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The Face of Freedom

The Face of Freedom

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The Face of Freedom

533 pages
7 hours
Apr 26, 2016


The Face of Freedom is a novel for all genders concerned with the current trading of Constitutional Freedoms for governmentally sponsored safety.

In this novel incompetent manipulation of political and military power draws innocent people into a turmoil of intrigue, conflict and fulfillment that demonstrates the inevitable strength of men and women from varied walks of life and diverse countries. It demonstrates how unusual, usual people can be when it's necessary to defend freedom or someone they love.

The unexpected twists and contradictions in the novel are difficult to predict, and will tempt the reader to look ahead. It can be said this book has more than one beginning and ending; not alternatives, but as in life, phases of renewal and discovery. It highlights the ease with which those in power are corrupted and demonstrates the integrity, tenacity and innate abilities of very special people, considered ordinary by those in power, to assume the noble mantle of leadership.
Apr 26, 2016

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The Face of Freedom - Benjamin Vance


He never tired of the gentle squish, squish, squish sound his boots made as he slowly walked the third or fourth mile of the damp forest road outside Helena, Montana. It was vaguely like a soft rhythm he and the road had established. Otherwise, he’d kept as quiet as possible and seen a camp robber jay, something that looked like a small weasel and several large doe watching back. A little squirrel followed him up the road at one point, seemingly wanting a handout.

He was in no mood for handouts though. He was a man on a mission. The rich smell of life and death in the thick evergreen rain forest was primeval. His senses welcomed the pleasant reality of his surroundings. This was the way humans were supposed to live. This was Eden. If only he could accept, and believe that.

The twenty first century was still in its teens and the world had become an alien place for the principles he held dear. He meant to change that … if possible. He had a calling. He would succeed or die trying. The world would be better after he was dead, or at least no worse off than it was. He had to try; with every fiber of his body and his soul, he had to try.

It was sometime near 5:00 p.m. when he saw his first listening post; probably manned by two people; not entirely hidden, but barricaded well. They didn’t stop or challenge him; they just watched and radioed ahead. This was still National Forest land, so they wisely chose not to stop him. He figured he would meet the barrier about half a mile on. Not far enough, but these minute-man groups all had their own methods and protocols.

He came upon a beautifully clear, narrow, gravel bottomed creek that crossed the road, and tiny brown trout went shooting away from him, mimicking their powerful grown salmon cousins. Not wanting to muddy it up, he easily jumped its smallest width, continuing his march.

He soon came to the entrance, indicating to all encroachers; this was the private land of the Freedom Force Rangers... strength unknown, but intentions admirable, he guessed. He stopped, stood quietly and waited for acknowledgement. It came in the form of a young, clean shaven man in his late twenties. He was armed with a 9mm semi-auto pistol. It was holstered in a black plastic, quick-draw. He was not threatening. He didn’t have to be, since the walker and the young man were being watched by two riflemen about a hundred meters to his right and left.

How are you sir? offered the young man.

I‘m just fine, thank you. I’m here to help save our country; can I come in and be sheltered?

Yes sir, you can. Are you armed?

In my backpack.

Please don’t attempt to remove it until we’re well within the confines of our haven. We were hoping you’d come our way.

Thank you. I’m honored to be here and honored you can welcome me.

He’d visited seventeen of these Minute Man posts in the last six months, and was beginning to draw attention from local and state governments. His speeches and his charisma were welcomed by many, but also feared by those in power. He had to do what he had to do. So far he’d been blessed with only a few close calls.

There’d been that black County-Mounty in Wyoming who stopped him on the road to Greybull. He’d been insistent the walker get in the car and be transported to another location near the Montana and Wyoming borders. He’d been very direct with the officer and asked why he didn’t want him in Wyoming. The officer guessed who he was and suggested he was a bigot.

