Triumph and Tragedy
The ceremony was held on a dry lake in Nevada. Everyone flew in from all over. There were about a hundred from the Academy. Krueger was there, recovered, and now sporting a tanned and weathered face instead of the wind and frost burned one JJ had last seen. Carla Fuentes wasn't there. Neither were Ali Rasheed or Sandra Milos. He missed them. It took the high off his celebration. He knew they made it through; it just wasn't their time. The recruits were resplendent in their whites against the cream-colored dry lake set against the bright blue of the desert sky. From a platform, General Forsythe presided over all.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor to be here and to see you on this most momentous occasion. You have passed the most rigorous mental and physical training and achieved the best education that this country has ever offered. To me, you are the founders of a new United States of America for the 21st century. It is with utmost pleasure that I present to you, the President of United States, Phyllis Knox."
A huge screen was mounted behind the podium and the Faculty of the Academy and military representatives accompanying General Forsythe on the stage. The screen came alive immediately after General Forsythe's introduction. The President of the United States appeared before them, live. She spoke:
"First, let me apologize for not being there in person to shake each of your hands and welcome you into the most elite corps ever devised for the freedom and protection of the people of the world. Only the most pressing matters regarding our future and security keep me from being there. I hope you understand. As your Commander-in-Chief, let me congratulate you for having completed all of the requirements for becoming Freedom Lancers. It is a high honor to be named one of the few that will help us find and lance the festering sores of hatred that have emerged to bring us to this point. I know your service will be dangerous, long, and arduous. However, I have every faith that you will excel and rid the earth of these festering sores. Good luck and God speed." President Knox gave a smart salute, and the screen went dead.
Each cadet's name was called in alphabetical order, and, in turn, each rose to climb the steps of the stage and receive their diploma from General Forsythe. When "John Jacob Nelson" was called on the loudspeaker, for a moment, JJ didn't rise, thinking that there wasn't anyone by that name. Suddenly, he realized that it was him they were calling. He rose quickly and headed for the platform.
As he walked across the stage, JJ's trepidation grew as he approached his uncle, intimidating in his general's uniform with all of his medals and campaign ribbons. Uncle Jim's face had a broad smile like a proud father and his eyes showed his affection. In one hand he held JJ's diploma rolled and tied in a red ribbon. "Great job, nephew." He said, as his eyes filled with tears and he handed JJ the diploma while shaking his hand vigorously. By the time JJ had reached the other end of the stage, his eyes were filled with tears, too. It was so sad that his parents couldn't see him at the time of his greatest accomplishment.
As soon as the ceremony was over, he and nine others were ushered into a jet and flown to Chicago. They landed and Great Lakes Naval Air Station where JJ packed his whites and his diploma and a most of what he had collected at the Academy in the trunk for safekeeping by the Navy. He was issued ordinary street clothes and given orders to take the bus to a hotel in Chicago where he would receive further orders. The Old Essex was a drab and dreary brick structure off Michigan Avenue. His third floor room had a view of the alley. JJ didn't know how long he was supposed to stay there. Finally, after two days of taking room service and watching TV waiting for his orders until he was tired of it, he decided to walk around. He got up early and roamed the streets of the Loop all day looking at shops and checking out the sights. When he arrived back at his hotel room he saw a note under the door. Surprised, he examined it carefully, making sure there was no dust on it or indication of a virus, hazardous chemical, or a bomb. When it was he opened he found a note and some cash.
"If no one has stolen it, there should be a $1000 cash in this envelope. Tomorrow morning please buy a sport coat and slacks. It is not necessary that you buy or wear a tie. At 2 p.m. sharp, please be in the lobby of the Oprah Winfrey Theatre on Aberdeen. You will be contacted there. Please have the rest of the cash with you, because you will need it."
JJ knew he was going to be some sort of a spy, but this was the strangest request he could think of. Nonetheless, the next morning he got up and when the stores opened at 10 a.m. he quickly found and bought himself a reasonably priced coat and slacks for $200, a pair of new shoes for $70, a shirt, and some socks. He grabbed a hamburger for lunch, and, dressed in his new clothes, was waiting in the lobby of the Oprah Winfrey Theatre 15 minutes early.
A Week Earlier, Mountain Falls
Gail Forsythe rarely got phone calls in the middle of the afternoon. So she was a bit annoyed, when it rang it 2:30 p.m. when she was taking her nap. "Hello?"
