Cassie cruised through life for the rest of the year. She was looked upon in awe by the rest of the students in her school. Kidnapped by Harry Hankins, one of the most feared students in the school, not only had she survived but she had conquered. She came back the winner and Harry was dead.
Within the month of his death his whole family moved away. Where nobody knew, nor cared really. Harry Hankins who had held a place of terror in the hearts of most students at her school, was gone.
One of the results of her encounter with Harry was that Cassie had learned to be really on the alert to everything around her. Where before she thought she was good, she now became really good; she had acquired an alertness that only veterans of combat could equal.
At night, when she slept, her dreams echoed with the sound of a man’s voice. “I gave fair warning!” his voice trembled with regret. Cassie woke many a morning with tears stained eyes as she felt his pain. She now knew what that really meant. It was not to scare her enemies, but to try and prevent more deaths. She knew that over her lifetime she would say those words many times.
As she climbed out of her bed that morning she whispered them to the Heavens. “I gave fair warning!”
Cassie sat down at the breakfast table and took a sip of her orange juice. She had only a week more of school and summer vacation would start. Her mother and father had been talking about traveling somewhere and she knew they really needed to do so. They had not really had a vacation in four years because of her blindness and getting her caught up on her education and starting back to school. Then there had been the troubles she had at school and the kidnapping.
Yes, her parents needed a vacation and to get away together. But Cassie was the big anchor with their fear of leaving her alone. Cassie, herself, had a few things she wanted to do. Now she had to convince her parents that all of these things could be done.
“Good morning Cassie”
“Morning Dad, Mom.” She answered as her parents entered and sat down for breakfast. Within seconds Marie performed her magic of putting a full meal on the table for the three of them.
She and her Dad dug in and made the food disappear. Her Mother was pickier. Cassie used her biscuit to wipe her plate clean, then pushed back and relaxed for a moment.
“Something on your mind girl?”, her dad asked.
“Yes there is; where are you and mom going on vacation?”
“Oh are you pretty sure we are going on vacation?”
“Well you two have been talking about it for ages. I’ve got one more week of school then I am out for two and half months.”
“Now I know your big problem is me. Where could you go that I could go and all of us enjoy ourselves?”
Cassie set there and let the idea percolate. “Not going to happen.”
“Mom knows it, even if she has not admitted it yet. I’m sure you have admitted it but just have not decided what to do.”
Her parents looked at each other and then at her.
“Well what do you think we should do?”
“First, it’s not my business where you go; just go somewhere you and Mom will have fun.”
“What about you?”
“Yes, that is the question.”
Cassie looked up at the ceiling. “Dad, Mom, I’ve got trouble coming. I don’t know what, where or when but it’s coming. I don’t want it to catch me here at home. It will be bad, but I want to eliminate as much collateral damage as possible. That means I must go somewhere else.”
“No!” her mom stated as if the statement would stop the problem.
“Yes, mom, there are a lot of reasons for me to leave here. First, I need to not attract more attention to the bizarre things that happen to Cassandra Howard. It’s kind of like what you have said a few times Dad.”
“Oh what is that?”
“Money does not sing or dance. What you meant is that money should not attract attention. I am the same way; I need to not attract attention. I get too much here in our home place. When school starts up there will be another sensation at school when everybody finds out that I am not a freshman but a sophomore.”
“Sophomore?” They echoed.
“Yes, this whole semester I’ve been taking courses and tests at that online school you had me signed up to. I have finished all my first year of High School course work. The school will transfer my credits to my high school. All but one course which needs my lab work completed, that’s Geology. The lab work will take just about two and half months of field work.”
“Field work, Cassie?”
“Yeah, I already got approval from my field work supervisor and the school approved his credentials.”
“Oh, who is this supervisor and where will this course work take place?” Her Dad asked.
“Well, its Tiny, did you know he is a Registered Geologist, with a master’s degree?”
“Yes I did. Where would this field work take place?”
“Michigan, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, and Oklahoma and of course any states which we would travel through.”
“No way Cassie! There is no way I’m going to let you travel over half the United States with a bunch of men.” That was her Mother. The first thing she thought of was “bunch of men”.
“That’s the good part mom. Nobody would think that you would let me run around with a bunch of men. Then the second part that is good is “Over half the United States” that will make it hard for someone to find me.”
