The Second Civil War - Chapter Five
The Trials of the Rich Begin.
At the end of this chapter go back to The Beginning which is chapter one and has a list of all the chapters.
Mid August - Texas
It had been two days since the EMP bomb had detonated in Houston. There had been little help from Governor Adrian James for the people of that city. The governor was too busy with too many emergencies and couldn’t be in ten places at once. There was a civil war brewing with some Texans killing other Texans. There was no money for people to buy food and other basics. The dead electronics no longer fed oil through the pipelines, so gas shortages were now chronic throughout the state. With Houston out of commission, shortages were rapidly developing in other states. NASA was a complete write-off.
Added to this, Houston was burning. It was burning because the temperature had been hovering at a hundred and fifteen degrees for two weeks. It was burning because fires had flared up but there were no working fire engines. Tempers were frayed; food and water were in short supply, vandalism had broken out, and the mood was rapidly approaching one of desperation. With a population of just over two million, the breakdown of law and order came more rapidly than it would in a small town.
After leaving the airport, the Parkins family made their way to their vacation home in Miami. They were in a sombre mood, while they discussed the possible identities of the people who prevented them from boarding their jet and flying to Europe.
*This is not a good situation," Harold Parkins said to his wife. "We might have to find a way of living off the grid for a while. This is dangerous. We could all get shot."
As they opened the front door, it became obvious that they had guests. "Who are you?" asked Harold.
“We’re the same people who didn’t want you to leave the country,” the well dressed middle aged man said to him. The man, himself, looked mild, as if he wouldn’t hurt a fly In fact, he looked the type of man that Parkins had spent a life time giving orders and, in a normal situation, he would have done exactly that. It was the Glock in the man's hand, however, that kept Harold civil.
“Is there a reason you are in my house?”
“Yes, we’ll be escorting you elsewhere, so we need your family to get a good night’s sleep and we’ll be leaving first thing in the morning. You won’t be needing much, just some comfortable clothing for traveling, and a change of clothing when we arrive at our destination.”
“And where is our destination?” Harold Parkins had asked.”
“Houston,” said the man.
Harold Parkins continued to have a very bad feeling.
The family slept in one room that night, and iin the morning, they were escorted back to Miami airport where they boarded Harold's own plane. An hour later, the family deplaned and were driven to a house near the Galleria shopping mall. It was a silent journey as everyone eyed the destruction in the city. The heat was sweltering and the three children were hovering between bouts of tears and moments of frustration. Mrs. Parkins was doing everything she could to contain the situation, but she too, was fearful.
“What do you think they are going to do to us?” Emma, asked Harold.
“I don’t know, but it’s sure to involve a lot of money. These people don’t have the capacity to earn it on their own, so they want to take the money of honest, hard-working individuals like myself.” Harold Parkins did not include his wife and children in that statement. He knew that he was one hundred percent responsible for making his own money. Nobody else had helped him or contributed in any way.
The Parkins family waited the entire day in a very ot house without AC and two fresh loaves of bread, some peanut butter and jelly. Initially, Initially, they grumbled amongst themselves about the food. Mrs. Parkins wondered if Mr. Parkins could sneak out to the shops to buy some steaks. Mr. Parkins wondered if Mrs. Parkins was aware that there was were men standing guard outside the front door. He also wondered if Mrs. Parkins realized that any steaks available in Houston would, by now, be food for maggots. By late afternoon, with no other food available, Jello sandwiches began to taste as good as anything they had ever tasted.
Their guards didn’t disturb them, and when Emma or Harold tried to ask them questions towards evening, they were simply ignored. So the Parkins family waited, sure that at some point, money would be involved. It always was.
Senator Tom Grey met with the famous actor behind closed doors. The craftsman cottage was well hidden behind trees and not easily seen from the road. Few knew of its existence. Indeed, it had been in the senator’s family for more than four generations, and though seldom used, it was kept for moments such as these. Indeed, as the senator descended from a long line of politicians and other officials, it was inculcated into him from birth that secret meeting places were an essential part of the political life.
“Are we ready to move forward?” asked the Senator.
“Yes, the captives are all in place. We took the last one yesterday. Thirty five billionaire and their families, as agreed.”
“It should be quite a show,” said the Senator. "Then, again, with those costume changes of yours, that's exactly what it is. Why not wear a simple disguise?"
