Duty and Honor
Copyright © 2016 by Eric Aune and the Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved
The second day of the cadet's Thanksgiving weekend started with morning formation just like any other morning. After breakfast, Father Lafferty held a small chapel service of Thanksgiving. There was some grumbling about the TV still not working, but the boys found other ways to amuse themselves. The board games in the common room got a good workout. Some of the boys read books and even a few did some schoolwork. Even though it was pretty cool outside, some of the boys went outside to shoot some hoops or play tennis or just kick a soccer ball around. The officers made sure the boys were doing something to keep themselves occupied.
Ken made his way around the barracks after the chapel service to check on how the cadets were doing. He was glad to see that the older cadets seemed to be keeping the boys occupied. He went to in his office in Pettus Hall. He pulled up the cadets' files to see where the parents of the boys lived. He wanted to see if any of them lived in any of the active war zones, like Memphis or Chicago. Ken knew that the majority of the cadet's families lived in the South. He thought that one of the reasons some of the boys had still not been picked up was because the parents lived farther away, or perhaps with everything going on especially with martial law being enforced, they had found it difficult to get here to get their sons. He wondered if Floyd had some contacts that could help him get in touch with these parents. He would have to remember to ask Floyd when he got here.
As he searched the computer files, he made notes on contact info on the parents. He found that one of the families lived in Decatur. He thought that it was strange that they had not been by to pick their sons up. A few of the other families were farther away, but still not that far that they couldn't have come to pick up their sons by now. The families that lived nearby were the families he most worried about, because there didn't seem to be a reason why they hadn't come to pick up their sons. There must be something beyond their control preventing them from getting here. Especially those that lived in places like Decatur or Chattanooga, or Birmingham. He figured the larger cities probably had more strongly enforced martial law and that may have prevented the residents from leaving.
He wondered if it would be a good idea to check on the Buchanan family from Decatur. He'd ask Floyd if he would like to take a trip down to Decatur and check out what was going on in a larger city, maybe find the parents of the two boys who lived there and see what was going on with their family. He went to a cabinet and pulled out some maps of the state and surrounding areas to see if he could find where the family lived. His research of the boys' files occupied most of his morning, until he was interrupted by a knock on the door of his office.
He looked up and saw Floyd standing there. Ken smiled when he saw that Floyd was in his CSM uniform and wearing a wide brimmed cavalry hat. He stood up and walked around his desk as Floyd came in and saluted him. "Sergeant Major Bundy, reporting as ordered, sir." Ken returned his salute and then shook his hand. "Thanks for coming by Floyd. Have a seat." Floyd took off the hat he was wearing and sat down. Ken returned to his seat behind the desk. "I parked my truck just outside. I'll move it if that is a problem." Ken shook his head. "Don't worry about it. It's not like we have lots of people here that would be bothered by it." Floyd saw the papers and maps on his desk. "What are you working on, Cap?"
Ken gestured to the maps. "Trying to figure out why the parents of the remaining boys haven't come by to pick up their kids. Some of the families live nearby so I don't understand why they haven't come by. There is one family in Decatur, that's not far at all, but they haven't picked up their sons. I'm worried about them." Floyd got up and saw the marks that Ken had made on the maps. "What do the numbers mean?" On the map were numbers next to some of the cities on the map. "That's the number of cadets who have families living in or near those cities. I was actually thinking about going down to Decatur, maybe sometime this weekend, and see if I can find out what is going on with the families."
Floyd sat back and thought about it. "I think I'll go with you if you don't mind the company." Ken nodded. "I was going to ask if you wanted to go with me. I'd like the company." Floyd checked his watch and stood up. "Well Cap, It looks like it's about chow time." Ken checked his watch and agreed. "You're right, let's go meet the boys."
The two entered the mess hall just as the boys were also arriving . A lot of them greeted Ken. Most of them stared at Floyd, because of all the decorations and awards on his uniform that seemed to cover his chest and cavalry hat that he wore.
Ken greeted the boys as he walked through the mess hall. Once the two of them had their food, Ken led them to what had become the head table and introduced him to everyone. Clay asked him about the hat. "Son, I was with the 11th Armored Cavalry along with your commander here. That's where we met when he was a newly minted lieutenant, and like all young officers, he needed a sergeant to take care of him. I was that sergeant. Remember that young man, listen to your sergeants, they'll take care of you." Clay nodded. "Yes sir." Floyd shook his head. "You don't have to call me sir, son…" Ken joined him in the last part of what he was going to say. "...,I work for a living." He, Ken and Gabe laughed since that had been the answer from just about every sergeant since the beginning of time when called sir.
As they ate lunch, the boys at the table asked him about what he had done in the army. He was more than happy to regale them with stories. Some of the stories involved Ken, but he did stay away from anything too embarrassing. The lunch was light because they knew that a Thanksgiving dinner was coming later.
As the lunch wound down, Ken stood up and called for the cadet's attention. "Gentlemen, I'm sure you are a little curious about our guest. I would like to introduce, Command Sergeant Major Floyd Bundy, retired. Sergeant Major Bundy was my Command Sergeant Major when I was on active duty. He has come to spend Thanksgiving with us. Please make him welcome."
As the boys started bussing their tables, Floyd showed one of the reasons he was the CSM that he was. He easily moved among the boys and was able to quickly make friends with them. This was an ability he always had in making a young soldier or officer feel at ease. Many of the boys had smiles on their faces as they left the mess hall.
As the boys went off to spend the afternoon doing what they wanted, Floyd made his way around the school. The boys took turns acting as his tour guide. He allowed himself to be talked into playing a board game or two with some of the boys. At one point he joined Clay and the other horse owners on a tour of the stable to see the horses. Being an old, although armored, cavalryman he enjoyed seeing them. Floyd was always able to make the boys comfortable around him and when he would leave one group to go join another, no one tried to get him to stay with them. It was like they thought it was good that he took the time to spend time with all of the boys that were there. Floyd spent some time with the adults as well. Late in the day, he took a walk with Father Lafferty and they ended up in his small house next to the chapel, where they sat down and enjoyed a glass of Bushmills 21-year-old single malt whiskey. When they were finished, the two of them made their way to the mess hall for Thanksgiving dinner.
