Monthly Archives: April 2016

Indivisible Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

 

Undersheriff Garrity had been working for twenty-five straight hours. He had reached the point of sleep deprivation where his mind began morphing things out of the shadows that darted across the highway in front of his SUV. He slapped his face back into consciousness.

The past two days had been without precedent. He received a call from an agent of the Department of Homeland Security who informed him that the agency would soon be coordinating (i.e. taking over) the county sheriff’s department. Garrity would have a new boss and this new command structure would be in place for an indefinite period of time. The agent explained to him that the federal takeover was being done for the sake of national security.

A black Yukon appeared at the station soon after the call and two young, well-groomed, sunglasses-wearing agents in blue suits set up shop in Garrity’s office—at his desk, no less. They rudely brushed Garrity off, and at one point condescendingly asked him to go get them coffee. Garrity stormed out of his office. He deeply resented them.

An appeal to the sheriff was no use as his boss had a new federal master, too. “You gotta do something. Get rid of these assholes,” Garrity pleaded.

“What’s wrong with you, Bob?  Where’s your sense of duty? Your patriotism?” asked the sheriff.

Garrity pondered quitting right then and there. It wasn’t like they were paying him for his extra hours anyway. He was being issued scrip, as the county was insolvent. The new, fancy paper was worth even less than the old federal reserve notes, when and where it was accepted at all.

Garrity escaped into his cruiser and out onto patrol.  He didn’t answer the sheriff’s or the fed’s calls or bother to pick up their coffee. There was plenty of work for him to do maintaining community visibility and enforcing the nationwide midnight-to-dawn curfew, which essential government workers and portions of New York City, Boston and D.C. were exempted from.

It was two a.m. when Garrity reached the point where he could no longer stay awake. He had been working through a list of gun owners supplied from the background check databases, confiscating their rifles, pistols, and shotguns. No one seriously resisted, to his surprise, although some complained and threw that god damned piece of paper (aka The Constitution) in his face. Garrity just smiled at them, allowed them to vent for a moment, then conspicuously slid his hand down toward the taser clipped to his belt. This motion pacified all resistance.

Garrity was not surprised to find that neither Joe Joe nor any of his MS13 gangbanger buddies, nor any other known felons or persons-of-interest appeared on his gun registry. Felons couldn’t legally own a gun, but everyone knew that they still had them. Garrity got a chuckle about that. A lot of good it does to confiscate guns when the only people who give them up are the law-abiding citizens.

He turned on the hair metal music channel on his taxpayer-funded, recently-bailed-out, satellite radio. The ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” filled his cab. It was so familiar a song to Garrity that he thought it a chore to even listen to it. But when he felt himself starting to doze off, he rolled down the window, stepped on the gas, took a swig from his flask, and burst into verse.

“Though it’s been a while now

I can still feel so much pain.

Like a knife that cuts you

The wound heals

But the scar, that scar remains.”

Garrity took another swig and immersed himself in self-pity.

“Every rose has its—oh, fuck this!”

He switched the radio off and tuned in the frozen night air as it swooshed through the window. He looked down at the speedometer. He was doing eighty which was double the speed limit on the winding canyon road. No worries, he thought. There wasn’t a soul out save for him. His SUV bobbed and pitched as the road rippled and snaked down Ed’s Hill. He slowed to make his turn, then floored it again as he straightened out on a dirt road. The wheels kicked up a swarm of stones and pebbles. Two more turns and he pulled into his garage.

Garrity got out and opened the back hatch. He stared excitedly at the neatly stacked cache of confiscated guns, contemplating adding one of them—an early 1900s double barrel shotgun—to his permanent, personal collection. It’ll look really sweet over my fireplace, he thought. When or if it was ever supposed to be returned to its owner was anybody’s guess. If it ever was, Garrity could merely deny any knowledge of it. The owner would go to the county clerk and file some grievance in triplicate, which would be ignored until the owner finally gave up in frustration. Citizens usually gave up on those sorts of things after about 90 days. The vintage gun was as good as his if his conscience would permit him to keep it.

Garrity heard his two German shepherds barking away inside. He opened the door into the house and patted their heads. “So sorry, my sweeties.” He made his way to the kitchen where he offered them some cheese. He watched them wolf it down in one gulp. “You dogs just can’t savor anything, can you?”

Daisy and Himmelstoss were Garrity’s family. He loved them as much as anything in the world. Daisy, an anachronistic name for a German shepherd, was the alpha female.  She was always the first to bark and the first to greet. Himmelstoss, a male, was named after a WWI German war hero from some pussified, anti-war book he never bothered to read in high school literature class. Himmelstoss was a bit clunky for a dog’s name so he shortened it to “Stossi” which also sounded like a reference to East German secret police making it even keener in his mind. Daisy and Stossi had outside access through a doggy door so Garrity’s long shifts did not result in accidents.

Garrity scooped out some dog food for them, but they were uninterested. “Oh, you guys just want the good stuff, eh?” He tossed them each another cube of cheese.  He grabbed himself a beer from the fridge and made his way to the family room with his loyal dogs following behind. He fell into his leather sofa and flipped on the television. The big media talking heads materialized, giving calm reassurances to the masses.

“Hello, Bobby,” came a velvety voice from the shadowy corner of the room.

Garrity spit out a gulp of Bud Light. His eyes swung to the side where he finally saw her. She came back. I knew she would, he thought. “What are you doing here?” he asked her, feigning indifference. “And why didn’t my dogs rip you to pieces? Bad dogs!”