The walker explained he didn’t care about the color of a person’s skin. What he cared about was whether a person was a patriotic American. The back and forth conversation lasted ten minutes and resulted in the officer finally letting him continue. It really was a mystery, since he’d never been a particularly convincing orator. His sincere conviction may have been the key. He was preaching the sermon of we. Politicians had been preaching the sermon of us and them for far too long. He would change that … if he could.

He followed the young minute man to the central meeting hall. It was a well-constructed log structure with thick walls and roof. It should have been concrete. The other smaller buildings, which included living quarters, sanitary facilities and what looked to be a dining hall, were far too close together. It was understandable, since the folks involved with these organizations usually felt marginalized or forgotten by their government. If they only knew! Still, these organizations gave them something to belong to. And they always wanted to be too close together. That’s why the buildings were usually huddled up and vulnerable.

Most were not racists, but some were considered so, simply due to their geographic location and love of weapons and military ways. Most were wannabes, but there were some brilliant leaders and followers involved; a lot of ex-military. The dangerous ones were the intelligent deviants. He had to walk on egg shells at times, but always seemed to get his message across.

His desire was to consolidate all the minute man or patriot groups under one organizational umbrella in order to consolidate political power. He was succeeding; slowly. The leaders were talking and holding combined meetings to discuss strategy, logistics and recruiting. He was reasonably sure one Wyoming Senator was on his side. He and the Senator were alike in patriotism and other ideology, and his aim was to enlist more legislators like him.

He was brought some refreshing fruit drink and a fruit snack and told their elected leader would be with him shortly. Suddenly, he was alone in the cavernous meeting house. It smelled of the forest and of smoke, and of humans. He could hear the distant pop, pop, pop of a pistol being shot. The periodic pauses indicated the checking of targets, then the pop, pop, pop would start again. Most of these organizations were built around the second amendment right to bear arms, and most of their members loved shooting and hunting. Some just loved getting out of doors.

The various weapons advocates and shooter’s group organizations were always crying wolf with regard to second amendment rights being denied. They were right in many instances and kept the members on their toes. Some of the shooter’s organizations had become powerful lobbying groups. They used member contributions to pay Political Action Committee fees for lobbying their cause. Overall it had worked ... so far. America was armed to the teeth, so that any other country having designs on the U.S. would certainly hesitate, based on the fact that their people would get targeted from every bower and creek in the land, much like the colonial revolutionaries had done.

However, if one could slowly remove freedoms from American citizens and make them feel they could only be kept safe by their government, then it might be possible to slowly remove the guts from the second amendment under the guise of All Americans deserve to feel safe in their homes. To the walker it begged the question of how much taxes will it take to make them feel safe? How many police, how many video cameras and how many scanners in airports will it take to make them feel safe? William Shakespeare wrote Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. As far as the walker was concerned, the government’s motto was Cry safety and remove the rule of freedom.

His thoughts were interrupted by a large swaggering man with a shock of grey hair protruding from his olive drab green cap, and dressed in battle dress camouflage clothing. The guy reminded him of John Wayne. He had a semi-automatic pistol on his side, which as he got closer was revealed to be a 1911 model Colt. He stuck out his hand and delivered an iron grip that tried to crush. When it was returned with the same fierceness, he winced. The walker hoped it had not put the large man off. It hadn’t.

The man said, God, I love a firm handshake! He then asked if they could both sit down and talk. The walker was relieved and pleased. He had expected no less, but still… .

The big man introduced himself as Dr. Luke Tarwater. He was a retired gynecologist and said he knew all the gynecologist jokes. They went through the usual, getting to know each other stuff and Dr. Tarwater asked the walker if he would address their group that evening. It was Friday and he offered it could start the weekend out in the proper manner. No one there had heard his sermon first hand, but all heard about him by then or at least seen a facsimile of his face on the web and read blog reports. He was becoming famous, or perhaps infamous.

The walker said he would be honored to address their group and asked to be given a time. Dr. Tarwater suggested 7:00 p.m. The walker agreed, then asked if he could rest up somewhere for a while. He was given a small, but adequate room off the main hall. It was virtually soundproof. He was delivered some more food, and he prayed for about half an hour.

