Monday, November 30, 2009

IMPORTANT: Message From Mike

1046 EST 30 NOV 2009: Just spoke with Mike, who wanted you all to know that he will be offline for an indeterminate period of time, as he was headed at that time to Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham for an evaluation of his heart. No further information available at this time; as I know more, I will advise.

Prayers for Mike and his family will be appreciated.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An "individual mandate" you can believe in.

When democracy becomes tyranny . . . I still get to vote.

Sorry, folks, but this tee'd me off so much, I interrupted my work on Absolved long enough to read and respond to it. And yes, the typo "consitutional" was in the original. I ignored it.


November 25, 2009

Health Care Mandate is Consitutional

By Ruth Marcus

WASHINGTON -- Is Congress going through the ordeal of trying to enact health care reform only to have one of the main pillars -- requiring individuals to obtain insurance -- declared unconstitutional? An interesting debate for a constitutional law seminar. In the real world, not a big worry.

"This issue is not serious," says Walter Dellinger, acting solicitor general during the Clinton administration.

But it's being taken seriously in some quarters, so it's worth explaining where the Constitution grants Congress the authority to impose an individual mandate. There are two short answers: the power to regulate interstate commerce and the power to tax.
First, the Commerce Clause. Spending on health care consumes 16 percent --and growing -- of the gross national product. There is hardly an individual activity with greater effect on commerce than the consumption of health care.

If you arrive uninsured at an emergency room, that has ripple effects through the national economy -- driving up costs and premiums for everyone. If you choose to go without insurance, that limits the size of the pool of insured individuals and -- assuming you are young and healthy -- drives up premium costs.

The clause empowers Congress "to regulate commerce ... among the several states," which may not sound terribly sweeping. But since the New Deal, the Supreme Court has interpreted this authority to cover local activities with national implications.

In the 1942 case of Wickard v. Filburn, the justices ruled that even though an activity may "be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce."

Thus, the court said, Congress was entitled to tell Roscoe Filburn how much wheat he could grow to feed his own chickens. Surely, then, Congress could require Filburn's grandson to buy health insurance.

The court has narrowed the reach of the Commerce Clause in recent years -- but also reaffirmed Wickard. The times it has found that Congress overstepped involved situations where the connection to interstate commerce was strained: carrying guns near schools or engaging in gender-based violence.

In United States v. Lopez, the court found that the Gun-Free School Zones Act "is not an essential part of a larger regulation of economic activity, in which the regulatory scheme could be undercut unless the intrastate activity were regulated."

The individual mandate is "the mirror image of Lopez as a Commerce Clause case," says Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe.

Granted, there is a difference between regulating an activity that an individual chooses to engage in and requiring an individual to purchase a good or service. Granted, too, there is a difference between making automobile insurance compulsory, as a condition of the privilege to drive a car, and making health insurance compulsory, whether an individual wants it or not.

But the individual mandate is central to the larger effort to reform the insurance market. Congress may not be empowered to order everyone to go shopping to boost the economy. Yet health insurance is so central to health care, and the individual mandate so entwined with the effort to reform the system, that this seems like a different, perhaps unique, case.

Congress clearly has authority to, in effect, require employees to purchase health insurance for their old age by imposing a payroll tax to fund Medicare. It's odd for the same conservatives bemoaning a government takeover of health care to complain about requiring that people turn to the private marketplace.

Which brings us to the alternative source of congressional authority, the "Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises."

The individual mandate is to be administered through the tax code: On their forms, taxpayers will have to submit evidence of adequate insurance or, unless they qualify for a hardship exemption, pay a penalty.
Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin likens this to Congress raising money for environmental programs by taxing polluters. "Congress is entitled to raise revenues from persons whose actions specifically contribute to a social problem that Congress seeks to remedy through new government programs," he concludes.

Balkin cites a 1950 Supreme Court case upholding a tax on marijuana distributors. "It is beyond serious question that a tax does not cease to be valid merely because it regulates, discourages, or even definitely deters the activities taxed," the court said. "The principle applies even though the revenue obtained is obviously negligible, or the revenue purpose of the tax may be secondary."

Sounds like the individual mandate to me.

My email to Ms. Marcus:

My dear Ms. Marcus,

re: Your column on "Health Care" constitutionality is itself a felonious violation of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Legal opinions from old Clintonista law hacks notwithstanding, the versions of the "health care" bill I have seen are moving into uncharted territory and will, I am certain, prove to be a usurpation too far.

You must remember that by their interpretation, the mass murder of the Davidians at Waco was constitutional. Pardon us if we aren't over-awed by their judicial gravitas.

Even if you get a Supreme Court to rule in your favor, the attempt to force Americans to toe the administration's line will be that velvet gloved tyranny's undoing.

You seem to think that just because some black-robed idiots order a thing to happen, that it will happen. You are extrapolating from your own cowardice. Just because you would never risk resisting a government order given at the point of a federal gun does not mean that others won't. I assure you, they will.

You should understand that we are rapidly coming to a point in this country when half of the people are going to become convinced of the illegitimacy of this administration and its designs upon our liberty. Need I remind you that this side is the one with most of the firearms?

If my friend Billy Beck is correct in his observation that all politics in this country is now dress rehearsal for civil war, then you should study Bill Clinton's rules of engagement as applied to the Serbs in 1999. He sent precision guided munitions into Serbian television studios in the middle of the night, killing janitors and makeup artists, on his theory that the political and media leadership of his enemy was a legitimate target of war. Now THAT is the one thing that we believed Clinton about. Government, as applied by his administration and this administration, amounts to Waco rules.

Ms. Marcus, I beg you, do not attempt to go down this road, for the Law of Unintended Consequences as applied to tyrannical traffic dictates that there is a bridge out just around the corner. I'm the guy at the side of the road, frantically waving his arms, trying to save you.

Your "reasonable regulation" is our "intolerable usurpation." Do you really want to see what happens when we become convinced that it is time to resist or be enslaved?

I assure you, you don't. And neither do I.

"Constitutional" or not, this law will be resisted, even at the point of a gun. And that's an "individual mandate" you can believe in. Indeed, it is a "mandate" that even the Founders would understand.

If you got out of the hot-house of east coast collectivism more, you would know that, and would be less eager to write blithe apologias for predatory tyranny.

Have a nice day.

Mike Vanderboegh
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126

A Holiday Note for all the King's Men (Hessians too!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An actual "oh shit" moment.

Pete has details here.

How much money do you have in the bank?

Leave comments at Pete's site, please.


William S. Lind: 4th Generation Warfare comes to America.

Salinas Nortenos gang members

My thanks to Richard M. for forwarding this. It is important. I will make an exception to the current rules and post comments for this. Oh, and tell me again what a boon open borders and illegals are to this nation.



ON WAR #323: Milestone

William S. Lind

23 November 2009

One of the ongoing themes of this column has been gangs and the role they play in a Fourth Generation world. Here in the United States they already serve as an alternative primary loyalty (alternative to the state) for many urban young men.

Gangs will likely be a major player in 4GW because gang members are expected to fight. Those who won’t do not remain gang members.

The November 15 Washington Post had a story about gangs in Salinas, California, that deserves close attention from 4GW theorists. Salinas is reportedly overrun with Hispanic gangs. The Post wrote that its homicide rate is three times that of Los Angeles. It quoted a Salinas police officer, Sgt. Mark Lazzarini, on one of the classic results of state breakdown, chaos:

“Only half of our gangs are structured; the Norteños,” he said. “The southerners are completely unstructured. Half of our violence is kids who get into a car and go out and hunt. These kids don’t know their victims. How do you stop that? It’s very chaotic.”

Salinas’s new slogan might be, “Salinas: where even the lettuce has tattoos.”

But what is interesting in the Post’s article is not the gangs themselves. It is a new response to the gangs. Salinas has brought in the U.S. military to apply counter-insurgency doctrine to a situation on American soil. The Post reports that:

Since February combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been advising Salinas police on counterinsurgency doctrine, bringing lessons from the battlefield to the meanest streets in an American city…

“It’s a little laboratory,” said retired Col. Hy Rothstein, the former Army career officer in Special Forces who heads the team of 15 faculty members and students (from the Naval Postgraduate School), mostly naval officers…

Rothstein…notes the “significant overlap with how you deal with insurgencies and how you deal with cities that are under siege from gangs.”…

Leonard A. Ferrari, provost of the naval Postgraduate School, embraced the project from the start, hearing…an opportunity for a school “in transition from just a defense institution to a national homeland and even a human security institution.”…

“The idea was, not just Salinas,” Ferrari said, “but is there a national model for this”

From the perspective of 4GW theory, this is an important development. The Naval Postgraduate School is a DOD institution, part of the U.S. government. Its involvement in Salinas marks the federal government’s formal recognition of Fourth Generation war on American soil, and the need for a “national model” to counteract it. If we must involve the U.S. military to lead counterinsurgency efforts in American cities, then it is difficult to deny that we face something like insurgencies in those same cities. Again, the significance is that this is now formally admitted by the U.S. government, not merely noted by “outside the beltway” observers of 4GW.

The U.S. military officers advising Salinas on how to wage an anti-gang counterinsurgency are doing so as volunteers, according to the Post, to avoid Constitutional issues. But the camel’s nose is obviously inside the tent. Many wars have begun by sending “volunteers.” If, as likely, the volunteers prove insufficient, regular troops will follow.

As someone who believes in a strictly limited federal government, the government envisioned by our Founders, I find this troubling. But from a 4GW perspective, I also know it is inevitable. As I have said time and again, the main Fourth Generation threat we will face will be on our own soil, not halfway around the world, where we are currently pouring our strength out into the sand. We will come to regret that waste bitterly.

