"Ah think my gun's better'n yours, Cousin Cletus."
Cletus snorted and wiped his nose on the sleeve of his Tennessee Titans sweatshirt. "Matter of opinion, Jimmy-Don, and your opinion'd be wrong on that count. What you've got there is a Colt, army model 1860, a .44 caliber six-shot revolver, double-action. It were used in what they called the Western theater."
Jimmy-Don held the gun in front of him so that the moonlight revealed its old tarnished glory. The teenager brushed a hank of wheat-blond hair out of his eyes with his free hand, some of the strands sticking to the sweat on his forehead. "Ah dunno, Cousin Cletus. Ah still think it looks better'n yours. Ain't so nicked up as that piece you got, and Ah'm pretty sure it . . ."
"Shut your pie-hole, Jimmy-Don." Cletus glared for good measure. He was sweating, too, despite it being the first day of winter and despite them being outside crouched on a frost-tinged lawn. At least Jimmy-Don had thought to wear a coat, dark like the shadows that stretched from the pines and maples that ringed the property.
Smart boy, Cletus thought. Might even be community college material someday.
"That there gun of yours, Cousin Cletus . . ."
". . . is a Le Mat, boy, the best foreign-designed revolver that were used in the Civil War. See?" Cletus drew the gun from beneath his belt and held it so Jimmy-Don could get a good ogle. "It's got two barrels, this top one here can fire nine .40 caliber bullets, and the bottom's loaded for a 16-guage shotgun ball. It were made by Jean Alexander Francois Le Mat, a French doctor working for the Confederacy."
"So you really think yours is better 'cause it were a Confederacy gun?" Jimmy-Don shook his head. "The Union won, Cousin Cletus." He waved the Colt for effect and grinned, showing an even row of bright, white teeth. "Ah know my history, Cousin Cletus. Ah'm gonna be graduating junior high come June." He waved the gun again.
"Careful with that, Jimmy-Don." Cletus ground his stubby teeth together. "These guns ain't ours. Your Uncle Bodean loaned 'em to us."
"From his Civil War museum down by the turnpike. Ah know." Jimmy-Don nodded. "On account of the gun laws now, Uncle Bodean had to borrow them to us, else we wouldn't have anything to shoot with. Them government men confiscated the ones Ah had stockpiled. My deer rifle, that .357 magnum, the Walther PPK like James Bond used in the movies. They even got my old Derringer, too, the one that grandpa gave me when Ah finished the sixth grade and that Ah'd been hiding in my sock drawer. Got all of them. Got my mom and dad's stash, too." The teenager wistfully wiped at the Colt's barrel, treating the revolver almost reverently now. "Ah'm surprised they didn't pull all of Uncle Bodean's guns from the museum."
"Them government men didn't consider museum pieces dangerous," Cletus said. "Probably figured putting that big Cabela's out of business down at the 'I,' closing our sporting goods shops and the gun shows were enough, raiding homes and hunting clubs, disbanding the NRA, making it more illegal to buy a gun than to buy . . . . And all of that in the span of a couple of months. Don't you get me started, boy."
"Sorry, Cousin Cletus." Jimmy-Don blew at the Colt and tried to polish the handle. "Hope this packs a punch. Sure wish Ah had that .357 right now."
Cletus sucked in a lungful of the chill air and held it deep. A moment later he let out a big breath that feathered to hang suspended in front of his lips like a woman's lace hanky. He shivered, though not from the cold, and stretched out on his stomach, the breech-loading carbine that he'd slung over his shoulder lay uncomfortably across his back.
It was nerves that had caught a firm hold on he and Jimmy-Don, Cletus knew-which was why the boy was talking so much, and why he was sweating like he was sitting in the YMCA sauna. He couldn't let the boy realize how rattled he was by this venture. He needed to look brave. This had been his idea, after all, and he'd only brought Jimmy-Don along because the boy's eyesight was so good. Why, Jimmy-Don could spot a June bug in a mass of spring willow leaves and could shoot the gold circle off a Campbell's soup label at fifty paces . . . when no one else was looking, of course. Firing ranges, skeet, target-practice, hunting . . . those things were not legal anymore. Five months past the Bill Of Rights had been rewritten to eliminate the right to bare arms. What had this country come to?
