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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 24

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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 24

 

“Mr. President,” said Forteson. “How are things today?” Forteson stepped through the doorway and into the conference room aboard Air Force One. They had lifted off from Andrews AFB thirty minutes before. It was still dark outside, hours before dawn. The room’s lights were low, casting a patina of amaretto on the chamber.

“Swell,” answered the president. His tired and gray appearance suggested otherwise. He was flanked by the director of the secret service and his chief of staff.

“Where’s the judge?” asked Forteson, looking around the otherwise empty room.

“We expect him any moment,” answered Chief of Staff Gabe Truth.

“Don’t think this changes anything,” said the president.

“What do you mean?” asked Forteson.

“I’m still the president.”

“I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.”

“There’s no need to be coy, David. All I’m saying is that I’m not going anywhere. I intend to finish the job I set out to do.”

Forteson glanced over to the chief of staff who slithered towards the conference room door and closed and locked it. The director of the secret service was there as well, watching carefully in the shadows. His eyes shifted to Forteson’s. The chief of staff was about to speak but Forteson interrupted him.

“There are many people who are not as convinced,” Forteson suggested.

“Convinced of what?”

“That you can finish the job.”

“And who are they? Your handlers?”

“The judge and the photog are going to be here any moment,” advised the chief of staff. “Can’t this wait?”

“I have an offer for you, Mr. President,” said Forteson.

The chief of staff, standing halfway between Forteson and the president, interrupted. “This is not the appropriate time for—”

“I am the president. You are the vice president. If there are any offers to be made, they’ll be made by me.”

“I don’t believe that is how the joint chiefs see things, Mr. President,” replied Forteson.

“How they see things is not relevant. I am their commanding officer. I give the orders. They report to me.”

“No. Not exactly. Not any longer.”

The president leaned back in his chair and stammered incoherently. The wide eyes of Gabe Truth flitted between the two men. The secret service director remained in the shadows.

Forteson continued. “The joint chiefs have decided that it’s become necessary to accelerate their timetable for executive transition. They are assuming command of the executive branch, effective with my swearing in. You’ve been given ample time to rectify the domestic situation, yet the insurgency continues and you can’t seem to get inflation under control. The riots and demonstrations are doing irreversible damage to the prestige of the federal government. Intelligence is now reporting there are Russian and Chinese and even Islamist operatives working within our borders, coordinating and arming domestic insurgents. Let that sink in for a moment, Mr. President. The domestic situation has deteriorated under your watch. The foreign situation has suffered even worse. The overseas military humiliations are simply unacceptable. Our adversaries are having their way with us and our international hegemony is dissolving right before our eyes. America is in full retreat. The United States is the exceptional, indispensable nation. We cannot retreat from the world. We cannot allow that to happen. If we do, it will hasten a new dark age. It is our duty to defend democracy, both at home and abroad.”

“Democracy? And what would you call this coup of yours? Is this what you call ‘democracy’?”

Truth, still standing between them, backed away towards the bulkhead wall, as if he was trying to dematerialize and pass through it.

Forteson smirked for an instant as if to acknowledge that he had been caught. Then he laughed. “Sometimes you have to destroy democracy in order to save it.”

The president laughed at that. The chief of staff stood against the wall, mouth agape.

“We don’t blame you for everything, Mr. President,” Forteson continued. “We understand and acknowledge the unique challenges your office was faced with. We have simply lost confidence in your ability to put things in order. The job is bigger than anything a single man from Akron could be expected to handle.”

“Put things in order? Whose order?”

“Order is all that matters.”

“So whither the republic?”

“This is a national emergency. Don’t act as if you’re not familiar with national emergencies. How did my confirmation[1] get fast-tracked? National emergency has been the pretext of every single one of your 1100 executive orders. ‘Whither the republic,’ you say?  Spare me. It withered away to nothing long ago, by a million little cuts, many by your hand. The republic is long gone. Republic is just a buzzword for the masses to feel good about when they go to the polls and validate us and our rule. There is no fucking republic. Get real. America is the enforcer of the world order. The executive is the executor.  Without it, this fucking planet would turn into Somalia.”

“We have the rule of law.”

“The executive is the law, the divine right of kings. The law is whatever the executive says it is. You following all this Gabe?”

The chief of staff twitched in affirmation, then he cast a sad look towards the president.

The president turned to the secret service director. “Have Mr. Forteson removed from Air Force One at our next stop. I rescind his appointment.”

A confident Forteson looked over to the director.

“I’m sorry Mr. President,” replied the director. “I can’t do that.”

The chief of staff, back still against the wall, looked to the president, then to Forteson, then back to the president and back and forth. Finally, he turned his body towards Forteson but hung his head in defeat.

