Monthly Archives: November 2016

Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 12

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

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 12

 

A white pickup truck pulled into Jess’s driveway just before noon. Croukamp noticed it as he was sitting at the dining room table, scraping the carbon off the firing pin of his rifle and watching Brooke play with her dolls. He put the pin down on the towel and reached for his revolver.

“Jess?” he shouted. “Were you expecting someone?”

“No.”

“Want me to see who it is?” he asked.

“No, I’ll go.” She came down the stairs.

“Here, take this,” Croukamp said, handing her the pistol as she passed. He returned to reassembling his rifle with urgency. Jess put the pistol in her belt and covered it with her jacket before going outside. It was sunny and cool. New grass was poking up through the mat of brown stalks flattened by the heavy winter snow. The bluebirds, so blue they seemed to glow, had returned to build their nests and pluck the cutworms from the mud. Flocks of robins hopped along the ground, scavenging for worms.

“Hello there,” came a voice from inside the truck.

“Identify yourself,” Mae demanded.

The driver opened the door and got out. “It’s me, Officer Hiserman. Don’t you remember?”

Mae sighed. “I don’t have time for this.”

“There’s no need to be rude, ma’am. I was just in the vicinity and I thought I’d check up on you. I heard there was some gunfire around here the other night.”

“I don’t know anything about that other than I heard some thieves came through and ransacked some houses. Heard they were ripping the copper wire right out of the walls.”

“Yeah…” Hiserman rubbed his neck after getting out of the truck. “Petty thieves, I’m sure. Last I checked, stealing copper doesn’t warrant shooting, though.” He studied Jess’s face as if he was a poker player searching for a tell.

“I don’t know what stealing copper and other things warrants, but if a gang of armed looters wanted to storm my house, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot them….if I had a gun, that is.”

“What if they were down the road a bit?”

“I’m not really interested in having this discussion. I’m very busy.”

“I don’t think it would be wise to be shooting at copper thieves.”

“Who are you? Are you a sheriff’s deputy now, too?”

Hiserman let out a coy laugh. “I told you, I work for the county, we all work together, help each other.”

“Well, I live in this county, so here’s how you can help me out,” Jess explained. “You can go find out why your pals over at the sheriff’s department never show up to stop the looters. Come back and let me know what you find out.” Jess turned to head back to her house.

Hiserman laughed again. “Whoa, you’re a feisty one.”

Jess turned back, eyes flashing. “Don’t insult me. Just do your job. Then go away.”

“You know, firearms are not permitted in the county right now. That goes for handguns, too.”

“What do you call that thing on your belt?” Jess asked. “Is that some sort of meter reader?”

“I work for the government, ma’am.”

“So you don’t have to follow the rules because you work for the government?”

“I’ve been vetted, trained, and permitted.”

“So how are people supposed to defend themselves out here?”

“Call the sheriff.”

“The landlines are dead. We haven’t had electricity in over a year. Even when the cells are working, the deputies never come out.”

“That’s not my problem. They have to weigh every situation. Sometimes there are concerns for officer safety.”

“If they’re afraid to do their damn job then maybe they should get another job.”

“The deputies’ first concern is always for their personal safety.”

Jess rolled her eyes. “In the meantime, what do you suggest I do if a gang comes back?”

“I’d suggest you leave.”

“Leave my house? So they can raid it and take everything?”

Hiserman grinned and turned back to his truck. He reached inside and pulled out a paper grocery bag. “Where is that precious little girl of yours?”

“Why is she any of you concern?”

“I just wanted to give her something.”

Hiserman extended the bag to Jess but she didn’t take it. She noticed the pink fuzz of a stuffed animal poking out of the top.

“She has plenty of toys.”

“There’s some canned goods and some treats in here, too.”

Jess’s instincts told her to refuse it even though refusing food out of personal pride seemed self-indulgent in these times. Hiserman set the bag on the hood of his truck. He reached inside his cab and pulled out his clipboard and pen and began scribbling.

“What is that?” she asked. “Is that your citation book?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.”