"Someone's coming, Cousin Cletus." Jimmy-Don held a finger to his lips and mouthed: My turn. He stuffed the Colt in the pocket of his jeans and drew a Bowie knife from a homemade sheath on his belt.
Jimmy-Don scuttled forward, reminding Cletus of a big toad, back all hunched and legs in close, mouth gaping open as if to catch a fly. Good thing he'd brought the boy along, Cletus thought, as he hadn't heard the guard approach.
The man wore black, looking like a piece of the night sky come to ground. He was lean and broad-shouldered, and Cletus knew he was armed, though he couldn't see a gun.
Cletus wouldn't have seen the man at all if it hadn't been for his breath easing away from his face like a little cloud of fog. Probably how Jimmy-Don noticed him. The guard, maybe a secret service man, was patrolling the grounds, certainly only one of many with such a task. Enviably quiet, the man's course took him near Jimmy-Don and into a patch of moonlight.
He had night-vision goggles, and they allowed him to see the teenager springing at him.
Again the image of a big toad rushed at Cletus. He clamped his teeth together so tight his jaw ached, and he held his breath and prayed.
The man brought up a gun, sleek and black and almost two centuries newer than what Cletus and Jimmy-Don toted. Probably deadlier, too, but he didn't get the chance to pull the trigger. Jimmy-Don barreled into him, knife leading and sinking into the man's neck before he could cry out a warning. Cletus had told Jimmy-Don that the guards were all no doubt wearing some type of fancy body armor, and the boy had taken the words to heart, going for exposed flesh.
Jimmy-Don gave a soft victory whoop, and the guard made a gargling sound that didn't last long. Then Jimmy-Don pulled the body back and stuffed it under a big pine next to three other bodies that Cletus had put there minutes ago.
"You done good, boy."
Jimmy-Don's grin splayed wide across his face. "Let me get the next one, too, Cousin Cletus. Ah'm getting the hang of this."
It looked like the boy was having fun, and that notion chafed in Cletus's craw. This wasn't about fun or adventure. This was about taking something back, fighting for a just cause and teaching the politicians . . . what was left of them . . . a lesson. Forcing them to grow a backbone.
Cletus closed his eyes and in the back of his mind pictured the footage that had played over and over for weeks upon weeks this past summer and into the fall. The west wing of the White House imploding in the passing of a heartbeat, the George Washington monument toppling, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum vaporized, the Lincoln Memorial the site of the dirty bomb that wiped out the city and a good chunk of Arlington and into Baltimore. Smoke and fire and screams and death, caught by news crews stationed on street corners intending to capture Fourth of July activities and recording destruction instead. News crews that died days later in hospitals.
Radiation got them.
Practically all of Congress wiped out in minutes, most of the rest of them succumbing within the month, some of them still lingering in hospice care.
The president, vice president, gone, speaker of the house, cabinet members. Only a political skeleton was left behind, those folks who weren't in Washington that day. The ones who were in their hometowns for celebrations or overseas on some diplomatic mission or other were spared.
Like the secretary of agriculture, a former soybean farmer from south of Nashville who was pushing eighty, born in the fall of 1982 like Cletus's father. That old coot was the commander in chief now, and he was somewhere in the building that loomed ahead of Cletus and Jimmy-Don.
What had this country come to? Cletus wondered again.
He and Jimmy-Don, Bodean and the others, they were going to take back a little piece of it. Set this particular patch of Tennessee soil to right again.
Cletus peered across the lawn and to the palatial building, the white columns practically glowing in the moonlight. He blinked and tried to get some water going in his eyes, tried to get a better fix on the guards tucked in by the trellis. Hard to see them nestled close to the front door. He crawled under the pine where the bodies were stashed and retrieved a pair of night-vision goggles and two of the fancy guns. One he stuck into his back pocket, the gun was small enough and he turned it barrel out. The other he passed to Jimmy-Don, who grinned wider and put the Bowie knife away.
Cletus fitted the goggles on. He was on the far side of fifty, and his vision was getting a tad fuzzy, though he was certain he would be able to shoot well enough when they got closer. Point, aim for a man's middle if he wasn't wearing body armor, pull the trigger, and pray you hit something vital. Shoot a couple of times, just to be certain. He had a pocketful of ammunition for the old Le Mat, two Bowie knives, and an old Ketchum grenade, all from Bodean's Civil War museum.
