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After the Fall (Book 3): Catherine's Tale (Part 2), page 1

 

After the Fall (Book 3): Catherine's Tale (Part 2)
 

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After the Fall (Book 3): Catherine's Tale (Part 2)


  After the Fall

  Catherine’s Tale, Part 2

  By

  David Nees

  Copyright © 2016 David E. Nees

  All rights reserved

  This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by electronic, mechanical or any other means, without the express permission of the author.

  After the Fall: Catherine’s Tale; Part 2 is a work of fiction and should be construed as nothing but. All characters, locales, and incidents portrayed in the novel are products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  To keep up with my new releases, please visit my website at www.davidnees.com and sign up for my reader updates

  You can also click “Follow” under my picture on the Amazon book page and Amazon will let you know when I release a new work.

  For Carla

  You give me the space, support, and love to allow these books to come to life.

  A very special “thank you” goes to my editor, Alex Russell, www.typohammer.com. He is a master at his craft and taught me so much about the nuances of writing a good story. I’m a better writer for his extraordinary work on the manuscript. I highly recommend him to any author, beginner or experienced. My thanks also go to Lynnette Nees who designs my great covers along with the rest of my family for putting up with my endless soliloquies about the story. And thank you, Ed, for your steady encouragement and insightful beta reads.

  Writing is solitary work: painful, frustrating and wonderful. But it can’t be done without support of family and friends and without you, the reader. Thank you for choosing to spend your time with my work.

  After the Fall

  Catherine’s Tale, Part2

  “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”—Haile Selassie, Ethiopian ruler

  “The best protection any woman can have... is courage.”—Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American suffragist and abolitionist

  Table of Contents

  For Carla

  After the Fall

  Catherine’s Tale, Part2

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Author Afterword

  Prologue

  The valley farmers had arranged to trade their crops and produce with Hillsboro. Two clans from the mountains, the Jessups and Earlys, joined them. The trading experience left Catherine, her family, and the others in the valley worried about their relationship with the town.

  Joe Stansky and his gang have taken over most of the militia in his quest to fully control Hillsboro. His increasingly dictatorial actions and the growing evidence of violence done to civilians have caused the chief of police, Charlie Cook, to rethink his willingness to work with Joe.

  Meanwhile, Billy Turner had left the valley to come to Hillsboro to make his way as a hunter for the town. He met Lori Sue and fell in love. Life is now good for him, even though he has had to avoid some members of the militia who have it in for him. Lori Sue sees not only practical benefits in hooking up with Billy, but also the gaining of a close companion in her harsh existence.

  In order to clear the way for his complete control, Joe directs Frank Mason, the de facto mayor, to work on Captain Roper, to convince him to leave town with his army platoon. Chief Cook learns of a plot to attack the valley residents. He alerts Lieutenant Kevin Cameron, Catherine’s fiancé. Kevin informs Jason and the other valley residents, who begin to prepare for the expected attack. Billy and Lori Sue become embroiled in the conflict and have to choose which side they are on.

  The fate of the valley and Hillsboro now rests on Captain Roper’s decision.

  Chapter 1

  Joe Stansky stared out at the dark city from his office, high above the silent streets. He tried to imagine the city with electrical power back—the dark buildings lit, communication restored, refrigeration operational again. Life would become much closer to how it had been before, his position of power would be solidified, and Hillsboro would be the dominant town in the region.

  But that wasn’t happening. Work had slowed on all the power projects. The cable project wasn’t reaching its targets on cable and wire production, the waterpower project seemed stuck in low gear, and the generator rebuild team was getting few units completed. Hell, he wasn’t sure how the technicians could tell if the refurbished units would work, since there was no way to drive them in order to test their output. The town, to Joe’s frustration, was still stuck with old gas or diesel generators that burned precious resources for the limited power they produced.

  He didn’t have the details. He had asked his men to find out what was going on, and they had come back with long, technical explanations that were pretty much unintelligible. A few questions had shown him that his men had understood almost none of what they’d been told. Frank had gone down to the projects as well, and it was clear to Joe, when he reported back, that he understood just as little.

  The projects were all interconnected; if one was delayed, it affected the functionality of the others. The generators were waiting on wire, the waterwheel would be just a big toy when it was finished if it didn’t get its generators, and without the cable there would be no way to distribute the power. If all the projects were delayed, it would make the hope of power restoration look like a futile dream.

  Frank reported a loss of enthusiasm that had been present early on. Was it due to the mysterious technical problems? Joe had his doubts. There was a drag in the system. He had a lifetime of ferreting out lame excuses. Now his instincts told him something more than obscure technical problems was causing the slowdown.

