Fritz Speicher and Dar Spaulding went way back. Dar remembered Fritz from second grade. In fifth grade, Fritz discovered he had a neighbor who received magazines in plain, brown paper covers.
Since Fritz got out of school sooner than his neighbor came home from work, it wasn't hard for Fritz to intercept some of those girlie magazines.
Fritz was suddenly a very popular fellow. He and his school chums...including Dar...marveled at the gravity defying assets of Mr. Hefner's girlfriends.
Stealing is a sin, of course. The magazines were slipped back in their brown wrappers and delivered about five days afterward.
The boys knew there must be more to "sex" than oohing-and-ahhing. But details would have to wait.
You would have to be blind to see that Dar was one of the few who was in-the-know. Fritz was not blind.
"Do you know who done this to me and Clair?" Fritz baldly asked Dar.
That put Dar on the horns of dilemma. He had a damned good idea who did it.
Jarrell and the Mayor were working on a plan to foment rebellion. That was all well and good, but that was a long-term goal. People were hurting now. People Dar knew and trusted.
Fritz could see Dar was chewing on something. He knew better than to push.
"Tell me again about the trucks the gomers were driving" Dar said.
"Blue Chevy, maybe 2010 blue with lots of metal-flake. An old Ford...mid-70s. Two-tone, brick-red and cream" Fritz responded.
Dar started scrolling though pictures on his phone. "Did it look like this one?"
Fritz looked at the image of the 1977 Ford truck. It was identical to the one that had been driven by the raiders who visited his farm. Identical, except for the bullet holes in the windshield.
"Yeah, that looks like the one" Fritz said.
"What about the other one?" Fritz asked.
"Lots of 2010 Chevys out there" Dar said. "Hard to tell."
"How important is it to you that you put some pain back on the people who did this to you?" Dar asked.
"They pointed guns at Clair. There wasn't anything I could do about it. That just ain't right" Fritz said.
"I would give my left nut to put some pain on the assholes who did this" Fritz continued.
Dar scrolled through a few more pictures. Then he showed Fritz the Letter of Marque that had been in the red-and-cream colored Ford.
"See the bottom name? That is the name of the asshole who pointed the gun at Clair" Dar said.
"See the name above it? That is the name of the person who told him to do it"
Fritz looked at the signature block. "Boris Dragonov? That name is really familiar."
"He is your township clerk" Dar said.
"Son of a bitch" Fritz cursed.
"I know what you are thinking of doing. I would do the same myself. But I shared this with you because I know I can trust you" Dar said.
Dar held up his hand to forestall Fritz's objection.
"I ain't gonna tell you to not do what you are thinking. But you gotta make it look random. There are wheels-within-wheels here. You can really gum things up if you let out how you got this information" Dar said.
Fritz looked at Dar for a minute.
"You are saying I can kill him?" Fritz asked.
"Some people need killing. If he told somebody to point a gun at Leslie or Melody then you better not stop me from killing him" Dar said.
"I am just putting some boundaries around it. You cannot breath a word to anybody about how you got this information. Better yet, make it look like a robbery gone wrong or random violence" Dar said.
That seemed like small enough of a condition.
At one in the morning, Boris Dragonov woke to the sound and fury of his garage burning down. 9-1-1 gave him no satisfaction. There were no units to send.
Grabbing a bucket, he rushed out the door, only to catch a load of high-brass #6 shot in his lower gut.
Nobody saw the person who pulled the trigger. They estimated he was ten-to-fifteen feet away from Dragonov when he pulled the trigger based on the diameter of the pattern.
It would have taken a crack team of emergency room surgeons to remove the 250 pellets from his abdominal cavity. Between hunting down the pellets and repairing the perforated bowels and kidneys, it would have been a four hour surgery. Except there were no functioning Emergency Rooms and no crack teams of surgeons.
Dying from sepsis is not a pretty way to go.
After a long day butchering, Gilbert asked Fritz about a camper that was on a property a half mile from the Speicher farm.
Gilbert struggled to give directions, but Fritz eventually figured it out after Gilbert pointed anbd made lots of hand gestures.
"Who owns it?" Gilbert asked.
"Not really sure. Why?" Fritz asked.
"My son has a new wife. He wants to move her to Eaton Rapids so they can live as man-and-wife" Gilbert informed him.
Fritz could understand that.
"He wondered if he could move into that camper" Gilbert continued.
"It isn't mine to say 'yes' or 'no'" Fritz said. That property belongs to a trust down in Indiana. A couple weekends a year somebody uses that camper and they play poker, do some drinking and might even go hunting."
Gilbert's face fell.
Then Fritz matter-of-factly added, "I don't think anybody local cares much one way or the other. You guys are working your asses off. If you could pop the door open without damaging it, I reckon your son could live their until the rightful owners show up. Its called squatting."
"You did the right thing. You asked first. Just have your boy leave it better than he found it and I am sure it will be OK" Fritz said.
Fritz was 99.9% sure the owners in Indiana would NOT be making the trip up to Eaton Rapids any time soon.
Nora Odenkirk peered through her sapphire tinted contacts at the TV camera. "And we have some good news to report. A convoy of forty semi-trucks successfully brought a load of grain from Maumee, Ohio to Washington D.C. For all the people here, I want to say 'Thanks Maumee!'"
The wheels were slowly starting to turn. Conscripted truck drivers were put into trucks and forced to drive to distant grain shipping facilities, fill up the trucks and then return.
The return trip involved dodging bullets from disgruntled locals. Armored Personnel Carriers attempted to sanitize the route but some rounds always slipped through. No convoy ever made it back to the East Coast intact.
And while forty semis sounded like a lot of trucks, it was a drop-in-the-bucket when divided up by the population in and around the Beltway. The situation was even worse for the northern part of the Megalopolis, from New Jersey north.
Any hopes of the Federal Government restoring order and facilitating commerce west of Harrisburg were dashed.
Cities like Lansing were left to fend for themselves.