The Mills had outdone themselves and there was plenty for everyone. They had made four large turkeys, mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, stuffing, cranberry jelly and dinner rolls. Floyd carried his plate from table to table and spent a little bit of time with each group of boys, before finally joining the adults and officers for pumpkin pie at the end of the meal.
Richard and Hillary came out and joined them and Floyd complimented them on the meal. "Oh, yes, I almost forgot to tell you Ken. Buford will have supplies for you folks in his reefers by Friday afternoon. All you have to do is pick them up." Ken looked at his officers. "Clay can you take care of that. I believe that some of your officers have driver's licenses. Send a detail to Buford's in one of the academy pickup trucks tomorrow and get the supplies. Oh, and don't forget to bring the sales slip back with you." He glanced at Floyd. "I have an errand to run tomorrow afternoon." Floyd looked at the boys. "Buford said he'll be waiting for you." Clay gave Ken a quick nod. "Don't worry sir, we'll take care of it." Ken smiled at the teen. When they finished Ken asked Floyd to come back to his quarters for a little while before he left and Floyd agreed.
At Wheeler house, he invited Floyd to the sitting room and poured them each a glass of scotch and sat down across from him. Floyd took a sip. "Good scotch. Well Cap, you've got some good boys there. I really enjoyed myself today and your mess hall is considerably better than some I've been to." Ken chuckled. "Ain't that the truth? So when do you want to leave for Decatur tomorrow." Floyd shrugged. "Doesn't matter. I'm retired." Ken thought for a moment as he nursed his drink. "I'll come by around ten. I want to make sure the boys are taken care of first, then I'll come by your house and we can go from there." Floyd finished his drink and stood up. "Well Cap, thanks again for inviting me. I'm going to head home. I'll see you tomorrow." The two men shook hands and Ken walked him to the door.
The next morning after breakfast, Ken went to his office to make sure he had his notes about the location of the home of the cadets from Decatur. He figured when they got there, they could ask directions from people in town if they couldn't find the house. He put everything in his briefcase and headed back to Wheeler House to change into civvies and leave.
A few minutes later he pulled up in front of Floyd's house. He had just turned off the truck when Floyd came out of the house pulling on a light jacket and carrying a bag. He jumped in the passenger seat and they were on their way.
It was only thirty miles to Decatur so it shouldn't take longer than half an hour to get there. One thing they did notice was that there was not a lot of vehicles on Highway 20 between the two cities. As they got nearer to Decatur the traffic seemed to dry up completely. They were nearing the outskirts of the town when Floyd spoke up. "Cap, pull over for a moment." Ken didn't hesitate and pulled over to the side of the highway. Floyd got out and grabbed some binoculars. He braced his elbows on the hood of the truck and scanned back and forth. Ken joined him. He handed Ken the binoculars. "Take a look down the road."
Ken took his place and started looking. The first thing he saw down the highway were a couple of large Army trucks blocking the road, obviously a road block covering both directions of the highway. "You know what that group of buildings is over on the north side of the highway?" Ken looked over his shoulder and shook his head. "That's the ULA facility. United Launch Alliance." Ken nodded. "Yeah, I've heard of them. They do military stuff don't they?" Floyd nodded. "Yep, they're owned by Lockheed-Martin and Boeing. They send satellites into orbit. Been around for about fifty years. That's one of their plants. Makes sense that Ashwood would try to lock it down. Did you see the other trucks and soldiers moving around the buildings?" Ken put the binoculars to his eyes and checked the facility and nodded. "Yeah, I see them."
Floyd reached into his bag and pulled a map out and tapped Ken on the shoulder. They went to the back of the truck, opened the tailgate and opened the map. It was of Decatur and the surrounding areas. "Where is that address you're looking for?" Ken went to the back door of the crew cab and grabbed his notes. He found the address. "3406 Vestavia Circle SW." Floyd began searching the map. He looked at the back and found the street. He made a quick note where it was by the map grid and finally located it. He looked the map over and then nodded.
"Okay, let's go. First thing, go back about half a mile and take the road to the south. I'll navigate from there. With that roadblock, I think I want to take a lot of backroads." Ken nodded and turned the truck around and then turned on the road. "Turn left here." They were now going southeast. They entered a small town called Trinity. Floyd continued to give him directions. They headed south from Trinity before heading east again while winding through neighborhoods streets. Then they were back in farm country. They crossed Highway 24 and kept heading south and a little east. The road they were on turned left onto a road heading east. The road ran along the southern edge of Decatur. They took another road to the south and then another left and then a right for a short time and they were on Vestavia Circle SW. Ken slowed down and looked for street numbers and finally found a large house on good sized piece of property.
They drove up the driveway and stopped in front of the house. Floyd looked around and became alert. He reached into his bag and pulled something out, poked Ken with it. Ken looked down and saw a .45 Colt pistol. He looked at Floyd with an 'Are you serious' look. "Something doesn't feel right." Ken looked around and he started feeling it as well and took the gun, dropping the mag and then reinserting it and pulling the slide. He saw Floyd pull out another Colt .45, and do the same.
Keeping the gun at his side and out of sight, they both got out of the truck and stood there looking around. On the property was the main house with a pool, and beyond that it looked like a tennis court. Next to the pool was another building, could be a pool house. There was also a gazebo at the far north end of the yard. Everything pointed to an affluent family.
As he looked around Ken finally figured out what was wrong. The place was too quiet. It wasn't the feeling you get when you happened to stop by and the owners are out. The place felt completely deserted. As if no one lived there at all. He looked at Floyd and they shared a nod. Both of them felt that feeling of desertion. Ken wondered, did they leave and just not pick up their two oldest sons or did something happen to them. Floyd pointed toward the house and made a sweeping motion. Ken nodded and they split up a little as they moved toward the house. They saw a sidewalk connecting the house to the pool area.
