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Original Work The Unwelcome Sign

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by Zengunfighter, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    The first chapter of a book I'm working on.

    "Should I start from the front, or the back?" I asked myself. Pondering the mechanics for a moment, I made up my mind. I rolled the corpse over, face down, pulled my bowie from it's sheath on my belt, put the point between two cervical vertebra and proceeded to remove the head from the body.

    "What in the Hell are you DOING!" Frank yelled at me.
    "I'm cutting the head off this corpse, as you can plainly see"
    "What the fuck for, have you lost your mind?!"

    "He doesn't need it anymore, and I do. Instead of standing there gawping, why don't you go cut me a pole about eight feet long. Go ahead and sharpen it on both ends while you're at it."
    "You know I've got your back, but this is just damned sick." Frank said as he pushed his slung M4 behind his back and melted into the bush to retrieve a pole.

    If you've never done it before, taking a human head off isn't that easy. The tricky part is dealing with the spine. That's why I started there. Once you have that separated, the rest is smooth sailing. Luckily, one of Frank's three shots had blown this fellow's liver apart, resulting in most of his blood draining from that wound, making it a bit less messy for me to deal with the carotid and jugulars.

    I had the head detached and sitting upright on the ground about the time Frank emerged from the bush with a inch and a half diameter Ginnip sapling. "Perfect" I said.

    "So you want to tell me what you have in mind?"
    "We're gonna put this head on the pole and put it up at the end of the road" I answered.
    "Pour encourage d'autres", I responded to his next, unanswered question.
    "You think it'll do any good?"

    "This poor bastard came here, onto our property, looking to take what we've had the foresight, and the wherewithal, to put aside for situations just like we are facing now. There's not a doubt in my mind that he would have used that Glock that he had stuck in his waistband, if we'd given him a chance. He might be the first, but he damn sure won't be the last to try and take what's ours. I'm hoping that his head on a pike will give others' pause, and encourage them to seek easier pickings. The downside, and yes, there is a downside, is that we are announcing our presence here, and the fact that we are armed. There's always trade offs, and in this case, I think the strategic application of 'Horror' outweighs the tactical error of letting people know we are here. They'll figure it out sooner or later. Hell, this one did."

    "Now help me get this coconut stuck on this stick...."

    So how did I get to the place where I'm decapitating corpses? It's been a long time coming and many things have gone into my decision. And all the decisions I will be making from here on out. It's a new 'normal' and I'd better adapt quickly or I'm not going to survive. As Darwin said, it's not the strongest or the smartest that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.

    Seems I'm one flexible fellow.

    In books and movies there's that initial conflict between the bad guy and the hero? And the hero, being a 'good guy' bypasses the opportunity to solve everyone's problem by taking out the villain right then and there, because that wouldn't be 'right' or 'moral'. Everyone knows that at the end of Act Three the protagonist will finally deal with the antagonist, but only after he has had plenty of time to cause harm and mayhem to others. How moral is that?

    One of my teachers told me, "if a tree is leaning over your house, do you wait for it to fall and crush your house before you cut it down?" As soon as you understand someone's intention to harm you, you need to take immediate action and not wait for the harm you know is inevitable.

    It's a tough decision to make, when I've spent my entire life practicing being helpful to people and 'doing no harm'. But it's a new reality, now, the thin veneer of civilization has been ripped off, exposing the ugliness beneath. Adjust and adapt quickly because I won't get many chances to get it wrong.
    Getting it wrong has greater consequences now, than it did just a short while ago.

    This stream of thought finished about the same time that I completed the gruesome task of putting up my Unwelcome sign. I picked up my M4, put my head and right arm through the 2 point sling, tapped the mag, did a chamber check, and hit the forward assist with a couple of love taps. Wiping the sweat off my face with my shemaugh I bit down on the valve of my Camelbak tube and sucked in some water, happy to find that it was still quite cold.

    Frank, seeing that I was ready, without a word stepped off into the bush. I paused a beat, took a calming breath and slowly followed him. Sight lines in the bush are very short so you need to move very slowly, silently, and really tune into your surroundings. The critters had settled down and were back to making their usual noises, after having their morning shattered by the 3 quick shots from Frank's rifle.

    Hearing and smell are just as important as sight when you are navigating the bush. You need to open up your awareness and become part of the ecosystem. If you don't, you'll end up with your head on a stick.

    Every 50 paces or so, I'd stop, turn, and watch/listen/smell or back trail. The wind was in my face. Good for knowing if someone was following us, but bad if we hoped to get a shot at animal. Maintaining good hygene was an order of magnitude more difficult nowadays. Many people just didn't bother. Staying clean is one of the reasons we live longer, or use to, at any rate. There's the obvious reasons related to disease, and the less obvious, that your smell can give away your presence to game animals and enemies.

    Make the effort.

    I turned back around and had only taken a couple of steps when I noticed Frank stop and squat down, looking at the ground. He caught my eye, pointed at the ground and resumed walking. I moved up and stopped where he had and looked. A small pile of little black/brown pellets indicated that a deer or goat had passed her recently. I'm sure he'd winded us, so we'd never get a shot at him, but it was good to know that he was around. We'll get him another time.

    We came up to edge of the clearing, me still trailing back a dozen paces. Frank took off his hat, scrubbed his hair with his left hand and replaced the hat. That innocuous gesture let Leia in the observation post know that everything was copacetic. If Frank had done anything else, not given the sign, or even something as subtle as using his right hand to scrub his scalp, whoever was on watch would have known there was a problem, and hit the switch to alert the rest of the group.

    After his quick pause to adjust his hat, Frank set off again, making sure to not acknowledge Leia in the OP as he walked past, in case anyone was watching him. Another 100 yards and the house was visible behind the knoll that concealed it from view from the rest what used to be my neighborhood.

    Suddenly two dobermans, a rust and red bitch and a black and tan male ran at us full speed. They ran right past Frank and went for me. They ran circles around me, play fighting with each other, their normal ritual to let me know that they were happy that daddy was home. I stopped, unlocked my knees, and waited for the unbounded show of joy to subside. They knew better than to jump up, but a 90 pound dog bouncing into your locked knee is a good way to get hurt. Just one more indication that life was different now. A banged up knee a few months ago would have meant going to the doctor, some tests, some pain meds, maybe physical therapy, or if the injury was bad, surgery.

    Not now. There's no such thing as a simple injury anymore.

    My wife, Sadie heard the dogs roughhousing from inside the house and greeted me at the door. "Sweetie!" she exclaimed while she gave me a big hug. "How did the sweep go?" she asked.
    Frank and I entered the house, racked our M4s, shrugged out of our day packs, took off our load bearing gear and put them on on the stands we each had for our equipment, staged near the door where we could get to them quickly. Our pistols and knives stayed on, though.

    We never took off our handguns. The whole point of sidearms is having a weapon that you can Always have Near to Hand.

    Rolling my shoulders, glad to be relieved of their burden, I reached up and massaged my neck while I answered Sadie's question. "The sweep went relatively well, but we did have a run in with some looters. Frank had my back, so it wasn't an issue."

    "What happened? So those were your gun shots we heard?"

    Gunshots were heard often enough to not be note worthy unless they were close by.

    "Yeah, we lit up a couple of looters." The three of us sat down on the deck, overlooking the Atlantic ocean a couple of hundred yards away, the
    Trade Winds quickly drying our sweaty tee shirts, despite the 80% humidity. I reached down next to me, opened the mini fridge, pulled out a icy cold can of Coke for me, tossed a Greenie to Frank and handed one to my wife. Taking a deep drink of that sugary ambrosia, I continued.

    "We started the patrol from the east this time to mix it up. I took point to start. We eyeballed the Johansen place as we passed. Everything looked fine there. Emma was pulling weeds, while her two sons were making a couple of new raised beds from 2x12s they scavenged from their neighbor's house. Looks like they're going to have about 8 of those beds when they're done.

    We slipped by without them knowing we were there and kept moving east another couple hundred yards until we hit the gut. We moved up the gut until we were almost up to the main road. That's when I heard the voices. A couple of men talking. We stopped, took a knee, and took in information. Looking back I caught Frank's eye. I cupped an ear, pointed to my eyes, then pointed at him, and then pointed in a semi circle behind him."

    "Like he needs to tell me my job." Frank interjected with a grin. I ignored the jab and continued with the report.

    After listening and looking for a minute or so, I looked at Frank again who shook his head in the negative. I nodded in reply, motioned for him to circle and flank, and then rose to a crouch, and slowly moved closer to the voices. Moving just a few yards I was finally able to catch a glimpse of them between the foliage. I could also hear what they were saying.

