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Story Withdrawal
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Thread: Withdrawal

  1. #1

    Withdrawal

    I was a member here a few years back (different handle) and posted some of this story. I stepped away for some time to deal with some life issues. During that time I reworked the story so wanted to share the updated story. Hope that you like it.

    It Begins…

    The morning was clear, chilly but with no wind to speak of. The temperature was typical for the time of year, low forties but the absence of the wind and a bright, sunny sky made it feel much warmer than it was. The crowds gathered along the route were much larger than any in a number of years attending previous events of the same vein. Those gathered were grateful for the weather it was much nicer than had been forecast a few days earlier. The level of anticipation was growing as the time for the ceremony slowly approached. This exercise in democracy took place every four years and had for well over two centuries without interruption. But the sense of anticipation for this one was larger than anyone could remember. Changes following this process were inevitable but the changes promised this time around were by far the most radical ones in living memory. News and commentary spread by the network talking heads spewed out.
    The long motorcade, a mix of armored limousines and security vehicles slowly made its way along the heavily guarded route. The man who would be the next President of the United States was all smiles as he waved at the crowd as they drove by. His wife held his other hand as she waved at the crowd on her side of the road. Presently their car arrived at the designated building and the next part of the event. The man was moved inside and taken to the appropriate location. The time for ceremony had nearly arrived.
    The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States solemnly raised his right hand while holding the Bible in his left. The man who would be the next Chief Executive laid his hand on the book and likewise raised his right hand to swear the oath that would make him the leader of the free world.
    From a few feet away the very soon to be former President stood watching. She was careful not to display any strong negative emotions. That particular trait had cost her heavily during the elections. The media had been quick to pick up on her anger and broadcast it far and wide. Her opponent made few, if any, slips. The thought of this man…she swallowed hard to regain her composure. That this particular man would now be in charge of the government almost made her ill.
    All the dreams she had of what she would accomplish while in office had turned to nightmares. A very hostile Congress slowed down or killed key bills and to her surprise, the population that did not embrace her policies. In fact her popularity never rose to the level that her aides told her repeatedly they felt it should. She had always felt that a large portion of the population was stupid, not ignorant, stupid. It showed how could they not see what she was trying to do? So engrossed in her mental state she completely missed her successor take his oath.

    “I, Gary Allen Roberts…

  2. #2

    Withdrawal Chapter 1

    Chapter 1

    In the weeks following President Roberts inauguration the efforts to get his U.S. First foreign policy initiative through Congress took considerable effort. There was substantial opposition to his plans to virtually end foreign aid but he and his advisors had long been certain that there would be and they were correct. Money poured into lobbyist pockets in order to defeat the bill. The highly paid political operatives took meeting after meeting with folks on Capital Hill. To help counter this Roberts talked, coached, argued and shouted the merits of the plan. Like many of his predecessors Roberts used radio as a medium to reach out. He would use his standard weekly radio message to the public to further push for his policies. Some weeks he would do two programs in an attempt to further sway the masses. In the end as the vote drew near he pulled out his secret weapon, the American public. He called a televised press conference without warning and had his aides make sure it would be picked up by the major networks.
    A few well placed calls to various news directors with vague hints of something juicy were enough for them to take the chance. The President had been a good draw so far since taking office. The cut in to regular programming annoyed many viewers but since the networks all wanted to upstage their rivals most of them, including many of the cable channels carried the broadcast just as the President figured they would. This meant that the broadcast was being carried into tens of millions of homes all over the country and around the world. Roberts loved an audience and knew how to work it.

    At the top of the hour the banner announcing a Special Bulletin was flashed across millions of television screens. The next scene was of the various anchors that each network used telling their audiences that the President had an important announcement for the American people.
    Many viewers tried to change the channel but found it on many of the other channels as well. Some simply turned the set off or left the room, many to get something to eat. Sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office, President Roberts sat erect, his eyes fixed on the camera as if he was trying to look into the eyes of every viewer. He had, to that point in his long political career never given a more important speech than the one he was about to.

    “My fellow Americans; good evening, I come before you tonight to ask your help on a matter of great importance to us all. As you know, the cornerstone of my campaign was to end foreign aid and keep your money here at home, where it should be, working for you. I feel it is my duty to inform you that this plan is in jeopardy. It is our intention to see that the US First bill be made into law by Congress but it is meeting with considerable difficulty.”

    This speech had been very carefully written to appeal to the broadest spectrum of viewers. Part of the appeal that many had for the works of Hemingway was that is was written at a sixth grade level which allowed for a broader reach to the reader. This speech was modeled on that. This was an all or nothing gamble for the Roberts administration, if it succeeded then they could write their own ticket with Congress, if it failed…they would be a lame duck administration in the their first and likely, only term, in poker terms the administration was all in.

    Roberts continued. “The forces of those who would oppose this are many, these enemies intend to keep YOUR money and spend it as they see fit. Our government is a Republic, we are elected to work for you, not the other way around, the framers of the Constitution understood this, the words ‘A government of, for and by the people’ weren’t chosen by accident. The sentiment of the men who started us on the path we now humbly tread was clear. The work we do, raising children, educating them, providing for them is hard enough, but wouldn’t it be easier if they had better schools to go to? More teachers, so class sizes were smaller, more computers, buildings that are clean and in good repair?” That part of the speech was a deliberate sop to the various teacher unions all across the nation, the unions knew it and the administration knew they did. It didn’t stop them from liking what they were hearing, thousands more potential members giving them an even stronger voice. The appeal hit home with many parents as well.

    Roberts continued on for nearly twenty minutes more, outlining his plan, he spoke passionately about the amounts of money that were spilling out of the nation’s pocketbook headed overseas. He asked the viewers why? How was this allowed to happen? He used simple paper charts to illustrate the way that the money was spent overseas. The totals were staggering, billions and billions of dollars poured into the coffers of other countries, most of them in third world nations with no practical gain for the United States out of the investment. Why, the President asked was your money building roads in Angola when our own roads needed work? He touched on helping the homeless many of whom were veterans. Why should we not find and help these people who had once helped to defend us?

    Veterans organizations, many of whom who had their outreach programs, all woefully underfunded for homeless vets cheered at the question. Finally, an administration that sounded like it gave a damn about them too. Knowing the public had a limited attention span Roberts finished up by telling the viewers, “So to help us, to help yourself, call your Congressional representative, both in the House and in the Senate. The numbers are located in the front of most phone books. Email them, write then, tell them what you think. We work for you, not the other way around. Thank you, good night and God Bless America.”

    Gary Roberts waited till the light atop the camera changed colors. The production director stepped across the room and said, “We’re out” meaning that they were in fact now off the air. A sound person came over to unwire the microphone clipped to the lapel of the Presidents jacket under the watchful eye of the Secret Service agents present in the office as they were whenever someone not on the approved list was in proximity to the President. His aides were clustered off to the side all with wide grins. They had started the pebbles rolling that they hoped would create the avalanche that would bury Congress.

    The morning after the speech, Thomas Jacob Alcott, chief of staff to a powerful New England Congressman was on his way in to work. He was seated in the back seat of a large four door sedan, American made of course, Alcott rarely drove himself anywhere. As with most mornings he was reading the Wall Street Journal as the powerful vehicle threaded its way through the morning crush. His family was old money and he had added to it during years as a corporate lawyer until he was drawn into the political arena as senior counsel to a then junior Representative who was both a client and a friend. Now, years later he was a powerful man in Washington circles in his own right.

    As he scanned the editorials Alcott found his mind wandering back to the speech that President Roberts had made the night before. He had of course watched it and could hardly believe the gift he and the other members of his party had been given. A small chuckle escaped his lips as he thought about the ridiculous show that the buffoon had put on. Appealing to the masses, how incredibly naïve. Like the sheeple, a term he liked to used when referring to the American public, were going to actually do something political. That would require effort and more importantly, thought. Alcott felt, as did many of those he associated with, that they knew far better what the public needed than the people did. Little did he know what lay in store for he and his associates today.

    After arriving at work and making his way into the building his mind was on ways to work the speech to their benefit. He had a few ideas already and was looking forward to sticking it that rube from the mid-west every way he could. How the man got elected in the first place was beyond him. Alcott was sure that next election would place his guy at a new address…1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to be exact. As the long time power broker passed through the halls he absently noted the nearly empty halls. The few people he did see all seemed to be in some great hurry or gathered in small groups talking at a frantic pace. What was going on?

    He sped his pace up slightly, mostly to take advantage of the lack of traffic in the hallways. It was something that he hated, having to mingle with the junior staffers and worse the building staff, security personnel and the damned cleaning crew. Essentially peons, occasionally useful peons, but hardly in his league. More of the plan regarding the Congressman’s rebuttal of that ridiculous speech was forming.
    Alcott opened the door to the offices and stepped inside. He was so deep in thought that it wasn’t till he closed the door that he realized the office was bedlam. Junior staffers, aides and interns were rushing about, every phone in the office was in use, the level of energy, no…what was it, anxiety, yes, that was it the anxiety was nearly palpable. What the hell was going on? Some national security thing? No, they would have called him. Besides that was why they were junior staffers and aides…to do the scut work.

    He saw the slender figure of Julie Deveers, the office manager across the room. He felt the familiar stirring he got whenever she was around. Tall, brunette with a killer set of…ahhemm, yes. So far she had resisted his charms but he felt it was just a matter of time - it always was. The attractive woman was gathered with three of the staff and was spitting our orders at a machine gun like pace. One by one the three were dispatched to carry out her wishes. Turning, she noticed Alcott making his way across the room toward her. She casually hated the man but for now he was her boss. Grabbing up a handful of faxes that had just come in she walked over to meet him. Phones continued to ring throughout the offices. “What is going on Julie? We have work to do…this circus is going to slow us down.”

    Unprepared for this level of bombastic display so early in the day it took Julie a few seconds to realize that the idiot really didn’t know what was happening. Julie had intended to call him but she hadn’t been able to break away from the needs of the staff. She grabbed him by the sleeve of his tailored suit pulling him toward his office. The move was so uncharacteristic of Julie it startled Alcott that he went with her without protest. Once at the door to his office she released his arm and thrust the handful of faxes she was carrying at him.
    “Don’t you know what’s happened? Haven’t you heard? This has been going on since we opened the office this morning! It hasn’t stopped and I’m not sure it will any time soon!”

    Now slightly exasperated he moved to regain the momentum of the conversation by asking her what she was talking about. Nearby, the fax machine was whirring constantly as page after page rolled out of the printer. A female aide rushed over carrying three packages of paper intending to replenish the dwindling supply trays. Pointing at the woman Julie told him. “That, this is exactly what I am talking about! We have had to refill that thing three times already in the last, oh I don’t know…forty-five minutes…they won’t stop coming!” She had put up with his subtle attempts to bed her but knowing that she was way smarter than him had kept her sane. There were already a few feelers coming her way about moving back into the private sector, really nice money to go with it…but for now, Alcott.

    “The calls, faxes keep coming; there is incredible support for the President’s plan. You don’t even want to see the e-mail account.” Not that the idiot could use a computer she thought to herself. The offices computers were getting slammed with literally thousands of electronic pieces of mail. Julie had been told that it might take days to get to each one and print it out which is what the standard practice was. “The response has been, in a word, staggering.” Alcott couldn’t believe his ears; he reached out and took the faxes she was holding.

    He began to read through them faster and faster. Phrases like, “You better support this” or “Hell yes on US FIRST”…”No more foreign aide”. Alcott noticed the misspelling of the word but quickly moved past it. Page after page all with some variation of the same message, support for President Roberts plan. Alcott was stunned; he slowly lifted his eyes from the page to look over the office. Phones were still ringing, aides were frantically writing down names, phone numbers and messages. The fax machine, now restocked with paper was continuing to produce document after document.

    “This is all about these?” Holding up the faxes he asked. Julie nodded and then was called away by a staffer who having a difficult time with a caller. For the first time in a very long time Thomas Alcott was completely speechless. Little did he realize that this scene was being repeated in dozens of Congressional offices all over the building. The people had found their voice and with they were shouting. The tide of public opinion was washing in.

    The US First bill, a massive piece of foreign policy sailed through Congress to land on the Presidents desk where he happily signed it during a well televised ceremony from the Rose Garden. He called it a landmark of government responsibility, using the money of the people for the people. It called for an immediate end to nearly all of foreign aid. The billions that formerly were handed out often with little oversight or regard for how it was spent would now be staying at home. The first beneficiary of this new money tree was Social Security. The fund, a huge concern for many who were worried that it would be out of money by the time they needed received a quick infusion of over two billion dollars with more to come.

    The nations schools, many of them in blighted urban areas lacked proper heating, security equipment, textbooks, computer and much more were not forgotten. The initial monies were a bit slow getting out to the states but the Roberts administration made large amounts of public relations hay out of it wherever and whenever they could. The news was constantly full of images of trucks unloading boxes of textbooks, new desks, school yards no longer trash covered, smiling, happy teachers in their newly remodeled and modern classrooms. The public ate it up, school districts all over the nation reported that parent participation in school activities was at an all time high. Polls showed Roberts popularity rating at an astounding 73%, a fact not lost on his advisors.

    Congressional members had to openly continue to support the plan; it would be outright political suicide for any of them to speak out against improving schools and funding Social Security. In private they talked, loudly and often, about how to make the White House pay for its arrogance.

    Additional requirement of the bill was the removal of U.S. peacekeeping forces in places like Bosnia. What few remaining American units stationed in Germany were removed and reassigned. A massive new base was being built on the Mediterranean coast west of the Gaza strip. This facility, which was heavily guarded would eventually be home to an armored division, a mechanized infantry division as well as several helicopter and fixed wing aircraft squadrons. This level of integration wasn’t new but the scale of it was. The base would be the new center point of American military might in the entire region. U.S. ships would be close by as well by having already been home based in two Israeli ports. The new base was only three hours drive by tank from the vital Suez Canal and aircraft from the base could be there or over the vital Saudi oilfields in minutes, a fact lost on no one. The location of the base gave the United States a very large stick to wield in the region.
    Ample training ground was available in the nearby Negev Desert which coincidentally was home to the Israeli Defense Force’s tank school. In addition the vast expanse of the Sinai Peninsula was at their doorstep. The Israeli government, forced by the former administration in Washington to sign over control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian people loved having a massive and well armed friendly force in place on the other side of their often unruly neighbors. The Palestinian Authority was outraged at the turn of events. President Roberts who refused to meet with their representative said privately, “Well it must suck to be them.” A few local Arab hotheads intent on stirring up trouble found out quickly that the Americans were serious about being left alone. The first two members of a group attempting to sneak onto the base were killed by mines and the rest shot up by a helicopter gunship when they opened fire on the reaction force as they tried to breach the perimeter. Similar attempts at sabotage met with equally disastrous results for the attackers. The news was well received in both Israel and at home.
    The affects of the policy were felt almost immediately in a few areas. Anti-American demonstrations were held in a variety of national capitals directed at the embassies and consulates. For the most part aside from minor episodes of violence these demonstrations were peaceful, loud but peaceful, at least at first. Mothers held aloft small children wailing that the United States was responsible if their children went hungry. Some countries responded by expelling the entire U.S. diplomatic entourage but the Roberts administration simply chalked that up to further cost cutting. The State Department took it in stride, staff members were reassigned to other posts and the money once used to keep those embassies and consulates open was spent on other things such as security for offices still operating. The empty buildings were often knocked down by explosives just prior to the last personnel leaving. No sense leaving perfectly good buildings for the host country to use. The administration didn’t care if some countries were angry at them. They had a doctrine and they were riding it for all it was worth. Little did they know how catastrophic that ride would be.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:12 PM.

  3. #3

    Withdrawal Chapter 2

    Chapter 2

    Following the huge success of the US First bill passing the Roberts White House moved on to it’s next big campaign issue. Removing the United States from the United Nations and moving the United Nations out of the United States. While he was still a Senator, President Roberts had fought every appropriation destined for the U.N. He hated its institutional smugness, the apathy toward actual crises while member nations maneuvered to better political positions and worse, the lack of true concern for the people the organization touted its message about. Sickness and genocide was allowed to continue in numerous parts of the world while the high and mighty United Nations went about it’s so called work. Images of Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and more gave face to the hypocrisy of the United Nations.

    Once again Roberts took his message to the public in a carefully drawn out media plan involving a massive press blitz that lasted for months. He started the campaign in the most obvious of places, New York City, home of the U.N. There, Roberts found a willing and attentive audience. He used the excesses and immunity enjoyed by the members of the United Nations against them. His staff ferreted out people who had been victims of crimes, many times violent ones and got them to tell their stories to anyone that would listen. They spoke about how their lives were changed and in some cases ruined and the perpetrator couldn’t be touched because of the diplomatic immunity they exploited.
    It has been said that one picture is worth a thousand words and that picture was the televised images of a Latino grandmother holding a three year old girl. A grandmother who had been forced to go back to work to help support her family as she raised her remaining grandchild. The rest of the family had been callously wiped out in a car wreck caused by a drunken South American diplomat who was called home following the incident for “consultation”. There had been no apologies, no admittance of guilt or responsibility. Four people had their lives snuffed out by someone who had diplomatic immunity so there was no one to obtain any kind of justice from. After the huge public outcry the government in question agreed to pay for the children’s upbringing and further education in an attempt to create some positive p.r. for themselves.

    The populace of the Big Apple loved the Presidents idea. Newspapers ran articles about the millions of dollars of unpaid parking tickets accumulated by U. N. staff members, money that would have gone to city coffers to help pay for schools, street repairs and much more. Roberts railed against the diplomats and their families for their insensitive treatment of the host city and its inhabitants. He promised over and over he would put an end to the crime, the indifference to our laws, to the disrespect to the people of New York and the rest of the nation. He talked long and loudly about the vast sums of money that United States had paid over the decades in dues and other fees the amount was staggering.

    Some of the good citizens of the Big Apple took matters into their own hands, foreign dignitaries were harassed, cars bearing diplomatic plates were vandalized and in some cases consulates found themselves the targets of angry mobs. This in turn led to huge anti-American sentiments in nations across the globe. This fueled both sides of the argument. All the while Roberts continued his efforts to help get the bill passed. Ridiculous amendments were attached to the bill in an effort to keep the President from ultimately signing it but the public had their blood up. Opponents of the measure called Roberts a “grandstander” and a “panderer of the worst sort”. Surprisingly some of the most vocal support came not from his own party but from the rank and file members of the independent Libertarian and Constitution parties. These groups, long denied a true voice in the political arena by the centuries old two party system were finding new strength. The members loved the tone of the Presidents message, America for Americans.

    In carefully drafted news releases the administration outlined the reasons for its plan. The money the United States paid for dues and the “privilege” of membership ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops had over the life of the United Nations been involved in police actions, peacekeeping missions and more. Many of them had lost their lives, more wounded. Didn’t we owe it to them to stop any more of our sons and daughters having to listen to the whims of nations who didn’t life a finger to help someone else?

    Where was the equality, how did the United States become the worlds police man? When the world was so aghast at the horrors of famine and warlord activity in Somalia years before, where was everyone else? Yes, a small number of other countries send token forces but once again every one was content to simply let the Americans handle it. No more was the message Roberts railed from every pulpit, dais and microphone he could reach along with many members of his administration.

    A Congressman from New York, himself fed up with the excesses of the foreigners introduced a bill that required the removal of the United States from the organization and that they relocate to another country. It was a bitter pill to swallow for some but grudgingly the House of Representatives narrowly passed the measure and sent it on to the Senate. The provision was for the money formally spent on the U.N. to go instead to improve border security. A topic that polls showed many Americans felt strongly about. The surge in problems that the country had faced during the previous ten years or so of administration indifference had many people fed up. Pouring millions of dollars into better securing the porous borders sat well with many voters, particularly in the southwest where many residents felt that they had long been abandoned.
    The debates regarding the bill were lively; C-SPAN hadn’t gotten that kind of viewer ratings in a very long time, some said ever. There was both more support and opposition to the bill than most in Washington realized. Some argued that the money would be better spent here at home; the public belief in the success of the Roberts US First plan was reaping further rewards. Others felt that it was essential that America not isolate itself from the global community. There were almost daily demonstrations outside the United Nations which had taken on the look of a besieged town. Massive numbers of security personnel were brought in to protect the building and its occupants. Many countries had reduced the size of their diplomatic contingents for the sake of security, operating their offices with minimal personnel. It wasn’t uncommon at all to find phones being answered by the Ambassadors themselves.

    As part of the measured return of U.S. forces formerly stationed overseas to bases in the United States the Marine infantry division and all their aircraft previously stationed on the western pacific island of Guam were brought home. With a Marine division and air wing already on each coast, California and North Caroline respectively, the administration threw the state of Texas a huge sop hoping to reap the vast political returns it could bring. The returning division and aircraft units, their personnel numbering into the tens of thousands which included the families were stationed in the southern part of the state as a new base was built.

    Outcry from Mexico was sharp and swift. It denounced what it called “The militarization of the border region”. The Roberts administration was equally as swift with their response. White House press releases outlined the position of the President who said in a strongly worded statement, “…the internal affairs of the United States are not subject to review by any nation. Whatever the movement of military forces within the boundaries of the United States is the sole concern of the United States…” It was a political slap to the face of any nation that the White House felt was too meddlesome in their affairs. Roberts wasn’t too keen on the President of Mexico anyways, he felt, as did many others that the man, a former Army General was bought and paid for by outside entities not the least of which were some of the drug cartels.
    Some of the local residents were at first not at all pleased with the prospect of a major military force being put in their area. NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard, was the cry often heard, but the administration pushed ahead with it’s plans. Some of the residents weary of what they had long termed, “the Immigration Invasion” welcomed the sight of thousands of well armed and well equipped Marines heading off of airplanes or disembarking from naval vessels at a variety of Texas ports where their heavy equipment including tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers were to be unloaded. A new base was constructed to house the division, its component units and training ranges. The former owners of the various pieces of land bought to erect the base were surprised to see the generosity of the checks which further reduced public outcry about the issue.

    The economy of the area which had been suffering as many areas of the country was infused by tens of millions of dollars in new revenues as the families bought houses, groceries, clothes and all the goods and services a sprawling military base and its occupants required. The noise from the aircraft simply became part of the normal sounds for the area. The Governor of Texas, himself a former Marine, often paid visits to the base and never missed an opportunity to tout the President’s plan. It had been good for his state so far and since he intended to run for re-election he used the windfall for all it was worth reminding the Marines that they were now Texas residents and could vote locally.

    Opponents criticized the move stating that the military was a huge polluter; that they destroyed the environment with their training methods. The news media listened for a time but when nineteen out of twenty people are telling you it is a good thing you listen. Stories about the negative seemed to dry up and blow away in the hot, dry breeze. The local papers quickly learned whose side their bread was buttered on. The arrival of the division spawned enough material for dozens of stories, human interest, training methods, press releases and much more which the papers ate up as their subscription numbers skyrocketed forcing them to add more staff and buy larger print machines. Local merchants took out more ads than ever before trying to entice consumers to their doors. Some local economists stated the arrival of the Marines had added forty million dollars a year to the regional economy, others said that was a very conservative estimate. Either way the folks of south Texas were happy to have the Marines.

    Coincidentally local law enforcement and federal officials quietly noted a substantial drop in the number of illegal’s crossing into the United States along the long stretch of border nearest the base and it associated training areas. Many of these training areas happened to be placed along or very near the Rio Grande river which served as the boundary between the United States and its nearest southern neighbor. Since large numbers of individuals from throughout Latin and South America had tried to use this area to enter the U.S. the Marines often found themselves forced to detain groups of would-be immigrants until local Border Patrol Agents arrived. Overflights of the area by would-be drug smuggling aircraft dropped off considerably after one of them was “accidentally” shot down by a Marine fighter jet. An inquiry found that the pilot was not at fault for the incident and business continued as usual. But the cartels got the message; there was a new sheriff in town.

    There were a small number of incidents involving illegal’s killed or wounded by moving through the live fire areas of the training ranges but as word of the danger spread south of the border this area was avoided. Federal law forbids the use of active duty military forces to conduct law enforcement operations however, if a Marine helicopter crew on routine training “happened” to catch sight of a group of illegal’s and communicated that to the proper agencies then watched them until the Border Patrol arrived that was merely fortuitous according to all involved. The Marines settled into their new base with ease and life in the south Texas area improved for a good many folks. Roberts approval rating in the region was four points higher than the national average.

    When the anti U.N. measure was passed, barely, by Congress it gave the United Nations as a body one hundred and eighty days to leave the country. It served notice that the United States reserved the right to retain its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council until such time as the organization physically departed the United States. Several large hotel chains were reportedly already bidding to buy the building and grounds with the intention of converting it to a large lodging and convention center.

    A new location for the world body was chosen in Geneva, Switzerland with plans for a new facility to be completed in two years. Resentment of the United States rose to new levels in many countries following their removal from New York. Many national governments took steps to raise the tariffs on American made goods being imported or simply stopped purchasing goods from businesses in America. This in turn led to a slow down in some sectors of the economy and not a few layoffs around the country. Critics of the Presidents plan were quick to point out the issue every chance they got. Administration officials fought to counter the news but as time went on it got harder and harder to hide the truth.

    Dateline: Central Africa, June 17
    …News reports are still sketchy but numerous government and international sources are telling us that famine in several regions is becoming serious. This in turn has lead to a large number of clashes among several of the different…

    Dateline: Venezuela, July 9
    …Reports indicate a coup toppled the democratically elected government early this morning. A military spokesman speaking for the new junta stated that this was in response to the failure of the administration to address the economic crisis strangling the country. A major oil producing nation Venezuela has a strategic location near the vital Panama Canal as well. Officials in Washington were reported to be “Watching the situation with interest”.

    Dateline: Alaska, July 19
    Early this morning a massive earthquake struck the region of near the port of Valdez, the southern end of the Alaskan pipeline. Damage from the 7.6 quake was reported to be heavy. Numerous pumping stations for the pipeline are said to be inoperative. Scattered reports of breaks in the pipeline itself have not been confirmed but local officials have declared the area a disaster. It is not know when the flow of crude oil might continue.

    August 23
    …OPEC officials meeting in Riyadh announced another price hike which was followed by several countries, primarily the United States denouncing the statement. The damage from last months quake which crippled the Alaska Pipeline is now being reported as worse than originally estimated. The rising fuel prices were another blow to the economy which is already…

    Dateline: Central Africa, September 14
    …famine in the region is growing worse. The food that would normally be available due to purchases made with US aid dollars is simply unavailable since the withdrawal of those funds earlier this year. A United Nations spokesperson, speaking at the newly relocated U.N. Headquarters in Geneva was quoted as saying…

    Dateline: South Texas, September 19
    …according to sources near the border at least three Border Patrol officers were killed last night in what some on the scene are calling a well planned ambush. It is unclear who those responsible are, no one has claimed responsibility. Local residents were shocked by the event. A senior Homeland Security official is reportedly on his way here from Washington. Tension along the border has risen following the announcement of the attack.

    October12
    …and in further news, the United Nations announced that sanctions would be levied against the United States for what it calls, “unpaid fees and fines”. No clarification was given as to what these fines were for. Turning to the sports…

    November 29
    …the latest unemployment figures released today by the administration showed a nearly one point three percent rise. The oil shortage is becoming acute affecting all areas of the economy. This was the largest single month jump in nearly….

    January 23
    Latest FBI crime statistics show an alarming rise in the number of violent crimes with an overall increase in the number of crimes being committed. Some attribute this to the steady rise in unemployment which has continued to climb.

    Dateline: Saudi Arabia, February 8
    …angry crowds surrounded and then forced their way onto the grounds of the U.S Embassy. Some members of the crowd were able to gain access to the building setting portions of it on fire. They were apparently protesting the lack of US aid dollars to numerous third world countries, Marine Security Guards were forced to open fire to defend themselves. Some reports have the death toll at nearly thirty while some hospital spokesmen dispute the number. The government has declared Martial Law in an effort to quell the violence.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:14 PM.

  4. #4

    Withdrawal Chapter 3

    Chapter 3

    Jim Hamilton had turned on the twenty four hour cable news station as he usually did in the morning before work and was worried at what he was hearing, with good reason. The attractive brunette who usually covered the news desk in the morning had talked about it at the top of the hour. The economy had taken yet another downturn; this one due in part to slow sales, mostly durable goods likes appliances and such. People simply didn’t have the money to buy large and expensive items, they were lucky to have money and in many cases jobs at all. Another story on the beating the dollar was taking in relation to foreign currencies and then there were more reports of widespread violence in several of the African countries as their economies, at least what was left of them, continued to disintegrate. Her narrative tried to put a positive spin on the news but it failed, miserably. The news wasn’t good today and hadn’t been for some time.

    Zoning out a bit while the news droned on he reflected on the facts as he knew them. After the passage of the US First bill nearly nineteen months earlier things in the country seemed to be on the upswing, jobs were being created, the economy appeared robust, and there was a renewed sense of patriotism sweeping the nation. The fallout from the Presidents plan wasn’t readily apparent for a while but now there were some signs becoming very noticeable both overseas and here in the U.S. Anti-American sentiment was growing in a large number of nations. Foreign investors had stopped spending money here, once loyal overseas customers were now buying their goods in other places.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average had been in a steady decline for the previous nineteen days it had been open. Only a few of those days had the losses been large but the trend had been established and with each day, reinforced, down. Confidence was lacking and it was showing daily in the poor trading taking place. Even the high-tech markets, once the golden boys of Wall Street were taking a beating, a serious one. The financial news from the foreign markets was even worse. The London, Tokyo and Hong Kong markets which still took their cue from New York were getting killed. The value of the dollar was slumping badly against other major currencies and still falling. Inflation was on the rise and while it wasn’t out of control it was becoming a serious problem. Those on fixed incomes were really feeling the pinch with no relief in sight.

    He thought about his own situation, on the up side he was still working. Fortunately his job as a supervisor with the power company was for now, intact but Jim wondered about it, a lot. Michelle, his wife worked as a secretary for the local school district and had for nearly ten years so she had some seniority, he wondered if her time on the job would be enough to keep her there, he hoped so. He stared into the distance he couldn’t see as he thought about it more. His usual cup of morning coffee sat cooling, ignored and forgotten at his elbow.
    Jim remembered the newscast from the evening before, more and more people were out of work and government efforts to put some of them back to work had fallen pretty short. There had been demonstrations and no shortage of violence across the country as a result of the people’s anger. Nothing major in itself but the fact that it was happening was proof enough that there were some serious issues and people were unhappy, really unhappy. The government policy of shutting out the rest of the world wasn’t working at all anymore and it was wreaking havoc all across the nation.

    The country was in the midst of an ongoing oil shortage that was driving gas prices through the roof. Yesterday when he had been at the station gas was well over six dollars a gallon with no end to the price hikes in sight. Thirty four dollars worth of gas didn’t go very far these days but it was all the cash that he had on him at the time. Putting the money in the tank wasn’t an option; he had to be able to go back and forth to work if nothing else. So in went the cash and it did help but barely gave him a full tank since he never let the truck’s tank fall below half and it had only needed a few gallons this time. It was a rule he had followed for many years, his wife did the same. Plus he had to wait in line for about fifteen minutes just to get up to the pump for the “privilege” of paying what he did. Some people’s tempers had been frayed pretty short but at least no violence in the line, this time. He had seen it happen before and suspected it wouldn’t be the last time that he did.
    The Hamilton family had fuel stored here at the farm but tried to avoid using it. They kept it on hand in case the ability to get more fuel was interrupted. The rise in gas prices was just one more indicator that the country was in deep economic trouble, it had started several months earlier with the collapse of the Saudi government following the death of their king after a long battle with the after affects of a stroke. Internal squabbling among the various princes and would be rulers was continuing to cripple the ability of the Saudi government, what there was of it, to function effectively.

    Somebody, reportedly it was Al Qaeda but maybe ISIS, had staged two successful attacks on large oil tankers headed for the United States which didn’t help the situation at all. One of the ships, while damaged had been able to make it a port but the other had been sunk. The terrorists had attached homemade magnetic mines to the bottom of the ships hull in several places. The charges were on timed delay to allow the ship just enough time to clear the harbor before detonating. This way the wreck blocked the entrance to the harbor for what some salvage experts were calling “one hell of a long time.”

    The second attack hadn’t been nearly as sophisticated. A pair of speed boats, likely launched from a larger vessel, intercepted a large tanker out at sea. The lumbering tanker was no match for the agility or speed of the smaller craft. A large number of rocket propelled grenades, or RPG’s for short, rounds were fired from the boats at the tanker, hitting it numerous times setting it afire in several places. The weapons originally manufactured in the former Soviet Union, designed to kill tanks were lightweight, reloadable and deadly and didn’t take much training to utilize.

    Fires and explosions rocked the super sized ship. Confident their attack would sink the ship the small boats sped off. Frantic radio calls for assistance commenced during the attack and continued for some time, even after the first two vessels that responded arrived. The attacks, staged within two weeks of each had caused a huge uproar among the shipping companies and in the Lloyds of London offices which insured much of the world’s shipping. Rates for coverage immediately went up dramatically on oil tankers cutting into the profit margins by a considerable margin. This caused a ripple affect throughout the world. Gas prices shot up again which forced even more consumers to seek alternative transportation.

    The combination of these factors caused the once mighty river of oil coming out of the Arabian Peninsula to slow to barely a trickle. It wasn’t enough to fill the millions of gas tanks here in the states and other nations around the world. Other oil producing countries like Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela were trying to make up for the difference but couldn’t match the normal Saudi production. America was a big consumer nation and right now the demand was a hell of a lot greater than the supply. The countries that were supplying the United States were taking full advantage of the demand by jacking their prices up to levels not previously seen. Domestic production which had been moving upward was still insufficient to meet the demand.

    All of the domestic oil companies were passing along the increases to their consumers. There were hearings going on in Congress regarding oil industry price fixing but it was unlikely that anything of consequence would come of it. Too many of the “people’s representatives” were in the deep pockets of big oil. The usual reports of abundant alternative fuels were great filler for the news but the reality was that what little bit of it that was produced was like an eyedropper’s worth in the ocean. There was simply nothing to replace the needed gasoline in America’s engines. The amount of damage done to the pipeline structures in Alaska as a result of the quake had some industry experts quietly saying it could be two years minimum before the flow of oil from the North Slope would resume to anything modestly approaching former levels. Others said it would be longer than that.

    “Hi, dad, what’s up?” His son came in the kitchen startling him out of the mental state he had been in. Jim blinked at the interruption and missed the question, Bobby was used to it. The alert seventeen year old had noticed that his dad was preoccupied often the last few weeks; he wrote it off to being an old adult thing that he sometimes kidded his father about. Jim almost never failed to rise to the bait being forty two he didn’t feel that he was “old”. The elder Hamilton noticed his son and with a wry grin greeted him, “Hiya sport”, knowing that Bobby didn’t really care for the nickname but it was his way of getting back a little for startling him.

    The two talked for a few minutes before Jim excused himself to go to work, it was Friday and Michelle was off work today so she was sleeping in a bit as usual for her schedule. The school district only ran school Monday through Thursday which allowed her time to do other projects. Bobby had woke up at his usual time despite there being no school today but his sister adapted much easier – she was still asleep. Grabbing his keys and bag he headed out the back door the morning was clear with just enough breeze to stir the air. As Jim made his way across the yard he drew in a deep breath grateful for the reminder that he and his family no longer lived in the city. A quick check of the area before opening up the door, nothing out of sorts so he tossed the bag on the seat. The family vehicles were parked on the gravel driveway, no reason to put them in the barn as the fall weather was still mild. Once in his truck, he loved the powerful late 70’s era Chevy 4 x 4 he owned, his mind returned to the train of thought from earlier.

    He pumped the gas pedal twice and then turned the key to start the 350 cubic inch power plant. It turned over at once and after a brief coughing spell settled into a steady pattern. Waiting for a few moments to allow the truck to warm up Jim then put the truck in gear headed down the driveway to start the trip to work. He turned the radio down, the news was simply too depressing to listen to. Jim was, and had for a long time been, a firm believer that society was headed for a serious crisis. Something that would make the Rodney King riots of the nineties look like a playground scuffle or the recession of previous decades an economic hiccup. The news he kept hearing did nothing but fuel that feeling.

    Jim and his wife Michelle had been preparing as they could for a number of years. It was a trait passed on from his parents and even more so by his grandparents who had suffered through the Great Depression. Jim and his family lived on an eight acre farm seventeen miles out from the edge of the suburbs. They had inherited it from his parents after they had been killed in a vehicle accident several years earlier. The crash had been caused by a drunk driver falling asleep at the wheel who naturally was almost uninjured despite having his SUV totaled. Jim still missed his parents a great deal. After the funeral and dealing with all the legal hassles Jim had the painful task of dealing with all of their belongings. Since he had no siblings it all fell to him. The task of going through clothing, paperwork, furniture and a lifetime of possessions took some time.

    Since moving to the farm the Hamilton’s had taken time to introduce themselves to some of the closer neighbors and difference was immediate and gratifying. Once or twice a few of them had stopped by as well to lend a hand. Several of them remembered his parents and that helped ease their transition into the area since many of the residents were long time farmers. Jim took the usual route into work which ate up about forty minutes since the power company building was in the opposite direction from the downtown area.

    The drive in to work was something that Jim really enjoyed, the route was though the rural area that was farmed to raise a variety of crops and then passed into the suburbs before giving way to the feeder roads leading to the freeway. He was glad to be out of the confines of the city, it was terrible, crime, filth and apathy. While still in town Jim had tried to get several of the people on his block interested in a Neighborhood Watch program but was rebuffed, soundly. The people didn’t want to participate, all of them deciding that it was easier to go it alone. Jim had tried to meet everyone on the block but most didn’t care. Two said that they were too afraid to participate.
    Arriving at work Jim was surprised to see several of the line crews gathered in the parking lot, they appeared to be agitated. Pulling into his usual spot he quickly shut off the truck while grabbing his nylon shoulder bag holding his important papers and the like, popped the door then slid out making sure the door was locked. Absently shoving the door closed he headed over to where his men were gathered. He could now clearly hear that several of them were upset, their tone and body language was easy to read.

    Jack Henstridge was the first to see Jim and touching the sleeve of the man next to him he directed his attention to the arrival of the supervisor. Word quickly spread among the men and they waited impatiently for their foreman. Jim wasn’t even within fifteen feet when the first shouts began, “What’s going on…How the hell do they expect us…Are they nuts…” all these and a few more. The line crews were upset and that was plain, what Jim didn’t know was why. As he walked up to them the men crowded in around him in a ragged semi-circle, all of them trying to get answers.

    With so many talking at once he was forced to tell them to all shut up for a minute then had to repeat himself louder in order for the request to be heard by everyone. The crews fell silent, Jim looked to Jack. “Ok, now what is going on…’ a few of the others started to speak when he added “just Jack” The long time lineman, senior among all the men that made up the various line crews that covered this region began, “We came in this morning just like always; we get inside and find out those…worthless bastards from the regional office were here late last night. Came in after most everyone left, had a ‘special’ meeting with Ferguson.”

    Jim knew this wasn’t a good sign; Art Ferguson was the area supervisor and an idiot of the first magnitude. Giving Jack the “come on, come on” gesture with his hand Jim waited for the other shoe to drop. Jack explained that region has decided that in order to save money they were laying off 25% of the total workforce including eight of the line crew members effective at the end of the shift today. Just like that, no warning, no hints, nothing, just “Oh by the way, you have no job…”

    Jim was stunned, the implications were staggering. He had been in with Art Ferguson just last week explaining in detail the proposal he had written up on how they would need two additional line crews to handle the growing demands. Eight, eight guys were the equivalent of two full crews… how the hell were they going to keep up with two less crews? Plus splitting up the crews meant that men used to working together would now have to learn to work with someone different and that would take time. Jim could feel his day slipping into the crapper.
    The foreman was quickly growing angry and now completely understood why his men were upset, they had a right to be. Get a grip he quickly told himself, there has to be something you can do. Jim told his men to settle down, he was going inside to go see what was going on and that he would personally meet with them as soon as he could but in the meantime they had work to do. The reminder of pending work did take a little of the steam out of them but not much, it was going to be important for them to focus on something else for right now.

    Jim asked Jack to handle getting the daily assignments handed out while he went and dealt with this. Jack said he would and collected up the crews by eye and started walking toward their shop on the end of the building. Watching his men walk off Hamilton took in a deep breath and slowly released it willing some of the tension to go with it, he knew that it may not be possible to fix this but going in like a bull in a china shop wouldn’t help. Stepping off to head inside he told himself, here we go. Jim stepped inside the building and was about to go and find Art Ferguson but suddenly stopped himself. He was standing just inside the doorway from the parking lot.

    Jim was angry, angrier than he had been in a long time. He realized that if he was going to have any success saving his men’s jobs that he was going to have to be calm, a whole lot calmer than he was right now. His temper was something he lost control of only on rare occasions preferring to talk his way through something which is exactly what he needed to do this time. Need to come up with an angle, someway to work this to his favor. Ferguson was an idiot but he knew numbers and procedures so if there was a way to... he half smiled thinking that wasn’t such an unpleasant thought for dealing with Ferguson. Taking a couple of deep breaths he started off down the hallway heading for the administrative area.

    As he walked Jim saw several other employees he knew, all of whom seem to go out of their way to avoid saying anything to him. So, the word was out, okay fine let’s see how this plays out. A plan was solidifying in his mind as he moved deeper into the building. Jim passed through the customer service section, finance, planning and then arrived at the entrance to the senior administrator’s offices. Jim too had his own office, but it was located in a corner of one of the large maintenance bays on the back side of the building. That suited him just fine it meant that he rarely had high ranking visitors coming by. His office held a desk, a drafting table for reviewing blueprints, two metal bookcases and a file cabinet - a working man’s office.

    Passing through the door into the senior administration area he was somewhat surprised to find that Art Ferguson was standing at the door to his office he seemed to be waiting for me. Good. The portly supervisor waved him on as soon as he saw him. Ferguson was trying to gain control of the situation right away just keep the high ground Jim reminded himself. Stepping into his office as Jim approached he stood just inside waiting to close the door. Jim stepped through the door and shook hands with Art, no sense being impolite. For some reason Jim was struck by the color of the carpet. He had been in the office many times and had never really paid attention. It was an off green that he didn’t much care for; in fact, it was damned ugly. What an odd time to notice that he thought. The rest of the office was nicely decorated, almost plush compared to his. The difference between an administrator and a worker.

    Art closed the door and asked Jim to have a seat. Settling in one of the two luxury seats arranged in front of the desk Jim waited until Art moved around the desk and sat down as well. Jim’s strategy was to wait until the other man got started on his justification and then to pick the plan apart item by item. He owed it to his men and to the customers of the company as well. This had to go smoothly, for all their sakes.
    Ferguson wasted no time, “I figured you’d be coming to see me this morning. First, Jim I want you to know that this wasn’t my idea, came from the Board of Directors, yours was not the only area being cut, finance, planning, even here in administration we are taking some hits. It’s something we are all going to have to live with.” One less person to sit around drinking coffee I guess. Jim nodded slowly bidding his time and doing his best to maintain his composure.

    “Look Jimmie,” The elder Hamilton had always hated that use of his name but said nothing. “It is simply a matter of economics, we have to cut some costs, we have a responsibility to our customers you know.” That was the opening Jim had been looking for.

    “Yes, we do.”

    Art suddenly seemed a bit unsure of himself: having his line crew supervisor agree with him in this was trouble. He didn’t know from where yet but it was coming, of that he was sure. The administrator leaned back slightly in his chair waiting for Jim to speak. He didn’t wait long.
    “It isn’t just our customers; we have an obligation to the people who provide the power as well. These are the folks that make what you and I oversee happen. They are the ones that generate the power, control it, deliver it and bill it. They, not us, are the power company but yet when things get tight why are they the first ones we jettison? Why, why would we cut our own throats by firing people who are guilty of nothing more than doing the jobs we hired them to do?” Jim paused for affect to allow Art a moment to think.

    Ferguson knew that this was going to be a hard sell. Jim had been with the company longer than him and had the respect of many who worked there. As manager of this particular branch of the power co-op they worked for Jim did in fact report to Art but never in a way that Art desired, especially given how other area managers did, those in finance and administration were yes men who all knew who buttered their bread, Art Ferguson. It wasn’t that way with Hamilton at all. Oh Jim wasn’t disrespectful or even antagonistic; he simply didn’t play the office politics game no matter how hard Art tried to get him to.

    Put off a bit by Jim’s question Art stumbled a bit then recovered smoothly. “Yes, I agree but let me ask you this, which is better, the sacrifice of a few or the loss of many? This is a real crisis the company is in, believe me.” Art knew he had to regain control of the conversation. Waiting for this exact question Jim never hesitated with his reply, “I do believe you Art, I honestly do, but what if in place of this plan we try something different? After all the goal is saving the company money isn’t it?”

    Art nodded as a way of agreeing to the question but said nothing. Jim pressed on before his boss could try and sidetrack the conversation. “There are at least seven people in the company over or very near their retirement including two of my guys.” Jim wanted to make sure that Art saw that he wasn’t just trying to protect just his own territory. “Why not instead of releasing some of our younger workers if we offered the rest retirement provided they are within say, six months of eligibility? This way we are cutting positions and still maintaining our ability to service the customers.”

    Not prepared to have the cost cutting plan tossed aside Art took a different tack in an attempt to look like the bigger man, “Okay, let’s say I am not opposed to that but that still wouldn’t be enough savings to make it a long term plan. There would have to be something else.” He noticed that Jim was smiling as he talked which caused some concern, now what was he up to? Art never once assumed that the man sitting before him was his equal at bargaining and he was right, Jim was better.

    Jim had nailed that one too, “Cut the work week for the remaining staff by one day a week. A 32 hour work week with staggered staffing so no one section would be left without someone to be there everyday. We still do all the things we have to, but the company saves a ton of money I would bet you, with your ability to be persuasive could take that to the Board and get them to listen. Call it innovative even. You would be a hero, keeping work quotas up but saving them big bucks.” Jim leaned back and watched as the suddenly well satisfied supervisor was basking in the prospect of improving his standing with Board of Directors. Art Ferguson had always been a paper pusher starting with his first job after college and knew the ins and outs of how to package information to make himself look better and was comfortable with playing the politics game.

    Jim also did in fact know how to play the game he just did it in a way that was a whole lot smoother than others realized. Usually he had them and they never even knew that they had been had. After a few moments Art asked his subordinate how to best implement “his” new plan, Jim was only too happy to tell him and soon the two were deep in conversation.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:16 PM.

  5. #5

    Withdrawal Chapter 4

    Chapter 4

    The four Hamilton’s arrived at the Costco parking lot amid light traffic. The large retail store was about an hours drive from the farm, but it was pleasant outside with a mild breeze. They had left the house early to be there when the large warehouse style store opened. Doing this they hoped to try and beat some of the crowd that was often present on Saturday morning’s. After the events of the week including the long meeting with his boss the day before, Jim was ready, even anxious, to spend some time doing something productive. Doing something with his family and something productive was to him, the best of both worlds.

    Jim made sure to find two parking spots next to each other, which wasn’t hard given that barely a quarter of the lot was being used. He wanted to make it easier to unload the groceries into the vehicles once they were done shopping. Seeing an entire section of open spots in the single row nearest the road, he quickly whipped his truck into one, which caused his daughter Linda who was riding with him to lurch to one side as the truck turned sharply. He smoothly braked as he straightened out the wheels bringing the truck to a halt.

    She looked to her father with a wry grin on her face as Jim put the Chevy into park, “Thanks Dad, haven’t had whiplash in awhile.” He merely smiled and shrugged while turning the truck off. Michelle, who had been following her husband, pulled in next to them at a much more sedate speed. Father and daughter released themselves from their seat belts and exited the vehicle. With both cars nosed in to their respective spaces it would make unloading the carts faster.

    The four of them gathered briefly at the rear of the truck, making sure everyone had their assorted possessions. Purse, keys, list etc were all quickly checked and the quartet of soon-to-be shoppers set out for the doors. In addition the elder Hamilton was armed with his .45 caliber pistol in a belt holster covered by a light jacket which he kept partially zipped to conceal the weapon. With the amount of cash on him he was taking no chances. Jim always had this annoying habit of parking “way the hell out in the back forty” as Michelle called it, no matter how many other cars were in the lot. His reply was always the same, “easier to get out that way.” This was no exception. They passed numerous empty spaces as they walked toward the storefront. Michelle merely looked over at her husband who studiously ignored the obvious attempt to once again point out something he was doing that annoyed her. She just shook her head and continued on.

    As they neared the entrance, Jim told the kids to each get a cart. He then quickly amended his directions; get one regular cart and one of the flatbed push carts. Bobby released the cart he had already taken, moved over to where the long orange carts were waiting to be used. Jim knew that they were there to do some serious shopping, serious enough to want something bigger to haul their bounty away than a regular cart. The duo gathered up the desired transports and rejoined their parents at the entrance.

    The Hamilton’s had at least three months worth of food and dry goods at the house now but Jim felt that was not nearly enough especially with all the storage space available now. Two months of foodstuffs would have filled the pantry at their old house in town to near bursting but now it barely filled just the cupboards at the farm. Toss in the large shelves they had constructed in the basement and had added out in the Supply Room in the barn and he knew that they had a ways to go. Who cares…they had the money to do this and by God they were going to. Bless the Holski’s he silently noted. Selling that land could be one of the best things we ever did. It certainly seemed to be so far. The perceived feeling of weight that the roll of cash in his pocket gave him was tangible, the money was real.

    Shopping had always been something Jim enjoyed; he liked these trips to Costco in particular. The ability to buy brand name quality in bulk at a reasonable price agreed with him. Jim didn’t do much for the age-old image of males that detested being anywhere near, much less in a store. It got even funnier because Michelle didn’t like to shop. Oh, she would do it, but it wasn’t a great pleasure to her at all. It was simply something that you had to do from time to time. She had never really understood the female fascination with shopping just to shop.
    Showing one of their membership cards to the store associate the family passed through the large roll up door and went inside. Michelle had the shopping list that they had written out, then transcribed into the computer and printed out. The front of the page held two full columns of products and desired quantities while the back was almost another full column. Every member of the Hamilton household had contributed to the shopping list. Linda had been dragged into the pantry with her mother and forced to write down the majority of what they wanted to purchase. Michelle had entered the list into the computer with Jim throwing in his two cents worth, often. Bobby hadn’t escaped some of the work either. He had been tasked with moving all their camping gear and some of the boxed household goods from the home then out to the barn to make room for the upcoming purchases.

    Moving deeper into the large building, they passed the electronics goods the Hamilton’s weren’t there to purchase televisions, stereos or anything like that. They headed straight across the store to where the food was. Moving through the aisles, they saw that there was a decent number of other shoppers present. Since they didn’t see anyone they knew, not a great shock given the distance from the house, they pressed on without interruption. Despite the slow down in over-the-road shipping due to high fuel prices the store appeared adequately stocked. Certainly not to the levels that they’d been accustomed to in the past but more than sufficient for their immediate needs which was just fine. Jim quietly noted that the storage racks along the walls were much emptier than he had ever seen them especially in the electronics area since much of it was made overseas. Good thing we are getting in here now he thought. Who knows what next week or next month might bring. That thought troubled him and he pushed it off as best he could but it didn’t move that far off, it’s a thought that hadn’t been all that far off his mind lately.

    They started off in the canned food section, each of the kids pushing a cart Bobby with the large flatbed. Michelle had grouped the items on the list by type, veggies with veggies, meat with meat and so on. This made it much easier to locate what she was looking for as item after item went either into or onto a cart. One by one, the goods were crossed off the list with a medium point black Sharpie marker that Michelle had brought along for just that purpose.

    She and Jim had tried to figure out how many of each item to buy ahead of time and next to each entry there was a number to indicate quantity. Eight pack of canned Green beans – 9, eight pack of Peas – 6, etc. Since receiving the down payment for the land they had sold to the Holski’s, they had the previously unknown luxury of being able to buy almost as much as they wanted. Given the large amount of storage space now available them with the completion of the storage area in the barn, they had decided to go moderately crazy with the shopping this trip. Jim had nearly three thousand dollars in cash on him. Neither he nor Michelle wanted to write a check for this purchase and using a credit card was out of the question. After paying off the remainder of their second mortgage with the money from the sale of the house in town, they had paid off their credit cards and had gotten rid of all but one of them. That one was to be used in emergencies and only for high dollar auto repairs or something similar. In fact, to keep them from using it the card was locked in one of the safes at home.

    They had decided that they would keep the balance in their checking account to a minimum and their overall on-hand cash reserve as high as possible. The couple had come to the decision that if they couldn’t pay for a good or service in full, then they would do without it unless it was a major emergency. They had put themselves in credit card hell once, never again was the mutually agreed on decision. After receiving the down payment money from the Holski’s for the land, they had paid off what few small bills they had outstanding. This amounted to some dental bills and some lay away items that Michelle had gotten for the house. The rest of the money had been withdrawn from the bank a few hundred at a time usually via an ATM, no sense alerting anyone paying attention that they had a large amount of cash. The money was divided up and then locked up in the two gun safes. Both Jim and Michelle knew it would take more than one trip to Costco to buy all the things they wanted. How many trips they weren’t sure but it would be more than one, of that they were certain. They had already planned another trip for the following weekend as well. They had the means to better prepare and they were using it.

    “How many peanut butters mom?” Bobby had maneuvered the long cart off to the side of aisle to allow room for other shoppers. His mother quickly scanned her list to locate the requested information. Where was - oh, there it was, “Three, no, make it four” taking a twin-pack of creamy style in each hand, the youth placed them in the cart that Linda had conveniently pulled up near him. Depositing the first two, he repeated the movement, this time grabbing two of the crunchy variety. Jim had moved farther down the aisle and had grabbed several of the large five pound squeeze jars of honey. Tucking two of them against his body with one arm he carried a third to where Linda was and put them in the cart. He knew that honey could be used in place of sugar in many ways, so having some was always a good idea. Besides, they all like honey…Jim had even heard, maybe it was on the Health Channel, that honey had some healing properties? He would have to look that up on the internet later.

    Michelle stroked the paper with her marker twice more, removing the now secured foodstuff from her list. Let’s see, what else. She pointed down the aisle to get the group moving again. The mini convoy started off again. The shopping continued for another two aisles when Jim realized that they would need another cart. He debated getting a cart or a flatbed then decided that a flatbed would be better. Turning to his wife he told her, “Keep going, I’m gonna go get us ‘nother cart. I’ll catch up with you, so keep going.” Deeply involved with marking on her list she merely nodded. With that, he spun around and headed toward the doors to retrieve the cart. He detoured around several other shoppers in the aisle before reaching the larger front to back aisle.

    Maneuvering his way around a vendor providing samples of something he walked toward the door. As he went Jim replayed the lengthy conversation he’d had with Art Ferguson the previous day and was truly grateful that he didn’t have to deal with that pompous ass today as well. Five days a week was about four and half too many. It still angered him that he hadn’t been able to keep all his guys on, but he knew that he had honestly done all he could. Didn’t mean he had to be happy about it. Screw it, I’m off today. He had even left his pager at home on purpose. Today, at least, the company would have to do without him. He passed a number of folks that were heading deeper into the store. Not as many shoppers as he would have expected given the time of day. Some folks simply didn’t have the means to buy groceries or other goods as often these days.

