Freedom's Sons - Section I, Chapter 5
V. That Toddlin’ Town
(Nine months after Longview)
Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town! Chicago, Chicago, I'll show you around!
-old Frank Sinatra song
Elias Horakova was having a really bad day.
That sweltering July morning he arrived late at his job at the Chicago Tool and Die Company’s last functioning American plant in Calumet Heights, after a train commute that had stretched to three hours due to several mechanical breakdowns, and also due to a dead goat on the tracks from a Santeria ceremony the night before. Needless to say, the air conditioning on both the local rail and the El was broken. It hardly ever worked any more.
When Eli finally got to work, he learned from a memo in his mailbox that the venerable factory was finally closing its doors, and the last jobs were being shipped to the new plant in Guatemala. Eli took his lunch break in the Moose Lodge tavern down the street, quaffed one too many Old Style beers, and when he returned to work, he took a swing at his obnoxious Mexican foreman with a pipe wrench. For this he was informed that he would lose fifty percent of his severance package. The company Human Relations Committee also told him they were notifying the FBI of a possible hatecrime. Then after the endless trip home on the oven-like trains, Eli had arrived at his home in Cicero to find a dead nigger lying in his living room.
The dead man was still bleeding. He wore a filthy tank top, an empty holster on his hip, jeans and boots, and on his coal-black head was glued the remains of a bright multi-colored wool toboggan cap that was soaked in blood and brain matter. Horakova’s 16-year-old son Eddie, a chunky tow-headed youth whose arms and hands were already as big and muscular as his father’s, was sitting on the couch, still holding the old .45-caliber Colt automatic he had used to shoot the huge congoid. A nine-millimeter Glock automatic that Eli had never seen before was lying on the coffee table. “Jesus Christ! Eddie? What the fuck happened?” croaked Elias, his throat suddenly bone-dry.
“It’s that Jamaican badass Rico Tubbs,” Eddie said in a toneless voice. “He was gonna take Millie to the Center. For questioning, he said.”
“Mother of God!” cried Eli in horror. Everyone in Chicago knew what such questioning in a Neighborhood Watch clubhouse would have entailed for a 13-year-old white girl. “Where’s Millie? Is she all right?” he demanded.
“She’s in her room,” said Eddie. “I already laid it all out for her, Dad. She was in her room the whole day, on her computer, or listening to music with her headphones on, and she didn’t see or hear nothing. No matter what the cops do or say to her, she didn’t see or hear nothing. She understands. She won’t break, Dad. This is all on me. I won’t let them involve her.”
“It’s not the cops I’m worried about, it’s Rico’s nigger buddies down at the Neighborhood Watch,” said Eli, sitting down in an armchair and shakily lighting a cigarette. “Tell me what happened, Ed.”
“It was maybe half an hour ago. Rico came in the door…”
“Did he break in?” interrupted Eli.
“No, he used his house key, the one the city made us give to the Watch,” his son told him.
“Did he have any papers on him about Millie, about the family? Anything from the FBI or the Human Relations Commission?”
“Nah,” said Eddie. “He just walked in. Millie and me were sitting here watching TV. Rico walks over and grabs Millie by the arm. He says, ‘You be coming wit me, little mama. We got some questions for you down at de Sen-tair,’ you know that crappy Jamaican accent he had. He didn’t even look at me. He didn’t care I was there. I was just a white boy, what was I gonna do? But I knew what I was gonna do, Dad. I didn’t say nothing. I just got up and went into your bedroom and got the gun from your stash, jacked in a round like you showed me that time we went shooting down in the Forest Preserves, and I walked back in here. Millie was kicking and screaming, and Rico was laughing as he dragged her out the door. I shot him once in the chest and put him down. He was lying there gasping like a fish out of water, clawing at his holster for his gun. I leaned over and took the gun. That’s it on the table there. Then I put the muzzle right onto his teeth and I pulled the trigger again. Outfit style, like Stash says they used to do back in the day. I just did what I hadda do, Dad.”
“I know, son,” said his father, his heart breaking. “Where’s your mother? Does she know?”
“No. Mom’s still at work. Tommy’s still at day care. Mom is picking him up on her way home.”
“What about Stash?”
“He wheeled himself into the room when he heard the yelling and screaming and the shots. He’s out in the garage now. He said he was getting some stuff we’re gonna need.”
“What stuff?” asked Eddie’s father, still trying to take it all in.
“Dis stuff,” said Eli’s father Stanislas, a lean and wiry old man in his seventies, as he rolled his wheelchair into the living room. On his lap were several hacksaws and a roll of black garbage bags. “I’m glad you’re home, Eli, because it’s gonna take two of you to get dis buck’s clothes off and get him into de bathtub. Den you gotta cut him up. We put de pieces in dese garbage bags, we weigh de bags down wit bricks or scrap iron, and tonight you and Eddie take de van, and you toss de bags into de lake. Throw each one in at a different place.”
It was a testament to the realities of life in the United States, and Chicago in particular, that the idea of calling the police was so foolish it never even occurred to Eli to suggest it. His son had raised his hand against a man with a black skin; in Chelsea Clinton’s America, his life was now over. “They’re gonna come looking for him,” said Eli hopelessly, gesturing toward the black carcass on the floor. “There’s what? Three white homes left on Kildare Avenue, and we’re the only family with a girl? If the brothers didn’t know where he was going, they’ll figure it out soon enough.”
“Dat’s why we have to hurry and get dis cleaned up,” said Stash. “Once we get de cutting done, you guys have to dump de bags and de girls will have to scrub down every inch of dis room. If de real cops get involved, dey might use dose luminol lights for bloodstains, but we’ll tell ‘em you came home drunk and you knocked Lorna around a few nights ago.”
“I’ve never laid a hand on Lorna!” protested Eli angrily. “I’m not a wife-beater!” Not like you, he thought silently.
“Dey don’t know dat,” said Stash evenly.
“Did you ever cut up a body before, Grandad?” asked Eddie.
“I doubt it,” snarled Eli. “Eddie, I thought you’d figured out by now that all those Outfit stories were bullshit. Your grandfather spent forty years working like a dog in the same place I just got laid off from today. If he was mobbed up, we wouldn’t be living in a three-bedroom bungalow in Cicero with a half-million-dollar mortgage, he wouldn’t be sleeping on a roll-out sofa bed in the garage, and you wouldn’t be sharing a room with your brother.”
