Copyright © 2015 by Eric Aune and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
There was silence as Cole drove to his grandparent's house. One thing that they did notice was that there seemed to be more cars on the road than had been on Friday. Other than what they knew was going on around here, it seemed like a typical November Saturday afternoon. They also noticed one thing that was not normal as they passed under I 40, they saw some army trucks heading to the north on the interstate. Cole frowned at that, but kept his thoughts to himself. A few minutes later, he pulled up in front of his grandparent's home. The three boys went up to the door and it opened for them. Dwayne was standing there. He looked curious as he saw Danny standing with his grandsons. His eyes flicked to Cole's truck before waving them inside. He shut the door and turned to face them.
"I'm guessing this isn't exactly a social call."
"No sir. There's a lot that I have to talk to you about." Dwayne nodded and led them to the living room. "I'll be right back." He left the room and returned a few moments later with Tyler and his parents. Danny smiled when he saw Tyler, but Cooper's grin was even bigger. "Tyler." Tyler nodded. "Hey Danny. What brings you here."
"That's what we're here to talk to you about." He looked at Dwayne. "Grandpa, you're about to have several visitors. Let me explain." For the next hour Cole explained everything that they had learned from Mister Woods and all about the plan to get the people to safety. When he was done, he looked expectantly at his grandfather. Dwayne listened as Cole explained everything, not saying a thing. He looked at his two grandsons for several moments before sitting up.
"Okay it looks like we have some preparations to make." Cole let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding and let a relieved smile come to his face. Dwayne gave him a little smile and wink. "You say that the others will be arriving here soon?" The three boys nodded. "Okay. First thing we need to do is get everything out of your truck and stored in the garage. Once that's done, we'll move your truck up to the storage shed and get it hidden."
Tyler, Grant and Damon stood up to help, but Dwayne shook his head. "You boys need to stay out of sight. We want to make sure no one sees you. Danny, you stay in here as well. The less anyone sees you, the better. Let's get this done."
They went outside and Cole backed the truck into the garage when the door opened up. They stacked all of the equipment in the back of the garage. Once they were done, Cooper was sent inside while they stored the truck. Instead of driving back to the road, Dwayne directed him to drive around the back of the house and cut across a short bit of dirt and grass to intersect the road that led up the hill behind the house, where the storage building was located. He told Cole that doing this would keep people from seeing them because the trees on the property screened them from view.
When they arrived at the storage building, they had to first remove all the stuff that they had piled around the hidden car so that they could put the truck in there. Dwayne had Cole pull another couple of large tarps from the shelves to cover everything. When they were finished, both of them were covered in dirt and dust from the tarps.
They walked back down the road, and went into the house through the backdoor. When Cora saw them, she directed them both to clean up. Cole asked his brother to bring his backpack from the garage so that he could get some clean clothes out of it.
While they were cleaning up, the first of the guests arrived. It was the Assistant Scoutmaster, Barry Pickens, and his son Michael. Cora greeted them, and opened a small storage shed near the driveway for them to store the bikes that they had ridden over. Cole and Dwayne soon joined them. Cole introduced them to Dwayne. Over the next half hour, the rest of the boys showed up. Each of them stowed their bikes in the shed nearby, to keep them safe for when they returned. With everyone here now they were only waiting for the 'passengers' to arrive.
Cora made sure everyone had something to drink, and put out some cookies for them to snack on, while they waited. A short time later there was a knock on the door. Dwayne got up to answer it. Standing in the door was a young man in his mid to late twenties, wearing a bike helmet and gloves. He had a small pack on his back, and sitting behind him on its kickstand, was a nice mountain bike. He had a nervous smile on his face.
"Can I help you?"
"Um, my name is Patrick Green. I'm supposed to ask for, a, uh, woman called Moses?" Dwayne held his hand up for a moment. "Wait just a sec." He pushed the door closed and waved his hand to get Cole's attention. "Cole, do you know something about a woman called Moses." Cole smiled and nodded. "That was the signal phrase that Mister Woods told our 'passengers' were to say to us, so that we would know it was them. It was the name that Harriet Tubman was called when she was helping slaves escape to the north."
Dwayne nodded and turned back to the door to open it. Patrick was still standing there, but he looked a little more nervous that he had been before. Dwayne held out his hand. "Welcome to my home Patrick. Let's put your bike away, and you can come in and meet the others."
Patrick let out a sigh of relief, and followed Dwayne over to the storage shed. By this time, there were so many bikes stored inside the shed that it was getting more difficult to put too many more inside. As Patrick entered the house he was greeted.
"Pat, thank God you made it." Pat looked over toward the person who called him and saw Grant walking over to him with his hand out. He smiled. "Hey Grant. It's good to see you." The two men hugged and Grant led Pat into the living room where Damon came over to him and gave him a hug in greeting as well. "We're so happy you're here with us Pat. We were pretty worried." Pat looked around the room and saw all the boys there. "What is this all about Grant?"
"I'm going to let the leader of this expedition explain." Pat glanced at him with a furrowed brow. "Expedition?" Grant nodded and guided Pat into the living room to have a seat. He looked at Cole. "Um, I'd prefer to wait for any others before I explain anything, so that I don't have to repeat it." Grant nodded and they found a seat for Pat.
Moments later, they heard a vehicle drive up and stop in the driveway. Everyone looked at the front door as Dwayne walked over to the window and twitched the curtain aside to look out the window. When he turned back he was shaking his head with a look of disbelief on his face. He went over to the front door and opened it. There were four people standing around an SUV that had its motor running. To Dwayne, it appeared to be a family. A man with his wife and two kids, one a teenage girl and the other a boy about ten or so. All of them were holding onto some nice rolling suitcases. The boy and the girl each had a school backpack that they were wearing as well. The family was all facing the SUV, and the man was talking to the person in the driver's seat. When the front door opened, the family turned to face Dwayne. The wife reached into her purse and pulled out a sheet of paper and looked at it. She had a curious look on her face as she walked over to Dwayne.
"Hi. This may sound a little strange, but we're looking for a woman named Moses?"
Dwayne smiled and nodded as he put his hand out. She shook it and drew him to the SUV. She looked at the driver and nodded. "I think we're okay Gabe." The man in the SUV nodded, and started to put the vehicle in gear and leave. Dwayne held up his hand. "Wait a moment." He looked at the driver. "Gabe is it?" The man nodded. "There's something you need to know that is very important. No one must know that you brought these people to this place." The man glanced at the people he had just dropped off and looked concerned. "Why, what's going on?"
"Trust me, the less you know the better. Let's just say that no one should learn that they are here." The driver looked at the lady. "Sis, what's going on?" She looked at Dwayne with concern as well for a few moments before giving the driver a small smile. "I…I don't know, but….I think it's okay Gabe."
Dwayne nodded, now he could see the resemblance between the two. He looked at Gabe and smiled. "Don't worry Gabe, your sister is safe and I'm going to see that she stays that way. Gabe looked at Dwayne and didn't see any deception so he nodded. "Can I ask what's going on?' Dwayne shook his head. "'Fraid not. The less you know the better. All I can ask you, is that you tell no one about bringing them here. Can you do that for me son?"
Gabe looked at him and nodded. "Yes sir." He looked at his sister. "I'll see you Sis. Take care of yourself." She nodded and leaned into the window to give him a peck on the cheek. Her husband shook hands with Gabe and they all stepped back as he turned around and drove back down the driveway. "C'mon let's get you folks inside."
Dwayne ushered them into the house. He looked back toward the road before he closed the door. Inside there was a little bit of a reunion between the lady and Damon. Damon was bringing them into the living room that was now pretty full of people. "Everyone this is my friend and colleague Elise Tuttle. Her husband Brad and their two children, Amy and Nicholas." She looked at everyone gathered in the room and turned to Damon. "Okay Damon what's going on? This note that was delivered to us said that we could be in danger and that we were to come here. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I went along with it, because your name was on the note."
"I understand Elise. Let's find you a seat and we'll explain everything. Please just bear with us a little bit and everything will be clear." She looked at him a few moments. She could see that he was concerned so she nodded and he helped her find a place to sit with her family. The Scouts got off one of the couches and found spots on the floor, so that the family could sit down. Damon turned to Cole. "Are there anymore expected or is this it?"