"This is the Oprah Winfrey Show calling, we would like you to come next week for taping."
"No, I don't want anything that you're selling." She hung up, disgusted at the annoyance. Within seconds, before she could crawl back into the bed, it rang again, really annoying her.
"Is this Ms. Gail Forsythe? If it is, we have the right number. Again, this is the Oprah Winfrey Show calling with a message from Oprah."
"Oprah Winfrey? What would the Oprah show want with me? I don't even watch it."
"She is having a show with parents of military families affected by the tragedy. We understand that your son, James Forsythe, is a survivor from the Pentagon. The Army told us that he would be unable to come, but we'd like you to so that you can tell your story. Ms. Winfrey is most interested in meeting with you and hearing your story along with others. Can you come?"
"How much will it cost me?"
"Oh, Mrs. Forsythe, the Oprah Winfrey show is willing to pay all of your expenses to Chicago and back and also will give you an honorarium of $1000 just for a 10 minute appearance."
Gail thought for a minute. A $1000 would sure come in handy. She hadn't been to Chicago in 30 years. Maybe it was time that the world learned about the great sacrifice the Forsythe family had made for the country. "Okay… I'll come. What should I do?"
"We'll wire you the money, plane tickets, and hotel reservation. You should receive those tomorrow morning from UPS. Be prepared to leave next Wednesday morning, the third. The taping will be Thursday, the fourth at 2 p.m. in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre. Don't worry about a thing. Your packet will tell you what clothes to wear and everything you will need to know. If you have any questions, please call me, Samantha, at 800-463-4646 extension 520."
"It sounds like you have everything covered. I'm starting to like the idea already. Thank you so much for thinking of me." Grandma Gail smiled to herself. This was just what she needed.
"You are most welcome, Ms. Forsythe. We are so looking forward to seeing you at the show. Bye for now."
"Bye." Gail put down the phone and crawled back into bed. She couldn't sleep. She kept thinking about what she would wear and what it would be like. Finally she got up and started on her evening chores.
The days moved quickly and George Frazer was there, bright and early, on Wednesday morning to take her to Winchester. He even carried her bag out to the car. She stopped short of asking him to move in. She tolerated him and was grateful for his ferry service. How else would she get to her card game?
As they careened around the curves, she bit her tongue and waited to thank him when she arrived at the bus station. "Don't worry, George." She said. "Be sure to pick me up again here at 3 p.m. on Friday, okay?" Charlie nodded as if he understood, but Gail knew that sometimes he needed reminding, and expected to call him from Hagerstown that morning before she got there.
After an uneventful bus ride, Gail arrived at the Hagerstown bus terminal and a cab was already waiting to take her to the airport. A two-hour flight took her to O'Hare Airport where a limousine with the Oprah Winfrey show written on the side greeted her is she came out of baggage claim and took her to her the Drake Hotel downtown. Her hotel room was luxurious and she had a fabulous view of Lake Michigan. She was tired, so she took a nap. When she awoke, it was late, about 8 p.m. Thinking that it was too late to go to a restaurant, she ordered room service and watched TV. The sailboats on the lake were so calm in the glow of the sunset. She thought about her husband and times they had spent in the hotels like this. She wished he could be here with her. A tear came to her eye.
The next morning, JJ was glad that he had something to do. Sitting around the hotel had been getting to him. Chicago was interesting, but he'd seen enough of it and it was time to move on. He got up early, had breakfast in a little eatery he found around the corner from the hotel, went back to his room, showered, and put on his new duds. It had been a long time since he wore clothes like these. Except for his skinhead military cut, he thought he looked quite good in the mirror. Time to go.
It was a short cab ride to the Oprah Winfrey Theatre. He arrived about 10 minutes early, showed the attendant his pass, and entered the lobby. It wasn't crowded, but a few people, mostly women, were coming and going. He looked through the doorway into the sloped seats and saw that they were filling up. He busied himself with looking at the pictures on the wall. He kept one eye on the people coming in knowing that one of them could be his contact. By now he knew the US government and the armed forces. They were always on time.
"Jason! Oh Jason! Is that you?" JJ turned, to see his Grandma Gail tripping over herself to come running to him across the lobby.
JJ rushed to her and caught her before she fell. "Oh, Grandma, be careful!" Tears of joy welled up in his eyes.
