Monthly Archives: January 2016

Indivisible Chapter 1

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America’s day of reckoning has come….

A global selloff on U.S. Treasuries overwhelms the Federal Reserve and collapses the dollar. Mass inflation sparks civil unrest and panic as store shelves are raided, gas prices rise tenfold, and Americans’ life savings are wiped out. Desperate to maintain control, the federal government grows increasingly totalitarian. The president orders the Army home in an attempt to restore law and order, but the army’s battle-hardened, heavy-handed tactics only manage to spur the rebellion on.

The lives of a tormented soldier, a tyrannical sheriff, a vain diplomat and a desperate father converge amidst the chaos of total economic collapse and civil war in contemporary America.

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Indivisible

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”

—Bertrand de Jouvenal

Chapter 1

 

They were laughing at her.

Maiden Lane was an Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, but in addition to that, she was a woman of high-percentile physical attractiveness. A slender, tightly-curved woman of forty five, she was a glimmering Venus, illuminating the otherwise murky cosmos of grim bankers.

Ms. Lane had made her sacrifices to the gods of vanity performing self-flagellating penance on hotel elliptical machines at four a.m. nearly every morning for twenty years. Her high firm features and smoothly-defined legs were accentuated by a wardrobe of tight-fitting business suits—black, thigh-length business suits.

She often pondered all those women she had passed along the way up the career ladder. She pitied those androgynous trolls, as she referred to them, mocking how they sheathed their swords of sensuality in scabbards of shaggy uni-brows and frumpiness. Losers, she regarded them.

Maiden, or Mae for short, had no regrets about wielding her aesthetic weapons. You have to think like a winner in order to win, she reminded herself in her rare moments of doubt. Never project weakness. Never go on the defensive. Never pull a punch. A woman must use everything she’s got if she wants to reach the capstone. It’s a man-eat-man world.

For Mae, it was easy to titillate and manipulate the depraved, balding, Poindexter-archetype whom she encountered over the course of daily Treasury Department routine. Bankers, diplomats, establishment apparatchiks…they were all shallow careerists who believed in nothing other than accumulating personal prestige. These were colorless, shapeless, ambitious men. Their egos were their drugs and their prescriptions were filled on the stage of geopolitics. The political realm in which they acted was a veritable Hollywood for egomaniacal ugly people.

Mae, the shining diva, was accustomed to being ogled. Her attractiveness, in addition to her ruthlessness, got her many promotions. With a flirtatious wink or a juicy pout she could fondle their egos and set them onto her desired course. Maiden’s tools served her well—better even than her PhD—as she sauntered up the rungs of the Treasury Department career ladder. Her meticulous hair, hawkish persona, and high-gloss finish polished her impervious shell of armor and ionized her impregnable aura. She was an invulnerable animatron, a sort of robotic, diplomat dominatrix.

…At least up until now.

Ms. Lane was not accustomed to being mocked.

There were two Chinese fellows, sitting across from her in the limo, and they just weren’t into her. This was not an insurmountable barrier for Mae as she could play it straight as well as anyone, but it did implant an irritating stone in the toeless pump of her mind. Perhaps they’re gay, she thought to herself. Mae was sent by her boss, the Treasury secretary whom everyone referred to as “T”, to meet with a high-ranking representative of the People’s Bank of China—a Minister Tsang. But no one was there to greet her when she arrived at the Shanghai airport. Mae found this disturbingly unusual. She was, after all, a representative of the United Staes Government and it was extraordinary to snub U.S. government officials. After making a call to the Ambassador’s Office and being put on hold for eighteen minutes, Mae was instructed to wait outside for a car. She waited with her assistant. Her irritation grew. Three hours passed. Finally, a limousine pulled up.

The white-gloved driver leapt out and in a heavy Mandarin accent asked her if she was indeed “Mae-de-Raine”. He was wearing one of those little chauffeur hats tilted to one side and his pants were too short, revealing his white socks.

“Maiden Lane,” she corrected him annoyingly and with condescending emphasis on the ‘L’ sound.

The white-gloved driver just nodded with averted eyes, shoved her bag into the trunk, and opened her door. It was just as she was about to step in that she noticed the two young Chinese officials inside, each glancing down and fingering their mobile devices.

It was irregular to be met by officials in the car at the actual airport. Mae directed her assistant to take a cab to the hotel rather than ride along as she sensed there might be some unusual negotiations about to take place. Mae didn’t want to risk her assistant being called up before some kangaroo senate committee to explain, under oath, what she overheard about whatever untoward deal was about to be made in the back of this limousine.

Discretion was the first imperative strategy Mae was taught upon attaining a high degree in the cult of bureaucracy. In Mae’s paradigm, a witness creates opportunity for discovery. Discovery leads to transparency. Transparency foments oversight. And oversight is anathema to the efficiency of any bureaucratic system. You cannot be effective as an agency if you have an army of shrill, elected idiots questioning what you’re doing all the time. It’s best to encourage Congress to snipe away at each other and stay out of the really important matters like economics and geopolitics. Deep down inside, Congress didn’t want to know what was really happening because then they might actually be held accountable for it.

Ignorance is bliss, Mae thought.

The two Chinese officials sitting across from Mae were twenty–something and fastidiously dressed in fine black suits and shoes polished to a gleam. Jellied-up black hair, trimmed into fades, framed their high, wide, Manchurian cheek-bones. Their faces were molded into subtle sneers. Both were still fidgeting their handhelds with eyes hidden behind black sunglasses. Mae nicknamed them Chang and Eng.

“Welcome, Ms. Lane,” announced Chang without lifting a glance from his gadget, “How was your flight?” he asked in perfunctory monotone. His English was pristine.

“I’m a little irritated,” Mae answered. “No one was here to pick me up. I had to wait over three hours. I was expecting to meet in person with Minister Tsang at his office at PBC. Are we headed there?”

“Minister Tsang has sent us in his place,” answered Eng in similar monotone and without raising his eyes from his gadget.

“We beg your forgiveness, Ms. Lane,” continued Chang, “but Mr. Tsang had urgent business with officials in Bhutan.”

“I see,” Mae continued, perplexed. Bhutan? What the fuck? she thought. “Are we going to meet with Mr. Tsang tomorrow, then?” She asked, politely but forcefully.

“I do not think that will be possible, Ms. Lane,” answered Chang. “However, we have been empowered by Mr. Tsang to negotiate on behalf of the PBC.”

“You’ll have to excuse me but I must say that this is highly unusual. You two gentlemen haven’t even introduced yourselves, yet. Do you even know who I am?” Mae asked with condescension and the beginnings of a furrow in her brow.

The two young officials glanced at each other, each aping the other’s sneer.

“Of course we do, Ms. Lane,” answered Chang. “We are well aware of who you are and who you represent. You are the assistant to the secretary of the United States Treasury and you’ve been sent in place of the Treasury secretary to conduct negotiations with the PBC.”

“Ah,” continued Eng, “but the Treasury secretary did not feel it necessary to come to Shanghai to meet Mr. Tsang in person so he sent you in his place. Conversely, Mr. Tsang did not feel it necessary to discuss this matter in person with an assistant, so he sent us in his place. So you see, Ms. Lane, there is no need to feel irritated or offended. In fact, Mr. Tsang has already reviewed your latest proposal and we have been instructed by him on how to proceed…”

“…Proceed on behalf of the People of China,” completed Chang.

“Forgive me, but what matter in Bhutan could be so urgent as to cause Mr. Tsang to miss a meeting with the U.S. Treasury Department?” Mae snapped.

“I beg your pardon,” said Eng. “Bhutan may seem insignificant to the Great Superpower of the Glorious United States of America but Bhutan is China’s neighbor and a close and important ally.”

Bhutan: a launching point for operatives, Mae thought.

“As my colleague indicated, we have been fully empowered to conclude the negotiations here,” explained Chang.

“What do you mean by ‘here’?” Mae asked, even more bewildered. “‘Here’ as in here in Shanghai?”

“Uh, more specifically, ‘here’ as in ‘here in this limousine,’” explained Chang.

Mae struggled for a moment to find words, which was an unusual and uncomfortable experience for her. Even when she was trapped, she was always quite nimble at filling in a vacuum with convincing bullshit. She was a politician, after all. It had to be the uncustomary haughtiness of her Chinese counterparts, she thought. Sometimes the French and the Russians were rude, but never the Chinese. The good little Chinese, always so worried about pretense, always so low key and non-confrontational. Mae considered it a cultural inferiority complex. So why the rudeness today? She pondered. Mae’s irritation was growing into frustration. “So you want to negotiate a swap arrangement that could impact the value of a trillion dollars of your Treasury holdings in the back of a limousine?” Mae stared at them, mouth gaping in astonishment. The Chinese officials grinned. “You’re serious? Right here, in this car?” Mae composed herself before continuing. “Fine,” she declared. She opened up her briefcase. Fumbling through it, she removed copies of a summary document on glossy Treasury Department letterhead and handed copies of it to both of them. They received their copies with barely extended hands. Their eyes, concealed by their sunglasses, didn’t appear to even glance at the pages.

“As you can see,” Mae explained futilely, “it is a pretty standard reverse-repo—one the likes of which we’ve executed many times before with the PBC. The bottom line is that we’re asking the PBC to purchase $400 billion using the exchanges. It’s the same old drill: work the purchases through your third party dealers so it doesn’t set off any market alarms. This should relieve some of the upward pressure on the yuan. You’ll then use those dollars to purchase equivalent U.S. Treasuries that will be auctioned over the course of the subsequent seven days. Your purchase will be about half of the seven-day issue. Our Fed will then repurchase those Treasuries from you within the next thirty days…with a guaranteed ten percent yield, of course.”

