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Book Two of Under Shattered Skies by PD Allen
Fiddlesticks Press hand-crafted fiction
copyright © 2 !" by PD Allen
############### Also by PD Allen Post-Quantum Meditations Fiction Song of $%istence Poetry &'ant'( )editations* Book +ne &'ant'( )editations* Book Two &'ant'( (editations* Book Three &'ant'( )editations* Book Fo'r &'ant'( )editations* Book Fi,e &'ant'( )editation -2 (ebook) &'ant'( )editation -" (ebook) &'ant'( )editation -. (ebook) &'ant'( )editations -/ (ebook) &'ant'( )editations -0 (ebook) &'ant'( )editations -1 (ebook) &'ant'( )editations -2 (ebook) &'ant'( )editations -3 (ebook) &'ant'( )editations -! (ebook)
Experimental Narrative Awakening Dragon* an Sha(anic Ad,ent're Pre-Quantum Meditations Fiction 4o(plete Tales of da 5oopernat'ral Strange Attractors Fiddlesticks )'rderer6s Sky (Under Shattered Skies, Book One) D7(on Sky (Under Shattered Skies, Book !o) )o'rning Sky (Under Shattered Skies, Book hree)
est Dance .8 S'bser.itable 4onfrontation Part !o — he Final "orning 28 Desert Awakening 38 .est 4o'rt 08 9ar.ience !/8 A Sensiti.e Boy !08 The B'lly of the Town !18 The 9orror .Contents Prologue — Under Shattered Skies Part One — Love of the Fiddler !8 Fiddling Aro'nd 28 Broken 9arte "8 The 9ar.8 9ero to >ero 2/8 Fla(es of 9atred 208 Shades of =onestown 218 The ?at're of D7(ons Part Five — A Dæmon #evealed 228 Strong-Ar(ing the <eneral 238 Science S'b.est 9o(e 18 The :ne.8 She )o.8 The <a(e :s +n Coda — A Dæmon Unmasked * .etbacks <o 9o(e ! 8 $scape !!8 4ri(e Spree !28 )anning the Barricades !"8 Sneaking Thro'gh Part hree — he #ight Stuff !.ithin Part Four — $n o!n !28 ='st Passing Thro'gh !38 Shopping Trip 2 8 Seeking 9elp 2!8 4h'rch and State 228 Dog Piss 2"8 Under Assa'lt 2.erted " 8 Under(ining A'thority "!8 Planned :ns'rrection "28 Fa'lty )odeling ""8 Shattered Skies ".ed thro'gh the Fair /8 9ar.
ens were one o.ing the pain that dro.ery corner of this land@ fearing for her little boys as they are (ade targets of this hatred and for her sister who disappeared on her way fro( )e%ico8 Under shattered skies a pregnant wo(an abo't to gi.e in a bankr'pt and i(po.o'r her8 Under shattered skies a wo(an who i((igrated fro( )e%ico finds that racial hatred e%ists in e.il that is sweeping thro'gh the world and a (onster who wo'ld feed on the( all8 Under shattered skies a (instrel finds the .i.oice he lost after being defeated by his ne(esis@ reli.er fifty people in a rit'al sacrifice@ 'sing the energy released in their deaths to capt're a dae(onic archetype and (ake hi(self (ore than h'(an8 Under shattered skies a (an sworn to protect his people seeks to co(prehend what is happening as his town goes craAy aro'nd hi( and ('rderers walk the streets with i(p'nity8 Under shattered skies a (an of god@ (ad with del'sions and ensorcelled by a psychopath@ beco(es the hi.erished world8 .er his flock to the (onster he calls his sa.er the world fear to raise their heads and cast their eyes 'pon a rotting fir(a(ent tainted in sickening shades of red@ yellow and orange@ as tho'gh the hea.e birth hides fro( the (onster she sees all too clearly@ a wo(an who sees the tr'e essence behind all facades and who can reach o't to to'ch that essence@ a wo(an whose sight (akes her resistant to the to'ch of the (onster8 Under shattered skies two sisters who ha.e been interested only in partying@ (en and (oney ('st stand with their fa(ily and neighbors against an e.e hi( to hide in the priesthood 'ntil he can hide no longer b't ('st ar( hi(self with his neglected ('se to face the ne(esis that has grown into so(ething tr'ly dae(onic8 Under shattered skies that boil with a che(ical stew@ people all o.agery of her h'sband and the dist'rbing prophecies of her tro'bled son8 Under shattered skies two boys flee into the desert to escape the psychopath they witnessed ('rdering a tr'ckload of illegal i((igrants8 Under shattered skies a wife beater pro(ises to betray the (onster@ and then waits for that (onster@ which has already infected hi(@ to clai( his life8 * Under shattered skies a (other worried for her children t'rns to a faith that threatens to de.e (ind of his ch'rch@ preparing to deli.erreaching p'st'lant wo'nd destined to b'rst open and drown all in its corr'ption8 Under shattered skies people str'ggle along in desperation@ striking o't at each other as they try to s'r.############### Dæmon Sky Prologue — Under Shattered Skies Under shattered skies a psychopath ('rdered o.ior8 Under shattered skies an o'tlaw (akes a stand against the (ilitary and 9o(eland Sec'rity@ pitting his fa(ily and the residents of a r'n down trailer park against a (onster8 Under shattered skies a (other tries to cope with the sa.
er changed o'r world@ largely d'e to nearby Didgepoint Air Force Base@ ProEect Dise and Shine@ and the o(ino's presence of Dep'ty Director of 9o(eland Sec'rity )artin Doss8 :n the wake of the cataclys( that has o.ors and piece together the story of what transpired8 As a priest : wo'ld ha.ents ha.ed@ herded into prison ca(ps where their sweat and blood feeds none b't their (asters@ while those who re(ain free ('st prey 'pon each other or stand by as their li.eryone has a different .i.itho't their inp't@ there wo'ld be large gaps in this acco'nt8 So ('ch of what is recorded here stands as a (e(orial to those who ha.e taken liberties where necessary to (ake the narrati.es dwindle down to nothing8 Under shattered skies all who li.ed it8 B This history began with the (ass ('rder of fifty-eight )e%icans in the desert near the town of 9eater@ AriAona8 The e.erhead loo(s the certainty that .er had for the dr'nken priest : had been8 They told (e their stories beca'se they were trying to (ake sense of what happened in their own (inds8 They did this knowing that@ as a (instrel@ : wo'ld wea.e been bo'nd ne.e been approached by (any who did not physically s'r.Under shattered skies people are ensla.e the ordeal8 .e wait in dread@ o.er to report these confessions8 5et those who spoke with (e were not seeking confession8 They knew : had re(o.ertaken o'r town and the entire world@ : ha.ents to be recorded in the re(ainder of this history8 So far those earth shaking e.itably i(b'ing it with (y own perspecti.e their acco'nts together into a history that wo'ld help 's all to 'nderstand how the world broke down and the desolation and (adness * that res'lted8 Since the thinning of the .ents s'rro'nding that (ass ('rder do(inated the first portion of this narrati.en a 'niC'e perspecti.e done to this planet8 B This is the story of the little town of 9eater@ AriAona8 Sit'ated in the Sonoran Desert so'th of Phoeni%@ this little town was gi.e wo.e on the e.i.e only been hinted at in the artwork of a .e8 This (an'script (ay not be a co(pletely acc'rate acco'nt of what has happened@ b't it is a faithf'l representation of reality@ as : and others percei.ents that ha.e been where this story began@ b't their ('rder led all of 's to the apocalyptic e.e taken it 'pon (yself to talk to the s'r.eil@ : ha.ershadowed in foreboding while o.ed (y collar and taken 'p (y fiddle8 And they had greater respect for (e now than they e.en into the tapestry fo'nd here@ ine.e fore.iew of reality@ which : ha.e8 5et this is the story of (ass ('rder on a global scale8 The ('rder of those poor people (ay ha.e flow s(oothly@ while sticking as close to the witness acco'nts as possible8 Allow (e the right of a bard to paint this pict're as : can@ choosing (y colors as : see fit8 $.e shed this physical e%istence8 Th's@ while : a( the narrator of this history@ it is not (y story alone8 :t is the story of what transpired in 9eater@ AriAona and neighboring Didgepoint Air Force Base8 As a bard@ : ha.ery soon all of (ankind will pay for what they ha.
er the .estigation of ('rder s'spect Dep'ty Director of 9o(eland Sec'rity )artin Doss@ and in the dist'rbing skies that loo(ed o.er all8 Already a (adness was sweeping thro'gh the pop'lation8 Sheriff $lliot Pierce and his (en spent the night r'nning fro( one cri(e scene to the ne%t as neighbors t'rned on neighbors and once respectable citiAens e(braced robbery and ('rder8 )eanwhile the )c4ready fa(ily and the residents of Fo.e birth in an earth ki.e (e back (y ability@ (y talent@ and the past : had long ago s'ppressed8 And (y 'nseen a'dience aided (e in this transition8 The spirits of nat're called (e fro( (y stagnant sanct'ary and s'pported (e as : reli.ation 9all while they waited for 4hrist to co(e and lead the( thro'gh the end ti(es8 )aria DiaA ga.oice of the fiddle8 And o't there@ they led (e to where a d7(onic force so'ght to clai( a yo'ng wo(an and her newborn da'ghter8 There : fo'nd the ne(esis that had so long ago defeated (e@ silencing (y song and killing the wo(an : lo.erend 4hassey6s 9oly Dedee(er 4h'rch holed 'p in their newly b'ilt Sal.e beside his friend Bobby Deering8 5et before we ret'rn to any of these good people@ : ('st relate what transpired with (e in the st'dy of the rectory@ as : stayed 'p all night fiddling for an 'nseen a'dience8 :n that night : threw off the cost'(e of the 4h'rch : had hidden behind for so long8 : played the fiddle all night long@ stretching ('scles long atrophied@ regaining (y identity and a talent that had lain dor(ant8 :n that one night@ : regained ('ch of the considerable skills that had been tossed aside so long ago8 .a 'nder assa'lt by d7(onic forces8 And Ge.e what : acco(plished that night8 5et : a( s're it was no (iracle that transfor(ed (e back into * H (y own necessity@ the necessity of the the ('sician : had once been8 :t was necessity co(('nity in which : li.ithin ho'rs (y fingers regained their de%terity and (y fingertips their call'ses8 .ed@ and the necessity of the world8 ?ecessity ga.e taken (onths@ if not years@ to achie.ent're forth@ these spirits re(inded (e how to so'nd o't the world with (y ('sic8 .ed (ost in all the world8 There in the desert@ : was able to bef'ddle (y ne(esis and send hi( packing for the (o(ent@ resc'ing the wo(an and her child8 B't the confrontation wo'nded (e as well@ bringing 'p all the pain : yet denied8 And so : ret'rned to reclai( (y own past@ b'ilding (y strength 'ntil : was ready to face the tragedy that silenced (e so long ago8 )e(ories long denied res'rfaced with all the power of fresh e%periences as : sat in the st'dy fiddling thro'gh the night 'nder shattered skies8 .e danced thro'gh the desert to the .ithin one night : regained (y .irt'osity o.eland )anor b'ilt barricades and prepared to face the (ilitary and the Depart(ent of 9o(eland Sec'rity8 $lsewhere Forraine 9owell and the congregation of De.tro'bled boy@ in the in.iolin and beca(e a whole person once again8 ?or(ally@ it wo'ld ha.in 9owell6s sleep was dist'rbed by night(ares of a (onstro's presence reaching o't to to'ch hi( where he slept in a ca.ed the tragedy that sent (e r'nning to hide behind the collar and the ch'rch8 +nce : was strong eno'gh to .
id'als who had fig'red into (y life and who were now eager to see (e accept the talents and the destiny : had so long denied8 Traci <albraith was there@ radiant and bea'tif'l as e.en (y parents were there@ both of the( finally 'nderstanding that the 4h'rch was not for (e@ and glad to see (e at last tr'e to (yself8 And : re(e(bered the( all@ and the days of (y yo'th@ before : had gi.erend 4hassey and his tr'e belie.e tips of the fingers8 +therwise the fingers will blister and playing will beco(e painf'l8 : e%perienced no s'ch proble(8 After : first started playing@ the tips of (y fingers were sore@ and after an ho'r blisters for(ed on the ends of (y fingers8 B't then the pain went away and the blisters were transfor(ed to callo's8 The transition was so odd as to be 'nnat'ral@ b't : was so wrapped 'p in (y ('sic and (y (e(ories that : tho'ght nothing of it8 * As : played : contin'ed to reli.ior@ : spent the night reno'ncing false beliefs and celebrating the res'(ption of (y life@ before an 'nseen a'dience of boistero's spirits who so'ght to aid (e in (y own sal.aries8 Playing the barn dance circ'it@ : b'ilt C'ite a na(e for (yself8 : was the yo'ng darling of the dance@ welco(e e.ation8 : fiddled all night@ flying o.en 'p drea(ing8 : re(e(bered how (y parents tolerated (y b'dding ('sical career@ tho'gh they still e%pected (e to gi.ised songs long denied8 ?or(ally when picking 'p a string instr'(ent after being away fro( it for a length of ti(e@ a ('sician will not be able to play for long 'ntil he has b'ilt 'p a protecti.erywhere for the delight of (y fiddle playing8 +n those .ers spent the night preparing for the end ti(es and awaiting the arri.hile the sheriff and his (en spent the night chasing fro( one cri(e to the ne%t@ : spent the night reawakening long s'b(erged talents and re.ing (e toward the c'l(ination of this night8 )'ch of (y a'dience@ and all of the dancers@ consisted of nat're spirits H what the :rish called Fairies or what the :ndians called )anito'8 5et a s(all portion of (y a'dience consisted of the so'ls of those who ha.i.e the past@ re(e(bering the e.hile Ge.er the strings as (y fingers and bow recalled t'nes long forgotten or i(pro.e passed on@ partic'larly certain indi.in 9owell and Bobby Deering spent one of the last nights of their waning childhood hiding fro( d7(ons@ : spent the night re(e(bering (y own lost yo'th and preparing to face those sa(e d7(ons8 As De.Part One — Love of the Fiddler %& Fiddling Around .er8 And so was )onte 9arte@ no do'bt pleased to see (e picking 'p his fiddle after so long8 $.al of their sa.e a hysterecto(y d'e to t'(ors on her o.ents of (y yo'th leading 'p to the tragedy that ca'sed (e to p't down the fiddle and p't on the priest6s collar8 As : said@ an 'nseen a'dience danced to (y ('sic and 'rged (e on in (y re(e(brances@ (o.eland )anor spent the night b'ilding and reinforcing fortifications@ : spent the night tearing down walls that had stood far too long@ blocking (e fro( the tr'th of who : really was8 .e it 'p one day and Eoin the se(inary8 )y (other swayed (y father to let (e Iget it o't of his syste(@J tho'gh the old (an wo'ld look for any e%c'se he co'ld find to interfere with (y ('sical st'dies8 5et the (oney : (ade playing for dances helped a'g(ent the (eager inco(e fro( the far(8 :t was (y fiddle that paid for the s'rgery when (y (other had to ha.e layer of callo's on the sensiti.ing long forgotten drea(s8 As >ach and the residents of Fo.
er (y fiddle and play it on the porch for all of the( to enEoy8 )r8 and )rs8 Tillson enco'raged the relationship8 They (ade (e feel at ho(e with their fa(ily8 :n ch'rch@ they enco'raged =anice to sit with (e8 This displeased (y parents@ and led to words with the Tillson6s8 )y dad had a talk with (e while we were ('cking o't the cow stalls one day8 .ed to (ake 'p for the disco'rage(ent fro( (y parents8 And )onte 9arte contin'ed to keep an eye on (e8 :f he tho'ght : was getting a swollen head@ he co'ld deflate it with one well-placed barb abo't how : (essed 'p the bowing on the last t'ne@ or how : perfor(ed a partic'lar piece almost as well as 4yril Stennet8 Tho'gh )onte 9arte only criticiAed (e like this on rare occasions@ it always ser.ed of (e .ery hard to at least appear to be honoring (y parents6 wishes in this regard8 Still@ : was a typical hor(onal@ adolescent (ale@ and there were ti(es when all : tho'ght abo't was girls@ e.est ti(e and planting ti(e@ : wo'ld lend the( a hand8 And so(eti(es in the e.ing herself for (arriage8 This was fine by (e@ as at this stage of the ga(e hea.er that n'ptial threshold8 :n a word@ she was safe8 :f : noticed she was beco(ing proprietary in o'r relationship@ : did not pay it ('ch (ind8 At school and in the general co(('nity@ it was ass'(ed that =anice and : were an ite(8 : was in.y necking was all : was interested in8 .elop s'ch a boner that : was s're e.ening : wo'ld bring o.en (ore than (y interest in the fiddle@ partic'larly (y (other8 $loise 9ayne wanted her son to be p're when he went to the se(inary@ so that he wo'ld not be te(pted by the sins of the flesh when the ti(e ca(e to dedicate hi(self to <od8 =ohn 9ayne was act'ally a little pro'd of his son6s pop'larity with the opposite se%@ tho'gh he co'nseled (e always to be a gentle(an@ ne.oted dance partner of a girl na(ed =anice Tillson8 =anice was a nice eno'gh girl8 She was pretty in a plain sort of way@ and she was an e%cellent dancer8 The two of 's were C'ite an ite( on the dance floor8 +'t in the parking lot@ she wo'ld kiss and let (e fondle her breasts@ b't she (ade it clear that she was sa.ed of (y interest in the( e.er to chase wo(en H partic'larly when they desired to be ca'ght@ and always to stay within sight of chaperones8 For (y part@ : stro.en to the e%cl'sion of ('sic8 )any a ti(e@ at school and at dances@ when the girls were fawning on (e@ : wo'ld de.hile : enEoyed her co(pany@ : had no deep desire to be the one to take her o.ed to p'll (y head o't of the clo'ds and ret'rn (e to $arth8 As for the girls@ : knew that (y parents disappro.eral ti(es@ and her parents appro.eryone ('st see it b'lging in (y pants8 +n s'ch occasions@ : wo'ld retreat to so(e solitary spot and allow (y ardor to cool 'ntil (y enth'sias( had di(inished8 )any a night after a barn dance@ : wo'ld lock (yself in the bathroo( on the pretense of taking a * shower while beating off to the (e(ory of so(e pretty girl who had winked at (e and set (y heart afl'tter8 : considered (yself l'cky that none of the girls (anaged to steal (y heart co(pletely8 To play it safe@ : (ade a show of being the de.ery ('ch8 =anice6s parents were far(ers8 They had fo'r da'ghters@ =anice being the oldest8 They were C'ite taken with (e8 : was polite and treated their da'ghter well8 At har.e .ited to her ho'se for dinner se.rare occasions when : was not on the band stand@ : had to fight off the girls who wanted (e for their dance partner8 Tho'gh : was delighted to be the center of attention@ : was caref'l not to let it go to (y head H at least not too ('ch8 The appreciation of (y fans ser.
e any tho'ght to (arrying her8J IThat6s pretty ('ch what : told the(8 5o'6.ery welco(e in this ho'se anyway8J : was only slightly relie.oid8 )r8 Tillson regarded (e as he debated how best to proceed8 Finally he tackled the s'bEect head on@ I:6.ening@ (y father ga.ening@ Sir8J I: see yo'r father ca(e with yo'8J I5es@ Sir8J : co'ld not bring (yself to (eet )r8 Tillson6s eyes8 I9e ga.e to set the( straight8 :t6s better to do it now than to let things go any f'rther8J I+kay8J : saw that (y father was right8 Tho'gh : had no intention of beco(ing a priest@ neither was : in lo.e8 I<ood e.e with =anice and intent on spending the rest of (y life with her8 I5o'6re going o.e got to realiAe where all this was going8 They think yo' and =anice are co'rting8J I?o8J : protested@ thinking of how they had in.er there tonightKJ I5es@J : answered@ tho'gh : was no longer looking forward to the .ening@ Albert8J I<ood e.ed to cli(b o't of the car alone8 =anice6s father was waiting for (e on the front porch@ looking pensi.itho't another word on the s'bEect@ we went back to ('cking the stalls8 That e.e told the( yo' are going into the se(inary8 They see( to think the priesthood is no place for yo' and yo'6d be better off (arried to their da'ghter8J This ca(e as C'ite a s'rprise to (e8 I: enEoy r'nning aro'nd with =anice8 B't : ne.IThat Tillson girl6s got designs on yo'@ and so do her parents@J (y father told (e as he leaned on the handle of his sho.e (e a ride o.er ga.e had words with yo'r father8J .e (e a lift8J I: tho'ght yo' and =anice were going to the (o.eway by the side of the Tillson ho'se@ : told hi(@ IDad@ : need to do this by (yself8 4o'ld yo' please wait in the carKJ Dad took his hand off the door handle@ I+kay@ son8 : 'nderstand8 :6ll warrant :6( not .el8 I9ow do yo' feel abo't herKJ : shr'gged8 IShe6s a good friend8J IA friend@ h'hKJ )y father eyed (e8 I:t ain6t any (ore than that is itKJ IShe6s a good dancer@ and she6s f'n to be aro'nd8J I5o'r (other and : had a talk with her parents8 .ited (e into their fa(ily8 IThere6s a (aEor (is'nderstanding here8 5o'6re going to ha.er to the Tillson far(@ ostensibly to lend s'pport8 : knew he was really there to (ake s're : did as : was told8 : had no do'bts that : ('st be honest with =anice and her fa(ily@ b't : co'ld not do so with (y dad beside (e8 So when he p'lled 'p in the dri.ies tonightKJ I:6( afraid there6s been a change of plans8 :s =anice insideKJ : headed for the door as : asked8 IShe is8J Before : co'ld escape into the ho'se@ )r8 Tillson asked@ I4an : talk to yo' for a (o(ent@ AlbertKJ I5es@ Sir8J : stopped short of the door and braced (yself for the confrontation : had hoped to a.isit8 ITell the( straight off8 :t6ll be hard@ b't it6s got to be done8J : nodded8 .
ading (y cheeks@ )r8 Tillson h'rried on8 I5o' co'ld li.e =aniceKJ : did not answer8 :nstead@ keeping (y eyes cast down@ : asked@ ISir@ co'ld : speak with yo'r da'ghter pleaseKJ )r8 Tillson st'died (e before responding8 IBe honest with her@ b't be gentle8J 9e started to enter the ho'se@ pa'sed in the doorway and looked at (e standing (iserable and 'nwelco(e on the porch where : had shared so (any good ti(es with the Tillson fa(ily8 IAlbert@ : a( as sorry for yo' as for her8 Do not wind 'p like yo'r Uncle D'f's8J )r8 Tillson went into the ho'se@ and : waited for what see(ed an eternity 'ntil =anice ca(e o't onto the porch@ regarding (e as tho'gh : (ight do her so(e har(8 I5o' need to speak to (e8J .e a way of soothing e.hat : fo'nd there was not the anger : e%pected@ b't rather an e(pathy and co(passion that (ade this all the harder8 I5o'r father wants yo' to beco(e a priest8 ='st as yo'r Uncle D'f's@ and yo'r dad6s Uncle .I5es@ Sir8J IAlbert@ yo'r father is a good (an@ b't he6s old school8 And he6s a stickler for fa(ily tradition8J : forced (yself to (eet )r8 Tillson6s gaAe8 .e (e a fatherly h'g8 : shirked away@ once (ore ref'sing to (eet his gaAe8 :t began to dawn on )r8 Tillson8 IAlbert@ yo' do lo.e with (y sister@ <race8 B't he co'ldn6t stand 'p to his dad@ yo'r grandfather8 ?ow there was a hard (an8 )y sister and yo'r 'ncle were deeply in lo.ing heart8J : was C'ite choked 'p by this war( offer8 These wonderf'l people wanted to take (e into their own fa(ily8 : co'ld li.ent'ally (o.ing : was shocked with e(otion@ yet (is'nderstanding the ca'se@ )r8 Tillson reached o't to gi.indicti.ed on@ she (et so(eone else@ (arried@ and had a fa(ily8 B't yo'r 'ncle co'ldn6t (o.e o'r consent to =anice8J ?oticing the bl'sh in.e here and help (e with the far(8 $.e@ and it h'rt the( both that he beca(e a priest8 <race e.ent'ally@ it wo'ld beco(e yo'rs8 5o'r father wo'ld be angry@ b't : think that in ti(e@ he wo'ld 'nderstand it was for the best8 <randchildren ha.e a large far( here8 And there6s plenty of roo( in this ho'se for another fa(ily8 5o'6re al(ost old eno'gh to (arry witho't yo'r parents6 consent@ and we wo'ld certainly gi.alter did8 9ow do yo' feel abo't thatKJ : had deter(ined to be honest with these kind people@ and so : said@ I:6( not happy abo't it8J I:6( glad to hear yo' say so8 : told $thyl the priesthood was not for yo'8J )r8 Tillson took on a (ore confidential tone8 I: knew yo'r Uncle D'f's8 9e was a good (an@ f'll of life8 9e was in lo.e on8 9e beca(e a .ery bitter (an8J )y one (e(ory of (y Uncle D'f's was of a stern (an dressed in priest garb and s(elling of alcohol* a .e (an who ref'sed to talk to his brother and who glowered at (e@ (y brother and (y (other8 IAlbert@J )r8 Tillson bro'ght (e back to the present@ I: wo'ld not see yo' (eet the sa(e fate8J : ha.e with the(@ (arry =anice@ and escape (y father6s designs8 The offer was sorely te(pting8 $%cept that while the life they offered was better than being sentenced to the priesthood@ it still wo'ld not be a life that was tr'e to (e8 Percei.en the (ost 'nforgi.
ered by so(e talent sco't and striking it rich in the ('sic b'siness8 B't it does not happen that way8 :f : waited for fa(e and fort'ne to find (e@ : wo'ld wind 'p in the se(inary8 This confrontation with =anice and her fa(ily@ : realiAed@ was a prel'de to the confrontation that ('st co(e between (e and (y parents8 And when that day ca(e@ : wo'ld be sh't off to life here in this town as s'rely as : was sh't off fro( the Tillson ho'sehold8 : left the Tillson ho'se with the knowledge that the day wo'ld co(e when : ('st lea.ery l'cky8 B'tL8J : co'ld not say it8 =anice said it for (e@ as the tr'th dawned on her@ I5o' don6t lo.itho't waiting for a response@ he sh't the inner door8 : stood there for a (o(ent@ looking at the ho'se that was no longer open to (e8 : felt bad abo't =anice and her fa(ily8 :t had ne.e between 's8 :nstead@ : saw (y fiddle gathering d'st8 : stepped back fro( this .I=anice8J : kept (y eyes on the boards of the porch8 I:t wo'ld be best if we didn6t see each other any(ore8J After a pa'se@ =anice responded in a .er been (y intention to (islead the(8 :t felt like so(ething inside of (e had been sh't along with that door8 :t was (y ability to skate along witho't looking at the dangero's ice 'p ahead8 : had a serio's proble( with (y parents@ and 'ntil now : had tried not to think abo't it8 :nstead@ : told (yself so(ething wo'ld happen to change the sit'ation8 Then : went on drea(ing of being disco.e (y ho(e and go o't to seek (y fort'ne8 There was not ('ch ti(e left to prepare* a .oice both cold and strong8 I: see8 And are these words yo'r own@ or are yo' speaking for yo'r parentsKJ : looked 'p at her8 I: speak for (yself8J IAnd are yo' eager to Eoin the priesthoodKJ I: ain6t gonna be no da(ned priest8J The anger : felt toward (y father@ and toward (yself@ b'bbled E'st below the s'rface8 =anice stepped close to (e and stroked (y chest with her hand8 Defle%i.ision and saw the res'lting h'rt in =anice6s eyes8 I.e that da(n fiddleMJ And with these words@ the tears ca(e8 :t s(arted as tho'gh she had slapped (e across the face8 : stepped toward her8 I=anice@ :6( sorry8J ?ow it was =anice6s t'rn to step away8 I: don6t want yo'r pity8J She forced herself to stop crying8 IAlbert 9ayne@ : think yo' had better Eoin the priesthood@ beca'se that fiddle isn6t going to take yo' anywhere8J And with that@ she retreated into the ho'se@ sla((ing the screen door behind her8 : heard her r'n 'p the stairs followed by her (other8 9er little sister glared at (e thro'gh the screen door8 9er father drew her aside and stepped 'p to say@ IAlbert@ yo' had best lea.hy notKJ For all her anger@ her eyes filled with tears8 I=anice@ so(e day yo'6ll (eet the right (an@ and he6ll be .e8J .hat6s wrongKJ I:t6s (e8 : don6t belong in that pict're8J I.e (e8 5o' only lo.ely@ : p't (y hand on her waist8 IThen take 'p (y dad on his offer8 Al@ we can work this far(8J : looked into her eyes@ and once again : was attracted by the safe harbor : saw there8 : saw =anice and (yself@ growing old together in this ho'se@ with o'r own children growing 'p aro'nd 's8 B't : did not see a deep lo.
e left right then and there8 B't : was not ready to strike o't8 : had no (oney and no plan8 :nstead@ : went to .e disrespected o'r dad the way yo'6.er-present pack of Pall )alls sat on the ar( of .as that yo'r ad.hen : saw (y dad sitting in the car waiting for (e@ all of (y anger and resent(ent ca(e boiling to the s'rface8 : tho'ght the confrontation (ight co(e then and there8 As : cli(bed into the passenger seat@ : fo'ght to control (y e(otions8 IDid yo' tell herKJ Dad asked as he started the engine8 9e co'ld already see the answer in (y face8 I5es8J )y father p'lled away fro( the ho'se and headed 'p the gra.er wo'ld ha.e aged since : last saw hi(8 9is skin had taken on an 'nhealthy gray pallor8 Always a slender fellow@ he appeared to ha.e taken it back@ e.er to the road@ checking to (ake s're (y father was nowhere to be seen before stepping o't of the wheat8 9ad : bro'ght (y fiddle with (e@ : wo'ld ha.isit )onte 9arte@ who li.eMJ : leapt o't of the .ed abo't fi.es looked downright skeletal@ while his face was (ore wrinkled than a ho'nd dog8 5et the fire in his eyes was 'ndi(inished8 The e.eway to the road8 ?othing (ore was said between 's for a while8 +'t on the road@ (y dad felt he sho'ld offer (e so(e fatherly ad.year@ (aybe a year and a half at the (ost8 : needed to get serio's abo't this if : did not intend to wind 'p with a priest6s collar aro'nd (y neck8 .el dri.e lost so(e weight8 As a res'lt@ his ar(s where they ca(e o't of his shirt slee.e (iles away8 The walk ga.ice to Uncle D'f's@ tooKJ : said it before : realiAed what : was saying8 B't : wo'ld not ha.e p'nched hi( in the nose8 I?ow yo' listen here8 5o'r Uncle D'f's did as he was toldM 9e knew his place@ and he ne.e (e plenty of ti(e to cool off and think abo't (y sit'ation8 '& (roken )arte :t had been a co'ple of (onths since : last saw )onte@ yet the old fiddler greeted (e like it had been only a few days8 I9ey@J )onte said to (e fro( his seat on the porch swing8 9e had been sitting there for so(e ti(e@ watching (y approach8 I9ey yo'rself8J : noted that )onte appeared to ha.en if : co'ld8 Dad hit the brakes and bro'ght the car to a screeching halt8 I.ehicle and headed into the wheat field8 Behind (e@ : co'ld hear (y father sho'ting@ IAlbertM 5o' co(e back hereMJ : heard (y father sla( the car door@ no do'bt getting o't to p'rs'e (e@ b't : was already far eno'gh into the wheat field that : wo'ld not be easily ca'ght8 9e called to (e@ de(anding that : co(e back8 $.e disrespected (e8J IAnd that was his proble(MJ : spat back as : grabbed the door handle and opened (y door8 I9e sho'ld ha.ent'ally he cli(bed into the tr'ck and dro.e off8 : worked (y way o.hatKJ I5o' heard (e8J : was ready for anything8 :f he tried to slap (e@ : wo'ld ha.ice8 I:t6s for the best@ son8 5o' co'ldn6t let it go on like this8J I: know8J : str'ggled to keep fro( lashing o't at hi(8 IBoys yo'r age think an awf'l lot abo't girls8 B't in yo'r case@ it wo'ld be better not to te(pt yo'rself8 5o' (ight as well start practicing self-control right now8J I.
ery year8 :t is o'r traditions that gi.er@ )onte .er here8J Still as percepti.ersation see(ed to wear on )onte@ yet he went on8 I:t is against their nat're for older folks to change8 :t6s not that we6re incapable of change* we6re E'st set in o'r ways8 4hange is in the nat're of the yo'ng* deciding which traditions to contin'e and which to abandon8 This is a part of growing 'p and beco(ing yo'r own person8J )onte looked again at the pack of cigarettes8 9e started to reach for it@ b't stopped hi(self8 I)y parents will ne.e (e if : don6t beco(e a priest8J : was s're of that8 And it was the potential loss of (y parents that (ade this decision so diffic'lt8 .e done half so well by yo' as yo'r parents did8J : wo'ld ha.itho't the(@ yo' wo'ldn6t be the person yo' are now8J I: don6t want to be a priest8J I: know that8 And down deep@ :6( s're yo'r dad knows it too8 B't tradition and c'sto(s (ean a lot to yo'r dad8 They do to (ost far(ers8 .er forgi.en (e a chance8 I.e by tradition8J I: didn6t say all traditions are good things8 Ti(es change@ and tradition ('st change with it or beco(e o'tdated8 And that6s where things beco(e diffic'lt8J The con.ited8 9is .oice was weak8 I:t (ay be a nice night for a walk@ b't all the way fro( yo'r place to here is stretching it a bit8J : s(iled at the (ild h'(or@ cli(bed the steps to the porch and sat down beside )onte on the swing8 I: was at the Tillsons68J IThat6s still a far piece@ specially considerin6 yo'r ho(e lies in the opposite direction8J : noted that while )onte kept eyeing the pack of cigarettes@ he refrained fro( ha.e yo'r parents a whole lot@ as they do yo'8 Daising a child is abo't the hardest Eob a body can 'ndertake8 : do'bt : wo'ld ha.e arg'ed the point@ had )onte gi.the swing ne%t to hi(@ b't wonder of wonders@ )onte did not ha.ent'red@ I5o' dad doesn6t appro.e of anything : do8 Anyway@ : broke 'p with her8J I+n acco'nt of yo'r dadKJ I+n acco'nt of she wants a co((it(ent@ and : don6t lo.e of yo'r relationship with =anice8J I)y dad doesn6t appro.e her8 ?ot like that anyway8J I: see8 So why the fight with yo'r dadKJ IThe 's'al@J : answered and left it at that8 )onte did not pry8 9e sat there regarding the pack of Pall )alls8 : asked hi(@ IDid yo' know (y Uncle D'f'sKJ I?o@ not personally8 : 'sed to see hi( at the dances8 9e enEoyed socialiAing@ b't yo'r granddad c'red hi( of that8J ISo(eti(es : wish : hadn6t been born into this fa(ily8J IDon6t say that8 Despite yo'r differences@ : know yo' still lo.e o'r fa(ilies their identity o.e follow in the traditions of o'r forefathers@ and those traditions keep o'r fa(ilies going thro'gh the generations@ ('ch like the crops we plant e.ing one8 I: had a fight with (y dad8 So : left hi( and hoofed it o.e a lit cigarette in his hand8 I4o(e on 'p and take a load off yo'r feet@J )onte in.e as e.er the long ha'l8J I: can6t li.
e the talent8 B't if yo' want to (ake a li.e in8 Taking a cigarette@ he lit it 'p and inhaled8 Tho'gh he welco(ed the s(oke into his l'ngs@ he began to choke8 IAre yo' alrightKJ )onte co'ghed painf'lly into his hand8 T'rning away so : co'ld not see@ he p'lled o't a handkerchief and wiped 'p what he had co'ghed into his hand8 9e t'cked the handkerchief into his shirt pocket and looked at the b'rning cigarette8 :n disg'st@ he dropped the cigarette and gro'nd it on the porch with his shoe8 IThese da(n cigarettes don6t agree with (e any(ore8 : can6t breathe with the( and : can6t breathe witho't the(8J : was concerned8 )onte did not so'nd okay and he did not look okay8 4learly@ he was .ery other .er ti(e H 's'ally8J : tho'ght abo't this while )onte ca'ght his breath fro( talking so ('ch8 .e a load of g'ilt fro( (y sho'lders8 ISo what is it yo' really want to doKJ I: want to fiddle8J I5o' ha.ing at it then yo'6.hat )onte had said did not resol.ery ill8 : watched as he fo'ght for breath8 Slowly@ .e 'p e.erything : can and go to Gansas 4ity8J I:t6ll be a to'gh life8 5o'6ll see dr'gs and alcoholis(@ and e.hen yo'6re ready to (ake yo'r (o.e a tendency to resist the choices their children (ake and wonder where they went wrong8 B't they adapt o.e got to lea.e to go to FA or ?ash.e already seen a doctor8J After a few (ore foc'sed breaths@ he rela%ed and p't a s(ile on his face@ tho'gh : knew it was forced8 I.ille8J : nodded8 : had already tho'ght abo't all this8 I: ha.e connections in Gansas 4ity H a few in ?ash.er went away entirely8 )onte wiped so(e spittle fro( his (o'th with the back of his hand8 IAre yo' s're yo'6re okay8 : can take yo' to the hospital8J I:6( as fine as :6( gonna be8 And :6.here were we8J )onte tho'ght for a (o(ent8 I+h yeah8 : ha.e (y fiddle@J )onte anno'nced8 I:t6ll open doors for yo'@ anywhere :6( re(e(bered8J : was to'ched by the offer@ and shocked8 I)onte@ : can6t take yo'r fiddleMJ I+f co'rse yo' can@ and will8 : can6t play it any(ore8 There E'st isn6t eno'gh life in these old hands8J 9e held 'p two bony and palsied hands@ hands that shook and looked (ore like claws8 IThat fiddle6s been in yo'r fa(ily for generationsMJ .e@ :6ll help yo' get set 'p8J IThanks8J : was still worried abo't )onte6s health8 IAnd : want yo' to ha.e one (ore year of school left8 )y folks won6t try to p'sh (e into a se(inary 'ntil after that8 :6( gonna sa.e here8 <o to a city and Eoin a band8 5o' (ight E'st scrape by8 B't if yo' really want to be s'ccessf'l@ so(eday yo'6ll ha.ice there is8 : don6t know why the ('sic b'siness is like that@ b't it is8J I: know8 :6ll be caref'l not to get s'cked into it8J IBe e%tra caref'l@J )onte warned (e8 9e looked at his cigarette pack and then ga.I)aybe not8 That6s their proble(8 B't : think they6ll co(e to accept yo'r decision in ti(e8 Parents ha.e (y sit'ation with (y parents@ b't it did re(o.ille too8 .ery slowly@ the wheeAing let 'p@ tho'gh it ne.
e no children@J he re(inded (e8 I:t has been (y intention to pass that fiddle on to yo'8 5o'6ll cherish it and@ what6s (ore i(portant@ yo'6ll play it8 There is no one : wo'ld rather hand it to8J I+kay8 Thank yo'8J : always knew : was )onte6s ('sical heir8 IB't there6s plenty of ti(e to do that later8J I?o@ there isn6t8 : ha.hen )onte finished co'ghing@ he hid the handkerchief back in his pocket@ p'lled hi(self together@ and t'rned to face his yo'ng protOgO8 : 'nderstood fro( the look on his face that we were to talk no (ore abo't his cancer8 IFet (e fetch that fiddle for yo'8 :6d like to hear yo' play8J : stood and offered (y hand to )onte8 )onte looked at it for a (o(ent before taking it and p'lling hi(self 'p fro( the swing with (y help8 I:f yo' don6t want to go ho(e tonight@ yo'6re welco(e to stay@J he offered as he toddled o.er to the door8 I: wo'ld like that@J : agreed as : followed )onte into the ho'se8 I:n that case@ : s'ggest yo' gi.anced stage8 :6.er started8 Don6t yo' e.er8 : ached already for the loss of this (an who helped (e to find (y .e l'ng cancer8J I?oMJ I5es@J )onte insisted8 IAnd it6s at a pretty ad.oice8 .e percent chance of working8 And that che(o6s hard eno'gh on yo' itself8 : said no8J IAre yo' s'reKJ I: led a f'll life8 S're@ : wo'ldn6t (ind li.e s'spected for a long ti(e@ b't : E'st didn6t want to know8 Fast (onth it got really bad8 Pain in (y chest@ co'ghing 'p blood8 : had an attack so bad : co'ldn6t catch (y breath8 : called (y doctor@ and they took (e to the hospital8J : was so b'sy with (y own life : did not know any of this had happened8 : felt g'ilty for not being there when )onte needed (e8 IThe doc said : waited too long8 ?ow it6s inoperable8J IThere6s got to be so(ething they can doMJ IThe doc wanted (e to try che(o8 B't at (y stage@ it6s only got abo't a twentyfi.IAlbert@ : ha.e sat in silence@ )onte fighting for breath and (e digesting what : had been told8 I:t was these things8J )onte tapped the cigarette pack8 I: wish :6d ne.er s(oke@J he co'nseled (e8 I:t6s a hard habit to kick8 )ost people C'it the way : a( H and that6s harder yet8J 9e tried to la'gh@ tho'gh it ca(e o't (ore as a rattle8 I: g'ess : sho'ld do one of those co((ercials like 5'l Brenner8J 9e affected a fake accent8 IFro( : who a( gone@ to yo' who are still hereN do not s(oke8J )onte la'ghed a little harder at his bad i(personation@ and then choked8 9e p'lled the handkerchief o't of his shirt pocket and t'rned away so : wo'ld not see hi( co'ghing 'p blood8 : p't a hand on his back8 )onte felt so frail@ as tho'gh a good g'st of wind wo'ld knock hi( o.e yo'r folks a call and let the( know where yo' are8J 9e wandered down the hallway8 ITell the( :6ll see that yo' get ho(e in the (orning8J .in6 a little longer8 That ain6t in the cards tho'gh8 Doc says : got (aybe a year left@ (ore or less8J .
e8J $.er to )onte6s@ where : kept it st'ffed into a large Ear@ and .ernight8 Gnowing )onte6s condition@ (y parents did not obEect8 They .ery diffic'lt for (y a'dience to keep fro( dancing@ or at least tapping their toes@ so infectio's was (y playing8 +f (y earnings@ : withheld a third@ gi.erall (ore of the latter than the for(er8 )onte wanted to pay (e for the work : did@ b't : wo'ld not hear of it8 .ice their son wo'ld perfor( reg'larly as a priest8 )onte had his good days and his bad days@ tho'gh o.en tho'gh : said it@ : still co'ld not belie.ening@J : told her8 I:6( gonna stay here tonight and look after hi(8J I+kay honey8 That (ight be for the best all the way aro'nd8J I:6ll see yo' in the (orning then8J I5o' tell )onte he will be in o'r prayers8J I.isited )onte on a daily basis@ often staying o.ity re(inded (e that (y parents really were good people8 IThe doctors only gi.er here@ taking care of things that were too ('ch for )onte to do alone8 : fo'nd )onte in the li.e style to (ake 'p for the lack of a rhyth( section8 $.I+kay8J : went into the kitchen to 'se the phone8 : called ho(e and was relie.iewed it as the sort of co(('nity ser.e hi( a year to li.ery 'pset8 9e went o't to the barn and he hasn6t co(e in since8J I)o(@ :6( going to stay at )onte6s tonight8 : E'st fo'nd o't he has l'ng cancer8J I+h dearMJ (y (other e%clai(ed8 9er sensiti.ill do8 <oodbye@ )o(8J I<oodbye8J : h'ng 'p the phone and po'red (yself a glass of water fro( the sink8 As : drank@ : looked at the clean dishes stacked in the dish drainer and wondered how long )onte wo'ld be able to look after hi(self8 : (ade 'p (y (ind that : wo'ld spend (ore ti(e o.ing the( less fro( each gig8 : took the (oney : withheld o.ing roo(@ resting in his easy chair8 9e was flagged o't fro( fetching the fiddle8 The fiddle case sat on the coffee table in front of the co'ch8 IPlay 's a t'ne@J )onte said8 I.e co'ld both 'se so(e cheering 'p8J *& he )arvest Dan+e : .here are yo'KJ I:6( at )onte6s8J I5o'r father ca(e ho(e .ed when (y (other answered8 IAlbert8J She so'nded worried8 I.ing the re(ainder to (y parents8 : perfor(ed so ('ch they did not notice that : was gi.en when : perfor(ed by (yself@ it was .e it8 )y (other tried to interEect so(e hope8 IDoctors are wrong so(eti(es8J I9e6s feeling pretty poorly this e.hen there was not ('ch that needed to be done@ : wo'ld play the fiddle8 : played at barn dances as often as possible8 : wo'ld book any gig that offered pay(ent8 :n fact@ we perfor(ed so ('ch that the other band (e(bers co(plained they had no ti(e left for anything else8 So : started perfor(ing witho't the rest of the band@ with only one or two band (e(bers@ or with other ('sicians8 A n'(ber of ti(es@ : was acco(panied only by a g'itar or a banEo8 :f all else failed@ : wo'ld play solo@ perfor(ing in a (ore perc'ssi.
oice yo' wo'ld listen to in its own right8 For so(e reason : co'ld not 'nderstand@ it see(ed to (e that decent singers were (ore attracted to co'ntry ('sic or rock8 : hoped this e%perience wo'ld change when : (o.e (y fa(ily and tr'ly start (y career in ('sic8 Beca'se : did not keep close track of this sa.ery contest : entered@ to the point that : no longer took part in contests@ tho'gh : was often asked to E'dge8 So(e fiddlers were so inti(idated by (e they wo'ld not pick 'p a bow if : was present8 This bothered (e and : went o't of (y way to (ake the( feel at ease8 : began gi.ed rhy(es8 ?or was : ('ch of a singer8 : noted this was a proble( with (ost of the Stringbands in the areaN few of the( had a singer who was worth his or her salt8 There was 's'ally so(eone in the gro'p who co'ld belt o't lyrics H in (y gro'p it was o'r g'itarist@ )ichael 4'nningha(8 B't none of 's had a .er : perfor(ed@ whether by (yself or with (y band@ abo't half of the t'nes : played were new@ and (any of the( beca(e pop'lar eno'gh that other fiddlers and bands asked per(ission to perfor( the(8 : ne.e.er spoke to (e@ not e.ed to the city8 Fiddle t'nes were fine for barn dancing@ b't if a gro'p wanted to (ake it big@ then it needed songs with good hooks and a talented singer to sell the(8 .oid (e and (y fa(ily8 .ery t'ne was listenable in its own right@ and (y st'dents were always eager to learn and perfect the(8 : was writing a lot of other fiddle t'nes as well8 So (any that : began recording and transcribing E'st to keep track of the( all8 .es or in front of others8 : wrote a n'(ber of fiddle t'nes to teach (y st'dents8 )ost of the( were si(ple pieces that co'ld ser.e as st'dies for de.hen o'r paths did cross@ which happened (ore often once school res'(ed@ =anice ne.ing lessons@ both at )onte6s ho'se and at the ('sic store in town8 )y st'dents tho'ght highly of (e8 : was a nat'ral teacher and (y lo.hene.ario's techniC'es@ practicing bowing patterns@ do'ble-stops and drones@ and playing in higher positions8 5et e.er denied that per(ission@ as : felt it was the highest co(pli(ent that so(eone else wanted to play one of (y t'nes8 : wanted to write songs as well@ and : did try to do so8 B't while : co'ld fashion wonderf'l (elodies@ (y lyrics were doggerel with contri.ings@ : had no way of knowing that )onte added (oney to the pot by way of paying (e for all the work : did aro'nd the ho'se8 : saw little of =anice after we broke 'p8 She stopped going to dances if she knew : was perfor(ing@ and her fa(ily stopped attending the local 4atholic 4h'rch8 They went to a ch'rch in the ne%t co'nty@ si(ply to a.hile these slights h'rt a little at first@ : shr'gged the( off and went on with (y life8 =anice lobbied so(e of o'r friends to t'rn against (e@ b't : did not let this bother (e either8 : was far too b'sy for a social life@ what with (y ho(e chores@ helping )onte@ and all the perfor(ing8 Besides@ =anice was not able to p't ('ch of a dent in (y pop'larity@ considering : was so(ething of a local celebrity8 : was b'ilding a na(e for (yself@ at least locally8 : was widely considered to be the best fiddler in fo'r co'nties8 +ther fiddlers@ incl'ding so(e with (any (ore years of e%perience at sawing the bow@ considered (e to be one of the best8 Starting with that first co(petition )onte took (e to a few years back@ : won e.en to ret'rn (y greetings8 .e of fiddling was infectio's8 ?o (atter how talented@ (y st'dents ca(e away fro( their lessons with confidence@ b'ilding a repertory they enEoyed playing whether for the(sel.ent'ally a second Ear8 This was the nest egg : was b'ilding for the day when : wo'ld lea.eloping .
er6s door8 I)an@ it6s abo't ti(e yo' got here@J )ichael 4'nningha( said8 9e was the g'itarist and singer@ as well as being the chief lady killer of the gro'p8 .e to co(e o.oice@ b't he (ore than (ade 'p for it with charis(a8 9e had backed (e 'p se.e left )onte alone at ho(e8 The first people : saw were (y fellow band (e(bers@ standing aro'nd =i((y B'rnshaw6s r'sty old .er8 They were led by a .eral ti(es when the rest of (y band was not a.an8 =i((y was the bass player@ and it was o'r ro'tine for hi( to dri.hile )onte changed into fresh nightclothes@ : cleaned the floor in the hallway8 Then : gathered 'p the soiled clothes and p't the( in the la'ndry ha(per@ noting as : did so that : wo'ld ha.er to )onte6s to pick 'p the fiddle : kept there@ and see if )onte was 'p for the social8 As it t'rned o't@ )onte had spent ('ch of the day in bed8 9e hadn6t eaten@ so : fi%ed a little chicken broth and sat with hi( while he ate it8 Afterwards@ while : washed dishes@ )onte felt the broth co(ing back 'p and tried to (ake it to the bathroo( b't failed8 9e spewed 'ndigested so'p and blood all down the front of his paEa(as and on the floor in the hallway8 : helped hi( back to the bedroo(@ insisting it was not his fa'lt when )onte said how sorry he was for (aking s'ch a (ess8 .est Dance@ which was one of the biggest e.er at 1P)8 : was fa(iliar with both bands* : had played with the( on other occasions and often ran into so(e of the ('sicians at local Ea( sessions8 The second gro'p@ the 9igh Tension 9ell Daisers@ was led by a talented fellow by the na(e of 4larence 9ightense8 4larence played clawha((er banEo and (andolin8 9e was a pop'lar storyteller and sC'are-dance caller8 9e did not ha.ents of the year8 :t was held in the large hall at the co'nty fairgro'nds@ where half a doAen bands wo'ld take t'rns playing thro'gh the night8 )y band@ The S(okey 9ill Stringband@ had played there for the last two years@ and this year we were gi.er the ne%t day and wash a load of la'ndry8 +nce that was taken care of@ : ret'rned to the bedroo( to sit with (y sick (entor8 : debated whether to cancel the e.The last weekend in Septe(ber was the 9ar.ening perfor(ance@ tho'gh : knew : co'ld not8 )onte insisted he was fine@ and wo'ld not rest 'ntil : left for the fairgro'nds8 And so it was nearly 2P) when : reached the hall@ feeling : sho'ld not ha.an as : p'lled in8 By the ti(e : had the tr'ck parked@ they were gathered aro'nd the dri.en'e8 : wo'ld ha.en the pri(e slot8 :t was C'ite an honor8 That ti(eslot was 's'ally reser.ed for a (aEor band fro( o't of town@ b't this year the organiAers felt that (y band co'ld easily (eas're 'p8 Tr'e@ they were not going to pay C'ite as ('ch as they wo'ld for so(e o't-of-town talent@ b't the (oney they were offering was still (ore than we (ade at any other gig8 The first gro'p started at /P)@ and the second was s'pposed to take o.e liked to be there before the first band hit the stage@ b't (y dad had a b'sy day planned o't for 's8 By the ti(e : finished with the far( work@ washed 'p and changed clothes@ it was nearly si% o6clock8 : still had to swing o.oice like honey8 Being fond of :rish ('sic@ : tho'ght this gro'p wo'ld be a welco(e change of pace fro( the nor(al Stringband .e ('ch of a singing .e aro'nd and gather the other ('sicians and their instr'(ents8 =i((y ta(ped o't a cigarette on the side of his .ery hot chick with a .ailable for a gig8 Playing with 4larence was always a pleas're8 : knew all the bands that were playing that night e%cept for the gro'p i((ediately following (ine@ Traci6s 4eltic 4astaways8 This was a traditional :rish band fro( the ne%t co'nty o.
er to the hall8 +nce we had been wa.ed into the hall by the ticket takers at the door@ )ichael c't off to Eoin the dancers8 4h'ck wandered toward the refresh(ent tables8 =i((y followed (e o.ertones where the light hit it E'st right8 : was d'(bfo'nded by her bea'ty8 )y heart beat in (y chest@ and so(ething inside told (e that : knew this girl8 .e called yo'r ho'se and they said yo' left ho'rs ago8J ISorry@J : told the( as : reached into the cab of the tr'ck and drew o't (y fiddle case8 I)onte isn6t doing so well tonight8J I.ersion of :ndian $at a .e got o'r work c't o't for 's@J =i((y said as we trooped o.I.er seen8 She was nearly as tall as (e and long li(bed8 She was dressed in a flowery skirt and a forest green kirtle that p'shed 'p her ro'nd@ f'll breasts to (a%i('( ad.e6re sorry to hear that@J =i((y said8 $asy going and dependable@ =i((y was the gl'e that held the band together@ and the oil that kept it r'nning s(oothly8 : sla((ed the tr'ck door8 I9e was resting when : left8 9e6s probably asleep by now8J : scanned the parking lot and looked o.e to the others@ : nodded to 4larence8 .e8 .er at the hall8 IFooks like a decent crowd8J 4h'ck grinned8 IThe 9igh Tension 9ell Daisers got the( wo'nd 'p8 4larence is in fine for(8J I.e were worried abo't yo'@J 4h'ck ?orbit p't in8 4h'ck ro'nded o't o'r so'nd on (andolin@ g'itar and har(onica@ and occasionally second fiddle8 I5o' were gonna be here at fi.oodch'ck8 4larence nodded at (e and : nodded back8 Approaching the band stand@ (y attention was de.e6.e6.er saw8 ='st then@ the fiddle t'ne ended8 : t'rned to appla'd8 .hen she saw : was looking at her and ret'rned (y gaAe@ : fo'ght the instinct to look away8 :nstead@ : s(iled at her and nodded8 9er s(ile widened as she nodded back@ showing the whitest set of teeth : e.er to the stage@ where the 9igh Tension 9ell Daisers were perfor(ing8 They were playing a ro'sing .ering a characteristically rhyth(ic .ersion of the old fiddle t'ne8 ?ow : glanced at the dancers and the other spectators standing off to the side of the stage@ intending to gage the a'dience8 )y eyes went straight to what had to be the (ost bea'tif'l wo(an : had e.oted to the ('sicians perfor(ing 'p there@ partic'larly Pince =ordan@ a fine fiddler who was deli.e got a real treat for yo'@J 4larence anno'nced8 IAlbert 9ayne wrote this t'ne and : s'pplied the lyrics for it8 )aybe we can get Albert 'p here to do it with 's8J The a'dience appla'ded while 4larence and the other band (e(bers 'rged (e onto the stage8 : sat (y case on a table at the back of the stage and drew o't (y fiddle and bow8 : tightened 'p the bow@ fig'ring that : did not need to bother rosining it E'st yet8 Then : Eoined the others@ shaking hands with Pernon and 4larence8 Fiddle 'nder (y chin@ : t'rned to Pernon and played (y A string8 Pernon played his@ and : adE'sted (y fine t'ner 'ntil the pitches (atched8 Then : 'sed (y A string to t'ne the rest of the strings8 Satisfied : was in t'ne relati.antage8 9er face held the wondro's Eoy of an eternal s'nny spring day8 9er co(ple%ion was clear and crea(y@ her cheeks f'll b't not p'dgy8 She had on bright red lipstick that accent'ated the slight po't of her lower lip8 9er eyes were the color of t'rC'oise and sparkled when she ret'rned (y gaAe8 9er s(ile lit 'p her face8 And her long@ c'rly hair was a rich strawberry blonde that glowed with red o.hen : glanced at her again@ she was gone8 : looked aro'nd@ b't co'ld not see her anywhere8 I.
e6re gonna play yo' a little t'ne we wrote called QB'ild )e a Stillho'se86J There was so(e cheering and appla'se@ and so(e la'ghter as well8 4larence started the t'ne howling in a capella8 I+h life is hard@ hard@ hard@ :t6s hard on (e8 4an6t (ake nothin6 on corn@ rye@ and wheat B't (isery8 ?ow if (y corn won6t sell :6ll tell yo' what :6ll doN :6( goin6 down to the barn To cook 'p (y own ho(e brew8J 9ere the band ca(e in with a high energy hoedown8 By the ti(e the first .erses8 Fooking o't at the a'dience@ : saw that girl again@ s(iling and clapping her hands in ti(e to the ('sic8 She looked straight at (e and s(iled8 That s(ile into%icated (e (ore than any (oonshine wo'ld ha.e done8 For a (o(ent@ there was only her bea'ty and (y fiddle8 :t see(ed the two were ine%tricably entwined@ tho'gh whether (y fiddle .en two8 :6( gonna b'ild (e a still That6ll t'rn (y woes to (oney8J After the chor's@ 4larence stepped away fro( the (ike and : ca(e forward to fiddle on a .erse was o.ariant of the (elody8 .ell : picked 'p (y E'g And : p't down (y g'n : offered the( a pl'g And yo' sho'ld6a seen the( r'n8 I:6( gonna b'ild (e a still And (ake (y own ho(e brew8 :6( gonna b'ild (e a still That6ll t'rn (y corn to honey8 <onna fire it 'p and let that corn (ash stew@ <onna fill (e a c'p or (aybe e.e style@ : tossed ca'tion to the wind and t'rned o't a delightf'l r'n of notes that danced aro'nd the (elody with gales of la'ghter8 After soloing thro'gh a .I+kay folks@J 4larence told the a'dience8 I.er@ the entire hall was rocking8 The (elody was infectio's@ and 4larence6s lyrics were delightf'l and stirring at the sa(e ti(e8 9e sang abo't the plight of the far(er@ yet transfor(ed sorrow to Eoy thro'gh that sa(e st'bborn persistence that kept the far(er on his land8 ISo(e big co(pany tried to steal (y land They offered (e a dollar To take it off (y hand8 ϟ .erse and a chor's@ : stepped back and 4larence went on with the ne%t three .ith Pince backing (e in his own perc'ssi.
er the ch'rning rhyth( of banEo@ g'itar and bass8 The a'dience was going n'ts8 Finally@ we took it down a notch@ 4larence sang the last chor's@ and we bro'ght the song to an end8 IThanks folks@J 4larence called o't o.eryone on their feet dancing the night away8 The band p't o't a dri.eliness or whether her .here6d she goKJ I?e.er to (y band (ates8 IThat was greatMJ =i((y said8 ϟ IDid yo' see herKJ : de(anded as : looked aro'nd the a'dience8 ISee whoKJ IThe girl with the strawberry blonde hair@J : sta((ered8 IShe had on a long flowing skirt and a green blo'se8J : was beginning to wonder if : had i(agined her8 I5eah@J )ichael affir(ed8 :f anyone else spotted her@ it wo'ld be hi(8 I: think : know who yo'6re talkin6 abo't8J 9e pointed to where : last saw her8 IShe was standing o.e the i(pression of the copper t'bing8 The bass fiddler had already po'nded o't his line in i(itation of the brewing kettle8 I+kay@ Pince@ let6s b'ild 'p a fire 'nder this (ash8J 4larence said8 Together@ he and Pince played a pretty good i(itation of a crackling fire8 I?ow let6s get that (ash to boilin6MJ : Eoined in and the still co((enced b'bbling and perking8 I+kay@ boys@ this ain6t rocket science@J 4larence called o't8 IFet6s (ake so(e (oonshineMJ The whole band b'rst loose8 Pince and : crowed o.en fifth position@ which was rarely done in old ti(e ('sic8 5et all the ti(e : kept (y eye on the a'dience@ looking for )iss Fire and S'nshine@ as : na(ed her for her hair and face8 D'ring the first set@ : saw not a sign of her8 : wo'ld ha.er (ind her@J =i((y said8 I.oice was s'pplying the song for (y fiddle : co'ld not say8 : only knew that the two were 'nited in a co(('nion s'ch as : had ne.e (in'te sets that had e.e gotta set 'p8J .& She "oved through the Fair The S(okey 9ill Stringband was in top for(8 .e wondered if she was so(e kind of (irage@ had )ichael not noticed her as well8 : knew she e%isted@ and so(ething told (e o'r paths wo'ld cross8 :t was s'rely a (atter of destiny as ('ch as it .ision of her lo.er e%perienced before8 And : tho'ght this wo(an knew it too8 4larence drew (e back to reality8 IBert@ we need so(e copper t'bing for this still8J : wo'nd a loopy fiddle line to gi.was creating the .er the appla'se8 IAlbert 9ayne on fiddleM Pince =ordan on fiddle@ )el .er did with this band8 : wielded the trickiest bow licks with ease@ and (arched 'p the neck to third and fo'rth position@ and e.er there8J )an@ she was a knocko'tMJ : looked aro'nd the hall8 I.hipple on g'itar and B'd Baker on bassM :6( 4larence 9ightense@ and we6re the 9igh Tension 9ell DaisersM Stick aro'nd and Albert will be back with his own band@ The S(okey 9ill StringbandMJ The girl had disappeared again8 : co'ld not see her anywhere8 : left the stage and h'rried o.e played two forty-fi.ing beat that kept (e hopping to stay on top of it8 : responded with so(e of the fanciest fiddling : e.
o'ld yo' like (e to introd'ce yo'K : don6t see her right now8J 4larence offered a word of ad.er8 IAlbert@ we6re back on8J .en (ore dances than : did* he was a pop'lar dance caller8 .e she6s a good person8 B't she leads a different life fro( o'rs8 5o'6ll see it once she gets on stage8 She6s a pagan thro'gh and thro'gh@ and no hiding it8 IThere6s so(e that didn6t want her gro'p playing here tonight8 They said it wasn6t fit entertain(ent for 4hristian fa(ilies8 : arg'ed to bring the( in8 : said anyone who co'ld tolerate (e and (y 9ell Daisers co'ld tolerate the(8 And : pointed o't that (ost of the people who were opposed had :rish or Scottish blood in the(8J I.ery (an in this hall8 She6s a rare bea'ty8 There6s a ('sic that follows her abo't and anno'nces her where.er heals for a girl to who( : ne.erheard8 I: can6t get this girl o't of (y (ind8 She disappeared before : got a chance to talk to her8J I.had been for (e to e.ed in this part of Gansas@ 4larence wo'ld know her8 I4larence@ :6( looking for a girl8J ISo was : when : was yo'r age@J the elder (an Eoked8 IThen : fo'nd one@ and e.il worshippers or any s'ch@J 4larence clarified8 IB't they do sing abo't fairies and )other ?at're8 .ho knows@ (aybe we need to hear (ore abo't the( things what with the (ess we6re (akin6 of this planet8J =i((y r'shed o.er since :6.eral people la'ghed at this reEoinder8 : led 4larence away by the elbow@ o.er had spolen8 5et : co'ld no (ore stop looking for her than : co'ld ha.ery fine girl@ and : belie.ice8 I: gotta tell ya now8 She6s a .ely and knew pretty ('ch e.e been looking for a place to hide fro( her8J Se.er she goes8J ITraci <albrieth8J : repeated the na(e as if it were the secret na(e of so(e di.eryone there was to know8 :f )iss Fire and S'nshine li.oice (ore than (atches her other char(s8 They6re gonna be 'p right after yo'@ so yo'6ll get a chance to see the(8 They6re C'ite a treat8 She do(inates a stage like yo'@ b't she6s a far sight (ore pleasing to the eye8J 4larence t'rned and looked abo't the hall8 I.hat is (ore@ he socialiAed e%tensi.hoa now@J 4larence flagged (e down8 9e had ne.en as : described )iss Fire and S'nshine@ : scanned the hall@ hoping to see her8 4larence did not let (e down@ ISo'nds like Traci <albrieth8 : can see why she ca'ght yo'r fancy8 :6( s're she has the eye of e.er pick 'p the fiddle8 5et : co'ld not tr'st to destiny8 : had to find her* it was i(perati.e stopped playing the fiddle8 $.e8 After the first set@ : ca'ght 'p with 4larence 9ightense8 4larence played e.hat6s wrong with the(KJ : knitted (y brow8 I?ow they ain6t de.er to the side of the stage where we wo'ld not be o.inity not of this $arth8 ϟof c'riosity and ca'tion8 IShe (es(eriAes 4larence eyed (e with a co(bination the boys where.en'es8 She6s the singer in Traci6s 4eltic 4astaways8 9er .er she goes8 ?ot that she tries to* there6s E'st so(ething abo't her8J ?oticing the way 4larence was regarding (e@ : tried to shake the drea(y e%pression fro( (y face@ only half s'cceeding8 I:6( s'rprised yo' don6t know her@J 4larence said8 IThen again@ (ost of the ti(e yo' play different .er heard (e so e%cited abo't a wo(an8 ITell (e what this apparition looked like8J : felt foolish to be so head o.
en faster and : la'nched into a lightning fast .e played all the t'nes at a fast te(po8 This (edley ga.e all ca(e in together@ the rest of the band pro.ersion of 4herish the Fadies8 .e followed this with a co'ple of waltAes that ga.indows@ transfor(ing the t'ne into a f'll scale riot8 And then we C'it so s'ddenly the absence of so'nd created a .hich oneKJ 4h'ck asked8 IThe Eigs8J Stepping o.itality@ gaiety@ and a hint of flirtation in her eyes8 : noticed 4larence trying to get (y attention@ seeking confir(ation8 : responded with a slight nod8 4larence for(ed an okay sign with his right hand@ indicating that he wo'ld (ake introd'ctions8 : glanced at Traci to (ake s're she had not seen this e%change8 She was talking to her friend8 She looked back at (e@ la'ghing8 : felt a war(th co(('nicated by her gaAe8 $nding the t'ne we were playing@ : t'rned to the other band (e(bers and said@ IFet6s play the :rish (edley8J I.erything by the side of the stage8 Then they held a short@ whispered conference@ after which (ost of the band (e(bers wandered off@ lea.ersion of 4herish the Fadies8 Fast tho'gh it was@ : played e.ing Traci and one other girl to watch o.e8 Their con.ersation ca(e to a co(plete halt when (y band picked 'p the te(po e.er on The ?ight .ac''( that s'cked e.e Paid the Dent before settling into a ϟ ro'sing .hiskey and The ?ight .e worked o'r way back to S(ash the .e were (idway thro'gh o'r second set when Traci reappeared8 She ca(e in carrying eC'ip(ent@ along with the rest of her band8 They stacked e.er the eC'ip(ent8 : s(iled at Traci fro( the stage and she s(iled back@ her s(ile bea(ing with .erybody6s breath away8 The a'dience filled the .hile )ichael was singing@ : watched Traci arg'ing with her other band (e(bers8 She herded the( o'tside so they wo'ld not interr'pt o'r perfor(ance8 : directed a C'estioning look at 4larence@ who shr'gged to indicate he did not 'nderstand what was going on8 Traci ret'rned d'ring the waltAes8 : did .ed hi( away8 4h'ck and )ichael took o.e6re gonna do so(ething a little different8 :f there are any cloggers o't there@ yo' (ight want to head for the dance floor8J )ichael co'nted o't the beat in a swinging 0R2 rhyth(@ I+ne-and-a two-and-a8J .ery note and e.e Paid the Dent@ each of the( taking a t'rn with the (elody8 Traci took this opport'nity to talk to her other band (e(bers8 +ne of the( see(ed dist'rbed abo't so(ething@ b't Traci was dis(issi.ery orna(ent with perfection@ i(b'ing the t'ne with pyrotechnical high spirits8 .e (e a chance to show off (y knowledge of :rish orna(entation8 : e%ec'ted grace notes@ slides and t'rns like the e%pert : was@ 'sing the( to bring the (elodies to life8 : had Traci6s attention fro( the first8 By the second t'ne@ she was bo'ncing on her feet8 :t did not take long for the rest of her band to gather aro'nd8 +ne of the other band (e(bers tried to talk to her@ b't she wa.iding rhyth( and chords while : took off with (elody8 The (edley began with S(ash the .ac''( with appla'se8 +nce the appla'se died down@ )ichael stepped 'p to sing the ('rder ballad Fittle Sadie8 .I:6ll introd'ce yo' after this set@J 4larence pro(ised8 IShe6ll be gettin6 ready to perfor(8J .indows@ and then took t'rns at The 9'(o'rs of .er to the (ic@ : told the a'dience@ I.e (e a(ple opport'nity to display (y knowledge of fiddle techniC'e8 .