"Oh, Jason, they didn't tell me! I didn't know you'd be here!" She was hugging him and patting him on the back as if to reassure herself that he was real. She backed away at arms length. It was true. It was him! "My, Jason, how you've grown! You are a real man now, my boy, a real man!" She opened her purse and dug for a tissue. Tears streaked her makeup.
All the commotion attracted quite a bit of attention. Everyone in the lobby was staring at them. An announcement came over the intercom, "Please take your seats. Taping will begin in five minutes. We are asking that no one enter or leave the theater once taping begins."
JJ and his Grandma looked around them. Everyone was moving into the theater and had forgotten their commotion. No one came up to them. They looked at each other and followed the rest. Their tickets were side-by-side, high up in the audience. The show was about the sacrifice of military service, but they weren't called upon to speak. Oprah was talking about the hardships faced by young families when they were separated for so long because of the emergency condition the country was in. Grandma Gail held JJ's hand for some time and patted it gently. Realizing what she was doing, she looked around for a moment, to see if anyone was watching and stopped, crossing her hands in her lap. Fortunately, she didn't see anyone. They were all mesmerized by what Oprah was saying.
The taping ended about 6 p.m. everyone filed out of the theater. Oprah disappeared backstage and they were on their own. They followed the others out. "I guess it was just a ruse to get us together. If you've got time, Grandma, I'd like to take you to dinner."
“All the time in the world, Jason. Oh... I've gotta catch a plane tomorrow back home. Anyway, until then, I'd love to go to dinner.”
They walked the streets for a while. Most of the people had left for the day and it was peaceful in the evening air. Finally, Jason spotted an Italian restaurant that he thought would be good, and they stopped to eat. The food was wonderful and so was the conversation. Jason felt like he was on a date. He could imagine his grandfather, back during World War II, falling in love with the witty teenager who became his Grandma Gail. With sparkle in her eye, she reminisced about those times, like when she took the train to meet his ship when it arrived back in New York after VE Day. How they had returned to the Forsythe homestead and raised two healthy, brilliant sons. There was a daughter, Marcy—stillborn--between the two boys. Tears came to her eyes easily as she spoke of her. Jason never knew that before. His mother and father hadn't told him.
"Are you all right ma'am?" The nervous young waiter asked, worried that the food would not please and he would not get his tip.
"Oh, don't worry, my boy. I was just sharing memories with my grandson, Jason, here. The wine is so sweet it brought tears to my eyes."
"Will that be all?” They had lingered too long, and, guessing by the line forming at the door, he was trying to open up more space and get his tip. JJ asked for the check, paid him with cash, and left a generous tip on the table. It was strange being called Jason again. He didn't tell her that he had changed his name. She wouldn't understand and it was too late to change the game.
They came out into the warm evening air and felt good enough to take a cab down to the lake. After a cab ride up Lakeshore, they dropped off near the Drake and walked down to the lake. It was calm, and Jason skipped flat stones like when he was a kid. They laughed all the way the hotel. Jason couldn't remember having a better date. When he got Grandma Gail to the door, she turned and said, "Come, Jason. Come and stay the night."
They talked some more until they both fell asleep. It must've been 9 a.m. when Jason finally heard the sounds of traffic in the street and saw the cart his grandmother had ordered from room service. She emerged from the bathroom and they both enjoyed a brunch before she had to go to the airport to catch her plane back home. Before she left, Jason hugged and kissed his grandmother goodbye again for probably, what would be the last time, unless the government saw fit to bring them back together again.
The day before, about 4 p.m.
Lenny "Bruce" Hitchcock, and Penelope "Nellie" Rogers were on the lam and on North Pifer Road close to the Forsythe homestead. The bomb had been good to them. Like hard core prisoners from all over the East, they had been shipped from Walpole Prison to work on radioactive cleanup crews in the hot zone, part of the President’s solution to the manpower shortage. Two days before, they had managed to find a kink in the after work wash down apparatus and slipped out a side door in their skivvies. It was dark by that time, so they wandered around in the woods picking up a lot of radioactive dust and messing up their feet until, near dawn, they found an empty house and raided the closets for warm clothes and shoes. There was running water, so they took a cold shower and washed off the dust and cleaned the bloody soles of their feet.