At six thirty he asked for directions to the latrine, relieved himself and returned to the small room to meditate and change. He came out of the room at 6:55 dressed in black silk pajamas and flip-flops. The chaotic room was over-filled with members, male and female. Several babies whimpered. Youngsters were respectful and disciplined. The room got quiet as he walked to the podium which had been set up especially for his speech. He thanked the crowd quietly and began:

"I am both honored and embarrassed to be here; honored, because I’m talking to American citizens and heroes who love their country; embarrassed, because I would never have chosen this path for myself. One would hope that all Americans of like mind would come together and agree on certain things and that an old man like me would not have to worry about the integrity of our constitution. However, that is not currently the case.

"Our government has become so large, it cannot act. It can only react. It is so fragmented, it cannot be organized. It is so diverse in its directions it can only sit still, print and spend money. There are no politicians who can grasp, control and lead the entire organization. No administration is willing to risk the ire of even a small part of its political base to get our entire country pointed in the right direction.

"The definition of a traitor is, ‘One who betrays one’s country, a cause, or a trust, especially one who commits treason’. Treason is defined as, acting to overthrow one’s government; it is also defined as a violation of allegiance to one’s state or betrayal of trust or confidence. While I do not advocate overthrow of our government, I do advocate justice for those in positions of honor who have betrayed the special trust and confidence placed in them by the American people. I think we all know their names.

"When government organizations are asked to lead, follow or get out of the way; they purposely get in the way. It sometimes takes years for a private American citizen to receive a patent, or just get his or her fair social security compensation after paying into it for forty years. And, don’t try to enter a government building paid for with our taxes, without first going through a security screening process. They call it security; I call it control.

"One cannot inquire to a government organization and expect a timely answer, unless one is very wealthy. I’m sure most of you have tried to contact a local government agency and received the run-around from various demigods. One will never get an answer to a question from an inquiry via government internet, unless satisfied with the FAQs.

"I’m also sure most of you remember when our yearly tax money granted us at least the unfettered entrance to our National Parks. Now we pay to enter those natural shrines; our shrines. If you complain, you’re labeled a trouble maker and either arrested, threatened or both.

"We have become a country of ‘us and them’. How many times have you heard a government official refer to ‘The American People’? Seldom do we hear ‘We the People’. Every administration tries to stay in power; not in service!

He raised his voice, We-need-to-take-back-control-of ... our ... country!

He was always met with a standing ovation at this point so he let the chatter die down a bit and then started to use his hands and arms again for accent. He started with a string of words, pausing between each for further emphasis.

"Bearing, courage, decisiveness … dependability, endurance, enthusiasm, initiative, integrity … judgment, justice, knowledge … loyalty, tact and unselfishness; those, ladies and gentlemen are the traits of leaders. How many of those traits can you ascribe to your government leaders? Please think about it. Our military personnel are torn between those traits and their missions each day. They have sworn to live by those traits and if necessary die by them.

"Yet, we have continually sent them into harm’s way without a declaration of war. We have sent them to defend and die for oil and mineral supplies. I, for one, could not care less about a backward country in the Middle East; dominated by a king, Junta or Islamic fascist. The inhabitants do not care for us. In fact they hate us for the most part. I wear these black pajamas to remind me there was no real reason for us to be in Vietnam, but once there; no reason to give up the fight.

What got us out of Vietnam was not fire power and it wasn’t political power, because the politicians or their sons weren’t dying. We left because the American people stood up and said STOP---and he held up his hand like a traffic cop before continuing. We are a powerful force. We are impenetrable when we stand shoulder to shoulder. We need to keep and bear arms and stand together to stop anyone from modifying the second amendment. (Applause) "And we need to remain vigilant for other constitutional subversions, such as the prohibition against taking bribes in Article one, section nine, and we need to keep a watchful eye on the first, fourth, tenth, and the fourteenth amendments. We all need to read the entire Constitution; understand it, respect it and teach our children to do so.

