Tag Archives: Indivisible: Come and Take It

Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 26


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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 26


Mae stood in the yard in front of her ex-husband’s cabin. It was after midnight. Dieter waited in his car in the driveway. “You want me to come inside with you?” he shouted.

It seemed like a good idea to Mae at first, but then it didn’t. She decided she was safer alone. Mae didn’t turn to answer him. “No. You can go.”

“Are you sure?”


“Do you have a gun?”

“Yes. Several.” She wondered if he believed her.

“All right then. Pleasure doing business with you. I’ll be back this way next month. I’ll stop by and check on you.”

“Thank you.”

Dieter started his car and backed down the gravel driveway. His headlights and the crackle of his tires on the gravel receded into the trees. Darkness and the wild void closed in around Mae. She approached the door and took out her key, not expecting it to work. The last time she was here was the winter before last. Her last memory of the house was driving away from it in Bob’s truck. Her last memory of Bob was of him tied into a folding chair and gagged, mumbling for her to cut him free. She freed herself, instead.

She turned the key.

Bob’s death was a messy business. After it was discovered that he was a kidnapper, waves of testimonials about the violence and corruption of the deceased undersheriff came forth. The department, already struggling to restore public trust and reeling from attrition, conspired with the DA to bury the case. The sheriff’s department was, in some sense, relieved by his departure, and it was decided that no good would come of the revelations that would come to light if a real investigation pressed on. The Garrity Case would go unsolved.

She turned the knob.

Mae couldn’t believe that she had come back to this place, but where else was she going to go? Home to Omaha and her mother? Impossible. Back to her DC friends? They would have little to do with her now that she was a castaway. Bob’s house, actually her house, as she now owned it, would at least be quiet. It was a decent place to escape and think and devise a means of getting back into the Beltway.

She opened the door.

The lights did not work but she knew the house well enough to navigate her way into the living room. She sat down on the sofa and listened to the nothingness, staring through the picture window at the black silhouettes of pines obscuring the starry sky. A dog barked in the distance which reminded her of Bob’s German Shepherds. She always felt alone, but now it was palpable, with no means of escaping it at the office or at a cocktail lounge.

She checked her phone for a signal. There were two bars. She wondered how the phone companies were able to keep the cell towers powered, but the government couldn’t turn on the traffic lights. How will I charge it? she asked herself.  She thought about calling T, but it was after 2 a.m. in DC, if that was in fact where he was. He might be on Air Force One for all she knew. Then she reminded herself that he had sold her out to save himself.

Mae felt for the quilt that usually rested on the loveseat. It was still there. She grabbed it and pulled it over onto herself. Exhausted, she fell asleep almost at once.


She awoke in the predawn light, sensing a presence. There was a man standing over her.

“Who the fuck are you?” she asked.

“Who are you?” he replied.

“This is my house,” Mae answered.

“What are you carrying?”

“As in weapons?”


“I have a can of mace.”

He smiled as he walked towards the kitchen.

Mae noticed her backpack resting on the table. The stranger had been through it. “What do you intend to do to me?” she asked.

He looked at her for a moment as if he was surprised by her question and what she implied by it. He grinned, then turned to the cupboard. “You’re lucky this place wasn’t looted.”

“My husband was a sheriff. The department watches over it. You don’t fuck with the sheriff around here.”

The intruder chuckled. “There’s coffee. Mind if I make some?”

“How are you going to do that? There’s no power.”

“Well, first I’m going fill this teapot up with water from these jugs over here. Then I’m going to start a fire in your woodstove, there. Then I’ll set the pot on the stove and when it comes to a boil, I’m going to—”

“I get it.” Mae sat up on the sofa, still covered with the quilt. “You need to go.”

“I will, soon enough.”

“What do you want?” she asked.

He carried the teapot over and set it on the stove. He packed the firebox with kindling and pine needles and struck a match. “You don’t need to be afraid of me.” He looked at Mae who was wrapped from chin to toe in her blanket. He reached down and took his revolver out of his waistband, prompting Mae to retreat into the sofa cushions. He approached her. She shook her head and raised her hand. Then he handed her the gun.

“Now you have nothing to be afraid of,” he said.

Mae threw off the quilt and stomped into the kitchen with the gun dangling at her side. She fumbled through her backpack and took out her can of mace and a bag of trail mix.

