The 47 declared open season on Tobias’ little gang of thugs. But those who had not been present at Tobias’ beat down would be found, one by one, and beaten until they were unconscious. Carlton was out to make a statement. He wanted Tobias to know that the 47 was not a gang to mess with.
Carter Hall was the first to be caught out alone. Alonso and Max caught him, tied him up, and gagged him so he couldn’t scream. Then they tossed him into Alonso’s trunk, blindfolded, and kidnapped him. Carlton met them with the rest of the 47 in the field. All had paddles in their hands.”
Carlton smiled at Carter as the blindfold came off. “Well, well. If it ain’t Carter Hall. How much money does your daddy make from ruining the lives of others in the name of Democracy? Hmmm? I know hundreds who would give anything to be in the gauntlet you’re going to have to run. Just be thankful we’re using paddles, not oak branches like I heard the natives using when they punished rapists and murderers.”
Carter flinched at every word. He knew what lay in store for him. He knew he couldn’t get far if he tried to run. He was doomed.
Chickasaw Joe got up from where he was hiding. “Remember my sister, Asshole? Do ya think you’re so great now? Beating and raping an innocent little girl. Stripping her of her dignity and honor. That takes a real man, doesn’t it? The only one who deserves our respect is now dead.”
Carter remembered Joe’s sister. She had been one of the first Tobias had targeted. Even Carter had been against it, but had kept his mouth shut. His lack of guts had made him just as guilty as the three who’d done the deed. He looked up at Carlton. “Who is dead?”
Carlton smiled. “Stanley Fricke died last night of a self-inflicted knife wound. Didn’t you hear?”
Carter’s face went white. “No.”
Joe chimed in. “Oh, so your fearless leader didn’t clue you in that you would be targeted from now on?”
Carter’s eyes showed his fear. “For what?”
Max grabbed him by his jacket and began pulling him to the starting line. “For being stupid enough to hang with a lowlife like Tobias, why else?”
Vasquez stood up. “Actually, he can count himself lucky. My people tied perverts like him up naked to trees, cut their dongs off, and watched as the birds pecked them to death.”
Carter breathed in, his fear reaching the stage of abject terror. “Oh God.”
Carlton smiled. “Well that is definitely news to me. Still, we don’t want any eunuchs. And we don’t want anyone to die. Not yet.”
Lone Bear laughed. “Would be fun though, don’t ya think?”
Tiger McNaughton drew up to his full six-foot-four and grinned. “Sure would. Would be one less rich bastard to say ‘yes massah’ to.”
Carlton laughed. “Tiger, I didn’t think you said that to anyone. You may be black as night, but dude! Ain’t nobody can make you bow.”
Tiger nodded. “Ain’t no shit, there.” He looked at Carlton. “Do I get first whack?”
Carlton nodded. “Why the hell not?”
Carter sighed, resigned to his new found hell. “Ah shit, man. I am seriously screwed.”
Vasquez nodded. “No shit, man. Just think how much worse if you warn any of your little pals.”
Carter bowed his head. “Don’t worry, I won’t say a thing.”
Carlton waited until Max had Carter in place. Once the victim was at the front of the archway, and Max and Alonso took their places before and behind the hapless Carter, He nodded. “Let the ceremony begin.”
Max, his paddle poking Carter in the back, prodded him forward. Alonso, holding the lead on the rope around the youth, led him into the mass of swinging paddles. Only those behind the youth swung at him. Max, having stopped at the entrance to the gauntlet, looked on as the swats from each paddle propelled their target on into the line. At the end, he was turned around and threaded back into the gauntlet. This was to go on for forty-seven times, but Carter barely made it four and a half before collapsing unconscious.
Carter woke up in the alley between the grocery store and the hardware store. How he got there was beyond him. He was all bloody and bruised, the beating he had just taken fresh in his mind. He was lucky to be alive. Instead of heading home, he headed for the sheriff’s office. He was going to turn himself in.
He knew he’d deserved the beating he’d just taken. He knew the rest would deserve theirs as well. He also knew that if he didn’t turn himself in, the next beating would be his last. He wouldn’t survive.
He swallowed hard. He wasn’t afraid of the sheriff. The police were the least of his problems. He was terrified of what his father would do to him once he found out.
He staggered into the sheriff’s office, bearing each twinge of pain. He knew he had broken bones. Too many to count. He knew he needed medical attention.
But he wanted a clear conscience as well. He was through with Tobias and the others. He was more concerned for his own safety. He was willing to do whatever it took to see to his safety. Even if it meant selling out his friends.
William Hall received the phone call from the sheriff calmly. HIs son had just confessed to being party to several rapes and assaults. Perhaps it had been his fault, being connected to Toffer French. After all, Toffer had done the same things his son was now doing when he was young. And his father had paid his way out of the trouble too. Allowed an evil to grow.
From what the sheriff had told him, Carter had suffered enough at someone else’s hands. Someone he refused to lodge complaints about. They needed to talk, the sheriff had told him. Hey needed to figure out what to do with Carter.
Will hung up the phone. This had gone on too long. Toffer be hanged. He was no longer willing to let his family be subject to such malevolence. Such hate.
It was time for Toffer to fight his own battles and pay for his own crimes. No more shielding him. It was costing Will too much. He gathered all his things, cleaning out his office. He was resigning. Time to pay Michael Morrow a visit. Time to change allegiances.