“There, there Daisy. Good boy, Stossi,” she replied, stroking their heads when they came to her and sat at her feet. “They remember me, Bobby. Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“What makes you think I want you here?” he said, trying to sound like he didn’t care that she came back. “You should have called first.”

“I wanted to surprise you. Tell me you’re happy to see me.” She got up and slithered over to him as the dogs watched from the floor with wagging tails. She took up the spot next to him on the sofa. “Bobby.” She always purred his name when she wanted something. That simple trick always managed to knife in under his plates of emotional armor. He was defenseless to it. “It’s been a long time, Bobby. I missed you.” She slid her arm over his shoulders.

Garrity kept up the phony resistance the best he could. “What do you want, Mae? How’d you get here? Don’t you have important government things to do these days? Isn’t there some banker you should be having dinner with tonight?”

“Oh Bobby, don’t be crude,” she said. “I came here to see you.”

“You think I believe that? That you came out here just to see me? What do you take me for, Mae? Just tell me what you want.”

“It’s crazy out there, Bobby,” Mae continued, shifting from seduction to supplication. “I had nowhere to go. They wouldn’t fly me back to D.C. and they wouldn’t pay for my hotel. They wanted us to stay in some dungeon at Denver International. I couldn’t stay there. That place is awful. I kept thinking of you, how close you are. You’re the only one I could turn to. Won’t you help me?”

Garrity pretended to look irritated, but inside he was elated to see his ex-wife. She had left him two years before when she got her Treasury Department gig. Lured by world travel, prestige, a fat salary, and the chance to hobnob with the most powerful men in the world, she ditched her provincial, redneck, cop husband. He was not a suitable escort in the spheres of geopolitical power.

Bobby tried to hold his illusion of resistance together.

“Do you have any money?” he asked.

“Huh? Oh no, nothing but scrip and this government debit card.”

“You can’t buy anything with those. We go shop to shop making sure the stores take them but as soon as word gets out that a store’s taking scrip, their shelves get cleaned out.”

“So how do people get by?”

“They eat a lot of egg noodles and cheese and wait in lines, I guess. Some barter. People survive, that’s what they do. I get to eat at the department and commandeer gas. I even get dog food rations cuz I got Daisy and Stossi rated as police dogs.”

Mae started caressing Garrity’s forearm. “Bobby…”

“What?” he asked, refusing to make eye contact with her.

“Let me stay with you a little while. I feel safe with you.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I can provide you the royal lifestyle you’re accustomed too.”

“Don’t be cruel, Bobby. I could go stay in that dungeon if it were necessary, but I’d rather be here with you.  I know how tough things were between us. But when I was all alone, my perspective changed. I realized I was wrong. I know that now. Just give me a chance. I need you, Bobby.”

She massaged his shoulder and the gears in Garrity’s brain started to turn. She had him and he knew that she knew it. He knew that she could just reappear at any moment in his life and that would be enough. She was irresistible to him. I’m weak, he thought.

For him, it was as if his prayers had been answered—answered with a curse. He was already plotting in his mind how to extract repayment from her and to what level of depravity he might be able to extract it. Mae never had any intimate boundaries.

When their marriage was dissolving, Garrity rationalized that it was probably the toll of stress that paved the way for their separation. But this was a spectacular stroke of good fortune and perhaps a final opportunity to redeem himself and recapture the woman who was the only obsession in his life. He wished he had been working out and eating healthier. He was disgusted with his appearance. But the gears kept turning in his mind.

“We gotta get out of here,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know, away from here. Out of the country for a while. Some place warm. Mexico. Costa Rica. At least until things settle down.”

“How much money do we need for that?”

“A lot.”

“How will we get it, Bobby?” she asked, wrapping her other arm around him, squeezing his chest and pressing her breasts against him. He surrendered, totally dropping the façade of resistance with the sensation of her firm curves and her warm, smooth skin beneath her clothes. She placed her right leg over his lap. He caught himself breathing a little loud. The gears in his brain seized.

“I have an idea.”

“I knew you would, Bobby,” she answered as she pulled back. She got herself up and sauntered into the kitchen. “That’s why I loved you.”

Indivisible

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Oathkeeper Chapter 16

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 16

 

 

“Good morning, Sheriff,” Stern announced as he propped himself up on the sofa. Ellison stood by the window, peering out through the tattered mini blinds. He was wearing the same uniform from the day before, and it didn’t appear that he had slept. “What are you looking at?”

“There’s a big crowd gathered out there. Take a look.” Ellison stepped away to refill his coffee cup while Stern staggered over to the window. “You see all those news vans?”

“Yeah. Looks like five of them.”

“Don’t forget that CNN hybrid by the mailbox over there.”

“I’d better hold a press conference then, before they get bored and leave.” Stern felt the side of his neck. “Damn. You wouldn’t happen to have a razor, would you?’

“Check my office bathroom, in the medicine cabinet.” Ellison switched on his radio to Kennesaw’s frequency as Stern made his way to the head. “You there, Ken?”

“I’m on my way, Boss. Five minutes out.”

“Do me a favor. Park in the garage, then come straight up to my office. I’ve got an idea to run by you.”

“Sure thing.”

