High Ground - repost

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by dogbane » Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:39 am

I will try to post more soon. It's been a busy few days. Thanks to you all for coming back to this. Yes, to escape from real news right now is welcome.
Mostly not here anymore.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by RoneKiln » Fri Apr 03, 2020 10:29 pm

I remember reading this long ago, and I'm glad it's coming back to read again. I don't recall it being available on Kindle and I regret not getting it when it was.
"Seriously the most dangerous thing you are likely to do is to put salt on a Big Mac right before you eat it and to climb into your car."
--Raptor

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by 91Eunozs » Tue Jun 30, 2020 8:08 pm

Just finished both books on my kindle...again! I’d forgotten how well those were written; truly enjoyable. Perfect combination of fast paced action and great character development.

Any chance of a third novel in this series?
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by dogbane » Wed Aug 05, 2020 2:35 pm

Sorry I have been gone so long. I will try to resume this soon.
Mostly not here anymore.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by dogbane » Wed Aug 05, 2020 2:42 pm

Aw, heck, here's one for you.
Chapter Eleven

The pack spun and swung on the end of the nylon cord. James could not see it without getting so close to the edge that he feared losing his balance. So he pulled it steadily and slowly to reduce movement. Every time it resisted, he was afraid that it had snagged on the fence, that the cord would be cut and his pack and bag and gun would fall four stories below him. But finally, he dragged the pack up over the rock, hefted it onto his back and clambered up the rocky slope.

Above the grotto and spring, the poison ivy thinned out and was replaced by grasses and wildflowers among the boulders, and the occasional clump of daylilies, and irises gone to seed. In a cleft in the rock, he found the cut staircase he sought. A stonecutter had made these; they were no natural rock formation. There were lilies and scrollwork carved into the stone, and scribbles of spray paint.

James ascended the steps easily, though the going was steep. He stopped partway up to look out over the treetops. The sun was not far from setting over the plateau. Golden light glittered on the river where he could see it through the buildings and trees in the distance. The glass spires of downtown reflected blades of sunlight and the city looked like glowing yellow ochre. He saw no threads of smoke drawn skyward from any cookfires. He heard nothing but the crows in the treetops and the crickets in the grass.

At the top of the stair, James found an iron gate with lily designs wrought into the bars so tightly that no hand could pass through. The plastered wall was ten feet high with a green tiled eave. Through the gate James saw a courtyard filled with high weeds. There were no windows in this wall, which ran the entire length of the great house that rose up behind it.

The gate looked strong, but violent marks near the fine brass lock betrayed past—unsuccessful—attempts at entry.

James pulled the cord from within his shirtcollar, withdrawing a brass key.

He took a pencil from his bag and scribbled all over the key, scraping the lead with the key edge until the key was coated with graphite dust. He slid the key into the lock with a rapid series of smooth ticks. He turned gently clockwise. It wouldn’t budge. He gingerly turned the key counter and it rolled smoothly over. With a click and a clank the heavy bolt slid out. The gate swung outward.

This is your house now, Jimmy.

The courtyard was illuminated by the walls of the house, which reflected the sunset in mellow amber. The weeds grew chest-high and bulbous yellow and black orb spiders spun broad nets with zig-zag patterns woven. Old glazed ceramic urns and pedestals lay consumed by morning glory vines. James crossed the courtyard and turned at an opening in the right-hand side of the enclosure.

He walked down a wide greenhouse hall with a green glass roof. Three closed doors lined the right-hand side, with benches intended for potted plants placed between each door. The left wall was blank save for a faded trompe l'oeil, and at the far end of the wall was a heavy oak and iron door. James rubbed more graphite on the key. It slid into the lock and the same ancestral magic that had opened the gate opened the door. It swung inward into India ink.

A deep, mellow odor wafted from the room. James hesitated. He pulled his flashlight from his bag and clicked it on. Hundreds of dull glinting eyes flashed back at him and he startled. His eyes adjusted. It was his flashlight reflecting off of dozens—no, hundreds—of dusty wine bottles. He stepped in and swept the room with light.

Sweet cheeses! They never found the wine cellar! Or, he thought, they never found the key. Heck! They might never have even found the door!

There were casks of whiskey and bourbon, too. Thirty years—or more—this stuff has been sitting here!

James had been sober for three years, seven months and twenty-one days. It had been a good run.

James made his supper in the courtyard outside the wine cellar. He ate three servings of dehydrated chicken soup, an energy bar, a box of raisins. He drank a 1962 Chateau Latour (from Pauillac, France) out of a metal camp cup. It had a nice kick to it.

