During the summer, in an effort to control hoarding, both federal and state governments agreed to rationing food and gasoline. Rationing stamps were distributed by the department of motor vehicles in each state. The amount of ration stamps were tracked by the number on a person's driver's license. With the increase in rioting and looting came an increase in terrorist activity. It seemed as if every special interest group had an ax to grind. It was becoming almost commonplace for terrorist attacks against power plants and telephone lines. These circumstances greatly contributed to the need for rationing electricity. To ensure some electricity to all cities, power companies began a round-robin system of power supply. This meant black-outs in certain regions of the country for short periods of time. Of course, this was primarily restricted to rural areas and the bedroom communities of large cities where there was a low rate of looting. It was much too dangerous to have a blackout in a major metropolis.
The Carpinos had just finished breakfast when Angie answered the telephone. "That was Don, he'll be here in another day or so, and . . ." he added with a wink, "he's bringing a friend with him."
As Angie had been speaking, Colleen went to the stove to reheat the morning coffee. To her surprise, the burner flamed a bright yellow and fizzled out. "Oh, wonderful!" she exclaimed, "we'll get to meet Megan and he can help you with the storm windows. By the way, there's something wrong with the stove, I can't keep it lit, can you light it for me?"
"Sure, I'd love to light your fire!", Angie exclaimed with a wide grin.
Colleen grinned and said, "Don't be a smart ass, just light the stove, please."
Angie lifted the cover over the burners and tried without success to light the pilot. Colleen giggled, "How are you going to light my fire if you can't even get the pilot to start?"
"For your information, Missy, the pilot on this stove won't light because we're out of propane. That means no hot water and a cold house. You better fire up the wood burner, I'll call Mongo and see if he missed us on his route this month."
Colleen was not a cold weather person and the thought of a cold house gave her motivation, she quickly brought in the wood from the porch and started a fire in the old stove, then turned to her husband asking, "What did Mongo have to say?"
Somewhat confused, but mainly angry, Angie answered, "He said he'd be out with some today, but only enough to last us a week. Damn, I wish I knew what was going on."
"Does he have any idea how long it will be before we can get more?"
"Not really, he thinks he might get some in next week, but he couldn't be sure. He also told me that the black-outs are going to be pushed up to twelve hours a day. Maybe I'd better get over to the junction for lamp oil and extra food."
"Are you planning to feed an army?" Colleen asked.
"Maybe I am." Angie answered thoughtfully. The rest of the morning was devoted to chopping wood and rechecking the food storage. Colleen sent her children out to the field to pick the tomatoes she planned to preserve tomorrow. While Angie was gone Mongo delivered the propane he had promised. Angie's trip to the junction store had been a dismal failure. He had plenty of ration stamps, but the store shelves were nearly empty. Pulling into his driveway, Angie was aware he had not been able to bring the children their usual surprise of ice cream or candy. He chose to work off his frustration and went out to the garage to work on Mongo's chronically ill jeep. No sooner had he begun on the jeep, the lights of the garage dimmed and then flickered out. At first, he thought a breaker had tripped since the power wasn't due to go off until 8 p.m. He found out differently after checking the circuit box.
Colleen walked into the garage as her husband was swearing at the fuse box on the wall. Before she had a chance to speak he said, "I know, there's no electricity in the house. The breakers are OK and since it's only 3:30 I guess a power line must be down. Why don't you call the junction and see if their power is off?" Colleen went back to the house, then returned with a perplexed look on her face. She couldn't call the junction because the phone was dead. Her explanation was interrupted by a loud crash in the front yard.
"What the hell was that!" yelled Angie, as he and Colleen ran to investigate. When they turned the corner of the house they saw that Sheriff Curt Bigalow's car had smashed into their front porch. Colleen, first to reach the car, opened the door and gasped at the sight of the Sheriff covered with blood. Angie reached around his wife and pulled the man out and onto the ground. Colleen ran back to the house for bandages, while Angie tried to stop the bleeding.
"My God, what happened to you?" he screamed.
