Ben Schneider, (also known as Benicio Schieder, Mr. Heavy, el jefe) had been caught totally off-guard by the accelerating Ebola epidemic.
Ben did not watch the news. It was a total waste of time. His own sources of information, which he had great trust in, indicated that more than half of what was reported was not only totally in error, it was often the exact opposite of what transpired.
Ben killed his first man when he was in eighth-grade. Killing in the drug trade is business. Benicio had been groomed since fourth-grade and it was time to see if he had the stones to kill somebody. He did.
The target was a low-level street dealer and suspected informant. Frankly, the man's mind had been fried by a decade of drug use.
The man was panhandling and dealing, standing on the median of Martin Luther King Blvd. Ben waited until there was no traffic, walked up and capped him. Ben did not run away. He put a pillow beneath the dead man's head and spent an hour pan-handling before walking across the street to the convenience store, then out the back of their parking lot into the neighborhoods behind it.
Even then, Ben's looks were totally unremarkable and nobody could remember a single detail about him except "He might have been young."
The man's death was not reported until a particularly observant driver noticed the cloud of flies around the "sleeping" man.
Ben was not the fastest rising star in Lansing's drug trade but his rise was steady. Even as a young hot-blood, he exhibited the ability to minimize risk and complete assignments with panache.
He was tapped to go to Lansing Community College to get a business degree. The drug trade is horrendously inefficient and an MBA from MIT was not needed to be a rock-star. The basic blocking-and-tackling of keeping records, issuing directives and enforcing discipline were light-years ahead of what the street delivered to "executive" positions. Anything beyond that was considered non-value-added (a term Benicio picked up) in what was a very simple operation.
The epidemic resulted in the near extinction of first responders, including cops. It should be no surprise that Ben was able to step into the vacuum left behind.
The few cops and administrators were totally "process oriented". They locked up when there were no written procedures for the cataclysmic effect of the epidemic.
Ben's organization, on the other hand, was totally results oriented. It was structured to survive a 50% annual turn-over in personnel, whether by incarceration or un-natural death. It was not that big of a leap to reconstitute after 95% of the distribution and enforcement died.
One of Mr Heavy's biggest adjustments was the change in scope. His reach no longer extended from Williamston-to-Ionia, Leslie-to-Mt Pleasant. Cell towers no longer worked and fuel for vehicles was increasingly precious. His reach was limited by the distance he could project his personality.
In one of the last gasps before accepting the new reality, Mr Heavy sent several teams to Eaton Rapids to discipline an errant warehouser. His shock troops were mauled by the locals.
Mr Heavy reacted by consolidating his position. He picked fifteen square miles and concentrated his remaining troops in that position. The fifteen square miles included massive warehouses and factories. It even had a shipping yard where newly manufactured automobiles were loaded onto trains.
That sixteen square miles was immediately north of Dimondale.
Any unapproved people seen entering or leaving a warehouse or factory were summarily executed. Bullets are cheap. Food and trading goods are expensive.