The goggles didn't improve on the fuzziness, but they held back the dark well enough and tinted some things a ghastly green. Jimmy-Don didn't seem to want a pair. He was doing fine on his own.
"This one's mine, too, Cousin Cletus," he whispered.
A few moments later Jimmy-Don tugged another body under the tree. This one he'd shot with the new pistol. It had made a spitting sound, some sort of silencer built in.
Too bad the guards were going to have to die, Cletus thought. They were only doing their jobs, protecting the former secretary of agriculture and his lackeys. Too bad a lot of people were going to die tonight.
The government should have kept itself seated in Washington D.C. . . . what was left of it anyway. Or at the very least settled itself as close to Washington as the lingering radiation allowed. Shouldn't've tucked its tail and run to the country's middle. All of them surviving politicians that thought they'd be safe here, thought it would be better to hide in the heartland rather than to hold their ground on the crumbling coast . . . well, Cletus and his little militia would show them. Show them that they should have left the Bill of Rights alone. Shouldn't have had no knee-jerk reaction to all the in-country riots that followed the Fourth of July destruction. Shouldn't have made it illegal for good-hearted, God-loving American citizens to have guns.
Showed them all that they should have stayed strong and stayed put. Stayed proud and defiant and righteous.
Stayed away from Memphis.
Damn the radiation!
"Don't shoot if you don't have to, Jimmy-Don," Cletus cautioned. "Even with that quiet gun someone might hear. Use the Bowie knife first and . . ."
"Ah understand, Cousin Cletus. Ah ain't stupid."
Cletus tried to rub at his eyes, his fingers clunking against the goggles. He truly wished he could see better. He hadn't been about to sashay into one of those government-operated clinics for that corrective surgery that promised 20-20. Even before the Fourth of July bombing you couldn't trust them. You never knew if those government-paid doctors were going to implant some sort of tracking device when they were lasering your cornea. Better just to buy some cheap reading glasses at the Wal-Mart Supercenter.
If only Cletus hadn't left those reading glasses next to his bed.
"Uncle Bodean's coming, right?" Jimmy-Don lowered his voice to a whisper, and Cletus had a hard time hearing him. "He and Jeb Miller and them? Ah heard them say they were gonna be along."
Cletus didn't answer. He crawled forward on his belly, elbows and knees propelling him like he'd seen the men do in footage from the Iran War, breaking the brittle grass off as he went, his breath coming in lacy puffs now. Iran, that ended a little more than twenty years past . . . the last official war the United States participated in. These skirmishes with Canada during the past several months-retaliation for the bombs that the radical Canucks had unleashed in Washington-hadn't yet escalated to a full-fledged war.
But it would escalate, Cletus knew. Like the conflicts of the past in the Middle East. The U.S. just needed another month or so to get all its troops in position, the National Guard ready, the bombs loaded on the planes and into the tanks. News reports showed the army and marines spread out along the border, the navy ships along Canada's eastern coast.
"Any day now it'll start," Cletus whispered. "Double-damn Canada all to Hell and gone. If it hadn't been for them idiots from Quebec who couldn't even speak English we wouldn't be resorting to this. French sons-o-bitches. Couldn't be like old Doc Le Mat who helped the South. Hell no, these Frenchmen bombed Washington and ruined Memphis in one fell swoop."
He heard Jimmy-Don scrabbling behind him, clumsy in his youth and excitement, huffing and dragging the tips of his boots.
"Think they got any of them motion detectors or bombs, Cousin Cletus?"
"Ain't had time to install them yet, boy. We got us a spy inside, my next door neighbor's in the kitchen staff and she's been keeping me posted. That's why we're doing this now . . . before they have a chance to hook up all their gadgets. Only got this little window. This very, very little window to save Graceland."
They froze when a light swept this side of the lawn, and then crawled forward when it passed. The light wasn't a new addition, it had been there for decades, illuminating Graceland so the tourists driving along Elvis Presley Boulevard could see it at night. Tourists weren't allowed inside anymore, not since just before this past Thanksgiving when the former secretary of agriculture got it in his head to move the nation's capitol here.
Until then, 3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard had been open to the public. For a modest admission fee one could visit the mansion, and then walk across the grounds to the Elvis Auto Museum, which now housed the new presidential limo, take a gander at Elvis' custom jets . . . the presidential helicopter took up that spot now. They could walk across the street and stay at the Heartbreak Hotel, which the rebuilding House and Senate had claimed. Graceland had been a magical experience, Cletus remembered-as he'd had a season pass.