    As the other Hamilton’s were rounding the corner from one aisle to the next, Michelle noticed something along the outer wall that she knew right away wasn’t on the list. Near the section that held the paper plates were large boxes of assorted plastic cutlery. She immediately realized how handy having those could be. Picnics or whatever, something she could use and not have to wash. Besides, they had the money so the decision was easy. ‘Boy, talked myself into that one easy enough’ she told herself. Excusing herself, Michelle stepped around an older couple looking at plastic cups. She grabbed the first of two boxes of mixed sets of tableware. Bobby had been forced to jerk the cart to a stop, no easy task with all the weight on it, when another shopper darted in front of him. The woman never even looked at him as she continued down the aisle lost in her own little world. Bobby thought to himself about how he hoped she didn’t drive that way too. Michelle called to him and before he could figure out what was going on, a box of plastic forks and stuff was sailing through the air at him. Startled, he barely had time to collect the container out of the air before it would have hit him. ‘Okay, that woke me up.’ he thought as he stacked the container on top of some of the flats of canned vegetables. His mother smiled as she walked over and deposited the other one next to the first. He gave her a withering look that failed to impress.

    “Do we want paper plates, Mom?” Nodding her assent, he went over and grabbed the tops of three sleeves of plates. Linda returned from a little ways up the aisle where she had gotten several twelve packs of canned mushroom pieces then loaded them on the flatbed. She was currently hard at work on loading up a variety of canned fruits. Michelle continued to slash over the gathered items as they were called out but was falling behind.

    “Slow down guys, your old mom can’t keep up.”

    Seeing an opportunity, Bobby turned to look at his sister, “Gee sis, I guess we should slow down, after all, don’t want to overtax dear OLD mom here.” A cheesy grin split his face. Linda picked up the banter as well. “Yeah, after all, we were taught to respect senior citizens.” The two siblings had won that round and they knew it. Michelle knew she had been had. “Okay you two turkeys, keep it up, just keep it up…” She shook her fist at the two in mock warning of dire consequences. The three of them laughed as they continued down the aisle.

    Jim stopped at the door to tell the associate positioned there that he was getting another cart. The young woman smiled and told him it was no problem. He thanked her and went outside. Jim saw that there were still four of the flatbed carts remaining so getting one was no issue. He secured one and being careful not to strike anyone, pulled it back and slowly spun it around. Once he had it aimed at the door, he stepped off with the cart before him. The front wheel was a bit loose, why, he asked, did he always seem to get one with a loose wheel? The clicking of the wheel as it vibrated was a sound Jim hated but getting another one was now out of the question. As he looked the remaining flatbed carts were all collected by newly arriving shoppers. Wow, that was fast.

    Clearing the doorway with a nod, he tried to guess where the rest of them would be by now… Let’s see, aisle twenty one, no, let’s try twenty three. He noticed that the checkouts were busy but not overly so, good, getting outta here shouldn’t be too big a hassle. He passed two vendors offering samples of various products without even slowing. The pizza did smell good though he thought as he tried to ignore the noisy wheel. Maybe stop and grab a Polish dog or two from the snack bar before we leave. Jim had a real weakness for hot dogs of any type; he would eat them twice a day if he could. The search for his family continued as he weaved his way down one of the wide passages.

    Turns out, he missed his guess by one aisle, the rest of his family was at aisle twenty two, but he felt he should get at least half credit since they were just turning into twenty three when he caught up with them. Jim was pleased to see the amount of goods selected so far. One lesson that he had learned from his grandparents and parents both, you can never have too many groceries. His grandparents, having lived through the Great Depression, had made that statement many times. Many of the most important lessons he had learned regarding self-reliance he had learned from them Jim still missed them.

    The family shopping trip continued for another forty five minutes. Among the numerous items secured were detergent, both dish and laundry, five large packages of toilet paper, frozen entrees, meat and fresh vegetables. More and more went on or in the carts until moving the flatbed was difficult. Jim and Michelle looked over the heaping carts and asked, “Ready to go?” Bobby and Linda immediately nodded. This was supposed to a shopping trip, not a bodybuilding workout…sheesh. Neither of the younger ones said anything; it wouldn’t do any good plus they were coming back next weekend too! The thought of loading this stuff in the cars, unloading at home and then putting it away! So much for a nice easy day off from school, weekend yeah right.

    The four slowly made their way toward the checkouts. Since they had arrived, the volume of shoppers had picked up some so it was slow going toward the front of the store. They did get some strange looks as people realized that all three carts belonged to them. One woman had a look of pure disdain. Gluttony, thought the woman who habitually shopped at least three times a week because she never had more than three or four days worth of food in her apartment. Michelle ignored the looks; she had a family to take care of. If other people didn’t have the means to buy as much as them or didn’t want to that wasn’t her fault. She wasn’t going to apologize for being responsible.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:18 PM.

  6. #6

    Withdrawal Chapter 5

    Chapter 5

    Times had been hard during the course of the last year or so, ever since that meeting with Art Ferguson. That seemed to be the event Jim remembered as kicking off the bad news. God, had it really only been eight months since then? How could that be? Too much work and too little hope can make time blur. He shook his head to try and clear it returning his attention to the television which was now showing scenes from Seattle, smoke and tear gas drifted across the scene as large crowds ran. Jim simply couldn’t make himself believe what he was seeing as he watched the latest news reports.

    It was nearly noon and the situation throughout the nation had gotten much worse since yesterday. Incidents of violence had grown dramatically in number all across the country, in some areas there were virtually no communications which made gathering information nearly impossible. The news reports, the ones that were on, were grim. Jim and the rest of his family were all gathered around the living room watching the scenes of civil unrest. This time it wasn’t Kosovo, Iraq or Israel. It was Los Angeles, Houston and Memphis. The violence showed no signs of burning itself out, if anything it was gaining strength.

    One incident seemed to sum up the events taking place all over. The previous day, a large crowd in Albany, New York angry over the inability of the state government to provide meaningful assistance tried to storm the state capital building. What they intended to do once inside was never clear. The result was that the outnumbered security forces opened fire as the crowd swept toward them. National Guard troops and State Police assigned to the security duty at the capitol building later reported that they came under fire first. The devastation they unleashed was incredible.

    Surprisingly the encounter was not caught on video tape by any news agency. With so many disturbances of all type occurring all over the place the news crews were too short handed to try and cover every gathering. The team assigned to the state capital had been dispatched but hadn’t arrived yet so no professional video evidence could be found to either support or deny the claims of the soldiers and troopers. What video tape evidence there was, gathered from some home video recordings, security cameras and cell phones wasn’t able to provide definitive answers either which only served to fuel the discord across the nation.

    The scene the Albany news crew found when they did get there was one of total carnage, fifty two members of the mob were killed outright and nearly another one hundred and fifty were injured. Thirteen guardsmen and one trooper were killed as well and nearly every one of them injured in some way. Bodies were strewn across the grass, sidewalks and in the streets. Pitiful wails of pain, anger and grief were masked by the mass arrival of emergency workers rushing to aid those gunned down. More had died waiting for help and even once they got to the hospital due to the lack of personnel and supplies. The death toll at last count had been eighty-three and the number of wounded continued to climb as well.

    As word of what happened in Albany spread across the country, outbreaks akin to what happened after the Rodney King trials of the 1990’s started flaring up. It was like the starting pistol at a race being fired. At first it was the major cities as it usually was; Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York City and others but the inferno spread beyond them with terrifying speed. Mid size and even smaller cities and some towns normally immune to it felt the terror of mob action as an agitated and frustrated population began to vent their anger on whomever or whatever was close by. Others merely used it as an excuse to create chaos or try and settle old scores. The reasons for the anger no longer mattered, arson, theft, murder were all inflicted with reckless passion. Thinly stretched law enforcement and security forces were often forced to fight for their lives. The major news sources were carrying word of what was happening, the graphic even raw pictures told the story better than a panel of writers ever could.

    During the previous weeks the Hamilton’s had watched as the situation in the country had spiraled sharply downward. Fuel costs had kept rising, forcing many of the remaining independent truckers to finally give up trying to make a living. Many simply pulled over and left their rigs or headed home and parked, it was just too costly to run. This in turn caused another damaging ripple effect throughout the economy which was already reeling. Deliveries were late or just didn’t occur; spare parts sat on loading docks, raw materials didn’t reach refineries or factories which forced them to lay off even more workers or to shut down since they couldn’t operate. Unemployment, which had already been at levels above that of the Great Depression soared even higher throughout the nation; food, fuel, and medicine were in short supply in many areas and in very short supply in the others. The larger trucking companies had been forced to repeatedly increase their rates to try and offset the fuel costs and to be able to pay their drivers something approaching a decent wage and buy fuel but still had to lay off some workers. The unions were screaming but in the end they acknowledged that having some of their members working was better than none of them which was the alternative. The benefits paid to those out of work didn’t even begin to approach the money needed to survive in the current economy.
    High value cargo began to disappear out of trucks at an increasing pace; sometimes the whole truck disappeared too as some drivers made deals on their own trying to survive. The pilot car business, once used to merely lead or follow oversize trucks to provide other drivers warning found themselves reborn as some of them merged with security companies. The security personnel, working for either the shipper or receiver served a dual purpose, keep the driver honest and prevent hijackings. Heavily armed guards followed the trucks and often rode in the cabs as well. These tactics worked but only where the cargo was valuable enough to warrant the cost.

    The higher rates being charged caused some smaller business to balk at paying the increasing fees; it simply wasn’t cost effective to ship their products at those prices. Tens of thousands were added to the rolls of the unemployed daily which at first the media reported but after a short time as the condition continued they stopped talked about it. Since much of the economy of the United States was service related businesses it was many of these businesses, fast food, movie rentals, and more that felt the brunt of lack of customers. Most of the businesses that closed never reopened their doors. Mortgage foreclosures were running at a record pace with no end in sight. Numerous clashes occurred between bank officials and residents when the officials tried to evict the now former tenants. Some banks quite trying to evict those who defaulted, it was getting too many of their people killed or injured. One bank official told his board of directors it made no sense to try since there was no one could buy a house anyways.

    Some enterprising folks were able to find work by offering security services to those who could afford it. Some gated communities took in a few personnel offering armed protective services. Pay was often bartered, protection for food and shelter. Many of the walled in housing areas took on the look of medieval fortresses. Gates chained shut, heavily armed guards everywhere, bushes and trees hurriedly cut down around the outside of the property for both firewood and to provide a clear firing zone. Living like this had an unusual affect on virtually all of the residents of these communities. It forced them to get to know their own neighbors. Unlike in decades past where you knew everyone around your house for some distance, modern sub-divisions often subtly discouraged that by how the properties were laid out. People bought houses in neighborhoods based on price rather than on the quality of the people around them. That was all changing now. It was work together or hang separately, it didn’t mean that folks had to like each other but they did have to work together in order to survive. Gardens sprang up all over as people tried to eke out a living as best they could. What were once well manicured, prize lawns were torn up to make room for potatoes and onions.

    People stopped going out as much as possible. There wasn’t that many places left to go anyways, most stores were closed, movie theaters, the ones that were open ran the same movies over and over since they couldn’t get new movies delivered. Some of the most popular places were the public libraries all over the country. Since getting a library card usually cost nothing reading as a way to pass the time gained an enormous following. An entire generation of Internet users suddenly found themselves rediscovering the power of the non digital word. Live impromptu outdoor theaters sprang up in numerous places across the country. The actors took in whatever folks wanted to pay to attend, canned goods, books, eggs, clothes were just some of what was offered as currency.

    The shortages coupled with the rampant unemployment forced many to seek assistance from a variety of government and social agencies which were all quickly overwhelmed by the immense volume of applicants. Resources for assistance dried up, food banks closed their doors since many were dependant upon donations to stay operating. Food prices had risen along with fuel, the one two punch to the economy was deadly. The national rate for suicides approached levels what some in the medical community called “epidemic proportions.” Homelessness was a huge problem as whole families were often without shelter. Many families took to doubling up in one home, parents taking in their adult children and grandchildren or the reverse, pooling all their financial resources to try and get by.

    Jim had stayed home from work today despite the fact that there were scattered power outages throughout the region, not that it was that unusual anymore. There simply weren’t enough people to maintain the entire grid and provide power to the masses. Being home and safe made more sense the week before someone had taken a couple of shots at one of his line crews who smartly left the area as fast as they could. Calls to the local police proved to be pointless, no one saw who did it so a report was eventually taken but that was extent of it. Law enforcement resources were stretched well beyond normal for anything more substantive.

    A growing number of employees at the power company had been absent the previous week so Jim figured that one more wouldn’t make that much difference. He was gathered around the television with his family as they had been for the entire morning. Jim hadn’t bothered calling in and no one from work had called him. The mood in the Hamilton house was grim as more pictures of chaos paraded across their television screen. Harried government officials from mayors and city councils up through the President were making appearances on the television appealing for calm and order to little avail. A number of state governors had already issued orders to call out their entire states National Guard to help try and deal with the crisis, Jim was uncertain if that would be enough. Some several dozen members of Congress were actively discussing repealing the Posse Commitatus Act to allow the military to be used to help quell the violence.

    The live coverage was from a wide number of locations, much of the information was incomplete and the reports jumbled together, there were unsubstantiated reports that Martial Law would soon be ordered in an additional number of cities and towns but nothing official on it yet, most of the larger cities already had curfews in place. There was simply too much going on for anyone to try and report it accurately; all of them were shocked by what they were seeing, rioting, power outages, looting and more. The country was in deep trouble and it was getting worse.
    The phone rang which startled everyone in the room; Michelle jumped an inch or so off her seat due to the surprise. They had all been so engrossed in watching the television that the noise of something different was completely unexpected. The sound of the phone broke the tension of the moment. Jim walked over to where the phone was hung on the wall to answer it. He looked at the caller ID both surprised and pleased to see who it was, he thumbed the Talk button, “Are you guys all right?” he quickly asked, the voice of Josh Mitchell could be heard on the other end. The Mitchell’s lived in a condominium about twenty miles from the farm. The two families had met at church and had been friends for about two years.

    “Jim, how are things out there? So far we’re fine here but I don’t know for how long…”

    He could hear the worry in his friend’s voice; Jim asked if there was anything going on near them. Josh replied that he had been outside earlier and at that time all he had seen was some people in groups walking around, wandering the streets. He stated that he thought that some of them were not from around the neighborhood. Josh explained that they looked like inner city dwellers judging by their clothes and cars. Jim again offered Josh and Lorraine a place to stay at the farm but was turned down with thanks. The two men talked for several minutes more and then ended the call with a promise to keep in touch. Jim warned his friend to keep his head down. Josh said they would and broke the connection.

    Michelle went over to her husband who was hanging up the phone and asked him what he was thinking. “I don’t know exactly.” During the preceding months they had been increasing their stock of food and fuel as often as they could. The couple had closed out their savings account five months earlier adding the cash to what they had on hand. This had proved to be a wise decision since many businesses, the ones that were still open, were no longer taking checks or credit cards. That little fact was something that a number of their fellow citizens found out to their dismay having little to no cash on hand. With the high inflation cash didn’t go as far as it once did but it was still something. Credit cards were anything but helpful since a number of credit cards companies would no longer honor their own cards due to lack of financial holdings.

    Adding to their various stocks of food, fuel and household items hadn’t been easy, there was less and less to purchase. Gasoline when it was available was well over nineteen dollars a gallon and usually limited to ten gallons per person. Those stations that were open often had heavily armed guards present to prevent any kind of incident. Crime in the areas immediately around those stations went down dramatically nothing like a big guy with a fully loaded shotgun to help keep a little order.

    Stores had meager selections but still there were some things that the Hamilton’s bought and added to what they had on hand. Food as they could but they also felt that hardware was a necessity as well. Lumber, PVC and copper piping, nails, assorted nuts and bolts as well as different sizes of angle and channel steel which Jim envisioned using for various projects around the farm. It had seemed strange to him to be buying hardware supplies when so many didn’t have food but he was trying to hedge his bets. The more he had on hand the better his options were. Jim could see the writing on the wall and didn’t like what he was reading.

    If something major did occur, and it sure looked like it was, he wanted the farm to be as self-sufficient as possible. To do that meant having spare parts and the material to fix equipment on hand. They had a decent amount of similar supplies on hand but the chance to increase their stocks was worth the time and effort. He and Michelle had discussed it and agreed that it was likely that they would have to try and survive long term without any means of resupply.

    Everyone in the family found their life being thrown out of kilter. The local school district, like many across the country had elected to close the school year early in order to save money since graduation had only been a month off. This meant Michelle had been off work for about three weeks now and Jim’s checks had been their only regular income but being so short handed he had been working a great deal of overtime. The money went a lot farther for them than it would have had they still been in town and trying to pay off their mortgage. Bobby and Linda had been trying to find some kind of part time work but the search had been fruitless. With so many out of work there were literally dozens, if not hundreds of people putting in for whatever job did open up when they infrequently did.

    The kids had spent a good portion of their time doing things around the farm to help out as they could. Jim often left them a list of projects to do while he was at work. The garden had been the recipient of much of their efforts and was doing well. Their mother had decided to expand the planting she had done earlier in the year. It may be a good thing to have a larger harvest this year she explained. The staggered time between plantings would mean that there would be crops to harvest at different times so it would further stretch their food. Nearly the entire cleared area of the garden now contained some type of foodstuff. Beans, tomatoes, some corn and a few watermelons were just a portion of what she planted. The couple had a large stock of canning supplies on hand which Michelle anticipated putting to good use at some point. She had smartly been buying additional jars, lids and other canning items as they could find them but it was now nearly impossible.

    Michelle looked at the face of her husband and then hugged him tightly. She was scared by what she had seen on the news, she and Jim had long felt that something bad was going to happen and it was. They had not given much thought over the years to exactly what it was they were preparing for. Sure, the usual suspects like nuclear war were present, the rise in terrorism around the world but an economic depression of this scale hadn’t figured into the equation. The economy might recover but even if it did things wouldn’t be the same; that much was pretty evident. Too many businesses had closed their doors for the last time.

    Bobby stood looking at his parents embrace knowing that he too was scared by what he was seeing going on around the country but at least he was here, safe for the moment with his family. He wondered about his friends and especially his girlfriend Karen Hunter. Bobby had not been able to get in touch with her for two days now she lived in town with her family. He really hoped that she was all right. Jim held Michelle and for just a second smelled the strawberry scent of her shampoo. He breathed it in deeply to make the sensation last just a moment longer. Jim released his wife from the embrace but held on to one hand.

    They headed to the combination den / office the couple had turned one of the ground floor rooms into. Once inside the former bedroom which now held a desk, their computer, a file cabinet and several bookcases Jim dialed in the combination for the large gun safe sitting in one corner and turned the heavy handle to release the locking pins. Swinging the weighty door open and out of the way he bent down to retrieve a few of the items. He pulled out his trusty Colt forty-five pistol and then withdrew her Taurus nine millimeter. He liked the feel of a good pistol in each hand.

    Jim had tried to persuade Michelle to get a pistol chambered in the larger forty-five caliber but she had refused. She told him that the recoil was more than what she could comfortably handle even in a small frame pistol. Besides she added, she could carry more ammunition than he could due to the smaller caliber. Well, he had tried so two different calibers it was. Each of the two pistols were stored with a loaded magazine in them but without a round chambered which made them safer to handle. He put the pistols on top of the safe and retrieved the respective holsters from one of the shelves inside. A selection of rifles and shotguns were present as well. Jim eyed them but decided for now to wait. Let’s not go crazy he told himself. The other two shelves held spare magazines, boxes of ammunition for each weapon and a large envelope containing about half of their on hand cash. The remainder of their cash was locked in their other safe. It was a smaller version of this model, located in the basement. In addition to the cash it held the rest of their ready to use ammunition. The couple had several thousand rounds of each of the different calibers on hand with the ability to reload many more using Jim’s reloading equipment in the basement.

    Jim dropped the magazine from each pistol the worked the action of the slide and looked each weapon over carefully but quickly. He always kept the weapons clean and in the best possible condition mechanically. Satisfied with their appearance he inserted the magazine and pulled the slide to rear and released it to seat a round in the chamber then flipped the safety on. He then handed his wife her pistol, the holster and a spare magazine. She normally carried the dependable Brazilian made semi-automatic in her fanny pack which she knew was currently sitting on the kitchen counter with her keys.

    After handing Michelle her pistol he repeated the action with his .45 and stuck the holster in his belt, he had long favored a paddle style rig. He felt it was quicker to be able to grab and go without having to thread it through the belt. Jim was not partial to shoulder holsters because he didn’t like the way the weight rode across his shoulders. Just in case he slid a spare loaded magazine for his Colt into the rear pocket of his jeans. Swinging the safe door shut Jim worked the lever then spun the dial to make sure the storage unit was secure. Walking back out to the living room and calling the kids over the worried man looked at his family, glad that they were safe, at least for now. The kids noticed the weapons but said nothing they appeared anxious but were quiet. Jim knew that he had to say something, it was his job, and he was the husband, father. Here goes…

    “Ok, we’re gonna do a couple things here at the house. I know what’s going on is scary, hell it scares me so let’s all just try and stay calm. We’re together and that means a whole lot.” Taking a deep breath in and letting part of it out he continued. “Linda I want you to do a complete inventory of what food we have in the kitchen and pantry up here, a written list, ok?” Looking over at his son “I want you to do the same thing but with the storage room out in the barn.” Bobby looked less than thrilled at the assignment but said nothing. “Honey,” and before he could continue Michelle interjected, “I know, the basement.”

    “Ok, good that covers the food and stuff. I’m going to check all the fuel then what we have out in the shop. Since I’ll probably be done before anyone else I’ll help Bobby when I’m finished…any questions?” There were a few points Linda wanted clarified but it was quickly handled so the four split up and headed out to begin their assigned tasks. It took several minutes from them to find three pads or parts of one so that each of them had something to write on. Linda got started first as her assigned location was the closest. The farmhouse had a good size kitchen with a number of cabinets; the kitchen also had an adjoining pantry which was floor to ceiling shelving since her grandparents had always kept a substantial amount of goods on hand. She decided to start in the pantry since it was easier to see what was there than in the cabinets of the kitchen. Either way it was going to take some time.

    Michelle headed downstairs after flipping the light switch at the top of the stairs. She knew that they should be in good shape food wise since they had been adding constantly over the last few months but Jim was right. They did need to know exactly what they had on hand in order to be better organized. Ruefully she thought that it would have made more sense to have done an inventory as they went along and then just updated it but that didn’t help them now. Why hadn’t she done that? No worthwhile answer jumped up and presented itself.
    Once at the bottom of the stairs she looked around the well lit enclosure mentally taking stock of what was down there already. The wall to her immediate left was a set of sturdy metal shelves that contained the batteries connected to the solar panels and windmill. In front of her and stretching away to her right were the shelves that they and their friends had built during the renovation work on the house.

    The far set of shelves consisted of four levels and extended for twenty two feet along the wall. The shelves had been built with convenience in mind. The top shelf was only five feet off the ground and the lowest one had been spaced so the buckets they used for bulk storage could be easily moved in and out. The lowest shelf was up off the floor by several inches to better insulate the containers from the concrete floor. Also if by chance the basement flooded the food was better protected. The remaining section was specifically designed for canned goods and was thirteen feet long.

    Michelle had asked for these shelves herself. She’d wanted a way to put a large amount of canned good in as small an area as possible. One of their friends had remembered an article on angled shelves for canned goods he had seen in a magazine. A quick internet search had produced a design that the group liked. Theses shelves like the ones for the bulk storage were over engineered. The four high shelves were thirty inches deep and constructed out of four by fours and similar heavy materials. No way these shelves weren’t going to hold whatever the Hamilton’s wanted to put on them.

    As she walked Michelle silently blessed the day that they had found out about Emergency Essentials out in Orem, Utah. It had been an Internet search for food containers that had led them to the website. Once there it was like turning kids loose in a candy store. The couple had bought a number of products from the firm; among them were a substantial number of five gallon food grade plastic buckets with Gamma lids which kept moisture and insects out. The lids spun on and off easily but were tight fitting when closed. Each bucket was clearly labeled with its contents and the date packed. The white plastic containers were lined up neatly all along the long bottom shelf. She decided to start her inventory at the far end of the room working her way back toward the stairs. Heading that way Michelle passed the wood stove that had once been upstairs in the living room when her in-laws lived here. Jim and others had brought it in from the barn where it had sat for years. He and the guys had cleaned it up and then manhandled it through the basement door from the outside instead of trying to get it down the stairs which made a hell of lot more sense. Once it was in they fabricated an insulated exhaust system which vented to the outside. A large pile of wood, nearly a full cord, was neatly stacked nearby, some additional shelving held assorted household items.

    The remaining wall was set aside for Jim’s reloading table which was several feet over from the heavy door leading outside. She glanced at the homemade wooden crossbar to make sure it was place across the door. Since the door was little used Jim had installed the additional security feature to go along with the deadbolt lock. Ok, let’s see what we have here, Michelle set the pistol, pad and pen on the reloading bench for a moment and then bent down to get a count of buckets of sugar. One, two, three….

    The men headed out to the barn, Jim knew that Bobby had a significant amount of work ahead of him because of the large amount of supplies but had no concerns that his son wouldn’t be able to handle it. Besides, he was going to help him once he got done in the shop area inventorying what supplies they had there anyways so it would be faster. Reaching out Jim touched his son on the shoulder and two stopped, he wanted to look around a bit before going inside. Cocking his head he listened intently for any sound out of the ordinary but heard nothing. The pair slowly and carefully looked around but saw nothing that didn’t belong, people, strange cars, smoke, nothing and that was fine with them. Living this distance from town he had a feeling that they had some time, did they have enough though? What was enough time? That question ate at him because he had no answer.

    Nodding his approval Jim motioned Bobby on. Arriving at the barn the two men unlocked the heavy padlock securing the door then went inside. Bobby reached out and flicked the light switch waiting a few seconds for the fluorescent bulbs to warm and then illuminate the interior. The discussion about replacing the numerous light fixtures in the barn with newer more energy efficient lights had taken place several times. It was a project that Jim fully intended to accomplish but hadn’t gotten to and now, well, it wasn’t that big a priority any more. Thank God his dad had kept a large stock of spare light tubes in one of the rooms of the barn so they would have some extras when the need arose. After the lights came on Bobby had gone down the hallway to where what they called The Supply Room was located. Jim told his son that he would join him as soon as he could. Bobby still seemed less than thrilled with his assignment but said nothing. What could he say? It was a job that needed doing and he was the lucky one. Well okay, not lucky but…

    Jim looked over the shop area, what was once two of the larger stalls used for various animals had been torn down, cleared out and a new cement floor poured. He and Bobby had built the two work benches present then installed the assorted power equipment that occupied them and remainder of the shop. One bench held a large vise and the other a dual wheel grinder. A free standing drill press, purchased as surplus from his job, a little worn out but the price was right, was in one corner. At the end of one of the benches was a large, table saw. Jim was proud of his shop area, it didn’t have everything that he wanted but it had quite a bit and they had added to that as much as they could during the past months.

    That had been one blessing in all the chaos of the time, there weren’t too many people trying to buy lumber, PVC tubing and other hardware products and the people who had it for sale were happy to get rid of it putting some money in their pockets. Jim had been a little ashamed at the time because he had been able to purchase a number of items for about a third of what it normally costs. People wanted some money in their hands and so waving some cash at them had convinced some to part with what they had and it had been added to what was already stored at the farm. Well, he rationalized if they had been better prepared then they wouldn’t have needed him to buy their products at such cutthroat rates. That realization eased his mind some, he was doing what his God given duty was, providing for his family as best he could.
    Assorted plastic storage bins affixed along one wall contained a wide array of screws, nuts, bolts, washers, and all manner of different hardware. He had also had added rolls of electrical tape, different sizes of electrical wire, connectors and more odds and ends as he saw fit. Michelle kidded him once that he was stocking a hardware store one purchase at a time. That Jim knew virtually everyone at the local Ace hardware by name was no great surprise, he was in there often enough and always with his customer rewards card handy to build up points toward discounts and freebies.

    continued...
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:20 PM.

  7. #7

    Withdrawal Chapter 5 continued

    Jim had been a frequent customer at the nearest Harbor Freight store after one of the guys he worked with told him about it. The low cost tool and specialty store was one of his favorite places to shop. Some of the first things he had purchased were the kits of items that could be used as spare parts, containers of cotter pins, springs, washers, roll pins and o-rings all finding their way to his shop. After moving to the farm he had made it a rule that anytime he had found the need to buy some type of hardware for the house, nuts or bolts or whatever he had bought extra of them as well. Heck if he needed them once he would probably need them again. That policy had saved him several trips to town for little bits of this or that. He would then replace the items in his stock with a quick stop after work to whatever store he needed when already in town.

    The shop area was clean and well organized, Jim was a bit anal retentive about his shop and had once soundly chewed Bobby out for leaving one of the benches a mess despite his son’s protests that he wasn’t finished with the project he was working on. Under the benches were shelves that held metal piping, PVC, copper tubing and bar stock in a wide range of sizes. Jim liked having a selection of different materials on hand. He had commented to Michelle many times, so many she often used the phrase as well, “better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

    Satisfied that all was in order, Jim turned and caught sight of the oxygen / acetylene cutting torch. Realizing that he had not checked it for some time he went over to take a look at the gauges. Each tank was one size smaller than the large cylinders now paired up to the long hoses and torch head. After cracking the valves he took a look, the gauges indicated that the tanks were approximately three quarters full, a good amount, and that both spare tanks were full. Satisfied he closed the valves making sure each was closed. The spare tank of each gas was chained to the wall for safety, having one or both tanks fall over could be catastrophic. He had seen that happen once, a full bottle of oxygen had fallen over and struck something hard enough to shear off the valve. The pressurized vessel shot across the shop like a missile, tearing through the corrugated material of the wall like it was tissue paper. They were all lucky no one had been injured. The bottle had ended its journey by burying itself in one of the company trucks which did the truck no good at all. The guy responsible had been fired for the grievous safety violation.

    Ok, he asked himself, what else? The welder, he turned while bending down some to take a look under the nearest bench. Two old milk crates were under there holding a selection of different size welding rods in PVC sleeves to keep them separate. Jim realized that they had at least three to four hundred welding rods which should take care of whatever projects they might have to deal with. Finished with the shop he caught sight of the pallet of concrete bags sitting near the rear of the barn. He had bought them on sale at Home Depot month’s earlier to set a new line of fence poles in but hadn’t gotten to them yet. Well he told himself he may have time now…Okay now onto the fuel. The farm had two exterior 200 hundred gallon tanks for gasoline. One was full the other, let’s see Jim thought, half? That doesn’t sound right. He went back outside to check.

    After getting to the room in question Bobby had unlocked then opened up the door and stepped partially inside. He reached over and flipped the light switch. The four overhead light assemblies being newer ones lit up right away dispelling the darkness of moments before. He stepped all the way into the room looking at the daunting task he had been given. Rows of canned goods, bags of vacuum sealed food, gleaming lines of glass canning jars and more all waiting just for him like silent soldiers lined up for inspection. Taking in a deep breath he slowly exhaled it and shook his head once. Oh well, here we go. He turned to his left moving over to where the first shelf was. Okay so how do I want to do this?

    After checking the fuel tanks and determining that one was in fact full Jim happily discovered that the second tank was nearly full as well so they were better off in that regards than he had believed. Satisfied with the information he went inside to help his son. Silently blessing the decision to remodel that area of the barn Jim reflected briefly on the work. Originally what they now called the Supply Room had been used as a feed storage area. Since the room had no windows and none of the walls touched the exterior walls of the barn the family had figured this room would be best for storing food since they could control the environment within it easier than any of the others. They had put in an entire day just tearing out the old wood walls, cleaning, sweeping, scrubbing and vacuuming what seemed to be miles of cobwebs out the ceiling rafters. It had not been one of the teen’s favorite days. By the time they were done he was hot, tired, wore out and even dirtier than the room had been.

    Once the walls were down then the floor had been given some special attention as time allowed. The floor was a solid slab of poured concrete and had been filthy. Jim borrowed a pressure washer from a friend at work and after a liberal application of high pressure hot water and soap it cleaned up, some. Further work involving stiff brushes and more soap was needed but once it was pressure washed again it had cleaned up well enough for their purpose. Bobby and Linda had been tasked with applying several coats of a latex based garage floor paint, the clean white surface would seal the concrete and the color would reflect the light from the ceiling brightening the room up considerably.

    Since the construction of the room had simply been boards nailed lengthwise across a series of studs Jim knew that one of the problems would be keeping the room free of insects and vermin. To combat this they had a professional exterminator come out and fumigate the entire barn, no small task given the size and age of the structure but they felt it was a necessary albeit painful expense. Since the structure was not well insulated the contractor insisted that the normal warranty would not apply to this time. He required Jim to sign a waiver before he would start. After waiting the required period for the fumes to dissipate they went back in and began replacing the now absent wooden walls with new boards on both sides of the studs after filling the intervening space with insulation and routing the new electrical wiring to provide the in room lighting along with a pair of outlets. Standard dry wall went over that which was carefully fit to reduce any spaces. More insulation was placed in the open space of the ceiling joists and then some light drywall put up to close off the formerly open rafters. Tape and mudding followed and then a couple of coats of a good moisture resistance paint.

    Finally, once all that was done then a series of shelves were built along the walls and one free standing set in the middle of the room to hold the foodstuffs and other items. The shelves had an interesting feature, all of them intended for canned goods were angled slightly so that as a can was removed the next one above it rolled down to take its place just like the ones in the basement. Other shelves were deliberately made to accommodate large Rubbermaid style tubs, several of which were used to hold the family’s camping gear. The rest held spare goods like soap, toothpaste, matches, candles and much more. The entire process of converting the room had taken several weeks since they couldn’t work on it non-stop due to school and jobs. Jim stepped inside the room asking Bobby what he had gotten done so far, both of them knew that counting the contents would take some time and it did.

    Hours later the four Hamilton’s were gathered in the dining room around the table looking at the results. They had all finished up their tasks; Linda had gone downstairs and helped her mother finish up after she was done in the kitchen. It had taken Jim and Bobby awhile out in the barn but near as they could figure they had it all written down. Going through the tubs had been the most time consuming task. Not many of the tubs contained food but some did and those were not marked accordingly so they had to open nearly all of them to get an accurate count. Jim vowed to himself to correct that oversight as soon as possible.

    The family then spent some time organizing the information that they had collected. The process had been somewhat disorganized due to input from all four of them. Some wanted it done by product while others wanted it broken down by food group; the point of views went back and forth. After some discussion it was decided to for now just list out how many of each item they had, then to break it down by food groups which would take longer but be easier to read and keep track of. Once agreed on that the tally went much quicker. Michelle wrote a master list from scratch as each item was read off. Linda had her list; Jim had the list from the basement and Bobby the one from the barn. A product was read off, canned peaches for instance then the three of them would check their list to see if the item was there and if it was then how much of it was written down. Michelle would then write down the product and then wait for the total and so on and so on.

    After getting through all the lists and checking the totals they worked out the math on what they had on hand. Despite the slow down in transportation the previous months there had still been scattered opportunities to purchase some food and other items even though it had at times meant driving quite a ways. Michelle had told Jim that they should buy while they could, if nothing happened great, they would simply have more on hand, and the money they spent out of savings could be replaced eventually. He had agreed so with cash in hand the family had gone shopping as they could trying hard to stock up on items with a good shelf life, canned veggies, soup concentrates, canned meats and more of the staples as well. Bags of rice, flour, sugar and salt were added to the buckets already containing the like substance.

    The cost of the food had been high and it had definitely dented their on hand stock of cash but at least they had food. The places that did have food and other items had always been crowded, noisy affairs. Rationing of food was another thing to get used to. Stores limited their customers to set dollar amounts which sometimes led to unrest. More than once the family had seen pushing, shoving and not a few fistfights as people tried to barter, beg or bargain for goods. Because they had cash they were careful to keep it out of sight and never flashed it around. There were way too many wolves out there looking for an easy score. Each trip Jim and Michelle had been armed neither had a Concealed Weapons Permit but that was the least of their worries. They had been lucky, no one had chosen to mess with them but it had come close a few times. After the fifth trip to one of the area stores the family decided it was no longer worth the risks so the shopping trips were discontinued. The level of groceries available was dwindling while the violence was escalating. “Ok, who wants to hear the total?’ Michelle looked around the table and the others all leaned in a little closer as if to hear better what was about to be said.

    “Near as I can figure, with what’s here not including anything that we can grow because we don’t know how long this could go on…we have about nineteen to twenty one months of food.” The others were surprised somewhat, Jim thought it should have been higher but both the kids felt that it was longer than what they had guessed. Linda had set her mind on fifteen months but Bobby, having done the barn supplies felt it was more like eighteen. So all of them including Michelle who had thought it was closer to sixteen or seventeen had been off.

    Jim asked right away, “Are you sure, I mean even with all we’d bought? Are you sure about that?” He held out his hand to ask for the pad she had been doing the math on. His wife passed over the pad and he began to run the figures in his head. After several minutes of review he had to admit that sure enough, her numbers made sense. He had been positive, to the point that he would have bet money on it that they had two years worth of stuff on hand. Oh yeah, saved myself ten bucks on that one.

    “Now remember we have the garden and it’s doing well, especially with all the work the kids have put into it.” Bobby and Linda looked at each other and then their mother, “So all that doesn’t count the garden, if the stores reopen, what we could trade for, you know, things like that” He was nodding slowly in agreement as she listed off their resupply options.

    “That’s true and I hadn’t thought of all of that, all right?” Looking around at the three faces he posed this question to them laying the papers on the table. “So what are we low on? I mean if we had to try and go the whole nineteen months with just what’s here, nothing coming in, what are we going to run out of first?” Finished with the question he leaned back in his chair to wait for the answer.

    Toilet paper was the unanimous answer. While they had a good amount, in fact they had large amounts of it but there was no way it was going to last two years. Something to think about, they talked about it for a little while tossing in other things that might be an issue like feminine hygiene products and to an extent clothing. It would wear out and replacement articles might be hard to come by. The discussion went on for about another half hour and was ended when Michelle announced that she needed to make dinner, Linda said that she would help if Bobby would set the table, she was smiling at her brother as she got up. Her brother took the easy way out and simply agreed. Jim had a small laugh and got up as well. “So honey, what we having?” and headed into the kitchen to get his answer before heading outside to check things over again. He was already wondering if it might be a good idea to stay up, maybe take turns so that for safety’s sake someone was up.

    After dinner, they gathered around the television again, and saw even more of the disorder than earlier in the day. Scattered reports of growing outbreaks of major unrest were coming out in the news, something about a massacre in New York State was talked about but no one showed any footage of it and then oddly, several of the news channels stopped talking about it. This did nothing to settle the Hamilton’s fears at all. The tone of reporting began to change; more and more government officials’ coming on the various networks talking about what the government was doing at all levels to secure the situation. Now Jim knew something was definitely going on, when the talking heads of the government began with “The situation is being addressed and we expect to return services to the affected areas soon….” he was really worried.

    After a while the kids decided to go to bed and Michelle said that she would be going also. The day’s activities and events had taken its toll on all of them. Jim said that he was going to watch a bit more and then come as well. He wanted to hear more. Michelle told him just before she went upstairs not to stay up too late; he nodded in agreement but not really listening as he watched the news spill forth.

    He stayed up for about an hour or so taking in all that he could before deciding to head to bed. Standing up and stretching to release some of the tension that had built up as he watched the news Jim headed toward the back door twisting about as he did so then absently checking for the presence of his pistol which he hadn’t taken off. He hadn’t realized that he had gotten so tense, could be the whole day catching up to him was the mental conclusion he arrived at. Once at the door he slipped outside into the night air. The illumination provided by the area light atop the tall pole next to the driveway was a welcome sight.

    Cocking his head to listen Jim stood silently trying to capture any errant noise, the slightest hint of discord but after nearly ten seconds heard nothing out of the ordinary. More than a little grateful at that he walked to the corner of the house and looked down the driveway toward the road – nothing there. Releasing the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding Jim smiled a bit at the situation. Shaking his head at his actions he turned to return to the house and a waiting bed. God what a day.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:21 PM.

  8. #8

    Withdrawal Chapter 6

    Chapter 6

    Jim was standing near the entrance of the long drive way that led up to the house and barn. He was near and slightly behind the large oak tree that was there. There was a companion oak across the driveway. Each tree was bigger around than he could reach with his arms and tall, both well over forty feet in height. The trees had been planted many years earlier, now their branches and leaves formed a broad, green canopy over the end of the gravel covered drive where it met and merged with the lane and a half wide avenue running off in the near distance in both directions.

    Jim and Bobby had closed the gates to the driveway. The fence was more decorative than functional but he figured any barrier was better than none, especially after talking to Josh yesterday and again that morning on the phone. Things could get worse, a lot worse he told himself. A short section of chain held in place with an unsecured padlock was wrapped around the ends to keep the gate closed. Jim was upset with himself for not thinking about it yesterday; the gate was wide open all night like it had been every night but still Jim was upset with himself. Should have been locking it up for weeks he rationalized.

    Shade from the broad grown branches helped to keep the warmth from the mid morning sun off him. The weather was mild as it usually was this time of year but the shade was welcome and gave him a greater measure of comfort. Jim felt that since he was in the shade that it would be harder for others to see him from a distance. Who that somebody was that might be looking at him was a question for which he had no answer and that too bothered him.

    He carried his aged but well cared for Remington Model 700 slung over one shoulder. The dependable rifle, chambered in .308, had once been his father’s. A box of shells rested in his back pocket to compliment the fully loaded rifle. Many a deer had fallen to it over the years but Jim had never really liked the scope that his father had on it so he had replaced it with the one that he and Michelle had purchased at the gun show some months earlier. The older scope had found a new home atop the Ruger Mini-14 rifle that he owned where the lower power telescopic sight worked very well with the .223 ammunition that the Ruger fired.

    He was scanning the surrounding area with the binoculars that he often used while at work when checking power lines. The quality optic device was serving a completely different purpose right now and he was thankful he had put them in his truck after finishing up an inspection in the southern part of the county. He was anxiously searching for any sign of Josh and Lorraine Mitchell, nothing so far, no sign of them. Scanning slowly right to left he covered both ends of the road that they could be coming in on from town. C’mon guys, where are ya?

    The area surrounding the farm was a mixture of open pasture and cultivated fields. Most of them with a line of large trees forming the property borders. The only notable exception was a large area of woods about two miles up the road to the north. The Hamilton house and land sat on a slight rise so Jim had a pretty good field of view and was using every bit of it he could from where he was. Since it was early in the growing season most of the fields were still relatively open as the various crops had yet to reach much beyond early growth height in those fields that had been planted. Many of the fields hadn’t been planted at all, lack of money to buy seed, fertilizer and fuel had allowed the grass and weeds to take hold. It wouldn’t occur to Jim until later that he should have gotten one of the ladders out of the barn and used it to get atop the one story section of the first floor that extended out of the house on the side closest to the road. Doing that would improve his ability to scout the distance tremendously. His thought process was somewhat befuddled by the events taking place, a measure of fear had settled in and he had been unable to make it go away. Unbidden his mind drifted back to replay part of the events that lead to this point.

    The farmhouse was a large two story with five bedrooms and three bathrooms which had originally belonged to his grandparents. The structure had been on the site for many years, in fact his father had been born in the house. After they were finished with all the legal loops resulting from the death of his parents the couple had thought about renovating it and moving out of the city. Getting rid of the property had never even been considered, unlike their current house, the farm was paid for and beyond that it was the center of the family history. Both Jim and Michelle were tired of the crime and general decay that the city had fallen into. Even their own neighborhood, once a bright, fun place to live had been slowly hemmed in by the urban sprawl, decay had been slow to set in but once it started was unstoppable.

    The final straw was when a seven year old little girl was shot by some gang members during a drive by shooting that occurred only three blocks from their house. The target had been her drug dealing brother who wasn’t even home at the time. Fortunately the little girl survived the ordeal which both Jim and Michelle were grateful about and had prayed for but it was enough; that did it for them. It was time to go.
    So the couple and their two children carefully sized up the job of renovating the house, making a long list of upgrades and repairs they wanted to make. This list was revised several times before they settled on a plan. Then they slowly began the process after obtaining a second mortgage on their current house. Unfortunately Jim’s parents hadn’t taken care of getting any serious amounts of life insurance and the pay out from what insurance they did have and the auto insurance had been used to pay for the dual funerals and some lingering bills so no money there to work with. The plan the Hamilton’s settled on was to use the mortgage money to pay off a few existing bills, buy what they needed for the farm house and then pay off the loan by selling the house in town. They worked on the farmhouse at night and with different friends during the weekends cleaning it up and adding the features they wanted.

    Fixing up the farmhouse had been a good deal more work than they had planned since the house had sat unused as a residence for several years following the death of Jim’s parents. One of the biggest headaches had been upgrading the aged electrical wiring but Jim was able to do much of that himself saving them a fortune by not having to bring in an electrical contractor except to do periodic inspections. Bobby had been a big help to his father during this part of the job. Jim had taken the time to teach his son a great deal of practical knowledge as they replaced the various components and snaked new wiring throughout the house which allowed them to improve the overall efficiency of the system as well as greatly increasing the safety factor. Fortunately the Hamilton’s had always kept the electricity going to the house while it was empty which prevented it from suffering any major damage due to frozen pipes or the like. The time renovating the property had been well spent; it had drawn them closer together as a family as well as with some of their friends who helped with the renovations.

    The work involved with renovating the large farmhouse took some time; the group replaced the old insulation with new higher rated insulation, changed out all the existing windows with energy conserving double paned windows, painted, cleaned and repaired as needed. Jim and Michelle made sure that they didn’t impose too much on others for help since the work took place over a period of months and only brought others over if the work was too heavy or involved. The Hamilton’s made a routine out of it, going to the farm three nights each week for three hours each night no matter what project they were doing as well as a half day on Saturday’s. That way the kids kept up with their homework and the family had Sunday for church and other things. Some of the other evenings and often Saturday afternoons Jim spent working on cleaning, repairing and upgrading their existing house to improve their chances of selling it, the work kept them all busy.

    With the help of the guys Jim had started moving some furniture and other things out to the farmhouse as time allowed after work and during the weekends once a major portion of the interior renovations were complete. Jim had lost track of how many trips he and Bobby had made with the back of his truck loaded down. How does one family collect so much stuff he asked over and over without ever getting a satisfactory answer to his question. They had donated at least three loads of stuff to local charities and the battered women’s shelter which was gratefully accepted. Due in part to the downturn in the economy domestic violence seemed to be on the rise so the need for clothes and all household items was on the increase as well. The couple felt it was their Christian duty to help others as they could. The lady at the shelter told them to make sure and keep the receipt since the donation was tax deductible. Jim and Michelle both commented that while it was a nice it wasn’t their motivation. It was the right thing to do.

    With the work on the farmhouse done the couple then placed their house in town on the market. They got a bit of a shock, the market was not what it once was and so it took a while for a buyer to step forward and purchase the well kept ranch style home. Even then the Hamilton’s had to accept an offer that was quite a bit less than what they had asked for the house. They talked about it and decided that while it wasn’t all that they had asked for it was a marginally reasonable offer and so the couple took it. Jim and Michelle had struggled a bit keeping two places going for a bit but once the mortgage was paid off the remaining money, what there was of it was theirs and they used it smartly. But what proved to be a huge help to them came a few months later.

    Their finances got a surprise jump that first winter at the farm. The head of the family who owned much of the farmland immediately to the south of them came by one day to see Jim and Michelle. His name was Petr Holski, he and his family ran a large, seven hundred acres plus, corn and soybean operation. He had a proposal for the Hamilton’s. With the farm house and barn came some land, a total of just over twenty five acres. Much of it, approaching seventeen acres was good land for farming. The remaining eight was the area around the house, barn and a few acres east of the barn that was divided by a year round stream. The opposite side of the stream was somewhat hilly and had a few dozen trees on it. Petr’s proposal was that the Hamilton’s sell him the seventeen acres which he would use for farming. Despite the economy taking a hit he had been doing well since all of their land and equipment was paid for.

    Jim and Michelle were a bit taken by surprise by the offer. They had met the Holski’s a number of time while doing the renovations. Jim knew that his parents had been friends with the family down the road and that the man sitting in his living room was an honest, hard working farmer. He and his family had come by on two separate occasions to help Jim work on the farmhouse. The offer to buy some of their land was a generous one. Twelve thousand up front and the rest was to be paid off over the next ten years after each fall harvest, total offer for the land was fifty one thousand, three grand an acre! Part of the reason the bid was so high was the long wait to get all of the money and even with the state of the country at the time Jim and Michelle listened with interest, no sense in being rude or saying no out of hand. Petr explained that the additional seventeen acres would be good ground but that it would need to be worked hard the first two seasons since it hadn’t been actively farmed in some time but having the added acreage would improve his crop options. The couple listened to the sales pitch and promised to let him know in a timely manner. After Petr left to return home the two talked about the offer.

    At first Jim was hesitant to sell; the thought of giving up the property didn’t sit well with him, it somehow felt as if he was betraying the memory of his grandparents and parents. Then Michelle pointed out that the eight acres that they had left would be more than enough for them. She had to let him think about it for a bit. Knowing her husband as she did she knew that trying to talk him into was a waste of time. His thought process didn’t work like that. Plant the seeds of the idea and let them germinate on their own and at his own pace. After a few days Jim did come to realize that selling the land, which was simply sitting fallow anyways wasn’t a big deal after all. It was the house that was important and they were already living there so why not. He and Michelle discussed the subject further with both agreeing it would a good idea.

    Jim then called Petr up and asked him to come over at his convenience. The senior Holski came over that evening after dinner. After getting everyone some coffee Jim told him that he would in fact sell the land for the agreed on price. Jim had checked around and found the offer was a good one, even a little above some estimates. There was one condition however; Petr nodded waiting to hear what the condition was. If the Holski’s were to ever sell the land then Jim and Michelle would get first preference on it Petr agreed without hesitation. A handshake sealed the deal. The farmer told the Hamilton’s that he would go to his bank first thing in the morning to take care of getting them their money and would have the necessary paperwork to them by week’s end or so which he was assured was just fine.

    The money was paid promptly; the Holski’s had excellent credit. Jim and Michelle took a fixed percentage of the money and added it to their savings. Once that was done they took what was left over from that and the sale of the house and purchased a windmill powered generator, six 75 watt solar panels, an inverter and a large bank of batteries in the roomy basement to provide substitute electrical power. They were of the mind that being as self sufficient as possible was in their best interest long term. Jim took care of the installation of the solar equipment himself, which had saved them some money as well.

    The couple also added a large second propane tank to the property placing it well away from the house and partially burying it to help protect it from the weather as well as keeping out of plain sight. Both the water heater and kitchen stove were already set up for propane; the couple had originally planned to replace the appliances but changed their mind. They had both tanks topped off which gave them both a sense of relief knowing that they would have hot water and be able to cook for some time no matter what given the nearly one thousand gallon combined capacity of the tanks.

    The farm had a large garden as well which had taken up a great deal of time and no small amount of effort especially when they first started working on it. The area that had been the garden had gone fallow after death of his parents but Jim and Michelle felt the effort was well worth it. This year’s crop wouldn’t be much but at least it was a start. Michelle often spent part of her day on Friday’s toiling in the garden while Jim was at work. She had planted some herbs, various vegetables and flowers Michelle loved flowers of all types. Her mother had been an avid amateur gardener who grew a lovely selection of flowers every year.

    Stocking the farmhouse had been a serious effort as well. The farmhouse had a large pantry and the group had built several large sets of shelves in the basement and barn as well. These were filled and additional goods moved out to the barn as needed. It held nearly fourteen months worth of canned and dry goods along with a number of items for camping which the family enjoyed doing when they could. Jim hoped that what supplies they had on hand would be sufficient but he and Michelle were always looking for bargains to add to their stocks. He knew that that between the house and barn that the family easily had at least a year’s worth of food but when was that enough? Never as far as the Hamilton’s were concerned. A case of this or two extra of that when it was on sale always seemed to follow Michelle home when she was out shopping which was something the kids enjoyed poking fun at her about but only good naturedly. Both Bobby, seventeen and his sister, Linda, two years his junior felt as their parents did about being prepared. The kids had noticed that many of their friends had mentioned that their own parents were worried about what was going on. Some of these parents had already lost their jobs and were trying to find work which was proving difficult. The topic had come up several times during evening meals at the farmhouse.

    The shopping hadn’t ended there; Michelle had surprised Jim by dragging him off one Saturday to attend a gun show in a nearby city about an hour away. Once they arrived at the Convention Center where the show was she handed him an envelope of cash and told him that he could now afford a few of the things he had been wanting. He smiled, grateful for the fact that he had married someone as intelligent and thoughtful as Michelle. Taking her by the hand he plunged into the throng of shoppers and lookie-loos. The selection wasn’t what it had once been due to a variety of conditions but by carefully looking everything over they did manage to make a few deals. Having cash in hand was a big difference. He could get whatever he wanted so he took his time and did some serious shopping. The couple spent over five hours at the show.

    They had to make a trip back out to the car at one point to offload part of what they had purchased and then headed back inside. By the end of the day they had a nice Taurus nine millimeter pistol for her with a good holster. A stock of bulk reloading supplies, bullets, primers and what powder they could find which wasn’t much was purchased. Jim was an avid reloader but knew his supplies were lower than he was comfortable with. They also bought ammunition in all the calibers they needed, along with some accessories including a nice scope for his rifle and a variety of spare magazines for their all guns that required them. They both considered the purchases a good investment for their future. The Hamilton’s were both realists when it came to the future.

    Many of the friends felt to various degrees as the Hamilton’s did, that society was in trouble and something bad was going to happen. Thoughts on what to do about it were varied. During breaks in the work Jim, Michelle and some of the others had talked about it. At times the conversations turned into debates but while disagreeing about some things all the adults agreed that things were bad and seemed to be getting worse. Some said that it was just a temporary thing and all would be back to normal but others including Jim and his family felt different.

    At times the discussion turned to preparedness, the Hamilton’s were careful not to talk too loudly about their own level of preps but tried to get the message across about how to best prepare. They gave examples, adding canned goods as often as possible, having a supply of cash on hand, storing fuel and having some form of alternative energy were just some of the ideas passed along. Several of their friends, in particular Josh and Lorraine as well as the Richland’s, Daryl and his wife Ellen, really listened. At times they posed more questions about planning ahead, Jim and Michelle were glad to pass on what information they had. Daryl often chimed in with solid information as well. They felt it was their duty as good citizens to help make sure that as many other people were as prepared as possible. Jim used the same question all the time when talking to people about preparedness, “Whose ultimate responsibility is it to make sure that you and your family are taken care of?” That question really hit home with Josh, he had been on the fence so to speak as far as thinking ahead. He was a good man but caught up in the daily grind of modern society, career, mortgage, two cars, etc. The question really got him thinking and over the course of the work at the farm his attitude about preparedness slowly changed as he saw more and more reasons to stock up and plan.

    Ellen Richland wasn’t fully convinced of the necessity of all the preparedness but she did remark that things around the country weren’t getting any better. Daryl and his wife owned a small but growing security guard company and he could only nod in tired agreement. Daryl had told the others about how much business that every security company in the area was getting. He was putting in fifteen and eighteen hour days, sometimes six days a week to try and keep up with the demands for service it still wasn’t enough. They had hired nearly twenty additional officers during the previous month alone. Most of the new hires were prior military and several were regular law enforcement personnel working to supplement their income to better help their families since several local towns had been hit and miss with being able to supply paychecks that didn’t bounce. Daryl’s company could always make their payroll because he insisted that his clients pay in cash. Not all of them liked doing it but he was adamant, if his people were going to be at risk on their behalf he was damned well going to make sure they got paid.

    After the renovations were essentially finished Michelle invited everyone who had helped them over to their house in town for a big cook out to celebrate. Josh and Lorraine were there along with Ellen; Daryl was working and couldn’t get away. Several of the other friends who had put in some time came as well. They all had a great time cooking out, talking and being able to take a break from the increasingly grim pressures of daily living. The day was a large success, good food, good friends and some laughs. A nice change everyone thought.

