Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chapter 24

After Sloan and Dan went outside I decided that I didn't want them to know that I'd been eavesdropping so I left the basement quickly and made my way up to the attic. I didn't turn the light on but sat on the trunk and tried to calm my swirling thoughts. I was still sitting there an hour later when the buzzer went off. I took it out of my pocket and almost decided to ignore it but then I punched in the code for my location before I could give into petty temptation. I'd learned growing up that that kind of behavior only had a limited and short term satisfaction.

A few minutes later there were boots on the stairs. "Where the hell have you been?"

"I'm right here where I told you I was when you buzzed."

"Sitting in the dark?"

"Sitting in the dark."

"Doing what for gawd's sake?"

"Thinking. There's something going on. Something that has been going on since before my Dad and brothers were killed. I'm puzzling out what it is on my own since too many people have now proven themselves to not trust me with the truth ... apparently even my own family."

"Don't give me tha ..." He stopped when what I said registered. He had to backtrack because I obviously hadn't said what he had expected me to say. "Er ... It isn't a matter of trust Teaghan."

"Well at least you're honest enough to admit that I'm right. But you're wrong about the rest of it ... it is very much a matter of trust."

"Now Sweetheart ..."

Letting some of my irritation show I asked, "Is that what you fall back on every time? Trying to sweet talk me ... and everyone else too? I'm not a customer Sloan. I realize now you don't think much of my intelligence but doesn't it ever get tiring trying the same old thing that never gets you anywhere? Why don't you try something new ... like giving me a little credit. It doesn't have to be much ... but just a little might be all it takes."

Obviously affronted as my words Sloan said, "Well you're in a hell of a mood."

"Yes I am. And unless ..." I bit down to shut myself up.

"Unless what?" he snapped obviously hearing the run up to a threat.

I shook my head. "Nothing. I don't want to go there. It's bad enough I've got to live in this cage, I don't need to make things worse for myself by acting in a way that I'll be ashamed of later."

"A cage is it? You're free to leave any ... time ... you ... choose."

I looked at him in the dark. I sighed. "Your copper hair is showing. But I suppose if that's the way you feel I don't have much choice. It's not like I've ever had much choice. Not really."

"No you don't," he snarled and with no doubt as to what he meant.

He slammed down the stairs leaving me pretty numb and heartsick. I had known that my connection to the farm was pretty much gone in all but the most practical sense. I worked, cooked, kept house, played wife ... but whatever that tangible something was that had connected me to it seemed to have disappeared. And the artificial connection that had been my marriage seemed to have disintegrated as well if it had ever been there to begin with. I got up off the trunk and walked down the stairs.

I knew taking off in the middle of the night was a childish thing to do and would get me nowhere but I definitely needed some air; and I needed neutral ground where I could think, plan my next move. And then I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I put on my holster and grabbed my jacket because the nights were turning cool. I was putting some extra ammo in my pocket and then I felt the buzzer. I took it out and looked at it and tossed it onto the table. Apparently he didn't care so neither did I. I grabbed a canteen, filled it, then eased quietly outside. I had no idea why I had to go there so badly all of a sudden but I just knew I did.


I know the lay of the land on the farm like I know my own hands and feet. I could follow my brothers and they never even knew I was there, even after they'd grown in experience and training from being in the military. If the land was an animate and living object then I think it liked me. I always felt safe, somehow grounded, protected. But I was losing that. I sensed a change. It had started the day the mob had come to the farm. Something foreign had invaded and started an infection. Having managed to string a few things together, I gave into a brief moment of pity wondering if I was the infection.

Then I shook myself. I was being ridiculous. I kept walking to burn off some of the pity party and to think. On the other hand I didn't just plow through the trail I was following. It took me about a half hour but finally I reached my destination. The three newest gravemarkers clustered around the others that were also new but starting to show some weathering. I cleaned up the family cemetery for about an hour until my fatigue and the dark finally breeched the dam I had put in place to hold back my emotions. I gave into a few tears but that's all I allowed myself. I knew it was time to head back and I decided to do so on a different trail. I also thought I had finished figuring out what was going on. I was both shocked at my conclusions and shocked that I hadn't come to the conclusions earlier. The final connections had come as I thought about who all had died with my family that day, and who had done the killing, and who ultimately had been left in power afterwards.

I was cutting across the creek when I heard the engines. I wasn't much further along when I heard the nasty laughter and the shouts. Suddenly it was like my brothers were by my side. "Quiet Tea and stay low. Don't walk in the moonbeams Dodo Bird, you'll make yourself a target. Be as quiet as you can ... quieter. Be like Watchit and glide ... don't clomp along the trail." I crawled along the fence line until I could see what was going on.

