Copyright 2008 by Ernest Bywater
The case on the big truck crash goes to court about three months later. The District Attorney is represented by a senior member of his staff and the defense has seven high profile lawyers representing Peter Manning.
The main evidence from the prosecution is the camera recordings from our trucks and our statements. By the time the forensic people got to the car all the damaged parts had been removed and the paint samples on the trucks were destroyed in the fire. They did get some off the road where the contact occurred, but that was harder to tie to all the vehicles involved. The defense have elected to go with a judge and jury because a judge alone would have ruled strictly on the legal aspects which are against the defense while a jury may be swayed by other aspects. During the presentation of the defense’s case it becomes clear to me District Attorney Webb hasn’t passed on exactly who is stopping Joe Manning’s interference. This is obvious when the defense attorneys make a big point of mentioning the various civil cases being prosecuted against Peter Manning as well and they claim the entire series of cases rests on the outcome of this trumped up traffic case. They claim the whole lot is an attempt to get huge amounts of compensation out of Peter Manning and his insurance company and nothing else. When the lead defense attorney finishes his summing up I lean over the rail to ask the prosecutor to request permission for me to make a personal statement. He stands up and passes on my request before he does his summing up of the case.
When the prosecutor sits down after his summing up of the case the judge asks me why I wish to make a statement. I stand and say, “Your Honor, I had no wish to make any further statement about his case until the defense attorney in his summing up of the case made comments casting doubts on the integrity and intentions of myself and other witnesses. He implied we gave false evidence with the sole purpose to pursue claims for our financial gain. I wish an opportunity to speak against those false statements and to provide proof those statements by the defense counsel are as lacking in truth as the evidence given by the defendant is lacking in truth.”
The judge looks at me for a moment before he says, “Young lady, I wouldn’t normally allow such a statement, but since the counselor for the defense did make such implications in his summation and not during the course of the day while the main trial was in progress I’ll allow you to reply to these implications, provided you do so from the witness box and are prepared to be cross examined on what you say. Your prior oath of testimony still applies to what you say.”
I’m smiling when I nod agreement while I walk toward the witness box. I watch the defense attorneys getting their heads together because it’s clear they didn’t expect this. It’s obvious they expected to be allowed to get away with casting aspersions on our characters because they didn’t expect any of us to respond to their snide attack. However, Mr Hardy had warned me they may try this and he told me how to deal with it, thus my late re-entry into the witness box. I enter the box and prepare to speak.
Looking directly at the attorneys for the defense I say, “It’s clear to me the counselors for the defense have relied very heavily on the information provided to them by their client and they’ve done so without doing much to verify the information for themselves. Essentially, the case comes down to the video evidence from our two trucks and our own statements and evidence. The defense claims he wasn’t there despite all our evidence showing he was. So they attack the evidence by claiming it was created after the event, despite two police officers swearing to seeing it within minutes of the accident occurring. However, it all comes down to the credibility of three witnesses and our evidence is attacked as being for the ulterior purpose of our civil damages claims. To start with the majority of the civil damages claims is for the replacement of the damaged vehicles owned by the other two witnesses involved who didn’t get a good enough look at either the vehicle or the driver to be able to identify them, so their statements have been accepted by the defense without any challenge. Mainly because they pose no threat to the defendant or his defense. That brings us down to the claims for medical and stress compensation for all five involved, with the biggest being for myself and my Uncle Chuck. The defense attacks this by claiming we’re only after the money. I ask them now, do they have any idea of who we are or our financial status?”
I look directly at the defense table while they talk and shake their heads no before the lead counselor stands to say, “Nothing beyond you being three truck drivers who are closely related. And since we all know how poor truck drivers are we know you want to hit us for all you can get.”