The two Chinese officials burst into laughter.

“Guaranteed?” mocked Chang.

They continued laughing.

Mae’s frustration turned to anger. Who in the hell do these stooges think they are? she thought. “I really think we should be speaking to Mr. Tsang directly about this,” she snapped. “This is a negotiation with enormous sovereign ramifications!”

“Like I said before,” explained Chang, “we are fully authorized by Mr. Tsang, himself. We have his complete confidence.”

Mae knew then that she would get nowhere with these two. She stared at them in disbelief while their laughing trailed off and they went back to fingering their gadgets. She slammed her briefcase shut. She wanted nothing more than to leap out of the limousine, get to her hotel, order a $300 bottle of Chateau Lafite and place some calls to certain contacts who could make these two juniors feel some retributive discomfort. But that was impossible at the moment as they were now moving forty miles per hour on a congested, twelve-lane highway, motoring through an industrial sector of Shanghai. Even if they were stopped, Mae wouldn’t dare get out alone in the middle of Shanghai.

Up until very recent times, the U.S. Treasury was supremely confident in its ability to habitually fuck the Chinese over. The U.S. owned China—or so the U.S. banking leadership believed—owning them in the sense that every debtor owns his lender. If the lender squeezes too hard calling in the debt, the debtor might just walk away. The Treasury Department, the biggest debtor in human history, knew this and leveraged it. What was China going to do if the U.S. walked away from making its interest payments? Send the United States of America to a collections agency? Send out a repo-man? Get real. That was the Treasury Department’s attitude about it, anyway.

China made the market for U.S. debt since China owned so much of it. A bad issue, meaning a U.S. debt issue with not enough buyers, would catastrophically drive down the price of China’s entire portfolio, ultimately hurting the Chinese the most. Even when the PBC wasn’t overtly buying U.S. debt, they were covertly doing it through third party affiliates and through other countries like Belgium. The U.S. Treasury knew it had China by the short-and-curlies and they could always count on their good little Asian chumps to cough up another half trillion whenever needed, in order to keep the deficit shell game going. The Chinese would never let the Treasury market tank. It would be their own suicide if they did.

This latest negotiation was supposed to be a gimme. Mae was to meet Mr. Tsang like she had fifteen times before. He would initially pretend to be resistant. Mae would flirt, maybe she’d reveal a little cleavage, maybe she’d brush against him as she went through the documents. Tsang would pretend to be oblivious. Then they would ink a deal and go out to dinner. China would then print, or more aptly keystroke, a cosmological shitload of yuan, then use those yuan to buy a shitload of dollars, then use those dollars to buy a shitload of U.S. Treasuries. Then the Fed would keystroke a cosmological shitload of new dollars and use those dollars to buy those Treasuries back from the Chinese…plus ten percent, of course. It was Ivy League Genius—a laundering scheme that could be perpetuated ad infinitum. At the end of the day, other than a twenty percent increase in the price of rice, what did the Chinese Commissars have to lose? The yuan would remain soft. Chinese exports would remain cheap. And the Chinese industrial cartels would remain operating at full capacity.

But something was different this time. Mr. Tsang was conspicuously absent. These two juniors were negotiating on his behalf.

Mae hated them now.

Why didn’t Mr. Tsang come? she asked herself. Because of Bhutan? Impossible. No one snubs the United States of America for a Himalayan Deliverance—a tiny mountain fiefdom of gong-bangers. “I just don’t understand,” she said. “Is this some sort of joke? This entire arrangement today is highly irregular.”

“‘Highly irregular’ indeed, Ms. Lane,” remarked Chang.

Mae decided that she especially hated him. She hated his tone. She hated his phony politeness. She hated his Elvis-like sneer.

“Unbelievable!” She snapped. “You pick me up three hours late in this second-rate limo and treat me like this and… just take me to Shanghai One so I can speak to someone there.”

“We can assure you, Ms. Lane,” interjected Eng, “that the PBC will make every attempt to unwind our remaining U.S. Treasury position in an orderly fashion.”

“Yes,” affirmed Chang, “in an orderly fashion if that is at all possible.”

They both glanced at each other and laughed, again.

“I would not delay in any search for new sovereign buyers,” added Eng.

“I didn’t follow that,” Mae remarked. “What do you mean ‘unwind your remaining position’?”

Chang had to stop laughing and catch his breath before answering. “What we mean is that the PBC will not be entering into any more ‘reverse-repos’ as you call them. And we want to also inform the Treasury Department that the PBC intends to sell our remaining Treasury holdings—over time, if that is possible.”

“What is going on here?”

“You Americans are so arrogant,” observed Eng. “The PBC has been quietly divesting itself of treasuries for many months, now. Frankly, we are surprised your forensic accountants have not discovered this.”

“We sincerely hope that you are able to find new buyers for your issues. Perhaps Zimbabwe might be interested?” snarked Chang.

Bastards! Mae thought. She reached reflexively for her cell but then thought better of it. Never show panic, she advised herself. She composed herself the best she could. “What is happening here?” She asked them. “Don’t you understand? Don’t you know that this might trigger a meltdown? If you walk away we all lose! Who are you going export your chotskies to? Vietnam?”

They laughed again. This time, Eng had to remove his sunglasses and wipe the tears from his eyes. Then he started to preach. “There is an old economics axiom that they used to teach to your MBAs many years ago.”

“What are you talking about?” Mae asked.

“We are talking about investment theory, Ms. Lane. You see, China has come to the realization that you can no longer repay us. At least not without printing money in order to do it. America’s deficits are now growing so fast that she no longer even has the ability to meet her interest obligations. In other words, your America is bankrupt. America is insolvent and we cannot continue to—how do you say—‘throw good money after bad.’ Yes, that’s the term they used at Wharton years ago. The PBC has accepted that axiom and China has decided to cut her losses.”

Mae stared at them silently, her brow now deeply furrowed.

“Sunk costs are sunk, Ms. Lane,” explained Eng. “The era of China devaluing our yuan in order to enable you fat Americans to watch the Texas Cowboys on 3D televisions made by our workers is over.”

“This is outrageous!” Mae barked. “I demand to speak to—”

“Our negotiations are complete,” interrupted Chang.

Chang tapped the glass partition and the limousine veered off the highway coming to a screeching halt at the curb of a bustling intersection. The driver jumped out, adjusted his cap, darted to the trunk in a flash of white socks, and removed Mae’s luggage to the curb. He darted around and opened Mae’s door.

“Please leave, Ms. Lane. We have no more business with you,” Chang.

Mae was frozen in disbelief.

“You may go now!” ordered Chang, who dropped his device as he gestured for Mae to get out.  Mae noticed the screen of his mobile was filled with a game of ‘Angry Birds’.  Chang quickly snatched it up off the floor hoping Mae didn’t notice.

Mae crawled out of the limousine. The driver slammed the door shut, shuffled back into the limo and the car disappeared into the smoggy commotion of industrial Shanghai.

Mae darted under an awning, took out her cell phone and speed-dialed her boss, the Treasury secretary. The odors of cooking oil, diesel fuel and dead animal nearly overcame her as it rang. The pheromones of industrialism always made her ill.

“‘T’ here,” came the other end.

“It’s Mae. I can barely hear you…I’m out on the street…Yeah, Shanghai…They dumped me here…I don’t know what to say…It was a very strange meeting…No, Tsang was not here…He sent two junior guys, real assholes…No, they rejected the deal… They said ‘sunk costs are sunk’…”

Click.

Mae stared at her phone for a second wondering if she should redial, feeling conspicuous and helpless in her high heels and high gloss and high hemline amidst the noise and smells and dirt of the real world. She backed herself to a wall, looking around for a sign, something coherent, an English phrase, an advertisement, anything American. She couldn’t find a single word of anything in English. It was all cuneiform gibberish, everywhere. There was no stamp of the good old USA, not even so much as a Coke machine.

Her terror of conspicuous vulnerability quickly withered into a sense of mere insignificance as the hundreds of people that passed her by every minute paid her no heed. No one cared who she was. A lost American official meant nothing to these Chinese, not even as a peculiarity. They were too busy buying and selling and making a living—producing. These were people of action, oblivious to superficial shock and awe. If Mae were to drop dead at that instant she would just be swept out of the way or stepped over like so much rubbish.

Indivisible

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Oathkeeper Chapter 5

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 5

 

Kevin Sniggs had always wanted to be a hero. During his senior year of high school, he signed up for the police Explorers program so that he could ride with municipal cops, learn their trade, and be a part of the action. He expected to experience the thrills of high speed chases, apprehending dangerous suspects, and the gore of spectacular traffic accidents. However, the vast majority of his experience involved traffic stops and domestic disputes.

Sniggs quickly learned that the municipal police officers’ real purpose was the apprehension of law breakers, and not to “protect and serve” or “promote public safety” or whatever mission statement was scrawled on the doors of their cruisers. He also learned that obtaining probable cause was the first step in all police work. He discovered that finding it, in order to stop, detain, question, and search a suspect, was merely a formality. The innumerable volumes of regulations, codes, and ordinances on the books effectively meant that everyone was continuously breaking some law at all times. Probable cause to stop anyone at any time could be manufactured by any officer who had even the slightest modicum of legalistic creativity.

