Excerpt for Nation of Savages #9 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Nation of Savages #9
A Story Anthology By: Daniel Clayton
Copyright © 2017 By
: Daniel Clayton
Smashwords Edition

Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed or perceived as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, places, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


License Notes


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to the retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Daniel Clayton’s Author Page




Contents


Nation of Savages #9: Smokescreen Part 2


Private Justice #9: Archer Part 1


The Thin Line #5: Dropping the Hammer Part 1


Nation of Savages #10 Preview

Indiana Knights #9: Smokescreen Part 2

David Chatham was surprised to hear two people were still in the hospital because of the smoke grenade’s effects two days after they’d been exposed. He asked Daniel Harran if they were asthmatics or if there was someone else going on.

“One is,” Harran said. “She’s older and not in very good health. Think she spends most of her time in the easy chair because her joints are messed up. I looked at the medical sheet attached to her bed and was surprised when it said she was 49 years old. Thought she was at least 60 when I saw her.”

“Little surprising she’d still be in the hospital.”

“She also sprained her ankle and chipped her elbow,” Harran said. “That’s what the doctors were telling me this morning when I called.”

“What about the other one?”

“He was right there when it happened and he got a fair amount of smoke in his lungs,” Harran said. “Then he got run over.” He turned to the waitress as she walked past and lifted his coffee cup for a refill.

They were at a cafe in downtown Valparaiso less than two blocks from Saturday’s protest. The general atmosphere seemed normal, but Chatham felt the tension. Even though nothing disastrous had happened, many people were unhappy about the negative attention that had been thrust upon them by a small, vocal minority.

“Run over?” Chatham said. “What, was he hit by a car or something?”

Harran shook his head. “This one guy apparently whacked him in the face with his elbow as he was turning when the crowd was starting to break up. He’s a little guy and he hit the ground real hard and as people were running he got a few kicks in the stomach from their movements before someone bothered to help him. The damage had been done by then.”

Chatham grunted. “Yeah, well, they sure caused a stir, didn’t they?”

“Yeah. We got a half-ass ID on the person who threw the grenade. All we got is he’s a white male.”

Chatham tried not to smile. “Sure doesn’t sound like much.”

“That’s because it isn’t,” Harran said. “Unless something more substantive comes up, I don’t think this is going to amount to much of anything, if it all.”

Chatham didn’t reply. He was cognizant of how much he could and couldn’t say. It was a tricky balancing act. He might be friends with Harran, a Captain in the Valparaiso police department, but he took what happened on Saturday as an affront. They might have gone back a ways, but he would be very upset if he learned the smoke grenade that had been thrown by the snowflake protesters was, in fact, thrown by an Indiana Knight as part of a larger plan to discredit and invalidate the protesters. From a philosophical standpoint, he might approve, but his citizens were hurt in the process. That was the sticking point.

Chatham wasn’t worried about giving himself away. He was a former cop. He knew the routines and procedures. His current role as the Knights’ head of intelligence was a good segue after he’d been drummed out on a bullshit racism charge. In many respects, it was better than what he had been doing.

Chatham said, “I know it got lost in the hoopla, but one of our people, Wade Franklin, was arrested amidst the chaos.”

“I’m not sure what he was thinking, going in there like that.”

“He wanted a fight. He sure got one.”

“He wasn’t the only one, but I’m not sure what your man was trying to prove or what he was hoping to get out of this.”

“He’s an idiot,” Chatham said. “He lets his dick drag him around.”

“And it doesn’t take much for that switch to flip.”

“Basically,” Chatham said. “But what’s going on with that?”

“We’re still investigating. We have the victim’s statement and we’re going through a few other things.”

“She really a victim?”

“She’s got a bruise on her cheek so I’d say yeah.”

“Bitch shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Chatham said. “Should have stayed home and accepted reality.”

“Get no argument from me, but this is still a free country,” Harran said. “You wanna protest, you can protest.”

“Yeah, and we’ve seen what happens when they do. Like to make them learn some fucking respect.”

