Oh boy, what fun,  he thought.    Instead…don’t I need to pick up dog poop, clean the chicken coop, make some soup, see Monk for the latest scoop, jump through a hoop, form a new group, sit on the stoop, make some goop…


 Dustin’s stomach was growling. “Chris I’m hungry, how ‘bout you?”

 “Yeah bro, haven’t had much today.  I sure could go for a bacon burger, double chocolate shake and some fries.”

 “You’re killing me man. How far to the next town?” Dustin asked.

“Looks like about seven miles to a place called Gold Bar.  Burgers are probably expensive there huh?”

 “Very funny.  Anything beyond that, or is Gold Bar our last chance to strike a claim for a meal?”

 Chris rolled his eyes at the joke and took a closer look at the map.

 “Well, there’s another spot called Index, but we’re getting pretty far into the mountains by then.  We’d better hope to hit a rich vein of bacon at Gold Bar.”

 “Stop it,” Dustin said, and they both laughed.

 Soon their little car was rolling into the tiny town of Gold Bar: population, 2,014.  The town was established as a prospector’s camp in 1889 and later became a base camp for construction of the Great Northern Railway.  Turning off of Highway 2, they saw the first of many aged and faded wooden signs attesting to the town’s history.

 A couple blocks into town Dustin spotted an old greasy spoon diner tucked in next to a boarded up gas station.  The rundown relic from the past had somehow managed to stay in business long after fast food became the rage.  The parking lot was empty except for an old, lime green, Volkswagen van.

 “Hey Dustin, get a load of this, see that bumper sticker?”  Chris said.

 “Ass, Gas or Grass, no one rides for free.” Dustin read aloud.  “My Dad’s told me about those.  It’s from the ‘70s.”

 “Trippin’ dude.  Now let’s go eat.”

 Chris led the way up a couple decaying cement steps stained with the remnants of a reminder they’d once blushed bright red, pulled open a creaky screen door, and headed for a booth with a red and white checkered table cloth on the left side of the room.  Chipped and worn tiles paved a floor that was probably once cream colored.  The air was heavy with the smell of fried food and salted with a double measure of cigarette smoke.  A couple of round tables in the middle of the room were home to napkin dispensers and salt and pepper shakers.  Booth seating along dingy windows on both sides of the room completed the ensemble.

 The kitchen was in back where a balding, pot bellied cook in a dingy wife-beater undershirt and an apron that looked as if you could have rung gravy from it, peered out from behind beady eyes.  He appeared nervous and ran his hands through the few greasy strands of dark hair that fell from the back of his head.   Gruffly he called for his waitress.

 “Betty, customers.”

 The back door slammed, Betty strolled in and pulled the last drag from her cigarette.  She wore white shoes, the kind you often see nurses wearing and looked to be about sixty years old, but her face wore a look that said she’d spent a hundred years on her feet.

 At their table her course smoker’s voice rose up through the gravel bed in her throat and asked, “What can I get you boys today?”

 “Get the cream pie,” boomed a voice from the other side of the room.

Seated in a booth along the opposite wall were two middle aged men and a young woman.

 “Keep your shirt on bubba, I’ll be right there,” the waitress said.

 The deep voice laughed for its own enjoyment, “Just having a little fun missy.”

 Chris and Dustin each ordered a burger and fries with a chocolate shake.  The waitress delivered the order to the cook and went to wait on the other booth.

 Chris leaned across the table and in a hushed voice asked, “You see the size of that guy?”

 Dustin chanced a look.  “He’s huge.  He takes up nearly the entire side of the booth.”

 “Dustin, don’t look now but you see that girl sitting with them?” Chris asked.

“No.”

“What do you mean? She’s sitting right there.”  Chris said

“You said not to look.”

“Come on Dustin, she’s trying to tell me something.”

“Oh Chris, you always think the girls are trying to tell you something, but what you think they’re saying is never what they mean.”

 “Shut up, Dustin.”

 “So I don’t see anything, she’s just sitting there Chris.”

 “Course she is now, the waitress left.  She was only doing it while the waitress had the attention of those two guys’.”

