Sunday, July 24, 2011

Indivisible Chapter 19

Chapter 19
 The snow was falling again as Vaughn coasted into the last gas station.  He didn’t have quite enough fuel to get home.  To his dismay, the pumps were covered with yellow baggies indicating ‘out of service’.  His remaining options were to leave his truck and walk the last five miles or beg the storekeeper to sell him a gallon.  Neither appealed to him.  He went up to the door of the store only to find it locked.  The lights were on inside so he pounded away.  The shopkeeper ended up being there and he greeted Vaughn with a cantankerous expression scrawled on his face.  After some whining he let Vaughn in.  Soon after, another man appeared on the road and he made his way into the store as well.
“We’re all outta gas,” announced the keeper.
“Please,” Vaughn begged, “all I need is a gallon…even a half gallon…just enough to get home.  I’ll give you all I have.”  Vaughn pulled out his wallet and began counting off bills…ten…twenty…thirty… The shop keeper just rubbed his Yosemite Sam mustache and watched him count.  He had those authentic-cowboy, sun-squinted Indian eyes.  He keeper sighed.
“Even if I had any gas I couldn’t sell any to you.”

The man from the road stepped into the conversation.  He was tightly wrapped in an ill-fitting, frayed overcoat with the collars turned up and he wore a stocking cap pulled down low almost over his eyes.
“Would you sell it to him if he had a black card?” the man asked.
The shopkeeper’s squinty eyes popped wide open.
“A Fed card?  Sure.  Let’s see it.”
The man from the road first turned to Vaughn.
“If I can get you some gas will you help me?”
Vaughn pondered for a moment.  It sounded like bandit’s ruse but his desperation took over.  “Sure.  But what can I do for you?”
“It’s nothing big.  I’ll tell you outside.  Here…”
The man from the road reached into the breast pocket of his frayed black overcoat and pulled out a money clip containing a wad of Reagans and a black credit card with a gold and blue eagle’s eye.  It had no other identifying marks other than the matte data strip on the backside.
“How much gas do you need?” the shopkeeper asked.
“Fill him up.”
“You got it.  Pump number two.  Just put the yellow bag back on when you’re done.”
Vaughn couldn’t believe his spectacular good fortune.  It was too good to be true.  There had to be a devil hiding in it somewhere.  He couldn’t remember the last time he had a full tank of gas nor could he imagine how he would ever pay for it.
Vaughn and his new benefactor stepped outside to the pump.
“This isn’t some sort of a scam, is it?” Vaughn asked as he pulled the yellow baggie off the nozzle and stuck the spout into the tank.  “You gonna rob me?”
“Most definitely not.”
“What do you want from me, then?”
Vaughn noticed that the man from the road was standing in front of Vaughn’s license plate, blocking it from the view of the leering storekeeper who twisted the tips of his mustache as he watched them from inside his shop.
“Let’s wait until we’re out of here,” the man from the road answered as he bent down and began unscrewed the back plate.
“I don’t have anything valuable,” Vaughn offered.  “Anything you take from me would be worth far less than this tank of gas you’re giving me.”
“Oh yeah?  What about your truck?”  The man answered with a chuckle as he stuffed the plate into his overcoat.
“Why you taking my plate off?”
“Just to be safe.  I’ll put in back on up the road a mile or so.”
“Are you in trouble or something?”
“Only if they catch me.”
“Who’s ‘they’?”
The gas pump clicked off.
“Let’s go.  Turn out over there so he can’t read your front plate.”
The overcoat man dispelled Vaughn’s anxiety with a wink before hopping into his truck.
They travelled about a mile in silence.  Vaughn nervously drove, unable to come up with any conversation starters.  It was no matter, anyway.  The man from the road didn’t seem like the small-talk type.  He just stared ahead as if his eyes were painted that way on his face.  At what point does he take out his gun?  Vaughn wondered.
When the man finally did speak, it was to ask Vaughn to pull over.
“I gotta pick something up over there.  Hang on a second.”
He got out and jogged into the woods just off the shoulder.  Vaughn felt a compelling urge to stomp on the gas and leave but something made him wait.  The overcoat man retrieved a loaded trash bag that was hidden in the brambles and snow.  He placed it in the cab on the passenger seat floor then walked back to the rear of the truck.  Vaughn tried to discern what was buried inside the bag while the man from the road thumb-screwed the rear license plate back on but he didn’t quite have the nerve to pry into it.  The man jumped back into the passenger seat.
“Okay, let’s go.”
They continued on their way up the canyon road towards Vaughn’s house.
