Late One Night, We
Killed Them All
A Barry Wilder
Being home from
the road actually felt pretty good for a change. I had been home several weeks,
catching up on chores, getting the house cleaned up and the yard ready, doing
everything from fertilizing the grass to shampooing carpets.
I was back from
road trip of several months, after the death of two of my best friends.
Commando Cody, the big Doberman, had gone first. Natural causes for old Cody.
He just got old and when it was time, he went as gracefully as he could. The
vet said he was healthy right up until he wasn’t. In other words, he ran out of
didn’t fare quite so well. He had a series of heart attacks, stents installed
and all that, but the heart killed him in the end. I had carried his ashes to
Wyoming and planted him next to Iva Gonzalez, a woman we had both loved at
different times, but never competed over. I had buried Cody in my backyard,
wrapped in an old leather jacket that had been Iva’s.
A lot of the
I have ridden since the loss of my friends are a blur. There was that incident
at the Salton Sea and a major disagreement with some gang people that they had
lost, but other than that, the days have pretty much flowed together.
I inherited a
along the way, a Jack Russell terrier I’ve named Bonnie, and she has taken to
the lifestyle like a duck to water. She seldom even lets me out of her sight. I
think she’s afraid of being abandoned again, like she was when I found her,
wandering in the park at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. She has perfected
the art of riding on Thumper’s saddle, either sitting upright in front of me or
lying crosswise across my lap.
It was about
time I started running out of chores that I ran across what was at first only a
curiosity, but later became a mystery and finally an obsession. On my
handy-dandy home computer, I had installed a copy of Google Earth and sometimes
when there was nothing good on TV, I would play with the software, like most people,
getting satellite views of famous places: The White House, the Taj Mahal, the
Pyramids at Giza. Then I started getting interested in things other people had
found, mostly by accident. Area 51, which we all know doesn’t exist, but there
it was, big as life, overflown by LandSat, the unclassified satellite that
takes nice clear pictures everyone can see. I looked at shipwrecks and the
hulks of crashed airplanes, based on coordinates anyone can find with the
investment of a little computer time.
That got me
interested in a game, or sport maybe, called Geocaching, in which people place
small boxes or cans at certain hidden places and then publish the GPS
coordinates on a website. You make your way to the site, find the cache, log in
on a notebook contained there and if there’s anything you want in the box, take
it. The only catch was you had to leave an object, too. That was fun for a
while and on pretty days, Bonnie and I would go find a couple sites. I always
logged us as Barry and Bonnie. Never bothered to tell anyone that Bonnie was a
dog. She often left small Milk-Bones as her part of the contribution, and I
actually think she was smart enough to understand that someone else would find
the box and perhaps give the treat to their own dog.
One evening around
the first of May, I was on Google Earth, looking at places in Kansas and seeing
how recent the pictures were. Of course, you always have to look at your own
house. The picture of my place was almost two years old. The detail, especially
whenever a spot was available in street view, was pretty amazing. I “flew” out
of town and looked at a couple of lakes in the area, seeing boats and swimmers
from the equivalent of just a few hundred feet up. In the back of my mind I
wondered, if the imaging from an unclassified satellite was this good, what
must the high-performance military birds be able to do? The ones we mere
mortals were never allowed to see. I had heard that if the angles and lighting
were right, they could read a license tag on a car from orbit.
the landscape, I found myself looking at everything from wind farms to combines
cutting wheat, to tall granaries, to individual cars on the highways. Far out
in western Kansas, I swooped over seemingly endless fields, many made circular
by the use of irrigation rigs that travelled slowly around a central point. I
swooped over a John Deere tractor with a doll beside it and a guy digging in
the middle of a field. I was getting sleepy and I soon turned off the computer
and went to bed.
That was at 10:30.
At 4 A.M., Bonnie needed to go out and
patrol the yard. I got up and let her out and stood on the sunporch with a .40
caliber Glock in my hand. I had been hearing our local coyote pack singing a
lot lately. Coyotes get pretty bold at night, even in rather densely populated
areas. And they like nothing better than a tasty little dog or cat for a
midnight snack. As I stood there waiting and watching Bonnie doing her
business, my mind wandered back to the satellite images I’d seen the night
before. Something was bothering me about something I’d seen. I almost had it,
but then it was gone. A few minutes later, we went back to bed. Bonnie tunneled
under the covers and crammed herself against my feet. Gotta love those
four-legged heaters. . . .