“I hear you.”

“What’s her name? The vic?”

Harran straightened himself, looking wary. “Really shouldn’t be telling you since it’s an active…”

“You know how this works, Dan,” he said. “What do you have on her?”

“Just the basics.” Took out his phone and tapped for fifteen seconds before turning the phone towards Chatham. It was a Facebook profile of a young black woman named Nailah Desmond, a junior at Valparaiso University.

“Can’t imagine her reaction when you tell her who punched her.”

“Yeah, well, I’m trying to sit on that for y’all. Let my detectives find out. Not gonna work for long. Sure he’s got a file somewhere with someone. Won’t take much for them to find out.”

“I’m sure it won’t, but at least we’ve got some time before the self-righteous brigade starts screaming bloody murder about the whole thing.”

“That’s your thing,” Harran said.

Chatham nodded. “Anything else I need to know?”

“She lives on-campus and she was taken home by a couple of the group’s followers. My detectives haven’t followed up with her. Still dealing with plenty of fallout from the whole thing.”

“I’m sure they are,” Chatham said. “So you can’t do anything with this…”

“I’d like to, believe me, but it’s not like I can make this whole thing just… disappear. She’s pretty upset over what happened and she’s got some nasty bruises. Not like I can make those pictures or the report just go away. Not when the protesters are screaming that we were colluding with the other side to break up the whole thing.”

Chatham felt bad for him. Trying to juggle so many loyalties at the same time. That sympathy, though, only went so far. “Gotta be a way for you to put the clamps on this. Or at least make this less awful than it could be.”

“Like I said… only so much power I got here. Can’t just make this disappear. Twenty years ago, maybe. Hell, maybe even ten years ago. But now? With the way the internet works? We don’t at least make it look like we’re trying, then we got an even bigger problem. So it’s on you.”

That was fine with Chatham. It was about time the Knights became more active.


Chatham was back at his desk a half-hour later and wondering how much longer it would be before he could go home for the day. His day job was security at the local bank in Olmead. It was a glorified position, but it paid well and he didn’t have to do much.

There were the usual messages waiting for him in his inbox. He threw most of them out and responded to the others with short, terse responses. It was stuff they should already know. He was amazed at the people who worked here sometimes. They were barely capable of counting without saying the numbers out loud. How they functioned through life was a great mystery to him. Maybe it was God, inertia, or some other invisible source guiding them through life and keeping them from going completely off the rails.

After Chatham finished his tasks, he started doing background work on Nailah Desmond. He went through her social media, which remained active and public, as well as anything else he could find through internet searches. There wasn’t a lot, but what he was able to find gave him a decent enough picture of the girl who had unwittingly crossed their paths.

Desmond was a junior at Valparaiso University. Born in jungle country on the South side of Chicago. A mother, father, and three siblings were listed on her Facebook page. His father worked maintenance downtown and his mother worked as a nurse. He imagined the father getting injured and meeting the mother at the hospital. Florence Nightingale bullshit. Couple friends of his met their wives that way.

Desmond graduated from high school and went to Valparaiso to study business. He was surprised she didn’t go to one of the local colleges like UIC or something local. Valpo wasn’t the back of the beyond, comparatively speaking, but she had gone out of state and away from her family. Not permanently out of reach, but not so close you could touch them.

She was active in several local student groups on campus. All of them were social liberal bullshit groups demanding tolerance and acceptance for all and threatening to burn the school down if they didn’t get their way. Valpo Students for a Free America, which had led the rally on Saturday, was one among many.

She also had a boyfriend, Alex Callas, according to her profile. His profile picture showed a cartoon character rather than a person and his cover photo was blank. His Facebook profile was set to private. He went back and dug through her photos. He came up with two that were taken in two months ago. Looked like it was during a party. They had their arms around each other’s shoulders and it was quite a contrast. She was wearing a white tank top that contrasted with her dark skin and he was wearing a dark t-shirt that contrasted with his pale skin.

