Posts Tagged ‘war’

I particularly like this quote by Cliffson and also the “White Rabbit” scene.  Additionally, there is a scene in this chapter that is one of the most intense in the entire book.

CHAPTER  TWENTY-FIVE

 “True science has long since fled the nation, to be replaced by political science; that is, the counterfeit, contrived science conceived by politicians, for the deception of the masses and empowerment of political elites.”

 Cliffson

 With the regularity of a Monsoon rain the deadly raids continued.  At the close of each day, with the sun spreading a new water color painting in the western sky, gunfire would erupt, homes would burn and the screams of the helpless filled the night.  At times the fighting was far off and only the plumes of angry black clouds could be seen rising into the air.  Other times it was nearby and fires would illuminate the nighttime sky in oranges and reds.

Thomas was enjoying a tranquil evening until 3:00 a.m. when an attack on neighbors at the end of the cul-de-sac forced him to wake Cliffson with a call on his radio.  Cliffson jumped from bed, threw on some clothes and rushed to meet with Monk and Thomas on the front lawn.

Monk was adamant they not get drawn in.  “Not gonna risk our lives in that fight mates.  Those folks refused to join with us in preparing a coordinated a defense.  There’s nothing to be gained.”

It seemed so cold-blooded, but Cliffson knew Monk was right.  After taking up positions of cover in case the thugs moved their direction, they watched the neighbors flee their homes.  A few were gunned down in their own yards, but most escaped.

The next morning Monk and Cliffson made an inspection of the two homes and found them ransacked but intact.  One way or the other people were being thinned out and empty or burned out homes were beginning to outnumber those housing families.

Day after day, the level of violence grew and desperation mounted.  Most of the fighting was against small groups of starving, desperate people and the sight of starving children tugged at everyone’s hearts. Occasionally the Langs shared with families passing through, but it was impossible to help all of them.

During his nightly watch, it was Thomas’ custom to call out a warning for people to turn back.  But fewer and fewer people were heeding his call and more often than not, shot into the darkness where they thought his voice had come from.  When his concern for others nearly cost him his life Thomas’ entire demeanor changed.

It was the typical small group.  Four young men were prowling the neighborhood late at night hoping to catch an unsuspecting family asleep.  After ignoring his warning and pinning him down, Thomas was engaged in a fight for his life.  In the heat of the battle his gun jammed and he’d run out of ammunition for his pistol by the time Cliffson and Monk arrived at the last second to rescue him.

Thomas now knew what it was like to stare down the barrel of a rifle and await the slug.  In that moment something inside him snapped.  A translucent switch connecting a long dormant synapse was thrown and he was no longer the mild mannered anti-gun professor just trying to get along.  From that point forward, Thomas used the benefit of surprise to quickly dispatch groups of two or three. “It’s just how it is,”  he would say.   His only exception was for children.

When encountering larger groups, he would awaken Monk and Cliffson with his radio and then proceed to do whatever was required until help arrived.  Drawing the enemy’s attention meant Monk and Cliffson often went unnoticed, slipping out of their houses and into the dark to ambush unexpectedly from behind.  In a very short period of time Thomas had killed many men and he grew cold and more distant with each one.

Thomas quickly became a loyal and trusted member who was greatly respected. He was a good man and Cliffson had grown fond of him—thankful he had come their way.  Though the steady fighting and killing was draining the humanity out of all of them, Cliffson was particularly concerned for Thomas.  There was an icy hardness to the man and a steel glint in his eye that was unnerving.

Thomas knew he had changed in a way he’d never thought possible.   Some nights, while manning one of his secluded sentry posts, he would think about the person he had become and contrast himself with the professor he had once been. It seemed like a life time ago and it shocked him to realize he’d become the very person he once demeaned and called uncivilized.

For Thomas, this new reality was seen in the people who had their hands in the soil, striving to be free and self-reliant.  They were the ones who knew truth and understood life.  No longer did he see them as the poor unsophisticated souls needing to be educated in the enlightened ways of the “Ivory Tower” class.  These people didn’t need to be shown culture, they were the culture.

He saw things so differently now, but it was too late.  People who worked for a living had been outnumbered by those who voted for a living, and the end had come.  It shocked him to see how blind he’d been and he found himself thinking he should have paid more attention to the things his son had been trying to tell him.

His son.  The thought would bring a lump to his throat and his tears would glisten in the moon light while sitting alone at his post in the dark.  How was he doing?  Was he even still alive?  Oh, just to see him again.

The weeks passed, and the fighting continued.   Jean was forced to shoot two men holding Cliffson at gun point in the garden.  They’d knocked him to the ground and were yelling their demands when Jean braced herself in the frame of the garage door and shot them with her rifle.  The emotional toll was grinding and the constant state of alertness drained them all.

Cliffson still offered water to people in need, but there was no longer a line, and daily he noticed fewer people showing up.  It wasn’t hard to know what was happening to them and it saddened him to think of the slaughter taking place all around.

He hated it all.  Monk did too, but reminded Cliffson these were the same people who’d bought into the governments promises and brought all this down upon themselves in the first place.  “Besides,” Monk added, “It’s kill or be killed.  You really have no other choice.”

In time, the attacks diminished, but Monk believed they were now entering an even more dangerous period.  The unorganized unfortunates were quickly being eliminated.  Soon they would be faced with organized militias and well armed gangs looking to establish territories.  It would be a treacherous time for their little family.

“So Monk, I like your idea, but just where are we gonna find all the sand we need for this project?” Cliffson asked.  “We’ve pretty much used up what we could find to fortify our own homes.”

“Not sure yet matey.  Now just keep on a movin’, this wood ain’t a gettin’ no lighter ya know.”

Carrying lumber from a couple blocks away wasn’t a pleasant task for these sixty-somethings, but it had to be done and they were making the best of it.  To preserve fuel, the lumber was scavenged a few sticks at a time from nearby homes.

“At our ages Monk, we aren’t rolling joints, were rubbing them,”  Cliffson joked.

“You’re not just a whislin Dixie mate, but we’re getting there.  Then you can rest and curl up with your Surrealistic Pillow,”  Monk added.

“And the White Wabbit?” Cliffson asked.

Monk, “One pill makes you larger.”

Cliffson, “One pill makes you small.”

Both together, “And the one your mother gives you, don’t do anything all.”

Both were laughing out loud now.

Monk, “Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall.”

Cliffson was nearly falling down he was laughing so hard, “You can’t sing Monk.”

“Neither can you, but get on with it if you know the words.”

Cliffson, “Know the words?  Course I know em, something burned them in my mind.”

Monk, “Yeah, I can just imagine.”

Cliffson, “so if you go, chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall,”

Monk, “tell ‘em a hookah smoking caterpillar, has given you the call.”

They were howling now. “Hookah smoking caterpillar always cracked me up.”  Monk choked out between laughs.

Laughing and singing their way back to the house, they finished the song together.  Standing in the driveway the two bellowed the last lines while everyone looked at them like they were crazy.

“And the White Knight is talking backwards,

And the Red Queen’s off with her head,

Remember, what the dormouse said,”

They dropped the lumber down and standing with their arms around one another finished the song in full throttle.

“Feed your head, Feed your head,

Monk, “One more time.”

“Feed your head.”

Finished, they bowed to a hearty applause.  Monk, hat in hand, bald spot gleaming in the sun, Cliffson in his straw hat and overalls.  It was the first real laugh the group had enjoyed in a while and it was a much needed tonic.

Then everyone made their way to the construction site of the Jefferson’s new cabin.  The foundation was constructed of cinder block on which the floor was just now being framed.  Monk’s plan was to fill the walls with sand, up to about four feet or so.  It would provide an extra measure of home defense.

After a few more trips for lumber they called it a day and retired inside for one of Jeans exceptional dinners.  The evening was quiet; an unsettling kind of quiet.  After completing a double check of the radios, Thomas took up his post and the rest of them turned in for the night.

Goosebumps ran the length of Thomas arms and it wasn’t the cool evening air.  A sixth sense told him something was up and he chose to position himself inside the post with the greatest concealment.

In front of him the quince and ninebark were tall and thick with leaves.  To his left, just a few feet away was a large landscape berm, rising up nearly five feet and covered with currents and lavender.  To his right a split rail fence bordered the Crank’s property.  Draped over much of the area was a huge weeping willow where Thomas was secreted inside.

He rarely gave much thought to being located next to the Crank’s driveway, for they were never out after dark, but tonight it would be key.

The sound of a car door woke Thomas from a half sleep.  Angry with himself for dozing off, he wondered what he’d missed.  After getting his bearings he began tuning in on a conversation taking place in the Crank’s driveway.

Adjusting his position to hear better, the conversation abruptly stopped.  Footsteps approached and Thomas froze.  In the darkness he knew he couldn’t be seen, but if they got suspicious and decided to look through the sweeping branches of the willow, he would certainly be found.  The two men stepped from the driveway and gravel crunched just feet from where Thomas hid.  He held his breath, but feared his pounding heart would give him away.

A sudden burst of red and orange sparks showered the ground, quickly followed by the rub of a heavy boot.  The smell of cigarette tobacco filled Thomas’ nostrils and the two men took up their conversation just a few feet away.

What he heard prickled the hair on the back of his neck.  A force was being organized to take down the Lang household, but he couldn’t warn the others without giving himself away.  Did he stand up and shoot the men in cold blood?  No.  He was not a cold-blooded killer, but he had to do something.  He thought about clicking the transmitter on his radio in a pre-arranged signal, but that would was likely to draw people out into the trap being set.  The wrong decision could get people killed.

Again the tension filled Thomas with the desire to explode upon the men and drop them dead.  No, be patient, he told himself.  Quietly he released the safety on his gun and prepared to charge the two unsuspecting men.

A moment later a white pickup rounded the corner and approached the driveway.  In the headlights of the pickup Thomas saw Hank Crank close the lid on a brief case full of money and hand it to the other man.

Thomas could see it wasn’t the worthless American currency and heard Hank promise some gold coins upon successful completion of the mission.  The two men shook hands and Hank slapped the man on the back before going back inside.

After the pickup pulled away, Thomas called a warning on his radio and rushed for the house.  Cliffson met him at the door.

“We don’t have much time.” Thomas exclaimed.  “Get everyone up and out of the house.”

“Thomas take a breath,” Cliffson told him.

“Ok, Ok.”

“Now what’s going on?”

