Merciless Havoc: Montana Mayhem Book 3 | America's New Apocalypse
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I have had the pleasure of reading all of her books and have to stay I enjoy each one more and more.Katrina
I have come to care for the characters Millie Copper has created. I am looking forward to the next installment of the saga. Keep writing, Millie.MQ
Excellent storytelling! Outstanding book!! Hard to put down!!! Great character development!Becky M
The series keeps getting better. Once I started reading I did not want to stop, it is such a good story. I can't wait for the next!Tonya Crawford
After traveling halfway across the county on foot, this journey should be simple…but nothing on our trek through Montana has turned out the way we planned.
After a series of terrorist attacks changed the world forever, Sadie Monroe and her family have done their best to survive from day to day.
Now they are striving to find safety at the home of an aunt. As each mile brings them closer to their destination, it also brings them closer to peril.
What will they find when they reach their aunt’s house? Will they finally be safe, or is this just the beginning of their journey?
Merciless Havoc, Book 3 of Montana Mayhem, is the highly anticipated follow-up story to the bestselling Havoc in Wyoming Christian Futuristic series, which follows societal collapse from a small-town perspective. Featuring engaging scenarios, riveting action, and flawed yet strong and complex women, the Montana Mayhem series is perfect for fans of Mark Goodwin, Jamie Lee Grey, and Kyla Stone.
The Montana Mayhem series can be described as “Cozy” Apocalypse and contains no profanity, gratuitous sex scenes, or overly detailed gruesome death scenes. However, it does contain conservative family values and references to God, prayer, scripture, and Christianity.
Release date: December 23, 2021
Publisher: CU Publishing LLC
Print pages: 248
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Merciless Havoc: Montana Mayhem Book 3 | America's New Apocalypse
My mom, Leanne, shoots me a smile and a wink. “Sadie? Why don’t you and Sebastian come with me on a walk. It’ll be good to stretch our legs. Wes, will you join us?”
My mom’s brother, Uncle Wes, gives a nod as my little brother, Sebastian, scrambles to his feet. Even after a full day of traveling, with him and me riding in a much too small cart being towed behind the mountain bikes, Sebastian’s energy never seems to waver.
I glance toward the family of four we’ve been traveling with the past few days: an older man in his seventies, his son in his late forties or maybe older, the son’s wife, and their boy in his early teens—thirteen or fourteen, I’d guess, but I haven’t asked, and no one has said. While the boy seems nice enough, we’ll only be together a few more days, until they head east and we continue north.
There’s no reason to become friends. Mom and Uncle Wes decided it’d be safer to travel with them—safer maybe, but I certainly don’t feel welcome.
I glance to the woman. She has her head on her chest, a grimace of pain crossing her face. She’s been having stomachaches, which causes her to be grumpy and rude to everyone. Mom said it’s probably because of the diet we’re eating while on the road.
With no fresh fruit or vegetables available, our food is things we trap or snare: squirrels, rabbits, small rodents, and birds. I don’t even think we should be eating some of the stuff. The rabbits and rodents all have bugs on them. I mean, it’s bad enough to think about eating a squirrel or a mouse, but to see bugs jumping off them . . . it’s really pretty disgusting.
My body gives an involuntary shudder. Yuck.
Tonight’s dinner will be cold rabbit and partridge, leftover from earlier today when we were in a rural area and able to cook without fear of being discovered. Tonight, we’re camped closer to a town. We know we’re not the only ones hungry, eating bug-laden small game, and we fear someone will smell our cookpot and come investigate.
We don’t want that. It’s better to stay hidden.
Even before we met up with the others—who we found by smelling their cooking and took a chance they were friendly after watching them for about an hour—we were careful, choosing to avoid threats and dangers as much as we could after leaving La Grande, Oregon, on our way home to Spokane, Washington. Well, not Spokane proper, but a little community less than a half hour north.
“Baby girl?” Mom reaches her hand for me.
I furrow my brow. I wish she’d stop calling me that and acting like I’m a young child. Those days are long past. I open my mouth to object.
She lifts a shoulder and gives me a kind smile. “Sorry. Sadie.”
“Fine,” I mutter before shooting my eyes back to the woman.
Her husband gently rests a hand on her shoulder. She shrugs it away, mumbling something that sounds less than kind. And I’m sure I hear my mom’s name.
The woman, Clarice, is not happy we’re with them. I heard her last night, talking much too loudly from inside their tent, as she told her husband, Ben, how annoying my mom is. She said she’s too cheery and too religious. Both are true statements. Even with everything that’s gone wrong, Mom still keeps a smile on her face and sends praises to God, saying He’ll get us through.
