Monthly Archives: February 2017

Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 25

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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 25

 

The contortions in James Marzan’s face suggested he was pushing through some thorny jungle dreamland, searching for the pathway to consciousness. His eyes opened. He was lying in bed with Croukamp sitting on a wooden chair at his side. Marzan took a deep breath and closed his eyes again and laid in calm repose for a moment before speaking.

“What happened?” he asked with his eyes still closed.

“You were very ill.” Croukamp answered. “Do you know where you are?”

Marzan opened his eyes, again. “This is Vaughn’s house?”

“That’s correct.”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No, but we found one. Well, a veterinarian, actually.”

“Oh?”

“She examined your side and found your scar. She thought that maybe you had a piece of shrapnel in there that had worked itself into a bad way with all the walking you’ve done. So she performed a little surgery.”

“I remember she put me under with something.”

“Isoflurane is what she called it, I think. She was very efficient.”

Marzan felt his side and found it covered in a bandage. “So it was a success?”

“I believe so. You look much better. By the way, this is what she pulled out of you.” Croukamp held a smooth metallic object, the size of a horse pill, between his thumb and index finger. “Strangest piece of shrapnel I’ve ever seen.”

“Where’s the boy?” Marzan asked.

“He’s outside in the yard with Jess. They’re pulling weeds.”

“Has he spoken?”

“Not a word.”

“Can I have that?”

Croukamp handed him the metal pill. Marzan examined it carefully, taking note of the barely visible digits and lettering etched in its surface.

“I need to be going,” Marzan said.

“I’m sure. Just as soon as you are able.”

“I need to be going today, right now. I don’t want to bring any trouble to you all.” Marzan pushed the covers off and sat himself up in bed with his feet on the floor.

Croukamp walked to the window and looked out. “It looks like trouble may have already come,” he observed.

Marzan heard a truck come down the driveway.

Croukamp pulled the blinds back. A white county pickup rolled down the asphalt. “I’m guessing it’s Hiserman,” Croukamp said. “He works for the banks. He wants the house.”

“Do you have my things?” Marzan asked.

“Everything of yours is there, on the dresser. Sharon washed it all.”

“Can you help me up?”

Croukamp helped Marzan onto his feet. Then Croukamp left to greet the visitor. He found Jess in the drive and stood beside her. She was already pleading her case. Hiserman looked oblivious as he flipped through the papers on his clipboard.

“I have your money,” Jess explained. “Here.” She slid an envelope into the pages of his clipboard.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Hiserman explained as he pulled it loose and tried to hand it back. “It’s too late.”

“No. It’s not my fault. I would have gotten you your money sooner but it took the agency forever.”

Hiserman shook his head, looking exasperated.

“That’s all of it right there. You have your money now,” Jess exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. There’s nothing I can do.”

“What will the government do with this house, anyway? Nobody is moving up here. Nobody’s buying real estate.”

“They don’t pay me to know that, ma’am. I just follow orders.”

Jess’s face morphed from pleading into anger. “How many houses have you taken?”

“That’s not relevant.”

“Were they all empty?”

“Not relevant.”

“I’ve paid it off in full. It’s done. Are you really going to throw us out? I have a five-year-old daughter.”

“You’ll need to be out by Sunday or I’ll have to bring DSF down.”

Jess looked desperately at Croukamp, distress furrowing her face.

Then another voice caused the three of them to turn their heads. “What’s going on here?”

They discovered James Marzan leaning against the gate. Jess and Croukamp looked wary.

“Take her back into the house,” Marzan said to Croukamp. “You two are not going to want to hear a word of this.”

Jess looked to Croukamp for some direction but he did nothing but stare at James Marzan, as if he was trying to glean the level of madness this vagabond had brought into their world. Croukamp’s expression was pleading, Please don’t do something rash.

“And who are you?” Hiserman asked, sounding annoyed.

“Go inside!” Marzan ordered. “And don’t come out until this truck here drives away.”

Croukamp acquiesced, perhaps sensing resistance was futile He gestured for Jess to follow and they left slowly, through the gate, up the porch steps and in through the door.

“Who are you?” Hiserman asked, again.

“You came alone,” Marzan observed. “That was unwise.”

“I sense that you are threatening me,” Hiserman said. “You should know my office knows exactly where I am.”

“How long do you think it’ll take them to get here?”

Hiserman took out his cell but there was no signal. “Who are you?” he asked a third time.

“I might be nobody. Just a drifter. Or I might be someone. A judge and jury. A lot of that depends on you.”

“There’s nothing I can do for them. I’m sorry.”

“Actually, I think there is.”

“No, there really isn’t,” Hiserman replied, brushing his jacket aside to reveal his sidearm. “There’s nothing I can do. Now I have to go. I have more appointments.”

“You’re not going anywhere until we come to an understanding.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Hiserman said, backing towards the door of his truck.

Marzan opened the gate and stepped through.

“There’s nothing that I could do, even if I wanted to.” Hiserman opened the door to the truck.

“Oh, I don’t believe you. In fact, I bet you could go back to your office and discover the check that Mrs. Clayton gave you. You could remember that she had given it to you the last time you were out here. You must have misplaced it or something. You can tell your supervisor that. Then you can move on to the next house on your list. Everyone here would be very appreciative of that and your bankers will get their money. Everyone wins.”

“They don’t want the money. The money’s worthless.”

“It’s not worthless to her. It came at great cost.”

“That’s not my concern.”

“I’m asking you to make it your concern this one time. It’s your chance to do what is right.”

“It looks like I’m going to have to come back here with the DSF.”