 “Well why don’t you go over and ask her to dance?  Here’s a quarter for the juke box.”

 “Stuff it Dustin, I’m serious.”

 The waitress brought their meals just as the woman and two men got up from the booth to leave.  The first guy was huge. Oily black hair hung in a pony tail down the back of a black leather jacket worn over a white t-shirt.  Old jeans and black leather boots completed the image of a biker.  With a voice of thunder rumbling down from the mountains he looked at Dustin and threatened, “What’re you lookin’ at college boy?”

 Dustin looked down at his food. “Nothing, sir.”

 “You best be keeping your eyes to yourself then,” growled the man-bear.

 The man put his hand on the young woman’s shoulder and ducked his head through the door on their way outside.  Following closely on their heels, the little man’s bravado goaded him to pull back his jacket to display the pistol he was carrying before the screen door slammed behind him.

 A momentary hush fell over the restaurant and even the building seemed to sigh in relief.

 When the waitress came over to asked if they needed anything else, Chris was very quiet.  “A glass of water please?” he gulped.

 “Sure thing.  What direction you boys headed?” she asked.

 “Same way they’re going, I think,” Dustin replied.

 “You boys be careful.  There’s trouble in that group,” the waitress said. “I’m afraid for that young woman.”

 “See Dustin, I told you she was trying to tell me something.  Did you see the sawed off shotgun the big guy was carrying inside his jacket?

 “No”, Dustin said,  “I was looking at the long gash across the guy’s cheek.”

 The waitress returned with water for Chris and handed Dustin a thermos of coffee.

 “Here’s some coffee for the road.   You fellas be careful.  There’s trouble a foot.”  Betty reached inside her faded blue apron for a pad with their bill and laid it on the table. Dustin couldn’t help but notice how her fingertips were stained tobacco yellow from the mountains of cigarette butts they’d caressed.

 While the young men finished their meal, the conversation turned to the trip ahead.  In the mountains there would be few side roads on which to circumvent roadblocks and they didn’t have enough gas for long detours.   Dustin slurped the last of his shake and the conversation fell quiet, each of them withdrawing into their own thoughts.

 “I wish we had a gun,” Dustin finally said.

 “You go on ahead big fella and I’ll follow ya,” Chris said in his best John Wayne voice.

 “I’m serious, Chris, we may need to defend ourselves.”

 They left money for their meals on the table plus a little extra for a tip and the coffee.  Betty pulled a pack of unfiltered Raleigh cigarettes from her shirt pocket and followed them outside.

 Dustin paused at the side of the car for a moment, breathing in the fresh mountain air and thinking ahead to the drive over the mountains.  He was listening to a blue jay chattering away in a pine tree at the edge of the parking lot when the rush of traffic on the highway imposed upon his thoughts.

 Betty waved good-bye from the front steps, cigarette in hand.  Tossing another pebble onto the gravel bed, Dustin mused.  He also wondered what would become of the waitress and the cook.  They were away from trouble for the moment, but for how long?  He hoped they would be all right.

 Those who could escape the firestorm in the city were headed east and Dustin waited at the intersection of Highway Two for his chance to join the traffic.  People were fleeing the city like hounds on a fox hunt—but these hounds didn’t know where they were going.


 Cliffson finished hanging out a pair of jeans to dry and was glad the chore was done.  It was a good time for a beer and he went into the garage to tap a couple glasses of Hermead.  It wouldn’t be cold, but he didn’t care.   He could already taste his homemade nectar.  Jean was in the garden and he walked out to join her.

 Handing her the glass of beer he said, “Radish for your thoughts.”

 She smiled and rested her head on his shoulder for moment.  “Just thinking of how we might expand the garden.”

 “Ha, I’m sure that’s all you’re thinking about.”

 “Not a good time to be sarcastic,” she said.  “I’m trying not to worry.”

 Changing the subject Cliffson said, “Your garlic is sure looking good.   Tomatoes are doing all right too!”

 “Things are coming along pretty well.  We should dig out those old carrots we carried through the winter and give them to the chickens.”  She knelt down to pull back the straw and extracted a carrot.  “Have you had one lately?”

