Falling Beneath the Magnolia

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Battle of Ole Miss!

Chapter Four:

The Battle of Ole Miss.

The last battle of the Civil War.

The Tunnels:

Stale air greets him, smelly air and everlasting darkness seemed on the forefront. Bruce always hated the tunnels, there wasn’t a single time he hadn’t gotten confused down here.

This time was no exception, on the surface he portrayed confidence in his plan, but now faced with the dark path ahead he was not so sure. There were so many places to make a wrong turn. Twice he had to check the map, he had drawn the map during his sophomore year, he slowly added to the map over the years.

As long as this path took them to the Cistern than they were on the right track. They should be approaching it in a minute. Manhole covers are evenly placed along the tunnel, every 100 yards there is usually a ladder leading to an exit. Bruce sees the light of a torch up ahead. And then he smells the stench of burning tobacco.

“Chuck are you smoking up there?”

“Yeah I am? Want one?”

“Yeah” Bruce hadn’t had a cigarette since the bar earlier.

The cigarette sort of calmed his nerves, that said, the stress of the night had risen significantly. This time going on campus he knew of the odds he was up against. With no assurances he was still willing to proceed. Therefore, he continued to walk in the black abyss towards certain danger.

Bruce had been in the tunnels several dozen times during his tenure at Ole Miss, calling them tunnels is an overstatement, they are 2 feet wide, 5- and 8-inches feet high shafts. His spine currently aches as he moves down the tunnel.

The tunnels were built when the school and town were built, they were significantly expanded during the Civil War. The campus had traded hands by both the Union and Confederacy several times, the tunnels were used to move troops and medical supplies during shelling.

In the hundred years since the war, the tunnels that hadn’t collapsed were reinforced with concrete and reconfigured to distribute sewage, electricity, and rain water. There were no lights except from the lantern that they brought. The last feature that makes him feel sick is the walls… they were always damp from the weekly rain Oxford seemed to get.

On they kept walking they must have walked three miles; he should be approaching the Cistern soon…

Then up ahead Chuck enters a chamber, it is only twelve feet in diameter, there are three other shafts all leading to different areas of the campus.

The bottom of the floor is covered with a pool of water ankle deep, Bruce feels the bottoms of his jeans becoming soaked, his boots being sealed keep his feet dry, all three of them space out in the Cistern as they take in the small chamber.

The Cisterns are used to funnel the water towards the retention ponds. Bruce takes the lantern away from Chuck for a moment, he looks at the map, he traces his finger from the cemetery to their current position. Bruce decides that they are going to choose the furthest fork on the left, taking up point with his two friends following.

They continue another mile and take a right at a fork between two choices right or left, the wrong path will lead them away from their destination, the right path will lead them by Baxter Hall, and onwards to Sorority Row.

In theory they should come up at a manhole right in the center of Sorority Row. There were other tunnel access points that lead to Sorority Row, but they would have to surface, and risk being caught in the mob.

As the trio step around a bend they see another source of light. Just as he is about to locate the source of light. The source of light found them! They panic as they stand 30 feet from a pair of steel helmeted U.S. Marshals...

A shot is fired in their direction, Bruce and his friends take off running in the other direction! The enclosed space and the proximity to the gunshot causes Bruce’s ears keep ringing. Bruce can see white light of the Marshal’s flashlights on the back of Chuck’s head, their pursuers are gaining, Chuck is slowing him down!

Carter starts up a rusty rebar ladder, Bruce follows suit, Chuck is the last one up the ladder, once Chuck is on the surface, Carter grips him by the scruff of his jacket and wrenches him out of the hole, Bruce tosses the cover of the manhole down the hole, the dense object plummets to the ground below. There is a grunt heard from the Marshal coming up the ladder.

With time bought, the three run into the bushes on the left, hunkering down in front of the Physics building called Louis Hall. The two Marshals run onto the sidewalk, of them lost their helmet, they around and spot the chaos in the courtyard in front of them.

Unable to find their targets, the two men witness six Marshals engaged with half a dozen rioters, they abandon their search to assist the other Marshals, they run towards the back right of the Lyceum.

“Shit how did we come up here?” Asks Carter.

Bruce looks across the courtyard at the chaos, the Marshals that scared them out of the tunnels have three young men on their stomachs, with the assistance of their comrades they begin to shackle them.

No sooner had they placed the cuffs on the men, that additional three men walk around the back of the Lyceum, the men are armed with rebar from the construction site at Shoemaker Hall.

The Marshals about to engage them suddenly turn tail, seeing why Bruce is in disbelief! The mob had commandeered a bulldozer, unknown to Bruce this is the mobs third attempt to use the bulldozer to disrupt the Marshal’s lines!

