New story: “Horse Thief” by Steve Berlioz (Complete)

Ben peered through the palmettos at the big house. Beside it stood the stables, painted white and trimmed in green. He crept slowly through the undergrowth, careful of twigs and fallen limbs. His pistol was ready if someone came at him. He surveyed the yards and saw no one moving., just the horses standing motionless through the open doors. Ben dashed out of the brush and into the barn.

The smell stirred the memory of his own home before soldiers had come. But that was back, miles away and seemingly in some other time. It was alfalfa, manure, the horses – that sweet smell. He walked down the aisle, paying attention to the size of the horses. Ben chose a big red roam, let her smell his hand, and saddled her.

Just as he rode out the stable door, a white man rounded the corner. It was really a boy, a thin, tall boy. He pulled his revolver out and pointed it at the boy, but he couldn’t shoot this boy. Enough shooting.

He wheeled the horse and spurred it toward the road that disappeared into the overhanging trees down the way. Ben heard hollering of an older man, a second man back there. The first shot bellowed behind him. It was a shotgun. Then, another. The pellets dug into his back, blood splattered behind him and onto the flanks of his mount. He fell, his left foot still stuck in the stirrup and the horse turning, running sideways leaving behind a trail of Ben’s blood along the rocky road.

The horse stopped, looking back at what he had drug, at the groaning body he had pulled along the road. Ben lay there, his blood spreading brightly beneath him. He heard the boots of the man and the boy coming after him. Their shadow fell across his eyes. Continue reading

New Story: “Camping,” Part 1 -by Steve Berlioz



“Yes, sir. Like the chart says, I am Steve Berlioz. Have you found Oscar?”

“No, sir. He was supposed to be getting married in a little more than two weeks. We were just two guys on a last outing before … . You know. Him getting married and all.”

“You found my camera? Good.”

“Yeah. That’s him. Hell, no. Look. I was going to show it to his girl friend before the wedding.”

“Sure. You’ll find my fingerprints all over those stakes. We were playing around. And, then those five guys show up that I had described as best I could. They tied me to that tree and stripped me like the park ranger told you he found me. I guess if he hadn’t found me, I would have bled out.”

“You got our backpacks? Both of them?”

“Yeah. They ripped mine up when they stripped me. You haven’t found Oscar?”

“How many times do I have to say? One of the guys rammed big fat ugly pins through his nipples. I felt like I was going to throw up right then. Then, another guy started … . Look at the picture. Oscar had this streak of hair in the midline of his belly. This guy said he was going to stick pins from his belly button to the end of his dick, right down through that streak of hair. Oscar was jerking, straining when the first one went in. That’s when I puked. Probably three cans of beer. The guy standing in front of me didn’t have a shirt on. And, I puked all down his back. He turned around and … well, he stabbed he in the gut. I passed out. And … well … the next thing I knew, the Rangers had me down and were strapping me in that carrier.”

“No. I swear. We didn’t know about the operation up there. And, no. We don’t use the stuff. I swear. The doctors have my blood. They can check it. We were just two guys out in the woods, expecting … . You know … a last time together.”


“To Beseech,” Part 4 (Final) by Steve Berlioz

The thick whip wrapped around him, knocking his breath out with each blow. All he could do was grunt. One, two, three, four, five. And then the beating stopped. An older man handed the young man beating him a different whip. He watched as the younger man ran his hands along the whip. Near the end, the whip changed to multiple strips with a pebble tied to the end of each strip. As the whipping continued, the blows did not knock his breath out. Rather, the whip wrapped around him until the rocks slashed into his skin. He looked down. Blood was running through the hair on his chest, dripping down onto the loin cloth which was becoming soaked with his blood. Even his cock felt the warm stickiness. And then, these beatings stopped, too. He lifted his head to see the new whip. It was thin, not thick like the first or split at the end like the other. Rather, he saw a single piece of rawhide with a single ragged barb at the end. The man whipping him now stepped back, swung the whip in a wide circle above his head – one, two, three loops – and then he took a step closer. Only the barb hit St. John. It ripped across his left nipple splattering blood over his chest. He cried out and pushed back against the pole. The whip was circling in the air again. This time, his right nipple was hit. St. John wished to lose conscious. He was startled when a man grabbed his hair and lifted his head.

The man holding head up spoke in a dialect he understood. “Watch your friends. Then, the whip will tear away your skin.”

He and those standing around him looked down into the valley. The young men standing around the rock piles picked up rocks and let out a cheer with each rock thrown. St. John watched as one of his crew collapsed. He heard Wallace screaming. Then, everything got quiet. A woman in the crowd below had stepped forward and was saying something.

A translation was made to St. John, still in agony. What he understood was that some Sultan would pay a high price for the white men. And, that young men with hair over their bodies brought higher prices. His crew would be sold. He, St. John, would be used to breed the slave women, to produce young men. If they grow hair like him, the tribe could become wealthy.