“Don’t look so surprised, Mr. President,” Forteson said. “This has been in the works for months now. Everything’s essentially been transitioned. The joint chiefs are already operating autonomously. As of this very moment, were are moving a mechanized division into Montana to sweep and clear Bozeman.”

“You can’t do this,” said the president.

“Of course we can. And we have all the presidents to thank for it. The joint chiefs, they simply used the mechanisms that you and your predecessors put into place. We weren’t the ones who cited national security as pretext to suspend habeas corpus. We didn’t pack the courts with authoritarian-friendly judges. We weren’t the ones who turned the intelligence agencies loose to gather up the necessary blackmail data on every person in the country. We weren’t the ones who muscled those impotent imbeciles in congress into funding our black ops and secret prisons. You did that, Mr. President. You did that. You and your predecessors. And you sit there and look so astonished. We’ve simply decided that it’s time to stop fucking around.”

“It won’t work. The secretary of state will intervene. The senate, the house, they’ll impeach you.”

“No. I’m afraid not, Mr. President. The secretary of state is dead. I heard it on my way in here. Apparently she just died in a car crash…most unfortunate. She was burned alive. Congress? Don’t make me laugh. They’re puppets. We have access to everything the NSA collects. We know it all. We’ve got the goods on all of them. We know the names of their mistresses and whores. We know how much they received in kickbacks and how much they spend on porn and cocaine and booze. We know the front companies where they hide their wealth from the IRS. We know their portfolios and the untoward things done by the companies they own shares in. We know about their off-color jokes, homosexual escapades, and the shocking manifestos they wrote in their youth. Every time they, or their family members have slighted anyone on record, we have it. Every vice they bragged about, every depravity or petty crime or crude behavior or moment of human weakness. We know everything about their donors as well, and the companies they own and invested in and everything they’ve done. Guilt by association, Mr. President. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t done anything significant or even if they’ve been model citizens. We can take the most innocuous thing and spin it up in the media—the media that we control; the propaganda machine you created by throwing the real journalists out and packing the press corps with sycophants. And if that doesn’t work, we’ve partnered with the banks. We can yank anyone’s campaign funding and turn them out at the next election. And the people, they’re so damn dumb they’ll fall for it. The populace is a horde of mindless millions. You know that. All politicians know that. If you didn’t know that and use that knowledge, then you couldn’t have gotten elected in the first place. The people will fall for anything. Get ready for the show. The indictments and arrests are coming.”

“For what?”

“Does it really matter? Insider trading. Embezzlement. Tax evasion. Structuring. Campaign finance violations. Fraud. Drugs. Prostitution. Corruption. Racketeering. Drunk driving. Cruelty to animals. Jaywalking. Whatever. Do you really think the population is going to oppose the incarceration of the very scoundrels who wrecked the economy? They don’t give a damn about the validity of any charges. They just want to see them in handcuffs doing the perp walk. We’re going to give it to them, and we’re going to deliver it right into America’s living rooms on their big screen TVs.

“We can get to anyone, Mr. President. But we probably won’t have to go that far. Do you think any of those whores in congress would tolerate even a moment behind bars or a moment of financial insolvency or the humiliation of a perp walk if they could avoid it? Hell no. They’ll follow our orders.”

“Senator Thurman…”

“Sorry. He was just arrested. Turns out he was structuring withdrawals from his bank accounts, a big no-no.”

“Then the speaker.”

“He’s being dealt with. He has some big skeletons in his closet.”

The president laughed. “The people will rise up,” he suggested.

“The people?” asked Forteson. “Are you suggesting they will rise up in your defense?”

“They’ll rise up to save their republic.”

“Have you ever read Machiavelli, Mr. President? ‘Those who build their hopes on the people build their hopes on mud.’ Don’t forget, you essentially nuked a major American city. At the time, I might have agreed with your decision. We had to cut the communications and make the populace amenable to control by rendering them dependent on us for survival. But regardless, it was your decision. You own it. If you were somehow able to refuse to cooperate with us, we would just distance ourselves from you and what you did. Once you are alone, being attacked on all fronts, we would simply foment your removal from office by impeachment.”

“So why are you telling me all this?”

“Because we want you on board. We just want to make sure that there is no confusion regarding the new rules of engagement. This is the Twenty-First Century, Mr. President. We don’t turn our legions against Rome any longer. We don’t ambush Caesar and plunge our blades into his ribs. This is a civilized age. The joint chiefs are going to assume control of the executive with me waiting in the wings in case you get off the chain. But they recognize the importance of maintaining at least the illusion of the republic. Americans love their illusions. They hold them dear. Their illusions override all their logic and good sense. They regard democracy as if it were some sort of deity. They want to believe in it. They need to believe in it. And we want to use that to our advantage.

