Monthly Archives: June 2016

Yamamoto On the 2nd Amendment

“America is a big and often inhospitable place. Even the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, in perhaps the finest endorsement of the Second Amendment ever made, shied away from the prospect of invading a nation with a “rifle behind every blade of grass.””–Indivisible (Read More)

 

Indivisible Chapter 23

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Chapter 23

 

Mae made herself as small and quiet as she could in the back corner of the bedroom closet, using the hanging clothes as extra cover. The dogs barked and barked outside. She couldn’t understand why they weren’t charging back into the house. They should be tearing apart the intruder that had taken Bob downstairs.

Bob kept a revolver in his nightstand but Mae had no idea how to use it. She had never fired a gun before. It had hammers and safeties and unfamiliar, dangerous mechanisms to worry about. Even if she did know how to wield it, she lacked the fortitude to act decisively on the intruder. She worried he might see her first and blow her away before she could overcome her hesitancy.

She was petrified of the demon in the darkness. He was undoubtedly an expert in the way he had so quickly, silently, and effortlessly subdued a professional law enforcer. She tried not to breathe too loud.

Footsteps, she silently screamed in her mind. Please don’t come in here.

The footsteps stopped at the bedroom door.

Oh God. Please no. Don’t come in here. Please. Please.

She heard the door handle turn and then the door sweep open across the carpet and into the dark bedroom. She heard Bob’s screams from downstairs. He seemed so far away.

Click.

A sliver of light appeared under the closet door. She noticed the calf of her leg was exposed, sticking out from behind the hanging blind of clothes. She drew it back into her body slowly.

Please don’t…please don’t look in here, she pleaded silently.

Click.

The sliver of light vanished. The footsteps made their way back down the hall and into the bathroom. Mae heard the tub faucet turn on.

She sighed.

There must have been at least two intruders, because she could hear Bob’s screams and pleas directed at one of them in the downstairs garage while the other worked the faucet in the upstairs bath. The knobs squeaked. The water stopped. The footsteps left the bathroom and made their way back down the stairs.

She waited quietly in the darkness, petrified that there might be a third intruder waiting silently in the room, waiting patiently for her to peek her face out of the closet and snatch her by the hair and drag her outside where some unknown, hellish fate awaited. She waited in the darkness.

She heard Bob coughing. She heard the muffled voices of the intruders. Who are they? Gangbangers? Kidnappers? Maybe they were parolees using the cover of chaos to take revenge on the cop who had put them away in the past.

After a while, it seemed safe for Mae to peek out. She slowly, quietly opened the closet door and poked her head out into the pitch-black room. She opened the door further, carefully, just wide enough to crawl out. To her relief, no one was there waiting to grab her by the scalp. But her heart still raced.

She crawled over to the nightstand and got Bob’s revolver. The weight and unwieldiness of it surprised her. She sat Indian style on the floor, next to the nightstand, holding the gun, back against the bed, wearing nothing but a t-shirt.

She tried to muster some courage. If she dialed the cops, it would take them at least twenty minutes to get to Bob’s secluded house. And that was if they answered at all. 9-1-1 was only sporadically available. And if she called, the intruders might hear her. And she couldn’t find the phone in the darkness anyway. And she dared not turn on the light. So she took a long deep breath and pulled herself up onto her feet holding the gun.

She clasped the revolver with both hands as she carefully stepped out of the bedroom and proceeded down the stairs, then around a corner to the door leading into the garage. She could hear the intruder’s voices clearly. She heard water and coughing. It was Bob’s coughing.

What are they doing to him? she asked herself.

The intruders were just behind the door, just a few feet away. She heard splashing, wheezing, and threatening commands. If she could just open the door and point the gun at them then Bob would take it from there. But they have guns, too, she considered. They’ll shoot me dead. No, I can’t do it. I can’t. She couldn’t open the door.

Terror coursed through her arteries, freezing her in fear. Her hands clumsily clutched the gun with its heavy barrel pointed droopily towards the door. She thought for a second about just pulling the trigger and hoping the explosion might be enough to scare them off. No, that was too risky. She didn’t even have the nerve to put her finger on the trigger. She remained frozen.

She heard one of the invaders speak. “Bob, this is your last chance.” Crack. Crack. Crack. “She’s…” Garrity stuttered, “She’s at a campground. She’s at a campground.”

What does that mean? Who was at a campground? She asked herself. She could hardly believe her ears when she heard the rest of Bob’s confession. She wanted to throw the gun down and run out into the snow. But for a moment she rationalized it. There’s no way Bob could do such a thing, she assured herself. But she quickly overcame this thought as well. It was true. She knew Bob’s truth when he told it.

Who was this woman? What did Bob do to her? Why did he do this? The money? Was it for traveling money to get us to Costa Rica?

Her instinct for self-preservation suddenly manifested itself. She knew that she would most certainly be implicated in Bob’s scheme and, at the very least, her career would be ruined by such a scandal. She hobnobbed with the Treasury secretary’s family and the president’s Cabinet and all those billionaire bankers and their Botoxed, Long Island wives. She relished that life—the travel, the money, the cocktail parties where the patricians bitched about their lawsuits and their detached, rotten kids. This is not happening! Her life would be destroyed by this scandal. She couldn’t just surrender it over Bob’s stupidity. She would be ruined. Her career would, at best, be relegated to some mahogany hall in some bland, multinational corporate office. It would be a living hell, wasting her days and remaining vitality cooking up financial lies and P&L propaganda for some Eau Claire, cheddar-cheese conglomerate. She’d almost rather blow her brains out right then and there. She looked down at the gun in her hand.

Stop thinking like a loser, she cajoled herself. You will not accept this. You cannot allow yourself to be tied to this scandal. This is Bob’s mess, let him deal with it. You have to go! Go now! Run! Run!

But she couldn’t. She heard the invader’s footsteps. She held the gun up. She placed  her two manicured index fingers on the trigger. Now she was ready, ready to shoot. She would shoot them and make Bob clean it all up and then she would leave him for good. She never should have come back anyway. He’s a loser, she thought, a redneck, loser undersheriff in a hick county in a fly-over state.

A set of footsteps went out the side door of the garage. Then the interior garage door opened. Mae pointed the gun. A figure appeared before her but it wasn’t Bob. It was an intruder. He stood in the frame of the door like a wraith, a shadow backlit by the orange glow of Hades. He mechanically raised his 9mm to her forehead. She feebly, shakily, raised Bob’s revolver in defense. Their eyes met. But Mae could not squeeze the trigger. A flash, a final instant of existence, and she would be no more. She lowered the pistol and dropped her eyes and shook her head. She was beaten…finished.

But Jimmy Marzan left her there and slipped into the backyard.

She waited for a moment, listening to Bob sobbing in the garage. She stepped through the doorway. She found Bob covered with coats, blindfolded and gagged and soaking wet and shivering. She approached him, gun in hand. He didn’t hear her. He was just trying to breathe through the gag.

“How could you do this?” she asked him.

Bob mumbled through the tennis ball and duct tape.

Instinctively, she pulled the hammer back on the pistol, like she had seen in movies so many times. “How could you do this to me?” she screamed.

 

Bob mumbled and strained under his gag and restraints. His coats fell off revealing his bindings. Bob gripped the mallet tied to the trigger of the shotgun tightly in his frozen hand. Mae ripped his blindfold off. Bob screamed muffled screams, but she didn’t remove the gag. She just stood with the gun, hammer cocked, directly between Bob’s knotted, shivering body and the shotgun affixed to the vice that was aimed at his chest. The dogs barked viciously outside. Bob shook his head vehemently from side to side, trying to use his eyes to direct her to the shotgun.