“Cassie I take it you have talked to Tiny about all of this?”
“Why of course Dad. I had to be sure that it would all work before I could bring it up to you and mom.”
“What else? Well you need to make sure that your estate and mine are protected. Set up trusts with multiple people as trustee and guardianship papers all ready. Tiny will need some while I am with him. Get some of your high ranking judges involved. The more protection you set up the more unlikely it will be needed. So please get them done. I have a feeling if I don’t leave here this summer the whole place will be destroyed trying to get me.”
“George, you are not thinking of going along with this madness?”
“Yes, Sarah, I am. I have been notified that there have been some strange people asking about Cassie. I think it’s your Great Aunt’s estate they are trying to get. Anyway, Cassie, I have already taken care of those papers and just need to get temporary guardianship for Tiny. Will he be picking you up or do you plan to join him?’
“He is headed toward Michigan right now so I should join him there.”
“George! You are not listening to me.”
“Sarah, I have been listening but I think in this case you have not been listening. I am trying to save our daughter’s and maybe our lives. You are worried about her reputation. Well if it comes to life versus reputation I will let her travel naked with those men if necessary.”
Dad landed our plane at Austin Bergstrom International Airport
And followed directions to the Signature Terminal, a private plane terminal where he could get fuel and maintenance if needed. He walked Cassie through the terminal to a waiting car. Her luggage was loaded in the trunk and she and her father got in the back seat.
“Are you worried?” he asked her.
“No, not really, but I’m going to be on my own for the first time.”
“Cassie, I know you can do it. You see I heard you cry in the night. I know your nightmares, I have them too. You are my daughter.”
The car pulled up at the main terminal of the airport and they got out. The driver got a cart and loaded Cassie’s luggage on it. George walked her into the airport and to the American Airlines counter. After he identified himself, they checked her in and took her luggage. She kept a carry on and her equipment. The next obstacle was TSA where they insist on searching her and all her equipment.
Cassie’s Dad went through the ceiling. There was nothing that she could add or help with so she just stood there and waited. When a supervisor showed up and also insisted that she needed to be searched her Dad pulled out his phone and made two calls. They waited and Cassie scanned the area, noticing that they had a whole security squad just out of sight ready to rush them if they were a threat. About an hour later two large men walked in and up to the security stand. They ignored TSA and introduce themselves to Cassie’s father. They were US Deputy Marshals and they had a court order from a Federal Judge. As they prepared to escort her to her plane her Dad hugged her and gave her two hundred dollars and two debit cards.
“The money is for your immediate needs; the cards are for everything else in the world. You will be able to buy anything you will need.”
The two huge men and one small girl finally walked through the concourse to her gate and onto the plane. The stewardess motioned them up front into first class. One of the Marshals sat in the seat in front of her and the other behind her. The Flight Attendant made sure nobody tried to sit next to any of them. It was a long flight and Cassie intended to sleep most of the way. As soon as they were in the air both Marshals started a conversation with her.
The Marshals had pulled any and everything on her and her family before they had made it to the airport so they knew about her kidnapping and the death of one of the kidnappers by “misadventure”. They were very interested about her ordeal and how she had stood up to it.
She thought that they agreed with her dad that TSA was made up of a bunch of idiots. It was interesting, and they talked about the differences in law enforcement such as between the US Marshals and the Texas Rangers.
It surprised her that there seemed to be some envy of the Rangers. Then one of the Marshals explained that the Texas Rangers were unique in law enforcement. Until the Patriotic Act, the Rangers had been the only law enforcement agency in the United States that could make arrests without a warrant.
Finally the conversation died and she was able to lay back and sleep.
She was awakened when their plane descended into Chicago. When she asked the Marshals about what they were going to do their answers surprised her. They were assigned to escort her all the way to Grand Rapids, Michigan where Tiny was to pick her up.
So they grabbed another flight out of Chicago for the short hop to Grand Rapids. They were standing near the Baggage Claim inside the terminal when Tiny showed up.
“Cassie!” She turned to face the voice. She had already spotted him with her ‘sight’ but for the US Marshals her blindness meant she would not know where he was.
He came out of a crowd of men, appearing nearly a foot taller than the rest of them.
“TINY!” She called, overjoyed to hear him and opened her arms to hug him when he grabbed her and twirled her around like a toy. The Marshals had their hand resting on their pistols.