After laughing I reply, “Oh dear, you poor fools should have done your homework. Let’s look at our three poor truck drivers. Yes, we’re closely related. The first fact is we all drive for Meadows Transport. A firm owned by my father with a current net worth of eight million dollars and two million is cash in the bank. Second, the other driver is my sister Laura Meadows, a Harvard graduate with an MBA and she’ll be starting work in a new job for Meadows Transport in mid January with a six digit salary I’m not allowed to know. Third, the other Meadows driver riding along, Uncle Chuck, my favorite uncle, that’s Charles Phillips Meadows whose legal name is Charles Phillips, a medically retired USMC General, two stars, who wears, when he puts his uniform on, the Medal of Honor and three Silver Stars. He’s also the junior partner in Hades Investments whose current net worth is ninety-eight million dollars with only eight million as cash in bank; he has only a forty-five percentage ownership in the company. He’s really the kind of man to lie for a measly few thousand dollars, isn’t he? And last is me, the one who’s the main concern where the validity of the evidence is concerned. A college student doing their MBA with High Distinctions all over their assignments doing some driving in my spare time for my family’s firm because all of my family get involved in the family business whenever we can so we can understand it better. I’ve asked my parents about leaving me out of the part of the will concerning the family business because I don’t need it and I’ll be very busy with my own business. They’re currently rewriting their wills to suit me. I don’t need any of their money because I’m the majority and silent partner who owns fifty-five percent of Hades Investments. Oh, I almost forgot, my current personal bank account is worth two and a half million dollars. I have here certified documents supporting all of this. So, please tell me how we’re in this for a measly few thousand dollars of compensation claim?” They’re sitting there like stunned fish, so are the rest of the court room except Uncle Chuck and Mr Hardy as not even Laura knew those figures until just then.
After gulping hard the lead defense counsel asks, “Why are you involved in this?”
I could have hugged him because this was the opening I wanted. “Because that arrogant smart ass you’re defending couldn’t be bothered to keep to the speed laws and he couldn’t be bothered to wait for anyone else. He unlawfully passed two trucks and caused a terrible accident that nearly killed four good people, two of whom I love very much. All he had to do was to slow down to the speed limit and wait less than a minute to have a clear road. But no, that wasn’t good enough. He had to pass in the limited emergency lane on a long bridge and then had to have a go at the truck driver who was doing the legal limit. If I had my way he wouldn’t be in this court, he’d be on a spit roast doing a slow turn over my barbecue pit at home. He caused the crash and he should pay for the damage he’s done. I know it’s him because I got a very good look at him in my mirror when he went by.” I sit there staring at him.
Gulping harder the lawyer sits down, and the judge directs me to return to my seat. The jury retires, and soon returns a verdict of guilty on all of the offenses, the total time spent in deliberation appears to have been about five minutes. He’s sentenced to seven years in prison and he’s disqualified from driving for twenty years. The civil cases are settled out of court for the cost of replacement of all vehicles damaged, all medical costs, compensation for labor lost by all involved, and five thousand dollars personal compensation for each of the complainants. By the time the dust settles Joe Manning doesn’t have anywhere near the money or influence he used to have. He’d have been better off letting his son be dealt with in a proper manner many years earlier. All of the local law enforcement officers are happy with what happens to Peter Manning because he’d been a problem to them for many years.
Life Goes On
Over the following years I finish my MBA then I move on to take a very active role in running our companies of Hades Investments and Meadows Manufacturing as the Chief Executive Officer while Uncle Chuck is the Meadows Manufacturing Research and Development Director. The company grows and expands in many ways and we all live good lives. We enjoy ourselves, our work, and our times together. As he did with my brothers and sister Uncle Chuck teaches me to drive the new Hell Hounds when they’re ready because they’ll be the basis for the new version of the Road Dogs.
All goes well until that fateful Saturday morning when, before breakfast, Uncle Chuck asks Laura, Marty - my youngest brother, and me for our help with a task because he needs three people who can drive the new Hell Hounds and he needs them right now. We’re fast to agree and we follow him to his warehouse where he has the three combat ready rebuilt tanks sitting on tank transporters ready for taking somewhere. Three of our regular Meadows Transport tractor trailer drivers who used to work for Uncle Chuck in the RRF as base logistics support staff are sitting in the cabins of the trucks ready to drive off once they’re told where to go. It’s been nearly fourteen years since Uncle Chuck came to live with us.
Planning a Party
Walking into the warehouse we see the tanks on the transporters and Dad’s people helping Uncle Chuck’s ex RRF staff into the tanks while others load ammunition boxes into the back of a number of Dad’s Road Dogs. We follow Uncle Chuck across the warehouse and into the conference room on the other side of it. A large map of the state and surrounding states is on the table while a group of military officers are standing around the table talking. Uncle Chuck walks up to a man without any rank insignia and says, “Lay it all out from the start, Jimbo.” The man looks up and glances at us. On getting a nod yes from Uncle Chuck he starts explaining the situation.
