Moving silently and stealthily through the woods, that ran parallel to Candace’s property, Stacks and Mead were constantly watching for any of the men who were holding Candace prisoner. As they moved around an exceptionally large and fragrant magnolia tree, Stacks froze; his arm lashed out and stopped Mead from going any farther. Mead could sense the tension in Stacks, and looked around trying to see where the danger was coming from. Mead could see no one. Raising his shoulders in question, he motioned for Stacks to show him the problem. Slowly Stacks pointed to the large tree, and there slithering down the large old tree was a Diamondback rattlesnake, that was at least twelve-foot long and its body was as big around as a small, twenty pound, dog. Moving slowly, Stacks pulled his knife out of its sheath, picking up a long thin tree limb, and using the extra boot lace he carried in his pocket, he deftly affixed the knife to the end of the branch. Realizing what he was doing, Mead started building his own lance. Standing there waiting, with sweat running down their faces and backs, the two held their bodies poised waiting to see if the snake was coming for them. Neither of the men moved, they waited. Ever so slowly the large snake moved closer to the ground, never taking its eyes off the two men. When the snake was completely on the ground it was in a coil and raised its massive head and started to shake its rattle and hiss. Poised and ready to strike, the diamondback struck out at Mead. The strike was lightning fast and Mead swiftly lunged, with the blade aimed towards the snakes open mouth. With all his strength he stabbed the knife into the snake’s mouth. Stacks knew Mead was as good as dead if the poisonous snake were to sink his fangs into him. Mead held on, his only chance to survive was to not let up on the pressure, he held the snake off as it whipped its massive body trying to dislodge the knife. Viciously slamming its tail and body into Stacks, as he tried to get to the snake’s head, but Stacks did not retreat. As quickly as the attack started, it stopped.
Wiping the sweat from his eyes, Mead looked at the now dead snake, and started laughing quietly. There on the snakes back sat Stacks, looking as if he had just rode the meanest bull at the rodeo. His night goggles were sitting lopsided on his cheeks and his hair was a mess. In his left hand, he held the snakes head, and his knife was drenched in blood. Holding his hand up for Mead to stay quiet, Stacks listened for any signs that Candace’s abductors had heard the fight. After hearing the same sounds of digging, as before, Stacks took a deep breath.
“Thanks for the help Stacks, that was one bad snake,” Mead whispered.
“Yeah, that’s the truth. When I saw that your knife was not coming through the back of its head, I started trying to stab it. The crazy thing is no matter how many times I stabbed it, it kept fighting. That’s when I decided we had to cut its head off. I had to try about four times to get on its back. Each time I did, it actually threw me off. The last time, I just held on and worked my way up its back. I was worried you would lose your grip on that giant’s head,” Stacks said.
Dropping the snake head on the ground, Stacks wiped the sweat and dirt from his eyes and started moving towards the back of Candace’s property.
“I think I am going to buy a book on snake’s anatomy when we get home. When I was stabbing that blasted snake, I realized I had no idea at all as to where its heart was,” Stacks whispered as they walked.
“I want to read that book when you get it. Heck, there ought to be a class in school for that. I did not know they could be so big.”
Watching more diligently than before, they worked their way to the end of the property. There was a small boat dock that jutted out over the river, where a small flat bottom boat was tied to the dock.
“The only way to get to the other side of this clearing without being seen is to take the boat and tie up to that old tree over there,” Mead said pointing.
“Yeah, but we will be in sight until we go down the steps and then the wood will make noises as we walk out to the boat,” Stacks replied.
“What do you suggest then?”
Thinking a moment, Stacks looked at the small bushes that dotted the clearing. Finally he said, “It is really dark tonight, and the water is moving swiftly in the river, so I think we will cross by land. We probably won’t be discovered if we cut a couple of small bushes, to carry with us, and move slowly. People, who are not expecting anyone to be there, will only notice quick movements in the shadows. If we move inch by inch, I don’t think we will be seen,” Stacks suggested.