“What in the hell are you citing me for? Refusing your charity?”

“I’m citing you for illegal well water use.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your well is permitted for domestic use only. But you have a hose running from your spigot, there, into your garden plot.”

“Why are you singling me out? Everyone has gardens here.”

“I’m just doing my job, ma’am. The law is the law. Just because everyone else is breaking the law doesn’t mean you are exempt.”

“For Christ’s sake…”

“You should let me help you. I can make things easier for you.”

“By how? By not citing me? You can make things easier for me by just leaving me alone.”

Hiserman continued writing.

“I’m not paying any fine,” she declared.

“The court’ll get a judgement. Then they’ll put a lien on your property.”

“For running a hose?”

“I don’t make the laws, ma’am. I just enforce them.”

Jess smoldered. She thought for a moment about Ian’s revolver. She didn’t seriously consider using it, but its presence popped into her mind.

“All right,” she said. “I’ll accept your generous gift. Is that good enough for you?”

Hiserman looked up from his clipboard and smiled. He clipped the pen in and set it back on the dashboard of his white county truck. He grabbed the grocery bag off the hood and handed it to Jess.

“What do you say?” he asked as she took it.

Jess’s black stare burned with hatred as it fixed on his face.

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Child Soldiers

childrenatwar

As a father, this picture horrified and deeply affected me. This is never acceptable. I do believe there are things worth fighting for. Defending your country from invasion is one. Thankfully, I live in a giant, un-occupiable country, separated from most of the world by massive oceans, and defended by the world’s most powerful navy, 5,000 nukes, and forty million gun owners. There exists no plausible existential threat to my country.  That being said, I do understand that ones home is worth fighting for, but if that fight requires the enlistment of children, then the fight is already lost.

Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 11

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

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 11

 

“Where are we?” Mae asked T who was sitting beside her as she looked out the porthole window.

“Minot Air Force Base,” T answered.

“North Dakota?”

“Correct.”

“Why are we here?”

“To refuel and resupply would be my guess.”

“Yeah, but why North Dakota? It’s awful,” Mae answered, longing for her cosmopolitan Beltway and $500 martinis.

“Not sure. Maybe they stop here so no one is inclined to get off.”

“How long before we take off?”

“Don’t know,” T whispered, “but we need to talk.”

“What about? Where?”

Mae followed T’s stare as he looked back over his shoulder, then forward, searching for anyone who might be within earshot. The coast was clear.  “Here is as good a place as any. Let’s just keep our voices as low as we can.”

“What’s going on?”

“Something. I don’t know for sure, but there’s a vibe.”

“A vibe?”

“That’s right. New faces are coming in, meeting with the POTUS. Schedules are getting rearranged.”

“That’s it?”

“It’s something. It’s big. I have inside knowledge that they’re dumping the Veep.”

“What?”

“Yeah. Word is Clancy will resign Friday.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know for sure. I can’t imagine why the president would drop him mid-term. He was a champion for my Amero Plan. If he goes, we lose a great deal of political capital.”

“Won’t the president appoint someone with similar views?”

“This is politics. I don’t think it’s entirely under his control.  We’ll have to see who they bring in. That will tell everything. If I could only get the jump on who the new veep was, I could protect us; I could position the Treasury Department better. We have to be wary. They always throw a bunch of people under the bus when they make a change of this magnitude. I don’t want us under that bus, Mae.”

“What can I do?”

“I need to know who has the inside track. If not that, then I at least need to know who is applying the pressure to change VPs; who has the clout to make him resign? Who’s driving this?”

“In other words, find out if we’re the enemy of Clancy’s enemies?”

“I know the banks are against the Amero Plan, most of them, anyway. They’ll fight nationalization tooth and nail. If one of theirs gets the appointment, then we’ll have to adjust our game plan significantly.”

“Who do you think the front runners are?”

“Let’s hope it’s Senator Thurman from Ohio. He’s sponsoring the Amero legislation. Plus he went to Yale with the president, keeping it in the club if you know what I mean.”

“Any others come to mind?”