The eight Marshals abandon the men on the ground and retreat towards a score of Marshals with tear gas launchers near the Library Steps and the alleyway between George Street house and the Library.

“We need to get across now!” Shouts Bruce.

He leads his friends from the safety of the bushes. They enter the courtyard between the Lyceum and the Library. Once halfway there the tear gas becomes unbearable.

His lungs and eyes felt like they were on fire! He chokes and coughs as they run across the grassy courtyard, dozens of journalists with goggles and wet rags tied to their faces snap photos of the crowd. Then as the bulldozer nears, hundreds of men follow behind, armed with makeshift weapons they cross the courtyard towards the Marshals defense.

Seeing the mob getting closer to the Library the score of Marshals on the library steps begin to pelt the crowd with the canisters of tear gas!

At the distance the Marshals fire the tear gas they are essentially large projectiles, being hit with one is like having a brick tossed at you with accuracy.

Bruce sees one of the hot canisters hit a man in the face and he yelps in pain breaking from the mob before falling to the ground to grip his face.

A wall of shields comes from the right! An organized line of 80 Marshals walks in ranks with shields in front, using the road between George Street house and Holman Hall the near century of Marshals combines with the score of Marshals with launchers at the Library.

The bulldozer is now crossing the grass over the courtyard 30 feet from the Marshals line, Bruce and his friends are nearing the Lyceum fifteen feet from the steps as the mob charges the wall of shields, the bulldozer moves forward towards the Marshals with shields!

Running behind the ranks of the mob, Bruce and his friends pass a group of journalists, one of the photographers snaps a photo of a group of four men running to assist the mob.

The flash from the camera angers the men and they charge the journalist. One of the men wearing blue overalls, swings a plank of wood at the journalist’s leg and sends him to the ground in a fit of screams!

Bruce runs forward to help, Chuck and Carter flanking him. Bruce holds his crowbar and crosschecks the lead aggressor sending him back into his friends.

Eyes swollen from the tear gas, Bruce and his friends stand protectively over the journalist.

“I think he has had enough!” Says Carter Defensively

“Looks like we got ourselves a group of Blood Traitors ain’t we boys?”

Anger begins to rise in the pit of Bruce’s stomach, one of the men wearing a brown jacket, he was one of the men from the woods before, he didn’t have the rifle from earlier, but Bruce knew this fella was dangerous.

Smoke fills the air as the two lines of men collide, the Mob and the Marshals. The Marshals beat down anyone within arm’s reach. The mob stalls unable to push the outnumbered Marshals back...

The man nearest to Bruce strikes at him with the plank of wood, Bruce parries his strike with the crowbar, another swing is sent his way, aimed at his head Bruce ducks. The man tries the change the momentum of the attack, bringing the chunky object across his body for a third strike, his grip on his weapon is awkward.

Noticing this, Bruce forces the hook of the crowbar down hard, knocking the awkwardly held piece wood from the man’s grip.

Unarmed the man tries to tackle Bruce, who has a fresh grip on his crowbar, Bruce drives the crowbar into the collarbone of his opponent dropping him to the ground.

No time for a reprieve, a tire iron flashes out of the corner of his eye, the silver of the handle is caught in the light of the moon, Bruce blocks the strike with his right shoulder, taking most of the power out of the attack. The attack keeps coming and with he thud, he is hit upside the head, momentarily stunned, Bruce acts out of instinct and his desire for survival.

The tire iron misses the next strike, capitalizing on his luck, Bruce sends the teeth of his crowbar into the mouth of the enemy for a bloody and painful kiss!

Mouth full of blood he attempts one last swipe only to miss...

The momentum is with Bruce as he holds the crowbar with both hands bringing the bar across his body, his swing sends the hook of the crowbar into the nose of the man, he drops instantly limp to the ground!

Nearby gunshots come from the center of the conflict, Bruce looks towards the bulldozer and sees the driver pulled from the cab by a pair of Marshals.

Bruce makes his way to Chuck as more men from the mob run forward to reinforce their lines. Chuck had been standing shoulder to shoulder with the journalist, the journalist had picked up a piece of plywood and uses it to block the attacks of a man wearing overalls, the aggressor holds a baseball bat and he swings at the journalist, who pushes the attack back with the wood.

Chuck is struggling with a man, his opponent is gripping his Louisville slugger, the two men tug on the bat neither giving ground, Chucks opponent has his back to Bruce, who swings the bar of his crowbar into to his spine, allowing Chuck to get the bat free of his enemies grip. Chuck holds the bat upended as if it were a sword in execution stance, Chuck brings the nose of the bat down hard onto the man’s nose!

With a little distance between him and his opponent Chuck is able to pull back for a half swing and clips him in the chin, the follow through causes the man to spin on his way to the ground, he hits the ground hard!... Unconscious the man moves no more...

Bruce sees him out of the corner of his eye.

