“Everyone should be home from helping out at The Ranch. Maybe they all stayed there for dinner or something” offered Trina.
Brianna started crying which set Serena off crying also but Megan and Hannah managed to not burst out in tears.
“Where is everyone?” Hannah asked.
“I don’t know honey but they can’t have gone far. We need to go and see if maybe someone needs our help. They may be trapped somewhere.”
“Like you said, they could be at The Ranch, that’s where mommy and daddy were going today” said Megan.
“That just has to be right! Let’s go check out The Ranch!”
The small group began to slowly make their way through town towards The Ranch. They would call out and check the homes as they went along but they didn’t find anyone all the way to the Ranch. The girls were getting cold, tired, and Serena was really fussy despite them stopping and changing her and even feeding her a few more Vienna sausages. Trina was having a hard time with her ankle which was by now throbbing painfully.
It was dark with no moon that night and it took almost an hour to get to The Ranch.
Thankfully Serena had finally fallen asleep. They came up from the back of The Ranch and
Trina stopped them from going any further. There was a strange van in the drive way and there were way too many lights on in main house. She could hear loud voices that were arguing and she heard a young girl scream. She thought it sounded like Robin. Quickly
Trina grabbed the arms of Brianna and Megan and whispered to them all “We have got to get back into the woods, something is not right here.”
As quickly and as quietly as possible, they retreated back into the woods about 50 yards.
“Ok, girls, I think you now know this area better than I do, can you think of any where that you girls can hide so I can go and see what is happening?”
Hannah and Megan looked at each other and with that language of best friends they made a decision.
“Miss Trina, we want to help. If something is wrong, that is our family in there and it is our duty to do what we can to help them.” Megan said defiantly. Both Hannah and Brianna nodded their heads in agreement.
Trina gave all the girls a big hug.
“Ok, then let’s make a plan because it’s Do or Die time I’m thinking. And you are right -we have to help our family and friends. “
Both Hannah and Megan went and scouted out The Ranch, Trina was beside herself as she tried to wait patiently until they got back. She left Brianna with Serena on the blanket tucked away under a sweeping pine but made sure she stayed within sight so all Brianna had to do was move one branch and she could see her.
From her hiding place, Trina could just make out both girls sneaking around the house and peeking into windows and the barn. They were gone for the longest 15 minutes in Trina’s life!
Megan reported what was going on at the barn first. “Everyone is in the barn except Rebecca, Robin, and Michelle. In the barn, they look like they are tied up in the stalls. There are two strangers with rifles at the front of the barn smoking yucky, stinky cigarettes. But there is no one in the back of the barn through the corral.”
Then it was Hannah’s turn “Robin, Rebecca, and Michelle are in the house and there are six strange men in there and they are arguing over who was going to get who first. The girls look scared but also really mad. I think Robin saw me peeking in because she kinda nodded at me. They have their hands tied and are sitting on the couch. There was one strange man on the front porch. All the men looked like they had guns.”
“Ok, so we have a total of 9 strange men and they are armed and it is obvious they are bad guys.”
Trina sighed and then the four of them put their thinking caps on and came up with a plan.
It was so simple it just might work.
Trina knew they didn’t have much time but also knew that they couldn’t do much on their own. So since Brianna was the smallest and quickest, she was chosen to slip into the barn and take all the knives from the baby bobs to their family and whisper their plan to them.
It didn’t take long until one by one, starting with the kids, the barn emptied out of the town’s people. The bad guys out front never paid attention or heard a sound, they were too busy joking around and smoking their stinky cigarettes.
They all met up in the woods and it was Ryker that came up with the firecracker idea.
Michael had left his bedroom window open to catch the breeze that night since his room was stuffy. In his room were firecrackers that the boys had found in town and decided to not let the adults know. He was able to slip into his room after quietly removing the screen from the window and handed out two bags of firecrackers. These were divided up among most of the kids who spread out all around The Ranch just inside the woods so they could not be seen. The lighters from the baby bobs and Trina’s backpack went with them. They were in groups of two so that each group had some way to light the fuses. Then they waited for the signal.