“This would be a good fucking place for an ambush,” the man observed.  “See that bend up ahead?  You could block it off just on the other side with a couple a trees or cars.  They wouldn’t see it until it was too late.  It’d take forever to back up to that turnout back there.  And there’s all kinds of cover for exfiltration..”
“So will you tell me who you are?” Vaughn interrupted.
The man grinned realizing his tactical observations were lost on his acquaintance.
“Yes.  That’s a fair question.  My name is James.  James Marzan.  But you can call me Jimmy.  I’d appreciate it if yiou didn’t spread that around to anyone.”  He took off his stocking cap revealing his high and tight haircut.  He loosened his overcoat revealing a khaki colored t-shirt.  He stuffed the hat into his trash bag revealing the barrel of a semi automatic rifle.  Vaughn immediately gleaned who Jimmy was.
“You’re a soldier.”
“Yeah, I guess.  I was, anyway.  Does that bother you?”
“No…no…not at all,” Vaughn stammered.
“Look.  I don’t want to get you in any kind of trouble.  I just need a ride a few miles down the road past Bailey a ways if you don’t mind.  Maybe you got some food I can eat before you take me out there?  Maybe some civilian clothes would be nice.  This old jacket smells like piss.  I had to buy it off some bum with the last of my rations.”
“No problem.  I can do that for you but I…”
“Don’t worry.  I’ll never tell anyone you helped me if I get caught.  I ain’t gonna get caught…alive anyway.”
“You a deserter?”
“I guess you could say that.  I prefer Oathkeeper but you can call it whatever you like.  There’s a whole lot of us out here.”
“My mom said that the Army shot up civilians in Denver the other night.  Is that true?”
“Indeed it is.  Why do you think I’m here?”
“How’s that possible?”
“Soldiers follow orders.  Hell, we did worse than shoot people.”
“Like what?”
Jimmy Marzan looked out the window at the snow covered ponderosas that enclosed the canyon road.  Vaughn didn’t push it any further.
“I have some food,” Vaughn offered.  “You can take some of my clothes, too.  It’d be my pleasure to help you.  I really appreciate the gas.”
“So you’re not worried about giving aid to a terrorist?”
“Doesn’t sound like you’re a terrorist to me.”
“Thank you.  So what’s your name?”
“Vaughn Clayton.”
“What’s your story, Vaughn?” Marzan asked.
Vaughn came right out with it as if it was building up in him and he had just laid himself down on a headshrinker’s couch.  “My wife’s been kidnapped and I’m trying to get her back,” he explained.
“No fucking shit?” Marzan answered, but in a tone that seemed genuinely concerned but less than surprised.  Jimmy was suddenly afflicted with the realization that Vaughn’s plight might very well be his opportunity at redemption.  Funny how God presents us with those opportunities.  “Who took her?”  He asked.
“I’ve no idea.  But I need to get her back soon.  She gets sick without her medicine.”
“What’s the ransom?”
“They think I have krugerrands.”
“And my guess would be that you don’t have them.”
“They got me mixed up with my neighbor, I think.”
“What are you gonna do, then?  Are the police helping?”
“They got bigger problems to deal with.”
“What the hell?”
They turned up Vaughn’s road and pulled into his driveway but before exiting the truck, Marzan scanned the tree line and neighbor’s windows for spotters.  He put his stocking cap back on, pulled it down low, and flipped up his filthy collar thus obscuring as much of his face as possible.  He grabbed his bag and the two of them hustled into Vaughn’s house.
“I apologize for the mess,” Vaughn explained.  The kidnappers turned everything inside out and I haven’t gotten it all cleaned up yet.  It’s kinda funny how the more time you have on your hands the less you seem to get done.
“Ain’t that the truth,” Marzan obliged.  “You mind if I take my stuff out here?”
“Not at all but it might make more sense to do that in the guest bedroom back there.”
They went into the guestroom where Vaughn had managed to put the mattress back on the bed but not make the bed itself.  Marzan set his bundle down on it and tore the double-lined trash bags apart.
Vaughn’s eyes widened.
“Is that a…”
“M-4… Got about a fifty rounds.  Here…night vision.  Had to let the radio go, though, cuz they put GPS in ‘em.  There’s a medical kit…sutures, gauze, plastic thing to hold over a chest wound so the air don’t leak out.  Two tear gas grenades, a gas mask, flashlight, one big ass motherfuckin’ knife and a Gideon’s Bible.  I’m wearing my Kevlar and the clothes on my back and my black card, which they’ll soon trace to that gas station down the road, are everything I own in the world.”
“So where do you go?  Home?”
“Bastards probably already told my parents I done something terrible.  There’s no going home for me.”

Chapter 18