The Sheriff could hardly whisper. He had been shot twice and didn't know why he was still alive. He told Angie that rioting had broken out in Slick Rock. The town had exploded into a frenzy of panic when it was announced in a news bulletin that there would be a severe increase in rationing because the president was trading food to the Arab nations for oil to run the military. Sheriff Bigalow was in front of the Slick Rock shopping center standing on the hood of his patrol car attempting to talk to the looters. His plea for sanity was met with a savage outburst of brutality. The crowd swept over him and took his gun. He managed to get into his car, but was shot while trying to drive away. The bullets seared through his back and the patrol car to swerved into the crowd. Two tons of steel crashed through a wall of human flesh. As the sheriff recovered control of the car and sped to safety, the rear view mirror recorded the horror of crushed and mangled bodies.
Bigalow knew he was bleeding to death, going back through town for help would only antagonize the rioters. He decided to drive the 60 miles to Monticello to warn his good friend, Angie. He knew the violence would soon spread throughout the area. The drive to Monticello would take nearly an hour, however, there was no sanity left in Slick Rock. He was nearly dead when he plowed into the Carpino's front porch. Angie yelled for Colleen to hurry. Tears streamed down her face as she ran across the yard with a basin filled with water spilling and streamers of bandages flowing behind her like the macabre tail of a kite. Bigalow lost consciousness and his breathing was so shallow that Angie thought he was dead. He rolled him over and tried without success to stop the bleeding from the two large wounds in his back.
Regaining her composure, Colleen said, "We've got to get him to the hospital. The phone is still down, you'll have to drive him to Slick Rock, but I'm not sure he can survive that long a drive."
"Slick Rock is out," said Angie," according to Curt the town's being torn apart by rioters. Listen, I know Doc Sherman will be home because he wanted me to go over and check out his Bronco. Call him and tell him I'm on my way with Curt."
"Honey," Colleen reminded him, "the phone is still dead."
Shivering slightly as she realized her choice of words, she continued, placing a comforting hand on her husband's arm. "Let's get him into the pickup, and you can drive over to Doc Sherman's place."
Angie and Colleen put their wounded friend, still unconscious into the truck. As she watched the truck pull out onto the highway her thoughts were flooded with the brutality of the riots that had become so commonplace. Fearfully, she turned on the battery operated radio that was on the kitchen counter. She suspected, correctly, that there might be news of what had happened in Slick Rock. What she heard, as her children ran in yelling for their lunch, was definitely not the normal news broadcast. " ....and the rioting will be brought under control. As president of the United States, I have asked congress to allow United Nations forces to aid each state in maintaining law and order, overriding the objections of all the governors of each state. The U.N. assembly has agreed to this request. U.N. troops have been alerted and are on stand by. By midnight, Eastern Standard Time, the entire country will be under Martial Law." Like a robot, Colleen made sandwiches for her children as she continued to listen to the newscast.
At the end of the president's speech the broadcaster gave a blow by blow account of the rioting that swept the nation. Local governments were shattered and the cities were becoming a battle ground as troops of national guard tried to regain control. In response to the president's message, leaders of local militia stated that the riots were being instigated by self-proclaimed revolutionaries, however, these individuals were not part of any known state militia. In addition, one militia leader stated emphatically that they would not allow U.N. troops in any of their cities and viewed the president's collusion with the United Nations as an act of treason.
Unable to stomach any more news, Colleen turned the radio off. She wondered how Don was faring as he traveled highways on a motorcycle. Her thoughts were interrupted by Terry's question, "Where's Daddy?" Danny answered for Colleen, "He had to go see Doc Sherman and check out his Bronco."
With an angry look, Terry said, "But he said I could go with him." Terry's disappointment was nearing the tantrum stage. To head off a long bout of dramatics and yelling, Colleen suggested they make cookies. As usual, her children bickered about what kind they would make. It was dark and the children had finished super and gone off to bed.
