Monday, September 16, 2013

20 – Meetings and a glimpse . . .


“Demon 62, White Knight 45 – you kids seem to have royally pissed of a bunch of folks down there. Suggest you enter your shittin’ and gittin’ phase of the operation. Pickup LZ Tango, pop smoke when on site.”

“Roger that White Knight – out” replied E – and they were outta there. Deke on point, E checking their six on the way out. LZ Tango was about three clicks North East – seemed farther now than it had at 2AM this morning.

“Hussle ass there Deke, I suspect at least a couple of our guests will want to pay us a visit as soon as they can scramble up our little hill here!”

“I’m booking E, I’m . . . . BBBUUUURRRRRAAAAAPPPPPPPP! E noticed she was covered with a pink mist. About that time a couple tangos came charging around a bend in their path. E dropped to a knee and hammered the first two - the remaining quickly drew up short and hauled ass to cover.

“White Knight 45, Demon 62 – SHITSTORM, I SAY AGAIN, SHITSTORM!!: 311053 BY 74025 . . . . 311053 BY 74025. MAN DOWN, MAN DOWN”

“Roger Demon 62, Cobra45 lifting off, on site 10 minutes, one zero minutes”

“Roger that – gonna need a change of panties when we get back.”

“DEKE!! GOD DAMN IT – DEKE!!” E saw nothing move, he was crumpled where he fell.

“E . . . . E!!” Brad had heard her conversation from his room. He had a pretty good idea where it was headed . . . He had entered the spare room and it was obvious she was currently “elsewhere”!

“E!! Wake up E, you’re safe!” E was calling in the Cobra – urging it to hurry. Brad reached for her foot that was sticking out from beneath the comforter and firmly tapped it . . . “E! You’re safe E . . . You’re safe!”

Ann poked her nose around the corner . . . “She ok hunny?” E’s voice had been loud enough to wake Ann as well. “She’s OK mom – just a dream . . . not a pleasant one I suspect.”

“E! You’re safe E . . . . You’re safe!” And with one more firm tap E sat straight up, her hands up in a defensive position, eyes wild yet taking in the situation. Brad could see her consciousness return. She relaxed, took a deep breath and rubbed her face with her hands.

“Sorry . . . seems to be more than a few ghosts hanging around . . . sorry I woke you both.” E was embarrassed and angry with herself . . . “When is this going to let up?” She thought. It was not the first time she relived Deke’s death . . . it would not be her last time by any stretch of her imagination.

“No worries sweetie . . . Brad has had his shares of nightmares as well. Are you OK? Can I get you anything?” Ann had sat with Brad on more than one night as he dealt with his “demons” as he called them.

“No – thanks. I think I’ll just get up for a bit and get a drink . . . I’m fine – really.” E rolled back the comforter and got up, heading for the kitchen.

“Take your time – no problem. Brad, keep her company . . . and I’m going to say good night to you two!” With that Ann headed for her room while E and Brad headed for the kitchen.

“Got anything a bit stronger than water?” E asked. Brad smiled – “Your lucky night, I bought a new bottle of Jameson’s when I got home. There’s more than enough left to take the edge off.” He reached into the cupboards for a couple glasses, grabbed a bit of ice for each and poured a generous portion in each glass.

“I heard you yell for Deke – he was your spotter?” Brad sipped and watched. Pain paint E’s face, her eyes tearing up . . . “Yep, that he was. Our first hit – first time in the field . . . Fuck!!” E held her glass, sipping from time to time. “I don’t want to forget him . . . but damn . . . I really hate to relive that instant over and over and over . . . I just do not seem to be able to let it go.” She looked at Brad – eyes tear-filled and her face almost pleading.

“I know . . . I know. It’s just going to take time . . . I call them demons. They visit, hammer you and then wait until the next time you’re vulnerable. They just go with the territory – ya know?” Brad had his share of visits from demons as well. He’d talked to some of the old heads – they all had them. And they all lived with them . . . or they didn’t. Suicide was never a path he found attractive – but some of his friends had, only to become demons themselves.

“I know, I’ve chatted with Gramps more than once . . . . and he still spends time in Fallujah – and that happened over 45 years ago. I just feel so helpless – I know Deke’s going to die – and I can’t do a fuckin’ thing about it.” And there it was . . . for both of them. They were not the first to deal with their demons – and they would not be the last. Nor would Deke be the only memory to disturb her sleep – they were both still young.

