Men and Their Demons

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    Men and Their Demons

    By

    Alan Brooks

    Illustrated by

    Michael Mullally

    Published and Printed by Alan Brooks

    Copyright 2011

    This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the authors

    imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or

    dead, is entirely coincidental.

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    Dr. Martin sat there looking at me, waiting for me to talk. I'vetold this story a hundred times but it never gets any easier. It's anunusual story to be sure. I wouldn't have believed it if it hadn'tactually happened to me. Even still, the nagging thought that it all

    might have been a dream almost drove me insane. But I know that it'strue. I've read the stories in the newspaper about what happened inChicago. They're all wrong about the details, but it's proof that I wasthere.

    I sighed. Dr. Martin wasn't going to believe me either but whatelse did I have to do. I might as well tell it again.

    Alright, I said, shifting forward to the edge of the sofa as Iprepared to tell my tale. It started three months ago in Georgia. Tomand I were at the office like usual when a new client came in with anunusual request.

    ***

    Listen Mr. Miller, thats not exactly what we do here. I said.We investigate cheating spouses, insurance frauds, and corporate

    espionage, things like that. Dealing with militant groups or drugsmugglers or whatever this is, thats a job for the police or the FBI.

    I understand that but I told you I already went to the police.They refused to investigate it.

    So do it yourself. Youre an investigative reporter. Thats whatyou do right?

    I cant. No one can get near that compound. If I try to just walk

    in there flashing my Chronicle ID. Im liable to get shot. But youyou were in the Marines, you hunt, you can get in close without beingseen.

    And you think if they find me creeping around in the woodstheyre not going to shoot me?

    I think $10,000 for a day's work makes it worth the risk.

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    I looked at Tom. He shrugged noncommittally. The satellite image ofa small cluster of low buildings in a remote piece of woods filled thecomputer screen in front of him.

    I tell you what Mr. Miller. Well go take a look. General

    hunting season starts in two weeks. That will give us an excuse to getclose to the compound without looking too suspicious.

    And an excuse to go heeled. Muttered Tom under his breath.But I wont promise anything. Im not picking a fight with

    some nutty militia group. If Tom and I go there and dont like it weregetting out.

    I understand. I couldnt ask for any more. Mr. Miller pulledout his checkbook. Is half now and half after ok?

    Hang on to it for now. We may not get anything at all.All right. Thank you.Ill give you a call and let you know what happens.

    The bell on the front door jingled as Mr. Miller left. I looked backover at Tom. He sat there, hands clasped behind his head grinning atme.

    What? I asked.

    Nothing. Nothing I just knew you couldnt say no.Well, thats nice hunting land down by the river there. We

    probably wont be able to get anywhere near that place and even ifwe did, what are we going to find out just from looking at thecompound? At least maybe well see some deer and the trip wont bea total loss.

    Well, going during the season is a good idea. We can camo up,

    take rifles, and pretend to be lost poachers. If anything, a militiagroup finding us like that may be more likely to ask us to join thanshoot us.

    We dont even know that this is a militia. Its an awfully smallclearing and really remote. Theres not even a road near it. Im goingwith drugs. This is a meth lab or coke refinery or something; in whichcase theyll just bury us in the woods and move.

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    Well, smirked Tom. only one way to find out.

    ***

    We paused in a small clearing, both sweating profusely underour camouflage. I pulled out my compass and checked the azimuth.Still on track. Another quarter mile and we'll be there. Tom took aswig from a canteen and shifted the sling of his rifle up further ontohis shoulder. I motioned for us to continue and he nodded, recappinghis canteen. I wiped the beads of sweat off of my forehead with asleeve and we started off again. It was unseasonably hot for early

    November. There's usually a nice chill in the breeze by this time ofyear in southern Georgia, but today it seemed to be getting hotter andhotter as we went even as the sun was moving well west of noon.

    We had spent the morning in our usual hunting routines.Showering in scent-killing soap, dressing in carefully scent andbrightener free camouflage clothes and cleaning and functionchecking our guns. Tom opted to take his M14, the last of the truebattle rifles. I selected a more common M4 carbine and a Sig P220pistol in a belt holster. Tom insisted on bringing the enormousRambo-style survival knife that he was so proud of. After a two hourdrive and another half hour looking for parking we finally headed outinto the woods, rifles slung, with our map and compass.