 “Nah.  I imagine they’re getting a little rubbery by now.  They were sure nice to have this winter though.  It’s funny.  People don’t believe it when you tell them you can have fresh carrots all winter simply by covering them with straw.”

 “They’ve really been good and now the chickens will enjoy them too.  Have you noticed the peach tree lately?  It’s just full of fruit and we’re really going to need it.  Maybe we could sell some this year.”

 “Ummm, that brings something else to mind.”  Cliffson removed his hat and scratched his head.  “We could have a problem with people stealing from our garden this year.  Dang, I hate to even think about that.”

 Jean was working up a patch of ground for a second lettuce crop and looked up at him.  “We’ve got enough to deal with so I’m not gonna borrow trouble where it doesn’t exist.”  She stood and brushed off her hands.  “I’m thinking we could expand the garden out this way,” she gestured, “and grow a large crop of dried beans.”

 “That would work.”  Cliffson was admiring his potatoes.  “Have you noticed how well the spuds are doing?”

 “Liking all that chicken manure you worked in there, aren’t they?”

 “It’s the perfect way to recycle—run the manure through the potato plants and eat it as a spud.”  Cliffson grinned.  He knew she found it disgusting when he described it that way.

Jean changed the subject.  “I sure wish Zach would call.  I’d like to know where he is and if he’s doing all right.”

 “Depending on how quickly he got out of town, he should have crossed the state line and be in Oregon by now,”  Cliffson said.  Come on, let’s get the eggs and bring in a little firewood.”


 Zach found the freeway crowded and moving slowly but steadily.  The sharp edged tension was etched clearly in the faces of the drivers he met and the entire procession moved and felt like a funeral march through the lower echelons of hell.

 He eventually reached the Snake River Bridge and crossed into Oregon. There he took Highway 20 and headed east towards Vale.  Traffic thinned and the rural, sparsely populated country of eastern Oregon beckoned.

 For the first time since hitting the road, Zach allowed himself to relax a bit and kicked up his speed well past the 55 mph speed limit.  It felt so good to be out of the city.  He was free again and let the car unwind at whatever pace felt comfortable.   At twenty-four, he enjoyed living on his own and was reluctant to move back with his parents.  That was before the world got so crazy.  Now home looked safe and inviting, and he drove a little faster.


 Dustin followed the winding road into the conifer sheltered mountains.  Dense forest and overcast skies closed in on the little car as if it were traveling down the dark, oppressive maw of some monster.

Traffic was heavy but moving well enough and the two young men passed the time reviewing the events of the day and speculating on what might come next.

 “Dustin, let’s find a place to pee. Time to get rid of some coffee,” Chris said.

 “I hear you.  I wouldn’t mind a little break myself.  The sign back there said three miles to Nason Creek rest area.  Let’s stop there.”

 Soon the tick, tick, tick of the turn signal overtook the sound of tires on wet pavement and Dustin angled for the turnoff.  A light rain was falling and as the wipers cleared the windshield a lime green van appeared directly in front of them and pulled onto the highway.

 Chris jumped up in his seat.  “Dustin did you see that?”

 “Yes, but I couldn’t tell if it had the bumper sticker.”

 “It has to be the same van Dustin, there aren’t that many old lime green vans around.”

 “I’m just glad it’s gone.  I don’t want to run into those guys again.”  Dustin said while maneuvering the car into a parking spot.  “Chris doesn’t this seem a little strange?  There’s all that traffic on the highway but the rest area is empty except for that guy over there sitting in his car.”

 “I don’t know Dust, I just need to pee,” Chris said.

 They got out of the car and crossed the damp pavement to the rest room.  Dustin pulled open the dented rusty door and stopped dead in his tracks.  “Ohh geeeez!”

 “What?”

 But Dustin had already turned around to leave before the hamburger he had for lunch could cross his palate a second time.  Then Chris saw the crimson pool of blood flowing towards the door and joined Dustin in ridding himself of lunch.

 After retching the remains of their burgers, the two men moved behind the moss covered building to pee and calm shattered nerves.

 “Chris you
ok?”  Dustin dry-heaved again.  “We need to go back and look inside again, there might be someone hurt who needs our help.”

