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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Dave Free on 11 May 2007 - 2:46pm.

The eastern sky was growing light as Fuji raced across the desert to the west with both Jeremy and Elena on his back. Both children were wearing the small backpacks that their mother called 72 hour kits. The backpacks contained enough basic food for 72 hours, a change of clothes, and other emergency essentials like matches and toilet paper. They’d had a great family discussion as they put them together arguing over which they would rather live without, matches or toilet paper. That discussion was far from Jeremy’s mind as he guided Fuji through the sagebrush and in and out of washes on their way to the wall.

Jeremy’s backpack was right in Elena’s face as she sat behind him with her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. With every step Fuji took she felt like she was going to fall off but she never did. Her backpack was heavier than Jeremy’s because it contained the signal mirror.

The “mirror” was really four mirrors. Each mirror was one-foot square. There was also a one-foot square piece of plywood. The plywood had several holes drilled in it and there was a sack of bolts with wing nuts and rubber washers. When they arrived at the trail that lead to the top of the wall, Jeremy took a few moments to show Elena how to place the corner of each mirror on the plywood and then hold it tightly in place with the wing nuts and rubber washers to form a two-foot by two-foot square mirror.

“They’ll have no problem seeing this in town from the top of the wall,” Jeremy assured Elena. One of the mirrors had a small mirror glued to the back. A pinhole had been rubbed through the reflective paint on the back of both of the mirrors so that you could look through the pinhole all the way through both mirrors. Jeremy showed Elena how to use the hole to aim the mirror.

“If you can’t figure it out, just point the mirror at town,” Jeremy concluded. Somebody is sure to see it. Elena nodded. They quickly took the mirror apart and stashed it back in her backpack.

Elena turned to Fuji and patted him on the neck. “Good bye boy!” she said. “Take care of my little brother.” Fuji snorted.

“Better get going sis!” Jeremy reminded her. She turned and flung her arms around him.

“Be careful Jeremy!” she said.

“Don’t worry Ellie,” he replied, “We’ll be fine. You get up that trail and remember what dad said. Don’t come down unless one of us comes up to get you.”

Elena fought back tears. She nodded her head, pulled on her backpack and started up the trail.

Jeremy had to fight back tears of his own as she walked away.

“Ellie!” he yelled and ran up to her.

She turned and there were tears running down her cheeks.

“I almost forgot,” he said. “SOS is three shorts, three longs, and then three shorts. Just keep doing it over and over, someone will recognize it.”

“Okay,” she said through her tears.

Jeremy gave her a big hug. He hadn’t planned to, but he did and she smiled.

“Thanks Jee,” she said. “I’ll be alright. Now you better go.”

Jeremy nodded. “Call me on the radio when you get to the top,” he said then turned and ran back to Fuji. The dinosaur crouched, Jeremy picked up his lacrosse stick, climbed on and they set off for the bowl.

Jeremy knew where every spring on the ranch was located. He had intentionally stayed away from them as they made their way to the wall. He had no desire to take on any of Stutts men right now. His only goals were to get Elena to the trail and then get to the bowl as fast as possible. Now that he was at the wall, he pointed Fuji to the north right along the wall and urged him to go as fast as he could.

Jeremy wasn’t disappointed. There was a trail of sorts along the base of the wall. Fuji didn’t have to worry about sagebrush or any other obstacles he just ran. Jeremy’s eyes began to water from the wind rushing by. Despite his fear and concern about what was about to happen, he couldn’t help but smile as they raced along. As soon as he saw the waterfall scar on the wall he pulled Fuji back and turned him to the right leaving the wall and going out into the desert.

The sun was now rising. Jeremy looked back in the direction that he had left Elena wondering if he would be able to see the bright light from the mirror. He saw nothing. He directed Fuji into the bottom of a wash and slid down off his back. A lizard was warming itself in the early sun on a rock in the wash. When it saw Fuji and Jeremy it tried to dart away. With lighting quickness, Fuji reached out and snatched the lizard in his beak. The lizard wiggled for a moment and then went limp. With a great gulp, Fuji swallowed it whole.