“Works for me, I estimate it is about four-hundred feet to the trees on the other side. We need to make sure there are no snakes around when we get to the edge of the trees over there, also,” Mead said, as they started looking around for the bushes needed to camouflage themselves.
“What, you don’t want to repeat our last fight?”
“No way, give me five well-armed men to fight against, and I will say bring it on, but I do not want to have to ever fight another big snake, ever,” Mead said adamantly.
“I agree. Ok, I will move out first, and you follow five minutes later,” Stacks said as he checked his watch and started moving out into the clearing.
Moving one small step every thirty seconds, Stacks inched his way across the clearing. Listening to hear if there were any changes in the sounds around him, Stacks diligently struggled to maintain his crouched position, as he tediously maneuvered his way, unprotected and only slightly hidden by the bush, to the other side of the clearing.
Once on the far side, Stacks checked to see if there were any signs of life before he stepped in close to the trees. Although he would never admit it, he had been extremely frightened when he fought the snake. He was the first to admit that it was the unknown that scared him more than anything. That snake was definitely an unknown. Stacks stood there watching as Mead slowly worked his way across the clearing. Stacks noticed that even for him, it was hard to see Mead’s bush moving towards him.
Five minutes later Mead stood up beside him and groaned as he stretched his legs.
“Oh man, my legs started cramping about half way here. I think I am starting to get old,” The thirty-five year old, dark and heavily muscled giant said as he rubbed his calves.
“Not old, just soft,” Stacks quietly said. “Now if you have the cramps worked out, let’s get to Candace,” Stacks told him as he started heading in the direction they had seen Candace tied to the tree.
Silently working their way back to Candace, they stopped when they heard a man saying, in a French accent, “It must be there, you idiots. Move to the other side of that large rock and dig.”
Moving in a bit closer and looking through some bushes, Stacks could make out two men digging and one man pacing back and forth in front of them.
They had three lanterns placed so that the light would shine on the area they were digging in.
“That must be the brains of the outfit,” Mead said, as he pointed towards the short and very thin man prancing back and forth in an agitated state.
“Reminds me of Napoleon, all he needs to do now is tuck his hand in his shirt,” Stacks whispered back.
“I think he is far enough into the light that…,” Stacks quit talking as the little man hurried across the yard, and all but ran up to Candace.
“Where is it, you American witch? It belongs to me, not you lousy Americans. Tell me where it is, now,” he said as he viciously slapped Candace in the face.
Stacks pointed his Walther PPK hand gun at the man’s head. He wanted to pull the trigger, he was so angry. Mead placed his hand over the top of Stack’s hand and raised his shoulders in question. After a moment, Stacks lowered the gun. Mead was right. He would only kill if there was no other choice.
spitting the blood from her mouth, Candace said, “I have already told you, I have no idea what you are talking about. Did you ever think that if you told me what you are looking for, that I might be able to answer your questions?”
“Tell you, hah, if I told you, then you would have to die. I have already told you that I do not want to kill you. I only want what belongs to me.”
“I have never met you before, so how could I have anything that belongs to you?”
“Stupid Americans,” the little man spat on the ground beside Candace as he spun around and returned to his men and started yelling at them in French.
Taking advantage of the little Frenchman’s tirade, Stacks whispered to Mead, then worked his way behind the tree that Candace was tied to, and whispered, “Don’t be frightened Candace, it’s me Stacks. I am going to cut the rope, but do not move yet. If you hear me, raise your head and look up at the sky, for a minute.”
Turning to look at Mead, Stacks waited until he nodded. Stacks now knew that Candace could hear him. Cutting her ropes and waiting for the Frenchman to say something else, Stacks held extremely still until the talking started back up.
“Mead will create a diversion. When he does, get to me quickly. If you understand, gently pull on the ropes.”
Candace pulled on the ropes, which Stacks held in his hands. Stacks then let go of them and then signaled to Mead, who had moved back farther in the trees.
