Friday, May 11, 2018

"Tamer" - PART X - CONCLUSION



Samantha removed the teapot from the fire and poured it into two cups. She crushed some fresh Hedge Nettle leaves and placed them inside tea ball strainers, then lowered the strainers into the cups to steep. She carried the cups into the living room and set them down on a coffee table.

A moment later the cabin door opened and Tamer walked in, having just seen a patient off after treating them for an intestinal infection. She placed a crate full of fresh vegetables and fruit on the counter, payment received for the care she'd rendered. It was nice looking produce and would be welcome nourishment.


Tamer washed her hands and then dropped into an easy chair. "I'm beat" she said. "What's that? 6 patients today?" 

"At least. Here's some hot tea"
, said Samantha, as she passed a cup over to Tamer. "What was wrong with Mrs. Robertson?


"I can't tell you. There's HIPAA medical privacy laws you know." Samantha sat silent, looking confused. Then Tamer laughed and they both busted up. "Just arthritis", she said. I gave her some Coastal Sagebrush to make a pain relieving tea whenever it acts up." 

Sunlight filtered in through the windows. It was Summer and the days were glorious. Warm air wafted into the cabin. Outside in the yard, the animals started calling, knowing it was nearing their evening feeding. Tamer and Samantha laughed and kidded one another over whose turn it was to feed them.


They sat and sipped the tea and enjoyed the golden afternoon as the day began to wind down. They treasured their quiet time together, thankful for simple pleasures.

And their lives.


It had been just over a year since the Harpe Brothers Raid, as the locals had come to call it. 


Samantha's wounds had healed nicely. Tamer had stitched the wounds closed and administered what few antibiotics she had on hand. It had been enough and Samantha had recovered completely. Having no one but each other, they had moved Samantha into the cabin, bringing along the Pruitt ranch's animals and other useful items from James Pruitt's property.

James Pruitt and Jesse Wolter were at rest, buried in a nearby meadow. It was a peaceful place, surrounded by stately oaks, and every Spring, a carpet of colorful wildflowers, which they picked and placed on their graves. 


They'd learned Jesse's name from identification found in his pockets, along with a photo of him with a young woman. The back of the photo read "Marla, 2017". 

They blessed them for having given their lives to save them from the Harpe's. 

Their lives were bought for a high cost.


"Mm-ma-ma-ma-ma", came from a crib in the corner of the room. Tamer smiled and looked across the room. Two little hands gripped the crib rails and she could just see a wisp of soft brown hair. It wobbled back and forth. Learning to stand is the first step.

Stand. 


Samantha giggled. "Uh-oh, somebody woke up!"


Tamer crossed the room and reached into the crib. She picked up the little girl and carried her back to the easy chair and cuddled her.
"Hello mommy's girl! How are you? Are you hungry?"  The baby cooed and smiled at the sound of her mother's voice.

She opened her blouse and gave her little one nourishment. The baby's blue eyes made contact with Tamer's and a little hand reached up and touched at her mother's cheek. The bond of a mother and child...evidence of the strongest force in all of Gods creation.


Love.


Samantha went over to the kitchen counter. "Oh, hey, I forgot. I got her a gift while I was at the Summer Festival in Felton a few days ago." She passed a wooden disk with a bright pink silk ribbon over to Tamer.


Tamer turned the disk over in her hand and examined it. It was decorated with hand-painted Ladybugs and Daisy's. A name was painted in script.


"Oh how cute! Thank you Sam!" ,
exclaimed Tamer. 


When finished nursing, she burped the baby and passed her to Auntie Sam. The baby loved and knew Sam as family, and they cuddled while Sam sang softly for her. Samantha tuned their AM/FM radio, and they listened to a golden oldies station in Santa Cruz and played on a quilted blanket until bedtime.


The solar power panels Bobby had installed produced enough electricity to power their small household. It was a wonderful luxury.

The state government had recently been reestablished and indications were that life was slowly recovering. Power generation had been recovered in some communities and law enforcement had been restoring the rule of law. There were rumors of a new currency starting to circulate.


Hope.



The years passed and life gradually returned to near normal. Samantha eventually met a man named Jeff Bates and they married. Jeff was an Engineer and helping rebuild infrastructure. They moved into Santa Cruz and built a family of their own. Samantha had two boys, Chris and James. She and Tamer remained good friends and stayed in contact.

Tamer never married. She raised her baby by herself and taught her everything that she could to make her self-reliant. The little girl grew up strong and could care for farm animals, hunt, dress game, fish, and had a deep knowledge of medicinal and edible plants. And Tamer taught her to fight.

If need be. 

Tamer continued to work as a healer around Scotts Valley until her death. In 2048, Tamer fell ill with pneumonia and passed away. She was 51.


Epilogue


The buck moved silently among the oaks. It stopped from time to time and dipped its head to nibble at some of the  tender Fiddlehead shoots and other greens that were coming up.

A light rain fell. Droplets formed on the trees and fell upon the leaf litter, making pops and plops as they landed. True to its nature, the wary buck raised its head from time to time to scan the woods and watch for threats from predators.

The clouds were clearing, pushed aside by gentle breezes, and the sun had come out. The deer continued to graze, then stopped suddenly and raised it's head.

It sensed something...

A primitive composite arrow silently sped through shafts of light that filtered through the trees. The knapped glass blade at it's tip pierced the buck's chest, just behind the foreleg and entered the lungs.


Startled by the silent impact, the buck jumped, arching it's back, and then ran a few yards. The hardwood foreshaft that held the blade slipped from its ferrule and remained embedded in the deer. The main shaft with the fletching detached and fell away. Were the buck lost, at least the arrow could be recovered.

The woods remained silent and the buck settled down. Hemorrhaging internally, it grew weaker and weaker, stumbled, and then went down on all fours. It's head bobbed, then lowered to the ground where it became motionless.



A shadowy figure slowly detached from behind a wide oak twenty yards away.
It held a primitive self bow. The twisted sinew bowstring had turkey feather silencers tied to it. The figure nocked another arrow, pinched and drew the bowstring and slowly advanced on the buck. It prodded the buck, but the deer remained motionless.


The hunter had washed with a tea made from Coastal Sagebrush, which masked their scent. The deer may have caught the slightest whiff of the human scent, but the scent blocker had done its work adequately. They had made meat.