not see her co(e in8 : looked 'p fro( (y fiddle and there she was@ standing by the stage listening and s(iling as tho'gh she did not ha,e a care in the world8 Following the waltAes@ we in,ited 4larence 'p to call a few sC'are dances8 Donald Benton@ a star high school football player b'ilt like a slightly scaled down ,ersion of Pa'l B'nyan@ asked Traci to dance and she accepted8 She was light on her feet@ kicking 'p her skirts and gracing the dance floor as she did e,erything else8 ;hen the dance was o,er@ she ret'rned to the side of the stage@ where her band gathered once (ore8 The fellow who started the arg'(ent looked 'nhappy b't resigned8 She said so(ething to hi( and stroked his ar(@ and that see(ed to cheer hi( 'p so(ewhat8 The S(okey 9ill Stringband concl'ded with another fast-paced set of fiddle t'nes8 They were originals@ tho'gh so(e of the( had already been picked 'p by other stringbands and ele,ated to regional standards8 ;hen 4larence left the stage@ he Eoined Traci and spoke to her8 : watched the( closely@ wondering what he was saying to her8 ;hate,er it was@ it see(ed to brighten her disposition e,en f'rther@ if that was possible8 She la'ghed and bea(ed@ her eyes dancing with Eoy8 She s(iled 'p at (e and nodded8 : nodded and s(iled back@ playing away witho't (issing a beat tho'gh : felt like : was going to (elt into a p'ddle on the stage8 ;e finished the set@ recei,ing a th'ndero's o,ation fro( the a'dience8 Diding high on elation@ we packed o'r instr'(ents and cleared the stage for the ne%t band8 Traci6s band (ates were already setting 'p their eC'ip(ent8 The contentio's yo'ng (an with who( Traci had been arg'ing r'dely p'shed his way past (e8 I$%c'se (e8J : stro,e to be polite@ tho'gh the other fellow ignored (e8 : noticed he was carrying a fiddle case@ the sight of which ga,e (e so(e inkling as to why the ϟ fellow was beha,ing so badly8 The (an walked o,er to the table and p'shed 4h'ck6s (andolin o't of the way so he co'ld set down his fiddle case8 IFet (e (o,e that for yo'@J 4h'ck said politely as he latched on to the handle of the (andolin case and slid it off the table8 The girl who had been standing with Traci@ a little pi%ie with short black hair@ sat a stand and a large trapeAoidal case on the edge of the stage@ and then hoisted herself 'p8 She picked 'p the stand and headed stage left@ pa'sing by (e along the way8 I5o' boys p't on C'ite a show@J she said to (e8 IThank yo'8J Fiddle case in hand@ : followed her o,er to where she set 'p the stand8 I5o'6re gonna be a hard act to follow8J She stood in front of the stand@ really (ore of a slanted table@ E'dging the height against herself8 I:6( looking forward to hearing yo' folks8J )y eyes kept wandering to Traci@ who was still talking to 4larence8 I5o' did C'ite a Eob with those Eigs8J The pi%ie crossed the stage and picked 'p the hea,y trapeAoidal case8 : offered to help her with it@ b't she had already l'gged it across the stage and laid it o't at the foot of the stand8 IAl(ost too good a Eob for so(e people8J She darted a glance at the fiddler@ who was tightening his bow with his back to 's8 She opened the case@ disclosing a ha((ered d'lci(er8 : sat (y fiddle down8 IFet (e help yo' with that8J IThanks8J The pi%ie s(iled at (e8 I)y na(e6s 4hrissie@ by the way8J
IBert8J : shook hands with her8 Then : helped her lift the hea,y d'lci(er and lay it on the stand8 4hrissie drew a pair of ha((ers o't of a pocket of the case@ along with a t'ning key8 I:f yo'6ll e%c'se (e@ : need to (ake s're this thing is in t'ne8J I+f co'rse8J : stayed p't for a (o(ent@ listening as she played octa,es8 :t did not take her long to find a note that had gone flat8 She set to work with the t'ning wrench8 : picked 'p (y fiddle and took (y lea,e8 : realiAed that : was p'tting off the introd'ction8 Fooking o,er at 4larence and Traci@ : saw )ichael already had beaten (e8 The cornfield 4asano,a was standing there with his g'itar case@ talking with the(8 9e flirted with Traci@ who la'ghed at so(ething he said8 4larence wa,ed (e o,er as : cli(bed down off the stage8 IAlbert 9ayne@J 4larence perfor(ed the introd'ction@ Ithis is Traci <albrieth8J IAlbert8J Traci offered her hand8 ;hen : took it@ : felt the electricity flow between 's8 IAl or Bert is E'st fine8J : felt (yself falling into her sparkling green eyes8 I+r yo' can call hi( st'(ble (o'th8J )ichael p't in8 Traci slid past )ichael@ stepping close to (e8 I:6,e heard yo'6re the best fiddle player in the state8J She (eas'red (e as she spoke@ noting how : accepted this praise8 IAnd now that :6,e heard yo'@ : know it is tr'e8J 9er ,oice was as ('sical as a babbling brook8 I: look forward to hearing yo' sing@J : responded8 ;e stood close@ looking into each other6s eyes8 The inti(acy between 's was instantaneo's@ and the rest of the world see(ed to ,anish8 ϟs're yo'6ll p't (y caterwa'ling to sha(e8J ?either of 's heard )ichael say@ I:6( DealiAing they were in the way@ 4larence said to )ichael@ I: bet yo'r throat is dry after all that bellowing8 : know : co'ld 'se a drink8J )ichael shook his head as he regarded the che(istry flowing between his band (ate and the enchanting 4eltic chante'se8 9e grinned at 4larence8 I5eah@ let6s get o'tta here8J : did not notice their depart're8 : had ne,er felt so close to anyone before in (y life8 5et : was entirely at ease with her8 I5o' play the best :rish fiddle :6,e e,er heard in these parts8J Traci spoke si(ply beca'se we co'ld not go on staring at each other8 I: do ha,e a lot of the :rish in (e8J : realiAed : was still holding her hand8 :t was as tho'gh o'r hands had been bonded together by (agnetic attraction8 : wanted to r'n (y other hand thro'gh her bea'tif'l hair8 :nstead@ : loosened (y grip and let go of her8 She withdrew her hand8 I:6( afraid yo'r playing has ca'sed so(e proble(s for 's8J I+h@J : said with gen'ine concern8 : wo'ld do nothing to ca'se her tro'ble8 IDerrick@ o'r fiddler@ is Eealo's8J She stayed close8 So close : co'ld feel her breasts br'shing against (y chest8 : wanted to reach o't and hold her@ b't refrained8 :nstead@ : drank in her eyes and her face@ into%icated by her bea'ty8 I5o' showed hi( 'p8 9e didn6t e,en want to go on after yo'8J IThat was ne,er (y intention8J : did not like the way : inti(idated so(e fiddlers8 I: tho'ght the Eigs wo'ld help seg'e to yo'r gro'p8J
IDon6t worry abo't it8J Traci p't her hand on (y ar( and drew closer@ pressing her breasts against (e8 : felt the blood s'rging into (y penis8 I;e6,e been ha,ing proble(s with hi( for a while8 And@ to be honest@ he isn6t in yo'r leag'e8J ITraci@J 4hrissie called to her fro( the stage8 I<et yo'r keyboard8J I5o'6re sticking aro'nd aren6t yo'KJ Traci asked (e8 I: want to hear yo' sing8J : wo'ld not drea( of lea,ing now8 I<ood8J For a (o(ent : tho'ght she (ight lean 'p and kiss (e8 Then she parted and went to fetch her electric keyboard8 :t took (e a (o(ent to clear (y head and follow her8 Setting aside (y fiddle where it wo'ld be safe@ : took the hea,y electric piano fro( her8 IFet (e help yo'8J Traci s(iled at (e and picked 'p the keyboard stand@ carrying it o,er to set it 'p on stage right8 4hrissie s(iled at (e@ I5o'6re being ,ery helpf'l8 ;e (ay ha,e to take yo' on as a roadie8J IThanks@J : tried to Eoke@ Ib't : already ha,e a Eob8J 4hrissie glanced at their fiddler@ who was (aking an ob,io's effort to stay away fro( (e8 I;e (ight ha,e an opening for yo'@ if yo'6re interested8J :nstead of responding@ : went o,er to fetch the a(p8 Besides Traci6s keyboard and ,ocals@ 4hrissie6s d'lci(er and the fiddler@ Traci6s band consisted of an accordion@ a tin whistle and a g'itar8 They opened with a li,ely set of reels8 Traci and the g'itarist pro,ided rhyth(@ chords and bass while the other instr'(ents took t'rns spinning the (elodies o,er the top of the(8 The fiddler stayed downstage e,en when he was playing lead@ hiding with his back to the a'dience8 9e was not a bad fiddler@ tho'gh his renditions were rather flat8 9e played the bare (elody witho't e(bellish(ent and little interpretation8 :t was as tho'gh he had a book of ('sic open in front of hi(@ reading the notes8 By contrast@ the accordion and the tin whistle were f'll of life@ not to (ention 4hrissie6s ha((ered d'lci(er8 Following the reels@ they played a soft and lilting air abo't the lo,e between a lady and a fairie knight8 Traci left the keyboard to sing this piece@ which she co(posed8 : had been waiting to hear her sing@ and : was not disappointed8 For once@ : fo'nd an instr'(ent that o't(atched (y fiddle for tone and e%pression8 There was no way to describe her ,oice@ other than to say it was enchanting8 Fro( the first note she sang@ :@ and indeed the entire a'dience@ was (es(eriAed8 People stopped talking in (id-sentence8 4o((erce halted at the refresh(ent tables in the back of the hall@ as sellers and c'sto(ers alike pa'sed to gaAe across the hall and listen to her song8 Traci6s ,oice reached into the heart of e,eryone present and wo,e its (agic there8 The strains of her air transported 's to a wooded glen in the land of the fey@ where the s'n strea(ed down to lick the dew-co,ered grass8 ;e co'ld see the fey@ called forth by her song8 And there we saw reenacted the doo(ed co'rtship of the lady and the el,en knight8 All who listened felt their lo,e@ their yearning@ and their loss8 :n the end@ e,eryone 'nderstood when the lady decided to lea,e her fa(ily and the world she knew to be with her fairie lo,e8 $,eryone wept a tear when she died and her spirit passed into the breeAe where it wo'ld caress hi( and be with hi( always@ tho'gh he wo'ld ne,er see her again in corporeal for(@ only sense her presence in the world aro'nd hi(8 :n the lea,es and the
io's of her songwriting ability@ as all of (y own efforts to prod'ce lyrics res'lted in little (ore than doggerel8 :t was the songs@ and Traci6s .ing and holding e.ided a welco(e addition to the gro'p6s perfor(ance8 The only person who see(ed o't of place was the fiddler8 9e held hi(self apart fro( the rest of the gro'p and wo'ld not Eoin into the festi.ocal har(onies on so(e of the t'nes8 Their .er beggared the (eter@ and her rhy(es were 'ncontri.erses were ne.e8 Traci had to take se.oice@ and no one (ore so than :8 : wanted to p'll o't (y fiddle and play along with her@ tho'gh : felt : co'ld offer her only a poor acco(pani(ent8 After the slow ballad@ the gro'p la'nched into a racing .edding8 Traci6s .eral bows and wa.er cra(ped and ne.ed to gi.oice that was o't front@ do(inating the perfor(ance as well it sho'ld8 The accordion player and the whistler traded Eokes@ with each other and with Traci8 Their h'(or went o.oice was f'll of high spirits and cheer8 : co'ld al(ost swear : saw the fairie called forth by her pre.oices were pleasant and their har(onies were tight8 5et it was always Traci6s .ening@ they alternated instr'(entals with songs@ keeping the a'dience (o.ities8 The others tried to draw hi( o't a few ti(es and failed8 :n the end@ they dis(issed hi( fro( their co(pany@ lea.hen she finished this song@ the band seg'ed into a set of instr'(ental :rish polkas that kept the dance floor b'sy8 Thro'gho't the e.ed8 The words flowed nat'rally@ perfectly (atched to the (elody8 : was en.e Traci a break and pro.e and with the son she bore hi( on her death bed8 The hall was silent when this ballad reached its end@ and (ore than one person breathed a sigh8 :t took 's a (o(ent to co(e o't of o'r collecti.ided a change of pace8 Despite the colorf'l arrange(ents and the capable ('sicians@ the instr'(entals tended to lose the a'dience6s interest if too (any were str'ng together8 :t was Traci6s ϟ .e the a'dience to silence8 $.er well and pro.e drea(@ and when we did it was with reso'nding appla'se for the singer and the song she wo.oice and her persona that kept the li(elight foc'sed on the stage8 And it was her ret'rn to the (icrophone stand that was (ost welco(ed and appreciated by the a'dience8 4hrissie and the accordion player pro.flowers@ in the air and the earth@ there her spirit resided in co(('nion with nat're@ and there she co(('ned with her lo.ing hi( to play along with the( and take an occasional solo@ yet keeping their backs to hi( as he kept his back to the a'dience8 A co'ple of ti(es he looked aro'nd@ only to scowl when he saw (e standing in front of the stage8 : felt sorry for hi( and wanted to p't hi( at ease8 So after their first set ended@ : so'ght hi( o't8 : followed hi( thro'gh a side door@ o'tside where he was lighting 'p a cigarette8 The fiddler stood with his sho'lders h'nched@ shielding the lighter fla(e fro( the wind with a c'pped hand as he took a deep drag on the cigarette8 As : ca(e thro'gh the door@ he p't the lighter away and scowled at (e8 I:6( Albert 9ayne8J : held o't (y hand8 The fiddler shook it ro'ghly8 9e hesitated before ret'rning the a(enities8 IDerrick@ Derrick Gates8J : ignored his de(eanor8 I: enEoyed yo'r fiddle playing8J .oice (ost of all@ that kept the a'dience wrapped 'p in the perfor(ance8 The instr'(ents ser.oice called listeners onto their feet to dance the night away8 .io's air ga(boling and capering on the stage8 Traci6s .eryone was asto'nded by her .eryone6s attention8 The songs were a (i%t're of originals and traditional pieces8 Traci6s lyrics were flawless8 9er .ided .ersion of )ari6s .
en (ore8 I:6( good eno'gh that yo' co'ldn6t teach (e anything8J IDerrickMJ Traci obEected8 I)aybe so8J : was a(enable8 Feeling a need to be clear and honest@ : went on8 IFook@ : was E'st trying to pay yo' a co(pli(ent8 There6s no reason to be hostile8 :6d like to be yo'r friend8J Derrick took (y (eas're as he s(oked@ I: s'ppose : sho'ldn6t be so annoyed8 :6( E'st not in a .e been ha.ery friendly (ood right now8 :f yo'6ll e%c'se (e8J 9e headed toward the parking lot8 IDerrickKJ Traci called to hi(8 I:6( not lea.e been lookin6 all o.e got so(ething special in (ind for the both of yo'8J 9arriet and Te(ple were all Eoy and s(iles8 IFet6s head 'p on stage8J 4larence led the way8 Traci6s other band (e(bers were already on stage with their instr'(ents in hand@ all e%cept Derrick8 As 4larence led 's 'p@ 4hrissie leaned toward Traci and asked in a whisper@ I.ith her on (y ar(@ : wo'ld ha.hat6s going onKJ .ing@J Derrick replied o.e been delighted to go where.e6.IDeallyKJ Derrick did not take the co(pli(ent in the spirit in which it was intended8 I:6( not as flashy as so(e8J I5o' play well8J : persisted@ tho'gh Derrick (ade (e feel like (y intended co(pli(ent was an ins'lt8 The door opened again and : stepped o't of the way8 :t was Traci8 :n spite of the ani(osity directed at 's fro( Derrick@ when o'r eyes (et we both s(iled8 The e%change between 's see(ed to 'pset Derrick e.ing a cigarette@J Traci replied8 I.er for yo' two8J 4larence bea(ed at 's8 4learly@ he had so(ething 'p his slee.hat6s 'p with hi(KJ : asked once he was gone8 I5o' are@J Traci replied8 I5o' inti(idate hi(8J I: was trying to p't hi( at ease8 This isn6t a contest8J I.er she wished8 Derrick was forgotten8 : opened the door and 'shered her inside8 /& )arvest Court All eyes were on 's8 .e6.ing proble(s with Derrick for a while8 :6( afraid :6( at fa'lt here8 : told hi( he co'ld learn a lot fro( yo'8J :t was a back-handed co(pli(ent@ and : did not C'ite know how to respond8 ϟ Traci placed her hand in the crook of (y elbow8 :t see(ed nat'ral that she sho'ld do so8 At the sa(e ti(e@ the to'ch of her thrilled (e8 She s(iled at (e@ C'ite aware of the che(istry between 's8 IFet6s go in8J .e@ the prospect of which see(ed to delight hi( no end8 I.e6.io's8 The sight of 's together see(ed to spread good cheer8 4larence called o't to 's8 IThere yo' areMJ 9e (ade his way o.ening* the pairing was ob.hit@ the President of the local =aycees8 I.here6s DerrickKJ I+'t ha.er@ followed by 9arriet <oodha(@ the chair of the Fady6s Dance 4o((ittee@ and Te(ple .er his sho'lder8 I:6ll see yo' on stage8J I.e were the co'ple of the e.
e need o'r dancers in gro'ps of fo'r co'ples8J : cli(bed down fro( the stage8 T'rning back to Traci@ : p't (y hands on her waist as she placed her hands on (y sho'lders8 : lifted her@ a(aAed at how light she felt in (y ar(s@ and stood her on the floor ne%t to (e8 She s(iled at (e@ then took (y hand .acity@ : tho'ght : saw affection@ and it was that which 'rged (e forward8 The a'dience contin'ed to appla'd as : bowed down so that 9arriet co'ld place the (antle on (y head8 Then she presented (e to the co'rt8 : s(iled and wa.itho't waiting for 4larence to adE'st the (ic stand@ he p'lled the (ic free so he co'ld speak into it8 9e handed the (antle he carried to (e8 I:t is the pri.ilege and the d'ty of the 9ar.al8 : saw hi( lea.e been looking 's o.est &'een is Traci <albriethMJ Te(ple anno'nced8 9e p't the (ic back in the stand and stepped aside8 A(id cheering and appla'se@ Traci drew ne%t to (e8 She was as radiant as e.est &'een@ for which honor it is c'sto(ary : bl'shed again as : took the crown8 Fro( the co'rt@ there were ohs and ahs@ and a few whistles8 IThis year6s 9ar.i.est Ging and &'een to lead 's in a dance8 Traci@ Albert@J he t'rned to 's@ Iif yo'6ll take a place at the front of the dance floor8 .en grape .est8J : bl'shed as : realiAed what this was abo't8 S'rprised : had not noticed before@ : saw that 9arriet and Te(ple were both holding (antles of wo.est Ging is Albert 9ayne8J The a'dience appla'ded8 : did not (o.ery conspic'o's8 : looked o't and saw (y band (e(bers and friends in the a'dience8 4h'ck@ standing by =i((y@ called o't IAl-bertMJ Te(ple stepped 'p and the appla'se died down8 .est GingKJ I4ertainly8J 9arriet stepped 'p as 4larence lowered the (ic stand for her8 IThis year6s 9ar.anish8 As she leaned 'p to kiss (e e.ed (y hand@ feeling .ing no cl'e@ : shook (y head and shr'gged8 IFisten 'p folks@J 4larence said into the (icrophone8 $.e the hall in disg'st8 4larence stepped 'p to readE'st the (icrophone stand8 As the a'dience C'ieted@ he anno'nced@ I?ow it is c'sto(ary for the 9ar.erything else faded away@ the ad'lation of the co'rt@ the stage@ the lights8 There was only she and :@ sharing o'r affection for each other8 She kissed (e on the lips and before : knew it@ : p't (y ar(s aro'nd her and drew her to (e8 She ret'rned the e(brace8 For one eternal second@ it was as if o'r hearts stopped beating8 Then o'r lips parted and the so'nd of the co'rt r'shed in to fill the .er@ trying to pick o't the two people H preferably a co'ple H that best represent the spirit of the har.eryone t'rned their attention back to the stage8 IThe E'dges ha.ines8 IThis year there was little debate abo't who to choose8J 4larence t'rned to 9arriet8 I9arriet@ wo'ld yo' like to anno'nce the 9ar.ing E'st ret'rned@ Derrick Gates looked on with disappro.I: don6t know@J 4hrissie answered@ f'll of c'riosity8 I4larence asked 's if we co'ld play a sC'are dance8J Both girls looked to (e for clarification8 9a.e@ feeling rooted to the spot8 Traci n'dged (e8 : looked at her8 :n her eyes@ along with the (irth and .est Ging to crown the ϟ for her to reward hi( with a kiss8J 9ar.oid8 The appla'se and the cheering intensified@ along with the whistles@ a few cat calls and la'ghter8 9olding hands@ Traci and : faced the a'dience and bowed to o'r co'rt8 :n the back of the hall@ ha.er@ and did not shirk fro( the honor8 Fooking into her eyes@ : felt (y own e(barrass(ent .
er there@ and aro'nd that gent witho't any hair8 Send the( back on the inside track* p't yo'r ar( aro'nd their waists and t'rn the( back8J 9olding left hands@ : passed Traci in a circle8 Then : traded her for <eorgie@ who was fairly spitting fire by this ti(e8 As she docey6d aro'nd (e@ <eorgie kept an eye on Traci and Geith8 Geith was 'nco(fortable8 9is s(ile was now only a polite shadow of what it had once been8 9e was eager to gi.ent beca'se of (e8 <eorgie was one of =anice6s friends who t'rned a cold sho'lder to (e since the brake 'p8 ?ow she had (i%ed feelings abo't standing ne%t to (e@ with Traci and (yself na(ed 9ar.hen both co'ples Eoined together one last ti(e@ <eorgie wore a so'r face8 :f Geith and : had not held her hands@ she wo'ld ha.ed to part fro( her@ t'rning twice (ore with (y right ar( linked to Geith before (aking a t'rn with Traci8 : did not en.er as he danced with Traci8 <eorgie began f'(ing8 : was relie.e scratched Traci6s eyes o't8 Traci detected the ani(osity and tried to def'se it with a friendly s(ile@ which <eorgie reb'ffed with a sn'ff8 +n stage@ 4larence directed 's thro'gh a Docey-do@ IPass those little girls side by side8 T'rn the( aro'nd yo' and (ake it wide8 ?ow pass the( on to that gent o.ing8J BanEo in hand@ he called o't the ti(e@ I+ne@ two@ one@ twoM First co'ple right and circle fo'r@ then circle left with the girl yo' adore8 ?ow@ two gents by the old t'rkey wing@ gi.er@ she saw Geith was s(iling bigger than e.hen we let go@ : linked (y left ar( with <eorgie and t'rned once as Geith did the sa(e with Traci8 <eorgie al(ost spoiled the dance as she hesitated a (o(ent before taking (y ar(8 Fooking o.est Ging and &'een8 :t was Geith6s doing8 Geith had known (e since kindergarten@ and he was 'nco(fortable with the cold war that de.eloped fro( (y break'p with =anice8 9e hoped this wo'ld be an opport'nity to p't aside so(e of the ill feelings8 :n the first step of the dance@ as 4larence called it@ Traci and : had to cross o.e Traci back to (e8 : p't (y right ar( aro'nd .io's to the slight@ not knowing the history behind it8 Geith and : linked right ar(s and t'rned twice8 .est Dance@ : tho'ght : (ight see her tonight8 :t was a sha(e that she wo'ld stay away fro( s'ch a (aEor e.e each other another swing8 To the opposite gal by the pigeon wing8J The co'ple standing ne%t to 's was Geith S'tphin and <eorgina Stiers8 <eorgie was a good friend of =anice Tillson8 Since we broke 'p@ =anice was caref'l abo't not going to socials where : was perfor(ing8 4onsidering this was the 9ar.er to the ne%t co'ple@ Eoin hands with the( and dance in a clockwise circle@ once aro'nd8 <eorgie offered (e her hand gracio'sly eno'gh@ b't she see(ed none too thrilled with the sit'ation8 ?o do'bt@ she was wondering ϟ how she wo'ld e%plain this fraterniAation to her best friend8 As we circled aro'nd she siAed Traci@ sticking her nose 'p at her8 Traci see(ed obli.and led (e into position near the front of the stage@ where we stood facing each other8 +ther co'ples for(ed circles of eight@ with se.e6re gonna play two t'nesN )iss )acFeod6s Deel@ followed by The Dakes of )allow8 And :6( gonna call a T'rkey .eral s'ch circles on the dance floor8 4larence had his banEo by this ti(e8 9e talked briefly with Traci6s band (e(bers8 They nodded8 Then he stepped 'p to the (ic and said@ I+kay@ here we go8 .y Geith8 <eorgie took her boyfriend6s ar( forcef'lly and glowered at hi( with balef'l eyes8 Geith choked off his glee@ 'ncertain what he had done to inc'r <eorgie6s ire8 .
Traci6s waist and t'rned her so we were facing <eorgie and Geith8 For a second@ : tho'ght <eorgie was going to stick her tong'e o't at 's8 Geith looked apologetic8 I:t6s on to the ne%t and circle fo'r* circle left with the girl yo' adore8J Traci and : passed on to the ne%t co'ple8 : felt relie.e hi( a chance@J 4hrissie ad.ocated8 Traci sighed and stepped o.e her back8 :t see(ed the dance ended far too C'ickly8 : did not want to let go of Traci8 : wo'ld ha.ery ti(e : traded her for another girl@ : (issed her8 And : was always gratef'l to ha.here6s DerrickKJ Traci asked her band (e(bers8 I<one@J 4hrissie said8 I<reat@J Traci C'ipped8 IThere6s no ti(e to look for hi(8J She t'rned to (e8 I4an yo' fill inKJ ϟ IS're8J : was happy to do so8 IB't he won6t like it8J IToo bad8J Traci did not care8 I9e sho'ld be on this stage already8 So far as :6( concerned@ he6s not a (e(ber of this gro'p any(ore8J I9is fiddle6s still here8J The g'itarist pointed o't8 I.e can E'st do a session on the instr'(entals@J the whistler s'ggested8 The others agreed8 IAs for the songs@J Traci said@ Ifill in and take a solo when : gi.ed to do so8 Soon : forgot abo't <eorgie and Geith and lost (yself in the pleas're of dancing with Traci8 She was a wonderf'l dancing partner8 $.e it a long intro@ with the fiddle@ the pennywhistle and the accordion working together to i(itate a bagpipes while 4hrissie plays arpeggios8J : nodded8 I.hat keyKJ .e bowed to all the other co'ples8 There was (ore appla'se and cheering8 Then 4larence said@ I+kay@ Traci6s 4eltic 4astabo'ts ha.er to the (ic8 I+'r fiddler is (issing@J she anno'nced to the a'dience8 I9as anybody seen hi(KJ A n'(ber of people looked aro'nd8 IDerrick@ where are yo'KJ Traci half-s'ng her C'ery8 She looked o.e talked as : tightened and rosined (y bow8 Traci showed (e the set list she kept on the electric piano8 IAre yo' fa(iliar with theseKJ : looked o.eryone t'rned to bow to Traci and (e8 : noticed <eorgie and Geith already had left the dance floor8 IBow to yo'r co'rt8J .e yo' a nod8J I+kay8J I.ening8 The dance did end tho'gh8 IBow to yo'r partners@J 4larence told 's8 IBow to yo'r Ging and &'een8J $.e6re opening with She "oved thro#$h the Fair@J Traci told (e8 I.e c't into it (ore than eno'gh8 Anyway@ :6( s're yo' wo'ld a lot rather listen to Traci than to (e8J There was la'ghter as 4larence left8 : helped Traci cli(b onto the stage8 I.e another set to do@ and we6.e really sho'ld gi.er the a'dience and scanned the hall8 There was no sign of hi(8 I.e ha.e been happy to pro(enade with her for the rest of the e.er the list8 I)ost of the(8 B't : don6t know yo'r arrange(ents8J I.e to get on with this@J she told her fellow ('sicians8 T'rning to (e@ she said@ IAlbertKJ IFet (e get (y fiddle8J : grabbed (y fiddle case and cli(bed onto the stage8 .e gi.
ent'ro's on so(e of the songs8 )y backing for Traci fit in so well with her .ocalist8 The che(istry between (e and Traci set the stage on fire8 $.es8 : played the t'ne in the A(erican style@ with drones and sh'ffle bowing@ and it worked C'ite well8 .ed8 4hrissie spotted hi(8 I.eryone8 Tho'gh they were not really following the arrange(ents they worked o't@ they so'nded (ore polished than e.est Dance8 :t was e.itho't paying attention to the lyrics no one co'ld ha.e told whether they were listening to a 4eltic folk song played in an A(erican .er@ the place e(ptied o't C'ickly8 Soon the only people left were band (e(bers and the clean 'p crew8 Derrick ret'rned after the 4astaways finished their last n'(ber8 9e tried to slip in fro( the back door to retrie.ein or an A(erican folk song played in a 4eltic .erything we did was filled with a sens'ality@ and a tension that was both se%'al and ecstatic8 The attraction between 's transcended into an archetypal@ (agical dance that opened H or rather created H whole new worlds of fancy and enchant(ent8 Traci and : were o'rsel.es so swept 'p in o'r ('t'al attraction that a few ti(es we al(ost left the rest of the band behind8 The set was o.oice that it so'nded like we were singing d'ets8 :t was diffic'lt to disting'ish her .er before8 ?e%t ca(e )atty <ro.ein8 The rest of the set consisted of original songs@ another set of Eigs@ and a set of reels8 : grew ad.ehicle for Traci6s .e his fiddle witho't being obser.er had8 The le.er before we knew it@ and with it the 9ar.e Downing@ stepped in his way@ forcing Derrick to stop8 Traci was talking with (e as : helped her dis(antle her electric piano8 She t'rned toward Derrick8 I: think yo' owe 's all an answer to that C'estion8J Derrick said nothing8 9e brooded s'llenly8 .ID@J 4hrissie told (e8 IPretty ('ch e.el of ('sicianship rose for e.erything6s in D or D (odal8J IFet6s do it@J Traci said8 : followed the lead of the other ('sicians@ droning on (y open D and A strings8 After a few bars@ : was trading licks as tho'gh we had been playing together for a long ti(e8 The t'ne was slow and ha'nting8 :t was the perfect .e (y fiddling an a'thentic :rish so'nd8 Tho'gh the other ('sicians said nothing@ they were thinking that : fit in ('ch better than Derrick e.e yo' beenKJ :gnoring her and ref'sing to look at any of the(@ he headed for his fiddle on a stand at the back of the stage8 The g'itarist@ Ste.ileged to back her with (y fiddle8 :n the end@ the song sort of wo'nd down and di(inished into nothing8 Before the a'dience realiAed the song ended@ we la'nched into a set of Eigs8 : followed along C'ite easily@ adding little orna(ents that ga.es@ the $nglish prec'rsor to Shady <ro.oice fro( (y fiddle8 :f the a'dience had been (es(eriAed by the 4eltic 4astaway6s first set@ they were ϟ blown away by (y addition to the band8 : co(pleted the gro'p in s'ch a way that it was transfor(ed into so(ething ('ch grander than E'st a 4eltic folk gro'p with a good .idence of how absorbing the perfor(ance was that no one left before the ('sic stopped8 +nce we were done@ howe.here the hell ha.oice8 She had the a'dience entranced fro( the (o(ent she started to sing8 : felt pri.
ell@ : don6t want anyone to think : p'shed hi( o't so : co'ld take his place8J : offered@ IB't if it wo'ld help@ : co'ld fill in for hi( 'ntil yo' fig're o't what to do8J : was not aware that (y own band (e(bers were listening to this con.o'ld yo' do thatKJ Traci batted her eyes at (e8 IThat wo'ld be a godsend@J 4hrissie said8 I.e do ha.e@ who was closer to Derrick than any of the others@ said@ I.e ad(itted8 I9e wants to be a star@ b't down deep he doesn6t belie.e knew it was co(ing@J 4olin said8 IAll the sa(e@ it lea.e don6t need this kind of shit8J The accordionist@ 4olin ?eff@ p't it bl'ntly8 I9e6s too 'ndependable@J Stan 9'((er@ the whistler@ agreed8 I.e he has the talent8J I:t6s an ego thing@J 4hrissie s'((ariAed8 I.e6d ha.e a big hole in o'r so'nd8J 4hrissie pointed o't8 Ste.hat if he does this again and there6s no one aro'nd to fill in for hi(8J IFosing the fiddle wo'ld lea.e can work so(ething o't8J She opened a large sho'lder bag f'll of folders@ notes@ a planner and other assorted st'ff8 Digging thro'gh the bag@ she p'lled o't a b'siness card and offered it to (e8 .e to do'ble o'r rehearsals this week8J The accordionist pointed o't8 I:6.ersation with increasing apprehension8 I.e (in'te dri.Traci ad(onished hi(@ I5o' left 's hanging witho't a word8 That6s a .e6.e8 After he was gone@ 4hrissie was the first to speak8 I:6ll call hi( to(orrow8 <i.erbal attack on all of 's8 4hoking back his anger and his inE'red pride@ he p'shed his way past Ste.e (ight ha.e Downing8 IFet (e get (y st'ff and :6ll be gone8 5o'6.e hi( the night to cool off and he6ll sing a different t'ne8J I?o8J Traci disagreed8 I: think we sho'ld let hi( go8 9e6s not worth the tro'ble8J She looked to the other band (e(bers for their inp't8 I.e fo'nd yo'rself another fiddler8J ?o one spoke to hi(8 Derrick packed his fiddle and left thro'gh the back door8 9e spared not another word nor so ('ch as a glance for his for(er band (ates8 They silently watched hi( lea.ery night this weekKJ I5eah@ : think so8J : tho'ght of sched'le conflicts8 I.er satisfied with (e@ and now yo'6.e left the hall to fetch the cassette tapes8 I:t6s a forty-fi.e got fiddle boy hereMJ 9e ca'ght hi(self E'st as he was abo't to la'nch a profane .e offered8 IThey6re not the best C'ality@ b't they6d fa(iliariAe yo' with o'r repertory8J IThanks@J : said8 I:6d appreciate that8J I?o proble(8J Ste.e got so(e tapes o't in (y car@J Ste.e shows to play in the ne%t two weeks8J Traci e%plained8 I.e a gig ne%t Sat'rday8 And another on the following Th'rsday8J I.e fro( here to the barn where we rehearse@J Traci told (e8 I4an yo' show 'p e.e to cancel so(e gigs while we work on new arrange(ents8J : spoke 'p8 I:6( sorry abo't this8 : feel like it6s (y fa'lt8J I:t6s not yo'r fa'lt@J Stan said8 IThis has been b'ilding for a while8J IDerrick6s always been insec're abo't his playing8J Ste.ery 'nprofessional thing to do8 :t (akes yo' look bad@ and it (akes 's look bad8 :f not for AlbertL8J I5o' don6t need (eMJ Derrick snapped8 I5o' were ne.e got fi.es 's in C'ite a bind8J I.
oice@ she whispered@ I4all (e8J I: will8J The other band (e(bers had the eC'ip(ent packed8 Ste.e (e E'st a short peck@ b't she co'ld not refrain fro( lingering as so(e (agical charge passed between 's8 .edϞ back@ and then she was gone8 -& )arvest )ome Fittle did we know it at the ti(e@ b't the 9ar.e offered his hand and : shook it8 I.est Social was the last p'blic perfor(ance for the S(okey 9ill Stringband8 +ne or another of 's (anaged to (iss e.en'es in the northern half of Gansas8 :n o'r heyday@ so ('ch of his ti(e was spent (aking bookings .ery show we booked for the ne%t (onth8 =i((y was the only one who (ade all perfor(ances@ e%cepting (e8 And there were a few shows that consisted of only 's two8 .eral ti(es 4larence sat in with 's@ and a co'ple of ti(es a'diences who were e%pecting S(okey 9ill were instead treated to the 4eltic 4astaways8 ?o one co(plained8 By the end of the (onth it was clear that the S(okey 9ill Stringband was finished8 )ichael lost his heart to a yo'ng girl in the ne%t co'nty8 9e spent ('ch of his ti(e with her8 4h'ck took a f'll-ti(e Eob in a canning plant8 For (y part@ : was so b'sy with both Traci <albrieth and the 4eltic 4astaways that : had little ti(e left for (y own band8 =i((y was the only one who took it hard when the gro'p broke 'p8 =i((y always had been the gl'e that held the band together8 9e was the one who (ade s're e.ed8 : wa.eryone attended rehearsals and showed 'p at perfor(ances8 And he was the one who (ediated and resol.hen that happened@ =i((y wo'ld lay aside the bass and back (e on the g'itar8 Se.eloped contacts with (ost of the .hen she did break off@ she drew back and gaAed at (e8 :n a hasty .est &'een a parting kissKJ Traci s(iled at (e8 I:t wo'ld be the s(allest reward for yo'r gallantry8J She leaned 'p and kissed (e on the lips8 She had intended to gi.elco(e to the 4astaways8J The other band (e(bers lined 'p to do likewise@ all b't Traci@ who finished packing her keyboard8 Then they ha'led their instr'(ents and eC'ip(ent off the stage and headed for the door8 The whistler helped Traci with her keyboard8 )ichael offered to carry 4hrissie6s d'lci(er@ flirting with her as he did so8 : stood on the stage and watched the( lea.e ret'rned with a co'ple of cassette tapes@ which he handed to (e8 I9ere yo' go8J IThanks8J : glanced at the tapes8 Then (y eyes went back to Traci8 Ste.Across the top of the card@ it readN ITraci6s 4eltic 4astawaysJ in dark green8 Under this was a design of 4eltic knots@ below which@ in s(all print were the na(es of the band (e(bers@ a P8+8 Bo% and a phone n'(ber8 IThat6s (y ho(e phone8J Traci told (e@ stepping close to point it o't on the card8 I4all (e to(orrow and we can disc'ss it8J She gaAed into (y eyes and added@ I:6d like to hear fro( yo' anyway8J IAnd (e@ yo'@J : responded8 : s(iled at her8 I.e8 Traci pa'sed at the doors to gaAe back at (e8 She s(iled and wa.o'ld it be too forward for (e to offer (y 9ar.ed disp'tes a(ong band (e(bers8 =i((y was so dedicated to the gro'p that : worried abo't hi( when the band fell apart8 =i((y was (ore than E'st a ('sician8 9e was also o'r (anager and booking agent8 9e handled o'r sched'le and he de.
er@ they co'ld not co'nter =i((y6s arg'(ent that a repertory of old-ti(e barn dance ('sic wo'ld bring in e.e the p'rity of the 4eltic ('sic8 9owe.en o'rsel.er@ there was only so far we co'ld go with the band6s c'rrent instr'(entation8 Ste.es8 After sitting in on two rehearsals witho't to'ching his tin whistles@ he stopped attending altogether8 Then he (issed a perfor(ance8 Traci called hi( the ne%t day@ and they agreed that he was o't of the band H not witho't a little ani(osity on his part8 4hrissie6s depart're was ('ch harder for all of 's8 4hrissie had perfor(ed ('ch the sa(e role for the 4eltic 4astaways that =i((y had perfor(ed in the S(okey 9ill .ed to b'y so(e st'dio ti(e and c't a de(o8 .ing on booking co((issions@ had he chosen to accept the(8 After the gro'p broke 'p@ =i((y (oped aro'nd for a week8 : talked to Traci@ and two of 's approached the rest of the 4astaways abo't bringing =i((y into the band8 4olin and Stan did not want to split their inco(e with yet another ('sician8 They went along rel'ctantly with Traci6s decision to bring =i((y into the band8 .itations to perfor(ances in the s'rro'nding co'ntryside8 5et he failed to (ake a single booking in the (etropolis8 A sy(pathetic cl'b (anager said he wo'ld book the gro'p b't for three thingsN we needed (ore original (aterial@ we needed to go electric@ and we needed a better na(e8 IThe 4astaways is la(e8 :t so'nds like yo' stepped o't of <illigan6s :sland8J After so(e disc'ssion@ we changed the na(e of the gro'p to 9ar.eryone this che(istry wo'ld propel 's to stardo(8 For all o'r s'ccess@ the 4astaways fo'nd Gansas 4ity to be one to'gh cookie to crack8 =i((y (ade se.that he co'ld ha.ed what an asset he was to the band8 Under his (anage(ent@ we were able to establish a f'nd for 'pgrading band eC'ip(ent@ and we sa.ithin a (onth@ the band6s gigs H and s'bseC'ently its inco(e H do'bled8 =i((y t'rned to plying his contacts on behalf of the 4eltic 4astaways8 :n a short ti(e@ he pro.en (ore bookings8 =i((y6s shrewd b'siness sense panned o't as the gro'p was soon (ore pop'lar than e.eral trips to the city@ handing o't de(os and in.en tho'gh Ste.ith =i((y and (e on board@ the gro'p began to integrate 4eltic ('sic with A(erican barn dance ('sic8 +nce again 4olin and Stan obEected@ wanting to preser.es sitting o't (ore and (ore8 Stan@ in partic'lar@ beca(e so(ething of a g'est instr'(entalist as opposed to a reg'lar band (e(ber8 9e only Eoined in when we played old n'(bers fro( the 4astaway days8 9e beca(e tacit'rn@ co(plaining we lost o'r direction and now so'nded like e.ided a (eager li.ery other pop band on the airwa.io's to e.e pro.e and =i((y were willing to go electric8 A Dickenbacher g'itar ga.e the band a whole new so'nd@ e.oted following8 The che(istry between the two of 's translated into a (agic onstage that was capable of sweeping 'p an entire a'dience8 :t beca(e ob.est 9o(e8 Traci and : had pro.e contin'ed to play rhyth( and little else8 4olin was able to adapt his instr'(ent to the new ('sic@ b't Stan and 4hrissie fo'nd the(sel.es by this ti(e to be a capable songwriting tea(8 ?ow we steered o'r t'nes in a pop direction8 9owe.er8 The 4eltic part was dropped fro( the na(e and we beca(e Traci <albrieth and the 4astaways8 Traci6s .oice and (y fiddle were 'n(atched thro'gho't the state8 B't it was so(ething (ore that won 's a large and de.
e s'spected that : was attracted to her8 )y (other certainly picked 'p on the signs8 She s'btly s'ggested that : sho'ld be caref'l not to lose (y heart beca'se it wo'ld wind 'p broken8 :@ in t'rn@ tried to ass're her there was nothing to worry abo't H tho'gh she knew better8 For his part@ (y father was too b'sy with the far( to notice ('ch8 After learning there was a girl in (y new gro'p@ Dad deli.e were perfectly in t'ne8 .ertones8 +'r new so'nd did not fit a lot of o'r for(er .eryone working together8 ?o one wanted to see her lea.en'es@ b't =i((y booked 's into rock cl'bs@ and e.ocalist and they (ay ha.en a few co'ntry bars8 9e also fo'nd 's a dr'((er@ who co(pleted o'r new so'nd8 And =i((y finally began booking 's into cl'bs in and aro'nd Gansas 4ity8 The (oney in Gansas 4ity was ('ch better@ as were the opport'nities8 There were (ore cl'bs@ which led to (ore bookings8 And the e%pos're was a lot better8 Soon we were being written 'p in the local papers and entertain(ent g'ides8 Fro( Gansas 4ity@ we trained o'r sights on ?ash.hen : was away fro( her@ at ho(e or in school@ she was all : co'ld think abo't8 The passion of o'r se% raged thro'gh (e fro( one interl'de to the ne%t8 : felt like half a person when we were apart8 $.ith her depart're@ the band took on a whole new so'nd and i(age8 .en dr'(s@ b't 4hrissie la'ghed at the s'ggestion8 I9a.io's we were (ore than E'st band (ates8 .e do@J Traci protested8 I?o@ yo' don6t8J 4hrissie wo'ld not be kidded8 I: like where yo'6re going8 The new (aterial is great@ b't there6s no place for (e in it8 5o' go on@ (ake it big8 :6ll still be yo'r friend8 )aybe we can get together once in a while for a session8J And so 4hrissie left the gro'p8 .ille8 .ery ('ch in lo.e were .e were (eant for each other8 .e rented a loft there for rehearsals and eC'ip(ent 츰Ϝ storage@ and this is where we stayed when we were in town8 Traci (o.hile the e%tra inco(e did help o't back on the far(@ Dad obEected to the ti(e : spent o't on the road@ partic'larly when we had to board in a (otel for the weekend while playing gigs aro'nd Gansas 4ity8 : did not tell (y fa(ily that the gro'p was (o.Stringband8 She was the e('lsifier that kept e.ed into the loft per(anently@ and : planned to (o.e in with her when : grad'ated fro( school in a co'ple (onths8 .e8 Traci (eant the world to (e8 .er to keyboards@ or e.en (y fiddle playing see(ed to lack so(ething when Traci was not there to sing along8 : was caref'l not to talk abo't her to (y parents8 They knew (y c'rrent gro'p feat'red a fe(ale .e yo' got two or three years to wait while : learn a new instr'(entK Fet6s face it@J she told her friend and band leader@ Iyo' don6t need (e any(ore8J I.e beca(e a rock band with 4eltic and old-ti(e o.ered another Idon6t (ess with wo(enJ lect're@ and that was that8 :n his (ind it was settledN in E'st a few (onths@ : wo'ld enter the se(inary8 :t wo'ld be foolish and rash for (e to get hooked on a wo(an at this point@ when nothing co'ld co(e of it8 )y brother@ 4harles@ knew what was really going on8 9e had seen (e perfor( with Traci8 9e and his fiancO t'rned 'p at one of o'r local perfor(ances8 : spotted the( in the a'dience and realiAed there was no sense in trying to hide (y relationship with Traci fro( (y brother8 The che(istry between 's was palpable@ and it was ob.ing its base of operations to Gansas 4ity8 .e the band@ tho'gh she was the first to ad(it the ha((ered d'lci(er did not fit into (ost of o'r new songs8 Traci s'ggested she switch o.
en (e ('ch of a choice8J .e been playing Dad all along8J I: E'st want to finish high school8 Then :6( (o.@ co'ld yo' get 's another pitcher@ and a glass for (y brotherKJ I?o thanks8J : declined the offer8 I?ot when :6( perfor(ing8J IS're@ honey@J Be.er at Traci8 I: hope she6s worth it8J IShe is8J I5o' lo.er to talk to (y brother8 I9ow do yo' like the bandKJ I:t6s .hy notKJ IBeca'se when Dad finds o't@ he6ll go ballistic8J 4harles spelled it o't8 IAnd when he cal(s down@ he6s gonna take yo' straight to the se(inary@ do not pass go@ do not collect two h'ndred dollars8J IAre yo' gonna tell hi(KJ ֒so(eti(e8J ヰ◌ I?o way8 B't yo'6ll ha.oice cracked with desperation@ ang'ish and defiance8 I:f not@ :6ll be a rotten h'(an being@ and a worst priest8J : pa'sed before adding@ I='st like Uncle D'f's8J 4harles co'ld not disagree with (e* he re(e(bered how so'r and e(bittered o'r 'ncle had been8 ISo yo'6.e got so(e good songs there8J 4harles (ade con.ery good@J 4harles told (e8 IThose were (ostly originals@ weren6t theyKJ I5eah8J : glanced at Traci@ who was talking to so(e fans se.er so : co'ld introd'ce her to (y brother8 4harles e(ptied the last beer fro( the pitcher into his glass8 IBe.erly took the e(pty pitcher o.en (e@ either : disown the world or he disowns (e8J 4harles stayed silent8 I.er it in ti(e8J I: do'bt it8J I.e write all o'r own (aterial now8J I5o'6.e that lasts8J I:t is8J I<ood8 5o' better (ake a life with her@ beca'se once Dad finds o't@ yo' won6t ha.erly@ (y brother6s fiancO@ chi(ed in@ I<oodK 5o' need to get a contract and c't a record8 5o' g'ys co'ld be big8J IThat6s o'r plan@J : responded absently as : watched Traci socialiAe8 : wanted to get her attention and draw her o.e to face hi( IThe se(inary won6t accept (e if it6s not (y own choice8J I?either will Dad8J 4harles co'ntered8 I9e6ll disown yo'8J IThat6s the choice he6s gi.e got che(istry8 : hope it6s the kind of lo.ell@ he6s ne.e a life with 's any(ore8J : ('st ha.hat do yo' (eanKJ I: (ean yo' can6t ha.e any of this8J I.e to be tr'e to (yself8J )y .ing to Gansas 4ity8J I: hope it6s worth it8J 9e glanced o.Between sets@ : (eandered o.eral tables away8 I.hen she was gone@ 4harles beca(e critical8 IAlbert@ what are yo' doingKJ I.hat else can : doK : ha.er to the bar8 .er gi.ersation@ tho'gh he was tro'bled by the entire sit'ation8 Be.e looked h'rt@ beca'se 4harles a(ended@ I+h@ :6ll be in to'ch with yo' when : can@ and )o( too@ probably8 B't Dad6s gonna c't yo' right o't of his life@ and o't of o'r fa(ily8J I9e6ll get o.e her@ that6s plain8 5o'6.
ell@ that6s how it is between 's8 She6s the air : breathe and the food : eat8 $.erly and (y brother e%changed knowing glances8 I.e heard a lot abo't yo'8 :6( so ֒ ヰ◌ pleased to (eet yo' both8J I5o' ha.ery note : play is a ho(age to her8J 4harles and Be.e (e a tender h'g8 .ille8J IThat6s where yo' need to go@J Be.ery sweet8J I5es@ it is@J Traci said fro( behind (e8 9er ar( went aro'nd (y sho'lder as she bent down to gi.iping his (o'th with the back of his hand@ he said@ IThe best of l'ck to yo'8 5o'6.erly were looking past (e8 : co'ld feel Traci drawing near8 Be.I?o@ he hasn6t8J 4harles was looking into his beer8 I: knew yo'6d ne.hy@ thank yo'8J Traci was to'ched by the co(pli(ent@ as she was whene.er8 I:6.e always known each otherKJ Be.er anyone praised her singing8 I.e6re (aking a na(e for o'rsel.er go thro'gh with it8 : think )o( and Dad know it too@ tho'gh they won6t ad(it it8J 9e downed his beer and set the ('g back on the table8 .al was lost on (e8 +r Traci@ either8 I: had the i(pression that Albert6s fa(ily did not s'pport hi(@J she said delicately8 I+'r parents don6t@J 4harles ad(itted8 IB't :6.e always known (y brother wasn6t c't o't to be a priest8 9e has too ('ch talent8J I5o' (ight as well lock hi( in Eail@J Be.oice@J Be.erything E'st clicks@ and it6s like yo' two ha.erly reEoined 's8 She s(iled at (e as she filled ('gs for her and 4harles8 Sitting the pitcher in the (iddle of the table@ she took her seat8 ISo tell 's abo't this girl of yo'rs@J 4harles said cheerf'lly8 ITraciK She6s so(ething special8 : don6t know what :6d do witho't her8 5o' e.erly8 And this is Traci8J : introd'ced her as she sat down8 She bea(ed at the( both8 She see(ed to brighten the table and (agnify o'r cheer with her enchanted presence8 I4harles8J she looked (y brother o.erly spoke before she realiAed it8 I$%c'se (e@ it ('st be the beer talking8J .e got the talent@ and so does this band8 )ake it big8J Be.erly told her8 I.ille is the place for yo'8 And : always knew that was where yo' belonged8J ?either the i(plication nor the appro.es in Gansas 4ity right now8 And then we6re heading for ?ash.e were E'st telling Bert that yo' two o'ght to (ake it big@J 4harles said8 Traci knew what (y fa(ily e%pected of (e@ so she did not fail to transpose the note of s'pport (y brother so'nded8 I9as Albert (entioned o'r plansKJ she asked8 I.e a wonderf'l .erly agreed8 I5eah@ get o't of the cornfields@J 4harles p't in8 Traci glanced sidelong at (e as she spoke to (y brother8 IAlbert6s talents are wasted here8J I5es@ they are@J 4harles conc'rred8 To (e@ he said@ I?ash.erly said@ IThat6s .er (eet so(eone where e.e e%changed a kiss8 Then : p'lled the chair ne%t to (e o't fro( the table and offered her a seat8 IThis is (y brother@ 4harles@ and his friend@ Be.
I5o'6re right@J 4harles said8 I:t (ight be a fa(ily tradition@ b't : can6t think of a worse fate for yo'@ Bert8 ='st watch o't for Dad when he finds o't8J I9opef'lly :6ll be gone by then8J I;ell@ we6,e got to get back onstage@J Traci said8 I:t was a pleas're (eeting yo'8 Stick aro'nd@ :6d like to ,isit with yo' so(e (ore after the show8J I:6d like that@J 4harles said@ Ib't a far(er6s day starts early8J By the ti(e we finished the ne%t set@ Be,erly and (y brother were gone8 9e ne,er ca(e to see (e perfor( again@ and neither of 's spoke of it8 4harles ('st ha,e ca'tioned Be,erly@ for she ne,er said a word abo't Traci@ the band@ or o'r plans8 She was always ,ery kind to (e as she ca(e to freC'ent o'r ho'se (ore and (ore@ and : was happy for (y brother that he had fo'nd her8 .& he $nevitable Confrontation Dad did find o't abo't Traci and :@ and o'r plans8 The agent of his disco,ery was =anice Tillson@ seeking re,enge for (y slighting of her8 =anice ca'ght one of o'r o'tlying perfor(ances8 : tho'ght : saw her in the a'dience@ b't it was E'st a glance and then she ,anished8 :t was a b'sy weekend for 's@ with perfor(ances on Friday and Sat'rday both8 As 's'al@ : stayed at the loft with Traci d'ring the weekend@ not heading back ho(e 'ntil S'nday8 ;hen : entered the ho'se late S'nday afternoon@ : noticed so(ething was wrong8 The ho'se was frosty8 : had ne,er before felt 'nwelco(e in (y parent6s ho(e8 ?o one greeted (e8 )y brother was nowhere to be fo'nd8 )y parents were waiting for (e in the ֒ ヰ◌ parlor8 )y (other was seated in her fa,orite easy chair@ and (y father stood by her8 )y (other looked h'rt and sorrowf'l8 )y father was stern@ trying hard to keep a lid on his anger8 As : passed by the parlor@ he called to (e8 IAlbert@ we need to talk with yo'8J : knew what was 'p witho't hearing another word8 :t was (y hope to finish school before we had this confrontation8 B't if the ti(e had co(e@ : was ready8 ;e were (aking a decent li,ing with the gro'p8 The only reason : p't off this confrontation for so long was beca'se : wanted to grad'ate fro( high school before (o,ing to Gansas 4ity8 I5es@ Dad@ : g'ess we had better8J : entered the roo( not as a s'b(issi,e child@ b't as an ad'lt and eC'al8 )y de(eanor threw (y dad for a (o(ent@ b't he ca'ght hi(self8 I5o'6re d'e to grad'ate in another (onth@ and soon after yo'6ll be entering the se(inary8 :t is ti(e to set aside that fiddle and gi,e 'p the ('sic8 5o'6,e been far too la% in attending ch'rch8J : broke in8 I:6( not going to the se(inary8 :6( not going to beco(e a priest8J )y father clenched his Eaw8 9e al(ost s(iled at (e as tho'gh he e%pected s'ch a display8 )y (other dropped her (o'th open@ before clapping it sh't again8 I;e know what yo'6,e been 'p to@ and it6s going to stop@J Dad infor(ed (e@ ass'(ing f'll a'thority o,er (y life8 I;e recei,ed a call yesterday fro( =anice Tillson8 She told 's all abo't yo' and this singer8J 9e said this last word as tho'gh it were a synony( for whore8 And that was all : co'ld take8 I5o' know nothing8 Traci6s the (ost wonderf'l girl : e,er (et@ and : intend to spend the rest of (y life with her8 +'r band is a s'ccess8 ;e6re heading to ?ash,ille8J
I5o' will notMJ (y father co((anded8 9e did not see( to grasp that he co'ld no longer gi,e (e orders8 I5es@ : will8J : infor(ed hi(8 I: a( (o,ing in with Traci@ and we will be (arried8J I?ot witho't o'r consentMJ I: don6t need yo'r consent8 :6( eighteen8 :6( an ad'lt@ and : can (ake (y own decisions8 ;elco(e to the Twentieth 4ent'ry8J All the fr'stration and anger : had pent 'p for so long ca(e b'bbling o't8 I5o' can6t tell (e what to do any(oreM And yo' s're as hell can6t force (e to beco(e a priestMJ Dad backhanded (e across the face8 The force of the blow knocked (y head sideways@ b't : did not b'dge fro( where : stood8 :nstead@ : looked at hi( resol'tely8 9e bro'ght back his hand to slap (e again8 This ti(e : ca'ght his ar( before the blow connected8 9e co'ldn6t break (y grip8 For a (o(ent we regarded each other as : held off his blow8 9is eyes were f'll of rage@ and (y own were f'll of resent(ent8 I4harlesMJ )y (other called for help8 I4harlesMJ Dad stepped back and p'lled his ar( free8 I:t6s o,er@ Dad@J : told hi(8 I5o' can6t (ake (e do it8J I;hat6s 'pKJ )y brother ca(e into the roo( behind (e8 9e assessed the sit'ation and fell silent8 I:6( not yo'r dad8J )y father6s ,oice was ta't with anger8 I:f yo' don6t beco(e a priest@ then yo'6ll ha,e no fa(ily here8J I:6( a ('sician@ not a priest8J I5o'6re no son of (ine8J )y father looked (e in the eye as he spoke the words ϩ that disowned (e8 IThis is no longer yo'r ho(e8 5o' (ake yo'r bed with the whores and the E'nkies8 Don6t e,er co(e back here again8J I=ohn8J )y (other gasped8 She began to sob8 I?o8J )y father wo'ld not be disp'ted8 I?o son of this fa(ily has e,er shown s'ch disrespect8J I;o'ld yo' ha,e (e be 'ntr'e to (yselfK Do yo' want (e to gi,e 'p on (y lo,e and (y drea(s so that : can beco(e a so'r@ bitter old (an like Uncle D'f'sKJ I<et o'tMJ )y father e%ploded8 I<et o't of (y ho'seMJ : t'rned toward the door8 )y brother stepped aside@ watching with a pained e%pression8 )y (other was crying8 I<oodbye@ )other@J : sta((ered as : retreated8 I?ot another wordMJ )y father followed se,eral paces behind (e8 IDon6t co(e backM Don6t e,en try to callM ;e don6t want to e,er hear yo'r ,oice againMJ : stopped on the front porch8 Dad stood in the doorway8 I5o' will hear (e again8 So(eday soon@ yo' will hear (y fiddle all o,er the radio8J IThen :6ll be s're to get rid of e,ery radio in the ho'se8 : don6t what to hear another note of ('sic again8J 9e sla((ed the door sh't8 : stood on the porch for a (o(ent@ (y heart a ch'rning (aelstro( of e(otion8 Then : went back to (y tr'ck and left (y parent6s ho'se@ intending ne,er to ret'rn8 B The dri,e back to Gansas 4ity passed in a n'(bed daAe8 : kept playing back the confrontation with (y father@ feeling the sting of his words afresh e,ery ti(e@ wondering
if : co'ld ha,e handled things differently8 Tho'gh : always knew this day wo'ld co(e@ foreknowledge did not (ake it h'rt any less8 : tried to ass're (yself that : handled the sit'ation as best : co'ld* if : had lost (y te(per and spoke 'nkind words@ that was 'nderstandable8 Ti(e@ : told (yself@ wo'ld take the edge off (y father6s anger8 :n (y i(agination@ : sp'n a scenario where (y parents were in danger of losing their far( 'ntil :@ a s'ccessf'l recording star@ stepped in to pay off their debts8 )y father wo'ld 'nderstand so(eday8 $,ent'ally we wo'ld reconcile and : wo'ld be welco(ed back into the fa(ily8 5et deep within : knew that (y father wo'ld not accept (e back 'nless : honored the fa(ily tradition and entered the priesthood8 : fo'nd Traci in the loft noodling aro'nd with her keyboards8 : told her of (y falling o't with (y father8 She co(forted (e8 9'gging (e@ she told (e that we wo'ld (ake o'r own fa(ily and we wo'ld be happy together8 Tho'gh : knew she was right@ it did not di(inish (y sorrow8 ;e (ade lo,e 'ntil the early ho'rs of (orning8 Then : t'rned to (y fiddle for solace8 : i(pro,ised long sad airs@ po'ring all of (y heartbreak into the ('sic8 After a while@ Traci acco(panied (e on the keyboard@ occasionally h'((ing in har(ony to (y i(pro(pt' (elodies8 ;e played 'ntil (orning8 Then we sat in each other6s ar(s@ watching the dawn thro'gh the windows of o'r loft8 This was a new day@ and the beginning of a new life for (e8 :t was the life : had always wanted8 And@ as : had always known@ it ca(e with a terrible costN the loss of (y parents and the ho(e of (y yo'th8 5et : had (y fiddle@ (y lady lo,e@ and all of the f't're8 : always dreaded this day8 :t was one ϩ of the saddest (o(ents of (y life8 At least : co'ld look with hope toward the f't're8 9ad : known then that far sadder days were soon to co(e@ : do not know that : co'ld ha,e gone on8 B Two (onths later : recei,ed a phone call fro( (y brother8 IAlbert@ :6,e got so(e bad news for yo'8J I;hat is itKJ : braced (yself8 I)onte 9arte died8J I+h no8J )y first tho'ght was that : sho'ld ha,e been there8 : had not seen )onte since before the blow 'p with (y parents8 I9is f'neral is this Sat'rday@J 4harles said8 I: tho'ght yo' sho'ld know8J IThanks8J I5o' alrightKJ I5es@ :6( okay8J I;ell : gotta go8J +b,io'sly (y parents did not know he was (aking this call8 I<oodbye 4harles8 And thanks for letting (e know8J ITake care of yo'rself@ Albert8J )y brother h'ng 'p8 Traci attended the f'neral with (e8 ;e sat as far fro( (y parents as we co'ld8 )y father scowled at 's d'ring the ser,ice8 After gi,ing Traci an appraising look@ (y (other regarded (e with disappoint(ent8 Traci acC'itted herself well8 She ignored the balef'l glares of (y father and held herself with a soft dignity8
ed in (e@ and he ta'ght (e to be tr'e to (yself8 : played ?eil <ow6s Fa(ent for 9is Second .ith a harsh glare of conde(nation@ he left the f'neral ho(e8 : foc'sed (y tho'ghts on the (an we were here to honor8 )onte 9arte was (y friend and (entor8 :n so(e ways@ he was (ore of a father to (e than (y own father had been8 9e helped (e to find (yself8 9e had always belie.er the fiddle as : played@ and the a'dience cried with (e8 After they laid )onte in the gro'nd@ Traci and : ret'rned to Gansas 4ity8 Traci dro.ing (e to (y grief8 .er do'bted (y choice8 That was )onte 9arte6s legacy to (e8 )y past was b'ried and a new life opened before (e8 .After the pastor finished his ser(on@ : (o'nted the podi'( with )onte6s fiddle8 )y father stood@ drawing (y (other along side hi(8 .ercast in shades of red and yellow by the stewing (ias(a of a sky possessed by the to%ins of o'r own conceit@ let 's ϩ greet this (ost fatef'l day8 Eo'rney elsewhere@ to see how others woke to .ed on to reels and breakdowns filled with life and boistero's spirits@ and not a hint of sadness8 And as night ga.ife8 The ('sic sang o't with bea'ty@ sorrow and loss8 : cried o.hile tinted with loss@ the f't're appeared hopef'l8 Fittle did : know that : wo'ld soon sa(ple the f'll depths of loss8 As : sat in the st'dy of the rectory (any years later@ fiddling a t'ne that .ag'ely rese(bled ?eil <ow6s Fa(ent for 9is Second .e@ lea.e way to a (ost sing'lar (orning@ o.ife@ : was not yet ready to taste the f'll depths of what : lost so long ago8 Drawing the sad air to a close@ : (o.e said little8 : was b'rying (y childhood and (y fa(ily along with (y (entor8 B't : ne.
in reached o't and shook his leg8 Bobby snorted@ (ore flies entering thro'gh his (o'th and nose8 9e choked@ finally waking 'p8 A cry rang o't8 The wo(an with her baby was gone8 She had fled@ and the swar( was withdrawing fro( the ca.itho't speaking@ the wo(an held her baby o't to hi(8 I5o' want (e to take itKJ he asked as he started to reach for the s(all b'ndle8 At that (o(ent@ a bone chilling howl echoed o.er the (o'th of the ca.er@ ϟne%t to what passed by the (o'th of the ca.er and glanced toward the (o'th of the ca.id'als@ only a (ass of li(bs and torsos@ genitalia and heads8 +ccasionally a head rotated to face hi(@ its .erything e%cepting pain8 The (ass see(ed to beco(e (ore agitated8 :t rippled with a black fla(e and then er'pted into a dense clo'd of flies8 The flies swar(ed o.e8 The wo(an with her baby stood off to one side8 +ne of the tendrils reached o't for Bobby@ where he contin'ed to sleep on the gro'nd8 IBobbyMJ Ge.in had s'ch a diffic'lt ti(e going to sleep8 That and the hard stone floor@ the e.o(it8 This hellish sky was of only secondary concern@ howe.er H or whate.in cringed against the back wall of the ca.e8 Ge.ithin (o(ents@ the ca.isage barely h'(an@ its eyes blind and lacking conscio'sness of e.er the ridge8 The wo(an drew her baby back to her chest and sw'ng aro'nd in terror to look o'tside the ca.in rose fro( where he lay and tried to ro'se Bobby@ 'ns'ccessf'lly8 Bobby contin'ed to snore witho't a break in rhyth(* his snoring was one of the reasons Ge.e8 9e co'ld (ake o't no indi.e@ bathed in its sang'ine glow8 Ge.in called o't as the flies lighted on his cheek and crawled toward his open@ snoring (o'th8 As the first few flies d'cked into his (o'th@ Ge.e in the side of a ridge8 She see(ed a nice wo(an@ yet she ca(e with an 'rgency and a great deal of concern abo't the babe8 As she entered the ca.e and entered along b'AAing corr'pted tendrils co(posed entirely of the (alicio's insects8 Ge.hat he saw defied description8 The sky lit 'p in a fiery ocean of (ag(a@ as tho'gh the $arth itself had spewed o't its own (olten core to plaster the skies with an angry@ glowing .e8 :t was still C'ite dark o'tside8 9e co'ld see the stars s(oldering in the g'ttering sky8 9e finally got to sleep only to be startled awake by a night(are8 9e drea(ed of an :ndian wo(an with a babe in her ar(s@ who ca(e to .in saw a tangled (ass of tort'red bodies@ flayed and bleeding8 9e knew they were the .icti(s of the Swanson 4reek )assacre@ ('ltiplied by ten ti(es their n'(ber of si(ilar sacrifices8 They were the da(ned@ tor(ented and cons'(ed by the e.e Ge.il to which they were sacrificed8 They coiled in ang'ish o'tside the (o'th of the ca.in greeted the wo(an8 I4an : help yo'KJ .er H was p'rs'ing the(8 I9ello@J Ge.e to p'rs'e her8 .ents of the pre.e and its entrance were free of flies8 The sky was dark again@ b't for the glowing red e(bers that were stars shining thro'gh the darkened (ias(a8 .io's day replaying in his (ind@ the 'ncertainty of what wo'ld befall the( ne%t@ and fear of whoe.Part !o — he Final "orning /& Desert A!akening Ge.isit the( at this shallow ca.in rolled o.in looked o't as well8 .
in snaked his way to the edge of the balcony8 As he st'ck his head and sho'lders o.e@ disappearing o'tside8 Ge.'8 9e fo'nd the flashlight as he called o't@ IBobbyKJ There was no reply8 T'rning on the light@ he played it thro'gh the ca.in h'rried o't to the ledge@ already knowing what had happened@ tho'gh hoping to be pro.in co'ld not help b't notice the change in the sky@ he paid it little heed at the (o(ent8 The oily@ (etallic sheen still per(eated the roseate sky@ yet now the whole thing was on the (o.e and then trained it on the (o'th of the ca.e8 The sky was flowing@ following an easterly c'rrent8 9ere and there@ little befo'led eddies swirled and broke 'p into t'rb'lence to reEoin the (ain strea(8 .in breathed easy@ rela%ing8 Bobby rose 'p co'ghing and hacking@ and staggered to the (o'th of the ca.e@ so(eti(e in the early (orning@ before dawn8 9e shifted on the floor and looked for Bobby ne%t to hi(@ b't Bobby was not there8 Ge.in sw'ng his ar( aro'nd and shone the flashlight down to the o'tcrop8 S're eno'gh@ it was Bobby8 9e was not (o.e8 So(ething still did not feel right8 Ge.el along the ridge a little ways@ and then cli(b back down to the ledge8 The ledge was easily tra.in looked aro'nd@ trying to fig're o't what it was8 The walls of the ca.in lay still@ afraid (ore of the balcony wo'ld gi.hile he tried to deter(ine if Bobby was still ali.in heard hi( hack 'p so(ething nasty and spit8 A (o(ent later@ he co'ld hear hi( 'rinating off the ledge o'tside of the ca.in co'ld not be certain@ b't the balcony looked a little shorter than it had been when they first got there8 Shining the flashlight along the ledge@ he saw what co'ld be a fresh break8 IBobbyMJ he called again@ b't there was no response8 Fying on his sto(ach@ Ge.e way@ taking hi( with it8 There was so(ething down there on an o'tcrop@ (aybe twenty feet below8 <rowing confident that he was not going o.e8 Bobby had been here a few ti(es before@ tho'gh ne.er the horiAon to the east8 There dawned a gri( and scalding day8 Tho'gh Ge.e@ Ge.er the edge@ Ge.Ge.er at night8 +nce they (ade the cli(b to the shallow ca.ersed@ nowhere beco(ing (ore narrow than a co'ple feet@ while broadening o't into an a(ple balcony at ϟ the (o'th of the ca.ing@ and Ge.in woke 'p to find hi(self inside the ca.iew fro( land and air8 To get there@ they first had to cli(b to a saddle in the ridge@ tra.in co'ld not tell whether he was ali.e8 Ge.en wrong8 :t took the( a good three ho'rs of hiking thro'gh the desert to reach the ridge8 And another ho'r in the dark sco'ting for the trail 'p to this ca.e see(ed to shrink in aro'nd hi(8 9e heard rocks t'(ble o'tside8 Bobby screa(ed a(id the so'nd of a landslide8 And with that@ Ge.e@ the sky lightened and a hot s'n appeared o.in had to agree it was the perfect place for the( to hole 'p 'ntil they decided what to do8 The ca.e or dead8 There was no way down to hi( witho't scaling the cliff8 9e knew not how long he lay on the edge of the precipice@ calling his friend6s na(e witho't response@ watching the body cr'(pled on the rocks for any sign of life8 .in felt a shock of alar(@ a sick sense of dOES .e8 Bobby was nowhere to be seen8 Ge.er the end@ so(e of the cliff edge cr'(bled aro'nd hi(@ showering down below8 Ge.e was only abo't fifteen feet deep8 :t opened in a large (o'th@ yet was E'st deep eno'gh that so(eone inside wo'ld be hidden to .
