Luke walked through the trees and over the open ground where the mansion wall had been twenty-four hours ago. He heard the chain saws begin the task of cutting the limbs from the fallen oak trees. He could see the men working at the cemetery and he wandered over toward them, while noticing some wood ducks fly through the trees and head for the lake. Then Luke viewed the lake. It was sparkling in the morning sunlight and then suddenly Luke screamed, “THE LAKE!” Luke started to run toward the men he could see through the trees. The men looked up when they heard Luke's scream. Ken Douglas watched Luke running toward the group when he lunged forward and fell from sight. Ken, with a couple of men, ran to where Luke had disappeared. They found Luke laying face down, in a pile of sand. Luke rose, spitting sand out of his mouth, and looking around. What Luke and the others saw, made them gasp. “Where's the mansion?” Ken whispered into the air. “You're standing on it.” Luke replied as he rose and brushed off his clothes. Around his feet was a mound of sand that ran off in two directions and formed again over by Ken's feet. Luke walked over to Ken, and his shoes scuffed up the fine powdered in the center of the rectangle. Ken saw the floor under the powder and came over to Luke. He knelt down and brushed away some sand. “How in the hell did this happen?” Ken asked softly.
Ken swept more of the sand away, and Luke could see the marble floor had been cut into sections four feet by two. Luke knelt next to Ken. Both men pried up one of the slabs. The men from the cemetery gathered around and Ken told some of them to get Jim and his brother, John. When both men arrived, Jim saw a pile of slabs being placed to the side of the sand. “What's this stuff, sand or dust?” Jim asked. “I'd say, it's the remains’ of the mansion. Those slabs are what's left of the floor. How it got this way is anybody's guess.” John answered. “We said we needed sand and limestone for concrete. I'd bet there is enough marble slabs to furnish the graveyard with headstones. Which leaves the old stones available to be crushed into gravel.” Ken said to the men gathered, as a handful of powder ran through his hand. “How did this all happen and what caused it to?” Jim asked backing up and becoming noticeably nervous. “Ball lighting, or laser beams, who cares. Maybe even aliens from Mars. What matters is this stuff is here and ready to be used.” Luke said as another slab was removed. “He said the supplies were already here!” Jim said as he stood outside the rectangle. “Who said that?” Ken asked. “Mista Odie, when he asked me last week how long it would take to build his house.” Jim answered with a shutter in his voice. “Where is the Boss man, anyway?” Luke asked. Everyone turned to the foreman, but Jim only looked to the ground and shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. Ken saw more men coming and motioned to Jim. “What we need to do is start moving this sand to the farm yard and these slabs to the graveyard.” Ken said to Jim. “You’s right, Ken. We can get those sleds and the men to start forming a circle to move this stuff till it's totally gone from here.” “What about the trees?” Luke asked. “What about the slabs?” John asked. All the problems centered in on Jim. He'd never had so many people waiting on his words to do anything. Jim wished with all his might that the commanding voice of Mister Odie would come and put everything right. Jim closed his eyes and waited. “What's wrong with you, Jim?” Willie's words came to him instead. “Where's Mista Odie?” Jim asked turning to Willie. “He's not at the barn, and nobody's seen him around the oaks either. The axe is in the block and the containers are locked, 'cept for the first one.” Willie told his brother, and saw Jim's face drop. “Well Jim, what do we do? You're the supervisor.” Ken said as the men waited. “That's right, Sarge. You're in the spot light.” Luke said with a grin. The grin on Luke's face made Jim think of the night Grandpa Green had been murdered, and the laughter of the Knights as he swung from the tree. Jim was getting enraged by the grin on Luke’s face. “That's right! I'm the foreman here, and nobody best forget that. Ya'll hear me?!” Jim said in a voice louder than even Willie had ever heard. Luke's grin disappeared completely. He stood tall and straight. Luke's mind played a trick on him. He thought back to his first day at boot camp, and to the black first sergeant, who for sixteen weeks owned him, body and soul. “Hear me, now. This stays here, till the other work is done. It ain't goin nowhere, and neither is any of you, lessen' you want to quit and go home right now. Understand?” Jim was even surprised by what came out toward these men standing before him. “Calm down, Jim. Ain't nobody sayin you not the foreman. We know there's a lot to do, and we is going to do it. Ain't no reason, for you to up and die of a heart attack and all.” Willie said and wrapped his arm around Jim's shoulder. Jim watched the men moving off to complete their jobs and he too walked away from the sand pile. On the way to the farm, Jim viewed the last of the rocks for the wall being put in place. “Have your men go out and move those slabs to the graveyard. You others, bring the old headstones up to the yard.” Jim barked out the orders, and the men took the sleds. Jim vaguely heard the affirmative replies, as he arrived at the farm yard. “Mr. Price, may I have a moment of your time?” A voice called out, and Jim turned to see who was calling him Mr. Price. “Yes, Mr. Hart. What can I do for you?” Jim replied, walking over to Paul Hart Jr., who was standing by his car. “I have news for you, some good, some bad.” Paul started, as Jim came close. “Best start with the bad. It's better to get that out of the way, so’s you can enjoy the good.” Jim replied. “Mister Oh left last night and will be gone till Friday. He said he had to visit someone that he hadn't seen for a long time. Mister Oh came to the house around midnight and asked me to drive him to the airport. He was dressed up and carrying that old chest of his. You should have seen the uproar at the check-in. Mister Oh wouldn't let the people put that chest in with the luggage. When he went to take it on the plane, the x-ray machine couldn't see through it, so they made him open it. Guess what, it was completely empty.” Paul stated, with a grin. Jim listened and could see the poor baggage handlers trying to lift that chest. “What'd Mista Odie do then?” Jim asked. “He calmly smiled, closed the chest, and suggested they run a check on the machine. Then, we waited for his flight. Now for the good news. Mister Oh told me to have you get Luke Holland to rent a trench digger and run a water line out to the old mansion.” “It isn’t there no mo'.” Jim said sharply. “What?” Paul asked puzzled. “We went there this morning, and the whole thing's just a pile of sand.” Jim explained. “Well, Mister Oh left word to run a water line. I don't know anything else about it. The next thing, make sure they’re enough trees at the farm by three p.m. Thursday. Don't have anybody or anything on the field. Last thing, have these pictures given to Martin Proctor, before he starts building the house.” Paul reached into the back seat and brought out an artist’s sketch pad. Paul and Jim viewed the drawings enclosed. Jim was amazed at the delicate lines and shading tones that were on each draft. “Did he draw these pictures?” Jim asked, after all ten pages had been looked at. “I think so. There's that mark of his on the bottom left side.” Paul said, as he pointed to the circle with the cross. Paul saw the look on Jim's face. He too had the same look at the airport. Why, the left side? “What happens at three?” Jim asked as Paul closed the sketch pad. “He didn't say. Just don't be on the field at three p.m., Thursday.” Paul shrugged and both men went over to Martin. “Are you sure this is what he wants built, or are these drawings of a house already built?” Martin asked. “What do you mean?” Paul asked. “I've seen drafts, plans, even blue prints. Most of those have question marks or approximate measures somewhere on them for the builder to work around, but these are precise to the millimeter.” “These are plans for something already constructed.” Martin replied, scratching his head when he viewed the loft design and how it was dovetailed into place around the edges. “Have you two noticed anything else funny about these plans?” Martin asked. “I found them confusing enough, just figuring out, how to hold them. What's funny with them?” Paul stated, dryly. Martin started pointing to places on the first picture, then the next. “Here, here, and again here.” “Here what?” Paul asked as the finger moved about. “No nails!” Martin said. “Not a nail anywhere. All the joints have pegs or dowels to hold them together. Even the floor. This hasn't been done or even seen for over 300 years. The planks are tongue and groove sets.” “Can you do the job or will you call in someone else?” Paul summed up the question that the other three were wondering. “It's a big job. There's a lot of detail to make this thing work. Hell, the first floor planking, will take over two hours just to fit it together.” Martin replied. “Can you do it?” Paul insisted. “Yes.” Martin replied, after a moment’s hesitation, “I think I can do it, but it's going to take every wood eater and timber humping SOB to do their best, but I think we can do it.” Martin answered, as he slapped Jim's shoulder and laughed. “Hey guys, you going to work today or are you going to stand around and look at pictures?” Luke asked as he came up.
Luke’s shirt, covered in sweat, with his hair down in his face, displayed the fact that he was working hard. His crew had rolled the fifth log over the field, and the ground showed the scares upon the surface. “What you gaping at anyway? Oh bother, whose house is this?” Luke sighed. “Nobody’s yet. We haven't built it!” Martin said, and pointed to his chest. “Yes, all of us. You too, Luke.” Jim said, surveying the laborers rolling another log across the dry field. “You know how to work a ditch digger?” “Since you're talking machinery with an engine and not a pick and shovel, yes.” Luke answered with a sarcastic look on his face. “Mista Odie wants you to rent one, and cut out a path for a water line, out to the oaks. You have to do it before three, tomorrow afternoon. Any problems with that?” Jim asked. “No, no problem at all. I can get one from the lumber yard. They got a couple for rent, been sitting there for over five months.” Luke said, as he thought of running equipment again. “Good, go now and get back quick.” Jim told him, as Luke was making his way to his pickup parked out front. “I've got to be on my way, also.” Paul said smiling, “have to go to the water company and have the meter turned on. You got people who can run the pipe that needs to be installed?” “Damn! Mr. Hart, do you think you could catch up to Holland and have him put that pipe on the bill with the digger?” Jim asked when he remembered why the digger was needed in the first place. “Sure thing, Mr. Price. What size pipe will it take?” Paul answered having no idea of such things. “Gonna be a long way out there, and probably be some off shoots, here and there. I'd say we need three inch pipe, a good 300 yards, and some inch and a half, 'bout a hundred yards. Might as well throw in some inch also, for good measure. Fifty yards will do fine. If’n we have leftovers, we just take them back for a refund.” Jim answered. Paul brought out his memo pad and was writing the lengths and widths of pipes needed and finished as Willie arrived. “I'll give this to Mr. Holland on my way to town, Mr. Price.” Paul nodded to Willie and went to his car. “Jim, do you want the men to start bringing that, ah, sand from over yonder?” “If the wall is done, yes, have some of them place those slabs at the graveyard. Might as well get the old stones up here too, so we can bust them up for that cement Ken's going to make.” Willie looked at the hole the carpenters were placing the forms in and asked Jim, “What does you think about having old headstones under the house Jim?” “Don't think much 'bout it at all. Be a good thing not to think 'bout some things around here lately. I sure hope Mista Odie gets himself back here safe. Just doan feels right with him bein gone.” Willie patted Jim's shoulder and gave him an understanding look and went off to get the men working on the next task.
By midday, only a third of the sand had been bought up to the farm. The Douglas brothers had only begun the tenth headstone at the graveyard and Martin's crew had forty logs cut and stacked when the break bell was rung. Some men stopped where they were and sat. The sky was clear and the sun was hot. A slight breeze found its way off the lake but it was only of small relief. Jim turned when the sound of a horn came from the road. Luke Holland's truck drove in and Luke was out of it before the engine died. “I got the pipe orders from Mr. Hart and they will be delivered in the morning. The digger is coming out by two p.m. They got to service it and check the tracks.” Luke was saying this, as he used to, when he reported to his sergeants on being relieved. “Jim, can I make a suggestion?” “What is you gonna suggest, now?” “Well, it's pretty hot out here, and the men been working really hard and all. I was thinking it would be nice to take a dip in the lake and cool down a little. I was thinking 'bout going to the store and getting some coolers and ice so we can have water at the work sites too . . .” Luke's words trailed off as he saw the look on Jim's face change. “We tol' Mista Odie we'd work from sunup to sunset, six days a week. Now you want to go swimming in the middle of the day?” Jim questioned Luke, as Luke's head fell forward. “I thought it would do the men some good and . . .” Luke glanced up when he heard Jim start laughing. “It's a good idea, too. So, about those coolers. Men’s doan needs to walk all the way back here for water then. You go get ten of the biggest you can find and load them with ice. By the time you get back we’ll be down at the lake.” Jim said as he picked up the mallet and started beating the bell.
Luke's face was holding a fixed smile as he started the truck and pulled out of the yard. As he drove off, he could see the men coming to the bell in a hurry. Luke wished he could see their faces when the new orders were issued, but he knew when he got back with the coolers those faces would still be wondering how such things happen. As Luke turned onto the pavement, he noticed the dark blue truck off the roadside with two men inside. It wasn't until he pulled up to the hardware store that his mind registered what the men were doing with their Binoculars. Luke remembered the driver was lowering a set of field glasses and the passenger had a black strap around his neck. They must both be watching the farm, but why? Luke had a bad feeling about this as he went inside to buy the coolers. That feeling didn't get any better by the time he loaded the coolers in his truck. The clerk was fine enough for the large sale, but Johnson came out of his office and checked the receipt twice over before he okayed the charge. The comment he made to a guy standing at the office door didn't set will with Luke either, Now he has them drinking together. Won't be for much longer? Luke's thoughts were deep, even when Mr. Goldberg asked him twice if there was anything else after the ice was loaded into the carts. Luke had said No thanks, but what he really wanted were answers. As Jim had told him, the work crew was not at the farm, so he drove down to the lake. He had not seen the blue truck on his way back but he still had the feeling that he was being watched. As he drove up, he could see most of the crew wading and splashing in the lake. Some men were laying on the grass, a few were coming toward his truck. Two of them were Jim and Willie, and as they got closer Luke got out and motioned for Jim to follow him. “I think I should tell you something.” “Now what do you want? A cooked lunch served out here every day by women in those small bathing suits?” Jim asked smiling. Willie sighed, “Oh yea, boss man, say it's so.” “We got spies.” Luke muttered softly. “What do you mean, spies?” Jim asked nervously, his head snapping up and his smile vanished. “Two men in a dark blue pickup. They got field glasses, and I don't think they're bird watchers.” Jim waited until some men unloaded half of the coolers before he and Luke took a walk to the graveyard. “How long they been watching us Birds?” Jim asked. “Today is the first I've seen of them. We’ve been too busy working to notice anything going on around here. What I want to know is why anybody would care about what we were doing?” Luke replied wondering where the truck was now. “People round these parts stay to themselves pretty much. Mr. Odie has stepped on some toes since he got here. Them men might be out here for the sheriff or somebody else.” Jim pondered his own thought. “That guy Johnson said something funny to me when I bought the coolers. Said something about us not needing them for too much longer. I guess he heard about the water line going in.” Luke said trying to make sense of it all. “I hope he did hear of that, myself. Mr. Johnson is another