Note: I saw my brother Bill today at another funeral. Seems like that is the only time we get together since he lives in the Los Angeles area. He takes after my Dad in that he is very inventive and mechanically minded. I asked him if he thought the air car in this story would work.
He thought compressed air as described would not work as well as my Dad thought, but could work with alterations. He thought that using liquid air would be a better idea. Since it liquefies at 320 degrees below zero, room temperature would boil it away producing a means of power. I did a little surfing and found another guy with this idea at:
by Ted Dewey
Several days passed without incident. The machinery at The Valley of Hope was running smoothly.
Most of the people living there were from the big cities. They loved the clear sweet scented air, the quiet nights; and best of all, they had learned to love each other.
There was one big question in the minds of the three men that had made that trip over the mountain. What would these people do if they were told the truth? Would they panic and pull out?
There would probably be mixed emotions. Some would leave, but others would be angry and want their money back. Then there would be those that would want to stay and fight!
They had paid a big price to become members of this organization. They had been told that in case an atomic war brake out this would be the safest place in the world. Now what would they think, if they were told that some two-bit gangster that they had never heard of, might attack and kill them all?
What kind of a defense would they have against the mighty atom bomb, if some unknown underground character could accomplish this all by himself?
There was one thing for sure, the three men decided, the rest of the members must not be told about the threat -- at least not under the present circumstances.
Everyone in the community loved and respected their leaders and depended entirely on their judgment. They also trusted them. If there was trouble in the making, they would take care of it.
Rodney Goldsmith felt as though it was his responsibility to solve this problem, and would do everything in his power not to let them down.
Frank Poletti was a ruthless scoundrel. He had proved this, by building that club-house and arsenal on their property just over the hill.
But now that the thing had been destroyed, what would be his next, move? Would he build again, just a little farther off or maybe across the mountain on the other side of the valley?
Probably not. Poletti would keep a sharp lookout from now on. He wasn't the kind of a man to make the same mistake twice.
Rodney realized that something must be done. They must not just sit here and wait for Poletti to make his next move. He would get in touch with Oran and Henry. Maybe the three of them could figure out something.
That evening after the machine shop closed, the three got together in Henry's small office. Rodney told the two men, "Fellows, we have a grave problem on our hands, and you know what I am talking about. I don't expect the dirty rat to just walk away. Do either of you have any bright ideas?"
"He is not going to take it lying down," said Thomas. "But he won't know for sure that it was us that burned him out. At least he could never prove it."
"He will know alright and he don't need any proof. But the big question in my mind is, what will be his next move?" He turned to Henry. "What about you, my friend?"
Henry shook his head. "We've got to do something," said Thomas. "Even if it's wrong! We can't just wait around here like sitting ducks. It's like waiting for him to give us both barrels."
Rodney nodded. "And we can't let anyone else know what is going on. It could cause a panic that could ruin everything. So, let's keep our mouths shut and our ears open. Maybe we can come up with something. Meeting adjourned!"
As usual, Julie's evening meal was something special. This night it was baked ham and cranberry sauce, one of Henry's favorite dishes.
Tonight, Henry wasn't hungry. He had a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach, but it wasn't food he needed to cure that fluttering inside him.
What he really needed was someone to confide in. Someone to help him down that crooked road of life. Someone like his sweet and devoted wife, Julie.
Should he tell her? Both Thomas and Rodney had told him, "Don't mention this to anyone." This had been good advice, all right, but surely he had a right to confide in Julie. She was his wife, and he shouldn't keep secrets from her.
Then suddenly he remembered his wedding vows. The justice of the peace had asked them several questions, including this one:
"Will you love and cherish her and forsake all others?"
He had said I do -- I will -- and he had meant every word of it. She had taken the same vows and was living up to them. Why shouldn't he?
Julie's voice brought him back to reality. "Henry, you have hardly touched your dinner. Is something, bothering you?"
It was indeed hard to keep secrets from this woman. She always seemed to be able to read his mind.
"I was just thinking, dear."
"I was just wondering. Are you happy here, sweetheart, living out here in the sticks?"
Julie moved her chair closer to Henry and slipped an arm around his shoulder. 'What is it darling? Something is bothering you."
"I wish I could tell."
"You can, darling."
Henry turned and faced her. "How would you like to move away from here. My year will be up in a few days and we will be free to go."
He slipped an arm around her, drawing her close. "We got about two hundred thousand in the bank. I will sell the ranch. We can take a trip around the world, if you want to. Now what do you think of that?"
Julie's eyes were big and round. "I love you, Henry. Also, I love this place and don't want to go anywhere else. Now, do you want to tell me something?"