Satisfied, the hunter relaxed the string and un-nocked the arrow. The bow was carefully set aside. The hunter reached behind their back and drew a Butcher knife carried Scout style in a hide sheath tucked into a belt. It had a pitted, deep brown patina on the blade, and the handle was black with use. The edge was keened to a razor edge. Overall, the knife looked like it had seen a lot of use over the years.


A lot.

The archer was tall, slender, and dressed in buckskins. Long wavy brown hair flowed loose over the shoulders. The hunter gathered the hair and tied back with a strip of buckskin. Raptor feathers from a Red-Tailed Hawk were clipped to the hair above the ear and fluttered in the breeze. The hunter placed a hand on the deer and thanked it for the gift of sustenance it would provide.

The archer worked quickly and efficiently, rolling the deer onto its side, opening it, and scooping the organs out onto the ground.


As they bent over to lift the carcass, a wood medallion fell out of the neckline of the archer's buckskins. It was quite old, and hung from a frayed pink silk ribbon. The paint was chipped, but the name on it was still discernible


Meggie.


THE END



"Tamer" - PART IX



Tamer stopped and fought to overcome a severe side cramp. She held her side and breather hard, trying to force air into her aching lungs. She knew the man was behind her; not close, but definitely back there somewhere. She couldn't afford to stop, and so she started to jog again.


"I've got to keep moving! It's the only chance I've got"
, she thought  


She estimated she'd covered a half a mile. The shotgun and knife she'd cached were another mile further on. If she could just make it there...


Michael Harpe's bad leg was impeding him. He could only run just so fast and was struggling trying to pursue the girl. At the same time. he fought a nagging thought; Part of him wanted to give up.


"That baby..."

"It's not my kid..."


He pushed the thought from his mind.


Michael Harpe had been killing people for so long that it had become a default mode. He didn't even know why he did it anymore. It was just what he did; his purpose in life so to speak. And now he was intent on slaying this girl.

His brother was dead.

It was her fault.

She had to pay.


Samantha was exhausted. She'd run for what seemed like forever, and she could not run any further. She collapsed under a tree, sobbing. Her grandfather was dead. Blood from the man who did it was spattered all over her skin and clothing. She sat up suddenly.


"Tamer...!"

Tamer was alone and in danger. An evil was chasing her, intent on harming her... 

...and she'd abandoned her. Samantha suddenly remembered a scripture.


"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but a spirit of power and of love and of discipline..."


Samantha knew what she had to do. She must go back. 


"Stand"
, she told herself.

"STAND!"

She stood, wiped her face, and started back down the hill toward the road.


Tamer could finally see the rock outcropping where the shotgun and shells were stashed. It was less than a quarter mile away. She glanced behind her just in time to see Michael Harpe rounding a corner in the road.


He was less than a hundred yards behind her.


Tamer was fading fast. She was drained, running out of energy.

But the will to live was strong.

Just maybe...
  

Michael Harpe had eyes on Tamer.
He felt energized and quickened his pace. His hand tightened around the butcher knife.


"Soon!"
he thought.


Tamer reached the outcropping. She turned off the road and, though completely exhausted, scrambled up the small hill to the rock redoubt. She furiously clawed at the piled rocks that concealed the weapons, throwing them aside.

Her hands closed around the plastic wrapped shotgun and tore it open. The loose shot shell's spilled from the bag, tumbling, bouncing and landing scattered on the ground. She pulled the shotgun free from the bag.


A shadow fell across her. She looked up.


Michael Harpe stood above her, smiling evilly. He was breathing hard as he kicked her in the chest. She fell backwards and the shotgun fell from her hands and clattered onto the rocks.

Gripping his knife, Harpe reversed his hold of the handle, switching it up to an icepick grip. He raised it high above his head, and prepared to plunge it into Tamer. Harpe noticed she had a strange look on her face. She didn't look frightened in the least. Rather, she looked calm...confident.

"What the fuck?" he thought



Samantha came up behind Harpe and bludgeoned him over the head with a heavy rock.
She was exhausted and the blow carried little force. Harpe was momentarily stunned, but shook it off. He swung the knife in a big arc at Samantha. The blade slashed across her upper right arm then across her chest. A large gash opened on each and tissue puckered out of the cut. Blood flowed down her arm and chest.


Samantha didn't even flinch. Enraged, she threw herself on Harpe and began to violently claw and bite his face like a feral animal. She sank her teeth into his deformed nose and wrenched it from his face, spat it out and sank her teeth into his cheek, tearing a great chunk of tissue away.
 

The rules of society absent, Samantha's primitive human instinct to survive at any cost and by any means had emerged.


Harpe screamed with pain and anger and threw Samantha off of him. She landed on her back and he advanced on her, then plunged the knife deep into her abdomen. Samantha screamed as the blade sank into her.



Harpe was spent. He tiredly raised the knife to stab Samantha again when the nine .33 caliber double aught Buckshot pellets entered his back. The blast propelled him forward, and he fell onto his knees. The pain was excruciating. It felt like he'd been violently punched by a half-dozen  red-hot fireplace pokers. He staggered back to his feet and had turned in a half circle in time to see Tamer work the action and eject the shell. She calmly thumbed another round into the action, closed it and pulled the trigger.


Michael Harpe caught  the second blast in his abdomen.  His mouth fell open and the butcher knife slipped from his hand as he looked down and saw his intestines exposed through a mammoth hole that had been opened in his gut. Copious blood poured out, soaking his pants, running down his legs and dripping onto his shoes.

Shocked, he stood mesmerized at the sight of his own condition. It was incomprehensible to him, after harming so many people over the years, to see himself mutilated and bleeding, yet here it was.


He was vaguely aware of his hair being grabbed from behind and something or someone pulling him backwards. Weakened, he fell backwards for what seemed an eternity, but in reality was only a second or two. He landed hard on the rocky soil, knocking the wind out of him. His eyes moved slowly, weakly. They settled on Samantha who stood above him, looking down upon him. She stepped around his body and then sat atop him, straddling his chest.

Samantha's blood rained on Harpe as she leaned forward. She placed her mouth close to his ear and whispered...


"Say hello to Satan when you get to HELL, you son-of-a-bitch!"


Samantha reached over and gathered up Harpe's knife. She pinned his head to the ground and began sawing through his neck. Muscles and tendons gave way. After a few minutes, Michael Harpe's head came free.
The remaining oxygenated blood in his brain provided about 10 seconds of function;


Long enough for it to recognize its own headless body where it lie on the ground.
 


TO BE CONTINUED......



Copyright © Manny Silva, 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.