He re-entered the wine cellar, noting that the cellar was the only passage to the courtyard, other than the back gate. He was somewhat surprised that nobody had climbed down from the roof to try the door, but judging from the depth of the mat of vegetation over the tiled patio, the area looked to be long untouched. He found a case full of bottles of Canadian whisky with a date of 1928. He pried the lid with a screwdriver, removed a bottle and shoved it in his shell bag.

He found stairs leading up from the cellar. At the top was a landing and another heavy door. It required a key and his key turned the lock, but when he pushed the door, it refused to budge. He tried shoving it a time or two. Then he found the handle and pulled and it opened toward him. On the other side of the door were shelves, empty, and a bare pantry. He examined the reverse side. Again, an ornate carved medallion swiveled up to reveal the lock.

He closed the door and locked it, and stepped out of the pantry into the large kitchen.

There was the gate to the lift that carried his Pop-Pop downstairs for the last time. There were the French doors leading to the great dining room. There was the hall that led to the foyer. James’ flashlight led him to the foyer. He stood in the middle of the room, staring up at the arched ceiling, shining his light this way and that to look at the details. He clicked off his light and sat on the tile floor. He opened the whisky and swigged from the bottle.

The floor was cool and he lay on his back, staring at the dim vault above. He shouted Hey! It echoed back immediately: Hey! Then he sang out a pentatonic scale. The reverberation was just as he remembered it. James took another swig from the bottle. Then he began to sing, in baritone, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, and Marty Robbins.

All day I face the barren waste without a taste of water, cool water…

James sang until his voice played out, warming his throat with nearly century-old whisky. He rolled onto his hands and knees and stood up swaying. He staggered across the marble floor to the grand stair, which looked a lot smaller to him now than it did when he was a kid, but when he began to climb it, it stretched out again to seem insurmountable. He dragged his heavy feet up each step until he reached the landing.

The landing was a balcony that overlooked the foyer. He could go right or left, and either direction took him to doors. To the right were closets, bedrooms, and lavatories, and to the left was the conservatory, where the piano had been. The central hall led to the library. James clicked on his flashlight, straightened up, and walked down the hall with as much dignity as he could manage, in as close to a straight line as he could muster.

He reached the door to the library and it was ajar. He stepped in. The bed was gone. The books remained, though, and also the reading chairs and tables. His great-grandfather’s big desk still sat near the southwest corner in front of the big arched windows. There were some lamps, globes, maps, and curiosities that James could not recall being here before. He picked up a globe and found a label: “Made in China.” It showed political subdivisions that hadn’t yet existed in Pop-Pop’s time, and was missing some that had. Someone had decorated after Pop-Pop’s death.

King James the Second, Lord of the House of Adair, walked to the panel between the shelves. He put his hand on it. He bowed his head, resting his forehead on the wall, and recalled that afternoon three decades prior. He found the carved wood detail on the wall and touched it. Slowly, he swiveled it up, revealing the keyhole. He put the key in the lock and turned it. The panel opened, revealing a shallow closet, with shelves full of ledgers and boxes, and one light green box with flowers and a dark-haired beauty painted on it, and which held photos, and two rings, and a bone-handled knife.
Mostly not here anymore.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by Nature_Lover » Fri Aug 07, 2020 5:16 am

Thank you dogbane, I'm really enjoying your story again. 😀

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by idahobob » Fri Aug 07, 2020 8:03 am

I loved it the first time around. Appreciating it this time. Keep 'er coming! :awesome: :awesome: :clap: :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by Griz375 » Tue Sep 29, 2020 12:46 am

I certainly hope that's not the end.

As fine a bit of writing as I've found around the web.

G.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by dogbane » Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:39 pm

Chapter Twelve

James woke with a throbbing head on the polished floor where his Pop-Pop’s bed once stood. Morning light streamed through the library’s south windows, reflected off of the west windows, and seared James where he lay. His tongue was wooly and his body ached. He lay still, blinking, for a few minutes, then rolled over and got to his hands and knees, which reminded him of that time long ago when he crawled across this floor, enthralled by a box. This time, he thought, he could easily be enthralled by a flush commode.

Fighting the nausea, he stumbled down the hall to the foyer looking for his backpack. He found it in the kitchen and grabbed his water bottle from a side pocket. He drained the few swallows the bottle held and washed some of the fur off of his tongue. He walked to the sink and turned on the tap. A small trickle of red mud dripped from the faucet. He rummaged through his pack and found his filter bottle. He then went to the lavatory across the hall from the kitchen and reflexively tried the tap with the same result.

