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Jul 02, 2020

General

                            Community Run

                                 by

                          John Meiners, Jr.

     Samantha couldn't believe what she and Jesse just saw, though she wasn't sure Jesse would ever admit it. The stories passed down by her Grandfather, in her mind anyway, were validated. The aliens did come to Community, and their ability to change forms was true. Looking around, she wonders if some in the lobby are aliens. 

     Samantha is a lawyer and writer, a sci fi writer whose only book had sales that were nothing to write home about. She wants to write another, but ideas have eluded her until now.  Suddenly a literary treasure chest has opened. Samantha and Jesse had finished their investigation and when Jesse returned Candy's lost engagement ring, she in a moment of exhilaration, asked Monroe the owner and manager of Deer Run Lodge if she could go for a run. She ran out the door with Monroe loudly telling her, "Wait till the wood's edge. Wait till the wood's edge." Suddenly Candy turned into a deer at wood's edge and disappeared.  

     Samantha tells Jesse, "How would you like to stay in Community, Jesse Gunn?"

     "Vacation?"

     "More or less," answers Samantha. "There's a wealth of information here."

     "You want to write about it."

     Samantha nods.

     Jesse sees the gleam of excitement in her eyes, smiles and tells her, "Samantha, you don't need me here to write."

     "You know what they say. 'All work and no play, make Samantha a dull girl.' You don't want me to be a dull girl, do you, Jesse Gunn?"

     "You make a good case, Counselor. Tell you what... I'll come back on weekends."

     Monroe walks up. "Excuse me. May I have a word with you?" As he asks he looks around, obviously not wanting to be heard.

     Jesse nods, and Samantha answers, "Of course."

     "There is a person here from New York, and I believe he's here about Sam Guillory, the hunter who was killed. I know you were investigating the killing." 

     Samantha asks, "Why do you say that?'

     "I'm the Mayor, and this is a small town."

     Obviously Monroe keeps tabs on outsiders, especially when they go to the police department and ask questions. Jesse knows Monroe wants to make sure he and Samantha can be trusted. Obviously finding Candy's engagement ring under suspicious circumstances at a murder scene then returning it without asking any questions, wasn't enough for him to trust them. "Monroe runs a tight ship," Jesse tells him. "We have nothing to do with anyone from New York, and we were not sent by anyone."    

     Samantha is eager to find out what Monroe has to say and states, "We came here to find out if the stories I've heard about aliens are true."

     Monroe asks them, "Can we keep everything we say between us?" Samantha and Jesse agree. Monroe hesitates to begin even though in his heart of hearts, he feels both of them are trustworthy. Only an hour ago Monroe showed Samantha a picture of her grandfather with Monroe and Oscar Flemings, the man most responsible for the migration of aliens from Area 51 to Louisiana. Monroe even suspects that Samantha is part alien. He vaguely remembers an alien woman married a man that could possibly be Samantha's father. His difficulty in trusting them comes from sixty years of secrecy. Switching on and off trust is no easy task, but finally with a deep breath, he continues, "I have been informed, a man, Fred Stewart, was in town asking questions about the hunter, Sam Guillory, who was killed. He's asking about areas where deer congregate, and he's also from New York."

     Jesse asks, "The same town in New York?"

     Monroe answers, "No, just New York."

     "A relative maybe?"

     Monroe continues. "The hunter had no relatives that we know of, no job, no history of anything. I'm sure Sam Guillory wasn't even his name."

     "Stewart is probably not the guy with all the questions real name either." Jesse adds, "All this coming from reputable sources?"

     "Mr. Gunn, I'm the Mayor so I hear information from everyone.  All are trustworthy sources. We do possess a strong sense of secrecy, not because of dislike for outsiders, but for our protection.  We welcome all, especially families, and are always willing to share the beauty of Community, but no one here wants to be a a tourist stop to see Aliens."

     Samantha says, "I understand." 

     Jesse nods, "May we keep our room for as long as we need?"

     Monroe looks at him. "As long as you want, it's yours, Mr. Gunn."

     "Call me Jesse."

     Samantha looks at Jesse, very happy he's staying, but not surprised. She knows if Jesse feels there is even a remote possibility she needs protection, she can count on him to be by her side. She feels loved. The thought of investigating is exciting, but the town's secrecy puts a damper on stories of Community and the aliens. 'Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent' will not work in this scenario. Samantha cares very much for Community and would never do anything that might cause harm to it or its residents.

     Jesse wonders where to start to find out about this person from New York. Why exactly is he here? What is he doing, if anything? If he's here to hunt deer, he's in the wrong place. Jesse questions Monroe, "I take it you know where this individual is staying. Have you verified who he is?"

     Monroe says, "He's staying at Creek Wood. Identity unknown so far."

     Samantha joins in, "What is it, specifically, you believe the man is after? Maybe he's just here to hunt deer?"

     Monroe answers, "He could be. Maybe so. We'll find out. We've had success by keeping a watchful eye, but now with the death of the hunter... well, I'd like your help."

     Jesse tells him, "You want to end it before it starts? "Nip it in the bud."

