“I don’t see why you want to go. I just don’t get it. Is it some kind of mid-life ‘man-thing’?”” Sam asked.
John said, “It is a ‘man-thing’.”
“You have given Capiche plenty” Sam said, a bit hotly. “You bought them livestock, made loans, are letting people farm OUR property. You don’t owe them anything.”
“Those are physical things” John Wilder said. “I have more to give than that.”
“You are fifty-seven fucking years old!” Sam Wilder, his wife said. John could tell she was steamed because her language almost never went into the gutter.
“That is why it is safer for me than for a guy like Quinn Spackle. I will dress like a bum. Nobody ever expects an old hobo to be a spy” John said. “If I go, them maybe Spackle won’t need to.”
“What about our family?” Sam asked. “What about ME? Don’t I count for anything?”
“Why can’t you see? If we don’t stop the raiders from the east there won’t be a future for us, our kids or any grandchildren...ever.” John said.
“But what if the raid was a one-off?” Sam asked. “Then you are putting yourself into harm’s way for nothing.”
“If the raid was an accident and the people east of us are not aggressive, then there isn’t any risk of me traveling.” John pointed out with what he thought was perfect logic.
“No risk except for robbers, wild hogs, packs of dogs, bad water, lightening and about a hundred other ways to die.” Sam said, bitterly.
“I don’t get it. Why you? You should be the last person to go.” Sam said.
“Because something tells me that I need to go. I am still young enough to do this and old enough to see things in ways the younger men can’t.” John said.
“What if Chernovsky doesn’t want you?” Sam asked.
“If Chernovsky turns down my offer, then I won’t go.” John assured her.
“I am not sure you will be able to keep up.” was the first thing Chernovsky said after John made his pitch to accompany the reconnaissance force Capiche was pulling together.
“I can keep up with Spackle.” John said.
“He is a special case.” Chernovsky deflected.
“The squad is going to look like an invasion force.” John said. “What do you plan to do, disguise them as Mormon missionaries?”
Chernovsky didn’t have a plan, yet. But that factor did bother him. “I was thinking of splitting up as we moved across country.” he admitted. “We would rejoin at rendezvous points.”
“OK. Tell you what I am willing to do. I will pencil you into the group. Our first planning meeting will be at Spackle’s the day after tomorrow at ten.” Chernovsky said.
“So he decided to go?” John said.
“He already decided the day I asked. It is just taking a little time for him to realize that and to work it out with the missus.” Chernovsky said.
He had his own issues ‘working it out with the missus’, especially since she was in the family-way.
The first meeting consisted of Chernovsky, Spackle (the host), Wilder, Miguel Rodriguez and somebody Chernovsky had never met; Steve Straeder.
“Who is he?” Chernovsky asked, jerking his thumb in the direction of Straeder.
“He is the guy who is going to teach us how to slip into Livingston County without being noticed.” Quinn said.
Chernovsky frowned. “And how are we going to do that?”
“Steve is a peddler. I got to know him when I manned the Waverly Road bridge. Turns out, he is one of my neighbors. His wife Sally and Dysen are friends.” Quinn said.
“So we are going to infiltrate Livingston County as Fuller Brush salesmen?” Chernovsky scoffed.
“Got it in one, boss.” Steve said, good-naturedly as he unfolded his long legs from beneath the picnic table. “The first thing I am going to have to do is teach you how to smile. Nobody is going to believe you are a peddler if you look like you are about to bite their head off.”