The Second Vow of Chastity Baker C2

Group of happy friends cheering with wine and beers at boat party. Diverse men and women having drinks at sunset yacht party.

Chapter 2

A New Life

 

The next morning, the newlyweds took a flight to the Florida Keys for their honeymoon. Having only flown once, plane rides was still a new experience for Chas, and she loved it. Charlie made sure to give his new wife the window seat. The flight from Memphis to Miami was a two-hour flight giving Chas plenty of time to admire the view of the clouds and earth below. Just a few years before, she never thought that she would see outside the city limits of Memphis and now, having been to the Maldives with her girlfriends just four months prior, she was getting the privilege of flying to another tropical destination.

Chas could not keep her head out of the window. She stared in awe at the sea of billowing clouds just below them. The morning sun shone brightly in the East.

“Oh, Charlie look at those clouds! It looks like there’s no end to them! “Chas said in amazement.

Charlie just sat there and smiled, enjoying seeing his new wife gaze out of the window and stare out into the vast sea of clouds with child-like wonder. He beamed, pleased to be the man who was giving Chas the pleasure to experience things she had always dreamed of experiencing but had never had the chance. He watched, feeling very much like a superhero as Chas continued gazing at the world below, cooing over the view.

“Wait until you see the ground. It looks nice too!” Charlie told her.

Off on Their Honeymoon

Soon, the clouds had reduced to only a few white speckles and Chas could see the earth below.

“Wow!” She marveled in a whisper.

The ground looked like a vast quilt with squares, rectangles, and other shapes of different colors of green, brown, red, and orange. The roads were just tiny, bright white lines drawn across the squares. She could also see bodies of water which looked like small mirrors of glass reflecting the sun. Then she looked across the blue sky to see the occasional distant white trails of vapor left behind by other aircraft that had left their mark. Chas could not get enough.

She couldn’t see any people or automobiles because they were too far up. But during the descent before landing, Chas could finally focus on the automobiles that moved down the veinous network of highways and roads below. They reminded her of a long trail of ants from an anthill, looking for a picnic.

The Flight

After they landed, the newly married couple rushed through the crowded airport, through the exit and finally caught a cab. It would be a few hours before their Cessna was scheduled to depart for Key West and they decided to do some shopping at a few of the marketplaces near the airport. On the way back to the airport to board the Cessna, Chas stared out the window, mesmerized by the outside surroundings.

“My, gosh! The last time I saw so many palm trees was in the Maldives with Tori and the girls back in December! Oh, I just love palm trees!” She gushed with the excitement of a child on Christmas Morning.

Charlie smiled, loving the fact that Chas appreciated life more than most women. Because she had experienced such a hard way in life, she never took anything for granted like most people tend to. Her appreciation for her new blessings was as pure as the heart of a newborn babe and Charlie only wanted to give her more.

“Wait until we get to the beach!” He said softly, running his fingers through her curls.

The overweight but friendly cabby looked at them through his rear-view mirror.

I take it that it’s your first time being in Florida,” he chirped.

The Florida Keys

“It is.” Chas answered back.

“This is our honeymoon. I’m taking her to the beach this afternoon,” Charlie told him.

“Congratulations, both of you,”

“I just bought a swimsuit, cover and a couple of beach towels,” Chas chirped as she dug through her shopping bags and took out one of the pretty beach towels to show Charlie.

Charlie’s father had given them five thousand dollars spending money for a wedding present. Soon, the couple boarded the Cessna and were in the air again. Chas did just as she had done during the flight to Miami. She could not stop gazing out the window.

During the first day of their honeymoon, they checked into their hotel, then went shopping at a nearby shopping mall. They ate their meals in the hotel cafeteria. Later, they went to the beach. Chas had only seen the beach once and once was not enough. She had become addicted to the sights of white beaches, clear blue water, palm trees and sunny skies. Unable to keep her eyes off her new surroundings, Chas eyed the palm trees, then looked back at her husband.

“Where are the coconuts?” She asked him.

The Beach

“I don’t know. Either it isn’t the right season for them, or we’re not far enough south. I think we have to be within the tropics and closer to the equator to see coconuts, honey,” he told her.

As they walked across the hot sand, Charlie carried two lawn chairs and Chas toted a bag carrying their beach towels, suntan lotion, and sunshades. He stopped and set up the lawn chairs, covering them with the beach towels while his bride stared in awe at the ocean in front of them. She could not believe how blue the water was. The ocean was a beautiful aqua color. And the sand on the beach was a snowy white color.

After setting up their spot on the beach and slathering each other down with suntan lotion, Charlie and Chas ran toward the ocean and got into the water, jumping the waves and bodysurfing. Wading chest-deep in the ocean, Chas looked down at her feet, completely amazed. The water was so clear, so free of sediment, it was as if she were looking through glass. She could see her feet and the white sand beneath them so clearly! She watched as a huge school of tiny fish swim around her ankles with their silvery scales and fins seeming to glisten in the light of the sun. When they grew tired of swimming, Charlie and Chas walked along the beach, hand in hand, listening to the seagulls cry and the crashing wave.

Beautiful Sounds of Seagulls

The newlywed couple spent their second, third, and fourth days on the beach, where they both sunbathed and swam, taking small breaks in between to rub each other’s backs down with suntan lotion. On the fifth and sixth days, they spent their time at an amusement park, riding roller coasters and eating cotton candy. The last night before going back to Tennessee, Charlie and Chas took a twilight stroll on the beach.

It was a beautiful night. The stars twinkled in the sky as the ocean breeze blew gentle gusts through their hair. A full moon lit up the sky like day and glinted beautifully on the ocean. They both felt inner peace while hearing the waves roll onto the sandy beach.

“Oh, Charlie! This is such a beautiful place. I don’t want to leave,” Chas cooed.

“I don’t either, honey. But we must go home tomorrow. We must pack so that we can move to Nashville to be near my family,” Charlie replied.

“Oh, well. Who knows? Maybe we can retire here one day,” Chas gushed.

“Ya never know,” Charlie said as he slipped his arm around her shoulders and they walked on.

Moving From Memphis to Nashville

The next morning, Charlie and Chas prepared to leave the Keys. It would be a honeymoon that they would never forget. The next two weeks were spent packing to move to Nashville. Charlie gave a notice of transfer to the MPD. He would be transferring to the Metro Nashville Police Department.

On his last day at the Memphis police department, Charlie was given a going away party by his fellow officers. His fellow officers would miss him very much. Charlie and Chas had already moved their belongings to Nashville, where Charlie’s father had them put into storage. Early the next morning, the happy couple left for their new home. On the way, Charlie and Chas talked and looked at the scenery. They made several stops along the way, Cuba Landing on the Tennessee River, Loretta Lynn’s place, the Buffalo River, all for sight-seeing.

“Before I left for the Maldives with the girls last December, I had never been outside of Memphis. Traveling is such a new experience for me, and I love it. I have always wanted to travel, to get out and see the world. And praise God! It’s happening now!” Chas said, beaming with excitement.

The Trip

“Well, you and I are going to do a lot of traveling over the next few years. I promise you that,” Charlie said with a smile as he glanced at Chas off and on while driving down the interstate.

After about four hours of driving and making frequent stops, Charlie and Chas arrived in Nashville at about noon and spent the night in a hotel. After a refreshing nights’ sleep, Charlie and Chas drove to the home of Charlie’s’ family at around nine the next morning.

Chas was surprised to find that Charlie’s’ family was very wealthy.

Charlie drove out of the metropolitan area and into a countryside of rolling rolls and windy roads. After fifteen minutes of driving through country, Charlie made a turn and pulled onto a long driveway which was about a half-mile long. Chas looked ahead and could see a huge white plantation style mansion with swimming pool. She paused and gave Charlie a puzzled look.

“Is this where you grew up, Charlie?” She asked in amazement.

“It is,” Charlie answered with a smile.

A Huge Surprise

The mansion sat on a huge dude ranch with several beautiful horses. In the front of the house was a huge porch and balcony, garnished by several white pillars. The Riddick’s owned well over three hundred acres of land. The vast acreage was a huge green carpet of grass. Off to the east of the house, on a hill sat a huge red barn with white trim. At the foot of the hill, on the east side of the barn, was the shady lot and stables where the horses were kept. The rest was just flat countryside for as far as Chas could see, with foothills barely visible on the horizon.

Maurice, Charlie’s’ father, was a big-time businessman. He was co-owner of Jarrett & Riddick Advertising. Charlie introduced his new bride to the maids of the Riddick household, Anita and Celestine. Chas was amazed but managed to contain it. She greeted the maids with a ‘hello’, smile and handshake, then looked at Charlie and smiled, wide-eyed and full of anticipation of their future together.

Afterwards, Charlie led Chas upstairs to their new bedroom, and the maids entered, carrying their suitcases and sat them down at the foot of the Alaskan king-sized bed before excusing themselves. Chas looked around the huge bedroom and noticed the fireplace, the huge bed, the huge private bathroom and the French doors which led outside. Chas walked over to the French doors and opened them to reveal a beautiful veranda furnished with white, wicker-style patio furniture.

Getting to Know the In-Laws

“Oh my gosh! This is beautiful!” Chas gushed. She then turned to Charlie and he walked up to her and put his arms around her.

“Charlie, you never told me about any of this. I had no idea that you came from privileged beginnings,” she said in astonishment.

“You never asked,” he reminded her.

“Of course, I did. Remember? Off and on, I asked about how you grew up? What values you were taught, what school you went to…you know? Things like that,” Chas continued.

“But you never asked about our lifestyle and I just didn’t think to tell you,” Charlie replied.

“True. But anyone worth their salt wouldn’t ask questions like that. So, is this where we’re going to live?”

“For the time being. Until we find a place of our own.”

Charlie grabbed a blanket and took Chas around the estate. He showed her the stables where the horses were and introduced her to the ranchers who worked for the family. Chas was taken by the horses.

“The horses are beautiful,” Chas said as she stroked the mane of one of the horses.

“Maybe after dinner, we can go horseback riding. Are you game or lame?” Charlie offered with a grin.

The Ranch

“You know I’m game,” Chas chirped, “But I don’t know how to ride a horse, never even been on a horse.”

“I’ll teach you how or you can take lessons,” Charlie assured.

Charlie took Chas to the lake, where they sat on the blanket and talked, while watching the ducks swim on the water.

