The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre – Chapter 1

Warrant Served On Quackenbush Road

thumbnail_originalLarry “Bucky” Green was a two-bit moonshiner with a rap sheet as long as a summer afternoon. Petty larceny, public drunkenness, public urination, illegal discharge of a firearm, and various other typical good-old-country-boy degenerate activities. There was one instance of felony assault (charges later dropped) in that thick folder of his. But, if anyone bothered to ask Sergeant Joe Johnson of the New York State Police, the guy on the bad end of that particular ass beating probably deserved it. But then again, nobody ever bothered to ask Johnson.

This was his turf, supposedly—the deep hills and back roads of central Cattaraugus County, New York. Populated by farmers in old houses, hillbillies and rural folk in single- and double-wide trailers, and effete ski freaks; tourists mostly, slumming it up with the locals in faux-rustic mansions scattered among the foreboding forested hills. Rumor was, even famed four-time-Super Bowl-losing-quarterback Jim Kelly had himself a big cabin out this way. The guy may not have had a ring, but he sure as hell had money.

It was a quiet assignment out here, running the county and state roads between Salamanca, Great Valley, Ellicottville, West Valley, Little Valley, Machias, Franklinville, and elsewhere—save for the occasional poacher, domestic violence incident, and the constant stream of drunk driving citations. With ski season almost upon them, Sergeant Johnson knew the tourists (and belligerent townies) were sure to keep him busy through the dark and endless gray winter months to come.

The people weren’t bad here, for the most part. They just liked to be left alone, to their deer hunting and their cheap beer and their Buffalo Bills football and their pickup trucks and their guns and their John Deere tractors and their four-wheelers. Leave them be, and they were friendly enough to wave as you drove past in your State Trooper SUV, or they might even start a conversation with you while you sucked down jet-black Joe at the Coffee Clatch in Ellicottville. But start mucking around in their business, and, well—it was better not to turn your back on them.

Johnson had been here long enough to know you couldn’t solve every problem with a hammer. The SWAT officers who moved into position around the white singlewide trailer at the edge of the clearing did not share Johnson’s backcountry diplomacy skills. To those guys with the cool gear and shit-hot attitudes, there wasn’t nothing a hammer couldn’t fix the hell out of. Most people out here in the deep country were well-armed. They were just as likely to fly NRA flags as they were the Stars and Stripes. Cops had to be careful, sure. But this was overkill. The SWAT team didn’t seem primed for a simple arrest; they were arrayed for battle.

State Police Major George Winston’s personal dark blue Ford Expedition stood at the entrance of the driveway, flanked by two Trooper patrol cars, one of which was manned by Sergeant Johnson. They were less than 100 yards from the three trailers that sat on each side of the roundabout dirt, mud, and gravel driveway. The target trailer was dead ahead, in the middle, its windows hidden by the swaying fingers of trees just beginning to shed their autumn colors. Gray SUVs, their lights off but their engines running, blocked the adjacent road in both directions—although one direction was a dead end, trailing off into crumbling gravel and weeds. Another pair of State Trooper SUVs stood where Quackenbush Road met Route 242. Early morning traffic buzzed on by, drivers craning their necks to spy on some mysterious manner of local trouble.

The SWAT Troopers, decked out in full kit, wore spit-shined black combat boots that reflected patches of blue morning light. They wore tight-fitting armor and combat gear, webbing loaded with flashlights, pepper spray, handcuffs, ammo magazines, zip strips, flashbangs. They carried M-4 rifles, replete with scopes and lasers Johnson couldn’t even begin to identify. They wore jet-black hockey helmets and large wrap-around goggles, their mouths hidden by patches of gray or black fabric. The State Police this far out from Albany may not have had a huge budget for overtime, but they sure had money to buy all the cool guy gear for the SWAT hotdoggers.

Despite their armor and toys, they moved quickly, taking up positions behind large trees and the rusted-out hulks of cars abandoned in the lawns of the other two trailers in the clearing. The assault team moved straight down the driveway, boots crunching on scattered gravel and mud, past sagging mailboxes and an abandoned red tricycle. Behind one of the trailers a dog began to bark, his voice sad and lonely in the cool October morning.

Two men skirted the target trailer, and, ninja-like, dashed into the weeds and trees beyond, hoping to cover any back doors and windows where Bucky might try and skedaddle. A team of four SWAT Troopers stood perched on the rickety wooden staircase that led up to the trailer’s lime green plastic door. The lead Trooper turned his mouth toward a microphone clipped to his chest plate carrier.