T hesitated in answering until two aides passed by on the aisle. “I don’t know. Abrams, maybe? He’s a Goldman guy, though. It would be pretty radical to put an actual banker retread into any high office. But if it’s him, I might be placed on a plane to Bermuda.”

“But your plan has the president’s and the senate’s support…”

“Yeah, they’re on board, mostly thanks to Thurman. He has all the opposition either bribed or cannibalizing itself. But he’s doing this at great risk to himself. The big banks account for half his campaign contributions. That’s gonna dry up for him in the next election cycle. He’ll probably have to retire.”

“What about the supremes? If you get it through, will it be challenged?”

“The POTUS owns the court so long as he stays inside the lines. They never rule in any way that undermines the legitimacy and authority of the federal government. Never.”

“Who else might oppose the plan, then?”

“Corporate influencers—multinationals sucking on the federal teat, defense contractors. As you know, their budgets are going to be slashed under my plan. Then there’s Likud, the EU, the Saudis. I don’t need to remind you how upset they already are at our international military disengagements. We’re only going to cut back more.”

“Supporting a candidate is one thing but could Israelis and Saudis actually depose a sitting VP? That doesn’t sound plausible.”

“Why not? They get them elected all the time.”

“What about the Department of Defense?” Mae asked, feigning ignorance. She regretted asking it, but it was so obvious a topic that to not ask about the DoD’s involvement would be revealing; it’s not what is said so much as what is not said.

“I didn’t want to go there,” T answered.

“Why?”

“Pushing and pulling campaign contributions is how the game is played, but a putsch to replace a sitting VP by an executive department like the DoD is a whole different thing. You’re talking about a military coup. I’m not sure I can even model how Treasury would deal with that.” T looked around again for eavesdroppers.

Mae felt a mist of cognitive dissonance cloud her reason. Her loyalty was to T, but T existed by the grace of the president. It was reasonable to expect DoD to try to protect their gravy train and mission, but changing the veep would not be enough. Other than breaking a senate tie, the veep didn’t have much power. She knew where T’s thought process was headed. She knew he wanted her to find out what Forteson knew. Forteson worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a made man. He knew everything.

Mae sensed that T knew more, but that he was probing her for confirmation of it. They looked at each other, Mae sensing that he was trying to read her micro-expressions. He had masterfully guided her to what she was about to offer to do and she was helpless to resist it.

“So?” she asked, in an attempt to convince T she knew nothing more and was submitting to further instruction.

“What does he know?” T asked.

“Who? What do you mean?”

“C’mon, Mae. Forteson.”

“Don’t make me do that, T.”

“What is he to you, Mae? What has he done for you? What can he do for you? I discovered you. I made you. You cannot hide things from me. You owe me your complete loyalty. There’s no one else who will be your champion.”

Mae had no response. She thought about Forteson, his charm, his power over her. Mae did not believe in love, but she believed in desire, and she felt it for Forteson unlike any other man she had ever known.

“Come on, Mae. You’re not a schoolgirl. This is the big time. You’ve gained access that is very valuable. Help me so that I can help us. He must have revealed something during your pillow talk. Or maybe his cell phone went off when he was on top of you…”

“What’s wrong with you, T?”

“What’s wrong with me? Think rationally, Mae. Don’t let an infatuation cloud your reason.”

“There’s no infatuation.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m fucking him, that’s all.”

“You’re helplessly in love.”

“No, I’m not. I can end it anytime.”

“That would be a waste. I’m not asking you to do that.”

“I can’t spy on him, T. I’m leaving,” she said as she started to get up. T grabbed her arm and slammed her back down into her seat.

“What the hell?”

“You listen to me, Mae. This is no time for teenage romance. People’s lives are at stake here. I mean that. If this VP move is coming from the DoD then we have a great deal of maneuvering to do if we are going to survive. They’re not going to stop with veep. This is only their first step.”

Mae shrugged off his arm but remained seated. “What do you care? If you get fired you’ll just get on with Goldman or Chase.”