"I'm an actor and I've always had a thing for impersonating the famous. It's fun!" The actor grinned at Tom Grey. "It's got to be more than a show, you know. It has to be effective as well."
The conversation was ended there, then they hugged like old friends which they were, and each went their separate way.
They came for Harold and Emma in the late afternoon of the second day. The three children were driven in a separate car while Emma and Harold were put into the first car. Emma was both distraught and hungry. Her fears had finally vanquished her normally rigid self-control. “Why are they going in a different car?”
“Because you don’t want them to hear the conversation we’re about to have.”
“What conversation is that?”
“The one about the procedures that will be followed at your trial. The jury will consist of thirty people. There will be judge. You will have an hour to convince judge and jury of your innocence. If you cannot, then you and your family will be sentenced. Sentence will be carried out immediately.”
In New York, seven of the super wealthy had been taken. In Los Angeles, eight had been taken. In Chicago, five had been taken, and in Houston, three had been taken. In Seattle, Silicon Valley, Dallas, and in various other places throughout the United States, thirty five families were told they were being escorted to a place of justice to stand trial.”
“That’s typical of the bastards!”
It wasn’t often that language like that was heard in the oval office, but this time it expressed what the general feeling in the room. Senator Tom Grey wo had arrived some fifteen minutes earlier was delighted at the anger and frustration. The plan was working.
Mildly, he said, “They're only asking for what they’re owed. Wouldn’t you be concerned if you knew that you weren’t going to repaid the $390 billion you were owed? Our dollar no longer exists so they’re asking for it in gold. Makes perfect sense to me.”
“They’re asking for it in gold that they know we don’t possess, and they refuse to supply us with the electronic parts we need to fix everything that the bomb took down.” The president stated his case quietly, paused, and then continued. “And it wouldn’t surprise me if they used the fact that we couldn’t pay them in gold as an excuse for war.” He pause for a moment. "All we need now is a war with China."
Senator Grey hid a quick smirk on his face as he thought that it had always been okay for America to go to war. Now the shoe was on the other foot. “We could ask the people for their gold,” he suggested.
“Are you crazy?” the president asked him without expecting a reply.
“Not really,” replied the Senator. “Have you got any other ideas? You might not have noticed but we’re without a currency, our four top cities are dead in the water, our supply lines have been cut because virtually everything routes through those four cities. We have all sorts of militia and internal terrorists killing people. There seems to be something happening every moment, and I think we’re in over our head.”
There were those in the Oval Office who thought his words something of an understatement.
“ I also think that, regardless of whose fault all this is, it’s only the people of this country who can save us by donating all their gold to the US government.”
“You know, Tom, you might actually have something there. It is not unknown in history for kings to take from the people when their wars cost them too much. I’m sure if we worded this correctly, appealed to the patriotism of the people of this great country, we could get them to donate all their gold. There must be enough gold from 350 million people for us to pay the Chinese.”
There was a knock on the door and an aide walked in. He went straight to the president and handed him the note. The president's face quivered as he read it and then said, “Gentlemen, thirty five of our most successsful citizens have been abducted. I think it’s fair to assume that they won’t be coming out of this alive. I think it’s also fair to say that if we instituted a heavy death tax on what they leave behind, we might be able to save ourselves. This is one piece of good news, thankfully.”
Harold Parkins stood with his wife beside him. Behind him were seated a jury of twelve. In front stood a robed judge and two men attired in grey suits. Harold didn’t know if they were attorneys. There were elements of a court room, but it wasn't an official court of law. The most he could say was that it was a spacious room. Once more, he wondered how much it would cost him. He had spent a life time buying people, bulllying them, and putting them into situations where they had no option but to sell to him. His one concern was the amount of time they were taking to get to the point. It meant that they wanted a lot of money. He wondered how much that would be.
The judge asked, “Are you ready?”
If looks could kill, Harold Parkins’s look would have charred the judge to a crisp black crust.
“I’ve been ready for two days. I’d like to get this fiasco over with.”
The judge looked at him and said, “Sometimes, it’s best not to wish your life away.”
Harold Parkins missed the full implications of that. He had heard the cliché many times and didn’t have much time for over-used clichés. He knew them for what they were.
One of the men dressed in grey said, “Mr, Parkins, are you familiar with the biblical verse about the early church sharing all their possessions, especially those who had more than others, giving to those who had less than they had.”
The full implication of those words hit Harold Parkins immediately.. They couldn’t possibly want him to give away that much, could they? He thought it better to profess ignorance. Maybe they were just starting high – classic negotiating technique.
