Bobby Clyne has nothing to lose. Two illegitimate governments have taken the place of the fallen United States: The Directorate in the East and the United States Valiant in the West. And he’s just learned that a man who once terrorized his family as a low-ranking member of the Military Police is set to become the Grand Marshall of the Ohio Region. Armed with his father’s Dragunov sniper rifle, Bobby embarks on a mission of revenge with consequences far more reaching than his personal vendetta.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The story was inspired by an inside joke among co-workers where we appeared as characters in a somewhat Dystopian version of the United States. There was no plot, only embellished versions of us. I said I would write a story about it, and it turned into an apolitical allegory of our two-party system. The idea is that Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same coin and that despite their divisive rhetoric, politicians of either stripe are really the same type of people. Their interests seem less about uniting Americans and more about furthering their party’s agenda. Then once elected, many of the hot button issues on which they campaign are no longer their priority as they proceed to drive up the national debt, get us involved in more foreign conflicts, etc. I typically avoid anything that has a political slant whether it is books, film, or music. However, it seemed to me that the more disenfranchised we get, the more someone should say something about it. We need to admit that the two-party system is just another way for the privileged to maintain control and keep everyone else at each others’ throats. But as I said, this is meant to be an allegory. It’s not a rigid, academic exercise. This is a fast-paced, multi-character, cross-country, page-turning adventure. It’s the first of a two-part series that will keep the reader hooked until the end.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
A subset of the characters is based on me and some of my co-workers, or rather the “idea” of them. I wove some of their traits into these characters, or some of their experiences, or some of their interests. And yes, they were all aware of this. Like I said, it was something of an inside joke. Nothing disparaging about them. However, not all of them landed viewpoint characters. This wasn’t by design; it’s just how things turned out. The rest of the viewpoint characters were born of necessity. The plot dictated that certain people be in certain places to help interweave the story arcs together, and some of them proved to be interesting enough to follow through the whole narrative. There’s an angst-ridden would-be assassin, a preacher turned vigilante who’s tracking a child predator, a nomadic survivalist who acts as a mercenary of sorts, a single mother in financial distress trying to raise two boys, and a novice spy trying to restore Constitutional government.
Bon held the Bronco at a steady thirty-five miles per hour. Flanked by bare brick facades and dilapidated signage, he approached the intersection of South Washington and Front Street and slowed to a roll. He eyed the sinking needle on the gas gauge and then surveyed his surroundings: overgrown, grassy lots and boarded-up windows. It seemed as though he was pressing in the wrong direction; each mile peeled back the pleasant, small town vibe to reveal the stained core of Forrest City.
Two unshaven men stood on the opposite corner of the intersection. They both took long drags on their cigarettes and passed a mason jar back and forth, taking swigs from the clear liquid within. Their eyes remained fixed on his vehicle.
Bon thought better of stopping to ask if there was any gas in town and urged the truck forward, leaving their suspicious glances in the rearview. He had passed several vehicles on his way in, so he knew there was fuel to be had somewhere. He needed to keep looking.
His cell phone lay on the passenger seat; it served as his unwavering guide, mapping out the haphazard path taken by Sully across what the locals still considered Arkansas. He had tried to close the gap several times when Sully stopped in Malvern and Pine Bluff. Each time he neared, Sully would set out again as if he knew his pursuer was near.
Bon didn’t like to think about what Sully might have done to Katie. He operated under a large assumption that not only was she alive, but that she was still in Sully’s possession; however, even if that was true, there was no guarantee she had not been violated in some way. The mental picture Bon conjured was of a dirty, teary, shaking version of the photograph he saw in her home back in Clayton. It soured his stomach to think about.
It was day six of his chase, and each had brought the fear that he would never catch Sully. The further he pushed across the DMZ, the more the austere reality pushed itself into his mind that he couldn’t keep up the chase forever. Sully would reach the East in another day if he made good time, and that brought its own challenges. Bon didn’t know what he would find at the border. He didn’t have the appropriate ID to grant him passage, nor did he have enough money for a bribe. Even with Ronnie’s pimp money—a roll of twenties that he found in the glove compartment—the exchange rate with the Directorate’s credits would prove too much of a disparity.
The barb that dug at him the most was his fear that his opportunity was waning. If Katie was still in Sully’s clutches at all, there would come a time at which she would no longer be. The fact that Sully continued to push east told him that he had a goal in mind, or at least a destination. What would happen to Katie at the end of that road? Would she be sold? Traded? Killed?
His usual instinct when he felt things were outside his control was to pray, but he had been ignoring that instinct as of late. He felt ashamed to ask for anything from the Lord and could only muster a small plea. Jesus, please keep that girl safe. He didn’t add that he only needed her safe until he could make sure Sully never hurt anyone again. The thought crept in unnoticed and surprised him with its dour finality. What happens when I find him? What do I do with him?