    "Are you sure this is a good idea?" said the one furthest from me.
    "I'm telling you, this neighborhood is far enough out that no one has hit it yet. There'll be some food for certain and women too. We do it just like before. I find a place to hide near the door, you knock and stand back, and when they come out to talk to you, I'll shoot them in the back, they'll never know what hit them. It worked good the last two times, didn't it?"
    "Yeah, but, I've got a bad feeling about it"
    "You didn't have a bad feeling about that last chick we found, did you? She lasted longer than the one bef"
    BOOMBOOMBOOM! Three shots rang out from my right, about 10 yards out.
    The looter, interrupted, paused, looked down at his chest, pulled his now bloody hand away from the area of his liver, and folded up, dropping in an untidy pile.
    I brought my M4 up, flipping the safety off, and put the red dot from my Aimpoint T-1 on the back of the rapidly retreating form of the second looter. I let off 3 quick shots, but by then I couldn't see him any longer.
    I went to flat stock with the M4, side stepped, went kneeling, and did a 360 scan. I rose to a crouch and repeated the scan, and then stood and repeated the process.
    With the thick foliage, you can see different things at different distances from different heights.

    Check them all.

    I pulled a spare mag out of my Olangapo carrier, did a tac load, swapping it for the partial in the rifle. Tap and tug to make sure it's seated, the partial went into the cargo pocket on my left leg. Chamber check, tap the forward assist, and closed the dust cover. As I finish up Frank has moved up to me, rifle in flat stock while he scans behind me.

    "That was cold, dude" I told him.
    "What was?"
    "You just dumped that guy with out so much as a how'd ya do"
    "What was there to talk about? They needed killing. What was I supposed to wait for?"
    "I'm just messing with you dude. You did the right thing. Fair fights are for fairy tales. As you said, they needed killing"
    "did you get the second one?"Frank asked me.
    I'm not sure. He moved quick!"
    "You gonna check or am I"
    "I'll do it, you cover. Your vision is better than mine."

    We moved to the pile of flesh and bones that until recently had been a looter and rapist, a Taker. He was very obviously expired. I checked him over and found a Glock 22 in his waist band, sans holster. He had a wad of cash in one pocket, a bag of weed in another. I pocketed both. I'm not sure the money will ever have any value again, but the weed certainly has it's uses. And if nothing else, the cash can be used as TP.

    I pulled the Glock 22 from the corpse's waist, pulled the mag and checked the chamber. I put the round from the chamber into the mag, which was dutch loaded with a variety of FMJ and hollowpoints. Pointing the empty gun in a safe direction, I pulled the trigger and held it back. Shaking the pistol near my ear, I could hear the striker moving back and forth freely. I put the mag back in, leaving the chamber empty. Waving Frank over, I put the Glock in his backpack, not willing to trust it until I've had a chance to give it a thorough going over.

    I turned my attention to looking for the second Taker. Moving over to where I last saw him, I squatted down and looked around. After a few seconds of me looking without seeing anything, Frank said "At your 2 o'clock, about 3 feet out, on that Cashia leaf."

    I told you he has good eyes.

    There, right where he said, was a bright red dollop of blood. About half a teaspoon's worth.

    "Looks like you tagged him" Frank said.
    "Yup. Let's see if there is a blood trail to follow."

    I let Frank take the lead, while I provided cover. We moved slow at first, finding drops of blood every few yards.

    After a hundred yards or so,Frank stopped and waited until he had my attention, then pointed up ahead. There, at the base of a Turpentine tree was the body of the second Taker, lying face up. The flies landing on his unblinking eyes let us know that he was no longer with us.

    "Guess you did get a piece of him"
    "Are you surprised?" I grinned at him.
    "Well, you are getting up there in years"

    I gave him the universal symbol to let him know that he was Number 1 in my book, and then started going through his things. More cash, more weed, and another Glock. This one a model 19. As I pulled it from him, my hopes soared. It had an extended barrel with threads on it.

    I went through the same process with it that I had on the previous pistol, then tossed it to Frank.
    "You willing to bet whether he has the can to go with that?" I asked
    "Only one way to find out" he replied.

    Going through the Taker's pockets, I came up empty. I cut the straps of his cheap backpack and pulled it out from under him. I opened the main compartment and started pulling items out. First was 3 pairs of girls' panties. Sick bastard, probably trophies. Next was 2 bottles of rum. One full, one half full. We'd hang on to those. A dirty pair of jeans had been wrapped around them to keep them safe. In the bottom of the pack was two boxes of 9mm, which is always gratefully received. But my hopes were falling. No can.

    "What about that side pocket?" Frank asked.

    I took a breath and unzipped it. There was a red bandana in there. Wrapped around something. Something about eight inches long and a bit over an inch in diameter.

    "Jackpot! Yes! This is a game changer, dude. With all the preps we've done, the one thing I regretted not being able to get was a suppressor, but it just wasn't feasible"
    "That'll come in handy, no doubt" Frank said. "seeing as you're the one that shot him, I guess it's yours".
    "I suppose that's right, but I'll put it to the best use. If that means someone else needs it, so be it."

    Back on the porch, Frank picked up the thread of the story. "The next part really takes the cake. Your husband is one cold dude. Do you want to tell her, or shall I?"
    "Go ahead, dude, my throat's dry. You can tell Sadie about the Unwelcome Sign"
  2. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    Ready, Set, Go!

    Fate, Kismet, Predestination, whatever you want to call it, some people believe that your life follows a path and leads you to exactly where you need to be. That everything that happens, everything that you’ve done, all of your experiences, are in place to prepare you for the challenges that confront you.

    I’m not sure I believe that malarkey, but sometimes it sure does seem that way. When I was in the early phase of dating Sadie, she used to call me ‘Dieter Tenjobs’, because I’d had a rather varied work background. I’d worked in sales, various construction jobs, security, high tech industry to name a few.

    All of those have formed me, and taught me skills and lessons that are very useful in the New Normal.

    I was sitting at my work bench, going over the 2 Glocks we had just received. One of the reasons that I run Glocks is that they are so simple and easy to work on. The generations one, two and three have just 28 parts. 32 if you count the magazine. You can detail strip them using only a 3/32” punch, a small flat bladed screw driver, and a pair of needle nose pliers.

    Parts were readily available, when things were still normal, and I’d stocked up on them. I could keep the group’s Glocks running for decades. As I worked on taking down the slide assembly, my mind wandered.

    I thought back to my childhood, growing up in a very small town in a rural section of New York. It was long enough ago that we used to have drills hiding under our desks, or in the halls, hands clasped over the backs of our necks, in anticipation of a Soviet nuclear attack.

    Tell me that’s not formative.

    Despite the Damocles Sword hanging over our young necks, it was an innocent time. Every boy had a clasp knife in his pocket, yet never dreamed of using it for anything more sinister than carving a pipe from a corn cob, or a game of mumblypeg.

    Having cleaned all the recesses in the slide with a cue tip and pipe cleaner, making certain that the firing pin channel was free of any lube or dirt, I wiped down the extractor, extractor plunger, firing pin safety and put the slide back together again, making sure that to have plastic to plastic contact between the plunger and the back plate.

    Picking up the frame and the punch I started taking it down next.

    My father instilled a love of three things in me, from an early age; learning, reading, and firearms, not necessarily in that order. As a lad I was a voracious reader. No gun magazine within my reach was safe from my grubby mitts as I devoured them cover to cover. This was back when the advertisements boasted of Lugers and 20mm Solothurn anti tank rifles shipped right to your door, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Postman.
    My 6th grade teach fanned the flames, taking the class on field trips, literally into the fields around the school, studying the flora and fauna around us. He had us read “To Build a Fire” and then formed us into teams, took us outside and had us compete to see who could start a fire with only 3 matches.

    About the same time I read “Mysterious Island”, “Swiss Family Robinson, and all of Bradford Angier’s survival books. I’d run home from school just in time to watch the hardy frontier folk on TV’s “Daniel Boone”

    Tell me that’s not formative.

    Having thoroughly checked all the parts of the frame, I reassembled it and put a drop of Mobil 1 on each frame rail and the center of the trigger bar. Another drop on the barrel, smeared around with my finger to cover where it contacts the slide and locking block, and I put it all back together. Cycling the slide a couple of times, dryfiring it, I pronounced it fit for duty. I put it in the safe for future use.
  3. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    That Really Gets My Goat

    Loco and Rudi, our two pups had been curled up nearby, resting from their recent roughhousing. They’re both in great shape, but playing in 85 degree temperatures with 80% humidity will wear you out quickly.

    I knelt down next to them and gave them both some head pats, check scratches, and belly rubs, when both of their ears went up. A barely perceptible growl formed deep in their throats and their muscles wound up like clock springs. I looked out the open door in the direction they were looking.

    “Easy” I said, trying to sooth them. “Good pups. Stay” I got up, and moved to the shelf to grab my binoculars. Rather than moving to the door, I stayed in the shadows of the interior of th house and used the binoculars to scan the bush around the house. I ‘sliced the pie’, looking at a section of the bush through the doorway, moving sideways a little and then scanning the next section.

    “There!” I saw him at the same time I smelled him. Luckily the wind was right for the dogs to pick up on him early enough for me to do something about it. Before he got away.

    I put on my magazine carrier, slung my M4 and pushed it around back. Hopefully I wouldn’t need it. Hopefully I’d be able to deal with him using the suppressed Glock 19 that we had liberated earlier in the day. I’d given it a thorough going over, test fired it, and was confident that it would function and hit where it was pointed.