"I think this is it Mister Grayson." Cole looked at everyone for a few moments. "Hi. I know that the notes you got were a bit mysterious, but they needed to be so that certain people didn't get much information from them if they saw them. We told you to come here, because we don't think your homes are safe any longer." There were several looks of shock from the newcomers and the questions started. Cole held up his hands. "Please just give me a few minutes and I'll explain it all." The room quieted down a little and he began to speak.
For the next half hour he explained everything that they had learned about what was really going on. As he continued with his explanation, the newcomers' looks could only be described as stunned. There was a lot that Tyler and his dads hadn't heard yet and the revelation of what was happening affected them as well. At the end, Elise looked at Damon. "Is this true Damon?" He nodded. "Elise. You and Pat are the only ones from a list that I put together that made it here. I don't know what happened to the others, maybe they got out of here or…..I just don't know."
"I saw one of the people on the list being taken from their home in handcuffs." They looked at Danny. "In handcuffs?" Danny nodded. "Yes sir. I was going to their house to deliver the first note and I saw them in handcuffs and they were being put into a car and driven away. I turned around when I saw that and headed back home. There was another house that looked like a fight or something had happened inside and the house was empty. The front door wasn't even closed all the way."
Damon looked at their two other friends. "When I heard what that bigoted idiot Campbell and some of his cronies were planning, I knew I had to warn my friends, and some of my colleagues. Because you are part of the local ACLU office, I figured they would be after you." He pointed at Noah. "Noah there saw men in an unmarked car, watching our house. I can only hope that the rest of our friends got away before they were 'arrested'. He made air quotes as he said that.
"So you believe that we would be subjected to this as well." Damon along with several others in the room nodded. "And it is under the orders of that bigoted blowhard?"
"Yes, but under Ashwood's directives to his supporters in the area. With martial law in effect, he has control. We plan on going to the west. Bryce has control on the other side of the Mississippi and if we can get there we should be safe."
"Okay, then. How do we get there?" Damon pointed at Cole. "That's where Cole and his friends come in. Cole, the floor is yours."
Cole rubbed his hands together and began to explain the Underground Railroad concept. He explained to them that the first stage of the journey would be a short hike, starting early tomorrow morning. From there it would be a mixture of hiking and hopefully some rides as well. The plan was to confirm the arrangements as they went, to make sure they were set for anyone else that needed to make the trip at a later date.
After she heard what was being planned, Elise spoke up. "My idea of camping is a Motel 6. I don't know anything about backpacking."
"Don't worry Ma'am, my Scouts and I will help you. We shouldn't be doing anything rugged. It will mostly be walking, while carrying a little extra weight on our backs. Those of us that can, will carry the heavier stuff. We'll do what we can to make your pack as light as we can. We just have to make sure that you only carry what you need and nothing else."
"I'll have a place to hide your suitcases, since you won't be able to take them on the trip. They won't work well." Elise looked at Dwayne and nodded. "It's hard to believe, but okay. I guess we have no choice but to go. I don't want to end up under the control of that idiot Campbell, or the person he appears to be working for, Congressman Gallivan."
"We've got the extra packs for all of you. I'll get 'em and you can pack them. Just remember whatever you pack, you'll have to carry, so take what you think you'll really need and nothing else. Anything else, you can leave here with my Grandpa and he'll hold it for you." Pat and the Tuttles nodded. Cole pointed at a couple of the Scouts. "Can you guys go and pick out some backpacks for them." He looked at Nicholas. "I don't think we have one small enough for Nick, but we'll figure something out. Maybe your mom or dad can carry some extra things for you and you carry as much as you can in your school backpack there." Nick nodded and looked at his parents who nodded as well. Cole smiled at the younger boy. Nick realized he liked be called Nick instead of Nicholas. It made him sound more grown up.
"While the boys are getting you some packs, why don't I show you where you can sleep tonight? The boys can bunk in Cole and Cooper's room." The new arrivals followed Dwayne to the guest rooms. With everyone here, it was pretty crowded now.
The Scouts delivered the packs to their 'passengers' and they proceeded to decide what to pack and what to leave in the suitcases. The boys helped them adjust the backpacks to fit them. As they added things, they would try on the pack to feel how heavy it was. When they were finished, Mister Pickens and Cole checked them again. At that point they let them know that they would need to carry two Nalgene bottles of water as well. Cole filled a couple of them up and added it to their packs, so that they could feel the extra weight. That caused a little repacking and a few more items were left in the suitcases. Once they were satisfied that they were carrying what they needed, Dwayne took charge of the suitcases.
Cora, with the help of Damon and Grant, started cooking dinner for everyone. Dwayne had Cole get some folding tables and chairs out of the garage. He marshaled his Scouts to set them up. Dwayne directed the boys to where he wanted things. There were now seventeen people in the house. The house was good sized, but it was getting a bit crowded. The adults and the two oldest Scouts, Cole, Harlan and Amy, sat at the dining room table, while the younger kids sat at the folding tables.
Dinner was beef stew. The new adults asked Cole for more info about what was going on in the country, since he mostly skimmed over everything, as they ate. Elise and Brad again expressed concern about the hiking that would be required. Cole told them that the Scouts would do what they could to help them, he made sure that they understood that it wouldn't be easy, but they would take the easiest path that they could. It was just something that had to be done, so that they could get to safety. He also reminded them, that they may be able to get rides at some points.
After dinner, some games were brought out to give the kids something to do. Cole talked to his grandparents about the note that he had left for their parents. So that they would be prepared when their parents came looking for them. He hoped that it would keep them from looking for them for a day or two and give them a good head start. Dwayne knew that at some point, his son and daughter-in-law would come by to see if the boys were there. He told Cole that he would tell them that he hadn't seen the boys. That might give the boys an extra day or two. They knew that eventually their parents would probably say something to Campbell, but they didn't know if that meant anything. So they decided to just cross their fingers and hope for the best. Maybe they'd be safely across the Mississippi before they started a concerted search.
Around eight pm, Barry Pickens suggested that it might be a good idea to get to bed early, tomorrow would be an early start and a long day. They needed to get plenty of sleep. Sleeping bags and pads were laid out everywhere. Many of the boys, including Nick, camped out in Cole and Cooper's room. It was a little cramped but, they made it work. Nick was beaming, getting to sleep in a sleeping bag for the first time ever and he got to bunk in with the older boys. To him, this was kind of an adventure and although he had heard what was going on, about kids being hurt and all, and was a little scared, he still was looking forward to it. In his imagination it was going to be like Davy Crockett hiking through the woods and camping out. Elise and Amy had the guest room, which Damon and Grant had willingly given up, so that the two could be comfortable. The men camped out in the living room, some on the floor, and some on the two couches. Dwayne made the rounds to make sure everyone was settled, before joining his wife.
"We'll need to get up a little early to make sure they all have a good breakfast before they hit the trail. I've set the alarm for four." Dwayne nodded as he prepared for bed. "Dwayne, I'm worried. Is this the best thing for the boys to do?" Dwayne sat on his side of the bed silently. "I hope so dear. Knowing that asshole Campbell, Cooper is right, he won't be safe. It would be best to get the boys to safety. If I thought it would help, I'd drive them there myself, but with everything going on, I think staying to the back roads and hiking cross country as much as they can, will give them a little advantage." Dwayne stopped and laid down next his wife. She scooted over and he held her. "I just don't know for sure Cora, but I think it will be safer for him to get to the west for now. They'll be back. Don't you worry. If they stay away from the towns and off the main roads, they should be able to keep out of sight for the most part. They'll make it. I have faith in them." He gave his wife a kiss goodnight and they both tried to get to sleep.
At four thirty, Dwayne knocked on the boys' door to get them moving. There were some groans, but with Cole pushing them, the boys began to get out of their sleeping bags, and get ready for the day. Everyone was encouraged to take a short shower, as it was liable to be the last for a few days. Luckily when his grandfather built the house, he made sure it had a big water heater put in. One or two of them doubled up to save water. Well some of the couples did anyway, including Tyler and Cooper who were blushing a bit about it and getting some teasing from the other boys. After cleaning up, sleeping bags and pads were rolled up and readied to be attached to the backpacks.