“No, I don’t.”
“In the acts of the Apostle, 2:44, 45 it says ‘they held everything in common, selling their possessions and goods, giving to everyone who had need. Times are hard for many people right now. Would you be willing to give up your fortune to the people of Houston? Look around you. You have been very uncomfortable these last two days. Think of people who have endured this for all the years of their life.”
Harold Parkins looked at the man and said, “I am always willing to help. However, I worked hard for what I have, and I deserve every penny of it.”
The court didn’t say anything, and Mr. Parkins felt the silence. It made him feel uncomfrotable. Next to him, Emma, perhaps a bit more sensitive said, “Now Harold, you inherited some from your father, and your father paid for you to go to all the right schools. You didn’t have it as hard as some.”
But Harold wasn’t having any. He had known all his life that his wealth had some to him through his own hard work. Those that didn’t attain his heights, he firmly believed to be less hardworking, and most certainly, less intelligent.
“The second man in grey walked over to where Harold stood and said, “How much are you willing to give these people, Mr. Parkins? Your generosity would be most appreciated in these difficulty times.”
Harold didn’t miss a beat. He had known all along that it came down to money, and the rule of thumb was start low when it was going to cost you and start high when it was going to cost someone else. So he started low, “I think that there will be many contributions, so I think $2 million would be most generous offer.”
“Out of the billions you have, you think two million would be a generous offer?”
“You know nothing about money, young man, obviously. My wealth is tied up in hard assets. Two million is a very generous offer."
“You’re sure about that?”
“Very,” replied the billionaire. He thought it was almost too easy.
“We’re not going to beg, Mr. Parkins. We would like you to reconsider.”
“I think in view of the extreme discomfort afforded myself and my family, $2 million will be enough. You could have gone through the normal channels to get me to donate, I might have been more generous had you approached me in a friendlier way.” And this time, Harold Parkins vented. The worst was behind him. They had settled. He could go home with his family now. Thankfully.
“Mr. Parkins, did you not decline to donate some half a million a few months ago when it would have saved the life of a young man sorely in need of medical care?”
“That was hardly my problem. He had family and he should have been on insurance.”
The two men in the grey suits walked towards the judge. “We rest our case, your honor. It is more difficult for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than part with his wealth. We have given him every opportunity and he has denied the people of Houston and the people of America.”
It was then that Harold felt a moment of fear. Perhaps, he thought, he needed to be a little more generous. He glanced up at his wife, Emma, and saw the fear in her face. He had always trusted Emma’s gut.
The judge nodded towards the jury. A man in the jury stood up. “We find Mr. Parkins lacking in generosity towards his fellow man and we do not think he is capable of seeing them as people. He has a very cold heart. However, in a spirit of generosity, we will allow the family one last half hour to say their good-byes, and then we will follow procedure.”
Harold wanted to ask what was going on, but he didn’t because some military looking men walked in, heavily armed, with his children, and he did not want to say anything in front of his children. But for the first time in his life, Harold was scared. He did not want to believe that he would only see his children for half an hour.
Things were not going well for Governor Adrian James. He was desperately trying to make his way to Houston, but trying to arrange an alternative means of exchange for the people of Texas as well as trying to source the necessary electronics to get Houston working again was, he suspected, an impossible task.It didn’t help that it was the beginning of hurricane season and his advisors had just told him that a big one was brewing in the Caribbean.
The oil industry could also bring further problems. With all the electronics gone, he suspeted that there could be explosions. He didn't know. He needed to be at ground zero. There could also be leakages in the deep sea pipes and oil could once more flood the ocean bed. He wondered if it could possibly get worse.
And then it did.
Nevada City, Northern California
Bett Clark saw the man before he saw her. Her gut told her that he was trouble and that he had a lot to do with what was happening around her. She didn’t want her family to be involved. She wanted them to sit it out, just as her father had taught them through the years.
With a shock of recognition, she saw that it was Ben's son, now grown to be a man. More to the point, he had grown to be a very good looking man with a body that cried, “Come to me.” Bett’s emotions were confused, and for a few moments, her brain wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. Then the years of survivalist training came to the fore, and she stepped forward. He stopped somewhat abruptly as he realized that he had been seen, then walked towards her, “You must be Bett,” he said, and he eyed her almost the same way that she had eyed him.
“Are your family ready?” he asked in the same breath.