As we step from the small clearing we’re camping in to the lush forest, Sebastian says, “My stomach hurts a little, too, Mom. Do you think I have the same problem as Clarice?”
Mom lets out a small laugh. “I suspect we’re all going to have stomachaches at some point on this trip, not only because of the food we’re eating but because of everything that’s happened along with traveling.”
“But she’s just riding on a motorcycle!” Sebastian throws out his hands. “It’s not like her husband and the grandpa—or you and Uncle Wes—who pedal the bikes.”
“Shh. Don’t judge, Sebastian. None of us have it easy. Since the terrorist attacks and the bombs— ”
“I can’t believe they actually saw the bombs.” My brother’s eyes are wide. “And the . . . the clouds. What are they called?”
“Mushroom clouds,” Uncle Wes says. “They happen after the detonation of a nuclear bomb, when the fireball rises into the air.”
“But not all nuclear bombs, right?” Sebastian asks. “Not the kind that made the cars stop working?”
“Right. That one didn’t hit the ground. It exploded in the atmosphere, the sky, somewhere high up.”
“And it doesn’t make that bad stuff, the radiation, so we’re safe from that?”
“We pray so,” Mom says. “Keep in mind, honey, we don’t really know what’s happening, just what people think and what a few have seen, like Ben and his family.”
At least Ben and his dad, Bart, seem happy to have us with them. The boy, Liam, doesn’t act like he cares either way. But Clarice . . . I get it. Mom can be a lot. Even before the bombs and other attacks, she could be annoying.
We step out of the trees to a bubbling creek. I breathe in the fresh scent of the water combined with the earthy aroma of the forest. I wish we could camp here, right near the water. It’s so peaceful—the smells, the sounds. I can almost forget the troubles of the last couple of weeks, troubles that started with deliberate plane crashes at five different US airports and escalated from there.
At first, we didn’t worry much about it and just continued what we were doing. Mom was in La Grande for a conference, and the organizers decided to continue it. By the time everyone realized just how serious the attacks were, we were stuck and were unable to drive after the EMP ruined our car.
Not that there was any fuel available anyway. Part of the terrorist attacks included blowing up gas refineries and launching a cyberattack that wiped out electricity. Even if there was fuel, neither Mom nor Wes had any cash left, and the cyberattacks took out the banks and ATMs. It was a mess.
And Mom smiled and praised God through all of it.
One of the church pastors helped us find sturdy mountain bikes and the trailers so we could begin the two-hundred-mile-plus journey home. Over and over, Mom said what a blessing it is I’m so small, how it was part of God’s plan so Sebastian and I could ride.
Sebastian and Wes kneel by the creek, looking at small fish darting along the edge.
“Maybe we should go back and ask Ben if he has some fishing line,” Wes suggests. “Didn’t he say he brought some?”
Mom shakes her head. “I don’t know. But if he did, I’d think he’d be here now, trying to catch something to eat.”
“No one’s catching anything out of our stream,” a harsh voice says loudly.
Mom and I spin around, coming face to face with the huge barrel of a long gun. Mom reaches for my hand.
“You two by the water, get up and move over there,” the man says.
“No problem,” Wes agrees with a quiver in his voice.
Once the man has us lined up, two other guys, who are also carrying guns, step into view.
“Well then, guess we’ve found ourselves some poachers,” a man with overly bushy eyebrows says, waving his gun at us.
“Can’t have ’em catching our fish,” the first guy agrees. “Gotta putta stop to it.”
“We’re not fishing.” Wes lifts his hands. “We were just, um, talking about it.”
“Thinking about stealing is the same as stealing!” Bushy Brows declares. “You stealing our food—well, that’s a problem.”
The trees rustle. I dart my eyes toward the sound and catch a glimpse of Bart, the older man in our group. He turns quickly, disappearing back into the woods.
“Hey, you!” the third guy calls out. “Get back here!”
“Go after him,” Bushy Brows says. As the two men take off, he turns to Wes. “How many are with you?”
Wes clears his throat. “That’s it. Just the five of us.”
Mom looks to Wes with wide eyes. Sebastian tilts his head at him. Wes quickly places a hand on my brother’s shoulder.
“Don’t get any wild ideas,” the man says. “This shotgun will take out the lot of you at this distance.”