    As Jim was standing watch waiting on his friend his mind was racing seems like forever ago that we had that cookout and lord knows things sure have changed. Fear that what he had long believed could happen, some type of social disaster, was in fact now taking place; the realization that he had been right all along did nothing to ease how he felt. The work of upgrading the farm and their supplies had been mostly completed several months prior which Jim reflected was almost too late. There was no sense of moral superiority at all, he had wanted to be wrong, he had hoped, even prayed that this wouldn’t happen but it was, now. The fear of the unknown, what was going on, what would happen later today, tomorrow, next week – did he have the ability to provide for and if need be defend his family? These questions and emotions slowly churned in his mind. He tried to keep busy doing something, anything. That way it was easier to deal with the uncertainty. Realizing he had drifted he returned his attention to the present.

    One of the couples he was looking for, Josh and Lorraine, were in their late twenties and waiting to start on their family, should have left their condo in town awhile back. Since they only lived twenty or so miles away everyone thought that it shouldn’t take too long for them to get to the farm but it had been nearly three hours since they last heard from them. Three hours was like a year, it dragged out. It was like time was in slow motion. Where were they? He nervously shuffled his feet without thinking about it to try and relieve some of the stress.

    Lowering the binoculars he closed his eyes for a moment to rest them. He had been staring through them for quite some time. There was some physical fatigue there as well. Jim hadn’t slept very well at all the night before, he could tell he was tired but had to simply deal with it. Being tired could well be the least of his problems and so he lifted the binoculars for yet another look. A few cars had come by but because he had seen them ahead of time he had moved back behind the tree and kept it between him and the vehicle until each was well out of sight. It wasn’t just the Mitchell’s he was glassing the area for, Jim was keeping just as keen a watch for any signs of trouble that may be brewing and headed their way. Concerned that some people would try to leave the city without a destination or adequate preparation, he knew that his home could look pretty inviting to many. He just hoped that because it was off the beaten path it would avoid drawing attention. It seemed more likely that people trying to leave the city would use the major traffic arteries, interstate, state and local highways and avoid the rural roads that simply went from local highway to local highway like his.

    The cars he had seen had been loaded down with all manner of things; one of them had a large television in the trunk with the trunk lid tied down with rope. What someone was going to do with the television he had no idea but the amount of space that it took up would have been much better to use for food and clothing. Idiots, the world is full of idiots and now they are on the run. Speaking of idiots it wasn’t the stupid people doing something he was most worried about. It was all too common in history for normal, usually rational people to resort to violence if they felt they were desperate. Jim felt he was prepared to stop them, was absolutely sure that he had to stop them but hoped with all the fervor he could muster that it wouldn’t come to that. To have to shoot another human being, desperate times indeed he thought feeling the weight of the fully loaded rifle pulling on his shoulder.

    A hard swallow did not move the knot that had settled in his throat as the thought of shooting someone reared itself up. Jim had never served in the military at all. It just was something that had never been part of his life. Now he wondered if that was something that would have been a better idea…far too late now.

    He stifled a sudden yawn, no one at the Hamilton house had slept well the previous night despite being tired. Jim had been up three different times because he was sure that he had heard something outside but every time it was just the wind. Every time he got up it woke Michelle, both of them had their pistols out and laying on their bedside tables. Morning activity had come early since none of them could sleep deeply. They all got up and slowly went through their assorted routines almost by pure rote, bathroom, clothes, and then breakfast. Then the phone started ringing, first it was the Mitchell’s calling then it was Daryl. The conversation with Josh ran through his mind again, he was saying that the neighborhood was like a war zone, shooting; sirens and faint screaming could be heard over the phone. Jim told him forcefully without hesitation to gather up as much as possible and to get to the farm as soon as they could. His friend said that they were already getting things together and that he was sorry, he should have done it yesterday when Jim suggested it.

    “Never mind about that, just get as much as you can in the truck and get out here, now!” Josh replied that Lorraine was busy loading stuff and that they would be leaving by nine o’clock at the absolute latest but before Jim could say anything else the line went dead and repeated tries to reach them did nothing. Jim looked at his watch again, 10:49. Where are they? He knew that Daryl and Ellen would be awhile; they lived much farther away and would have to swing north out of town and then a ways east to reach the farm.

    The Richland’s had called the farm at about eight fifteen, fortunate to get the call through fairly quickly for once, to say that they had packed their truck and camper trailer as full as they could and were leaving right then. Daryl had told Michelle what his plan for getting out of the city was; she immediately saw the purpose behind it and wished them Godspeed. Collectively, they all felt that given what was going on and the distance involved that it may be at late as two or three that afternoon before they could get there. The Richland’s lived out on the northwest side of town, a fair distance. Then having to make their way across the interstate which ran north out of town and through various small suburbs and such then down to the farm.

    Continued...
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:26 PM.

  9. #9

    Withdrawal Chapter 6 continued

    Daryl had spent several years in the Marines having served as a rifleman during the first Gulf War; he was a survivor through and through. Ellen still hadn’t come fully on board with the survival mentality but at least she didn’t stop Daryl from buying preps and she did like shooting so that was something. Strangely, Jim was more concerned about Josh and Lorraine even though they had a much shorter distance to go to get to the farm. Josh was a relative new comer to preparedness and hadn’t been in the military like Daryl had. Jim’s face lit with a small wry smile thinking about how much stuff the Richland’s would have in their camping trailer and large extended cab truck. He was sure it would be a great deal having helped Daryl put up the last of the shelves in the garage to hold much of it. That was in addition to the tubs of supplies that Daryl had arranged to store at the Hamilton’s, pre-positioning he had called it.

    That was a pleasant memory especially now amid all this, the two men had worked for nearly five hours building and mounting the shelves, they ran down one entire wall of the large two car garage. The smile died when he thought about how they might need all of it and more. Exhaling strongly he kept his eyes scanning for any sign of his friends.

    Ellen had called again about two hours after they had left the house. The call from their cell phone cut off but she had been able to tell them where they were and that they were making decent time. So far they were fine, worried but fine and might even be at the farm a little earlier than originally planned. Linda had the job of trying to call every fifteen minutes to raise either them or Josh but so far no luck. The farm still had partial phone and despite everything, full electric service, Jim had already long switched the battery bank to the grid power to make sure it was as charged as possible not knowing if the grid was going to stay up. Michelle had gone through the house turning off or unplugging everything that was not essential in order to help save power.

    Jim had tried to call a friend of his who was supposed to be on duty at the power plant west of town but wasn’t able to get through. News reports over the radio were scary, disjointed and more than one station was not broadcasting at all, just static where music or news usually was. Since they lived so far out of town the family had been forced to purchase a satellite system to be able to watch television. Only one of the local stations were still operating, the news they carried was all bad, the situation in town was getting worse, they had hardly thought that was possible but it was. The announcer stated that they would stay on as long as they could but doubted it would be much longer. He urged people to take shelter, lock their doors and don’t answer it. The scattered national and regional stations that they had been able to get were no better, rioting, mass confusion; looting and general mayhem was about the only thing being reported.

    Bobby Hamilton was nervous, his hands felt like they were wringing wet from sweat. He was partially hidden in a heavy brush thicket that grew along the fence that paralleled the front of the property. He was sure the shotgun cradled against his chest had gotten at least ten times heavier since he had left the house with it. The pocketful of 00 Buckshot shells he had with him poked his leg as he crouched down to keep from being seen by anyone.

    He was about forty yards north of his father who he could see was still searching for any signs of their friends. His dad had explained that he wanted Bobby in the corner of the property to protect that side if anything went wrong since he didn’t know from which direction that everyone would be driving in from. Bobby was quite sure that he would never be able to swallow anything again; his throat was so dry that even if his spit glands were working that nothing would ever wet his whistle again…ever.

    The teen wiped his palms on his jeans one hand at a time. Since the farm was well away from the interstate highway only a few cars had come by since the male Hamilton’s had taken up their vigil. The farm was two roads over from the main road so they would likely avoid being seen by the mass of people fleeing the city, which the men could see was already happening. Bobby had closely looked at the people in the cars each time. He could clearly see the fear, anxiety and even the anger that those in the cars felt. Jim had cautioned him strongly about staying as out of sight as possible at all times. He didn’t want a confrontation, so if the people in the cars didn’t see anyone less chance of that happening.

    Bobby and his dad had talked some about what was going on as they had gotten the long guns out of the safe and headed outside. Jim explained to his son that he didn’t expect to have to fight off the world or for that matter he didn’t think that they would have to fight at all but they had better be ready to if needed. His father had told him that it was part of his responsibility, protecting his mother and sister as well as their home. Bobby was nervous and could tell that his dad was too which made him feel a little better; he didn’t feel so alone with his emotions. Bobby couldn’t recall a time that he was ever as scared as he was at that moment.

    Jim was growing more worried as time continued to crawl by with no sign of or word from their friends. It had been over two hours since they said that they were going to leave. Earlier in the day Jim and Bobby had moved the family vehicles behind the barn so that they would not be visible from the road. Michelle and Linda had closed the curtains throughout the front of house making sure to leave about a four inch opening so that they could see out without being seen from the road. The curtains on the back of the house were open to allow as much light in as possible since it was unlikely that anyone would be coming from across the fields but Michelle and Linda checked fairly often just in case.
    The family had already pulled out all their guns and had them loaded. Additional magazines were loaded and stacked on top of the safe. Everyone was told to have a firearm nearby at all times. The head of the Hamilton household hoped he wasn’t overreacting but wanted to make sure that his family was safe. He felt confident in everyone’s ability to handle a gun since shooting was something that they all enjoyed doing. Doing it under these conditions was an unknown but they were to be ready to defend themselves if necessary. Please God, don’t let it be necessary.

    The previous summer Jim and Bobby had put together a small shooting range in one section of what had been a pasture behind and slightly below the barn. It was nothing fancy, a fixed set of target frames and a stand that was used to support four steel plate targets for the pistols. Jim remembered the time that Linda had shown up her big brother by out scoring him using the Ruger Mini-14. Several days of good nature ribbing followed as Linda went through the house answering only to the moniker of “Annie Oakley”. Happier times to be sure thought Jim.
    Michelle was wearing her fanny pack holding the Taurus pistol while she looked out the window again for what had to be the sixtieth time that morning. There was still no sign of either couple. She prayed even more fervently than she had been to extend traveling mercies to their friends.

    At that same time Josh and Lorraine were scared to death; neither had ever experienced anything close to what they had lived through during the previous hour or so. Lorraine was crying softly as she watched anxiously out the badly cracked windshield for any signs of more trouble. Two more blocks thought Josh, two more stinking blocks and we will be all right, two more blocks he kept repeating the mantra over and over in his mind. His grip on the steering wheel tightened even further which is not something he thought possible as he gave the truck even more gas willing it to go faster.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:27 PM.

  10. #10

    Withdrawal Chapter 7 part one

    Chapter 7

    All at once Jim saw a big dark colored pickup truck towing what looked to be a good size camp trailer on the road north of them as it moved south on the road coming out of the trees. He hurriedly lifted the binoculars to his eyes and peered intently. The truck was moving toward them so it made it easier to see. It looked like what Daryl and Ellen would be in, his heart nearly burst with joy…they were here and safe! It was them, it had to be them, please let it be them…he turned and waved excitedly at the house trying to get someone’s attention but both Linda and her mother were with the Mitchell’s who had arrived earlier and so didn’t see him signaling.

    He ran over to the gate and removed the padlock from the chain. The linked metal restraint fell to one side as Jim pushed the barrier open. Bobby too saw the truck and he was also pretty sure it was the Richland’s. He looked at the truck then turned to look at his father who he noticed was already unlocking the gate. Bobby left the thicket he had been in and headed for the gate as well almost running as he moved toward his father.

    It seemed like it took forever for the vehicle to get closer but then suddenly there it was. Daryl pulled off the road and started up the long driveway. He was tired; having been up at this point for nearly twenty four hours, much of it he had been on the move. Getting the truck and long camper more permanently situated could wait. They were there and for the moment, safe. A minute amount of the tension Daryl felt bled off as he turned in. Jim followed the truck and trailer up the drive way. Daryl rolled the window down the rest of the way and in a voice filled with playfulness asked Jim where the valet parking section was. The elder Hamilton could not stop himself from laughing out loud. The unexpected bit of humor caught him off guard so the silly line came across as much funnier than it really was. Jim realized after a moment that was the first time in awhile, maybe weeks that he had laughed and it felt good. He felt part of the fatigue and mental fogs disappear. Jim told his friend that the valet attendant was on lunch but would be back soon so please feel free to make use of any space but to not run over any of the flowers.

    “Smart ass.” Daryl laughed as he gunned the engine to get the rig moving again. Once he was sure he was clear of the gate he turned, swinging the big Chevy in a wide turn through the grass. He stopped once he had the truck pointing back toward the road so if they had to leave on short notice he would be ready. After pushing the shift lever to the P position he turned off the key then looked over at Ellen who smiled back. Then they both looked back at their daughter who wanted to get out of the vehicle, anxious in a way only a child could manage. Daryl nodded and after undoing his seat belt reached over the seat to release Kaitlyn from hers. She had been good for most of the trip, asking the usual questions a child of her age asks, and, as a child of five, asked them about ten times each.

    Ellen had dealt with her needs and questions to allow Daryl to keep his attention on driving. Now free of her seat she climbed over the front seat so she could climb down. Once outside of the cab she ran around a bit having been in the truck for much of the day aside from quick bathroom breaks. The trio had eaten in the truck while driving, some fruit and cold fried chicken that they had in the fridge washed down with some chilled bottled water. Kaitlyn thought it was great because she usually didn’t get to eat while in her seat so it was a big adventure for her.

    Daryl lifted both arms up over his head while arching his back to stretch. He pulled his .45 pistol off the seat of the truck where it had been resting and after double checking the safety tucked it in the small of his back to be held in place by his jeans. Tightness in his muscles kept him from stretching as far as he would have liked to. The truck was comfortable but after that many hours he was ready to get out and move around. Jim had quickly walked over to where the couple was and reaching Ellen first gave her a big hug, lifting her off the ground.
    “Woo hoo! Happy to see me big man?” Ellen asked.

    Jim had never been so glad to see his friends as he was at that moment. After letting Ellen back down and releasing her from the embrace he reached over to shake Daryl’s hand pumping up and down with obvious enthusiasm. “Good to see ya’ buddy” He was assured that the feeling was very mutual. At various times over the previous months the two men had discussed at length the growing possibility that something serious might happen to society. During these talks the realization that it might be better for all of them to hold up at the farm was raised. Once the subject had been broached they had explored it further discussing sleeping arrangement, supplies, etc. For the former Marine getting out of the city and coming to the farm simply made the most sense. Daryl had been thinking on the conversations during much of the drive. He thanked providence for providing he and Ellen with friends like the Hamilton’s. Could they have gotten by at their own house, probably, but this was going to be better, or least he thought it would. Leaving their own home hadn’t been an easy decision but what they had seen on the drive had eased much of that pain.

    Meanwhile Bobby closed the gates and looped the chain around the two ends. This time after passing the lock through the links he clicked the padlock giving it a good tug to make sure it was closed. One of the keys to the lock was in his pocket, the other, was with his dad. He took a look another look up and down the road for any sign of traffic. He didn’t see anyone which didn’t make him feel all that secure but at least no one was an immediate threat. Once done he starting walking up the driveway to where everyone else was. He knew it left no one watching the road but he told himself he was only going to be gone for a minute. He gripped the shotgun tightly and began the walk up the graveled drive the rocks making a light cruunch sound under his shoes as he went.

    After finishing the greeting with Jim, Daryl went back to the truck to retrieve his rifle from the cab. He didn’t want to be too far from a long gun, Jim’s house or not. There had been more than enough reason to worry the last few days, some of it he had seen himself. A quick reminder to himself that all paranoia wasn’t bad. Flipping the seat release lever he pulled the drivers side seat forward. He reached in and grabbed the Colt semi automatic rifle that he had owned for many years. Both Daryl and Ellen had made sure that the rifle had been far enough away from Kaitlyn during the trip. She had been strapped in behind her mother and the rifle had been all the way over behind Daryl.
    After carefully slinging the rifle to avoid damaging the quick release four power scope mounted atop the weapon he flopped the seat back and shoved the door closed. Daryl then walked back around the truck to where Jim was waiting. His back was stiff and sore from the many hours of driving and Daryl knew it would be awhile before it eased up. He was trying to twist some as he moved to loosen it up some. It helped but only a bit gawd it felt good to get out and walk around.

    The two men were walking toward the house and talking when Daryl saw the condition of Josh’s truck. He had seen the big Dodge while coming up the driveway but the angle it was parked at had kept him from observing the details. The tall, former Marine stopped dead in his tracks and turned to look at Jim. The smile on his face died as he looked to his friend who began to explain what had happened to the other couple, at least as much as he could given the lack of detail that was present in the tale recounted by Josh. They had been unsuccessful in getting Lorraine to talk much at all.

    About this time Ellen joined them after checking on Kaitlyn who was having a great time running around now free of the confines of her seat belt. She too had noticed the obvious signs of violence on the vehicle. The passenger side of the windshield was badly smashed; a few holes that could only come from bullets could be seen in the sheet metal of the body; as well as some broken glass in the rear window of the cab. The passenger side turn signal light covers were broken and a long scrape ran from the right front corner to almost the door.

    “Jeezus Christ, what the hell happened?” Both of the Richland’s looked again to Jim for an explanation. Jim told them, “They got in ‘bout an hour ago, they’re inside; both are basically o.k. Lorraine got cut up a little by the glass but should be fine, sooner or later.”
    It was the later statement that caused both his listeners to start to pose questions, Jim quickly held up both hands to silence them before they could get their questions going. He went on to explain further, “It’s like she’s in shock,” Jim began “Ah, I, I’da know, she’s quiet, won’t talk – won’t eat- barely acknowledges that she’s even here.” Jim glances toward the road as he continues, “The trip out here was bad, the city, parts of it anyways are a real horror story…and they got caught in it or at least part of it I guess.” He shrugged his shoulders as if to say it was something that he could not relate to.

    About this time Bobby walked up to say hello and he could see that the three older adults, he thought of himself at seventeen basically an adult, were quiet. Sad? Yeah, maybe so, hard to judge with so much going on. He said hello which barely registered with the Richland’s but after standing there for a moment Daryl noticed him and even smiled a little. He held out his hand to the younger Hamilton who shook it. “Hiya sport’” a nickname that he knew Bobby was not especially fond of but who let it pass for now. The teen knew that Daryl was trying to goad him for fun but he was able to keep his mouth shut for now.

    Bobby told his dad that he would go and keep watch, he held his hand out toward his dad but Jim didn’t realize what he wanted. “Binoculars dad?” His father sheepishly pulled the strap holding them over his head and held them out to his son who took them. Then with a shake of his head said, “Parents” with all the mock righteous indignation he could and starting walking back up the drive to keep watch. All the while shaking his head at the gaffe his father had made.

    Daryl and Jim shared a look while Ellen said she wanted to see Lorraine. Jim motioned to the couple and they all started toward the house again. Ellen turned and yelled for Kaitlyn to come with them. The little girl stopped mid way through the spin she was doing to run over to where her mommy was waiting. Kaitlyn really enjoyed it when she got to go to “the farm” as she called the Hamilton’s home. Once near the house they were given hugs by Michelle and Linda who had come outside after noticing the truck pull up the driveway. Both of them were very glad to see their friends, hugs were quickly exchanged. The new arrivals were led into the house proper from the back porch. After passing through the kitchen they found Josh sitting in the living room; he didn’t acknowledge the others at all when they walked in the room. His face was a blank slate, eyes staring into nothing. A medical term that would have accurately described him would have been catatonic.
    Daryl handed the long gun off to Ellen and went over to him and laid a hand on one shoulder. When contact was made Josh slowly looked up and for a short time didn’t recognize his friend. He slowly stood up and Daryl folded him into an embrace. The two men stood like that for a time as Josh was able to express his feelings without having to speak, the others seemed to know it was helping. Seeing Josh like this bothered Ellen a great deal. This was so unlike him, he was always so vibrant, so full of life and energy. The kind of guy that lights up a room simply by walking into it.

    Daryl told him, “It’s o.k. you’re safe now” Josh seemed to relax just a bit when he heard that. Of course the others had told him that as well. It just may have been that hearing from someone else as well as having a little time to allow the news to sink was what he needed. Josh was released by his friend from the embrace and looked gratefully over at the Hamilton’s asking in a quiet voice, “We made it didn’t we?”
    Jim told him, “Yeah, you did, you made it.” Ellen had watched with tears welling up in her eyes that she angrily blinked away. God, what had happened? Then she asked where Lorraine was and Michelle told her to come with her. Ellen handed the rifle back to her husband and quickly followed Michelle up the stairs. Once at the top of the stairs they turned to their right and went a short distance down the hall. The door to the first room on the left was slightly ajar. Michelle knocked lightly and swung the door open.

    Lorraine was on the bed curled up in semi fetal position. Her lower legs were covered by a blanket. Her shoes tossed askew on the floor. Ellen moved into the room and gently sat down on the bed next to her friend. She touched Lorraine’s face while calling her name softly. A few cuts, mostly on the right cheek marred her beauty but she seemed to respond to Ellen which the others thought was a good sign.

    “Oh sweetie, it’s all right, you’re safe, we’re all here, its ok. Sleep now.” Fingers stroked the loose hair away from her face. The others who had come upstairs watched from near the doorway. Ellen looked up from her friend and at the others with a small tear in her eye that this time she couldn’t make stop. Seeing her friend like this really shook her. She knew that she and Daryl had been lucky to make it without incident. Especially after seeing the other truck she was grateful that they had arrived unharmed. She turned back toward Lorraine“Go to sleep, get some rest and I will be back in a bit to check on you, sleep now”

    The biggest concern in Daryl’s mind was the other couple’s mental state. As a combat veteran of the first Gulf War Daryl had been involved in the liberation of Kuwait City and knew from experience what they were going through was a post combat stress cycle. They couldn’t completely accept that fact that for now they were safe, in part because they were still trying to deal with what they had seen and experienced trying to escape the city. It was natural and the only thing that he could recommend was they be given some time, time enough to try and come to grips with what they had been forced to deal with. He knew that having to fight to stay alive was a learning experience and combat the best teacher if a bit short tempered.

    Daryl quietly but firmly told the others in the hallway to give her a little time; he was a little concerned that she wouldn’t be feeling up to anything, likely for at least a few hours maybe longer. The Mitchell’s were both injured, nothing serious, mostly some cuts from flying glass which had been easy to treat, Michelle had already taken care of that. Ellen slowly got off the bed and walked to the door. The others went out in the hallway, she closed the door most of the way behind her.

    Tears came now, she was bothered by what they other couple had been forced to deal with. A part of it was guilt; she and her family had come farther and yet had arrived without a scratch. She took Daryl’s hand as she looked back through the partially opened door at her friend who appeared to be sleeping again. None of them said anything as they went back downstairs. The mood was somber.


    Continued...
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:27 PM.

  11. #11

    Withdrawal Chapter 7 part two

    About an hour after the Richland’s arrived at Jim’s request everyone who was not already there started to head for the living room to discuss their situation. Bobby was summoned from watch near the gate so that he could participate. Daryl reached out and took Linda lightly by the upper arm. She stopped and looked at him, “Hon, I know this is important to everyone but I need you to go to the front room and keep watch while we are talking, take Kaitlyn with you, please, she likes you. Promise we will tell you whatever you don’t hear, ok? I mean, I would hate to get surprised while we’re trying to figure out what we’re gonna do - see what I mean?” The seriousness of his tone was not lost on the fifteen year old.

    Linda looked over to where her father was standing silently who nodded. “Ok Daryl, I can do that.” Linda turned and taking Kaitlyn by the hand, walked through the door into the office to look out the window for anything. She made sure that the door between the rooms was wide open so she could hear as much as possible. Moving through the room the attractive teen looked carefully through the four inch opening in the curtains as best she could, she didn’t want to move the curtains in case someone was out there. A hundred questions were going through her mind right then, what was going to happen, what had already happened, what were they going to do? She tried without success to shut the questions out then looked outside again.

    Nothing, so she went over to the other wall to look out that window, nothing to see out it either - good. Turning she checked again on Kaitlyn who was at that moment was already deeply involved with some coloring, much of the crayons arc was well outside the lines but she was really trying and for the moment she was quiet and that was something. Linda was curious to hear about what went on but having someone watch made sense. The entire situation scared her some but at least for now she was safe and her family was all o.k. She took another look outside commanding her nerves to calm down with limited success.

    After everyone had gotten themselves situated either sitting or standing Jim asked what the situation in town was like, Ellen spoke up first which turned out to be a blessing for Josh. It gave him that much more time to try and move out of the place he was mentally. And by having someone else describe how they had fared it could give them all a better frame of reference. Lorraine was still upstairs in the spare bedroom and she was sleeping which Daryl thought was good. Rest was one of the ways that the body and mind mended itself, let her sleep. So Ellen started in with telling how Daryl had decided to drive over to their satellite office in the next city to check on a few of their job sites and employees, fewer and fewer of the security personnel were showing up for work which was understandable given all that was going on. The security company had already closed their local accounts. Most of the officers were staying at home to protect their own families and homes anyways. An easier task for them since most of the accounts that the company operated was for armed officers Daryl took over at this point in the narrative.

    The last they had heard their two biggest accounts in the next city over were still manned but Daryl didn’t want his guys trying to fend for themselves with the situation as bad as it was and for no pay. The clients had stopped returning his calls so he had gone to relieve the guards, close down the site and retrieve as much of the security company’s equipment as he could. He told the others that he didn’t use the interstate highway at all since he was by himself and so felt that he would be safer sticking to local roads. The drive was nerve wrecking but he made it through without incident. What was normally about not quite an hour drive on the interstate took him nearly three times as long using back roads.

    After going to the office and determining what was still there he made several trips out to the truck depositing his cargo behind the seat. He kept a very close eye out for any signs of trouble but the office was in a decent area and so trouble hadn’t appeared to have reached that area yet. Daryl knew that it would at some point; the chaos was too widespread for it not too.

    After finishing up with the equipment he took the computers from the desks, stacking them in the back store room. He had already grabbed all the discs and important papers stuffing them in a large tote bag. A great deal of work had gone into the company and Daryl wanted to retain as much of it as possible. Before leaving the office he opened up the large Liberty brand safe they used for weapons storage. He then removed the remaining weapons, ammunition and cash that had not been distributed and moved it all to the truck, Daryl remarked that he was surprised that the office manager hadn’t taken any of it, he certainly would have if the situation was reversed but he wasn’t going to complain. Returning inside he then placed the two computer CPU units in the safe and locked it up to try and save them for some time in the future. Then what equipment not already outside that he was taking with him was hurriedly moved to the truck and the office locked up. Knowing that time was not on his side he drove to the two accounts still believed to be occupied by some of his employees. The others asked no questions so Daryl continued on with his narrative.

    Slowly approaching the first site he made contact with the men on duty via two way radio then met up with his employees. The men were grateful that Daryl had driven all the way out to see them in person. To try and make it easier on them he gave each of the workers some cash from the safe it would likely be the last pay they would get from him. He told them to go home and do what they could to protect themselves and their families. Collecting what long guns they had Daryl left them with the company handguns and passed out some additional ammunition. Daryl thanked them for their work, wished them well and left to go to the remaining location.

    He explained to the others that again using the radio he let his people know it was a good guy approaching. Like the first site he drove slowly with his headlights on as a way of clarifying his intentions. Once inside the fenced area he quickly began discussing the situation with his men who had been quick to gather round. Several of them at the second site stated that they had talked and decided to try and stay together, maybe selling their security services as a way of getting by. Daryl had agreed it was a good idea and had offered to loan them several pieces of equipment. It included two of the shotguns, some ammunition, more of the two way radios, spare batteries and the recharging unit for them. The offer was gratefully accepted and the material removed from the cab of the truck. He wasn’t concerned about giving away any of the guns, he still had more in the truck and several at home including his larger caliber semi-automatics. Daryl felt that he had a responsibility to his people to make sure that they were as safe as possible.

    Wishing them well he gave them his cell number, the number to his house, the number to Jim’s and told them how to find both his house and Jim’s so that once this was all over they could get in touch. The information was quickly written down with copies for all of them passed around. He knew that most of the group who had agreed to stay together were former military or law enforcement and so would likely do better than a like numbered group of civilians. There was no feeling of betraying his clients since both businesses had been unoccupied for several days. Given the extent of the breakdown that the country was going through he felt it unlikely even improbable that either one would re-open so better to take care of his people. Wishing them luck again he shook each man’s hand and headed out to get home.

    Daryl went on to talk about the drive over there explaining some of what he had seen. Despite the hour there were groups of people out and about, some were looting, burning and in general creating chaos most of those he saw were armed in some fashion as well. Some had firearms but all at least had something, baseball bats, axes, hunks of lumber, whatever was handy and lethal. Twice it had been necessary to make wide swings though different neighborhoods to get out of the city and back home. A couple of people had taken shots at him, one hit the truck but it was in the side, well back toward the tail gate and other than the hole no damage or injury. His own pistol was sitting right beside him on the seat with a round in the chamber. He had also taken his AR-15 just in case, it was right beside him on the seat with a thirty round magazine seated, a round in the chamber.

    Once he finally was able to get out of the city he returned to the side roads and county highways. He knew that interstate was going to be a disaster and he was right, several times he’d gotten glimpses of the wide transportation artery. The scene still haunted him many hours later, fires, wrecks, fights and drifting groups of those forced to abandon their cars due to lack of fuel or some mechanical issue. He shuddered a little as he was replaying the scene for the others who were listening intently. For the Hamilton’s this was their first glimpse of first hand information about what was going on outside the farm. Daryl explained how he had to stop at one point and refuel; he had been doing so much running around that he hadn’t filled up before leaving the house. The tired man was quick to point out that doing it like he did was a mistake; he should have fueled before leaving. Jim nodded in agreement without commenting. Continuing on he explained “I found a little side road heading west so I took it. I went down about, oh, I’da know, maybe a third of a mile. I couldn’t see any lights like from a farm or anything. Now that I realize since the power was out a lotta places there might have been a farm close by, I don’t know. Anyways, I pulled over a wide spot. Grabbed the AR from the seat and got out.” He scratched his scalp a couple of times and continued.

    “I had taken a couple of gas cans from the house with me since I didn’t know what the situation was going to be. Once I got out I took a good look around but didn’t see anyone so I grabbed three of the gas cans to put in the tank. Believe you me I had my head on a swivel, lookin’ around all the time while I was filling up.” He went to tell them that once he was finished fueling he tossed the empty gas cans in the rear of the truck again and then climbed up on the rear bumper to try and get a better look around.

    Josh asked if he had been able to see anything. Daryl shook his head and said, “Naw, it was too dark. So I decided to get the hell outta there and keep going. I tried to call Ellen but the damned cell phone wouldn’t work. I wanted to tell her to get up and to start packing. What I saw over there was worse than I’d thought it would be, enough for me to say, OK, time to go….no one, I mean no one would be able to deal with what I saw goin’ on by themselves” Jim looked over to Michelle who was across the coffee table from him and she met his look, at least for now they were safe. That she was scared was not hard to tell but Jim felt so what if she’s scared, hell I’m scared he thought.

    Daryl kept on with his story telling them about how he kept to the back roads to get into the city and finally home. People were out walking around, cars heading all different directions and looting in bunch of places. Like the trip up the return trip was about three hours of creeping along secondary roads.Ellen interjected explaining that he had finally been able to get ahold of her, it took several tried as the cell service was either out or jammed with calls and told her to get started with the packing. She had a good start on it but trying to gather supplies and watch over their energetic five year old daughter was tough. Kaitlyn was an early riser. As she was speaking Daryl was nodding to show his agreement with her statement.

    Ellen took over telling the story and explained how she had compromised to deal with Kaitlyn by packing as much of the household items as she could; there was a large pile of containers and suitcases in the living room. Being candid Ellen told those gathered that she was mad at herself for not listening more to Daryl when he had been talking about planning ahead. She had simply not wanted to believe that something this bad could happen so she had not done any packing until Daryl called and told her that they were going to the Hamilton’s. By then the signs were glaring, chaos had not touched their gated community but she had been paying attention to the local news, what there was of it and was well aware of the fact that situation was grim and getting more so. Why hadn’t she listened! Michelle spoke with quiet compassion telling her best friend that the important thing was that she had listened when it mattered most and that her family was safe. The room was silent for a few moments as everyone took in that fact in their own way.

    Wanting to continue Daryl explained that he started in on the rest of the packing soon after his arrival home. He first hugged both his wife and daughter then went out and hooked their camper trailer up to the truck. Fuel cans from the locked cabinets in the garage were moved to their camper and the truck, which he refueled, this time filling both tanks. He placed the extra containers of gas in the back of the truck along with the empties. Never knew when they could come in handy.

    He explained to the group that he had been trying for months to get the Homeowners Association at their gated community to put on a more permanent security presence and to look at purchasing disaster supplies for the community. He had made a prepared presentation to the HOA board during its regular quarterly meeting a few months earlier regarding the need for increased protection. In order to ensure objectivity he stated that in order to show them that this wasn’t a play for more business for him that his firm would not bid on the site if it came up. Some in the room thought that magnanimous while others thought it was a ploy of some kind. The board listened to his presentation and the reasons he felt it was necessary to add on security but in the end the issue was tabled for ‘further review and study.’ The issue of purchasing disaster supplies never even made it to the discussion level. At that point Daryl told the Hamilton’s and Josh he knew that if something serious happened that there was no way he and his family were going to stay at home, the level of exasperation he felt at point was evident in his tone.

    His story returned to what went on after he got home, the supply pile he worked on was placed in the center of the garage floor; it was different from his wife’s. This pile was their ammunition, weapons, medical supplies and the remainder of the food which had been on the shelves in the garage. One nice thing about all the hours he had been putting in for the last few months, the couple had some additional money to stock up some essentials for the home like more fuel and some work related equipment that had come in handy a few times during the recent unpleasantness. The extra fuel was an important factor, the big Chevy crew cab pick up was a great truck but it ate gas and pulling the trailer wouldn’t help but too bad. With the trailer the couple had their living space with them and it held a serious amount of food and other goods. The extra gear Daryl had brought from the now closed office and two of the job sites was already in the truck, he just needed to move it to the back to make more room for Kaitlyn. The pair continued transferring supplies to the trailer and the back of the truck. Ellen had made sure she had packed plenty of toys and clothes for their daughter as well.

    Continued...
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:29 PM.

  12. #12

    Withdrawal Chapter 7 part three

    While they were packing the vehicles several of their neighbors came out and watched. No one offered to help and in fact one of them, Jack something or another from two houses down watched with open disdain as the Richland’s packed to leave. After a bit he walked over to see better what was going on, he wasn’t leaving; he told Daryl that he had food for the week, besides the government would have everything taken care of soon - that’s what they said on the news. All that fuss to leave when they could stay home and take a few days off work. Maybe even get in a round of two of golf! Daryl merely nodded as the man talked, what an idiot. If the government was going to save them they would have already. Not that they were going to be able to do anything of consequence if their area was representative of the whole country. Jack stayed for a few minutes but never offered to help before returning home.

    It took the couple about ninety minutes to move the piles of tubs, bags and boxes. Many of the items were already in tubs thanks to Daryl’s foresight. Once that was done they grabbed a few last minute items, their stock of cash, and various family pictures then secured the house as much as possible before leaving. The twenty-two foot camp trailer was stuffed and the back of the truck was heavily loaded also. Ellen nodded as he finished his story.

    Jim had a few questions regarding the trip getting out of town that he’d been waiting to ask. How had the roads been, had they seen any signs of organized civil authority, and more questions along those lines. Daryl answered them the best he could filling in a few more of the many blanks that they had. They had seen a number of people trying to leave town, cars loaded with goods and supplies were everywhere. A number of them trying to get somewhere on the interstate which Daryl already knew was a big problem. He did see some local law enforcement but they didn’t seem to be doing much. No sign of National Guard at all, he knew the local unit had been called up but what, if any, good they were going to do he didn’t know.

    Once they got out of town a bit it was easier, less traffic but still they had to pay attention. There were those out there driving around without a clue where they were going, just “get outta town, now!” mentality. Josh nodded as well; he had seen similar things and more. Daryl asked if there were any more questions, there were, but no one was willing to ask them.

    Josh waited until he was certain that his friend was done then let out a breath trying to keep his nerves under control. In a quiet voice and avoiding eye contact with anyone Josh told them that he had waited too long to get them out of the city – it was his fault that they were nearly killed. Daryl stopped him right there “Oh bullshit, you made a timing mistake and that’s it, did you both survive? Yes you did, was the trip pure hell, yeah but you made it so don’t get on yourself. Hell I shouldn’t have waited as long as we did either so suck it up bud, we all make mistakes. So what happened?” Josh seemed a bit angered when he answered – good thought Daryl, it worked. “Yeah okay fine, uhm, let’s see once we got the stuff in the truck we jumped in and bailed the hell outta there. About three blocks from the apartment it was like – ida know, what you see on t.v. sometimes, mobs and smoke and absolute chaos.” Listening to Josh speak was scaring Linda half to death, she couldn’t believe it was really that bad but she’d seen their truck and that was some serious proof. She fought to keep from shuddering at the implications.

    Josh continued, “We kept driving around trying to find a way out, many of the streets were blocked but for the most part we were able to – y’ know keep moving. Just when we thought we were home free a big mob just appeared – I mean like they weren’t there then bam! There they were blocking the whole street, the car in front of us was stopped and the people in it…” His voice cracked as he tried to explain, his head drooped then was silent. Michelle reached over and rubbed his nearest shoulder to try and lend some support. It was obvious that Josh had given them all he could for the time being.

    Jim swallowed hard then asked if anyone had anything else. Daryl then made the suggestion that they set up a look out position and keep it manned around the clock telling the others that now that things had gotten really bad it was up to them to keep themselves safe. Jim asked him how they would go about doing it, the former Marine, tired from having been up for many hours rolled his head from side to side and rubbed the back of his neck before answering. He knew from experience that he could stay up for a few more hours which was going to be necessary but after that he would have to have at least a couple of hours of sleep to keep himself functioning.

    “Ok, well first we need to find the best place to watch from, maybe like the roof or the top of the barn, I don’t know. Let’s go out after this, take a look around the property and check things out.” Jim told him that would be no problem, what else? Daryl took a few seconds to think about the response then slightly shaking his head to help himself focus asked if they knew how much food and fuel there was. Michelle answered before any one else could, “Yeah, as a matter of fact we did an inventory yesterday, roughly speaking about twenty months of food and a decent supply of gas and stuff” Her husband nodded in silent agreement at the tally information.

    Daryl really liked hearing that, knowing that they had a somewhat comfortable margin would help a great deal. Even knowing of the Hamilton’s stocking habits twenty months was a long time plus what everyone else had brought with them as well. Having five more mouths to feed would cut into that number sharply but he knew that there was at least four months worth of food and necessities in the truck and camper, maybe even a little more plus what he had pre-positioned there at the farm which was at least another two months worth and whatever Josh brought, just have to drag it out and take a look, oh joy, he thought. Pack it up, load it up and now, unload it, unpack and count it.
    Good deal, ok what else...”Ok, then what we need to do is inventory what all of us brought as well.” Turning to look over at Bobby he asked if he had all his fingers and toes, the youth cautiously replied that he did. Bobby wasn’t sure what was coming but knew it wasn’t going to be fun for him. Smiling, Daryl then said, “Good, that means you know how to count. If you and your dad will give me a hand we’ll get the stuff outta the truck and camper. Where could we put it after that?”

    Bobby and his dad thought for a moment then Jim suggested opening the big barn doors and moving it in the center section of the barn for now. Josh who had up to now been silent since telling his story asked if he could help and without hesitation Daryl told him yes. In fact why didn’t he move his truck over by the barn and they would do it first. Josh nodded and went quiet again. Daryl wasn’t discouraged, he liked hearing that Josh wanted to participate, it was a good sign. Keep him active and contributing was one way to help him through the shock of what they had gone through.

    The four men collected themselves to head out side. Keys and weapons were both grabbed up. The meeting breaking up was noticed by Linda who collected her charge and went into the living room. Kaitlyn went over to Ellen to show her the art work she had accomplished, “My, what a pretty picture.” The little one beamed at the praise. Daryl noticed that Josh was unarmed and told him, “I have something for ya’ in the truck.” Josh nodded and they filed out the back door. The women watched them go and Michelle asked if anyone was hungry Kaitlyn immediately piped up, “Me, me”

    “Ok then,” Michelle, bending down to talk to her face to face, “lets get you something to eat then.” Taking Kaitlyn by the hand she stood then led the little one to the kitchen with Ellen and Linda following.

    After arriving at the vehicles Daryl went straight to the driver’s side of his truck and reached into the bed. With a small grunt he pulled up a long, black, rigid case lifting it clear of the truck. He turned and laid it on the ground kneeling down next to it. While unlocking the clasps he asked someone to get the other case as well. Bobby was closest to the truck so he did it. The other case was right next to where the first one had come out he started to just jerk the case out but couldn’t, the weight was more than what he assumed it would be. Repositioning his stance he lifted the case up. As soon as it was clear of the bed he grabbed it with his other hand as well.

    Daryl had the first case open and was looking at its contents. Both of the other men were looking as well. Resting on the rippled foam interior were several firearms. The most impressive at least to Josh’s way of thinking was the Colt AR-15 very similar to the standard US military rifle. This one had a collapsing stock which at the moment was retracted taking up less room which was being used to hold several loaded magazines. The case also held a Remington model 870 shotgun and in each corner of the case, a box of shotgun ammunition of various loads. The rippled foam that lined the case had been cut to hold the boxes.

    “Where do you want it?” Daryl pointed to the ground next to where he was. The second case was laid down and quickly opened up A gleaming creation of wood, metal and plastic lay exposed. Jim gave a long whistle of approval when he saw what else his friend had brought.
    Daryl smiled at Jim’s appreciation of the rifle. He explained to the others it was a Springfield Armory M1A1, essentially an M-14, chambered in .308 equipped with a Harris bipod which was currently tucked up underneath the barrel. In a manner universal to men everywhere Daryl explained how Ellen had nearly had a cow when she found out what her husband had paid for the precision long range weapon. Jim nodded with a knowing air; it was something all those who had taken wedding vows understood. Women just didn’t get it, well most women anyways. A pair of Smith & Wesson revolvers and another of the Remington pump action shotgun were nestled in the case as well.

    Daryl leaned over and pulled one of the shotguns out and handed it up to Josh who took it willingly. He then pulled a box of shells out of one corner and set it on the ground next to the case. Working the pump release Josh slid the pump grip partially to the rear, just far enough to check the chamber. He was pretty sure that the weapon was unloaded but it was something you always check.

    His dad had taught him that, “An empty gun shoots the loudest” was the phrase he used to use. Satisfied that the Remington was empty he returned the wooden slide to the forward position which moved the bolt forward. Daryl had meantime closed the first case and moved over to the second one. He took out one of the revolvers and swung the cylinder out to verify that it was empty. Once assured that the weapon was unloaded he handed it up to Josh who was not expecting it.

    He fumbled for a moment with the shotgun before getting himself and the weapon situated. Daryl explained that he had some holsters but they were in one of the bags in the back and he would get it for him later. Jim was now doubly glad that Daryl had made it to the house. Not only because they were friends but after seeing what weapons he had with it Jim felt much more secure. And that was a feeling that had been somewhat absent of late. He had enough weapons for his family but nothing beyond that. The addition of these could make a big difference. He muttered a quick prayer that they not need the weapons but thanked God for his friends and their supplies. He had peeked in the trailer and had seen the interior positively stuffed with boxes and tubs.

    Daryl closed the second case now as well and stood, “I‘ll get you set up with some more ammo in a little bit. At least with these you have something.” Josh nodded and even smiled a little which the other men were happy to see. Josh knelt down and opened up the box of shells pulling one out at a time then loaded the shotgun. Once it was full he closed the box and stood making sure the weapon was on SAFE.
    Daryl then turned to look at Jim and asked where they could put these, indicating the remaining contents of the two cases with a wave. “The office, they will fit in the safe, no problem.” Daryl nodded and grabbed one, Jim took the other one. The two men started toward the house. Bobby asked what they wanted him to do but before Jim could speak Daryl asked him to help Josh get started unloading his truck and that they would be right back.

    “Ok, no problem”

    Josh had to hand Bobby the revolver for a moment to retrieve his keys from the pocket of his jeans then took the weapon back. He hurried over to his truck and moved it near the front of the barn while Bobby had gone inside to unlock and open the large doors. Jim and Daryl went inside the house to secure the rest of the weapons. Passing through the kitchen they saw that Kaitlyn was deeply involved with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Seeing the weapon cases Michelle knew that they were going to the office she returned to her conversation with Ellen as Kaitlyn continued to eat.

    Josh and Bobby got started right in with unloading the truck. Most of the goods were not packed well and had been tossed around by the trip. The couple had used a variety of containers to pack and transport what food and clothing they had brought. The rear of the pick up truck was full to the lip of the bed. Two laundry baskets were filled with canned foods and other food items such as pasta, rice and oatmeal. Trash bags had been used as well as paper sacks from the grocery store. Two suitcases, one of which they found had a bullet hole in it held some of the couple’s clothes. Much of the rest of their clothing was wrapped up in the bedspread. The clothes had been hurriedly tossed in the middle of the bed and then each corner of the spread flipped up. The couple had each grabbed an end and off to the truck they went. Nothing fancy just practical.

    Jim and Daryl returned helping to finish up Josh’s truck before starting in on the other vehicle. With four strong backs moving the various containers the work went without a pause and was rapidly accomplished. A quick inventory of what the others had brought would be factored into the Hamilton’s list. The additional supplies would help to offset the additional mouths to feed. Daryl and Ellen had brought quite a bit and so that would make a difference.

    For his part Josh was pretty embarrassed as they unloaded his truck and took stock of what was there. On earlier visits to the farm he had seen the amount of goods that Jim and Michelle had stored and he knew that what he had on hand was pretty weak. Josh felt like a heel showing up with little more than a months worth to add to the pot and said so. Both Jim and Daryl told him to knock it off, the single most important thing was that he had gotten them here, alive despite some serious shit. Josh who happened to be facing the front of the truck looked at the windshield and remembered what happened. The sound of the feral crowd, the brick hitting the windshield, Lorraine screaming, it all came back to him. He flinched from the memory but the words of two men softened the memory somehow.

    Looking each of his friends in the eye he somehow managed to stand a little taller. Got them there and alive. Yes, he had done that, and that was something. He even managed a small smile as the feeling of accomplishment worked in a little deeper. His mind was not fully past what it had endured but he had managed to take a couple of small, maybe even tiny steps in the right direction. He moved his truck so Daryl could get the truck and trailer close to the barn.

    The unloading was a great deal easier than loading had been. Four sets of hands versus two was the biggest difference setting up a line, one man handing off the container to the next and so on. Once the men were finished there was a sizable pile of tubs, bags, cartons and assorted mismatched containers now stacked along one side of the barns center aisle. Jim told the others that for now the stuff was fine where it was. Later on, tomorrow, they would get it better situated. The others agreed and all of them walked back outside the barn. Jim told Josh that he may have a couple of empty tubs in the storage area. They would check later and if so transfer the stuff over. Josh thanked him telling him he appreciated it. Jim waved it off, it was the right thing to do and that was that.

    Josh pushed the big barn doors closed and secured them from the inside. Daryl was looking the property over trying to figure out how to best secure it. The challenges were going to be large ones, the house was only about a hundred feet from the road, the ground around the house and barn was basically open country and as a group they had both limited numbers and experience. Not a great situation by any means but it wasn’t hopeless. After closing and securing the door Josh came over to where the three others were standing. “Ok, so now what?”
    “Now we go look around, we need to find a place where we can set up some kind of observation point. We have to be able to keep an eye out for anyone coming toward us.”

    That made sense to Jim and the others. If you could see the trouble ahead of time then you could be better prepared for it. “Let’s go down front, I want to see what the place looks like from the road.” The quartet collected their weapons and started down the driveway. Jim was curious about what kind of things Daryl was looking for and so asked him about it. “What is it you’re trying to see?” Daryl thought about it for a moment to better frame his answer. “I want to know what someone else would see. If someone who’d never been here before showed up what would they be able to get a look at, to learn just from looking.”

    When they reached the gate Daryl looked it over and wasn’t thrilled. It was of basic wooden board construction. It had been intended to be more decorative than functional as a serious barrier. He reached out to give it a shake and was even less thrilled. The posts supporting the gate appeared stout but the gate itself was weak. Jim, seeing his friends concern asked, “What? What are you thinking about?”
    “We have to be able to secure the driveway.” Looking at the men with him he went on to expound a little on his thoughts. “Look, we have to be able to control access. We have to be the ones who get to say who can and can’t come in.” Looking toward the house he took in the view again. He saw something, yeah, that might work.

    “Got a ladder?” Jim nodded and asked Bobby to go get one. Josh said that he would go with him. “Thanks” The two started back toward the barn as Daryl and Jim started toward the house. Daryl was explaining as they walked, “See, if we can put someone up on there,” pointing at the flat section of roof over the front room. “Then we can use the high ground to our advantage.” The two men talked around anything serious while they waited for the ladder. In short order they could hear the clatter of an aluminum ladder coming closer. Bobby had the front of the ladder with Josh bringing up the rear; he had to swing around the edge of the porch but managed.

    In short order the ladder was extended then placed along side the house and the four men were up on the roof section. The view was impressive. It was possible to see for quite a distance to the south and west. When looking to the north you could see to where the wide forested area blocked the view. Daryl was nodding his approval; the more he looked around the more he was sure that this was the spot.

    Conversation went back and forth regarding how to either use the location to their best advantage or not at all. Jim settled all the discussion. “We’ll put someone up here” the resolve in his voice was firm, decisive. The other three had little to add so nothing was said. It was his house and so he had the final say. The four began discussing how to best use the space. Once they had a basic plan they went to discuss it with the women. The plan was redone, stretched, folded and spindled until it was something that all of them could live with, at least for now.

    After making sure that the roof top position was manned and a basic schedule worked out, Daryl told them that he had to get some sleep. The others told him that was fine, go, sleep. Ellen got up to walk out with her husband so they could talk for a little bit. She knew Daryl was really tired and needed some rest, the more the better. Michelle said she would watch Kaitlyn and not to worry about her. Ellen thanked her friend and then followed her husband outside. The couple walked without speaking. It was enough that they were together. Once at the trailer Ellen kissed her husband and sent him to bed. Too weary to adequately respond Daryl merely grunted and did as he was told.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:30 PM.

  13. #13

    Withdrawal Chapter 8 part one

    Chapter 8

    Someone was on watch in the recently designated Observation Post the entire night usually sitting in a lawn chair carried up to the roof over the office. They had been taking four hour shifts. After making sure Daryl didn’t have to stand watch at all that night Jim had given himself the hard one, the two a.m. – six a.m. shift. He knew that his friend was exhausted and they had enough people so that Daryl could at least get one good night’s sleep. In fact it was one of the Hamilton’s that had each of the first three shifts. Linda the initial one, she was relieved by Michelle and then in turn by Jim. The two to six shift was not a good time to be up but they couldn’t take any chances. The group had decided that they had to keep someone on watch at all times. Thankfully, all the shifts that first night passed without incident.

    The only item of any excitement at all and it wasn’t much was during Jim’s shift. It occurred a few minutes after three in the morning when Jim watched as a car passed by. It never slowed nor showed any signs of interest in the house or its occupants. He watched it carefully until it was completely lost to sight. Jim let out a sigh of relief after the taillights disappeared in the distance. Only then did he relax his grip on the Ruger Mini-14 was holding. Those on duty that night had been passing the weapon along to the next person. Its large ammunition capacity, thirty rounds, could be all the difference if something occurred. At least it would give the person on the roof more to work with while the others responded to whatever threat might occur. Two other magazines for the rifle, another one holding thirty rounds and the factory issue ten rounder were laying on the roof next to the chair. Jim realized that he should have retrieved more of the large capacity magazines out of the safe to use in place of the ten rounder. He resolved to take care of that as soon as he could. But at least for now if seventy rounds weren’t enough then they all had bigger issues to worry about.

    Several checks of the exterior of the house were made once it got dark to ensure that no light spilled out from inside all of the curtains and blinds were closed to avoid showing any occupancy. Jim had pulled the fuse for the large outdoor light mounted on a pole near the barn. Normally he would welcome having a large area of the property near the house illuminated, not now. Security was more important. Several times he thought that he had heard something but it turned out to be either the wind or his imagination. He admitted to being a bit jumpy but how much caution was too much?

    Jim was a little surprised, not displeased to be sure but surprised nonetheless that they hadn’t seen more people. They had certainly seen some but nothing like what he felt they would at some point. He had visions of a massive horde of desperate refugees storming the fence. Jim sincerely hoped it stayed the way it was but doubted it would. The situation in the cities and towns had to be completely out of hand by now. A shiver rode over him as he tried to imagine the chaos and disorder. The memory of what Josh’s truck looked like was enough to tell him that. A prayer and thanks went out that his family had moved out here when they did.

    It had gotten a bit chilly but a blanket, brought up by someone earlier that night had taken care of that. He’d only had to get down once to go to the bathroom, it had been a short walk over to the outhouse rather than going into the house. He reasoned that at least he was still outside and would hear if someone came by in the short time he was off the roof. Plus this way he knew that there was no chance of waking up anyone in the house. Keep meaning to oil the hinges on the front door too, so much to do he reminded himself. Well we appear to have some time now Jim reasoned. Whether that was going to be good or bad hadn’t been completely decided yet but Jim had a pretty good idea which way it was going to go.

    As the sun rose it seemed bright and cheery amid the cloudless sky which did not reflect how the occupants of the farm felt when they had taken to their respective beds. As the eastern sky had slowly lightened Jim forced himself to stand up and walk around some in an effort to stave off the affects of fatigue. He had managed about an all too brief three hour nap before relieving Michelle who had gratefully headed off for a few hours of sleep. Morning, she knew would come soon enough. A quick kiss and hug and she had been down the ladder to get some rest.

    Sleep was an elusive partner during the night for some of them. Daryl had no problem sleeping having been up for quite some time. Ellen wasn’t nearly so fortunate, she tossed and turned at every noise she heard outside the trailer. Kaitlyn was sleeping soundly in the lower bed of the bunked units in the front of the trailer where she usually slept when they used the camper. Ellen woke up again, checked her watch, five fifteen, and decided she might as well get up. She had to relieve Jim at six anyways. The bed in the trailer was comfortable but is sure wasn’t the king size, pillow top mattress in their house.

    Sliding carefully out of the bed where her husband was still sleeping soundly she got dressed and walked forward to check on Kaitlyn. Her daughter was curled up in the insulated quilt that Daryl’s mother had made for her fourth birthday. Ellen wondered how she was doing; the woman lived in Indianapolis and had refused to leave despite their pleas, God I hope she is alright. The little face of her daughter was a picture of contentment, she was warm, resting and with no cares outside those of any child her age. Ellen noted that she wished she could feel that way. A little stiff from the mattress she ruefully thought, yeah this was definitely not her king size bed. Careful to make as little noise as possible she retrieved her shotgun and then went outside. Closing the door then locking to make sure Kaitlyn couldn’t get out if she got up before her father she turned to look at the eastern sky which was a mix of light colors, some pink, a few streaks of yellow. She took in a deep breath of air holding it for a moment before heading for the house. The air was quiet, no breeze to move the leaves.

    Ellen walked across the grass, heavy with dew. She was grateful for the medium weight jacket she had on. Gravel crunched lightly under her booted feet as she crossed the driveway. She was wondering if anything had gone on during the night as she made it to the rear porch. Then belatedly Ellen realized that if something had gone on she would have known it. Shaking her head at her own foolishness she quietly opened up the door and went inside. She wanted some coffee and decided to take Jim a cup of it as well. Poor guy, he had been up there since two. She knew that she would have to take that shift sooner or later but at least it wasn’t right now.