“Sorry to hear de plant’s closing down, saw dat comin’ a long time ago, but we got other problems to deal wit now,” said Stanislas. “Eli, you get his head and Eddie, you get his feet. Take him into de bathroom, strip him, and I’ll walk you through it while I watch from the doorway. Eddie, give me de gun.”
“Why?” asked Eddie.
“Because if anybody walks in dat front door while we’re doin’ dis besides your mother, I’m gonna kill him, and dat’s no bullshit.”
Eli’s wife Lorna, a faded blond woman with a work-worn face, arrived home half an hour later with five-year-old Tommy. She saw what her husband and son were doing in the bathroom, and went into hysterics. Eli managed to get her calmed down after another half hour. Then he sent the little boy into Millie’s room, telling a white-faced Millie to play a computer game with him and keep him in there, while Lorna got busy with the Ajax, a scrub brush, and a mop. Then Eli and his son went on with their gruesome task while old Stanislas offered helpful supervisory suggestions that made Eli wonder if his long-held, skeptical estimation of his father’s alleged criminal past might need re-thinking. By nine o’clock that night, the bathtub was piled with doubled black garbage bags, firmly closed with plastic ties, and Lorna had managed to whip up a big pot of macaroni and cheese, which she served as supper along with a plate of buttered slices of cheap white bread. This was how the family always ate anyway, since the Food Stamps program had gone bankrupt years before. Every dime she and her husband earned had to go for the house mortgage and her father-in-law’s twice-weekly kidney dialysis treatments; food was a necessity of life that had to be provided as cheaply as possible.
There were no recriminations at the dinner table. This was America, these were poor white people who knew the score, and the only concern now was to save Eddie’s life. “I know what I gotta do,” said Eddie soberly. “Mom, Dad, give me some money, as much as you got on you, and I’ll leave town. After we get rid of the bags, Dad, take me up the Tollway as far as Interstate 90, and drop me off at some truck stop. I’ll hitch from there. I can make it to Wyoming in three or four days if I’m lucky, and then I’ll sneak across the border into the Northwest Republic.”
“But when will you come back?” asked his sister Milada, a thin girl with long blond hair who was on the verge of tears.
“I can’t ever come back, Millie,” said the boy. “I’m sorry it played out like this, I’m sorry I jammed the family up like this, but what’s done is done.”
“There has to be some other way!” moaned Lorna.
“There isn’t,” said Eli harshly. “He’ll be tried as an adult in one of those goddamned new Hate Courts, and he’ll get life in prison, although in his case that won’t be long since we all know what happens to teenaged white boys in Joliet.”
“What would happen?” asked Millie.
“I won’t last a week,” explained Eddie brutally. “The first time the niggers try to fuck me in the shower I’ll fight back, and they’ll stab me to death with their shivs.”
No one questioned what Eddie said. Life for white people in blue-collar Chicago was grim, and even Millie was old enough to know what he was talking about. Little Tommy simply stared. He knew something bad was happening, but he didn’t cry; already he understood by some mental and emotional osmosis from the others that in this world, his family was surrounded by enemies, and he must not show weakness. “We all have to go,” said Eli. “They’ll be coming after all of us now, because of that Parental Responsibility Act, and they’ll give Millie and Tommy to It Takes a Village to be sold. Hell, might as well make a break for it, just on general principles. I ain’t got no job any more, and at my age I ain’t getting another job. I been thinking about it for a while.”
“Maybe it will be all right,” ventured Lorna. “The angels watched over Millie and Eddie this afternoon, maybe they’ll keep on watching over us.” White people in America dealt with the unbearable strain and tension of life surrounded by a slowly rising sea of mud in many ways. In Lorna’s case, it was through her Catholic faith, and a resolute belief in the existence of angels on earth who would somehow make everything work out in the end. She had a shelf full of books and a rack of video discs, all on the subject of angels. No one else in the family believed in them, and no one was so cruel as to argue with her on the subject. “But we can’t all go,” Lorna went on “What about Stash? He’s supposed to go for dialysis tomorrow. And besides, it’s against the law to move to any of the Northwestern states now. We’ll be arrested at the state line.”
“That’s why it has to be just me, Mom,” said Eddie. “I broke the law when I shot that ape, but you guys haven’t yet, unless you shelter me. That’s why I gotta leave on my own, so I don’t get you guys into more trouble.”
“I don’t give a damn about the law of this goddamned country no more,” said Eli. “Two tours in Iraq, and what did this country ever give me in return? I got a piece of shrapnel in my leg that still hurts like hell, but the goddamned VA doctors won’t take it out because it costs too much. There’s no more Medicare or any kind of help for my father. Neither of you kids are learning a damned thing in school, and if your mother and I didn’t stand over you and make you learn on the computer every night, neither of you would even know how to read and write! Now I got no job, because those Jews on the board of directors sent it to some shithole in Guatemala where they’ll train some Indian to push the buttons on the robot that actually does what I used to do. Nothing but niggers and Mexicans everywhere like a plague of goddamned locusts! Now they do this to my family? That nigger was probably getting paid more by the city for swaggering around the neighborhood with his gun and molesting any white woman he met than I was getting paid at the CT&D. He comes into my home and expects to rape my daughter just for shits and giggles, my son defends her, and now he’s gonna get thrown away like a piece of garbage? To hell with the law and to hell with America! I say we all go Northwest!”
“But what about Stash’s dialysis?” asked Lorna.
“De answer is simple,” said Stanislas. “You guys go Northwest. You go tonight. You can’t take me, and you know it. I’m stuck in dis chair, I can’t even take a shit by myself, and I gotta get hooked up to dat goddamned machine in de hospital every three or four days. You’re gonna have to run de border, where de TV says dey got army and Marines and special police units setting up barbed wire and minefields because so many white people want out of this latrine. You can’t be lugging me along while you’re cutting through barbed wire and dodging machine gun nests, and you can’t push me across a minefield in dis chair.”
“And what about our friend in the bathtub?” asked Eli.