He gritted his teeth at the thought of them coupling. Were they trying to make a statement with their relationship? Some kind of defiant act? If so, they were doing a good job keeping up the facade and acting like a happy couple. Be so much happier if they stayed with their own kind.

He saved some of the images to his desktop and moved on.

There was a story from the university newspaper about her. She had been involved in a rally for war-torn children in Africa, which had apparently been a success. The story indicated she was a history major and that she wanted to be a teacher. She wanted to help kids who had been through a tough upbringing like her. She didn’t specify how her upbringing had been tough. The person performing the interview didn’t ask, either. Take it on faith.

Chatham saved the rest for later because the tasks in his inbox were starting to pile up.

He continued his work from his kitchen table while watching TV and eating a chicken parmesan TV dinner. He dug through her background and found two stories that caught his eye. One was a Facebook post written by Nailah two years ago. It was about her cousin, Jaquan. He was arrested by Chicago police for murder in a gang-related shooting. Nailah’s post was a passionate rant about how her cousin had been railroaded and framed by the cops for the murder and that justice would, ultimately, be served. Seemed she wasn’t happy about him getting a life sentence.

He did a more specific search on Jaquan and Nailah. He came up with a Facebook post from six months ago saying that she wasn’t giving up on him. She promised to find out the truth.

Yeah, sure, he thought. Just couldn’t accept the fact that maybe he was guilty. That maybe he was a retarded monkey who shot someone and was dumb enough to get caught. Enough got away with it down there because the niggers would rather let a murderer get away with shooting someone than help the police. This dumb fuck was unlucky enough to get caught. Boo-fucking-hoo. Let the monkey die in prison.

All very interesting, but it was the relationship with her beau, Alex, that had his interest. Might be something there for them to work with. He typed up a quick report and sent that along with the photos to Dubois, Kantor, and Meachin.

Got a text message twenty minutes later from Kantor. It said, Good work. We’ll take it from here. Give it the ol’ college try.

He didn’t realize what he meant until he was in the shower standing under the streams of hot water cascading on his face. Kantor was going to use one of their people inside the college to run this. Or at least give them more information about Nailah Desmond. He was a little surprised by that decision. The Knights had many people who worked for them in an unofficial or official capacity, but almost none of them were actual members. That distinction was reserved for the true believers. The truly faithful. Everyone else was on the outside looking in. Especially wannabe white power kids who didn’t know the first thing about their cause. There were a couple true believers, but even they were kept at arm’s lengths for practical reasons. Approaching one of them officially sounded risky.

No doubt Kantor had his reasons, but he didn’t understand what they were.


Mark Kovech found them sitting in the back corner of the Starbucks near the “exit” sign. The tall one got up and introduced himself as Daniel. His buzz cut was almost down to his scalp and he wore a gray t-shirt with an M16 and AK47 rifle crossed together like an X. The shorter of the two, Robert, stuck out his hand without getting up. He had brown hair that went down to his shoulders and a thick beard that made Kovech think of a biker.

Kovech stared at the two young guys. According to Harrison Dubois, the Knights’ head of operations, they scared a black family out of their neighborhood. They did the usual shtick like spray-painting swastikas on their door and sending hate mail. The final straw, however, was a video of their children with a warning: If they wanted to see their kids grow up, they’d go back to the jungle where they belonged.

This job would go a long way to determining their possible future as a Knight. There were a lot of wannabes out there. Some were hangers-on and other were associates who worked for full-fledged members. Daniel and Robert may have done well, but their accomplishments officially meant nothing. This was the big leagues. And even if this job went well, Kantor wasn’t going to induct them as full-fledged members. They had to work their way up the ladder and prove they could remain loyal to the cause. Also helped if they were upstanding citizens with no major strikes on their criminal record.

Daniel said, “My brother knows your brother,” to Kovech.

“Oh yeah?”

“How’s he doing?”