“I overheard a conversation in the Crank’s driveway.  He’s paid a large group to attack the house with automatic weapons.  They’re going to create a diversion out in front before the main group attacks from the field behind.  You’ve got to get everyone out of the
house.”  Thomas was nearly yelling again.

“Damn.  Get Monk and set up in the bunker across the street.”  Cliffson ordered.  He then rushed to arm everyone and evacuate the house for the field behind.  Stepping out the back door he paused for a moment and glanced at the crossbow leaning against the wall.  He didn’t know how he would use it, but knew he should take it.

“Dad, you coming?”  It was Dustin.

“Be right there, Dust.”

Cliffson doused his lantern, slid the door closed and dashed for the field to join the others.

Initially they gathered in the equipment shed, but fearing they could be trapped inside, Cliffson moved them further away to the banks of a dry livestock pond.  From there the house, gravel drive accessing the shed and the low rock wall stretched out before them.

Mary was whimpering and Cliffson sternly hushed her.  He knew Jean was scared too, but she remained in control of herself.  Hell, they were all scared.

The clear, starlit night and fingernail moon shed a frail light, but it was enough to cast a dark outline.  The damp night air was beginning to chill when Cliffson shared his plan.  If the group was too large they wouldn’t show themselves and would remain hidden or retreat to the West’s house a mile away.

“But what about Thomas and Monk”?   Mary asked.

“Monk and I agreed sometime ago we are not to risk lives unnecessarily for the sake of his own.”  Cliffson whispered.

“But my husband is with him.”

“He’s in good hands Mary.  Monk will take care of him.”

Gravel popped and Cliffson looked up in time to see the lights being doused on a pickup turning off of the county road.  The dark silhouette of the truck rolled deliberately towards the shed and stopped to disgorge the men inside.  Cliffson thought there were seven of them, Dustin whispered eight.  A radio crackled, and the men moved to positions at the rock wall.  Cliffson keyed his own radio to alert Monk and all hell broke loose.

A second pickup roared to the front of the Lang’s home and two men in the back of the truck rained down automatic weapons fire on the Lang household.  A third man fired on the bunker containing Monk and Thomas.

Without rising up Thomas fired back with a rifle Monk had laid across on top of the bunker.  Monk told him he was firing high and to shoot lower.  When Thomas cut loose with the next few rounds Monk rose up and threw a Molotov cocktail towards the bed of the truck.  He missed, but the bottle broke against the door and the cab of the truck burst into flames.

Cliffson saw the flames and knew Monk had struck.  When the burning pickup sped off, the men in front of Cliffson climbed over the wall and rushed the house, leaving one man behind to guard the truck.  Cliffson could see from the muzzle flashes there were six of them.

Dustin startled him with a tap on the shoulder.

“Dad, I’m gonna take out the man at the truck with the crossbow.”

“No it’s too dangerous, you just stay………”, before he could finish Dustin cloaked himself in darkness and slid away on his belly.  The gunfire continued and the sound of shattering glass burst loose the anger burning deep in Cliffson’s gut.  Hank had set this up with the expectation of killing them all.

Abruptly the gunfire stopped and silence rushed to fill the vacuum.  Cliffson watched the men shining flashlights about the house.  Then in a hushed voice Dustin called for them.

Crouching low to the ground, the group hurried to join him.  Dustin was pointing to the guard lying in the grass with an arrow buried in his chest when Cliffson’s radio chirped.

“Cliffson, you all right?”  came Monk’s whispered voice.

“We’re fine, but there are six men in the house.  I plan on dispatching them when they leave.  Keep an eye on the front door.”

“Will do, now be careful.”

Cliffson moved everyone to the rock wall and told them to wait until the men came back outside.

“No one shoots until I do,” he ordered.

Taught nerves twitched the muscles in Cliffson’s right hand as he fingered the trigger of his shotgun.  Flashlights continued moving about the house and it seemed to take forever before one man finally stepped outside and to look about the yard.

“Let’s get out of here.”  Four men soon joined him.

“Where’s Jason?  Jason you asshole, get out here.”  The man stepped out of the house with a bottle in his hand.

“Bet that’s my rum,”  Cliffson muttered.

The men began marching towards the rock wall and the leader yelled for their man stationed at the pickup.

“Mac, fire up the truck and let’s go.”

The men took a few more steps before realizing something was wrong, but Cliffson was already over the rock wall and charging the group, firing his shotgun as he went.  Thinking his Dad must be crazy Dustin jumped the wall and chased after him.

Stunned and surprised, the men froze in their tracks when the darkness exploded around them.  It would be their last move.  Cliffson shot the first two men before they knew what hit them.  A third man was bringing his weapon to bear when Cliffson’s shotgun blast removed his face.  The remaining three men in the group barely had time to raise their weapons before Dustin cut them down with his mini-14.  Then he grabbed his father by the shoulder and spun him around.  “Are you crazy!”

“I just might be.”  Cliffson spun away, leaving his son in a pool of rage.

He approached the bodies on the ground and picked up one of the dead men’s flashlights.  Reaching behind his back Cliffson pulled a 40 cal. Glock from his waistband and shot each man in the head before storming to the house.  His fury exploded upon taking in the damage.  Glass was everywhere, and the walls were shot through in so many places he didn’t see how they could ever be repaired.  Tears welled up and burned a molten path down each cheek.

He stormed through the house and threw open the door to the garage. Searching with the flashlight he found the trunk he was looking for safely hidden in a corner of the garage. Throwing back the lid he pulled out a blanket and unrolled it on the floor.  About that time he heard Monk and Thomas greet the rest of the group before joining him in the garage.

“Slow down there matey and let me see whatcha got?” Monk soothed.

“Feel like dancing?”  Cliffson glared red eyed at the two Taser’s he held.

“Never cared much for dancing my friend, so what, may I ask, do you have in mind?”

“Thomas, you told me you overheard Hank’s conversation.  He ordered the attack and you witnessed the payment.  Am I right?”

“That is correct.”

“And you also heard that we were all to be killed, is this correct?”

“Yes sir, I heard those exact words,”  Thomas replied.

“Then as much as my soul has already been rent, I cannot in good conscience stand by and wait for this to happen again.  Hank’s intent to kill us is clear and I aim to put an end to this one way or the other.”

“Jean, I’d like you and the other women to open up the crawl space and then clean up some of the glass so we can safely walk through the house.  Dustin, reload my shotgun.  I want you to slip over the Crank’s fence and position yourself so you can cover Monk and me from the back door.”  Cliffson said.

“Dad, what are you going to do?”  Dustin asked.

“If Monk is willing, we’re going to go kick in the front door to the Crank house and have a little dance party.”

“I’m with ya mate,”  Monk responded.

“We’ll Taser them both and bring em back here.  Failing that, I am prepared to finish this once and for all.”  Cliffson patted his sidearm.  “Are we ready?”

They both answered in the affirmative.

“Then let’s get it done.”

Jean grabbed his arm.  “Honey, don’t do this.  Someone’s going to get hurt.”

“Damn right they are.  Now please get that crawl space opened and be ready for us when we get back.”  Cliffson pecked her on the cheek and the three men stepped out into the dark.

Dustin pulled himself over the fence while Monk and Cliffson provided cover.  On the other side he knelt down and listened while observing the house for movement.

“The house is dark, no candles no lanterns,”  Dustin whispered.

“All right Dust, we’re off then.  Be careful.”

Cliffson and Monk hurried to the front of the Crank’s house and without hesitation Monk effortlessly kicked in the front door.  He swept to the left and Cliffson followed to the right.  The sound of a shotgun chambering a shell rang out in the dark and both men froze.  A flashlight came on.  To their left sat Hank with his shotgun.  Mona stood beside him holding the flashlight and a pistol.

“I’ve been expecting you,”  Hank sneered.  “Don’t know how you were tipped off, but I guess that doesn’t matter much now.  I’d invite you to have a seat but I think our business here will soon be finished.”

Hank raised the shotgun and an explosion filled the room.  The sliding glass door exploded and glass flew through the building.  The Cranks went down and Monk and Cliffson dove for the floor.

Dustin stepped into the room and advanced towards the flashlight lying on the floor.  Hank was reaching for his shotgun when Cliffson drilled him with the Taser.  Hank danced.   Then Mona dove for the shotgun and Monk fired his Taser.  Mona danced.  It wasn’t the two-step and they weren’t really in time, but as Monk would comment later, “they both had some pretty fancy moves.”

Before Hank could recover, Cliffson put a foot on the back of his neck to hold him down.  “First question Hank.  Where can I find the rest of the men who attacked us tonight?”

“Go to hell.”

It was slurred but clear enough.  Cliffson stepped back and touched off the Taser one more time.  It wasn’t really break-dancing, but that Hank, he sure had the moves.

Mona shrieked at the site of Hank dancing again.  Dustin tore the sleeve off her shirt and gagged her.

Hank was coming around again and they pulled him to his feet.  “You haven’t answered my question yet Hank.”  Cliffson was in his face.

“You can’t make me talk.”

“I’m betting I can.”

Using the wires from the Taser they tied Hank and Mona’s hands behind their backs and marched them out of the house.  Cliffson sent Dustin to get the pickup the attackers had left behind in the field.

When they got back to the house Cliffson questioned Hank one more time.  He refused to cooperate and it was time to ratchet up the pressure.  After binding their feet and hands with duct tape, Cliffson forced both of them into the crawl space.

“Last chance.”

Hank glared.

“Have it your way.”

“Monk.”  Cliffson’s stare bore straight into his good eye.  “We need to dispose of the bodies laying out there in the yard, will you give me a hand?”

“Can’t it wait until morning?” Monk asked.

“No, I expect to have answers by morning.”

“Cliffson, I know what you’re thinking. You are one mean sonofabitch.”

“I am not being vengeful if that is what you’re thinking.”

“Then, just what do you call it mate.”

“Monk, if I was being vengeful, they’d already be dead.”

“Sure looks like revenge to me,” Monk answered.

Tersely Cliffson turned on Monk.  “Dammit Monk!  These people ordered the execution of my family.  We’d all be lying here dead if not for Thomas’ warning.  They give me no choice.  I have a plan and I need information.  They’re going to spend the rest of the night, or however long it might take, in close company with the men they sent to kill us.”  That ended the discussion.

Five of the seven bodies were then dragged into the house and dropped into the crawl space to sleep with the Cranks.  Mona was attempting to scream through her gag and only his last remaining shred of humanity kept Cliffson from enjoying the terror he saw in her eyes.

