Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Shrewd King: A meeting of Kings

Denny Blastic ushered Paul Seraph into his study so they could discuss recent events in privacy.

Denny indicated that Paul should sit in the overstuffed, leather chair that was to the left of the massive fireplace. The fireplace appeared large enough to roast a boar in and Paul recognized the "cultured stone", i.e. dyed concrete, as a product called Cotswold Cottage.

Looking around, the room was extremely masculine. The furniture slightly mismatched but all leather with heavy wooden frames bristling with brass tacks.

Floor-to-ceiling book cases, large paintings of sailing ships and stuffed animals obscured the dark, wooden paneling of the walls. Paul was not conversant in fabrics but the drapes were heavy green with some kind of swirling pattern sculpted into the surface.

Paul walked up to a cape mount of a trophy Mule Deer that was to the left of the fireplace. “Beautiful deer. Where did you get it?”

The mount looked much like one that his friend Tom Beard had done for a deer his wife Kitty had shot out west. Sadly, neither Tom or Kitty had survived the epidemic.

Denny walked over and put a glass of bourbon into Paul’s hand.

“I shot that on an Indian reservation in southeast Alberta.” Denny said. “Last bit of daylight on the last day of my hunt, four hundred yards, running shot. The guide was sure I had missed it.

"I insisted that the deer dropped where I shot it in the sagebrush." Denny said.

“I hit it in the heart and rolled it. You could see the marks in the dust where it tumbled end-over-end.” Denny bragged. “It was dead before it hit the ground.”

“That IS a heck of a long shot” Seraph agreed.

“Yup. Got him with my BAR in 7mm Remington Magnum.” Blastic said. “I bought that gun with my first paycheck and it still shoots bug-holes at 200 yards with green-box, factory ammo.”

Seraph made a non-committal sound and took the seat Blastic indicated. “What’s on your mind? I don’t think I have ever been out here” Seraph said.

Blastic had given this talk a lot of thought. He just didn’t think it was going to happen so soon.

“Things are different now” he started.

Seraph nodded. That was an understatement.

“There ain’t no State Police or County Sheriff to call. Even if there was, there ain’t no gas for them to put in their cars for them to drive out here.” Blastic said.

“Folks kind of have to take care of things on their own, now” Blastic said.

Seraph said “Yup. We broke up Eaton Rapids into four precincts for that reason. It takes too long for help to show up if one cop tried to cover the whole city.”

“Well, what I am getting to…” Blastic said as he freshened his drink from the cut-glass decanter which he had not put down. The network of fine blood vessels on Blastic’s puffy nose indicated this was not Blastic’s first encounter with distilled beverages.

The splayed finger pads and slight whitening of the tips of the fingernails suggested that he was tense about something. Twenty years of law enforcement had taught Seraph to observe tiny things that others missed.

Paul took a tiny sip of his drink. He would have preferred that it be diluted with something but Blastic was not offering and Paul was more than willing to let it be Blastic’s rodeo.

“...what I am getting to is that I like how you get things done” Blastic said. “There are always a bunch of folks who dither and criticize. You just run right over the top of them.”

Blastic thought he was flattering Paul but Paul was actually proud of how hard he worked to smooth over things over with critics. There was usually something he could do to make the bitter medicine easier to swallow, some small bone he could toss the losing side.

It had been his experience that a committee can make a concrete canoe float when everybody was fully committed.

Another non-committal “Hmm.” from Paul.

The non-committal “Hmm.” had been Paul’s best interview technique. It was not an enthusiastic endorsement of the story he was hearing. It had just the faintest aroma of “I am slightly puzzled by your story. Tell me a little more.” woven into the intonation. Most perps rushed headlong into telling him far more than they intended.

“So you are running the City. Salazar is running the ten square miles west of here. Pastor James is running the ten square miles south of Dimondale” Blastic said.

Seraph did not even bother to deny that he “ran” the City of Eaton Rapids.

“The problem is that leaves a vacuum east of Salazar and James” Blastic said. “A vacuum I intend to fill.”

“That is a lot of territory.” Seraph said.

“Well, I got horses” Blastic said. “I can get around pretty well. And if you get on-board and support me, I can loan you one so you can run the City.”

Paul did not bite.

“Seems to me like there are already some people running that territory.” Paul said.

Now it was Blastic’s turn to knit his brows in puzzlement. “Who?”

“Well, you got Chernovsky and his forces and you got two new stores in that area.” Paul said. He was tiring of the beating around the bush.

Chernovsky and Sullivan had ridden their bikes directly from Satish’s store to the City of Eaton Rapids. They found Paul and gave him a quick brief. They deduced, correctly, that Blastic was likely to reach out to Paul in search of support.

Paul questioned them in minute detail. It was Paul's educated opinion that even though the old laws could not always be enforced, they were the distillation of four thousand years of human thinking and still something to strive for.

Under the old laws, Satish was within his rights to display his firearm to stop the theft of his property. Then, since the junior Blastic was pointing his gun at Satish, Satish was well within his rights to pull his own. Stupid, maybe, but within his rights.

That pushed Blastic’s button. The blood rushed to his face and he started swearing, almost incoherently.

“They are the problem” Blastic said.

“Who is?” Paul asked, innocently.

“All of them, but mostly them Arabs.” Blastic said.

“They have as much of a right to be here as anybody else.” Seraph said.

Blastic got loud. “Those are the sons-a-bitches that bombed the World Trade Center. Thems the sons-a-bitches that kill Christians and took over our country.”

“Do you know one of them pulled a gun on me today?” Blastic said.

There it was.

“Tell me about it.” Paul said. He wanted to hear Blastic’s version.

“Me and Trey went over to that piece-of-shit building he calls a store. We were just looking at his merchandise. I was trying to be neighborly. I want to support local merchants when I can.” Blastic said. He sounded like the Chamber of Commerce.

“Alls I said is that good citizens sometimes have to pay taxes and he went all jihad on me” Blastic said.



  1. Editorial suggestions, if I may -- It seems to me that the 3 paragraphs, beginning with "Chernovsky and Sullivan" and ending "within his rights", should be at the beginning of this chapter in order for better flow.
    Also, I suggest "Twenty years of law enforcement *had* taught Seraph *to* observe ..."

    1. While I agree with your comment about flow, I want readers to experience this dialog more from Blastic's perspective than from Seraph's. Blastic is confident that he is selling his story. By the end of the dialog the reader knows that Blastic struck-out, complete swing-and-a-miss on three, straight strikes.

      Your comment about "Twenty years of law enforcement..." is great and I made that change.

      Thanks for reading! Thanks for commenting! I gave both suggestions consideration.


    2. In that case, "Chernovsky and Sullivan rode their bikes" would correctly be "Chernovsky and Sullivan had ridden their bikes" to switch the time reference.
      I'm enjoying your story very much and have recommended it to others.


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