The smell of bacon drew everyone to the dining room. The seating arrangements were the same as the night before. There were platters of eggs, bacon, grits, and toast. There was milk, and a couple different types of juice to drink, along with coffee or tea for the adults. To make the cleanup easier, Cora had brought out the picnic supplies, paper plates, and plastic forks and cups.
As the boys finished up with breakfast, Cole had some of them get all the Nalgene bottles together and fill them. The other boys were asked to get all the backpacks together and make sure the sleeping bags and pads were attached to them. Cole had Cooper attach the sleeping bag and pad that Nicholas had used to his pack. He'd carry the extra weight for the younger boy.
Once all the preparations were complete, there was a flurry of activity as Cole and Barry supervised everyone getting their packs on and adjusted. Elise, Brad and Amy all groaned a bit as they felt the weight settle. Although it wasn't bad, they felt weight on their shoulders at first, but once the packs were adjusted properly they felt the weight lifted off their shoulders and the packs were more comfortable. For Nick, Cole remembered he had a small hiking pack in his grandparent's garage that he used to use for day hikes when he was younger. It was good enough for short trips when he didn't need to carry a sleeping bag. The pack was similar to the type of pack that Nick used for school. Although it was a bit bigger and could hold more that his small pack had held. It also had some features that a backpack had, like a waist belt and chest strap. The belt and straps helped adjust the weight so that Nick could more easily carry some of his own weight. There was just the hint of dawn as they went out the back door and gathered behind the house.
"I know this might be a little tough on those who have never backpacked. We will take our time, but we will be trying to make it to each new stop, each day. It's possible we may have to stop and camp out, if we can't make it to the next station. We have tents packed, so we will have shelter if we need to camp in the woods. Everyone will have to double up in the tents. I don't know what we will find along the way, but we will try to make it as comfortable as we can. Tonight's stop is about seven miles away. However, that is as the crow flies. We will be traveling in as straight a line as we can, but I know it will be longer because the path won't be straight. We'll take breaks from time to time, depending on how you folks do. All of us Scouts have gone backpacking together so I know how far we can go in a day. Just remember we are here to help you. One important thing to remember is that your feet are your most important tool right now. If you feel a sore spot on any part of your feet, we call it a hot spot, let us know right away and we'll check it out. You are going to be depending on your feet for the next several days. We think it will take us about eight to ten days to make it to the river. Any questions?"
Cole looked at them and no one said anything. He nodded and turned to his grandparents. "Thanks for everything and for helping us. Cooper and I will be back as soon as we can. I just don't know when that will be." Cora came over and hugged her grandsons, dabbing at her eyes with her apron when she stepped back. Dwayne looked at his wife. "I'm going to walk with them to the start of the trail dear. See you in a little while." She nodded and turned to go back inside.
Dwayne looked at his grandsons. "We should get going." Cole nodded and turned to the group and waved his hand as they started off. Dwayne walked next to his grandsons as they left from behind the house, and then to the road that led to the storage building, where the vehicles were hidden. It didn't take them long to get to the building. Dwayne showed them a trail at the back of the building.
"Take this trail. It will go mainly north for about half a mile before turning to the west. That will get you around the houses that are in the valley on the other side of this small ridge. There will be houses to the south of you as you head west, stay on the trails that keep you north of them. Let me see your map." Cole pulled it out and Dwayne took a few moments to look at it. He saw where the next stop was located and nodded. He pointed to several points on the map.
"Use the long valleys here to make it easier for the others so you're not climbing up and down the ridges all day. You'll need to zig zag a bit but you should be able to go fairly straight from here to the next stop. There are only a couple of bigger roads to watch out for, Pond Creek Road and Sam's Creek Road. Not sure how busy they will be with all this martial law idiocy going on. But make sure you cross them where no one can see you. There will probably be some fence lines to cross, but you'll be fine. Remember, if you go through someone's field gate, close it behind you and make sure it's latched tight. Be a good neighbor."
Cole folded the map back up and slid it into the leg pocket of his pants. The three Andersons looked at each other for a moment and then Dwayne held out his hand. "Good luck boys. Be safe and get back here as soon as you can." Cole shook his hand and then hugged him. Cooper did the same. The boys both had tears in their eyes, and they wiped them away quickly. "We will Grandpa. Thanks for everything. We'll see ya."
Cole turned to the group and waved his hand for them to follow him. Cooper dropped back to walk with Tyler as his brother led them off just as the sun was starting to rise behind them. Barry went to the back of the line to be the sweep.
Dwayne waved and said good luck to everyone as they passed by. Once they were out of sight, he turned and slowly walked back home, in his hand was his handkerchief that he used to wipe his eyes, before stuffing it back into his back pocket.
The trail was clear to follow, so Cole had no problem leading the group. When they started, there was just enough light to see by and it grew brighter as they hiked. They were on a ridge and could see down through the trees to the left where the houses that his grandfather told him about were located. Before too long they were at the fork in the trail. Since they had some newbies with them, he called a short five minute halt so that people could adjust packs, tie shoelaces, etc. Once everyone was set, he told them that they would be taking a five minute pack on break every hour and a fifteen minute pack off break every two hours. He again reminded them to be aware of their feet. If they started getting sore spots, let one of the Scouts know and they would stop and check the person's feet to make sure they weren't getting a blister. Everyone nodded their understanding.
"Is anyone not ready?" He got some looks from the newbies, so he explained that after every break, his troop had always asked if people were not ready. It always seemed to work better than, asking if everyone was ready, so that was what they asked after each break. When he asked them again, no one said anything, so he nodded and started off.
It was quiet compared to a city or town of course. They could occasionally hear the faint noises of civilization, such as a vehicle driving on the main road that was only about half a mile away. Mostly it was quiet, except for the sounds of nature, the wind in the trees, and small animals scurrying around in the woods that surrounded them. The temperature was cool, not cold, as they hiked. The effort of hiking kept them warmed up. Cole stopped at each fork to make sure everyone was with them before continuing on the trail.
At the hour halt, he pulled out his compass and looked at the map, to make sure they were going the right way. When he finished he nodded in satisfaction as he put the map back in his pocket. At the two hour break, he made sure everyone removed their pack and found a place to sit and relax a bit. He also made sure everyone had an energy bar and plenty of water. Everyone deferred to him and gave him no problems. Some of the newbies groaned a little due to using muscles unaccustomed to the work they were doing today, but no real complaints. Nick was looking at it all as a big adventure and was holding up well. Elise and Amy were having the hardest time. Brad was doing okay as was Patrick. Tyler's dads had no trouble as they had done quite a bit of backpacking and had joined the troop on a few outings.
Soon after their second hour stop they came to the first big road that they had to cross, Pond Creek Road. The trail came down near a couple of houses, so they had to be careful that they weren't seen. They had to go back among the trees a bit to remain unseen, as they made their way down to the road. Luckily there was no traffic on the road and they were able to cross without rushing. There was no trail right where they crossed. Cole checked the map and saw a trail around the north side of the ridge that was next to the road. They stayed out of sight among the trees as they paralleled the road. Once at the north end of the ridge, he found the trail he was looking for. It was near a small group of houses at the north end of the ridge where it came down into the small valley. He cautioned everyone to keep as quiet as they could until they were out of sight of the houses.
Once past the houses they were able to continue as normal. Thirty minutes later they were getting into an area where there were more houses. Although the houses were scattered, they were still more numerous, because they were now just a bit north of the town of Pegram. They were still able to make their way around them. Sometimes they had to leave the trail and cut their own path, to stay out of anyone's sight. They had to be more careful since they weren't on the trail and the footing was at times a little more tangled, but they were able to make their way through it.
They finally made it to an area of the forest that had been cut back so that transmission lines and towers could be built. It was about one hundred and fifty yards across and anyone crossing could be easily seen. It looked like someone had just bulldozed a one hundred and fifty yard wide strip through the forest. Cole called a lunch break as he had determined that they were about halfway to the next station. He told them that they would take an hour break for lunch. He pulled out of his pack a large brown bag of sandwiches that his grandmother had prepared for all of them and given him that morning to take with them. Cooper pulled out another bag that held apples for everyone.