James removed the lid from the toilet tank and rejoiced. It was about a quarter full of stale, metallic-looking water. He dipped the bottle in and filled it, replacing the cap. Back in the kitchen, he poured the water through the filter into his drinking bottle and then guzzled half the contents. He had had worse.

I have to solve this water problem as soon as possible, he thought. If nothing else, I can go back down the hill to the spring for water. But, he reflected, the spring was thick with poison ivy.

James gathered all of his gear together—excepting his water bottles and shell bag—and carried it upstairs to the library. On impulse, he opened the secret door and put the pack and rifle in it. He took the folding knife from the green box, opened it and closed it again, and put it in his pocket. He went to the front door and looked out through the geometric leaded glass panes.

The sun said eight o’clock and the street—Iona Avenue, it was called—lay straight and empty before the house. He could see all the way to the firehouse. The flag there was at half-staff, and a bit faded and torn. He looked to his left toward the water tower.

That may be the ticket, he thought. He pulled the key from around his neck, unlocked the big front door and stepped out.

The porch was broad and paved, with no cover. A carved stone balustrade ran along each side of a central stair of concentric, semicircular steps. The yard had once been landscaped by an architect, and the stone patterns of the garden were yet visible. Weeds and untended shrubs ran riot, but within the tangle were thousands of blooming daylilies.

James smiled, knowing just where his supper was going to come from.

He turned to the water tower and contemplated it.


Cindy watched from her window as a tall, rough-looking man with shaggy dark hair and a short beard stepped onto the porch. He wore old-fashioned woodland pattern army pants—not the newer kind made for desert war. She was puzzled at the way he smiled at the flowers in front of the big house. It almost appeared that he said something out loud to the flowers. But he quickly turned his attention to the water tower, and that alarmed her.

What are you going to do with our water? she wanted to know.

Cindy turned to the children. “All right, kids. Let’s get ready.”


James walked to the base of the water tower. There had once been lawn here, but now it was thatched and had gone to seed. At the base of the tower, there was a pipe and spigot. He turned the handle slightly and a trickle of pretty clear water came out. He smiled. He took the top from his filter bottle and held it under, rinsed it and scrubbed scum out with his middle finger. He whistled in clear notes the Marty Robbins tune in his head.

Cindy heard him whistling as she and the children walked through the yard to the street. When he got to the chorus, he sang out, “Cooool clear water!”

They crossed the street and stopped. He didn’t even notice them approaching.

“Excuse me!” James heard a very loud voice, too close. He looked up, startled.

Further from James than he had reckoned by the volume of her voice, stood a mean-looking woman holding a machete in one hand and a baby in the other. Behind her stood a boy of about eight with a length of galvanized pipe held like a baseball bat at ease on his shoulder, and a girl of about six with what looked like a butter knife in her hand.

“How did you get on this property?” the woman demanded. The boy squinted his eyes and scowled.

James smiled, turned off the tap and straightened. “I let myself in the back way.” He pointed toward the big house.

“Don’t you joke with me, mister. Did you cut that lock at the gate?” She gestured down the street with the machete. The baby looked curiously in that direction.

“No, seriously,” James said, still smiling, holding his hands up in plain sight. Despite her hostility, she was the first person he had talked to in three weeks—was it three since New Moon Farm? Four? “I couldn’t get through the gate, so I climbed the bluff.”

The woman looked alarmed. Her eyed widened, but her brow knitted and her jaw set.

“I saw you in that house last night. How did you get in?”

James stopped smiling. “It’s my house. I have the key.”

“Like hell it is. This is Euchee County property and you are trespassing. I am the acting caretaker of Adair Park. My husband is the ranger, and he’ll be back soon.”

“Well,” James said, rubbing his beard. “Ma’am, I very much appreciate you all taking care of the place, and I mean no harm. But this was my family home, and my great-grandfather personally gave me the key to this house and told me it would always be mine and that I would always be welcome here.

“I can completely understand your mistrust. I haven’t introduced myself. I am James Adair,” he said, “the Second,” he added, with a hint of mock dignity. “I am the last surviving heir to the House of Adair. I’m here to claim my birthright.”

The woman considered him for a long time. Cicadas hummed and a dove cooed on a cold power line. James let her think about it for a moment, and then he said, “We’re just going to have to be neighbors.”

“How much water were you thinking of taking?” she asked.

