Copyright© 2011 by vlfouquet
On The Road
Cassie cruised through life for the rest of the year. She was looked upon in awe by the rest of the students in her school. Kidnapped by Harry Hankins, one of the most feared students in the school, not only had she survived but she had conquered. She came back the winner and Harry was dead.
Within the month of his death his whole family moved away. Where, nobody knew, nor cared really. Harry Hankins who had held a place of terror in the hearts of most students at her school was gone.
One of the results of her encounter with Harry was that Cassie had learned to be really on the alert to everything around her. Where before she thought she was good, she now became really good; she had acquired an alertness that only veterans of combat could equal.
At night, when she slept, her dreams echoed with the sound of a man's voice. "I gave fair warning!" his voice trembled with regret. Cassie woke many a morning with tears stained eyes as she felt his pain. She now knew what that really meant. It was not to scare her enemies, but to try and prevent more deaths. She knew that over her lifetime she would say those words many times.
As she climbed out of her bed that morning she whispered them to the Heavens. "I gave fair warning!"
Cassie sat down at the breakfast table and took a sip of her orange juice. She had only a week more of school before summer vacation would start. Her mother and father had been talking about traveling somewhere and she knew they really needed to do so. They had not really had a vacation in four years because of her blindness and getting her caught up on her education and starting back to school. Then there had been the troubles she had at school and the kidnapping.
Yes, her parents needed a vacation and to get away together. But Cassie was the big anchor with their fear of leaving her alone. Cassie, herself, had a few things she wanted to do. Now she had to convince her parents that all of these things could be done.
"Good morning Cassie"
"Morning Dad, Mom." She answered as her parents entered and sat down for breakfast. Within seconds Marie performed her magic of putting a full meal on the table for the three of them.
She and her Dad dug in and made the food disappear. Her Mother was pickier. Cassie used her biscuit to wipe her plate clean, then pushed back and relaxed for a moment.
"Something on your mind girl?" her dad asked.
"Yes there is; where are you and mom going on vacation?"
"Oh are you pretty sure we are going on vacation?"
"Well you two have been talking about it for ages. I've got one more week of school then I am out for two and half months."
"Now I know your big problem is me. Where could you go that I could go and all of us enjoy ourselves?"
Cassie set there and let the idea percolate. "Not going to happen."
"Mom knows it, even if she has not admitted it yet. I'm sure you have admitted it but just have not decided what to do."
Her parents looked at each other and then at her.
"Well what do you think we should do?"
"First, it's not my business where you go; just go somewhere you and Mom will have fun."
"What about you?"
"Yes, that is the question."
Cassie looked up at the ceiling. "Dad, Mom, I've got trouble coming. I don't know what, where or when but it's coming. I don't want it to catch me here at home. It will be bad, but I want to eliminate as much collateral damage as possible. That means I must go somewhere else."
"No!" her mom stated as if the statement would stop the problem.
"Yes, mom, there are a lot of reasons for me to leave here. First, I need to not attract more attention to the bizarre things that happen to Cassandra Howard. It's kind of like what you have said a few times Dad."
"Oh what is that?"
"Money does not sing or dance. What you meant is that money should not attract attention. I am the same way; I need to not attract attention. I get too much here in our home place. When school starts up there will be another sensation at school when everybody finds out that I am not a freshman but a sophomore."
"Sophomore?" They echoed.
"Yes, this whole semester I've been taking courses and tests at that online school you had me signed up to. I have finished all my first year of High School course work. The school will transfer my credits to my high school. All but one course which needs my lab work completed, that's Geology. The lab work will take just about two and half months of field work."
"Field work, Cassie?"
"Yeah, I already got approval from my field work supervisor and the school approved his credentials."
"Oh, who is this supervisor and where will this course work take place?" Her Dad asked.
"Well, its Tiny, did you know he is a Registered Geologist, with a master's degree?"
"Yes I did. Where would this field work take place?"
"Michigan, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, and Oklahoma and of course any states which we would travel through."