Thanks to the Patriot Act, any agency of The Department of Homeland Security can violate our Constitutional Rights at a whim. Their folks can come into our homes day or night without a search warrant. This isn’t exactly the ‘Safety’ we have been told to aspire to in America, is it? (Laughter and applause) "Please do not take me wrong. Again, I am not advocating an armed overthrow of the government. I am advocating the repossession of our country and the recovery of our rights and privileges.

"How many people do you know whose jobs have been sent to a communist country? Have you ever asked yourself why? Our leaders say it assists with foreign trade. It makes things cheaper to manufacture and to buy. I say why make things cheaper if we don’t have a job nor money to buy anything anyway. That’s where we are today in this beloved land. We currently owe China over seven hundred and seventy two billion dollars! We owe a communist country over seven hundred billion dollars, and they hold over two trillion in U.S. securities. That means China can play a perverted golden rule game with us. Don’t you think they presently do just that?

It would not surprise me if Chinese troop planes began landing at our airports tomorrow. When a country harvests organs from executed criminals, condones the consumption of rare wildlife, suppresses dissent with massacre and prison, and permanently occupies another country, why do our leaders kiss their asses? (Yells, applause, affirmation) To you parents, I apologize, but I must be emphatic at times.

After a brief pause and sip of water, he went on, "It is because there is immense wealth involved; for a select few. There is immense wealth for those companies that have left the U.S. and set up manufacturing facilities in China. There is tremendous wealth for those companies that have set up facilities in Mexico, India, Pakistan and other countries as well. Their indigenous work forces will benefit from wages that are generally less than one quarter of American wages. Never mind that the quality of much of the merchandise coming from those countries is marginal at best. Never mind that we are shipping America’s natural resources overseas so we can buy back products made from those same resources.

"If I may be overtly sarcastic for a moment: It is very important that all this take place so that Political Action Committees can provide a continuing supply of money to our elected officials and their parties. It is important that elected officials earn more than many CEOs who have built companies engaged in commerce in the U. S. and who hire American workers. It is important to keep the money coming in to National Republican and Democratic Committees so they can spend millions getting their favorite candidates elected in order to complete and continue the vicious cycle.

Meanwhile, rank and file members of Congress make over a hundred and seventy four thousand dollars per year, leaders of the minority and majority over a hundred and ninety three thousand dollars per year, and the speaker of the house makes over two hundred and twenty three thousand dollars per year. Of course, one doesn’t spend three million dollars, which is the average amount spent by a Senatorial candidate, to get a hundred and seventy four thousand dollar a year job, even if it is for six years. We all know and can imagine there are a lot more perks to the jobs. He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts and for another drink of water. Then he continued in a more somber tone.

"The selling of America has occurred gradually, like a fungal growth. It has occurred slowly but inexorably, along with our loss of freedoms. I believe there is such a large population in our country now that politicians actually think only in terms of demographics and trends, without regard to human senses and equity. I don’t think our condition means anything to most of them. We are simply ‘cannon fodder.’That is the main reason why I’m here.

I believe that we, the free American people, need to lock our arms and show our force, both political and martial. Our representatives need to respect us and fear us. They need to understand that they represent us, not the wealthy or the corporations or PACs. It is us who elect and fire them. And, it is time most were fired. (Applause and affirmation)

"Remember, the mantle of freedom is woven with tenuous strands of integrity, courage, justice, and the sweat and blood of patriots. War has never permanently destroyed freedom, but freedom can be stolen or relinquished through negligence, deceit, and ignorance.

"I simply suggest and hope that this organization and others with like minds, morals and aspirations combine forces to help take back our country. Teach every man, woman and child of the appropriate age how to effectively fire a weapon, reload ammunition and properly maintain standard weapons. Each organization should possess at least two fully automatic weapons, with the appropriate permits. There should be an adequate number of individuals trained to fire them effectively and to store and maintain those weapons for a time of emergency.