“Put me down you overgrown gorilla these Marshals probably have no idea who you are.”
“Who?” He asked as he sat her down behind him. His men closed around Cassie.
“Are you Mr. Blocker, Tiny Blocker?” The US Marshal that she had thought was in charge asked.
“Yeah, that’s me. Why do want to know?”
The Marshal reached into his inside pocket and brought out an envelope which she knew contained some kind of court order. The Marshal handed it to Tiny.
“If you acknowledge that this is one Cassandra Howly Howard and sign there where your name is and take custody of the said Cassandra Howly Howard we will be leaving her with you.”
“Just sign it Tiny, have I ever led you wrong.”
“No you have not.”
After the Marshals had left, she explained everything to Tiny.
“Cassie we do have a little problem with sleeping arrangement on sites.”
“Not really Tiny, not if you have a way to haul a camper or camper shell with you.”
“Yes, you know one of those little enclosed trailers that you can pull on the rear bumper of a car? Or set inside the bed of a pickup.”
“Yeah, we could pull one if it was not too ‘waggy’ on the trails we will be taking.”
“Then I guess we need to find a place that might have what we need.”
“One of my trucks is having an axle replaced. That might be a good place to start”
Tiny and Cassie pulled into the heavy equipment place and saw nothing that looked like a camper. A man came out of the office and walked toward them. Tiny and she got out of his truck. The man took a double look at Cassie and her cane.
“You Tiny Blocker?” he asked extending his hand.
“Yeah, that’s me. This is my partner Cassie Howard.”
By a force of will she did not whip her head around to face Tiny when she heard the word ‘partner’. She did hold her hand out, a little offset for a handshake from the man.
“My name is Tracy Williams. Joe over at “axle repairs” called me and told me that you were looking for a camper that could take the terrain that you’ll be traveling.”
“Well I got something but it’s not really a camper. But if it was, there ain’t no place you could take an off road vehicle that this could not go.”
“What we need is somewhere Cassie can sleep in comfort with all her gear and equipment and be protected from anything that we might run into.”
“Well this could do all that but the comfort part. But you meet my price and I’ll customize the interior into a bedroom/kitchen.”
He had been leading them around some equipment that was half disassembled until they stopped next to a strange looking vehicle. Cassie had not paid any attention to it because she could not imagine what it was.
Tiny looked at the vehicle and reacted, “Holy mackerel, what the hell is that?”
“Well Tiny, that’s a good question, we bought it in a bulk auction from the government. It was part of a group of vehicles confiscated from a raid the government made on a weapons dealer. The autos impound yard refused to take it so they put it in heavy equipment. I didn’t even see it when I bid on the lot.”
“It was after we started sorting everything that it showed up. I think it started as an MRAP of some kind and the weapons dealer had started customization on it.”
“That circle thing on the left side, I believe, was the hydraulic anchor point for a retractable arm used to move IEDs from the roadway. There use to be a weapons mount in that metal circle on top.”
“This is one big chassis almost 42 feet long. But the insides are stripped; it’s just one big empty shell. All that is left is the driving compartment with two seats. It’s got a big diesel engine with like 450 horsepower and 6 x 6, drive train with air suspension for the axles. We took it out for a test drive once, because it has no license plates. It cruised the county paved road at about 60 miles per hour. We took it off road and nothing could stop it. It made a new dirt road coming in off the main road through some trees in the back lot. This big girl can either go over it or around it but it will go.”
“It is just scrap to me. I think it’s worth $70,000 with no more work. But, with a little work it could be made into an all-terrain motor home. Let me put in an office with a kitchen, bath and bedroom. Hum, another $35,000 we can add the appliances, computer, sat-phone, desk, chairs, and a 2,500 liter freshwater tank. We could add a larger diesel tank, maybe 100 gallons. Install a 25kw generator and put in a small porch off the rear. That would make it $140,000 total. I just happen to have a spare generator out back.”
Cassie turned and walked a short distance away with Tiny following.
“Tiny what do you think?”
“If it is really running, it’s a steal.” He answered.
“Tiny I can see it has plenty of room inside, it’s as big as some apartments. If the rest was added like he mentioned it would be worth the amount he quoted.”
“How long do you think it will take for him to get it rebuilt?”
