Willie woke in the morning in the grip of the most savage hangover he had ever experienced.
The devil himself drove ice picks through the top of his skull and pierced his eyeballs with every pulse of his heart.
White-hot vice-grips clamped the base of his skull with every move of his head.
Other hangovers had slackened with food, but Willie could not even hold down the first few sips of coffee. Willie’s color was corpse-like.
His team mates feared he had contracted the plague.
Willie asked for the reports from the night before. Like the other nights, the majority of the crimes centered on the block of tents from ten-to-twenty. Reports from Tent #14 were conspicuous by their absence.
Unlike other days, Willie went to the victims in person and took their reports. He was wearing sun-glasses and had the shakes, but he went.
Highly empathic people “mirror” the people they are interacting with. They are extremely observant people. They match their partner in posture, facial expression, vocabulary and vocal expression. Willie, normally the most empathic of people, was a robot that morning. His eyes could not focus. He lacked the mental capacity to “connect”.
He gathered the information he needed and retreated to the communications tent where he watched surveillance video until lunch. The videos clearly showed that the perps all came from Tent #14 and returned to Tent #14.
Willie did not eat or drink anything at lunch.
He told his team that he was going to put Tent #14 on trial and gave them a rough outline of what needed to happen.
Willie’s team loved Willie. He was a great human being. But his team was not sure that “One more chance” Willie was the right person for the job. Even they thought he was too soft to be the commandant of a POW camp filled with 20,000 “incorrigible” former Cali soldiers.
The team sent out the notices directing attendance at the “meeting”.
As expected, Tent #14 sent notice back that they would not attend. That was anticipated by some of the team. They did not bother to inform Willie of the complication.
The team enlisted some of the men from the tents adjacent to Tent #14 to provide security at the mess tent. Members of Tent #14 were politely informed that they would eat AFTER the six senior members who had been invited to the meeting had attended. A riot nearly ensued but there was enough muscle, and the members of Tent #14 had trickled in at a rate that could be dealt with.
The team knew in their hearts that the “trial” was going to be a fiasco. Willie was going to roll over like a female collie. In their opinion, it would be better to avoid a public trial than to bluff…and fail.
The team met in private before the trial. If, by some chance, Willie ruled for punishment then the three skeet shooters in the squad were going to make it happen before Willie could change his mind.
There are times when it is better to say "I'm sorry." after the fact than to fail to seize an opportunity to right an injustice.
The prisoners laughed and one of them grabbed his junk. “Say, pretty boy…do you want some of this?”
"One More Chance" Willie's voice was devoid of emotion, “No evidence was presented to appeal the conviction. I command the guards to execute the convicts.” And he lowered his arms.
The guards had already disengaged the safeties of their weapons. The three guards to Willie’s left raised their rifles and each fired a three round burst into the chest of their assigned target.
It happened so quickly and so unexpectedly that none of the cameras captured the bullets hitting the convicts. Most of them were close-ups on Willie. Willie did not flinch at the sound of the gun shots, nor did his eyes turn away. It was as if his normally expressive face was chiseled in ice.
The crowd which had been breaking into side conversations went silent.
Willie looked over to the three remaining senior members from Tent #14. His message to them was simple. “If you don’t change the behaviors of your tent then you will be tried tomorrow at 6:00 for the same charges as these three.”
“But you cannot hold us responsible for the behaviors of other people.” One of the men sputtered.
Willie looked over at the dying convicts. One of them was still alive. The sound of his sucking chest wound was liquid and his breath rate was increasing as his lung capacity collapsed.
“That is what they thought.” Willie observed.
“But there are only three of us. We can’t stop them.” another exclaimed.
Willie shrugged. “You might tell the next three senior prisoners that if they don’t help you tonight then they will die the day after tomorrow…and the three after that will die two days from tomorrow. I am sure you will be able to think of something.”
“And if you can’t,” Willie said, “I guarantee that the problem will be solved in two weeks.”
“Why,” asked the now-senior member of Tent #14, “What happens in two weeks.”
Willie said, “It is simple math. In two weeks there will nobody left alive in Tent #14."
The next morning’s roll call was unusual. Several members from Tent #14 sported broken limbs, sprains and contusions. The only member of Tent #14 who did not survive was a young man who acquired a ruptured spleen at 1:30 AM when he tried to leave the tent with several of his buddies.
If the sleep of any of the prisoners from Tent #13 or Tent #15 had been disturbed by the noise from scrums from inside Tent #14 they failed to report it.
Members of Tent #14 never became angels. They still engaged in petty larceny and low level crime but they never again preyed on other prisoners in a systematic manner.