     Monroe smiles, "Something like that, Jesse."

     Flattered, Samantha lets Monroe know, "We will be happy to help you anyway we can."

     Jesse notices a policeman carrying a package coming in the front door. Monroe motions him over. Jesse realizes he must be one of Monroe's sources.

     "Samantha Slade, this is Officer Jones. Officer Jones, I believe you've met Jesse Gunn."

     Monroe looks around and realizes they are alone in the lobby. He gestures for Officer Jones to open the bag. Monroe tells them, "Have a look at this. Never saw anything like it before." Officer Jones, careful to keep the item mostly hidden, pulls it halfway from the bag. It's a gun, and Jesse who's quite familiar with guns has not seen one like it either. The barrel is short, definitely a short range weapon. It's really more like a toy, very light, weighing only three to four pounds, and could almost be a disposable weapon. 

 Jesse looks around and asks, "May I take it to your office for a closer look?" They all agree, and he exits to inspect the weapon. It looks like a 22 caliber with a minimum of nine pieces when taken apart. He worries such a weapon could be carried in many different places, kept hidden then reassembled quickly in privacy at any time. Jesse has many resources particularly those very knowledgeable in firearms. He takes pictures of the weapon and texts them to one such friend, Charlie Beaujeaux. along with the question, 'What the Hell is this?' Back in the lobby he sits and lets them know he's waiting for information about the weapon.  

     Officer Jones leaves to go back to work, and Samantha notices he didn't give a second thought about leaving the gun with them. She asks Monroe, "Isn't the gun evidence?"

     Monroe looks at both of them and says, "No."

     "Police Chief doesn't know Officer Jones has it, does he?" asks Jesse.

     Monroe replies, "No, he doesn't. Trust is a commodity not freely given. Even with some who are worthy of it."

     "And Officer Jones has most worthy status?"

     Monroe smiles and nods. Suddenly he gets a call, "Hello, Jason...  She's not here. She went for a run. She was so excited...             Oh, I'll let her tell you...             Maybe she ran on by...       Okay, bye."  Monroe checks his watch then looks worried. Samantha and Jesse notice and turn to each other. Monroe explains, "Candy and Jason live two miles away. She's been gone eighteen minutes, but she was only nine minutes from home 'as the deer runs' as we say in Community." Monroe dismisses the worry, thinking, 'She's excited and decided to run further.'

     Jesse receives a text from Charlie and learns that Charlie's never seen a gun like it before, but he does know the type of weapon. "He says it's like a Matel toy. He told me he believes it's not capable of delivering much of a round, not even a twenty-two. He thinks it must be some sort of stun or tranquilizer gun." 

     Samantha quickly declares, "They want to kidnap a resident of Community."

     Jesse thinks of the site where the hunter was killed and the close proximity of the deer and hunter's bodies. He thought it strange, but now understands and tells Samantha and Monroe what he believes happened. "The hunter ambushed the deer with the tranquilizer. It didn't work quickly enough, and the deer gored the hunter who then delivered a lethal shot to the deer. Officer Jones showed me where the hunter was found and where he believed the deer's body was. I couldn't understand why they were so close."

     Monroe is on the phone immediately to Officer Jones and tells him to check the lodge to make sure of the whereabouts of the now, 'suspect' from New York. "They may be trying to capture one of us and take us God knows where." Monroe listens to him a moment and tells him, "I'll hold." Monroe pulls out some pictures and hands them to Jesse and Samantha. "This is the man. They were taken when he checked in. Supposedly he's here to take pictures of wild life." Jesse sees two cameras. The tranquilizer gun could easily fit in them... Suddenly Officer Jones is back on the phone with Monroe and tells him the suspect has his room booked for three more days. Both he and his car are there. Officer Jones will keep everyone posted as to his movements. Monroe relays this information to Samantha and Jesse with a slight sense of relief.

     They decide to meet later. Samantha and Jesse make their way to their room and lay down to relax. They hold hands. 

     Samantha turns to him. "We're starting another adventure, Jesse Gunn."

     "Well, maybe... Remember, the gun belonged to Sam Guillory, the deceased hunter. Stewart is probably here to take pictures like he said, and it's fine with me. I'm looking forward to relaxing." 

     Samantha and Jesse smile and are startled when Monroe bangs on the door. "Can I come in?"

     As Jesse opens the door, Monroe urgently says, "Let's go. Please hurry." As they hurry out the door in a run, Monroe adds, "I'll explain in the car." They all jump in the car and speed off. Monroe catches his breath and lets them know he received a call from Officer Jones. "He's now following the suspect who is turning onto Cypress Street. Jones thinks he may be heading to a well traveled running route. This particular route passes close to Candy's home. Jones also learned that Stewart discovered a setting which is a photographer's dream.  Low rolling wooded hills running along a creek of cool clear fast moving water with cypress trees overhanging the banks. It's a favorite resting area for runners." 

     Samantha asks, "Is Candy home?"

     "I called but didn't get an answer."  Monroe hands Samantha the phone and points to her number. "Here, call her." 