“Now the DoD, they don’t want to do anything that might cause the mud of the masses to harden. They’ve come up with a proposal for you. You can reject it and go down fighting, and all the calamities that this nation has endured will be pinned on you. And that will be your legacy. You’ll be the American Nero who lost the republic; the tyrant who radio-flashed an American city and fiddled while it burned. Your name will be reviled for all eternity. You will be cursed two thousand years from now. Or, you can play ball with us. You can accept your new boss, retire in a year to your farm in Ohio, and be remembered as the president who gave his buckeye best against impossible odds. And then someday, some of the more intelligent plebes out there will rightfully regard you as the last real president. That’s the best we can offer.” Forteson turned to the chief of staff. “And you, Gabe, you have about three hours to convince me you are with us. Otherwise, the entire country is going to learn about your unorthodox sexual appetites…in high resolution.”

The secret service director glowered at the chief of staff. Gabe Truth bowed his head.

“The joint chiefs seem to forget that the president has his bosses, too,” said the president, slumped in his chair.

“Who? The bankers?”

“Who else?”

“You continue to underestimate us,” Forteson continued. “That’s your fatal flaw. I think we’re both in agreement that our accommodating attitude toward them is at the root of most of our troubles. But unlike you, we don’t cling to any naive belief that they have a solution. They’d lend us the rope to hang ourselves if they could. I know. I come from their stock. Some of the banks will need to step up. Others will need to be brought to heel. And some will have to be liquidated.”

“What do you mean?”

“T is going to meet with the banks to get them on board with a revised version of your Amero Plan.”

“I thought you opposed it.”

“The joint chiefs believe we can work within the framework of it, with some modifications, of course.”

“So how do you intend to fund the Pentagon, then, in lieu of the proposed budget cuts?”

“We think the banks will be a little more open to suggestion after T meets with them.”

“And the insurgency?”

“We’ll have the Doc leadership knocked out in a matter of days. The ones we don’t annihilate with drones we’ll bring in by offering amnesty.”

“How?”

“They’re just soldiers, Mr. President. When they see the military taking control and the threats mobilizing against us overseas, they’ll be all too happy to jump back on board the winning team.”

Three knocks came on the door.

“That must be the judge,” said Forteson. “Let’s get this swearing in business over with.”

[1] The Senate fast-tracked Forteson’s confirmation under the pretext of preserving continuity of government operations during national emergency. Confirmation hearings were abbreviated. Congressional opposition was told they would get the opportunity to question the new vice president, but they had to confirm him in order to have a confirmation hearing.

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 23

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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 23

Sharon opened the door to the garage and found Jessica inside. “There’s someone coming up the road!” she shouted.

Jess switched off the generator. “What?”

“There’s someone coming up the road.”

Jess stepped outside and scanned the yard. “Have you seen Brooke?”

“I’ll look inside.”

Jess ran around to the other side of the house but didn’t find her there. She concealed herself behind the corner of it to sneak a good look at who was coming. He appeared, for a moment, between the trees. He looked like a vagrant walking with a limp. She didn’t like the looks of him. She turned away and ran back around to the other side of the house and scanned the yard once more before darting into the house to find her revolver. “Is she here?” she shouted to Sharon.

“I don’t see her. She’s not upstairs.”

“Can you check the basement? I need to keep an eye on this guy.”

Sharon went downstairs to look.

Jess looked out the window. The man shuffled up the road, closing in. Then she spotted her daughter sitting near the top of the driveway by the mailbox. “Brooke!” she shouted. The vagabond would reach her within a minute. She shuddered at the notion of a drifter knowing that a young child lived in the house. He might be a freak and come for her. She sprinted out the front door and down the steps and darted up the driveway to retrieve Brooke before the drifter spotted her, but it was too late. He had already seen them both. They briefly made eye contact, deepening Jess’s dislike of him. She took Brooke by the hand, and held her pistol tightly in the other.

The vagabond stopped just before her driveway. His face was drenched in sweat. He clutched at his side. “Excuse me,” he yelled.

“What do you want?” Jess shouted back.

He straightened himself upright. “I’m looking for someone,” he groaned.

“Go away.”

“I’m a friend of the man who lives here.”

“We’re armed. There are others in the house with guns, too.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” The drifter swayed as he spoke. He caught his breath, still clutching at his side.

“Don’t make any sudden moves,” Jess commanded.

“I won’t. I’m just looking for the man who lives here. We helped each other, once.”

“Who?”

“His name is Vaughn Clayton. Does he still live here?”

Hearing Vaughn’s name weakened her resolve. She leaned back against the mailbox, pulling Brooke in close to her. She raised her pistol and pointed it at him.

“What do you want?” she asked.