one of those toes I mentioned and he doan be one to forget bouts that kinda thing at all.” Jim said with a worried look in his face. “If this was the real army, I know what we would be doing now.” Luke's eyes lit up with an idea. “I tole you before, this is just a work crew to fix up the farm. I see's you not goin to let it go. So what would we be doin now?” Jim noticed the look in Luke's eyes and they had that same gleam Adam got, when he knew an answer to one of those T.V. question shows. “We should put out sentries, have a night crew. We should get some com. gear out here, too.” Luke replied his mind whirling with the training on how to set up a base camp. “Com what?” Jim asked not knowing what Luke was going on about. “Radios! For communicating with somebody in town. If we need help, we don't even have a phone. You got a small cut the other day. What happens if someone was to really get hurt or even have a heart attack? We need a way to get an ambulance here when a doctor is needed.” Luke said starting to get excited. “Just who's going to set around all day and listen for something that might not happin?” Jim spoke his thoughts out loud. “There's got to be somebody in town that we can ask to be our link, maybe a wife or friend . . .” Luke stopped when he saw Jim's smile. “Matt Stone! He's at his store day and night, and Mrs. Stone is there, too. I’s sure they'd do it for us. But how are we gonna get this link stuff up?” Jim's smile was only there for a half a moment. “We get two base station C.B. radios. We get some hand held ones for the crew leaders and some for the sentries. They can check in with us, I mean you, and you get up with this Stone guy in town. At night, you can have one at your house to listen too.” Luke was on a roll and the training lectures were not lost on him this day. “I doan knows how to work some ole radio.” Jim said, and was thinking about something else that Luke had said. “It's easy. I can teach you everything you need to know in twenty minutes, tops.” Luke said, and then saw Jim's expression change back to worry. “What's these sentries you talked of? What do they do?” Jim asked, knowing that he really didn't want to know the answer. “Sentries are sentries. Some are guard dogs, some are even geese, but the only thing we've got is men. Maybe four or five men to start. We got a lot of stuff out here and I think we're going to get more. We need to keep an eye on it, so it don't get up and walk away.” Luke answered. “These men just walk around with radios and don't do nothin more than look?” Jim asked. “It's like that spare tire I got in the back of my truck. I don't think about it much. Most of the time it's in the way of tools and supplies, but when I have a flat, I’m glad it's there to get me home. Besides, the men will have more than radios.” Luke said, with an ominous tone in his voice waiting for the next question. “What else?” Jim asked, as he was hooked. “Shotguns at night. Pistols for the day.” Luke answered. Sweat appeared over Jim's eyes and Luke could tell it wasn't from the heat. “You want people walking round this farm with guns and such while you work?” Jim asked with a crack in his voice. “No. I want our people keeping us safe while we work.” “I've got to think on this a bit and talk it over with Willie. Those radios you talked about sound okay to me. How long will it take to get them working?” “We can talk to the men here and see if they know anything about them. Then send someone to get the stuff we need tomorrow.” Luke answered. Jim and Luke went back to the lake and Jim held up his bandaged hand for the men to listen. His message was quite different from the subject he and Luke had been discussing. Jim's talk was about cuts and broken bones and safety. The men seemed eager about the radio idea. The Douglas brothers and Martin Proctor also agreed that having them on the crews was a great plan. With that out of the way, Jim asked if anyone knew about setting up the things needed. Out of the ninety-four men, one third of them had used the CB’s for taking trips. Six, even had base stations with large antennas to talk to people all over the state and as far away as Texas, when the weather was good enough. Those six talked to Jim and Willie of all sorts of different radios and antennas. Jim and Willie's faces both had blank expressions on them. “Jim, let Willie go with Scott down to the store and see what radios will do us the best. Scott had a C.B. for over ten years and he'll do us right.” Ken Douglas said as he saw the time was getting close for the digger to arrive. “Okay, then. Willie go with Scott and get all the information you can. We'll talk it over when you get back. Make sure we can get it all and that it works together and get a good price. I doan knows if Mista Odie will want this, but he left me in charge and I say it'll be good to have.”