Sniggs initially felt that this process violated the spirit of the concept of law enforcement, but he soon grew numb to the cognitive dissonance of pulling drivers over on technicalities like speeding five miles over the limit, swerving within the designated lane, burned out license plate bulbs, worn tires, windows tinted too dark, music playing too loud, or cracked windshields in order to bust them for something more significant. He watched as countless softball dads were put through the routine of roadside gymnastics of increasing difficulty until they finally failed and were then compelled to blow into a straw. And when the alcohol content of their breath narrowly exceeded the legislatively arbitrated threshold, he dutifully assisted in their transport and booking. Guilt was presumed in advance, and the latitude available to police officers to get from probable cause to booking was exceedingly broad. The prosecutors, defenders, magistrates, and judges were aligned with the police interests as well. Only a tiny fraction of suspects escaped the system without a conviction.

Sniggs supposed that it was part of a heroic mission – reducing drunk driving – but he had to combat the realization that these efforts did little to get the habitual, hardcore, homicidal drunks off the roads. He came to accept that it was more about public relations and politics than promoting public safety. With enough research, increases in DUI arrests could be statistically correlated with declines in some alcohol-related cost measurement. The arrests were tallied and cited as the cause, and the politicians patted themselves on their backs. Statistical inference replaced deductive logic and a massive bureaucratic industry evolved and expanded around it. The checkpoints and campaigns and lowering of BAC limits and raising of the legal age kept the quotas and the detox rooms and court dockets and community service rolls and counseling classes and special insurance agencies loaded with a limitless supply of revenue-generating criminals, making any practical changes to the strategy of reducing drunk driving accidents effectively impossible.

Occasionally, Sniggs’s boring ride-a-longs would be enlivened by an occasional domestic violence call, usually after midnight on a school night. Sniggs inhaled the rush of the surging power of the police cruiser as his mentoring officer thrust his foot into the floorboards. Sirens. Flashing lights. Red, white, blue, red, white, blue. The mundane civilians, driving their heaps, darted out of the way as the cruiser wove between them at speeds vastly exceeding any reasonable threshold of public safety. It was these brief, intense moments that made his unpaid internship worthwhile.

Once or twice a week, Sniggs would find himself rocketed to the same seedy destination – not specifically the same address, but more or less the same place. Each address blended together after multiple visits: trailer park, concrete apartment plaza, decaying plywood subdivision. The same characters appeared at each scene, their roles filled by different actors, but each giving the same performance. The predominant plot involved two consenting adults: a drunken, pot-bellied male with raw knuckles and a disheveled female in a bathrobe with a puffy eye, bruised arm, and bloody lip, often wielding a carving knife or some blunt instrument. The male suspect would clam up the instant he spotted law enforcement. The female, presumed to be the victim, would begin cursing and screaming at that same moment. She’d continue until the neighbors were lured into the night by the red, white, and blue flashes, like a school of bluegill to a fisherman’s lantern.

“I’m going to need you to put that knife down,” Sniggs’s mentor would order, a flashlight in one hand and his other hand sliding down to his holster. The woman would hide the weapon behind her back, acting aghast at herself that she had been waving it around like some psychotic pirate. “Can you tell me what’s going on, ma’am?”

She’d shout out her version of events, describing her mate’s drunkenness, laziness, violence, and/or unfaithfulness. The officer would let her blow it off for a minute, then he would talk her down until they were speaking in a conversational tone, reminding her repeatedly to drop the knife. In Sniggs’ mind, modern law enforcement was a fusion of both science and art, a sorcery that beguiled him. He was captivated by the repetitive, self-destructive drama, watching it play out from the insulated safety of the police cruiser. He knew by experience that a third act would always come.

Once the situation was initially diffused, the officer would cuff the male suspect and place him in the car. Then, as if guided by cue, the female would reanimate, screaming curses and threats at the officer for arresting her mate. Wild eyes, menacing stares, and flailing gestures would follow – all probable cause for arrest or worse. The officer would make a perfunctory attempt to calm things down again, but a wrestling match would usually ensue. For Sniggs, it was far better than any action movie or reality TV show. Sometimes, it was even better than cable when the officer would have to subdue a barely clothed and hostile female suspect. Her robe might burst open, exposing an areola, or sometimes, while trying to break loose, a pelvic thrust revealed a patch of pubic hair. It was quite a thrill for an eighteen-year-old boy, especially one who lacked the poise, looks, and nerve to score in high school.

Sniggs’s identity evolved in the Explorers program. He developed a profile of them. He recognized them instantly by their clothes, their hair, their accessories and ink, their style of cars and homes. They melded into one archetype, one person in Sniggs’s mind. It was as if they had been conceived from a single genetic vat and churned out into the world from a secret assembly line, like pharmaceutical products. To Sniggs, the mundanes were less than human – some intermediary species, an anthropological missing link, untrustworthy and unworthy of the respect afforded to fully-formed humans. Logic evaporated from their minds at the instant any stimulus was applied. Unable to control their emotions, deaf to reason, they responded only to blunt force trauma. Nevertheless, Sniggs felt it was his righteous calling to save them from themselves.

His experience enabled him to observe the full spectrum of societal carnage wrought by drug and alcohol abuse. It left an indelible imprint on his perception of the world. To him, chemical abuse was a scourge to be eradicated – by force, where necessary. He fully subscribed to the government’s mission to save the proletarian underclass with drug prohibition. The futile effort assumed a noble, righteous quality for him, and his experience demystified his father’s addiction.

When Sniggs graduated high school, which he simultaneously celebrated and regretted because it meant nearing the end of his Explorers experience, he enrolled at the local commuter college. He found commuter college to be something of an extension of high school, and less disorienting than driving off to some distant campus where friends would have to be remade and a social life reconstructed. Sniggs thrived in grades thirteen to sixteen, and he soon obtained his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Exposure to psychology and sociology broadened his base of knowledge, but the progressive curriculum only hardened his perception of the underclass as helpless wards. But it did give him hope for his father. The enigma of his dad, a heartless, wooden, mottled, hoary man with glasses as thick as the bottoms of Coke bottles, loomed ever larger as Sniggs delved into the work of Carl Jung. He often contemplated how he might fix his father, now that he was armed with esoteric knowledge. His father was clearly clinically possessed and in need of psychiatric exorcism.

After college, Sniggs became a police officer, applying his boundless energy to the trade. He was propelled by the high of the power granted by his uniform and badge. He quickly achieved recognition and respect for his efforts, but like all addicts, Sniggs eventually found his appetite insatiable. He needed to be more than just a suburban street cop filling DUI quotas. It began to bore him. His patience grew shorter and shorter, and his contempt for the mundanes grew deeper and deeper. He perceived every encounter as a deliberate attempt by them to endanger him. Even a lack of sufficient deference on a mundane’s behalf was interpreted by him as a threat.

He enrolled in the DEA program in Quantico. He was ready for it. He was fit, pumping iron at the gym five times per week. He could run five miles without breaking a sweat. He gave up junk food and drinking. He did pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups in scores. He passed all the tests and background checks and psych evaluations. He sailed through the application process and was quickly accepted. Sniggs completed his training and became an agent. It was the crowning achievement of his young life. It felt as though he were a made man. His father simply had to acknowledge what Kevin had made of himself. He longed for a concession speech from him, but the congratulatory phone call never came. Kevin Sniggs, consumed by a need for his father’s approval, had to place the call himself.

“Dad…”

               “Is this Kevin?”

“Yeah Dad, it’s me.”

               “What’ya know, boy?”

“They hired me, Dad.”

               “Who hired you?”

“The DEA. I’m a federal agent, now.”

“Good,” his father answered with all the sincerity of a telemarketer.

“I guess that’s all.” Sniggs was crushed. He became irritated and began to regret even calling in the first place. He was about to hang up, but decided to make one more attempt. “You know, it was a pretty difficult process, but I made it through. I worked my ass off for this.”

“Good for you, boy. You go to church this week?”

The contempt welled up in Kevin.

Click.

Why did I call him? he thought. I humiliated myself.

For Sniggs, his father represented an inexhaustible wellspring of rage that subconsciously fueled his ambitions. Each encounter powered him onward, taking him farther. His only recourse was to embrace his despair. If he could not come to accept that his father would never respect him, he could at least parlay that pain into personal motivation.

Although a monumental leap forward in his career, Sniggs’s DEA gig was composed of long stretches of dull routine ­­­– training, surveillance, training, paperwork, training, and meetings. But the occasional action – the raids – were enough to hold his interest.

The meth lab raids were the craziest jobs, and those became the focus of his unit when Agent Vincent Acevedo took over. Acevedo was already widely known as one of the most aggressive agents in the DEA. His exploits had become legendary. Some half-jokingly attributed it to extrasensory perception. Others attributed it to his extra-legal arrangements with a battalion of shady informants, Mafioso, junkies, and distributors. Time after time, Acevedo’s instincts would uncover a trove of speed production. His team would stake out some loner doctor, biker, gangbanger, or bearded freak cooking it up in his basement. When sufficient suspicion was gathered via surveillance, Acevedo would secure a no-knock warrant.

