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~~~

After what should have been Logan’s closing prayer, the preacher stared out past the congregation, toward the entrance into Cubicle City. He watched as fifteen armed men, many from his own security force, silently spread out among the shadows. They were creeping into position around the congregation, following the walls around the cubicles and hoping to avoid a panic before moving in and take control.

It’s time.

Logan looked away and back down toward the podium. He shot God a silent prayer for guidance and then turned his attention back toward the congregation. “Brothers and sisters, I’ve shared my story with all of you in the hope that you might not follow in my footsteps, pursuing the road I once did which ends in darkness. We all have a choice in every situation–do we choose to follow the light, or, lose our way in the dark? My road took me into a very dark place that night, where the final choice remaining for me was a life-or-death one.” He took a deep breath and tried to ignore the armed men.

Fortunately, they’d stopped moving, and as a sign of respect for their former leader, they were waiting for the preacher to finish.

“I’ve spoken with you about the god of Hate and Madness who has been roaming in our world, looking for hearts to devour and minds to corrupt. I’ve shown you through a glimpse into my own life, the results of letting that hatred in… and locking the love of God out. We know this enemy, although its face is sometimes unclear… especially in these uncertain times. No matter what happens next, I pray that you would all search your hearts and expel all the anger you may be harboring. Don’t feed the hate. Don’t choose the darkness. Pursue Love at all cost as if your life depended on it. Mine certainly did…”

~~~

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” – John 1:5

Logan arrived at his small apartment just before dawn. He left the lights out and grabbed a six pack of beer from the fridge. He sat down in his favorite chair, put the six pack by his feet, and felt the mental and physical exhaustion finally catching up with him. He opened a beer, put it to his mouth, and swallowed hard. He dropped the empty bottle on the floor and opened another one. After consuming half the bottle, he leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.

After telling his sister, Claire, that her son was dead, she had unloaded on him, blaming him for everything bad that had ever happened to Jonas. She had cursed the day Logan was born, and had thrown whatever living room items were available in a fit of rage.

Logan had took it… deserved it. After she calmed down, he’d tried to embrace her. Claire had immediately pulled away, told him to get out of her life, and then stormed into her bedroom to grieve.

He’d stayed long enough for one of Claire’s good friends to show up, watching the news reports and receiving additional updates from Nathan over his cell phone, who had an insider on the police force–one of a handful of cops who supported The Brotherhood.

The investigation into what was being called “Abbey’s Massacre”–fucking media–along with what Nathan had dug up, theorized that John Sumner, husband and father of three, had been at The Tavern near the end of the lunch rush, and then snuck upstairs between shifts when Abagail had been distracted. John then hid in Maggie’s closet until the young girl got home. He’d ambushed her by throwing a sheet over her head, and then hit her several times in the face before she could cry out. He’d then strangled her to death. Afterwards, John had lowered the fire escape ladder, tossed Maggie’s body over the side, and then climbed down with Maggie and deposited the corpse in a nearby dumpster.

The most disturbing thing was that instead of fleeing the scene, John Sumner had crawled into the dumpster with the corpse and did God only knows. The police had found evidence left behind in the dumpster, suggesting that John had remained with the body for some time before deciding to reenter the bar and start his shooting rampage.

Among the evidence found in the vicinity of the girl’s body, such as Sumner’s hair and fibers from his shirt, there were pieces of flesh missing from Maggie’s right arm and left thigh, initially suggesting she’d been gnawed on by rats. But during the autopsy, they had discovered teeth marks consistent with that of a human.