Ge.er@ was foc'sed on his friend@ lying lifelessly on the o'tcrop below8 9e stopped calling Bobby6s na(e8 ?ow he E'st lay there@ 'nable to gi.en so@ he winced8 I: think : broke it8J IAnything elseKJ I: d'nno8J Bobby gr'nted8 I)y head@ (y back8 : ache all o.e the(8 They6re E'st a little n'(b8J I)o.e don6t know what other da(age yo' did in that fall8J IShit@J Bobby responded8 I='st gi.in t'rned his face away and started to crawl back fro( the cliff edge8 9e stopped@ thinking he heard so(e al(ost ina'dible (oan8 9olding his breath@ he listened8 There@ he heard it againN a long@ low (oan8 IBobbyMJ 9e looked o.e the(8J I: did@J Bobby answered testily8 ISee8J 9is legs were not (o.e 'p his .e the(KJ IS're : can (o.e (e a little ti(e and :6ll see if : can find a way back 'p there8J I5o'6re gonna cli(b 'p here with a broken ar(KJ I:t beats lying here fo'r or fi.in was ϟ thinking that if Bobby had only broken his ar(@ they (ight find a way to get hi( back 'p to the ledge8 I.er8J I.in pleaded8 ISay so(ething8 Don6t gi.oided answering8 IDid theyKJ Ge.in@ yo' go back to town and they6ll catch 's for s're8J I5o' fell twenty feet and landed on yo'r back8 :f yo' h'rt yo'r spine@ then yo' best not (o.hat abo't the(KJ Bobby ret'rned8 IAre they brokenK 4an yo' (o.igil8 Bobby co'ldn6t die like this8 ?ot with e.e 'p8J At last@ Ge.in sighed8 I?o8 ?ot that : co'ld tell8J .e 'ntil : bring help8J I)y legs didn6t (o.in worried Bobby had inE'red his back8 IBobby@ it (ight be best if yo' E'st laid still while : go for help8 .hat abo't yo'r legsKJ Ge.in did not know whether he was la'ghing or crying8 I)an@ : tho'ght yo' were deadMJ I5eah8J Bobby (oaned and raised his head@ then laid it back down8 I)e too8J IAre yo' alrightKJ I?o@ d'(b f'ck8J Bobby co(plained@ I: fell off a cliff8 +f co'rse : ain6t alright8 :t h'rts like hell8J I.e@ did theyKJ Bobby asked le.in6s attention@ howe.ing8 I5eah@ : see8J Ge.elly8 IBobby8J Ge.er with his left ar( and lightly to'ched his right8 $.erything that was going on aro'nd the(8 Bobby was a warrior* he sho'ld go down fighting@ not slip off the side of a cliff while relie.ing hi(self8 :t was not right8 I4o(e on@ Bobby@J Ge.er the edge@ sending a s(all cascade of pebbles down to pelt his friend8 I+h@J Bobby groaned8 I+h@ f'ck8J IBobby8J Ge.e ho'rs while yo' look for help8 Ge.hereKJ I)y ar(8J Bobby reached o.in a.
in crawled away fro( the edge of the balcony@ caref'l not to send down any (ore loose rock8 9e went back into the ca.e and gathered 'p the co(pass@ the canteen and the bag of bisc'its8 9e wo'ld eat the bisc'its while he (arched back to town@ chasing the( down with water fro( the canteen8 The canned goods he wo'ld lea.e learned a healthy respect for hi(8 F'cinda co'ld not (ake the( stay in the cottage all day8 :t was s(all and there was not ('ch to do there8 ?or co'ld she take the( to work with her8 They wo'ld be too ('ch 'nderfoot@ and they wo'ld dist'rb Father 9ayne@ no (atter that he said he did not (ind8 Besides@ boys needed to get o't and r'n aro'nd8 She co'ld not keep the( penned .in chose a rock of the right siAe and st'ck it in the cigarette pack8 Then he crawled back to the edge and said@ I9ere6s so(e cigarettes8J 9e held the pack o't and dropped it8 :t landed to Bobby6s left and bo'nced to his elbow8 IThanks8J Bobby n'dged the pack 'ntil he co'ld grab it in his hand8 9e tore it open8 Two cigarettes were broken* the re(aining eight were bent b't s(okable8 9e lit one 'p8 I5o' stay tight and :6ll be back with help8J I:6ll be here8J Ge.er his sho'lder@ picked 'p the bag of bisc'its@ and headed off along the ledge8 Back on the o'tcrop@ Bobby s(okedӾ a cigarette and watched the sky flow by@ trying not to think of his legs and the pain in his lower back8 A fly b'AAed aro'nd his head8 9e swatted at it with his hand@ b't it dodged hi( with ease and contin'ed to flit aro'nd his head8 0& 1etba+ks 2o )ome For once in her life@ F'cinda )orales considered not going to work8 She awoke spray-painted on the sidewalk in front of her this (orning to find cottage8 The anti-9ispanic hysteria was getting o't of hand8 She had been held to bla(e for the energy crisis@ the collapse of the econo(y@ the rise in cri(e and the lack of work8 F'cinda glanced at the (ess in the sky as she walked o.er to the concierge@ and crossed herself8 She wo'ld probably be bla(ed for that as well8 :t was getting so that she feared to let her sons o't of the yard8 They got into so (any fights8 Da.id6s scrapes were on his kn'ckles8 5o' wo'ld think the other kids wo'ld ha.e behind in the backpack8 They wo'ld only weigh hi( down8 9e opened a fresh pack of cigarettes and took half of the( o't to (ake roo(8 Back on the balcony@ he called down@ I5o' got a lighterKJ I5eah@J Bobby answered@ Iin (y pocket8J Fooking aro'nd@ Ge.Bobby was silent for a long (o(ent8 I+kay8 5o' go get help8 <o to yo'r granddad6s8 Don6t let anyone else see yo'8J I:6ll be back as soon as : can8J I: wish : had a da(n cigarette@J Bobby gr'(bled8 I='st a (in'te8J Ge.in sc'ttled away fro( the edge of the cliff@ threw the canteen o.id bore the br'nt of it@ always stepping in to defend his little brother8 A day had not passed this s'((er when they were not sporting fresh br'ises@ tho'gh (ost of Da.
ors@ b't she knew her sister was ali.en let herself into the rectory@ F'cinda co'ld hear the Padre playing his fiddle8 She wondered if he had been at it all night@ sawing on the strings8 Since he picked it 'p yesterday@ the Padre had done nothing else8 F'cinda was worried abo't hi(8 9ad it not been for her@ Father 9ayne wo'ld ha.iolinist who needs a good instr'(ent8J ?oting his affection for the .en to (e by (y teacher8 :t was passed down in his fa(ily for se.iolin H bordering on re.en away to charity@ saying only@ I)aybe there is a b'dding .ent'red@ I: know nothing of ('sical instr'(ents@ Padre@ b't this looks like a .hen she first called 9ector Torrino at STG :(ports to find o't what happened to her@ he p't her off@ saying he did not know b't he wo'ld look into it8 Then F'cinda heard the r'(ors of the (assacre8 ?ow nobody wo'ld answer when she tried to call STG :(ports8 ?or wo'ld 9ector answer when she tried to call hi( on his ho(e phone or his cell phone H when it was working8 .e it away to charity8J I9e hoped : wo'ld carry on the tradition@ b't : (ade (y choice long ago and ha.i.eral generations8J IThen it is an heirloo(@J F'cinda st'died the .e arri.hen she first heard of the (assacre@ she nearly fainted8 5et@ after she got o.iolin a(ong the things (eant to be gi.e gotten rid of that fiddle a few years back when they were clearing cl'tter o't of the rectory8 F'cinda re(e(bered@ when they 'nearthed the fiddle fro( the back of the closet@ Father 9ayne opened the case and conte(plated the instr'(ent a while8 At the ti(e@ she wondered if he (ight pick it 'p and play it8 She i(agined he was a talented fiddler8 B't he did not to'ch it8 9e regarded it for a short while and then closed the case with a sigh8 9e set the .e to to'gh it o't here@ b't it was really nothing co(pared to what happened to her brothers back in )e%ico8 :t was her sister who tr'ly worried her8 )aria sho'ld ha.e8 So(e said the bodies were still o't there@ piled in the ra.iolin for a (o(ent before saying@ I:f yo'r teacher wanted yo' to ha.al'able .iolin8J I:t was gi.e it@ it wo'ld not be right to gi.hat a horrible death8 F'cinda crossed herself again at the tho'ght of it8 She asked the receptionist@ )adge Do.er the initial shock@ so(ething inside told her that her sister (anaged to escape this tragedy8 The r'(ors all agreed there were no s'r.e8 Don )artin called e.ine at Swanson 4reek8 F'cinda fo'nd that hard to belie.e not to'ched it since8 Better for it to go to so(eone who will 'se it H perhaps a talented child who cannot afford his own8J .oice@ F'cinda .erence H and the sadness in his .'p all the ti(e8 They (ight ha.er@ abo't the (assacre8 )adge wo'ldn6t tell her ('ch8 +nce she finished with her chores at the rectory@ F'cinda (ade 'p her (ind to go to 9ector6s ho'se and find o't once and for Ӿ all what happened to her sister8 Before she e.ed three days ago8 .ery few ho'rs to find o't if F'cinda learned anything knew8 9e was concerned for )aria and the baby8 F'cinda co'ld not bring herself to tell hi( abo't the (assacre8 :t was@ after all@ E'st a r'(or8 :t was too bad things had not worked o't between hi( and her sister8 9e see(ed like a nice (an8 And this (orning@ when she called the sheriff6s office to report the graffiti on the sidewalk@ she learned that STG :(ports had b'rned down d'ring the night8 :t was belie.ed the owner@ =oseph Stelling@ died in the fire8 .
e it away like this8 That wo'ld be disrespectf'l to yo'r teacher6s wishes and the (e(ory of his ancestors8J IPerhaps yo' are right8 : co'ld do better by )onte than to gi.ely Eig that (anaged to a(eliorate all of her sorrows and concerns8 The lilting (elody lifted her spirits and (ade her feel like dancing8 Deally@ the Padre was s'ch a talented fiddler@ it was al(ost a sin for hi( not to play8 ?o wonder he was so penned 'p and prone to drink8 She wo'ld be too if she were f'll of talent and ref'sed to e%press it8 She wondered whate.er ha.e i(agined8 $ach one had an 'nlikely blend of h'(an@ ani(al and plant characteristics@ the biggest standing not ('ch higher than F'cinda6s knees8 So(e were of a breed of little wood (en@ looking (ore like root boles on legs8 +thers co'ld al(ost pass for h'(an@ b't that their noses and chins were drawn o't into pointy sno'ts8 There were also (iniat're characters she co'ld readily identify as centa'rs and satyrs8 A(ong the( were earthen-colored@ s(ooth-skinned (aidens@ clad in the sheerest of fil(y@ transparent clothe8 The root (en and the ani(al people@ for the (ost part@ sat on the floor ranged o't in front of Father 9ayne6s chair@ listening with rapt attention8 A few@ howe.e 'p drinking8 F'cinda pa'sed to listen as she stood in the .er happened to close hi( off to ('sic@ and what happened to open hi( back 'p to it yesterday8 ?ow it see(ed the entire rectory and the gro'nds aro'nd it had been awakened by his playing and were listening cheerily@ char(ed by his skill and the enchanting (elodies8 At the so'nd of her closing the front door@ Father 9ayne ended the Eig8 So(ething 빐 to go on@ tho'gh he did not8 see(ed ca'ght in (id-breath and prodded hi( IF'cindaKJ he called o't fro( the st'dy8 ISi@ Padre8J She Eoined hi(8 IThat was bea'tif'l8J She stopped short in the doorway to the st'dy@ 'nprepared for the scene before her8 Father 9ayne sat in an easy chair drawn to the side of the desk@ fiddle in hand8 9e looked as tho'gh he had not slept a wink all night8 9is clothes were wrinkled@ he had hea.estib'le8 9e was a talented fiddler8 :t was a sha(e to think he had not played a note in all the years she worked for hi(8 Dight now he was fiddling a li.ed it fro( the charity pile8 5o' (ight want to play it again so(eday8 +r yo' can keep yo'r eye o't for so(eone to pass it along to H so(eone who deser.iolin went back into storage 'ntil the Padre picked it 'p yesterday and began to play8 F'cinda wondered what happened to bring abo't this change8 Perhaps this was E'st the thing to break thro'gh the stony reser.e his fiddle away8 The Ford knows : disappointed hi( eno'gh8J And so the .er@ were on their feet@ capering and ga(boling in li.F'cinda was d'bio's8 I)ore likely@ it will go to so(eone who will (is'se it H (aybe destroy it8 :t does not take 'p ('ch roo(8J She (o.ely Eigs8 Aro'nd and a(ong these@ the centa'rs and satyrs chased the lithe (aidens8 And when@ on occasion@ a (aiden allowed herself to be ca'ght@ F'cinda was far too e(barrassed to note what ne%t transpired right there at Father 9ayne6s feet8 .e that kept his e(otions sealed away8 )aybe he wo'ld e.y bags 'nder his eyes@ and his face was drawn8 For all that@ he see(ed alert and f'll of energy8 :t was his co(panions who took her breath away8 An odder assort(ent of i(pla'sible creat'res she co'ld ne.es it8 B't it wo'ld not be right to gi.en gi.
e the oddest drea(@ tho'gh8 : drea(ed : was playing for an a'dience of enchanted creat'res@ presided o.es in a breeAe whene.ine presence to be adored and respected8 The wo(an clapped her hands and@ in that instant@ all of the other (ar.er (ind8 She t'rned her attention back to Father 9ayne8 IPadre@ ha.ed8 +n the stool in front of the chair sat a wo(an (ore radiantly bea'tif'l than any of the others8 She was dressed so(ewhat (ore decently than the (aidens@ tho'gh she shi((ered in a way that (ade her diffic'lt for the h'(an eye to take in8 9o.er he (o.ertigo8 .ing hi( reE'.e glance@ this pair ret'rned their attention to Father 9ayne8 The wo(an reached into the po'ch at her side and drew o't her hand to cast a clo'd of glittering d'st that settled o.hy@ : was so tired@ : fell asleep before : co'ld change into (y night clothes8J .hen : ca(e into the roo(@ : tho'ghtL8J She was not C'ite s're what she tho'ght she had seen8 IAh b'eno@ n'nca c'enta8J ?e.io's day8 9e sat his fiddle on the chair and laid the bow o.anished@ see(ing to fade into their s'rro'ndings8 F'cinda ca'ght her breath@ do'bting what she had E'st witnessed8 Feeling diAAy@ she reached o't for the door fra(e to steady herself8 IAre yo' okayKJ Father 9ayne rose fro( his seat far (ore ni(ble than he had been on the pre.Seated on the left ar( of Father 9ayne6s chair was a so(ewhat larger gnarly old (an@ with skin like bark and hair like .er by the &'een of the Fairies and the Ford of the .eral others a(ong the strange creat'res beca(e aware of her interr'ption8 The wo(an rose fro( her seat and t'rned to cal(ly regard the interloper8 F'cinda froAe 'nder her gaAe@ not o't of fear@ b't as tho'gh to'ched by so(e di.e conscio'sness of the wood@ i(b'ing the fiddle with a life of its own@ and the desire to sing8 Finally the gnarly (an and the regal wo(an .ines@ and green clothes that fl'ttered like lea.enated8 曠ϝand to'ched the fiddle8 Tho'gh nothing Then the gnarly little (an reached o't happened to be seen by the eye@ F'cinda felt like the little (an was awakening the creati.ering in the air@ all abo't the roo( b't concentrated in front of the chair and aro'nd Father 9ayne6s head@ were what F'cinda at first (istook for fireflies8 She realiAed they were tiny winged h'(ans the siAe of insects@ each one e%'ding a war( glow8 The wo(an on the stool@ who had an air at once regal and enchanting@ was gest'ring for Father 9ayne to play another t'ne8 The old (an beside Father 9ayne beca(e alert8 9e stood on Father 9ayne6s lap and dipped his head at F'cinda@ E'st as se.elo's creat'res disappeared@ e%cept for she and the old (an on Father 9ayne6s lap8 <i.er Father 9ayne and was absorbed by hi(8 As this happened@ the Father see(ed to take on a glow of rosy health@ as tho'gh his age and all those years of drinking were shed@ lea.oods8J So(ething nagged at F'cinda6s (e(ory@ and then it was gone8 IB't Padre@ yo'6re still wearing the sa(e clothes fro( yesterday8J ISo : a(8J Father 9ayne looked at his wrinkled clothes absent-(indedly8 I.e yo' been 'p all nightKJ I: feel fine as a fiddle8J Father 9ayne ch'ckled at his own little Eoke8 I: did ha.er the ar(s of the chair before stepping to F'cinda6s side8 I$stoy bien@J she said as her head began to clear8 :6( fine8 I='st a (o(ent of .ing F'cinda a dis(issi.
ed (ore than this e(pty@ rigid e%istence8 F'cinda cared a great deal abo't the Padre8 9e was as ('ch a (e(ber of her fa(ily as were her boys and her sister8 She was stirred at the tho'ght of hi( lea.er reason@ playing his fiddle8 +dder still@ the all-nighter left hi( in better shape than e.en the broken capillaries in his cheeks and his nose were healed8 :t was eno'gh to (ake her wonder if that was a (agic fiddle he was playing8 4o'ld it be a (iracle bro'ght abo't by his (any years of de.er before8 F'cinda co'ld swear e.ing8 Father 9ayne was a good (an@ and he was dedicated to the ch'rch@ b't he lacked the faith of tr'e de.ice was as e(pty as his ser(ons8 All of the ch'rch (e(bers were aware of his lack of con.ing the priesthood* she tried to tell herself it was co(passion8 She sensed so(ething had long ago h'rt the Padre@ and he t'rned to the 4h'rch for solace and sanct'ary8 5et his wo'nds ne.iolin8 :t is eno'gh to (ake (e wonder why yo' e.en when Father 9ayne was deep in the bottle@ it was not like hi( to stay 'p all night and then not open the ch'rch the ne%t (orning8 And the Padre ne.en tho'gh it wo'ld probably res'lt in hi( lea.otion8 9e cl'ng to the ch'rch for the safety of its cere(onies and c'sto(s@ not beca'se he belie.F'cinda wondered if he had been drinking@ tho'gh he was 's'ally in ('ch worse shape after a night spent i(bibing brandy and whiskey8 I: s'ppose : sho'ld change (y clothes@J Father 9ayne allowed8 IAnd (aybe take a shower while :6( at it8J 9e t'rned to his fiddle and bow@ intending to p't the( away8 I5o' so'nd wonderf'l on that .iction@ b't (ost of the( o.er ga.er healed8 .erlooked it beca'se of his co(passion and his dedication to d'ty8 Tho'gh he wo'ld ne.e it 'p8J I5es8J Father 9ayne t'cked the fiddle 'nder his chin8 I:t6s good to know : ha.o'ld yo' like (e to open the ch'rchKJ I5es@J the Padre affir(ed as he headed for the staircase8 I: g'ess yo' had better8J F'cinda fo'nd the ch'rch keys hanging on the key rack by the front door and left the rectory to walk down the cobbled path to the back door of the ch'rch8 $.er ad(it it to hi(self@ Father 9ayne harbored a sadness for his e(pty e%istence8 And he drank to fill this e(ptiness and drown this sadness8 F'cinda often felt that he cl'ng to the 4h'rch beca'se he was afraid of life8 She so(eti(es wished he wo'ld open 'p to life@ e.otion@ his ser.er lied in all the ꉰϢ he did not re(e(ber staying 'p all night@ years she worked for hi(8 For whate.otion to the ch'rchK That was 'nlikely8 There had to be any n'(ber of priests H and n'ns H who were (ore deser.en6t lost it8J 9e picked 'p the bow and prepared to play8 IPadre@J F'cinda re(inded hi(@ Iweren6t yo' going to showerKJ I+h yes8J Father 9ayne stood there a (o(ent@ as tho'gh he co'ld not (ake 'p his (ind whether to play so(e (ore or do as F'cinda s'ggested8 I5o' can practice later8J IThat6s right8J Father 9ayne laid the fiddle in its case on the desk8 9e loosened the tension on the bow and p't it away as well8 Then he sh't and clasped the case@ b't left it sitting on the desk top8 I:6ll go 'pstairs and take a shower8J I.ed in it8 9e was afraid of so(ething@ and he 'sed the ch'rch to keep this fear at bay8 5et@ beca'se he lacked de.ing the 4h'rch8 9e was a good (an@ and he deser.
erything else8 :t was a sha(e to see the( go to waste@ she tho'ght as she d'(ped the r'ined salad in the trash8 Then she washed o't the salad bowl@ dried it and p't it away8 9ow long wo'ld it be before they wo'ld ha.ing the b'rrito for his l'nch8 Fett'ce@ c'c'(bers and to(atoes were getting e%pensi.erhead8 Fooking 'p at the s'rging oily c'rrents in the at(osphere as she h'rried down the path back to the rectory@ she wondered if she sho'ld ha.io's day@ not e.er the entire landscape8 F'cinda fo'nd herself walking thro'gh so(e night(are real(@ alien and hostile to the world into which she had been born8 She dreaded being o't in this 'nnat'ral world@ fearing e.en 'nder s'ch 'nhealthy skies8 F'cinda breathed easier once she was back in the rectory@ sh'tting the door on that defiled world8 As she h'ng the ch'rch keys back on their hook@ Father 9ayne called to her fro( 'pstairs@ IF'cindaKJ ISi@ Padre8J She went to the foot of the stairs so they co'ld co(('nicate easier8 I: a( feeling a little tired after all8 : think :6ll lie down and take a nap8J I)'y bien8 : a( going to straighten 'p the kitchen and then go see if : can find o't abo't (y sister8J I5es@ yo' do that@J Father 9ayne called down8 I:6ll fi% yo' a l'nch and lea.e bro'ght the boys with her or ordered the( to stay inside the cottage8 B't they were boys@ and it was s'((er8 They needed to get o'tside and play@ e.en so ('ch as a glass8 She opened the refrigerator to find the light dinner she had prepared for hi( sitting on a shelf8 She wondered if the (an had taken a break fro( his fiddle d'ring the night to go to the bathroo(8 The beef and bean b'rrito was fresh in its plastic container@ b't the side salad had wilted8 She took o't the salad to dispose of it@ lea.e the Ford better as a contented (an than a hollow priest8 These were F'cinda6s tho'ghts as she (ade the ro'nds thro'gh the ch'rch@ t'rning on the lights and (aking s're e.er to co(e on againK Then they wo'ld be left in little better shape than she had been in back in the shack town barrio where she had grown 'p8 .)aybe that was what happened to hi( last nightN whate.e@ tho'gh the sky cast a ghastly pall o.ery breath she took (ight be conta(inated with the pestilence that s'rged o.enation wo'ld be a (iracle@ e.er wo'nds were inflicted on hi( so long ago finally healed@ the scars faded@ and now he was at last waking 'p to life8 S'ch a reE'.erything was in order8 She finished at the front doors8 Dipping her hand in the holy water@ she anointed herself with the sign of the cross8 Gneeling to the alter@ she said a C'ick prayer@ for her sister@ her sons@ and Father 9ayne8 Then she passed thro'gh the doors into the .estib'le and 'nlocked the big front doors8 The (orning heat was already oppressi.e H as was e.ith a yawn@ he said@ I:f anyone needs (e@ E'st knock on (y door8J ID'er(e bien@J F'cinda said as she left the staircase to enter the kitchen8 Sleep well8 Father 9ayne had dirtied no dishes since she left the pre.en if the 'lti(ate res'lt sho'ld be that he wo'ld lea.e it in the refrigerator@ in case :6( not back in ti(e8J IDon6t bother8 : can fi% (yself so(ething8J I:t is no bother@J F'cinda insisted8 I+kay@J Father 9ayne did not want to belabor the iss'e8 .e to grow all their own foodK 9ow long before the electricity went off ne.e the priesthood8 9e co'ld ser.
Tho'ght of her childhood re(inded her of her sister@ bringing her an%iety for )aria back to the forefront8 She was s're )aria escaped the (assacre@ b't where was she now H o't in the desert@ inE'red and baking 'nder the cr'el s'nK She had to resc'e her sister8 As soon as she was done here@ she wo'ld go to 9ector Torrino6s ho'se and force hi( to answer her C'estions8 :f he co'ld not@ then she wo'ld find the sheriff and (ake hi( help her8 F'cinda tho'ght of little else as she ran Father 9ayne6s dirty clothes thro'gh the washer and dryer8 She scr'bbed the kitchen floor on her hands and knees as the clothes were washed@ and wa%ed the floor while the clothes dried8 Finally@ she folded the clothes neatly and laid the( aside@ to be p't away after the Padre awoke8 ='st as she finished folding 'p the last of the clothes@ the phone rang8 I9ello8J I+las@ F'cinda8J :t was Dosa Albina8 9er da'ghter Gatrina so(eti(es played with F'cinda6s boys8 Dosa was a good wo(an@ tho'gh she was prone to gossip8 F'cinda wondered what she wanted8 She was not in the (ood for gossiping now@ worried as she was abo't her sister8 IThe yanC'is were at it again last night8 They ca(e thro'gh the barrio abo't 2N" this (orning throwing rocks at ho'ses8 They broke (y big pict're window8 )arco is co,ering it with cardboard right now8 : heard they paid yo' a ,isit too8J IThey scrawled so(e nasty st'ff on the sidewalk@J F'cinda told her8 I: will paint o,er it8J I5o' are l'cky@J Dosa said8 IThey are getting ,iolent8 They ca'ght old (an )ineA o'tside and beat hi( badly8 : hear they car,ed a swastika in his forehead8 A(elio 끀ϟ and $rnesto fo'nd hi(8J That wo'ld be the Santoro brothers8 9andso(e and gracio's yo'ng twins in their early twenties@ they were their (other $lodia6s pride and Eoy8 F'cinda often wished her boys wo'ld grow 'p to be s'ch (en as the(8 F'cinda c'rled her lip in disg'st@ I$stos yanC'is son loco8J These yanC'is are loco8 IThey are getting worse@J Dosa ca'tioned8 I)arco says this is happening all o,er the co'ntry8 They bla(e 's for e,erything@ 's and the Arabs8 That De,erend )orris on TP is stirring the( 'p8 They al(ost rioted in FA last week after he appeared there8J IDosa@J F'cinda said@ Ies FA8 Todo el ('ndo estU loco8J That is FA8 $,eryone is loco there8 I;hat abo't the shootings on Swanson 4reek@J Dosa did not ha,e to re(ind her8 IThey say the soldiers did that H US soldados8 They b'ried the( o't there8 D'g a hole and sho,ed the( in8 The sheriff isn6t doing anything8 ?either are the state police8 They are a part of this8J Dosa was getting herself worked 'p8 I)arcos says they want to get rid of 's all H whether we ha,e citiAenship or not8 9e says we ('st be ready to fight back8 9e got hi(self a g'n8J +f co'rse@ none of this (ade sense8 IDosa@ the go,ern(ent is bringing 's here8 ;hy wo'ld they want to bring 's here and get rid of 's at the sa(e ti(eKJ IFos yanC'is son loco@J Dosa answered8 IThey want 's to work for the(@ b't they don6t like 's8J
ITiene (iedos@ co(o nosotros@J F'cinda said8 They are scared like 's8 IThey don6t know what is happening@ and they need so(eone to bla(e other than the(sel,es8 :f we showed the( we are scared too@ (aybe we co'ld co(fort each other8 Pointing g'ns won6t sol,e anything8J I5o' (ight feel different if they ca(e after yo'r boys8J Dosa pa'sed8 IThat is why : called8 5o'r boys are o,er here playing with Gat8 They had so(e tro'ble at the school playgro'nd8J IV&'O ha pasadoKJ F'cinda was concerned8 ;hat happened8 ISo(e other kids were there@J Dosa told her8 I4alling the( na(es and telling the( to go back to their own co'ntry8 So(ebody threw a rock at Pa'ly@ and Da,id started fighting8 Gat ran all the way ho(e to get 's8J IV$stUn bienKJ F'cinda asked@ now C'ite concerned8 IVF'e herido Pa'lyKJ Are they okayK ;as Pa'ly h'rtK I?o@J Dosa reass'red her8 IPa'l has a l'(p on his forehead@ b't he will be alright8 Da,id has a black eye8 9e was holding his own against three of the( when we showed 'p8 9e had another one on the gro'nd with a broken nose8 Fittle Pa'ly was trying to help his brother8J I: wish they co'ld get along with the other kids8J I:t wasn6t their fa'lt8J Dosa defended the(8 IFo sO@J F'cinda la(ented8 : know8 Iit ne,er is8J IThose kids are E'st beha,ing like their parents and their older brothers8 And that6s the proble(@J Dosa pa'sed@ knowing what she had to say ne%t wo'ld 'pset F'cinda e,en (ore8 I)arcos says it was the fathers@ and the brothers and 'ncles of these kids who ϟ 룀old ca'sed all the tro'ble last night@ and who p't (an )ineA in the hospital8 ;hen they find o't abo't this fight@ they will probably co(e after Da,id and Pa'ly H (aybe all of 's8 )arcos has already talked to o'r neighbors8 ;e will be ready for the(8J F'cinda tho'ght of her boys at the center of a battle8 I5o estarO allW8J :6ll be right there8 She h'ng 'p the phone witho't waiting for a response8 9er only tho'ght was to get her boys and bring the( back to the rectory8 She sho'ld ne,er ha,e let the( o't of her sight8 %3& 4s+a5e So far as Doger Blain was concerned@ his life was o,er8 ?e,er (ind the inE'ries that kept hi( in this hospital bed8 ?e,er (ind the charges pending against hi( for assa'lting 4arl ?'point or his wife H that bitch8 ?e,er (ind his confession to being a part of a s('ggling operation@ or e,en an accessory to (ass ('rder8 9e had infor(ed on )artin Doss@ and Doger knew he (ight as well ha,e t'rned o,er on the (ob8 S're@ the sheriff was keeping a g'ard on his door8 Dight now it was that ,ol'nteer@ Few +sborne8 Few (ade hi( feel a little safer than Don 4ooper did8 B't )artin Doss was 9o(eland Sec'rity@ and the Sheriff knew as well as Doger did that all he had to do was show 'p H or (ore likely send a co'ple of his goons H and say the (agic wordN Iterrorist8J The locals wo'ld ha,e to t'rn Doger o,er and walk away8 ?o@ as ('ch as they (ight like to think so@ Doger Blain was not in protecti,e c'stody8 That g'ard on the door was not there to protect hi(8 9e was there to keep Doger fro( escaping8 Doger was trapped8
The s(all roo( where they kept hi( had only the one door8 There was a window8 5et@ e,en if he co'ld get it open and crawl thro'gh@ it was a twenty foot drop fro( this second floor roo( to the hard pa,e(ent below8 There was nothing to do b't lie in bed and wait for the ine,itable@ and c'rse his wife for p'tting hi( here8 9is only di,ersion was to swat at the fly that had followed the n'rse in an ho'r ago@ when she bro'ght his (eds8 That da(ned fly kept di,e bo(bing his head8 9e wo'ld ha,e gotten it by now@ e%cept that whate,er they ga,e hi( to (ake hi( sleep left his (ind haAy and his reactions sl'ggish8 ;hy were they so insistent that he sleepK So he wo'ld be (ercif'lly 'naware when 9o(eland Sec'rity showed 'pK That was the last thing he wanted8 Tho'gh he doAed se,eral ti(es d'ring the night@ he snapped awake at the slightest noise@ s're his e%ec'tioners wo'ld co(e thro'gh the door in the ne%t (o(ent8 They were s'pposed to (o,e hi( o't of town before (orning@ b't that ne,er happened8 First there was the fire at the wareho'se8 They fo'nd old (an Stelling6s re(ains in the ashes8 Doger was s're that was Doss6s work8 Then there was the rash of robberies all o,er town8 Doger co'ld not help b't think that Doss was behind the( as well@ keeping the police b'sy so they co'ld not h'stle hi( o't of town8 )artin Doss@ the sheriff@ his wife@ e,en that idiot son of theirs* they were all conspiring to get rid of hi(8 ;ell@ so(ething wo'ld ha,e to happen soon* Doger co'ld feel it8 9e sh'shed the fly as it do,e at his face and fell to watching the clock on the wall8 As the second hand re,ol,ed@ his eyes grew hea,ier 'ntil the lids dropped sh't8 9e was swi((ing in a ri,er of blood8 :t was hea,y and sticky@ and he had to work hard to keep fro( slipping 'nder the s'rface8 9is wife stood on the bank throwing rocks Ԉ throwing bodies into the ri,er@ bodies that at hi(8 9is co-workers also stood on the bank@ bled as they sank to the botto(@ adding ,ol'(e to the ri,er8 Along the edge of the shore@ Sheriff Pierce stood with his dep'ties@ ar(ed with long poles8 ;hene,er Doger ca(e too close@ they wo'ld 'se the poles to p'sh hi( back o't into the deeper channel8 +,erhead@ the sky reflected the ri,er of blood8 The ghosts of all the dead flowed thro'gh the oily clo'ds@ (oaning in tor(ent8 +,er these (oans@ Doger co'ld hear h'((ing and giggling8 9e followed these incongr'ently Eoyf'l so'nds 'pri,er to where his da'ghter $llen was playing on the ri,erbank@ co,ered in gore8 $llen t'rned to hi( and s(iled8 IFook Daddy@J she said as she pointed to her brother@ b'sy at work8 There at the headwaters of both the ri,er and the sky@ Delbert h'((ed a si(ple@ repetiti,e the(e as he b'sied hi(self drawing this hellish world8 The landscape@ the ri,er and the sky all flowed fro( his drawing8 Doger called to hi(@ IDelbert@ stop@ pleaseMJ Delbert worked on witho't e,en acknowledging his dad6s presence8 Abo,e hi( on the ri,erbank stood 4onnie@ calling o't words of enco'rage(ent@ I<ood boyMJ ?e%t to 4onnie@ with his ar( aro'nd her sho'lder and loo(ing o,er the( all@ was Doss8 9e pointed a finger at Doger and shook his hand8 IStopK ?o@ this night(are is ne,er going to stop8J 9is hand dissol,ed into a swar( of flies that spread o't o,er the ri,er of blood@ thinning as it e%tended toward Doger8 Doger was swept away downstrea(@ drowning8 As he gasped for air@ a single fly flew into his (o'th8 The last i(age he saw as he awoke choking was 4onnie@ la'ghing at hi(8 9is head was clear@ the pain was gone@ and he knew what he had to do8 The door opened and Few +sborne st'ck his head in@ IAre yo' okayKJ
e b'ried the case if Doss offered to release the )arks6s and call his dogs off the rest of the townspeople8 )aybe Doss knew this had gone too far8 .eland )anor were a(ong the least of his concerns8 9o(eland Sec'rity abd'cted an entire fa(ily8 Based on what he learned abo't the local head of 9o(eland Sec'rity and the (assacre at Swanson 4reek@ he was worried 䘀Ϟ abo't the welfare of the )arks fa(ily8 B't the air force base was locked down and he co'ld not reach anyone to lodge a co(plaint8 Two other witnesses were hiding o't in the desert to a.ed and the cri(es were too big to keep hidden8 $lliot was s'rprised there were no reporters in town already@ .ater@J Doger gasped as he choked and co'ghed8 Few went into the bathroo( to find a paper c'p and fill it with water at the sink8 :n that instant@ Doger Blain sprang o't of bed8 :n both hands@ he hefted the (etal bed pan8 Before Few co'ld react@ Doger sla((ed the bed pan into the back of his head@ hitting hi( repeatedly 'ntil he was sprawled on the floor8 9e took Few6s handg'n8 Finding his clothes and shoes in the nearby closet@ he dressed and slipped o't of the roo( while Few groaned in the bathroo(8 :n the hallway@ he fo'nd the stairwell8 A n'rse accosted hi(8 I.eland )anor took 'p ar(s and fortified their trailer park in preparation for a confrontation with troops and 9o(eland Sec'rity fro( Didgepoint AFB8 Fort'nately@ that confrontation had not transpired yet and the people at Fo.er had been thro'gh a night like this one8 9e wondered if the diseased sky had 'nhinged the (inds of ('ch of the local pop'lation8 The residents of Fo.er (ade it to co'rt8 $lliot was hoping to 'se hi( to draw the heat off the other witnesses and win the release of the )arks fa(ily8 Dep'ty 4'rtis Dodds was s'pposed to contact Federal prosec'tors and the FB:8 9owe.er@ he was c'rrently as b'sy as $lliot@ first handling the dispatch center d'ring the night and now responding to calls8 Anyway@ )artin Doss was so well connected that e.ith the (assacre at Swanson 4reek and the arson at the STG wareho'se@ there were too (any people in.hat are yo' doing o'tL8J Doger cold-cocked her with the g'n8 Then he was r'nning down the stairs two at a ti(e8 9e was free@ and he knew what he had to do8 9e wo'ld fi% that bitch@ and her idiot son8 %%& Crime S5ree :n all his years of ser.ol.ice@ $lliot ne.I.oid being apprehended by 9o(eland Sec'rity8 And@ tho'gh he was s're they were ill eC'ipped to spend ('ch ti(e in the desert@ $lliot had no chance to (o'nt a search party8 Two 'nwilling accessories filled $lliot in on all the gr'eso(e details of the (assacre8 +ne of these accessories was in police c'stody for two co'nts of assa'lt and battery@ spo'sal ab'se@ atte(pted ho(icide@ and resisting arrest8 9e was at the (ed center@ being treated for inE'ries s'stained d'ring his arrest8 9e wo'ld be the key witness in the (assacre@ in e%change for so(e kind of deal on the charges against hi( H if this case e.en the FB: and federal prosec'tors wo'ld likely b'ry the case8 The fire at STG :(ports and the death of =oseph Stelling indicated Doss was already aware that word had leaked to the local sheriff8 )'ch as $lliot (ight hate to do so@ he wo'ld ha.
ol'nteer firefighters who were able to handle the sit'ation 'nder Danny6s direction8 ?ot long after $lliot and Arth'r arri.estigating the fire in order to respond to the inco(ing calls8 9e did not really need to e%a(ine the b'rned o't wareho'se anyway8 9e knew the fire was deliberate8 Alan Fake and 9ector Torrino saw old (an Stelling 'sher a co'ple of Doss6s 9o(eland Sec'rity th'gs into his office as they were clocking o't8 4oncerned@ they st'ck aro'nd o't in the parking lot in case =oseph Stelling needed their help8 Fifteen (in'tes later@ the th'gs left the wareho'se8 +ne of the( told Alan and 9ector@ I5o' boys better find another Eob8J As the 9o(eland Sec'rity officers dro.er seeing the light of dayK That was scary to think of in itself8 Since Doss had not (ade contact with hi(@ $lliot ass'(ed his ne%t (o.ering the (assacre8 Did 9o(eland Sec'rity ha.ed calls abo't .e the( back o't8 The blaAe likely started at two different pointsN )r8 Stelling6s office and a(ong the crates in the back of the wareho'se8 +nce again@ 9o(eland Sec'rity was acting braAenly@ as if they were abo.e away@ s(oke rolled o't of the wareho'se8 The e(ployees went inside b't the s(oke dro.e s'ch a grip on the (edia that it co'ld pre.e Don 4ooper at the hospital and had ӿ Don h'rry o.iolence and .ed at the fire@ the first call ca(e in8 The G+ gas station o't on the highway had been robbed8 $lliot had no choice b't to send Arth'r in response8 ?o sooner did Arth'r lea.ent a story like this fro( e.e than the alar( at ?ational 4ity Bank went off8 $lliot told Arth'r to go to the bank first@ since the robbery at the gas station was o.er and done with8 ?e%t@ Tad De(eritt@ a local lawyer@ was wo'nded e%changing g'nfire with a ho'se b'rglar8 $lliot sent Few +sborne to relie.eral of the perpetrators@ starting with Tad De(eritt6s assailant@ were identified as otherwise 'pstanding@ law-abiding citiAens8 Tad e%changed g'nfire with 9arold Feonard@ a high school (ath teacher and long ti(e boy sco't troop leader8 Del(arr6s <eneral Store was robbed by +scar Pa'ling@ who was Del(arr6s head phar(acist for twenty-two years8 Both of these (en had been apprehended and were now cooling their heels in Eail cells8 Thro'gho't the night@ they also recei.e 'p in.er to Tad6s ho'se8 By (orning@ they had responded to fo'r (ore BT$6s@ two ('ggings and robberies at the 9eater Pawn Shop and Del(arr6s <eneral Store8 $lliot ga.er8 .co.e the law8 At first@ $lliot tho'ght 9o(eland Sec'rity was behind the rash of robberies as well@ b't he was diss'aded fro( that idea8 Se.es as the only official fire(en to respond@ along with Fire )arshal Danny Sacket8 Fort'nately@ 9eater had a n'(ber of .ents kept hi( too b'sy to (ake the arrange(ents8 )'ch of the night was spent fighting the blaAe at the STG wareho'se8 :n 9eater@ the police depart(ent do'bled as the fire depart(ent@ with Sheriff Pierce wearing the do'ble (antle of fire chief8 Us'ally@ things were slow eno'gh in town that $lliot6s staff co'ld handle both Eobs witho't diffic'lty8 ?ot on this night@ howe.ith 4'rtis Dodds (anning the dispatch and Don 4ooper standing g'ard o'tside Doger Blain6s hospital roo(@ that left $lliot and Arth'r <ro.e wo'ld be to take o't the witness they had in c'stody8 $lliot had hoped to transfer Doger Blain o't of town@ (aybe to the tribal police down at Sells@ b't the night6s e.andalis( against the 9ispanic co(('nity8 The local rednecks were on the warpath8 There was .
ersation8 IBeca'se yo' won6t be thinking abo't anything b't yo'r own sal.iolent felonsKJ I.hy s're : can8 5o' boys broke the law8J IB't we6re r'nning o't of ti(e@J +scar whined8 ITi(e for whatK .as it for yo'r sal.hen $lliot appeared@ he went to his cell door and cl'ng to the bars@ pleading@ ISheriff@ yo'6.erything see(ed to be falling apart8 +r (aybe it was on acco'nt of what was happening to the sky8 $lliot stood o'tside their adEoining cells and regarded both (en for a (o(ent before speaking to the(8 9arold sat on the edge of his bed@ tensed 'p as tho'gh he wo'ld spring thro'gh the cell door sho'ld $lliot open it8 +scar@ on the other hand@ was pacing his cell fra'ght with an%iety8 .e the ti(e to go by the book8 Anyway@ so(ething told hi( these two wo'ld ne.hat t'rned yo' two H along with half the citiAens of this town H into .er stand trial8 )aybe it was the way e.e the getaway car8 At the police station@ $lliot had a talk with 9arold and +scar@ trying to 'nderstand why nor(ally (odel citiAens wo'ld s'ddenly go on a cri(e spree8 9e did not bother interrogating the( separately8 9e needed fast answers and he did not ha.estigate at so(e point@ b't right now he and his (en had their hands f'll8 4o(e daybreak@ the robberies s'bsided8 The only call that (orning@ after )arge showed 'p for work@ was fro( 4al Perkins@ reporting he had been robbed at g'npoint by se.e were E'st doing what we had to8J +scar offered this feeble e%c'se as tho'gh it alone wo'ld e%onerate the(8 IThe (oney doesn6t really (ean anything any(ore8 By Ԉ to(orrow@ nobody6s gonna (iss it8J IAnd why is thatKJ 9arold entered the con.ation that yo' shot Tad De(erittKJ $lliot shot back8 IThat was an accident8J 9arold glowered at the floor8 I+h@ and : s'ppose yo' were accidentally carrying a loaded g'n when yo' accidentally broke into his ho'se8J IThe g'n was for show8J IAnd yo' were E'st showing it to Tad when yo' blew a hole in his legKJ ITad shot at (e first8 9e ca(e down that staircase like he was charging the beach at ?or(andy8 : panicked and the g'n went off8J IF'ckily@ yo'r ai( was low8 Tad will be able to testify against yo' in co'rt8J I+h@ :6ll answer for (y (istake8J 9arold beca(e increasingly C'er'lo's8 IB't not in that co'rtho'se down the street8J I: didn6t h'rt anybody8J +scar was C'ick to distance hi(self fro( 9arold8 IFet (e o't of here8J I?o@J $lliot agreed@ Iyo' E'st tried to rob yo'r e(ployer8 +scar@ what (ade yo' t'rn on Del(arr after all these yearsKJ I: needed the (oney8J IB't yo' said (oney wo'ld be of no concern by to(orrow8J I:t won6t@J +scar reasserted8 IThen why are yo' so desperate for (oney todayKJ .little $lliot co'ld do abo't it at this point8 :t was his intention to in.enty-two year old D'dy =enkins8 D'dy6s wife@ grey-haired $((a =enkins@ dro.e got to let 's o't of here8 5o' can6t keep 's in these cells8J I.ation8 Tho'gh it6ll be too late for that8J I.
e to pay De.e it e.e ('ch ti(e left8J I5o' ha.isit8J ISheriff@J +scar sho'ted@ Iyo' can6t lea.ation 9all8J $lliot groaned8 9e sho'ld ha.e need to pay De.ation 9all will be spared@J +scar insisted8 IB't we ha.e to be inside before <od gi.oice .edKJ +scar e%plained8 I.erheard the con.ers in the Sal.e6.ation 9allKJ IDe.e 's hereMJ .erend 4hassey6s Sal.ersation8 I.e known that old charlatan was behind this8 I+kay@ what6s going on hereKJ I9e6ll ne.ation 9all@J +scar replied8 ISal.erend to b'ild the Sal.erend 4hassey was (aking asses of the( all8 )ost likely@ e.e ha.erend 4hassey to be sa.ation 9allJ wo'ld wake 'p the ne%t (orning to find the De.I.ell@ once that sign appears@J $lliot h'(ored hi(@ Ithen : g'ess we sho'ld all E'st a(ble o.er to De.en if they saw it with their own eyes H s'ch was the nat're of religio's Aealots8 $lliot shook his head and said@ I5o'6re both n'ts8J 9e t'rned to the steps leading 'p fro( the cells8 Don 4ooper was leaning in the doorway@ where he o.es 's the final warning sign8J IAnd what wo'ld that sign beKJ +n top of the tro'ble with )artin Doss@ this was E'st what $lliot needed8 IThe final warning will be written across the sky@J +scar prono'nced in a .e6re doo(ed8J IPlease Sheriff@J +scar begged8 $lliot regarded the two (en for a (o(ent8 9e wanted to tell the( De.erend 4hassey6s 9appy 9o'se8J 銐Ϟ ISal.e to pay off o'r berths before we6ll be allowed inside8 And we don6t ha.erging on panic8 IAnd it will be clear for all to seeMJ I.erend 4hassey and his wife disappeared will all their (oney8 They probably wo'ldn6t belie.er belie.ers8 Don6t yo' get itKJ +scar gest'red to the barred window at the end of the hall o'tside the cells8 I='st look at the sky8 Ar(ageddon is hereM <od is abo't to wipe the slate cleanMJ IAr(ageddon@J $lliot repeated do'btf'lly8 I5es8 +nly the tr'e belie.er@J 9arold said8 I9e won6t 'nderstand 'ntil he sees it with his own eyes8 And then it6ll be too late8J Under his breath@ he added@ I:t6s probably too late already8J ISheriff@ the sky6s already changing@J +scar pleaded8 I5o' gotta let 's o't of here while there6s still ti(e8J IForget it8J 9arold settled back on his cot and rela%ed as he resigned hi(self to his fate8 I.eryone in the ISal.ation 9allMJ I9e6s not a belie.ation 9all for his tr'e belie.e6re all doo(edMJ 9arold called o't his E'dg(ent8 I4o(e on@J $lliot said to his dep'ty as he cli(bed the doAen steps o't of the cell block8 I.erend 4hassey a .e got to pay for o'r berths in the Sal.e yo'@J 9arold told +scar8 +scar ignored hi(8 I<od told the De.
e br'nette standing in front of a weather (ap8 IThank yo'@ =ohn@J she said8 IDeports indicate the disorder in o'r 'pper at(osphere is beco(ing increasingly t'rb'lent8 Scientists at ?ASA are concernedL8J Palerie pa'sed@ lost in s'dden conf'sion8 I$%c'se (e@ Palerie8J The ca(era panned back to =ohn 9edges8 I.e reestablished contact with o'r helicopter crew o.ision8 I:t6s not E'st this town@J 4'rtis said8 I.ide peacekeeping forces for the (aEor cities8 This will free 'p 9S@ FB: and state police to deal with other (atters8 Anyone who does not show respect for Ԉ people or property will be dealt with harshly8J ITalk abo't hiring the fo% to watch the henho'se@J 4'rtis co((ented8 $lliot nodded as he listened to the reporter8 I<i.erything else8 IDa.iewers8 .erseas so they can set abo't restoring order here at ho(e8J The broadcast switched to a shot of an aging Senator standing at a podi'(8 The Senator said@ I.hite 9o'se@ or fro( the President@ who is .e of repression8 This is Brett Dorset@ reporting for S+B news8J Stentorian@ fatherly anchor(an =ohn 9edges appeared on the screen8 IThank yo'@ Brett8 Based on the reports we ha.erhead8J As he spoke@ the ca(era panned to an attracti.e take yo' now to Da.ing all e.ashington D48 The reporter said@ ISo(e law(akers are calling on the President to withdraw ?ational <'ard troops fro( o.e ha.ere%tended in So'th A(erica@ Africa and the )iddle $ast8 ?owhere do we ha.e 9arris in the skies abo.en the rep'tation of Darkwater sec'rity forces@J the (an said@ Ithe rioting and racial tensions which ha.e swept the nation (ight be silenced by an e.eKJ I5es@ =ohn@J the reporter in the helicopter responded8 IThank <od we did not lose yo'8J =ohn spoke for all their concerned .y door at the top of the stairs to ('ffle their contin'ed protests8 IThis town is going f'll tilt craAy@J $lliot said as he pa'sed by the dispatch center8 4'rtis Dodds had slid his chair aro'nd and both he and )adge were watching her tele.e been recei.er@ E'st (in'tes ago@ the Director of 9o(eland Sec'rity (ade this state(ent8J The rather creepy looking Director of 9o(eland Sec'rity@ a s(all h'sk of a (an with beady eyes and a per(anent scowl@ appeared on the screen8 IDarkwater Sec'rity has been contracted to pro.eKJ +n the TP@ they saw a (an wearing a headset seated in a s(all co(part(ent8 The noise of a helicopter rotor al(ost drowned o't e.ening@ it is going to reC'ire a strong ar( to restore law and order8 ?e%t@ science reporter and (eteorologist Palerie =ohnson has the latest on the 'n's'al acti.iolence within the US ('st be o'r first priority8 +'r co'rse is clear8 )r8 President@ if yo' do not bring o'r troops back ho(e@ then 4ongress ('stMJ The reporter was back on the screen8 IThere has been no response fro( the .idently@ the helicopter was not shot down as we feared8 .e adeC'ate forces to do the Eob8 Terroris( is on the rise and energy e%ports are di(inishing8 The c'rrent o'tbreak of .Don stood aside as $lliot passed8 To the in(ates@ he said@ I?ow yo' boys settle down or yo' won6t be getting any l'nch8J 9e sh't the hea.atch this8J $lliot and Don Eoined the( in watching the e(ergency news broadcast8 +n the screen was a reporter standing in front of the capital do(e in .en bloodier wa.e FA8 Da.ity in the sky o.er Fos Angeles8 $.acationing at his ranch8 9owe.e are o.
3ers fanned o't thro'gh the barrio@ spreading death and destr'ction 'ntil they were pinned down in se.e 9arris narrated8 IDesidents blocked the street with .e@J =ohn said8 I5o' stay o't of range8J I.er the co'ntry@J 4'rtis said8 I: don6t think there6s one (aEor city that6s escaped8 There6s also been a wa.erwhel(ed witho't the back'p of the ?ational <'ard@ which is c'rrently deployed in So'th A(erica and the )iddle $ast8 This is Da.ill do@J Da.iew of the city8 S(oke billowed o't of .e 9arris contin'ed with his narration as the ca(era sw'ng o't to show a long .e gained a little altit'de to hopef'lly place 's abo.ehicles s(oking as well8 Bodies lay in the street and in yards8 IThis is where the confrontation took place a little o.3ers8 Da.ed@ it t'rned into a three way battle8J Panning the barrio@ the ca(era re.e the sniper6s reach8 I.er an ho'r ago8 The (ilitia gro'p ca(e down this street in a con.eral s(all battles where people H (en@ boys and wo(en H held positions and fired at each other8 The police were readily Ԉ identifiable@ b't fro( this height it was i(possible to disting'ish the residents fro( the Sons of the .eryone6s afraid@ and now they6re lashing o't8J I+kay@J $lliot said@ Iso that helps to e%plain a lot of what6s happening here8 B't there6s still so(ething ('ch worse behind this8J IAnd 9o(eland Sec'rity is into it 'p to their eyeballs@J Don pointed o't8 IAlong with Darkwater@J 4'rtis added8 .erything is 'nder control now8 .IThat was a close one8J Da.ario's areas8 Streets in the shopping districts were crowded with rioters8 IThe assa'lt sparked riots thro'gho't the city8 The police are trying to contain the sit'ation@ b't ad(it they are o.er the helicopter8 IThey fired on 's@ hitting so(e of o'r eC'ip(ent and al(ost starting a fire8 B't e.e 9arris@ reporting for S+B news8J IThanks@ Da.ealed an 'rban setting seen fro( a distance abo.eral blocks of carnage 'ntil it reached a pile 'p of tr'cks@ SUPs and cars8 Da.ation $lliot (ade was that a n'(ber of ho(es and b'ildings were on fire8 5et@ there were no fire tr'cks to be seen8 The ca(era Aoo(ed in on a street where (ost of the fires were located8 There were a co'ple of .e8 The first obser.iolent cri(e and robberies all o.e of .eral positions8 .er8 :t6s like the whole nation has flipped its lid8J I:t6s the skies@J )adge said8 IAll yo' gotta do is look 'p to know that so(ething is wrong8 $.e replied8 :n the st'dio@ =ohn 9edges said@ IAnd now back to Palerie =ohnson and her report on the dist'rbance in o'r at(osphere8 PalerieKJ IThanks =ohn8J $lliot had seen eno'gh8 ISo we6re not alone8J I:t6s like that all o.e6re flying o.e nodded his head and s(iled8 I4an yo' tell 's what happenedKJ =ohn asked8 IThere were so(e g'n(en on a rooftop8J Da.er the area of conflict right now@ so let6s try this again8J The ca(era sw'ng aro'nd and re.hen the police arri.e 9arris spoke lo'd in order to be heard o.ehicles and there was a (aEor shoot o't between residents and the (ilitia8 Fro( that point the Sons of the .oy of SUPs and tr'cks@ fire bo(bing ho'ses and shooting pedestrians in this Fatino neighborhood8J The ca(era panned along the street for se.ealed se.e ha.
er@ told hi( that Doger wo'ld seek o't .e her a (essage@ b't she ne.ital i(portance@ Iis 4onnie Blain still in the hospitalKJ IFet (e check8 ='st a (in'te8J 4o((on sense said that Doger Blain sho'ld be on his way to the border@ fleeing fro( both the police and )artin Doss8 $lliot6s int'ition@ howe.ol'(e with the other8 I9eater Police Depart(ent8J IDeady for the ne%t ro'ndKJ Don asked8 )adge co.IAnd for so(e reason@J $lliot went on@ Iit6s all co(ing to a head right here in o'r own back yard8J The dispatch phone rang and )adge answered it with one hand as she t'rned down the TP .ill do@J Arth'r confir(ed8 Setting the (ic back on the desk@ $lliot t'rned to Don8 I: want yo' with (e8J To 4'rtis Dodds@ he said@ I<et so(e rest8 Take a nap in the back8 )adge will let yo' know if any calls co(e in that yo' need to respond to8J %'& "anning the (arri+ades .erend 4hassey6s ho(e8J IAlright@J $lliot said8 I5o' tell her we6re on o'r way o.engeance on his wife before (aking good his escape8 IThe n'rses say she checked o't this (orning@J Arth'r finally told the(8 IShe left with her (other8J I+kay@J $lliot adE'sted his plans8 I9a.hen yo'6re done in.elers fro( last night8J I:f : see the(@ what sho'ld : doKJ I4all (e and let (e know8 +therwise@ E'st stay p't 'ntil : show 'p8J I.er on the phone and told the(@ I:t6s Diane )c4ready8 Forraine went to prayer (eeting last night before the tro'ble began@ and she hasn6t been ho(e since8J She pa'sed to listen to Diane on the other end of the line@ and then told her@ IE'st a second8J To $lliot@ she relayed@ IShe says 4lara 4hassey was s'pposed to gi.estigating the escape at the hospital@ : want yo' to head to the 9oly Dedee(er8 Station yo'rself where yo' can watch both the ch'rch and the hall they b'ilt8 ?ote anyone who enters or lea.e6s .er called back8 And now no one is answering@ either at 9oly Dedee(er or at De.ation 9all8J Before )adge had a chance to hang 'p the phone@ the police radio sC'awked to life8 I)adge@ is $lliot thereKJ Arth'r <ro.e Few (eet 's at the ?'point residence8 .es either b'ilding@ keeping an eye o't in partic'lar for Forraine 9owell or any of o'r reported re.erend6s Sal.er there to look into it8J To Don@ he said@ I:6d say it6s high ti(e we paid a .ered the recei.isit to the De.e Few +sborne at the hospital8 I9e6s right here@ Art@J )adge responded8 IDoger Blain escaped@J Arth'r reported8 I9e knocked Few 'nconscio's and took off8J $lliot entered the dispatch center as Arth'r spoke and took the (ic fro( )adge8 I:s Few okayKJ 銐Ϟ I5eah@J Arth'r replied8 I9e6s fine@ tho'gh he6s asha(ed that he let Doger get the drop on hi(8J IArt@J this ne%t C'estion was of .oice held a note of 'rgency8 Arth'r had been on his way to relie.
o's e.oodoo@ and that (ade hi( diabolical8 4ertainly he was a (an who drew power fro( the pain and death of others8 4o'pled with his position in 9o(eland Sec'rity@ that (ade hi( a dangero's (an8 ?ow that his ho(icidal tendencies were going 'nchecked@ anyone who drew his attention wo'ld be in tro'ble@ ('ch less anyone who drew his ire8 >ach had no ill'sions8 9e knew there was no way they co'ld stand against the (ilitary8 B't he (eant what he said the pre.The 9'(.ee showed 'p not long after s'nrise8 :t p'lled off the road abo't a (ile before the )c4ready ho'se@ and it had been sitting there for three ho'rs8 +b.en killed a (an whose face ha'nted hi( for the rest of his days8 B't he had an 'nspoken code he tried to li.er the ne%t co'ple (onths8 And >ach wo'ld rather end it here and now@ as opposed to waiting his t'rn as friends and neighbors were picked off one at a ti(e8 .er@ by (orning folks fro( the trailer park had tired of their efforts8 They were ready to end their .ee was a (i%ed blessing8 The (ilitary had not lost interest in the(8 There was tro'ble ahead8 9owe.eK >ach ass'(ed they knew the boys were not here8 There were eno'gh people with cell phones@ and eno'gh fools both here and in town with internet access and e(ail@ that he co'ld be s're word had reached the air force base8 They knew the boys were not here@ alright* and they knew they had an ins'rrection on their hands8 .io's night abo't how a (an had to defend his ho(e no (atter what the odds8 9e had (et the s'nset in angry defiance8 5et@ as the night progressed@ the cold realiAation had s'nk in of E'st how desperate their sit'ation was8 9e was no less deter(ined to (ake his stand@ b't now he was aware how f'tile this stand wo'ld be8 Sheriff Pierce was trying to def'se the sit'ation8 And while he was a (an of his word@ >ach did not hold ('ch hope8 The Sheriff had his hands f'll8 >ach listened to the police band radio d'ring the night8 The sheriff and his (en were kept hopping by so(e kind of local cri(e spree H and >ach was s're so(ehow )artin Doss was behind it all8 $.ol.en sho'ld Doss agree to end this confrontation@ They wo'ld be singled o't one at a ti(e for retrib'tion8 B't Doss was a (an with a big appetite@ and >ach had no do'bt he wo'ld prefer a feast today to a te(pered diet o.ee showed 'p8 ?ow they re(ained on g'ard8 They were wary@ ner.ol.io'sly@ the dri.er wanted e.er let that pass8 $.er dirty b'siness )artin Doss was in.eryone to know it was there@ tho'gh it was sitting far eno'gh back to disco'rage interaction8 To >ach6s (ind the 9'(.e by@ and he had a conscience8 )artin Doss had neither8 Based on Day6s report@ Ԉ Doss was bent@ possibly insane8 Fro( the so'nds of it@ he was in.hate.ed in so(e kind of black (agic .en@ b't they were alert@ and not a one of the( sn'ck off8 The C'estion now wasN how long wo'ld it be before the (ilitary (ade a (o.il H as a (e(ber of 9o(eland Sec'rity@ he co'ld not allow anyone to stand in defiance of his co((and8 That wo'ld 'nder(ine the a'thority of the entire depart(ent8 Beyond that@ Doss was E'st plain (ean eno'gh that he co'ld not refrain fro( striking o't at the(8 >ach had transacted (ore than his share of dirty dealings@ fro( bootlegging to highway robbery8 9e had done things of which he was not pro'd8 9e had e.en if Sheriff Pierce was able to follow thro'gh with his plan@ >ach did not hold ('ch hope8 9e and the people of Fo.io'sly@ it was keeping an eye on the place8 ='st as ob.igil and head back to their trailers8 Until the 9'(.ed in H and fro( the so'nds of it@ the (an was downright e.eland )anor had defied )artin Doss@ and a (an like Doss wo'ld ne.
e been preparing for8J I: didn6t think it wo'ld co(e down to a real battle8J She sat on the bed@ which creaked 'nder her weight8 >ach sat beside her@ p't his ar( aro'nd her and lied8 I.They wo'ld ha.e her hands f'll with ='ne and the boys8 5o' need to lead the(8J I)y place is here@ beside yo'8J She cl'ng to his side@ and >ach h'gged her8 IThat6s where yo'6ll be when this is o.ing 'ttered the( rarely of late8 9er eyes teared 'p@ b't she restrained herself8 She co'ld cry later8 .e yo' too8J >ach h'gged her and kissed her again8 Then he stood and walked o.er to the window in an effort to rein in his e(otions8 I: know yo' can6t abide the 4atholics8 B't@ gi.e yo'8J These words hit her harder than anything else@ >ach ha.e yo' here8J IDiane8J 9e knew she wo'ld resist8 I:f we ha.ith her hand@ she caressed the griAAled whiskers on his chin8 I: lo.erybody does their part8 B't yo' know we ain6t gonna be able to fight if the Ԉ children are in har(6s way8J I: s'ppose we can send FiAa Fo' and the others into town with the kids8J IFiAa Fo' will ha.e their battle soon@ of that >ach was s're@ E'st as he was s're of the o'tco(e8 5et there were those H wo(en and children H he wo'ld spare this fate8 For that reason@ on this (orning he called his wife into their bedroo( for a pri.ate conference8 As she followed hi( into the bedroo(@ Diane said@ IThey6re still not answering the phone8 : hope the Sheriff can get a hold of her8 She6s gonna be 'pset when she finds o't what6s going on8 And when she learns they wo'ldn6t let 's contact her@ wellL8J IThe Sheriff will take care of it@J >ach told her8 :n tr'th@ he harbored do'bts abo't that@ b't she needed reass'ring and he wanted to talk of other things8 I.e need to get the kids o't of here8J IAre they dist'rbing yo'K : s'ppose we co'ld take the( o.er to the pool8J I?o8J >ach took her hand in his and looked her in the eye8 I5o' sho'ld take the( into town8J As the i(plication s'nk in@ she held his hand tighter8 I:6( not gonna lea.er8 B't right now@ they need yo'8J 9e tried a different tact8 I5o' know FiAa Fo' won6t go witho't yo'8 5o'6.eryone o.e6re ready for the(@ so long as e.er and kissed his wife@ then told her@ I: lo.en the circ'(stances@ :6d say yo'r best bet wo'ld be to lead e.er to Saint =ohn6s and appeal to Father 9ayne for help8J .e gotta (ake s're o'r grandkids are safe@ along with all the others8J Diane tho'ght abo't it as >ach stroked her back8 I+kay@ :6ll do it8 B't as soon as they6re safe in town@ :6( co(in6 back8J I+nce they6re safe@ yo' gotta help Dhonda and Allison find o't what6s going on with their (other8 And then yo' need to stay with the(@ in case anything else co(es 'p8J I+kay@ :6ll go8 B't yo' s're as hell better be here when : get back H safe and so'nd8J I: will be@J >ach said confidently@ ('ch (ore confident than he act'ally was8 9e leaned o.e tro'ble@ the children need to be so(ewhere safe8J Silently@ he tho'ght@ and so do yo#8 Diane regarded her h'sband8 I5o' really think yo'6re gonna trade g'nfireKJ IThat6s what we6.
en yo'r (o(8J IThat little thing don6t ha.Diane stood 'p@ co(posed and ready to take co((and@ now that she had reconciled herself to this task8 I: best get e.ersion to keep all eyes on the road in front while yo' slip o't the back way8J I5o' be caref'l8J I5o' too@J >ach shot back as he opened the door to the roo(8 FiAa Fo' was waiting for the( in the hallway8 IFiAa@J her (other told her as she strolled past@ Iwe6re gonna gather 'p all the kids and go into town8J FiAa nodded8 I: been e%pectin6 so(ething like that8J She ga.ised8 I: don6t want that 9'(.entf'l (orning were taking a toll8 )en H and a few wo(en H leaned against the barricade@ half doAing8 +thers fo'nd a place in the shade where they co'ld lay back and nap8 $d 4ollins sat in one of the cars blocking the dri.e6ll ha.ed8 I:t don6t ha.e a di.e her father a stern glance8 I: want yo' to know that if it weren6t for the kids@ :6d insist on staying here8 : can shoot a g'n good as any (an8J I: know yo' can8J >ach p't a hand on her sho'lder8 IB't for the kids@ : wo'ldn6t arg'e with yo' abo't it@ either8J ISo long as we6re clear on that@J she said8 I:6ll help )a(a get e.e yo' will8 Be caref'l8J FiAa Fo' went to help her (other8 And >ach stepped o't on the front porch@ where he fo'nd B'tch and =eff8 They were slo'ched on the old co'ch@ half asleep8 Fooking abo't the yard@ >ach saw that few others were in ('ch better shape8 They were trying to stay alert@ b't the long night and the 'ne.ait a (o(ent@J >ach told her8 I: Ԉ got so(ething for yo'8J >ach (otioned for her to the bedroo(8 I:6ll be right with yo'@ )a(a@J FiAa Fo' told her (other as the latter l'(bered down the stairs8 She entered her parents6 bedroo(@ a place that had been off li(its to her for (ost of her life8 Drawing a set of keys fro( his pocket@ her father 'nlocked a drawer in the night table at the head of the bed@ reached inside and prod'ced a 822 pistol8 +pening a drawer at the base of the b'rea'@ he took o't a bo% of shells and loaded the g'n8 As he did so@ he told her@ I: want yo' to keep this o't of sight8 Don6t let anyone know yo' ha.eryone ro'nded 'p and ready to go8J ITake the( thro'gh the back@ cross thro'gh the trailer park and into town@J >ach ad.ee to see yo' going8 Tell the wo(en they won6t be able to (ake their goodbyes8J IThat6ll be diffic'lt8J I: don6t want any sort of scene that (ight s'ggest what6s happenin68J I+kay@J Diane agreed@ tho'gh she knew the wo(en wo'ld protest8 I?o goodbyes8J I.e ('ch p'nch to it8J FiAa Fo' obser.eway@ with the windows rolled down8 9e sat 'pright@ b't his head lay back .e to8 B't if yo' gotta@ don6t hesitate H do it8J IDon6t worry@ Dad@ : will@J she ass'red hi( as she stowed the g'n in her pants and st'ck a handf'l of shells in her pocket8 >ach eyed her a second8 I: do belie.eryone packed 'p8J I.e ('ch range either8J >ach handed her the g'n and the bo% of shells8 IUse it only if yo' ha.e it@ not e.
e6re awake@ Dad8J B'tch gr'(bled as he sat 'p8 =eff ('(bled@ I.here e.eyed the front yard8 The barricade was well-b'ilt8 :t wo'ld deflect all b't ar(or piercing shells8 .er6s window@ >ach honked the car horn twice@ long and lo'd eno'gh to wake e.hat the hellMJ I<i.er on the porch8 >ach co'ld not begr'dge these people their rest* they had worked all night long8 9e fa'lted hi(self for not setting 'p shifts so they co'ld all get a little sleep8 Dight now@ he needed a di.es@ and >ach do'bted there was ('ch they co'ld do against that sort of assa'lt8 ?ow he had to see to the (en and wo(en who b'ilt these defenses and who ('st be ready to take 'p the fight on a (o(ent6s notice8 >ach stepped down fro( the porch and crossed the yard to the car in which $d 4ollins was snoring away8 Feaning in thro'gh the open dri.e6re gonna ha.e (e a (in'te@ $d@J >ach told hi(8 IThen yo' can go back to sleep8J $.e6ll get right on it@J B'tch said@ now f'lly awake8 They (ade for the front door@ (eaning to c't thro'gh the ho'se8 I?o@ there6s children sleeping in there@J >ach told the(8 I<o aro'nd o'tside8J I+kay@J =eff answered for both of the( as they deto'red to the porch steps8 Tho'gh the boys were a little p'AAled@ they did as they were told8 I.ehicle wo'ld be able to breach it8 That left e%plosi.e to go 'p there and th'(p hi( one8 First he had to take care of the folks down here8 4li(bing back onto the porch@ >ach looked down at his bleary-eyed neighbors8 These people were conde(ned as trailer trash H dysf'nctional@ 'ntr'stworthy@ always fighting a(ong the(sel.against the headrest@ looking 'p at the roof of the car@ (o'th open and snoring lo'd eno'gh to be heard clear o.erybody can watch8J As the boys headed aro'nd the corner of the ho'se@ >ach once again s'r.ith the ditch along the o'tside peri(eter@ he do'bted e.erybody in the yard8 $d 4ollins sat bolt 'pright@ nearly going thro'gh the roof8 I.e a little ga(e8J IDight nowKJ B'tch looked at hi( like he was n'ts8 I5es@ right now8J >ach replied sternly8 That (ade both boys take notice8 B'tch sprang 'p fro( the co'ch@ followed by his brother8 I.eryone was cl'tching weapons and looking aro'nd for attackers8 P'lling his head back o't of the car@ >ach called o't@ I56all gather in front of the porchMJ +n the roof of the porch@ >ach co'ld see his oldest boy@ Day@ sl'(ped in the looko't chair@ still so'nd asleep8 Day was a hard person to wake 'p8 >ach wo'ld ha.en an ar(ored .ery one of the( was taking a stand to defend his and her co(('nity8 >ach do'bted he wo'ld get a si(ilar response fro( the good folks of town8 .ersion@ and he needed to wake these people 'p8 9e n'dged the boys on the co'ch8 I=eff@ B'tch* wake 'p boysMJ I.es8 5et@ right now they were p'lling together witho't nary a co(plaint8 Trailer trash they (ight be@ b't e.haAAat@J as he opened his eyes8 I<o o't to the garage and fetch the baseball gear8 .here we gonna playKJ B'tch asked8 I+'t on the road@J >ach replied8 I.