“Before you go, stuff de garbage bags in de crawl space under de house,” said Stash. “When de Neighborhood Watch shows up looking for deir head nigger in charge, I’ll just clam up and tell ‘em I don’t know nuthin’. When Tubbsy starts getting ripe and people notice de smell, sure, dey’ll find him, but I still don’t know nuthin’. I mean, like I killed him and stuffed him under de house? In dis chair? Yeah, dey’ll figure out what happened, but you’ll be long gone.”
“Then they’ll just kill you,” said Eli. “They’ll beat you to death or drag you out into the street and run over you with their patrol SUVs like they did poor old Frank Metesky back in October when he hung blue, white and green streamers on his porch.”
“I’ll talk ‘em out of it,” said Stanislas. “I can act like a real dumb and pitiful old bohunk when I want to.”
“And suppose you managed to do that, what will happen to you then, Stash?” asked Lorna. “Who will take care of you?”
“I still got some friends down at de precinct,” said the old man. In Chicagoese, he was referring to the Democratic Party precinct house, not the police precinct. “Dere’s still a few old bohunks down there who can get me a check of some kind, and if not, I’ll go into a nursing home.”
“You’re not going into a nursing home,” said Eli. “Especially not the ones for indigent old white people in this city, where you’ll be starved and beaten by the Filipino and Nigerian orderlies, and then one night one of them will cut your throat for your IV. I’m not leaving you in a place like that while we run away, Stash.” He sighed. “Eddie’s right. He has to try and make it on his own. We’ll dump the bags in the lake, and then I’ll drop him off up where I-90 begins. When the Neighborhood Watch comes looking, Eddie just ran away, and none of us knows anything. If they honestly don’t know what Tubbs was up to for his entertainment this afternoon, maybe we can get them to believe us. Eddie, go get dressed for the road. I got about forty dollars on me, I think.”
“I’ve got twenty or thirty,” said Lorna, sniffling.
“I have about a hundred dollars in my piggy bank,” said Millie, her eyes tearing.
“Aw, Millie, for Christ’s sake, you been saving that since you were eight,” said Eddie with a sad laugh. “I don’t need your money.”
“You saved me from that nigger,” said Millie, weeping openly now. “I know what he was going to do to me. I ain’t a stupid kid any more. Now you have to go away forever because of me. I can at least give you my pig.”
“Take me out to de garage and let’s give ‘em some time,” said old Stash to his son. Eli and Eddie had built a ramp, and Stanislas could get back to his roll-up-bed sofa in the garage well enough on his own, but Eli wheeled him out anyway. When they got out to Stash’s hootch he’d made for himself, he said, “Eli, dis is bullshit. You can’t break up de family like dis. All of yez gotta make a run for it, get to de Northwest. Leave me. Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. Pack your shit, and take it on de arches. Tonight.”
“Leaving you behind would break up the family,” said Eli, “You’re right. You can’t run a border full of armed guards and land mines in a wheelchair, and that doesn’t even take into account your bum kidneys and your dialysis. Eddie’s young, he’s smart, and I’ve taught him how to work with his hands, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, not to mention how to keep that piece of crap van running. Hell, he’s handier around the house than I am. He can take care of himself and make a living in Seattle or someplace like that. You can’t. We can’t take you, and I’m not leaving you, so this is the only way. Maybe if all of us white people had stood up to the government like those Jerry Rebs in the Northwest did, things would be different, but we played it safe and stayed on our bellies, and things ain’t different. So that’s the sitch, and we’ll deal with it.”
“Even if you can somehow talk your way out of it when dose niggers come nosing around, you got no job any more, and from what you said at dinner de goddamned FBI may be coming after you for hatecrime as well,” said Stash.
“This is our home. Grandpa and grandma came to this country as DPs and spent twelve years working their fingers to the bone, grandpa swinging a pick and shovel and grandma waiting tables and sewing in a Jew sweatshop to buy this house. You grew up here and so did I, and now so have Eddie and Millie. Eddie has to leave now, but you don’t, and the rest of us don’t,” said Eli, desperately trying to convince himself.
“Bird turd!” snarled Stash. “Why do you think my parents came here after World War Two? Dey was one step ahead of de fucking Communists back in Czechoslovakia, is why. Dey was done dere, and now we’re done here, Eli. Dese things happen every few generations. All of yez need to accept what’s happened and clear out. Leave me. I’ll be okay.”
“You’re my father. I’m not running away and leaving you behind to face the music,” said Eli stubbornly.
“You know damned well I was a lousy father, just like I was a lousy wiseguy,” said Stanislas.
“Well, if you’d been a better wiseguy, maybe we’d be living in a nice suburb now and we wouldn’t be in this shit,” said Eli bitterly. “Okay, let’s say for a moment that I believe you. If you really were with Giancana back in the day, why didn’t you stick with it?”
“Your mother,” said Stanislas with a sigh. “Just after you was born, I got caught up in one of dose big Crime Commission sweeps dey used to pull every few years, all de politicians and cops downtown standing in front of de TV cameras and telling everybody how dey was gonna shut down de Outfit and clean up Chicago. Yeah, like dat’s ever gonna happen. Half of ‘em were on Accardo or Momo Giancana’s pad even while dey were talkin’ dat crap. I was a little fish, and my charges were all petty bullshit beefs, running a couple of handbooks, receiving, nothin’ I couldn’t beat, and eventually I did.
“But for de only time in her life, your mother put her foot down. She said you wasn’t gonna grow up never seeing your old man except on visiting day. She didn’t care what I did when I was home, so long as I was home every night, otherwise she was gone and so were you. I knew she meant it, so I went to my precinct captain and I got a union card and a job at CT&D. So instead of seeing me only on visiting day, you got to see me home every night, usually drunk and whaling on your mother or you or your brothers, taking it out on you because I was working a drill press instead of running numbers and hustling and driving a new Caddy every year.” Stash looked up at him. “Eli, I was a rotten son of a bitch. I’m damned if I know why you let me live here after de way I acted all dose years. You don’t owe me nuthin’, rather de reverse. You take your family, and you get in dat van and you head Northwest, before Rico Tubbs’ homeys come knocking on de door, which could happen any minute now if you don’t move your ass.”