“Good, I guess.” His younger brother, Jason, lived on the West Coast. He was a software engineer. Last time he saw him was their father’s funeral. They spoke for all of two painful and awkward minutes. They had nothing in common and now that their father was dead, there was nothing to tie them together. They had their own lives.

“Tell him Aric says hi.”

“I’ll let him know.” In another couple years.

Robert said, “So what’s this job?”

“A small matter needs to be taken care of,” Kovech said. “Done this sort of thing before, but this is a little different.”

“How’s that?” Robert said. “Scaring the monkeys so they go back to the jungle? Not like that’s hard or anything.”

“Not quite like that,” Kovech said. “Need you to help us send a message to someone. That’s all.”

“What do you want us to do?” Daniel said.

“First, I want a little information from you two.” He showed them Desmond’s Facebook picture on his phone. “You know her?”

Robert made a face. “Who doesn’t fucking know her? You don’t get down on one knee when she walks past they consider it a microaggression.”

“It’s ridiculous,” Daniel said. “That happened to us, they’d maybe give us an ice pack and tell us to walk it off.”

Kovech said, “What about her specifically? Do you know anything about her? Ever talk to her?” Both shook their heads so he moved on. “What about her boyfriend?”

“Bitch like that has a boyfriend?” Robert said. “Thought for sure she liked girls.”

“Can’t imagine a guy putting up with that shit,” Daniel said.

“It gets worse,” Kovech said as he brought up the picture of them together.

Daniel said, “I know him a little. I’ve had a few classes with him cause, like, we’re in sorta the same major. He’s doing a communications thing and so am I, but I’m doing more with film and that kinda stuff.”

“Anything specific about him?”

“Kind of a real hippie, you know? Nice enough, but you get him going, he’ll start talking about this Greenpeace shit and it’s enough to make you want to shoot yourself so it stops.”

“Or fucking shoot him,” Robert said.

“They sound like a match made in heaven,” Kovech said.

Robert said, “So the fuck you want us to do? Throw a little scare into em? Get em to break up or…”

Kovech shook his head. “Follow them together and separately and when they get isolated, call me. You are not to engage with them on any level. Strictly observation.”

Daniel frowned. “Don’t want us to, you know, maybe catch them in the act and take some pictures?”

“No, we don’t need to go that far. A simple shot across the bow will suffice.”

“Fucking blackmail, uh?” Robert seemed to enjoy the idea.

“Not quite like that, but we do want to scare her and keep her from causing more trouble.”

Daniel looked at him. “It was one of yours who punched her, wasn’t it?”

Kovech paused for a beat. “All you need to know is that we want her to keep her mouth shut. And all you need to do is follow them and let us know when they’re alone. We’ll handle the rest.”

Daniel didn’t seem sure about this, but Robert looked enthusiastic. Robert said, “When you wanna do it by?”

“In the next few days,” Kovech said. “Contact me when you’ve got something. And you better be damn sure cause I ain’t driving twenty fucking minutes just to find out it was a waste of time.”

“What about money?” Robert said.

“What about it?”

“You gonna give us, like, something as a sign of good faith or like…”

Kovech pushed his chair back and got up. “Don’t start asking for shit you haven’t deserved.”


Wednesday night, Chatham found Harran sitting standing by the edge of the fiction section at the Barnes & Noble flipping through a Dennis Lehane novel. He glanced at Chatham, then resumed flipping through the book until he reached the end. He put the book back on the shelf and walked past Chatham without saying anything.

“Did he turn out to have done it?” Chatham said.

“Don’t think it’s a mystery. At least, not your typical one.”

He shrugged. “So what’s going on?”

“Got a problem,” Harran said, keeping his voice low. They walked past the fiction section and headed for the non-fiction books that lined the far wall. “If you’re gonna do something, you better do it quick cause they know about your guy.”

Chatham closed his eyes. “Shit.”

“Yeah,” Harran said. “Now we’re getting phone calls, Facebook messages, and even some people standing in front of the precinct asking when we’re going to file charges against your friend.”

“Shit.”