They finished their Jameson’s and returned to their respective beds – hoping for a few more hours of sleep.

I am a Devil-Dog I'm marching on, I am a warrior and this is my song.!!” Blared from E’s phone, the opening lyrics of a song from another war in another time. But, it had struck a chord in her and she had made it her ring-tone. It was an interesting “conversation piece”. E’s hand flew from under the comforter and located the phone on the night stand next to her bed.

“Rowley!” she barked – she noticed it was the butt-crack of dawn, who the hell was calling her??

“Sleeping in girl??” Gramps sounded way too awake . . . “You turning soft in civilian life marine??”

“No sir – long night. Hell, I can barely see any light out there Gramps, what the hell time is it anyway?” E was pulling herself upright trying to read the time on her watch.

“I let you sleep in kid, it’s nearly 0600. There may be some shit headed your way . . . not sure how far things will spread, but I wanted to make sure you were updated on what’s going on in Minneapolis. Is Brad there?” Gramps had been watching the growing swarm/riot in downtown Minneapolis since 3 AM when Charlie Franklin had called him. It didn’t look like it was going to grow the way the D.C. swarm had – but it had the same “touch and feel”. “Why don’t you go grab him and then let’s talk about the day, alright?”

“Yes sir – wait one!” E threw on some sweats and headed to Brad’s room. A firm knock was met with a grunt and a “Who the hell’s there – it’s still dark out!!”

“Yep, that it is.” E said, “But Gramp’s on the phone – Minneapolis is evidently going to shit and he wants to update us and plan the day. Sounds like we need to get our day moving.” E had just finished speaking when Brad opened his door – wearing jogging shorts and a sweatshirt and gaining consciousness quickly. They headed for the kitchen table. E put her phone between them and touched the “speaker” button on the screen.

“Alright Gramps, we’re up and rolling . . . what the hell is going on?” Brad moved to the coffee maker as Gramps began his briefing.

“I got a call from an old friend about 3 AM this morning – Charlie Franklin, you’ll meet him later today. He has friends on the police force in Minneapolis – hell, more than that – his son’s a Captain on their SWAT team. Anyway, they’ve been having a hell of a time with power coming into the city. There’s a shitload of reasons, but the bottom line is that the good folks of the city expect the lights to go on when they flip a switch . . . and that has been a might iffy prospect for nearly a month now. And it’s not likely to get better. It’s affected everything from heat to elevators to water coming out of their faucets. I guess tonight was the breaking point. It’s not as bad as D.C. – but it surly has the potential to grow, and grow quickly. I need a couple things from you two – I need you to meet with the folks at DT – they have a “shipment” for us. I want you two to take a tour, meet their President and former owner and then look over their plant. I just want you to get a “lay of the land” so to speak.”

“Then I want you to head up to Cambridge – it’s about 45 miles north of the cities. Linda’s there with the friend that she went to the BWCA with. They’re “out” and back at his house. She was going to fly home later today but I don’t want her traveling alone and I sure the hell don’t want her near Minneapolis – I want you to go get her and bring her home with you. She’d have to drive through the middle of the cities to get to the airport – and there’s no way in hell I want her to do that. You two clear?”

“Yes sir – no problem. Just what is this “shipment” you’re talking about? How the hell are we supposed to get it back home, the Jeep’s just a little short on space Gramps.” E was trying to figure out what he had in mind and how they could shuffle things around, especially adding Linda to the mix – it was going to be tight!

“It’ll be fine E, you’ll see once you get to DT. You guys have anything else with you besides your sidearms?” Gramps could feel them looking at each other.

Brad spoke towards E’s phone – “Yes sir, a couple of M4s and half dozen mags. We should be able to handle pretty much anything that should come our way.”

“Sounds good. Honestly, I don’t think this will spread much past the central part of the city . . . this time. Come summer – well, Minneapolis isn’t the only place having these problems. Chicago and St. Louis is hot on their heels – not to mention virtually any city with over a million people. It the shit doesn’t hit the fan this summer, it’ll just be plain dumb luck – and that can’t last for ever. Regardless, get your butts moving – you have a meeting at DT at 0800 sharp – and the president is a real stickler for folks being on time. Give me a call when you’re headed towards Linda, I would think you’ll be rolling that way by 10:00 or so. I’ll call her; tell her to stay put and what the plans are. Depending on how things go you can head for home early evening or first thing in the morning. Questions?” His voice didn’t invite “questions” – not that E or Brad had any.

