Strange Brew, Chapter 20

  • Posted on August 23, 2023 at 12:43 pm

A quick recap of the Story Thus Far: Rural paramedic Nettie Hastings finds herself in the middle of a flurry of unexplained overdose calls and, with the help of her best friend and former lover, Terry Wilder, has begun putting clues together linking the source to her own hometown. Some suspect Terry’s involvement, as his ex-wife is a convicted drug trafficker. A DEA agent named Bridgette Ramscone is brought in to work the case, and she takes a special interest in Nettie who, in the meantime, has entered into a clandestine affair with Terry’s preteen daughter Halee. It turns out that Terry’s ex Kathryn is the linchpin of the criminal enterprise behind the overdoses. A showdown occurs in which Halee is shot, and Terry taken hostage. Nettie does a little snooping and, with the help of retired drug trafficker Adam Bixley, unearths a massive stash of heroin left there by Kathryn’s gang.

For a more detailed breakdown of this story’s chapters, please consult the Chapter Links.

by Rachael Yukey

“You can drop me off back at my four-wheeler,” Adam Bixley told Agent Bridgett Ranscone.

“Mr. Bixley,” she said with considerable starch, “I’m not letting you out of my sight just yet. Mostly for your own protection, now that you know what’s in that tunnel.”

We climbed into the Suburban – the swarthy man driving, Bridgett at his side, and the third agent, an intense-looking young black man, clambering awkwardly into the third-row seat. It was myself, Adam, and the tall blonde agent in the second row, with Adam adroitly inserting himself into the middle before either myself or Blondie could get in.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said. “It’s not every day a man my age gets to be the meat in this kind of sandwich.”

As the Suburban jounced over the rough terrain, Bridgett turned towards where I sat behind the driver.

“About twenty minutes ago,” she said, “half a dozen unmarked white vans parked along the highway near Smokey Bear State Park, then unloaded approximately eight men per van, wearing quasi-military uniforms and carrying assault rifles. Some heavier, crew-served weapons also seem to be involved. They surrounded the DEA agents and police officers staking out the cabin where Terry Wilder is being held, and demanded that they stand down. There really wasn’t any choice in the matter; our people were outnumbered and outgunned.”

My insides twisted. “Who are they?”

“Mercenaries. The commander has been identified as one Jameson Hayes, a longtime hatchet man for Gordon Musciari. Ever heard of him?”

“Jesus bleeding Christ,” Adam burst out. “Is that bastard still on the loose?”

Bridgett favored him with a thin smile. “You would know his name, wouldn’t you, Mr. Bixley? When it comes to the international narcotics trade, he’s the kingpin of kingpins, yet nobody has ever gotten enough on him to take him down. He’s the Holy Grail of drug busts.”

The Suburban eased out of the driveway to the locker, accelerating onto the comparatively smooth gravel.

“What does he want with Terry?” I demanded to know.

“I doubt if he’s interested in Terry at all,” countered Bridgett. “Think about it. All that heroin was supplied by someone with a lot more access to finance than Kathryn Wilder currently has. That someone is probably pretty pissed off that the facility is under our control, even if they don’t know whether or not we’ve found the heroin. I’m guessing they’re after Ms. Wilder.”

“But what would they want with her, if she can’t get at the drugs?”

The tall blonde agent was shaking her head before I’d finished speaking. “It’s a mistake to think in strictly rational, dollars and cents terms here,” she said. “A man like Musciari lives by his reputation for ruthlessness. He wants people scared of him. If Kathryn just lost him several million worth of heroin, he has to make an example of her.”

“I got threatened a time or three when I was in the business,” Adam put in.

“So… what does this mean for Terry?” We were on asphalt now, the lights of home on the horizon.

“They might still use him as a hostage to secure whatever exit strategy they have planned,” said Bridgett, “but they’ll almost certainly waste him once they’re done. This just turned into a full-on rescue operation. Our only saving grace is that they appear to be approaching very cautiously. Our people on the ground believe the mercenaries are operating under the impression that Kathryn is in possession of far more manpower and weaponry than she actually has.”