Harran nodded. “The leader of this group, DeNesha Sibabbe, was out there with her group. Almost arrested her for harassing some of the officers as they were going in and out. Managed to pull herself from the brink, but I gotta tell you…”

“You were tempted.”

“But it would have only made things worse, I think.”

“Of course it would,” he said. “Because then it looks like you’re covering up something.”

“She’s saying this whole thing is a police conspiracy and all this other crap. Trying to make this bigger than it already is.”

“How many protesters she have out front?”

“Just a handful. Same with Facebook and the phone calls. It’s a small group, but they’re making their voices heard. They’re screaming bloody murder and it’s only a matter of time before other people start catching on to what’s happening.”

“Still trying to figure out how they knew,” Chatham said. “I mean, it’s not exactly a secret, but you weren’t…”

“They probably figured it out through the police blotter. They find his name and his mug shot and all that and then they do some research and I’m sure your friend’s name is a federal database somewhere, so there you go.”

“Shit.”

“Well, if you’re gonna do something, you better do it quickly. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

“What about the vic? This Nailah Desmond?”

“She seems to be doing all right from what the detectives working the case told me. She seems keen on filing charges against Mr. Franklin.”

“No hesitation? Nothing that might…”

“They didn’t mention he’s a known white supremacist,” he said. “Didn’t want to scare her.”

“Could end up backfiring when she finds out. Might scare her off all on its own.”

“Maybe, but the detectives working the case seemed confident that she would be going through with this. She said that she had done nothing wrong and that to back down would be, like, some kind of victory for them. That’s what tjhey were telling me.”

Yes, it would, Chatham thought. And it would save them a great deal of trouble.

“But you’re not sensing she’s going to back down?”

He shook his head. “Whatever you and your people got planned, you better do it quick,” Harran said.

Chatham nodded. “They’re working on it. You just gotta hold the line on your end.”

“I’ll do what I can, but they’re gonna want something and I’m not sure how much interference I can run without it looking suspicious.”

“Keep things running normally. Or as normal as you can. If you have to do something, just let us know.”

Harran looked troubled by all this, but he nodded. “All right, all right. Just…”

“I hear you,” Chatham said. “I feel the same way, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Just gotta wait and see.”


Daniel opened the passenger-side door and got inside. Robert, sitting in the driver’s seat, tapped the edge of the wheel, waiting for instructions.

“They should be coming out in a minute,” Daniel said. “Red Honda Accord. His, I believe.”

“Didn’t think a fucking bitch like her could afford that, coming out of the ghetto.”

“Probably not,” Daniel said.

“Hear where they were going?”

“Nah, but she’s kinda dressed up. Wearing this tight-ass skirt and tank top.”

“Fucking bitch is really suffering, uh?”

“Or something,” Daniel said. “Not gonna let what happened scare her out of her Friday night fun.”

“Oughta do something about that,” Robert said. His grip on the steering wheel tightened.

“You heard what he said. Just follow em. Don’t do anything else. That’s all we gotta do,” Daniel said.

“Bunch of bullshit, you know? Do all that fucking shit to get noticed and how the fuck do they respond? They fucking make us stalk these people and act like we can’t handle our shit.”

“Told you it wasn’t gonna be much,” Daniel said. “Only reason they ain’t doing this themselves is cause it’d kinda look weird if they were hanging around the campus all day looking for people. People’d start thinking they were planning, like, another NIU or Virginia Tech thing.”

“Should do another one of those at one of them nigger campuses,” Robert said. “Scare em off from ever coming back here.”

Daniel ignored the comment. “We do a good turn here, they’ll give us more work. That’s the way this works. And I told you that.”

“Fucking waste of our time is what it is,” Robert said. “When we’re done with this, we oughta find another family. See if we can scare em off.”

“Can’t do it the same way,” Daniel said.

“Why the fuck can’t we?”

“Because they gonna spot a pattern and then we gonna have a real fucking problem,” he said.

“Like they would fucking notice a fucking pattern. It’s been, like, what… a year since we did that?”