“Blue team, in position,” came his whispered voice over the radio. Major Winston, wearing the same black ninja cammies and kit as the Troopers around the trailer, stood behind the open driver’s side door of his command SUV. He pulled the mic from its mount on the dash.

“Roger,” he said. “Red team? Yellow team?”

Affirmatives from the other team leaders. Winston turned to the side to spit out a stream of tobacco-brown juice.

“I read all teams in position,” Winston said. He turned and looked through Johnson, then his eyes settled on a man at the end of the driveway. That man wore a dark black overcoat and giant aviator sunglasses. His jet-black hair was perfectly parted and slick, shining with oil and specks of dew. The man smoked a stubby Pall Mall, his back to them both, oblivious to the drama that was about to unfold.

Sergeant Johnson had no clue who the G-Man was, or to what department he belonged. He just knew when this guy showed up at the briefing early that morning back in Machias, the SWAT commander’s voice had grown a tad shaky. Everybody at the barracks had given him a width berth.

“We’re ready to arrest the target, Agent Schrader,” Major Winston said, his voice not quite quavering.

Schrader took one last puff on his cigarette. The moon, spectral against the early-morning dim blue sky, reflected in both of his oversized lenses. He let the butt fall to the gravel, and snuffed it out under an immaculately shined black shoe. He turned to face the commander, his shoulders stooped, his head craning forward at an odd angle. The nod was almost imperceptible. Then he ran tar-stained fingers through his hair.

“All teams, this is Six,” Major Winston said. “Butterfly. I say again, butterfly.”

A hundred yards away, the lead Trooper on the steps nodded and gave his team a thumbs up. One of Troopers moved up the staircase with a cylindrical battering ram. Three sharp strikes against the doorknob and the plastic door crunched and collapsed inward. They were all inside the trailer within three seconds.

Sergeant Johnson watched, his hand on the Beretta on his hip. Water splattered against the brim of his Smokey the Bear campaign hat. He looked up to see the wind shaking the branches above him, dislodging leaves and dew. The colors had come early this year. The leaves would fall off soon, leaving the trees barren and sickly until spring. Early fall through deep winter.

Major Winston, standing next to the driver’s seat behind the open door of the SUV, tapped his fingers against the dashboard in an uneven rhythm. Agent Schrader shuffled forward, his fingers wiping at his salt-and-pepper mustache, his mouth twisted into a detached frown.

The SWAT Troopers outside the trailer raised their weapons and scanned windows, looking for targets.

“First room, clear!” someone yelled from inside the trailer.

“Short room! Bathroom, clear!”

“Door!”

“Stacking!”

“Hit it!”

“Breaching!” A crash, splintering wood and plastic.

“Get down, get down!”

There was a loud pop, and a flash of light.

“Flashbang,” Winston said, a nervous, wrinkled smile on his face. An older guy, sure, but he still had the energy of youth around his features.

Boots stomped on creaking floorboards. Then there was silence.

Sergeant Johnson looked from the trailer to the commander, from the commander to the trailer. The SWAT cops crouched behind cars and trees looked through scopes and down rifle sights. They waited as time slowed to a crawl. The silence was eternal.

The dog stopped barking. There was only the wind, and the sound of Johnson’s own heartbeat in his ears. The strap on his pistol holster had come undone, and his hand hovered just above the 9mm, fingertips stealing kisses from cool gun metal.

Five seconds. Ten.

Nothing.

The commander’s smile had disappeared. Sweat beaded along the edge of his forehead, trailing down from the rim of his helmet, despite the cool of the day.

Then the shouting. Voices in the trailer, panicked, almost incoherent.

“Put him down! Down!”

“Drop it!”

“Drop him!”

“Oh shit oh shit oh shit!”

And another sound, like the mewling of an injured cat played backwards over grinding metal. Incoherent, unintelligible. Angry.

The hair stood up on the back of Johnson’s neck, and he pulled out his pistol by pure reflex.

There was a burst of orange-red light, and the windows of the trailer shattered and blew out in every direction. The sound of the explosion came next—a muffled boom that followed licks of flame reaching up and out of the windows. Shards of glass rained down on the SWAT Troopers nearby. Handfuls of jagged glass peppered the SUV and men at the end of the driveway. Johnson, not far from Major Winston and Schrader, closed his eyes and ducked, hoping the patrol car would shield him from any debris.

“Hell!” Winston spat.

Schrader carefully picked a few glittering crumbs of window from his hair.