I was starting to feel sick. “Is there a plan?”

Bridgett grimaced. “Not yet. The governor has been asked to call up the National Guard. DEA agents are good, but we’re not trained or equipped to take on mercs with assault rifles. Meanwhile, I’ve been ordered north to take command of our agents there.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why you?”

Bridgett smiled sweetly. “Because I really am that good.”

The swarthy man signaled left onto second street, and pulled up to the curb next to the fire station.

“Am I not allowed to leave your sight, either?” I challenged Bridgett.

“Honestly, I have no grounds to forcibly hold either of you. Mr. Bixley, we really would prefer that you remain in the company of agents for the moment. Ms. Hastings, I’d like you to come with me to International Falls.”

“Wait… what?”

“A helicopter will be landing at the airstrip in about ten minutes to pick me up. I’d like you on it.”

“But why?”

“Because my first choice combat medic is on sick leave, and my second choice can’t be there for almost six hours. You’re right here, and between what I’ve seen of your work and my examination of your records, you have a history of solid decision-making and a cool head under pressure. I called up your boss at Thormleton, by the way. Greg Wahlberg says you’re the most gifted young medic he ever trained.”

“For fuck’s sake,” I said. “I’m not a combat medic. I’m the clinical director of a dinky mom-and-pop service in Johnstown, Minnesota. Thormelton Ambulance, old people shitting in diapers a specialty. Besides, I’m not an employee of your organization. How will that even work, for legal purposes?”

Bridgett smiled. “For legal purposes, I have the authority to mobilize civilians with appropriate specialties, so for the duration of the mobilization, you’re an employee. You’ll even get a paycheck. If you’re worried about direction, I can guarantee our medical director will rubber-stamp my choice. As far as your abilities, I trust both my research and my gut. You’ve got what it takes for this. What do you say? I need a decision; I have to get to the airstrip.”

I thought fast. A desire to be where Terry was, to be part of the team that was coming to his aid, warred with my sense of responsibility to his daughters. The thought of Terry’s desperate situation wracked not only my mind but my entire body. I squeezed my eyes shut, fighting back the tears. This is what friendship is, I realized. To love somebody so much that losing them would be devastating. It occurred to me that Terry and Halee might just be the first people I’ve ever truly felt that for, at least since… I pushed the thought away.

Another truth was pervasive: the younger girls would be fine. My mom was delighting in having young children to care for, and would be thrilled to continue for awhile longer. The fact that it was more ego satisfaction on her part than genuine empathy mattered not even a little.

I opened my eyes. A single tear fell from each, but for the first time since I was a little girl, I didn’t care if people saw me cry. Tears still on my cheeks, I looked Bridgett straight in the eye. “What are we waiting for?”


What Bridgett had referred to as ‘the airstrip’ is in fact the Bronning Municipal Airport, but that name is an exercise in self-aggrandizement. Roughly a mile south of town, it consists of two old steel-sided hangers, a small air control tower, and an unpaved runway. To even call it an airstrip seems to be stretching the definition.

The helicopter was landing as we arrived, its lights blinding us as it settled into the grass. I’ve put enough patients onto whirlybirds that I know how to approach one, and I automatically crouched low, putting myself in the pilot’s line of sight.

Difficult though this may be to believe, I’d never flown before. I got my critical care certification with a specific eye towards becoming a flight medic, but then never did, and what little traveling I’ve done in my life has been by car.

My stomach dropped as the ground fell away, the lights of the airport fading swiftly into the darkness. I’d expected to be terrified, but it was exhilarating. My god, I’ve been missing out. I only wished that it was daytime, so I could see more of what was below.

“Wind conditions are ideal,” the pilot’s voice announced through my headset. “We’re looking good to make International Falls in less than an hour.”

Bridgett was texting rapidly on her cellphone. Finally she put it down, unmuted her headset mic, and turned to me.