Jim's thoughts on how he was going to tell Mr. Odie was weighing on him. Mr. Odie doan wants no trucks on that field and he wants to do all that chopping by hand. Then Jim remembered the message from Paul Hart and added, “You men remember now, no one in that field at three p.m. tomorrow. I’ll sound the bell at ten till and whatever you doing you stop and get off that field.” Jim's voice rose a full two octaves as he wanted everyone's attention. Then he told Willie to go and be back before time to go home. Willie and Scott walked to the road as the men came away from the lake. The crews carried their coolers off with them and Jim rode back with Luke in the truck. “You left out the part of the sentry or night guard.” Luke spoke finally. “There's time enough for that later. I'm gettin the radios, ain't I.” Jim said tersely. “Yes, you're right. I thought that way too, a couple of months back, when I started that job over in Bama. Did I ever tell you about my fifteen mile walk, in the rain, at night, when I forgot to put that spare tire back in the truck?” Luke asked stopping the truck. “No, I think I'll tell you later.” Luke left Jim deep in thought as he walked back to his job. It took Willie and Scott Postan three hours to find what Scott thought would fit the bill in the next town from New Hope, in an out of the way shop, in the middle of Chosen, Louisiana. The spectacled owner showed the two men an assortment of F.M. radios, with ranges up to ten miles for bases and three miles for hand held units. “I've been around radios for over ten years, but I've never seen things like this. Where did they come from?” Scott asked the owner. “After that Desert war thing a few years back, the army dumped much of their stock. Seems like they couldn't talk to their buddies in the air or in the next tank, sitting only a few yards away. They opted for a central system to be bought and used by everybody who they think are their friends. Course you'll know they bought the whole shooting works from the Japanese. Hell, they're the only ones left that really guarantees the stuff to work. Anyway, I picked this stuff up at an auction a year ago. Got it for a good price, but nobody around here wants to give me a dime for it. Had it on sale once to see if I could interest people, but all they want are C.D. players or those car phones.” The owner said as he handled one of the units. “What about ears?” Scott asked and Willie reached up and pinched his lobe in jest. “I got those, too. Base, and quick set up types. Hell, I got one that has a balloon for extra range if you need that.” The owner answered with a smile that he reserved for prospective buyers. “How much for three bases, six hands, and four ears?” Scott opened the barter. The owner went to his counter and pulled open his inventory file folder. “Cash or charge?” “Anyway you want it, if the price is right.” Willie replied. The bargaining lasted thirty minutes until a price was agreed upon. Scott drove a hard bargain and the owner had to throw in six more hand units with rechargeable batteries and chargers along with three quick set antennas, ears, and one pop up type with a balloon. “Where's the money?” The owner asked as he took another look at the two men in soiled work clothes. “Where's your phone?” Willie replied as he stepped forward. The owner placed a portable phone on the counter and pushed it toward Willie. “No sir, you make the call. That way you know who you be talkin with. Just have the operator get you Mista Holmes at the bank in New Hope.” He said, pushing the phone back in the owners direction. Several minutes later the owner didn't care if these men were stark naked with bells on. The last words from the New Hope banker were to send him the bill on whatever they wanted. Those words had made him happier than the day he had found a decoder for his satellite dish that worked on all the channels for half price. “Is there anything else I can do for you gentlemen, anything at all?” He asked packing the units into boxes. “No, I think this is what we were sent out to get.” Willie said as he started stacking the boxes into the cart. “By the way, what are these radios for?” The owner asked. He had waited until the money was settled before asking any personal questions. Scott stopped and glanced at Willie. Then it occurred to both of them, at once, that they had no idea. "I doan know why we need these things. It was supposed to be to call the hospital if anybody gets hurt, but I'd think to have a phone would be cheaper.” Willie answered, as he placed the antenna box on the flat cart. “That's funny, a cellular phone would do that trick, but a deal's a deal. I thought you people were setting up one of those Adventure Parks over in New Hope.” The owner said. “What's an Adventure Park?” Willie asked. “You know, where people go out in the woods and play war games with paint shots.” Scott and Willie remained silent as they loaded the boxes into Scott's truck. On the way back to the farm, they didn't speak their thoughts until Willie broke the silence with, “War games, with paint, what's he mean by that?” “I don't know much about that either, but these were what your brother had in his mind. I guess we better have him tell us what they're for.” Scott said as the truck came to the dirt road next to the farm.
At the Duck `N’ Buck Bar, two men found Mr. Johnson in the meeting hall. “What'd you see today?” He asked as the two men sat at the table. “They got near a hundred workers out there, doing all kinds of things. They done tore down the old farm house and they fixin to build another one, but it looks like it's gonna be bigger.” Jasper Cooper said. “They done got a wall built, too. Big one, out of rocks they got from the woods.” Bob Jones added. “I don't care what they're building. How are they working?” Johnson asked in a raised voice. “They are working really fast. It's like they enjoy doing that Price Boy's work.” Jasper answered, and took a drink from his beer bottle. “So, the blacks are working on the farm, again. Well, that's just fine.” Johnson said smugly. “Not just blacks. There's whites out there too, and they been working hand in hand with 'em.” Bob spoke up, and took a drink. “You mean they got overseers out there for the workers?” Johnson asked regarding both men sitting at his table. “No, Mr. Johnson, not overseers. The whites and blacks are working together, doing the same jobs. Those Price boys are the ones telling who to do what.” Jasper spouted out the words and saw Johnson's face turn a deep red. “Them whites must be from the east end of town. Just trash and no accounts.” Johnson said as he stood up at the table. “What else?” He asked in a low hard voice noticing the looks that passed between the other two men. “Well Mr. Johnson, some of them whites are not from the east side. I saw the Douglas brothers there and that Proctor fellow from the lumber yard.” Bob said meekly. Mr. Johnson spun around and threw his beer bottle at the wall. It exploded on contact, spraying beer and glass in a large round circle with beer running down to form a small puddle on the already worn floor. “What?” He errupted. “Now we have good upstanding people working for that foreigner, along with blacks and white trash.” His voice echoed through the meeting hall. “This is one thing that the Hunt Club will have to deal with, once and for all. We can't sit still with this kind of thing happening in our town. It was bad enough for that Colonel Taylor to lose his mind and give away his land, and then the government gave them that other stuff. Now, a foreigner comes in here and makes them think they are as good as us. Well, I won't have it, and I'm sure as hell not going to let that oversized heathen get away with it, either. In the Good Book there's a story of David and Goliath, and right will win this time, also.” “You two get back out there and keep an eye on things. I have some things to see to!” Johnson finished and was deep in thought as the men left the table. They stopped long enough to buy a couple more beers as they left the bar.
