Garrett ran out to the body in a crouch, startled when it rolled towards him.
“Hey, boss,” the ranch hand said. “Can’t get up.” He was an old man, looking too frail for his dress.
“What happened, Tommy?” He rushed over and helped him sit up.
“Some cretins showed up to steal cattle,” he said. “Cracked me over the head with a rifle butt.”
“Dammit,” Garrett said. “Think you can walk?”
“With help,” he said.
“How long ago did this happen?”
“Few hours,” Tommy said. “The other hands went on that hunting party.”
“They should’ve left somebody here with you,” Garrett said, shaking his head.
“They did. Casey’s around here someplace. We’d better find him. He might be hurt.”
“Did you see who it was? It wasn’t Islamists, was it?”
“Nope,” Tommy said. “Hungry Mexicans. I heard them talking. We would’ve gotten buzzed by the app if it was the enemy. I have one of the phones.”
Anna came out of the truck and rushed over. “So glad he’s not dead.”
“Anna, this is Tommy.”
“Pretty lady,” Tommy said. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise. You’ve got a pretty good bump on your noggin. Maybe I’d better look at it. I’m a nurse.”
“He might have a concussion,” Garrett said.
“He might,” Anna said. “It wasn’t the bad guys, was it?”
“Mexicans,” Garrett said. “Heard they’re starving down there. They came to steal cattle. Hell, I’d give them some if they’d ask.”
“You’re nicer than I am,” Tommy said. “We’d better find Casey.”
“Casey?” Anna asked.
“The other ranch hand that was here,” Garrett said. “Most went on that hunt.”
“Oh,” Anna said.
“Let’s get to the truck,” Garrett said, helping Tommy to his feet. He wobbled a little, but got steadier as they went.
“Where was Casey last time you saw him?” Anna asked.
“In the barn,” Tommy said. Garrett and Anna helped him into the cab of the truck, then drove down the long driveway, past the two-story house with a wrap-around porch.
“That house is beautiful,” Anna said.
“Thanks,” Garrett said. “There’s the barn.” It was an old-fashioned wood barn, painted red, a yard around it sectioned off, goats and chickens wandering in their areas. Garrett parked the truck and they all got out.
“Casey!” Garrett yelled.
“I hope he’s not hurt bad,” Tommy said. They walked into the barn. “There he is!”
There was a younger man tied up, leaning against the wall on some hay. His mouth was covered with duct tape, his wrists and ankles tied together. His eyes showed relief, peeking out under his longish blonde hair.
“This is gonna hurt a little,” Garrett said, ripping the duct tape off his mouth.
“Garrett,” Casey said. “Sorry I let them get the drop on me. Where you been, Tommy?”
“They brained me out in the front pasture,” Tommy said. “You hurt?”
“Nah, they just held a gun on me,” he said as Garrett and Anna untied him. “Damn Mexicans.”
“What’d they take?” Garrett asked.
“I couldn’t see everything they did. I could hear the chickens going nuts, so I’m sure they took some of those. They took one of the milk cows too, and I heard them talking about taking some cattle. They didn’t know I speak Spanish.”
“I’m just glad it wasn’t Islamists,” Anna said.
“I was a little nervous, since Tommy had the phone,” Casey said. “You okay, old man? That’s a pretty good knot on your head.”
“I’ll be okay,” he said. “I just feel like an idiot.”
“You gonna go after them, boss?” Casey asked.
“This time, no,” Garrett said. “I’ll send a warning. I know some folks.”
“Luis?” Tommy asked. “You don’t think he did this?”
“No, but he might know who it was,” Garrett said.
“This happen often?” Anna asked.
“Nah,” Garrett said. “The Mexican Government has fallen apart. We had a similar incident a month ago.”
“Yeah, you old softy,” Casey said.
“Softy?” Anna asked.
“After he caught them, he gave them a couple of animals and sent them on their way. This is the thanks he gets.”
“Don’t be so sure it was the same folks,” Garrett said. “I told them I’d help them if their families got into trouble. This war is hurting them even worse than it’s hurting us.”
“We’re getting kinda low on food ourselves,” Casey said. “That’s why the others went hunting.”
“I know,” Garrett said. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine.”
