Destruction Aftermath, Book 2a
Chapter 25

Copyright© 2012 by radio_guy

We left the next morning with six former Penn's, Jim, and twenty men from Preservation and Elroy and his wife, Carrie. They were married by radio and volunteered to go to help with the women if we were able to rescue them. From Carrie's looks at Bennie and me, I think she thought we could have done it on our own. Bennie mentioned it to me and I told him we just have stop performing miracles to help people. He grinned.

As was usual with Jim, we had point.

The folks followed us in vehicles while Bennie and I ranged ahead on horseback. We were only on the road when crossing streams and not always then. We wanted to avoid being seen though there was no expectation that anyone was looking at least until Greenville. Jim and the rest came behind us slowly. When we reached the outskirts of Greenville, we went to ground and Jim's group continued on giving others a chance to see them. Bennie found the Penn contingent before they found any of us, even Jim's cars. It looked like they were cleaning up a bit from a party anticipating the return of their leadership. The sentry had come in to announce a group of cars coming up the highway. He never made it back to his spot. We caught him and tied him down and gagged him. I didn't like how he looked at me. I mentioned it to Bennie and he didn't like his look either. Maybe, I'm not paranoid.

We came around to the side of the camp and entered on foot. Most of the men with guns were inside buildings or going to or from buildings. We picked off two more who were careless. One we tied up. The other one hurried me and I broke his neck. We saw two more who were acting as sentries away from the buildings that housed their friends. They were in positions of mutual support so we went to plan B. I stepped out from a corner close to one of them topless with my hands behind my back. He came much too close with his gun at ease and I brought my 9mm around and whispered, "Don't even think about it. You will be dead before you hit the ground and so will your buddy. My husband has him covered. Wave him over." He hesitated for a moment and then looked me in the eyes. He waved to his buddy using the hand that would control the trigger on his rifle.

"Come here, Billy. You have to see this."

Billy ambled over to see my gun on his friend. Before he could start to shoot, Bennie stepped out with his bow and arrow and said, "Don't!" He didn't.

We took their guns and tied and gagged them. That left about fifteen still loose.

Bennie called Jim on the radio and told him exactly where we were and what we had done. He also told Jim to bring our guys up quietly and surround the area. The idea was to avoid a firefight if we could or win it handily if we couldn't. Once we were all in place, Jim said, "Let's go in slowly and try to draw the bag closed without a fuss."

The bow and crossbow users took the lead since they could shoot silently. Bennie and I took one more prisoner. We tied and gagged him and caught up with the circle. Finally, we had everyone outside but there were two buildings with people inside. Bennie put his bow to one side and drew his pistol as well as pulling one he took from a Penn. I drew my pistol and we quietly entered one of the buildings with Tim, Jack, and John at our backs. There was a small hallway and then an open room. We walked into the room and there were five men there in states of undress and twice that many women, who were all naked.

Bennie said, "We don't want to kill anyone so no moves. There will be no warning shots to men or women." Everyone froze in place. One woman rose off the man who had forced her into his lap and gave him a roundhouse slap. He grunted and then made a fatal error. He reached for his gun. I didn't say a word, just shot him between the eyes ruining the wall behind him. Bennie said, "You were warned. Does anyone else want to try their luck today?"

I motioned to two women, "Get off them and stand by the wall. No one else has to die." They stood and moved to the wall. The two guys were the closest two to me. I pointed to one and said, "Get up." He reached for his pants and said, "No. Just stand the way you are." I put away my pistol and, with rope in hand tied his hands behind him. I pointed to the other and said, "Next." I tied him the same way. I then tied their opposite ankles together thus preventing any real likelihood of a successful charge. Staying out of Bennie's way, I went to the other two and treated them the same. The fifth would never need to be tied as his brains were spread upon the wall behind him from my shot.

I then looked over the women, "Ladies, if you have clothes available whether they fit or not, let's get dressed. The rule of the Penn's is over. Let's everybody come outside and we will tell you what's going to happen now."

Only one of our people got a wound. Three Penn's were shot plus the one I had to shoot. One other was wounded. One of the women was killed when the man she was with shoved her toward one of our men as he went for a gun. Our guy was wounded from the shot that killed her. He caught three to the chest permanently curing him from trying that maneuver ever again.

Once Jim had everyone outside and listening, he told all of them that the Penn's reign was over. Don and his two children were dead along with many of the men. The rest were prisoners. Jim told the women that they were under the protection of Preservation and that meant they were free including free to say, "no," to any and every one. Preservation, he said, believes in equal rights and is willing to fight to insure those rights to others and protect Preservation territory. There were many questions and, with a couple of men designated as guards, the rest of us were available to answer individual questions.

A nice looking older woman who had been in our building came to me. "My name's Beth and this is Angie. We care about two of the men in the original party that went forward. Can you tell us about any of them?"

I smiled and nodded over at Bennie, who had John and Jack with him coming around the corner. "I have good news for you two." They saw John and Jack and ran to them exchanging kisses and hugs.

A younger girl came up and said, "Is Anne really dead?"

I said, "Yes, I've seen her body."

She breathed a sigh of relief. "I can be free," she said.

"Free indeed." She hugged me and sat on the ground to cry, I think, for joy. Tim went to her and gave her a friendly hug. She grabbed him and held on tightly.

After maybe half an hour, most questions had been answered except the disposition of the male prisoners. I went to Jim and said, "Jack handled this way back with the Blasters. The same way may work for weeding out the real bad guys from those who are salvageable or, at least, not as guilty. The really innocent ones are already dead by the Penn's hands."

He looked at me and said, "How was that done?'

"We gathered all the female victims in a room and brought the males in one at a time. We let the women tell us who should be saved or not. It proved an accurate method of separating the sheep from the goats. We shot the goats. There were a few questionable ones that Poppa Jack interviewed. He and Mama Shirley made decisions about them. It worked."

He looked at me and then grinned fiendishly. He said, "You and Bennie will be my helpers in those interviews. Your intuition is as good as Shirley's."

I grimaced. "We can do that. Let's get it organized."

I gathered the former captive Penn women and took them into a building with doors on each end. I said, "Ladies, as you know, Preservation has ended the Penn's rule. We have had unsuccessful invasions in the past. We have a permanent method of resolving who are the bad guys when we don't know who's who. I will have the men we have captured bought in this room one by one. Because of their membership in the Penn's, they are guilty. If any should be spared, it's up to you to tell us that this particular person was not really one of the bad guys that it appears they are. If one of you wants to save one, speak up and give me a reason. You are not a jury. You are a parole board trying to decide if a person should not be punished. Even then, a trio of Preservation persons will make the final decision. Does everyone understand?"

One of them raised her hand and I nodded toward her. She said, "I have a brother who was down at the state line. Where is he?"

"That group, or at least its survivors, are down there and we will go down there later. Decisions will have to be made about those men also."

I had Bennie line up the "candidates" and brought him in introducing him to the women as my husband. "Bennie can handle the male prisoners. They will be gagged and their hands tied. We are looking for your opinions and aren't interested in theirs."

Bennie smiled as gently as he can and left. He returned a moment later with the first one.

A couple of the women pulled back. He looked at all of us hungrily. I jerked my head to the right and Bennie took him away. He came back through and brought back another. Two women whispered together and then one raised her hand. I saw her and nodded. Bennie saw her hand and took him away. He came back through and returned with still another. This process continued until all the prisoners had been reviewed. We had one definite and two possibles. One of the women identified the definite one as her man. She ran up and hugged him. Jim, Bennie and I would interview the other two. We would also conduct a quick group interview with the rest. Tim, Jack, and John were already considered good guys.

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