    Having been a frequent guest the female half of the adult Richland’s knew where the coffee and filters were kept so she helped herself. Within minutes the aroma of fresh coffee began to fill the kitchen. She didn’t bother to wait for the pot to fill. Grabbing a cup she pulled the glass coffee container out from under the spout and held the cup in its place. As soon as it got a little bit over half full she swapped the pot and cup. Pleased she had been able to do the exchange without spilling a drop she spooned a measure of sugar into the cup slowly stirring it in a small smile creased her face. Twenty minutes before she had to relieve Jim, plenty of time to enjoy the quiet and get a dose of caffeine. Moving over to the table she sat down and drank her coffee. The only sounds in the kitchen as she sat were the low hum of the coffee maker and the slow, constant tick of the second hand on the large wall mounted clock. She finished her coffee with several minutes to spare and got up. She went in and used the bathroom; both from the usual morning ritual of it and besides, four hours is a long time to hold it. Finished she washed her hands and returned to the kitchen. Rinsing out her cup she then filled it again to about half way. Taking the coffee with her she left the kitchen heading outside. The sky was a little lighter out as she made her way around the house. Ellen didn’t want to go through the house and take the chance she might wake someone up.

    She went out the back and carefully closed the door behind her so it wouldn’t slam shut. Walking around the house took no time at all and then she was at the base of the ladder. Shaking it lightly and calling Jim’s name she wanted to let him know that it was someone friendly. She was then faced with a dilemma, how was she going to get up the ladder holding the shotgun and Jim’s coffee? Well hell, oh - I got it. Jim had heard her and was now at the top of the ladder looking down, weapon in hand. He had heard someone down there and then identified the voice but was taking no chances.

    Taking two steps Ellen leaned the shotgun up against the house and then returned to the ladder. She mounted the first rung and made her way up using one hand to steady the coffee and the other to support her as she climbed. Once she was most of the way up she lifted the coffee up and seeing what she was doing Jim knelt down and took the cup. As soon as he had the coffee she hurried back down and retrieved the shotgun. Jim was watching in amusement as she came up, went down, came back up and now here she was. The coffee smelled good, he was anxious to go in the house and get some as well.

    Ellen smiled at him as she stood atop the roof section. Seeing that he was still just holding the cup she told him that it was for him. Jim laughed and looked sheepish at the revelation, okay, so he didn’t have to wait for coffee after all. She walked over and playfully punched in the arm as he was taking a deep swig of the warm liquid. Oh man that’s what I needed Jim told himself as he took another.
    “Dumbass” She asked him about his shift, had anything gone on? No, see anyone? Questions were asked and answered in between sips of coffee. She then made the point that they had all left the back door to the house unlocked all night. Jim’s eyes grew wide as the realization hit. Oh my God, how stupid! He vowed to make sure that didn’t happen again.

    The two talked further as the morning deepened and more of the scene was revealed in the light of day. Jim finished up the coffee and thanked her again. The warmth from the liquid was a welcome feeling as it spread. He decided that he wanted some more and headed off the roof. Ellen turned her full attention to the task of watching the surrounding area. He left the Ruger rifle with her after giving her a short class on handling the weapon. Jim took her shotgun with him when he departed.

    Within an hour or so most everyone was awake and moving about. It seemed that breakfast was the first priority if nothing else than out of long ingrained habit. Some got cereal, others oatmeal and some just wanted coffee. Caffeine was a huge favorite in the morning for nearly all the adults. A second pot of the precious liquid was started when it was apparent that it would be needed. No one seemed to have a large appetite that morning. Daryl waited till most everyone was done either eating or doing whatever their morning routine was before speaking. Kaitlyn had woken him up by climbing up in the bed with him since she couldn’t get out of the trailer. Once awake he found that despite still being tired he couldn’t justify trying to go back to sleep. He wanted to go back to sleep but remembered that Ellen was on watch. So he very grudgingly hauled himself out of bed, today is the first day of the rest of your life he reminded himself. The attentive father helped get his little girl dressed then fished a tee shirt out of a haphazard pile of clothing near the bed. Have to get this place better organized. Great, more to do. Within a few minutes he was ready to go and so they went to the house.

    Talking loud enough so everyone could hear him but not loud enough to be rude Daryl told the others in the kitchen, “As soon as everyone is finished I’d like to have a meeting. We need to make some decisions and talk some about what is going on.” Jim nodded despite being tired, really tired. He had been thinking about it while on watch as a way of both passing time and trying to figure out where to go from here. There were several things that there just hadn’t been time for the previous day, further planning had been one of them. It hadn’t been ignored but trying to get everyone situated and some rudimentary defenses in place had taken up much of the time.

    The group was gathered in the living room with the front door open. Ellen, who was still on guard duty came down off the roof section and was standing on the front porch so she could participate as well. Lorraine, looking better than she had the day before had even eaten a little something that morning was sitting together on the couch with Josh and Michelle. Bobby and his sister were standing while Jim had taken to his recliner. He was beat and it showed but he was adamant that he needed to be there for the meeting but had conceded to take a nap after they were done. Michelle told him that yes, he would. A small laugh at that from the other married folk present, yes dear, whatever you say dear…the mantra of many men, married and not, throughout history. Trying to decide what to do with Kaitlyn while they talked had taken a bit of time. They didn’t want her in the room since she would likely an energetic distraction but couldn’t just turn her loose left to her own devices. Finally they decided to go and get one of her favorite movies out of the trailer and let her use the tv/dvd combo Linda had in her room upstairs.

    It was brought downstairs and set it up in the office while the movie was retrieved. Daryl smartly grabbed three of the movies he knew his daughter favored. Having eaten the pre-schooler was taken to the front room and given the choice of what she wanted to watch. She immediately grabbed at the one that Daryl had figured she would. Winnie-the-Pooh it was, the disc was popped in and started. Kaitlyn flopped down on the floor in front of the unit and waited with rapt attention to watch a movie that her father knew she had seen at least fifty hundred times. Daryl just smiled and shook his head. She always got that excited about Pooh, it was her favorite. The wonder of a child he thought as he watched his daughter for just a moment then turned to leave the room. Returning to the living room he quickly checked with Ellen to make sure that nothing was going on outside. His wife assured him that she was watching and for now they were secure. Daryl suspected that she hadn’t slept well but he had and it had helped…a bunch. Admittedly a few more hours would be nice but he was happy to take what he could get it would take more than one night of rest but it would have to do for now. A bit like the Corps he mused.

    Stepping back inside he moved over to stand near the middle of the room. He wanted to be able to see out the door and to hear Kaitlyn as well. “Jim with your permission?” Jim tiredly nodded, he was in no mood to stand on ceremony simply because it was his house, if Daryl wanted to talk, let him. Daryl continued, “Okay. So let’s talk about what’s going on for a minute” He paused but launched in again before anyone else could speak up. “Everyone here has the right to speak up and put their two cents worth, everyone, this is too important to stand on any kind of formality.” With a short wave in the direction of Bobby and Linda to indicate that he meant the statement included them. Linda nodded but her brother stayed still. He was too intent on what was happening. He had always had a serious nature and the current events left him little time or desire for excess frivolity.

    Looking around at the room’s occupants he continued, “We know the situation in town is bad,” a quick glance at Lorraine who flinched slightly but didn’t say anything, “and we know for the moment we are safe out here. Jim, Michelle thanks for taking us in.” The others murmured their thanks as well. The elder Hamilton’s both smiled but said nothing.

    “So, having said that where does that leave us?” He was throwing the question out for any and all of them. Michelle was quick to answer, “It seems to me that our best choice is to stay here and make the best of things.”

    “Agreed, but the best of what? I mean,” He held up one hand to stop Josh from speaking for a bit. “…will the situation stay the same, get better, get worse? What is better and what is worse? We simply don’t know and that makes it all the harder to decide. I haven’t got all the answers but based on what we do know there are some choices to make.” Pointing at Josh to let him know he could continue Daryl told him sorry for cutting him off. Josh waved it off as he began.

    “That’s a valid point but, do we have any control over any of that?” He slid forward on the couch a bit as he was trying to make his point. Josh then asked the others if there was anything that they could realistically do to change the situation. Jim seemed to perk up and he responded before Daryl could say anything, “Yes! Absolutely, I mean, we’re here, safe as possible given the situation, we have food, water, shelter and weapons to defend ourselves and we have each other. We’ve already changed the situation to our benefit. We have to try to improve on that…see what I mean?” Josh had been listening carefully and he looked over to Lorraine who had yet to say much of anything since coming into the living room. He acknowledged that Jim had a point. He listened as Daryl continued, “Ok, not knowing if we are going to be here for one day or one month, we need to give some thought to making some defenses. This place is too open, not enough cover, not nearly enough. What can we do to change that?”

    Jim was a little surprised at his friend’s statement. There was plenty of cover here - trees, bushes, wood piles, all kinds of places to avoid being seen. He asked Daryl about it, “What do you mean? There are bushes all around the road, more in the fence in front of the house, there is plenty of cover.”

    “No. There’s some cover, but you’re right there’s a bunch of concealment. Huge difference between cover and concealment folks one keeps you from being seen and the other keeps you from getting shot.” The former Marine paused to let that vital piece of information sink in. He had to remind himself that what he had here were civilians, not Marines and this was not a tactical refresher course like so many he had endured while in service. Back to square one. Taking a deep breath he started to explain further.

    “What you have here is concealment, not cover. If a bullet can go through it then it is not going to keep you alive and we have to fix that. We need to build some…I don’t know…bunkers for lack of a better word. Get it?”

    In a low but steady voice Lorraine spoke up which surprised everyone, “Won’t they just leave us alone?” Daryl, taking care to be gentle told her, “I hope they do I really do but in case they don’t we have to be ready. It’s too important not be prepared.” Josh took his wife’s hand but she didn’t say anything else. At least she had spoken up, that was something. All this talk of defenses and the difference between cover, concealment had her a bit rattled.

    “What kind of material do you have around here that we could use?” Jim thought about it for a second but before he could answer Bobby chimed in to his father, “What about all that concrete you bought?” His dad’s face lit up some, concrete would be sweet, it could make excellent defenses.

    “It might work depending upon how and where we use it, if we use it at all.” Several curious looks accompanied the statement. “Folks, y’all need to understand something, what we have here at the house is it, at least for now. We don’t want to use up all our resources now only to find out later that we need, really need something that we used up just because we had it and it could happen. Our ability to go out and go shopping for lack of a better term in gone, finished, at least for now and the foreseeable future. Everything has changed boys and girls, everything. The situation as it is may end later today, next week, next month or not at all.” Daryl could tell that thought had not occurred to all of those present and the reality of it was hitting them hard. Not that Daryl wanted to be the oracle of bad news but better to get them thinking realistically now, not later. There simply wasn’t time to coax them along at a nice, easy to digest pace.

    Jim couldn’t recall the last time he had heard his friend make such a long statement. It did make him think and despite being tired it made sense not to mention a little uneasy. Okay so using the concrete may not be the best idea but at least they had it if they did need it. As he was thinking about it an idea came. He had the answer, “We could stack up the firewood, you know, the log rounds, we have a huge pile of them. They would stop a bullet if need be, right?” An immediate nod answered his question. “If they are thick enough or stacked deeply.”

    Continued...
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:32 PM.

  14. #14

    Withdrawal Chapter 8 part two

    Daryl cocked his head as he thought about it. “How many do you have?” Jim answered at once, “Hell, must be what,” looking at his son, “…three, no, five truckloads at least?” Bobby who had been the “volunteer” who had gone with his dad to collect the wood nodded in agreement. “At least” Linda agreed, she had been helping to split and stack the future firewood so she was familiar with the size of it, all too well in her opinion.

    “Good deal, okay, so if we stack it up, say some at the gate to block it and maybe use some more to throw together some kind of bunker…yeah that would work. Let’s do that. Can we get more wood?” Jim assured him that there was plenty just up the road and if he wanted Daryl could go with him to check it out. He had seen the large wood pile over by the chicken coop and had been wondering if there was any more available. Yesterday they had passed through the large wooded section north of the house to get to the farm. He knew that Jim and Bobby had gathered a great deal of the future firewood there. Maybe they could make a run up there and get some more.

    Josh piped in next. “That’s a start and probably not a bad one but let’s back up a bit. I mean I can shoot, some. I’ve been hunting some with you guys and years ago with my dad but you’re talking about serious shooting, military stuff.” He looked around the room to emphasize his next point, “I know you are the only one here with military experience. You can’t…” Daryl held up his hand to stop him. He had been giving that area of concern a good deal of thought and was ready with a response.

    “I know, but we are going to take care of that, as much as we can anyways. Starting later today if possible but tomorrow for sure I am going to start working with everyone, one at a time. Shooting drills, weapons handling, immediate action, the works. I’m not expecting to try and turn y’all into commandos or anything. Just give you enough to keep you comfortable with what you are doing.” He asked if they had a count on ammunition. Jim told him that he had about at least eleven thousand rounds probably more. Much of it, more than half was .22 but it was still ammunition. Daryl pursed his lips as he was thinking about it.

    “That should work cause I brought about that much myself, maybe even a little more. I need to get it all out and do a quick count.” He asked Josh if he would like to help him with that and Josh readily agreed. Jim reminded them that he could reload a large number of shells as well so that they could go ahead and shoot just about whatever they needed. With everything going on Daryl had forgotten that fact which allowed him to change his still evolving training program. He would have them shoot….he followed that thread for a bit before returning his full attention to the main conversation.

    The group discussed a variety of items, watch schedule, what to do if someone came to the farm, who would be assigned to work details and meals. On that Michelle spoke up first, “I think we should fix meals using as much of the fresh meat and veggies as we have on hand first. Make sure it’s used and don’t go bad. What we have in the freezers will stay good for a while yet so no big deal there but the fresh stuff…” Ellen agreed and even Lorraine nodded agreement. Little by little during the conversation she was getting more involved. Josh was encouraged by it. He was about to ask her a question when Kaitlyn wandered back in to the living room to let everyone know that her movie was over. Smiles broke out; the tone of the conversation had been so serious that they had forgotten about the child in the front room who was enjoying doing child’s things. Daryl was a little surprised time had gone by that quick, he knew that movie was at least forty minutes long. Wow, spaced that, Kaitlyn had been so quiet and they had all been so intent that he had literally forgotten about her. Oops!

    Ellen who had been near the door excused herself for a moment to attend to her daughter. Linda took advantage of the distraction to head to the kitchen, she was thirsty. She knew that her mom had made some tea the day before and wanted some. Her mom made the best iced tea in the whole world. The others variously stood or left the room for some errand or another. Josh smiled at his friend as he slipped into the bathroom just ahead of Jim who shook his head then turned and went upstairs to make use of the master bath.

    Getting Kaitlyn situated didn’t take long and after giving the smiling girl a kiss Ellen returned to the living room. Expecting them to merely wait for her she was surprised to see that nearly everyone had either changed position or was gone. “Boy you leave for one minute.” Those present laughed dutifully at the comment. Linda walked back in the living room with a tall glass of tea in hand and Ellen caught sight of it.

    Linda saw the look and told her, “Fine, take this one and I will go back and get me one.” Ellen smiled and thanked the girl for her generosity as she took the glass. Linda stopped, looked back over her shoulder at Ellen and in a faux sex siren voice told her, “That’s one favor you owe me there baby” Michelle had never heard her daughter do that before, she broke in a gale of laughs that threatened to flop her off the seat she was on. The perky teen sauntered into the kitchen to get another glass of tea with a room full of laughter following her. Conversation was limited for next few moments it slowed but never stopped. Ellen was laughing so hard she didn’t dare raise the glass to her lips for fear of spilling it on herself.

    Josh was emerging from the bathroom at about the same time looking overly puzzled at the laughter. He hadn’t heard the exchange and so was curious about what could cause the mood to change to this. He looked at each person trying to get one of them to explain it but no one would as the confused look on his face added to the laughter. To make matters worse Linda walked over to him as she came back in the living room and in the same siren voice asked, “Whatsa matter big boy?” and then went over to where she had been previously. A smile graced her face which only added to her natural beauty.

    The laughter now at Josh’s expense seemed to double. Michelle was laughing so hard now that she was nearly crying. Lorraine took a measure of pity on her man but it was a small measure as she too piped in. “Yeah big boy” Jim, now at the bottom of the stairs caught the comment and seeing the deer in the headlights look on Josh’s face said nothing. He merely sat down near his wife again. He knew better than ask, he would find out later. For his part Josh, getting no answers only more ribbing took the low road and slunk back over to the couch. Kaitlyn took this opportunity to come out of the front room and walked to the center of the room. Her little body was erect with determination as she placed both hands on her hips and informed them all that they were being too loud she couldn’t hear her movie. The reaction was giggles and coughing as the adults tried to reign in their laughter in the face of the facts presented by the indignant pre-schooler.

    “I’m sorry sweetheart, daddy promises we will be quiet so you can watch your movie. Okay?” He was bend down to talk to her and he nearly lost it when she replied, “Daddy it is my favorite movie.” She left her father and the others to return to the front room in triumph while behind her the reaction was humor all around. Daryl was shaking his head back and forth as he parroted her words. “Daddy it is my favorite movie” Ah, the joys of parenting.

    The break in conversation was welcome and the laughter even more so but Daryl knew that he needed to get them back on track. So reluctantly he waved them down to their seats and told them, “Ok, ok, enough for the comedy commercial but back to more serious matters.” He paused to allow everyone to settle in again and return their attention to the matters at hand. “We have talked about defenses, food, training, so what else needs covered?” Bobby spoke up for the first time. “What do we do about talking to each other, I mean if you’re on duty and you see…” He stopped when he saw that Daryl was waiting to say something.

    “Thank you. A good point and one I’d forgot about. I have a bunch of two way radios out in the barn. I forgot all about them yesterday with everything going on. Good damn thing that nothing happened last night, geezus.” He informed the group that they were the radios from the offices that the security officers used while on duty. He explained that he had a base radio, several handheld units, spare batteries, a charger and even a battery reconditioner.
    “What’s that?”
    “You cycle the batteries through it, it basically completely drains them and extends the life. It’s a great money saver I’ll tell ya, ‘specially when you consider that one battery costs about sixty five bucks.” The practical businessman in him was very conscious of costs. When the Motorola representative had shown him how the unit could save him money he ordered one on the spot for each of his two offices. The discussion turned to how best to use the radios. There were several ideas tossed in for consideration. They went back and forth over it until settling on a plan that was acceptable to the majority. The O.P. was to have one all the time and who ever went outside for any reason was to take one with them no matter how short the trip. Another was to be kept by whoever was the next on duty. This way not all the radios would be used all the time and that would help to cut down on their use. It would also allow for someone to be able to respond and alert the others if something did occur.

    Collectively they agreed that it wasn’t the best system but they would at least try it for now and if need be, change it later. Daryl also told them that anyone going outside was to be armed, no exception. That directive sparked some debate as well. Some felt it was overly cautious to be armed at all times but that was far from the general consensus. Lorraine spoke with surprising passion about it. She had grown up in a household that did no hunting, no sport shooting of any kind, in fact she couldn’t ever remember a time there was a gun in her parent’s house. She felt that it wasn’t a good idea and there was Kaitlyn to consider as well.

    Daryl told her that Kaitlyn understood as well as she could for her age that guns were dangerous. He did concede that Lorraine had a point and told the group that no weapons were to be unattended at any time. For his part Jim felt it was a good idea his kids had grown up around firearms but the thought of something happening to Kaitlyn due to negligence was enough give him the chills. For the rest of it, staying armed he felt was a good idea. They had no more information regarding the conditions in town other than what Josh and Lorraine had told them or for that matter even just two miles up the road which made Jim think about something. Conversation was still going hot and heavy both ways regarding being armed, “Hang on, hang on. I have a question.” He was looking around trying to get everyone’s attention so he could put it out there for them to discuss. It took several moments for the chatter to stop enough he could speak.

    “I just thought of this, different subject to a point but I think it’s important. Do we go out and make contact with any of the neighbors?” He was unsure; there were arguments to be made both ways. Keep to yourself and stay more secure or take the risk and potentially gain information, resources and best of all, allies - tough call. Conversation dimmed sharply as the others considered the question. The nearest house that still held people in any number was the Holski farm about a half mile down the road to the south. At least there was someone there the last time he had checked. That he quickly realized had been almost three days ago now so who knows? It was likely that the Holski’s were still there. There were several small farms north of the wooded area some of which were probably still occupied. Much of the land surrounding the farm was large fields used for farming or grazing livestock. The section south of them was huge; several hundred acres all owned by the same family and had been for some time. South of the Holski farm was a small subdivision with a few dozen houses.

    Daryl had his own opinion but wanted to hear what everyone else had to say and so he told them that this was something that they should all vote on. He started the voting with Linda, he pointed at her and motioned for her to begin. She seemed a little hesitant to start but dove in anyways. “Well, I’d said go and talk to ‘em” With that she turned and looked at her brother who didn’t seem ready for her to give a short answer so was caught a bit off guard. He shrugged and told everyone, “I agree, let’s go and talk to them. They may have more news about what’s going on.”

    Josh was to Bobby’s left so he picked up the torch. “I disagree, let’s get ourselves situated first. I mean, like Daryl said, we really don’t know what’s going on out there. Let’s get our stuff done first and then later on, I dunno know, a week, maybe two then we go and talk to them. My opinion for what it’s worth.” He held up both hands in front of him as if to signify his surrender on the issue as he leaned back against the cushion of the couch. Daryl looked at Lorraine to collect her opinion.

    She looked down for a time, then looked over at Josh who nodded at her telling his wife that it was all right, go ahead. Lifting her head Lorraine took an inventory of the expressions of those gathered in the room and took in a deep breath. As she started to speak her voice was a bit shaky but firmed up some as she went on. “First, I want to say thank you to everyone, I know it’s been hard and y’all have been kind to me. The drive out here was hard and I am,” on the verge of tears she fought to continue, “really grateful.” Josh took her hand in his. “Sorry, it seems like I’m always crying.” Michelle walked over and touched her friend on the shoulder leaving her hand resting there. Jim told her to take her time; no one here was judging her. Josh was grateful for the support from their friends. He had spend some time with Lorraine the night before trying to reassure that they were all right, they were safe and that it was all right to be upset. They had seen some terrible things and it was completely understandable that she was feeling the way she was.

    Daryl seconded the statement that Jim had made. He took it a step farther to try and firm up the foundation of calm she was trying to establish. “Sweetie, look, we are here, not in town, we’re together, not apart. Ok? Try and think of it in those terms. Last night no one bothered us, no one tried to harm us.” She looked up at Daryl as the words found a small anchorage in her thinking. He could see that she was processing the information and despite the ordeal was finding it to be truthful and that allowed her to grab it for her own. Laughing a bit to try and feel a little better she smiled some amid the tears which was nice for the others to see. She was genuinely fighting to move past this and regain a measure of control. Bobby and his sister shared a look, they had no real idea of what the Mitchell’s had gone through in town to get here but seeing their condition and what had happened to the truck they tried to imagine. It fell short but both teens were very happy that they were safe and that their family was together. Each of them worried about friends from school but there wasn’t anything they could do about that, but this, here and now, they could.

    Lorraine grabbed a tissue from the box on the coffee table in front of her and wiped her face. She took in a few short, deep breaths and nodded. For now, she was in control, as much control as she could muster but it was a bit more than before they started and she knew that counted for something. Michelle squeezed her shoulder once and Lorraine reached up and held her hand for a moment while looking up at her friend. Then they turned back to Daryl who had been waiting patiently like the others. No rush, the important thing was to get Lorraine to realize that she was not alone in this. It was a good lesson for all of them to remember, apart they had no chance, together they might make it. No guarantees but Daryl knew which way he wanted it to be.

    “So, ah, what was the question?” A weak smile creased Lorraine’s face but at least it was a smile. Daryl reminded her and then paused to let her speak. “Well, let’s deal with ourselves first. We should just stay put.” Josh was nodding his agreement as she spoke. He had seen how bad it was and didn’t want to worry about that right now. If they stayed put, even for a week then it was week that they wouldn’t have to deal with the outside and all its concerns. Selfish maybe but at least it was safe, that’s how he justified to himself.

    Pointing at Jim to go next Daryl took a count, two for going, two for staying, interesting. “At first I was really for going and talking to them but Josh brings up a good point and not one I had really considered, I mean, objectively. We need to get ourselves taken care of, the defenses, the training, we need to look at getting the supplies organized and distributed plus stand guard. It’s a lot to do. Let’s wait.”

    Michelle was more than a bit surprised by her husband’s statement. She would have bet money that he was going to say, go. Well she was leaning for going but didn’t feel all that strongly about it one way or the other. So siding with what she felt was the growing majority told them that she wanted to wait. Daryl could sense the course that the count was going in and felt a little relieved. He had been fully prepared to argue for staying put, he would have gone along if the decision had been to contact the neighbors but really felt that waiting was better for all of them.

    Ellen was next and she said go and talk to them. So it came down to Daryl who told them, “I am for waiting, so well, it appears that democracy still lives in some form. The decision of the group is stay here for now and wait. So be it.”

    “So everybody ready to get started?” He looked around the room and got a variety of responses from head nods to mumbles but at least he heard from everyone. “All right then, let’s get going. We need to get the radios out of the truck, pull and count the ammunition, get started on stacking firewood and…” before he could continue Ellen spoke up ”Relieve the person on guard?”

    The others looked up at the wall clock it was already nearly ten thirty, Josh was supposed to have relieved Ellen at ten. He bolted up off the couch like someone had electrified the cushion and started talking fast, “I’m so sorry, we got busy talking and…” She waved it off with a smile and told him to go get his weapon and she would wait for him. He turned and rushed upstairs which the others took as a sign that the meeting was over.

    Michelle looked at her husband who was making noise about stacking firewood and told him to go to bed. He started to tell her that he wasn’t that tired but the others all told him the same thing. Go to bed, take a nap and we will deal with what has to be done. Josh came back down with his shotgun in hand and went outside to talk to Ellen. This was his first time on duty so he wanted to get a few pointers
    Daryl put it to Jim another way. He asked him when he had watch next, “Tomorrow morning at six why?”

    “Ok, but since we have help we’ll be able to do a bunch this morning and need Josh to help with the wood anyways what’s wrong with you sleeping until he gets off duty? Then we will have most of us available to do the heavy work. Agreed?”

    Jim reasoned that put that way it made sense so he acquiesced and went upstairs. The others broke up and started in on the various tasks discussed. The remainder of the day passed quickly as numerous projects were tackled. The goods in the barn brought the new arrivals was sorted, organized and inventoried. Josh mentioned to Michelle the need for a few storage tubs if any were available, three of the requested items were located and provided. Daryl took a little time to better position the trailer locking in the supports to better anchor and level the unit. A stout lunch was prepared by several of the women with Lorraine participating as well then the work continued after everyone had eaten. Michelle made sure to keep some set aside for Jim when he finished his nap.

    After Josh’s shift was over Jim was woken up and they all began to move the firewood around. It was a chore but it needed done. Once they had a decent amount moved Daryl took Josh aside to begin the weapons training he talked about earlier. The two spent over an hour reviewing safety, handling, proper reloading and much more. By the time dinner rolled around everyone was quite hungry; the last of the fresh lettuce was used up in a hearty salad with some chopped vegetables added. A heartfelt prayer was offered up as they sat down to eat asking for safety and healing for the country which all of them took in their own as they began to eat.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:34 PM.

  15. #15

    Withdrawal Chapter 9

    Chapter 9

    The next few days went by quickly for everyone since there was simply so much to get done, whether it was standing watch, helping prepare defenses, organizing supplies or participate in training, the days were filled. The total amount of work accomplished by the group was nothing short of amazing. No one slacked or shirked their share of the burden. Several of them had commented that it seemed that the sun was barely up, they get started and then suddenly it was time for dinner then bed. Members of the group made a total of three round trips using both Jim and Daryl’s trucks to go and collect log rounds from the wooded area north of the house. They used the chainsaw as little as possible to avoid drawing attention. It proved necessary once the wood that had been cut previously by assorted visitors had been collected and transported back to the farm. The consensus was to collect what they could before doing anything that would draw attention to them just in case. Initially Jim had an issue with collecting the wood that others had cut but Daryl pointed out that they got there first. Besides whoever had cut the wood should have come and gotten it already if they were serious about it. “It’s about us, not them” the former Marine said. That settled the issue for Jim.

    There were two good sized trees that were already down and needed to be cut into sections. The decision to risk the noise of the saw was weighed against the outcome. Instead of making several trips at a later time, risk it now and get the wood, collect more than what they thought they might need and then stay home. Better to have it on hand than to wish for it later. One of them handled the saw while the other two stood watch with weapons at the ready. When it came time to load the trucks two of them loaded and one was on guard. Keeping someone on guard was essential that far from the farm. They traded off to allow the work to progress as quickly as possible, despite that it still took hours of work. It was hot, heavy effort to cut, move and then load the sections of the cut timber. With each one that went in the back of the truck their resources increased so they kept at it.

    None of them was thrilled with being away from the farm for any length of time but they had to gather the wood. While the trio, it was usually Jim since he knew where the downed trees were and two different people each time, were gone everyone at the farm was fully armed and an extra person was kept outside just in case. It worked well, the second person usually worked in the garden with a long gun nearby. Everyone was provided one of the portable radios to allow the maximum amount of communications if something were to occur. Radio traffic from the house to the woods was possible due to line-of-sight ability of the small but powerful radios. The base station radio antenna had already been wired to the windmill tower which gave it a great deal of range. The one issue with it was that since it was in the front room the person using it had to go in there which limited the usefulness of it, everything had a trade off.

    While the group was away gathering wood a person was tasked with sitting with the base station radio just in case of trouble. Before leaving they had arranged some basic code words that would be innocuous to anyone who managed to listen in to the transmission. A list of them was written out and kept near the radio. Daryl had explained that the frequencies that the radios operated on were commonly available commercial channels that could easily be picked up by a scanner or other radios so using precautions was essential. Nothing was ever to go out over the radio that could compromise their security, weapons information, size of their own group and try to limit the use of names. A smart operator could sit back and with patience piece together a great deal of information if the users were slack with their radio chatter. The radio duty was boring but necessary with almost fifty percent of the total available population and a sizable amount of their firepower two miles away. Linda took one of the radio shift’s which allowed her some rare time to work on her journal. She had been keeping a journal for about two years. While she didn’t find it necessary to write something everyday she would often write several pages for each entry. She enjoyed writing it out long hand. She had tried doing it on the computer but didn’t seem to get the same enjoyment out of it. Besides she could take the book with her which she had done often while still in school sometimes using part of her lunch period to document her thoughts. The events of the previous days had limited her time to write to nothing so she was using the time to catch up.

    …it seems like we are pioneers or settlers in the old west. We are building a fort, growing our own food and having to carry around guns to protect us from the Indians…

    The bright teen knew it wasn’t the same but it had the same feel or what she imaged it would have felt like to the people back then. She kept writing but never let her attention drift far from listening to the radio. The shotgun she had been assigned was leaning up against the desk just a few short hand spans away.

    As each load of wood was brought back it was offloaded at locations that the group had picked out earlier all hands not on guard duty were called on to help unload and stack the wood. A three sided enclosure of stacked rounds was constructed in the corner of the yard nearest the gate just inside the decorative wrought iron fence that surrounded the house. A row of log rounds was laid out in the desired shape, a large U with the open end facing the house and then layer after layer of wood was added. Eventually the layers reached just over four foot in height. To afford the future occupants the highest amount of protection possible the group built the stacks two rows thick. The walls of the enclosure were over three feet thick in places which Daryl assured them would provide more than adequate protection from bullets. The others, tired, sore and with hands full of splinters were grateful for that. Slave driver was a common title used whenever the former Marine wasn’t around to hear it, most of the time it was good spirited in nature, most of the time. Jim had pointed out and Daryl agreed that if something came up the best place for combat vet to be was right in the middle of everything. So the log enclosure was assigned to Daryl full time.

    The remainder of the wood was stacked up near the empty chicken coop located near the three strand barbed wire fence that ran along the southern edge of the yard. This was where the Hamilton’s had stacked the several cords of previously split firewood that was destined for the downstairs wood stove. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it was the general point of view. Daryl had decided that the wood pile would make a good position for someone to be placed in. It would allow them to cover the fence south of the gate and to be able to place anyone near the gate in a cross fire along with the shooters in or near the house. It would also place someone along the southern edge of the property which allowed for better tactical flexibility since the coop was about a hundred feet or so back from the road making it nearly parallel to the front porch. That position was assigned to Josh.

    Once the group had decided that they had enough wood brought in they closed the gates and secured it again with the chain and lock. They then took several of the larger log rounds previously set aside stacking them against the gates to further reinforce it. One of their main worries was someone trying to drive through the gate. They knew that a large enough vehicle could get through the barrier but at least this would slow it down, or so they hoped.

    A concern was raised about the rest of the fence being unprotected from this type of threat but it was pointed out that the ditch was a pretty good barrier. It was almost eight feet wide and in places three feet deep compared to the road which would make it hard for a vehicle to drive through and then hit the fence. It was a poor compromise but Daryl pointed out that they only had so much to work with and that if they did reinforce the front then what about the other sides of the property? Would they try to enclose the whole eight acres? At what point was what they had enough…the others took it in the vein it was intended and surrendered the point. Yes, there were gaps in the defenses but they had done what they could. Things were better than they were a few days earlier.

    It was late in the afternoon of the fourth day after everyone arrived when the electricity finally failed. It affected the farm little since they were already on energy saving measures and they had the batteries fully charged. A number of breakers were then flipped to the Off position in case the power came back it wouldn’t damage the circuits. Jim discussed it with Daryl and they both agreed that it was only going to get tougher from here on out. Many of those still clinging to the cities and suburbs would now likely take to the roads since they no longer had whatever level of creature comforts available to them. Both of the men did another thorough check of the perimeter before and after dinner. The evening meal was quiet, almost somber as they dined early to take advantage of the remaining evening sun, they were very much aware that time was not in their favor now that the electrical grid was down.

    When they were not building bunkers there was other work that needed done as well. The garden was a constant requirement, weeding, spraying, tending. Michelle was so thankful that she had elected to enlarge the garden earlier that year. By itself it would not be enough to feed everyone this year but at least there would be a decent amount of home grown canned veggies to eat during the winter. That would allow them to stretch their existing food supplies that much further. The greens beans were coming in nicely but the potatoes could use some more work, maybe some more straw mulch?

    The weeds had gotten a bit of a foothold but it wasn’t anything that they couldn’t deal with and they did. Within two days the garden was totally weed free and the soil worked over to further improve it. She decided that no matter what the situation next year the garden was going to be huge. Michelle didn’t care if the world was completely back to “normal” or not, the food they could grow might mean the difference between them surviving or starving. Again the better to have it maxim came into play.

    She had made sure that all the packets of seeds she had been buying for months prior to the crisis had been non hybrid. This way she was sure that she could use the seeds from the items that they grew in theory the garden would replenish itself, with some help of course but one less thing to worry about. They would have a self sustaining resource and in the times of the day that was a huge thing. It was during the days after the arrival of the others at the farm that several groups of refugees passed by. Each time the person in the observation position gave the farm occupants advance warning. Only once did they have to use an aggressive show of force to keep a group out on the road moving along. A band numbering around two dozen or so, mostly adults, stopped on the road and then several of them walked up to the gate. Those at the farm couldn’t see any weapons but the numbers and hostile attitude of the group gave them concern. Tension was high among them as they watched the refugees, what would they do? Stay, rush the fence, leave? None of them knew and the feeling of anxiety was nearly palpable. Daryl gave the farm group discreet orders over the radio to slowly show themselves and that they were armed.

    After the fifth armed adult showed themselves to the gaggle of people on the road they got the message and slowly began to move on. Members of the crowd on the road appeared to have been former city dwellers judging by their clothes and footwear. They had little in the way of supplies or equipment. There were some shouted curses and threats but the people who yelled did it while they were moving away. Daryl kept everyone at their alert positions for an hour after they group left, just in case. They hadn’t seen any firearms but that didn’t mean that there weren’t any. Keeping everyone at their post also served as further training. Teach them what patience was, especially in a situation as fluid as this one. Not knowing what was going on beyond the borders of the farm made life hard at times. Everyone knew someone on who was still “on the outside” as it was now being called from time to time and spent time wondering how they were doing, if they were still alive, what were they going through...

    Many of the travelers that passed by the farm were single families in overloaded vehicles going who knows where. The rest were on foot or using a mix of transport, bicycles and scooters among them. The people appeared dirty, hungry and disorganized. None of the farm’s occupants wanted to be rude but they had their own survival to consider. If they gave everyone who went by handouts of food or other supplies their own stockpile would shrink rapidly and word would get out that they had supplies which would likely draw more refugees or worse. The world as they knew it had changed; survival of the fittest was fast becoming the law of the land. Charity begins at home and for now, stayed at home as well. It wasn’t easy to watch parents with small children who had basically nothing with them but they couldn’t save everyone. Jim had caught Michelle crying in their room after one such group had passed, neither said anything. He just held her as she wept.

    After yet another group of ill equipped travelers had passed by and after those at the farm had stood down their alert status Jim and Daryl were discussing the refugees. “I don’t get it, how do people not have the means to provide themselves at least, basic shelter and stuff?” Jim was asking his friend who had long been into being prepared and was a great fan of outdoor activities shrugged. “I don’t know either, I mean, basic camping gear would be a great start. A tent, some sleeping bags, a small propane stove. That stuff costs what? Less than two hundred bucks and most people simply don’t have it. Look how much good that kind of equipment would do right now. It would fit into a good size backpack so it was portable, hell you could carry it in a garden wagon for cripes sake.” He was shaking his head in disbelief as he spoke. They both knew that just having some camping gear wasn’t all the answer but it was something which was a lot more than some of these folks had.

    Jim nodded his agreement; his family had a large amount of camping gear. All of it packed and ready for use. They kept it in large plastic storage tubs out in the food room of the barn. The Hamilton’s loved camping, up until last year the family usually went at least twice a year and sometimes more. And Daryl was right, the cost of the gear was really nothing, but beyond that why didn’t they have more food on hand, some means of generating electricity and obtaining fresh water? Even when the Hamilton’s lived in town they stocked distilled water, had a small generator and always kept at least a two month supply of food in the house. He simply couldn’t understand it, why don’t people plan ahead. Refugees, here, in America. Jim had a thought that made him shudder, my fellow Americans….

    As demanding as the physical work that the farm residents were doing it was a welcome relief for some of them from Daryl’s classes. Individually he took them to the meadow behind the barn and spent several hours going over weapons and tactics. The basics of firearms, how to load, how to carry a weapon safely, the different names and functions of the parts and more. Once everyone had gone through individually Daryl upped the ante and had them do some basic group drills including no notice alerts. After several days and most everyone having had Daryl’s class the collective opinion of the group had been that Daryl had been a frustrated and angry teacher in another life and was making up for it now.

    The weapons drills consisted of being allowed to handle a variety of weapons, pistol, small caliber rifle, shotgun and then the bigger rifles. Everyone had to at least shoot a weapon in each category to give them some frame of reference as to how each one felt when it fired. Some of them had not handled weapons much and so it took a good deal more time with them but Daryl kept at it hour after hour. The risk they faced was real and he knew that the more time they spent drilling the better they would be able to deal with something when it did happen. He used the example of the refugees to illustrate his point, what if they rushed the house, could a group attack from the east, what would you do if someone tried to infiltrate the property at night? These and more questions poured over the students as they tried to grasp the basics of what Daryl was trying to teach them.

    Someone raised a concern about the all the firing they were doing. Wouldn’t that give them away or worse draw someone to them? Daryl, after hearing the question called for a meeting. He repeated the question and the concern acknowledging that it was a valid worry. How did everyone feel about it? Jim said that he too had thought about and decided that it was worth the risk since they had no way of knowing what might happen. Josh said that he felt the same way, it was dangerous but at least they were getting in some practice. Michelle was worried about the noise, she knew that the sound of gunfire would travel far and attract attention, especially the amount of shooting they were doing but in the end agreed with the group. She wasn’t happy about it but the possibility of loosing her family and home to someone worried her more. Another point that was raised was that someone hearing that much firing might be discouraged from coming any closer especially if they didn’t have guns.

    Daryl drilled constantly them on what they were learning. Over and over he would tell them, do it right, do it safe. The others got to making jokes about it. One evening over dinner while Josh was cutting his pork chop Ellen chimed in with Do it right, Do it safe. The timing had been perfect and the imitation of her husband had been nearly identical. Those gathered at the table burst in a fit of laughter that nearly ended dinner because they were laughing so hard. Josh dropped his cutlery as the spasm of laughter shook him. The mirth lasted for several minutes. It proved to be a welcome and needed interval from the days work. It completely changed the moods of those at the table. Laughter was a welcome table visitor that had been absent for some time.

    Daryl was unaware of it till later as he was on duty in the O.P. at the time and later wondered why everyone was looking at him and laughing once he got off duty. Jim later filled him in as he had yet another good laugh from it. Daryl was less amused but he later realized at least they were listening to him so he lived with it.

    The former Marine had no illusions about the difference between when and if something happened. Had the farm been fifty miles from town maybe but here, nah, something would eventually come their way. It was his job to get them as ready as possible. So here he was, standing in the pasture again, no, no, squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it. Better, that’s better. He was using paper plates for targets which they were cheap and a good size, especially for beginning shooters. A good number of the round pressed paper vessels had bitten the dust already and he was sure many more would be sacrificed to the shooting gods before they were done.

    After each session all the empty cartridges were collected and saved. This would allow them to reload most of them. The .22’s couldn’t be reloaded but he wasn’t worried about that. When they did a count of the available ammunition a few days earlier they had been pleasantly surprised to learn that they had over twenty nine thousand rounds of ammunition, nearly ten thousand of that was .22 Long Rifle. Jim had more ammunition on hand than even he had suspected, several large military cans of ammunition had been missed in the initial inventory because they weren’t were they were supposed to be. In addition they figured that conservatively they could reload possibly as many as three thousand more in different calibers so overall they felt that they were in good shape when it came to ammunition.

    Daryl had selected one of the larger pieces of timber they had collected and with help had moved it to the shooting area. He wanted something solid to use as a target for shotgun practice. By chewing up the wood nothing of value was destroyed and the shooter could immediately see the affect of his or her shot. By the end of the second day the once large log round had been reduced considerably repeated hits with birdshot, bullets, slugs and buckshot had taken its toll. Splinters of various sizes were scattered in a wide area about the target. But the shooters were getting the message, aim and shoot, not just shoot and hope.

    As the anointed tactical guru he had been pleasantly surprised at how well some of them could handle a weapon. He knew that the Hamilton’s all shot and that the kids had been taught proper handling but was still pleased with what he saw. Bobby had a knack with the shotgun and the bolt action rifle his dad favored Michelle was no slouch but the real star of the family was Linda. The perky teen was shooting two inch groups at a hundred yards with the Mini-14 using open sights. With the scope on she did even better. For his part Jim found that he really enjoyed the M1A1 that Daryl owned. The sleek semi-automatic was accurate and fun to shoot.

    After getting everyone through the basics Daryl made a few decisions that he shared with the group regarding how he felt the weapons would be best distributed. They were discussing it over dinner. Lorraine was on duty in the O.P. and already had been taken something to eat so the rest of the group was gathered around the table as they ate. As usual it was necessary to bring in the extra folding chairs so everyone had a seat. It made for a little strain with so many around the big dinning room table but so far the closeness of their shared experience outweighed any perceived claustrophobia brought on by trying to eat with someone literally sitting in your hip pocket.

    “I want to move some of the weapons around, change who has what. That okay with everyone?”

    The others nodded or acknowledged verbally as they continued to eat. It had been a busy day and their bodies were screaming for nutrition. Hours of moving log rounds into place under a full summer sun will do that. Several of them had commented at various times that the heavy work was really making their appetite increase but that they felt good at the end of the day. The physical exertion was a welcome change from their once usual sedentary routine.

    Daryl finished swallowing a hearty mouthful, took a sip of water then launched into his plan. “First,” looking to his wife, “I want to give Josh your CAR, because of where I want him placed.” Ellen looked over and shrugged, if that was what he wanted he had a good reason so be it. She did like the collapsing stock Colt rifle that Daryl had surprised her with at Christmas two years earlier. Josh was a little caught off guard by the statement knowing that he would be positioned near the chicken coop behind the large wood pile but as he was opening his mouth to ask a question he closed it just as quick.

    Josh realized why Daryl wanted to have him swap weapons the shotgun he was carrying was fine for close in but if he was going to be at the woodpile then he would have to something with a greater reach. The CAR would be perfect. A small smile of satisfaction rode his face. Cool…“So what else?” Jim asked as he was getting himself a second helping of the instant mashed potatoes. The clack of the serving spoon hitting his plate was louder than he had anticipated. Pausing with the spoon just above the bowl holding the potatoes he told them all, oops. He then put the spoon back into the bowl and reached for the gravy. Michelle glared at him, she really hated when he did that. She was constantly after him to not abuse the plates. Like every person Jim had his foibles and this one drove Michelle nuts.

    Daryl continued on, “Well we give Josh the CAR, Michelle the Mini-14, Bobby the 700 and let’s see…Ellen, Lorraine, Linda, the shotguns. Oh Jim, I want you to carry my Springfield.” His friend stopped eating to look over at him as if to question his sanity. Hey, if he wants me carry it that’s fine with me. Jim went back to eating rather pleased with the decisions so far. The next things assigned were the extra pistols; these were assigned to Bobby, Linda and Josh. Daryl already had a Colt .45 so he was taken care of as were Jim and Michelle with having their own.

    The mix of weapons seemed to work well with the skill levels available. “Does that work for everyone?” Assorted versions of yes came out in between bites. Ellen saw that Kaitlyn was struggling a bit with her portion so she leaned over to cut the pork into smaller pieces. Finished with that she tousled the girl’s hair and told her to eat up. The happy girl went right back to playing in her mashed potatoes. The Richland’s had consciously decided to allow their daughter a bit more leeway in her antics and demeanor. They had discussed this with the others and they had agreed to their reasoning. Simply put there was enough going on that a few episodes of high spirits or playfulness here and there wouldn’t cause the end of world that much was already done it seemed.

    Conversation during the rest of the meal slowed but never truly stopped. Michelle remarked that she wanted to start seeing people get their laundry done. Her way of thinking was that having clean clothes would make people more comfortable, more at home. She wondered aloud if maybe it would be best if people were assigned a certain day of the week to do it. That way it would save on energy and the suggestion was thrown out that all washes no matter what the load were to be done in cold water. Several of the others nodded in agreement. Energy conservation had been a topic of discussion several times during the previous days. Clothes would be dried on the line outside. The meal concluded and in turn everyone scraped their dirty plates into an empty, used margarine tub. The scraps along with the other biodegradable waste such as egg shells, potato peels and the like had long been something the Hamilton’s collected. The contents of the tub were pitched on the garden to be later worked in to the dirt. This helped to enrich the soil which was especially important since they were unsure of how long the crisis would go on. Dishes were done by hand; the dishwasher was considered a luxury electrical item and so sat unused. Those doing dishes were listed on a daily schedule posted in the office next to the guard roster. Michelle had been the one assigned to be responsible for writing out the work schedule while Daryl did up the schedule for guard duty.

    Hot water was used for the dishes but Jim had lowered the thermostat setting to further reduce the amount of fuel the large capacity appliance used. As the days passed more of the routines essential for human social order were being recognized and then addressed. Bathing, meals, laundry, chores along with the one, great constant, guard duty. So far everyone had pitched in and it had made a big difference. There hadn’t been any major squabbles or tantrums. It would be fair to say that this was in part due to the pace that everyone had been working around. There simply had been too much to do for personality issues and occasionally cramped elbows to get the better of anyone to the extent that it caused problems. In short life continued as best as it could.
    Last edited by blackguard; 05-27-2015 at 04:39 PM.

  16. #16

    Withdrawal Chapter Ten part one

    Chapter 10

    Bobby was standing atop the house section that had been set up as the observation point. He had stood O.P. as it was called for short, duty at least once a day since everyone had arrived at the farm. He was about two and half hours into his four hour shift and was already thinking about dinner. He didn’t know what was being fixed but he hoped it was something filling. Meals the last few days had been good but had left him a bit on the empty side at times. After all, trying to keep nine people fed was a big job - speaking of jobs he decided he had best pay more attention to his. Nothing to report so far that was fine. Having the responsibility for so many others was intimidating to say the least, the most he usually was used to handling was a few chores and some homework but things had changed. Now the lives of eight others were in his hands, his greatest fear was screwing up and someone else getting hurt or – a hard swallow – killed because of it.

    He had just taken another long scan around with the binoculars and was starting to put them down on the small table next to him when he thought he heard something. The binoculars, still in hand, now stopped half way through their travel to the table top. He turned his head to try and get a better angle on the sound, whatever it was. There, there it was again. It was coming from the north, sharp, quick sounds, four or five of them. He realized with a chill that it was gunshots and then several more could be heard. It was harder to hear them this time since the wind had just shifted. Remembering the binoculars he quickly lifted them to his eyes and looked to the north. His breathing quickened and his heart was beating about eighty miles an hour. The teen was suddenly overcome with the urge to urinate.

    The youthful eyes scoured the scene brought closer by the optics. Nothing, the road between the house and where it split the woods was empty of traffic. It was not possible to see past the gap due to a slight bend in the road while going through the wooded section as it wound its track northward. He lowered the binoculars to chest level and swallowed, hard. Bobby then put the binoculars down on the small table grabbing up the Motorola radio that was kept in the O.P. Gripping it tightly as he held it near his mouth he depressed the Push To Talk button on the side of the unit. The light squeal of static came through and then, “Alert, trouble up north, trouble up north, Alert.” He never took his eyes from the northern horizon.

    Michelle, Lorraine and Linda were in the kitchen washing a large stock of canning jars when the radio on the window sill above the sink squawked out the alert call. The three of them stopped their conversation and looked at the radio. Michelle hurriedly slapped the handle down on the faucet to shut off the water so they could hear better. The backup power was hard wired into the well pump so even without grid power the pump worked. Each of them leaned in toward the unit as if that would somehow allow them to hear it better.

    Daryl and Jim were in the basement which is why they hadn’t heard the shots. The two were sorting out some empty brass pistol cases prior to putting the RCBS reloading press to use when the radio call came in. The men wanted to get some more nine millimeter rounds assembled. The weapons practice sessions during the previous week had eaten up several hundred rounds in a variety of calibers and neither man wanted them to be short of ammunition despite what they had on hand. Daryl immediately grabbed the microphone connected to the radio on his belt by its flexible cord, “What’s up?” Both he and Jim grabbed their nearby long guns and headed for the stairs while waiting for an answer.

    Daryl held the mike/speaker up while trotting toward the stairs so Jim could hear it as well. Bobby reported that he could hear gunshots coming from north of them but he couldn’t see anything. Daryl told him to sit tight, they were coming. Both men now ran up the stairs shouting for everyone to get to their assigned alert positions. The women in the kitchen hurried to grab weapons and get to their places. Michelle flashed through the living room and hit the stairs running. She quickly made it up to the top heading to the first bedroom. She flung the door open, a sharp whump as it hit against the wall. Josh, who had been sleeping came awake in an instant. He had stood the late watch, 2 a.m. through 6 a.m. and was pretty tired still.

    “Josh! Get up. Trouble up north!” was all she had time for as she hustled down the hall toward her post in one of the front bedrooms which faced the road. Josh looked at the door for just a moment and then rolled to sit upright. He had been sleeping with his jeans on so he needed…shoes, where the…there they are. Josh corralled one with his first grab and pulled the tennis shoe on without bothering to tie the laces. He quickly got the other one situated and grabbing his shirt got it on. Dressed adequately for the moment he grabbed the CAR-15 he had placed near the bedroom door and headed downstairs two steps at a time. For his trouble Josh nearly tripped as he was hurrying down stairs with the rifle in one hand and the small gym bag full of loaded magazines and the pistol in the other.

    He made it to the bottom of the stairs and looked around. His wife was near the door, Lorraine looked at her husband as she nervously cradled the 12 gauge pump shotgun she had been assigned. Quickly slinging his rifle he placed both hands on her shoulders and smiled. She hugged him and they went to their respective positions. For her it was easy, she was already in the front room, her post was near the front door. His duty place was across the driveway near the woodpile. Josh was about to step outside and stopped, shit - radio. He rushed around his wife and into the ground floor bedroom that had become the office. Josh hurried over to the desk and grabbed one of the radios from the charger. He nearly tripped as he stepped on the loose laces but caught himself in time, no time to tie it.

    Linda had run from the kitchen headed out the back door. She let it slam behind her as she took off at a full run for the travel trailer. She knew that Kaitlyn was sleeping and one of her duties during an alert was to take the young girl to the basement. Ellen had heard the radio call as well; she had been working on some sewing repairs of the couple’s clothing while her daughter slept. She dropped the jeans she had been working on and stood. She felt the weight of the Glock pistol on her belt and quickly went to get her daughter who was sleeping in the rear bedroom. She hurried down the short hallway and pushed the partially closed curtain open. Going straight over the bed she reached out to gently shake the child.

    “C’mon baby, we gotta go, now, c’mon” as she roused Kaitlyn. The sleepy five year old blinked several times as mommy picked her up. Ellen wasted no time waiting for the little one to fully wake up; they had to go, now. Linda was nearly at the trailer when the door opened. She stopped as Ellen; her arms full with Kaitlyn came out. “Go, go, I got it” as Linda stepped around them to close the door. Ellen didn’t hesitate to move as quickly as she could while carrying Kaitlyn toward the house. She suddenly stopped and hollered back at Linda. “Wait…get the shotgun.” Linda was not far behind her so she turned around to duck inside the trailer to grab the Remington pump action weapon.

    Jim and Daryl had kept right on running when they had reached the top of the stairs. They turned right at the top of the stairs and headed toward the kitchen. The mass of gleaming canning jars went unnoticed as the two passed through without a second glance. Through the living room and then quickly out the front door past a worried Lorraine. Jim hollered at her to close the door which she did with one shaky hand Josh came downstairs moments later. Both of the men jumped off the porch and raced up the ladder which was tied at the top to the decorative railing to keep it in place. Bobby had the binoculars to his eyes again but could see nothing further that he had reported over the radio.

    Ellen, Kaitlyn and Linda hurried in the back door. Holding the shotgun at arm’s length Linda traded it with Ellen for Kaitlyn. She held the five year old tightly to try and soothe her. Being woken up early and then hurried across the yard had unsettled the little one a bit. Ellen reached over with hand to caress her daughters face.

    “Ok sweetie you go with Linda downstairs, be a good girl for mommy, love you.”
    The teen took the now fully awake five year old and headed downstairs with her. It had been decided days before that it was the best place for her to be if something went on. They had moved some of her toys and things down there earlier in the week to try and acclimate the bright tot to the location. So far it had worked but the real test could be coming. Kaitlyn was a little fussy and confused having been up early and with all the adults around her in a frantic mood.

    Atop the roof section Bobby pointed, ‘Look!” The others followed the outstretched arm and extended digit which was pointing in the direction of the earlier gunshots. A heavy rolling column of dark smoke could now be seen rising above the far side of the trees. It was no camp or simple trash fire, it had be something substantial. A building of some kind, the smoke was nearly black and rising with energy to it. The former infantryman had seen smoke just like that before, scenes from the Kuwaiti desert flashed through his mind again. He knew that the darker the smoke the more fuel the fire feeding it had. The carnage of battle, flames eating vehicles, houses, buildings and people. He knew it was bad. Jim and Daryl shared a look both men were sure that it was trouble, the exact kind that they had hoped would pass them by but it appeared to be right next door.