"No way Cassie! There is no way I'm going to let you travel over half the United States with a bunch of men." That was her Mother. The first thing she thought of was "bunch of men".
"That's the good part mom. Nobody would think that you would let me run around with a bunch of men. Then the second part that is good is "Over half the United States" that will make it hard for someone to find me."
"Cassie I take it you have talked to Tiny about all of this?"
"Why of course Dad. I had to be sure that it would all work before I could bring it up to you and mom."
"What else? Well you need to make sure that your estate and mine are protected. Set up trusts with multiple people as trustee and guardianship papers all ready. Tiny will need some while I am with him. Get some of your high ranking judges involved. The more protection you set up the more unlikely it will be needed. So please get them done. I have a feeling if I don't leave here this summer the whole place will be destroyed trying to get me."
"George, you are not thinking of going along with this madness?"
"Yes, Sarah, I am. I have been notified that there have been some strange people asking about Cassie. I think it's your Great Aunt's estate they are trying to get. Anyway, Cassie, I have already taken care of those papers and just need to get temporary guardianship for Tiny. Will he be picking you up or do you plan to join him?'
"He is headed toward Michigan right now so I should join him there."
"George! You are not listening to me."
"Sarah, I have been listening but I think in this case you have not been listening. I am trying to save our daughter's and maybe our lives. You are worried about her reputation. Well if it comes to life versus reputation I will let her travel naked with those men if necessary."
Dad landed our plane at Austin Bergstrom International Airport
And followed directions to the Signature Terminal, a private plane terminal where he could get fuel and maintenance if needed. He walked Cassie through the terminal to a waiting car. Her luggage was loaded in the trunk and she and her father got in the back seat.
"Are you worried?" he asked her.
"No, not really, but I'm going to be on my own for the first time."
"Cassie, I know you can do it. You see I heard you cry in the night. I know your nightmares, I have them too. You are my daughter."
The car pulled up at the main terminal of the airport and they got out. The driver got a cart and loaded Cassie's luggage on it. George walked her into the airport and to the American Airlines counter. After he identified himself, they checked her in and took her luggage. She kept a carry on and her equipment. The next obstacle was TSA where they insist on searching her and all her equipment.
Cassie's Dad went through the ceiling. There was nothing that she could add or help with so she just stood there and waited. When a supervisor showed up and also insisted that she needed to be searched her Dad pulled out his phone and made two calls. They waited and Cassie scanned the area, noticing that they had a whole security squad just out of sight ready to rush them if they were a threat. About an hour later two large men walked in and up to the security stand. They ignored TSA and introduce themselves to Cassie's father. They were US Deputy Marshals and they had a court order from a Federal Judge. As they prepared to escort her to her plane her Dad hugged her and gave her two hundred dollars and two debit cards.
"The money is for your immediate needs; the cards are for everything else in the world. You will be able to buy anything you will need."
The two huge men and one small girl finally walked through the concourse to her gate and onto the plane. The stewardess motioned them up front into first class. One of the Marshals sat in the seat in front of her and the other behind her. The Flight Attendant made sure nobody tried to sit next to any of them. It was a long flight and Cassie intended to sleep most of the way. As soon as they were in the air both Marshals started a conversation with her.
The Marshals had pulled any and everything on her and her family before they had made it to the airport so they knew about her kidnapping and the death of one of the kidnappers by "misadventure". They were very interested about her ordeal and how she had stood up to it.
She thought that they agreed with her dad that TSA was made up of a bunch of idiots. It was interesting, and they talked about the differences in law enforcement such as between the US Marshals and the Texas Rangers.
It surprised her that there seemed to be some envy of the Rangers. Then one of the Marshals explained that the Texas Rangers were unique in law enforcement. Until the Patriotic Act, the Rangers had been the only law enforcement agency in the United States that could make arrests without a warrant.
Finally the conversation died and she was able to lay back and sleep.
