Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chapter 37

Chapter 37

Benji looked at me and said, “Athk Frankie. I’ve got to see a man about a horthe.”

Irritated I asked towards his back as he walked away, “What in the heck is that supposed to mean? And who’s Frankie?”

A voice from behind me said, “That would be me. And make it Frank please. I left Frankie behind when I went off to college.”

I turned and saw a guy with barely-there hair so blonde it was almost white. He was pretty scrawny which told me that he’d been held longer than Benji had been, but he was definitely a prisoner if I didn’t miss my guess. “Ok. Frank. What gives?”

“I’m a cop … was a cop. A city cop I mean. I’d just gotten hired when things fell apart. I’m pretty sure I met your father a couple of times before but I don’t think we ever met. I would have sure remembered you if we had.”

“Oh please,” I said rolling my eyes.

He gave a tired grin. “Seriously. I’ve got a sister just like you … did have a sister … do, I think … step sister … our parents divorced so technically we aren’t brother and sister anymore … uh … I’m … I’m rambling.”

He said the last with confused embarrassment. I could tell he had issues; not like Daniel had issues but more like one of the guys that Dad knew. Mr. Matthews had been in the military and Dad said he had something called PTSD. That meant he went off sometimes or would get rattled. People who had experienced extreme physical or mental trauma could get this PTSD.

I decided to handle him about like I would Daniel and just take it all in stride. “Rambling is not a problem. You’re still rattled and getting used to your freedom probably. Give your brain time to believe you can do what you want when you want – barring normal, civil behavior of course – and you’ll get used to things again and your brain won’t stutter on you so much. So anyway, can you tell me what’s been going on?”

He just looked at me for a second then started laughing. “Definitely like Leann.”

A young woman about Monica’s age walked up at that point and said, “Who’s taking my name in vain?”

Frank turned to me and said, “Dacey this is my sister Leann … Leann Higginbottom. Leann this is Dacey … Jeff’s cousin.”

“Got it,” she said with a smile in my direction. She turned back to Frank and said, “Dad’s looking for you. Wants to get your opinion on whether a lawn mower engine is salvageable or not.”

Frank’s eyes cleared a little and became a little more focused. He said, “I can do that. But …” He stopped and looked at me.

Trying not to let my frustration show I said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll ask someone else.”

He said, “Ask Leann. She can tell you and she’ll give it to you straight.”

Leann looked at me and asked quietly, “Ask me what?”

“Benji left me to ask Frank what’s been going on. Frank …” I stopped then decided just to be completely honest. “I can see that Frank has been through a lot and maybe Benji needs a good kick for dumping me on him. But if you’ve got a minute I’d really like to know what’s been going on. It’s eating me up.”

She nodded but smiled and said, “It’ll take more than a minute but I’ve got it to give you. And the only reason I don’t want to kick Benji is because he got Frank home to us otherwise I’d help you put the boot to him and good. Why is it that Benji can be so nice one second and then a real jerk the next?”

I smiled and explained, “Because he tries a little too hard to live down the infamy of being a preacher’s kid. When he isn’t thinking about it he can be pretty OK … at least as far as it goes. I wouldn’t want him under foot all the time if you catch my meaning.”

She laughed, “She, I think I do. Besides I hear that you’ve already got somebody underfoot.”

I’m not much of a blusher but sharing Abel with other people was a lot harder than I’d ever thought about it being. I shrugged, a little pink around the ears, and told her, “He’s different.”

“Yeah, I expect so all things considered. Let’s go sit over on that porch. The house is empty and hopefully we’ll get through it without interruptions.”

“That bad?” I asked.

As we sat she told me, “Hard is a better word for it. It could have been real bad but you and Montoya came barreling in like no body’s business. I don’t know what my face looked like but everyone else was just plain shocked I can tell you that.”

Still a little angry I asked, “What in the heck was everyone doing standing around? There were more of y’all than of the crazy Richard’s people.”

She shook her head, “They had all the kids in that store down there.” She pointed to an old glass store front at the end of the street we were on. “Here, let me just tell it in order.”

At my nod she started. “I don’t know how much you’ve heard but what all the early stuff boils down to is the town eventually got split between Almanzor and that guy Richard King. Almanzor had most of the town but Richard had most of the people. What kept the people from rising up against Almanzor is that even before he took over from Sevmire all of the guns and stuff like that had been confiscated by the Peacekeepers. But there was always this small group of people that didn’t want anything to do with either Richard or Almanzor. With Almanzor the reasons are obvious but it took too long for some of us to catch onto what Richard was doing, and by then it was too late. There were too few of us that managed to keep our souls so we came out to Amish Town and the people out here, while they didn’t exactly give us a parade to welcome us, made room for us and we’ve learned to help each other. Most of us have some ties to the Mennonite community already or have done business with them in some way. It wasn’t all that hard to get along.”

I can’t believe that Hakim – that’s the real name of that guy y’all call Almanzor – left Amish Town alone.”

“Ask most people and they’ll tell you that God had put up a hedge of protection around here. But ask some and they’ll tell you that Almanzor was just too busy and hadn’t gotten around to it yet.”

I nodded. “But I take it from what little I heard Benji say he eventually did get around to it.”