James turned and looked up at the tower, deliberately putting his back to her to show her he wasn’t afraid of her machete. He put one hand on his hip and pointed with the other. “See that pipe up there that runs to the roof of my house?” He pointed. “I’d like to supply my house with water from that tank.”

“There’s not enough water in that…” she protested. He cut her off.

“Let me finish.” He still had his back to her, but he had turned his head around to look at her, and he looked impatient. “I recall that this water tower has a hook-up to a deep well. The pump, however, is electric, and batteries won’t have enough juice to run a pump. I’ll need a generator. Or a car that runs.” He turned around. “Do you have a car?”

“My husband has the Explorer. He’s off on an errand, but he’ll be back, soon.”

James saw the boy cut his eyes at her at the last remark.

“Well, I’ll work out the problem somehow. But rest easy that I don’t plan to use up all of your water. I hope to have enough for the whole town.” He waved his hand down the street. He stopped, as if noticing the street and the houses on it for the first time.

“Anyone else living here?” he asked.

Before the woman had a chance to lie, the girl said, “Naw, it’s just us. Do you have any food?”

James smiled at her. “I have a little, and I can find more. But I don’t even know your name. I told you mine.”

James stepped forward and held out his hand. The woman looked like she might cut it off with the machete. But she tucked the blade under her arm and held her hand out awkwardly.

“I’m Cindy McReady. This is Caleb and this is Janey and the baby is Robbie. My husband is Rob. He’s gone for…for food.”

“Well,” said James. “If you folks are hungry, I’d be happy to feed you. I don’t have much right now, but I have plans for supper. It would be an honor to have you all as my guests.”

Cindy considered for a moment, thought about the cat soup in the pot, and said, stiffly, “Thank you very much for the invitation. It would be our pleasure.”

She nodded to James as if to dismiss him, but added: “Don’t use much water until we can refill that tank. Rob checked the level on Saturday and it only had a thousand gallons or so left in it. Let’s go, children.” Then she turned and pushed back to the split-level house. She stopped and turned.

“I’ve heard of you,” she said. “I met your sister Nancy.”

James turned back to face her, with a half-grin.

“What did you think of her?”

“Uptight, but polite,” said the woman.

“The politeness is usually temporary,” said James, his grin going full, accompanied by a half-wink.

James watched them go home. He was happy to have neighbors, even if they didn’t warm up fast. He thought about the empty houses along the street and imagined them filled with people.
Sorry to keep you guys waiting so long.
Mostly not here anymore.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by dogbane » Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:27 am

Chapter Thirteen

The river glittered below the bluff where the three of them stood, the two men and the woman, near two parked vehicles. There was a promenade, with wrecked vendor’s booths, and an amphitheater littered with bones. Crows flocked the trees and cats twitched and squinted on benches at respectful distances from the three people.

They were looking at a teardrop-shaped island in the river. It was about ten acres—ten-point-four, Rob specified—of tree-covered alluvial soil. Along the shoreline was a palisade made of assorted materials, from scrap lumber to tires. There was a dock on the downstream end with several boats tied to it, and a few other boats were moored against the palisade or anchored offshore. One big cabin cruiser sat apart from the others, anchored in the middle of the river. There were thin, almost invisible, wisps of smoke coming from the trees.

“People,” said Tallulah.

“Lots of them,” said Scoots.

“I want to talk to them,” said Rob.

“Okay,” said Scoots. “How do we get over there?”

“Look at that,” said Tallulah. “See that rope going from the dock across the water to shore?”

“Yeah,” said Scoots. “Where does that go?” He leaned out over the rail at the edge of the bluff and looked downstream.

“Looks like it goes to the boat landing,” said Rob. “I bet it’s a ferry. It’s not docked at the island, so it might be at the landing.”

“Only one way to find out,” said Tallulah.

They drove down the concrete path once reserved for pedestrians, cyclists, and the occasional park vehicle. Rob’s green County vehicle was on familiar pavement. They descended the hill from the bluff and reached the boat launch. A large raft made of planks and tractor inner tubes bobbed in the shallows. A construction dumpster, open at one end and half-full of bodies, sat in the gravel lot. A few cars and trucks were parked. Rob drove to a large sheet-metal boat shed marked “Euchee County Park & Rec”. He cut the engine.

“We keep gasoline in here,” said Rob. “I have the key.”

“Looks like someone got here first,” said Scoots.

The doors stood ajar. The locks hung broken.

“Naturally,” said Rob. “Okay, let’s see what’s left.”

They got out of the truck. Tallulah got out of the Subaru and walked up.

“Truck coming,” she said.