He shook off the guilty trend of his musings and returned his focus to the road. His stomach rumbled, reminding him that he had not eaten anything substantial since yesterday’s breakfast. He scanned the passing plazas looking for a place to eat. Within the next mile he spotted an advertisement for barbecue as well as a Sonic. He needed something quick and so he opted for fast food; however, when he neared, he saw that both restaurants were closed.
His spirit dropped in response but lifted up again when he saw a gas station a quarter mile ahead. He was ready to pull into the lot when he read a “Sorry, we’re closed” sign in the window. He smacked the wheel in disgust and continued to drive, always keeping an eye on the cell phone.
A drug store stood at the next intersection; a woman walked across its parking lot with a plastic bag in hand.
Bon swung the Bronco across the intersection and up along the opposite curb, rolling down his window in the process. “Excuse me, ma’am.”
Halfway to her vehicle, the woman stopped in her tracks, eyes wide and mouth open. She clutched her bag close to her body as if she expected it to be demanded from her. She wore whitewashed jeans and a baggy Crimson Tide t-shirt.
Bon leaned out the window. “Is there anywhere I can get gas around here?”
The woman pointed in the direction he was heading, the stark look still painted on her face. “There’s a station just up the road. They got gas sometimes.” She stepped toward her car, like she was in a hurry to leave.
“What about something to eat?”
“Save-a-lot might have some stuff, I dunno. Just keep going,” she said and hustled to the driver’s side door. She slammed it shut before he could thank her.
He nodded and waved in lieu of a thank-you and pulled away. Just up the road like the woman said, the gas station sat on the left. The overhang advertised “Beer, Liquor, Soda, and Cheap Cigs.” He pulled in beneath it and cut the motor. Stepping down, he stretched and then walked toward the open door.
A fan stood in the corner, moving the thick, sultry air around the small store. Most of the shelves were bare except for a few junk food items, some gossip magazines, and travel-size toiletries. The coolers were just as empty; only a few bottles of water and soda remained. None of the lights were on.
A young boy sat on a stool behind the counter. His greasy hair hung over his ears and brow; peach fuzz lined his upper lip and chin. He wore a white t-shirt with a saggy collar and picked at his teeth with his pinky finger.
Bon nodded to him as he stood just inside the door. “Is this a contractor station?” It was a gamble whether the prices at a civilian gas station would be more competitive than the rate at a contractor station, and in this case the prices weren’t posted outside.
“Naw,” said the boy.
Bon walked to the cooler and grabbed a bottle of water. Not knowing what he’d find at the grocery, he also picked up a few sticks of beef jerky, three bags of salted almonds, and the last few packages of peanut butter and crackers. At the register he added a chocolate bar to his bundle.
“How much is gas?” he asked, dropping his goods to the grimy counter top.
“You haven’t pumped none yet.” The boy looked back at him with sleepy eyes and went from picking his teeth to chewing his nails.
“Yeah, well I just want to know how much it is before I pump any.”
The boy called out to the back of the store. “Jimbo—this here fella wants to know how much gas is.”
A scruffy face popped out of the dimly-lit door in the back; it gave Bon a once over before replying. “Today’s a fifty-percenter.” Then it disappeared.
“What’s that mean?” Bon didn’t want to be taken for a ride on the price; he had to stretch what he had.
“Means you gotta pay fifty percent over the posted price.” The boy went on chewing his nails.
Bon looked out to the pumps to double check his sanity. “I didn’t see any prices at all.”
“Says right here.” The boy pointed to a small, hand-written sign that was taped to the front of the cash register. Scrawled in sloppy capital letters, it read: GAS $10 GALLON. RATES CHANGE DAILY.
“So you’re saying gas is fifteen bucks a gallon?”
“It is today.”
Bon shook his head. “You guys must make a pretty penny around here.”
The man from the back stuck his head out again. “You sure do ask a lot of questions. You sniffin’ around for any particular reason?”
Bon held up his hands in mock surrender. “Easy, now. I just need some gas. I’m only passing through.”
“Yeah, well you oughta watch yourself. We don’t take kindly to people like you passing through our fair city.”
“Alright, I’ll be on my way in a minute.” He retreated through the entrance and walked back to the Bronco. Grabbing the nozzle, he punched the button for eighty-seven, but nothing happened. The pump didn’t come to life like he expected. He replaced the nozzle and walked back inside.
“What gives? The pump isn’t on.”
The boy wiped his nose with his arm. “You gotta pre-pay.”
Bon counted out two hundred dollars from the roll of twenties, knowing that would only get him a little under half a tank plus the food and water. It would have to hold him over until he found cheaper gas. He shoved the cash over and said, “Ring this stuff up and use whatever is left for the gas.” Then he went back outside to pump.
He shoved the nozzle back into the truck and started to refill the thirsty tank. The pump stopped after six gallons. He looked up to try and flag the boy at the counter, but he wasn’t looking. He left the nozzle in the truck and marched back into the store.
“What’s going on? The pump stopped.”
The boy stared back with his lazy gaze, but didn’t respond.
Before Bon could press the boy for an answer, he heard a shuffle behind him. Then he felt a solid blow to the base of his skull before falling forward.
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