“I told you, you’re my father,” said Eli. “It’s not about what kind of man you were, it’s about what kind of man I am. I’m not leaving you behind.”
He walked heavily back into the house. Lorna and Millie were sitting on the sofa crying and hugging Eddie. In all the stress and turmoil of the day, Eli had forgotten that Stash still had the .45. He was just nerving himself up to tell Eddie and the women that it was time, that Eddie needed to say his goodbyes and they needed to get the van loaded with the macabre black bags and get moving, when they all heard the gunshot. Lorna screamed. “Stay here!” Eli ordered them, and he ran into the garage.
“Stan the Man” Horakova had performed one last hit, or possibly his first, on himself. Eli would never know. His father’s bloodied head was thrown back in the wheelchair, and the wall and ceiling of the garage was covered in dripping blood and gray matter. The gun lay on the concrete floor beneath the chair. There was still a lot of stuff left in the room from the days when it had been an actual garage, one of them being a can of vermilion spray paint. Old Stash had taken the can and spray-painted one word on the back of the garage door: “GO.”
* * *
The Horakova family pulled out of the driveway of the house on Kildare Avenue in the first thin light of dawn. They were driving a battered white van that was the last remaining relic from Eli’s attempt, some years before, to start his own part-time electrical contracting business using the umpteenth re-finance on the house mortgage. Then Stash’s kidneys had gone south and most of the capital went into keeping the old man alive.
The business had spluttered along for two years and then been shut down by the federal government for failure to meet OSHA standards, although that was just an excuse. It had long been the policy of the U.S. government to destroy any white entrepreneurial endeavor wherever it raised its head, either through regulation or taxation. The American ruling élite disliked and distrusted self-employed white people. They wanted everybody in the country working for a paycheck that could be cut off, if it ever became necessary to get a handle on someone. The two parties differed only on tactical details, not in their commitment to full economic control of the white population. Republicans wanted that paycheck to come from a large multinational corporation, whereas Democrats preferred that it come from the government. Democracy in America had long since been reduced to a matter of who controlled the patronage. It was Chicago writ large.
Eli carefully packed the van with the things he thought they would need, mostly clothes and the tools he and Eddie would need to earn a living in the new land. The first stop was an automated teller machine at the far end of Kildare Avenue, where Eli drew out $220 of the $227.15 in his and Lorna’s joint account in $20 bills, the family’s entire worldly wealth. With what they had on them, as well as the contents of Millie’s pig, they had almost four hundred dollars, which would not be enough even for gas. But Eli had a large jerry can of gasoline he kept for emergencies, and this qualified. He also packed a siphon hose. “If we run dry we’ll just steal some gas,” he told them. “Preferably from some Jew’s Cadillac.”
They headed northward on Interstate 90. Traffic wasn’t too bad, and they were past Rockford and well into Wisconsin by noon. Eli did the driving. The others took turns beside him in the passenger seat so they could get some air; little Tommy sat on Lorna’s lap, while the others sat in the back as best they could on the heaps of clothing and boxes of stuff they had packed. They watched the green forested landscape along the interstate go by in silence. They were all exhausted, no one had gotten any sleep, and the events of the past 24 catastrophic hours were finally starting to sink in.
Eli’s father, the children’s grandfather, was dead. Their home, the only home Eli himself and the children had ever known, had been torn from them in the blink of an eye because of a nigger’s casual lust for a little white girl. They had known others who had defied the politically correct system, and those others had paid the price. Now it was the Horakovas’ turn. Their names had been drawn out of the Mad Hatter’s topper in the insane lottery of life under political correctness, and now they were to be hurled onto the burning altar of Moloch, god of equality and diversity, like so many others during the past century. No mercy, no appeal, just down the tubes. It was a quintessential American experience.
Once they got past Madison, Eli pulled off at a rest stop. The stop itself was long closed, due to some long-forgotten round of state or federal budgets cuts, but people still used it anyway to rest and to dump their garbage in a large landfill pit someone had dug out of the ground. There were several other vehicles pulled over in the parking area, all of them white motorists, fortunately. Eli was in no mood to deal with nigger or Mexican bullshit at the moment. The way he felt right now, if any of them approached him to beg or Mau Mau or steal, Eli probably would put a bullet in the shitskin’s head from the .45 he kept in the small of his back. The gun had killed twice in the past 24 hours and Eli no longer cared if it killed again, just so long as it killed someone with dark skin. He had finally been pushed beyond the point of caring.
The toilets and sinks were no longer functioning in the restrooms, which were supposed to be locked, but someone had broken down the doors, and people had been using the facilities anyway. In the summer heat, the stench inside was so powerful that the family all went off into the woods to relieve themselves. Then they had a breakfast of sorts, consisting of whatever immediately comestible items Lorna had found in their kitchen cupboard back in Cicero. This included several candy bars, a can of dried apricots, half a can of dried plums, several cans of Vienna sausages, and some cold pop-tarts washed down with cans of soda. “Okay, it’s time we all got some rest,” decreed Eli. “The women and Tommy make themselves a bed in the back as best they can, Eddie and me will sleep in the front. It’s probably best we do most of our traveling at night anyway.”
They pulled into the most removed parking area in the rest stop and settled down for a few hours of restive, disturbed sleep. They were all awake by six p.m., and five-year-old Tommy was finally starting to get cranky. Millie kept him quiet by sharing a hand-held video game. Eli, Eddie, and Lorna looked at the road map of the United States he had brought, spread out on the side of the van.
“We need to make our decision on where to try and break through the border,” said Eli. “We’re coming up to the fork in the interstates.”
“Wyoming is the closest,” said Lorna.
“Hey, maybe Dad and I can become cowboys,” suggested Eddie with a faint smile on his lips.
“Agreed,” said Elias with a nod. “Wyoming is the closest, but for that very reason it will probably be more closely watched by the military and the security agencies, since I-90 is the quickest route there from the Midwest. If we take I-90 and head west, we’ll go through South Dakota’s Black Hills country and hit the Wyoming state line, or what used to be the state line, in about 20 hours, depending on traffic, which would be great if we were tourists on vacation and we were taking the scenic route. But we’re not, we’re refugees running for our lives. Wyoming is technically one of the states handed over to the Northwest Republic by the Longview Treaty, yeah, but from what I can remember from the TV and internet news, it’s still pretty wild and woolly out there, with some fighting still going on between the new white government and American forces, and also some of the local people who want to stick with the United States. We don’t need to go driving right into a war zone where we might get shot at from all sides. Also, I drove down 90 once, and I remember those badlands out there are really barren. I mean it’s like you’re on the fucking moon. We might run out of gas a hundred miles from the nearest help.”
