Brady brought the Suburban to a halt
by the fuel pumps of the Mini-Mart. It had been a long drive down to the Ozarks. He stretched before he began fueling the
Suburban with gasoline. He looked around the area with interest. He switched the nozzle to the second tank the Suburban boasted
and watched a tourist family take the place by storm. They all wore bright shirts, and khaki shorts. Sandals with socks. Camera
straps were around every neck.
With a quick turn, he avoided one of the family from getting
a shot of his face as they took pictures of him and the Suburban.
said what looked to be a twelve year old boy came up to Brady. “Are you one of them survivalists we heard about down
Brady smiled. “No, son, I’m not.”
“Truck sure looks like it. But it isn’t camouflaged so I guess it can’t be. My daddy says
they all drive big four wheel trucks and stuff and run around in camouflage shooting people they don’t like with guns.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Brady said. “I’m just a tourist like
“Don’t look like a tourist, either,” the youth said.
But he turned around and ran over to his mother, who was holding out an ice cream bar for him.
finished fueling. He’d paid with a credit card at the pump, but he went inside to take a look around after he’d
cleaned the bugs off the windshield. Typical tourist area Mini-Mart. He got an Arizona bottled iced tea and went up to the
counter to pay for the purchase. A pimply faced high school aged girl was behind the register.
mister,” she said as she took his money, “That’s a nice truck. What lift do you have under it? My boyfriend
has one with a twelve inch lift. It’s cool.”
“Two inches,” Brady
“That’s not very much,” she said. “You should lift it
higher. Be a lot more cool.”
“I’ll keep it in mind. See you around.”
He picked up one of the free local maps.
Brady went back out to the Suburban and climbed
in. He checked the itinerary Barbara had given him for the address of the hotel she had booked him. After unfolding the map,
he found the address and headed for the hotel.
After settling in, and checking a few addresses
and phone numbers in the telephone directory, Brady went scouting the town. Branson, Missouri, for a tourist town, he decided,
wasn’t too bad. Of course it was based on a down home, rural precept. They did it well, he thought.
He checked in to the Taney County Sheriff’s office over in Forsyth after he checked into the hotel. He
showed his detective’s credentials and concealed carry permit. They weren’t particularly happy with the idea,
but didn’t raise too many objections about him following up leads on his case. Brady did the same thing at the Branson
City Police department. Again, he didn’t get a hearty tourist’s welcome, but the same offer of limited cooperation
for cooperation on his part that the county had given him, and admonition to keep things legal.
agency could provide him with any useable information on cults in the area. The only thing that came up was Survivalists.
The boy at the Mini-Mart had mention survivalists. The hotel had a good internet connection. He used his computer with it
to do some research on Survivalists. Brady found himself time and again leaving the specific search to go off on interesting
tangents about the actual survival subjects.
After he logged off and had supper at one
of the local restaurants, he decided to see a show. He was smiling when he returned to the hotel. Branson was a nice place
The following morning he went back to work. It involved casually probing questions
of people that would be likely to have any contact with cults. Including Survivalists. They didn’t seem to have any
contact with the tourist part of Branson, except for the old time crafts presenters. It seemed a few survival minded people
had asked those doing the demonstrations to give some private lessons. Many of the experts were happy to do so, for a fee.
Brady continued to ask questions, concentrating now on the locals. He just wasn’t
getting much information. Definitely not about cults. But the subject of Survivalists kept popping up.
Partly out of curiosity, partly from the growing belief that the cult his client had said his daughter had
joined was a Survivalist Group Brady began concentrating on that angle. He did two things, starting that second week of investigation.
He booked a light charter aircraft at the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport for a flight over the area. He also contacted
half a dozen real estate agencies in the area.
He took his digital mini-cam with him on
the flight and recorded everything that looked like his recently developed ideas of a Survivalist compound. He included enough
landmark shots to be able to pinpoint each one from the ground. It cost a bundle, but Brady felt it worth it. He had lots
of possibilities to check out.
He told each of the realtors what he was looking for in
the way of land acquisition. It was based on the same ideas he used for checking properties during the flight. One agent immediately
asked if he was one of those ‘Survivalists’.
“Why,” Brady asked,
“Does it make a difference?”
She shook her head. “No, not really, but
it helps me define what to look for, for you. I sold one piece of property much like you say you want. When I asked them if
they were, they denied it. My husband is a prepper and he was sure that’s what the land was purchased for.”
“The buyers put in a compound?” Brady asked.
“No, I haven’t
seen any development on the property at all. It’s not too far from where I live. I could check with the owners and see
if they are interested in selling.”
“Let’s leave that option open, but
concentrate on properties already on, or coming onto the market.”
Brady began checking
the properties he’d seen from the air. He used the same spiel in each case. “Hi. I’m Brady. I’m thinking
about buying a compound up here and wanted to meet my neighbors. Get some advice on wells and such. LaRhonda Richards put
me onto the area.” LaRhonda Richards was the woman he was trying to find.
the places had locked gates or looked like they weren’t currently inhabited. The ones with locked gates he knew he would
just have to observe until he could catch someone arriving or leaving. He hoped he wouldn’t have to do that. He could,
but it was tiresome work.
The realtors began contacting him the third week he was in the
area. A couple of them had access to some of the locked properties. They were up for sale. He kept looking. Brady was about
to decide to start surveillance on the other locked down properties when he noticed the person he was talking to at one of
the sites he’d found from the air reacted to his use of the name LaRhonda.
didn’t say yea or nay about her, but Brady knew the signs. The man knew her. Brady actually got quite a bit of useful
information about building in the area before he used LaRhonda’s name. The man shut down then and made an excuse to
go back inside the confines of the compound.
It was only a matter of time now that he
had location pinpointed. He could concentrate on this compound. Brady didn’t cancel the realtors’ searches, but
he wasn’t quite sure why.
It wasn’t that difficult to finally contact her.
All it took was a letter addressed to the street address of the place with his cellular telephone number. Brady decided after
the first barrage of cussing that he probably had LaRhonda on the other end of the line.
finally calmed down. “Your father is only concerned about your welfare. If you are tied up with a cult you could be
“We’re not a cult. It’s not like the media portrays
us. We’re just people trying to prepare for bad times. Don’t you listen to and see the news everyday? It’s
just a matter of time before we have a nuclear war, bio-chemical war, or something.”
watched the voice stress analyzer as she talked. All indications were that she was telling the truth. He trusted his judgment
as much as he did the voice stress analyzer. He believed her.
“I’d like to
come out there and meet with you, with you friends around you. If I’m convinced you are okay, I’ll tell your father
“You’re willing to come out here by yourself? What if we are
what you say?”
“Then I’ll be right and you lied to me. I believe you,
but I owe it to your father to confirm it in person.”
Brady could hear discussion going on in the background. LaRhonda came back onto the line and said, “Sam
says it is okay. But be warned, they won’t let you take me away, even if you have help.”
“I’m not going to try to take you away, based on what you’ve said.”
“Okay. Tomorrow at 2:00 PM. Someone will meet you at the gate. You’d better come by yourself.”
“I will. You have my word.”
broke the connection Brady leaned back in the hotel chair and relaxed. He might be running into trouble tomorrow at 2:00 PM,
but he was prepared to handle it.
“Prepared,” he thought. “Interesting