“We should put some ice on Tommy’s head,” Anna said.
“I can do that back at the bunk house,” he said. “I’ll be fine. Really.”
“I’ll watch him,” Casey said.
“Okay, but don’t take this lightly,” Anna said. “You got knocked out. That’s not good. I’d try to stay awake for a while.”
Tommy nodded. They got into the truck, Casey climbing into the bed, and Garrett drove them to the bunkhouse, about a hundred yards behind the barn. A dog rushed out to meet them as Garrett parked. It was a large German Shepard.
“A lot of help you were,” Casey said as he jumped out of the truck bed.
“Yeah, he’s no guard dog,” Tommy said. Anna got out of the truck, letting the big dog sniff her, then petting him on the head. Tommy got out, and the dog rushed to him, nuzzling his side. “Hey, Blackjack.”
“He’s probably hungry,” Casey said. “Don’t worry, boss, I’ll take it from here.”
Garrett nodded, and headed back to the cab with Anna.
“If he passes out or starts acting funny, call,” she said. “I mean it. Even if he doesn’t want you to.”
“Damn, you know him already, don’t ya?” Casey asked, a sly grin on his face. “Don’t worry, I’m a good babysitter.”
Tommy shot him a sidelong glance. “Keep talking, junior.”
Garrett chuckled and helped Anna into the truck. “See you guys later.”
He drove them to the big house and parked outside.
“You keep surprising me,” Anna said, “and always in a good way.”
He smiled as he helped her out of the cab. “These are tough times. I’ve done business with our friends south of the border over the years. They’re good people, who are badly served by their government and their society. They’ve always dealt fairly with me.”
“Except when they steal from you,” Anna said. They climbed the steps onto the veranda. “This is a nice place to have a few drinks.”
“It is, he said, unlocking the front door. “If these folks were really criminals, they would’ve broken into the house. I’ve got all kinds of valuable stuff in here.” He held the door open for Anna and she walked in, looking around at the front parlor.
“Very nice,” she said, turning to him. She got on her tiptoes and put her arms around his neck, pulling him in for a kiss. They kept it going for more than a minute. “I was so anxious to do that.”
“Me too,” Garrett said, looking at her face, his hands on her matronly waist. “I’ll give you the tour.”
They walked through the ground floor of the house, checking out the kitchen, his office, and a couple of guest bedrooms.
“Very nice,” Anna said. “I expected this to be a lot more rustic. It’s quite elegant.”
“Thanks,” Garrett said. “I hired somebody to set this up.”
“We’ll go check it out,” he said, leading her up the stairs. There were two more small bedrooms, one of them being used as a hobby room, the other as another guest room.
“That the master?” Anna asked, looking at the double doors.
“Yep,” Garrett said, pushing the doors open.
“Lovely,” she said, looking around the large room, with the king-sized bed and the sitting room to the right, in front of the windows. “What a great view.”
“Yeah, it’s nice,” Garrett said. “The master bath is pretty outrageous. I balked, but my designer said it always pays off.”
They walked in, looking at the huge jetted tub with windows behind it, and the large shower on the opposite side. A dual basin sink was on the right, and then a large walk-in closet.
“Wow,” she said. “Now run along while I freshen up, okay?”
“Want me to whip us up something to eat?”
“Have any white wine?”
“Sure, I’ll bring some up,” he said, his heart beating quicker.
“Mind if I rinse off in the shower?”
“Not at all,” he said, pausing at the door for a moment, then heading down the stairs. He went to the wine cooler and picked out a bottle, then got a bucket, set the bottle inside, and filled it with ice. His hands fumbled. “What am I, a high school boy?” he asked himself. He could hear the water running upstairs and decided to give Anna a few minutes. The water stopped running, so he started up the stairs with the bucket. The water started again, and he paused at the door.
“You up here?” she called out.
“Yes,” he said. “Are you decent?”
“Decent enough,” she said. “Come in. Hope you brought the wine up.”
“Shoot, forgot glasses.” He set the bucket on the floor and raced downstairs, almost tripping, returning in a flash. He froze as he entered the bathroom, staring at Anna’s naked round curves as she stood in the big tub, water running from the faucet.
