Just One Thought
Tanner and his fellow FMC deputies returned to the militia center well after midnight. While the three other men headed for the showers, Tanner turned up hill toward Gunny Hood’s log home. Tanner wasn’t sure if warning away the migrating survivors would work or not. He hoped so. It simply wasn’t in him to shoot families that posed no direct threat.
Hood came out to meet Tanner as he approached the house.
“Heard you guys pull in,” Hood said simply as Tanner looked up at him.
“Gunny could hear a mouse fart in a hurricane,” Tanner thought.
“Yup. Just got in,” Tanner replied leaving out anything about mouse farts.
“Care to debrief me?” Hood motioned for Tanner to join him inside the house and held the door open for him.
“Sure thing, Gunny,” Tanner replied as he ducked to walk through the doorway.
Inside the home, the ceiling soared and Tanner straightened up again.
Hood made his way across the open living and eating area of the log home and lit a fire in the stone fireplace.
“It’s a bit mucky out there tonight,” Hood mumbled with his pipe between his teeth.
“Just a tad,” Tanner grinned as the two veterans of many a worse night outdoors played the game of who cares less about the bad weather. To an outsider, the “game” might seem like so much macho B.S. To a couple Marines who’d slept on the ground for days on end in much worse conditions, it was merely a way of keeping their spirits up.
The fire blazed as Hood’s tinder and kindling caught. Tanner moved closer, rubbed his hands together and briefed his boss on the evening’s activities.
“What’s your best guess?” Hood asked. “You think they’ll move along?”
“I’d say about 90% certainty that they will,” Tanner replied. “The old man looked me in the eye when he told me they would. He didn’t blink or look away. He didn’t look angry or upset … just resigned to move on and try to find a new spot.”
Hood pulled his pipe from between his teeth and spat into the fire, “I wish we could take ‘em all in – everyone that deserves a haven, everyone that needs hope.”
“Yeah, me too,” Tanner looked down at his muddy boots and the clumps of mud they had left across the concrete floor of the cabin. He sat down on the fireplace’s hearth and began to unlace his boots.
“Don’t worry about it, son,” Hood said as gently as a man of his background and experience could.
“I’m sorry,” Tanner removed his boots and took them over to set them on a rubber mat next to the door. With the boots in their rightful place, Tanner picked up the clusters of mud trailing from the door to the sitting area near the fireplace.
As he sat back down on the hearth, Tanner sighed, “My main concern about this group is that they might let slip our general location. I don’t think they would do it purposefully, but it could happen just the same.”
“I think you’re right,” Hood agreed.
“So … what do we do?” Tanner looked up slightly. Even sitting, his eyes were almost level with those of the much shorter Hood who stood just a few feet away.
“What do we always do?” Hood answered Tanner’s question with one of his own.
“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best?” Tanner half asked, half stated.
“Roger that,” Hood sat down in one of the chairs near the fire. “I think it’s time we made a run to the armory.”
Tanner looked up, a question in his eyes.
Hood nodded. “I know it’s a bit of a haul. I know it will be dangerous. But, we’re going to need everything we can get and we’re going to need it here – not a hundred and some miles away.”
“Aye, aye,” Tanner looked down at the floor and interlaced his fingers. “When do you want us to go?”
“Let’s give it a day,” Hood was contemplative. “Load up. Leave under cover of darkness. Travel at night, lights out. Take the back roads.”
“Small convoy?” Tanner already knew the answer.
“Yup,” Hood affirmed. “I’m thinking HMMWV’s with .50’s fore and aft and the two five-tons amidships.”
“Four in the Hummers and two in the five-tons?” Tanner was confirming rather than asking.
“Yup,” Hood chewed on the stem of his pipe. “You remember the location?”
“Affirmative,” Tanner nodded. “I’ve only been there twice but I remember it well enough. Didn’t we have a former team member on leave in the area before the crash?”
“Indeed we did,” Hood leaned back, crossed an ankle over a knee, laced his hands together behind his neck and looked at the ceiling. “I haven’t heard anything from her since, though.”
“I’d sure like to find her there … sitting on top of a stack of ammo cans, manicuring her nails with her Strider” Tanner chuckled as he pictured the scene in his mind.
“Wouldn’t be nothin’ better,” Hood agreed. “Get cleaned up. Get some rest. Pick your crew, but leave us with some good men, and then map out your plan. Meet me back here tomorrow at 1400 to give me the once-over.”
“Roger that,” Tanner stood and held his hands out to the fire. “Have a good night.”
“Get some sleep,” Hood growled as he watched Tanner pick up his boots and duck out through the doorway. “You’re going to need it.”
But, Tanner was already gone, disappearing into the dark, rainy night with a single thought on his mind.