Snyder stood in the middle of a vast dessert. Nothing to see but sand and a solitary figure approaching. What was going on? Snyder reached for his colt service revolver.
“Anny, that won’t be necessary,” said the familiar voice.
Snyder ran over and embraced his grandmother. “I love you.”
A slap came across Snyder’s face. Shijo stood over him, laughing. “I love you, too.”
Snyder scratched his forehead. “What’s going on?”
Blackjack McGraw stood by the carrier. He shrugged. “I’d say you fainted, but I probably pushed you down too hard.”
“Someone was shooting at us and I saw my grandmother. What’s going on?”
McGraw pointed to two men lying on the ground. “Those guys were shooting at us. Hotel Security didn’t put in any of their manuals that they put two armed guards on with their cargo. Shijo saved our bacon.”
Shijo sniffed. “Of course I did.”
“In fact, I wouldn’t mind working with him regularly if he weren’t such an egotist.”
“What about my grandmother?”
McGraw shook his head. “Your common variety mirage.”
Several empty buses pulled off the Interstate. Cutler and his minister friend got off one. The minister said, “The mystery bomber has just disappeared. We need everybody on the buses.”
The enslaved children and teenagers boarded the buses like compliant cattle.
Snyder said, “Sarge, let’s get out of here. If we leave first, the buses will cover our tracks.”
Cutler nodded and jumped into the driver’s seat of the van.
McGraw said, “Kid, maybe I’ll look you up some time.”
“What are you going to do now?”
McGraw shrugged. “Three hundred kids, I figure they’ll need some help. Maybe it’s time for me to take a sabbatical. Help boys become men. I haven’t done a good job with my son, and I’m too late with you. But maybe, you know?” McGraw looked across the desert. “Just maybe.”
Snyder nodded. “Good luck.”
Snyder walked towards the van, but turned around. “Keep in touch.”
Along the meandering river-side path of the wooded Boise Greenbelt, President Snyder pushed up the sleeves of his orange, blue and black BSU Broncos hoodie. He delivered a right hook to the overgrown slug’s padded jaw.The slug snarled. “Boy, I love it when you play hard to get!”
Snyder spat and spewed profanity that Cerulean would box him over if he was dumb enough to play gang-banger around Substitute Daddy.
“Snyder!” screamed Vice President Chico. “It’s not worth it!”
Chief of Staff Roger “Beanpole” Summers ran over. “Prez, let me help.”
“I can take this slug.”
If he couldn’t, that was why he brought along his cabinet. Though, being saved from an oaf like Tío Rodrigo-Chico’s uncle-would be a lowlight of his career as President of the Commanders. “Keep a look out for the Man, Chief.”
Tío Rodrigo lumbered forward. Snyder sped for a nearby tree. He leaped, grabbed a branch, and threw his weight at Rodrigo’s chin. Rodrigo lost his balance and fell like a mantle overloaded with knick knacks.
Snyder leaped away from the hands flailing for him even while the 350-pound slug lay on his back. No wonder the slug molested five-year-olds. No way he could really get a sixteen-year-old like him.
He grabbed the slug’s hands and clasped them together. Rodrigo writhed like he’d poured salt on him, but those arms carried a lot more fat than muscle.
He glanced to Secretary Bill. “Sec. B, duct tape.”
The medium-sized boy ran over with the roll and duct-taped Rodrigo’s hands. Rodrigo continued to writhe helplessly.
Snyder kicked his side. “Get up!”
Rodrigo sat up.
Snyder’s steel toed boots connected with Rodrigo’s love handles again. “That ain’t what I meant!”
Rodrigo snarled. “Ain’t easy to stand up with your arms tied, punk.”
Snyder growled. “Sec. B, get him up.”
Bill and Snyder strained to pull the child molester up. No good. They’d sooner divert the river than budge the slug. Snyder panted. “Sec. M ‘n’ Sec. J, over here!”
The final two members his cabinet made enough difference to lift the slug off the ground.
Snyder unhooked a dyed-green rock climbing rope from his belt. He and his secretaries dragged the condemned through the woods, searching for an appropriate tree for an execution. The branches of the old growth cottonwoods were too high, and the slug would break their offspring. No need to ruin a perfectly good tree.
He spotted a pine with a massive trunk and thick branches that should do the trick. He placed Tío Rodrigo on the right side of the branch and tied the green noose around his neck. “Over here!”
Bill, Jeff, and Mike joined him.
Chico stood off to the side.
Snyder said, “What up, Veep?”
Chico shook his head. “Sorry, Prez. I can’t hang mí tío.”
Snyder’s jaw dropped. “This slug molested you and your little brother.”
Chico looked down at the paved pathway. “He still family.”
So? Snyder sighed. “Okay. I’ll let you out of hanging family. The rest of us can handle it.”
President Snyder and his secretaries pulled on the rope. They went flying backwards to the ground. The noose landed on Snyder’s chest, having slipped right over Tío Rodrigo’s head.
Snyder snarled at the still-breathing slug and stood along with his friends. He threw the noose back over the tree and tied it tighter around the child molester’s neck this time.
Roger came running. “Prez, 5-0!”
Snyder whispered a curse under his breath. The police. “Run!”
They left Rodrigo by the tree, the homemade noose still around his neck, and ran along the Greenbelt. Jeff stopped and pulled out his asthma inhaler.
Snyder yanked on Jeff’s plain black hoodie. “Come on, we can’t stop.”
Jeff wheezed. “Prez, my lungs gonna collapse.”
“We don’t keep moving, and it’ll be your neck in the noose!”
“I can’t keep goin’ this fast, man.”
Outside Ann Morrison Park, Snyder snapped his fingers. “Head towards downtown, then back to the hood. Be cool. You know nothing, you hear?”
His friends nodded and took the path leading away from the park.
Snyder crossed the bridge over the river and into Ann Morrison, where he climbed a tree heavy with large, oval nuts. He scoured the surrounding branches of their produce and stuffed the ammo in his hoodie’s pockets. He pulled an illegal slingshot from his black carpenter jeans’ back pocket.
A dozen cops approached. Snyder took aim and fired at a cop who’d had too many donuts, nicking him in the arm. Snyder took aim again, this time getting the same cop in the knee.
The police fell back. Snyder continued firing at the retreating officers.
For maybe ten minutes, silence reigned. Snyder stretched to reach higher and picked more ammo.
Something rustled behind him.
Pain shot through his back. He turned.
A cop stood forty feet away, holding a long-range stun weapon.
Snyder tried to fire a nut at the cop, but his hands refused to cooperate. The slingshot dropped to the ground. The branch dropped away as dead air snatched him. The tree, the park, the river, and the police spun into darkness.