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Here's a new story that should be right up you guys' alley! This one is a bit rougher than the stuff I usually let people read. I think some stuff needs to be cut, and some stuff needs to be rearranged. Anyway, ENJOY!
The government had declared war on drugs, and Gunther was prepared to fight this war until its bitter end. If Gunther had been on the government?s side, the war would already be over. But being a man of intelligence and strong moral fiber, Gunther had no choice but to fight those jack booted thugs to his dying breath. He considered this fight his duty as a true patriot and an enlightened man of God.
Gunther paced back and forth in his cell amid the dusty sunlight of an early Texas winter morning. For what seemed like the millionth time, he replayed the events in his mind that had led to his incarceration in Laredo?s Workenhaus ?super-prison?. It had all started five years before, back in 2003.
Gunther had been growing marijuana in his ranch outside of Austin. It was a small but successful operation. At any given time he had sixteen or more plants in the flowering stage, and each plant was capable of producing about a pound of high quality product. But one day, everything had gone wrong. Six agents from the county?s drug task force kicked in his door and served him with a search warrant. Gunther had no clue how they had gotten the warrant. One of his customers had probably been busted and dropped the dime. Before he even realized what was going on, Gunther was being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.
Gunther?s trial was little more than formality. His court-appointed public defender sat gamely as the district attorney filled the jurors? heads with scary stories of an evil man growing the devil?s weed so he could poison the minds of children. Every one of those jurors had fulfilled their duty to the state by voting to convict, because they had all been taught by their government education system that drugs were the scourge of civilized man, and drug dealers? well, drug dealers were just the scum of the earth.
The unsympathetic judge gave him ten years. First he was shipped off to Huntsville, but then the Workenhaus Corporation picked up his case and sent him to their newest private prison in Laredo. As a federal inmate, Gunther was worth about $80 a day to Workenhaus. They stuck him in D-Block, the largest cellblock of the prison, built to house the ever-increasing number of drug felons.
Gunther had spent the last five years in that piss soaked hell-hole. A tiny 10?x10? cell with a shiny metal toilet and a four inch thick mattress. Some pinko psychologist had told the prison?s designers to paint all the cells a baby blue shade in order to keep the prisoners calm. This infuriated Gunther.
But today, he was finally getting out. He was being paroled for good behavior, though he had hardly been rehabilitated. He played their games and told them what they wanted to hear, but his mind was too strong to be moved. The negative reinforcement only served to strengthen his resolve.
The warden forced Gunther and all the other drug offenders to attend rehab. The rehab instructor talked and talked, but everything he said boiled down to one thing: the individual has no moral right to choose what he puts into his own body. Gunther refused to believe this, and he refused to let any of the other inmates believe it either. After rehab, in the exercise yard, Gunther gave the inmates his own little sermons. And the inmates listened well, for Gunther was both respected and feared in D-Block.
Gunther was a prison demagogue. Like Adolf Hitler, he had used his time in jail to build social alliances and educate himself. He read the works of Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, and John Locke. He taught the other inmates his political philosophy, and they taught him things like how to hotwire cars and make plastique explosives out of household chemicals. The Pen was like a college for criminals.
Gunther was a mighty ox of a man, with thick blonde hair he kept buzzed. He was a man of forceful charisma. When he spoke, he spoke with conviction, and the other inmates listened. He would prattle on and on about the absurdity of the drug war. Economically, it was communism. Socially, it was fascism. Ecologically, it was genocide. And the other prisoners, blacks, Latinos, and Asians alike, had eaten up every word he spoke as if it was a fine turkey dinner.
For Gunther, the war on drugs wasn?t just a political war, it was a spiritual war. He saw prohibition as the evil hand of man intervening in God?s affairs. The government sought to limit the spectrum of human experience to that narrow band of sobriety. The experience of intoxication was information, and prohibition was a means for those in power to deny that information to the people.