I fear that emergency is rushing at us as I speak. I urge all of you to trade ideas with each other and other organizations and structure yourselves for the best defense. Remember, the best defense is a forceful offense. I love you! I love this country! Freedom is safety from tyranny. I want to be free ... I will take care of my own safety! Thank You!

As had happened with most of his engagements to speak, his audience exploded with applause and cheers. However, he always feared his leaving would be like pulling a finger out of a bucket of water; no impact, no lasting impression and no sense of his having been there. He always hoped for the best though, and these folks were some of the best he’d run across. He was a keen observer and noted that throughout his speech they paid studious attention.

Dr. Tarwater rushed the podium and shook his hand for about a minute while various members took photographs and asked for the walker’s autograph. He couldn’t smile; he seldom did. He simply signed Walker; he always did. People seemed to be satisfied with that; probably thought it was his last name. They didn’t need to know.

Dr. Tarwater thanked him publicly and asked if he would stay the night. He politely accepted, with the request that he be allowed to address Dr. Tarwater’s staff for a short time. From the Freedom Force Rangers Headquarters, he was headed to Northern Montana to talk to another group. He would need some help getting there, because apparently no one knew where the Mother’s Sons of America (MSA) were located. He hoped Tarwater’s staff could help.

The small staff of five was modeled after the military, with personnel, security, operations, and supply and civil affairs members. Surprisingly, the personnel and civil affairs officers were female. That made a lot of sense to him.

He answered many questions during the evening meal. He learned much more than expected, not only about the MSA and its approximate location, but about the fears, aspirations and plans of the Freedom Force Rangers. He gave advice when asked, and they asked plenty. He recommended concrete block construction with poured, reinforced concrete bunkers, no less than fifty yards apart at the perimeter of the compound. He recommended underground hard wired communications that couldn’t be jammed. He recommended the relocation and dispersal of the buildings, the stockpiling of one year’s rations at each of the member’s homes to be brought to the compound in case of an emergency, the stockpiling of ammunition and the selection of M-2 Heavy Barrel machine guns as the automatic weapons of choice.

The conversation continued into the night with him learning much and recommending more. The walker saw no compromises with defenses or offensive capability. He understood that when you planned over the top you get much more than when you equivocate. He was planning for war. As a strong nation deters war, a strong populace deters malevolence.

As always he had dreams, really bad dreams. He dreamed of babies burning with their little clothes sticking to them. He saw people being eaten or rendered for their protein. He had visions of concentration camps and segregated areas for different people. He dreamed of piles of American flags and bibles burning. His dreams were vivid. He seldom slept more than five hours.

When he could, he slept during breaks on his walks. When he crossed a grassy park surrounded by trees, occasionally he would lie down, hidden on the side where he could watch his path, and would sometimes have uninterrupted sweet dreams of the times he’d hunted the Rockies as a vibrant young man. He dreamed of camp robber jays that walked right up and took food off your plate if you let them, and he dreamed of watching beaver work hurriedly in late September while he lay undetected under a large blue spruce or tangle of yellowing aspen. He had seen bear, lion, elk and mule deer. He had killed blue grouse, pheasant, elk and deer. He could kill none of them now. His heart had softened in old age. He would kill nothing anymore ... except possibly man.

He’d received valuable information from a couple of young men with regard to the location of the MSA. The young men had an uncle who owned about five thousand acres outside Glacier National Park in Montana. Their three cousins were apparently members of MSA, and the walker was given their telephone number and offered a ride up highway 93 to the Whitefish Range. He accepted, but asked if he could ride in the rear of one of the pickups so that no one outside the compound would see him leave.

The ride was bumpy until they turned off I-90 onto U.S.-93. He transferred to the cab on a deserted road with plenty of overhead cover. They stopped to eat in Kalispell, but as usual he only ate to survive his walks. Eating took too much time. They dropped him in Whitefish, and turned back toward Helena with fond wishes and good luck. He wished them eternal vigilance. They didn’t think the comment was strange; coming from the walker.