“No sir, we’re rolling. Call you when we are rolling towards Linda. Have a good morning Gramps.” E was already up, headed towards her room and a shower. Brad was moving too.

“Alright kids, talk to you later.” As Gramps ended the call and they got their day started.

E glanced at her watch – 06:15 . . . “You up for a quick run, I really need to stretch out the kinks after yesterday.” E had gotten in the habit of a run in the morning to heat her muscles, to help rebuild those parts of her body that had been hammered by the IED.

“Sounds like a plan, I could use a stretch too – see you in 5?” With that both threw on their running gear and headed out for a run. The miles went easily for both setting an easy 8 minute pace. Four miles later they were coming up the driveway – both feeling much more awake and “looser” after a day in the car yesterday. A couple quick showers and they were ready to roll. Coming out to the kitchen again, they smelled fresh bacon cooking. “MMMMMmmmm . . . bacon!” Thought E.

“Morning Ann – you really didn’t need to fix breakfast, we could have grabbed something on the way to DT.” That said, E’s mouth was already watering!

“No problem – in fact Charlie called me already this morning, asked if I could come in with you two. So, I thought while I was up, may as well make sure we started our day off right.” Ann grabbed plates, moved some bacon on each and added a good helping of scrambled eggs and shredded cheese, a couple slices of toast and set them down next to large mugs of coffee. They all ate in silence. E noticed the absence of Hank and smiled, “Sleepin’ in” she thought. She suspected he’d be up soon enough and headed off to another school day. The thought was no sooner in her head than he rolled into the kitchen. A plate was found – bacon and eggs added along with a large glass of juice and milk.

By 07:30 the food was done, coffee pot empty and everyone was headed for the door. Hank for school and track practice and Ann, E and Brad for Defense Technologies. It was going to be an interesting day.

The office of Charlie Franklin, President and former owner of Defense Technologies.

“Morning Charlie – you ready for us?” Ann had poked her head around the corner of the door that lead into Charlie Franklin’s office.

Charlie turned his gaze from his monitor and looked towards Ann, “I am, see if you can scare up a pot of coffee and a few donuts. Have everyone take a seat around the table, I’ll be with you in is sec.” His hands finished their work at the keyboard and grabbing a notebook he rose from the desk, headed toward the far end of his office and his “guests”.

Charlie Franklin’s life had taken a significant detour nearly 8 months back when he’d received a call from the man he owed his life to – Earl Franks. He hadn’t heard a word from Earl for nearly a year when suddenly he’d appeared at his office door fully unannounced. Earl had saved his life a handful of decades ago when he had led a Rifle Company during the second battle for Fallujah and since he’d become a true friend.

Fallujah – November 2004

What a cluster fuck that had started out as. He was a “seasoned” 1st Lieutenant but not in the way Sargent Earl Franks was. And, like any professional NCO – Earl became Charlie’s mentor, not that they had much time together. Charlie had been in command for only a couple of months. They’d been handed some pretty tough missions but everyone knew Operation “the dawn” was going to be a bitch! Every street, every compound, every house in every compound was waiting to send you home in a bag. Two days in they had been assigned a night raid to clear a small compound where a suspected al-Queda leader was holed up (of course, “they” said that about every compound that was raided). The entry team was stacked, the breach team in place with Charlie and Earl right behind them. The compound door was blown and his company pour in – a third broke right, a third left and the remainder headed straight for the squat set of three buildings across the compound. They took fire immediately with the sound of “Medic!” being heard from both the left and right. Charlie, Earl and a squad hit the door of the center building.

BBRRRRAAAAAAAPPPPP!! A burst from an AK rang in their ears – the room dark yet still visible in the black and green of the NVG monotube each was wearing. The muzzle flash flooded the tube with light making it useless for a handful of seconds while their other eye went from dark to blinding light to dark again. There was a dull “thud” of something hitting a wall followed by assorted “clunks” as it bounced off the couple pieces of furniture in the room.

“GRANADE!!” . . . . BBRRUUUUMMMMMMPPPP! And 1st Lieutenant Charlie Franklin’s tour ended as everything below his right knee simply exploded is white pain.