“Nighty night, assholes!”  Cliffson glowered and dropped the hatch on the crawl space.

With Thomas on watch, they worked through the night cleaning up and assessing the damage.  Every window in the house was shattered.  When the first rays of dawn penetrated the walls to send golden shafts of light dancing on the floor, Cliffson and Jean were overcome with grief.  Excusing themselves, the two weary souls stepped outside to the comfort of their garden.

“Where does one find the strength to keep pushing on?”  The adrenalin was fading and Cliffson faded with it.

“We’re just tired,”  Jean said.

“You’re probably right, but I feel so overwhelmed.”

“Honey, consider what we’ve just been through.  You were so brave last night,”  Jean said.

“Well……”

Raising a finger to his lips Jean continued.

“Hush,” she said sternly.  “You were also incredibly stupid and I’m angry with you.  Did you stop to think for a moment what would happen to the rest of us if you had gotten yourself killed?”

“I just…..”

Jean hushed him again.  “I don’t know what crazy place you went to last night, but it’s time you came back and joined the rest of us.”  She wasn’t done yet and he knew it.  “And you will promise me right here and now that you’ll never do anything like that again.”

More than three decades of marriage told Cliffson not to argue, but he had to be honest.  “I can’t promise you that.  There are certain things I have to do and there’s just so much a man can take.”

“Don’t give me that old man’s world crap now.”  Her trembling hands went to the corner of each eye to wipe away the tears.

Cliffson took her hands and knelt in front of her before gazing into the emerald green pools that had always captivated him.  “Hon, I promise to be careful, but I will not back away from what is required of me.  I know you understand that.  If you lose me, then it was meant to be, and be happy for me.  This world has long been a burden I’ve wanted to shed.  It’s no longer a place where men of integrity walk or are even valued.  You know our nation rejected honesty and uprightness long ago.  I don’t belong here.  There’s no place for me.”  Cliffson kissed her on the forehead and stood on creaky knees.

Jean was crying softly into her hands.  “I can’t do this alone.  I’ve lost my son and I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”

Cliffson reached down and pulled her into his arms to whisper in her ear,  “I’m not planning on going anywhere until I get Zachary back.  That I promise.”

He released her and flashed a grin that made his blues eyes sparkle. “There’s a lot I need to tend to.  Stay here for awhile if you like.”

Jean watched her husband walk away.  The heels of his shoes were kicking up diamonds of early morning dew.  “Lord cover him and protect him please.”

Cliffson found Monk in the kitchen chewing on a crusty piece of bread.  Monk’s good eye grinned and Cliffson smiled back.

“Mornin’, Monk.”

“Mornin’,” he mumbled.

“Monk, I want you to know just how much I appreciate having you here.  Don’t know if I could deal with this without you.”

“Goin’ soft on me are ya.”  Monk winked.  Knowing it always cracked Cliffson up.

“Guess I am, guess I am.”  Cliffson’s voice trailed off.  “But I betcha that’s not what the Cranks will be thinking when we haul them out of that crawl space.”

“We goin’ dancing’?”  Monk said while eyeing the Taser in Cliffson’s right hand.

“I hope not Monk.  Hank’s not my type.”

“Ah, now that’s more like the Cliffson I know.  Let’s go see how they’re doing.”

Cliffson raised the hatch and shined his flashlight down on the Cranks.  Mona looked nearly comatose and the pleading look in Hank’s eyes made it clear they’d had enough.  When Cliffson asked if Hank would cooperate, Hank nodded.

Digging them out from under the bodies wasn’t an easy chore, but eventually the Cranks were moved to the living room and bound to wooden chairs.  Taser in hand Cliffson removed their gags and made it clear what would happen if they didn’t oblige him.  Both asked for water and were given full glasses.

The first question was for the location of the remaining group of men Hank had hired for the hit.  Hank reluctantly told them.  Then Cliffson asked where the Chinese stored their food and fuel.  Hank was plainly surprised at this request and hesitated, but when threatened with the Taser, hung his head and gave them the information.  When Cliffson insisted he had access to it, Hank was resolute he didn’t.

Cliffson refilled their glasses and continued.

“There’s only one way you get out of this alive.  If you do all I ask, you’ll be freed, if not, then it’s over for both of you.  Are we clear?”

Hank was getting surly again.  “You can’t do this.  You can’t get away with…”

“Shut up Hank.  I’m out of patience.”  Cliffson put his pistol against Hanks head.  “Full cooperation or it won’t be worth my time to bother with you.  ARE WE CLEAR?”  Both of them nodded.

“We’ll soon find out.”  Cliffson turned to Dustin.  “Have them dig a grave in the field near the barn.  If they so much as move the wrong way, shoot them and put them in it.   You can find shovels leaning against the shed.”

Cliffson began to untie the Cranks.  “When they’re done digging, bring them back here to haul those bodies out of the crawl space.”

Dustin racked a shell in his shotgun.  “You heard the man, let’s go.”

Kate joined Dustin and took up a shotgun of her own.

Cliffson couldn’t help thinking about the things Dustin and Kate had been through in the last few months.  The fear he’d always seen in Kate’s eyes had given way to a laser gaze that looked as if it could cut through a steal beam.  He almost felt bad for the Crank’s.  Well, not really.

With Dustin and Kate off to the field with the Cranks, Cliffson turned to Monk.  “Got any plans for today?”

Monk rolled his eye.  For some reason it always reminded Cliffson of Marty Feldman.

“What’re we doin’ matey?”

“Time to rifle the Crank’s house for anything we can use.”

“Now that sounds like fun,”  Monk said through a giant smile.

The rest of the morning was spent ransacking the Crank house.  In addition to their pickup with nearly a full tank of gas, they found tools and more gasoline stored in the garage.  To their amazement, they also found fresh fruit and vegetables in the kitchen, along with an assortment of cheese, milk, eggs and meat, confirming Cliffson’s suspicion they were being supplied by the Chinese.  Cliffson made a mental note to find out why.

Monk brought a wheel barrow from the backyard to haul the food home.  Jean and Mary, tired of cleaning the shot up house, thrilled at the treat of fresh food.  While the women ate lunch, Monk and Cliffson took plates of food out to Dustin and Kate.

When the Cranks realized their house had been raided they were furious.  Cliffson held up a bunch of grapes.  “Want some Hank?” he smiled.

“You have no right.”

“And neither did you.  Now I’m perfectly willing to share, but first I need a little more information.”

Hank looked up from the hole he was digging.  “And what would that be.”

“What is it you are doing for the Chinese that warrants the food they supply you with?”

“I provide them with information.”

“What kind of information?”

Hank looked down and mumbled, “Information about armed groups who could be a threat to them.”

“And how do you do that?”

“I’ve lived in Central Oregon all my life and made a lot of contacts.  They make a good network for keeping up on things.”

Cliffson fingered his pistol.  “You bring the Chinese down on your own countrymen!”

Hank just shrugged.  “Sometimes, but not always, you see, it can be dangerous trucking supplies through the countryside and the Chinese are obvious targets.  They’ve found more supplies get through if it looks like the truck is being run by an American.  Course they don’t always get through either and so I use my contacts to assist the Chinese in rounding up more drivers.  It’s just business.”

“You’re a sick man Hank,”  Cliffson spat.

Hank just looked away.

“Monk, let’s go.”

“Ahem.”

Cliffson looked down at Hank.

“What about the food?  You said if I answered your questions you’d feed us.”

“Finish the hole and there’ll be a plate of food waiting for you in the house when you come to get the first body.”

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The government is still closed down today.  Yes, I am smiling, as I remember what Thomas Jefferson said – the real one, not the one in the story.

“The government that governs best, governs least,” said Thomas Jefferson. He
was right. The less “governing” you do, the less you are lying,
cheating, stealing and murdering people. The less you are using force to get
what you want.

CHAPTER  FIFTEEN

 “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

 Ben Franklin

“In recent years, spurious substitutes have been palmed off on the American people for these basic virtues of free men: government aid for self-reliance; collectivism for individual initiative; a partly socialized economy for personal responsibility; soothing propaganda for vigilance; public subsidies for thrift; subservience for pride in citizenship; paternalism for courage; materialism for religious faith.”

 H.W. Prentis, Jr. 1948

 “Drive safe,” Chris said.

“I will.  It can’t be any worse than yesterday and thanks again for the gas.”

Chris’s mom hugged her son.  “Least we could do for you Dustin.  We’re just thankful to have Chris home safe with us.”

The sight of the family standing together in the driveway waving good-bye fueled Dustin’s desire to get home.

The cool night air had not yet left the valley floor and the warm air from the car’s heater felt good on his feet.  Still haunted by yesterday’s events, Dustin thought the morning sun looked as magnificent as he had ever seen it.  Its joyful light helped to ease his mind and lift his spirits.  It was also good to be back on the road and headed home.

The freeway at Ellensburg was nearly empty—then Dustin remembered the passes were closed and he wasn’t likely to see much traffic.  Anxious to get home and with no one around, he stepped on the gas and left yesterday far behind.

After turning south on Highway 82 the freeway remained uninhabited and he pulled out his phone to check in with his folks.  Jean and Cliffson were glad to know he was on his way but warned him to be on the lookout for trouble.

Speaking with his parents relaxed him and after digging through his music collection, Dustin found a Ben Harper CD, cranked it up, and let the road unwind behind him.  The open hills rolled by, silver guard rails flashed and he found his mind in places it had never been.  Places that hadn’t even existed until yesterday.  The highway wasn’t a highway at all, but a steel blue ribbon cutting through a pastel sky, taking him through time, to a place unknown; a place with no cities, no electricity and lime green vans.

The CD advanced to the next track and Ben Harper began singing “Fight For Your Mind.”  Dustin thumbed the player back a few tracts to “Burn One Down” and cruised on.

Near Toppenish, Dustin turned off the freeway and continued south on Highway 97.  The road climbed through national forest to Satus Pass where low hanging clouds dripped with moisture.  On the other side, his descent took him through a thinning forest, mixed with rangeland where the highway exited the mountains and entered a narrow and twisting canyon.  Dustin slowed for the corners, crossed a low slung bridge over Cozy Creek and put the canyon behind him.  Now the road straightened and he was just beginning to make out the shape of a car in the distance.

It was stopped on the right hand shoulder of the road and tilted at an awkward angle where the ditch dropped steeply into the creek.  Then an unseen hand reached for Dustin’s neck from the back seat and the jolt of alarm froze him in place.  It was the lime green van.  He told himself it couldn’t be, but the bumper sticker said otherwise, and he recognized the girl standing beside it waving her arms.