“Yeah. Well, kinda anyway. By that time he didn’t have that many men to spare on raids and such; didn’t want to risk leaving his stuff unattended for Richard to take it over. He made two raids. The first one he killed the family and took all the animals. The second one was where most of the guys got taken because they fought him off some Amish guy’s farm. People around here call him Grandfather Isaac.”

Surprised I said, “That would be Josef’s grandfather … I mean his real grandfather, not just … you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, and yeah that’s him. You’re from around here so you know how it is. The closer a family is to being Old Order Amish the more pacifist they are. Well, that’s fine, and I guess there is a place for people like that, but a lot of us think that it’s our place to protect them if they won’t protect themselves. I mean we need to be able to remember what life could be like if we all tried to act like Jesus; I may not understand all of the why’s of their choices myself but I can see their point and their right to make those choices. And they’re our friends, we’ve all learned a lot about how to do things without electricity and stuff.”

I told her, “Hey, you don’t have to justify it to me.”

She grinned sadly, “I guess not but it isn’t always easy to understand why things are like they are.” She sighed and said, “Anyway, everyone was overjoyed to find out Benji and the other guys were still alive cause we had kind of started to doubt it. And the fact that they brought out some of the guys like … like Frank. They’ve been like POWs for almost the whole time. Frank, he’ll get better with time I hope … no I know he will … but a couple of those guys might not. Josef thinks some of them have been starved so long their brain was affected and two of them were beat on so much that they are crippled. Josef amputated the foot of one guy and said he’d be better off and able to get around better without the constant pain it obviously caused him.” She took a deep breath and then blew it out. “We were so busy being happy that our people had come home that we didn’t think about what would happen if they were followed. And they were.”

This had been a big concern for Abel and I. What would happen if people from the town escaped out into the woods and beyond rather than follow the one remaining bridge out of town on their way to someplace new to occupy.

“They hit during the night and rounded up all the little kids. I know it seems stupid to you but … it just seemed to happen so fast.”

I shook my head. “I didn’t say it was stupid. How do you fight someone that has your son or daughter hostage?”

“You didn’t let that stop you. We all heard you yelling at Montoya to keep fighting, that they’d kill you one way or the other if you didn’t keep trying.”

I shrugged. “That’s me. Besides, I was hot as a steel aggie that’s been sitting on a stove top. Likely that means I wasn’t thinking too straight at the time. I don’t know what I would have done if I had known they were holding a bunch of little kids like that; all I saw was Daniel.”

“No, it’s OK. I get it. It was weird. As soon as you said that and then Montoya kept fighting something happened in the crowd. You know even some of the Mennonites will fight, they just don’t fight to kill … but they will wrestle someone to the ground to prevent them from doing harm. My dad grabbed a hold of this guy and suddenly, I don’t know, our whole family was just piling on this guy. All the families seemed to single out someone and work together to take that person down.”

“Well,” I said. “I reckon that is one way for families to work together. Was anyone hurt? I mean besides Richard. I remember … him screaming. But … but that table already had blood on it.”

She looked at my face for a second then got an understanding look. “Hey, it’s OK. That was from a horse. A family donated it hoping that if Richard’s people were fed they’d let the kids go. We promised them whatever they wanted if they would just let all the kids go.”

I shook my. “Appeasement never works.”

“No kidding, but when you are in the middle of it you think you’ve got the control to just make them go away if you find what they want.” She shook her head then said, “Montoya went berserk when he saw you and Daniel all crumpled up. He wouldn’t let anyone near you until Josef got through to him. He carried Daniel while you were carried on a stretcher. That’s the last I saw of you until just now.”

The picture that raised in my mind was disturbing so I asked, “What about Richard and his followers?”

Richard died of shock an hour after you boiled him.” I grimaced at more unpleasant mental pictures. “The rest that lived were marched out of town.”

Shocked I asked, “They weren’t just let go?!!”

She had a funny look on her face, “Not … exactly. They were going to be to be but …”

“But?”

“There were military troops as the bridge. The military took custody of them.”

“Military,” I gasped. “Real US military?”

“Yeah. Seems they’re rounding up all of the so-called rogue agents here in the country. But that’s all they’re focused on right now. They made some people mad at first but now that it’s been discussed around maybe it isn’t so bad.”

“Taking the cult members?”

“No, that part was a relief. It was that the military said that their only job was to focus on battling the people that are trying to compromise our sovereignty. They don’t plan to offer any help as far as food, water, or anything else.”

“Well, everything else isn’t their job. The US military is only supposed to protect our family. They aren’t supposed to operate on our soil anyway but I guess this is war.”

She asked, “You know a lot about this stuff?”

“My dad kinda had a thing for it. But back to what has been happening.” I didn’t want to get into that part of it, drawn into a discussion before I talked to Abel to compare what she was saying versus what he saw.

“That’s it. Basically we’ve been in clean up mode since then.”

Leann was called away and I went back to where Daniel was. I left him be because he was happy and the old lady he was helping seemed happy to have him helping. That’s when I saw Abel coming back with Brother Clayton.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you, I have been waiting for this allllll day.

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  2. I just got home this evening and this was the first thing I looked up on the computer and yippee, there was a new chapter. Thank you Kathy

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