Over a bowl of
raisin bran at a quarter to seven the next morning, my brain finally kicked in
and a sudden chill ran down my back. A John Deere tractor with a wagon. A doll
beside it on the ground. A guy digging . . . but if that was a doll, why was it as
big as a person?
Ten minutes later,
breakfast forgotten, I was back on Google Earth, looking hard and retracing my
path across western Kansas. It took a half hour to find it again, but there it
was. Big green tractor. Wagon hitched on behind, looked to be painted red.
Figure of a woman, nude, or partially nude, splayed on the ground. Guy with a
gray shirt, overalls and a red ball cap . . . and a shovel.
Digging a grave.
Oh, well, fuck.
Here we go. Call the sheriff? What the hell county was it in? This would
require some research. I knew how to take screenshots and I got busy. Pictures
of the tractor and the guy digging, zoomed in as tight as I could get. Then
working my way around, looking for the closest habitation. Finally finding a
farmhouse and outbuildings, four miles to the east on what appeared to be a
dead-end dirt road. No street view available. More screenshots. Printer working
its ass off, printing everything out in living color. Then, looking for the
There was Tribune, where the timeline ran through just east of the town,
separating Central Standard from Mountain Standard time. I slowly worked my way
back north and west, counting squares. Kansas is laid out on one-mile square
grids in most areas. Seventeen squares north, and eight west of Tribune.
There was my
I switched to the GPS function and laid the crosshairs on the grave the unknown
guy was digging. I scribbled down the coordinates and stopped to think about
this. What were the chances that the satellite would be right overhead when
some guy was burying a body out in the middle of nowhere? If it weren’t for bad
luck, this poor schmuck wouldn’t have any luck at all.
But, was he really
burying a body? Maybe the crazy bastard knew
the satellite would be overhead at a certain time and did this shit for a
joke, to show his buds and laugh about over a few beers. Some farmers plowed
and planted pictures into their land—the American flag, maybe an actual
portrait—knowing satellites and people in airplanes would see their handiwork.
Maybe this guy had a goofy sense of humor and bought a blow-up doll and was
having some fun.
And what were
chances that I would be dicking around on Google Earth and see the image? I
thought, maybe I should run out and buy a
lottery ticket . . . because I already knew it wasn’t a doll. And it wasn’t
a prank. It was a woman. And she was dead.
Now would be
good time to call the Greeley County sheriff and tell them what I saw. Let them
deal with it. But then, I thought, fuck
it. This is mine. Why else did this chain of events take place? So I could call
some county sheriff who probably has two deputies and three pickup trucks?
Nope, I’m gonna take this as far as I can. If I get in too deep, then I can
drop a dime on the local boys and bail.
paying attention to me, then. I guess she could smell excitement coming off me
in waves. First, I went to the gun safe and looked to my weapons. I pulled out
my Mossburg New Haven 12-gauge shotgun. It’s cut off to a legal 19-inch barrel
and still retains the original stock and forearm. It is essentially a riot gun.
A box of .00 buckshot and a box of deer slugs. Next, my Ruger AR-556 rifle. My
“assault rifle,” some would call it, not knowing the AR designation actually
came from Armalite, the original Colt model name for the rifle, which was sold
to the U.S. military as the AR-15 and the M-16 during the Vietnam era. This one
had a starlight scope mounted and sighted in for 100 yards.
old European model Berretta 92-S in blued steel, 9-millimeter, 16-shot
capacity. A Glock Model 36, chambered for .45 ACP, its barrel threaded for a
suppressor, and last, a Smith and Wesson Shield in .40 caliber. Lotta guns?
Yeah. I’d rather have ‘em and not need ‘em than the other way around. This
would not be a motorcycle trip. I was figuring a lot of dirt and gravel roads
and maybe some cross-country driving through fields and rough terrain. I took
the guns to the garage and opened up my Toyota Tacoma pickup. In the back seat,
there was a doggie “hammock,” which fastened around the headrests and was
designed to keep dog hair and other debris off the upholstery. Bonnie didn’t
care for it, but I’d left it in the truck because it was easy to hide stuff
under and still be able to reach from the front seat. The shotgun and rifle
went under this, lying on the seats with the stocks toward the left side door.
In the Tacoma,
back seats unlatch and swing forward, with storage areas behind them. The
Berretta went behind the left seat, the Glock behind the right, along with a
box of ammo for each. The Smith went to its usual place, in the waistband of my
pants, in the back. Two spare magazines went into the center console glove box.
