Friday Evening Teaser - End of Chapter 1:
The two men continued on with what one might consider the small talk of some strange new world. Sasha playfully gnawed at her bone, occasionally looking up at the two and tilting her head to the side, as if to admit confusion at some bit of news or gossip. The men praised the acts of the now famous neighbors and how lucky the unnamed farm was to have neighbors close enough to hear and respond to the violence. The two men realized, without mention, the similarities between the unnamed farm and their own. Jake had bought twenty acres from Frank nearly ten years earlier – a parcel right next to the Thames homestead, much to the chagrin of Frank’s children. The two had met through a realtor friend of Frank’s; she knew his situation: Frank needed the liquidity to continue running the farm, but didn’t want to openly list the property and deal with the numerous random potential buyers stalking through the tall ryegrass and among the pecan trees that dotted his winter pasture. She told him that it was just part of the process, but he refused: “You’ll know the right buyer when you meet him – and when you do, send him my way.” And so she did; Franklin Thames and Jake Sellers had a longneck and a long talk befitting old friends in Frank’s hayloft overlooking the property that first evening, and began the process of transfer the next day. It took another week to formalize the transfer, but to both men the handshake at the conclusion of the first evening was the true point of sale. Relative to the other homesteads and farmhouses, Jake’s house was unusually close to Frank’s old ranch style home, but the two families from different eras enjoyed the friendship that blossomed from that closeness.
The men exchanged a few final words and nodded as they parted; Sasha stood to stretch and let out a high pitched whine as she yawned, and trotted off with Jake. Jake and Sasha crossed the fence and continued to the back of the property to finish the morning outing. The cool morning air began to betray the welcome arrival of autumn; the gentle breeze of the season would soon enough rustle the buttery, nut-like fruits from their perches high in the branches of the near perfectly aligned rows of pecan trees. He looked forward to trading them for some of Mrs. Thames’ locally renowned pecan pies in return.
Jake’s pleasant anticipation was soon reigned in as his mind focused back on the reality of his situation; it had been peaceful enough for longer than any of them expected, but now the problems of the urban, and subsequently suburban areas had finally reached their sleepy community. Besides the price of everything multiplying by a factor of at least five and mass unemployment, the first truly noticeable effect of the troubling storm cloud that had settled over them was the increasingly common blackouts.
The first instance seemed innocent enough, a sub-station failure during a thunderstorm that probably just needed a quick repair by the utility company. When the utility crew arrived onsite, they were violently ambushed, beaten and robbed. By the second or third ambush, a worker was kidnapped and ransomed. The workers eventually refused to perform any repair work without a police escort. In the beginning this delayed the restoration of electricity by several hours, but as violence increased in the cities the delay would often be a day or longer. This seemed to escalate the cycle of violence and unrest fueled the swift deterioration of the expected quality of life.
His mind continued to wander as he approached the back of his house. His wife’s silhouette appeared at the threshold of the back French doors. “Come on in hun, breakfast is almost ready.”
Jake stopped for a moment and grinned at her, his right hand instinctively coming to rest on the wood grip of the Ruger .357. Sasha poked her head between his legs, plopped down on her haunches and looked at Kate.
“What are you two staring at?” Kate struggled to refrain the smile that was slowly creeping across her face as she playfully put her hands on her hips and feigned disdain.
“We just wanted to take you in for a moment; you look beautiful.”
“Oh hush!” she quipped, still smiling, “I look like a wreck; save your smooth talk for when you need it!” She spun abruptly, hiding her blushing cheeks from him and marched back inside in an exaggerated manner. Jake grinned and scratched Sasha behind her ear before starting towards the house. Her tail wagged in delight as she bounded along beside him.
Katelyn planted a loud kiss on Jake’s lips as she smiled and handed him two plates; he grinned as he spun and carried them to the rectangular oak table in the small dining nook. He admired her figure as she grabbed her plate and a fresh pot of coffee and walked towards him; she shot him a wink and then poured the coffee into three cups already set on the table. Jake’s brother Geram was slowly dragging himself to the table with one eye still closed. He stretched his arms to the ceiling and slumped into the chair opposite of Jake. “Kate you’re too good to this man; fried ham, eggs and home grown blueberries – you got a sister?”
She laughed, “Yes I am and you know she’s married, Geram.”
“That’s alright, as long as you make an extra plate when you cook for this guy, I can cope.” Geram grinned as he popped a half frozen blueberry in his mouth and finished defrosting it with a sip of coffee.
“You’ll have a plate here as long as you want it,” Jake added. He finished his first egg, then continued, “Mr. Thames lost a calf last night to some poachers; they field dressed it in the pasture and left what they couldn’t carry or fit in an ice chest. Did you see anything last night on your watch?”
“I had a dark SUV creep by us and the Thames’ at about zero one hundred, but I never saw them come back by. I tried to get a number on the occupants with the binoculars, but it was too dark to see inside the vehicle, even with the full moon.”
Jake nodded, “The only vehicle that I saw on my watch had the same description; they came by around 4 o’clock, but they weren’t creeping.”
“That would have given them enough time to scout and get the calf.”
Jake nodded in agreement as he stabbed several blueberries with his fork and lifted them to his mouth. The light banter at the beginning of breakfast had faded and the three were more solemn now. Kate topped off the boys’ cups and left them alone as she went to feed Sasha some scraps.
Jake pushed his plate aside and leaned forward, eyeing Geram, “It’s been two days since you showed up. They don’t let you just drop in on family for several days while you’re in active duty. You ready to talk yet, SEAL?”