    Jim uttered a nearly silent prayer for strength. He knew that it had to be coming from the Osborne’s place. It held the only structures in that area for some distance. They were a nice older couple whose children had moved on with their own lives so it was just the two of them. They had been friends of his parents, Jim had checked on them a day or so before everyone had arrived at the farm and had been assured that they were fine. It appeared that was no longer the case.

    The three men watched for a few minutes more before Daryl called the others who had radios and explained to them what they could see from the roof top. Ellen listened carefully then called down the stairs to Linda who quickly appeared at the bottom. The information was passed along and two simply looked to one another. No one asked any questions. Daryl then queried everyone to find out if they were all in their designated positions with each one then responding in turn via the radio. He would check on Lorraine in a few when he went down to his own spot.

    After watching the horizon for several more minutes during which no further shots were heard Daryl decided he was going back down to the ground to check on everything one more time. Looking at both of the Hamilton men he told them to do two things. Father and son looked at each and then at Daryl. “Most importantly, keep down, don’t let them see you. Second, as soon as I get down untie the ladder and pull it up here.”

    Bobby was confused but before he could say anything Daryl turned and walked over to where the ladder was. After slinging his rifle across his back he lifted one leg over the edge and placed it on a rung. He told them to be careful and was gone, heading down the ladder. The aluminum ladder clattered slightly as it rocked against the house in spite of the ties holding the upper section in place.

    Once down Daryl took another quick look over the area to help fix the scene in his mind, it could be important. Satisfied, he hurried over to the porch to speak with Lorraine while above him he could hear Jim untying the rope holding the ladder in place. The ladder shaking with the effort, the distinctive aluminum sound was unmistakable. When the front door to the house opened up it caught Lorraine off guard, she jumped back and tried to point the muzzle toward the door. The movement caught Daryl’s eye and he put one hand up and stopped coming in.

    “Relax, it’s me, it’s me”

    “Dammit Daryl! You scared me…asshole”

    He slowly opened the door the rest of way with both hands held at chest level to try and reassure her that it was fine. “I just came to tell you what’s going on, ok?” Mollified for the moment she nodded. He quickly filled her in on what they knew so far and to gently remind her of what her role in the defense plan was. He didn’t really like the thought of her being in this position but it was way too risky to have her covering the back. They had to have someone with more weapons experience in case trouble showed up behind them. With the vast majority of their available firepower deployed toward the road her role was to be one of support only. No way was Daryl going to give her a crucial defensive position, she was too shaky.

    Confident that she was now calmed down he gave her a smile and a quick hug then was out the door heading to his position. Daryl was convinced he had everyone in place. He hoped that the drills he had been running them through the last few days wouldn’t be necessary. In a pig’s eye they wouldn’t…’yeah well, I can hope’ he told himself. Unslinging the rifle he knelt down behind the wooden barrier that they had built. The Colt rifle in his hands was comforting, its weight and feel familiar. He had fought and survived a war with a rifle just like this before, didn’t want to do it again but if he had to….

    Bobby and his dad were laying atop the roof at the O.P. watching the road north of them intently. Daryl had cautioned them to stay down at all costs. They controlled the high ground and he didn’t want to surrender it if at all possible. Jim was using the binoculars while Bobby was using the scope atop the Remington rifle to scan the distance. So far nothing else but the smoke continuing to billow up could be seen. It had been nearly fifteen minutes since the smoke started. No further shots had been heard for longer than that. The silence was somehow worse that hearing the shots. At least when someone was shooting they knew something but now, nothing. Both men were fixed on the view of the road.

    Wait, was that….yes, there was something just starting to become visible through the trees. Jim blinked and pulled the binoculars closer to his eyes to try and get a better view. His finger pressed the focus adjustment slightly over to one side, there, yeah there, that’s better. He could see clearer now. A group of people, good size too, coming out of the curve in the road heading south. As they headed toward them, Jim nervously licked his lips. Bobby could see them as well but not in the detail that his dad could. Daryl’s voice came over the radio at the same time which made Bobby jump a little, the sudden sound startled him. He was asking if they could see anything.

    “Ah - a group, coming down the road, I mean, heading this way.”

    In a calm manner Daryl’s voice come over again, “OK everyone listen up, be cool and stay calm. We don’t know what happened yet so just stay put and let’s see what happens, any questions?” There were no questions asked but each of them was nervous. The men watched the approaching group as it continued its trek south. More and more information was becoming available as the distance was reduced and the ability to see the group was improved.

    Lorraine was still not comfortable with handling the heavy 12 gauge shotgun she had been assigned. The first time she shot it she nearly fell over and the noise was terrible. Her shoulder was sore for days following the shooting drills. It scared her badly but the group had no choice, they simply had to have everyone that could physically shoot handling a gun. They didn’t have the numbers to be picky, it was just that simple. She looked intently through the opening in the curtains fear rising in her as time went on.

    Continued...

  17. #17

    Withdrawal Chapter Ten part two

    The two men on the roof section were watching the approaching group closely. Jim was able to get a better count now it looked like…yeah…seventeen. He couldn’t determine exactly how many men and women in the gaggle. What a mix of transport he thought. There were at least three on bicycles of some sort and two people were pulling a large garden style cart. The main vehicle seemed to be a large lawn tractor pulling a decent size trailer which appeared to contain a fair amount of goods. Jim could see several types of weapons among the group. Several long guns to be sure but it was hard to judge accurately at this distance. The group was still some distance away but moving closer nonetheless.

    As he observed the group the information was passed on to the others with radios by Bobby. The five radios were being listened to with keen interest. Bobby was still putting out information over the radio as his dad reported it. Two of the men on bikes were now about a hundred feet or so in front of the group. Jim could see their facial movements when one of the bike riders said something to the other as he pointed toward the farmhouse. A chill swept through Jim. Not that he had believed that they wouldn’t see the house but he wondered if the man was pointing at the house or at him? The world was suddenly a whole lot smaller than it had been.
    The second man was nodding and suddenly both men starting pedaling very fast. The bikes were well built and responded to the increase of power input without delay. The distance between the riders and the house disappeared rapidly. The two were hollering back and forth obviously making a race out of who could get to the drive way first. Jim briefly lost sight of the riders when they passed behind a small stand of roadside trees but then regained sight of them. Bobby alerted the others as to what was happening.

    Now tucked in the enclosure made of stacked log rounds, Daryl, speaking in a small voice, cautioned the others, “Ok, this will be their scouts. Everyone stay out of sight. Let’s see what they do. No radio traffic, just like we discussed.” Daryl was hunched down in the log enclosure and at that moment realized that unless he stuck his head up he wouldn’t be able to see out. Crap, that was stupid, why hadn’t they built in some gaps or something to see through? Stupid! He was pissed at himself now; how the hell did I miss that? So help me if we live through this I am going change that he promised no one and everyone. Up on the roof both Bobby and his dad were laying prone having moved back a little from the edge of the roof. Both of them were scared, they shared a look but said nothing. Josh was crouched down behind the enormous stack of split wood across the driveway from where Daryl was hiding. The women were at their posts in the house time crawled by as everyone waited.

    The two men arrived at the driveway at about the same time but one of them immediately began berating his companion for being slow. The other one ignored the verbal jabs and began to look the house and grounds over. Behind them but closing quickly was the rest of their group. The older man got off his bike and dropped it over onto the road surface. His partner was still yammering away about how he had won the race. “Fine! You won, now shut the **** up!” and then ignored the younger man while he looked over the scene. The rest of their group was now only about five hundred feet or so away. ‘Let’s see…house, in good shape. Barn, maybe a garden so there might be more food here. I wonder if anyone’s around. Don’t see anyone….’

    ‘Hmmm, gate is closed and blocked from the inside. Have to deal with that to get the tractor inside.’ he thought. ‘This doesn’t seem right, place is too clean to be abandoned.’ His eyes continued to sweep the area, something wasn’t right… The younger bike rider wasn’t content with the other man’s submission and didn’t like being told to quiet down. He wanted to say something but the other man out weighed him by about twenty five pounds of muscle so now probably wasn’t the best time to bring it up. But soon, yeah…real soon. He climbed off the bike shooting the other man a sullen glance that he didn’t see.

    The rest of the group coming up the road caught up with the cyclists a few minutes later. As they arrived the leader of the group hopped off the front of the captured trailer where he had been riding and walked over to the where the two scouts were waiting. “Frankie, watcha’ think?’ The bigger of the two shrugged and told his leader, Something was bugging the long time felon, place looked too well kept to be empty, maybe that was it. A couple of vehicles sitting around, yard is too clean…something isn’t right here. At this point he decided that he was being too paranoid and chose to ignore the obvious, a choice that would cost him and the others dearly. “Don’t know but worth a look, don’t like the feel of the place, ya’know?”

    The man who had brought the group together over the past two weeks agreed. It was getting harder to find good loot, much of the finer quality items were already gone or damaged. He and the others had taken to the road after a run in with a larger, better armed group. That little run in had cost them three good group members and not a small amount of carefully gathered loot so they decided that the grass was maybe greener in some other pasture. It was better pickings at times but they had to keep moving in order to find more. The group was like a small swarm of locusts if they stayed in one place too long then they would starve. Most of the group gathered around their leader as they looked over the property as well. Looked good, should be something here worth taking.

    The smelly, heavy set man waved his two scouts forward and told the others to wait. The bike riders walked quickly over to the reinforced wooden barrier and simply climbed over it. It was designed as decoration, not to stop vehicles, and certainly not people. The first one over, the young, mouthy one of moments earlier, had a double barrel 20 gauge shotgun and quickly pointed it at the house. At that distance it wouldn’t do it much good but he felt more macho pointing the weapon around. He was a two bit punk who had done some time in a County Jail for Grand Theft Auto as a teen and had hooked up with this group nearly right from the start.
    His partner, Frankie, armed with a Marlin lever action rifle, followed suit as soon as his feet touched ground again. Several of the others on the road began to spread out slightly, a sure sign that they had done this before. They took turns scouting the properties that interested them and then made their plans depending upon what the scouts reported. It had worked for them so far, they had eaten on a fairly steady basis which said something for itself given the times and there had been a few bonuses as well.

    The group had hit four places the day before yesterday and the one place further up the road this morning. Since they were heading away from the more populated areas most of the houses were empty. It was easy to pick them over good and then move on with less risk. Doing this time and again it was easy to get sloppy and they did. They had lost one member in the process two days before at the last house they visited. That household had paid a gruesome price for their defiance. The husband was hacked to death but only after having to watch his wife and two teen age daughters repeatedly raped and sodomized. The three women were killed before the group left the next morning but only after another a few more rounds of sexual abuse at the hands of all the men. The house had yielded a modest take, a little cash and jewelry and a few days worth of food was added to the stores already in the trailer. The best thing was a nice semi-automatic Benelli shotgun and some ammunition for it.

    Daryl tucked down behind a wall of log rounds was listening intently when he heard the shoes of the two men crunch heavily in the gravel of the drive way. That told him that they were over the fence – must have hopped the gate. Have to do it now before they all get over, have to seize the initiative and hold it. If they let them gain the upper hand Daryl and his people might not be able to get it back. He gently turned the selector switch on his rifle from Safe to Fire. Daryl laid his finger along side the trigger well, not in it. Years of Marine Corps training kept him from doing that. Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. God, how many times had he heard that phrase? He slowly pushed the button on the side of the radio microphone to alert the others, in a low voice he told them, “Here we go.”

    Taking his hand off the radio and putting it back on the rifle he then took in a deep breath and blowing half of it out he rose from behind the wood pointing the rifle at the two men now over the fence line. “Freeze!” The men were shocked to see someone suddenly appear and more importantly the muzzle of a rifle pointed straight at them – the opening in the end of the weapon barrel looked as big around as the top of a trash can from where they were. Those still on the road also heard the loud order and saw the man who gave it. Neither man moved; the muzzles of both their weapons still aimed at the house.

    Bruce, the group leader, a greasy haired biker who had long ago been given the nickname Bushhog was startled and angry by the appearance of the man. ‘Goddamn it, will these stupid ****ing people never learn?’ He impatiently signaled to three of his men to move around to the right to try and improve the situation. The trio knew the drill despite only having been together with this group for six days. ‘Survival of the fittest’ was a brutal game and so far they had come out on top. Others in the roadway spread out further and began to edge toward the wooden fence that separated them from the house.

    Lorraine, looking out through the partially opened curtains could see the men now over the fence but in her mind she could see the people in the city again. The frantic, unanswered screams for help, the feral crowds as they tried to find something they wanted and the palpable feel of panic in the air. She could remember the sound of her own screams as the windshield was hit by a chunk of concrete. The situation had made the attractive woman feel powerless, that she was less than a person nothing more than a thing to be taken and used up at will. The couple had seen some of the worst that the city had suffered through, shootings, mass lootings, fire and mindless mobs. It had been chance and some luck that they had not fallen victim.

    One scene in particular had scared her over and over. Just a few blocks from their house a car ahead of them had been stopped by a mob. Josh and Lorraine were about a half block behind the small sedan when the mob got to it. It appeared that much of the crowd was made up of youths, many in their teens and almost all male. The Mitchell’s watched in horror as the couple in the car was dragged out and the man was repeatedly pummeled by numerous bodies in the crowd. He went down and was still getting hit, over and over with fists, bottles, rocks and feet blow after vicious blow landed. He tried to resist at first but there were too many of them. One hand was lifted in a feeble attempt to ward off some of the hits but it was no use. The arm fell limply to the ground as the beating continued. Others were ransacking the car tossing out the contents some of which were grabbed up by joyous hands.

    The woman who appeared to be in her early twenties, was being held tight by several people as her clothes were torn from her body leaving her nude right there in the street. She was then lifted and carried, kicking and screaming into a nearby building with much of the crowd following while yelling and screaming in anticipation. Her fate it seemed was as certain as the man whose body was laying in the street where he had fallen. Josh had slammed the truck in reverse and got them the hell out of there. Lorraine was forever changed by that image…it could have been her. She had tried not to think about that poor girl but it didn’t work. Lorraine folded down into her seat as Josh drove, trying to make herself smaller somehow, to avoid being seen, being wanted, another prize for the mob.

    Lorraine gripped the wooden pump handle of the shotgun tighter ’not this time,’ she told herself. She would show them, all of them. This time it would be different. She was tired of being afraid fear was a terrible state to live in and she wanted it to go away. She would make it go away.

    Josh licked his lips to try and wet them. His job was to cover the south end of the property and to put the gate in a crossfire along with those firing from the house. The beauty of his placement was that there was no chance of hitting another one of their own given how they were positioned. Daryl had done a hell of a good job with that. Josh had heard the information relayed over the radio as the group had approached. Seventeen of them to seven of us, really five because of where Linda and Ellen were but it would have to do. He double checked that the collapsing stock of the rifle was fully extended to give him a sturdier shooting platform. He touched the spare magazines now in the back pockets of his jeans and glanced at the ones sitting in the small alcove they had created atop the woodpile. He had plenty of ammunition at hand, sweat was pouring out of his pores as the seconds dragged by.

    When Daryl gave the intruders the order to freeze Josh peered over the top of the wood pile which was about waist high on him when he was standing. He lifted his head once to get a look at the situation and then quickly ducked down and shifted position in case someone saw him. He gripped the Colt carbine tightly. Safety, remember to flip the safety! During the weapons drills that Daryl had run all week long, Josh had forgotten to flip the safety off once and was ruled dead for that drill. It was embarrassing and he vowed not to repeat the mistake again.

    He had moved a few feet over from where he had been and raised his head and shoulders above the level of the stacked wood to give him a steady rest. The black barrel of his rifle was now trained over the top of the firewood as well, the stock firmly pulled into his body. Josh saw the three men who were trying to work around the group. They were closer to him than the others. These three were now his responsibility ’Okay, don’t screw this up.’ he thought to himself.

    Daryl had not failed to notice the movements of the others in the group but while not dismissing their actions entirely had to keep much of his attention on those two already across the fence. The muzzle of his rifle never wavered as he spoke to them all in as loud a voice as he could.

    “Boys; that’s not the smartest thing you’ve done today. Back off and be on your way.”

    Bushhog couldn’t believe it, this one peckerwood telling him what to do. Before he could answer the front door to the house swung open and a tall woman stepped out on the porch cradling a shotgun. Bruce assumed that this was the wife. Damn, she was a looker. Tight jeans hugged her shapely legs and what he assumed was a sweet looking ass. Her blouse was tucked into her jeans which caused the garment to pull against her generous breasts. Nice tits too, gonna be nice to have some fun with her.

    Continued...

  18. #18

    Withdrawal Chapter Ten part three

    Lorraine had found some nerve and used it to go outside. She would tell them to go away, make them if she had to. The defense plan was forgotten, everything but the fear was forgotten. Holding the shotgun close to her body she told them all what she thought of them. “Get away from us you filth, you worthless bastards! Leave us alone!” Her shrill voice carried. The one time biker was unimpressed; he had two men over the fence already, three more ready to go over and nearly ten in front of him. He would teach these two a thing or two before they died. The memory of the women from the other house and the sport they had provided stirred his loins. This one had some spirit, all the better to break her he thought. Might bring this one with them when they leave. Yeah…

    Daryl heard Lorraine behind but didn’t dare take his eyes of the two men standing in the driveway. Oh Shit! We’re in it now…

    Josh heard his wife and looked over from where he was. What the hell was she doing? He was trying to urge her mentally to return to the house. ’Go back in the house…Go back in!’ Oh my god, what is she doing? He wanted to scream at her to go back but didn’t. He could see the size of the group they were facing. Josh was certain that if he yelled it would give them away. Go back in!

    “Listen bitch, we’ll take what we want, when we want and that includes you!” He grabbed his crotch to emphasize the point and pointed at her with the other hand. His rifle, a Heckler & Koch Model 91 slung muzzle down nearly slipped off his shoulder as he gestured. Lorraine’s response was to swing the muzzle of the shotgun toward the two men on the inside of the gate. The taller of the two saw this and angled his rifle toward her, it wasn’t hard. He had been aiming at the front door anyway and when she walked out of the house she had stood in nearly the perfect spot for him. Time seem to compress as the next events unfolded.

    She began to slide her hand forward to place it on the trigger when the sharp bark of a weapon was heard. The bullet hit her in the left chest just underneath the breast. The .30 caliber round did a great deal of damage as it punched through flesh. It tore her left lung to shreds and exited out her back burying itself in the wall. She never felt the bullet passing through her pain wise; it was like being hit with a baseball bat, hard. The weapon slipped from her hands and she fell backwards landing heavily on the porch. Blood rushed out the massive exit wound to pool beneath her to add its color with the large crimson spray on the wall. The man at the gate started to work the lever to reload.

    Daryl’s head snapped over to the porch as the rifle fired and he kicked his legs out from under him to get under cover. He knew what was coming. The rifleman’s companion pivoted and as both barrels of his shotgun aligned with Daryl’s position he fired. Both muzzles flashed and a hailstorm of lead lashed over the log rounds which caused dozens of wood chips to fly in all directions. An impressive spray of splinters and dust filled the air. Daryl landed hard on his side with a hearty grunt, a bit winded but uninjured by the shotgun blast.

    Josh couldn’t believe what he just saw. Shot, he shot her. He could see Lorraine lying on the porch, she wasn’t moving. Tears stung his eyes; his breathing was deep and ragged as he tried to avoid screaming. When the shotgun went off it was the signal for the action to escalate. The three men nearest to Josh all started to leap the fence as best they could. Their plan was to get over the fence and rush the house from that direction.

    Jim had slowly slid forward toward the edge of the roof while Daryl had kept the men near the gate covered. He was now tracking the two at the gate with the scoped M1A. He lined up the man that shot Lorraine and fired twice as the man was working the lever action of the rifle. Both of the 162 grain bullets found flesh. The man crumpled as the high velocity projectiles slammed into him. The rifle flew from his nerveless fingers to land several feet away on the gravel of the driveway, slightly scratching the receiver. Frankie fell heavily to one side landing half on the driveway and half in the yard. Bruce screamed. “GO!”

    The nine members of his gang, those in front of him, all of them armed to some extent, ran through the ditch and then sprinted the distance between it and the wooden fence. They began climbing the nearly five foot high wooden barrier that stood between them and the house. It had to be over since the spacing of the boards was too tight to fit through easily. Daryl was back up on his feet and after quickly aiming, let go three rounds at the guy now trying to reload his shotgun.

    Michelle had flung open the lower part of the window as soon as she had gotten upstairs. She was resting her elbow on the small table she had moved next to the opening to better support the rifle. This gave her a steady firing position as she watched what was happening. Suddenly shots rang out and it had come down to this, fight for her home or die. She picked a target, a greasy looking man wearing stained denim jeans and fired several time in quick succession. The loud crack of the .223 was distinctive amid the other firing. Rounds were coming from those climbing the fence and those already over it as they advanced. The rounds were hitting the house, Daryl’s log enclosure and the ground. The noise was incredible, shots ringing out, yelling and screaming as the two sides tried to gain an advantage. Time was irrelevant to the combatants, for some it sped up and for others it slowed down as if it stopped.

    Ellen screamed at Linda to get down as she too flopped on the floor. She could hear bullets hitting the house, breaking glass and the sounds of more shooting going on outside. Lifting her head for an instant he looked through the screen to check her area, nothing, she buried her head again under her arms. A prayer for protection was croaked out as the fighting continued.

    Through his tears Josh saw that his three men were now over the fence. He kept the barrel of the weapon pointed at the closest one and pulled the trigger. He fired once, twice, three times and kept firing. The whirling brass casing reflected the sun as they flew through the air. He let go seven rounds before pausing the smell of cordite was strong in his nose and mouth. The air around him suddenly felt hot and charged somehow. The three men in front of him gave him something to focus on for the moment; thoughts of Lorraine would have to wait.

    Two of the seven rounds he had fired hit the man he had been aiming at. One struck him in the neck, the other in the right leg just above the knee. He fell heavily to one side and slowly rolled onto his back, a large flap of bloody skin visible where the energy from the bullet had blown out the side of his neck. The other two men veered to their left and scrambled to find some cover snapping off some shots toward the wood pile to drive whoever was there down.

    Bruce was enraged at the sudden turn of events; his group was getting shot to hell. Where in the **** did all this firepower come from? ‘What the hell is going on?’ He caught the flash of Michelle’s Mini-14 from the upstairs window. He spun his HK-91 up and snap fired at the house without aiming. He was yelling at the top of lungs as the recoil shook the weapon in his hand. Brass casing flew out to the right as each round was fired. Eight powerful .308 bullets slapped into the walls and through the glass around Michelle. She screamed as glass, wood chips and plaster exploded around her. She threw herself back away from the window loosing her grip on the rifle which clattered as it landed on the hardwood floor. One of the bullets narrowly missed her to tear into the wall behind her and finally coming to rest in one of the attic support beams above and behind her.

    Linda had grabbed Kaitlyn who was suddenly crying as the sounds of shooting startled her. It was unlikely that either of them was in danger due to the construction of the basement but better to be sure. Only the north wall of the basement was exposed to the outside due to the shape of the rise that the house sat on. Still the two ducked down. Linda was doing her best to calm the youngster but for the moment she was having limited success. The basement was the last ditch fall back position for everyone but no one wanted to have to use it.

    Bobby and Jim were firing at the group coming over the fence then heard a scream. ‘Oh God, that’s Michelle’…the pair were shooting as fast as they could trying to remember to aim. Several rounds struck nearby which forced them to duck before resuming fire. During the interval two more of the attackers had cleared the fence.

    Daryl had dropped down behind the stack log rounds and had backed up to move around the northern wall of the enclosure. As he scooted around the end of the log stack he looked toward the road. He saw two of the invaders still climbing the wooden fence. Without hesitation he swung the muzzle of the rifle toward them and let loose with five rounds. The woman who had been at the top and getting ready to jump over was hit with three of Daryl’s shots. The force knocked her backwards off the fence. She landed in the ditch and quickly bled out due to the multiple wounds. The other one made it off the fence and was running forward when two shots hit him in the chest perforating his heart. He stumbled, sliding forward on his face not moving after that.

    Josh had been forced to duck down as several rounds struck near him. Wood chips rained down on him as he backed up to change positions. Tears were now running freely down his face. ‘Lorraine…’ God please help me. He rose up again and let four rounds go at the two men. Pieces of wood flew off the oak trunk but the men behind it were unhurt. One of them slipped around the side of the tree and fired off a handful of shots at Josh but missed as well. His partner was now prone on the ground and trying for a single shot pick off.

    Michelle was coughing from the plaster dust. She was still on the floor of the bedroom trying to locate her rifle. There – there it was, just a few feet away. Have to get it. She rolled on her side and scrambled across the debris on the floor to grab the stock. Once she had it she went up on all fours and pushing the rifle ahead of her crawled to the door and out into the hallway. Outside, the firing continued without pause. “Help us God, please!” she pleaded as she grabbed up the rifle and headed for the stairs.

    Bruce was now firing at the log enclosure where he had last seen Daryl. The booming sound of the large caliber rifle echoed again and again as he fired. Large chips of wood flew off as each round struck. More fire was coming from behind him aimed at the house. He saw another one of his people go down, gawdammit! Daryl tore open a pocket on his tactical vest and yanked out a fresh magazine for the rifle. He then punched the magazine release button with his thumb to drop the partially expended one which fell to the ground. Ramming the fully loaded magazine of thirty rounds up the well and slapping the bottom to make sure it was seated, he moved forward. He knew that there was already a round in the chamber so didn’t bother yanking the charging handle. Several of the attackers had now made it over the wood fence and were rushing toward the house.

    Ellen could hear the shooting and it terrified her as she waited on the back porch. From her vantage point she could see nothing of what was happening up front and there was nothing coming over the radio. She wanted to call and ask but knew it would be useless. There was too much going on for someone to answer.

    Click…Oh crap! I forgot to reload !. Bobby grabbed at a nearby box of shells to shove more into the rifle. He worked the bolt to open it. The blast of the big M1A that his father was firing had long reduced his hearing to mush. His fingers found two of the rounds and he quickly thumbed them into place. He was reaching for another when his father fired again. The loud retort caused him to flinch a bit but it didn’t slow the search for additional ammunition. Rounds cracked overhead but not as many as before. There, it’s full! He slapped the bolt home with his palm and settled in behind the scope, again searching for a target. Then, he rushed the process by jerking the trigger instead of doing it gently missing the man he was trying to hit. An empty cartridge ejected from his dad’s rifle bounced off the roof and hit him in the arm burning him slightly where it touched skin. Bobby flinched and angrily shoved the small pile of brass away. Several of the casings went off the edge of the roof and fell to the ground below. Bobby went back to his rifle, distraction aside.

    More wood chips settled down on Josh as he changed positions again. Damn it, damn it, damn it! He couldn’t get a clear shot at either of the two men and they had him mostly pinned down. They couldn’t get to him directly; the wood pile was simply too thick but right now he also couldn’t get to them either. He leaned his head back against the stacked firewood and took in several deep breathes to try and collect himself without looking over toward the house. Josh knew that Lorraine was still laying on the porch. In frustration he smacked the back of his head against the wood several times. Josh knew he had to get the bastards that did this, had to make them suffer for it. Moving again he popped up just long enough to fire off three rounds at the two men, none of which hit anything.

    Michelle had made it down the stairs and took up a hasty position at the open front door. She raised the Ruger to her shoulder and started firing at those rushing the house. She still had over twenty rounds in the magazine, several spare magazines and intended to make use of all them. Spent brass casing bounced off the open door with a high pitched ting sound.

    Arte Randolph cut loose another couple rounds with the 10/22 rifle he had at the guy behind the wood pile. Shit, why couldn’t he have had something heavier? This ****in’ .22 wasn’t getting the job done. ‘Well, at least I have this, some of the others don’t even have guns.’ He squirmed around a bit more to try and get a better angle; he was laying prone next to the tree aiming at Josh. About that time his buddy Tim moved further behind the tree to avoid a three round exchange. When Josh fired at the two men it caused one of them back up around the tree even farther. The movement caught Bobby’s eye as he was glassing the area after firing at one of those across the fence. The man had his back toward him but was a nice clear shot so Bobby took it. ‘Line up the crosshairs, let half a breath out and gently pull the trigger…’

    A strangled sound behind him caused Arte to stop firing and look up. Tim was still standing but not for long. A large red spot was now present on the back of his tee shirt. He staggered a bit, moving away from the tree he dropped his rifle. As he stepped out from behind the tree he was hit again and this time went down on his right side.

    The group leader, Bruce was shocked by what he was seeing. His group was being cut to pieces by the volume of firepower pouring out of the house. Most of them were down and not likely to get back up. Two of the women in the group had just grabbed the handle of the garden cart and were going back up the road to the north at a brisk pace. Neither of them had a firearm so they had not tried to rush the house with the others. They tried to keep the high bank of the ditch between themselves and the house. Bushhog couldn’t get to them to tell them to stop. Dammit to ****in’ hell…

    The small time thug suddenly realized that the situation was lost. His finely honed sense of self preservation kicked in. Time to go…now. He wildly fired another half dozen rounds in the general direction of the house as he ran across the road. Once there, he slid through the lower part of the three stand barbed wire cattle fence. The pointed metal caught and tore at his skin in several places but it didn’t stop him Bruce kept crawling. The fence row was slightly elevated compared to the field it marked the boundary for. Once through the fence, he slid down the small incline and kept going. There was a stand of trees about forty feet away. He jumped up and took off running as fast as he could.

    About this time Arte realized the same thing as his now former leader. He fired at Josh, ducked back down and looked at the wooden fence. Arte saw that the gap between the bottom board and the ground might be big enough to get under. He was pretty skinny. ‘What the hell, lets go’.

    Josh had been trading shots back and forth with the guys at the tree. He hadn’t been able to score any hits that he knew of since putting the first one down. The ground at his feet was littered with empty cartridge cases and an empty magazine. He was about to take a shot when several bullets hit near his head and he was forced to quickly duck back down. Two of them hit the chicken coop behind him, the high speed rounds going right through the soft wood.

    Arte, knowing that there was a sniper somewhere near the house reasoned that if kept the tree between him and the house he might have a chance. Taking a deep breath, he jumped to his feet moving quickly to his right and firing over and over at the woodpile as quick as he could pull the trigger. He moved around the tree and headed for the fence. Arte covered the thirty feet or so without drawing fire. Josh was too busy staying under cover as the incoming bullets rained in. He was forced to duck as round after round struck the wood pile or the chicken coop a few feet behind him. The sharp crack of the high velocity rounds mixed with the thrack as the rounds struck the wood. He never saw the man get away.

    Arte dove headfirst underneath the board and had to wiggle a little to get his hips through but they popped through all at once. Squirming free he crawled forward as fast as he could while staying low in the ditch. There was now a row of bushes between him and the woodpile. He stayed down as he crawled through the weeds as fast as he could. ‘The hell with that place!’

    After killing the two trying to come across the fence, Daryl had moved forward to try and gain a better field of fire. The ones coming across the open ground had no chance. Accurate fire coming from above and behind him was cutting them down and he was doing his part. That combination doomed the assault. The attackers were in the open and the defensive guns had the advantage of position. It was a classic military formula; entrenched defenders gain a two to one advantage over attackers.

    The last of those who had tried rushing the house were down. Jim could see that some of them were finished, no movement and massive bleeding. Others were still moving some. He had stopped firing and told his son to do the same and to reload. Jim was still fixed to the scope trying to find a target the smell of hot metal from both rifle barrels was strong. Keeping a watchful eye on those in front of him Daryl keyed up the radio with one hand and ordered everyone to stop shooting. “Cease firing! Cease firing!”

  19. #19

    Withdrawal Chapter Eleven part one

    Chapter 11

    As soon as Daryl came over the radio screaming for everyone to stop shooting Ellen jumped up from where she had been on the floor then hollered down the open stairway at Linda to come up. Hearing the order, she hurried over to where Kaitlyn was and pulled her up off the floor where she had been amid some of her toys. The noise of the firefight had scared her and she had been crying. Linda had been trying to reassure her with limited success so far. She had shown little interest in her toys but short of holding the tot all the time, which would have impaired her ability to react to something Linda didn’t know what else to do. After collecting her charge she hurried up the stairs as quick as she dared while carrying the child. Linda had a bit of trouble on the stairs carrying Kaitlyn and her shotgun but made it. Once at the top, she set Kaitlyn down. Ellen saw the condition her daughter was in, tears still running and appearing anxious. She hurriedly knelt down to console the girl. Wiping away the tears with her thumbs, she then hugged her kissing the top of her head. Telling Kaitlyn over and over it was all right, Ellen tried hard to make herself believe that as well. It wasn’t working but she wanted to try for her daughter’s sake.

    Ellen told Linda to watch the back; she was going up front to help. Turning about to get aligned with the door, Ellen grabbed her shotgun as she ducked in the kitchen door taking off at a run for the front of the house. Slipping through the kitchen and into the living room, Ellen dodged the couch and then out through the open front door.

    What the…Ellen had to grab the door frame as she slipped on something…she looked down and oh my god! It was Lorraine. Ellen had stepped in a section of the pooled blood and had nearly fallen having gone down on one knee before catching herself. Without thinking she regained her balance and slowly stood up. She looked down at her friend. Lorraine was lying on her back, head rolled to the side eyes facing the road. A horrendous wound was visible on her chest. Blood soaked the cotton fabric of her blouse. Ellen nearly vomited the contents of her stomach all over the porch but fought down the gorge at the last possible instant. One hand clamped over her mouth as tears stung her eyes when she tried to look away. Lorraine’s still open eyes saw nothing. The smell of the blood and voided bowels was strong.

    Out in front of the house Daryl had shouted at Jim to come down from the roof as soon as he called for a cease fire. Jim jumped up from his prone shooting position, changed magazines and told Bobby to keep watch while he was gathering the ladder to toss it down. His feet kicked several of the empty casings which sent them flying. He looked down in quick annoyance but kept working. Bobby was up on one knee, his rifle pointed toward the road eyes sweeping back and forth searching for any sign of trouble.

    Once the vertical stairway was back in place Jim slung his rifle and down he went. Michelle had already moved outside before Ellen arrived. She too was looking hard at the body of her friend on the porch. Daryl barked at her to get down there with him. She went without thinking as he hoped she would. Get them focused on something else for the moment at least. People will instinctively follow orders in crisis situations.

    The three of them were slowly edging toward the fence with weapons at the ready. Daryl was at the apex of the short triangle they had formed. Since none of the attackers had made it to the inner fence they would have to leave the front yard to check the bodies. There were no obvious signs of life in any of the attackers but they were still being cautious. Opening the aged wrought iron quickly was no easy task. It hadn’t been used much and so was a bit of headache to force but two stout kicks yielded results. The trio exited the fence enclosed space and then spread out a bit. Each of them were looking about carefully, Jim was especially watchful as he was closest to the road. His heart was beating loudly in his chest but he swallowed hard and kept going. The muzzles of their weapons swept back and forth repeatedly searching out any threats it seemed that every leaf on every bit of brush could hide someone. He tried but failed to swallow eyes scanning frantically for a threat.

    The scene around them, bodies scattered near a fence suddenly reminded Jim of something he had seen on the History Channel awhile back. He had been watching a documentary on the battle at Gettysburg. During one portion of the program it was showing pictures taken after the battle while the commentator was speaking. The similarity was eerie, at Gettysburg a portion of one of the attacks had stalled due to the soldiers having to negotiate a high wooden fence in the midst of a firefight and here it was the same the lay of the bodies was even similar. The results for both groups had been the same, violent death. Jim just couldn’t get over the parallels, it really shook him. Part of it was the adrenaline wearing off but it still disturbed him. This was his first exposure to death up close and it was something he fervently hoped he would never get used to. The smell was overwhelming, blood, cordite from the shooting, sweat, fear and the stink of torn open flesh all mixed in a hellish fragrance stirred by a light wind.

    Josh had been checking the two men that had gone down near the large tree. He had desperately wanted to go and check on Lorraine but Daryl had shouted at him to make sure that the two men were dead. Security was vital and the combat veteran knew it. Daryl had seen Lorraine go down and knew from experience that it was a fatal wound. He had seen enough Iraqi troops shot during the first Gulf War to know – a flood of memories had tried to fight their way up to his consciousness but he’d pushed them away for now. He had to keep Josh busy for as long as possible. His friend would know the truth soon enough, she was gone.

    Daryl was moving slowly forward then stopping at each body he fired a round into the head. It wasn’t cruelty or perversion; it was a simple matter of practicality, no quarter. The group had limited medical supplies and no means whatsoever to hold prisoners. The ones who had attacked them were in no condition to be saved or to be turned loose where they might harm someone else. It seemed a fitting end to their ravages. He wasn’t thrilled with doing it but knew that it had to be him. The others were, well…it had to be him that did this. Jim was looking at how the attackers had been armed. He saw several firearms, a long knife and one of them even had a sword! Where the hell did that come from? A slow shudder at the thought of being hacked open with that.

    Michelle flinched each time Daryl fired but kept her mouth shut. She was grateful that their friend was here; if not for him…A large shudder came over her as she let her mind wander down the path of what would have happened if the others weren’t at the farm. If Daryl hadn’t been training them…the price was already too high. She fought down an urge to look back at Lorraine’s body. Her palms were sweating a river and she wanted to pee badly but kept moving.

    As they neared the last body they heard a noise, a metallic scrape. It had come from near the big lawn tractor sitting on the road that the brigands had commandeered from somewhere. Daryl held up one hand to keep the others silent and then they heard another noise it was stifled but now identifiable as the cry of an infant. Daryl waved them forward keeping the muzzle of his rifle directed at the tractor and whatever might be behind it. Bobby saw them stop and after an instant realized what they were doing he peered through the scope on the Remington but could see nothing of consequence so said nothing. He kept looking trying to spot something.

    Jim moved up next to the gate and leveled the big Springfield Armory product at the tractor. They couldn’t see anything from where they were so a closer inspection was required. Daryl carefully climbed up on the log rounds stacked against the gate, keeping the muzzle of his rifle pointed toward the potential threat. He swung one leg over the top of the gate and rested his weight on the thin width of the top board as he lifted the other leg over. He was being careful to try and avoid making noise. The effort was mostly successful.

    Daryl slowly lowered his weight down to the gravel surface of the driveway, which crunched lightly as he settled. He winced at the sound; to him it was akin to someone emptying a fully loaded gravel truck. He knew that the sound didn’t carry far but how far was an issue right at that moment. Once clear of the fence, he stepped forward a few paces and then paused. Quickly checking to make sure he was not in Jim’s line of fire, he waved Michelle over the fence using his left hand since he didn’t want to talk. Noise discipline was important. She emulated his earlier movements in getting over the gate and once there, moved off to his left still slightly behind him. The fingers of her hand were nearly white as she tightly gripped the stock of her rifle. A hundred thoughts were racing around in her head as she tried to take in the scene.

    Daryl motioned for Ellen to move forward and to the left a bit as he moved forward as well. They could still see nothing moving behind the tractor and no further sound had been heard. Jim nervously watched while keeping the rifle balanced across the top of the fence to support the weight. The adrenaline from earlier was starting to wear off and it was making his limbs tired, better to buttress the weight of the rifle. The two scouts continued to slowly move forward under the watchful eyes of their fire support.

    That’s when Michelle made her mistake, she edged farther out to Daryl’s left than he wanted her to. He had turned slightly to look at one of the bodies stretched out in the ditch over to his right, it was one that they hadn’t gotten to and checked. This move put her standing on the edge of the road and in the line of fire from behind the tractor. Just as Daryl noticed this and was about to call her back… Crack, Crack, Crack was heard. She screamed and fell heavily to the rough surface clutching at her left leg. Her rifle clattered as it hit the ground. Daryl’s head snapped to the left as he watched her fall. He started to move toward her keeping the Colt pointed at the tractor. He didn’t want to fire indiscriminately and risk hitting the child. Shit!

    Jim heard Michelle scream and as he was turning to look the head and upper body of an adult female popped up from behind the large garden tractor. A revolver was just visible in her hand pointed at Daryl. Without thinking he pivoted the rifle slightly and fired, then again and a third time. The woman was knocked down out of sight by the impact of one or more of the heavy bullets. Pandemonium erupted as everyone tried to get to Michelle.

    Hearing the shots and scream, Josh ran toward Michelle, Jim nearly vaulted the fence as he rushed to get to his wife. In the back of the house Linda heard the shots and then the scream, it startled her and Kaitlyn started crying again. The silence had been almost as bad as the shooting. Bending down to try and comfort the girl, Linda worried about what was going on. Wasn’t it over? An anxious glance through the glass of the back door revealed nothing, which only made the situation worse in some ways.

    Bobby couldn’t believe it, holy shit! His mom was shot. Screw this, he told himself. He jumped up from where he had been and ran over to the ladder. Orders be damned, he was going to go and help his mother. His feet barely touched the rungs of the ladder as he flew down to ground level. Once Bobby was again on the ground he ran as fast as he could toward the road and his injured parent. Tears tried to form, but he ignored them blinking his eyes several times to clear them. Oh shit, oh shit…mom.

    Ellen, still shocked by the death of her friend, hadn’t been watching as close as she should have been. She hadn’t been paying attention to what the others were doing until she heard the shots. Her head jerked up and then she saw Michelle go down. ‘Oh my God! Not again…she thought as she jumped from the porch and ran heading toward the road.

    Daryl got to Michelle first. She was laying on her side, both hands clutching her left thigh. Blood was clearly visible oozing between her fingers. She was crying, her body rocking back and forth while trying to stem the blood flow. There was bleeding, but it didn’t appear to be arterial, the blood wasn’t squirting out with each heart beat and it wasn’t a bright red. Daryl was greatly relieved to see that but kept focused.

    “Easy, easy, we’re here…calm down.”

    Josh and Jim arrived about the same time. Daryl screamed at Josh to check behind the tractor, and then returned his full attention to Michelle. He didn’t like having his back to a potential shooter but he had to deal with Michelle’s injuries. Josh licked his lips and moved forward a bit, keeping the bulk of the tractor between him and whoever was back there. He was pretty sure that Jim had gotten the shooter, but he had to check. Jim knelt down next to his wife and tried to comfort her. Both of them were crying and it wasn’t helping Daryl, who was still trying to assess the extent of the injury.

    Josh edged forward toward the tractor; he could just see part of a figure that appeared to be on the ground and not moving. An infant’s wailing could be heard now, energetic and loud. He was taking no chances, the stock of the weapon tight in against his shoulder just like he had been taught. Eyes carefully swept the scene from side to side. He could hear the events behind him but tried to block them out. Sweat ran down and into one eye, the salt stinging the tender tissue. He blinked several times to try and clear it with partial success. His throat was dry and his heart felt like it was going to beat so hard it would burst out of his chest.

    Daryl looked up and saw his wife coming toward them. He screamed at her to go and get a blanket or something. Ellen literally stopped in mid stride and in doing so nearly tripped over her own feet. She paused for the briefest moment, spun about then bolted back toward the house to get the demanded item. Bobby cleared the fence and ran over to check on his mom. He was scared to death and it only got worse when he saw the blood. He had seen some of the attackers shot and bloody but this was something else entirely.

    Daryl set his rifle down and shucked his combat vest, tossing it atop the Colt product. He hurriedly grabbed the hem of his tee shirt and pulled it off. Wadding it up he pressed it against wound which blocked it from view, but at that moment he didn’t care. “Jim, Jim!” He had to shout to get his attention. Jim looked over and Daryl told him,

    “Pull your belt and put it over this.” Jim hurriedly unbuckled his jeans, gripped the end and pulled. The leather slid through the denim loops with an sswhhttt sound. Jim fed the end of the belt under the natural hollow space beneath the knee and looped it over, fitting the end of the belt back through the buckle. The two men worked the binding up the leg and then over the tee shirt which was still pressed against the wound.

    Josh could see the form of a body sprawled upon the ground while the wailing they had heard earlier was still present. It was definitely a young child. It had been crying for some time but it was as if Josh was just recognizing it for what it was for the first time. He edged closer and closer, the muzzle of his rifle fixed on the inert form. He was now about six feet away being that close he could clearly see the result of the shots that Jim had fired. There would be no more threats from this one. Blood and brain matter were sprayed on the road surface and in the ditch with flies already present in number. Josh edged closer breathing a bit easier. The pistol was lying near the outstretched right hand of the woman. He kicked the gun away and then slowly lowered his rifle. The heavy projectile had inflicted terrible damage to the head of the woman. He turned his attention to the car seat holding the child. The small figure was flailing its arms about energetically as it cried. Josh felt his heart touched by the sight, life amid the death all around. He went down on one knee and reached out for the child.

    Jim had his belt fitted around Michelle’s leg and with all the excitement he tightened the leather much too tight. His wife cried out in pain as the pressure increased dramatically on the wound. Daryl who had turned to watch Josh twisted his head back around when he heard the pain filled outburst.

    “No, no, too tight, loosen it up some.” He moved Jim’s fingers out of the way to release some of the tension. When he did Michelle visibly relaxed some as the pressure was relieved. Daryl was trying to explain to Jim that if it was too tight it would act like a tourniquet and that could cost Michelle her whole leg, maybe even kill her. The head of the Hamilton absently nodded as his friend talked; he was too far gone mentally to listen properly. Jim was so scared for his wife he barely heard Daryl speaking.

    Once inside the house Ellen had ran up the stairs and coming to the first bedroom, ran in and grabbed the blanket that had been laid at the foot of the bed. Snatching it, she exited the room just as fast and rushed down the stairs, heedless of the danger she was in if she fell. Ellen came back out of the house with the large blue blanket bundled against her body. She leapt from the porch and started running as soon as her feet touched ground.

    Once at the fence she threw the blanket over and then climbed over after it. Daryl was now a bit more at ease with his initial assessment, no artery. He was pretty sure that it wasn’t life threatening but it was still going to take a while for Michelle to heal up. Ellen rushed up with the blanket. Daryl was talking to Michelle, whose face was covered in sweat and tears. The pain in her leg was like someone had laid a red hot piece of metal on her skin.

    “Okay hon, listen to me…listen – I think we have the bleeding under control. That’s a good sign…try and relax.” He tried to pour as much confidence into his voice as he could. Keeping the patient calm and informed was a key to successful recovery he had learned at a class ages earlier while still in the service. It had always made sense to him.

    Josh had the child out of its confinement and had picked it up. He still didn’t know if it was a boy or girl the outfit was gender neutral. The child was still upset but had quieted down some once it was picked up. “Sshhhhsss, its okay, sshhhhhsssss.” Josh was bouncing the child lightly to try and calm it down. It wasn’t easy holding the child and the rifle both, but he managed. He guessed the child was about a year old or so maybe younger. He turned to look at what was going on with Michelle. He had been trying to listen but only caught bits and pieces. Carrying the now somewhat calmer infant, he went back over to where the others were.

    Continued...

  20. #20

    Withdrawal Chapter Eleven part two

    Telling Bobby to help him, Daryl spread the blanket out and then folded it in half. Once that was done they moved it right next to where Michelle was and stretched it out. Daryl looked around and seeing Josh asked for him to come over. He knew that they would need him to carry Michelle up to the house. Josh, who was involved with the child was startled for a moment, then he awkwardly handed the child off to Ellen, who was surprised by the squirming bundle given her. Josh moved to a corner of the blanket as did the others. Daryl started to grab a corner but remembered his rifle. He grabbed the tactical vest and began to hand it to his wife but saw that her hands were full. The child and her own weapon was all she could carry. He snatched his rifle off the ground and hurriedly slung it muzzle down across his bare back.

    Taking his place at the corner of the blanket once more, he laid the vest on Michelle’s torso and then took hold of his part of the blanket. Looking at the others who were all waiting for him, Daryl nodded and counted aloud, one, two, three! On the three count they all lifted which brought the lower portion of Michelle’s body about two feet above the ground. Josh and Jim, who had the end of the blanket near her feet were walking backwards as they all shuffled forward in an ungainly step heading toward their ultimate destination, the house. They made it nearly ten feet before stopping; several of them had to change their grip to get a better bite on the material lest they drop her.

    Once that was done, they started moving again. The level of anxiety seemed to increase as the distance to the house slowly, ever so slowly shortened. The effects of the previous hour were now starting to show. Fatigue, physical and mental, was slowing them down. Despite that they kept moving. Ellen, still clutching the baby, was doing her best to look around and make sure they weren’t surprised. The group was terribly vulnerable with all four of the men having their hands full and she and Michelle incapable of handling a weapon. Ellen kept twisting and turning as she looked around, watching for anything. She knew that some of the group had gotten away and didn’t know where they were. Hurry, hurry she urged them.

    Once they got to the fence they realized that they couldn’t lift Michelle over it. Several of the boards had holes in them from errant bullets. They carefully lowered her down and before Daryl could say anything, Jim was kicking at the lower boards trying to break them. Josh realized right away what he was doing and started in as well. Jim had his hands on the top board and was kicking at the lowest board for all he was worth. It took little time to crack and then break the board. As soon as the end was free he reached down and grabbed it. Jim pulled at it. When it was far enough back to interfere with what Josh was doing, he too grabbed the board. Their combined effort broke the board off in short order. They then repeated the process with the next two boards and a path now lay open in front of them big enough to move Michelle.

    “Let’s go! Let’s go!”

    The four men resumed their former positions and lifted. The adrenaline high of minutes earlier was wearing off so they were tired. This made their movements slow and awkward. In addition, each had nothing substantial to hang on to. The corners of the blanket provided little grip, but it was all they had. Josh bent down and stooped under the top board, which remained in place. Once through, he turned and switched hands so that now he was walking backwards while lifting. Jim followed suit to get through the improvised opening. Curses and grunts of exertion filled the air as they worked. One by one they wormed through and renewed their journey. Ellen walked along side while carrying the infant trying to reassure Michelle that she would be alright, the tears marred her confidence but she kept trying. Glancing around Ellen was still trying to keep a watch on their surroundings but it hard.

    The men got to the stairs leading up to the porch and again Josh and Jim turned backwards as they went up. Take a step, wait for the lower two, step, wait for the lower two, this went on until they were on the porch. Josh looked over at the body of his wife but didn’t shirk his load as he fought with the anguish that rose anew in him. The blood from the fatal wound was a wide pool beneath her slowly drying in the warmth of the day. The quartet had to move around the body somewhat to get into the house. The arrangement of the furniture didn’t work in their favor as they went inside.

    Linda having heard the commotion created by them coming up the front steps had come through the kitchen to the doorway leading to the living room. She was shocked to see someone being carried in and then looked up to see Ellen coming in the house carrying of all things, a baby. The young Richland girl was several steps behind Linda.

    It wasn’t as easy as the men wanted it to be. Michelle’s leg struck the coffee table, which caused her to cry out in pain Jim shouted at them to lift. Their strained arms pulled up one last time and then moved her up and over the furniture. Once clear they set her down as gently as they could on the floor near the center of the room. Linda could now clearly see that it was her mother that the others were carrying. She rushed forward, “Mom!” Shock and fear heavy in her voice.

    Ellen was told to go to the truck and get the big first aid kit. She fumbled with the tot and then held it out to one of the men, without consciously thinking about it Josh reached over and took the child. She turned and took off at a sprint for the truck. Kaitlyn heard all the grown ups talking and then saw her mommy run out the door. Auntie “Shell” as Kaitlyn called her was crying and that made the little girl scared.

    It didn’t take Ellen long to make it to the truck and pull the large, hard plastic container, ostensibly a tool box, and its purpose changed, out of its usual resting place and head back to the house. She hurried through the open doorway and slammed the box down near Daryl. One clasp came open without issue but her fingers fumbled with the other. It finally yielded and she shoved the open container toward her husband.

    Taking a deep breath he told the others to back off, he needed room to work. The living room, one of the larger rooms in the farmhouse was very crowded. After loosening the belt Daryl gently pulled the now ruined tee shirt away from Michelle’s leg. Pulling the EMT style shears from the kit and very carefully working them into the seam in Michelle’s jeans at her ankle he began cutting. Moving steadily up the pant leg next to the heavily stitched seam, he cut away the denim material. Once he reached her inner thigh area he stopped and changed directions. His plan was to cut the pants covering the front, now top of her leg and peel it back exposing the wound. He carefully cut, making an effort to avoid pulling on the material as much as possible. Daryl wanted to avoid putting pressure of any kind on the injury.

    Once the denim was cut away, he could clearly see the damage that the bullet had done despite the blood and as he could a heavy feeling of relief filled him. The wound was nowhere as bad as he first thought it was. The path of the round had caused a long furrow about midway between the hip and knee on the outer part of the thigh. A distance of a mere quarter inch could have been devastating, but this he could fix. It wasn’t a through and through type of wound typical of many gunshot victims. She would be off her feet for a little while but he was pretty sure she would be all right eventually.

    The bleeding had slowed a great deal. He knew he would need to clean the area thoroughly to reduce the risk of infection including having his sweaty shirt against the area. The others were gathered around with the exception of Josh, who had gone outside to be with Lorraine. Ellen turned at one point to look through the open door at the scene. Josh was sitting on the porch holding one of her lifeless hands in one of his with the baby held close to him in the other. Tears rolled as she looked at them Ellen knew she would miss her friend a great deal. As she looked at her husband who was absorbed in treating Michelle love and pride filled her. Oddly it was then followed by a stab of guilt she still had her spouse while Josh had lost his. What a terrible day this was. She turned back and pulled Kaitlyn into the kitchen to get her out of the way while trying to wipe the tears from her own eyes.

    Having asked for and been given a wet wash cloth Daryl cleaned around the wound as best he could to remove the blood and material present. The wound was still slowly oozing blood but not as fast as earlier. He tore open the package of sterile gauze and carefully pulled the four inch square out, touching only a small portion of one corner. He laid it atop the torn paper wrapper next to one he just did and reached for two more. Knowing he had to make a solid pad of the absorbent material, Daryl wanted to put several of them together to form an effective dressing. He was ready to irrigate the area to disinfect and clean it but first he wanted to clean his hands a bit. Less chance of an infection that way. He used the wet wash cloth to remove as much of the blood and dirt from his hands as he could. It wasn’t perfect but what the hell was anymore?

    Reaching into the kit again, he pulled out the large bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide he kept in there. Licking his lips, he told Michelle to hang on, this was going to sting…a bunch. She nodded grimly and held Jim’s hand tighter. Unscrewing the tall plastic container, he began to pour it over the area of the wound. The reaction was immediate Michelle took in a large volume of air with a hiss as her back arched from the sensation. All along the furrow the blood was foaming as the chemical interacted with the tissue. Linda was crying as she watched Daryl use the sterile dressings to wipe away much of the blood surrounding the injury. Michelle was trying not to cry out but the peroxide hurt. A growing pile of bloody gauze was off to Daryl’s left as he continued to clean the area. It was necessary to apply a second measure of peroxide but again he warned her prior to applying it. This time it was easier to deal with. It still hurt but not as much.

    After cleaning the area as well as he could, Daryl grabbed his tube of antibiotic ointment and applied it liberally to the entire length of the opening in the skin. His classes had emphasized the need to keep wounds covered in order to reduce the chance of infection. He then began to place more of the sterile dressings over the wound and tape them in place. A problem presented itself, the tape didn’t want to stick very well especially with amount of gauze dressings he was using. Stumped for a moment he looked at the interior of the kit and pounced on the roll of Ace wrap laying in the top. Hurriedly tearing the plastic off he once again placed the gauze in position and began to wrap the material around the leg being careful not to wrap it too tightly. It only had to be tight enough to hold the gauze dressings in place.