Gunther had great respect for the revelations that the psychedelic experience offered. He?d found God one night while on a five gram mushroom trip. While under the influence of that heavy psychedelic psilocybin, all the illusions had melted away, and for a single shining instant, he had seen everything as one. His doors of perception had been cleansed, and he saw the world as it truly was: infinite.
Gunther viewed prohibition as an insidious form of mind control. The government sought to control the nuerochemical environment of the individual. By doing so, they controlled the individual?s mind itself.
The inmates supported him in these conclusions, and together they formed an alliance. They were all prisoners of war, and Gunther?s voice was their unified cry. There were inmates in D-Block who would have taken a shiv to the gut for Gunther if the situation called for it.
These thoughts weighed heavily on Gunther?s mind that morning as he laid his plans for the future. He continued to mull things over as he walked back and forth, waiting for roll call and breakfast. He was scheduled for release at 9 AM.
At exactly 6 AM, the buzzer sounded and the automated cell doors slid open with a familiar ratcheting sound. The inmates waited patiently for their names to be called, and one by one they joined a single file line to the cafeteria. Slowly, the inmates shuffled through D-Block?s main hallway, while armed guards gave them hard stares. Nobody spoke.
The cafeteria was inadequately lit, which made its green-tiled walls appear even more dingy than they were. The inmates from the other cellblocks had already arrived and were eating breakfast. The cafeteria buzzed with conversation and the various sounds of eating in progress.
Gunther went through the kitchen line and got his bisquick pancakes, watered down coffee, and runny eggs. He approached his usual table and a place to sit was made for him. Congratulations on his parole came from all the other convicts seated at the table. As Gunther ate his last breakfast in the joint, a steady stream of inmates came by and patted him on the back, occasionally offering words of support. Gunther smiled and thanked them.
When the crowd of well-wishers wore thin, Gunther found his friend Eric. Eric gave him a high five that turned into a hug. The two convicts sat and talked for a few minutes.
Eric was Gunther?s best friend in the joint. They shared an intellectual rapport. Many afternoons in the exercise yard they had discussed politics and philosophy. Eric was in the Pen on a pot charge as well. He had been stopped on Highway 35 with twenty pounds of weed in his trunk. Eric worked for a South Texas smuggling ring, and his refusal to turn his superiors over to the authorities had resulted in his incarceration in Workenhaus.
The two men?s conversation was cut short by another buzzer, and once again the inmates were herded like cattle through a series of hallways that led to the yard. Once Gunther and Eric reached the yard, they found a quiet spot in the shade.
?You memorized the number, right?? said Eric.
Gunther recited a string of seven digits. Eric nodded his approval.
?Are you gonna call them??
Gunther spat into the red dirt. ?First thing, when I get out.?
Eric smiled. ?Good luck, man.?
Eric clapped a firm hand on Gunther?s shoulder for a few seconds, then walked away. Gunther spent the rest of the hour receiving more good wishes from his fellow inmates. A few minutes before morning recess ended, two guards approached Gunther.
?You ready to get outta here?? said one of the guards.
Gunther smiled. ?You better believe it,? he said.
The guard gave him a shit-eating grin. ?We?re gonna miss you, boy.?
The guard was ribbing him as hard as he could, knowing full well it would be his last chance to do so.
?Don?t worry,? Gunther told the guard, ?I?ll be back.?
The guards escorted Gunther to the prison?s front office, where he was asked to sign some papers outlining the conditions of his parole. Then he was issued a cheap suit and fifty dollars. Gunther changed into the suit and left his orange prison uniform hanging on the hooks provided.
The guard from the exercise yard escorted Gunther out of the prison?s front door and down a breezeway constructed of twelve-foot high chain-linked fence. Another guard at the front security post turned his key and opened the gates for Gunther. Once outside the prison, Gunther could still see the other inmates in the exercise yard. Several of them were pressed against the fence, watching him.