“I have no idea Tiny but I will be here all the time so I think he will do a very fast job just to get me out of his hair. The office kind of struck a nerve with me. That would provide a place where I can do some studying while everybody else is working.”
“Oh no, remember I’m your teacher I want you with me most of the time while I teach you about geology.”
“Tiny, what did you mean ‘My Partner’.”
“Oh, I had not had a chance to inform you. You are a 20% owner of ‘We Find It’, LLC.
“Okay, but where are we going to get $140,000?”, Cassie asked him. A moment later she remembered the two debit cards her dad had slipped her.
“I will have to wire my bank for a line of credit. That’s no big deal, though he might not want to wait.”
Cassie returned to Mr. Williams. “Sir I would like to put my two cents in for the customization. And we would pay a price of $130,000 today.”
He looked up at Tiny then back at Cassie, “Today?”
“Yes sir, I would be on site during the ‘Remodeling’” she laughed at that. “It would be more like remodeling then customization. If it is not up and running fully we won’t accept it. We’ll place the purchase price in an escrow account that takes Tiny’s signature to get.”
He turned and looked at the vehicle. “Make it $135,000 and we shake on it.”
Cassie held her hand out. Williams took it and gave it a firm hand shake. He turned and whistled at a man across the yard. Then he waved and the man began to run toward him.
“Joe get this pink elephant out and give it a number one maintenance check, than remove anything in the rear portion that’s left. Get it cleaned out and ready for rebuilding the insides.”
“Mr. William, let’s go set up the escrow account. Then will come back and see what you’ve got to put into the vacated space. If, for any reason, you think you cannot afford what I want give me an estimate for getting it anyway.”
Cassie and Tiny drove off the lot. Cassie pulled out her cell phone and placed a call.
“Hi Dad, I just wanted to let you know that we got to Grand Rapids just fine.”
“Yes, Tiny is just fine.”
“I do have a favor to ask. I’d like to get an RV to provide a better place for me to sleep and work while we’re in the field. Tiny has also made me a part owner in his exploration company and I’d like to provide a little more capital.”
“No, Dad, Tiny hasn’t asked for anything but I’d like to pull my own weight.”
We found this neat and highly secure RV that we’d like to buy and need some cash. If I call you from the bank, can you arrange to transfer about three hundred and seventy five thousand our account.
“Yes, I know it seems like a lot of money but that includes $135,000 for the RV and the rest is for my portion of the business.
“No, Dad, Tiny can’t talk to you right now because he’s driving but I’ll have him call you as soon as we have stopped.”
When they got downtown, Cassie called her dad again and then handed the phone to Tiny. After he talked to her Dad for a few minutes, he ended the call and said. “Your dad just said to call Dan at the bank and give him the account numbers and he’ll do the transfer.”
They later rejoined Mr. Williams at his bank. It took about an hour to set up the accounts. She and Tiny had to set up a business account for their company in order to set up the escrow account without outrageous fees. When the bank officer asked Tiny for his deposit, Cassie asked for the bank routing information and account number. She then called her Dad’s bank and arranged the wire transfer.
When they left the bank, Tiny expressed amazement that Cassie had been able to get that amount of cash from her father so easily.
I have money of my own that I had inherited when I was born. He has managed it for me all this time. The money came from accounts that left over interest was put into. So Tiny, I’m not with you to get rich; although doing it on my own will be exciting.”
“Okay, but that means you now own 25% of the company. Now girl let’s go and make me rich too.” She burst into laughter as they drove off.
Two weeks later Cassie sat next to Teddy, a college student interning with Tiny over the summer. They drove up toward the upper peninsula of Michigan. A mine owner had contracted with Tiny to explore some land he had owned for ages. As part of a purchase made years ago when he expanded his holdings on the Upper Peninsula he had made a bulk purchase. As iron deposits had only been found on the other side of the lake toward Wisconsin, this land had been figured to be worthless.
Tiny was not expecting much, but the owner was trying to look to the future as the operating mines in upper Michigan were taking deep digging to recover enough ore to continue operations.
The owner hoped that Tiny could find deposits on this other parcel of land for new mines. Tiny’s contract was $30,000 up front for expense and 5% of revenue for ten years from the time they started mining any property where his report states he had discovered any previously unknown deposits.