“Wow! I’m totally floored by all this! Back in Memphis, you and I both lived in crummy apartments, and I figured that when we got married, we’d live in just another crummy apartment,” Chas admitted. “Your family has so much, Charlie. I can’t help but wonder how they felt about your living in a two-room apartment?”

“Well, they didn’t like it, of course. But I’m not the type of guy who lives off my family’s fortune,” Charlie told her, “And besides, Mom and Dad haven’t always been this well off. Believe it or not, they both came from poverty. They grew up dirt poor.”

They got up, before Charlie took up their blanket and led Chas to the big red barn, where the two climbed up to the hay loft. There, Charlie spread the blanket across the plush, sweet-smelling hay. He and Chas laid across the blanket and nestled against one another. Charlie wrapped his arms around her and drew her nearer to him.

Charlie Tells Chas about His Years Growing Up

“My dad went into partnership with a guy he grew up with and they started a business together. My dad worked his tail off…I mean busted his hump to get us where we are now. It wasn’t always easy. My dad worked long hours to get the business of the ground…sometimes up to eighteen hours a day. There were years when dad was hardly ever home and it was hard on my mom and my older siblings.”

Chas listened attentively as he talked about life growing up. Charlie then looked down at his new wife and ran his fingers through her hair. As their lips touched, he cradled her cheek with one hand. Chas unbuttoned his shirt and pressed her lips against his chest. He loved her tenderly, caressing and cradling her as he showered her flawless face with kisses until she felt dizzy. Chas ran her fingers up his back and through his hair. After lovemaking, they lay beside each other in the afterglow and took a thirty-minute nap.

When it was close to dinnertime, Charlie and Chas got dressed and walked back to that thirty-six-room house. As they walked, Chas had some questions to ask Charlie.

“Charlie, I don’t understand. Not that I don’t appreciate your being a cop, but your family has so much. Why didn’t you just become a doctor, or a lawyer, or even a business man, like your father? I figured that most people that came from wealthy families usually followed in their parents’ footsteps,” she said softly.

Charlie, the Blacksheep of the Family

“Well, it’s funny you said that. My parents did want me to go into the business field like Daddy. But my dream was to become a police officer. Ever since I was a small boy, I have wanted to be a cop,” Charlie said.

“I’ll bet that your parents were disappointed when you told them that you wanted to be a cop.”

“Yes. They were. But I couldn’t pick a career that I wouldn’t be happy with. No. Cops don’t get paid much. But it’s what I do best. It’s what I enjoy,” Charlie explained.

They stopped walking and gazed into each other’s eyes. Charlie cupped Chas’ face in his hands. Without saying a word, they continued to gaze into each other’s eyes.

When the happy newlyweds arrived back at the house, Anita was just putting dinner on the table. Charlie’s’ mother, Isabelle had already started to worry about them.

“Where have you two been? I haven’t seen hide nor hair of you two almost all day,” Isabelle complained.

“I was just showing Chas around the property,” Charlie replied.

Charlie had a large family. The entire family lived in the same household. There were Maurice and Isabelle, Charlie’s’ parents, and his oldest and alcoholic brother, Jim and his wife Lucretia. He had a second oldest brother, Jake and his wife, Katrina. And he had two sisters, Chelsea, who was married to Christopher, and Brooke, the baby of the family, who was single and in college.

A Large Family

“Charlie, son! Glad you and Chas could join us for dinner,” greeted Maurice.

They all sat down to dinner. After saying grace, the family enjoyed lobster, boiled shrimp, stuffed peppers, and zucchini squash. For dessert, Anita served cheesecake with blueberry topping.

The Second Vow of Chastity Baker C1-2

When the happy couple arrived at the hotel, they stopped at the front desk and the clerk checked their reservations, then handed Charlie the key card to their room. After taking the elevator up to the seventh floor, the newlyweds arrived at the door of their hotel room. Charlie unlocked the door before picking Chas up and carrying her inside.

As soon as the door was shut behind them, Charlie took Chas into his arms and they both engaged in a long and passionate kiss. Charlie broke the seal and looked at his new wife.

“I will love you forever, sweetheart,” he said softly.

Chas smiled.

“Wait here, I’ll be right back,” she said.

Chas went into the bathroom while Charlie waited by the wedding bed. During the wait, Charlie changed into a masculine red satin robe, then called room service and ordered two glasses and a bottle of pink champagne on ice. Five minutes passed, then ten. When fifteen minutes passed, Charlie looked at his watch.

“Oh, Chas! I’m waiting, darling,” Charlie called out in a sing-song voice.

Honeymoon!

Suddenly, the door of the bathroom opened, and out stepped Chas dressed in a stunning white negligee. Charlie’s eyes widened as he beheld his wife’s beauty and how the negligee fit his wife’s svelte form. He gazed in admiration, as Chas twirled around the room, showing off her sexy white spaghetti string negligee, smoothing the bodice that hugged her trim waist with her hands, then placing her hands on her hips. She then stood there and gave her new husband a look which said, “Come hither”.

“You look beautiful,” he said softly.

“I’m glad you like it. You look very sexy in that robe.” Chas commented as Charlie approached her. She then wrapped her arms around him and planted a soft kiss on his lips. Charlie reached for the Bluetooth radio and turned on soft music, then danced slowly with his new wife.

“I love you, Mrs. Riddick,” he whispered.

At the sound of her new title and last name, Chas’ heart leapt in her chest as she continued to slow dance with her new husband.

“Say it again,” Chas pleaded softly as he twirled her.

“Mrs. Riddick.”

“Ohhh, say it louder now!” Chas said in a playful voice.

“Mrs. Riddick.” Charlie repeated slower and softer as he gently pressed his forehead against hers.

“Ooo, I love the sound of that!” Chas moaned as she leaned her head against his chest.

Room Service

Minutes later, they heard a knock at the door. Charlie answered it to find a man decked out in a tuxedo, pushing a cart atop of which sat two gleaming wine glasses and a bottle of bubbly champagne half buried in a silver bucket of ice. The porter rolled the cart into the room before Charlie politely tipped him.

“Thank you kindly,” Charlie said before the porter left, giving the newlyweds their privacy. Charlie then popped the cork with the corkscrew, shooting some fizz from the bottle, then filled both glasses half full. He handed one to his new bride.

“To a very long and beautiful life together,” he said, raising his glass.

“Cheers,” Chas cooed.

They clicked their glasses together and sipped their champagne. After putting his glass down, Charlie wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips against hers repeatedly. They continued to stand in the middle of the hotel room, swaying to the slow, soft rhythm of the music. After turning the lights down low, Charlie hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outer doorknob, then gently closed the door.

The Second Vow of Chastity Baker, C1

The Second Vow of Chastity Baker

Chapter 1

Preparations

“Okay! The church is booked, the reception is booked here at The Rotunda, the wedding cakes are ordered, my bridal gown and the bridesmaids dresses are ordered and ready, I have Charlie’s wedding ring…Oh Lord! What else? I know there are things I’m forgetting! Ugh!” Chas cried out of frustration, running around with the checklist in her hand, “Tori, what am I forgetting!”

“Chas! Calm down! Just sit down and rest, honey! We’re working on it! It’s all coming together! You’ll see!” Tori called back while helping to decorate the ballroom at the Rotunda.

“Great! And I want to make sure the wedding cake is complete in time!” Chas called back from the kitchen.

“Come on, Chas! Relax, girl!” Camille, another lady from the group urged. A third woman from the group, Emily gently grabbed Chas by the shoulders while Sandy, a fourth, pulled out a chair for Chas to sit in. Emily took Chas by the shoulders and gently guided her to the chair.

Pre-Wedding Day Jitters

“Sit down! Rest! We’ve got this!” Emily urged as Chas took a seat, sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“I just want this wedding to be perfect!” She sighed.

“A perfect wedding is like a perfect world- there is no such thing,” Sandy reminded her.

“Oh, come on, I need positivity around me right now,” Chas whined.

“Girl, if you don’t hush, we’re going to have to put you on the next episode of ‘Bridezillas’!” Emily began.

Chas chortled.

“Alright, alright. You ladies are doing a fantastic job. I guess I’m a little nervous,” Chas admitted, chuckling.

“Honey, you’ve just got the pre-wedding jitters. We all get those.” Tori chirped, “My sister was a nervous wreck during the week before her wedding. Trust me, what you’re feeling is completely normal. That’s why we want you to take a breather.”

A Spring Wedding

It was Springtime in Memphis and there were two weeks left before the big day arrived. Chastity Diane Baker, soon to be Mrs. Charles Riddick, was busy checking off her checklist of wedding necessities. Tori and the ladies from the S.A.S.H.E. (Students Against Sexual Harassment Everywhere) a group from the college Chas attended and whom held meetings every first Saturday of every month on campus, was busy helping Chas prepare for her upcoming wedding.

To save up for the coming wedding, Chas had taken a second job at the hospital as a nurses’ assistant. On top of two jobs, she was looking forward to starting Nursing School at the University of Tennessee – Nashville in the fall.

Finally, the big day arrived. Charlie’s’ family had make the three-hour trip from Nashville to Memphis, to attend the wedding. At eight that morning, Chas rose from her bed and walked over to her mirror and stared at her reflection for a moment, feeling blissfully happy. She could not believe that the most special day of her life had finally arrived.

“I’m finally going to be Mrs. Charles Riddick. Hmmmm, Chas Baker- Chas Riddick. That definitely has a nice ring to it. Chas Riddick!”

The Day Has Finally Arrived

It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining brightly in the sky. The flowers were blooming and the sweet fragrance of spring filled the air. Birds were singing sweetly in the trees. Chas concluded that she and Charlie could not have picked a better day to get married.

She had to be at the church at ten o’clock. Earl would arrive to pick her up at nine thirty.
She showered and fixed her hair into a French bun and wisps of bangs in the front. She put on her make up, then slipped into her gown and put on her veil. Chas wanted to look perfect for this occasion.

When she was finished preparing herself for her husband to be, she looked in the mirror. Chas loved what she saw. She was decked in a snow white long flowing satin wedding gown with a laced bodice, long train, and V-shaped collar. Her veil was made of white pearls and lace. Before long, Earl arrived to take Chas to her wedding.

There were several guests at the wedding, including Lt. Jenkins and some of Charlie’s’ fellow officers. Sandra was there also.

When the wedding ceremony began, Earl escorted Chas down the aisle as the organist played ‘The Bridal March’. As Chas slowly walked down the aisle, she thought of her brother, Ricky.