Emma Parkins, Harold Parkins, and their three children were escorted to a door at the far side of the large room. Inside were chairs, some water and soda, and a few sandwiches. Neither Emma nor Harold were hungry as their trepidation killed their appetite. The children, though, reached out, keen to have something to eat and drink. None of them had ever known what it was like to be hungry.
Tacitly, Emma and Harold acted as if everything was okay until the children had eaten. Then both Emma and Harold asked their children to come be seated with them. Jon, the youngest at three years old could sense the tension more than the others, and after his joy at the sandwiches and soda pop, he now burst into tears. Emma picked him up and held him against her. Marina, a pretty little girl of six years, and Ron, her older brother of eight, tried to make the best of things. After all, both their parents had assured them that everything would be alright. Well, maybe not, “Mom, is everything still going to be alright?” Ron asked.
Harold put his arms around his son, and Emma held her daughter. So they remained, tightly wrapped until they came for them. Emma and Harold were taken from the children and, with some grace, reassured their children that they would see them shortly. The children were led out through another door.
In New York, where Lyn had died the previous evening without releasing the deadly toxin into the city, violence brewed, silently, deadly, about to implode on a city with too few resources to care for the many. It was the third day since the release of EMP bomb. Food was running out. In some way, the electronic circuitry had affected the flow of water through the city as well. While some pipes and taps were still working, increasing numbers were running dry. There was an unbearable overload on virtually everything. The smaller cafes that had bravely attempted to remain open to serve people food and drink, now closed their doors.
Trevor thought it a good idea to leave the city. So did Bobbie. Both were concerned about Lyn, and after packing a few supplies into a backpack, both walked to Lyn’s place. When they knocked, there was no answer, and when Trevor tried the knob, it opened easily. He saw the note on the table and knew that something terrible had happened. It simply said, “I’m sorry.”
“Let’s go,” he said to Bobbie. “We’ll probably have to walk out of New York, and it might get dangerous. People become feral very easily.”
When Harold and Emma Parkins reentered the room that they had left thirty minutes earlier, it had changed. In the center stood a huge contraption. “What is that?” asked Emma.
“Welcome to Madame de la Guillotine,” said one of the men in the grey suit.
“Guillotine?” Harold paled. “You can’t be serious!” he gasped.
“We very much are,” said the judge. “The jury did not see you as publicly minded or concerned about your fellow human beings. You have lost your humanity.”
Emma was trembling. “What are you going to do with us?” she whispered.
“We are going to cut off your heads, just the way the French cut off the heads off all their elite, rich people.”
“You can have it all,” Harold said. “Please take my money, but give me my wife and my children.”
The judge looked at him and said, “That is fear speaking. If a man will only give when he is scared, then it is not a spirit of concern for others. We will take the money anyway. You had your chance.”
Emma started screaming. Harold attempted to run, almost forgetting Emma. But it wasn’t possible to go anywhere. The men of the jury had rope. They tied the feet and hands of Emma and Harold, and then they took Emma up to the Guillotine. She remembered her children.
“What about my children?” she whimpered.
“They have already been given lethal injections. We do not want your type around anymore. You’ve already conditioned them to have a sense of entitlement. They’ll be just like you when they grow up.”
Emma crumpled. She showed no more resistance. They took her up, and rested her head on the lower blade. She tried to struggle but she couldn’t.
Harold was shouting. “You can’t do that. This is murder!”
The judge turned to Harold and said, “You don’t think it’s murder paying people in your company so little that they can barely survive?”
One of the men of the jury spoke. “Your company made six billion dollars in profits last year. If you had taken one billion of that and paid your workers a livable wage, your shareholders would still have made a profit, and your workers wouldn’t have endured the misery and stress that they did. Effectively, you murdered them in every sense of the word. Your robbed them of a soul and you robbed them of well being, and you did that so that you and your shareholders could live better than the kings and emperors of this earth have ever lived.”
“Look,” said the judge to Harold, and Harold saw the blade from Madame de La Guillotine fall. He saw Emma’s head roll and knew she was no more.
Harold went quietly.
It was later in the day that POTUS learned that thirty five of the richest men in the United States, along with their families, had been decapitated by Madame de la Guillotine. The message was sent collectively to all television stations, along with photos showing the deaths of all. Youtube hosted thirty five videos of blood and gore and those that saw them were sickened. The rich of the nation began to tremble.
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger