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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 6 July 2007 - 12:08am.

Chapter 14

Bill and Mose arrived early the next day. They had driven all night, taking turns at the wheel and sleeping. Mose wasted no time and embraced Ron and Denise immediately. Bill just grinned and waited his turn. His thick southern drawl was music to their ears. "I shore am glad t'see y'all agin."

Bill meant it. He was misty-eyed as he took his turn to hug them both.

Glad to see you, too. Both of you," Denise said.

"You guys are brothers. You are family to me," Ron added.

"To me, too, babe," Denise corrected him. "After all, Bill knows more about me than any man except my husband and Mose took a whack in the face with a tree branch for me."

Mose winced as he recalled his broken nose and Bill began to blush at her reference to his knowledge of her. There was indeed a story to tell, there, but it was not for him to tell.

Mose recovered quickly. "What do you mean by that?"

"Just that you put your life at risk for me and I appreciate it."

"No, I mean about Bill...."

"Never mind," she cut him off and went to the kitchen and got something for them. Bill blushed even more as Ron and Mose looked at him. All he could do was shrug and shake his head, hoping they would be too polite to press the issue. Ron squinted his eyes for a moment in silent accusation and Mose raised an eyebrow in surprise. Both left it alone and said no more of the issue, leaving Bill to breath a silent sigh of relief.

Mose was the one to break the silence. "Ron, you gotta see what we have in the trunk of the car. You'll know why we couldn't fly in this time." His smile was infectious, but Ron knew that a smile this big meant something unusual. It was confirmed when Bill added his short, but significant comment.

"O-o-o-o-h, ye-e-e-e-ah!" He drawled it out in his best southern accent and Ron now suspected there was some thing very unusual in the trunk of the car. Bill had a strange affinity for anything that made sudden loud noises, so Ron surmised there was some sort of explosive in the car—and not just any old kind, but enough to make Bill grin as wide as Ron had ever seen from him.

Ron went to the car with the two and watched as they looked around first, making sure no snoopy neighbors were watching. When the trunk lid opened, Ron was not surprised, but shocked.

"Are you guys full-fledged nuts?!"

"Hey, no one is gonna take us by surprise this time, you hear?" Mose touched his misshapen nose unconsciously and looked just as serious as he had looked amused a moment before.

"Look, Ron, you said this feller is real dangerous; kidnappin' and stuff. And if he's gonna try and do this other guy in, then we need t'be ready to show 'im it'll cost 'im, right?"

"With guns, yes, Bill. Not grenades and shoulder-fired rockets, for crying out loud! Get real, man! You'll take out half the house with any one of these and you know it." Ron was not amused in the least degree.

"Aw-right, aw-right....we got some smoke grenades, too. And some tear gas. That's okay, isn't it?" Bill looked almost apologetic.

"Well, that's a lot more acceptable, to be sure. Normal for you two, if not any other man on the planet." Ron closed the trunk lid as he said it. The others grinned, knowing he was right, but enjoying the moment immensely and considering it a compliment.

Denise called them in for some breakfast and Jenna was awake and ready to meet them. She would stay in their home until this maniac was stopped, by whatever means it might require. It would do no good to add her name to the list of scheduled sacrifices.

Ron made the introductions as they entered. "Jenna, I want you to meet two of the finest men that ever walked the earth. This is Bill and that's Mose. They are family to us."

Mose stood still, mouth agape and Bill reached to remove his hat, only to recall he had worn none. An appreciative "Oh, m-y-y-y" escaped his lips, his drawl heavier than ever. Both stared at Jenna without shame.

"Pleased to meet you both."

Half-nods, accompanied by half-smiles that dissolved into idiotic stares of awe flattered her to nearly blushing.

"Breakfast is ready, boys. Have a seat, please—and try not to stare." Denise tried to hide her smile, but Jenna almost laughed at the statement, in spite of her embarrassment.

Both men jumped slightly as the words seeped in and nervously looked away only to return again and again to this gorgeous creature before them with such rare beauty.


"Yes'm?" He flinched, thinking he was about to be scolded again for so soon violating Denise's directive against staring.

"Would you ask the blessing, please?"

"Oh...uh, yes'm."

Rudy came in later and met the newcomers. Bill revealed that he had reached Jon-Jon, the fourth man of the army buddies, but still had no promise as to when he would arrive, only that he would be there as soon as he could. More bodies were definitely preferred.

All the plans were now rehashed with the new men, resources discussed, revisions made and the mantle of authority and hierarchy discussed. Mose was to be in charge of strategies. He was somewhat of a miracle man when it came to planning. Ron knew this from firsthand experience with him in the service. For his marvelous abilities to foresee strategic needs and account for errors and omissions, Mose was dubbed 'Marvy' by his army mates. Only one time had he failed to foresee what was coming. The result had been a broken nose in the middle of the night, delivered by a murderous madman wielding a hefty tree branch. He had felt cheated ever since, because the lunatic had died before he could return the favor.

The men knew they would need to wait until dark to gain entry to the grounds of the Rollins estate. Through the gate or over the wall might be entirely too overt. There was also the business of concealing the vehicles they would use. Any driver dropping them off would need to hide the auto and later, return quickly to assist or retrieve the others. No one was unimportant to the plan. There were only Bill, Mose, Ron and Rudy. Jonathan, or Jon-Jon to his friends, had yet to show.