Jeremy watched the whole thing in amazement. When he was done eating Fuji turned a great yellow eye on Jeremy. “Amazing!” was all Jeremy said. The sound of an engine running jolted Jeremy from his scientific observations. He ducked down and pulling on the reins to get Fuji to do the same. Fuji resisted a little but finally lowered himself to the ground. Jeremy told him to stay and was just about to climb the side of the wash to see what was happening when Elena’s voice came over the radio.

“Jee! You there Jee?” she asked. Jeremy quickly turned down the volume of the radio. Then responded.

“Yeah I’m here. Did you make it to the top?”

“Yes!” Elena replied, “I’m putting the mirror together now.”

“Elena? Jeremy?” It was mom’s voice, “Are you both okay?”

“We’re fine mom,” Jeremy replied. “Have you had any visitors yet?”

“Not yet,” mom’s voice came back, “but we’ll be ready for them when they come.”

“Roger that,” Jeremy said. “I’m near the bowl. Somebody is here. I’ve got to go silent for a while and to see what is happening. I’m out.” He turned his radio off and looked back at Fuji. The dinosaur was sleeping soundly. Jeremy grabbed his stick and headed up the side of the wash.

As he made his way toward the bowl he tried to stay low and always keep a sagebrush between himself and the bowl. The helicopter soon came into view. Stutts’ black Hummer was also there along with a big black Chevy pickup. It was a one-ton with duel wheels on the back. It’s bed was loaded with crates and it was parked between the Hummer and the helicopter.

Stutts must be here! Jeremy thought to himself. He couldn’t see anyone yet but as he got closer he could hear shouting coming from the bowl.

“You are going to wish that rattlesnake bit you if that family gets away! Go get them now!” The voice roared and Jeremy recognized it as Stutts.

“We’re on it boss!” another voice replied. Jeremy was pretty sure it was the “Jackal.”

“There’s just one thing boss,” the Jackal said hesitatingly.

“What is it?” Stutts roared, “Can’t you see we’ve got things to do here?”

“We have no way to get there boss.”

Jeremy smiled. Stutts spewed a long list of expletives. Finally, he calmed down and said very coldly, “Here are the keys to the Hummer. Its worth more to me than you are. Remember that!”

The Jackal mumbled something that Jeremy couldn’t hear and a few minutes later two thugs came over the edge of the bowl and climbed into the Hummer. Jeremy dropped down so they couldn’t see him.

He turned on his radio, as they roared off down the creek bed and hissed into it , “Mom! Dad! Two of them are coming your way. They’re in the Hummer and just left the bowl. Do you copy?”

A few seconds later his dad’s voice came on, “That’s a big 10-4 good buddy. We’re going to bring the hammer down. Over.” Jeremy shook his head and smiled. How could his dad make jokes at a time like this?

“Good luck!” Jeremy whispered into the radio and then turned it off again. As he looked up two more thugs came up out of the bowl and dropped the tailgate on the truck. They each grabbed the end of a crate and lifted it out of the bed.

“How many times have we hauled this thing out this truck tonight?” one of the thugs complained to the other.

“Just shut-up!” the other one replied, “You want to get us in trouble?”

With the crate in their arms they walked over the edge of the bowl and Jeremy could no longer hear them. He worked his way around the bowl toward the wall and then moved in closer to the bowl. As he approached, he took off his helmet and got down on his stomach. Then he stomach crawled up to the edge so he could look into the bowl without being seen.

The two men carrying the crate had reached the bottom. They set the crate down next to the pool and turned and headed back toward the truck. In addition to the two carriers, Stutts was there with three other men. One of them was bent over the pool with some kind of testing equipment. The other two looked like bodyguards. They were both following Stutts around and were heavily armed. They had machine guns slung over their shoulders. Jeremy looked at the hay wondering if the pilot had been discovered yet. There was no movement but Stutts was starting to walk that direction. As the crate carriers walked by, Jeremy could hear Stutts snarl at them.

“Hurry up with the bones you imbeciles, we’re out of time!”