er@ witho't too ('ch tro'ble@ each of the( took a t'rn calling off the ne%t highest n'(ber 'ntil the last (an called o't thirtyfo'r8 I+kay@ now@J >ach went on@ Ie.hen yo' get into town@ yo' find that 끀 IGaty@J >ach said as he sC'eeAed by her8 (an of yo'rs and tell hi( how things are goin6 here8 )ake s're he reports it to the sheriff8J I.eryone agreed@ tho'gh@ that a ga(e of baseball wo'ld pass the ti(e and keep the( awake8 Three people bowed o't at the start@ and that was E'st as well@ beca'se it left si%teen players@ incl'ding B'tch and =eff H eight to a tea(8 >ach had B'tch and =eff each head a tea(8 9e left the( choosing 'p players and headed into the ho'se to see to other (atters8 :nside the ho'se@ (others were b'sy getting their children ready to lea.e yo'r shift in two ho'rs8J )ost of the e.e8 Gate +sborne had her da'ghter Shelly ready to go8 She was helping Drew Balin fit shoes onto her wiggly two-year-old twins8 She was blocking the hallway as she str'ggled to get an incredibly s(all sneaker onto a foot that was t'rning e.e need to split into shifts8 So we6re gonna co'nt off8 :6ll start@ and e.e worked hard eno'gh d'ring the night@ so now : think we need to ha.ill do@J Gate affir(ed8 IAnd good l'ck to yo'8J IThanks8J >ach headed down the hall@ 'p the staircase and into the bedroo( looking o't onto the roof of the porch8 There sat his oldest boy@ Day@ slo'ched down in the chair and dead to the world8 9is rifle lay beside the chair8 >ach i(agined the hot s'n working on the sleeping (an and his (etal rifle barrel@ both8 4rawling thro'gh the open window@ >ach stepped aro'nd the side of the chair and bent o.er his son6s face8 The fly detected the (otion and stopped probing Day6s cheek@ prepared to take flight8 >ach was still 'ntil the fly lost interest in his hand@ clicking o't its proboscis to taste the sweat on his son6s cheek8 ='dging the (o(ent right@ >ach slapped Day6s cheek hard@ s(ashing the fly and waking his son at the sa(e ti(e8 Day t'rned in the chair@ fists ready@ b't stopped hi(self when he saw his dad standing beside hi(@ wiping his hand on his pants8 .en n'(bers sh'ffled off to find so(e spot to res'(e their naps8 A few lingered o't of c'riosity8 To those who re(ained@ >ach said@ IAs for the rest of 's@ we need so(ething to keep 's awake 'ntil o'r shift is o.en n'(ber can go back to their siesta8 5o'6ll ha.as bags loaded with bats@ balls and glo.en stir8 >ach held his free hand o.es8 I9ow6s a ga(e of baseball so'ndKJ The response was not e%actly enth'siastic8 $.eryone with an e.IFolks@ yo' done C'ite a Eob@J he addressed the(8 IB't it won6t co'nt for ('ch if they catch 's nappin68 .en the polished wood was war(8 4hecking to see that the safety was on@ >ach stood back 'p with his hand on the b'tt of the rifle like it was a walking stick@ standing its barrel on the roof tiles8 As he righted hi(self@ he tho'ght he saw a fly crawl o't of Day6s left nostril8 5es@ it was crawling on his cheek@ and the boy did not e.ery which way it co'ld e%cept the way that wo'ld allow it to slip into the shoe8 ϟ I.eryone else sing o't one at a ti(e8 +neL8J :t took the( a (o(ent to catch on8 9owe.e a little f'n8J At this (o(ent@ B'tch and =eff ro'nded the corner of the ho'se carrying two large can.aking 'p@ Day felt his red cheek@ fo'nd what was left of the fly and picked it off to see what it was8 I5o' better hope it didn6t lay eggs in yo'r nose@J >ach told hi(8 .er to pick 'p the rifle by the g'nstock8 5es@ e.er8 .
e yo'r g'n lying in the s'n8J IFook@J Day was cross fro( his r'de awakening8 I:6( sorry : fell asleep@ okay8J IDay@ (istakes like that co'ld cost 's all o'r li.e fo'nd (y so'l again8J >ach seiAed on this@ IThat6s itM .en realiAe (y eyes closed8 :6( sorry8J I.ashington and lea.hile >ach did not share her belief@ he felt hi(self inf'sed by her faith8 I9oney@J he told her@ Iyo'6re the light of (y life8J .Day wiped the fly6s re(ains on the chair while he r'bbed his nose with the other hand8 ISorry@ : ('st ha.er the yard to where the (en H and a co'ple wo(en H were starting 'p a baseball ga(e o't on the road8 9o(e plate was to the east@ so that the batter and the catcher were facing the 9'(.ell@ no har( ca(e of it@ b't it best not happen again8 :f :6d left ya o't here any longer@ yo'6d a roasted on this rooftop8 ?ow go on inside8J >ach tipped the g'n toward Day so he co'ld take it by the stock8 Day did so as he rose o't of the chair8 I<o inside and get so(e sleep8 :6ll wake yo' in a co'ple ho'rs8J Day cli(bed thro'gh the window8 Before following hi(@ >ach looked o't o.e sense eno'gh to stay awake8J I:t6s been one hell of a night@ what with the fire and e.il8 And in the end <od can6t s'ffer so(ething that e.e6re fightin6 for o'r so'ls here8 And if )artin Doss wins@ we6re all da(ned8J Diane h'gged hi( back8 I>ach )c4ready@ yo' are a good (an8 And yo' are going to win this fight8 5o' know whyK )artin Doss is e.er : think of the(@ : tell (yself : had to do it to feed (y fa(ily8 B't that don6t (ake it right8 And o.erything else8 : didn6t e.es8 : sent yo' 'p here to stand watch@ not to catch a few A6s8 : tho'ght yo'6d ha.er the years@ the weight of all the crap :6.ee8 Third base was off the so'th side of the road@ and second base appeared to be E'st short of the ditch and the barricade8 >ach hoped the obser.e done has (ade (e a (ean old (an8 B't now :6.e 's alone8J For all the fo'l lang'age 'sed by the rest of her fa(ily@ it was a rare occasion when Diane c'rsed8 That alone indicated how 'pset she was8 IBetter yet@ : wish he wo'ld drop dead this instant8J I9e6s here and he6s healthy@J >ach told his wife as he held her@ Iand we6re gonna ha.ee were baseball fans8 Downstairs@ the wo(en and children were ready to go8 Diane was waiting for word fro( >ach8 I5o' readyKJ >ach asked8 Diane nodded8 IThen it6s ti(e to go8J The words see(ed to pain her8 >ach h'gged her and kissed her cheek8 I:t6s gonna be alright8 :6ll be here waiting for yo' to ret'rn8J I: wish that son of a bitch wo'ld go back to .e to deal with hi(8 Don6t yo' worry@ tho'gh8 : don6t care if he has the entire (ilitary backing hi( 'p* he6s no (atch for >ach )c4ready8 IFisten@ Diane8J 9e str'ggled with the words to tell her e%actly why he was doing this8 IAll the years we been together@ : been lookin6 o't for n'(ber one8 : done a lotta things : ain6t pro'd of8 .il to tri'(ph8J .e doAed off8J IDoAed@ hell8 9ad there been a battle@ yo' wo'ld a slept right thro'gh it@ (ost like H lessen yo' got shot8J Day reached o't and grabbed his g'n by the barrel8 9e C'ickly let go and shook his hand8 IDon6t yo' know better than to lea.ers in the 9'(.hene.
e6re goin6 o't the back door and thro'gh the trailer park8 +nce we lea.e gotta get going so we can find o't what6s 'p with )o(@J Allison said i(patiently8 Parting fro( her h'sband with a lingering look of de.o'ld yo' lea.ery hand they co'ld get8 IThat6s her prerogati.They e%changed a long and tender@ heart-felt kiss8 Allison poked her head into the hallway@ gri(acing when she obser.e6re tryin6 to do this C'iet like@ witho't a co((otion8J I4hloe says she6s stayin6@J )el glared at the girl8 She ret'rned his gaAe st'bbornly8 >ach looked fro( one to the other8 4hloe6s presence (ight spark tro'ble between Ԉ his oldest boys when they sho'ld be working together8 +n the other hand@ she was as good a shot as any of the boys@ and they co'ld 'se e.e the( be8J I<ross8J I: told yo' not to b'g the(8J I.e the trailer park@ we need to stay off the roads as ('ch as possible8 :f we get split 'p@ head for Saint =ohn6s8J To Dhonda and Allison@ she said@ I: want yo' two to bring 'p the rear* don6t let anyone fall behind8 And if anybody has tro'ble with the little ones@ yo' help o't8J I+kay@J Dhonda answered for the( both8 )el stor(ed 'p@ followed by 4hloe ?ewcastle8 The two were arg'ing8 I5o'6re takin6 the wo(en folk and kids o'tta here@ rightKJ he de(anded of his (other8 I)el@J >ach spoke8 I.e8J IPaMJ IShe6s old eno'gh to (ake 'p her own (ind@ and she ain6t got kids to worry abo't8J >ach did not notice how her deter(ination faltered8 4hloe looked down at the floor8 This (o(entary weakness did not escape Diane@ howe.oice8 IAnd she6s right@ we need her here8 Deal with it@ and don6t ca'se a scene8J :t was )el6s t'rn to look down at the floor8 I?ow yo'r brother6s gettin6 so(e sh't eye8 : want yo' to spell hi( o't on the porch roof8 Geep yo'r eyes open and let 's know the (o(ent yo' see anything8J )el headed for the stairs witho't another word8 9e shot 4hloe a glance that said@ this ain%t over yet8 >ach t'rned to 4hloe8 I5o' go on o't front8 .otion@ Diane entered the li.atch the ball ga(e8 )ake s're nobody co(es in here h'ntin6 for the wo(en folk8J .ed their (o(ent of inti(acy8 I5'ck@J she spoke witho't thinking@ as 's'al8 I<rand(a@ <randpaM 5o'6re too old to carry on like thatMJ Dhonda p'lled her back o't of the hall8 I.ing roo(@ where (ost of the wo(en and children were asse(bled8 I+kay8 .er8 For all the tro'ble she stirred between Day and )el@ Diane had always liked this girl8 I5o' s're@ 4hloeKJ I5es@ )a6a(@J 4hloe replied@ reco.e can6t (ake her go@J >ach growled at his son in a tight@ C'iet .ering fro( her 'ncertainty8 I: can fight as well as )el and Day8J To >ach@ she said@ I5o' need (e here8J I+kay8J >ach nodded8 I?oMJ )el obEected8 I.
ee parked on the side of the road8 :t wo'ld be safer to a.ed to her h'sband before e%iting thro'gh the back door8 9er look (ight ha.ith the wo(en and children gone@ he co'ld now foc's on the 'pco(ing confrontation with )artin Doss8 5et a part of hi( did go with his wife@ his da'ghter and his grandkids@ as tho'gh they were bearing hi( to sal.io'sly@ the Air Force base had stationed (en to keep an eye on the )c4ready ho'sehold and Fo.e@ pride and deter(ination8 Then she was gone@ followed by FiAa Fo' and the two boys8 FiAa nodded to her dad and patted the b'lge in her pants Ԉ that was the 822 pistol8 She had p't the spare a((o in a g't po'ch she wore at her hip8 >ach watched the wo(en and children file o't the back door@ last of all his two grandda'ghters8 9e told the(@ I)ind yo'r grand(a@ and she6ll see to it yo' get yo'r (o( back8J I.e had a to'ch of sadness@ b't her eyes were f'll of lo.oid his grandparents6 ho'se and the trailer park8 +b.oice8 I:6ll see yo' later@J he responded8 And then they were gone@ the screen door banging sh't behind the(8 >ach wanted to follow the(8 :nstead@ he (ade hi(self head for the front door8 .4hloe started to lea.e her in their own way8 She can6t help it8 There6s so(ething abo't her8J I.er8J 4hloe nodded as she left8 >ach watched her depart with concern8 IThat girl6s gonna ca'se 's tro'ble yet8J I5o' be nice to her@ >ach@J Diane told her h'sband8 IShe6s a good kid@ and both the boys really do lo.eland )anor8 They ('st be watching for hi( and Bobby8 :f they ca'ght hi( trying to sneak back@ the best he co'ld hope for was that they wo'ld not force hi( to show the( where Bobby was before they dealt with hi(8 :f he did (anage to .e (e ='ne@J she reached for the little girl and ='ne held o't her ar(s to be carried8 Sitting the child on her hip@ Diane said@ I+kay@ let6s go8J She t'rned and wa.e will@J Allison said8 I<oodbye@ <randpa@J Dhonda told hi(* there was a note of sadness in her .hatta yo' (eanKJ Diane t'rned away@ heading back into the kitchen8 I:6( not gonna spec'late abo't it any(ore8 B't yo' (ake s're that girl stays safe@ for the sake of both the boys8J >ach tho'ght abo't this a (o(ent@ and then followed his wife into the kitchen8 FiAa Fo' was waiting there with her three8 IFiAa@J Diane said@ I: want yo' in front with (e8 <i.e8 IAnd 4hloe@J >ach added@ Iit6d be best if yo' stayed away fro( Day and )el both 'ntil this is o.hatKJ Diane shook her head8 I: can6t rightly say8 :t6s a feelin6 : got fro( her E'st now8J Diane hesitated before she went on8 I: think she6s gonna be a per(anent part of o'r fa(ily8 B't she6ll ha.ation8 %*& Sneaking hrough Ge.e to work o't things with the boys first8J >ach looked toward the front door thro'gh which 4hloe e%ited8 9e had an inkling of what his wife was hinting at@ tho'gh he did a good Eob of hiding it fro( hi(self8 I.in went to his grandparents6 ho'se first@ b't changed his (ind abo't seeking help there when he saw the 9'(.
ing a confrontation with 9o(eland Sec'rity8 They co'ld pick hi( 'p at the ?'point6s and off they wo'ld go to resc'e Bobby8 .eryone left the trailer park8 9e E'st did not know what it was8 Ge.e to see what kind of help he co'ld find there8 :f nothing else@ he wo'ld go to the sheriff8 :t occ'rred to hi( to try the ?'point6s first8 The ?'point ho'se was closer than the sheriff6s office8 And they had a close relationship with his grandfather and his 'ncles8 The ?'points wo'ld let hi( call his grandfather8 Then his grandfather and his 'ncles co'ld lea.hen he reached the corner where the fence t'rned and followed the property line o't to the road@ Ge.e the ho'se and the trailer park a wide berth and headed for town8 9e wo'ld ha.oid being seen by the residents8 B't there was nobody in the trailer park8 $d 4ollins6 dog started barking at hi( as he approached@ and a few other dogs in the park answered it@ b't that was all8 ?obody stepped o'tside to see what was 'p8 ?obody hollered at the Ԉ dogs to sh't 'p8 9e co'ld hear no tele.e hi( the creeps8 The sickly glow of the sky cast an eerie shadow o.en (ore ca'tion@ to a.in stopped trying to stay hidden and (ade a beeline thro'gh the park8 .er the reason why the place was e(pty@ it was spooky8 :t felt like there were people all aro'nd@ watching hi( fro( the shadows8 Ge.in h'rried on his way@ and by the ti(e he reached the back of the trailer park@ he decided to follow the fence aro'nd the factory and the bowling lanes8 That ro'te was longer@ b't safer8 So Ge.ith this new obEecti.erything8 :t t'rned the place into a ghost town8 :t was like so(e flying sa'cer ho.ed8 .ered o.ier along this side of the fence@ as it stood perpendic'lar to the predo(inant wind8 Taking a .reach the ho'se witho't getting ca'ght@ he knew 9o(eland Sec'rity wo'ld not allow hi( to la'nch a resc'e (ission witho't intercepting it8 So he ga.hate.er the trailer park and bea(ed 'p all the h'(ans@ e%cept for hi( and Bobby back at the (esa H and the 9o(eland Sec'rity officers8 )aybe the 9o(eland Sec'rity officers were e%traterrestrials and the (assacre he and Bobby witnessed was so(e sort of trial r'n for the takeo.in proceeded with e.in skirted aro'nd the edge of the E'nk yard and then the o'tskirts of the trailer park8 9e stayed hidden@ (o.hen he reached the Fo.er here8 B't to C'it the trailer park@ he ('st head for the hole in the fence that separated the trailer park fro( the old Gerry6s Pins factory and the bowling alley8 $ither that or take a long deto'r8 +nce thro'gh the fence@ it wo'ld be i(possible to hide8 9e co'ld cross the open desert@ which was (ore direct@ and hope no one wo'ld see hi(8 +r he co'ld follow the road to the old freight yard@ and then follow the tracks to town and the neighborhood where the ?'points li.eland )anor@ Ge.en one child playing o'tside8 The place was abandoned@ and it ga.ing as C'ickly as possible8 :t was not too diffic'lt to keep 'nder co.e witho't ha.er e.in pa'sed and sco'ted the way ahead8 Fro( here on@ he wo'ld be e%posed 'ntil he reached the train yard8 Fitter was hea.ith the aid of the wind@ the fence acted as a trap for litter8 Bits of paper@ newsprint@ food wrappers and e(pty cigarette packs decorated the braided wire8 .er of planet $arth8 Those g'ys were creepy eno'gh to be $Ts8 ?o@ he was letting his i(agination r'n away with hi(8 There was a perfectly ordinary reason why e.e in (ind@ Ge.in followed the fence aro'nd the peri(eter of Gerry6s property@ past the factory@ aro'nd the back of the bowling lanes8 .isions@ no blaring stereos8 There was nobody to be seen@ not e.
e been posted to watch for Ge.ide s'fficient co.ery footfall@ he e%pected to hear sho'ts and g'n shots8 ='st as he reached the freight car@ he heard a screa( followed by car doors opening and closing8 9e did not stop to look back8 Placing the bo%car between hi( and the agents@ he contin'ed to r'n@ now following the tracks along the o'tskirts of town8 Tho'gh he did not know it@ the agents ne.hene.in co'ld not hear what he said@ b't he see(ed to be griping abo't so(ething8 Agent For(al listened@ only adding a short re(ark here and there8 9e was (ore alert than his partner@ scanning e.ee that see(ed all too close8 .ee@ parked in front of the bowling alley8 .in co'ld not o'twait the(8 <oing down on his belly@ he crawled along the fence line@ hoping the litter ca'ght in the fencing wo'ld pro.in and intercept hi( sho'ld he try to enter the trailer park8 9e forgot they threatened his grandfather@ pro(ising they wo'ld ret'rn to clean 'p the whole trailer park and deal with anyone who stood in their way8 :n any case@ it was e.in fo'nd the bones of a s(all ani(al8 9e had to be .ee to ass're hi(self he had not been seen so far@ he ran for the old freight car8 .in cro'ched by the fence and watched the( for a while8 Agent Sardonic was doing (ost of the talking8 Ge.in o't in an instant8 The longer it took Ge.er saw hi(8 As he (ade his escape thro'gh the train yard@ they were intent on other prey8 .ee behind hi(@ he co'ld not keep an eye on it8 +n the other hand@ as he p't distance between hi(self and the agents@ he felt freer to (o.ee8 The train yard see(ed (iles away8 The ditch pro.ed slowly@ picking his way o.in to reach the train yard@ the worse his chances that so(eone else wo'ld dri.erything aro'nd hi(@ especially the front corners of the bowling alley@ the front of the factory@ and the open space between the two b'ildings8 The agents ('st ha.deep breath@ he t'rned the corner and headed for the road@ (o.ith e.hile he co'ld not see the( well eno'gh to identify the(@ he felt s're it was agents Sardonic and For(al8 They were talking and sipping coffee8 Ge.ing C'ickly while he kept watch on the entire landscape8 9e pa'sed when he reached a point parallel to the front corner of Gerry6s Fanes@ and that6s where he saw the(8 Two (en sitting in a (ilitary 9'(.ier trash@ e(pty cans and bottles (ostly8 :n one spot@ Ge.er one of the agents t'rned his head in Ge.in h'gged the gro'nd and held his breath 'ntil the passage of Ԉagents were no longer looking his way8 ti(e told hi( he had not been spotted and the Tho'gh progress was slow in co(ing@ he reached the shallow ditch that ran along the side of the road8 9e t'rned into the ditch and@ contin'ing to crawl on his belly@ followed the road away fro( Gerry6s Fanes and the agents in their 9'(.ery caref'l of broken glass8 Ge.ided little co.ident they were not going anywhere any ti(e soon@ while Ge.e witho't drawing attention8 Finally@ when he was within one h'ndred yards of the nearest train car@ he decided it was ti(e to go for broke8 Fooking back at the 9'(.in (o.er the gro'nd with one eye on the road that see(ed all too distant and the other eye on the 9'(.e by and see hi(8 .ith the 9'(.in6s direction@ Ge.er8 Sho'ld one of the agents t'rn in his seat to scan the road@ he wo'ld pick Ge.er8 The base of the fence was lined with hea.
er the( went beyond obedience to a co((anding officer8 These (en were an e%tension of Doss8 9is (ind reached directly into theirs8 Their identity had been eclipsed by his own8 There was nothing they wo'ld not do for hi(@ e.ed )artin Doss as a sort of lit('s test8 9e pro.en his cr'elest i(p'lses8 Doss welco(ed beha.ed al(ost as an a'to(aton@ and wo'ld brook no criticis( of their co((ander8 ?ow that they had been chastised and left to the(sel.ided Doss Ԉ with a reflecti.en the (ilitary wo'ld not condone8 :n ret'rn@ all Doss asked for at first was a little spectator6s seat in Diker6s head8 9owe.e don6t talk abo't hi(8J There was a trace of fear in Gyle6s .e of )artin Doss@ he was able to ind'lge e.en for 's@J Pince arg'ed8 I?e.er fearf'l that so(eti(e when Doss e%erted do(inance his own conscio'sness wo'ld be lost8 Dight now Doss6s presence was (ini(al@ and so Pince was (aking yet another effort to so'nd o't his partner8 Gyle had not been entirely s'bser.id'al identity@ rallying when Doss6s presence waned@ e.er s'cceed in rendering Pince co(pletely s'bser.& Subservien+e IThis is too braAen@ e.oice8 I5o' can bet he6ll know what we6re saying8J All of Doss6s (en were tied to hi( thro'gh dark arts8 D'ring cere(onies o.id'ality@ Pince often ser.hoa8 .er the past few years@ )artin Doss (ade these agents into his personal ser.Part hree — he #ight Stuff %.hat is (ore@ )artin Doss appreciated the sadistic bent of Pince6s own cr'el nat're8 For his part@ Pince Diker p't 'p with )artin Doss as he p't 'p with the (ilitary since being ind'cted into the ar(ed forces8 :n ret'rn for his obedience@ they sanctioned his .en if it (eant their own death8 Pincent Diker was the only e%ception8 Doss chose hi( for his sadistic@ sociopathic nat're@ knowing he wo'ld ne.ants8 Thro'gh his occ'lt powers@ he was inti(ately connected to each of the(8 And they were loyal to hi(8 Doss hand picked his crew8 +ne of the (aEor C'alifications Doss looked for in potential agents was obedience8 All of the 9o(eland Sec'rity agents and Darkwater (ercenaries who worked for hi( were dedicated to his a'thority8 Doss6s control o.iolent e%cesses8 9ad he not Eoined the (ilitary@ he wo'ld be sitting on death row by now@ if he had not already been e%ter(inated8 As an operati.es here with this shit detail@ Pince hoped to find his partner thinking for hi(self again8 .er C'estion the (an@J Gyle warned hi(8 I.e s'rface thro'gh which he co'ld gli(pse how he appeared to others8 .e6re in eno'gh tro'ble right now8J IThat6s the proble(N we stirred 'p too ('ch shit here8 9e stirred 'p too ('chL8J I.ior e.er@ o.er watching for a way to free hi(self of this o'tside (aster@ and e.ient in the past@ b't d'ring the last few days@ since the (ass sacrifice o't on the desert@ he had beha.er ti(e Doss6s infl'ence grew stronger8 9e beca(e a do(inant presence in Pince6s (ind@ often taking total co((and of Pince6s conscio'sness8 Pince fo'ght against hi(@ and Doss see(ed to enEoy the contention8 :n this past week@ the (an had grown so strong that Pince fo'nd it i(possible to resist hi(8 And so now when Doss e%erted his infl'ence@ Pince aped obedience and acceptance8 5et he bastioned his indi.ient to hi(8 Beca'se he still retained so(e degree of indi.
er the intr'der@ biting it in a h'ndred different places while it str'ggled8 They wo'ld o.e hi( a (i%ed terrier p'ppy for his birthday8 9e had f'n playing with the p'ppy8 B't one day while he was petting it@ on i(p'lse he held it by the neck and choked it8 The p'ppy str'ggled to free itself@ scratching hi( 'ntil he loosened his grip8 Then it growled and nipped at his hand8 $nraged@ he threw the p'ppy down the base(ent steps8 :t was dead by the ti(e it reached the botto(8 The act left hi( aro'sed in ways he co'ld not 'nderstand8 The feeling of power o.er8J Gyle t'rned his back on his partner@ walking to the alleyway between the bowling lanes and the abandoned factory8 Pince wondered if that was Gyle talking@ or Doss8 9e knew all abo't indiscrete actions8 That was what got hi( into this (ess in the first place8 Pince6s whole life was a lesson in the need for discretion8 Pince had an o'tstanding ability to obEectify e.er to the ant hill8 9e ne.er@ and in the after(ath no one will be looking at 's8 4on.er tho'ght they wo'ld do (ore than screech at hi(8 After all@ that was what the wrens had done8 9e was so intent on watching the fledgling str'ggle with the biting ants that he al(ost fell face first into the anthill as one of the ad'lt birds di.er another li.eloped a little boner8 9is Ԉ parents ass'(ed there had been so(e innocent accident with the p'ppy8 B't they noted that he was not terribly 'pset by its loss8 They did not bring another pet into the ho'sehold for a few years8 At age fi.e@ he disco.er it@ tearing it to pieces8 All the ti(e@ the fledgling6s parents sat in a nearby tree@ calling o't in agitation8 B'gs and wor(s paled in co(parison8 A year passed before he fo'nd another fledgling8 Unfort'nately for hi(@ this was a baby bl'e Eay8 9e co'ld hear its parents c'rsing hi( as he picked it 'p and raced o.eryone and 'se the( as he saw fit8 9e was fo'r years old when he killed for the first ti(e8 %6& A Sensitive (oy 9is parents ga.er to the ant (o'nd8 The fledgling was not able to escape as the frog had8 :t p't on C'ite a show@ crying to the sky in its thin@ plainti.ersation o.ered by a boiling (ass of ants8 :t was not long before he started bringing sacrifices to drop into the (idst of the ants8 :t was (ostly b'gs and wor(s he fed to the ants8 Then he wo'ld lean o.ed down and hit hi( on the back of the head8 .IThat6s the proble(@J Pince p'rs'ed the (atter@ Itoo (any people know what6s going on here8 :t6s a big (ess@ and there6s no way he can sweep it 'nder the carpet8J IDoss will take care of it@J Gyle insisted8 Pince looked at the sky flowing like a cesspool o.e hi( s'ch pleas're that he de.erhead8 IThere6s gonna be fallo't@ and we6re gonna catch the worst of it8J I+'r indiscretions don6t (atter any (ore8 The (ission6s al(ost o.hile he was looking aro'nd with tears in his .oice as the ants flowed o.ester ants in the field ne%t to his ho'se8 The sides of the (o'nd were cloaked in tall weeds all the way aro'nd@ b't the top was bare8 9e had to lean o.ered a giant (o'nd of har.er it to get a look@ and what he saw ga.e hi( a good case of the willies8 The top of the (o'nd was co.ing thing ga.erything and e.er the (o'nd@ watching as the ants swar(ed o.e .erwhel( it and carry it off en (asse8 +nce he p't a frog on the (o'nd@ b't it hopped off with ants on its feet and got away8 Then he fo'nd a baby wren that had fallen o't of its nest8 4'pping it in his hands@ he raced o.
er wanting to face the i(plications of his sadistic beha.ing things8 9e stood apart fro( e.hile@ technically speaking@ he was the best st'dent in the class@ the instr'ctor had to ride hi( hard to c'rb his sadistic tendencies8 Tho'gh he won the few co(petitions he was in@ his trainer told hi( he bro'ght the( dishonor and ref'sed to enter hi( into another (atch8 9e wo'ld ha.oid hi(@ Ԉ while he went o't of his way to tease@ tor(ent and pick fights8 The school co'nselor s'ggested psychotherapy8 9is father balked on that s'ggestion@ insisting his energies needed to be channeled properly8 The principal insisted@ howe.eral days passed before he co'ld go o'tside witho't being attacked by the birds8 9is parents ass'(ed he had dist'rbed their nest witho't realiAing it8 They were always (aking e%c'ses for hi(@ ne.ed soon8 The ne%t ti(e he assa'lted anyone at school@ the police wo'ld be bro'ght into the (atter8 9is father was not a .e bo(b hi( as he retreated to the ho'se@ crying8 Se.iolent (an@ b't that day he thrashed his son with a belt8 Afterwards@ he lect'red abo't the fate of b'llies@ stating this sort of beha.e to be resol.er they chose to deal with hi(@ the boy6s proble(s wo'ld ha.hile he was still the b'lly of the schoolyard@ he stopped assa'lting the other st'dents while in school8 9e .erything else@ and in co((and8 9e was e(powered by his acts of cr'elty@ e(powered by his ability to take the life of other things into his own hands8 :t (ade hi( so(ehow bigger than the world aro'nd hi(@ and (ore real8 Fro( the ti(e he started school@ he ass'(ed the role of the class b'lly8 9e was not the biggest kid in his grade* he was always thin and long of li(b8 B't he was fast@ while those long li(bs kept hi( o't of the reach of his opponents8 B't the thing that (ade hi( the n'(ber one class b'lly was the cr'elty all the other kids sensed in hi(8 The other children knew he was the (eanest kid in the school8 By the ti(e he was in the fo'rth grade@ he had been in so (any fights his parents were called into a special (eeting to disc'ss how they sho'ld deal with hi(8 9is (other insisted he was a good boy* it was E'st that the other kids picked on hi(8 The principal tried to e%plain it was really the other way aro'nd8 $%cept for a s(all gro'p of boys who had attached the(sel.ior wo'ld land hi( in prison8 D'ring the ne%t co'ple of days@ his father talked to a n'(ber of (artial arts instr'ctors@ 'ntil he fo'nd one he felt wo'ld be able to gi.es to hi(@ all the other kids went o't of their way to a.ior8 B As he grew 'p@ Pincent got his sense of identity fro( tort'ring and killing other li.e C'it@ b't his parents wo'ld not allow it8 The (artial arts class did teach hi( discipline of a sort8 .er he co'ld do so witho't being obser.ed@ he wo'ld inflict 'nnecessary pain on his sparring partner8 Soon there were few in the class who wo'ld spar with hi(8 :t was not long@ either@ before his teacher banned hi( fro( for(al co(petition8 .e his son an o'tlet for his aggression and@ (ore i(portantly@ teach hi( discipline8 The lad took to (artial arts instr'ction@ and in no ti(e he was working on the degrees of his black belt8 The only thing that held hi( back was his own (eanspiritedness8 9e learned to hide his cr'elty8 B't whene.eyes@ feeling the sore spot on the back of his head@ the other parent do.e at hi(@ scratching his raised elbow8 The birds contin'ed to di.
er8 9e beat her and then raped her8 She did not go to school the following week8 9e called her se.en talk abo't it8J De(e(bering the condition she had been in when she ret'rned ho(e the pre.io's week@ )r8 Pr'itt had a hard ti(e controlling his .learned to bide his ti(e and catch his targets when there were no witnesses8 Then he wo'ld gi.ed hi( and idoliAed hi( e.icti(s they wo'ld not stand witness against hi(8 The police had to bide their ti(e* so(e day he wo'ld goof 'p and they wo'ld ha.e hi( tit for tat8 Pincent restrained hi(self* s(iling at the athlete@ he said only@ I:6ll re(e(ber that8J Tho'gh St'art (ade no effort to a.er to'ch (y da'ghter again H if yo' so ('ch as speak to her H :6ll h'nt yo' down and 'se this on yo'8J 9e flo'rished the g'n8 Pincent co'ld tell he (eant b'siness8 .hy sho'ld he a.ening@ he and fo'r of his b'ddies p'lled 'p in front of Dachel6s ho'se8 There was a big field party that night@ the first of the co(ing s'((er@ and he wanted her to go with hi(8 9er father answered the door with a shotg'n in his hands8 I5o' sho'ld be in Eail right now@ for what yo' did to (y da'ghter8 She ref'ses to press charges8 She won6t e.er try to lea.oid hi(@ Pincent co'ld not catch hi( alone@ witho't witnesses8 St'art was so pop'lar he always had friends with hi(8 :t was a long and fr'strating year for Pince watching his hold on the other st'dents slip away@ 'nable to do anything abo't it8 Pincent had a steady girlfriend@ Dachel Pr'itt@ a sopho(ore girl who lo.icti(s a display of his (artial arts prowess8 By the ti(e he was se.enteen@ he and his gang were the terror of not E'st the school@ b't the entire co(('nity8 The police knew hi( well and tried to keep an eye on hi(@ b't they co'ld not watch hi( twenty-fo'r ho'rs a day8 9e was caref'l to (ake s're they had nothing on hi(8 And he so inti(idated his .e bo%er and the star of the football tea(8 .ing a bit of an ego@ he was charis(atic@ and it was clear to e.oice8 I:f yo' e.io'sly (ore physically fit8 St'art was a cha(pion wrestler@ a golden glo.eral ti(es to tell her that he was sorry b't she sho'ld ne.e hi(8 She h'ng 'p on hi(8 Friday e.oiding hi(@ St'art went o't of his way to ta'nt Pincent8 ?or wo'ld he allow Pince to b'lly any of the other st'dents8 Under St'art6s protection and following his e%a(ple@ the other st'dents lost their fear of Pincent8 They began to ridic'le hi(@ 'ntil he ca'ght two of the( o't one night where there were no witnesses@ and p't the( in the hospital8 To his s'rprise@ St'art so'ght hi( Ԉ o't in the halls the ne%t day and told hi( that if he har(ed anyone else@ the athlete wo'ld gi.en as she feared hi(8 As the year went on@ she saw hi( (ore as he really was@ and she began to despise hi(8 As she grew (ore distant@ he beca(e (ore forcef'l8 At first she wo'ld acC'iesce after he slapped her aro'nd for a bit@ b't as conte(pt for hi( grew at school@ so did her resistance8 :n the spring of the year@ Dachel told hi( it was o.oid s'ch a scrawny p'nk8 Far fro( a.e his .eryone that he was bo'nd for big things8 There was an instant clash of personalities between St'art and Pincent8 The other st'dents tried to warn hi(@ b't St'art did not see anything to fear8 9e o'tweighed Diker by at least thirty po'nds and he was ob.e hi(8 And that day ca(e in the last (onth of his E'nior year in high school8 %-& he (ully of the o!n That year a new st'dent transferred to his school8 A star athlete@ St'art )alcol( was pop'lar with the other st'dents8 Despite ha.
elry contin'ed@ (ost of the party-goers sobered and tho'ght of how to sneak o't8 Pince sat the bottle of teC'ila on the roof of the car and pa'sed to 'rinate on the car parked ne%t to the(8 9is b'ddies la'ghed and Eoined in@ hosing the car down good8 Then Pince took the bottle and led the( 'p the hill8 There were (ore than a h'ndred re.ersations died down and heads t'rned to watch hi(8 By the ti(e he reached the partiers@ (any had drifted away@ either to circle aro'nd to their cars@ or to hide farther o't in the field and the bordering woods8 Those who re(ained did their best not to attract attention8 .entf'l night8 IFet6s get so(e booAe8J 9e peeled away fro( the c'rb and sC'ealed down the street8 Dachel dropped the c'rtain back in place at the 'pstairs window where she had watched the whole scene8 She was done with hi(8 :t was o.hile the re.hen Pincent crested the hill@ con.er the hill8 .I+kay8J 9e raised his hands@ open pal(s o'tward@ and backed away fro( the door8 ITake it easy8J I: r'e the day (y da'ghter got in.er@ b't for the healing and the tears she now shed8 :t did not take the( long to find so(eone to b'y for the(* in no ti(e at all@ they had a fifth of teC'ila and a case of beer8 +ne of the other boys took o.ord of their arri.hile it too was hidden fro( the road@ the glow of the bonfire lit the sky@ and the so'nd of .er want to see yo'r face aro'nd here again8J Pincent 'sed the slee.ol.er dri.oices@ la'ghter and a radio proEected o.e to wipe the spittle away@ allowing it to r'n down his cheek8 I5o'6re sc'(@ and one day so(eone is going to p't an end to yo'8 ?ow yo' get o't of here before : 'se this g'n8J Pince backed down the porch steps8 9e cleared the porch before he dared to lower his hands and t'rn away fro( the (an8 )r8 Pr'itt called after hi(@ I: don6t e.al reached the party o.als@ a few early depart'res and so(e co'ples (aking o't in their cars8 All of the( picked 'p on the dangero's (ood and a.elers@ (ost of the( cl'stered aro'nd the large bonfire@ others spread abo't the field8 .iew fro( the road8 The party was o.e of his shirt to wipe away the spittle before he hopped into the car and g'nned the engine8 9is friends were silent8 Feeling the rage stea(ing off of hi(@ they knew this wo'ld be an e.ed with yo'8J 9er father edged his way o't onto the porch8 The (an spit on Pincent6s face8 The yo'th flinched@ b't (ade no to (o.oided Pincent6s gang8 .er the ne%t hill on8 .e o't of town@ to the fallow field where the party was taking place8 A two-track led off the (ain road to a spot where abo't thirty cars were parked8 The parking area was in a s(all depression a(id the rolling hills@ hidden to .er the hills8 Teens were scattered a(ong the cars or heading o.er the hill to the party* recent arri.ing8 They cr'ised aro'nd for an ho'r@ d'ring which ti(e (ore than half of the teC'ila disappeared down their throats@ along with half of the case of beer8 They were working on a good dr'nk8 Pince drank the lion6s share@ and while he was dr'nk@ it only see(ed to p't a fine@ cold edge on his anger8 9is b'ddies picked 'p his predatory (ood@ tho'gh they were a little (ore ca'tio's abo't it8 +ne thing was certainN they were going to do so(e da(age Ԉ tonight8 Pince wanted to go back to his girlfriend6s ho'se for a second confrontation with her father8 De(e(bering the big g'n@ his b'ddies talked hi( into going to the field party instead8 So they dro.
e off in the car after letting hi( o't at his girlfriend6s ho'se8 9e stood in the yard and bellowed her na(e8 Fights went on in the ho'se8 9er father threw open his bedroo( window8 .er for fools8 The teenager had no cl'e his plot ca(e fro( 4ha'cer8 9e had his back to the new arri.als@ and he was so wrapped 'p in the h'(oro's cli(a% of the story he did not stop to C'estion why his friends were no longer la'ghing8 9e (i(ed the e%-lo.elers@ there was one who was not aware of the new arri.eryone else was watching@ e.er bending o.er onto his side@ drawing his knees to his chest8 9is face was pale8 I5o' (otherf'ckerMJ he c'ssed thro'gh his tears@ 'naware of who he was c'rsing8 I:6ll show yo' who f'cked his (other8J Diker stepped 'p@ intending to kick hi( again H this ti(e in the head8 Before he realiAed what was happening@ so(eone grabbed hi( by the sho'lder and sp'n hi( aro'nd8 9e fo'nd hi(self face to face with St'art8 IFea.e better get o'tta hereMJ Pince started to take a drink@ then noticed he only held the broken neck of the bottle8 Fooking aro'nd@ it dawned on hi( E'st what he had done8 9e threw the bottle neck into the fire8 IFet6s go@J he said as he t'rned and headed back 'p the hill toward the cars8 St'art contin'ed to screa( and writhe aro'nd in fla(es8 ?o one (ade a (o.e other than to wobble8 I5o' need a seat8J Pince p'shed hi( into the bonfire8 The teC'ila he was soaked in fla(ed 'p8 Screa(ing and writhing@ he (anaged to roll o't of the bonfire@ b't he was ablaAe@ rolling aro'nd on the gro'nd8 IDe(e(ber@J Pince told the crowd@ Inobody crosses (e8J 9e kicked the class clown in the side for e(phasis8 +ne of his b'ddies approached hi(8 I4o(e on8 .e hi( any shit8 9ell@ b't for this asshole@ his girlfriend ne.e 'ntil the (enace was a safe distance away8 Then so(eone prod'ced a sleeping bag and threw it o.ing his eyes go'ged o't and did not (o.er the b'rning athlete to s(other the fla(es8 The girl whose fa(ily owned this field raced ho(e to call an a(b'lance and the police8 Pincent knew it was o.er to present his derriere thro'gh a window@ E'st as Pince strode 'p behind hi(8 The Pince kicked hi( sC'are in the ass@ sending hi( face first into the dirt at the edge of the fire8 The kid screa(ed as the pain spread internally8 9e rolled o.als8 This was the class clown@ who was standing near the bonfire@ regaling his friends with a bawdry story abo't a yo'ng lady who played both her h'sband and her for(er lo.er hi(8 St'art teetered@ b't re(ained on his feet8 9e was still in shock fro( ha.er for hi(@ b't he was too dr'nk to care8 9is b'ddies E'(ped ship on hi(8 The last of the( dro.en the class clown still lying on the gro'nd8 IFea.A(ong the re.e now8J I5o' think yo' can (ake (eKJ Pincent dared hi(8 St'art stepped closer@ p'ffing o't his chest8 Before he co'ld adopt a fighting stance@ Pince str'ck o't with his free hand@ fast as a snake8 +ne (o(ent St'art was Ԉ were hanging down on his cheeks8 A gasp facing hi( warily@ and in the ne%t his eye balls ran thro'gh the crowd8 St'art stood froAen@ still registering what happened to hi(8 Pincent bro'ght the teC'ila bottle down on top of his head@ shattering the bottle and spilling teC'ila o.e left hi(8 I?obody wants yo' here@J St'art infor(ed hi(8 $.er wo'ld ha.e hi( alone@ assholeMJ Pince s(iled8 IThe party6s E'st starting8J 9ere was the one person who was responsible for all of his proble(s8 Before St'art ca(e along@ no one dared to gi.
ith proper training@ they had 'se of his skills8 They ass'red all the ci.e6re going to co'rt to(orrow to get a restraining order8 :f yo' e.er fro( the b'rns@ he wo'ld be blind for the rest of his life8 The prosec'tor Ԉ was al(ost disappointed St'art did not die so they co'ld file ('rder charges against Pincent8 9is 'ncle was a (arine colonel8 .ith his connections@ he got the (ilitary to inter.& he )orror 1ithin .i.en set foot on this block again@ the cops will pick yo' 'p8J IFet e(8J 9e started to sit 'p and the world sp'n aro'nd8 Feaning to one side@ he threw 'p on the i((ac'late lawn8 Then he collapsed8 As his conscio'sness drifted away@ he heard Dachel calling to hi(8 Sirens shrieked thro'gh the night8 Pincent did not care any(ore8 9e passed o't in a dr'nken st'por8 9e was held in Eail 'ntil his arraign(ent8 The prosec'tor wanted to throw the book at hi(8 Sta'rt was well lo.ilian a'thorities he wo'ld pay for what he had done8 The (ilitary ta'ght hi( how to foc's his .e now or :6( callin6 the police8J I: don6t gi.er fifteen percent of his body8 .er8 .oided8 :t was dra(atic@ partic'larly when the inE'red athlete was wheeled into co'rt to testify8 Tho'gh he did not feel it@ Pince was reC'ired to profess his sha(e and ad(it his g'ilt8 Then he was sentenced to prison for felonio's assa'lt8 :nstead of prison@ he was re(anded to the (ilitary8 .e a rat6s ass@J Pince responded with dr'nken belligerence8 9e picked 'p a s(all rock o't of the bed of stones that lined their walk@ and threw it at the ho'se8 :t dented the siding abo't a foot to the right of the window8 IThat6s itMJ The (an lost his te(per8 I5o'6re going to pay for thatMJ ISh't 'p@ f'ck faceMJ Pincent hollered back at hi(8 9e bent to pick 'p another stone@ b't lost his balance and t'(bled on the grass8 After a (o(ent@ he propped hi(self 'p on one elbow and called to his girlfriend again8 The world was spinning aro'nd hi(8 Tho'gh he did not look 'p@ he heard another window open8 Then he heard Dachel6s .ed8 The lad s'r.er the world@ Fatin A(erica@ Asia@ Africa@ the )iddle $ast8 9e worked as an assassin@ trained co'nterins'rgents and o.I: told yo' not to co(e back8J 9e warned hi(@ IFea.ene8 A deal was worked o't@ lea.e global capitalis( and US hege(ony8 Assign(ents took hi( all o.ities aro'nd the globe8 $.oice8 I)y dad called the cops8 5o' better get o't of here8J I: ain6t goin6 anywhere witho't yo'8J IAnd yo' ain6t goin6 anywhere with (e8 :t6s o.ed@ tho'gh he had third degree b'rns o.ery assign(ent tied hi( closer to the s'periors who held his leash@ and witho't any conscience to speak of he was ne.ersaw co'nterterrorist acti.er tro'bled by the (oral a(big'ity of his assign(ents8 %.iolent tendencies8 9e was transfor(ed into an elite killing (achine to ser.hile he wo'ld reco.ing the prosec'tor f'rio's8 There was so ('ch p'blic o'tcry a trial co'ld not be a.
en a wo(an and a bo% of straight pins8 .ersion of D'ssian Do'lette8 .er ti(e@ (aking hi( tacit'rn and resentf'l8 Being forced to take orders fro( (en he co'ld easily take apart only (ade (atters worse8 +.irgin at another location8 To cap off the night@ they picked 'p a hooker o't on the street and took her to a seedy hotel roo( where Pince prod'ced a sn'b-nosed re.erseas whoreho'ses ser.erboard@ he saw to it that the proprietors were paid off and e.al.erything8 9e had participated in the se%'al degradation of wo(en and (en in e.ery ti(e he p'lled the trigger@ the hooker wo'ld gasp and a r'sh of adrenalin wo'ld flood thro'gh her8 She was crying when he (ade her tong'e the barrel of the g'n8 B't by the ti(e he st'ck it in her .hene.e flesh8 Pince worked the g'n aro'nd 'ntil he grew tired of this8 Then he s(iled at the wo(an and p'lled the trigger8 .agina@ she had fallen C'iet@ her eyes glaAed with dr'gs and shock8 Pince took it .ery taste8 .isited a tort're cha(ber called The Pinc'shion@ where they were each gi.hile there@ they were in.er@ e.e if she co(plied8 9e banged her with the sn'b nose like a dildo8 She whined a bit at the feel of the cold (etal8 And she cried o't as it entered her@ and again when it tore at her sensiti.i.ery slow@ (o.iolence8 D'ring one s'ch e%c'rsion@ Pince ran into an A'stralian who was new to Thailand and eager to e%perience the city to its (ost e%tre(e8 This g'y was on a se% to'r of the world* he .isited Dio de =aneiro@ A(sterda( and Angeles 4ity in the Philippines8 Bangkok was his final destination and he was do'btf'l the city co'ld (eas're 'p8 The (an had lots of (oney8 Pince let hi( b'y drinks and regale hi( with tales of his e%ploits aro'nd the world8 The (an had tried pretty ('ch e.erything was h'shed 'p8 9is s'periors knew of his procli.e8 The (anagers all knew hi( and his tastes8 They wo'ld steer girls to hi( who were in need of discipline8 By the ti(e Pincent was done with the(@ they were (ost obedient and co(pliant8 A few ti(es when he went o.iate his need for .ited to take part in the gang rape of a yo'ng .ery now and then p'lling the trigger8 :t clicked on e(pty cylinders between her breasts@ in her (o'th and in her an's8 $.er with the re.ing her beyond her initial terror8 9e led her to belie.er8 9e took all the shells o't of it b't one@ and proceeded to play his own .e she wo'ld s'r.Unfort'nately@ his assign(ents did not alle.ol.ening Pince took his g'est to a back alley freC'ented by (ale prostit'tes8 There they ca'ght a yo'ng boy and sto(ped the shit o't of hi(8 Pince left hi( lying in a p'ddle of blood with a Eagged stick Ea((ed well 'p his an's8 ?e%t they .er he had a week or (ore of free ti(e@ he wo'ld book a flight to Bangkok and loose hi(self in an orgy of alcohol@ se% and .ed as his press're .orite destination was Bangkok@ Thailand@ the Disneyland of the se% trade8 The city was b'ilt on prostit'tion@ and the whoreho'ses there catered to e.hile (aking o't with the prostit'te@ he (assaged her all o.ities@ b't they looked the other way so long as his off d'ty e%cesses were kept 'nder wraps8 9is fa.ery fashion i(aginable8 9e bragged that he had seen it all8 Dr'nk and goaded on by the (an6s ribald acco'nts@ Pince offered to take hi( on a to'r of Bangkok@ pro(ising to show hi( so(ething he had ne.ol.er seen before H the ӿ 'lti(ate se%'al ab'se8 To start their e.iolent do(ination8 9is 'nf'lfilled i(p'lses b'ilt 'p o.
icti( so terrified as they were at these cere(onies8 And he was the one who beca(e the foc's of their terror@ as he stepped 'p to p'll the trigger or brandish the blade8 The only drawback was that each cere(ony increased Doss6s power o.er seen a ca(era8 By the ti(e Pince got off the plane@ the story H and his pict're H was all o.iewed Pincent6s file8 Pincent re(inded )artin Doss of hi(self8 And he belie.hat if he went to the policeK Pincent packed and left8 9e went to the airport and ca'ght the ne%t flight back to the base where he was stationed8 )Ps were waiting to escort hi( off the plane8 9e was taken into c'stody8 As it t'rned o't@ his g'est was an in.ities wo'ld be 'sef'l to his own operation8 So Pincent was co'rt-(arshaled and sentenced to be b'ried for life in so(e hellhole8 This was done for the Thai a'thorities and the Far $ast press8 +n the way to prison@ he was rero'ted to the United States@ where he beca(e )artin Doss6s (an8 Doss liked hi(@ e.ith the (ass sacrifice in the desert@ Doss beca(e strong eno'gh to take hi( o.?othing happened8 The girl gasped and stiffened8 As she realiAed the g'n had not fired@ she rela%ed8 Pince grinned at her and p'lled the trigger repeatedly8 The third ti(e the g'n went off8 The ne%t (orning@ Pincent woke 'p back in his own roo( alone8 As the e.hen Doss took hold@ Pince wo'ld lose his will8 9e wo'ld beco(e a p'ppet whose e.hen he ran into Pince@ he fo'nd (ore than he had bargained for8 The entire e.er the Far $ast8 The (ilitary kept it o't of the papers in the US8 They placated the Thailand officials who wanted hi( t'rned o.en if he co'ld not take o.io's night ca(e back to hi(@ he realiAed his g'est had stopped participating early on@ and tried to talk hi( o't of it8 That (an had witnessed all of Pince6s indiscretions8 Did he know his na(eK Pince see(ed to recall the (an helping hi( 'p to this roo(* so he knew where he was8 .er hi(8 .e was (anaged by Doss8 All he co'ld do was co(e along for the ride 'ntil Doss relinC'ished control8 5et there was always a part of the (an that re(ained .estigati.er co(pletely8 .e reporter for an A'stralian newspaper8 9e had co(e to Bangkok to do an e%posO on the se% trade8 .er his (ind co(pletely8 Pincent fo'nd that working for Doss was not all that bad8 As a 9o(eland Sec'rity agent@ he co'ld do E'st abo't whate.ents of the pre.er for prosec'tion in that co'ntry8 9e was to be tried and co'rt-(arshaled by the (ilitary8 The only proble( was that he knew too ('ch8 9e co'ld EeopardiAe a n'(ber of operations@ along with the careers of top (ilitary brass8 The only option was to lock hi( away in so(e secret and forgotten prison@ or to disappear hi( entirely8 ӿ stepped in8 Doss had seen the e%posO on :t was at this E'nct're that )artin Doss his e.ening in Bangkok8 9e re.er he wanted@ so long as he was discrete8 9e e.er hi(8 Thro'gh these d7(ons@ Doss in.en had pict'res8 Pince did not know how he did it8 9e had ne.aded his (ind and so'ght do(inion o.ening was doc'(ented in his story8 The g'y e.ed Pincent6s procli.en tho'gh he co'ld not do(inate hi( as f'lly as so(e others8 Pincent knew that if he crossed Doss@ he wo'ld wind 'p in that classified hellhole8 Doss had hi(@ e.en got to ind'lge his taste for ('rder8 9e was the leading e%ec'tioner at Doss6s cere(onies@ and afterward it was he who disposed of the bodies8 S're the sacrifices were weird beyond his wildest drea(s8 The d7(ons Doss s'((onsed creeped hi( o't8 B't he ne.er saw a .ery (o.
er (ore indelible@ displacing his own personality8 Pince did not want to beco(e like Gyle and the others8 9is sense of identity was too strong8 9e co'ld not let Doss 's'rp it8 ӿ .with Pince@ like an i(print8 And this i(print grew e.
eryone else@ or she was taking so(e i(pish pleas're in rattling their cages8 I.e the( a satisfied nod and then h'rried back to the lead8 IThanks@J Dhonda told her sister@ Ithanks a lotMJ I.io's8 $ither she was 'naware of how this talk was 'nner.ery trailer and e.ent're o't of this escape8 I5o' don6t think they co'ld sneak into the trailer park to block 's off@ do yaK They co'ld be hiding anywhere8J This did not p't the children at ease8 +r their (others for that (atter8 +nce she bro'ght 'p the possibility@ Allison had to point o't hiding places where troopers (ight be waiting for the( to draw close before r'shing o't to capt're the(@ or worse yet (ow the( down where they stood8 The possibilities were endless* it see(ed e.hy6s it always (y fa'lt8J B't she left off with the warnings8 At the back of the trailer park@ FiAa Fo' led the( to a hole in the fencing that separated the residential area fro( the Gerry factory and the bowling lanes8 So(e ind'strio's kids had long ago fo'nd this spot where the fencing was spliced together and .ery car and garbage can co'ld be hiding ar(ed troopers waiting to po'nce on the(8 IGeep an eye on that place8J She pointed to the )oore6s trailer as they passed it8 I: saw one of the c'rtains (o.hat did : doK : don6t want to get ca'ght in so(e trapMJ FiAa Fo' dropped back to ha.e8 They co'ld ha.ing her sister to catch 'p8 IShit@J Allison gr'(bled to herself8 I.es8 Allison (ade a grand ad.e better watch o't as we ro'nd that c'r.e so(e words with the(8 I:t6s nice to know yo'6re looking o't for 's@J she told Allison@ allowing the rest of the gro'p to p'll ahead as she did so8 IB't this is hardly the place to e%pect tro'ble8J I:t co'ld happen8J Allison defended herself8 ='dging she wo'ld not be o.hat did : doKJ I='st keep yo'r (o'th sh't@J Dhonda ad.erhead@ FiAa Fo' said@ ISince yo'6re so concerned@ we want yo' to trade places with yo'r grand(a once we lea.e so(ething i(portant to say8J She stepped 'p her pace@ lea.e the trailer park8 That6s where we6re (ost likely to r'n into tro'ble H when we cross the fence8 B't with yo' by (y side@ :6( s're yo'6ll spot any a(b'sh long before we co(e to it8 And sho'ld there be tro'ble@ yo'6ll both be right 'p there with (e to deal with it8J FiAa ga.ery shed@ e.en e.e8J Tanya )oore@ leading her frightened son Terrance so(e distance ahead of the(@ shot Allison a balef'l glare@ tho'gh not witho't a fearf'l glance at her own ho(e8 Allison was obli.e a whole a(b'sh laid 'p there@ waiting for 's to get into the (iddle of it before they open fireMJ ӿ Sally Ann Tr'it began to whi(per8 Tears co'rsed down her cheek as her (other@ =osie@ tried to sooth her8 A crying Eag spread a(ong the little ones like a contagion8 I+kay@ AllisonM That6s eno'gh8J I.ing e.Part Four — $n o!n %/& 7ust Passing hrough Dhonda and Allison did as they were told and bro'ght 'p the rear8 They were glad eno'gh to be doing so(ething after sitting aro'nd their grandparents6 ho'se all night worrying abo't their (other@ their brother and the(sel.ised her@ I'nless yo' ha.
ed on8 FiAa Fo' directed the( to the alleyway that ran between the two b'ildings8 +nce thro'gh the alleyway@ she intended to cross the road and c't straight thro'gh the barren patch of land between the road and the railroad tracks8 After crossing the tracks they wo'ld be in town@ and she tho'ght they wo'ld be safe fro( there on8 Altho'gh there was a chance so(eone fro( the base had been stationed here to keep an eye on the back side of the trailer park@ she tho'ght it 'nlikely8 She had played 'p the potential threat to her nieces E'st to throw a little scare into Allison8 +nce they ca(e o't of the alley to find the front of the b'ildings as .e(ent here was breaking 'p@ littered with beer cans@ broken glass and trash8 A co'ple of abandoned cars were the only thing in the lot@ stripped down to their ri(s8 Ahead of the( loo(ed the dark and e(pty factory8 I+kay@ Allison@J FiAa said as they got ready to (o.eryone passed thro'gh8 She followed last of all@ lowering the flap back into place8 I5o' two in front with (e@J FiAa Fo' re(inded the 9owell sisters8 Dhonda shot Allison a dirty look as they Eoined their a'nt8 They were in the back parking lot behind the factory8 :t was a dark and forbidding scene@ (ade all the (ore o(ino's by the pallid sky8 The pa.en@ while e.e o't@ Inow yo' can keep yo'r eyes open8 :f we r'n into tro'ble@ yo' let (e deal with it and (ake s're e.ery child between the age of se.eryone to E'(p o't of their skin8 IV&'O esKJ 9er (other ='anita h'gged the crying child to her side with one hand as she held her son Pa'ghn with the other8 IDataMJ A(y cried8 A rat8 IUn grandeMJ $.ery child 'nder the age of se.e(ent@ they had to carry e.ing that her sister was no longer enEoying herself8 Allison eyed the factory ahead of the(@ and the alleyway between the factory and the bowling lanes8 They proceeded slower than they had in the trailer park8 .er@ was a loose flap of fencing that co'ld be p'lled back to create an a(ple passageway8 Diane took the flap and held it aside as e.en and ten had to be held by the hand to keep the( fro( getting into tro'ble8 +lder children were ad(onished to stay close and not to'ch anything8 The walk thro'gh the parking lot was ӿ spooky8 FiAards darted for shelter as they passed@ so(e of the( C'ite big8 They saw scorpions as well8 +nce Allison skinned her shin against a large@ displaced ch'nk of concrete8 I+wMJ She kicked the concrete8 :n answer@ a threatening rattle iss'ed fro( 'nder the slab8 She stepped away fro( it8 IDon6t go near thatMJ she warned those behind her8 IThere6s a rattlesnake 'nder there8J A (o(ent later@ little A(y 4ordell let o't a blood-c'rdling screa( that echoed thro'gh the e(pty lot and ca'sed e.ith all the broken glass and other debris littering the pa.acant as the back@ they wo'ld be ho(e free8 .eryone looked aro'nd@ b't the rodent was long gone8 ='anita consoled her da'ghter and they (o.had 'nwo'nd ('ch of the wire stitching8 :t was one (ore testa(ent to the fact that@ for kids@ fences are not barriers b't challenges8 The stitchery re(ained at the top to hold the fence together8 Beneath that@ howe.eryone else is safe8J Dhonda took E'st a little pleas're in obser.
9owe,er@ as long as there was e,en the s(allest chance so(eone (ight be lying in wait@ they ('st play it safe8 So she had e,eryone else wait behind the e(pty factory while she and her nieces sco'ted the ally and the front of the b'ilding8 I5o' two stay close to the wareho'se and :6ll skirt the bowling alley8 :f yo' see anything@ yo' stop and wa,e to (e8 +kayKJ I+kay8J Dhonda confir(ed8 She was not enEoying this any (ore than her sister was@ b't she recogniAed the responsibility and she was prepared to f'lfill it8 They had not gone halfway down the alley when a child cried o't behind the(8 IThat was )ichael@J Allison said8 FiAa p't a finger to her lips@ warning Allison not to talk8 She wa,ed the( across the alley8 FiAa had to find o't what was wrong with her son8 She co'ld hear hi( crying behind her8 IStay here@J she told the girls in a whisper8 ;itho't waiting for a response@ she headed back down the alley8 She fo'nd Diane kneeling by )ichael@ who was sobbing8 I9e stepped on so(e glass@J Diane told her8 FiAa h'gged her son to co(fort hi(8 I: need to see@ honey8 4an yo' show (eKJ She knelt beside hi( as he lifted his foot8 She took his foot in her hand and t'rned it so she co'ld look at the sole of his shoe8 )ichael held onto his grand(other to keep fro( falling o,er8 FiAa co'ld see a narrow shard of glass st'ck in his shoe8 The shard had a lip to it8 9ooking her th'(bnail 'nder the lip@ she was able to get a fir( hold on the glass and draw it o't8 )ichael winced and whi(pered as she did so8 9is grand(other soothed hi(8 ӿ The shard of glass was narrow@ b't it was long eno'gh to penetrate both the sole of his shoe and the ball of his foot behind his big toe8 FiAa Fo' wondered how he (anaged to step on it8 She tossed it aside and looked at the s(all hole in his shoe8 She wanted to e%a(ine the wo'nd on his foot@ b't she was afraid that if she took his shoe off@ she wo'ld ne,er get it back on hi(8 I9ow does it feelKJ I:t h'rts@J he sobbed8 IB't does it feel betterKJ I)aybe8J 9e did not so'nd too s're8 She lowered his foot and ga,e hi( another h'g8 I)ichael@ : want yo' to try and walk on it8 4an yo' do thatKJ I?o8J ITry@ honey8 For (e8J )ichael braced hi(self and took a co'ple of steps@ fa,oring the wo'nd8 9e winced@ b't he did not cry8 :n the alleyway@ Allison lost her patience8 IThis is st'pid@J she told her sister8 IAnybody wo'ld know we6re here8 They6d be all o,er 's by now8J I)aybe not@J Dhonda disagreed8 I+h@ co(e on@J Allison e(boldened herself8 IThere6s no one here b't 's8J To pro,e her point@ she strode to the (o'th of the alley8 ISeeKJ T'rning towards the front of the bowling alley@ she was s'rprised to find she was not alone8
Pincent Diker threw her against the front of the b'ilding@ holding a g'n to her head8 IFook what we ha,e here8J $,en with the g'n pressed to her forehead@ Allison tried to resist8 I5o' son',abitchMJ She bro'ght 'p her hand@ claws e%tended@ in an effort to scratch his face8 Diker parried the blow8 Geeping his g'n trained on her head@ he said@ I: belie,e we owe yo' so(ething@ sweetie8J 9e bro'ght 'p his knee forcef'lly and dro,e it into her solar ple%'s8 IUhnfMJ Allison lost her breath8 She wo'ld ha,e cr'(pled to the pa,e(ent if Diker had not pinned her to the wall by the sho'lder8 9is partner@ Gyle@ spoke 'p8 I;here,er she goes@ her sister can6t be far behind8J 9e held his g'n ready8 I4o(e on o't@ s'gar@ and we6ll go dancing8J Dhonda looked aro'nd her and picked 'p a rock@ hefting it to feel its weight8 :t was not ('ch@ b't it was the only weapon she co'ld find8 I4o(e on@ dearie8J Gyle called her again8 I+r yo'r sister b'ys it right nowMJ Dhonda had no choice@ and she knew her chances of s'ccess were (ini(al8 5et she drew a breath@ poised herself to throw the rock@ and stepped aro'nd the corner8 I9ere : a(@ assholeMJ Gyle was the nearest target8 She ai(ed the rock at his head8 9e bro'ght 'p his g'n hand to shield his head8 The rock connected with his fist@ breaking his trigger finger and ca'sing hi( to discharge the g'n8 The b'llet shot har(lessly o't o,er the road and the ,acant lot8 I+wMJ The recoil of the handg'n Earred his broken finger@ (aking it h'rt e,en worse8 9e took the handg'n in his left hand@ caref'l not to (o,e his right inde% finger ӿ his right hand* the broken finger was any (ore than he had to8 IF'ckMJ 9e looked at already starting to swell 'p8 I5o' bitchMJ 9e cold-cocked her across her right te(ple and cheek with the pistol barrel@ p'tting all of his pain and rage into his left ar(8 The blow opened a gash o,er Dhonda6s right brow and al(ost knocked her 'nconscio's8 She fo'nd herself on her hands and knees@ with her head spinning and throbbing8 Fighting for breath@ Allison gasped o't@ IDhondaMJ 9olding his right ar( crooked so that his inE'red hand was t'cked in close to his chest@ Gyle wa,ed at Dhonda with the g'n8 I<et 'pM And be glad : didn6t shoot yo'MJ Dhonda (ade herself rise@ fighting to clear her head8 IStand by yo'r sister@J Gyle told her8 Dhonda went to her sister8 The two of the( h'gged to reass're each other8 Pincent Diker backed off to co,er the( both with his g'n8 IAh@ this brings back (e(ories@ doesn6t it sweetieKJ 9e leered at Dhonda8 Dhonda blanched at the (e(ory of this sadist tying her to the bed and going o,er her with a coat hanger8 I5o'6re sick8J I5o' bet8J 9e grinned at her8 I)aybe yo'r sister wo'ld like to Eoin in the f'n8J IF'ck yo'@ yo' bloated sack of shitMJ Allison had her wind back8 Pincent stepped close to her@ Ea((ing the barrel of his g'n into the soft 'nderside of her chin@ p'shing her head back against the b'ilding8 9e held his face within an inch of hers8 She did not know if he was going to kiss her or bite her8 :nstead@ he spoke in a soft@ al(ost sens'o's ,oice@ IBaby@ by the ti(e :6( done with yo'@ yo'6ll beg (e to get o't the coat hanger8J
As he backed 'p and withdrew the g'n@ Allison spit in his face8 9e wo'ld ha,e attacked her had Dhonda not wedged herself between the(8 IFea,e her alone8J IFater@J Gyle spoke 'p8 IThere will be plenty of ti(e for that8J Pincent fo'ght to restrain hi(self8 The spittle threw hi( back into his showdown with )r8 Pr'itt8 9e glared at both sisters as he drew o't a handkerchief and wiped the spittle fro( his face8 IFater@J he agreed@ filling the word with pro(ise and (enace8 I:6( not 'p to playing ga(es8J Gyle held o't his hand to show the( his broken finger8 I;e know yo'6re not alone8 9ow (any are thereKJ I: don6t know@J Dhonda replied8 I9ow (anyKJ Gyle de(anded8 IAnswer (y C'estions and yo' (ight keep all yo'r fingers and toes8 9ow (anyKJ I2/ or " @J Dhonda told hi(8 I)en@ wo(enKJ I;o(en and children@J she replied8 IAre they ar(edKJ Dhonda pa'sed8 I?o8J IAre they all waiting aro'nd backKJ Dhonda nodded8 Gyle stepped into the (o'th of the alley@ training his g'n on the far end8 9e called o't@ I;e want e,erybody o't here now@ or we6ll begin shooting pieces off these girlsM 4o(e onMJ Diane stepped aro'nd the corner8 She was carrying ='ne in one ar( and leading )ichael by the hand8 Dandy cl'ng to her side8 IDon6t shoot8J ӿ I: won6t@J Gyle told her as the other wo(en and children stepped o't into the open@ I'nless yo' gi,e (e a reason8 B't : war( yo'N if anyone tries anything@ : will shoot8 And :6ll start with the children8 ?ow co(e on@ all of yo'8J The wo(en and children ca(e down the alley8 The children h'gged their (others8 The yo'nger ones were sobbing and weeping8 The wo(en had diffic'lty walking with all the children clinging to the(8 I4o(e on@ (o,e itMJ IThe boy took a piece of glass in the foot@J Diane told hi(8 I9e can6t (o,e any faster8J I4o(e on8J They wo'ld ha,e to call in back'p to handle all these people8 Gyle tho'ght this little co'p wo'ld redee( hi( and his partner in the big (an6s eyes8 +nce they fo'nd o't all the wo(en and children had been taken into c'stody@ the fight wo'ld go o't of the (en folk holed 'p in front of the trailer park8 B ;hen she heard the co((otion fro( the (o'th of the alley@ FiAa Fo' knew her nieces had been ca'ght8 She and Diane C'ieted e,eryone down and (ade s're they were o't of sight behind the factory8 FiAa peeked aro'nd the corner in ti(e to see Dhonda step o't of the alley and cast her stone8 The g'nshot frightened e,eryone else@ b't she was pretty s're it was an accidental discharge8 D'cking back behind the b'ilding@ she told the others@ I?o one got h'rt8J IThank <od@J Diane responded8
ee@ she kept track of where e.e6re alright8J The (an who was watching Dhonda and Allison stepped back to (ake roo( for the new arri.ed@ she dashed across to the back of the bowling alley8 She contin'ed to sprint aro'nd the back and along the far side@ pa'sing only to p'll o't the pistol and t'rn off the safety8 By the ti(e she reached the front corner of the b'ilding@ she was p'ffing and c'rsing herself for s(oking8 +nce she ca'ght her breath@ she peeked aro'nd the front of the b'ilding8 The bowling alley had a glass .estib'le8 ='st beyond that@ thro'gh the windows of the .oke the(8 9ow she a.er there with the(@J the (an who had called the( o't of the alley now ordered8 IAll of yo'MJ Diane went to her oldest grandda'ghters8 IAre yo' two okayK 5o'6re bleeding8J I:6( okay@J Dhonda said@ as her sister also spoke8 I.er behind the front tires of the 9'(.e8J IBe caref'l@J Diane ad(onished her8 FiAa peeked down the alley again8 Ascertaining she wo'ld not be obser.eryone was standing8 She saw her (other and the others when they reached the (o'th of the alley8 ?oting how her son li(ped along at his grand(other6s side filled her with deter(ination8 She wo'ld not allow her children or her (other to be held at g'npoint8 I+.estib'le and then h'stled past the do'ble doors to take co.oice as he said this8 9e was looking for the least e%c'se to act 'pon his words8 +ne of the little ones cried o't@ no do'bt 'nderstanding the lethal pro(ise in his .ery one of yo'8J I5o' (ean a clear shot@J Allison corrected hi(8 IDon6t yo'KJ IAny tro'ble and we6ll start with the kids8J FiAa did not like the so'nd of his .als8 IDon6t crowd together@J he told the(8 I: want a clear .estib'le that st'ck o't fro( the rest of the b'ilding8 :t was brickwork 'p to abo't three feet and the rest was fra(ed glass8 A 9'(.es@ and then dashed aro'nd the front of Ԉglass8 Ass'red no one obser.FiAa knew they were in front of the bowling alley@ and she knew what she had to do8 To her (other@ she said@ I:6( gonna sneak aro'nd the b'ilding8 They gotta know we6re here and they6re gonna call 's o't8 5o' ha.iew of each and e.estib'le@ she co'ld see her nieces and the (en who were threatening the(8 She watched the confrontation that followed after Allison spit on one of the (en8 :t was E'st like Allison to pro.ee was parked on the other side of the .ed her H they the b'ilding8 She d'cked below the ri( of the were still looking toward the (o'th of the alley H she crept along the .oice8 ISh't her 'pMJ .ee8 This was the best position she was going to get@ so she stayed p't and waited for the an opport'ne (o(ent8 She had to take one of these g'ys down before they knew what hit the(8 Peeking 'nderneath the 9'(.oided being e%ec'ted then and there@ FiAa did not know8 After the confrontation@ she saw her opport'nity8 +ne of the (en was calling to Diane and the others8 9er nieces and the second (an@ who kept his g'n trained on the(@ were watching the first (an and the (o'th of the alley8 They were all looking away fro( where she was hiding8 FiAa took a deep breath to steady her ner.e to stall the( 'ntil : can (ake (y (o.
ee@ opened the door and leaned in to 'se the radio8 The second (an ad.er6s side of the .e ins'rance8 Pedaling thro'gh town on his bicycle@ he escaped fro( this hellhole@ and fro( his e(barrass(ent of not being able to afford the gasoline to dri.erdant8 9e e(ployed a staff of carpenters for the ro'tine work@ while he applied hi(self to special@ artistic Eobs@ working only in redwood8 9e had a pool right ne%t to his pri.ed the g'n8 %0& Sho55ing ri5 Geith Dre%ler hated this town and the people in it8 9e hated the State of AriAona and the desert8 9e hated Gerry6s Pins for laying his dad off E'st as he got sick8 )ost of all he hated his (o( for keeping hi( st'ck here@ and his dad for dying of cancer and eating 'p all their sa.ings along the way beca'se he did not ha.ed to f'lfill his e.en knew he was ali.anced on the capti.er to the dri.er6s seat in order to operate the radio8 FiAa shot hi( in the forehead and the top of his head e%ploded@ showering blood and brains o.ehicle8 S'rprised by the g'nshot@ the second (an t'rned to see what was happening8 Dhonda and Allison acted in tande(8 Dhonda slapped at his hand@ knocking the g'n away so his shot ricocheted off the wall of the bowling alley8 As tho'gh the pre.e(ent beside hi(8 Dhonda stepped in and finished hi( off with a kick to the te(ple as her sister retrie.ery desire8 This fantasy was interr'pted only when he ca(e across so(eone else o't and abo't in town8 Then he wo'ld ret'rn to his bicycle@ e%cept he had a (achine g'n .er6s side of the 9'(.er the dri.e@ b't here she and her sister li.ate workshop8 And as always@ the 9owell sisters were on hand@ either in ski(py bikinis@ or better yet n'de8 :n school@ Allison hardly e.es@ raging@ ISh't that kid 'p@ or : willMJ :t was ti(e8 FiAa Fo' popped 'p in front of the passenger door like so(e craAy Eack-in-thebo%8 The first (an looked at her in (o(entary s'rprise8 9e saw the g'n pointing at hi( thro'gh the open door window8 9e reached left-handed for the g'n he had laid on the dri.ening had only been a war(-'p@ Allison kicked hi( in the balls with all her (ight8 The force of the blow picked hi( 'p off his feet8 9e landed on his back@ the g'n clattering on the pa.io's e.er to his partner8 FiAa tho'ght of trying to pl'g the( both while they stood close together8 5et they were far eno'gh away that she did not tr'st the acc'racy of the pistol8 I:t grates (y ner.FiAa heard a wo(an trying to sooth the child8 She tho'ght it was Gaty +sborne@ which wo'ld (ake the child little Shelly +sborne8 Shelly C'ieted a little@ 'ntil se.eral other children Eoined in chor's8 ISh't the( 'pMJ IFet the( cry8J The first (an crossed o.es8J The wo(en (anaged to C'iet (ost of the children8 B't now one of the babies began to wail8 And fro( the so'nd of it@ there wo'ld be no stopping this one 'ntil the infant cried itself o't8 I:6( gonna (ake a report and get so(e help o't here@J the first (an said8 9e walked o.e the tr'ck@ by p'rs'ing all his standard fantasies8 9e was a rich (aster carpenter in ?orthern 4alifornia@ where the cli(ate was te(perate and the land was .
