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  1. #11
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    CHAPTER 3 CONTINUED

    “No, I was finishing up my round when it happened,” said Jim.

    “How were you doing?” asked Beth.

    “Going two under at seventeen and made thirty six hundred in skins. Probably going for over four by the time we were done,” said Jim. “And your massage?”

    “Heavenly,” said Beth with a sigh then giggled.

    “What’s the giggle about?” asked Jim.

    “Here we are in the aftermath of the largest earthquake in over a hundred years and we are talking normally,” she giggled again.

    And he had to laugh. Laughter was good medicine and they both needed the stress relief. They wandered over towards the patio area where the cooks were bringing out finger food, sandwich items and cold drinks. The ice was coming out of the kitchen area and would melt anyway, so they put the drinks on ice and got everything ready.

    “Can we go ahead and grab something to munch on?” asked Jim.

    “Of course sir. The rest of the items won’t be ready for a few minutes, but you are free to grab what you would like for now,” said one of the men in a waiter uniform.

    They browsed through the various cold cuts and rolls and made a quick sandwich while taking a seat under one of the umbrellas. Jim grabbed a couple of cold sodas for them and sat down to make his own sandwich and try and act normal. They were starting to be joined by others who took the idea of free food to heart instead of waiting for more news on the earthquake. A man came around the patio area carrying a flashlight and wearing a hard hat. He was followed by another man in civilian clothing carrying what appeared to be blueprints of the building. They rolled out the large paper sheets and spoke to each other and pointed at various points on the paper while nodding or shaking their heads. Eventually they came to some sort of agreement and walked inside the facility. Before Jim could comment, they were joined by Hal and Linda.

    “Mind if we have a seat here and join you?” they asked with nice plates in their hands. It was almost comical to see the nice china being used for something as low as sandwiches.

    “Please,” said Jim and stood for their new guests.

    The other two sat down and started talking to the others, just small talk to pass the time. When the subject of the golf round came up, Hal suddenly got a little quiet.

    “Oh don’t tell me you went out running your mouth again and played for skins?” asked Linda very pointedly.

    “I didn’t think boy wonder here was a PGA star in disguise!” he protested.

    Linda sighed and simply asked “How much?”

    “Nothing bad,” said Hal evasively.

    “Over a grand then,” Linda sighed. “Won’t you ever learn?”

    “It’s not my fault!” he protested once again.

    “Does your husband like to run his mouth and bet on things he can’t accomplish?” asked Linda and ignoring her husband.

    “No, I typically slap him in the back of the head for things like that,” said Beth with a laugh.

    “I stopped doing that years ago dear. I found it only made my hand sore,” laughed Linda.

    “Jim can be pretty hard headed as well,” laughed Beth.

    “It’s a good thing we’re sitting right here for all this talk,” laughed Jim as he nudged Hal.

    “I can only imagine what my wife says about me in the spa,” he laughed in return.

    The talk continued about everything under the sky instead of the earthquake (and the skins game) just to pass the time. The engineer came back out of the facility followed by the other man and went off to another building where the checking of the blueprints and entry was made. A member of the waiter staff came over.

    “The engineer says it is safe to enter in case you wanted to go inside,” he said.

    “No, it’s a nice day out here. Very pleasant with the breeze coming off the water,” said Hal with agreement from the other three.

    “Might not be a bad idea. It’s getting a little hot inside already,” said the waiter. “Can I get you anything?”

    “How about two plane tickets to Denver?” laughed Jim.

    “Let me see what I can come up with three instead sir,” grinned the waiter. “Anything else?”

    “No, thank you,” said Linda as he went off to another table. The waiter was pointedly asked when the power was going to be back on and why they couldn’t visit their rooms. And what gives you the right to keep us out of the hotel mister? Just who do you people think you are? It’s insulting to say the least! And I want to talk to the manager right now! No, skip him! I want the owner out here!

    “That poor kid. He’s probably from around here or north towards the Bay. He might even have family up that way and they are treating him like garbage,” said Beth.

    “Some people around here get pretty uppity when they don’t get their way,” said Hal.

    “Yeah, but there is no reason to take it out on that kid,” said Beth.

    “True, very true,” said Hal and rose to go over to the two that had caused such a ruckus. He spoke quietly with them for several moments before pointing a finger in their face and growling in low tones. Jim couldn’t hear what was being said, but it didn’t look like he was asking if their soda was cold. The two looked shocked at either the choice words he was using or the way he was saying them. Without giving them the chance to reply, he turned and came back to the table where he sat down and glared right back at them. Apparently he won the battle of wills when one of the two turned to the other and broke the stare down with a “well, I never!”

    “Something tells me they won’t be joining a foursome with you at any time,” said Jim and wondering what he said.

    “No, I just reminded them of who I was and asked very pointedly why they were harassing that young man. Then asked if there was anything else they wanted to demand while they were here,” said Hal.

    “And something tells me you might not be just a random guy around here,” said Beth.

    “I might or might not be on the Board of Directors for this Resort,” he said with a sly grin.

    “Well, that explains how you can afford to lose to me,” said Jim with a laugh. “But I thought you said you were retired?”

    “I am retired, but I still serve on the board here and own a nice amount of stock in some selected golf companies as well as having a stake this resort,” said Hal with another grin.

    “You mean I was playing against one of the owners of this course?” said Jim with a shocked expression.

    “It’s not a big deal. You beat me fair and square. But I have to tell you Jim, you seriously should think about the Pro Tour,” said Hal. “You could whip half those guys out there if you took it up full time.”

    “Maybe when I retire I’ll take that up. But for right now, I’m happy with what I’m doing,” said Jim. “And this also explains how you know so much about the emergency preparedness out here.”

    “Yeah, that’s something I talked the board into some years ago. I mean, we are a world class resort out here and we should be able to care for our guests and staff during an emergency without having to worry about the Feds coming in,” said Hal.

    “And it’s a passion he takes home at night too. Has all that food and stuff stocked up in the basement,” said Linda.

    “We promised not to talk about that in public sweetie,” said Hal, putting his hand on his wife’s.

    “I see,” said Jim and wondered what else he didn’t know about Hal Charles. As well as wondering what kind of advice he might get from him. Since the earthquake, Jim had felt vulnerable, powerless to act, powerless to take care of his wife and generally quite useless in this situation. The familiar feelings he felt a few days ago came back full force to him and he mentally beat himself up about thinking things could wait until after the weekend. And how he missed something like this his whole life. But the questions could come later after getting to know the Charles’ better. But he surely would be asking some pointed questions.

    “So what’s the plan then?” asked Beth.

    “Well, if I have anything to say about it…and I happen to be the most senior member of the board on the grounds right now…we are going to have a good old fashioned barbeque tonight. We don’t have enough diesel to keep those reefers running night and day, so we limit how many we power and let the rest thaw out. So be prepared for one of the best steaks you’ve ever had over some charcoal later this evening,” said Hal.

    “And after that?” asked Jim.

    “We play it by ear. We have enough stuff for a week like I told you, but I doubt we are going to be here that long. And if my guess is correct, we might be seeing some refugees heading this way by tomorrow, day after tomorrow at the latest,” said Hal. Mainly they will get stopped in the city, but some might wander over this way.”

    “What do you do with them?” asked Jim.

    “Send them on their way. I mean, we can help a little bit, but it all depends on their story,” said Hal.

    “Such as?” asked Beth.

    “For one, where did they come from? Were they in a neighborhood that was decimated by the quake? Were they one of the looters, which are sure to be out by nightfall, that are trying to escape John Law? Are they just passing through like you folks and trying to get back home? Are they with FEMA and want to set up an emergency camp on the course here? I mean, let’s face it; we have a decent sized chunk of real estate here just waiting for a FEMA camp. Not that we’ll volunteer, but we have all the infrastructure for such a thing. Water, space, enclosed area. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them here within the next day or so scouting out the area. But with Fort Ord nearby, I doubt they would worry about our little golf course,” said Hal.

    “Would you let them in?” asked Jim.

    “Depends on how they ask. They would typically just say ‘it’s ours now’ and be done with it,” said Hal.

    “They can’t just take your property!” exclaimed Beth.

    “Can and will if they choose to. But hopefully we are far enough out of the way for them to ignore us,” said Hal.

    “Anything else for entertainment?” asked Jim.

    “I’ve got the staff working on finding enough power for a TV and radios. Most folks are going to want to know what’s going on up there. And I’ll admit, I’m one of them,” said Hal.

    “Now I have a question for you two since my husband has been hogging the conversation. What exactly do you do for a living Jim?” asked Linda.

    “I’m a stock broker. Actually, an investment broker as I play all the markets, mutual’s, stocks, bonds, commodities, currency, real estate. Just about everything,” said Jim.

    “And you two have been married how long?” asked Linda.

    “Five wonderful years,” said Jim and grabbed at Beth’s hand without thinking about it.

    “Now that one’s a keeper Elizabeth. You see how he immediately grabbed at your hand to hold it? That’s a sign he really cares for you and couldn’t stand the thought of losing you,” said Linda.

    “I think I’ll keep him around for now,” said Beth as she smiled at her husband.

    “But you my dear. You’ve been around money your whole life. I could see that when we met in the spa,” said Linda.

    “How did you know?” asked Beth.

    “The way you act of course. You are used to being treated…differently I would say. But you haven’t let it go to your head like others have,” said Linda and nodded at the other table where the other two continued to sulk.

    “Yes, my father was a big investment banker on Wall Street. We’ve always been well off,” said Beth.

    “And you Jim. You came from humble beginnings but made your way in this world. But you are still down to earth as you remember where you came from,” said Linda.

    “Are you a psychic or something?” Jim laughed.

    “No, I just learned to read people. Like those two over there. They are scared, but don’t want to admit it. So they lash out at everyone and everything trying to act brave. But in the end, they are scared because they don’t know what will happen next. They are out of their comfort zone and want back in,” said Linda.

    They continued to talk more on the disaster, the plans for the gold course and the coming events and what Hal thought might happen in the coming days. It was nice to find common friends in the middle of the emergency, especially those who could help out when they needed it the most.

  2. #12
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    CHAPTER 4


    Saturday 8:39 PM, Pebble Beach, California


    The staff at the resort had found a TV set that could be moved easily and taken it out to the patio area along with a generator. It was a quieter generator and didn’t play over the news channel showing shots of the devastation in the Bay area nonstop along with commentary of what happened. The satellite hookup wasn’t as easy to stretch out, but after splicing several wires together, they made it work. While the major network reporters still couldn’t get in on the ground, the local ones were doing a bang up job from the satellite vans reporting on what was going on. The story moved back to Oakland once again.

    “Kerry? Are you there? Kerry, can you hear me?” the anchor in New York asked.

    “Yes Sheppard, I’m here. As you can see down the street behind me, looters have already taken to the streets in an attempt to take advantage of the lack of emergency services. While all law enforcement is currently on the job, they are bogged down with rescue efforts and assisting fire department and medical personnel instead of being able to keep order. Not that is an fault of their own as the devastation in the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose area is enormous and requires all civil employees to assist in rescuing those still trapped by today’s earthquake,” said the reporter from the streets of Oakland.