The arguing got louder in the house and the man on the porch went inside. Everyone froze when there was a gunshot and a scream. Brad quickly looked into the living room window to make sure the girls weren’t hit and saw a dead man on the floor. One of the men as telling two others to take out the trash and now there was one less that they had to share with.
Two of the men drug the dead man outside into the woods and didn’t come back out again.
Brad and Rob took care of them. Now the bad guys were down from nine to six.
Art and Brock took out the two guards at the barn one by one by slipping back into the barn and one of them hollering for some water. One of the guards said something about teaching them how to shut up and went into the barn laughing.
The laughing was cut short and then it was silent.
“Hey what’s happening in there?” Silence
He moved into the doorway and hollered again “Mac? Are you having some fun with those women?”
He took one more step into the barn and that was the last thing he ever did. He never saw the shovel come down on his head nor felt the knife reach his heart and stop it. Now there were only four.
The odds just got better for the good guys as they relieved the dead men of their guns and ammo.
Now came the hard part getting the girls out of the house safely so they could not be used as hostages.
Sally stayed with Serena, Brianna, and Alex under the pine tree where Serena was sleeping through everything.
Brad, Mike, and Brock slipped into Michael’s room and waited for the women to begin their part of the plan. The guys were going to sneak into Mike’s room and get his guns before the bad guys found them.
They could hear the conversation going on in the living room.
Lucy, Melanie, and Stephanie made their way to the front of the barn. The plan was for them to not so quietly pretend to “try to escape” hoping to lure some, if not all, of the men outside. They were going to do some screaming and running across the front yard towards the woods. They were going to be staggered out and running in an erratic pattern.
Mike almost blew the plan when the leader grabbed Michelle and threw her over his shoulder announcing that he was going to be the first to check out the merchandise. Michelle began to kick, scream, and squirm but the leader just smacked her on the butt and laughed as he made his way down the hall to the first bedroom on the right….which was the room where Mike and Brad had just snuck into. The leader kicked the door shut and tossed Michelle on the bed and then froze as a gun was pressed to his temple and a low voice growled “you’re done” just before he lost consciousness. Now only three were left.
It was then that the ladies began their performance; the three men left ran out of the house at the first scream. Brock and Brad followed them outside quietly.
Eerie howls sounded throughout the night and then the sound of gunfire….a LOT of gunfire all around the house convinced the remaining men to lay down their guns and surrender.
Brock gathered up the guns and it wasn’t long before all the bad guys were tied up tight and tossed into the van.
While everyone was gathered up from their various places, Brock and Brad decided they would be the ones that took care of the bad guys.
Mike followed them in the truck as they drove the van back out into the night. Everyone stayed at The Ranch that night. Maude and Stephanie cared for the various scrapes, bruises, and Trina’s sprained ankle. All the kids were given Chamomile tea and then they piled in the den on thick pallets with Sally and Art watching over them until they were all sound asleep.
While waiting for the guys to get back, the rest of the adults gathered in the kitchen and drank coffee but no one talked much because everyone realized just how blessed they had been and how unprepared to face bad people they were.
The guys didn’t get back until 4 in the morning. No one asked them what happened and they didn’t offer any information. None of the adults slept that night and two by two they took turns walking around and watching for trouble. They went armed.
Trina finally broke the silence at dawn “We are sitting ducks and I don’t know about ya’all but I do NOT like it. So what are we going to do about it?”
“Here all I could think about in those woods with the girls, was how awful it we were having it out there with my foot hurt and how long it was taking us to get back to town especially because of the earthquake and here it was in reality even worse than I was imagining. Thank God we are all alive. But this could happen again and we must be ready.
Next time, chances are that we will not be so blessed.”
It was true, they all had grown lax and had not thought seriously about defending the town since the only ones that had found them without Timothy giving directions, was Amber and her four kids. But now the bad guys had found them and the reality that likely there were even more bad guys out there hit home with a hard thud.