    I found Sadie in the kitchen. “He’s out there right now, about 75 yards away. I’m going out the side door and I’m going to flank around to get down wind of him and see if I can get a shot.”

    “What do you need me to do?” she asked.
    “let Leia know what I’m doing. Is Frank in the OP also?”
    “Yes, his shift is next, Leia’s off in about 20 minutes. Can I do anything else?”
    “Just keep an eye and ear open and keep the pups close”

    I gave her a quick kiss and then slipped out the door.
    I worked my way into the bush 90 degrees from where I'd seen him, keeping in mind his direction of travel, and making sure the house was between us. Stopping a few paces in, I stopped and took 3 calming breaths and opened my awareness.

    I carefully drew the Glock 19 with my right hand while my left dug the suppressor out of my pocket. I am going to have to come up with a better rig for carrying them as soon as I get a chance. Seems everything is a priority and there aren't enough hours in the day to do what needs doing.

    Setting the wrong priorities can really ruin your day.

    Screwing the can on the end of the pistol's barrel, I got my mind back into the game. I adjusted my grip on the Glock, crouched down, and headed out, upwind, trying to get around behind him.

    I stepped with my feet flat, feeling for anything on the ground that would make noise or cause me to lose my footing. Take a step, pause, look, listen, smell, repeat. At each pause I'd slowly lower my body, crouching, to get a different perspective. You can often see further through the foliage if you vary your sight lines.

    Judging that I was about even with him, wind wise, I moved diagonally to intercept his back trail. Here is where it gets tricky. The fact that he was still alive in this New Normal meant he was no slouch. He'd be checking his back trail. I'd have to very careful to not let him know he was being followed.

    There! A perfectly formed foot print in the clay. My heart rate picked up, forcing me to grab a hold of my breathing to slow my metabolism again. I'm too close to blow this now, there's too much riding on this.

    The wind shifted a couple of degrees bringing his scent to me. Damn, he's one ripe bastard!
    That's gonna cost you brother.

    Another couple dozen paces further, my thighs starting to burn from walking at a crouch, I paused again, kneeling to look under some leaves. And I got my first look at him. He was stopped, body facing away from me, but his head turned halfway towards me.

    I froze. If I moved, made a sound, or the wind shifted, I'd be discovered. I averted my eyes from his head, focusing on the ground at his feet, trying to keep my intention neutral. We've all had that feeling that someone was looking at us. Most people ignore it. The fact that this fellow was still alive meant that he wasn't one of them.

    Then fortune favored me. Or, more likely, my dogs are smarter than I think. They are, after all, used to working as a team. Rudi, still at the house ahead of us, barked once, twice, then again.

    That was all I needed. My quarry snapped his head in the direction of the barking at the same time that my hands met in the all too familiar two handed grip as my arms extended. My vision, my intention, was focused on that little hollow at the base of his skull. My arms put the sights of the pistol into that line of sight as my finger moved to the trigger, taking up all of the slack and some of the let off weight so at the confluence of my elbows locking, the sights interrupted my vision just as the shot broke.

    Smooth. No wasted motion.

    The Glock made a chuffing sound as the 147gr subsonic hollow point left the muzzle, the reciprocating slide making almost as loud a noise. The bullet flew true, severing the brain stem from the spine, and he dropped where he stood, like a marionette with its strings cut.

    Instead of running right up to him, I stopped, took a knee, and waited. Hell, he wasn't going anywhere.

    You know that phrase, “pay attention”? You actually only have so much attention that you can pay. It is a limited amount, and when you spend some of your attention allotment on one thing, that means you can't spend it on something else.

    Your brain only has so much processing power. If more than about 15% of your neurons fire at the same time, you will pass out, having exceeded your body's ability to provide enough fuel to the brain.

    Couple this to the fact that we are genetically geared to be lazy, (as a means of conserving calories), and your natural inclination is to tune out most sensory inputs and to create a bubble around you.

    Failing to be alert is the real attention deficit disorder.

    So as I knelt there, I expanded my awareness. I did a slow 360 degree scan. Slow, because your brain literally cannot keep up with the information your eyes send it if they move too quickly.


    Next, my hearing. I unfocused my eyes and looked at a middle ground nothing. Opening my mouth I turned my attention to the sounds around me. Not just the sounds that were there, but were there any sounds missing? I tried to listen to the furthest thing away from me, and then pushed out from there. I turned my head slowly, same as I did when I was looking, giving the external part of my ears a chance to funnel sounds in.


    Tuning out the hearing, I spent my attention on my nose. While it may not be as good as many animals, our sense of smell can provide useful information. Part of the reason we don't think it is any good is because we mostly ignore it, in favor of our wonderful Technicolor eyesight which is so much more interesting. I did one more 360 scan.


    Now I could move. I approached carefully, from his blind side. I was pretty confident he was done, but I've seen some odd things when it comes to head shots. The cranial vault is aptly named.

    As I got nearer, his stench assaulted my nose. Ugh! Goats are nasty smelling critters. But we need the protein, and we can't have them raiding our crops. It's amazing the damage they can do in a very short time.
  4. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

    It took us a little while to figure it out. Being on an island in the Caribbean, it took some time for the effects to become evident. Evidence trickled in, one item after another, until eventually, even the most dim witted was able to put together that something was Bad Wrong.

    My first clue was when the internet stopped working. I was in my cubicle, feet up, and tried to do an internet search on a person we were investigating for a possible fraud.

    I got an 'Unable to connect at this time' message. Nothing unusual about that, just a minor annoyance, easily dismissed. I just turned to some invoices, going over them for my approval while I waited for the internet to come back up. I'd retry every five or ten minutes. Still nothing.

    “That's strange” Michael said, sitting down across from me in my cubicle.
    “What's that?”
    “Internet’s down”
    “Yeah, I noticed. I'm trying to get some information for an investigation and keep getting error messages”
    “It's not just the internet net, but the bank's network is down too”
    “Uh Oh!” The gears in my head started turning. No network, no access to account information. No access to account information, no transactions. No transactions, angry clients”

    “Excuse me Mike, I want to check on things down in the lobby”. I got up and headed towards the branch lobby a floor below me. As I neared the mezzanine, I could already hear the raised voices.

    “What do mean you can't cash my check?! How am I going to buy food for my children?”
    “If I don't pay my WAPA bill they, they gonna turn off my current!”
    “It's my money! How you mean I can’t have my money?!”

    I ran down the stairs, grabbed the guard and told him to get the doors locked, and to only let people out, not in. Next I poked my head in the assistant manager's office.

    “Roslyn, I'm shutting the branch until we get this figured out. Would you print up some signs and post them on the doors? Something like “Closed Due to an Emergency, Sorry for the Inconvenience” of something like that”
    “Sure Dieter, no problem. What's going on?”
    “I'm not sure yet, but we've got some angry clients that we can't service. I want to get things under control before things get out of hand. I'll let you know when I find out more”

    I spent the next 10 minutes calming angry customers, explaining that we were having technical problems, that we were very sorry for the disruptions of their plans, and to please come back later. And did I mention that I was very sorry for the inconvenience?

    I ran back upstairs to my work area and poked my head in my boss' office.
    “Hey Don, we've got a problem and we need to figure out how to handle it”
    “Yeah, I was just talking to Risk and Branch Ops. We're meeting in the conference room on the third floor in fifteen minutes. Get with the rest of our department and let them know about the meeting”
    “Will do boss” I said, feet already in motion.

    At this point, as far as we knew, we were dealing with an internal glitch only affecting our bank. We'd get it figured out, and be back up and running, one way or another. We didn't realize then, that it was the beginning of the New Normal.

    While I was waiting for the meeting, I decided to call a friend in the states. He'd left a message earlier in the morning, and this was my first chance to return his call.
    “We're sorry, but your call cannot be completed at this time”. I tried two more times to place the call, without success. Phone issues are nothing new to island life so it didn't raise any red flags, in and of itself, but it was another data point that I added, subconsciously, to the soon to be growing pile.

    “So what do we know?” Don started the meeting.
    “Our local network is Ok, but we've lost all connectivity with corporate on Puerto Rico.” reported Michael
    “All our client info is on the main frames there. Does this mean we are dead in the water?” Branch Ops asked
    Before Michael could answer, Don asked, “Have you tried calling over there?”
    “To answer the first question, yes, we are dead in the water. Without access to those data bases we can't post any transactions. And yes, I've tried calling IT and the help desk, and any other number I could think of. Same thing for all of them. I got a recording saying the call could not be completed”
    “Same thing with emails” added Risk. “Outlook just gives error messages saying it can't connect to the server.”
    “Well, that's no surprise” said Don. “I've tried calling and texting various colleagues at corporate and nothing's going through.
    “So where does that leave us?” asked Risk
    “Until we can reestablish a link with corporate, we can't operate”
    I jumped in, “ I'm concerned from a security stand point. I just had to deal with a lobby full of irate clients. I got the branch locked down, but it wasn't much fun. People get kinda funny about their money.
    I got in touch with the other branches on island, but couldn't make contact with those on other islands. I told them to do the same thing, lock down, put up signage saying we are having technical problems, and to not let anyone else in.
    I've made arrangements with the guard service to post guards 24/7 for now in case people start to act out on their frustration.”
    “Smart. I concur” agreed Don. “I think we should close up the branches, get everything locked down and send the employees home early. We should teleconference in this evening at 7pm and meet here tomorrow at 8am to discuss how we handle this going forward. “

    As the meeting broke up, I jogged to my cubicle shut everything down, and grabbed my backpack. Pausing for a moment I set it down on the desk and opened the side pocket. I pulled the 2 extra 17 round Glock magazines out and put them with the one that was already in my left front pocket.