?Give ?em hell, Gunther!? one of them yelled. This was followed by cheers and shouts of support from the crowd of inmates at the fence. Gunther smiled and gave a little half-salute as he boarded the bus that would take him to downtown Laredo.
As the bus made its way towards town, Gunther couldn?t keep himself from staring through the window. The cars on the road were so futuristic, they looked alien to him. There were women walking here and there on the sidewalk, the first women Gunther had seen in five years.
The bus came to its stop and Gunther made his way to the exit. Once on the street, Gunther felt dizzy. For the first time in a long time, he was standing on a public street, with no handcuffs and no guards watching him. The freedom was almost overwhelming. Gunther had a sudden urge to find a small room and lock himself inside it. Instead, he found a coffee shop and went inside to use the payphone.
Gunther had no option but to call Eric?s people. They were his only connection on the outside. The world was now a very foreign place to Gunther, but Eric?s people would find him a place in it.
Gunther picked up the receiver and dialed nervously. The line rang a few times, and was answered by a series of clicks. Finally, a voice came on the line.
?Who is this?? said the voice.
?Uh, yeah, this is Gunther? ummmmm? Eric?s friend. From Workenhaus.?
The line crackled for a few seconds, and then the voice returned.
?Yes, we know all about you. You wish to work for our organization. Where are you now??
Gunther looked around and finally saw the sign in the diner?s window.
?I?m at Earl?s diner on Washington.?
?Take a seat at the counter. I?ll be there in exactly thirty minutes.?
After this, the line went dead.
Gunther took a seat at the counter. An attractive waitress came by to take his order. Gunther couldn?t help checking out her body. The waitress took one look at Gunther?s cheap suit and prison haircut, and knew immediately where he had come from.
?Just got out of the pokey, eh shug?? she drawled.
Gunther kept his head low and nodded.
?Well don?t get any big ideas, tough guy,? said the waitress, ?My husband is a guard there. Now what?ll ya have??
Gunther ordered coffee, and when it came he marveled at its flavor. He hadn?t had a real cup of joe in so long, he had almost forgotten how coffee was supposed to taste. The waitress bummed him a cigarette, and when he lit it, he was in heaven. Gunther had never thought that something as simple as good coffee and a Virginia Slim could make him so happy.
Gunther sat there in silence for a while, enjoying his freedom. He looked around at the people in the coffee shop eating breakfast. They looked so much happier than the inmates in the cafeteria. They all had lives of their own, jobs to do, and people that cared about them.
At 10:30, a man dressed in blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and a hunting cap entered the diner and sat next to Gunther at the counter. He regarded Gunther with a judgmental glance for a few seconds, and finally spoke.
?You?re Gunther, right?? the man said.
?Alright then,? said the hunter, fingering his keys, ?Let?s go.?
?Wait,? said Gunther, as he followed the man out the door, ?What?s your name??
The hunter regarded him with the cool gaze of a killer.
?You don?t need to know my name,? he said.
A nineties model Dodge pickup was parked outside. The truck was burgundy in color, and it had roll bars and fog lights. The hunter unlocked the truck and got inside, beckoning for Gunther to do the same. Once inside the truck, the hunter gave Gunther another hard stare.
?You know who I represent, dontcha??
Gunther nodded. If this guy was who he said he was, he was a representative of a man named Charlie Brown. Eric had told Gunther all about Charlie Brown. He was an ex-spook that used to do black ops for the CIA back in the ?70?s. According to legend, Charlie Brown had been everywhere from Vietnam to Venezuela, fighting Communism for the American government. These days he ran a militia in Lasalle County, which was really just a cover for a smuggling ring. Charlie Brown was Eric?s boss, the one he refused to drop dime on, even under threat of incarceration.
The hunter?s tone became harder.
?You realize,? he said, gritting his teeth, ?That both you and your friend Eric?s safety depends on you playin? it straight with us, right??
Gunther nodded again. He knew these were dangerous people he was dealing with, and trust was an important issue with dangerous people.
?Alright then,? said the hunter, ?Let?s git ?er done.?