He points to the cities of Chihuahua and Hermosillo in Mexico while saying, “We know a new cartel of drug lords has amassed a large force of soldiers in these two cities and seems to be getting ready to take over all of northern Mexico. Our people on the ground say the force is for an invasion of the States. Many departments and agencies have known all this for some time but they didn’t put much credence on it until today. The whole situation is now viewed differently because we’ve found out the whole force numbers close to a half million soldiers and not forty or fifty thousand as we thought.” He tosses a photo of a large number of odd looking tractor trailers onto the table while adding, “And some people are concerned about what these represent. That’s a photo of a large group of trucks growing outside of the town of Ascension, Mexico. Plus about one hundred thousand of the drug lord troops are also camped there. The rest are evenly split between the two main camps. We only found out about Ascension today. We’ve strong military support along the border of Arizona and from El Paso east, but nothing between El Paso and Douglas, Arizona. This force can cross the border near Puerto Palomas before we can get any strong forces near to them. All we have is three companies of US Marines who were doing some exercises on this edge of White Sands. We’ve come here to General Phillips to see if he can help with transport and plans on how to delay these troops.”
The intelligence officer is glaring at us civilians during his talk. Picking up the photo of the trucks I give it a close look then I toss it on the table while saying, “Uncle, do you want to tell him how badly f•©ked he is, or should I?” Uncle Chuck waves for me continue. “Those trucks aren’t regular trailers. They’re covered tank transports! I’d say one big heavy or two small light tanks are on each truck by the look of the weight on the wheels.” This causes a stir and a flurry of military types grabbing the picture. They give it a very close examination then they swear a lot while agreeing. “Whoever is in charge of intelligence on this one has really screwed the pooch. That’s their main armored spearhead at Ascension and the rest are either diversions or waiting to support the spearhead in whichever direction it decides to go.” I look at the map, “Once across the border they’ll make for Columbus and split up. I’d say a quarter will go east, a quarter west, and the rest north. That way they’ll hit Deming and make you think the whole force is there so the split off groups can hit El Paso and Douglas from behind. Then the other troops will cross and start a cake walk. No matter what you think is going to happen you can’t open fire until after these people have entered US soil or you’re starting an international war with us in the wrong. We want them on our side before you open fire. That means we have to evacuate everyone between the border and Columbus.” Turning from them I open Uncle Chuck’s nearby laptop and check Google Earth to examine the area around Columbus and the border. “No suitable ground to hit them until they reach the outskirts of Columbus, then we can start to tear them apart. What do you think, Uncle Chuck?”
He walks over to look at the images from Google Earth and Google Maps, then he nods yes. He points to where State Highway 11 goes over what looks like a stream or riverbed near the southern end of the Pancho Villa State Park while saying, “We set up Phoenix, Resurrection, and Lazarus around here to deny them access to the town.”
I shake my head no while saying, “Don’t act coy. You know you’re going to have to plant Phoenix in the middle of that road right on the bridge or near it to force them off the road. But they’ll only go around. So let’s set up all three just behind the berm at the end of the park and when the party starts we move out and set up in front of the berm and about fifty feet apart with Phoenix twenty feet forward in standard arrow head formation. We move into place, settle down, and play punch until they decide to go around, then we play tag in the fields. The Marines can deploy one company on each side of the road but wide of it and one company can take cover around our position. The enemy won’t have anything that can deal with a Mark Seven Hell Hound, unless they call in an air strike. However, I’m hoping the Air Force can keep them off of us. However, I think we can surprise them there too, if the Air Force can’t. Any detour around us will take them hours while we can quickly redeploy in front of them to anywhere we want to go.”
He smiles at me, “I knew I was right to let you read my tactical combat manuals. That’s the only way we can stop this force because that’s the only bottle neck we can pin them in worth using since the rest is too open.” He turns to the General, “Evacuate everyone within fifty miles of the highway between Columbus and the border.” He turns to a Marine Colonel, “Colonel, I’ve got some trucks in the warehouse getting ready to move your people to the combat zone, get your people aboard. I’ll exercise strategic command and you have your people exercise tactical command of the troops while Charli and I command the tanks.”
