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What is the Password

Jerry D. Young Library

Home | The Keys to the Kingdom | What is the Password

What Is The Password? – Prolog

It started with a minor earthquake. Then more. And, not unexpectedly, the Canary Islands La Palma volcanic island ceased to exist as an island. The resulting caldera was almost as large as the island had been, and was now two-thousand feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The resulting ash would be a decade long factor in the world’s weather, creating yet another ‘mini ice age.’ But the set of tsunami waves that spread out into the Atlantic Ocean caused far more damage, and it was almost immediate.

Five hundred foot waves smashed the entire east coast of the Americas, from Northern Canada to Argentina. The western European and African coasts was similarly affected, though not as severely. Costal cities were inundated. Florida, as a land mass, almost ceased to exist, as the series of waves swept entirely over the peninsula at least four times, leaving little behind.

The disaster could have brought the world closer together, as aid did begin to come from unaffected nations outside the affected areas. Even Russia sent aid. But, like the Chinese aid that came, it was accompanied by military presence. Then, the aid turned to taking possession of the affected areas. US citizens, armed, did not take kindly to the new order and resisted. Political process failed, and three months after the volcano devastated the world, nuclear war broke out.

It was short and furious. Russia and China made the mistake of thinking that the US retaliatory response would be limited. That the President of the United States would be reluctant to go to a full scale war with the shape the country was in.

The US Navy and Air Force began to try and stop the waves of incoming military transports. Then a US Carrier Strike Group was totally destroyed by ship launched nuclear missiles. The President didn’t hesitate. The launch codes were released, and the US launched a full counter attack on Russia and China. The leaders of those countries had, quite simply, misjudged the situation. Only a handful of strategic missiles were launched in retaliation to the US total response, before that capability was destroyed.

The massive silo complexes in the US were spared, by fluke, or bad judgment. Only major cities and military operational centers were hit in the US with the few MIRVed warheads that the Russians and Chinese were able to launch.

Five years after La Palma erupted Russia and China were large wastelands, lightly populated. The US lost much of its population from the hits on the major cities, but people that survived the ravages of local fallout and nuclear damage in large areas of the middle of the country began to make a comeback.


What Is The Password?

William Richard ‘Billy Rich’ Jenkins eased the H&R Handi-Rifle up to his shoulder. It was chambered for the venerable .30-’06 cartridge, but even the lightest load he could hand load for it was still a bit much for rabbits. So Billy Rich had a .32 ACP chamber adapter in the gun, with a .32 ACP in the adapter. Adjusting the aim for the low powered round, Billy Rich gently squeezed the trigger of the Handi-Rifle.

There was some sound, but not much, and the rabbit fell over, quite dead from the head shot. Billy Rich walked close to the rabbit, but stood back a few feet to take a good look at the animal. The fur seemed fine, there were no signs of drooling or foaming at the mouth, and it had been moving normally before it stopped and he shot it.

“Should be fine,” Billy Rich muttered. Still, to avoid any contamination, he put on a pair of kitchen gloves before he picked the rabbit up and added it to the leather game bag slung at his side. That made three for the morning, but still no sign of a deer.

A quick glance at the sun and Billy Rich decided to head home. The three rabbits would be enough to stretch what they could harvest from the greenhouse for at least a week. As always, as he approached the remote cabin in the Black Hills of Wyoming, he stopped and did a survey, much as he had with the rabbits. Nothing looked out of place on the homestead and Billy Rich started down the slope to the cabin.

He’d only taken a couple of steps when his wife came out the back door of the cabin, carrying a basket, and went to the root cellar. “Something’s not right…” Billy Rich thought. Then it hit him. She wasn’t wearing her gunbelt.

Billy Rich eased the game bag off his shoulder and put it down, and then removed his jacket, laying it aside, too. The Handi-Rifle in his left hand, now with a .30-’06 150 grain hollow point cartridge in it, Billy Rich drew one of the three pistols he carried. Pistol was not a very good description of the weapon he drew first. It was actually a cut down Armsport model 2900 tri-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. The barrels had been cut down to handy size, and the butt-stock trimmed into pistol grip form.

But 12-gauge shells were getting scarce. Billy Rich had a large stash of them, but they were reserved for bird hunting and use in his tactical shotgun. The Tri-barrel he now had in his hand carried Dina Arms .44 Magnum adapters in all three chambers.

Billy Rich moved from concealment point to concealment point he’d carefully laid out for situations such as this. He was within a few steps of the back door when Sally came out of the root cellar, carrying a basket of potatoes.

When she saw him, she didn’t bobble a bit. Sally mouthed the word ‘six’ and Billy Rich gave a slight nod. He stood in front of the door and Sally stood beside it, her hand on the knob. “It’s me!” she called out. “Don’t shoot!” She turned the knob and threw the door open, rushing inside after Billy Rich did.

The six men were caught totally off guard. The Handi-Rifle roared and one man went down not knowing what hit him. Dropping the rugged rifle to the floor, Billy Rich fired the Tri-barrel at another of the men. The .44 Magnum in his belly took him down.

Billy Rich was drawing another of the cut-down Tri-barrels. This one was 12-gauge, too, but had .357 Magnum adapters in it. He fired it with his left hand at one of the men by the kitchen doorway before he could jump back through it.

The other three men were starting to take action. One was lifting a wicked looking double barrel shotgun. A .44 Magnum split his sternum and took him out of the fight. The fifth man got off a shot from some kind of pocket pistol, but it went wide. A .357 Magnum from the gun in Billy Rich’s left hand took the man high in the right chest, causing him to drop the gun.

Turning both guns on the last man, Billy Rich was squeezing the triggers of both of the Tri-barrels. But he held his fire. Sally had him in her sights. She’d grabbed her Ruger SP-101 .357 Magnum from the holster that hung on a nail by the back door.

The man threw up his hands after dropping the rifle he’d not had a chance to use. “I give up! I give up! I give up! You said it was you coming in!” He glared over at Sally.

Billy Rich barked a laugh at the man’s indignant tone. “It’s my fault. I taught her to lie to people like you.” He raised the Tri-barrel with the .357 Magnums. They had a lot more of them than the .44’s.

“Wait! Wait! I can help you!” cried the man, seeing his death in Billy Rich’s eyes.

“Really? How?” Billy Rich asked.

“We have a camp down below. I can show it to you. There’s some food. Not much, but some. And…” He paled suddenly and didn’t say anything else.

“Any reason to keep him alive, Sally?” Billy Rich asked his wife.

“He was one of the ones that told me in great detail what they were going to do to Spike and Milly.”