His brain had already sent an electrical impulse to floor the gas pedal, but his heart cut it off half way and Dustin pulled over to the side of the road.   The girl swaggered over and suggestively leaned through passenger side window.

“Hey, I’ve had a breakdown and…and…it’s you, from the diner.”  Then she whispered, “Get out of here, it’s a trap.  Go now.”

Dustin hesitated only a moment before hitting the gas, spinning his tires and tossing gravel at the two men climbed up from the ditch.  He was racing away to safety when the image of the girls pleading eyes began to stare back at him through the glass of the windshield.

Dustin smashed his fist against the dashboard.  She saved me.  I can’t just run away to the safety of my own family knowing this girl’s in trouble.  I have to do something.

The road continued for another half a mile before bending around a hill and out of site of the van.  At mile post 27 Dustin parked his car in a gravel pit on the left side of the road, grabbed his jacket and cell phone and jogged across the highway to the creek.

Three well spaced boulders allowed him to jump the creek and enter the dense willow and elderberry foliage on the other side.  There he found a game trail and followed the creek back to the edge of an opening forty yards from the van.  What am I going to do now?  The two men were hiding near the creek waiting to spring their trap.

It may have only been ten minutes, or maybe it was an hour, but he’d been squatting in the brush long enough for his legs to begin to cramp.  Dustin was about to move up the hill and deeper into the timber to get away from the creek when he heard the sound of squealing brakes from an approaching car.

The girl played her part just as she’d done before and the man inside the car leaned over to engage her in conversation.  Immediately the two men charged the car.  The little man pulled the girl aside and the other man shoved his shotgun through the window.

The girl’s screams and report of the gunshot filled Dustin with rage.  He was tired of feeling scared and helpless.

The big man rifled through the car, removed the dead man’s wallet and a laptop computer before pushing the car off the road and into the creek.  Then he joined the others in the van and drove off in the direction of the gravel pit.

Dustin knelt in the brush unwilling to move.  He already knew what he’d find in the car and refused to look.  Unsure of what to do next he sat at the edge of the stream, numbly staring at a limb bobbing in its current.  When the water took on a red tint he burst from his hiding place and ran back towards his car.

After crossing the creek and climbing the bank to the road, Dustin stomped his feet on the pavement in frustration and to remove the mud from his shoes.  I should have done something to help her before they got away.

Then the sound of a car door slamming in the gravel pit seized his attention and Dustin froze.  In the middle of the road he was exposed with nowhere to hide.  The approaching sound of boots crunching on gravel chased him back across the creek to hide in the brush on the other side.

Peering through a clump of willows Dustin watched as the big man appeared at the top of the bank, where he stood stock still, listening carefully.  Upstream a covey of quail burst from the creek and flew into the forest.  The man raised his shotgun and fired into the area until his gun was empty.  Again he waited and listened, then turned to walk back across the road.  Dustin shuddered.  He’ll kill me first chance he gets.

When things grew quiet Dustin crept back across the creek and climbed the bank.  Daring to peek above the crest in the road, Dustin raised his head enough to look towards his car.  He couldn’t see it, but the sounds of men swearing and rummaging through the vehicle were clear.

The damp creek side and cool evening air were bringing on a chill, but he didn’t dare move any closer.  Unexpectedly, a loud whoosh filled the air and black smoke began rising from the gravel pit.  Then the thud of heavy boots returning to the road forced him to rush back across the creek and hide again.  The boots continued their march across the pavement and soon the big man was standing at the top of the bank again.

“We have you now college boy.  That’s your car going up in smoke over there.  You’re stuck here in the wilderness and we’ll find you soon enough.   Sweet dreams college boy.”

The man’s laugh rolled down the drainage and rumbled through Dustin’s ears to reverberate in the forest behind him.  Dustin was sure the man had looked right at him, but he walked away instead and Dustin took stock of his situation.

He had no car, the sun was setting and he was not looking forward to a night alone in the forest.  His options were limited at best, but given a second chance, he was not going to abandon the girl this time.  He waited by the creek until the cool evening breeze forced him to move.  At least he’d taken his jacket with him.

Remaining on the side of the creek away from the highway, Dustin climbed the bank and moved uphill into the forest.  Now he could see across the road and began to look for a vantage point from which to watch the group.  The flames were still leaping from his car when he reached a high point and sat down behind an enormous ponderosa pine.  It was beginning to get dark, but the orange light from his burning car allowed him to see the lime green van and the silhouettes of three people there.

Dustin breathed deep and tried to calm the tremors jolting throughout his frame.   He still had no idea what he was going to do, when he saw the three people leave the van and disappeared over a low hill in the back of the gravel pit.

Unarmed, his options were limited, but he had to do something.  His mind wrestled with itself.  This is stupid Dustin.  You could get yourself killed.  No harm in following to see what opportunity might present itself.  Yeah, right.  Unarmed you’re gonna whip that gorilla and save the girl.  In your dreams, Dustin, in your dreams.  But I‘ve got to do something, even if I don’t know what that something is right now.

Finally deciding he could use the growing cover of darkness to conceal himself, he set off to follow them.  After crossing the creek, he skirted the gravel pit to the left, to remain on higher ground.  The forest thinned on this side of the road and he began moving through a mixture of rangeland grasses, sagebrush and a few scattered pines.

From atop a low rise, Dustin looked across a stretch of rangeland and tried to decide which direction he should take.  It was nearly dark now and the moon was of little help.  Then a flickering beam from the group’s flashlight caught Dustin’s attention and exposed their location.  He slithered across the open rangeland and stopped behind a dead pine tree with a broken top.  Now he could clearly see the bobbing yellow light that was leading the threesome back into the hills.

Following at a safe distance, Dustin soon found himself watching the group disappear into a shallow valley.  He moved away from the trail the group was following and crept to the edge of the canyon rim to peer below.  From his vantage point he watched the flashlight stop momentarily at the front of a building before disappearing inside.  Soon lanterns were lit and egg yolk colored light spilled from two small windows and a crack under the door.

Now what?  I’ve found their hideout—he laughed to himself at the thought of calling it a hideout—but what can I do?   Moving back from the edge of the rim he sat down next to a round boulder and pulled out his cell phone.   Knowing the local authorities had been required to assist in closing the mountain passes, he knew calling 911 would be of no help and decided to call home.  His parents would be worried anyway because he should have been there by now.

“Dad.”

“Dustin where are you?” His father’s anxious voice didn’t do much to calm his tingling nerves.

“I’m ok, but I need your help.  My car’s been torched and I’m stranded.”

“What?  What happened?” Cliffson replied.

“I don’t have time to explain.  I’m north of Goldendale.”  Then he paused, remembering the mile marker he’d seen—“At mile post 27 is a gravel pit.  You’ll see my burned out car there.  Go to the back of the pit and follow a trail for half a mile or so and you’ll find an old cabin.”

“A cabin?  Dustin what are…”

“Dad listen, two men have kidnapped a girl and are keeping her there.  I not only need a ride, but I need some help,”  Dustin pleaded.

“All right, all right.  Lay low until we get there.  I’ll grab Monk and we’ll be there as soon as we can.  I love you Dust, please be careful and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,”  Cliffson told him.

Dustin knew it was meant to reassure him because it was kind of an inside joke they shared.

“Ok dad, I’ll be right here.  And dad, they have a shotgun and a pistol with them.  Please hurry.”

After hanging up, Dustin leaned back against the boulder and looked into the sky.  The stars blinked back from a black emptiness that gazed into eternity and he suddenly felt very alone.

Here is chapter twelve.  I hope you all had a great weekend and that the coming week treats you well.

CHAPTER   TWELVE

 “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Barb and Jean heard the explosion from the Lang’s house.  Thinking someone might need help, they ran towards the black cloud of smoke rising up a few blocks away.  Upon their arrival they were shocked to discover Gary, Monk and Cliffson being handcuffed and taken to jail.

At the station, the police finally allowed them to see their husbands.  “I’m all right,” Gary told Barb through the bars of the jail cell, but Cliffson’s sure had a rough couple days.

“Cliffson, what happened?” Jean had that look.

“Nothing.  I’d rather not talk about it right now.”

“What?”

Gary leaned into the cell bars and spoke gently.  “Jean, he’s been roughed up and shot at twice in the last twenty four hours.  Let him go home and unwind a bit first.”

Just then the jailer came in and told them they were free to go, but Monk was being held on potential murder charges for the deaths of the two men stealing the truck.  The group stopped by Monk’s cell on the way out to encourage him and said they’d do all they could to get him released.

“Hang in there Monk.” Cliffson reached through the bars to squeeze Monk’s shoulder.

“I told ‘em I was only trying to shoot out the tires and that I don’t shoot so good with just one eye.”  Monk winked and it left Cliffson wondering if he really had intended to hit the propane tanks.

“Don’t worry about me,” Monk said.  “I’ll be outta here in no time. Keep your powder dry, mate.”

On the drive home Cliffson barely said a word.  “Let’s get together in the next day or two,” Gary said.  “Get yourself healed up.

At home Cliffson immediately headed for the bathroom, saying he was going to soak in the tub.

“All right honey, I’ll bring you a glass of Hermead,” Jean said.

“You’re a sweetheart, babe.”

Jean returned to the bathroom with the glass of beer, sat down on the counter and asked him tell her what had happened.  Cliffson related the entire story and when he was done she was angry.

“What did you think you were doing flipping the guard all that crap?  I can understand you stopping to help the kid but you can’t treat the Chinese that way no matter how you feel.   Think about how vulnerable I’d feel if something happened to you?”

“I’m sorry,” he admitted.  “It’s just my natural disdain for authority.  I didn’t conform to the last society and I’m not conforming to this one.  Couple that with holding me up for our gold, and I got angry.

“You need to adapt Cliffson; it’s the only way we’ll survive.”

He slid down lower in the tub. “Point taken.”

The next day Cliffson was stiff, sore and a little embarrassed.  I’ve got to be smarter about things, he thought.  I can’t be going off half-cocked.

“Jean, I’m going for a walk.”

“All right, I’ll go with you.”

“No, I want some time alone.  Don’t worry, I won’t be long.”

He headed south to Maple Street and turned east towards the church and the old farmhouse.  The air was fresh and crisp, just the way he liked it.  The sun only smoldered, but was enough to warm him.  Approaching the farmhouse, he could see the scorched soil and pavement where the truck exploded, but outside of some broken windows, the old house seemed to have avoided further damage.

