Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Shrewd King 18.4: Message

Learning that Capiche had war prisoners and no way to deal with them, Benicio volunteered to take care of them.

The prisoners, secured back-to-back were boarded on the bus and handed over to Benicio’s people.

Benicio’s driver took the bus to a freeway cloverleaf. The raised roadbed of the inside cloverleaf made an ampitheater. He parked the bus upwind of a small tree with three people beneath it.

After interviewing the prisoners, they identified an honest-if-slow-witted soldier in the hostile force. He was taken off the bus and frog-walked to the tree where he was placed next to the mutilated, barely alive body of Derious and shackled, back-to-back with Wendy Peffercorn.

Then, after securing the doors, Benicio’s people threw Molotov Cocktails into the bus through the open windows.

Sidney, the slow-witted soldier got to hear, and then smell his comrades burn to death: First the smell of burning hair, then cooking pork, then burning meat.

Then he got to observe Hyena torture Wendy Peffercorn the same way he had tortured Derious to extract information. As a reward for her service, he only tortured her half as long as he had tortured Derious.

After Wendy, Hyena cut off Sidney’s right hand. Then used a pair of vice-grips to individually crush every bone and joint in Sidney’s left hand. Hyena took his time. When Sidney passed out, Hyena patiently waited until he regained consciousness before resuming.

When Sidney regained consciousness, Benicio shot Derious and Wendy between the eyes. “This is what happens to people who invade me. This is what happens to people who betray me.”

“And in case you are wondering about your comrades who were supposed to invade the Amish? They are the ones who betrayed you. That is why we were able to crush you so easily. I have spies everywhere.” Benicio said.

“Except for them, you are the only survivor.” Benicio said.

The last thing Benicio told Hyena to do was to burn out Sidney’s eyes with a soldering iron. If anybody from Howell ever invaded Benicio again, they would not be able to use Sidney as a guide.

The next windy night, one of Benicio’s men drove Sidney to the outskirts of the stronghold where Derious had found support. Benicio’s minion drove him there in Derious’s SUV and left Derious’s smartphone on the dash. The smartphone had a multitude of pictures of the carnage wreaked upon the forces from Howell. It also had video of Derious spilling his guts, including one segment where Benicio says “That agrees with what my spies in Howell told me” in a voice one might use if they were unaware of a ‘hot mic’. Some of the information Derious was spewing was information that would only be held by people who were the closest to the throne.

Leaving the SUV running in the middle of the road, the minion took a length of two-by-four and ran the driver’s seat forward until the two-by-four activated the horn. Then the minion took off, westward, at a ground-eating lope. Ten minutes later, the minion would leave the Interstate and pick up Mason Road to continue westward.

Sidney’s amputated stub had been crudely stitched up. He only needed to remain lucid for another two days, although history would have him survive another five years.

Benicio expected Derious’s sponsors to be very interested in interviewing Sidney.


“How are we going to rout the hostiles out of Amish land?” Salazar asked Chernovsky.

“I cannot tell you that. At least not yet. We need intelligence.” Chernovsky said.

“I can tell you one thing” Salazar said, “we can’t count on any help from the Amish. They are non-violent.”

“I know that. And that is a major complication.” Chernovsky said.

“But we can’t focus on what they WON’T do. We need to know what they WILL do.” Chernovsky said.

“At any rate” Salazar said “it will be interesting to see of Mr Yoder shows up for the next auction.”

“I don’t want to wait until Monday.” Chernovsky said. He was also aware that Kate’s store lay in flinders across three acres of land and the new venue for the auctions were undecided.

“Who do you think we should send?” Salazar asked.

“What about me?” Chernovsky asked. Janelle had just told him that she had missed her period, a period that had been like clockwork for the last seven years. He needed to get his head screwed on straight and a trip out-of-town might help with that.

“We cannot afford to lose you.” Rick said, dismissively.

“What if we have one of your trusted team leaders take a couple of mares to Amish Land. The cover story is that they need to be bred. It just needs to be somebody who knows a little bit about horses.” Rick suggested.

Chernovsky grunted. He vaguely remembered Donnie talking around the campfire like he knew his way around horses.

“The other thing I am concerned about is where these guys came from. Benicio said they came from about forty miles east of here and they were being pushed from the east and the south.” Rick said.

“Benicio is of the opinion ‘better an enemy you know than one you don’t.” Rick said. “For some reason, he doesn’t expect them to try to invade us anytime soon.”

Chernovsky said, “I wish I could be so sure.”

“There is some good news on that front.” Rick said.

“Benicio was impressed by our mortars. Very impressed. He seems to think the big crater where Fairhaven used to stand was because of our mortar rounds.” Rick said.

“He magically found three hundred pounds of potassium nitrate and wants to go ‘halvesies’ on another run of mortar tubes and shells.” Rick said.

“Do you trust him?” Chernovsky asked.

“That is the million dollar question, isn’t it?” Rick replied, not really answering Chernovsky’s question.


  1. Been avidly reading your saga of post American empire. But it's now gotten a little complicated and I've lost track of who's friendly with whom.
    Would you mind writing a brief section or reposting a previous section identifying characters and alliances?
    Thank you so much sir.

  2. You're in a bad place with Benicio. I wouldn't trust him any more than I'd trust a rattlesnake. However, you're pretty much friendless, and have enemies pushing in who are being pushed by something bigger and badder than they are.

    I'd play nice with him while I'm developing plans B, C, D, E and F. Because he'll only be your friend as long as it benefits him.

  3. I enjoy the story. Seeing the potential solutions is very interesting and a good read.

    I expected Wendy to die, although I thought she had earned a quick death. I doubt Sidney would live for five years. A blind lame individual would not be of any use nor able to even get water on their own. In a calorie deficient world he would be dead in two weeks.

    Yes Sidney carried a message, but burning the bus full of failures, alive, in view of their stronghold would have sent a direct message to more people. Filling Derious' car with severed heads would have also been more effective.

    Benicio is a risky partner, but I think he is smart enough to know he needs farmers more than they need his "skills"

    I do wonder about the implied population remaining to be available as invaders. Your story timeline has us a year after the Ebola outbreak cools. Only areas like Eaton Rapids with a population educated and skilled enough along with the wisdom to put it to effective use would even be alive. The complete collapse of the energy distribution system (any form) means no food production/distribution. Most (90%) of the population that survived the plague died of starvation months ago.

    Hope there are a few midwives in town.

  4. All good observations, D. For awhile I have been wondering if there might be a spark of humanity somewhere within Benecio. I was thinking that perhaps he had experienced a moment of clarity in this new, post apocalyptic world. That maybe he had realized how interdependent we humans are even in the post-Ebola reality. That maybe, just maybe he saw the innate goodness and fair dealing inherent in the people of Capiche and also the Amish and decided that he kind of liked it.

    But after having Wendy tortured after she is of no more use to him, and having a bus load of prisoners burned to death instead of simply shot, and having the one remaining prisoner tortured, crippled and blinded before sending him back to deliver the message tells me that he is a complete sociopath.

    He has a hands off policy towards Capiche only because he realizes that, for now, they are the only ones in the area capable of producing excess food for sale that allows him (Benecio) to continue being the most powerful man in his area. Once he decides that his relationship with Capiche is no longer useful, he will not have any qualms about torturing and killing any or all of the residents of Capiche. To supply someone like him with mortar tubes and munitions would be a serious mistake.


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