Astatula Awakening - Chapter Two by Brett Matthew West
Artwork by Lilibug6 at FanArtReview.com
Cody Schroder - 24 year old main character
Sheriff Brock Daniels - long time sheriff of Astatula and Cody's adopted father
Beth Sorenson-Daniels - married to Sheriff Daniels. Cody's adopted mother. Brought Cody from Palo Pinto to Astatula when he was 10 years old after Earl Anthony Schroder died
Fred Taylor - Deputy Sheriff of Astatula
Doctor Rafferty - Sheriff Daniels' doctor
Unnamed Jefe - leads the task force charged with bringing Mortimer's bloody assault to an end
Marshall Rainwater - Mortimer's boss
Mortimer - killed nineteen people at the Crosby County Administration Complex
END OF CHAPTER ONE:
Why had I come here? The real question remained of what gave me the unmitigated gall to think I had a home to go back to? I hadn't departed under the best of terms. I barely even said goodbye. I just grabbed my meager belongings in the middle of another meaningless argument, now long forgotten, and blew out the door in a rage. Funny how time slipped away. I hadn't been home since, not even a phone call to let them know I still breathed air. That'd been six unfathomable years ago.
Desperate, with nowhere else to turn, welcomed or not, I had to go home, to whatever the situation presented. Somehow, I felt the fiddler rosining up his bow. Maybe I should have gone skydiving instead. At five feet-seven inches tall, and 148 pounds, I have nailed eighteen freefall jumps. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing more scintillating than the freedom of an eagle when it soared brilliant on the wind.
I stopped my truck in front of the weathered Astatula city limit sign that struggled to stand in the same place it had stood so many years. I remembered climbing all over this sign when I first relocated from my life of abuse at the hands of Earl Anthony Schroder in Palo Pinto. Gold lettering on camel tan mesquite stared back at me. Come what may, there was no turning back.
I pulled my truck back onto the blacktop. One mile south on Cassandra Boulevard, I straightened a curve and whizzed around an eighteen wheeler I assumed was headed for Lubbock. Off in the distance, I heard the distinct trill of a whippoorwill and flashed back to a story the sheriff once told me.
Fascinated at the time, I always liked hearing escapades of the sheriff's law enforcement efforts to keep our small villa safe. At ten years old, in my bare feet and wolf-imprinted pajamas, they sure made interesting bedtime stories. I knew the sheriff was proud of all he'd accomplished.
For a while, I even considered following in the sheriff's footsteps and become a lawman myself. That never panned out though. Not much I ever attempted did. Maybe my get up and go had gotten up and went. Or, perhaps I was like the sheriff always told me I was, easily distracted by the next scheme. I wondered what the sheriff's reaction would be when I pulled into the driveway at 1313 unannounced after being gone so long?
Getting back to the sheriff's story, he told me he was nailed down by gunfire in the Grand Jury Room at the Crosby County Administration Building and looked back over the course of his illustrious career as the sheriff of Astatula. He said he hadn't started out to be a lawman, and only entered the field after his eight year hitch in the Delta Force ended. He recalled those as good days where he learned hostage rescue techniques, counter-terrorism, and other special operations tactics that served him well in whatever pickle he encountered in the line of duty. He stated he studied his deputy and awaited Fred Taylor's report.
According to the sheriff, Taylor was drained by stress and his countenance bordered on a full-fledged panic attack. Doom seemed to settle over him and his heart pounded. Beads of sweat rolled off his square forehead and he felt a tightness in his throat. Trembling, he sought safety behind an overturned desk in the room's furthest corner. There, he drew a deep breath and tried to steady his shaking hand. He removed his 9-millimeter pistol from its shoulder holster and forced himself to take up a defensive position. Before he passed on the information the sheriff asked him for, he thought about his fiance.
He mentioned, "Our wedding's in a couple days, if I live through this ordeal." Then, blurted out, "Fifteen body bags and that's not counting whatever number the blue suits on the third floor called in." Unsure of what the future held, nausea overcame him.
The sheriff lived for this kind of excitement. He flashed a parental grin, coughed twice, and cursed, "Damn this phlegm!"
Taylor wiped the residue of his tossed cookies from his mouth with the sleeve of his uniform shirt. Sheriff Daniels shook his head in disbelief when his deputy stated, "That sounded horrible. You seen Doctor Rafferty? You know there's a lot of flu crap making the rounds these days. Lots of people we know have the crud. You can't be too careful, especially now since you got that ward kid living with you and Beth."
"Oh, you mean Cody? He's a little trip," the sheriff smiled in approval, "and to answer your question, yes I have seen the doctor and the quack-a-doodle-doo wrote me off." He eased up as though he hid something from the greenhorn deputy. "This task force has determined one fact for sure. Mortimer possesses visions of grandeur. He's also got an excessive need to be admired."
Puzzled by the sheriff's assessment, Taylor questioned, "How's that?"
"Because he's held a hell of a grudge to shoot up the Crosby County Administration Complex. He knew the place crawled with law enforcement. But, that didn't stop him, or slow him down. What other explanation could there be?" Sheriff Daniels responded.
"Maybe Mortimer's a plain ding-dong? You know, a certified looney tune flake. There's plenty of them running the streets everywhere you look. It's only been two weeks since he got sacked from his job for filching that computer out of Marshall Rainwater's office," Taylor suggested.
Sheriff Daniels relocated to the room's heavy oak door. He cocked his revolver. The weapon felt light in his hand and possessed a high stopping power. Turning his head, he informed his deputy, "Mortimer's personnel file listed him as a meth addict with PTSD. He's a real junkie, with a low level of empathy and disdain for others' feelings. Mortimer also fancies himself to be superior."
"To what? A pile of goat turds. He has no compassion alright. That's why he's always had problems establishing good relationships with other people and is hyper-critical," Taylor chimed in.
The sheriff shrugged his broad shoulders and announced, "Fits his pathetic M.O. to a capitalised T. Mortimer's also fixated on a fantasy of power and a sense of entitled predomination."
"And, he's a crackerjack shot," Taylor cut in as another round ricocheted off the room's door.
"That comes from his military training as a sniper and his knowledge of high-magnification scopes that allow him accuracy with long-range shots at 500 yards and beyond," Sheriff Daniels stated.
Suddenly emboldened, Taylor asked, "When do we make our move?"
"On my word go. Just follow my lead, Fred, and I'll get you through this ordeal safe to the other side," a confident sheriff assured him.
The radio on Sheriff Daniels' hip crackled. The Jefe in charge of the task force delivered the grim news. He said, "Four casualties on the third floor. That brings the body count to nineteen. All units take whatever measures needed to bring this a-hole douchebag down."
TO BE CONTINUED:
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Brett Matthew West
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