The pre-raid tension would be built up to intolerable levels by hours of silent surveillance and tedious planning. Then the green light would come. They’d gear up in black uniforms and Kevlar, with an armored tactical vehicle acting as their support. With guns drawn and the hazmat specialists waiting just out of sight, they’d advance up the driveway to the front door. One. Two. Three. Smash the window. Toss in the flashbang grenade. Swing the battering ram and knock the front door off the hinges. Smoke. Screaming. Shouting. Hogtie everyone and haul them away. Ransack the house. Then pour in the guys in white suits to clean up the joint. Gather all the evidence required to make the case airtight. In Acevedo’s case, manufacture some if necessary so the mission wasn’t a waste of agency time or budget. Then hand the case over to the special prosecutor and move on to the next.

The supply of drug raids provided inexhaustible work for agents like Sniggs – exciting, recession-proof employment with great benefits. No one wanted the War on Drugs to end – especially not the DEA. What else would they do with themselves? They even budgeted $3 million per year to fight legalization efforts with TV commercials and campaign contributions.  The lawyers were vested as well. How would they make a living without the War on Drugs? Chase ambulances? Tax litigation? Divorce? Probate? And the politicians? If not for the societal blight of illegal drugs, what pariah would they have around upon which to justify their existence? And the prison guards? The prisons were filled with users and traffickers. And the prison builders? Building and owning prisons was a gravy train for the corporations with political connections. Ironically, it was perhaps the drug dealers who wanted drug prohibition to end least of all. If drug prohibition ended, they knew that they would have to compete with Wal-Mart’s or Amazon’s pricing power. Where was the margin in that business model? The War on Drugs directly affected a massive share of the economy. It was like a modern day New Deal, a bloated public works program…only with guns.

Kevin geared up for his latest meth raid. His unit pulled up into a cluster of trailers and spilled out of their black SUVs – Chevy Tahoes. Sniggs scrambled up to the front door of the suspect’s trailer, MP5 drawn. No battering ram was necessary this time. The flimsy trailer door would give way with a good swift kick. Agents went around to the back to close off the escape route into the woods. Hand signals flashed. Synchronized watches were checked. A grenade was pulled off a belt. Another agent smashed the window and tossed it in. Thunder and lightning. Another agent kicked in the door. Smoke billowed. Sniggs raised his rifle. He spotted the suspect. The suspect dove. He was holding a gun. Kevin Sniggs fired twice by reflex. The smoke cleared. Sniggs was calm. His reaction had been automatic. The other agents searched the house.

On the floor lay Monte Turcot. He was alive, wounded and groaning. Sniggs knelt down to secure the suspect’s firearm, but it was nothing more than a TV remote. He rolled the man onto his stomach and handcuffed him.

“Shit!” shouted an agent.

For a brief moment, Sniggs contemplated planting a throwdown, but that was not something he could do on his own, with other agents in view. He needed another agent to do that for him, to back him up. Otherwise, it could make his mistake a hundred times worse. But no backing was offered for the rookie Kevin Sniggs. He felt betrayed and alone.

“Goddamn it!” shouted another agent.

Having secured the suspect, Sniggs moved towards the shouts coming from around the thin wall separating the kitchen from the living room.

“We need some help back here!”

Sniggs saw a bullet hole. It must have been his bullet as no one else had fired. He peered around the wall into the kitchenette. An agent knelt on the linoleum floor there, administering first aid.

“Get an ambulance!” he shouted at Sniggs, who stood frozen in horror. “Go! Now! Move!”

On the floor lay Monte Turcot’s wife.

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Oathkeeper Chapter 4

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 4

 

“I know you.”

The Wagon Wheel Saloon is comprised of a narrow hall with a long, lacquered bar on the right as you enter, a row of booths on the left, and a juke box, pool table, kitchen, and back door at the far end. It caters primarily to Calumet City’s prison guards, equipment operators, ranchers, and the marginally employed. Monte Turcot was there, nursing a shot of Patrón, but suddenly decided to swig it down with a mouthful of Corona to finish. On the overhead flat screen, the Cowboys were snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

“Hey,” the voice said again. “I know you!”

Turcot looked up, conceding that whoever was speaking was, in fact, speaking to him. He gulped down the rest of his beer and examined the greasy fellow who was approaching. He couldn’t tell by his tone or drunken swagger if the man was friendly or antagonistic. Just to be safe, he rose from the stool with his empty bottle in his left hand and his right foot firmly planted on the floor, ready to push off and strike a blow if necessary.

“Can I shake your hand?” the drunk asked.

“I’m sorry,” Turcot replied. “I don’t think I know you.”

“I’m nobody,” answered the man, extending a hand.

Turcot shook it, apprehensively. The drunk held on too long, making it awkward.

“You’re Mannyturcle,” he slurred.

“Monte Turcot.”

“Yeah, Mannyturcle,” Nobody repeated, swaying back and forth.

“And if I was?”

“You took out that shooter up at Alco’s.”

Turcot tried to escape by averting his eyes to the television and the football game, but Nobody persisted.

“That was a great thing you do…did…wasting that sonuvabich. Everyone’s is so proud of you. Great job, my man.” He held out his fist, waiting for Turcot to bump it.

“Are you sure about that?” Monte asked.

“Huh?” The drunk tottered, looking confused. He withdrew his hand.

“Because I’m not so sure,” Turcot muttered, his eyes focused on the football game.

“Whatcha mean?” asked Nobody. “You took that punk out. You wanna know somethin? He killed my neighbor’s niece.”

“That’s what I mean,” Turcot turned back to the drunk.

“Wha?”

“I mean I failed your niece. I failed to act decisively.”

“She was my neighbor’s niece.”

“Whoever she was…niece, daughter, sister…I failed her.”

“Whadya mean?”

“That shooter killed two people before I acted, before I stopped him.”

“Hey,” said Nobody, “it would’ve been worse if you didn’t shoot…take him out.”

“Yes,” Turcot answered. “But it could have been better.”

“Hey,” continued the drunk. “They says that you’re a vet–”

“Who’s they?

“The radio. They say you just got back from Iraq.”

“It was Afghanistan, but I’ve been back for over a year.”

“Thanks you for yer service, my man,” Nobody added, holding out his hand again. Turcot didn’t shake it. Nobody stood there, waiting, his one hand outstretched while whisky spilled out of the glass he was gripping in the other.

#

As he stood in the Wagon Wheel Saloon confronted by the drunk, Monte Turcot’s mind transported him back into the Barmal District of Afghanistan. He could smell the familiar odors of dust and ammonia and burning animal fat and gunpowder and old sweat. They had soaked into his very skin like the ink of a tattoo and had followed him home, oozing out on occasion and reminding him of what he had experienced.

He was back with his platoon, working with a unit of the Afghan National Security Force. The summer sun boiled them in their sweaty fatigues as they approached a stone hooch through a patchwork of spring-irrigated melon fields. They spotted a runner, and a squad of ANSF took off in pursuit. Turcot’s squad continued on to the house and found three men with long, black, wiry beards inside. They did not resist, but would require questioning, as they were of fighting age. Turcot zip-tied them and made them sit in silence on the floor while the Pashto interpreter was summoned.

Dust floated in the sticky air of the hotbox room, sparkling under a shaft of sunlight beaming in from the window. Turcot and Specialist Navarro stood guard. An ANSF soldier glanced in at them as he passed by the window. Navarro chewed his tobacco and spit into the corner. A faint, vague smile filled his face. He was the old man of the platoon, older even than the sergeant at 36 years of age. His son was trying to make the Permian High School freshman football team.

AK-47s sounded off, not too far away. The squad pursuing the runner had made contact with the Taliban. Turcot carefully watched the three men on the floor. How they reacted to the gunfire would reveal a great deal about their allegiance. If they looked fearful, they would be of little intelligence value. But if they looked hopeful, then there would be no doubt they served the Muj – the warlords whose control began where the roads ended.

The AKs and M4s crackled, and the detainees stared at the floor. Navarro spat again and clicked his safety off. Turcot watched, wondering how long it would take the terp to get there, if he would show up at all. One detainee stirred, looking around on the floor. An RPG burst nearby. The sparkling dust in the light of the window danced. Turcot watched the detainee’s face raise. There was not a trace of fear. Then a grenade rolled in on the floor between Turcot and Navarro, as if they were standing in the middle of someone’s bocce ball game…

#

“Hey, stop bothering him. He’s trying to watch the game,” shouted the bartender from the other end of the room. A sinewy, rugged, and smallish fellow known to the locals as Tommyknocker, he wore suspenders that barely kept his denim up. He possessed a long gray beard, in sharp contrast to the black beards of the Taliban. “You leave him be. Come back down over here.”

The drunk withdrew his hand and wobbled back to the stool beside his companion, a weathered woman in a black leather jacket with a plume of big, feathered, unevenly dyed blond hair.

“How’re you doing, Monte?” Tommyknocker asked as he approached. “Need another?”

Turcot tipped his empty bottle. The bartender ducked down, then popped back up with a fresh one and handed it over.

“So, how are things with you?”

“Fine.”

“Are the reporters still harassing you?”

“They were calling at all hours,” answered Turcot. “We had to change our numbers. Now they drive by and knock on the door. I told Meg that when they come by, just open the door and throw a pitcher of water in their face.”

“Now that’d send a message,” Tommyknocker laughed. “Does she miss the city?”

“I’m sure she does. But she’ll be all right once this finally blows over.”

“So you’re definitely not moving back?”

“I wouldn’t last.”

“The pace?”

“It’s too much noise and stress. The traffic makes me crazy. We drove down a couple weeks back to visit her mother and we got stuck in it. I wanted to kill somebody. It’s assholes and idiots everywhere.”

“Can’t say I’d disagree with that,” Tommyknocker said, twisting some glasses down on the washer brushes in the bar sink.