Next, I went
walk-in closet and started rounding up clothes. I was headed for farm country,
and while I was not kidding myself about trying to blend in, I still rummaged
around and found some old bib overalls that fit, some plaid flannel shirts, and
some clodhopper boots that still had mud on them from the last time they were
worn. I packed a medium-sized duffle and included my shaving kit and all the
stuff I normally keep in there. I completed my ensemble with a couple of cheap,
giveaway ball caps, one in black, with a Cat Diesel Power emblem, and one in
red with Northcutt Trailers on it. Northcutt had a facility in north Wichita.
I thought about
taking Bonnie to the animal hospital a mile from my house and having her
boarded, but I knew she was smart enough she could prove useful, and besides, I
hated leaving her. The look of reproach I would get from her would just about
freeze my heart. I grabbed a bag of kibble and her water bowl and packed those
in the truck and a half-case of bottled water went in the bed, under the
locking tonneau cover. I threw in a spade and shovel and a pickax. I strolled
across the street to Steve and Jeannie’s house and told them I’d be gone for a
few days. They would pick up my mail and the daily paper and keep an eye on the
When we were
ready, Bonnie hopped up into the truck and we set the alarm on the house and
rolled out. I stopped on west Kellogg and filled the tank and we cleared town
just before ten o’clock.
A hundred miles
west lies the small town of Greensburg, Kansas, made smaller on the night of
May 4th, 2007 when about 95 per cent of the town was destroyed by a
tornado. Now, eleven years later, much of the town had been rebuilt, but there
were parts that would never return. It was being rebuilt with an eye toward
energy efficiency and was touting the slogan “Greenest Town in Kansas.”
I pulled into
Dillon’s store on the south side of the main drag and let Bonnie out to run. I
said, “If ya got business to take care of, now would be a good time.” I watched
her as she slipped around the back of the truck and carefully assessed the traffic,
then, when the coast was clear, she set off across the street and into a number
of vacant lots where a mobile home court had once stood. Once I knew she was
safe, I went inside for coffee. My interrupted breakfast hadn’t lasted long and
I noticed a display of muffins and snagged two on my way to the register. A few
minutes later, I was back at the truck. I looked around for Bonnie, and when I
didn’t immediately see her, I began to look around the parking area.
Two stalls to
west was a dilapidated old Chevy station wagon that had once been green. Inside
the car were three or four kids sporting dirty faces and snarled hair. By the
driver’s door was a fat, red-faced woman who was holding my dog. Bonnie seemed
to be undecided as to whether she should be enjoying the attention or
struggling to get free.
The woman had a smirk on her face I didn’t like and there was a belligerence in
ee-legal ta let a dawg run without no leash.”
am not. But
I know him. I could call him an’ git choo in some trouble.”
Bonnie had now
decided she didn’t care for this woman and she had begun struggling. “I’d
suggest you put her down now,” I said, “and go call your friend the sheriff,
put her down
when and if I get ready. Maybe I’ll just keep her for my kids, since she was
runnin’ at large.”
tolerantly and then said, “Okay, Bonnie. Tell the nice lady bye-bye and let’s
go.” I opened the truck door and Bonnie kicked her struggles up a notch. The
fat woman had her hands full now and Bonnie had entirely lost her friendly
demeanor. I heard the woman say, “Damned mutt, settle down!”
clamped down on the webbing between her thumb and index finger, whereupon the
woman started shrieking. It didn’t take her long to let go.
Bonnie shot over
to the truck and jumped into the passenger seat, as the woman continued to howl
and hold her bleeding hand. I added insult to injury by saying, “I’d get that
looked at, if I were you. She’s had her shots, but ya just never know.” By this
time half the kids in the car were staring, and the other half were bawling.
Mama got hurt and they weren’t quite sure how all this was going to turn out.
gonna sue yer
fuckin’ ass! That animal’s dangerous!”
I decided I’d
enough at that point and I stepped over to the woman and moved up well within
her personal space. Very quietly I said, “Her name is Bonnie. You had no
business touching her, and in spite of that, she saved your miserable life
Now she was
sniveling, and she whined, “Whatta you mean?”
I eased my Smith
and Wesson out of my belt just far enough that she could see it, but it wasn’t
visible to anyone else. I said, “She kept me from having to shoot you dead in
this parking lot. Go home and put some peroxide on yer fuckin’ hand and forget
this ever happened.”