Objectively, what the Washington Post has reported is a milestone, to be neither praised nor regretted but merely noted. It denotes another step toward 4GW here at home. It is a step we cannot avoid. As both imported and domestically-generated Fourth Generation entities ramp up their warfare on American soil, the U.S. military will be drawn in. As is the case in 4GW overseas, it will probably fail. Old Uncle Karl was right: the state will wither away. But what follows will not be communism. It will be chaos.

Note: Regrettably, the d-n-i website, which had become the worldwide “go to” forum on 4GW, is shutting down. It is a major loss. Fortunately, John Robb has agreed to carry all my columns on his website, Global Guerrillas. All my archived columns will also be moved there from d-n-i, as will the important K.u.K Austro-Hungarian field manuals on Fourth Generation war.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation

Absolved, Chapter Seven. Improvised Munitions, Inc.

Absolved, Chapter Seven. Improvised Munitions, Inc.

“Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subject to the rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy.” -- Justice Louis Brandeis, dissenting in the case of US v. Olmstead, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).

Three Weeks after the Battle of Sipsey Street: Feds

Transcript, telephone conversation, 205-(redacted) to 205-(redacted), 2007HRS EST

Reference FBI Form 302, Special Agent Robert A. Starkey, Birmingham Field Office



“We’ll need to rent the hunting club this weekend. Any problem?”

“No, shouldn’t be. Saturday or Sunday?”

“Sunday, late afternoon.”

“Sure, bring it on.”

“Right, see you then.”

“Later, buddy.”


Pursuant to confidential informant (CI# REDACTED) subject (REDACTED) and subject (REDACTED) were believed to be testing improvised ordnance at property owned by (REDACTED) at (REDACTED), (REDACTED) County, Alabama. CI (REDACTED) indicated that ordnance to be tested included rifle-projected shaped charges and improvised antitank weapon similar to World War II vintage Panzerfaust. Drone surveillance was approved by (REDACTED).

(Next four paragraphs redacted.)

Although drone was over target area from 1200 HRS to 2100 HRS, the results of drone surveillance were negative with no illegal activity observed.

(NEXT three paragraphs redacted.)

Subsequent interviews with neighbors (REDACTED) of (REDACTED) and (REDACTED) of (REDACTED) indicated that they heard explosions in the distance early Saturday morning that seemed to be coming from (REDACTED). From these statements it was concluded that the arrangements by phone were deliberately deceptive as to time in case of intercept. Thus late Sunday meant early Saturday.

SNP authorized by (REDACTED) after contact with (REDACTED).

(Justice Department note in margin: “No warrant for sneak and peak. PATRIOT Act?”)

SNP results reported by (REDACTED).

(Next two paragraphs redacted.)

Forensic tests on metal and plastic fragments picked up by (REDACTED) at (REDACTED) were inconclusive, perhaps because of rain which fell in the intervening time. Recommend (REDACTED).

(Next four paragraphs redacted.)


Special Agent Robert A. Starkey

(Editor's Note: Above excerpted from discovery material prepared for U.S. Attorney Frederick Nunnally in re US vs. Mueller, et al and retrieved by agents of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation after the Federal withdrawal from the state.)

The Grenadier & the Arsenal of Republicanism

The workshop was scattered with manuals. Other than the strange smells, that was the first thing you noticed. Some were open, face up, others face down.

Some had obviously come from the military. There was FM 9-13, "Ammunition Handbook", and TM 31-210, "Improvised Munitions Handbook". There were even reprints of very old manuals such as "The Ordnance Manual for the Use of the Officers of the United States Army, Third Edition", dated 1862 and H.L. Scott’s "Military Dictionary", first printed in 1861.

Then there were manuals of civilian provenance, mostly printed by that most notorious of publishing houses, Paladin Press. There were titles like "Home Workshop Guns for Defense and Resistance", Truby and Minnery’s two-volume set of "Improvised Modified Firearms", and that staple of the ‘90s citizen militias, Ragnar Benson’s "David’s Tool Kit: A Citizen’s Guide to Taking Out Big Brother’s Heavy Weapons". On the shelves above the work table were classics such as Tenney Davis’s 1943 work, "The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives", Bert Levy’s "Guerrilla Warfare", Col. John George’s "Shots Fired in Anger", von Dach Bern’s "Total Resistance", DuPont’s "Blaster’s Handbook", and several different editions of "Small Arms of the World", interspersed with reloading manuals and back issues of Shotgun News.

At the moment, there were two manuals face up on the work bench - "Evaluation of Improvised Shaped Charges" by Anonymous, published in 1980 by Desert Publications of Cornville, Arizona, and "Improvised Rifle Grenades" by the aptly named expert, “Powder Burns”.

Mark “Kraut” Mueller was 56 years old -- old enough to know better than to play around with improvised munitions. The fact that he had quietly enjoyed this hobby since 1968 when he first got access to serious chemicals after his high school science teacher picked him as a lab assistant was known to a very few people. The fact that the FBI knew it as well would not have concerned Mueller very much. He had been very careful over the years not to cross the line of criminal conspiracy, and prior to this day had been more interested in preserving his knowledge and ability to build improvised explosive devices than in actually making them. It was a skill that he always held back UNTIL.

Well, now “until” had come.

Of that he was certain.

This was where the design for Phil Gordon's improvised anti-personnel rifle grenades had come from. Mark Mueller had known Phil for years. Although he couldn't rank him as a close friend, they certainly had been friendly. Both had fought as allies in the legislative gun control wars in Alabama over the years. Phil was never shy about what he thought of the ATF, which is probably why they had come to take him that night.

About a week before the battle, Phil had come to see Kraut at his house.

"I need to ask a favor," he had begun. It was a big favor, and it involved a huge leap of faith and trust for Mark Mueller. He had taken it.

Still, if the Feds knew that he had given Phil his design and all the makings of improvised rifle grenades except the explosives and detonators, they would have come for him already. So Phil must have taken that secret to his grave. How Phil put it together that he had been working on them was easy, Mark now understood:

"Hell, Mark, I've been knowing you for fifteen nigh onto twenty years and for half that time you've been beating the drum for that damn Alabama Grenadier Society y'all go play with dummies at. I just figured that if I hadn't been so damn cautious all these years, that might be something I would have done. It don't take Sherlock Holmes."

Mark hadn't perfected the anti-tank grenade yet, but he had given Phil the plans for the anti-personnel grenade – and M-31 training grenades. Phil had done the rest himself.

Truth be told, Mark hadn’t actually tested a device in almost ten years, after Waco and the gun bans had convinced him that the Clintonistas were finally going to try to pick up America’s guns. Then, as now, Mark was the closest thing the Alabama Constitutional Militia had to an ordnance officer. He had conducted many discreet training sessions, always SHOWING how but never DOING. He had demonstrated everything from the utility of dummy rifle grenades in training to how to manufacture a thermite device to take out an M1 Abrams tank. He had worked up a 12 Gauge flechette load that could reliably penetrate an ATF raid vest of the Nineties at twenty meters and then publicized it so that not only would the various citizen’s militias know how to make them but the “gun gestapo” would know that they were more vulnerable than before.

Anything that slowed down the people who had started the Waco atrocity and made them more cautious was a positive social good as far as Kraut Mueller was concerned.

For this and other sins, Mark was not popular with the ATF, nor did the FBI like him either. Both agencies had tried to entrap him over the years with a variety of scams and provocations, most of them unimaginative if not stupid. Mueller had evaded them all, and for a fellow of his political stripe that was saying something.

The Feds always had a theory that a gun enthusiast with political opinions was just this side of a terrorist, and the Clinton administration made sure that their FBI stooges kept close track of militia folk. The irony that the Fibbies spent so much time spying on the militias that they let the September 11 conspiracy get past them was not lost on Kraut.

What morons.

Most of them weren’t evil characters, of course. They were just federal bureaucrats working toward retirement. Of course some of them fit Hannah Arendt’s definition of the “banality of evil” – “Waco Jim” Jim Cavanaugh of the ATF, for one. But for the most part they were guys who joined after a stint in the military or the local cops and who thought they could do some good fighting bad guys. When an administration took over that defined bad guys as anybody with a gun who didn’t hew to the administration political line - well, the agents weren’t in an easy position to say differently. Even if they thought the Clintons were borderline treasonable (and many did), they weren’t about to jeopardize their retirement pay.

Oh, some of them resigned out of principle, but darn few. Mostly they turned into the guys who, when ordered to do something patently unconstitutional like the Waco raid, saluted and put on their raid gear. You know, the same kind of “decent Germans who just followed orders” that we hung at Nuremberg for war crimes.

Meet them in a bar, and you could get to like them. But if they came to your door, you’d better be prepared to take their lives. Because they showed at Waco and Ruby Ridge, and now at the Battle of Sipsey Street, that they were ready to take yours. Not only that, but they'd kill your wife and kids as well and be unapologetic and unrepentant afterwards. And as far as Mueller understood, “Waco Rules” were still the way the Feds ran things. If Sipsey Street proved anything, it proved that, even if the Feds had gotten more than they bargained for.

Of course, since that was the way Mark viewed things (and he hadn’t been shy about sharing his opinions with the Feds) no one ever came to his door, at least until now. While that might be because the Feds couldn’t make a case on him, Mark didn’t think so. They’d framed others before and got away with it. The federal prisons were still populated with so-called “militia leaders” of the Nineties who’d been talked into one piece of tomfoolery or another, or at least the federal prosecutors had made juries believe that they had.

But Kraut was of the opinion that the reason he’d never been raided was because he had made it plain that Waco Rules were still in force and that he would kill as many Feds as he could before he went down. No federal prison for Mrs. Mueller's son, that was for sure. Kraut knew the Feds could kill him any day they decided it was worth it, but he’d made it plain to them it had better be worth the chance of them not living to collect their retirement. And Kraut knew, as did the Fibbies, that he had enough friends to collect the butcher’s bill if he could not.

So far, his own private policy of “mutual assured destruction” had kept him alive.