The flames grew. Spectral green and blue fingers of heat, reaching up to massage the roof of the trailer.

“All teams, this is Six! Report! Report! What the hell is going on?”

The SWAT Trooper nearest them turned from his position behind a green Ford pickup with no tires. He held out his hands in comedic confusion.

“Get up there, dumbass!” Winston yelped, his finger still on the transmit key, broadcasting the moment of humiliating terror over the radio. “We’ve got men in there! Get them out!”

The Troopers left cover and moved toward the trailer. The blue and green flames were now massive claws, consuming the singlewide. Black smoke poured out of the shattered windows.

“Call the fire department,” Johnson said to himself, willing his legs to carry him to one of the parked patrol cars nearby. “Call for help, have to call for help …”

There was a low hum, and the air went cold and hard with an electric charge.

Johnson froze in place.

The roof of the trailer exploded, and beams of orange and red light shot straight up into the sky, piercing a low bank of clouds. A wave of shimmering air spread outward from the trailer. The singlewide’s walls buckled under some great force, the roof dipping low to the ground and shedding shingles and chunks of flaming jagged wood.

The SWAT Troopers hadn’t made it to the door when the second explosion came; they were knocked backwards and landed in the wet grass and muck. The wave of pulsing light and air struck Johnson (cold, so very cold), the commander, and Agent Schrader, toppling them. Johnson landed palms-down on sharp stones, his hands and fingers bloodied and raw. The windshields on the SUV and patrol cars burst, as did the windows on the other two trailers. Johnson’s breath was suddenly more visible than ever, coming out in near-frozen bursts of white.

The flames churned and Troopers yelled. Winston shouted orders no one could hear or carry out.

Johnson pushed himself up onto his forearms, the sleeves of his uniform torn, his campaign hat missing. Blood leaked out from the center of his forehead and caught along his right eyebrow. Red drip-drip-dripped in his vision, casting the world in ill-focused dark amber.

Plastic siding groaned and snapped; wood splintered. The narrow end of the trailer—from where the explosions had come—curled outward, drawn open by unseen force. Then there was a man—wearing cut-off jean shorts and a faded white undershirt—leaping out of the flames.

The sharp pop-pop of 5.56mm rounds from the SWAT team’s M-4s echoed in the clearing and off the hills. Men shouted; others aimed at the suspect and fired. After a moment of scrambling to get into a steady firing position along the ground, Johnson’s voice and bullets were among theirs. Then his Beretta offered the soft click of an empty chamber and magazine.

The suspect was gone, off somewhere in the trees and the hills beyond.

Major Winston’s helmet was missing. He pulled himself up to the driver’s seat of his SUV, and wiped shards of shattered windshield away from the radio mount.

“All teams, report,” he said. Disjointed voices answered him, confused messages on radio waves and in the air around them.

“One suspect running—”

“Shots fired—”

“Officers down, I say again—”

“Paramedics need to—”

“—within the woods—”

The fire moved along the trailer, taking its sweet time with its meal. The smoke hung low like fog. Ashes rained down, orange snow come early to mark the start of autumn.

Agent Schrader pulled off his sunglasses, revealing dark brown eyes that looked black in the dark of morning and shadow. Smoke rose out of one of his pockets. He pulled out his soft pack of Pall Mall cigarettes, which smoldered, set aflame by an errant ember. He waved the fire out, then snapped the top open to see if any of his cigarettes had survived.

Sergeant Johnson pushed himself up to his feet. His ears rang, his eyes burned. Troopers from the checkpoint at the end of Quackenbush double-timed down to the driveway. Sirens began low, long wails from somewhere west—probably Ellicottville. Johnson’s hand gripped his empty pistol, the fingers and knuckles turning stark white.

His boots slopped against mud, then came to rest over freshly fallen leaves.

The trailer burned. SWAT Troopers pulled the limp forms of their comrades out of the alien flames and black smoke. Major Winston was shouting again. A neighbor had ventured outside and was spraying his garden hose on Bucky’s burning trailer, breaking only to blast away the glowing ash and embers that drifted down onto his own roof. Agent Schrader was on a large rectangular cell phone like something out of an early 90s movie, a half-cigarette dangling from his thin lips. The lonely red tricycle had fallen over, its one wheel in the air spinning round and round.

The wind shook the branches above. It carried the smell of smoke and the sounds of injured men into the deep green hills, into the woods, into the waiting dark.