“There’s some tomato soup and tuna in that lower cupboard, there,” he remarked.


“Suit yourself. Mind if I take it with me when I go, then?”


He went back to the kitchen and scooped several spoonfuls of coffee into the filter.When the teapot finally whistled, he took it over to the coffeemaker and slowly dribbled the water into the basket. When finished, he poured a cup and offered it to Mae who was, by then, nibbling on her trail mix. She took the mug, he poured one for himself, and then  sat down across from her at the kitchen table.

“My name is James.”


“James,” he answered.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m just passing through.”

“Are you a looter or something?”

“That depends on the day.”

Mae took a sip of coffee, cringing at the bitterness.

“What are you doing here?” Marzan asked. “You don’t look like the typical someone living outside the ZOC. You’re dressed like you’re headed to yoga class.”

“I’m taking a vacation,” Mae explained.

“A vacation?”

“A vacation from my life.”

Marzan grinned mockingly.

Mae took another sip and winced.

“Look,” Marzan continued, “I don’t know how long you intend to vacation out here, but unless you are trying to vacation from life altogether, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.”

“I have money.”

“American Express won’t buy much out here.”

“I’m not afraid of a little work,” Mae replied.

“It won’t be a little. You’ll need water. Lots of it. Where are you going to get it? The power’s still out. The well pump is off. The nearest creek is a thousand yards that way.”

“I guess I’ll just have to go fetch it, then.”

“How much water do you think you can you carry?” James looked her over under the table. “You weigh what, 110 pounds? Water’s heavy.”

“I work out.”

“You’re going to need wood for fire.”

“It’s the middle of summer.”

James raised his mug in salute.

“What?” she asked.

“So what are you going to cook with? What are you going to purify that creek water with? Do you have any idea how much dissolved feces is in that stream? Do you have any bleach around here? Did you think about how, in twelve weeks, it’ll be below freezing at night? It snows in September. How much wood is it going to take to heat this place in the winter, to make it warm enough so you can walk around in your yoga pants, comfortably? Do you even know how to guess? Can you even start a fire? There’s about a full cord of wood out back, but I doubt that’s enough to heat this place and boil your water and cook your meals through Thanksgiving.”

“I won’t be here that long,” Mae answered, looking insulted.

That afternoon, James went out into the yard to buck and split a rather substantial pile of logs. He used a handsaw he found in Garrity’s garage to cut them into shorter lengths. Then he took a maul and split them, mostly with a single blow that sent the pieces careening outward on each impact. Mae covertly watched him saw and swing and sweat and stack in secret, concealed in the shadows within the house. She heard his growls with each blow of the axe. She sensed a rage in him that both fascinated and terrified her. By contrast, the murky bankers and pasty bureaucrats who dominated her former life were tightly bound by their inhibitions. Their emotions unfurled only in blunt email copy and conference tirades. In a sense, James was a physical man just as Bob was, but not the same. James wasn’t putting on a show for her. And she sensed that he cared not one whit about her or what she thought of him; his mind was elsewhere. She watched him, feeling like a voyeur. He stopped after a bit, clutching at his side. Mae withdrew from the window as he made his way back into the house.

Feeling inspired, Mae walked down to the creek and filled two plastic milk jugs with silty water. She lugged them back to the cabin, nearly a kilometer. The labor set cramps loose in her forearms, but she was determined to prove herself as no weakling. She finally reached the house only to find James waiting for her on the front porch.

“Are you going to help me?” she asked.

James watched her struggle a few more steps before stepping forward and taking the jugs.

“You could probably carry four jugs with a broom handle across your shoulders,” James suggested. “There’s one in the garage.”

“I’ll give that some consideration.”

That evening, James ate tomato soup and Mae finished off the last of her trail mix. Wanting to further prove her usefulness, she tended the teapot on the wood stove which was purifying the water they were going to use for drinking and washing. The burning stove made the living room unbearably hot for the summer evening and James retreated to a bedroom.

Mae opened the windows and watched as the fire in the stove died after the last of the water was boiled. It got too dark to see in the house by ten p.m. She was hungry again and searched through the cupboards but there was nothing left that she could tolerate. She surrendered to the night and went to bed alone in the master suite with James’s pistol under her pillow.