She was awakened when their plane descended into Chicago. When she asked the Marshals about what they were going to do their answers surprised her. They were assigned to escort her all the way to Grand Rapids, Michigan where Tiny was to pick her up.
So they grabbed another flight out of Chicago for the short hop to Grand Rapids. They were standing near the Baggage Claim inside the terminal when Tiny showed up.
"Cassie!" She turned to face the voice. She had already spotted him with her 'sight' but for the US Marshals her blindness meant she would not know where he was.
He came out of a crowd of men, appearing nearly a foot taller than the rest of them.
"TINY!" She called, overjoyed to hear him and opened her arms to hug him when he grabbed her and twirled her around like a toy. The Marshals had their hand resting on their pistols.
"Put me down you overgrown gorilla these Marshals probably have no idea who you are."
"Who?" He asked as he sat her down behind him. His men closed around Cassie.
"Are you Mr. Blocker, Tiny Blocker?" The US Marshal that she had thought was in charge asked.
"Yeah, that's me. Why do want to know?"
The Marshal reached into his inside pocket and brought out an envelope which she knew contained some kind of court order. The Marshal handed it to Tiny.
"If you acknowledge that this is one Cassandra Howly Howard and sign there where your name is and take custody of the said Cassandra Howly Howard we will be leaving her with you."
"Just sign it Tiny, have I ever led you wrong."
"No you have not."
After the Marshals had left, she explained everything to Tiny.
"Cassie we do have a little problem with sleeping arrangement on sites."
"Not really Tiny, not if you have a way to haul a camper or camper shell with you."
"Yes, you know one of those little enclosed trailers that you can pull on the rear bumper of a car? Or set inside the bed of a pickup."
"Yeah, we could pull one if it was not too 'waggy' on the trails we will be taking."
"Then I guess we need to find a place that might have what we need."
"One of my trucks is having an axle replaced. That might be a good place to start"
Tiny and Cassie pulled into the heavy equipment place and saw nothing that looked like a camper. A man came out of the office and walked toward them. Tiny and she got out of his truck. The man took a double look at Cassie and her cane.
"You Tiny Blocker?" he asked extending his hand.
"Yeah, that's me. This is my partner Cassie Howard."
By a force of will she did not whip her head around to face Tiny when she heard the word 'partner'. She did hold her hand out, a little offset for a handshake from the man.
"My name is Tracy Williams. Joe over at "axle repairs" called me and told me that you were looking for a camper that could take the terrain that you'll be traveling."
"Well I got something but it's not really a camper. But if it was, there ain't no place you could take an off road vehicle that this could not go."
"What we need is somewhere Cassie can sleep in comfort with all her gear and equipment and be protected from anything that we might run into."
"Well this could do all that but the comfort part. But you meet my price and I'll customize the interior into a bedroom/kitchen."
He had been leading them around some equipment that was half disassembled until they stopped next to a strange looking vehicle. Cassie had not paid any attention to it because she could not imagine what it was.
Tiny looked at the vehicle and reacted, "Holy mackerel, what the hell is that?"
"Well Tiny, that's a good question, we bought it in a bulk auction from the government. It was part of a group of vehicles confiscated from a raid the government made on a weapons dealer. The autos impound yard refused to take it so they put it in heavy equipment. I didn't even see it when I bid on the lot."
"It was after we started sorting everything that it showed up. I think it started as an MRAP of some kind and the weapons dealer had started customization on it."
"That circle thing on the left side, I believe, was the hydraulic anchor point for a retractable arm used to move IEDs from the roadway. There use to be a weapons mount in that metal circle on top."
"This is one big chassis almost 42 feet long. But the insides are stripped; it's just one big empty shell. All that is left is the driving compartment with two seats. It's got a big diesel engine with like 450 horsepower and 6 x 6, drive train with air suspension for the axles. We took it out for a test drive once, because it has no license plates. It cruised the county paved road at about 60 miles per hour. We took it off road and nothing could stop it. It made a new dirt road coming in off the main road through some trees in the back lot. This big girl can either go over it or around it but it will go."