As I got in the
truck, the woman had retreated into her car and was wrapping her hand with a
filthy handkerchief and staring at me. I smiled at her and waved as we pulled
out. Bonnie had discovered the muffins and had forgotten all about the woman
dog-napper. As we rolled on west, we shared the muffins and had a good laugh.
Our total time
Tribune was four-and-a-half hours. When we got there, I decided we needed a
place to stay before we did anything else. A room at a Best Western cost us
eighty-six bucks, which included a “dog deposit,” presumably in case Bonnie ate
all the wallpaper and sheetrock or destroyed the carpeting. I looked at the
weather channel and discovered there would be a full moon that night, and I
decided right then that I would go find the proper spot and do my digging in
the dark. I fed Bonnie and we took a nap.
eight-thirty, we were on the move, grinding slowly up and down dirt and gravel
roads, trying not to raise too much dust or attract too much attention. The
area was all but deserted. I decided we should take a turn past the nearest
habitation, the farmhouse I’d seen in the satellite photos. I pulled out the
pictures I’d printed out and kicked on the dome light. I found the house and
figured out where we were and then cruised on, making a couple turns and then
we were moving up the dead-end road. The house wasn’t really a house, as such.
It was more of a compound. At first glance, it reminded me of the Reverend
David Koresh’s compound near Waco, Texas, where the U.S. government had backed
itself into a corner it could not get out of gracefully and had wound up
killing a shitload of people.
There were six
buildings, but none that actually looked like a proper house. All were painted
the same shade of tan and roofed in the same green metal. And other than that,
there wasn’t much to see. Except a big green John Deere parked in the grass
beside the biggest building. And a guy with a rifle standing in the yard. There
was a big halogen yard light on a pole, lighting the place up like daylight,
and the man with the rifle was making no effort to be stealthy. The rifle was
some kind of lever-action carbine, probably a Winchester or maybe a Marlin,
most likely a .30-30. He had it casually balanced back on his shoulder, holding
it one-handed. He was comfortable with it, for sure. I was stopped at the end
of the driveway and I decided to just play it cool. Just some guy who’s lost.
Nothin’ ta see here, folks.
I put the truck
reverse and K-turned across the drive and drove away, feeling a cold spot on
the back of my neck. I watched the rifle-guy in my mirror as we left. He never
took the rifle down from where it was resting on his shoulder. He kept his eye
on us as we left and as we were almost out of sight, I saw the flare of a match
or lighter as he lit a cigarette.
said to Bonnie, “let’s go dig us a hole.” Fifteen minutes later, the Toyota was
tucked in behind the hedgerow on the east side of the correct field and I took
the shotgun, the shovel, and the pickax, and we took a stroll.
spot, as I knew she most likely would. In the drenching moonlight, her coat
looked almost silver, and the ground was level enough, it was easy walking. My
portable GPS got me within about five yards of the spot, and Bonnie did the
rest. She walked right to the spot, where the ground was actually mounded
slightly, and stood and then sniffed and pawed the dirt.
place, Bonnie. Good girl! Let’s find out what’s down there.”
I slipped on
leather gloves and set to work. The pickax was not needed. The soil was loose
enough, it was easy digging. Twenty minutes and I could smell what Bonnie had
been smelling from above the ground. The body had ripened quite a bit. I was
surprised the coyotes hadn’t been digging at the spot. I only removed about two
and a half feet of dirt before I saw blonde hair and another ten minutes of
careful work fully exposed the corpse of a woman, maybe twenty-five.
I dug out a small
flashlight and took a long look around, then turned on the light. Near her
feet, there was a cheap black plastic purse. I tossed it to one side and
examined her as closely as I could stand. I would be throwing away the gloves.
She had been beaten badly enough that her head appeared misshapen and I saw no
other signs of injury. No gunshots. No stab wounds. Beaten to death, evidently.
I turned off the flashlight just as Bonnie growled, and a woman’s voice said,
“Freeze! Federal agent! Do not move!”
I let go of the
shovel and raised my hands. Bonnie was still growling and I knew in just a few
seconds, she would erupt into shrill, furious barking. “Bonnie. It’s okay.
gloves and drop ‘em.” The voice had a slight shake, maybe excitement, maybe
fear. Definitely nerves. I don’t like nervous, armed people. I did what I was
back. Don’t do anything stupid.”