“So where, then?” asked Eddie.
Eli pointed to the map. “If we head north from here and we get onto I-94 west, we’ll go through North Dakota and eastern Montana until we get to West Montana, or whatever the Northwest Republic calls it now it’s their part of the state. There are some cities we’ll have to go around, Fargo, Bismarck, Billings and Bozeman, and that might get a bit hairy with cops watching, but it also means we can get gas there and maybe a little food. The trouble is that at some point, most likely around Bozeman, the troops and cops will start getting really thick, and we’ll need to get off the interstate and try taking the back roads around any roadblocks. That’s where it will start getting funky. But the best aspect of using the northern route is that unlike Wyoming, in Montana there’s a clear border, Interstate 15. I don’t know if the highway itself is still being used by traffic at all, but once we’re on the western side of it, we’re in the Republic and home free. It’s a finish line in this race for our lives, something we can shoot for.”
“Let’s go north and try for Montana, then,” said Lorna. “I know the angels will help us, but we should also help ourselves as much as we can.”
Before sunset, they pulled off at one exit and found a roadside market, one of the many unofficial bazaars that had sprung up across the United States in the past few years that paid protection to assorted cops and local authorities to be allowed to trade without licensing or regulation. Most of these markets were run by Middle Easterners, and they specialized in selling discontinued stock, or big box discounts, or whatever the current term was for stolen goods, especially cheap processed and canned food items, since food had become so expensive. The Horakovas were able to replenish their supply of Vienna sausages, beans, several boxes of crackers, and a block of processed cheese food one of the dusky Hindu traders had in an ice cooler. At Eddie’s recommendation, Eli also bought a cheap burner cell phone that had the capacity to receive netcasts from CNN, Fox, and the major news networks. All the Horakovas had their own phones, but Eli had forbidden their use and removed their circuit cards with the federally mandated built-in GPS microchip, lest they be used by the Chicago police or the FBI to track them down. Then they were back on the road.
They cut their available funds almost in half filling the van’s gas tank in St. Paul. They were now about eleven hundred miles from Butte, Montana, a town split down the middle by Interstate 15. “In theory we should be able to get one more fill-up and make it,” said Eli. “We could, if we were just driving down the interstate, like you could before all the trouble. Technically speaking, the Northwest Republic begins at Exit 227, where I-90 runs into 15. But there’s no way they’re going to just let us pull off and check into the nearest HoJo’s.”
Then began the long trip down I-94 through the darkness, through Minnesota and then across the broad, flat expanse of North Dakota. The silence in the van was broken only by the newscasts that Eddie found on the new disposable cell phone and put on speaker. He would try the Chicago internet stations for a while, to see if there was any news about what they had left behind in the house on Kildare Avenue, and then he would scan for news items or anything to do with border conditions ahead. “As near as I can tell from the news, the barbed wire and the barriers and the minefields are all on the American side, so once we actually get into Northwest territory we should be safe,” said Eddie.
“After Billings we have to get off the interstate and find a way to get to I-15 by back roads, at night, and then cross over without being detected,” Eli said.
The Horakovas noticed there were a lot of headlights all around them, almost all of them heading west. “I wonder how many of the people in these other cars are doing like we’re doing and trying to get into the Northwest Republic?” asked Eddie.
“Quite a few of them, I suspect,” replied Eli.
“Maybe we should all form a wagon train together like the pioneers did back in the old days,” suggested Eddie.
“That’s not a good idea,” said Eli. “Those assholes in D.C. admit they’re monitoring traffic on the interstate from satellites in space, and at some point down the line here, the cops and the military are going to start straining out anybody they think might be trying to leave the joys of the so-called greatest nation on earth for someplace where niggers don’t come into your house and try to drag your daughter away. We have to get as close as we can to the border and find a place where we can cross without being noticed. Eddie, ride the internet on that thing, and see if you can get some idea of what’s going on in the border area, what kind of trouble we might be running into.”
Finally, as the dawn broke, they crossed the state line into the plains of eastern Montana. Eddie and Millie and Lorna stared out the windows of the van at the vastness of the land under the rising sun; they had never been farther out of the city than the Forest Preserves, and they had never even imagined that such a huge amount of space uncluttered by brick or asphalt or concrete could even exist. “It’s all empty,” whispered Millie, staring out the back window of the van. “How are we going to find the Northwest Republic in all this?”
“Imagine what it was like a hundred-and-fifty years ago when the first pioneers were walking across these plains with Conestoga wagons pulled by mules and oxen,” said her father. “A lot of white people have made this trip before us, Millie. We should have made it ourselves, long before we were forced to. Then we wouldn’t have to be doing it now, like this, on the run and with only the shirts on our backs. I remember once, many years ago, I looked at one of the old Party web sites and that old guy was trying to tell people just that. I didn’t listen then. I wish to hell I had.”
Their first problem came that afternoon outside Billings, when they were pulled over by a Montana State Highway Patrol officer. Eli looked up and saw the flashing LED lights in his side mirror. He pulled over to the shoulder of the interstate. A tall white state trooper, about 30 years old, got out of the unit and walked up to the driver’s side of the van. His name tag read Cornwell. “License and registration, please,” he demanded laconically.
Eli produced them; fortunately, the registration on the van was up to date. “What’s the problem, officer?” he asked, acutely aware of the cold metal of the .45 pressing into his back underneath his shirt.
“Where are you headed, Mr. Horakova?” asked Trooper Cornwell. To Eli’s surprise he pronounced the family name correctly, the first time.
“We’re on vacation,” said Eli. “We’re going to get on I-90 going south at Billings and drive down to the Little Big Horn to see the monument there. Where Custer fought the Indians. Pardon me, the Native Americans.”