Affixing his silencer to the barrel of his gun, Mead took aim at his chosen target. At the same moment one of the men threw a shovel full of dirt near one of the lanterns, Mead fired. As dirt flew a ping could be heard, but the sounds coming from the same direction, did not alarm the three men who were intent on finding some unknown object.
The lamp fell as if in slow motion, onto the coats the two had removed, and carelessly laid near the lantern, earlier. The coats blazed quickly and the dry November grass caught fire instantly.
The fire was spreading at an alarming speed when the three men noticed it. They each grabbed shovels and were frantically throwing dirt onto the fire trying to contain it. As they fought the fire, Candace, Stacks and Mead worked their way back to where they had parked the SUV. Candace held onto Stacks hand as he led her through the dark dense woods. She could not see anything, as she was not wearing night goggles, so she tripped often, but supported by Stacks and Mead, they quickly made it out of the woods.
Once they reached the SUV, Stacks and Mead quickly removed their gear, shoved it into hidden space under the middle seat, and were on their way out-of-town. Mead placed a nine-one-one call and explained what had happened. He gave the police the address and phone number to The Bar, and told them Candace could be reached there. After having to explain four times the name of The Bar, just to get them to understand it was the name of the place, he finally ended the call.
“I swear Stacks; you need to change the name of that place. It is so hard to make people understand that, “The Bar,” is the name of the bar.”
“Nope, the name stays. Mom and Dad named it that, many years ago,” he said laughing at Mead’s frown.
Candace had climbed into the back seat and as they drove she unhooked her seat belt and moved up behind Stacks and awkwardly hugged him, then reaching over she hugged Mead.
“Thank you guys for coming after me. I truly never expected anyone to find me,” she said with tears rolling down her face.
Smiling and looking at her in the rearview mirror, Stacks said, “You did promise me you would stay at The Bar until I got off work last night, so I decided you owe me one.”
“And I owe you both more than that now. How are your Mom and Sheila doing? Were they hurt very badly?” Candace anxiously asked him.
Stacks told Candace about Gloria and Sheila going to the hospital and what the doctor said about them. He told her how that both ladies were more worried about her than they were about themselves. After a few minutes of filling her in on what happened after she was taken, Mead poked Stacks in the arm and motioned for him to look at Candace. She had positioned her seat back as far as she could, and was sound asleep.
“Yeah, we could all use some rest. I will see if I can get Mom to come to my place for a couple of days, so that way Candace won’t have a problem staying with me. I imagine Sheila will go to her own home, if that trucker boyfriend, of hers, is in town. If not, she can come to the house too.
I do not want to leave any of them alone for a few days. I noticed Candace was favoring her ribs too, out there tonight, and her face is pretty bloody. She has scratches and cuts all over her arms, but I think they are minor. Thanks for stopping me from shooting that little creep back there. War is one thing, but to kill out of anger, well hell, you know what I mean,” Stacks said quietly to Mead.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I wanted to kill him myself, but we do not need to get in trouble with the law. Don’t you know the guys are going to be upset when, we tell them how much fun they missed? Especially when I tell them about you bronco riding that giant snake,” Mead said with a large smile on his face.
“Do not even think about scaring the waitresses with that snake head, Mead, do you hear me?”
“What snake head,” Mead said, laughing loudly.
“Do not give me that innocent look of yours. I saw you pick it up and put it in your bag. You do know that the fangs may still have poison in them, don’t you?”
“Sure do Stacks, but I want to have proof of the size that diamondback snake. Blaster would never believe me without it. It is time to show him what a big snake really looks like. Besides that, he has bragged about killing that little sidewinder snake over in Iraq long enough.”
“I agree. Call The Bar and tell them we have Candace and our ETA is forty-three minutes. You need to tell them that the police may be calling there also. Tell them to be at my house tomorrow at two in the afternoon. We need to try to figure out what those Frenchmen wanted from Candace, and what was worth hurting three women and kidnaping her for,” Stacks said as he changed lanes heading on interstate twenty, towards Fort Worth Texas.