My stomach sinks to my toes. I don’t know anything about guns, but I have no reason not to believe him. And from the look on his face, I believe he’d do it. For what? For fishing? Not even fishing, just talking about fishing.
“Hey, man,” one of the other men yells at Bart. “We’ve already seen you. Why don’t you come on out here and join your family?”
It’s several seconds before a voice responds. “Okay. No problem. I’m coming out.”
Mom lets out a loud breath. The voice isn’t right. It isn’t gravely enough to be Bart. It’s less than a minute until Ben—not his dad—steps out of the forest with the men behind him, pointing the gun at his back.
“Should we tie ’em up?” one of the men holding the gun on Ben asks as they near the creek.
“Don’t think we need to,” Bushy Brows says. “They’ll behave, won’t you? Or else the kids get it first.”
I feel my mom tremble beside me.
“We’ll take ’em with us.”
The guy who was first to hold the gun on us says, “Why we bothering with that? Let’s just take their stuff and send them on their way.”
“You see their camp?” Bushy Brows asks.
“Nope. But I bet they have one.”
“Go on, see if you can find it. Louie and me, we’ll take ’em to the farm.”
“I still don’t see why we’re bothering with holding them.”
“That’s why you’re not in charge, Reggie,” Bushy Brows says, pointing the gun in the direction of the guy. “Stop mouthin’ and do what you’re told.”
Reggie, the original guy who pulled the gun on us, lifts one of his hands. “Whatever you say.” He shakes his head before spinning toward the forest and stomping off.
I want to yell out, to warn Bart and the others to go. To hide. I look to Mom, who gives a slight shake of her head. Tears dot her eyelashes as she reaches for my little brother’s hand and then takes mine.
Bushy Brows and the other one, Louie, march us along the creek to the main road. Though the walk isn’t long, the sun’s already setting when they guide us down a long driveway toward a ramshackle house and several sorry looking buildings.
“Where should we put them?” Louie asks.
“That shed over there. It has a padlock on it. Should hold ’em.”
Once we’re inside the dark and dusty shed, which smells heavily of mold, Mom pulls Sebastian and me close. “We’re okay,” she tells us over and over as we rock back and forth. After a few minutes, she says, “God will protect us.”
I let out a snort.
“He will, Sadie. I’m . . . I’m sure of it.”
Sebastian and I sit next to each other, leaning against a clear space on a wall. He draws designs and shapes in the dirt floor with his finger while the adults talk in low voices, trying to figure out why we’ve been captured and how we can get away. I want to join the discussion but instead choose to listen and stay quiet.
After a while, Sebastian leans his head on my shoulder and falls asleep. I must also drift off because the next thing I know, there’s light streaming in through the cracks of the rickety shed.
“Have some water, Sadie,” Mom says, gently jostling my arm. “They brought water and food a few minutes ago.”
“Food?” I ask, sitting up.
Sebastian is already awake, shoving something in his mouth. “It’s cow,” he says around a bite. “And it’s really good.”
“Beef,” Mom corrects. “But he’s right about it being good.”
“They wouldn’t let us fish, but they’re giving us meat?” I ask, shaking my head.
“Crazy, huh?” Uncle Wes nods around his own mouthful of food.
The meat and water are all we get until later in the day when a guy I’ve never seen before brings a fresh jug of water and more meat.
After the night’s meal, Mom and Wes start talking about God and how He’ll bring us through this. Sebastian, who’s way too much like Mom and is always saying and doing churchy things, joins in the conversation. Ben says nothing, and I respond only when it’s expected of me.
The food and water delivery continues the next day, but on the third morning, Bushy Brows shows up with only water. “You folks are draining our supplies. We’re cutting your rations to once a day until we can figure out what to do with you.”
“You could let us go,” Ben says.
“Humph. You know, I’ve considered it. But at this point, if I let you go, it’ll undermine my authority. You folks have become a status symbol of sorts. And a bargaining chip.”
“A bargaining chip?” Wes asks.
“Yup. Seems there might be another group nearby who’s interested in having help in their fields and homes. Might just trade you for a few goods and things.”
Bushy Brows just lifts his shoulder and leaves.
A few hours later, someone shows up with meat, about half the amount we were previously given.
Ben divides it into five equal portions. Mom and Wes offer Sebastian and me a little more from their amount.
“Don’t do that,” Ben says, his voice harsh. “We need to get out of here. We’ll need to fight. You need your strength.”