He sighed and pressed his forearm into his side. “I’m a friend of Vaughn’s. We helped each other after the collapse, just before the grid went down. I’m sorry I’ve frightened you. I’ve been on the road a while.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is James. You don’t have to point that at me. I’ll leave. If you know how to reach Vaughn Clayton, tell him James came by.” He wiped his face with his sleeve. Then he made to leave, but stopped and searched her face. His eyes brightened. “Hold on. Are you Jessica?”

Croukamp appeared between the trees, across and above the road. “Is there any trouble here?” he shouted. He was holding his carbine.

“There’s no trouble,” Marzan answered. “I was just coming to pay a visit to a friend and ask for help. Vaughn Clayton knows me. Please tell him I came by. I’ll be going now. Tell him I’m waiting for him. Tell him I’ll be at Bob’s house. He’ll know where that is.” Marzan started to turn away, clutching his side.

“Wait,” Jess called out.

Marzan stopped.

“How do you know me?” she asked.

Marzan stared at her. Then he looked over at Croukamp who raised his rifle ever so slightly. He turned back to Jess. “I helped Vaughn pull you out of that outhouse.”

“How do we know you’re telling the truth?” Croukamp shouted from the trees.

“I don’t know how I can prove anything to you. You’ll just have to ask Vaughn when he gets back. I didn’t think you’d remember me. You were barely conscious when we found you.”

“Vaughn’s dead,” Jess cried out.

“Jess!”” shouted Croukamp, trying to stop her.

Marzan’s face dropped as if the last of his mustered life force had finally drained out of him. He shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I’ll go.” He turned to walk away.

“He was murdered that same night,” Jess yelled. “They shot him at a checkpoint.”

Marzan stopped.

Jess still aimed the pistol. “Did you send us those packages?”

“The ammo? The .223?” Marzan groaned. “Yes, that was me.”

Jess lowered her revolver. Then Croukamp lowered his rifle.

“Thank you. It got us through that winter.”

“You’re welcome. I’m sorry to hear about Vaughn.”

Jess stepped towards him. “You’re hurt. Let us help you.”

Croukamp slung his rifle back onto his back and came down to them. Marzan slowly took out his pistol and handed it to over.

“You look terrible,” Croukamp observed as he frisked him. “Where’ve you been?”

“Over many miles,” he answered. The walking has done something to my wound.”

“Come into the house and get some water and something to eat.”

“Wait.” Marzan was struggling to speak. “There’s a boy. I found him on the road. He’s back down there, one house up from the crossroads, in a white van. Can you bring him back here? Tell him I sent you.”

“What’s his name?”

“I don’t know. He won’t speak.” Marzan collapsed in the road.

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Crumbs…Draft Excerpt 2

From Chapter 17:

In addition to the unimaginable loss of life, there were billions of man hours of human effort invested in the construction of roads and bridges and railways and skyscrapers and canals and factories and homes that were simply obliterated when they were turned to rubble by smart bombs or turned to glass by nuclear chain reactions. There are some learned people who have suggested, quite adamantly, that war is good for the economy, that war creates employment and demand and that demand foments economic growth. Perhaps they had a point! For those who had survived the bombs and then the subsequent disease, and then the hopelessness and despair, there were quite a few well paying jobs to be had because there were many, many jobs to be done and vast, vast numbers of laborers had been removed from the available workforce.

Of course, the exorbitant wages paid to these remaining workers didn’t really buy anything because there was nothing worth buying that was being made, few roads or trucks left to deliver any of it, and few storefronts left standing from which to merchandise it. The things that were still being made were mostly just more bombs, gunships, bullets, tanks, planes, missiles, helmets, and body bags. No civilians really wanted to spend their hard earned wages on that kind of stuff, so the gainfully employed survivors deposited their exorbitant checks and went home to their three standing walls and partially roofed, bombed out houses, ate their rutabaga pies, stared at test patterns on their 225 inch, high definition televisions, and talked about how good the war had been for the economy.

With nothing to buy and their money stashed in their bank accounts, the bankers turned around and lent that money back to the governments to build even more bombs, gunships, bullets, tanks, planes, missiles, helmets, and body bags. So in a sense, everyone ended up buying war materiel whether they wanted to or not. It should not go without mention that the very people who suggested that “war was good for the economy” were, with few exceptions, also employed by the very same people who declared the wars in the first place.

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 22

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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 22

 

Marzan silently approached the van which was nestled into the brambles at the river’s edge. He wanted to run towards it but he had to be careful. He closed in. Something inside stirred. He reached down to his pistol. Twenty paces from the doors. The back windows were covered with tinfoil. James checked the mirrors to see if anyone was watching him. The interior was cast in shadow. Ten paces. He listened, treading carefully as he drew nearer. He made no sound. Closing in. Closer. His right hand touched the stock of his pistol. A sense of dread ran through him. He had to know what was inside, but he already knew what was in there. He couldn’t explain it, but he knew. God or guardian angels, extrasensory perception, fragments of evidence assembled in his mind, or perhaps it was just destiny. It was something drawing him to the doors. Now one pace away. He listened, making no sound. He pressed his ear to the tinfoil-covered window. He heard what he had feared. Sobbing. The boy. He was inside. Marzan was simultaneously elated and horrified. At least he had found him, but found him in what state? He drew the pistol with one hand, with the other he reached to the door handle and gripped it. He pushed his thumb into the button. Quiet. Careful. Preserving the element of surprise. His breathing shallow but controlled. His heartbeat slowing. The boy sobbed. A grown man grunted. He pushed the button and the door clicked. It was unlocked. He was committed, now. Whoever was in there had to have heard the sound. Delay would be disastrous. He flung the door open with his pistol drawn.

“Don’t move!” James shouted.

He heard the boy and saw a man on top of him, frozen. He scanned the rest of the van. No one else was inside.

“Get off of him,” James ordered. “Now keep your hands where I can see them.” James climbed into the back of the van and closed the door behind them. It was dark.

“Look man,” said the rapist with his back turned and hands raised, pants still down. “Don’t shoot. I fucked up, okay? I’ll turn myself in. We can go right into town.”

“You pull your clothes up, boy,” Marzan said. “Then come over here by me.”

The boy crawled out from under the rapist and over the filth and clutter that littered the van and got behind James who still pointed the gun. The rapist reached down to pull up his pants.

“Don’t move! Leave them down.”

“Huh?”

“You better start hearing better or I’ll top you right here.”

The rapist complied.

Marzan lunged forward and grabbed him by his shirt collar and shoved him into the driver’s seat. He climbed into the passenger seat and held the gun at the rapist’s ear. “Start it up.”

“Huh?”

“What did I just say about your hearing? Start it up. The engine. We’re gonna take a little drive.”

“To the sheriff?”

“You’ll know when we get there.”

“Look, I’ll turn myself in. I’ll confess everything.”

“Shut up. Where’s your wallet?”

“It’s in my pants pocket. Look, I’ve got some cash, too. I’ll give you all of it.”

“Yes, I’ll be taking all your cash and anything else of value you keep in this filthy piece of shit. But first I want your wallet. Now reach down nice and slow with your left hand and take it out of your pants and set it on the console.”

The rapist complied. Marzan took it and removed his ID. He read last name out loud. “Naegle.”

“Look, man,” the rapist continued with hands raised. “The sheriff is right down the road. I won’t resist. You can march me right in. Just let me pull up my pants, first.”

“Shut the fuck up. Who’s the sheriff? Your daddy? Your uncle or something?”

“Huh?”

James pistol whipped him in the temple, opening a deep, dark, inch-long gash that didn’t begin to ooze blood until seconds later. “Start it up!” James ordered. “You keep both hands on the wheel or I’ll cut your fucking balls off and choke you with them.”

The rapist started the van.

“We’re headed southeast. Let’s go.”

The van backed out of the brambles and made its way onto the highway, moving away from Granby. The wound on the rapist’s temple began draining blood and soon the side of his face was covered in a sheet of red that ran down and soaked his shirt. They drove for two hours, into the mountains and up and over a winding pass that crested above the tree line. The boy sat silently, curled up tightly into himself in a patch cleared of filth in the back of the van. The driver began to weep when they went over the top the mountain.

“Are you going to kill me?” he asked, turning to Marzan briefly in an attempt to read his face.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Marzan answered. “Just drive.”

“Are you taking me to the police?”

“Shut up.”

“I’m sorry, man. I’m so sorry. I’m sick. I didn’t want to do it but I can’t…I can’t stop it.”

“Shut up.”

They followed the road down below the tree line, down into the forest, down into the shadows, down, down, down.

“Turn here,” Marzan ordered.

“Huh?”

“Turn here.” Marzan whipped him again with the pistol.

They turned off onto a dirt road and drove it for three miles. They turned again, south, onto a ragged trail. The van heaved and rattled and squeaked through the woods. “This is good enough. Turn it back around right there.”

The rapist veered off and got the van turned around, facing back towards where they had come from.

“You’re not going to kill me, are you?”

“Get out.”

The rapist opened the door and got out, pants still around his ankles. Marzan grabbed the shovel stowed in the van and followed him out through the driver’s door, kicking him in the back as he climbed out. He left the door open but took the keys out and put them in his pocket. The boy stayed in the back.

The rapist started crying.

“Are you scared?” Marzan asked.

“Yes,” the rapist sobbed.

“Are you afraid to die?”

“Please don’t kill me. You can take the van. I’ve got money too. We can go to an ATM. I’ll give you…”

“I’m going to take the van, regardless. Here…” Marzan threw the shovel down at the ground next to him. “Dig.”