A filthy pickup truck pulled into the lot from the service road and crunched to a stop in a cloud of limestone gravel dust. Tallulah’s index finger touched the trigger guard of her carbine. Rob straightened up and walked toward the truck. Scoots looked in the boathouse.
“No boat in the boathouse,” hollered Scoots.

The truck doors opened and two men got out. A third person remained in the cab. The men stood behind their open truck doors, each with one hand out of view. One had long black braids or dreadlocks and a sleeveless shirt displaying bulging arms and shoulders and a broad back. The driver, a tall, craggy man with battered boots and a straw cowboy hat, leaned on his door and squinted.

“What can we do you for?” he asked.

“My name is Rob McReady. I’m the County Park Ranger and I came by to get some gasoline from the shed. It looks like someone helped themselves.”
“Well, God helps them who help themselves, Ranger,” said the man. “So says the Good Book.”

“Algernon Sydney,” muttered Scoots from the back row.

“I can’t hold it against anyone,” said Rob, “for taking what they have to take. You have to survive. Things are bad. Two months and no word from the government. I’m just sorry my fuel is gone. You mind if I ask who y’all are?”

“I’m Nick Blankenship,” said the man. “This here is our ferryman, Kenyatta DePriest. Got a survivor in the cab, says her name’s Jolene. Found her hiding in a house where we were getting supplies.”

“Are you folks looting private homes?”

“Ain’t nobody left to steal from, Ranger Rob. It ain’t stealing from the dead if they got no heirs.”

Rob was going to have to think about that one for a while.

“But in this case, Ranger, it was my brother’s house, and I knew he wouldn’t mind me taking his stuff. It’s in the back of the truck if you want to see it.”

“Are you staying on McDowell Island?” he asked

“Yep,” said Blankenship. “You plan to join us?”

“We’re just stopping in,” said Rob. “I’d like to see how you all are getting along. Looks like you’ve rescued a lot of people.”

“Most people just showed up,” said Blankenship. “Rescued themselves. Only the scrappy survive. Some a little too scrappy for my taste, but we can’t turn away a living body. Come on. We’ll take you over.”

Nick Blankenship got back in the truck and drove to the ramp and backed up to the ferry. He and Kenyatta unloaded rubber tubs from the truck and loaded the ferry. Rob and Tallulah followed on foot.

“I’m gonna hang back with the cars and keep an eye on things,” said Scoots.

“Thanks,” Rob called back over his shoulder, then to Tallulah: “It will be interesting to see how other survivors are doing.”

“Interesting isn’t always good,” said Tallulah. “Stay on your guard. My spidey-sense is tingling that we’re getting into something.”

A girl of about fourteen slowly got out of the truck. She was dirty and had furtive, haunted eyes. Her clothes were greasy and spattered.

“You must be Jolene,” said Rob.

“Don’t look at me,” said Jolene, tears suddenly streaming. “I look awful.”

“I’m sorry,” said Rob. “I understand what you’re…”

“Take your time,” Tallulah told the girl. “We’ll go over here.” She touched Rob’s arm and walked toward the ferry. Rob followed.

“She’s in shock,” said Tallulah. “You don’t know what she’s gone through. Don’t tell her you understand, because there’s no way you can, even if you think you do.”

“Right,” he said. “Yeah, okay.”

“Anyway,” said Tallulah, “you focus on those guys. I’ll talk to her.” She slung her rifle and walked away.

Rob grabbed a box from the truck and carried it to the raft. Kenyatta took it from him with an “I got that for you” and placed it on the raft. Nick had the last box, so Rob stood and watched as they tied everything down.

“A’ight,” said Kenyatta. “Get the girls and let’s go.”

Rob didn’t think Tallulah would like being called a girl. He called to her and she walked with Jolene to the raft. They all boarded and Kenyatta began to pull the rope, dragging the ferry across the river to the island. Scoots waved from near the boat shed. Rob waved back. Tallulah scanned the palisade with a squint. The late morning sun sparkled on the water, reflecting up with a steady flicker on the faces of the passengers. The lines on Blankenship’s face looked like a relief map of valley and ridge. He wore a western-style two-gun rig with .44 caliber revolvers. They had been hidden behind the truck door during the parlay. Kenyatta appeared to be unarmed.

The current was gentle and steady but Kenyatta propelled them quickly across. They docked and tied up. A man with a scoped rifle walked out on the pier. He looked across the water at the boathouse, then down at the newcomers.

“Friend or foe?” he said with a smile.

“Park police,” said Nick.