"Tamer" - PART VIII

 


Tamer could hear the commotion outside and cracked the bedroom door. The combination of distraction and boozing had caused the Harpe's to have a lapse of attention and forget about Tamer. She burst from the cabin ran past Michael Harpe and straight into the brush beside the cabin. If there was one thing she understood, it was that cover was a prey animals friend, and at this moment, she was prey. 


Michael glanced Tamer from the corner of his peripheral vision, and broke free from James Pruitt's dying grasp. As Pruitt fell to the ground in a lifeless heap, Michael Harpe tripped over him. He stumbled, but then recovered and ran into the brush in pursuit of Tamer. He'd heard the shots and glanced at the road. he could see his brother laying lifeless in the roadway and a girl running into the brush on the opposite side of the road.


He knew there was a sniper up there, and that he had to stick to cover lest he also be shot. He vowed to return and get the bastard that killed his brother, but first he would kill this bitch.

Tamer ran as fast as she could, twisting, turning, ducking and weaving through the brush. She was frightened and had an adrenaline dump of her own going. She couldn't afford to think about the baby.

At this point, she knew her survival was completely dependent on getting as far away from the Harpe's as she could, and she just focused her mind on creating distance. Behind her, she could occasionally hear a branch snap or a heavy footfall.

She knew the Harpe brother was behind her and not giving up.


After a time, she heard less and less noise behind her and then none. Had he given up? No matter she decided. She had to keep going.


Jesse glassed the brush with his riflescope, but it was thick and the other Harpe brother was sticking to it. He had seen him bolt into the vegetation in pursuit of the woman, but he had no shot. The Harpe was using the cover and concealment of the vegetation to thwart him, and he knew it.


Frightened for the woman, he left his position of cover and worked his way down to the road. He hustled down the road, scanning both sides of the road as he went, his rifle held at a high ready, ready to snap off a shot if the opportunity presented itself.


Jesse could neither see not hear any activity and couldn't be sure how far they had traveled. It was another warm sunny day, as had been the case since Spring had arrived. A breeze was stirring the trees and the birds were active. he was surrounded by movement and sound, and this added a layer of difficulty to the task of tracking the Harpe brother.


Jesse heard a small scuff on the ground behind him and spun, but it was too late.


Michael Harpe had back tracked and silently come out of the brush behind Jesse Wolter.
As Jesse turned, Michael stepped into him, tying up his arms and preventing him from bringing the rifle to bear. At the same time, his razor sharp butcher knife slid beneath Jesse's sternum and lanced his heart.


The pain was unbelievable. It robbed him of his breath and Jesse gasped for air. As a last-ditch effort, he weakly attempted to head-butt Michael, but the Harpe brother easily dodged it.

The knife had severed Jesse's aorta and his blood had stopped circulating. He had perhaps 10 seconds of life left. Weakened, he fell to the ground. His vision darkened, and a strange desire to sleep came upon him.


Jesse's last thought was of Marla, and the child they never had. 



TO BE CONTINUED....



Copyright © Manny Silva, 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

"Tamer" - PART VII


Jesse grimaced. The man and young woman stood on the road below, ringing the bell mounted beside the gate, completely oblivious to the evil lurking inside the cabin. He wanted desperately to warn them off, but knew that it would probably ruin any chance of taking out the Harpe's, and he'd worked much to hard to get this close to them to lose his opportunity to avenge the Read's. Resting his rifle on the boulder, he watched and waited, hopeful the pair would move on.

On the other hand, what if the Harpe's came out to play....?

James and Samantha rang the bell twice more. After about 10 minutes there were becoming impatient when Tamer didn't come to the gate. Normally she'd responded  within several minutes time. If she wasn't home, she would've been in town, and they'd just come from there, so they knew that wasn't likely. Where else would she go? Receiving no response they turned to go.

James began pushing the handcart up the road, and they'd taken but a few steps when Samantha stopped, turned around and stared back at the gate. She turned back to her grandfather, and said, "I think we should check on her. What if she is sick or injured? She could have caught something caring for someone and be sick in there."

James looked up at the cabin and pondered for a moment. Something about it felt odd, and he didn't like it. His instinct was telling him otherwise, but he capitulated to Sam's wishes and agreed they would investigate.

Just as a precaution, James paused and opened his haversack and removed his revolver, an old Smith & Wesson Model 10 chambered for .38 Special. He opened the cylinder and inspected it. It held just five cartridges. They were hard to come by and that was all he had. He shoved the pistol in his waistband at the small of his back, so Tamer wouldn't be alarmed by it. Sam looked on and thought it an unnecessary precaution, but said nothing.

On the hillside above, Jesse went electric when the pair suddenly returned, slipped  the loop off the post, and passed through the gate. He began to nervously chew the inside of his mouth when they started up the driveway to the cabin. "Oh Shit", he thought, and pulled the .30-30 into his shoulder. The rifle rested atop his coat, where it was not as apt to slip. He gently worked the lever a fraction of an inch, checked the chamber, and confirmed a round was in place.

And waited.


Inside the cabin, the Harpes were drunk. They'd been pounding booze for a couple of hours. Michael had been moody since the conversation with Tamer.
Both were already agitated. They'd turned the healer's cabin upside down and found no useful drugs, useful meaning hallucinogens, stimulants, or depressants...their main reason for the raid from the start. They'd found some antibiotics, but those offered none of the effects they were looking for. In their perverse world, every day was spent in pursuit of alcohol, drugs, sex, or blood, and not necessarily in that order.

Consequently, they were completely caught off guard when the gate bell rang. Michael sprang to his feet and went to the window. Peering through the gauzy curtain fabric, he was shocked to see an older man and younger woman approaching up the driveway. They were only a few yards from the door.

"Fuck!"
, he whispered. "Company! Get ready!"

Willie struggled off the couch, spilling booze down his shirt front. He reached over to the side table and grabbed his favorite weapon, a hickory handled camp axe with a 1-1/4 pound head. The head was rusted brown from the blood of his many victims, and the handle was darkly stained and gummy. He never cleaned it, but kept it razor sharp by habitually keening the edge each evening.

Michael crossed the room and grabbed his hunting knife. The brothers flanked the door and waited.


Tamer had also heard the bell and knew someone had arrived. It could be anyone, and she had not expected anybody. She could hear the sudden activity in the living room and knew something was happening. An idea formed in her head, in case an opportunity presented itself, namely a distraction. 

Quirky slipping on tennis shoes, she positioned herself by the bedroom door, listened, and waited.