The General looks up and asks, “Tanks, what tanks?”
With a huge smile I say, “The three repaired Hudson Hounds our company, Meadows Manufacturing, rebuilt and improved since the Battle of Samara. The current version is the Hell Hound Mark Seven. We could have had fifty of the Mark Eights ready if the Department had given us approval to have the weapons systems. They would be better because they have slightly stronger armor and frames as well as being faster in the field. But the Mark Sevens are, by far, the best tanks available today.” I turn to walk into the warehouse while I speak, then I watch them when they walk out to see the three Hounds sitting on the tank transporters. The General and the rest of the regular military stand there in shock since those have to be the longest barrels they’ve seen on any tanks because those guns are usually used for heavy mobile artillery or entrenched mounts.
They slowly walk to them to look them over. A grinning Uncle Chuck says, “Although we can easily work in with infantry support we can quite easily look after ourselves in most situations. If the idiots in the Pentagon had read and acted on my post battle report properly these would now be the standard tank in use by our army. It’s taken us a little longer to finish the development because it’s been done as privately funded work without a cent of government money involved.”
The Colonel smiles as he says, “That being the case they’ll probably be very good in the field.” He turns toward his junior officers and issues orders for troops to come in to load up in the Road Dogs. The intelligence officer has some of his people join them to conduct field interrogations of any enemy officers and senior non-commissioned officers they capture, if an opportunity arises.
While they climb aboard one of the senior sergeants looks closely at the body material and says, “She-it! This thing’s made out of light armor ceramic plate.” The rest give the trucks a close look, and smile to know they won’t be as vulnerable as they thought they would be. The officers are also happy to know they’ll have access from the cabin to their troops in the main truck body.
Twenty minutes later the whole force is loaded up and moving out while the General and the intelligence man make a lot of serious phone calls on what they think is going down and what’s being done to stop it.
Trip to Hell
It’s an anxious trip to Columbus for us. In these vehicles it’s only about a ninety minute trip, but it’s still double what the enemy has to drive. Sometime later we’re just leaving Deming when we get word the enemy is mounting up, so we’re now closer to the meeting point than they are. The agent in Ascension informs us the trailers are still loaded, so that will add another twenty to sixty minutes to their preparations when they decide to unload the tanks. The only question now is: Will they stop to unload the tanks before they reach Columbus? If they don’t it’ll be so much easier for us, while if they do it’ll be a lot harder for us.
Before leaving base we covered the tanks with tarpaulins so no one will know exactly what’s on the transports. But seeing a bunch of trucks headed south while everyone else is headed north makes it a bit obvious what’s going on. We’re about to enter Columbus when we get word the forces at Chihuahua and Hermosillo are just a token of what they were because the bulk had pulled out early this morning. Satellite surveillance has just located them on the move nearing Puerto Palomas, as is the force from Ascension. We’re just adjusting to this when we get word enemy troops are already on the ground our side of the border at Puerto Palomas because they’d knocked down the fence along a two mile front on the edge of the town. Luckily for us Uncle Chuck had sent the Marines ahead in the faster Road Dogs so they’re now spread out in the fields around Columbus with the Road Dogs back in the town center, waiting in case they need to be quick to shift to a new battle front. The only good news we get from the intelligence update is a spy in the enemy camp has passed along the knowledge of the waiting military forces elsewhere along the border has prompted a change in plan to push the whole invasion force through Columbus with units splitting off after they reach Deming as they wish to avoid the forces covering the border. The enemy believes Columbus is totally open and undefended because their spies confirmed this with the reports of the fleeing citizens, something that’s not happening elsewhere.
We race through Columbus then the transports stop in the Pancho Villa State Park to let us offload. From here we’ll drive ourselves about, so the transports will head back to the town center until needed again. We’d been in the transporter cabins until arriving here. Getting out we have the drivers help us untie and remove the tarpaulins. While the transporter drivers fold these up I climb into Lazarus as Laura enters Resurrection while Marty and Uncle Chuck board Phoenix. As much as Uncle Chuck hates putting us in harm’s way I know he’s done it because we’re the best drivers of the Mark Sevens he has. Also, Laura and I will be the de facto strategic commanders for our tanks because we’ve both studied his tank commander combat manuals.