“Oh, really?” said the man, a lean gray-haired man with bruises on his face, obscured by the shadow of the brim of his hat.

Rob climbed onto the dock and offered his hand.

“Rob McReady,” he said. The man shook his hand and looked him up and down in his khaki and green. Rob was conscious that he wore no badge.

“Dean Freeman. McReady? That’s a local name. Any relation to Judge McReady?”

“He’s my uncle, sir,” said Rob.

“How is he?”

“Don’t know yet. I’m on my way to check.”

“It’s been two months and change,” said Freeman. “I hope he’s okay.”

“Thank you. Do you know him?” asked Rob.

“I know of him. I was a social worker and spent a minute or two at the courthouse.”

“You retired?”

“No, I was trying to get another five years in, retire with a better pension.”

“So you’re a county employee?”

“On a paper somewhere, I am,” said Freeman.

“We need to keep on doing our jobs, Mr. Freeman,” said Rob.

“I guess in a way I am. That girl who came in will be given over to me and my wife, and we’ll look after her like the others we have accumulated in the past two months.”

“How’d you get that bruise?”

“Oh, this,” said Freeman, touching his cheek. “We have a problem family here and I came into conflict with them.”

“Was the problem dealt with?” asked Rob.

“In a manner of speaking,” said Freeman. “They are supposed to stay in their camp and only deal with Kenyatta and Nick if they need to go off the island.”

“But they assaulted you,” said Rob.

“Well, there have been several fights,” said Freeman, “and they tend to start them. They’ve been stealing food and supplies from people. They’ve tried to bully the whole island, but we’ve stood up to them so far.”

“How did they try that?” asked Rob.

“Bluster and threats, mainly. Brandishing weapons, staring people down while thumbing their knife blades, that kind of thing. Until they laid hands on me, they had not been overtly violent. But they are quite menacing, Officer McReady. Nick, however, told them if they started any more trouble he was going to shoot them dead. I think they believed him. Nick wouldn’t do it, of course. At least, I don’t think he would.”

“Well, if you don’t think so, they might not believe it either. Fifteen in the group? Did they come together?”

“They did. It’s a big family, named Broomstraw. My wife calls them the Beverly Hellbillies. The men are all beasts. Big, big guys. The kind of dudes used to getting their way and only held in check by prison bars.”

“How many people on the island?”

“Counting the people on the boats, we have ninety-five. Ninety-eight with you two and the girl.”

“Two of us won’t be staying. Look, you don’t have to put up with bad people. Eighty against fifteen is good odds.”

“Well, maybe thirty in all would stand up. I’m afraid it would end badly, with people getting shot.”

“Doing nothing about people like that,” said Rob, “will end badly, Mr. Freeman.”

“Decisions, decisions,” said Freeman with a laugh. “Call me Dean.”

Jolene had been taken somewhere and Tallulah stood nearby, listening to the conversation.

“I ought to talk to them, hear what they have to say,” said Rob. “And I do have the authority to order them off the island.”

“Just like that, eh?” Dean chuckled. “That I’d like to see. These aren’t reasonable people. You’ll need backup.”

“Tallulah, will you be my deputy on this call?”

“Sure,” she said slowly.

“How about Scoots?”

“You’ll have to ask him,” she said.

“Kenyatta,” said Dean. “Could you bring Officer McReady’s deputy over?”

“Have him bring my baseball bat from the truck, please,” said Rob.

Kenyatta hopped in a skiff and rowed across the water. Rob excused himself to Dean and walked with Tallulah to the end of the dock.

“Tallulah,” said Rob. “Is your spidey-sense still tingling?”

“It is.”

“Still don’t trust them?”

“We got sucked into someone’s trouble, didn’t we?”

“Anything else?”

“Now that I know the girl is going to be properly cared for and this isn’t a rape camp, I think these people are okay. But listen, I don’t act under orders anymore. I make my own decisions. I’ll follow your lead, but I judge for myself what I do.”

“Fair enough.”

“If they turn hostile, they won’t lay a hand on us. But then we’ll have dead people.”

“You’ve done it before,” said Rob.

“Yes,” she said.

“Me too. Sandbox?”

“Jungle.”

“Ah. I see.” Rob looked at her with heightened respect. “What about Scoots?”

“Scoots is a civilian. He’s played with guns for a long time and he took some tactical shooting courses. He can shoot, he’s faster than he looks, and he’s physically very tough. He’s a goofball, but he’s good people. He won’t let anyone get his gun, either.”

Kenyatta returned in the boat with Scoots, who had swapped out his Mosin for a semiautomatic twelve-gauge shotgun.