James knocked on the door, then stepped back a couple of paces. He still felt ill at ease about the situation, but couldn't say exactly why. It was just a feeling he had...and not a good one.

Samantha looked around and listened but heard no movement from within the cabin. They looked at each other quizzically. James removed the revolver from his waistband and held it down by his leg, then stepped forward and tried the doorknob.

It turned in his hand.

Suddenly the door was jerked open and Willie Harpe launched out the door. If the Harpe brothers had a motto, it would be "Speed, Surprise, Violence of Action"...they lived by it, and it never failed them.

James was completely startled and flew 10' backwards as the giant man slammed bodily into him with the force of a bull, knocking the revolver from his hand. It landed several feet away in some brush.

Samantha screamed as she witnessed the event unfolding before her.

Rising to his knees, James Pruitt tried to react, searching behind him for the revolver,  but it was too little too late. Willie Harpe swung his axe viciously, catching James in the left shoulder and very nearly severing his arm as it bit deep. Blood exploded from the gash and James let out a deafening howl of pain.

Michael Harpe had come out of the cabin behind Willie and lunged at James with his hunting knife, catching him under the sternum and sliding the knife deep beneath the rib cage. It was a mortal wound.

James knew he was doomed and in spite of the horrendous pain, decided his last act would be to save his beloved granddaughter, even at the cost of his own life. Mustering all his strength, he wrapped his good arm around Michael Harpe and held on with all his might. Michael Harpe tried to unwind himself from James Pruitt's grip, but the old rancher was strong and held tight with his remaining strength. They were locked eye to eye.

Time seemed to slow down, and James looked over to where Samantha stood frozen and screamed at her.

"RUN SAM! RUN BABY!"

He didn't have to tell her twice. Samantha snapped out of it, turned, and ran as fast as her feet could carry her down the driveway to the road below. From there she began sprinting down the road like a scared Jackrabbit. She had a huge adrenal dump flowing into her bloodstream and nature's gift of fight or flight survival instinct was in full operation.

It chose flight.

Willie Harpe lumbered down the driveway and chased after Samantha, like a mammoth grizzly bear. For an obese man he moved remarkably fast and closed on her quickly. Samantha kept glancing over her shoulder, terrified to see the axe waving man not only keeping pace, but closing behind her.


Jesse Wolter had to choose. There was no doubt that the man struggling with the Harpe brother was done for, but the girl might have a chance if he could just make the shot....and it was a big "IF".

They were running full tilt down the road and the monstrous Harpe brother was close on her heels. Every time Jesse put the cross hairs on him he or the woman would shift positions and the girl would wander into the line of fire.

He couldn't get a shot.   

Willie Harpe was on Samantha and grinned to himself as his hand closed around the girl's ponytail. Catching it, he ruthlessly jerked her backwards off her feet. He was furious she'd made him work so hard to catch her, and decided rape was too good for her.

"This whore is going to die!" he thought, and raised his camp axe high above his head.

Samantha saw it coming and true to her beliefs, uttered  her last profession of faith.

"Forgive me Father. Lord Jesus please accept me into your Kingdom this day."

Willie Harpe was amused by the girl's prayer and cackled with glee upon hearing this. To him, it smacked of surrender...and yet another victory for him.

"Yo'r "Lord" ain't gonna save you now BITCH!"


In that instant, Jesse Wolter found his shot and pressed the trigger. The .30-30 jumped and sailed a FEDERAL 150 grain  softpoint into Willie's back. The round burrowed deep, lodged in his tissue, and expended it's energy. Willie staggered by the impact but didn't go down.

That he remained standing was even more amazing. He jerked Samantha to her feet like a rag doll, pulling her around in front of him as a shield and facing in the general direction from whence he perceived the shot had come.

Dropping the axe, Willie Harpe drew a butcher knife from a sheath behind his back and pressed the blade hard against Samantha's throat.  A small line of blood formed along the edge. Harpe looked up to where he thought the shot had come and backed away, dragging Sam backwards with him.

He searched the hillside, but saw nothing. Then he shouted, "I'll kill her!"

Jesse wiped sweat from his eyes and squinted through the scope.

"FUCK!"
,  he thought, "I can't believe he is still standing. I've got nothing to lose. He'll kill her anyway."

Jesse did his best to calm himself, sighted in and  took in a breath. He let it out slowly , just as his father had taught him so long ago, and then pressed the trigger. The .30-30 bucked against his shoulder and the round flew true.

The slug passed just through the top of Willie Harpe's hairline and exited the back of his skullcap. As it did so, his brain case swelled from the softpoint's hydrostatic shock, then exploded in a mist of pink  and grey as his liquefied brain exploded.

Willies eye's rolled up in what remained of his head and then he dropped to the ground, dead.


Freed from the Harpe brother's grasp and traumatized by her grandfathers death, Samantha shrieked and ran headlong into the woods in sheer and total panic.


TO BE CONTINUED....



Copyright © Manny Silva, 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"Tamer" - PART VI



"WAKE UP BITCH!" The slap that followed barely registered as Tamer began the slow return to consciousness. For a few moments, she experienced a strange, floating sensation as though she were swimming up to the surface of a pool of water, the surface glittering brightly. Then her vision began to clear. Her eyes fluttered and searched around the dim room for the source of the voice.

Tamer felt ill, and rolled onto her side and wretched. Her stomach was empty, so the nausea was unproductive, just dry heaves. She wasn't sure what the voice had said, her drugged mind only just hearing garbled speech. Frankly, she wasn't sure it was even a voice.

"She's still fucked up from the ether, bro."

Tamer heard that better, and her mind worked to make sense of the statement. Finally her eyes drifted onto two shapes hovering over her. In the dimness, she made out two men's faces, and she was vaguely aware of their odor. She remained silent as her eyesight moved over them. Her vision was blurred and her perception foggy, but she had a vague impression of cruel faces; rugged, damaged faces.

She groaned slightly and her eyes closed briefly, then opened again still searching the room for answers to questions forming in her mind. Then she nodded off.

Willie Harpe turned to his brother. "She's out again. Come on. This might take a while for the shit to wear off."

Michael Harpe shrugged. "Yea, no hurry. Time's something we got plenty of." he faced his brother and smiled with a wolfish grin. "Besides...I want her lively when I give it to her."

They laughed as they walked out of the room and closed the door, leaving Tamer on the floor.