“Clear this fuckin place – now!” Screamed Earl – noticing he probably had taken more than a few chunks of metal based on the number of white hot lances of pain he was feeling in his thighs. And his LT was cussing up a storm – he’d more than likely taken the brunt of the explosion. Earl moved towards Charlie – “How’s ya doin’ LT – you’re screamin’ like a baby!” “Fuck you Sargent! I think I lost a chunk of my leg – Damn it! It!” Charlie was doing his self-assessment and quickly discovered that things did not feel “right” from his kneecap down. “Fuck!! Not good! Not Good!” Charlie said to Earl.

Earl’s men moved forward through the warren that was this shitty little compound. Sporadic bursts from M4s – and a few from AKs – sounded for the next few minutes. They provided cover for Earl to do his own assessment – “FUCK! “ though Earl. “Well LT, you screwed the pooch on this one – hang in there sir, hang in there!” Earl reached for his front left molle pack and ripped out one of the CATs he wore. Most wore one – for themselves. Earl, responsible for the Marines in his company – always carried three. He opened it up and worked it up the Charlie’s leg, finally getting it completely above all the damage he could feel. He cinched it “finger tight” then turned the windless until it felt good and tight. There was not time to be particular – a person could bleed out in a couple minutes with a wound like this – tighter was better.

“Command – Boomer 62, Boomer 01 down, request immediate Dustoff . . . say again, Boomer 01 down, request immediate Dustoff – over!”

“Boomer 62 – Command, understand Boomer 01 down. Any other casualties? Over!”

“Roger command, at least three known at this time. It’s still pretty hot here but our need is immediate for 01, say again, need is immediate.”

“Understand Boomer 62, Dustoff is lifting off as we speak – Location? “

“Location 332056 by 434553, 332056 by 434553. There’s an open park about a tenth of a klick to our northwest for extraction – provided you can get in. I have IR IFF – have Dustoff request verification!”

“Roger that Boomer – ETA 15 minutes – out.”

“You’re ride’s comin’ Sir – hang in there!” Earl’s squad leader returned - “Compound is secure Sargent – we took three casualties – leg wounds mostly, the medics are on it. Four raghead KIA. Made a shitload of noise though Sarge – sure to draw attention. How’s the LT?”

“Dustoff is inbound, I’ll update them on our other casualties. Gather the company together, we’re headed for the park about a klick to our northeast – I suspect we’ll “draw attention” – can’t be helped. We need the park secure. Let’s get our shit together and head that way!”

“Command – Boomer 62.”

“Go Boomer 62.”

“Total casualties count four, say again four. Leg wounds but the LT is critical, I say again, critical.”

“Boomer 62 – roger that, 4 casualties – they’re headed your way!”

Night, in enemy territory is an “uncomfortable” feeling. Night – in Anbar province – beginning the penetration of Fallujah with jihadi’s all-around willing to collect their 72 virgins – well, that was enough to make anyone’s butt pucker! Their destination was close but exposed. They needed to do this extraction quick so the Company could get their wounded to safety and then press on into the city. “No rest for the wicked” thought Earl as he lifted his LT into a fireman’s carry and headed out the door! “Damn my ass hurts – must be going soft!”

The company gathered then exited and moved across the street and east towards the park. A slight bend and they were there.

“Corporal – send out a couple squads to secure a perimeter, we’ll hang back here with the wounded until we have inbound confirmation. We’ll move to the center, I’ll flash IFF and then we’ll see if we can get their asses outta here before the whole fuckin’ world crashes in!” Earl was less than happy with their current situation – yet it was what it was.

“Roger that Sargent” his corporal said as he trotted off and made assignments.

“Boomer 62 – Dustoff, Squawk IR IFF” While Dustoff pilots are absolutely committed to bring out every wounded Marine – they aren’t stupid. The pilot was using the Infra-Red Identification Friend or Foe system to insure Boomer 62 was, indeed, in the park below. The night was hairy enough without walking into a death-trap.

Earl put Charlie down, grabbed the IFF unit off his molle and aimed it at the sound of the helicopter. It consisted of a high-power IR laser that was easily seen in the NVG goggles both pilots were wearing providing an easy method of confirmation.

