One such wavelet was triggered and set on its dissipative journey in a State courthouse after the passing of a very wealthy man. Upon his highly publicized death, many contenders came to stake a claim to the wealth he was compelled to leave behind. Soon it came down to only two families. The first carried the deceased’s name, Bowlin. The second family, the Doutrives had a bastard son, but the boy was older than any of the Bowlin boys and to the presiding judge that had to count for something.
The arbitrator of the law declared the dead baron’s dominion be split in two. Time passed, and the grudge deepened. It was a feud that remained constant throughout subsequent generations. Even those descendants so far removed their existence hadn’t even been a possibility at that point were instilled with a violent and self-righteous hatred for their rivals.
At 23 Richard Bowlin was the second son of the late Gearold Bowlin and according to the pecking order was second in line to inherit the title of family patriarch after his older brother Thomas and their elderly childless uncle Daniel. Richard came along at a time when state-operated courthouses and family attorneys were a distant memory. The original actors, the captain of industry, his wife, his mistress, and the children they left in the world, had long since passed from the stage.
The Bowlins and the Doutrives became the lords of their own neo-fiefdoms bubbling up from the entrails of a decomposing age. Like any sect of rulers that came before them, the Bowlins kept themselves balanced on the backs of the masses with equal parts cruelty and generosity.
The charming, handsome, and implacable Richard was the face of this soft power.
It was a mild day for late August. The air, usually saturated with humidity at this time of the season was pleasantly warm and dry. Puffy white clouds floated lazily across a vast blue sky. It was the best late summer weather someone hosting an outdoor gathering could ever have hoped for.
Nearly two hundred people gathered to take part in the annual feast offered up by the Bowlin family. Mobile generators were filled with invaluable petrol and plugged into a dozen microwave ovens, and a banquet was served to the loyal Bowlin subjects who delighted in the novelty of food cooked by electricity.
Richard was naturally easy going and found it easy to mingle with people, even those far below his station. The working man did envy Richard, but there was also a certain affection for him. He dressed well but also sensibly. He was a polite and patient listener, and this made him very approachable. People said he was nothing like his more ostentatious and erratic cousins and siblings. He took his roll in the emergent order of things seriously, and he understood that order was always at stake.
Richard, his beautiful wife Emily were circulating among the crowd introducing their infant son Thomas named after his uncle. Wherever the young family stood a crowd of admirers and well-wishers formed. They approached under the watchful eye of the family’s bodyguard who would quickly put himself between him and Richard everytime an unfamiliar faced walked up too fast.
As the procession moved along it brought up with it a married couple probably around the same age as Richard and Emily but with faces and figures molded by very different lives.
“Hello, I’m Mike Arturo, and this is my wife Erin,” the man in dusty and ragged work clothes said offering his hand.
Richard firmly gripped his calloused hands and gave a hardy shake. “Nice to meet you,” Richard replied.
“Such a beautiful baby,” Erin said adoringly. Her smile displayed a mouth full of browning teeth to match her husband’s.
“Thank you,” Emily said quietly.
Mike took the cap off his head and nervously gripped it at his chest. “Mister Bowlin I’m really sorry to bother you, but I was hoping I could talk to you for just a moment. If you have the time.”
The bodyguard puffed out his chest and prepared to shoo them away, but Richard motioned for him to back down.
“Go ahead Mike what is it?” Richard gave Mike his full attention.
“Than you sir,” Mike said humbly. “I’ll be quick. Our son is very very sick. Too sick to work and the town doctor said the only thing that could help him is some of those antibiotics.”
Richard nodded his understanding.
Mike and Erin exchanged a nervous glance. “Well, the thing is with what your uncle put the price at we can’t afford the antibiotics,” Mike said glancing down at his feet.
“He’s our only boy, not even twelve years old left. You have to understand we have to chase hope wherever we find it,” Erin said on the verge of tears.
Now Richard and Emily exchanged uncomfortable glances. “The prices are based on supply and demand,” Richard explained gently. “I don’t control them there’s just only so much left.”
“What if it were your boy?” Mike asked.
“Alright, it’s time for you to get lost,” The bodyguard said as he shoved Mike back.
“No, no it’s ok!” Emily intervened. “We’ll help you with that medicine,” she said smiling weakly. Richard gave her a stunned look. Before the conversation could continue a breathless messenger appeared and interrupted to dash the hopes the desperate parents were cultivating.
“Mr. Bowlin, sorry to disturb ya but your uncle wants to see you now.”
As his health failed and his body became ever frailer the pathologically distrustful Daniel Bowlin sought refugee from his enemies in the same place his forefathers had run to when their world was unwinding, underground.
Daniel Bowlin’s subterranean layer was a concrete spire buried beneath the earth on an inconspicuous tract of land. The entrance was expertly camouflaged. Waves of human migrants had walked through the field without any notion there was a fortress beneath their feet.
Daniel kept himself quarantined in a windowless bedroom. The featureless walls isolated his atrophying mind exasperating the decay.
Richard walked through the door and his face puckered from the stagnant air of sickness. Every time Richard saw his uncle he was a more horrific site than the last. His robust body had degenerated into a creaking skeletal frame draped in a pale and blemished coat of flesh. The little remaining hair he had was a whisp of white. His sunken black eyes were constantly squinting as he struggled to see the dimming world around him.
“Nephew, how are you?” Daniel asked.
“Doing fine uncle Daine,” Richard replied.
“Sit down and talk with me for a bit,” Daniel suggested.
“Of course,” Richard said as he walked over to his uncle’s bedside.
“Richard, you work very hard for this family don’t you?” Daniel asked.
“I do what I can,” Richard said modestly.
Daniel’s face contorted into a smile. “See that’s why everyone loves you rich,” Daniel said playfully. “I’m forced to ask you though just how important this family is to you?”
“I’d do anything I could for the Bowlin name,” Richard said gravely.
They locked eyes. “Yeah, I suppose we’ll see,” Daniel said ominously.
“Richard what if I told you Tommy has taken up with a Doutrive whore?”
Richard was dumbfounded. “Wha...what do you mean?” he stammered.
“On top of the nightstand, there’s a letter from your brother. I want you to read it.”
Richard saw the piece of paper and picked it up.
“He says they have a son and he’s going to marry her,” Daniel explained as if narrating.
“Tommy didn’t write this,” Richard said tossing the letter back onto the nightstand.
“I’m sorry, but it’s true,” Daniel wheezed. “Thomas, your brother has betrayed us for a Doutrive whore. Richard, do you know what happened to our family the last time a Doutrive whore gave birth to a Bowlin boy?”
“Yes, Uncle yes I do,” Richard whispered.
“Look in the drawer,” Daniel said.
Richard slid the drawer open and saw a few empty bottles of antibiotics his uncle had used to fight off his latest life-threatening infection and behind those was a handgun. “You’re his brother Richard and now the next in line to lead this family. Show me you have what it takes. God gave us our kingdom, but he trusts us to hold onto it with our own hands.”
The dutiful Richard knew what was being asked of him. He took the gun which became a sacred family heirloom and murdered his brother, his mistress, and their unborn child and thus upheld the tradition of the blood feud so it could be passed down to his first born son named after the brother he’d slain.
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