So far.

But after Sipsey Street, Mark Mueller was sure, the dynamic had changed. The gloves were off now.

Phil Gordon's spectacular resistance had changed everything.

The work shop was in the windowless basement of a business establishment owned by a good friend, a fellow who wasn’t associated with the militia in any public way. In fact, there were perhaps three people in the whole world who knew of the workshop’s existence. There was only one access door to the stairs from the inside, and it was both steel and triple locked. You could only get to the door by passing through the private office of the owner, which, because he handled lots of cash in an average business day, was equally secured with alarms, steel doors, controlled access and bulletproof windows.

In fact, the building had been constructed just four years ago with just this dual-purpose in mind. The hard-working owner was one of the few patriots Mark knew who had money to burn, for most of the other militiamen and women were poor as church mice. In the shop, Mueller could feel as secure from prying eyes as in one of the unit’s supply dump caves up in Blount, St. Clair or Winston counties. And that was good, because you didn’t need to be nervous when playing around with improvised explosive devices, particularly the kind Kraut was about to fabricate.

“Rifle grenades are the Marine rifleman’s best weapons for use against tanks, pill boxes and, in some cases, enemy personnel. They are also effective as signaling agents, for screening effect, and as an incendiary against inflammable targets. They are similar to hand grenades, but have greater range since they are fired from the muzzle of the rifle by use of a special blank cartridge. Certain types are much more powerful than hand grenades… Rifle grenades are versatile weapons and can perform many jobs if the right grenade is used for the particular task at hand. They may be fired singly or in groups, at low or high angle, and they can cover the dead space between the distance you can throw a hand grenade and the minimum range of mortar and artillery fire.”

Or so said the"Guidebook for Marines", May 1966 edition, anyway.

In any case, for his purposes, Kraut was already sold on the military utility of rifle grenades. It helped that he and his friends really had few other choices.

By the turn of the 21st Century, rifle grenades were considered passé by just about every military establishment on the planet, except Israel. The United States Army had dropped them from the inventory toward the end of the Vietnam War in favor of a 40mm grenade launcher, first the M79, then the M203. The M203, slung on the underside of an M16 series rifle, was still standard issue and Mark’s son Mike, a clerk in the 101st Airborne Division’s headquarters had used one in Iraq on convoy duty. At ranges farther than the M203, the Army used mortars, anti-armor rockets, artillery or direct-fire cannon to suppress their enemies’ fire.

However, the militia had no mortars, anti-armor rockets, artillery or direct-fire cannon. These were forbidden to them by federal law as “destructive devices.” Nor could any of those weapons they be easily fabricated by small workshops like the one Mueller was sitting in.

But what the militia did have a lot of were rifles-- bolt action and semiautomatic rifles. And some of those rifles had military spec flash hiders on them that doubled as rifle grenade launchers.

There were rifles chambered in 7.62 NATO (called .308 or three-oh-eight by civilians) like the Spanish FR-8, the Belgian FAL, the German Heckler & Koch HK91 and the French MAS 49-56. There was also a variant of the Soviet SKS rifle chambered in 7.62x39 made by the Yugoslavians that was set up for launching NATO specification rifle grenades, courtesy of Tito's little falling out with Stalin. At the moment, these were selling for less than $200.00 each.

Both the SKS and the MAS 49-56 had the advantage of having integral grenade sights.

There were also rifles that could be fitted with grenade launching attachments like the venerable Springfield 1903 and the M1 Garand of WWII issue - both chambered in .30-06 - or the civilian semiautomatic version of the US M14 rifle chambered in 7.62 NATO.

So there were plenty of grenade-launching platforms in militia hands.

It was also legal to own such a rifle (for the moment anyway) and you could go out to a range, a pasture or an old strip mine and launch grenades, as long as they were inert practice grenades.

"The beauty of the rifle grenade," wrote one military advocate on the Internet, "is you can train on them anywhere there is an open space to shoot. You simply take practice rifle grenades and launch them with low-cost blanks at your targets to perfect your aim. After shooting them, you go down range, pick them up and shoot them again. And again. 'Practice makes perfect' is the by-word for a can-do generation that doesn't wear t-shirts with slacker mottoes like 'If you can't win don't try.' Perfect aim allows you to hit bad guys in moving cars when the chips are down and lives are on the line."

The grenades were projected from the rifle by means of a special grenade launching blank, and Mueller's militia unit had been manufacturing such blanks for years, using a special star crimp die that had cost more money than Kraut cared to remember.

Mark had the charge data for 7.62 NATO grenade blank taken from the 7th edition of Cartridges of the World posted above his reloading table across the room. In bold black letters it read:

"For the M64 Grenade Launching Blank (7.62mm NATO):

HPC4 @ 37 grs. or IMR8097 @ 40 grs. or WC830 @ 45 grs.


Until recently, US military practice grenades like the M-31 were available to purchase from surplus outlets like Rock Island Armory of Geneseo, Illinois, although the prices had gone up over the past decade from about $5.00 each to $25.00 and up and up. Part of the problem was that the M31, painted blue like most US training munitions, was made of sheet metal and the fins were prone to tear off after just one use. Even if you had the means to rebuild the fins, by the second or third use the warhead would break away from the launching body tube and all you'd be left with was a pile of junk.

That was if you could find it. The grenades got lost as often as not unless you tied a three foot long piece of fluorescent engineer's tape to the tail and stationed a spotter out in the impact zone. So between militia training usage and the fact that no M31s had been made since the Sixties, that well was about dry. They were still available if you looked real hard, but prices were exorbitant.

This was unfortunate for improvised munitioneers like Kraut because the M31 lent itself to reactivation, especially because the shape and composition of the training round was perfect for the shaped charge necessary to be an effective antitank round. Powder Burns' book, "Improvised Rifle Grenades", was a tutorial on rearming an M31 with a shaped charge of home-made C4.

The shaped charge principle had first been discovered in 1888 by Charles Edward Munroe, a professor of chemistry at the U.S. Naval Academy. While working at the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Munroe found that that if a block of guncotton with letters countersunk into its surface is detonated with the lettered surface against a steel plate, the letters are indented into the surface of the steel. Likewise, if the letters are raised above the surface of the guncotton, by detonation they are reproduced in relief on the steel plate, embossed and raised above the neighboring surface.

In other words, the greatest effects are produced on the steel plate at the points where the explosive material stands away from it, at precisely where explosive waves from different directions meet and reinforce each other. Munroe found that by increasing the depth of the concavity in the explosive he was able to produce greater and greater effects on the plate until with a charge that was hollowed out all the way, he was able to punch a hole completely through the steel plate.

Later ordnance scientists would learn that the effects of the shaped charge was independent of velocity - that is, it was unimportant if the charge was laid next to the steel plate or fired into it at great speed. The important thing was that for any given size and shape of charge, there was an optimal point above the steel plate (called the stand-off) where the effects of charge were maximized.

In addition, it was critical to locate the detonator at the center of the rear of the charge, so as to focus the resulting explosion. Finally, the conical cavity at the front of the charge must, for maximum effect, be lined with a ductile metal like copper. When the explosive is detonated the liner is deformed into a high velocity molten metal jet which is capable of penetrating armor plate.

Minor changes in any of these three factors: stand-off, detonation point and liner make a great difference in the ability of a given charge to penetrate modern armor plate. While an unlined shaped charge would work, it was far less efficient for antitank work than a similar lined charge.

Phil Gordon's improvised rounds had been unlined.

Mark intended to line his.

Mueller studied the tables in "Evaluation of Improvised Shaped Charges", then put his micrometer on the sheets of copper, alloy and aluminum that he had been able to scrounge at the industrial surplus supply store on 41st Street in Birmingham. Mark jotted the measurements down in his journal. He would use all three in the prototypes to see which worked best.

Weight was also a critical consideration. Kraut had come to the conclusion that the M31 was going to be best for antitank purposes. But if the larger goal of a "universal fed discourager" was to be met, he would have to find a design that could be produced by anybody from the stocks at their local hardware or building supply store.

Kraut had about 500 inert M31s, new in the cardboard shipping tubes, stashed in a friend's barn up in Blount County, courtesy of a trade he'd made ten years ago with an itinerant surplus dealer. "Shorty" Long had bought them for scrap price from the property disposal office at Anniston Army Depot sometime in the misty past and needed to get rid of them because he'd lost his storage area due to divorce.

His ex-wife got the kids, the furniture, the car and the house, he got the military surplus, the alimony, the child support and their three legged-dog. In retrospect, there was no doubt that his ex-wife, as ex-wives often do, got the better part of the deal. Still, Shorty clung to the comforting thought that the three-legged dog, which of course was named "Lucky", had a sweeter disposition than his ex-wife.

"Even if they were both bitches," he told Mark.

But just as the supply of M31s had pretty much run out, the Israelis came to the rescue. Earlier that year, Numrich Gun Parts Corporation of West Hurley, New York started advertising a new lot of Israeli Practice Grenade Sets for $140.00 each in gun industry magazines like Shotgun News.

The set contained six inert rifle grenade assemblies with rubber warheads patterned after the Israeli Military Industries BT/AT-44 dual purpose rifle grenade. These dummy grenades came with removable launching body tubes and tail fin assemblies so that if one piece was damaged in training, it could be repaired with a new part.

But that wasn't the beautiful thing about these Israeli grenades. The beautiful thing was that in addition to the six complete assemblies, the white wooden crate that Numrich shipped to you held 40 extra plastic fins and 32 launching body tubes.

And it was the launching tubes and fin assemblies that Kraut coveted.