“Oh, really?” Billy Rich asked. The man started reciting a prayer, knowing what was coming, but it was way too little and way too late. Billy’s pulled the front trigger of the Tri-barrel with the .357 Magnums. It was a clear heart shot and the man went down as if he were pole-axed.

Sally had been watching the other five men. “Billy Rich,” she said. When Billy Rich looked at her, she nodded at the man that had taken the .44 Magnum in the belly. He moaned, but was out of it.

Holstering the .44 Magnum Tri-barrel, Billy Rich pulled a shaving sharp Ontario OKC-3S Marine Corps bayonet and knelt down beside the man. Not wanting any more blood to clean up than there already was, instead of slitting the unconscious man’s throat, Billy Rich ran the bayonet up under the man’s ribs into his heart.

Turning to the man shot in the upper chest, Billy Rich looked at him. He was just a kid. Maybe fifteen. “Sally?” Billy Rich asked, his eyes still on the terrified boy.

“Clean up your ways or die like these men did some day,” Sarah said. “Now, run, before I decide to shoot you myself.”

Unable to avoid the groans of pain, the boy went out the kitchen door into the living room and then out the front door. He was in a stumbling run and soon slowed to a walk, still in sight of the house.

“He’ll never make it,” Billy Rich told Sally.

“I know. But I didn’t want his cold death on your shoulders.” She looked over at the other door leading from the kitchen. “Okay kids. Password is Jiminy Cricket.”

Billy Rich and Sally’s two children, Spike, aged twelve, and Milly, aged thirteen, both stepped through the door slowly, looking around, the guns they held in their hands pointing down, fingers off the triggers.

“Oh, Mother!” Milly said and ran to Sally. But she still held the gun and kept it in a safe position as her mother hugged her.

Spike walked over, gave his mother a quick hug and took the old Colt SAA revolver from his sister. He handed it and the one he was carrying to Billy Rich. “Here, Dad. I wouldn’t have let them get Milly.”

“I know, son. But I don’t want you killing unless it is absolutely necessary. Better your mother and me take on the bad guys when we’re around and you act as back up.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll do that, sir.”

“I know you will, son. I know you will.” Despite the slight squirming, Billy Rich hugged his son, hard. Then Milly.

“It’s up to me and you to get rid of the bodies, son. You up for it?”

“Okay. Can I have one of the guns for my own?”

Billy Rich cast a knowing look at Sally. She gave a nearly imperceptible nod. He turned back to Spike and said, “I think it is time for you to have your own. You know how to care for it and when to use it and not use it.”

Spike grinned and walked over to look at the five dead men in turn. He picked up the pocket pistol and looked at it. “It’s a Beretta Tomcat, Dad. Takes .32’s. Just like yours. Okay if I keep it, too?”

“Naw. Better let me hang onto it for a while. It’s yours when you get a little older. Stick to a good long arm or a major caliber pistol.”

“Yes, sir,” Spike said. He wasn’t that disappointed, having guessed he wouldn’t get the pistol. “I guess I’ll take the double barrel. It’s a twenty-gauge. We have enough 20-gauge to make it worth it, Dad?”

“Yes. We’ll trade for some more. That’s a good choice son, for right now. Add the other guns to the armory, and then come back and lend a hand with the bodies.”

“Yes, Dad.”

It took several hours to get the five men, stripped of everything useful, underground. It took almost that amount of time for Sally and Milly to get the kitchen cleaned up of the blood that had spilled.

It wasn’t until they were in bed that night that Sally began to cry. “I’m sorry, Billy Rich! I should have seen them coming! And should have done something when they didn’t have the challenge coin.”

“It’s all right, Babe. We came through it all right. We’ll review challenge procedures in light of Spike and Milly being older now. They can back you up, rather than hide.”

“Oh, Billy Rich! I don’t know if I want them in harm’s way like that.”

“Sally, they have been in harm’s way ever since the war ended. I know Spike is ready to take up defense of himself and the family. I think Milly will, too.”

“Okay. But let me have my babies another few days.”

“Yes, Dear,” Billy Rich said, pulling his wife close to comfort her.


A week later Billy Rich was teaching the children the procedures he now wanted them to take in case of unexpected visitors, or an attack while they were away from the homestead on a trading trip.

“You know how we use passwords to make sure everything is okay between the four of us?”

“Yes, sir,” Spike replied. Milly just nodded.

“We keep doing that for ourselves. But the group we are part of has a similar way of notifying each other when things are okay, or when they aren’t. It’s called a challenge coin and a challenge, counter challenge.

The Challenge and counter challenge are similar to our secret password. The challenge, when someone comes up, might be, ‘Sure is a hot one today’, and the counter challenge would be, ‘Fifth hottest day I’ve experienced.’ Pairs of statements, sometimes just a pair of words, pre-arranged to let a person know if things are good or not.

Now, if you said, ‘Sure is a hot one today’, and the counter-challenge was close, say, ‘Not the hottest I’ve seen,’ might have been arranged to mean ‘People are watching,” and you would react to that message appropriately.”

“That sounds easy,” Milly said. It is almost exactly like we do, only just safe or not safe.”

“Yes. Very good,” Billy Rich said.

“What are ‘challenge coins?” Dad,” Spike asked.

“They are specially created objects that are given to people in a group, so that the members of the group can show other members, that they are a member, too.”

Spike laughed. “That sounds funny.” Milly smiled.

“But you understand?”

Spike and Milly both nodded. “If you think a person might be a member, you show them the coin, and if they show you a coin back, you’re both members,” Milly said.

“Just a bit more subtle than that, but that is the basic idea,” Billy Rich continued. He had his coin ready and handed it to Milly to look at. She took a long look at both sides and handed it to Spike. After a thorough inspection, he handed it back to Billy Rich.

“You won’t usually just meet someone and show the challenge coin, especially really ‘show’ it. Bringing it into view as a casual movement, so the other person gets a glimpse of it naturally, might happen.

“Mostly, however, it will be at some type of check point, where the person comes up and asks for entry to the homestead and shows the coin. You would show yours so they know they aren’t stepping into an unknown situation. Everyone in our group, called the MAG, for Mutual Aid Group, knows many of the other members, but seldom all. The challenge coins are the way we know for certain that someone we don’t know, is actually in the MAG.

“Now, not everyone has a coin, coin. There were options to have a key ring, pendent, or money clip, with the person’s coin mounted. Some think it is safer. They’re afraid they’ll lose the coin with change, or put it in a vending machine by accident.”

