You can see all of the chapters (in descending order) here.
Steve moved carefully through the woods beside the cabin driveway. His gun was drawn and he watched carefully for any signs of movement. Occasionally he’d scan the other side of the driveway until he caught sight of Ned Crankston as he moved toward the cabin as well.
As Steve reached the clearing right before their cabin, he saw Ned come out of the woods on the other side of the drive. Ned signaled to Steve that he’d seen no sign of movement through the woods from his side. But Steve could now see clear signs someone had been here since the last time he was here.
There were rutted tracks near the porch in front of the cabin door and it looked like whatever vehicle it was, backed up all the way to the porch steps. Steve scanned the darkness for other signs of disturbance. Beer cans and trash littered the porch. That wasn’t a good sign. Someone had done some partying on the porch if nothing else.
He signaled Ned to move forward and they ran, half bent over until they were positioned on either side of the cabin door. Steve leaned to peer into the window on his side of the door. The light over the kitchen sink was on.
From this window he had a clear view of the living room and kitchen area. He could see no movement inside, but the cabin had been trashed. The couch was tipped over backwards and the coffee table was flipped upside down. There were more beer bottles and trash strewn all over the floor.
In dismay, Steve realized the matching wooden rocking chairs that had been a wedding gift from Jess’ parents were missing from near the fireplace. Several of the kitchen cupboard doors were hanging open. Steve glanced to Ned who shook his head indicating he didn’t see people either.
Steve nodded and Ned watched through his window as Steve put his hand on the doorknob of the cabin. He gave the knob a quick turn to see if it was unlocked. It turned easily. Suddenly Ned, tapped Steve’s hand and then shook his head.
“Movement” Ned mouthed silently. Ned pointed around the side of the cabin to indicate they should check it out from the back before going in. Steve nodded.
Ned turned and moved across the porch and disappeared around the corner of the cabin. Steve did the same on his side. Steve checked the window on his side of the cabin but could see no movement inside.
As Steve got to the back corner of the cabin, he leaned his back against the wall and took a deep breath. If someone was inside, they’d probably been warned of their presence when he’d turned the knob at the front door. He knew he’d have to make a split decision as to whether or not to shoot.
He steeled himself and peeked around the corner. The back screen door was open. He could see Ned peering around the corner on his side. There were two smaller windows here, on either side of the door, just like in the front of the cabin but a little higher up.
Ned nodded and they each inched their way forward staying close to the wall of the cabin until they reached the windows and could position themselves to peer in.
Steve’s window was dark, it looked into the main bedroom. He could tell the door to the bedroom was open but he didn’t see movement. The pillows appeared to be missing from the bed, he couldn’t see the TV, and the small dresser drawers were hanging open.
Steve leaned back against the wall and glanced at Ned. He could see light spilling from the window on Ned’s side, but he knew it looked into one of the smaller rooms which was off the kitchen. So if that door was open, the light could be coming from the kitchen. He watched as Ned looked through the glass.
Then he saw Ned duck down below the window. Ned glanced at Steve and pointed up and then left to indicate he’d seen something on the left. Steve nodded. He moved past his window and edged toward the open screen door as Ned did the same on his side.
They could see as they got closer that the solid door to the cabin was pushed open wide as well. Just before they reached the steps leading inside, a large buck came charging out the door, leaped down the steps, and disappeared into the woods.
“Holy Shit!” Steve muttered as he lowered his gun. He glanced at Ned who lowered his gun and simply burst out laughing.
“Well, I guess that deer cleared the cabin for us.All that beer he drank, he must have to pee bad!” Ned said. Steve shook his head. He was still trying to catch his breath.
“Ya think?” Steve chuckled. The two men entered the cabin, guns still out just in case something else was still inside but relatively sure it wouldn’t be people hanging out with a buck.
Steve and Ned checked each room of the cabin but found no other creatures, deer or otherwise. There were certainly signs of several people partying. Most of the food that had been stored in the cupboards was gone. The glass on the liquor cabinet was smashed and all the liquor was gone.
The two men took a few minutes to clean up the floor, close cupboards, and drawers and right the furniture so the kids wouldn’t have to see the complete mess. The wooden rocking chairs were indeed gone as was the newer TV from the main bedroom. His gun safe in the closet which was bolted to the floor was intact.
“Thank goodness they didn’t get the gun safe.” Steve said. The food, guns, ammo or other supplies that Steve had hidden under the floorboards and in the removable panel in the bedroom closet were thankfully intact.
The smaller, older TV’s in the kids rooms remained in place. The kids had their game console and games with them, so that would make the next few days easier on the kids.
“It really looks like some young whippersnappers decided to have a party while you were away.” Ned said as they finished up and headed for the front door of the cabin.
“Yeah.” Steve agreed. “It sucks. Jess is going to be very disappointed about the rocking chairs, but what’s done is done. We’ve brought enough food with us to replace what was taken. We’ll get through it.” Steve said as the two men stepped out onto the porch.
