I leaned against the dirty grey wall of the holding cell, sitting, my feet stretched out in front of me on the floor. It was a square room with benches attached to the wall, all occupied by sleeping men. The floor sloped down to a central drain. The cell was made for drunks, but they weren’t using it for that now. I heard commotion in the hallway. The cell door opened with a clank, a large officer shoving a small man in. He looked back at the officer, hunching his shoulders as if he was trying to shake off a fly.
“You won’t win,” the man said. The officer laughed and turned to leave. He closed the heavy metal door and locked it.
The man looked for somebody awake. I tried to avoid eye contact. Too late, we connected. He made his way over, sitting on the floor next to me.
“Chris Thompson,” he said, extending his hand. I shook it reluctantly.
“Sean McCain.” I tried not to sound open to conversation.
“What are you in for?”
I sighed. “Hate speech. Should be out soon, though. They’re just trying to scare me a little bit.” I hoped that was true.
Chris looked at me and smiled.
“Of course. I was just playing devil’s advocate. They realize that.” I looked at Chris to gauge his reaction. He shook his head and laughed.
I looked straight ahead and didn’t say anything. Chris looked down. His hands were shaking, his surly manner melting away. Don’t get involved, I told myself, but I knew that wouldn’t fly.
“So why are you here?” I asked.
“I told my class about the Bill of Rights.”
“You’re a teacher?”
Chris laughed. “I was a teacher. They don’t want teachers anymore.”
“I thought most of you went along with the new way of thinking.”
“I did. For a long time.” He’d stopped trembling.
“What caused you to change?”
“All the people I used to have political arguments with disappeared.”
Oh, shit, I thought. He’s one of those. I can’t be talking to this guy. I got up and walked to the door, looking out the small slit window. When I turned back around, I saw him walking toward me. Shit.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” I said.
“Because you’re gonna tell me a bunch of crap about how our government exterminates people who won’t go along. Baloney – that’s just rebel propaganda. Your friends probably left to join the racist rebellion.”
“God, I hope so,” said Chris.
“That’s treason. Like I said, I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Oh, you think that the walls have ears?” He laughed. “Not in here. They don’t care. We’re done. Should have worried about that when you were outside.”
“How long has it been since you’ve seen a trial by jury?”
“There’s a war on,” I said, trying to reason with this guy.
“It’s not a war. It’s an uprising.”
I just sighed and walked back to where I was sitting. Chris followed and sat next to me again.
“You don’t take a hint, do you, asshole?”
“No. What kind of hate speech did you do?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. I want my job waiting for me when I get out of here. If I engage with you, they might hold it against me.”
“What kind of job do you have?”
I looked at him, knowing what kind of reaction I’d get, feeling my face flush.
“I’m a journalist.”
Chris looked up at the ceiling and let out a big belly laugh. Then he looked at me, shook his head, and laughed some more.
“So let me guess. You pointed out some of the fairness code that isn’t so fair?”
Now I was getting really mad.
“Don’t try to make this bigger than it is. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“Well, esteemed member of the 5th Estate, what did you write?”
“I merely pointed out that Islam has many of the same failings that white male dominated society had, and that eventually it’ll need to be addressed the same way.”
“Really? I commend you, sir.”
I just stared at him, not able to think of a good reply, wanting to doze off instead of talk to him. The silence didn’t last long.
“You guys haven’t figured out, even now, that some groups are more equal than others. Why?”
“I told you I didn’t want to talk about this.” I turned my body away from him.
“No, you aren’t getting off that easy, chicken shit. My profession is partly to blame for this mess we’re in, but your profession? Those of you still alive in the ‘free’ zone are co-conspirators.”
I pretended to ignore him.
“Haven’t you figured out yet that our government embraces anybody who fights against Western Civilization? Against the Enlightenment?”
“Shut up,” I said. “That’s just more rebel propaganda. The ‘Enlightenment’, as you call it, was racist cover up. We raped the earth and all of its people as a result of the Enlightenment. Look at what we’ve done to people of color.”
“People of color.” Chris laughed heartily, for what seemed like forever.