The rapist, face and shirt coated in dried, blackened blood, looked down at the shovel.

“I said dig.” Marzan ordered.

The rapist took hold of the shovel and scooped out a bit of dirt and tossed it aside.

“Start fucking digging or I’ll start shooting,” Marzan said.

“Am I digging my grave?”

“You want to find out now or later?” Marzan said, pointing the pistol at his face.

The rapist dug. Shovelful after shovelful. He piled the dirt next to the hole and when he had made a hole about two feet deep and five feet long Marzan told him to stop.

“Do you want to pray?” Marzan asked.

“No. No. Don’t kill me.”

“You have one minute to pray. Then I’m going to shoot you, and I am going to watch you die. Then I’m going to cover you up with dirt and we’re going to leave.”

“No. Please. Please,” he begged.

“You have fifty-five seconds.”

“Please. Please…”

The rapist was pale and thin, not much more than a boy, himself, perhaps eighteen years old. He cried like a child while the breeze blew in.

“I don’t hear you praying,” Marzan said.

“Please,” he screamed. “I’m so sorry. Please don’t kill me. I’m sick. I need…I need to be locked up. It’s…I’m…”

“Twenty seconds.”

The rapist fell onto his knees in his hole and wept and begged, hands interlocked in prayer, naked from waist to ankles.

“Ten seconds.”

The rapist curled into a ball in the hole and covered his head.

“Time’s up,”Marzan said.

The rapist sobbed.

Marzan’s tone darkened. He was calm. He stepped closer. “Get back on your knees.”

The rapist wept and convulsed.

“I said get up on your knees.”

The rapist got up. Marzan looked him directly in the eye. The truth was he had no idea what he was going to do until this moment. Whatever he ended up doing, he had put a real good scare into the young man. He weighed the options. He could tie him up and take him to a station and let the authorities deal with him. He could leave him in the woods to fend for himself. But what would he do when he got back to Granby? Would he become a changed man? Marzan didn’t figure the rapist for a killer. He didn’t have the look of one, whatever that look is. But he didn’t know for sure, and he couldn’t know for sure where his deviancy might lead him, again. Perhaps he had killed and buried his victims in the woods. But that was impossible to know. At any rate, Marzan figured, you can’t punish people for what they might become, only for what they’ve done. Does a rapist who doesn’t murder deserve death? If so, then they would probably kill their victims. How about a child rapist? It was difficult for Marzan to answer definitively.

Then the breeze stopped….

And Jimmy Marzan stopped thinking about what was right and wrong and thought instead of the boy, and what he had been through, already.

“How old are you?” Marzan asked.

The rapist looked up, the side of his face covered in dried blood. His eyes looked hopeful for mercy. “I’m nineteen, sir.”

“That’s old enough to know better.”

Marzan pulled the trigger.

The rapist doubled over into the hole, wheezing and groaning. Marzan sat down on the edge with his feet in the hole and watched him. He sat watching over the rapist for an hour wondering if the gentle breeze and the songs of birds and the silent wispy clouds overhead would bring on regret for taking a man’s life. The rapist’s breaths became irregular. The silent trees had born witness to the murder but they did not judge. The songbirds scattered with the arrival of ravens. When the irregular breaths had ceased altogether, Marzan grabbed the shovel and covered the body with dirt. When he had moved the last of it he turned back to the truck. The boy was sitting at the window, watching without expression. Marzan did not know if he had seen it all. He put his revolver back into his waistband, climbed into the truck and turned the key. He looked at the boy who sat in the passenger seat, thinking to himself that he had a flat, distant look in his eyes. The look people have when they’ve seen too much.

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 21

READ FOR FREE IN ITS ENTIRETY! NEW CHAPTERS TO BE POSTED WEEKLY.

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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 21

 

Mae arranged to ride along with Dieter past Bismarck and through Rapid City where he met with some business associates. From there, they went through the Black Hills and westward. They stopped outside of Gillette, Wyoming. Dieter made some phone calls and they waited for four hours at a diner at the base of a highway exit. They sat across from each other, hardly speaking, Dieter getting up and going outside to smoke every twenty minutes. After his tenth trip, Mae, overcome with boredom, decided to break the ice.

“So what sort of business are you in?” she asked as she stirred her ice cubes with her straw.

Dieter didn’t answer.

“You can tell me. What am I gonna do, turn you in? What would I say? That some old guy named Dieter I met in Minot told me he’s breaking the law?”

Dieter wheezed out another laugh and looked at her with a joyful look in his St. Bernard eyes.

“Come on. I’m bored to tears. Give me something.”

“You first.”

Mae looked at him furtively. “Okay.”

“What are you waiting for?” Dieter asked.

“You know the vice president?”

“Not personally, no.”