    “Are they taking anything in particular like food and water?” asked the anchor.

    “They seems to be grabbing whatever they can get their hands on. Additionally, alleged deprived urban youth have been setting fires to abandoned vehicles and buildings in an attempt to divert the attention from the looting to the ongoing fires. Several fire fighters have been shot at attempting to approach burning buildings and cannot enter certain parts of the city,” said the reporter.

    “Have you ever seen anything like this before?” asked the anchor.

    “Actually I have. Right after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The looting is not about food or water, but about high dollar items. I’m currently in a fairly high end district and the looters are taking anything expensive they can get their hands on,” said the reporter.

    “Is the National Guard on scene yet?” asked the anchor.

    “Not yet, Sheppard. Most of the local units have been involved in rescue efforts since the start and those outside the area are still mustering. However, even when they do come in, they should be prepared for complete anarchy as the citizens of the metropolitan areas are pretty lawless right now,” said the reporter. A shot whizzed by, close enough that the reporter ducked and looked back at where it came from. He was a local reporter, but had served time in Afghanistan in the National Guard and was used to being shot at.

    “Was that gunfire?” asked the anchor.

    “Yes it was. And I think we’re going to cut this short and move away from this area. We’ll check back in when we can,” said the reporter as he gave the ‘cut’ sign to the cameraman and started jogging towards the van.

    “With the situation in the San Francisco and Oakland area in complete anarchy, the Governor has pledged all California National Guard units to speed to the area. Additionally, Arizona and Nevada have recalled their Guard units to assist in the relief efforts as well. The President, on vacation in Chicago, has yet to make a press release, but we are told he is fully aware of the situation and ongoing relief efforts.”

    “FEMA spokesman Norm Fields refused to speculate on the amount of damage although used the word ‘catastrophic’ at one point. Additionally, Fields stated FEMA is in a far better position to respond to this disaster than in recent memory. Prepackaged equipment and supplies are already being rolled out of national warehouses toward the California coast.”

    “And in other national news, Speaker of the House Pelosi has already pledged to rebuild the damaged portions of the cities, no matter the cost. We have an excerpt from the question asked to her earlier.”

    “No matter what, we have to rebuild in that great city. We stand to lose far more by not doing it. Millions of jobs will be lost and millions more left homeless if we do not act. I will be presenting a bill to the House tomorrow setting unlimited funds for the relief and reconstruction efforts in California. Right now, politics have to take a back seat to common decency of our fellow citizens.”

    “In other news, Japan, Russia, China, members of the European Union and Mexico have all pledged support and assistance in relief efforts. A dozen more nations have pledged funds to help offset the cost of relief efforts. Military forces of NATO have been put on deployment alert for possible redeployment into the United States to assist with relief efforts. Pentagon officials have yet to determine what specific relief efforts would be needed, but have informed us the State Department is working the issue.”

    “We’ll be back after a word from our sponsors…”

    “You called it spot on. How did you know about the looters?” asked Jim.

    “Common sense. All the cops, fire fighters and medical folks are tied up at the moment, the National Guard isn’t ready to go in yet and the rest of the city is over the shock of the initial quake. It wasn’t going to be long before someone figured out it was early Christmas shopping,” said Hal.

    “You think it will last long?” asked Beth.

    “Until those Guard guys get on scene. After that, those barbarians will scatter like the cowards they are,” said Hal. “Some might fight, but I have a lot of faith in our California boys and girls to put a quick stop to that with some well placed firepower.”

    The scent of the barbeque was still hanging in the air after the royal feast they had done earlier. Most seemed a little calmed down after the earthquake, all except Jim. He kept thinking of other threats and how to counter them and came up empty. I’ve got to get back and research this. Nothing like a good old fashioned crisis to change one’s way of thinking. I wonder if my new friend can be of any help.

    He motioned with his head at Hal in a silent request to talk away from the others. The two walked away and towards the surf hitting the nearby rocks. “I’m going to ask you a couple of questions if you don’t mind,” said Jim.

    “Okay, what’s on your mind?” asked Hal.

    “Your wife mentioned something earlier about the preparedness spilling over to home. What did she mean?” asked Jim.

    “Just that we are prepared at home for this kind of thing as well,” said Hal. “Lots of people out here are.”

    “I was just wondering because I’m not prepared for this kind of thing,” said Jim.

    “Some people aren’t. Especially an earthquake. You don’t get that many of them out in Denver, so why prepare for something like that,” said Hal reasonably.

    “No, it’s not just that. I mean any kind of crisis. I’ve lived my life with blinders on thinking everything was going to be just fine,” said Jim.

    “And you are just like about ninety-five percent of the population out there. Most folks have about three or four days of food in their pantry and the gas in their car. No water saved up or anything like that. You shouldn’t feel like the lone ranger,” said Hal with a chuckle. “But the big question is, what are you going to do about it?”

    “I kind of had a revelation recently about how unprepared I am,” said Jim. “And I’m going to do something about it.”

    “Like what?” asked Hal.

    “Well, get more prepared for things like this. I mean, not like this, this, but overall emergencies. I want my wife to be safe,” said Jim.

    “It’s not hard, FEMA has some good information,” said Hal.

    “Not just them. I stumbled across some websites talking about disaster preparedness,” said Jim, not wanting to throw out the survivalist name just yet.

    “Like which ones?” asked Hal.

    “More than just one. I bookmarked them at home,” said Jim.

    “Just wondering. I go to a few of them myself,” said Hal.

    “Okay, point blank question. Are you what’s called a prepper?” asked Jim.

    “I could be…okay, I guess I am. Neighbor of mine in Palmdale got me turned on to it some years ago. Well, I was doing it long before that and never thought of it that way, but since moving to California I’ve seen the light as well and want to make sure the wife and I will be okay during an emergency. He gave me some pointers and gave me some pretty good advice on what else to pick up along the way. Over time, we’ve bounced ideas off each other and helped each other out when the need arises,” said Hal.

    “Any advice for a noob?” laughed Jim.

    “Yeah, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Lots of good sites out there and I can give you a list of some I go to for advice and information. But be careful of the kooks,” said Hal.

    “Like?” asked Jim.

    “Oh those crazy types that believe the Earth is going to be destroyed in 2012, the anti-government types and the ones that believe having guns gives you power over those that don’t. In an emergency, you try to help out as much as possible. You remain guarded, but don’t go shooting at everything that crosses your path. Self sufficiency is an art and a lifestyle, not something that just happens,” said Hal.

    “Basic advice? I deal in investing for a living, can you break it down into investment terms?” asked Jim.

    “Easily. You own gold right?” asked Hal.

    “Yes, I have some quantities of it,” said Jim.

    “Why did you buy it?” asked Hal.

    “Because no matter what, gold always performs in the market. Even when the stock market slides, gold is still an asset that will perform no matter what,” said Jim.

    “And if it loses its value?” asked Hal.

    “It will rebound and it’s better to be diversified in case one of the markets collapses. Generally speaking, when one falls another makes a profit. Like in an inflationary period, precious metals generally go up,” said Jim.

    “So you would say gold is a safe investment even if it doesn’t make much in the long run?” asked Hal.

    “It’s pretty safe. I mean, the price will fall, but typically it goes back up,” said Jim.

    “Now let me ask you this. If you had a can’t miss deal, a high risk stock that is sure to go up no matter what, would you sell all your gold and invest in that instead?” asked Hal.

    “No, I would still keep some back in case it fell through,” said Jim, wondering where the conversation was going.

    “Why?” asked Hal.

    “Well, stocks can rise and fall, but like I said, gold is a safe investment. You could invest in gold and never have a worry about it. I would keep some of it around just in case the rest of the market fell through,” said Jim.

    “And preparedness is just like that. You invest in preparations like you would in gold. You may never need them, but you have them there just in case. You use the rest of the system until it crashes and still live off your preparations,” said Hal.

    “But doesn’t it go bad? Some of the preparations I mean. You can’t just throw some food on the shelf and expect it to still be good in five years,” said Jim.

    “No, but you still have to eat, right?” asked Hal.

    “Well, yeah,” said Jim.

    “So you really aren’t investing in anything are you? I mean, sure, food is an investment, but overall, food is a consumable item, same as water. Okay, most people think of food as something to stock on shelves. But where does it come from?” asked Hal.

    “Farms and such, processing plants, distributors,” said Jim.

    “Farms and such…so that food needs to be grown right? It just doesn’t magically appear on the shelves at your local grocery store like some people probably think?” asked Hal.

    “Of course,” said Jim, still not in the mindset of where he was going. But knowing he had made a good point about the gold. It was better to have gold and not need it rather than try to buy it at greater rates when the market collapsed.

    “And before that, seeds, right?” asked Hal.

    “Yes,” nodded Jim.

    “Think of food, gardens and seeds like an IPO. You need that idea, we’ll call that our seed and some collateral to get it off the ground, we’ll call that our garden. But also, you need collateral in the form of water, weeding the plants…a little care here and there. I mean, if you just throw money at an IPO and don’t do anything else, will it produce?” asked Hal.

    “No, you still need to produce your product, work the marketplace and get it sold. Eventually the product makes you money. I mean, you can’t just throw money at an idea and expect it to work,” said Jim.

    “You are light years ahead of most people in our government with that last comment,” chuckled Hal. “But a garden is not so different. You need your seed, grow your plants, care for them, spend some time playing around in it, but eventually the work pays off in the form of food.”

    “But doesn’t that take a while?” asked Jim.

    “Sure does, but in the meantime, you have other things lined up, like shelf stable foods and whatnot to get you through to your garden producing,” said Hal.

    “So how does this work into preparedness? I’m following you, but not making the connection,” said Jim.

    “Okay…you have your investments? You have an IPO ‘garden’ right? Just an idea that you have, but your need to grow your idea before it will produce. Your product is…we’ll call it your low risk stock. You don’t really lose a great deal when you start out, but in the end, you make decent money. Like a garden coming from a seed, you don’t make a lot starting out, but end up having food in the end.”

    “Now you have your garden that you are waiting to grow into your low risk accounts. But you add in some long life ‘gold’ foods as well. Long life foods always pay out in the long run. Sure, you can eat your garden foods, but just in case, you have your long life, shelf stable foods as well.”

    “But you also buy food from the grocery store, which is your high risk stock. What happens when our ‘stock market’ collapses and the grocery store runs out of food?” asked Hal, making his point.

    “I can still live off the long life foods and the garden will produce food in the long run…how many times have you done this little speech?” asked Jim with a laugh.

    “First time. It’s hard making it into terms you might understand,” said Hal. “But the garden scenario is also like our preparedness. You have the seed of the idea to get better prepared into your mind. Now what do you need to make it grow?”

  3. #13
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    CHAPTER 4 CONTINUED

    “Funds, time, work, knowledge,” said Jim.

    “And that’s pretty much what preparedness is all about. Funds, time, work and knowledge,” said Hal.

    “So for a beginner, what’s the most important thing?” asked Jim.

    “There really isn’t one thing that is more important than the other. Focus on the basics: food, water, shelter and safety. Learn to know what you don’t know and ask for help,” said Hal.