I had the urge to punch him in the face, looking down at my balled-up fists. This was such an insensitive bastard.
“You’re a damn racist,” I shouted. “You find this funny. How sick is that?”
“Race has nothing to do with any of this. Nothing. If racism was the problem with our society, you tell me what happened to all the ‘people of color’ who disagreed with the new thinking? Where did they all go? You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed that they’re all gone.”
“They were fooled into joining the rebels, even though it was against their interest,” I said. “Everybody knows that.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot. You are a journalist.” Then he laughed again, louder and longer this time. It was making my blood boil.
We were both startled by the clanking of the door. It opened, and two officers dragged in another man, wearing battered clothes. He was struggling, trying to head butt the officers as they held his arms. They pushed him to the ground and kicked him in the side and back as he rolled on the floor.
“That’s police brutality,” I said. “Stop it right now or I’ll report you.”
One of the guards looked at me and laughed. He came over and punched me in the jaw as I was trying to get up. The pain was awful, and I could feel blood flowing out my nose. I sank back to the ground. It was humiliating.
“You better learn to watch your mouth, or you won’t last long where you’re going,” the guard shouted at me. What did he mean? My heart was beating faster. There must be some mistake. I’ve got to get to somebody for help.
The guards left, slamming the door behind them. Chris rushed over to the man and helped him to his feet. He brought him to where we were sitting.
“Come on, asshole, get up and help me lower him,” Chris spat at me. I got to my feet and helped steady the man. He smelled bad. He looked up into my face with piercing eyes, showing a mixture of rage, hurt, and joy. What?
When he recovered, he looked at both of us and smiled. I smiled back, but had the queasy feeling that he was a very dangerous man.
“Chris Thompson,” Chris said, holding out his hand. They shook.
“Jake Kessler,” said the man, trying to pull his scraggly blonde hair out of his face. He had a thick beard, giving him the look of a mountain man.
“Oh, and this is Sean,” Chris said. Jake held out his hand and I shook it. I looked away quickly.
“So, Jake, why did they throw you in here? They were pretty mad,” Chris said.
“I’m a trouble maker, I guess,” Jake said, grinning, his filthy teeth showing. “They’re using any excuse they can to round up people who might hurt them. They’re running out of time, and they know it.”
“Running out of time?” I asked. My heart was beating quicker.
“The resistance now controls everywhere except for New England, the Mid Atlantic, Coastal California, and costal Washington state. Things moved quickly after we took over the military bases.”
“We take Chicago?” asked Chris.
“Yes, but it was a blood bath,” Jake said. “Don’t you guys hear anything?”
I looked at both of them, my mind reeling.
“What are you two talking about?” I asked. Jake gave me a quizzical look. Chris laughed.
“Sean here believes the propaganda, which figures since he’s a journalist,” said Chris.
“But our sources say that the resistance is dying out,” I said. Both of the men laughed at me.
“Fucking lackey press,” Jake said. “I assumed that all of them were just traitors, but I see that some of them are stupid true believers. What’s this idiot in here for, anyway?”
I could feel the rage building in me, but couldn’t get any words out.
“Hate speech,” said Chris, laughing. “He compared Islam to white privilege.”
Both men cracked up. Then they were silent for a moment. Chris looked at Jake.
“You know what camp we’re going to?”
“None,” said Jake, with a grim look on his face.
“Camp?” I asked. What the hell are you talking about? Both men looked at me and shook their heads. They kept talking as if I wasn’t there.
“We took Nevada and the eastern parts of California,” Jake said. “The last of the camps was in Redlands. It’s been liberated.”
“So they’re just going to keep us here?” asked Chris.
“I doubt it.”
“What were you doing around here, anyway?” asked Chris. “You know more about the outside than anybody I’ve talked to in a long time.”
“Shit, don’t say that in here,” Chris whispered. “They’re probably listening.”
“You don’t get it, my friend.”
I looked at Chris’s face, which went from concern to terror.
“Son of a bitch, they’re gonna shoot us,” said Chris.
“C’mon, guys, they wouldn’t do that,” I said, hoping against hope that I was right. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My mind went to all the plans I’d made in my life, what I was going to do, how I was going to have a great career. How can I get out of this?