“I’ve heard of it, yes,” replied the highway patrolman in a dry tone. “I’m just going to issue you a warning this time, Mr. Horakova.”
“A warning for what?” asked Eli. “You still haven’t told me what law I’m breaking, officer.”
“The law of self-preservation,” said Cornwell. “My warning to you is to quit being so fucking stupid, because you’re going to get yourself and your family killed. You’ve got what looks like everything you own packed in this vehicle, and all of you have that blank poker face that any cop learns to recognize in his rookie year, the face that’s a dead giveaway that you’re up to something, and we both know what. You’re not going down 90 East to commune with the spirit of Custer. You’re going to get on 90 West, but you’ll never make it. A few miles down from here, just after Billings, is where the army and the FATPO checkpoints begin, and if you try a moronic story like that with some of those men, they will drag you all out of the vehicle and shoot you through the head, including the little boy. It’s happened before, and there is not one damned thing the Patrol or anyone else can do about it. Actually, by this time next week, anyone using any interstate highway at all in eastern Montana will need a permit. They can enter and exit only through checkpoints, and they have to file a trip itinerary with somebody, don’t know who yet. New regulation from the highway czar in Washington, D.C. The government of the United States is a wounded animal, Horakova, the most dangerous in the world. My warning to you is to turn around and head back to Chicago.”
Something made Eli decide to take a chance, or maybe he had just run as far as he was inclined to run. “We can’t go back,” he told the state trooper in a level voice. “Not ever.”
“Why not?” asked the cop.
Eli jerked his head toward the back of the van where the kids were hunkered. “That’s my son, Eddie. He’s sixteen. That’s my daughter, Millie. She’s thirteen. Two days ago, a nigger carrying a gun and a semi-official badge from the Cicero Neighborhood Watch walked into my home and tried to take Millie by force down to their clubhouse for a little rape and sodomy session. Eddie shot him dead. Originally the idea was for Eddie to try and make it Northwest on his own. My father was crippled, confined to a wheelchair, and suffering from massive kidney failure treatable only through dialysis, so we couldn’t bring him with us, and I refused to leave him there at the mercy of those black and brown animals. That night, my father stuck a gun into his mouth and blew his own brains out. He did it to lighten our load, so all of us could make this trip together. We’re not going back, Mr. Cornwell. Now do whatever the fuck you think you gotta do.” Eli didn’t mention that he had the .45 and Eddie was packing Rico Tubbs’ Glock. He figured the cop could fill in the blanks for himself.
The trooper looked at the ground and sighed. “Jesus!” After a while, he looked up. “Okay, listen good, because I’m only going to say this once. You folks have to get off the interstate. I mean it; do not try to get past a checkpoint looking like you do. They will read you like a book. The McCurtain isn’t just a fence, it’s a whole network of obstacles and checkpoints and surveillance and patrols covering hundreds of square miles on this side of Interstate 15, and you’re about to run right into it. Last I heard, the first FATPO roadblock is around Park City somewhere. You need to get out of Billings and take the northbound exit at Laurel. From there take County road five thirty-two up to Broadview, then get on state Highway Three going north. Then when it runs into Highway Twelve, head west. There are still a lot of patrols and helicopter surveillance even on Twelve, but it’s a big country out there. On the interstate you have no chance at all.”
“We got a pretty good map,” said Eli. “We’ll find our way.”
“Twelve will take you right into Helena, or the American half of Helena, but don’t do that,” Cornwell told them. “The American sectors of Helena and Butte are crawling with Fatties, military police, FBI, and Blackwater contractors that the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have hired as bounty hunters to stop white people from entering the Republic. A lot of people have been killed in the towns, trying to climb over the barbed wire or tunnel under the fence to get into the NAR sector. The Blackwater goons and the FATPO both just shoot to kill. The FBI likes to arrest refugees so they can torture them, waterboarding and the electric chair and the bath of flies, the whole nine yards. For God’s sake, don’t let the Bureau catch you. They’ll make your kids watch. They have been publicly defeated and humiliated by white men, and they are out of their minds with rage and hate. If you absolutely must surrender to anyone, try to make it local police or the MPs, although some of them are just as bad. Lotta Mexicans. Your best bet is to get a few miles away from Helena in either direction. Helena’s smaller and there’s fewer hostiles in that area. Then find some back road that will get you right up to the fence along the American side of I-15. You’ll have to cut through, but be careful. Some sections of the fence are electrified now.”
“They’ve got the whole interstate fenced off?” asked Eli.
“Yeah,” said Trooper Cornwell in disgust. “For fifty years they couldn’t put up a fence along the Mexican border to keep illegals out, but when it’s a matter of keeping white people in, they can build the McCurtain and fence Montana in half, in nine months. Go figure.”
“We got bolt cutters,” said Eddie from the back.
“When you get to the fence, be careful,” said Cornwell. “There are minefields in a lot of places leading up to it. Some of the minefields are posted with signs, some aren’t, and sometimes they’ve got the signs up but no minefield. I can’t give you any advice on where to try and break through. I don’t know that part of the state well.”
“Why not come with us, and cross over with us?” suggested Lorna.
“Can’t,” Cornwell told her. “I have to keep my nose clean. My ex-wife and my two kids are living in Pittsburgh.”
“Oh, they wouldn’t… ”
Cornwell cut Lorna off. “Oh, yes ma’am, they would,” he said bleakly. “They would indeed. We got a memo that made it very clear. That’s all I have to say, except I still advise you to turn around and find some way out of your problems besides heading west. You’ll probably be dead by this time tomorrow. Forget you ever saw me.” Cornwell turned and stalked back to his patrol car.
“Was that an angel, Mommy?” asked Tommy.
“Maybe,” Lorna told him.
“No, son,” answered Eli. “That was just a good man who has been placed in an impossible position by this hellish country and this sick society we live in. Just like us, son. That seems to be America’s specialty, destroying everything that’s good in it. It’s been going on for a hundred years now. Those people on the other side of that fence are trying to fix what’s broken in the world, and that’s why we have to get there.” Eli pulled the van back onto the interstate.
They got lost only once following Cornwell’s directions, and by midnight, they were coming into Helena on Highway 12. They passed a mileage sign that said Helena 14.