Floyd moved toward the pool and stopped next to one of the buildings that was located there. Ken moved along the side of the house toward where they thought a back door to the house would be. He looked across at Floyd and saw him stop moving, so he did as well. Floyd waved him forward. When Ken got close he paused when he got a look at the door. He could now see what had made Floyd stop. There was a sliding glass door and it looked like it had been broken into. Glass littered the ground. Both of them brought their guns up as they moved forward. Floyd moved to the opposite side of the door and peeked in a moment before stepping through the broken door.
The two of them slowly moved through the family room. To their left was a large kitchen next to what could be called a breakfast nook. As they entered the house it was obvious that something bad had happened. Furniture was kicked over and there were broken items everywhere. They continued moving through the house. The living room and a formal dining room were also in a shambles, the front door appeared to be intact. They continued moving through the bottom floor of the house to check it out, even though they were sure they would find nothing. There was a basement, Floyd went to check it out, while Ken went upstairs. A few moments later they met back in the living room to compare notes.
Most of the first floor was a mess. The basement seemed untouched. Upstairs, there was evidence of clothes being thrown around a little and some minor ransacking, especially in the master bedroom, but other than that nothing like the first floor. Just then they heard the distinctive sound of a shotgun being racked. "Don't move you fucking lowlifes!"
Clay met with his officers after lunch. "Okay, Rory and Jim, can the two of you take care of going into town for supplies?" They both nodded. "I'd suggest Sawyer coming along as well. He and Jim have been driving longer than me and it might be a good idea if we take two trucks so we can be sure we have enough room to carry everything. I just got my license over the summer." Clay nodded. "Good idea Rory. I knew you had a license, but didn't know for how long. That sounds good. Why don't you take one more of the older cadets with you? That will give you two in each truck." Rory nodded. "I'll ask Finn to come with us to keep him out of trouble." Clay chuckled. "Okay, check with Mister Mills before you go, he can give you the keys for the trucks. When you get back let me know, and we'll get a work detail together to put everything away." Clay ended the meeting and they split up to take care of their duties.
Rory asked Sawyer to go find Finn and meet them by the trucks, while he and Jim met with Mister Mills. They found him in his office in the back of the kitchen and he had the two of them follow him to the office where the keys were kept. He handed Rory a clipboard and two sets of keys. He told Rory to make a list of everything that they picked up, so he would know what they were getting and knew what, if any, rearranging he would need to do in the school reefers to store the supplies. Sawyer and Finn were waiting for them by the trucks. Rory handed one set of keys to Sawyer and the four climbed in the trucks and were on their way.
The trip from the school to the store took about fifteen minutes. They pulled up in front of Buford's Market and went inside. Buford Atkinson, the owner saw them as they walked in and left the check stand he was working at to greet them. "Howdy boys. Looks like ya got the message from Floyd about yer supplies?" Jim nodded. "Yes, sir. Thank you for helping us out. Major Hartley said that we should be sure to get the bill from you." Buford shook his head. "The supplies have all been paid fer. Y'all jus' need ta load 'em up in yer trucks and haul 'em back with ya. Why don't a couple of ya bring yer trucks around back. The other of ya, can come with me and ah'll show ya which stacks belong to y'all." The two older boys headed out to the trucks while the two younger teens followed Buford into the back room.
In the back room of the store, they saw a few pallets of goods, but not as much as they expected to see. There were three large metal doors on one wall. Buford led them over to them. He opened one of the doors. It was a freezer. "The two stacks there are for y'all. I got some more in one of the other reefers too. You too can start movin' stuff over ta the doors. I'll get 'em open fer the other two."
Buford walked over to the large delivery door at the back of the room and hit a button to open it. As it rose up they could see the two trucks pulling around back of the store. Buford put his hands around his mouth. "Y'all can back up to the door. It'll make it easier ta load yer stuff." The boys nodded and turned the trucks around to back them up to the loading dock. The two older boys got out and went to help the other two. They were surprised at how much there was to load into the trucks.
Buford pointed out the hand trucks at the side of the storage room so they could move the supplies easier. It took them a little over half an hour to get everything loaded. Buford had a couple of tarps they could use to cover everything up, he just asked them to bring the tarps back when they could. He let them use some twine he had in the back room to tie the load down. Once they were finished, they thanked Buford and got in the trucks to head back.
James was driving the first truck and looked to the left before turning right and heading out of town. Something caught his attention and he continued looking to the left where the main road passed through town. "What?" He looked at Rory and pointed to his left. Rory leaned forward and saw a line of Army trucks heading west. "What do you think?" James shrugged. "I wonder where they're going? There's no army base near here is there?" Rory shook his head. "Not that I know of. At least not since World War Two. There was the Courtland Army Airfield. It closed down after the war and now it's the local municipal airport." Jim watched as the last truck drove out of sight. He glanced at Rory who nodded. James pulled out onto Jackson Street and turned left instead of right. The guys in the other truck looked at each other in confusion wondering where the others were going. They followed them to find out.
At Jefferson Street, they turned right. They could see the rear of the truck column a few hundred yards ahead of them. About a mile outside of town the column turned left. They stayed back and made the turn as well. They saw the trucks make another left. "Jim, I've got an idea, turn left at the next road." Jim slowed down and turned at the next road. They drove past a couple of fields and then they were into the trees and near a water tower before Rory pointed to the side of the road. "Pull over there." Jim pulled to the side of the road, followed moments later by the other truck.
Finn and Sawyer got out of the truck and held their hands up. "What the hell guys?" Rory just waved his hand at his brother to hush. "C'mon, I want to see something." He turned and headed into the woods. They looked at where Rory disappeared, then at Finn and he could only shrug and follow his brother into the woods. They caught up with Rory at the edge of the woods. "What the fuck is that?"