    One of the things I love about the Glock 26 is that while it is fairly small and concealable, it can take the longer mags of the models 17 and 19, as well as the 33 rounders. It's not so much about firepower as it is continuity of fire.

    I threw the daypack over my left shoulder and headed down to the lobby. I was planning on keeping an eye on the branch while the tellers finished balancing, got their cash pans into the vault and all of the staff safely out the door and the alarm set.

    Every few minutes a client would come up to the glass entrance doors and pull on them. Only when they didn’t open did they bother to read the sign posted on the door. Many of them would look at their watches, verifying that it was still normal business hours, and then look in the branch trying to get someone’s attention.

    You could see the frustration and anger in their faces.

    Finally we got the branch buttoned up and the staff out the door. I was the last to leave. I walked to my Jeep, got in and buckled up. I have kind of ritual when I get in my vehicle. I’m actually big on rituals. They can keep you alive. Pilots have rituals before they take off, they start with a walk around of the plane and end with going through a checklist to make sure they haven’t forgotten a single thing.

    While not as complex, I’ve developed several rituals that help to ensure that I don’t forget important things.

    I cranked the engine first to give it a chance to warm a little, wiggle my butt all the way into the back of the seat, buckle the seat belt and then tug on it to get rid of any slack, and then clear my shirt from the belt in the area of my holstered pistol, in case I needed to draw while seated. A quick check of the mirrors and gauges and I’m good to go.

    It takes a lot longer to write about the process than actually do it. And it’s attention to small things like that that can make the difference in a tight spot.

    Pulling out of my parking spot I turned on the radio. I find myself at that age where, as much as I love music, I prefer talk radio. The local NPR station was off the air. I know, I know, but NPR is less biased than many other of the main stream media and it’s a good idea to keep an ear on what the left of center folks are thinking.

    Once again, being used to island life, the fact that the local NPR affiliate was off air didn’t mean much. That happens pretty regularly. But the data was coming in an piling up.

    I switched to a local talk station, coming into the middle of a conversation about the airport. It seems that all air travel at our strip was grounded. No planes had arrived and none could take off because there wasn’t any communication with the states.

    At this point, even someone as dense as me can connect the dots. ‘Something is seriously wrong’ I thought. I could feel myself tensing up, hands tightening on the steering wheel as became even more alert, scanning the traffic around me more than normal.

    I forced myself to breath and try to relax. Your nervous system has two main parts, the somatic side that is the part you directly control, like when I decide to put on the brakes, or reach over to change the channel on the radio, and the Autonomic, the housekeeping side regulating heart rate, digestion, and all of the other chemical processes that sustain life. It also includes breathing. If I asked to stop digesting your last meal, or to raise your heart rate 8 beats a minute, you couldn’t do it. But if I asked you to hold your breath, or breath faster, or deeper, you can.

    Breathing is the bridge between the Somatic and Autonomic sides and if you grab hold of it and control it, you can affect the rest of the Autonomic processes. The processes that can cause you to get stressed out when you worry. Just like I am right now.

    So I took in a deep slow breath through the mouth for a count of 4, deep into the bottom of my lungs. And then held it for a count of 4. The pause is key. Then let it out through my nose for a count of 4, emptying as much as I can, and then pausing for another 4 count.

    Three or four repetitions will calm you and drop your blood pressure twenty percent.

    It worked. For about a minute. Then I’d have to do it again.

    Climbing up to the crest of the island and dropping down on to the northside, traffic thinned. Getting closer to home I started to calm down. I was almost home to my lil’ Sweetie. I’d be able to get a better handle on what was going on when I could talk about the day’s events with my wife. She has an amazing ability to put things into perspective. Hillbillies tend to be practical people.

    Peter Charles - YouTube
  5. Sapper John

    Sapper John Analog Monkey in a Digital World

    Nice work...a pleasure to read!
  6. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    I pulled up to the house, I reversed into our driveway. I almost always back into parking spots. Right now, I’m not in a hurry, so I can take the time to back in. When it’s time to leave, I have no idea if I’ll be in a hurry.

    Grabbing my pack I exited the Jeep and walked to the gate. You know, dogs make life just a bit more bearable. Rudi and Loco ran up the gate, doing the ‘we are so happy that you are home daddy!’ dance. You can have had the crappiest day, and your dogs’ welcome will turn it right around.

    “Hi Sweetie!” my wife called as she leaned out of a second story window. I said hi back and went inside, trying to avoid getting knocked down by the frolicking ninety pound Dobermans tear-assing back and forth past me. Sadie met me at the door and gave me a welcome home hug.

    “How was your day?”
    “Ummmm…interesting….something’s going on and I’m not sure what to make of it.” I proceeded to tell her of the bank’s communication issues, the internet being down, and the airport closed.
    “Yeah, I noticed the internet, I wanted to look up the Consumer Price Index for some leases I’m working on and I wanted to shop for some more work shirts for you and I couldn’t go online. I just figured it was a typical island outage. You think it’s something else?”
    “It’s starting to look that way. As Lenny on ‘Law and Order’ says “I don’t believe in coincidences. Too many problems have cropped up, all at once. ”
    “So what do you think is going on?”
    “I’m not sure. Something is going on in the states. But with communications down, there’s no way to know for sure what the cause is, or how bad it is.”
    “Do you think we were attacked?”
    “I can think of a number of scenarios off the top of my head, but it would just be speculation. Which makes it hard for us to plan. How severe is the problem, how long will it last? How will affect us? At this point we just don’t know. We’re just going to have to wait and see if we get more information in the next day or two.
    Upper management at the bank is having a teleconference at 7 this evening. That might tell us something.”

    I dialed into the conference at seven o’clock. Risk had been unable to get in touch with any government regulatory agencies. Branch Ops had family in Germany that she tried to contact by phone and email, coming up empty on both. I mentioned what I had heard about the airport being closed, with no flights in or out. We agreed to meet at the branch at 7:00am the next morning.

    After I hung up I went down to the man cave and opened the gun safe. I pulled out the case holding my M4 and grabbed the Remington 870. Things were getting hinky enough that I wanted long guns quickly available.

    Taking them upstairs, I pulled the mag out of the M4, did a chamber check, and pushed out the two pins holding the upper and lower receiver together. The rifle was now in two shorter pieces that fit in my back pack. I planned on bringing it with me to work the next morning and wanted to maintain a low profile.

    “How did the phone call go” Sadie asked as she walked in the room.
    “Still no comms with the states, or Europe. We’re going to meet first thing in the morning, and go from there”
    “So you’re going to work?”
    “Yeah, why wouldn’t I?”
    “No reason really, I’m just getting worried. I’d rather that you stay home.”
    “I know Sweetie, but it’s my job. And I might get some information that will give us a better idea of what we’re up against.
    “Ok, but you be careful”
    “Hey, you sent me to all those ‘high speed’ shooting and driving and executive protection schools, who’s better prepared to deal with trouble than me?” I grinned at her.
    “You know what I mean. Anything can happen.”
    “ I promise that I’ll be careful. Nothing is going to keep me from coming home to my Sweetie”.
    “You’d better! Don’t make me come and find you. I’ll be bringing an ass kicking with me if I do”

    It’s amazing how dependent we’ve become on the internet in such a short time. While it is a wonderful source of instantaneous information, most of us use it more for entertainment. No Netflix for us tonight. I settled for reading a kindle book on my smart phone while Sadie played a game on hers.

    Neither of us slept well that night and I got up early, tired but anxious to learn what was going on.
    I finished my usually bleary-eyed morning routine to get ready for work. Sadie was awake, in bed, iPhone in hand, playing a game, which is her wake up routine. I leaned over and gave her a good bye kiss.
    “I’m heading into town now. I left the shotgun by your desk with the ammo bag.”
    “Is it loaded?”
    “I’ve loaded the mag with buckshot, chamber’s empty and I dropped the hammer so all you have to do is rack it and you’re good to go, don’t have to worry about finding the bolt release. And I left your radio on and plugged in. It’s set to hit the repeater. The way things are going, I don’t know if we’ll lose the cell phones. I’m going to take your Jeep, I want to gas it up while I’m in town. Mine’s full if you need to go anywhere.”
    “I don’t think so Sweetie, I was planning on working at home today. Call me if you need me to do anything.”
    “I will. I’ll give you a call as soon as I know anything.” I gave her another quick kiss and left for work.
  7. mysterymet

    mysterymet Monkey+++

    Nice story. Where exactly are they though?
  8. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
    freedom first likes this.
  9. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    “Do we know anything more than we did last night?” Don asked.
    “I talked to James at Commercial Bank, and Turnbull over at Banco.” Answered Branch Ops. “ I left a message for McSweeney at Nova. James and Turnbull say they are in the same boat. Network communication with corporate is down.”
    I jumped in. “I reached out to the regional manager for American Security. They can’t get a call through to their terminal in Puerto Rico. So shipments of cash are on hold.”
    “We’re we supposed to get a shipment today?” Risk asked
    “Yes.” Replied Branch Ops. “I’m going to have branch staff do cash counts to see what we have on hand. They’ll have to do it manually, with the network down. Which brings us to the big question, do we open the branches today?”
    Don answered, “We have continuity of business contingency plans in place, so we can offer limited services to our clients, so technically, we could open”
    “I recommend that we only open two of our branches,” I said, “and only for limited hours. Put signage on the closed branches directing people to the open facilities. We can shift the employees to the open branches which will need the extra help with everything being done manually. I’ll shift the security guards from the closed branches so we have better coverage. I think things are going to get tense here real soon.”
    Everyone around the table nodded in agreement with me.