“Only the membership committee of the MAG can give out the coins. But everyone with children, or children on the way, was given a coin for them.” Billy Rich reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a key ring and a pendant necklace with the medallion incorporated.

“Thought you might like to have the necklace, Milly.” He handed his daughter the pendant, and the key ring to Spike. “Be very careful with them. Don’t lose them, or play with them, or show them unless it is a true challenge situation.”

“Yes, sir,” Spike replied.

“Yes, Father,” was Milly’s response.

Satisfied that if either of the children had a question about the use of the coins, they would ask, Billy Rich got up and the three went about their daily chores.

“I’m going after deer again, Spike. You want to go along?”

“Yes, Sir!” Spike exclaimed

“Get your shotgun, two slugs and four #4 bird shot, just in case we get lucky.”

Spike ran to the house and came back a few minutes later at a more sedate pace, the shotgun carried carefully, and safely, as he’d been taught.

The two stopped to tell Sally, who was hanging out laundry, that they were going and when to expect them back. The two bumped lips, Billy Rich, and Spike headed up the rise, intending to cross down into the valley on the other side of the ridge.

Spike had hunted with his father several times before the war, but this was the first time since. He’d been seven then. The five years after the war Billy Rich had kept them all close to the homestead. They all went on the occasional trading trip, but other than that, it was home and chores and home schooling.

Billy Rich had to refresh Spike’s memory a little bit, but not too much. The boy, like his father, was a natural hunter, moving lightly and almost silently through the heavy timber. It was Spike that saw the deer first. He touched his father’s arm and pointed.

Billy Rich leaned down and whispered, “Nice and easy, raise the shotgun, aim, and fire one shot. If it runs, don’t waste the second shot, we’ll track it.”

Spike did exactly as his father said, except for the tremors in his arms that he had to control. But control them, he did, and the twenty-gauge left barrel fired, the heavy lead slug traveling true, right into the side of the deer’s chest, through a lung and into the heart. The deer went down. No one could have asked for a better shot.

“Good job, Son. That will be some sweet eating. Took it while it was at ease. When you have to track one after it is hit, the meat gets a little gamey from the adrenaline that pumps into the bloodstream. Got your knife?”

It took an extra hour for Spike to field dress the deer, over the time that it would have taken Billy Rich. But Billy Rich let Spike do it, only lending a hand and some advice here and there.

Mother and sister both fussed over Spike when the two returned with the deer. Over the next few days it would be processed into jerky, some pemmican, summer sausage, ground venison, and roasts. The preserved meat would be traded away for the necessities the family couldn’t produce, the rest frozen in their solar powered freezer and then consumed at the homestead.

And a trip was already scheduled before winter set in. The deer would not only feed them through much of the winter, it would round out their trade goods.

The family prepared carefully for the trip. With manufactured goods rapidly disappearing, except for those being taken from hot zones, the decision on what to trade for was actually becoming easier. Though some didn’t understand the induced radiation of many metal objects close to the nuclear detonations, many did, and still preferred to have the objects despite their slow release of radiation.

Billy Rich and Sally had discussed it early on. They would not accept anything still emitting radiation, no matter how low the rate. The accumulated effects were just too gruesome to think about.

They were careful about everything they traded for. Being caught with stolen goods was a hanging offense in many of the small communities that had developed over the last five years. The theft of food or the means to grow it was the same as killing those the goods were stolen from. It just took them longer to die than shooting them did. Safe food was king in the post apocalyptic world.

There were a few people that wouldn’t go to the trade meetings, still fearful of the illnesses that had been the death of many in the months after the war itself ended. Jack Mason was one of those. A raggedly dressed, heavily armed old man, Jack refused to meet with anyone except the Jenkins. When it was time for one of the trade meetings, Jack would show up with a hand cart load of items for trade.

Billy Rich would make the trades for him, based on Jack’s guidelines, and Jack would watch the place for the Jenkins while they were gone. Not even Billy Rich knew where Jack’s base of operations was. Or even if he had one. Billy Rich suspected the man just moved from lean-to to lean-to even further back in the hills than Billy Rich went himself.

But Jack was still healthy, and the same couldn’t be said for some of those in the settlements. Billy Rich warned Jack about what had happened just before he showed up. “Don’t worry, Billy Rich. I’ll take care. Won’t nobody sneak up on me. You can take that to the bank.”

“Speaking of banks, Jack,” Billy Rich said, “The new one is supposed to be open. Just so you know.”

Jack rubbed the whiskers on his chin and thought about something for a few moments. “Naw, Billy Rich. I know you know I got a bit of a stash. But the banks all went down before. Don’t rightly trust them now, either. Would have wiped me out if I’d had me assets in banks, back before the war.”

“You and me both,” Billy Rich replied. “Okay. Just make a place for yourself in the barn and we’ll go over what you have and what you want before Sally, the kids, and I take off.”

“Sure t’ing, Billy Rich. I’ll set up in the barn. Just like always.” Jack walked off chuckling slightly. “They t’ink I really stays in their barn. No barn for me. Out there’s where I’ll be.” Jack already knew exactly where he’d spend the first two nights after the family left.

The family had their gear packed that evening and Billy Rich and Sally sat with Jack to get a list of what he wanted in trade for his goods. Jack’s goods were almost all animal products. Venison, antelope and buffalo jerky and pemmican, cured pelts and hides. Dried smoked trout. But he also had stout hand-made baskets, which were filled with dried wild apples, plums, and cherries

Like the Jenkins family, he wanted salt. About any amount he could get. A little sugar. Lead for pouring maxi-balls for his smoke pole. Ditto for black powder, since Jack used his flintlock black powder guns for most of his hunting.

Tea if it was available. Likewise a bottle of any kind of booze. Sturdy clothing in double extra large, with Carhartts worth a real premium. Boots in size twelve. Didn’t have to be good ones, as long as the soles still had some tread on them.

“Okay, Jack. We’ll do the best we can. You know that. But some things are getting scarce.”

“I know, Billy Rich. You know the kinds of things I need and want. Do what you can.”

The family set off early, with Jack’s cart tied to the cart that Billy Rich was pulling. Sally, Spike, and Milly each had their own cart. Each also wore a small backpack with emergency essentials in case they had to drop the carts because of an animal attack, or other reason.

Billy Rich had the gun bearer option on his Kifaru pack and carried the Handi-Rifle in it, with a .30-’06 cartridge in the gun. He also carried the two Tri-barrels, again loaded with .44 Magnums and .357 Magnums. The other handgun was a more conventional pistol. Just like the one he had put aside for Spike, a Beretta Tomcat in .32 ACP.