The boxes were stored in the barn, and the crews were being let go for the day. Jim held one hand unit and Luke came over to see it. “I remember those things well. You can talk over a mile in thick traffic and it sounds like you're in your house on the phone.” Luke said as Jim handed him the radio. “You know how to set these things up for the crews and for the houses in town?” Jim asked. “These are even easier then the C.B. kind. You see here, three position switches. That's for three channels, A-B-C. One for everybody to be on, and two for special talks. You want only the wood crew, you call them up and both of you change channels. That way the others can still do their jobs.” Luke said as he pointed to the dials and numbers. “How long before we can use these things?” Jim asked. “By tomorrow, noon, I can have everybody on the air. By five, the bases will be set up for relays. 'Coarse that means someone else runs the digger.” Luke said, with a smile, wiping dirt from his neck with a well-used bandanna. “Okay, we can have another driver for that. But I doan wants you sayin nothin 'bout the night watch, you understand?” Jim asked frankly. “Yes, I understand. You'll need at least six to start with.” Luke said, returning the radio. “I doan knows, yet. In the mornin', I'll see if I can get some volunteers. I still doan knows 'bout them guns. So, doan ask 'bout 'em.” Jim answered almost reading Luke's mind. “Jim, you need to talk with somebody about this stuff. Somebody you trust a whole lot. I hope I'm just getting stupid, or maybe paranoid, but if I'm right . . . ” Luke let his words trail off when he saw Jim's eyes start twitching and scanning the landscape looking for hidden dangers. “I'm goin to town right now. How 'bout you load one of them big boxes with one of them antennas on your truck and give me a ride?” Jim asked, as the sun finished its decent in the west leaving the muted shades of burnished yellow and red, soon to be followed by violet and then darkness.
The rapping on the front door brought Matt from the T.V. he had been watching in the back of the shop. After helping Jim bring in two boxes, Maureen came out from the back, curiously eyeing the boxes stacked on their floor. “I'm sorry to bother you folks, but I need to ask a favor.” Jim said to the Stones. “It's no bother to us, Jim. What can we help you with? Would you care for some tea or a soda?” Maureen asked as Matt was busy reading the sides of the boxes. “Nothin for me Mrs. Stone. I needs to know ifn’ I can put these things here for us to talk to one another?” Jim said as he pointed to the boxes. "Com-gear, A-One stuff. F.M. transceiver and base antennas, boy that cost a bunch.” Matt said aloud. “The radio is only part of the reason that I'm here Matt. I got to talk to somebody 'bout what's happenin at the farm and Mista Odie's gone till Friday night.” Jim spoke, in a nervous tone. “You knows about this stuff?” Matt looked at Maureen, and they led Jim back to their apartment. Matt made a stiff drink of Bourbon and cola for himself and one for Jim. Maureen got a beer and they sat around the coffee table. Jim took a drink and then breathed heavily. “That sure tastes good, Matt. You mind putting a little soda in it next time.” Jim said with a smile as a little tension eased off his voice, as the warmth of the liquor spread through his body. “Now, what's with the radio, and where is the great Odie?” Matt asked as he took a drink. “Mista Odie had to go off somewhere yesterday evein. Mista Hart took him to the airport.” At the word airport, Matt and Maureen looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Jim saw the look, but went on. “Luke saw two men in a truck and they had glasses to see the farm. I doan know if there's anything to all this, but I would feel better if someone here could listen up and send out help ifn’ somebody gets hurt.” Jim finished and swallowed the rest of his drink in one gulp. “Calm down, Jim. We will be happy to have the radio here. Besides, if things get too dull here, I could always come out to the farm and read cards for the men while they're on break.” Maureen said laughing. Matt shook his head at his wife's sometimes odd sense of humor. She didn't quite live in the real world with everyone else, he thought. He supposed that's why he loved her and protected her as he did. She would never believe that anybody would intentionally do harmful things to another. He felt that he had to keep her safe from those that would. As he knew, all too well, with his years of military training, and the dark memories that he lived with every day. Those were still not shared by his wife. Matt knew well of the gear, Jim had brought to the shop. He also knew of the way Jim’s voice betrayed his eyes as he spoke of danger. “Honey, this has Jim pretty shook up. Jim, do you know what's going on or do you feel it?” Matt asked. “I guess I feel something's wrong, but I doan know what it is. How's that gonna help anyway?” Jim asked sliding down in his chair a notch, resting his tired head on his hand and crossing his outstretched legs. “If you think you're going into a trap, you'll be looking for one! I know the sheriff and Miller have a score to settle with the big guy. What you told me reminds me of your grandfather. He had blacks and whites together working that farm from planting to harvest time. People said, when we got here, that he was goin to try to rebuild that old church, too. Then things started to happen. First, the cow was found shot and the pigs came up dead from eating bad feed. That barn fire almost brought him down. Everyone with the sheriff said it was because of the foundry, but that thing hasn't been used since you were a boy.” Matt stopped, refilled the drinks and got Maureen a beer.