Their plan was actually quite simple. Cassie would tell them where Tiny’s crew was to do sample drillings. With the samples to support their claim of deposits they would turn the findings over to the owner. The size, depth, percentage of mineral mix and ore type would all be used to determine whether he would open up new mines or not.
The crew had cruised the land owned by the mining company for over 8 days. They had slowly moved further west until they were about a mile from the lake. Cassie had been leaning back in her co-pilot seat scanning the land. She would do a 360 scan out to 300 yards then she would narrow her scan and do sweeps in an arc centered on herself 1 mile to either side and in front.
“Stop, Ted.” Teddy brought the vehicle to a stop and Cassie reached for the radio controls. “Tiny let’s do some sounding and sample drilling.”
“Cassie, what do you have?”
“I think, no I know, its magnetite at a very high concentration.”
“You think it’s over 25%?”
“Tiny…I think we got like 45-60%. It’s very narrow at the top of a band, like the tip of a mountain. So let’s blow some holes get a seismogram, and then drop some drill bits.”
Cassie noticed that Teddy was staring at her in surprise. She had got some strange looks before from the newer members of Tiny’s group. The older hands that had drilled for water on their ranch knew that she was a dowser. Most of the newer ones were more technically trained and did not believe in superstition.
“Teddy we need to move to the east away from the lake about 300 yards and about 75 yards north. Then stop again.”
“Eh, is there anything I should be looking for?”
“No just a safe passage to that position.”
He reached out and patted the dash, “With Big Bertha almost any passage going to be safe.”
It took him about 20 minutes to move that short distance but it was not as easy as he had predicted. The terrain was really torn up in this particular area.
Cassie could see the mountain of iron ore coming to a peak. “This is it; you can stop now Teddy.”
He continued to drive for a minute as he leveled out the MRAP as it came to a stop. Cassie stood up and prepared to exit the vehicle. Teddy stood up between her and the door. The first time he had let Cassie exit before him Tiny had chewed him a new ass hole.
Teddy turned to give Cassie a hand down from the driving compartment. They stood there together with him looking all around as Cassie examined the earth beneath her feet. The rumble of an engine came to her ears as Tiny arrived in his truck with a line of trucks following him.
“Ouch, that is big.” Tiny said as he walked over to them.
“Yeah, it starts around 470 yards beneath us. It’s about 120 yards across. Then it slopes down in all directions at about 70 degrees for about 500 yards then it decreases the angle of the slope to about 40 degrees for another 300 yards where it just flattens out. I can’t detect how thick it is but it’s more than 2 miles.”
“I have no idea how anybody with equipment could have missed finding this. Get some electro-magnetic detection devices out. They should have been able to spot this from space.”
Tiny did not wait. A sampling drill rig was set up right next to Big Bertha. The seismic detection guys began to setup over a grid of 500 yards from the center where she was parked. Cassie retired back to her room in Big Bertha.
Three weeks later ‘We Find It’ had cleaned up its camp site and loaded all the equipment back aboard the trucks.
Cassie stared at Tiny. He looked up from where he was ensuring the storage of the samples and noticed her stare. He turned toward her and slowly approached.
“Cassie?” He questioned.
Cassie shook her head as if to clear it then turned to him. “You mentioned Idaho as one of our destinations. I have a feeling that we should be heading that way now!”
The next morning the convoy pulled out, loaded with samples, seismic graphs, and maps of the whole area. Their geologists were going crazy over their findings. They had found one of the richest deposits of magnetite ore in the United States.
Tiny had told her that, at 5% of the revenues, this contract would make him a rich man within a year of mining start up. Tiny, of course, had no control over when mining would start. But with the richness of this find it was very likely that the mining company would be moving in on it very soon. Even with startup costs, within a year they would be making a very large profit.
Tiny and Cassie stopped at the Mining Company to deliver the results of their exploration and then they were headed for Idaho. Tiny had a few exploration leases from the state. These allowed the company to explore certain areas of state lands for minerals. If they found any they could lease the exclusive right to mine the land paying a royalty to the state.
My thanks to Grumpybear for his editing and proofing help. But the final results are mine and all criticism should be loaded onto my shoulders.
© Virgil Lee Fuqua III and ‘vlfouquet.wordpress’, 2008-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vlfouquet and Virgil Lee Fuqua III with appropriate and specific direction to the original contents