“The cabin in question is at the end of a row,” she said. “There are more cabins in a line going west from the building Kathryn Wilder and her people are holed up in. The access road is on the north side, and there’s forest on the opposite side of the road. There’s also forest behind the cabins… that’s the south side… although it only goes back about half a mile before it hits some fairly sheer drops down to a dried-up riverbed. There’s nothing but woods on the east side of the cabin. Essentially, the cabin is flanked by forest on the north, east, and south sides.

“It seems the mercenary units have dispersed into the woods on those three sides, with one unit using the cabin immediately west of 505 as cover. So they’ve got cabin 505 surrounded. We’re not sure exactly where all of the units in the woods are located, but they seem to be proceeding with extreme caution. We’re pretty sure they expect Kathryn to have a lot more firepower than she does. Which is good. It buys us time.”

“Time for what?” I asked.

“Well, the governor has agreed to call up the National Guard, and we’re in luck – there’s an Army Guard field exercise taking place right now, on some state land only about an hour from International Falls. I’m guessing the mercs don’t know that, or they wouldn’t have taken the risk. Still, it takes time to get military units loaded up and moving, and we won’t see any soldiers in position for a couple of hours. Hopefully the mercs’ inflated notion of Kathryn Wilder’s capabilities slows them down enough for the Guard to get their asses in gear, because I simply don’t have enough agents on the ground to do anything effective against the numbers and firepower we’re dealing with. Have you ever been to International Falls, Nettie?”

“Yeah,” I said, my face contorting in a grimace, “my grandparents on my dad’s side lived there. When I was little, we used to drive up a couple of times a year. I got sick every time. I’m probably allergic to something that paper factory is spewing out of its smokestacks.”

Bridgett smiled sympathetically. “Hopefully we won’t get close enough to town for that to be a problem.”


We landed in a large clearing on the edge of Smokey Bear. There was a thirty-foot trailer in the center, obviously a mobile command post, and a large number of vehicles. Police cars, black SUVs, and armored rigs that I assumed must belong to a local SWAT team.

A short young blonde woman approached at a fast jog. Obviously of Norwegian ancestry, she looked like an adult version of Naomi Wilder. I pegged her at roughly my age; mid-twenties or so. She was wearing a gray uniform that looked like combat garb, but there were trauma shears and a penlight poking from the thigh pockets of her tactical pants. Over her right breast pocket, the name SVENSON was emblazoned. The patch over the left breast read PARAMEDIC. There was a critical care patch on her left sleeve. Slowing to a walk as she approached, she eyed me dubiously. I realized I was the only person present wearing street clothes.

Bridgett faced her as she approached. “Are you the local SWAT medic?” she inquired, as the young woman came to a halt before us.

“That’s right. Clarice Svenson.”

“I’m Bridgett Ramscone, incident commander. This is Antoinette Hastings.” Bridgett gestured towards me. “She’s a paramedic on special assignment to the DEA, and will be taking command of on-scene EMS. I’d appreciate it if you’d get her up to speed, but do it quickly. Time may be short.” Bridgett set off in the direction of the command trailer.

Clarice Svenson stuck out her hand, a sour expression on her face. She obviously resented my presence, and I couldn’t honestly say that I blamed her. I shook her hand.

“Pleased to meet you, Antoinette,” she said, sounding anything but. “Come with me, please.”

She turned on her heel and set off towards where most of the armored vehicles were consolidated. With a couple of long strides to catch up, I fell in beside her. I understood why this pretty young SWAT paramedic, specifically trained to operate in crisis situations, was upset that I was taking over what should have been her job, but that didn’t change the reality that I had been placed in charge. I was damned if I would trail along behind.

“We have local EMS staged just outside of the park,” she informed me as we walked. “As many crews as we could get. There are three ALS ambulances, and two BLS. They’re regular, unprotected street ambulances, so we can’t bring them anywhere near the scene. If there are more patients than the two of us can handle, we’ll have to use whatever resources we’ve got to get them out of the hot zone.”