I placed my hands
behind me and my thumbs were grasped in one hand and cuffs were applied with the
other. Very quick, and very professional. A very bright flashlight came on and
the woman said, “Gettin’ ready to move her some place better?”
seein’ if what I thought was here really was here.”
and I need to have a talk. First, I’ll read you your rights….”
do that. I didn’t tell her I knew my rights better than she did. I didn’t
figure it was the right time. She picked up my shotgun and checked it,
stripping the rounds out of it and rendering it safe. “Let’s leave the shovel
and pick here. We’re gonna take a walk to my car.”
She had parked
right behind my truck and I had heard and seen nothing. She was good. At her
car, she opened the back door and said, “Take out your ID and give it to me.” I
surrendered my wallet and then she said, “Watch your head getting in. . . .”
few minutes in which she and Bonnie sat up front and she talked on her radio
and petted my dog. Finally, she hung up the mike and said, “Okay, Wilder.
Retired cop. One of the good guys. Vouched for by about thirty different
people, even at this time of night. So exactly what the fuck are ya doin’ out
here, diggin’ up a body?”
I told her all
about my chance viewing of the burial going on, shot by satellite and my
curiosity and need for something to do. She took my keys and went to my truck
and retrieved the satellite pictures and looked them over.
“Where ya stayin’?”
I named the motel
and she said, “Okay. There’s a recovery team comin’ here to take . . .” She
looked at a driver’s license she’d taken from the black purse. “Janey Rickett
out there to a morgue and work the crime scene. I’ll follow you to your motel
and we’ll see if we can get this shit straightened out.” She let me out of the
car and uncuffed me, handed me my keys and wallet and let my dog out. Back in
my truck, Bonnie stood with her back feet on the passenger seat and her front
feet on the dash, watching the road and periodically looking over at me. I felt
like she was enjoying the shit out of me getting arrested by the FBI.
When I reached
motel, I walked to my room and stood waiting while Bonnie ran the lot and took
care of business and the FBI talked on her radio some more. Finally, Bonnie
came back and we went in. I left the room door ajar and went to use the
restroom. In a minute, I heard Bonnie’s collar tag jingle and I figured she was
on the bed. When I came out, the agent was by the bed, again petting Bonnie and
introduce myself,” she said, hooking her red hair back over her ear. “I’m
Carolyn Foster, AIC of Western Kansas Division.”
I shook her hand
and only thought to myself, Holy shit!
Agent-in-charge? She’s young for that. . . .
do you imagine is going on out here?”
guy’s idea of a quickie divorce?”
just glad I found you out there tonight, instead of the Mission of Life
Ministry idiots. . . .”
dealing with a religious cult?”
not paying taxes. And having total control over their brides, the adults and
on the dead-end road?”
out there, too?”
to turn around in the driveway and get some looks from a sentry they had
was one of theirs, I’m pretty sure, but the women are brought out so seldom, we
can’t even be sure of that. We know they have some really young girls there and
that they marry them as young as eight years old, then let them grow and
develop and consummate the marriages later.”
few times we’ve been able to even talk to any of the women, it’s been apparent
they’ve been browbeaten and brainwashed into believing their leader sitteth at
the right hand of God Almighty.”
He’s a big, mean, nasty son-of-a-bitch. Doesn’t care much about personal
hygiene, either. I ran across him in Tribune once, in the Dollar Store. His
body odor alone cleared the place out.”
finding some way to get an operative inside?”
agents have gone missing. No contact and no reports after the first day. Both
young women agents, cute and smart. They may just be captive, or they may be
dead. We can’t be sure, but I’m not sending in another agent.”
a warrant and raid the place?”
sent the agents in off the books.”
authorized through channels?”
and I’ll be the first to admit it. Now, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what my
next move is gonna be.”
shouldn’t do anything. . . .”
She sat down
the end of the bed, still petting Bonnie. “What’s that mean?”
if you just
bide your time, the problem will solve itself. . . .”
think it could, if you and your folks just pull
back and put your feet up.”
can’t allow you to do anything . . . illegal . . . or improper. Besides, you’re
just one guy. What could you possibly do, against them? I know they’ve got lots
of firepower out there and they have the advantage of ownership. As soon as you
step foot on their property, you’re a trespasser, and they could be within
their rights to kill you.”
Foster? You worry too much.” I stepped over to the door and opened it. “I need
to get some sleep. I’ll say goodnight now. . . .”
to Wichita, Barry, and forget about this. If you get in trouble, I won’t be
able to help ya.”
okay. I put
my phone number in your phone, just in case you might need to talk to me . . .
at some point. . . .”