    “Ok, we are contingency mode from here on out.” Risk continued where I left off, “Everyone knows what to do. We meet again at 11:00 and at 3:00 for updates. Let’s get to work people”

    The morning went by in a blur as I handled my part of the contingency plans. I traveled to the branches that would remain close to check on them. At each and every one of them I saw people pulling on locked doors, then reading the closed signs. Many of them muttered angrily. One man pounded the keypad of the ATM in frustration.

    As I walked back to the Jeep after doing a walk around of the Jewel Bay branch, I passed a huddle of several people.
    “Man, this just ain’t right! I need my money!”
    “What do you think is happening? Banco and Nova are closed up too.”
    “Do you think something has happened in the states?”
    “I heard it was a terrorist attack. The government shut everything down, just like after 9/11”
    “Naw man, the electric grid went down”

    I made the mistake of walking to close to them. One reached out to grab my arm. I twisted out of his way.

    “Hey, you work for the bank, don’t you? What’s going on? When are you going to open?”
    I turned to face them, hands close together in front of my body, knees unlocked, and right side turned away from them. “Yeah, as you all know, something is going on. Seems to be affecting everyone, one way or the other. Our bank has plans in place to keep taking care of our customers as best we can, but it’s challenging right now. The Warfside and Island Center branches are open TIL 2. Head over there and they’ll take care of you.”

    I said the last sentence as I took a step back. Turning, I made it the rest of the way to the Jeep. I got in and did my start up routine, including clearing my shirt from the seatbelt in the area of my pistol. I pulled out of the spot just as someone ran up in front of me. I jammed on the brakes, stopping just shy of hitting him.

    He pounded on my hood. “Hey! I heard you talking to them, I know you work for the bank! You need to let me in there and give me my money!” He punctuated the last with another whack on my hood.

    Foot on the brake, I shifted into reverse. A quick glance in my rear view showed clear. “Sir! Please stop hitting my car! I can’t open this branch, you’ll have to go to the Warfside like everyone else.”
    “Do you know who I is?” he asked. He stepped back, stood tall, shoulders back and lifted his shirt, exposing a pistol stuck in his waistband. I quickly noted it was some flavor of third generation Smith and Wesson auto. I also noted the decocker was in the down position.”

    Another quick glance in all three rear views. Nothing. I punched the accelerator and kept the wheel straight. “One…Two…Three” I said out loud out of habit. When I reached three I spun the wheel almost a full turn to the right. The front end of the Jeep slide around, the car pivoting on the rear. Three quarters of the way around I slapped the shifter into drive and hit the gass and headed towards the exit. I looked in the mirror once more to see the man pointing his pistol at me and repeatedly pulling the trigger to no effect. He racked the slide and tried again and still nothing. At that point I lost sight of him as I turned out of the parking lot.

    I was to face a similar situation in the not too distant future. I’d use a different gear to deal with that one.
  10. Moose57

    Moose57 Monkey+

    Good stuff! Can't wait to read more.
  11. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    Heart racing, I headed towards the Warfside branch, taking some calming breaths. Reaching the parking lot, it was so full I couldn’t even pull in. Circling, I found a spot 3 blocks away. I really hate to be that far from my car. I grabbed my pack and headed for the branch.

    When I got there I was greeted with pandemonium. The branch was overflowing with people. I shouldered my way, grabbed the guard. “Mohammed, listen. Get that door locked and don’t let in anyone else. I’ll get the other guard to help you. Once we get down to only 20 people in here, you can let one in at a time, as you let someone out. Be careful, people are going to try to push their way in. If in doubt, just keep the door locked.”

    “No problem Zed, I’ll handle it” Mohammed was a good man. I had little doubt he would take care of it.
    “I’ll be nearby as much as I can be. Call if you need me.” I left him to get one of the other two temporary guards. “Christian, come on over to the door with me. We’re going to control access to the branch. I need you to back up Mohammed.”
    “Yeah Zed, no worries. So what’s causing this, do you know?”
    “Not yet. I’ll keep you in the loop as much as I can.”

    We got to the main entrance to find Mohammed struggling to get the door locked. One man had his foot in the door and was trying to shoulder his way in. “Sir, please move your foot. We’ll let you in as soon as we can, but we need to maintain order. I’m sure you understand.” I said in as reasonable manner as I could muster.
    “No! I need to cash a check now.” He continued to shove on the door. Knowing further debate was fruitless, I gave him The Look.

    You’ve probably heard about people having a ‘game face’, or a ‘war face’. One well know instructor tells his students to develop a ‘warrior’s grimace’. And he manages to keep a straight face while doing so.
    I trained with one fellow, a real gentle giant, who smiled all the time. A big hearty genuine smile. While he had you in an arm bar take down, smashing your face into the mat.

    He enjoyed his work.

    Two of my mentors appear to be very self-effacing, humble folks. Yet there have been times while sparring with them, that I’d get a look into their eyes and see deep into the cold abyss with Death looking back at me. Shiver down the spine stuff.

    Me, I have ‘The Look’. I didn’t deliberately cultivate it. It just sort of happened. The first time I experienced it was in 9th grade, on the school bus ride home. There was a guy a year older than me that would bully me a bit. Nothing serious, but unpleasant all the same. On this particular afternoon, he started picking on me and I just looked at him. And it was like a light switch. He just stopped dead. I thought it was remarkable. It was a tangible thing. He never gave me any trouble after that, and actually tried to be friendly with me. I’ve used it now and again. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. Some people are oblivious. This guy wasn’t.

    He stopped pushing and we got the door closed. “I’ve got to run upstairs for a meeting. If you need me, call. Don’t worry about disturbing me in the meeting. Don’t let something get out of hand before you call me.”

    Mohammed and Christian nodded their understanding and I turned to jog up stairs. I seem to be doing a lot of jogging lately.

    By the time I got up to the third floor, the meeting had already started. “Sorry I'm late, I had to deal with an unruly client” I panted. I looked around and noted the strain on everyone's faces. “What did I miss?”

    “I have the cash counts as of close of business yesterday.” Branch Ops started. “Warfside had $227, 348.00 and Island Center stood at $197, 004.00. Both branches have been open for over two hours now. I checked with them just before coming here and they are going through that cash quickly. Island Center only has about a hundred thousand left and Warfside isn't much better off.”

    “Are we limiting transaction amounts?” Don asked
    “Yes, per our contingency plans, because we can't verify account balances, so we are limiting withdrawals to $1000.00 per client.”

    “Wow! So that means in a bit over two hours, we've had $100k go out in thousand dollar chunks? That's a hundred clients. How long can we keep that up?” IT asked.
    “If we keep going at the current rate, we'll be unable to process anymore withdrawals in about another 2 hours.” That from Risk.

    “That's about right” confirmed Branch Ops. “We were due for a cash shipment so we went into this low.”
    “What about the cash at the closed branches?” asked my boss.
    “There's a total of $276,934.00 between the three closed branches”
    “And there is still no word from corporate?” Don looked at IT.
    “No, I've tried everything I can think of and I get nothing.”
    “Zed, what's American Security say?”
    “They're in the same boat as us. No commo with the terminal in PR. They were waiting for a shipment too. They have a little cash on hand, but it's not much. I think we really need to think this through. Right now we don't know what's going on, but it must be something bad, something far reaching. We don't know how long it is going to last. The not knowing makes it difficult to plan. If we knew it was temporary and things would be back to normal in a couple of days, this would be easy.”
    “Well of course it's just going to be a couple of days!” interupted Branch Ops.
    “I don't know...This seems like a pretty big deal to me. I've never seen anything like this before. Have any of you?” I looked around to see everyone shaking their heads.
    “We need information” Don said. “We've tried the normal channels, what else can we try?”
    “The government has been quiet about this so far, nothing's come out of Government house.”
    “I talked with the Governor about an hour ago.” said Risk. “He's going to do a press conference at noon, so I'd like to wrap up before then. But I'm not expecting much, because they are as much in the dark as we are. I do expect him to declare an emergency and set a curfew though, at a minimum.”