Ellison sat down in his swivel chair, his eyes bloodshot and glassy from the pots of coffee he had consumed throughout the night. He peeked out into the reception area and saw Turcot asleep on the davenport. Grabbing the remote, he clicked on the TV, and a glossy Denver morning show filled the screen. VERDICT IN CALUMET DEA AGENT KILLING crawled along the television, below an orange-complexioned hostess with dyed hair and enormous, gleaming, bluish-white teeth, interviewing a man dressed like a chef. MONTE TURCOT FOUND NOT GUILTY IN DEATH OF FEDERAL AGENT.

The sheriff sipped his coffee. A thin, plucked and coiffed male reporter appeared on screen next. One glance at him and Ellison deduced that he had never been so much as five miles from a Starbucks during the entirety of his lifetime. Then he recognized the CCSD police station in the background of the shot. The reporter was standing right outside.

“…to say the verdict came as a surprise would be an understatement, even in a small mountain town like Calumet City, known primarily for its ranching, white water rafting, and slower pace…”

“In other words, ‘those hicks blew it’,” mumbled Ellison as he sipped from his cup. The shot ended, and the feed suddenly cut to Special Agent Acevedo.

“Kevin Sniggs was an exemplary agent,” Acevedo said. “He dedicated his life to fighting the War on Drugs. He loved his job – his service to his country. It’s just unbelievable that any jury could have ruled this way – to let a murderer go like that. I still can’t believe it.”

The footage cut to a courtroom scene.

“Bedlam broke out after the bailiff read the verdict,” the reporter continued. “A court clerk suffered a broken nose in the melee. A sixty-year-old woman was taken to the Canon City medical center for treatment and later released. Unable to subdue the rioters, Sheriff Bear Ellison, shown here, escorted the acquitted suspect and his attorney into a safe room…”

“The court’s not even in my county,” Ellison scoffed to no one in particular.

“As of this moment, it is believed that Turcot is holed up here, in this building behind me, the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department, protected by the sheriff and his officers…”

“They’re not officers,” growled the sheriff. “They’re deputies.” He switched the television over to CNN.

“…Connor is on scene. Connor, what’s going on there?”

Ellison could hear a helicopter on the television and overhead simultaneously. The seven-second delay made it sound like a whole squadron was flying outside.

“Less than twelve hours ago, the accused killer of Special Agent Kevin Sniggs was found not guilty by a small town jury in nearby Canon City,” Connor announced. “But the suspect, Montgomery Turcot, is not a free man, yet. He’s been taken to the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department, which you are seeing now. All requests for an interview have been denied. As you can see, there are numerous reporters on the scene, in addition to several dozen, perhaps a hundred or so citizens of this small, rural community. The crowd has grown considerably since last evening.”

“Do you know why Turcot was taken into custody?” asked the anchor.

“It’s not yet known why the sheriff is holding Turcot, whether he is in custody or there on his own free will.”

The scene returned to the studio.

“In the studio today, we have clinical psychologist Ravi Prashad. Thank you for coming on. Dr. Prashad, would you care to speculate on what is going on up there in the Colorado mountains?”

“This ought to be good,” Ellison muttered.

“Sure,” answered Prashad. “It’s my belief that that the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department took Mr. Turcot into custody, as you speculated, based on some information that led them to suspect that he was a danger to himself or possibly others. We’re talking about an alleged cold-blooded killer here, also a man who is a combat veteran, and a man who recently lost his wife in a tragic accident. He has been in jail for several months now. You can’t just turn a person under that level of stress loose in society. He is most likely suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as elevated levels of anxiety and maybe even paranoia, mania, adult oppositional defiant disorder, or depression. It’s quite possible that the sheriff evaluated him, and determined that he was unstable and required overnight observation. Many kudos to this small town sheriff for his progressive action. I do believe that Turcot should be kept there until he can be evaluated by medical and psychiatric professionals and it is determined that he will not pose any danger to the community if released without supervision…”

Ellison shut off the television. “Did you hear that?” he asked, just as Stern returned from the bathroom with a razor in hand and half of his face covered in shaving cream.

“Hear what?”

“Channel 9 thinks I’m harboring a fugitive, and CNN thinks I’m detaining him for psychiatric evaluation.”

“Did you expect the media to tell the truth on their own? You’ve got to spoon feed them, Sheriff,” Stern said as he went back to shaving. “So, do I just go out there and start talking?”

“No,” Ellison answered. “I’ll go and let them know that you’re coming out to speak. You’re a little short, no offense, so I’ll try to stake out a place on the steps for you out front.” The sheriff turned toward the davenport. By this point, Turcot had woken up and was fumbling around with the coffee maker. “Monte?”

Turcot didn’t respond.

“Monte?”

“Yeah, Sheriff?”

“I want you to stay inside, if that’s okay with you.”

“Whatever you think is best.”

“I’ll tell them you just want your privacy right now, that you’ve been through a lot and that you’ll talk to them later.”

“Then what?” Turcot asked.

“Well, you can’t stay here,” replied Ellison. “I don’t want them thinking I’m harboring or detaining you. And I don’t want all them news vans and that crowd getting in the way. Can you make some arrangements?”

“I could go home.”

“Can you go someplace else? I’m sure they’ll be waiting for you there.”

“I can’t think of anywhere.”

“All right. Just sit tight. Stern, you need to keep them reporters tied up for at least twenty minutes. If you run out of things to say, which I’m sure you won’t, just start taking questions. They never run out of questions.”

“Then what?” asked Stern.

