Nik drove Derious’s SUV from Howell back to I-96 and M-99.
Torvaldsen recognized the intersection from the images of the burned out fuel truck and from the plans Derious had filed with Torvaldsen.
Nik was a messenger.
He parked the SUV and got out. He leaned his butt against the left front fender and lit a cigar. It is a good life when you can get paid to smoke a Gurkha Assassin cigar. He figured if he got popped by the other team it would be a head shot and he would never feel a thing.
Ninety minutes later, a vehicle came to pick him up. The SUV had been recognized and everybody who mattered knew where it had last been seen.
He was blindfolded and patted down but otherwise treated in a civil manner. He was not taken to Benicio’s headquarters. There was no way of telling if he had swallowed a GPS device.
Nik handed the most senior looking of his interrogators a large manilla envelope. “No point in asking me nuthin cause I don’t know nuthin.”
“I was told to wait for an answer.” Nik said.
“Mind if I smoke?” Nik had brought a plentiful supply of cigars. He expected it would take a few days.
Half an hour later, Benicio was reading the three page document. Grunting, he handed it his “administrative aide”.
She said, “It says that West Livingston County wants to form ‘an alliance of equals’.”
“I know what it says.” Benicio said. Then he graciously added “And I agree that is what the words say.”
“I need a lawyer. A good one” Benicio said.
Six hours later a 40 year old man with broken fingernails and scabbed hands was in Benicio’s office. In a previous lifetime, he had been one of the more highly regarded legal-beagles in Michigan’s real-estate industry. Now he was just another strong back.
“I need to have you read this document” Benicio said, pushing the three page missive across his desk. “Then I want you to write a six page reply that says nothing. I want to stall for time. Basically say I have to consult with partners but make it hard to understand.”
“How long do I have to write it?” the lawyer asked.
“What can you do in four hours?” Benicio asked.
“Only one way to find out. Do you have a computer I can use?” the lawyer asked. He was actually looking forward to the challenge.
Four hours later he was finishing up page nine, Arial Narrow, 8 point font. He was averaging 800 words per page. The impenetrable, dense, legal jibberish averaged over forty words per sentence and ten sentences per paragraph. Each sentence bristled with commas, every sentence a grammatical porcupine.
Benicio read the first few paragraphs. “This is almost what I want. I want you to misspell some words. I don’t want us to look too smart.”
The lawyer understood the spirit of the venture. He went through and substituted wrong forms of “to” and “their”, and randomly misspelled commonly used legal words.
Benicio told his aide, “Keep him available. I may need him again.”
Nik took the document back to Torvaldsen.
Torvaldsen was surprised to get an answer so quickly.
Torvaldsen had many lawyers on his staff. It took them two weeks to decipher what Benicio’s lawyer had written.
They concurred. Mr Heavy was thinking about it and had to consult with his other stakeholders.
Torvaldsen could wait. He would rather have Benicio’s resources and technology handed to him rather than have to fight for it. Furthermore, Torvaldsen’s forces seemed to have some issues with readiness. In theory, all of the units were equal. In fact, the most capable commanders and effective forces had been annihilated in Eaton Rapids and Delta Township. But that was nothing Mr Heavy needed to know.
Torvaldsen was confident that the other units would reach the same level of proficiency as the dead ones. He believed in processes and procedures. He did not believe in ‘leaders’. To him, that was a cop-out, an excuse for poorly written instructions.
Torvaldsen was sure that Mr Heavy would be gulled by his fleet of lawyers and would cave in. And if he didn’t, every additional week made Torvaldsen’s forces stronger.
Benicio called a meeting. He asked for a private room in Gabby’s Pub. He invited Chernovsky, Rick Salazar and a few other, select individuals.
“I received an offer from the people in Howell who attacked us last week” Benicio led off. “Somebody named Torvaldsen, Jeffery Steven Torvaldsen” Benicio drawled out each syllable of Torvaldsen’s name “offered me ‘an alliance of equals’ if I sold you out.”
It took a minute for Benicio’s information to register. Chernovsky, for once, was ahead of the curve. “But you didn’t, otherwise we would not be having this meeting.” Chernovsky deduced.
Benicio smiled bleakly. “There is no such thing as ‘an alliance of equals’” Benicio proclaimed. “I would suffer the same fate as you would. The only difference is that my death would come at a slightly later date.”
“A businessman makes that kind of offer when he wants to buy something cheap. He doesn’t really expect a ‘yes’ but it costs nothing to ask.” Benicio informed the group.
“It also means that Torvaldsen will take-by-force what he is now trying to get cheap.” Benicio said. “We can either let him take it or we can fight to keep it.”
Benicio read his audience well.
“He can have it over our dead bodies.” Salazar said. He had no illusions of the fate of refugees. Better to fight and maybe win than to flee and watch your family die.
The face of every man in the meeting was resolute.
“Then, we need to plan and to act” Benicio said. “There is precious time for either.”