Take Down

Jack Slade #11

by Richard Dawes

After a car accident, Jack Slade stays with a farming family in a small rural town. He helps the son and two daughters solve their problems. A criminal organization has made the town its headquarters, and Slade is asked to look into the situation. The result is an action packed tale where Slade decimates an army of gunmen, eliminates their leadership, then discovers the person behind it all is someone he never suspected.


Chapter One

The sun was a huge golden disk perched on the snow-swept peaks of a mountain range running along the western horizon as if taking a last look around before retiring for the night. As Jack Slade drove his black Jaguar along a narrow country road, he glanced over broad fields that stretched between mountains and highway. The sun’s long rays transmuted the shoots of fresh young corn and wheat into waves of translucent gold. A pale blue sky was shading toward violet as darkness approached.

Slade drove out of the mid-western farming town of Denton fifteen minutes before, encouraged by a weather report that called for clear skies and moderate temperatures throughout the night hours. If he drove straight through, he estimated that he could be home by evening of the following day. He was on his way back after doing a job in the Sierra’s, rooting out and destroying a satanic group that had fortified itself in a wooded valley back in the mountains. The job had been tough and dangerous, leaving his nerves frayed. He looked forward to getting home and taking a much-needed rest.

Suddenly, from an unpaved road on the right, a tractor backed onto the highway right in front of the Jaguar. Reacting instantly, Slade spun the wheel, slammed on the brakes, and skidded across the next lane. Luckily, there were no on-coming cars. He ended up in a ditch beside the road, the front bumper flattened against a weed-choked embankment.

He was gathering his wits about him when a deep male voice spoke in his ear.

“Jeez, buddy! Are you alright?”

He glanced out the side window at a tall, heavy-set man dressed in a denim shirt and Levis. Under a black, broad-brimmed slouch hat, brown eyes set in a broad face with large features, a fleshy nose and wide, full-lipped mouth stared at him worriedly. A day’s growth of beard shadowed a lantern jaw and craggy chin.

Grunting with disgust, Slade pulled the lever to open the door then winced with pain. He realized he sprained his wrist in the crash. He pushed the door open with his shoulder and climbed out.

“I’m really sorry, buddy,” the man was saying earnestly. “The sun was right in my eyes when I pulled onto the road, and I didn’t see you.”

Slade gazed into eyes level with his and knew the man was sincere. “Let’s look at the damage,” he said quietly and moved to the front of the car.

“Looks like the front bumper’s been smashed,” the man observed.

Slade glanced over the rest of the front end but couldn’t see any more damage. Sighing heavily, he reached into an inside pocket of his black leather jacket and pulled out his wallet. “I suppose we should exchange insurance information.”

“Well, now.” The big man spread large, calloused hands. “Let’s talk about that.”

Slade’s grey eyes went flat. “You do have insurance, don’t you?”

“Of course I got insurance. But I can’t afford the increase in premiums if I use it.”

“What do you suggest?”

The man bent over and studied the flattened bumper. “There don’t seem to be any damage to the frame. The headlights are okay, so all we gotta do is replace that busted bumper.” He straightened and faced Slade. “My brother-in-law owns a body shop. He could order a new bumper then put it on. And I’ll pay for everything.”

“A new bumper will take time to get here. That means I’ll be stuck in Denton.” Slade held up his arm, the wrist purple and swelling. “Plus, I sprained my wrist when I crashed into this embankment. I need to have it looked at.”

The man’s craggy features split in a grin, exposing large white teeth. “You’re in luck. My wife is a nurse. You come on up to the house, and she’ll fix you right up.”

“Will you drive me into town later so I can get a motel room?”

The man paused and studied Slade. What he saw was a tall, wolfish frame, broad shoulders, corded neck, and deep chest. Black hair combed straight back. Cold grey eyes. Harsh features. Blade of a nose. Wide, thin-lipped mouth. Black leather jacket cut long in the waist, black silk shirt and dark trousers. After the inventory, he seemed to come to a decision.

“I’ll drag your car out of the ditch with my tractor and tow it up to the house. Then my wife can look at your wrist.” He glanced at the sky. The sun had set, bathing the landscape in a mystic twilight. A few early stars twinkled faintly. “I imagine she’s putting dinner on the table right now. Have dinner with us. Meet my three kids. Then we can talk about getting you back into town. By the way,” he stuck out a large hand, “my name’s Tom Allison.”

Slade gripped it. “Call me Slade.”