“No! Be careful. Don’t touch that string! Take this gag off. Look! Look behind you!” But his gagged pleas were unintelligible.

“You bastard!” she said, raising the barrel to his face.

No, Mae. No. I did it for us. I did it for you. I love you.

Her shoulder pressed up against the string tied to the trigger. The line drew taut. Bob tried to raise the mallet up in his hand to put more slack in the line but his knots had little give left in them. He held his breath. The dogs snarled and growled away in the yard. He looked into her eyes. He saw only ice.

He prayed. He prayed that the all-consuming obsession he had for her—far more for her than for any other in all his life—would mean something to her now. She was angelic in his mind, a powerful woman, a woman of crystalline intellect and shrewdness and class. Mae, with her razor sharp edges and impenetrable armor, a woman so desirable, so feminine and beautiful and perfect—he prayed that she might finally know him now. She must understand him after all this. She must comprehend his ruthlessness. She must know that he was just like her, that they were the same, that they were made for each other. She had to know this now. She had to love him now. They were of one mind and one spirit. He had finally proven his worthiness. He had finally proven his devotion to her by the lengths he was willing to go.

He looked into her eyes. They will soften, he hoped. She will throw down the gun and embrace me and press herself against me and become one with me. He had finally conquered the unconquerable Maiden Lane. He had finally made her love him.

But no.

No, she did not love him. Her cold, cat’s-eye stare revealed that. He saw nothing in her glassy eyes but contempt. No. No. No. he cried inside. He had failed. He had failed to win her again.

He was going to drop the mallet, drop the mallet and kill her with a shotgun blast. She would drop into his arms and he would be, if not immersed in an embrace of her love, at least awash in her blood. No, there was no trace of love in her eyes for him. He knew it was finally over. So many years of his life wasted chasing her and trying to prove himself to her and to win her back. It was time to drop the hammer.

Drop it!

But he couldn’t do that either. He held on. He was pathetic.

His beloved shepherds ceased their barking. He loved those dogs but now they were dead and gone. Soon Mae would be gone and he would be alone again. And if he survived the cold he would be arrested or perhaps worse.

Mae stepped back and the slack in the string returned.

“Don’t go,” he mumbled through the gag in futility.

But Mae pulled away from him, leaving him knotted up in the frozen garage.

“No. Don’t go, Mae. I love you,” he sobbed.

But she left him there and went back into the house. She came back one last time, dressed and with a bag. He knew she was too meticulous to leave anything behind. She threw the bag into Bob’s truck. Then she looked at him one last time. Bob hoped that maybe she would change her mind. He prayed that she would come to her senses and at least untie him. He wanted nothing in life other than to be near her, to hold her, if only for a few fleeting moments. But he knew by her expression that she was leaving and would not be coming back.

Mae never changed her mind. He realized then that she didn’t come back for him anyway. She was just using him. She turned off the garage light and got into his truck and started it up. The light came back on again when she opened the garage door and drove his truck off into the cold night.

Bob imagined himself discovered frozen to death. It was no matter. Everything was lost for him. Even if the brotherhood covered for him, which they probably wouldn’t, they would not be able to restore his life from the ruined state it was in. And why would they, anyway? he asked himself. He couldn’t breathe. It was as if one of the intruders had taken the mallet and hammered him in the diaphragm. He struggled against the knots but it was hopeless.

My dogs, he wept. Poor Daisy. Poor Stossi. My angels. They held my life together when Mae left the first time. My glorious, loyal shepherds are dead.” He had seen many dead dogs. He imagined them lying on their sides in the snow, tongues hanging out, blank eyes stuck open.

What is my life worth anymore? What am I worth as a man? I can’t even run. I’m penniless. I’m trapped. I’m alone. I’m naked tied to a folding chair. I have a shotgun pointed at my heart and a trigger tied to a hammer in my numb hand. How will I be found? If they find me alive, what will I say? The intruders had filmed his confession so it was pointless to attempt to contrive a story. He was finished any way he looked at it.

He began shivering uncontrollably. Soon, the hypothermia would put him to sleep. His hand would relax. The hammer would fall out. The shotgun would fire. He would be dead. The pain would be over. Bob Garrity looked into the barrel of the shotgun. He gazed down at the hammer in his hand. He prayed it would be instantaneous. The timer ran out and the garage light switched off.

 

#

 

Two hours later, Mae passed into the federal bunker complex at Denver International. She told T what had happened. T had Bob’s truck hauled away to be destroyed. Two escorts took Mae down into the catacombs, there. The red door appeared once again before her. She stepped forward and turned the handle and passed through it.

Indivisible

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Oathkeeper Chapter 27

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 27

 

“How do I look?” Turcot asked.

“Not so great,” Bear answered.

“I bet I feel even worse,” Turcot groaned, still clutching his wound. The blood had dried overnight and the following day, blackening his clothes. It was twilight, and growing colder. They had run out of wood, and the stove was burned out. Turcot’s face was graying by the hour.

Bear crawled to the front wall and peered out through a bullet hole.

“What do you see?” Turcot asked.

“Same as earlier, six vehicles,” reported the sheriff. “There’s maybe fifteen agents out there, a few more, perhaps.”

“Why aren’t they coming in?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they know you’re wounded and they’re just going to wait it out.” Bear glanced down at his watch. “You need to be in a hospital, Monte.”

“No.”

“Monte…”

“No, Sheriff…” Turcot writhed. “I’d rather die in here. You can go. I only ask…that you leave me the rifle.”

“I’m not leaving you. I gave my word.”

“I’m already gone, Sheriff,” groaned Turcot. “They’ll just be speeding things up.”

“Don’t be so negative,” Bear said, reassuringly. “Help is coming.”

Turcot’s eyes rolled up, and for a moment he was completely motionless, breathing imperceptibly. Bear was unsure if he had expired, but a few seconds later, he came to.

“Tell me something, Sheriff…” Turcot murmured.

“Anything.”

“Why do you keep…” He paused to catch his breath. “…looking at your watch? You keep checking it…every five minutes.”

Bear didn’t answer at first. He slid over to another bullet hole to get a better view. The light was fading.

“Sheriff…” Turcot groaned.

“Sorry. What did you ask?”

“I asked you why…why you look at your watch…all the time. Are you expecting…a delivery or something?”

“No.” Bear slid away from the wall and sat down next to Turcot. He set his rifle on the floor and pulled his coat sleeve back, revealing the watch. “Look. It doesn’t even work.”

“Did the batteries die…or something?”

“It’s broken.”

“Why do you wear it, then?” asked Turcot.

“Old reasons, I guess.”

“How old?”

Bear looked down at it again. “Twenty-seven years.”

Turcot wheezed out a painful, feeble laugh. “Why would you…you wear a broken watch…for twenty-seven years?”

“That’s a good question.”

“Well? Is there a reason?”

“There is.”

“Does anyone know it?”

“Two people: my wife and Ken Kennesaw.”

“Tell me.”

Bear looked at him with an eyebrow raised. “Can I trust you?”

“I’ll keep your secret…to the end of my days,” Turcot joked.