Missing Ricky

“I wish he could be here for this,” She thought sadly, “My little brother should be walking down this isle with me. He should be the person giving me away to my husband, not Earl.” Chas had tried so hard to get her brother out of the situation he was in. She never believed for a second that Ricky wasn’t trying. Every time she had gone to Memphis to visit her brother, he had lost yet another crummy job and was still living with his girlfriend. And now he was so broke that he could not make the trip to be at her wedding and she knew Ricky really wanted to be there. How her heart ached! Chas only hoped that having to bounce from job to job was the worst of his problems.

The organist began playing Clarke’s “The Prince of Denmark’s March”. As she slowly made her way down the aisle between the rows of pews with Earl escorting her, Chas could see a beaming Charlie waiting at the alter with the minister, decked in his formal police uniform. When Earl and Chas arrived at the altar, Charlie joined arms with his bride and they both faced the minister. She slowed her breathing as the butterflies swarmed in her stomach.

The minister opened his Bible.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in the holy bonds of matrimony…” began the minister.

Wedding Vows

As the minister continued, Charlie and Chas looked at each other and smiled. They were full of anticipation, so full of hope of things to come. Their future together looked so bright. The happy couple were so eager for the minister to get to the part where Charlie would kiss his bride. They were overwhelmed with happiness. Chas stood there and cried tears of joy.

When the ring bearer presented the rings, the happy and hopeful couple each took one and Charlie placed the wedding band on his bride’s finger before saying his vows. Once he was finished, it was Chas’ turn to say hers. She looked lovingly at her husband-to-be as she took her vows.

“…I now pronounce you, husband, and wife. You may kiss the bride.” said the minister.
Charlie took Chas in his arms and kissed her gently.

During the reception, the entire Riddick family got to meet Charlie’s’ new bride. A huge luncheon was held at The Rotunda. The inside of the ballroom was decorated with huge white bows in every corner. Each table was covered with a white satin table cover and topped with a beautiful white candle surrounded with baby’s’ breath in the center. Everything was garnished with pink and white roses and baby’s’ breath. Candles were lit, giving off a romantic setting and there was plenty to eat. A long buffet contained barbecued and fried chicken, pork chops, country style ribs, potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, beef steaks, and other foods. Desserts and beverages were also among the smorgasbord of different foods. A huge wedding cake sat in a corner behind the buffet, trimmed with yellow roses and surrounded by bowls of nuts, mints, and wedding punch. The sounds of beautiful music filled the air.

The Reception

Charlie and Chas took the first slice of cake. The newlyweds fed each other their first bites as the guests took pictures. Then, they picked up their glasses of wedding punch and gave each other a sip of the other’s glasses.

Chas reflected on the night she’d met Charlie, just a few years earlier, which was the night he’d arrested her for drugs and prostitution. It was amazing how things had changed since then. Chas had matured from a young, teenage junkie and prostitute, who loathed cops and had a bitter outlook on the world, to a blushing bride who realized that the night Charlie had arrested her had been the night he had saved her life.

The arrest had been just the swift kick in the pants, she needed to make major changes in her life and redirect her path. Charlie had lit a fire under Chas. He had opened her eyes and made her realize that if she didn’t make changes soon, she would likely end up in prison, or worse, dead in a ditch somewhere.

It had taken a while, but miraculously, Chas had gone from hating Charlie, to loving him, to marrying him. It had not been the typical start to any relationship. Not by any stretch.

When the reception was over, guests threw rice at the newly married couple as they both exited the church. Chas turned around.

“Get ready, all you single ladies out there!”

Just Married

She tossed the bouquet in the air. Charlie’s’ youngest sister, Brooke caught the bouquet. Next, Charlie removed the garter from Chas’ leg and threw it into the crowd of single men and several of Charlie’s brothers from the Memphis Police Department cheered, whistled and clapped as a smiling Earl leapt in the air, reached for the flying garter and caught it before holding it up for all to see. Lt. Jenkins gave Earl a thumbs’ up.

In front of the church, sat Charlie’s new SUV, a black Ford Explorer, decorated with shaving cream and streamed with bunting. Cans hung from the back of the SUV and the words, “Just Married” were boldly written with soap on the back windshield. He and Chas got into the car and drove off, waving at the cheering guests. They had made reservations at The Blues Hotel, a first-class hotel in downtown Memphis.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C16

Chapter 16

The Wake

Two days later, Chris, Daniel, Atticus, and Popeye all sat at Atticus’ house, in his huge, eat-in kitchen, drinking coffee. Grandma Bennett, Kim, and Brielle came into the kitchen, fixed themselves a cup, then sat in the breakfast nook.  As they all gathered in the Carpenter kitchen, they watched the flatscreen on the wall. Suddenly, a newsbreak came over the airwaves. Popeye and Atticus leaned forward in their chairs to give it their full attention, as did the rest.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Crystal Cades,” said a young, blonde reporter with a gleem in her eye.

“And I’m Andrew Waller,” said the handsome, dark-haired male reporter who sat next to Crystal.

“We have breaking news. News channel twelves has just received word that the bodies of forty-four prison inmates who escaped from the Tennessee State Maximum Security Penitentiary in Sugar Village, were pulled from the waters of the Mississippi River early this morning. Twenty-seven of the escaped convicts have been arrested and returned to state custody and thirteen of the prison escapees have been apprehended in the surrounding states and are awaiting extradition. However, thirty-six escaped convicts are still unaccounted for.”

“We believe that an online security breach caused the security systems at the prison to shut down, which caused a massive exodus of inmates from the prison on Halloween night. However, that has not been confirmed at this time,” the young, male news anchor reported.

“But there is an even more bizarre twist to this story,” Crystal announced, “It has just been reported that fifty-four people, mostly Glover County and Thomasville city officials and prominent business leaders, are missing. Among the missing are Sheriff Bobby Earl Crabtree, his wife Rita Winchester Crabtree, and son, Mason. Also among the missing are Deputy Ashton Childers and his wife, Sarah, Deputy Grant Lindsay and his wife Misty. We will continue to give updates as more information comes in.”

Grandma looked at Kim and Brielle.

“How’s Raina?” she asked.

“She’s holding her own. She lost the baby, but the doctor says that she can still have children. It will probably be another week before she gets out of the hospital,” Kim answered.

“From what I’ve been told, Chess County Hospital is a good hospital. They’ll take care of her. She’s not out of the woods yet and Kim and I are going back this afternoon to stay with her. The doctor is keeping a close eye on her and will continue to update us on her condition and her progress.” Brielle added, “Paul is with her now.”

Cindy and Shannon came into the kitchen after overhearing the new broadcast and everything that was said. Shannon and Cindy fixed themselves each a cup of coffee as Grandma Bennett took two large pans of raspberry muffins out of one of the ovens and sat them on folded towels on the counter.

“So, what do we do? Do we report it? Do we keep quiet about it? I mean, chances are pretty high that they’re all dead and almost no one knew that those tunnels even existed,” Cindy said, “Chances are also pretty good that the child trafficking ring and Satanic cult were all killed in the collapse.”

“We still have to report it, Cindy,” Shannon said, “They’re all dead, but we still have to report it. Not only is it the right thing to do, but their could be a few of them who weren’t in the tunnels when they collapsed, or who survived. And, if so, do you think they’d ever stop doing what they were doing? Someone must investigate this or more children might be harmed. I don’t want that on my conscience and I’m sure you don’t. And none of the rest us want to carry that burden either.”

“You’re right,” Chris said, “But realize that this could go much higher than just the county officials. They probably had bigger bosses over them and we’re going to get a lot of press over this.”

“Surely, they could keep our names out of it,” Atticus said, “Maybe say something to the effect of, ‘very reliable sources submitted evidence of’ blah-b-blah?”

“I don’t know. We might, and I say, might be able to keep our names from getting any ink on this. But if we do, it’ll only be for a while. Stuff like that has ways of leaking,” Popeye warned.

“That’s true. But we still must do the right thing,” Daniel said.

“But what if the big bosses decide to come after all of us? And not only that, what if the state and federal law decides to prosecute us for taking the law into our own hands?” Grandma Bennett asked, “Don’t get me wrong. The children who are being exploited need to be rescued and kept safe and this stuff needs to come out in the open. I’m all for that. But I’m also for keeping us out of the public eye.”

“None of us want to either be running for the rest of our lives or stuck in some witness protection program. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. And these children?” Brielle said.

“Hopefully, that won’t be necessary,” Chris said, “If they’re all dead, which they probably are, it’ll be easier to stay out of the witness protection program and live the rest of our lives in peace. Maybe the people who investigate this will keep our names confidential. We need to hang onto hope.”

“I hope you’re right, Chris,” Daniel told him.

“At least all the kids have been returned to their parents. How are the girls, Brielle?” Kim asked.

“They’re still upstairs asleep. The girls have slept a lot since they’ve been home. They’re so exhausted,” Brielle answered.

“I’ll contact a few friends of mine who are still in the CIA and see if I can’t get them to pull a few strings to keep you all anonymous,” Daniel assured, “I’m sure they’ll get it done.”

“I feel a lot better knowing that. Thanks, Daniel,” Chris said.

He then looked at Grandma Bennett, then at Brielle and Kim.

“In the meantime, we’ll send the evidence to several white hats we know who are battling this child-trafficking epidemic and we’ll do our best to keep you all incognito. The evidence will be safe with Daniel. And we’ll keep copies. Miles will keep one and Shannon and I will keep one. Daniel will put other copies in a safe location. We don’t want any of the evidence to be kept in Thomasville. So, Brielle, you and your family should be safe. Atticus, you and Jo should also be safe. Kim and Raina, Popeye…everyone here can go on with your lives,” Chris continued.

“Welp! Our job is done here. I’ll go ahead and book us all a flight back home,” Daniel said.

Brielle dug into her purse. She took out an almost overstuffed, small, sealed Manilla envelope and handed it to Shannon and Chris. Chris took the envelope and opened it.

“It’s all there,” Brielle told them, “You can count it just to make sure.”

Chris looked at Shannon.

“She helped us get Kelsey back. I think that’s payment enough. Don’t you?” he told her.

“I agree,” Shannon replied.

“Keep it. You’ll need it for airfare back home,” Brielle said.

“Brielle, we’ve got enough to last the rest of our lives and to leave to the kids once we’re gone. You need this money more than we do. You helped us get Kelsey back and that’s worth more than what’s in this envelope. Keep it and spend it on those babies,” Shannon urged as she passed the money back to Brielle.