Improvising a warhead, whether it is anti-personnel or anti-tank in design, is one thing. Mueller was already pretty good at that. But what was beyond Mark's abilities was a low-tech way to duplicate the intricacy of the fin assembly and the stout metallurgy and critical tolerances of the launching body tube. What the Israelis (through the good offices of Numrich Gun Parts Corporation) had provided was six training grenades and the makings of thirty-two more improvised rifle grenades. And Kraut figured that really was worth $140.00. Not to mention the fact that the six rubber dummy grenades were so stoutly designed and built that they hardly ever tore up in routine training. Compared to the M31 sheet metal dummies, the Israeli rubber grenades were indestructible.

Six months ago, when he first understood the potential of the Israeli kits, Mueller tapped his friends for enough money to buy ten of them. In the intervening weeks, Kraut had figured out how to adapt the fin and launching tube assemblies to common pipe fittings which enabled him to adapt them to any kind of warhead he could design. What he was doing now was putting all the elements together, including the explosive charges, into test prototypes.

By doing so, he was violating federal law. But the prototypes were merely to test the theory that effective rifle grenade warheads, both antipersonnel and antitank, could be manufactured in basement workshops. Kraut had no intention of mass-producing warheads at this point, even though he had the means to do so. He knew that with the help of a dozen militia members, he could arm all 500 of his M31s and 300+ of the Israeli hybrids in a week when and if he had to.

Now he merely wanted to test the designs so that, once proven, his manufacturing instructions could be circulated within the militia movement, much like his design for the 12 Gauge flechette load.

But after Sipsey Street this was no longer about trying to maintain credible deterrence. War, if it was not already here, was coming fast. That was what brought Kraut Mueller to this work bench.

The first problem was that the Israeli tubes were open at both ends, so the business end would have to be plugged. No problem there. Mark went to his local Lowes building supply store and found copper 1" pipe caps that with a bit of tapping with a large ball peen hammer could be driven down into the open end of the launching tube, swedged tight. Of course the friction fit would not hold against the overpressure on the inside of the tube upon launching, but Mueller had an idea about that too.

The second problem had been the threads on the Israeli launching tubes. Mark could find nothing locally to match them. They were about 1" O.D. so after perusing some plumbing industry websites he came up with a female to male adapter, the female end being smooth (designed for sweating onto copper pipe). The male end was 1" pipe thread making it easy to adapt whatever optimally sized warhead he might construct. The problem was with the sample he bought from Home Depot. While the smooth inner surface of the female end of the copper fitting would slide over the threaded end of the Israeli tube, it was loose and there was no way to self-thread the alloy tube into the fitting. That had been easy to fix. Mark found some thin aluminum shim material, bent it into round and slipped it over the tube before he tapped the female end of the fitting into place.

To solve the problem of holding both the cap and the fitting in place on the tube, Kraut drilled a 1/4" hole through the fitting, tube and cap and ran a bolt through the assembly, topping it with a locknut on the other side. Thus secured, the tube and cap would hold up to the stresses of firing. He had already tested that theory with a dummy warhead made out of 1-1/2" PVC pipe with a playdough filler. Fired off of a Chinese-clone M14S retrofitted with a USGI flash suppressor and an M76 launching attachment, the grenade had sailed almost 300 meters, landing nose down.


Mark now knew he had a projectile suitable for antipersonnel rounds, at least, and maybe antitank rounds as well. That was what he working on now. The base-detonating fuse arrangement was a proven type designed by a couple of East Texas militiamen back in the Nineties who had a flair for technical design. One of the two was tall and lanky, the other shorter and more compactly built, so Kraut had dubbed them "Mutt and Jeff."

The problem with all fuses is how to construct them so that are robust enough to stand up under the stresses of launch, yet sensitive enough to detonate their cargo on the other end. After studying many types of artillery fuses from the Civil War to the Nineties, the Texas boys had devised a mechanism small enough to fit in a projectile, robust enough to be safe to launch, and reliable enough to work on impact-- and all of the components were available at your local hardware store.

Their original design had been mated to a black powder burster/antipersonnel charge launched by twelve gauge shotgun using the old blank-shotgun-shell-and-broomstick arrangement first outlined in Che Guevara's book Guerrilla Warfare. Mark had been impressed when Mutt and Jeff had demonstrated it for him back in 1997 when he made a trip out to the Lone Star state. What really impressed him was not the reliable fuse, but the guts of the men who put the shotgun to their shoulders and touched off the infernal contraption.

Whenever Kraut tested a rifle grenade or rifle grenade launching platform, he lashed the rifle to an old tire and used a very, very long lanyard to touch it off. This procedure had saved Mark's life more than once. That Mutt and Jeff did not do this said something about either their cojones or their sanity, Mark wasn't sure which.

Mueller was now taking their design a step further by working it into the highest efficiency rifle-launched projectile able to be constructed by a basement workshop. First came the antipersonnel round. For this warhead, designed to throw shrapnel in every direction, it was better to move the fuse point of detonation into the center, rather than the base. Based on tests of varying size and weight, Mark had already calculated the best throw weight for the grenade. With this knowledge in hand, he found components which when assembled would match the optimum weight. Schedule 40 or Schedule 80 PVC was fine for a casing, light but reasonably strong.

Kraut had worked up a jig to hold an electric drill with the chuck extending above the table top of the work bench at a 90 degree angle. Into the drill chuck, he inserted an adjustable cup that would hold the PVC pipe and adapter base (already glued together using PVC cement). As the drill rotated the PVC warhead, Mark squeezed in glue until it was covering the inner wall completely with a thin layer. Then he would insert steel ball bearings, small nails, or some of the flechettes he had left over from the anti-ATF shotgun shell project. The centrifugal force of the rotating casing distributed the projectiles along the casing wall. Then in went more glue and more projectiles, always leaving room for the fuse mechanism and explosive charge. He had done this years before when working on improvised hand grenades, testing them inside a railroad culvert lined with plywood-backed poster board so he had been able to analyze the blast patterns. Steel ball bearings seemed to throw the most consistent pattern, regardless of whether he used black powder, aluminum flash powder or improvised C4 as a burster.

Over the past ten days, Mark had completed all of the design work and prefabrication of components necessary to make 2 grenades of each type he wished to test. There were antitank grenades of differing sizes and liners, 3 on the M31 platform (each with a different composition liner) and 9 different Israelis, antipersonnel and antitank.

What the militia ordnance man was doing now was the assembling of the final product, including loading in the C4 and arming the East Texas detonators. He worked slowly and carefully, stopping often to get up and stretch. He was sweating despite the coolness of the basement and every so often would mop his face with an old dish towel.

Eight and a half hours after he began, the last of the improvised rifle grenades was nestled in its cardboard shipping tube, six tubes to a backpack. The backpacks were made of Realtree camouflage pattern of the type some hunters use, and Kraut had picked them for a steal when the local Service Merchandise had gone out of business years ago. Mueller was always bringing odd items home, stuff that had no apparent earthly purpose as far as his wife could see and no virtue other than it was dirt cheap.

Millie had long ago ceased asking, figuring that there were other husbands with stranger hobbies and worse vices. And while she agreed with Kraut's politics (she was from Arkansas after all, and no one had despised Clinton more then she), Mueller figured he probably wouldn't tell her EVERYTHING about what he had been up to this day. Ignorance may not be bliss, but it sure can be functional occasionally in a marriage. Especially when your husband was up to what Kraut was up to. Mueller smiled, and wiped the sweat from his face and hands once more.

There were other projects he was working on, of course. The improvised rifle grenade project he had dubbed "Project R". It was the first to come to fruition because it was the easiest to accomplish. His friend Bob was working on a related project, dubbed "P," in a remote farm machine shop in Shelby County. Because it also involved shaped charges, most of what Kraut learned with P would be applied to R. Bob was working on the launcher even now and he did not need the warhead to accomplish that. When both R and P were finished, they would devote all their energies to the most ambitious of their plans, "Project M."


"Show me what you've got," said Kraut.

Bob Smith smiled craftily, his dark eyes glittering, showing some of his Korean ancestry, and he flipped back the lid of the long, surplus Israeli rocket crate that rested on the folding table in the farm shop.

"OK," he began by pulling the smaller of the three tubes out of the crate, "this is the original Panzerfaust 100 we got from Mike when he was in Germany. I still can't believe you can buy this stuff at flea markets over there," he said shaking his head. "Yeah, I know it doesn't have a warhead, but STILL . . ." His voice trailed off, then he continued.

"I'm going to recap a little because it bears on some of the changes I made in the design. As you know we chose the Panzerfaust because it doesn't require the complex chemistry and safety issues involved in making rocket fuel like the bazooka, just black powder as a propellant. Because of that, of course, the tube must be much stronger. The 100 was a step above the older, smaller Panzerfausts, with a new firing tube with a two-stage propellant charge that weighed 190 grams or 6.7 oz. This gave it a projectile speed of about 60 meters per second, that's about 200 feet per second and a range of 100 meters, hence the designation. The 100 was pretty much the last Panzerfaust that made it into the hands of troops in any numbers, showing up first about the time of the Battle of the Bulge. The tube length on this specimen is 110 cm, which strangely splits the difference between the two lengths I've found in the books. It's got a tube diameter of 60 mm just like our early bazooka. That's 2.36 inches. With the original projectile this weapon weighed about 7 kilos, or between 15 to 16 pounds. You can see the sights are creviced for ranges of 30, 60, 80 and 150 meters and those flakes are what's left of the glow-paint night sights. That last 150 meter notch is real optimistic even with 7 ounces of blackpowder throwing it. Here you can see the arming and firing system with the lever that also serves as the rear sight. This was an improvement over the earlier Panzerfausts."

Laying down the original German tube and extracting the second one from the case, he placed it beside the first. Smith continued. "Now here is our direct replica of the original sample."

"Wow," Kraut Mueller burst out, "They're identical!"

"Not quite," demurred Smith.