Suddenly the door swung open, and five men in riot gear walked in.
“Everybody up!” the lead man said. The others rushed around the room, poking the sleeping men with their riot guns.
“Out the door, single file,” the lead man barked.
We fell into a line and slowly started through the door. Chris was in front of me as we walked out. My heart was pounding in my chest, and then the light of the prison yard hit my eyes, blinding me. As I walked through the door, they adjusted, and I saw a wall. Men were lining up against it. Opposite the wall was a row of machine guns. I felt light headed. Chris looked back at me, tears streaming down his face.
“Why didn’t you guys protect us?”
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 2016
Cooper and Heather stood together, looking at the body hanging upside down from a tree branch, tied at the ankles.
“Recognize the rope?” Sheriff Henderson asked.
“Yeah, it’s my dad’s, from the storage compartment in the motor home,” he said.
“You okay, honey?” Heather asked, looking at him.
“I’m not going to break down again,” Cooper said. “Knew this was coming. Don’t want to look closer, if that’s okay.”
“No problem here,” Sheriff Henderson said. “Sorry for your loss, Cooper.”
“Want me to take pictures, Sheriff?” Deputy Brewer asked.
“Yeah, you do that, but don’t touch anything. Don’t forget the ground under and around it. Get good detail.”
“Will do, boss.”
“And don’t get too close to the edge,” Ranger Norman said. “I don’t want you falling in.”
“Don’t worry,” he said.
“Wonder how far that opening goes?” Cappy asked.
“I wonder too, but you know what I wonder about more?” the Sheriff asked.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “The girl.”
“The girl or whoever did that,” he said, eyes darting around. “Look at how high that rope is. In my mind, it took more than the girl to do something like that. We might find her body somewhere around here.”
“It’s the woods,” Cappy said, sitting on a fallen tree. “Something took over. She might have been a whole lot stronger than normal when she did that.”
“She’s pregnant,” Heather said.
“What?” Sheriff Henderson asked.
“Sorry, they told me,” Danielle said. “On the way back. She’s barely showing.”
“Doesn’t matter,” the sheriff said.
“Okay, Sheriff, got plenty of pictures,” Deputy Brewer said. “Looks to me like he was dead long before he was strung up there.”
“Pretty obvious to me after what we saw in the motor home,” the sheriff replied. “Okay, let’s see if we can find the girl.”
“Kilroy isn’t pulling anymore,” Cooper said. “Maybe we need to get past the body. Any tracks around it?”
“No, not that I could see, but the dirt is covered with pine needles,” the deputy said. “Hard to see anything.”
“Let’s take the dog past him and see if he picks anything up,” Ranger Norman said.
“Okay,” Cooper said. “C’mon Kilroy.”
He walked the dog past the body, looking the other way. Kilroy whimpered but kept going, no longer pulling hard.
“What’s up this direction?” Heather asked. “Any structures or roads?”
“Not for several miles,” Ranger Norman said.
“I had an incident up here,” Danielle said. “A scary one.”
“Don’t go into that now,” Ranger Norman said.
“Why not? It’s relevant,” she said.
“You know why not,” he said.
“Let her talk,” Cappy said. “Or I will. This is a bad place. We all know it. Cut the crap.”
“You think we’re stupid?” Cooper said. “Something killed my friend and hung him from a tree. I saw the look on Shelby’s face when we found her out here, too. We know there’s something in the woods, so be honest.”
The group walked along silently, the tension building.
“Okay, okay,” Ranger Norman said. “Go ahead, Danielle.”
She took a deep breath. “All right. I was out here, chasing down a lost dog for an old couple who had their motor home in that same clearing. It was mid-morning. I’d been out here quite a few times by then, so I knew the area well enough to keep from getting lost.”
“How long ago was this?” Sheriff Henderson asked.
“Several months ago. I’ve had other incidents since then.”
“Keep to this one,” Ranger Norman said.
“All right,” she said. “Anyway, I walked in deeper and deeper. I could hear the dog barking. It was a small yippy dog. After a while I couldn’t hear it anymore, and everything changed.”