Brielle’s eyes flooded with tears before she said, “Thank you. Thank you so much!”

“No. Thank you! You and your friends helped save Kelsey’s life and the lives of all the kids,” Chris told her.

A week later, as they all stood at the entrance to the airport, Atticus, Popeye, Big Bruce, Malcolm, and Bruce stood in front of the first checkpoint and shook the hands of Chris, Daniel, and Miles. Brielle, Jane, and Grandma Bennett hugged Shannon, Cindy, Kelsey, and Alexandra.

“I can’t thank you enough, Brielle told Shannon. At least I can breathe now, and I can raise these girls in peace.”

“Have you thought about moving away from Glover County, Brielle? I just can’t imagine wanting to stay there after all that’s happened,” Shannon said.

“Thomasville is my home. All my family are there. I might move again a few years from now after the girls are grown. But until then, I want to stay put. After all, I just bought my house just over a year ago and I’m not ready to pull up roots and start over in another area just yet,” Brielle told her.

“I completely understand,” Cindy told her.

“Me too. Moving is a huge chore,” Shannon added.

After hugging, Kelsey looked at Jane and smiled.

“You got my number and address programmed into your phone, right?” Kelsey asked.

“Absolutely!” Jane answered.

“You call if you ever need us,” Alexandra told Jane.

“We sure will,” Jane assured, as Bruce walked over beside her and put his arm around her waist.

Malcolm put his arm around Brielle’s waist as all the Bledsoe’s bid their goodbyes and headed toward the first checkpoint.

Atticus, Malcolm, Popeye, and all the Bennett’s and McCauley’s waved goodbye as the Bledsoe’s were searched and passed through the checkpoint. The Bledsoe’s then gave one last wave goodbye before disappearing into the crowds of people.

As Atticus, Popeye, and the Bennett’s and McCauley’s headed across the parking lot toward their parked vehicles, a huge passenger jet screamed overhead as it ascended into the blue sky.

THE END

Notice:

This is only the second draft. Now the editing process begins as I send the hard copy to my editor and friend to critique. The plot in the story will not be changed but errors will be corrected and there will probably be a few additions before the final publication. Thank you so much for reading and for being the extra sets of eyes I needed. I also thank you for your feedback, the positive and negative. It will help me to write even better in the future! Bountiful blessings to each and every one of you!

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C15-4

Brielle immediately recognized Brenda’s voice.

“The kids!” She gasped to herself before answering, “Relax, sweetie! It’s Brielle! I’ve come to get you all out of here!”

“Holy shit! Ms. Brielle!” Bruce cried.

All the kids jumped up and ran to the bars of their cells.

As Brielle unlocked the first cell, Bruce’s cell, she stopped and put a finger to her lips.

“Shhhhhhhhhhh! Not so loud! Somebody will hear us and then we’re all screwed!” she said in a loud, gruff whisper.

When she got to Olivia’s cell and unlocked it, Olivia ran to her and threw her arms around her as her back heaved in quiet sobs.

Finally Finding the Teens

“Mom! Oh, God! I’m so glad you’re here!” Olivia tried to whisper.

“Shhhhh! Sweetie, we have to be real quiet! Okay?” Brielle told her.

“Don’t forget Nanda! She’s at the very last cell on the end of the block!” Olivia told her.

After Brielle unlocked all the cells and all the kids were free, she looked at each of them.

“Stay behind me and be quiet. I’m going get you out of here.”

“Ms. Brielle, I’m Kelsey McGregor! Have they notified my mom?” Kelsey asked.

“Your mother is here, Kelsey. She, Chris, Miles, Alex- they’re all here,” Brielle assured.

Olivia took the hand of the scared silent Nanda and took her to Brielle.

“Mom, this is Nanda. She’s the missing girl Popeye told us about,” Olivia told her.

“Okay. Just be quiet and follow me,” Brielle whispered in a gruff voice.

They all crept down the cellblock, through the double doors and into the main tunnel, where they met Big Bruce, who was carrying an injured Raina. They crept single file- Brielle led the way with Olivia directly behind her, then Nanda, Roxie, Kelsey, Brenda, Andy, and Bruce. Brielle looked at Olivia.

Sneaking Through the Tunnels

“Where are Jane and Kennedy?” She asked.

“They came and took Jane, Mom. I don’t know where they took her. They took the baby too and I don’t know where they took her either,” Olivia whispered with tears in her eyes.

“We’ll find them both! Don’t worry. Just stay calm and stay quiet,” Brielle said as she led them down the road in the main tunnel. Across the road was a row of arches in the stoned wall.

Remembering which way Sheriff Bobby, Deputy Ashton, and Misty had brought her in, Brielle began to lead the kids down the same route when suddenly, they heard the drone of a vehicle as it approached.

“Quick! We got to hide!” Brielle said in a loud whisper as they all scattered and hid inside the arches.

The dark van came to a screeching halt and dark, hooded figures with automatic weapons exited the van and approached the dark archways where Brielle and the kids were hidden.

Hooded Figures

Meanwhile, in the field across from Opaque Lake, Popeye and the rest of his group watched closely. They noticed two pairs of headlights approaching the dirt road that led to the lake. The two vehicles slowed to a lurch, then turned onto the road.

Popeye spoke into the mic of his earpiece.

“Chris, it’s Popeye! We’re in position, come back,” he said.

“Hey, Popeye. Sorry we lost you there for a while,” Chris responded.

“I see two vehicles. They just turned onto the road to Opaque Lake,” Miles said.

“Gotcha, Miles. That’s just us. I’m driving the first van and Atticus is driving the second. We’re headed to the elevator in the road- the one Jane spoke of. We’re driving vans we found parked in the tunnels,” Chris told them.

Popeye sighed with relief, as did the rest of his group.

As Popeye and his group watched, they could see the two vehicles parking side by side to one another. Finally, the vehicles slowly disappeared as they were lowered into the ground via the secret elevator.

“Here we go, guys,” Chris said over the earpieces quietly.

“Good luck Chris, Atticus. For God’s sake be careful,” Miles told them.

Getting Closer

Meanwhile, below, as Brielle, Big Bruce, Raina, and the kids were being escorted by six heavily armed, hooded people down a dark, dimly lit corridor, they began to hear distant chants and an organ playing an eerie tone.

“You’ll never get away with this! Never!” Roxie shouted angrily.

The hooded person behind her shoved her forward.

“Shut your mouth, bitch!” the hooded person shouted in a female voice. Brielle instantly recognized the voice- the voice of Rita.

“Up yours!” Roxie fired back.

“Keep talking bitch! Because it’s the last time you’re going to use that sharp tongue of yours!”

“Gee, I’d know that voice anywhere,” Brielle quipped, “Nice to see you again…Rita!”

“Shut up and keep walking!” the second hooded man ordered in a voice that sounded like Bobby. As they continued to walk, the chants grew louder still.

“So, where are you taking us? Sounds like some kind of freak show!” Kelsey said in a smart-alicky tone.

“You won’t be so cavalier for long, Miss Smartass!” Misty growled from underneath her hood.

Chants

“I swear, you’ll rue this day, Bobby! You’re all going to fry for this!” Brielle growled with a voice dripping with bitterness.

“Oh, how naïve thou still art!” Bobby sneered, “You see, Brielle? There’s fantasy world and then there’s the real world. Now, we live in the real world. And in the real world, there’s a hierarchy. And in the hierarchy exists three categories of people. There are The Desirables- the highly sought after and envied, who are at the top- where everyone else wishes they could be. Then, there are those in the middle- they’re the majority. Now, these people aren’t necessarily sought-after and not as desirable as The Desirables, but they do our bidding and stay in line, so they’ll do. We call those people, The Acceptables. Then, at the very bottom of the hierarchy, are The Undesirables- people like you, your little daughters, and the rest of you losers, for instance. Now, The Undesirables get the shit-end of the stick…always. They are the slugs we Desirables love more than anything else, to step on. ‘You see? The Desirables- those at the top decide who bodes well in this world and who doesn’t. We keep track of The Undesirables. We know where they live, when they get a job, when they marry, have babies- oh yeah! We keep track of those things. We flag people like you. We keep a very close eye on you, that way, we can keep you down and out. Because we decide who enjoys success and who endures failure. We decide who we favor and who we oppose. Also, we decide who gets what privileges, perks, and resources and when they get them. In short, we decide who we deem worthy and who we deem unworthy of life and all it’s pleasures. You might say, we have our very own local Social Credit System,” Bobby explained in a tone of evil and glee.

Local Social Credit System 

“You don’t get to decide what I do or how I live. And you don’t get to decide what I get out of life. Only I can decide that. So, fuck you, your little hierarchy, and your Social Credit System!” Brielle bit back.

Bobby only chuckled at Brielle’s last rebellious clap back.

“Oh, if it were only that easy, Brielle. You know how the system is. It’s fucking us all anyway. Hell, I’m just a small-town, country sheriff. So, the system fucks me too, but at least, I have a little bit of power. And shit always rolls downhill. The good thing about having even a little, tiny bit of power is that it keeps you off the bottom, where it lands. The shit that rolls downhill may roll on you and get you a little stinky, but it rolls on past you. But when it lands on the bottom, it stays on the bottom because there’s nowhere else for it to go. It just sits there and rots until the next turd comes rolling down. ‘You see? Not only does shit land on the bottom, it piles up at the bottom,” Bobby continued.

“Maybe. But there’s always a pooper-scooper lying around somewhere,” Brielle quipped.

“I don’t understand you, Brielle. How do you do it? How do you stay so positive? And against such odds!”

Brielle’s Strong Will and Determination 

“Hell, you don’t know, Bobby? People like you only strengthen my resolve. ‘You see? There’s something you don’t know about the- oh, now, what did you just referred to us as? ‘The Undesirables?’ There’s something about people like us that you don’t understand- couldn’t even comprehend. And that is that we ‘Undesirables’ have a strength and spirit that people like you could only hope to have. We’re not only survivors but overcomers. We have the will and the grit to rise above people like you. Because we have determination that eventually supersedes your power. You see, we’re the real badasses. And I guarantee that if you lost your power and ended up on the bottom, you couldn’t handle it. In fact, your little world would be turned upside down and you’d probably blow your brains out because you couldn’t survive the fall. Because the higher up you are, the further you fall, the faster you fall, and the harder you hit when you land at the bottom. It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s that sudden stop at the bottom. Just ask Big Brother Johnny, Bobby. He could tell you all about that, now, couldn’t he?” Brielle fired back in a calm and cool manner before flashing a smirk.