“Well I do. As a matter of fact, I know him intimately. Do you believe me?”

“It doesn’t sound like something someone would make up. If it was bullshit, I imagine you’d say that you blew the president.”

Mae laughed. “Want to know something else?”

“Sure.”

Mae lifted the straw out of the glass and clasped it between her thumb and index finger, not four inches from the end. She pulled it out of the glass and held it up until Dieter’s eyes sparkled, indicating he understood what she was insinuating. Then she fellated the tip of the straw.

“That figures.” Dieter said in his phlegmy baritone. He started laughing and didn’t stop until it trailed off into another coughing fit.

“Now your turn,” Mae said, turning deadly serious.

Dieter stared at her for what seemed like a minute. Then he grinned. “I’m a broker. I bring together parties who want to buy and sell.”

“Too vague,” Mae retorted.

Dieter looked out the window, watching a car pull into the parking lot of the motel across the road.

“Tell me something interesting,” Mae demanded.

Dieter turned back to her and leaned towards her across the table. “I can tell you this: I’ve seen the soldiers on both sides, up close.”

“And what did you see?” Mae asked in an almost dismissive tone.

Dieter stared at her, unblinking, unflinching, the smell of tobacco wafting off his clothes. His thick, weathered fingers interlocked. His voice darkened. “You’re going to lose.”

Mae released the straw into her tumbler and leaned back into her seat, giving no response.

Dieter turned to the window. “My associates have finally arrived,” he observed. “I need to go meet them.”

They left the diner and crossed the road to the motel parking lot. Dieter opened the door to his car and let Mae in. He instructed her to wait there while he met with his ‘associates’ in the motel room.

It was hot and after thirty minutes the smell of gasoline wafting in from the cans stored in the trunk became unbearable. She got out to get some air. She leaned on the fender and smoked a cigarette, listening to the muffled voices coming from the room. One voice bore the hint of a Slavic accent, maybe Russian. That would just be my luck, she pondered, busted traveling with an arms dealer. Knowing she had no alternative transportation, she stepped out of earshot of the motel room in order to preserve plausible denial in the event they were detained and interrogated. She pondered dialing the secret service phone, but thought better of it.

It was windy and bright and the sky was a white haze of contrails. Squads of helicopters moved east to west. She looked up to the highway overpass. A fleet of semis, painted tawny camouflage, rolled past on their way west. Then she saw trailers hauling three 155mm artillery pieces each, with their barrels corked like champagne bottles. Then trailer after trailer of drones, folded up and shrink-wrapped like mammoth insects morphing in their cocoons. Then came refrigerated trailers with potato chip and grocery store logos emblazoned on their sides, grills and windshields louvered in steel as protection from projectiles. The caravan continued: flatbed after flatbed, each with at least fifty camouflaged portable toilets strapped in tightly, every plastic shithouse adorned with the face of a smiling koala bear—the logo of Sherman’s Toilet Tissue. Then a motorcade of officers driving matte brown Lincolns with gold stars on the hood, sparkling chrome spinner wheels and tinted windows. Then caterers and sporting goods vans hauling workout equipment. Then embedded AmericaOne media trucks with satellite dishes fixed to their roofs. Then an army recruiter’s van with the picture of a teenaged Latino and an Asian girl and a Caucasian transgender, each dressed in combat fatigues, M4s slung on their shoulders, locked in one another’s embrace as if they were posing for a selfie at an amusement park. “Be All That You Can Be!” Then mobile fast food restaurants—Pizza King, Tacodobe, Burger Hut. Then a Humvee with its turret manned by a bloated, forty-something man, too fat for his Kevlar which rode up to his double chin. The parade rolled past Mae as she smoked a cigarette, watching in curious disbelief. A truck hauling camouflaged golf carts. Another with communications arrays. And another with plastic coffins, featuring Sepulcorp logos, stacked upright. A tiny sliver of cognitive dissonance crept into Mae’s brain as she exhaled and the hot wind dissolved the blue smoke. Then the civilian busses, filled with teenaged faces peering out, conscripts dressed in brown hues, some wearing their helmets, others just wearing looks of fear. One catcalled Mae as his bus blew past. She took another long drag and sensed the nicotine cooling her nervous system. So many young faces in the busses stared back, most grim, expressionless. Boys and girls sent by old men off to war. Boys concerned about their acne and trying to lose their virginity and girls that looked as if they were inducted the morning after prom. All the materiel that rolled past before those busses, the corporate-sponsored hardware and supplies, the military technology, the officers in their air conditioned luxury…Mae laughed at it. The parade of DC’s toys and tech had rolled into theaters of war before, like Shariastan, only to be rendered useless once the enemy had dug in. The foreign wars were sanitized into a reality television show for Dumfukistan to watch on their 100-inch televisions made in China. The real war, however, was not for public consumption. Despite all the technological advances, the soldiers still had to do the real fighting. And if it came to that, Mae thought, then by the looks of those kids in those busses, maybe Dieter was right.