It’s been three days since they reduced our food amount. While they do bring water several times throughout the day, the lack of food is taking a toll on all of us. That along with the overwhelming heat and the stench of this shed. There’s no bathroom, so we’ve made a privacy screen in one corner and use a bucket. It’s disgusting.
We don’t talk much, just sit and wait—wait for more water and a few morsels of meat. Wes paces sometimes, which causes Mom to snap at him to sit down. She’s stopped smiling, stopped spouting Bible verses and insisting God will rescue us.
Sebastian, though, has stayed faithful, sure we’re going to be fine. He talks about different Bible stories, like Daniel in the lion’s den or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown in the fiery furnace. And he’s told us over and over about David killing Goliath by slinging a stone at him. In preparation of being a modern-day David, Sebastian has collected five rocks from the dirt floor and fashioned his own sling out of an old red shop towel and a couple lengths of twine found on one of the shed’s shelves.
Ben, Mom, and Wes also scoured the shelves for things to help us escape or things we’ll need after we’re out. Although it’s mostly a bunch of old, dusty junk, they do find a few things: a forgotten piece of rebar and a few empty water bottles—one that Wes filled with dirt and tied a piece of twine around the neck of, making his own sling-style weapon.
I’m almost asleep, trying to nap in the sweltering heat, when the lock on the door rattles. I crack an eye to see who’s bringing us water this time. It’s a new guy, slightly overweight with strawberry blond hair and an ugly scowl. One of the others, a creepy guy who’s brought food before, is behind him. But neither are carrying water.
“You— ” the new guy points to Mom “ —grab the girl and come with us.”
My eyes shoot open.
Mom steps in front of me. “I’ll go with you.” Her voice is low and has a slight quiver to it. “But my little girl, she’s not feeling well.”
“Don’t matter. She’s coming with us.”
“Please. She’s just a little girl. Only . . . um, she’s only twelve. I’m sure whatever you have planned, I’ll be . . . ” A slight choking noise escapes her. “I’ll be enough.”
“Twelve?” the creepy guy mutters. “That’s too young, even for me.”
Mom shoots me a quick look, giving me a slight shake of her head.
Tears fill my eyes as I whisper, “No, Mom.”
Wes moves in front of Mom. “She isn’t going with you either. They’re both staying here.”
The new guy’s fist slams into Uncle Wes’s chest. The other hand quickly pops him in the nose, sending my uncle to the ground.
“Stop!” Mom yells, as Ben gets to his feet. “I’ll go. I won’t . . . I won’t fight you.”
The new guy sneers. “I don’t mind if you fight a little.”
A whimper escapes my mom. She turns her head to meet my eyes. Instead of their usual loving, soft glow, they’re hard and unyielding. Angry. “Take care of your brother and mind your uncle.”
“Shut up and get out here.” The man grabs her arm, flinging her through the door. He looks at me, curling his lip. “Too bad you’ll miss the party. We would’ve showed you a good time.”
“Leave her alone,” the other guy says. “You heard the mom, she’s just a kid.”
“Yeah, well, she’s too skinny anyway . . . and ugly at that.”
The door slams with a bang. Sebastian bursts into tears as the lock catches. I pull him close to me, my own hot tears of sadness and anger dropping on his head.
Ben helps Uncle Wes from the floor and then their heated words fill the room.
Sebastian lifts his head, his eyes searching mine. “Will they bring her back?”
I bite my lip.
He lets out a long breath. “We’ll pray. We’ll pray, and God will take care of her.” Sebastian immediately begins his petitions, begging his God to keep Mom safe and bring her back to us. We stay huddled together as Uncle Wes paces and Ben sits leaning against a wall, deep in thought.
It seems like forever, though it’s probably only half an hour, when the lock rattles and the door opens. Mom is tossed back into the room, landing in a heap on the ground. The sleeve of her shirt is ripped, and she has a fat lip and a cut by her eye.
“Mom!” Sebastian cries, scurrying to her.
“I’m okay.” She gives him a smile that resembles a grimace. She picks herself up from the floor, straightening her shirt as best she can.
With her jaw set, she turns toward me. “We’re okay, Sadie.” She rests a hand on Sebastian’s shoulder. “We’re okay.” Then she turns to where Uncle Wes is standing near Ben. “We need to get out of here. Now. They aren’t going to wait for the limited food to do its job.”
“They told you that?” Ben asks.
“He bragged about it,” Mom spits out the words.
“I thought they were trading us?”
“Guess that didn’t work out.” Mom runs a hand through her tousled hair.
“What can we do?” Wes looks to Ben.