“How far away is that?” I wanted to know.

“Almost a mile.”

“Shit,” I said. “What do you mean, the two of us? Didn’t they send you out with a partner?”

She snorted. “This is International Falls, not St. Paul. The SWAT team has one medic, and one EMT. We get called up maybe once a year. My usual EMT is in fucking Fargo right now. You are my partner.”

I considered telling her the county I lived in didn’t sport a single city boasting a SWAT team of any description, but decided to let that one go. We’d entered the little enclave of armored vehicles, and she stopped in front of a six-wheeled machine, vaguely hexagonal in appearance. It looked excitingly chunky.

“Here’s our ambulance,” she said.

I felt my eyes bulge. “Are you fucking kidding me right now?”

She looked up at me with unconcealed scorn. “You really are new at this sort of thing, aren’t you? I’m not trying to be a bitch, but I don’t understand what you’re doing here.” She let out a heavy sigh, then beckoned with a sweep of her arm. “Come on.”

We entered through a thick steel side door. There was a standard Stryker ambulance cot, a Zoll monitor, and a bunch of wall cabinets. I couldn’t see what was in them, because the doors were steel instead of the usual transparent plastic. As per usual, there was a chair at the head of the cot, and a bench seat on the passenger’s side. The cot was set against the driver’s side wall, precluding the jump seat to which I was accustomed.

There were screens embedded into the upper walls on the driver’s side, with what appeared to be a map on the one in the center. I pointed at it.

“What’s that screen telling me?” I wanted to know.

“That’s the area,” she said. She indicated a big red dot. “There’s the cabin. The little green dots around it are the estimated positions of the mercenaries. Over here,” she pointed to a series of orange dots, “are the ambulances that are staged. The big blue dot is Rainy Lake Medical Center. That’s the International Falls hospital, and it’s our only option for transport. It’s a level four trauma center.”

I considered the map for a moment, then turned my attention back to Clarice. “So… we have one hospital, which can basically do nothing for severe trauma, and we already have as many trucks as we can get.”

“Right,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied. “Walk me through the equipment and supplies in this rig. Just an overview; I’ll be counting on your knowledge of the layout if shit gets real.”

Clarice might have been resentful of my presence, but she was nothing if not professional. She gave me a rapid-fire rundown of what we carried and where it was located, pausing to point out quirks and abnormalities.

We were working on the last cabinet when my phone rang. I pulled it out of my back pocket, and almost did a double take as my eyes fell upon the screen.

“Holy shit, it’s Terry,” I said.

Svensons’s eyebrows shot up. ”You mean the hostage?!”

I nodded as I swiped the accept button. “Terry! Where are you? What…”

“Nettie, stop talking.” His voice was low and urgent. I could hear a weird gurgling sound in the background. “How quick can you get hold of Ramscone?”

“She’s only fifty yards or so away. What’s going on?”

“A very tight, wet space is what’s going on,” he replied, still sotto voce. “Kathryn’s boys were freaking out about something and left me unsupervised in the back room of the cabin, upon which I did the logical thing and bolted the fuck out the door and into the woods. Only to run into some kind of weird-ass paramilitary organization. These people don’t look like agents or police of any description, but they’re everywhere and are sporting some very large, very ugly guns. I’m just lucky I saw them before they saw me. I’m wedged into a drainage culvert, and here I stay until I figure out who the righteous fuck these people are.”

“Terry…” I said. “Christ. Stay on the line.”

Covering the phone with my hand, I turned to Clarice. “I have to go talk to Ramscone. I’ll be back in a few.”

She shrugged. “I’ll wait.”

I ducked out of the side door, making for the command trailer at a dead run. Bridgett, after hearing my report, asked me to put my phone on speaker.

“Mr. Wilder, ” she said, “can you give me an estimate of how far you are from the cabin?”

“I’d say maybe a quarter mile at most.”

“Okay, very good. How many of these armed individuals do you think have passed your location since you went to ground?”