"You always said that you would like to get on a ship."
Julie stamped her foot. "Cut it out, Henry. You are not fooling me one little bit. Something is terribly wrong and I want to know what it is."
Henry sighed. There was no way that he could keep this secret from her now.
"You can't even sleep nights," she went on. "You roll and you toss around. Last night, you awakened me by beating on your pillow and yelling. "I'll kill the dirty bastard! Now, do you want to tell me all about it?"
"It's a long story..."
"We've got lot's of time."
Henry drew her to him and kissed her red lips. "I am going to tell you everything, darling. But it won't go any farther. Understand?"
Julie nodded. "I promise."
"Do you remember that day, about a year ago, when those two strangers came into the bar and asked a bunch of questions about me?"
Julie nodded. "Do you mean Ira Baker and Lonnie Phillips -- the silent one?"
"That's the pair. And I guess that is where it all started."
For many minutes Henry talked. Julie was a good listener. He told her everything, right down to the burning of the building and the exploding arsenal.
Julie was dumbfounded. "You poor darling. No wonder, you can't eat, or sleep. Oh Henry, this is terrible."
Henry nodded. "And just when we thought we had it made. Most everything is completed; all but the library, it will take some time yet."
Julie's eyes glistened. "And I understand it will be called, The Henry Bower library. Oh darling, what an honor."
"I would sure like to see it finished."
There was a determined look on Julie's face. "And you will, darling. We are not going anywhere, until it is. No dirty rotten son of a bitch like that is going to run us off!"
Henry grinned. "Watch your language."
Julie was really wound up. "I knew that he was no good the minute I laid eyes on him. The fresh bastard. He hadn't been in the place five minutes before he asked me for a date."
"Baker, of course. The other one is a mute!"
"And he asked you to go out with him? Why didn't you tell me about this before?"
Julie smiled. "Lot's of men have asked me for a date, darling. That doesn't mean that I went out with them."
"What else, did he ask you?"
"Oh, he asked a lot of questions about a guy by the name of Henry Bower. He wanted to know where he lived."
"What did you tell him?"
Julie closed her eyes, as in deep thought, "As I remember, I told him that you lived out in the country somewhere. I didn't like the guy's looks, so I gave him very little information."
"Good. And if I remember correctly, they were in there again, about two weeks later, about the same time that Oran Thomas came back from New York."
"They have been in many times this last year, darling."
"I said, they had been in many times."
"Why didn't you tell me about this before?"
"You didn't ask."
Henry got up from his chair and began pacing up and down the room. There was a thoughtful look on his face.
"Then they must be staying close to Prescott!"
"They live there, dear. Baker bought a piece of land and built a new house on it."
"Out by Granite Butte. There is a big new sub-division out there. Quite a few new homes are being built."
"And right there in Prescott," Henry muttered.
"I understand he bought several acres. He has even got a private runway for his plane."
Henry's mouth was hanging wide open. His voice sounded hoarse. "Who told you all this?"
Julie's eyes were full of mischief. "He did, darling. He even asked me to go spend a week with him in Las Vegas! He said we would fly there."
"You didn't go?"
"Certainly not. Do you think I would go out with a jerk like him?"
Henry felt a pang of jealousy. He couldn't imagine her going out with anyone beside himself.
Julie smiled sweetly. "Remember darling, you were gone for almost a year, and I didn't get as much as a post card from you."
Henry bowed his head. "I'm sorry. But now you know the reason why."
"Yes, dear; and I realize that you had to keep this place a secret. I am glad and thankful that everything has worked out as well as it has." Julie moved close to Henry and put both arms around him. "I love you darling, and I love this place, and we are not going to let that dirty rat run us off, understand?"
"I had been a widow for ten long years," Julie went on, "barely making a living, tending bar and working in restaurants several times. I have been out of a job and didn't know where my next meal was coming from. It will be another ten years before I start drawing on my Social Security, and then it won't amount to much. A barmaid doesn't get much of a salary."
She paused for a moment, and kissed Henry on the cheek. "But now," she continued, "for the first time in my life, I feel secure. We have this nice cozy house with everything in it, including a sweet wonderful husband." Tears formed in her eyes. "One of these days, we will take off and make that trip around the world, but right now, these people need us. Let's not let them down!"
A slow smile crept over the face of Henry Bower. He turned and kissed Julie on the cheek. "Do you know something, sweetheart?" "What, dear."
"I am hungry!"
-- End Of Chapter Twenty-Five --
Copyright © 2008 by J.J. Dewey, All Rights Reserved