Cliffson realized he hadn’t:  the things they’d done to that kid, the Chinese pilfering the nation and the bombing of the capital.  He struggled to process it all, still, he had to move forward and figure out how to protect his family and survive.

After crossing the intersection and walking a block to the north, he stopped momentarily in front of the massive new church.  Its powerful arches and gigantic steeple with the cross on top towered over the surroundings.   Seems like they could have helped a lot of people with all that money, he thought.  It’s only a building; couldn’t they meet in a little more humble setting?  Ah, what did it matter?  Was there really a God anyway and if so why did he allow all these terrible things to happen to people.  I’d help people if I had that kind of power.  Still, I’ll do what I can.  And with that thought in mind, he decided he’d better check in on the widow Smith.

Along the way he watched geese flying overhead in a lazy “V” formation and was reminded of all the ponds once scattered through the fields before the city grew and the developments overran them.

Those were the days—days of peace, days before his brother had died, days of hope for the future.  Death cheated people whether they were old and ready to go, like the widow Smith, or his brother who was in the prime of his life.  Death was right there to steal his brother away from his family, but left the weak and frail widow Smith to suffer alone year after year.

Approaching her little pink house he was feeling more refreshed; maybe it was the air, or maybe it was knowing how the widow Smith would love his company.

He knocked on the metal front door and a couple minutes later it was opened by a bent little wisp of a woman in a dark flowery dress.  Her eyes were alight under wiry gray curls and her smile beamed at the site of Cliffson.  Such warmth, he thought.  How does she do it?

“Oh my goodness, how are you Cliffson? It’s been ages.” She hugged him.  “Come in, come in please.”  Her high, nearly screechy voice always reminded him of his grandmother, Alsie.

The widow Smith was barely five feet tall and Cliffson always felt like such a giant around her.

“Rose, I’m good.  Just wanted to stop by and see how you’re doing.”

“Well, things have gotten a little spooky, haven’t they?  But don’t you fear Cliffson, God is with us and will see us through.”

He was reminded of what he’d just been thinking, standing in front of the church.  “I’m sure that’s true Rose, but I wanted you to know Monk and I will be watching out for you all the same.  So whatever you need, please be sure and let us know.”

“See Cliffson, God’s already answered my prayers, and I thank you and Monk for your care and concern.  You two are such wonderful young men.  I knew the Lord would provide.  Now how about some nice peppermint tea?”

How could he resist.  “Of course, Rose. Do you have any honey?”

Cliffson was feeling better about things by the time he left Rose’s house.  She had a way of lifting him up that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.  How strange, he thought, she was the one who was dependent and barely able to get around, totally at the mercy of whatever came her way, yet she didn’t seem all that concerned.

When he got home, he saw Gary’s car in the driveway, but got quite a surprise when he walked through the door and saw Monk leaning against the counter drinking a beer.

“Monk.” Cliffson shook his hand.  “Did Gary spring you or did you bribe a guard?”

“Neither matey, they let me go on good behavior.”  Everyone laughed.  “No charges were filed, but I had to agree not leave the county.  That wasn’t a problem.”

“Gosh that’s good news Monk, it makes my day.”


Over the next couple days, Jean and Cliffson planted corn and bean crops and worked to enlarge their garden.  Cool season crops of lettuce, spinach, peas and onions were already in the ground and doing well.  Jean’s garlic was nearly a foot tall.  The raspberries were putting up new shoots and Cliffson dug up some of them to give to Monk.  The fruit trees were in full bloom and filled with his honeybees.  It was encouraging to see they would have food to sell or trade, but what really excited him was the new life springing forth in every corner of his garden.

A week after the order was given to turn all gold and silver over to the Chinese, Monk visited the Langs to share some news.  His “ham” radio hobby was becoming quite the asset.

Monk found Cliffson and Gary out by the pump house.  “So how’s it comin’ fellas?  Those hand pumps really take me back.”

“I’ll bet they do.”  Gary winked and Cliffson chuckled.

“Careful there, girlies.  You aint exactly spring chickens yourselves.”  Monk quipped.

“We’re just taking inventory of what we’ll need,” Gary said.

“So what’s the latest news from the “hams” Monk?” Cliffson asked.

“Well, the word I’m getting is that a couple days after the Chinese nuked Washington, they began shutting down the power in all major cities along the east coast.  There’ve been reassurances the power will be coming back on, but it’s been five days and folks are getting restless.”

Monk rarely got excited, but he was definitely keyed up about sharing the next bit of news.  “I’m also hearing that in San Diego our own troops have made a coordinated attack on the Chinese and taken the city back.  And there are unconfirmed reports the military, in coordination with local militias, has been successful in taking back Dallas.”

“Finally, we’re fighting back,” Cliffson said.  “But why haven’t we heard more about it.”

“Chinese are controlling the news,” Monk said.  “In fact, they’re in control of everything; power grid, communications, refineries, rail lines, air traffic, all of it.  We only hear what they want us to hear.”

Gary whistled the sound of a falling bomb. “Remember the nuke threat?”

“I do, but apparently they haven’t used any, right Monk?” Cliffson asked.

“No word on that from the ham network, so I would say not.”

“Good.  Let’s go inside and finish up our list.”

Jean was turning on the TV when the three men walked in.

“Still got one of those old tube sets, Cliffson?  The ones that take forever to warm up.  You really should join the 21st century,”  Monk chided.

“Oh, you mean that period of time history will record when everyone was so self-absorbed with social-disease media there was no time for meaningful conversation or real relationships?  And no Monk, it might be old, but this ain’t no tube set.”

“Ha ha, well said, Cliffson.  You know we’re both on the same page.  Social disease media.”  Monk said, more to himself than anyone else.  “I like that one.”

Jean was flipping through the channels.  “There’s nothing on guys.  All the stations are off the air.”

“That’s a little spooky,”  Barb said.  “I wonder how long they’ve been off?”

“I’ll grab a radio.”  Cliffson raced out to the garage to find it.

Upon returning, he set the radio in the sun by the kitchen window and the sounds of the emergency alert system filled the room.  Knowing looks were exchanged as each of them acknowledged this couldn’t be good.  A few minutes later a Chinese announcer came on.

…Ladies and gentlemen, at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time you are directed to turn on your televisions for an important announcement.  It is very important you do not miss this message…

“That’s just a few minutes from now,”  Cliffson noted.  Then the message began to repeat.

Monk decided to hang around and Jean brought out sun tea while the group speculated about the upcoming announcement.

At 12:58 p.m. a test pattern came on the TV screen.

“That’s strange,”  Monk commented.  “Haven’t seen one of them since I was just a kid.”

Cliffson couldn’t resist.  “I’ll bet it takes you waaaaayyyy back huh Monk.”

Monk silently flipped him a single digit peace sign.

At exactly 1:00 p.m. the test pattern was removed and a Chinese official was seen taking the podium and adjusting the microphone.

“We are about to demonstrate we did not lie to you.  In three minutes you will witness the extermination of the two cities you call Dallas and San Diego.  We have aircraft at a safe distance ready to film the explosions.”

Cliffson moved to sit next to Jean.  The raw terror in the room was palpable.  He took Jeans hand and they watched together.  Barb sat next to Gary with her face in her hands.

“There are now two minutes until the blast and millions of people will die for their foolish actions.  Remember this warning if any of you would think of trying such foolishness again.  Next time we will destroy seven cities.

The room fell silent and shortly thereafter the announcer returned.  “There is now just one minute to say your goodbyes to your friends in Dallas and San Diego.”

An icy silence filled the room and Cliffson felt the grisly hand of death tighten its grip.  It was the longest minute of his life and at the end of it, San Diego was gone.  The cameras rolled on an angry mushroom cloud rising silently from what was once the city of San Diego.   Immediately the picture switched to Dallas where the scene was repeated.


For the Jeffersons the day had gone from bad to worse.  The destruction of San Diego and Dallas went beyond their comprehension.  The fact the Chinese were in control of the country was unimaginable, dreamlike, anything but real.

Now past midnight, Davis was not yet home and hadn’t called to leave any messages.  Calls to his cell phone went unanswered.  It wasn’t like him.  He was always good about keeping his parents in the loop.   Having not heard from him since he’d left for batting practice, Thomas decided to call the police.

“…but officer, he’s always let us know when he’s coming in late.”  Thomas complained.

“I’m sorry sir, but there is nothing we can do.  The Chinese are keeping us busy with their own plans.”

Thomas grew angry.  “Look, I’ve paid my taxes all these years and always supported you.  You have to help.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

Thomas hung up.

CHAPTER  ELEVEN

When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing — when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors — when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you — when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self- sacrifice — you may know that your society is doomed.”

 Ayn Rand

 The following afternoon Monk and Gary met at the Lang’s house for their trip into town.  Monk joined Gary in his old Ford pickup and Cliffson drove his newly “air conditioned” Honda.

On the main road to town, Cliffson stopped at the four-way intersection of Maple and nineteenth.  On his right was an old abandoned farmhouse and kitty-corner to it was a huge new Catholic church.  It was here the city and the country came together; old farmhouse and potato fields on the right, the church and sub-divisions on the other three sides.

Waiting his turn at the intersection, Cliffson noticed a young boy, probably ten or eleven years old, sitting on the steps of the old farmhouse, his bicycle next to him.  Cliffson waved and the boy waved back.

He probably just needs to get away from some upset parents and have a little time to himself,  Cliffson thought.  Reminds me of when I used to ride out the country lane and past this place years ago before the city grew.

Crossing the bridge over the dry canyon “Drivin’ Wheel” came on the radio.  Cliffson loved the old rock group Foghat and turned it up.  It brought back memories of good times.  Minutes later he met up with Monk and Gary at City Center Auto Glass.

After making arrangements for a new windshield, Cliffson asked the owner if he’d heard anything about the Chinese “collection stations.”

The man spat, “Sons a bitches are set up in the post office parking lot.  Its highway robbery, that’s what it is.”

Cliffson thanked the man and joined Gary and Monk in their pickup.

On the way to fill the propane tanks they drove past the post office.  A couple of people were standing in line and a few more were milling around the “collection station”, which was nothing more than an armored truck.   About half a dozen men from the Chinese military formed a perimeter around the place and carried what looked to be AR-15s.

“Damn,” Monk said.  “AR-15s are U.S. military.  How you suppose they got their hands on them?”