“While you’re doing your presser, we’re going to get Mr. Turcot out of here, right out the back door.”

Kennesaw appeared five minutes later.

“Good morning,” the sheriff greeted him.

“Morning, Boss.”

“Would you mind staying here in my office with Monte while I take Mr. Stern down to meet the press?”

“Not at all, Boss.”

Sheriff Ellison led Stern to the front doors. The attorney was wearing his suit from the previous day, but he otherwise looked fresh. Behind the frosted glass windows lurked his destiny. The trial and its conclusion were merely a prelude to this moment. How he handled the press now would determine his legacy from the victory in court. They had the potential to bury him if he botched it. The press was a delicate instrument, easy to play but difficult to master. Stern took a deep breath and released it in short bursts, a technique he’d learned from a yoga DVD.

“Are you ready?” Ellison asked.

“Let’s do this,” answered Stern.

The frosted glass doors swung open, and the reporters swarmed in. Ellison guided Stern to the landing at the edge of the granite stairs leading down from the station to the sidewalk. A dozen microphones jabbed into their faces immediately.

“How are you all this morning?” the sheriff addressed the crowd.

“Where’s Monte Turcot?” asked a reporter.

“Is he in jail?” another inquired.

“Mr. Turcot is inside. He’s not in jail and he’s not in custody. We are not holding him.”

“Is he under observation?”

“Negative. Mr. Turcot is free to go whenever he pleases.”

“What’s his condition?”

“He appears to be in good health, but he’s been through a lot.”

“Why isn’t he out here?”

“Yeah,” asked another. “Why won’t he speak to us about his victory in court?”

“Look,” answered the sheriff, “I just came out here to let you all know that Mr. Turcot is not in custody, and that we are going to provide transportation for him in just a few minutes. I think that you all should honor the jury’s’ verdict and be respectful of the law and of Mr. Turcot’s wishes to be left alone. He’s been through a great deal these past few months.”

“Is the sheriff’s department providing protection for Mr. Turcot?”

“Protection from who? From you guys?”

“Sheriff, are you aware that several death threats have been made towards Mr. Turcot?”

“This is the first I’ve heard of that, but I will look into it. Who’s been making them?”

“Sheriff, do you think justice was served in this case?”

“Mr. Turcot was acquitted,” answered Ellison. “That’s all that matters, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Have you heard any of the rumors that the Department of Justice wants to retry him?”

“I’m assuming that would be double jeopardy and–”

“Try him on a different charge, a civil rights charge?”

“I’ll leave that to the lawyers,” said Ellison. “I’ve got to make arrangements to transport Mr. Turcot so I can attend to other county business. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hand things over to Mr. Turcot’s attorney. This is Benjamin Stern.” He stepped away from Stern, who began answering a flurry of questions about retrying Turcot in federal court by reciting the 5th Amendment. Ellison slipped back into the station and not ten minutes later, while Stern was still fielding questions, his cruiser emerged from the garage. The swarm of reporters scrambled into their news vans and joined in the pursuit, leaving Stern without the bulk of his audience.

Ellison led them onto the highway, then east into the arroyos and pinion forest. The road turned to dirt, and the parade of vehicles kicked up a maelstrom of dust. Mule deer pranced along the shoulders of the road, darting into the shrubs in fear. Stones pinged against steel, and the engines roared. The caravan turned north, passing through three narrow railway tunnels drilled and blasted in succession through solid granite. The sky above was cloudless, save for wispy braids of cotton contrails.

Ellison turned west, leading them onto an even rougher road. The news vans struggled to keep up, bottoming out in the ruts and on the bumps. A black Tahoe appeared in Ellison’s mirror, passing the news vans and closing in just behind them. Its driver’s side mirror had been sheared off.

As the vehicles crossed back over the highway, the pinion shrubs yielded to the tall ponderosa pines. Another turn and another mile or so, and they had turned onto Turcot’s gravel driveway. Ellison stopped in front of Turcot’s trailer, but didn’t exit his cab until the news vans and the black SUV had caught up and parked behind him. Once eight more vehicles had squeezed their way onto the shoulder of Turcot’s drive and a helicopter had taken position overhead, Sheriff Ellison finally got out to confront them. The reporters swarmed in.

“Where’s Turcot?” they shouted. “We want to ask him some questions.”

“Now this is pretty rude of you all,” Ellison replied. “I’m very disappointed. I thought I’d asked you all to respect Mr. Turcot’s privacy.”

“Just give us Turcot.”

“We just want to talk to him.”

“We’re just doing our job, Sheriff.”

“The public wants to hear from him!”

“This is private property,” Ellison said. “You are trespassing if you stay after being asked to leave.”

“Let Turcot ask us, then. Where is he?” The reporters closed in around the sheriff’s cruiser with their cameras and microphones.

“Please step away from my cruiser,” Ellison ordered.

The reporters cupped their hands on the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the acquitted agent killer, but there was no one inside. They had been duped.

Ellison had come alone.

#

An hour later and twenty-five miles away to the southwest, Deputy Kennesaw stopped in front of his hunting cabin. It was a secluded place, up a rugged four wheel drive-only road, tucked snugly into the woods beyond the reach of the lumbering news vans. As they walked up to the cabin door, the deputy and Monte Turcot could hear water running in a hidden brook in the forest nearby. Kennesaw stretched and breathed in the solitude.