Jeremy thought quickly. They were only minutes away from creating a dinosaur of their own! How could he stop them? The early morning wind began blowing in Jeremy’s direction. He smelled jet fuel. He looked at the helicopter. There was a puddle under it. Maybe…

He crawled back from the edge. The two goons were unloading another crate. He waited for them to head back into the bowl, then he bent low and ran for the helicopter. As soon as he got to it he ducked under it and pulled off his 72-hour backpack. He pulled out a shirt and started soaking it in the puddle of fuel under the helicopter. There was still a good stream of fuel dripping down from the cut hose. He flipped the shirt over to let it soak up more fuel. He could hear the voices of Stutts’ men getting closer. He grabbed the fuel-soaked shirt and ran for the sagebrush beyond the chopper. Diving, he ducked down just before the men came into view again.

He was breathing heavily but tried to do it quietly. He waited a few seconds and then looked up. He had left his lacrosse stick under the helicopter! He prayed the men wouldn’t notice. They went to the truck and hauled off another box without looking.

Jeremy ran to the helicopter again, grabbed his stick and then looked paused to look into the back of the truck. There was only one box left. He was out of time. He ran back to the bushes, unzipped the pouch on the front of the backpack and dug out the waterproof matches. He placed the fuel-soaked shirt in the basket of his lacrosse stick and held the stick between his knees so that the shirt was a couple of feet out in front of him.

The wind had picked up. Jeremy turned his back to it and struck one of the matches. The red tip of the match flamed up quickly and then went out before he could touch it to the shirt. He heard voices again. The men were back for the last box! He dropped to his knees and waited. One of them climbed up in the bed and tossed the last box to the other one. It was smaller than the rest and apparently fairly light.

“You take this,” the man said, “I’ll get the cool chest out of the cab.” The man with the box turned and walked back down into the bowl. The other man jumped down from the bed of the truck and opened a cab door. He pulled out a blue cool chest, used it to slam the door, and then followed the other one into the bowl.

Jeremy stood up again and struck another match. Still too much wind! The match went out immediately. Jeremy looked around he needed a better windbreak. His eyes fell on the truck. Quickly he grabbed the stick and the matches and ran for the passenger side door. He eased it open without a sound, stuck the head of the stick in the cab, and then leaned in himself. He was about to strike the match when another idea came to him. He grabbed the soaked shirt and tore it in half. He put one half back on the end of his lacrosse stick and the other half on the floor of the truck cab. He struck the match. It burned brightly. Cautiously he dropped it onto the shirt on the floor. It instantly caught fire and put off dark black smoke.

He grabbed his lacrosse stick with two hands and dangled the other half of the shirt over the flame. Soon it was burning too. He backed out of the truck and closed the door quietly all the while trying to keep the flaming shirt on the end of his stick out of the wind. He needn’t have worried. The fuel burned intensely and the wind only made it burn hotter. Turning he planned his steps carefully. Just like shooting a goal, he told himself. He took a few quick steps toward the desert, pulled the stick back over his left shoulder, then flicked the flaming shirt off the stick and directly into the puddle under the helicopter.

He didn’t wait to see what happened but ran as fast as he could to get as much distance between him and the helicopter as possible. As he dove over the edge of the wash where he had left Fuji he heard a tremendous explosion. He turned quickly and saw the corpse of the burned out helicopter crashing back onto the ground. Great billows of black smoke rose into the air. Fuji raised his head and looked at Jeremy. Jeremy clinched his fist and said, “Yes!”

A few minutes later Jeremy could see Stutts and his two bodyguards walking around the burning wreckage of the helicopter. One of them noticed the smoke in the cab of the pickup and pulled the door open, a great ball of flames burst out and the man fell back rolling on the ground holding his face. Stutts cursed and yelled at the other bodyguard.

“What am I paying you for? You find whoever is doing this now!”

The bodyguard had been studying the ground. He pointed at the ground and then in the direction of Jeremy. Jeremy ducked down. Had they seen his footprints? When he looked up again, the bodyguard was running directly towards him with his gun out and ready!

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