“Oh, you think that’s how this will be, just business as usual? If this is a DoD move then everything is different. I mean that. I’m not going to have any banker friends after this. I’m all in, Mae. We’re all all in. If the DoD is behind this, do you think the brass hats are going to just slip their guy in and call it good? No. If it’s a coup then this is just the start. They’ll turn the whole Beltway inside out. They’ve got their own guys, Mae, an army of West Point grads. They’ll cut us all loose and bring them in, maybe they’ll even put a few of us on trial to scare us away from ever attempting a comeback. We can’t let that be us, Mae. We’re almost there. My plan is going to save the government from ruin, but if the president goes then we won’t get to finish the job. Worse, we’ll be made into pariahs. We’ll be blamed for everything and they’ll get all the credit. We can’t let that happen, Mae. Help me.”

“What am I supposed to do, T?” Mae acquiesced. She felt helpless and weak for falling into his snare, but she knew he was right.

“The next time you and Forteson are together, you find out what’s going on. You get confirmation that the VP move is coming from DoD. Then you find out what is going to happen next. That will give me a chance to either insulate the president or undermine the joint chiefs.”

“I feel like you’re my pimp.”

“Don’t you ever forget it.”

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Why Reasoning With Progressives is Futile

I have always maintained that progressives view the “state” as if it were divine. To question its intentions, benevolence, or legitimacy constitutes blasphemy in the progressive’s mind.

Try pointing out to a progressive that they once suggested that those who opposed Obama were treasonous, but now they riot over Trump; or that when Bush murdered Iraqis it was evil but when Obama murdered Yemenis, Iraqis, Syrians or Libyans it was necessary; or that they mocked Texans who talked of secession but now openly support Calexit; or that they promoted the omnipotent state under Obama with the phrase “elections have consequences” but won’t accept the consequences of Trump’s election. It doesn’t compute in their statist mind because it contradicts their religion. They will not process the contradiction. They are afflicted with what Orwell termed “doublethink” (knowing a contradiction exists  but suffering no cognitive dissonance about it).

This is why I have an immense dislike of progressives (petty-Marxists)–because of their absurd irrationality. I can accept a conservative making a coherent argument over the merits of nationalism. I may disagree, but we can understand where we each are coming from. But there is no understanding with progressives. If you corner them, which is not difficult, they’ll simply retort with condescending insults and ad hominem attacks. “Racist!” “Fascist!” “Sexist!” “Hater!” “Fucktard!” They are zealots, blinded by belief in their benevolent god, the religion of statism.

But Tom Woods puts it far better than I ever could in his excellent piece:

“The state is their god…The state is the source of all progress in the world…The state is where we should look for inspiration, for encouragement; each of us ought to listen with rapt attention to “my president.” (How that “not my president” meme makes me shudder, by the way — not so much for the “not” as for the exceptionally creepy “my president.”) They are not giving up on their religion.”

Read More from TomWoods.com

Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 10

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

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

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 10

 

“Get him up!”

The guard unlocked Marzan’s chain link cage and threw open the door. Two storm troopers reached in, grabbed him by the ankles and dragged him out. They bound him with plastic zip ties around his wrists and hooded him as he lay face down on the ground. Jimmy did not resist. The four-by-four cage he had been in for weeks had rendered him stiff and weak.

He was taken outside. The sun was warm on his hooded face and shoulders. They stopped. He was lifted up into the back of a truck and made to sit on a bench seat and he sensed there were other men in the back of that truck with him, but they were silent. Jimmy didn’t speak, either. The engine turned over and they began to roll. The ride was bumpy; they were off the pavement.. Jimmy smelled the dust that blew in. He tried to remember the left and right turns but they changed direction multiple times. The engine whined into a lower gear. They were climbing.

“Where are they taking us?” someone finally asked.

“Shut up, Doc,” barked the MP riding with them in the back.

The truck rumbled on, bouncing and swerving, engine roaring for nearly an hour. Then it stopped. The tailgate was opened. The prisoners were lifted out and set on the ground, then marched away from the truck where they were made to kneel in a line, shoulder to shoulder.

“They gonna shoot us?” whispered the prisoner next to Jimmy.