“I’ve heard three. One went right over the top of me.”

“Mr. Wilder, I’m sorry, but why are you calling instead of texting?”

“I tried, but my fingers are too numb to text. I was barely able to get into my contact list.”

“Fuck,” Bridgett muttered under her breath. “Okay, listen carefully. Those individuals are closing in on the cabin, and you’re probably outside of their circle by now. But that doesn’t mean it would be smart for you to extricate yourself. Here’s what I’d like you to do. Put your phone on vibrate, and keep it somewhere you’ll feel when it rings. Unless your situation changes, do not contact us, we will contact you. We’re going to triangulate on your phone, and send someone to get you out of there. Do you understand, Mr. Wilder?”

“Got it. No worries, I have nothing but time here.”

Bridgett made a slashing motion across her throat, and I terminated the connection. She was already turning to one of her subordinates.

“We should have Mr. Wilder’s cell number on file,” she said. “We can use that to ascertain exactly where he’s located, then send in a team to extract him. Get some people on it. The quicker we can get him out of there and negate his usefulness as a hostage, the better.”


“Team Beta is in position.” the radio feed informed me. Clarice Svenson and I were hunkered down in the back of our armored ambulance, positioned as close as we could get to Terry’s location without giving anything away.

“Team Beta, this is Incident Command,” Bridgett’s voice replied. “You’re a go to move in. Radio silence from this point; no further contact until mission objectives are accomplished or assistance is required. Command is clear.”

A thought occurred to me. I plucked the microphone from its clip. “EMS One to Incident Command.”

“This is command,” said Bridgett.

“The transporting ambulances are over a mile from our present location,” I said. “Can I have some units assigned for emergency transfer to the cold zone?” Clarice glanced sharply in my direction, surprised appreciation written on her face.

“I’ll send two armored trucks to your location,” Bridgett replied. “I’ll also ask for volunteers from the EMS units in the cold zone to staff them; maybe one EMT per truck with a go bag. They can move patients out of the hot zone if you deem them sufficiently stable. Will that suffice?”

It was more than I’d dared to hope for, and certainly the best I was going to get. “Copy,” I said. “That will do, and thank you.”

“Good call,” Clarice said, a hint of grudging admiration in her tone.

“Thanks,” I said, trying to keep my voice neutral.

We sat back and watched the center screen. Terry’s cellphone was lit up in violet, in the woods directly south of the cabin from which he’d escaped. It was the one piece of information we could be sure the mercenaries surrounding the cabin didn’t have. The transponders from Team Beta, moving in to extract him, showed up in yellow. There were four of them, moving in carefully from different points of the compass, converging on Terry’s location. Suddenly one of them stopped moving, and the light signifying that agent began to flash.

“The flashing means that unit has encountered an obstacle of some kind,” Clarice informed me. “They have a little button they press that changes our display like this. The other agents out there will have gotten it too. See how all four of them are holding in place?”

Indeed, all four yellow lights had ceased to move forward. My eyes were riveted to the screen.

“The hostage… he’s someone you’re close to?” Clarice said suddenly.

“My best friend,” I told her.

She regarded me thoughtfully, sympathy written on her face. Despite her initial misgivings, I felt that she was warming up to me.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “That really sucks. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve worked with the feds before. They’re pretty good at this.”

Eventually the yellow to the northwest ceased to flash, and the four lights began moving in again. Twice more, one yellow light or the other flashed, and all four held in place. Each pause was pure agony, my guts clenching to the point of nausea for fear of what might happen to Terry. The third time they stopped moving, Clarice reached out and took my hand. I squeezed tightly, fighting back tears, grateful that I wasn’t alone.

Finally the four yellow lights converged upon the violet one. Agonizing minutes later, all five lights, four yellow and one violet, were moving rapidly away from the cabin, heading straight east.

“Beta One to Incident Command,” a tenor male voice squawked across the airwaves.

“Go for command,” Bridgett’s voice acknowledged.