Restless and worried, she brought the tomatoes in from the back porch and began to wash them. She had no idea when Angie would be back and canning tomatoes was better than going nuts over the news. The house was dark and the fire and candles she had lit didn't offer much light. She used to think the flickering shadows from a fire was romantic. Tonight they seemed ominous and threatening. She jumped when she heard the screen door of the back porch. It couldn't be the children, they were in their rooms and Angie would use the front door. A small trickle of fear began to course through her body. She tried to hold the fear down by telling herself to remain calm. However, it was useless, the earlier thoughts of the rioters still lingered in the dark corridors of her mind. The image of Curt bleeding to death on her front lawn flashed through her mind. That image shattered her self-control and released the total essence of fear. Trembling with fright, she resolved to protect herself and her children. Slowly, she reached for the butcher knife on the counter and slid behind the kitchen door. She could hear the floor creak as the prowler stepped across the threshold. No matter how strong her resolve she could not impede the weakening effect of fear. Tears blurred her vision and an overwhelming desire to run exploded in her mind. 'Run, yes run!,' she screamed to herself in terror. But, it was too late to run. A silhouette of a man suddenly appeared in front of her. His back was to her but she knew it was a stranger. His shoulders were hunched over and a large weapon hung from his left hand. With a sudden fury of will, she poised the butcher knife over her head and used the black shadow of his back as her target. But Colleen hesitated and in the split second of indecision, the prowler heard a motion behind him and quickly turned to counter any possible attack. With blinding quickness, he grasped the side of the door, flung it back, and raised his club to strike his would-be assailant. But he also lacked the brutality of character that is required to strike without hesitation or thought. Angie hovered over the dark shadow now cringing in fear and terror.
Seeing his wife's face, he yelled, "Christ, it's me, Colleen! What the hell is going on here?"
Hearing Angie's voice, she dropped the knife and threw her arms around him. It took quite a while before she could stop crying. When she had finally calmed down, he told her that Dr. Sherman was unable to save Curt. Angie explained further that when he passed Yorwarski's store at the junction, he saw two cars racing away, the front door was broken and glass from the broken windows lay scattered all over the sidewalk. He wasn't sure if the people driving away had seen his truck. Not wanting to give them a target to follow, he drove from the junction to home without headlights and came in the back way. He regretted not stopping to see if the Yorwarski family was all right, but he had his own family to think about. Dr. Sherman had told him about the president's speech. " ..and that's why I came in the back door. I didn't want to yell and when I came in, I wasn't sure of what I was going to find. Seeing those cars and broken windows scared the hell out of me."
Colleen, calmer now, but her voice still quivering, said, "I guess after listening to the news, I was scared, too. The rioting has never been this bad. I didn't know what to think when I heard the screen door open." The memory of her terror, along with the possibility she might have killed her husband flooded her emotions and she started crying again. Angie tried without success to make her feel better, but he knew that what she needed most was sleep. The passing of time would dull the sharp edges of her memory. That night the Carpino's went to bed not knowing what to expect, nor did they dare to think of what the future held. Angie's thoughts, as he slipped into the security of sleep, included a prayer that his cousin be kept safe.
Late the next morning, Danny came running into the house shouting, "Hey Mom, Dad wants some help in the garage."
"OK, Danny," Colleen answered, "I'll be right out. Have you and Terry cleaned your rooms yet?"
"Oh Mom, do we have to? Me and Terry were just going out to play in the fort."
"Yes, you have to. You know Uncle Don is coming today, so let's get busy and get this place cleaned up."
Colleen headed off to the garage and found Angie tangled in a few hundred feet of wire. " What are you trying to do?", asked Colleen, "or should I ask?"
"Just get your ass over here and help me untangle this shit!" Angie snapped with more irritation than he intended.
"You've got to be kidding, Angie, it will take all day."
"So, you got someplace to go?"
"Sure, the grand ball, but I guess I can spare a few hours for the Grand Wizard of the local garage. How about asking Danny and Terry to help?"
"Oh, sure," answered Angie, "then it will take two days."
"What are you going to do with all this wire? You've enough to wrap around the house!"
