At four o clock the next morning, Grandma awoke Brielle.
“Brielle, get up, honey. Atticus, Jo, and Popeye are taking you to Atticus’ property to hide you in his secret bunker,” she told her.
Atticus’s SUV was parked in the backyard, next to the backsteps. He sat in the driver’s seat, with Jo sitting in the passenger seat with the motor idling as Popeye and Malcolm smuggled Brielle out the backdoor, down the steps, and into the truck before shutting the door. Malcolm flat handedly slapped the side of the SUV hard before shouting, “Go!”
Atticus slowly drove through the backyard and pulled unto Grandma’s private gravel road, which was called Bennett Rd. The bumpy road ran past Grandma’s barn and wound through a large cornfield before ending at County Route 16.
Atticus Hides Brielle from Bobby
Atticus then turned onto County 16, which took them across Hwy 72. They proceeded down 16 until they turned onto Landon Rd and drove past Crooke Hill and what was once 627 Landon Rd.
As dawn broke in the East, Brielle stared at the old Crooke property as they drove past, noticing that all that was left of the house was a tall, red brick chimney and some of the foundation with a cinder block-lined hole in the ground where the basement had been. She also noticed the charred remnants of the huge barn off in the distance. The heavily tinted windows of the SUV were enough to cloak the occupants within from any passers by who might have otherwise recognized Brielle sitting in the back of Atticus’ vehicle.
Atticus looked at Brielle through the rearview mirror and spoke.
Atticus’s Connection to Shannon McGregor
“Brielle, I bought the old Crooke Property just last year. Shannon sold it to me for seventy-five thousand dollars, all 20 acres. I still have her phone number on one of my business cards. It took a while, but I finally got in touch with Shannon yesterday. They think that her daughter Kelsey, who’s still missing, may have been brought back here to Thomasville. Her oldest daughter, Alexandra just quit the FBI after working with them for three years. She’s now working as a detective with a national watchdog group called, Watchers of the Watchmen. She’s coming too. You’re finally going to get some help. The Bledsoe Brothers, Chris, Daniel, and Miles are coming here to help you and find Kelsey. Mile’s wife, Cindy Wilkes Bledsoe will also be with them. They’ll all be flying into Memphis International this evening,” Atticus assured her, “Jo and I are going to the airport to pick them up.”
Brielle’s eyes widened.
Pieces of the Puzzle
“Don’t get me wrong, Atticus! I can’t thank you enough for this! But how can I possibly pay them? I have no job right now, my pet sitting business hasn’t even gotten off the ground. Raina and I were going into the business ourselves. But now, she’s missing. I’m living off four thousand dollars a month child support,” Brielle told them, “I’m thankful and blessed with what I do have, but I don’t have the money that Shannon had when Johnny Crabtree tried to destroy her family.”
“Well, this is a special case, Brielle. They think that Kelsey is here in Glover County somewhere and your case with the girls happens to be in the mix. They’re not going to charge you near as much. I’ve already filled them in on your situation so, they may only charge you for their flight expenses and any expenses they incur while they’re here. And if you need any help with that, I’m sure I can work something out,” Atticus assured her, “I may not have Bobtail Bud’s right now, but I still have The Black Trans Am. As soon as an opening comes available, I can hire you on there and take a certain percentage out of your weekly check if I front you. Heck! If I was rich and had money to play with, I’d give you the money and write it on my taxes as a business expense. But with the medical expenses from the attack last year and the deductible I had to pay for my business insurance to rebuild The Double Nickel and Bobtail Buds, it put me in a bind right now. I hope you understand.”
Hope for Brielle
“You don’t know what this means to me, Atticus. I can’t thank you enough and I’ll do whatever I have to do to pay you back. But hopefully, that won’t be necessary. The last thing I want is for you to put yourself out for me. I’m willing to pay for their expenses. I can do that myself. Worst case scenario, I may have to pay some of the money in installments, but I can make that. And I have a little bit of a nest egg put back. If they need up to a five-thousand dollar down payment for their expenses, I can handle that,” Brielle told him.
When they pulled into Atticus’ driveway, his two-story, ranch style house stood about a half mile from the road. Its roof was covered with solar panels. Atticus pulled behind the house, and continued to the back property line, which was lined with a neatly kept wooden fence and row of bushes.
“Wait here,” Atticus told Brielle before he and Jo got out of the vehicle.