    “The web sites I went to tend to think guns are nice to have,” said Jim. “I’ve never owned a gun before. I never really cared about it one way or the other, but what’s the fascination?”

    “Most preppers see firearms as being part of security. You take a look at those looters north of here. Now think about them descending on your home. Wouldn’t you just let them waltz in and take what you rightfully paid for or would you rather be able to defend your property?” asked Hal.

    “I think the situation would dictate rather than a ‘one answer fits all’ scenario,” said Jim.

    “Okay, how about looking at it from this viewpoint then. Those same looters want to rape your wife. What about then?” asked Hal.

    “I would kill every last one of them,” said Jim with resolve. “Okay, I understand.”

    “Preparedness isn’t as complicated as some people make it seem,” said Hal.

    “I guess starting out it just seems like a lot to do,” said Jim.

    “Well it is. I mean, there’s a ton of knowledge to be learned and that makes more than a few people give it up after a couple of months. But if you stick with it, it doesn’t really seem like a lot after you get going,” said Hal.

    “I’ve pretty much made up my mind I’m going to do this, but another question,” said Jim.

    “How do you explain it to your friends, neighbors and above all, your wife?” asked Hal.

    “Yeah, how did you know?” asked Jim.

    “Probably the most common thought with preppers. We all want to have help when it comes down to it, but have an issue bringing the subject up without being thought of as crazy. So put some feelers out and listen for things they say. Just like you did with me,” said Hal.

    “And my wife?” asked Jim.

    “That’s always the big question. Typically they tolerate it to a certain point up until you have enough ordnance stored up to last through World War Nine. It gets kind of tricky after that,” said Hal.

    “Right, but where do I start?” asked Jim.

    “Be reasonable about it. This is a perfect example to throw at the wife. She’s here and lived through this. This is the case file you use to get her into the mindset of being prepared,” said Hal. “But if you are going all the way, complete and utter self sufficiency across the board and prepared for everything including nuclear war and the end of civilization as we know it, you best start thinking of better reasons that this little earthquake. I can’t speak to how your relationship is with the wife, but I’m sure after five years of marriage you will know what to say.”

    “I don’t know; sometimes I think women are some strange alien species dropped on this planet that we simply cannot communicate with,” laughed Jim.

    “Brother, it doesn’t get any better with age; trust me,” laughed Hal.

    “Not that I’m focusing in on a particular subject, but what about the guns? What should I know about them?” asked Jim.

    “Preppers are as picky about guns as they are about their favorite color. You ask for advice on the net and I can flat guarantee you there will be about two hundred different opinions on the ‘best’ rifle, pistol, shotgun and .22 you should buy. Take my friend in Palmdale for example. He hates anything that starts in the letters AR, but loves the Springfield M1A. I imagine he would rather throw spit wads at an attacker as opposed to using a ‘poodle shooter’ as they are called. I know you have no idea what I’m talking about right now, but my advice? Find what you like and buy it. Don’t just go off of others advice about it. Take their advice on where to start, but in the end, buy what you are comfortable with,” said Hal.

    “Are they as important as say, food and water?” asked Jim.

    “Maybe. Depends on the situation. Like right now up north, one should have a way of defending themselves along with food, water, shelter and a way of fixing that food, water and shelter. There are evil people out and about up there and they don’t care to rob you as to look at you. Best to have a way of protecting yourself, your family and your property,” said Hal.

    “Which brings up another question…what about around here? Is there some kind of security?” asked Jim.

    “We have the local sheriff’s office as well as the police. Plus other things. I won’t say anything else, but you are safe here. Carmel-By-The-Sea isn’t a bad town at all. Kinda of liberal, but lots of money and not the typical riff raff like up north. Same thing with Monterrey and Seaside,” said Hal. “Before you leave, get with me and I’ll give you some of the web addresses of the sites I go to. Most are even keeled and have great information.”

    “Thanks for helping me out,” said Jim.

    “Well, here is the question. Just how far are you willing to go with this?” asked Hal.

    “All the way to make sure Beth is taken care of,” said Jim.

    “All the way how? It’s going to take time, knowledge, work and money,” said Hal.

    “As in I don’t care what it costs. I can afford it. And as for the time, I will make the time to get my life in order. I’m self employed so I can work when I want to. And the knowledge I can gain along the way,” said Jim.

    “You remind me of me a long time ago. But that only counts if you stick with it. The biggest problems I see are the ones that get all hot and bothered about it after an emergency then slip back into their ways after a few months. You stick with it for the long haul and you will be okay,” said Hal.

    “Trust me, I’ve never back off of anything in my life and I’m not going to start now. I appreciate any help you can give me,” said Jim, sticking out his hand.

    “I’ll help where I can,” said Hal and accepting the handshake. He saw raw fire and passion in the younger man and knew he would help guide him as much as he could in getting prepared for the future.

    “What are those two talking about I wonder?” asked Beth to Linda as she looked at Jim.

    “Oh, probably ‘manly’ subjects us womenfolk aren’t supposed to be hearing,” laughed Linda.

    “Something is bothering Jim, I can see it,” said Beth.

    “Probably worried for the both of you. It’s a traumatic time living through your first big earthquake,” said Linda.

    “Yes, but he looked to be worried even before that. Like something was in the back of his mind,” said Beth.

    “You two doing okay? If I may ask,” said Linda.

    “Yes, of course. Great actually,” said Beth.

    “Troubles at work?” asked Linda.

    “He’s self employed, but no, I don’t think there is anything going on. He would have mentioned it otherwise. He and I don’t hold secrets back from each other,” said Beth.

    “Why don’t you ask him dear? If you two don’t keep secrets from each other, just ask,” said Linda thoughtfully.

    “I will when we are alone tonight,” said Beth, still wondering what could be on her husband’s mind.

    “You two heading back to Denver when you get the chance?” asked Linda.

    “Probably so. Back to work on Monday and I doubt we are going to be much help out here,” said Beth.

    “Possibly, but one never knows,” said Linda.

    “What else could happen?” asked Beth.

    “This place could get overrun by refugees like Hal said. But other than that, just miserable trying to sleep for starters,” laughed Linda.

    “Yeah, the air conditioning would be nice,” said Beth.

    “The rooms are fairly stuffy when the power goes out. The windows open and it helps, but not by much,” said Linda.

    “It happen before?” asked Beth.

    “Once that I know of,” said Linda.

    “And you two? How long will you stick around before heading back to Palmdale?” asked Beth.

    “Knowing my husband, until the last possible minute. He will insist on helping everyone out that comes this way. He was born to help,” said Linda.

    “What did he do before he retired?” asked Beth.

    “A general contractor. We owned a construction business and made it pretty big in the boom of the 80s and 90s. Sold off while the getting was good, but kept some stock back just in case. But all he ever wanted to do was play golf, so we bought into this place a little bit at a time and eventually ended up owning enough to be on the board. Plus getting into some of the golf equipment companies out there as well. Even for retirement, he still works about as much as he ever did,” said Linda.

    “Not too bad on retirement pay and you two are what? Early 50s at most?” asked Beth.

    “Just shy of 60 myself, although he hit his ‘tombstone’ as he likes to call it last year. I appreciate the compliment,” said Linda.

    “You look wonderful for your age,” said Beth.

    “My family carries youthful features around, so I can’t claim anything else except genetics,” laughed Linda. “And you dear?”

    “Just turned thirty-three last month,” said Beth.

    “I wouldn’t have guessed you for more than twenty-five,” said Linda.

    “Genetics,” laughed Beth. “My mother always looked at least twenty years younger than she really was. My father got accused of robbing the cradle from time to time, as does Jim.”

    “And is your father still married to her?” asked Linda.

    “Mom died several years ago in a car accident,” said Beth.

    “Oh, I’m so sorry for bringing it up,” said Linda.

    “No, it’s okay. You didn’t know. It was quick though,” said Beth.

    “I feel terrible right now,” said Linda.

    “Really, it’s okay. It happened a long time ago and I’m over it. Well, I don’t think you ever get over something like that, but time is a great healer,” said Beth.

    “It certainly is. What are you two conspirators talking about?” asked Hal as he approached with Jim.

    “I was telling Beth how I’m going to wring a knot in Jim’s butt over robbing the cradle! This poor young lady is only twenty-one and was dazzled by his good looks and money!” exclaimed Linda.

    “You married a twenty-one year old…but I thought you said you have been married for five years,” said Hal with a little confusion.

    “You wife is playing games. Jim and I are the same age,” said Beth with a laugh.

    “Oh, I mean, you look like you could be twenty-one,” said Hal with an embarrassed laugh. “I don’t know. It’s a crazy world and all and you might have gotten married at sixteen to this little weasel.”

    “Hal! That’s not very nice!” exclaimed Linda.

    “Well, the little runt gave me a run for my money on skins! He deserves a little torture!” exclaimed Hal.

    “How much longer on the engineer?” asked Jim, a little tired after the day’s events.

    “Shouldn’t be long, but the hotel portion is kind of extensive. I hope for his sake it turns out okay or this angry mob is going to take matters into their own hands,” said Hal.

    “Does your suite face east or west?” asked Linda.

    “East towards the city,” said Beth.

    Linda leaned over and whispered something into Hal’s ear. He nodded and got up to walk away and inside the building.

    “What did you tell him?” asked Jim.

    “Nothing dear. A little surprise when you least expect it. The breeze is nice coming off the water in the evenings,” said Linda.

    “Yes, if it wasn’t for the crowds out here, I would just throw out a blanket and go to sleep right on the patio,” said Jim.

    “I suspect some of the folks are going to do that,” said Linda.

    Hal reappeared a few minutes later with the engineer in tow. He told the man to take a break and get something to eat as he had been working nonstop through the whole thing. Calling over one of the cooks, he instructed him to put on the biggest steak he could find along with all the fixings. He also called over the head pro with instructions to talk to the residents.

    “I tried to open your windows, but the structure, while sound, was a little wrenched by the quake. The windows won’t open. Linda and I have decided to invite you two to stay at our place,” said Hal.

    “We wouldn’t want to impose,” said Beth.

    “No, we insist,” said Linda.

    “If you don’t mind,” said Jim. “Is there lighting inside the room so we can get a change of clothing?”

    “The emergency lights are still on and we will need to recharge them sometime tonight from the generator, but for now they are okay. You have a flashlight?” asked Hal.

    “No,” said Jim.

    Hal went over to one of the nearby maintenance carts and found a flashlight in the small toolbox. He had to smack it a couple of times to get it to work, but the beam came on as advertised. He handed it over to Jim. “We’ll wait here for you, but you had better move quick. The pro is getting ready to tell everyone it’s clear to move back in and someone will assault you for that flashlight. You’ve got about a five minute head start.”

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    CHAPTER 4 CONTINUED

    Both Jim and Beth got up and moved into the hotel and went to their room. They found acceptable clothing for the next day and threw it into their carry-on bags along with their toiletries before moving back into the hallway. Once they got closer to the entrance, they heard the pro telling the assembled group it was clear to move inside.

    Last edited by Grand58742; 09-08-2010 at 04:56 AM.