Larry “Bucky” Green was a two-bit moonshiner with a rap sheet as long as a summer afternoon. Petty larceny, public drunkenness, public urination, illegal discharge of a firearm, and various other typical good-old-country-boy degenerate activities. There was one instance of felony assault (charges later dropped) in that thick folder of his. But, if anyone bothered to ask Sergeant Joe Johnson of the New York State Police, the guy on the bad end of that particular ass beating probably deserved it. But then again, nobody ever bothered to ask Johnson.

This was his turf, supposedly—the deep hills and back roads of central Cattaraugus County, New York. Populated by farmers in old houses, hillbillies and rural folk in single- and double-wide trailers, and effete ski freaks; tourists mostly, slumming it up with the locals in faux-rustic mansions scattered among the foreboding forested hills. Rumor was, even famed four-time-Super Bowl-losing-quarterback Jim Kelly had himself a big cabin out this way. The guy may not have had a ring, but he sure as hell had money.

It was a quiet assignment out here, running the county and state roads between Salamanca, Great Valley, Ellicottville, West Valley, Little Valley, Machias, Franklinville, and elsewhere—save for the occasional poacher, domestic violence incident, and the constant stream of drunk driving citations. With ski season almost upon them, Sergeant Johnson knew the tourists (and belligerent townies) were sure to keep him busy through the dark and endless gray winter months to come.

The people weren’t bad here, for the most part. They just liked to be left alone, to their deer hunting and their cheap beer and their Buffalo Bills football and their pickup trucks and their guns and their John Deere tractors and their four-wheelers. Leave them be, and they were friendly enough to wave as you drove past in your State Trooper SUV, or they might even start a conversation with you while you sucked down jet-black Joe at the Coffee Clatch in Ellicottville. But start mucking around in their business, and, well—it was better not to turn your back on them.

Johnson had been here long enough to know you couldn’t solve every problem with a hammer. The SWAT officers who moved into position around the white singlewide trailer at the edge of the clearing did not share Johnson’s backcountry diplomacy skills. To those guys with the cool gear and shit-hot attitudes, there wasn’t nothing a hammer couldn’t fix the hell out of. Most people out here in the deep country were well-armed. They were just as likely to fly NRA flags as they were the Stars and Stripes. Cops had to be careful, sure. But this was overkill. The SWAT team didn’t seem primed for a simple arrest; they were arrayed for battle.

State Police Major George Winston’s personal dark blue Ford Expedition stood at the entrance of the driveway, flanked by two Trooper patrol cars, one of which was manned by Sergeant Johnson. They were less than 100 yards from the three trailers that sat on each side of the roundabout dirt, mud, and gravel driveway. The target trailer was dead ahead, in the middle, its windows hidden by the swaying fingers of trees just beginning to shed their autumn colors. Gray SUVs, their lights off but their engines running, blocked the adjacent road in both directions—although one direction was a dead end, trailing off into crumbling gravel and weeds. Another pair of State Trooper SUVs stood where Quackenbush Road met Route 242. Early morning traffic buzzed on by, drivers craning their necks to spy on some mysterious manner of local trouble.

The SWAT Troopers, decked out in full kit, wore spit-shined black combat boots that reflected patches of blue morning light. They wore tight-fitting armor and combat gear, webbing loaded with flashlights, pepper spray, handcuffs, ammo magazines, zip strips, flashbangs. They carried M-4 rifles, replete with scopes and lasers Johnson couldn’t even begin to identify. They wore jet-black hockey helmets and large wrap-around goggles, their mouths hidden by patches of gray or black fabric. The State Police this far out from Albany may not have had a huge budget for overtime, but they sure had money to buy all the cool guy gear for the SWAT hotdoggers.

Despite their armor and toys, they moved quickly, taking up positions behind large trees and the rusted-out hulks of cars abandoned in the lawns of the other two trailers in the clearing. The assault team moved straight down the driveway, boots crunching on scattered gravel and mud, past sagging mailboxes and an abandoned red tricycle. Behind one of the trailers a dog began to bark, his voice sad and lonely in the cool October morning.

Two men skirted the target trailer, and, ninja-like, dashed into the weeds and trees beyond, hoping to cover any back doors and windows where Bucky might try and skedaddle. A team of four SWAT Troopers stood perched on the rickety wooden staircase that led up to the trailer’s lime green plastic door. The lead Trooper turned his mouth toward a microphone clipped to his chest plate carrier.