I gave it thirty
minutes and then took Bonnie out for another walk. I wanted to be sure Agent
Foster was gone. Once I was sure, I took everything out of the motel room and
we loaded up and drove back north, toward the Mission of Life Ministry.
I made one stop
a combination truck stop/convenience store and bought a gas can, a gallon of
unleaded, and a package of road flares. Nothing illegal, just ordinary,
everyday stuff every motorist should have.
I made my approach
from the south, since the prevailing wind was from the north-northwest. If they
had dogs, I didn’t want to set them off from too far out. I parked the Toyota
over a mile south and hauled out the Glock .45. I reached under the driver’s
seat and felt for the two Velcro strips and peeled them loose. Into my hand
dropped an eight-inch long suppressor, which I stashed in my back pocket.
I grabbed the
AR-556 rifle and the filled gas can and road flares. I knelt down and spoke to
Bonnie. “Okay,” I whispered, “really quiet now. No barking, okay? Gotta be
sneaky. . . .” I was pretty sure she got it, but ya never know with dogs unless
you trained them yourself.
We started hiking
north, directly across plowed fields, and as we got closer, we kept in the long
shadows thrown by the buildings from that extra-bright yard light. We made it
to the south side of the largest building, which was a hay barn, and in a quick
check of the side of the building, I found a door set into the side near the east
end. There was a hasp, but no lock. It had been secured by putting an old,
rusty screwdriver through the hasp. I pressed in on the door and silently
removed it. I opened the door as quietly as possible, but there was a bit of
noise from rusty hinges. There was light inside, but not much. A couple of old,
dusty electric bulbs were set high up on two of the walls.
Bonnie and I
slipped inside and looked the place over. There was baled hay almost to the
roof on the south end, stair-stepping down toward the north end, where there
was an old table and a couple of chairs. Maybe this was where the boys came to
play cards and get away from the women.
We climbed to the
top of the hay bales and settled in to wait. I wanted to hit them at about 4 A.M. It was the best time to attack,
when people are at their lowest and most vulnerable. As it turned out, we
didn’t get to pick the time. Instead, we got to meet Chas Burgher himself.
We had been in
place maybe four minutes, when a door at the north end of the barn flew open
and he came in, dragging a small, struggling teenage girl. I watched as he
dragged the child to the table and then strapped her face-down with leather
restraints I hadn’t noticed before. The upper half of her body was on the table,
and her feet were not quite touching the floor. He fastened more restraints
around her ankles, to the table legs, as she moaned and begged. She knew what
was coming, maybe from experience, maybe from the other women who had been
As he yanked
her jeans and panties, I pulled the suppressor from my back pocket and screwed
it onto the Glock .45. From a nail on one wall, I watched Chas take down a
razor strap. I was familiar with the strap, or “strop,” as it was properly
called, from my own childhood. I knew it would cause a lot of pain and if
overused, it could cut and split flesh. It was leather on one side and canvas
on the other and almost three inches wide. Bonnie was sitting up with her ears
raised and she didn’t like this shit at all.
any time talking, but immediately began smacking her ass with the strap. She
wailed and screamed, and he hit her about seven or eight times. I had Bonnie’s
collar in my hand, keeping her from bolting down there to try and eat the guy.
As we watched, he stopped and talked to her. I could not hear what he said, but
I had an idea what was coming next. The girl did too. It was apparent, when she
began really fighting the restraints, much harder than before.
I watched Chas
Burgher unbutton his overalls and drop them to his ankles. He wore no
underwear. He was much too well-equipped for the child he was about to rape,
and as hard as it had been to watch the beating, I knew I was not about to let
this shit happen.
As he took himself
in his hand and stepped forward behind her, she took a deep breath. She was
ready to scream loud enough to raise the roof. I squinted down the barrel of
the Glock, over the suppressor and squeezed off one shot. He had just tipped
his head down to watch his own penetration and the round took him in the top of
his head. It blew a fine mist of blood out onto his back and he toppled
backward onto the floor, dead before he hit the dirt.
There was silence
for a moment, and then Bonnie was scrambling down, headed to the girl. I
followed her down and went to the table and got out my ceramic knife and cut
pulled back up and we’ll get ya outta here,” I said.
was sniffling and wiping her nose on the back of her hand. “You the cops?”
safe now. Not gonna let anything happen to ya. What’s your name, Sweetie?”
“A . .