Of course, no one had been able to attach a clear motive to Sumner’s behavior. No drugs had been found in his system and as far as anyone knew, there was no prior history between Sumner and the dead girl, or, any ill-will between the attacker and anyone in the bar. The best guess investigators could come up with was that John Sumner’s real motivation involved directly targeting the bar owner and her daughter while the other deaths were collateral damage. But noting had lined up to support this theory either. Maggie’s murder was obviously premeditated, lending to the assumption that the attack on the bar must have also been part of Sumner’s plan, but there had been nothing to indicate that Sumner’s attack would have concluded in the bar.

“He lost his fucking mind,” Logan said. “That’s what happened. You can’t pin a motive on madness.” He finished off his second beer and opened a third.

Sunlight began penetrating his front window blinds, partially illuminating the large red, white and black banner with the swastika centered on it, which dominated the opposite wall. Logan stared at the reminder of purity… order… perfection… but the only thing he could see in the banner now was the intense hatred that had orchestrated so many of his decisions, including his most recent failure at the bar. That blinding hate insisted that the Asian busboy was responsible for Abbey’s missing daughter, rendering Logan incapable of suspecting a man like John Sumner–a monster disguised as a white man from a superior race.

The irony did not escape him now, as he thought about how history had labeled his heroes from The Third Reich as monsters, too. Could he have been wrong all this time?

Logan considered his encounter with the shadow man in the alley. His mind wanted to dismiss it as some hallucination… but he saw something tangible in that creature’s yellow eyes, an intense hatred staring back at him like nothing he’d ever felt before… and that was real. Whatever that thing was in the alley, Logan believed he had come face to face with something made from pure evil. And once it set those eyes ablaze on him, he’d felt it… all of it… the sum of so much hatred filling his soul that Logan was sickened by it.

He thought of Abbey, Maggie, Jonas, the others who had died in the bar… and simply followed the trail back through the countless acts he had been involved with throughout the years which had directly or indirectly resulted in the shattering of so many lives… all in the name of a cancer called Hate.

Logan looked away from the banner in disgust and closed his eyes. It wasn’t a banner. It was a mirror.

His thoughts went back to the Asian kid, Brian, who fled the alley after surviving an assault by the monster of hate that he harbored in his dark soul. He thought about what he would’ve done if the shadow man had not shown up, and how he would’ve continued beating the boy to death whether he told him what he wanted to know or not. Would his actions in that alley be viewed any differently than the actions of John Sumner?

Madness. Hatred. They were one in the same.

In that moment, Logan knew he was done. He’d reached his fill of hate and felt like a bloated man after stuffing himself with so much of it… and now he couldn’t stand the taste it left in his mouth.

He thought of the Asian boy’s words again, hitting him in the darkness, now, like a final warning:

The demon comes for you, but God has set you aside. Repent.

Repent? How does one turn away from all they ever knew? How does one denounce the god of hate?

Logan felt foolish for letting his exhausted thoughts lead him into such a complex web of introspection. Sleep would provide the clarity he needed now. As for tomorrow… well… he’d have to tackle that beast in a few hours, preferably with a bottle of bourbon.

He sluggishly got to his feet.

Someone started rapping loudly on his front door.

Oh, what fresh hell is this? he thought.

He turned toward the front door, too damn tired to care about being cautious, and opened it.

A stocky woman wearing a blazer with short-cropped blond hair and shoulders broad enough to almost mistake her for a man, stood in the doorway with a shorter man in a suit standing just behind her, his hand resting on the butt of his holstered sidearm.

“Logan McCalister?” the woman with a stone for a face asked, retrieving a badge from her blazer pocket and showing it to him.

“Yeah… that’s me.”

“I’m Detective Petroskovich,” she said. “This is Detective Ackers,” she added nodding to the man behind her.

Logan could only laugh. “Well of course you are. With the night I’m having, your timing is perfect. What can I do for you?”

Detective Petroskovich ignored the strange response. She noticed Logan’s tattoos and immediately tensed up. “We’d like to ask you some questions about your whereabouts last night. May we come in?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“We can do this here… or at the police station. I don’t care either way,” the stern detective said.

