On Friday, Rankin, Manson, along with Konan, Lilly, Wiggins, and Janko went out to the compound to visit the leadership of the cult. Jacob ‘Tater’ Smith picked up the radio and called the office from his post in the central tower.
“We have three patrol cars out front,” he transmitted.
“Roger,” Bray replied. “Stay visible, keep your weapons out of sight.”
Bray Farkin and Sara M. Templeton walked toward the gate, their feet crunching the pea gravel underfoot as they walked. Sara looked at Bray and asked, “Are we letting them into the compound?”
“No,” he said quietly.
His voice had a tone of lethality to it. A soft tone that hinted at the well of violence that lurked within his heart. Only a fool would think this man beside her was soft and unskilled in the ways of warfighting. Bray wore jeans, steel toe boots, and a burnt orange Carhartt tee, and a matching Tractor Supply hat. Nothing gave away his past as a soldier, nothing but the hard look in his steel grey eyes, and the quiet resolve to survive whatever came his way.
The gate swung open, and Bray and Sara walked out to greet the police. Janko and Wiggins leaned against the front to their vehicle as they gazed at the towers, their hands kept away from their weapons.
Lilly had pulled up at an angle, on the right side of the gate. Konan stood behind his open door, and Lilly sat in the driver seat, the vehicle still running, and the vehicle in drive. Val Rankin and Manson stood in the center and watched as the pair of zealots walked toward them.
Bray gave them a firm-lipped smile and said, “Good morning, officers. What brings you out this way?”
“Good morning,” Manson said, returning Bray’s smile with one of her own. Rankin kept his eyes on the pair across from them. “We’ve received several complaints about gunfire coming out this way, and we decided to come and check it out.”
“We do some shootin’,” Bray said, “but we try to stay mindful of the time. I’m terribly sorry if we traumatized someone or caused undue worry.”
“What type of weapons do you shoot,” Rankin asked. Sara Templeton scoffed, and said, “What business is that of yours? We’re not hurting anyone.”
Bray cut his eyes to the woman, and she grew quiet. Bray smiled at Rankin and said, “It’s mostly shotguns and deer rifles. We’re off the grid out here, and we’re training our people to become self-sufficient.” Manson nodded, and asked, “You do much hunting?”
“I haven’t in several years, but given the state of the world, and the rising cost of basic items, hunting has become something of a necessity.”
Rankin motioned at the closed gate, and said, “Do you mind if we have a look around? It’d ease the mind of your neighbors.”
“Do you have a warrant?”
“We do not,” Manson replied. “Do we need one?”
“You do,” Bray said, as he feigned sympathy for the officers. “I personally do not have a problem with you looking around, but for my flock’s protection, I must insist upon you having one to enter.”
“Fine, play it that way,” Rankin snapped. “We’ll come back and tear this place apart.”
Bray smiled. His eyes grew cold, and his smile could have frozen Hell over. “Do what you must, officer. I do what I must to protect my family and friends.”
“Thank you for your time,” Manson said, in an attempt to keep things peaceful between Rankin and Bray. “We understand the need to protect people.” Wiggins grew irritable with the back and forth, and he stepped toward the group.
“Did you kill my partner?”
Sara stepped toward Wiggins and said, “We haven’t killed anyone, cop. Beat it.” Wiggins continued forward, and pointed his finger into her face, and shouted, “Did you kill my partner? So, help me God, I’ll merc you lunatics!”
“Wiggins,” Janko snapped. “Shut your mouth, detective. Get back here!” Bray never moved a muscle as Wiggins launched a right hook and his fist slammed into Bray’s jaw.
“Good God,” Manson muttered, as she grabbed Wiggins and jerked him back. She shoved him at Janko, who grabbed Wiggins by the collar and slung him into the backseat of the car.
“Sir, I apologize for my colleague’s actions. We’ve lost one of our fellow officers, and tensions are high.”
Bray turned his head to the right and spit the blood from his mouth. Bloody spittle dribbled onto his lips, and he smiled. Sara Templeton pointed a finger at Manson and said, “Let me guess, you and friends decided to come out here and put the blame on people who want nothing to do with your system? Is that it?”
“It’s all right, Sara. It’s difficult to deal with loss, and I’m sure the officer has regrets. No worries about the punch. We’ll chalk it up to stress.”
Manson gave the cult leader a timid smile and said, “I appreciate that. Tensions and stress can make a person act out of character. On behalf of us all, I’d like to apologize for my colleague’s behavior.”
“And I’m sorry for your loss. Is there anything else I can do for you all?”
“No, I think we’re done here. Have a good day.”
“You too, officers.”