. about a
month, I guess. They grabbed me right off the street in Denver. I think they
were gonna send me someplace. Maybe overseas, like to some Arab place. I got in
trouble with him, ‘cause I wouldn’t behave myself and keep quiet.”
thirty-five, in three houses. Some of them are their own wives and stuff. We’re
not all people who’ve been kidnapped. . . .”
get ya outta here.”
gonna get really bad here, shortly.” I took her face in my hands and made her
look up at me. I wiped her tears away with my thumbs. “I want you to take this.
. . .” I pulled out my truck keys and pulled the remote off the key ring. “Go
out this door back here and walk straight south. In a little over a mile, yer
gonna find a silver Toyota truck. Unlock it with this and get inside and lock
the doors. My dog here is gonna go with ya. Her name is Bonnie. Can ya do that
She nodded her
head and swallowed more tears and said, “Kay . . . okay.”
ya, okay? I’ll be there in a little while. . . .”
I walked her
to the door, and she and Bonnie slipped out into the dark. I gathered up my
flares and gas can and got to work.
I splashed gas
the hay bales, on the table, on the walls of the barn, and especially on the
body of Chas Burgher. When the can was empty, I checked myself and made sure
there was no gas on me. Then I walked to the back door and ripped the tab on a
flare and ignited it. As soon as it was burning intensely, I threw it back into
the barn and shoved the door shut and leaned against it. Felt the force of the
ignition push on the far side of the door like a dragon-beast from a fairy
tale, blowing its hot breath around the door, lusting for blood.
I shoved the
screwdriver back into the hasp, grabbed my rifle and took off to the east,
getting back into the dark, getting distance from the carnage that was coming.
It took a few
minutes. Long enough for me to pick my spot and get into my prone shooting
position. First, I heard dogs. Sounded like two, maybe three, raising hell,
howling and barking. Then, I heard two gunshots, probably from the sentry’s
rifle. That brought men out of the houses, and the yelling began.
I could hear,
“Fire!” “Fire!” “Barn’s on fire!” Brilliant
fuckers. Gonna do something about it, or just run around and yell at each
other, belaboring the obvious?
I switched on
night scope, then immediately switched it off. The yard was too bright.
Carefully, I sighted on the yard light and squeezed off one shot. The roar of
the fire from the barn, along with the popping and cracking of old, dry wood, covered
the sound of the shot nicely and the yard light winked out.
Men were running
around in the dark now, trying to hook up garden hoses and get some water
going. Waste of time on a hay barn, but I guess they needed something to do.
The nearest fire department was twenty-four miles away. The barn would be gone
by the time the first unit arrived, but maybe they could save the rest of the
I turned the
scope back on and went to work. The men were ghostly green figures in the
scope, with a bright green dot at the aim-point, where the bullet would strike.
I took my time and got the first three before they began to realize what was
going on. As soon as they got their shit together and went for weapons, I
moved. They had seen muzzle flash from the east. When they came back out with
their own rifles, I was gone, moving through the dark around to the north. I
picked a spot and dropped to the ground again and got a good shot and took out
another guy. Now there were several women moving around, too, making it more
confusing. No kids, though. I was glad. Kids didn’t need to see this. I got up
and moved again.
As I reached
northwest corner of the buildings, I saw the lights on the big John Deere
tractor, and I heard its big diesel engine start. Now it would get more
interesting. The tractor started out, bouncing and roaring toward me. I stepped
around the corner of a building and waited.
When the tractor
came roaring by, I raised the rifle and shot the driver. The tractor was a
fancy, air-conditioned, full-cab model. I watched the driver slump down, dead
at the controls.
continued on out into the fields, making a long arc around to the east. I tore
my attention away in time to see a man taking aim at me with a shotgun. I
dropped to the ground as he fired, and most of the shot load went above me. I
felt the sting of some pellets on my left shoulder. There wasn’t enough impact
for it to be lethal. It was most likely birdshot, rather than something
He racked the
slide, raising the gun nearly vertical to do so. Bad technique. He could have
held on target while he operated the slide; it wasn’t that hard to do. As he
started to lower the shotgun, I fired twice, both snap-shots with little in the
way of aim.
The first shot
missed. The second staggered him backward, and I saw blood erupt from his neck.
He landed on his back and thrashed around for a few seconds. Very few. He was
no longer a threat.
I looked back
the tractor and saw it still going and still turning. If it kept going like it
was, it would soon be back. In its headlights, I saw a small brown and white
dog, racing toward the buildings. Damn
dog . . . you were supposed to stay with the girl. . . .
