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The War – Episode 25

December 20, 05:17 AM
Austin, Texas

Tracy looked earnestly into the camera as the reporter held the microphone close to her face.

“…We will stay here to safeguard their right to assemble and worship as they see fit until the uproar diminishes,” she recited as the lights from the camera and the streetlight above her threw shadows on the sidewalk.

The reporter pulled the microphone back and looked at the camera in a well-practiced motion. “Thanks, Tracy,” he intoned into the microphone, “This is Bryce Harrison for News Channel 17.”

Bryce waited a few moments, then lowed his microphone and turned back to the young woman.

“Thanks for doing the interview,” he said, “The network wants to see how people are reacting to all this.”

Tracy swept the stocking cap off of her head and ran her fingers through her blonde hair. She shivered a bit in the pre-dawn chill, but smiled at the reporter.

“We’ll be here,” she said, “The yokels around here aren’t going to take it out on these poor people.”

Bryce resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he started winding up the cord to his microphone and walking back toward the station’s truck. His cameraman was already packing things up in the back, and the producer was talking rapidly into her phone.

“Well, I hope it stays quiet for y’all,” he said. Now that the camera was off, a bit of a west Texas twang came through. Tracy smiled at that and sat down on a lawn chair, pulling a warm blanket up to her chin.

“Oh, we’ll be all right,” she said, “This is a quiet neighborhood, and there’s a police station just down the road. Andre over there has them on speed dial. Matter of fact, a bunch of us are going to go take a walk around the lake once the sun comes up while he keeps watch.”

Bryce nodded absently as he finished with his microphone and handed it to the cameraman. His producer put her cell phone in her pocket and walked over.

“We’re heading down to Webberville,” she said, the words punctuated by puffs of vapor from her breath, “There’s a group of men guarding a day-care center there with rifles, and the boss wants some shots to feed to the network.”

Bryce and his crew finished packing up and left, waving to the small crowd of people as they went. Tracy settled back into her chair and waited for the sun to rise so she could stretch her legs. Her stomach rumbled a bit, and she considered eating one of the protein bars in her pocket, but decided to wait until after her walk. To distract herself and pass the time, she chatted with the people in her group and texted back and forth with several friends on her phone.

Just as the sun peeked over the horizon, a silver minivan pulled to the curb next to them. The driver was an older woman, her dark hair done in the style Tracy liked to call the “East Texas Football Helmet.” The woman smiled as she got out of the van and pushed the button to open the sliding door behind the driver’s seat.

“Mornin’, y’all!” she called out cheerfully as she reached into her vehicle and pulled out several brown paper bags. She turned and beamed as she held them up and walked over to Tracy and her friends. They were watching her wearily, and Tracy checked to make sure Andre had his cell phone out before standing.

“Can we help you?” she asked.

“Well, I heard that y’all were out here this morning, and with it being so damp and cold, I thought you might like something warm to fight off the chill,” the woman said, handing the bags to Tracy. The smell of cinnamon and yeast wafted up as Tracy took them in her hands.

“I’m Ellen Crockett from just up the way, and my friends and me over at the Antioch Baptist Church all got together and made these for you. The big one there is cinnamon rolls and biscuits, and the little one there is something my sister-in-law made for y’all,” she continued, her smile never wavering, “She said it’s gluten free.”

Tracy smiled a bit as she opened the bags and saw the pastries inside. Her stomach went from rumbling to full-on gurgle at the scent.

“Oh, and I almost forgot!” Ellen said, turning back to her minivan, “I’ve got tea, hot chocolate, and coffee for y’all, too!” She leaned down to fetch the cardboard drink holders on the floor between the seats, and her jacket hiked up a few inches. Tracy’s eyes bulged a bit when the large frame revolver Ellen wore on her belt came into view, but did not say anything as the older woman turned around with her arms full of steaming cardboard cups.

“Wow,” Tracy said as her friends clustered around her, “That’s wonderful. Thank you.”

“Oh, darlin’, don’t you worry about it. Y’all are doing the Lord’s work watching over these nice folk,” Ellen said, dismissing the younger woman’s words with a subtle flap of her hands after handing the drinks off to one of the other people in the crowd.

“Now, I gotta run back home and get my husband off to work,” she continued, opening her van’s door, “Y’all take care, now.”

She got into her vehicle as Tracy and the rest of her group started picking up hot drinks and pulling huge cinnamon rolls from the bags. After she started the motor, she rolled down her window and leaned out a bit.

“I won’t be able to bring y’all lunch, but don’t be surprised if you’re not invited inside to share a meal. These Sikhs are such wonderful people,” she said, “We couldn’t ask for better neighbors.”

“Sikhs?” Tracy said.

“Why yes, honey, didn’t you know you’re standing in front of the Sikh temple?” Ellen said with a smile as she rolled up her window and pulled away from the curb.

As she drove down the block, she glanced up at the group in her rear-view mirror and smiled mischievously.

“Bless their hearts,” she said as she turned at the next corner.



Other episodes can be found here.  The rest of the story can be found in Escort Duty, available now at Amazon.

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