“Twenty seven years ago, I was a young deputy.” Bear fidgeted with the rifle for a moment before continuing. “I didn’t know anything. I was working in El Paso County at the time. Third shift. There was this other deputy…Fuller was his name. He has this guy pulled over for drunk driving. Fuller’s got him out of the car doing a roadside when I pull up behind them. Everything’s going routine, but then the guy starts getting feisty. He’s cursing, mouthing off, nothing Fuller hadn’t seen a hundred times. Then he starts flailing his arms, gesturing. Fuller moves in and tells him to cool it, but the suspect throws this punch, this wild, drunken haymaker. It hits Fuller right on the nose, a one-in-a-million punch. It buckles him for a second, but he charges back and grabs the drunk, spins him around, and throws him down on the road. By that time, I’m out of my car and I jump on the guy, but he’s as strong as an ox. It takes everything I got to hold him down while Fuller’s trying to cuff him. I’m shouting, ‘Stop resisting! Stop resisting!’ but he keeps fighting. Fuller finally gets the cuffs on him, but he’s still kicking. Then someone yanks me off him. I look up and I see Fuller standing over us, blood gushing out of his nose. It’s obviously broken, already swelling up. And he’s got the devil is in his eyes. You ever see that look when someone gets it? There’s no stopping them when they’re in that place.”

“I’ve seen it,” murmured Turcot.

“Fuller has his sidearm drawn. Before I could even say anything…” Bear made a pistol out of his hand and forefinger. “Bang. The suspect’s dead.”

Turcot looked on, wincing in pain. “Then what happened?”

“Fuller looks at me,” the sheriff said. “I honestly didn’t know if he was gonna shoot me or what. He looked insane. I was terrified.”

“Then?”

“He holstered his weapon and went to his cruiser to call it in.” Bear took a long breath and sighed. “I tried CPR on the guy, but he was gone, fast.”

“Wha…what happened to Fuller?”

“Nothing,” answered Bear, matter-of-factly.

“No…investigation?”

“Oh, there was an inquest, but nothing came of it.”

“Wasn’t there a dash cam?”

“It was almost thirty years ago.”

“So nothing happened?”

“No. Fuller was cleared. It was determined that he had reason to fear for his safety. It was ruled justifiable.”

“How did they…come to that?” Turcot’s tone darkened. “Did you cover for him?”

“I did what I thought I had to at that time,” said the sheriff. “I was just starting out, Monte. I had a family to feed. I corroborated Fuller’s story – that the suspect attempted to take my weapon and Fuller shot him to stop him from turning it on us.”

“How’d that settle with you?”

“I rationalized it. We’re the good guys, right? I convinced myself that Fuller thought that drunk was going for my gun. I kept telling myself that eventually it would go away, that I’d forget about it.”

“But it didn’t go away?” Turcot asked.

“No.”

“Well, maybe that’s why you’re sitting on this floor with me now. Maybe this is your chance for redemption.” Turcot laughed painfully at himself.

Bear jerked a look at him, then went back to staring at the floor.

“So what does this…(groan)…have to do with your watch?”

“My watch broke during the scuffle. It’s stuck on 3:01, the exact minute Fuller shot that man and I betrayed my oath as an officer of the law. He was in my custody. He was handcuffed. It was my duty to ensure his safety.

“When I discovered it’d stopped, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. It stayed there for a long time. But then one day, I decided to take it in and see about getting it fixed. I got all the way to the mall before all the emotions came flooding in. Guilt. Shame. Dishonor. I almost chucked it out the window, but then something turned. This broken watch became a reminder of who I was and what I’d done. It was uncomfortable. But it reminded me that the right path is often difficult and narrow and you can’t always appreciate the impact of your choices until you are a long way past them. So I put it back on, and I’ve worn it ever since.”

“So that fed who got shot out there, do you think you did it?”

“I doubt it. My adrenaline was so high that I think I only shot the ceiling. You can see the bullet holes in the light. But either way, my conscience is clean. They were warned. They had no reason to come in here, guns a-blazing. They could have just waited us out, without shooting.”

“What if he dies? No guilt?”

“Let’s just say I’ll be returning fire if they come again.”

Turcot pushed himself up against the wall. “Sheriff…”

“Yeah?”

“You’ve got to go. They’ll kill you.”

“I don’t want to believe that, but it’s a possibility. I imagine the next thing they’ll do is burn the cabin down. If you agree to surrender, at least we could get you to a hospital.”

“I’m not surrendering,” said Turcot. “But you’ve got to go. At least one of us will survive, then, to tell the story.”

“I gave you my word, Monte. I won’t leave you. One broken watch is enough burden for me.”

“You may want to reconsider.”

“Why’s that?”

“Ever been to Texas, Sheriff?” Turcot changed the subject.

“I’ve been to Austin.”

“I served with a guy from Odessa,” recalled Turcot. “Specialist Carlos Navarro. He had a son who was…(groan)…trying out for Permian’s football team. You play any ball, Sheriff?”

“A long time ago.”

“Your dad ever see you play?”

“He did,” Bear replied.

“It’s a good feeling…that pride you feel…when you know your dad is watching you play ball…and you make a play.”

“It is.”

“Navarro’s son will never know what that’s like.”

“What happened?”

“Killed by grenade,” Turcot murmured. “I was with him.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Turcot sighed and pushed himself into another position against the wall. “I love the Cowboys, Sheriff… They’ve mostly been a train wreck…(sigh)…since the nineties…but they were good for a long time.”

“They were pretty good in the nineties and the seventies,” Bear added.

“When I was a kid,” continued Turcot, “I used to wonder what God looked like.”

“What did you think he looked like, Monte?”

“I used to think he looked like Tom Landry.”

The sheriff grinned.

“I’ve never been to Texas. It seems so open…just a giant, wide open place.” A calmness flowed through Turcot, as if his pain had subsided. “At least, that’s how I envision it. I’m not talking about Houston or Dallas – more like west Texas, like Odessa, Lubbock, all oil rigs and dusty buttes and antelope. A place where I could disappear.”

“I imagine you could, down there. Get some rest, Monte.”

Monte closed his eyes and mumbled incoherently as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Oathkeeper

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UK Leaves the German Economic Union

Congratulations UK on BREXIT! Anyone who believes in liberty understands that smaller and more local government is more conducive to freedom and prosperity. The “progressive” notion that a gang of elite, banker-anointed technocrats in Brussels can craft a one-size-fits-all codex of edicts through which to govern 500 million people in two dozen countries with any degree rationality is totally absurd.

Now, if we could only get a “TEXIT”.

Indivisible Chapter 22

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Chapter 22

 

“Calm down a second,” Marzan begged.

Vaughn was scurrying around the house, not exactly sure what he was going to do but desperately wanting to get on with doing it.

Marzan grabbed him by the shoulder. “Vaughn, you need to think about this for a second.”

Vaughn stopped.

“Are you sure this gangbanger is telling the truth?”

“Yes, I’m sure. It all makes sense. If he wanted me to cap the undersheriff he’d just say that Jess was dead.”

“What if you’re wrong?”

“I’m not wrong.” Vaughn shrugged off Jimmy’s grasp. “I have to go get her.”

“So what’s your plan, then? What are you going to do? How are you going to do it?”

“I’m going over there and hold that bastard at gunpoint until I get her back.”

“Oh, just like that? It’s that simple? Think, Vaughn. What if you go over there, all guns-a-blazin’ and things go awry? Then what? They might hurt her, Vaughn. You might never get her back then.”

“I can’t just sit around here.”

“You need a plan. You need to write it all down. Map it out. Your goal is to find out where she is. You need to figure out how you’re going to get that information. Then you need to figure out how you’re going to get her back safely. And on top of all that, you need to figure out how to do it without getting hurt, yourself. This guy is LEO. He’s a professional.”

Vaughn clenched his fists. “What do you suggest?” he snapped.