“What’s up, Sheriff?

“I have a complaint about a rowdy party on the island,” Rob told him. “I need to check it out and I could use help. Tallulah’s backing me up and I hoped you would, too.”

“Sure thing, Chief,” said Scoots. “Who we dealing with?”

“Fifteen individuals, a big family named Broomstraw. Several big guys, armed and aggressive. Picking fights, stealing, assault.”

“Sounds crazy,” said Scoots. “When do we start?”

“We’re going to meet them now.”
Mostly not here anymore.

idahobob
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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by idahobob » Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:01 pm

Yea! :clap: :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by Nature_Lover » Tue Oct 20, 2020 11:39 pm

Thank you, dogbane!

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by wamba » Sat Oct 31, 2020 10:04 pm

I missed this the first time around so thank you for posting again. Must say that I like the way it’s shaping up.
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, & you can bet they'll whine that nobody warned them.

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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by dogbane » Mon Nov 02, 2020 1:44 pm

Chapter Fourteen

Throughout the day, each—James and Cindy—saw the other, going about their business. Cindy passed in front of the Adair place with the kids and the wagon filled with water jugs, and that fool was flower gardening! Digging bulbs in the August heat! James smiled at them, his hands dirty as he dug and pried with a curved, sharpened stick. He put the bulbs in a bucket and went up the steps toward the house.

He stopped at the top of the stairs and turned. “Hey? See any rabbits around here?”

Cindy looked at him. He was dirty, with his sweaty hair in his eyes, holding two big buckets of daylilies. She suddenly saw him as comical. She smiled.

“Nope! Too many cats!” she shouted back.

James nodded thoughtfully, as if that news confirmed something in his mind. Then he called out, “See you all tonight.” Cindy waved her hand ambiguously without looking back as she and the children walked up the brick path to their door. “Kids,” she said quietly, “we’re all going to take a bath today.”

Caleb and Janey cheered. Robbie was indifferent.

James walked to the left—south—side of the house. He opened a gate leading into a large walled patio courtyard overlooked by the tall dining room windows. There was a broad, shallow stone disc with a concave surface lined with tiles and blackened by fire. Around the fire circle was a ring of Deco-style standing stones with lintels, a modernist Stonehenge. There was a cut stone table and benches, and a large stone masonry charcoal cooking grill.

James had searched the garden storerooms around the greenhouse in back and found a galvanized watering can, a washtub, a dishpan, a large cast-iron kettle—a cauldron, really—weighing at least sixty pounds, and several more buckets. After a couple of additional trips to the water tower, he half-filled the kettle with water and built four small fires around it. He set another bucket of water on the table.

He placed the washtub in one of the doorways of the stone circle and threw a length of cord over the lintel.

While the water heated, he sat at the table cleaning and cutting lilies. The roots, with some non-dairy creamer, would make a starchy soup. The green leaves would go in the soup, giving it an oniony flavor. He would stir-fry the flowers with a package of honey-vinaigrette dressing he found at a fast-food joint. He had some other ideas, too, but he would have to see.

James looked at his the kettle. A watched pot, he told himself. He checked the smoke and satisfied himself that his fire wasn’t going to be a signal to the whole valley to come here for a visit. He tested the water. Almost warm enough. He retrieved the watering can and undressed. He checked the water so often that he laughed at himself for it. He thought of the story of the frog in the boiling water.

Finally he dipped the watering can in the kettle and filled it with water hot enough to steam in the summer afternoon. He carried the can, a small bar of motel soap, and a tiny bottle of shampoo to the washtub. He tied one end of the cord to the handle, and he tied a shorter length of cord to the spout. He hoisted the can up to the lintel overhead, stepped into the tub, and tied the distal end of the longer cord to the washtub handle.

James pulled the short cord and tipped the spout downward, showering him with warm—no, hot!—water. But he couldn’t bask in this shower like he might have once at the motel chain whose shampoo he lathered into his hair, whose soap took off days and days of road grime, poison ivy oils, and blood. He used the water sparingly, but the can was empty earlier than he cared for, so he slapped wet feet across the stones and dipped the can in the kettle again. It was a bit too hot now so he diluted it with cool water and took a second shower, just because. He checked himself for ticks and found none, even in the hidden places.

James air-dried nude, breaking more deadfall branches that had fallen inside the courtyard and fed the fire, spreading the coals around the kettle. He dumped the lily bulbs and leaves into the water and stirred it with a stick. He wished for more pepper. He wished for garlic. The kitchen and pantries here were empty. He had found an old bag of salt rock in a gardening shed, pure sodium chloride. He pounded it and ground it using his empty whisky bottle as a pestle and added it to the lily soup.