In the kitchen, they found some canned meat and crackers. The refrigerator was full of rotting food, and it fairly knocked Bruce over when he opened it. In the garage there was plenty of beer and 7-Up. They almost missed it in the dark. What they didn't miss was a dusty old Toyota. As much as they wanted to get out of there, the beer was too tempting. Later, they found the bar. Sometime that next afternoon, Bruce opened his swollen eyes to the light of day and had to pee. He stumbled to the bathroom and heaved his guts out. It'd been a long time since he drank that much beer and liquor and the Spam didn't agree with him either. He was still pretty hung over, so he killed it with a couple of beers.
"Nellie, Nellie, wake up... wake up..." Bruce was trying to shake Nellie awake. "We gotta get outta here, they'll be looking for us for sure, so we'd better head out tonight as soon as it gets dark. Let's look for guns. If they had a bar, they got guns." Five minutes later, Bruce was tearing into the locked gun cabinet while Nellie was sticking his head under the cold shower trying to shake the willies out of his ears.
The clothes didn't quite fit, but at least the shoes weren't too small. Bruce's left foot looked a little infected and was swollen, so he was glad for that. They gathered up all they could find of food and other supplies, broke into the trunk of the Toyota and put them there. There was still plenty of 7-Up and a few bottles of liquor, but only five bottles of beer left. They put them all in the trunk too except for what they were going to drink on the road. They hid two shotguns, a 16 gauge over and under, and a 12-gauge pump under the seat. There were nice holsters for the 38 revolver and 22 automatic. Bruce took the 38, and Nellie holstered the peashooter. Now, all they needed was a little luck, and they could make a clean break while the rest of the world struggled with terrorism. There was gas in the Toyota, but the battery was dead. With a screwdriver, Bruce broke the ignition and got it in neutral. With the dry heaves and his foot hurting like it was Bruce made it clear that he would stay behind the wheel and it was up to Nellie to push the damn thing until they got somewhere where there was a battery or it started.
It wasn't quite dark yet, but they desperately wanted to get the car started before it did. Nellie opened the garage door, got in front of the car, and started pushing. It was a long drive downhill to the street. The Toyota picked up speed quickly. Bruce slid it into reverse and the engine started to turn over. There was a popping sound and the car started and the radio came on. The end of the drive was coming up fast, so Bruce slammed on the brakes, and the car skidded to a stop in the middle of the street. Lucky, because there was a deep ditch on the other side. Nellie, out of breath chasing a car down the drive, opened the passenger side and hopped in. They didn’t bother to close the damn garage door, Bruce thought, but that place was rapidly receding n the rear view—to hell with it. Kiss Nellie’s sweet behind. He smiled.
They scanned the radio for news of their escape and found none. That was good. Now, all they had to do was avoid roadblocks and get home free. They took the roads west, trying to avoid checkpoints. An hour later, they were running out of gas and had no money.
By that time they were well past the hot zone and there was life they could take advantage of. "This looks like a good one," Bruce said as they approached a rural corner grocery and gas. It was ideal -- deserted. Bruce busied himself with filling the Toyota with gas while Nellie shopped for essentials. When Bruce had finished filling the Toyota, he started it and left it running with the doors open. He walked up to the store and stood just outside the door, his hand on the 38 under his shirt.
Nellie came to the counter and checked out. He looked for cameras. There were two or three. He could have shot them out, but he was already being recorded, probably in some back room that was locked. To hell with it. No big deal. The clerk looked to be about 17 and he was probably foreign. All the better… Nellie waited while the clerk rang up the bill.
"That'll be $59.29 for the groceries and $39 for the gas, for a total of $98.29." He had not accent.
"I don't have a hundred on me but will this do?" Nellie pulled the peashooter and stuck it in the young man's face. Sweet Nellie could be very menacing when he wanted to be. "And everything in the cash register. And hurry… My trigger finger’s gettin' itchy."
The young clerk nervously and hastily emptied the cash register in front of Nellie, spilling some coins on the floor. "Put it in the bag--all of it!" Nellie declared while putting a three, well aimed shots into the phone next to the frightened boy. "Where's your cell? You kids have all got cells. Show it to me or you'll get a bullet." Totally scared for his life, the clerk reached for his cell phone clipped to his waistband, threw it on the counter, and backed off, his hands up and his eyes pleading for life. Nellie dropped it in the bag, and, holding aim on the kid, backed out the door. Once outside, Bruce and Nellie sprinted for the car. They hit 60 a couple of minutes later. A clean getaway. Did they have a pay phone? Bruce thought. To hell with it.