Sally was armed with her usual. The SP-101 and one of the ‘any chambering’ shotguns. Today it was the twenty-gauge 3-inch magnum H&R/NEF Pardner single barrel screw-in choke shotgun with a 32-gauge GaugeMate Custom chamber adapter.

In addition to the GaugeMate Silver Series .410 bore adapter for the 20-gauge Pardner, the family had a 12-gauge 3-inch Magnum chamber Pardner with screw-in chokes. It could use any modern 12-gauge shell, plus any 24-gauge or 28-gauge shell, with the GaugeMate Silver Series 28-gauge adapter or 24-gauge Custom adapter.

The third gun was another H&R/NEF Pardner, this one a 10-gauge 3 inch Magnum with screw-in choke. There was a 10-gauge to 16-gauge Silver Series chamber adapter for it. The three guns and five adapters allowed the usage of any current shotgun shell from the lightest 2-inch .410 bore to the mighty 3 inch 10-gauge Magnum.

Spike carried his newly acquired 20-gauge double barrel, and Milly the old original Snake Charmer .410 bore shotgun that Billy Rich had picked up for Sally before the war.

Those were the guns they carried openly. The carts carried, just under their top, easy to remove covering, much more combat oriented weapons. They were never shown, or used, except in dire circumstances.

It took three easy days to get to the rendezvous. There were tents set up all over, with the occasional vehicle parked among them. Here in the northern climates, there wasn’t as much bio-diesel available as some places, and vehicles were a bit rare. There was a variety of horses and oxen, however. But most people were still depending on their feet for transport. One of the going businesses was the construction of handcarts suitable for use in the mountains and a version for the flatter land west of the Black Hills.

Billy Rich and his family had their camp set up quickly, quietly, and without showing much of what they had in the process. The first lookers were already stopping by, but Billy Rich shook his head when asked about their trade goods. “Not until tomorrow, after we’ve taken a turn to look at what’s available.”

“How are we going to know what you have available if you won’t put anything out until you’ve looked around?” one of the men groused.

Billy Rich laughed. “There’ll be plenty of time. Just want to prioritize our purchases.”

“You have gold to buy with?” asked another of the men in the group of five.

Billy Rich’s mouth was a straight, hard line. It wasn’t the kind of question asked, unless actually negotiating for something. “Come on, Josey. No one is going to answer you. You gotta learn the ropes, dude,” one of the other men said.

Milly came out of the tent, followed by Spike. “Is it okay if we go to the teen center?” Milly asked. “I’m old enough this year.”

Spike looked hopeful.

“Spike, accompany your sister to the teen center, set a time to escort her back, and then you can find your ‘tween friends.”

“Aw, Father!” Milly complained. Spike just nodded sadly.

“You sure you want to go, Milly?” Sally asked.

Milly bit her lip and nodded, then said. “Yes, Mother. Sorry Father.”

Billy Rich nodded in acceptance of the apology and handed Milly five pre-1965 silver dimes. He and Sally watched the two hurry away toward the tent set up for teenagers to get together and get to know one another. There was a fee of a silver dime to get in, and teen oriented goods were usually available, nothing more than a dime, and many much less than that.

It wasn’t long before friends began to show up at the Jenkins’ camp, renewing those friendships. There was talk of attack at the homestead, and the result.

“You say an older boy, bad shoulder?” asked Lucy Kincaid. “That sounds like Benny Goodhaven. He disappeared for a while and came limping home with a banged up shoulder. Doubt the Goodhavens will show. They’ve been suspected of some rather unsavory things lately.”

That was the main topic, but there was some feeling out on all sides of what everyone had to offer up in trade. But there were only hints, and no outright statements. That would all begin in earnest the next morning. Friends or not, business was business.

A one pot supper was ready when Spike and Missy walked back to the camp. Milly was smiling and quickly took her mother aside to tell her all about what she’d been doing.

“They have a band again this year, Mother! I danced with Tim Weatherspoon. He dances kind of funny, but it was fun. And… Well… Constance Hill was just outside the tent. She didn’t have a dime to get in. I paid for her. And I gave a dime to the band. I hope that’s okay. Here are the other two dimes.”

“That’s fine, sweetie. The Hills are having a rough time of it since Bob had that horse fall on him. Why don’t you invite them over for lunch tomorrow?”

“Okay, Mother. Thank you.” Milly hugged her mother and went to the fire to dip up a bowl of the stew Sally had gently simmering. Sally joined her daughter, son, and husband around the fire as the sun began to set. Winter came early now, with some ash from the huge eruption of La Palma Island volcano that started the war still hiding the sun to a degree. Winter was the only long season, spring, summer, and fall, coming and going quickly.

Billy Rich had just finished his stew when a group of men came up and one spoke. “Billy Rich, we need you in committee to help us decide on what to do about Britta and Gustav Vern.”

Billy Rich sighed and got up. “I’ll be back shortly,” he told Sally, and walked away with the men. When they were well away from any of the camps, Billy Rich asked, “Now what? What is it about Britta and Gustav gets under your skin so bad, Amos?”

Amos’ frown was visible in the twilight. “You know what it is. They can out buy any of us. Get things we need cheap, and then resell to the rest of us at high prices. That’s not fair.”

“That’s free enterprise,” Amos. “You ever consider their situation? Neither can turn a lick. They’re too old and broke down. They earned their gold in the old days. Just their foresight. I’ll not be party to trying to usurp their right to spread it around. It helps the economy by giving the rest of us some money that other people will take without question.”

“But you never sell to them,” another of the men said. It was Bill Mosier.

“No. I don’t. And what I do has nothing to do about this. Trying to force the setting of prices, which is what Amos wants, isn’t in my best interest, or anyone else’s. Doesn’t matter if I sell to them, or not. Nobody has to. And all of you are more than welcome to pay more than you do.

“You’re all resellers, like the Verns. Low purchase prices here just makes you money down the road. For those of us that get what we need to live from these meetings, reasonable prices are a must.”

“Told you he wouldn’t go for it,” said a man Billy Rich couldn’t see, but heard. Billy Rich recognized the voice as belonging to Ace Tanner. One man that Billy Rich could barely stand to be around.

“You’re right, Ace. As a matter of fact, there isn’t much that you are for, that I’m not against.”

Several men drew in quick breaths. A couple even stepped back from the space between the two men.

“You packing?” Ace asked.

“Of course I’m packing,” Billy Rich said softly.

“Them’s some harsh words against me, Billy Rich,” Ace continued. “Some might say cause for gun play.”