As he ate, Cole had his map out and was checking nearby landmarks to verify where they were. Danny and Barry Pickens joined him, so that they could compare notes on the path that they had followed so far. Cole noted the roads that cut through the area and he could tell that they would have to zigzag a bit to get around the houses that were on those roads. He wanted to make sure he didn't head too far to the south, which would bring the group closer to civilization. The town of Pegram was just a little south and west of their present location. Their destination was west and just a bit north of Pegram, just off State Highway 1.
Cole made a couple of marks on his map and pointed them out on Danny's map, so that he could make note of them on his map as well. They had decided on having at least two maps that were readily available during the hike. Barry also had a map in his pack, but they had decided that they would update his map every evening when they stopped.
At the end of the hour he started calling for everyone to get their packs on and get ready to leave. The Scouts went around making sure that everyone was ready to go, packs in place and properly adjusted. Several of the Scouts had removed hiking poles from where they were strapped to their packs and gave them to their 'passengers' who had never backpacked before. Cole apologized about not thinking about it earlier and explained that the poles really did help you hike, even if the terrain was flat. Cole adjusted his for Amy and made sure she was comfortable with them, before overseeing the Scouts that were helping the others. She gave him a grateful smile. They helped those that were using them to adjust them to the correct height and when Cole looked them over he nodded in satisfaction. "Is anyone not ready?" He paused to listen and then with a smile of encouragement, he led the way.
There were three large transmission towers, just to the south of them and they could see a dirt road entering the open area from the east. Other than that, they saw no one, so Cole led the way into the open area. He was tempted to jog across the open area, but he hoped that if anyone saw them, they would think that they were just a group of hikers and not think much of it. If someone saw a bunch of people running, they might remember them more easily. Once Cole had made it to the other side he turned and waited at the edge of the forest as the others crossed the open area. He wanted to watch to see if anyone had seen them cross. He hoped that since it was Sunday, there wouldn't be a lot of people about. He didn't see anyone so he moved to the front of the group and led them along the edge of the forest. He had noted a series of low areas on his map just a little south of them that appeared to have been cultivated, which would make it easier for those that hadn't hiked before. No climbing up and down ridges for a little while anyway.
He led them to the low spot, between the low ridges, and they had to skirt a house that was right near the opening. It probably belonged to whoever was cultivating at least some of the areas ahead. He gave the house a wide berth and beyond it they came to the fields. They stayed in the valley, walking within sight of the fields. The valley turned north and after consulting his map, Cole continued to follow the line of fields. Where the fields ended they came upon a small river and walked along a narrow trail that paralleled the river to the west.
The trail led to a paved road. After a quick check of the map, Cole led the way inside the tree line beside the road. It ended at Sam's Creek Road AKA Highway 249. Cole held everybody back while he checked both ways on the road. He had Cooper and Noah move up and down the road as road guards to let them know if any cars were coming and he waved everyone else across the road. The Ashwood imposed martial law appeared to be keeping a lot of traffic off the road, so they were able to quickly cross the two lane highway and once again get under the trees and out of sight.
Once they were in the trees, he checked the map and found that they were getting close to the end of the day's journey. It was approximately a couple of more miles to their stop for the night. He was getting a bit nervous about it, because he didn't know for certain if everything was arranged as they hoped. There was no help for it, time would tell if all was well.
Five minutes later, it was time to continue so he got everyone ready to move. He checked his watch and saw that it was around three, so he knew they would have to move a little bit, to make sure that they reached their destination before it got too dark. He told everyone that he was going to pick up the pace a little as it was getting late and he wanted to make sure that they made it to the stop by the time it got dark. There were a couple of groans from the first time hikers.
"I know you folks are pretty tired, we'll have probably hiked about ten miles by the time we stop. I know it seems longer, but you guys have been doing great. We'll get there soon and then you can rest. We have plenty of hiking food, so you don't need to worry. I can tell you that you have been burning some extra calories, so you can look at this as a way to lose some extra weight if you have any." He got a few tired smiles from them. "Okay, we should be done in a couple of hours. Let's go."
After making sure everyone was ready to go, he turned and led the way once again. About forty five minutes later they hit a dirt road that made hiking easier on them, as it appeared to be used frequently. While they hiked down the road, everyone kept their ears out for the sound of any vehicles coming near them, so that they could duck into the trees and hide. When they got to the end of the road, they found out why it was used a lot, because it led to another transmission line corridor. Cole checked his map and saw that their destination was just on the other side of the corridor. They crossed under the lines and up a gentle slope. The sun was just starting to go down as they neared the top of the slope. Cole stopped them in the trees when he saw a large rectangular building ahead of them.
Cole dropped his pack and had the others stay behind as he went forward. The large building looked like it had several rooms to it. It looked sort of like a house or apartment building, but it didn't appear to have anyone living in it. There were some outside lights on the building, but other than that, it appeared empty. He saw more lights through the trees to the south of this building and headed that way. He put his hand up to make sure they knew to stay back and he moved through the trees towards the lights. The first building he came to was a large, screened in, round, gazebo like building. It appeared empty to him as he sidled up to it. Since it was dark, he then moved around the round building until he could see a larger t-shaped, two story house just beyond it. This building is the one building that he had seen so far, that appeared to be lived in. He straightened up and walked to the front of the building. As he did he passed a sign that had Chigger Ridge Bed and Breakfast painted on it.
At the door he knocked and it was opened by middle aged lady. "Hello young man, what can I do for you?"
"Ma'am, I'm looking for a woman named Moses." She looked around him for a moment. "I was expecting some more."
"I wanted to make sure that this is the right place Ma'am before I brought them up here." She smiled at him and touched him on the arm. "Well you go ahead and get the others and bring them here." Cole nodded. "Thank you Ma'am, I'll be right back." She smiled at him. "Just come on in, when you get here. I'll leave the door open."
Cole turned and quickly made his way back to where the others waited for him. When he arrived, he retrieved his pack and put it back on. "This is the place." He waved for them to follow him and he headed back to the main house. There was a full porch in the front of the house and he reminded everyone to drop their packs on the porch and wipe their feet as they went inside. He called out to the lady as they entered. "Ma'am, we're all here."
They saw the lady coming into the large living room as they filed into the house. "Well, there are quite a lot of you isn't there. No matter, come on in and relax, I'm just seeing to some food for y'all."
"Is there anything we can do to help you Ma'am?" She looked at Cole and nodded. "I don't mind any help you folks can give me." Damon and Grant said that they would help and she nodded her thanks as she led them farther into the house. The others took a seat in the large living room. There were many tired looking folks, especially those who hadn't hiked before. Elise and Brad, looked to be the most tired. Their two kids were in better shape, probably because they were younger, although Nick was leaning against his mom and looked pretty worn out. She had her arm around him as they sat there. Cole and Barry were looking over the map that Barry was carrying and Barry copied the notes that Cole had put on his map, so that his map matched Cole's and Danny's maps.
Most everyone was just relaxing when the lady came back into the room. "How are you all feeling? I guess it's been kind of a long day for y'all today. My name is Jane Crisp. I own this place." Cole stood up and went over to her. "Thank you Ma'am. My name is Cole Anderson. I'll introduce you to everyone." They shook hands. Cole went around the room and introduced everyone.
"Welcome to Chigger Ridge. It'll be nice to have some folks here. When all this martial law nonsense started, my guests felt it was best to leave, which works out for you folks. When my friend told me about what you folks are doing. I offered to be one of the stops on your path. I understand that the current resident in DC has something against you, which is why you're heading west."
Cole nodded. "Yes Ma'am. Some of these folks were going to be arrested for no reason and put into some sort of concentration camp." Jane shook her head in disgust. "Didn't know about the camp thing, but I'm glad to help. For tonight, I want you folks to just relax. We got some fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn being prepared. While my temporary helpers are in the kitchen giving me a hand, let me show you to your rooms." Everyone started to get up, eliciting a few groans from those not used to hiking. Jane brought them upstairs and assigned rooms to everyone. She grouped the nine boys. Cole and Harlan, Cooper and Tyler, Noah and Danny, Will, Michael and Nick all shared rooms. Amy was given her own room. Her parents and Barry and Pat were given two rooms to themselves. Another room was set aside for Damon and Grant. They filled the place up pretty well.