Tamer remained motionless for a few moments. She'd had enough awareness to feign nodding off. Slowly she cracked her eyelids and confirmed the men had left the room. She slowly tried to move and became aware she was bound at the wrists and ankles. Bringing her hands up, she could see that her wrists were wrapped tightly with duct tape. She tested the wrap. It was solid, and she had no doubt she could not break the tape. 

She slowly rolled onto her side and looked down at her feet. Her ankles were bound with the same material. Her shoes had been removed, as had her outer garments... they'd stripped her and she was clad only in a thin T shirt and panties.

Her mouth was not gagged, and she pondered whether she could chew through the tape? Looking about, she realized she was on the floor of her small bedroom. drawers were standing open and items dumped on the floor. Clearly, her captors had searched the room and likely had stripped it of anything even remotely useful as an escape tool or weapon. The room was darker than normal, and she realized they'd moved furniture to barricade the windows, lest she escape. Moving the furniture would alert them.

She had no doubt as to what was about to occur, and steeled herself. She kept telling herself "You can survive. You've done it before." Her mind raced as she tried to figure out a way to escape, but she was scared. She was unarmed, bound, and absolutely at their mercy.

A thought occurred to her. If she could just get to one of her caches...


Jesse Wolter mentally kicked himself. He'd had just the briefest opportunity to take a shot and pick off one of the Harpes, and now they were likely inside the cabin, holding a woman captive.
  He shook his head. Had to hand it to them, they were good. Really good. They moved unseen in cover and on the rare occasion they were visible, it was only for the most fleeting moment as they moved into some other place of concealment.


Their clothes were dirty, earth and brush toned, and blended perfectly into the shadows and natural surroundings. He'd only had a momentary glimpse as they moved quickly, one at a time, crossing a narrow section of road in an instant. If you'd blinked you'd have missed them altogether.  They were really good at their outlaw tradecraft.

On second thought, Jesse concluded he likely couldn't have made the shot in the brief moment they'd broke cover and crossed the road. He was a good marksman, but not particularly fast. No, he decided he needed to be patient and wait for his opportunity, but it went against every molecule of his being to do so.

He glassed the cabin with his rifle scope, hopeful for a shot. He'd used electricians tape and a cardboard tube to fashion a sunshade for the riflescope, so as not to give off any reflections that might betray his position. It was completely still and quiet around the cabin. He considered storming the cabin, but he was alone and didn't know the floorplan. It would be suicidal.  All he could do was watch and wait.

Jesse wanted at them badly. It had been a long and exhausting 3 weeks tracking the Harpes. They were nomads, moving constantly, without any apparent destination, and stopping only long enough the commit some depredation along the way. It seemed they were always just one step ahead.

Jesse had come across at least 3 mutilated victims he attributed to them.  One of them was very freshly killed...a young boy, perhaps 14 or so....and by all appearances, murdered within just a few hours. He'd been gutted, and his abdominal cavity filled with stones and then concealed in pool beside a creek. The lifeless boy's eyes, wide with fright, stared at him from beneath the water. For a moment, Jesse almost thought he'd sit up in the water and speak, it was so surreal. 

The Harpes weren't hard men to follow as they moved across the Santa Clara County landscape...wherever they went, they left a trail of death, and their footsteps were marked in blood. Some of the people he'd met along the way had spied the Harpes and passed the intel along to Jesse. One was a Sheriff, still trying to do his job in spite of the collapse. He'd traded rounds with the Harpes, but they'd escaped. Jesse considered that. They might prefer edged weapons, but they weren't unfamiliar with firearms. It was good to know.

Jesse was closing in on the Harpes, and he knew it. He had concluded they were moving into the Santa Cruz mountains, and the previous day he had found a campsite they'd occupied just that night. Hidden up a hillside in a grove of oaks, they'd made a warming fire against a fallen tree. It would've hidden their firelight from casual observers and reflected the heat back at them. A pair of empty booze bottles littered the ground.

Their tracks were distinctive, and he knew with certainty they were now only hours ahead of him. Jesse knew that they could easily counter track, and was fretful of walking into an ambush, so he'd slowed down and started glassing well ahead of himself.

He was doing just that when he finally caught his first glimpse of the Harpes. He'd distantly spied them rounding a corner on a rural road, and then moving into the brush on the roadside. It was difficult, but he'd managed to catch bits of movement and realized they were ascending the hillside through heavy brush. He stepped into the brush and began slowly picking his way up the hillside, intent on positioning himself above and behind the Harpes, where he'd have an advantage.

Gaining some elevation, it was then that he saw the gate and realized the Harpes were setting up to observe a small cabin, tucked back in the trees, a short distance from the road.

After a few hours, Jesse saw activity at the cabin and saw that there were at least two women there.

When the Harpes made their move, it was fast and decisive. They flanked the cabin, and then came up from the creek through the thick tree cover behind the cabin.

Providence intervened at that moment and the door opened and the women exited the cabin, one pushing a stroller with a small child. They talked briefly, and then the woman with the stroller left, pushing the toddler down the road.

The remaining woman watched them walk away, and then returned inside the cabin.

There had been no activity for several hours, and Jesse knew they had her. He worked his way down the hillside, setting up beside a large granite boulder and pine set in the brush. It was a straight shot across the road, perhaps 75 yards from where he perched to the cabin's front door.


James Pruitt and Samantha had started out from town early that morning. It was sunny, warm and beautiful.
A few clouds drifted across the sky, pushed along by the gentle coastal breezes. The trees and plants were leafing out, and the air had a rich fragrance of fertile earth. Birds were flitting about, calling, singing their songs, and chattering. Soon they would be choosing up mates and nesting.


Spring had arrived, and winter was once more stepping aside and giving up it's place to new life.
James and Samantha had spent the night at Bobby Parkins store. They enjoyed the walk back up the valley road, studying nature as they pushed their handcart with some much needed supplies they'd bartered for.

They'd decided to stop at Tamer's place and take a break and visit with her. It had been a month since they'd last seen her and looked forward to a visit with their friend.

They knew they were just a mile out from her gate... 


Michael Harpe was hurting. It'd been a couple of weeks since committing his last rape. He had an itch to scratch and unconscious or not, was not waiting any longer. He pushed open the bedroom door and was pleased to see that Tamer was awake. He said nothing as he pulled her to her feet then pushed her onto the bed. A few minutes work, and he'd unwound the duct tape from her feet and wrists.

"Get your clothes off", was all he said.

Tamer sat motionless.

"NOW BITCH!" he screamed at her.