“We have Subject Omega in hand, repeat, Subject Omega is in our custody. We are moving east away from the cabin, and will circle around to the location of EMS One. Acknowledge.”

“Command acknowledges,” Bridgett replied, “and well done. No further communication unless absolutely necessary. EMS One, did you copy?”

“EMS copies,” I said, fighting back the urge to ask for a patient update.

It took team Beta over ten minutes to reach us – circling around to the north, then back to where we were situated towards the end of the long row of cabins. There was a sharp rap on the side hatch. Clarice released a lever, and the door swung open, revealing four agents in camouflage and a shivering, disheveled Terry Wilder, still in the same clothes he’d been wearing on that mad dash to the farmstead on Shadow Lake Road.

One of the agents gave him a boost from below, with Clarice and I drawing him up into the rig by his elbows. He looked at Clarice with a weary smile, then fixed his gaze on me as we eased him onto the cot.

Nettie?!” he exclaimed, “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Long story,” I told him. “Just rest. How do you feel?”

“Like the fourth day of a three-day weekend.”

“Cute. Does anything hurt?”

“I can’t feel my fingers or toes.”

Clarice was already examining one of his hands. “I don’t think he’s got frostbite yet,” she said.

“You checking the feet, too?” I asked, as I wrapped a pressure cuff around Terry’s arm.

“Got it,” she said. I saw out of the corner of my eye that she already had a shoe and sock off.

Once we got to work, Clarice and I had an instant rapport. It seemed to take almost no time for the two of us to have the wet clothes off him, pack his pits and groin with heat packs, get a hot hat on, and cover him with warm blankets. I got an IV started while Clarice spiked a bag of fluids from the warmer.

“What’s your name, pretty lady?” Terry asked, eyes fixed on Clarice as she hung the bag. He was wearing that goddamn lopsided grin I knew so well.

“I’m Clarice,” she said cheerfully, “and I can see you’re very charming. So I’ll save you the trouble: I’m gay.”

“Well, hell,” said Terry. “I had this whole spiel I was about to lay on you. Now it’s all going to waste.”

“Let’s focus, loverboy,” I admonished him. “Any pain anywhere?”

“Just my fingers, where the circulation is coming back. And before you ask, I’m not suffering from dizziness, nausea, or shortness of breath.”

I chuckled, studying the monitor. Terry’s vitals were good, the ECG unremarkable.

“Okay,” I said. “I think we can send him for transport to the hospital in one of the BLS rigs.”

“I don’t need to go to the hospital,” Terry protested.

“The hell you don’t,” I said. “You’re dehydrated and a touch hypothermic. Don’t make me punch you in the balls, Terry.”

“I want to go home and see the girls. Speaking of which, any further news on Halee’s condition?”

“Not since I last texted you,” I said. “Besides, the girls are in bed asleep. Go to the hospital for an hour or two, get your core temperature up, and then maybe you won’t look like dogshit when you see them. Don’t fight me on this; I will punch you in the balls.”

Terry fixed his eyes on Clarice, looking for sympathy. “She really is kind of a bitch, isn’t she?”

“What are friends for?” I said.


We helped Terry out of the rig and into one of the armored trucks that had been assigned to our location.

“Make sure you send him in one of the BLS rigs,” I reminded the driver. “He’s stable, and we might need the ALS rigs here. As soon as you offload, come right back. You guys are our only link to the cold zone.”

As we clambered back on board, my cellphone was ringing. It was Bridgett.

“Put me on speaker so I can talk to both of you,” she said.

I took the phone away from my ear, hit the speaker button, and set the phone down on a cabinet. “You’re on,” I told her.

“Okay,” she said, “this isn’t going out over a radio channel yet, but the National Guard has arrived. Some units will probably be moving past your position in a few minutes. As near as we can tell, the mercenaries are now set up in a tight little circle around the cabin. The merc commander is calling for the surrender of the cabin’s occupants. There’s been a single shot fired that we think came from inside the cabin itself.”