His right arm bandaged, like Bruce’s only his covered with tape and a towel, the three entry points from Bruce’s knife has soaked through the makeshift bandage...

In his left hand he holds a revolver, his fat friend is at his side. they disappear for a moment, in their place Bruce spots eight men. They march in a line with flaming liquor bottles in each hand, they head towards the shield wall. The townie hidden behind the line of men, separates from the fusiliers and makes for Bruce.

The journalist that they had been assisting, with Chucks help had driven the original aggressor to the ground, the journalist moves towards Bruce to pull him from the action, Bruce runs to him to do the same. When the townie is ten feet away from Bruce, Chuck and the Journalist, the lights created from the mob’s Molotov cocktails cause a plume of fire and smoke, the flame is so bright it catches Bruce’s attention.

Then coordinated shotgun fire with birdshot from the Marshals and pointblank canisters of tear gas, cause the numbers of the mob to dwindle.

Finally buckling the mob line begins to lilt against the better armed Marshals. One rank of Marshals pushes with the shields while, the line behind fires canisters of tear gas as projectiles over the shoulders of the shield line. The ones hit instantly fall from the force of the canisters, the birdshot from the shotguns is aimed at the legs of the crowd attempting to maim, they are going to try anything nonlethal to break the mobs lines.

Refusing to retreat the mob waves confederate flags to rally their forces and they press the line of 80 marshals. Despite being overwhelmed and outnumbered the Marshals refused to let the mob flank their rear!

In the smoke, the Marshals advance like a roman legion, beating the stragglers with clubs to a pulp, blocking bricks with their shields working as a unit the tired ranks of the mob are finally pushed back.

The line of retreating rioters crash into Bruce’s pocket of the courtyard. The horde collide into Bruce, the townie and everyone around, Bruce notices the townie has him in his crosshairs. With revenge in his heart the townie fires!

The journalist is bumped into by the buckling mob, his back absorbs the gunshot! Moments before, three dozen Marshals started to exit the Lyceum, combined with the line of Marshals they squeeze the ranks of the mob from two sides, the sound of gunfire makes them work faster.

The townie is on his feet for a second shot, Bruce is in the enemies crosshairs there will be nothing he can do to avoid what’s coming to him.

Charging out of the cloud of the teargas and smoke, Carter swings his axe handle into the knee of the townie knocking him over, Carter continues running as if he laid a block on the football field, getting the hint Bruce follows suit with Chuck on his heels. The chaos of the mobs assault on the Marshal’s line had pushed them across the courtyard.

Bruce’s lungs and eyes are on fire. He coughs and hacks up the chemicals caught in his lungs. They had run between Holman Hall and the Peabody building hiding in the shadows. He sees the Marshals had advanced to their previous spot, Bruce sees a Marshal’s checking the journalist pulse, then his heart sinks as he sees the Marshal shake his head to his colleague.

“What do we do now?” Carter asks.

Bruce and Chuck are still hunched over coughing from the tear gas.

“There is one more tunnel, it is just a few feet from here…”

Mentions Chuck once he says it he turns his head away to cough some more. .

“Bullshit I never heard of it?” pipes up Bruce, his voice is hoarse from the gas.

Chuck walks away from the bushes, Bruce and Carter follow. Chuck looks on the ground along the Peabody building. Then Bruce spies it right up against the building, it is exactly like the metal grates he has being descending into all night.

“Chuck I have no idea where this leads!”

“I was smoking behind the building once; I followed the manhole covers and it leads to Lenore Hall at the end of Sorority Row.”

Trusting his friends judgement, Bruce pops the padlock off and hurries down the shaft. They use their Zippo lighters to see where they are going.

The route is almost a straight away, it sounded like from the noise above, that the riot had moved back to the Circle and Grove. He was sure all the Troopers would be gone by now, feeling anxious Bruce practically sprints through the tunnel.

Their trip through the tunnel ends with a ladder, this ladder is rusty iron rather than rebar. Bruce begins his climb up, when he gets to the top he sees a square hatch with a steel hand grip, next to it is a steel bolt. Bruce slides the bolt and the hatch lifts.

He pushes with his injured forearm and the hatch rests against a hard surface, in front of him wooden decoration logs have rolled out of place from the hatch opening.

He and his friends climb out of the shaft, the decoration logs roll onto the carpet of a sitting room, they had come out of a fireplace by the foyer. Bruce helps his dirty friends out of the underworld.

Lenore Hall once held a sorority, because of continuous low membership numbers their Charter was pulled. Bruce walks to the front door straight ahead of him and pushes on the latch, he steps onto the front steps.

They are a hundred and fifty yards from the Tri Delta house. Bruce can see the back of the house as he runs towards it, smoke comes from the woods on the side of the house, the smoke stack is far off, so it is not a threat to the house. Out of breath Bruce crosses the street, passing the other sorority houses as he goes.