She was startled awake by a loud noise. She sat up in bed and listened and looked out the window into the darkness. It was gunfire and explosions. She saw flashes of light that backlit the black evergreens in the lot. How close? she wondered. She got up with her pistol and went into the hall. She quietly turned the knob to the next door and slowly pushed the door open. With each distant bomb flash, she could see the outline of James’s sleeping body lying on the bed. It was warm in the room and he had kicked the blanket off and laid there in his shorts.

She stepped closer to him.

Gunfire rattled in the distance. Not so distant, this time.

Explosions flashed.

The window was open and a faint breeze was blowing in, rippling the curtains.

She came to stand next to him by the bed and watched him. She thought about how easy it would be to kill him, but there wasn’t any need for that. Why did he give her his gun? She felt it grow heavy as it hung in her hand. She scanned his silhouette in the faintest of moonlight and bomb flashes. He was built like Forteson, but different, different in the same way he differed from Bob. She couldn’t define it. It just was what it was. Her eyes scrolled over him to his face, discovering his eyes were open and watching her. She suppressed her urge to flee. He didn’t seem concerned about the gun she was holding.

“What do you want?” he whispered.

“That fighting seems close,” she answered. “Should we be worried?”

“No. Go back to sleep.”

“How far away is it?”

“Look out the window.”

Mae turned and went to the widow, pushing the rippling curtains aside. She felt the cool evening breeze blowing over her exposed skin.

“Wait for a really bright flash behind the hills. Then count the seconds.”

A moment later, a flash turned the night sky white for an instant.

“One thousand one. One thousand two. One thousand three. One thousand four. One thousand five. One thousand six. One thousand seven. One thousand eight…”

“Keep counting,” James said.

“One thousand nineteen. One thousand twenty. One thousand twenty one.”

A muffled boom shook the house.

“It’s four and a half, maybe five miles away.”

“I heard gunfire close by.”

“That was morons on the ground, shooting at the helicopters heading to the fight.”

“Isn’t five mile close?”

“Don’t worry about it. It’ll be over in five minutes. Go back to sleep.”

Mae left the window and went back to his bedside. “Mind if I stay in here?”

“Suit yourself.”

James didn’t move. Mae went over to the other side of the bed and laid down. She slid her body under the covers and pulled the duvet up over her.

The flashes and thunder of the firefight ended four minutes later, but she couldn’t fall asleep. And she couldn’t tell if James was sleeping either as he was faced the other way, unmoving.

“Are you a soldier?” she asked. She waited for his answer, listening only to his breathing for half a minute or so.

“Yes,” he finally answered.

“I thought so.”


“Because you said the water was a thousand yards away. Only soldiers and cops talk that way. No one else would say, ‘a thousand yards.’ They’d say, ‘a half mile.'”

“Do you know a lot of soldiers and cops?”

“I used to.” She held her covers up over her, up to her neck, lying in a mummy-like pose. She wanted James to talk because when he talked it put her at ease. But he didn’t. “James…” she asked.


“You don’t have to go. You can stay here.”

“No. I have to go. I have to complete my mission.”

Email troyjgrice@hotmail.com or follow the blog for the password to the last 2 chapters!

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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.”


“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?”


“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?”


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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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.”


“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


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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.”


“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


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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.”


“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.”


“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?”


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.


“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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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 21


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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 21


Mae arranged to ride along with Dieter past Bismarck and through Rapid City where he met with some business associates. From there, they went through the Black Hills and westward. They stopped outside of Gillette, Wyoming. Dieter made some phone calls and they waited for four hours at a diner at the base of a highway exit. They sat across from each other, hardly speaking, Dieter getting up and going outside to smoke every twenty minutes. After his tenth trip, Mae, overcome with boredom, decided to break the ice.

“So what sort of business are you in?” she asked as she stirred her ice cubes with her straw.

Dieter didn’t answer.

“You can tell me. What am I gonna do, turn you in? What would I say? That some old guy named Dieter I met in Minot told me he’s breaking the law?”

Dieter wheezed out another laugh and looked at her with a joyful look in his St. Bernard eyes.

“Come on. I’m bored to tears. Give me something.”

“You first.”

Mae looked at him furtively. “Okay.”

“What are you waiting for?” Dieter asked.

“You know the vice president?”

“Not personally, no.”

“Well I do. As a matter of fact, I know him intimately. Do you believe me?”

“It doesn’t sound like something someone would make up. If it was bullshit, I imagine you’d say that you blew the president.”