He stocked up on necessities, called the cousins, talked to one, and then strode off toward the timber of the Whitefish. Soon after he disappeared into the timber he stopped to check his topographic maps, refer to his GPS and chew on some beef jerky. He preferred beef since most beef is inspected well, or at least it used to be. He vaguely noted that his back pack seemed heavier each month. He settled his .40 caliber pistol and its holster onto his chest, admired the building clouds and pointed himself northeast toward Coal Creek.

He always looked forward to his treks. They cleared his mind of doubts and helped refine his speech for the next group of patriots. He always understood there could be a degree of prejudice and bigotry engrained in these backwoods types, but with today’s highly educated population one saw less and less of that kind of thinking. He didn’t need those undercurrents muddying up the waters of his calling. Anyone should be able to see the higher goals needing to be reached. Still, he wasn’t sure how many of the newer members were Homeland Security plants. He just reminded himself he would convert them as well. What mattered to him was the United States of America. What mattered above all was the Constitution.

He made a rudimentary camp at about nine thousand feet, snuggled up against an outcrop of rock that had been used by myriad small animals for generations. He erected a lean-to shelter to shed the misting rain and started a small fire of white gas. He drank deeply from his water store knowing there would be plenty of fresh springs on the eastern slope of the Whitefish. He hung his food rations from a high tree limb and lay back on his sleeping bag to snooze, hopefully. With his pistol on his chest, he dozed and dreamed of happier times with his late wife. She had been his only reason for living, until cancer took her.

It took many years to finally realize his country was really worth dying for. Oh, he had been in the Marines; spent time in Vietnam, two tours in Ascrackistan. But ... that had been a job and he had Linda to help him through it. He loved to fantasize about seeing her bare freckled shoulders under her apron straps. Not to mention that white butt of hers shining like an Irish search lamp. Several times during their marriage, he’d caught her wearing nothing but an apron in the kitchen. When he saw her she would giggle and blush red, but she still loved the thrill of it. They’d enjoyed a rich relationship without children. Both had wanted kids, but she couldn’t conceive due to complications from Crone’s disease. They talked about adopting, but never found the right occasion. Then she … got sick … . He awoke abruptly, but continued dreaming of her.

He still kept her goodbye letter in his safety deposit box in Salt Lake. Each time he found himself there he would read it again. And he did often find himself there, because he liked to consult the Mormons with regard to the latest in food and data storage technology. Thanks to the LDS church, many records, especially genealogy records, are stored in deep caves in the Wasatch Mountains. There were also several well-armed Minute Man groups in Utah. One group counted their numbers in the thousands. The Mormons usually do those things correctly. He never could adopt their religion, but their work ethic was dear to his heart.

A new breeze disrupted his concentration as it whipped and snapped his camoflage nylon cover. He got up to tighten it and realized the rain had stopped. He walked into the woods to urinate and looked up at the stars. Everything was surreal when there was no light pollution. He could see the Milky Way; billions of stars. There was no moon. He immediately felt infinitely insignificant. Humility was always with him in any case, but in camp he dropped to his knees and prayed. He prayed for humility; courage and strength to finish his calling.

He was convinced premature death awaited him, but always tried to shrug it off. He was a born-again Christian and was profoundly changed when he accepted Christ into his heart as a young man. He believed with certainty there was an afterlife. Still, ones id never ceases to question the necessity of death. Yeah, he was kind of scared. He was scared that everything he was trying to do would lead to zero and he would be killed, discredited, and mocked as a fool. When one aspires to higher goals and contemplates failure, why is it the acceptance of friends and relatives becomes so important? He didn’t have many of those left, but he didn’t want them to be embarrassed if he screwed up. He sat down on a rock, just to meditate.

