He was going nuts when Squirrel came dancing into camp, whooping and hollering.
When Mike Prego saw what Squirrel had scored he did an end-zone happy-dance.
Quinn had phenomenal eyesight, even for a young man. He squinted at what Squirrel was carrying. It looked like a can of….hair spray, which was bizarre because all of the fighters got a buzz-cut at least once a week to control lice.
“What's up?” Quinn asked as Mike came close to the observation post.
“You gotta check this shit out.” Mike said. “Squirrel, he is fucking nuts.”
Quinn looked around. Nothing was moving in the hot, still early evening.
Quinn tagged along after Mike, down to the camp midden heap where food waste was tossed. Not surprisingly, it was crawling with flies and yellow jackets.
Squirrel handed out rubber bands to the assembled crew. “OK, you know the rules. Hitting an ambulance means you have to sit out for sixty seconds. Most dead tanks win.”
It meant nothing to Quinn.
Then Squirrel sidled up to the writhing mass of insects, ignited a butane lighter with his left hand and then activated the can of hair spray with his right. A six-foot gout of flame erupted from the can of hair spray which he played over the bugs. Many tried to fly away only to have their wings burned off of them.
Cooked flies must emit odors that are incredibly attractive to other flies. Immediately, the ones that could still fly buzzed over to the ones that were the most cooked.
Mike said, as an aside to Quinn, “Those are the helicopter ambulances. You don’t want to hit them.”
Indeed, if you did not know better, you could imagine that the “ambulances” were running IVs instead of sucking juices.
The flies that were ambulatory but not able to fly were tanks. Those were the targets
Young men are competitive. In the absence of meaningful activity they become doubly so. When the number of tanks dropped down, Squirrel made another flame-thrower run and things picked up for a while.
At the end of the evening, Squirrel shook the can of hair spray to see how much was in it. “This one is done.” he said as he tossed it atop the midden pile. "I will have to find another one tomorrow."
Quinn was hooked. He had come in second several times and even won one of the rounds.
Before Ebola, Delta Township had a population density of approximately 1000 people per square mile. Ninety percent of the population had either died or moved elsewhere. That still left one-hundred people per square mile, which was almost twice as many as Benicio thought the land could support.
His method of dealing with the problem was to put everybody who crossed his organization into salvage crews. The surest way for a man and his family to fall afoul of Benicio's gangs was for the man to refuse to be an "enforcer" when offered the job.
The salvage crews entered vacant houses and removed valuables. It did not matter if their were bio-hazard corpses in the buildings. The choice was clear. Go into the building and rip it apart looking for gold, silver, weapons and other useful loot, or get shot on-the-spot.
After the first few protestors were shot in the head without ceremony, there were not more people protesting. And if they left Delta Township in the dark of night, well, that helped solve Benicio’s over-population problem.
About one house in ten held useful materials. The list of collectibles was extensive. For instance, it included hand-tools and textbooks and soap but it did not include copies of Fifty Shades of Whatever.
And of course, food and other perishables. After the house was tossed, a crew covered the bottom story windows and doors with sheets of plywood. They would come back later for a more thorough search after the biohazard diminished.
Benicio had almost no use for gems. Nobody was prepared to “value” precious stones.
Precious metals were entirely different. There was a ready market for gold and silver and enough people had the ability to judge the precious metal content. In most cases, the purity was stamped right into the item.
An unintended side effect of Benicio’s method for reducing the population is that it produced a stream of infected carriers back into the wild.
The sudden absence of corn in the markets forced chicken owners to let their birds free-range.
Some chicken owners were more successful than others in protecting the birds from predators.
Some factors were beyond the chicken owner's control. Yards that were bordered with thick brush suffered high losses. Others suffered losses from hawks, usually those with tall, dead trees nearby where raptors liked to "loaf".
The chicken producers who fared the best save a bit of corn to train their chickens to come into the coop each night. They also became inventive at moving the coop daily and setting the chicken yard fence every day to give them a new slice of lawn to tear up.
Some chickens were extremely casual about making the curfew. The most Darwinian of chicken ranchers started culling those birds and canning them. Better they should end up in a mason jar and on a human's dinner table than to provide food for coons, possum, coyotes, skunks, owls, fox, feral cats and who knew what else.
Vigilance was the key. Getting the chickens in the coop a half-hour before sunset and locking the door was key.
The best operators found an ol' man to ride shotgun the last hour before sunset. Literally, holding a shotgun waiting for opportunistic predators to show up. Pete arbitrarily put a three silver dollar bounty on raccoon hides and the carcasses made fine stew-meat. Three silver dollars was an enormous sum of money.
The ol' men sat with the sun to their back and were skilled at not moving. They let the sounds and motions flow around them, ever mindful for a few square inches of texture that were out-of-place, or a twitching of a tail, or a part of an ear hidden by brush and clocking around to follow the clucking of the bird or perhaps or the sudden scattering of the flock that indicated an airborne threat.
And if all the ol' man saw was a rabbit or woodchuck heading toward the garden, then he had a .22 he could pick up after he carefully put down the shotgun. A rabbit did not warrant an ounce of lead when a well placed 1/11th of an ounce would suffice. The other threats, however, got the full ounce of lead. A predator, unchallenged, could wipe out an entire flock.
The predators that were too rank for the stewpot were split open and fed to the chickens who happily turned skunks and possum into eggs.