“I’m thinking our own government provided them,” Cliffson answered.  “Part of that ‘full cooperation’ the president demanded.”

Gary drove them to a nearby gas station and after a short wait in line the men purchased the propane they needed.  With the full tanks loaded in the back of the pickup, Gary drove them back to the Post Office and parked in the far corner of the lot.  The three men sat for a moment before walking to the armored truck.

“I don’t like this one bit,” Monk snapped.  “It’s a blazin’ hold up, them sittin’ there with all them automatic weapons and us handing over our gold.”

“I don’t like it either Monk,”  Cliffson added.  “Let’s go get it over with.”

Dressed in dark, greenish brown, open neck coats with picked lapel, a peak hat and black boots, the Chinese guards watched them closely.   The three men joined a short line formed alongside the armored truck and waited their turn behind two other men.  One of the men turned and greeted Monk and Cliffson.  It was Tom Stevens, a local realtor.

After Tom and the other man ahead of them were done, Cliffson stepped to the open window on the passenger side of the truck.  When he reached in his pocket to pull out his coins, one of the guards stepped forward, pointing his weapon at Cliffson and shouting commands in Chinese.  Cliffson had no idea what he was saying and put his hands up in the air.  The official in the truck gave a command and the guard stepped back and lowered his gun.

“Little touchy don’t you think,” Cliffson said to the man in the truck.

“You, smawtass,” the official said in strongly accented English.  “I shoot you right now, no?”

“But then you wouldn’t know where the buried treasure is now would you,” Cliffson smiled.

The official glared at Cliffson before reaching through the window to grab the front of his shirt and yank him up against the truck.  “You are fool, misterrrrrr…?”

“Mr. Chin,” Cliffson finished the sentence.  “Hung Lo Chin.”

Monk choked back a laugh.

“You very funny Mr. Chin.   My name is Chen.  I think you make fun of me.  GUARDS,”  he yelled.

In an instant, guards appeared on each side of Cliffson, pinning his arms and striking a crushing blow to his ribs, buckling his knees.  The guards caught him under the armpits and held him up.

“No sense of humor,” Cliffson choked.

“Ah, but you wrong Mr. Chin, fun is just beginning.  How much fun you like to have?” The official in the truck put his pistol to Cliffson’s forehead.

“Ok, ok, my names really Jerry Lee, Jerwy Wee Woowis, the singer.”

The guard worked the action on his pistol and put it back against Cliffson’s forehead.

“All right, relax, we’re just having a little fun here, remember?”

“Let’s start by you telling me your real name… “Mr. Chin.”

“It’s Lang, Cliffson Lang.”

“Aha, now I see why you prefer name of Chin.” The guards all laughed.  “What have you brought for me today, Mr. Lang?”

Cliffson reached into his pocket to remove one gold coin and ten ounces of silver.

“This is all you have?” Chen asked.

“All of it,” Cliffson groaned.

“You lie.”

“It’s all I have.”  Cliffson shrugged.

“What is your address?”

“1726 Maple Street.”

Their eyes locked for a moment, Cliffson’s steel grey, Chen’s coal black.  The desire to kill one another arced between them in a blue bolt of electricity.

“Get out of my sight,” Chen said.  I not forget you, Mr………..Mr. “Chin.”

“Nor me you,” said Cliffson.

Holding his ribs, Cliffson slowly walked over to rest on the tailgate of the pickup while waiting for Monk and Gary.  A few minutes later they were back to see how he was doing.

“You all right, Cliffson?” Gary asked.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Ha-haa, Cliffson, I nearly peed my pants when you gave that guard your name.” Monk had clearly enjoyed the exchange.

“It was kinda funny wasn’t it, Monk?”

“And buried treasure Cliffson? What a hoot. You really pulled that guy’s chain.”

“Yeah, and you also paid a high price for that fun,” Gary said.

Casting a sideways look at Gary, Cliffson answered. “Yes, I did, and I’ll kill that little bastard if I ever get the chance.”

Gary was shocked.  It wasn’t the Cliffson he’d come to know.

“Bet that wasn’t your address you gave him either, was it?  You just make that up?” Monk asked.

“No, that’s the address of the old abandoned farmhouse on the corner across from the church, which, by the way, I want to have a look at when we go home.”

“Why’s that?” Monk asked.

“On the drive down here I saw a young boy sitting there and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was all right.  I’d like to check on him and see how he’s doing.”

“Come on then,” Gary said. “Let’s go home.”

Their route home took them through the dry canyon and the old “Spud Bowl”, where potatoes were once grown. These days, it was the site of a high school soccer field.  Cliffson found himself reflecting on simpler times and thinking back to his first summers away from home as a twelve and thirteen year old kid, working on a farm.

Those experiences grew me up, made me independent, possibly too independent, but all the same, it made a man out of me.  It’s where I learned the values of honesty, integrity and taking pride in my work.  Today, those concepts seem so foreign to most folks and I hate the hypocrisy I see in the people of our nation.  There was a special quality infused into people’s character that came from working the land and a frame of reference for understanding the realities of the world.  Urbanites simply don’t rub up against these truths, so they don’t appreciate how the issues faced by farmers are everyone’s issues.  Without this awareness they lack an understanding of the basic realities of life.

“Cliffson, you with us?”  Gary interrupted his thoughts.  “Is that the boy you were talking about?” Gary asked.

“Oh my gosh, we’ve got to help him,” Cliffson exclaimed.

Gary skidded to a stop in front of the house and all three men burst from the truck at a run.  West of the house was an old stand of poplar trees.  The boy was stripped to his undershorts and tied to one of the trees.  Cliffson could see the tears streaming down his face and he was bleeding from a wound in his leg and another in his arm.

Between sobs the boy tried to explain how three men had been shooting at him, attempting to see how close they could come without hitting him.  Monk cut the boy loose and took a quick look at the wounds.

“What the hell you doing to our boy?” Cliffson spun around in time to see a man in black leather pull a pistol from inside his jacket.

“Get behind the trees,” Monk yelled.

Cliffson grabbed the boy and pulled him behind the tree.

BOOM!          BOOM!     The bark splintered beside Cliffson’s head and the boy shook uncontrollably.

BOOM, Monk answered from Cliffson’s left.  The man in black grabbed his shoulder and nearly fell.

“Now git the hell outta here,” Monk yelled.

The man turned and stumbled toward his black Toyota.

Black Toyota.  The thought struck Cliffson like another shard of glass.  It was a black Toyota at the gas station yesterday.  Then he heard Gary’s truck start up.   Two more men had raced from the building and were attempting to steal it.   Gary had left the door open and the keys in the ignition when rushing to help the boy.  The crooks were in the process of turning the truck around when Cliffson heard Monk’s gun bark three more times before a massive explosion knocked him off his feet.  Pieces of truck were thrown high into the air and the black Toyota was turned over on its side.

So does this story stir up any thoughts?  It should.  Wondering what people think.  Would enjoy hearing some comments.  Cheers!

CHAPTER  TEN

 “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

 Ronald Reagan

There are times when a person is weighed down with an inescapable sense of dread—something that reaches beyond facts and reason, even when all lying before you appears serene.  There is another sense, more than a feeling or intuition, directly connected with your inner being.  It’s undeniable, but yet, it’s nothing that can be shared because there is no proof, no tangible evidence with which to make your case.

Cliffson struggled with these thoughts as he went about his chores.  The scent of hyacinth was in the air and before long the fruit trees would be in full bloom.  The hawks, ravens and sparrows were busy building nests and breeding.   It all had the rhythm and feel of an archetypal spring.  Sure, the nation had been attacked, but it had been attacked before and recovered.  So why did it feel like there was an eight hundred pound gorilla about to land on his back?

Lost in his thoughts, Cliffson wandered into the garden.  Meekly standing in the frail morning sunshine, sipping his coffee and pondering the recent events, he saw Monk headed his way.  He wasn’t sure why, but Monk’s presence always had a calming effect on him.

Welfare rose to greet him but Cliffson made him stay.  “Good morning, Monk.”

“Howdy, neighbor.  Thinking about planting your garden?”

“We’ve already got some spinach and lettuce in,”  Cliffson said.  “But I’m thinking it’s about time to get started on the next few things.”

“I see Jean’s garlic is already off to the races.  Suppose I could get a lesson from her? Mine’s not doing so well.”

“You know she’d be glad to help.”

“So what’s the latest, Monk?  You have that look on your face,” Cliffson grinned slyly from one turned up corner of his mouth.

“Well, like I said last night, there was some strange talk going on among the “hams” but after listening in this morning, it all seems pretty clear.”

“And that is?”

Monk squatted down to examine the garlic.  “It’s sounding like our navy has been put out of order.”

“What?  How’s that possible, there’s been nothing on the tube?”

“Well for one thing, they don’t want people getting alarmed so it’s not something they’re likely to acknowledge, but ham operators on the east coast and in Hawaii are reporting our ships are dead in the water.  Others are reporting our ships overseas have been put out of action.  One way or the other, nearly all U.S. naval activity has come to a stop.”

“The ships are just sitting there, with no shots were fired?”  Cliffson raised an eyebrow.

“No shots, none.  They believe it was done with EMP’s, electromagnetic impulse devices,”  Monk explained.

“I knew that technology was getting close, but I didn’t think anyone had it operational yet.  Why do they think that’s what was used?”  Cliffson asked.

Because it’s not just the ships.  Electronics are fried throughout the general area where the ships are dead.  Most of the local ham operators cannot be contacted,”  Monk said.

Cliffson eyed Monk. “Chinese?”

“Looks like it to me.  Possibly came in with submarines, surfaced at night, fired the weapons and left.  We’ve known for years their subs shadow our fleets everywhere they go.”  Monk was scratching Welfare’s ears and the dog was groaning with pleasure.

“Can’t say I’m surprised.  Our nation has pretty much flipped them off and they don’t take lightly to losing face.  We could be looking at war, Monk.”

Monk’s face grew serious and he looked down at the ground.  “You know Cliffson, I’ve spent a lot of time in that part of the world and you’re exactly right.  You don’t publicly embarrass the Chinese without paying a price.  Our president’s a child playing on the world’s stage and has little understanding of this.  There’s going to be hell to pay one way or the other.”

The two men continued visiting, allowing the peacefulness of the garden to envelope them.  When Monk left, Cliffson headed back to the house and found Jean was just hanging up the phone.

“The Wests called and said the president is going to speak at two PM.  They’ve invited us over to watch it with them.”