He knew by heart the steps Elvis had taken to become the greatest musical superstar in history. Recalled with clarity the clothing, mementos, and row of gold and platinum records that had been displayed inside. They'd all been removed, of course, transported to Nashville and stuffed in the already crowded Country Music Hall of Fame.
Cletus spat at that notion. Elvis might well have had country roots, but he was the king of rock and roll. Cletus couldn't count the times he'd been through Graceland, with his second ex-wife-they'd been married in the Chapel in the Woods adjacent to the mansion-and later on his own or with Bodean. Toured the planes with his VIP ticket, walked through every inch of the Sincerely Elvis Museum and Elvis After Dark. He honeymooned with his third wife in one of the theme rooms at Heartbreak Hotel, the one that looked a bit like a 1950s diner.
Tears threatened the corners of Cletus's eyes. "Damn the French Canadians," he cursed again. "Hell's too good for them. Just wait'll we ram one of those tactical nukes . . ."
"Cousin Cletus. Got two more coming our way. Maybe Ah could use a little help this time."
If only the U.S. had quit paying attention to the Middle East and had instead trained a wary eye to the north. Graceland wouldn't have needed rescuing if this country would have been watching the real enemy. Wouldn't have gotten so paranoid about banning guns. Wouldn't have forced Cletus and his nephew to pick off secret service men on Graceland's front lawn.
Wouldn't have ruined everything.
They'd killed four more by the time they reached the tall oak that shaded the front drive and word must have spread that something bad was going on. Lights appeared in windows that previously were dark, and shapes moved back and forth, bursts of static hissed in the air, hinting that people were chattering back and forth across the property.
"Ah been thinking, Cousin Cletus." Jimmy-Don shimmied close and pointed at the guards at the front door. "We've gone and killed quite a few. And now Ah'm wondering if maybe we should quit. Maybe we've made our point and they'll move the government somewhere else. Maybe we should stop killing, Cousin Cletus."
Cletus groaned. "Too late for second thoughts, boy."
"Ah just didn't think it would get this bad, you know? At first it were fun, Cousin Cletus, like playing some sort of high-fangled computer game. But Ah got me lots of blood on my jeans, and . . ."
The rest of Jimmy-Don's words were drowned out by an explosion on the Chapel in the Woods side. It was followed by another and another, none so devastating as any of the bombs dropped in Washington or used in the riots since.
"Ketchum grenades, boy," Cletus said. "Your Uncle Bodean and his buddies have arrived." Cletus tugged his own grenade out, easy to see in the lights that had flared on in front of the mansion. "They've seen us, Jimmy-Don." He stood and hurled the grenade for all he was worth, the plunger striking one of the front columns and detonating. The column split like a tree struck by lightning, and the overhang it helped support tumbled down to the pavement, crushing two guards who were just emerging from the mansion.
"You were right, boy, the North did have better weapons, like these here Ketchums." Cletus pulled his other grenade and tugged Jimmy-Don behind the oak just as the bullets whizzed their way, poked his head out and threw the Ketchum, hitting a guard who'd been jogging toward them.
"Don't look," Cletus warned. The grenade shredded the body armor and tore the guard to pieces.
Jimmy-Don had looked anyway, blinking furiously now as blood rained against his face.
Lights flared at the rear of the property, and a whining, sputtering, rat-a-tat-tatting cacophony erupted. Screams and barked orders were heard in the gaps between bullets.
"Take that!" Cletus bellowed as he started running toward the noise. "Serves the lot of you right for turning Elvis' jungle room into the new oval office. This place was meant for the King, not for the president."
He glanced over his shoulder, seeing Jimmy-Don standing stock-still with a deer-in-the-headlights look on his blood-spattered face. "C'mon boy, or we'll miss the good part. Your Uncle Bodean's done brought the heavy stuff."
Cletus paused only a moment, then shook his head and kept running, figuring Jimmy-Don would catch up when he shook off the shock. But Jimmy-Don wouldn't be running anywhere. One of the guards had survived the Ketchum onslaught and took cover behind the remaining pillar. He sighted Jimmy-Don and put a bullet through the boy's forehead.