"Exactly", said Angie. Colleen knew better than to ask 'Why' because he would only say, 'You'll see when I'm done.' After an hour of wire unwinding and listening to Angie mumble about 'batteries and hot enough sparks,' Colleen left the garage to check up on her children's progress. Before she reached the back porch, she heard the distant whine of a motorcycle coming down the highway. A grin spread across her face. She knew it had to be Don. Danny and Terry, responding to the same noise, crashed through the back door yelling, "Uncle Don's here, Uncle Don's here!" Turning on her heels and running with her children, Colleen's thoughts included, 'Thank God he's safe.'
Don's bike announced his arrival with a roar and a screech of brakes. Danny and Terry literally crawled over the top of them as he and Juniper dismounted.
"How was your trip?" Colleen asked, giving him a hug, "Did you run into any trouble on the road?" she added, gesturing toward the rifle strapped to the bike.
"We didn't see a soul, it was spooky. And if I hadn't been carrying extra gas we wouldn't have got here. It seemed as if everything was shut down. As for the rifle, it's there as a precaution, I'll put it in the gun cabinet in the garage."
Colleen reached out her right hand toward Juniper and introduced herself and said, "You must be Megan."
"Uh, no. My name is Juniper, glad to meet you."
Somewhat embarrassed, Colleen said, "I'm sorry, I knew Don was going to visit the MacDover's and I assumed you were Megan, Ted's daughter. But, I can see there is a story to tell. How about a cup of coffee and we can get to know each other."
"That sounds great, I could use a cup. It was a long drive." Juniper said, as she rubbed her behind, rolling her eyes dramatically. Angie heard the end of the conversation as he approached and shook hands with Juniper. The two women entered the house, the two men remained in the yard talking.
Just before the screen door slammed shut Angie, called to Colleen, "We'll have our coffee in the garage."
He remained silent for a moment, looking after his wife. Angie brought Don up-to-date on the recent incidents and told him the stress that he and Colleen were under was beginning to wear them down. As the two men walked into the garage Don told Angie of the tragic events at Williams.
"I'm telling you, Angie, everyone has gone crazy. It's like the whole world's gone mad and there's nobody left but the kooks." Don was saying as Colleen stepped into the garage.
"What kooks?" she asked. " Kooks like the one's that shot Curt."
Angie answered, "By the way, I'm sorry for biting your head off earlier."
"I know, I've been snapping at the kids all morning. I'm glad Don showed up, now we can yell at him, too." Colleen said. " That's one of the reason's I couldn't stay in Arizona," Don answered, "Juniper needed a change of company, too. We've become really good friends. I know you'll like her."
" Yes," Colleen agreed, "she filled me in on what had happened between you and Megan. She's really beat, I convinced her to lie down and rest for awhile. I'm sorry you had to be involved in Ted's death like that."
"Well, Juniper has quite a story to tell herself, but I don't suppose she's likely to mention it on her own." Don went on to tell the story of the dramatic rescue and the precarious position of his new friends. As he watched Angie wire together another security device, he told Colleen that they would be arriving here in the next few weeks.
"If everything goes as planned, they'll be bringing a lot of preserved fish and game with them. When we left, they were busy hunting and fishing."
"That reminds me," Angie looked up from his task, "We need to go hunting. As usual, I've put it off too, long."
"Sure, but how about an explanation of what are you doing with all that wire?" Don asked his cousin. As Angie was about to explain his plan, Colleen sat next to him and made a minimal effort at unwinding a bundle of wire. Suddenly she burst into tears, making incoherent statements about not having any electricity, the U.N. troops, her rowdy kids, and ended the outburst with "even my radio is giving me static and I don't know what the hell is going on!"
Don felt helpless and could think of nothing better to do than give Colleen a hug. She regained her composure and in an attempt to avoid her own dark thoughts she asked Angie if he was going to rewire the house.
"I'm not going to put the wire in the house," said Angie, "I'm going to put it around the house."
"OK Angie, that's the second time you've said that. Have you gone crazy, or is there a method to your madness?"