“And you think them niggers forgot?” Daniel said. “They screamed fucking murder over what we did. Think they ain’t gonna put two and two together? Especially when you’re shoving it right in their fucking faces?”

“Not sure what else we can do, though,” Robert said. “I mean, what else can you do short of, like, throwing a bomb in the house or something?”

“Think of something,” Daniel said. He pointed at the car exiting the four-story parking garage. “On the move.”

Robert started the ignition and waited until they were halfway down the block before stepping on the gas. They kept their distance in the black Chevy Impala. Not that their car or their presence would immediately raise alarm bells. It was a precaution more than anything. The promise of decent money behind this kept them focused.

They came to a stop in a subdivision that was directly opposite from a strip mall that had a small food mart that was somewhere between a gas station and a real grocery store. Between them was a hot dog joint and a hole-in-the-wall bar. The two businesses had an arrangement as far as food and drinks were concerned. Worked out pretty well for both.

The car parked down the block. They were walking arm in arm with one another. Like watching a three-legged competition. Jungle monkey was dressed to fuck tonight.

They reached the end of the block. Robert made a u-turn. While Daniel typed his text message, he said, “We should go inside.”

“The fuck for?”

“Just saying it might be a good idea. Give us an alibi case anything happens.”

“Think they’d really fucking finger us?”

“I dunno,” Daniel said. “Just saying it might not be a bad idea. Be on the inside and wait for them to leave and then…”

“Well, whatever. Kind of fucking party is this?”

“I dunno. Doesn’t look like a frat thing. Just a party, man.”

“Be kinda weird, you know?” Robert said.

“Part of the deal, man. It’s like, you’re blending in with the crowd, you know? Making it so you don’t stand out or anything.”

“Yeah, but… what if we don’t know anyone?”

Daniel shrugged. “Sure there’s gotta be someone we know, right?”

“I guess,” Robert said, frowning. “Should, like, check if there’s anything on Facebook about it.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. Always talking shit and acting like a badass, but you get him outside his comfort zone, and he went into his shell.

Robert started checking his phone while Daniel looked at the house. It was a two-story building that looked older than it probably was with its colonial architecture. A reminder of what life used to be like. Back when it was good. Back when people knew their place and didn’t go out of their way to fuck things up.

A car came to a stop behind them. A gray Mazda. Three people got out. Daniel looked in the rearview mirror and his body stiffened. He recognized the guy getting out of the passenger seat. He tapped Robert on the shoulder. “We’ve got our in,” he said.

Robert looked over his shoulder, frowning. “Nicky? Man, I gotta listen to his fucking bullshit all fucking night now…”

“Might as well earn that fucking money.” Daniel reached for the door.

Robert shaking his head. “Oughta be fucking hazard pay on top of that.”

“Yeah, well, tell that to Kovech. Probably bash your skull in for even fucking asking.”

“Don’t look that tough,” Robert said as he pushed the door open. “Bet I could fucking taking him.”

Daniel shook his head. “Keep telling yourself that. Probably won’t realize what hit you till you’re lying on the ground with your head split open.”

While Robert reflected on that possibility, Daniel went over to greet Nicky.


Kovech’s phone buzzed. It was from Daniel. His text message said, They’re at a party. He provided an address in Valparaiso and a description of the car they were driving. While he typed that into Google Maps, Daniel sent another message saying, We’re at the party. Let you know when she’s leaving.

Kovech typed, Good work.

Kovech typed up the address in Google Maps. It popped up along with a route. About a half-hour away. He grabbed his coat off the back of his chair and gave his dog a scratch on the head as he headed out the door.

He got in the car and sent a text message to Dubois saying, We’re on.

Dubois sent a message back a minute later. Let me know when it’s done.

Kovech sent another text message to Eric Immelman, saying, We’re on. Get ready to go.


Daniel sipped the can of Yuengling while Nicky continued droning on and on in a voice that seemed to be on the edge of breaking down. He looked at Robert, who was staring off into space, and thought asking for hazard pay might not be the worst thing in the world.