    I held up a fist and Tom and I both stopped. Another signal andwe both crouched slowly. Tom hand-signaled that he was going tomove off to my right and that we should move forward slowly. We

    separated and moved slowly towards the tree-line. I swung my riflearound off my shoulder, slid my pistol holster around to my back, anddropped down to crawl the last 20 yards or so. The thick blanket ofdead leaves on the ground crinkled underneath me as I edged forwarduntil I had a good view of the compound. Two big unharvestedcornfields set in the middle of a ring of buildings, the corn rotting on

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    its dried stalks. A long low concrete structure on the right, a largeshed on the left and the roof of a house over the tops of thecornstalks. I caught a glimpse of motion out of the corner of my eyeand knew that Tom was in place too.

    This is always the boring part. Hours of walking culminating inhours of laying there watching the wind blow. I hadn't been there tenminutes when I heard voices. I stiffened and waited. A few figuresappeared to my left as they rounded the corner of the corn field. Theywere dressed in a patchwork of various camouflage uniforms andNASCAR hats. There were four of them. Each carried a gold-platedAK-47 on a sling, one sucked on a cigarette, and another spit tobaccojuice with every step. They stopped twenty yards away from me andone produced a silver flask from a cargo pocket and took a long swig.He passed it to one of the others who took a drink and then handed itback, wiping his mouth with a hairy forearm.

    They moved on walking past me and Tom and back around theother end of the cornfields. Silence once again. I watched the windnow send a ripple across the corn, dusty with decay, and could hearthe papery scratching of the leaves and then, over the sound of the

    wind, the unmistakable metallic clacking of rifle bolts being cycled. Icould almost feel my kidneys contract as they dumped their supply ofadrenaline directly into my blood stream. My pupils dilated and Icould suddenly feel my heartbeat in my ears.

    I caught a glimpse of a flash through the stalks and a branch onthe bush I was hiding under shattered, pelting me with splinters anddust. I tucked my face into my arm as I sneezed uncontrollably.

    Somewhere in the muffled distance I heard Tom's M14 open up witha rapid burst. Figures were visible now in the corn and I becameaware of bullets hitting the brush over and around me. I racked thecharging handle on my rifle and flipped the safety off. I started liningup the shapes and squeezing the trigger. Again and again and again Ifired until my magazine ran dry.

    We had to get out of there. I rolled over and up, yelling for Tom,

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    dropping the empty mag, and slapping a new one in as I zigzaggedaway in a hunched-over run. My retreat was cut short by a dozen ofthe strangely uniformed men, all armed with the flashy gold-platedAK-47s. I tucked and rolled, landing hard on the roots of a tree as the

    automatic weapons tilled the dirt behind where I had just been. Irolled up and ran again, moved laterally towards where Tom shouldbe, firing quickly as I went. A root caught the edge of my boot and Isaw Tom as I fell. He was sitting with his back was up against a treeand his rifle was pointed right at me. I hit the ground hard andflattened out, ending up on my back just in time to see Tom fire aburst over my head.

    I looked behind me and saw one of the armed men fall face firstinto a shrub. I tried to thank Tom, and realized that the fall hadknocked the breath out of me. Tom quickly stood and hoisted me upby the collar.

    Let's go. He turned to head back the way we had come.I nodded and started to follow as I finally figured out how to

    breathe again and ran right into the back of him as he stoppedsuddenly. He dove backwards shoving me to the ground and he

    landed on top of me taking my air away once more. I was aware thata grenade went off somewhere and then Tom was back up, pulling mealong with him until I managed to find my breath and legs again.

    We were running in the only direction we could, back towardsthe compound. The trees around us were being punched to pieces bygunfire from behind. We broke the tree-line at a dead sprint andveered along the cornfields towards the ramshackle tool shed. I fired

    an unaimed burst to my right at another group of guards and saw onefall. Tom fired wildly off to our left at something I couldn't see; thenwe hit the aluminum doors of the shed with our shoulders and thethin hasp holding the padlock ripped free and we fell through. I couldbarely hear Tom shout something over the gunfire as we landedinside the shed.

    I scrambled for cover in the dark feeling my way over a shovel

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    and a small push lawnmower as I wedged myself into the corner andwaited for the inevitable hail of bullets. Then... silence.