They were looking at a road with an eight-foot fence running alongside it. About a hundred yards beyond that fence was a ten feet tall chain-link fence with three lines of barbed wire on the top. It looked pretty new but there was something hasty looking about how it was built. It was as if someone was in a hurry to build this place. It looked like a prison camp, but not a very sturdily built one. It also looked like there was a dirt road that ran along the prison fence line, that went around the perimeter.
Inside the fence there were a few buildings and what looked like part of an old runway. There were also a large number of large army tents set up in rows. They could see a few people moving around, not many, but a few. They were in regular everyday clothes though, not prison clothes. It looked like some of the people were teens like them. All four of the boys were thinking, 'What kind of camp was this?' They figured it was some kind of prison camp, but what kind, they had no idea. They didn't see any guards inside the camp at first, then they saw a large building and there were guards around and near it.
They looked to their right and they saw a few more buildings outside of the prison. When they looked in that direction, they saw the army trucks that they had been following were now stopped in front of a large building. Rory started walking inside the tree line toward the building where the trucks were parked. He wanted to see what was in the trucks. The teens made sure that they were well hidden as they moved through the trees. They didn't want to get too close so they stopped near the fence and hunkered down. A few moments later they saw a number of armed men leave the large building and jog over to a large gate to the prison.
They opened the gate and most of them moved inside the fence, holding their guns at the ready. While some stayed at the entrance. The trucks drove inside the gate and stopped where the old runway was located. The trucks stopped and the soldiers moved forward and unlatched the back gates of the trucks. A couple of soldiers who were inside the truck, flipped the canvas backs up over the top of canopy and jumped to the ground. They looked inside the trucks and started yelling and waving their arms. Soon men, women and children were jumping down out of the truck. Younger children were being helped out of the trucks, by teens and adults.
Most of the people had a small bag or backpack with them. The soldiers pushed them around until they were lined up. Then one of the soldiers started talking to them with a bullhorn. The boys tried to hear what was being said, but could only pick up a few words here and there. What they did notice was that the person speaking had a strong accent. It took them a little while to figure out he was speaking with a Latin accent from the way he pronounced some of the words.
Finn tapped Rory on his back. Rory turned around to see what he wanted and saw him pointing at the crowd of people that had just gotten out of the trucks. "Rory, look over there, on the left side of the line." Rory looked for a few moments and then his eyes opened wide in shock. "On no." Jim looked at him. "What?" Finn pointed again. "That's our family over there on the left side of the line."
Then they heard some yelling and screaming. They looked in that direction and saw a couple of soldiers pulling a couple of young children away from someone who was probably their mother. When she tried to grab them back, one of the soldiers hit her and knocked her to the ground. One of the men moved forward and the soldier brought his rifle up and pointed it at the man, who stopped immediately and held up his hands.
The soldiers moved down the line. Wherever there were young children, preteens and below, they were separated from their parents and put in another group. A lot of the real young children were crying. If they had another sibling with them, they were usually hanging onto them. If the child didn't have an older sibling, another of the older children in the group tried to calm the child down. They did the best they could, even though they were just as scared.
When the soldiers got to the end of the line where the Buchanan family was, they grabbed Finn and Rory's little sister Amelia from their mom. She screamed and Dale their eleven-year-old brother charged at the soldier and kicked him in the shin as hard as he could. The soldier limped back and one of the other soldiers backhanded Dale, sending him to the ground where he lay there not moving. Finn and Rory gritted their teeth in anger. They saw their dad Rick move out with his hands out and pointing at his son. They kept their guns pointed at him as he helped Dale sit up. They saw him talking to Dale and pointing at his sister. A moment later, he helped Dale stand up and then watched as Dale went over and took his sister's hand and walked her over to the rest of the young children.
The soldiers then motioned for the adults and teens left behind to move away. The cadets watched as they picked up their bags and walked to where the lines of tents stood. All of the adults kept looking back as they watched their youngest children surrounded by the soldiers and walked over to the large building at the northeast end of the camp that the boys had seen when they first came to the edge of the trees. They shadowed the group escorting the children and watched as they were led inside the large building. Rory and Finn were holding onto each other as they watched what was going on. Jim and Sawyer got them moving to the trucks. "C'mon we need to get the supplies back and a lot of them need to get into the refrigerators back at school or they'll be spoiled." Rory and Finn allowed them to be led away after one last glance at the camp.
Back at the pickup trucks the twins were shaking their heads in disbelief. "Why was our family there and why did they take Dale, Amelia and all the other kids away from their parents? They've never broken any law, not even a ticket as far as I've ever heard. What are they going to do to them?"
"C'mon we need to get back. We should talk to the major. Maybe he can find out what's going on out here." Jim and Sawyer guided the twins to their trucks. The two boys were still upset and didn't say much on the drive back to the school, they just stared out the window.
"Don't move you fucking lowlifes!" Ken and Floyd froze. "Drop the guns." They had no choice. If a shotgun was aimed at them, one or both of them could get killed or at least badly wounded if they caused the shotgun's owner to fire at them. Once the guns landed on the carpeted floor the voice spoke again. "Turn around slowly. Any sudden moves and I'll cut you in half." The two men slowly turned around until they were facing the speaker.
They saw a man who looked to be around six feet maybe a little taller wearing jeans, a blue shirt and a dark blue jacket with some yellow lettering on the breast that they couldn't make out from the way the jacket was hanging. He had graying sandy colored hair and was holding a pump shotgun aimed at them. Floyd thought it looked like an old Winchester Model 12. He knew what they looked like because he owned one like it. At one time they were considered one of the best guns for close quarters combat, because unlike later pump shotguns, if you held the trigger down, each time you pumped a new shell into the chamber it would fire. From the way the man was holding it, they knew he was well versed in its use. He was glaring at the two men with a pair of icy blue eyes.
He motioned with the shotgun. "Back away from the guns." They stepped back as the man stepped forward. When he reached the pistols he kicked them behind him out of their reach. "Now why don't you two thieves tell me who the fuck you are, and what the fuck you think you're doing in my neighbor's house?"
