Sunday, August 11, 2013

10 – The nickel tour


“At least he’s prompt.” E thought as there was a loud knock on their front door.

“Morning Brad, how’s the weather out there?” Catherine asked as she let him in and walked him out to the kitchen.

“Pushing 40 – warm compared to back home. Net says a mix of rain and snow . . . spring in the Midwest !” Brad enjoyed the warm welcome and the smell of fresh cooked bacon even more!

“Grab a chair kid – I’m almost done with the American fries. And grab a cup, the coffee’s hot!” Richard was busy at the stove, E seemed to be setting the table as Gramps and his wife sipped at their cups and read the morning news sites.

As the food was passed and everyone started to eat Richard let his two newest deputies know what their day’s task was.

“Alright you two, this is what I want out of your nickel tour today. I want you to look over our county - roads in, roads out, bridges, communities, rivers . . . but from a tactical point of view. Consider this your primary command area in Africa – how would you defend it? What would your primary defensive positions be? How about the things that should be defended – and those we could let slide a bit? Figure out the size of the force you would need. “ Richard grabbed a small notebook and passed it to E and Brad.

“Here’s your list of what I’ve thought of. Been a while since I’ve been in a firefight, I suspect I’ve overlooked more than a few things. Grab some maps from the office and pick up a couple of carry pieces – Linda has access to the armory. There are a couple standard belts with Glock 21s in them, grab a couple of them.” E and Brad thumbed through the notes while they ate and finished off their coffee.

“What the hell is up pops? What are you thinking? You lookin’ for a shit storm to head our way??” The edge to E’s voice made her concern clear.

“Shit storm? Haven’t heard that phrase since Africa. “ There was just a note of a question in Brad’s voice.

E let out a chuckle – “That’s a Gramp’s story, but Gram tells it MUCH better.” Gramps “harrumphed” while Gram let out a snort and a quick giggle.

“OK – family story Brad. About 10 years ago – early June. We had a heck of a cold front drop out of Canada – took temps down in a heartbeat. Unfortunately we had been having an early heat wave that had settled in from the gulf bringing all its humidity with it. Cold air – hot humid air, not a good combination, we popped a record number of tornados – 4 in our county alone. And one took a walk across our property. Well, Gramps here decided he better take one more pass by the livestock out in the feedlot – make sure they were as secure as they could be. About that time a little twister showed up and dipped its tail in the feedlot. Left all the cattle alone . . . but their manure . . . . mmmmm . . . not so much. It picked up a considerable amount and promptly covered Gramps head to toe. My, my . . . he was a sight. And smell – well pardon the expression but “Holy Cow” did he stink!!!” Gram just couldn’t hold it in, her laughter more a howl than a laugh. Gramps was appropriately embarrassed and assured her the he had plenty of stories about her to share with Brad as well.

“Anyway – the term “shit storm” was born.” Gram wiped her eyes and went back to her coffee, still grinning.

“Ah, it makes sense now. Good story! Good Story.” Brad couldn’t help but grin right along with the rest of the family. Still, he wondered how that phrase had made it to a radio net in Northwest Africa.

“Alright pops, we’re outta here. We’ll check in, you got a freq on the sheriff’s net you want us on?” E was standing, taking her dishes to the sink with Brad close behind.

“I always leave in on 62 kiddo, you know that. I’ve got a hand-held with me; the repeaters should work just fine.” Richard joined the march to the sink with his and Cathy’s dishes as well. “Jeep’s out front.”

E and Brad put on their coats, watch caps, and gloves and headed out the door. E climbed in the driver’s side, Brad took shotgun and the headed to the sheriff’s office. Both were quiet, wondering just what was going through Richard’s mind with this little “nickel tour” as he called it. Their drive was short with E pulling into a parking spot at the foot of the front steps to the county jail/sheriff’s office. A quick jog up the steps took them to the front doors as Linda buzzed them in.

“Morning guys, can I help you?” Linda had been filled on the new deputies; she was just surprised to see them so early on a Saturday.

“Well, the slave driver sheriff gave us a “mission” this morning, wanted us to pick up some county maps and a couple of belts with Glock 21s. No rest for the wicked, as they say.” E was headed to the access door as Linda buzzed them into the office area.

“No problem guys, here are some maps” Linda said as she grabbed a couple folded county maps that detailed everything from the smallest creek to every individual property with call numbers. “The armory is in the back.”

Linda extended her key ring and opened the armory. Brad and E were both surprised at the array of weapons on the walls. Dozens of ARs – both .223 and .308. E spotted a half dozen large caliber rifles including a couple vintage M40s. There were even a couple old Barrett 50 cals. Another wall was covered with plate carriers – all configured for three mags for a carbine and another three for a sidearms. Next to these E spied the gunbelts her dad had mentioned. Looking at their bulk, she opted for an OWB holster for her Glock and stuffed a couple spare mags in her rear-left pocket. Brad followed her example choosing an IWB holster and two spare mags that he slipped in his left coat pocket. Quick signatures on the appropriate property cards and they were finished.

Weapons and maps in hand, E and Brad thanked Linda and headed out to the jeep. A light mist was starting and the temps hovered in the mid-40s. At least they weren’t expecting to spend much time outside the jeep today.

“Ready?” E asked? “Yep . . . . show me my new office!” Brad replied, a little smile crossing his lips.