James dressed in fresh(er) clothes, combed his hair (handy things, combs, especially in tick country) grabbed his bag and his rifle, and stepped out the front gate, which was similar in construction and design to the back gate. An empty bucket banged against his leg as he descended the steps to the street. He glanced at the manager’s residence and wondered if eyes were upon him. A few houses down the street on the right stood a bungalow with a wide front porch. He stopped at the weathered fence and cut several large sprigs of rosemary from an overgrown bush.

A thought occurred to him. A bungalow on the south side of the street, with rosemary growing in the front yard, might well have had a kitchen garden. Maybe something was growing feral in back. He walked around the house through a corridor of giant shady crape myrtles to the back yard. There was a long porch on the back, too, and James imagined the trees being smaller years ago, and the view that would have been enjoyed by the people who lived here. He could glimpse the horizon through the trees, but that was all.

The yard had once been far sunnier. James could see landscape timbers from gardens past forming rectangles in the weeds and leaf litter. He guessed the soil was good in this yard. He walked among the planting boxes and found what he had been looking for. It was late in the season and the green was withering. He pushed his digging stick into the soft, yielding soil and twisted, tuning up a big bunch of feral garlic bulbs. He realized he was grinning. He had a plastic grocery bag with a large yellow smiling face on it. He filled it with bulbs and tossed the rosemary on top.

Still smiling, he looked around and thought he recognized potatoes. He had plenty of starch for tonight, so he would come back for them. He saw some onions gone to seed and he dug some up. There was some Queen Anne’s lace—in the carrot family—near the fence. He dug up the roots and cut the greens off. This was going to be a fine soup!

James walked jauntily back to the street, with another house in mind—one he remembered. It was a Tudor style, with post-and-beam construction. He remembered eating grapes in the back yard as a kid. He found the house a couple of lots down on the left. It had diamond-pane windows and a high, pitched roof. There was a conical tower with bay windows at the back. He went through the collapsing garden gate to the back yard. The yard sloped steeply and was terraced. At the back of the first terrace, a fieldstone patio, a waist-high wall at the rear overlooked the hillside. Below the wall, there was a thick mat of green vines that the untrained eye might mistake for kudzu, but which was in fact the interwoven thatch of various grape varieties. The arbors had collapsed here and there from neglect, but the vines looked healthy enough—no Japanese beetle infestation—and he thought he spied some bunches in the tangle.

He looked out from the terrace and saw that the trees were not deep here, for the hillside dropped precipitously not far beyond the third terrace. He could see the park and the ball fields. There were humanoid figures walking slowly and aimlessly about through the tall weeds, across red clay diamonds, among the playground equipment. He wondered if a good marksman could discreetly put them out of their misery from the tower on this Tudor house.

He put that thought in his pocket waded into the tangle. He reached into the leaves and pulled the vines, looking for berries. Some were hard and green. Some had already withered. But he found some Concord-type grapes, that had big seeds and tough, tart skins, but the meat was sweet and juicy. He filled—overfilled—his bucket with grapes, and climbed the steps to the patio.

James decided to try the back door. It was locked. He went back out the way he came in.

About thirty minutes had passed since he left the soup cooking. As he passed the brick house, he saw faces looking at him. He waved and lifted the bucket, pointed at the grapes. Whether they saw or not, he didn’t know. He went through the courtyard gate and to the table. He cleaned and cut his garlic bulbs, his onions, and his wild carrots and put them in the soup. He stripped the rosemary with his thumbnail into the brew. The coals were fading, so he added fuel to get it going again. He rinsed the grapes and piled them in the middle of the table.

Then James realized that he didn't have any bowls for guests. He hated to ask Cindy and the kids to bring their own bowls, so he decided to search the cellar to see what might be down there. He still had time before dinner.

James took a deep breath and felt good. He was clean, he had food cooking, and he had guests on the way. It felt a lot like home should feel.
Mostly not here anymore.

idahobob
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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by idahobob » Tue Nov 03, 2020 9:07 am

Please, MOAR! :clap: :clap: :awesome: :awesome:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

Johan
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Re: High Ground - repost

Post by Johan » Sun Nov 08, 2020 3:25 am

Thank you !!!!

Love the story... This is really good stuff!! :clap: :clap: :clap:

Mooaaar Please!!!
Firepower...
-Is One Bullet that Hits!

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