(o'nted on the handlebars@ and he wo'ld 'se it to (ow down e.alking the bike a little ways while he st'died the front wheel@ he E'dged it was f'nctional8 9e wo'ld be able to repair the wheel once he got ho(e8 9e noticed old )rs8 ?ew(an standing by the side of her ho'se@ watching hi(8 She ('st ha.en with those Eerks8 The handlebars were skewed on his bike@ and the front wheel was bent o't of tr'e8 9olding the wheel between his legs@ he straightened o't the handlebars8 Then he 'nlatched the front brakes so they wo'ld not r'b against the tire8 .ing hi( the finger8 I5o'6re ne%t on o'r list@ f'ck faceMJ D'ke Frist called o't as they left hi( laying in the street@ scraped fro( his t'(ble@ a throbbing knot swelling on the back of his head8 ӿ ?othing e.astation8 IGeith@ yo'6re the only real (an in this whole desert@J Allison wo'ld tell hi( as both girls fawned o.ing 9eater@ AriAona nothing b't a de(olished ghost town8 I9ey assholeMJ So(ething clocked hi( on the back of the head@ spilling hi( off his bicycle and nearly knocking hi( 'nconscio's8 Geith hit the hard@ hot blacktop as his bicycle ra((ed into the c'rb and t'(bled o.ery b'ilding he passed@ 'ntil the entire town was a bo(bed o't@ s(oking r'ins8 $'phoric fro( his orgy of destr'ction@ he wo'ld pedal 'p to where Allison and Dhonda waited for hi( in the (idst of all the de.er changed in this town8 D'ke and F'ke Frist and the others in the tr'ck were the sa(e kids who 'sed to gi.er got in tro'ble8 Geith was willing to bet that if he went down to the police station now and filed a co(plaint@ nothing wo'ld co(e of it8 Geith picked hi(self 'p off the street and looked hi(self o.er8 People were la'ghing at hi(8 A dented can of war( beer was sp'rting its contents onto the road@ crinkled where it (ade contact with the back of his sk'll8 Down the road@ a tr'ck f'll of local rednecks was heading away8 :n the back of the tr'ck@ society6s pri(iti.es were Eeering at hi( and gi.erything H ho'ses@ cars@ and especially people H as he passed by8 +ther ti(es he i(agined a li(itless s'pply of incendiary grenades@ which he wo'ld lob at each and e.hatta yo' lookin6 atKJ Geith de(anded8 4ecilia ?ew(an h'rried off into her back yard8 <od@ how he hated this town8 4li(bing on the bike@ Geith headed on his way again8 The front tire wobbled and he had to grip the handlebars and steer right E'st to stay on co'rse8 A t'rn and then two (ore blocks bro'ght hi( downtown8 :n no ti(e@ he p'lled 'p in front of Del(arr6s <eneral Store8 9e parked the bike and went inside8 .er said a word8 I.er hi(8 They wo'ld beg@ ITake 's with yo'8J 9e wo'ld load the( onto his bike@ which by this ti(e had transfor(ed into a 9arley Da.e hi( a swirly once a week back in (iddle school8 Being the backbone of the football tea(@ they ne.idson8 And off they wo'ld go to ?orthern 4alifornia@ lea.er8 9e had scraped his sho'lder and elbow@ b't it was not too bad8 9is head s're ached tho'gh8 +ne of these days@ he was going to get e.e this place8 So(eti(es he i(agined powerf'l lasers shining fro( both sides of his front and back a%les8 Sharp lines of cold red light that c't thro'gh e.ery i(becile who did not ha.e the brains to lea.e seen the whole thing@ and she didn6t offer to help8 She ne.
e yo' two packs of cigarettes@ two cans of Spa(@ and a big can of baked beans@ in addition to what yo' got last week8J .illia( Del(arr did not see( pleased with Geith6s .er for so(e canned goods and a carton of cigarettes8J .e hi( a long@ inscr'table look8 Geith sent her on her way with a glare8 Da(n )e%icans8 9e walked o.hen Geith nodded@ .e it ready for yo' by the end of the week8J To do that@ Geith wo'ld ha.illia( eyed hi(8 I5o' got cashKJ ӿ ITwenty dollars8J IUS dollarsKJ .erything else and work on it day and night8 I+kay@ :6ll gi.isit8 The raised (anager6s cage sat to the left of the checko't lanes8 :t was blocked off by partial walls topped by glass panes8 Fro( the (anager6s cage@ .illia( Del(arr co'ld watch e.y set )rs8 Dai(i waddled 'p to )illi6s register p'shing a cart loaded with canned goods and half spoiled prod'ce8 I$%c'se (e8J Geith stepped o't of her way8 )rs8 Dai(i ga.e to be hand-sanded8 I9ow soon can yo' get it doneKJ I: can ha.illia( Del(arr8 Bill Del(arr glanced at Geith6s sho'lder8 I5o' best get that cleaned 'p8J I5eah8J Geith softened his .e to set aside e.ed so(e day the A(ero wo'ld fail and the US dollar wo'ld regain its lost stat's8 I5o' finished that table yetKJ .ith no f'rther goal in life other than to work the cash register at Del(arr6s@ she was well on her way to beco(ing the town gossip8 She harbored a cr'sh on Geith since childhood@ which he in no way reciprocated8 I: had a spill8 :s )r8 Del(arr inKJ IBillMJ )illi called o't8 I5eahKJ .illia( Del(arr responded fro( the depths of the (anager6s cage8 IGeith Dre%ler6s asking for yo'8J ITell hi( :6ll be right there8J .IGeith@ what happened to yo'KJ )illi Parker was working the cash register8 ='st what Geith needed8 )illi had always been a gawky@ ho(ely girl8 .erything happening in the store as he took care of b'siness8 9ea.er a week ago8 :t was a nice old hardwood table scarred 'p by years of hea.illia( asked8 9e had dropped off a dining table at Geith6s ho'se o.er to the (anager6s cage to (eet .illia( frowned8 IThat6ll get yo' a pack of cigarettes8J Geith had tho'ght as ('ch8 9is (o( had a strongbo% f'll of US dollars she p'lled o't of the bank back when the econo(y started to teeter8 Geith tried to get her to e%change the( for A(eros when the new c'rrency was iss'ed@ b't )a%i(e swore she wo'ld 'se the( for toilet paper before she wo'ld trade the( at the e%change rate offered to reg'lar folks8 She belie.oice so )illi wo'ld not hear8 I)o( sent (e o.y 'se8 I:6( still sanding on it8J The table had a lot of scratches@ incl'ding a co'ple of deep go'ges8 Geith only worked on it when they had power to r'n the electric sander8 9e was E'st abo't done with the table top@ b't he still had the legs to go@ and lathed as they were@ they wo'ld ha.
illia( stepped back into the (anager6s cage8 9e fo'nd the Dre%ler acco'nt in his books and (ade so(e adE'st(ents8 IThat6ll lea.e 'p8 .er it8 She applied so ('ch tape to the bandage that Geith tho'ght she was (aking hi( a cocoon8 IThere ya go8 ?ow for yo'r elbow8J The entire proced're was repeated8 By the ti(e she was done@ Geith had so(e idea what it was like to be ('((ified8 )illi6s hand lingered on his ar( 'ntil Geith t'rned away8 IThanks8J 9e transferred the groceries to the bo%8 I?o proble(8J )illi helped hi(8 They reached for the sa(e tin of Spa( and their hands to'ched awkwardly8 I:6.e that table ready by the end of the weekKJ I5es@ Sir8J .e got to get going8J Geith tried to keep his .e a bo%KJ Geith asked hi(8 I9elp yo'rself8J 9eading to the register with his paltryӿlittle allot(ent of food@ Geith fo'nd )illi waiting with a first aid kit8 I5o' need to get those scrapes taken care of so they don6t get infected8J I: can look after (yself8J I9'sh@J )illi wo'ld brook no arg'(ent8 I: got antiseptic and bandages right here8 ?ow le((e see that sho'lder8J Geith fig'red it was easier to let her ha.ing one pack of cigarettes* better a nicotine fit than to go h'ngry8 IAlright8J .oice fro( rising in pitch8 9e grabbed the bo% and headed toward the door8 .er@ and then signed it at the botto(8 9e was s're Del(arr inflated his prices@ b't what co'ld he do abo't it8 I)illi@J .e hi( a pack of cigarettes8J I.Geith did not think they co'ld (ake it thro'gh the week on that8 I9ow abo't one pack of cigarettes@ three cans of Spa(@ two cans of beans@ and a bo% of pastaKJ 9is (o( wo'ld co(plain abo't only ha.hen she finished dabbing at the wo'nd@ she sprayed it with antiseptic and laid a ga'Ae pad o.illia( Del(arr glared at the( fro( the (anager6s cage@ b't he said nothing8 9e was probably adding 'p how ('ch the first aid wo'ld cost hi(8 Geith s(iled at hi(8 Then he cringed as )illi blotted his sho'lder with a wet clothe8 I+wMJ I9old still8 : gotta clean it off first8J .hat brandKJ Geith started to say 4a(els@ his (o(6s fa.illia( Del(arr handed hi( the note and a pen8 ISign it8J Geith looked the note o.e yo' with forty-two A(eros credit8J 9e wrote 'p a note listing the ite(s and the a(o'nt of barter8 I5o'6ll ha.illia( called o't as he p't the note away8 IGeith6s getting three tins of Spa(@ two cans of beans and a bo% of pasta8 And gi.orite brand@ b't Del(arr beat hi( to it8 I4heapos8J Geith held his tong'e8 9e grabbed a plastic basket o't of a rack and went back to find his groceries8 4arter Si(s was stacking canned goods8 Bo%es were scattered 'p and down the isles8 I4an : ha.e her way8 9is wo'nds did need tending8 9e t'rned aro'nd and p'lled his slee.
oid looking at the skyK :f so@ Geith co'ld not bla(e the(8 The sky creeped hi( o't8 :t felt like all of (ankind6s sins h'ng o.ednesday e.I:6ll ha.erhead like a sewer thick with to%ic sl'dge8 The sight of it sent a shi.er to hi(8 She slipped the( into his shirt pocket@ stroking his chest as she did so8 I5o' be caref'l riding ho(e8J I5eah8J Geith felt his cheeks t'rning red8 9e practically tripped o.illia( nodded8 I+hMJ )illi held 'p the pack of cigarettes8 IDon6t forget yo'r cigarettes8J Geith wanted to r'n o't of the store@ b't he co'ld not lea.ening when +scar attended ch'rch8 .er hi(self heading for the door8 +'tside he breathed easier8 Deally@ that )illi was too ('ch8 She o'ght to know by now he was not interested in her8 She E'st wasn6t his type8 Thinking of how she stroked his chest left hi( fl'stered again8 Fooking in thro'gh the store window@ he saw her watching hi(8 She wa.er the town8 Geith felt it all (orning@ tho'gh he had tho'ght it was E'st hi(8 B't he sensed it in )r8 Del(arr as well@ and in 4arter Si((s@ and e.eryone staying indoors to a.er of foreboding down his spine8 9e looked back at the sidewalk8 .en in )illi8 They were pretending there was nothing wrong@ b't so(ething had the( rattled8 Geith looked 'p at the sky@ flowing o.e that table ready by this weekend@J he told )r8 Del(arr8 .er the world@ waiting to prono'nce sentence on h'(anity for h'bris@ ab'se and disrespect8 9e wanted to finish his b'siness here and h'rry on ho(e@ where he co'ld place the roof of the garage between hi( and that conde(ning sky8 As he approached Pa'ling6s 9ardware@ he noted the store was dark inside8 All the lights were off8 Al.er seen the phar(acy closed o'tside of S'nday (orning and .e witho't his (other6s cigarettes8 )illi left the cash register and bro'ght the cigarettes o.as e.in Pa'ling ne.er closed his store d'ring reg'lar ho'rs8 Fike Del(arr6s <eneral Store@ Pa'ling had a generator so he co'ld keep the b'siness r'nning d'ring power o'tages8 4o(e to think of it@ the phar(acy at Del(arr6s had been sh't 'p8 That was not like +scar Pa'ling@ the phar(acist8 Geith did not think he had e.ed8 )r8 Del(arr stood in the (anager6s cage@ regarding the( both with disdain8 Geith pretended not to see her8 9e b'sied hi(self strapping the bo% of groceries to the rack behind the bicycle seat8 Then he grabbed his bike by the handlebars and walked away8 Finishing that table by the weekend was going to throw off his work sched'le8 9e had that rocking chair to repair for the 9'(phreys8 And the porch swing the 4o(anski6s wanted hi( to ref'rbish8 )ost i(portantly@ he needed to get to work on a new load of o'tdoor f'rnit're to bring 'p to the flea (arket in Phoeni%8 That was where he (ade the (aEority of his inco(e8 B't a body has to eat8 So Geith p'shed his bike on down the sidewalk to Pa'ling 9ardware8 9e needed stain and lacC'er to finish the table@ and (ore sandpaper8 ӿ Along the way@ he noted how e(pty )ain Street was today8 ?obody doing any b'siness8 Us'ally there were a few people strolling down the sidewalk@ carrying groceries or bringing ite(s to barter8 Today there was nobody8 9is bicycle was the only one in sight8 There was a sense of 'nease hanging o.
ited hi( to co(e in and take whate.ite e.illia( Del(arr was@ b't it was not like hi( to lea.es and conto'rs8 Those things cost a fort'ne8 .eryone knew the brothers had a falling o't later in life@ tho'gh no one H not e.hat was going on hereK Al.ith this generator to r'n his power sander@ he wo'ld ha.hen he needed a prescription filled@ Al.illia( Del(arr8 .ed@ Geith reached o't and p'shed on the door handle8 S're eno'gh@ the door was 'nlocked8 Tho'gh not s're of what he was doing@ Geith entered the darkened store8 9e stopped E'st inside the door and called o't@ I9elloMJ ӿ ?o one answered8 4ertain he was alone@ Geith walked thro'gh the store@ looking down e.in Pa'ling hi(self had in.e his store open and in.ery isle8 9e still felt like he was trespassing8 9e e%pected to see Al.es were well-stocked8 $lectrical@ pl'(bing@ ho'seware@ l'(ber@ hand tools@ hardware@ paint@ and the section of the store where larger ite(s were displayed@ incl'ding a set of wooden o'tdoor f'rnit're Al.ait a (o(ent@ Al.in was selling on consign(ent for Geith8 Geith wondered if he sho'ld go back ho(e and fetch the tr'ck so he co'ld ha'l his f'rnit're o't of here before so(eone stole it8 9e eyed the table saw and so(e of the other wood working tools as well8 9e co'ld find roo( for those in the tr'ck8 .e it ready for refinishing by nightfall8 .er the hardware b'siness@ while +scar went to college and trained to be a phar(acist8 $.in had taken o.er he wanted8 9e had per(ission8 All the shel.in had those fancy new sanders that work on c'r.in and +scar were brothers8 Being the older@ Al.Al.er wanted8 This ('st be a drea(8 ?e%t the 9owell sisters wo'ld step o't of the stockroo( clad only in aprons@ offering to help hi( with his tools8 :n the back of the store@ he stopped in front of a gas generator8 Beca'se of the freC'ent lengthy blacko'ts@ he did not 'se power tools ('ch8 B't with a generator and a s'pply of gasoline@ he co'ld operate independent of the electrical grid8 That wo'ld (ake life a lot easier for hi(@ and he co'ld increase his o'tp't tenfold8 9e tho'ght of the table he was sanding for .andering thro'gh the store@ he (ade a (ental list of all the things he had e.es8 After looking aro'nd the e(pty street to (ake s're he was not obser.in went to AEo@ or (ade the trip to Phoeni%8 +scar did the sa(e when he needed hardware8 Geith parked his bike in front of the hardware store8 There was a hand-written notice attached to the front door8 Pondering the sign@ Geith scratched his head8 .en the brothers H co'ld say what it was abo't8 The Pa'ling brothers had not spoken to each other in years@ which was C'ite an acco(plish(ent@ considering they both li.in Pa'ling was not the penny pincher that .in Pa'ling standing in one of the isles with a c'sto(er8 After finishing his C'ick to'r of the store@ he rela%ed8 Al.ed in the sa(e s(all town@ and both attended the 9oly Dedee(er 4h'rch8 .eryone to help the(sel.
er drea(ed of ha.hen applied caref'lly@ it was s'pposed to prod'ce a s(ooth finish that wo'ld not reC'ire b'ffing8 .es8 B't the solid wooden railing aro'nd the porch wo'ld hide hi( fro( the sheriff8 .iew of the front of the ?'point6s ho'se8 )ost of the screening had been sca.in stopped down the street fro( the ?'point ho(e when he saw the police .ehicle parked o't front8 At first he did not know whether he sho'ld go ahead and in.itation and load 'p e.ariety of acco(panying sandpaper8 There wo'ld be roo( for this on the bike@ and if they had electricity@ he co'ld try it o't on the table legs while waiting for nightfall8 Geith stepped behind the front co'nter and d'g o't a plastic bag big eno'gh for the sander@ the sandpaper@ and the can of stain8 Fooking at the cash registers@ he stopped dead in his tracks8 Scanning the street to (ake s're he was not being watched@ he stepped o.e footage of Geith trying to open the till8 Geith still intended to ret'rn that night with his tr'ck8 And the first thing he wo'ld do was to h'nt for s'r.Fike a kid on 4hrist(as (orning@ Geith raced aro'nd the store@ (aking a (ental list of all the st'ff he e.ing8 9e wo'ld co(e back with the tr'ck at nightfall and load it 'p8 9e hated to wait that long@ b't it wo'ld be p'shing his l'ck to back 'p to the front doors in broad daylight8 S're@ he was taking a chance so(eone (ight beat hi( to it8 B't it was safer to wait 'ntil nightfall8 9e wo'ld not e.ell@ why not8 9e grabbed a case of the spray lacC'er@ added the can of stain to his load@ and carried it to the front co'nter8 Setting the case down@ he went back for the fancy power sander and a .ol.antage point@ he had a clear .ed by his atte(pt to rob the register@ Geith switched the (achine off8 9e bagged 'p the sander and other ite(s and left the store8 9e sec'red the (erchandise on the back of his bike atop the bo% of groceries@ and beat it o't of there8 As he pedaled for ho(e@ it occ'rred to hi( that Pa'ling s'rely had a sec'rity syste(8 9e probably had ca(eras (o'nted in the ceiling8 9e co'ld ha.en bother with the f'rnit're8 9e needed to (ake roo( for e.eillance ca(eras and p't the( o't of co((ission@ and destroy any back 'p recordings8 Then he wo'ld accept Pa'ling6s in.e the police8 :n the end@ he went 'p on the enclosed porch of what was once the 4arson ho(e and waited8 Fro( this .erything else8 )aybe he co'ld (ake two trips8 Bo'nding with e%cite(ent@ Geith al(ost forgot he had co(e here for stain and lacC'er8 :n the paint isle@ he chose a light stain that wo'ld show off the wood grain to best effect8 Then he noticed a display of so(e new@ spray-on lacC'er8 Geith had heard of this st'ff8 .erything he co'ld8 '3& Seeking )el5 Ge.enged off this porch long ago H C'ite possibly by the ?'points the(sel.er to the nearest of the two registers8 $%a(ining the register@ he fo'nd the power b'tton and t'rned it on8 The register h'((ed and ca(e to life8 The electronic display flashed thro'gh so(e war( 'p pro(pts and then settled down@ waiting to reflect data ӿ entry8 Geith pressed the no sale b'tton@ b't nothing happened8 9e tried so(e other b'ttons in an effort to open the cash drawer@ b't had no l'ck8 The registers were probably locked@ and no do'bt Pa'ling had the key8 Unner.
en if no arteries were r'pt'red@ the break itself wo'ld e.in thro'gh the porch and into the ho'se8 :t was dark inside and it s(elled of so'r cooking H sa'sage and cabbage8 The .in waited@ watching the front of the ?'point ho(e and c'rsing the police for taking so long8 9e was watching the ?'point place so intently he did not hear so(eone approaching on the sidewalk behind hi(8 IGe.Ge.here6s the sheriffKJ I4o(e on in8J Sarah stood aside8 They co'ld hear the tele.in E'dged it was o't of his hands now8 Few was right@ Bobby needed help as soon as possible8 Ge.e gotta get so(e helpMJ Taking long@ fast strides@ Fewis headed toward the ?'point ho'se and the police SUP8 Ge.il8 Fewis 'shered Ge.e hid in a ca.e did as yo' said8 .here is heKJ ӿ Ge.ely8 :n the ne%t (o(ent@ he recogniAed the f'tility of the effort8 9e had@ after all@ been obser.in had a bad feeling abo't hi( o't there by hi(self@ lying on that ledge inE'red and e%posed8 Fewis led hi( to the ?'point porch@ where the big (an knocked so hard the screen door rattled8 The screened in porch was so cl'ttered with E'nk it had long ago ceased to ser.in stopped short as he noticed the badge pinned to Few6s shirt8 IFell off the cliffKJ Fewis did not gi.hat are yo' doing hereKJ 9e E'(ped@ and then d'cked instincti.itho't a do'bt@ they were best s'ited for dealing with this sit'ation8 +nce the police were in.ol.inM .ed@ howe.io's enco'nters with the police@ when the sheriff pers'aded hi( to snitch Bobby o't for arson8 The idea of going to the police abo't anything concerning Bobby played on his conscience8 9e was s're that if circ'(stances were re.ersed@ Bobby wo'ld do the sa(e thing8 So he watched the ?'point ho'se and waited@ all the ti(e knowing that Bobby was lying on that ledge@ baking in the s'n@ in e%tre(e pain8 :f it took too long for hi( to bring help@ the delay (ight be fatal for Bobby8 $.in was relie.ent'ally send hi( into shock@ and fro( there he (ight slip into a co(a8 Still Ge.e as a porch and beca(e a storage area8 +nly a little path between the screen door and the front door of the ho'se was kept cleared8 Fewis knocked again@ e.in had bad (e(ories of his pre.e8 Bobby knew abo't it8 B't he got 'p d'ring the night and fell offL8J Ge.er@ 9o(eland Sec'rity wo'ld know abo't it8 .ision blaring in the roo( behind her8 B'gs B'nny was escaping fro( the Tas(anian De.e hi( a chance to respond8 I4o(e on8 .en (ore insistently@ when Sarah ?'point@ a hea.ed to tell so(eone8 9e ISt'ck on a ledge on the side of a cliff8J cli(bed down off the porch8 I:n the desertKJ I.in knew he sho'ld tell the police what was going on8 .hat was (ore@ Ge.ed8 9e (ight as well see who spotted hi(8 Ge.in rose to find Few +sborne standing on the sidewalk8 :t occ'rred to hi( that Few helped hi( o't once before witho't t'rning hi( in8 9e (ight do so again8 :n the back of his (ind@ tho'gh@ he wondered what Few was doing here8 IBobby had an accident@J he told Fewis +sborne8 I9e fell and broke his ar(8J I.y-set wo(an in her (id-twenties@ opened the front door8 I9ang on8J I.
ing roo( held an old co'ch and two broken down easy chairs8 A cl'ttered coffee table had been p'shed aside to (ake roo( for sleeping bags which were spread o't on the floor in front of the tele.ision@ along with pillows@ c'ps both e(pty and half e(pty@ and a large bowl of popcorn of which there now re(ained 'npopped kernels8 +n the coffee table were plates with half eaten scra(bled eggs and toast cr'sts@ (ore glasses and c'ps@ and an assort(ent of beer bottles8 Delbert and $llen sat on the sleeping bags with their eyes gl'ed to the tele.in 9owellMJ Don said8 I.e a dog fart for the whole b'nch of yo'MJ I$laine@J Sheriff Pierce entered the roo( and took i((ediate control of the sit'ation8 Tho'gh his presence was co((anding@ there was a sadness in his eyes8 4onnie followed hi(8 IFew6s Eob was to protect Doger8 9e was inE'red8 ?one of 's tho'ght he6d escape8 :f yo' want to bla(e anyone@ bla(e (e8 : sho'ld ha.en a .e had hi( c'ffed to the bed8J $laine lost stea(@ 'nable to rail on the sheriff8 I.ision8 Behind the(@ their Uncle 9oward@ only a few years older than Sarah@ sat on the co'ch in a t-shirt and shorts8 9is hair was (essed 'p fro( sleeping@ he needed a sha.e6.eryone else to confront hi(8 I5o' let hi( escapeMJ She poked Fewis in the chest as she spoke8 For all of her weight@ she was not a .e6ll catch hi( again8 And this ti(e he won6t get away8J The sheriff was eying Ge.li.e so(e other (atters to disc'ss8J $laine stood aside8 I5o' best disc'ss Doger@ c'A there ain6t any of 's safe while he6s loose@ Qspecially 4onnie and the kids8J .er her@ Fewis was c't down to siAe by her re(arks8 I:6( sorry@ )a6a(8 : ne.abitch left 4arl in a co(a and ga.er tho'ght he6d (ake a break for it8J The back of Few6s head still h'rt where Doger Blain cl'bbed hi(@ b't it was nothing co(pared to his wo'nded pride8 ISorry is right8J $laine harr'(phed8 I5o'6re one sorry e%c'se for a dep'ty H e.er here@J she pointed to an adEoining roo( E'st as Don stepped o't of it@ followed by To((y ?'point and their (other@ $laine8 IGe.e hi( get awayMJ Altho'gh he towered o.ery tall person@ and she had to reach 'p to poke hi( in the chest8 ӿ (y da'ghter a conc'ssion@ and yo' let IThat son'.eal a belly to (atch his sister6s8 The ?'points tended to be portly@ like their (other8 +nly 4onnie took after her father@ and she watched her weight closely8 Fewis nodded a greeting to 9oward that was ignored8 As she sh't the door behind the(@ Sarah said@ IThe sheriff6s talkin6 to 4onnie8 Don 4ooper6s o.ened8 IStay o't of thisMJ She ro'nded on hi(8 I: don6t gi.ol'nteer dep'tyMJ I)rs8 ?'point@J Don 4ooper inter.here6s Bobby DeeringKJ 9e looked aro'nd@ e%pecting to see the boy standing off to the side so(ewhere8 IThat6s the proble(L8J Few started to say8 Before he co'ld finish@ $laine ?'point sC'eeAed by e.in8 I?ow if we can 'se this roo(8J 9e indicated the door fro( which $laine and Don had E'st e(erged@ Iwe ha.e been going n'ts trying to find yo'8 .e@ and his tshirt was creeping 'p to re.
in@ he said@ I5o' and Bobby are near the s'((it of a whole (o'ntain of tro'ble8 Do yo' know yo'r grandfather and yo'r 'ncles are preparing for a showdown with DidgepointKJ I.in replied8 I9e fell so(eti(e d'ring the night@ while : was asleep8J I.e need help here8 4all the Tohono +6odha( Deser.e ended at Swanson 4reek@ where it began8 ?ow to find his fa(ily preparing to die@ not to (ention Bobby lying on that ledge8 $lliot ca'ght hi(self@ noting how 'pset the boy was8 9e leaned against a cl'ttered co(p'ter desk8 9is (eeting with 4onnie had not gone well@ and how co'ld he ha.e gotta get hi( to the hospital8J So(ehow@ fro( the way the sheriff spoke@ Ge.in said8 I.oided this whole (ess8 They b'rned down STG :(ports last night@ and killed old (an Stelling8 And then there6s all those bodies rotting o't on Swanson 4reek8J Ge.e to go to the town co'ncil (eeting in (y place@J $lliot added8 I+h crapMJ Don6s face went fro( so'r to ill8 Dealing with De.e it o't with )artin Doss and his b'nch8 Ge.er the proble(s between her and her h'sband@ what little she and $lliot shared was o.erend 4hassey and his congregation wo'ld be a pleas're co(pared with standing 'p to the town co'ncil8 I5o' ha.e tho'ght it wo'ld go any different8 .e (ade any difference8 :n fact@ there6s a good chance yo' and Bobby wo'ld be dead right now8J :t occ'rred to $lliot@ ISpeaking of which@ where6s BobbyKJ IThat6s what Ge.e to8J IShit@ $lliot8J Don tho'ght that wo'ld take a lot (ore (anpower than they had8 IAnd yo'6ll ha.hen was thisKJ IThree or fo'r ho'rs ago@J Ge.e a.IDon6t worry abo't it@J $lliot said as he 'shered Ge.in winced to think of Bobby6s inE'ry8 IFro( the way his leg was twisted aro'nd@ he6s got to be in a lot of pain8J I+kay8J $lliot decided what needed to be done8 I.er to De.en if yo' ca(e to (e days ago@ it wo'ldn6t ha.in and : are gonna take the Fand Do.hatKJ IThey6re ar(ed@ and they6re waiting to ha.eryone they can think of8J $lliot added8 I.in ca(e here for@J Few spoke 'p8 IBobby6s h'rt8J I.erend 4hassey6s and find o't what the hell is going on8 Take Arth'r and arrest the whole b'nch if yo' ha.in was ready to cry8 The sheriff was right* if they had co(e to hi( in the first place this (adness wo'ld ha.as he conscio's when yo' fo'nd hi(KJ I5eah@ E'st8J Ge.in and his dep'ties into the adEoining roo(8 9e closed the door behind the(8 T'rning to Ge.in@ if yo' had E'st co(e to (e in the first place@ we co'ld ha.in knew Bobby wo'ld be alright8 $lliot t'rned to Don8 IGe.ation again8 : don6t care abo't E'risdiction8 :f they can send so(e (en to help keep the peace@ that wo'ld throw a whole new twist in the sit'ation8 :t E'st (ight hold Doss in check8J .e 4'rtis and )adge call e.hate.hatKJ ӿ I9e fell and broke his leg8J I9e6s stranded on a ledge@J Ge.er long ago8 There was no reason for hi( to take it o't on this boy8 I:6( sorry@J $lliot apologiAed8 I$.er8 :6ll call Arth'r and tell hi( to pick yo' 'p8 5o'6re in charge 'ntil : get back8J I+kay@J Don acknowledged8 IThe first thing yo' need to do is get o.
ing toward the door8 I:6ll be back soon as : can8 5o'6ll ha.in dogged his heels@ followed by Don and Few8 +.e to deal with things in the (eanti(e8J Fewis +sborne stepped 'p8 I$lliot8J I5esKJ I4an : co(eKJ $lliot (eas'red hi(8 I5o' screwed 'p in the hospital8J I:6( sorry8J The big g'y h'ng his head8 I:t co'ld ha.e another chance8J I$lliot@J 4onnie spoke in a sy(pathetic tone that said@ howe.oice beca(e softer and (ore personal8 I:6( sorry things didn6t work o't better long ago8 : wish we co'ld ha.hatKJ I5o' owe it to 4onnie and the kids to stay here and g'ard the(8 4hances are Doger6s long gone8 B't : need so(eone here E'st in case@ and yo'6re the only one : can spare8J Tho'gh he did not like this assign(ent@ Few knew better than to co(plain8 I+kay8J I<ood@J $lliot knew Fewis wo'ld catch a lot of flack fro( $laine and the others8 9e had e%pected so(e co(plaint fro( Few@ and was i(pressed that he took the assign(ent witho't any backtalk8 The (an had not forgotten his (ilitary training8 I:6ll send so(eone to replace yo'8J Few nodded his appreciation for this li(it on his d'ty8 I4o(e on@ Ge.hat6s he gonna doN hold the door open for hi(KJ Fewis +sborne cringed8 I:6ll tell yo' what@ Sheriff@J $laine went on8 I5o' E'st let (y boys deal with Doger8J $lliot looked fro( 9oward ?'point@ sprawled on the co'ch watching a Syl.in8 Fet6s get (o.in@J $lliot said8 I5o'6re gonna show (e where yo' and Bobby were hiding o't8J 9e opened the door to find the ?'points waiting for hi(8 ӿ gonna do abo't Doger BlainKJ I$lliot@J $laine started in@ Iwhat are yo' I)rs8 ?'point@ we p't o't a b'lletin8 And Fewis +sborne is going to be on d'ty here@ on the off chance he shows 'p8J IFewMJ $laine scoffed8 I.e happened to any of 's8 B't we6re too short-handed8 : need yo' here@ right here8J I.$lliot was (o.er his sho'lder@ $lliot told Don@ IThis sho'ldn6t take (ore than an ho'r or two8 : tr'st yo' to (ake s're the town6s standing when : get back8J I:6ll try8J Don answered witho't co(plete confidence8 I<ood l'ck@ $lliot8J .ester and Tweety cartoon@ to To((y ?'point leaning in the doorway to the kitchen@ st'ffing his face with a baloney sandwich8 I: ('st ask yo' to treat (y officers with respect and stay o't of police b'siness8 :f Doger shows 'p@ let Few take care of it8 ?ow@ if yo'6ll e%c'se (e@ another e(ergency has co(e 'p8J T'rning to 4onnie@ $lliot6s tone of .ing8J Ge.er@ they had been thro'gh this8 I:f yo' need anything@ call (e@J $lliot told her@ looking her in the eye for one short second before heading for the door8 I4o(e on@ Ge.
in Pa'ling was dependable and p'nct'al8 9e was a religio's (an and a (e(ber of the town co'ncil8 Pa'ling6s 9ardware had been a keystone in the town since it was first opened by his great grandfather o.in@ I4li(b in@ and don6t to'ch anything8J Ge.in held o't a wrinkled sheet of paper8 $lliot took the paper and read it8 &as the !hole to!n $one cra'y@ $lliot tho'ght8 I:t fell down behind the s'((er sale sign8J Ge.ery odd8 Al.ing roo( window@ and he was s're it was 4onnie8 The tho'ght of their con.er as he approached8 <oing aro'nd to the dri.e been dist'rbed H say by an atte(pt to force the( open8 $lliot scanned the isles8 $.er6s side@ $lliot looked back at his (en E'st in ti(e to see $laine ?'point sla( the front door behind the(8 Frowning as he started the .er a h'ndred years ago8 +f the three generations of Pa'ling6s that $lliot knew@ Al.e need to go to Pa'ling6s 9ardware first8J Pa'ling6s 9ardware was closed8 $lliot tho'ght this odd as Al.er with the window open@ I5o' stay there8J 9e entered the hardware store ready to draw his weapon if need be8 &'ietly he went o.in was in the b'ilding@ $lliot knocked on the doors and called o't@ IAl.er to the co'nter@ looking for signs of a robbery8 Pa'ling had two registers8 ?either of the( were on@ and neither appeared to ha.er his sho'lder8 I.in pointed his th'(b o.er6s side@ he told Ge.IThanks8J $lliot 'nlocked the doors of the Fand Do.ehicle@ $lliot felt a little sorry for Few +sborne8 For that (atter@ he did not en.in did as he was told8 As he cli(bed into the dri.e the b'siness 'nattended when it sho'ld be open for the day8 .erything was in order8 There was no e.alking to the back of the store@ $lliot p'shed his way thro'gh the do'ble doors into the stockroo(8 :t was E'st as C'iet back here@ and twice as dark8 9e tried the office door and fo'nd that@ at least@ to be locked8 9e called o't@ I.ersation bro'ght a s'rge of pain that was still too fresh to deal with8 IThe ridge is back that way@J Ge.in 9owell call o't to hi(@ ISheriffMJ 9e fo'nd the boy standing by the doors8 I: tho'ght : told yo' to stay in the car8J IThis was on the door@J Ge.idence of looting8 ?either was there anyone to be seen8 ӿ This was .hen yo' opened the door@ that ('st6.e got an e(ergency8J There was no answer@ b't the door was 'nlocked8 $lliot told Ge.in Pa'ling ne.in answered his 'nasked C'estion8 I.hile he was still in the back@ he heard Ge.in was the least likely to forget to lock the doors at night@ ('ch less to lea.ho6s (inding the storeKJ .y Don 4ooper his Eob either8 Altho'gh a boy6s life was at stake@ $lliot was looking forward to getting o't of town for a co'ple of ho'rs and escaping the insanity8 As he p'lled o't@ he glanced at his (en standing in front of the porch8 So(eone was watching fro( the li.er (issed a day of b'siness in his life8 +n the off chance Al.in@ it6s Sheriff PierceM .e Earred it loose8 : saw it hanging down8J .e6.in@ who was sitting in the Fand Do.
ine <race Baptist 4h'rch closed its doors@ the 9oly Dedee(er had beco(e the ch'rch of the 4a'casian@ Anglo-Sa%on (aEority of the town6s pop'lation8 Saint =ohn6s 4atholic 4h'rch catered to a predo(inately Fatino congregation8 And while .erend 4hassey was the (ost charis(atic religio's leader in town@ and he had the largest congregation8 Since Di.e it to so(eone else to fi% these f'nda(ental errors8 B'siness as 's'al was destroying the planet@ and that de.ed to be carcinogenic8 This sky was hitting e.eral days in a row8 B't he do'bted it was wholly ӿ responsible for all the (ass hysteria that was plag'ing the town and the entire world8 The sky presented e.ed8 Their way of life was flawed@ and that flaw had reached the critical point8 :t co'ld no longer be ignored8 They co'ld no longer go on with b'siness as 's'al and lea.in Pa'ling had sponsored De.ercast skies for se.eryone n'ts@J Arth'r spec'lated8 Don said nothing8 9e do'bted it was anything so si(ple8 4ertainly the sky was affecting people@ in the sa(e general way that people tend to beco(e depressed when s'bEected to dark@ o.ing e.erend 4hassey6s b'ilding proEect@ and (o.er again@ he re(e(bered that Al.eryone with irref'table e.eling@ and what was worse@ the (aterial it was wo.e to deal with that 'ntil they got back8 Balling 'p the sign and tossing it into a waste basket behind the cashier6s co'nter@ $lliot said@ IFet6s get what we need8J '%& Chur+h and State I:t6s (o.en of pro.er it takes to sec're their place in <od6s first class co(part(ent8 This is what was happening here in 9eater8 De.hen society fails the(@ people fall back on religion8 And when that religion e%plains what is happening as <od6s preparation for the end ti(es@ stating that <od will soon resc'e the faithf'l and s(ite all the infidels that are left@ then the religio's-(inded will do whate.astation had reached the point where b'siness as 's'al was no longer possible8 The world they belie.in co'ld be fo'nd8 Don wo'ld ha.e in so(ething8 .idence there was so(ething f'nda(entally wrong with the world in which they li.eryone o.e to belie.ed to block any interference by the town co'ncil8 $lliot knew where Al.ed in was cr'(bling aro'nd the(8 Their sec'rity blanket was 'nra.As $lliot read the sign o.ing faster8 .hat do yo' (ake of thatKJ Arth'r sat behind the steering wheel of the patrol car@ looking 'p at the sky8 I: don6t know what to (ake of anything any(ore@J Don said8 I5o' think it6s that ProEect Dise and ShineKJ I:6( s're it is8J Don looked o't at the oil spill in the sky8 :t was flowing (ore swiftly8 The general c'rrent see(ed to flow o't of the west@ b't it was p'nct'ated by large pockets of t'rb'lence where the streaks of yellow@ orange and red circled abo't8 So(e of these swirling pockets darkened in color@ appearing thicker than the rest of the sky8 I4'rtis said there are reports its so(e kinda (ind control thing8 )aybe that6s what6s dri.er the head@ and the syste( people nor(ally t'rned to was behind it all8 As the social order collapsed@ people grabbed at anything to fall back on8 )an is a sense (aker@ ne'rologically and psychologically predisposed to seek patterns in any inp't@ no (atter how rando( and chaotic8 People ha.
erend had a seat along with two of his (ost de.ing the ?'point ho'sehold@ Don and Arth'r went straight to the 9oly Dedee(er8 Tho'gh the parking lot and the street o't front were as packed with cars as they e.ation 9all8 The wo(an was 4lara 4hassey* that high-pitched warble was ӿ slow e.e8 And while that icon had faded away in little (ore than a (onth and had not reappeared since@ it was accepted by his congregation as a certification of the De.(any of the Fatinos were ardent 4hristians@ Father 9ayne held little faith in the 4h'rch hi(self8 De.iolence and hostility8 ?ot wanting to be locked o't of the hall to face the Ford6s wrath with all of the 'nbelie.eryone inside wo'ld be trapped8 The whole thing was (ade of wood@ e.erend preached the end ti(es and 'rged his flock to b'ild a sal.erend6s di.erend gathered his flock together and anno'nced only those who had p'rchased their place in the hall wo'ld be sa.ers@ they E'stified doing whate.hen the De.entilated the hall8 +ther that that@ the place was sh't 'p tighter than a (a'sole'(8 Big as the hall was@ Don i(agined it ('st be crowded if the De.er obtained a b'ilding per(it8 ?eighbors co(plained of the noise8 )rs8 Deyes and )r8 9ornsacker acc'sed the De.ery effort by $lliot and Fire )arshal Danny Sacket to halt the proEect8 The b'ilding was rife with code .ation8 After lea.e the( fits all s'((er long8 The De.iolations8 :t had no windows and only one door8 And that door was (ade of thick oak8 A few narrow grated .oted followers H Al.er were on a S'nday (orning@ there was not a so'l to be fo'nd in the ch'rch8 As soon as they stepped o't of the car@ they heard a (an and a wo(an arg'ing aro'nd back@ o't by the Sal.erend 4hassey@ on the other hand@ preached that he was in direct co(('nication with 4hrist8 9e pointed to the (anifestation of =es's6s face on the side of his ch'rch a co'ple of years ago as a sign that he was 4hrist6s tr'e representati.inity8 .ents near the roof .er was necessary to g'arantee their sal.in Pa'ling and )elissa 4artright@ blocked e.erend of b'ilding o.ation 9all8 Big and i(posing@ the hall re(inded Don of nothing so ('ch as ?oah6s ark8 This proEect ga.en the front steps8 The o'tside walls had no siding@ E'st thick plywood sheeting co.ed@ no one C'estioned what 'se there wo'ld be for (onetary wealth after the end ti(es8 Those who had not paid off their berths in the hall looked 'p at the sky where <od6s f'ry was b'ilding in preparation to s(ite the(8 Then they looked o't at a cr'(bling world of .erend ne.en in anger@ Don g'essed the too distinct to be (istaken8 And fro( the drawl@ (an to be )ickey Sloan@ the town6s ani(al control officer8 IDa((it 4laraMJ )ickey was saying8 I5o' let (e see (y wife8 $llie@ co(e on o't hereMJ 9'rrying aro'nd the back of the ch'rch@ the dep'ties approached De.erend 4hassey6s Sal.ered with whitewash8 The pitch of the roof was so low@ Don co'ldn6t get a look at it@ b't it wo'ld not s'rprise hi( to find that it was .erend6s entire congregation was holed 'p in there8 Danny Sacket was right to be concerned abo't this place8 :f it ca'ght on fire@ e.er their property line8 B't the town co'ncil@ on which the De.ation hall@ they did so witho't C'estion8 So(e of the (ost prestigio's (e(bers of the co(('nity offered their reso'rces to the effort8 And when the De.
ationKJ 4lara said nothing8 I: need to talk to the De.e got an e(ergency o.oice8 I: think he6ll want to be dist'rbed@J Don said i(patiently8 I5o' tell hi( that if he doesn6t talk to (e right now@ :6ll be back with warrants for both of yo'8J I.erend and : wo'ld ne.ation8 Breaking and entering@ co((itting ar(ed robbery8 9ell@ they e.erend8J I9e6s (editating8 : can6t dist'rb hi(8J I5o' better dist'rb hi(8J I+h@ : co'ldn6t@J 4lara piped in her inf'riating little old lady .ed in s'ch cri(es8 .ation is (ore i(portant than earthly goods8J IAnd they ha.ering 'p to yo'r congregation8 Did yo' or did yo' not tell yo'r parishioners that if they co'ld not co(e 'p with the pay(ent to get into this b'ilding@ they wo'ld s'ffer eternal da(nationKJ I5o' are talking abo't the word of the Ford@J 4lara infor(ed hi(8 .ed8 ='st like the rest of yo'8J I$llieMJ )ickey tried to p'sh his way past Don8 I5o' get o't here@ nowMJ 4lara sh't the door 'ntil it was only open a crack8 Don held )ickey back8 I5o' settle down and let 's take care of this8J Arth'r p't a co(forting hand on )ickey6s sho'lder and drew hi( away8 I4lara@J Don asked@ Iwhy are yo' folks c'tting yo'rsel.e that so(e tho'ght yo'rself8 :t is ti(e to lay down yo'r badge and ser.e ha.en robbed the bank8J ISal.e yo' know the De.plywood as well8 Probably tarred rather than shingled8 The place was a fire waiting to happen8 +n the front steps@ )ickey Sloan stood arg'ing with 4lara 4hassey@ who held one of the oak doors open wide eno'gh to speak with hi(8 )ickey t'rned as he heard so(eone approaching8 Seeing Don and Arth'r@ he took the( as reinforce(ents8 I:t6s abo't ti(e yo' two got here8J I.e to pay yo' for that sal.er be in.hat6s 'pKJ Don asked as they Eoined )ickey on the steps8 I$llie p'lled o'r sa.ell@ yo'r parishioners ha.e been b'sy all night@ seeing to their sal.er there8 She needs to know8J IThe whole world6s got an e(ergency@J 4lara told the(8 I.e to look to o'r ӿ sal.ol.arrantsMJ 4lara h'(ored hi(8 I+n what chargesKJ I4onspiracy to co((it ar(ed robbery@ breaking and entering@ and ar(ed assa'lt@ for starters8J I5o'ng (an@ :6ll ha.e been trying to reach their (o( for the past two days8 They said yo' wo'ldn6t let the( talk to her8 They6.ation8J I5eah8 .e are dedicated to doing the Ford6s work@ preparing for the end ti(es8 And yo' had best gi.es off fro( the rest of the worldKJ I5o' wo'ldn6t 'nderstand@ Dep'ty8J I)aybe not8 B't )ickey6s got a right to talk to his wife8 And Dhonda and Allison 9owell ha.ings o't of the bank yesterday@J )ickey told the(8 IShe6s in there@ b't they won6t let (e talk to her8J I4lara@J Don t'rned to )rs8 4hassey8 I5o' let hi( talk to his wife8J IShe doesn6t want to see hi(@J 4lara said8 I:6( afraid he lost his chance to be sa.e the Ford8 ='dg(ent day is nigh8J IThat6s the sort of fear (ongering yo'6.e been deli.
ersation8J 4lara closed and barred the door before Don had a chance to respond8 .erybody in prayer b't yo'KJ Don lost his te(per8 I4hrist@ it6s an e(ergencyMJ IDon6t 'se the Ford6s na(e in .ing a hard eno'gh ti(e dealing with that8 :6( afraid talking to yo' wo'ld only pain her f'rther8J IDa(n it@ 4laraM She needs to knowMJ IS'ch profanity8 :6( afraid : ('st end this con.ing an e(ergency right now8 :t is the end ti(es8 Forraine6s fa(ily chose not to Eoin her8 She is ha.hy of co'rse he is8J 4lara was enEoying this8 I9e took off his robes in recognition that it is ti(e for hi( to stand before a higher E'dge8J I<et hi(8J I: can6t interr'pt hi( while he is co(('ning with the Ford8J Don stepped close to the door8 9e called in thro'gh the opening@ I='dge ThayerMJ Ԉ IStop thatMJ 4lara reproached a recalcitrant child8 I5o' will dist'rb e.ernor@ we6ll do it8J IThe <o.er to the corner of the ch'rch8 IThe De.e yo' those warrants8J 4lara spoke as tho'gh she was trying to (ake herself 'nderstood to a child8 I.ain@J 4lara corrected hi(8 IDonald@ the whole world is ha.al'e any(ore8 The pay(ent is a test of de.otion and co((it(ent8J IThen the De.e6ll see abo't that8J Don t'rned away8 I+fficer@ yo' are wasting yo'r ti(e when yo' sho'ld be preparing for the end8 )ar.ade a ch'rch8J Don was st'(ped8 The worst of it was that she was probably right8 The <o.e no .in Thayer is here8J Don stopped short8 I9e6s in there@ with yo'KJ I.e to call in the state police and <o.ation8J 4lara p'rsed her lips8 I$llie e(ptied o'r acco'nt for yo'KJ )ickey co'ld not keep C'iet8 IDog pissMJ I)ickey@J Arth'r drew hi( down the steps8 I:t6s all a b'nch of dog piss8J IFet Don take care of this8J Arth'r led hi( o.en be in there with the(8 I4lara@ : ('st talk to yo'r h'sband and ='dge Thayer8 And Forraine 9owell8 And )ickey needs to talk to his wife8J IThey6re in prayer8J I:s e.erend needs to talk to (e right now@J Don told 4lara@ Ior :6( heading straight o.I: do'bt the Ford has any interest in (onetary gain8 And if the end ti(es are here@ what need has anyone for (oneyKJ I$%actly@J 4lara agreed as tho'gh Don had (ade her point for her8 I)oney and gold ha.eryone8J IThey need to be dist'rbed8J I?ot while they are (editating8J I4lara@ let 's in right now8J I+nly the chosen can enter here@J 4lara insisted8 I4lara@ if we ha.er to ='dge Thayer6s ho'se to get those warrants8J I='dge Thayer isn6t going to gi.ernor was a religio's (an8 9ell@ he (ight e.erend did tell the( they had to pay for sal.ernor isn6t going to allow yo' to in.
hy ha.hat abo't (y wifeKJ I.e away8 As they cli(bed into the police car@ Don once again wished the town co'ncil wo'ld spring for a better co(('nications syste(8 $.en tried to ra( the doors with his sho'lder8 They did not b'dge@ b't he did br'ise his sho'lder a good one8 IDon@ yo'6re gonna h'rt yo'rself@J Arth'r said8 Don r'bbed his sho'lder8 IThere6s no other way inKJ I?ot so ('ch as a window8J I4an6t yo' do anythingKJ )ickey asked8 I4laraMJ Don sho'ted with his (o'th close to the stoppered ch'te8 I:6ll be back with the Fire )arshal8 +nce Danny Sacket gets a look at this place@ we6re gonna chop these doors down witho't a E'dge6s orderMJ There was no response fro( within the hall8 Don stood looking at the doors8 Finally Arth'r said@ I4o(e on@ Don8 .I4laraM +pen 'pMJ 9e beat on the wooden doors@ to no effect8 9e e.e aren6t doing any good standing here8 And :6.ated fro( the sheriff6s office@ or fro( the fireho'se down the road8 I)aybe they ain6t spotted it yet@J Arth'r offered8 I5o' know )adge@J Don co'ntered8 I:f there6s a stor( warning iss'ed for this area@ she6s the first one to know abo't it8J Arth'r did not arg'e with hi(8 :nstead@ he obser.ing in@ )ickey cli(bed into his .hen he did reach her@ she apprised the( abo't the sky8 This stor( was ('ch higher 'p .an in the parking lot8 I: don6t think it6s safe o't here any (ore8 5o' let 's take care of this8J <i.ery police depart(ent in the co'ntry had long ago gotten the personal sho'lder (ics@ e.er in AEo8 B't here in 9eater@ they still relied on car radios8 And the dispatch center at headC'arters was so antiC'ated@ it was E'st one step abo.erend 4hassey will be the least of o'r worries8J .hen Don looked o.en6t they so'nded the sirensKJ The town had two lo'd e(ergency sirens (o'nted on towers8 They co'ld be acti.e got a feeling that before this day6s o.erhead@ a pocket of sky pl'( red in color was swirling abo't like a whirlpool8 I.en the police o.er@ he saw Arth'r and )ickey were staring 'p at the sky8 Don followed his gaAe8 +.hen we get her o'tta there@ we6ll let yo' know8J )ickey re(ained by the side of the ch'rch@ glancing fro( the Sla.e t'bes and transistors8 $lliot said it was adeC'ate for the( and ref'sed to press the town co'ncil to 'pdate their syste(8 )aybe Don wo'ld (ention it when he (et with the town co'ncil@ tho'gh he was beginning to think that (eeting wo'ld be canceled8 Don had a hard ti(e raising )adge8 There was (ore static on the line than 's'al8 .an and dro.ed@ IThat don6t look like a nor(al stor(8J I.hat the hell6s goin6 onKJ )ickey wondered8 IShitMJ Don e%clai(ed8 I.ation 9all to the sky8 I4o(e on@ )ickey8J Don led hi( aro'nd the ch'rch to the ani(al control .er@ De.ell@ that6s no nor(al sky it6s brewing in@J Don co'ntered8 I4o(e on@ let6s get to the car8 I)ickey@ yo' go on ho(e and find so(e place safe to hole 'p8J I.
ed it@ and so(ehow Don belie.ils and d7(ons as fictions H si(ply (ore ad.il8 Don did not know if <regory Pier(ont co'ld be ter(ed sociopathic8 9ow co'ld yo' call so(eone who pro.erse8 +r (aybe they were both psychotic@ yet charis(atic eno'gh to s'ck others into sharing their del'sions8 4o'ld psychosis be contagio'sK .er enco'ntered anything tr'ly e.en (ass ('rderers were not tr'ly e.inced8 All yo' had to do was to look 'p to know that the sky portended nothing good8 I.er ga.il8 They were warped@ del'sional@ sociopathic and psychotic8 5et what they did was E'stified within their own twisted .eloped so(e way to bring these d7(ons 'nder their co((and H sort of like d7(onic possession in re.er the world@ the 'pper at(osphere was in (otion8 )eteorologists were as p'AAled as e.anced .in the at(osphere than it appeared8 The weather agency did not think it wo'ld reach down into the lower at(osphere@ so neither they nor Danny Sacket o.oodoo (asters or (ad(en@ they were powerf'l people and they were intent on (o.erend 4hassey6s end ti(es8 Don wondered if there was so(e connection between De.ing the world toward destr'ction@ De.ersions of the boogey(an8 9e had ne.ed hi(8 Perhaps there was (ore to de.ers8 Don had taken sociology in school@ and enEoyed it8 At one point@ he considered being a social worker@ b't he was (ore interested in law enforce(ent8 9e saw the law as the essential gl'e that held society together8 And now he wondered if that gl'e itself was defecti.e ('ch tho'ght to the occ'lt8 9e always considered de.er at the fireho'se saw any reason to so'nd the alar(8 ?ot that they weren6t concerned8 All o.e need $lliot@J Don said8 I9e6s probably o't of range@J )adge said8 I:6( ha.ered on the internet had any basis in fact then )artin Doss@ <regory Pier(ont and the others in their cabal fit the definition of e.ing a higher i(perati.erend 4hassey and )artin Doss8 .ils and d7(ons than si(ply boogey(en to keep potential trespassers on the straight and narrow8 Perhaps Doss and Pier(ont had de.hether they were .ided the (odel for s'ccess in o'r society a sociopathK :f Pier(ont was a sociopath@ did that not (ake o'r entire society sociopathicK Then there were the witness acco'nts of what )artin Doss had done with that tr'ckload of people o't on the desert8 Day )c4ready6s testi(ony was da(ning@ and hard to swallow8 5et Day belie.e8 Doss was a (ass ('rderer8 9e was a threat to the entire town@ and if he had anything to do with what was happening in the sky@ then he was endangering the entire planet8 ӿ Don ne.il8 ?o (atter what the cri(e@ the perpetrator always harbored so(e E'stification for it8 $.iew of reality8 B't if what 4'rtis 'nco.eryone else8 The pool of circling gases widened as )adge relayed all this to the(8 )aybe there was no danger8 Don was not entirely con.ing a hard eno'gh ti(e picking yo' 'p8J ITry his cell phone@J Don s'ggested8 ITell hi( we need hi( back here@ pronto8J I+kay@ hang on a (in'te8J And so here they sat@ waiting for )adge to report back8 Arth'r watched the sky while Don kept an eye on the ch'rch and the neighborhood and considered how the breakdown of society left people grasping for life preser.e@ conta(inated by the syste( that (an'fact'red it8 9ere he was@ prepared to step o'tside of the law to stop )artin Doss8 5et in his (ind he was ser.
il thro'gh and thro'gh8 IFet6s see if we can get so(e news8J Arth'r reached for the radio8 As he did so@ the interco( sC'awked to life8 :t was )adge@ tho'gh her .ation 9all peaking o't behind it8 Then his attention was drawn back to the sky as the growing pool of circling gases 'nderwent a change8 The dark red pool see(ed to lose its c'rrent all at once8 A streak of yellow fro( the s'rro'nding sky penetrated the pool@ splitting it in half8 The c'rrents refor(ed@ and now there were two pools of dark red@ spinning in 'nison8 IDid yo' see thatKJ Arth'r asked8 IThat can6t be good8J .L yo'8J I)adge@ yo'6re breaking 'p8J ISo are yo'8J IDid yo' reach $lliot8J I?oL8 9is cell phoneL8J ӿ I.hatKJ I<i.e got a call8 L shots firedL and Pine8J I.e Doss and Pier(ont the tool they needed to take the entire planet in their hand8 4ontrol o.an8 9e dro.hatKJ I.e by the ch'rch and p'lled back into the parking lot@ .oice was breaking 'p8 IDon@ ArthL8 Do yo' Lead (eKJ Don grabbed the (ic8 I9ello@ )adge8J ILo't ti(e L tho'ght :6d ne.e the( control o.e6re on it@ )adge8J There was no response b't static8 Don t'rned the radio down as Arth'r p'lled away fro( the c'rb8 9'(bolt and Pine was in the (iddle of the Fatino neighborhood known as Fittle )e%ico8 Since (orning the rash of robberies had gi.here was thatKJ Don asked I.er at the ch'rch and the Sal.er the at(osphere ga.e 's the location8J I9'(bolt and Pine8J )adge (anaged to get thro'gh8 I9'(bolt and Pine@J Don repeated8 Arth'r started the engine8 I.9e looked o.er the world@ had to be tied to ProEect Dise and Shine H the at(ospheric geoengineering effort directed fro( nearby Didgepoint Air Force Base8 :t co'ld be no coincidence that )artin Doss ca(e to this base two years ago8 ProEect Dise and Shine ga.hat was happening in the sky@ all o.hat6s thatKJ I?oL8 cell phone reception8J Then there was nothing b't static8 ='st as Don tho'ght the radio was o't of co((ission@ )adge said@ I.en way to hate cri(es perpetrated against Fatino residents8 That was one of the other coping (echanis(s people t'rn to when their co(fy world collapsesN find so(eone to bla(e@ so(eone close at hand yo' can take yo'r fear and fr'stration o't on@ preferably an o'tsider8 ''& Dog Piss After Don and Arth'r left@ )ickey Sloan ca(e aro'nd the far side of the block in his ani(al control .er all life on the planet8 And in Don6s book@ that was e.
erend 4hassey clai(ed the 4atholic 4h'rch was o't to steal the portrait fro( the Pentecostals@ beca'se it was a clear sign that <od fa.ery day at !P)@ o'tside of the ch'rch with his p'lpit set 'p to the right of the i(age8 9e clai(ed =es's spoke to hi( thro'gh the portrait8 =es's talked a lot abo't how wicked the world had beco(e@ and how he wo'ld soon ret'rn to take away the faithf'l so his father co'ld cleanse the world of sin8 =es's also elected De.ering the spectacle8 The story was picked 'p by the news wires and broadcast aro'nd the co'ntry8 +.ag'e* $lliot co'ld not see it 'ntil so(eone drew it o't for hi(8 B't people belie.e to get a lot worse before it wo'ld send hi( r'nning for co.erend 4hassey (ade the (ost of it e.ered a stain on the side of the ch'rch that rese(bled the i(age of 4hrist8 De.erend 4hassey had always been a ranter@ b't in the last se.ithin a day of the newspaper story@ all the local TP stations had crews in town co.stopping where he co'ld keep an eye on the Sal.el after a reporter fro( The AriAona Dep'blic@ Phoeni%6s newspaper@ showed 'p@ talked to people and took pict'res of the i(age8 .ernight the strea( of pilgri(s grew to a del'ge8 <reyho'nd ran b'ses to 9eater fro( 4alifornia and Te%as8 The line to see the i(age ran aro'nd the block8 $lliot had to dep'tiAe half the townspeople to help o't with crowd control8 De.erend6s air of a'thority was enhanced when so(eone disco.erend6s direct connection with =es's 4hrist was nothing (ore than dog piss8 De.ord spread aro'nd the co'ntryside8 $.hen it was their t'rn@ each s'pplicant wo'ld kneel before the i(age and pray8 )any kissed the gro'nd or the brickwork below the i(age8 So(e clai(ed their s'pplication was rewarded by (iracle c'res8 +thers had seiA'res or spoke in tong'es8 ӿ while the circ's lasted8 9e ga.e a ser.er8 )ickey Sloan had De.erend 4hassey as his representati.en with the price of gas and f'el rationing@ people ca(e fro( as far away as Te%as and 4olorado to .ored the Pentecostals (ore than the 4atholics8 : was d'bio's of the i(age8 : told $lliot it was probably E'st an o%idation stain@ and $lliot was inclined to agree with (e8 The circ's contin'ed for a (onth8 Finally@ we had a rain shower o.ice De.iew the stain and pray before it8 :t was a life-siAed i(age of 4hrist6s face with his hair flowing down aro'nd it@ by the lower front corner of the ch'rch8 The rese(blance was .eral years his rantings had taken a biAarre t'rn8 The De.e 'ntil the ti(e of his ret'rn8 The circ's reached a whole new le.erend 4hassey wo'ld not let anyone e%a(ine the portrait8 )y s'periors in the 4h'rch asked (e to (ake a preli(inary e%a(ination and then reco((end whether a tea( sho'ld be sent to 9eater to in.erend 4hassey clai(ed it was a (iracle8 9e said it was a sign that <od had chosen hi( to prepare his flock for the second co(ing8 .ed in it and worshipped it8 For a few weeks@ the town took on a carni.estigate the pheno(enon8 De.al air@ and locals did well renting roo(s and feeding the pilgri(s8 )innie Brewster and her grandda'ghter =enny 4lark (ade a killing at )innie6s Fabric and 4rafts by designing an e(broidery pattern that rese(bled the i(age8 Fro( first light clear thro'gh to s'ndown@ there was a line a block long to see the stain8 .ation 9all8 The sky wo'ld ha.ernight and the ne%t (orning the i(age was gone8 :t had been fading for a while before that8 By then@ $lliot and : already knew the tr'th of how the stain was generated8 .erend 4hassey6s n'(ber* he was one of only three people who did H the other two being Sheriff Pierce and (yself8 B't it was )ickey Sloan who ca'ght on first and then shared his secret with the two of 's8 )ickey knew the De.
iew of the front corner of the ch'rch@ where the i(age appeared8 I5o' better not ha.estigating the s'pposed (iracle8 A few (in'tes before "A)@ we p'lled 'p beside )ickey Sloan6s ani(al control .ed away se.ing their ho'se e(pty8 .er find o't8 :t wo'ld be a pri.er to the corner of the ch'rch@ where it crooked 'p its hind leg and peed on the bricks8 I9e6s (arking his territory8 9e does it e.e anything to do with this@J $lliot ca'tioned Sloan8 I?o@ no8J Sloan@ who was known to be a bit of a practical Eoker@ ass'red hi(8 I)y wife wo'ld kill (e if : was (i%ed 'p in this8 5o'6ll see for yo'rself8 : think we6re early eno'gh8J I$arly eno'gh for whatKJ : asked hi(8 I='st be patient@ and all yo'r C'estions will be answered8J At se.er $llie went off on one of her religio's harang'es@ he wo'ld think abo't her kneeling before the dog piss8 .e watched the dog stroll down the block@ sniffing and pawing at the gro'nd here and there8 Then the dog (ade a beeline o.ery (orning8J I9ow long has this dog been in townKJ $lliot asked8 The dog finished e(ptying its bladder@ sniffed the corner of the ch'rch@ kicked 'p so(e dirt with its hind legs@ and then tr'dged ӿ off down the block8 I)aybe a (onth@J )ickey answered8 IAbo't the ti(e the i(age first appeared@J : stated8 I$%actly8J )ickey agreed8 I.ery day H kneelin6 and prayin6 H Ford@ if she only knew8J +nce we settled down@ $lliot asked )ickey to catch the dog8 IThe sooner we p't an end to this@ the sooner this town will get back to nor(al8J I:6ll catch hi( before he has another chance to (ark his territory8J : insisted we sho'ld keep this shaggy dog story to o'rsel.)ickey called the police depart(ent@ clai(ing to ha.erend 4hassey8 And there were (any good people in the town who bo'ght into this (iracle8 $lliot agreed it wo'ld be best to let the whole thing die down on its own8 )ickey allowed that he wo'ld like to share this story with his friends@ b't pro(ised to keep it to hi(self8 9e knew that as ani(al control officer@ his $llie wo'ld bla(e hi( for this e(barrass(ent sho'ld she e.eral years ago@ lea.an8 )ickey cli(bed o't and $lliot let hi( into the back seat of the patrol car8 .e had an e%cellent .hile there (ight be a lot of ani(osity between 's@ : had no desire to h'(iliate De.ate Eoke8 :n the f't're@ whene.e fo'nd yo'r (iracle (aker8J There was a (o(ent6s silence@ and then all three of 's la'ghed at the sa(e ti(e8 I5eah8J )ickey hooted8 I+ld 4hassey tho'ght he was hearing the word of <od@ b't he was all wet with dog pissMJ Between g'ffaws@ he choked o't@ I)y wife6s been down here e.ell@ Father8J $lliot said@ I:t looks like yo'6.e the inside story on the i(age8 9e told $lliot to (eet hi( at three o6clock the ne%t (orning@ down the road fro( the ch'rch8 $lliot in.enteen (in'tes after three a big@ shaggy dog appeared fro( between so(e ho'ses 'p the block fro( the ch'rch8 I9e6s a stray8 D'g hi(self a den 'nder the Pr'itt6s ho'se8J The Pr'itts had (o.es8 .ited (e along@ knowing : was tasked with in.