“Don’t know,” Jimmy answered.

“They can’t do that.”

“Why not?” Jimmy replied.

“Shut your suck!” shouted an MP.

The last prisoner was pushed into the line. Marzan heard him whimpering at the far end. The rest were silent. Marzan leaned his head back, raising his face and letting the warmth of the sun penetrate his hood.

He sensed a presence melting into him in the form of the sun’s warmth. He prayed that death would be instantaneous. His anxiety dissolved. He was unafraid.

Someone yanked the charging handle on an M4 behind them. Marzan heard the prisoner next to him fall forward. He must have lost consciousness, he thought. It became completely silent. The whimpering and even the sounds of anxious breathing ceased, as if everyone had was holding their breath. Only the faintest trace of a breeze blew. James Marzan stared at the sun through the black cloth of his hood.

Was it worth it? he asked himself. There were a multitude of paths he might have taken to avoid this final moment. He could have chosen to never report to Captain Rick. He could have just blended in with the population. He could have stayed in the Humvee with Rollins, turning a blind eye to his atrocities. He could have never enlisted in the first place. Where would he be now if he had never enlisted? Probably unemployed, living in his mother’s basement, getting fat, going insane with isolation and loneliness, becoming less and less human by the day.

Was it worth it? he asked himself again. All the things I’ve done and seen, he mused, I’ve seen so much more than the zombies back home. A lifetime’s worth? Back in Shariastan…all those insurgents I killed. For most of them it was them or me. They told me I was fighting for America’s freedom, but then they sent me home to do the same thing to Americans. Whose freedom was I fighting for? What became of my brothers…my brothers who brought me here? When I was one of them, they taught us to hate the insurgents because they are animals and speak in tongues. But then I became the insurgent. We are all Americans and we look the same and we speak the same and were raised as Christians. Now my brothers hate me because I betrayed them. I guess I can’t blame them.

Would I do anything different if I had my life to live over? I don’t know. Probably not much. Did I accomplish anything with my life? I suppose I made that bastard Rollins dead. And what about Bob Garrity? I didn’t technically kill him. That woman there could’ve come back for him or called someone for help. But he is dead now and he wouldn’t be dead had I not done what I did. So it goes. I’d say he had it coming.

So what am I? Am I a soldier? I fight. Did I fight for anything worthwhile? I don’t know. I hope I did. 

Jimmy thanked God for the sun in that moment. He breathed in the scent of the pines and tasted the air for the last time. He smelled water. He had never noticed the smell of water before. He waited for the end. He didn’t ask for forgiveness.

“Your time with us has ended,” shouted one of the DSF soldiers. It was the voice of the one who had pulled Jimmy out of the coffin weeks before. “I have something to tell you. As much as it pains me, it turns out that you traitors, you shit-sucking maggots, you actually do have some value. I’d say you have value, all right, value as target practice, but it seems that you have more than that. You lucky bastards have been sold. You’re being exchanged for some of our own. Go figure. Who would have thought a pile of trash like you would be traded for American heroes.”

Several of the insurgents began to breathe sighs of relief.

“You all need to wait here until your ride comes along. Don’t come back to us, either. You won’t get another chance like this.”

Someone put a wooden handle into Marzan’s hand behind his back. It felt like a cheap steak knife. He heard the truck start, then shift into gear and drive away.

“Is it a trick?” asked the prisoner next to Marzan.

“We’re gonna find out,” Marzan answered. “Here, let me cut you loose.”

Marzan cut his neighbor’s zip ties loose. Then the other prisoner returned the favor by cutting Marzan’s hands free. Marzan removed his hood. They were in a meadow at the edge of a pine forest at the end of a dirt road that ran towards the west, judging by the sun. There were seven of them, each in orange jumpsuits and flip-flops. Those who were unbound and unhooded were looking at each other in astonished relief.

“What do we do?” asked one.

“Wait for our ride, I guess,” answered another. “We ain’t getting far wearing these Jesus boots.”