“Shut the fuck up, bitch! Shut the fuck up!” Bobby screamed. But Brielle only continued.

“Shit Rolls Downhill…”

“Damn! All that effort to take Shannon down! And what did it accomplish? Where did it get him? Where, did it get him, Bobby? It got him sent off to federal prison for the rest of his miserable life! In trying to destroy Shannon Crooke McGregor, he ended up destroying himself in the process. So, shit may indeed land at the bottom. But it also has ways of coming full circle.”

With that, Bobby grabbed Brielle and slung her into the wall.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C15-3

Popeye put his earpiece back in as he drove.

Miles took his phone out and pulled up his homing app. A map of Thomasville appeared on the screen. He then zoomed in on the red pointer on the map and six homing beacons appeared, representing Chris and the rest of his group. When Miles zoomed back out, he saw two more homing beacons on the other side of the screen, representing Cindy and Shannon, who were still waiting in Atticus’s SUV, parked in an alley across from the courthouse.

“Well, I can see all the homing beacons and so far, there’s no distress signal,” Miles assured.

Alvin put his hand on his chest, letting out a sigh of relief.

Good Signs

Just then, they came to a small clearing. Sitting in the passenger seat, Alvin looked across the field to see that it was dotted with hey bales. Beyond the field, he could see a thin line of trees and the lake beyond them.

“We’re here,” Alvin said, “Chris, if you can hear me, we’ve passing the Elysian Fields now.”

Chris’ voice sounded over everyone’s earpieces amid the crackling static.

“Alvin, did you say Elysian Fields? Alvin, can you hear me? Alvin!”

“Yes, Chris! We’re here! We’re gonna find a place to hide where we can still watch the entrance to Opaque Lake!” Popeye answered

“I can’t hear you, Popeye, Alvin. Shit! You’re breaking up!”

Miles’ eyes grew wide as he looked back at his screen.

“Shit, those homing beacons are moving a lot faster now. Either they’ve been captured, or they may have found a couple of vehicles down there somewhere and took off in them. I sure hope they didn’t get caught.” He said in a tone of concern.

“Are there any distress signals?” Jo asked.

Signals

“No distress signals, they’re just moving a lot faster than they were a while ago and they’re divided into two groups of three, one behind the other, and moving in the same direction. They’re moving west so they’re headed for the bluff.

“Let’s just find a place to hide this car. We’ll worry about it when we’re in place,” Popeye said.

Popeye turned onto a long gravel road across from the Elysian Fields and the Lake. He drove about a quarter mile before finding a thicket of tall bushes about a mile away. He drove the dark blue Escalade behind the bushes, then backed up and pointed the nose directly between two bushes in the thicket, where he could see the Elysian fields and the lakeshore beyond it.

After shutting off the engine, Popeye reached over and opened his glove compartment. He then pulled out a pair of small binoculars and pulled out the eye cups. Next, Popeye switched to night-vision and placed them up to his eyes, adjusting the diopter to get a clearer image and better focus.

Keeping a Lookout

With the binoculars that were hung around his neck, Alvin also watched the field. Miles and Alexandra quietly climbed out of the vehicle, each having their own pair. They got down on the ground, on their bellies, then did an Army crawl under the bushes before beginning their watch. Oliver and Jo just sat there, squinting while watching with their naked eyes.

Back in town, in the alley across from the courthouse, Shannon and Cindy sat parked and with the engine off. Shannon in the driver’s seat and Cindy in the passenger, they listened carefully as the static grew in their earpieces and the voices faded out.

“Damn it!” Shannon said as she took her earpiece out in frustration, “We didn’t think about the bottoms being pretty much a dead zone!”

“Yeah, I just hope and pray they’ll be alright,” Cindy added with a sigh.

All was quiet except for a multitude of sirens in the distance. The streets were pitch dark as the power outage had taken out all the street lights, leaving the whole of Glover County in the middle of an unprecedented blackout.

Spied

Suddenly, the two women heard the distant drone of a car getting louder and louder. Shannon and Cindy looked at each other, then Shannon looked through the rearview mirror and noticed the entrance of the alley behind them. They could see outside the alley and the beam of head lights getting brighter until what looked like a cop car stopped just outside the alley with its spotlight shinning right on the vehicle they sat in.

“Ooooh, shit!” Shannon said in a loud but low voice.

“Holy fuck!” Cindy cried.

“What are we gonna do now?” Shannon asked in a warning tone.

The ladies watched through the side mirrors as the dark figure of an officer got out of the cruiser and the sounds of footsteps clicked in the quiet.

They immediately took off their masks and caps then quickly tossed them under the seats before ruffling their hair with both hands. One of Atticus’s huge flannel shirts and a small blanket lay in the floorboard. Shannon reached back and grabbed them both.

A Clever Cover

“Put this flannel shirt on over that black turtleneck and your ammo belt! I’ll use this blue throw as a shawl!” She advised. Cindy did as Shannon suggested.

The footsteps grew louder, and the officer clicked on his flashlight and shone it on the vehicle as he came walking down the alley toward them.

Cindy looked at Shannon.

“I’ve got an idea! Don’t say anything, just go along!” Cindy whispered loudly as she leaned toward Shannon, grabbed her by the back of her neck, then pulled her toward her. Shannon’s eyes widened, nearly popping out of her head and she just froze as Cindy put her in a lip lock and put a hand on one of her breasts, caressing it.

Cindy still had Shannon in the lip lock when the mystery officer, who turned out to be a rookie deputy, shone his flashlight in the window. His eyes widened face turned red as he stifled a grin. Shannon spun around and lower the window.

“Can we help you, officer?” she asked with a fake but genuine looking smile.

“Um, uh, ladies, we have several inmates on the loose,” The young deputy stammered, unable to contain his shock and embarrassment, “There’s a huge manhunt and it’s covering all of west Tennessee. You need to get home right away.”

A Huge Shock 

“Oh, shoot!” Shannon said, acting surprised, “Thank you so much, officer, we’ll be on our way.”

“Have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” the deputy quipped with a grin before turning and walking back toward his car.

Shannon cranked the ignition as she watched the officer get into his vehicle and pull away. She then began frantically wiping her mouth with the back of her wrist and forearm.

Ptu-Ptu-Ptui!” Shannon spat as she pulled a wrinkled up napkin out of her pants pocket and spat into it. “Blechhh! Shit, Cindy! What in the blue blazes was that!” Shannon retorted.

“Well, I kept us from looking suspicious and going to jail, didn’t I!” Cindy shot back.

Shannon looked at Cindy and Cindy returned the look. They both then chortled, then gave a little chuckle. Suddenly, they burst into loud cackles before Cindy spoke.

“Boy, we’re going to have a hell of a story to tell when this is over!” Cindy giggled as Shannon pulled the vehicle out of the alley.

As Shannon drove, Cindy looked at her. Shannon looked at the dashboard clock. It was a quarter after nine.

A Change in Plans

“Chris and Atticus told us to stay put. You know that, right?” she said.

“Yep. But they didn’t count on us being spied by the cop. So, there’s been a slight change in plans,” Shannon replied.

“So, where are we headed?” Cindy asked.

“To the bottoms. I figure that if we go there, we’re least likely to be seen.”

“I just don’t want to do anything to blow our cover or Popeye’s. And what if Chris and the rest need to come back in a hurry and find that we’re gone?”

“I don’t think they will. We lost contact with them so they’re probably in the bottoms too by now.”

Finding Raina

In the dungeon, Brielle awoke to check on Raina. She too was asleep and breathing normally. Brielle checked Raina’s wounds and raised the cover over her to make sure she was warm. Suddenly, she heard the doors slam shut and the sounds of jingling keys and approaching footsteps.

Brielle remained crouched beside Raina and continued to listen carefully until one of the deputies, a short, rail-thin young man, appeared outside the bars.

“Looks like I’m gonna need to leave y’all here by yourselves. There’s been a prison break in Sugar Village and the sheriff needs every warm body he can get. Don’t worry. You’ll be just fine and we don’t have to worry about you pus-bags going anywhere. You’ll never make it out of these caves,” The deputy sneered.

“Well, before you go, you need to check on my cellmate in here. She doesn’t look like she’s doing too well. She may need medical attention,” Brielle told him.

Tricked

The deputy unclipped a huge ring of keys off his belt loop and took about thirty seconds to search for the right key. He then unlocked the cell and came inside. As he stood over Raina and smirked, Brielle suddenly and swiftly made her move.

Without warning, she swept the deputy’s legs and feet out with one foot, then scissored the deputy’s neck between her legs, rendering him unconscious. Next, she stripped him of his uniform, keys, and gun belt. Brielle changed out of her clothes, into the uniform and cap, being sure to tuck her long, blonde ponytail inside the cap. She then grabbed the keys, put on the belt and holstered the gun. Finally, she unlocked her cell.

Brielle looked back at Raina.

“Hang on, girl! I’m coming back for you!” she promised before running to Big Bruce’s cell and unlocking it.

Big Bruce awoke and sat up.

“What the…!” He grunted.

“Relax, Mr. McCauley! It’s me, Brielle!” she whispered, “Raina’s hurt! Get her and carry her out of here! I’ve got to go find the kids!”

Big Bruce Free

And she unlocked the second set of doors and crept out of the cell block. Now she was in the main tunnel, on the access road. She remembered passing another set of double doors on her way to the cellblock when Bobby, Misty, and Ashton had brought her to her cell, so, she ran about fifty years up the access road.

When Brielle came upon another set of steel double doors, she grabbed the ring of keys. It took her about a minute to try about ten keys before she fumbled and accidentally dropped the ring of keys.

Shit!” She swore as she knelt and swiped the keys off the dirt floor.

Because the corridor was so dimly lit, it was difficult to see the keys in her hand as she had to start over and try each key. It took her about five minutes but she finally found the key that fit the lock, which happened to be the very last key on the ring.

An exhaled sigh of relief blew out of her lungs as she turned the key, the lock clicked and gave way, and the door opened.

Another Setbof Double Doors

As Brielle hurried down the cell block, a voice cried out,

“Who is that! Who is it!”

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C15-2

“Okay, Shannon and Cindy, stay with the vehicle. The rest of you, it’s time to boogie!”

With that, Chris, Atticus, Jesse, Malcolm, Daniel, and Jane quietly jumped out of the vehicle and crept across the dark street to the courthouse.