While dinner was cooking, everyone went out to the porch to get their backpacks and brought them up to their rooms. Cole checked with Jane and found that they had enough time to shower before the meal, since they had been hiking all day and were a bit dirty and sweaty. The hot showers would help ease some of the stiffness in their legs and backs. Jane released her helpers so that they could clean up, and soon everyone was back downstairs in clean clothes, feeling much better.
Jane came out to join them. "Dinner should be ready in about thirty minutes. Can I offer anyone something to drink? I've got quite a variety, including some good Tennessee whiskey for any of you gentlemen and lady. Well the older gentlemen anyway. I have several different wines as well it you would prefer. For you younger folks I have soda, iced tea, juice, milk?"
"If it's okay with you Ma…." Jane waved her hand dismissively. "Call me Jane." Brad nodded. "Jane. If you show me the way, I'll help with the drinks. I know Elise and I would like some wine." He looked at the other adults. "Anyone else?" They all nodded. A couple of the Scouts stood up, to help get drinks for the young people.
Dinner was soon served and they brought their drinks with them to the long dinner table. Jane sat at one end. After they blessed the food, plates were quickly filled and they dug in. After taking several bites, Jane looked at Grant and Damon. "If you guys ever need a job, I'm sure I can use someone with your skills in the kitchen." The two men smiled. "We do like to cook and you have a nice kitchen to work in."
"There was something that I was thinking about. If y'all bring your dirty clothes down, I can get 'em washed up for you."
"You don't have to do that Ma'am, uh, I mean Jane. We can do it, just show me where they are and we'll take care of it. You're doing so much for us now. You don't need to do this for us. We can do it."
"I'll help." Cole looked at Amy who smiled at him, causing him to answer her smile with one of his own. "Okay. After dinner if everyone can bring their clothes downstairs, Amy and I will get them washed up for you." He glanced at her and he felt his cheeks burn a little. He quickly looked down at his plate and took a bite of chicken. Jane noticed and took a drink of wine to cover her smile.
After dinner, the boys cleared the table and under Jane's direction they rinsed everything off and loaded the two large dishwashers. Jane gave Cole a clothes basket and he collected everyone's clothes that needed to be washed. He and Amy were shown to the service porch. It contained two large washers and two large dryers. "You should be able to get everything cleaned in one load for each washer and dryer. She explained the controls and looked at the two teens for a moment. "I'll leave you to it. If you have any problems, just ask." She turned and left them.
They started sorting the clothes and putting them in the washers. Cole reached into the basket and pulled out a couple of items and froze. He looked and saw that he was holding what was obviously Amy's sport bra and panties. His cheeks became hot as he froze for a moment, just a little flustered. "Oh, um…" Amy looked at him and noticed the spots of red on his cheeks. She looked down and saw what he was holding. She let out a little giggle and reached for the two articles of clothing and took them from his hand to put into the washer. Cole was still standing there trying to regain his composure. "Um, sorry, I didn't….." She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. His whole face turned red. "You're cute Cole." She turned and continued to load the washer. She glanced at him. "Aren't you going to put the rest in?" Cole started. "Oh, um, yeah sure." He bent down and began loading the washer up.
Once they had everything in, they started the washers. Amy looked at Cole. "Thank you Cole, for everything. For helping us get out of there and leading us to safety. You're special." She moved up to him to put her arms around his neck in a hug. His heart was pounding as he put his arms around her. They stood like that for a few moments until she pulled back and looked up at him for a moment before leaning in and giving him a quick kiss on the lips. She smiled at him as she left him standing there. Cole turned to watch her with a dreamy look on his face. He shook himself and followed her moments later.
When he returned to the living room, he blushed a little as he glanced at Amy sitting next to her mom. Jane looked up. "Cole I wanted to let you folks know what is happening tomorrow. A friend of mine, the one with the radio who told me about what y'all are doing, will be coming up here in the morning and he's going to help me give you guys a lift most of the way or maybe even all the way, to your next stop. I have a couple of vans, one for hauling supplies and another that holds fifteen passengers that I've used to ferry groups around in. I figure y'all can ride in the passenger van and we'll put your packs in the other one. We figured that it was the best thing for y'all, on the next leg of your trip. There are a lot of towns you'd have to walk around between here and there, and that would add a lot of miles to your hike. So this'll cut that down a mite."
"Thank God." They all looked at Elise. She shrugged, getting some chuckling from the others. "I know a lot of you have done this before, but it's a bit harder than just a walk down the street. I for one will welcome the break. Where are we going next?" Jane looked at Cole. "Do you know Ma'am?" She nodded. He looked at Elise. "It's a farm outside of McEwen." Jane nodded. "It's owned by a brother of my friend with the radio."
Cole looked at the group. "From there we will have to hike to the next place. It may take a couple of days to get there, so we will probably have to camp overnight in the forest. We have enough tents for everyone, so we'll have shelter, and with the sleeping bags we have, everyone should be warm enough. The bags are rated to ten degrees. I'm pretty sure it won't get that cold. Don't worry, we'll make sure you're as comfortable as we can make it, I promise." Elise frowned at that, not really looking forward to sleeping on the ground in a tent, her husband felt much the same way. The others weren't too worried about that.
"Cole is right. It usually gets down into the thirties at night and with those bags, you should be okay. Luckily we haven't gotten any rain for several days. It's been an unusually dry November, so you should be okay. For tonight, just relax and get your rest." She looked around the room and saw that Nick looked to be just about out. She smiled and pointed at him. "It looks like some of you are about ready for bed. His parents looked at him just as his face was split by a huge yawn. Brad smiled at his son. "C'mon buddy. Let's get you to bed." Nick shook his head. "I'm not sleepy." The last word was drawn out a bit by another yawn. Brad chuckled. "Yeah, I can see that." Michael got up. "C'mon Nick, I'll go with you. I'm a little tired myself." Nick looked at the slightly older boy and nodded. "Okay, if you're going, I'll go too."
"Are you coming up Amy?" Amy looked at her parents and glanced at Cole. "I'm going to help Cole finish with the laundry. Then I'll be up." Brad looked at his daughter and glanced at Cole before nodding. "Okay, but don't stay up too late. It's been a long day." She nodded and glanced at Cole, he ducked his head to hide his blush. "I'm going to go outside for a little bit. I'll be right back."
"You okay hon." He looked at Jane and nodded his head as he gave her a smile. "I'm fine Ma'am. I just want to go outside for a little bit, just to wake me up a little so that I can finish the laundry before bed." She nodded knowingly. "Good idea, dear." Cole smiled and headed for the front door. He went outside and walked around the porch to the side of the house and leaned against a support beam by a set of stairs that led to the ground. He was staring across the lawn to the woods near the house. He didn't notice anything until he felt a hand slip into his. He looked to his side and saw that Amy had joined him. He hoped the darkness would hide the blush on his cheeks, but he didn't let go either. He felt her shiver a little and he took a chance to let go of her hand and put his arm across her shoulders. She leaned in a little to share his warmth.
"Cole? Do you know where we're going? I mean after we get across the Mississippi River?" He shook his head. "No, but we don't really have a choice. We'll figure something out. I think Tyler's dads will help Cooper and I. You've got your family. We'll all be okay. I'm sure of it." The two teens stood there together, both thinking about what was ahead of them. After several minutes they heard a call from behind them. "The washers are done kids." Cole let his arm drop and smiled shyly at Amy. She took his hand and the two of them walked back inside. They let go as they entered the house.
A couple of the adults looked up as they entered and headed to the service porch. They transferred the clothes to the dryer and got it started. When they returned to the living room, Amy stifled a yawn and told them that she was going to go to bed. She smiled at Cole as she went upstairs. Someone tapped Cole on the shoulder and he jerked around not realizing he had been staring at the stairs.
It was Barry Pickens who was standing there with a big grin. He ducked his head. "Shut up." Barry as well as the other adults in the room laughed. "Here son. Join us." Barry was holding out a small glass with amber liquid in it." He looked at Barry and Barry offered the small glass. Cole saw that all of the men who were left in the room and Jane were also holding similar glasses. He noticed that the other boys had left the room. Cole took the glass. The adults raised their glasses.