“Ident count is three Boomer 62” The pilot confirmed he had seen three individual flashes of IR light. “Roger that Dustoff, LZ secure but we are sure to have visitors on their way.” Time was an enemy – longer exposure meant increased likelihood of a RPG up the ass of the inbound Blackhawk.

“Understood Boomer 62, coming in hot and locked and loaded.” While the Dustoff Blackhawk had all the featured of the most advanced ambulance, it was also armed with SAWs on each door as well a fully armed crew on board. In years past Dustoff choppers were officially “unarmed” which meant that the crew typically carried personal weapons, but there was no real firepower to bring to bear if the need arose. Things had changed in Iraq. While two SAWs hardly made the Blackhawk a gunship, it gave them the ability to suppress enemy fire should the need arise.

Earl heard the Blackhawk roar in, finally seeing the equipment lighting inside the main bay and in the cockpit. He picked up the LT and ran to the open doors. A slightly built crewman emerged on his side of the chopper as he was quickly joined by the other wounded and walking wounded. He turned the LT over to the medics in the bay, confirmed that his other Marines were on board and turned to leave.

“Get on board Sargent – there’s room for you.” Earl turned towards the sound of a woman’s voice . . . “Ma’am, I’m fine. I need to take command of this company and move down the road. Take care of my LT and get the hell outta here!”

“Sargent, your ass and thighs are covered in blood. You’ve obviously taken some shrapnel – we need to get you to the hospital with the rest of your men.” She was getting impatient – time on the ground was not a good thing!

“Sorry Ma’am, I need to get rolling . . .” and Earl turned to leave.

“Sargent, get your fuckin’ ass on board – NOW! That’s a direct order!” She was now well and truly pissed and she wasn’t going to take shit from this asshole who obviously needed medical attention.”

Earl drew up short – looked at her tabs and noticed she was a Captain – and she was way past angry. “Roger that Ma’am – on my way.” Turning to his Corporal he shouted “All yours Corporal, keep heading towards the city center. I’ll fill command in on what’s happened. You know the job – do it!” And with that Earl turned and boarded allowing the chopper to head to the hospital.

Earl watched the crew working on Charlie – “How’s the LT doing? What are his chances?” A medic spoke to him as he continued to work. “His right leg is toast. The CAT saved him – his pulse is weak but steady, we’re giving him blood now. He’s not in shock , we’ll do our best to keep it that way. We’ve given him a cocktail to fight off infection and ease his pain. He’ll be in the OR within 20 minutes – well within the “Golden Hour”, I’d say his chances are very good!” The medic turned to see if Earl had any other questions – only to see that he had passed out – obviously losing more blood than they had thought. The medics worked “around the horn” taking Earl next – stabilizing him and getting IVs started then continued until all had been stabilized. As the last pressure bandage was applied their wheels touched down.

Charlie was on the table within 50 minutes of his first wound. The final result was the loss of his leg just below the knee. While he had a host of other penetrating wounds, he would heal fully. Twelve hours later he was on an angel flight to Germany and he arrived at Walter Reed 48 hours later.

Earl spent three weeks in hospital in country before we was fit to return to his company. “the dawn” was down to a mop up operation and there was a brand new, crisp 2nd Lieutenant to break in. “Back to normal” thought Earl as he geared up for another trip outside the wire. This would be his last tour – this time next year he’d be back home for Christmas, a little worse for wear.

April 2050 – Office of Charlie Franklin

Charlie Franklin stood just a tad under six foot. He’d maintained his “fighting weight” of around 170 pounds. He’d worn his hair short all his adult life though now-a-days it was more “salt” than “salt and pepper”. His glasses rested above his forehead and were brought down when he needed to read the fine print – otherwise he hated glasses. And while he had crossed the 70s boundary, he still ran a couple miles a day and added a half hour of cross fit to balance things out. One of the “benefits” of America’s wars in the first half of the 21st century was the advancement of the technology prosthetics. And Charlie had taken full advantage of these advancements with three separate “legs” – one for every day, one for running and one for swimming. Bottom line, if you didn’t know he was missing a leg – other than a very slight limp, the average person simply couldn’t tell.

“So you’re Earl’s granddaughter – the infamous “E”! Glad to finally get to meet you.” Charlie leaned over and gave her a firm handshake. “You keepin’ an eye on that old grunt?” He gave her a big smile as he saw the confusion cross her face. “He’s been telling me about you for years – his Marine sniper granddaughter. Heard you had your ass handed to you – you doin’ OK?”