“Changed how?” Deputy Brewer asked.
“I didn’t recognize the area anymore, and it got darker. Not completely dark. More like dusk. I got disoriented.”
“Been there,” Cappy said. “I don’t hunt out here by myself anymore.”
“I didn’t hear that,” the ranger said. “Go on, Danielle.”
“Well, that was it for a while. There’s a missing period of time. I can’t remember anything until I woke up. I was lying on the trail naked. It was late afternoon by that time.”
“Care to reenact that?” the deputy asked.
“Shut up, Brewer,” Sheriff Henderson said. “So what happened next?”
“Nothing much,” she said. “I knew where I was again. My clothes were strewn along the trail. I got dressed and went back to the RV clearing.”
“What about the dog?” Heather asked.
“Never found it,” she said. “That poor old couple was beside themselves.”
“So you were out from mid-morning to mid-afternoon,” Cooper said. “That’s several hours. Do you think you were just sleeping during that time?”
“No,” she said. “I was sore all over, and scratched up like I’d been climbing trees naked. I had sap on me a few places.”
“You weren’t abused or anything, were you?” the deputy asked.
“Not that I could tell,” she said, looking embarrassed. “Nothing wrong down there.”
“Why didn’t you report this?” Sheriff Henderson asked.
“I did. I told Ranger Norman.”
“Dammit, Norman,” the sheriff said.
Brian was lounging on the couch, reading a gun magazine, when heard footsteps coming. “Shit,” he said. “Josh, someone’s coming.”
“Heard them,” Josh said. “I got the shotgun.”
“Stand down, it’s the guys,” Brian said.
“Guys?” asked Josh.
“From the compound, dumbass,” Brian said.
“Wonderful,” spat Sadie, sitting in the chair with her knees up against her naked body, trying to keep warm in the air conditioning. “You guys going to gang bang me now?”
“Shut up,” Brian said, pointing his gun at her. “Josh, keep a gun on the cunt while I go see what’s up.”
Josh came in from the kitchen, sat down, and leveled the shotgun at Sadie.
“Anything goes wrong, and I’ll tattoo you to that chair with buckshot, bitch,” Josh said.
“You got to call your boss first, you pussy,” Sadie said. She shut up and gave Josh the evil eye.
Brian walked out on the front porch. Six men were coming up the driveway. One of them raised his weapon, and the leader put his hand on the weapon and pushed it down.
“The bitch still tied up?” asked the lead man.
“Yeah, Jeff, she’s still tied up. Josh has a 12-gauge pointed at her right now.”
“Good,” said Jeff. He walked over to Brian and shook his hand. Jeff was a tall thin man, middle-aged, with reddish brown hair and a full beard. He turned to the men.
“Okay, here’s what we do,” said Jeff. “Matt, get up next to the water tank, and keep an eye on the road. Jerry, you get on the other side of the property, up the hill a little, and watch that side of the road. The rest of you, get on the front porch and keep your eyes open while I fill Brian and Josh in on the situation.”
Brian and Josh went into the house. When Josh saw Jeff, his face lit up.
“Hey, Jeff, how the hell are you?”
Jeff walked over and shook hands with Josh.
“I’m fine, kiddo,” said Jeff.
“Good, maybe this dude is man enough to eat my pussy,” Sadie said, arching her back to stick her breasts out.
Jeff smiled and walked over to her. Then he backhanded her in the face, hard, causing blood to run out of her nose.
“Shut the hell up, you stupid whore,” said Jeff. Sadie spit at Jeff, and he back handed her again.
Josh laughed, but it was a nervous laugh. Brian just watched coolly.
“Jeff, I suggest we bring the boys in here and let them know about this bitch,” Brian said.
“Yeah, at least the ones on the porch,” said Jeff. “Hey, guys, come in the house for a minute.”
The men came in, all staring at Sadie.
“You guys see this bitch?” Brian said. “Hands off. She’s a snake. Don’t even think about any fun time with her. Understand?”
The men looked at Jeff and nodded.