Floyd and Ken exchanged glances with each other. Ken spoke first. "I would like to reach into my back pocket to get my wallet." The man nodded. "Slow." Ken nodded and keeping one hand up, he slowly moved his other hand until he could pull his wallet out and held it up. The man waved him forward until the muzzle of the shotgun was almost touching Ken's chest. "Open it." Ken opened it and showed his Alabama driver's license. "Kenneth Hartley." He reached for the wallet and motioned for Ken to back up as he slipped the wallet into his jacket pocket. The movement straightened out the letters on the jacket, it read 'FBI'. The man pointed the gun at Floyd. "What about you?" Floyd reached for his wallet and without prompting opened it and stepped forward slowly. The man saw his license said Floyd Bundy and right next to the license he saw his retired military ID, CSM Floyd Bundy, US Army Retired. He nodded to Floyd and then reached into his pocket, pulled Ken's wallet out and tossed it to him.
"You can put your hands down, but don't move." The two men nodded and let their hands drop. "Okay, I have your names. My name is Frank Brennan. I live next door. When I saw you two sneaking around, I thought I'd find out what you were doing. After what happened a few days ago, I thought you were either one of them or thieves, or both."
"We're neither. We came here to find out what happened to them." Frank had lowered the shotgun, but kept it pointing at them. "You friends of theirs?" Ken shook his head. "Not really. I'm the Acting Commandant of the Cadets at the Wheeler Military Academy. Their sons Rory and Finn are there and we were trying to find out what happened to them. The boys are worried. Most of the parents have already taken their kids out of the school and we didn't know why the twins' parents hadn't come to get them, especially since they live so close."
Frank was satisfied and relaxed. "Sorry about the gun, but it seems you can't be too careful these days. Come on over to my house and we can talk. I'll tell you what little I know." They walked over and picked up their pistols and went outside. All three jumped into Ken's truck and drove back up the street to the next house. They followed Frank into the house. A woman came out of the kitchen. "Is everything okay Frank…." She stopped when she saw the three men enter the house. "Honey, these two are from that military school where Finn and Rory go. They were trying to find out what happened to their parents."
She looked at the two men and smiled. "Come in the kitchen. I can make some coffee, tea or something else." They told her that coffee would be fine. As they walked to the kitchen she asked about the boys. "Are the boys okay?" Ken nodded. "Yes, they're fine. I think they're worried about their family though. That's why we came out here to find out what happened to them."
They sat down at the kitchen table. Frank placed his shotgun on the kitchen counter. "Frank! You can put that somewhere else, not on the counter." He smiled at his wife. "Sandy, you know I like to keep it nearby." She frowned at him. "Still, the kitchen counter is not the appropriate place for it." He got up, picked the shotgun off the counter and leaned it in the corner of the room.
"Gentleman, this is my wife Sandy. Sandy, these are Ken Hartley and Floyd Bundy." She smiled at them as she worked on the coffee. "Nice to meet you both." Frank looked at the two men. "Sorry about that at the house, but you can't be too careful these days with everything going on. I retired last summer from the FBI. I couldn't abide with what was going on in the agency. I'd put in thirty years and some of the people Ashwood was putting into positions of authority were not good choices. Their main qualification was that they supported everything he was trying to do. I had to get out, so I retired. I'd made some good investments and had a good retirement package. So with the kids nearly out of college, I thought it would be a good time to get out. What about you two."
"I spent about ten years in the army and was wounded in Mexico several years ago and had to retire. I got a teaching degree and was hired at the Wheeler Academy. I was the Assistant Commandant until last Sunday when the Commandant left to take care of his family and put me in charge of the remaining boys at the school."
"How many boys do you have there?"
"There are thirty left out of the normal two hundred. What happened next door?"
Sandy brought coffee to them and sat down with her own cup. "I'm not exactly sure, but last week on Wednesday, a bunch of soldiers came to the house and took them all away. When I heard some loud noises next door, I went to the gate between our yards, and was going to go over there to see what was going on. I saw a bunch of soldiers, so I stopped and just watched from a place where the trees and bushes kept me in shadow. There wasn't anything I could do about what was happening, so I stayed on my side of the fence and watched. I noticed the uniforms they wore were not US Army uniforms and they all spoke Spanish, so I'm pretty sure they weren't US soldiers. Sounded like they were from South America or maybe Mexico or some other Central American country. While I was still with the Bureau, I saw some reports a year or two ago about Ashwood having some sort of connections down there, but any investigation on anything about that was quickly shut down by his toadies in the bureau. They put the family in the back of one of their trucks and took them away. I don't know where they are now."
Ken was looking down. He didn't know what he was going to say to the boys when he got back, but he knew he had to tell them. "Thanks Frank. At least now we know why their parents didn't come and get them or at least visit. Any idea how we can find out where they're at?" Frank shook his head. "None. Ashwood declared martial law after election day and shut everything down for a few days, but they've relaxed it a little. How did you guys get in here. There are soldiers along the main roads of town and they've set up in the town."
"We went around them, using back roads to get here. We stayed as far away from the city center as possible. I needed to find out anything that I could about the guys' family. Now I have to figure out a way to get more info. I know phones are nearly useless and there is no internet. Besides I don't want to draw any attention to us for as long as possible. I promised myself that I would do everything to keep them safe until they are back with their families and I mean to keep that promise to the best of my ability."
"When we get back, I'll see if I can find out anything more Cap. I have a lot of connections after thirty years in the Army. I know some people who are not overjoyed about what is going on right now either. Maybe they can find something out." Ken nodded his thanks to Floyd. "Well, it was nice to meet you both, but we should probably get back to the boys." They all stood up and shook hands. "Let me know if you need any help. We could take the two boys in if necessary."
"Thanks. I'll let you know. Thanks for the hospitality." They walked Ken and Floyd out to his truck and waved as the two men drove away.