Every time they saw a checkpoint ahead, Bruce would take a quick U and they would backtrack to a side road. It was slow going, but by midmorning they felt safe enough to stop at a roadside park by a stream to wash off, eat some of the food they commandeered, and have a few drinks. "Damn! Only $142.35!" Bruce said as he counted the money from the cash register on a picnic table. "That won't get us far. Probably won't even be able to get a motel tonight. No Hoes either."
"What's the matter? I ain't good enough for you?" Nellie was indignant.
"Oh, man. Your fine. Just need a change of pace sometimes, that's all."
Nellie shrugged and rubbed his warm little pistol. He wouldn't hesitate to use it if Bruce stabbed him in the back. In a few minutes they were back on the road dodging checkpoints. When they got to I-81 about 3 p.m. Bruce was itching to get on an interstate highway. But he knew from experience that it was hard to backtrack if there is a checkpoint on one what with all the military assisting the police. He decided to drive up into the foothills of the Appalachians and see if he could find a place to hole up for the night. An hour later they were on North Pifer Road drive just south of Mountain Falls, about out of gas.
"Most of these places up here have got gas stored somewhere. We just have to find one with nobody home and we can take what we want. Look, that one up there with the long drive. I don't see any cars out front. Let's give it a try. If somebody asks us I'll just say we're lost or looking for a gas station. Either way, they'll probably give us some gas or a map that we can use to get out of here." Bruce knew these mountain people were kind and generous. Saw it on TV—Walden’s Mountain. Just the kind to take advantage of.
Bruce eased the Toyota down the drive, trying not to make too much noise as the tires ran over the gravel. All the while, they watched for signs of life. He stopped in front of the porch. Leaving the car running and the door open, Bruce walked up the stairs and knocked on the door. There was no response, not even a dog barking. He knocked again. He tried the door. It was locked. Good. He hurried back down the stairs to the car. "Jackpot!" Bruce said to Nellie as he drove around the house and down by the shed. Out of sight of the road, they could do what they had to do.
They got out of the car in front the shed door first. The sliding door was unlocked, so they had it open in a minute. They were happy with what they saw -- a car on blocks and lots of tools and car supplies. Spotting the big cans of gas, they grabbed a funnel and each of them carried a can over to the Toyota. They hadn't finished the second can when the Toyota's gas tank was full. They put the remaining can in the trunk, and headed back to the shed. Bruce lifted up the corner of the car cover to see what was under it.
"Jesus, Nellie! It looks like the classic Camaro. As much as I'd like to be driving it, it would take too long to put on those wheels on and I don't think we could sneak by road checks in something as flashy as that. That little Toyota is our ticket out of here. Besides, she gets better mileage. Here, take a couple of cans of motor oil and anything else you see it we might need. I'll get this can in the car.
After Bruce had loaded the gas can in the trunk he walked over to the basement screen door. It wasn't hooked so he opened it up and tried the door. The knob turned easily in his hand and he pushed the door open. "It's unlocked! I'm going to see if we can get inside." And he slipped in. Nellie followed and soon they were both upstairs, surveying the place.
"Looks pretty lived in. Let's check the fridge." Nellie opened it up, and, although Grandma Gail had eaten all the cooked food before she left, it was well stocked and very inviting. He reached in and pulled out of a half-empty bottle of milk. He popped the calf, smelled it and took a swig. A big smile emerged from his milk mustache.
"It's sweet. There's plenty of food here. What say we stay and cook up a storm?"
"They could come home at any time. But if they did, we could hear them coming down that drive and make a getaway before they knew what happened. Hell, I'm hungry. Let's cook."
While Nellie was frying up some steak and potatoes, Bruce looked around. From the way it looked with all the doilies on everything he thought it might belong to an old lady. He saw her in the pictures in the main bedroom. There was a military guy in some of the pictures, probably her son. He felt safe they weren't dealing with a family with a strong man as head of the household. He found the booze in the cabinet by the fireplace and brought it to the party. "If I know old ladies, she'll be back before nightfall or she won't be coming back tonight. Either way, she shouldn't be too much trouble." He kicked back a gulp of Old Settler straight from the bottle.