Ben motions for all of us to move close. With our heads together and our voices low, a plan begins to form.
A plan even Sebastian voices as dangerous. “We definitely need God now.”
“Humph,” Mom scoffs.
Sebastian gives her a strange look. “Mom?”
“You just do what we’ve said, Sebastian. You too, Sadie.”
Ben has us put the treasures we’ve found in our pockets. I have a length of twine and a shop rag dotted with holes. Waiting is hard. Stressful. Sebastian complains about his stomach hurting. I rub his back and offer soothing words.
When the lock rattles, Mom motions us to move against the wall. She’d already told us to keep our eyes closed but to be ready to do what she says, when she says it. Sebastian grips the red cloth, with his largest stone in it—his David weapon.
There’s am oomph and then a scuffle. I slit open one eye to see one of the guards go down when Ben hits him with the rebar.
“Now.” Ben orders as he takes the pistol from the guy. “Let’s move.”
Sebastian and I spring up and out the door. Another guy is on the ground, his face bloody, Uncle Wes’s dirt-filled water bottle now tattered. I watch as Ben hits him in the nose with the of the butt of the man’s own pistol.
“Go!” Ben says in a harsh whisper. “Head for the trees.”
I put an arm over my eyes; the bright sun hurts after so many hours in the dim room.
“Run!” Mom gives me a slight shove. “Don’t look back.”
A gunshot causes me to yelp.
“Go! Go!” Sebastian grabs at my hand.
“Run faster,” Uncle Wes yells.
I turn back to look at him as another shot sounds. He falls to the ground. “Uncle Wes!”
“Keep going, Sadie!” My brother pulls on my arm.
Ben fires the pistol he grabbed and looks down at Uncle Wes. His eyes meet mine. “Keep going.”
We get to the cover of the trees. “Move behind that stump.” Mom points to a fallen log.
As soon as Ben reaches us, he asks, “Why’d you stop? This isn’t safe.”
There’s yelling and shooting coming from the farm. Men are running in this direction.
“Wes?” Mom asks Ben, her voice shaky.
“I’m sorry. It was instant.”
Mom gives a stoic nod as she gets us moving again. There’s no time to fall apart, no time to grieve. With tears streaming down her face, Mom urges us forward, deeper into the woods.
After a few minutes, Ben motions to a clump of vines. “There.”
We shimmy into the bushes. Thorns rip at my arms, my hair.
Ben winces when he grabs a piece of brush to hide where we entered. He motions us to sit. Seconds later, we hear the men crashing through the forest, their heavy footsteps and breathing giving them away.
Mom puts a finger to her lips. After the noise subsides, I offer Ben the holey shop towel. He wraps it around his hand to stop the bleeding.
We stay put, hidden until full darkness. The men have circled us many times, cussing and cursing, questioning where we went. The last time we heard them, someone said it was too dark to keep searching. That was at least an hour ago.
“Let’s go.” Ben’s voice is quiet. He moves the brambles to let us out.
We stumble through the dark, putting distance between us and the farm. We move as quietly as we can but know that if the men are nearby, there’s no way they won’t hear us. Finally, Ben says we’ve gone far enough and we’ll find a place to rest for a while.
Instead of in a thicket of thorns, this time he moves us to a depression in the ground, a cross between a hole and a crevice.
“Leanne, you and the children sleep. I’ll keep watch. I’ll need you to switch with me after a bit so I can rest too.”
I’m exhausted, numb even. Uncle Wes is dead. I glance to my brother. Even in the dark, I can see his tears. “You okay?” I whisper.
“Don’t whisper,” Ben says. “Talk quietly, in your normal voice, but don’t whisper.”
“Why not?” Sebastian asks.
“Because it makes hissing sounds. Some people think it’s easier to hear those sounds, where normal tones blend in better.”
I remember reading something about that. A whisper is a higher frequency than a regular voice. That and the sibilants, those hissing sounds, cause people to hear the whispers clearer than regular voices, which can blend into the background.
“Where’s that red shop towel?” Ben asks Sebastian.
My brother’s face falls. “I left it where we were hiding before.”
“You’re sure? You didn’t drop it along the way?”
“N-no . . . I think I left it. I looked for it not long after we got out of the thorns. I think I left it behind.”
Ben runs a hand through his sparse blond hair. “We don’t want them to have a way to track us.”
“I can go back for it.”
“Go to sleep, Sebastian,” Mom says. “You too, Sadie. Ben and I will discuss what we need to do.”
I give a weary nod as I pull my brother toward me.
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