The biggest problem was that no one had any real security training. Yeah, they knew how to shoot a gun since many of them were hunters. But patrolling and protecting a town wasn’t the same as hunting and they all knew it.
Maude, Brenda, and Amber fixed up a huge but simple breakfast for everyone. There were fluffy pancakes, scrambled eggs, and fresh milk. Afterwards, Amber took Robin, Rebecca, and Michelle outside for a walk one by one to assess any post effects of the trauma they had suffered. Trina had privately suggested to Amber that she use the training she had received. Amber decided that she was going to check everyone over mentally and since she had such a friendly manner, most didn’t even realize they were being analyzed. Amber found that there were three she needed to keep an especially close eye on: Mike, Michelle, and Rebecca.
After the chores were all done for the morning and everyone was once again gathered up in the large living room of The Ranch, the group began to discuss what they were going to do about protecting themselves.
“Why can’t we look in the books?” asked Kristopher “we have used books for learning all about what we can eat in the woods, for our schooling, for all the things we’ve done here so far; why can’t we find some books on defense?”
“Out of the mouths of babes…” replied Maude and smiled at Kristopher who pretended to take offense at being called a “babe” and said “I’m not a babe! I’m `13 now!” Everyone had a good laugh as he placed his thumb in his mouth and grinned.
“I think the first thing we need to do is somehow block that highway access that leads here.” Brad said.
Everyone agreed that these were two excellent steps that were needed. That afternoon and the next day were filled with the work that was going to protect the town. All the damage from the earthquake was going to have to wait. The biggest grocery store had fallen in and so had half of Wally World. There weren’t too many two story buildings in town except the court house and a couple other shops around the town square. Three of those had damage because they were old and didn’t have the some of the reinforcements that were built into the newer buildings. They weren’t worried about them, just took note as the guys got what was needed to close off the road to town.
The adult men: Brad, Brock, Bryce, Rob, Robert and the kids: Mark, Jake, Ryker, Riley, and Michael first walked to the highway looking for the best places to cut and place trees across the access road that connected the town and the highway. Then after the road was carefully gone over and the best places to block off chosen, they went and got all the tools they would need.
They did a great job of making it look like there was nothing past the “dead end”. They had found a street sign that said “dead end” and set it up close to on ramp going in their direction. That had been the suggestion of Ryker. Thankfully the road turned about 400 yards from the highway around a small bluff and after their work; it looked like it was a real dead end.
Thankfully, the library was in good shape and no damage was found except for some books had fallen off the shelves. Amber, Kristopher, Sam, Robin, Rebecca, Brenda, Lucy, Megan, Brianna, Alex, Sally, Art, Serena, Stephanie, Melanie, and Hannah all spread out in the library looking for any kind of books that would help them defend their home. Some garden carts were liberated from the garden center and everyone took home books that day.
A schedule was drawn up and everyone except Serena, Alex, Brianna, and Sam was given a shift of guarding the town. Michael, Kristopher, Ryker, Jake, and Mark were reading up on how the Native Americans use to scout and began to practice everything they could find on stalking and following people without them knowing. Of course, once the girls found out what they were doing, they also commandeered some books of their own and began to practice. They also were the first ones to snag some bows and arrows and taught themselves how to use them. Robin, Michelle, and Rebecca never wanted to feel helpless again! Amber watched over the kids carefully and found that their efforts were good for them since it focused all that rage into actions that gave the kids not only self confidence but the assurance that they would be able to do something if there was a next time….and chances were, there would be a next time.
The townspeople had a full summer and fall with all their training plus harvesting food for the winter. They also had to harvest the grains for the animals. Fall was filled with canning and butchering. Wood chopping was a common sound heard and each family had a share with the gathering, cutting, and stacking.
All in all, the town worked hard and together to make sure each family would be well set for winter. They had plenty of surplus so no one worried when during the first snowfall of the winter, but then the bell rang in the town square.