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    CHAPTER 5


    Sunday 5:44 AM, Carmel Highlands, California


    Jim woke up early to the sound of the surf crashing against the rocks nearby along with an unfamiliar sound as well. He slipped out of the bed quietly without waking Beth and grabbed his tennis shoes and tiptoed through the house. However, he found out he wasn’t the first one up as Hal was in the kitchen already making a pot of coffee from the natural gas stove.

    “You thought of everything didn’t you?” asked Jim as he wandered in.

    “Just about. Linda will be up in a few to start breakfast. Want to look in the basement?” asked Hal as if there were untold secrets in there. He handed over Jim a cup of coffee.

    “Sure,” said Jim after grabbing the cup.

    They went back into the hallway and found a closet in the hallway. It looked like any other typical coat closet except the fact of the small hidden doorway in the back. Hal reached in to the side and hit a button and the door popped opened slightly. Grabbing a flashlight off the top shelf, he illuminated the interior and Jim could see a staircase leading down into the basement. He followed Hal down carefully until they reached the bottom. Hal flipped on a set of lights fed by the battery banks that powered the house and the low wattage lights came on in the spacious basement.

    “Took a while to get everything in here, but with what we charge at the course, the executives can afford it,” said Hal as he looked over everything and saw it was in order.

    Jim stood in awe of the basement. Everything was stacked neatly in shelves, on pallets and on the floor. Different containers were marked with what was in each along with specific expiration dates. Foods were in one area, water in another, other equipment was lying covered in plastic waiting for the opportunity to be used. Two large gun safes sat in one corner still locked along with cases of ammunition sitting off to the side. The room was full of everything, but still easy to negotiate.

    “Why buy gold when you have the mine right here?” asked Jim with a laugh.

    “Yeah, sometimes you go to the gold, other times you bring the gold to you,” said Hal as he began his tour. He would stop at various points and expand on certain items and why in particular he bought them or had them around. They ended up at the left gun safe and Hal put in the combination to open it up. The heavy door finally came open and Jim’s eyes popped out of his head at the amount of weaponry inside.

    “That’s a lot of guns,” said Jim.

    “It pays to be prepared. I’ve got a rifle for every major caliber in there along with the parts kits to fix them if they break, the manuals and all the accessories. Pistols and shotguns are the same. There isn’t a lot of hunting to do around here, but I have rifles in the major calibers for that as well,” said Hal.

    “What is that one?” asked Jim, looking at the various weaponry and pointing at one missing the barrel.

    “That’s the lower receiver of a Barrett M82A1 rifle. Darn thing’s too large to fit in here, so I had to break it down,” said Hal, not mentioning the fact they were illegal in California. What Jim didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

    “You are stocked up for World War Nine, that’s for certain. But why so many?” asked Jim.

    “Well, I’m kind of a doomer prepper. I’m prepared for the collapse of civilization. Call me a survivalist if you would, but once the big one hits nationwide, civilization will go right down the tubes. You think of how long it took the looters to come out in San Fran after the earthquake. Now imagine if something happened across the country like an EMP strike and killed all the electronics. How long will it be before most of your major cities are up in flames? And how long before they run out of targets inside the cities and move into the countryside? I’ve got all these because I have others coming in to help with security and the fact ammunition can become scarce. I want to have a rifle capable of firing whatever ammunition I can get my hand on, hence why so many different types and calibers,” said Hal.

    “You think it will come to that?” asked Jim.

    “Maybe…but probably more than likely. I mean, the country is starting to boil underneath with everything that goes on politically. And the entitlement class is no better. Once the welfare checks stop rolling in, they will take to the streets and start fighting for what they think is theirs. And eventually the cities will run out of things for them and they will join forces with other rival gangs and go out into the countryside looking for more places to loot, pillage, rape and burn. We aren’t far enough away from them for my tastes, but I can flat guarantee you, we’ll give them a bloody nose when it comes down to it,” said Hal.

    Jim thought about what he had seen on the news last night along with footage from Hurricane Katrina, the New England Blackout, even something as simple as a team winning the NBA championship. He knew Hal was right, civilization would break down at the drop of a hat. And this simple fact put more resolve into him than anything else.

    “You said you have multiple bug out locations,” said Jim.

    “Yeah, more than one, plus the ability to bug in if needed. All are outfitted the same way as this one,” said Hal.

    “How did you get all this stuff?” asked Jim.

    “Over time and having friends in low places. It didn’t happen overnight and took some careful planning on my part. Take those gun safes for example; I had to put them in while the houses were being built. They wouldn’t fit through that entrance so I had to get them lowered in and build the house around them,” said Hal. “Just takes a lot of planning.”

    Hal looked inside the safe and found two pistols he wanted and pulled them out along with the appropriate holsters. He also selected a shotgun off the rack and pulled it out as well. He closed the same behind him and went over to what appeared to be a tool chest before pulling open a drawer and finding the appropriate magazines for the CZ-75 and Kahr pistols he pulled out. They weren’t loaded, but the ammunition was in a separate cabinet and he pulled two boxes of it as well. The shotgun ammo rounded out his choices and was all put into a regular looking small black bag. If it was in a car, nobody would pay it any mind.

    “Expecting trouble?” asked Jim.

    “Nope, but that’s when trouble typically finds you,” said Hal.

    “You going to carry those around the resort?” asked Jim.

    “No. I’d probably give a few folks a heart attack doing that. I’ll carry the Kahr, that’s the little one, concealed but have the other two in the vehicle along with the rifle upstairs,” said Hal.

    “Lot of weaponry,” said Jim.

    “I read something a while back about a toolbox and firearms. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail, why use a firearm that isn’t intended for the task?” asked Hal.

    “Sensible,” said Jim. “I’ve got a lot to learn I see.”

    “It will come. Get involved in some shooting classes. That will help the most,” said Hal as they departed the basement and went upstairs. Linda was already in the kitchen getting the things for breakfast ready. The odd sounds were still coming from outside and Jim asked what was going on.

    “That? That’s kind of our alarm system. Come on and I’ll show you,” said Hal as he took the firearms to his vehicle and locked them inside. He kept out the magazines for the CZ pistol and a box of ammunition and loaded it while they walked towards the ocean.

    “They help alert us when folks are coming up the beach. They get a lot more rowdy when there are humans around,” said Hal as he pointed out the “alarm system.”

    “I’ve got to get Beth to see this,” said Jim.

    “Jim? Keep the fact I’m armed between you and me. Okay?” asked Hal.

    “No problem,” said Jim as he went back into the house and to the bedroom where he and Beth had stayed. He leaned over on the bed and woke his wife. “Beth? Baby, wake up.”

    “Mmmm, morning. Time for breakfast?” asked Beth groggily.

    “Not yet, some here I want to show you something,” said Jim.

    She grunted and looked at him. “What is it?”

    “Just come on,” said Jim like a kid in a candy store.

    Beth shot him a dirty look since she didn’t like early morning surprises, but rolled out of the bed and pulled on her sandals. She followed Jim out of the house to where Hal was still standing watching the scene in front of him.

    “Go on up to those bushes over there. Don’t worry, they aren’t aggressive,” said Hal.

    “What is so important to go dragging me out of bed this early?” demanded Beth in a low tone.

    “A surprise,” said Jim as they crept up to some bushes overlooking the beach.

    Beth was decidedly unhappy until she peeked over the bushes and towards the ocean. While she has seen them in zoos from time to time, she had never seen a California sea lion in the wild. Much less an entire rookery of them. She gasped at the sight of the animals basking in the early morning sun on the beach and making their distinctive bark at each other.

    “Awww,” she cooed at the scene in front of her and pointed. “Jim look! There’s baby ones!”

    “You going to let me off the hook for dragging you out of the bed to see this?” asked Jim with a chuckle.

    “Awww,” she repeated and stared at the mothers and their pups. “How cute!”

    Hal had crept up behind them and was looking between them. “They just had their pups a few weeks ago. Noisy boogers when mom goes out to feed and comes back looking for junior.”

    “I want one,” said Beth with a laugh. “They are absolutely adorable!”

    “You willing to give up the pool and pay the money to convert it into an enclosed space and heat it along with the fish smells?” asked Jim with a laugh.

    “Absolutely!” she replied with another “Awww.”

    “I think they might object,” laughed Jim.

    “Not after I spoil it and make it fat!” laughed Beth.

    They weren’t alone as one of the female sea lions saw them and peered at them. It hopped closer to the intruding humans and looked them over, deciding they were okay to be in the area for the moment. She turned her head and stared at them much like a dog would.

    “That’s one of the mothers. The bulls have a larger bone in their head. She’s just wondering who we are and why we are out here,” said Hal.

    “They ever get aggressive?” asked Jim.

    “Not at all. Find them in the driveway from time to time and on the back patio sunning themselves. They tend to take over if you let them and just kind of move along when you come by. They tend to stick closer to the beach this time of year on account of the pups. I had an aggressive bull once who thought I was intruding on his rookery, but decided after I fed him a few fish I could be allowed to stay,” said Jim.

    “How much would it cost to convert the pool?” asked Beth with a twinkle in her eyes.

    “Come on, let’s go,” said Jim with a smile and a roll of his eyes.

    As they crept away, the mother decided to follow them and see where they were headed. As they would stop, so would she and look at them intently.

    “See Jim! She wants to go with us!” laughed Beth.

    “Probably thinking we have food. A lot of them are used to humans feeding them and follow us around waiting for the fish in our pockets. They are wild animals, but are used to humans being around,” said Hal.

    “If it follows me to the door, I’m keeping it,” laughed Beth. Hal went over and waved his hand at the sea lion, shooing it back towards the beach. She just looked at him and opened her mouth in a request to be fed.

    “This one probably came from the Bay area where they get fed,” said Hal as he continued to shoo her away in a calm voice. “Go on. No fish here. Go pester the neighbors.”

    The sea lion figured out the humans didn’t have what she wanted and turned back towards the beach. She looked over her shoulder once more before hopping along back to her pup and the rookery. The three went back into the house where Linda was starting breakfast.

    “You show them the babies?” asked Linda.

    “Yeah, and like everyone else Beth fell in love with them,” laughed Hal.

    “They are cute when you first meet them, but I don’t pay them any mind now. Had a big fat male that refused to get out of the driveway once when I was trying to park. We planned on having fresh perch that night, but I had to use it to lure him away just so I could park the car,” laughed Linda. “They can get troublesome from time to time.”

    “You see them in the zoo and all, but out here in the wild is certainly different,” said Beth.

    “They aren’t really that wild. Typically don’t pay us any mind,” said Linda.

    “Kind of unusual to find them this far off the beach isn’t it?” asked Jim.

    “Not really. We are only about fifty yards off the water here but I’ve never seen them past the houses,” said Hal.

    “Nice place you have here,” said Jim.

    “Keeps the rain off our heads,” said Linda. “Eggs, sausage and toast okay?”

    “Sounds great. I’m starving,” said Beth.

    “You’re starving with that side of beef you ate last night?” laughed Jim.

    “That was a good steak,” objected Beth.

    “I’m heading into the resort this morning and taking Jim with me. You two want to stick around here or go in with us?” asked Hal.