"There's definitely a method." said Angie, "I didn't want to tell you because I didn't want to get you upset. But since you're already upset, I might as well tell you now." Angie then described an emergency system to protect their property from would-be invaders searching for food or trouble. Essentially, it involved the placement of dynamite charges along the outer perimeter of the property. In case of an attack, the charges would be used to scare off the scavengers. What Angie didn't tell Colleen and Don was the odd assortment of traps that he was planning.
"Why all the paranoia?" asked Don. "Government troops will stop the rioting, just like they always do."
" You can call me paranoid, if you want," answered Angie, "but, I've got a feeling that it's going to be quite awhile before those troops get here."
Angie then thought to himself, 'If they get here at all.' Colleen, in quiet desperation, said, "I see the wire Angie, but we don't have any dynamite, and even if we did, I don't think I want it lying all around the house. It's much too dangerous."
"Listen, Hon," said Angie, "I don't want to have to do this either. Sure it's dangerous, but we have to be practical and prepare for the worst." Colleen was remembering the senseless death of her brother's family as her husband continued. " As for getting the dynamite, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I'm pretty sure the junction store has some. Yorwarski bought a permit in order to keep it on hand, he was planning to blow out some tree stumps. As a matter of fact, I was going to go over there this afternoon, but now that you're here Don, we can take your bike and save gas."
"Sure," Don agreed, "Do you want to go now?"
" Yeah, and let's hurry, I don't want to be away for more than a half hour." All three walked out of the garage, Angie and Don climbed on the bike and Colleen kissed them both.
"Is that Terry I hear?" asked Angie.
"I'll go check on the kids. See you later, and be careful."
Angie, looking at the back of Don's head said," Yeah sure, don't worry about us, we'll be back soon." When Colleen walked into the house, Don asked" What was that all about, I didn't hear the kids." "I didn't want Colleen to see us take the rifles, you know how she is about guns. Drive by the garage and I'll get them." When Angie returned with the rifles, he mounted the bike and said, "Ok, Don, let's go get the dynamite."
The ride to Yorwarski's took only ten minutes. Don drove the bike around to the rear of the store. The memory of yesterdays scene still fresh in his mind, Angie remained cautious, preparing himself for the worst. He told Don to wait at the back door, while he went around to the front. Nothing had changed, the broken glass crunched under his boots and the front door, hanging from one hinge, swayed with each gust of the autumn wind. Inside, he found his instinct to be true. Both Mr. and Mrs. Yorwarski lay dead on the floor. The naked body of Mrs. Yorwarski lay face down in a pool of congealed blood. Her right hand stretched out, it appeared as if she had tried to crawl to the telephone before she died. The killers hadn't been satisfied with simple robbery and murder. They had tortured and disemboweled their victims, then left them to bleed to death. The scene was more than Angie could handle. As his bile rose, he turned to run out of the store. However, his stomach violently rejected it's contents before he could reach the outside. Don heard his cousin choking and ran to his side," My God, Angie, what's wrong?" Unable to answer, Angie nodded his head towards the front door. Don stepped inside the doorway, took one glance at the grizzly scene and backed out the door.
Fear and disgust showed on his face as he wretched and with great effort held his stomach from vomiting. Angie had regained his composure slightly, and said, "We can't leave them here, like this, let's bury them out back." The two men had to force themselves back into the store. Angie threw large sheets of plastic over the bodies and rolled them up. Together, they dragged the Yorwarski's to the back and dug a shallow grave. After covering the bodies, Don whispered, "Shouldn't we say something over them?"
" God, I don't know Don, they were Jews. Do you know what to say for a Jew?"
" No, but I guess it doesn't make any difference. I feel like we should say something." Both men bowed their heads and Angie, in an almost childlike voice, recited the Lord's Prayer. He hadn't said those words since he was 15 years old, but he could still remember every word. Don broke the silence by asking how much time had gone by since they had left the house.