Tamer moved woodenly, standing up and slipping the T-shirt over her head, then sliding her panties off. She stood completely nude before Harpe as he unfastened his belt, allowing his trousers to drop around his ankles. Tamer could see he was aroused and instantly felt sickened.

In that moment, the baby kicked hard. A sharp pain shot through her abdomen, and Tamer doubled over. She placed her hand over her stomach and straightened. She felt nauseous and turned visibly pale. Harpe saw this, and his eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed.

"What's wrong with your gut? Are you sick?"

Tamer was slow to answer, then replied, "No...I'm pregnant."

"BULLSHIT!"

The baby was still kicking, apparently becoming active. Perhaps it was sensing it's mothers stress. Or perhaps just reacting to a fear-related bloodstream chemical dump. Tamer couldn't be sure.

"No, I am. Really. Look...look here..the baby is kicking." She pointed at her abdomen.

Michael Harpe glanced down and saw movement as a foot swept across the interior wall of her abdomen. His eyes widened. This was nothing he'd ever seen in his life. For the first time he noticed the unusual fullness of her abdomen.

Tamer had a sudden thought this might be an advantage. Taking a chance, she moved closer to Harpe. She reached out slowly and gently took hold of his hand, placing it over the baby's location, then pressing it down. Frozen with uncertainty, he looked down at her hand.

With perfect timing, the baby gave another strong kick and Harpe recoiled as though snakebit. Startled he drew his hand away and stepped back.  

Harpe licked his lips, then nervously stammered, "Where's the father! Is he coming back here?" His eyes were wild and he looked scared.

Tamer hesitated, then calmy replied, "I...there is no father. I mean, I don't know. I was raped. It was dark. I didn't see him. On the road to Felton."

Harpe looked perplexed. "Felton. When was this?"

"5-6 months ago."

Dreamlike, Michael Harpe slowly turned his head and looked at his brother who had entered the room and was standing behind him, but said nothing. Willie could see something strange was transpiring, but remained silent, not sure what to say or do. The words came slowly. "Felton...6 months ago..."

Willie Harpe looked at his brother, cocked his head and furrowed his brow, confused by his strange behavior. Michael Harpe had lost his erection. He bent and drew up his pants, then fastened them. He stepped out of the room without a word, Willie Harpe following after him and closing the door behind them.

Tamer let out her breath, It was a close call. Tamer dressed and then sat on the bed and thought over the events that had just transpired. And then light dawned and she realized that she was looking at her child's father. Harpe had raped her, and he knew it. More than that, he knew it was his child.


At that moment the gate bell rang.



TO BE CONTINUED......



Copyright © Manny Silva, 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


Friday, April 27, 2018

"Tamer" - PART V



PART V

WARNING: THIS CHAPTER HAS GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF VIOLENT ACTS AND SEXUAL ASSAULT. STOP NOW AND DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY SUCH TOPICS.  READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
.


Jesse Wolter dabbed at his wife's forehead with a damp facecloth. She'd had a severe fever for 2 days and was burning up. Her skin was dry and she couldn't hold anything down, even water.  The bed sheets were stained with urine and fecal matter, and, even with the windows open, the smell was overpowering inside their cramped, hot apartment. Jesse didn't dare move her to change the bedding...she was much too sick to disturb. Wearing dish washing gloves, he just tried to clean up the mess in place with a bucket of bleachy water. He was exhausted from caring for her and had stolen snippets of sleep here and there.

This latest flu epidemic had broken out earlier in the week and Marla Wolter had contracted it. No surprise there. She worked at a pre-school and working parents, lacking day care money, routinely sent their sick children to school. Marla was often sick and fighting a cold or flu passed on to her by some sick pupil...it just came with the territory...and it had played hell with her resistance and immunity system.  She lived in a near constant state of exhaustion or illness.

Jesse went to the kitchen and fetched a bottle of Pedialyte from the refrigerator, inserted a straw, and placed it to Marla's lips. When Marla had first fallen ill, he'd made a beeline to the market and snatched up a few bottles while he could and before it was gone. This flu seemed to be very aggressive and spreading fast, and the news outlets were reporting the same and advising everyone how to avoid catching it.

"Come on baby. Take a sip. You have to", he whispered as gently as he could.

Marla had been in and out of consciousness. Her eyes slightly opened and slowly moved as though searching for the source of the voice, but were unable to focus. Her lips moved ever so slightly, as though trying to form words, but nothing came out. Jesse sighed, then set the bottle down. This was pointless he thought.

"I need to take her to the hospital", he decided. 

Going downstairs, he asked his neighbor Ray if he would drive them to the hospital, explaining how ill Marla was. Jesse and Marla didn't own a car, couldn't afford gas, registration, insurance and all the upkeep on Marla's salary, their sole source of income. Afraid to contract the virus, Ray declined but offered his keys after eliciting a promise from Jesse that he would disinfect the ride after using it.

Jesse scooped Marla from the bed and carried her as carefully as he could down to the car. He laid her across the back seat, then softly closed the door. Jesse drove Marla to Good Samaritan Hospital, parked in the emergency room lot and carried her inside. The waiting room was filled to capacity with anxious and sick people, adults, children, and elders, all hoping to be seen. Two hospital security guards were trying to quell some kind of dispute between two men in the waiting room. An elderly man lay on the floor and a Paramedic was attending him.

The room smelled horrible with the stench of feces, urine, and illness.

Jesse went to the admittance window and asked the clerk what kind of wait he was looking at. She had black circles around her eyes and looked tired and frazzled. She looked up at him.

"Sir, I have no idea. All of our beds are full and we're operating with reduced staff. Many of our staff are ill and have not been able to come in to work."

She also told Jesse that there was no point in going to another hospital, that all of the area hospitals were equally overwhelmed by this virus. The clerk told him that the supply of TAMIFLU was exhausted. She added Marla's name to a long waiting list.

"She needs rest and fluids" was her parting comment.

Jesse realized they would never be seen, turned around, and carried Marla back outside and drove her back to their little rental, determined to nurse her back to health.

Marla died quietly in her bed sometime the following morning.

Jesse had dozed off during the night, and when he awoke, found Marla not breathing and unresponsive. He called 9-1-1, but only received a busy signal and a message "ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY, PLEASE TRY AGAIN". Grief filled, Jesse held Marla in his arms, rocking back and forth, and crying over the loss of his beloved wife. They'd barely had a year together, and now all their plans and dreams were shattered.