Behind the mansion smoke filled the air and bullets continued hammering the secret service men that spilled out the back door. Cletus unslung his breech-loading carbine and took a shot at a man leaning out a second floor window. Despite his fuzzy vision, he hit the man dead-center and dropped him. Then Cletus reached for the gun he'd taken from one of the dead guards and started shooting at the other second-story windows, hoping to catch anyone who risked looking out. When he was out of bullets, he dropped the weapon, retrieved the Le Mat, and headed toward Bodean.
The old man was firing one of two Gatling guns he'd hauled here from the museum. It was a multi-barreled, .58 caliber repeating machinegun that was spewing death and a hellish noise Cletus had never heard before. The cartridges were being fed by a hand crank "at sixty-five rounds a minute," Bodean shouted. As the old man turned the crank, the barrel spun into place before the breech, collected a cartridge, and an empty shell was extracted.
Bullets whizzed back from secret service men popping up at windows and darting out the door, all of them falling to the might of the old Gatling guns.
Earl, Bodean's best friend, was shooting the other one, whooping and singing an old Civil War tune.
Should be singing an old Elvis song, Cletus thought as he took aim with the Le Mat at a figure appearing in a lower window. Jailhouse Rock, he mused. They'd all be in the jailhouse for the rest of their lives if they didn't get out of here pretty soon. Cletus suspected someone inside had called for the local police, the sheriff's, whatever else they could summon.
The figure in the window looked a little familiar, all the glare from the lights and the weaponfire making it easy to pick out the details.
It was Hiram McKinley, the former secretary of agriculture-turned president of the United States. Cletus hesitated and stared at the barrel of the Le Mat.
Hadn't intended to shoot the new president. Just scare him out of Graceland. Cletus sucked in a breath and grimaced. The air was still chill, but it was foul with the tang of blood and smoke from the Gatling guns and burning wood-the Ketchums had started the Chapel in the Woods on fire.
He pulled the trigger again and again. Fired all nine of its .40 caliber bullets, and the bottom barrel's 16-guage shotgun ball.
"Jimmy-Don!" Cletus called. "I killed him, boy. I killed the president." But his words didn't travel much beyond his face, with the spitting Gatling guns so close. Not even Bodean and Earl heard him.
Behind the Gatlings sat a crate of Rains and Adams grenades. They were spherical hand grenades, similar to the Ketchums, but with paper fuses. Not quite as good, but the South never did have quite as good of weapons as the North. Cletus pulled three out, at six pounds each they rested heavy cradled in his arm. He edged closer, crouching low like the toad crawl Jimmy-Don had used, then with his free hand fumbled in his pocket for a cigarette. They were illegal, too, but Cletus had a stockpile of them from his grandfather, had been rationing them through the years. He set it in his lips and lit it, took a deep drag and couldn't taste it-all the blood and smoke and burning wood settling in his mouth more strongly.
He took one of the grenades and held it to the cigarette to light the fuse, drew it back over his shoulder and hurled it. The thing didn't travel that far, but it landed in a patch of winter-dead flowers and sent a shower of dirt in all directions.
He toad-crawled closer and threw the next one at the back door.
All the while the Gatlings kept firing, Bodean and Earl's buddies helping supply the ammo. Cletus knew the guns could be fired for a long while without overheating, could fire well longer than they'd need.
"Have to skedaddle right quick," Cletus said.
Well to the west of the Gatlings, Otis manned a Dictator, a contraption similar in appearance to a Gatling, but it was actually a large mortar that launched a two-hundred pound shell. Otis launched one as Cletus watched. The shell struck the roof and exploded like fiendish fireworks, fragments shooting everywhere and digging up shingles and bricks, thudding into the ground around Cletus' churning feet.
He headed back toward where he left Jimmy-Don, seeing more of Bodean's buddies coming at the front now.
There was Alvin and Ralph-T, Travis and his little sister, all of them ducking behind a pair of Napoleons, smoothbore, muzzle-loading, twelve-pounder howitzers that were used by both sides in the Civil War. These were cast from iron, Cletus knew from seeing them in the museum. Since the time they'd appeared in the U.S. artillery in the 1850s they'd been made of bronze. But the South ran short of that metal and resorted to casting them in iron. Alvin and his pals were about a hundred and fifty yards back from the ruined entrance, well closer than they needed to be for the range of the Napoleons.
Cletus hurried to the oak.