“Whew, that sounds good, I could use a little moral support.”

“Hun, why the big sigh?  Whatever it is we’ll work it out,” soothed Jean.

She was his rock and her words always steadied him.  He squared his shoulders and turned to go.

“It’s all good.  I need to feel like I’m doing something useful, so I’m going into town to fill our propane tanks.”

“All right, but don’t make us late for the Wests.”

Cliffson gave her a peck on the cheek and swatted her butt before heading out the door.  Jean smiled to herself.  She knew whatever came their way he would be there for her.  He always had been and this would be no different, no matter how tough things got.  It was a comforting thought and it gave her strength.

May weather in central Oregon was often unpredictable, but today the air was sweet and supple, the exact opposite of how the people on the street looked.  Driving the mile or so to the nearest gas station, Cliffson noted the dramatic change.  Eyes sunk deep in faces creased with fear, people cowered under stooped shoulders and hurried walks.  Furtive glances betrayed the trepidation and mistrust harbored inside.  The transformation was surreal and it left Cliffson picturing a dark cobblestone alley in old England.

He pulled into the gas station where he routinely purchased propane and was relieved to find just one car there, a black Toyota Camry.

WHAM!

The passenger side of the windshield exploded, stunning Cliffson and embedding glass in the side of his face and neck.  Throwing open the door to get on the ground, he mostly fell out of the car.  The sound of footsteps rushing to the lone car and a voice yelling, “Hurry, hurry, hurry,” followed.  Shock and dark confusion flooded his mind.

Tires squealed, the car tore away, and all was silent.

Cliffson sat up and leaned against the car to collect himself.   Blood was running everywhere.  Glad I had my glasses on.

Sir, sir, are you all right?”

Cliffson looked in the direction of the voice but couldn’t see through the blood in his eyes.  “I think, I’m ok,” he said in a slow, shaky voice.  “You know how face cuts bleed.”

“We need to get you to a doctor,” the voice said.

Using his shirt to wipe his face and stem the flow of blood, Cliffson looked up to see who the voice belonged to.  “Looks like you’re the one who needs to see the doc, that’s a nasty gash on your forehead,” he said to the young man standing over him.

“Those clowns surprised me.  When I turned around one of them struck me with the butt of his shotgun, then grabbed the money from the till and took off.  You were just driving up when they bolted out the door.  They were yelling all sorts of crazy stuff about no government and being able to do anything they wanted.  Here, let me help you up. My name’s Steve.”

Two police cars and an ambulance screeched into the station.  Medics examined both men and Steve was sent to the hospital for stitches.  An examination of Cliffson revealed numerous small cuts, but nothing serious.  Still, the medics wanted to take him in, but he refused.

Cliffson glared at the officer. “No, I didn’t get a license plate number.  They nearly took my head off,” he gestured, but then, realizing he was yelling, Cliffson backed off.  After taking a statement and obtaining contact information, Cliffson convinced the officers he was able to make the short drive home.

Jean would be upset and he didn’t want the attention, so he entered the house quietly, hoping to avoid her.  The kitchen smelled of Jean’s cooking, but the house was quiet and Cliffson managed to tiptoe into the guest bath without being detected.  He was soaking a cloth in warm water when he heard a gasp behind him.

“Honey are you all right, what happened?”

“Ummm, I’ll tell you, but first, get some tweezers please; I think I have some glass in my face.”

Jean was every bit as meticulous as he knew she would be and worked through each wound, cleansing and treating them with hydrogen peroxide.  Cliffson teased her about enjoying the pain she was causing and immediately felt the sting of tweezers digging deeper.

“Ok, ok, I get your point.”  He grimaced.

By the time she was done Jean had removed nearly a dozen small shards of glass and one pellet from his face and neck.  The cuts were small but numerous, and his face was red and swollen on one side.  When she was done Jean held him at arm’s length and winced at how bad it looked.

“Too bad it’s not Halloween.  You’d be ready for anything.”  She hugged him and he thanked her for cleaning him up before taking a damp cloth and lying down on the couch.  Jean went to call the Wests and to let them know they wouldn’t be coming over.

Cliffson listened to the phone conversation taking place in the other room and though her voice was calm he could hear the strain in Jean’s words.  When she came back into the room Cliffson got up and gave her a hug.  A golden stream of sunlight pooled on the living room floor where Cliffson stood looking down into the deep sea of Jeans emerald green eyes.

“I’m ok Hun, everything’s all right,” he said softly.

“Cliffson, I’m scared.  All our leaders are gone and look what’s already happening.”

The rock of his life was shaken.  He had rarely seen Jean this way and did his best to comfort her.  He kissed her on the forehead and wiped the tears away before leading her to the couch.  “Hermead?”  It was the name of the tasty Oatmeal Stout Cliffson home brewed and he knew she loved it.

“Yes, I could really use one, but I should be serving you,” she offered.

“I told you, I’ll be fine.”

“You might also get some for the Wests,” she called out.  “I invited them over.  They’ll be here any minute.”

Cliffson was in the garage filling glasses from the cooler’s tap when the door bell rang.  Back in the kitchen he handed a glass of beer to Gary.

“Wow,” Gary exclaimed, looking over Cliffson’s red and swollen face. “You were lucky.  Must be sore as hell!”

“Its sore enough, but I’ll take that to the alternative.  I’m sure Jean told you the story.  Crazy, huh?”

“Only gonna get worse I’m afraid.  We’ve talked about these things Cliffson, nothing we haven’t been expecting.”

“I know, but I can’t believe it’s actually happening.  Turn the TV on and see if the president has some good news for a change.”

Gary just rolled his eyes.

The afternoon sun cast its glare on the screen and dust motes danced in the air while the four of them waited for the president to speak.

“My countrymen, my friends and my American family, I am speaking to you tonight from the temporary White House in Bismarck North Dakota.  My heart is heavy with the news I must share with you this afternoon.  I’m sure by now you’ve seen the pictures of what was once Washington D.C.  Our capital is gone and with the exception of me and a couple of congressmen who were away ill, our nation’s elected officials were all killed in the blast.  Excuse me please.”  He choked on the words and turned away to wipe his eyes before continuing.  “We are doing everything we can to assist those people suffering the effects of the bombing and will continue to do so.”

His voice was shaky and not at all comforting like Cliffson had hoped for.

“Now, I must share with you some additional news that is both difficult and troubling.   Please listen closely.  You must understand the seriousness of what I am about to say.  Our nation is unable to pay the debt we owe to the Chinese government—a debt of more than four trillion dollars.  To reduce our nation’s expenses and make it possible to repay what we owe, the following measures will take effect immediately.”

A list appeared on the screen and the president continued.

“Social security, Medicare, welfare payments, food stamps, unemployment, housing subsidies, federal pensions and other programs will be cut 75 percent, instead of the previously announced 50 percent.  The Medicaid program will be terminated as will all federal support for public schools.”

Gary whistled through his teeth.

“Our military is spread around the globe across 155 nations.   Orders have gone out to bring all troops home.”

“Has to kill him to say that,” Gary smirked.

“The Fed will cease all money printing activities and all subsidies, regardless of industry, will be terminated.”

“In a moment the Chinese President himself will speak to you.  I have pledged our complete and full cooperation to him and ask for your support in doing the same. After he has spoken, I’m sure you will understand the significance of doing so.  I now introduce to you President Dong Ju-long.”

A look of disbelief spread over the faces of everyone in the room while waiting for the chubby Ju-long to take the podium.  Soon his pock marked face filled the screen, but it was his unabashed disdain for anything American that would be remembered most.

“I will not mince words with you American dogs,” Ju-long spat.  “America owe China moe than four trillion dolla and you are going to pay.”  Anger chewed into his contorted face and deepened the lines in his forehead.

“You arrogant, foolish Americans!”  He stomped.  “You did not see fit to control your own borders even while your military was spread all over the world fighting other people’s wars.  This is grave mistake.  In one night, we smuggle many nuclear bombs into your country and one is now concealed near each and every American.”

His face was now completely red and he began to shake while pounding on the podium.

“Tomorrow, you will immediately begin turning in your gold and silva to collection stations being set up in your communities.  You awe given one week to do this!  Ju-long paused to take a breath and his face filled the screen when the camera zoomed in.

Smashing his fist on the podium for emphasis after each spoken word Ju-long continued. I…leave…you…with…warning.  Is very costly to occupy your nation with large military force and we will not do so!”

Worked up to a full snarling rage, he completed his statement.

“If not receive full cooperation, we annihilate all of you.”  Ju-long spit the words from his mouth and turned sharply on his heels, shaking his fist at the president before storming from the stage.

Cliffson looked to each person in the room. Jean was slumped in her chair, a look of disbelief turning to one of dismay.  Barb sat on the edge of the sofa, eyes wide in shock and hands covering her mouth.  Cliffson saw Gary’s expression change from a look of “what the hell”, to one of stubborn determination.

“Well he aint takn’ my gold and silver, the bastard.  I think he’s bluffin’.  No way he has that many nukes here,” Gary declared.

“I agree,” said Cliffson, “and while we don’t have much I’m sure not turning any of our gold and silver over to him either.”

Gary moved to the kitchen and stood at the counter drumming his fingers. “This is just between those of us in this room.  I know I just said I wouldn’t turn anything in, but maybe it would be wiser to act like we are cooperating and not draw attention to ourselves.  I suggest we go to one of their stations tomorrow and make sure we’re seen turning over some metal.  It’s up to each of us to decide how much that will be, but look at it as buying insurance.”

“I like that idea,” Cliffson said.  “Do you want to meet here first?”  Maybe we could drop our car off on the way so I can get the windshield fixed.”

“That would be fine and you probably didn’t get your propane tanks filled today did you Cliffson?”

“No, I sure didn’t.”

“Then let’s take care of that too,” Gary offered.  “I’ve got an empty one I want to fill also.”

The doorbell rang and Jean went to answer it.

“Come on in Monk,” they all chimed, happy to see a friendly face.

Monk stepped inside and immediately spotted Cliffson’s swollen face.  “What in tarnation happened to you?”

Cliffson gave a brief rundown of the events at the gas station.

Monk shook his head.  “You were lucky my friend.  I’m glad it wasn’t worse.”

Cliffson was anxious to change subjects.  “What’d you make of all that tonight?”

“I reckon daylight’s a burnin’ and we need to finish with getting prepared for what’s a comin’.  The good book talks about these things, so I think the best way to begin is with some prayer,” Monk said as he pulled a small bible from his shirt pocket.