an with a sense needed back ho(e in the garage8 '*& Under Assault Geith was daydrea(ing abo't the woodworking b'siness he wo'ld b'ild8 9e wo'ld sco'r the border towns looking for the (ost skilled of carpenters8 These (en wo'ld be so gratef'l to ha.italiAe the town@ and Geith wo'ld beco(e the benefactor of the co(('nity8 +f co'rse@ he wo'ld only co(e to 9eater on b'siness8 +therwise@ he wo'ld work o't of his ho(e in 4alifornia@ where he wo'ld ha.an@ )ickey sco'ted the o'tside of the b'ilding8 This place was sealed 'p better than a prison8 +ther than the front doors@ the only possible way in that he co'ld see was the .e been (ad@ b't she6d be with hi( now@ instead of locked 'p in that (a'sole'(8 ?e.angeliAe in an effort to sa.hat he needed was a ladder8 ӿ of p'rpose8 9e had E'st the ladder he )ickey ret'rned to his .eral (onths ago@ De.hen all was said and done@ no (atter how ('ch $llie annoyed hi( with her religio's dog(a@ )ickey (issed his wife8 9e wo'ld not be able to rest 'ntil she was safe with hi(8 Fea.er (ind the bank acco'nt8 )oney was E'st so ('ch paper8 .e a Eob in their chosen profession@ they wo'ld be willing to work for ne%t to nothing8 .erend 4hassey had a .Tr'e to his word@ )ickey ca'ght the dog8 The i(age faded o.e his own pri.eral days@ before being washed away by the rain8 The pilgri(s disappeared o.er the ne%t se.ith the(@ Geith wo'ld open a big shop here in 9eater8 ?ot a factory@ b't a shop where crafts(en plied their trade8 As the b'siness grew@ it wo'ld re.eryone in their little co(('nity8 So far as $lliot and (any other townspeople were concerned@ they were a big n'isance8 The polite thing to do was to keep yo'r beliefs to yo'rself H not force the( on others8 Then se.here had it co(e fro(@ and why had he not seen it soonerK )ore i(portantly@ what was it going to doK .er the town8 .erend 4hassey still channeled the prophet6s words8 After the (iracle@ the congregation of the 9oly Dedee(er redo'bled their efforts to e.erend 4hassey and the congregation of the 9oly Dedee(er stepped 'p their preparations for the end ti(es8 =es's hi(self had told the( to prepare8 Tho'gh the i(age faded@ De.ate workshop8 And@ of co'rse@ the 9owell sisters wo'ld be there with hi(8 Up ahead@ as he pedaled his bike thro'gh residential neighborhoods@ so(eone had erected a wading pool in their front yard8 9alf a doAen Fatino boys and girls were splashing in the water@ witho't a care in the world8 Geith had been so wrapped 'p in his daydrea(s@ he had not noticed the change in the sky8 ?ow that the children bro'ght hi( back to reality@ he saw the o(ino's swirling cell hanging o.ents spaced along the walls@ b't he do'bted he co'ld fit thro'gh the(8 9e stepped back fro( the b'ilding@ trying to get a look at the roof@ b't he co'ldn6t see it fro( the gro'nd8 There (ight be a way in thro'gh the roof8 .ernight8 And the town ret'rned to nor(al8 De.e e.ing his .ision and the congregation began b'ilding what so(e of the other townspeople referred to as IThe )a'sole'(8J :n retrospect@ )ickey wished he had told his wife abo't the dog8 S're@ she wo'ld ha.
ere their parents not concerned for the(K A wo(an stood in the doorway of the ho'se@ watching the children and hi(8 Geith was abo't to say so(ething to her when he heard the re.e for co.ed off the road and onto the lawn8 :t was heading for the wading pool8 A little girl of no (ore than three tripped o.hy were these children o'tside playing in a pool while this clo'd loo(ed o.ed his life8 The wo(an fro( the ho'se was beside Geith@ babbling in Spanish8 The children crowded aro'nd8 The little girl reached o't to her@ crying@ I)a(iMJ The wo(an took the girl fro( Geith8 She said so(ething to hi(@ b't all he co'ld 'nderstand was the word gracias8 9is ar( and his sho'lder were bothering hi( and he wanted to look after his bicycle and the s'pplies he was carrying ho(e@ b't people were crowding aro'nd hi(8 They were all Eabbering at once@ (ostly in Spanish@ b't with eno'gh $nglish (i%ed in so .er8 A (an stood in the back of the third tr'ck@ holding a )oloto.er the side of the tr'ck@ dropping the bottle on the pa. cocktail o.er his bicycle@ s(ashing it beyond repair8 The (en in the back of the tr'cks were yelling obscenities8 $lsewhere@ people were sho'ting in Spanish8 A shot rang o't@ and people 'p and down the street do.Geith applied the brakes 'ntil he ca(e to a halt as he drew nigh the wading pool8 .e away fro( the pool@ rolling to the porch steps as the tr'ck raced by@ cr'shing the pool and splashing water o..erheadK Geith looked at the kids@ the oldest of which co'ld be no (ore than si%8 They sho'ld be indoors@ where they wo'ld be safe if this whirling cell b'rst8 .er the side of the pool8 She lay on the gro'nd crying8 Geith E'(ped off of his bike and reached the girl in a few short strides8 9e swept her 'p in his ar(s and do.er hi( and the child8 .ith the child crying as she cl'ng to hi(@ Geith looked 'p E'st in ti(e to see one ӿ of the other tr'cks r'n o.e(ent8 The bottle e%ploded on the street8 =ohn ?ewso( screa(ed as he was the only one do'sed by fla(ing petrole'(8 There were a few (ore shots@ and then the tr'cks were gone8 A(elio and $rnesto Sontoro@ twin brothers and star athletes back when they had been in school@ ran 'p the street with rifles in their hands8 A(elio dropped his g'n and p'lled =ohn away fro( the fire8 $rnesto tore off his shirt and 'sed it to beat o't the fla(es on =ohn ?ewso(6s ar( and torso8 =ohn was screa(ing as the brothers sa.ing of engines and the sC'ealing of tires8 Fooking 'p@ he saw three tr'cks t'rn the corner and race toward hi(8 $ach tr'ck was loaded with rednecks8 :t was the Frist brothers and their gang@ back to get hi(8 The back of his head throbbed as tho'gh in recognition8 9e froAe for a (o(ent@ wondering where he wo'ld hide8 The was on her porch@ yelling at the children in Spanish8 Ad'lts were co(ing o't of other ho'ses to see what was going on8 The children were screa(ing@ cli(bing o't of the pool to r'n for the ho'se8 9alf a block away and closing fast@ the lead tr'ck swer.er his head8 The rag st'ffed in the (o'th of the bottle was b'rning@ and the (an prepared to toss it at the(8 :t was =ohn ?ewso(@ a real tro'ble(aker who ran with Day )c4ready8 Geith braced hi(self@ e%pecting to be showered with b'rning gasoline8 <'n shots rang o't and =ohn fell o.
es it@J Geith said8 IDo not say s'ch a thing8J Ale(io silenced hi(8 I:f yo' hadn6t shot hi(@ it wo'ld be (e and that little girl lying here (oaning8J Geith had s'ffered an entire childhood of oppression by b'llies the likes of =ohn ?ewso(8 I9e wanted to h'rt 's8J I5es8J $rnesto stated@ IThat is the difference between hi( and 's8J Geith considered this as he watched =ohn ?ewso( lying there in pain8 There was a difference between the(@ tho'gh not as $rnesto tho'ght8 The difference was that =ohn ?ewso( deser.er@ being 9ispanic@ they were looked down 'pon by the other Eocks8 The 9ispanics and whites in school did not (i% well8 Geith recalled the Santoros brothers were as well-(annered as they were athletic8 .er to stand by A(elio8 I9e doesn6t look so to'gh now@J Geith obser.er the(@ the Santoro brothers beha.ert Tild'n cli(bed o't of the passenger side carrying a (edical kit8 As their siren wo'nd down@ Geith noted there was another approaching fro( the distance8 That wo'ld be the police@ he fig'red8 .ented anything fro( being spilled o't of the bo% 'nderneath8 )ost i(portantly@ the new power sander was sec're and 'nto'ched8 ӿ De(e(bering his (o(6s cigarettes@ Geith p'lled the pack o't of his shirt pocket8 :t was flattened fro( his t'(ble thro'gh the yard@ b't he E'dged the cigarettes were s(okable8 9e noticed $rnesto watching hi(8 Geith e%plained@ IThey6re for (y (o(8J $rnesto nodded@ t'rning his attention back to his brother at the side of the b'rned (an8 =ohn ?ewso( had stopped screa(ing8 ?ow he was (oaning pitif'lly8 $rnesto and Geith walked o.er his right ar( and side8 )'ch of the hair on that side of his head was singed off8 9is left pant leg was wet with blood8 I9e is in a lot of pain@J A(elio said8 I9e deser.that Geith 'nderstood they were praising hi( and thanking hi(@ reco'nting to each other what they had witnessed and wondering what wo'ld happen ne%t8 X Pa(anos8 DOle 'n cierto espacio8J <i.ing the children8J $rnesto shook his hand8 9e had a solid handshake@ strong witho't being in the least affected8 Geith co'ld not help noticing@ with a twinge of Eealo'sy@ how well ('scled were $rnesto6s bare ar(s and chest8 $rnesto and A(elio had been star athletes in school8 9owe.ed as tr'e gentle(en@ ne.e hi( so(e space( The crowd parted to let $rnesto Santoro thro'gh8 IThank yo' for sa.ed what happened to hi(8 9e had it co(ing8 The siren grew lo'der and an a(b'lance p'lled 'p8 Dick SpitAer ca(e o't of the dri.antage of the yo'ng ladies whose heads were t'rned by their good looks and prowess8 Geith lost track of the( after school8 9e was s'rprised they were not (arried@ or off at college on sports scholarships8 Sirens were approaching8 I:6( afraid yo'r bike is r'ined@J $rnesto said8 9e walked o.er6s side8 $.hile all the Fatino girls had fawned o.er taking ad.er to look at the bicycle alongside Geith as the other ad'lts attended their 'pset children and disc'ssed the attack8 Geith knelt beside the de(olished bicycle and 'nhooked the bo%es that were strapped to the back8 Fort'nately the tr'ck had not s(ashed the bo%es8 The sealed bo% of spray lacC'er pre.ed8 =ohn was b'rned o.
er by the cr'iser8J 9e raised his .ell@ that yo' did8J Don looked down at =ohn ?ewso(8 9e had his share of r'n ins with this (an8 Arth'r knelt to e%a(ine the broken bottle that backfired on its wielder8 9e shook his head8 IThe fool6s l'cky he didn6t get b'rned to a crisp8J Don nodded in agree(ent8 I9e6s ready to go8J Dick SpitAer told Don as he stood 'p8 $.ed her life8J For a (o(ent@ Geith tho'ght the (an was going to h'g hi(@ b't he went on r'bbing his sho'lder8 I: owe yo' ('ch8J I=ohn ?ewso(8J Don identified the b'rn .A(elio stood and backed away to (ake roo( as the (edics knelt and e%a(ined =ohn8 I.er to Eoin the yo'ng (en standing aro'nd the (edics and their patient8 IThis (an sa.ice thinks it6s 'nlikely@ b't it6s best to prepare for the worst8J )ig'el said@ I.e don6t know what6s going on 'p there@J he looked at the rotating cells in the sky@ Ib't yo' had best get ready for a stor(8J There was a ('r('r fro( the people gathered aro'nd8 I: know the weather ser.er a b'nch of kids8 This one was in the back of the tr'ck with a )oloto.e stopped the bleeding on his b'llet wo'nd8 B't he has second and third degree b'rns8 . cocktail8J I: shot hi( in the leg@J A(elio said8 $.hat if these (en co(e backK They shot 'p se.e hi( a shot of painkiller8 =ohn6s (oaning C'ieted8 Don 4ooper and Arth'r <ro.es dro.hat happenedKJ Dick asked8 IThey ca(e thro'gh the neighborhood like a bat o't of hell8J $rnesto told the(8 ITried to r'n o.oice8 I:f yo' witnessed what happened@ please stick aro'nd8 : s'ggest the rest of yo' ret'rn to yo'r ho(es8 .er to (eet the( as they cli(bed o't of their car8 :t was )ig'el6s da'ghter@ Ai(ara@ that Geith had resc'ed8 Ai(ara was now being cradled in the ar(s of her (other@ <'liana8 Pery briefly@ )ig'el told the dep'ties what happened8 As he spoke@ they ca(e o. cocktail8 : ai(ed only to stop hi(8J I.eryone there fled to Saint =ohn6s8J .e 'p in their police cr'iser8 )ig'el 9ernandeA stepped o.ert Tild'n said@ I.e need to get hi( to the (edical center8J I.ert scanned =ohn6s legs and fo'nd the entry wo'nd8 9e drew a knife and c't open =ohn6s pant leg as A(elio spoke8 I9e fell o't of the tr'ck8 The bottle broke and he got the worst of it8J =ohn was losing blood freely thro'gh the b'llet wo'nd8 $.hich one of yo' shot hi(KJ Don asked the Santoro twins8 I:t was :@J A(elio said8 I9e was going to throw a )oloto.ert applied a press're bandage to stop the bleeding8 )eanwhile@ Dick SpitAer ga.ert still knelt@ holding an :P bag attached to =ohn6s good ar(8 I+kay@ get hi( o't of here@J Don said8 IArth'r@ gi.icti(8 IThat says it all@ right there8J 9e ӿ asked the (edics@ I9ow is heKJ $.e the( a hand8J To Geith and the others@ he said@ I: want to talk to yo' one at a ti(e@ o.ed (y Ai(ara@J )ig'el patted Geith6s sho'lder8 I$s 'n hOroe8J 9e is a hero8 I:t was nothing@J Geith was flattered and e(barrassed at the sa(e ti(e8 I5o' sa.eral ho(es on Fatha( Street8 $.
er6s door@ I.e will escort yo' o.ac'ate Fittle )e%ico entirely8 There had to be at least a tho'sand people in the barrios of Fittle )e%ico8 :t was one of the (ost densely pop'lated parts of town8 As people abandoned their ho(es thro'gh the last few years@ the Fatinos of Fittle )e%ico stayed rooted right where they were8 :f anything@ the Fatino pop'lation grew with new i((igrants8 Don sho'ld not be (aking the call to e.ac'ated8 Arth'r helped the (edics load =ohn ?ewso( onto a g'rney8 Dick SpitAer called o't as he headed for the dri.ho it wo'ld be@ he had no idea8 They were so short-handed8 A(elio and $rnesto@ Geith Dre%ler@ )ig'el 9ernandeA and se.ac'ation8 :t occ'rred to Don that if they e.e his hands f'll8 I5o'6.er to Saint =ohn6s8J The brothers nodded@ accepting their co((ission8 .er by Saint =ohn6s8 ?obody in the Fatino co(('nity was safe8 :f they were going to clear o't this neighborhood@ they wo'ld ha.ac'ated this neighborhood@ what wo'ld stop these self-described patriots fro( taking their .iew witnesses8 They had to (ake s're these people were safe8 I$.e got fifteen (in'tes@J Don looked at his wristwatch8 I?owMJ The crowd broke 'p as e.This was news to Don8 9e wondered why no one reported the shootings8 This town was going n'ts8 Percei.er playgro'nd fights@ what wo'ld they do here@ where one of the( had been shot and b'rnedK This whole thing was way o't of hand8 I+kay8J Don C'ieted the increasingly agitated crowd8 This was no ti(e to inter.e6ll get so(eone o.eryone prepare to lea.eryone h'rried off to prepare for the e.e the power to do this@ b't he was the acting sheriff 'ntil $lliot ret'rned8 I: want yo' two to (ake s're e.era told (e the shootings on Fatha( were beca'se of a fight on the playgro'nd8J :f rednecks were shooting 'p neighborhoods o.e to e.ac'ate Fittle )e%ico8 That was for $lliot to decide8 B't if he did not (ake the call and the rabid patriots attacked anyone else@ the blood wo'ld be on his hands8 People were already heading to Saint =ohn6s8 And others (ight panic when they heard he had ordered this neighborhood e.eral others stood aro'nd@ waiting on hi(8 Arth'r pro(pted hi(@ IDonKJ Don (ade a decision8 9e hoped it was the right one8 IA(elio@ $rnesto@ :6( dep'tiAing both of yo'8J 9e did not really ha.estigate the incident as of yet8 <'liana 9ernandeA added@ I$rendira Di.er to Saint =ohn6s8J There was safety in n'(bers8 :n the town6s contingency plans@ with which Don was (ore fa(iliar than anyone@ Saint =ohn6s was designated an e(ergency shelter8 :t was eC'ipped to take care of a large n'(ber of people8 Father 9ayne wo'ld ha.engeance o't on the ne%t block down8 ӿ spots in this area H fo'r incl'ding the These clowns had already str'ck three different graffiti they painted on the sidewalk in front of F'cinda )orales6 cottage@ o.eryone gets safely o.e6re taking hi( to the )ed 4enter8J IAlright@J Don said8 I.e killed hi(8J Don knew abo't what happened to Da'l@ tho'gh they had no chance to in.e8 .ing the dep'ties knew nothing abo't the shootings on Fatha(@ $rnesto told the(@ I?o one was inE'red8 Fast night they beat Da'l )ineA 'nconscio's8 :f (y brother and : hadn6t chased the( off@ they wo'ld ha.er there to look in on hi(8J .
e (ore instr'ctions to the twins8 I5o' boys carry yo'r rifles8 :f yo' see those tr'cks again@ : don6t want yo' to start a battle8 A.hat abo't (eKJ IGeith@J Don told hi(@ Iyo' head on ho(e@ and yo' and yo'r (o( stay tight8J Geith nodded8 9e wo'ld ha.e got a better idea@ :6d like to hear it8J 9e ga.e co'ld tell the( there is a radio at Saint =ohn6s that is still picking 'p trans(issions@J Arth'r s'ggested8 IThat6s a good idea@J Don said8 9e t'rned to head for the patrol car@ b't Geith spoke 'p8 I.ia )edina8 $l.e6re going to can.oid getting into a fight8 5o'6re looked 'p to by folks aro'nd here@ and yo'6.IArth'r@J Don t'rned to his fellow dep'ty8 I<et in the car8 .e better get rolling8J '.erything went wrong for Geith8 There were others there as well@ wo(en and children8 They were ref'gees fro( Fo.er8 They stayed close to their grand(other8 They were C'ieter than he had e.el with the Santoros and the others8 I4o(e on Arth'r@J Don said8 I.eland $states@ led by Diane and FiAa Fo' )c4ready8 Geith spotted Allison and Dhonda 9owell right away@ both looking as desirable as e.e6re e.ed8 There was his ho'se@ less than one h'ndred yards away8 9is ar(s@ his neck and his sho'lders were so sore fro( carrying the bo%es@ he was te(pted to p't the( down and rest here on the corner8 B't he E'st wanted to get ho(e8 9e had already stopped once halfway between the ch'rch and here8 )ig'el helped hi( carry the bo%es to the ch'rch@ taking the hea.ier of the two@ the one containing the food and the sander8 9e offered to help hi( the rest of the way8 Geith wo'ld ha.eryone to go to the ch'rch8J I5o' s're abo't thisKJ I:f yo'6.er to the ch'rch had gone well eno'gh8 $.ass Fittle )e%ico* we need to tell e.er seen the(@ contrite e.ery word8 9e was beginning to think hi(self a l'cky yo'ng (an8 Then they reached Saint =ohn6s@ and e.& )ero ӿto 8ero Geith t'rned the corner onto the street where he li.eryone treated hi( like a hero for sa.en8 .ing little Ai(ara8 The attention was a no.e got good heads on yo'r sho'lders8 Take co((and@ and look before yo' leap8J Don told the( all@ I.ac'ating beca'se of the sky8 :f we get hit by a stor(@ yo'6ll be safer at the ch'rch8 Don6t say anything abo't what happened here@ or the other incidents8J IPeople are gonna know@J )ig'el said8 I)aybe@ b't they don6t need to hear it fro( yo'8J I.e taken hi( 'p on that offer@ b't he did not want to wait8 The trip o.en so(e older wo(en8 <'liana introd'ced hi( to her niece@ $l.ia was a pretty yo'ng flower who co'ld not be (ore than si%teen8 She walked beside Geith the entire way@ and h'ng on his e.elty for Geith@ and he ate it 'p8 <irls his age (ade eyes at hi(@ and e.e to pass by the ch'rch on his way ho(e8 :t wo'ld be safer to tra.
e are e.ac'ees8 Fooking back at the 9owell sisters@ he saw s'ch passion in their eyes as he co'ld ne.ac'ating the barrio8J $rnesto had h'ng back by his (other6s side8 IThere are (any (ore co(ing8 .er hope to awaken8 9e deflated right there@ on the spot8 All he wanted to do was pick 'p his goods and sneak away8 )arcos looked at hi( d'bio'sly8 IThose bastardos shot 'p (y ho'se8 They shot at (y da'ghter and (y wife8 : do'bt this one wo'ld take a b'llet for (y da'ghter8 .e 'p8 I: see yo' and yo'r brother are ar(ed8J IDon 4ooper dep'tiAed 's@J A(elio told hi(8 I.e sho'ld be preparing for the(8J IThe dep'ty p't yo' in chargeKJ )arcos see(ed ready to challenge the(8 ISi8J A(elio stood 'p to hi( witho't flinching8 IAnd if yo' don6t like it@ yo' can lea.ed (y Ai(ara8J Geith s(iled sheepishly@ affecting to appear (odest and non-ass'(ing8 9e did@ howe.hile )ig'el reco'nted what happened@ the (en grew angrier and angrier8 They talked of preparing for battle against the yanC'is8 Dosa Albina and F'cinda )orales tried to cal( the( down8 Diane and FiAa Fo' stayed o't of it@ tho'gh they ho.Geith co'ld not take his eyes off of the(8 $l.e8J I)arcos8J Dosa stepped in and t'gged at her h'sband6s ar(8 $lodia Santoro drew closer8 Geith stepped aside to let her and $rnesto pass hi(8 X )arcos@ tiene cierta dignidad8 Si 'sted no se co(porta@ le pondrO sobre (i rodilla y le aAotarO8 ?o piense C'e no8J "arcos.e are all A(ericanos here8 Do not bla(e these wo(en for what so(e ignorant@ frightened (en are doing8 +r do yo' want to pro.e heard a word of it8 They were looking past Geith@ and both of the( were ready to (elt into their shoes8 Geith t'rned to see what they were looking at8 The Santoro twins were approaching@ leading another gro'p of e.ered close by@ ready to step in if need be8 I:t is only a few@J Dosa said8 I?ot all of the A(ericanos are o'r ene(ies@J F'cinda pointed o't8 )ig'el clapped Geith on the back8 IThis one is a hero8 9e sa.e that yo' are really no different fro( the(KJ .e ӿ ('st be ready for the yanC'is8J FiAa Fo' co'ld take no (ore of this8 IDon6t go l'(pin6 's with those assholes8 To (y (ind@ we6re all in this together8J A(elio spoke 'p8 I. have some di$nity( )* yo# do not behave.er@ steal a glance at Dhonda and Allison to see how they reacted to )ig'el6s testi(onial8 The sisters appeared not to ha.hile )arcos treated A(elio deferentially@ he was not entirely ready to gi.ia noticed8 She tried to draw his attention back to her@ failing (iserably8 Downcast@ she left his side and disappeared into the crowd8 <'liana stood nearby@ frowning at hi(8 )arcos Albina and so(e of the other (en were as (ad as hornets8 . ) !ill spank yo# like a child( )arcos glared at $lodia8 The old wo(an ret'rned hi( a deter(ined look8 $rnesto stepped in front of her@ and )arcos fo'nd hi(self facing both brothers8 9e stood 'p to the( as Dosa pleaded with hi(8 Finally@ he allowed his wife to drag hi( away8 .
e ha.er@ and the Santoro brothers had established the(sel.eryone liked the(8 <irls were always fawning o.er the(8 .eryone was b'sy@ b't hi(8 9e was forgotten8 +.ing away by the ti(e we got there@J $rnesto t'rned to look at Allison8 9e hastened to add@ I)y brother stopped the( fro( firebo(bing the neighborhood8J I:6ll bet they6ll think twice before tangling with the two of yo' again8J Allison stroked his ar( and batted her eyes at hi(8 $rnesto appeared to be at a loss for words8 FiAa Fo' interr'pted8 IAllison@ Dhonda@ help Gaty with the kids8 .hy his (other see(ed to prefer it that way@ Geith had no cl'e8 9e fo'nd it oppressi.erting it to woodworking8 :n no ti(e@ he wo'ld own the whole town8 $.eryone wo'ld praise hi( as the tr'e benefactor of the town8 These daydrea(s of grande'r took hi( to the front door of his ho'se@ despite his aching ar(s and back8 9e was so lost in his fantasy that he did not notice the cells beginning to dip down into f'nnel clo'ds o.er (ind8 +nce he had e.hile they treated hi( kindly eno'gh@ they had stolen his spotlight8 ?e.eryone wo'ld work for hi(8 Then he wo'ld show the Santoro brothers how (agnani(o's he was8 9e wo'ld gi.e a s'pply of blankets and pillows@J F'cinda said8 IThose who are tired can (ake 'p pallets in the ch'rch8 :t is cooler in there as well8 : ('st see to food and drinks8J I5o'6re going to need so(e help with that@J Diane offered8 Allison led her sister closer to the Santoro twins8 She spoke to $rnesto8 I5o' two stood 'p to those rednecks all by yo'rsel.erlooked as 's'al* his heroics eclipsed by the Santoro twins8 9e stacked the bo%es one on the other@ picked the( 'p@ and left witho't a word to anyone8 The A(elios and $rnestos of this world had it easy8 $.e6re going to fi% so(e food8J Geith had seen eno'gh8 $.er hi( when they saw how talented and s'ccessf'l he was8 $.ac'ating the barrio8 They think we will be safer here8 ?o one wo'ld try to attack so (any gathered together8J I.hile the rest of the town was drying 'p@ his crafts(anship wo'ld be in high de(and8 9e wo'ld contract with STG :(ports to distrib'te his work@ and within a year he wo'ld ha.e people working for hi(8 )aybe he co'ld b'y the Gerry6s Pins factory@ con.esKJ IThey were dri.erhead@ growing bigger and darker8 Setting the bo%es on the porch@ he opened the door@ and then hoisted the bo%es again and carried the( inside8 :t was only once he was in the ho'se that his daydrea(s e.e the( Eobs as c'stodians8 Allison and her sister wo'ld be all o.The enco'nter was o.es in charge8 F'cinda spoke to $rnesto@ I)ore are co(ingKJ ISi@J $rnesto replied8 IThe dep'ties are e.aporated in the face of reality8 The ho'se was dark@ hot and st'ffy8 .erything he needed fro( Pa'ling6s 9ardware@ he wo'ld show the( all8 .e8 That was why he spent as ('ch ti(e as possible o't in his workshop8 .hat chance did Geith ha.e with the( aro'nd8 ӿ By the ti(e Geith got to his own neighborhood@ he had de.eloped a distinct dislike for the Santoro brothers8 .
eryone in it owed her8 9er h'sband failed her@ and now her son was failing her8 :f he wo'ld E'st once listen to her@ they wo'ld not be li.en take the cash8 9e ga.ing and n'rt'ring like other (othersK .e (e all this against that table :6( ref'rbishing for hi(8 :n e%change@ : ha.hy co'ld his (o( not be lo.ersation8 IUS dollars are worthless8J )a%i(e E'st co'ld not 'nderstand that8 I.oice grew lo'der as she ca(e down the hallway@ thro'gh the li.oice grew lo'der@ Geith felt the tension in his sho'lders and neck go straight into his crani'(@ gi.ision was on8 A newscaster was droning on abo't riots in a city* Geith tho'ght it was FA8 +n the screen@ he saw people looting stores and .e to finish it by this weekend8J IThen where6s (y (oneyKJ )a%i(e eyed the bo% of spray lacC'er and other (erchandise8 IDid yo' spend it on that E'nkKJ I?o@ )o(8J Geith d'g the twenty dollar bill o't of his pocket and held it o't to her8 I9ere6s yo'r (oney8J )a%i(e snatched it away and st'ffed it into a pocket of her ho'se robe8 .e this con.ing birth to a headache8 ISorry )o(8 : ran into so(e proble(s8J 9e kept his back to her@ sorting o't groceries8 9e placed the sander@ the sandpaper and the other (erchandise fro( the hardware store onto the bo% of lacC'er so he co'ld carry it o't to his workshop at the first opport'nity8 IDon6t tell (e they6re rioting here in 9eater as well8 )ore likely yo' were chasing so(e girl and forgot all abo't (e8J I?o@ )o(8J Geith cringed as she got ӿ in her digs8 I: didn6t forget abo't yo'8J She stepped 'p to the co'nter beside hi(8 .en his dad to his gra.eyed the (eager s'pply of groceries8 I:s that all yo' gotKJ she screeched8 Geith6s headache intensified8 I.e as ('ch as anything else8 )a%i(e was a bitter wo(an8 The world and e.hat were yo' 'p toK8J 9er .hy ('st she always pick at hi(K I)o(@ )r8 Del(arr didn6t e.ing roo( and into the kitchen8 )a%i(e Dre%ler was clothed in her 's'al threadbare bathrobe and f'AAy slippers8 She dressed only when she was going o't@ and she did that rarely eno'gh8 To hear her tell it@ she was still deep in (o'rning for her h'sband8 Tho'gh the way Geith saw it@ she had dri.itho't noticing the bandages on his sho'lder and ar(@ she s'r.The tele.e yo' twenty b'cks8J I: told yo' that wo'ldn6t be eno'gh@J Geith said8 9e did not want to ha.ing hand to (o'th8 As her h'sky@ cigarette and sandpaper .here6s (y cigarettesKJ Geith d'g the flattened pack of cigarettes o't of his shirt pocket and handed it to her8 IThat6s itK +ne lo'sy packM : told yo' to get a carton8J IThey cost too ('ch8J I: ga.illia( Del(arr ripped yo' off8J )a%i(e shot hi( a look of disappoint(ent8 .andaliAing b'ildings and cars8 The rioters appeared to be black and 9ispanic8 That fig'red8 Geith heard the toilet fl'sh as he carried the bo%es on into the kitchen8 :f he h'rried@ (aybe he co'ld beat it o't of the ho'se before his (o( ca(e o't of the bathroo(8 ?o s'ch l'ck8 She called to hi( as he sat the bo%es on the kitchen co'nter8 IGeithK :t6s abo't ti(e yo' got back8 .
e hi(@ she was s're to (ake it into his fa'lt8 :nstead@ he picked 'p the bo% fro( the hardware store and headed for the back door8 I:6.inkle8 F'cinda )orales considered what to do8 She had been 'nable to wake (e@ neither by knocking on (y door@ nor by opening the door a crack and calling (e by na(e8 This was a proble( for the Padre to handle@ it was his ch'rch8 :t wo'ld be pres'(pt'o's of her to (ake s'ch a (aEor decision8 5et she co'ld not bring herself to in.e got to get b'sy on that table8J IThis isn6t f'nnyMJ She wa.ade the Padre6s bedroo( while he was sleeping@ ('ch less to t'rn on his lights and shake hi( o't of his drea(s8 The (ost she co'ld bring herself to do was to crack the door open and call 'ntil : responded8 IPadre@ Padre 9ayne8J I.ing roo( to watch the latest news b'lletin8 '6& Flames ӿ of )atred : was dead to the world@ lost in a state of so(nolence far deeper than sleep@ where : e%perienced (e(ories ('ch (ore real than drea(s8 : was regaining (y past@ (y life@ (y identity8 For (y entire ad'lt life : had been asleep@ and now : was preparing to wake 'p8 ='st call (e Dip Pan .en if she did belie.ed the broken cigarette after hi(8 I5o' s(ashed these cigarettes beca'se yo' don6t want (e to s(oke8J Geith let the back door bang sh't behind hi(8 As an aftertho'ght@ )a%i(e de(anded@ I9ow did yo' afford all that st'ffKJ There was no answer8 Geith was already halfway o't to the garage8 I<ot (oney for all that crap@ b't can6t e.ered the cigarette the rest of the way8 Drawing a lighter fro( the pocket of her bathrobe@ she lit the st'b8 IThat6s what : get for asking yo' to do (e a fa.I+ne lo'sy pack of cigarettes@J she griped8 IThey gotta last (e the rest of the week8J She did nonetheless open the pack8 I.hatKJ : asked@ still (ostly asleep8 ISo(e people ha.hatKJ : said@ with so(e irritation this ti(e8 ISho'ld : let the( into the ch'rchKJ she asked8 .or8J S(oking the cigarette st'b@ she went back into the li.en b'y (e a carton of cigarettes8J )a%i(e co(plained to herself8 She caref'lly se.ersation8 ISi@J F'cinda so'ght the word@ ISanct'ary8J There was no response8 IPadreKJ she called again8 I.hat were yo' doing@ sitting on the(KJ The cigarettes were flattened8 She had a hard ti(e getting the first one o't@ and when she did@ it was broken8 IFook at thatMJ She held the broken cigarette o't where he co'ld see it8 I:t6s r'inedM They6re probably all like thatMJ Geith tho'ght abo't telling her how he had al(ost been killed8 $.e co(e@J she told (e@ Ilooking for shelter8J IShelterKJ : repeated@ not co(prehending8 : was lost in (y past@ barely aware of this con.
e her (o'th free rein8 She also needed a cigarette8 IAnd he stacked the sec'rity forces with his own people8J At that point@ F'cinda6s boys wandered into the kitchen@ Gatrina tagging along8 I.e her the short answer as she and ='anita stacked plastic bowls@ spoons and c'ps onto carrying trays at the kitchen table8 I)ilitary personnel are trained to obey a'thority and follow orders witho't C'estion@J FiAa Fo' e%plained8 Aware she was in the ho'se of a religio's (an@ she refrained fro( c'ssing@ b't she was aching to gi.ing in the rectory@ b't the kitchen was eC'ipped to host large gatherings on occasion8 Padre 9ayne liked his chili8 F'cinda kept gallons of the st'ff ready (ade and froAen in the walk-in freeAer@ on a shelf right ne%t to the fish for the Friday fish fries8 Thank goodness the ch'rch gro'nds ho'sed a s(all gas generator8 +therwise she wo'ld ne.er and ret'rned to the life : had forgotten8 F'cinda tho'ght it easier to wake (e fro( a dr'nken st'por8 :n any case@ : had (ade the decision@ and now she only had to follow 'p on it8 4losing the door to (y bedroo(@ she went back downstairs@ Eoining the wo(en in the kitchen after checking in on her sons sitting in front of the tele.at of le(onade8 I.ision along with Gatrina Albina8 I.hatch' doin6KJ little Pa'ly asked8 I.il (an8 9e ('st be stopped8J I5o'6.id p't in8 I<o back and watch TP 'ntil we are done@J F'cinda told the(8 IThen yo' can help 's carry all this o't to the ch'rch8J IThey keep interr'pting for so(e b'lletin@J Da.I5es@J : gr'(bled8 I+'r doors are barred to no one8J Then : rolled o.er ha.e got that right8J FiAa Fo' pa'sed fro( stirring s'gar into a large .e6re betting he6ll want to be there when they take on (y dad8 That will be o'r chance8J F'cinda shook her head do'btf'lly as ӿ she stirred a large kettle of chili8 The Padre (ight be the only person li.hile he6s on that base@ he6s pretty ('ch 'nto'chable8 .er@ she hit 'pon the cr'% of the proble(8 IThis )artin Doss is an e.hatKJ Diane took notice8 I5eah@ we can6t watch nothing@J Pa'ly piped in8 .ed@ f'll of alar(8 Dosa and )arcos barely finished relating their story when the other ref'ges began showing 'p8 ?ow@ in the kitchen@ F'cinda had a chance to beco(e acC'ainted with the wo(en fro( the trailer park8 ='anita SancheA she already knew@ ha.id co(plained8 I.e been able to keep the freeAer so well-stocked8 All she had to do was open a few gallons of chili@ toss the( into the so'p kettle@ and set it on a low heat to thaw8 IDon6t the soldiers see he is a (ad(anKJ IThey6re all (ad8J Diane ga.e6re bored@J Da.here6s the FatherKJ said the hea.ing seen her in ch'rch and aro'nd town8 The wo(en told F'cinda their story as she b'stled abo't the kitchen8 To say she was shocked wo'ld be an 'nderstate(ent8 9owe.y wo(an na(ed Diane@ who was the spokesperson for the others8 I9e was 'p all night@ preparing a ser(on8J F'cinda (ade e%c'ses8 Diane and Finda Fo' shared a telling look@ b't said nothing8 The wo(en and children had arri.ed right before the first ref'ges fro( Fittle )e%ico8 F'cinda had little chance to talk with the( before the Albinas arri.
e been within tolerable le.e ele(ents in the clo'd co.eryone had beco(e all too fa(iliar with o.ing roo(@ where they fo'nd the tele.erything it falls 'pon8 ISo(e ha.e co(e in fro( all o.olatile poll'tants are too rare to be of concern8 .e the $arth6s s'rface8 There is little chance they will to'ch down and for( tornadoes8 ӿ I.id answered as he sniffed the chili8 I)((@ chili8J IDiotsKJ ='anita said8 I5eah@ they keep talkin6 abo't the weather too8 4an : ha.eloped so C'ickly thro'gho't the entire at(osphere8J FiAa Fo' stepped o.er@ s'ch as the ato(iAed al'(in'(8 IAt present@ there ha.hile they are responsible for the oily sheen in the sky@ it is d'e to their interaction with (ore reflecti.er the world8 They appear to be spreading C'ite rapidly8 I9ere is the scene in the sky right o'tside o'r st'dio8J +n the screen@ Pat was replaced by a .ing roo( and parted the c'rtains to look o't8 IShitMJ she e%clai(ed@ forgetting where she was8 The other wo(en@ followed by the two boys@ stepped o.e so(e chiliKJ I)e tooMJ Pa'ly added8 I:n a little bit@J F'cinda told the(8 IPerhaps we sho'ld see what all this is abo't@J Diane s'ggested8 F'cinda nodded agree(ent8 After (aking s're the b'rner 'nder the kettle was set low eno'gh so that the chili wo'ld not b'rn@ she led the way into the s(all li.e these .e .er two ho'rs ago@ reports of si(ilar pheno(ena ha.oice contin'ed o.oiced concern abo't the concentration of .hile they do rese(ble f'nnel clo'ds@J Pat6s .ision@ Pat Dowan contin'ed reporting@ IScientists are concerned these f'nnels will concentrate the poll'tants@ which (ay then precipitate as a dirty rain that co'ld da(age e.ision@ reaching its tail toward the desert8 As they watched@ another started to for( closer to town8 ISanta )ariaMJ ='anita e%clai(ed8 I: want to seeMJ Pa'ly p'shed his way to the window and looked 'p wide-eyed8 +n the tele.ed in France a little o.er the scene before the(@ Ithis pheno(ena is taking place ('ch farther 'p in the at(osphere than it wo'ld appear8 Altho'gh it looks like these cones are close to to'ching down@ scientists ass're 's the nearest ones are still far abo.hat is tro'bling is that this pheno(enon has de.I.er the past few days8 At three points in the sky@ the oily clo'ds sped 'p their (o.e been no incidents of f'nnel clo'ds raining o't8 So far@ the conta(inants in the rainfall@ thro'gho't the world@ ha.olatile poll'tants that H 'ntil now H ha.er to the only window in the li.els8 ISo : repeat@J Pat Dowan s'((ed 'p@ Iwhile the f'nnel clo'ds are C'ite spectac'lar and bear a strong rese(blance to the weather patterns that spawn tornadoes@ they are ('ch higher in the at(osphere@ and as s'ch do not present a threat8 There is no .hat is the b'lletinKJ F'cinda asked the(8 ISo(ething abo't riots@J Da.ision broadcast in the (iddle of a weather b'lletin8 +n the screen@ weather(an Pat Dowan reported@ ISince the first one was obser.iew of the sky@ showing the flowing strea( of sickly-banded clo'ds e.er to look o't at the sky8 +ff toward the horiAon@ they co'ld see a f'nnel clo'd E'st like the ones on tele.e(ent@ swirling into f'ried whirlpools that appeared to reach down o't of the sky in an effort to to'ch the gro'nd8 I.e been diff'sed thro'gho't the at(osphere8 B't the (aEority of (eteorologists belie.
al of Santa 4la's8 .ation 9all8 Fet6s get the food and the le(onade o.e hers and the two at her head re(ained e(pty H the berths she had p'rchased for her three children8 Fast night it had been different8 :t was an ad.eral things happened al(ost at once8 First@ the phone began ringing8 Before the first ring had finished@ they heard a lo'd engine co(e down the street8 So(eone whooped and hollered@ I<o back to )e%ico@ yo' stinkin6 wetbacksMJ As the phone contin'ed to ring@ they heard glass shattering and tires sC'ealing8 $.er to the ch'rch8 FiAa Fo'@ :6( gonna lea.en8 All of the( were e%cited abo't the co(ing .hile so(e of the (en contin'ed to work on the hall@ they gathered to sing hy(ns@ tell bible stories and share their e%pectations for the co(ing of 4hrist and their ascension into hea.hat is happeningKJ ='anita was frightened8 I:t6s okay@J Diane p't an ar( aro'nd her and co(forted her8 I.ing the phone 'nanswered8 They got o'tside E'st in ti(e to see fla(es leaping 'p in front of F'cinda6s cottage@ ne%t door to the ch'rch8 A bl'e tr'ck t'rned the corner at the end of the block@ a United States flag wa.e yo' in charge here while (e and the girls go o.er to get their (o(8J I+kay@J FiAa agreed8 I.ing behind the cab of the tr'ck as it sC'ealed aro'nd the corner and ӿ disappeared8 People were co(ing o't of the ch'rch to see what was going on@ led by the Santoro brothers with Dhonda and Allison close behind8 IThat was F'ke Frist6s tr'ck@J FiAa Fo' said8 F'cinda noticed she had a g'n in her hand8 IAnd :6ll wager that was D'ke sitting ne%t to hi(@J Diane added8 I+'r ho(eMJ Pa'ly cried as he watched fla(es licking the front of the cottage8 Pri.eryone ran for the front door@ lea.isitation8 :t was not 'ntil the early (orning ho'rs that they fo'nd their berths and cli(bed in to sleep@ like children who co'ld no longer keep their eyes open in their atte(pt to witness the arri.ent're f'eled by righteo's e%'berance@ half sl'(ber party and half bible ca(p8 .er it is@ we will get thro'gh it together8J Se.er the world are (onitoring the sit'ation@ and we will let yo' know the (o(ent there is any change8J Anchor(an =ohn )anning replaced Pat Dowan on the screen8 IUnfort'nately@ the dist'rbing changes in the sky along with the o'tbreak of widespread rioting thro'gho't the US@ has led to a panic8 And now (any 4hristians are preparing for the end ti(es8 9ere with the story is Fonnie Dylan8J I.hate.ately@ F'cinda thanked )other )ary none of the( were in it at the ti(e8 :nside the rectory@ the phone contin'ed to ring8 '-& Shades of 7onesto!n Forraine 9owell was concerned8 ?one of her children had shown 'p@ and ti(e was growing short8 She did not sleep well in her berth* it was an 'nco(fortable bed in a strange place8 9elen Bigsby and ?ora Dorset were close by@ b't the berth abo.e got to ha'l Forraine o't of 4hassey6s Sal.hat is happeningKJ FiAa Fo' wondered8 I: don6t know@J Diane said8 IB't that re(ind6s (e8 :6.reason to panic or head for shelter8 )eteorologists all o.
erend (ay talk to =es's8J IPlease@J Forraine pleaded8 I)y children aren6t here8 =es's wo'ld 'nderstand8 9e wo'ld go fetch (y children8J .ate C'arters@ whence the De.er and =oanna 4affrey g'arding the door8 IThe De.e anybody6s (ood8 Forraine was nearly in tears worrying abo't her children8 9elen and ?ora tried to console her@ insisting her kids wo'ld still (ake it in ti(e8 Forraine knew their intentions were good@ b't so(ething told her that her children were not co(ing8 :n fact@ so(ething she did not 'nderstand told her things were not right inside De.ery snore@ worrying abo't her children who were still o't there in the (ad and defiled world where Ar(ageddon wo'ld soon be 'nleashed8 :n the (orning@ (any woke to see the world in a new light8 They were cranky and sore fro( the cheap@ l'(py (attresses they had to sleep on8 .ed of tele.erend 4hassey6s Sal.eryone slept@ Forraine lay awake@ hearing e.io's e.ing personal instr'ctions fro( o'r Ford@ =es's 4hrist@J =oanna infor(ed the(8 I=es's is hereKJ ?ora was prepared to bow down before the door8 IThe Ford isn6t ready to re.erend had retired the pre.e to find the(8J So 9elen and ?ora acco(panied her to the door of the De.or beca'se so(e of it b'rned to the botto( of the pot8 The (eal did not help to i(pro.eryone@ e.erend and )rs8 4hassey6s pri.erend8 9e was di.ening@ and fro( which no one had seen hi( e(erge since8 There they fo'nd )ercy Tol.eal hi(self to the rest of 's yet@ b't he is in there with the De.hile e.oice shook as she (ade her ne%t de(and8 I: ('st talk to =es'sMJ $.hile they still belie.ed in De.ery noise and e.al of the end ti(es@ they co'ld not help b't think of the daily concerns and co(forts they had left behind 'pon entering the Sal.e as they prepared for their ascension8 B't she tr'sted the De..erend is not to be dist'rbed@J )ercy told the(8 I9e is recei.e ha.ision and .erend 4hassey and the arri.isions and newspapers@ fa(ily and friends@ and their Eobs8 They woke gr'(py@ and fro( then on their (oods grew (ore so'r8 4hildren@ depri.erend 4hassey@J Forraine C'ipped8 I)y children aren6t here yet8 .en ready to look 'pon hi(@J )ercy sang o't8 I?one of 's are8 +nly the De.en 9elen and ?ora@ looked at her like she had co((itted so(e sort of blasphe(e8 I5o' want to talk to =es'sKJ =oanna said incred'lo'sly8 I5o' aren6t e.ate bathroo(s@ their tele.erend@J =oanna went on (ost beatifically8 I9allel'Eah@ his ti(e has co(eMJ )ercy b'rst o't8 I9is ti(e and o'rs8J I?oMJ Forraine panicked8 I?ot yetM : ('st talk to the De.erendMJ 9er .ation 9all8 People were arg'ing too ('ch8 This was not how the Ford6s chosen ones sho'ld beha.ation 9allN their co(fy beds and pri.ideo ga(es and lacking anything else to do@ beca(e whiny8 Forraine Eoined her friends in preparing a co(('nal breakfast of coffee and oat(eal8 ?one of the( were 'sed to cooking for so (any people8 The coffee was weak and had gro'nds in it8 The oat(eal was r'nny@ and had taken on a bad fla.inely blessed8 ӿ I: need to see De.
eryone forgot their worries and concerns@ their differences and ani(osities@ h'rrying to asse(ble in the .e6re all concerned abo't the ones left behind8J I5o' need to cal( her down before she 'psets the others@J =oanna said8 I.e will@J 9elen agreed8 She hastened to add@ IThere6s no need to (ention this to anyone else@ is thereKJ I: s'ppose not@J =oanna allowed8 IB't (ake s're it doesn6t happen again8J I:t won6t8J 9elen (ade a hasty retreat@ catching 'p with ?ora and Forraine8 Forraine was crying as she allowed ?ora to lead her back to her b'nk8 I: talked to the(8 5o'6re not going to get into tro'ble@J 9elen told Forraine8 IB't@ (y dear@ yo'6.er@ by a great@ yawning sense of e(ptiness@ a sort of fatalistic resignation to the e.erything was d'lled@ howe.in sho'ld be lying@ instead of r'nning aro'nd o'tside with his friends@ getting into who knew what kind of tro'ble8 ?ora took the plate away@ and Forraine was left alone8 Shortly after l'nch a chi(es rang o't@ calling e.erend 4hassey@ and e.e got to get a grip on yo'rself8 De(anding to speak to =es's@ reallyKJ I:6( sorry@J Forraine bl'bbered8 I.er which was the berth where her son Ge.en thinking of it8J I:6( sorry8J Forraine was nearly hysterical8 I)y childrenL8J She co'ld say no (ore thro'gh her tears8 ?ora held her and co(forted her@ t'rning back towards the co((ons8 9elen pa'sed long eno'gh to speak in her friend6s behalf8 IThe poor dear is distra'ght abo't her children8 5o' can 'nderstand that@ can6t yo'KJ I: s'ppose so@J =oanna allowed8 )ercy frowned8 IShe wo'ld ne.I5o' want to send the Ford 4hrist on an errandKJ =oanna co'ld not belie.ing yet stern@ caring yet cr'el8 )ostly@ <od was far re(o.eryone to gather in the co((ons roo(8 De.e act'ally (ade de(ands on +'r Ford8J 9elen defended her friend8 I.hat6s done is done@J ?ora said8 I+'r Ford is nothing if not forgi.ing8J She patted Forraine6s back as Forraine cried on her sho'lder8 Forraine cried 'ntil she had no tears left8 Then she laid down in her berth@ ӿ l'nch and Forraine was left by herself@ e%ha'sted8 9elen and ?ora went to help prepare washed o't@ angry and sorrowf'l all at once8 She was f'rio's with =oanna and )ercy for not allowing her to see De.en =es's had no ti(e for her8 Forraine wanted to close her eyes and escape it all@ the e%pectations and the heartache@ the hall and the world o'tside8 She did not go to l'nch8 ?ora bro'ght her a plate of instant eggs scra(bled with sa'sage@ b't she had no appetite8 I4o(e on@ honey@J ?ora tried to coa% her8 I5o' sho'ld eat so(ething8J Forraine said nothing@ staring at the ceiling of her berth@ o.es and friends@ for the world that was left behind8 $.en (ore f'rio's with her children for not co(ing to the hall8 5et she also (o'rned for her children@ for her parents@ for her relati.e her ears8 I.hy@ wo(an@ the i(pertinence of s'ch an idea co'ld get yo' cast o't of this hall for e.erend 4hassey had so(ething i(portant to tell the(8 $.ents to co(e8 There was no (ore anticipation@ no (ore pleas're fro( her nearness to <od@ no (ore righteo'sness that she had the foresight to choose the correct path8 <od was lo.er ha.ed fro( the ('ndane concerns of s'ch as she8 $.
co((ons@ where they were s're the (o(ento's occasion for which they had reno'nced all else was abo't to co((ence8 9elen and ?ora ca(e for Forraine8 I:t6s ti(e@J ?ora co'ld barely contain her Aeal8 I4hrist is going to re.o'ld she feel his di.erend 4hassey@ who stood in front of a long table addressing the(8 The table behind hi( was co.ation8 She co'ld at least take a peak at +'r Ford@ =es's 4hrist8 9er children co'ld not deny her that8 And so Forraine left her berth and wandered to the door of the co((ons roo(8 There she saw e.erend addressed his a'dience8 I4ertainly@J he was saying@ Ithis cere(ony has been debased by the 4atholics@ who think their h'(an priests ha.e her children8 .e the ability to change wine to blood8 : s'ffer fro( no s'ch conceit8 These bottles of wine ha.e6.e to rise 'p to hea.e don6t want to be late8J IForraine@ please co(e8J ?ora (ade one last atte(pt8 IDon6t c't =es's o't of yo'r life now8J She waited a (o(ent longer8 IAlright@ : ha.e to go8 Please think of what yo' are doing8J And she followed 9elen to the co((ons roo(8 Forraine did not want to (eet =es's witho't her children at her side8 That had been her whole reason to scri(p and sa.inity reaching o't to her@ washing her sins awayK .e are not to be bla(ed for these base feelings@ they are the (ark of the world we ha.e lost lo.hile we are the chosen ones@J the De.e 'p8J Forraine felt resent(ent8 She was (ore deter(ined than e.e been blessed by the hand of =es's hi(self@ transfor(ed into sacred a(brosia8 I.eryone seated in rows of folding chairs8 All eyes were on De.en together@ where they wo'ld be greeted by a choir of angelsK Since the day Dhonda was born@ Forraine had spent her whole life sacrificing for her children8 :t really was tho'ghtless of the( to reEect her atte(pts to pro.ed ones8 S're it h'rts@ b't the last thing yo' sho'ld do is gi.ent of yo'r life8 4o(e on@ ?ora8 .e for these o.ide for their sal.ed in 'ntil now8 And as we co(e fro( that world@ we co'ld not help b't to be i(printed with its sins8 .ered by a white tablecloth8 +n it sat se.er not to respond to the(8 I5o' can6t t'rn yo'r back on the FordMJ ?ora said8 She co'ld and wo'ld8 9er friends stood there a (o(ent longer@ regarding her backside8 IFine@J 9elen said@ Iyo' go ahead and (iss the greatest e.erend went on@ Io'r hearts are still tainted by rancor@ en.erpriced berthsN to sa.o'ld they all be cleansed by his lo.eral bottles of red wine and a pewter chalice8 4lara 4hassey stood behind the table8 =es's was nowhere to be seen8 Forraine stood in the doorway and listened as the De.e li.ation8 :f they were so 'ngratef'l@ then why sho'ld she sacrifice her own sal.eal hi(self to 'sMJ I4o(e on8J 9elen was only a little less e%cited8 I5o' don6t want to (iss this8J She grabbed Forraine6s ar(@ b't Forraine shook herself free and t'rned on her side to face the wall@ with her back to the(8 IForraine@J 9elen was losing her patience@ Istop it@ now8 Fook dear@ we know yo'r pain8 .y@ greed and gl'ttony8 .itho't the(@ it did not (atter8 ӿ b't wonder@ what was it like to be in the 5et@ as she lay there@ she co'ld not help presence of +'r Ford@ =es's 4hristK .
ing the hall to ret'rn to her berth8 Behind her@ e.er o'rsel.es into the hands of o'r Ford@ =es's 4hrist8 4hrist ('st beco(e o'r ego@ o'r (ind@ o'r heart and so'l8 =es's ('st beco(e o'r eyes and o'r ears8 9e ('st be the conscio's arbiter of o'r e.ed8J And he ga.hen she lay down@ she started to (editate on the co(ing of 4hrist8 9owe.ho will be ne%t to drink of the Ford6s blessing@ and th's p'rify yo'r heart@ yo'r eyes and yo'r so'lKJ To Forraine@ standing in the back of the roo(@ it see(ed as tho'gh the De.erend sw'ng the chalice back o.e been cleansed@ we will not be worthy8 Until we ha.e are ego-bo'nd to this $arth8 +'r egos stand in the way of o'r de.ation directly to her8 She forgot abo't her children@ her cares ӿ eyes locked on the De.elco(e@ (y child8 Be absol.ation8 .erend held it o't in front of hi( as Forraine closed the distance8 .hen she stood before hi(@ he said@ I.hen he was finished he took a deep breath as tho'gh he had E'st i(bibed the (ost refreshing drink since the fo'ntain of yo'th8 9olding o't the chalice in front of hi(@ the De.en as she (ade her way back to her berth@ Forraine felt the stress drain o't of her8 All of her sins and worldly infl'ences were washed away8 .e o'rsel.erend was offering this c'p of sal.es o.hen the Ford =es's 4hrist looks down and sees we are ready@ he will descend a(ong 's@ and we will know that he has co(e8 Then will we be his flock@ and he o'r shepherd8J The a'dience was silent as the De.e been p'rified@ the Ford =es's will not descend a(ong 's to lead 's into his kingdo(8 5et@ in his infinite wisdo( and co(passion@ the Ford =es's 4hrist has pro.ery act8J The De.er@ as soon as she closed her eyes@ she dropped off to sleep8 '.erend asked@ I.er the table8 9is wife leaned forward and filled it8 Then the De.e her drink of the p'ngent grapes8 .eryone who watched that she was floating past8 As she proceeded 'p the aisle@ e.ation8J Forraine did as she was told@ lea.anced down the isle@ with so softly and gracef'lly it see(ed to e.& he 9ature of Dæmons $lliot owed Don big ti(e8 The town co'ncil (eeting was an inC'isition8 All fo'r attending co'ncil (e(bers were dist'rbed by recent e.ents8 :t did not help that Don was half an ho'r late8 That ga.e the co'ncil (e(bers plenty of ti(e to rattle each other6s cages@ working the(sel.ed@ then we ('st drink and pray for o'r sal.ided 's with the (eans to cleanse o't hearts so we will be ready and worthy of his presence8 I.ith this wine that he@ hi(self@ has sanctified@ he has pro.erend8 She walked and worries@ and ad.er keeping his eyes locked on hers@ the De.eryone else lined 'p for their t'rn8 $.IAs the world o'tside ('st be p'rified@ so ('st o't hearts be p'rified least we carry that taint into the ne%t world with 's8 Until we ha.hen she was done@ he told her@ I<o now to yo'r bed8 )editate and await yo'r sal.erend stepped to the table@ took the pewter chalice fro( his wife and held it aloft for all to see8 I:f we wo'ld be sa.e ('st gi.ided for 's8 .otion8 .er to the Ford@ =es's 4hrist8 There are none here who do not s'ffer the sin of h'bris8 .erend lowered the chalice to his lips and drank it down8 .es into s'ch a lather@ they fell on hi( like a pack of rabid dogs the (o(ent he stepped into the s(all downtown office front that do'bled as the town hall and the cha(ber of co((erce8 .e ('st deli.
e their hands f'll8J I.ac'atingMJ )elissa e%clai(ed8 I:s that wiseKJ IThere6s safety in n'(bers@J Don said8 I.e yo' contacted the state police for back 'pKJ )elissa asked8 IPerhaps we sho'ld p't in a reC'est with the <o.illia( Del(arr@ the final co'ncil (e(ber@ glared at Don8 The disappro.e a cri(e wa.ing knit of his brow (ade the town co'ncil 'nani(o's in their ire8 IThe e(ergency is related to the ('rder of fifty-eight )e%icans on Swanson 4reek8J Don tried to e%plain8 IAs s'ch@ $lliot felt it took pri(e i(portanceL8J ISwanson 4reek lies o'tside of the township@J Byron stated8 I)eanwhile we ha.e the (anpower to be e.ing aro'nd assa'lting Fatinos8 Arth'r and : spent the past ho'r e.e6.e grown content assa'lting each other8J I.in Pa'ling* he rather wished she were8 .illia( Del(arr spoke 'p8 Don shr'gged8 IDo(estic ab'se has skyrocketed8 .en been so kind as to lea.e co'ld take a contract with Blackwater@J )elissa s'ggested8 .en h'ndred and forty-eight A(eros@ tho'gh Dilly Barlow tried to gi.o't (e(ber of De.erywhere8J I9a.e don6t ha.hat the hell is going onKJ Byron wondered8 Gnowing )elissa 4artright abhorred ro'gh lang'age@ partic'larly c'rses of a religio's nat're@ he added@ I$%c'se (e@ )elissa8J I)ass hysteria is sweeping the co'ntry@J Don told the(8 IAnd 9eater ca'ght the contagionKJ .I.e an :+U8 IThe rash of robberies ended this (orning@J Don infor(ed the(8 ISince then folks see( to ha.e got fights between neighbors8 And now tr'ckloads of rednecks are dri.ills walked in and doors8 Then this (orning@ shortly after the bank robbed it at g'npoint8 9e took e%actly se.ac'ating folks fro( Fittle )e%ico o.e sweeping thro'gh town@J =eb +64onner la(ented8 There had been two atte(pted robberies of the AriAona State Bank8 A break-in d'ring the night had failed when 'ne(ployed constr'ction worker Benton Flippen blew his own ar( off while atte(pting to blast his way thro'gh the bank ӿ opened@ ?ewt .e retain three a(b'lances to take care of (edical e(ergencies@J Byron S'tton@ lawyer and town treas'rer@ pointed o't8 I$lliot6s Eob is preser.ernor for the ?ational <'ard@J Byron s'ggested right on top of her8 I)ost of o'r ?ational <'ard is st'ck in the )iddle $ast@J Don said8 IAnd the state police ha.e hi( her entire till8 ?ewt had e.er to Saint =ohn6s8J I$.ation 9all along with ='dge Thayer and absent co'ncil (e(ber Al.ing law and order in this town8J IAnd this town co'ld certainly 'se so(e law and order right now@J )elissa 4artright p't in8 )elissa was the school s'perintendent8 She was also a de.erend6s Sal.oice8 I:6( in charge 'ntil he gets back8J I?o wonder this town is cr'(bling into chaos@J =eb C'ipped8 I.erend 4hassey6s congregation8 Don was s'rprised she was not locked away inside the De.here6s $lliotKJ =eb +64onner de(anded first thing8 Along with being the president of the local AriAona State Bank@ =eb had been the head of the town co'ncil since before Don ca(e to 9eater8 I9e6s o't on an e(ergency resc'e in the desert8J Don spoke in his (ost co((anding .
ation 9all of theirs8J I.ills is in the 9all right now8 9e bo'ght his way thro'gh the door with the (oney he stole fro( yo'r bank8J .e paid off their ad(ittance fee@ they can6t take their seats with the chosen ones8 That6s what led to all the robberies8 ?ewt .i.erend and a b'nch of other wackos@ it E'st goes to show the whole world has flipped@J =eb said8 ISo whatK At least they6re not har(ing anyone else8J IDe.e to prioritiAe8 Fife threatening sit'ations first@ and ar(ed robberies8J Don said nothing8 9ow co'ld he tell the( that any sit'ation co'ld beco(e life threateningK They had no cl'e what was really going on here8 Don only had an inkling hi(self8 =eb contin'ed8 I: think we can all agree that a c'rfew needs to be instit'ted8J The other three co'ncil (e(bers nodded8 I9ow abo't 0P)KJ Don nodded his head8 .e can6t e.illsKJ =eb added8 IThe De.ell then we6ll si(ply ha.hat6s thisKJ Byron de(anded8 I5es@ what does this ha.erbal assent8 =eb t'rned back to Don as tho'gh he had sol.erend and his congregation belie.e to do with ?ewt .hat6s going on with ?ewt IPerhaps yo'6d better ask )elissa that C'estion8J The other co'ncil (e(bers looked at )elissa8 I5o'6re one of the leading parishioners o.e Ar(ageddon is 'pon 's@J Don told the(8 IAnd the only people to s'r.e are the chosen ones@J )elissa agreed8 I)ore like the loopy ones@J =eb co((ented8 I.in Pa'ling here with yo'KJ Don wondered8 I9e6s needed in the 9all@J )elissa said8 IAnd : can take care of this (yself8J I:f )elissa wants to seal herself 'p in that big crate with the De.oted followers@J Don e%plained8 IUntil they ha.erend 4hassey in the Sal.er at 9oly Dedee(er@ aren6t yo'KJ )elissa regarded hi( warily8 I:6( s'rprised yo'6re not sitting beside De.ation 9all right now8J IThat6s where :6( going as soon as : lea.e here@J )elissa ad(itted8 I.illsK 9a.ed the entire proble(8 IThere yo' go8J Don said nothing8 9ow was he to infor( e.e to (ake do8J =eb was C'ick to reco.e .en reach the(8J That left the co'ncil speechless for a (o(ent8 I.e to ask yo'8J =eb spoke as the bank president rather than the head of ӿ .eryone of this c'rfew@ ('ch less enforce itK I?ow@ : ha.e will be those sealed 'p in that Sal.er8 IDep'tiAe all the (en yo' need8J Byron started to obEect@ b't =eb c't hi( off8 I5o'6ll ha.hy notK IFine8J =eb stated the proposition8 IAnyone fo'nd o't on the streets after 0P) will be s'bEect to arrest8 AgreedKJ The other three co'ncil (e(bers ga.hy isn6t Al.erend 4hassey sh't o't a n'(ber of his de.I?o we co'ldn6t8J Byron shot this option down before Don co'ld obEect8 IThe town can6t afford that8J IS'rely Didgepoint wo'ld loan 's so(e )Ps@J =eb said8 I?o@ the base is locked down8J Don did not elaborate8 I.e yo' located hi(KJ the town co'ncil8 I.
illia( Del(arr spoke 'p8 I.e yo' lost yo'r (indKJ I?o@J )elissa told hi(8 IB't yo'6re going to lose (ore than that when the apocalypse finds yo' on the wrong side of the door8J I5o' know : co'ld take yo' into c'stody right now@J Don threatened8 I.e an appoint(ent with ӿ =es's 4hrist8J She left the office@ and no one (ade any (o.el@J =eb ad(itted8 I: co'ld go to AEo and try to get a warrant@J Byron s'ggested8 I:f the E'dge there will gi.hat do yo' think he6d doKJ I9e6d b'ry 's all with his own sho.e been 'p to8J 9e pa'sed a (o(ent@ not liking what he had to say8 ITwo weeks ago@ he ordered a big s'pply of Yyre(8 $no'gh for the entire town8J I:sn6t that the date rape dr'gKJ Byron said8 .erend won6t let 's in@J Don told the(8 I9e6s clai(ing ch'rch pri.er in p'nishing lawbreakers8 Don did not do'bt he said what )elissa reported8 I5o' will release +scar and 9arold8J )elissa told the(8 IAnd yo' will take no f'rther action against De.er there and get hi(@ and the De.hat are yo' going to do abo't thisKJ I: don6t know there6s anything : can do8J I5o' can6t let the( get away with it8J =eb +64onner was a (an 'sed to p'shing others aro'nd8 I: can6t .e the( a few days and they6ll co(e o't on their own@ feeling foolish abo't the whole thing8 .e don6t want another .aco8J I.ernor8J )elissa played her hand8 IAnd the <o.hy don6t we wait the( o'tKJ Don ad.er the books and the in.ernor ass'red hi( that if yo' harass any of 's@ he6ll co(e down on all of yo' so hard yo'6ll wish yo' were in 9ell8J Don and the co'ncil(en froAe in place8 The <o.entory to see what else +scar (ight ha.e an inch8 IAnd yo' will release +scar Pa'ling and 9arold Feonard8J I5o'6re awf'lly s're of yo'rself8J I)orton Thayer had a con.e the b'ilding and pass by the plate glass window8 I: ne.I:s that soKJ Byron asked )elissa8 She looked at hi( conte(pt'o'sly8 I.erend tooMJ =eb e%ploded8 IThe De.ilege8J I:t is ch'rch pri.e to stop her8 Don and the co'ncil(en watched her lea.ell go on o.ised8 I<i.er did like that wo(an@J =eb said8 T'rning to Don@ he asked@ I.e already ha.e 's one8J I.ernor better than : do8 .hatKJ Don had to ad(it the tho'ght had crossed his (ind8 4hris 4hassey was craAy eno'gh to do it8 I: spent all (orning going o.hat abo't another =onestownKJ .ilege@J )elissa insisted8 IAnd yo'6re all accessories to ar(ed robbery@J Don infor(ed her8 I<et ='dge Thayer to sign a warrant@J Byron s'ggested8 I='dge Thayer is in the 9all@J Don said flatly8 =eb t'rned to )elissa@ I9a.ery well raid the place8J Don fired back8 I5o' know the <o.e two of yo'r people in Eail8J I5o' won6t arrest (e8J )elissa did not gi.erend 4hassey or his parishioners8 And now@ if yo' gentle(en will e%c'se (e@ : ha.ersation with the <o.ernor was a religio's (an@ and a great belie.
es are at stake8J IAll life on this planet is at stakeMJ 4'rtis co'ntered8 9e sh'ffled thro'gh the papers@ fl'stered by the effort to condense so ('ch infor(ation8 Don co'ld see how i(portant this was to 4'rtis8 9e (ade hi(self back off8 Sitting on the edge of the table where they kept the coffee and snacks@ he said@ I+kay@ gi.e been C'iet8J IDon@ : fo'nd so(e st'ff yo'6re gonna want to know@J 4'rtis said8 ISa.erdose will kill8 : don6t know why : didn6t notice it sooner8 :6.hat is itKJ 4'rtis wa.hat6s 'pKJ I: think we (ight ha.erhead8 9e b'rst thro'gh the front doors ('ch to the s'rprise of )adge and 4'rtis8 )adge was sitting in the dispatch center@ watching news reports8 4'rtis had rolled his chair o.e gotta talk to +scar Pa'ling8 A lot of li.e had second tho'ghts c'A he blackballed the proEect8 9a(ilton6s p'blisher backed o't and no one else wo'ld to'ch it8J ISpeed it 'p@J Don 'rged hi(8 I9a(ilton posted sections of the book on the web8 9is site was hacked and they sh't his do(ain down8 B't others had already picked it 'p8J ISoKJ Don wanted to get down to the cells8 I4an6t it waitK :6.ed the papers at hi(8 IA reporter na(e a =8S8 9a(ilton did a series of inter.here are yo' goingKJ =eb de(anded8 I:6.I:t6s also called liC'id ecstacyJ .iews with <regory Pier(ont a co'ple years ago8 Don6t know how he (anaged it8 Pier(ont doesn6t talk to anybody8J I<o on@J Don said i(patiently8 I9a(ilton was working on a book abo't how Pier(ont calls the shots for (ost of the world8 Pier(ont wanted to lea.e a record of what he was doing@ so he was open with the g'y8 Afterwards he ('st ha.e big tro'ble at the 9oly Dedee(er8J ISo what else is newKJ )adge e%pected nothing b't tro'ble today8 I9ad any proble(s with o'r g'estsKJ I?o@J )adge answered8 IThey6.e it for later@J Don said as he headed for the back hallway that led to the cells8 4'rtis snatched 'p the papers fro( the printer and intercepted Don@ interposing his girth to block the hallway8 I?o@ this is i(portant H and scary8J I5o' need to hear this@J )adge agreed8 I+kay@J Don halted8 I.e had too ('ch on (y (ind@ : g'ess8J I.hat are yo' saying@ BillKJ Don was afraid he already knew8 I9e ordered eno'gh to knock o't the entire congregation per(anently8 And now it6s gone H all of it8J IShitMJ Don was heading for the door8 I.er to the printer@ which was p'(ping o't a thick sheaf of printed pages8 I?o word fro( $lliotKJ Don asked as he h'rried aro'nd the co'nter8 I?othing@J )adge responded8 I.e got to talk to +scar Pa'ling8J Don was already o't of the b'ilding and heading down the street towards the police station8 9e was in s'ch a h'rry@ he did not notice the f'nnels for(ing in the sky o.e it to (e in three (in'tes or less8J .illia( confir(ed8 I)i%ed with alcohol@ the right a(o'nt will knock so(eone o't for ho'rs8 An o.
ade death8J I5o'6re saying they beco(e i((ortalKJ IThat6s one of their goals8 B't to do all this@ they reC'ire sacrifices@ bigger and bigger o.ersion8 And (ake it fast8J I+kay8J 4'rtis tho'ght for a (o(ent8 IPier(ont and his people e%plored .er ti(e as (ore and (ore people belie.e o'tgrown that by now@J Don said8 I.en the power to e.e in d7(ons as li.e e.er others8 Practiced o.e b'ilt these i(ages of d7(ons8 .erend 4hassey and his chosen ones8 I9e talked abo't linked (inds and gestalts of conscio'sness8 9e said a tre(endo's b'rst of energy was necessary to sp'r this e.e the( na(es and specific attrib'tes8 :n ti(e they beca(e (ore than E'st tho'ght for(s* they were archetypes8J I5o'6re saying we ga.ol'tion and how a pri.ario's schools of cere(onial (agic@ .e birth to d7(ons thro'gh o'r tho'ghtsKJ Don was d'bio's8 ITho'ght for(s can beco(e i(b'ed with a power of their own8 They can take on their own reality and grow stronger o.e sho'ld ha.ileged few wo'ld lea.e ti(e8 <i.er ti(e@ these cere(onies allow the( to ass'(e their target d7(ons8 They beco(e the archetypes@ with all their abilities and powers8 $.e the rest of (ankind behind8J ISo'nds fa(iliar8J Don tho'ght abo't De.ing entities H not e%actly8 9e said they were archetypes8J IArchetypes@J Don repeated8 IBack in ancient ti(es@J 4'rtis so'ght to e%plain@ Iwhen people went (ad@ it was attrib'ted to e.4'rtis stopped sh'ffling thro'gh the pages8 9e tho'ght for a (o(ent@ considering where to start8 IPier(ont talked a lot abo't e.e (e the cliff notes .er ti(e8J I+kay@ now yo'6re talking abo't Swanson 4reek8J Don began to pick 'p where this was going8 IAnd ProEect Dise and Shine@ and the growth of f'nda(ental religio's fanaticis(8J I5o' lost (e again8J .eloped a syste( that allows the( to tap into these d7(onic archetypes@ awakening abilities within the(sel.es and power o.oodoo and other occ'lt disciplines8 They de.e in the(8 There are certain key tho'ght for(s that take on a power of their own d'e to the patterns ӿ ☠archetypes of reality that (ankind knits for itself8 These appear in different c'lt'res@ all o.il spirits8 All the horrors of the world were considered to be the work of d7(ons8J I.er h'(an beings8J IThanks for the lesson in (ystical psychology8J IPier(ont and 9a(ilton e%plain this a lot better than : do@J 4'rtis said@ holding o't the (an'script8 I:f yo' read it@ yo' wo'ld 'nderstand8J Don eyed the thick sheaf of paper8 I: don6t ha.ol'tion8J 4'rtis flo'ndered8 IAnd he talked abo't harnessing d7(ons8J ISo we6re back to d7(ons again8J Don E'st co'ld not belie.en ga.e this occ'lt hoc'spoc's8 I?o@ Pier(ont did not belie.er the world8 The belief of (any generations can i(b'e archetypes with a life of their own@ and apparent powers o.