    “I think I’ll stick around here if it’s okay with you,” said Linda. “Beth is welcome to stay as well.”

    “No reason for me to go out there. What’s going on anyway?” asked Beth.

    “Just a leadership function. I don’t have to take Jim with me,” said Hal.

    “No, it’s okay,” said Beth. “With the earthquake that far north, why is the power out here?”

    “I suppose it’s because the lines were downed. Power lines are fairly fragile in that sort of incident. Might be back on by tonight or tomorrow,” said Hal as Bart pulled into the driveway. “You make enough for six?”

    “Yes of course,” said Linda.

    “Fairly impressive set up here. You have hot water as well?” asked Jim.

    “Of course. The water heater runs off the battery pack, but can be disabled if we start running low on fuel for the generator,” said Hal.

    “Morning. Linda, something smells good,” said Bart as he walked in.

    “Should be ready in a few minutes,” said Linda.

    “Hey Hal, you mind taking a look at something right quick?” asked Bart after pouring a cup of coffee.

    “Sure, outside?” asked Hal.

    “Yeah, in the car,” said Bart as he went to the door and was followed by Hal. Once they got to the vehicle, he popped the trunk lid and opened it up, effectively blocking their view of the house. “Got a question for you.”

    “Okay, what is it?” asked Hal, looking in the trunk. Besides the normal emergency kit, there was nothing else.

    “How well you know that Jim guy?” asked Bart.

    “Just met him yesterday,” said Hal.

    “And yet you invited him over and showed him your preps within a day of meeting him?” asked Bart.

    “I don’t know. I just got a feeling about him. He could be a valuable asset,” said Hal.

    “He a prepper already?” asked Bart.

    “No, just getting into it, but he’s got a good eye for details,” said Hal.

    “Why him though? There’s plenty more on our list,” said Bart.

    “Well for one, he’s out in Colorado and we don’t have anyone out that way. You know we are trying to do that nationwide MAG and he could fit into that,” said Hal.

    “Okay, good point, but we are looking for veteran preppers, not newbies,” said Bart.

    “True, but he does have the financial means to come along quick,” said Hal.

    “As long as he sticks with it. You and I both know there is a surge in preparedness after a big event like this,” said Bart.

    “According to him, he was getting into it prior to it. Plus we don’t have anyone really inside the markets to warn us of an impending collapse. He could be downright valuable when it comes to that,” said Hal.

    “You’re taking a risk,” said Bart.
    Last edited by Grand58742; 09-08-2010 at 05:00 AM.

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    CHAPTER 5 CONTINUED

    “Okay, you want the truth?” asked Hal.

    “We’ve never kept any secrets from each other,” said Bart.

    “Truth is I had him checked out before he came out here. We get a few folks in to the resort that could be valuable when it comes down to it and he fit the profile as a potential recruit. I do that quite a bit actually with some folks that catch my eye. Anyway, he is financially successful, good head on his shoulders, conservative, investigated a dozen times by the SEC but never found anything in his past they could bust him for. ‘Lucky’ was the term they used on him. He’s married with a stable relationship. Her family is wealthy as well and preppers from the sounds of it. And he seems genuinely interested in getting prepared. So I gave him a little taste of how easy life can be during an emergency,” said Hal.

    “Gut feeling?” asked Bart.

    “My gut tells me he would fit in just fine. We could use a contact out that way since the next closest one is in Texas. We all travel some and it would be nice to have a place to lay our heads if we had to,” said Hal.

    “I hope you’re right,” said Bart.

    “What does your gut tell you?” asked Hal.

    “You know me, I’m the kind of guy it takes years to gain trust with,” said Bart.

    “Why don’t you spend a little time with him today?” asked Hal.

    “Won’t do any good. I trust you enough to take a look at him and I can go with your gut feeling for now. But in the meantime be careful about the information you are spreading around. Like some of that hardware you have in the basement,” said Bart.

    “Yeah, hindsight is 20/20. Maybe I shouldn’t have showed him the Barrett,” said Hal with a laugh as he closed the trunk.

    “Could be worse, Steven could have showed him the bunker in Georgia,” chuckled Bart.

    “He would have thought we were all certifiable then,” laughed Hal.

    The two went back to the house where breakfast was being put out on the table. It was a simple affair, but at the same time, it was hot food and the situation appeared to be a fairly normal for the given situation.

    “Sorry to say but we only have one shower and the water heater takes a little longer to get the water heated when it’s on battery power,” said Hal.

    “Just the fact you have hot water is impressive,” said Beth.

    “Just because there was a disaster doesn’t mean we have to live like the 12th Century,” said Bart.

    “Wise to prepare for something like this,” said Beth which Jim immediately took note of.

    Once they were finished eating and completing the small talk, Hal claimed the shower first. Jim walked out on the back patio with Beth after refilling his coffee mug and took in the morning.

    “How did I ever find such a lucky man? You have nice friends all over the place,” said Beth.

    “I don’t know. Although I’m not complaining about the Charles’ taking us under their wing during all this,” said Jim.

    “No, can’t say that I would either. But why all the sudden?” asked Beth.

    “Don’t know. Maybe they are just nice older folks,” said Jim.

    “I think there might be more to it. I mean, people just don’t do this out of the kindness of their heart,” said Beth.

    “I know, but until we figure it out, we might as well go with it,” said Jim. They continued to sit and listen to the sound of the surf nearby as well as the sea lions barking on the beach. Eventually they were joined by Hal coming from the shower and looking refreshed.

    “Shower is open for whoever wants it,” he said.

    “You mind?” asked Jim to Beth.

    “Go for it,” she said. “Your wife have anything planned for the day today?”

    “Nothing I am aware of. Maybe a quick trip into Carmel to see what is open and the price gouging that is starting,” said Hal.

    “It gets bad when things like this happen?” asked Beth.

    “Typically,” said Hal. “People start thinking five dollars for a gallon of gasoline and go up from there.”

    “That’s horrible,” said Beth.

    “Yes, disaster brings out the best and worst in people,” said Hal.

    “So why us? Why did you and Linda decide to adopt us during all this?” asked Beth.

    “Call it a moment of weakness I guess. Honestly, we see a little of ourselves in you, only younger. I mean, you are a nice young couple away from home during a major disaster and a little scared. We just wanted to make sure you two made it out okay,” said Hal.

    “There were plenty of other folks at that resort as well,” said Beth.

    “True, but you two are special. You are down to earth and we liked that. Not like the typically snooty types we have to deal with from there,” said Hal.

    “And no other reason?” asked Beth.

    “Besides your husband forgiving my skins debt?” laughed Hal.

    “I think we can call that one paid in full,” laughed Beth.

    “I’m not playing golf for money with him again,” laughed Hal.

    “He’s a hustler when it comes to that. He loves the game of golf,” said Beth. “Look at that!”

    The same sea lion had returned and was perched at the outer edge of the property, intently looking at the two on the deck area. Hal sighed and went inside, returning with a fish wrapped in paper. “I hope she doesn’t mind it cold.”

    He walked out in the yard where she was sitting with her mouth open. He tossed the fish at her and she caught it expertly out of the air. Shaking the paper at her, she seemed to understand he didn’t have anything else and hopped back to the beach.

    “Yeah, I beat you kick dogs as well,” laughed Beth.

    “A little generosity never hurts I guess,” said Hal. They returned to the house and Beth immediately took on washing the dishes, shooing Linda away from the kitchen.

    “Honey, you don’t have to do that! You’re our guest here!” exclaimed Linda.

    “I insist. You took us in when you didn’t have to,” said Beth.

    “I know, but you’re still our guest,” said Linda.

    “It’s not like I haven’t had dishpan hands before,” said Beth with a smile. “I do most of our cooking and clean afterwards.”

    “You don’t have Jim do it?” asked Hal with a laugh.

    “No, I want them clean afterwards,” deadpanned Beth as Jim came back in. He decided not to shave since the water was a precious commodity.

    “Jim, your wife says you make her slave in the kitchen all day,” said Linda with a twinkle.

    “She chases me out of the kitchen! I try to do the dishes, but she threatens me with a butcher knife!” exclaimed Jim.

    “You’ve got a keeper there Jim,” laughed Bart. “You two ready?”

    “Yeah, I’ll drive,” said Hal as he grabbed his keys and kissed his wife goodbye. Bart went to his vehicle and pulled his emergency bag out and transferred it to the other vehicle. After Jim and Beth said their goodbyes followed by a kiss, Jim turned to Linda.

    “Linda, one more thing?” asked Jim.

    “Yes?” she asked.

    “Under no circumstances is my wife allowed to adopt a sea lion while I’m gone,” laughed Jim.

    “Would I do something like that?” asked Beth very innocently.

    “As soon as my back was turned, you would be trying to lure one into the car,” said Jim with a roll of his eyes and a smile.

    “He knows me too well,” laughed Beth and gave him another kiss.

    The three got into Hal’s Expedition and started heading towards the resort. The town of Carmel-by-the-Sea was still fairly quiet, but there were groups of people here and there watching as they passed through. Intersections were a tricky matter as the traffic lights still weren’t working and there was a little less traffic to be had this morning as opposed to other mornings.

    “You think we’ll get paid a visit today?” asked Bart.

    “Probably so. If Fort Ord doesn’t pan out for some reason, you can flat guarantee they will be after the course property,” said Hal.

    “And do we play along?” asked Bart.

    “Only if we have to. Better to play along rather than get told we have no choice in the matter,” said Hal.

    “And if they want to move in some undesirables?” asked Bart.

    “We might have a problem then,” said Hal.

    “Mind if I ask?” asked Jim.

    “FEMA will probably be by today taking a look at the property. Plenty of other places they could go, but in a situation like this, every bit of property will be needed for relief efforts. What’s left of Fort Ord to the north of us provides some locations, but there is still the unexploded ordnance factor there along with the lead poisoning. Anyway, FEMA might be looking to relocate some of the residents from the Bay area in refugee camps. And sometimes the less desirable aspects of society follow along with them. Remember Houston after Hurricane Katrina?” asked Bart.

    “Yes,” said Jim.

    “Crime skyrocketed after the refugees from the storm moved in. Mostly the refugees were not a problem, but some just couldn’t leave their past behind them,” said Hal.

    “And you think they will come to the resort?” asked Jim.

    “Like I said yesterday, we have the infrastructure to handle that sort of thing. Power, water and above all space for refugee camps. With the kitchens they have a way of preparing mass quantities of food, sanitation might be a concern, but they have ways of dealing with that,” said Hal.

    “You get compensated?” asked Jim.

    “Probably not as much as they will destroy. The course or courses would have to go under serious renovation after the camps are broken and that will cost a lot of money,” said Bart.

    “You two are fairly certain this is going to happen. How come?” asked Jim.

    “Because the esteemed Congresswoman from San Francisco seems to think our courses are a waste of space. You see, we didn’t contribute to her campaign since honestly she had nothing to offer us. She isn’t our representative so we didn’t feel the need to contribute when she asked. However, that slimy one that does represent this district apparently owed her a favor and bought off on the idea of using the grounds in an emergency. So he double crossed us on our election contributions. We’ve seen the FEMA plans to use the courses and know it’s only a matter of time before they stop by,” said Hal.