They again kept to the back roads to get out of town and headed west once they hit the highway. Again they noticed the sparseness of traffic, likely due to the road blocks near the city.
Back in Courtland, Ken dropped Floyd off at his home before heading back to the school. When he got there he checked in with Richard to see what supplies the boys had brought back. "The boys aren't back yet Ken. They've been gone quite a while, and I expected them back by now. Maybe I need to head over to Buford's to see what's keeping them." Richard nodded. "Maybe there was more than they could carry in both trucks?" Ken shrugged. "Maybe. I'll go find our errant boys and bring them home."
Ken left Richard's office and started toward Wheeler house to get his truck when he heard the sound of the missing pickup trucks up the road that led to the west parking lot. He hurried to the parking lot and saw the two trucks pull in. Ken could see that the backs of the trucks were piled higher than the side walls of the truck bed. It looked like they should have used the stake bed truck to get all the supplies that Floyd had arranged for them. Maybe that was what kept them, the large load.
He was smiling as he walked over to the four boys as they got out of the trucks. "Hey, did you boys get lost…." The smile dropped from his face as he noticed the looks the boys had on their faces. "What's wrong? What happened?" He noticed the twins moving to each other and hugging. It was Jim that walked up to Ken. "Major, um…we found something that you need to hear about, but I think first we need to get all this stuff unloaded and put away. Can you take care of Finn and Rory?" Ken nodded. He walked over to the two boys and gave each of the shoulders a gentle squeeze. When they looked up he could see that their eyes were watery and they looked like they were fighting hard not to break down. He put his arms around both boys and felt them almost cling to him. He glanced at Jim. "James, get a work party together to get the supplies unloaded. Whatever happened, keep it to yourself. I'm going to take the twins to my office in Pettus Hall. Meet us there and bring the other officers with you. I think this is going to be something that all of the officers need to hear. Remember don't tell anyone, not even the officers. Just tell them I need to meet with them. Understood?" Jim nodded. "Yes sir. Understood."
Ken led the two boys to his office. He was glad they made it without any of the other cadets seeing them. He didn't want any rumors to be going around until he had a chance to speak to the officers. Besides he knew that he needed to talk to the twins about their family. He would talk to them after he heard what happened and they had a chance to calm down.
His office had a desk and chair, with some nearby cabinets and a couple of bookcases. There was also a small sitting area with a leather couch, coffee table and a couple of leather arm chairs separated by a small table and a sideboard against the wall. He had the boys sit on the couch. While he walked over to a sideboard and grabbed three water bottles from the small fridge underneath it. He placed the bottles on the table and grabbed a box of tissues from his desk and placed it next to the bottles. He sat down in one of the chairs and waited for the boys to calm down.
The boys both grabbed tissues from the box and wiped their eyes. They picked up the water and drank some down. They looked at Ken. "Are you okay? Can you tell me what happened?"
Finn looked at Rory. "Right after we got the supplies we saw a bunch of Army trucks driving through town. They were the kind that the Army uses to carry cargo and sometimes men, you know the kind I mean?" Ken nodded so Rory continued. "We knew that there was no Army base around here and we were curious about the trucks, so we followed them to see where they were going. We figured if they were just passing through we'd just turn around and head back, but they only went a mile west of town and turned down a road. We didn't want to follow right behind them and I knew where the road went and I had Jim, um, Captain Blackard to turn on a different road." Ken stopped him. "No need to be so formal. I know who Jim is."
Rory nodded and went on. "Okay. So I knew that the road the trucks turned on was one of the roads that leads to the old airport. I know about the airport because a friend of my dad's owns a small airplane that he used to keep at the airport and when we were little he gave us rides in it. Later the friend moved closer to Mobile with his company and took his plane with him. Anyway, I don't know why, but it just seemed like it was best if we weren't seen by whoever was in those trucks, so we took the other road and parked near a water tower. We snuck through the trees until we could see the airport. When we got to the edge of the trees, we could see the old closed down part of the airport had been changed. There's a tall chain link fence with barbed wire on the top that closes in a huge area that used to be part of the old army base. Inside are some buildings but also a bunch of army tents. You know the big ones that soldiers use when they are in another country?" Ken nodded. He knew that kind of tent very well, as he had spent time in such tents when he was in Mexican War.
Rory nodded. "So, when I first saw it, I thought at first maybe it was an Army camp. That's kind of what it looked like. But something wasn't right about it. It didn't seem like they would need to put a fence up around an Army camp like that, then we saw some regular people walking around the tents. There were adults and some teenagers too. Then it started looking like a prison or something like that, but the people weren't in those prisoner jumpsuits like you see on TV. They were just in regular everyday clothes. And besides they had men, women and teenagers all together, not separated. They wouldn't mix them up like that, would they? They just looked like regular people. Why would the Army be putting them in prison?"
"I don't know. Was that all, son?" Rory shook his head. "No, sir. When we got to the edge of the trees, we saw the trucks stopped near this building outside the fenced area. Then a bunch of soldiers came out of the building and opened up a big gate in the fence and the trucks drove in and stopped. Then all these people started getting out of the back and the soldiers were lining them up." Rory took a drink of the bottle. "They all looked like families. Regular families. Then we saw our family with them. Our Mom, Dad and our little sister and brother. Why were they there?"
When Ken heard that, it answered the question he had. Now he knew what had happened to the Buchanan's. From the description of the camp, he knew what it sounded like, a concentration camp. A place to keep enemies of the regime, like Hiller did in World War Two, with those who were considered beneath the 'Aryan' people of Germany, undesirables. He knew what happened to most of those people too. He couldn't believe it would happen in this country. He knew Ashwood was no good, but he didn't think he'd do something like this.
"I don't know yet, but I promise you I will find out what I can. I was going to talk to you boys later today, but this is as good a time as any. I wondered why your parents hadn't come by to pick you boys up, so Sergeant Major Bundy and I went to Decatur to talk to your parents. We found that the house had been trashed and no one was there. Your next door neighbor Mister Brennan, told us that some soldiers came and took your family away last week. We didn't know where they were, but I guess now we know. I'm sorry boys."