"You can see the differences here," he pointed, "here, and here. But all in all they are perfect to sell to World War II Wehrmacht and Waffen SS re-enactors along with an originally-shaped blunt hardwood projectile painted to look like metal. The projectile's inert and they're black powder, so they're not covered under any of the Feds crappy laws, yet. Until the ATF decides to shut down that hobby, we can sell them all day long and plow the profits back into making these."

Bob Smith reached into the case and pulled out the last tube.

"OK, this is a hybrid of what I learned by studying the Panzerfaust 100 and the documents that you gave me from the War Department ordnance studies done after World War II. Basically, it’s a combination of features from the Panzerfaust 150 and 250 (which never got fielded) with the same tube as the 100, but reinforced with bands of steel strapping here, here, here, and here. These reinforcements ought to make the thing reusable for at least ten shots. Like the original 150, we can increase the length of the projectile and the amount of black powder increments to give you more efficient flight, speed and accuracy than the original along with a much heavier charge which will punch more armor. You will also note that we have replaced the cumbersome and hard to duplicate arming and firing system with the RPG style firing handle that the Germans finally got around to putting on the Panzerfaust 250."

When Bob halted his spiel to take a breath, Mark asked the younger man, "Why the reinforcements? Why not use a bigger tube? Seems like the reinforcements add to production time and cost."

Nodding, Smith answered, "We thought of that, but we couldn't lay our hands on seamless steel tubing of the proper dimensions. We also wanted to maintain a heavy projectile throw weight."

"How heavy is that?" Mark asked.

Bob told him.

"Damn! That's good!"

"Yeah, its a couple orders of magnitude better than what we can get with a rifle grenade thrown by an itty-bitty 7.62 NATO grenade blank."

Kraut Mueller's brain swam with the possibilities.

Bob Smith reached behind the box and pulled out a shorter but fatter object. "And here's a sample projectile we turned out with round bar stock, sheet metal and some hardware. You can see the cavity in the base for the secondary 'booster' charge of black powder, and the fabrication process facilitates loading the warhead."

He pulled off the hollow warhead shell with a simple twist. "All you've got to do is design a projectile that works, Herr Dok-tor."

They looked at each other and both burst out laughing.

"Ya done good, Bob," Mark Mueller said appreciatively. "When I had this hare-brained idea I didn't know if it would work or not. I mean the black powder solved the rocket fuel questions, but, darn, you really did it well."

Bob Smith continued to grin, "Well, if it doesn't work, you can take it out of my pay."

The machine shop rang with their laughter.

"Now all we gotta do," said Kraut Mueller as they both exited the shop, "is test the things."

"I'll let you shoot it first," said Bob.

"Reluctantly," he added.

"Thanks a bunch, Smith."

Kraut paused, still laughing.

"Thanks a whole bunch."

"Hide yer Wimmin, Clinton's in Town!"

FBI - Office of the Special Agent in Charge
Birmingham, AL
2:47 P.M Central Standard Time.

"So what you're saying is this militia guy has operational rifle grenades and anti-tank weapons and despite constant surveillance which he's slipped past at least three times we can't figure out where he's hiding them? Or where he makes them?"

The SAC was not pleased. Not pleased at all.

"Hell, he's a damned old fat man who has congestive heart failure and limps with a cane. My toddler could outrun him. What's wrong with you people?"

The ASAC and the three field agents in the room looked uncomfortable and none of them met the SAC's gaze. Two of them looked at the floor and one looked out the window. The fourth stared at a point at least six feet above the SAC's head.

The ASAC cleared his throat. "In fairness to the agents here, sir, this man is no ordinary person of interest. He knows fieldcraft. I called up Barney Williams, you remember sir, the special agent who retired just after you came here."

The SAC's face betrayed neither emotion nor understanding.

"Anyway, sir, he said they had the same trouble when they were trying to trail him back in the Clinton years. Barney said the guy drove like a bank getaway man and had a great many friends to help him with diversions when he needed them. He's got the electronics to scan for the latest bugs and he's very, very careful about his communications. He seems to communicate through both dead and live drops all over the place, but we can't catch him at it. If it weren't for the Confidential Informant, we wouldn't have known about the testing at all."

The ASAC ran down like a wind-up toy, waiting for the SAC to buy, or reject, his excuse.

The SAC said nothing, staring very intently at a pencil on his desk.

The ASAC ventured another factoid. "Sir, Williams also said that this guy suckered both us and the ATF in the Nineties. He would pretend to discuss illegal stuff on the phone just to sucker us into wasting our time chasing Tinkerbelles through NeverNever Land. Barney said he suckered the ATF into firing the company that cleaned the building because he convinced them in a wiretap that janitors were going to put brown recluse spiders in the raid gear in their lockers to bite their dicks and make them fall off."

Two of the field agents snickered.

The SAC looked up. "You're shitting me," he said flatly.

"No sir, I said the same thing and Barney swore it was true."

The SAC went back to looking at his pencil. "Fieldcraft? Where did he learn that, do we know?"

"No sir, he was a commie back in the 70s when he was young -- a secret member of a Maoist party, the Progressive Labor faction or something. Maybe he learned it then."

The SAC deigned to look up again, "A communist? What kind of sense does that make?"

"Sir, he had some sort of epiphany right afterward. He converted to Christianity and turned hard right and has been there ever since. It's in his file, he's not shy of talking about it."

The SAC seemed to see the file in front of him for the very first time. It was a thick one, he noted, a very thick one. He flipped it open and an old polaroid clipped to the inside front flew off and landed at the edge of his desk top. Reaching out, he retreived it and saw a portly middle aged man standing, no, posing, by the tailgate of his pick-up truck. A huge sign covered it, and the man was smiling broadly.

"What the hell?"

The ASAC, who was familiar with the file, interjected, "Sir, that was taken in the late Nineties when the President came to Birmingham to tour the tornado damage west of town. The Secret Service actually stopped him on the street and asked to take a picture of him and his pick-up truck. They took several polaroids and we asked for one, according to the notes. As I said, he has a sense of humor. I think the Secret Service guys did too. They didn't much care for guarding that President and his wife."

"Yes," said the SAC, "I was alive in the Nineties, Mr. Baird." He shook his head and chuckled in spite of himself.

The sign said, in huge letters, "Hide Yer Wimmin, Clinton's In Town!"

"So," the SAC concluded, "We have a dangerous, funny old fat man who's dying of congestive heart failure but not fast enough to suit the new administration. A man who has a gift for blarney and who may or may not have destructive devices capable of blowing up vehicles and small buildings?"

"Yes, sir," agreed the ASAC, "that's about it."

"Could he be working the CI back on us to make us do something stupid?"

The ASAC thought for a moment. "Yes, sir, he could be."

"And are we certain of the CI? What are his motives? Is he being paid? Is he being paid enough? Enough not to double-agent on us?"

The ASAC didn't know and didn't want to admit that he didn't know. The control agent was meeting with the CI right now.

"Sir, I . . ."

"Well, find out, dammit. The ATF's on me to let them have him as part of some big deal case they're working, as if screwing up the Gordon thing wasn't enough they think they got to take on this guy and his considerable number of friends. But the Hoover Building says no. Not just no, but hell no. There's something about this particular guy that they want us to handle. OK, so handle it, Mr. Baird!"

He looked around the room, "And you clowns better not lose him again."

They all mumbled yes, sirs, and turned to leave. "And Baird," he added.

"Yes sir?"

"I want a full briefing on that CI before I go home today."

"Yes, sir," the ASAC said as he closed the door on the way out.

The SAC shifted his gaze to the window and the world outside.

"Shit," he muttered.

What was so special about this guy that the Director was personally interested in keeping him out of the hands of the ATF?

He didn't know, but he intended to find out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Absolved, Chapter Six: Reverberations and Synergies

Absolved, Chapter Six: Reverberations and Synergies

Sound is a funny thing. In the Civil War, entire battles were sometimes fought within a few miles of troops who passed the day unaware that their comrades-in-arms were fighting desperately. In other times and places, the sounds of battle have reverberated and carried for many miles. This is especially true across bodies of water. You know, like Smith Lake.

For sound and fury, the skirmish at the old Gordon cabin hadn't been much as skirmishes go, all the gunfire being one-sided. And Smith Lake and the Bankhead National Forest are no strangers to echoing gunshots from hunters, target shooters and occasional drunken white boys blasting holes in federal, state and local signage. Automatic weapons fire, on the other hand, is a bit rarer and would have drawn the notice of curious passersby -- not that there were many of those in Charlie Quintard's neck of the woods -- even in the peaceful days before the Battle of Sipsey Street and the disappearance of the first four ATF agents right afterward.

But now? Well, now only an idiot would dismiss that episodic, fat-in-the-fire sustained crackle echoing through the woods and across the water as anything else but evidence that the undeclared civil war which had begun on Sipsey Street had come home to Phil Gordon's birthplace.

Now as it happened only two people who heard the sounds of the death agony of the ATF's second team understood the probable cause of what they were hearing. One was Jimmy Flynn, who had just turned 19 and was,at that moment, trying to get into Katy Dobson's drawers. The fact that Jimmy was still in the preliminaries of talking Katy into what he had in mind played a part in his realization. Had he been farther along in the process he might not have noticed at all. But Katy was no pushover. In fact, she had no intention of giving Jimmy what he wanted just then. Her own personal standards required at least an engagement ring before surrendering her secrets, even if she loved young Mr. Flynn, which she did.

So Jimmy was still in possession of his faculties when the first burst of pistol shots that killed Pushmataha rang out. Huh, he thought, that wasn't far away. Some feller with a semi-auto pistol shootin' a snake probably. There were plenty of snakes up this way. The rock with the beautiful view of the river that Jimmy had chosen for courting the hard-to-get Miss Dobson was probably the least snaky place around here, which was why he had chosen it. There was nothing like an Eastern Diamondback rattler or a copperhead to ruin the mood.