"Might I suggest that you are overlooking some important resources?" Jenna asked.

"My thoughts exactly," Denise contributed.

Anticipating their meaning, Ron jumped in. "Oh, no! No way. I don't want either of you anywhere near that place. These people play for keeps, in case you hadn't noticed. And they don't play fair or nice."

"Look, this is my Tom we are talking about. I want to help. In fact, I insist that I be allowed to help. How would Denise feel if it were you instead of Tom?"

Denise nodded her agreement with Jenna, causing Ron to show even more exasperation, but Denise continued, intent upon making the point. "She's right, babe. You know it as well as I do. It makes sense. Why make us sit here and worry needlessly, when we can be helping you in some way? I know we wouldn't be effective in a fight—and I know you wouldn't be effective if you felt obligated to protect us, but there must be some way to let us help."

Mose piped up now. "Jenna, Denise—Ron isn't the only one who is worried here. No offense intended. You need to stay away from there."

Jenna was now fired up and released her frustration with both barrels blazing. "Listen, I'm not asking to engage in hand-to-hand combat! Let me drive or something! I can return as soon as I drop you off, if you want. Do you think I want to draw attention to this any more than you? The gravity of this has not escaped me entirely, you know. And I have no intention on blowing it for you. It just makes sense that I drive and all of you go in as quickly as you can. The faster you get in, the faster you get done and get out without the dogs discovering you."

"Dogs?!" All four men said it in unison and even Denise turned to stare open-mouthed.

"Yes, dogs. Sorry you had to learn it this way, but these are very nasty dogs. You could get hurt if they catch you."

"Well, we hadn't discussed this one, gentlemen." Javits shook his head and then turned to Jenna again. "Dare we ask what kind?"

"I don't know that kind of thing, but they were big, black and mean-looking. They stayed out near the trees around the wall, so I couldn't see them clearly. They left me alone, that's all I cared about."

"It just gits better 'n' better, don' it?" Bill asked of no one in particular.

"Black dogs don't glow in the dark, guys." Mose spoke with wry humor.

"Yeah, but we'll all be wearing black, too, so they won't see us too well either, Mose." Ron interjected quickly to reassure them, but didn't appear to be fully convinced as he said it.

"No, Ron, that's not the problem you might think. Bill and I brought four night-vision goggle sets. Seeing as how Jon-Jon isn't here yet, Rudy could wear one."

Ron saw that Mose made the statement without showing any bias, but also knew him well enough to know he would prefer by far a fully trained team member in what could easily become a real pinch. Ron consoled himself with the thought that Rudy had at least been a trained cop and was not just some civilian with no idea what to expect—or worse yet, with some delusions of grandeur that he was some super-hero and could go busting in with no qualms or forethought as to the consequences of his actions. Rudy, however, might be a very real asset, after all. The fact that Mose was at least considering him was a good sign, though there was still time for Jonathan to show up. If he made it in time, they would have to decide what Rudy would do then. To discuss it now might only add confusion and hurt feelings.

"Night goggles'll make a big diff'ernce fer sure. And maybe the smoke grenades and tear gas'll take the dogs out, if the wind's blowin' the right way."

"Tear gas?" Rudy asked. "You got a lot of it? What else you got?"

Ron suddenly got a twinge of caution as Rudy asked, remembering that Joshua Freed had not been what he seemed. He hoped that Bill and Mose would not reveal too much. He was not disappointed.

"Let's just say that we can handle the job. You got arms of any kind?"

Mose was feeling it, too, Ron thought.

"Yeah, I've got a .38 Special and I'm an expert marksman. No worries about me, okay?" Something in the way he said it set their minds more at ease, but it was best to remain wary until time would tell if their faith was well placed or not. They still only had his word on it that he was on their side, though they wanted to believe him. If fact turned out to be contrary to what they had been told, Ron knew that he would never again trust anyone he did not know to watch his back. He knew that his friends—his brothers in arms—would feel the same way.

Ron pondered again the abduction of Tom. There was no sign of breaking and entering, no signs of struggle in any room of the house. It was as if Tom had either walked out without resistance or had been knocked out before he could resist. Ron had to believe that Joshua was in on it. It was too much coincidence that both Tom and Joshua would be overcome without a fight. It made more sense that Joshua drugged Tom and then let others gain entrance to the house. He simply opened the door for them while Tom was incapacitated. Ron hated weasels; especially the two-legged variety and he made a mental note to demonstrate personally just how much he despised them if he got the chance to do so.

"You still haven't told me I can drive tonight!" Jenna barked it out this time and brought all eyes and ears to her immediately. To hear this pretty young lady commanding in such a firm manner was a shock to all of them.

"Uh, yeah. Alright...I just thought it was understood," Mose stated timidly.

Jenna shook her head in a mix of disbelief and confusion. She smiled humorlessly and rolled her eyes.

"So, we ought to get a short nap, maybe?" Rudy suggested. "These guys may be tired from their long drive."

"Sure, you can sack out on the sofa there." Ron was not about to let anyone betray him as had been done to Tom. Still, he tried to reserve judgment. Rudy Javits could be the most sincere and trustworthy man who ever walked the earth, but only time would tell.

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