“Blue team, in position,” came his whispered voice over the radio. Major Winston, wearing the same black ninja cammies and kit as the Troopers around the trailer, stood behind the open driver’s side door of his command SUV. He pulled the mic from its mount on the dash.

“Roger,” he said. “Red team? Yellow team?”

Affirmatives from the other team leaders. Winston turned to the side to spit out a stream of tobacco-brown juice.

“I read all teams in position,” Winston said. He turned and looked through Johnson, then his eyes settled on a man at the end of the driveway. That man wore a dark black overcoat and giant aviator sunglasses. His jet-black hair was perfectly parted and slick, shining with oil and specks of dew. The man smoked a stubby Pall Mall, his back to them both, oblivious to the drama that was about to unfold.

Sergeant Johnson had no clue who the G-Man was, or to what department he belonged. He just knew when this guy showed up at the briefing early that morning back in Machias, the SWAT commander’s voice had grown a tad shaky. Everybody at the barracks had given him a width berth.

“We’re ready to arrest the target, Agent Schrader,” Major Winston said, his voice not quite quavering.

Schrader took one last puff on his cigarette. The moon, spectral against the early-morning dim blue sky, reflected in both of his oversized lenses. He let the butt fall to the gravel, and snuffed it out under an immaculately shined black shoe. He turned to face the commander, his shoulders stooped, his head craning forward at an odd angle. The nod was almost imperceptible. Then he ran tar-stained fingers through his hair.

“All teams, this is Six,” Major Winston said. “Butterfly. I say again, butterfly.”

A hundred yards away, the lead Trooper on the steps nodded and gave his team a thumbs up. One of Troopers moved up the staircase with a cylindrical battering ram. Three sharp strikes against the doorknob and the plastic door crunched and collapsed inward. They were all inside the trailer within three seconds.

Sergeant Johnson watched, his hand on the Beretta on his hip. Water splattered against the brim of his Smokey the Bear campaign hat. He looked up to see the wind shaking the branches above him, dislodging leaves and dew. The colors had come early this year. The leaves would fall off soon, leaving the trees barren and sickly until spring. Early fall through deep winter.

Major Winston, standing next to the driver’s seat behind the open door of the SUV, tapped his fingers against the dashboard in an uneven rhythm. Agent Schrader shuffled forward, his fingers wiping at his salt-and-pepper mustache, his mouth twisted into a detached frown.

The SWAT Troopers outside the trailer raised their weapons and scanned windows, looking for targets.

“First room, clear!” someone yelled from inside the trailer.

“Short room! Bathroom, clear!”

“Door!”

“Stacking!”

“Hit it!”

“Breaching!” A crash, splintering wood and plastic.

“Get down, get down!”

There was a loud pop, and a flash of light.

“Flashbang,” Winston said, a nervous, wrinkled smile on his face. An older guy, sure, but he still had the energy of youth around his features.

Boots stomped on creaking floorboards. Then there was silence.

Sergeant Johnson looked from the trailer to the commander, from the commander to the trailer. The SWAT cops crouched behind cars and trees looked through scopes and down rifle sights. They waited as time slowed to a crawl. The silence was eternal.

The dog stopped barking. There was only the wind, and the sound of Johnson’s own heartbeat in his ears. The strap on his pistol holster had come undone, and his hand hovered just above the 9mm, fingertips stealing kisses from cool gun metal.

Five seconds. Ten.

Nothing.

The commander’s smile had disappeared. Sweat beaded along the edge of his forehead, trailing down from the rim of his helmet, despite the cool of the day.

Then the shouting. Voices in the trailer, panicked, almost incoherent.

“Put him down! Down!”

“Drop it!”

“Drop him!”

“Oh shit oh shit oh shit!”

And another sound, like the mewling of an injured cat played backwards over grinding metal. Incoherent, unintelligible. Angry.

The hair stood up on the back of Johnson’s neck, and he pulled out his pistol by pure reflex.

There was a burst of orange-red light, and the windows of the trailer shattered and blew out in every direction. The sound of the explosion came next—a muffled boom that followed licks of flame reaching up and out of the windows. Shards of glass rained down on the SWAT Troopers nearby. Handfuls of jagged glass peppered the SUV and men at the end of the driveway. Johnson, not far from Major Winston and Schrader, closed his eyes and ducked, hoping the patrol car would shield him from any debris.

“Hell!” Winston spat.

Schrader carefully picked a few glittering crumbs of window from his hair.

The flames grew. Spectral green and blue fingers of heat, reaching up to massage the roof of the trailer.