“Come on, Ace,” another man pleaded. “Billy Rich didn’t mean nothin’ by that.”

“Sure I did, Conner. Now step back. You’ve got a family to worry about.”

Not only did Conner step back, but several more did so, as well. There was a clear lane between the two men now. Separated by only fifteen feet of darkness, both men considered their options. Ace started to grin, as his slow movement had put his right hand on the gun at his waist without Billy Rich aware.

Billy Rich stood calm, his hand just above the Tri-barrel carrying the .44 Magnums. He had no intention of drawing first, but he was in no way going to back down to Ace. He was a snake that needed killing. Just no one had caught him at any of the things he was suspected of doing.

But an honest man doesn’t brace another honest man over such things as they had been discussing. Billy Rich had interfered successfully in several enterprises that Ace had tried to get going after the war. Ace had another scheme planned and getting rid of Billy Rich would make it much easier.

“Okay, boys. Ease things up here.” Captain Catherine Tucker spoke softly, but she was heard and obeyed. Even Ace wouldn’t challenge her openly. She was one of the forces, along with Billy Rich and a handful of others, that had kept this part of the country going during and after the war. She was the law, including Judge, Jury, and Executioner if it was necessary.

It wasn’t like an old Wild West show where she was simply as good a gunslinger as any of the men, it was that she watched and weighed and when you were found wanting in her eyes you died. Might be a standing face-to-face shoot out, but was more likely the slash of a knife across the throat in the middle of the night.

Not too many would stand and face the AA-12 full auto shotgun she kept at hand at all times. She used it like she had an unlimited amount of shells for it. Even if you backed down, if you didn’t mend your ways in her eyes, or leave, you died anyway.

Ace decided to bide his time. He’d take care of the Captain and that interfering Billy Rich hick at the same time, somehow. He said nothing, but walked away in the darkness. One of the men, hearing the boot steps finally cranked a wind-up flashlight and the pale faces came into view.

Only Billy Rich and Captain Tucker looked normal. Billy Rich nodded at her and she nodded back. “Might not be around the next time you put Ace on point like that,” she said as the two walked toward the Jenkins’ camp, leaving the others to go their own way.

Sally was waiting for Billy Rich by the fire and looked up at Catherine. “Hello, Catherine. Billy Rich causing trouble again?” she asked jokingly.

“Not this man. But keep him on a tight leash, anyway. And the kids.” With that cryptic statement to Sally, Catherine walked away into the darkness.

“Okay, Billy Rich! Out with it!” Her voice was low so the kids couldn’t hear if they were still awake, but easily loud enough for Billy Rich to hear and judge the tone. It wouldn’t do to lie to his wife.

“Ace and I almost got into a stand-off.”
 
“Oh, Billy Rich! He’ll kill you! He hates you enough to try something evil.”

“I know. So as Catherine so dramatically put it, you and the kids watch yourselves. If anything plays out, you stay well out of it. Make sure Spike does, too. He’s as likely as you are to step right in the middle of a gun fight.”


“You’d just better not press things, Billy Rich.” It was a warning that Billy Rich didn’t really need.


The next morning started early. People got their breakfasts, usually supper warmed up, and began to put out their trading blankets with their trade goods on them. Sally took a turn around the trading area as Billy Rich and the kids got Jake’s trade goods set out. They always sold his first, knowing they were his only chance to get the things he needed. Besides. They were prime goods.

It didn’t take long. Most people that knew the Jenkins knew about Jake, and his goods, and what he always wanted. The salt came first, and then the booze. After those two items a reasonable amount of sugar and the other things on his list. A family that they had traded with before for Jack hesitatingly brought three pairs of old boots up to the blanket.

“I’m sorry. They’re really old. All dried out,” said the father.

“Jack just looks for good soles. He makes his own uppers. Here you go,” Billy Rich said, handing over three packets of Jack’s premium buffalo jerky, and one of the small baskets of mixed dried apples, plums, and cherries.

“Are you sure?” asked the mother. Their little boy was eyeing the dried fruit hungrily. “So much for so little…”

“It’s a fair trade,” Billy Rich said. “Jack himself would tell you so. Thank you. I’ll let him know it was you that brought the boots.”

“Thank you. Thank you. This is a big help. The game is coming back, but we don’t have much ammunition…”

“What do you shoot?”

“An old Winchester 30-.30. Shoots good, but I only have three cartridges left. I’m saving them till I can take a good buffler cow.”

Billy Rich nodded. “Drop back by later. I’ll see if I can scare up a couple more for you.”

“I don’t think we have anything else you might want.”

“What do you have?” Seeing the rolled up magazine sticking out of a hole of the father’s pack, Billy Rich quickly said, “I’m really needing written words. The kids need something more to practice their reading skills.”

“Really?” replied the mother eagerly. She reached into the father’s backpack and pulled out the magazine. She handed it to Billy Rich.

He found himself rather impressed. It was a National Geographic from just before the war. “If you don’t make a good deal for this in the mean time, bring it back this afternoon. I’m sure I can trade for some ammunition for you.” Billy Rich handed the magazine back to the two.

Billy Rich shook his head as the family walked away. He hoped that they kept the magazine for him. They had no idea what they had in it. Most people wouldn’t give much for it, but to Billy Rich and Sally, it was worth quite a bit. They intended to keep up the kids’ education and things like National Geographic helped greatly.

Sally came back as the Carrington family was leaving. They nodded in passing and Sally sat down to talk over what she’d found that she wanted. Leaving her and the kids, Billy Rich made the rounds, stopping and asking a question here and there. Most of those he talked to knew him and Sally, and were eager to get a trade with them. They traded fair, will little haggling.

When he returned to the camp there were several people there, and Sally was already trading most of Jack’s goods away. When Britta and Gustav Vern showed up, the other traders left. Partly to give some privacy for what could be a big trade, but mostly because the Verns were not well liked in the area. By far the wealthiest family in the area, they were tight fisted with their money, haggling for hours over simple trades.

“Got anything I just can’t live without?” Gustav asked as Britta looked over the selections on the blanket.

“You know I don’t, Gustav.”

“Got solid gold. You know us.”

“People need our goods. Of course so do your customers, but I know these people. My goods are for local consumption.”

“I have cloth,” Britta said, watching Sally carefully.

Sally couldn’t help her eyes opening slightly, showing her immediate interest. Britta saw it and smiled. Getting a deal over on the Jenkins was something she’d been trying for the past three years.

“What do you have?” Sally asked.

“Whole bolts of many kinds and colors,” Britta replied. “Come to see and we can dicker.”