* * *

It took them half an hour to attach a chain to the Jaguar’s chassis, pull it out of the ditch then tow it a mile over the unpaved road to Tom Allison’s house. It was a rambling two-story ranch house with a covered veranda across the front and a pine-shingled roof. A large barn sat to one side of the cleared area, flanked by a couple of outbuildings that appeared to be storage sheds. Beyond the barn were corrals where cattle and horses lazily munched their evening meal. In the distance were more cultivated fields where green shoots of corn peeked up through the soil.

Allison halted the tractor in front of a long covered shed with open sides where another tractor, a couple of pickup trucks, and an old Chevy sat. When Slade climbed down from the tractor two Border Collies, their long black and white coats muted in the gathering dusk, greeted him. As he stepped onto the dirt, they sat, wagged their bushy tails, and looked up at him expectantly.

Allison came around the front of the tractor, saw them, and grunted in surprise, “Wow, Slade.” He looked him over again curiously. “You must have a way with dogs. Their names are Jack and Mollie. Consider that a compliment. They don’t usually cotton to strangers.”

Slade patted their heads. “They recognize me as a friend.”

He looked up to see a teenage boy, dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, faded Levis, and scuffed cowboy boots, walking across the cleared area. The physical similarity to Tom made it clear that the boy was his son. As tall as his father, he had broad shoulders and a flat stomach. He had close-cropped brown hair, brown eyes that betrayed a glimmer of intelligence, and facial features that were a more refined version of his father’s.

“I got all the animals fed, Dad,” he said in a deep voice reminiscent of his father’s. He gazed questioningly from Slade to the Jaguar. “What’s up?”

“The sun was in my eyes when I backed the tractor onto the road,” Allison grunted in disgust. “I almost collided with this Jaguar. It ended up in the ditch beside the road with a smashed bumper.” He jerked a thumb at Slade. “Slade, this is my son, Matt. Matt, this is Slade.” After they shook hands, he continued, “I’m gonna call your uncle Jeff and have him come over and replace the bumper.”

The boy’s grip was firm, but there was something wrong. For some reason, his energy field was agitated. Before Slade could examine it, however, a woman’s clear, musical voice calling from the porch distracted him.

“Would you men mind coming inside? Dinner’s on the table, and it’s getting cold.”

Slade glanced around at a slender woman in a yellow dress and white apron standing at the head of the stairs. Blonde hair covered her head in soft ringlets. Large blue eyes sparkled with life, while a straight nose hovered over full red lips that seemed ever on the brink of a smile. She gazed curiously at Slade then turned and went back into the house.

“That’s the boss talking,” grunted Allison. “We’d better get on in there.” He glanced at Slade. “Come on. I promised you a meal. There’s plenty of room at the table.”

Slade followed Allison and Matt up the stairs, across the porch, and into the house. They entered a large living room, with rugs scattered over the hardwood floor, ranch-style furniture throughout, a large screen television on one wall, and an empty fireplace set on another. Copies of landscape paintings adorned the walls. They turned right into a dining room with windows on one side. On the other side stood glass-fronted cabinets with fine plates and china filling the shelves. A long oaken table covered with a white cloth occupied the middle of the room. Dishes of roast beef, potatoes and gravy, corn, and freshly baked bread cluttered the surface. Two girls were already sitting at the table, their backs to the windows.

One seemed about fifteen, pretty, blonde, and slender like her mother, with deep blue eyes that reflected the overhead light like huge amethysts. The other girl was about eleven or twelve, blonde like the others, pretty, with delicately rounded features and a red, bow-like mouth. Her eyes, however, were dark, almost black. As Slade entered, she studied him with concentrated interest. As he returned her gaze, he was startled by the impression that he was looking into the eyes of an adult. He removed his leather jacket and hung it on a rack standing in the corner then sat in an empty chair beside Matt, who sat facing his sisters across the table. Allison and his wife took the chairs at both ends of the table.

“Everyone,” Allison said, gesturing toward Slade. “This is Slade. I ran him off the road about an hour ago, and he got a smashed front bumper.” He glanced at his wife. “I’m gonna call your brother, have him order a new one then have him put it on. So I thought the least we could do was give Slade a meal.” He pointed to the two girls. “These are my beautiful daughters. The oldest is Cynthia, and the youngest is Maddy. And this,” his brown eyes radiated affection as he gazed at the woman seated to Slade’s right at the foot of the table, “is my lovely wife, Angela. Slade sprained his wrist when he hit that embankment, and I told him you’d take a look at it.”

“You’re welcome here, Slade,” she said warmly. “And we’re very sorry about the accident. My brother’s a good body man. He’ll be able to fix your car like new.” She glanced at his wrist. “After dinner, I can tape that up for you.”

“Thank you,” Slade responded politely, then silence fell as they passed around dishes of food.




"Jack Slade: Take Down" by Richard Dawes



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