Chapter Seventeen-Meetings and Greetings
Heading south on I-95 it took a few more hours until they reached the South Carolina border; the Humvee’s stopped and turned around while the truck continued on. The weather in South Carolina was warm; spring didn’t know the troubles that the humans were going though, spring only knew that winter was over. It took only a couple more hours of travel for the group to arrive at their destination in Moncks Corner. They drove around the small town to get their bearings and found a nice motel on Lake Moultrie. The Lake Moultrie Motel was perfect for their needs, out of the way and quiet. The group checked into their rooms and Gary off loaded the duffel bag of weapons and clothes.
“Do you want to do anything?” April asked excitedly
“I don’t know, get some dinner or maybe go over to the Wal-Mart and go shopping.”
Gary smiled half-heartedly and knew that he needed to get out of the motel room and do something. “Yeah, let’s find something to eat”
They knocked on Will and Terrie’s door after hearing some rustling around inside they told the two that they were going to go out and poke around for a while and they would meet up in the morning.
Gary and April found a little family run restaurant and took a seat with a view of the lake. “That looks like a good place to go fishing.” Gary paused and looked at April “Maybe in another life that would be a good thing to do.”
“That dream sure screwed you up, didn’t it?” April asked after taking a drink of her ice water
“Terrifying…totally terrifying.” Gary shook at the fear of what the blast did to the town.
“Ruthie said that you would have one more scary dream and that would be all.”
“When did you see Ruthi?” Gary asked
“Last night, before you came up to the room.”
“What did she say?”
“Well, let’s see...she said that you would have one more scary dream and that would be it. She was playing with some dolphins and seals and we went and looked for sea shells, which she called ‘she shells’”
Gary laughed at Ruthie’s words “Man, she sure loved doing that. Everything she found at the beach was a real treasure...what an imagination.”
April paused “She also said that it was ok to wear the ring” April fingered the band on her hand “she said that Cathi was ok with it.”
Gary thought for a moment, he missed his wife and daughter, but the time for those feelings was passing away. “I’m glad” was all he said and he was.
The pair had an excellent southern style dinner complete with hush puppies and sweet iced tea. Afterwards they walked to the local now Chinese owned Wal-Mart and picked up some personal items, and then headed back to the motel. Gary sat on the bed and again was overcome with the dread of the upcoming atomic holocaust coming down on the country.
April looked at Gary and said to him “Gary, before all of this started, did you ever have a bad day at the office?”
“Of, course I did” He answered
“What did you do when you came home?” April didn’t wait for Gays answer as she went into the bathroom and started her shower.
Gary thought for a moment and said through the closed door “I always left that crap at the office…” Gary realized what just happened and smiling he said under his breath “…damn women”
April returned and said “Well? I didn’t hear your answer…” April was standing in the doorway wrapped in a white scratchy motel towel while drying her hair with another.
“You know, for a rent-a-wife…” he didn’t get much further
“Rent-a-wife...” April flew across the room and tackled the sitting Gary, losing both towels in the process
The two laughed and wrestled around before April pinning Gary to the bed said “I remember you telling me ‘that any day you make it through alive, is a good day’, well it looks like we made it through another day.”
Gary was without strength from laughing so hard and April’s dripping hair was hanging in his face “That we did…that we did” Gary paused for a moment to torment her “Hey, you want to see if a baseball game is on TV? Or maybe we could watch a stock car race?” Gary smiled and laughed
April swished her wet hair in Gary’s face, then stopped “TV, huh…”
The cell phone buzzed on Robs belt clip, picking it up he looked and saw it was one of his team “Toland” the Commander answered
“Skippah, JT heah” JT Jefferson, US Navy SEAL had just arrived at Kings Bay. Pausing for a moment to allow the encryption to take effect.
The Commander was at the home of his friend. “Jefferson, who are you with and where are you?”
“Suh, I’m with Williamz and we at the entrance to the base, you know where that purty half sub is, suh.”
“I know where it is Jefferson.” Rob looked at Jack and holding his hand over the mouthpiece “some of my guys are here” Talking back to Jefferson “You two can bunk at the VOQ’s for the night and Jefferson…”
“No fighting with the Marines, understood?”
“Yes suh…oh suh?”
Impatiently “Yes, Jefferson”
“Jes where would the VOQ’s be?” Jefferson waited to hear the response he hoped would follow.