"Send out the woman! You've had her long enough! Time for the rest of us to have a turn!!" Lot's of nasty laugher followed.

Someone else shouted, "Give us the woman or we'll take the boys ... don't make no difference!"

There were other nasty things said but they amounted to the same thing. I wondered where Sloan's men were because there was no way I was going to be able to deal with this on my own. With all eyes focused on what was happening around the house it was easy for me to make it over to the barn.

There were men guarding it and I could see cans of fuel sitting near the door in the headlights of a parked jeep. Jason's voice whispered, "They didn't set a guard. They were all asleep inside to stay out of the weather. It was too easy for these men ... but maybe that'll work in your favor. They are too confident. Look at the mistake they've already made ruining their night vision with those highbeams."

Jeremiah's voice snickered, "Remember how you and ol' Boone would sneak up on us no matter how we tried to hide to have a smoke? Figured no one could tell in a tobacco farm but you, Dodo Bird, you caught us every time even with us watching the road and the barn door."

I didn't smile but I nodded. Boone and I had been good at getting into and out of places. I guess it is true when you get to Heaven you get all of your questions answered because while they'd been on earth the boys never had learned how I did it. I went to the back corner and belly crawled to the place that Boone had dug out. It wasn't quite as easy to get to as it used to be but I got an eye full nonetheless. Two men were inside the barn with rifles that looked similar to what my brothers had brought home from the war and they were aimed at the men who all sat with their hands on their heads. I was trying to decide what to do when I heard the men told to get outside, that they were gonna take the house.

I heard Jason and Jeremiah both say, "It's now or never Tea. Get the men out, they're gonna light the barn the same time they try to take the house. The shutters will stop them for a time but you need to get moving."

I popped up and hissed, "Josiah!"

He had gotten used to me appearing suddenly but he still jumped a mile and so did the other men. But they got the message real quick when they heard sloshing and smelled fuel. When everyone was out I said, "Grab a tobacco stick and go whale the tar out of those men. Don't let 'em set the barn on fire, we'll lose the tobacco and we need it to cover winter expenses. When you're done come on over to the house and lend a hand."

I sped off into the night knowing I didn't have much time. I was flanked on one side by Josiah and on the other by a man called Denton. Josiah shook his head when we stopped and I tried to open my mouth. "Boss will have our heads if something happens to you so don't try and tell us nothing but what you've got for a plan."

Bluntly I said, "Kill 'em. Kill 'em all."

Denton looked shocked but Josiah just nodded. "Good idea but we ain't got a gun."

Gun fire erupted from those surrounding the house and the need for quiet no longer existed. "Hang on and I'll get you some."

Jeremiah's voice tsked, tsked in my ear. "Fools, the lot of them. You don't attack on a bright moonlit night. Idiots that big deserve to meet the Maker." I agreed and every bullet from my revolver hit its mark with a great deal of surprise and consternation from both the dying and the ones still standing.

I would have preferred had Josiah and Denton help me to put the enemy in a crossfire but they stuck to my side like annoying burrs. Then the rest of Sloan's men joined us. Not a single one of the enemy was left standing when the shooting was finished.

About half way through Sloan and Dan had come out of the house to help when they realized what was going on. As the sound of last shot faded and quiet descended on the farmyard I said, "Josiah, get the tractor and put the bucket on it. Get it over here now so we can get this cleaned up before anyone else shows up."

Sloan limped over as fast as he could and said, "Where the hell have you ..."

I rounded on him and shouted, "I have had it! We are going to have a talk about you constantly getting almost killed! Just where do you think the boys and the farm would be if something happens to you?! And look at you. You look like hamburger! I wanna know right now who did this to you!"

Sloan just stood there staring at me. I'd completely knocked him off his pins. Dan walked over and said, "He tried to give himself over when they threatened to burn the men up."

I shook my head in disgust. "Figures. Men."

I turned back to the rest of them. "Don't just stand there. Start stripping the bodies down ... weapons, ammo, clothes, all of it. Put it all in crates only label them something else like women's lingerie or pickled eight-legged hairy monsters... something, anything. Those that aren't doing that go to work on those trucks. Strip 'em down just like the men. I suspect they've already disabled the black boxes but make sure."

One of the men whistled and said, "Look lively boys, Captain is on deck. Put your backs into it and heave ho."

There were a few more comments like that from those that were former soldiers but I noticed I didn't have to say anything else as the whole of it took on what I imagine the feel of a military operation would have.


  1. Oh man, go Tea. Give um what for. Love it.

  2. I'm really, really, really liking this story Kathy thanks for the story.

  3. Finally she's coming into her own! No more wooden little doll. Hopefully Sloan will start to appreciate the woman he has married.