“Whenever I come out here, I cut all my troubles loose with this first deep breath,” he explained. “Try it out. You look like you could use it more than me.”

Turcot breathed in and exhaled.

Kennesaw smiled. “Welcome to my little hideout, Monte.”

Oathkeeper

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Indivisible Chapter 11

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Chapter 11

 

“Will you do it?” asked Marzan.

“Do what? Shoot Americans?” asked Rollins as he screwed his Osiris eye ring down his middle finger.

Their unit had just received the situation report and rules of engagement in the back of their cramped Humvee.  Nothing had really changed from how they were instructed back in Shariastan. The platoon was en route to a south Chicago ghetto to quell a developing situation. Rioters had amassed and were turning over cars, smashing out windows, and setting fires.  The local police had lost control.

Their orders were that rioters who did not disperse were to be given first a bullhorn warning, then tear gas, then a high-intensity sound blast, and finally warning shots. After that, the appropriate level of response was left to the discretion of the lieutenant, who in this case was a primped man-boy just out of an abbreviated officer candidate school. There was no objective other than to restore order. If they were fired upon, they were permitted to return fire…after headquarters approval, of course.

“Yeah, I mean shoot Americans,” Marzan clarified.

“I guess I’m not really too worried about it,” Rollins answered, nonchalantly. “I’m a soldier. Orders are orders”

Marzan wasn’t at all surprised. He probably shouldn’t have asked Rollins. He had known him for eighteen months. He probably knew more about what Rollins was going to do than Rollins knew, himself.

Rollins never appeared to be concerned about what he was going to be doing. He operated reflexively by muscle memory. His complete moral detachment was well-established. If there was an order, Rollins would execute it without hesitation. Bulldoze somebody’s house? Done. Lob a hand grenade into a courtyard? Done. Fire on a carload of hajis who failed to stop at a checkpoint? Done. No hesitation. No questions. Rollins carried out his orders as if he were playing a video game. There was never any remorse or second-guessing or empathy. He was the perfect soldier.

I don’t think I can do it, Marzan thought to himself, trying not to reveal his doubt. He forced his face into a deadpan expression to hide any hint of his internal turmoil. He chided himself for not being as hard as Rollins. His conscience increasingly haunted him and he hated himself for it. He had to use the “remember your dead buddies” technique in order to clear his doubts.

I am weak and Rollins is strong, he thought. He was never comfortable with intimidating the little brown people like Rollins was. Despite their small stature and annoying, indecipherable babbling they called a language, Marzan could never fully dehumanize them. Their sad brown eyes would knife through his emotional armor. Through their eyes, he experienced their terror, grief, fear, submission, hatred.

He yearned to be Michael Rollins, encased in impervious emotional armor, impenetrable to any blade. He wanted to see only deception in the enemy’s glances. He desperately wanted everything else—all that touchy-feely bullshit—deflected away. If he were only as hard as Michael Rollins he could be cured of the pain of conscience.

All hajis were liars and savages, much like all the gooks in Vietnam were liars and savages, and all the Japs and krauts during World War II were liars and savages. Things never change in war. The soldier is taught that he is the überman. The enemy is unhuman. In Shariastan, it was assumed that just as soon as the GI’s back was turned, haji was sneaking off to his spider hole to finish improvising his explosives. All unhumans are of one savage, evil mind.

“Look,” continued Rollins, “we’re giving them plenty of warning. If they don’t want to get themselves dead then they should do what they’re told. It’s pretty simple: Don’t be a dumbass. Respect my authority. Respect this.” Rollins jammed a magazine into his M4 and yanked the charging handle.

Marzan wondered why Rollins didn’t return the question. Is he really that self-absorbed? he wondered. Or did he sense my uneasiness about the matter and decide to let me off the hook? No way. He would never let me off the hook. He’s definitely that self-absorbed, he concluded.

Their Humvee stopped.

The night was illuminated by rippling gold dancing on the unsmashed window glass of the numerous store fronts down the street. The power was cut off intentionally to give the Domestic Security Force—or DSF, the new name for Marzan and Rollins’s Division—a technological advantage. Cut the power and you greatly reduce enemy coordination and documentation. The U.S. Army loves to fight at night because the lightly armed, third-world insurgents they typically engage can’t see. The Army also had to ensure the battery backups of the nearby cell towers were turned off as well. This was a bit of a pain in the ass, but it got done.

The troops dislodged themselves from their Humvees.  They huddled for a moment to receive last-minute instructions and activate their night vision. Then they began their stealthy maneuver into the darkness with the Humvees crawling behind. Their viewfinders pictured green silhouettes scrambling between alleyways, aimlessly hurling bricks and Molotov cocktails.

“Dumbasses,” Rollins whispered into the radio.

Marzan watched them scurry around in the darkness, oblivious to the laser sites that were marking them. They would never expose themselves as stupidly as this in Shariastan, he thought as he moved his laser dot from target to target. The Shariastan insurgents learned quickly that the night provides no cover against U.S. Army night vision. But they learned that being still and covering up in wool blankets does.

The soldiers progressed slowly, deliberately, knees bent, rifles aimed, and targets acquired and reacquired. They proceeded around a corner and a block down the street, past the Carniceria, past the prepaid cell-phone store that served the neighborhood drug dealers, up to the Checks Cashed façade at the corner. The firelight danced in flickering green in their optics. Marzan could hear glass smashing and the primordial, raging laughter of an insanity-fueled mob.

