Carmen and Louisa rode with the crew dropping off the six-hundred pounds of corn.
After they parked behind the church, Carmen and Louisa gathered there warming bag with the tamales. These had more meat than yesterday's and, since they didn't have to walk very far it was not hard to bring three times more than the previous night.
Carmen and Louisa had talked over whether Louisa should accompany Carmen or not. On the whole, they both agreed that a wing-man was a good thing. There were too many dynamics that could spin out-of-control with just one girl. At least with a second girl there would be another set of eyes and another couple canisters of pepper-spray.
If things got rambunctious, there was a much better chance Louisa would notice while Carmen did her flirty magic. Part of that magic was to be totally focused on the object of the flirt. That is, here situational awareness went into the toilet.
Carmen started sing-songing while they were still well outside the camp. She didn't want to get shot.
Carmen had a second purpose for the sing-songing.
As the men turned their eyes away from the fire they could see Carmen sash-shaying in. Unlike the previous night when she was wearing jeans, she was wearing a skirt and tights. There is something about the swish of a skirt that entices some men.
The dancing flames accentuated the flutter. Carmen also gave it her best. She would have preferred high-heels but Louisa pointed out that there was no way in hell she would have walked very far in them and the men might decide to come looking for where she lived.
Far better to be wearing running shoes and to be vague about where they lived. All they needed to know was that it was 'way off yonder'.
Even with running shoes, Carmen could put a little extra sway to her hips. It is impossible to walk in high-heels without swaying hips. It is, however, entirely possible to make the same motions when wearing running shoes.
The men were enchanted.
The men were crowding around and Carmen was playfully batting their hands away.
"We brought enough for the other Custom Station, too. Don't be pigs" she chastised them.
She let that sink in as she handed out the tamales.
As soon as she had handed them out, she started to close up the bags as if to leave. Moving away from the fire, she pretended to twist her ankle.
"Hey, are you OK?" Steven asked. Steven was the alpha male.
"I will be in a minute" Carmen said. "I just need to rest it a little bit."
"I don't suppose you could have the other guys come over here, do you?" Carmen asked letting the tiniest bit of pleading slip into her voice.
That sounded like an outstanding idea to the men of the station. They had no desire to let these two, precious women leave their campfire and visit those other guys. They wanted to keep them where they could see them and make sure the other station didn't get more than their fair share of tamales.
The other Customs Station was a scant quarter mile away. Due to the rolling topography, it was not possible to cover both roads with one station. The second Custom Station was even less visited than the one Carmen and Louisa visited.
It took the crew from the other Custom Station five minutes to walk up the road. Some of the men had bragged up the tamales from the night before. It is adolescent nature to hoot-on the guy who missed out and most of these men were not that much out of high-school.
Carmen laughed uproariously at every comment that was intended to be witty. She made the speaker think that he was suave and worldly. Her laughter was a rippling laugh like silver sleigh bells that started low-and-slow and increased in pitch and frequency and then trailed away into a throaty chortle. Once heard, it was a sound that would never be forgotten.
It was the kind of laughter that carried remarkably well, especially on the still air in the wee-hours of the morning.
Carmen plied the crowd...over fifteen men...asking names and touching a wrist here, a cheek there. Like the night before, she made a point of marking Steven with far more touches than the others.
She lingered with each man, as if regretting the need to share her sparkling presence with the others others.
Louisa watched the clock. After a full, honest forty-five minutes, Louisa said "Come along, Carmen. I think you foot will be fine. Papa will worry if we aren't home soon."
Just as Carmen and Louisa were about to leave the ring of light, Carmen turned and said, "I had the time of my life. Same time tomorrow?"
And, of course, that was entirely agreeable to the young men of the two Customs Stations.
Jarrell was able to flesh-out the chain-of-command for the significant portions of the five counties closest to Lansing.
He opted for yellow-sticky notes on a whiteboard. His first inclination was to put it all on a computer but he had doubts about the security of anything on computers. If he knew how, he probably could have disabled the WIFI functions but he was unsure if there were any back-door capabilities.
Furthermore, there was the issue of data backups and power quality. It would suck to invest in putting all the information into a spread-sheet only to have his computer to Tango-Uniform.
He did use his computer, though, to tickle some of his contacts. It seemed like forever ago, but at one point he had 'curated' a bulletin board that was just this side of the dark-web. He still had ways of alerting his network that he was sending a parcel.
The beautiful thing about the internet is that you can be anybody you want to be on-line. Jarrell didn't know that some of his most trusted sources of information were people he would have never given a second glance back-in-the-day.
One was a paraplegic. Another was a night custodian in a church. A third was a retired nurse. What they had in common is that they had far more capability than their current lives demanded of them. Far more capability than their current, official, lives would tolerate.
They found an outlet on-line.
The collapse of society had not been kind to them. Several of Jarrell's tickles did not elicit responses.
The ones who did respond were more than happy to oblige Jarrell after he implied that he had intelligence regarding some of the perpetrators of the collapse and intended to do something about it once he had enough information.
The yellow sticky-notes started collecting actionable information. Things like addresses and associated and descriptions of vehicles.
Jarrell didn't know exactly how he was going to reach out and touch the agents of chaos.
Some trends were starting to snap into focus. By-and-large, the Acting Governor had repurposed reliable party hacks for the purposes of organized looting. At the county level he had delegated to high level officials from the Secretary of State's office and other State agencies. At the township level, many of the mandarins were County Clerks....provided they were of the appropriate party.
From there, the organization devolved to local cops, shady business owners, college professors, journalists, coaches, and then to the strong-backs and weak-minds that did the heavy lifting.
One key "Ah-ha" that Jarrell experience was that whoever applied kinetic therapy to the target also had to disrupt the information system. It was not enough to snipe the County Clerk if somebody could take up the reins without a hiccup.
Boris Dragonov's demise had not provided much relief to the township. The strong-backs and thugs were still dinging local farms in spite of the push-back from the residents.