“It’s like… nothing I ever do is gonna be good enough, y’know? Everything, like, everything I try and do for her is just, like, brushed aside and then she, like, goes out with the other fucking guy and I’m left there, like, holding the bag. I, like, I don’t get it. And then when things go wrong, she, like, comes crying to me or one of her girlfriends and this, like, whole shit starts up again. Keep telling myself it’s, like, gonna change. She’s finally, like, gonna come around. And I, like, don’t think she ever is.”

Daniel said, “Dunno why you’re acting as her crutch in the first place.”

“Yeah, really,” Robert said, his gaze moving from the wall to Nicky. Nicky was a tall, lanky kid who looked like he was going to trip over his own feet. “That’s all ya are to her. I mean, we all seen it. She takes you for granted, man. All you are is someone she can cry to.”

Nicky shook his head even though he seemed to agree. “Just keep telling myself that it’s, like, gonna be worth it.”

“Not worth torturing yourself over it,” Daniel said. “Best thing that could happen for you is you, like, find someone else. I mean, shit, gotta be someone out here you could shack up with.”

Nicky looked around. “Everyone’s probably here with their boyfriends anyways.”

“We ain’t,” Daniel said. “Just came here for a good time.” He looked over Nicky’s shoulder. Still no sign of the two lovebirds. Probably in the kitchen or in the garage.

“Kind of went for the same reason cause Morgan was, like, saying the same thing.”

“And he’s right,” Daniel said.

“Fuck, yeah. Get out there and forget about her. Not like she ever gonna see you as anything but, like, a fucking shoulder,” Robert said. “We all know it and so do you. Gotta get past that shit, man.”

“Known Lexi a long time,” Nicky said. “That’s the other thing. Not easy to, like, you know…”

“All the more reason to broaden your horizons,” Daniel said.

“If she’s too fucking stupid to see what’s fucking in front of her, that’s, like, her problem. Ain’t gotta be yours, man.”

Shouldn’t be yours,” Daniel said. He finished the can of Yuengling. He got up and headed for the kitchen. “Get you another?” he said to Robert. He shook his head. “How about you, Nick? Maybe something a little stronger?”

“If they got it,” Nicky said. “Think I’m, like, gonna fucking need it.”

Probably, Daniel thought. Nice enough guy, but Jesus, he could be real awkward in conversation. If it wasn’t about some geek shit, he just stood there like a post. Not his fault. His parents, apparently, were real weird, too. If college taught him nothing else, it would help him broaden his horizons and become a real man instead of this pathetic shadow he currently inhabited.

He spotted Nailah Desmond and Alex Callas in the backyard talking with a couple of friends. They were watching their friends play bags. Seemed like they were having a good time, but it was hard to tell. The way some of them whined, it seemed like they got off on being miserable and upset all the time. Having fun was a no-no in their book.

He grabbed the beer cans and a shot of Jack for Nicky. He hoped this got him to forget about the bitch for once, but like Nailah and her little friends, he seemed to function only when he was miserable. Hard to believe anyone could work that way. What was the point? Might as well shoot yourself now and get it over with. Save everyone the anguish.

His phone vibrated as he sat down. The message said, We’re nearby. Let us know when they’re leaving.

He texted, Will do.

He glanced at Robert and nodded. A greedy gleam appeared in his eyes.


Eric Immelman glanced at his beer glass and tilted it to one side. “Wade was trying to get me to go to that thing.”

“What, the rally?” Kovech said.

Immelman nodded. “Said he wanted to stir some shit up. Make some noise, you know…”

“The usual shit Wade talks about,” Kovech said. “What else is fucking new?”

“I know,” Immelman said. “I told Harrison all this anyway. Didn’t really say much when I told him. Just kinda sat there like he was waiting for me to say something really surprising.”

“Can you blame him? Man’s got two strikes against him inside of a fucking week,” Kovech said. “Shit, I’d be waiting for some kind of bombshell. I mean, would you be surprised if Wade did anything right now that went beyond you could think of? I sure can’t.”