But when the paroxysm of fire at the pine roadblock echoed up to him, Jimmy Flynn knew exactly what was going on and he sat up straight. Damn, he thought. Its the ATF again. The Suburban had passed them on the main road before turning off in front of them, heading down to the old Gordon place. Jimmy knew about the ATF. Will Shipman, the commander of both his re-enactment unit and the newly organized Free State Constitutional Militia of which Jimmy was a proud member, had told him all about them. Jimmy idolized Will. He'd been places and done things that Jimmy dreamed he might one day see and do. Now, he heard the gunfire and realized that Will needed to know about this.

Having more youthful enthusiasm than sense, had Jimmy been on his own he might have moved toward the sound of the guns to discover what was really happening. But he couldn't do that with Katy in tow.

Katy, unmindful of the sound at first and not understanding a bit why Jimmy was no longer paying attention to HER, asked petulantly, "What's the matter?"

"That's gunfire," explained Jimmy.

Katy had heard gunfire all her life. Everybody up in Winston County owned a gun and her daddy had taught her how to shoot from when she was tee-niney. She did not, however, have an educated ear for gunfire, nor was she particularly interested in it. What she was interested in was becoming Jimmy Flynn's wife and having his babies -- in that order.

"Somebody shooting a snake," she explained. There were a whole lot more snakes than guns in Winston County, and anybody who lived outside of town had shot one, or seen one shot.

Jimmy started to explain that it was machinegun fire and nobody shot snakes with machineguns, but the natural caution that his daddy had taught, and occasionally beat into, him took over. "Don't run your mouth," his daddy had said, "until you've got somethin' to say and you know who's listening." There was one other thing his daddy was fond of saying. "No woman ever kept a secret, except her own."

This much Jimmy could work out for himself. There were four ATF men missing. The whole county knew about the Suburban behind the Sheriff's Office. The feds were offering $10,000 for information about what might have happened to them. Everybody in town had a guess. Will Shipman had told him with a wink, "I guess they ran into something in the woods. Maybe they were eaten by trolls." There were crackheads in town who had already sold their souls for far less and who would rat out their own mothers for a rock, but nobody had a clue. And Will Shipman told Jimmy Flynn something else, "Well, its like my old Army buddy Scarpetti used to say, 'Three men can keep a secret if two of them are dead.'" Meaning whoever accomplished the disappearance of the ATF agents was probably working alone.

Which meant that, since the random disappearance of ATF agents in the wake of the agency's attack on Phil Gordon was viewed by almost everybody in Winston County, heck, the entire state of Alabama, as a positive social good, whoever was on the receiving end of that gunfire was doing the Lord's own work this day. Therefore, it would not do to draw Katy Dobson's attention to it. Momma raised ugly kids, not dumb ones, Jimmy thought. That was something else his daddy had said.

So Jimmy Flynn gave up any thought of getting in Katy Dobson's drawers that day, laid back down beside her on the blanket and cuddled her, listening hard for more shots. In due time, as Charlie Quintard matched his bow and arrows against the ATF's M-4s and MP-5s, he heard them.

When the flash bangs went off, though, even Katy sat up. "What was THAT?" she exclaimed.

"Oh," said Jimmy, "I think its somebody celebrating with fireworks. Don't worry about it." And then he said something that he couldn't believe later he had, although the thought had been growing in him for some time. Strangely, the sounds of the war close by crystallized it for him. "Katy, would you marry me? I know I don't make much at the factory, but with times being the way they are now, I just don't think we should wait. Will you marry me?"

Katy was flabbergasted and forgot all about the bangs and booms. The campaign for Jimmy Flynn's wedding ring was carefully mapped out in her head and should have taken at least another three months. "Oh, yes, Jimmy, yes!"

They kissed then, and kept on kissing. In fact, Jimmy Flynn could have gotten into Katy Dobson's drawers at that moment, but strangely all he wanted to do was hold her tight as he listened intently to the sounds of the forest, the lake and the odd gunshots echoing across them.

Men, thought Katy. I'll never understand them. But she didn't care. She was going to be Mrs. Jimmy Flynn after all. And wouldn't Lori Peterson just be jealous fit to bust?

The other person who heard the shots and knew what he was hearing was Carter Johnson, the Sheriff of Winston County. Actually, the only shots that he heard came from the last burst of Carmichael's MP-5. He had been headed north on the lake in his bass boat, christened "Semper Fi," with his nephew Donald Waters, supposedly looking for the missing four ATF agents but actually to get away from the phones, the nagging press, the demanding feds and do a little bit of fishing. So, what with the noise of the motor going full-tilt-boogie and the bang of the water against the hull, Sheriff Johnson didn't hear anything.

Something penetrated his subconscious though.

Something was not right.

His premonitions had served him well over the years, first in Vietnam and then in a lifetime in law enforcement, and he had learned to pay attention to them. The last time had been when he was about to kick in the door to an untended meth lab a few years back, and something nagged at his brain not to do it. He went around to the side of the trailer, stepped up on a milk crate and peeped in the window. There was a tripwire attached to the door. He couldn't see what it was attached to, but he decided to disassemble a back window and go in that way. It took him and the deputies 45 minutes to do that with the poor set of tools they had, but their patience was rewarded.

They got to live.

On the other end of the trip wire was an M18A1 Claymore directional mine that was later determined to have been listed as "expended in training" back in the 1980s at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

So when something niggled at the back of his head, something that his wife had called his "spider sense," Carter Johnson paid attention. He cut the boat motor and listened. Silence. Then, "Brrrrrp." Then, nothing. He couldn't even tell what side of the lake it had come from. A submachinegun, though, he was certain. He waited for a second burst to help him, or some gunfire in reply but nothing happened. He turned to his nephew to see if he had heard it and saw his head bobbing up and down to the MP-3 player. Moron. For a few minutes more he sat there waiting, until his nephew got curious and asked why they'd stopped.

"Thought I heard something," Johnson growled. He was beginning to think that hiring his nephew as a deputy was the biggest mistake he'd ever made in life, up to and including the time he stepped in a punji trap during Operation Tuscaloosa at An Hoa in 1967.

There wasn't a thing about the boy that didn't irritate him and if his sister hadn't begged him in front of their sainted mother he wouldn't have brought him on board. The kid was only here in the boat to be his flunky anyway, to hand out the beer and bait the hooks, which unfortunately was all he was qualified for. Skeeter Haynes, former Birmingham police captain and his likely primary opposition had already been nosing around, asking sly questions and making pointed comments about "nepotism." The election wasn't until next year, but the Sheriff had already made up his mind to dump him on some other poor, unsuspecting police department before it became an issue. They owed him a favor down in Walker County. But then, that place was crooked as a dog's hind leg and Donny was stupid enough that he'd probably get himself killed the first week. His sister wouldn't thank him for THAT.

He let the boat drift for a while, then restarted the engine and very slowly chugged upriver out in the middle of the channel, still unsure of which side the sound had come from, trying to listen over the low mutter of the engine. He actually passed Dead Man's Holler on his right while Charlie was policing up the ATF bodies at the roadblock. Carmichael heard the low noise between groans, but couldn’t make out the direction it was coming from and didn’t identify it as a boat. He thought it was something Charlie was up to so he stayed quiet, grinding his teeth in pain. Not that he could move in any case. And although the Sheriff could see the dock and Charlie's pole sticking out of the fixture, brush shielded his view of the hog-tied ATF supervisor. Thus, Carmichael's last chance for life passed upstream.

By the time the dead man hollered, Sheriff Johnson was passing the second bend above the old Gordon place and heard not a thing. But he HAD heard SOMETHING. His intuition borne of long experience with the Feds told him that they had done something stupid again. Indeed, they seemed always to be doing something stupid. Did they have a test or something that said, "Hey, if you're knee-jerk stupid we want you in the ATF"? It seemed like it. Ever since the Gun Control Act of 1968, they'd been doing deadly stupidities, from the Kenyon Ballew shooting to Waco to Sipsey Street.

And that last was pure-dee DUMB. He knew Phil Gordon well. He grew up with him and went to school with him, although he was two years older than Phil and graduated sooner. Johnson had gone straight into the Marines after graduation, Phil went into the Army two years later. Phil was a serious shooter and a self-effacing southern gentleman, a devout Christian and good family man who'd raised a passel of accomplished kids. If he had a vice it was running his mouth about injustice and government excesses, which was why the ATF had targeted him, probably.

But whatever their made-up excuse, and no matter how many ATF agents he had killed in self-defense, the folks up here figured that it was the ATF and not Phil Gordon, who had it coming. And if now some more ATF agents had gone missing, well, wasn't that just too bad? Winston County had a long history of making "authorities" like Confederate Home Guards and conscription officers, as well as a hundred and forty years of state and federal liquor and tax revenue agents, disappear. That four more were now missing was seen by Winston Countians, after the death of someone they knew and respected, as merely the latest episode in the region's proud, independent saga. Feds were SUPPOSED to disappear up here, didn't THEY know THAT? And if the perpetrators were not caught, then that was okay with most of the voters too.

One other thing. Sheriff Carter Johnson knew that if he was seen by the voters as a tool of the Feds and not the local standard bearer of law enforcement, he didn't have a hope in hell of getting re-elected. Skeeter Haynes would see to that.

So those were the horns of his dilemma, now made worse by the thought that with that burst of submachinegun fire, some more ATF agents may have just been disappeared, or killed, or whatever. Or, maybe they'd get lucky, bag their trophy, and leave the county, and more importantly, leave Sheriff Carter Johnson the hell alone. Of course, if they killed somebody that the local folks deemed innocent, like another Phil Gordon, the resentments would wash over him because he hadn't protected them long enough to get a fair trial. As if there was anything such like in the federal court system these days. And the Feds had already proven they didn't trust him enough to consult him about anything, so what could he do? In any case, Carter Johnson concluded on the evidence of that faint “brrp,” his life was about to get a lot more miserable.