    Once all the dressings were in place and secure he told someone to get Michelle some water to drink. Daryl knew he had to help replace the fluids she had lost. Since they didn’t have any I.V. supplies, keeping her hydrated was going to be important. Bobby went to the kitchen, threw open the cupboard containing cups and grabbed the large Brita brand water pitcher sitting on the counter. He filled the plastic cup and rushed back into the living room. Michelle was given the liquid which she gratefully drank down, too much at first. Coughing, she tried to sit up, Jim helped her and told her to slow down, sip it. After a few minutes they got her situated on the couch with a sheet beneath her and a few pillows propped beneath her head and shoulders for comfort with the left leg slightly elevated the remains of the ruined pants leg cut off to make it easier on her. Linda was right there with some more water for her mom, prepared to do whatever was necessary to make her comfortable.

    Jim, Bobby and Linda were gathered around Michelle all of them were crying. The living room was a mess, broken glass from some of the windows, bloody gauze dressings, empty medical supply wrappers, dust from the plasterboard of the walls, several picture frames had been knocked off the walls by bullets and were scattered about. The chair nearest the front door had at least one bullet hole in it. Some of the stuffing was lying on the floor. None of that mattered at the moment.

    Daryl was exhausted but knew that the work for the day was far from over. He slowly walked out of the living room and into the kitchen. They had to check all the bodies, collect the weapons, pull the tractor and trailer rig into the yard and so on and so on….He needed a shirt too. Okay, so where to start? Hands, wash your hands, then, clothes, go get another shirt. He lifted the handle on the faucet and without thought he began to scrub at his hands. Ellen poured some dish soap on his hands for him. Daryl was rubbing harder and harder trying to get the rest of the blood off him. Ellen watched him for a few moments and then gently took hold of his hands in hers and helped him. The couple just stood there for a bit as the water ran each drawing strength from the presence of the other.

    Leaving the kitchen after finishing up at the sink he exited the house via the back door then started walking toward the trailer to retrieve a shirt. The tee shirt he had been wearing, now covered in blood from Michelle’s wound, was trashed. Plus, after sweating and such, he needed something cool and clean on. He would take a shower later. In fact, he would recommend that they skip the normal schedule for bathing and for today say the hell with it. If someone wanted a shower or bath, let ‘em. It would be good therapy. Ellen went with him, holding the infant she walked silently besides him. No conversation was needed or really wanted at that point. Simply having her there was enough. She sensed it and so stayed silent. Kaitlyn was walking on the other side as they exited the house heading across the yard.
    All Daryl could think of at that point was, God, today sucks…

  21. #21

    Withdrawal Chapter Twelve

    Chapter 12

    What…the…hell is that? Josh tried to recognize where he was, it was dark and it was…oh crap! He bolted out of the chair and barely caught the rifle that had been lying across his lap. Josh shook his head trying to clear it which helped some but he was still confused. There it was again, that same sensation, what is that? As he looked around more of the sensation presented itself and then, all at once he realized what it was. Crap! He peered out into the darkness and was only able to see a little way as visibility was limited. The sensation further increased and he made the decision to move, at least for the moment. He felt around for the radio and after a moment finally located it exactly where he had left it, attached to his belt. The urge to move was stronger now, pressing him. He grabbed the lawn chair he had been sitting in, took it to the edge of the roof and dropped it. The aluminum tubing rattled as it hit but not too loudly. He was fairly sure that the drop wouldn’t hurt the chair. Damn…no coat, why the hell didn’t I bring a coat? Stupid!

    He followed the chair down off the roof by taking two rungs at a time on the ladder. Not the easiest thing to do with a rifle in one hand but he had to get off the roof. Once down, he snatched the chair from where it was laying on its side and hustled toward the front porch. By now the sensation was nearly encompassing and he was truly awake. Awake and going to be uncomfortable he was sure. He shook his head to clear the last of the mental cobwebs as he ran the short distance to the porch.

    Josh got up the steps and moved underneath the covered portion just as the first flash of lightning briefly illuminated the night sky. The rain was really coming down now; he could hear the heavy sheets of water striking the house. The rolling boom of the thunderclap jarred his hearing: that one was nearby he thought. His clothes were wet; the clinging damp sensation was what he imaged it would be like wearing paper mache’. He unfolded the chair and set it down. Josh then walked to the end of the porch to look toward the barn. He couldn’t see much at all. It was raining hard and they had disabled the large outside area light days earlier which mattered less now that the electricity had stopped working. With nothing to see he walked back to the chair. Water dripped from his clothes to pool on the porch beneath him.

    The rain was coming in from the west with a light breeze which meant that the covered area of the porch was still basically dry. Josh sat down in the chair and then looked at his watch. He was shocked to realize that it was nearly an hour and fifteen minutes since he had looked at it the last time. How in the hell did…oh shit! I fell asleep! Holy crap that’s it…I fell asleep. Disbelief at first, then acceptance slowly fought its way to the top of his consciousness. He had, he’d fallen asleep.

    Anger and embarrassment rode him hard. Josh was really pissed at himself. ‘How in the – asleep, I fell asleep.’ He thought as he shook his head as if to try and deny somehow the truth of what he knew had happened. Sitting up in the O.P., it was quiet, he was tired and with Lorraine…oh God honey. The hammer blow of her loss rose up again and he was able to deflect some of it but not much it was still too soon. Grief rose up again and with a deep feeling of shame. He had let all of them down, asleep. He had fallen asleep and left them all vulnerable. Some piece of crap could have walked up and without so much as a by-your-leave killed them all…dammit, dammit, dammit!

    The previous twenty four hours or so had been a blur at times. The shoot out, Lorraine, then Michelle getting hurt, finding the baby, dealing with the bodies…it was too much. He was still trying to take the bits and pieces of what he remembered and fit it together in some type of framework that made sense, any sense. He knew that it was all in there, but his mind hadn’t been able to process it yet. The rain had settled into a steady rhythm, a slow, heavy soaking precipitation that would be just what the garden and yard needs. The rain reminded him of how part of him wanted to feel, clean – he wanted to be clean. Just let the water wash away the pain he was in. As if it was only that easy…

    The damp clothes he had on were chilling him slightly and he shivered. Rubbing his upper arms with his hands Josh wished he had remembered to grab the blanket from the roof as well. Tapping his forehead with two fingers as if to tell himself, well duh, he realized that it was likely just as wet as he was, but of course if he hadn’t fallen asleep….

    Rising from the chair he was determined to make sure that he stayed awake. Glancing at his watch again he checked to see how much longer till his shift would end. It was 3:18 a.m. so he had well over two more hours. He had been on since midnight but still he had slept some before starting his six hour shift. With the loss of two people capable of standing watch the group had to expand the hours of the guard shifts to try and compensate. Six hours now in place of four. They had no choice.

    With four hour shifts they would be standing watch every day no matter what, with six hours it would space it out some. Michelle would recover but it would take some time and even then it wasn’t as if she was going to be able to pick up right where she had been. Things around the farm were going to be difficult for some time - for a lot of reasons…

    Josh walked around a bit for a while on the porch then suddenly stopped when one of the board creaked. Michelle and Jim were sleeping in the living room just a few feet away and walking around might be disturbing them. Idiot! What the hell is the matter with you! He was angry with himself again and this time wouldn’t let it pass. ‘These people took you in when you had nothing to offer, you go to sleep leaving them unprotected and now you’re gonna wake them up too? Jackass!’ The sea of emotions that Josh was riding on was getting rougher by the minute. It was going be a long shift he thought glumly as another flash of lightning briefly lit the scene.

    The rain striking the trailer caused enough noise that it briefly roused Daryl. Disorientated in the darkness for a moment he wondered what woke him up, then lightning illuminated the inside of the trailer for an instant. Thunder followed a few seconds later. Okay, that’s what it was Ellen stirred but didn’t wake up to the same degree that her husband did. She shifted around and turned on her side, snuggling closer to his warmth. Daryl smiled in the darkness; she always did that when she partially awoke during the night. Not that he minded, Daryl glanced at his watch to gauge the time. Realizing that he had several hours more of sleep available he lowered his head to his pillow once again and draped his arm over his wife. Sleep returned within moments.

    The rain continued for several hours during which Josh sat on the porch, staring out in the damp darkness. Visibility during the lightening flashes was increased of course, but only briefly. The wind was absent so the porch stayed fairly dry. The house was been fitted with rain gutters many years before and Josh absently noted the sound of the water being sluiced down from the roofs and away from the home. Occasionally some leaves or other debris from the gutters would rattle slightly as it was carried through the pipes and out the downspout.

    Normally Josh loved it when it rained; it was one of his favorite events. As a kid he would sit and stare out his window for hours during rain storms. He had never been one of those kids who were scared of the noise that the thunder created. Now he here was, a great seat to view the powerful storm and it barely registered with him. His clothes were drying very slowly and he figured that by the time he was due to get off duty they still would be damp but who cares, they were just clothes. He had others. It was what the Mitchell’s had the most of here at the farm. They had managed to bring some food and goods with them but the majority of what they had escaped town with was clothing. Part of him wanted to be angry with himself over that fact but he was too tired, too emotional spent to get on himself about that. ‘Maybe later’, he consoled his anger with that. ‘Sorry, I’m not in right now. Please come back later and be angry with me.’

    The rainfall sparked something in his memory. Almost three years ago now, Josh had met Lorraine during a rainstorm. As the images of their first meeting washed over him Josh leaned back in the chair and let his mind wander a bit. He promised himself that he would not fall asleep again. It had been a classic blind date. He had a friend who knew “this great girl” and thought that maybe the two of them ought to get together. Well, he wasn’t initially too keen on the idea but after weeks of badgering he agreed to at least meet the girl. His friend had been after Lorraine also, telling her how anxious Josh was to meet her and all other kinds of things to get her to agree to meet him. She had been as skeptical as Josh about meeting this “great friend of mine”. Finally persistence and a healthy dose of annoyance paid dividends. Both of them had given in just to shut him up.

    Josh agreed to meet her at a restaurant so both of them would be on neutral ground. His friend, Frank, handled the reservations and even told him that he would pay for the meal just so that Josh would go. On the night the two were to meet it started raining, hard. The weather guy on the local news called it the worst rainstorm in five years but Josh didn’t care once he saw Lorraine for the first time. Sitting at the table with candle light softening the color of her damp hair, he was completely taken with her beauty. When he walked up and tried to introduce himself he was so nervous that he could barely speak. Josh croaked out his name and turned a deep shade of crimson. Lorraine had seen him come in and quickly told herself that she hoped that this was him, he was cute. So when he walked up to the table she was thrilled and then tried to introduce himself all she could do was laugh as her good looking dinner companion flubbed his name.

    Josh and Lorraine shared the laugh and he sat down. Hours later, when the restaurant closed they had to be asked to leave by an apologetic waiter who had been watching the couple for some time. The two were surprised at how the hours had slipped by as they had talked and laughed. They left the restaurant and went to Lorraine’s apartment. The two spent a few more hours talking before Josh finally excused himself and went home. As soon as he got in he called Frank and thanked him over and over for introducing them. Frank who was still asleep through most of the call, assured his friend it was no problem, hung up and promptly went back to sleep. After all it was around four a.m.

    After that Josh and Lorraine spent nearly all their free time together. He worked as a software programmer at a local company while she was nearly through getting her real estate license while working as a receptionist for a local real estate firm with ambitions of moving up. They took weekend trips to wherever they felt like going. Josh had fallen for the attractive woman nearly immediately and it showed. For her part Lorraine too was taken with the handsome man that she had so much in common with. The pair often talked for hours on the phone as well about everything and nothing. Josh had been going to the same church as the Hamilton’s for nearly a year before meeting Lorraine. With little hesitation she accepted Josh’s invitation to attend services with him. Once there, she was made to feel welcome and Josh was sure to introduce her around after the services. Their opinion of Lorraine was important to him, not that it would stop him from seeing more of her if they didn’t like her but that didn’t happen. This was the first time she met the Hamilton’s and liked them right away.

    Josh had been a dinner guest on several occasions at the home of Jim and Michelle prior to meeting Lorraine and lacking any immediate family close by, had sort of adopted the Hamilton’s as proxy. The couple soon found themselves sharing an evening meal at the Hamilton’s and were invited to come and see the farmhouse they owned. Lorraine loved the farm, it was quiet and old fashioned which appealed to her. The two often spent weekends working at the farm helping Jim and Michelle with the renovations.

    The foursome took to each other well. Her charm and easy going personality fit in well with the Hamilton’s the feeling was mutual. After attending church with Josh several times Lorraine decided to start going with him all the time. She was impressed with his manners and the quality of the people that he had introduced her to after the services. Frank even told him at one point that he was now kinda sorry he had gotten them together. “What? Lorraine is the best thing that ever happened to me.” Josh told him. “Yeah, but now that you two are together you never have any time for your other friends.” Josh smiled and laughed with his friend who was very happy for both of them. Josh and Lorraine were married ten months after their first date. It was a nice ceremony with a large turn out from friends, co-workers and well wishers with Frank serving as best man.

    It was during these busy weekends of work at the farm that Lorraine was exposed to her first taste of preparedness talk. Along with Josh and some others including Ellen who had taken to the newest member of their little group with gusto, she listened as the talk of stockpiling food and other goods went on around her. On occasion, Ellen’s husband Daryl was able to join them. She was always a little intimidated by Daryl but never said anything even to Josh. As a former Marine and a combat veteran he was someone very different from the people she was used to.

    No one in her family had served in the military except her grandfather during World War Two. He had died when she was eight so she hadn’t gotten the chance to really know him so Daryl was somehow larger than life. She never mentioned it to anyone but she was never able to get really comfortable around Daryl. It wasn’t him personally he always treated her respectfully and she could tell he was a good person. No, it was something else. He and Ellen owned a successful security business and they worked hard to support it. She later realized the uncomfortable feeling was caused by the fact that Daryl was almost always armed. Lorraine had never been around guns and she and Josh didn’t own one. Josh did go shooting with the guys once in awhile borrowing one of theirs. Daryl was very careful with his pistol, making sure it was properly secured when he wasn’t carrying it. He had explained to the others that he felt it was the only proper thing to do, especially since he was a parent.

    Lorraine and Josh had discussed having a family and they both wanted children. More than once she had given thought to what it must be like to be raising a child in a home with firearms in it. The thought scared her since she didn’t have a clue what that must be like. The Hamilton’s owned guns as well and she saw that they had also taught their children the proper handling and care of guns. They had shown her the safe where the weapons were kept locked up and unloaded when not in use. She had even spoken to Michelle about it and was a bit surprised to find out the Linda, the daughter was one of the best marksmen in the family.

    The many hours spent at the farm with the others helped to open up her viewpoint on preparedness as she listened to Jim explain about how to expand their on hand food supply, water and the like. Simple things like buying three cans of veggies instead of two: buying food in bulk, watching for sales, etc. Lorraine found that this made sense, but was having a hard time understanding the reasons behind doing it. After all, the grocery store was only two blocks from their condo. If need be she could walk to it to get whatever they needed. Besides, why clutter up all her cabinets with food? But they did slowly start to increase their own stock of food as they could. Josh was really taken with the discussions on “preps”, as they others called them. The two of them discussed it several times and while she wasn’t fully on board with the concept eventually she didn’t see the harm in having a few more things on hand. Besides, it did save her time from having to run back and forth to the store and that was something.

    When the serious economic trouble started it impacted her work immediately. The downturn in the economy meant that very few people had the means to purchase real estate so her boss was forced to reduce the hours that everyone was working. He was a kindly man and refused to lay someone off just so the others would have hours. Better to have some hours than none at all. Lorraine and the others in the office knew that it was taking money out his pocket to do it but they were all grateful. Jobs of any sort were getting increasingly harder to find while Josh’s situation was the opposite. As a computer programming and software designer he had been kept very busy since many businesses were trying to make greater use of automation as a stop gap means of keeping up production. Robotic manufacturing allowed employers to keep their businesses open while reducing their overhead by releasing some of the employees. His increased paychecks made up part of the difference in what she had been bringing home.

    Part of Lorraine’s now expanded time off she spent out at the farm helping Michelle with various projects. Curtains or gardening were the two tasks most often undertaken, the older house had a number of windows and so needed curtains, the older ones were tossed in favor of something new. Sometimes Ellen would join them. The three friends were able to get many needed tasks accomplished which improved the farmhouse tremendously. It also served to fill the time that women had. Each of their husbands was working increasingly longer hours as the economic situation continued to deteriorate. Spending time with the other women was a joy for Lorraine who enjoyed the conversation, the homemaking type work and having something to do while Josh was working. The condo was so quiet with him gone.

    Josh was still thinking about Lorraine but it wasn’t keeping him from being alert. No one had come by on the road, at least not while he had been awake he chided himself harshly. The rain was increasing in strength but the wind, slight before had again fallen off to nothing. He turned his head slightly looking toward the front door. It was too dark to see it clearly but he thought he could just see the spot where her blood had pooled. He still didn’t know who cleaned it up, but he was grateful they had done it without a fuss.

    The others had tried to trade his turn at guard duty but he stubbornly refused. They were standing theirs so he felt that it was just as much his duty as it was theirs. Josh had always had a high level of integrity and despite his loss he knew that he had to continue to contribute. ‘Who the hell was he to put it off on somebody else?’ He reasoned with himself earlier that night. ‘Well, falling asleep doesn’t help does it?’ Never again he vowed with a conviction that was rooted in his anger and pain. Never again…He continued to stare into the darkness as time slowly passed. Morning would come in its own good time.

  22. #22

    Withdrawal Chapter Thirteen part one

    Chapter 13

    Daryl was sitting at the dining table in his trailer as he continued to sort out some of the information in his head regarding the shoot out two days prior. A pad with several pages of written notes was laying on the table at his elbow as he unconsciously chewed the end of his ink pen while he contemplated. It was an old quirk of his when he was really into thinking about something he often chewed on his pens. Ellen loved to pick on him about it. He didn’t smoke and never had but it wasn’t uncommon to see him with the end of a pen in his mouth. His employees would sometimes kid him about what brand of ink tasted best.

    As the tactical guru of the group, he was trying to cover all the angles of what had happened on Thursday, right and wrong. What went wrong was easy to figure out, someone died. Yeah a bunch of the bad guys died too, but one of us, that one was still too high a price to pay. Lorraine, always so quiet but her smile could light up a whole room. As for figuring out the rest, good and bad, it wasn’t so quick or easy to determine. Out of habit, Daryl called what he was doing his “After Action Report” just as he had been taught during his time in the Marines. There was plenty to write down and go over. Maybe too much, but he had to try to sort it out. The lives of everyone at the farm could depend on what he came up with. Yeah, no pressure he told himself.

    Daryl was alone in the camper. He wanted, no he needed, to be alone while he did this. It was too important to be distracted by anything. Ellen had taken their daughter up to the house to give her husband some space. Grabbing the pen from his mouth then dropping it on the table, he pressed his hands against his face and rubbed up and down a few times while rolling his head around in circles to try and relieve some of the muscle tension he was feeling. It worked but only a bit. As his palms massaged his face, he suddenly realized that he needed a shave, the rough texture of his now several day old growth served as a prickly reminder. A wry smile rode his lower face as he wondered was else he had forgotten about in the turmoil of the last few days, hell the last two weeks. God, wait - had it only been two weeks since the crap had really hit the fan? No… wait was that right? He did the math in his head. They had been at the farm now for, holy shit, a week! They had arrived last week Friday and today was…Saturday. Oh my God! How could it only have been, what, eight days? Wow! It just seemed longer with everything going on. Time enough to get Lorraine killed he reminded himself with no small amount of remorse it was a sense of guilt he was sure that would be with him till the day he died.

    The last few days had dashed by and he hadn’t managed to get much rest. There was too much to do, too much to deal with. None of them had gotten much sleep at all because they had set extra security watches. It was something that they felt was necessary, just in case those that escaped the firefight came back with more friends, but it wasn’t something they could keep doing. Very little in the way of chores had been accomplished during the previous forty-eight hours. Everyone was simply too damned busy or just plain tired.

    Once the immediate effects of the attack, namely the baby, Michelle and Lorraine, were dealt with the others were faced with the task of dealing with the numerous bodies now strewn across the front yard. Thanks to Daryl’s resolve in shooting each one again to make sure they were dead they had a count, thirteen bodies. Thirteen, what a number, they had to move the bodies, that was never an issue but what to do with them was another thing.

    The group was tired and emotionally spent immediately following the attack but Daryl kept on them about having to clean up the area. Bobbie was sent back up to the O.P. to keep watch while the others, minus Michelle who was holding down the couch were cleaning up the weapons and moving the bodies’ one at a time out to the road. Each one of the attackers was carefully checked for more weapons, papers, tools, anything of use. Most didn’t even have identification on them. The contents of pockets were all tossed into one pile for collection and review once they were done with this part of the job. The decision of what to do with the bodies wasn’t an easy one, thirteen bodies was a large mess to handle. Digging a mass grave was out of the question, too much earth to move plus the time involved, no, something else needed to be done. The solution they reached was one of necessity.

    The lawn tractor and trailer were moved inside the fence by driving it a little further up the road and bringing it through a gate usually used just for farm equipment. Once through the gate the tractor was driven to a spot in the pasture behind and below the barn so that it would out of sight from the road. After the bodies had been taken care of they had inventoried the items found on the trailer…where was that list? He absently searched in his notes for it, there, there it was. He glanced at the sheet, ammunition, 1,987 rounds, chickens, 4 hens, 1 rooster…the remainder of the list trailed down the page in a hastily written hand. He knew the rest so he let his eyes slip from the page. Gods, he was tired.

    Blinking hard to regain his mental place, Daryl glanced at the notes that littered the pages of the pad. He felt he had it pretty well sorted out now, as well as he could anyways. Glancing at his watch Daryl knew that others would soon be gathering at the house as he had asked them earlier. Leaning back to rest his head on the wall for a moment, he was careful not to stretch too much. When he was forced to hit the ground during the attack, Daryl bruised a rib or two by landing on one of the rifle magazines in his tactical vest. Couldn’t be helped…drop down or get shot. If he moved too quickly it hurt, a lot. What he would give for an hour of rest. Just pure rest…a king’s ransom. He returned his attention to what lie ahead.

    The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what had happened and how they could avoid it happening again. He had wanted to hold a meeting the day following the attack but with the funeral, dealing with the bodies, Michelle’s injury and everyone being emotionally wrung out he knew that it wouldn’t work. Like it or not, they would have to start talking about it today. Time was not their ally; if one group could find them then there was no reason to believe that another wouldn’t. He did feel better knowing that the neighbors to the south, what was their…Holski, yeah that was it. Daryl was pleased when he found out that they had shot and killed one of the attackers. It meant that at least one more of them wouldn’t be bothering anyone else again. He still found it troublesome that their big mouth leader had seemed to disappear without anyone at the farm seeing him do it. It was like an itch he couldn’t scratch, knowing that the prick responsible for attacking them had escaped. If that jack-off could put together one group he could do it again. Still, it had been a pretty costly lesson for the guy. Pretty serious loss ratio 14:1 but that one…

    Knowing that the Holski’s were good, solid folks and that they were trying to hang on was encouraging. He had to go over there this morning after the meeting to look things over and make recommendation for some defensive plans. His biggest concern was their own situation but after the Holski’s took care of one of the attackers it only seemed right to help them out some as well.

    He wondered again how close they came to losing the fight. Had even three of the attackers reached the house it could have been all over. The defenses were adequate but not great; a few thoughts on how to fix that were outlined in his notes. That reminded him Daryl looked at his watch again, time to go. The tired man slowly stood, collected his vest, gingerly putting it on, not the easiest thing to do inside the confines of the trailer. Next he picked up his rifle and lastly the note pad then left the trailer. He secured the outer door so just the screen door was open. The weather was halfway decent and he wanted to air the trailer out a bit. Looking around once he was outside, Daryl saw nothing to warrant concern and briefly considered that. Was that a good or bad thing? He didn’t know and that bothered him too. Was he losing his edge or was it already gone and he simply didn’t want to admit it? Daryl took a moment and added those questions to the long list he had in his head. Not satisfied with either question he slung his rifle.

    Stepping off with his left foot as he always did, a habit held over from the Marine Corps, Daryl started toward the house. Military drill movements almost exclusively started out with the left foot moving first so years later he still did it. The soles of his shoes, like many of those who were former, he hated the term “ex”, Marine, showed the trend. The left was invariably more worn than the right. Daryl’s Colt rifle was slung muzzle down over one shoulder, his notes clutched in the opposite hand to prevent any interference with grabbing the weapon if necessary. His stride covered the ground quickly, bringing him to the back door in moments.

    Doubt born of loss still gnawed at him, had he done everything he could of? Was Lorraine dead because he failed them? He didn’t think so but she was still dead the funeral for her had been yesterday. And now here it was only two days since the attack. Damnation, will we catch a break at some point? He wasn’t sure but went inside anyway.

    The meeting started a few minutes later without fanfare as everyone gathered in the living room. Jim kept the front door open; he was half in and out of the house sitting on a kitchen chair. He was the one currently on O.P. duty and knew that what his friend wanted to discuss would be important so coming down off the roof was a necessity. It was essential to their long-term survival that everyone be on the same page when it came to tactical issues. They weren’t combat soldiers - well, I guess that isn’t true anymore, correcting himself, at least not completely untrue.

    It only took a glance to see his wife, who, despite recovering nicely, was still on the couch to remind him of that. Never again, never, would they lose a member of the group he vowed. Like so many promises made with good intentions, the ability to guarantee the results were beyond him but he didn’t care. She was doing better and had even managed to walk around a bit. He remembered the fear he felt hearing the pistol go off, seeing her go down. A chill rode his spine and it was all he could do not to shudder. He would never remember the feelings he had firing on the woman behind the tractor. It was just something he did, automatic reflex.
    The others were gathered around the living room occupying various pieces of furniture. Ellen had been able to coax Kaitlyn into a nap earlier so she was taken care of for right now. The baby had been even easier; she had been fed and went right to sleep afterwards. A blanket had been spread out on the floor in the front room for the infant. A few bright stuffed animals donated by Linda posted around the sleeping form stood silent sentry duty. Ellen had an ear cocked for any tell tale signs of movement. Michelle was doing the same as all good mothers can, divide their attention between multiple tasks yet never lose the ability to listen for a child.

    Sensing the others were restless, Daryl, not wanting to waste time, started right in. “The best way to start is simple. What did we do wrong?” The question hung there for all of them, who would grab at it first was the answer he wanted. Josh started to open his mouth to speak but stopped. His head hung a bit as the moments passed. This was concerning, his friend had spoken little since the attack and even less since the funeral yesterday. Part of it was natural; he had lost his wife, not to something as soft as old age, a gentle slip into whatever lay beyond but to the savagery of feral humans, her life ripped away. Sure they had fought back and had killed nearly all of the attackers, but that didn’t help Lorraine. Revenge is overrated. Daryl mentally digressed for a moment, thinking about his friends.

    “You mean other than get someone killed?” Daryl was surprised and a little shocked, not only when he realized that it was Jim that said it, but by the bitterness the elder Hamilton couldn’t keep out of his voice. Josh looked over at the man at the door as did the others in the room. He could hear the emotions in the voice of his friend. For an instant, Josh was angry, but the tone of how Jim said it changed that. The others had expressed their sorrow about Lorraine, but Josh hadn’t realized how much they felt responsible for her death. Even with the help they had given him preparing the grave. That realization jumped up and smacked Josh full on in the face. He was suddenly aware of a new perspective on the issue. It was Jim’s house, he had taken them in and someone he had chosen to help, to care for was dead.

    Empathy filled Josh as he saw the look on Daryl’s face as Jim’s comment sunk in. It had been Daryl who devised the defense plan; it had been Daryl who put Lorraine at the front door. He must be feeling it too. A deep sense of shame burned Josh as the reality of how selfish he had been feeling in thinking he was the only person there to really feel the loss of his wife. The day before, Josh had initially turned down help to dig her grave, but relented when Daryl and Jim showed up after nearly ninety minutes of his digging. The two men wanted to give him some time to work out some of his anger and good hard physical labor was a great way to do it. Simple psychological tactic, redirect the anger or other emotional energy into something physical.

    Digging a grave in the rich dark soil was a good start. So after he was about half done the other two showed up, shovel and pick in hand and without a word started helping. Josh nearly smiled as he realized after a moment that the others were not intruding. He stepped out of the way to take a drink from the bottle of water they had brought for him as the other two men dug. They needed to participate in the work. It was part of their cleansing as well. Daryl was their tactical leader and Jim had nearly lost his wife. The three of them worked without talking and the task was completed quickly. One of them worked at loosening the rich soil with the pick while the other tossing it out in spadefuls onto the growing pile.

    A roughly oblong hole slightly over six feet long by three wide was prepared. Stones from the nearby stream were laboriously gathered up and dropped near where the excavated soil had been tossed. The stones would be used as a cairn over the top of the replaced dirt once Lorraine has been placed nearly six feet down. Josh did the finishing work himself making sure the bottom of the grave was level. It was important to him and the others understood. Once that was done, he slowly climbed out and stood with his friends. All of them were hot, sweaty and dirty. No thanks were offered but the gratitude was there. They were friends before the attack, now they were something more. His mind snapped back to the present, something needed said it was something only Josh could do. Coming to his feet and nearly shouting “Wait a minute, okay!” The statement was sharp and direct. The others looked to him and waited as Josh directed. Ellen glanced at the open door to the front room to see if the outburst had wakened the baby but nothing was heard.

    Continued...

  23. #23

    Withdrawal Chapter Thirteen part two

    A mix of thoughts twisted in his mind but Josh knew it was necessary to say something to try and get the others to understand. He swallowed hard before speaking. “It’s…it’s not your fault, it was Lorraine’s” The room was utterly silent as the statement came out. If someone had been taking bets, every one of them would have bet their last dollar that Josh would have never said something like that.

    Seeing their confusion and even hurt Josh started to explain further, “I know, I know, not what you expected to hear, too bad. She screwed up and it got her killed. We all know why Daryl had her assigned to the front door…she was the weak link.” His tone clearly conveyed his anger. What the rage was directed at the others didn’t know yet but he definitely had their attention. He moved about a bit, as if trying to decide whether or not to pace. In the end he stayed in one spot, the nervous energy still present, his frame vibrating a bit as he spoke.

    “Look, we had a plan. It was and is a good plan.” His eyes met Daryl’s, the two men shared a look that spoke volumes. “She didn’t follow the plan and look what happened. I loved her then and I love her still, but she screwed up and it got her killed. I…I should’a been paying more attention. The ride out here rattled her, badly…how badly I just didn’t understand until after she was gone.” Josh hung his head for a bit as that piece of his soul was bared for all to see. The conversation was fast turning into an enlightening experience for all of them. Some things are best left in the dark, but events had turned the light of examination on them all. Its spotlight was bright and painful.

    “If she hadn’t forced the action then we could’ve taken them on our terms, not theirs, which is basically what happened. We just got lucky -- but what about next time?” His gaze lingered on Michelle, who didn’t shy from his gaze. “Can we continue to depend on luck?” His tone left not doubt in the minds of the others how he felt about that. He slowly sat down as some of the energy he had been feeling moments earlier drained away.

    Daryl nodded in agreement and spoke to add to his agreement, “Luck is for fools, we didn’t do enough to protect ourselves.” The day before he had inspected the upstairs room where Michelle had been initially. The walls in the bedroom, Bobby’s, and all over the front of the house had been rent by multiple hits from a variety of large caliber weapons, likely a .308. If the shooters had taken just a bit longer to aim then the defenders would have likely lost at least two instead of one. He had some ideas about how to prevent that they were written down on the tablet that he held in his left hand.

    His statement that they didn’t do enough really struck home with some of those gathered in the living room and not necessarily in a positive manner. Linda piped up right away, “What else could we do? I mean, we all went to your training; we built the wood piles up - blocked the gate. What else is there?” Her question mirrored those of nearly all the room’s occupants but she had given voice to the inquiries first. The tone of her last question had an edge to it. She had worked as hard as any of the others during the previous week so was put off by Daryl’s statement as if he was saying they hadn’t done anything of value. Fatigue was playing a role as well, she usually wouldn’t have been so direct with an adult but this time what she was thinking came out in full. No one thought anything of it because they were feeling the same.

    Pausing more to gather his thoughts than for affect Daryl replied, “Plenty. Uhhmm, we need to harden the window sites upstairs for one. Then there’s Josh’s position, it was under almost constant fire and so he was limited when he tried to shoot back. If the others had been smart, they would have kept someone firing while moving more of them up close. Had they done that -- game over. We have some defensive works in place but now we know that they aren’t adequate so we need to make some changes. And now, not later, now.”

    That fact was given time to sink in so that the group would better understand how close it was they had come to losing the shoot out. Daryl then began to outline what he wanted to do. That went on for nearly ten minutes as he took them step by step through his plan. The work was going to be a real bitch, no doubt about it. The others tossed in their opinions but Daryl was adamant, “Yes, it is a hell of a lot of work but if we don’t do it then we’re gonna die, bottom line. Do you really think this is gonna be the only time we have to do this?” By inference he meant the firefight but the others got it.

    His plan was to dig out the two shooting positions they currently had and rearrange the wood so the person in the bunker could fire back even while being shot at. He wanted to move a number of the railroad ties upstairs and line them up against the inside walls facing the road as ballistic protection, double thick at the windows. To better protect the front of the house a double thick stack was to be placed on the outside on the porch up against the house. That wasn’t all but the others were getting the message, Daryl was serious about this. Their defenses were in need of an upgrade and they were the mules that were going to get it done.

    “We settled on that?” The others looked around and some nodded while a few mumbled their acceptance. Daryl knew that this wasn’t going to be a popular directive but he didn’t care, not this time. He had wanted to do some of this when they initially set up the breastworks but had held his tongue. He had slapped himself around for the decision already and was too tired to do again right now. “Okay then, we’ll start right after lunch.” He would have liked to start right in but he promised to visit the Holski’s today. Not nearly enough hours in the day at times.

    Having won his point he moved the conversation forward with the next thing on his list. “So having said all that, what went right?” He looked around the room no one wanted to be the one to start out; the mood in the room was somber. Ellen, sensing the need for a positive note chimed in with her opinion, “The alert system. Bobby got us the word that something was going on. If he hadn’t…” she left the thought hanging. Each of them had already given some thought to what would have happened if there hadn’t been anyone on guard duty. It didn’t work out well for anyone being surprised.

    Linda looked to her brother with pride, he and Bobby had the normal sibling issues but the two of them were close friends as well as brother and sister. Moving from town to the farm had strengthened that bond. They often spent time together during school and had long talks about all kinds of things. Since the farmhouse was well outside town and fuel supplies were limited the two spent much more time together. Karen Hunter, the girl that Bobby had been seeing at the time of the crisis was a good friend of Linda’s. They both continued to wonder if she was alright. Knowing that he was bothered by the shoot out, Linda had tried to draw it out of him when they had some time to talk, but he wasn’t ready. Not yet anyway. Hearing the accounts of the attack, she had realized that Bobby had been forced to shoot someone, probably more than one person. It was a heavy burden to carry for someone his age, after all, just two months earlier he had been a senior in high school. It had made her grasp that she may have to do the same at some point and that realization struck her, hard. Certainly she had thought about it, but this time it really hit her. Her smile faded as that thought took root and sank in.

    Bobby had down played his involvement in the attack, especially with the adults. He had told them that he was simply doing what he was supposed to, letting everyone else know something was going on and the rest, well…He did talk about it more in depth with his sister than with them, but it was still hard. Daryl picked up the thread, “Okay, that’s a good point and one we should talk about for a bit.” The conversation regarding the positive went on for a bit as suggestions and comments flew back and forth.

    Jim kept most of his attention focused outside but listened as best he could. This was important but so was staying alert. He found himself wishing that it was someone else’s turn on watch so he could better participate, then rebuked himself for being selfish. They were in way over their heads and they knew it. Straddling the open door, he could still faintly smell the blood from where it had pooled beneath Lorraine. Jim didn’t turn his head to look at the spot, which was still evident. Oh, they had tried to clean it up, but the wood had soaked up the blood leaving the outline of the fluids. He returned his attention to the conversation going on inside.

    “Yes, the alert system did work and without it, simply put, most of us would likely be dead, the rest…” Daryl left the sentence unfinished but looked at Linda and then the other women. He had no doubt what would have happened to them if the attackers had won. Robbery, gang rape and murder immediately came to mind. The times they had a’ changed and not for the better. There were a few small questions that were dealt with then the meeting was adjourned. Afterwards having about two hours till the work was due to begin, Josh felt restless. The emotions involved in talking about Lorraine had really worked him up. He knew that trying to go to sleep was useless right now despite the need. Besides, he wasn’t really sleepy, tired, yes. He was tired but sleep wasn’t going to happen for a while. What was needed was some type of activity to involve his mind for a while. His feet had carried him away from the living room with little direction. Presently, he found himself downstairs and with a start, realized what he could do.

    After the firefight two days earlier, the captured weapons were hurriedly unloaded and locked up in the basement safe. There simply hadn’t been time to properly deal with them. The last two days had provided no convenient window either until now. Josh found himself standing before the safe with a project in mind. He knew that the combination to the safe was written down on a piece of paper taped to the top of the heavy metal container. Jim had reasoned that putting it there would make little difference. If someone from the outside was able to make it down there to the basement then all was lost anyways. This way any of the adult that needed access could get it. Glancing at the paper, he got the numbers and then worked the dial to unlock the safe. It took him three tries to get the combination right but he finally got the unit open.

    Once Josh had the heavy container unlocked, he looked inside to locate the items he was searching for. The large Sentry brand safe was a good one about nine years old. It was designed to hold fourteen rifles or shotguns. After the Hamilton’s had paid off the house in town part of the remaining went to purchasing the larger safe now upstairs in the office. The upper shelf of the safe held assorted important papers such as vehicle titles and such along with an envelope containing cash. The right side of the safe still held several metal ammunition cans stacked at the bottom, much of the ready ammunition having already been moved upstairs. The left side was lined with weapons of all kinds. These were what he was after.

    He had pulled each of the various firearms out one at a time looking them over carefully. It was quite a mix, an older .38 special Smith and Wesson revolver, a bolt action rifle chambered in .243 Swift, likely someone’s hunting gun the group had stolen. Let’s see, what else? A pump action twelve gauge with the end of the barrel crudely sawed to about two inches above the end of the pump and a nice Stoeger double barrel side-by-side shotgun. Josh had looked at this one a few times and realized it would make a nice close in gun. Probably take a firm hand to use even though it chambered in twenty gauge but that added to the appeal. It had a bit of a romantic appeal to him Josh loved westerns and this was just like something a Sheriff or other good guy would use. Well, he thought, it would be now. Propped in the far corner of the safe was a fairly new looking Benelli shotgun, semi automatic at that. Must have been something they stole Josh reasoned, likely killed the former owner.

    After ensuring they were completely unloaded, leaned the long guns against the wall near the reloading bench placing the revolver on the tabletop. All of the weapons except for the Benelli were dirty. Not just from firing, all of them showed signs of neglect as well. Grime and excessive or non existent lubrication were the main issues. Josh wasn’t the world’s leading expert on firearms but even he knew that it was better to keep a weapon clean. The final items were two lever action rifles both chambered in .30 caliber, one of which had killed his wife. That one had been the last one he had taken out of the safe. Touching the cool metal of the barrel had been like getting an electric shock. Part of him knew it wasn’t the rifle’s fault but it still affected him to touch the weapon that killed his wife. He let his hand linger on it for a time.

    Josh held the rifle for a time, just looking at it. The wood of the stock was scarred and discolored in a few spots. There was a fresh scratch on the side of the receiver. Without thought Josh grabbed the rifle by the barrel and lifted it high over his head. He brought it down on the concrete floor as hard as he could. Several pieces of the stock flew off and a large crack was present. He repeated the motion again, this time a huge piece of the wood flew off with a distinct thrack!

    The weapon was useless at this point but Josh slammed it into the floor one more time tearing off another piece of what little remained of the stock. Sated for the moment, he absently looked at the remains of the firearm still clutched in his hand. Josh stepped over and laid the rest atop the still open safe. He then turned and walked back over to the reloading bench. Jim had previously told him there was a large cleaning kit underneath the reloading bench so he pulled it out and set to work. First to get cleaned was the revolver. It had been awhile since Josh had needed to clean a pistol so he took his time. He had nothing to do right now, this was a nice quiet way of passing the time.

    He swung the cylinder out to visually inspect the chambers for any damage. Josh knew that the weapons had all been unloaded before storing them but it was a habit he had learned a long time ago and had been recently reinforced by Daryl. First step in cleaning a firearm is to make sure it was unloaded. He sat in the chair in front of the reloading bench and began to clean the pistol. It was something to do he told himself, trying to lose himself a bit in the work.

  24. #24

    Withdrawal Chapter Fourteen

    Chapter 14

    The work on the improvement to the defenses started right after lunch. It would have started sooner but Daryl had promised the Holski’s that he would come over and take a look at their property to make some suggestions about how to upgrade their defenses. The request had been made after the Holski’s had driven up to the farm a few hours after the attack two days earlier. After sharing the news of what happened at both locations Jim had felt, strongly, that it might be a good idea to try and help the family out if at all possible. Having a more secure southern flank couldn’t hurt at all and there were additional benefits to helping them as well. The Holski’s weren’t just farmers; they were friends and neighbors first.

    While taking a quick break from the work to get something to drink Jim recalled what had happened on Thursday afternoon after the attack. Michelle had been taken care of by Daryl and was for the moment, resting. The others were out front working, trying to police up the weapons and equipment when the lookout noticed a vehicle slowly approaching from the south. The word was quickly passed via the radio. The others hurriedly dropped what they were doing and rushed back inside the defensive perimeter. It was near pandemonium for a few minutes because the fear was that this was yet another attack. Captured weapons were tossed aside as the defenders checked their own weapons. Trying to cope with the loss of the firepower from Lorraine and Michelle had yet to be addressed. Everyone at the Hamilton’s had scurried to a position, even if it wasn’t one of the prepared ones everyone grabbed a spot and hunkered down best they could. The lookout was slowly calling out information over the radio as the truck continued to slowly advance toward them. Tension was at a fever pitch.

    Driving very slowly down the road Petr Holski and one of the hired hands that worked for him made sure they didn’t do anything that could be mistaken for threatening. Stopping a few hundred yards up the road from the Hamilton farm they exited the older Ford truck they had been in. Ernesto, the hired hand waved a makeshift white flag consisting of a pillow case tied to a broom handle. The universal signal for “Don’t Shoot” was easily seen by the person in the O.P. Word was quickly passed over the radio that someone was signaling. The two men stayed in plain sight in the middle of the road for several minutes with the flag waving back and forth a few times each minute. Neither man was immediately armed, their weapons in the cab. There was no way they were going without a rifle or two, but standing there in the road with them in hand would have sent the wrong message. This was a friendly visit, nothing at all like the one that had occurred only a few hours earlier.

    Hearing the call, Jim wasted no time in getting to the O.P. to see for himself. Once atop the house, he trained the binoculars on the area where he was told the others were. He quickly recognized Petr and the farm hand with him. Using the radio, he notified the others of who it was and what they were doing. There had been some shooting earlier in the day down the road that Jim had said might be at or very near the Holski farm. After waiting for over five minutes, both Petr and his employee slowly climbed back inside the cab of the truck. Petr had seen Jim climb the ladder to the roof section so reasoned that it was safe enough to continue forward some. The broom stick with the pillow case had been stuck in the corner hole of the pickup bed, right behind the passenger, so that it would be visible as they drove. Petr was driving and at no time did his speed exceed ten miles per hour. Petr quickly reviewed the events leading to this point. He was sweating and very nervous.

    Driving toward what had not so long ago been a battle was not something the elder Holski had planned on doing when getting out of his bed that morning. Everyone at their farm had heard the huge firefight a few hours earlier and knew that it wasn’t good news. Informing his wife that he was going to check out what had happened, she immediately told him that someone needed to go with him.

    The adult members of the Holski family and their two hired hands had been gathered in the kitchen discussing what to do. All of them armed to some degree, James, told his father that he would go with him, but Ernesto, one of the two Holski hands, told him no. Peter was more than a little surprised to see Ernesto speak up in such a manner. The long time Holski employee, he had been with them for nearly eight years, told his employer that he should go, not James. Before anyone could ask why, Ernesto began to explain. “Meester H.”, The latin accent strong, even after years of living and working in the United States, “Ess no good for your son to go, hees a needed here. If something bad happen, no more farm man.” It took Petr a few moments to understand what his employee was telling him. Then all at once he got the meaning of the statement. If something went wrong then all the male Holski’s would be gone. He smiled at the loyalty that Ernesto was displaying. Both he and Miguel, their other hand, had been with them for years. Both men were decent, hard working and he was very glad that both of them were there. He had bought the two men rifles for Christmas several years earlier primarily to handle any coyotes they might see. Those gifts proved very handy earlier when they shot and killed the man who fired on them. There was now a nice Ruger 10/22 in their possession.

    So as he was slowly approaching the scene of the attack, he was more nervous than he had been in a very long time, since the fall of 1956 in fact. Those memories, the tanks, running and fighting in the streets…this wasn’t Hungary, but at that exact moment it felt pretty close. He and his wife, both of them teenagers at the time, had been smuggled across the border and then sent to America to live with relatives shortly after the abortive uprising in the Communist controlled country. It later turned out that they had both come over to the United States on the same ship, but they didn’t meet for another three years.

    As they neared the gate, he could see bodies, a good number of them lined up in the grass near the ditch. There were still several bodies that hadn’t been moved. A large lawn tractor, similar to the one he owned, sat in the road with yet another body laying on the ground next to it. Petr decided to stop about twenty feet or so from the front of the tractor. He knew he was in plain sight of the house. He had been worried about an ambush but reasoned that if the attackers had been successful in their attack, then one of them wouldn’t have been running down the road like the one they had shot and killed. So here they were, stopped in the middle of the road, waiting. Petr told Ernesto to keep watch but not to show his rifle unless he had to shoot. A quick nod was his only reply. Slowly the Holski patriarch opened his door and slid out. He was very careful not to make any sudden movements.

    He moved out into the open near the front of the truck so it would be easier for someone to see him. “Jim!” Petr shouted, hoping to get their attention and prayed it would be the right kind of attention. He shouted again. For his part, Jim recognized the older man as soon as he got out of the truck. He was watching for any signs of a trap but saw nothing of concern so he slowly stood up from the prone position on the roof he told Bobby, to let everyone know who it was and headed for the ladder. His son did as he was directed, he too recognized their neighbor. Word was quickly passed which did wonders for the anxiety levels of all those present. More than a few deep breaths were taken to relieve the tension. A few cases of the shakes had to be dealt with also. Nerves were tight as those at the farm tried to cope with the situation they found themselves immersed in.

    Jim hurried over to the fence and stooped under the section where they had broken out the boards to get Michelle through. He was really glad to see Petr; he liked and respected the older man. The others kept a close watch on the scene, they didn’t feel a trick was involved but very recent activities had increased their paranoia. Petr reached out to shake Jim’s hand but was given a large bear hug instead. Both men were laughing a bit, each glad to see the other well. It was reassuring to know that their neighbor was well; it improved everyone’s frame of mind a bit.

    Jim waved at Ernesto, long familiar with the Holski retainer. For his part, Ernesto was looking at the bodies. He realized that all the shooting that they had heard earlier in the week was practice and that the men at the farm were indeed, tough hombres, men to be reckoned with. The group at the Hamilton’s had been working for well over an hour but many of the bodies still lay where they fell. Only a few had been searched and then moved so that they were laid in a row near the ditch. He could see some of the damage to the house, the missing boards on the fence, the sprawl of abandoned bicycles and other goods on the road. ‘Madre’ de Dios’, he thought in his native tongue, Mother of God. The devout Catholic hurriedly crossed himself before stepping out of the truck. Ernesto saw Mr. Hamilton; that was how he always thought of him despite being told many times he should call him Jim, but didn’t say anything. His rifle was for the moment forgotten in the truck.

    Several of the others slowly emerged from their various positions and made their way over to where the two men were standing. Petr asked Ernesto to pull the truck up into the driveway and get it turned around then to join them. His employee nodded without speaking and hurried to move the vehicle. Jim and his guest both had questions that needed answers. But getting out of the sun was a good way to start. Jim waved his friend toward the shade of the big oak, which Petr gratefully accepted. He was already sweating enough from nervousness, the warm sun wasn’t helping. Daryl wandered over to where the two men were, introductions were made all around. The conversation went back and forth for quite some time as each explained what they had been through since the crisis began starting with this morning’s activity. Those at the Hamilton farm were very happy to hear the news that Petr brought. They had shot and killed one of the attackers that had gotten away which improved the security at the farm a great deal. One less person out there running their mouth about what happened. They had of course heard the shots but didn’t have the means to investigate the sounds at the time.

    Daryl and Jim had walked back through the attack trying to reconstruct what had happened in as much detail as they could to try and figure out how many had gotten away. So far the total was four, one of which the Holski’s had killed. The one Daryl wanted the most; the big mouth with the .308 was still unaccounted for. As far as the remaining two, it had to be the two women who had been pulling the garden style cart. No one could account for them; the total body count was seventeen which matched what both Bobby and Jim reported seeing on the road beforehand, minus the four that escaped.

    Petr explained that they had all been watching the road carefully since hearing the shooting this morning and seeing the smoke from up the road. Jim nodded grimly; he told Petr that he thought it was likely coming from the Osborne’s. The older man slowly agreed sadness plain on his face. The older couple were good friends and he reasoned earlier from the location of the smoke that it was their house. The three men continued to talk and Petr asked if there had been any casualties. Daryl was struck by the use of the word casualty most people would have said injuries. Why casualty?

    Without speaking Jim turned and pointed toward the porch with his chin and hung his head. By now Lorraine had been covered with a blanket, in fact it was the same blanket that they had used to carry Michelle up to the house on. Petr’s eyes followed the cue and then saw the still form. He hurriedly crossed himself as he muttered a prayer. Jim then told him that Michelle had been hit as well, Petr was shocked. He reached out grabbed Jim by the shoulder and squeezed as if to transfer some strength to his friend.

    Daryl quickly told the older man that Michelle was wounded but that not badly. She was resting in the house having been shot in the leg. Petr visibly sagged a bit as he heard the good news. “God be praised” he told the other two men. Jim thanked him for the kind words and asked if there was anything that the Holski’s needed. At first Petr said no but then stopped and was silent for a moment.

    Both Jim and Daryl waited till the other man spoke, “Yes, we need to learn to shoot, like this.” He gestured at the bodies, Jim was confused for a moment but Daryl got it right away. Petr wanted someone to come and teach them about tactical shooting. By pointing at the bodies he meant to be able to shoot and do this to anyone attacking. Daryl nodded and told him sure, they could do that. He asked Petr if it was okay if they waited a few days. Their neighbor didn’t hesitate at all; he said that would be fine.

    So after the meeting that morning with their own folks, Daryl and Jim climbed into Daryl’s truck to go and pay a visit on their neighbors. They drove into the pasture behind the barn and cut across the open area angling toward the road. The group had previously decided to merely lock the gate, closing off the entry that was normally used for farm equipment. This was the same gate that they had used the day of the attack to get the tractor and trailer onto the property. This way it wasn’t necessary to unblock the gate by the house. No one wanted to go to the hassle of moving all the log rounds, only to move them back again an hour or so later.
    Daryl had been the first to admit that merely locking the gate wasn’t the ideal security measure. He did say that with the coming improvements to Josh’s defensive position and the area around it, it would be the best that they could do. The plan was to move the stacked wood, both near the chicken cop and at the log enclosure. Once that was done, then they would dig down about three feet or so, cutting a trench. The trench would be lined with plywood or whatever they could find to support the walls.

    Then the plan was to restack the wood but this time to stack in such a way that firing ports would be created. This would allow those in the trench to be protected by both the woodpile and the trench. They would be able to move around with a much higher degree of safety while vastly improving their own tactical advantage. They could shoot from within the enclosure without being seen until they fired. Can’t shoot what you can’t see. But at the moment, that was on hold, at least till the visit with the Holski’s was over.

    Daryl poked the barrel of his CAR-15 out of the open window of the truck while Jim slid out of the passenger side to go forward and unlock the gate. He wanted to be able to provide cover fire if someone was out there and wanted to be any kind of a threat. Jim had left the M1A at the house and had elected to carry one of the twelve gauge shotguns this trip. He had grabbed a light jacket and had filled the pockets with shells, just in case. The weapon was nestled in the crook of his arm was he walked forward, the key to the padlock already in his hand. He wanted to take no extra time to get the gate open, the truck through and the gate relocked.

    Once the vehicle was through and the portal secured, Jim climbed back into the truck keeping a close eye on the surrounding area. It was his first time to be away from the farm since the others had arrived and he was nervous. Daryl slowly edged the truck out onto the road keeping the muzzle of the Colt rifle pointed out the open window. Jim was likewise keeping both eyes scanning the roadside and beyond for anything suspicious. He had a slug round in the chamber with two 00 buckshot shells next in the receiver tube. Licking his lips, his eyes never strayed as they slowly drove down the center of the road. Daryl figured that the chances of ambush were low, very low in fact, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. He drove along at about fifteen miles an hour. Fast enough to move along but slow enough that he would have time to react if something happened.

    Jim had driven this stretch of road a number of times given that this was his normal route to go to work but this time it was different. Not only was he a passenger but every tree or tall clump of grass could hide a potential attacker. Time seemed to move slowly as they covered the distance between the two farms. Daryl found it was a little hard to drive with his left hand while holding his rifle. He had to steer using the very bottom of the steering wheel, which wasn’t very comfortable but it was the best he could do. Nervous eyes scanned the area as the two drove.

    The meeting had gone well, there were a number of questions back and forth. Anna Holski gave Jim a big hug telling him that they were all praying for Michelle. He thanked them all then gave them a report on what had happened and how. For their part the Holski clan listened intently with a few questions interspersed. Once Jim was finished Daryl asked again if Petr wanted his family trained and was told yes, emphatically. A time was agreed on and the two men returned to the Hamilton farm and the waiting work.

  25. #25

    Withdrawal Chapter Fifteen

    Chapter 15

    Taking a short break from her current activity, the youngest member of the Hamilton clan paused for a moment to reflect. She needed to better sort out the thought that was engaging her. Alone in her room, Linda marveled at the circumstances that was allowing her this rare time to herself. The work on the additional defenses that Daryl had insisted on several days earlier was finally done, she didn’t have O.P. duty until six in the morning and no one needed her for anything right now. Linda was almost beside herself with joy. The perky teen figured she had at least an hour, hopefully more, to catch up on something that had been missing from her former routine.

    Satisfied with the thought, Linda resumed writing in her journal. …I try to keep up with what is going on with everyone so I’ll better understand how things work. It’s been hard on everyone but I think (??) things are getting easier for us. We’re trying to survive in a situation that isn’t right, no one should have to live like this. It sucks. I know we are better off than many others out there but Goddammit I hate this.

    Linda was doing something that she had done for quite some time, writing what she was feeling; no punches pulled and nothing softened. She had been keeping a journal for several years and had tried hard to make it her habit to scribe something often. She had explained to friends and others that it helped her to maintain focus and some balance. Over the course of time she had filled several notebooks with her thoughts and ideas. All of them stacked were neatly on a shelf in one of her bookcases. Occasionally, she pulled one out to re-read what she had written. To her, it was like talking to an old friend.

    She continued on with her current entry. I am so tired; the work has been hard on all of us. My arms still hurt from all the digging and lifting that we did. Oh! Mom was able to climb the stairs and sleep in her room again! She even took a shift of O.P the other day... she did it from the porch, but she did it. She had been complaining about not being able to help out much so dad let her have a turn…She didn’t know that at least one other person was outside the whole time. We took turns. Better to make sure I guess. Mom said she didn’t have any problems; the leg is healing up really nice. Daryl said she is gonna have a really good scar. He was teasing her about having to wear shorts more to show it off. She got embarrassed and Dad laughed at it a bunch. It was nice to hear some laughter. That has been kinda missing…not much to laugh about.