    “It doesn’t sound right,” said Jim. “You said last night you didn’t think it would happen.”

    “I didn’t want to worry you or the other ten guests listening to what I had to say,” said Hal.

    “Okay, I’ll give you that. But what about the other guests now?” asked Jim.

    “I would guess about half of them packed up and left this morning,” said Bart.

    “It still isn’t right, the government taking private property like that,” said Jim.

    “That’s the way this government works. Contribute and you are rewarded. Don’t contribute and you are rewarded with a FEMA camp in your backyard,” said Bart.

    “Welcome to California politics,” laughed Hal.

    They pulled into the resort and made contact with the night manager who was still hanging around waiting for them to arrive. Jim just tagged along although feeling like a fish out of water. For the most part, he stayed in the background.

    “Morning,” said the manager.

    “Morning Mike,” said Hal. “Any news?”

    “About half the guests left this morning heading for wherever they call home. Some of the staff didn’t show as they are tending to their families, but we are getting by okay for now. Telephone service is kind of back up for the moment and we are still without power, but the generators are holding. Water is still off, but we have plenty for the moment,” said the manager.

    “Telephone lines are back up?” asked Bart.

    “Sort of. The hard lines are at about twenty-five percent and the cell towers at about the same. We’ve been trying to arrange for flights out for the remaining guests, but every airport between here and Salt Lake City is jammed,” said the manager.

    “And the net?” asked Hal.

    “Still no connectivity,” said the manager.

    “The folks enjoy breakfast?” asked Bart.

    “You would have thought we were feeding them the leftover scraps from a pig sty. Never heard such complaining,” laughed the manager. “Oh yeah, the sheriff wanted you to call when you got in. Or stop by if the lines are down.”

    “He say what it was about?” asked Hal.

    “No, just that your dreams are about to come true. He said it with a frown, so I have no idea what he meant,” said the manager.

    “Your family doing okay?” asked Bart.

    “Sure are. Thanks for the advice you gave us Mister Charles,” said the manager.

    “You go on and get some sleep. We’ll see you tonight,” said Hal.

    “You thinking the sheriff is going to give us bad news?” asked Bart.

    “Yeah, probably so. Say let’s mosey on over to his office. Might be easier that way,” said Hal as they started retuning to the vehicle. Just as they got in, Hal’s cell phone rang.

    “Hello…yeah, we were heading over to see you…okay…okay…yeah, we’ll meet you at the main building…right…the night manager said you didn’t look happy…okay, see you in a few,” said Hal ending the brief conversation.

    “He on his way over?” asked Bart.

    “Yeah, be here in about fifteen minutes,” said Hal. “Let’s head on over to the patio area and listen to the complaints.”

    And complain the people did. While most accepted the fact the earthquake was out of the control of the resort, some figured the course management was entirely to blame as obviously they planned on keeping the guests longer than necessary to charge outrageous fees. Jim wondered how Bart and Hal took the verbal abuse for as long as they did before snapping. But they were polite and professional the entire time and attempted to sooth the guests. But some just weren’t being put off.

    “And you know the eggs were runny this morning! And the bacon was cold and limp! And plain bread instead of toast? I cannot for the life of me understand how a so called world class resort could be like this! I never get treated this way in Hartford! To think I left my home to come here to this, this, this place is outrageous!” exclaimed the same person Hal had a confrontation with the night before. Although this time they were dealing with Bart.

    “Sir, you have to understand. Without power, we just cannot provide the quality service we normally do,” said Bart patiently.

    “Well, that’s something you should have thought about before now isn’t it? You should go right now down to the hardware store and buy more generators or something! And to think all my friends recommended this place!” he said.

    “You know, we could give you your own darn eggs and let you cook them yourself,” said Bart, starting to lose his temper.

    “I might as well! I mean, obviously I might do a better job than the so called chefs around here,” said the man with a smug look, thinking he won the battle as Bart stormed over to the nearest waiter.

    “You know what the kitchen is planning for lunch today?” he asked.

    “I think they are planning on the rest of the chicken out of the cooler. They asked to start the charcoal around eleven,” said the waiter.

  7. #17
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    CHAPTER 5 CONTINUED

    Bart stormed into the kitchen followed by Jim. He opened the large walk in door for the refrigerator and started looking around the shelves. He found what he was looking for and stormed back out to the patio where the individual was getting ready to berate another member of the staff.


  8. #18
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    CHAPTER 6


    Sunday 6:18 PM, Pebble Beach, California


    Jim stood and watched as the military crew finished up with the hospital. He was quite amazed at the short amount of time it actually took to get things in motion and get the hospital up and running. The day had gone by fairly quickly and on Hal’s advice, he had packed up his and Beth’s things and stowed them away in the rear of the Expedition. Until they were able to leave, Hal promised them “a roof over your heads.”

    The helicopter pad was being set up at this moment, but the first patients were arriving by helicopter and landing in the parking area. Ambulances were taking them from the choppers down to the tents already set up for reception or by the rolling gurneys. Some were standard stretchers that were carried the hundred fifty yards between the landing pad and the makeshift hospital. Jim had already been able to call out to his mother (as his father had passed away some years before) and his sister to let them know he was okay and doing just fine. They both were worried since they knew he was out in California and made sure Beth was okay as well. He had attempted to call her, but the phone lines were still out of whack and not fully up to speed.

    But the water was back on after the utilities had repaired the breaks in the lines. But the power was still off and in no hope of coming back on soon. Hal and Bart were off attempting to get transportation to some of the remaining guests south to one of the open airports, but weren’t having much luck. Jim decided to wander down to the hospital and see what was going on. He knew he didn’t really belong there, but a natural curiosity made him go.

    As he got closer, he saw people running this way and that, carrying supplies or blood soaked bandages away from the tents. He was amazed there was some order to the chaos in front of him and figured there was some rhyme or reason to the goings on. But he did see the doctors diligently working on the patients and the medics and others attending in as well. He stood outside the tent and watched the triage area for about five minutes when he decided to go. Just as he was turning, a voice stopped him.

    “You! Come here!” said a voice with authority.

    “Me?” asked Jim.

    “Yes, you! I need some help over here!” yelled the medic as he and another brought in a stretcher from the landing zone.

    “What? I’m not a doctor or a medic!” protested Jim and the one ran off to grab another patient.

    “I know! I just need some help holding this gal for a minute,” said the medic.

    Jim jogged over to the stretcher and saw the patient was in bad shape. Multiple wounds were seen on her body and the medic was barely keeping up. “I want you to hold this bandage right here!”

    “Just hold it?” asked Jim.

    “Yeah, I need to get an IV started,” said the medic. “There’re gloves in my pouch.”

    Jim looked at the small medical pouch on the man’s waist and grabbed at the zipper. Opening it up, he saw the blue Nitrile gloves and grabbed two. He tried putting them on quickly, but found it wasn’t that easy to do. He blew inside of them to get the fingers separated and put them on.

    “Okay, hold right here and don’t let up the pressure!” ordered the medic as he shifted his position so Jim could take his place. As soon as he lifted his fingers, Jim saw the dark red blood start to come out once again and quickly held down on the dressing. The medic smoothly grabbed an IV bag from the side of the stretcher and started hooking up the kit. It took longer than expected, but he was able to get the bag punctured and the drip line ready to go. He attempted to find several veins in the patient and finally found the best on one the back of her hand. He got the needle positioned right where he wanted it and waited for the flash to let him know he had the catheter in. The flash came out into the small tube and he slipped the catheter in before screwing in the tubing and opening the IV up full.

    “Okay, you mind sticking with me for a minute until we can get another dressing for that wound?” asked the medic.

    “I don’t know that much about first aid,” said Jim.

    “Nothing to it. Just stand there and hold that dressing,” said the medic and he hooked the bag to the hanger and got behind the cart to push it inside. They bumped a little bit, but Jim managed to hang on while they came inside. “Okay, you think you can hold on for another minute or so?”

    “Yeah, I’ll be okay,” said Jim a little nervous about being left along.

    “Doctor! We’ve got an open fracture, left humerus, left radius and closed fracture on the right tibia. Basilic vein is sliced open as well,” yelled the medic at the tired looking doctor.

    “Vitals?” asked the doctor as he ran over from a burn patient. Although second degree, they could wait since it seemed this patient was in more need of attention right then.

    The medic ran off the vital stats on the patient. The doctor came over and looked her over. “Okay, move your hands.”

    Jim did as instructed and the blood started flowing once again. He didn’t manage to get any blood on his clothes, but the gloves he wore were now red from holding down the dressing.

    “What happened anyway?” asked the doctor as he continued to look.

    “Gas line blew. Some idiot tried to light up their stove without checking the lines first. Took out nearly half a neighborhood,” said the medic.

    The doctor took a quick look at the wound before applying two hemostats to the vein. It was only nicked, but it could and would grow larger if not treated in a timely fashion.

    “Okay, prep her and get her in to the operating room. Move her in to next in line for the cardio-vascular surgeon. Patient is Delayed status for the moment, but tell the nurse to keep an eye on that Basilic,” said the doctor as he annotated the chart, marked it with the appropriate color and moved on to the next patient.

    Jim was kind of at a loss right then as he had no idea what else to do. He started to take the gloves off, but was stopped right before he grabbed the first one.

    “Come on buddy, more coming,” said the medic.

    “How many?” asked Jim.

    “Don’t know. There’s a casualty bus coming in along with regular choppers, but I don’t know how many or who,” said the medic.

    “How did you end up here?” asked Jim since he was a civilian and not a military medic.

    “Rode the chopper in. Next one in, I’ll swap with that medic,” said the medic.

    “I’m not in the medical field,” said Jim once again.

    “Buddy, we need all the help we can get about right now,” said the medic as another chopper was heard coming in from Oakland.

    “I’ll carry the stretchers, will that help?” asked Jim.

    “Anything will help,” said the medic as a UH-60 came in loaded down with six more patients.

    Jim tagged along and grabbed the end of one of the stretchers, helping to unload it. Four medics were waiting to take the place of the ones on board. The one Jim carried down looked to have gunshot wounds to his abdomen. They got to the bottom of the hill and onto the tent area when a rolling stretcher became available. He helped load the man on before going back up the hill to see if there were any more. There were none and the helicopter started taking off once again. Jim went back to the area to see if he could help at all.

    “I need another set of hands over here!” yelled a military corpsman from the Navy.

    “What can I do?” asked Jim as he rushed over.

    “Get inside that CLS bag and get me two hemostats!” yelled the medic.

    “The what?” asked Jim.

    “That green bag right there. Two arterial hemostats! The femoral is tearing!” said the corpsman.

    “I don’t know what those are!” yelled Jim.

    “The clamp looking things! Like a pair of scissors with pliers on the end!” yelled the corpsman.

    Jim ripped open the bag and found what he thought was what the medic was looking for. But he was unsure of what the exact size should be. He grabbed all six in the bag and turned to the corpsman. “Which ones?”

    “The two big ones!” he said.

    Jim dropped the other four back into the bag and started to hand over the instrument to the corpsman.