“Jefferson, unless I am mistaken, you ARE a US Navy SEAL, right?” Rob didn’t give Jefferson a chance to answer “So, PLEASE don’t tell me that you cannot find your way around a United States Navy Base!…oh wait a minute Jefferson. The next time we have a war, why don’t we have the enemy hand you a printed set of directions with their location circled in red with a note that says...Jefferson, PLEASE find and shoot me here!” Rob stopped for a moment “is THAT ok with you Jefferson?”
“Yes suh. We’ll see you in the morning, suh.”
Turning to Jack who was in laughing at the dressing down the SEAL just received. “I really love these guys. Jefferson does that to me all the time.” Rob smiled
Jefferson hung up and the SEAL next to him said “Well?”
“He’s in a good mood Williamz, he’s in a good mood.”
“Cornbread, why do you do that to him?” Mark Williams asked
“Cus when the Skippah talks a lot, that means he in a good mood. It’s when he’s quiet that we in for it.” Waiting for a moment “and Williamz, I done tole you a hunnert times about callin me cornbread…it’s JT…John Thomas Jefferson…named after...”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know...named after one of The Founding Fathers.” Williams shook his head at his SEAL brother
“Why don we jes ask one of these purty Marines where the VOQ is. They shoah is purty in their nice little uniforms aint they?” Jefferson paused and continued “The Skippah tole me and you not to fight with dem Marines…today” Jefferson smiled and turned to Williams “He didn’t say nuttin about tomorrow.”
Jefferson and Williams were oil and vinegar as they didn’t mix socially, however even oil and vinegar blend well in a salad…and their salad was war; in which they were masters.
Rob was staying at the Miller’s house until Jack shipped out and as always he wore his .40 SW Heckler & Koch Compact holstered and concealed inside his waistband. Jack was sitting outside on the patio having a drink and smoking a cigar while Lauren was inside at the kitchen table; grading her student’s papers. Lauren finished with her last student and put the papers into a manila folder. Rob wanted to talk with her alone; maybe he could learn something that they were missing.
“Lauren, well how are your students doing this year?”
“I’ve got a pretty good class; there are some smart kids here.”
“How do they compare with the kids you had in Maryland?”
“A lot of the students here are from military families, where back home they were mainly farm kids. There is a big difference in their mind set.”
“You said ‘back home’ is Maryland where you are from?”
“No, I’m from Iowa originally; Maryland reminds me a lot of there with all the farms and small town friendliness. I really enjoyed living there, and miss it. We had this marvelous old farm house, on 25 acres and we were out in the country. Jack was under a lot of stress at the Pentagon, so that house was a real refuge for him.” Lauren had a far away look on her face as she thought about her past home.
Rob’s cell phone buzzed again for the third time this evening “Excuse me, please” Rob looked at the display and saw that it was another member of his team. After speaking to him briefly he hung up.
Lauren knew that something was up, she had that intuition. “Rob, is Jack in danger?”
Rob knew that he couldn’t lie to his friend’s wife, but did not want to get into any speculation about what he knew and mostly what he didn’t know. “Lauren, we were asked to come down here and keep an eye on Jack until he ships out. They just want to make sure he gets underway ok, that’s all.”
Lauren smiled and said “Rob Toland, I’ve known you for a long time, and you’re full of shit.” Lauren and Rob smiled “However, I know that there’s no one better to have around than you Rob…at least that is what Jack says.” Lauren paused “Feel free to make yourself at home, and you can use either of the guest bedrooms as long as you need to, ok?” Lauren got up “I’m going out to tell that new Daddy to be, good night…and good night to you too.”
“Good night Lauren”
The morning came without any fanfare, no dreams no night terrors…it came the way they all should come, quietly.
Gary woke up and felt his pretend wife sleeping next to him. Gary smiled at the pretend wife bit, and got up to shower. When Gary came out, April was up dressed and looked nervous. “Good morning, sleep well?” he asked her.
“I slept very well, and didn’t have any dreams last night. Although the ones I have had lately are with Ruthie and she is so marvelous…I miss having dreams with her in them. I hope that maybe I’ll see her again.” April had a worried look on her face.