The hunter started the car and drove through town to get to Highway 35. Once on the highway, the driver offered Gunther a cigarette. He took it thankfully. The driver asked if Gunther liked David Allen Coe. Gunther hated country music, but he kept this opinion to himself. The hunter put a cassette tape into the truck?s ancient receiver. The music reminded Gunther of police and guards. That was the kind of music they listened to.
For the first time, Gunther initiated a conversation with the hunter.
?So what is this Charlie Brown guy like??
The hunter kept his eyes on the road. ?Well,? he said, ?He?s old. Kinda crazy. Rumor has it he?s got a metal plate in his head. From Vietnam. But he?s a decent fella, I guess.?
When they reached the Lasalle County line, Gunther was unpleasantly surprised to see a police cruiser parked on the side of the road. He stiffened in his seat at the sight of it. But the hunter was unmoved.
?Don?t let ?ol Sheriff bother you none,? he said, ?We just bought him a new Escalade to go with his million dollar ranch. He don?t bother us too much.?
The hunter smiled at the Sheriff and gave him a salute, which the Sheriff returned. A few miles past the Lasalle county line, the hunter pulled onto a side spur that wasn?t paved. A cloud of red dust from the truck?s tires began to form in their wake.
After what seemed like an endless series of barbed wire fences and mesquite trees, the road dead-ended at a large iron gate. The gate carried an unwritten message to Gunther. It said: ?Lawman, don?t let the sun set on you here.?
The hunter honked his horn, and within five minutes, two men riding ATVs pulled up on the other side. They both had walkie talkies and AR15 assault rifles. Both were dressed in combat gear. The hunter gave them another salute, and the men opened the gate.
They drove down a gravel driveway for about a mile before they reached an enormous house at the top of a gently sloping hill. The driveway was surrounded by trees, but the house sat in a clearing. An old man was sitting on the front porch of the house, cleaning a shotgun and smoking a cigar. He gave the hunter a salute, and the hunter returned it with the gusto of fierce loyalty.
The hunter turned to Gunther. ?I guess this is where you and I go our separate ways. The old man wants to talk to you for a bit.?
Gunther got out of the truck and walked towards the old man. When he got closer, he was able to make out more details of the man?s appearance. The old man was about six feet tall, with grey hair and a deeply lined face darkened by years of working in the hot sun. He wore blue jeans and a red plaid flannel shirt. Gunther stepped onto the porch and shook his hand.
?Well howdy,? said the old man, ?You must be Gunther. Eric told me all about you. Of course, you must?ve already guessed who I am.?
Gunther nodded. ?Charlie Brown, I presume??
The old man let out a cackle.
?The one and only.? The old man paused to lean the shotgun against the wall of his cabin, and then continued, ?So, how does it feel to be a free man??
Gunther smiled. ?Pretty damn good.?
Charlie Brown laughed. ?I know how it feels to be locked up. Spent nine months in a bamboo cage myself, back in ?Nam. Bein? held a prisoner of war is the most senseless punishment, in my opinion. Nobody wants to be fightin? a war in the first place, so getting? locked up for it is like double punishment.?
Gunther?s face hardened. ?This senseless war on drugs has to end.?
The old man let out a rusty chuckle. ?Its not a war on drugs,? he said, ?It?s a war on personal freedom.?
Gunther smiled. ?On this, we agree.?
The old man stood up with a crack of his knees. He eyed Gunther suspiciously.
? I don?t quite know if I trust you. Eric says you?re all right, but we?ve had a problem with narcos before. As a matter of fact, that?s why Eric is in Workenhaus. He was running a shipment to Dallas and someone tipped off the Highway Patrol. We found out who it was. He?s fertilizing the crops, now.?
?You got crops here?? asked Gunther.
?Yep,? said the old man, ?Why don?t you come ?round back and I?ll show ya.?