    “Meanwhile we need to work on continuity and serving our clients.” I said. 'I recommend that we close Warfside and Island Center at 1:00 before we totally run out of cash on hand, and have the some of the employees head over to the Jewel bay branch and bag up the money. I'll arrange a pick up by armored car and have them bring it here. We'll need staff to stay and receive it and secure it.”
    “I see where you're going with this” said Risk. “Do the same thing at East end and Heavenview, but take the money to Island Center?”

    “Exactly. That'll let us run for another couple of days.” I replied. “Any thoughts or suggestions?” No one replied. “By the way, you all might want to think about withdrawing your own thousand dollars” Branch Ops shot me a worried look. “You think that's necessary?”
    “All POS terminals are down so no one is taking credit or debit cards. So if you want to buy anything on the way home, you are going to need cash. It might be a good idea to prepare like you would if a hurricane was coming.”
    Risk closed the meeting. “let's get this done, meet here again at 3.”
    “I don't think I'll make it, I'll be busy with the cash shipments and I'll probably have my hands full. I'll call in if I can.” I probably should have knocked on wood, because 'having my hands full' would turn out to be an understatement.
  12. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    On my way to the Jewel Bay branch I passed several gas stations. They were a bit busier than usual. People were starting to realize something was going on and were panic buying like they would when a storm was headed our way.
    The only difference is that the point of sale machines weren't working. You had to pay in cash or if you were lucky, they might take a check.

    Back in the '70s the idea for a cashless society was taking hold with the government and business. It had multiple advantages to both, from cost savings, ease of accounting, to tracking purchases. Business had just as much, if not more, interest in tracking your buying habits than the government.

    But it's been the last decade or so where it has really taken hold. Many employers pay their people with direct deposit. And the employees have bought into the program and love the ease and conveinence of paying with a debit card. Hell, even Micky Dees will take a swipe of your card in exchange for an Egg McMuffin. Most people have a minimum amount of cash in their pockets.

    Which is fine, until it isn't.

    Electronic banking relies on electrons. Right now, our local grid was still up, but communication was down. No comms, no emoney. I'm just glad that the place were I normally gas up took my check this morning. I had cash, but I wanted to hang on to it as long as I could.

    I made it to Jewel bay and found a spot near the branch and backed in. I grabbed my pack and exited the Jeep. The back of my seat caught my eye and I hesitated. Aw, what the heck, probably a good idea, I told myself. I opened the car and grabbed the soft body armor that I keep on my seat back.

    It was an old Pointblank Iia vest. It's too hot to wear on a regular basis so I strapped it to my seat thinking it might give me some protection if I was driving away from trouble. I've often wondered if sitting in the hot car, day after day, affected it's strength.

    I hope I don't have a chance to find out.

    I took it with me, thinking it would be better to put it on inside the branch, out of sight. Walking towards the entrance I saw no one was near, so I let myself in quickly.

    “Hey Zed, I'm glad to see you!”
    “How's it going Mr. Raymond? Everything OK?”
    “Yeah, other than that whatever it is that's got everything screwed up. You have any idea what's going on?”
    I stepped closer so I could talk quieter. “I don't know for sure, but I think it's bad, real bad. I'd do what ever you can to get ready for a long spell of trouble. I'm beginning to think we're on our own.”
    “As bad as that?”
    “I'm afraid so. Whatever you'd do to get ready for a hurricane, I'd do that and then some. As much as you can. Anyway, how are we doing with getting the cash ready? The armored car should be here in about half an hour.”
    “We should be ready when they get here.”

    “Ok, cool, let me know when you're ready.” I let him get back to work while I slipped into the back and use the men's room to undress enough to put on the body armor. I drew my Glock, tapped the mag, and did a chamber check, and reholstered. I pulled my polo shirt on and left it untucked, checking that it was hanging free.

    I'm kinda compulsive about chamber checks. I've been embarrassed a time or two in practice when I started a drill with an empty chamber. Considering the current circumstances, an unloaded breach could result in far more harm than a bruised ego from my friends' ribbing.

    The armored car showed up on time and backed up near the branch. I cut my security teeth running armored cars in Manhattan, Harlem, and the Bronx, so I knew the ropes. I also knew that armored car companies don't pay very well which has a direct impact on the pool of employee candidates they have to draw from.

    Add to that, armored companies don't provide much, if any training and I wasn't fully confident in the shipment of our money. That's not to say there aren't some good people working the cars. There are, and I've had the pleasure to work with them. But for the most part they are underpaid, under trained and don't take what they are doing seriously.

    So I was glad to see Bergeron step out of the back of the truck. He was one of the sharp ones. “Good afternoon Zed, how you doing?”
    “Everything's safe brother. You?”
    “Taking my licks, you know how it is. You ready for us?”
    “Yup, I'll let the branch staff know you're here. I'll cover the loading. I don't imagine you mind having another set of eyes”
    “You know that's right. Don't mind having an extra gun either. Especially yours”

    We got the money shifted into the armored car, and Bergeron climbed in and closed the door behind him. Seeing them secure, I jumped in my car and pulled in behind them. It's counter-intuitive, but if you only have one extra vehicle for protection, it needs to be in the back.

    You'd think you would want to be in front, to block problems, but it is too easy to get separated from your protectee, and it is harder to keep an eye on them when they are behind you. From behind you are protecting from attacks from the back and while looking forward you can keep an eye on the principal and what is in front of him.

    While I love the view being higher up in my Jeep than in regular cars, it wasn't high enough to see over the armored car. It was a bit nerve wracking keeping close enough so a car wouldn't pull between us, a driving as far to the left as I could, to see around the truck. The driver noticed what I was doing and kept to the right of his lane to help me see. Not everyone is that with it.

    I called ahead to the manager at Warfside. “We're 5 minutes out. Have Mohammed make sure there's a place to park.”
    “He and Christian have their hands full dealing with the clients in the lobby. I can't spare them outside”
    Damn. “Alright, I'll deal with it when I get there.”

    The parking lot was still jammed and there was no room for the truck. The driver was used to this sort of thing and did the best he could. But he still ended up pulling up on the side walk half a block away. I jumped the curb and parked behind him. Getting out, I took a few steps away and stood, back to a building while I waited for Bergeron to get out.

    Not seeing any problems, I nodded to him and he stepped out, pulling a dolly with him. This was the dangerous time. The door was open and he was distracted with getting the bags of cash out of the truck and stacking them on the dolly. A couple of people walked by, eyeing the bags, but kept going.

    Closing the door and tilting the dolly back, Bergeron headed for the branch. I let him pass me and then followed him. As we got to the branch entrance, there were still people waiting to be let in. My shoulders tensed up knowing what was to come.
    We received many angry looks as we tried to get to the door. People were slow to get out of our way and were way to close for comfort.
    “Can we get our money now?”
    “How soon can we get in?”
    “Please let us in”
    “Folks, please make room so we can get in. We are doing everything we can to take care of you. I know it's bad, but please be patient.” I tried to look everyone in the eye and let them no I was sincere. One large man stepped forward rudely pushing two people out of the way.
    “Let's save time and just have what's in the bag” he leered.
    I put my back to Bergeron, covering him, cleared my shirt and got a full firing grip on my pistol.
    “BACK OFF! NOW!” Summoning as much of a command voice as I could.
    “What, you gonna shoot me? You think I afraid of you cause you have a gun?”
    “SIR! I'm not going to tell you again. BACK OFF!”
    The crowd started backing up, away from the confrontation.
    I had noticed the bulge in the large man's waist line. He grabbed his shirt and lifted it, going for his gun.
    Mine was out first, and he found himself looking down my sights, seeing a perfect reverse sight picture aimed at his left eye.
    He froze, hand inches from the butt of his pistol. His eye twitched.
    “don't” I said quietly. Sometimes the best way to get someone's attention is to whisper.
    He dropped his hands to his side. “I was only kidding, I didn't mean it.” he said to save face. He didn't like backing down, but he didn't have much choice.
    I heard the door open and Bergeron moving. I backed up, following him into the branch, Mohammed closing and locking the door quickly.
  13. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    Hey guys? If you are enjoying reading this, would you do me the favor of subscribing to my Youtube channel? Lot's of good info on shooting, driving, knives, etc.

    Peter Charles - YouTube
    freedom first likes this.
  14. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    I holstered my pistol, covered it with my shirt. I noticed that the branch was oddly quiet and turned to notice everyone looking at me. “Sorry for the exitment folks. Everything's OK, go back to what you were doing”

    I picked up the courtesy phone by the entrance and punched in 911. Busy. I hung up and tried again. After the fifth busy signal I gave up. I wanted to be the first to report the incident. I'd just threatened someone with lethal force, and while it was justified, I wanted to get on record. The police consider the first person to call to be the victim. At least until they can investigate. I don't know if the large man would call, considering he was the instigator, but I wanted to beat him to it.
    But I guess the police dispatchers had more pressing issues to deal with.