As he nears the house he sees five bodies running from the police barrier. The deputies let them pass and fire birdshot and teargas keeping the main horde at bay.

Bruce turns the corner and to his horror the five men are at the front door, there are only four men at the door Bruce didn’t know where the fifth man went. He picks up a stone the size of his fist at the bottom of the walkway.

One of the men lifts his foot and kicks at the polished wooden door, the man is filled with adrenaline and lust, the door frame cracks and the door opens, behind it are three terrified girls holding the door fall back.

“Stop” screams Bruce as he hurls the stone...

The stone flies through the air, hitting the man kicking the door in the back of the head! He falls forward gripping his head in pain!

The men turn around to greet Bruce and his friends.

“This is as far as you go” Says Carter.

Bruce sees the fat boy from earlier, a piece of his earlobe is gone, a bloody piece of tape covers his ear.

The girls and Mrs. Catherine managed to close and bar the door while they had distracted the aggressors.

“Boys, the one with the black hair is the kid who shot Rick, watch out for him.” Informs the fat one.

Carter steps forward angry, he crunches his knuckles the entire row on his hand cracks loudly. Carter asks Bruce.

“Is he one of the bastards who attacked Alice?”

“Ha are you talking about the slut who gave me this” The fat boy points to his bloodied earlobe.

“Yeah Carter he is, I have a score to settle with him!” Mumbles Bruce to his friends.

The fight had started in that moment, one of the enemy charges down from the steps of the house. He is incredibly fast, and he took the element of surprise. He tackles Bruce, who was taken off guard exchanging banter. Bruce rolls to his side only to catch a punch to the stomach! He feels the wind taken from his lungs.

He rolls down the hill, his opponent refuses to let go of him and takes the roll to the bottom. At the bottom, the force of their landing causes them to separate.

Nearly breathless Bruce gets to his feet, he lost his crowbar. Unarmed Bruce holds his fists up, his opponent has a fifteen-inch lead pipe in his hand, swinging the pipe across his body the wild swing just misses Bruce’s face…

Launching himself at the boy, Bruce throws his shoulder as hard as he can into his enemies abdomen, he drives him to the ground.

Getting on top, Bruce straddles the man’s waist, the man covers his face with his hands, Bruce works around his guard punching every inch he can reach. Alternating between his right and left hand his barrage appears endless as the lust of battle takes over.

During the beating, Bruce connects on the man’s chin, knocking him out cold, once his opponent drops his hands Bruce strikes his unprotected face four times! Bruce wants to kill him one more hard punch would do it...

The force of something hard tackles him in the side, the hit prevents Bruce from making his final killing punch...

The fat boy knocks Bruce off the man, Bruce stands up only to have to step back, an 8-inch pocket knife slashes at Bruce!!

He is not quick enough the blade slices along his abdomen, his blue shirt soaks with blood. Bruce has no idea how deep the wound is, based on how bad it is bleeding the situation doesn’t look good.

Bruce avoids the blade after another stab at his gut is attempted, with his elbow pulled back Bruce has enough space to deliver a painful blow.

He manages to smash the boy in the face with the tip of his elbow! The boy loses his footing and they crash to the ground again.

A gunshot is heard around the side of the house near the garden fence! The boy is distracted by the shot and looks in the direction of the sound, that when Bruce gets him!

He takes ahold of the fat boys knife hand with his injured right hand, seeing a window, Bruce gives his enemies face a vicious pounding.

As Bruce is about to bring his fist down for a haymaker aimed at the fat boys face, the boy is able to flip over and pushes away gaining distance...

Bruce is on his knee panting, his hand wraps around something hard. It is the lead pipe from earlier. The fat boy comes in and he aims his knife for Bruce’s chest, lashing out with the pipe Bruce connects onto the boys hand, he can hear the bones in his enemies wrist snapping!

No sooner had he broken the boys wrist does Bruce capitalized on the situation.

The pipe is held in his right hand, he has an opening if he can get there quick enough...

Bruce swings the pipe as hard as he can, he catches the boy in his chubby mouth, he might as well have hit the boy in the mouth with a hammer.

As if in slow motion Bruce sees nearly the entire top row of front teeth break or become ejected from his mouth!

Not finished Bruce stands over the bleeding fat boy, Bruce is full of rage unable to stop himself, he brings the pipe down on his face hard twice!

Stopping just shy of killing him Bruce steps back breathing heavily, then he feels it!

Not pain, rather force, the shock of the hit overwhelms the pain...

He doesn’t feel it as it connects with his head...

All Bruce can feel after the hit is the wind of his fall as he crashes to the floor, he hits the ground with a hard thump casting him into darkness...

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