“Does the Guard being here change our status?” I wanted to know. As I spoke, I saw lights passing our location through the armored ambulance’s narrow viewports. It didn’t look like the light patterns you’d see from normal highway vehicles, and I had to assume it was the National Guard.

“For the moment, you’re still the first line of emergency care,” she said. “The Guard was able to get infantry deployed very quickly, but medical units are lagging. The Guard units are planning to cordon off the entire area, then announce themselves. No reason to be subtle, now that Terry Wilder is out of play. The mercs can’t outfight the Guard, so how bad this gets will depend on how far they’re willing to go to avoid prison. Stay ready.”

Looking at the animated map, I watched new lights, silver this time, fan out around the area occupied by the mercenaries. “I take it that’s the Guard,” I said. Clarice merely nodded. I couldn’t help but notice that the Guard units were only covering three sides.

“What about the south end?” I said.

“That’s where the old riverbed is,” she reminded me. “It’s basically a big cliff back there. They probably figure nobody will be suicidal enough to try going that way.”

Long, agonizing minutes stretched out. Finally I had to break the silence.

“What you said to Terry…”

“Is true,” she broke in. “I’m a lesbian. My gaydar says you kind of swing in that direction, too.”

I chuckled. “Oh, yes.”

The radio screeched. “This is Lieutenant Colonel Tim Dunn, State of Minnesota Army National Guard,” a voice proclaimed. “Mercenary units surrounding Cabin 505, we’ve been monitoring your radio traffic. If you wish to communicate with our units, please switch over to channel one zero niner. Respond, please.”

Clarice and I glanced at each other, waiting with baited breath.

“Mercenary units, this is Lieutenant Colonel Dunn of the Army National Guard, and we have your location surrounded. We are observing with night vision, and can give you a precise numbering of your present personnel, and their locations. If you do not respond, we will begin closing on your position.”

“Army National Guard,” a harsh, slightly accented voice burst forth. “We have what you’re after. We’ve captured Kathryn Wilder. If you want her, you let us pass undisturbed.”

“I have no orders to capture a specific individual,” Colonel Dunn replied, “merely to cordon off this area and prevent personnel within from escaping. To be clear: nobody is getting through this line. Attempt any such, and you will be fired upon. Do I make myself clear?”

“National Guard,” said the accented voice in a mocking tone. “We will now exit the building we currently occupy, using the road to the north. We advise you to stand aside and let us pass, unless you actually want this to come down to a fight. Do I make myself clear?”

“Mercenary units,” Colonel Dunn’s voice replied once more, “You are certainly welcome to try. Be advised that we have night vision both on the ground and drone-mounted, as well as body armor and armored vehicles. Moreover, we have assumed defensive positions, whereas it will be necessary for your troops to expose themselves while exiting the facility. I repeat, attempt to break our line, and you will be fired upon.”

A minute or so later, from a distance, there were burp-burp noises, repeating and in short bursts.

“Goddamn it,” Clarice said bleakly. “That’s the assault rifles going off. Looks like we’re going to matter after all.”

It went on for a few more minutes, and then there was silence.

“Incident Command to EMS One,” Bridgett’s voice cut in.

“EMS,” I replied.

“The mercenaries have surrendered, but a number of them were injured in the brief fighting that took place. Casualties coming your way.”

The first to arrive was dead; a shot had gone right through his temple. A half dozen more came through, with varying degrees of injury, all bullet wounds. Clarice and I bandaged them up, stabilized them if need be, and shipped them off to the waiting ambulances outside the park. As EMS commander, I made the calls for ALS or BLS, and how many per ambulance. The last to arrive had been shot through the heart, and had been dead long enough to have cooled. Nor was he wearing the same quasi-military garb as the mercenaries. He also had a nasty tib-fib deformity. I was shocked to realize it was one of Kathryn’s hired guns; the one who had fallen and broken his leg back at the farm on Shadow Lake Road. That was the shot from inside the cabin, I realized, wondering if Kathryn had pulled the trigger herself.