Marzan walked over to the sink while scratching his head. He took a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water and took a long drink. He paused.

“What is it?” Vaughn asked.

Marzan labored deep in thought for a few seconds. He rubbed his head and looked at the half-empty glass. Angst and resignation  filled his face. “This is a complicated situation for a civilian like you, but not so complicated for me.” There was nothing in it for Jimmy Marzan to help Vaughn other than his own redemption. He wasn’t even sure if it would accomplish that; redemption is so difficult to quantify. “Before we do anything, you need to make sure you know what you’re getting into, Vaughn. You need to know that there is no turning back from this. You need to be fully committed.”

“I understand.”

“You need to know that…well…you need to understand that it might be…that it might actually be too late to do anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not saying that it is too late. I’m just saying that you haven’t heard anything from the kidnappers for a few days, now. You have to be prepared for all possibilities. If the worst-case scenario has happened, how will you respond to that? You won’t be able to think about it rationally when you’re in the middle of it. You won’t have time to sort through the emotions. You have to decide that now, before you go.”

“I’ll kill him then.”

“Make sure you are not rash about this, Vaughn. You really have to think this all the way through. It’s easy to say this or that, here and now, but out there it’s different. I’m not saying you’ll freeze up or anything. It’s hard to know that in advance. I’m just saying you need to decide what you’ll do before you get out there in the middle of it. You have to commit to a plan right now.

“Do you know what this will bring down on you, Vaughn? Do you intend to get away with it or do you even care? What about your daughter? Your daughter needs her father, Vaughn. These are really tough times. If the worst-case scenario has happened, and you go for payback, and you end up getting caught or killed, who will raise your daughter? Are you prepared to ask yourself these questions? Think it all the way through.”

“If Jessica’s dead, I want him dead. My life won’t matter anymore.”

Marzan was tuned in to the devil speaking with Vaughn’s tongue and staring through Vaughn’s eyes. Jimmy had been there himself, being in a warzone 10,000 miles away and in a Humvee with a psychopath. Being in a war somehow legitimized it.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go to the police?”

“C’mon, Jimmy.”

“I just want to make sure.”

“The kidnapper is the police.”

“Maybe you could go to the FBI or something.”

“It’s chaos out there. They’re not going to help me.”

“Okay. I just had to ask one more time. But I want you to let me help you.”

“No. This isn’t your problem.”

“It is my problem, Vaughn. I believe in fate. I believe fate put me here. You helped me and now I’ve got to help you. I’ve done things like this before. I can help but you must trust me. You have to do things my way. Do you understand?”

“I appreciate that. But I—”

“I mean it. My way. If you trust me then we’ll both get what we want.”

“Okay, then.”

“Do you trust me, Vaughn?”

“I do.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes. What do we need to do?”

“First, we need to find out what this Garrity knows.”

“And how do we do that?”

“We need to ask him.”

“And what if he won’t answer?”

“Then I’ll use my expertise in the art of persuasion.”

 

 

Vaughn parked the truck and he and Marzan started on a half-mile hike over the crusty snow through the pine trees toward Garrity’s house. It was 3:01 a.m. and it was a crystal-clear, moonless night, bitter and frigid and still. They walked as quietly as they could and didn’t speak except in faint whispers.

Marzan scanned the terrain with his night vision for anyone who might be a sentry or a witness. He thought of the insurgents back in Shariastan who quickly figured out how to evade the Americans’ night-eyes. Leaves and twigs woven into natural fibers reduced their contrast and concealed them from night vision. Covering their faces and wearing rubber boots and leather belts and sheathing their gun barrels with cotton socks and t shirts made them almost invisible to infrared. Warfare promotes a sort of violent, accelerated Darwinism. The most adaptable, clever, and ruthless survive to pass their knowledge on. The thoughtless and unlucky are removed from the gene pool. Marzan assumed that the expanding force of American insurgents would soon figure out how to survive their occupiers as well. It would be a brutal process of adapting to technological disadvantage, but there is always a window of opportunity early on, when the occupier’s hubris renders him inattentive.

The only movement in the frozen night was that of the ghostlike plumes of chimney smoke floating silently upwards and dissolving into the stars.

Vaughn stopped. “That has to be it,” he whispered, pointing to the giant cabin fifty yards off through the trees. A lone exterior light shined above the garage. Marzan scanned the windows with his optics. They were all black, curtains drawn.

“I wonder if he has dogs,” Marzan asked.

“Good question.”

“Let’s assume he does.”

“What do we do, then?”

“We use them.”

Marzan explained tactics to Vaughn and the two split up with Vaughn making a wide arc to the south of the house. He waited there, hidden in the brambles at the base of an ancient ponderosa tree. After exactly fifteen minutes, he hurled a snowball at the house. Nothing happened. He threw another, this time aiming for a window. He ducked back into the brush after the throw. Again, nothing. Another. Nothing. No dogs, he thought. Better try a couple more times just to be sure. He probed through the snow for a stone or something but came up with nothing more substantial than a handful of pine cones. He looked around again and then up into the tree. He grabbed hold of a dead branch and snapped it off. One more try, he thought. He took a deep breath and hurled the stick into the house and dove back into the shrubs. That did the trick. Two big dogs started barking. They burst out of a doggy door and darted into the yard where they continued barking blindly at whatever was lurking in the night.

Marzan stealthily made his way into the house through a garage window and was waiting patiently in the darkness when he heard the dogs. He followed their barking to the doggy door, which he blocked off on the inside by pushing an armchair up against it. He prayed there wasn’t another door that would let them back in as they sounded like big enough dogs to take him down.

Come on. Wake up, Garrity, Marzan thought. He scanned the house with his optics, switching from starlight to infrared, as there was not enough ambient light to illuminate anything. He was in a lower-level recreation room of some sort judging by the pool table. He squeezed into a corner listening for any footfalls. The dogs continued barking outside. Come on, wake up.

THere was movement upstairs. “God damn it! Daisy! Stossi! Shut up!”

Thunk.

Lumbering footfalls stumbled across the ceiling over Marzan’s head. They paused at the south end of the house. Marzan deduced that Garrity was looking out a window. It was the perfect moment.

Marzan drew his 9mm with silencer attached, took a glance through his optics to get his bearings, then moved silently up the staircase. Once at the top, he looked into living room area. He saw nothing for a moment. He was tempted to use his optics again, but then, as his eyes adjusted, he spotted the silhouette of a large-framed man at a window peering out between the curtains towards the barking.

His moment of opportunity had come. Marzan had to move.

Quickly, silently, he darted into the living room right up behind the unaware and half-asleep Garrity and placed the barrel of his pistol against the base of his skull.

“Do not move. Do not speak,” Marzan whispered. “Put your hands up.”

Garrity complied.

“Come with me quietly if you want to live.”

Marzan backed him slowly away from the window, across the room, and down the stairs.

“What do you want?” Garrity asked.

“I’ll be asking the questions. Do not speak unless spoken too. If you speak without being spoken to you will feel pain.”

Marzan marched Garrity into the garage where he switched on a dangling light bulb.

“Unfold that chair over there. Good. Now take a seat.”

Garrity, clad only in his boxer briefs, sat down in the frozen chair. “Do you know who I am?” Garrity asked.

“Go ahead and tell me.”

“I’m a sheriff. You’re making a big mistake coming here. What gang are you with?”

“That’s enough.”

Marzan dialed Vaughn on his cell. “I’ve got him in the garage. Yeah, it’s him. Hurry up. Come in through the window on the north side.” He hung up.