Sally was sorely tempted. She and Milly needed new clothes, and Billy Rich and Spike even more so. Good clothing had gone quickly after the war. Even cloth the last couple of years had been hard to come by.

Sally looked at Billy Rich. His look told her it was her decision. Sally leaned back and smiled slightly. “No, Britta. No dickering.”

“You know we take nothing but gold and silver for what we sell. But we pay with gold and silver, too.”

“Understood. I’ll look at the cloth and tell you what I will pay,” Sally said, dismissing the two by standing up and going into the tent.

“You come, too?” Gustav asked. “Might find something you can’t live without.”

“I have the only things I can’t live without. My wife and children.”

“Ya. Good answer.” The two started to turn away but Billy Rich stopped them. “You know I don’t like the way you do business. But I want to warn you to take care. There are some here that might use force to take what you have.”

The two looked at one another and then at Billy Rich. “Thank you for the warning. We are ready for anything.” Gustav opened his jacket slightly to let Billy Rich see the Glock Model 18 select fire pistol with a long 33-round magazine extending well below the holster.

“I think the three men you have watching would be of more help.”

Gustav looked startled. No one was supposed to know of the three men he’d hired to protect them from a distance. All were well armed and wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone that tried anything with the Verns. He looked around. He didn’t see them. “How…”

“They are good,” Billy Rich said. “I saw them yesterday when you were dealing with some others. They tend to concentrate on who you are concentrating on. I think I’d have at least two of them watching the total area.”

“I will tell them,” Gustav said. “They will not like being known.”

“They will like less doing anything about it,” Billy Rich said calmly. This trip was turning into a tense one, every which way you looked at it.

The Verns left and Sally came out of the tent. She’d heard everything and looked at Billy Rich. “Should we pack up and go home?”

Billy Rich shook his head. Not yet. I won’t walk out on our commitments. Not unless I know you and the kids are in danger.”

“What about you?”

Billy Rich grinned. “I married you. I’m always in danger.”

“Not funny, Billy Rich,” Sally replied, though she smiled slightly when she turned away from him.

Milly and Spike returned from their own assessment of what was available in their budget range. Each had a set amount of goods set aside for them, plus the various things they’d made since the last trade meeting.

“Find anything?” Billy Rich asked.

“Got three more knives to scale,” Spike said, holding out the blades for his father’s perusal.

“Nice. I see you’re staying with quality instead of quantity.”

“Sure am, Dad. It pays. All ready have one sold, if he likes the antler I use.”

“Quite the entrepreneur we have here,” Billy Rich told Sally, bringing some red to Spike’s face. “How about you, Daughter? What did you find?”

“I know it won’t make me any money, but I’ve wanted a diary for such a long time and…” Milly reluctantly handed her father the leather bound Daytimer journal and Cross pen with five refills. He flipped through the journal. Only the first page had any writing on it.

“It’s very nice, Milly. And don’t worry about it not making you any money. What you make is yours to use as you wish. Spike just likes money more than writing.”

“I’ll say!” Spike said. He went into the tent to pack up the knives carefully. He didn’t want to hurt the razor sharp edges. He’d hone the knives after he put handles on them, but it was just easier if he maintained the edge the blacksmith put on them initially.

Billy Rich was known to deal in ammunition and firearms. He had three people stop that morning with guns they wanted to trade to him, if they couldn’t get any ammunition for them from him.

The first gun was a beautiful Ruger 77/17 .17 Mach 2 rimfire. Billy Rich shook his head. “Sorry, Pal. I haven’t had any rimfire ammo in two years, much less seventeen rimfire. I’d suggest you take it to Tyler Taylor, the blacksmith. He’ll give you a little bit for it as scrap steel and wood.”

It was much the same with an expensive Thompson Center G2 in 7-30 Waters. “See what Tyler will give you for the barrel. I’ll give you a pound of pemmican for the receiver and forearm, or trade you a .30-30 barrel for it for… ounce and one quarter gold.”

The man bit his lip. He didn’t have the gold. He nodded and handed the handgun to Billy Rich. It was the act of a minute or so to pull the forearm and barrel. He handed the barrel back to the man, along with a pound of premium pemmican Sally had made using buffalo meat with rendered buffalo suet.

Billy Rich waited until the man left before he dug out the .30-30 barrel for the G2 and assembled it. He added it to the items on the blanket. “Two ounces of gold, firm, Sweetie,” he told Sally.

The third person, a woman, showed up with a Browning Buck Mark .22 rimfire pistol. Billy Rich told her the same thing she’d told the man with the .17 Mach 2. The quality steel and the springs were worth more to the blacksmith than the gun was worth as a gun with no likelihood of getting ammunition for it.

He did score some 24-gauge shotgun shells. They were more rare than 28-gauge, but with the ‘any chambering’ set of shotguns and inserts the family had, they were useable. He was disappointed when his usually reliable reloading contact showed up with only a few cartridges to trade. He did have some .30-30’s, for which Billy Rich traded more than he normally would, in order to get enough for the Carringtons, with a few left over to go with the TC G2.

“Three ounces now,” Billy Rich told Sally and the children when he added ten .30-30 cartridges to the blanket by the gun. It was a rare package. And he still had the two full boxes of .30-30’s he’d reloaded and brought down for trade. They’d be worth more, in another year, he knew.

The Carringtons showed up shortly after that and Billy Rich gave him a full box of the hand loaded .30-30’s for the magazine. He’d talked to Sally about it and she had agreed to the very uneven trade.

The two kids took off for the activities planned for them during the afternoons, and the trading and bartering went into high gear. When visitors slowed down mid-afternoon, Sally took her still loaded cart around, to trade off her hand made clothes and other items.

She came back smiling, the cart just as full as when she’d left, but with things she’d acquired. “You did good, Mother!” Milly said when Sally began to unload the cart. It would need to be repacked for the trip home.

It was a quiet evening and every one went to bed early, that wasn’t out partying. There was a lot of ‘social interaction’ at the barter and trade meets. The Jenkins stayed as far away from those activities as possible.

The next day was the key day. The big trades between major producers took place, along with re-trades made by people that had traded for certain goods in order to make a trade with someone else for the items they wanted.

Captain Catherine Tucker stopped at the Jenkins tent. “How many?” was all she asked.

“Have five broke to saddle, and two to harness,” he replied. One of Billy Rich’s ‘businesses’ was to capture, gentle, and train some of the wild horses that lived in the mountains before the war. Quite a few domesticated horses had survived the war and joined the wild herds. It was hard, dangerous work, but produced high profits.

