Josephine has an ace in the hole now. A man whose life her father saved. Things are going to get interesting!
Josephine was awakened by a rustling sound that she couldn’t quite pinpoint. She peered out the windows and saw nothing. She quickly got dressed and with the .357 in hand went outside to investigate. She saw two raccoons scurrying off with the left over fish she had put in a bucket outside her door. She had forgotten to take it away from the cabin before going to bed last night. The critters seemed happy with their successful retrieval of an easy meal. No matter. She had slept late and needed to get her workout in. Today it was going to be different. She grabbed an axe from one of the closets inside and began chopping down a tree about six inches in diameter. When the tree was down, she began chopping it into twenty inch lengths for the stove.
Her dad never used the modern forms of training and always taught her that real hard work is the best form of training. The workout she had put herself through the day before was definitely being felt today but she paced her chopping of the wood in such a way that she just stayed with it and did her best to ignore her sore muscles.
“I bet that’s the daughter of John Stewart!” The loud old voice broke the paced sounds of her axe hitting the log.
Josephine froze and scanned the woods by using her eyes only and not moving.
“Girl you give a man some mighty interesting reading in the news papers these days. What I can’t understand is why the daughter of John Stewart would kill her own husband in cold blood. It just don’t add up to me.” The voice was still shouting from what sounded like a hundred yards away.
“That’s because I didn’t do it. I was framed. Where in the hell are you Bill Marx?”
“Well I declare girl, you are a careful one. How’d you know it was me?”
“Well, because, according to my father, you’d be the only person who could get this close without my knowing it.” Josephine still couldn’t see him, even though his voice seemed to be getting closer.
“Focus girl. Think about all the possibilities about where I might be. I’m getting closer so you have to know I’m moving. I can see you, Jo Morgan.”
“Come on Bill, where in the hell are you?”
He raised his hand and Josephine damn near screamed. He was right in plain sight, but then not in plain sight. She didn’t take her eyes off him at all until he was close to her. The man had to be in his sixties yet looked no older than fifty.
“Good to see you close up Josephine. I found all six of your grenade traps. You hid them well. Expecting company?”
“There are nine of them and I’m not sure. After my father’s note, I’ve been half expecting you, but then was never really sure.”
“I brought you a couple newspapers girl. Thought you’d like to know what’s going on.” The old man looked her over. “My wife has said that if it gets bad up here for you to come on down the mountain and use our guest room. Guess I should also ask when you’d like me to fill up the old Wrangler with gas and oil.”
“Wait about two or three weeks on that.” Jo said.
She gave the old man a quick hug.
“Well damn girl, what was that for?” He was definitely caught off guard.
“You were my dad’s best friend. He spoke very highly of you and I just wanted to hug you. I miss him Mr. Marx.”
“Josephine, you can call me Uncle Bill or just Bill, but forget the “Mr.” thing.”
“Fair enough, come inside.” Jo was thankful for some human company.
“Okay, Uncle Bill, call me a realist or whatever, but you didn’t hike eight miles through that kind of terrain just to hand me two newspapers. What’s going on?”Josephine was looking him right in the eyes. Now that he was close up she could see the roadmaps of time that formed the lines in his face, especially around his piercing blue eyes. The man was standing here today because her father had saved his life and yet her father was gone. The harsh realities of life have a way of sneaking up on a person and cause one to question Mother Nature’s way of doing things.
“Josephine, your dad saved my life in Vietnam. Did he ever tell you what happened?” The old man was staring at the floor.
“No, but it’s ok Bill, you don’t have to talk about it.”
“I respect you for saying that Jo, and normally I wouldn’t, but this time I want to."
“Our commander had gotten word that the North Vietnamese were coming south by way of Eastern Cambodia. The Special Forces team we belonged to was the first to intercept their supply train. I was much younger then. Not as well versed in Jungle warfare as I probably should have been. I didn’t see them coming and as they grabbed me and I felt myself being dragged through the brush, trying so hard to yell but they had something around my throat that was preventing that.”Water filled the old man’s eyes and a tear trickled down over his crackled cheeks. Josephine placed her hand on his forearm as they sat at the table in the dimly lit cabin.
“Bill, take it slow. Take your time.”
“I was dragged back to one of their camps and they tied me to a pole there. They brought out some other prisoners they’d captured from some other unit. Right there in front of me they tortured, beat, and humiliated these soldiers before they killed them. There was nothing I could do. I was powerless to help them.“They were six strong, and I was alone. But then I wasn’t alone. A guardian angel by the name of John Stewart just walked right out into the bunch of them not even considering his own life. He pulled the pin on a grenade and they we sure he was going suicidal to help his buddy. They scattered in all directions like droplets of oil on water and the team of us that your father was leading was waiting for them. John hurled the grenade and took out two of them, and the little guy that was carving up the other soldiers went at John with his knife. Your father made that enemy soldier look as clumsy as a drunk in an ice storm. Your dad got me out of what was sure to be my death-day. Colonel John Stewart became one of the most feared American Commanders over there Josephine. But he’d had enough. That was his third trip to the orient and they ended up sending him back to Bragg where he trained future Green Berets. He loved it. But John was different than most. He knew how to separate life at war from life at home. It takes a very special man to do that.”
Josephine was crying and unable to speak. Bill could sense this and this time it was his hand that was on her arm.
“When you were born and your mom died giving birth to you, people were utterly amazed at this heroic soldier’s ability to become a dad. He was seen as so tough and rock hard, yet when he was carrying you through a gathering of people or a store, or just sitting with you, he’d always say, “This is my little girl. She’s going to know all that I know. There is a reason for her being here, and I’m going to make sure she’s ready.”
“As you grew up, people always commented that John was raising you to be the son he never had, and maybe in some senses that was true, but training men was what John Stewart knew.”
“Ha ha, I remember one time watching you, hell you were probably four or five and you were throwing kicks and punches and marching around with a toilet plunger as your rifle, saying you were going to be a soldier like your daddy. He was so proud of that.”“I’ll never forget the last time I saw John. You were in Kuwait and had just saved some First Sergeant’s life from the Elite Guard. He bragged about that for days while he and I sat up here eating venison and talking. And that’s why I’m up here Jo. Not to bring you some silly newspaper, but to let you know a part about your dad that I wanted you to know. I thought maybe it would help you in your thinking.”
“Bill, I thank you so much, and I have no words.” And then, “I’m scared you know. This cop is crooked as hell and he has help. I’m not sure I’m up for all this. I don’t want to go to prison, but this guy has tried to destroy my life. Somebody needs to know about all of this.”
“Jo,” Bill said, “you do what you feel is right. I’ll back you up with everything that I am. I’m seventy-one years old and I’ve been around the block. I have resources and I’ll be watching out for you, but, it is your fight and you have to fight it. I’m going to head on back home. It’s a two day walk. Care to join me for a ways?”
“You don’t even have to leave if you don’t want to.”
“Thanks Jo, but Julia needs me around there and it’s a two day hike out of here so I better get back.”
Josephine stood and the two of them walked out the door, and headed down the mountain. She spent half the day walking with him and he showed her some camouflage tricks that may come in handy some day.