Immelman finished the rest of his beer and slid it to the edge of the table for another. They were in the bar directly opposite from the party happening at the house. The place was about half-full. Most of the patrons were sitting at the horseshoe-shaped bar in the middle. Immelman and Kovech were at the table by the window, which gave them a clear line to their car when they were supposed to move.

After the waitress, a piece of white trash, picked up the glass, Immelman said, “Was thinking about going, but it’s like, what’s the fucking point? Kind of glad I didn’t now. Especially with all the shit that happened.”

Kovech lowered his head, saying nothing. He didn’t mention the part where he threw the smoke grenade while posing as a protester, which started the whole thing. Felt a little responsible for the whole thing because it had led to the arrest. That guilt, though, was blunted because it was Wade who had been arrested. Anyone else, he might have taken it a little more personally. Wade? Nothing doing. Fat bastard brought it on himself.

He didn’t mention any of this to Immelman because it wasn’t public knowledge. They wanted to keep this quiet for the time being. At least until the stuff with Wade was resolved. And maybe not even then. Not the kind of thing you told the rank-and-file. Half of them would be confused by the action and the other half would be outraged because they might believe that it somehow endangered them. Nothing could be further from the truth, but many of the members were, at their core, simpletons with a limited view of how the world worked.

Immelman said, “You really think this whole thing’s gonna work?”

“It should work,” Kovech said. “Haven’t really had a chance to think the whole thing through, but…” He thought about it some more. Nothing irregular came to mind, but that didn’t mean anything. “Harrison told me to run with it. Figures I’ve earned the right.”

“Lucky you,” Immelman said. “Not many get that privilege.”

“That’s because most of them don’t get to keep it for very long.” He adjusted his shirt sleeves. “Would rather have done this quasi-officially, but with the shit going on with the protest group…”

Immelman nodded. “Yeah, it kind of limits your options.”

“In one sense, it does, but this should work fine,” Kovech said.

Quarter to ten, a text message popped up on Kovech’s screen. See them near the front. Think they’re getting ready to leave.

Kovech texted, Stall them if you can. Be there in a minute.

“Let’s go,” Kovech said. He left a five on the table and so did Immelman. They got in the car and started to back away. As they reached the edge of the parking lot, Kovech put on his ski mask and grabbed the pistol from the back seat.


Daniel took a deep breath and walked over to Alex, wondering how long he had to talk with them. Kovech hadn’t said how close they were to the house. Real close, he assumed, but it would still take a few minutes.

Alex was skinny with curly hair and a faint mustache that made him look younger. He saw Daniel walking over and he smiled. “Hey, man. What you doing here?”

“Oh, you know… it’s Friday… gotta do something with my time, right?”

“Yeah, I hear you,” Alex said. “Got through all these tests this week and then all this other drama it’s like…” He exhaled through pursed lips and shook his head. “Real fucking relief.”

“I know. I had some of the same tests as you,” Daniel said. “It’s, like, they’re trying to see how much we haven’t read and I think they’re trying to throw us under the bus or something.”

“Yeah, probably,” Alex said. He looked at Nailah, who was standing by the door, and waved her over. She smiled, but seemed like she was waiting for them to leave. “Nailah, this is Daniel Trentham. Always making movies. Gonna be the next Kubrick?”

“Yeah, right,” Daniel said, smiling. “Always thought those movies were as pretentious as shit, but hey… what do I know?”

“Nice to meet you,” Nailah said, smiling. There was something distant about her greeting. Like she wasn’t sure what to make of him. The feeling, Daniel thought, was mutual. This tiny dolled-up black girl was the reason for all this angst? Really? He wasn’t sure what to think of that, but it wasn’t his job. Save that for the people who mattered.

“Likewise,” he said.

Nailah tapped Alex on the shoulder and Alex seemed to get the message. “Well, we’re heading out. Want to get back.”


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