" Hell, I told Colleen we'd be back in a half hour," said Angie. "The dynamite is inside in the basement. You get the bike started and I'll get what we need. And Don," he added, "Colleen doesn't need to know about this." Angie went inside and returned with a large wooden box filled with blasting caps and four dozen sticks of dynamite. The trip back home took longer than they had anticipated because Angie had trouble holding the box between them. When they reached the house, they found Juniper, Colleen and the children playing in the front yard. They were standing in a circle and singing. The words of the song drifted across the yard and their locked hands broke apart as they mimed and sang, "We all fall down." Terry and Danny jumped up from the ground and ran over to the bike begging for a ride, "It's my turn now!" Terry yelled.
"Yeah, Uncle Don," said Danny, "Take me too!"
" OK," said Don, "give your old man a chance to get down and I'll give you both a ride down to the creek. Put your sister in between us." Getting off the bike, Angie whispered to his cousin, "Be careful about what you say, especially about the junction store. I'll tell the women the store was just empty and no one was around." Don's bike roared out of the yard with the kids screaming their delight. Angie carried the dynamite and rifles into his workshop. Colleen and Juniper quickly followed and filled the air with questions about what he and Don heard from the Yorwarski's. Angie turned to tell them the store was empty, but the pain in his eyes broadcasted the truth."
" Oh, no!" screamed Colleen, "They can't be dead." Angie reached out to her, but Colleen backed away. Bravely, she wiped the tears from her eyes and walked toward the door. With a voice, totally devoid of emotion, she said, "I'll get supper ready." Juniper wanted to go after her, but Angie told her that Colleen would probably want to be alone for awhile. Phyllis Yorwarski had been Colleen's best friend. "She'll be all right," said Angie, "How about giving me a hand with this wire? I'd like to get it done before dark." Juniper nodded and said, "Sure, what do you want me to do?" "Help me string this wire around the house."
"Any particular reason?" asked Juniper," or are you planning your Christmas decorations early?"
"More like New Year's", answered Angie. Juniper shrugged her shoulders and followed Angie out of the workshop, a coil of wire around both arms. While Juniper buried wire in the ground, Angie placed the dynamite charges. Although Angie had not been thinking of a set pattern, he noticed the result resembled the spokes of a wheel. All the wires converged under the front porch and came up through a hole in the living room floor. Each wire was numbered and tagged to a corresponding number on the dynamite charges. After laying out the wire, Juniper went inside to help Colleen with supper. About that time, Don returned with the children. Angie had refused help from his children and sent them into the house. Standing with his hands in his coat pocket, Don said, "What do you want me to do? It looks like most of the wire is laid out."
"Yeah, it's just about finished, except for the charges around the front gate. Why don't you go ahead and bury a stick of dynamite on the outside of each post at the gate. My guess is that would be where somebody would hide if they wanted to sneak up on the house."
"What about that board across the top of the post," Don asked, "do you want me to take it down?"
"No, I just tacked that up last spring because Colleen wanted to plant some climbing roses. I thought we'd use it to hang the deer we get. We can skin them at the gate and then set the meat out to make jerky." After setting all the charges, Angie and Don went in for supper. The dining room table was set and had a festive look. Angie sat down and as usual, the children argued over who would sit next to Don. Colleen and Juniper came out of the kitchen with two large steaming bowls of vegetables and potatoes. Except for the absence of meat, there was plenty to eat. While serving, Colleen said, "Unless my dear husband goes hunting, we're going to become vegetarians." Angie reached for the salt and said, "Sure Hon, I'll go tomorrow, but that's the first time I ever heard you say you wanted me to go shoot poor little Bambi."
With a feigned look of anger, Colleen said," Don't you play chauvinist with me, Mr. Carpino. You know perfectly well that I've never told you not to go hunting! You just like to use me as an excuse to cancel your hunting trips rather than admit that you're just too lazy to go."
With a wry grin, Angie said, "I guess you think you've got my number. Just to prove how wrong you are, Don and I will not only go hunting, we'll leave around 4 a.m." Thinking of what they had found earlier at the junction store, Don asked, "Are you sure that's wise? Maybe one of us should stay here."
"You're right." agreed Angie, "One of us ought to be here in case of trouble."
