By Michael Morgan

Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved


— 12 —


The sound of an engine drew their attention to the road as an old pickup slowed to a stop. “You two come here,” Emma called to Jeremiah and Caroline.

The driver turned onto the grass and moved toward them at the steady country amble of someone used to negotiating unstable surfaces and spooky livestock. Stopping about twenty paces away, the gears went into Park, and a Cattail pattern camouflage trouser leg stepped down. Topping off the camo, the tan Deputy Sheriff’s uniform shirt looked ridiculous, but the young man wearing it was all business.

“Buckley Chalmers! How the Hell are you?” called Tom enthusiastically.

Deputy Chalmers was taken aback by the sudden attack of friendliness, “Mr. Lewis?”

Tom turned to Emma, “Ol’ Buck here was in my History class the year I retired from teaching. His daddy named him after William Buckley Jr., the man who started The National Review magazine.” He turned back to the Deputy, “Buck, I haven’t seen you in forever. What have you been doing with yourself?”

“I went into the Army,” Buck replied. “Got back last summer, and I’ve been workin’ in the county jail since.”

“How’re your folks doin’?” Tom asked.

Buck shrugged, “OK, I guess. Mom’s still in Selma. Daddy run off, couple a years ago. Nobody’s heard from him.”

Tom frowned, and looked at the dirt, “I’m sorry to hear that Buck. That’s got to be hard on your mother.”

“What are you doin’ out here Mr. Lewis?” Buck was suddenly all business.

Tom looked shocked, “Where are my manners?” He presented the others, “This is Ms. Emma Pitts, my new housekeeper, and her kids Caroline and Jeremiah.”

Buck nodded to each.

“I was showing Ms. Pitts the shortcut from my place to the gas station,” Tom said. “We came out too far west, so we were walking along the road, when we saw the power station. I came over for a look-see. What happened?”

“FEMA says it was a power surge. Burned out a lot of these substations,” Buck looked uncomfortable. “I talked to some of my Army buds, and they say its terrorists shootin’ holes in ‘em.”

“I saw some Army unit over by Montgomery a few days ago,“ Tom said.

Buck shook his head, “That ain’t the Army Mr. Lewis. Least not anymore, they’re contractors.”

“What kind of contractors?” Tom asked.

“Security as I hear it,” Buck cocked his head so his ballcap shaded his eyes as he looked at Tom.

“It looked like Montgomery still has power,” Tom said. “Are they on generators?”

“Naw,” Buck shook his head. “Most of the bigger cities still have lights. East coast, west coast, and most of ‘em up north.”

“Let me guess,” Tom started.” All of the State capitols?”

“Nope,” Buck said. “Not all. Montgomery is about as far south and west as it gets for inland cities. Most everybody is in the dark like we are.”

Tom scratched his head, “The Sheriff came by my place a couple of days ago. He said something about a big refugee center on in Montgomery.”

Buck nodded, “Yup, that’s where we take ‘em.”

“Must be a big place if it’s going to handle everyone in the State.” Tom pushed.

“Don’t know.” Buck shrugged. “We just drive up to the gate and drop them off, get our receipt, and get back on the road lookin’ for more.”

Tom let it drop, “Is anything moving out there? I haven’t seen a big rig in weeks.”

“Little to nothing that don’t have a couple of Hummers full of contractors running security with it.” Buck confirmed. “Even they can’t run without orders from FEMA or Homeland.”

“So where do we get food?” Tom changed the subject again.

Buck thumbed over his shoulder, “The gas station is getting some deliveries, but you best be first in line.”

Tom nodded, “Thanks Buck. We’ll go look it over.”

“I’ve got to get back on patrol or Bob’ll have my a—,“ Buck looked at Emma. “Sorry Ma’am.” He opened the truck door and put his foot on the running board, “Mr. Lewis, you should cover that up.”

Tom was puzzled, “Cover what up?”

“Your hogleg,” Buck pointed at the revolver on Tom’s belt. “The Feds declared a national emergency. Orders are to confiscate guns when we find them, and arrest anyone caught carrying one as a potential terrorist.”

Tom pulled his shirttail out and draped it over his gun, “Thanks for the tip Buck. I owe you.”

Buck closed the door and started the truck. Slipping it into gear, he leaned out of the window, “Keep your eyes open Mr. Lewis. Some bad stuff is going down.”

Tom hooked a thumb over his shoulder toward the ruined power station, “So I see.”

They watched Buck drive slowly back to the road. Tom looked at Emma, “Let’s go see what’s happening at the gas station.”