“Take out your map, I’ll give you a thumb nail sketch while we head to the southwest part of the county.” E said as she started to describe her home. She’d ridden patrol with her dad as a kid. She’d competed against players on various teams from virtually every town whether it was swimming, cross country, track, soccer – she knew every major highway, minor road and even a handful of parking spots young kids went when they thought it was time to become adults.

Following her dad’s outline they inventoried every bridge – major and minor, evaluated the major rivers and minor creeks. Drawing on their military experience they looked for choke points, rises that could be used to defend roads and intersections, depressions that would work as ambushes points. They both realized this task was much bigger than a single “nickel tour”. But, they had gathered enough info that it should help guide future trips for more detailed follow-ups once they had a better idea of the sheriff’s ultimate goals.

“Time for lunch Brad – what you hungry for?” E had noticed that it was well past noon and her stomach was definitely raising an alarm.

“Got a good burger around here?”

“Yep, Mary’s is just the place.” And they were off to a quaint little restaurant that had the best burgers and coconut cream pie in the state – at least in E’s humble opinion.

Brad had been quiet for a bit – as things had been quietly coming together . . . . “shit storm” . . . . channel 62 . . . . . the nagging familiarity of her voice . . . . . suddenly he had it, . . . . he knew. . . .

“Holy shit!! You’re Demon 62!” The surprise in his voice was genuine!

“Excuse me?? How the fuck do you know that!!” It was E’s turn to be totally surprised.

“I was on your op net when you took out Kaheir. I was a platoon sergeant for a rifle platoon about 6 clicks east of LZ Tango. We heard everything . . . . there was no way we could get to you quicker than the cobra. Sorry about your spotter. . . . that was a tough day.” Brad just let the quiet settle back into the jeep.

“That’s it was, that it was!” God, what a small world.

“So how are you – marine to marine – you doing OK?” Brad was looking at the side of her face, watching her body language and wondering how she was coping with the past 10 months or so.

“What can I say – I see Deke way to many nights. The IED? Shit, every time I move I twinge a bit here and there. Life’s a bitch, ya know. Am I a basket case? Fuck no. I’m still a Marine at heart. But it’s past – tears, anger, fear – wasted energy. And watching my dad, listening to the edge in his voice – well, something’s cookin’. I suspect neither of us will have much time to look backwards – ya know?” She looked at him hard and Brad saw a tough woman in control and looking forward. That was all he needed to know.

“Good enough for me E, good enough for me. How far to that burger?”

Dinner was full of banter of two comrades – marines that had met off the battlefield. By its end they knew each other’s history as well as if they had grown up together. They had been tempered on the same battlefield . . . . and it was that tempering that would serve them well in the months that would follow.

Evening approached more slowly than when she had first come home. While the drizzle had lasted most of the day, there was finally a break in the clouds to the far west as they drove up to E’s home. The electricity was obviously out yet again and the glow of Gramp’s kerosene lamps could be seen on the kitchen table. E could see gramps tending a couple Dutch Ovens in the fire pit out back and her mouth started watering.

“You’re in for a treat – Gramps cooks up a mean meal in his old Dutch Ovens!” E shared with Brad. “Hey Gramps – “what’s cookin’?” E asked as they got out of the jeep.

“My world famous chili and some corn bread, it’s almost ready – why don’t you two get cleaned up. Show Brad where the pump is out back.” Gramps turned to lift the ovens off the coals, his face lit by the dying fire.

“Yes Sir!” Looking at Brad – “We have a hand pump on a shallow well out back. Only about 30 feet deep, but it’s the best water, little salty, but it’s my favorite cold drink!” E and Brad headed out back. A couple pumps had a nice flow going. Each got their hands wet, rubbed off the worst dirt and headed into the kitchen through the back porch, Gramps following close behind. He set the Dutch Ovens down on two large hotplates and proudly announced – “Soup’s On!”

Grace was said, bowls passed and shortly each person was working on hearty chili and large chunks of corn bread covered in butter and honey. Richard let the kids get about half their bowls eaten before he asked about their day?

“You two cover a lot of ground today?” He watched for clues on how the day had gone.

“Yes sir, it was an interesting day!” Brad spoke up first, “Nice piece of countryside you have here sir. I think I would categorize this as a preliminary recon – E, smack me if you disagree – but we really need to know what your thoughts and intentions are before we can really take a detailed look. That said, we took notes on the major bridges and roads, creeks and rivers, high spots and places that could be used to boost defensive positions along your roads. And, most importantly – I found the best piece of coconut cream pie on the face of the earth!” Brad ended his review – a smile on his face remembering the desert he had at Mary’s.

“Took him to Mary’s did ya?” Richard smiled at his daughter and at the memory of his last piece of coconut cream pie he had had there as well.

“Yes sir, thought we’d better make a good impression – don’t want you to have to go deputy shopping again!” E took a breath, and look her dad firmly in the eye.

“Alright dad, what’s really going on? Why the hell do you need a tactical evaluation of our county? Obviously you and Gramps have been working on something – have some fears or some clear idea of something coming. What are you up to??” Brad and E each turned their attention to Richard and Gramps. The two men looked at each other, Richard pushed his bowl back and Gramps went out to the fire pit to get the evening’s coffee. When he returned he filled everyone’s cup and looked at Richard.

“Time to let the cat out of the bag son, let’s fill these two in on our plans.” Gramps took his chair, sipped his coffee and waited for Richard to outline his plan.

Richard took his first sip, took a deep breath and then looked at both E and Brad in turn.

“I intend to build and army . . .!”