The two men rode an ATV down a small trail that led to a heavily wooded area. Right in the middle of the forest was a clearing filled with pot plants as far as the eye could see. The old man stopped in front of one of the plants, and Gunther examined it closely.
?Looks like you?re doin pretty well on these,? said Gunther, ?But I think they could use a bit more nutrients. What kind of fertilizer are you using??
The old man scratched his head. ?Bat guano,? he replied, ?But the guide we?re using says to only feed the plants once a month.? Gunther nodded. ?Your guide is probably more intended for the use of artificial fertilizers. If you are going to use an all natural fertilizer like bat guano, you have to feed the plants at more regular intervals, because soil doesn?t retain natural fertilizers as long as artificial ones.?
?I?ll keep that in mind,? said Charlie Brown, ?But I didn?t bring you out here to talk about botany.?
The old man began walking through the rows of plants, and Gunther followed.
?I spent twenty years of my life fighting Communism for the American government,? the old man drawled, ?But how can they call America a capitalist country when they tell people what they can and cannot buy and sell??
Gunther nodded. ?America hasn?t been a capitalist nation since FDR?s New Deal.?
The old man smiled. ?I like the way you think, boy.?
?It?s hard to grow a crop like this in the states, you know. Luckily, I got enough connections in the federal bureaucracies to keep from getting? raided. But these days, I?m not so much worried about them as I am the goddamned Mexicans.?
?How so?? asked Gunther.
?Well,? said the old man, ?The government don?t have a lot of influence out here on the periphery of the empire. Shit, they can?t even keep our borders contained. Every day, thousands of spics cross the river, and they bring with them thousands of pounds of low-quality dope, which we have to compete with in the marketplace.?
The old man paused to light a cigar, then continued to talk through clenched teeth. ?And these fuckin? wetbacks just take advantage of the situation. They get the dope from South America, where its cheap, then they bring it up here and sell it for a higher price. And most of the profit goes towards communist regimes that will one day threaten our borders. I tell ya, man, prohibition makes more money for South America than the North American Free Trade Agreement.?
?You really think that South American communism is a threat to our borders?? asked Gunther.
?Well hell yeah it is. Like I said, the feds can?t keep these people from invading our country. And I guess we would be fools to trust them with that job anyway. But the point is that this federal government they got goin? ain?t gonna last forever. They?ve already bankrupted the treasury about a million times over by printing these worthless Federal Reserve Notes. I don?t have a whole lot of faith in the American dollar. These days I keep most of my money in oil and lead, if you know what I mean.?
The old man gave Gunther a crooked grin.
Gunther frowned. ?So you believe that one day the American government will collapse??
Charlie Brown blew out a cloud of smoke. ?Oh, I know it?s gonna collapse in time. Look at how little control they have here at the border! The outer limbs lose circulation first, and eventually the heart of the empire will grow cold and die. The empire will collapse, and in its place will arise a bitter struggle between feudal warlords for what remains of the world?s resources. I seen it before. And Ima? be prepared for it this time. C?mon, let?s go back inside. I?m freezin? my balls off out here.?
They rode the ATV back to the cabin. Just inside the cabin?s back door was a small office. The room was lined with cedar, and had a burgundy carpet. Antlers and guns lined the walls. Charlie Brown sat down at a large oak desk and beckoned Gunther to sit down in the chair adjacent to it.
?Ima? be frank with you,? said the old man, ?I don?t think I can trust you with our business. Eric said you were more of a politician than a businessman. He told me you were some kind of New Age Religious zealot. I don?t really have much of a place for such types in my business. But I do have one assignment that?s probably right up your alley.?
The old man put his cigar out in a marble ashtray and then continued, ?Come inauguration day, the new administration is going to install an Attorney General who makes John Ashcroft look like Timothy Leary. I mean, this guy is tough on drugs, and quite frankly he makes a lot of my people nervous. My people in the DEA are already starting to feel the pressure, and if this guy implements the policies he?s talkin? about, we might be out of business.?