He awoke to the jerk, jerk, jerk of a jay bird. It was morning and he’d slumped to the ground and slept. He was cold. He was bone cold! He grunted to his feet and started to stretch a bit---cracks and pops. He sounded like breakfast cereal. He grinned a bit. It almost hurt his face. He hadn’t used his grin muscles much since Linda left. It felt kind of good. As he began to warm up he started his burner, heated some water and had oatmeal. He finished his breakfast, packed and consulted his GPS. He had fifty miles to go before he got to the latitude and longitude coordinates the cousin had given him.


Twenty four hundred miles away in an air conditioned office of the White House, President Charles Able loosened his purple silk tie, plopped down in a light brown leather easy chair and conferred with his Director of Homeland Security; Stephen Northfield, and his old friend and partner in crime Albert Swain, who was, and always would be his Security Advisor.

Steve, I really don’t like what I’m hearing from the second amendment freaks out west. It’s bad enough that some of the western states are passing laws of their own on immigration, gun rights, search and seizure, and separation of church and state. Now the governor of Montana, old ‘Holifattin’ or whatever his name is, is claiming the National Guard in Montana is under the sole direction of the State. I never heard such a crock of shit! ’You have any Intel on the situation?

Mr. President

Damn it Steve, I told you to call me Chuck.

Mr. President

Shit … you tickle me Stephen! Okay, okay go ahead ... go ahead! No friends in this job I guess!

With a smile Steve said, Mr. President, we have information and we have names and locations. There are many groups in the Western U. S. that consider themselves patriots and call themselves ‘Minute Men’. We think most are a bunch of bigots and wannabees. Ill equipped and even less trained, they pose more of a danger to themselves and each other, than to our government. Still, the groups in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho seem to be developing some new semblance of cohesiveness. We’re getting feedback that one of the leaders is attempting to unify the groups to gain political power.

The President asked, Any idea who he is and if we can put a gag in his mouth?

We’re trying to get that information as we speak sir. However Governor Olefin, being a moderate Republican is not cooperating well with our folks. Also, it seems the Montana Representative is partial to the ’Minute Man’ crap.

You mean Jake Melbourne?

Yes; Jake Melbourne sir! He’s chairman of the ‘Ways and Means Committee’ and is the only representative for Montana.

Holy shit; I know that! I mean I didn’t know he was behind Holifattin and partial to the second amendment cause. Did you know that Al?

Yes sir. He’s quite a boy. ‘Been elected a helluva lot of times and Montanans; I don’t care whether they’re D’s or R’s or independents, they love old Jake Melbourne. He’s a rancher and talks their language. He’s put more money into Montana infrastructure than any other man in history, he’s developed jobs, state healthcare plans, and education in Montana and he has no reason to stop any time soon. Steve’s more conversant on the security aspects of the situation, but one needs to tiptoe around old Jake. He’s a trip. Also, I know he and Governor Olefin are close. Now Senator Ashley King is one of ours, but one never knows how Senator Nash Livingston will bend since he’s an independent.

Charles Able was lost in thought for a moment, then addressed Steven Northfield, What would it take to find out what’s going on out there, if anything, and if we have anything to worry about? ‘Seems like a hard nut to crack with so much political bullshit around. Is there anything you can do Steve?

Well, we have a lot of resources Mr. President. I’m sure we can come up with something.

Thanks, I appreciate it. I want you to get the FBI involved too. They have a great terrorist department and a lot of assets. While you’re at it Steve, can you get me a background on National Guard issues? Check with the attorney general’s office and see if they have a National Guard Guru. They can take the action if you think it’s necessary. Maybe it’s in their bailiwick anyway.

Certainly, Mr. President. Is that all?

Sure Steve, I have another meeting in about ten minutes with some Girl Scout tree huggers. Guess we better get busy. Al, will you stay for a minute?

Once the Director of Homeland Security had gone, the two old college buddies could relax a bit. The President began by asking, How are Pam and the boys?

Oh, the boys are trying to give their mother fits, but she’s too strong for them. All they want is more stuff. When they were little it was cute. Now that they’re grown it’s almost sick. They think they have to have everything the rich kids have.