“All teams, this is Six! Report! Report! What the hell is going on?”

The SWAT Trooper nearest them turned from his position behind a green Ford pickup with no tires. He held out his hands in comedic confusion.

“Get up there, dumbass!” Winston yelped, his finger still on the transmit key, broadcasting the moment of humiliating terror over the radio. “We’ve got men in there! Get them out!”

The Troopers left cover and moved toward the trailer. The blue and green flames were now massive claws, consuming the singlewide. Black smoke poured out of the shattered windows.

“Call the fire department,” Johnson said to himself, willing his legs to carry him to one of the parked patrol cars nearby. “Call for help, have to call for help …”

There was a low hum, and the air went cold and hard with an electric charge.

Johnson froze in place.

The roof of the trailer exploded, and beams of orange and red light shot straight up into the sky, piercing a low bank of clouds. A wave of shimmering air spread outward from the trailer. The singlewide’s walls buckled under some great force, the roof dipping low to the ground and shedding shingles and chunks of flaming jagged wood.

The SWAT Troopers hadn’t made it to the door when the second explosion came; they were knocked backwards and landed in the wet grass and muck. The wave of pulsing light and air struck Johnson (cold, so very cold), the commander, and Agent Schrader, toppling them. Johnson landed palms-down on sharp stones, his hands and fingers bloodied and raw. The windshields on the SUV and patrol cars burst, as did the windows on the other two trailers. Johnson’s breath was suddenly more visible than ever, coming out in near-frozen bursts of white.

The flames churned and Troopers yelled. Winston shouted orders no one could hear or carry out.

Johnson pushed himself up onto his forearms, the sleeves of his uniform torn, his campaign hat missing. Blood leaked out from the center of his forehead and caught along his right eyebrow. Red drip-drip-dripped in his vision, casting the world in ill-focused dark amber.

Plastic siding groaned and snapped; wood splintered. The narrow end of the trailer—from where the explosions had come—curled outward, drawn open by unseen force. Then there was a man—wearing cut-off jean shorts and a faded white undershirt—leaping out of the flames.

The sharp pop-pop of 5.56mm rounds from the SWAT team’s M-4s echoed in the clearing and off the hills. Men shouted; others aimed at the suspect and fired. After a moment of scrambling to get into a steady firing position along the ground, Johnson’s voice and bullets were among theirs. Then his Beretta offered the soft click of an empty chamber and magazine.

The suspect was gone, off somewhere in the trees and the hills beyond.

Major Winston’s helmet was missing. He pulled himself up to the driver’s seat of his SUV, and wiped shards of shattered windshield away from the radio mount.

“All teams, report,” he said. Disjointed voices answered him, confused messages on radio waves and in the air around them.

“One suspect running—”

“Shots fired—”

“Officers down, I say again—”

“Paramedics need to—”

“—within the woods—”

The fire moved along the trailer, taking its sweet time with its meal. The smoke hung low like fog. Ashes rained down, orange snow come early to mark the start of autumn.

Agent Schrader pulled off his sunglasses, revealing dark brown eyes that looked black in the dark of morning and shadow. Smoke rose out of one of his pockets. He pulled out his soft pack of Pall Mall cigarettes, which smoldered, set aflame by an errant ember. He waved the fire out, then snapped the top open to see if any of his cigarettes had survived.

Sergeant Johnson pushed himself up to his feet. His ears rang, his eyes burned. Troopers from the checkpoint at the end of Quackenbush double-timed down to the driveway. Sirens began low, long wails from somewhere west—probably Ellicottville. Johnson’s hand gripped his empty pistol, the fingers and knuckles turning stark white.

His boots slopped against mud, then came to rest over freshly fallen leaves.

The trailer burned. SWAT Troopers pulled the limp forms of their comrades out of the alien flames and black smoke. Major Winston was shouting again. A neighbor had ventured outside and was spraying his garden hose on Bucky’s burning trailer, breaking only to blast away the glowing ash and embers that drifted down onto his own roof. Agent Schrader was on a large rectangular cell phone like something out of an early 90s movie, a half-cigarette dangling from his thin lips. The lonely red tricycle had fallen over, its one wheel in the air spinning round and round.

The wind shook the branches above. It carried the smell of smoke and the sounds of injured men into the deep green hills, into the woods, into the waiting dark.

Read Chapter 2

The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre by Jonathan Raab is published by Literati Press Comics & Novels. It is available on Amazon for Kindle and paperback, and signed copies are available directly from Muzzleland Press.

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