I could do little
or nothing for Bonnie. If I whistled, she might or might not hear me and I
might give away my position. I saw her go behind one of the buildings and then
I saw two German shepherds headed my way. I looked for someplace to go, but I
would not be able to make it anywhere before they would nail me. They were much
too fast for me to have any hope of outrunning them.
They slowed as
they saw me, hesitating just a little, not quite sure what to do, but I was
upwind and they soon had my scent. And they smelled my blood. I saw their
hackles come up and their tails bush out and then they were in motion again,
coming on strong.
Then, from my
left, a small brown and white rocket shot across in front of them, barking
shrilly and raising hell. As one, both shepherds turned and started pursuing
this interloper. I glanced around to make sure I wasn’t about to become meat,
then looked back into the compound. Things were lit up nicely now by the fire,
and I watched as Bonnie did an amazing thing. As the larger dogs closed on her,
she made a sudden tremendous leap and landed on the low-hanging limb of a dwarf
pear tree and scrambled over more branches until she was out of reach. Until
that moment, I had never seen a dog climb a tree.
milled around below the tree, confused and wanting very badly to kill this
dog-cat. Or cat-dog. They had completely forgotten me. Then I ducked as more
gunshots came, but they lacked that special sound you only hear when you’re out
in front of the gun.
I moved around
outside of the compound and watched as several women, two in particular, shot
several men, even walking over to where they had fallen and shooting them
again, just to be sure. Most likely the two missing FBI agents, loose now, and
armed with rifles they’d either found in the houses or picked up from the
fallen. I decided maybe it would be a good time to move out. I looked back to
Bonnie’s tree, but she wasn’t there. The two shepherds were gone, too.
I worked my way
around to the south side of the compound again and saw Bonnie, racing between
buildings, dodging back and forth, wearing out two big shepherds, then I didn’t
see her again for a while.
And then, here
came the damned tractor again. I watched in amazement as it drove itself
directly into what was left of the burning barn. Its engine stalled, and it
didn’t come out the other side.
I was halfway
to the truck, when Bonnie came up on me out of the dark. The other dogs were
gone and there was no way she could tell me how she lost them. She seemed
pretty proud of herself, though.
At the truck,
had to knock on the window to get Ellie to unlock the doors and let us in. She
had actually fallen asleep in the passenger seat. When we got in the truck,
Bonnie kept trying to crawl over the seats to get to me and I finally realized
it was because of the blood from my shoulder wounds. I got in the back of the
truck and dragged out my first aid kit and stripped off my shirt. Ellie helped
me clean the pellet holes and apply a big gauze dressing. It would have to do,
until I got back to Wichita.
As we left the
area, I pulled out my cell phone and called Agent Foster’s number. She answered
on the first ring.
there. All kindsa shit going on out there, fires, shootin’, lotsa trouble.”
the way. The local cops are headed there, too. What did you do?”
anything. Oh, by the way, ya know that convenience store there on the north
side of Tribune?”
somebody by there, you’ll find a young girl named Ellie Miner. She’s a kidnap
case outta Denver. She’ll need a ride home. I think maybe there’s a number of
kids out there. Human trafficking, I’m thinkin’.”
anything of my two agents?”
who were walkin’ around, shootin’ assholes? Nope, didn’t see ‘em. Wasn’t even
there. . . .”
then, Agent Foster?”
thanks. I think. . . .”
I dropped Ellie
at the convenience store. As she was about to get out of the truck, I said,
“Promise me you’ll wait for the cops and not take any rides from truckers.”
And thank you.”
She told Bonnie
goodbye and kissed my cheek. I gave her twenty bucks so she could get an ice
cream. Then we hit the road, headed home.
Bonnie curled up
in the right seat and I could swear she was smiling in her sleep.
Kenneth James Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop
from Wichita, Kansas. He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and
has since written four more novels, several novellas and
a butt-load of short stories. His publications have
been seen in Bewildering
Stories, Tales of the Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot
of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones,
and Kudzu Monthly,
to name a few.
Recently, he appeared in two of John Thompson’s anthologies at Hardboiled. They are Hardboiled, and The Undead War, both available at
Dead Guns Press on Amazon.com
He also has four books up in Kindle format, for sale
on Amazon.com: Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing
Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie
He will turn 74 this month, and he still rides
his big Harley every day that weather permits and is
now officially “retired”. He also operates
Fossil Publications, publisher of Black Petals and Yellow Mama. This month he made his first parachute jump and crossed that
off his "bucket list."