    “Listen, I can’t take my hands off here, you’re going to have to do it!” said the corpsman.

    “I’m not a medic,” said Jim.

    “I don’t care, if I let go, this guy is a dead man,” said the corpsman.

    “What do I need to do?” asked Jim.

    “Okay, the first set it easy. You are going to put that above my fingers. Clamp it down,” said the corpsman.

    “Like where? All I can see is blood!” exclaimed Jim.

    “Hold on! Suction!” yelled the corpsman. Another medic ran over with a portable suction device and started clearing away the blood. “Okay, see the artery? Clamp it just below my fingers!”

    “Right here?” asked Jim as he looked inside the man’s pelvic area.

    “A little higher, right there! Clamp it off; not too tight though,” said the corpsman. “Now the lower side.”

    Jim put in the forceps once again and moved it until the corpsman told him to stop. He again engaged the lock on the device and got the artery shut off. “Nice work. You mind staying with him for a moment. If that artery starts bleeding again, you give a yell,” said the corpsman.

    “How will I know if it’s bleeding?” asked Jim.

    “Oh trust me, you’ll know,” said the corpsman as he ran over to grab a doctor. A nurse came by and started an IV while taking his vitals to put on the chart at the base of the stretcher. A doctor came by while the corpsman was away.

    “What’s wrong with him?” asked the doctor.

    “I don’t know exactly,” said Jim.

    “What do you mean you don’t know? Vitals?” demanded the doctor.

    “Sir, I was just helping carry the stretchers down here from the helicopters,” said Jim.

    “Well someone clamped that artery, was it you?” asked the doctor.

    “Yes, the corpsman helped me do it,” said Jim.

    “He let you clamp a patients femoral artery by yourself?!” demanded the doctor.

    “Doctor! He was assisting! I couldn’t let go or the artery would tear more! I talked him through it!” said the corpsman as he rushed back up.

    “Best be careful pulling a stunt like that. You mess up out here and it’s lights out for that particular patient,” admonished the doctor.

    “Understand sir, but had I moved my fingers it would have been lights out as well. He’s got three gunshots wounds to the pelvis and abdomen. Rifle caliber from the looks of it and tore him up pretty good. Femoral was nicked, but was okay for the moment. It started tearing once we got him here. Vitals are thready but the femoral has got to be repaired before anything else,” said the corpsman.

    “Okay, get him in stat. Immediate status,” said the doctor as he marked the chart and moved on to another patient. He checked the chart and announced “minimal” after looking over the patient quickly. Moving on to another with a massive head injury, he announced “expectant.”

    Jim wandered around trying to help out where he could, carrying more stretchers and assisting the medics if they needed it. But he still felt helpless since he didn’t speak the lingo, had no idea of medical help outside of calling 9-1-1 and saw no matter what the doctors did, some of the patients were still going to be “expectant.”

    “Hey guy, I need your help over here,” said another medic after Jim got done grabbing several IV bags for another.

    “What do you need?” asked Jim.

    “I want you to sit with that lady right there. She’s ‘expectant’ but still conscious. Just talk to her, keep her calm until…” said the Air Force IDMT. “Listen, she has massive internal injuries and her heart is going to fail any minute. Her chest was crushed in a vehicle accident and she is lucky to have lived this long. The least you can do is talk to her before she goes.”

    “Why don’t you help her?!” demanded Jim.

    “There’re just some things we can’t help some of these folks with. Had we gotten to her twelve hours ago, maybe, but as it is…” he said with his voice trailing off. “Will you help us?”

    “Listen, I’m only here to help out grabbing supplies and carrying stretchers. I can’t do that,” said Jim.

    “Bud, you are the only one around that can,” said the IDMT as he moved on to another patient without hearing any more argument from Jim. He looked at the woman, a pretty blond in her mid 20s. He moved to her and stood by the gurney.

    “Hi, I’m Jim,” he said after trying to put down the fear welling inside him. He removed the gloves as they would not provide any kind of tactile sensation for him or the woman. Plus they were still covered in blood and she didn’t appear to be bleeding.

    “I’m Beth,” she said weakly. She was highly drugged up to take the pain away from her crushed chest. He took her hand in his and held on, not knowing if it was proper or not.

    “A pretty name. My wife is named Elizabeth,” he said with a smile.

    “Is she a Beth or an Elizabeth? Because Beth’s are more fun,” said the woman weakly with a smile.

    “She’s a Beth,” said Jim with a smile.

    “Bet she’s a lot of fun to be around,” said the woman.

    “Loads of fun,” said Jim.

    “She know you’re out here fooling around with another woman?” smiled the woman and tried to laugh. A coughing spell ensued and Jim got worried for a moment.

    “No, I’m not sure she would approve either. You’re a very pretty lady,” said Jim.

    “I probably need to touch up my makeup about now,” said the woman with another smile. She had a sharp wit like his wife.

    “Trust me, I think you have plenty of powder already,” said Jim with a laugh. Her face still had a collection of dust on it from where she was trapped.

    “A little eye liner and I’ll be ready for the town,” she said with a smile.

    “So what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” asked Jim.

    “I was driving on the freeway when the earthquake hit. The overpass I was on collapsed and I was trapped under the rubble. They just got me out a couple of hours ago and brought me here,” said the woman.

    “You just take it easy now,” said Jim, not knowing what to say.

    “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” asked the woman.

    Jim looked her in the eyes, but had a hard time bringing himself to tell the truth. However, he knew if he was in that situation, he would want to know the truth. “Yes, they can’t help you.”

    “Thank you for telling me the truth,” said the woman.

    “Is there someone I can take a message to?” asked Jim, fighting back tears.

    “No, I was supposed to get married next weekend, but he was in the car with me,” said the woman. Jim immediately knew he probably hadn’t made it and quickly changed the subject.

    “Parents or friends?” asked Jim.

    “No, just do me a favor. Love your wife for the rest of your life. Protect her, take care of her and love her,” she said, squeezing his hand slightly and releasing.

    “I always will. She has my heart in her hip pocket,” said Jim with a smile and looked at the woman. Her eyes were open, but void of life. Another medic came by and took her vitals. He shook his head and closed her eyes before starting to pull the sheet over her head.

    “Jim! Where have you been?” asked Bart as he and Hal came from behind him.

    Jim backed away slowly from the gurney, still staring at the woman as the medic finished pulling the sheet over her head.

    “Oh sweet Jesus! Jim, are you okay?” asked Hal upon seeing where Jim was backing away from.

    Jim looked at the two men, utter strangers at that moment in time. He could see their mouths moving, but couldn’t hear anything except the pounding of his heart in his ears. He felt numb and utterly void of feelings at that moment in time. Hal came up and took him by the arm and shook him.

    “Jim! Jim, are you going to be okay?!” he said.

    Jim suddenly snapped back into reality and felt queasy right then. And he knew he would be unable to keep anything in his stomach for much longer. He ran past the two and into the edge of the woods where he threw up several times; dry heaving even when his stomach protested sending anything else out. Hal and Bart were at a loss as they had never seen death up close and person like Jim just had. But they knew they needed to do something. Hal took a water bottle from the small pack on his back and handed it over Jim’s shoulder. He took it and washed his mouth out of the remains of the foul taste in his mouth.

    “Come on Jim, let’s get you back to Beth,” said Hal as he gently placed his hand on Jim’s shoulder.

    “Beth…” said Jim without emotion. “Her name was Beth too.”

    “I understand. Let’s get you back to your wife,” said Hal calmly as he retrieved his keys. “Go and get the car.”

    Bart took the keys and headed into the parking lot. Jim stood up and started to move that way as well. Hal was following, but was stopped by a doctor. “You that guy’s friend?”

    “Yes,” said Hal simply.

    “He helped save a lot of lives out here tonight. He needs anything, you let us know,” said the doctor.

    “We need to get him back to his wife right now. He was with her when she passed,” said Hal and nodding towards the woman on the gurney.

    “I know and it was a selfless act he did for her, sitting with her and just keeping her company when she was dying. I think he knew she was about to die, but he went on over there anyway. I saw him talking with her and she died knowing someone cared enough about her to be with her in the final moments. That means a lot to some people,” said the doctor.

    “I’ll let him know another time. Right now he needs to go home to his wife,” said Hal.

    “Give him our thanks when you get the chance,” said the doctor and scurried away to assist another patient.

    Hal jogged to catch up with Jim, who was walking aimlessly in the general direction of the parking lot. He joined up at his side and guided him in the right direction towards the vehicle as Bart was pulling up. Hal opened the back door and Jim slid in, still not saying a word. The trip back to the beach houses was spent in silence save the AM radio station Hal tuned into giving out the latest news on the earthquake.

    They arrived at the beach house and Jim slowly opened the door, unsure of what to say to Beth or anyone else at that moment. Jim saw her come to the door with a smile on her face, but he was still sorting out his emotions right then after what had transpired that evening.

    “Jim, baby! I was getting worried about you,” she said with a smile and expecting a kiss.

    “I…I need to get showed and changed,” he said bypassing her completely.

    “Jim, what’s wrong?” she asked and then saw the blood spattered on his clothing. “Jim!”

    “I need to wash up Beth,” said Jim without emotion once again.

    “Jim! What happened?!” she demanded, following him though the house. But he managed to get into the bathroom and lock the door behind him before she got a chance to get inside. “Jim! Jim, open this door at once! Jim!”

    She continued banging on the door until she saw Hal coming around the corner. “What did you do to my husband?!”

    “Beth, calm down. It’s not his blood,” said Hal.

    “Calm down? Calm down?! You dare tell me to calm down when my husband comes in here covered in blood and won’t speak to me?!” she growled.

    “Beth, he had something happen to him…” started Hal. But he stopped and wondered if it was something Jim should discuss with her.

    “What? What did he have happen?” she demanded.

    “Beth, please come and sit down. I’ll explain everything. Please,” said Hal.

    She looked at the door once again and could hear the shower running. She had no idea if he remembered he had no clothing and didn’t know about the bags in the back of the vehicle. Bart was actually bringing them in for the couple, but Beth hadn’t noticed. She consented to the invitation and walked into the living room area and sat at the edge of a chair, still worried about the behavior her husband was displaying. In all the years she had known him, she never knew him to be like this and it frightened her.

    “Beth…” started Hal and wondered once again if he should go through with the tale. But he knew she might have a way of snapping him out of the current situation and decided it was best he explain what happened that evening. “Beth, Jim wandered off sometime this evening. Bart and I were fairly busy with some things at the resort and didn’t notice him until he was gone. Apparently he had gone over to the field hospital they set up over on the course and was helping out with the patients.”

    “A doctor said he was doing a bang up job and helped save a bunch of people’s lives today. I don’t know what all for a fact he was doing, but he impressed the staff out there,” said Hal.

    “But Jim doesn’t even know first aid!” she protested and interrupted him.

    “I’m just passing along what I was told. But when we finally caught up to him, we found him at a gurney with another patient. She was dead when we got there. Jim was with her when she died and I think he saw her die. I spoke to the doctor afterwards and he told me Jim sat with her while she was dying and kept her company. She died right in front of him while he was still talking to her. He knew she was going to die, yet he sat there anyway,” said Hal.