Finally all the patients and dead bodies had been shipped off, and Clarice and I sat alone in the back of the armored ambulance, momentarily forgotten in the general hubbub. We were even isolated from the driver up front, separated by a heavy steel hatch.

“I’m sorry if I was a bitch at first,” she said. “You’re really good. I was proud to serve under you.”

“Forget it,” I said with a shrug. “I kind of got sucked into this, and I get why you didn’t like it. You’re one of the best I’ve worked with.”

We were seated side-by-side on the bench seat, and she placed her hand on my thigh. “I’ve never told anybody this before,” she said, “but the adrenaline letdown right after bad shit happens always messes up my hormones. I’m crazy horny right now.”

I realized that I was feeling the same way. “You and me both,” I said.

She slid her fingers up my thigh, unbuttoned my jeans, and slipped a hand inside. A moment later I followed suit, my fingers sliding beneath her tac pants and underwear. She was deliciously wet. We sat there that way, fingering one another, delighting in each other’s raspy breath and gasps of pleasure.

Clarice came first, pressing her sopping pussy hard against my fingers and throwing an arm across her mouth to stifle the moans. My climax hit a moment later, intense bursts of pleasure practically overloading my nerve centers. I clenched my teeth to minimize the noise.

On to Chapter Twenty-one!


26 Comments on Strange Brew, Chapter 20

  1. Kim & Sue says:

    Thrilling chapter all the way. So relived about Terry. And Nettie and Clarice, well we had a feeling something would happen but we were sure caught off guard as to when and where.

    Great descriptions and dialog all through this incredibly tense chapter. Once again Rachael a fantastic chapter adding to this already wonderful story.

  2. kacey says:

    WOW!! I’m so invested in this story, it took me a second read through to notice the sex lasted two short paragraphs!! By Odin’s Law, you can write a Saga, Racheal!! Thank you 😊

  3. Captain Midnight says:

    Terrific chapter!

    What is it about Nettie that makes women throw themselves at her right after saying hello? It is kind of disconcerting.

  4. Carol Anne says:

    Rachael, another well written and detailed chapter. I was riveted to the story to the end and what a hot ending! I was wondering if Nettie was going to make a move and was surprised when Clarice made the first move. Clarice was so ramped up that she went right for Nettie’s jeans and dug right in with Nettie soon to follow. Can’t wait to read what happens next chapter.

  5. Erocritique says:

    I was really glad Terry made it out alive. I think it would have been too much for the girls to lose both parents, even if Nettie would have still been there. – And it would have been especially hard on Halee. The sex scene kinda caught me off guard, but it was understandable considering the post crisis endorphins rush. I agree with Captain Midnight that Nettie must be irresistible. Oddly enough, I actually knew a couple women like that in my lifetime. One named Diana looked remarkably like the girls in the JS header. Nettie is definitely special. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  6. Brother_Bethor says:

    Stryker, huh? That county has some serious shit in their disposal even if it wasn’t armed. Anyway, the story is very riveting. Great read!

  7. Powertenor246 says:

    Absolutely excellent chapter, Rach!! You prove more and more with every chapter you write that I was completely correct in what I wrote before. Flat out top shelf story construction, period full stop. Love it, Love it, Love it!! Keep ’em coming!!!


  8. Nikki says:

    Excellently well written chapter … the story is one of the best!

  9. dw says:

    Wow! (That’s it – that’s the whole post!)

  10. Swampthing99 says:

    I’m certainly glad I was wrong about the possibility of the Terry might not make it out. I love this story and like so many other people the lack of sex and some of the chapters is absolutely fine. I just hope that after the drama is over you go back and tie up all the potential sexual loose ends with the people Antoinette has met along the way. I also am looking forward to you revealing what her secret is that keeps coming back and causing her so much trouble. Thanks again for your wonderful writing.

    • Rachael Yukey says:

      It’s already been disclosed that this is a 23 chapter story, so given that this is chapter 20 I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that loose ends will be tied in pretty short order…

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