Meanwhile, Popeye and the second group were driving west on County Route 16. They topped a hill and began passing deep gullies that were covered in kudzu.

“We’re almost to Sinai,” he announced as he turned his headlights off and allowed the light of the full moon to guide him.

Atticus whispered back over the group comms.

“The drawbridge is down and we’re storming the Castle!” he said.

Going in.

Back at the Courthouse, Jane quietly pointed out a rectangular hole along the side of the courthouse. The hole had stairs that led to the walkout basement. Chris led the group down the stairs to the door. He carefully twisted the handle on the door and slowly pulled it. Sure enough, it clicked open. As the five of them crept inside, Atticus, who was the last person inside and guarding the rear, pulled down the shade over the door window before easing the door closed. They pulled out their flashlights and began searching for the trapdoor.

“That’s it!” Jane whispered loudly as Atticus pulled back a huge area rug in the middle of the wooden floor and found the secret entrance in the floor.

He then knelt and worked to wedge his fingers into the crack and pulled it up. Surprisingly, it was heavy, and Chris jumped in to help. Daniel then shone his flashlight down it.

Going Underground

A flight of wooden stairs led into an underground room. They each crept down the stairs and Atticus and Malcolm closed the doors behind them. The wooden stairs creaked with each step, causing Jane to flinch.

“If somebody’s down here they’ll hear us and that’ll be it,” Jane whispered frantically and gruffly.

“It’s just one of the risks,” Chris said quietly, “You guys be sure and watch out for cameras, infrared trip wires, anything that might alert those bastards that we’re here. Daniel, do you have a hidden spy camera detector app on your phone?”

“I’m already using it, so far, the app hasn’t detected any,” Daniel answered in a quiet voice.

“How good is the app?” Malcolm asked.

“It’s a damn good app, Malcolm. I’ve used it before, and it detected every spy camera in the place.”

“Do you have a cloaking device that could possibly make us invisible to spy cams?” Chris asked.

Taking Precautions 

“Nope. But if I detect a spy cam, I can jam it,” Daniel assured.

“That’s good enough.”

“Honestly, they may not have any down here. If no one but a few VIPs know about these tunnels, and as arrogant as the few people who do know about them are, they might have figured that cameras wouldn’t be necessary.”

“Still. Keep scanning just in case you’re wrong, Daniel.”

When they got to the bottom of the stairs, the room was just as Jane had described, arched entrances of tunnels all around them, each entrance had a burning torch on the stone-built wall beside it. And the arched, brick ceilings of each tunnel were lined with hanging 40-watt bulbs.

Slowly and steadily, they all crept down the tunnel with Daniel in the lead, scanning for spy cameras. Atticus took up the rear with his machine gun held firmly.

They approached a section of the tunnel where the bulbs were blown and pulled out their tactical flashlights to navigate the darkness. Suddenly, tiny squeaks peppered the quiet.

Squeaks in the Dark

“What the hell is that?” Jesse asked in a gruff whisper.

Just then, they all looked up and, by the light of the flashlight, saw a multitude of rats scampering toward them. Just as Jane started screaming, Atticus grabbed her and clapped his head over her mouth, then mouthed, “shhhhhh.”

Chris took a mini blow torch that hung from his belt and aimed it at the approaching rat colony. A stream of fire roasted many of the rats as Chris waved it back and forth. The surviving rats turned and scurried away.

It was about a thirty-minute walk until they came to the underground across road.

“We’re here! This is the access road. And there are the vans they took us in. But there were two more when we were here.” Jane told them.

On the other side of the access road was another archway with two dark vans parked underneath.

“Well, my heat sensor doesn’t detect anyone inside those vans. And I still haven’t detected any spy cams anywhere so far,” Daniel whispered.

“Good! Let’s check out the vans,” Chris said.

The Underground Highway

Chris, Daniel, and Jesse shone their flashlights in the windows of the first van and peered inside. Although the windows were heavily tinted, he could see see inside with the flashlight. Atticus, Malcolm, and Jane peeped in the second van. Chris, peeping from the passenger side of the vehicle, shone his flashlight on the ignition to see that the keys were still in it.

“Hey! Psssst! The keys are still in the ignition!” He whispered loudly.

“Boy, these are some real dumbasses!” Jesse said with a derisive chuckle.

“Not really. Remember, hardly anyone knows about these underground tunnels. So, they know it’s a lot safer down here than it is on the surface,” Chris told them.

“Not in this car! I don’t see any keys,” Malcolm whispered back.

“I can hotwire it if I have to,” Daniel said as he approached the keyless vehicle.

Transportation 

He leaned into the vehicle and quickly searched under the visors and floormats. Daniel then searched the middle console and the glove compartment. No keys. Finally, he reached under the steering wheel, grabbed the wires and fiddled with them. Sure enough, the engine roared to life.

“Okay, everyone. Let’s take the vans and find out where this road goes. Jane, which way to the exit you were telling us about?” Chris said.

“That way,” Jane said as she pointed to their left.

And they all jumped into the vans, three per van, with Chris, Daniel, and Jesse taking the first van and Atticus, Malcolm, and Jane taking the second.

Chris cranked the ignition and pulled out, with Atticus driving the second van behind him.

As Popeye topped the bluff and began to drive down it, Alexandra looked off to the west and, by the light of the full moon above, it seemed that you could see the entire world from the top of the bluff. One could see a section of the mighty Mississippi River and it ran along next to the horizon and disappeared among the trees as it took a curve around an island. On the horizon, beyond the river, you could see the lights of a small Arkansas, town.

Popeye and His Group Reach Sinai

As they reached the foot of the bluff and proceeded down County Route 16 through the bottoms with the headlights still off, using only the light of the moon to see the road ahead, Popeye touched his earpiece as the voices of Chris, Daniel and the rest of who was underground began to break up.

“Chris! Atticus! Can you hear me! It’s Popeye! Chris!” Popeye said louder as a crackling sound slowly grew louder and distorted the voices of those in the tunnel, “Damn it!”

“Shit!” Miles said as he tapped his earpiece with one finger, “We’re out of range!”

“Not only that, but there’s hardly any towers down here so the signal’s gonna be pretty fucked up!” Alvin said.

“Too bad we didn’t think about that before we left!” Oliver said as he shook his head.

“Shhhhit! I can’t hear them either!” Alexandra said in frustration.

Losing Signal

“Than we just better hope and pray they don’t run into something in these catacombs!” Jo said.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C15

Chapter 15

The Big Raid

Later that afternoon, the Bennett’s, the Carpenters, the Bledsoe’s, and Popeye and his partners Alvin and Oliver all gathered in the living room. Daniel spoke up.

“Okay. I’ve got a neat little plan that will keep that sheriff and all the sheriff’s deputies busy while we go in and find Brielle, Raina, Big Bruce, and the kids,” he told them, “In fact, it’ll keep most of the locals busy and out of the way.”

“Sounds like you’re going to pull off something huge, Daniel,” Chris said.

“You’ll know when it happens. I promise you. And I’ll let you know when it’s taken care of. And it’s tomorrow night. If we’re going to bust this cult and the child trafficking ring, we’re going to have to catch them in the act and, at the same time, keep the local establishment off our ass. So, we have to create a diversion, and this one’s going to be a doozy!” Daniel told them.

The Time is Now

When Halloween night finally arrived, they all sat at the kitchen table at just after five o’clock that evening.

“Okay, we need to come up with code names for the places we have to hit,” Atticus advised, “Code for the courthouse will be ‘The Castle,’ code name for Opaque Lake and the posted area near the shore will be ‘The Coastline’, and the field you go through to get to the lake will be ‘The Elysian Fields,’ and code name for the catacombs will be ‘The Pit.’ The bluff will be ‘Sinai’ and the bottoms will be ‘The Badlands.’ And the code name for the Sheriff and his ilk will be “Bogey or Bogies.”

Daniel then moved to the living room and sat on the sofa, typing feverishly on his laptop. All the men dressed in all black, even gloves, masks, and caps, then put their earpieces with microphones intact.

“Daniel, switch over to the speaker,” Chris told him.

Daniel had three other monitors set up on the coffee table in front of him, connection to another keyboard. He set his laptop aside and pecked a few keys on the keyboard that was connection to the three monitors. On the third monitor, showed a media-player type application with a sound system.

Code Names

“Got it,” he said.

Chris began to speak.

“Testing, testing, one, two, three. Testing,” he said as his voice came through clear on the speakers and the green line on the screen began to distort as the sound came through.

“Sounds coming in clear on my end,” Atticus said as he touched his earpiece.

“Clear,” Alvin said.

“Clear,” Cindy said.

After everyone gave the all-clear, Daniel clapped both hands together one time in excitement.

“Perfect, Atticus. Malcolm, one at a time, everyone else test your mics, and if the sound comes through clear, say ‘clear,’” Daniel told them.

Each of the other men did as they were told.

“Great. All the mics are in great working order. All the sounds are coming through on the monitor and your earpieces, equipment is set!” Daniel told them, “Now, let’s check our body spy cameras, then we’ll do a weapons check. And be sure to screw in your silencers.”

Testing!

After everyone tested their body cams and ensure they were all in working order, Atticus took a magazine and put it in his old Army-issue M16A2, then took it back out and put it in a pouch on his belt. Jesse checked the chamber of his shotgun to see two new shells firmly in place he then attached his Salvo suppressor to it. Finally, he tucked a nine-millimeter pistol in his belt. Everyone checked their weapons and attached their silencers. They were all in working order.

Miles tossed a couple of grenades to Atticus. Atticus attached the grenades to two of the loops on his belt. He then checked his ammo pouch to see that it had two magazines inside. Finally, they each attached their silencers to the barrels of their guns.

“Okay, weapons a go, now let’s test our homing beacons.”

Miles looked at his phone to see that each person’s homing beacon was working perfectly.

Daniel grabbed his laptop and sat it in his lap. He then began typing as fast as he could. After fifteen minutes of typing, he stopped and looked up at Chris.

Daniel Sets up a Distraction

“Virus is in. Now, we wait,” Daniel assured, “The county-mounties and local cops will be so busy, they won’t even think about us. Even the locals will be scared shitless, but this is a gun-rich area, so I think they’ll be able to take care of themselves.”

“Whoa! What did you just do, Daniel?” Chris asked suspiciously.

About fifteen miles away, just outside of Sugar Village, a large state maximum security prison sat in the middle of a field. The guards at the first checkpoint sat, looking at the monitors when the system went down. One by one, the monitors went dark.