“How’s the gas, Dad?” asked Eddie. “We’re pretty much out of money.”
“The dial shows we got about a quarter tank left,” said Eli. “Better than I thought we’d do. We need to get off this highway. We could start running into military patrols or those private goon squads the cop mentioned any time now. This is where the dangerous part begins.” He chose a side road at random and exited. A few miles down the road he pulled over into a stand of pines and killed the engine and the light. “I’m going to put the gas from the jerry can into the tank,” he said. “That ought to do it for us, for better or worse. Give me a hand, Ed. Bring the funnel. You girls get out and stretch your legs. Hang onto Tommy’s hand.” They carefully drained the fuel from the can into the gas tank, and Eli tossed the empty can into the trees. He looked up at the star-filled sky. “Guess I know now why they call it Big Sky Country. Let’s see how much I remember from my army map and compass training. That’s the North Star, so we need to keep on moving west, in that direction,” he said, pointing down the road.
“Dad!” said Eddie. “That sounds like a helicopter!”
“Get away from the van!” commanded Eli. “They may have infrared tracking equipment, which means that hot engine will show up like a Christmas tree on their scope!”
The family moved off at a trot up a small hill and lay down behind it, almost a hundred yards from the vehicle. A helicopter slowly settled down into the air over the little pine grove, hovering, and then a spotlight beam snaked from the chopper’s belly, weaved around for a bit, and found the parked van. Eli couldn’t see any markings at all on the chopper. It seemed to hang in the air over the van below it for a long moment, like a scientist studying a specimen under a microscope, and then a chain gun opened fire on it in a stream of lead and tracer bullets. The van’s gas tank exploded and a ball of fire rose into the sky, singeing the pine needles on the trees and hurling burning debris all throughout the stand. Then the copter rose lazily into the air and ambled off back into the sky.
“Those stupid assholes set the woods on fire,” said Millie, staring after them. “They just don’t care.”
“They wouldn’t have cared if we were in it,” said Eli. “Maybe they thought we were.”
“They didn’t even try to find out,” whispered Lorna, horrified.
“They probably have a quota of white people they have to kill every week, like cops have a quota of speeding tickets,” said Eddie.
“Oh, Eli, everything we had in the world was in that van!” cried Lorna in despair.
“No, honey, everything we have in the world is right here. Tommy, are you okay?” asked Eli, reaching over and giving his son a hug.
“Bad men,” said Tommy calmly.
“Yes, son. Very bad men.”
“Now what?” asked Lorna.
“If I remember the map right, I figure we’re about three miles from Interstate 15,” said Eli. “We walk. We have to stay on the road because if we blunder around in the woods we’ll get completely lost. It’s risky, but we have no choice. I’ll go first, then Eddie. Eddie and me will take turns carrying Tommy. Lorna, you and Millie follow us, and hold hands, to make absolutely sure you don’t get separated. If somebody comes and I yell move, we get off the road and hide about twenty yards into the woods. We stay together at all times. Now let’s go. Millie’s right, those stupid bastards have probably started a forest fire here, and we need to clear out. Maybe it will serve as a distraction, although again, I think Millie’s right. They don’t seem to care what they do.”
The family began walking down the road, away from the burning trees and the smoke. There was no moon, but the sky was clear and the stars overhead were bright enough to illuminate the two lanes of asphalt in a thin, ghostly light. Every now and then, they passed unpaved access roads gleaming white in the half-light, leading off to the right or the left, and occasionally darkened houses and mobile homes on either side of the road, none of which seemed to be occupied. Twice vehicle headlights appeared, once behind them and once in front, and they scuttled off the shoulder and into the woods to lie in concealment in the scrub brush. The first vehicle was a private car of some kind. The second set of lights turned out to be a pair of Humvees containing men with M-16 rifles, moving slowly down the road. In the darkness it was impossible to discern any insignia or tell who they were, army, FATPO, Blackwater mercenaries, whoever. When they were gone Millie and Lorna took the last two small bottles of water out of their handbags and shared them around, making sure Tommy drank most of it. Then they trudged on.
Even summer nights in Montana were cold, and all their warm clothing had been in the van. No one complained, and Tommy did not cry. Eli’s heart swelled with pride at his family’s courage and hardihood in the face of an adversity that Americans weren’t supposed to be able to meet any more. He began to get a glimmer of understanding as to how the rebels of the Northwest had done it, how they had thrown off the tyrant’s chains. At the very last minute, just before the darkness descended forever, something had awakened in the white man. Eli could see it now in his wife and his children. Freedom was near. They could all feel it, sense it.
Eli had no idea how far they had walked, but at around three o’clock that morning they saw a glow of light ahead, and ten minutes later they were standing at a chain link fence looking down an embankment at Interstate 15 below. Now the McCurtain was literally a curtain of steel, through which they could actually see the Homeland. The roadside lights were still on, and they could see the empty highway below them clearly. “I remember from the news something they said about this border along 15,” said Eddie. “Technically speaking the border runs down the median strip. The northbound lanes are on the American side and only American official and military vehicles use it, otherwise you have to have a permit. The southbound lanes belong to the Northwest Republic and they let anybody use it who wants, just remember it’s at your own risk because of all the gun-toting federal goons on the other side of the road.”
“I don’t see anybody,” said Eli. “Our bolt cutters got incinerated in the van. We have to find some way to get through the fence.” He looked up and saw a coil of razor wire at the top. “Climbing’s out. We have to find someplace to dig under. Let’s move along and see if we can find some kind of dip in the ground, but be careful. Remember what that state trooper said about land mines.”
As they moved along the fence, searching the ground, Lorna said to her husband, “Eli, I don’t know if this makes it any better or not, but Stash was right. There is no way we could have made it this far with him along.”
“I know,” said Eli. “It just pisses me off. I always accepted that one of the immutable facts of my life was that my father was an evil son of a bitch, and I was this really big man for turning the other cheek and taking him in, and not letting him die in one of those hellish state nursing homes. One of the few points in my plus column. Now as the last act of his life, Stash proves he was a bigger man than I’ll ever be. Damn him!”
“You’ve got four other points in your plus column, Dad,” said Millie.
“Thanks honey,” said Eli.