“Good,” said Jeff. “Now, I want her outside for a few minutes so I can talk to Josh and Brian. John, you and Bob take her out far enough to where she can’t hear what we’re saying. Chuck and Al, you stay in here, but I want your eyes out the window and your guns cocked, understand?”
The men nodded again. Two of them pulled Sadie out of her seat. One of them grabbed a towel sitting on the coffee table and wiped the blood off of her face, and then they walked her outside. The other two men knelt by the front windows and watched.
“Alright, what’s the deal?” asked Josh.
“Sailor Boy called us. Somebody got to Walt and picked him up, right before Monte could grab him. Monte saw the whole thing, but they made him, so he had to split.”
“Shit,” Brian said. “Who?”
“We don’t know, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a bounty hunter. We think it’s somebody who wants to find Sadie.”
“Which means they’re on their way here,” Josh said.
“You got it,” said Jeff. “Monte’s still following them as best he can without being spotted. They appear to be coming straight towards us.”
“How many?” asked Brian.
“There were two men and one woman, in an old beat-up yellow van,” said Jeff. “They grabbed Walt and some stripper he picked up in Fort Mohave.”
“Damn, when’s that boy going to learn,” Josh said.
“Who are these guys?” asked Brian. “Are they the guys that Sadie tried to kill?”
“No, description is all wrong,” said Jeff. “There’s one rather disturbing idea that one of Sailor Boy’s people came up with.”
“What’s that?” asked Josh.
“It could be the creep that Sadie hung out with about ten years ago,” said Jeff. “Most people think the guy is dead, but based on movements of his best buddy, that might not be the case. Sadie double crossed him. Badly.”
“Who?” asked Josh
“A guy named Jason Beckler,” said Jeff. “Ring a bell?”
“Fuck,” Josh said. “I’ll bet he’s got Earl Wilson with him. These guys are bad news.”
“What do you know about them?” asked Jeff.
“Josh here likes to read about serial killers and bank robbers,” Brian said. “I always thought it was a waste of time. I stand corrected.”
“Beckler is one of the most successful serial killers of the last 40 years,” Josh said. “He sets up elaborate scenarios to capture his prey, usually working with one or two others. When he gets them, he tortures them to death. Nasty stuff. He likes to capture whole families, rape the women right down to ten-year-olds, and then kill them in front of their men. Then he butchers whoever is left, including kids. He’s fucking crazy, and the cops could never get close to him. He just disappears.”
“What about the other guy you mentioned?” asked Jeff.
“Earl Wilson,” Josh said. “He’s minor compared to Beckler. I think they might be related, or at least they were childhood friends. He was involved with Red Dagg……..oh shit.”
“What?” asked Jeff.
“That ex-cop who Sadie tried to kill,” Josh said, breathing heavier now. “That was Malcolm Davis. He’s the guy who set up the ambush on the serial killer called Red Dagger. You remember that one, it was everywhere on the news. Hell, they even made a Movie of the Week on that incident.”
“Yeah, that I do remember,” said Jeff.
“Me too,” Brian said. “So that means we could have two serial killers and one crazy ass ex-cop on the way here right now. Do we have enough guys?”
“Eight heavily armed guys. That should be enough, don’t you think?” asked Jeff.
“I’d rather be someplace else,” Josh said. “Why don’t we take the bitch to the compound? We stand a better chance there.”
“Because of Walt,” Brian said.
“Yep, because of Walt,” said Jeff. He walked over to the door. “Okay, bring the bitch back in.”
The two men brought Sadie back to the chair and dumped her into it. She looked up at Josh, Brian, and Jeff.
“What’s the matter, boys?” Sadie said. “You scared of somebody? You brought lots of people. It won’t be enough.”
Jeff walked over and back-handed her across the face one more time, starting her nose bleeding again. She laughed out loud, and spit blood out on the floor.
“Fort Mohave isn’t that far away,” Brian said. “We’ll either get hit tonight or early tomorrow morning.”
“It’s gonna be a long night,” said Jeff. He sat down, deep in thought.
“Somebody’s going to get you,” sang Sadie in a sing-song, school girl voice.
“Do we have to keep her alive?” asked Jeff.
“Afraid so, Jeff,” Josh said.