Charles Able guffawed at that statement and slapped his chair arm, You are so full of it Al, always wanting to play the pauper, when I know yours is one of the wealthiest families in Virginia. We just don’t have time to see each other enough anymore do we?

No sir Chuck, it seems like we hardly ever see each other, even in this capacity. Pam says she misses you and Sue. Maybe next time you go to Maryland we can go.

Hope so. Tell me something. What do you think of Steve, now that he’s had over a year to settle in?

Well … I think he’s a very intelligent man, and one I would probably have picked for the job. He’s a great family man; you had that checked back to his Mayflower roots. He’s a patriot, I think. That may be his weak point you know. He may let his patriotism cloud his common sense and the best interests of your administration. I just get that feeling sometimes.

You’re right on the money as usual! He is the right man for the job. Shit, you know; you helped me pick ‘im. I just feel a bit uncomfortable around him at times. His family is nice even if he does have a son in Berkley, he grinned.

Yeah, well we can’t all be ‘Haaavuurd’ grads can we?

Some days I wish we were back there Al. We had a great time getting here, even though sometimes I wonder how anyone can run this freaking country.

Well, if anyone has the power, you do Mr. President.

Thanks Al, see you around the mall. Tell Pam I said hi.

As he opened the door to leave, Thank you Mr. President. I’ll contact Roland Franks and I’ll keep track of that other subject as well.

Charles Able relaxed a little with that declaration. Having Al Swain ‘handle’ a problem was tantamount to having it solved. About Steve Northfield; he thought the jury was still out. To Chuck he seemed a little slow on the uptake and plodding in method and closure. He’d picked worse for his administration though.

He fixed his tie in preparation for the Girl Scout photo-op. His last thoughts as he prepared for the onslaught were, That damned Supreme Court Judge Nominee!


He could never make fifty miles in a day, even when he was a young man and the terrain was relatively flat. He calculated another overnight at a spot which would be a bit less protected, but a lot warmer he hoped. He hoisted his pack and headed in the general direction. The sun would be kind to him that day. Walking in the filtered light was like walking in a dream. At times he could almost imagine Linda peeking around one of the large evergreens; scotch pine he thought, or maybe balsam fir. Different trees up here than in Colorado or Utah, he thought. These guys had to stand some really long and cold winters. He never understood how Lewis and Clark and company made it so far on so little. Those boys were his inspiration some days.

About 1:00 p.m. he heard conversation. He didn’t see any roads on his map, but that didn’t mean a logging road hadn’t been pushed through lately. He cautiously circled where he thought the voices were coming from, but they were moving as well. He decided to take a rest and snuggled up under what looked like another balsam tree. He waited and tracked the noise. At last he heard a man and a woman slowly moving through the trees. He smelled them before he saw them well. Perfumes in the woods! Good way to draw the bears, he thought, but he didn’t know for sure. The man was leading the way and both had large back packs. Both looked strong, handsome and tireless. They moved slowly up the slope toward ... who knows what. He waited until their voices faded into bird chirps and bug noises again and then crossed their trail. It looked like a nice game and hiking trail; probably used by a lot of hunters. He left it behind on his way northeast.

At one point he edged a cliff of about seventy feet. The view made him catch his breath; purple clouds on the horizon and green as far as he could see. Below him, he heard before he saw, three bull elk emerge from a nap and start to browse around the edges of a small park. They were big boys and one was at least a Western twelve point. He watched them knowing that thirty years earlier he would have shot one. Now ... well, that was then. He quietly moved on and they never saw nor smelled him.

He came to a small stream he’d seen on his map and found a brief level place on the up-slope to lay his weary body. He’d eaten enough jerky. He cooked himself some sweet rice and chicken and imagined he and Linda were eating Chinese food she loved so well. Talk about a way to draw the bears! He had plenty of time to wash his cup and spoon in the stream. It was about three feet across and littered with all types of

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