"Sir, that's not all. We don't think the soldiers are American soldiers, because they sounded like they spoke Spanish. And while we watched they took all the young children from their families, including our brother and sister. One of the soldiers hit my brother because he kicked him in the shin. But he's alright I guess, because my dad helped him up. Then the soldiers took all of the little kids to this big building inside the camp." Ken nodded. "It sort of makes sense. They are doing that probably to keep the parents in line. If they are separated from their kids, they probably won't cause problems. The kids are like hostages against the parent's good behavior."
"Well anyway, that's what we saw, so we came back here to tell you and see if there is anything you can do." Ken was looking at the two boys. "Right now, I don't know what I can do. But first I am going to see if I can find out anything about this place. But I have to be careful because I have thirty of you to take care of and I don't want to put any of you in danger, if I can help it. Now, why don't you go in the bathroom there and clean up, wash your face. I've asked the officers to come here for a meeting. Finn, I know you're not an officer, but you know what is going on, so you can stay." The twins nodded and got up to go and clean up.
About the time the twins finished getting cleaned up, the cadet officers arrived at Ken's office. He offered everyone some water and took a seat on his desk facing the sitting area. The boys took the two chairs from in front of the desk and Ken had them turn the two armchairs around so they were all facing him. Ken looked at Jim. "James, Rory and Finn have filled me in. Why don't you share with the others what you guys found?"
For the next several minutes Jim told the others what they had found. There were several shocked looks from the boys. When they heard about the twin's family, they all expressed their sympathy for the two boys. It was Clay that put it together. "Sir, it sounds like a concentration camp." Ken nodded. "I agree. That's what it sounds like to me as well." The rest of the boys understood then the implications of what it could mean.
"Sir does that mean our family is in danger?" Ken shook his head. "I don't know. I hope not. Maybe it is just a place where they are putting people who might resist what Ashwood is doing in this country and the administration doesn't want to worry about people who might cause problems. Think back to the concentration camps we had in the US during World War II for the Japanese who lived in this country. We didn't call them that, we called them internment camps, but it was pretty much the same thing. The main difference was we didn't work them to death in factories, or starve them or outright kill them, like the Nazis did, but they were concentration camps in all other senses of the word."
Ken walked over to the window and looked out at the front lawn of the academy, beyond the flagpole. The boys talked quietly, mostly trying to comfort the twins. After a few minutes Ken turned around. "For now, I want all of you to keep this secret. Do not tell any of the other boys about this. I need to think about this and I want to see if there is anything I can find out. I promise I will share with you what I can find out, but for now, we will keep this in this room. Understood?" The boys nodded. "Good, now go about your day and remember what has been said here, stays here. Don't even talk about it among yourselves. I don't want anyone to overhear you." The boys stood up and thanked him and left the room.
Ken turned back to the window. He needed more information. He wanted to see this camp for himself before he did anything else. A visit to Floyd was in order. His decision made, he went looking for Clay and eventually found him in the large open field near the stables with the five other horse owners. They seemed to be working on some sort of mounted drill. He saw that the young cadet Hardy Henson was sitting in the bleachers watching them. As he neared the boy, Hardy jumped up and went to attention and saluted him. "Good afternoon Major Hartley." Ken smiled at the eagerness of the boy. "At ease Cadet." Hardy relaxed but didn't resume his seat. "Hardy, sit down and relax." Hardy finally relaxed and resumed his seat as Ken sat down nearby. They watched silently as the small group maneuvered around the field.
"What are they working on Hardy?"
"Some old timey Calvary formations."
"Cavalry." Hardy looked at him. "Huh?" His face turned a little red, embarrassed that he'd been so informal with the Commandant. "I mean, um, sorry, sir? I didn't understand." Ken chuckled as he looked at the boys red face. "I said cav…al…ry, not cal… va…ry. A lot of people get that wrong, including adults. But the correct pronunciation is cavalry. Calvary is a protestant denomination or as it says in the Bible, the hill where Jesus was crucified. Having been in the cavalry, I end up correcting a person's pronunciation without thinking about. I've gotten some glares for it, but the word should be used correctly."
He saw Hardy, silently saying the word, like he was getting used to it. "Yes, sir. I'll remember. Cavalry." They turned back to watching the group work together. They seemed to be doing really well and seemed to be moving as a unit through the various formations and turns. He watched as they came to the far end of the field and went from a column into a line facing down the field and stopped. They saw Clay reach down to his left side near the saddle and shout a command. "DRAW, SABERS!" All of the boys reached down and they could see the flash of the sabers being drawn and then rested against their right shoulder. "WALK, MARCH!" The line moved forward. "TROT, MARCH!" The horses went to a trot with the riders posting in time with the movement of the horse. "CANTER, MARCH!" The horses moved into a controlled gallop, sort of a slow run, but still in formation, all of them moving at once. "CHARGE!" The riders leaned forward and pointed their sabers, the edge facing up as they gave the horses their head and they went full speed across the field, giving a rebel yell. The rebel yell was once described as a mix of fear, anger and exaltation. Although with only six of them, it didn't reach the volume as a true battle line of cavalry soldiers charging across the field. As the riders neared the two watching them, they could hear laughter as well. Hardy had jumped up and was yelling too with a huge grin on his face. As they came to the end of the field, they slowed their horses down and stopped.
They were smiling at each other and were doing a sort of high five by lightly hitting each other's sabers.
Clay looked over at the bleachers and saw Ken and Hardy. He trotted over there and when he stopped he saluted Ken with his saber. Ken returned the salute. "Looked good Clay." The teen smiled. "Thank you, sir." He returned his saber to the scabbard that was attached to his saddle as Ken walked over to his side, running his hand along the horse's neck and petting Hephaestus. "Clay, I just wanted to let you know that I will be off campus for a little while. If there are any problems, talk to Mister Rodriguez."