Marzan and Garrity stared at each other, Marzan standing, dressed in black, bank-robber-style stocking cap pulled over his face, 9mm in his hand. Garrity sitting, nearly naked, flabby white skin folding over the waistband of his shorts.

“You’re not a gangbanger, are you?” Garrity asked.

“What makes you ask that?”

“Because you don’t hold your gun sideways. You wield it like a pro.”

“You are correct. I’m no gangbanger.”

“Are you sure you know who I am?” Garrity asked again.

“You’ve confirmed it for me. Now, shut the fuck up.”

Vaughn appeared, crawling through the window with a rustle, clumsily carrying his shotgun. He knocked the snow off his sleeves once inside.

“Here,” Vaughn said, “You take my pistol and keep it pointed—right at his chest. If he makes any rapid movements, shoot him two times. Then put another round in his head point blank.” Marzan handed Vaughn the 9mm and reached into his pocket for a spool of kite string. He used it to tie up Garrity’s wrists.

“Where’s my wife?” Vaughn asked, pointing the gun with a shaky grip.

“I’ll ask the questions,” Marzan said. “You just hold the gun.” Marzan lashed and tied off Garrity’s joints to the flimsy chair.  The string cut into Garrity’s skin and cut restricted his circulation. Marzan pulled Garrity’s ankles and elbows into unnatural angles. Both of his elbows were cinched inwards towards the chest. His knees were drawn together but his ankles were spread apart with his feet lifted off the floor. His left wrist and most of his hand was lashed to the armrest with his palm down. Garrity grimaced in pain.

“I’m a sheriff! I…”

Marzan smothered Garrity’s face with his hand and pressed his thumb into Garrity’s left eye socket. He pushed it in deeply, pushing his eyeball into his skull.

Garrity howled.

“I told you twice already to shut up. I warned you that you would feel pain if you didn’t. Keep it up and you’ll be made to feel blindness too. Do you understand me?”

“Yes. Okay.”

Marzan finished the lashing and knotting and tying. When complete, Garrity was completely immobilized and resembled an insect wound up in a spider’s cocoon.

“Is there anyone else here?” Marzan asked.

Garrity shook his head.

Marzan turned to Vaughn, “He’s a liar. I want you to check out the house. Then find the bathroom. Take those two buckets with you and fill them up with water. Don’t turn on too many lights.”

“What if I find someone up there?”

“Tell them they won’t be harmed if they cooperate. Then bring them down here so we can keep an eye on them. If they resist or run, shoot them, but try to aim for the legs.”

Vaughn left with the buckets and carrying the pistol. He left the shotgun with Jimmy.

“Now for you,” Marzan continued, “I have some questions for you, sheriff. Hmmm. But before we get started…let’s have a look at what we have here.”

Marzan stepped over to a toolbox on a workbench and fumbled around in it with one hand. He intentionally jingled the tools about, making as much clanging noise as possible. A screwdriver fell out onto the floor. Marzan picked it up and drove its tip into the wooden workbench so that it stood upright. He continued digging. “What might this be good for?” he asked, as he revealed a pair of Vice-Grips. He squeezed the squeaky handle a few times in front of Garrity’s face. “Looks like something I could use to pull teeth. Do you like your teeth, Bob? You can answer.”

Garrity nodded affirmatively.

“What else do we have?” Marzan produced a rubber mallet. “Now what could I do with this? I wonder. Hmmm.” He slammed the hammer down on the bench. Garrity winced at the sound. “I imagine I could pretty much hammer someone’s balls flat with one of these. What do you think, Bob?”

“Yes. Yes you could.”

“What else is in here?”

Clang. Thud. Ping.

Marzan pulled out a set of needle-nose pliers. “Interesting. I could a nipple clean off with this.”

“I’m sure,” Garrity answered. “Please, I don’t know what you want but I can get you—”

“Shut up!”

Marzan used the pliers to take hold of Garrity’s ear lobe, squeezing it as tight as he could without breaking the skin. Garrity screamed.

Marzan spoke calmly. “You have some information for us and you’re going to give it up tonight.”

“What…what do you want?”

Marzan released the pliers. He looked around the garage again. He found an ice cooler under the bench. He slid it along the floor, stopping it just at Garrity’s feet. He grabbed a handful of instruments from the toolbox and set them on the lid of the cooler, aligning them as if he were about to perform surgery.  Garrity started to shiver. Marzan held up the locking pliers again and slowly turned the thumb crank back and forth in front of Garrity’s eyes.

Vaughn finally returned with the buckets.

“You weren’t gone very long,” Marzan said. “Did you check the whole house? Anyone else inside?”

“Nobody else here. Just the dogs outside.”

“Where’s my gun?”

“It’s in my belt.”

Good. Now, for you…”

Marzan found a rag on a shelf and soaked it in the water of one of the buckets. Then he stuffed it into Garrity’s mouth. Garrity’s eyes widened as Marzan covered his eyes with a blindfold.

“Give me a hand,” he said to Vaughn.

They tipped Garrity’s chair backward so that his hairy, bare back was resting on the chair back and the cold concrete floor. “Take the 9mm out,” Marzan said to Vaughn. Marzan set down the shotgun and picked up the bucket of water. He poured a stream onto the rag stuffed in Garrity’s mouth. The water splashed over his face and travelled up his nostrils. He reflexively tried to hold his breath but the droplets of water trickled into his sinuses triggering his exhale and cough reflexes. He gasped for air. Marzan stopped after about ten seconds. He took the rag out.

“Now,” Marzan explained softly, “you are going to tell us where is Jessica Clayton?”

“I don’t—”

Before Garrity could even complete his denial, Marzan shoved the rag back in his mouth and proceeded to pour another stream of water up into his nostrils. This time, he did it for about thirty seconds before stopping.

“Okay,” Marzan said calmly, “I’m going to ask you again, where is Jessica Clayton? But before you answer, I’m going to ask Jessica’s husband over there to go get that hammer ready. Vaughn, please get that mallet right there and prepare to flatten Bob’s testicles. Oh, and when I turn you loose, don’t hold anything back.”

Vaughn grabbed the hammer and was about to let loose—

“Please, I…” Garrity pleaded.

Marzan stayed Vaughn and stuffed the rag back Garity’s mouth and poured the water again. Vaughn stood anxiously with the mallet in one hand and the 9mm in the other. He knew that he had to control his rage or he would never find out where Jessica was.

Marzan poured and Garrity coughed and squealed and choked. Marzan kept pouring until the bucket was out of water. Then he calmly set the empty pail down. The frigid air of the garage combined with the cold water drew most of the heat out of Garrity’s body. He started shivering violently. Steam wafted off him. Marzan took the rag out of his mouth again.

“Okay,” Marzan continued, “are you ready to cooperate or do I need to turn him loose with that mallet?”

“I don’t know—”

Marzan shoved the rag back in and began to pour the second bucket. Vaughn stepped forward with the hammer in his hand and the devil in his eyes but Marzan looked him back. He poured for over a minute as Garrity coughed and choked. Marzan set the bucket down and took the rag out of Garrity’s mouth once more.

“You better wise up, Bob. Because when this bucket runs out of water, I’ll have no choice but to turn him loose. I’m not kidding. Do you understand?”

“Y…y…yes. I do. I’ll tell you.”

Marzan stood up surprised. He didn’t expect Garrity to give up so easily. They were much tougher back in Shariastan. “Excellent,” he answered. “So tell us then. Where is Jessica Clayton?”

“Are you going to kill me?” Garrity asked.

