We stopped outside town, went down someones gravel driveway, and pulled up in front of a ruined farmhouse. It had caught on fire or had been set on fire. I noticed one wall was pock marked with bullet holes. I was at the point where I saw stuff like this but didn't. It told a story but one I had read before.
What would have been interesting would have been an intact and functioning farm. I was pretty sure they were still out there. The melon guys were proof of that. More than likely the marginal ones were being let go if the owners were dead and no one stepped forward and put a claim in. Resources and labor were to much in demand to work played out soil. Especially when you didn't have access to all the chemical steroids that were used to pump up marginal land.
I climbed out of the cab and dropped the tailgate. Woof looked at me puzzled. I told him "Don't worry. I'll come back for you." He hopped down and headed into the woods without looking back. The rest of the pack followed him. A couple of them looked back at me but not Woof. I had been tempted to let the other dogs loose and keep him with me. I knew better. If you want to run a pack you had to run with them. Then again if any of those Rottweilers got serious about challenging him I figured I put them all down. He could get a new pack but I wasn't sure if I could find another Woof.
I climbed back in the truck and we took off. The town was not what I expected. Yeah, there were an abundance of American flags. There was also an equal amount of Freedom Party ones too. There were no large portraits of the Colonel as Supreme Leader anywhere I could see. People were out an about an moving with purpose. A handful of stores were open. We passed a clothing store, a gun store, and a small grocery and hardware store. Down the street I saw a sign for "Leather Goods" and a used book store. Nothing in them for sale looked new but I saw a van unloading boxes into the hardware store. One guy unloaded while a woman stood guard over the boxes.
I told Thursday "Not bad. Looks like they are getting it together."
He spit into the street, looked around and said "They're going to need walls."
I was expecting to get stopped. If we hadn't I would have been surprised. People were friendly when they passed us but I also noticed they gave us space. Everyone was armed, and most of them looked like they knew which end to point at us. They were just wary. We had been walking for about fifteen minutes. Enough time to see almost everything. I was looking for a diner or restaurant when they rolled up on us on their bikes.
They came from behind. I knew it because I felt the change in the air. So did Thursday. We both looked at each other out of the corner of our eyes at the same time. We also kept going. I heard the sound of them getting off and the kickstands coming down. About two beats later I heard "Hey. You two." We stopped and turned to face them. They looked like soldiers except they had black nylon duty belts with the usual assortment of crap hanging off of them. The major difference was the blue and white armband each wore that said "Police." Both were in their early twenties, clean cut. One of them had a walkie talkie stuffed into his dutybelt. One was White. The other one was Black. "Ah" I thought "Racial diversity is a beautiful thing."
I grinned and said "Yes officers?"
They split as they moved towards us with the White guy moving into the street a few feet so he had a better angle. They didn't smile back at me. I didn't expect them too. I thought I had a winning smile so it was a bit of a disappointment.
"We just want to welcome you to town" was what the Black officer told us "And inquire to what brings you here." I thought "Above average vocabulary and delivery. Not a grunt, and if he was, it wasn't going to be for long.
"We are here to find a kid for a friend." I got corrected by Thursday who said "A maiden."
"Yeah. A maiden." I looked at Thursday and said "I'll tell the story. Okay?"
He shrugged and said "Sure." Then he looked back at the officer and said "She is a maiden."
"Right." Then he told me "Continue."
So I told him the kids name, and that we knew there was a home or school for kids here, and we was in it. I didn't like how his eyes changed as I talked. I also felt the flow change. His partner, the White guy, was wearing sunglasses. I did not like that either. I felt Thursday, rather than saw, shift his weight a little. Then I described him. When I mentioned the scar Black guy didn't react much. Just enough that I knew the kid was here.
The officer pretended to think for a few beats. Then he told us. "I don't know. If he is here he will have to recognize you or you need something he will know. The Party does not keep children from their rightful parents. The Junior Warfighter School is two blocks from here. Make a left at the next light. It used to be an elementary school."
I didn't see a functioning light but I knew what he meant. He continued "The town rules are; No weapons drawn; No bad language or spitting." He stared at Thursday. So that hadn't gone unnoticed. "No drinking, drugging, or bothering the women. If your here tomorrow the rules change."
I didn't ask him how they changed. I didn't care. I said "Thank you officer. Is there a place to eat in town?"
"Yeah. Halfway to the school. Look for the Liberty Cafe."
I wasn't done. "They serve pie?"
For the first time he grinned "Yep. It's good too."