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A Middle Finger to Progressives

Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes:

“What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for…”

Great piece on Medium.com

 

Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 9

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

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

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 9

 

Jess sat up in bed. The house was dark and cold, the fire long dead. Next to her lay little Brooke and Sharon, both asleep. Jess looked to the window. The blackness of the sky and the brilliance of the stars told her it was about three a.m. She sat on the edge of the bed and listened, the only sound being the synchronized breathing of Brooke and Sharon. Then, far off, she heard the siren-like squeals of a pack of feasting coyotes. She sat up, her senses piqued by the eerie calls. The high-pitched yelping and howling carried on for a minute, then trailed off into stillness. Jess laid back in the warm bed and pulled the covers up over her, waiting for her senses to calm and sleep to take hold again.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

She sat up again, instinctively reaching down into the nightstand to grab her revolver. She pulled the hammer back and pushed her stocking-clad feet into the boots she always kept at the side of her bed.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Sharon heard it too and woke up. “Who is it?” she whispered to Jess.

“Stay here.” Clutching her revolver, Jess put on her robe and silently crept down to the door.She listened with her ear against it, pistol in hand. She turned her head to look through the peephole. The black figure she saw was backlit by the light under the carport. It was holding a rifle. Jess’s heart began to pound while an icy wave ran down the nerves of her arms and legs.

“Jess,” whispered the voice from outside. “It’s me.”

It was Mr. Croukamp.

“What is it?” Jess asked.

The sound of broken glass traveled up the valley, piercing the stillness.

“They’re coming,” Croukamp whispered.

“Who’s coming?” Jess replied as she unbolted the door.

“Looters!”

She let him in and bolted the door behind him.

“Is your daughter safe? Is Sharon here?”

“They’re upstairs in the loft.”

Just as Jess said that, she heard Sharon come down the stairs and turned to see her carrying a candle.

“What should we do?” Jess asked.

“Blow that out, first” Croukamp urged. Sharon blew the candle out and she disappeared in the darkness.

“Give me a moment to think,” Croukamp said.

Sharon and Jessica waited, each of them ghostlike figures in the night.

“We could run for it,” Croukamp suggested. “But we’ll lose everything.”

“Should I get Brooke up?” Sharon asked.

“I’m not running,” Jess replied.

“Then we must fight,” Croukamp declared.

“Are you going back to your house?” Jess asked.

“No. We should stick together. We’ll have a better chance. Your house is closest to them. Hear that?”

Jess heard more broken glass and some unintelligible shouting.

“They’re two lots down now. Look out the window.”

“How many?” Jess asked.

“Four of five, maybe.”

A diesel engine started up.

“See their truck? They go to each house, loot it, load it onto their truck, and go to the next. They’ve probably been at it all night.”

“What do we do, then?” Jess asked.

“If we’re making a stand then I believe we have two options. We can let them come up the road this way to where I can open fire. Hopefully that will scare them off. If they don’t take off, and they can tell where the bullets are coming from, then they’re probably coming here figuring we’ve got something worth fighting for.”

“What’s the other choice?”

“Let them come and take it.”

“What?”

“We let them come in. Let them think it’s easy loot. Then, when I get the opportunity, I’ll open fire, probably when they’re in your living room here. If I get them all then I’ll drag them out and bury them somewhere.”

“What if you don’t get them all?”

“They’ll burn the house down or come back later for revenge. That seems most likely.”

“I don’t like that proposition.”

“I don’t either. Not with Brooke here.” Croukamp spoke to both of them. “Go upstairs. Keep Brooke quiet. If someone comes in, you shoot until he’s dead or he runs off.”

“Where’re you going?” asked Jess.

“To the back bedroom. I can see them coming up the road from there. I’m going to open fire when they get to your neighbor’s house. Hopefully they’ll get the hint and take off.”

Croukamp went down the hall to the back bedroom. He slid open the screen-less window, sat on the floor and rested the carbine on the sill to check the line of sight. He pulled the charging handle and aimed down the road. The bandit’s diesel rumbled behind the trees two lots down. The thought of his house left unguarded made Croukamp anxious. But Fitz would be barking soon and that might lure the looters into thinking his shots were actually coming from there.