“You’re totally out of the service, now?”

“I’m done.”

“Hey!” the drunken man blurted from the other end of the bar. Turcot and Tommyknocker turned toward him simultaneously. “All I wanted to do was shake your hand, that’s all.” Shakily, Nobody rose from his stool and began making his way towards them. Tommyknocker tried to head him off, but the drunk ignored him and shuffled straight over to Turcot.

“I said, all I wanted to do was shake your hand,” he stammered, offering his hand once again.

“We already shook hands,” Turcot stated bluntly.

“Here. Shake.”

“I told you, we already shook hands,” repeated Turcot.

“You think you’re too good to shake someone’s hand? You’re a celebrity now, I guess?”

“Not at all.”

“You’re a vet?”

“Yes.”

“How about another whisky?” Tommyknocker asked, trying to distract the drunk. It was of no use. Nobody was fully dialed in. He placed his hand on his chest and began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, while his blond companion cackled at the mockery from the other end. When he’d finished with the Pledge, he started slurring Lee Greenwood lyrics. Without emotion, Turcot took a twenty out of his pocket, set it under his bottle, and started to leave, but the drunk grabbed his arm as he walked past.

“What’s wrong with you?” Nobody slurred.

Turcot grabbed him by the collar with both hands and pinned him over the bar. The drunk’s companion shrieked and cursed from the far end. Tommyknocker watched.

“Do you want to know what’s wrong with me?” Turcot asked.

“Take it easy, man,” the drunk whined.

“People like you who think it’s all just white hats and black hats.”

“C’mon, man.”

“You let him go!” the blond screamed.

“Let me let you in on something. There are moments in your life when you are tested,” Turcot continued. “Sure, you can think I’d do this or I’d do that, but when the actual moment comes…” Turcot’s eyes glossed over. “If you fuck up, maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get tested again. Maybe then you’ll get it right. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes. Yes,” the drunk whimpered.

“That Alco was a test. It wasn’t my first. I was lucky that I got a second chance, but I didn’t get it all the way right. I failed that girl. But I can tell you right now that if I ever get a third chance, I won’t blow it.”

“Monte,” came a different voice standing in the doorway. It was Meg. “Monte, come home with me.”

Monte held fast.

“It’s not worth it, Monte,” Meg said as she approached him. “Let him go.”

“Yeah, let him go,” shouted the drunk’s companion.

“Please…” Meg pleaded, gently placing her hand on her husband’s shoulder. “Let’s go home.”

Monte released the drunk, who promptly sulked back to his companion. He took Meg’s hand and they left the saloon in silence.

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Oathkeeper Chapter 3

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 3

 

It was a sunny Saturday morning, a perfect autumn day for the Calumet City Founder’s Day Parade. At the eastern edge of town, along the banks of the Arkansas River, the River Park gravel parking lot filled with boisterous parade entrants. Chrome fixtures were polished. Makeup was retouched. Musical instruments were tuned. Flags were unfurled. The parade coordinator stood on a step ladder and shouted instructions through a megaphone but she could barely be heard above the din of excited chatter, churning engines, and flat wind instruments. Her urgent tone revealed her desperation which escalated as her directives went unheeded. Then, five minutes before eleven, as if by divine intervention, the chaos spontaneously ordered itself into a proper parade queue – much to the coordinator’s delight. The parade was a celebration of the harvest, the end of the season, and the founding of Calumet City way back on October 15, 1870, the date of the dedication of the first jail house and permanent gallows, there.

“Who’s Captain Jack?” Meg Turcot asked as she pointed to the name painted on the fender of the MaxxPro tactical assault vehicle.

“That would be Captain Jack Nicaagat,” answered Deputy Kennesaw. “Are you familiar with Ute Indian history, ma’am?”

“Not really,” Meg replied. “I’m from Ohio.” She turned to her husband Monte, but he just shrugged his shoulders.  “Tell me about him.”

“Captain Jack,” Kennesaw explained, “was a famous Ute warrior. He fought the U.S. Cavalry at Milk Creek – about three hours northwest of here – in what has come to be known as the White River War.”

“What was he fighting for?”

“He was fighting for liberty, ma’am,” Kennesaw replied, “and the dignity of his people.”

“What started the war?” Monte spoke up.

“Well, like any war, it was the final, desperate response to thousands of injuries and years of abuse inflicted by one group of people against another.”

“So what happened?” asked Meg.

Kennesaw put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the polished black fender of Captain Jack. “It’s a sad story. I don’t think it tells well…minutes before a parade, anyway.”

“Oh, please tell it,” Meg pleaded.

“Okay,” Kennesaw agreed. “So the Ute were a peaceful, nomadic society, living in the high country here in Colorado. Their culture was based on the horse; it was their source of wealth and their symbol of prestige. But unfortunately for them, the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs appointed a bankrupt, religious zealot named Meeker to act as the Ute’s steward. He was responsible for allocating the Ute their rations and farm implements. Mr. Meeker, a devout man and eager to make a name for himself, believed it was his divine purpose to convert the Ute from what he deemed “horse-faring savages” into proper Christian farmers. As you might expect, the Ute resisted – just as you might resist being converted into an atheist, factory-laborer if the Chinese were ever to invade. The tipping point came when Mr. Meeker arrogantly imposed his will by ordering the Ute to slaughter their horses and plow up their pastures. The Ute protested, but Meeker was emboldened by his religious fervor and he refused to back down. The angry Ute surrounded his compound. Meeker sent for aid. A Major Thornburgh of the U.S. Cavalry answered the call, but was met at the border of the reservation by the half-Arapahoe, half-Ute warrior known to white settlers as Captain Jack. He told the Major that if he crossed the frontier, he would be in violation of their treaty. He offered to allow an envoy of five to meet with the Ute who surrounded Meeker’s compound but Thornburgh refused.”

“And the cavalry crossed the border, instead,” Monte finished.

“They did,” answered Kennesaw.

“Arrogance.”

The deputy nodded. “Isn’t that what all invasions are about?”

“Then the Ute attacked?” Meg asked.

“No one’s agreed on who fired first, but the Sand Creek Massacre, where over a hundred Cheyenne women and children were murdered, was well known to Captain Jack’s warriors. They weren’t going to risk any repeat of that. The battle began, and within an hour, the Major and most of the company’s horses and mules were killed.”

“It sounds like the Little Bighorn,” Meg said.

“But unlike Custer’s men, who were all annihilated, messengers escaped and brought reinforcements,” continued Kennesaw. “Most of Thornburgh’s men survived.”

“What happened to Meeker?”

“He was killed, and his wife and children were held hostage.”

“What happened to them?”

“The Secretary of the Interior and the Ute Chief Ouray negotiated for their release.”

“What deal did the Ute get in return?” Monte asked skeptically.

“It was decided that the Ute must go. They were allowed to leave Colorado with their lives. They were sent west into what is now Utah, so that they might become the Mormons’ problem.”

“And Captain Jack?”

“He evaded the manhunt for three years, but was finally cornered in a log trading post and blown to bits by an Army cannon…not too far from here.”

“So what was the point of it all if they just got him in the end?” Monte sighed.

Kennesaw tried to answer, but Meg interrupted him. “We all get it in the end,” she said. “I’m sure the Ute were destined to their fate long before this war. But at least – for a short time, anyway – they were able to stand and resist as men.”

“I don’t think I could explain it any better than that,” Kennesaw added as he climbed into the cab of the MRAP.

A driver, seated in a white convertible Cadillac parked directly behind Captain Jack, called for Meg and Monte to get in. He motioned them to the back seat. “Quickly, the parade’s about to start.”

“Mayor?” Monte asked.

“I am but your humble chauffeur for today,” he addressed them as he tipped his black top hat. The Turcots climbed into the back seat.

Ahead of them, Captain Jack gurgled to life, churning out only the faintest puffs of visible exhaust from its 9.3 liter diesel engine. Its federally-mandated emissions control system ensured that only the minutest amount of particulates and carbon dioxide molecules would escape into the environment of any foreign warzone already poisoned by clouds of smoke and ash and explosive vapors, rivers of defoliant chemicals and spilled fuel, and tons of radioactive depleted uranium.

“Are you ready for this?” Meg asked her husband as she bundled herself up against the cool October air.

“I just want to get it over with,” Monte replied.

The train of vehicles lurched forward at barely a walking pace. They exited the River Park staging area and turned onto Main Street heading west. A CCSD police cruiser with its flashers on led the procession. Behind it drove three vintage muscle cars from the Calumet County Classic Car Club (or “5C”). After that, a giant green John Deere tractor pulled a trailer of hay. Local debutantes, nestled into the bales, tossed Jolly Rancher candies at the children who lined the sidewalks. Three off-road buggies from the Mahonville Rock Hoppers followed, raising and lowering their chasses with custom hydraulics and climbing over each other’s tires. Two elders of the Uncompaghre Ute rode on mottled pintos, followed by five marching veterans of five foreign wars dressed in their battle fatigues. The high school marching band alternated between renditions of John Philip Souza and Katy Perry. Captain Jack, normally black and ominous, was decked in red, white, and blue bunting and followed by the Honorary Grand Marshal Monte Turcot and his wife Meg. A county fire truck brought up the rear, blaring its sirens every few moments to the delight of the spectators.

“Maybe you should wave to the crowd or something.” The mayor turned back to speak to Mrs. Turcot between siren blasts. “They love that.”