What is their problem? Marzan asked himself.

The proles were angry about prices. They were angry about shortages. They were angry about joblessness. They were angry that their welfare checks were delayed. They were angry about being hungry. They were angry that mass transit had stopped servicing their area. They felt trapped. They had been lied to. They had never known an instant in their life when some government bureaucrat wasn’t telling them what to do, where to go, or giving them the financial means to do it. Now their government benefactors were pulling away, disconnecting from them, cutting them off. Despair and panic had set in.

Terrified and not knowing what to do, they gathered and protested during the daylight hours. The cops rode in—polyester vials of mustachioed nitroglycerine. Their nerves were worn thin by twenty-four-hour shifts.  They were being asked to do many exceptionally dangerous things that they did not sign on to do.

Someone hurled a brick that careened off a cruiser windshield, shattering it. The cops drew their pistols. Most of the rioters scattered but the angriest among them, the unattached, the unemployed, the unencumbered young men remained. They hurled rocks and bottles and taunts at the cops. A cop was hit in the chest with half a cinderblock.

Gunfire!

No one other than the actual shooter knew who fired first. The cops returned fire with a barrage of 9mm rounds. It sounded like Chinese New Year. Then screams. A wild murmuration of young men ran this way and that. More shots. Someone was firing back with a rifle.  More screams.

Outnumbered a hundred to one, the cops retreated back into their cruisers. The mob enveloped them. Fearing a rout, the cops withdrew. A Pyrrhic victory riot ensued.

Marzan was the first to peek around the corner at the rioters. The mob was much bigger than he had anticipated. There were hundreds. The fire teams took their positions. A Humvee pulled into the street and with an enormous bullhorn affixed to its roof it addressed the crowd.

“You are hereby ordered to disperse!”

Rollins laughed as he sighted on one of the “dumbasses,” as he called them.  The target was some fifty yards off. “These niggers got no idea what’s coming.” Rollins said. “You better get the hell out of here before the U.S. Army smokes your ass.”

The firelight flickered in the bulletproof windows of the Humvees, casting a surreal omen. Some rioters spotted the soldiers and their M4s and took cover. Others fled, sensing something wicked was about to happen.

The sight of cops might be cause for concern to the rioters, but cops, although locally despised, were local scoundrels who lived locally and had to answer to locals for what they did. This time, the proles were staring into the ranks of heavily-armed soldiers…mercenaries by all accounts. These soldiers were from faraway places like Orange County and Philadelphia and Houston. They might as well have been foreign invaders from China, as far as the rioters were concerned. These mercenaries had no connection or affiliation to that south-Chicago neighborhood. The soldiers, by and large, deemed the neighborhood as just another foreign battlefield—as if it had been chiseled out of a Shariastan desert and plopped right down into Illinois.

The rioters that did not flee held their concept of being an American before them. They cradled that abstract notion, contemplating it, trying to decide if it was real or just some sort of vaporous nonsense drilled into their brains by public school, national holidays, and television.

The tear gas was launched.

Fearlessly, some rioters grabbed the smoking canisters and tossed them back. The big show of authoritarian force is always just that, a show. There would be some back and forth, the mob would blow off a little steam, then the storm troopers would march in and methodically disperse the crowd. That’s the way it had always worked during riots.

The sound-blaster sirens blared.

They wailed so loud that it made teeth chatter. A few brittle windows crumbled under the pulsating noise. The rioters scattered into the alley ways and behind burned out cars to shield their ear drums.

Warning shots were fired.

It was at that moment that the rioter’s remaining notions of being an American dissolved. America had now just become some far-away gang of white politicians sending an army in to occupy their neighborhood. Only their homes and their friends and their families meant anything to them, from that moment on. They knew then that there wasn’t going to be any theatrical, non-lethal dispersal.

Rifle shots came from a window somewhere above.

“Smoke ‘em!” came the order from the lieutenant through the earpiece radios of the soldiers—after headquarters’ approval, of course.

The Domestic Security Force opened fire in three round bursts. Muzzle flash. Ricochet. Beelike-buzzing zips of bullets sliced the air.  Dull clangs resonated as automobile hulls were punctured by the rounds.

Rollins gently squeezed his trigger. The victim did a full cartwheel before landing on his face, the American dying in no more special manner than any other of the several dozen little brown people Rollins had already smoked overseas.

After ten more seconds—which seemed like forty-five minutes to the outmatched, outgunned and terrified rioters—the hail of gunfire ended.

The whooshing sound of flames.

Groans from the wounded.

Car alarms wailing.

The platoon advanced to check out their damage, now behind the cover of their lumbering Humvees. Rollins approached his victim with Marzan to his flank. It was a kid, maybe sixteen. He had run right out of one of his sneakers. “Funny how that happens sometimes,” Rollins remarked.

Indivisible

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Oathkeeper Chapter 15

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 15

 

Three hours had passed before Sheriff Ellison heard a familiar knock on the holding room door.

“Who is it?” he asked, just to make sure.

“It’s Kennesaw.”

Ellison opened the door to let his deputy in, screening off the clamoring reporters from the hall outside. “Glad you could finally make it,” he said.

“I had to let it die down a little.”

“What’s going on out there?” Stern asked.

“It’s pretty lively. The networks are out there. They want a shot at your client. He’s the big national story right now.”

“Swarming flies,” the attorney observed.

