News was going to get to Frank quickly I figured. After the incident, all his men that were there fled town back to the ranch. I knew the satisfaction of the night would be short lived, and we’d be in for it the next morning. And we were. We stayed at Thelma’s after the dealers were taken away, and first thing we noticed when we got up in the morning was that the water had been shut off. There was a frantic rush amongst all of us. We knew we couldn’t survive without running water.
Everybody poured into Thelma’s after reading the note left on the hitching post outside the old general store. By 8:00 the entire town was gathered in Thelma’s chattering and pleading amongst themselves what to do. I was trying to keep everybody calm, but with no success. Can’t say that I thought they’d listen to me. There was bound to be an uproar at any moment. Then suddenly everybody shut up.
The Man In Black’s door opened and he walked out and headed down the hallway toward the stairs having noticed nothing of what was going on. The entire room was silent watching him. The only sound that was heard was his boots with each step he took. Then as he began down the stairs Mr. Rawlingwell shouted, “You! You did this! Your antics last night has left us without water, no more food supply, and with Frank planning plenty more according to that note. If I had a pistol you wouldn’t finish walking down those steps. Give us one good reason we all shouldn’t kill you right now and go collect that money.”
The rest of everybody chimed in and all started shouting as well. Everybody was hollering except a few of Thelma’s girls who just watched on. The Man In Black paid no ear to any of it and when he got to the floor, he walked right on by and right past everybody and over to Thelma. He just walked over and gave her a quiet embrace. They looked at each other for a second, then he walked out the front door. The shouting become even more desperate, with all the attention now being aimed at Thelma. Thelma’s eyes remained on the front door, following after the man as if he just blessed her with a new home and good fortune for no reason. She looked sorta stunned, but relieved of all pressure. I don’t know… It was hard to describe. She waited there another moment, then as calm and cool as she’d ever been before, she turned to face everybody and held her hands up. The shouts and clamoring halted after a couple seconds.
She set her hands down calmly and addressed the crowd. “If that man hadn’t done what he did, this place would be overrun this morning by Frank’s men. None of you would even be allowed to be in here right now. They’d begin taking over everything. You wouldn’t be standing in Thelma’s anymore.”
Mr. Rawlingwell jumped in quickly, “We need food and water or we’re going to die. Look at the rest of the town. Frank already owns everything. Yours is the only business not owned and operated under Frank’s control. And now to save the one last business standing, which happens to be your business, we have to go without a supply of food, and there’s no more water. And who knows what is next. I wouldn’t trust Frank to pay the bounty he claims, but what other choice do we have? What do you plan to do Thelma? We got to do something or we’ll be dead in a couple days like this.
Mr. Rawlingwell finished, and everybody peered toward Thelma anticipating and waiting for what she was going to say.
Thelma looked over everybody that was there. She saw the fear and pain in all of our eyes. We’d been through a lot already and Thelma understood that. So many have already died, or lost their livelihoods, and worse. Thelma was looking back at a broken town that couldn’t take anymore. What men that were left weren’t sheriffs or deputies. Only a couple of us, including myself, have ever handled a gun before. And they were scared.
Most everybody had lived here their whole lives, and over the last year or so since Frank and his men took over, the lives we had have been taken from us. Those who are left I guess have sorta gotten used to it. The men didn’t want to get shot for trying to skip town or for going against Frank, and at least they had their homes, even if this place wasn’t exactly home anymore. Now though, with the threat of no water or food and further actions against the entire town, people wanted out any way they could take. With Frank’s men gone, the idea had crossed my mind plenty. But without water, food, or money, it would be impossible. Plus there was nowhere to go. The closest thing around was Frank’s ranch. We were stuck.
The town was made up of mostly women, and most of the women were widows with their own scars who if possible would welcome seeing the end of Frank’s influence and control over the town. The onslaught from Frank was not prejudice. Frank had a single-minded approach with this town and all of us. Profit. Profit and control. Frank never wanted to build this town, or grow it into the idea he originally sold us on. There never was a crew of dedicated men as he said that was going to work to build and help develop the town. Frank’s men never lifted a finger on behalf of the town. From day one, Frank’s sole intention was to take over this town and run it himself, and then use us as slave labor to build his “kingdom”. Frank wanted to make all the money. And Frank wanted to control everything. He wanted Sandersville. Frank was someone who would rather have full reign and control over something less glorious and exalted than it was suppose to be, than be apart of a bigger vision. Frank is a tyrant, not a builder. He was never interested in growing or expanding anything. Frank diminishes and reduces in order to build himself. Anybody or anything that stood in his way was dealt with in a manner that would not impede on his agenda. And carrying out those plans was more cunning and ruthless than anything I ever could have imagined.
I remember the very first initiative that we all undertook after going forward with him. We were to build a central bank that would handle and process the “overflow of business that the town hadn’t seen before.” From there we were going to expand the town toward the location earmarked for the station.