Meg tentatively waived at the onlookers, who cheered and clapped as they passed. “You should be waving, not me,” she said to Monte, whose arms were crossed and whose face conveyed only bewilderment.

The procession stopped. The firetruck siren blared again from behind, causing Monte to cringe. Someone shouted, “Monte Turcot for mayor!” The mayor turned back to Monte and smiled awkwardly. A high school tuba honked out a wonky rendition of Perry’s “Roar”. Looking uncomfortable, Meg stopped waving, smiled, and grabbed Monte’s arm with both of hers.

The last of the golden aspen leaves on the twiggy trees that lined Main Street flickered in a breeze. A wedge of several dozen squawking Canada geese passed overhead, heading south for the winter. The marching band’s base drum thumped away, trying to synchronize with the tuba. The sun was bright and the sky was blue. The V8 engines of the off-road buggies snarled as they drove over top one another. The crowd cheered them on. The mailman, blocked from his route by the parade, snuck a swig from his flask as he waited at the intersection in his dilapidated Jeep. Six Cub Scouts vigorously waved their American flags. A Black Hawk helicopter pulsed like a grim drumroll as it flew overhead. Monte watched it as Meg gripped his hand tighter. The closer she held him, the farther away the war receded, as if it were being carried away by the helicopter to the east.

“We love you, Monte!” someone shouted. Monte turned to the voice. It was a teenage girl, wearing her boyfriend’s high school letterman’s jacket. He smiled at her, but his eyes turned sad.

Then police sirens roared past on SR 24, drawing the attention of both the parade and its spectators. Kennesaw jumped out of Captain Jack and directed the crowd to clear a path for the MRAP. He got back in and turned the hulking rig out of the procession and onto the state road, following the police cruisers to the north.

“It sounds like something serious!” Monte shouted in the mayor’s ear.

“Yes, it sure does.”

“Maybe we should follow them.”

“I think you’re right.” The mayor honked his horn and veered the Caddy out of the parade to follow Kennesaw. They drove a half mile to the Calumet County Public Library, where a logjam of six white sheriff’s department cruisers, three silver state trooper Chargers, a police motorcycle, a dayglow yellow firetruck, and a white ambulance converged and filled the street at the entrance to the library parking lot.

“Stay back!” shouted a deputy.

The mayor pulled his Caddy alongside the curb across the street. He and the Turcots got out, but were stopped by the same deputy. A trooper hurriedly strung yellow warning tape around the perimeter of the lot. Law enforcement officers ducked behind their cars, some with their sidearms drawn and aimed at the library.

Another CCSD cruiser arrived and parked in the middle of the street. Sheriff Ellison got out and jogged over to one of his deputies, hunching at the waist as he ran. They spoke briefly while the deputy pointed towards the library front door. Ellison, still hunched, jogged over to Captain Jack parked on the other side of the lot, climbed up the side, and spoke to Kennesaw. Some of the decorative red, white, and blue parade bunting came loose and fell over him. He tore it free and threw it down on the ground.

Uncertain of what course of action to take, everyone waited in fixed, silent repose for several minutes with their weapons drawn and their eyes fixed on the library entrance. Civilians gathered down the street. An Angus cow chewed its cud at the barbed wire fence along the boundary of the parking lot. Above, a red-tailed hawk was pursued by a squadron of angry blackbirds. In the midst of the silent, nervous anticipation, a mule deer buck crossed the street, passing between the police perimeter and the growing throng of curious civilians. A deputy jacked a shell into his shotgun. An autumn gust blew through the scene, blowing off a state trooper’s hat.

A teal green Lincoln Town Car pulled up. Its white-walled tires screeched to a halt. The deputies spun around to examine the commotion, but quickly turned their attention back to the library. They knew who it was. The driver’s side door of the Lincoln opened, and two snakeskin cowboy boots dropped onto the pavement behind the door. After rocking three times to build up enough momentum, the driver pulled himself up and out of the white leather interior of the giant automobile. Five-and-a-half feet tall, pear-shaped, clean shaven, his bald head covered by a white cowboy hat, his shirt festooned with a turquoise-inlaid bolo tie, and his face covered with dark-tinted prescription glasses, he waddled through the law enforcement officers hiding behind their cruisers.

“We got half a parade stuck on Main Street wondering what the hell is going on down here,” Frenchie Francione addressed the gallery in his unfittingly squeaky voice.

No one replied.

Deputy?” Frenchie asked as he tugged on Sheriff Ellison’s sleeve. But Ellison was still talking to Kennesaw, and ignored him.

“Terrorists!” answered a deputy, crouching behind his cruiser door nearby with his pistol drawn.

Terrists?” Frenchie squawked disbelievingly.

“Someone reported a bomb in the back of that pickup parked over there…by the library entrance.”

“A bomb? Now I’ve just got to see this,” Frenchie ducked under the yellow crime scene tape, ignoring the orders of several deputies. He went straight up to the truck, peered over into the bed on his tiptoes, and grabbed the alleged bomb out of the back.

“Is this what all the fuss is about?” he shouted.

Everyone ducked and winced. One trooper put his fingers in his ears. A deputy desperately dove behind a mailbox. Ignoring a cry of “No, sheriff!” from an onlooker, Frenchie held the device up over his head with one hand, reached up with his other hand, and pulled the wires apart. After realizing that they had not been blown to bits, the deputies and troopers relaxed and holstered their weapons. Frenchie waddled up to Ellison and handed the “bomb” to him.

“Somewhere, there’s a punk kid who’s getting a real good laugh out of all this,” he said as he scanned the crowd of civilians.

“How could you be so sure?” Ellison asked.

“Do you really think that the terrists would waste their time blowing up an unused library in Calumet County, Colorado?” Frenchie waddled back to his Town Car, plopped himself down into the white leather driver’s seat, and drove off.

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Oathkeeper Chapter 2

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 2

 

“What in the hell is that?” asked Sheriff Ellison, staring out the cruiser window in awe as he and Deputy Kennesaw turned into the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department.

“That, Boss,” answered Kennesaw, “is an International MaxxPro Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected tactical vehicle, more commonly referred to as an MRAP or a MaxxPro for short.”

“It looks like a damn tank to me. Why is it parked in my lot?” Ellison asked as they pulled into the garage.

“Apparently, it’s ours. A little gift from the Department of Defense.”

“And what,” sighed the sheriff, “am I supposed to do with it, Ken?”

“I suppose you could do lots of things, Boss.”

“For instance?”

“Well, for one, I suppose you could use it for traffic enforcement,” suggested Kennesaw. “I’m sure it would make quite the impression on speeders. We could park it up near the junction and pull them over with it as they speed down off the mountain.”

Ellison shook his head. “It’s obnoxious.”

“Do you want me to get rid of it? Gunnison would probably take it.”

“Why would DoD give these things away?”

“My understanding is that it’s a surplus unit. Maybe their new models have arrived.”

“Maybe. Or perhaps they’re expecting something in return as well.”

“You don’t like the idea of owing them, Boss?” Kennesaw asked sarcastically.

“I don’t like owing anyone for things I didn’t ask for,” grumbled Ellison. “Just look at it. Is that a turret on top? Fifty cal? And it came today, of all days.”

“Maybe we could deck it out and roll it down Main Street for the Founder’s Day parade.”

“Do we even have anyone in the department who can drive it?”

“Yeah, I can drive it, Boss,” answered Kennesaw. “It’s just a big, heavy rig. I drove something like it in the Reserve.”

“So when you drive that thing down Main Street, what sort of public image will we be cultivating?”

“How about this: ‘You better be good, because the sheriff’s department has tanks,’” quipped Kennesaw.

Ellison shook his head.

“Maybe Frenchie will have an idea of what to do with it,” Kennesaw suggested.

“I’m sure he would. He’s full of ideas.”

“Should I call him?”

“If you want to. When you get a chance, could you move it around to the back and put a tarp over it or something so it’s not so conspicuous? It looks like we’re preparing for an invasion.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

The garage closed behind them, and Ellison shut off the engine. The two men sat in silence for a few moments before the sheriff spoke again.

“I’m curious, Ken,” he began. “How do you think we should handle this situation?”

“I thought you just told me.”

“I meant the Alco shootings.”

“That could get complicated,” answered Kennesaw. “To me, it looks the shooter got himself executed.”

Ellison nodded. “That it does.”

“But Rolfe executed two people himself, and shot two more.”

“Yes he did.”

Kennesaw frowned. “Do you want my personal or professional opinion?”

“Personal.”

“I don’t think Joe Amos Rolfe is going to be missed all that much.”

“No, I don’t suppose he will be,” replied the sheriff.

“He probably would have died, anyway. Inspector said he was shot three times in the back. If Turcot hadn’t finished him off, he would have bled out and the case would be closed.”

“This is a difficult spot for us.”

“Is it?”

Ellison shook his head and pondered before yanking the keys out of the ignition. “And we both know that Mr. Turcot probably won’t be prosecuted, even if he did execute Rolfe. The DA isn’t going to take on a case he can’t win. He likes certain victories.”

“I think you’re right. Turcot’s going to end up a folk hero around here.”

“Well, let’s go have a little talk with him.”

“For real? Or are we just going through the motions?”

Ellison didn’t answer. The two men got out of the cruiser and walked into the station. Kennesaw stopped to check his inbox while Ellison filled a Styrofoam cup with coffee. They made their way to the interview room, coming upon a steel door coated with wood laminate. Ellison knocked, then looked through the portal to confirm that Monte Turcot was still waiting for them inside.