 “No way Dustin, I can’t do it.”

 “Then come stand by the door, I don’t want to go in there alone.”

 “All right buddy, I can do that much for you.”

 They walked back to the front of the building and immediately encountered the blood running out from under the door.

 “Ugh.”  Dustin opened the door and stuck his head inside, careful not to step in the growing puddle.  “Anyone in there?  Anyone need help?”  A lifeless echo rattled through the brick building.

 Dustin began to retch again and ducked back outside.  “Chris it’s horrible.  The gunshot nearly cut the guy in half.  Had to… been… a… shotgun,” he said between heaves.  “I need some water.  Chris, go ask that guy in the car over there if he saw anything.”

 “All right Dusty, the water’s in the back seat.  I’ll be right back.”

 Dustin weaved across the parking lot on wobbly legs and steadied himself for a moment at the side of his car while struggling with another gag.  Even the light rain was not helping to clear his head.  Then he heard a long low wail.

 “Nooooooooooooh!  Dustin get us out of here now.  NOW, right now!”

 Chris ran out of one of his shoes racing back to the car and threw himself inside.  Dustin was already backing up when Chris slammed the door shut.  They roared through the parking lot and flew out onto the highway, nearly broad-siding another car.  Neither of them heard the blaring horns nor saw the one finger salutes.

 “Dustin he was just sitting there—he looked so normal.  I thought maybe he didn’t hear me so I bent down close to look in the window.  His eyes were staring straight ahead, right through the windshield, but they were kinda glassy looking.  When I looked closer I saw he’d been shot in the head and there were pink pieces of brain blown all over the passenger side window.”

 Dustin hardly heard him.  His mind was numb and kept flashing images of the man on the floor of the rest room with his guts spilling out.

 “Dustin, wakeup,” Chris demanded.

 Dustin shook his head in disbelief before shifting his gaze to Chris.  “I feel like I woke up in another world today Chris. This is impossible.  It can’t be real.  It just can’t be real.”

 Climbing high up into the mountains, threatening skies darkened under a building storm until the gale finally loosed its fury and shook the little car with waves of rain filled gusts.  The wipers were working overtime to sweep away the rain, but they couldn’t sweep their minds clear of the bloody images.  The two rode in silence, lost in the day’s events, the rhythm of wipers and the drum of tires on a wet road.  Dustin ignored his ringing phone.

 When they passed through the town of Leavenworth, the men barely noticed and Dustin nearly missed the junction with Highway 97 before turning south towards home.  When the rain subsided, he pulled the car to the side of the road for a break at the top of Blewett Pass.

 “Will things ever be the same?” Dustin said more to himself than anyone else.  He was leaning against the back of the car staring into space.  It was the first words either of them had spoken in quite some time.

 “I don’t know Dustin.  How can they be if the cities are gone?”

 “Don’t say that. You don’t know they’re gone,” Dustin asserted.

 “But this morning before we bailed out of town the radio was talking about city after city being looted and burned.  There’s no water, no…”

 Both men froze.  The lime green van roared by, crested the top of the pass and began its descent down the other side of the mountain.


 “I can’t get a hold of him either Mom,”  Zach said.  “He’s not answering his phone.”

 Jean paced about the room.  “I’m so worried, we should have heard from him by now.”

 “I’ll let you know if I hear anything Mom.”

 “How are you doing on gas?”

 “I just went through Brothers.  Even with the car loaded up, it’s looking like I’ll have enough to get home, Zach said.

 “All right.  I love you and see you soon.”

 “Love you too Mom. Bye.”


 “Dustin, let’s wait a while.  I don’t want to follow them down the mountain.”

 “I’m good with that.”  Dustin walked over to a wild current bush to pee.  “How far is it to your folks place from here?”

“Probably twenty, twenty-five miles.  We’ll be there well before dark,” Chris said.

 Dustin returned to the car.  “Sweet. Now if I could just find something in here to eat.”

 “Anything in the trunk?”

