Destruction Aftermath, Book 2a
Chapter 31

Copyright© 2012 by radio_guy

Bennie and I had settled into our routine. Laura's lessons in self-defense were coming along nicely and Kevin was learning from Bennie. He was a better shot than Bennie with a bow. Usually, he went out hunting with a pistol, knife, and bow and brought back a meal. It was fun to watch the circling around as he and Laura got to know each other better. Both had competition from others in our community because both were attractive and were developing good survival skills, which were appreciated in this day.

Late fall turned into winter and we celebrated Christmas and the New Year with Poppa's family and Jim's and Bennie's. Preservation was like that with many families connected by friendship and marriage. Jim's daughter, Jen, still followed Mike everywhere paying scant attention to other children their age. It was still cute now but I wondered if they would make a real, loving attachment as they both became adults.

As winter turned to spring, our thoughts and talks at night turned to travel once again. We both felt that there was land to be seen with the hope of meeting more people. Poppa was in favor of that idea. He admittedly wanted to save the world.

We had made occasional radio contact with two groups in South America but that was too far for us. The Andes were not really reachable from Georgia nor were the plains of Argentina. Instead, we were looking north again thinking of Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota and points north and west. Poppa and Jim agreed that there should be people in those areas if they could survive the cold winters.

Bennie agreed but I thought that most survivors would move south toward Texas and California rather than stay where it was so cold. I did admit that I would like to go north at least one more time.

Bennie and I talked about Kevin and Laura. Laura was too young by a year to marry if that was what they wanted. After all, they had only known each other a few months. Also, we had started the school that Poppa wanted and both were students and we were teachers. Poppa was a natural teacher. Much to their and others' surprise, so were Bennie and Momma! I got along. After all, teaching people hand-to-hand combat is not the same. As the teenagers progressed, we became an even more polite society. Schooling was popular and a number of adults took to learning quite well. Steve was in Bennie's course and became quite good much to his surprise. Kevin had become good enough to rival Bennie and had a natural caution that kept him from danger.

We were going to leave after Easter if we could figure out a solution to our teenagers. On Monday afternoon before Easter, we received an urgent call from Mitch in Talladega about animals raiding his crops. Poppa asked Bennie and me to go over. We agreed and would take Kevin and Laura with us to help.

Mitch had done well in the years after the Day. He had used gas and diesel power as long as fuel was available in his area. He saved a thousand gallons of gas for boating and fishing on Lake Logan Martin storing it securely there. We left Tuesday morning and rode over quickly only taking our mounts, clothes, guns, and ammo. Mitch would put us up while we were there. We arrived that afternoon and were greeted by Mitch, who looked worried.

He said, "This looks like a simple herd of deer but your escapade last year gave me pause. I decided to get the best over here to help us handle this." He paused, and then said, "Is this Kevin and Laura with you?"

Bennie replied, "Yes, They're both good in the woods and will be helpful to us."

Mitch chuckled, "Bennie, you do have a habit of finding and having with you the most beautiful women! Janice, you're prettier than ever." He gave me a hug. He shook hands with Kevin and with Laura, who looked a little spooked by him. Mitch was a big man with a heavy black beard. He looked a bit like a bear but was a gentle giant though he could be intimidating if you let his size get to you.

Bennie and I knew him well from many personal meetings and from talking on the radio. He was a native of the area and, for him to be concerned, that made it an issue.

He took us out to the land where he was raided. It didn't look planned nor did we see tracks of any predators, which was a relief. It looked like deer and cattle but with a number of horses and men over it to make any hope of tracking difficult. Neither of us wanted any more weird animal groups. Bennie set a couple of traps for an untouched area and we left. We would return early next morning.

The next morning very early, we rode out. As we neared the traps, we could hear animal noises. Bennie said, "Janice, come with me. Kevin, Laura, Mitch, stay here until you hear me tell you to come or you hear a bunch of shooting."

Kevin said, "I'll go so Janice will be safe."

I quickly said, "I'll be fine and you would slow Bennie down. You don't know him as well as I and can't anticipate his decisions. Stay!"

Kevin looked abashed. Mitch grinned. He said, "Those two work together like a well-oiled machine. They seem to know what the other is going to do before it happens. We'll wait here."

Laura grinned at Kevin and said, "That's all right, Kev. You can protect me."

Bennie and I left with Kevin grinning at Laura and Mitch chuckling at both of them.

I moved behind Bennie about thirty feet with my rifle ready as we came up to the first trap. We could hear thrashing around and the sounds of a deer in trouble. He stopped and motioned for me to come up next to him, which I did.

A doe was caught in the trap. She had managed to injure herself breaking a leg despite our efforts to build a trap that wouldn't injure or kill. Bennie shrugged and I lifted my rifle and shot her. Bennie said quietly, "You can all come up now. Follow our path."

As they came up to us, Bennie said, "Kevin, field dress her. I didn't think a deer could get hurt in that trap but it did." Kevin dismounted. "Laura, keep watch. Mitch, follow us. We'll track a bit. Let's see where they came from." The field had been raided again and, again, there was no particular pattern. I noticed that this was unlike when the stag had raided crops south of us.

Bennie said, "They left going in a different direction from the one they came from. That's curious." He paused, "Mitch, is there water in that direction?" He pointed in up the back trail.

"Yeah, Bennie. Actually, it's a pretty good sized creek about two miles."

I asked, "What about in that direction?"

He answered, "Yes, there's another that way but further."

I saw Bennie's look and said, "Mitch, go back and help Kevin. They like each other, which is okay. However, they need someone to watch over them and they don't know the area. Bennie and I will follow the trail out and keep you advised by radio. Don't let either of them follow us. Wait at your house for now. We will call later. It'll be in about two hours."

"Okay, Janice, Bennie. Keep in touch. We'll have venison steaks for supper. Karen has a marinade that you will love." Karen was Mitch's wife of about six years. She was good people and an excellent cook.

"Great. Have her show Laura what she's doing. That'll make it a learning experience." I said. With a wave, we rode off following the trail. It looked like about twenty or twenty-five deer with no other animals.

Bennie looked over at me and said, "Twenty-four." I hadn't asked but he knew the question.

We were following the trail of the raiding animals but they were on a game trail heading for the water. Bennie slowed us as we neared the creek though I don't think there would still be any animals there. I figured they had gone on to a daytime bedding area. So far, we had seen nothing that suggested anything other than a deer herd.

Bennie said, "The only thing that puzzles me is that there are too many males in this herd. This is the wrong time of year for a mixed herd and, particularly one with many males. Also, there's no young." I hadn't really noticed until then but both circumstances were strange.

We continued to follow the trail until it entered a small town. It vanished! Bennie searched and couldn't find any sign. We circled the town trying to figure it out. There was no sign that the herd or individual animals had left the town.

Bennie stopped and said, "This is way beyond strange. There's something going here." Into the radio, he said, "Mitch, come on up. We're in a little town. Bring Kevin and Laura with you."

Ten minutes later, they rode up to us as we waited in the center of town.

Mitch said, "What's happening?"

Bennie said, "The trail stops as it goes into town. We have circled and found no trace of an exit. It's also a strange herd. It's all deer, but evenly male and female with no fawns. That doesn't fit for this time of year. It's a mystery and I don't like things that can't be explained. I want to do two things. First, I want to search the town thoroughly. Second, I want to stay here tonight if we don't find anything."

I said, "Laura and I will pick and prepare a house while you three start your search. Be careful. There is something not right about this."

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