“What’d you do Monk, just come down from the mountain?” Cliffson chuckled, trying to lighten things up a bit.

“No no, never said anything about having any kind of special wisdom, that’s all in here,” he said, tapping on his bible.

After beginning with prayer, they discussed plans for gathering the last of the supplies they needed. The group reaffirmed their commitment to come to one another’s aid, share resources, shelter, and ideas.  Cliffson suggested they might find another couple or two that would join with them, but no one could think of anyone who could be trusted.

Monk liked Gary’s idea about making sure they were seen turning in some metal of some sort and decided to join them.  Then Gary asked Monk what he thought about the threat of a nuclear bomb being in every city.

“Well, I’ll tells ya, I’m not sure how much of it I believes myself.  A few months ago there was lot of talk among the “hams” about a midnight run on the border.  Some of the ham operators down in Arizona picked up on a massive run across the border the same night all those border stations were attacked.  Later on, the “hams” in Texas confirmed the story when a couple of the “mules” were caught and spilled the beans.  Here’s the long and the short of it.”

“Thousands of illegals were paid one thousand dollars apiece to attempt to cross the border in a coordinated effort to overwhelm our own law enforcement.  But the illegals were nothing more than decoys to create confusion.  China supplied arms to Mexico’s two largest drug cartels and paid them a significant amount of gold to attack the border patrol stations in an enormous diversion.”

“As the story goes, it wasn’t difficult to draw our limited forces into the trap.  The Chinese simply sat back and waited for the border patrol to react.  Once they were busy with the attacks on our border stations and the thousands of “mules” crossing simultaneously from Texas to California, they knew exactly where the border was unguarded by monitoring the border patrols’ own radio communications.  With our poorly armed and staffed border patrol completely overwhelmed, the Chinese flew their nukes in undetected.”

“Fascinating story Monk, but do you really think it could work?” Gary asked.

“I do Gary.  I’ve had experience down there.  That border is nearly two thousand miles long and there ain’t no way we have enough people there to guard it.  Course that’s on purpose you know. The part I struggle with believing is the nukes.  Obviously they got one in, how many more, I just don’t know.  The Chinese are crafty and I wouldn’t put it past them, but I still would like to believe it couldn’t be done without our national security knowing something about it.  I think I need a little more proof.”


The Jeffersons were in a state of shock.  The fact that D.C. really had been nuked hit them like a ton of bricks.  Stunned and unsure what to do, Thomas had even cancelled his Saturday golf game.  Like most citizens, they were used to getting their directions from Washington.  With no word from the president, they didn’t know what to do and spent their day wringing hands and worrying.

Davis had had enough.  “Dad, I’ve got to get out for awhile.  You and Mom gonna be all right?”

“We’ll be fine son. Where are you going?”

“I’ve made arrangements for a workout with the coach at O.S.U., so I’m headed down there for a while.”

“All right son, see you in a while.”

After Davis left, Thomas moved to his study to be alone.  He regretted the argument he’d had with his son the previous evening.  Davis was a good kid who was working hard to make a life of his own.  Thomas reminded himself they wouldn’t always see things the same way and he needed to give his son room to form his own opinions.

I hope your all enjoying your holiday weekend.  For those following along, here is Chapter Six and if you enjoy the story, it’s only $2.51 for the ebook on Amazon or 2.99 at Barnes and Noble.  If you have comments I’d love to hear them.  Some have said the book starts a little slow, but hang in there, you wont be disappointed.

CHAPTER  SIX

“The people will be crushed under the burden of taxes, loan after loan will be floated; after having drained the present, the State will devour the future.”

 Frédéric Bastiat, French economist, 1850

“The more stable the currency was, the more stable society would be – And the more successful as well.”

 Friedrich Hayek

Thomas and Mary Jefferson were feeling the pangs of loss common to most parents leaving their son or daughter alone at college for the first time.  They’d driven to the University of Texas to help Davis with the move and settle into his dorm.  It was all great fun for Davis, but you can’t have a personal adventure with your parents tagging along and he was ready to see them off.  Now, as they were saying good-bye, his excitement was only slightly dimmed by his mother’s tears.

“Don’t forget to call and let us know how things are going,” Mary said as she hugged her son.

“I will Mom.”

Then it was Thomas’s turn, “Let us know if you need anything.”

“Ok, Dad. Maybe an air conditioner?  It’s gonna take me a while to adjust to this heat.”

They all agreed it was hot and the glare of a white sun bearing down the black pavement kept their good-byes short.

“Drive safe.” Davis said.

“We’ll call when we get home,” Mary replied.

Thomas rolled up the windows and turned on the Mercedes air conditioning, then looked to Mary. “Time to head home.” The tears were silently running down her cheeks and he took her hand in his own.

“He’ll be all right sweetie.”

Her response was a mixed sob and chuckle.  “I know, silly me, but I can’t help it.”

“Let’s catch up with some of that country we planned on seeing on our trip home.”

Thomas maneuvered the car out of the parking lot and away from campus, but within a few short blocks an angry mob had surrounded the car.  Thomas locked the doors and looked for a way out.

“Damn!  These idiots are going to scratch the car.  What’s wrong with them?”

Thomas slowed the car to a standstill to avoid running someone over and the raucous crowd closed in.  The sneering, angry faces forced Mary away from the window to huddle in the center of the car.  The crowd had begun rocking the Mercedes and yelling absurd things about the rich, but it was the overall din and fury of the mob that scared her the most.

Waves surged through the crowd like ocean surf, forcing people against and nearly onto the car.  Some carried signs about needing jobs, homes and money.  One protester pushed his face into the window and yelled at Thomas, “You need to share, pig!” Ahead of them on a grassy hill, a banner stretched out above the crowd read, “Society owes us.”

In the crush of threatening people there appeared to be no way out and now two men were atop the hood of the car, jumping up and down.   Thomas had had enough and gunned the engine.  The car burst forward into the mass of people before screeching to a halt.  One of the men on top of the car toppled backwards.  The other fell forward on top of two other people the car had knocked down.  All four scrambled to get up and out of the way.

Thomas put the car in neutral and revved the engine.   The crowd backed off for a moment creating the gap he was looking for.   Gunning the engine, he squealed the tires and the car shot into the opening in front of him.  Slowing slightly to avoid those struggling to get out of the way, he spotted his chance to escape and quickly made his way free of the crowd.

Anger and fear shuddered through Thomas’ limbs and after making sure he was well away from the crowd, he pulled the car to the side of the road.  His heart beat wildly and he reached across to embrace Mary’s trembling shoulders.  Thomas peered out the back window to see if anyone had followed.  Assured no one had followed he stepped outside to look over the car.

Upon resuming their trip home, Thomas was confronted with a reality he found hard to ignore.  Have I been so insulated in my world of academia that I missed what is happening right outside my door?  He couldn’t bring himself to believe it was true, but the mental wrestling match would continue all the way home.


Back in Oregon, Jean and Cliffson were gathering the fruits of their labors.  Raspberries were stored in the freezer and Jean had already canned numerous pints of green beans.  Pears and peaches were dried and stockpiled on the shelves.  Now it was time to can tomatoes for later use in sauces.

It was one of those sweet autumn days Cliffson relished.  The air no longer retained the prickly bite of summer heat and it reminded him of the endless days spent as a youth, plowing fields on a Palouse wheat farm.

Welfare approached when he set a large kettle of water on the propane burner to heat for water bath canning and Cliffson scratched his ears.  They seemed to have a direct tie to his tail which uniquely swung in a circle.

“Time to get to work Welfare.”  Welfare knew what that meant and went and laid down in the shade.

After lighting the burner Cliffson went inside to assist Jean with the canning.  There he blanched bright red tomatoes for Jean to skin before filling the canning jars.  It was a project they shared together every fall and in the good company of a friendship that was more than three decades old they both found it perfectly enjoyable.

“Your tomatoes really did well this year hon,” Cliffson said as he dropped a new batch in for blanching.

“They did do well.  We might get as many as thirty quarts.”  Jean smiled and stuffed another jar full of the red fruit.  “My grandmother would be proud.”

“Always did like your tomatoes,” Cliffson winked.

“You stick to business so we can get this done,” Jean warned.

Cliffson chuckled to himself and moved the blanched tomatoes to a sink of cold water. “Your grandmother would be shocked at what a lost art caning’s become.”

“True, but you can’t expect people to know how to can when few even know how to sow a seed and grow a plant.”  Jean turned to Cliffson.  “I have enough for our first batch.  Is that water boiling yet?”

“I’m sure it is.  Get your timer and we’ll get started.”

Both were thankful for the bounty that came from the garden.  The neighbors might poke fun at the fools working in the dirt, but those same neighbors were paying through the nose at the grocery store for produce the Lang’s grew nearly for free.  While Cliffson and his wife did their best to save, the neighbors were going deeper in debt to buy boats, expensive new cars, campers, hot tubs and luxurious trips.  After all, you were nobody if you didn’t keep up with the Joneses, or the Murrys or Allens or the Zombies next door.

Returning inside after placing the jars in the kettle to cook, Cliffson suggested they turn on the television to check the weather report and they both sat down to watch.

“Temperatures should remain mild with no threat of frost.  Tomorrow’s high should be…”

“We interrupt your regularly schedule programming for this news bulletin.  China has invaded Europe on four separate fronts.  Struggling under stone-age conditions after termination of its energy supplies, Europe is given little chance of surviving China’s attack.  Italy has already fallen and massive numbers of Chinese troops are gathering near the border for attacks on France and Germany.”


The remainder of the Jefferson’s trip home was uneventful.  They visited Hoover Dam and enjoyed a few nights in Las Vegas, before taking in the Napa Valley vineyards.

Although the riot was still fresh in Thomas’s memory, he’d come to think of it as an isolated event.  The government was promising to roll out new programs to reduce unemployment, though they hadn’t said specifically how they were going to create more jobs.  The president also made a special appearance on television to announce that anyone unemployed for more than two years was eligible to receive a $10,000 grant from the government.  “It will stimulate the economy,” he’d said.

Shortly after arriving home Thomas put the incident behind him.  He wasn’t sure what to make of the Chinese takeover of Europe, but it was not his concern.  The school year would begin soon and he felt himself slipping into a familiar and comfortable routine.  Considering the poor economic conditions the nation faced, he was even more determined to demonstrate to his students the wisdom of Keynesian economics.

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.