Logan quickly assessed the situation: Two armed detectives. Probably waiting for me to make this easy and provoke a conflict. Then all the cops I don’t see will come barging on in. He smiled, moved to the side, and said, “Come on in, then.”

As Detectives Petroskovich and Ackers entered his apartment, Logan thought about the disposable 9mm handgun hidden in his favorite chair’s arm rest and the AK-47 in the kitchen, standing up within the gap between his refrigerator and the wall.

Logan finally turned on the lights and then offered them a seat on the small sofa, opposite his chair, while he sat back down and grabbed another beer. “Want one?” he offered.

Detective Petroskovich sat down and frowned at the large Nazi banner above the television.

“No thank you,” Detective Ackers quickly chimed in, retrieving a small notebook. “We just need to ask you a few questions and we’ll be out of your hair.”

“Fair enough.” Logan leaned back in his chair and took a sip of his beer. He kept his gun hand free and resting on the covered arm rest compartment, like a holster. He sized up his guests. Ackers is the professional by-the-book type. Considering they damn-well know who I am, he’s playing it way too calm. There’s definitely reinforcements outside. He’s probably wired, too. His dark complexion reeks of Latino. He looked at the female detective who was glaring at him. Now, that’s one uncomfortable bitch! She’s dying to say something to me but she’s trying to keep her anger in check. Judging by the name… oh, hell yeah… she’s got Polish-Jew written all over her. Probably hasn’t held that shield for very long. These two would suck at poker… tells are obvious… Logan stopped, suddenly aware for the first time what he was doing. He felt like he was standing beside himself, observing how he fell right back into those old hateful habits. He felt a new sensation: Shame.

You’re getting soft, Logan. The voice of old advised. Your exhaustion is causing you to forget who the enemy is. Wake the hell up ‘cause they’re sitting right in front of you, reeking up the furniture. He chugged his beer.

“Okay,” Ackers started. “Could you tell us where you were last night? Around midnight?”

Dancing with a back alley demon, he thought. “Why don’t you just tell me what this is about?”

“Just answer the question, shitbag,” the female detective snapped.

“Sam…” Ackers gave her a look.

Oh, yeah, she’s definitely a loose cannon. Logan smiled and was about to say something offensive to the Jew, but then caught the look in her eyes–those hate-filled eyes–and felt his stomach turn.

There it is again… she reeks of it, too. Is that what they see when you stare back at them? What the hell is wrong with me tonight? I need some fucking sleep.

Logan opened another beer and answered crossly, “I was home… trying to get drunk… like I’m trying to now, but sobriety has declared war on me, apparently.”

“So… you weren’t out driving your motorcycle around midnight?” Acker pressed. “We’ve interviewed some witnesses that place you in the Abbey’s Tavern parking lot around one o’clock.”

Logan laughed. “First, it’s cute when you call a Harley a motorcycle… it’s like you’ve never seen one before. Second, yeah… I was there. But I was drinking before that.”

“That’s strange,” Sam injected, “because we also have witnesses that say they distinctively heard a chopper roaming through an alley not far from here… right about eleven… and that’s a Harley, by the way. In fact, there’s not many people around here that own a chopper. Are you sure you were at home… drinking?”

Logan wanted to reach into the arm rest, grab the gun, and shoot that smug smile off the Jew’s face. The more the hate boiled up in him the worse his stomach got. He wanted to vomit. Calm down… Logan.

“Look,” he said. “Last night was fucked-up for me. My nephew just got murdered, and then I had to be the one to tell his mother… so excuse me if I don’t recall when I was riding from when I was fucking drinking. I did a lot of both. Why don’t you just tell me what you’re after and we can save a whole hell of a lot of time?”

Sam was about to speak but Ackers cut her off. “Sure thing. We’re investigating the death of a young man who worked as a busboy at Abbey’s Tavern… I’m sorry about your loss, by the way, that mess was very tragic.”

Death? What the fuck? Logan’s head was spinning.

“His name was Brian Cheng. He was last seen at the bar. He was on his way home, cut down an alley, and was shot in the chest five times,” Ackers finished.

“That’s… unfortunate,” Logan said. He felt cold, very cold. “But what’s that have to do with me?”