“Is there something wrong?” Gary asked
“Well, yes.” April paused momentarily “I don’t know if Mrs. Miller will remember me, and what if Will and Terrie have problems getting back to Maryland, and what if…”
Gary walked over to her and put his finger over her mouth “You’re worrying too much…remember one day at a time, ok?” Gary thought that what she was telling him was what was really on her mind, it wasn’t. Seeing no relief on her face, he sat down next to her on the bed. “So…what’s really on your mind?”
“I’m afraid for us, Gary” April started to tear up
“What do you mean?”
“You wouldn’t understand, it’s a woman thing…just forget about it.”
Gary knew he couldn’t forget about it, or just let it go. “Are you worried about me?”
April nodded yes.
“Are you worried that I might get killed?”
April nodded yes.
“Are you worried about anything else, with me?”
April nodded yes “I’m worried that you might not…might not…”
“Might not, what? Want to be with you after this is over?”
April nodded yes again.
“April, I want nothing more than to get this thing over with and have a good country and home to go back to” Looking at her, and wiping a tear that rolled down her cheek. “April, more than that; I want someone to come home to…do you mind if I hope to come home to you?” Gary paused “To our home?”
April smiled and relieved as she heard what she wanted and hoped to hear, hugged Gary like it was their last day on earth, which it could very well be…they put breakfast on hold for a little while longer.
The door bell rang and the pair were dressing, almost ready to go and in much better spirits. Will and Terrie were at the door “Good morning you two, sleep alright?” Terrie asked
“Oh, yeah” April answered and Terrie noticed something aglow with her friend.
“Let’s go eat. Where is the restaurant that we are supposed to meet that guy…NASCAR Larry?” Will asked
“I think it’s called Connie’s Café in beautiful downtown Moncks Corner. I sure hope Connie’s has good food. I’m starved!” Gary said
They checked out of the motel, loaded up the truck and went into town to find Connie’s Café. Finding it wasn’t very difficult as it was right on Main Street. Parking the truck in front of the café so as to keep it in plain view, the travelers went inside for breakfast. This restaurant was like many others in that it had a coffee counter and a dozen or so booth seats. They chose a booth towards the rear which was facing front. The waitress immediately came and brought a carafe of coffee, which was well appreciated. Everyone placed their orders, with Gary having his heart and stomach set on a real southern style breakfast with eggs, bacon, grits and homemade biscuits with sorghum molasses.
Gary noticed six men over at the end of the coffee counter. These men could be just fishing buddies or they could be who they were to meet. Dressed in various colored ill fitting T-shirts, they all had on well worn base ball hats. Just to be on the safe side, Gary unnoticed to the men, placed the Kimber in his front waist band, with his shirt giving concealment.
The waitress returned with their meals and placing them in front of each said “Here you go, hope you like it.” The waitress with the silky smooth southern accent smiled and left.
Everyone started to dig in, however Gary smelled something that was definitely out of place. “Curry…damn it! These grits have curry in them...I can’t stand that shit” he said to April in a low voice. In a louder voice “Excuse me Miss…” Gary said trying to wave the waitress over. The waitress looked at Gary and then went into the kitchen. Gary looked puzzled and angry at being snubbed. Turning to his friends, “I’ll be back” Gary got up and taking his plate with him went over to the coffee bar. Gary stood at the bar and tried to be pleasant about the obvious mistake.
“What’s wrong Yankee? You don’t like our food?” One of the six men at the end of the counter said.
Gary ignored the comment and again focused his attention to the open kitchen window. “Hello!” saying to the empty window
The man again spoke “You know you Yankees are rude fellas.”
Gary turned to the man “I don’t think this concerns you”
The man got up and in an aggressive tone said “Maybe I’ll make it my concern”
“Look, pal…I just want my breakfast fixed, ok? That’s all…no trouble, alright?”
The large man stepped over to Gary who now knew that he was trying to provoke him into a fight. “I think you need some hep with your manners, Yankee…or is it Blue Hat?”
Gary turned to the man and made two motions, first he thrust the plate of food hard into the mans stomach, which took him by surprise and the second was to quickly remove the Kimber from his waist band, placing the weapons barrel squarely between the mans eyes. The large man stood in front of Gary holding the plate of food and said “I know you ain’t gonna…”
Gary always kept the Kimber in condition one, which is where the hammer is cocked and the slide safety is locked. Gary slid off the slide safety, the metallic click made everyone in the restaurant know that the pistol was ready to fire. “Ain’t gonna...what?” Gary said
One of the other men in the group spoke up “Alright Jimmy, that’s enough.” The man spoke to Gary “You must be Troublemaker”
“I am…you must be NASCAR Larry” Gary said not looking over to the voice as he still had the Kimber on the mans forehead.