As the main law enforcement officer in the area, the Captain bought the horses she and her deputies used. They wanted the best, because the outlaws usually had the best they could buy or steal. It wasn’t quite the Wild West, but it was close.

Billy Rich never brought the horses down to the trade meeting. They were all private transactions, plus it was too hard to move them safely with just him and his family. The Captain would bring two men with her, take a look at the animals, and then bring back down those she wanted. Billy Rich would be paid in gold.

“Why don’t you ride, since you can?” Catherine had asked Billy Rich and Sally one time.

“Eats into the profits,” Billy Rich had replied. “And you know how big a target people with horses are. Without the benefit of a group with which to travel, it’s just too risky.”

“You know that if you get hit up there, like you did the other day, there isn’t too much I can do about it.”

“I know, Captain. We’ll take care of things on our end. You just keep it safe to come down here twice a year.”

While Spike and Milly began to pack up the gear the next morning, Billy Rich and Sally went to what was called the town meeting, though, in effect, was the regional government. There wasn’t much to discuss. A new postman was hired, since the last one had been killed for his horse. And tax donations were taken to help pay for the few services that the ‘government’ provided, such as the postal service.

Billy Rich was careful to conceal how much he gave, not wanting to give anyone an idea they had enough that might justify going up against the family to take it. He saw the Verns flash a bit of gold as they contributed. Billy Rich just shook his head. They gave a fraction of what he did, and probably benefited more from the money than he did. But that was the way it was. Billy Rich wanted stability in the area and he was willing to help pay for it.

Sally was starting to feel a bit more at ease, as the time came for the family to head back home. Nothing had occurred between Billy Rich and Ace Tanner. But she was a bit premature.

“Calling you out, Billy Rich,” Ace Tanner said loudly, standing thirty feet from the ready carts.

Billy Rich turned to look at Ace. “Go home and grow up, Ace. I’m not getting into a staged gunfight with you. I don’t believe in duels. Too many good men die.”

“I don’t plan on dying,” Ace said, his voice still quite loud. A group was beginning to form. Billy Rich didn’t have to tell Sally to get the kids out of the way. She didn’t like what was happening, but it had become part of the culture again.

“I’ve got no call to brace you,” Billy Rich said. But he moved carefully, keeping his hands well away from the handguns in his belt and the rifle leaning against his cart.

“I say you’re a liar and a cheat and a killer. That poor young Benny Goodhaven didn’t deserve to die at your hand. He was just a boy.”

“Then let the Captain arrest me and we’ll have a trial,” Billy Rich said. He was making cautious movements to make sure no one was behind him if violence started.

“I don’t think so, Billy Rich. You’ve got that… woman… wrapped around your… little finger. She won’t arrest you. The Goodhavens asked me to do something about their son.”

“So, it’s nothing personal? You’re just a hired gun?”

Ace didn’t like that, or the murmurs that it brought from the crowd.

“Let me through! Let me through!” Captain Tucker pushed through the crowd, her AA-12 leading the way. One of the deputies was with her. He’d gone to get her before she left, headed for her own home a few miles away.

“I don’t aim to arrest Billy Rich for Benny’s death,” she said, standing not quite between the two men. “His mother admitted that the boy told them they tried to take the Jenkins’ farm and got what they deserved.”

“You going to let him call you names like that, Billy Rich?” yelled someone in the crowd.

“Sure I am,” Billy Rich replied. “Just consider the source.”

Billy Rich knew it would get the response it did. Ace stiffened and his hand quivered over the grips of the nickel plated Colt .45 ACP semi-auto pistol in the competition holster Ace wore.

“Think about this, Ace,” Billy Rich said. He squared up to face Ace directly. “No one needs to die over a few words. It’s not worth it.”

“You’ve had it your way too long, Billy Rich. High and mighty up there at your homestead. All the food and clean water you want to eat and drink. Gold in your pocket and good clothes on your back. Taking up with that loser Jack Mason.”

“I’d leave Jack out of this, Ace. He won’t take kindly to you calling him a loser. You know what he’s capable of,” Billy Rich replied to Ace’s jibe.

It was a truthful warning and Ace paled slightly. “Yeah. Forget Jack. It’s me and you.”

“No, Ace,” Billy Rich said, slowly relaxing. “It’s you and all of them.” He turned around and walked over to the carts.

Ace looked around at the rest of the crowd that had gathered. There were a dozen guns or more pointed at him. That included Captain Tanner’s AA-12. He’d seen what a burst of 12-gauge double ought buck from it would do to a man. He was going to let it go and take out Billy Rich much like Billy Rich had implied Jack would do him.

But someone laughed and said, “He’s backing down! Just like a bully.”

Ace couldn’t abide being laughed at. “Stand and deliver, Jenkins!” he screamed, going down into a crouch. His hand streaked down to the Colt and it cleared the cutout on the front of the competition holster.

But Billy Rich was no fool. He’d been ready for such a move. His hands had gone to the Tri-barrels when he’d started walking away. He drew them both, triggering both left top barrels and the bottom barrel in each gun as they came on line, even as he went to one knee for more stability and to the left to make himself a more difficult target.

Everyone had relaxed and those with guns in their hands were too late to make a difference. Even the Captain was taken by surprise and the AA-12 stayed silent as four loads of 12-gauge 2” Magnum double-ought buckshot peppered Ace’s chest. Suspecting trouble, Billy Rich had loaded both Tri-barrels with the magnum shotgun rounds first thing that morning.

Ace went down without a word, dead before his body hit the ground. Billy Rich looked at Captain Tanner. “You’re call, Catherine,” he said softly, replacing the two modified shotguns in his belt.

“Self-defense and good riddance,” said Catherine. She walked over and picked up the gun Ace had dropped. “Spoils of war, Billy Rich.”

“No, Catherine. Keep it or sell it to pay for his burial. I want nothing of his.”

Catherine and her deputy had to force people back that were about to mob the body for anything of value.

“Let’s go,” Billy Rich said to his family, taking hold of the handles of his cart.

They didn’t travel far before a man caught up with them on horse back. Billy calmly reloaded the Tri-barrels, this time with the .357 and .44 magnum shells in adapters.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Billy Rich asked, his hands resting on his belt.

“I think it more what I can do for you,” said the man. “Recognize this?” The man leaned down and handed Billy Rich a brass medallion.

“Looks like a military challenge coin,” Bill Rich replied easily. He tossed the medallion back up to the man. “Much like this one.” Billy Rich reached into the watch pocket of his pants and pulled out his medallion and tossed it up, too.

“I’ll repeat, what can I do for you?” Bill Rich asked when the man handed the coin back.