“Someone heard your damn chopper in the alley, smart guy,” Sam said. “Right before hearing the gunshots. Do the math, you racist pig. Even with your low I.Q. it should be pretty fucking obvious. Oh, and what my partner forgot to mention was that the victim was an Asian… you know… not your kind of people.”

“Sam…” Ackers cautioned.

“What is this police-bullying bullshit? Better get your bitch under control!” Logan said to Ackers, holding up his hands while on the inside he wanted to reach over and strangle her. His stomach was in knots.

Sam couldn’t stop. “Was that a threat?” She turned to Ackers. “Did you hear it? Sounded like a threat to me.”

“Calm down, Sam… now.” Ackers started to rise.

Sam got up and pointed in Logan’s face. “We know you did it, asshole! Five holes in that kid’s chest with a .45 caliber hand gun. And we know you own one, too! One of the few you probably had to register just in case someone pulled you over on that fucking chopper of yours!”

“Sam!” Ackers said, pulling her back. “A word.” He led her toward the front door.

“Your kind make me sick!” she shouted at Logan before turning back to Ackers.

Logan stood up.

Ackers looked to Logan and cautioned, “Stand down! I mean it.”

Logan pointed at Sam. “Get your mad dog under control and get out of my house before I file a police harassment claim on both of you!” He then sat back down before the situation could escalate further.

He was shaking. His mind was spinning out of control. Among the loss, the guilt, the booze, the exhaustion, the anger, the hate, and now trying to recall what really happened in the alley, Logan was about to lose it. The self-preservation instinct within screamed at him to draw the handgun, start firing at the detectives, and then run out the back door. But that was probably where the cops would be… just dying for any excuse to fill the local white-supremacist leader full of lead, and satisfy their own brand of hatred toward his kind. No matter what happened next, death was certain… and the demon of hatred would claim three more lives on its continual march of destruction.

Logan covered his face with his hands. Did I shoot that kid? He’d never killed anyone before, although he’d come close on several occasions, physically hurting his terrorized victims so badly that some ended up in the hospital. I fired five rounds into fucking shadows… watched that boy run off while I nearly pissed my pants. But did it really happen that way?

And then he realized that the Jew detective was correct. The math did add up. He fired five rounds from his .45 handgun after nearly beating that kid to death. Brian was dead with five .45 caliber rounds to the chest. There could be no other explanation… unless he wanted to concede that the shadow man with the hate-filled yellow eyes had really been there… which meant he was insane.

Madness. Hatred. They were one in the same.

Logan had one play left. A choice to make that ended in one of two outcomes. He could ride that hate-filled train off the tracks and finalize his death-guaranteed courtship with madness. Or, he could try something much more frightening and foreign, straight from the mouth of a dead man:

The demon comes for you, but God has set you aside. Repent.

Repentance? What the fuck did that mean?

The hatred, which had dominated most of his life, demanded he go out in a blaze of glory, make it to the assault rifle in the kitchen, and cut down as many of these ‘unclean’ creatures as possible. The alternative was to go down for the death of an Asian boy.

The Brotherhood would say Brian Cheng had it coming… what they all had coming.

John Sumner would probably agree. He called them demons when he attempted to obey the voice of the same madness.

It didn’t matter how the Hate got the job done, or who it called what… so as long as Death prevailed on that throne of Madness.

In the end, it was Jonas that made the decision for him.

Logan closed his eyes while the two detectives argued in the background.

For the first time he heard something entirely different in the noise produced by such a violent life. He heard a gentle voice which offered one word of advice with multiple meanings:

Surrender.

Logan opened his eyes. “Excuse me, detectives.”

Ackers and Petroskovich turned.

“I left my .45 caliber handgun in the rear compartment of my chopper. I’m not saying that I shot that boy… I don’t remember doing it… but I certainly beat him up real bad before I left that alley. Either way, if the bullets match my gun, I guess we’ll all know the truth.”

The two detectives were stunned.

Logan smiled and put his wrists together. “I think this is the part where you read me my rights, and I get a phone call to my lawyer.”…