“I figured you’d want to be out there with your client, getting some face time,” said Kennesaw.

“I suppose my fifteen minutes of fame is slipping away. But the press seems awfully hostile right now.”

“Not all of them,” Kennesaw said. “The network guys want to take their shots, but the locals coming in from all over are a mixed bag.”

“What do you mean?” Stern asked.

“I think many are sympathetic. I talked to a crew from Grand Junction, and they seemed almost pleased with the verdict.”

“We can use that, Monte.” Stern turned to Turcot. “Maybe it’s time for a press conference.”

“You’re free to do whatever you want,” said Ellison. “But I’m not going to be able to secure a press conference tonight, and I don’t recommend you doing a turkey strut right at this moment.”

“So what do you suggest?” asked Stern.

“I suggest you give it twenty-four hours. I know I’d personally appreciate that. I don’t want a riot on my hands.”

Stern looked at Turcot, who seemed to be falling back asleep.

“We can’t wait around in here much longer, either,” Ellison continued. “We should get back to Calumet City for the night. You could do your press conference there, tomorrow.”

“That sounds like a plan,” answered Stern. “I need a drink.”

Ellison turned to the deputy. “Kennesaw?”

“Yeah, Boss?”

“I need you to get Mr. Turcot some clothes. That jumpsuit he’s in is a little too conspicuous. Then I need you to pull your cruiser around by the south entrance. Text me, and I’ll bring us out.”

Kennesaw nodded. He cracked the door, picked the right moment where the commotion was at a lull, then slipped out of the room. Ellison blocked the door behind him. Stern straightened his tie and bundled his papers. He wasn’t sweating anymore, but dark rings had formed under his eyes, and his complexion had grayed. When his effects were gathered, he leaned back in his chair, and with a savory look on his face, he laughed.

“You seem pleased with yourself,” observed Ellison.

“I am.”

“You’re a celebrity now.”

“I suppose.”

“And a hero to some.”

“And an outlaw to others,” Stern answered proudly.

“Congratulations.”

“Yeah, I beat them bastards,” the attorney continued. “I beat them at their own rigged game. I’m sorry, Sheriff. I don’t mean to gloat, but it was a hard fought battle.”

“Didn’t you both win?” asked the sheriff.

“You’re right. Of course. It’s really Monte’s victory. He’s a free man.”

“A free man by one measure, maybe not so free by another. It seems he may have acquired a new set of chains,” observed Ellison.

“It’s a twenty-four-hour news cycle. The press will move on soon enough,” Stern replied.

“You’ve got a lot of public relations to do in the coming weeks,” said Ellison, “you being a villain and all.”

“I’m not a villain,” said Stern indignantly.

“I thought you just said you were.”

“I said outlaw, not villain.”

“What’s the difference?”

Stern’s exhausted face flushed with an aura of self-satisfaction. “Outlaws live beyond the law, but that doesn’t necessarily make them villains,” he explained. “Sometimes the ones who enforce the laws are the villains.”

“I have a question for you, Sheriff,” Turcot asked suddenly. His eyes were still closed, and his body remained slouched in his chair, motionless.

Ellison looked at him. “What is it?”

“Don’t you want to ask me?”

“Ask you what, Monte?”

“Don’t you want to ask me if I did it?”

“I don’t care,” answered the sheriff. “That answer’s meaningless to me. Guilty or not guilty is all that matters under the law.”

“Spoken like a true lawman,” said Stern.

“You’re a lawyer, Stern. You’re a man of the law, too.”

“Indeed I am.”

“My job as sheriff is to enforce the law. Your job as lawyer is to interpret it, but it’s still the law.”

“I guess I’m not so self-righteous about it, Sheriff.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Stern chuckled. “Don’t try to tell me that you don’t interpret the law, too.”

“I enforce it. That’s all.”

“But you get to decide when and where and how.”

Ellison surrendered, turning to the door to listen to the commotion outside.

“Monte’s innocent,” Stern said. “No jury from here was going to convict you, Monte, not so long as I was in the courtroom.” He stood up and started to pace back and forth. “I’m going to write a book. I’m going to write a book about how we beat the empire. We’ll go on the talk show circuit and wind everyone up. We’ll be a lightning rod.” He could already imagine all the high profile, million dollar cases he was soon to get. This victory was going to be his big break…

…but as he noticed Ellison watching him, Stern remembered that the sheriff, like the deceased Kevin Sniggs, was a member of the law enforcement brotherhood. He immediately wiped the self-satisfied smirk off his face and sat down.

Kennesaw’s text arrived thirty minutes later. The sheriff glanced down at his watch, then looked up at Turcot and Stern. “Are we ready to go?” he asked.

The two men nodded and gathered by the door. Ellison listened for a moment. It was quiet on the other side. He cracked the door to take a look.

“Okay, here we go.”

Stern straightened his jacket. Ellison opened the door, and the trio drove into the swarm of press that sprang to life with shouts and flashes of white light. Ellison led, followed by Turcot, then Stern, all triumphant five-and-a-half-feet of him. Ellison cut a path through the mass. Turcot’s eyes had glazed over, and he appeared to have numbed himself to the chaos enveloping him. The mob was mostly press, but some federal agents were mixed in. They were the ones without recorders or phones, stoic, watching, stalwart against the fluid froth of media. Their one unifying feature was the malice in their eyes.