“Dad, look here,” said Eddie, pointing. By the dim light of the interstate lamps, they could see a small, grassy ditch worn by rain water drainage, about two feet wide and two feet deep that ran under the fence. There was about a foot of clearance between the jagged bottom of the chain link and the ground. “We can enlarge this.”
Eli and Eddie both had clasp knives on their belts. They attacked the sides and bottom of the ditch with the blades, breaking up the soil, for about five minutes at a time, and then they and the women clawed at the earth, burrowing the dirt away with their bare hands and throwing it aside. Then it was back to hacking away at the ground with the knives. “You don’t think this fence is electrified, do you?” asked Lorna.
“I don’t hear any humming, and I don’t see any joint boxes or ceramic fittings or connectors,” said Eli. “We may have lucked out, honey. Just dig this out enough for us all to slip through, then we dash across the highway and we’re free. I doubt we’ll be the only white people showing up in the Northwest with nothing but the clothes on our backs. As long as Eddie and I can work, we’ll make it. But we have to get this done before the sun comes up. If anybody does see us, we’ll be sitting ducks in the daylight.”
They dug away like lunatics, even Tommy helping to carry the soil, and slowly the hole under the fence grew bigger. It was on a downward slope, and so if they could just get the aperture beneath the fence deep and wide enough, they could get through. But dawn comes early in Montana in July, and by the time the hole was sufficiently enlarged, they could see without the need of the stars or the highway lights. “Okay, Millie first, then we hand Tommy through to Millie,” said Eli. “Then Lorna, then Eddie, and me last.” Eli was a large man, and the hole wasn’t quite big enough for him, and so for another five minutes he had to chop away with his knife and dig with his hands, but finally all five Horakovas stood erect in the dawn on the other side of the fence.
Lorna looked across the highway. The countryside there looked no different from what they had just left, scrubby brush and low stunted pines, but they all stared at it. “There it is,” whispered Eddie. “Free land. White man’s land. No niggers with guns from the Watch, no Mexicans, no junkies, no crooked cops beating us and robbing us, no Jews laying Dad off, no more of their goddamned laws and judges and creeps in suits telling everybody what to do and how to live. No more America.”
“Let’s go,” said Eli. “Eddie, you carry Tommy.” They slid down the embankment, onto the shoulder, and stepped onto the highway, just as a convoy of armored vehicles came around the bend from the south. The lead vehicle was a black Humvee with a mounted M-60 machine gun; behind it was an eighteen-wheeler, and behind that a truck, carrying armed men in black fatigues. The lettering on the side of the Humvee said Blackwater.
“They’ve seen us!” bellowed Eli. “Run!”
The family’s sudden appearance caught the mercenaries by surprise, and they were almost across the interstate before the first machine gun and rifle bullets began snapping over their heads and cracking into the concrete. They leaped onto the soil of the Northwest American Republic and ran toward a small stand of pines, but the driver of the Humvee apparently decided to ignore little niceties like an international border, and the vehicle swerved across the interstate and pursued them. So close! Eli screamed in his mind. So close, and now these animals are going to murder my family for money! FOR FUCKING MONEY! He whirled, whipped out the .45, dropped down on one knee and carefully emptied the magazine into the oncoming Humvee that was plowing up the low hill after them, trying to hit the driver. He must have hit something, because the vehicle swerved and stopped, but the M-60 gunner opened up again. Eli remembered enough of Iraq to hit the dirt, roll out, then jump up running, throwing the empty gun away as he did so. He saw his family ahead of him, and they seemed to disappear. He reached the point where they had been and saw that they were down in a kind of ditch or gully. He looked back and saw that the body-armored mercenaries had de-bused from their truck and were running through the scrubby pines after them, fanning out. He jumped down into the wash and yelled “Come on!” to the others. “Eddie, gimme the Glock! I’ll hold them off while the rest of you get into those trees!”
“Any last standing to be done, Dad, we do it together,” said his son.
Eli realized that they were trapped in the dry wash. Surrounded by the enemy gunmen, the minute any of them poked their heads up they would be picked off. At least we’ll die in the Northwest Republic, he thought, bitter bile and rage rising in his throat.
Lorna, Millie, and Tommy were huddled against the wall of the dry wash, their faces white with terror. All around them the mercenaries could be heard, shouting and firing their weapons, maybe even shooting at each other. The gunfire seemed to increase, the rattle of the M-16s mixing with a more hollow, popping roll of automatic fire. Goddamned Iraq all over again, thought Eli, and then something hit him. “Yeah,” he said out loud, puzzled. “Just like Iraq! Those aren’t just sixteens, those are AKs!”
“What?” asked Eddie.
The Horakovas heard the engine of a motor vehicle coming toward them, but from the western side of the wash. Then a man wearing tiger-stripe camouflage and a coal-scuttle helmet appeared over their heads about ten feet away, kneeling and firing a weapon Eli remembered as an MM1 revolving grenade launcher. The shield on the side of his helmet was blue, white, and green. The soldier fired again and again, and they could hear the explosions as his projectiles slammed into the targets. Then a camouflaged Humvee drove into sight behind the soldier, on which was mounted a Browning .50-caliber machine gun, the muzzle spitting fire and thunder back and forth. For another minute there was shooting and shouting and then it all died away, leaving behind an eerie silence.
A man got out of the Humvee and walked over to the wash, where the Horakovas stared up at him. He was tall, and despite his light amber beard he seemed little older than Eddie. He wore tiger-stripes and a peaked Alpine cap, and on the cap and over his right shirt pocket was an eagle and swastika. He carried a Kalashnikov rifle on his hip, the sling over his shoulder. On one collar tab was a single black first lieutenant’s bar, and on the other were the black embroidered letters NDF. “You folks okay down there?” he called. “Anybody need a medic?”
Eli looked at his family. None of them seemed to be hurt. “No,” he croaked, shaking his head.
“We were shadowing those apes along the fire road on our side back there, and we saw you make your break for it,” said the lieutenant. “Don’t worry, they’ve all skedaddled back across the highway.” He reached down, took Eli’s hand, pulled him up to ground level and said, “Welcome Home, comrades!”
Eli Horakova looked down at his wife. “Lorna,” he said, “I think we’ve found your angel.”