A Secret Bunker
They went around to the passenger side of the SUV and knelt to the ground. Atticus and Jo then pulled at the ground, rolling back several rows of sod to reveal a set of steel double doors in the ground. Atticus eased his fingers under the edge of one of the doors and lifted it up while Jo grabbed the other door and they both pulled each door up and open.
Atticus then opened the back passenger door of the SUV and motioned for Brielle to come out of the vehicle. Brielle did as she was told and Atticus led her down the stairs into the underground bunker, using the light of his flashlight until they got to the bottom of the stairs. Jo followed behind Brielle.
Once they all got to the bottom of the stairs, Atticus shone his flashlight on the light switch and flipped it on. When the lights came on, Brielle looked around. Her eyes widened in amazement as she beheld the huge, brightly lit underground room.
Keeping Brielle Safe
The place looked like a huge man cave with kitchen and bar, two dart boards on the left wall, a flatscreen TV, and built in shelves and cabinets. In the center of the large room was a pool table. There were also two sofas in the room and a small kitchen table next to the kitchen and bar. The kitchen, living room, and entertainment area were all one room. Atticus looked at Brielle.
“The sofa’s each have a hide-a-bed,” Atticus said before walking up to the right-side wall of the underground room to what looked like four columns of built-in, tall cabinets.
He then pulled on the handles and pulled out a Murphy bed. Jo then opened a door next to the Murphy bed, walked in, then came out holding a set of bedsheets and a blanket.
“We’ll make you a place to sleep,” Jo said as she began putting the sheets on the bed.
Brielle pitched in to help her while Atticus went into the same closet Jo had and brought out two pillows.
“You’ll stay here until the Bledsoe’s arrive. Then we’ll figure out a strategy, do our own investigation, and go search for the children and others who are missing,” he assured her.
He then took Brielle through a door beside the large, stainless steel refrigerator that led to a pantry that was the size of a large bedroom with wall-to-wall built-in shelves which were stocked with canned, boxed, and dry foods and other nonperishables. Then the door on the opposite side of the entrance lead to a large walk-in freezer chock full of frozen meats, pizza’s and packets of frozen vegetables, all vacuum sealed.
Jo looked at Brielle to see that she was visibly stunned.
“Atticus is a prepper. For three decades, he’s been prepping for food shortages, natural disasters, foreign invasions, you name it. We’ve got enough food down here to last three years. Possibly four if we ration it to stretch it out,” she told her.
Emergency Food Storage
“Well, he’s certain got his work cut out for him,” Brielle said before turning to Atticus.
“Wow, Atticus! I really admire your preparedness,” she said.
“He also has solar-panels on his roof and a huge solar-powered generator that powers his house. It’s how he gets his electricity. He’s even sold energy back to the power company and gotten paid for it. He bought Crooke Hill just last year to have extra land to raise cows, pigs, and hogs on. And the Crooke property was adjacent to Atticus’s property so, now, it’s an extension of it,” Jo said.
“Wow! So, you were here when the Thomasville Conspiracy went down?” Brielle asked.
Jo Remembers the Thomasville Conspiracy
“Jo was here overseeing my property. I was in Texas that summer,” Atticus told her, “I was there helping my mom and dad with some prepping. They’ve since passed away, so I had to go back to Texas after they died and bring their things back here.”
“Were they from Texas? Are you and Jo?” Brielle asked.
“Naw, we were all from here. But mom and dad left here and moved to Texas shortly after my wife and daughter died. I was in the service, and I couldn’t be here to protect them. So, I advised them to move away to keep from being targeted by the Crabtree’s. The early nineties were a dangerous time here for my family. This land belonged to my mama’s side of the family.”
Calling it a Night
“Well, it’s been a long night,” Atticus said as he gave a yawn and stretch, “We need to get some sleep and you do to. Jo and I are going to go above ground, put the sod back over the doors to the bunker, then go to the house and lie down for a while. You can stay down here in case the sheriff comes and decides to search my house for you. After all, he knows that we’re friends of yours. There’s a TV to watch, DVD player and movies. There’s also a laptop with internet on the desk, next to one of the sofas. We also have a bathroom and shower on the other side of the closet and plenty of fresh food in the frig if you get hungry. We’ll be back to get you when the Bledsoe’s get here.”
“I can’t thank you enough,” Brielle said.