Mae laughed. “Want to know something else?”


Mae lifted the straw out of the glass and clasped it between her thumb and index finger, not four inches from the end. She pulled it out of the glass and held it up until Dieter’s eyes sparkled, indicating he understood what she was insinuating. Then she fellated the tip of the straw.

“That figures.” Dieter said in his phlegmy baritone. He started laughing and didn’t stop until it trailed off into another coughing fit.

“Now your turn,” Mae said, turning deadly serious.

Dieter stared at her for what seemed like a minute. Then he grinned. “I’m a broker. I bring together parties who want to buy and sell.”

“Too vague,” Mae retorted.

Dieter looked out the window, watching a car pull into the parking lot of the motel across the road.

“Tell me something interesting,” Mae demanded.

Dieter turned back to her and leaned towards her across the table. “I can tell you this: I’ve seen the soldiers on both sides, up close.”

“And what did you see?” Mae asked in an almost dismissive tone.

Dieter stared at her, unblinking, unflinching, the smell of tobacco wafting off his clothes. His thick, weathered fingers interlocked. His voice darkened. “You’re going to lose.”

Mae released the straw into her tumbler and leaned back into her seat, giving no response.

Dieter turned to the window. “My associates have finally arrived,” he observed. “I need to go meet them.”

They left the diner and crossed the road to the motel parking lot. Dieter opened the door to his car and let Mae in. He instructed her to wait there while he met with his ‘associates’ in the motel room.

It was hot and after thirty minutes the smell of gasoline wafting in from the cans stored in the trunk became unbearable. She got out to get some air. She leaned on the fender and smoked a cigarette, listening to the muffled voices coming from the room. One voice bore the hint of a Slavic accent, maybe Russian. That would just be my luck, she pondered, busted traveling with an arms dealer. Knowing she had no alternative transportation, she stepped out of earshot of the motel room in order to preserve plausible denial in the event they were detained and interrogated. She pondered dialing the secret service phone, but thought better of it.

It was windy and bright and the sky was a white haze of contrails. Squads of helicopters moved east to west. She looked up to the highway overpass. A fleet of semis, painted tawny camouflage, rolled past on their way west. Then she saw trailers hauling three 155mm artillery pieces each, with their barrels corked like champagne bottles. Then trailer after trailer of drones, folded up and shrink-wrapped like mammoth insects morphing in their cocoons. Then came refrigerated trailers with potato chip and grocery store logos emblazoned on their sides, grills and windshields louvered in steel as protection from projectiles. The caravan continued: flatbed after flatbed, each with at least fifty camouflaged portable toilets strapped in tightly, every plastic shithouse adorned with the face of a smiling koala bear—the logo of Sherman’s Toilet Tissue. Then a motorcade of officers driving matte brown Lincolns with gold stars on the hood, sparkling chrome spinner wheels and tinted windows. Then caterers and sporting goods vans hauling workout equipment. Then embedded AmericaOne media trucks with satellite dishes fixed to their roofs. Then an army recruiter’s van with the picture of a teenaged Latino and an Asian girl and a Caucasian transgender, each dressed in combat fatigues, M4s slung on their shoulders, locked in one another’s embrace as if they were posing for a selfie at an amusement park. “Be All That You Can Be!” Then mobile fast food restaurants—Pizza King, Tacodobe, Burger Hut. Then a Humvee with its turret manned by a bloated, forty-something man, too fat for his Kevlar which rode up to his double chin. The parade rolled past Mae as she smoked a cigarette, watching in curious disbelief. A truck hauling camouflaged golf carts. Another with communications arrays. And another with plastic coffins, featuring Sepulcorp logos, stacked upright. A tiny sliver of cognitive dissonance crept into Mae’s brain as she exhaled and the hot wind dissolved the blue smoke. Then the civilian busses, filled with teenaged faces peering out, conscripts dressed in brown hues, some wearing their helmets, others just wearing looks of fear. One catcalled Mae as his bus blew past. She took another long drag and sensed the nicotine cooling her nervous system. So many young faces in the busses stared back, most grim, expressionless. Boys and girls sent by old men off to war. Boys concerned about their acne and trying to lose their virginity and girls that looked as if they were inducted the morning after prom. All the materiel that rolled past before those busses, the corporate-sponsored hardware and supplies, the military technology, the officers in their air conditioned luxury…Mae laughed at it. The parade of DC’s toys and tech had rolled into theaters of war before, like Shariastan, only to be rendered useless once the enemy had dug in. The foreign wars were sanitized into a reality television show for Dumfukistan to watch on their 100-inch televisions made in China. The real war, however, was not for public consumption. Despite all the technological advances, the soldiers still had to do the real fighting. And if it came to that, Mae thought, then by the looks of those kids in those busses, maybe Dieter was right.