“You ready?” he asked.

Kennesaw nodded. The sheriff turned the handle and stepped into the room. Turcot looked up as the two men entered. Before they could even introduce themselves, he spoke.

“Am I under arrest?”

“No,” answered Ellison, slightly taken aback by the question.

“Am I free to go?”

“Yes, but it might raise some suspicions if you go right now.”

Turcot remained seated, staring at Ellison and Kennesaw.

“You’re not leaving,” observed the sheriff.

“But I can leave any time?”

“Yes.”

“So what am I here for?”

“Three people died today, one by your hand,” Ellison explained. “We need to conduct an interview and get your side of the story.”

“I already told your other deputy everything. What else do you want to know?”

“Yes you did, and we appreciate your cooperation, but I wanted to chat with you myself. This mass shooting is going to be a big deal around this county for a long time. I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t ask a few questions when I had the opportunity.”

“I think I know what you want to know,” Turcot said.

“Then by all means, lay it on me.”

Turcot remained silent. Ellison hesitated, then turned to Kennesaw.

“Why don’t you take a moment and tell us a little about yourself, Monte,” Kennesaw asked.

“What do you want to know?”

“We’d just like to get to know you.”

“Are you a cop or a shrink?” Turcot asked.

“Probably a little bit of both some days,” the deputy answered, “but humor us, Monte. I’ve only run into you once or twice over the years. I can’t recall us ever having a real conversation. I don’t know anything about you.”

“I’m not very interesting.”

“It says here that you’re a veteran,” Kennesaw remarked, glancing down at his notes.

“That’s correct.”

“Afghanistan?”

Turcot rubbed his neck. “Yes. Barmal District.”

“How long were you there?”

“If I’m not under arrest, then I need to get going.”

“I’m just curious,” said Kennesaw. “But we don’t need to go there.” He watched Turcot, waiting for him to get up to leave, but he remained in his chair, staring at the deputy.

“I was there four years,” Turcot finally answered.

“Are things different for you now?”

“What do you mean?” Turcot looked at Ellison for further clarification, but the sheriff shrugged.

“Do you feel like you’ve changed?” Kennesaw asked.

“Of course, but the rest of the world has changed, too.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked the deputy.

“What is this?” asked Turcot, appearing as if he had finally had enough and was ready to push up from his seat.

The sheriff stepped forward. “We’re just trying to have a conversation.”

Turcot relaxed, then pointed to his head. “I learned how thinking too much can cause indecision. How indecision causes delay, and delay can be fatal.”

“That’s how you’ve changed?” asked the sheriff.

“In one sense.”

“So, you learned how to react in certain situations…extraordinary situations?”

“No, not react. I act. Professionals seize the initiative.”

“What were your actions at the Alco based on?” asked Ellison.

“The sound of gunfire. What do you think?”

“Of course,” replied Ellison, waving his hands apologetically. “Stupid question. So, you heard gunfire and you returned fire?”

“I had to acquire the target first.”

“Then you returned fire?”

“I fired. He wasn’t shooting at me at that time.”

“How many times did you shoot Joe Amos Rolfe?” asked Kennesaw. “Do you remember?”

Turcot looked perplexed. “Who’s Joe Amos Rolfe?”

“I’m sorry. Joe Amos Rolfe was the shooter.”

“I don’t remember. Three or four times.”

“You shot him from behind, in the back,” Kennesaw said.

“Affirmative.”

“But then once in the face, at close range.”

Turcot didn’t answer.

“Was he threatening you?”

“I was operating under the assumption that he was a threat. He shot a young girl and an old man in a wheelchair and a couple others, didn’t he?”

“But you thought he was a threat?” Kennesaw asked again.

“Yes.”

“So Rolfe had two pistols, and you shot him in the back three times and then once in the face because he was still a threat.”

Ellison shot an annoyed glare at Kennesaw.

“That’s right,” Turcot continued. “I didn’t think about it. I acted. I ended the threat. Who knows how many more people would be dead if I didn’t take him out.”

Kennesaw turned to Ellison, who gestured towards the door.

“We’re going to step outside for a moment, Monte,” said the sheriff. “Do you mind? Do you need anything while you wait?”

“I’ll be fine.”

Ellison and Kennesaw left Turcot in the interview room and walked down the hall a bit, until they were well out of earshot. The sheriff leaned his brawny frame against the wall and sipped his coffee, then pulled his sleeve back and looked at his wristwatch.

“What’s your watch telling you, Boss?” Kennesaw asked.

Ellison crossed his arms and concealed it. “It’s telling me that you did a fine job of leading him along.”

“I’m sorry. I thought that’s what you wanted.”

“I guess we need to decide how far to proceed with this,” the sheriff continued. “What do you have on the victims?”

Kennesaw flipped through his notes. “A Mr. William Forte of Granite. Widower. World War II veteran. Guadalcanal. Purple Heart. Then there’s Brianna Copeland. High school freshman from Calumet City. Fifteen years old. Mother says she was planning to attend the Homecoming Dance later this evening. Heard about an hour ago that the game and the dance have been canceled. The wounded include a Mrs.–”

“Even if he did execute Rolfe,” Ellison interrupted, “do you really think any jury around here would convict him, or even indict him, for that matter?”

“Isn’t that the DA’s call?” Kennesaw asked. “Chalmers won’t touch this.”

“He does have a lot on his plate with all the DEA action lately.”

“And it’s a sure loser for him,” remarked the deputy.

Ellison pondered for a moment. “What do we know about Joe Amos Rolfe? What about his family?”

“They don’t have anything, Boss. His folks are divorced. His mother lives in Santa Fe. His father rents a trailer on the south side, a couple miles down from the prison. He works there.”

“Have they had any legal troubles?”

“Pop had a DUI and a domestic a few years back,” said Kennesaw.

“Did they ever lawyer up on anything?”

“Not that I recall. They don’t have any financial means.”

“Are there any union connections? Any ties to the commissioner or the state? Senators or congressmen? Any rich uncles or famous relatives or lawyer cousins?”

“I don’t think so, Boss. But I’ll check it more thoroughly just to be sure.”

“Get that done today. Let’s go back in and finish things up with Monte.”

When the two men returned to the interview room, Turcot was still sitting in the chair, right where they had left him.

“Monte,” the sheriff addressed him. “It doesn’t look like we have anything else for you at this time.”

“So we’re done?”

“For now,” answered Ellison. “Kennesaw can give you a ride back if you need it. Thank you for your cooperation.”

“Are you dealing with all of this okay, Monte?” Kennesaw asked. “You’ve been through a lot today.”

“I only regret that I didn’t act sooner.”

“But you saved several lives.”

Turcot gazed down at the floor and rubbed his neck, again. “I didn’t save that girl.”

Oathkeeper

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Oathkeeper Chapter 1

OathkeeperA peaceful valley in the mountains of Colorado becomes a battleground pitting the DEA against a rural sheriff’s department. Beleaguered Sheriff Bear Ellison finds himself outnumbered, over-matched, and increasingly isolated as he is forced to decide between risking his life protecting a local hero, or reneging on his oath and handing him over to the Department of Justice.

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

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Chapter 1

 

Until recent times, Calumet County had never been known as a place of killing and violence. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in the shadow of the Continental Divide, the once tranquil county is inhabited by eighteen thousand year-round residents: a smorgasbord of ranch hands, pensioners, federal prison employees, and graying hippies. The streets and avenues of the county seat – Calumet City, population two thousand – are lined with Victorian-era homes, picket fences, jagged cottonwood trees, and old ponderosa pines. The village has one stoplight at the intersection of State Road 24 and Main Street. Deer graze on neighborhood lawns by day and black bears rummage through garbage cans by night. The residents of the county engage in a variety of recreational pursuits. Many enjoy the thrills of whitewater rafting or the freedom of bicycling. Others prefer the anticipation of a striking trout, the pursuit of big game, or the solitude of camping within the vast mountain forests and by the countless placid ponds and crystal clear streams, all of which are within a few minutes’ drive.

As with any population, there exists some fraction who are un-enamored by those conventional leisure activities and choose instead to indulge in mind-altering chemicals. Because of the illegality of many of these substances, these folks must make forays into the black markets, where the heightened risk of incarceration lures entrepreneurs of dubious morality and muted inhibition towards violence. The peaceful county was changing.

In all the decades that had passed since the town’s founding in the 1870s – after the first ranchers, silver miners, cattle rustlers, claim jumpers and lynch mobs chased the Ute Indians away and built their homesteads, churches, saloons, opium dens and whorehouses – there had been a grand total of only fifteen homicides. But the most recent four years had seen an alarming uptick in murderous violence in the county, rendering all other decades insignificant by statistical comparison.

