Vernon Blastic was walking past one of the barns when he heard a whimpering, like a puppy with a paw caught in a trap.
It was a half-hour before sunset.
Concerned that it might be a survivor of the red-force seeking shelter in the barn, Vernon drew his handgun and went to investigate.
Earlier that week, Denny had directed Trey, Wesley and Vernon to ALWAYS carry their handguns when outdoors. And to ensure they had one in the chamber and a full magazine.
Denny was fuming that Chernovsky refused to compensate him for the destruction of La-Loyd’s store.
Chernovsky said “I could do that, but then I would have to charge you double for cleaning up the mess you should have handled.”
La-Loyd confirmed that several hostiles had escaped into the bush, most of them heading east, toward the heart of Blastic’s Demesne.
Entering the barn, the light shifted from bright-to-dim-to-bright depending on the windows.
Entering the tack-room, Vernon first noticed his father, Denny.
Denny, who had never a small man, had grown to Falstaffian proportions since Ebola. His gut was enormous and his fingers were like sausages.
Denny was naked. Vernon almost missed the fact that Denny was efffortlessly pinioning the gray-eyed girl’s hands with one of his massive hands. She was ineffectively jerking to escape.
The gray-eyed girl was also naked. She had a multitude of lash marks on her body. Not all of the marks were new.
Vernon noted in passing that her breasts were no bigger than silver-dollar pancakes although her nipples looked very mature. Her hip bones stuck out and looked painfully sharp and her hair had frizzed up in the humidity, making it look like an angry cat had taken residence atop her head.
Denny looked up and virtually spit the words, “You will have to wait your turn. You can have her any time you want when you are in the fields. Now it is our turn.”
Vernon shot his dad in the mouth and Denny fell like a three-hundred pound sack of potatoes.
Hearing the shot, Trey came crashing into the tack room. He was carrying a horse-whip in one hand and handcuffs in the other. Trey was completely naked.
“What the hell, Dad. You said I could have ‘sloppy seconds’ before we did her.” Trey said. Trey did not register that Vernon was in the room.
Vernon shot him three times.
Then. Looking over the carnage, Vernon said “Oh, my God. What have I done?”
Placing the gun beneath his chin, he pulled the trigger.
He was surprised when he felt pain in his right cheek from the powder burns and intense ringing in his right ear. Then he was surprised that he was surprised. He should not have been feeling anything!
Opening his eyes, he saw the gray-eyed girl wrenching his right hand to the side, clinging to it like a spider monkey.
“Don’t you DARE kill yourself.” she shouted.
Vernon had grown up being dominated by strong personalities. First his father and then, later, his oldest brother. He was a willow, bent by every passing wind.
He had never thought of the gray-eyed girl as a human. She was a machine that pulled weeds. That is how his father described them.
Looking over, he saw his father’s body. And his oldest brother’s. They would never torment him again.
The gray-eyed girl pulled the handgun from his nerveless fingers.
Hours later, Paul Seraph held a council of war with the surviving Blastic brothers, their mother and the gray-eyed girl.
Paul had been a very good detective fifteen years ago. Those skills did not desert him. He questioned each person, in turn, alone.
“It is my finding, and what I am going to tell everybody who asks me, that Denny and Trey Blastic were killed by hostiles from the invading force.” Paul said.
“There were no credible witnesses.” Paul said.
“Why?” Wesley asked.
Paul pondered the question. Wesley, Vernon and the girl were still very young but recent events demanded that people grow up fast.
“Because no purpose will be served to tell the story the way you told me.” Paul said.
“Our world needs order. It needs leaders it can look up to.” Paul said.
“Telling the story to the outside world the way you told me will create a power-vacuum and nothing good will come of that.” Paul said.
“You might not like it, but you must ‘suck-it-up’. Your dad and brother were killed by hostile invaders.”
“Any other story reveals that your mother” here Paul nodded to Mrs Blastic “was an accessory to your father and brother’s raping of women.”
Paul did not share that “...before we did her...” meant that they intended to kill her after raping her.
Lorraine Blastic objected. “Where were you? Where was anybody else? What choice did I have?”
Paul continued. “Any other story reveals that we were all complicit in their crimes because we all knew, at some level, what they were doing.”
“This is not a white-wash. This is doing what must be done so we can move forward as a society.” Paul said.
Looking each of the surviving brothers in turn “You can turn out like your father and older brother. That is a CHOICE you can make. Or you can make a different choice. You can look at your dad and brother, reject the parts that were bad and retain the parts that were good. That is the choice I hope you will make.”
Looking at the girl, “Young lady...”
“My name is Pamela DeTine.” the woman said.
“Miss DeTine,” Paul said “as the victim you have the biggest say in how this plays out. I said what I am going to say. What are you going to say?”
“Mr Blastic and Trey were killed by hostile invaders and that Vernon shot his gun to scare them away.” Miss DeTine said. A look passed between Seraph and Miss DeTine. That look told Paul that Miss DeTine was well aware of her fate if Vernon had not shown up when he did.
Looking at the assembled group: Mrs Blastic, a pale shadow of a human; the two brothers, young and with little internal direction; the young woman, with a fierce fire burning in her eyes.
"We have enemies all around us. We need, I need, this to be a fortress. Do you commit to making that happen?" Paul asked.
"We do." Pamela said, vehemently.
Seraph had no doubt that in twenty years there would be more than a half
dozen gray-eyed children with indomitable wills running wild over the Blastic
Demesne and raring to take on the world.