Clint had been driving for at least an hour when he finally reached his destination: Fire Number 7835, County Rd I. He stopped at the red sign at the end of a long, gravel driveway and compared the address with his paperwork. Satisfied he had found the right place, he turned in and accelerated up a rutted, gravel incline bouncing along with his tool boxes as the van made the ascent.
The narrow path snaked its way through a dense woods and more than once he had to crank the steering wheel to avoid a particularly large rock or a wicked pothole, the van clattering and jostling him about in protest. When he finally crested the summit, the woods gave way to an open field and, in its midst, stood a run-down trailer house and a rusting pole barn.
What’s he got to protect? He wondered. Chickens?
He put the van in park and killed the engine. His clipboard was upside-down on the floor. It read: Ten Cameras – Ten Motion Sensors – Ten Floodlights – Two Control Pads
They should have sent two of us, this is a huge job.
He piled out of the vehicle and stretched. Then he put on his cap and pulled open the van’s sliding door. As he leaned in to grab a tub of equipment, he heard a man’s voice behind him low and clear.
“I need you to put your hands on your head and take two steps backwards for me,” it said.
Clint froze. He slowly turned and looked over his shoulder. Standing maybe ten feet away was a wild-eyed old man holding a twin barreled shotgun.
He did as he was told.
“That’s good,” said the old man. “Now, I want you to drop to your knees. Very, very slowly.”
Clint sunk slowly to his knees facing the van, his heart beating fast.
“Here from the security company, are you?” asked the old man.
“Yes sir,” Clint said. His mouth was dry. “Pine County Security Systems.”
The old man paused and said, “I can read the van, son. How do I know you’re who you say you are?”
Clint said nothing.
“Don’t think I know what you folks are up to?” spat the old man. “You don’t think I notice all the helicopters and them bright lights in the sky day and night?”
“Sir, I just-”
“I see vans just like this one every single day! Every day! Some say plumbers on ’em, some say electrical, some say satellite TV. They got agents everywhere. YOU are everywhere!”
Clint could hear the man pacing behind him in a loose semicircle. He thought it best to stay quiet and let him calm down. Nothing good could come from riling him up further. From the trailer, came the distant chatter of a police scanner.
“I got cameras all over this place,” the old man said. “Everywhere. You look over there in them trees and I got ’em all around us. I see you guys sneaking around in my woods at night. I see you trying to get to my well and I got bugs too. Listenin’ devices so I can hear you talking. I know what frequencies you use and I listen. I’m on to you people.”
“Sir, you called us. I’m just here to-”
“Martial law is what they’re after, do you know that? Do you even know who you work for, son? They’ll herd you up too. We’ll all be living in the rail cars and you won’t be any safer than the rest of us. They’re weakenin’ our minds with fluoride in the water but they can’t get to mine, I got a well!”
The old man was pacing faster now.
“They poison us with chemtrails. They’ll come for the guns next and, when they get ’em, martial law! That’s what FEMA is for. Do you even know who you’re working for?”
“Sir, I’m just here to install your security system. You called us.” The old man didn’t answer so Clint continued. “Sir, I can show you. I can show you the gear…the security equipment…or…or you can call the office. I can give you the number. It’s on the the van.”
The old man stopped pacing. He stood and did nothing for at least a minute and Clint began to wonder if he was going to kill him right there.
“Do you have photo ID?” the old man said finally, calmer now.
Clint exhaled slowly. “I do. I have a photo ID. It has my picture and my name and the company and I can give you a number to call. You can call the office and they can clear this all up, Sir. They can verify it’s me, that I’m who I say I am.” He waited a few seconds and added carefully, “We can’t stay here all day, Sir.”
The old man thought about this for a while and reluctantly said, “All right. You get your ID but I want you to go SLOW when you do it. Do you understand me? Where is it?”
“Yes Sir, I do,” Clint said. “I understand completely. It’s in my right pants pocket. I’ll get it and I’ll lay it on the ground and put my hands right back on my head.”
“You should only need one hand to fetch it.”
“Hand,” Clint said, correcting himself. “I’ll put my hand right back on my head.”
“See to it that you do,” said the old man.
Clint took a deep breath then rolled to his right with deceptive speed pulling a handgun from his waistband as he did so. The old man squeezed the trigger but the shotgun missed wide left and, with surgical precision, Clint fired three bullets into his chest. He was blown backwards and hit the ground like a sack of fertilizer.
Clint climbed to his feet and brushed himself off. Casually, he unloaded another round into the old man’s forehead.
He laid the smoking gun on the hood of the van and unclipped a walkie-talkie from the sun visor.
“Homeschool, he said. “This is Installer Six. Target has been neutralized.”
Now try this: Of Blue Blood and Enchantment – Short Story