She also saw the civilian vehicles that were streaming the other direction, a bumper to bumper caravan from the west, loaded to the hilt with possessions stuffed into plastic totes and garbage bags. Pickup trucks crawled along with wind-rippling, bungee-corded tarps covering household things. Sport utility vehicles towed laden trailers. A Subaru passed with a grandfather clock sticking half way out the back window. Another car towed a washing machine and a refrigerator on a trailer.  Car windows framed confused children’s faces. A panting family dog sat on a driver’s lap. A Toyota went by with a leather sofa strapped precariously on the hood. Grandmother napped in her wheelchair in the back of another pickup, arm resting on a big screen TV. Cars passed with bumper stickers professing their faith in this republican or that democrat or Jesus or “coexist” or some football team or alumni or veteran status. None of those ideas mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was getting away from the civil war that was closing in on their hometown like a forest fire, feeding on the fuel of Americana, turning it into ash. The motel door finally opened and only Dieter emerged, his rotund body waddling out of the darkened room. He went straight to his car without so much as a glance in Mae’s direction.

“All done?” Mae shouted from near the road.

“Yes,” he answered, without making eye contact and opening his door. Mae dropped her cigarette, walked back and got in on the passenger side.

“Where to now?” she asked.

“We’ll drop you off next. It’s seven hours away if we don’t run into any traffic jams.” He gestured to the stream of traffic on the road.

“Where are all those people going?” Mae asked.

“Away.”

“Away from where?”

“Away from Bozeman would be my guess.”

“Why?”

“Feds are committed to clearing Doc out of there. But it’s not going too well for them. Doc is dug in with numbers…local militia, Continentals. I hear even some guard units. It’s street to street fighting, a real messy, bloody operation. Civilians are getting the hell out of there.”

“Refugees,” Mae observed.

Dieter pulled out of the lot and they drove under the highway and south on 59. Crossing the windswept steppe of Wyoming and through the Thunder Basin National Grassland, approaching Cheyenne four hours later as the gray thunderheads boiled on the western horizon. The connected back onto I25 but, just as Dieter had feared, their progress was halted by a traffic jam just a couple miles from the I-80 interchange. Dieter pulled off onto the shoulder and shut down the engine to save gas. To their left, across the highway, stood clusters of residential streets lined with mid-century houses and white church steeples poking through clusters of cottonwoods and spruce. To their right lay the Cheyenne Country Club nestled securely within the sprawling Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Crowding the edges of the fairways was an ocean of white tents and FEMA trailers hemmed off from the course by a six-foot chain link fence capped with razor wire.

They sat in the car, in the heat, breathing in the fumes of the gasoline cans stored in the trunk, now half gone.

“Mind if I smoke?” Mae asked.

“It’s probably a good idea if you did that away from the car a bit.”

“For sure.”

Mae got out and walked twenty steps away. She managed to light her cigarette in the wind with some difficulty, then studied the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of civilians packed into the camp. And then people on foot began to pass her on the shoulder. First one, then two more, then more and more after that. She stepped back to make way for the silent horde, the undead, marching because their cars had run out of gas, burdened with what remained of their things that they could carry, going willingly into the concentration camp ahead because it was preferable to dying of thirst or starvation on the road. The first of the walkers were men, sweating in the sun, hunched over by their overloaded packs. Then came the families with children and babies. She saw whimpering toddlers, forced to walk as they were too heavy to be carried the entire way. Then crying infants, one with a diaper soiled through, clinging to her exhausted mother who had yellow shit running down her shirt. Few were dressed for traveling any distance on foot, adorned in their worn sneakers, t-shirts with football team and beer logos, sweatpants and spandex, baseball caps and designer sunglasses to thwart the searing sun. “Do you have any water?” one asked Mae. Even if she had wanted to help him, if she were to give him water, the horde would see it and mob her like a pack of zombies. She replied to his request with a silent exhale of cigarette smoke.

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Michael Bay to Produce ‘Indivisible’!

Michael Bay is turning my book ‘Indivisible‘ into a movie called ‘Little America‘!  Well, sort of…

Universal has won a heated bidding war to pick up the rights to Little America, a futuristic adventure movie that has Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes on board to produce.

Rowan Athale, the British filmmaker behind 2012’s crime thriller Wasteland, wrote the spec and is attached to direct. Bay would produce with his partners Andrew Form and Brad Fuller.

Described by sources as a “sci-fun story rather than “sci-fi,” the tale is set in a dystopian future where a Donald Trump-like president has bankrupted America and China has called in its debts. The Asian giant now owns ths U.S., and many Americans have emigrated to China looking for work.

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