    “Oh my God,” whispered Beth. “I…I didn’t know.”

    “He needs you right now. I honestly don’t know him well enough to know what to do at this moment, but I figure you do. We brought him back because you will know what to do,” said Hal.

    “I…I…I’m not sure if even I know what to do,” said Beth quietly.

    “He needs something solid in his life right now. I can’t even begin to understand what just happened to him, but I felt you would be the key to helping him out,” said Hal.

    “I can’t get into the bathroom. He locked the door,” said Beth.

    “I have the key,” said Hal as he pulled his keychain out and found the appropriate key. He handed it over to her and she rose and went through the house to the bathroom. No water was heard running and she lightly knocked at the door.

    “Jim? Jim, it’s me. I’m coming in,” she said and worried slightly as her husband hadn’t responded. After opening the door, she saw him sitting in the bottom of the tub, fully naked and holding his knees. He was rocking back and forth slightly and his eyes were distant. “Jim?”

    He barely acknowledged her presence by slowing his rocking. But his eyes remained unfocused.

    “Jim? Hal told me what happened. Are you going to be okay?” she asked quietly as she shut the door behind her.

    He still didn’t say anything, but he stopped rocking back and forth. She sat on the edge of the bathtub area and put her hand on his back very gently. He didn’t jump from the touch, but his shoulders were tense and she could see his hands were clamped against his knees.

    “James, I’m going to sit here as long as you want me to. I’m not going to leave you. I never have and I never will. I’m going to sit by your side until you feel like talking about what happened. Or if you don’t want to talk about what happened, I can accept that too. But I’m not leaving. I’m here for you. I’m here for you to talk to or hold or do whatever you need. I love you with all my heart James Adam Williams and I’m not leaving you alone right now,” she said with tears streaming down her face. She had never seen her husband like this and it scared her. But at the same time, she was sad because she saw he was hurting inside and could do little to help.

    “She…” he croaked, starting to say something and stopped. Beth ran her hand across his shoulders and pulled him in closer to her and hugged him in close. She knew she could hold him and hopefully set him at ease.

    “She was going to get married next weekend,” said Jim without emotion. “But she’s gone now.”

    “You did a brave thing baby,” said Beth as more tears came down her face. Not from pity, but from seeing her husband in the state he was in. She was frightened as he was always the solid rock in her foundation, but was as brittle as glass at this moment.

    “She was probably full of hopes and dreams. And she won’t ever be able to see them come true,” he said and finally faced her. “I swear to you Elizabeth, I swear to God I will never let anything ever happen to you. I will protect you until the day I die.”

    “Jim, it’s okay,” said Beth.

    “No, it’s not okay. I want you to be safe and I swear I will make sure you are safe forever. I swear it to you. I won’t ever let anything like that happen to you,” said Jim, taking his wife’s hand.

    “Jim…I just want to hold you right now. Please, let’s talk about this tomorrow,” she said, crying a bit more.

    “Beth…” he started to say and realized he was probably scaring his wife right then. He stopped and looked deep into her eyes and saw everything he needed to see right there. He decided to start that conversation another day. “Elizabeth, I love you,” he said with tears streaming down his face as well.

    “Oh God Jim, I love you too! With all my heart, I love you. More than heaven and earth,” she said and pulled his head into her chest and started balling her eyes out.

  9. #19
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    CHAPTER 7


    Monday 5:32 AM, Carmel Highlands, California


    Beth awoke the next morning, still clutching Jim as tightly as she could and looking up. They had sat in the bathroom for the longest time just holding each other and shedding emotions the night before. Bart had moved their bags into the spare bedroom and she eventually moved Jim back to the bedroom by pulling on him gently and getting him to move the way she wanted to. Jim had eventually fallen to sleep after they laid down in bed, continuing to hold each other for the longest time.

    She looked up and found he was already awake, although pretending to be asleep. While his eyes weren’t open, she could see him already awake and his mind running in a thousand different directions. “You never could hide the fact you are awake,” she whispered.

    “How could you tell?” he said with half a smile with his eyes closed.

    “We’ve been married a minute now and I can tell,” she said and gave him a wake up kiss. “You sleep okay?”

    “About as good as could be expected,” he said with his eyes still closed, replaying the events from the previous night.

    “Jim, about last night…” she started and her voice trailed off.

    “I’m not sure if I’m ready,” he said finally opening his eyes.

    “I know and I can accept that. I was going to tell you that whenever you are ready, I’m here to listen to whatever you want to tell me. Just remember that,” she said and pulled him in close.

    “How did I get so lucky to have a wonderful woman like you in my life?” he asked as he held her.

    “Stars in perfect alignment or something,” she said with a smile and pulled him in closer. “I think I was lucky too.”

    “You? You could have had your choice of anyone, but picked me,” he said.

    “No. You won my heart fair and square,” she said.

    “I love you, Beth,” he said with another half a smile.

    “And I love you too Jim. And that’s pretty convenient,” she chuckled.

    “You do have a good way of remembering the little quotes,” he said with a smile.

    “Keeps you on your toes,” she smiled back, happy to hear him joking even a little again. It would be a long recovery and she knew it might even require a little professional help, but he would get through it with her help. “Agenda for today?”

    “Well, breakfast for starters and I think we’ve about worn out our welcome here in California. Today we try to figure out a way of getting back to Denver,” he said.

    “With or without the baby sea lion I plan on kidnapping?” she chuckled.

    “Without of course,” he chuckled in return. “Let me guess, you tried to steal one yesterday?”

    “Linda took me down to the wharf where we bought some fresh seafood. She wouldn’t let me buy a basket full to feed them,” laughed Beth.

    “You are absolutely horrible, you know that?” asked Jim.

    “Yeah, but you like it,” said Beth with a smile and hugged in close to her husband.

    “From time to time I guess I can put up with it,” said Jim with a chuckle.

    “You wouldn’t wish me on anyone else,” she chuckled.

    “True, so I guess I’ll keep you around for the moment,” he smiled and drew her in closer.

    “So, how are we going to get back to Denver?” she asked.

    “Well, one of two things. We can head to Los Angeles and try to get a flight or we could drive back. We have the rental and all,” said Jim.

    “That’s a pretty long drive,” said Beth.

    “I’m sure we’ll manage. We’re already on an extended vacation after all,” said Jim. “Speaking of which, I should call Jackson.”

    “Aren’t we still on vacation? Can’t you give it a rest for one day?” asked Beth.

    “I suppose I could, but you know him. He’ll call me in a panic in about two more hours,” said Jim.

    “I’ll never forget that time on our honeymoon when he called. You remember? When we were in the hot tub?” she asked.

    “Yeah, I remember,” he said with a laugh.

    “I think I’ll fix breakfast this morning if it’s okay with you,” said Beth as she rolled out of the bed. Grabbing a convenient band, she pulled her long hair up into a pony tail until she had the opportunity to do something else with it.

    “You think Linda and Hal would mind you fixing breakfast?” he asked.

    “We’re guests, but I feel like we owe something to our hosts,” said Beth.

    “Yeah, we really do,” said Jim, rolling out of the bed and finding clothing.

    “Plus, if I can get everything arranged, I can sneak down to the beach and feed the babies,” she said with a laugh.

    “You did buy fish yesterday, didn’t you?” he asked with a chuckle.

    “No, actually I didn’t. But it’s not like I didn’t try,” she laughed.

    Jim started going through his bags and found clothing for the day. As was usually the case, he always packed in an extra set of clothing for cases when he got held over another day, just like now. Sometimes it’s far better to be prepared for emergencies and cases you didn’t expect to turn up. Again, something I should have thought about some years ago.

    As he was grabbing a shirt, his work cell phone fell out of the bag in a clunk on the floor. Like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he looked up to see a disapproval from Beth.

    “Is that your work cell?” she asked.

    “Yes, I always bring it in case the other dies,” he said.

    “Go ahead and call Jackson. You won’t rest until you do and would sneak around trying to do it anyway,” said Beth with a sigh.

    “No, I promised you I wouldn’t,” he said.

    “Just go ahead and do it. I know you always bring your work cell, but ignore that fact. You’ve got a business to run and need to make that call,” she said with half a smile.

    “You don’t mind?” he asked.

    “Of course I mind, but you need to do what you need to do,” she said. “But here’s what I think you should do. Ask Jackson his opinion. You always say you think it’s time he started making more decisions on his own. Maybe it’s time he decided what to do.”

    “Yeah, I did say that didn’t I?” asked Jim.

    “Sometimes you have to push the baby birds out of the nest to see if they can fly,” said Beth.

    “You’re too smart a gal for a dumb guy like me,” he said with a laugh.

    “Nah, you had enough common sense to marry me,” she laughed. “Go ahead and make the call. If I know Jackson, he’s probably been chewing on his desk waiting for you to call.”

    “I’m glad you are an understanding wife,” he said.

    “Sometimes duty can be a burden,” she laughed and opened the door quietly. He finished dressing and went out to the back deck where he would make the call. The “alarm system” was quiet this morning, but would probably be up and at it in an hour or so. He peeked around the bushes and saw the beach full of them, sleeping here and there and in groups. He wondered how they were comfortable sleeping on top of each other and decided he would be ruined if he were to try to sleep like that. Turning on the phone, he waited to see if they had service this far out. It took a minute, but the phone finally showed service in the area he happened to be in. He went to the second number on his contacts list and called Jackson. The phone rang a few times before Jackson answered. “Jim!”

    “Hey, that’s my line,” laughed Jim.

    “Good to hear from you! How are things going?” asked Jackson.

    “As good as they can be. We’ve made some friends out here and have been staying with them since the quake. We haven’t exactly been roughing it I will tell you,” laughed Jim.

    “I tried calling yesterday, but it went straight to voicemail,” said Jackson.

    Jim checked the phone and sure enough, he had eleven missed calls, probably all from Jackson. “Yeah, phones just came back up sometime last night. Cell service was pretty sporadic.”

    “You and Beth doing okay though? No bumps and bruises, nothing like that?” asked Jackson.

    “Yes, we are doing fine,” said Jim.

    “Okay, pleasantries out of the way. You have marching orders I suppose?” asked Jackson.

    “Sort of…what do you think we should move on?” asked Jim.

    Jackson was quiet for a moment because he thought Jim would have the immediate answers. But he had been thinking about it the weekend prior to the markets opening and knew some ‘can’t miss deals’ would be coming along that would be best for the both of them. He had carefully planned everything out to take advantage of the first fifteen minutes of the markets opening but had also made some deals that weekend planning on Jim calling in sooner rather than later. But it was a surprise to be asked his opinion.

    “Umm, I think we should move on the guys who deal in the disaster preparedness stuff. You know, like the survival items. It always seems to go up after something like this,” said Jackson.

    “Okay, good choice. What else?” asked Jim.

    “Construction companies? They will be doing a booming business when it comes time to rebuild,” said Jackson.

    “Not a bad choice, but we might want to hold off for a little on that. It’s still a little early, but if we have anything left over from the initial buys, you could put some in,” said Jim, coaching his prot

  10. #20
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    CHAPTER 7 CONTINUED


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