Survival Fiction: The Sheriff of Stone County, Part 1

     Ed swung the carbine up, made eye contact with his son, and nodded, as if to say, "Let's do this." He then took a deep breath and stepped slowly and deliberately out from behind the brush pile and moved steadily toward the Waffle House.The building's dim lights throbbed in time to the unsteady thrum of the old diesel generator.
     Off to his left was a long strip mall, burned out long ago, and somehow its emptiness suddenly crept over him in the dark. They had moved through a portion of its remains on their way to the back of the restaurant and he was fairly sure no one was inside, but the deep black maw of the empty building and its warped steel girders, the vacant parking lot with its brushy medians and the grass growing high in crazed patterns in the cracks of the pavement all at once cast a heavy weight on him. It was a big place inside, and anybody could be hiding there, including a sentry.
     He shut that idea out of his head. There was nothing could be done about it now anyhow. He kept stepping forward, eyes scanning the back of the building. After a few steps he felt more than heard his son come out behind him, his 12 gauge pump at the ready, no doubt. The pair crouched low, stalking carefully in short controlled steps, rolling their feet from heel to toe in a long practiced effort to conceal their approach. A crackling twig, rattle of a discarded tin, even an inadvertent cough could reveal their presence to the marauders inside.
     Somehow they passed from the brushy refuse pile through the weedy, overgrown parking lot and up to the building without being noticed. Ed half expected gunfire to erupt at any moment from the shopping mall, or from the gutted filling station on the opposite side of the Waffle House . . . but nothing happened. The two crept up to the building and stood hunched by the back door for a moment, senses straining to detect movement or voices inside. They heard only intermittent grunts, snoring, and then silence.
     Ed stood with his left hand on the door knob, his carbine tucked in tight to his shoulder and pointed down so he could swing the door open and then rotate the rifle up, ready to fire. He wore an old trooper’s hat with flaps over his ears, a faded fatigue jacket, patched jeans, and a pair of battered work boots. A heavy woolen scarf masked his face, and breath, in the sharp, cold air. William, his teenaged son, wore a similar outfit of make-do clothing. Both wore a hodgepodge of leather cartridge belts, magazine cases, handguns, belt knives, and other items around their waist. Each had a small pack on his back. And it was from this that they had lived for the last five days.
     They traveled light, and had suffered for it. Both were freezing, and had been shivering off and on as they had cased the building over the last few hours. Neither had eaten since morning -- they had been traveling too fast to worry much about victuals. Hunger was a far away feeling, anyway, replaced instead by the acrid bite of a building fear, the rapid breathing, the stiff insides, the heart pounding, the hands which had quickly became so remote and unresponsive.
     Ed felt that wave of intense emotions wash upon him and he wrestled it back. He metered his breathing, tensed his large muscles and relaxed them, he shrugged several times and loosened his neck. He intentionally willed his body to relax. He willed the serpentine presence of fear that began to creep into conscience to retreat back into its cave; he thought of his favorite song lyrics, then willed himself to remember a quote from Scott . . . or maybe it was Burns . . . and exhaled slowly several times. He pushed the fear back. He focused, and was ready.
     And then the pair stood ready to open the door and do that for which they had come. Ed would have preferred another outcome, but it fell to him, as sheriff, to serve the citizens of the county, such as remained. Tonight was a police raid. There was no warrant. And there would be no reading of rights, no handcuffs, and no trial.

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

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  1. Your writing has strength and character. The ending was the right tone to keep me chasing the carrot.

    There might be too many "the's" in this sentence:

    Hunger was a far away feeling, anyway, replaced instead by the acrid bite of a building fear, the rapid breathing, the stiff insides, the heart pounding, the hands which had quickly became so remote and unresponsive.

    But that's a matter of taste. Great job.

  2. "Strength and character." Thank you very much!

  3. I have only read a few paragraphs and you have me hooked. That is saying a lot as I have read much of King, Koontz, David McCullough and Clancy. Great job and I will be back to read more.