“You can put it away now, you’re with friends.” Larry said “You’ll have to pardon Jimmy; he still thinks that there is a war between the north and the south. It’s hard getting these folks to understand that it’s much more than that.”
Gary dropped the Kimber back into its locked status and replaced it into his waistband. The waitress came back out and took the plate from Jimmy, handing him a towel so he could wipe the spilled breakfast off of his shirt. Turning to Gary she apologetically said “Mister, I’ll have you a fresh plate in a minute.” The waitress said who turned to the cook and made sure that he got a double portion of what he had first ordered.
“Thank you.” Looking at Jimmy “You alright?”
Jimmy replied “I’m fine, sorry…but we had to make sure.”
“I understand” Gary said and held his hand out to shake Jimmy’s, which they did. “No hard feelings?”
“No hard feelings…Yankee” Jimmy beamed a broad smile and Gary returned it
Larry walked over to Gary and they too shook hands “Those your folks over there? That must be Miss Sunflowah”
“Yes those are my folks and that’s Sunflower.”
“Purty woman…please let’s sit down and talk.” The pair sat down “The Geek tells me that you need transportation to Kings Bay Georgia. By the way, the name change for him fits like a glove. I could never get that Cupperniopolis name down…Geek works jes fine”
Gary laughed at the trouncing of Jonathan’s original name “We do need transportation for Sunflower and myself…by the way, my real name is Gary.”
“Pleasure to meet you Gary...I’m Larry. We have a whole bunch of transportation set up not only in the south, but all over the country. We have drivers and 18 wheelers that can transport anyone or anything; anywhere. I guess it sorta runs in the family as my great granddaddy and his kin were moon shiners. I’ll take you and Miss Sunflowah down to Georgia myself.”
The food arrived and Gary wasted no time in digging in to the southern breakfast. “I am going to need you for a couple of days, do have the time for that?” Gary said as he inhaled his food.
“Sure thing, we’ll need to go to the house so I can get a few things.”
Gary finished his breakfast and the two went over to where Will, Terrie and April sat. “Guys, this is Larry.”
Introductions were made and April said to Gary “Did you have to pull your gun on that man?”
Gary smiled and said “I didn’t shoot him…did I?”
“If I recall, you said the same thing about me too.” Will laughed
Everything was set and the group went out to the truck and transferred the duffel bag into Larry’s Monte Carlo. Gary and April hugged Will and Terrie, who got in the truck. Will rolled down the window “You two better make it back…in one piece. Tell me you’ll be careful Gary” Gary smiled and gave his friend a pat on the shoulder. The two drove off and headed back to their home.
Larry’s Monte Carlo certainly had the look of a typical NASCAR fan, as it had all of the decals of the number 8 car, and a sticker of a little boy taking a whiz on a Ford. The Monte Carlo had the sound of a car that had been worked on and beefed up. The trio drove out of town and headed along a two lane asphalt road. The early spring morning was warm and the smells of the country were truly intoxicating. They came up to a large trucking company, and some of the men in the parking lot recognized Larry and waved. The red Chevy then turned onto a dirt road that headed straight back through a tree lined drive. The driveway continued for about a half of a mile and then came to a large field which was just starting to turn green with its crop and a stately white southern styled house. “We’re here.”
“This is beautiful Larry.” April said
“Thank you, it’s been in the family for a long time.” Larry said
Larry parked the car and bounded up the steps and disappeared. “Gary, isn’t this beautiful?” April said dreamily
“It’s damn nice…and quiet too.”
Larry came back out with a gym bag of clothes and personal items. Gary also saw the pistol that Larry had inside his waist band, as it made his shirt stick out noticeably. Larry tossed the bag into the back seat and they drove off, shooting rocks and dirt out the back of the Monte Carlo. “we’ll go back to I-95 and take it down to Kings Bay “ Larry turned on the CB radio and made sure that his cell phone which was also a Blackberry email tool was in working order. “If they is any trouble along the way, we should hear about it from the truckers.”
“How do you get through the road blocks or check points?” Gary asked
“We don’t have many of those down here, just Predators.” Larry paused for a moment “Now, when you get closer to the large farms, then they’ll stop cars, but we won’t be headed that way.”
