Frank Carragher knew deep down that he was losing his ironclad grip on the reins of power. Each day, demonstrations against the occupying forces got larger at well as bolder. A couple of days earlier, during a clash with NAP riot squad members, one Kamloops resident was shot and killed. The district administrator wanted to believe that the citizenry didn’t have access to anything more lethal than rocks, baseball bats and some Molotov cocktails. But the reality was significantly different.
Although it appeared from the outset that the band of terrorists who’d launched a half-hearted guerrilla campaign for months were finally defeated, another resistance cell had cropped up in the city. Carragher had been shaken by the murder of Jean-Pierre Bisseau. What was even more shocking was the fact that the killing took place in broad daylight in front of dozens of citizens. The fact that none of them cooperated with authorities was hard proof that they no longer had any support from the populace. The North American Police and United Nations forces under his command had control of the city for the time being, but if the way things were eroding was any indication, that control would be wrested away.
Toombs entered his superior’s office.
“Good morning, Sir.”
“Good morning, major. Any leads in your investigation of the murder of Captain Bisseau?”
“Unfortunately not, Sir. Mr. Carragher, you recently had a meeting with Senator Grimshaw. I remember Grimshaw years ago when he was a city councilman in Birmingham.”
“Yes, he’s a remarkable fellow indeed. As true a southerner as can be found. Well, not as true as you, major, but pretty darn close.”
“I admire the compliment, Sir.”
“Have you spoken with Lieutenant-Colonel Mullen lately? I was hoping to touch base with him. Every time I call over to the command centre, he’s busy.”
“Mullen is doing well. He’s been having to deal with a disciplinary issue with one of his men.”
“Some young fella skipping duty, getting a little too friendly with the locals.”
“That’s always cause for concern. I trust that Mullen will get this nipped in the bud before it spirals out of control.”
Father Tuck prayed discerningly about the decision he was about to make. The veteran pastor asked God to guide him through the endless security points as well as the probing drones and helicopters that patrolled the skies. Robert Hunt and the members of his small resistance cell were elated that Tuck was going to go into the mountains, track down Jake, Mallory and Kevin, and bring the remaining three rebels back into the city.
Once the three were back in town, all of them, including Brian Vance, would hold one more clandestine meeting to hammer out a strategy to drive the North American and United Nations forces from their district once and for all.
Tuck had filled a backpack full of provisions. The naturally-inclined athlete laced up his hiking boots and threw on a warm jacket. After locking up the parish house, Tuck drove through Kamloops in his jeep until he reached the Red Bridge that spanned the South Thompson River. Three British paratroopers were guarding it. Tuck rolled down the driver’s side window.
‘Good day, Father,” a young lance-corporal said. “Where are you off to today?”
“I’m visiting a colleague of mine who lives in 100 Mile House. Father Hebert.”
“May I see your travel permit please?”
Tuck fished out a forged travel permit and handed it to the British soldier. The para looked it over and handed it back to Tuck.
“Here you are, Father. According to the conditions outlined in this permit, you’ll be gone for four days.”
“That is correct.”
“Carry on then.”
Tuck put up his window and drove north onto Mt. Paul Way. An enormous sense of relief washed over him. Tuck pulled onto Yellowhead Highway 5 and continued driving north.
The once picturesque countryside had been permanently scarred by the horrors of war. Houses previously owned by wealthy local businesspeople and ranchers sat abandoned. Others had been destroyed in air attacks. Tuck drove for over an hour. He spotted the faded sign signalling that the tiny hamlet of Little Fort was coming up.
As Tuck drove past Little Fort on the Trans-Canada Highway, he noticed that the once touristy community was nearly empty. A few locals wandered the main street. Tuck’s destination was Clearwater. Prior to reaching the mountain town, he pulled off of the Trans-Canada and made his way down a barely-used bush road.
Tuck parked the jeep in a section of secluded forest that was very thick. He locked the jeep, opened up the back hatch and retrieved the backpack. It was a sunny though bitterly cold day. Tuck zipped up his jacket and covered his head with a woollen toque. He stared into the vast wilderness that was laid out in front of him. He had a rough idea where the mine was located. Tuck had hiked this area a few times before. It was rocky, treacherous terrain, but he could handle it.