He dropped to his knees at the boy's side and smoothed the blood away from his face.
"I'm sorry, boy. Didn't intend for this. Just wanted to put some backbone in them. Didn't intend to kill the president."
Cletus continued to blather, as if Jimmy-Don were listening. All around him guns continued to fire from both sides. Above the battle sounds sirens screamed, and lights flared from far overhead.
"Attack copters!" Otis had abandoned the Dictator and was nudging Cletus. "They've done called in attack copters, Clete. We've got to . . ."
". . . skedaddle, I know," Cletus said. He tried to pull Jimmy-Don with him, but the boy was dead weight, and Cletus was too tired. "Can't leave him, Otis."
"Got to, Clete." Otis crouched when a missile struck the lawn near what had once been the Sincerely Elvis Museum. A high-pitched whistle indicated another one was falling.
Of course, you idiot, Cletus thought. Of course I thought they'd fight back. "Thought we'd be out of here before they called in the air power," he answered, as Otis steered him toward the Napoleons.
In the distance, Cletus spied the Thompson family set up at the end of the drive behind the fence. They were firing three-inch ordnance rifled guns and parrott rifles, accurate to about two thousand yards and all borrowed from Bodean's museum. Too-tall Miller was with them, aiming a muzzle-loaded rifled cannon that was said to have been decisive at Vicksburg and Atlanta. Behind him was Muley with a canon that fired shells weighing up to ninety pounds.
"Serve them all right," Otis said, "for taking away our guns. Can't nobody change the Bill of Rights."
"Yeah, we showed them," Cletus said. The Le Mat slipped from his bloody fingers and landed in the frosty grass, its old tarnished glory practically gleaming in the battle-light.
"Things kind of got out of hand, though, Otis."
They cut past a row of pines, and slipped beneath the branches of the tree where Cletus and Jimmy-Don had stashed some of the bodies. They paused there to catch their breath and to listen to the continuing ruckus. It wasn't quite as loud as before.
"Bet Bodean and Earl are starting to pack up. Bodean's a smart old coot and knows when to hightail it. He and Earl fought in the early years of the Iran War, after all."
They ducked under more branches, and then toad-crawled to the side fence, where Jimmy-Don had sliced a way through with the Bowie knife.
"They're gonna know it were us," Cletus said as they started down a side street. "Bodean'll have to leave the Gatlings there, and the Napoleons and the Dictator. They'll be traced back to the museum."
"Bo's got a place to run. Didn't he tell you? His sister's got a winter home in Freeport, and he and Earl have plane tickets. Me? They can't hook me to any of this, Clete. Probably not you, either." He paused and rubbed at the stubble on his chin. "Well, some of them guys in what's left of the government are pretty smart. Maybe they can hook you. Not me, though. I don't even have a Social Security number."
Cletus thought of Jimmy-Don. They'd trace him that way, through the poor, dead boy. He was Jimmy-Don's second cousin and was listed in the city directory.
"I'll have to go up into the mountains," Cletus said to himself. "Got me some shirttails I can hide out with."
"All worth it," Otis said. "All of it. We saved Graceland, Clete. We're true Americans."
Cletus felt his chest grow tight as he slipped into the driver's seat of his rusty Ford Explorer. It was four-wheel drive and operated on an animal fat and grease concoction with its converted engine. It would make it up the back roads in the mountains. Otis hefted himself up into the passenger's side.
"Graceland's ruined, Otis. We didn't save it. Didn't think none of this through properly," Cletus said. He thumbed the CD player, an antique, it still worked. Elvis started to croon softly through the speakers. "Grenades, bullets, that big shell from the Dictator. Graceland's pretty much gone."
Otis shrugged. "Someone'll rebuild it after the politicians leave. And if they don't . . . well, as you said last Thursday, Graceland was built for the King, not the president. The King's long dead."
The president, too, Cletus mused.
"Next in line for the presidency is some woman from St. Louis," Otis continued. "Let them set up a new White House there. We saved Memphis from the Democrats and Republicans." Otis sagged against the seat and closed his eyes. "It's been a long night, Clete."
Cletus nodded as he drove toward the outskirts of the city, Elvis singing about being lonesome. Well behind the Explorer the sky was still lit from the conflagration.
"A long, good night," Cletus pronounced with a touch of sadness in his voice. "But the South won this time, Otis. This time we finally had the better guns."