As a result, the Sheriff finished what he had set out to do that morning.

He fished.

He tried not to worry about missing ATF agents and submachinegun fire in the forest and pondered over how to get rid of his nephew without getting him killed. As if to deliberately compound his frustration, the fish refused to bite. Maybe if Skeeter Haynes wants my job, I should pay him back by letting him have it. A poor bastard he'd be then. Just like me.

"Tell me that again, slowly," Will Shipman ordered Jimmy Flynn. They were sitting alone in Will Shipman's kitchen, sharing coffee and secrets. It was the night of the skirmish at the old Gordon cabin.

So Jimmy did, slowly. The Suburban passing him, US government plates, packed with stone-faced men in combat gear, the automatic weapons fire, the booms, the whiff of tear gas as he and Katy had driven home past the entrance to the old Gordon place on the way home. And oh, yeah, could Will believe it? He, Jimmy Flynn, was getting married.

That part was easy. His wife had told him to expect it four months ago. Women were wise in the way of such things, while most men like Jimmy (and me, thought Will wistfully) were merely targets on female radar screens, ready to be brought down by charm, feminine wiles and pheromones.

But if another bunch of ATF had truly met misfortune in the Bankhead, this county was about to be torn apart, and the Feds were likely going to come looking for yours truly, Will knew. He had made no secret of his opinions of the innocence of Phil Gordon and the guilt of the ATF for the Battle of Sipsey Street. And some folks even knew about his militia activities. This was an ungood thing. He had to first verify that something had actually happened, without raising suspicions, of course. In addition, he knew he had to figure out quickly who was responsible for taking on and apparently defeating two ATF teams. He had a guess, but it didn't seem possible. The man he suspected didn't even own a firearm.

The morning after Sheriff Johnson's fishing trip, the ATF was confirming, in a backhanded sort of way by asking about them, that some more of their agents had come up missing. It was six this time. The regional office in Nashville called, wanting to know if there was another Suburban behind his office. There wasn't. But there were more details about this team's mission than there had been the last time. They'd had only one destination -- Phil Gordon's old cabin on the lake -- which was right close by where the Sheriff heard the shots yesterday. The Sheriff knew who lived there, and like Will Shipman, he couldn't believe it either.

But before Sheriff Johnson set out to find Charlie Quintard, he had to very carefully consider whether he really wanted to find him. He knew that the ATF, who had undercover agents crawling all over Double Springs (they stuck out like sore thumbs), wouldn't stop until they found their men and the killer (or killers). What he was trying to determine was, did he want to help them or hinder them? Which would get him re-elected? If, that is, he wanted to be re-elected at all in this brave new world gone mad.

For his part, Charlie Quintard had been a very busy man since he buried Pushmataha. He'd policed up all the ATF's firearms and equipment (he had quite a gun collection by now, what with the meth heads and the Feds leaving things lying around on the ground) and stashed them in two 55 gallon drums off of Phil Gordon's property out in the Bankhead National Forest in a little cave he had found a couple of years ago.

He'd also done his best to clean up the forensic detritus of the skirmish, picking up brass, wiping out the Suburban's tire tracks and covering over torn up undergrowth with mud and camouflage vegetation of various kinds. He even repaired, for the second time, the lock on his door. It was not going to be enough, he knew. For one thing, it was impossible to find all the brass in the thick undergrowth. If somebody came out here with a metal detector they were bound to find what he couldn't.

It was time to leave the Gordon cabin. He hated it, but he knew he had no choice. It was going to be back to the woods like his ancestors and his life was going to be a lot rougher. But in order to do it, he needed help moving his larder. Now, before the place flooded with Feds.

"I've gotta get me some more deputies," Barton Meigs murmured to himself in his Nashville office, bitterly recalling the line of Brian Dennehy's crooked sheriff in Silverado. No shit. First the wholesale slaughter of scores of agents in the Battle of Sipsey Street, then four, followed by six more, missing up in Winston County on a stupid follow up search. Three more dead (and six wounded) in Cherokee County, Alabama on what should have been a piece-of-cake no-knock against a gunshop owner for straw-man sales. Only the dickhead decided he wasn't going to be arrested that day or any other and went down fighting. Worse, it was done so stupidly that we managed to kill his wife and six year old daughter in the collateral damage. Two more agents wounded in a similar incident in Pulaski, Tennessee. "Has the ATF Declared War on the American People?" read the headline on the editorial in the Wall Street Journal this morning. The subhead read, "Or Have the American People Declared War on the ATF?" Good questions.

For the thousandth time, he cursed his predecessor at this desk. HE was the idiot who'd initiated the Phil Gordon investigation because he didn't like what the moke was saying about him and the agency. As if we've ever been popular, Meigs snorted. Well, the dumbshit had started a war and the only thing good Barton Meigs could say about him was that Phil Gordon had made him pay with his life for his terminal stupidity. Meigs hoped the Devil was giving his predecessor a personal After Action Review in Hell right now.

The dirty little secret of the ATF, and indeed of all federal law enforcement including the IRS, was on display for anyone who had the eyes to see. As big and bad, as omniscient and omnipresent as we pretend to be in a country this size, we ain't and we'll never be. It was the whole Wizard of Oz thing. Most people bought the display, but some folks didn't. And he could shout, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" all he wanted, but it didn't mean he could conjure live agents to replace dead ones out of thin air. If this turns into a war, we lose. Unless the military comes in on our side, which Barton Meigs figured it wouldn't. The nasty arguments he had with his brother the Major General like clockwork every Thanksgiving told him as much.

Worse than the casualties were the resignations sweeping the agency. Nobody wanted to risk getting killed short of retirement, it seemed. There were rumors of a "national emergency stop loss" order from D.C., but all that did was accelerate the exodus. The unions were screaming bloody murder too. If the President decided to make this a national "law and order" crusade as was the rumor, this was going to get very ugly. Some people just don't know when to back off. We did it after Waco, didn't we? We managed to save the agency when everybody, including the turf-jealous FBI, wanted us gone.

But Clinton, for all the names the conservatives called him had in the end been a pragmatic politician, perhaps because he was just in it for the broads. But this President? This guy was a true believer and arrogant to boot. The President, whose photo hung behind him on the wall, was just the kind of man to take a terrible situation and make it truly horrific.

Meigs looked at an organization chart for his region that had been adjusted to reflect the losses since Sipsey Street. There were more holes than filled positions, even after the wave of emergency transfers in from all over the country. The loss of institutional memory represented by those empty slots was staggering. Every single outstanding case now in progress or in the courts in the southeastern United States had been affected. Real criminals, not bumbling gun dealers guilty of paperwork errors or target shooters guilty of nothing but malfunctioning semi-auto rifles, were getting off on dismissed charges. Vicious rapists, drug dealers and killers, were walking because we picked on the wrong guy and he fed us our own ass.

Meigs had been all through what paper trail remained on Gordon in ATF files. The guy hadn't been a "terrorist" as the national PR spokesmen of his agency were saying. He was just a loudmouth. A very talented loudmouth who had two things: tactical warning of ATF intentions and nothing to lose. He thought of his predecessor and cursed him, again. You stupid SOB. Burn in Hell.

His secretary broke in on his foul mood. "Sir, Assistant Director Atherton is on line three for you." Oh, God, what now? He picked up the handset and punched the line button.


"Meigs, this is AD Atherton."

"Yes, sir?"

"I've just come from a meeting with the Director and the Attorney General. The decision has been taken to get you some more help."

"That's good news sir." Meigs paused, "Transfers from the FBI and other agencies?"

"No, they've got their own demands. We're working on something much bigger to deal with this whole problem of domestic gun terrorism."

Uh, oh, thought Meigs, that's a new term. "Yes, sir?"

"Yes. You'll be briefed on that when we've finalized the operational plan, but for now I'm sending you a man who can fill up your T.O. & E. with operational bodies to make up for your grievous losses."

"Who, sir?"

"John Claxton of Brightfire. He'll be in Nashville tomorrow morning. Its an open-ended contract. Tell him what you need and he'll get it for you. They're a very capable firm with a lot of experience. Money is no object."

Meigs was silent.

"Meigs," said the AD, "Do you have any questions about this?"

Meigs decided to risk it. "Sir, I need experienced federal law enforcement officers, even inexperienced ones will do in a pinch, but I need agents, I don't need mercenaries unfamiliar with the way we do things."

The AD was silent for a moment, which Meigs knew to be a bad sign.


"Yes, sir."

"'The way we do things' is about to change. Work with Claxton or find another job."

"Yes, sir." Meigs heard the click on the other end and set down the handset.

Mercenaries. Shit and shove me in it. Mercenaries. Early retirement was starting to look pretty good after all.

Will Shipman was locking up for the night when a soft tap came at his back door. "Huh?" His dogs hadn't barked. That was weird. They usually announced every car that passed by down on the road. Will reached on top of the tall shelf in the hall leading to the kitchen and retrieved a Model 1911 .45 pistol. He racked the slide and eased to the back of the house. The kitchen lights were already off. He peeked through the curtain at the window over the sink and saw someone standing in the soft glow of the back porch light.

"Charlie?" Will safed the weapon, tucked it in his belt behind him Mexican style, moved to the door and opened it. Sure enough. It was Charlie Quintard. "Can I come in, Will?" Quintard asked softly through the screen door. "I need to talk to you about somethin'."

"Sure Charlie, come on in," Will said as he pushed the screen door open for Charlie to enter.

"Have a seat," Will invited, indicating the same kitchen table he'd talked with Jimmy Flynn at a few hours before. "Can I get you a cup of coffee, or somethin'?"

"No coffee," said Charlie, "but a glass of water would be nice. I've been walkin' for a ways."

"All the way from Phil's place?" That was twenty miles or more, for Will lived clean on the other side of Double Springs.