" So now both of you want to be chauvinistic," said Colleen, "Do you think Juniper and I are too weak to take care of ourselves, or just too dumb?"
Don groaned, "You know I didn't mean it to sound that way."
"And just what did you mean?" chimed in Juniper, "Maybe we should go hunting and you men should guard the castle." Sounding much braver than she felt, Colleen said," You guys go and get us some 'red meat' and we'll be just fine. Maybe we'll get some male dancers to entertain us while you're gone." Danny and Terry wanted to go hunting too, but Angie refused. "Maybe next time," he promised, "Your uncle Don and I will be moving fast and you wouldn't be able to keep up."
The children were disappointed, but intrigued by Juniper. Earlier she had entertained them with stories of the places she had been this past summer. After supper, the children were sent off to bed. Terry delayed by running down the stairs to ask, "Where will Juniper and Uncle Don sleep? They can sleep in my bed." she cheerfully volunteered.
"I think we can work out a better arrangement than that," laughed Colleen. "Now you two get off to your own bed!" Turning to Don and Angie, Colleen said, "You two big he-men can sleep on the floor. Juniper and I will sleep in the double bed."
"You don't have to do that", said Juniper. "I'll be just as comfortable on the couch and I don't want to put anyone out."
"The only ones being put out," answered Colleen, "are those two chauvinists. They can keep each other company." With the most forlorn look he could muster, Angie said, " Don't I even get a kiss goodnight?"
"Why of course," laughed Colleen, and then blew him a kiss as she and Juniper went off to their room. "And besides the kiss, you and Don get to do the supper dishes."
The next morning Colleen found a note from Angie on the dining room table:
Dear Missy, Just wanted to let you know that the dynamite charges are numbered 1 through 30. Number 1 starts at the east post at the front gate, Number 2 is the opposite post west and the rest continue around the house. Also, there is a rifle at the window in the living room. See you later.
"He knows I hate to be called Missy." She grumbled as she read the note before handing it to Juniper. "Do you know how to set off those dynamite charges?"
" I think so," answered Juniper," Let's take a look. I'm sure you just connect the bare ends of the wire to each pole of a battery. At least that's the way I understood it from Angie yesterday."
They found the rifle to the side of the living room window and there were two large car batteries sitting by the hole where the wires came up through the floor. From the window Colleen could see Terry and Danny playing just outside the front gate. "Want to give me a hand in the kitchen?," asked Colleen." The Bobsie twins made breakfast and left us the dishes to clean."
"Sure," answered Juniper. "Do I wash or dry?"
" You dry and I'll bitch about my inconsiderate husband and his cousin." They both laughed and went into the kitchen. As Juniper put the last plate in the cupboard, they heard Danny and Terry screaming at the top of their lungs. They ran to the front door and were stopped short by the horror at the front gate. Two men, brandishing rifles, were standing behind each post that held the gates. Between the posts, Danny and Terry were standing on boxes, ropes around their necks. The ropes were thrown over the board that ran between the posts and then tied to the fence on each side. Juniper, first through the door, pushed Colleen back into the living room and grabbed the loaded rifle by the window. One of the men yelled for them to come out of the house and then set fire to the boxes. Juniper raised the rifle and aimed, but Colleen stopped her, afraid that it would enrage the men and for sure they would kill the children. The flames licked and curled around the children's legs. The boxes crumbled from the fire and both children now swung by their necks.
"My God," cried Juniper, "We've go to do something."
There was only one answer and it stared up at them through the hole in the floor. Colleen grabbed the wire marked 1 and 2, but was held back by Juniper. " You can't," yelled Juniper. "You'll kill them for sure."
"Don't you think I know that," screamed Colleen. "I don't have any choice. The only way to save one of them is to blow out one of the posts. You just shoot the man that's left standing." Colleen was crying so hard she could barely see the wires. She had to choose which of her children would die. In those few seconds her thoughts raced. Closing her eyes, she reached for one of the two pairs of post wires. Juniper held the rifle and with her own tears running down her face, she knew the agonizing decision that Colleen had to make. The children gaged and choked from the rope and writhed in pain as the fire caught on their clothes. Not knowing which pair she held, Colleen plunged one of each wire to the battery terminals. Just before the explosion, Juniper heard Colleen's mournful plea for God's forgiveness. With a savage fury, Juniper fired into the man rolling on the ground. Colleen was out the front door before the last shot thudded into it's mark.