They gorged themselves on steak and potatoes and continued drinking. By nightfall they were both roaring drunk, trashing much of what they found in the cabin. It was all a big joke. Laughing hilariously, they rummaged through Grandma Gail's drawers and looked at all the family pictures throwing them around as they did. They gathered up the guns in the gun case and took them down to the car. Realizing that more guns might get them spotted, just dropped them by the car and went back up for another drink. It was past midnight when they both passed out, first Bruce on Grandma Gail's bed, and Nellie on the living room couch.
Sometime the next morning, Bruce dragged himself to the bathroom to throw up. To rid himself of the hair of the dog he drank a bottle of canned milk and chased it with Jack Daniels. An hour later, tired of looking at the valley below, he crawled off to bed to sleep some more of it off.
Nellie woke up about noon feeling like a freight train hit him. Three peanut butter sandwiches and some cream sherry, the only booze left, he visited the bathroom only to throw up from the smell of the vomit left by Bruce. Cleaning himself up as best he could, he went the bedroom and found Bruce sprawled out over the whole bed. He settled for the floor.
Gail Forsythe's trip back was uneventful. Her flight arrived in Hagerstown on time to catch the next bus down I-81 and George was there, waiting for her, when she got back to Winchester. Charlie offered to take her to a restaurant, but she said, "No." She had plenty of food in the refrigerator and didn't want Charlie to think he was taking her on a date.
"How was your trip?" Charlie was eager to find out.
"Oh, Charlie. It was very nice. They put me in this luxury hotel overlooking Lake Michigan. Oprah was so nice. Jim couldn’t make it, and she explained that they had so many people on this show and they didn't have to use us anyway. She said they would probably schedule another show like this at a later date and I could come again. Anyway, the show was wonderful and I enjoyed staying in the hotel, even if I was alone." As usual, she hung on tight as Charlie's car swayed around the curves. It didn't take long before they were pulling into the driveway.
As Charlie’s old car to a stop in front of the porch, he said, "do you want me to carry your bag Mrs. Forsythe?"
"That won't be necessary, Charlie. My bag is light and it's only a short distance." Charlie reached into the back seat for the bag and handed it to her. She slipped some money into his hand to pay for his gas. "Bye, Charlie, thanks again for the ride."
"Bye, thanks again for the gas money, but you know you don't need to." Charlie gave her one of those apologetic smiles that were half sad because she wasn't willing to be his girl. He turned his car around and was pulling onto north Pifer by the time Gail reached the top step of the porch.
When Gail unlocked the door and saw the mess in the place she shrieked in horror. Her shrieking woke Nellie on the floor in her room. He was groggy. But managed to get himself up to hide behind the door. Hearing Gail rummage around pumped enough adrenaline in him to get him awake. No time to wake Bruce sprawled on the bed though. He waited.
Gail went over to the gun case by the fireplace and saw that the guns were gone. She cursed and grabbed a fireplace poker to look through the rest of the house. She had seen that there was no one in the kitchen. The door to her bedroom was closed and she had left it open. She approached the door cautiously with the poker raised high, shaking in fear. She turned the knob slowly and opened the door. When she saw Bruce on the bed, anger overcame her fear and she rushed over to strike him with the poker.
His cobwebs gone, Nellie moved quickly. With his left hand he grabbed her around the chin and with his right he grabbed the poker up high just before she started to swing. He pulled her head hard to the left and there was a cracking sound as Gail's neck broke. She crumbled beneath him to the floor, her eyes wide open in fright and her whole body just vibrating like she was being electrocuted. She cried out softly, "Help me… Please help me."
Bruce woke up from all the commotion. He rolled over on his side and saw her on the floor. "Jesus, Nellie! What the hell happened? When did she get here and what did you do?"
"She was going to kill you with that poker and I just grabbed her... and I... well, I... just broke her neck I guess!"
"Well you'd better hurry up and finish her off. I can't stand that look in her eyes. I want no part of it. You started it and you finish it."
Nellie grabbed the poker and hit her in the head until blood poured out, her eyes went dim, and her spasms stopped.
"We'd better get out of here fast. I don't need no murder rap on my record." Bruce muttered, disgusted. "Look around and make sure we don't leave nothing where they can trace us." In thirty minutes they had picked up everything, wiped off fingerprints and pulled out on North Pifer headed south from Mountain Falls. By nightfall, they had made more than 200 miles and were in Kentucky.