Marzan shoved the rag back into Bob’s mouth and started pouring the water again. But only a short pour was necessary this time. “My water is running low, Bob. When it runs out, we will begin the process of busting your balls.” Garrity shook his head and coughed, spraying droplets of ice water everywhere.

“Tell me Bob, where is Jessica Clayton?”

“Okay! I’ll tell you,” Garrity sobbed.

“Excellent. Now just wait a second…” Marzan interrupted, turning to Vaughn. “Help me tilt him up.”

Vaughn helped lift Garrity’s chair and shivering body upright.

“Get your camera ready,” Marzan ordered.

Marzan set the hammer down and took his cell phone out of his pocket. He turned on the video recorder. The first image he captured was of Marzan pulling Bob’s blindfold off.

“Okay,” Marzan narrated, “we are conducting an interview of Sheriff—or is it Undersheriff?—Bob Garrity. We are in his garage. After enhanced interrogation, Bob has decided to cooperate by answering our questions. Okay, Bob. Tell us, what did you do with Jessica Clayton?”

Bob stammered and coughed. Marzan reached over and grabbed the hammer to remind Bob of what he was in for if he didn’t answer. Garrity lowered his head and wept. Vaughn captured his steaming head bobbing with each pathetic sob. Garrity was shivering uncontrollably and his skin was beginning to turn bluish white.

“Bob!” Marzan shouted. “Bob! Answer the question, Bob. Where is Jessica Clayton?”

Garrity moaned. The twine was shrinking with the cold moisture and drawing tight around his joints, turning his skin purple.

“Bob, this is your last chance.” Marzan slammed the hammer down into his palm. Crack. Crack. Crack.

“She’s…” Garrity stuttered.

“Yes?”

“…She’s at a campground. She’s at a campground.”

“Where?” Vaughn shouted, nearly dropping his phone.

“She’s at the campground on the road from Wellington Lake back to Buffalo Creek. You’ll see it off on the north side. Site 21. It’s the only site with an outhouse out there. They just built it last summer. It hasn’t been used.”

“It’s freezing out there.”

“She’s underground.”

“Is she dead?” Vaughn screamed. “Is she dead? If she’s dead I’ll shoot you right here!” Vaughn shook the 9mm in Garrity’s face. “Is she dead? Answer me!”

“No! Sh…she’s underground. We put a propane heater in there. She has water. She’s got blankets. Please don’t kill me. I didn’t hurt her. I didn’t know what I was doing. I…I was insane. I was going to release her after the storm cleared. Please. I just want to get out of here. I just want to get out of the country. I’ll take you to her. Please, just don’t kill me.”

“Shut up,” Marzan barked. He held Vaughn back. He was gripping the 9mm so tightly that his knuckles whitened. “Easy there, Vaughn. Jessica is our priority.”

“What do we do with him? Bring him along?”

“No way. If we get stopped with him we’re finished. And if we’re finished then Jessica’s finished, too.”

“We can’t just leave him. He’ll go for help. Can you stay here and watch him?”

“We should stay together. It might take two of us to get her out.”

“Then what do we do? Kill him?”

“Put that camera away. Hand me your shotgun.”

“No!” Garrity pleaded. “No! No! Don’t kill me. No! I didn’t hurt her. I just…”

Vaughn stashed his phone, reached down to pick up his shotgun and handed it to Marzan. Jimmy walked over to the workbench and set it into a swivel vise. Once the stock was gripped firmly between the jaws, he tied a slipknot into the end of his twine and looped it tight over the trigger. Then he ran the line back under the crank on the vise, up over three rafters above and back down to the floor. They moved Garrity in the chair so his chest was facing directly into the barrel of the shotgun with the string dangling down from the ceiling at his wrist. Marzan grabbed the hammer and tied the end of the string to it, making sure that all the slack was pulled out. Then he put the hammer in Garrity’s left hand. He could barely hold it in his purple fingers.

“Go find Bob some blankets or something.”

Vaughn left but quickly returned with two coats which he placed over Garrity’s shivering body. Then Marzan chambered a shell in the shotgun.

“There,” he said, as he plucked the taut line. “Hang on to that hammer, my friend. If you let it go, the tension will yank the trigger and go boom. We’re going to get Jessica. If we find her, we’ll come back with the police. But if we get out there and we can’t find her or she’s—you know—then we’ll be coming back for you. Do you understand? We’ll be coming back for you and the misery and pain you will suffer in the few remaining moments of your life will be beyond the realm of human comprehension. So if you have anything else you want to tell us, tell us now. This is your last chance.”

“She’s there. You’ll find her.”

Marzan gagged him with one of the dog’s tennis balls and a strip of duct tape. Then he clicked the safety off on the shotgun. He asked Vaughn for his 9mm back.

“Where are you going?” Vaughn asked.

“I’ve got to go take care of the dogs.”

Indivisible

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Oathkeeper Chapter 26

Oathkeeper

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Chapter 26

 

Kennesaw sat up in his bunk. He was paired with a burly biker nicknamed Duke, in a holding cell at the federal penitentiary just south of Calumet City – because there had been nowhere else for the DEA to take him. Duke’s white tee shirt rode up over his pot belly. His forearms and neck were tattooed. His beard was wild and gray, and his face was thick and cracked and red. Duke’s frayed silver hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He cleared his throat every time before he spoke.

“We’re gonna get your boys out of there,” Duke said to the ceiling, as he lay on his back in the top bunk.

“What are you talking about?” Kennesaw asked, looking up.

“Things are brewing.” Duke turned over to speak facing downwards, bracing himself with his tattooed forearm. “It’s time to settle some old scores. What’s going on up there at Mahonville is about as good a reason as any to get a rally going. The word is out, my brother. We’re coming. We’re coming from all over. Locked and loaded.”

“How do they know?” Kennesaw asked.

“Word travels fast up here, in the rarified air.”

“You have a visitor,” another voice announced.

Kennesaw stepped to the door and pushed his wrists through to be handcuffed. Three tense guards, dressed head to toe in riot gear, walked him down the hall. Detainees shouted “Free Turcot! Free Turcot!” as they passed. “Hey trooper, you going to the Mahonville River biker rally?” yelled a prisoner. One of the guards beat his club on the bars to shut him up.

“I hear there’s gonna be a luau,” remarked another man. “I wonder what’s on the menu.”          “So sorry, I can’t make it. Hey guard, you mind telling me all about it afterward?”

“I heard the Vagos are gonna crash that party,” said another. “You hear that, jailer? You might want to stay away. It could get a little rough…”

They passed through a checkpoint into a conference cell, where Kennesaw was left alone. The walls were white. The door was white. The floor was white linoleum. A fluorescent light fixture hung from a white, acoustic-tile ceiling. There were no windows. Kennesaw sat in one of two gray plastic chairs at a steel table. He was still shackled. About ten minutes later, the door opened and the tanned, Mediterranean face of Frenchie Francione appeared. He was dressed in a bulging, plaid cowboy shirt, a turquoise-inlaid silver bolo tie, baggy blue jeans, and his badly worn, snakeskin boots. His warm tones and hues contrasted sharply with the morgue-like coldness of the room.

“Look at you,” Frenchie said, grinning.

“Yeah,” Kennesaw grumbled. “Look at me.”

“Of all the people you could call, you call me?”

“Other than my wife, who else would I call?” Kennesaw asked.

“Your lawyer, maybe?”

“Do you happen to know any?”

“I know a few, but you should be asking if I know any that are good.”

Kennesaw rested his cuffed wrists on the table and smiled.