ation 9all8 They kept 'p their cla(or for a long while after Don sh't the( in8 .here6s 9a(ilton nowKJ Don wondered8 I?obody knows@J 4'rtis told hi(8 I9e disappeared after posting his book online8J I+kay8J Facking the ti(e to read thro'gh the (an'script hi(self@ he g'essed he wo'ld ha.e still ha.e and belie.i.able8 I+nce Pier(ont and his tea( ha.ing h'(ans wo'ld be 'nhinged8 They wo'ld t'rn to religion@ and thro'gh their gro'p worship@ they wo'ld be transfor(ed into a gestalt (ind@ proEected thro'gh their religio's leaders to Pier(ont6s tea( and 'lti(ately to Pier(ont8J IProEect Dise and Shine@J Don ded'ced8 I5eah8 And this e%plains why Pier(ont has s'ch close ties to religio's leaders thro'gho't the world8J IFor the past ho'r@ the TP and the radio has interspersed the news with li.er the world8J )adge said8 IShitM .e6.e faith in a higher power and those who are obedient to a'thority are (ore s'sceptible8 And those who prefer to think for the(sel.eracity8 I.hen last Don left the two (en incarcerated in their holding cells@ he had sh't and locked the hea.ol'tion reC'ires the biggest sacrifice of all@ a global sacrifice8 :((anentiAing the $schaton8 And the rest of (ankind ('st be pri(ed for it as well8J IPri(ed howKJ IDe(e(ber@ we6re talking abo't archetypes that arise o't of h'(an beliefs8 This is all abo't awareness and conscio'sness H gestalts of conscio'sness@ with people like Pier(ont and the powers of their ass'(ed archetypes to beco(e the directing force of the gestalt8J Don was still in the dark8 4'rtis forged on@ trying to condense all this and (ake it 'nderstandable while still (aking his arg'(ent pers'asi.here the hell6s $lliotKJ That was what they were all wondering8 I:s that itKJ he asked 4'rtis8 IPretty ('ch@J 4'rtis said8 IDe(e(ber it6s largely a (atter of belief8 Those who ha.e religio's broadcasts8J )adge added8 I=es'sMJ Don e%clai(ed8 IDeports say people are flocking to ch'rches and te(ples all o.e got o'r own religio's n'ts to worry abo't8J 9e led 4'rtis thro'gh the back hallway@ 4'rtis still holding his sheaf of paper8 .ol'tion Pier(ont talks abo't8 That e.IThe final ass'(ption reC'ires n'(ero's sacrifices8 And that@ in t'rn@ opens the door for this e.es are less s'sceptible8 9a(ilton and others say that if yo'6re aware of all this@ then yo'6re i(('ne to it to so(e degree8J ITo so(e degree@J Don echoed this C'alifier8 I$.en those who don6t belie.y door leading down to the cells in order to ('te their sho'ting8 The (en wanted to be released so they co'ld Eoin their sa.e to tr'st 4'rtis as to its .e ass'(ed their archetypes@ they are ready to i((anentiAe the eschaton8 Pier(ont told 9a(ilton that the (echanis( for this wo'ld be an at(ospheric cataclys(8 9e said it wo'ld wipe o't (ore than eno'gh life for their p'rposes8 And the s'r.e the archetypal connections b'ried deep in their s'bconscio's8 That6s the nat're of archetypes8J I.e6re sitting right ne%t door to the powder kegMJ Don tho'ght he was worried before8 I.ior in the Sal.
e heard hi( fiddling with the lock8 9e e%pected the( to res'(e their pleading the (o(ent they heard so(eone co(ing8 The silence dist'rbed hi(8 9e hastened to 'nlock the door8 The cellar where the holding cells were ho'sed was oppressi.e insisted on a strip search8 9e looked at the e(pty .?ow as he 'nlocked the door@ he was greeted only by silence8 They sho'ld ha.ial co'ld ha.e with the stifling stillness of death8 Don h'rried down the steps@ followed by 4'rtis8 :n the nearest cell@ 9arold Feonard lay on the cot@ as tho'gh in an 'ndist'rbable st'por8 +scar Pa'ling occ'pied the cot in the adEoining cell in a si(ilar fashion8 An e(pty plastic prescription .ial lying on the floor8 There was no way that .illia( Del(arr said was (issing8 That (eant there co'ld be a lot (ore people o't there in the sa(e condition as these two8 IDa(n itMJ Don c'rsed again8 9e perfor(ed 4PD on +scar Pa'ling@ hoping against hope the (an was not C'ite dead8 .er onto its back he placed his ear on Pa'ling6s chest and held his breath again8 9e heard nothing@ absol'tely nothing8 A line of drool ran o't of Pa'ling6s open (o'th@ trickling down his cheek and o.er the hinge of his Eaw8 IDa(nMJ I: got a p'lseMJ 4'rtis stood with his hand at 9arold6s throat8 I='st barely8J I4all an a(b'lanceMJ 4'rtis h'rried o't of the cell and 'p the steps8 Don had helped to search both (en8 9e sho'ld ha.ial lay on the floor of Pa'ling6s cell8 Don raced to the door of Pa'ling6s cell8 9e f'(bled with the keys and it see(ed to take hi( an inordinately long ti(e to 'nlock the cell door8 +nce he did so@ he tossed the keys to 4'rtis@ so he co'ld check on 9arold8 Don placed his hand on Pa'ling6s throat@ feeling for the carotid artery8 Pa'ling was war(@ and his skin was cla((y with sweat8 Don held his breath as he so'ght a p'lse8 There was none he co'ld detect8 Dolling the li(p body o.e held ӿ all the Yyre( .
est pocket of his s'it coat and prod'ced a letter that he handed to <eneral .ario's e%tensions of the patriot act ga.eled at hi( was lethal eno'gh8 .est was an old school officer8 9e had little eno'gh tolerance for the tea( of scientists and (eteorologists who beca(e a (aEor co(ponent of the base@ with their e%peri(ental flights and classified research8 9e was .ery ('ch against ci.est@ the co((anding officer on the base8 <eneral .er all (ilitary and law enforce(ent@ and he co'ld legally ass'(e co((and of the entire base8 I+nly in an e(ergency@ or by direct order of the President@J <eneral .e )Ps@ along with )aEor T'rner8 4olonel ?ations was pro'd of his )Ps8 $.hile he had welco(ed Doss@ the (an ne.en the (ost diffic'lt co((and he co'ld gi.e force@ or C'estionable techniC'es8 ?one of the( (is'sed their a'thority8 Before Doss arri.ery one of the( was a (odel soldier who ad(ired his co((anding officer8 Before Doss6s arri.al@ there had been no C'estion they wo'ld obey e.ert his a'thority8 Doss lost no ti(e in asserting that@ as a dep'ty director of 9o(eland Sec'rity@ he was 4ory6s s'perior and all sec'rity forces on the base were 'nder his co((and8 This disp'te took the( right 'p to <eneral .e hi( a slight edge when he p't his plan into action8 B't@ e%cept for these two@ they were all co(pro(ised and he co'ld not tr'st any of the(8 D'ring the few years )artin Doss had been on the base@ he had weaned e.est stip'lated8 4olonel ?ations tho'ght the old (an (ight p'll a g'n right there and shoot Doss8 The look he le.itho't a word@ Doss reached into the .ilians interfering in (ilitary affairs8 +nce 4olonel ?ations (ade hi( aware of the sit'ation@ he wasted no ti(e in calling )artin Doss into his office and dressing hi( down8 9e said in no 'ncertain ter(s that Doss co'ld do as he pleased o'tside the base@ b't he was the co((anding officer on the base and 4olonel ?ations was the head of sec'rity8 Doss did not like being 'pbraided in front of 4olonel ?ations@ b't he re(ained C'iet 'ntil the <eneral was done8 Then he re(inded the <eneral that .e hi( no(inal a'thority o.ery one of the (en and wo(en on the sec'rity force away fro( 4olonel ?ations8 4ory had co((anded a sec'rity force of forty-fi.e the(@ and e%ec'te it to the letter8 ?one of the( 'sed e%cessi.Part Five — A Dæmon #evealed '/& Strong:Arming the 2eneral 4olonel 4ory ?ations looked at the (an seC'estered in his office@ )aEor =a(es T'rner8 Along with 4orporal Terrance Peters@ )aEor T'rner was all he had left8 $%cept for these two (en@ and secretary ='dith )iller standing watch in her adEoining office@ )artin Doss had corr'pted his entire sec'rity force8 There were probably so(e )Ps who still felt loyalty to hi( as chief sec'rity officer8 :n fact@ 4olonel ?ations was co'nting on their resid'al respect for his a'thority to gi.er (issed an opport'nity to 'nder(ine and s'b.eral H he was their old (an8 Fro( the .ed on the base@ all of the( had spotless records8 Until that ti(e@ none of the( drank@ none of the( ga(bled@ and he hardly e.est8 4olonel ?ations noticed the Presidential seal on the stationary8 .er had to repri(and a one of the(8 They had been like a fa(ily to hi(@ and while he was not ('ch older than (ost of the( H and yo'nger than se.ery beginning@ )artin Doss6s assign(ent to the base had been a slap in the face@ s'ggesting his sec'rity force was not adeC'ate for the Eob8 .
ily@ and he see(ed to ha.il8J I5es@ Sir8J 4ory went on@ I9e has taken o.e another copy8J 9e pa'sed on his way o't8 I+h@ and gi.abitch off (y base8 Don6t worry8 :6ll get this sorted o't8J The ne%t ti(e 4olonel ?ations talked to <eneral .er went dead8 4olonel ?ations tried to call back8 Doris .est told 4olonel ?ations@ I:6( going to enEoy kicking that arrogant son'.il8 They6re all e.e Doss is in.er the phone8 I<eneral .ed8 4ory did not rest .e tho'ght it was so(e g'tter b'(8 I4oryKJ he ('(bled o.ie and do a little shopping in Phoeni%8 :nstead@ they dro.er co((and of the base to his secretary@ )aEor Girk Strickland@ and to )artin Doss@ who see(ed to be working together now8 9e stopped going to his office and sh't hi(self into his ho(e@ lea.e to the airport and booked a flight to Den.est read the letter@ his Eaw clenched and his hand gripped the paper8 .ersations with Dr8 Fipsco(b@ 4ory s'spected he fled the co'ntry to escape fro( )artin Doss8 ISir@ : ha.e lost the ability to co((and8 :t had to be (ore than E'st a dressing down by his s'periors8 )artin Doss had done so(ething to dispirit the old (an@ and left hi( little (ore than a fob in Doss6s hip pocket8 The <eneral lost all of his confidence8 9e co'ld not think straight@ and he co'ld hardly 'tter a word witho't C'estioning hi(self8 9e ga.er@ where Sheri6s parents li.e disappeared@ incl'ding Dr8 Fipsco(b8J Dr8 Brian Fipsco(b was the head of )eteorological research8 Based on his con.est ordered8 9e said goodbye his wife Sheri@ and to his children@ Dichard and Ta((y8 They left the base witho't any l'ggage@ ostensibly to take in a (o.ing his wife@ Doris@ to head off any atte(pts to reach hi(8 :n the last year@ 4olonel ?ations had talked to hi( only once@ a few (onths ago8 ӿ told hi( it was <eneral .en (ore stern8 I:f yo' think :6( going to accept what6s on this paper@ then yo' are del'sional8J 9e (ade as if to toss the letter down on the desk@ and then tho'ght better of it8 Folding the letter@ he opened a desk drawer and placed it inside8 I:6( going to look into this8 And if it doesn6t wash@ :6( going to kick yo'r ass off this base8 :n the (eanti(e@ stay o't of all (ilitary affairs8J Doss rose witho't being dis(issed8 I5o' can keep that letter8 : ha.As <eneral .e Doss aloneM The (an6s e.e reason to belie.ol.e (y regards to B'cky8J Dwight B'ckland was the Secretary of Defense8 After Doss left@ <eneral .er the research proEect and twisted it8 Fo'r of o'r scientists ha.est@ the <eneral was a broken (an8 9e was drinking hea.hen he was done@ he shook the letter at Doss as he bellowed@ IThis is horseshitM There6s absol'tely no reason for thisMJ 9e ca'ght hi(self and forced hi(self to cal( down@ tho'gh his .oice beca(e e.est answered and told hi(@ IThe <eneral is sleeping8 9e6s not feeling well@ and : dare not dist'rb hi(8J 4olonel ?ations did as <eneral .est calling@ 4ory 9e called 4ory on the phone8 :f ='dith had not wo'ld ha.ed in so(e sort of rit'alL8J )'rder@ he was going to say@ with the participation of 9o(eland Sec'rity agents and his own )Ps8 I4oryM 5o' get yo'r fa(ily off this base right now8 That6s an orderMJ The recei.estMJ 4ory replied with concern8 IAre yo' alright@ SirKJ I:6( fine8J 9e so'nded do'btf'l8 IThings are beco(ing C'ite i(possible on this base@ Sir@J 4olonel ?ations reported@ hoping against hope the old (an (ight co(e back to hi(self and res'(e co((and8 I)artin Doss hasL8J The <eneral c't in8 I5o' lea.e o.
e@ 'ntil they were fo'nd last week in So'thern 4alifornia H (in's so(e fingers and toes@ and a few other parts8J I9ow co(e : ne.isit her parents8 : hope yo' two aren6t fighting8J I?o@J 4olonel ?ations replied flatly@ Iwe6re not8J I.er heard anythingKJ IThe kidnappers told the( not to tell anyone@J Doss infor(ed hi(8 IThe FB: has been on the case since day one8 As Dep'ty Director of 9o(eland Sec'rity@ : knew all abo't it8 )y (en handled the case on this end8J 4ory felt c't off and i(potent8 9e realiAed his own )Ps knew (ore abo't this than he did8 IThe <eneral took it .er@ tragedy had str'ck the base8 <eneral .ery hard@J Doss said8 I: worried abo't hi( when they fo'nd the bodies@ tho'gh : didn6t think he wo'ld do anything like this8J IThe <eneral isn6t the type to co((it s'icide@J 4ory stated8 I?o@J )artin considered8 IAnd he isn6t the type to ha.e a breakdown and drown hi(self in whiskey@ is heK There6s no telling what a person will do when so(ething like this happens to his lo.ed8 I.hoe.easy 'ntil his wife called fro( her parents6 ho'se to tell hi( they were okay and they (issed hi(8 By the ti(e his wife called hi( fro( Den.e to insist8 .eryone on the base8 +.e wo'ldn6t want so(ething like that to happen to yo'r lo.er had the( has been (ailing the <eneral body parts8 B't there was hope they were still ali.ed ones@ now wo'ld weKJ .er the past se.ed s(all@ 'ntraceable packages containing body partsN fingers@ toes@ an ear@ an eye8 4olonel ?ations went to their ho'se as soon as the g'nshots were reported8 9e arri.hat happenedKJ 4ory asked8 :nstead of answering hi(@ his (en deferred to )artin Doss8 Doss s(iled@ then shook his head and feigned a respectf'l sorrow8 I:t looks like the <eneral shot his wife and co((itted s'icide8 They left a note8 Show hi(@J he told one of 4olonel ?ation6s )P6s@ a Sergeant Pa'lson@ who handed the 4olonel a note in a plastic bag8 The colonel read the note thro'gh the plastic8 I.er8J 4ory shot hi( a penetrating look@ which Doss ignored8 IThat was a s'dden decision to .ed ones8 :t (akes (e glad :6.eral (onths they recei.er the ho'se8 The lead officers were talking with Doss as 4olonel ?ations arri.o'ld yo' like the depart(ent to keep an eye on yo'r fa(ily while they6re awayKJ he asked with a practiced cas'alness8 I?o@J 4ory tried to respond E'st as cas'ally@ tho'gh he was ready to po'nce on Doss and strangle hi( to death8 IThat won6t be necessary8J I:6( afraid@J Doss went on@ Iconsidering what happened to the <eneral6s fa(ily@ :6ll ha.e been a bachelor all (y life8J )artin pa'sed8 IBy the way@ : hear yo'r fa(ily6s flight to'ched down safely in Den.ed right after )artin Doss8 )Ps and 9o(eland Sec'rity agents were already going o.hat6s this abo't their da'ghter and their grandkidsKJ I5es@J Doss told hi(8 IThat6s a tragedy8 .est@ after (any (onths of depression following the (ysterio's disappearance of his da'ghter and grandchildren fro( their ho(e in San Francisco@ ('rdered his wife with a handg'n before taking his own life8 :t see(ed the two of the( had for(ed a s'icide pact@ finding death preferable to life witho't their da'ghter and grandchildren8 A s'icide note was fo'nd on the scene e%plaining the whole thing8 :t said they kept the abd'ction secret fro( e.
e6.er the globe8 The data was sent to the labs here@ where it was analyAed and 'sed to (onitor their progress8 Based on this data@ the scientists here adE'sted the (i%t'res added to f'els thro'gho't the world8 .ilians8 At first these cri(es were co((itted off base@ b't in recent (onths Doss6s .en the a'thority to (ake changes in the (i%t'res8 At first@ he raised the a(o'nt of ato(iAed al'(in'(8 Al'(in'(@ the professor said@ was .ed in the aerosol phase of the progra(8 ISo(e of the at(ospheric che(ical engineering can6t be done thro'gh the 'se of Eet f'els@J Dr8 Fipsco(b e%plained8 IB'rning destroys or alters the co(ponents8J .e engineered this progra( caref'lly@ and we6.e nat're8 +nce these f'el (i%t'res had been tested@ they were p't into✐ prod'ction at refineries thro'gho't the ӿ world8 The f'els were b'rned in all aircraft@ disse(inating the reflecti.ery possibility into consideration8J Dr8 Fipsco(b ca'ght hi(self and a(ended so(ewhat ner.en a decade ago8 .e taken e.ery reflecti.il8 '0& S+ien+e Subverted 4ory belie.icti(s were bro'ght onto the base@ to roo(s on the base(ent floor of the lab b'ilding8 4olonel ?ations s'spected so(e of the (issing scientists and lab personnel wo'nd 'p in that base(ent8 Doctor Brian Fipsco(b co(plained ti(es abo't Doss6s interference@ partic'larly concerning ProEect Dise and Shine8 The night before Dr8 Fipsco(b fled the base@ he had a long con.ed Doss was behind the rit'alistic tort're and ('rder of ci.e8 I+'r (eteorological (odels are ('ch (ore acc'rate than they were e.4olonel ?ations did not tr'st hi(self to say anything8 9e handed the s'icide note back to Sergeant Pa'lson and left the scene8 9e went straight ho(e and sat by the phone 'ntil his wife called8 )artin Doss was behind the abd'ction@ of that 4ory was certain8 9e probably staged the ('rder-s'icide as well8 Doss had taken o.o'sly@ IThat is@ 'ntil )artin Doss ca(e along8J :t see(ed that )artin Doss was gi.e (aterials thro'gho't the at(osphere8 Another aspect of the progra( consisted of (eas'ring and (onitoring at(ospheric che(istry@ albedo and s'rface te(perat're8 )eas're(ents were (ade all o.hen 4ory C'estioned whether it was wise to (ess with so(ething as inherently 'nstable and 'npredictable as the weather@ Dr8 Fipsco(b beca(e defensi.er the base and s'b.e@ b't it had also been linked to health proble(s@ s'ch as AlAhei(er6s disease8 Soon )artin Doss was not content with changing the proportions of contents8 9e insisted on new ingredients that co'ld ha.ersation with 4olonel ?ations abo't the proEect and )artin Doss6s interference8 4ory had not belie.e little or nothing to do with co(bating global war(ing8 And he was e.ed hi( then@ b't he did now8 Dr8 Fipsco(b told hi( ProEect Dise and Shine@ as 4olonel ?ations always s'spected@ was a geoengineering proEect atte(pting to (itigate the effects of global war(ing8 The scientists at Didgepoint were creating new Eet f'el (i%t'res that contained nonreacti.erted it to his p'rposes8 The <eneral had been C'ite correctN the (an was e.ol.e ato(iAed (etals and other ele(ents of a reflecti.en (ore in.
en aware of it* it6s all a'to(ated and co(p'teriAed8J )artin Doss insisted these aerosol dispensers sho'ld spray phar(ace'tical co(po'nds that wo'ld (ake anyone e%posed to the( (ore docile and s'ggesti.en prono'nce so(e of the co(po'ndsMJ Dr8 Fipsco(b o.anish8 IAfter Dr8 4a.e6.e8 IDr8 4a.er the last two (onths8 :f it goes on like this@ at so(e point soon the o.el where we co'ld see an at(ospheric e%plosion8J IThat6s insaneMJ I:t gets worse8J Dr8 Fipsco(b6s .hen the dispensers are f'eled 'p@J Dr8 Fipsco(b said@ Ithey are also progra((ed for the altit'de at which to kick on@ the rate of dispersal@ and when to sh't off8 ?obody in the crew is e.erflowed with e%asperation8 IB't so(eone has a pretty good idea what they are doing8J ISo Doss is E'st passing along orders fro( elsewhere@J 4olonel ?ations concl'ded8 I.er is behind this is playing a dangero's ga(e8 Two (onths ago@ Doss began ordering flights in the 'pper at(osphere to disperse ato(iAed f'el8J IAto(iAed f'elKJ 4ory echoed8 IPetrol@J Dr8 Fipsco(b clarified8 I=et f'el8 The concentration is low so as to a.erM 4ontrol of the progra( has been gi.e co'nteracted what we set o't to achie.For this reason@ at Didgepoint and other bases aro'nd the world@ the air force fitted aerosol dispersal 'nits onto their aircraft8 I.e this8 I.oid co(b'stion8 B't it has been taking place reg'larly o.en to a (ad(an8 9e p'(ps whate.er he pleases into the at(osphere witho't any tho'ght for the conseC'ences8 $%ceptL e%ceptL8J Dr8 Fipsco(b had a hard ti(e co(pleting his tho'ght8 4olonel ?ations haAarded a g'ess@ I$%cept Doss doesn6t know half of the st'ff he6s ordered yo' to 'seKJ IThe (an can6t e.here is he going to get itKJ .el with ato(iAed blood8 Pig blood8 .e in the first place@J Dr8 Fipsco(b co(plained8 IThe at(osphere has beco(e (ore 'nstable than e.alier was the first scientist to .alier protested against the introd'ction of these phar(ace'tical co(po'nds8J Dr8 Fipsco(b re(e(bered8 )a'rice 4a.erall concentration in the 'pper at(osphere will reach a le.hoe.e been doing it for two weeks now@ all o.er the world8J IPig bloodMJ I+'r sa(ples show that right now rainfall pretty ('ch anywhere in the world consists of al(ost ten percent blood8 And )artin Doss E'st iss'ed orders that starting two weeks fro( now@ we will begin adding h'(an blood to the (i%t're8J I9'(an bloodMJ 4ory co'ld not belie.oice beca(e shaky8 The (an was scared8 ITwo weeks ago@ at Doss6s instr'ction we began spraying the at(osphere at clo'd le.alier disappeared@ )artin Doss began ordering all sorts of different co(po'nds for at(ospheric dispersal8J I)artin Doss co'ldn6t arrange the ship(ent of these dr'gs to bases all aro'nd the globe by hi(self8J I?o@ he co'ld not@J Dr8 Fipsco(b agreed8 And here he drew his (o'th into an odd sort of s(ile@ what so(e people (ight refer to as a shit-eating grin8 IB't the ship(ents go o't like clockwork8 The co(po'nds co(e fro( the che(ical and phar(ace'tical ind'stries@ and the (ilitary sees that they are distrib'ted to bases thro'gho't the world8J 4olonel ?ations reEected the i(plications@ b't he contin'ed to listen8 ISo(e of the things )r8 Doss has had 's add ha.
ersation in the interest of 9o(eland Sec'rity8J .en the players who were backing Doss@ and the inroads Doss had (ade with his own )Ps8 As for Dr8 Fipsco(b@ he disappeared fro( the base that .hile 4olonel ?ations co'ld not forget what Dr8 Fipsco(b told hi(@ he did not act on it either8 That is@ not 'ntil the death of <eneral .e a hard ti(e belie.io's night@ and wanted to know what they disc'ssed8 I.en fro( )artin Doss8 IThis is E'st too weird8 : can6t belie.ing stress8 9e was entranced by (y fishing stories8 )aybe he decided to take so(e ti(e off and gi.e will find Dr8 Fipsco(b@J Doss told hi( before lea.er to so(ebody@ and yo'6re the one8 5o'6re the head of sec'rity8J I?ot according to Doss8J I)aybe not@ b't yo'6re in co((and of the )Ps8 5o' can take action against ӿ Doss@ which is (ore than : can do8J 4olonel ?ations had his do'bts@ gi.ing8 IAnd if he disc'ssed any classified infor(ation with yo'@ we will contin'e this con.eiled s'ggestions to the effect that : (ight be the ne%t one to disappear8 : don6t intend to let that happen8 B't : had to t'rn this o.ed it8 ISo why are yo' telling (e thisKJ I?ow it6s yo'r proble(8J I5o'6re washing yo'r handsKJ IFook@J Dr8 Fipsco(b said@ I:6.e tho'ght )artin Doss was responsible@ e%cept Doss was waiting for hi( in his office the ne%t (orning with the news of the scientist6s disappearance8 9e was hot abo't it8 9e knew of 4ory6s (eeting with Dr8 Fipsco(b the pre.ery night8 4olonel ?ations wo'ld ha.ing (e8J Dr8 Fipsco(b drew a s(all pile of papers o't of his pocket and offered it to 4olonel ?ations8 I: kept all of his orders8J 4ory took the wrinkled notes and looked thro'gh the(8 There were all of )artin Doss6s orders@ dating fro( the first increase in ato(iAed al'(in'(8 The orders showed a knowledge of che(istry and 'nits of (eas're beyond 4olonel ?ations6 grasp8 And beyond )artin Doss@ he was s're8 B't each one ended with )artin Doss6s signat're8 The top note was the order for the introd'ction of h'(an blood8 I+kay8J 4olonel ?ations still did not know if he belie.est and his wife8 ?ot 'ntil the day )artin Doss threatened his fa(ily8 *3& Undermining Authority .IF'neral ho(es@ hospitals@ : don6t know8J Dr8 Fipsco(b shook his head8 IB't yo' can bet that in two weeks ti(e@ the ship(ents of h'(an blood will be (ade8J 4olonel ?ations co'ld not i(agine anything so gho'lish@ e.e talked abo't fly fishing@J 4ory responded8 IDr8 Fipsco(b does not fish@J Doss pointed o't8 I?o@ b't he is thinking of taking it 'p8 9e6s been 'nder a lot of stress lately and he6s thinking of taking 'p fishing as a hobby8 :t6s good for relie.e it a try8J I.e been ignored8J I5o' think :6ll ha.e it8 : (ean@ (aybe Doss@ b'tL8J I: tho'ght yo'6d ha.e better l'ckKJ I?o@ b't : can6t deal with it any (ore8 Doss is (aking .e (ade obEections 'p the line@ and they6.
er able to catch the( at it@ tho'gh they tried n'(ero's ti(es8 .er to Doss6s side@ it was the arrest of Sergeant Dobert T8 4ortland8 For a long ti(e@ the base had a proble( with disappearing s'pplies8 So(eone was s('ggling goods off the base@ e.e 4olonel ?ations lip ser.hile there was an ele(ent of co(petition between the(@ Doss6s personnel fraterniAed a great deal with 4olonel ?ations6 )Ps8 They in.ited his people to take part in off d'ty card ga(es@ parties@ and forays to local bars and roadho'ses8 Doss6s people nickna(ed 4olonel ?ations IBy-the-BookJ and (ade f'n of hi( for following reg'lations8 :n the a't'(n of )artin Doss6s first year on the base@ his 9o(eland Sec'rity agents and (ercenaries challenged the )Ps to a football ga(e8 Doss6s people played a dirty ga(e of football8 Abo't halfway thro'gh@ the )Ps realiAed that if they were not to be crea(ed@ they wo'ld ha.er while on d'ty8 :f there was one e.ed and transferred their loyalties to Doss8 Doss wo'ld fa.e tr'sted any of the( to obey hi( in e.en the (ost trying battle sit'ation8 B't Doss went to work on the( by whate.e to respond in kind8 .or the( for a while@ 'ntil they decided this had been the right decision to (ake all along8 Doss6s own personnel played a (aEor role in this 's'rpation8 .hile 4olonel ?ations knew this for a fact@ he and his )Ps were ne.er dropped below thirty at any gi.en ('nitions@ and selling the( on the black (arket8 Dobert T8 4ortland was the S'pply Sergeant@ and 4olonel ?ations was certain he was the (ain c'lprit8 Sergeant 4ortland@ along with a few of his personnel@ was sneaking s'pplies off the base and selling the( to STG :(ports8 .hen Doss ca(e to the base@ he bro'ght ten 9o(eland Sec'rity agents with hi(8 :n two (onths he do'bled that n'(ber8 By the ti(e he had been on the base for a year@ he had o.antage when they were 'p against those who did not8 So(e of the( adoped the nickna(e for 4olonel ?ationsN old IBy-the-Book8J A few of the( went so far as to call hi( Itight ass@J b't ne.er thirty agents working for hi(8 :t was diffic'lt to say e%actly what their n'(bers were beca'se@ e%cept for a select core@ they ca(e and went like a changing of the g'ard8 The only thing 4olonel ?ations co'ld say with any degree of certainty was that Doss6s total forces ne.es reported to Doss while barely acknowledging his presence@ 4ory had not realiAed how totally his a'thority had been eclipsed8 D'ring his first week on the base@ )artin Doss began s'perseding 4olonel ?ations6 orders8 At first the )Ps were conf'sed and tried to obey both co((anders8 As ti(e passed@ howe.ice while following Doss6s orders to the letter8 5et 4olonel ?ations had been s're of the loyalty of his personnel8 9e wo'ld ha.hile they lost@ by the end it was a close ga(e8 The football ga(e de(oraliAed the )Ps8 They saw that those who played by the book were at a disad.er (eans necessary8 9e was s're (any of the( were black(ailed8 There were hints of thatN )Ps who beca(e distra'ght for a period@ then resol.en ti(e@ and they were co(prised abo't half and half of 9o(eland Sec'rity agents and Darkwater (ercenaries8 .er@ they increasingly ga.4olonel ?ations did not realiAe how co(pletely )artin 's'rped his a'thority 'ntil the day the <eneral and his wife were ('rdered8 9e knew Doss was 'nderc'tting his co((and and he knew Doss was (aking inroads with his )Ps8 5et@ 'ntil that day when his detecti.ent that won the )Ps o.
ed in his nefario's dealings there was no way they co'ld bow o't8 So(e of the( did ha.er of the base@ its sec'rity and ProEect Dise and Shine@ his i(plication in the disappearance of se.e frag(ents@ 'ttered by distra'ght )Ps before they ca'ght the(sel.iewed the apparent ('rder-s'icide with s'spicion8 They were all on )artin Doss6s side now8 And so that day@ after the .ed in and told the( when and where he wo'ld recei.er 'nspeakable or 'nbelie.eral scientists and lab technicians@ the re.il and ('st be stopped8 5et@ while 4olonel ?ations was still the tit'lar head of sec'rity on the base@ all of his a'thority and the loyalty of his )Ps had been 's'rped by Doss8 9e co'ld no longer .erything had gotten8 9is )Ps treated hi( as an o'tsider8 9is detecti.er ti(e@ it was eno'gh for the( to b'ild a pict're of what was happening in that base(ent@ howe.ol.icti(s were tort'red and rit'alistically ('rdered8 Fantastic as it (ight so'nd@ 4olonel ?ations co'ld not ignore it any longer8 9e co'ld not deny that Doss was 'p to so(ething e.ersion of s'pplies and ('nitions stopped8 4olonel ?ations paid Sergeant 4ortland a few .ario's hints that the base(ent of the lab co(ple% had been transfor(ed into so(e sort of d'ngeon where .A few (onths after the football ga(e@ Doss and his 9o(eland Sec'rity agents ca'ght 4ortland red-handed8 They had gone to his b'yer@ p'tting the screws to =oseph Stelling8 +ld (an Stelling ca.es were ast'te eno'gh that they sho'ld ha.hen 4olonel ?ations began to s'spect Doss of rit'aliAed ('rder@ he realiAed it was probably at this ti(e that Doss (ade arrange(ents for STG to bring hi( )e%icans8 Sergeant 4ortland showed 'p at the specified place and ti(e to (ake the deal@ and Doss6s people were waiting for hi(8 They bro'ght hi( back to the base for C'estioning8 Doss handled the interrogation personally8 As a res'lt@ Sergeant 4ortland spent two (onths in the infir(ary8 9e lost a kidney and for the rest of his life he wo'ld walk with a prono'nced li(p8 ?o charges were filed@ and after he healed 'p@ Dobert T8 4ortland ret'rned to his position as S'pply Sergeant8 B't the di.e an attack of conscience as they 'nderwent their initiation8 :t was fro( the( that 4olonel ?ations and )aEor =a(es ӿ the base(ent 'nder the labs8 ?o one wo'ld T'rner first heard r'(ors of rit'al sacrifice in spell it o't8 All they heard were s'ggesti.ely as 9o(eland Sec'rity Dep'ty By-the-Balls8 The defections began8 As )Ps sw'ng their loyalty to Doss@ they were bro'ght into the folds of his sec'rity forces@ 'ntil they were so deeply in.e the ne%t ship(ent8 Doss told Stelling to reC'est Sergeant 4ortland (ake this ship(ent in person@ as they had so(ething i(portant to disc'ss8 .eiled threat against his own fa(ily@ e.able it (ight be8 *%& Planned $nsurre+tion The day of the <eneral6s death@ and the death of his wife@ 4olonel ?ations was forced to acknowledge E'st how o't of hand e.es and cla((ed 'p8 B't o.isits after he had been back on the Eob for a while8 4ortland was tight-lipped abo't the whole episode8 9e wo'ld go pale at the (ention of )artin Doss@ tho'gh 4olonel ?ations also detected a brooding ani(osity8 The incident showed the )Ps@ once and for all@ that 4olonel By-the-Book co'ld not get the Eob done as effecti.erything 4olonel ?ations learned in the last co'ple of years concerning )artin Doss ca(e ho(e to roostN Doss6s (anip'lations of a'thority@ his ipso facto takeo.e .elations of Dr8 Fipsco(b@ and the .
hat the hell are they 'p toKJ I: don6t know8 B't it can6t be anything good8J IThat6s an 'nderstate(ent8J =a(es T'rner was reeling fro( e.order Doss to be arrested and thrown in the brig8 9e co'ld not take his )Ps to assa'lt Doss and his agents* the )Ps were siding with Doss against hi(8 5et so(ething had to be done8 ?ow that he ad(itted Doss and his s'periors had so(e insidio's plan in place that (ight be the doo( of the entire planet@ he co'ld not allow this plan to co(e to fr'ition8 And fro( his con.hat was (ore@ if there were any other (e(bers of the sec'rity force left who were still loyal to 4olonel ?ations@ )aEor T'rner wo'ld know who they were8 4ory had hopes they co'ld p'll together a tea( of at least a half doAen (en8 That night he broached the s'bEect with his Second-in4o((and8 I4olonel@J his longti(e friend and associate responded@ I: think yo' and : are it8J IThere isn6t anyone else leftKJ 4olonel ?ations co'ld not belie.e anyone we don6t tr'st8J ISo we6re not E'st talking abo't bringing down Doss@J =a(es s'r(ised8 I.e to be stopped8 Based on what Dr8 Fipsco(b told (e@ we only ha.iction8 IThere has to be so(eone else8 The two of 's aren6t eno'gh8J I$no'gh for whatKJ I$no'gh to stop Doss8J 4olonel ?ations filled his Second-in-4o((and in on e.erything he knew8 )aEor T'rner had already s'r(ised Doss was behind the disappearances on the base@ and he s'spected Doss was so(e kind of serial killer8 9e tried to get access to the base(ent 'nder the labs a co'ple of ti(es@ and had been reb'ffed by Doss6s (en8 The second ti(e he was warned that if he (ade another atte(pt@ he wo'ld be escorted into the base(ent@ b't he wo'ld not co(e o't ali.e8 The testi(ony of Dr8 Fipsco(b left hi( d'(bfo'nded@ and not a little freightened8 IDo yo' belie.ell@ we can6t go o.er Doss6s head@ that6s for s're8J I?o@ this has to be handled on base8 And we can6t in.e to halt the proEect8J .ol.e hi(KJ I: didn6t want to@ b't yes : do8J I.e a (onth H (aybe8J I.e to plan caref'lly@ and (ake his preparations in secret@ 'ntil it ca(e ti(e to act8 5et@ he wo'ld need help* he co'ld not p'll this off by hi(self8 The only person he knew he co'ld tr'st was )aEor =a(es T'rner@ his Second-in4o((and8 )aEor T'rner had been co(plaining abo't Doss since the first day he ca(e to the base8 =a(es T'rner had to deal with the low (orale and the defections a(ong the )Ps8 9e tried to warn 4olonel ?ations that he was losing his co((and8 )aEor T'rner had been spoiling for a fight with )artin Doss for so(e ti(e8 .ersation with Dr8 Fipsco(b a few weeks back@ he knew there was not ('ch ti(e left8 4olonel ?ations assessed the sit'ation and planned for Doss6s downfall8 .e the defection was co(plete8 )aEor T'rner shook his head8 IAre yo' s'reKJ IThey all work for Doss now@J )aEor T'rner stated with hopeless con.erything the 4olonel E'st told hi(8 IThey co'ld destroy the whole f'ckin6 planet8 And what6s with the ato(iAed bloodK That6s E'st plain gho'lish8J IThey ha.ith his own )Ps t'rned against hi(@ he wo'ld ha.e ha.
e ha.ery day8 9is Eob was to patrol the aircraft hangars8 :t was a d'll d'ty@ b't one of enor(o's i(portance with regard to their plan8 Peters appeared to ha.eral days@ whittling down the list of possible co-conspirators to three@ who( he placed 'nder close scr'tiny8 9e (onitored not only their daily acti.ities@ b't also their phone calls and co(p'ter 'sage8 Two of the three harbored g'ilt for whate.er been gi.el and fo'nd it pedantic and predictable8 Peters called ho(e in Springfield@ :llinois once a week to talk to his parents8 9e said little abo't the base@ and nothing abo't )artin Doss8 9e took part in an online writers6 workshop@ and see(ed well aware of how bad his writing was8 )ost i(portantly@ Terrance Peters had nothing to do with )artin Doss@ Doss6s 9o(eland Sec'rity agents@ or his Darkwater (ercenaries8 )aEor T'rner co'ld find no indication that 4orporal Peters had taken part in any of Doss6s little (issions@ or had e.e no friends on the base8 9e got along well eno'gh with the other )Ps@ b't he did not socialiAe off d'ty8 9e spent his pri.er they had done that tied the( to Doss8 +ne had beco(e an alcoholic@ prone to crying Eags and spells of recri(ination8 The other was conte(plating s'icide8 Both (en still felt loyalties to 4olonel ?ations and the )aEor8 5et@ in the end@ )aEor T'rner co'ld not tr'st the(8 9owe.e a choice8J I?either do :8J And so they began to plan their assa'lt on the base8 4ory and =a(es had the knowledge and e%perience to do what needed to be done@ b't they wo'ld need at least one (ore person to (ake their plan work@ along with s'pplies8 4olonel ?ations tho'ght he co'ld ind'ce Sergeant 4ortland to gi.e nothing to (ake hi(self stand o't8 Tho'gh he years@ )aEor T'rner co'ld hardly re(e(ber his na(e8 9ad he not been looking o.e (issed 4orporal Terrance Peters8 5et@ it was likely that Peters had fallen 'nder Doss6s radar as well8 The 4orporal reported for work e.e the( the necessary s'pplies witho't carrying word back to )artin Doss8 All he had to do was play on the Sergeant6s ani(osity toward Doss and gi.e to close down the base8J 4ory hesitated a (o(ent8J=a(es@ yo' do know that if we s'cceedL8J I.er fi.I.el8 )aEor T'rner read a little of his no.er ('ch they (ight dislike it@ they were in )artin Doss6s hip pocket8 The third (an@ 4orporal Terrance Peters@ was the only one left on his list in the end8 :t was not that )P Peters inspired his tr'st@ b't rather that he co'ld find no co(pelling reason to distr'st hi(8 4orporal Peters was one of those people it is all too easy to o.ate ti(e reading@ following baseball@ and writing a (ystery no.enge with (ini(al blowback8 :t was 'p to )aEor T'rner to ferret o't any others they (ight tr'st to bring in on the operation8 )aEor T'rner st'died the personnel for se.e hi( a chance for re.er all the personnel@ he wo'ld ha.er it8 .hile there was nothing to s'ggest that 4orporal Peters wo'ld not report the( to Doss the (o(ent they contacted hi(@ )aEor T'rner do'bted it8 :f the (an wo'ld not go along with the(@ then it was likely he wo'ld say nothing8 The 4orporal had a history of doing what he was told and obeying his s'periors8 .erlook8 9e was 'nass'(ing@ C'iet@ a loner8 9e did his Eob efficiently@ b't did ⠀ӿ had been assigned to the base for o.e6ll likely be prosec'ted as traitors to o'r co'ntry@J =a(es finished for hi(8 9e tho'ght abo't it for the barest of (o(ents8 I: don6t see that we ha.en an order by Doss in any way8 The (an was like a rock on the botto( of a strea(@ indisting'ishable fro( all the other rocks on the strea(bed@ 'ndist'rbed by the waters flowing o.
en after =a(es told hi( to be at ease@ he re(ained standing at attention@ answering with short sentences to which he appended the honorific ISirJ8 :n spite of 4orporal Peters6 for(ality@ )aEor T'rner carried on and e.ealed8 I:t is .hat do yo' (ake of 9o(eland Sec'rity Dep'ty Doss@ 4orporalKJ I: ha.ersation aro'nd to )artin Doss8 I.ent'ally sw'ng the con.e of their beha.hat abo't his (enKJ =a(es contin'ed trolling8 I9ow do they strike yo'KJ I: wo'ld rather not say@ Sir8J I: want to hear what yo' think8 Please speak freely8J I: try to a.)aEor T'rner conferred with the 4olonel and they both agreed8 .e not been aro'nd the (an eno'gh to for( an opinion@ Sir8J I9e doesn6t co(e into the hangarsKJ I?ot while : a( on d'ty@ Sir8J I.es of (illions of people8J I5es@ Sir8J 4orporal Peters6 .oice and de(eanor did not betray any of the tho'ghts that ('st s'rely be going thro'gh his head8 )aEor T'rner was i(pressed8 I:t is the (ission of this base to halt global war(ing and re.ior8J I9o(eland Sec'rity Dep'ty Doss and his (en ha.o'ld yo' be willing to follow orders to stop DossKJ )aEor T'rner threw o't his bait8 I$.oid interacting with the(@ Sir8J I.hyKJ =a(es pried8 IThe other )Ps get along with the( well eno'gh8J ISir@ : disappro.ersation8 Terrance Peters was stiff and proper8 $.hile 4orporal Peters was not their first choice@ he was the only person they (ight tr'st8 The ne%t step was for )aEor T'rner to test his loyalties8 +ne day while 4orporal Peters was on d'ty@ )aEor T'rner approached hi( in an aircraft hangar and started a con.e been a bad infl'ence on this base8J =a(es p'shed on8 IDo yo' know what the (ission of this base is@ 4orporalKJ ITo pro.ital to the f't're of the h'(an race8J I5es@ Sir8J I)artin Doss is interfering with this (ission8J the )aEor watched 4orporal Peters closely as he contin'ed8 I9e has twisted this (ission to the point it now presents its own i((ediate threat to the contin'ance of life on this planet8J I5es@ Sir8J I)artin Doss6s interference cannot be allowed to contin'e8J I?o@ Sir8J I.en if it (eant taking action against others on this base@ incl'ding yo'r fellow )PsKJ 4orporal Peters hesitated a (o(ent@ then said@ IPer(ission to speak freely@ SirKJ IThat per(ission had already been granted@ 4orporal8J .erse its effects@J the )aEor re.er the past cent'ryKJ I<lobal war(ing8J The 4orporal replied c'rtly8 I5es@ Sir8J I:f it goes 'nchecked@ global war(ing will (ake this planet 'ninhabitable8 :t is already wreaking ha.ide sec'rity for the scientific personnel@ to aid the( in their at(ospheric research@ and to patrol the airspace along the )e%ican border@ Sir8J I5o' know nothing of ProEect Dise Ԉ and ShineKJ I?o@ Sir8J ITerrance@ yo' are aware that the global cli(ate has been thrown into chaos by ind'strial e(issions of greenho'se gases o.oc with the econo(y and disr'pting the li.
ersation back to )artin Doss8 Ten days passed and there was no s'ch indication8 D'ring this ti(e@ 4olonel ?ations and )aEor T'rner (ade their plans8 4olonel ?ations so'nded o't Sergeant 4ortland and fo'nd the s'pply Sergeant (ore than happy to help the( off the books@ knowing his help wo'ld gi.e as ('ch training in police proced're and detecti.ed@J =a(es T'rner told hi(8 I:n o'r c'rrent sit'ation all the other )Ps are co(pro(ised8 4orporal@ this is the last inning of the .e it to (e8 : don6t ha.ery interested in (e or what : do here8 Patrolling the hangars is a d'll Eob@ b't it does ha.e hi( re.e to be done@ so they lea.anced eno'gh for acc'rate proEections8 By tweaking at(ospheric che(istry@ he belie.e work as the other )Ps8 And@ C'ite frankly@ :6( not as a(bitio's8 :6( content to p't in (y ti(e as a glorified sec'rity g'ard and then go abo't (y own b'siness8 : ne.er the ne%t ten days@ 4olonel ?ations ca(e to realiAe they co'ld not stop at taking down )artin Doss8 They had to bring +peration Dise and Shine to an end8 $.I: a( pro'd to ser.e been left alone8 : don6t think anyone is .ed he co'ld cancel all .hile he (ade plans o.en if Doss6s infl'ence halted@ the proEect co'ld not be allowed to contin'e8 Dr8 Fipsco(b had been wrong8 :t was his own conceit@ as it was the conceit of so (any scientists to think they co'ld control nat're witho't s'ffering any backlash8 4olonel ?ations read 'p on at(ospheric geoengineering8 :t was to'gh going@ trying to (ake sense of all the technical reports8 B't he soon realiAed there was no scientific consens's abo't (anip'lating the at(osphere to cancel the effects of global war(ing8 There see(ed to be two ca(ps@ pro and con@ with Dr8 Fipsco(b leading the proponents8 Dr8 Fipsco(b (aintained his at(ospheric (odels were ad.hile : ha.e 'nder yo' and 4olonel ?ations8 D'ring this past year@ : ha.orld Series8 The opposing tea( is ahead8 .e been told yo' are not (y co((anding officers@ first by 9o(eland Sec'rity Dep'ty )artin Doss@ and (ore recently by (y fellow )Ps8J I<o on8J )aEor T'rner was not s'rprised to hear this8 I.e not arg'ed this point with anyone@ : ha.ol.ed in the affairs of this base@ Sir8J IThat was before )artin Doss arri.er the entire base8 IFor the (ost part@ Sir@ : ha.enge on )artin Doss witho't e%posing hi( to retaliation8 *'& Faulty "odeling .er asked to be in.e need a ho(e r'n to win8 There are two strikes against 's and yo' are at bat8 4an we co'nt on yo'KJ Terrance Peters tho'ght abo't it a (o(ent8 I)aEor@ if it is within (y power@ : will win this ga(e for yo'8J IThat6s what : wanted to hear8 For right now@ go abo't yo'r d'ties and don6t say a word of this to anyone@ 'nderstoodKJ 䱐Ԁ I5es@ Sir8J I:6ll contact yo' when the ti(e co(es8J I5es@ Sir8J )aEor T'rner reported back to 4olonel ?ations8 Then they waited@ and watched for any sign that 4orporal Peters reported this con.e not seen official orders for this change of co((and8 ?or has it been (entioned by 4olonel ?ations or yo'rself@ Sir8J IThere are no official orders8J )aEor T'rner was not aware of Doss6s letter granting hi( a'thority o.
e gi.e known how ('ch tro'ble he wo'ld be in d'e to his fa'lty (odeling@ and that by itself wo'ld ha.the effects of global war(ing8 9is research appealed to corporations that tho'ght@ gi.eloped a plan that feat'red an escape to So'th A(erica8 9e wanted )aEor T'rner and 4orporal Peters safely o't of here when this was o.er once he finished this (ission8 They intended to 'se a fighter Eet to destroy the base8 They wo'ld load the Eet with g'ided (issiles and target first Doss6s residence@ then the lab@ and then the C'arters of the scientists and technicians@ and the aircraft hangars8 Afterward@ they wo'ld fly to PeneA'ela or Boli.e in the (inds of the scientists and technicians asse(bled on this base8 To ter(inate the proEect@ they wo'ld ha.e to eradicate the base and personnel it was his d'ty to protect8 :t was a s'icide (ission8 :f by chance they did s'r.ed a go ahead e.ed to co(pletely halt the proEect8 And 4olonel ?ations ca(e to 'nderstand that E'st as the proEect did not stop with Dr8 Fipsco(b6s disappearance@ so it wo'ld not stop if they Ԁ destroyed the lab at Didgepoint8 The proEect挰 wo'ld still be ali.er responded to the $'ropean st'dy8 .icted and e%ec'ted8 +r they wo'ld be disappeared to so(eplace where )artin Doss6s colleag'es co'ld tort're the( before killing the(8 To a.er to 9eater and t'rn hi(self in to his friend@ Sheriff Pierce8 :n any case@ he wo'ld not r'n8 9e was doing this for his wife@ and for his children8 B't he co'ld not flee the co'ntry while they re(ained here8 And so he (ade his plans knowing his life wo'ld be o.e (ade sense to recr'it a pilot into their conspiracy@ b't air force pilots co'ld not be tr'sted8 Pilots were trained to drop their loads witho't re(orse and witho't conscience@ and to always be loyal to the air force8 ?o@ a pilot wo'ld t'rn the( in C'icker than an )P8 .e to destroy the entire base and all personnel on it8 :n order to do his d'ty by his co'ntry and the world@ 4olonel ?ations wo'ld ha.en as his critics assailed his research all the lo'der8 4ritics of at(ospheric geoengineering listed any n'(ber of factors and sideeffects that were (ini(iAed by Dr8 Fipsco(b6s (odel8 To 4orporal ?ations@ (any of their criticis(s see(ed C'ite pla'sible8 Dr8 Fipsco(b reEected the( witho't gi.e been disastro's8 Dr8 Fipsco(b ne.ia8 :t (ight ha.i.en control o.er the at(osphere and the cli(ate@ they co'ld go on with b'siness as 's'al8 9is research also appealed to a go.ol.en hi( eno'gh reason to disappear8 As 4olonel ?ations (o.en witho't )artin Doss6s interference@ and the res'lts wo'ld ha.hether he chose to ignore it or whether he was too concerned with Doss6s interference by that ti(e@ 4ory did not know8 B't he s'spected Dr8 Fipsco(b 'sed )artin Doss@ at least partially@ as an e%c'se for walking away fro( the proEect8 9ad he been 'nable to ignore the res'lts of the $'ropean st'dy@ then he wo'ld ha.e@ 4ory had no do'bt they wo'ld stand trial for treason@ or (ore likely terroris(8 They wo'ld be tried@ con.ing the( ('ch consideration8 +ne recent $'ropean st'dy de(onstrated Dr8 Fipsco(b6s own (odel (ight prod'ce effects opposite of those he hoped to achie.e@ acting to (agnify and accelerate global war(ing8 4olonel ?ations ca(e to realiAe +peration Dise and Shine probably wo'ld ha.en tho'gh it was constantly dealing with nat'ral disasters res'lting fro( cli(ate instability8 And so his proEect recei.oid s'ch a fate@ 4olonel ?ations de.ed toward these concl'sions@ his goal e.e failed e.er8 As for hi(self@ he e%pected to be apprehended8 Perhaps he wo'ld head o.ern(ent that was still in denial abo't global war(ing@ e.
ing off an at(ospheric catastrophe8 Then there was the (assacre at Swanson 4reek@ following which the base was sealed off8 Finally@ the pre.io'sly f'eled and loaded with s(art bo(bs8 They wo'ld take off and perfor( their bo(bing r'n while 4olonel ?ations held the airfield8 )aEor T'rner arg'ed a great deal abo't 4olonel ?ations6 role8 9e felt the 4olonel sho'ld board the plane with the(8 B't so(eone had to stay on the gro'nd8 +therwise@ it wo'ld take no ti(e for the base to scra(ble fighter Eets and p't an end to the (ission8 Fro( the flight co((and tower@ 4olonel ?ations co'ld co.io's choice8 9e always had been ena(ored of fighter Eets8 9e had flown e.ery class of fighter on the base8 For recreation@ he was known to log in ti(e on the co(p'ter flight si('lators8 ?o one wo'ld think it odd if he spent the ne%t week practicing bo(b r'ns8 .io's e.e then@ an ho'r after Peters went on d'ty8 Before the labs were targeted@ 4olonel ?ations wo'ld (ake a one (an assa'lt on the base(ent of the lab co(ple%@ in order to free the fa(ily being held there8 9opef'lly their captors wo'ld not go all o't in their tort're d'ring the night8 )artin Doss had other things on his (ind this e.er the entire field long eno'gh for )aEor T'rner and 4orporal Peters to finish their bo(bing r'n8 Then he co'ld slip off the base while they dropped the re(ainder of their load on the hangars and the field8 9e co'ld take a 9'(.ening a fa(ily was bro'ght onto the base by 9o(eland Sec'rity agents H parents and two teenaged sons8 They were taken to the base(ent 'nder the lab@ where 4olonel ?ations s'spected they were being tort'red8 The 4olonel wo'ld ha.Fort'nately@ both 4ory and =a(es had pilot6s licenses8 =a(es was the ob.er the air field for their (ission to s'cceed8 5et@ pri.iceable8 After that@ he wo'ld take o't the lab@ the scientists6 C'arters and the hangars8 The 4olonel co'ld tell hi( off while they were on their way to So'th A(erica8 They (ade their plans and disc'ssed 4olonel ?ations6 role for the ne%t ten days8 And then a series of 'ne%pected e.ery night@ b't 4orporal Peters was not on d'ty at the hangar 'ntil the ne%t day8 And so they chose to (o.ening8 The 9o(eland Sec'rity Dep'ty was agitated@ and (ost of his (en were off base8 4olonel ?ations wondered if any of the( slept that night8 9e certainly did not8 All night long he worked on the final phase of his plan8 .ee and beat a path straight to the )e%ican border8 IThey6ll pin yo' down in the tower@J =a(es arg'ed ti(e and again8 IThey co'ld take the whole da(n thing o't8J IThey need that tower to stop yo'@J 4olonel ?ations co'ntered8 I+nce yo' t'rn yo'r sights on the field@ they6ll be too b'sy sa.ately he (ade his own plans8 At the last (in'te while boarding the plane@ he wo'ld knock the 4olonel 'nconscio's so they co'ld carry hi( on board8 Then he wo'ld alter the target order slightly8 First he wo'ld take o't Doss6s office and C'arters@ and then he wo'ld drop eno'gh (issiles on the airfield to render it 'nser.e to p't their plan into action soon if there was to be any chance of sta.ed the (ission 'p to that .hen the day ca(e@ 4olonel ?ations and )aEor T'rner wo'ld go to the hangar 4orporal Peters sec'red for the(8 )aEor T'rner and 4orporal Peters wo'ld board a bo(ber they had pre.e (o.erything8 First the sky went so'r on the(@ which was clearly a sign that Doss6s interference with ProEect Dise and Shine was nearing the point of no ret'rn8 They wo'ld ha.ing their own b'tts to do anything else8 :6ll be well ar(ed@J he ass'red his Second-in-4o((and8 I: can fight (y way o't of here@ so long as yo' don6t blow (e 'p by accident8J )aEor T'rner ga.ents changed e.e in8 9e knew so(eone had to co.
e on the base8 :n the few ho'rs before dawn@ 4ory tried to get so(e sleep@ b't fo'nd he co'ld not8 9e went o.erything they needed@ e.en after their change in plans8 4olonel ?ations s'spected knowledge of the ci.ern(ent officials@ scientists and en.es with detonators@ and (ade s're their weapons were loaded and in good working order8 The 4olonel was 'sing an assa'lt rifle with a grenade la'ncher8 9e had se.es in the base(ent 'nder the lab while he was at it8 They agreed the 4olonel wo'ld ha.er his (essage to news agencies@ go.er their plan again and again8 )aEor T'rner and 4olonel Peters wo'ld take off in their bo(ber@ first targeting )artin Doss6s office and C'arters@ and second the air field8 .er e.ee o't in back of the lab co(ple%8 The Sergeant nodded and said no (ore8 They went o.en Doss6s designs8 :t (ight delay things@ b't e.ent'ally they wo'ld set 'p shop elsewhere@ recr'iting a fresh crew of eggheads to Eoin their efforts8 The only possible way to stop the proEect was to blow the lid off of it8 4olonel ?ations prided hi(self on his co(p'ter literacy8 As a teen he had been so(ewhat of a hacker8 For weeks now@ he had b'ilt 'p a network that wo'ld deli.iron(ental acti.ilians being held in the base(ent had (oti.9e knew their s'ccess wo'ld not necessarily stop ProEect Dise and Shine@ or e. e%plosi.er of the base@ and his own plans to p't a stop to it8 9e finished his e%posO in the early ho'rs of (orning@ and 'ploaded it into a re(ote ser.eryone was distracted@ 4olonel ?ations wo'ld free the prisoners@ and plant e%plosi.hile e.ices8 9e said he (ight E'st be waiting in an ar(ored 9'(.e to take ai( on 䵀Ԁ the lab@ and hope the 4olonel was able to e.erything at least twice8 The two sec'rity officers sat in the 4olonel6s office@ watching the clock and waiting for !" ho'rs to roll aro'nd@ which wo'ld be an ho'r after 4orporal Peters reported on d'ty at the hangars8 **& Shattered Skies .eral spare (agaAines and eno'gh grenades to keep the whole base hopping8 The 4olonel (et with Sergeant 4ortland before daybreak@ and the s'pply Sergeant ca(e thro'gh with e.ac'ate the prisoners8 The ne%t day@ )aEor T'rner (et with the 4olonel in his office to (ake last (in'te preparations8 They pri(ed 4-.ee if he knew where and when to park it8 4olonel ?ations debated for only a (o(ent8 Sergeant 4ortland had not t'rned the( in th's far8 And the 4olonel wo'ld need help to get the prisoners safely off the base8 So he told the Sergeant that when the (issiles started falling it wo'ld be (ost helpf'l if he wo'ld park his 9'(.ated the Sergeant beyond his 's'al a.e his allegations8 And now@ tonight@ he sat 'p drinking coffee and writing a f'll report abo't ProEect Dise and Shine@ Doss6s take o.e one half ho'r fro( the ti(e )aEor T'rner dropped his first (issile on Doss6s office8 D'ring that ti(e@ the )aEor wo'ld de(olish the airfield and the hangars8 +nce half an ho'r had passed@ he wo'ld ha.arice8 The (an see(ed to know 4olonel ?ations was going to liberate the prisoners and offered his own ser.ists aro'nd the globe8 9e intended to raise s'ch a stink there was no way ProEect Dise and Shine wo'ld be able to contin'e in any for(8 For the past week@ he had gathered 'p doc'(entation to pro.er in the ?etherlands@ fro( which it was set to be distrib'ted at !" ho'rs@ when they (ade their (o.
ith e.er8 9e t'rned the radio on and fo'nd the p'blic station to which he kept the radio t'ned was lost in static8 As he h'nted thro'gh the F) band for a station that was not breaking 'p@ )aEor T'rner stepped o.e p't o't a tornado alar(8 <i.eryone into the 'ndergro'nd b'nkers8 Then we go on with the plan8 .er the planet@J the radio anno'ncer was saying8 IAnd they see( linked to increasing electro(agnetic t'rb'lence8 .e got to find o't what6s going on8J IDo yo' think we can fly in thisKJ the )aEor asked8 IThat6s what we need to find o't8J 9e stepped back o.e now ha.ice is saying@J he told the )aEor as he went back to scanning the radio@ switching o.erge of breaking 'p when they instead co(bined into one giant f'nnel8 4ory6s first tho'ght was that it was too late8 They were looking at the beginnings of their feared at(ospheric catastrophe8 I.erything else gro'nded@ yo' sho'ld ha.er to the A) freC'encies8 )aEor T'rner picked 'p the telephone recei.At !221 ho'rs@ the secretary b'AAed the(8 I5es@ ='dyKJ 4ory spoke into his interco(8 I4olonel@J ='dy )iller6s .er and called the tower8 The 4olonel at last fo'nd an A) station that co'ld be 'nderstood thro'gh the 撐Ԁ static8 ILf'nnel clo'ds reported all o.er the entire planet8 There are a few (ilitary and aerona'tical flights 'p there8 They6re safe eno'gh so long as they don6t go abo.e the( ti(e to close down the tower and get e.er to the window and p'lled the blinds8 I4olonel@ take a look at this8J 4ory Eoined hi(8 :n the sky@ they saw se.er to the radio8 I4all the tower and ask the( what the (eteorological ser.en know yo'6re 'p there 'ntil yo' start dropping (issiles8 ='st stay below 1@ feet8 .ith e.e 1@ feet8 The few craft that went higher ran into se.eral f'nnel clo'ds swirled paisley with red and pink@ orange and yellow8 The largest darkened to a p'st'lent p'rple8 The officers watched as two s(aller f'nnels drew near each other8 The two f'nnels began to spin abo't a co((on a%is8 They lost so(e of their intensity@ and see(ed on the .e been lost8J 4olonel ?ations stepped back to the window8 +'tside@ the base had co(e to life with people h'rrying abo't@ (any of the( looking 'p at the sky8 )aEor T'rner stood beside hi(@ regarding the co((otion o'tside8 I.er to the filing cabinet atop which sat a s(all A)RF) recei.hat do we do nowKJ the )aEor asked8 4olonel ?ations considered for a (o(ent8 I.oice so'nded slightly tinny@ Iyo' (ight want to catch a news report8 There are so(e strange things going on in the sky@ Sir8J IThank yo'@ ='dy8J 4olonel ?ations stepped o.e so(e reports of lightning s'rging between the f'nnelsL8J Then the broadcast was lost in static8 )aEor T'rner h'ng 'p the phone8 IThey6re ha.e a clear shot at PeneA'ela8 And =a(es@J 4olonel ?ations hesitated8 I5esKJ ITarget the b'nkers8J 4olonel ?ations told hi(8 .ere t'rb'lence8 Three aircraft ha.e6.eryone in the shelters@ it sho'ld go off witho't a hitch8J IAnd the bo(bing r'nKJ =a(es T'rner asked8 IDo it8 They won6t e.ing tro'ble with their eC'ip(ent@J he reported8 IThis see(s to be an 'pper at(osphere pheno(ena8 All air traffic has been gro'nded8 There isn6t a co((ercial flight in the sky anywhere o.
e to go to so'nd the siren@ to the labs8 I+kay@J )aEor T'rner acknowledged8 IThen yo' had best find the 4orporal8 And good l'ck8J 9e held o't a hand to )aEor T'rner8 =a(es took his hand and shook it8 IAnd good l'ck to yo'8J 9e headed for the door of the office@ where he pa'sed to add@ I4olonel@ : hope we do (eet again@ 'nder ('ch better circ'(stances8J I)e too@ )aEor@J 4ory agreed8 I)e too8J B After the )aEor left@ 4ory looked at the pack f'll of e%plosi.e a 9'(.e e.ait another twenty (in'tes after that before yo' take off8 That will gi.hen the alar( so'nds@ go to yo'r 9'(.ee waitingKJ I5es@ Sir8J I.eryone ti(e eno'gh to get into the shelters8J 4olonel ?ations tho'ght it wo'ld also gi.es@ grenades and a((o clips8 9e broke down the assa'lt rifle and stored it in the pack as well8 Then he hefted the pack o.er@ pa'se when he left the b'ilding@ to look 'p at the sky in wonder8 The entire sky as far as he co'ld see was pop'lated by f'nnel clo'ds in shades of red@ orange@ yellow and p'rple8 9e wondered if this was what the sky looked like on ='piter8 .ill be lost anyway@J 4olonel ?ations co(pleted the sentence for hi(8 I:f@ by so(e chance@ the sky does settle back down@ they6ll reb'ild the lab and pick 'p where they left off8 To stop the proEect@ we ha.e to stop the scientists on this base8 5o' know that8J I5es8J =a(es T'rner was 'neasy with this alteration in his (ission8 I: g'ess so8J ITarget the b'nkers first@ then the airstrip and the hangars8 +ne half ho'r after yo' drop yo'r first (issile@ target the lab8J 4olonel ?ations absol.e thro'gh the gates and do not stop 'ntil yo' are at yo'r sister6s ho'se in Alb'C'erC'e8 5o' got thatKJ I5es@ Sir8J As he headed o't the door@ she said@ I<ood l'ck to yo'@ Sir8J 9e did not stop to respond8 9e did@ howe.28J They waited for the re(ainder of the (in'te to pass@ I!2N.ee8 As soon as yo' hear the first e%plosion@ : want yo' to head to the front gates8 Dri.ed his second-in-co((and of responsibility@ IThat6s an order8J I5es@ Sir8J I: want yo' to find 4oporal Peters right now8 +therwise@ he (ight head to the shelters with the others8 :6ll set off the alar( in half an ho'r8 Fet6s synchroniAe o'r watches8J Both (en looked at the wristwatches8 I:t is !2N.er his right sho'lder and left his office8 9e pa'sed to tell his secretary@ I='dith@ there will be a tornado alar( in twenty (in'tes8 ?ot long after that@ the fireworks will start8 5o' ha.38J I<ot it8J )aEor T'rner confir(ed8 They set their ti(ers for one half ho'r8 I:6ll set off the siren at !"N2 @J the 4olonel said8 I.IB'tL8J 4olonel ?ations c't off his obEection8 I:t6s the only way to halt the proEect for good@ and stop )artin Doss8J IB't all those peopleL8J )aEor T'rner corrected hi(self@ IAll o#r peopleL8J I.e hi( ti(e eno'gh to get fro( the co((and tower@ where he wo'ld ha.
ens8 So(e cl'ng to each other in a .eral of the f'nnels were pairing off@ gyrating aro'nd each other in a dance si(ilar to the one he and )aEor T'rner had seen fro( his office window8 The sight was o(ino's8 So(e (o'rnf'l clarion in the back of his (ind tolled a sorrowf'l dirge8 9e was front row at the end of the world8 :t was too late8 9e (ight as well sh'ck this pack and find hi(self a corner to cry in8 They ne.eryone aro'nd hi(8 9e took the ele.ith new resol.e@ he crossed the co(po'nd to the air traffic control tower@ disregarding the panic and despair of e.er his display screens8 4olonel ?ations co'ld not think of his first na(e8 Fooking o.iew8 Fie'tenant To( 9askins had co((and of the tower8 A (eteorologist by the na(e of ?ess was sitting h'nched o.ain effort to find reass'rance in h'(an contact8 +thers h'rried on@ their eyes wide and glassy with panic and fear8 All aro'nd hi( he heard (oaning and weeping8 There was nothing so forlorn as the so'nd of a broken soldier crying8 )artin Doss had already won H Doss and the power players for who( he worked8 .er had a chance8 :n its arrogance@ (ankind had doo(ed itself8 9e tho'ght of Sheri8 9e tho'ght of Dichard and Ta((y and all the other children who had been born to this8 Despair drained hi( of e.en if it was gro'nd to which they were froAen8 9e had been too late@ he wo'ld do e.e been two lightning flashes in the last (in'te8 :t6s a c'rio's pheno(enon8 The lightning see(s to arc between f'nnels8J IThose f'nnels are generating a lot of energy@J one of the scientists standing behind the (eteorologist spoke witho't looking 'p8 IThe f'nnels are highly ioniAed@ and they need to do so(ething to .en the desire to go on li.hate.al@ e%cept for Fie'tenant 9askins8 This latter stood stiffly for a (o(ent and deli.erything@ e.er his sho'lder were two other scientists 4ory did not know by na(e8 Standing elsewhere in the roo(@ looking o't at the sky were fo'r other (en8 4ory knew two of the( to be Darkwater (ercenaries working for )artin Doss8 ?one of the( see(ed to notice the 4olonel6s arri.ern(ent@ cloaked in respectability8 And these terrorists wo'ld not be satisfied 'ntil they had do(inion o.ator 'p to the control roo(@ e%pecting to find one officer and a (eteorologist on d'ty8 .ing8 All aro'nd hi(@ he saw others reacting in a si(ilar (anner8 $.er their goals were@ they wo'ld da(n the entire planet to achie.erything he co'ld to thwart the(8 .er e.Se.en if they doo(ed the(sel.ator door opened@ he fo'nd instead a roo( crowded with spectators who ca(e 'p for a better .ered the 4olonel a sal'te@ before ret'rning his attention to the sky o'tside8 There was a brief flash of light8 +'t of the corner of his eye@ 4olonel ?ations ca'ght a gli(pse of lightning high 'p in the sky8 IThere6s another oneMJ so(eone said8 The Fie'tenant crossed the roo( to (eet the 4olonel8 I4olonel@J Fie'tenant 9askins reported@ Ithere ha.e their greedy a(bitions8 Forget abo't :sla(ic F'nda(entalists@ Fatin A(erican 4o(('nists and $coterrorists* the real terrorists walked the halls of high finance and go.ent the b'ild'p of static energy8J .hen the ele.erythingN (oti.es in the process and left the planet a sterile and lifeless rock8 At this tho'ght@ 4olonel ?ations felt a rising anger that broke his feet free of the 丰Ԁ the stooge long eno'gh8 $.ation@ sense of p'rpose@ e.eryone was shocked and st'pefied8 )any were froAen in place@ staring helplessly at the hea.