    I ran up stairs and stuck my head in my boss' office. “We've got the cash from Jewel Bay here safely, but I had to draw on some idiot that was threatening us as we were entering the branch”
    “Anyone hurt?”
    “No, he backed down. I tried calling the police but kept getting busy signals.”
    “I talked with the Governor briefly. VITEMA has been unable to make contact with the mainland, so we still don't know what's going on. He sent a DPNR boat over to Puerto Rico. They should be able to radio back what they find out when they get there. And he IS going to issue a curfew, 11pm to 6am.”
    “I'm glad Paul got our curfew passes updated” I said. “You got yours?”
    “Yeah, but I'm not going out unless it's a real emergency. Things are really starting to get crazy”
    “I hear ya. Well, let me run, I've got to met the armored car for the pick up at the East End.”
    “Be careful out there”
    “You know it, boss, you know it.”

    The drive to the East End was uneventful. Traffic at stores and gas stations was starting to pick up. It reminded me of Christmas traffic.

    I turned on the radio and caught most of the Governor's address. Don had already given me the important parts. No communications with the states, curfew from 11pm to 6 am, Police are busy so only call 911 if there is a real emergency, and he was considering mobilizing the National Guard.

    I hope he doesn't wait too long...

    The scene at the East End branch was very similar to Jewel Bay. Branch staff had the money bagged up and ready to go, now we were just waiting on the armored car. Everyone was getting antsy. They all wanted to get out of here so they could hit the stores.

    The armored car showed up a half hour late. A different guard this time, not Bergeron. I recognized him, but didn't really know him.
    “How's it going? It's getting kinda crazy out there, huh?” I greeted him.
    “Yeah, whatever” was his surly reply. We got him loaded up and as he was climbing into the back of the truck I told him that I'd follow him to Island Center.
    “That's alright. We'll be OK” he replied.
    “No worries man, I want to make sure you don't have any problems”
    He hit me with another “Whatever” and slammed the door. I was starting to ping on him. Something wasn't quiet right.

    I pulled in behind them as we set off toward Island Center. About halfway there the armored car took a turn on a side road. “What the hell?” I asked myself as I turned in behind them. The truck sped up and I accelerated to keep up. That's when I saw the gun port on the back door open and a pistol barrel point at me.

    I was reaching for the emergency brake handle as I saw the first muzzle flash. I pulled up hard, keeping the button pushed down with my thumb. Turning the the steering wheel hard to the right, the Jeep slid around in a bootlegger's turn and I hammered the gas. I saw a couple of more muzzle flashes, but didn't hear anything hit the Jeep. Luckily he wasn't trying to aim, he just stuck his pistol muzzle through the gun port and fired wildly. I think he was trying to tell me something.

    I got the message.

    What to do, what to do? I briefly considered turning back around and following them, at a safe distance. But then what? No. There's nothing in that truck worth my life. It's on American Security to deal with it and make good on our loss. Probably a forlorn hope at this point.

    Ugh, I feel like crap. All shaky with an upset stomach. Adrenalin is all cool until you come down. Then it sucks. Hard. As I drove to the Island Center branch I tried to make some calls. 911 first. Nada. Busy signals again. The American Security, same-same over there. I tried one, then the other, the whole way to the branch.

    The guards let me into the branch and the manager walked over to meet me. “Where's the armored car? Are they right behind you? I thought they'd be with you?” She hammered out.
    “Let's talk about this in your office” We were attracting the attention of the people in the branch. I held her elbow and guided her across the lobby.

    “They're gone” I said when we got inside her office.
    “Gone! What do you mean they're gone?! Where did they go?
    “They turned off a side road. They shot at me when I tried to follow.”
    “What!? What are we going to do? We need that money to keep operating.”
    “ I know, I know. Can you keep going until the posted closing time?”
    “I think so, I'll have to check”
    “If you can, do. If you think you will run out of cash before then, close earlier. It would be better if the clients were not actually inside the branch when the money runs out. And manually lock the door behind me when I leave. Don't trust the mag lock.”
    “Leaving? Where are you going?”
    “I can't get anyone on the phone. I'm going to the American terminal to let then know what happened, then back to the other branch”

    Peter Charles - YouTube
  15. whynot

    whynot Monkey++

    Good read so far. Thanks

    Sapper John likes this.
  16. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    I hadn't eaten yet for the day, which didn't help with me feeling queasy and shaky. While driving to the armored car terminal I reached over for my pack, sitting on the passenger seat. One handed I opened the main compartment. I noticed the two halves of my AR in there. Time to put it together?...
    Not yet. I rummaged around in the bottom and found the plastic container of jerky and got out a couple of slices. Chewing on the first piece released a flood of saliva and I felt better almost immediately. Good batch. This jerky was made from flank steak. I know, I know, you are supposed to use super lean meat because the fat will turn rancid in storage.
    But fat tastes SO good. And it's important nutritionally. Look up “Rabbit Strarvation”. My jerky never lasts long enough for this to be an issue. I make a batch and it lasts less than a week, so I can get by with a fattier cut of meat.
    Fishing the stainless bottle out of a side pocket I washed it down with some cold refreshing water. I like the stainless bottles. Not only are they more durable, but you can cook in them if you have to, which makes boiling questionable water a simple proposition.
    I pulled into the parking lot of the terminal. I don't leave guns in cars, so I grabbed my pack, slung it over a shoulder and walked up to the entrance. I stood where the camera could see me and hit the intercom, waiting to get buzzed in.
    “Who is it?” came the tinny voice from the plastic box.
    “Zed, from the bank. I need to talk to the manager”
    “He's real busy right now. He doesn't have time to see people”
    “He'll want to see me. One of your trucks went missing”
    The door buzzed to let me into the vestibule. When the door closed, the inner door buzzed open. I pushed it open to find the regional manager coming towards me.
    “What's this about one of our trucks missing?!”
    “Can we go to your office?”
    “Of course, of course” he turned and led me back down the corridor, past people that all seemed hurried and harried.
    I sat as he closed the door and told him what had happened.
    “Fuck. Have you called the police?”
    “I've tried and tried and no luck. And the FBI probably needs to be brought in. I just stopped in to let you know. And American in on the hook for our missing funds. We'll start processing the claim and get it to you quickly.”
    “I'm not sure how much good it will do.” the manager replied. We don't have enough on hand to cover it, and we still haven't heard from the head office. I have no idea when the next shipment will get here.”
    “I figured as much. Nothing I can do about it, it's above my pay grade.” I said, standing. I reached over the desk and we shook hands. “Be careful out there brother, I think things are going to keep getting worse. We haven't seen the bottom yet. Not by a long shot”
    “ You too Zed, stay safe.” With that I left and headed back to Warfside.
  17. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    “What do you mean the armored car took off?! Why didn't you stop them?” cried Branch Ops.
    “Hey, it wasn't you that was getting shot at, was it” that shut him up, and he refused to meet my eye.
    “So what does this mean for our ability to service clients?” Risk asked.
    Branch Ops answered, “Island Center will be out of cash in another hour or so. Warfside will run out mid morning tomorrow.”
    “Does it even make sense to open?” Risk again.
    Don looked at me and I shook my head. “We should probably considering closing both branches in the next hour and not open in the morning. We won't be able to take care of many people, and we expose our staff to more danger than I'm comfortable. We can keep monitoring the situation, and adjust if things change”
    Risk looked at Marketing, “I'll help you put together a public announcement, we need to get that on the radio and in the paper so people know we'll be closed.”
    “I'll get right on that, but I've already talked to the paper. They didn't get their shipment of newsprint, so they are moving to publishing every other day.”
    “I'll make sure American Security will keep guards at our branches 24/7. We also need to file a formal claim on them for the cash they lost” I looked at Risk who nodded at me.
    She took it from there, “I don't think there's any reason for us to come in at regular hours tomorrow. We should be able to do what we need to from home. Let's continue the call in schedule of 8am, 11, 3pm, and 7, until something changes. Anything else?” Shaking heads and standing up indicated that there wasn't .
    “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY SHOT AT YOU!?” my wife wasn't very happy about how my day at work had gone.
    “I got out of there as soon as I saw the gun. I was a bit surprised by it. I guess you don't want to here about the other 2 guys that pulled guns on me today”
    “What!?” Sadie repeated. “What is going on?!”
    “Things are getting real, real, bad, Sweetie. We need to hunker down soon. Real soon. We need to go over how we're going to handle things in the next few days. We need to hunker down, but I think we should take a shot at getting some supplies before we do.”
    Sadie grabbed a yellow legal pad and sat next to me. “Where do we start? Food?”
    “I think we're in pretty good shape there, so it's way down the priority list in my opinion. I think meds and garden supply items are more important.”
    “I think Westside Garden Supply will have most of what we need. I'll make a list of what I think we should concentrate on” Sadie said, starting to make notes.
    “Ok, that's your department, you know best. I'll handle the meds.”
    “So you want me to take one Jeep and go to Westside and you go to People's Choice Pharmacy?” Sadie asked.
    “No. We don't split up. Every minute things are getting worse out there. We go now. There's still a couple of hours of day light. I don't want to wait TIL tomorrow.
    “We should go to People's Choice first, it's in town and more likely to get looted early. People won't think of hitting a garden store in the country. At least not right away.”
    “Alright, I'll get ready. How soon before we leave?”
    “I just need to get a couple of things. 10 minutes tops.”
    “I'll be ready. How we going to pay for all of this?”
    “I managed to get a thousand out of the bank, and we have our emergency cash. If this isn't an emergency, I don't know what is. I'll bring the checkbook just in case. The further we can stretch our cash, the better.”
    We split up to get ready. I pulled my AR out of my pack, reassembled it, inserted a mag, tapped and tugged it, ran the bolt, did a chamber check, closed the dust cover, and turned on the Aimpoint T-1.
    Next I threaded a left hand holster on my belt and inserted a Glock 19 in it. I pulled my Second Chance II a vest out of the closet, found Sadie and handed it to her. “I've got my old one on. You wear this one.” She did as I asked and pulling her shoulder holster on over it. After a few years of carrying various small auto pistols, she tried a S&W J frame .38 and fell in love. This rig held the revo horizontal with 2 speed loaders on the other side to balance things out. She grabbed the 870 and the ammo pouch from beside her desk and we were off.
  18. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    On the way to the Jeep I stopped in the shed. Grabbing a duffle bag I tossed in a 3 pound baby sledge hammer, a 3' crowbar, and bolt cutters.
    “What are you getting?” Sadie said from the doorway.
    “keys” I replied with a wink. At what point do you adjust your thinking to where burglary tools are OK?