She also saw the civilian vehicles that were streaming the other direction, a bumper to bumper caravan from the west, loaded to the hilt with possessions stuffed into plastic totes and garbage bags. Pickup trucks crawled along with wind-rippling, bungee-corded tarps covering household things. Sport utility vehicles towed laden trailers. A Subaru passed with a grandfather clock sticking half way out the back window. Another car towed a washing machine and a refrigerator on a trailer.  Car windows framed confused children’s faces. A panting family dog sat on a driver’s lap. A Toyota went by with a leather sofa strapped precariously on the hood. Grandmother napped in her wheelchair in the back of another pickup, arm resting on a big screen TV. Cars passed with bumper stickers professing their faith in this republican or that democrat or Jesus or “coexist” or some football team or alumni or veteran status. None of those ideas mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was getting away from the civil war that was closing in on their hometown like a forest fire, feeding on the fuel of Americana, turning it into ash. The motel door finally opened and only Dieter emerged, his rotund body waddling out of the darkened room. He went straight to his car without so much as a glance in Mae’s direction.

“All done?” Mae shouted from near the road.

“Yes,” he answered, without making eye contact and opening his door. Mae dropped her cigarette, walked back and got in on the passenger side.

“Where to now?” she asked.

“We’ll drop you off next. It’s seven hours away if we don’t run into any traffic jams.” He gestured to the stream of traffic on the road.

“Where are all those people going?” Mae asked.


“Away from where?”

“Away from Bozeman would be my guess.”


“Feds are committed to clearing Doc out of there. But it’s not going too well for them. Doc is dug in with numbers…local militia, Continentals. I hear even some guard units. It’s street to street fighting, a real messy, bloody operation. Civilians are getting the hell out of there.”

“Refugees,” Mae observed.

Dieter pulled out of the lot and they drove under the highway and south on 59. Crossing the windswept steppe of Wyoming and through the Thunder Basin National Grassland, approaching Cheyenne four hours later as the gray thunderheads boiled on the western horizon. The connected back onto I25 but, just as Dieter had feared, their progress was halted by a traffic jam just a couple miles from the I-80 interchange. Dieter pulled off onto the shoulder and shut down the engine to save gas. To their left, across the highway, stood clusters of residential streets lined with mid-century houses and white church steeples poking through clusters of cottonwoods and spruce. To their right lay the Cheyenne Country Club nestled securely within the sprawling Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Crowding the edges of the fairways was an ocean of white tents and FEMA trailers hemmed off from the course by a six-foot chain link fence capped with razor wire.

They sat in the car, in the heat, breathing in the fumes of the gasoline cans stored in the trunk, now half gone.

“Mind if I smoke?” Mae asked.

“It’s probably a good idea if you did that away from the car a bit.”

“For sure.”

Mae got out and walked twenty steps away. She managed to light her cigarette in the wind with some difficulty, then studied the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of civilians packed into the camp. And then people on foot began to pass her on the shoulder. First one, then two more, then more and more after that. She stepped back to make way for the silent horde, the undead, marching because their cars had run out of gas, burdened with what remained of their things that they could carry, going willingly into the concentration camp ahead because it was preferable to dying of thirst or starvation on the road. The first of the walkers were men, sweating in the sun, hunched over by their overloaded packs. Then came the families with children and babies. She saw whimpering toddlers, forced to walk as they were too heavy to be carried the entire way. Then crying infants, one with a diaper soiled through, clinging to her exhausted mother who had yellow shit running down her shirt. Few were dressed for traveling any distance on foot, adorned in their worn sneakers, t-shirts with football team and beer logos, sweatpants and spandex, baseball caps and designer sunglasses to thwart the searing sun. “Do you have any water?” one asked Mae. Even if she had wanted to help him, if she were to give him water, the horde would see it and mob her like a pack of zombies. She replied to his request with a silent exhale of cigarette smoke.