Jim was thinking back to those last two years when his grandfather was still alive. He had blotted much of it out after the hanging. Now it came back to him. Yes, this was not the first time the farm was worked by black and white together. In fact, that's how the farm started out many years back. Why had he forgotten that, he wondered? He took a long drink out of his glass and asked, “What do you suppose I should do, Matt?” “That Holland has got the right idea, night watch and all. As for the guns, well, it is private property now and the owner does have the right for protection. But, if only one person takes a shot at someone else by mistake, then there will be hell to pay and the Sheriff will have a field day with everyone out there. Unless you are left no other choice, I'd say batons or even baseball bats would serve your purpose. A man with a club goes a long way to keep honest folks honest. As for the rest, the radios are good insurance. If you have to, yelling and running, are good until help gets there.” Matt finished, and lit a cigarette. “This farm is owned now by a white man. There should be no reason for that happening again.” Jim replied trying to convince himself more than the Stones. “It doesn't matter who owns what. It's how those people think. I'm sorry Jim, but Matt's right. The farm is a thorn in their side and they are not going to let it go. You know how they are and what they do. Add to that, the way Miller preaches out of an incomplete text book with only the verses he wants the people to hear. You have got a pressure cooker just waiting for something to set it off.” Maureen stated, and Matt nodded in agreement. “The nights are going to be getting colder around here.” Matt made the comment under his breath but both Maureen and Jim knew what he meant. “What do you mean an incomplete text book, Ms. Maureen?” Jim asked trying to shake off the word Knight from his head. “The Bible, Jim. The book that Pastor Miller thumps every chance he gets. It's a text book on how to live in a perfect world. Even it has been damaged along the way. Whole chapters and verses have been ripped out or, even worse, changed in their writings of what was really meant . . .” Maureen said getting up a good head of steam. “Jim,” Matt interrupted squeezing his wife's hand in understanding, “did Mr. Odie leave any plans for his house to be built?” “Yes.” Jim said, after a moment of thought. “Good ones too. They have all kinds of things, measures, drawings, and ways to make things go together without nails and all.” Jim perked up a little, glad to be talking about anything else besides the pastor. “You mean to sit here and tell me that you, a field hand and only part time handymen, can read and understand plans to build a house!” Matt sternly voiced, with disbelief, although not meaning to be unkind. “Yes, I can see and understand the plans. Any fool can, if he's had some schooling. I may be only a field hand, but I know what I know.” Jim retorted taking offence at Matt's tone. “It's not your knowledge that is in question, Jim. It's the plans!” Matt spoke softly with a smile coming to his lips. Jim stared at him, but remained silent as he tried to understand what he meant. “Jim, Mr. Odie wants a house built by you and the other men, right?” Jim nodded. “He wants it just so, right?” Another nod from Jim. “And he spelled everything out on those plans of his, so that anyone could read and understand them, right?” Jim thought and smiled in agreement. “Don't you think that the Bible should be as honest as those plans, if we were supposed to follow them and be the best we could be?” Matt asked, and finished his drink. “That's different Matt. The Bible says that man ain't supposed to know all the things in it. They only suppose to follow it.” Jim said and finished his drink also. “The Bible says that? Or even better Jim, which one of the seven translations says that?” Matt stopped and waited for the answer. "What translations?" Jim asked, as if he had never heard of the word. Matt got up and went to the shop. He returned with a copy of the King James’ version of the Bible. "Jim, read the first line, please.” Matt said, as he opened the book and placed it on the table. "In the beginning, there was the word, and the word was God.” Jim read from the page. "Very good, Jim. Now, say it in German.” Matt said, and sat back in his chair. Jim looked at the book and then to Matt. "I doan speaks no German.” Jim said blankly. "Okay, then say it in Italian.” Matt said calmly. "I doan speaks that, either.” Jim said, with an edge coming to his voice. "Oh, I'm sorry Jim. Let's see now. How 'bout one of these? Chinese, Japanese, Indian, East or West, Russian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, or maybe, just maybe, Arabic?" Matt stopped, and stared at Jim. "I doan knows any language other than what I was taught in school, Mista Stone. I think I been here too long.” Jim said, as he was standing. "Jim, sit. It's not about you. Hell, I can't speak those languages, either. I wanted you to see what I meant by translations.” Matt said, and went over to Jim and sat in the chair next to him. "You see, this book had been around for only fifteen hundred years. The whole story was first told in camps by Arabs and Jews over two thousand years ago. The Arabs and Jews had a language that both could get by with. The