"Naw, I hitchhiked most of the way, but after dark I couldn't get any more rides so I jest walked. It's been a long day." The weariness in Charlie Quintard's voice was evident.

Will got him a glass and the pitcher of water Mary kept in the fridge and poured Charlie a drink. He left the pitcher on the table and sat down across from the Indian, waiting in silence while Charlie slaked his thirst.

"How can I help you, Charlie?" he asked after Quintard emptied the glass, worried about the answer he might get.

When Charlie finished telling him almost an hour later, Will Shipman realized that he hadn't been worried enough.

But first Will had a question: "Why me?"

"'We always knew that someday we were going to have to draw the line. Phil Gordon drew it and the Feds stepped over it. It's time to shove back.'"

Will was smart enough to know when his own words were being quoted back to him. Even so, he was darn sure that Charlie hadn't been there when he said them at the first muster of the Free State Constitutional Militia after the Battle of Sipsey Street. Or had he?

"How . . .?"

Charlie smiled. "Will, I've been practicin' my stalkin' skills fer years in the Bankhead and up in the Sipsey. You think I couldn't sneak up on a bunch of newly minted militiamen?"

When he thought back on it later, Will Shipman recalled that he thought someone was watching him and his recruits from the woods that day, but he'd put it down to the ghosts of Winston County. But just now, he said, "Well, I reckon you did."

"You know when you swore all those boys into your new militia?"

Will nodded.

"Well, I joined too. I repeated your oath, I jest didn't make myself known." Charlie Quintard paused. "In all my life," he went on, "no one ever treated me as fairly or as kindly as Phil Gordon. I learned more about truth an' honor an' principle from him than I did my own daddy. He was as decent a human being as I ever knew an' if the ATF killed him, it wasn't because of anything he deserved to get. Since then, I've had two encounters with those godless heathens. They're thieves, murderers and dog-killers. Whatever Phil gave them, they deserved it. An' I know the ones that I got deserved it too." When he talked of Phil Gordon, Charlie's face was soft. When he finished talking about the ATF his flinty visage looked like iron beaten in a forge.

Something occured to Will. "Thieves? What did they steal?" Charlie had left that part out. He told Will about Carmichael and the medicine bag and Henderson and the hunting knife.

When Charlie got to the part about Henderson, Will blurted out, "You did WHAT?"

"I said," Charlie explained patiently, "I put his hand in a vise an' threw him in after his dead buddies. My granddaddy did that to an Oxnard who stole his mule back in the Thirties. He got the mule back at gunpoint an' took the thief to our family's water-powered forge down by the old river bed -- this was before the dam backed up the lake. Anyway he had an old vise he wasn't using an' after he tied the man's hands together he put his right hand in the vise an' crushed it tight. The Oxnard's always were no account, he said, an' his cousin was the Sheriff back then so turnin' him in was a waste of time. An' then he tossed him in the river and tole him to swim. Went down like a boat anchor." Charlie paused.

"So did Henderson, screamin' an' hollerin'. He'd been bragging to his buddies while they tore my place apart about how he'd been there when they killed Phil Gordon. I figured he had it comin' after I saw him steal my knife. I asked granddaddy once before he died why he didn't he just hang Oxnard like most folks did horsethieves, an' he tole me, 'I didn't have a long enough rope an' he wasn't worth the powder.'"

Charlie paused, half-smiling. "I guess that's what happened to me the second time. I didn't have another vise for Carmichael so I jest strapped him in the Suburban. Like my granddaddy, I used what I had. Improvise, adapt an' overcome."

Will thought about that for a while, as Charlie emptied the water pitcher and waited. He did not want Charlie for an enemy, that was for sure and certain. But he was going to be a dangerous friend too. He could see that plainly. Not for so much as anything Charlie might do to him, but more for what Charlie's enemies might do to them both. And he saw that Charlie's enemies, who had been Phil Gordon's enemies before that, were his enemies now too. Well, I talked big for a lot of years about "drawin' lines in the dirt" and now that one's been drawn, I can't exactly back down, now can I? Not and look myself in the mirror. Explaining that to Mary would be another thing. Thank God she was at Susie's house helping with the new grandbaby.

But there comes a time in every guerrilla's life when he must choose between fire and maneuver and escape and evade. For now he would help Charlie escape and evade, because he knew he would need him when it came time to fire and maneuver. Charlie Quintard could also help train his people to become stalkers and killers. And we're going to need more stalkers and killers before this is over.

"Charlie," Will said, "welcome to the Free State Constitutional Militia. I accept your enlistment. Now, let's get my pickup truck and go move your larder before tomorrow morning."

Charlie smiled, and stood up. "Can I use your restroom, Will? That water went clean through me."

"Sure thing," said Will, "first door on the left down the hall."

As he watched the Indian leave the kitchen, Will Shipman shook his head in disbelief. Puttin' a thief's hand in a VISE and droppin' him in a river. Damn. I mean, damn.

It was coming up dawn before they finished moving the larder and both men were beyond weary. "I'm too old for this crap, Charlie," Will said at one point after they'd humped the last of the five gallon buckets up to the cave.

During a break, Charlie had showed him his plunder in the two 55 gallon barrels. Will couldn't believe it. What a haul. And this was no gun collection that had been purchased over time, nor some government shipment gone astray. These were all battle trophies, taken in single combat. Will Shipman had been a soldier and he had killed people in combat. That was one thing. Charlie, well Charlie was a warrior. And Will knew the difference.

"Charlie," Will said after he'd caught his breath, "I'm going to want your help trainin' my people after this blows over. Stalkin', trackin', edged weapons, close quarters combat."

"Yeah," said Charlie, "I can do that."

"But I want you to learn something too, for me."

"Uh, OK, what?" Charlie was puzzled.

Will shifted the lid off the first drum and pulled out a weapon he'd seen earlier. After pulling the magazine and racking the bolt, he safed the weapon and said, "Tell me about this."

"Oh, well, that belonged to one of them meth heads. It fires real quiet. I know because he tried to kill me with it. Couldn't hit the broadside of a barn, though." Charlie gave his signature half-grin and then volunteered, "It ain't really silent cause it makes a clackin' sound. But it's real quiet compared to a regular gun."

"So this can does work," Will replied. "You can't really tell by lookin' at 'em, you've got to try it. There's lots of fake suppressors out there. But I'll take your word for it." Will shifted the weapon back into the glare of the electric lantern they were using.

"Charlie this is an Ingram MAC-10 submachinegun. It fires .45 caliber rounds out of a 30-round magazine, from an open bolt. This is the selector switch. This is safe, this is semi-auto and this is full auto. The feller who was shootin' at you was probably using full auto, and he probably didn't use the fold-out stock, did he?"

"That's just like I picked it up off the ground," Charlie replied. "Had to clean a little blood off it though."

"Well, the stock folds out like this, see?" Will manipulated the mechanism. "And this little strap hanging down from the front you use to pull the muzzle down when you fire. Like this." Will mounted the weapon to his shoulder and showed Charlie the proper hold and stance, leaning into the shot with his left foot forward.

"Are you right handed?"

"Yeah," said Charlie.

"OK, do what I just did and hold it up like you're going to fire at somebody."

Charlie complied, and Will corrected his stance and hold. "More like that, Charlie. Got it?"

"I guess, but I'm a lot better with a bow."

"I know, but sometimes only a firearm will do. You see that don't you?"

"Yeah, I guess, but how do I practice with it up here?"

"How far back does this cave go, after you get past that big rock?" Will flashed his own combat light back into the opening behind them.

"Well, about, I don't know, twenty-five yards or so. You can stand up in it for about ten of those where it gets straight following a fissure in the layer. If you're thinking of me shootin' back there, I'd rather not."

Will thought for a moment, about noise and powdersmoke and breathing the already fetid air of the cave. Probably wouldn't be good to give away his position anyway. Lord knows what technology they were going to bring to bear to find him up here.

"All right. Look. For now let's just say that you learn how to take it apart, clean it and dry-fire it. Do you have any more magazines for this?"

"Sure," said Charlie and rooted around in the barrel, clanking and banging until he pulled out an old GI ammo pouch with a shoulder strap containing five other thirty rounders. "Here."

Will examined them one at time. Three were loaded. Two were rusty.

"Look, Charlie, the other thing we're going to have to do is preserve this stuff from rusting." Will thought. "But now is not the time."

Daylight was coming fast and the truck had to be out of here. Will put the lid back in place on the drum.

"OK, we've got everything you need right?"

"Yeah, I can get by on this. But I'm low on candles and matches."

"All right. Don't under any circumstances go back to the cabin. You know the cache points we talked about. I'll see that you get some candles and some other things you need at the first one by tomorrow night. It's the closest and you don't want to be moving around much for a while. I'll also get you a means to communicate with me if you need me. Anything else?"

"No," said Charlie slowly, "Just thanks."

"Charlie, I never got a chance to help Phil. I know he'd approve of me helpin' you. But what I really think is that we're gonna be helpin' each other thru this shitstorm that's about to hit."

Charlie, thinking on the ten dead agents and Pushmataha, asked plaintively, "You mean it ain't hit yet?"

Will, realizing what Charlie had been through, shook his head, "Believe me, we ain't seen nothin' yet."

The two men shook hands.

"The supplies will be there. Keep safe."

Charlie said, "I will," not really believing "safe" was possible. Will Shipman turned and disappeared out the mouth of the cave into the coming day.

Charlie was too exhausted to arrange anything now. He picked out a flat spot on the cave floor and selected two of his thickest blankets and rolled them out. Then he pulled out his sleeping bag and unrolled it over top of them. He took off his boots and slipped on some leather moccasins he'd made last winter. Then he slipped into the bag, using another blanket for a pillow.

His last thought before he drifted off was of how much he missed the faithful Pushmataha.

In his dreams, the dog licked his face, and Charlie smiled.