Charlie Brown rifled through one of the desk?s drawers and pulled out a file. Inside the file were pictures of a blue-suited politician and some biographical information. He held up one of the pictures for Gunther to see.
?Funny thing about this guy. His campaign was heavily funded by the Workenhaus Corporation. They like to contribute to politicians who like to put people in jail. It?s good for business. One hand washes the other, see??
?This man,? the old man said, ?Cannot be allowed to survive his appointment to office.?
Gunther frowned. ?How are you going to get rid of him??
The old man laughed. ?Well, that?s where you come in. He?s giving a speech on the dangers of narcotics in Dallas tonight. If you complete your assignment, he won?t survive it. It won?t be the first time a politician has been killed in Dallas.?
?How am I going to get close enough to him?? asked Gunther. ?We?ve already arranged for you to have a press pass,? said the old man, handing Gunther a piece of paper from the file.
?Won?t there be metal detectors?? asked Gunther.
?We?ve already thought of that, too,? said the old man, reaching into another desk drawer. He pulled out two strange looking pistols and handed them to Gunther.
?I got these from a friend of mine in Taiwan. They are made completely of plastic. Even the bullets are plastic, but it?s a special polymer that?s dense and heavy enough to cut through bone just like a normal slug.?
Gunther held the pistols in awe. They were lighter than a gun should be.
?Now comes the moment of truth. I?m offering you this job. The chances of survival are low, but if you die, you?ll be a martyr for your cause. So what say you??
Gunther thought it over for a minute. He didn?t see what choice he had in the matter. He had no future, the government had seen to that. He would carry around a rap sheet for the rest of his life that would disqualify him for all but the hottest and noisiest jobs. He wouldn?t ever be able to get a loan, or sign a lease on an apartment. He was blackballed. And if the government had branded him a criminal, then he would live up to that label to the best of his ability.
Gunther thought about everything they had taken from him. Five years of his life. His house, his car, his bank balance. Everything he had ever worked for had been confiscated under the RICO act. Before the bust, Gunther had been well off financially. Now he was a pauper, and all of his assets were being used to fund the war he hated so much. But he would have his revenge. He wanted it more than anything in the world.
Gunther looked up to the old man?s expectant eyes.
?Give me liberty, or give me death,? he pronounced fiercely. There was fire in his eyes.
The old man smiled. ?That?s my boy.?
Gunther sat on edge in the press box. He was close enough to reach out and touch the sandy-haired politician he was sent here to kill. His press pass had been validated, and the guns had cleared the metal detectors. They sat heavily in his pockets, waiting to be used.
?Illegal narcotics represent the greatest threat to our nation?s health and security, and I will not rest until every drug dealer is put behind bars, where they belong!?
The politician shouted the last few words of his statement with the intensity of a born demagogue, and the doe-eyed crowd ate it up. Gunther?s blood began to boil. He could feel it pounding in his temples. He began to hyperventilate.
The politician continued, ?That is why I plan on implementing newer, tougher policies to put drug dealers in prison, and keep them there. And the person I?m about to introduce is going to help us do this. Allow me to introduce to you, the CEO of Workenhaus Private Prisons, Richard Workenhaus!?
Gunther?s heart skipped a beat. He hadn?t counted on this little bonus. He couldn?t contain himself. Before Workenhaus even had a chance to speak a single word, Gunther leaped out of his seat, the guns in his hands. With his left hand, he put four bullets into the new Attorney General, and with his right, he put four bullets into Richard Workenhaus.
As the reports sounded through the spacious banquet hall, Gunther shouted his battle cry:
?END PROHIBITION NOW!!!?
The television cameras got everything.
Gunther felt a bullet strike his shoulder, and then two Secret Service agents tackled him to the ground. People in the audience were screaming and gasping in horror now. But Gunther didn?t hear it.
All Gunther could hear were the cheers of the inmates in D-block, even though they were 500 miles away. They cheered for justice, and they would not be denied. .
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