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 20


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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 20


Marzan and the boy were on the road for three days. The boy did not speak during that time. At night they would warm themselves at a campfire and drink boiled water. They’d smother the flames when they heard the beating blades of Black Hawks or Kiowas. It wouldn’t have made any difference. The night vision and the M240Ls could have shredded them before they would have even heard them coming. They had other objectives. Each morning, Marzan would wake up next to the smoldering gray ashes of the fire and the boy would be gone. And then he would find him, not far away, always near the road, waiting, watching, as if someone might be coming for him. Marzan would scold him but it made no difference. They walked on the road, Marzan in front, holding his burning, aching side, the boy a few strides behind, closing the gap a little with each mile so that when they descended out of the pass, the boy was almost walking beside him. He didn’t cry as much when they walked, but the nights were still difficult for him. Marzan did not press him to speak.

They walked into the village of Granby, a town on a treeless, windy, valley floor that had evolved into something of a trade center in the days of insurrection. There wasn’t much more than ten square blocks of rambler houses and a strip of commercial boxes along the main road. Marzan took the boy into a diner and they filled their groaning stomachs with hamburgers and French fries and second helpings of each. Out the window, Marzan watched a parade of cars, loaded with livestock and wares, coming from the west and the northeast and the south, but none came in from county road 24—the road that had brought them here. Marzan noticed uniformed men everywhere, outfitted with green armbands and reflective sunglasses, all bearing assault rifles. The waitress returned to their table. She was very thin and her hair was too big for her narrow face. “Who are those people?” Marzan asked.

“Who?” she asked, as she laid the check on the table. The boy was still shoving fries into his mouth.

“Those guys.” Marzan gestured to a man with an armband sitting on a barstool.

“Oh, that’s the posse. They’re Sheriff Naegle’s men.”

She left with Marzan’s empty plate. The boy finished and Marzan left a Reagan on the table.


The two of them spent the night in a canvas tent, one of ten set up on the park at the edge of town. The rate was reasonable and they each got a cot. The bedding smelled of wet dog, but they were both content to have a bed and shelter for once and to not be sleeping on the dirt and rocks and sharp pine needles. There were four others in their tent, all raggedy men. They smelled worse than wet dog and they snored. The boy slept through it, though. Marzan was restless, waking several times. The last time he woke, it was in the cool gray light before dawn. The boy was gone again.

Marzan sprung up, put his shoes on and went out to find him. It was a dangerous place for a young boy with all the vagabonds and refugees and ne’er-do-wells milling about or passing through. He wanted to call out for the boy but what would he yell? Marzan didn’t know the boy’s name because he never spoke. He went to the adjacent tent and listened. Snoring. He wasn’t sure what he was listening for. Maybe his sobbing? Then he went to the next tent. More snoring. He did this for all the tents but there was no sound of the boy.

Marzan looked around in all directions. The road was quiet and empty. There was no one around. He turned towards the creek that ran alongside the park. He scanned the brambles for a sign—footprints, the boy’s blue hoodie, anything. Nothing. James listened. There was no sound. Not even birds, not even wind. The sky was a watercolor painting; magenta bled into the eastern gray. Marzan went down to the river to get a look along the banks. He pushed through the branches until he reached the water’s edge. He looked left and right along the bank. Nothing. He walked back to the tent and checked inside again. Everyone was still asleep and the boy’s cot was still empty. He jogged across the gravel lot to the shoulder of the highway and looked both ways. He started walking east. He didn’t get fifty more yards down the road before he saw the back doors of a white van. It was embedded in the trees, obscured from the road.

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Indivisible: Come and Take It, Chapter 19


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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 19


“What is this dump?” Mae asked as her cab pulled up to the entrance of a hotel.

“This is Kaul’s Drive-thru Lodge, Miss. This is where I’ve been instructed to take you,” answered the cabbie in thick accent.

“Splendid,” Mae replied, rolling her eyes as she let herself out onto the curb and stood next to a faux-stone pillar under a frayed red awning, clutching her Luis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Pegase 55 carry-on while the driver fetched her matching suitcase from the trunk. She tipped him for his effort, turned, and dragged the bag through the smudged glass doors as the driver scurried back into his cab and pulled away. Inside, she found a lobby  decorated with laminated honey oak floors, sprayed stucco walls and brass-colored hardware accents. Mae checked her hair and lipstick in an oval mirror before rolling her bag up to the desk. Behind it sat a frumpy Caucasian with a mullet, seven-day stubble, and black horn-rimmed glassed that sat askew on his asymmetrical face. He was immersed in his cell phone and did not immediately acknowledge her presence as she stepped to the desk. Mae pinged the bell on the counter, not forty inches from his ear. The attendant finally looked up.