Rather than whistle the all clear, Steve and Ned walked down the drive to break the news to Jess and the kids and bring the vehicles up to the cabin. As they came into view of the gate, Steve called out, “Jeff, it’s us. All clear.”
“Really? That’s great news, Dad.” Jeff stepped away from his spot near the tree and came toward his Dad and Ned. “How do you think the gate got open, then?” Jeff asked.
“Oh somebody or several of them were here at some point alright. They partied and made a mess of the place, took most of the food, and some other stuff. But they’re gone now.
But it looks like they left the back door open and a deer was inside, it scared the crap out of us or we’d have had deer meat for the freezer.” Steve explained as they continued toward the car.
“Geez, really? There was a deer inside the cabin?” Steve nodded. When they got to the car, Jeff climbed into the back seat and Steve got in the passenger’s seat beside Jess.
“Well?” Jess asked looking at her husband quizzically. “You were gone awhile. What happened?”
“Good news or bad news first?” Steve asked.
“Oh hell. Give me the bad news first so I can end things on a high note.” Jess said.
“The rocking chairs from your parents are gone, most of the food and the TV from the bedroom.” Steve said quickly.
“Oh Steve, not the chairs.” Jess said. Steve nodded.
“Unfortunately, yes. I didn’t see them anywhere in the cabin so unless they are somewhere out back where we didn’t see them, they’re gone.
It looks like someone had a party and finished it off by backing a truck up to the porch and carrying off the chairs, the TV, and whatever food they didn’t eat.”
Steve put his hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry about the chairs, honey. But hey, the good news is there’s no longer a deer in the cabin.” Steve said.
“A deer? How did a deer get in the cabin?” Jess asked.
“Looks like whoever was here partying left the back door open. The deer must have wandered in at some point. Probably smelled the leftover food. They left a pretty big mess.
Looks like the deer or the partygoers flipped over the couch and the coffee table. Ned and I put most of it back together before we came to get you.” Steve said.
All Jess could do was nod. She started the truck and drove up the drive to the cabin. Ned followed in his truck. It had been such a long trip already. As she parked the Durango near the cabin she looked at Steve. “At least no one was hurt. The cabin is still standing. We have a place to sleep for the next few days.” Jess said.
“This is true. I’m really pissed someone broke in and trashed the place, but I’m thankful I didn’t have to decide whether or not to shoot anyone tonight.” Jess nodded.
The family started piling out of the car. The kids grabbed their tubs to carry into the cabin. Steve walked over to talk to Ned. “Hey neighbor” Steve called to Ned as he parked his truck and got out. “thanks for helping us out.
I’m really glad you were here to back me up in that cabin. I can’t imagine what could have happened if someone had still been in there and I was alone with the family.”
“That’s what neighbors are for, right? Even hundreds of miles away from home. That buck sure gave me a fright, though.” Ned chuckled. “It’s been a bit since I’ve seen any action so I was already a bit on edge heading up to that door.” Ned admitted.
“Me too.” Steve grinned at Ned. “So, me and the Mrs. were talking as we pulled up to the gate, before all the hullabaloo. It’s late and you’re welcome to hole up here with us tonight or even for a few days, if you want. Instead of driving on to your place.”
“Actually that’s mighty generous of you. I do want to head on to my place eventually, thinking I should at least make sure it’s still secure, especially after tonight.
But I’d be grateful to crash on that couch tonight if you truly don’t mind. I’ve got about another hour or so to go depending on traffic and I’d rather not do it tonight.” Ned said.
“Absolutely. Stay as long as you like. Can’t guarantee you’ll get to sleep in because these kids have slept most of the way here, but you’re welcome to stay and head out whenever you’re ready.” Steve said.
“Sounds like a plan. Come on then, I’ll give a hand getting the rest of your supplies inside. I doubt the partygoers plan to return, but better to secure the stuff inside just in case.” Ned said.
“Good point. Alright, let’s get the truck unloaded. Those dang partygoers got all the liquor but I did bring a case of beer from the house, so I can at least offer you a beer afterwards.” Steve offered.
The two men unloaded the rest of the truck and stacked the tubs inside the cabin against one wall. Then Steve cracked open a couple of beers and handed one to Ned. “Come on, let’s take these out on the porch.” Steve said.
“Perfect end to a crazy night.” Ned said as he followed Steve onto the porch. “I’m thinking a couple days and it should be safe to head back home. So a little mini vacation before we go back and assess the damages that storm smacked on Walterboro.” Ned said.
“Yeah, I’m not looking forward to that day. Jess and I just renovated and it cost a bundle.” Steve said.
“Well, just keep in mind, the most valuable things in your life are right there inside that cabin.” Ned said. “As long as you’re weathering the storm together, everything else can be replaced or you can do without it.”
“Ain’t that the truth neighbor.” Steve said.
(Continue reading chapter 8 here.)