“They’re working up quite a sheet on you,” Frenchie continued. “Obstruction of justice, assault on a federal agent, resisting arrest, aiding and abetting, acts of terrorism…”

“It’s all BS,” said Kennesaw. “You know how it works. They build it all up, then they peel it off in exchange for this or that.”

“I suppose,” answered Frenchie. “I’m sure you’ll get off, after you roll over.”

Kennesaw scowled, but Frenchie winked back, letting him know he was kidding.

“How’s Bear?” the deputy asked.

Frenchie shook his head. “It’s a mess. The feds have two dozen agents up there, now. And there’s been some fireworks.”

“I heard shooting when I was there. Has there been more?”

“Just the one shootout, so far. It seems that Acevedo’s men tried to storm the cabin,” explained Frenchie. “Someone started shooting. DEA says it was Ellison, that’s what they told the media, anyway. The press is painting it as some lunatic sheriff gone rogue – holed up in a cabin, sniping at law enforcement.”

“No surprise there.”

“Well, it gets worse. It seems that an agent got himself wounded.”

“It was probably one of their own that shot him,” Kennesaw said.

“As far as CNN tells it, your crazy rogue sheriff is to blame.”

“Do we have any deputies up there keeping an eye on things?”

“They can’t get close enough,” replied Frenchie. “The road up the pass is blocked by DEA. They’ve got a helicopter watching for anything else. The back roads are still a muddy mess. I’ve got a couple cowboys on horseback doing some recon.”

“So why haven’t they taken the cabin yet?”

“Don’t know for sure. They’ve probably decided that things are a little more complicated when people shoot back. They aren’t used to that. Maybe they figure they’ll just wait it out. Turcot and the sheriff have to be low on water. There’s no sense in risking getting another agent hurt.” Frenchie took off his tinted glasses, revealing the concern etched into his eyes. “How are you holding up, Ken? I hear they don’t take too kindly to LEOs in here.”

“Strangely enough, everyone inside has been very supportive. Can you get me bonded out?”

“It’s big money. It’s going to take until tomorrow.”

“That’s too long.”

Frenchie leaned back in his chair, looking frustrated.

“I need you to do something for me, Frenchie,” Kennesaw continued. “It’s a big favor to ask. Do you have a pen and a business card?”

“Sure. Here.”

Kennesaw took the card and scribbled on it. He glanced towards the surveillance camera mounted in the ceiling as he flipped the card over and pushed it across the table. Frenchie took the card and tucked it in his pocket.

“Go see my wife,” the deputy explained. “She’s expecting you.  She has something for you. I gave it to her the night of the Stern murder. That password there on that card will open it. Listen to the recordings. Then look at the files.”

“What’s on there?”

“I think you’ll find it very interesting.”

“Got it.”

“Is there any way you can get me out sooner?” Kennesaw asked. “I’ve got to get up there.”

“I’ll do everything I can,” Frenchie said as he put his glasses back on. “Help is coming in the meantime.”

“Who?”

“I made some calls, then they made some calls. It seems that there are plenty of folks around here ready to step up and help their sheriff. They’ve been getting the word out – emails, social media. Folks are coming in from all over. Calumet City’s filling up.”

Kennesaw contemplated for a moment. “I thought you said the networks were against us.”

“They are, but no one pays attention to those assholes anymore.”

“Do we have enough?”

“Hundreds are here already, Ken, ready to make a stand. Maybe thousands more will arrive within a couple days.” Frenchie stood up from his chair and knocked on the door to summon the guard.

“Tell me something,” he whispered as footsteps approached. “Do you know of anyone in your department who can drive that MRAP? We’ve got a roadblock to bust.”

Oathkeeper

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Indivisible Chapter 21

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joinordie2

Chapter 21

 

Vaughn spent three days waiting for the kidnappers to call. He barely ate or slept. He waited on his sofa, checking his phone for missed calls every ten minutes. Half the time his phone’s display read “no service.”

While Vaughn brooded, Marzan paced through the house and peered out the windows at the occasional cars that roared up the road.

“Don’t worry. That’s just the mailman.”

“Oh, I’m not worried,” Jimmy answered.

“Then why are you always going to the window every time a car comes by?”

“Just curious who it is. If they knew I was here and they were coming, we wouldn’t hear anything at all.” But Jimmy still went to the window every time he heard a car.

The kidnappers did not call. With each passing hour, Vaughn’s face became more ashen. His body melted deeper into his sofa. He did not yield to his temptation to call the detective assigned to his case. He had little faith in the police. Besides, if they had new information, they’d let me know, he thought. Jimmy’s probably relieved I don’t call them anyway.

“You hear that?” Jimmy called.

“I don’t hear anything,” Vaughn mumbled.

“Listen…”

Vaughn listened.

“It’s a buzzing. Real faint. Hear it?”

“No.”

“You know what that is?”

“I’ve no idea. I don’t hear anything.”

“Shhh. Listen. It’s a drone. You can’t hear it unless the wind blows just right. There…”

“I don’t hear anything,” Vaughn bristled, finally succumbing to his temptation and dialing the detective. The voice on the other end sounded disinterested, as if it had more important things to do. Vaughn hung up. He knew that would happen.

“No answer?” Jimmy asked.

“They’re busy. They’re probably on a more high profile case. Got to secure those brownie points with the feds, I guess.”

“Maybe,” Jimmy said. “Or maybe they’re busy trying to get their families out or something.”

Whatever the excuse, it ruined what little confidence Vaughn had that his detective was making progress. There was almost no law enforcement anymore, unless it was martial law enforcement which meant the manning of checkpoints and curfew patrols by police with frayed nerves and itchy trigger fingers. Vaughn returned to his brooding.

Marzan escaped Vaughn’s tension by checking his email accounts and forum posts. Almost everything was encoded.

“Lucifer Rising, 1201.”

“In through the out door.”

“Papa say, ‘The bell tolls for thee.’ Lock and load.”

“Elvis has left the building.”

There were hundreds of similar, seemingly meaningless, disconnected emails and tweets sent from proxy servers. They might be specific orders or coordinates or maybe coded events with dates and times. Marzan had only a vague idea of what they meant, but something was in the works. It was comforting to see it. It meant that, in the least, an insurgent disinformation campaign was underway.

Marzan had seen it before from the occupier’s perspective. The most effective way for a guerrilla force to cloak its operations is by filling the airwaves and the internet and the mail and the phone lines and the ear drums with a tsunami of phony assassination lists and fake military targets and phantom weapons caches and vague gibberish and every conceivable lie on top of lie. Its purpose was to confuse and to spook the occupier and to create cover for the underground’s real communications. The occupier’s intelligentsia couldn’t possibly sift through it all and get to the current of truth.

Something made Jimmy take another look at “Elvis has left the building.” It jumped out at him. Captain Rick was the biggest fan of The King that he knew, and that was well known. The coded message made sense to him, now. Jimmy’s realization that his captain was out there somewhere gave a much needed jolt to his flagging morale.

Despite the propaganda and the government filters and the snooping by the government’s agents, the internet was just too vast and too complex to lock down. Blatantly shutting it off entirely would be such a vulgar display of tyranny that to do so would cause more trouble than it was worth. Even the Chinese wouldn’t go that far. An operational internet actually served the government as both an anger-venting mechanism for the proles—talking about it usually replaces doing it—and also for monitoring anti-patriots who unintentionally out themselves. The feds intended to leave the internet partially on until the costs began to exceed the benefits.

Marzan went back through the forum posts. ‘Lucifer Rising…’ What does that mean? Lucifer is the morning star—Venus. What is Venus? Is it something evil? Something bright? Fast moving?