“Can I help you?” he asked, squinting at her through his cloudy lenses, but after seeing her, he straightened his posture in a fruitless attempt to make himself seem more appealing.

“I need my room,” Mae snapped.

The attendant sighed and began swishing a mouse around, clicking through screens on his monitor. “Single or double?”

“How about your presidential suite? Does it have a jet tub?”

The attendant was unfazed by her sarcasm. “Name?”

“I was told it would be reserved for Maiden Lane. M-A-I-D-E…”

“I found it. One sec…” The attendant typed and typed and swished his mouse and typed and typed and scanned the screen and swished his mouse and typed and typed.Then he retrieved a passkey from a drawer. He swiped it and rolled his pear-shaped body, wedged into his office chair, over to the printer and pulled off some paperwork. Then he rolled back and laid it on the counter. “Sign here, please. You are responsible for any incidentals.”

“No. I was told incidentals would be covered.”

The clerk straightened his glasses and read through the agreement. “Oh, you are correct. Sorry.”

He set the page and a Bic pen with a flower taped to the end down on the counter and pointed to where she was to sign, leaving a greasy fingerprint smudge. Mae dug through her purse to retrieve her own pen and signed the document. “Here’s your key, ma’am,” he said, following it with a wide, crooked-toothed grin accompanied by two eyes that didn’t quite align staring through his smudged lenses.. “Room 221. Go left there, take the elevator up to two, then it’s down on the right. It overlooks the pool.” Mae rolled her eyes again and took the pass key.

“Is there a bar in this dump?”

“Yes ma’am. Go through those doors, then right. You can’t miss it.”

“Can I leave this here for now?” she asked, glancing at her suitcase.

“For sure. I’ll put it back here.” The attendant pushed himself up from his rolling chair and stepped out from behind the counter to take it.

“It’s Luis Vuitton,” Mae explained, hoping that would inspire some higher degree of care from the attendant. Unimpressed, he grabbed her suitcase and yanked it across the floor, scuffing it along the edge of the counter before shoving it into the closet behind his desk. He turned and winked.

“Got ya covered, ma’am.”

Mae passed through the doors and turned to her right, entering Gusher’s Lounge. Inside was a cove built for maybe fifty patrons with blue, short-nap carpet patterned with gold fleur des lis. The space was filled with low castor chairs surrounding round, honey oak cocktail tables. The walls were floor to ceiling smoked mirror tile. The bar was finished in honey oak with more faux-brass trim. Behind it stood a balding middle-ager in a black apron. Mae immediately dismissed the dozen or so patrons as fucktards. She strutted up to the bar, wiped the stool off with a napkin, and took a seat.

“What’ll you have?” asked the bartender, who Mae noticed was missing an eyetooth.

“A martini. Gin. Your best gin. What do you have? Oh, Bombay will have to do, I guess. Dry. On the rocks, not up. Garnished with a lime peel.”

“Absolutely.” The bartender turned to fix her drink.

Mae looked ahead, into an unobscured patch of smoked mirror on the wall behind the bar, between a bottle of Seagrams and a neon Rolling Rock sign. She was surprised by what she saw–a victim staring back. The image of herself beaten, disoriented, weak, evoked an image in her mind of some pathetic orphan. Disgusted by her diminishing aura, she got up, went into the restroom and locked the door. There, she stood before the mirror, staring at the loser staring back. She ran the faucet and dabbed her face with water. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Then she reached into her bag and took out her lip gloss. Wrong color. She tossed it back in and rummaged for the other, the plum. It was stronger. She heard a knock on the door. She ignored it and touched up her mascara, hardening and intensifying her eyes. She pulled at her collar, stiffening it. Finally, she took a deep breath, exhaled, and straightened her posture, throwing back her shoulders. The person staring back in the mirror wasmuch improved.