"Yes, sir." Ken gave Hephaestus one more pat before heading over to let Gabe know that he would be gone and that Gabe was in charge until he returned.
"C'mon Hardy, you can get up behind me and we'll ride over to the stables." Hardy grinned as he went to the left side of the horse. Clay reached down to give him a hand up and moved his foot out of the stirrup. Hardy took Clay's hand, put his foot in the stirrup, and hopped up while Clay pulled him into position behind him. Once he was settled and his arms were around Clay, he turned the horse to the stables.
Ken found Gabe in the learning center in his classroom and told him that he would be off site for a little while. He said goodbye and walked over to Wheeler House to change clothes before leaving campus.
Ken pulled into Floyd's driveway. Floyd opened the front door and called for him to come on in.
"So what brings you here Cap?"
"I've got something to talk to you about."
"Well let's go into my office. Coffee?" Ken nodded and Floyd led the way to the kitchen and filled a couple of mugs and sat them at the kitchen table. "So what do you need? Did you get the supplies from Buford?" Ken nodded. "Yep, thanks for that." Floyd waved at him to forget it. "What I need to talk to you about is what the boys found after picking up the supplies. It appears that Ashwood has built a concentration camp at the old airport." Floyd almost spit out his coffee. "What? A concentration camp?" Ken nodded. "When they described it to me, that's what it sounded like." Floyd was shaking his head. "That motherfuckin' son of a bitch. Someone needs to take him out." He took a sip. "How did the boys find it?" Ken told him what the boys had told him.
"That ain't right. First I think we need to take a look at this place. You up for a quick recce?" Ken nodded. Floyd didn't waste any time. He went into his real office and came back out with his 1911. "You still got the Colt?" Ken nodded. "Good, let's go Cap. I want to take a look at this place." He led the way outside and got in Ken's truck. Ken closed the front door and joined him. He followed the same route the boys had taken, and he pulled over just past the water tower near the airport. He pulled the truck off the road and parked near the trees.
They got out and went into the trees. At the tree line they stopped and looked at the camp. Just as they reached it they heard a motor and crouched down. They saw a Humvee driving along the fence line. They waited until it was out of sight before standing up again. Floyd pulled a small digital camera out of his jacket pocket and began taking pictures of the camp. He headed toward the big building that the boys had mentioned and continued taking pictures. They moved much closer than the boys had, keeping low to the ground. They watched the soldiers. Floyd took a small set of binoculars out of his other jacket pocket and studied the building and the soldiers lounging outside for a few minutes.
He motioned for them to move back and when they got back to the original place, he began scanning the compound with the binoculars. He watched the Humvee as it circled the camp. He handed them over to Ken, so that he could look for himself. Floyd leaned close to Ken before saying anything. "You said they were holding the young kids as hostages in that big building on this end?" Ken nodded. "I think so."
"You're right, this is some sort of concentration or internment camp. Those are just ordinary folks, not hardened criminals or even prisoners of war. Those soldiers are definitely not our soldiers. I think they are South American, maybe Argentina or one of those countries. Their uniforms look familiar. I worked asa trainer for officers and NCOs from other countries at one time. Remember what Frank said about Ashwood's possible ties with those countries. It looks like he's brought some of his friends from down south here to help him fight Bryce. I think I've seen enough for now. Let's get out of here." Ken nodded and the two men back tracked to the truck and headed back to Floyd's house.
They sat in the kitchen with another cup of coffee. "I want to see if we can get closer. I want us to go in tonight after midnight and get up close. Maybe look in the windows of that building that seems to be their headquarters. I want to see what kind of guards they have and how many are on guard. I wish we could get inside the camp and look at the building with the children, but I don't know if that fence is electrified or not. It looks kind of flimsy, so they might have done that just in case, although I'm pretty sure with the kids as hostages, they may not need it to be too strong to keep the adults under control."
"Okay, so when do you want me here?" Floyd thought about it. "Midnight should be fine. It'll just take a few minutes to get there." Ken got up. "Okay see you tonight." Floyd walked him out and they shook hands.
Ken drove back to the academy lost in thought. He decided to keep tonight's activities to himself. Back at his quarters he went to his room and made sure he had some dark clothes to wear. Once he had everything he would need, he headed over to Pettus Hall to join the cadets for dinner.
After dinner he asked Father Lafferty, Gabe and William to come over to Wheeler House for a meeting. He laid out everything that the boys and he had learned. When he told them that he was going out there tonight with Floyd, Gabe wanted to come along. Ken thought about it for a moment and then nodded. Having another soldier along could be helpful. The other two said that they would keep an eye on the boys while they were gone. When the meeting broke up, he told Gabe to dress in dark clothing and meet back here at the house by 2345. Ken walked back with them to say goodnight to the boys and spend some time with them, to make sure everything was going okay before he headed back to his quarters.
Just before 2345, Gabe showed up in a black sweatshirt and jeans wearing a black stocking cap. Ken was already dressed and they left immediately. So as not to worry the boys on guard, they drove away with the lights off until they reached the road and turned right. There was no traffic on the roads. Small towns like this were pretty much closed at this time of night and with everything that was going on, it seemed more empty than normal.
At Floyd's house Gabe was greeted with a smile. Floyd was dressed in a black sweatshirt, jeans and a black ball cap, when he answered the door. He invited them in the house. "Good to have you with us Sergeant." Gabe returned the smile with one of his own. "Thank you, Sergeant Major." Floyd clapped him on the shoulder. "Call me Floyd, son. Wait here just a moment." Floyd went to his office and returned a moment later with a holstered pistol and belt that he handed to Gabe. "I know you younger guys are used to these Beretta's." He said as he handed him an M9. "I don't expect us to have any trouble but you never know. It's better to be prepared and not need it, then to not be prepared and need it." He waited while Gabe put on the belt. "Okay, you boys ready?" They nodded. "Then let's go." Floyd led them to his garage where he had a dark colored Suburban parked. He gestured for them to get in and they were on their way.
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