“What the hell?” The head guard shouted as he jumped up.

Monitors and cameras all over the prison went dark. Next, every locked door made a loud click, then opened. Then, the gates began unlocking and opening. Finally, droves of inmates began overpowering the guards and escaping their confines before running out into the fields that surrounded the prison.

Convicts on the Lose!

“Holy shit!” Shouted the second prison guard.

Back at the Carpenter estate, Daniel pulled up the Glover County Tea forum and waited. Atticus and Grandma sat in the kitchen, listening to the police scanner. Sure enough, the alert sounded.

“Calling all state, county and city personal! There has been a massive prison break at the state maximum security prison in Sugar Village! Assume all escaped inmates to be armed and dangerous! The number of escapees is believed to be in the hundreds. Please advise!” Said an older male voice over the scanner.

Suddenly, Bobby’s voice sounded over the scanner.

“This is Sheriff Bobby James Crabtree; I’ve just put every deputy in my department on alert! The reservists and those off duty have been placed on emergency duty. We will be out in full force! Alert the news medias in Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Little Rock, and Paducah. Get all the trick-or-treaters off the streets and send out an internet bulletin instructing everyone to stay in their homes. Halloween just got cancelled!”

Halloween Emergency

Daniel perked up.

“That’s our cue! We got to move now because they’re going to be setting up checkpoints and we don’t want to get caught in the dragnet.” he announced.

” Suddenly, the lights went out, then Atticus’s generator kicked in and the lights flickered back on.”

“Daniel, was that you?” Atticus asked.

“Yep. As an added cover, I cracked into the Glover County electric company and caused a power outage,” Daniel answered.

After they took Grandma Bennett and Kim to the bunker for safety, everyone piled into two dark-colored SUV’s, Atticus’s black Denali and Popeye’s black Escalade. In Atticus’s black Denali were Atticus, Chris, Malcolm, Jesse, Daniel, Shannon, Jane, and Cindy. In Popeye’s dark blue Escalade were Popeye, Miles, Alvin, Oliver, Alexandra, and Jo.

As Chris sat in the passenger seat of Atticus’s SUV, he spoke.

Let’s Ride

“Okay everybody, you know what to do. We’ll head to the Castle and Popeye; your group will head to the Badlands and watch the Elysian Fields! You gotta get down there before they set up the western checkpoint. When you get there, find a place for cover but where you can see the lake and keep watch. Take plenty of photos and don’t move until I give the signal. In the meantime, Daniel, you need to find a way to crack and override the system that monitors the courthouse cameras and doors so we can get in.

“I’m already on it,” Daniel said as he sat in the backseat of Popeye’s SUV, laptop computer in lap, typing vigorously, “Shit, Chris this van is packed. I hardly have any elbow room.”

“We all have inconveniences, Daniel,” Chris told him.

As they drove toward town, the intro to the song, Kid Rock’s “Let’s Ride” played on Atticus’s car stereo.

“Used as a scapegoat and taped to the wall, Bruised and abused on some foreign soil,      Trained to kill baby that’s what we do,      Programmed to bleed red white and blue

C’mon and grab your guns, let’s ride,                        And may your conscience be your guide,                   I’ll say a prayer for you to make it through to the other side,                                                                          Tonight’s the night we fight or die…”

As the song continued to play, they passed businesses where people were outside standing guard with machine guns, shotguns, or rifles held against their chests. They also passed private homes and properties with large men sitting in their yards, armed to the teeth with their weapons. They even spied a silver-haired grandmother sitting on her porch, in a rocking chair, with a shotgun laid across her lap, sipping on a large mug of coffee. A large golden retriever sat on the porch beside her. A pickup truck with a bed full of heavily armed farmers sat off in between rows of bushes.

Armed Citizens

“Boy, these people aren’t playin’!” Jane said, viewing all the armed citizens as they drove.

“Hundreds of escaped convicts on the loose? I wouldn’t be either,” said Jesse, “If I know my wife, she’s probably sitting on the living room sofa holding our shotgun and got my kids hiding in the closets upstairs.”

“I sure don’t blame any of them,” Chris added.

“I probably won’t have a job after tonight,” Malcolm mentioned, “My Lieutenant’s been trying to call me ever since the prison break.”

“You’ve had the last two days off. When you talk to them, just tell them you went to Alabama to see your family and couldn’t get back in time,” Atticus advised, “A story like that should stick like superglue.”

Shannon looked skyward through the windshield.

“There’s a full moon tonight. So, we still need to be careful,” she said.

Atticus kept a police scanner in his vehicle as well. A split second of static sounded, then Bobby’s voice as Chris quickly turned the stereo off.

Bobby’s Arrogance Makes Him Stupid

“We’re setting up checkpoints north, south, and east. We won’t worry about a western checkpoint because the cons will be trying to get out of the state. They know that if they go west, they’ll only run into the river and they won’t make it to Arkansas if they swim across it,” he announced.

Atticus chortled and looked at Chris in amazement.

“Can you believe this moron?” he said.

“For real!” Jesse agreed, “That’s one stupid motherfucker! Because if I was a convict, the bottoms is exactly where I’d be, least likely to be seen!”

“At least we know Popeye and his bunch have a much better chance of getting to the bottoms without running into any checkpoints. So, it bodes well for us,” Chris said.

When Chris pulled onto the town square, about a block away from the old courthouse, everything was deserted and looked like a ghost town. He pulled to a stop in a dark alley across the street from the courthouse.

Preparations 

“Hey, Daniel, what’s the status on that override?” Chris asked.

“I’m uploading the virus now,” Daniel said, “I’ll let you know when it’s uploaded and does its thing.”

“Well, we don’t have a lot of time,” Chris told him.

“Chris, I can’t make this upload go any faster.”

In Popeye’s SUV, Miles spoke.

“Daniel is uploading the virus. It’s taking a minute though,” he said in a low voice.

“Yeah, we heard him,” Oliver said.

As soon as the upload was complete, Daniel sounded over all the group’s earpieces.

“Okay, guys! It’s showtime!” he announced.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C14-4

Ashton unlocked the set of steel double-doors and opened them. Brielle was led into what looked to be an underground cellblock. She looked into each cell as she passed. Suddenly, Big Bruce McCauley, who was imprisoned in one of the cells, jumped up from his raggedy bunk and ran to the bars, gripping them.

“Brielle! Oh, my God, Brielle! Have you seen Little Bruce!” He cried.

“Mr. McCauley!” Brielle cried out.

Suddenly, Ashton drew his nightstick back and smashed Big Bruce in the face through the bars.

“Shut the fuck up!”

Big Bruce let out a loud grunt as he fell backwards.

“Nooo!” Brielle screamed before Ashton came running out and backhanded Brielle across the face so hard, it nearly spun her head.

Another Prisoner in the Underground Dungeon

Out of reflex, Brielle delivered a fast front kick to Ashton’s crotch, causing him to scream in pain, grab his manly area, and fall over sideways. Misty then shoved Brielle to the ground from behind and Bobby came across Brielle’s back with his nightstick. He continued to hit her until she passed out. With that, Bobby and Misty grabbed each of Brielle’s arms and drug her limp body into the cell before slamming the door and locking it.

Later that morning, at Atticus’ house, Grandma Bennett was the first to wake up at after nine, which was late compared to her usual wake up time, which was at about five a.m. She filled the coffee maker with water and ground coffee, than pressed the brew button. The house was full of people. With Shannon and Chris in one upstairs bedroom, Miles and Cindy in the other, Daniel and Jesse in the third upstairs bedroom, and Alexandra and Jo in the other. Grandma Bennett had slept in the sofa’s hide-a-bed and Popeye, Alvin and Oliver had gone home for the night.

Grandma Bennett the first to awaken

When Grandma heard a knock at the door, she looked through the peep hole to see Popeye, then opened the door to let him, Alvin, and Oliver in.

“Most everyone is still asleep. They should be waking up anytime. I’ve got coffee brewing. Do you want me to fix you each a cup?” Grandma asked.

“Oh, yes! I need something to warm me up!” Alvin answered.

“Absolutely you can,” Popeye said.

“I sure ain’t gonna turn down no coffee!” Oliver said before Grandma and the other two chuckled.

One by one, others in the house awoke and came downstairs one by one. Grandma Bennett cooked a huge breakfast and they all sat down to eat.

Underground, Brielle woke on the floor, she sat up. She looked around to see another woman in the bed, stirring. The woman looked injured. Brielle crawled over to her and immediately recognized her.

Raina is Brielle’s Cellmate

“Raina?” She cried.

Raina opened her eyes and looked over at Brielle.

“Brielle?” she woozily uttered.

“Don’t talk, Raina. Just rest, okay?”

“Brielle, how did you get down here?”

“Those crooked cops brought me here.”

“How’s Paul and the kids? How’s Kim?”

“They’re fine, Raina. But they’re so worried about you, sweetie. But I’m doing to do my damnedest to get us both out of here and find those kids! You can take that to the bank!” Brielle swore.

Brielle tore off the sleave of her shirt and cared for Raina’s scrapes, bruises, and abrasions about her face. She then looked down and notice a huge blood spot on Raina’s crotch area.

“Oh, God. The baby!” She said under her breath.

Townies, Cronies, and Hayseeds II C14-3

Back at the Carpenter estate, Atticus, Grandma Bennett, and the rest gathered in the living room after Jane cried herself to sleep.

“We’ve got to find Brielle!” Grandma said in an urgent tone.

“What if they’ve found her first?” Kim asked.

“We’ll check the jail first thing,” Chris suggested, “If she’s not there, then we’ll know.”

“Maybe not. Those tunnels that Jane was talking about, what if they took her there?” Shannon asked.

“Well, at least we know where to start from- the courthouse basement. We follow the underground highway to where it ends- at the foot of the bluff, in the bottoms. Now Jane said that they were near the shore of a huge Lake,” Chris said.

“Opaque Lake. It’s got to be,” Grandma Bennett said.

The Secret of Opaque Lake

“Yep,” Atticus agreed, “That place is posted- deemed private property. ‘Has been for about thirty years. Now that you mention it, there have been rumors that there’s a Luciferian cult down there and that’s why they’ve blocked it off. The place is heavily secured. Outsiders are strictly forbidden to trespass there.”

“Atticus is telling the truth,” Popeye confirmed.

“Then that’s got to be the place,” Daniel concluded.

“And this underground road is the only way you can get there?” Miles asked.