 Dustin pulled keys from his pocket and opened the trunk.  “You know I never thought I’d feel like eating again after what I saw today, but I got a real pit in my stomach.  Hey, will you look at this.”  Dustin tossed a can of bacon cheese whip to Chris.  “Suppose it’s any good?”

 “That stuff never goes bad.” Chris tossed it back.  “But I can’t stand that crap, looks like latex paint.  Knock yourself out buddy.”

 Chris’s stomach remained unsettled and he turned away at the sound of the nozzle releasing cheese into Dustin’s mouth.  Dustin grinned and patted his tummy.  “Ummmm, good.  Wish I had some crackers.”

 Chris got back into the car.  “Time to go, I’m anxious to get home.”

 Dustin started the car and eased out onto the highway.  Chris turned the radio on and dialed in the station in Ellensburg.

 “This is the emergency alert system.  We are advising people in rural areas to lock their doors and windows and stay inside.  The exodus from major cities west of the Cascades has led to a wave of crime in outlying areas.  Chinese authorities have already moved to shut down all east bound traffic and stop the violence.”

 Chris watched Dustin rubbing his chin. “I can see your wheels turning Dustin, what are you thinking?”

 “It makes no sense.”

 “What doesn’t’ make sense?”

 Dustin tipped the can up to empty the last of the cheese whip into his mouth before continuing.  “The Chinese turn off the power and allow the cities to burn when the riots break out.  So why are they all of a sudden concerned about the rural folks?  It doesn’t add up.”

 Chris shrugged his shoulders.  “I don’t get it either Dust, but guess what?”

“What?”

“We were lucky.”

 Dustin looked puzzled and put the screwed up look on his face that always made Chris laugh.

 “We made it over the mountains before they closed off the passes,” Chris said.

 “Holy crap.  We could have been stuck over there in that horde of freaked out people.  Chills me to the bone.”  Dustin gripped the wheel a little tighter and said a quiet prayer.  “Stink.  I forgot to call my parents.  They’ll be worried.”

 The oppressive feel of the forest began to lift as the little car hummed along the blacktop, out of the mountains and into the rolling hills of a vast, open countryside, where sagebrush, scattered Ponderosa Pine, bitterbrush and bunchgrass replaced the woodlands.

 Chris was watching the mile markers on the shoulder of the road.  “All right, we’re getting close, just about a mile to the turn off.  We’ll be home soon and you should call your parents.”

 Dustin slumped back in his seat.  “Man, all of a sudden I feel beat.”

 “Me too,” Chris said.  “Turn off is right around the corner.”

 After rounding the corner Dustin saw a white house, nestled against low hills and turned up the long gravel drive.  There was a small red barn behind the house and bounding out from behind it was a huge black dog.  The Newfoundland was excited to see Chris and gave Dustin nearly as warm a welcome too.  It reminded Dustin of a dog he had as a kid.

 Chris’ parents were not far behind the dog.  After hugs and introductions, Dustin excused himself when Chris began telling them about what happened at the rest stop.

 The crickets were tuning up for a night’s performance when Dustin sat down in a lawn chair in the middle of the backyard and dialed home. A sullen, red sun cast the last of its rays through a blood red sky creating a chilling reminder of the day’s trials.  Dustin turned away and looked to the east where a dusky sky was forming on the horizon.

 “Hello.”

 “Sorry I didn’t call sooner Mom, but there were some issues.”  Dustin began to relate the day’s events.  “Yes, I’m ok now but still kinda shaken up.  I’m not sure if it’s all really hit me yet.  Glad to hear that Zach is home safe.”

 “I’ll be leaving early tomorrow morning and will call you once I’m on the road.”

 “Yes, Chris’s dad said he knows where I can get some gas.  I’ll fill up in the morning and come home through Yakima on 97.” 

“Love you guys too, and I promise to call you when I leave.”

Here is the next chapter in the dystopian thriller that is Truths Blood.

Chapter Two

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Thomas Jefferson

Chen was growing anxious to leave the god-forsaken ground where fate had abandoned him these many long months.  He was tired of the dust and the parched landscape with its prickly vegetation that grabbed at him wherever he went.  The tented awning under which he sat provided shade but only modest relief from the heat.  He longed for the warm, moist climate and lush vegetation of his home in Southeast Asia.