When the transporters move away we roll up to the edge of the berm to make like we’re part of it by hiding behind a screen of low trees and heavy scrub. We settle down to wait. One advantage we have in this situation is the slope of the front of the tank doesn’t return a good radar echo and the materials used in the tanks reduces the radar return even further.
The Music Starts
Some of the Marines had taken off on very quiet electric motor cycles specially made for them and they’re now down at or near the border reporting on the enemy. The enemy has crossed in force and are setting up to move forward. Some light armored troop trucks are leading the way with a few tanks sitting on transports with their crews in them. The rest are forming up to follow in combat groups while still on transports or in trucks. It’s clear they expect no resistance at this stage and are looking to make the maximum distance they can before they offload.
About an hour after we set up the Marine scouts pass along reports of the enemy convoy heading up the highway near our position. They have a few four wheel drives acting as flankers, but that’s all. The main enemy force is now on the highway and heading toward us.
Based on the scouts’ reports Uncle Chuck assigns the initial targets. The Marines are to hold their fire until told otherwise and we’ll take out the enemy tanks first. The enemy has ten heavy tanks still on their transports. That makes them much easier targets due to their higher elevation. We check all our systems, and wait.
Soon we can see the lead enemy units of several trucks of laughing troops followed by five tanks on transports then more troops and more tanks with several four wheel drives in the fields out about half a mile wide of the road. Our sensors are detecting enemy radar emissions but nothing to indicate they’re targeting us while we’re only using visuals at this stage. We’re not concerned about being detected because the ceramic and composite mix of our hulls doesn’t return the same radar image as a normal steel tank hull so they must think we’re a shed or parked caravan or something like that. We wait until they’re about a quarter mile away then we open fire on command from Uncle Chuck.
All is quiet until three sudden bright flashes come from the western side of the highway with a loud boom, followed a few seconds later by another three flashes and booms. Laura and I are aiming at the tanks on the transporters while Uncle Chuck is aiming at the lead troop transport and tank.
The first realization the enemy gets of being under attack is when the first, third, and fifth tanks in the line give a sudden jerk and burst into flames when high velocity heavy armor piercing rounds punch through their sides and explode. This is followed by their lead troop transport turning into a ball of flame while the remaining two tanks of the front group join the first three as burning wrecks hanging over the side of their transporters. Our gunners open up with the 30 mm chain guns and soon destroy the rest of the lead troop transports and the tank transporters while our turrets turn a little bit to open up on the next group of tanks. Within forty seconds the first ten tanks, their transports, and thirty trucks of troops are destroyed and burning wrecks on the side of the highway because most have been knocked off the road by the force of the shells hitting them or drove off the highway when they were shot to pieces by the chain guns.
As per our plan I move out and across the highway to take up a position about fifty feet the other side of it while Uncle Chuck moves out to sit in the middle of the highway and Laura moves to be just in front of the end of the berm because this gives her the ability to see and fire into the field to her right. All three tanks keep up a fast and accurate fire on the enemy vehicles. We’d started our targeting radar with the opening rounds and we’re now very busy blasting everything we can aim at.
As much as they can the enemy troops are now deploying into the fields and moving forward in good order, as per standard troop anti-tank doctrine. Uncle Chuck is in a nice position and he’s just firing straight down the road with every round blowing something to pieces. One of the Marine scouts gives a location for a parking bay about five miles down the road where the enemy are off loading tanks from the transports. It’s on my side of the road so our gunner elevates and sends a single round down range in semi-howitzer mode. Not bad work because the scout reports the round taking out a transporter cabin. He’s fast in giving directions to change the range, and the bay soon has ten destroyed transports with seven destroyed heavy tanks burning in it while three tanks move off alongside the highway. The lead gunner makes a dramatic drop in range and soon destroys another tank after a single near miss. He’s an excellent gunner and very good at this work.
For the next fifteen minutes we destroy all the enemy vehicles we can see or are reported to us while we soon rack up a total of fifty tanks, fifty-nine tank transports, and about a hundred troop transports all destroyed. By the look of the bodies strewn about the enemy troop losses near us must be around a thousand, and they have another thousand or so ready to launch an attack against us while supported with ten heavy tanks we haven’t been able to target yet. We know they’re in a gully and will soon have to rise up to attack us, so we’ll get them then.