  He was not fuming; he’d gone through that phase earlier. Now he was thinking about his next steps. Frank was working on getting Captain Roper’s platoon to leave, and Joe expected Frank would be successful. There was not much more portable wealth—gold, jewelry—with which to pay off Captain Roper anyway, and he knew Roper was in the game purely for his own benefit. Roper wouldn’t stay any longer if it wasn’t making him richer.

  Joe would have free rein after the army left. There’d be no more reports to Colonel Stillman. He could do as he liked without worrying about offending the army.

  So what to do about the hold-up on the electricity? Some of the technicians seemed happy. With Joe’s approval, Frank had been effective at working out ways to reward them for their cooperation and expertise. They got special benefits for working on the infrastructure—more food, better quarters, and their spouses got exemptions from having to work on other projects.

  But he sensed that some of them
were not on board. He certainly had learned that there was a subversive element, plotting to dismantle martial law. And this slowdown in progress seemed to be evidence that the subversives were becoming more influential with the others.

  Why was it so hard for people to accept his authority?

  He had made things better in town. Hillsboro was in better shape than any community they had been in touch with, big or small. The city had a steadier food supply, less unrest, and more capacity to defend itself than any of the others. In fact, it was getting to be time for him to spread his leadership to the surrounding towns and improve them as he had improved Hillsboro.

  A regional structure would solidify everything. With that in place, and with a little more time to expand and train his militia into a military grade fighting force, he figured he’d be in good shape when the feds showed up. Captain Roper could have been helpful there, but Joe knew Roper’s type. Roper wasn’t going to jump on any offer to run Joe’s army. That would be too much work, and he’d be under Joe’s authority. No, Roper would take the easy way. When Roper thought he had enough loot, he’d probably leave the country; maybe go to South America where he could live in relative luxury. He certainly wasn’t going to stay in Hillsboro when there was little of value for him to skim. Joe just needed Frank to help Roper with his decision.

  If Joe could just get the technicians on board for long enough to get the electricity going, the people would settle down. They might not have much of a voice in running things, but he’d make life better. It was just like being in a gang. Follow the rules and reap the rewards. Help generate earnings, keep the group strong, and you get to swagger around and flash your share of the take. Joe could give Hillsboro enough take to make them happy. All they had to do was go along.

  A surge of enthusiasm went through him. If he moved faster than others around him, just like he’d done right after the EMP attack, the sky was the limit. The civilians of Hillsboro, they would be his gang members, his elite. That was how he would play this out. His citizens would be on the inside, part of the gang, when they spread their control to other towns. Joe smiled at the thought of a city-sized gang with him as the leader.

  All right. He walked out into the hall and found the guard half-asleep behind the receptionist’s desk.

  “Wake up, asshole,” Joe snapped. The man jerked upright in the chair, fear on his face. “Go get someone to find Leo and Frank Mason and bring them here.”

  The man looked at the clock on the wall as he stood up. It was ten minutes past midnight.

  “I don’t give a shit what time it is, so don’t open your mouth. Just do it.”

  “Yes, sir,” the man said, and he ran down the hall toward the door to the stairwell. Joe went back into his office, smiling.

  Three minutes later he heard an engine and watched headlights splash on the empty buildings across the street as one of the cars burst out of the parking garage and turned right, disappearing around the block.

  Around twenty minutes later the sound of an engine announced the car’s return. He saw the headlights through the window as it pulled up to the front of the building. Joe sat down behind his desk and waited for the two men to appear.

  “Don’t you ever sleep?” Frank asked as the men entered Joe’s office. He looked sleepy, his clothes rumpled. Leo just sat down quietly.

  Joe looked at Frank coldly. “Don’t be cute. I got no time for cute. You’re here because we need to move forward. The electricity project isn’t going well. All I hear from you is some technical crap which don’t mean a thing to me.”

  Frank took the other chair, frowning. “It doesn’t mean much to me either, but it seems to be why progress is so slow.”

  “It could also be just a way to hold things up. The ones who don’t like my authority would like to keep the electricity shut off. Not so it looks like they stopped it, just so it looks like we can’t deliver. They know if we get the lights on, people will be happier with my running things.”

  Joe stood up and ran his hands through his hair. He allowed a slight smile to cross his face. “It’s actually pretty clever, the way they’re doing it. We don’t know how to bypass them and get the work done. The waterwheel project we could complete. It’s mostly grunt work. But for the rest of it we need the experts, and without them the waterwheel is useless. They seem to have us in a position where we gotta take their word on things. They could string us out for years, maybe.”