Hiserman opened the door to get in but Marzan lunged forward, grabbing hold of it and preventing Hiserman from securing himself in the cab. Marzan grabbed Hiserman by the collar and pulled him out, tossing him onto the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust in the process.

“I’m armed!” Hiserman shouted as he got up off the ground.

“You don’t want to go there,” Marzan replied, as he lifted his shirt to reveal the 9mm tucked into his waistband.

“This is felony assault.”

“I don’t care. But it’s more than that.” Marzan’s tone darkened. “Now you listen very carefully to me…”

“You can’t intimidate me. I’ll have you arrested.”

“Shut up and listen and I’ll let you drive out of here in one piece.”

“The sheriff’s going to—”

“I said listen…” Marzan urged.

Hiserman stood and dusted himself off. Marzan was still barring his way back into the truck. “You’re in deep sh—”

“I don’t want to be a violent person,” Marzan interrupted.

Hiserman stopped protesting.

“Now you are going to take this check with you. You are going to make sure that it is deposited and that the house is paid off, in full.”

“I told you I—”

“You’re going to make it happen. How that is done is up to you.”

“The DSF will—”

“No. Why must I repeat myself? You are going to make it happen or I’m going to make something happen to you. Do you understand? You go and do some asking around before you call your buddies at DSF. Call some sheriff’s deputies. I want you to remember a name for me. Can you do that?”

Hiserman groaned as Marzan waited for his response.

“Can you remember a name?”

Hiserman finally relented and flinched in affirmation.

“The name I want you to remember is Garrity. Got it?”

“Who?”

“Repeat it back to me,” Marzan ordered.

“Garrity,” Hiserman said, rolling his eyes.

Now you go ask a few of your friends about what happened to Garrity when he got sideways with the people around here. You find out about that before you go calling DSF.”

Hiserman shook his head.

“Jess’s late husband, the man whose death was bought with this check, he had friends—professional friends. Friends who know how to get things done. In fact, some of these friends rather enjoy themselves while doing it. Now these friends have access to information. They can find out where you live. They can find out where you work. They can find out what you drive. Where you shop. Your family member’s names and addresses. Everything.”

“You can’t intimidate me.”

“You’re going to make this little problem disappear. Yes, you are. And if there’s any more trouble around here, I’m going to let Vaughn’s friends know about Mrs. Clayton’s troubles with you.” Marzan pointed his finger. “And if you ever come back here with anything, and I mean anything, other than the deed for this house, you just remember that name…Garrity.”

“Can I go, now?” Hiserman asked.

“Do you understand me?”

“Yes.”

Marzan stepped aside and let Hiserman get into his truck.

“Here, you dropped this.” Marzan reached down and picked up the envelope with the check and handed it to Hiserman. “Don’t lose it.”

Hiserman put the key in the ignition and started the engine.

 

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Vonnegut on Mindless Partisanship

“And here…was the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: ‘Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.'”
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 24

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

—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 24

 

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?” asked Forteson.

“I’m still the president.”

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

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

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

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

“Convinced of what?”

“That you can finish the job.”

“And who are they? Your handlers?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. Not exactly. Not any longer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Put things in order? Whose order?”

“Order is all that matters.”

“So whither the republic?”

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

“We have the rule of law.”

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

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

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

A confident Forteson looked over to the director.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For what?”

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

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

“Senator Thurman…”

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

“Then the speaker.”

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

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

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

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

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

“So why are you telling me all this?”

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

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

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

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

“Who? The bankers?”

“Who else?”

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

“What do you mean?”

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

“I thought you opposed it.”

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

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

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

“And the insurgency?”

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

“How?”

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

Three knocks came on the door.

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

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

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 23

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 23

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

Jess switched off the generator. “What?”

“There’s someone coming up the road.”

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

“I’ll look inside.”

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

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

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

Sharon went downstairs to look.

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

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

“What do you want?” Jess shouted back.

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

“Go away.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Who?”

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

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

“What do you want?” she asked.

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

“Who are you?”

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

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

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

“Wait,” Jess called out.

Marzan stopped.

“How do you know me?” she asked.

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

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

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

“Vaughn’s dead,” Jess cried out.

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

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

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

Marzan stopped.

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

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

Jess lowered her revolver. Then Croukamp lowered his rifle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s his name?”

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

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 22

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 22

 

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

“Don’t move!” James shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t move! Leave them down.”

“Huh?”

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

The rapist complied.

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

“Huh?”

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

“To the sheriff?”

“You’ll know when we get there.”

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

“Shut up. Where’s your wallet?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?”

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

The rapist started the van.

“We’re headed southeast. Let’s go.”

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

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

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

“Are you taking me to the police?”

“Shut up.”

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

“Shut up.”

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

“Turn here,” Marzan ordered.

“Huh?”

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

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

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

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

“Get out.”

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

The rapist started crying.

“Are you scared?” Marzan asked.

“Yes,” the rapist sobbed.

“Are you afraid to die?”

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

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

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

“I said dig.” Marzan ordered.

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

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

“Am I digging my grave?”

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

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

“Do you want to pray?” Marzan asked.

“No. No. Don’t kill me.”

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

“No. Please. Please,” he begged.

“You have fifty-five seconds.”

“Please. Please…”

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

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

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

“Twenty seconds.”

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

“Ten seconds.”

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

“Time’s up,”Marzan said.

The rapist sobbed.

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

The rapist wept and convulsed.

“I said get up on your knees.”

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

Then the breeze stopped….

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

“How old are you?” Marzan asked.

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

“That’s old enough to know better.”

Marzan pulled the trigger.

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

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