Unable to summon any assistance, Jesse knocked on Ray's apartment door and asked to borrow his car. Ray answered the door, and Jesse could smell vomit. Ray looked like he had fallen ill, and handed over the keys. Although he couldn't know it then, 2 days later Ray would be as dead as well.

Jesse wrapped Marla in a blanket and loaded her into the car and returned to the hospital. A Security Guard told him that the hospital morgue was filled to capacity, but that a temporary morgue had been established at the Army National Guard Armory on Hedding Street and to go there. 

Jesse drove to the Armory slowly. He knew it would be the last time he would be in close proximity to his sweet wife. He arrived and a Guardsman wearing latex gloves and a surgical face mask handed him a clipboard and form to fill out, then accepted Marla's corpse and placed it inside a green vinyl body bag. Jesse helped the soldier move Marla into the bag and as he did, he reached out and held her hand on elast time, taking a moment to memorize her hand, the simple wedding band, and her nails painted softly pink like her now silent lips. Her hand slid from his and the bag zipped closed over Marla's face, enveloping her in eternal darkness, and with her, his life.

The pandemic ran another 3 weeks and then burned itself out. Mankind was effectively destroyed, and it became obvious to Jesse that the long promised Apocalypse had come and with it a new reality. The stench of rotting flesh and pestilence filled the air and the survivors started to try to figure out how to exist in the new era.

Jesse had sheltered in place for the pandemic, and then another couple of weeks beyond that. Power had failed, government had collapsed, and now famine and disease were starting to take their toll. Decaying corpses were everywhere...on the streets, in cars, in homes and hospitals, and no one to remove and burn them. It was a horrendous nightmare scenario.

Santa Clara County had been home to almost 2 Million people, but was now reduced to somewhere around 500,000...a mixed bag of desperate, starving humans without any semblance of government to control them or reel them in if they went off the rails. There were criminals, mentally ill, and the soon-to-be criminal and mentally ill...and all vying for the few remaining resources. People had become little more than predatory animals, shooting one another for a few cans of protein, liquor, or whatever plunder could be gained by taking the holder's life. Gangs of hyper violent roving marauders preyed upon the weak and defenseless survivors, reducing the population further.

Equally true was the loss of medical services. No doctors, no hospitals, there would be no where to go for care should one become bludgeoned, stuck, or gunshot. Jesse realized quite quickly that stealth was going to be key to survival...staying off the radar, moving in shadows, and being unseen. A gunfight was to be avoided at all costs. Even if you survived the fight, a wound could lead to sepsis and ultimately, death. 

Jesse had been raised to be self-reliant. His father had been a Marine Scout-Sniper and served in the California Highway Patrol. His Pop had taught him marksmanship, hunting, and basic woodsman skills. Jesse wasn't religious in the least, but was psychologically solid, and in spite of the situation, never once considered ending his life. Rather, this was just a new challenge to meet and overcome.

He reasoned that the best course of action was to bug out and get as far away from the city as possible, and so he chose a few items, loaded a pack, and loaded up his scoped .30-30 Marlin 336 rifle. He had two boxes of shells for it, and strongly doubted he'd find any in the future, so conserving the precious ammunition would be essential.

Jesse had recalled staying at Henry W. Coe State Park, an 87,000 acre state park outside of Morgan Hill, just south of San Jose. Isolated in the foothills and with abundant game and fresh water, it seemed to Jesse an excellent place to bug out to. He loaded his belongings into Ray's car and drove south and then east far up into the hills. Arriving at the park, Jesse found the unit abandoned and the Ranger quarters unoccupied. He positioned his vehicle to block the narrow access road, and then set up housekeeping.

Life had reverted to something reminiscent of that of 1700's Frontier America...primitive and work intensive. Everyday was active, whether it was trapping small game, hunting deer, or gathering fire wood. He spent his evenings studying nature guidebooks from the park's gift shop and then self-guiding the trails looking for medicinal and edible plants he could use.

Life was going well, or as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Jesse had wintered in the park and done well. He'd even established trade with some survivors down in Morgan Hill, a family named Read, which ran a small store. They foraged and scrounged for anything useful, and Jesse had traded dried meat, herbs, and other possibles for cartridges for his .30-30 and a .22 rimfire he'd acquired.

The Read family had been kind to Jesse, and he stayed with them on occasion.  The Read family consisted of father James, wife Maria,  3 boys and 1 girl children, and an elderly cook housekeeper, Helen. Jesse was especially fond of the little girl, Gina. She was a chubby, happy little girl with blue eyes and short bobbed blonde hair, and filled Jesse with hope for the future. He often watched her play and day dreamt of him and Marla having had a little girl of their own.

Willie and Michael Harpe had been criminals all their life. Their father, a career criminal, had been in and out of prison all his adult life. The few times he was home on parole, he'd modeled skill sets for his sons, skills like battering their mother, drunkenly raping her repeatedly, sometimes with foreign objects while bound and sometimes in concert with other men and women. As adolescents, the boys committed their first Arson and in their teens, had been taught by their father how to commit forcible sexual assault, and had become accomplished rapists and burglars.

Known to local law enforcement as "The Harpe Brothers", they'd followed in Dad's footsteps and begun a lifelong series of stays in custody, first Juvenile Hall and later in adulthood, jails and prisons. They'd been diagnosed Sociopathic and Parole and Probation officers had deemed them "Career Criminals"...wholly unsuited for rehabilitation, and yet, the system kept releasing them onto the streets. 

It was just an ironic fluke that they were free on bail when the collapse occurred. More ironic was the fact that both had won nature's lottery and had a natural resistance to the virus. Alive and without the Rule of Law, let alone any authority to enforce it, they found themselves "living the dream" and free to do anything they wished with no one to stop them. They wasted no time applying their skills robbing, raping, or murdering anyone who crossed their path. To label them hyper-violent was an understatement; They absolutely lusted for blood. Not content to just shoot people, they were especially fond of the knife and axe as their primary tools of the trade.  

The Harpes were nomadic criminals, and wandered the Santa Clara-Santa Cruz region, plying their trade wherever they went and whenever opportunity presented itself. They were wise enough to realize that there was a limited supply of women for satiating their hunger for sexual assault, so they tended to let them live. Men were different. When a woman could not be had, a man would do, and then they'd enjoy torturing him after the act, finally killing him when bored with the game.

On one victim, they had bound him to a tree and built a fire before him. They'd then opened his abdomen, drawn his entrails out, and slow roasted them over the fire, drunkenly laughing hysterically at his screams until he finally died of shock. For macabre fun they poked fun at the dead man, offered the corpse drinks, and poured alcohol down his throat.