  Joe let his smile fade. He sat back down and leaned forward. When he spoke again, his voice was hard. “Which brings me to a conclusion. I ain’t waiting for them. Who knows when the feds might show up. I want the town in better shape by then. I want other towns under my control by then. I want a larger, better-trained militia by the time anything calling itself the real government comes nosing around us.”

  “What makes you think they’re going to show up soon? You hear something?” Frank asked. Joe could see he was getting nervous.

  Leo didn’t react at all. He sat relaxed, patient in his chair, waiting for Joe to make his point. Joe almost smiled.

  “I haven’t,” he said. “But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out they’ll come around. Shit, the army has. If there’s still a U.S. Army, there’s got to be something behind it giving orders. They may not be very strong or organized, but if the army still exists and is acting like they’re a part of the U.S., then I’m bettin’ there’s a government trying to regain control. And the army can let them get reorganized, and the next thing you know we’ll have some government official show up with soldiers. Or Homeland Security.” The last name he spat out with disgust.

  “Well, we shouldn’t be too quick to do anything. I’m waiting to hear back from Roper. I think—”

  “He’ll go,” Joe said impatiently. “There’s nothing for him here. You just need to make sure he don’t think he can linger and squeeze me for more. He’s got to go now or face the consequences.”

  Frank’s eyes widened. Leo glanced at Frank, and the ghost of a smile touched his mouth.

  “Now these technicians,” Joe continued. “I think it’s time we made an example of a couple of them.” He turned to Leo. “I want you to pick out two of the uncooperative ones. Try to get the ones involved in the slowdown, but, if you can’t, just pick out any two. Do it quick. We’ll put them on trial, in front of the whole town, and convict them of subversion, not helping their fellow citizens, sabotaging the public good. Then we execute them, publicly.” Joe paused for effect. “The rest will get the message, and we’ll be seen as being on the side of civic progress…and,” he looked hard at Frank, “as not allowing anyone to interfere or stop us.”

  Leo sat calm and still, like a statue. Frank looked distressed.

  “We haven’t done that since the early days, when we caught looters,” Frank said after a moment.

  “You afraid to do it now?” Joe asked.

  Fear showed in Frank’s eyes. “No. I just don’t like upsetting people.”

  “I don’t like people disobeying me,” Joe answered coldly. “This works,” he swept his hand around the room, “because people do what they’re told. They have to understand that. And they have to understand they better not cross me. This group seems to have forgotten that fact. It’s time to remind them who’s in charge. And while we’re at it, we’ll show the rest of the town as well. They won’t miss the message. And then we’ll turn the lights on.” He smiled. “The sooner we get the electricity going, the happier everyone will be. They’ll follow my orders when they see how good things can be. I’m not letting a few traitors think they can screw with me and get away with it. We’re past that.”

  He went on without waiting for a reply. “Leo, get this done, tomorrow, first thing. Bring Charlie along, I want to be sure where he stands. And, I expect you to get Roper out of my hair.” He locked eyes with Frank. “You make that happen, quick, ‘cause Leo’s next job is taking care of the valley. First that girl was going around on trading day acting like a star. Now I hear she wa
s seen riding around in town with Cameron when he was on patrol. And that was just this week.”

  Frank looked surprised.

  “Now whaddaya think they’re up to? It ain’t patrolling. Seems to me the valley is sticking their nose in where it don’t belong.”

  “Are you sure about this?” Frank asked.

  Joe got up. He walked around his desk to where Frank was sitting, leaned over him, and stuck a finger in his chest. “I’m sure about one thing. Things ain’t going right and I’m going to change them. You better understand that. I’m tired of all your whining, Frank. Be careful you don’t become a problem for me.” He let that sink in. “Now go get some sleep, both of you. Tomorrow we act.”

  Chapter 2

  The next day Charlie had only just gotten into work when he heard the rumble of a vehicle pulling up in front of the police station. The sound was rare enough that it caught his attention immediately. He went to his office window and looked down on an old white van. He guessed it must be a militia vehicle, although he couldn’t see any markings from his vantage point.

  He walked out of his office and started down the stairs. He saw Leo Stupek waiting at the bottom.

  “Hate to interrupt your day, Chief, but you need to come with me. We’ve got a security issue to deal with.”

  “What’s the problem?”

  “A security problem, militia business. I want to be sure law enforcement is all on the same page.” Leo’s look made it clear that Charlie was required personally.

  “I’ll get my coat,” Charlie said.

  The white van had been crudely converted into a cross between a militia patrol vehicle and a paddy wagon, with a grille welded behind the second row bench seat, partitioning off the back half of the vehicle. The bench seat in front of the grille was occupied by two stern-looking militia with rifles. The front passenger seat was empty. Charlie climbed in.

 
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