“Seeing as how we’re both in the same MAG, would it be all right to walk with you and discuss some business?”

“Sure,” Billy Rich replied. “A little awkward talking to you up there.”

“I… Well… I don’t walk too good.” The man pulled up his right pants leg to show the makeshift artificial leg and foot.

“So I see. That’s okay. Now, what’s up?”

“Some of us that were scattered out have taken it upon ourselves, since we are spread out, to start up safe travel routes that people can use without fear of attack, and have the means of moving larger quantities of goods.”

“Sounds like an ambitious plan. What’s my part of it and what’s in it for me?”

Sally smiled as she walked along behind her husband.

“You’re work with horses has become known. And that display today over that gunfighter has proven to me that you can take care of any business of a similar matter that might come up in the process of starting the business and then running this section of it.”

“That should never have happened,” Billy Rich said sharply. “It is not my habit to go around shooting down people, no matter how much they deserve it. And as far as keeping the peace, Captain Catherine Tucker does a very fine job.”

“I’ve talked to her. She believes she can handle what might come up, if, and only if, you are a part of it. She speaks quite highly of you. As do several other people I talked to about you.”

Billy Rich gave the man a hard look. “Very discretely, I assure you,” he said. “Even the Verns spoke glowingly of your forthright business sense.”

Milly giggled and Spike chuckled. Milly hushed the two and turned back to listen to the conversation.

“The Verns part of this?” Billy Rich asked.

“Some financial backing, yes. Active participation, other than as a client, no. They would get preferred freight and passenger rates for their investment.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Billy negotiated a tough spot in the trail and helped the others get around it, too, before he spoke again. “I’m okay with that, I suppose. I also suppose you will want me to furnish the stock for the transport. You know bio-diesel is much easier to use than animal propulsion.”

“That it is. And that is what we’ll do, eventually, including using the existing railroad tracks to increase our degree of scale. But for the moment, horse drawn stages and wagons are what we want. When we have accumulated the needed equipment, or the capital to buy the equipment, we’ll switch over.”

Billy Rich frowned “And leave me out in the cold.”

“No! Of course not! You’d be a full partner in the operation, just like you are in the MAG. You’d eventually go from hands on to hands off, and just collect a dividend, just like everyone that contributes to the formation and early operation of the project.”

“When do you need to know?” Sally asked, cluing Billy Rich in that she wanted to discuss the situation.

“I’d like an answer now,” said the man.

“Sorry,” Billy Rich said. “If you have to know right now, the answer is no, MAG and challenge coin regardless. Give me a couple of days to talk it over with my family and the answer will likely be yes, but not guaranteed.”

The man frowned. “Very well. Where can we meet? Two days?”

“I thought you might want to come up to the homestead and relax for a couple of days. See for yourself our operation and decide if you still want us in.”

The offer caught the man by surprise. “You’re inviting my up to you homestead in the mountains?”

“Just give the counter challenge to ‘It’s going to be a hot one today, considering.”

“Not as hot as I’ve seen,” the man replied immediately.

Billy Rich grinned. “Bingo! Consider yourself part of the family. You have everything you need before we get to far from the rendezvous?”

“Yes. I travel light. And thank you. My name is Samuel Harrison.”

“Okay, Samuel. Let us take the lead. Keep an eye on the back trail, if you will.”

“Of course. I always do.”


Two days later, the party was met by Jack, who called out from the side of the trail. “Hallo Billy Rich. Everyt’ing okay?”

“It’s fine, Jack. This is Mr. Samuel Harrison. He’s here for a rest and maybe some business.

“Everyt’ing okay at the homestead. Just like you left it. Horses are getting a little restive with no workout and the weather cooling down.” Jack stepped onto the trail as he spoke. It took just a moment for him to unhook his cart from Billy Rich’s.

“Did good,” he said when he made the first motion to pull it. “Heavy.”

Billy Rich grinned. “You trade good stuff, Jack. I gave the Carrington family a pretty good break on your boot soles.”

“’Tis okay. If you t’ink they need it, they need it. I can make more. What’s the news?”
Billy Rich looked bleak. It was Spike that spoke up. “Dad had to kill Ace Tanner. He tried to gun Dad down in the back after Dad said he wouldn’t fight him.”

Jack’s eyes cut to Billy Rich and saw the tightness around his mouth. “Killin’ a man, even one that needs it, ‘tis a hard thing to do.”

“Yes, it is,” Billy Rich replied. That’s all he would say about it, but when he had a chance, Jack took Spike aside and got all the details.

Even taking into account a proud son’s propensity to exaggerate his father’s exploits, Jack’s opinion of Billy Rich went up another notch, and it was already high.

Jack stayed well away from Samuel, in fear of contamination, but they did share some stories. Both knew several of the same people in the area before the war. It so happened that both men had been in Great Falls, Montana when La Palma blew, setting off the chain of events that led to the war.


Samuel was pleased, to say the least, when he evaluated the horses that Jack had ready for Catherine to pick up in a few days. “How many can you provide? And when?”

“Next fall, I should be able to have twenty ready for the company.”

“So, I take it you’ve decided to join us in the endeavor,” Samuel said as they stood outside the pole corral that held the horses.

“Yes. Sally and the kids are for it. I was the real hold out. It’s going to be a lot of work and stress. We have it good here. I’m not one-hundred-percent sure I want to get back into the rat race that progressive civilization is.”

“Progress will happen, even if you weren’t going to participate. This way, you’ll have some control over the operation. Maybe help keep those of us that carry things too far too fast from doing that this time around.”

“Don’t think the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. I have a few ideas on how things are going to operate, at least in the area where I have control.”

“You’re not going to make it easy to rake in the money, are you?”

“Nope. Going to be give and take, fair and equitable.”

Samuel sighed. “I told them that would be the way you’d want things run. Your reputation is quite widespread.”

Billy Rich’s eyes widened slightly. He knew he was fairly well known and respected in the local area. He hadn’t realized that it went further than the Black Hills and plains west of them. The two men shook hands, and the deal was on.



What Is The Password? – Epilog

So the business began. And did well. It helped open up more of the clean areas while avoiding the lingering hot spots. It was a major link between the Great Lakes and the Pacific coasts of Washington state and Oregon, as well as branching down to Texas and the Gulf Coast.

When the clouds were finally clear once again, eleven years after the destruction of La Palma, and the old weather patterns began to resume, the transport and distribution of goods in the Heartland of America was possible, due, in large part, to Billy Rich and his family.

End ********

Copyright 2008
Jerry D Young