word for word using is not the same. Heck, you go fishing down south and what you call a perch, they might call a croaker elsewhere. That's just here in one state. Now, you think of how many people told the story and in how many different languages around the world, back then. Now, who had the power to get things written down?” Matt stopped again and waited. "The church had it wrote up.” Jim finally answered. “Who's church?” “God's church. That's who!” “Jim, think for a minute. Did God give you the eyes to see, and the ears to hear?” Matt waited. “Yes, he did.” “Then why did he, or she, need to write anything down? Couldn't God just tell you or let you see for yourself what he, or she, wanted?” Matt finished, and raised the book. “I doan know of such things.” Jim said, with a nervous tone. “Jim, say, that in this book, only five hundred years ago, there was a plan to build a castle, as great as any other around, so that anyone could have one. Do you believe those, who were in power, would write it out for the people?” "But that's different. There's no plans in the Bible.” Jim raised his voice. "Not now,” Maureen said, taking him by surprise with a slight smile on her face, “but there might have been, before somebody took out the pages on how to build one. How long is the black man to bare the mark of Cain? He must be a slave to the earth, and be broken as the oxen and ass are! Oh, forgive me Jim, it's something a preacher told me as a kid, that’s written in this book. You know something, I've read every page and I can't find that anywhere. So much for the text book and the word of, correct me if you want, man over his brother and under his thumb.” Jim sat for a full two minutes contemplating, "But it’s the Good Book . . .” He finally said. “So is Moby Dick and Robinson Crusoe. They are all Good books. But they're only as good, as you put in, or get out of them. It's a story. Maybe most of it happened in some form or another, who's to say today? If the reader wants to believe it fully, as written, good for him or her. But it will only be for him or her to decide. No one else reads this thing the same way.” “The plans for that house have measurements for the floor, I would think. Let's say you read them and cut the boards eight feet long. Then, I come along and read the same plans and cut the next board six feet long. Who made the mistake?” Matt again waited. “You did, for cutting that board too short.” “No, you did for cutting your board to long.” Matt retorted, drily. “I read the plans first.” Jim said. “That's how a fight starts and some wars begin, because I read what I thought it said, and you read what you thought it said. With this text book, no one can be the teacher, because everyone reads into it, what they were taught to read into it, or out of it. That's all I'm going to say about it tonight. Sorry Jim, but, that's the way things are around the world. The really funny part is, this book is around fifth or sixth in the world religions. The Koran is still number one, with a bullet. Either on the charts or in the chambers.” Matt finished. “The Koran?” Jim asked. “Muslims, Jim. Numero uno in the world today. More of them than anybody. Hindus are number two. Buddhist are far back in third place. If you group Atheists, as a religion to itself, and pull together all the earth groups, they'd be number four on the God parade march. So, you see it's still a long way down to go out and get killed for. But people do it every day.” Matt said, and refreshed their drinks. “It's one thing to die for what you believe in, Jim. It's a whole lot different story to go out and kill for it.” Maureen said softly. “I'm not killin nobody for what I believe in.” Jim said, with an edge in his voice. “Jim, wake up! You are not the Kill-er, you are the Kill-ee, in the same belief structure. Or have you forgotten the last words in the field. Let’s see if he can see the light!” Matt's tone sent a chill down Jim's spine, as those words hit him hard. “That had nothing to do with this. It's different.” Jim replied. “I'm sorry you think that's way. Eventually, those differences are going to come together. You just might find out too late that there is no difference at all, except the ones between breathing and not breathing. Lets hope this all this blows over, and Mr. Odie gets back here before anything else comes up.” Matt said, and stood.
Jim was still a friend of these people, and he knew in his heart they could be trusted. On his way home, he finally remembered never seeing the Stones at church. Now, he could see why. Jim wondered if they were Atheist, but remembered the crucifix in the shop. Then Jim also remembered that Matt brought the Bible in from the shop and then replaced it on the book shelf when he left. Yes these people are strange for around these parts, Jim thought, as he walked into his house. Jim didn't' have a good night's sleep, either. He had fitful dreams of the hanging, and the words of the Knights were coming over and over again. See the light, see the light, see the light. He was still in a dream when Cissy called out to him. “Jim, wake up. It's time you get up and go to work. There's coffee on the counter for you.” Jim opened his eyes and wondered if he had even gone to sleep that night. Even the cold shower had little effect on him, as he dressed and went to the kitchen for coffee.