Lazily swatting at the ever present flies, Chen withdrew a photograph from his attaché case and gazed longingly at the dark haired beauty smiling back at him.  They came from two different worlds; hers, affluent and well appointed; his, poor and wanting.  Even so, and against the will of her parents, they’d kept their relationship alive.  Chen had vowed that somehow he would acquire the wealth needed to win her parent’s approval.  It wasn’t going to be found in this forlorn and desolate border post in northern Mexico, but he was working on a plan.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden rush of feet and salute of his communications officer.

“Relax Kang.  What has you so excited?”

“The orders, sir.”

Chen leaned back in his chair, read the hastily scribbled note and closed his eyes for a moment.  Upon opening them he gazed into the distance, towards the southern border of the United States.

Exhaling loudly, Chen returned to the moment.  “Finally Kang, our moment of redemption draws near.”  Chen reached for his attaché case to retrieve two small glasses and a bottle of scotch.  After pouring the drinks, he offered one to Kang.

“Really, sir?”

Chen simply nodded and raised his glass in a toast.  “To success and to returning home.”  The men tossed back their drinks and Kang returned to his station.  Chen poured himself another drink in an attempt to control his impatience for the night’s events to begin.

Finally, the wait is over.  Tonight we infiltrate the U.S. and prepare to pay them back for the wrongs perpetrated on mighty China.

 


 

Shortly after midnight, at the Animas Valley border patrol outpost in New Mexico’s Bootheel, Buzz Peterson poured two cups of coffee and stepped into the communications room.  His partner’s growing agitation was out of character.

“Steven what’s going on?”

“I can’t believe what’s happening.  Seven border patrol stations are under attack.

“Are you sure?”

“It’s all over the radio.  Every available unit including the National Guard is being called in to assist.”

The lights dimmed as the stations power switched to battery backup.

“Power’s out Buzz, we’d better go…

Explosions rocked the building and a fire burst into flame in the kitchen.  Heavy caliber bullets were pounding the station’s bullet proof glass as Buzz and Steven crawled through the smoke towards the backdoor.  Then the backdoor exploded in a blaze of brimstone and light.  Buzz and Steven lay dead.


Chen relaxed in a canvas backed chair smiling to himself and rubbing his hands with delight.  Everything was going exactly as planned.  The Americans were in a panic and confusion reigned across the airwaves.  Soon the order would come to send in his aircraft and their mission would be complete.

Man’s Past is Filled with Truth’s Shed Blood

We’ve all heard the phrase – history repeats itself, but never in exactly the same way.   Have you ever really thought about it though?  If it does repeat itself, then the obvious question is why?  Human nature maybe?  Naw, couldn’t be.  We humans are so advanced and so wise in this modern age.  I hear some of you laughing, but the rest of you were nodding your heads yes.

Could it have something to do about mankind’s seeming inability to learn from the past?  I tend to think so.  We seem incapable of picking up some of the basic principles that are so clearly displayed along histories road map.  What else could it be when the same mistakes are repeated over and over, thereby setting the stage for history to repeat itself.  Or said another way, the landscape of the future is painted with the lessons of history we ignore or never learn.

Examples – they are everywhere.  Here are just a few.

INFLATION – Almost always created on purpose by governments down through history, it happens when governments can no longer pay for their wars and bloated programs.  In Rome the Caesar’s would “clip” the coins that came into the treasury.  By stealing gold and silver from the various coins collected in fees and taxes, Caesar could expand the money supply to pay his bills.  Melt down the clipped pieces and mint new coins.

In more recent times governments didn’t need to resort to clipping coins.  They had the printing press and Germany made great use of it.  I think most of you are familiar with the stories of people burning bundles of Deutsche Marks because they were more valuable for heat than currency.  Or maybe you’ve heard the story of a man who found a leather brief case full of paper Marks laying in the road.  He dumped out the money and kept he brief case because it was worth more.

Here’s one I bet you didn’t know.  In the early 1900’s Argentina had the fourth largest economy in the world.  Subsequently destroyed by government programs that could only be supported by printing money.  England used to rule the world, but its currency has been devalued a number of times for the same reasons.