“Nope. There’s another way. Take County Route 16 West, toward the river. Go down the bluff to the bottoms, then drive about three to four miles and you’ll see the Lake off to your right. You’ll look across a clearing then see trees and little glimpses of the lake beyond them. There will be a gravel road that will take you to the shore of the lake and there will be lake houses high on stilts there because it’s a very flood-prone area. But, like Atticus said, the place is off limits to outsiders,” Shannon told them.

Private Property 

Suddenly, Alexandra and Jo came through the back door.

“Whew!” she said as she took off her hoodie to reveal a white tee shirt.

Everyone turned around to see her.

“Well, Alex? Did you and Jo hear anything?” Chris asked.

“Oh, we heard a lot. But not a peep about where the kids are. But I did see a couple of deputies in one of the restaurants I sat in. One of them got a call and when he hung up, I heard him say, ‘They got her! They finally found the bitch,’” Alex informed them.

“My gut tells me they were referring to Brielle,” Jo added.

“Oh, they had to have been talking about Brielle!” Kim said.

“So, how are we going to get inside the jail to see if she’s there?” Shannon asked.

Another Plan

“I’ll go there,” Popeye volunteered, “I have several cousins and friends that have been in and out of there. In fact, a cousin of mine was just released the day before yesterday. And most of the jailers are young rookies and they know me, so they trust me. I can take a change of clothes, some food, something in there and make them think I’m there to deliver it to a relative of mine. They usually have a list of inmate names on a huge whiteboard on the wall just behind the desk where you leave stuff for the inmates- one list for males and the second for females. They have you wait there while they check your stuff for contraband. And, even if he’s not there, I’ll still have time to see if Brielle’s name is on the inmate list.”

“That doesn’t sound like the jail I spent time in six years ago when I was here,” Shannon recalled.

“They’ve revamped everything in the county jail since you were there, Shannon.” Grandma Bennett said, “After Johnny went to prison, Sheriff Crawford did an overhaul of the jail inside the sheriff’s department. He fired most of the jailers there and replaced them with new blood. Yeah, Bobby’s got it now, but it still isn’t quite as bad as it was when Johnny had it.”

Shannon Remembers her Stint in Jail

“Awesome! Popeye, you and I go to the jail. I’ll wait in the car while you go inside and do your thing,” Chris said.

Grandma Bennett brought a big basket of freshly baked blueberry muffins to Popeye.

“Take this. I brought these from home when I got here. They were for everyone to eat here. But they’re the perfect food to take to the jail and will be the perfect cover,” she said.

“It’s awful late. You can’t go there this time of night. Hell, it’s after midnight!” Atticus told them.

“There’s people dropping stuff off at that jail at all hours,” Popeye said.

“Even after midnight?” Miles asked, barely able to believe it.

“It’s a small Podunk town and a small, Podunk jail! It’s not like the big city. Some things, they let fly around here,” Popeye replied.

“Oooo-kay,” Chris said, “’You ready to boogie?”

“Let’s boogie,” Popeye answered.

Getting the Information 

Two hours later, Chris and Popeye returned. Popeye handed the basket of muffins back to Grandma Bennett. Jane had awoken, hardly able to sleep.

“Is she there?” Grandma asked.

“Nope. Her name wasn’t on the inmate list,” Chris answered solemnly.

“Believe me, I looked that list up, down, and sideways. Her name wasn’t there,” Popeye swore.

“Then where could they have taken her?” Kim asked, worried.

“Do you think that maybe they might have taken her through the underground tunnels too?” Cindy asked.

“It’s likely,” Chris said.

“I just thought of something, y’all.” Popeye said, “Halloween’s tomorrow night.”

“Yep, the cult will be doing their annual Halloween Rituals. We’ve got to find Brielle and Raina, and we’ve got to find those kids!” Kim said.

“Well, let’s get some sleep. After we wake up, we formulate a strategy. After dark tonight, we do some snooping. Maybe they can send more people to help us out. Then at five tomorrow night, we move out,” Chris said.

Daniel’s Government Connections

“In the meantime, I’ll see if I can’t contact a few politicians and old CIA buddies, a few of the good ones left who I know are fighting against child trafficking. This is a pretty big job, Chris. We still don’t know how many local big shots are involved in this and they may have connections to even bigger people.” Daniel added.

“That might not be a bad idea,” Atticus agreed.

“Jane! Come here for a sec!” Chris called.

“Yes?” Jane responded as she approached.

“Do you remember the route the sheriff took to get to the dungeon where you and the rest of the kids were held?”

Jane Describes the Layout of the Secret Tunnels

“We took the underground access road. There were tunnels but they loaded us all into a van and took us to an exit via the access road. We didn’t take any of the tunnels,” Jane told them. The access road only took us to a set of double doors. When the doors opened, we were outside and the area around us was flat. I look back and we’d come out of a huge bluff from what I could tell and the doors were covered with trees and bushes. The untrained eye wouldn’t even know those doors were there. We pulled onto a dirt road, drove about, I’d say 50 yards, then turned until a two-lane highway. I remember passing a highway sign with a shield and a number 16 on it. We crossed a bunch of bridges over creeks and streams, then came to a field and pulled onto a gravel road. I noticed that the field had a bunch of hey bails in it. And there was a pile of hey on that gravel road. The front of the van we were in was pointed toward the lake. One of the deputies got out and cleared the hey off the road. He uncovered some sort of platform. After he cleared the hey, we pulled onto the platform and stopped. That’s when we were lowered underground to another access road. Once we got going again, I noticed that we were driving downward, like going down a steep hill. I could feel the gravity pull. And we didn’t make any turns nor go around any sharp curves, so I think we were actually driving under the floor of the lake,” Jane explained, “It was somewhat lit down there until we got to the dungeon. The dungeon was dimly lit with torches and hanging dim bulbs, and it gave me the creeps!”

Bobby and Misty Take Brielle Down into the Catacombs

Brielle sat in the van as Bobby, Ashton, and Misty drove her through the tunnels. She looked outside the window at the eerily lit tunnel. Her stomach lurched and felt as if it would drop through the floorboard. Where exactly were they taking her? She remembered being escorted into the courthouse and down into its basement. She then recalled being forcibly led through a trapdoor in the courthouse basement floor and down into this dim, dank place. And during the entire time Brielle had grown up in this town, she had never heard any mention of any catacombs or tunnels underneath Thomasville until she finally saw it for herself just minutes before.

Brielle did not have a good feeling about this little trip. She feared the worst. They would kill her, and nobody would ever find her.

Finally, Misty turned around and ended the eerie silence.

“You wouldn’t happen to know where Jane ran off to, would you, Brielle?” she asked.

“If you do, you’d better speak up!” Bobby demanded loudly.

Brielle Gets Welcome News

“No! I don’t! That’s the gospel truth! But if I did, I’d never in this lifetime tell you! Sounds like she got away if you’re looking for her! And you know what? I’m damn glad she did! I always knew my baby had a good head on her shoulders and could take care of herself! And I’m damn proud of her!” Brielle shot back as tears flooded her eyes.

“Well, she may have escaped, but that doesn’t do you any good. Because now, we got you. But we will find that child. Don’t think we won’t find your sweet Jane.” Bobby growled, “Hell, we’ve already got Olivia and that sweet little baby Kennedy! So, we’re hoping Jane comes looking for you. And we think she will. She may not be much but she’s a headstrong little firecracker. Willful as hell! And it will be her undoing. You see, Brielle. Willfulness and so-called independence are dangerous characteristics to have when you live in this county. Here, it’s in your best interest to go along- just roll over and play dead. And I don’t know what you taught that child nor how you raised her, but you may have unwittingly facilitated her demise. And we already know you’ve been a troublemaker since you were knee high to a grasshopper!”

Brielle Continues to Stand Up to her Captors

“Better than being a Devil worshipper and living in an open marriage!” Brielle quipped.

Misty flinched before spinning around to look back at Brielle.

“Really! So, you think I’m a Devil worshipper, huh? And you would know about my open marriage, wouldn’t you, you little slut, who’s screwing my husband!” Misty shot back.

“Hey! Newsflash, Misty! Not every female in this town wants your ugly-assed husband! He isn’t all you hype him up to be! Of course, with the way you and all your buddies twisted minds work, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if every one of you were devil worshippers. And Devil worship is the worst thing you can do!” Brielle fired back.

“Hey, sweetheart! In case you’ve forgotten, sin is a sin to God! It doesn’t matter what it is! No sin is worse than another to Him! But everyone has their pet sins, now don’t they! And now, we know what your pet sin is!” Misty fired off.

“You’re absolutely right! And your pet sins are worshipping the devil and killing innocent people and animals!” Brielle jibbed.

“No one is innocent, honey! We’re all born in sin and shaped in iniquity.”

Even the Devil Believes in God 

“Oh, that’s right! I almost forgot! Even the Devil believes in God and knows the Scriptures! Gee! Thanks for the reminder, Misty!”

When they finally got Brielle to the entrance of the holding cells, Bobby took her by the arm and violently pulled her out of the van. Next, Misty and Ashton got out.

Misty got nose to nose with Brielle, sneering at her.

“You’ve been away from Thomasville for way too long, girl. ‘Move off to California, then come back here with an uppity attitude and an overinflated opinion of yourself! But you know what? I’m going to enjoy killing you and your little spawn!” Misty growled.

“That doesn’t surprise me in the least! You’re sadistic! You’re evil! You always had been, you just grew bigger.” Brielle bit back.

“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” Misty sarcastically laughed, “It’s gonna give me great pleasure to silence that smart mouth of yours once and for all! You should’ve stayed your ass in California! Because, to come back to Thomasville with that smug, overconfident attitude was your worst mistake! And it’ll damn sure be your last!”

Bobby looked at both Misty and Ashton and grinned.

“She’s definitely gotten smarter over the years; I’ll give her that.” He said sarcastically. Ashton was unmoved. Bobby turned back to Brielle.

Uppity Brielle

“You know, Brielle? You’re in no position to be so brainy. You’re in a lot of danger.”

Brielle looked at Bobby with contempt.

“Around you? No shit,” she quipped.

Bobby looked at Aston again.

“Let’s dumb her down a little- teach her some respect.”

Brielle ignored the threat.

“Where are my kids, I know you three have got them somewhere and you know where they are,” Brielle asked in a defiant tone.

“Oh, don’t worry, Brielle. They’ll be well taken care of. Especially sweet Jane when we find her.”