“Get your clothes off and get in here,” she said.
“Yes mam,” he said, rushing to her.
Ed was lying in a bed at the Williams house, crying as the doctor hooked up the iv. Tyler had just told him about James and John.
“You’re lucky,” the doctor said. “Dehydration was well on its way to killing you. Why didn’t you carry more water?”
“My main bottle rolled down the hill before I could grab it,” Ed said. “I’ll have to strap it down next time.” He turned to Tyler. “The families know, right?”
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “The town is a mess.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “The enemy fled after they figured out how many people we had, but along with the boobytrap that killed John, they also boobytrapped the grocery store. Bastards left a little girl in there as bait.”
“That’s not good,” Ed said. “Did the little girl get rescued?”
“She’s with Sam and Erica. No luck finding any next of kin.”
“Geez,” Ed said.
“Anna says they’re going to raise her,” Tyler said with a twinkle in his eye.
That brought a smile to Ed’s face. “She’s always right, you know.”
“Seems like it,” Tyler said. “We’ve decided against hitting Julian for now.”
“They’re dug in,” Tyler said. “We could beat them, but it’d be too expensive.”
“Oh. Won’t they just end up attacking us?”
“Eventually they will, but it would be easier to defend against them than to mount an attack against their fortifications in Julian.”
“Why are they even there?” Ed asked.
“I-8, we think,” Tyler said. “We have a new target.”
“Big UN base being set up in Jamul,” Tyler said. “We want to hit it hard before they get it fully populated.”
“I’m going to leave you two,” the doctor said. “Bed rest for forty-eight hours. Get me?”
“Yes sir,” Ed said.
“Oh, and use those other bags of saline, okay? Have Anna swap them for you.”
“Anna’s not here,” Tyler said.
“Uh oh,” the doctor said. “Then I’ll show you how. It’s simple.” He showed Tyler, then left.
“Where’s Anna?” Ed asked. “Garrett’s place?”
“How’d you guess?”
Ed chuckled. “Good for them. How are we gonna get my hovercraft back here?”
“Don’t worry about that now,” Tyler said. “Sure you want that thing back?”
“It didn’t break down on me,” Ed said. “I had to do a quick maneuver to get out of sight, and turned it down a hill, right onto a rock. Broke the junction box for the bottom fan.”
Tyler sat down next to the bed. “You saw Black Crow?”
“Yes, and he saw me,” Ed said.
“That’s not what he said.”
Ed chuckled. “And that surprises you because…?”
“You’re right,” Tyler said.
“I assume you guys killed him.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “We tried to get some info out of him, but he wasn’t very forthcoming.”
“Figures,” Ed said. “When are we gonna hit that UN base?”
“I don’t know,” Tyler said. “Ji-Ho is waiting for more intelligence from Ivan. Probably within the next few days.”
“Good,” Ed said. “Now let me sleep for a while, okay?”
“Will do,” Tyler said. “You got the parts around to fix your hovercraft?”
“Yes,” he said. “Zac and Bradley know how to fix it. Take them out there when you have time.”
“Will do, Chief,” Tyler said. He left the room.
Ed stared at the ceiling, tears starting to come back. James’s face was in his mind’s eye as he drifted off.
Jules and Sparky climbed the steps of the rig, after hooking up the coach to the power and water.
“You guys done?” Shelley asked. She was sitting at the dinette facing Dana.
“Yes, we done,” Jules said. “Getting warm. Need air conditioner soon.”
“Anybody nearby on the apps?” Sparky asked, sitting next to Dana.
“There’s a facility about four miles from here,” Dana said. “About twenty hits. East of where we are, on 580.”
“Maybe we should go pay them a visit, no?” Jules asked.
“No,” Sparky said. “We can only see the Islamists, not the UN folks, remember? We might walk into a hornet’s nest.”
“I kid,” Jules said. “We need to keep focus, prepare for rescue missions.”
“Everybody else report in?” Sparky asked.
“Yep,” Shelley said. “Everybody is placed. Robbie and Morgan got pulled over by a cop in Livermore, though.”
“That’s not a concern?” Sparky asked.
Dana looked over at him. “The cop knew who he was, and said he wished he could’ve been part of the Mertins Plant attack.”