Today in the U.S. we are very advanced.  No need for the printing press here.  We simply create money out of thin air with a few keystrokes on a keyboard.  Why mess with the printing press when the numbers you create on a computer screen are just as valuable?

WAR – This ones pretty obvious.  Rome fell largely as a result of its far flung wars.  They were costly and basically they pissed off a lot of people.  Germany and Japan shared similar fates for similar reasons.  Do we in the U.S. think we can ignore these lessons?  Apparently so.

UNCONTROLLED BORDERS – Its not about being isolated and not allowing anyone in.  On the contrary, it can be most beneficial when done the correct way.  But history clearly demonstrates that no nation remains standing for long when it can’t or wont protect its borders.

I could go on but wont bore you with anymore history.  It has after all, become such a nasty word we don’t even teach it (in any meaningful way) in our schools anymore.  We are an enlightened nation and know that past history is just that and none of what has happened in the past will affect us – right?  And don’t go getting all political on me.  Both parties have taken us down the road we are on.  Pointing fingers at one or the other only demonstrates you don’t have a clear understanding of the problem.  Sorry, but the Truth can be harsh sometimes.

History is the premise that Truth’s Blood is written on.  Take the lessons of the past and apply them to the current state of the U.S.  Our future really is painted by the lessons of history we fail to learn or choose to ignore.  TRUTH’S BLOOD is one possible outcome.  The scary part is that this fictional story gets a little more real everyday.  I hope you’ll pick up a copy.  It makes for a chilling read in the middle of our hot summer weather.

http://www.amazon.com/Truths-Blood-ebook/dp/B00AREMKV6/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/truths-blood-tyler-roberts/1114020093?ean=9781475966794&itm=1&usri=truths+blood

I am in need of more reviews on Amazon, therefore I am offering my book, Truth’s Blood, for free. If you will send me the email address for your kindle, I will send you the book. I also have it in PDF form if that’s what you prefer.

Rest assured I will not spam you. I hate it as much as you do.

Recently I received the review I requested from Kirkus Reviews. While I didn’t receive their coveted “star” award, the review was pretty positive and I’ve posted most of it below.

In Roberts’ post-apocalyptic debut, the Lang family survives in a disintegrating United States occupied by the Chinese military. The year 2016 sees America crumbling. With the Bill of Rights suspended, aerial drones target citizens by presidential order. Consumerism and debt have ruined the economy, while college graduates don’t know the meaning of
self-sufficiency. What better time for the Chinese to invade and collect their due? When it happens, everyone is caught unawares except Cliffson Lang, his wife, Jean, and their friend Monk. Living in Oregon, they farm their own produce and raise chickens. They work hard (as do their sons, Zach and Dustin Lang), surviving within their means. They aren’t
affected when the government cuts aid programs (to repay the Chinese) and rioters start destroying cities around the country. But shortly thereafter, the Chinese . . . (spoiler) The
invaders then begin collecting gold and silver from traumatized Americans nationwide. Monk and the Langs keep their spirits up, staying informed via ham radio about militia resistance to the Chinese and the carnage created by roving gangs. Debut author Roberts convincingly brings this hellish future to life. He begins the novel with frequent, sumptuous depictions of nature: “Scattered gray clouds rode across the sky on a chill zephyr born of winter, while a cool breeze played hide and seek throughout last year’s raspberry canes.” Such beauty allows the full weight of later atrocities to hit the reader: “Disfigured by Dustin’s shotgun blasts, the bodies left behind dark stains and chunks of flesh on the grass.”

But between the peace and violence . . . a solid action narrative awaits.
Morals and bullets fly in this cranky action thriller.” Kirkus Reviews

I hope you’ll check out this dystopian thriller and leave a review on Amazon for me. http://www.amazon.com/Truths-Blood-ebook/dp/B00AREMKV6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371998177&sr=8-1&keywords=truths+blood

And don’t forget, I am happy to send you a free copy if you will provide me a way to send it to you. you can contact me at whalersman@gmail.com
Have a great day folks!