A few months earlier, they'd passed over from the coast, through the Santa Cruz mountains, and now were setting their sights on Morgan Hill. They'd heard tell of a family there operating a trading post and best of all, with womenfolk to victimize. They decided that they would be a good opportunity, both for fun and plunder. 

A week later, they arrived in Morgan Hill and had identified Read's trading post, a ranch style home on a large lot. They'd conducted surveillance, watching through a battered pair of field glasses from an abandoned home they'd entered under cover of darkness. The Harpes had become very adept at planning attacks, making detailed notes of family members ages and descriptions, weapons, and pattern of life. They saw that Read was not well armed and sometimes foolishly left his weapon in the house while outside the home.

They made their plans....

Jesse arrived at Read's trading post about 10 or so in the morning. Without power, his phone had long since stopped working, so no digital time, and besides, calls were non existent. It was strangely quiet around the property, and he reckoned the children should've been up and around, playing outside. He walked up to the house and knocked on the door. No response came from within. He knocked again and when no response came, became alerted and shouldered the .30-30 carbine.

He tried the door and it was unlocked and swung open. He was instantly greeted by the odor of death...urine, feces, putrefaction. In an instant, he knew this would not end well. Peering inside but not entering, he listened but heard nothing.  His sixth sense was really pinging hard now, and he cast a glance over his shoulder, nerved-out thinking that someone might slip up behind him.

Summoning up his courage, he pushed into the house and put his back against the wall. It was dim, the curtains being drawn, and he took his time clearing the house. He moved down the hallway and came to a bedroom. Inside, he observed the Read boys, dead, hung by sisal rope by the neck from the clothing rod in the closet. Their eyes were bulging and their heads dark purple. Their fingers were trapped beneath the rope, apparently having tried to create space of loosen the rope before succumbing to unconsciousness.

In the next bedroom, he found Gina, her throat cut and her bedclothes pulled up to expose her privates. It was obvious the little girl had been sexually assaulted and then murdered. Her eyes were fixed, staring at the ceiling, and her facial skin was ghostly white, the blood having drained from her head. Sickened by the carnage, Jesse's legs went rubbery, and he fought hard to avoid passing out and to keep from vomiting.

Passing the bathroom, he saw the housekeeper Helen. She was gagged and bound to the sink fixtures. Her clothing had been cut from her body, so quickly that corresponding slashes could be seen on her tissue. Her body slumped to the floor and hung from the sink cabinet. Blood had pooled in her legs and lower extremities. Clearly she had been sexually assaulted and then murdered.  Here eyes were open and fixed, appearing as though staring at him.

Moving down the hall, he reached the master bedroom. James Read lay on the floor. His head was a bloody mass of large, deep lacerations, and a large piece of steel pipe protruded from his anus. It was obvious he'd been attacked with a heavy chopping instrument, possibly an axe or hatchet.

Maria Read lay on the bed, nude, her hands bound behind her back with duct tape. A length of rope was tightly knotted around her throat. Her bedclothes appeared to have been ripped from her body, which was covered in cuts, bite marks and huge bruises. Every indication was, like ravenous wolves,  the killers had gone into a frenzy and sliced, bitten, beaten and raped her for hours before finally killing her.  Written in blood on the wall above the bed were the words, "We are the Harpes!" with a smiley face flanking each side.

Jesse's mouth dropped open. He had heard of the Harpes. They were renown for their perverse, psychotic, violent acts since the collapse, and word of their foul deeds had spread throughout the community of survivors...people went about looking over their shoulder for fear of finding the Harpe's coming up behind them. Not a place you wanted to be. Descriptions varied, but rumor held one of the duo was larger and older, the other smaller and having a badly deformed nose.

That the Read's had started to decompose certainly meant the event was at least a few days old. Their blood was caked, dry. He couldn't be sure, but felt the event had occurred in maybe 3 or 4 day's time, maybe 5 as the temps had been cool lately. They had pooling of blood in their lower regions, but the skin had not yet started to bloat or split.

Investigating further, it was quite apparent the trading post, which was situated in the garage, had been ransacked. Looking at empty spots. it appeared maybe food, liquor, tobacco were taken...no surprise there. Strangely, the ammunition was untouched, but then he'd seen enough to surmise the Harpe's much preferred bloodying their hands...it appeared they enjoyed the personal touch and eschewed firearms.

He walked back out of the house, daring not to gaze upon the family as he retreated. It was more than he could bear.

Jesse studied the scene and recognized shoe prints on the floor; tracks made in blood from the victims. He went outside and cast around the property, picking up their incoming route and their route of egress; two heavily loaded persons making good track impressions and moving roughly north-northwest. Probably heading back up to the San Jose area. 

Pulling a notepad from his coat pocket, he sketched out diagrams of the shoe impressions and rough measurements, including any worn spots on the soles, stride, and how they walked. One of the men appeared to frequently drag his right foot, possibly an injured leg. The other walked with his feet spread outwards at a great angle, suggesting carrying a heavy load or possibly an obese man. For now, it was enough detail to track them.

It would get harder as they hugged urban areas and highways and then he'd need to rely on local knowledge...tips, sighting reports, fresh attacks. Man tracking was little different than tracking game. Hunches, knowledge of the quarry's behavior, location of resources; all played into it. Plus criminals as savvy as the Harpe's knew enough to watch their back trail, anti-track, and maybe even counter track, that is, set up an active ambush on a pursuer.

Jesse returned to the house and gathered a few supplies, foodstuffs, some medical items, and a partial box of .22 ammo. He then opened windows, kindled a fire in the living room and walked outside. A safe distance from the house, he stopped and watched the home burn, completely involved.

It would serve as the Read's funeral pyre; an altar and sacrifice to whatever Gods might or might not exist, his own beliefs being the latter. He'd seen no evidence of a loving God, let alone one of intervention in human affairs. To his mind, mankind was merely a fluke, a roll of the dice, an absurd little accident of odds in an infinite Universe.

Until now, life had been about survival, but now, Jesse had a new mission. The Harpes had killed his friends, and they needed to be avenged. His father would understand and agree. Then and there he swore he would kill the Harpes and have revenge. But first, he had to find them. He stood at the door looking out at the foothills. Where had they gone? How much of a lead did they have? Didn't matter.

Jesse turned and began to walk north-northwest, the first of many steps on a journey for justice.


TO BE CONTINUED......




Copyright © Manny Silva, 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.