“Yes sir, comin’ around. I should be 100% by the end of the summer; at least that’s the plan! May I ask, how do you even know Gramps?” She knew she was being led down a path, now she was curious where this was headed. “Why don’t you take a look at my “bragin’ wall” over there, see if you see anyone familiar.”

E rose and walked to a section of Charlie’s office that was obviously his “braggin’ wall” – she saw a typical array – photos, displayed medals (including the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star with a V for valor). It was obvious he’d been a Marine, most of the photos showed equipment that E was familiar with. One caught her eye – an officer and NCO both standing in front of a MRAP. The officer was obviously a much younger version of Charlie . . . the NCO was none other than Sargent Earl Franks!

“You two were a bit younger then.” E said, turning back to the table and taking her seat, a smile playing across her face.

“That we were, that we were. That’s about a week before your grandpa saved my ass . . .” It was the perfect entry for Charlie to share how Earl had saved his but “way back when”. . . . . .

“The last thing I remember is your grandpa chucking me in the Dustoff. I woke up a couple days later in Germany. I was back stateside in another two day. I caught up with him on the net a few weeks later – we’ve been friends ever since. We probably have only seen each other a couple times a year – yet every time we get together, it’s as though no time has passed. He’s become a good friend. Which brings us to why you’re here! About eight months ago he showed up here at the office. Said he wanted to talk to be about something he called “the slide” and that he had a business proposition for me. The rest, as they say, is history. I suppose technically – this company is now more yours than mine.” Charlie smiled and sat back, watching the emotions play across E’s face.

“Well sir, not sure about that. Gramps never let on you two even knew each other. This morning he called and said you had a shipment for us and that we were supposed to come, meet you and pick this mysterious shipment up. Sounded like it would take a day or so? Meantime, Brad and I need to drive up to Cambridge to pick up my sister Linda. Seems that Minneapolis is circling the crapper and Gramps made it perfectly clear he didn’t want her near the city. I suspect we’ll head up there this afternoon and, depending on weather, be back tonight or early tomorrow.” It was E’s turn to sit back and wait.

“Yep, sounds about right. I gave Earl a call about 3AM this morning and rolled his ass out of bed. Minneapolis has been looking over the brink for a while – it’s just a matter of time. Not sure this is “it” but the city’s not doing well this morning. He said your sister was flying home today, I wanted to make sure I put a quick stop to that. You can head north and avoid the city entirely by heading up 169 to 95, then going east into Cambridge. That will keep you well away from the cities and still be an easy trip. Might take a bit longer, but with the crap going on in Minneapolis right now, it’s a better choice. Now, let’s go see your shipment, we’re kitting it up right now.”

They all rose and headed back into the factory. Arriving at the shipping department, it was a shooter’s dream. They were surrounded by the countries most advanced firearms all being placed in a variety of shipping containers.

“These are yours.” Charlie said as he walked over of a half dozen pallets being loaded with crates. Looking to the side, E and Brad could see that each crate held six brand new M4-Gs, DT’s latest offering in lightweight, battletested carbines. Running the numbers – 6 weapons per crate, 8 crates per pallet, 6 pallets . . . E was staring at 288 weapons – this was their mystery shipment, and the beginning of their army’s armory.

“I just have one more question Charlie – I brought a Jeep – not a semi. How am I supposed to get them home?” I was fairly confident she was just getting part of the story.

Charlie simply nodded to the midsized panel truck in the loading bay. No markings, just a plain white truck. “She’s part of your company’s inventory now. We’ll have her loaded by the time you two get back. I have an afternoon conference call scheduled with Earl and Ann – I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about by the time you two get back in the morning.” Charlie and Earl had run a number of ideas to ground over the past 8 months. The result had been the sale of the company, the earmarking of Ann as the “company” manager for Earl, the need to begin building armory for Earl’s soon-to-be army . . . and a million other details. It had been a hectic winter – summer promised to be even more so.

“Why don’t you two head out, I’ll make sure your shipment is ready to roll tomorrow. We’ll lay out the next steps when you return – fair enough?”

“Yes sir – fair enough.” And with that E and Brad headed for their jeep and the next leg of this little adventure Gramps had sent them on.

There would be more down the road . . .