He thought it better to be taking a stand in Jess’s house. It was on higher ground than his and he believed it afforded him a better chance to turn them back. If successful, he would try to convince Jess to have the four of them all live in her house, at least at night.

He heard the truck grind into gear. The engine revved. It crawled up the road, about to appear out of the trees, illuminated in the starlight. Should I shoot the radiator? he thought to himself. No. If the plan is to scare them off then they need a means of escape.

The truck appeared between the trees. Its bed was filled with loot. Croukamp zeroed in. The rig stopped at the neighbor’s drive. Two shadows jumped out of the bed and ran down to the house. One swung a sledge hammer into the door. It flew open and they charged inside. Croukamp watched their flashlights bob and sweep as they tore through the interior. He couldn’t discern if there were two men or one in the cab. Probably two, he assumed, with a spotter riding shotgun. Croukamp felt a compelling urge to open fire on the cab. He aimed but he held fast. There was no chance of getting the two inside the house. Still, even the notion of firing his weapon only as a warning filled him with internal conflict. It ran counter to everything he had been taught.

One looter emerged, carrying a bundle of clothing. The other came out a minute later with something wrapped in a sheet. They unloaded at the truck and both ran back into the house. Minutes later they emerged again with bundles and dumped those into the bed. One looter hopped on the pile while the other got in the cab. Croukamp regretted not sneaking up behind and taking them all out, but he reassured himself that he had made the best possible decision.

The truck began to back up the neighbor’s driveway. It turned out onto the road and Croukamp heard the gears shift. Now was his moment. If he waited any longer, letting them come further up the road, they would be much more likely to see his muzzle flash and return fire, endangering everyone in the house. The truck lurched forward. Croukamp centered the pad of his index finger on the trigger and exhaled calmly. Seven rounds ripped off into the darkness. The truck immediately braked.

“Idiots.” Croukamp muttered.

The bandits sat in the roadway, lights off, engine idling.

“Fucking morons,” Croukamp muttered again as he took aim. They were sitting ducks. The urge to fire into the cab burned and tormented him, but he couldn’t do it. If they were too stupid to retreat from an ambush, then they were probably stupid enough to come into the house; either that, or the bandits had a fourth spotter on foot who was trying to locate the source of fire. A terror of regret gripped Croukamp. What have I done? I’ve endangered the women and the girl. They should have fled when they had the chance. Now the looters would have to be drawn in close so that he could get them all. If he even could.

Croukamp inhaled, listening for anyone coming up behind the house. He heard Fitz barking. The truck’s engine grumbled. Croukamp was about to yell out a warning but then thought better of it. How much fear would the ultimatum of an old man’s voice instill in them? Probably not much. It was best to preserve the mystery, to get them pondering all the possibilities.

One of the gang started cursing from the truck. “You’ll die, motherfucker! We’re coming for you!”

Croukamp took another breath.

“You hear me? You’re  dead.”

Croukamp spotted him shouting towards the sound of Fitz’s barking, popping his head up over the cab just long enough to get his words out, then back down behind it.

Croukamp’s 5.56 would punch right through the aluminum body of the truck, or through its windshield. He took a series of shallow breaths. He aimed. The pad of his finger pressured the trigger.

“You hear me?” shouted the bandit.

Croukamp reached the end of an exhale and pressed. Five rounds volleyed towards the truck, just above it. He prayed he would not regret wasting the ammo. The bandits fired back towards his house. Croukamp ducked below the sill. When they had emptied their handguns, he rose and fired again until his magazine clinked empty. He ejected it, pushed in the next and took aim. The bandits had reloaded and fired another blind salvo, but Croukamp heard the truck grind into gear and whine as it backed down the road into the darkness.

Sharon came into the room.”Are they leaving, Ian?”

“It looks like it.”

“Will they come back?”

“I hope not. If they do, then I’ve blown my best chance to take them out.”

“Why didn’t you do it?”

“Let’s just hope they try to find softer targets.”

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