"To our Conductor, Cole Anderson. May all his endeavors be successful." Barry had an amused look on his face, as he raised his glass. "Air Do Slainte!"
They waited until Cole started to lift his glass before lifting theirs and downing the liquid. Cole followed suit a moment later, and then dissolved into a fit of coughing. The others laughed as Barry patted him on the back.
Cole looked at them through teary eyes. "What was that?" Jane smiled. "Just Ol' number seven. Jack Daniels." Cole shook his head as he looked at them and wiped his eyes. "And you guys like this?"
That brought another laugh from the gathered adults. Barry took the glass from Cole after patting him on the back once again. "It's an acquired taste."
Cole shook his head. "I don't think that I wanna acquire it. That's nasty. I think I'm going to get some sleep." They nodded. "Good night buddy. Sleep well."
Before he went upstairs he looked at Barry. "Mister Pickens, what did that mean, Ayear Doe Slancha?" Barry chuckled and in a really bad Scottish accent said. "It be a Scottish drinkin' toast, meaning 'On Your Health' or 'To Your Health', dependin' on who ye ask.
Cole looked at him and quipped. "I thought it meant, "Let's drink this nasty stuff down before we can taste it." They laughed as he climbed the stairs.
In the room he saw that Harlan had already gotten into the large bed in the room and was reading a book. He looked up as Cole entered. "Hey Cole." Cole nodded. "Harlan." Cole undressed and got into the other side of the large bed. He looked at Harlan. "Thanks for coming along on this Harlan." Harlan looked at him and nodded. "I couldn't let my Senior Patrol Leader have all the fun." The two boys shared a quick smile. Harlan put the book down and turned off the light. They turned on their sides and were soon asleep.
That evening at the Anderson house in Belle Meade, Wayne and Evelyn were waiting for the boys to come home before it got dark. Wayne was pacing the floor, getting angrier as the sun went down. The boys' note had said that they had gone to his parents' house on Saturday, but they should have been home by now. It wouldn't do for the son, of someone of his increasing influence, to be arrested for breaking curfew. He wished the phones were working better. He had tried to get a dial tone, but the line was still dead. Doctor Campbell had told them that the service should be restored soon. He thought about driving over to his parent's house and getting the boys. Since as a member of Campbell and Gallivan's inner circle, he would probably be okay. He didn't want to cause any trouble. Tomorrow would be soon enough to go to his parent's house. Hopefully, they stayed there at the house, and would head to school tomorrow morning. He'd check with the school to make sure they were there and then he'd go to his parent's house. He looked at his wife.
"Well if they somehow get home tonight without getting in trouble, they'll both be restricted to the house and school only until their Christmas break and if they have behaved, then I'll lift the restriction. If they get caught out after curfew, I'll let them sit in jail overnight so that they get the message that this is serious. Then I'll ground them until after the New Year, when I get them home tomorrow. Let's eat dear, they can go hungry if they come home tonight." Evelyn nodded her agreement and went to the kitchen to finish getting dinner ready.
Cole woke up to a knock on the door. He blinked his eyes as he looked around the unfamiliar room to get his bearings. He got up and pulled his pants on before going to the door. He opened it and saw Jane standing there. "Good morning Cole. I wanted to let you know that breakfast will be ready in half an hour. Cole smiled . "Thank you Ma'am. Do you need any help?" She shook her head. "No, I have my helpers so we'll be fine. See you in a bit."
Cole shut the door and went over to wake Harlan. He saw that Harlan was already awake. They greeted each other and took turns cleaning up and getting dressed for the day. Once he was dressed Cole went around to the rooms to make sure everyone else was moving. He had to nudge a couple of them, who had gone back to sleep after their wake up call, but everyone soon made it downstairs for breakfast.
Jane let them know that her friend would be by around ten. After breakfast, Cole and Amy went to get the dried clothes and found them all neatly folded up on a table in the service porch. Cole came back out to the living room carrying a stack of clothes with Amy behind him. "Ma'am you didn't have to do this." She smiled and waved them off. "I get up early and didn't mind. So don't you worry about it." The clothes were picked up by their owners and packed away. Meanwhile Jane had the two vans parked out front. As Cole went outside to put his backpack on the porch, he saw Jane removing the magnetic signs that advertised the Bed and Breakfast from the sides of the van.
"Just didn't want to advertise where the vans come from." She said to Cole when she saw him watching her. "Ma'am if you're worried about getting in trouble, don't worry, we can hike there. It'll take a little longer, but we are prepared for it if we have to. You've done so much for us so far." She patted his cheek. "Hush up now dear. I'm not worried, just taking precautions." She walked past him and inside the house to put the signs away. The others began to come out of the house with their packs. Cole directed them to build a pack line on the porch.
A few moments later, they heard a vehicle coming up the driveway. They saw a truck drive up and park nearby. A man got out and came over to where Jane was standing. "Hey Russ, good to see ya." The man, Russ, came over to give Jane a hug. "Heya darlin', how're you doin'?" She lightly slapped his arm. "Wondering why you don't come visit more often." The two of them obviously were good friends. Russ turned to the group. "Which one is Cole?" Cole raised his hand. Russ stepped up to him and shook his hand. "Good to meet ya son. I'm Russ Hayworth. This is a good thing y'all are doing." He turned to Jane. "Well Janie, which van am I drivin'?"
"Drive the passenger van for me, I'll drive the supply van." Russ nodded and looked at the group. "Well if y'all are ready, let's get everything loaded up and get on the road before it gets too much later." Jane handed Russ a set of keys and went inside to grab her purse. Cole had everyone grab their packs and he and a couple of the Scouts loaded them in the back of the van. Jane locked the house and got into the supply van. With sixteen of them, there was just enough room in the van. Russ had Cole ride in the front seat of the passenger van, since he was leading the group.
Once everyone was ready Russ led the way. Cole loaned Jane one of the walkie talkies that the boys had with them, so that they could stay in contact as they drove. Jane and Russ had decided to leave about a mile between them so it didn't look like they were together. Two vans together might arouse suspicion. Whereas two separate vans probably wouldn't. They were being cautious, just in case.
As they pulled onto the highway, they saw that there seemed to be normal traffic for the area. It wasn't that there normally was a lot of traffic, since the area consisted of farms, wilderness areas and small towns. Cole made note of the fact that they probably could have hiked this part of the trip, if they needed to. It would add at least couple of days to the hike and there was the Harpeth River to cross, but with some preparation, they could get across. Maybe Mister Woods, with the help of Jane and Russ, could find someone in the area, that could help them get across the river by a boat, or canoe, or something. It wasn't that big of a river, but still it would be an obstacle to cross. Unless of course, Jane and Russ continued to help, by driving the other groups to the next station. He took his map out and made a couple of notations. Russ noticed what Cole was doing.
"What have you got there?" Cole glanced over. "I'm just making some notes on the map, just in case you and Jane aren't able to give a ride to others that come this way. If that happened, for whatever reason, they would have to hike through here rather than ride." Russ was silent for a few moments. "Do you think you boys will be guiding any others this way?" Cole shrugged. "I don't know for sure, but you know our motto, 'Be Prepared'. I want to make sure that anyone that follows will have every advantage to make it through. We have more Scouts on this trip because it's the first and I wanted to make sure that several of us know the route. Any trips after this will probably be only two or three of us as guides. That way we should always be able to help people get through when they get to us." Russ nodded. "I suppose that's a good idea."
As they passed through the town of White Bluff, they saw an Army truck parked in the parking lot of the City Hall. There were some men dressed in Army uniforms standing near the truck. Cole made another note on his map. "I wonder what that's about?" Russ just shook his head. A few minutes later Cole heard the radio crackle. "Russ, did you guys see the soldiers?" Russ looked at Cole as he picked up the radio. "Yes Ma'am we did." Jane's voice came back a moment later. "I suppose that has to do with Ashwood's martial law. I wonder if there will be one in Dickson too. I think the sooner we get you boys to the next stop the better."