    Stopping once more to gather her thoughts, she absently twirled a hanging curl of her long brunette hair around one finger. There were a number of things she wanted to write about, it seemed like too many. What to talk about next? Linda knew what she wanted to put down, but hesitated, then decided that she should. After all, it was what she was feeling and that had always been the whole point of writing.

    I’m worried about Bobby; he still really hasn’t said much about how he is feeling. I know he had to shoot those people; Linda shuddered a bit as she wrote that line. How did it get to this? Shooting people…she tried to re-focus; he didn’t have a choice, but I am still worried. He keeps to himself as much as he can, he doesn’t even come and talk to me like he used to. I’ve tried to get him to talk to me, he wants to, I think but he stops. I should try some more I guess. I don’t think the others have really noticed. Dad has had Mom to worry about. Josh is still pretty sad all the time, he hardly talks and Daryl is always checking things. He works so hard to try and keep us safe. Ellen is busy taking care of Kaitlyn and the baby. They named the baby Hope, which I thought was nice, it’s like saying we’re still positive about something. I like having a baby around, it’s fun. Sometimes it’s the only fun thing to do. It sucks, really sucks. We are living like prisoners trapped here at the house…how the hell are we supposed to live like this?

    Her anger was getting the better of her, but at the moment she didn’t care; she was fifteen and her world had been turned completely upside down then shaken about. Writing about it was about all she had to be able to vent so she was using it. Linda sat for a time thinking about the situation that they were in and still couldn’t move past it completely. She had cried at times, mostly at night when she managed to be alone. Linda didn’t want anyone else to see her lose control of her emotions, she was tired, scared and at times, angry. The world had gone crazy dragging her along with it. One of the things that had been bothering her was what had happened once the attack was over and they had gotten her mom taken care of. It was something that she wanted to try and get out but was finding it difficult to express. Picking up with a new paragraph she began again.

    Something happened after the attack that really freaked me out. I had to help move the bodies after those people attacked us. I had never touched a dead body before. It was gross and I got sick. The smell was terrible. It was the worst smell ever!

    The memory of the smell, cordite from the expended shells, blood, vomit and feces all mixed in, was enough to make her stomach lurch, which caused her to drop her pen. She took in a deep breath to try and calm down. Throwing up was never fun and she had done enough of that a few days earlier. It had taken several of the group till late the next day before they could handle eating anything of substance and keep it down. Trying to push the memory away was difficult at best. Slowing her breathing and taking in long, deep breaths one after another helped. After several minutes she had regained most of her composure, at least she didn’t think she was going to hurl the contents of her stomach all over. Better change the subject. She picked up her pen again and returned to the page.

    We had the funeral for Lorraine three days ago. I hadn’t been to a funeral since the one for Grandma and Grandpa a couple of years ago. I remember parts of that but not as much as I should I guess. This time was really different, she was buried the other side of the creek. It’s a nice spot, kinda shady. I hope she liked it. Ellen did a lot of the work to clean her up and change her clothes. That must have been hard. I was afraid to offer to help. I have never done that before, maybe I should have tried…

    Dad and Daryl built a coffin for her out of some of the wood we used to build the supply room in the barn. It wasn’t fancy, but better than the ones who attacked us got. Not that they deserved anything nice at all. They put Lorraine in the grave and filled it up, then covered it with rocks from the creek. We couldn’t find a big enough rock for a headstone so they built a nice wooden cross that they put some white paint on. Dad talked for a while about how special Lorraine was, Daryl and mom had to listen in by radio because they were both at the house. Daryl thought it best if he was on guard while all the rest of us were that far from the house. I cried. It is so wrong that she was killed. Those people were so freaking wrong to try and take what we have. Just because they had some guns and there were a lot of them, they had NO right to try and hurt us.


    We showed them though, frickin’ A! Kicked their butts she thought. But that brought her to the next thought.

    I was so scared down there in the basement, I didn’t know what was going on outside. I’m not sure I want to shoot someone, but not being able to see what was happening was hard.

    Linda went on and on about some of the many things she had seen or felt during the previous few days. She wrote about how they met with the Holski’s and how the two groups agreed to help each other out. Linda wrote like she was talking to someone and so told her diary about how Daryl loaned the Holski’s a radio so they could holler if something happened. There had been some argument among those at the Hamilton’s that there wasn’t enough for everyone at the farm now and so why did they want to give one away?

    Daryl countered with it was only one and that having a reliable form of communication with their closest neighbor was worth loosing the use of one radio locally. He had avoided telling the group that he owned the radios and could do what he wanted to with them. That was the wrong way to express himself so he kept it to himself but he nearly let loose with the thought. Besides, in the long run one more radio wouldn’t make that big a deal anyways. If they got overrun at least they could say something about it. Not that the sound of huge firefight wouldn’t be heard down the road.

    She had been writing non stop for nearly twenty minutes and realized with a start that her hand was tired and beginning to cramp a bit. Finishing up the paragraph she was working on Linda lay the pen aside. Closing her eyes she leaned back in her chair listening to the sounds of the house. The door to her bedroom was open about half way which funneled what noise there was inside. Linda slowly worked her hand open and closed trying to work out the stiffness. It had been some time since she had written as much as she just had. Despite the cramp she felt good; the mental lift she got from writing was a needed boost. To be able to do something for herself was a kick.

    From downstairs she could smell something slowly cooking on the stove. What was that smell…not sure but is smells good. Her stomach twinged a bit from the aroma, reminding her that she was a bit hungry. Lunch should be soon. Linda opened her eyes and stopped flexing her hand; the cramp was nearly gone anyways. Deciding that at least for now she was done she decided to go downstairs and she if it was time to eat. The smell of the soup was now starting to torture her, more hungry than I realized she admitted. She grabbed the belt holding the .38 pistol and its holster hanging from the post at the end of her bed as she exited. Being armed was a rule and so far, a good one.

    About that same time Jim was on O.P duty, the mid day shift, ten a.m. to two p.m. when he noticed something. It took him a bit to realize that there was something going on. Off to the west a large dark cloud was forming. He had seen it several times but thought it was a small storm cloud but after looking again he realized that wasn’t the case at all. It was too close to the ground for it to be a storm cloud and the shape was all wrong. What the hell…

    He turned and grabbed the binoculars off the small table next to him and stood up. Bringing the glasses to his eyes he trained the optic unit toward the “cloud”. What was that? The dark area appeared to be growing in size but didn’t have the right shape or consistency to be a cloud. The wind was coming out of the west as it usually did and he thought he could get a twinge of something on the breeze. It was an odd smell that he had caught once or twice already since coming on duty a few hours earlier. Something burned he thought but it was hard to get a firm grip on, the smell was light, elusive. He watched the horizon for some time but couldn’t get a firm answer as to what he was looking at.

    After several minutes he realized that he had not checked the surrounding area for some time. Rebuking himself severely he turned his attention to the countryside and roads nearest the farm looking for anything amiss or a traveler. There hadn’t been many of those passing by lately but that didn’t mean there wasn’t one out there now. He scanned the area with both the binoculars and the naked eye for some time in order to try and satisfy himself that all was well.

    After nearly ten minutes he returned his attention, just for a minute or two he told himself to the western sky. The cloud or whatever it might be was larger and as the wind shifted a point of two he could smell something foul on the wind. He decided to get a second opinion and without taking his eyes from the dark mass keyed his radio. “Three, this is One, can you come up here?” The group went with numbers instead of names for the radio traffic to try and keep someone from getting to much information if they were listening.

    Daryl, A.K.A. number three, told him that he was on the way. Several others heard something in the way Jim spoke and started wandering toward the outside front of the house as well. Grabbing his rifle which had been leaned against the wall Daryl exited the shop area of the barn where he had been working on fabricating a heavier latch for the gate. He immediately began to look around to see what the concern was. Due to the placement of the trees near the road he couldn’t see the dark mass in the distance. He walked steadily toward the front of the house.

    As he rounded the corner of the building he found several of the others all on the porch looking and pointing toward the west. Daryl turned his attention that direction as well. He noticed the large, dirty looking stain in the western sky. He knew instantly what it was and the memory of the last time he had seen something akin to this leapt from his subconscious. It was during the battle to liberate Kuwait City during the first Gulf War. He was shocked and was totally engrossed in the thoughts of 1991. Words were slow in coming.

    “That’s a fire, a gawdawful big one at that. Only thing it could be…the town.” The others said nothing, the thought that the city was ablaze was terrifying. If unchecked it could burn for days, a week maybe. There was no fire department anymore. They were gone like everyone else, taking care of their families best they could. As they watched the smoke cloud continued to grow. No one said anything, there had been some hope of society stabilizing and life returning to some measure of normal it was all but gone now. They now felt like they were truly on their own.

  26. #26

    Withdrawal Chapter Sixteen part one

    Withdrawal 16

    With Lorraine’s funeral over and the completion of the defensive improvements to Daryl’s satisfaction, life around the Hamilton farm settled into a bit of a routine in the days following the attack. Collectively they were all tired, the work had taken quite a bit of effort and they were still feeling it. Move the log rounds, dig the trenches and construct sides, replace the log rounds, haul off all the dirt all the while still maintaining watch, cooking, garden work and child care. Yeah, they were tired. In addition, they had done what repair work they could to the wall and window in Bobby’s room, which had been shot up during the attack. Assorted holes in the front of the long standing farm house were filled in with either spray foam insulation or silicone caulking. It wasn’t pretty but it was better than having holes in the walls. The window in the upstairs bedroom was covered in heavy plastic which was stapled down which was the best they could do since there was no replacement glass.

    The world as they all had known it was different, things that had previously been taken for granted were now rare or not there at all. Utility services such as Internet and phone access for one. A few days into the crisis, out of simple habit, Michelle reached out and grabbed the phone receiver to call someone in town before remembering that the phones were out. While some of the lights in the house still worked, they ran off the batteries, it wasn’t uncommon for someone entering a room to reach for the light switch on the wall before catching themselves. It was happening less and less as the routine of what worked and what didn’t sank in but it still occurred. Years of conditioning to simply reach out and have electricity at the flip of a switch or the ability to communicate long distance by grabbing a phone left many in the nation at a loss for what to do next.

    For those gathered at the farm where there was once the near daily requirement of either going to a job or school, now it was O.P. duty, gardening, organizing supplies, additional tactical training or assigned household chores such as dishes or assisting with meals. There was also the need to respond to alerts, which still happened as the lookout saw people approaching. The group had decided that in order to make sure nothing like the previous attack happened again they would respond every time someone was spotted on the road or in the surrounding areas. It was a huge pain in the ass, especially when it was two eighteen a.m. which happened once when a group of seven people went by, but experience had already taught them a costly lesson. They did not stop anyone passing by the farm but the travelers were watched, carefully. If the group was from the north then word was passed to the Holski’s farm, with the reverse taking place if the travelers came from the south.

    The massive flood of refugees that most of them anticipated never really took place. There were some but most of them had passed by the house within the first three days or so following the arrival of the others at the farm. Jim had speculated that it might be due to the fact that the road they were on was not a major artery but more of a connector road. Daryl agreed with him. The majority of people who were traveling were going somewhere and that somewhere wasn’t likely to be found on County Road 6635.

    The schedule of chores and the like did permit some individual time but how to best fill that time was often a very personal choice. Reading was becoming an increasingly popular activity to pass the time. Some of the group had begun a slow movement into playing board games. The Hamilton’s had found a number of old board games in a tub of household goods out in the barn from when they moved from town a few months earlier. The games had been brought to the house and stashed in the office. Chess, Risk and Trivial Pursuit were the favorites.

    With so many people living in such close quarters, it was natural for it to take a while for adjustment to take place to what had become the new normal. The overall living situation was stable for now Jim and Michelle were in their own room with the attached master bath. Linda and Bobbie each had their own room with Josh occupying the remaining bedroom upstairs. The Richlands were living out in their trailer, which once the food stocks and other supplies had been removed allowed a modest bit of space to move around in but also gave them a bit of privacy. That was yet another aspect of the whole situation that made it even harder on them all. As individuals and as separate family units, the people now living at the farm had all been accustomed to a certain amount of personal space and privacy. That had changed and would require some serious alteration on the part of all of them.

    Everyone made use of the bathrooms in the house for showers. The men shaved once a week or so. This kept them looking a bit shabby at times, but since it helped to extend their stock of hygiene supplies, the mountain man look was tolerated. Jim had asked for everyone to use the outhouse whenever possible to reduce the load on the septic tank. Most didn’t like making the trek, especially at three in the morning, but they did it. The thought had already crossed his mind that it may be necessary to dig a second outhouse at some point if the social break down lasted for an extended period.

    Jim had also lowered the temperature setting of the water heater to conserve propane. Their large storage tanks held a good amount, thanks to the planning of Jim and Michelle, but it wouldn’t last forever. Laundry was done in cold water only and each family had their own designated day to wash clothes. Clothes were hung out to dry on a clothesline to further save electricity. Some of those at the farm brought up the concern that having clothes hanging out was a flag to anyone passing by but the response from Daryl and Jim was that it was simply something that they would have to live with. They still had to maintain some basic standard of living and having clean clothes was part of that standard. What good was it to work so hard to stay alive if they couldn’t have something as simple as clean clothes? It wasn’t an ideal solution, but it was the best they could do under the circumstances.

    It wasn’t surprising that minor personality issues, such as how to best wash dishes or being around others that haven’t bathed in a few days, would arise. The group handled these as best they could and so far the issues had been resolved or simply tolerated. The only exception made for bathing was for Kaitlyn, who was allowed a bath three times a week. The five year old was so active that she was hard to keep clean with anything less than that the same was true of the baby. Both Michelle and Ellen knew it was important to keep the infant clean to help keep the child healthy. It was a chore that neither of them minded. It was nice to have a baby around the house. At night the child stayed in the room with Jim and Michelle in a makeshift crib.

    Everyone helped in the garden with Michelle overseeing the work. Meals, with the exception of breakfast, were a community affair. Since the group had agreed earlier on that they would try as best as possible to keep themselves active and involved as a way of fighting off tedium and depression, meals were a big deal. The menu contained a great deal of staples but that couldn’t be helped, rice, beans, and pasta had been procured in large quantities. One day dinner might be a big helping of red beans and rice with a topping of salsa, the next, a pot of hearty vegetable stew. The stock of meat that resided within the large freezer, while impressive, was still finite so the group wanted to stretch it as long as possible.

    The Hamilton’s had long ago starting using a vacuum sealer to repackage their meats, which greatly reduced the likelihood of freezer burn during long term storage since the air was removed. The bags for the sealer were a touch expensive at nearly ten bucks a box, but as Michelle had once pointed out, it was possible to freeze in them, boil in them and then if necessary, reseal them so the money was worth it. Since they didn’t have the means to replace their fresh milk, the boxes of powdered milk were used sparingly. Tea and Kool-Aid were the preferred drinks of choice among the group. The tea was easy, cold water and six tea bags in a large glass jug placed out in the sun for two hours. Tea was so popular at the Hamilton’s that they had two tea jars which with the expanded number of residents saw a great deal of use.

    The opportunity to fellowship and to grow together into more of a community was not to be passed up. If the crisis continued and so far there had been no signs of it letting up, then each other were all they had. Josh was still somewhat withdrawn but at times appeared to be coming out of his shell. He was eating a bit more than he had and offered up comments now and again during meals, which the others took as an encouraging sign. None of them were professional counselors or mental health workers but they believed time was the greatest healer of all. Let him be until he was ready to be able to move past it.

    It did make for some awkward moments as conversation lagged at times due to the content, but Josh said nothing about it, so it passed. Daryl continued to work the group members on refining their tactical skills and had been giving the group instruction on small unit patrol tactics. He reasoned that at some point they would have to operate outside the property, so better to start preparing now. As an additional security precaution the group decided to hold off on doing anymore shooting unless absolutely necessary aside from scheduled practice. It was important to stay current on their weapons drills and marksmanship.

    In keeping with the agreement reached with their neighbors a few days earlier, Daryl spent time down at the Holski’s farm teaching them the basics of tactical thinking. He offered suggestions to further refine the defensive works that they had put in place on their own. One of these was a real eye opener. Driving over to see them, Daryl noticed that one of the big combines had been moved. In fact it was out near the road as he got closer he realized that it was blocking the driveway with the grain reaper pointed toward the road. The large John Deere implement made a formidable, if very expensive obstacle. Daryl parked the truck in front of the unit and got out, taking his rifle with him. He made sure to lock the truck since the house was a fair distance, about a hundred yards or so, up the driveway. After arriving at the house, under the watchful eye of the person perched atop the thirty-five foot silo, he complimented Petr, who had come out to meet him, on the roadblock.

    The older Hungarian man told him that it was something he remembered from the ‘Old Country’. Farmers had brought their tractors into the city to try to stop the Soviet tanks. Both men knew that history recorded that the tactic didn’t work but the spirit of those that tried was another thing entirely. Petr remarked that so long as they didn’t face T-55 tanks like they did in Bucharest, the combine should work fine. Daryl agreed, the ditch in front of the Holski farm was similar to the one down the road, a few feet wide and just about as deep, which meant that driving a vehicle through it and into the yard was virtually impossible. In fact, there was a culvert it was necessary to drive over at the end of the driveway at both farms that channeled the ditch run off under the gravel before continuing on. So with the ditch, the fence line was somewhat secure from vehicle traffic except at the driveway and that was now taken care of at both farms.

    Continued...

  27. #27

    Withdrawal Chapter Sixteen part two

    Petr explained that this was a temporary measure; he was going to replace the combine with one of his grain hauling trucks as soon as he could. His son and one of the hands were currently trying to repair the drive shaft. He explained that one of the universal joints had broken and fortunately they had a spare, but getting it fitted was a pain. Once the shaft was in place they would use that truck in place of the expensive combine, which would be needed later in the year to harvest what crop they could. They had taken to scavenging parts off one truck to make sure the other two were in good shape. Daryl commented favorably on the wisdom of the plan.

    The former Marine found that the more he talked to the older man the more he liked him. The two had much in common and being that Petr was the only other one among both groups with anything close to extended combat experience, it gave the two men a shared experience. Petr found himself opening up to tell Daryl some of what went on so many years earlier during the fighting as the Soviet Union sought to crush the spirit of the freedom seeking Hungarians. Stories he had never shared with his own children, not that he was ashamed or anything similar. With no combat experience of their own, it would be very difficult for them to truly understand. Much of it Petr himself had not thought of for many years. For his part, it helped Daryl when talking about the loss of Lorraine. Both had seen horror of combat up close and it was only something that someone who looked it full in the face could truly understand.

    Other projects were undertaken as well. Michelle, while nearly mended, was still slowed down a bit, but she spent quite a bit of time with Hope. The baby appeared healthy and thankfully there was some formula found in the supplies on the trailer so they had something to feed her but it wouldn’t last long. She was lacking in clothing so what was on hand was carefully washed and kept handy. Other outfits were crafted from some material that Michelle had planned on using for various sewing projects. It didn’t give her a large wardrobe, but at least they could alternate outfits.

    Another task that was taken up by Linda and Ellen was getting a more definitive inventory of the supplies. This was especially important with the addition of the food and the like brought by the others when they arrived. Linda knew where the lists that they had done initially were, so the two women went through all the other supplies, one container at a time, adding or subtracting to the lists as needed. The two worked on the project for a full day and part of the next to ensure that they were being accurate. They went from pantry to basement to barn, checking and double-checking. The only time they stopped was for meals, which the two ate hurriedly, without apologies, in order to get back to the task as quick as possible. It was a huge project and all of them knew it was an important one. Michelle tended to the needs of Hope while the pair worked. Adjustments were made to the O.P. schedule to allow the two of them the time to complete the count. Daryl took care of Kaitlyn while his wife was engaged with her inventory duties.

    She and Linda hauled out what to them seemed every last bullet, bean and bandage to get the proper tally. At the end of the work, both women were tired and a bit sore from moving tubs and containers around. But they did have a very accurate list of what was present. This list was written out similar to the Hamilton’s final count, but neater and with more detail to serve as a master listing. The results were presented to the group the next day. Ellen had asked Michelle to double-check their numbers once she and Linda were finished. At first she disputed the numbers, but once Ellen explained her method of calculating, she felt that two pounds of food per person per day was accurate given all the manual labor they were doing as well as having to stand guard, etc. Michelle got it at once and she agreed with a small margin of error to what figures the other women had arrived at.

    Once the evening meal, this time it was red beans and rice, had been reduced to a few meager portions in the bottom of the pots, Ellen began to tell the others about what she and Linda had come up with. She leaned forward over the sheaf of papers that Linda had placed before her after moving her bowl to the side. The younger Hamilton girl sat further back in her chair, her part in this was done. Linda was content to let Ellen do all the talking on this. She was sick to death tired of counting, cans, bottles, jars, bullets…everything. As far as she was concerned, she was done counting for the year, maybe longer.

    Linda had mentally zoned out enough to miss the beginning of Ellen’s explanation. She blinked and sat up a bit as she tried to catch up hoping no one noticed…”so that is what we decided. Make sense to everyone?” A few nods and mumbled assents gave her leave to continue. This time Linda was fully paying attention. “The original list that you guys did,” nodding at their hosts, “was good but this one I think is a better reflection of what is here and so that also tells us what isn’t.”

    “So, what’s the totals?”

    “Well, near as we can figure, we have about seventeen months of food at two meals a day, bearing in mind that we will run out of some items, sugar for one, before that time.”

    Jim was puzzled, that was only two months less than what they had by themselves and Josh had brought stuff, hell, Ellen herself had brought a whole shitload of stuff, so how…Michelle knew her husband, knew how he thought and was waiting for the opportunity to clear this up for him. As Jim was getting ready to open his mouth, Michelle lifted one hand in the “Stop” gesture, which he did. “Honey, remember, when we did our list, we based it on three meals a day, not two. With the way they figured it, two meals a day for eight people, not three meals a day for four people. I know they all brought food, but, and this is important, at only two meals a day, that one other meal for four people is taken up by the extra mouths. Got it?” The others turned to look at him as he worked through it in his head and decided that for now, yeah, okay…if they say seventeen months then so be it. Michelle looked over to her friend and asked her continue on. Caught off guard for a second, Ellen had to look down at the paper again to locate her place so she could proceed.

    “Sorry, part-timers kicking in again I guess.” She grinned as she returned to the page. Finally finding what she wanted, Ellen pressed on with her presentation, “Uhm, yeah, here it is, sheesh, so with food, seventeen months, yadda, yadda, we also did a count of medical supplies and ammunition.”

    With the ammunition,” she lifted the top page to glance at the next sheet “and…found that we have, a grand total of twenty eight thousand, one hundred and eighty seven rounds, of which nearly twelve thousand is .22 Long Rifle. Overall, I think, based on what Daryl has told me, we should be, please note the should be in good shape in this area, especially because we can reload some too.” A silent chorus of nods followed the statement, including Jim who was just about to say that when Ellen said it. The two women were then asked about the medical supplies. Quickly nodding as if to remind herself of that, she flipped the page to that particular section of the list.

    Getting a proper count of their overall medical stocks had been nothing short of a pain in the ass, something Ellen had remarked on to Linda several times. The medical supplies had been in several locations and not well organized in all but one instance. “Okay, let’s see here….yeah, here it is. As far as medical stuff, overall, not bad. We have a pretty good range of basic supplies, ya’ know, band-aids, tape, gauze, that kinda stuff. We also have a modest stock of bulk gauze pads in both the 4x4 and 2x2 size, uhhmm, some gauze wraps in, let me see…” checking her list quickly, “one, two and four inch wide. A large amount of regular Band-Aids and to a lesser extent the specialty ones like the patches, the little round ones and the weird shaped kind that go on your knuckles. We also have things like triangle bandages that can be used as slings, three of the small wire splints for fractures. The one area where we are really hurting is serious medicine, like antibiotics and well, like that. Painkillers, we have some but…”

    Ellen looked up from her list. It was one area that really concerned her, among many others. Only Daryl had any serious medical training and his was limited to basic combat medicine. It had proved to be good enough when Michelle was injured, but what if one of them got sick for instance, they could be in serious trouble. Part of her was grateful that Lorraine had died so quickly, there would have been nothing that they could have done for her and watching her suffer for God knows how long and then still die would have been too much. Ellen hated that part of herself for feeling that way, guilty because it had made the experience easier on her and the others but it was true. Better that she went all at once. “Gawd, I hate this!” she told herself for the umpteenth time.

    Jim spoke up next asking the others if they had any questions. It was an interesting dynamic on all matters except security ones, Jim handled the mantle of responsibility since it was his family’s home, but on tactical issues Daryl was the man. So far it had worked out well. No one had questions at that point so conversation lagged a bit. As a group, they were collectively tired. It was hard to relax enough to really sleep well. Having to live on that razor edge of alertness was a narrow place to reside, but they simply had no choice, be ready or be dead. Some choice.

    Josh spoke up, “So we are going to two meals a day?”

    Ellen looked a bit sheepish as she tried to answer. Michelle interjected before her friend could say anything. “That is what we wanted to discuss, how does everyone feel about it?” Josh felt pretty strong about the subject and so jumped right in. “Personally, I would say no. That’s based on the fact that right now we have items we have to eat and much of our, quote, unquote work is being done now so we need a higher calorie intake to offset what we are burning. Plus the garden is doing well, why worry about it now?”

    Jim took a different tack. He felt that they should conserve now and that way they would have more later. “Wouldn’t it be better to save now while we have a good stock of things? Make it stretch since we don’t know what is going to happen later on. I mean; this collapse or whatever the hell we are calling it could last for a hell of a long time. Better to make what we have last longer.”

    That point of view was well received, but the discussion lasted nearly forty minutes, during which Michelle got Hope out of her makeshift high chair and took her to the front room and put the sleepy down. The child would be taken upstairs later that evening, Michelle didn’t want to miss the conversation. She quietly slipped back into the kitchen after depositing the now sleeping child on the floor amid her ever-present stuffed animal sentries at each corner of the blanket. The conversation ended with a vote. Three meals a day with an eye toward conservation was agreed upon. Afterwards the remains of the meal was cleaned up and dishes done as the rest of the evening progressed.

  28. #28

    Withdrawal Chapter Seventeen part one

    Withdrawal 17

    “Are you sure this is the way?” the voice was heavy with disbelief despite being shouted. The shouting necessary for her question to carry over the sounds of the engine and wind as the pick-up truck clipped along at nearly thirty miles per hour. “Yeah, we’ve followed the damned directions exactly, okay? It has ta’ be this way.” Even bent down toward the open sliding rear window of the cab, she only caught part of his reply but figured out what he would say. That he too was concerned about still not locating the position marked on the crude map was not something he was going to admit to, not on a bet or under the affects of torture. He was tired, frustrated and worried as hell. Gawddammit this has to be the way…Please Lord, let it be the right way. She returned her attention to her patient for a moment, no change. He was in a bad way and she knew it.

    Again, speaking to her husband, she told him. “Aw right. Then try the radio again.” Yes dear, whatever you say dear. He didn’t say it aloud but he thought it, loudly. Once again, he tried the small hand held communications unit. “Blackjack Two Five, Blackjack Two Five do you copy, over?” She listened in as best she could on the portable radio sitting next to her amid the numerous tubs, boxes and the stretcher containing her patient. Cautious eyes scanned the road and area ahead of the truck as it continued on, ears anxiously waiting for any response to their calls. There was a large stand of trees coming up, likely spot for an ambush if ever there was one. They were just passing the burned remains of what appeared to have once been a farm house and barn. Not a good sign at all. It certainly wasn’t the first burned out homestead that they had seen since leaving, but that it was this far out from town wasn’t a good omen at all.

    The driver glanced over at his rifle; a folding stock version of the venerable AK-47, to make sure it was nearby, just in case. He looked over at his son, the eight year old smiled weakly, he was nervous. Well, that’s all right, so am I, alot. Admitting the fear to himself wasn’t hard, it was admitting to the rest of them, well that was something else. Tightening his grip on the steering wheel he slowed down a bit, no sense rushing into the trees. The trailing vehicle did the same, maintaining the four car distance they had previously agreed to.

    A little over two miles away, Ellen was on O.P. duty when over her radio she heard the scratchy call for Blackjack. She was startled to say the least; it was something she hadn’t heard for awhile, that was Daryl’s private radio call sign from the security company. She started to answer when she stopped her hand just short of the button. Who could it be? They didn’t have anyone outside the perimeter right now and besides Daryl didn’t use that call sign here. Confusion created indecision as she wondered what to do. She was anxiously looking around but saw no one. What the…

    Then the radio spoke again, still a little scratchy, but this time easier to understand. “Blackjack Two Five, Blackjack Two Five do you copy…over?” Ellen was now certain it was in fact intended for her husband, her curiosity knew no bounds. She wanted to answer but security had to be her first concern. Daryl was in their trailer putting away some clean clothes when he heard the first call come over the unit he had left sitting on the table a few feet away. He too was startled by the call and intrigued by use of the call sign. The radio call caught him half stooped over with a pile of clothes in his hand. Daryl looked at the radio as if he could discern some answers by merely gazing steadily at it. Then the follow up call came in, he hurriedly tossed the remaining clothes toward his bed. The once neatly folded apparel forgotten as he grabbed for the radio while heading for the door and outside. The clothes landed mostly on the bed.

    Grabbing the unit, he hesitated for just a moment before keying the radio. “Unit calling Blackjack, identify.” He grabbed his rifle and shoved the door open, trying to get outside as quickly as he could. Others in the house heard the call as well and then Daryl’s response. Without thinking about it, they all began heading toward their assigned alert positions. Something was up, so better to be prepared. Organized chaos is what Bobby called it whenever they responded to an alert, Daryl had mused that wasn’t too far from wrong. This time it was especially apt given that no formal alert had been called for.

    In the trucks, shouts of elation were replaced by a nearly frantic demand of “Answer it, answer it!”

    “Geezus, I am, I am.” The vehicle was now winding through trees on the narrow blacktop road which made driving and handling the radio a chore so he slowed down a bit more, his speed now about twenty mph or so, not as fast as he wanted to be going but... His eyes flicked back and forth from the instrument panel to outside and back as he drove. Please be him, please be him. He keyed the radio again.

    “Blackjack, this is Miller One…do you copy…Miller One, over?” Two miles away Daryl knew instantly who it was, Ira Harris. The funny thing was it wasn’t the call sign that Harris was using that did it. Ira had been the site supervisor at Miller Metalworks hence the Miller One reference. It was a quirk that Ira did with the radio that he recognized. Years earlier Ira had been in the military and so had been taught that after each transmission you said, “Over”. It was not something that you had to do with non military communications, but it was just something Ira could not get used to, he always did it. The others kidded him about it, but he still did it.

    Daryl was thrilled and a little curious, happy that his now former employee was alive and apparently coming here. He keyed the radio, “Miller One this is Blackjack actual, great to hear you, what’s your location?” He anxiously looked around as if he could see where the transmission was coming from. The man was nearly to the front of the house looking at the road as he quick stepped, listening eagerly. Other eyes swept the scene as well. What was this? Who was Miller One? More questions than answers for sure.

    Ira told him that he was southbound and in a large wooded area. Daryl now had a real good idea that his former employee was now just north of them. He noticed the others getting to their alert positions as he too headed for his. Former employee or not, they had a protocol to follow and he for one wasn’t about to abandon it, no matter how bad he wanted to. He called Ira again. “Miller One, keep coming, will rendezvous with you shortly.” The occupants of both trucks felt a large portion of the deep gloom of despair lift as they heard Daryl’s reply. “Blackjack, roger that, be advised coming in with wounded, say again, have some wounded aboard. Do you copy, over?”

    Hearing that they had at least one wounded among them, Daryl wanted to find out if the trouble that caused the injury was nearby. “Understood you have wounded, are you danger close?” He anxiously waited the answer. His anxiety level had jumped considerably at hearing about the wounded.

    “Negative Blackjack, I say again, negative, over.” The collective sigh of relief from all those at the farm who had radios was deep and sincere. At least whoever this was that was coming wasn’t dragging their recent trouble with them. Daryl pushed the talk button twice in rapid order to acknowledge the previous transmission. The listener heard two quick bursts of static meaning affirmative. By this time the first truck was clear of the trees which was reported to Daryl by Ellen who shouted it down from the O.P. so she would not use the radio. She had been joined by Jim while Bobby took Ellen’s place at the back door since she was on O.P. They still had to be careful; it could still be a trick or a trap. Daryl looked around the area again. He saw Josh looking at him and flashed a quick thumbs up before returning his attention to the road. C’mon Ira, c’mon…

    Ira picked up the speed a bit once he was clear of the wooded area. There was safety in speed, the trick was not to be going so fast that you couldn’t react to what you saw or if something happened. He was so excited that he nearly forgot all about the second truck, which was just coming out of the trees behind. Catching a glimpse of the trail vehicle in the mirror, Ira mashed the brake, which nearly threw his wife, who was kneeling in the back, onto her side. She grabbed at the side of the stretcher to steady it. Checking her patient by eye, it seemed the quick mambo her idiot husband did on the brakes didn’t affect him. “Ira Edward Harris!” Nothing more needed saying, if she was using his full given name he was officially in it deep. Crap, watch what the hell you’re doing butthead he told himself. He checked the mirror to make sure Brian and the other truck were with him. The second vehicle flashed its headlights once to acknowledge the proper spacing. Good man, Brian he thought. Gabriel, his son, was grinning at him having heard his mother use his father’s full name. He knew what it meant when she did it to him. Ira caught the grin and shrugged at his son to acknowledge the situation.

    In order to better receive their guests or to deal forcefully with a trick, Daryl had hopped the fence and was now in the road looking south. He was the only one who knew Ira by sight so if it was a trick he would have to deal with it and hope for the best. His rifle had a round chambered and the safety was off, just in case. Several of the others at the farm were visible now, standing in their positions. A fact Daryl noticed and made note of, he angrily waved the others down into their positions. They caught on quickly and disappeared as best they could. If someone was watching then they would now have a much better idea of how many were there at the farm and where they were positioned…shit, so much to do. Daryl moved further out onto the road as the truck slowly pulled up and then stopped. He had his rifle at the ready, slung from his shoulder by the tactical sling he favored over the traditional style, right hand gripping the weapon, finger near the trigger.

    He recognized the man who had been with his company for some time. The feeling of seeing his former employee alive was a mixture of elation, relief and curiosity. He released the grip on the rifle and reached into the open window to shake hands with Ira. “Well hello ugly!” It was an old joke between the two men. While they weren’t friends on the same level as Daryl and Jim, each thought well of the other and there was a good deal of mutual respect present. Ira had worked for the company almost from the first day it opened so there was a good deal of history between the two.

    After releasing the handshake, Daryl grabbed his radio and told the others it was all right. That information pleased the others to no end but now previous questions raised themselves again. Who was this, what did their being here mean and on and on?

    Daryl quickly asked him what was up, which Allyson, in the back of the truck quickly answered, “He needs help Daryl, chit chat can wait.” The former Marine leaned back and saw the makeshift medical ward created in the back of the big pick up and nodded. It took him a moment to figure out what to do; they had to get the vehicles off the road. Then it occurred to him, the now unused equipment gate just to the south of the farm. Daryl suddenly started running down the road toward the gate hollering at Ira to follow him. The gate was secured by a chain and padlock placed there by the group. With most of the shrubs and like vegetation cut down a few days earlier, it was a clear shot from Josh’s position. It was part of his responsibility to maintain cover on the gate during any alert, just in case someone tried to use it to gain access. Josh watched from his position as Daryl started sprinting for the gate and all at once realized what he was doing. Yeah, good idea.

    The quick departure caught Ira off guard for a second or two but his gaze tracked ahead of the direction Daryl was running and he saw the gate. Shouting at his wife to hang on, he pulled the rig forward hugging the right side of the road to allow the most room to turn into the gate, which was important with the attached trailer. Didn’t want to have to do it more than once, time was too important. Sitting still in the middle of the road wasn’t too bright either he grimly reminded himself.

    Daryl and Jim both carried the keys that unlocked the gate so once at the fence, Daryl slid the sling of his rifle a bit to reposition the rifle while bending down to open the lock and chain. They had made sure to spray the interior of the lock with some WD-40 lubricant prior to placing it on the gate. The men wanted to ensure that the lock would be in good condition for as long as possible. This was especially important since they didn’t know how long it might be before they had to use the gate. Not nearly as long as we thought Daryl told himself. With a small click the lock disengaged and he worked it free of the stout chain that was double wrapped around the pole through the gate itself. Tossing the chain aside for moment, he grabbed the gate and at his rifle which took that moment to shift position as he changed posture.

    With both hands occupied, Daryl walked the gate open as Ira started pulling in. Brian had moved up closer than the four lengths previously agreed on, he wanted off the road, badly. The trip here, a small part of the planned journey had been harrowing at times and all of them were a bit testy and more than a little tired. C’mon bud, move, move…Brian mentally urged his friend. A quick glance over his wife did little to ease his anxiety. She too was worried and it showed. Finding Daryl had done wonders for all their spirits but get us off this damned road!!! His butt was tired and his nerves frayed despite having left Ira’s house only a few hours earlier.

    As Ira pulled through the open gate Daryl pointed in the general direction that he wanted them to go. Josh saw this and without direction left his position heading toward the barn. He would open the back gate and guide them. The borrowed Colt carbine he carried was held close to his chest as he ran. Brian was now sitting right behind the horse trailer that Ira was towing. His truck too pulled a trailer but it was much lower than the double animal covered style of conveyance before him. His trailer held a Honda four wheel ATV as well as a stock of supplies, all it lashed down heavily with straps and ropes.

    The dirt that covered the culvert leading off the road was a bit rough Brian noticed so as he approached it he turned his head toward the open window and shouted for his other passenger to hang on. Randy McKinley, Allyson’s nephew was seated in the back of the truck on a swivel style office chair. He had been riding back there acting as a rear gunner and spotter. He was bundled up to protect as best they could from the wind as they drove. He was armed with his aunt’s AKMS folding stock rifle, having swapped it temporarily for his shotgun which wouldn’t do them any good in his current position. Randy acknowledged the warning but knew it would do little good, he was stiff and sore from the journey but at least for right now the drive was slow. He carefully looked around despite seeing the multiple guns now supporting them. Ambushed, just as they were pulling into a safe place, man that would totally suck big time.

    Daryl wondered who was in the second truck and was very pleased to see Brian Thompson and his wife who he had met twice before. Brian had been with the company for about a year and a half or so, a real catch since his regular job was as a police officer. He had started out working a few concert gigs and special events but as things deteriorated he spent virtually all his off duty time working for Daryl to try and help make ends meet and then toward the end as the city ran out of money he worked security basically full time. Daryl had spent some time getting to know the man and genuinely liked him.

    Continued...

  29. #29

    Withdrawal Chapter Seventeen part two

    One more surprise as the truck pulled through the gate was the chair and its occupant, well armed with some kind of an AK-47. What a cool idea thought Daryl, a little windy I bet but still, nice, keep someone from being able to just drive up on them as well as providing a healthy sting as they drove away. “Hiya bossman”, only one person in the company called him that. Randy, had to be Randy. The greeting brought a rare smile to Daryl’s face. The kid was the youngest security officer in the company and was a bit immature when they first hired him but Ira and the others had really brought him around. Daryl was surprised at how happy he was to see his people. He felt better than he had in days. At least something good happened today.

    After the ATV trailer cleared the gate Daryl started to close it so it could be locked up right away. Josh had made it to the rear gate and had opened it by untwisting the wire used to secure it. They had run out of padlocks and since it was direct line of sight to Josh’s position a quasi-temporary solution was provided by several loops of bailing wire. He was in the process of pushing the gate open as Ira approached, slowly to avoid jostling his passengers. Josh was waving them forward and pointing to where he wanted them. At first because he was so excited, Josh didn’t see the wounded person in the back of the truck. That changed as the truck pulled up and slowly passed him. The man appeared to be asleep or maybe knocked out. He hardly reacted to the passage of the truck over the uneven ground. Ira followed the directions of the man with the CAR-15 who had opened up the nearby gate. A little further, yeah, that will work.

    He pushed the gear shift lever up until it reached the slot for “P” and then released it. All at once he felt tired, really tired. Taking a deep breath he slowly let it out as he just sat there trying to give some recognition to the jumble of emotions and sensations he was experiencing. Gabriel was already out of his seat belt and wanted to get out. Dad, dad! He called to get his father’s attention. Snapped out of the mental fog bank he was in, Ira looked over and nodded. The suddenly energetic child wasted no time getting out of the large pick-up. Ira absently noted that Brian had pulled up as well. Safe, at least for the moment, he thought. Okay, let’s go. He grabbed for his rifle with one hand while popping the door open with the other.

    Once the new arrivals were through the equipment gate south of the farm it was quickly closed and the lock secured. Daryl jogged from the gate to where the men had parked. Anxious eyes scanned the area around them for any sign of outsiders. Nothing unusual was seen but it didn’t make them feel any better. The vehicles had been led to a spot that was behind and owing to the topography, somewhat below the barn. This concealed them from any casual observation should anyone pass by on the road. Daryl hugged each of his men and followed it up with a hearty handshake. Everyone but Ellen, still in the O.P. and Linda, who had the children, was gathered around the visitors.

    The babble of excited conversation filled the air then Allyson was quick to point out that they wounded to deal with. Hearing that changed the focus of the situation immediately, the first priority was to get the injured man moved into the house and situated. Four sets of strong arms grabbed the handles of the stretcher and lifted it carefully out of the back of the truck. The men changed their grip to get a better hold and started toward the gate near the barn. This was the only opening to the pasture from the area of the house big enough to handle the procession. There was a personnel gate near the garden that allowed access to the field. That was how they accessed the area that the group used for shooting practice. As they hurried toward the house Michelle suggested using the front room. Daryl and Jim merely nodded as they walked the stretcher along. Placing the man there would be no hassles with trying to get the wounded soldier up and down the stairs. Allyson Harris, who was by trade a veterinarian, was along side the stretcher as the men moved it carrying a large medical kit. Gabriel and Dorothy trailed the men along with Josh and Randy who was glad to be out of the wind for a change. Bobby had closed but not secured the rear gate then ran to catch up with the others.

    Linda, who had both the children, was standing near the back door watching the proceedings as best she could from her vantage point. Kaitlyn who by now was beginning to understand the requirements of her during alerts was nearby, playing with a doll. Linda held Hope and was quietly bouncing her trying to induce the infant into a nap. Hope fussed lightly but the tactic was working, she was beginning to slip off into slumber. The female part of the Hamilton offspring wondered about what was going on, who were these people and how did they know to come here. Those questions and more raced through Linda’s mind as she watched through the glass of the storm door.

    As she watched she saw a procession coming from around the corner of the barn. It took her a second to recognize why the men were walking so strange. The angle from the back door to where the group was didn’t help but all at once she got it. Someone is hurt, that’s a stretcher. Where are they…oh, front door. Calling for Kaitlyn to come with her the attractive teen turned and started toward the front of the house to open the door for them. The five year old, lost in her game hesitated about following Sissy, as she called Linda, but reluctantly picked up her dollie and went where the bigger girl had gone.

    Linda moved as fast as she dared while carrying the baby and the shotgun assigned to her. It made for a less than comfortable move but she managed. Skirting the furniture in the living room she made it to front door. She leaned the shotgun against the wall and opened up the door as wide as she could. Linda was very careful not to be very far away from the loaded weapon. She knew Kaitlyn had been told about not touching guns but the girl was her responsibility and she took it very seriously. The thought of something happening to the little girl because of negligence on her part was something that worried Linda to the point of almost making her sick. Once the front door was open she stepped back, retrieved the shotgun and then stepped outside. Oh shoot, she quickly turned to ensure that Kaitlyn was right there with her. The pretty five year old was in fact on the couch playing happily with her doll. Good enough, thought Linda. The teen moved down the porch to wait for the others.

    The men had stopped twice on the way to house, once to re-adjust the load they were carrying. The second time was to change people. The patient was complete dead weight; the others could see that what wounds were visible indicated that his injuries were pretty bad. Linda reached the end of the porch and saw that they were nearly to the house. She glanced back at the doorway to see if it was clear of Kaitlyn and realized some of the furniture would need moved if they wanted to maneuver the stretcher.

    “Dad! The chair’s in the way.” Jim, who had been replaced on the carry team by Bobby heard his daughter and knew that she was right. He sprinted ahead of the group as did Dorothy who wanted to help. The two adults rushed up the steps and into the house just ahead of Linda who wanted to get Kaitlyn out of the way.
    Jim got to the recliner he favored just ahead of Dorothy. Without speaking they simply grabbed a side apiece and half carried – half dragged it across the living room and out of the way. Next went the small table and lamp which opened up the end of the room nearest the front door. The others were coming up the stairs with their cargo. Linda had Kaitlyn staying on the couch and was sitting with her to keep her in place.

    As the four men reached the level of the porch they stopped. “Down” was the command and the load was gently lowered to the wooden surface. Daryl rolled his shoulders to try and release some of the tension he felt from carrying his part of the weight. He knew that the four of them would not fit through the door so had them stop. Only way to do this was…calling Bobby he unslung his rifle and handed it to the youth. Brian caught on immediately and handed his off to Josh. Now free of their weapons the two men each grabbed an end and lifted the wounded man up again. Waiting for just a second or two to stabilize the load they stepped off and into the house. Once in the living room Brian waited to see where they were going. Daryl was telling him, around, around. It took the former policeman a bit to understand the direction but Daryl tossed his head toward the open door of the front room and then Brian got it. He side stepped to help align the stretcher with the portal. Once that was done the two hurried the man through and into what for now would fast become a makeshift medical ward.

    Allyson had followed the others inside and ducked into the front room just ahead of the litter. She directed the pair to place the injured man in the center of the room where she would have the most room to work. Huffing a bit from the exertion the two men complied. “Good, good, that’s fine, set him down here” With the critical eye of a doctor she wanted things just so. Several of the others crowded into the room also which suddenly seemed much smaller given the number of people present. Daryl and Brian placed their load down, shoulders burning from the strain. He didn’t look it but the wounded man was heavy. Both litter bearers were breathing deeply and were glad this particular journey was over, at least for now. Allyson stepped over and knelt down and began to take a new set of vital signs anxious that the transfer from the truck might have further aggravated his wounds. As she was moving around she had to ask several people to move.

    Jim realized that there wasn’t anything that they could do so he asked the others, “Folks let’s all clear out so she has some room.” With glances at the litter they slowly migrated toward the living room which opened up space for Allyson to work. “Okay, B.P. is good…” She was totally in her element now, doctor and patient. That this was not the usual species she dealt with was not the point. All veterinarians had basic classes in treating humans but the wounds that the man had suffered were far from basic.

    Once the majority of the people were in the living room they milled about since only Daryl knew the folks from both groups. The silence was a bit awkward but Michelle saved the day by asking, “Anyone hungry?” The response was pretty positive, Daryl felt like he could eat enough for two. Dorothy offered to help Michelle and the offer was gratefully accepted. The two women went into the kitchen and following the quick introductions began rooting around to gather the fixings for a late lunch. Kaitlyn ran over to her daddy and hugged him around one leg. A bit startled by her action Daryl nearly fell over but quickly recovered with a step back and helicopter whirl of his arms to balance himself.

    His antics caused the others to laugh at him after which Allyson could be heard from the front room, “Quiet down!” Jim once again saw the situation for what it was and motioned for the people in the living room to go outside. No sense tramping through the kitchen and disturbing lunch being made so outside it was. Bobby handed Daryl back his rifle as he passed him taking Kaitlyn with him. Linda followed the gaggle of people out the house.

    Man, this is turning into a weird day thought the perky teen. What next?

  30. #30
    Wow I finely caught up blackguard, I am really enjoying your story thanks for taking the time to post it for us. I am looking forward to more of it as soon as you can.
    Wayne

  31. #31
    Great story!!!! Looking for MOAR!!!!!!


    LOL!!

    WAB
    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  32. #32
    Join Date
    May 2001
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    British Columbia, Canada
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    the "perky" teen probably needs a different adjective LOL......

    injecting some new blood will make for interesting new side stories.
    True North Strong and Free

  33. #33

    Withdrawal Chapter Eighteen part one

    Withdrawal 18

    With the injured man temporarily cared for, he was currently sleeping, and with everyone finishing up lunch Jim asked the visitors to fill them in on what they could regarding what was going on out in the world. There were nods of agreement with the plan but Daryl stopped them before anyone could even get going. He told the others that it might be a good idea now that things had calmed down a bit if everyone was a bit more formally introduced. Jim and Ira both smiled while nodding at the suggestion. Made sense, now that they had a bit more time and were at least for now, settled, a good time to get folks better acquainted. Names had been tossed around already but it made sense to do an in depth introduction.

    Those at the Hamilton farm were spread out on the front porch since there were too many people to fit comfortably into the living room. This way Josh, who was now on O.P. duty could hear what was being said as well. The front door was kept open so Allyson could listen for any sign of trouble with the injured soldier while also allowing some fresh air into the house. It was a bit musty Michelle had noticed earlier with most of the windows, customarily opened up, having been closed up and curtains drawn for an extended period.

    Kaitlyn was running around the front yard, Daryl was keeping half an eye on her so she didn’t fall into the trench they had excavated inside the log lined redoubt that was the centerpiece of the property’s defenses. For her part Kaitlyn was enjoying being outside since they rarely let her play in the front yard despite the fence. The back yard was one thing but the front yard was too close to the road for comfort. The other adults were watching her as well given that there were numerous weapons present. The variety of rifles and pistols were as numerous as the people next to them. Anyone who tried to surprise this group would be in for a warm and decidedly unfriendly welcome.

    Looking around at the folks who came with him, Ira saw that they appeared to waiting on him. Oh great, he thought. He stepped out away from the porch a bit so everyone could see and hear him better. A bit nervous to start out, Ira was wiping his palms on denim of his jeans, “Ahh, hello again, I’m Ira Harris and this is my wife, Allyson, our son is Gabriel. Uh, known Daryl for a while now, was working security over in Amarillo and now we’re here.’ He turned to look at Brian who stood up from the seat he had taken on the steps leading up to the porch. Clearing his throat he half turned toward the others and began, “Name’s Brian Thompson and my wife’s, Dorothy. Been working for the company ‘pert near a year and a half or so now. Saw the situation and reckon’d we had to get outta town, its bad boys and girls, really bad.” His tone told the group a great deal. The others that had come with him were all nodding to further accent what Jim’s group already suspected and had, to an extent, seen. Brian sat back down next to his wife who reached over to take one of his hands in hers.

    The attention turned to the last adult in the newly arrived group, he was a tall youth, so tall he was almost a bit gangly. Just hadn’t really finished filling out. “I, uhm, I mean, I’m Randy, been working for the company for about two years now. Was gonna go to the Police Academy in about a year but I guess that’s shot all to shit.” Randy! This from Allyson who didn’t approve of her nephew’s cursing at all but especially in this setting. It was a bad habit that her brother, the boy’s father had and Randy had picked up. She tried hard to get him to recognize that and not to do it. He had made a good deal of progress, not without a bit of smacks to the back of his head at times to reinforce the guidelines. Crap, he thought, that’s gonna get me another one…The youth immediately cringed while hastily apologizing for the language. “Sorry, just slipped out.”

    Both Linda and Bobby thought it was funny because the exact same thing happened to them when they used foul language. A rare smile creased Bobby’s face at seeing someone else on the hot seat. He knew that he had been there was well so it wasn’t a fun place to be but right now, it wasn’t him so that was fine with him. As Randy went to sit down Allyson spoke up and told those present, “Randy is my nephew, and has been living with us for awhile.” The why of he was living them was left unsaid. It was simply not something everyone needed to know and after all the events of the recent days, it mattered little so nothing was said about it.

    Jim picked up where the newcomers had left off by introducing everyone in the farm group, including Petr who had been invited down, tossing in what everyone’s former occupation had been just as the others had. This way everyone had at least an idea of who was who. The conversation lagged for a bit after he was finished but it wasn’t an unhealthy pause. Merely the means to process the information provided. Just then, Josh reported down that the surrounding area was clear. With so many people sitting outside he was being especially careful. He had eaten; more like wolfed his lunch down earlier in order to make sure he would at his best during the meeting. Josh wanted to listen in but knew that his primary duty would have to be that of sentry. The others would fill in any blanks in the information that he might have.

    Everyone had something to drink; ice tea was still the most popular drink among those at the farm, two partial pitchers of the sweetened liquid sat on the porch. Scattered remnants of lunch were visible around the scene as well; plates, napkins and small amounts of food but that would be dealt with later. News of the outside was much more important Daryl started off with asking them to begin from when he last saw them since the others were familiar with that chain of events. He felt it was a good starting place plus he wanted to hear about conditions in that part of the country.

    Ira looked to the others in his group and then began. “Okay, uhm, let’s see…oh, so after you left that night…before I forget, thanks again for the shotguns, they came in pretty handy a couple o’ times. If you want them back no problem. They’re your property anyways.” Brian nodded emphatically to help emphasize the previous point about how handy the weapons had been. Daryl wondered what that was all about. Never mind, pay attention he told himself. The buzz in the group was nearly palpable, news from the outside and some new faces. It was amazing how the prospect of learning something you didn’t know five minutes earlier could get you so excited. People tend to be information sponges whether they realize it or not. Since coming out to the farm new information had been hard to come by.

    “As you know there were seventeen of us working the Miller site and we knew there wasn’t much of a chance that the place would re-open. I mean, no spare parts, no deliveries of metal, no employees so yeah, not too likely to open up. Hells sake, we didn’t see anyone from the company for days, I mean like nearly a week. Hell half the guards didn’t show up either. We,” indicating the security officers with him presently, “decided this is nuts, what the hell we hangin’ round here for?” At this point Brian interjected.

    With a look of apology to Ira for butting in. “Yeah it was the same the Police Department, the Mayor, City Council and just ‘bout everyone else in charge, all them bugged out to, hell, I don’t know where. Sorry, just wanted to share that.”

    Ira waved it off, the more information the better. So where was he…oh yeah, “So we divvied up the gear and the others who wanted to go their own way went.” The next part of the tale was something that Ira and the others had discussed in detail before even leaving Ira’s place. Whether or not to disclose what had they had done but the consensus was that if they were able to find Daryl that they would tell him so that it wouldn’t come back to bite them collectively later. Trust was a finite commodity and besides if this crisis ever blew over then at some point Daryl might be answerable for their actions. Not that it seemed at all likely but still honor demanded they account for themselves.

    Ira looked a little nervous but pressed on with the story. “After the others had left we went on a bit of a foraging trip…” Daryl and the others were curious as to where, they didn’t have to wait long for the answer, “inside the factory. I mean, no one was coming back so why let the stuff go to waste?” The last sentence came out in a rush as if he wanted to get some kind of a justification out there prior to being judged. He and the others felt bad about doing it but it was their own survival at stake. What those at the farm would have to say would have a large impact on their immediate future.

    Daryl thought about it as the information spilled out. Initially he wasn’t happy about it at all but then he rapidly realized that Ira was right, the chance that Miller Metalworks would re-open even if all this crap going on ever settled down would be like a snowflake’s chance in hell…screw it, staying alive was way more important. Besides, if the people who owned the plant had wanted any of the stuff they should have come and gotten it. ‘Nuff said. All of the others were waiting to see what Daryl said. Jim and his folks because they wanted to see what the now former employer would say to his people, Ira and the others because they wanted some kind of approval, however tacit for what they felt they had to do. Not that they wouldn’t do it again if necessary.