Marzan knew he couldn’t stay with Vaughn much longer. He was waiting for leadership and it now appeared that it was out there waiting for him. He hoped to stick around long enough to at least help get Vaughn back to sanity, but he wasn’t hopeful. Vaughn was deteriorating by the hour. He was becoming the undead. Marzan had seen the undead before.

Marzan heard a truck slowing to make the turn onto Vaughn’s driveway.

“Shit! Someone’s coming!” he shouted as he grabbed his rifle and made his way to the back room. He had assembled a darkened perch in there which provided a decent vantage over the driveway and down into the woods. The window was fully open, even in the bitter cold. A fully open window is half as obvious as a half open one.

An old Sierra pickup rolled down Vaughn’s driveway. It bore no resemblance to any kind of cop car, undercover or otherwise. It lacked the giveaway antennae. “It’s the kidnappers or a messenger I bet,” Vaughn shouted.

The truck parked at the driveway’s end, its engine left running. The driver door opened.

“If they’re cops, they are really stupid,” Marzan remarked. “I could smoke ‘em all in three seconds.”

A small Latino man stepped out of the rusted truck. He was wearing a puffy winter coat that bloused out as he raised his tattooed hands in the air. He stood next to the truck with his bare hands raised.

“Who are you?” Vaughn shouted out the door.

“I’m unarmed,” he shouted back. He did a slow pirouette, then walked carefully down the driveway towards Vaughn’s front door, hands still raised.

“You got my wife?” Vaughn shouted back.

“I need to talk. You come outside. Okay? There’s not much time.”

“Where’s my wife?” Vaughn shouted again.

Marzan snapped his fingers at Vaughn from down the hall to get his attention. “I’ve got you covered,” Marzan whispered. He gave Vaughn a thumbs-up and clicked the safety off his M4. He aimed. “Just like Shariastan,” he mumbled.

Marzan was cloaked in the darkness of the room. The visitors, which included three others in the front seat of the Sierra, would not be able to see him. Their heads panned behind the windshield, searching for spotters or snipers. Vaughn took a deep breath and went out the door. He walked cautiously down the steps and approached the visitor standing in the driveway.

“Do I know you?” Vaughn asked.

“You call me Joe Joe,” he answered.

“Do I know you?”

“We met before,” he answered, hands still raised.

“Where?”

“I was the one who broke in your house that night. You stop me with your gun.”

Vaughn lost his words for a moment as he looked Joe Joe over.

“But I come here and help you,” Joe Joe added.

“What did you do to my wife?” he shouted, balling his fists.

“Nothing. I swear. But I help you. You to listen to me.”

“Want me to smoke him, Vaughn?” Marzan shouted from the house. Guns clicked inside the Sierra as the three silhouetted faces inside ducked and raised their guns in the direction of  Marzan’s voice.

“Please! Please!” Joe Joe pleaded. “I am un-arm. I help you.” He turned to the truck and shouted, Bajen sus armas!”

“Where’s my wife?” Vaughn asked again.

“Look,” Joe Joe continued, “you a good man. You could have kill me that night but you didn’t. I owe you for that.”

“Why are you here?”

“I tell you something, okay?”

“You tell me where my wife is.”

“I no take her, okay? But I know who.”

“You tell me right now or I’ll tell my friend back there to waste all you motherfuckers.”

“Please listen. We no shoot. You a good man. I no take her but I know who. It’s not me. But I know who.”

“Tell me!”

Joe Joe kept his hands up. They were turning purple from the cold. “Listen,” his eyes widened with a pleading expression. A white vapor plume escaped through his silvery dental work with each exhale.

Marzan’s crosshair was locked on to Joe Joe’s head. One smooth squeeze, a jolt, and Joe Joe’s skull would burst apart out the back. Then Marzan would swing the rifle into the Sierra’s windshield and empty his magazine. He hoped Vaughn had enough sense to take cover.

“You listen, okay?” Joe Joe continued. “No shoot me. Tell that man in house, ‘no shoot’, okay?” Joe Joe waited for Vaughn to give the order. “You tell him ‘no shoot’ and I tell you who got your wife.”

“All right.” Vaughn turned to the window. “Don’t shoot unless something happens to me.”

Marzan didn’t answer.

“He hear you?” Joe Joe asked.

“He isn’t deaf.”

“Okay. We want no trouble.”

“Tell me where she is.”

Joe Joe slowly lowered his hands. “I reach in my pocket. Okay with you?”

“Go slow.”

Joe Joe reached his right hand into his pocket and slowly withdrew it.  He handed Vaughn a silvery object and Vaughn took it from him to inspect it.

“What is it?” Marzan shouted through the window.

“It’s Jess’s wedding ring,” Vaughn answered. “Where’d you get it?” he asked Joe Joe.

“I know a pawnbroker. He my medio hermano. He there, in the truck.”

“Why would he care?” Vaughn asked, trying to pick him out from the three ducking silhouettes in the cab.

“Because he know it’s your wife.”

“How would he know?”

“We know everything that happen up here in your mountain town. We know everything. The one that clean your house, the one that cook your meal, the one that mow your lawn, they our sister and brother and cousin and uncle and aunt. They see. They hear. They tell. They know everything. I’m in a crew. Knowing is our job. We know everything that happen up here. We know about your wife, Mr. Clayton. We know she was kidnap.”

“But why? Why would he care? Why would you care?”

“Because the man who pawn it. I know—we all know who he is. He an evil man.”

“Who is he?”

“He a cop. But he no normal cop. Most cop are okay. They do their job. They bust you for this, they bust you for that, but they follow the rule. This cop, he no follow the rule. He taser one. He taser another. He shake some down. He torture some for nothing. He torture me. He bust my hand. He try to rape me. He a drunk. He drunk on power. He a fucking pendejo.”

“Who is he?”

“His name is Bob Garrity. He sell this ring to my medio hermano for silver coins. He dumb. He don’t know who my brother is. My brother ask, ‘where you get this ring?’ Garrity lie. He say he stole it but if he stole it, he wouldn’t say that. My brother figure it out. He tell me all about it when I get out. We come here and show you the ring. Now I know he the one. He kidnap your wife.”

“Sounds like he’s trying to get you to do his dirty work,” Marzan shouted.

“I no have anyone do my dirty work, amigo,” said Joe Joe.

“Why are you here, then?” shouted Marzan.

“Because I wrong this man, here,” Joe Joe shouted back, looking directly into Vaughn’s eyes. “It’s my fault your wife is kidnap—my fault. Garrity think I come here for your gold coin. But I was wrong. I was wrong and now your wife is kidnap by that pendejo. Now I come here and make it right. Here, you take this…” Joe Joe reached in his pocket and produced a business card which he handed to Vaughn.

“Whose number is this?”

“That Bob Garrity’s nomber. He give that card to me. That address, he live there. I wrote that there for you.”

Vaughn and Joe Joe stared into each other’s eyes.

“You go see him. You go see Bob Garrity. You find out for yourself. But go soon, before it’s too late. Your wife, she no last long. Bob Garrity—he no last long either,” Joe Joe spat.

“Why? Are you planning on doing something?”

“No, not me. We’re leaving. He have all the enemy he need. Even the cop want him dead. I just want you to get your wife back. She a good mother. I remember she say for you to shoot me. That’s a good mother. I want you to get her back. Jesus, he see everything. I try to make it right. You go see that fat pig Bob Garrity. He have your wife.”

“Where’re you going?”

“I going home, home to El Salvador. We leave this country right now, right from here. Your Amerika is finished.”

Indivisible

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