The next stretch of road was also through an area that could be hiked through if necessary. There was the State Park to the south of the highway, with farms on both sides of the highway. Ten minutes later, traffic picked up a little as they neared the town of Dickson. It was one of the largest towns in the area, so Russ had expected that there would be more traffic here. The highway went along the north edge of the town proper, passing the high school. They didn't see any soldiers in that part of town, but since they were on the north edge of the town, they figured that any soldiers would be toward the center of town.
Once on the other side, traffic slacked off and they were able to speed up a little, but Russ made sure he did not exceed any speed limits. It would not be a good idea to be pulled over and have questions asked of them, that they didn't want to answer. The next stretch of highway was again in a sparsely populated area and it would be possible to hike it if necessary. Cole made some more notes on his map as he watched the scenery pass by. The area was mainly farmland. The only built up area was Tennessee City, which wasn't much more than a wide spot in the road. They finally arrived in McEwen.
Russ turned off the highway in about the middle of the town and headed south. They drove through some neighborhoods. The houses began to thin out and they once again were in farm country. The road went from asphalt to dirt. As they drove down the road, Cole checked the notes on the map and then looked at the houses. Russ drove right up to the front of a farmhouse. Over the radio, Cole gave Jane directions to the place.
When they stopped, a man came out of the barn, wiping his hands on a kerchief. He stuffed into his back pocket as he walked over to the van. Russ got out and the man waved, when he recognized his brother. Cole got out and stood next to the front of the van. The two men hugged briefly and Russ pulled his brother over to Cole. "Lloyd, this is Cole Anderson. He's the leader of this expedition." Lloyd shook Cole's hand and smiled. "Welcome to my farm son. How many do you have with you?"
"That's a bunch. Well, we ain't got a lot of room, but I think we can set you up in the barn for the night. That'll probably be warm enough, if you got sleeping bags and such." Cole nodded. "We got plenty of hay, you can lay down to make the ground a bit softer too."
"Thank you sir." Lloyd looked at the van. "Well you might as well get everyone out of there." Cole nodded and waved at the van. The door on the far side opened and people started getting out. By this time Lloyd's wife had come out of the house and headed over to stand with her husband and brother-in-law. Moments later, Jane pulled into the yard. Cole led the Scouts over to her van and began to unload the packs. He had them placed into a pack line beside the van as they were removed. Jane joined the adults as they watched the boys work.
When everything was done, Lloyd introduced his wife, Carolyn. She told them that lunch was ready and they followed her into the house. There were the makings for ham sandwiches on the dining room table and some drinks for everyone. They lined up and soon were scattered around the living room, dining room and kitchen eating lunch.
"Lloyd, as we were coming through White Bluff, we saw a parked Army truck and some soldiers at the City Hall. Didn't see any in Dickson. We were on the north edge of the town, so I suppose they could be in the center of town." Lloyd nodded. "Yep Russ, there's a truck and some soldiers in town. I saw them yesterday when we went to church. They were talking to one of the police officers when we drove by. Don't know if they're staying or passing through."
When they finished lunch, everyone gathered outside to say goodbye to Russ and Jane.
"Thank you for everything Ma'am. You too Sir, this helped us a lot. It would have taken us about three days maybe more to hike here."
"Glad to help son. This ain't right what Ashwood's doing. It ain't American. He's going to find out that if he continues to act like a fool, people are going to dig in their heels and tell him no." They shook his hand and Jane hugged Cole. "Good luck young man. I'll see you when you bring another group. I'll let the ham operator back home know that you made it safe to here." Cole didn't say that this was a one way trip, he just nodded his thanks. Russ and Jane waved as they drove off. Once the vans were gone, Lloyd looked at Cole. "Well I should show you folks where you'll be staying tonight." Cole gathered everyone along the pack line. "Everyone put a hand on your pack and when I say pull, pull your pack out of the line." He watched as they lined up on either side of the line and held onto their pack. "Ready…pull." The line dissolved as the packs were pulled. Lloyd gestured for them to follow him and led them to the barn.
Inside, there were a couple of storage rooms near the entrance, and a long workbench with tools on it, and around it. There was also a tractor with the engine cover open. There were some cows in a few of the stalls on one side of the barn. On the opposite side was a pen with some pigs in it. Elise and Amy wrinkled their nose at the smell. Nick didn't seem to notice it. He was just looking at everything as they followed Lloyd. He'd never been in a barn before and everything looked interesting to him. Lloyd led them to the back of the barn where the hay was stacked up and pointed at the ground nearby. The smell of the hay was more pleasant and overrode the smell of the animal's stalls behind them.
"My boys and I spread some of the hay around here to give you folks a softer spot to lay your sleeping bags. You should be okay tonight. I'll let you folks get settled. If you need anything, I'll be around, come find me."
"Thank you sir." Lloyd smiled at Cole and went back to work on the tractor engine. Cole organized everyone to roll out their sleeping bags and pads on top of the spread out hay. Their packs were leaned against the haystack or the nearby walls out of the way. It didn't take long for everyone to have the bags out and in place ready for the night. Some of the guys decided to look around the farm and asked Lloyd if it would be okay. He had no problem with it, so they went around and looked at everything.
Nick liked the animals, so he went over to the stalls that they were in and tried to get one of the cows to come over to him, by picking up some loose hay and holding it out to the cows. He got a huge grin on his face when he was finally able to get one of them to come to him. While the cow was eating, he petted it on the forehead. Most everyone else went outside to enjoy the fresh air. There were some chairs, and a table and benches under the trees in the farm yard. Cole went over to where Lloyd was working on the tractor. A couple of the adults went over to the farmhouse and asked Carolyn if she could use some help with preparations for dinner.
"Can I give you a hand sir?" Lloyd looked down from the engine compartment and saw Cole standing there. "You know anything about tractors son?" Cole shook his head. "No sir. But I helped my grandpa work on his old Chevy truck a lot. When I got my driver's license, he gave the truck to me." Lloyd motioned with his head, for Cole to join him.
"That's good enough. I'm just doing a little tune up of the engine. I'll welcome the help." Cole joined him and began to assist him. A little while later, they were interrupted. "Hey Dad." Lloyd and Cole both looked up from the engine compartment. They saw a teenager about the same age as Cole. He looked like a younger version of Lloyd.
Lloyd smiled. "Hey Calvin. How was school?"
"Same as always."
"Cal, I'd like you to meet my helper here. Cole Anderson." The teen came over and waited while Cole wiped his hand off with a rag. Cal smiled. "Don't worry about what you've got on your hands. I've had worse." He glanced at the animal stalls as they shook hands and Cole let out a snort. "Yeah I guess so. Nice to meet you Cal." A younger voice intruded on them. "Hey Cal, we got enough guys to play some football. You wanna? Oh hey Dad." Lloyd smiled over at his youngest son. "Hi Adam." He looked at Cole and Cal. "Thanks for the help Cole. I can take it from here. You go on out and play. There's some stuff over on the workbench to clean the grease off your hands. Cal'll show you where it is."
"C'mon. Adam, go tell the others we'll be there in a sec." Adam scampered off. Cal led Cole over to the workbench and showed him the can of cleaner. Cole took a dollop of it in his hand and rubbed the cleaner all over his hands. Cal then took him outside to the side of the barn where he could rinse off with the hose. Cole shook his hands off and then wiped them on his pants before following Cal to the large yard behind the house. He saw that his Scouts and a couple of the men had gathered together and were choosing teams when Cal and Cole joined them. They were added to the teams and the game began.
It was a game of touch football. Well at least a kind of rough game of touch football. Some of the touches were hard enough to send the ball carrier to the ground. Some of the blocks were just as hard, although the adults and older teens were mindful of the smaller and younger boys who were playing and tried not to hit them too hard. Cole saw that besides Cal and Adam, they had another brother named Anthony. He was the middle brother of the three. The yard was filled with the sounds of the boys yelling and laughing. On the sidelines, Elise and Amy got into the fun, playing at being cheerleaders. There was no evidence that they were on the run. They were just having a normal afternoon football game.
The game was finally broken up when Carolyn came out to tell them to get cleaned up. Everyone took turns to wash up in the sinks of the two bathrooms, the kitchen and the service porch. Dinner was a large smoked ham with scalloped potatoes and green beans. They treated it a little like a picnic and used paper plates and plastic utensils. Most of the boys went outside and sat at the bench under the trees, even though it was starting to get a little chilly as the sun was going down.