    ***

    I listened hard. There was something outside, but my ears werestill ringing from the gunfire and the grenade. I strained to make itout. It sounded like children. Faint splashing and distant high-pitchedshouting. It sounded like a swimming pool.

    You ok? I jumped at Tom's whispered question. I hadn'trealized how quiet it was in the shed until just then.

    Uh, I did a quick mental check for pain. I think so.I heard Tom reloading and I took advantage of the momentarylull to do the same with my last magazine. My ears were ringing andI couldn't see a thing.

    Tom?Yeah.Can you see?Not a thing.

    I put a hand on the wall behind me as I tentatively tried to stand.My hand found plastic. I thought this shed was aluminum? I stoodslowly, keeping my rifle ready. I stepped forward and the barrel ofmy M4 hit a wall. I reached out and felt. More plastic. I heard Tomstand up and he pushed against the other wall. A sliver of light brokethrough. Tom pushed harder and the light widened. I could see thedoor now and the chain on the outside fastening it shut.

    The light dimmed as Tom's head moved in the way and hepeered out.

    Holy shit! He said quietly.What?Uh, come look for yourself.I moved to the crack and put my eye up to it. I pulled back

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    suddenly and then looked again. A well manicured green lawn edgedby a wooden privacy fence led up to a small brick house. A neatly-kept rock garden filled a corner of the yard and a white cast metalpatio chair and table rested under the large oak tree in the center. I

    looked at where Tom was in the dark even though I couldn't see him.Let's find a way out. I said.Way ahead of you, came Tom's voice from low on the other

    side of the shed. I heard a thunk and then a sawing sound and acurve of light began to silhouette Tom as he cut a hole in the wallwith his knife. A furious minute of sawing later and there was a holebig enough to crawl through. We did and stood up again once we gotout. I blinked at the sun shining in my eyes over the trees.

    Tom slung his rifle and we looked around. The roofs of otherhouses were visible over the fence and a bird chirped somewherenearby. I shivered in the cool breeze and realized how sweaty I was.We walked in silence to the fence and stood on tiptoe to peer over.Suburbia was spread out before us in all its bucolic splendor. Anabove ground pool, a kid's dirt bike leaned up against the back of onehouse, and a trampoline draped in a safety net with foam-padded

    poles behind another.Tom and I looked at each other with expressions of disbelief.

    Where were we and how did we get here? A clatter from the shedbrought us out of our thoughts and back to reality.

    There they are! Someone shouted from inside the shed and aburst of gunfire ripped through the plastic wall. I was prone, firingsteadily into the shed and Tom was on a knee next to me doing the

    same. We both ran dry and I immediately dropped my rifle and pulledmy pistol.The bird had stopped chirping and the world was silent. I looked

    at Tom. He tossed down his rifle and looked back at me.We've got to get out of here. I said. Right now there's an

    army of cops swarming this way and I don't want to try to explainthis.

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    I re-holstered my pistol and pulled my blouse down over it. Tomand I hopped the fence and started moving. We crossed the street andwent through two more yards and came out on a golf course. I couldhear the sirens in the distance now wailing louder as they moved

    closer. We ran faster.Just past the water hazard at the 16

    thhole we came upon a hotel.

    We stopped running, wiped the sweat off our faces and calmlywalked in. The gift shop was next to the front desk and we greetedthe desk clerk warmly. He looked suspicious, but smiled and returnedthe greeting. An I heart Chicago t-shirt for me and a Windy Cityt-shirt for Tom and a pair of shorts and flip-flops each plus a roll of

    duct tape and we checked out. A quick trip to the lobby bathroom andwe were as good as tourists, me with my pistol carefully taped to mycrotch I wasn't about to be caught unarmed by any more of thosegoons. Chicago of all places? How did we end up here?

    I used the front desk phone to call a cab from the list of numbersdisplayed on a stand next to it and asked for a ride to O'Hare whichhad to be nearby because I had seen a plane taking off when we wererunning across the golf course. We waited out front and Tom smokeda cigarette until the cab arrived. The driver (Ibrahim, if his cabbielicense was to be believed) asked us in broken English where ourluggage was and seemed confused when we didn't have any.

    We drove for some time and Tom and I talked quietly huncheddown in the backseat.

    It's got to be some secret government research project. SaidTom.

    Teleportation? I asked, with a raised eyebrow.How else do you explain it?I thought. I don't know. What we need to do now though is get

    the hell home. I...

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