The first of these recent killings was perpetrated by a Mr. Leone Vigil, an unemployed ex-felon. He had decided that he no longer wanted to deal with his insurmountable debts and his nagging and adulterous common-law wife. He drank himself into semi-consciousness, snorted $1,500 worth of cocaine, and then blew her brains out with a twelve gauge shotgun before turning the weapon on himself. Then Danny Pocket, a blond-haired high school narc, met his demise. One day, he had the misfortune of running into some of the very kids whom he had narced on. They proceeded to pound on him mercilessly, but when they discovered that the frail boy had ceased breathing, the pimply-faced criminal masterminds disposed of the evidence by dumping his body into the six-foot-deep City Park duck pond. It took less than forty-eight hours before the assailants turned on one another and the corpse was discovered. The village was devastated by the killing of a teenager, and schools were closed for three days. The townspeople tried their best to embrace the Pocket family and nurture them through their horrible ordeal, but they would not be comforted. Driving past the pond every day was too much for them to bear, and they soon moved away to Minnesota. Then there was Punchy Bauer, a burly speed dealer who got the worst of it in a bar fight. Typically a contest between rotund, hairy, middle-aged drunks throwing wild haymakers and spilling their change on the floor, this particular incident quickly escalated into a full-on knife fight. It was, up until then, the worst thing ever seen at the historic Wagon Wheel Saloon – 19th century gunfighter myths included. Punchy bled out on a pool table in the back, clutching at his lacerated diaphragm while a Mexican cook pressed his hands against the wound and the green felt of the table turned maroon. Soon after that, a Mr. Michael Roosevelt met his maker, dying by gunshot in what originally appeared to be a tragic hunting accident. Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Kennesaw, however, extracted a confession from the murderer, Michael’s stepbrother. He may not have loved his brother, but he sure did love his brother’s wife. Their plan was to kill Michael, collect his life insurance, then blow it on ecstasy while becoming blackjack dealers in Las Vegas. And then James White – trust fund baby, dedicated snowboarder, and occasional chemistry major from Boulder – was found strangled and sans his wallet in the River Park parking lot, the victim of a meth deal gone wrong.

Not six months after White’s murder, a twenty-four-year-old fellow by the name of Joe Amos Rolfe decided that he had had enough of this world and, while making his journey into the next, he was going to take a few “motherfuckers” along with him. Rolfe had acquired two 9mm pistols: the first legally, from a sporting goods store called Ralph’s, and the second one week later, from a tattooist at a parlor called Climax Tattoo and Piercing in the nearby town of Leadville.

Rolfe’sRolfe’s final day began at 10 a.m., when he was awakened by an itching fit. Agitated by this and having exhausted his supply of speed, he got into his cream-colored Chrysler K-car and drove to the apartment of a female acquaintance named Winona Larroquette. Rolfe dreaded the very sight of her. He thought her to be hideously unattractive, untrustworthy, and as dumb as bread, but he knew she was infatuated and perhaps even obsessed with him…and that she always had a supply of hillbilly crack. The two of them partook in her methamphetamine and watched YouTube videos of the metal group Sepultura for an hour.

“What’s wrong?” Winona asked Rolfe when he rebuffed her attempt to unzip his jeans.

“What is this shit you got? I can’t get high.”

“It’s the same as last time, Joey.”

“I will bitch slap you if you call me Joey again.”

“Jesus, Joe. What is your deal?”

“It’s probably the effin’ meds I’m on.”

Rolfe shoved her off and stormed out. Agitated and still itching badly, he drove himself to the Calumet City Alco store, located on the north edge of town just before the KOA campground. He parked his K-car in the closest handicapped parking space, got out, and made his way towards the front doors of the store. There, he was confronted by some old motherfucker in a wheelchair.

“Excuse me, but you can’t park there,” said the seated man. He wore a navy windbreaker with gold letters identifying himself as a veteran of World War II.

“Says who?” Rolfe replied, as he withdrew one of the pistols from his waistband.

Confined to his wheelchair, the old veteran was unable to flee. Rolfe fired once, shooting him in the chest, and continued on toward the doorway as the dying man collapsed onto the crosswalk.

While Joe Amos Rolfe made his way into the store to continue his murderous rampage, a Mr. Montgomery Turcot, himself a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, was trying on a pair of Wrangler jeans in a dressing room. He heard the report of Rolfe’s initial shot, but did not believe it to be gunfire. There weren’t any screams or commotion immediately after the shot fired at the entrance, so Turcot continued fitting his pants. But at the very moment he pushed through the saloon doors of the dressing room, three more shots rang out. This time, he was certain of what it was.

Turcot surveyed the front of the store where the gunshots had originated. From his vantage point, he could just see the cashier’s raised hands. There was another pop, and the hands dropped out of sight. Ducking against the steel merchandise shelving, he watched as the shooter, dressed in a navy blue hoodie and saggy jeans and carrying a 9mm pistol in each hand, crossed an aisle towards the front end of the store, apparently moving towards the pharmacy. Turcot reached into his old pants for his sidearm, a Kel-Tec P-32, and clipped the holster into his new jeans. He drew it, cocked it, and cautiously made his way toward the undergarment aisle that stood between him and the pharmacy. More shouts sounded from up ahead, and were promptly answered by three more gunshots. Silence returned to the store.

Turcot leaned against the shelves of boxer briefs and athletic socks, trying to breathe quietly, concerned that his small caliber pistol would not be capable of dropping the shooter before he could return fire. He checked right and left, estimating that the gunfire was either two or three aisles over. Assuming that the man was still heading toward the pharmacy, Turcot believed that he could move up from behind and take him out. At the same time, he also noticed the front door of the Alco in the opposite direction. He could make a run for it. In seven seconds, he could be outside the store and out of danger.

Though the possibility of escape was clearly there, Monte Turcot simply couldn’t bring himself to flee. Creeping up to the edge of the aisle, he peeked around the corner and discovered a woman hunkered down against the racks with her hands over her head. She looked up at him, paralyzed by fear, as if she wasn’t sure if he was the shooter or not. He pressed his finger to his lips, motioning for her to remain still, and quietly snuck across the aisle to look around the next row of shelves. No one was there, but he could hear more shouting and pleading. With his back to the shelving, Turcot contemplated his situation for a moment. He checked left and right again. Nothing. He glanced around the next aisle, finding it empty as well.

Then came three more shots.

The pops were crisp and loud, most likely coming from the next aisle over. Turcot drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly to steady himself, then poked his head around the shelves stocked with toothpaste, floss, and other hygiene products. There stood Joe Amos Rolfe in his blue hoodie and saggy jeans, his back turned, a pistol in each hand, his wrists cocked and raised up over his head like some Hollywood gangbanger. It was clear that he was looking for another target.

Turcot took aim from behind. The thought of yelling “freeze” or “drop it” entered his mind for an instant, but he fired instead, putting three rounds straight into the gunman’s back from eighteen feet away. Rolfe instantly crumpled onto the floor, dropping both pistols and letting out a long, wheezing moan. With his P-32 still pointed at the fallen man’s body, Turcot walked up to him and kicked both guns out of reach. Standing over his victim, Turcot reached down, grabbed Rolfe and flipped him over, then placed one knee on his chest and took a good long look at the shooter. Rolfe’s face was pale, sweaty, wide-eyed, and his mouth hung open, gasping for air. His eyes were those of a frightened boy. Paralyzed and helpless, he stared up at Turcot as if pleading for mercy.

Someone screamed, then screamed again and again, filling the store with shrill, hair-raising cries. Another person ran towards the front of the store, shouting “Call 911!” at the top of their lungs. Turcot could hear another voice coming from the front registers, murmuring “No, baby. No, baby. No,” in a panicked, motherly tone. More footsteps rushed up behind him, but Turcot didn’t take his eyes off the shooter. Rolfe didn’t move, except for his quivering.

“You got him!” shouted a male voice from directly behind.

“Why? Why?” the woman sobbed.

“Hold him down there,” the man ordered. “The police will be here any minute. I’m going to help that lady at the counter.”

“Wait!” Turcot spoke up before the newcomer could leave.

“What?”

“Go out front. Tell the cops not to shoot me.”

“Yeah. You got it.” The footsteps moved off toward the front of the store, leaving Turcot alone with Rolfe again. The motherly voice continued sobbing, repeating its desperate mantra of “No. No. No,” over and over. Moving carefully, Turcot slid his left hand beneath the gunman’s neck and lifted his limp head off the floor. Rolfe grimaced as small trickles of blood ran through his teeth and down his chin.

“Do you hear that?”

“I asked you a question,” Turcot said, gripping Rolfe’s pencil-thin throat as the woman’s cries sounded through the store. “Do you hear that?”

The wounded gunman nodded faintly. He was fading away, barely holding on to consciousness.

“Listen…”

Rolfe’s eyelids drooped.

“Wake up!” Turcot ordered, shaking him.

“Why? Why? Why?” cried the motherly voice.

Rolfe’s eyes widened.

“Those are the last sounds you will ever hear.”

Monte Turcot gently lowered Rolfe’s head onto the linoleum floor, pressed the barrel of his pistol into the man’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.

Next Chapter

Oathkeeper

Vox Day Banned by Goodreads SJWs

MaoNewman

Conservative science fiction author and community organizer, Vox Day, has been kicked off of Goodreads by progressive SJW mods.

Has Goodreads conceded that they feel compelled to resort to censorship in order to stifle views that run afoul of the Social Justice Warrior agenda?

Actions like this highlight the fundamental difference between “progressives” and “liberals”. Progressives are utterly intolerant of dissenting views and will toss civil liberties aside if the exercise thereof stands athwart their collectivist agenda.

 

Review on BookHorde.org

BookHorde

Libertarian page-turner

Oathkeeper is set in a small town in Colorado where a returning vet becomes an unexpected hero by stopping a mall shooting. But events rapidly go downhill from there, as a botched DEA raid starts a chain of catastrophic events. Although the vet walks onto the setting as a hero, he is more of a Greek tragic figure, and the story actually revolves around the town sheriff, Chief Bear Ellison. Sheriff Ellison is the everyday citizen who is faced with the moral dilemma of Law Enforcement today – what do you do when the enforcement collides with the Constitution?

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