Everyone helped with the cleanup and then settled in the living room with coffee for the adults and hot chocolate for the kids. "Cole, when we decided to help with this, we were told that the President was doing some pretty bad things and then of course we heard about this martial law and the curfew. Can you tell us a bit more about what's going on?"
"Do you folks have a computer?" Lloyd pointed down the hall. "I've got one in the den and Cal's got a laptop." Cole looked at Cal. "Do you mind getting your laptop and bringing it here? I need to go grab something from my bag." Cal nodded and left the room, while Cole went out to the barn. By the time he returned to the house, Cal had the laptop booted up and waiting. Cole was carrying a small plastic bag. He reached inside, and pulled out the two thumb drives that Evan had given him. He knelt down in front of the coffee table, where the laptop had been placed, and plugged in the first thumb drive.
"This should answer your questions. Everything that you see on here is real." Cole started the press conferences and the video that was on there. When that was done, he changed drives and ran the next videos. He then explained about the prison camps and things like that. When he finished, Carolyn had tears in her eyes. "Those were just kids that were killed in that school. They could have been my boys." Cole nodded gravely. "Yes Ma'am. That's why we're doing this. We're helping get these folks to the west where they'll be safe."
"It's hard to believe that something like that could happen. I'm glad we decided to throw in with you. You can count on us, if you bring anyone else through here. We're with you."
"Thank you sir." Cole leaned over to the laptop and removed the jump drive. "Cole, would you mind copying all that into Cal's computer. There might be some more folks that should see this." Cole put the jump drive back in and let Cal copy the contents into this computer. When the first one was finished he gave him the second one and that was quickly downloaded as well. Cole put both drives back into the small bag he carried them in and stood up. "Sir, we're going to be up early, so I think we'll head out to the barn."
"We'll be up as well. I'm giving you folks a ride to the next stop. I've got my big stake bed truck that I use to haul my crop in for sale. I'm thinking that with you folks helping tomorrow morning, we can line the sides with hay bales so that no one can see inside. We can then put a tarp over the top, you folks climb inside and we'll stack a few more bales at the back. It will look like we're hauling a load of hay in case anyone asks."
"Of course sir, we'll help as much as you need. Thanks, that will help us a lot, otherwise it would probably have taken us a couple of days to hike there." Cole shook Lloyd's hand. "Don't you worry none, we'll get you there safely. For now, if y'all want to clean up, before you head out to the barn, you can use our showers. Although I'd be careful with how long you take, otherwise some of you will be getting cold showers." There were some smiles around and they headed out to the barn.
Amy and Elise were allowed to go first. Most of the others decided to pair up to save water and time, including Nick. He paired up with Michael who was closest to his age. By joining in like this, it made him feel more grown up, although he was a little nervous about being naked with another boy. Michael did what he could to hide his own nervousness, and help the younger boy. All of them made sure that their showers were very short so they wouldn't use all the hot water. Even then, those who were last in the showers got barely warm water. Lloyd and his family said that they would take showers in the morning. They thanked the Hayworth's and headed out to the barn.
In the barn, Cole and a couple of the other Scouts took small electric camp lanterns out of their packs and set them up to give them light. Cole waited until everyone was settled in for the night before he turned off the lanterns and got into his sleeping bag. He lay there looking up at the roof of the barn wondering what was going on back at home.
That morning, at the Anderson house, Wayne and Evelyn got up and got ready for the day. Evelyn looked forward to when Miss Elaine would be back at work. She was going to make breakfast, but Wayne said he'd get something in town later. "I'm going to go into the office, but first I'm going to go over to my parent's and make sure that the boys got off to school in time."
"I may go into the church to see if there is anything that I can do to help. After that I have some errands to take care of before the boys get home from school."
"When they get home, tell them that they are not to go anywhere as I wish to talk to them. I'm going to speak to them about this irresponsibility of being gone without permission." Evelyn nodded her agreement. "I'll tell them. The bible says to honor thy father and mother. They need to understand that following the Lord's word is the way to live."
"I will make sure they understand, don't worry. They may be getting a bit big to spank, but I can make it so that they understand the gravity of disobeying me." He gave his wife a peck on the cheek before grabbing his briefcase and leaving.
He drove directly to his parent's house. As he got out of the car, his dad opened the front door. "Wayne. How nice to see you son. C'mon in." Wayne nodded and followed his father inside. His mom came out and gave him a little smile. "Good morning Son." He hugged his mom. "So what brings you out here this morning?" Wayne looked at his dad. "I came to make sure the boys got off to school on time." Dwayne faked a confused look. "Off to school? I don't understand."
"I thought that since they spent the weekend here and didn't come home last night, which by the way, I'm not very happy about, they would head straight to school. If they stay the weekend, I would prefer that they come home on Sunday night at the latest during the school year. During the summer that's different. But, on a school night... that is unacceptable. And I will be discussing this with them when they get home from school this evening."
"Son?" Wayne stopped talking. "Son, I don't know what you're talking about. We haven't seen the boys since Saturday morning. They stopped by to visit. When they left, they said they were going back home. That was the last time that they were here."
"They didn't stay over on the weekend?"
Dwayne shook his head. "No, as far as I knew, they were at home. That's what they said they were doing. So they're not home? Maybe they stayed at one of their friend's house."
Wayne shook his head. "Coleman's note said that they were staying here for the weekend."
"I don't know what to say, as far as we knew they were home." Wayne pursed his lips and looked down as he thought about it. Dwayne and Cora exchanged glances. "Very well then. It was good to see you both. I'll check with the school when I get to the office. Bye Mom." He hugged his mom. "Bye Dad." He shook his dad's hand. Dwayne walked his son out to his car. He waved as he watched his son turn around and drive off. Back inside he looked at his wife. "Well now it starts. I hope the boys are okay." Cora nodded as she hugged her husband.
Once Wayne got to his office, he immediately called the high school and found out that both of his sons had been marked absent. He thanked the office secretary and gritted his teeth in anger as he tried to figure out what his sons were playing at. They would be very sorry when he next saw them.
On his way home he stopped at Richard Woods house to see if their Scoutmaster had talked to them. Missus Woods answered the door and ushered him inside while she went to get her husband. Richard came in and smiled as he shook Dwayne's hand. "Mister Anderson. How nice to see you. What can I do for you?"
"I stopped by to see if you had any Scout thing going on this weekend." Richard shook his head. "No, why? If I may ask."
"My boys have not been home all weekend. They said that they were visiting their grandparents, but their grandparents haven't seen them since Saturday. I thought that perhaps there had been some Scouting event this weekend, so I came here to check with you. Richard shook his head. "No sir. We didn't have anything this weekend. In fact because of the President's order of Martial Law and the curfew, the Troop Committee thought it would be best if we held off on any meetings of the troop, so that we are in compliance with the law, until after the first of the year."
"That is well thought out. It's good to see our citizen's following the orders of the President. I may have misjudged you. I'm very glad to see that you are showing true leadership to our youth. Thank you Mister Woods." They shook hands and Richard watched at Wayne went back out to his car. "What an ass. Those boys are well shut of him." He shook his head as he closed the door.
When he got home, Evelyn met him at the door. She was obviously angry. "Did you find those boys? They never came home after school." Wayne shook his head. "No. My parents haven't seen them since Saturday. I even checked with their Scoutmaster just in case there was some Scout thing this weekend and he hasn't seen them either. They were also absent from school today."
"Where could they be Wayne?" Wayne shook his head. "I have no idea, but I assure you, they may be getting older, but I'm thinking spare the rod and spoil the child is coming true. When I find them, the first thing I'm going to do is take Coleman's keys for the rest of the school year. He can walk or ride his bike to school. He can have them back this summer, if he does what I expect of him. Both of them are going to be grounded until the New Year. They will stay here and only go to school and church. Perhaps they need to get closer to the church as well, so I think they will be going to bible study for the foreseeable future. That way they will learn the way a good Christian child acts towards his parents. Reverend Campbell will make sure of it." Evelyn agreed wholeheartedly with her husband.