Ellison looked ill as he pushed through. He was trapped by circumstances. It was his duty to protect Turcot, but in doing so, he felt as if he was betraying the brotherhood. He hoped his beleaguered expression emanated sufficient angst that the feds might understand. It called out to them: “I regret doing this, but I am just doing my job.” But he found no understanding in their faces. The mere act of him escorting Turcot offended them.

The trio pressed through the mob, out the side of the courthouse, and into the cruiser driven by Kennesaw. The car lurched forward into the crowd that spilled out around them. The deputy revved the engine to open a path, and as soon as the way was clear, they were off. However, they soon found themselves being pursued by two white news vans and a black DEA Tahoe.

“I want you to know something, Sheriff,” Stern said as the crowd vanished behind them. “We do appreciate your help. We’re both very grateful.”

Ellison tried to look gracious, which was difficult for a man whose troubled face evoked the image of a clenched fist. “I’m just doing my job,” he replied.

“What do you think the public’s take on the verdict is?” asked Stern.

“Back in the county?”

“Yeah.”

“They revere your client; they feel badly about what happened to him, and there’s a lot of folks who aren’t very pleased with the DEA. I imagine that makes them sympathetic.”

“Are you sympathetic?” asked Stern.

“I don’t get paid to sympathize.”

Kennesaw drove at a brisk pace up SR 24, but not so fast as to give the impression that they were fleeing. The clunky news vans yawed and heaved behind them on the rippling two lanes of asphalt. The trailing black SUV vaulted ahead of the news vans in the oncoming lane. Kennesaw checked it in the rearview mirror. The windows, including the windshield, were tinted, concealing everything inside. It was closing in on them. Ahead lay a slow-moving flatbed truck, presenting an opportunity to lose their pursuers.

“The feds can’t be too pleased with you, Sheriff,” Stern observed.

“I don’t answer to the feds.”

“That’s a refreshing attitude that I’m not accustomed to when it comes to local law enforcement. So many local cops are quite eager to please them.”

“There are plenty of people for me to keep pleased in this county, already.”

Kennesaw moved into the left lane to pass the flatbed. The oncoming traffic was obscured by a swell a half mile ahead.

“So, what do you think those boys in the black truck want?” asked Stern, looking back and watching the SUV close in from behind.

Ellison glanced at the driver of the flatbed they were passing. The man looked like he was in his twenties, and had the appearance of a ranch hand. He turned his head to the sheriff and cast a supportive nod, implying that he knew what had just happened back at the courthouse. He had probably heard it on local radio.

The cruiser shot through the pass a thousand feet before the road plunged below the other side of the crest, concealing anything barreling towards them. Kennesaw floored it. The black Tahoe remained in the oncoming lane, still accelerating in an attempt to pass the truck and close the gap with the police cruiser, but they weren’t going to make it before the crest.

“What do you say, Sheriff? What do those feds want?” asked Stern again as he removed his tie and tucked it into his coat pocket. He looked boyish inside his loose collar.

Kennesaw watched the SUV pull alongside the flatbed in his mirror, but it wasn’t pulling past it as the flatbed was now accelerating. The feds were trapped in the left lane with the crest of the hill approaching, and whatever unknown steel lay behind it barreling towards them at eighty miles per hour. The wobbly news vans pulled up tight behind the flatbed, like connected railcars.

“That’s a good question,” answered Ellison distractedly.

“So?”

“They’re not going to make it, Boss,” warned Kennesaw. Up ahead, an oncoming semi rose from behind the crest, approaching at full speed.

“Sheriff?” asked Stern.

The semi driver blared his horn. Its pitch climbed as the vehicles approached each other at a combined speed of 150 miles per hour. Ellison looked back at the Tahoe, waiting for it to capitulate and fall back. The eighteen wheeler’s horn blared again, but the flatbed refused to brake and let the feds pass. The news vans fell back and offered a gap, but surprisingly, the SUV didn’t take it.

“They ain’t gonna make it!” Kennesaw shouted.

The analog of dual yellow lines streamed like lightning on the road beneath them as the truck’s horn howled. A second before impact, the Tahoe swerved into the flatbed’s lane, nearly running it off the road. With the SUV straddling the ribbon of double yellow, the two lane highway became three, and the semi roared past them in the other direction, shearing off the driver’s side mirror of the SUV. A wake of air, displaced and churned by the fifty-three-foot-long box of steel and aluminum and spinning rubber, reverberated through the vehicles.

“Sheriff?” asked Stern.

“What?” Ellison shouted.

“What do they want?”

Stern looked back at the Tahoe, which was now just behind them.

“I suppose they want justice,” Ellison answered.

“But that’s already been decided.”

“They seem to have their own interpretation of it.”

The procession reached the Calumet County sheriff’s department station. Kennesaw pulled into the garage and lowered the door, sealing themselves off from their pursuers.

Oathkeeper

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Bukowski’s Take on War

“There are no good wars or bad wars. The only thing bad about a war is to lose it. All wars have been fought for a so-called good Cause on both sides. But only the victor’s Cause becomes history’s Noble Cause. It’s not a matter of who is right or who is wrong, it’s a matter of who has the best generals and the better army.”

And…

“I have noticed that both in the very poor and very rich extremes of society the mad were often allowed to mingle freely.”

Ham on Rye is a blunt and crude commentary on class masquerading as an auto-biographical character study. It bursts with self-destruction, nihilism, rationalizations, and vulgarity. I devoured every page.