She heard the knock again and she unlocked the door to see a woman from a different world. She was shorter and broader, had blotchy skin and coarse, dull, badly-dyed, reddish hair, cheap makeup and ill-fitting clothes. They looked each other in the eye, the alien sizing Mae up, looking as if she expected Mae to wilt and step aside. Mae barred the way, defiantly, as a cold smirk formed in the edge of her plum lips. They looked each other up and down, then stared at each other for several more seconds. Mae wondered if this pitiable wench might have been her in some other life, if things had somehow gone awry. No. Of course not. No matter how sideways things might have gone, she could never evolve into the troglodyte that stood before her. Mae could never fail at life to that extent. She could overcome anything. She always triumphed. She had found herself on that path once before and remedied it, leaving her husband to save herself from the ignominy of being a hick undersheriff’s trophy wife, spending weekends downing pitchers of light beer and listening to classic rock cover bands.

Mae’s confidence recharged at the sight of the loser before her, filling her up with strength. Her eyes fired back at the wench, silently saying, “make way, bitch, or I will cut your throat.” The wench, a survivor herself, found her resolve weakening. She glanced left and right. After determining that no one was watching, she acquiesced and stepped aside. There was nothing for her to gain and too much to risk. She would make her stand another time.

Mae returned to her seat at the bar to find a filled martini glass waiting at her place. The bartender returned, buffing a mug.

“I said on the rocks, not up, ” Mae pushed the drink towards the edge for the bartender to take it back. He took the glass and scowled as he waddled off to fix her another. Mae again checked the smoked mirror between the Seagrams and the Rolling Rock sign. The person staring back was the Mae she recognized. Her world was righted.

“You come off of Air Force one?”

Mae turned toward the voice. A burly fellow with stringy gray hair, a weathered face and the dark, elusive eyes of a long-time alcoholic sat two stools down.

“Were you talking to me?” Mae asked.

“Yes,” he answered in a phlegmy tenor that trailed off into a burst of coughing.

“As a matter of fact, I did,” she answered. “How would you know that?” She watched as he stirred the ice cubes in his clear drink, a vodka something. His visage reminded her of a troll. Hideous. Neckless. Hunched. The grey blotchy flesh of his face had the consistency of pizza dough. It looked as if it might slough off his cheekbones at any moment.

“You look the part,” he answered.

“Oh, do I?” Mae asked, feigning interest in continuing the conversation.

“I’ve lived here twenty-seven years. It ain’t hard telling who the muckety mucks are.”

The bartender returned with her martini, bowing as he presented it before her as though she were a royalty. She gestured him away with a flick of her hand.

“What is your name?”

“I’m Dieter.”

“So tell me, Dieter, how do I get a flight back to civilization?”

“Like to where?”

“How about like New York or Boston?”

Dieter sipped his drink. “I’d say your best bet is fly out of  Bismarck. You’ll have to connect in Minneapolis, though.”

“How would one get to Bismarck from this place?”

“You could take the bus,” Dieter answered, mockingly. “Or…” He shrugged.

“Or what?”

“Well, it just so happens that I am headed that way tomorrow morning.”

“To Bismarck?”

“Through there. Headed to Rapid City.”

“What’s in Rapid City? Visiting Mount Rushmore?”

Dieter wheezed out a laugh, then cleared his throat. Then his eyes flashed. “Business,” he answered in a tone with a purposefulness that thumped like a bass drum.

Mae raised her glass to her lips but pulled it away to ponder. She certainly wasn’t going back to DC, not any time soon. What would she do, there? Stare longingly out her brownstone windows at the passing black limousines while she pumped her quads on her elliptical? New York and Boston would be pricey, and close…too close. Too many limos with muckety mucks there, as well. She needed time away from Babylon to clear her head and plot her next move. There was only one place to go that made any sense.

“How far is Rapid City from Denver?” She asked, expecting Dieter to aspirate his drink. But he didn’t. He didn’t seem fazed at all.

“Four hundred miles, give or take,” he answered. “Why don’t you just fly?”

“Fly into Denver? That’s a crapshoot half the time.”

“Yeah.” Dieter grinned. “Or maybe that’s a manifest you don’t want your name on.”

Mae raised her glass to him, took a drink, then set it down in front of her and swished the garnish. “Never mind, then,” she said as she turned away from him and faced the bar mirror. She kept watch on his reflection between the bottles.

“What would it be worth to you?” Dieter asked.

Mae made eye contact with him in the mirror. “I’m sure we could come to some sort of arrangement.”

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