     Samantha waits for answer, "Hello, Is Candy home?" Everyone looks at Samantha and can tell by the relief shown on her face that Candy is safe. But relief is short lived. "She just left? Where?...   "Oh, just to say bye, but she's not going...        I see. Does she live nearby?...  "What's her friend's name?...   Oh, Elise...      I'm sorry. This is Samantha Slade, I'm with Monroe Cane. Candy just walked in? Good. May I speak with her? Tell her it's Samantha, Thanks." Samantha takes a deep breath, and the car speeds down the rather bumpy road with all its curves and turns. Monroe and Jesse feel as though they are on a roller coaster ride. Mostly from listening to Samantha on the phone. "Hi Candy, this is Samantha. I'm sorry to bother you, I... I"..... The roller coaster is off again. "wanted to let you know Jesse and I will be staying a few more days, and we look forward to... perhaps having dinner with you and your fiancee' while here...  Great... I hear you had a friend join you on your run...             Yes, does she live close by?...          Does she run by that pretty park by the creek? Yes, Creekwood." Samantha with eyes raised to Monroe mouths, 'Creekwood?' Monroe nods. Samantha continues on phone, "Well, listen I have to go, Jesse is calling me. We'll talk later...       Okay, bye." And another phone roller coaster ride ends as the car continues to speed on.

     Monroe asks, "If Elise just left, we'll be at Creekwood before she is." Monroe's phone buzzes, "Yes?...             Alright...             We're almost there...            A minute, no more...                               I agree." Monroe tells Samantha and Jesse, "Officer Jones found the suspect's car but hasn't located him. The route running along the creek has a few clearings where someone can hide and have a clear shot. A coordinated effort is best, and we all will have a different area to check."  They pull in, see Officer Jones, and jump out. Tracker phones are given to alert one another when the suspect is found. Samantha stays to watch the suspect's car which now has a flat tire. Everyone will have time to get back before he leaves. Officer Jones begins pointing out the critical areas to check as they run into the woods by the creek. 

     Jesse runs along the creek until he reaches the first clearing. The other two knowing the area better, make their way to clearings further away. Jesse runs along the bank sidestepping thick underbrush and tree roots remembering his Army training. He trips a few times but thinks, 'Oh well, I was younger then.' He sees a clearing up ahead and slows to look for the suspect while moving down almost to the water. He's happy the creek is high and loud. Keeping low, Jesse feels good with his sight line. This is no time to rush. Up ahead a clearing approximately 25 x 25 with a thick canopy provides a clear shot to the worn running path. Jesse stops, goes down on one knee, but sees nothing. 'It's too perfect,' he thinks. He moves slightly achieving a different angle and peers into the thicket. He hears the rustle of leaves, looks, and sees a snake coming toward him. He doesn't wait to see if it's a water moccasin and decides on another vantage point. Suddenly there's movement, but it's not a snake or the wind. Jesse sees eyes, pushes alert button and freezes. 'God, how much camo does he have on?' Jesse thinks to himself. Hunters dress like snipers in a war to ambush a deer that poses no danger to them while eating peacefully at a feeder they erected. As he looks for a gun, a deer slowly runs into the clearing, stops, and turns toward the creek. Jesse sees the gun aimed at the deer, and in an instant, Jesse is on his feet, yelling and running toward the gun.  The hunter tries to escape, but the brush is too thick, and Jesse, 15 feet away, is on him quickly. Simultaneously the man turns and shoots Jesse as Jesse hits him on the head with his gun. Jesse staggers out, sees a naked lady, smiles, hears Samantha, and crumbles to the ground.

     Five hours later, Jesse wakes up in bed. He doesn't remember drinking but feels like he has a hangover. Samantha asks him, "You're finally awake. You feel okay?"

     "No,... Where am I?"

     "Hospital. You were shot with a tranquilizer gun. Just like the one we saw."

     "Was it Stewart?"

     "Yes."

     "He in custody?"

     "Yes."

     "Good.                  

     Jesse's eyes open and close. He appears dizzy. "I'm ready to go."

     "Not just yet, Jesse Gunn."

     Due to Samantha's insistence and despite his, at times, incoherent objections, Jesse stays one more night in the hospital. 

     The next day finds them in their room at the lodge. Samantha is extremely tired from lack of sleep but more from worry. She watched Jesse breathe, rarely dosing off. All are safe for now, but Monroe fears it hasn't ended and others will follow. He tells Samantha and Jesse he needs their expertise to help stop the threat. A strong friendship has been forged with Monroe and Community and they agree to help.       

     Monroe brought a bottle of wine to celebrate their success and hopefully toast their agreement to work with him.

     Samantha pours some of Jesse's wine into her glass telling Jesse. "You just get a sip. Oh, I need to tell you, you missed it."

     Monroe laughs.

     "Candy's friend, Elise ran into the clearing. You must have yelled as you ran toward Stewart and startled her. Monroe and I ran in as you fell, and there was Elise standing there without a stitch. Naked as a jaybird. Samantha laughs. Monroe will explain how that happened later."

     Jesse remembers, smiling, 'I wasn't dreaming. Maybe I'll tell her later. I did see.'  

                              The End

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