Billy Turner and Jimmy Elliott were 10 years old.

“Oh yeah?!” Billy Turner said to Jimmy Elliott.

“Yeah!” Jimmy Elliott said back to Billy Turner as he simultaneously kicked Billy in the shin and then socked him in the gut, dropping him to the sidewalk. Billy held his shin with one hand and his stomach with the other and moaned up from the ground.

“I’m going to get my brother and have him beat you up.”

Which he did.

Billy went home and got his older brother, Sam, who was 14 and had hair under his arms. Sam and Billy walked over to the Elliott home and rang the doorbell. When Jimmy answered the door, Sam dragged him outside, pushed him to the ground, and held Jimmy down with his left hand while blackening the boy’s eye and bloodying his nose with his right.

Jimmy looked up at the Turners and vowed, “My brother can beat up your brother.”

Which was true, if half brothers count, because Jimmy’s half brother Andrew was 32 years old, an investment banker living in a different city a plane ride away who had played some college football (Division II, but still …) and continued to work out four days a week. Jimmy called Andrew on the phone, after which Andrew hopped on a direct flight, stopping at home just long enough to collect Jimmy and head over to the Turners.

Billy answered the door and declared that Sam was not home, but Sam was indeed home, hiding under the bed, the third place that Andrew Elliott looked. Andrew dragged Sam Turner out from under the bed and proceeded to kick a few of the boy’s teeth down his throat. Billy Turner looked down at his brother on the floor, and then back up at Jimmy and Andrew Elliott and shouted, “Well, my dad can beat up your brother!”

This was a more dubious proposition.

Billy and Sam Turner’s father, Earl Turner, was in charge of accounts receivable at the local tool-and-die, and at night as he changed for bed and looked at himself in the golden glow of the bathroom vanity mirror, he saw breasts. Fortunately, one of the tools they manufactured at the local tool-and-die was tire irons. Making sure to put the tire iron in his checked baggage, Earl Turner flew to Atlanta, signed in at the security desk of Columbus, Cornell & Hum Financial Services, PC, snuck up behind Andrew Elliott, older half brother of Jimmy Elliott, and cracked his skull with the tire iron, leaving him slumped and bleeding over his computer keyboard.

Upon hearing this news, Jimmy Elliott was at a loss, for he had no father. Jimmy was the product of a second marriage by his (and Andrew’s) now-deceased father to Jimmy’s much younger mother. Thankfully, Jimmy had recently completed a school unit on civics, and during those lessons he learned that our government works for the people, even individual people younger than voting age, and that when individual people have problems, they can and should contact their local congressional representative.

Congressperson Maxine Williams was Jimmy’s second call. His first was to Billy Turner.

“My duly elected representative can beat up your father!” he shouted into the phone before hanging up on Billy Turner.

Congressperson Williams enjoyed a good fight, though she was not one for actual fisticuffs, for she favored elaborate hats that were easily dented. However, she was on the Subcommittee for Domestic Military Preparedness, which meant she had the e-mail address for a couple of National Guard colonels. Col. Evan Smith, Military Reserves, also enjoyed a good fight, as well as armor-plated vehicles, which his unit happened to be short on, a problem that was soon remedied thanks to the influence of Congressperson Williams after Strike Team Omega rappelled from the ceiling of Cornell Brothers Tool & Die into the glassed-in office of Earl Turner and “eliminated” their target with minimal collateral damage.

Billy Turner would not stand for this. Billy called the number in the advertisement from the back of Soldiers for Hire magazine, the one that said, “Blood is thicker than water, but money is thicker than blood,” at the bottom. Billy met Mr. Hawk at midnight behind the Gas & Guzzle and showed Mr. Hawk the life-insurance check issued after his father’s “elimination,” while Mr. Hawk showed Billy the skull tattoos on his knuckles and how his knife blade glinted green and deadly under the phosphorous lamps of the Gas & Guzzle lot.

When Billy arrived home he smiled as he dialed the familiar numbers of Jimmy Elliott. “My hired mercenaries can take out your National Guard Reserve strike team!”


And boy, did they, at least as far as anyone could tell. One by one, as the strike team members slept, or carried groceries in from the car, or pushed their daughter on a swing in the local park, they were “disappeared,” just as Mr. Hawk promised.

Neither Jimmy Turner nor the National Guard nor Rep. Williams were going to take this lying down, but neither were they going to find Mr. Hawk and his team of professional ghosts, so instead, they took their new armor-plated vehicles and drove them straight through the Elliott’s front window, and those of two of the Elliott’s neighbors for good measure. Jimmy was at school, and thus escaped harm, but the collateral damage was considerable this time.

At that point, things started to get serious, sides were chosen, lines drawn, loyalties demanded and declared. The war spread past the neighborhood to the surrounding community, the entire locality, the bordering counties, the tristate area, the region, the country, the continent, the world …

An orphan now, Jimmy Elliott was adopted by the CEO of a major supplier to the military industrial complex who recognized a good opportunity when he saw one. Jimmy now had a warm bed, three square meals a day, and a direct pipeline to an undersecretary for policy and procurement.

Strike followed counterstrike and, as the years passed, the war’s origins were forgotten, but what was clear was that the other side was hateful, godless, and evil, that they loathed those things we cherished and they wished to subjugate us to their will, push us into the sea, end our way of life as we knew it, and that our calling to resist and defeat every last one of them was a divine one, irrefutable and true.