"Ya got him!" yelled Angie, "Now we can go home." The cousins hauled the deer back to the pickup and lay in alongside the buck that Angie had killed that morning. It was dark before they headed down the mountain road. As usual, their conversation centered around all the hunting achievements they had made in the past. The drive home took about an hour. They were greeted by the twisted front gate and the large wooden post that lay on its side. The tell-tale signs of the explosion set Angie's heart pounding. He raced the truck into the front yard and literally jumped the distance from the truck to the front door. Don, not knowing what they would find, grabbed his rifle and entered the house from the back door. They found Juniper sitting at the dining room table, staring into a flickering candle.
"Where's Colleen and the kids?" Angie asked worriedly."
In the bedroom," answered Juniper. Angie and Don sat down and Juniper, speaking in a monotone, slowly unraveled what had happened, Angie sat there in a state of shock and disbelief. Juniper tried to console him by saying, "You still have your wife and a beautiful daughter." Hearing of Danny's death was so horribly painful that Angie was unable to speak. Suddenly, totally overwhelmed with grief, he ran out of the house screaming for revenge. He ran the entire night. Only pain from his bursting lungs could help stave his agonizing and tormented grief. From Juniper's account, Don pieced together the grim story. Danny and one of the men had been killed instantly by the explosion. Once the support post had been blown out, the board between the posts had collapsed. Juniper spent the rest of the day caring for Terry's wounds. After Danny's body had been placed in his room, Colleen sat down beside the bed and had been there every since. She never spoke one word after the explosion. Don could do nothing but grieve for his nephew and the mother who had to kill her own child so that the other might live.
"What a horrible decision to have to make. God only knows how she made the choice. What about Terry? How badly is she hurt?"
"She didn't choose, she had no idea which wires she grabbed. The choice was made by fate. I'm really not sure how badly Terry is hurt. I did the best I could to make her comfortable, but she's still unconscious. She hasn't moved since I put her to bed."
"There used to be a doctor that lived around her," said Don, "Angie and I hunted with him last fall. He's retired and lives a few miles from the junction, but I'll be damned if I know what direction."
"That must be Dr. Sherman," Juniper said excitedly, "Colleen was telling me about him and the sheriff from Slick Rock. We've got to find him, Don."
"I can try, I'll use my bike, it's faster than the truck. Going out the door, he turned to Juniper and said," No matter what, I'll be back in one hour!" Don stopped his bike at the junction store. Looking at the dark building was a grim reminder of the burial he and Angie had performed yesterday. He had no idea which direction to go, but he seemed to recall the old doctor saying something about a creek running through his property. Don turned his bike on the road going east and searched along the highway for a creek bed. About three miles down the road, he crossed a small bridge. To his right sat a large old farmhouse. He whirled his bike into the driveway and skidded to a stop at the front door. It wasn't until he got off the bike and climbed up the porch steps that he realized the mistake he had made. He had forgotten to carry a weapon. 'Shit!' he thought, 'Now what the hell do I do...that's an easy one, just knock and duck.' It was Doctor Sherman who answered the door. At first he didn't recognize Don, but after a few moments his recollection of the hunting trip brought a smile and a greeting. After a rapid fire explanation, Don was helping Doctor Sherman load medical supplies in the back of the Bronco. Doctor Sherman followed Don's bike back to the Carpino home.
Juniper was in Terry's bedroom. "No, Angie hasn't come back yet. Thank God you found the doctor, Terry's breathing is getting very shallow." While Juniper helped the doctor, Don went in to see Colleen. She did not respond when he walked into the candle lit room. She just sat and stared at nothing, her eyes held no sign of emotion or life. He looked down at the small boy and his grief came slowly. The tragic silence of death roared through the Carpino home.