The trio made very good time as they found I-95 and blasted down towards Kings Bay
Larry and Gary talked a great deal “Geek has posted some of the things that you’ve told him about on the web. You sure have seen your share of fighting.” Larry paused for a moment and spoke into the rear view mirror “Miss Sunflowah, sorry to hear about what happened to your family.” Pausing again “Funny how things work out, aint it?”
“How’s that Larry?” April said leaning up to the front seat
“Well, it seems to me that if it wasn’t for dem blue hat fellas, you’d a never met Gary.”
“I guess that I’ve not thought of it that way, before.” April said and sat back thinking about it.
Lauren was dressed and ready for the day. As she left the house she walked up to the eight men that were gathered around her car. “Good morning Maam” The men said in greeting.
“Good morning fellows I see that you all arrived safely” she said to the sweaty men; as was evident that they had just finished their morning run. Lauren got into her SUV and drove off to school.
Jack and Rob came out of the house and turned to make sure the door was locked. “Good morning” Jack said “Good morning Sir.” The SEAL’s replied.”
Rob stood in front of his men and addressing one in particular “Jefferson, I see that you found us ok. I don’t see any Boy Scouts that might have showed you the way here, so I guess that this SEAL training is finally paying off on you.” The Commander smiled
“Yes suh, we found it alright.” Jefferson said smiling at his boss’s mood
“Where’s Graham?’ Rob asked
“Suh, he’s back at the base getting his computer and comms gear set up.”
“Ok” Rob looked each man over and liked what he saw. “So, here’s the deal. The Captain doesn’t leave our sight until he ships out, understand? He doesn’t get as much as a bug bite, unless it goes through us, got it?”
The SEAL’s nodded in unison and said “Aye sir”
“Weapons?” Rob asked
“They are in the cars sir. We all have our H&K Compacts, but the heavy stuff is in the trunk, when we get underway, we’ll have them out with us.” One of the SEAL’s volunteered.
“Excellent.” Rob paused again “I understand that we have a LALO jump scheduled for the day after tomorrow, right?”
“Yes sir” SEAL member Jason Campbell answered “Will this be a helo or fixed wing sir?”
“It’s supposed to be a helo jump” Rob stated as he looked at the vehicles that the members had. “Ok, I want two sets of four in the two cars. I’ll be with the Captain in his vehicle”
The men filed out to the vehicles and opening the trunks, gathered their automatic weapons and a few explosive devices. They then followed the Captain and the Commander closely to the base.
The trio made the drive to Kings Bay and arrived in the early afternoon. Parking at a convenience store April went to a phone booth and looked up the local High School. Tearing out a map of the area she returned to the red Chevy. “It’s called Camden County High School and it’s in Kingsland” Looking at the map, Larry pulled out and made their way to the High School.
They arrived as the school was letting out for the day. April was nervous whether her past History teacher would remember her. Sitting in the Teachers Parking area the trio waited as the teachers and faculty slowly came out of the beautiful red brick and gray roofed school.
“There she is!” April said excitedly and immediately jumped out of the car and ran to her friend. “Mrs. Miller!”
Lauren stopped dead in her tracks as she couldn’t believe who she was seeing. “April! OH MY! It is so good to see you!” The two hugged and Lauren took her by the shoulders “My, have you grown into a beautiful woman! It is so good to see you…what are you doing here?”
“We came down to see you and Mr. Miller.” April said
“This is such a surprise! April, how are your Mom and Dad?” Lauren said smiling at her friend
“Oh, Mrs. Miller…they’re dead. They were murdered” April went from happy to sad instantly.
Lauren was without words at the shock of hearing that some people that she knew were killed “Oh April…I am so sorry.” Lauren hugged her friend again not wanting to ask right now how it happened “You have to come to our house. I will not take no for an answer…so where are you parked?”
“Over there” April said pointing to the Red Monte Carlo “I have someone I want you to meet.” April said motioning to Gary to come over
Gary got out and walked to introduce himself to Aprils teacher friend “Hi, I’m Gary” he said as he extended his hand to Lauren.
“I’m Lauren” and turning to April “It’s Lauren to you too, dear. Now, why don’t you come with me? Gary, why don’t you follow us over to the house? Our place isn’t too far” Lauren and April got into the SUV and talked the entire way to the Millers residence.