~~~

A short man wearing a leather vest and jeans, stepped toward the front of the congregation with an M-16 strapped across his chest–his trigger finger resting uneasily across the trigger guard. “Logan,” the man interrupted. “I’m going to have to ask you to stop your sermon and join the others.”

By now, several armed men moved in around the congregation causing the church members to stand up and look around with alarmed looks on their faces.

Logan closed his bible and smiled at the man. “Frederick,” he said. “I’ve never been able to get you here for one of my sermons. But here you are now.”

Frederick frowned. “This isn’t a social call, Logan. I’m going to need you to stand aside, join the others, and keep all these folks calm.” Frederick turned toward the congregation. “Nothing to worry about, everyone. Please… stay seated… and no one gets hurt. I’ve orders to keep everyone here until the change of command has been finalized.”

Several confused members of the Wasteland community gave each other troubled glances. Some nodded their heads in approval, finally relieved to find out that Gina was being removed from leadership. Others simply looked terrified.

Logan sighed and said, “What you’re doing, Frederick… what all of you are doing… is breaking your word to protect this place… and unnecessarily scaring a whole lot of folks in the process.”

“I’m sorry, preacher, but this is how it has to be,” Frederick said. “Lannister’s taking charge for the time being. Honestly, if you’d just give us your blessing, we’d take control from Lannister, too, and hand it right to you… as you know many of us wanted to do when we first got here.”

Logan shook his head. “This isn’t right. We lived together as brothers on the road, helping to keep each other alive, long before we came here. And now this?”

“We’ve nothing left to talk about, preacher. Please… don’t make me move you by force. Just… get with the others, play along nicely, and this will all be over soon.” Frederick raised his rifle to show he meant business.

Logan met the frightened and angry stares of his congregation and said, “Everyone, just stay calm and do what my friend says. I believe they have no intention to harm anyone.” He looked at Frederick and finished, “You haven’t… have you?”

Frederick laughed. “Of course not! We’re just here to keep everyone… compliant. So far, no one’s given us any issues. We’d like this transition to go down smoothly… as I’m sure you would, too.”

Logan nodded and bowed his head. He thought about Gina and how much she trusted him, even when others in this community had their doubts. If not for her, Logan and his men might have been turned away the moment they first arrived. And now… his own men had turned against him… against her.

Father, please give me the strength to do what is necessary and I pray that you would keep every single soul from harm… Logan opened his eyes. Would Meredith and Megan be okay if Gina was no longer in command? He didn’t think so. What new brand of hate and suspicion would the rest of them be subjected to? Who would be the next disgruntled subject wanting to force his will over the people when he or she had enough of Lannister’s reign?

Hatred breeds hatred, and will always need a new target, Logan thought. Today it’s Gina. Tomorrow it will be Lannister. It will only be a matter of time before the bloodshed starts and we will repeat this same game over and over again until it does, because Hatred’s hunger will never be satisfied.

“Okay, Frederick,” he finally said. “No one’s going to cause trouble.” He turned to the congregation. “Friends, we need to do what these gentlemen say and remain calm. After we know what’s happened, we’ll get together with Lannister and Stephen and get some answers.” He turned back to Frederick. “Is that acceptable?”

“That’s perfect, Logan. Thanks for your cooperation.” Frederick turned to the community. “Thank you all for surrendering peacefully and not causing us any problems. Just sit tight and this will all be over shortly.”

Surrender?

Logan lowered his eyes and nodded.

~~~

Next Episode 36-5

Previous Episode 36-3

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 36-4: Uprising” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. Gylion says:

    So the time to leave that depressing bunker behind has finally come…
    Maybe they recruit Logan to their Main Group. After they dealt with the rebel scum of course.:D

    Like

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