    I tossed the bag in the back seat and pondered what to do with the long guns. I love the power and ability to hit at longer ranges that long guns give you, but they sure are a PITA in vehicles.
    “Put the shotty in the backseat. I'll give you the AR to keep up front.” with it's collapsible stock it would be a lot handier inside the Jeep.

    Putting the AR next to the transmission hump, muzzle down, Sadie climbed in and buckled up. I followed suit. Snugging up my seat belt I looked at her, “Ready?”
    “Ready” she answered.

    The drive over the mountain and down into town went smoothly enough, but the story was different once we were in town. Traffic was heavier and people were driving like idiots. Very aggressive. I had to stay on my toes, spending as much time in the mirrors as out the windshield, trying to anticipate the traffic patterns as far ahead as I could see.

    Coming up even with an over crowded gas station, we suddenly heard “BamBamBam...Bam” I looked over in time to see one man drop his machete and clutch his chest as he slumped to the ground.

    “WATCH OUT!” Sadie yelled, alerting me to the car heading towards me. He was swerving in reaction to the gun shots and heading right for me. I cranked the wheel and hit the gas, hoping there was a gap, because I sure didn't have time to check. I jumped the curb to get out of his way.

    The car behind me wasn't so lucky as the sound of impact met our ears. “You sure we should keep going?”
    I looked at Sadie, “Let's take a look at the drug store. If we don't like what we see, we'll keep going”
    “Ok Sweetie, I'm with you.”
    “Sweetie and Sweetie together!” I smiled back at her, as much for my benefit as hers.
  19. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    The pharmacy looked Ok when we pulled into the lot. I parked a few spaces away from the door and we exited the Jeep. Sadie grabbed the AR and slung it in front of her. I saw her tap and tug the mag. Good girl!

    I reached into the back seat and grabbed the 870. I straightened up just in time to see three youngsters come out of the store, arms full. I racked the action as I brought the gun up on the chest of the first one out the door. Three pairs of eyes got REAL big.

    “Get out of here! NOW!” I could have told them to drop the stuff, but it didn't look like anything I wanted, it kept their hands busy, and maybe they would be happy with their haul and not be in a hurry to come back.

    “Me first, follow close, then stay and watch the door.” Sadie tucked in close as we entered. The lights were on, but no one was home. At least no one I could see. But I needed to be sure. I slung the shotgun and pushed it around back, out of my way and drew my pistol. Building clearing sucks, in general, and I prefer the mobility of a handgun when doing so.

    Clearing the average building is bad enough. Stores are just the pits. All those damned shelves. Each one a corner leading to a fatal funnel. If you go down the middle, you have to check the aisle in each direction. No beuno.

    I move to the end of the first aisle and then sliced the pie on the next aisle.


    Deep breath and move up to the next one. And the next one and the next one.
    I found myself holding my breath and forced a couple more deep ones. Finally I reached the back of the store to the pharmacy area and breathed a sigh of relief.

    It was intact.

    I moved back up to the entrance. “We lucked out. Everything looks OK back there.”
    “Ok, what now?”
    “Let's barricade the entrance. I don't want anyone else coming in. I'm going to go out the back and bring the Jeep around. We'll load from there. I think we should stage everything we want by the rear door and load all at once.”
    “Makes sense Sweetie. Where do you want me?”
    “Stay behind the barricade and don't let anyone in. I'll deal with the prescription stuff. Then we'll switch and you can go through the rest of the store.”

    The door was mangled from the break in, but we closed it as well as we could, and shoved an end cap against it to secure it. “Grab a few cases of the small bottles of water and bring them here to the center”

    While she did that, I unplugged a small chest type ice cream freezer and dragged it over to the center aisle where Sadie could use it for cover while watching the door.

    “Fill the freezer up with the bottle to give you more protection” Sadie started on that while I looked around to see what I was missing. Nothing that I could think of, so I grabbed a shopping cart and ran to the back, leaving it next to the locked pharmacy door.

    “I'll be right back. When I come back in I'll let you know. If I say “everything's OK” they aren't.”
    “be careful Sweetie”
    “I will Sweetie”. I went to the rear exit, took another deep breath, tap and tug on the pistol's mag, chamber check, tapped the back of the slide to make sure it was in battery, and slowly opened the door.

    Not seeing anything I holstered my pistol and used a pamphlet on breast self examinations that I snagged from the counter to keep the lock from latching as I eased the door closed.

    I jogged to the corner, slowed and stopped to peek around it. Nothing. Jogged up to the next one. I pulled my keys out of my pocket and put my thumb on the unlock button. Peeking around the corner I saw someone looking in through the windows of the Jeep. Keeping the key FOB in my left hand, I drew my pistol and brought it up and around the corner, aimed at his back. I pushed the unlock button, which startled the hell out of him.
    “Stop! Hands up! Don't move! Don't turn around” he risked a look over his shoulder, saw the gun, and went for it anyway.

    He took off running, stumbling as he tried to get around the front of my vehicle, but somehow kept on his feet and kept running. He was close to a hundred yards away when he looked back again. Bad timing. His head came around just in time for the impact with the traffic sign that he ran into full tilt.

    Out like a light.
  20. Zengunfighter

    Zengunfighter Monkey++

    I reholstered again ran to the car and got it moved around back as close to the door as I could. I grabbed the duffle bag and took a moment to put the rear seats down, locked it up and re-entered the store.

    “I'm back Sweetie”
    “Everything go OK?”
    “Yeah, it's cool. I may be making a little noise. See anything out there?”
    “I saw one guy running across the parking lot, but that's it”
    “Yeah, I caught him looking in the car. I encouraged him to leave. He didn't get far.”
    “Why not?”
    “He ran full steam ahead into a sign pole”

    I looked at the door locks. A simple courtesy knob and a dead bolt. I grabbed the baby sledge from the bag. “Loud noise” I warned. I hit the protruding part of the dead bolt from the top. It deformed and bent away from the door. Two more hits and it was gone. The inner workings exposed, it was easy to turn the dead bolt out of its mortice.

    I noticed a stack of shopping baskets near the door. I put a few of them in the shopping cart and pushed it inside. “I'm in. Everything OK out there?”
    “So far. I haven't seen anyone yet”

    I went for the antibiotics first, throwing everything in that section into a couple of the baskets. Pain meds next. Then I went to the refrigerator and picked up the insulin and intravenous antibiotics. As I was sorting out some assorted IV works, I noticed a brace of oxygen tanks, so they went into the cart too. I wheeled it to the rear door and went to Sadie.

    “You're up. I'm sure you have a mental list, but grab all the AA batteries they have especially rechargables”
    “I'm going to grab over the counter meds, women's supplies and whatever I think will be good for trade items later.”
    “Smart. Enjoy your shopping spree!” I smiled at her.

    Sadie started going through the aisles quickly, tossing things in the cart. I went to the front counter and noticed a display of sample size items. “They have the small containers of shampoo and toothpaste up here” I said, loud enough for Sadie to hear. “They'd make great trade items. Some single serving liquor bottles too.”
    “I'll be there in a minute, I'm getting close to done.”

    A shadow crossed in front of the window. Then another. I looked up to see two people looking in the plate glass windows. They moved to the door and tried to shove it open but it was pretty well jammed. I don't think they'd seen us yet. They moved away and I lost sight of them.
    “There's two people outside. We need to move”
    “Alright, I'm mostly done.”
    “Go up the side aisle to the back so there is less chance they see you.” I followed her back to the rear door where the other cart waited. “Boom, boom, crash!” came from the front.
    “If they're not in yet they will be!” I stated the obvious.
    “Tell me what you want me to do?”
    “We have everything we want, they can have what's left. I just don't know if that will satisfy them. And I don't want to cover two flanks. Alright let's get the door open and if it's clear we get the carts out quick. Then load up and go.”
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