    Daryl was silent as he thought of the situation and came to understand that if he had been there he would have likely done the same thing. The old rules were, for the most part, gone. Being the nice guy would leave you starving, robbed or worse. A mental image of Lorraine’s grave flashed by and so, yeah. “Look, it ain’t for me to pass judgment on what you guys had to do, so speaking for me, don’t sweat it. Jim?” He wanted to hear what their host had to say. Those in Ira’s group seemed to relax a bit after hearing Daryl. The other shoe however…this was Jim’s home and so what he would have to say would have some serious weight to it. Safe havens were not easy to come by, Ira’s folks knew this already but the others hadn’t heard that story yet.

    Jim was caught off guard by the turn in the conversation but he blinked hard and stood a bit taller. He had been listening of course and was a little surprised at the admission of the men to their, looting? Was that the right term in this case? “Well, uhm, I wasn’t there, it wasn’t me in that situation so I don’t see how I can condemn you for that, I mean, the crap has truly hit the fan.” To illustrate his point he waved at the front of the house which the newcomers had already seen was pockmarked with numerous bullet holes and the makeshift repairs used to patch them. The railroad ties left over from fortifying the O.P. had been stacked against the front of house. There had only been enough left over to make the barrier waist high, if you weren’t too tall that is. “So hey, when in Rome…” and he left it at that. Ira and the others wished the approval, if that’s what it was had been a little stronger but at least they weren’t being condemned for their actions or asked to leave. Ira nearly said something sarcastic in response but held his tongue. The man before them had allowed them in, fed them and for now wasn’t throwing them out. Keep you head and watch your mouth Ira boy…

    “So, yeah, we went shopping so to speak. We left one guy on the roof with a radio to keep watch while the rest of us went inside.” For the benefit of Jim and the others at the farm Ira explained that Miller Metalworks was a modest size foundry that made a variety of custom parts for the automotive industry. He further explained that the men had agreed in rough terms to what it was that they were looking for inside the plant. Food, fuel, medical supplies, any specialty hand tools that they didn’t have and after that any other item that they had seen that might be of some use.

    Since the power was down it made it a little harder to get around inside but they had gone in during the day it was a bit better owing to open windows and such. The first place they checked was the kitchen and storage areas right next to it. The factory had a full service lunchroom, somewhat unusual in the area but the lasagna they served every Friday was always a bit hit. In the pantry the men found a variety of canned goods nearly all of it in the large #10 cans, some pasta, a number of containers of different spices, several large bags of rice and even a few cans of beef stew. One of the more curious things they found was nearly a dozen large cans of pumpkin filling. Evidently the kitchen staff had planned on making pies at some point. All of the food, what there was of it was removed from the pantry area and stacked on two of the long, communal tables in the dining area. The foragers then continued through the factory.

    Next stop was the nurse’s station, this, according to Ira was an absolute necessity. The small room located near the loading docks had been hastily gone through at some point earlier but the men still found a number of items that they knew would be useful to take with them. An assortment of gauze dressings, tape and other disposable medical supplies were scooped into trash bags brought along for that purpose. In addition, the searchers grabbed every first aid kit they could find and added their contents to the haul. Brian pointed out that it had been Allyson who had made that suggestion when the men had told her of their plan the night before their scavenger hunt. A number of heads bobbed up and down in approval at recognizing the wisdom of that action. Medical supplies were one of those things that fell in the “can’t have too much of” category.

    The search continued for several hours with the collected items being brought to the cafeteria dining room. A wide variety of hand tools tossed in a large rolling tool box, a cutting torch rig with two full bottles of each gas, a big box of assorted office supplies such as pens, pads of paper, all the toilet paper they could find as well as some fire extinguishers were added to the haul. Much of the desirable equipment was simply too large to try and move so it was left. Not everything collected was taken however; the men took a vote if someone didn’t like a particular item. In the end, all of them ended leaving a least a few items that they themselves had collected. When it was time to leave the men backed the trucks up to the doors closest to the dining room, formed a human chain to load them up. The men also filled the trucks up from the on-site gasoline tanks the factory kept for fueling the forklifts. The tanks had been hurriedly accessed by some of the employees before leaving but this didn’t prove to be too large an inconvenience.

    Using the previously collected tools the men were able to collect nearly fifty gallons of gasoline by merely unbolting the safety straps holding the numerous fuel tanks in place. The group then tipped them on end draining the precious fluid into waiting containers. In this case a couple of metal pails found nearby which allowed for easy handling. A siphon was rigged to empty the tanks of the forklifts, it was tedious but the tanks yielded almost another twelve gallons or so.

    The two pickup trucks belonging to Ira and Brian were filled up for the first time in a long while which took the majority of the collected fuel since both trucks were equipped with dual fuel tanks. The remaining gasoline was split among several empty five gallon cans brought along from home for that purpose which gave them some extra but not much. Ira explained that the fuel was essential to the next part of their plan. Before anyone could ask he told them that he would explain that in a bit. The others merely nodded and returned to listening.

    Continued...

  34. #34

    Withdrawal Chapter Eighteen part two

    Brian picked up the story from there. “Uhm, once we had what we wanted we grabbed Randy who had been the one on the roof and headed out. We had locked up all the buildings so it simple to do the same with the gates then split, heading to Ira’s place. See, Dorothy and I were staying at Ira’s. The apartment we had been in was a nightmare, no power, no running water and with many of the other tenants bailing out it got a bit like a ghost town. When a few groups of roving looters had swung by I wasn’t too crazy about her being there alone since the restaurant she worked at had already closed. Thankfully Ira asked us to come and stay with them. So we thought about it for about, oh, two seconds and said yeah.” Brian briefly outlined how they had carefully packed up clothes, all of their remaining food along with a few personal items then moved to Ira’s. Daryl and Ellen shared a quick look, sounded familiar.

    Ira continued, “Once we left the factory and headed home we drove at a steady speed, trucks nearly bumper to bumper. We had all the guns visible, basically daring anyone to mess with us. Anyone and everyone could easily see that the trucks were loaded; I mean just having vehicles that had fuel was a pretty damned big red flag. At least…what Brian, twice?” Brian nodded. “Yeah twice we had to swerve off the road and run the sidewalk to avoid having to stop. Once it was a good size crowd, had to be, shit…fifty, sixty people and they didn’t look to be in a charitable mood. The other time it was a bunch of stalled cars blocking the road.” He explained how they had run through the parking lot of a business the first time then through two front yards the second to avoid the blocked traffic arteries.

    “After we finally got home and offloaded everything took a deep breath we took inventory of everything we had. You know, how much food, how much fuel, that kinda thing so we would have some idea of what the hell we had. Turns out not as much as we thought. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we had a pretty decent amount of stuff especially compared to most others but we knew that with all of us there and limited resupply options our choices for the long term were pretty slim. One thing we did have was a pretty fair amount of medical stuff between the stuff from Miller’s and what Allyson brought from her office.” Ira explained briefly that his wife worked as a veterinarian and so had access to first aid supplies in quantity Ellen’s ears perked up at that one.

    At this point Allyson, who had clearly been eager to jump in, took over the narrative. “Beings the house was in town, suburbs really we tried to keep someone on watch pretty much all the time. We had the vehicles in the garage or pulled behind the house as best we could so they wouldn’t be seen from the street. Not that there were many people out driving around. No one had power that we knew of. We did hear a generator a block or so over, it sure was easy to hear with no cars running or any kind of regular, I dunno’, guess you could call it, city noise to cover it up.” Brian nodded vigorously. He and the others had had several conversations regarding the generator owner and how they hoped that whoever it was had bullets aplenty and nearby. Otherwise someone was going come along and take the unit, likely at gunpoint. Jim paid close attention to that piece of information. The farm did have a generator but so far they had not had to run it. Noise security was not something he had thought of regarding using the portable power unit. Shooting was one thing but this was something else. Damn, another lesson learned and at no cost to him, at least the price for this lesson was affordable.

    His mental woolgathering meant he missed the next part of the conversation. “…so we checked out some of the nearby houses to see what we could find and…” At that point he was cut off sharply by Michelle who asked in a tone no one could mistake. “You robbed houses?” She had quickly risen up out off her seat, her face red and eyes locked on Ira. He returned the look without apology and refused to yield her the high ground. Jim and the others were trying to calm her but she was having none of it. She launched into the beginning of a speech about how she wouldn’t have thieves in her home but it was Petr who stopped her tirade before she could get really wound up.

    He calmly set aside his plate then stood and placing one finger of each hand in the corner of his mouth, whistled, loudly. The piercing note cut through the chatter instantly. Petr turned and sat back down on the edge of the porch. The others had immediately fallen silent at the sound. Every eye was on him just as he anticipated it would be. “I am sorry but you were being hysterical. Please to forgive me.” With that he embarked into a short speech of his own.

    “Did he say, we robbed, no, did he say we do hurt to others, no. He said; they went to houses empty of people. So is not same thing. In Hungary we do this after big fight with Communists, only way to sometimes, eat, needed place to sleep while going to border. A hard thing but necessary.” He nodded as he spoke to punctuate the sentiment of the sentence that he was trying to get across to Michelle. Ira and Brian both caught the Hungary comment and it made them wonder just who this man was and how he fit into the situation - questions for another time. Petr picked up his plate of food and resumed eating like nothing had happened at all.

    Michelle was still in a bit of shock given that her world had been temporarily turned upside down. The thought of going to houses people were in and taking their stuff was nothing short of abhorrent, her leg ached momentarily as she thought about her wound and the death of her friend. But, checking out empty houses really wasn’t that bad at all, she was just caught off guard and grudgingly had to admit that okay so maybe she did overreact to the explanation. The others waited as she processed the thought. “I’m sorry, all of you” looking at each of the recently arrived folks. “I misunderstood what he was saying but I should have waited, sorry, please continue.” She sat back down looking embarrassed as Ira and several of the others nodded in acceptance of the apology. Rough world, get a thicker skin or get eaten up is how the newcomers looked at it. None of them were bothered by the outburst: it was an ugly world out there so you did what you have to survive. They knew they hadn’t robbed anyone so, whatever…

    Ira moved on with his narrative “We found a few useful things, mostly a few loose canned goods here and there, medications, toiletries, some bottled water, candles, sports drinks, some hand tools that we were wanting, shovels, that kind of thing. As we went through each place we tried to be very thorough, in most cases the pickin’s were pretty damned slim. I mean, most places were cleaned out but it was more like by those that had lived there. As compared to looters or somebody else I mean. It was amazing to us at what some people took with them.” He mentioned how several of the houses the electronics were gone while useful things like clothes or sleeping bags were still there.

    At that point Daryl piped up, “Yeah we saw some of the choices people made a few times as well. TV’s and shit…weird. Why the hell would you drag that crap along?” Several of the others nodded in agreement. It reminded Josh, who was listening as best he could of an old Jim Morrison and the Doors song, “People are Strange”, man did that ever seem to fit. He turned the binoculars to the north again watching for any signs of life. Nothing so far…

    “So we added what we found to our own supplies which helped but after a couple days the situation in town kept getting worse. There was already no power, no phone, no runnin’ water, nothing like that, no one’s cell worked. We saw several large groups of people roaming around; one group went by on our street, big damned group too.” Ira recalled watching from behind the curtains, careful not to open them too wide. The group outside was comprised of people of all ages, men, women and children. They filled the street with their numbers. Everyone at the house was armed, hoping and praying that the crowd, which had to number at least two hundred, would keep going. It took nearly twenty minutes for the entire press to pass by. Many of them were carrying clothes or food, a few pulled wagons, there were a number of them that had shopping carts they had commandeered. Most had nothing but the clothes on their backs.

    “After seeing that we had a meeting and decided it was time to get out of town while we still had the means to go. Even with all our firepower,” Ira gestured at the assorted weapons, “we couldn’t have stopped a group that size if’n we’d had too.” The original group at the Hamilton’s recalled the shoot out and how close that had been, two hundred people coming at them…no way they or any group smaller than a fully armed and entrenched infantry platoon would have survived. And since they didn’t have one of those handy…that they would have killed many of the mob, sure, but in the end they would have been they would be overrun. Several of them suddenly got chilled despite the fair weather.

    Daryl chimed in with a question. “So where was it ya’ decided ta’ go to?” The newcomers looked to the female part of the Harris clan. Allyson hastily stood and began to explain that her uncle had some property, about thirty acres or so down in Gaines County which was about eighty miles away or so. They had talked about their options and decided to go down there despite the distance. Explaining that she and Ira used to go down there all the time she knew the area pretty well or at least did at one point. Using her fingers to tick off their reasons for going, the property had a good well for water, an older single wide trailer on it and best of all it was isolated. That was when Ira told them why the need for as much gasoline as possible. A trip like that would eat up some major fuel with having to drive around towns and use back roads as much as possible. It was a risk for sure; no certainty that they would even reach the property and were they able to it would be a very rough time trying to get anything resembling a homestead started. Crops to plant once a suitable area was prepared, water, security issues, weather, health concerns and much more.

    The conversation turned to the new group’s proposed move. A number of ideas and thoughts were swirled around before Daryl interrupted. “Uh folks, might want to have this chat a little later, I’d like to hear the rest of the story about getting here.” That seemed to center the conversation again.

    Ira explained how the group compiled a list broken down in three parts. The three parts were Had to Have, Should Have and Like to Have. The first part was comprised of essentials like food, clothing, weapons and ammunition, tools including shovels, picks etc for the planned garden, medical, camping gear, and fuel. All of these items were gathered up and loaded into the two trucks and the trailers save what food was needed for a day which they planned to spend finalizing everything. The trucks were inspected as well as could be done, oil checked, changed in Ira’s, fluids topped off, tires checked and what extra fluids and spare parts that were available loaded as well. While this work was being done the women were sorting through the items that fit into the remaining categories on the list. This included things like curtains, additional clothing, remaining kitchen wares, spare blankets, shoes, suitable containers that could be used for either water or fuel if the opportunity presented itself and then they double checked the house and garage for other items that would be of use. Small spaces were filled with whatever could be fit into them.

    Once that the loading was done, checked and rechecked the group settled in and ate a final meal at the house deciding that it would be best if they left during the day. The discussion on this had gone back and forth as to the ideal time of day to try and get out of the city. There were compelling arguments for either choice, day and night. Eventually they had settled on leaving during the day as to better see what was going on around them. Leaving at all was risky but at least this way they would be able to see what obstacles they would face faster and sooner.

    “So after a lousy nights sleep, we had something to eat, locked up the house best we could and took off.” Ira described the scene leaving the metropolis with no small measure of distaste. He didn’t like having to leave his home but like the others that accompanied him he felt it was for the best. “The first part of the drive was tense, like we didn’t know what to expect so we were a bit keyed up.” Allyson, Dorothy and even Gabriel looked over at Ira as he spoke the last sentence. A bit keyed up? Allyson was lightly shaking her head at the “small” understatement that her husband had laid out. She was sure that the anxiety induced tightened sphincter she had been experiencing would loosen up, eventually. Well, she hoped so anyways. She fought down a shudder as she recalled the drive out of the city. The male half of the Harris adults continued on with his tale, relating some of the sights the group had taken in on their escape from suburbia. The report was grim cars blocking streets, abandoned where they had stopped for whatever reason.

    Bodies strewn about, some areas had few to none while in other locations the corpses were thickly distributed. Brian told them that many of them looked as if they had been caught in the open and gunned down. Stores, the ones still standing, were empty of goods due to looting, some of which was still ongoing while the group was egressing the city. What was left to loot was anyone’s guess. In two places some enterprising residents had blocked off their streets with cars, trucks, lumber, piles of dirt, whatever they had and were manning the walls of their makeshift fortress keeping a wary watch. Ira and Brian wisely moved as rapidly in another direction once they saw the barricades.

    Jim asked if they had come under fire at any point. Brian spoke up, “Not much at all but we could hear gunfire from all over the place. One time when we was still in town we got fired on but about ten rounds going back the other way musta’ convinced whoever it was that he wasn’t too smart. We did hear one long, I mean full out firefight. Went on for like twenty minutes, heavy, heavy firing, I swear I heard auto fire but the others weren’t so sure. We were moving pretty fast at that point.” Jim and others recognized the wisdom in that. Speed was life.

    “We finally broke out of the city and made for the hills.” Ira continued on, explaining that they picked out two primary routes and an alternate but elected to stay with one of their primaries as long as possible. He described the drive, stop and go, head constantly on a swivel looking for trouble, bodies, abandoned cars, fires, smoke and more. The group listened quietly. It was the worst of any number of Hollywood disaster films but this time it was real.

    “That brings us to our friend inside. Once we got clear of the city limits and were able to get a little ways, oh I dunno, maybe ten, twelve miles or so we came across a hell of a mess. We saw the smoke ‘afore we found the vehicles.”

    Brian picked it up. “A total of five trucks, at least that’s what was still there when we rolled up. Two deuce and a half’s, an ambulance and a pair of Hummers, all National Guard I am pretty sure. One of the six by’s was burning, big time. The ambulance was on its side in the ditch. Guessing, they had a Hummer in front and back as security with the three others between ‘em. He was in one of the Hummers, pretty tore up.” Nodding in the direction of the front room Brian indicated the wounded man.

    Brian explained the while Allyson worked on the soldier he and Ira stood watch. Randy, Dorothy and Gabriel went through the ambulance and other vehicles as well as checking the immediate area grabbing up everything they could find and tossing it in the back of the pickup. Once the injured man was stabilized enough to do a hurried evacuation he was placed in the back of the truck. Everyone quickly mounted up in their respective vehicles and they, as Brian put it, “Got the hell outta there!”

    The conversation turned to the wounded man’s condition. Allyson explained what his injuries were. It was serious, he had burns, a number of bruises, possible broken ribs and she suspected smoke inhalation. But she said the worst part is that he was still unconscious and she wasn’t sure why. Allyson suspected some type of head injury. “So we knew that unless we found someplace to hole up for a little while he would die and none us really wanted that on our conscience.” That the man still might die was a serious concern and Allyson worried about it not for the first time since finding him.

    Jim and Daryl shared a look; it appeared that they would have house guests for awhile.

  35. #35

    Withdrawal Chapter Nineteen part one

    Withdrawal 19

    “Man this is a nice mutha****in’set up they got here.” Ira was talking to Brian, both men were in the O.P. Brian was standing, scanning the area around the farm with the binoculars while he talked. Ira was seated to Brian’s left; both men had their weapons close at hand. They had been talking for some time but the level of conversation never reached a point of interfering with the sentry duty. “Yeah, no shit, I mean, they got food, water, security and power.”

    The last word spoken with an almost mythical overtone to it as Brian lowered the binoculars to rest his eyes for a moment. A person simply couldn’t look through them for long periods and still be able to see effectively. Having dealt with the lack of electricity while trying to work and then again at home, the men thought it truly amazing to once again be able to flip a switch, presto, power. How fast it was to have to get used to not having power and now to have it again, even at a reduced level was something worth commenting on.

    Ira’s people had been given a tour of the farm the day before, following lunch and the extensive debriefing. They all marveled at the well-stocked shelves in both the house and barn. The defenses were of particular interest, the visitors repeatedly commented favorably on the recently improved bunkers as well as the stout bullet barrier the double-stacked railroad ties created across the front of the O.P. The solar power set up impressed the newcomers as well. There was something to be said for planning ahead and having the means to do something about it. Ira and Allyson had always tried to keep as much food in the house as possible, but what the Hamilton’s had…wow, now that was something, it was very obvious that there had been a serious amount of work, time and money spent on making the place into what it was.

    Following the tour the new arrivals had gotten together and had spoken at length among themselves. A question was tentatively raised, discussed then decided on. At that point Daryl had been approached by his former employees. He was asked if they could stand some guard shifts to repay the hospitality they had been shown. The men were told that he thought it was a real nice gesture and that he would go and ask Jim. The head of the Hamilton household was moved by the request and after talking about it with Daryl agreed. It would be nice to give some of those at the farm a break from standing guard. It had been several weeks since the beginning of the security watches, a relief from O.P. would certainly be welcome and Jim suspected, needed. Those newcomers who wanted to take a turn at O.P. duty were fitted into the schedule immediately with the next watch after all of them were given a run down on procedures. Those at the farm were indeed grateful for the respite from duty. They all knew it was necessary to stand guard, but having done it without interruption for an extended period, the sudden freedom from it was like being let off a leash.

    Ira reached out and touched the nearest railroad tie, admiring the simplicity of the design. The ties were stacked double thick along the edge of the roof to allow for both maximum space atop the roof and for the sturdier construction of the wall to support the weight. The heavy wood provided a measure of serious ballistic protection. Brian noticed the movement and used it to pass on some commentary, “Nice to have those, huh?” His friend nodded. Ira wasn’t actually scheduled for O.P. duty till the next morning, but wanted to sit in for part of a shift to better familiarize himself with the job. The view was excellent, you could see north all the way to the trees, to the west it was mostly open fields broken only by lines of trees that bordered the now unplanted farming sections. To the south you could see the top of the silo at the farm a bit down the way and a good amount of the road as well. All in all, a good position giving whoever occupied it the high ground, which was critical. The nice weather didn’t hurt either, the sun was warm but not baking them and there was a nice, constant breeze to keep the men comfortable.

    “Feels nice to be able to sleep with both eyes closed too, huh?” the men shared a not so humorous laugh. It had been an unfunny joke at Ira’s place in town describing how all of them felt as if they had to sleep with one eye partially open due to the lousy local security situation, despite having the extra people staying at the house. The older four-bedroom ranch style house was comfortable, but it was in town with houses close by on either side. The Harris’s property lot had a good size back yard, but the front of the house was only about 30 feet from the street, which didn’t allow for much defensive depth at all. Someone running toward the dwelling could cover that distance in a matter of seconds. The group tried to keep two people on watch all the time, one near the front of the house and the other in or near the kitchen, which had a nearly unobstructed view of the backyard. Both of the houses on either side of them were empty, which added to the security headaches. One neighbor had left weeks before, heading out of state, and the other had hastily departed in the night a few days earlier with no word on their destination.

    Getting everyone situated at the Harris home had taken a bit of organizing, but they had managed. Gabriel was moved in with Randy while Brian and Dorothy took over the youngster’s former room. The remaining bedroom was emptied of furniture and used as a collection point for all the goods that wouldn’t fit in the kitchen or pantry. The supplies were roughly divided into piles of like items…food, household supplies, spare parts, etc. The group knew that they were better off than most in town, but for how long was the question that had come up often.

    The sleeping arrangements at the farm had taken no less to work out, but with the use of camping gear, both the Hamilton’s and that of the visitors, everyone had someplace reasonably comfortable to sleep. Allyson had asked to sleep in the front room so she would be near the injured soldier and the others had no problem with that. The basement was, for now, nearly full of people, but at least they could sleep more securely than they had been able to for some time. Some blankets were secured to the ceiling to provide at least the illusion of privacy.

    Brian bit his lip while considering the question he’d been wanting to ask his partner but then decided what the hell and just asked it. “So, do you, uh, still think that heading down to Allyson’s uncle’s place is the best plan?” Brian resumed scanning the area while he waited for an answer to his question. After several moments when he didn’t get any kind of a response, Brian lowered the glasses and looked over at his friend. Ira was quiet, his face skewed into a mask of quiet concentration. A minute or so passed before Harris spoke. “Been thinkin’ ‘bout that, alot.” Brian didn’t say anything while waiting for Ira to continue. This ought ta’ be interesting, he thought to himself, he knew how he felt but Ira was more or less the leader of their group and so the logical person to ask. About that time, the duo heard Daryl shout from the base of the ladder that he was coming up. Without waiting for a reply, he started up the aluminum ladder, rifle slung across his back to allow him use of both hands. He made quick work of the trip up the familiar path to the Observation Post.

    Once he was up and over the rail, Daryl said hello to both men. They returned the greeting warmly. “Anything going on?” Brian was quick to alleviate any concern about that. It was quiet and that was what he told his former employer. Daryl nodded and relaxed a bit more, he knew that Brian was competent, but history of recent events kept him wary. He eyed the other chair and Brian waved his hand in a permissive gesture, he wanted to stand to better see what might be coming. He was very serious about his turn at sentry duty. The others had talked about it and felt strongly that being allowed in and given shelter that they wanted to give something back for the trust and hospitality. Daryl un-slung his rifle and settled into the chair placing the rifle across his legs, making sure the muzzle was pointed in a safe direction. He asked the men what they were doing. Brian started to say something, but stopped…figured if Ira wanted to say something, it would be better coming from the older man. Brian returned to glassing the area looking for any signs of trouble.

    Ira was a bit hesitant to speak on what the two had been discussing. Daryl sensed something had just occurred, but waited before saying anything. What’s going on he wondered. He leaned forward a bit in the chair, an unconscious effort to get a little closer to the issue. Daryl looked at Ira, who avoided his eyes at first but then looked at his friend. In for a penny, in for a pound or whatever the damned saying was Harris told himself. Taking a deep breath he launched into what was uncharted ground.

    “Several of us been talking since the tour the guy, uh, Jim, gave us yesterday. I mean this place,” Daryl nodded his understanding; his friends had built a hell of a place. That he had helped with some of it was immaterial, this was Jim and Michelle’s place. Ira pushed on with his thoughts, “is really something. Better than any other place I ever seen. Going down to Henry’s place, ya know, the uncle’s.” Daryl simply nodded.

    “Well, that was the best place we knew of at the time but we were wondering, hoping I mean, that maybe if something could be worked out, what would the chances be of staying here, more or less permanent?” There he had said it; the question was in the open. Brian and Ira shared a look, here we go…

    For his part, Daryl was a bit surprised by both the request and the length of it. That was the nearly the most he had ever heard Ira say in one sitting. And after a few seconds, realized it wasn’t such a crazy request as it might have appeared on first glance. The situation here would be a vast improvement over whatever the group would have down in Gaines County, if they could even get there at all. It would be a risky trip, no doubt. Hell, going down the road to the Holski’s could be dangerous, shit, clear down to Gaines County? Yikes. As he started to open his mouth, Daryl realized it wasn’t his place to say one way or the other. He figured he knew what his response to the question would be, but it wasn’t his house.

    Holding up one finger to signify the nearly universal message of “Wait one”, Daryl grabbed up his radio mike and called Jim. “Unit One, can you come to the nest when you get a minute?” Jim, who was out in the shop area heard the radio call, acknowledged and went about finishing up what he was doing, which he knew wouldn’t take long. While they were waiting, the three men passed the time with light conversation, avoiding the question of staying, which now hung in the air waiting for the one man who could answer it.

    After Jim arrived at the Observation Post, that conversation was resumed and the request made again. The two former security officers explained to Jim how they were not sure that the long drive to Allyson’s uncle place was the best idea. As they had covered in the meeting the previous day, the move was essentially an all or nothing proposition. They simply didn’t have enough fuel for a round trip, their resources, while modest, were it and so wondered if the other two men had any ideas.

    Daryl, who had been sitting quietly as Jim and the others talked, suddenly seemed to be struck by a thought. Brian noticed the change in posture and expression causing him to stop talking in mid sentence, which forced the others to look at him and then at Daryl. Jim had seen that look before; there was something important trying to work its self out. The three men sat quietly for a few moments as the former Marine chased the thought down, grabbed it and looked it over more closely. The more he studied it, the more he liked it. He was so deep in thought that it took a bit to realize the others were staring at him. “Sorry, an idea jumped in and…”

    “…was amazed at all the empty space.” Ira rarely missed an opportunity to needle his one time employer. The four shared a laugh as Daryl held up his hands and waved them in the universal gesture for “okay, okay, you win” then gave a one fingered salute with a laugh.

    Daryl turned to look over at Jim and said a single word, “Petr’s?” It took the senior Hamilton a second or two to realize what his friend was alluding to. Once he got it, the idea had immediate appeal. Both of the other men didn’t say anything. They wanted too, but held their tongues. Brian lifted the binoculars for another look around. Ira kept looking back and forth between the two until he could no longer contain his curiosity.

    “What? What are you two talkin’ bout?”

    Ignoring Ira for a moment, Jim directed his gaze and response toward Daryl. “That could work ya know.”

    “Yeah it could, especially if we split the numbers. Part here, part there; improvement for both groups.” The other two men hadn’t been able to figure out yet what was being discussed, but figured out that they were the focus of the conversation. They recognized Petr’s name from meeting the man the day before, but didn’t understand the context it was being used in. Brian and Ira figured it was easy to wait till the conversation came back to them, which judging by the flurry of the ideas going back and forth might be a bit. Hastily raising the binoculars again to his eyes, Brian checked the area as a way of killing some time, even a few seconds was something. No activity to be seen.

    Jim nodded, which gave Daryl the approval. He looked over at each of his, he still thought of them that way, men and filled them in on what the idea was. “You guys met Petr yesterday…” Ira nodded and Brian said, sure. ‘well, what if instead of all of you guys staying here, which realistically would kinda overload the place, if say half of you – or probably most of you, went down the road and lived with Petr. See, they’re farmers, don’t have a great deal of manpower and there is still the chance that, according to him anyways, they will be able to harvest in a good size crop, which means of course, more food for all.” Daryl briefly explained to them the conversation that he, Jim and Petr had a few days earlier regarding the Holski’s situation: the choices were the Holski’s could either farm on a very limited basis with having an inadequate security presence or lots of farming and no security or lastly all security and no farming. The elder Holski explained that they had more than enough fuel, fertilizer and seeds to do a modest planting next year since this year’s crop was already planted. Petr told the men that this is what he would rather do because they just didn’t know what the conditions were going to be, so saving part of their resources seemed the best choice.

    The four men began to talk about the idea in more detail. Thoughts and suggestions flew back and forth for nearly half an hour until they felt that they had the rough details worked out enough that Ira could take it to the others in his group. They wanted approval of the idea before approaching Petr about it. Another meeting was hurriedly called with Jim and Ira each taking their respective groups aside to explain the basics of the plan before they sat down collectively.

    Surprisingly, there was little opposition to the plan and only a few details that were raised. The biggest was arrangement for who would sleep where, which wasn’t adequately explained, but the topic didn’t keep the conversation from continuing. The prevailing opinion was that it was a good idea, but that it really depended on the Holski’s. The entire meeting took about twenty minutes and then they called Petr using the radio, asking if it was all right to come down to discuss an important matter.

    They were told to come down at their convenience. Daryl said that they could take his truck; he, Ira, Jim, and Dorothy chose to go. Josh suggested that they raise the alert level some since they would have people “outside the wire”. Daryl laughed at the phrase his friend used not because of the usage; it was the proper term, but more from whom it was coming from. He agreed and asked Josh to take his usual place in the center redoubt. Randy was assigned to the bunker near the chicken coop and everyone else made sure that they had weapons handy just in case. None of them were anticipating trouble but didn’t want to take any chances.

    Continued...

  36. #36

    Withdrawal Chapter Nineteen part two

    The drive over was tense but uneventful, a fact not lost on those doing the traveling. It was only a short distance down the road but it felt a good deal longer than it was. Heads swiveled constantly as they drove. Two of them were in the back, one watching each side of the road with weapons ready. Once they arrived at the destination, Petr had ordered the large grain truck moved from inside the gate to allow their guests entry.

    Daryl noticed something odd with the ground near the fence as well. It had been plowed up for at least thirty feet back from the fence. The once pristine lawn was now a jumble of loose dirt and uneven terrain. The only untilled surface in the immediate area of the farm was that of the driveway. He nodded his approval; if someone drove through the fence then they would be hard pressed to continue on through the now exposed loose soil, it would still be possible but very rough. Might be good to do at their own place too he thought.

    After passing through the gate, Daryl stopped to wait for the truck to be moved back into position blocking the entrance to the farm. The Holski son, James then hopped into the back of Daryl’s truck for the ride back up to the house. He had walked down to the gate and had been waiting for the others to arrive. All the way up the driveway he had been watched by the man atop the silo. Daryl saw him and was a touch concerned, true it would offer a great view, but it was also visible to anyone for a fair distance. Oh well, nothing is perfect, still if something could be worked out…maybe an enclosure of some sort? The various ideas churned over in his head.

    Once everyone was at the house, introductions were made all around and the visitors were invited into the house. After the offer of something to drink was made and politely refused, they all settled in the living room, which was now pretty full of people, and got down to business. Jim took the lead in the conversation since he knew the farmers the best. He started by outlining the arrival of the others then turned the floor over to Daryl, who the Holski’s were familiar with. With little hesitation, he launched into the proposal that had brought them. For their part, the Holski’s sat quietly and listened as the offer was made. Looks were exchanged between the farmer and his family as the details were laid out. No one asked questions while he talked, but Daryl knew that there would be some.

    Daryl went over the qualifications of his people, that’s how he thought of them still. Mixed in with that was the need for the Holksi’s to be able to raise some crops, which would benefit not only the two groups, but it would give the farmers the means to barter for other goods once the crop was harvested. Mrs. Holski asked those assembled, but in particular the newcomers, how long they thought the situation in the country might last.

    Ira looked to Jim and then at those who had come with him before answering. He looked over to his hosts and started to outline his thoughts. “Ma’am, it’s hard to say, the situation in town is bad, really bad. If even a third of the rest of the country is as bad off, then it could be a long time, years even.” Hearing that caused a stir in nearly all the adult Holski’s. They had some inkling of how bad it was; the son and his family had been forced to give up their home and move back to the farm when they could no longer manage to scrape together their mortgage payment. The daughter had been living at home for nearly a year after leaving college prior to completing her graduate work in business. It was too costly to stay in school and her parents needed help around the place.

    Overall, the meeting went well and the details seemed to handle themselves. Daryl was quick to acknowledge to all those gathered that much of what was being proposed was based on the his word and that it was in essence second hand since he was Jim’s guest. Petr, speaking as head of the family, sagely nodded at the wisdom and maturity of the statement that Daryl had made. He looked around the living room and told all those there that they would gladly welcome the help and that was that.

    Ira was a little surprised that it was going so quick, but wasn’t going to complain. They were being allowed to stay and that was a big deal, so he figured the best he could do at that point was to keep his mouth shut and do whatever needed done. The rest of it would likely sort itself out one way or another as time went along. For now they were safe, warm and fed, which put them ahead of at least eighty percent of the rest of the population of the country, if not more. He had a fair idea of how bad it was, at least in some places and this was way better than that so he wasn’t about to cut off his nose to spite his face, and that was a fact.

    An old saying, one he had not thought of in many years came tumbling out his memory, needs must when the devil drives. It sure seemed to fit in this case. The Holski’s immediately turned to trying to figure out how the sleeping arrangements and other household logistics would work out. Conversation around the room sprang up with enthusiasm as they realized that their situation was improving. For the first time in weeks, a sense of hope was felt in the Holski residence. The buzz of assorted conversations filled the room, almost becoming too much as they rose and fell. A series of suggestions were broached to the group, which they then took on one at a time. Sleeping arrangements, meals, security and more were tackled and while not every idea was deemed the best one, it at least gave them a starting point. Further refinement would come later.

    It was decided to have the three that would be moving over to the Holski’s, Brian, his wife and Randy move over right away. This would give the farmers some immediate help with security, which further improved the Hamilton’s situation by expanding the security zone. The conversation went on for another hour or so when Daryl mentioned that if the three were going to come down today then they all had better get started. The meeting broke up at that point, but people were slow to leave. The mood of optimism that had slowly been increasing during the discussion was like sunshine breaking through following a storm. The Holski clan was upbeat for what seemed the first time in weeks or maybe longer.

    It took nearly ten minutes to get everyone situated and a few last minute questions addressed before the group from the Hamilton household could get out the door. As before, James rode with them as far as the gate so he could move the truck blocking the roadway. With a wave and promise of a quick return, the group headed up the road to return home. James watches as they drove off, a feeling of hope mixed with not a small measure of enthusiasm was almost bubbling up inside him.

    Once back at the Hamilton house, the ones that had gone to the Holski’s gathered everyone up and took the meeting out front so the person on O.P. duty, it was currently Josh since the shift had changed while the others were gone, could hear what was being said. Daryl explained how the meeting went and gave a brief overview of the questions and concerns raised. Information, questions and debate went back and forth among them. After nearly forty-five minutes, Ira stepped forward and raised both hands to get their attention while loudly saying, “Excuse me!”

    That silenced the group, albeit reluctantly. Ira then continued, “If we’re gonna get down there, let alone today, then we had best get some things packed and go! We can fine tune things later, tomorrow works too. Biggest thing is let’s go!” The others looked at him and realized that they had been missing the obvious. Better to get a portion of the supplies moved with all the people than none of the people. People turned to gather up the needed goods. One factor in their favor is that little of what Daryl’s folks had brought with them had been unpacked, other than some clothes and a variety of medical supplies which would be staying at the Hamilton farm anyway, along with the wounded soldier.

    The process of reloading took about another half an hour then those going down the road, Brian and his wife, Randy and as needed Ira. For now Ira would be living at the Hamilton’s while his wife tended to the wounded man. Once his health status reached a point that they could spare Allyson then she would join Ira working at the Holski farm. No one worried about too much permanency with living arrangements, too many variables to worry about. The people and goods going up the road headed out.

    When Brian pulled the truck and trailer up to the house to unload it as Petr had asked the others were waiting. The large vehicle had barely stopped when hands began to untie the ropes and elastic straps restraining the supplies and equipment. The Hamilton’s had suggested that whatever food supplies that Ira and his people had brought with them be taken to the Holski’s, since it was unlikely that they were as stocked as Jim and his family group. Daryl wasn’t sure that he agreed, but he wasn’t going to argue to with Jim over it.

    James was truly happy to see the boxes and tubs of foodstuffs that their new friends had brought with them. The pantry at the farm held a fair amount but he knew it wouldn’t last forever. With all the new mouths to feed, having them show up with food was a big plus. He noticed the weapons too and those came in a close second or even tied for first on his list of things he was happy to see. The family did own several rifles and a shotgun but this much additional firepower, odd of him to think of it in those terms but he did, could only help the situation. He and the others at the farm had been briefed by Daryl on what had happened at the Hamilton’s and seeing the help that arrived, he knew that tonight he would sleep better than he had for some time. More and more of the tubs, cartons and containers were pulled from the vehicles and rough sorting piles were growing on the lawn as the group attempted to organize the material.

    The living situation was a bit confused and very temporary the first night but more suitable arrangements were made the next few days as the routine of work and security sorted itself out and life returned to something approaching a state of what currently passed for normalcy.

  37. #37

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty

    Withdrawal 20

    Allyson didn’t like the signs she was seeing from her patient his skin color was off and his vital signs were somewhat irregular. The pupil on the right eye was dilated, which she knew indicated a serious head injury. There was basically nothing she could do, the limited amount of medical equipment and supplies were not going to be sufficient to save him. She had also noticed some paralysis of the patients left side, which seemed to further confirm her initial assessment of some type of head trauma.

    She knew that it would be any time. The combination of the severity of the wounds and lack of adequate medical treatment had doomed him from the start but she had not been willing to admit that. Now there was no choice, not that there ever really was, she just couldn’t admit it to herself. Word spread quietly through the house about the soldier. Several of those not occupied with duty or some other chore found reasons, most of them transparent, to be in the front room. Nothing was said as they waited. Allyson kept checking then rechecking the vital signs hoping for some improvement but each time the indicators got worse. He was loosing the fight and there was nothing that any of them could do to reverse that. Allyson’s shoulders slumped and her head hung down as she sat next to her patient, she was tired. Actually far more tired than she was willing to admit to the dedicated doctor had hardly left the man’s side since they arrived. A bite to eat here and there and a nap when she could no longer keep her eyes open. The passage of time seemed to drag, still, no one spoke.

    There was no notice; the soldier simply slipped away between one moment and the next. All the while Allyson had been debating with herself about what to do when he stopped breathing and the heart quit. Should she do CPR? What good would it do? Yet, she was a physician, sworn to support life, how could she not? What good would it do was what she kept coming back to and was ashamed for feeling that way despite knowing, at least intellectually that she had done all she could. She checked the vitals and could find no pulse, no respiration's. Urgently she checked again, the swiftness of her movements alerted the others present that something was amiss. Faces turned toward one another as they communicated without speaking, now, it must be now. They knew time had run out for the man. Grimly, Allyson was forced to admit that the man was gone, no heroic efforts were going to return a pulse and breathing to him. Death had claimed this one as it eventually did everyone but this one the Reaper waited on no more.

    Allyson slowly lowered the arm gently laying it down, her touch lingered as she sat there with him. Jim moved over to where Allyson sat next to the body and touched her on the shoulder to let her know she was not alone. Her eyes never looked away from the man who until moments earlier was her sole responsibility. The touch of Jim’s hand on her shoulder barely registered. Tired, she was so terribly tired. Michelle left the room to tell the others. Having another person die dampened whatever small bit of positive emotions had been around. It was another reminder of how very different life had become.

    The decision on where to bury the soldier wasn’t all that hard to reach. A grave was dug near, but not next to, where Lorraine had been placed. Linda and Ellen were the only two from the Hamilton farm group who did not attend the ad hoc service. The younger of the two was on O.P. duty and Ellen was taking care of both Kaitlyn and Hope. The body had been wrapped in a clean sheet then gently lowered into a crude but serviceable coffin. Ira had helped Jim build the burial box that morning while Josh, Daryl and Bobby had dug the grave.

    Jim looked around at those present and cleared his throat a touch before speaking. The impact of the moment was heavy; it was the second time they had stood here to honor the memory of someone that had been taken. He opened up his Bible to where the previously placed slip of paper marked his intended reading. Taking in a deep breath he began with a passage from First Corinthians, “O Death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” As Jim read from his Bible, he thought back on the service for his parents, the pastor had used this passage also. It seemed so appropriate. He felt that if it was good enough for his parents then it was certainly good enough for the young soldier.

    After finishing the passage, he turned to the previously bookmarked section he wanted to use next. He smoothed the pages over, and then finding the section he wanted, began again, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures..” as he read the others joined in one by one till they were all speaking the words from the 23 rd Psalm. “..and yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow I shall fear no evil; for thou are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a place before me in the presence of mine enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will live in the house of the Lord, forever.” Jim solemnly closed up the family Bible and looked around at those assembled to pay their respects. ‘I am beginning to hate funerals’ Jim thought to himself, this isn’t about me.

    The group was silent as each took a measure of the moment, bowing his head, Jim continued. “Lord, we commend to your care the soul of Philips Barnes, a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice while trying to help others. We didn’t know him or who his family was. He was a soldier, he died doing a soldier’s job, defending others. All we can ask Lord is that you take him in your loving embrace and ease the burden of those he loved and who loved him…ah-men.” Muttered “amen’s” were heard from several of those on either side of the open grave. Those gathered around the grave tossed a few handfuls of loose soil into the open hole.

    Daryl looked long and hard at the top of the box holding the remains of the younger man. ‘Rest easy soldier, you did your duty’ was what he mentally told the man who was now beyond the pain of his injuries. Several of the men remained behind to fill in the grave as the others made their way back to the house.

    The day following the funeral of the soldier Michelle, Ellen and Josh were discussing the thought that the time had come to find out more about what conditions were like in the areas beyond what they could see from either of the farms. The death of the man had reinforced the concerns about what was going on “out in the world” and how little they knew about it. The discussion was taking place over an afternoon snack of freshly picked celery topped with peanut butter. Had to use the excess celery or it would go bad and it helped to pass the time. Josh was saying to the two women, “It’s been long enough, we agreed to wait awhile till we got ourselves situated, well, we are, I mean, not completely but, yeah…” The only way to find out was to go and see for themselves.

    Ellen picked up the conversation after hurriedly finishing a bite of the chewy snack. “I agree, we still have things that need done but I think we need to go and see, at least in the immediate area.” Michelle looked over at her friend as she was filling another of the short celery sections with the creamy peanut butter, which also covered the tops of several of her fingers. Josh laughed as he saw the mess she was making. Good thing no one is grading us on style points…

    “Oh shut up you…” a gentle laugh that she too felt, “but how much of the area?” Wiping her fingers off with a nearby dishtowel, she began munching on the now filled vegetable while waiting on the answer. “Hmmm, at least, uhhh, a mile or two around us, at least to start out with. That much for sure.” Reaching for the jar of peanut butter, Josh nodded in agreement. The warm sun of afternoon was spilling in the windows, keeping the room bright but not warming it sufficiently to make it uncomfortable. The window above the sink was cranked open about half way helping to draw in a breeze. The consensus decision was to take the thought to Jim and Daryl, which was done right after they finished eating their portion of the fresh food. That those at the farm ate regularly was something but the lack of fresh food, especially vegetables, in their diet was telling. To be able to enjoy something, without it coming out of a can or box, was uplifting.

    Both of the men saw the wisdom in the idea, but neither would outright commit to doing it immediately. So they called an impromptu meeting. Since it would affect both family groups, the men decided it would have to be a group decision. The only way to get everyone’s input was to either have as many of the people in one place, which is not something that anyone really felt comfortable doing or to have a discussion about it at one place and then a much smaller group travel to the other farm to have the discussion with them.

    The overwhelming choice was the latter. It was decided that the need for the knowledge outweighed the risks, which were many. They could get ambushed; they could suffer an attack on one or both of the farms with several of the residents some distance away. Collectively, the two groups simply didn’t have enough information about what was going on around them. Daryl piped up and told the others gathered around the room that thought of leaving the safety of the farm made him very nervous and he had no problem admitting that. “But in the same breath, I’ll contradict myself and say that we need more information so going out is something we have to do.”

    The others had learned to trust Daryl and his instincts. However, just because it made him nervous he went on, that wasn’t enough of a reason not to do it. They did need the information since so far the furthest they had been away from the farm was when they took the bodies of the attackers up to the farm north of the woods and burned them. That was about two and half miles but they went straight up, did what they needed to do and came straight back. The task of disposing of the bodies left them little time or energy to do much looking around. Emotions at that point had been too mixed as well as highly strained to do much beyond what they had been doing at the time. As soon as they were done, they high-tailed it back to the farm, grateful to be back.

    Daryl had been training several of them on some patrol tactics such as how to move, proper distance between people, what the hand signals were and how to give them, etc. But it wasn’t as if the training had been given the priority it should have been, which was apparently going to be needed now. The desire of the group at the Hamilton farm was pretty clear. Let’s get out there. Daryl suspected that it wouldn’t be any different with those at the Holski farm either.

    Okay…things to do. He began to mentally formulate a list of equipment, likely personnel choices and such to carry out the reconnaissance patrols.

  38. #38
    blackguard Thanks for the new chapters this is a great story, always checking for more.
    Wayne

  39. #39

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty One

    Chapter 21

    Linda writes in her journal, “Training has been a nightmare. Daryl is really being an ass! Like what happened the other day… ” She began to relate what she had witnessed.

    The four members of the patrol were spread out in a diamond formation, one person at each of the compass points. They were moving slowly, eyes scanning, ears perked up searching the area for anything and everything, trying to identify any threats. “Hold!” the command was sudden, hard and direct. Each person immediately stopped walking then sank down to one knee to lower their silhouettes, weapon muzzles pointing outward as all four quadrants were covered. Once down, no one moved their body but eyes roved. Daryl looked over the four, Jim, Linda, Ellen and Josh slowly nodding his head. Not bad he thought. Proper spacing, decent weapons discipline…not bad, definite fricking improvement, that’s for sure.

    “People, that’s how it needs to be done, all the time, every time.” He said it loud enough to make sure the others watching heard him as well. The members of the group living at the farm hadn’t been able to grasp the dynamics of patrolling to Daryl’s satisfaction at all. This was the first time any of them had gotten it right two times in a row. Daryl really hoped it wouldn’t be the last.

    The superior tone in Daryl’s voice as he delivered the statement was about all that Ellen could take. Her husband had been on a tear of late as he pushed the group through their training. He was being demanding, arrogant and non-existent with his praise. Not a few feelings had been hurt by his cold demeanor. His last comment did it, they do it right and Mister Perfection still has nothing kind to say. Ellen laid her rifle on the ground stood up and began to walk off. If she didn’t get away from him she would…..grrrrr.

    Daryl was facing away when she stood up then headed away from the group. He turned to give the trainees a new task when he saw his wife walking away. “Ellen!” What was going on? Why was she – “Ellen!” She stopped for a moment and said something he had never heard her say before, at least directed at him. “Screw you!!” The tone was angry, full of energy. She resumed walking off. Not sure what to do, Daryl rushed after his wife, what the hell? “Hey, wait, Ellen wait up!” The two had covered about twenty feet before stopping. She spun around fully geared up for what was coming. “What the hell is wrong?” Daryl was still at a loss, trying to determine what had angered his wife so badly. She never hesitated, firing away at her husband. “Are you perfect? Hmmm, are you?” She was angry and this release was overdue. The combination of the moment combined with the pent up stress caused by the entire social collapse had her anger going at full speed. Daryl responded immediately to the question. “What? No – I’m not, no!”

    Ellen was just warming up “No? Then why do you strut around acting like you are? What makes you sooo damned right? Huh?” He had never heard his wife use such a tone ever. Her jaw was set, arms akimbo, fists resting on her hips and she stood there glaring at her husband. As far as she was concerned, it was high time someone put Daryl in his place; this was just as good a time as any. “What the hell are you talking about?” Daryl, like most people, didn’t like getting chewed out so his temper was rising to match the level of intensity that Ellen was showing. The others were watching the exchange, two of the patrol members slowly stood, their gaze never wavering from the irate couple. No reason to get closer, their voices were carrying just fine. A few thoughts of justification surfaced among the observers but nothing was said, at least so far. This blow-up was just getting started.

    Ellen launched into her mental list, “First, you treat the rest of us like shit because we don’t do it exactly right. Second, when we do it right you don’t even say ‘Nice job’ or ‘Well done’, and lastly, we are trying, really trying, but we aren’t friggin Marines Mr. Corporal sir!” As she was listing each point of her side, Daryl was keeping track, preparing his own remarks. When she appeared to pause he pounced.

    “I do not treat y’all like shit. I’m doing what I can, the best I can, to try and keep everyone alive, forgive me for not being sensitive to everyone’s feelings!’ He waved both arms over his head in a theatrical manner to emphasize his exasperation. The sarcastic tone on the last part of the statement stung a number of people, but Daryl kept going. ‘I just told everyone,’ he waved back toward where the remaining members of the training exercise were standing, ‘that they did good. And as far as y’all not being Marines - believe me no one here, and I mean no one knows that better than me!”

    Ellen was far from satisfied with his answers and fired back which turned the argument into a full blown shouting match. Jim realized that he had better step in before something really hurtful got said. Admittedly, Daryl had been a flaming pain in the ass, but he was trying to get them ready to survive. He quickly stood and moved over to get between the spouses. “Okay, okay, enough.” Jim had moved between the two warring spouses but his initial directive went unheeded by either party. Both had a full head of steam and were running with it. Emotions were in charge and it would take more aggressive action. Jim first tried to face one of the pair but no matter which he faced, the other continued their rant so something else was needed. Something drastic and unexpected, even to him.

    “Both of you; shut the **** up!” He was looking at one then the other waiting to see if his latest command worked. The combination of the curse word and the force behind it caused a pause in the argument. Neither of the Richlands’ had ever heard Jim use many curse words, let alone the F bomb. It caused a stir in those watching also. Linda was truly surprised; she had never heard her dad say that word. Neither she nor Bobby was allowed to use it, so to hear her father say it was really something. Josh had a very surprised expression on his face after hearing the order.
    Daryl and his wife were both still angry but were for the moment silent. The rest of the group that had been training moved closer to where the trio was now standing. Jim was as startled by his choice of words as anyone but considering it got the job done, he dismissed it. “Now, we are all going to have a talk about this, right here, right now. Don’t like it, too flippin’ bad, my house, my rules. We can’t have this, it’ll tear us apart.” He was standing between the spouses, keeping them at arm’s length, looking first at one, then other.

    Daryl raised both hands somewhat as if to signify surrender, but said nothing. Ellen was regaining her control and seemed embarrassed by the situation. Both of them stepped back a few paces from Jim to open up some distance from each other which helped to further defuse the moment. Josh started to open his mouth to say something but Jim did something that was again uncharacteristic for him. He quickly saw that Josh was about to speak and pointed a finger at him to silence him. The words died on Josh’s tongue.

    “Let me explain how this will work, I will talk and y’all will listen.” The forcefulness of Jim’s statement kept the others quiet for the moment. Now he was the one angry, the power of the emotion giving him the energy to lead. Taking a moment to compose himself somewhat, Jim then started in. “Guys look, we know we need this training, that much is a given. Daryl is the one who has the experience,” Daryl was about to say something when a look from Jim froze the statement before it left his lips. Now looking directly at his friend when he started in again, Jim continued, “Having said that, doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been handled better, a lot better in fact.” The other man said nothing.

    “So, how do we fix this? Easy, first Daryl apologize to everyone for being an asshole.” Daryl did as he told. Satisfied, Jim continued, “Ellen, apologize to Daryl.”

    Ellen looked over at her husband, “I guess Jim is right. Honey, I’m sorry you’re an asshole.” After a moment a slight grin broke out on Daryl’s face followed by laughter from those gathered around. It broke the tension that had been building. It was a needed change in direction. Not being planned, the jab at Daryl shifted the direction that the group had been headed in and moved it toward something more positive. The argument had helped to clear the air and release a good deal of the pent up emotions that those at the farm had been enduring. Satisfied for the moment that tensions were under control, Jim waved everyone over and indicated they should sit. He wanted to capitalize on the momentum of the encounter. Waiting till everyone was comfortably situated, he posed a question. “So what does everyone think we should do first?” The question hung in the air for a bit before someone spoke up. “Beats the shit outta me.” Dutiful laughter followed.

    The discussion started slowly but then got rolling as more ideas were tossed around. One point that was made and agreed on was the need to explore what was in their immediate area…that being a mile out from the house and everything in that area. The conversation went on for awhile with the others who hadn’t been involved in the either O.P. duty or the training joining in. Time slipped by as the impromptu meeting took place. Ideas and suggestions went back and forth. Finally it was decided that a series of patrols should be done to check out the areas nearest the house. It would also help to train the group members on somewhat familiar ground. Daryl suggested that they do a patrol every other day so that they could mix the patrol members more effectively. His idea was accepted and adopted as policy. After nearly two hours, the meeting broke up so that O.P. watch stander could be relieved and dinner prepared.

    The next week passed quickly as the patrols took place, followed by an extensive debriefing each time. Each of the after action reports was voluntarily attended by nearly everyone available. It was important to take whatever information was gathered and to make sure that it was properly identified. Daryl patiently, his training demeanor changed somewhat from previous weeks, explained that learning what information was important to keep and what information really wasn’t worth keeping was one of the most difficult tasks.

    The patrols took a heavier toll on Daryl than the others since he went out on every patrol they did the first week. He wrote the O.P. schedule so it was possible for him to work his sentry duty around the patrols. It proved to be a hardship going on all the patrols at first while still standing guard duty, but he wasn't about to shirk his share of the responsibility. He wasn’t comfortable letting the others go out by themselves, at least on their initial patrols, so he went as well. One benefit was that it allowed him to see how everyone else handled the rigors of patrolling. It also gave him a chance to view for himself what conditions were like in the area around the farm. This was important because while he had visited the Hamilton’s many times, he’d never had neither the reason nor the opportunity to ever walk the surrounding land. The process continued on into the next week with Daryl allowing the first patrols to go out without him. Each successive patrol ranged a bit further and further away from the farm. Every member of the group went on patrol, it was too important for someone not to get the experience.

    One area of concern was the housing development at the intersection south of the Holski property. It was well over half a mile from the Holski house to the northern edge of the subdivision but the number of houses there, Jim believed it to be at least two dozen that had been occupied prior to the social collapse, required a look see. The group felt it wise to check out the area to determine how many residents, if any, were still there. Daryl agreed but advised them to wait till the area between the Hamilton home and subdivision was fully patrolled prior to checking out the development. He explained that by doing this there was no risk of being surprised by something. The others agreed. Patrols continued to bring in further information on the surrounding area.

  40. #40
    Blackguard Thank you for the chapter, great story looking forward to more of it.
    Wayne

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