Frank started by separating all the men that were involved in the building process from their households and having them stay with him back at what was at the time his newly acquired ranch. Of course he sold the idea of everybody working together and keeping focused to get the “dream” built as soon as possible, and that he was going to happily take care of everybody, and reward them with a good time. Which he did, for a short while.
He’s as measured and as cunning as it gets. The first couple weeks of construction, after the long day, they’d get back to the ranch and supper and fresh cold water and drinks would be waiting for them. Frank was never around though. They were allowed and even encouraged to stay up and sing and enjoy each others’ company. And of course they did. After the long laborious day, they’d come back and fulfill themselves, relax, enjoy, and soak in what they were accomplishing, looking forward to doing it again the next day. They all shared in the excitement of the good fortunes that lied ahead.
…Eventually, toward the end, they found out Frank had been secretly watching them the whole time. After the first couple of weeks, regulations were put in at the ranch that mandated all recreation, including being social with one another, be put to an end. Soon after that, the drinks disappeared, the food changed, and the water turned color. There was always a reason too, some type of bogus explanation why things had changed.
That went on for a couple more weeks and quickly dampened and tarnished everybody’s enthusiasm for the project, and in general. But at the same time everybody was already so invested emotionally and financially, in the end vision, and the overall development of the town, that they endured what was happening and what was being said to them. Everybody believed and just figured things would go back to the way they were after issues were resolved.
The last week of construction for the bank, Frank’s men came to stay at the ranch as well, and that’s when Frank showed his real colors, who and what he really is. Frank, the merciless monarch who devised not a single vision, but a con. A diabolical scheme that would shake, change, ruin, and even end many of our lives.
Frank’s men ate as good as ever and their cups ran full of whatever they desired. While the townsmen that were building the town were given days old soggy leftover beans and rice, and a murky lukewarm glass of water. After the first night of Frank’s men staying there and watching them eat and fill themselves plenty, everybody was pretty over it, and planned to cut the losses and return home and tell the rest of the town.
The next morning Frank’s men woke up each of them by throwing cold water on them and laughing in their faces an hour earlier than they had been getting up before. They were instructed to clean up after Frank’s men from the previous night. After refusing and turning back toward town, Frank finally appeared and showed himself at his ranch.
He came out the main door of the big house wearing a linen robe and holding a drink in his hand. He looked like the most pompous and sleazy guy they could imagine, and appearing very satisfied with himself. He brought with him what was the full version of the contract they had signed, and with it a decree. After a long self-aggrandizing quaff from his bucket glass, he spoke: “All of you who take residence and reside in what is now called Sandersville, are hereby issued an order that has been adjudicated by county law. In order to live there, you must, by law, become a full-time employee of the town. In other words, your ass belongs to me. Because I am the town. Any and all previous employment will cease immediately. Be further advised, as your new mayor, all positions and wages will be appointed by me. Individuals will still be permitted to own and operate a business under the new guidelines set by the town, but aside from ownership, all employment and income of any kind will be dictated by the town and your new mayor.”
He laughed a little while taking another obnoxious gulp from his glass. “This means your first duty and employment opportunity will be cleaning up after these men. On a side note, those who do not comply will be shot on the spot. Also you will be pleased to know many more of my men arrived in town last night and are implementing these new regulations and standards that will further progress the development of our new town. In other words, you don’t need to worry about convincing your fellow townsfolk of any of these new developments you have partaken in while you were here. They have already been informed of everything they need to know. All business and trades of any kind have already been modified for the new standards and regulation, and will continue under the supervision of the town. So if you’re thinking of not working the rest of the day and not returning after that, the town has the right to levy whatever penalty necessary until you fulfill the duty of which you’ve pledged to fulfill, and are obligated to fulfill under the terms of our contract in the development process we are undertaking together. Furthermore, any and all objections will be dealt with at the town’s discretion.” He finished his drink, and that’s when he showed them the full version of that ridiculous contract with the missing portion they never knew about.
Everybody complied that morning, the remainder of the week, and ever since. I heard the story many times, and I suppose I’ve been pretty lucky Frank doesn’t see much use for me. Over the span of the next year or so… it’s been longer, but I stopped keeping track awhile ago. It seems like it’s been a lot longer. But after construction finished on the bank, while we’ve been slowly building the second portion of town, the number of his goons living here continued to increase. And for the most part, that’s where they’ve been living! They enforced all the new regulations that were being set, pressured and extorted all the businesses, and basically made life a living hell. Any objection, big or small, whether it was reasonable or some kind of rebellion, Frank or his men just kill you. The idea of rebellion didn’t last long. Swiftly and methodically Frank found some way or excuse to take out anybody he considered a threat. And he knew who to target because he had been spying on them at the ranch. The second portion of town still hasn’t been completed because the majority of labor force has been killed off. And it doesn’t matter to Frank. Most of us have been assigned elsewhere, and work on construction moves very slowly. The station that’s suppose to be the main point of everything is months away from being built, and that’s if we ever get to it.
Music: Budos Band – Adenji
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