Sparky and Jules laughed.
“That rich,” Jules said.
“I wouldn’t get over-confident,” Dana said. “We don’t know for sure if this cop was being straight with Robbie.”
“He call if there problem,” Jules said.
“Wait, you aren’t worried because of the connection to the father?” Sparky asked.
“No, too late to stop now,” Jules said. “Tools almost finished. Nothing enemy can do now.”
“Is this almost over?” Dana asked.
“No,” Shelley said. “I was just looking around the country with the apps. There’s nearly a million enemy operatives in country. Even when we can openly hunt them down, it’s going to be tough going. Lots of good people will die before we root them all out, and there will probably be terror attacks going forward for years.”
“Marvelous,” Sparky said.
“Hey, turn on the TV,” Jules said. “Ivan on soon.”
“Why does he bother?” Sparky asked. “It’s already all over the news.”
“It is, but he bring special guest,” Jules said.
Shelley picked up the TV remote and turned it on. “Which station?”
“Any,” Jules said.
Sparky cracked up. “How the hell does he do that?”
“Ivan’s connections legion, and his tech staff great,” Jules said. “You know this.”
Sparky nodded. “Yes, I know.”
The screen went black for a moment.
“Here it comes,” Dana said.
Ivan appeared, sitting behind his massive desk, wearing his pin-striped suit with fedora.
“Hello, Northern California. I’m Ivan the Butcher.”
The screen changed to video of the firefight at the Mertins Plant.
“As you can see, we have made an attack. The news media is telling you that this was a crime. It was not. It was an act of war against the foreigners who have put the state under martial law, and are currently having their way with the population. Here are the people we killed in this attack.”
The screen switched to a graphic, showing twenty-five faces with captions under them.
“I’m sure you recognize many of these people. They’ve been on the news talking their globalist lies while chastising each and every one of you for resisting the invaders. They are all dead. We will hunt down the other criminals in this land who are still working for Global Governance and the Caliphate.”
The screen came back to Ivan, who stood up and walked around to the front of his desk, face filling the picture.
“I call upon all of you to resist. We will help. We will soften the targets and kill many of the invaders. You must do your part. Ignore the rules of martial law. Kill UN Peacekeepers. Kill Islamists. Destroy their bases. Have no mercy, because they have no mercy.”
Ivan got back behind his desk. “We have a special guest this evening. Before I introduce him, please look at this exchange which aired on the local PBS station a week ago.”
The screen changed to video of the panel discussion about martial law and its benefits, ending with the beating of Ben Dover.
The screen came back to Ivan’s desk. He stood and motioned to Ben, who came into the frame next to Ivan. Both of them leaned against the front of Ivan’s desk, facing the camera.
“This is Ben Dover, patriot of Northern California, and student at UC Santa Cruz. As you can see, his head is almost healed up after the beating he took, but he will have some of the scars for the rest of his life.”
“Hello, fellow citizens,” Ben said. “Our institutions of higher learning have been infiltrated by the enemy. Your sons and daughters are at risk. They are being lied to, and recruited to use as muscle in demonstrations. They are being taught to bully and injure those who demonstrate against martial law and the globalists who have infested our state and national governments. Pull your kids out of school now. Cut funding. Round up the University staff who are helping the enemy.”
The screen changed to video in the dim cell, where two live professors and one dead one were propped up against the wall.
“These men hosted the invaders, allowing Islamists and UN Thugs to train your sons and daughters at UC Santa Cruz,” Ben Dover said. “They have been brought to justice by our freedom fighters. There are many more like them. Shun them. Arrest them. Kill them. Save yourselves. Save Western Civilization. Stand with us.”
Ivan’s face was back on the screen. “In the coming days, we will provide proof of the treachery of our government officials and the foreign invaders. In the meantime, you know what to do. You know who to target. Take back your state. Take back your country. It is not too late.”
The screen went black.
“Wow,” Dana said.
“He does have his way about him, doesn’t he?” Sparky asked.
Jules smiled, looking at his phone.
“What?” Shelley asked.
“Text, points to site with details on rescue mission. Ivan wants meeting with team in two hours.”
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2017