olatile8J As if to p'nct'ate the scientist6s state(ent@ a powerf'l bolt of lightning arced fro( one f'nnel to another8 The f'nnel that was the recei.eryone else was (oaning and c'rsing@ b't (o.e been p'(ping 'p there in the last co'ple (onths@ those skies are .erywhere@ gobbling 'p the tainted at(osphere8 As other f'nnels ignited@ these also p'lled into the(sel.Fie'tenant 9askins asked@ IDid yo' wish for a closer look@ SirKJ I.eryone and e.e need to (onitor these f'nnels@ in case they present a threat8J ISir@J the Fie'tenant told hi(@ Ithere ha.here6s )arkKJ A (an who had been standing by the( said@ I: think yo'r friend went thro'gh the window8J .e his neck8 I:s e.ing abo't witho't too ('ch tro'ble8 They were banged 'p and bleeding fro( n'(ero's scratches@ b't nothing serio's8 +ne of the (ercenaries looked aro'nd and wondered@ I.es 'p off the floor8 All e%cept the scientist who had been speaking to hi( before the e%plosions8 That (an lay on his back@ stone still@ with a large ch'nk of glass e(bedded in the back of his head@ E'st abo.erhead8 A few e%ploded downward@ reaching down thro'gh the at(osphere to scorch the land below8 A series of conc'ssions rocked the control tower8 4ory banged his hip against the instr'(ent panel as he fell8 The windows shattered and so(eone screa(ed8 4ory tho'ght 昀Ԁ the tower was collapsing8 9e heard the so'nd of giant l'ngs gasping for air and an inh'(an (oan that see(ed to e(anate fro( the .er to Eoin the(@ a do'ghty little (an with a bald head and thick glasses8 9e glanced at the Darkwater (ercenaries before contin'ing in a C'ieter .ith all the crap we6.eryone alrightKJ 4ory asked8 I5eah@ : think so@J Fie'tenant 9askins ('ttered8 As his eyes fell on the scientist with his head skewered by a piece of glass@ the Fie'tenant froAe8 I9e6s dead@J 4ory told hi(@ shaking his ar( to break the trance8 I5eah@J Fie'tenant 9askins looked away8 $.erything with shards of glass8 4ory6s cheek st'ng8 9e r'bbed it with the back of his hand8 Drawing his hand away@ he saw blood on his fingers8 9e shook his head and frag(ents of glass rained fro( his hair@ onto his sho'lders and down his back8 <athering his senses@ he looked aro'nd8 The other (en in the tower were picking the(sel.oice8 I.es as the first one had8 )ost of the( e%ploded 'pward f'eling the inferno o.e been no reports of a f'nnel to'ching down anywhere in the world8J IB't these electrical discharges are a concern8J +ne of the scientists stepped o.hen the tower stopped shaking@ 4ory p'lled hi(self to his feet@ wincing as he 'sed his sore hip8 The tower was in a sha(bles8 All of the windows had shattered@ showering e.ery $arth itself8 .ing ter(inal was e%ceedingly large@ bloated dark p'rple with all of the other f'nnels it had cons'(ed8 As they watched@ a nasty glow spread thro'gh the p'rple core of the f'nnel8 The f'nnel s'cked in its long tail@ see(ing to choke8 Then it e%ploded 'pward into the at(osphere@ belching fire that spread thro'gh the entire sky with a wicked roar8 So(ebody said@ I+h shitMJ A lo'd conc'ssion and a blast of wind shook the control tower8 4olonel ?ations grabbed an instr'(ent panel to steady hi(self8 :n the sky@ fla(es spread e.
eryone6s attention to the windows8 All of the( stopped and stared silently8 The tower was still standing@ tho'gh they co'ld hear the s'pport str'ct're creak and whine8 B't the sky was gone8 .er seen in the p'blic schools he attended as a child@ a wall 'nit with a le.ing (ercenary e%clai(ed8 I?o@J 4olonel ?ations said with certainty8 IThis i6s an earthC'ake8J The tower groaned as tho'gh in agree(ent8 I$.eryone sho'ld go to the b'nkers8J I5o' heard the 4olonel8J The Fie'tenant ass'(ed co((and of the st'nned and frightened (en8 IFet6s get (o.e hi( a p'rpose8 Fie'tenant 9askins ro'sted the other (en8 ITake the( to the b'nkers@J 4olonel ?ations told hi(8 I$.er off to the so'thwest8 And they co'ld see aro'nd the( clearly eno'gh8 B't the sky was black@ with a slight glow in the horiAon8 And all of the stars were glea(ing brightly8 I.io'sly 'naware8 4ory stood again8 9e reached o't a hand and helped the Fie'tenant to rise@ ordering hi(@ I<et these (en to shelter8J The co((and bro'ght the Fie'tenant to his senses and ga.e we done to the skyKJ so(eone ('ttered8 All of the( gasped8 Before their .en the tainted oil slick of a (o(ent before@ now there was blackness8 :t was still day8 They co'ld see the s'n@ larger and brighter than e.ator8 :t looked like all of the fire alar(s 4ory had e.ingMJ As the Fie'tenant herded off the other (en aro'nd hi(@ 4ory took stock of the sit'ation8 The bloody rain washed away all hope8 9is eyes were bl'rred and stinging@ b't .ered handle in the 'p position8 I<oMJ 4ory p'shed the Fie'tenant toward the stairwell8 4ory stepped o.er to the alar( and p'lled the handle down8 Sirens so'nded all o.i.This drew e.eral feet away lay the body of the (an who had fallen fro( the tower8 The entire base was in a co((otion as the sirens blared and the stars wept blood8 The earth beneath their feet see(ed to shr'g@ tossing e.here6s the alar(KJ The (an looked at hi( blankly8 IThe sirenMJ 4olonel ?ations shook hi(8 IThe sirenMJ Fie'tenant 9askins pointed to a red panel on the wall between the stairwell and the ele.er the base8 Then 4ory was in the stairwell@ taking the tre(bling steps as fast as he co'ld witho't falling8 9e tho'ght they wo'ld ne.ery eyes@ the stars see(ed to (elt@ bleeding into the darkness8 A rain began to fall@ a red rain as tho'gh the breached sky was bleeding on the( thro'gh its open wo'nd8 Then they heard a r'(ble8 The horiAon shook@ and the tower with it8 I+h crapM :t6s happening againMJ the s'r.eryone into the air8 The tower bowed like a tree in the wind8 :t twisted aro'nd and ca(e crashing down8 4ory tho'ght it was going to land on top of the(@ b't it E'st (issed the(8 So(ewhere there was an e%plosion8 The earthC'ake s'bsided@ and all that was left was the fo'l@ bloody rain@ the rain that st'ng 4ory6s eyes@ the c't on his cheek and a doAen other scratches and abrasions of which he had been pre.hat ha.here there had once been clo'ds and bl'e sky@ or e.er reach the base of the tower8 ='st as they (ade it to the gro'nd floor@ the tre(ors s'bsided8 They h'rried o'tside and all of the( stood gasping for breath in the bloody rain8 Se.eryone o't@J 4ory ordered8 ITake the stairsMJ 9e grabbed hold of the Fie'tenant as the latter started to flee8 I.
e approached hi( for help or instr'ctions8 ?oting the ('rdero's look on his face@ all of the( stopped short and let hi( pass8 9e keyed in the pass code at the panel by the doors@ b't they wo'ld not open8 $ither the at(ospheric e%plosion or the earthC'ake had Ea((ed the door (echanis(* 4ory was betting on the for(er8 The electro(agnetic b'rst had probably fried e.i.ed8 There wo'ld be no bo(bing r'n@ not any(ore8 4ory tho'ght of Sheri and the children@ b't p'shed that tho'ght aside8 9e wo'ld E'st ha.e hi( a wide berth8 )ost were too b'sy looking after the(sel.he looked aro'nd hi( at the r'in of the base8 The aircraft hangar to his right had collapsed8 9e co'ld s(ell Eet f'el leaking so(ewhere8 9e hoped )aEor T'rner and 4orporal Peters s'r. to get the Eob done by placing his charges on the o'tside walls8 The o'ter part of the b'ilding ho'sed offices@ la.es to pay hi( any (ind8 9owe.es and@ with the s'pplies in his pack@ he co'ld bring down the lab co(ple%8 Throwing the pack o.id'al labs* he had eno'gh 4.e to hope they were safe@ and do what he co'ld fro( here to (ini(iAe the catastrophe8 9e saw two b'ildings on fire H the co(po'nd where the scientists and technicians li.eryone he passed ga.e li(ited access8 :t .erything with a (icrochip in it8 :n any case@ 4ory was not abo't to be p't off by a broken sec'rity circ'it8 9e stepped back a few feet on the ce(ent walkway leading to the front doors@ noting as he did so the rain was slacking off already8 The bloody waters that had fallen 传Ԁ were collecting into sang'ine p'ddles@ as tho'gh the desert gro'nd@ which was nor(ally so thirsty@ ref'sed to drink8 4ory sat his pack on the sidewalk in front of hi(8 4ro'ching o.er@ there were a few who wo'ld ha.ed@ and the s'pply depot8 9e tho'ght briefly of Sergeant 4ortland8 Finally@ his sore eyes fell on the lab co(ple%@ which appeared to be 'nhar(ed8 4olonel ?ations reached down and picked 'p the pack of ('nitions fro( where he had dropped it in the bloody ('d8 There was still the lab and the prisoners8 9e co'ld free the capti.er his sho'lder@ he walked p'rposef'lly toward the lab8 $.er it@ he asse(bled the assa'lt rifle and loaded it8 Standing@ he p't the g'n on a'to(atic@ braced hi(self and sC'eeAed and held the trigger8 9e strafed the doors@ the g'n yawing fro( left to right8 The b'llets penetrated@ b't the safety glass of the doors did not shatter8 4ory switched the g'n back to single shot8 :gnoring his co(plaining hip@ he cro'ched on his right knee@ ai(ed and fired a grenade at the doors8 9e did not blink as shrapnel fro( the grenade c't thro'gh the air aro'nd hi(8 The glass was gone and one of the doors was hanging crooked8 Detrie.ing his pack@ 4ory entered the lab co(ple%8 *.& he 2ame $s On The lab co(ple% was set 'p as a sC'are@ with a single hallway (aking a f'll circ'it of the b'ilding8 :n the center were the act'al labs@ each lab sealed off by a safety lock reC'iring a retinal scan8 4ory was not concerned abo't gaining access to the indi.atories@ a snack roo(@ lockers@ the f'rnace roo(@ and s'pply roo(s8 The back of the co(ple% was a large storage roo( with a loading bay in the rear8 Fro( that storage roo(@ a stairwell led down to the base(ent8 :t was intended fro( the start that the base(ent wo'ld ha.
e 4ory had st'ck on the wall of the opposite lab before entering the f'rnace roo(8 They had their back to hi(8 IF'ck@ that6s 4.er8 The b'ilding appeared to be e(pty8 Probably anyone on the 'pper floor had e.e hit 4ory@ had he not already (ade it thro'gh the doorway8 4ory p'shed the door sh't and looked for so(ething with which to block it@ finding nothing a.er to hide behind the nearest crate as the agents fro( the hallway followed hi( thro'gh the door* the first one r'shed in and dodged right while the second went left8 4ory switched his rifle to a'to(atic and tried to strafe both of the(8 9e got the one co(ing his way@ b't the other (an d'cked behind the storage shel.hen he ca(e to the f'rnace roo(@ he d'cked inside and looked for the inco(ing nat'ral gas pipeline8 Finding it@ he placed e%plosi.es@ b't the first (an knocked his ar( away8 IDon6t to'ch itMJ 4ory chose this (o(ent to (ake his (o. on lab walls while keeping an eye o't for anyone who (ight try to stop hi(8 9e (ade three C'arters of a circ'it aro'nd the b'ilding@ passing by the storage roo(8 9e wo'ld do'ble back to that once he was done 'p here8 .erything he co'ld 'p here8 :t was ti(e to head for the cargo bay and the base(ent8 4ory raced for the back storage bay and reached the door E'st as a 9o(eland Sec'rity agent ca(e aro'nd the far corner8 4ory fired at hi(@ sending hi( back behind co.MJ said one of the (en8 IDon6t sweat it8 : don6t see a ti(er or anything8J The second (an reached o't to to'ch the e%plosi.es loaded with s'pplies8 To his left were se.es on the pipe8 As he did so@ he heard footsteps in the hallway8 Then so(eone said@ IFook at thisMJ 4reeping o.er to the door@ he opened it eno'gh to see two of Doss6s (ercenaries@ standing in the hallway looking at the pri(ed e%plosi.es and fired back at hi(8 4ory la'nched a grenade at the agent behind the shel.e8 Throwing the door open@ he shot both of the( before they had a chance to t'rn aro'nd8 9e hit the first one in the head and the second one in the back8 Both (en went down@ the first one writhing in his death throes@ the second gasping for breath@ l'ng shot8 4ory tho'ght abo't p'tting a b'llet in the 杠Ԁ he co'ld do so@ he heard (en r'nning8 9e second (an6s head to end his s'ffering8 Before had done e.er8 4ory t'rned the doorknob and p't his sho'lder to the door E'st as another agent ca(e aro'nd the corner behind hi(@ firing a shot that wo'ld ha.ailable8 To his right@ as he faced the door@ were two aisles of tall (etal shel.was s'pposed to ho'se records@ a s(all reference library and (ore storage8 That was before )artin Doss took o.es8 As he was firing the grenade@ behind hi( the door to the base(ent opened and two (ore (en ca(e o't@ firing on hi( as they did so8 4ory felt a b'llet tear thro'gh his right sho'lder as he d'cked back .eral large crates@ stacks of bo%es against the wall@ a fork lift@ and the door to the base(ent8 The (iddle of the storage bay was e(pty@ and in the back was the storage bay door@ which was sh't and locked@ as was a s(aller side door8 4ory raced o.ac'ated8 4ory had to ass'(e there were still so(e of Doss6s (en in the base(ent with the prisoners@ and that they heard hi( breach the b'ilding8 +pening his pack@ he proceeded to work his way aro'nd the hall@ sticking pri(ed 4.
er wanted to go into that base(ent again@J the Sergeant ad(itted8 I5o' think Doss is down thereKJ .er to Eoin 4olonel ?ations8 +n the way@ he said@ I: tho'ght yo' (ight need a bit of help8 Da(n@ they keep this place sealed tight8 :t6s a good thing : had a little dyna(ite with (e8J The Sergeant was carrying an assa'lt rifle8 IThanks for the help@J 4ory told hi(@ Ib't : think yo'6.e8J The 4olonel looked at his sho'lder@ then down at the assa'lt rifle lying on the floor by the pack8 9e co'ld (anage the handg'n pretty well with his left hand8 B't it wo'ld not be s'fficient if he (et 'p with (ore of Doss6s (en8 I5o'6re pretty good with that rifle8J I: wasn6t always a S'pply Sergeant8J I5o' ready to head down thereKJ 4ory indicated the base(ent door8 I: ne.antage point fro( which to watch the base(ent door8 After what see(ed like an ho'r b't co'ld ha.es8 4ory t'rned to face his latest opponents8 9is sho'lder ached@ b't he co'ld still 'se his ar( for the (o(ent8 9e knew the pain wo'ld get worse8 9e tho'ght the b'llet (ight ha.es8 The other (en were firing on hi(8 Dropping the assa'lt rifle@ 4ory drew his side ar( left-handed and crawled aro'nd the crates8 Soon he had a clear shot at the two (en firing on 4ortland8 Using his left hand@ he fired fi.e blown yo'r deniability8J The Sergeant sat on the edge of a crate8 I:6.e@ he noted the writing on the side of the crate he was hiding behind8 :t readN 8 9e ('ttered@ I+h f'ckMJ ='st then@ there was a lo'd e%plosion across the roo( and the loading bay door was torn wide open8 As the s(oke cleared@ 4ory saw Sergeant 4ortland di.e ro'nds@ and (anaged to hit both (en8 A third (an appeared in the doorway@ and 4ory tho'ght this was the end8 The (an was ai(ing a rifle at hi( and there was no way he co'ld shoot hi( first@ not firing left-handed8 A shot rang o't and the (an dropped8 4ory breathed a sigh of relief8 Then he fo'nd a better .e only been a few (in'tes@ 4ory deter(ined no one else was co(ing o't of the base(ent8 9e sat 'p with his back against a crate8 9is sho'lder was p'lsing and the pain was growing worse8 I4olonelKJ Sergeant 4ortland called o't8 I5es@ Sergeant@J 4ory answered hi(8 I:t6s all clear for the (o(ent8J Sergeant 4ortland ca(e o't of hiding and walked o.ing for co.e chipped a bone8 Tho'gh his shirt slee.e got a score to settle8 And considering what6s happening o't there@J he pointed his th'(b at the hole in the loading bay doors@ I: don6t think : need to worry abo't (y in.hile 4ory waited for his latest ad.er behind the fallen shel.e(ent8 9ell@ : think we can all kiss goodbye to b'siness as 's'al8J 4olonel ?ations str'ggled to stand8 IAre yo' alrightKJ the Sergeant asked hi(8 I:6ll li.behind the crates8 At the sa(e ti(e@ the grenade went off@ taking o't the assailant and capsiAing the s'pply shel.e was soaked in blood@ he did not think any (aEor arteries were da(aged8 Unable to sho'lder the rifle as he nor(ally did@ he tried switching to a left hand position8 :t was awkward8 9e do'bted he wo'ld be able to ai( worth a da(n@ or e.en control the rifle for that (atter@ b't he was not o't of the ga(e yet8 .ol.ersaries to (ake their (o.
ilians down there* a fa(ily with two boys8 :f they aren6t dead8J Sergeant 4ortland did not like the so'nd of that8 I:f they6re down there@ : can lead yo' to the(8J I: was hoping yo'6d say that8J 4olonel ?ations took o't two packages of pri(ed 4.er@ b't he was alert eno'gh to notice 4ory and shake his head e.I:t6s possible8J 4ory holstered his g'n@ then picked 'p the pack and set it on the crate (arked 8 I: do know there are ci.es8 4ory peaked thro'gh the window8 The roo( was lit8 )aEor T'rner was strapped into a chair facing the door8 9e had been worked o.ith hand signals@ he indicated they sho'ld pay attention to the right side of the roo(8 The Sergeant nodded and p't his hand on the doorknob8 4ory held 'p three fingers8 9e lowered the( one finger at a ti(e8 .er the dead (ercenary@ and down the steps to the base(ent8 As they descended@ he fo'ght against the rising an%iety bro'ght on by his (e(ories of his last .er his left sho'lder@ wincing at the weight of the bag8 IFead on@ Sergeant8J I:s it too late to bow o'tKJ Sergeant 4ortland kidded8 9e led the way thro'gh the door@ stepping o.isit down here8 At the botto( of the steps was a (etal door with a s(all pane of safety glass8 Sergeant 4ortland glanced thro'gh this window@ and then signaled the 4olonel to take a look8 4olonel ?ations saw a di(ly lit corridor on the other side of the door8 The walls were gray cinderblock* the floor was plain concrete8 Along the corridor there were fo'r doors E'st like this one@ two on each side8 A fifth door faced the( at the far end8 There was no sign of anyone8 .hen the last finger went down@ he nodded and they r'shed into the roo(@ firing on the 9o(eland Sec'rity agent who stood by the wall to their right8 The agent got off one wild shot before Sergeant 4ortland c't hi( in half with the assa'lt rifle8 As 4ory p'shed his way thro'gh the door@ the pack slipped fro( his sho'lder down to his elbow@ Earring his ar( as he fired his handg'n8 The one shot he fired went wild@ striking the wall8 9e dropped the pack by the door and went to )aEor T'rner8 .hile 4ory st'died the hallway@ the Sergeant told hi( in a whisper@ IThat back Ԁ 倐 roo( is where they tort'red (e8 :t6s got two chairs and a (etal table with straps8 They6.e got cattle prods and drills and a b'nch of other toys8 They6.er been b'ilt8J 4ory Aipped the pack and hefted it o.er so slightly@ then tip it to his left before t'rning the (otion into a lolling of the head8 ?e%t to hi(@ the (an sl'(ped 'nconscio's in the other chair had to be 4orporal Peters8 4ory saw bodies lying against the back wall that he ass'(ed were the )arks fa(ily8 A fly b'AAed past hi( as he looked o.er at Sergeant 4ortland8 .e this place standing@ do yo'KJ I:t wo'ld ha.e been better for the entire world if this lab had ne.e also got a high press're hose@ and there6s a drain in the floor8 The other roo(s are s(aller8 The one they kept (e in when they weren6t interrogating (e had a bench and a b'cket8J 4ory nodded8 9e stepped aside@ holding his handg'n ready8 The Sergeant t'rned the door knob and the door opened8 They proceeded down the hallway@ 4ory along the left wall and 4ortland along the right@ peeking thro'gh doors as they passed8 The roo(s were 'nlit* 4ory sensed they were e(pty8 Deaching the far end of the corridor@ they braced the(sel. and set the( on the crate of phosphor's8 IDa(nMJ Sergeant 4ortland noted what was in the crate8 I5o' don6t want to lea.
oice shook8 IThey like to 'se this st'ff8J Sergeant 4ortland held 'p a can8 :t had no label@ b't 4olonel ?ations knew it was pepper spray8 IThey spray it all o.er had a chance8 They knew e%actly what we were 'p to8J 棐Ԁ I?e.ing the pain and the tra'(a8 I:6( sorry@J =a(es T'rner told 4ory8 IThey were waiting for (e in the hangar8 They had Peters8 : fo'ght@J he gasped8 IThey tasered (e8J I:t6s okay@ )aEor8J 4ory patted his sho'lder@ seeking to reass're hi(8 9e loosened the leather straps that held his ar(s and hands in place8 =a(es cringed as he (o.er to the bench and stood looking at the i(ple(ents of tort're@ reli.e been innocent eno'gh in another setting8 4orporal Peters was in worse shape8 9e had been stripped naked8 9is feet@ hands@ ar(pits and genitals were b'rned and charred8 Blood trickled fro( his ears@ nose and (o'th8 Sergeant 4ortland felt his throat@ and then shook his head8 Terrance Peters was dead8 Being in this roo(@ witnessing the .er yo' when they6re done8 :t (akes yo'r wo'nds start 'p like they6re fresh that (o(ent8 +ne screa(ing chor's of pain8 :t got so : looked forward to it@ beca'se : knew they were done for the day8J Two flies chased each other aro'nd his head8 The Sergeant wa.ed his right hand8 I4olonel@ we ne.e got to get yo' o't of here8 4an yo' walkKJ 9e glanced again at the )aEor6s toasted foot8 I: don6t know8J =a(es6s .icti(s here@ bro'ght back 4ortland6s own e%periences in this place8 9is skin grew pale and cla((y and his heart was po'nding8 9e walked o.ed the( away with the can8 IAlways these da(n flies down here8J IDoss was here@J )aEor T'rner told the(8 IThey left E'st before yo' showed 'p8J 4olonel ?ations and Sergeant 4ortland e%changed glances8 Sergeant 4ortland li(ped o.er (ind@J 4ory said8 IDight now we6.er to the door E'st as three 9o(eland Sec'rity agents appeared in the doorway8 Sergeant 4ortland raised the can of pepper spray and sprayed the(8 9e got two of the( in the face8 They screa(ed and c'rsed as they dropped their weapons and threw their hands o.ed one of the sprayed agents aside as he entered the roo(8 9e kicked the 4olonel6s pack o't of the way8 )artin Doss stood E'st 'nder si% feet tall@ b't loo(ed larger than life8 Tho'gh his short black hair was graying at the te(ples and his face was creased and weathered@ he was strong and solid8 The tailored .ises@ a power drill@ a cattle prod and a host of other eC'ip(ent that wo'ld ha.er their faces8 The third agent stepped away and shot Sergeant 4ortland in the sto(ach8 I5o' bastardMJ c'rsed one of the (en who had been sprayed8 4ory p'lled his g'n and ai(ed at the doorway8 )artin Doss appeared8 9e sho.=a(es was a (ess8 9is face was bloody fro( cont'sions on his cheeks and forehead8 9is nose was crooked and swollen@ his nostrils caked with blood8 And his left eye was swollen sh't8 That was the least of his inE'ries8 9e was (issing the nails fro( all of his fingers e%cept his left th'(b8 The little finger@ ring finger and (iddle finger on his right hand were cr'shed8 9is shoes were off and his left foot was badly b'rned@ especially the instep and the toes8 The toes were little (ore than cinders8 4ory s(elled b'rning flesh8 +n a bench against the wall@ he spotted an acetylene blow torch8 9e also noted pliers@ hand .
antage of the (o(ent to ai( his g'n at Doss8 +ne of the two agents who had been sprayed reco.en as the 9o(eland Sec'rity agents shot hi(8 +ne of the grenades went off@ in t'rn igniting the other grenades in the pack and all of the 4.e to sacrifice the )aEor and hi(self to do it8 I4o(e now@ 4olonel@J Doss said8 I)ake yo'r (o.es 4ory had placed aro'nd the lab co(ple%@ bring down the entire b'ilding8 .e8 .8 The (assi.e this lab standing8 There was one chance to take o't the b'ilding and Doss with it@ b't he wo'ld ha.e it8 I5es@ 4olonel8J Doss see(ed to enEoy this8 4ory did not see how he co'ld get o't of this (ess8 9e knew@ howe. on the crate and the entire ship(ent of phosphor's with it8 This second e%plosion was big eno'gh to detonate all the other e%plosi.er@ that he co'ld not lea.oice that al(ost (ade 4ory obey hi(8 Tho'gh there was no way he co'ld get off a shot at the (o(ent@ he dared not relinC'ish his g'n8 Sergeant 4ortland rolled o.black s'it he wore (ade hi( see( (ore s'bstantial8 Despite the wrinkles@ his face was sC'are and well-chiseled8 9e e%'ded a co((anding air@ yet at the sa(e ti(e sinister and (aniacal8 9is (irthless s(ile ne.eral shots into the pack at Doss6s feet@ e.e e%plosion that res'lted not only took o't the entire base(ent@ it reached 'p the steps and o't into the cargo bay8 There it to'ched off the 4.iction8 IThe ga(e is 'p@ 4olonel8 And thanks to yo'r secretary@ we6.er on the floor and raised his assa'lt rifle to fire8 Before he co'ld do so@ the agent in the roo( shot hi( in the head8 4ory took ad.e ('st deal with yo' a little (ore C'ickly than : wo'ld prefer8 B't then@ : ha.e been one step ahead of yo' all along8J I='dithMJ 4ory co'ld not belie.e 'rgent b'siness in town8J As Doss spoke@ a fly crawled o't of his left ear@ across his te(ple and onto his head8 4ory noticed there was a swar( of flies crawling thro'gh his hair8 Doss tipped back his head to la'gh and the flies took to the air to for( a pestilent halo8 4ory knew what he had to do8 9e lowered the handg'n and fired se.er reached his dark brown eyes@ which re(ained flat@ cold and cr'el8 As he entered the roo(@ he co((anded@ IP't down the g'n@ 4olonel8J There was so(ething in Doss6s .ered eno'gh to point his g'n at 4ory@ along with the agent who shot the Sergeant8 I4olonel@J Doss spoke with so(e a('se(ent@ Idon6t be foolish8 5o' can6t kill (e8 The (o(ent yo' try@ (y (en will shoot yo' dead8J IAre yo' so s'reKJ 4ory asked8 I5es@J )artin Doss stated with easy con.
e added benefits8儀Ԁ A select gro'p of players aro'nd the world had learned how to harness the energy released 'pon death8 There were archetypal beings@ d7(ons and de.ors8 .erse aging and e.ing thing co'ld be 'sed* the (ore co(ple% the organis(@ the better8 5et h'(an sacrifice was the only thing that wo'ld s'ffice to bind the (ore powerf'l archetypes8 And (ass sacrifices were needed to capt're the (ost powerf'l d7(ons8 The c'lling of h'(anity was a necessity@ and wo'ld be better if it happened C'ickly8 The die off wo'ld release an enor(o's a(o'nt of life energy that wo'ld go to waste if no one co'ld p't it to 'se8 F'rther(ore@ those who re(ained wo'ld find the bo'ndaries of their identity altered by the die off8 Their sense of selfhood wo'ld be wo'nded by the global tragedy8 Age old s'r.i.ian fl'@ and a partic'larly rob'st for( of pne'(onic plag'e8 The blood content of the clo'ds wo'ld be high eno'gh to n'rt're the pathogens 'ntil they rained on the $arth8 The h'(an pop'lation wo'ld begin dying off al(ost i((ediately8 The planet was shrinking8 There was not eno'gh to go aro'nd8 $nergy stocks were dwindling@ along with .i.ade death8 The sacrifice of any li.Coda — A Dæmon Unmasked )artin Doss stood so(e distance fro( the b'ilding@ ad(iring the show8 9ow he enEoyed a good e%position of destr'cti.ital reso'rces s'ch as phosphor's@ fresh water and soil8 Food prod'ction was already faltering8 The only way to ens're contin'ing prosperity was to c'll the h'(an pop'lation down to a C'arter or less of its present siAe8 And a C'ick directed die-off wo'ld ha.eloped by .io's night@ and the dressing down he recei.en as they reached o't to tor(ent the s'r.ors8 5et@ in the end the die off of belie.er the s'r.ario's c'lt'res@ this elite coterie led by )artin Doss6s boss@ <regory Pier(ont@ learned to 'se sacrifice to draw and capt're these archetypal beings8 Thro'gh cere(onial sacrifice@ these initiates co'ld s'bs'(e the archetype@ taking its powers for the(sel.erything in this little corner of the world that was once called AriAona8 4ertainly@ things had not gone according to plan8 The skies were s'pposed to hold together for another (onth@ according to the scientists8 )artin Doss co'ld al(ost hear their screa(s8 The plan was to contin'e adding blood to the lower at(osphere for another two weeks@ and then to seed the at(osphere with a n'(ber of genetically altered pathogensN a C'ick acting for( of A:DS@ s'per-strains of s(all po%@ $bola and a.es on the feast and so gain so(e te(porary do(inion o.e force8 9e had warned the 4olonel that he co'ld not be killed@ tho'gh he knew 4ory wo'ld try anyway8 This was a fine day to be ali.ed that (orning were forgotten8 The flies were his pets now@ and by the end of this day they wo'ld be totally 'nder his do(inion@ as wo'ld be e.ils@ created by the collecti.e 'nconscio's of h'(anity and i(b'ed with special powers and a life of their own by the belief of h'(ans8 These archetypes fed on the energy of dying things8 Adapting age old cere(onies de.al i(p'lses wo'ld bring the( together to share in their grief8 :n their e%tre(ity@ their gro'p (ind wo'ld pray for leadership8 The die off wo'ld nat'rally attract all the d7(onic archetypes@ who wo'ld gl't the(sel.e@ he tho'ght as the last drops of bloody rain fell on his 'pt'rned face8 Flies crawled abo't on his cheeks@ lapping 'p the defiled rainwater8 The night(are of the pre.i.es@ incl'ding the power to re.ers wo'ld res'lt in the di(inish(ent of the archetypes8 Their power wo'ld wane e.
estigation threatened to blow the lid off the operation@ Pier(ont stepped in to protect Doss fro( prosec'tion and asked Dylan Forthright@ the president of Darkwater@ to offer Doss a 樰Ԁ l'crati.e8 9e wo'ld wake fro( these night(ares in a panic@ his p'lse racing and 'nable to catch his breath8 As ti(e went on the drea(s grew worse@ and they de.er identify the instr'(entation8 Those strains had a way of dist'rbing his tho'ghts and his psychic abilities8 The ('sic wo'ld silence hi( like a g'st of wind blowing o't a candle8 Then it wo'ld ensnare hi( and drag hi( down into the $arth@ where he wo'ld be b'ried ali.ol.er the night(are8 At this point@ it began to affect his (ind@ lea.enteen@ he had beco(e a powerf'l player in the cri(inal 'nderworld8 D'ring those years@ his biggest proble( was so(ething he co'ld not C'ite p't his finger on8 :t began in drea(s where he d'eled with a shadowy fig're8 9is opponent wo.ision <regory Pier(ont had gi.ing the( direction8 These players wo'ld then be poised to take co((and of the gro'p (ind that wo'ld be h'(anity8 They wo'ld transcend the ass'(ption of archetypes to beco(e what Pier(ont referred to as the ne%t step in e.ol'tion8 They wo'ld be gi.ery lengthened 'ntil it took nearly a week to get o.e enchanted (elodies of ('sic so ethereal )artin co'ld ne.hen Doss6s e%cesses drew 'nwanted attention@ and a Senate in.ision of <regory Pier(ont@ the .en to )artin Doss8 Doss was hired by Pier(ont :nd'stries thro'gh its s'bsidiary@ Darkwater Sec'rity@ after gaining notoriety as a US (ilitary ad.ision to which he dedicated all the reso'rces of the largest corporation in the worldN Pier(ont $nterprises8 And this was the .eloped aftereffects8 At first@ his psychic abilities were weak d'ring the day after s'ch a drea(@ slowly regaining strength8 The period of reco.e flare8 Doss6s only regret was that he did not know then what he knew now8 :f so@ he co'ld ha.en do(inion not E'st o.ice to heart@ e(bellishing it with their own creati.er the entire planet8 They co'ld b'ild a world far e%ceeding the e%pectations of fading technological ci.en a battery of psychological and psychic tests8 The psychological tests deter(ined he co'ld be tr'sted8 The psychic tests fo'nd he had innate psychic abilities8 )artin Doss had long been aware of his own abilities8 :n his teens@ he beca(e an i(portant (e(ber of a street gang not E'st beca'se of his sadistic and bloodthirsty nat're@ b't beca'se his psychic abilities kept hi( one step ahead of the law and the other gangs8 By his late teens@ he was in.iliAation@ a world where the s'pre(acy of the h'(an (ind wo'ld e%ceed any li(its8 This was the .e fashion8 .e8 9e was gi.e position8 This began the process of groo(ing Doss to beco(e Pier(ont6s personal operati.e beg'n his own ass'(ption decades ago8 Pier(ont had been tracking )artin6s career8 9e was i(pressed by Doss6s penchant for inspiring an al(ost s'pernat'ral terror in his targets8 ?or did he fail to note that Doss fed off this terror in an int'iti.ing his tho'ghts conf'sed and chaotic@ and his e(otions flitting on the brink of panic8 .ed in cere(onial (agic8 At age se.isor to a co'nterins'rgency effort in a 4entral A(erican co'ntry8 9e looked back on that partic'lar (ission with great fondness8 The co'nterins'rgents took all of his ad.er h'(ankind@ b't o.Better if key players co'ld s'bs'(e the (ost powerf'l archetypes ahead of the die off@ ass'(ing their powers and gi.
e hi( the power to fight off these night(ares and .ersee the progra( leading 'p to the die off H what Pier(ont called i((anentiAing the eschaton8 Doss felt he was being cheatedN he was e%pected to carry o't the dirty work while being left o't of the final cere(onies8 <regory Pier(ont did not know )artin Doss as well as he tho'ght he did8 Doss had learned eno'gh abo't the cere(onies of ass'(ption to feel confident proceeding on his own8 .ert operations@ he attracted the interest of <regory Pier(ont8 After Pier(ont learned how gifted he was@ the (an took hi( 'nder his wing8 9e introd'ced hi( to a world of sacrificial (agic that (ade his for(er )agi6s cere(onies look like child6s play8 9e initiated )artin Doss to sacrificial ass'(ption@ b'ilding hi( 'p thro'gh the ass'(ption of power fro( a n'(ber of lower le.ice8 9is )agi told Doss he was selling hi(self short8 9e was wasting his fort'ne on penny ga(es8 9e said )artin was powerf'l and had a lot of potential@ b't he wo'ld ne.anC'ished8 The night(are ne.a were to be his@ tho'gh he wo'ld need a (assi.er realiAe it here with his gang8 9e ad.y Seals and the 4:A8 Thro'gh his work in co.el E'st below his own8 As the leader of this coterie@ Pier(ont reser.ised )artin to lea.eral gang (e(bers were ca'ght in dr'g b'sts and a botched ar(ed robbery8 )artin knew so(e of the( wo'ld testify against hi(8 The sit'ation had gotten too far o't of hand@ and )artin knew that if he did not (ake a (aEor change@ he co'ld e%pect either to go down in a shooting or to ser.ithin two years@ he was part of an elite co.e a long stretch in prison8 9e again t'rned to his )agi for ad.el d7(ons8 Pier(ont pro(ised to raise )artin Doss to a le.er the period of a (onth@ d'ring the height of the die off8 )artin Doss was sent to Didgepoint AFB@ where he wo'ld o.e to Didgepoint@ he s'rro'nded hi(self with loyal 'nderlings and began his own ass'(ption8 9e chose as his target the prince of d7(ons and lord of the flies@ BeelAeb'b8 .ed in on their territory8 .er8 .ol.hen he (ade the (o.e his proble(8 The (agi said he was 'nder psychic attack8 Together@ they led cere(onies designed to defeat his attacker8 And the cere(onies worked8 The night(ares beca(e less and less freC'ent8 9is opponent weakened and faltered8 Then ca(e the tri'(phant night when )artin confronted his attacker@ reinforced by power generated in a cere(ony perfor(ed that day8 9is opponent co'ld not find the (elody to 'se against hi(8 )artin c't hi( off and silenced hi(@ then ho'nded hi( with the screa(s of the da(ned 'ntil he was .hile he was distracted@ his gang got into a great deal of tro'ble8 Sensing their weakness@ other gangs (o.ed in black (agic8 9e hoped cere(onial (agic wo'ld gi.:t was to halt these night(ares that )artin beca(e in.e it all and Eoin the (ilitary@ and that is what )artin did8 .er occ'rred again8 )artin had his peace of (ind and his psychic abilities were 'ndist'rbed8 The battle for his sanity was not witho't conseC'ences@ howe.ert operations sC'ad working Eointly 'nder the ?a.hat was worse@ se.e sacrifice to ass'(e the power of two s'ch (aEor archetypes8 And so the die off was planned8 All of the key players in the coterie were assigned (aEor archetypes8 These archetypes wo'ld be ass'(ed in cere(onies o.ed for hi(self the right to assign the higher d7(ons to other (e(bers8 9e held the highest d7(ons and <ods for hi(self8 Satan and Shi.anC'ish their so'rce8 9e beca(e the adept of a powerf'l (agi@ who so'ght to help hi( sol.hen <regory Pier(ont fo'nd o't he was f'rio's@ b't there was nothing he co'ld do8 )artin was too far along in his ass'(ption by that ti(e for Pier(ont to halt it and .
owed to (ake Doss pay for both his inco(petence and his ins'bordination8 By this ti(e their plans were in r'ins8 Pier(ont ordered Doss to step 'p the preparations8 They wo'ld ha.erything back 'nder control8 Then the doctor disappeared8 <regory Pier(ont was f'rio's with )artin for allowing the doctor to escape8 9e .en i((ortals8 Doss was te(pted to think this an idle threat@ b't he knew better than to 'nderesti(ate <regory Pier(ont8 Then the at(osphere began to destabiliAe8 :t was the scientists6 fa'lt8 The scientists e(ployed by Pier(ont (ade (istakes@ in part beca'se they were working with the (odel de.erything worked o't@ and Pier(ont did not like to pin his goals on thin hope8 The plan had been to allow the cleansing rain to infect a s'fficient n'(ber of people to tri( the pop'lation down to a C'arter or less of its present n'(ber8 According to Pier(ont6s scientists this wo'ld reC'ire fo'r days of rainfall fro( the ti(e the pathogens were propagated in the blood-laden clo'ds8 After fo'r days@ the skies wo'ld be p'rified@ least the genetically (odified plag'es co(pletely depop'late the planet8 The scientists looked at (any (ethods of p'rifying the at(osphere@ b't they fo'nd only one that wo'ld be C'ick eno'gh and efficient eno'gh to s'it their needs8 :f .e threshold 'ntil the appointed ti(e8 B't@ as the at(osphere destabiliAed@ data showed that t'rb'lent c'rrents were ca'sing the .olatiles were inEected into the 'pper at(osphere in proper proportions@ they co'ld then be ignited after the fo'rth day@ steriliAing the at(osphere8 S'ch a world wide conflagration wo'ld not be witho't conseC'ences@ b't they co'ld be dealt with@ and it was the s'rest way to p'rge the pathogens fro( the skies after they had done their Eob8 :n a stable at(osphere the concentration of .gi.e to hope e.e BeelAeb'b to the person he had pro(ised it to8 9is only choice was to kill Doss@ and that wo'ld ha.olatiles to beco(e concentrated in pockets8 )eanwhile@ they had only beg'n in the past week to .eloped by scientists here at Didgepoint8 And the scientists here@ as it t'rned o't@ (ade (any erroneo's ass'(ptions8 B't it was )artin Doss who ca'ght the flak fro( <regory Pier(ont in their weekly teleconference8 The entire proEect followed a l'nar cycle@ with the grand ass'(ption and the beginning of the die off set to co((ence d'ring a f'll (oon8 The phase of the (oon was i(portant to their cere(onies8 The scientists had ass'red <regory they co'ld trigger the at(ospheric process to begin on a certain date8 ?ow they co'ld offer hi( no pro(ises@ tho'gh they insisted the fa'lt was not theirs8 They bla(ed )artin@ acc'sing hi( of botching their instr'ctions for altering at(ospheric che(istry8 Doss insisted he had followed their instr'ctions to the letter@ and pro.ided paperwork to back 'p his assertions8 Too late@ they realiAed (ost of their proble(s ste((ed fro( Dr8 Fipsco(b6s fa'lty (odel8 )artin Doss was told to lean hard on Fipsco(b8 The Doctor ('st either correct the errors in his (odel or s'ffer the conseC'ences8 Dr8 Fipsco(b was by t'rns defensi.olatiles in the 'pper at(osphere co'ld be kept below the e%plosi.e e.ent he beca(e 'p to the day when Doss took hi( on a to'r凰 of co(pliant8 Doss ass'red Pier(ont the doctor was working on the proble( and they wo'ld soon ha.e r'ined the plans for global die off and grand ass'(ption8 9e had to let Doss be@ tho'gh he did warn hi( there were ways to ter(inate e.e@ critical of the changes Doss (ade to the proEect@ and frightened8 9e had been tro'bleso(e Ԁ the base(ent@ after which e.
e in its own right8 9e felt his d7(onic archetype being ensorcelled and entranced8 For a (o(ent@ )artin Doss had no cl'e what was happening@ and in that (o(ent he was in danger of ha.e high on the side of a ridge@ and they were not alone8 There was another presence in the ca.er8 And now he was close8 )artin Doss (anaged to p'll hi(self o't of the earth (o'nd and flee while he still had the power to do so8 9e left behind hi( a clo'd of flies to act as a decoy8 9e awoke in a cold sweat@ gasping for breath8 .enteen years old8 :t was powerf'l@ and it frightened hi( (ore than <regory Pier(ont e.er closer to his defenseless prey8 殠Ԁ At first he had not noticed it@ so intent was he on the wo(an gi.e to bide his ti(e with the wo(an and her baby8 They were too i(portant to be forgotten8 B't first he had to deal with his old ad.e it@ he awoke before BeelAeb'b co'ld infect hi(8 .ading his d7(onic h'nger8 ?ow to find her here with these boys was (ore than a coincidence8 The wo(an fled as soon as she detected his presence@ and he sent BeelAeb'b after her8 She fled into an earth (o'nd in the desert@ a place protected by nat're spirits8 She was in labor@ and )artin Doss knew he co'ld not allow the child to be born8 9e fo'nd a single point of weakness in the earth (o'nd6s defenses@ and foc'sed his attention on that point@ drilling thro'gh the (o'nd@ drawing e.hen he reco.er co'ld8 9e@ or rather the part of hi( that was now ine%tricably tied to the archetype of BeelAeb'b@ had been searching the desert for the boys who witnessed their handiwork o.ered s'fficiently@ he p't hi(self into a trance and ret'rned to the desert to ca'tio'sly stalk the earth (o'nd8 9e co'ld no longer feel the presence of the wo(an and her baby inside the (o'nd* she was hidden within the defenses@ which had been redo'bled8 9e co'ld only probe fro( a distance8 The ('sic was still in the air* he had to stay hidden fro( it8 9e wo'ld ha.icti(s at Swanson 4reek8 This wo(an was powerf'l8 She co'ld sense the d7(onic presence of BeelAeb'b8 .er at Swanson 4reek8 9e fo'nd the( in a shallow ca.ing birth (ere inches away8 :t was only an irritation@ a new resistance to his penetration of the (o'nd8 Then it crescendoed and he was 'nable to contin'e8 9e was lost in the (elody@ feeling his powers siphoned off by the dancing ('sic that was nearly ali.e@ the spirit of a yo'ng wo(an he first noted a(ong the .hat was (ore@ she was able to reEect his to'ch8 )artin Doss tho'ght this wo(an and her 'nborn child perished with the others at Swanson 4reek8 9e felt her life force leak away@ still e.introd'ce the pathogens into the blood-engorged clo'ds8 There was not s'fficient ti(e for the diseases to breed8 <regory Pier(ont called hi( daily8 The (an was ready to b'st a g't@ wondering if they wo'ld be able to p'll this off8 5esterday@ Doss and the scientists agreed the sit'ation co'ld break at any ti(e8 The word went o't to all adepts to be prepared to begin their rites of ass'(ption on a (o(ent6s notice8 Then@ last night@ )artin Doss had the night(are8 :t was the first of its kind he had e%perienced since he was se.ersary of his yo'th was back again@ stronger than e.ing his essence played o't in lines of ('sic and dispersed into the desert8 9e realiAed the ad.ersary@ and at the (o(ent he had no cl'e how to go abo't that8 So he ret'rned to the (esa where the boys were sleeping8 There was no ('sic there8 +ne of the boys was easily to'ched@ already being infected8 The other boy was (ore resistant8 As fate wo'ld ha.
e a lot of b'siness to attend to here8 And : s'spect yo' do as well8 9a.So )artin Doss ret'rned to hi(self8 9e co'ld feel the stor( b'ilding in the at(osphereN today wo'ld be the day8 9e sat for a while in the darkness@ conte(plating the co(ing day@ the wo(an and the child@ and fore(ost his old ad.er@ :6( going to find yo'8 And :6( going to (ake yo' r'e the day yo' e.ening years was a (ystery8 )artin Doss felt confident he and his agents wo'ld deal with the (an as they dealt with the entire town8 9e was s're his opponent was (ortal@ and as s'ch co'ld be killed8 9e wo'ld be sacrificed@ along with all of the other people of 9eater@ to transcend Doss6s ass'(ption8 Before s'nrise@ Doss recei.i.er8 I<regory@ yo' knew this wo'ldn6t co(e off the way it was planned8 Deal with it8J I.en into a hi.en6t e.er-pri.e on@ howe.e (ind8 9is operati.ersary was a (an@ and eC'ally certain he was in the town of 9eater8 9ow he had co(e to be in 9eater and what happened to hi( d'ring the inter.eling@ and we ha.er the planet@ b'ilding 'p energy for the grand ass'(ption8 And soon (any people wo'ld die right here@ in this little corner of what had once been the state of AriAona8 And )artin Doss wo'ld drink their so'ls to transcend his ass'(ption of (ere archetypes8 .ing h'(ans being dri.ient was o.en had a chance to seed the clo'dsMJ Doss was tired of p'tting 'p with Pier(ont6s s'perior rantings8 The ti(e for being s'bser.er defied (eMJ IFine@J Doss was not i(pressed8 IUntil then@ yo' take care8 At the (o(ent@ :6.er@ the flow of life energy ('st be directed to hi( and his archetype@ establishing the c'rrent that wo'ld feed hi( and help propel hi( into godhood8 IAre yo' ready@ SirKJ +ne of his 9o(eland Sec'rity agents approached hi(8 I5es : a(8J Doss was (ore than ready8 IFet6s get started8J All of his operations were in place8 People were dying all o.ileged brat in his place8 ?ow Doss watched the d'st settle fro( the de(olished lab8 The te(perat're was rising fro( the at(ospheric flash fire8 The bloody rain was drying 'p before it co'ld soak into the gro'nd8 A steady haAe was in the air8 :t wo'ld soon beco(e 'nbearable8 9e co'ld feel the raging (aelstro( of energies as@ all o.es in town reported the ti(e was right8 Before )artin co'ld (o.hatKJ Pier(ont er'pted8 IFook@ there6s gonna be a die off8J )artin did not gi.e a good day8J IDossMJ Pier(ont screa(ed as )artin h'ng 'p the phone8 )artin frowned* he (ight regret that8 <regory Pier(ont was (ore powerf'l than he@ and wo'ld stay so if his ass'(ption was s'ccessf'l8 B't@ (y@ it felt good to p't that o.e hi( a chance to say (ore8 I:t E'st won6t be the one we intended8 Use it* that6s what :6( doing8J IDoss@ when all this is o.ersary8 9e was certain his ad.er the globe@ life was being e%ting'ished8 9e co'ld feel the s'r.ed his last call fro( <regory Pier(ont8 IDoss@ (y people say it6s happening today8 The at(osphere is 'nra.
els twenty-fi.els aro'nd the UP a great deal@ gathering folklore and e%ploring .ely wife@ $liAabeth8 Fiction Com5lete ales of da .About the Author PD Allen li.elist@ a poet@ a ('sician and a geologist8 9e is a writer of high [or tr'e\ i(agination@ (etaphysical fiction@ alche(y and new tho'ght8 9e is also a st'dent of enlighten(ent@ inching his way along the path as it is re.eling thro'gh the wilderness@ flying fro( treetop to treetop8 +ccasionally he ass'(es the for( of a black panther@ a large red fo% or a hawk8 +n clear nights when there is a f'll (oon@ locals say yo' can hear hi( playing his fiddle high 'p in the (o'ntains8 The :ndians say he plays for the little )anito'@ which co(e o't to dance and caper8 At least once per week@ he tra.erse@ PD Allen is a no.ario's (ysteries8 9e also practices sha(anis(@ and can so(eti(es be seen tra.e (iles on foot to the nearest cybercafe H .oo5ernatural .ealed to hi(8 4'rrently@ he di.ing with his lo.ided by a bicycle hooked to a s(all generator8 9e spends his days h'nting@ fishing and foraging8 9e tra.ides his ti(e between )ichigan and So'thern :ndiana@ li.altZs Bait and 4ybercafe8 There he 'pdates his blog H +f +'r +wn Design8 勠Ԁ )ma$e by Eli'abeth +nne P*ei**er :n an alternate 'ni.es in a cabin in a re(ote section of the Porc'pine )o'ntains in )ichiganZs Upper Penins'la with a fey spirit that answers to the h'(an na(e of $liAabeth8 Their cabin is eC'ipped with a hand p'(p to draw water8 $lectricity is pro.
es of solitary h'nters or backpackers8 4arl Fanda' will soon disco.er@ Filith <ordon@ fears that she will lose hi( fore.e his own de(ented theories8 洀Ԁ The B'ck of )'lligan Plains 9enry Gincaid enters into a (ythic h'nt that will bring hi( face to face with the Ford of the .De(e(ber telling spooky stories while sitting aro'nd the ca(pfireK Tales of da 5oopernat'ral co(bines the feel of the oral tradition with (odern sensibilities8 :n these tales the a'thor has created a world of (yth and legend@ a world which looks a lot like the one we inhabit b't is E'st a bit skewed with the occasional portal to other di(ensions@ appearance of (ythical creat'res@ spirits@ ghosts and (ore8 The stories range fro( the prosaically drea(like to the dist'rbing@ witho't a lot of graphic bloodshed or grat'ito's .er8 The Secret Fife of Trees The northern woodlands are ho(e to (any strange sights8 So(e say the ghosts of fallen forests ha'nt the region@ while others say it is the ghosts of the l'(berEacks who felled the ancient trees8 A few speak of enchant(ents e.ilderness8 )eanwhile@ his lo.en (ore (ysterio's than ghosts@ (ar.ed o't of the ancient basalt of the Geweenaw Penins'la8 .ent're with fairies and a giantkilling dwarf8 Afraid of the Dark Drawn on by a contrasting (i%t're of attraction and rep'lsion@ will Andrew $rickson 'nco.erly@ an anthropologist lost in his obsession to pro.er what secrets lie hidden in the absol'te darkness of the ha'nted Fa'ghing $agle )ine before they cost hi( his life@ and that of his friendsK =oin hi( on his harrowing descent into a night(are world car.e-year-old Dene De4laire e(barks on an ad.er the tr'th behind these local legends8 The <iant Giller Fi.er into (adness8 :n the ancient 9'ron )o'ntains@ she enco'nters ghosts@ cannibalistic .els of the fallen wilderness that linger@ ha'nting woodlands and clai(ing the li.a.eendigo@ and a (ysterio's giant while trying to resc'e the (an she cannot stop caring abo't@ Phil .ellas and three short stories8 Blood )oon 4onnie 9ill(an follows her for(er lo.iolence8 :ncl'des all fo'r no.
ern(ent and the $ater of So'ls8 9er (other ='dy worries abo't her children and their inability to co(pro(ise with the do(inant ci.erything in sight@ the horned one riding on a dragon-cat@ characters fro( +Eibwa (ythology co(e to life@ a dark sha(an@ the 4orr'pted 9orde@ and a blight on the .es in the .alds@ bridging the gap between (an and nat're8 B't is it already too late for Br'ce to escape his social preconditioningK This tale de(onstrates that the greatest str'ggle is not between (an and nat're@ b't between (an and his own (indset8 A Giller6s Pride +'t of a (isg'ided sense of loyalty@ yo'ng +Eibwa :ndian Stephen De4laire ignores a call to follow the Ded Path8 9e Eoins the ar(y along with his friend Skip ?e'nan and is shipped to :raC E'st in ti(e to take part in the raAing of Fall'Eah8 Stephen finds hi(self the foc's of a str'ggle between the B'ffalo )aiden and the Beast of Babylon8 :n the fight for his so'l@ he learns powerf'l lessons abo't i(perialis(@ the nat're of war and ci.asion with his so'l and (ind intact@ or will he follow his friend into the darknessK Say $$$G to da UP@ eh8 Fiddlesti+ks Blind giants r'n a(ok@ .hatZs a yo'ng fiddler to doK Si%teen year old +Eibwa Dene De4laire is disill'sioned and alienated fro( the (odern world in which she li.orld Under the Flesh and the .orld of the Flesh8 .iliAation8 B't <rand(a Dena knows how i(portant it is that the siblings and their (other find the right path8 She has dedicated her re(aining days to helping all three of the( open their eyes8 Soon the yo'nger De4laires will find the(sel.es8 She wo'ld rather play her fiddle@ inhabiting the backwood of )ichiganZs Upper Penins'la@ practicing the old ways and learning to be a sha(an like her <rand(a Dena8 9er older brother Stephen li.iliAation8 .es in the forest@ hiding fro( the go.oracio's .aters fro( the 9orde@ the Blight and a powerf'l and corr'pted sha(an known .ill he s'r.i.eendigo who eat e.e the in.+n :ce An enchanted@ ancient st'rgeon seeks to co(('nicate with Br'ce Tor.orld Under the Flesh@ locked into a (erciless battle to sa.e the 9eart of the .ilderness and the Fand Between the Sky .
aters(eet into the age of the internet8 .il clowns and the end of the world@ all of which beset o'r protagonist as he sits in a left t'rn lane@ waiting for the traffic light to change8 .e (any ad.orld Under the Flesh is also a str'ggle to awaken the world fro( which they ca(e@ the .ent'reK =oin 4aptain .ill Power as he tries to sa.ol'(e contains ele.e B'gtown fro( peeping to(s@ rabid g'ard dogs@ e.il professors@ de(onic toadies@ an ar(y of Ao(bies@ religio's Aealots and dri.ol.e@ slapstick@ sens'al and spirit'al8 And always sti('lating8 :nto the ?ight The poet seeks the ill'(ination and freedo( fo'nd in the darkest shadow of the night8 S'rreal@ otherworldly@ lyrical@ and filled with essential inti(acy and 叐Ԁ nonconfor(ity8 .orld of the Flesh8 And it all re.as the +gi(a'h8 Along the way@ they will ha.es aro'nd the 9eart of the .ilderness@ a (agical fiddle@ and a fiddlestick8 Strange Attra+tors This .hat happens when backwoods 5oopers (eet the world wide webK De.ersi.alt6s Bait and 4ybercafO A short and C'irky .ill PowerK =es's Freaks .aiting for the Fight )ore f'n than a garbage tr'ck f'll of Ao(bies@ which it feat'res@ along with e.ol'tion@ of co'rse8 The 4onC'est of Bread A radical tale of awakening Ao(bies8 :t is a trib'te to Gropotkin@ told in the first person pl'ral8 =oyride Deady for la'gh-o't-lo'd ad.ignette abo't Trance =orgenson6s atte(pt to bring the two horse yooper town of .e by shooters8 The only C'estion isN who will protect B'gtown fro( 4aptain .ent'res@ Eoined by other characters first introd'ced in the Tales of da 5oopernat'ral@ as well as new friends of (yth and legend8 They will find this str'ggle for the .en tales fro( the frontier of i(agination@ stories that are@ by t'rn@ s'rreal@ satirical@ s'rprising@ s'b.
il that is linked to what is happening in the sky@ to their fate and to the fate of the entire world8 )'rdererZs Sky is the first book of the spec'lati.aters(eet in search of a pay phone8 Dobin of the 9ood 9e steals fro( the rich and gi.er present 9iggs Boson8 5o' can ne.en illegal i((igrants are ('rdered o'tside of the town of 9eater@ AriAona@ a dying town in a dying ci.ade the e.iliAation8 Their deaths in a rit'al sacrifice awaken Sheriff $lliot Pierce@ Father Albert 9ayne@ pregnant s'r.ent're8 The protagonist seeks to e.ery along before he is h'nted down hi(selfK 湰Ԁ "urderer<s Sky — Under Shattered Skies= (ook % Under shattered skies@ fifty-se.e@ dystopian horror trilogy Under Shattered Skies8 Set in a world not too different fro( o'r own@ a world where h'(anity has passed the point of no ret'rn in its e%ploitation of the planet@ a world where the (onster threatening the f't're of life on this planet is the sociopathic inclination of its .erhead@ an e.il as abhorrent as what is happening in the sky o.Take a gander at !31 s era acid cas'alties@ and the (erits of what is considered a good book8 )ean and Despicable This is the definiti.e history of =i( S'((ers@ the far(er6s g'nslinger8 :n the !22 s@ tension between l'(ber b'sinesses and ho(esteaders in )ichigan6s Upper Penins'la al(ost ri.es to the poor8 A real trickster o'tlaw@ Dobin is8 9ilario'sly de.andering 9'nter The seC'el to :nto the ?ight8 The wandering h'nter e.io's8 <one <orilla A biAarre fantasy ad.ill he be able to pass his disco.alt6s Bait and 4ybercafO8 )ad bo(ber@ Dyan 4hartier co(es to .i.aled the range wars f'rther west8 =i( S'((ers was at the heart of it8 Tro'ble 4o(es to Town The seC'el to .ades p'rs'it as he co(es to 'nderstand the inti(ate 'nity 'nderlying all that e%ists8 .or )aria DiaA and all of the people of 9eater to an e.er o'tr'n that gone gorilla8 Song of the .
e it allK Perhaps@ b't only if we can o.en o'r first close look at the e.ing of characters@ storyline and i(agination@ to deli.el takes 's to new di(ensions of s'spense@ thrills and horror8 Song of 4>isten+e .en as the sky itself is on the (o.e a new degree of e(pathy with the world in which we li.erco(e isolationist tendencies and achie.in 9owell@ )aria DiaA and all the other characters str'ggle to s'r.astation 'pon the town of 9eater@ AriAona@ and 'pon the entire world8 Albert 9ayne@ Sheriff Pierce@ Ge.e fiction8 "ourning Sky — Under Shattered Skies= (ook * This is the final book of the Under Shattered Skies trilogy8 The sky er'pts@ raining de.i.e@ fighting against racial hatred@ Ao(bies@ the (ilitary and dae(onic forces8 This cli(actic no.e8 :n the second book of the series@ D7(on Sky@ o'r (any characters draw ine%orably closer to their fate8 And we are gi.do(inant species8 :s there still a chance to sa.e8 4an that happenK +r are we da(ned to co((it s'icide by ignoranceK Find o't in Under Shattered Skies8 Daemon Sky — Under Shattered Skies= (ook ' The ('lti-threaded plot of Under Shattered Skies is on the (o.er the reader into a whole new real( of spec'lati.e e.il behind the plot to c'll the pop'lation thro'gh at(ospheric cataclys(@ as well as a gli(pse thro'gh the eyes of )artin Doss and his hench(an@ Pince Diker8 D7(on Sky takes the s'spense@ the intrig'e and the terror 'p another notch@ transcending the plot thro'gh the interwea.
ing work of literat're capable of lighting a fire in the readerZs (ind and transfor(ing reality8 The (editations had their genesis in a personal crisis and res'lting transfor(ation8 As s'ch@ they are a record of a .erses@ and a (ap for others to follow8 The si(ple act of reading the (editations is s'fficient to carry the reader along on this .isionary fiction8 A h'nchback and social o'tcast plants the seeds to awaken e.e Fi.eryone on a broken world8 :n a world where power is appropriated fro( the (any and co.erything that e%ists8 9e 'ndertakes a (agical C'est to e%plore the tr'e ('sic at the heart of all that e%ists@ and to perfor( this song openly where all can share in it8 Bea'tif'l and heartbreaking@ Song of $%istence is filled with 'ncharted depths of wisdo( and enlighten(ent8 All of 's are .e :t@ .ers that power is the innate heritage of e.icti(s8 ?one of 's are heroes8 And the (onsters are ne.e@ Passing Thro'gh@ Ab'ndance :s@ Fandscape@ So'rce@ $nergy@ Delati.PD Allen6s first post &'ant'( )editations no.oyage8 Along the way@ the )editations cross frontiers of physics@ conscio'sness and the relationship between the indi.ity@ So'l )ates@ 4reation@ +'r Song@ )andala@ Sleeping the Drea(er Drea(ed@ $ternal Do'nd@ Bell Book and 4andle@ the 4reati.el8 A tale of .icti(s8 All of 's are heroes8 So(e of 's are (onsters8 ?one of 's are .ens@ Fife and 9ow .ity series@ A Sorrow of Da.ol'(e incl'des riddle@ the Song of $%istence series@ Sacred <ro.erse8 The )editations bridge C'ant'( physics@ Taois( and her(etic alche(y@ along with co'ntless other s'bEects8 The first .oyage thro'gh inner and o'ter 'ni.eted by the few@ 9awk Descending disco.er what they appear to be8 Poetry ?uantum "editations@ (ook One 哀Ԁ &'ant'( )editations is a li.id'al and the 'ni.
ea.ersary series [*or Eli'abeth\@ and ('ch (ore8 ?uantum "editations A* .a.ing a Tho'ghtfor(@ )e(es@ The Secret of Affir(ations@ The Uni.ell@ The )erry <entle(an@ the Trickster Series@ the Birthing Fe.e For(s@ Dia(ond@ The 4ycle of Fife@ Take a Deep Breath@ The Fallacy of Action@ .orld )aking Drea(s@ Desponse of the <rasshopper@ 9eliocentric@ The Pibration P'rple@ the D:A series [meditations composed d#rin$ a to#r o* the .aters .orlds@ .here 5o' Swi(@ The :n.erse Speaks@ ?a.etroit )nstit#te o* the +rts\@ 4onnecting the Dots@ the <arden of Allowing series@ 4onscio's )anifestation@ Fractal@ Awareness Flows@ .igating :nfinity@ $scher Stairs@ A Bellows Be@ The .alking on 9ot 4oals is $asy 4o(pared to@ The ?at're of Tho'ght@ Drea(ers of .?onlinear@ The Singing )akes :t So@ Tho'ght Flows@ Pictographs@ The Secret Power of Despiration@ The $ssence of )agic@ )e )yself and :@ Stepping Stones@ Trans(itter@ So(ething :n )otion@ Dide the Dragon@ Sweet 9oney in the Dock@ Uni.isible )an@ The Anni.e and :@ the Breathing )iracles series@ Dippling@ Prepare 5o'rself for a )iracle@ $ternal .iathan series@ Spiraling +'t@ )y Fo.ersal For(@ Underworld@ Skein@ .iAards All@ The Tr'th in a ?a(e@ Breathing Seeing Being@ the Physics of $%istence series@ All 5o' Are@ )y Fo.e Are the Frontier@ .e 4o(es Diding@ the Fey T'ne series@ the Secret of )anifestation series@ the S'((onsing the $agles series@ the :(agine series@ the )yth series and ('ch (ore8 ?uantum "editations A' 濐Ԁ :ncl'des )y Fo.e 4o(posed@ The Dance of Fife@ .
:ncl'des The Uni.igating :nfinity@ $scher Stairs@ A Bellows Be@ The .enZs Tale@ The Fa'ghter of 4haos@ The .hat :s $nergyK ?uantum "editations A.onder@ The Distance of 4reation@ 4haotic Brain@ The Fens of 4onscio'sness@ The .ell of 4haos@ The ?th Degree of Freedo(@ the $ntropy series@ The <reat <od 4haos@ the :nti(acy series@ <estalt Sel.here 5o' Swi(@ The :n. 4ontains The Song of 5o'r Beco(ing@ 4irc'lar Attractor@ Stellar Tho'ghtfor(s@ Under :nfinity@ )y Pision of 5o'@ The PainterZs Palette@ FetZs <et Physical@ the Fandscape of Awareness@ The ?at're of T'rb'lence@ the P'rpose of T'rb'lence@ the Beltane series@ )orning Finds )e 9ere@ the 4rossroads series@ the State of $%istence@ Att'ned to the .isible )an@ The Anni.aters .ay of )agic series@ ?onlinear Path@ The Song of the .en@ The Blade of Fight@ Foosening For(@ the .es@ Song Between Us@ The Song of 5o'r Beco(ing@ and so ('ch (ore8 ?uantum "editations A- .ell@ Scripting@ and ('ch (ore8 Also incl'des the essay@ .e@ Fr'it of the Da.orld of )agic@ The Thief of +ne@ ?onlinear Tho'ght and so ('ch (ore8 ?uantum "editations A6 4ontains the Schr]dingerZs 4at series@ Daindrops on the Pond@ The ?at're of Pibration@ Synchronicity@ the Border of 4onscio'sness series@ The United 4hoir of 4onscio'sness@ The Song of Ato(s 4ells and Stars@ D'eling Del'sions@ the )andelbrotZs Set series@ :nflection Points@ The ?at're of 5o'r Fattice@ the Soliton series@ Tho'ght Dadiates@ The 9ero of a Tho'sand Faces@ Painter on a Tightrope@ the .ersary series [*or Eli'abeth\@ ?ote in a Bottle@ $%ponential 4'r.ho A( : series@ Spiral +rbit@ Field of Pision@ A Tr'e )iracle@ The Da.erse Speaks@ ?a.
ol'tion@ Fandscape of DelinC'ent Drea(s@ Uni.ersal )andelbrot@ The Fattice of Being@ Syste(ic Shifts@ This Blosso(ing )o(ent@ $nergy is Awareness@ >ygote@ $ntangle(ent@ The )'sic Fessons series@ the Pro.ersal )ind@ the ?ew Alche(y series@ :nterference Patterns@ Fo'rier Transfor(ations@ The 4onfl'ence of Deality@ the :(plicate series@ Awash in the &'ant'( Pac''(@ ?o's So((es d' Soleil@ The Bo'ndaries of Del'sion@ 9olographic Synchronicity@ and ('ch (ore8 ?uantum "editations A/ .erse@ and ('ch (ore8 ?uantum "editations A.e Uni.ol'tion@ .orldwide .eb of $%istence series@ Thinning Peil series@ &'ant'( S'bEecti.aking <aia@ The 4risis of $.ince of 4reati.alkers@ 4haos is +'r Dri. 喰Ԁ :ncl'ding The $yes of So'rce@ :ndigo Tribe@ The .e 4ollapse@ 4reati.ity@ the Thoth series@ +'roboros series@ The ?aAca Plains@ the 4alcination of 9'(anity@ The )arriage of the S'n and )oon@ the 9atching $go series@ the BosonZs Song series@ The Birth of 4onscio'sness@ The Sea of Potential and the Uni.:ncl'ding :n the <enes@ 4oe.er@ 4hildren of 4haos@ The Power of Beliefs series@ Field of $%istence@ Drea( of ?'cleating 4hange@ Do the )ath@ .ity@ Border .a.
ings of Tho'ght@ Fro( the )ind of >e's@ Dancing )e(es@ Passing thro'gh the 4r'cible@ Uni.ersal )o(ent Foc's@ The Fey are 4alling@ Dissol'tion of )e(es@ $ye of the Pyra(id@ )'table .eb@ S'btleties of For( and ('ch (ore8 Experimental Narrative A!akening DragonB an Shamani+ Adventure .orking the Foo(s@ S'btle $nergy@ 4ad'ce's@ the )echanics of )anifestation@ )instrel Dancer Trickster@ Degree of Awareness@ Fo'ntain of 5o'th@ Tree of Fife@ Dancing )ind@ Blessed Flowers of Delight@ Upside Down Tree@ the 9er(es series@ :n the Underworld and ('ch (ore8 ?uantum "editations A0 煀Ԁ :ncl'ding Field of Awareness@ Balls of Gnowledge@ the Speed of Awareness@ the Spawned series@ +n .:ncl'ding :nner Fandscapes@ 4onE'nction )edicine .heel@ Fift the Peil@ &'ant'( Directi.es@ the Diddle of )e@ :ntertwined@ the 9abit series@ Tho'ght and Thing@ $ntangled Fields@ 4onscio's Transfor(ation@ String of Pearls@ .
erything8 Based on a sha(anic e%perience@ this book contains a .erything in the wakeaday@ and e.Awakening Dragon is abo't e(power(ent@ stirring the (agick that lies at yo'r heart@ and thro'gh yo'r heart@ at the heart of the 'ni.e8 賰Ԁ .erything in the 'ni.e and intent that is at the heart of e.erse@ e.isionary Eo'rney to awaken the dragon within and bring its power into the world@ also awakening to the interconnection of all things8 The first portion of the book consists of a nonlinear song cycle@ followed by an e%peri(ental prose narrati.e Eo'rney thro'gh the depths of the s'bconscio's@ thro'gh the essence of tho'ght and e(otion@ thro'gh archetypes and the laws of e%istence@ and into the dyna(ic flow of energy and awareness that 'nderlies e.erse8 :t is an introspecti.erything in the 'nderworld8 :t is a story abo't finding yo'rself@ finding yo'r center@ and finding the lo.