If St. John had not been in such agony, he might have laughed when he realized that he was going to be a benefactor for the tribe after all, but not as a relief worker. Rather, he would be a stud for the tribe. A stud! He almost laughed. Instead, he cried.


“To Beseech,” Part 3 by Steve Berlioz

St. John struggled, but four men held him, punching him as they pushed him along a path. He looked back over his shoulder. His team was walking down in the gulch as St. John was being led higher. When he saw the single post embedded in the hard-pack, he stopped the struggle. He had heard rumors of a tribe who tied the leaders of hunting parties to a stake, had their comrades watch them beaten, and then allowed the leader to watch his band stoned. This was to be his fate. He knew that now. He would finish as a man, as a proud man. Damn them!

They tied his wrists to a long rope that was threaded through a hole at the top of the pole and then jerked his hands over his head. Two times the rough rope was wound around his body, and then it was used to tie his legs to the pole. He could not kick out.

He could barely move.

His captors moved aside and pointed down into the gulch. He watched as the four in his team were tied to poles as he was. The crowd that had moved with them stood behind a pile of rocks. Already, two were thrown, but then one of the tribesmen down below stopped the rock throwing and pointed up. All of them, even his crew, were to watch his beating.

The young man standing before him with a lash smiled as he addressed St. John. But, St. John did not understand a word of what he said. He knew what was to happen. “I piss on you, you motherfucker,” he swore. Go on! Get started! And then you can go to Hell!” The beating began.


“To Beseech,” Part 2 by Steve Berlioz

The men who surrounded Michael St. John and his team were as lean as the spears they carried. As they came to the edges of the village, they all were stopped. One man said to St. John one word, “Emir.” Yes. That word was universal over many of the dialects. St. John nodded in assent. The man pointed toward the middle of the village where a thatched shelter could be seen. As they started into the village, three men stepped between St. John and his team of four. St. John stopped, looked back, and spoke to his team. “I will explain that we bring food and are here to help.” And then, he looked to Wallace, “Stay together.” Wallace nodded.

St. John was led toward the shelter. There were several men standing near the only man who was sitting. These men were not garbed as peasants. Rather, St. John figured they were the emir’s advisors, those closest to the head of the village.

St. John bowed his head and gave what was the usual greeting to a person of rank. The emir spoke to one of his advisors without taking his eyes off of St. John. The advisor relayed to St. John what had been said. As best St. John could tell, he had been asked who he was. He responded that he brings good wishes and food for the village. He regrets that a mistake was made and that food had been destroyed. “Me and my men have more for you and will see that even more trucks of food are brought as soon as we return to our village. We request safe passage.” A translation was made.

Responses continued through the translator. “You are the leader of those men?”

“Yes. I am the leader, but they are my friends. We work together. They have high respect.”

A long discussion between the translator, the emir, and the advisors began. St. John waited. Eventually, the translator spoke to St. John in a dialect he could understand. “We see the white of your skin not covered by the loin cloth. This cloth is not your way. You bring lies with your cloth and with food that may destroy our village.”

“No!” St. John yelled. He started to turn but arms grabbed him. He looked over his shoulder. His team was now being taken away with two or three of the lean guards holding each of his team members. “Wallace,” St. John called. And then he turned to the emir. “We came as friends!”

“Your friends will watch as their leader is lashed. You will watch as your friends are treated as warriors of the enemy. When the sun sinks into the desert, we will leave your friends bruised and broken, but knowing. We will leave you lashed, but knowing. Tonight we will hear the call of the desert wolves and we will hear the cries of you and your friends.”

With that, Michael St. John was pushed toward the edges of the village and up onto a ridge where a lone pole stood near the rim. He saw four poles standing in the gulch below. “Oh, God!” he cried out.


New Story: “To Beseech,” Part 1 by Steve Berlioz

Time: 1957

Title: To Beseech

His real name was Michael St. John, though he was known in many of the villages of the Sudan as simply Mike. He spoke many of the dialects of the region and, in fact, it was not unknown for him to attend tribal affairs, even to participate in ceremonies. He loved the Sudan and hated going back to the compound of the relief agency for which he worked. The agency’s compound looked like a military base, ringed by coils of barbed wire and with armed guards in towers at the corners of the property.

He found it incredible that food that had not been rancid but for which the expiration date on the containers had passed was taken out into the dry country, dumped into a hole, and burned. He and his team considered this a terrible waste. The villagers did too. Maybe no one should have been surprised that, after this disregard for the needs of the region, one tribe shot at a relief truck as it crossed the desert, wounding one worker shortly after the burning.

St. John pleaded for no retaliation. Rather, he and four from his team asked to go to the village, to carry sacks of food, and to beseech the leaders of the village to forgive what they considered an insult. Reluctantly, permission was granted. St. John’s team left the truck still loaded about three miles from the village and, as was the custom of his team, took off their European clothes and dressed in the brief garb of peasants. They approached the village on foot and, while still more than two miles away, St. John sensed they were being watched. In fact, nine men from the tribe joined them while they were still a little more than a mile from the village. The four of his team stopped and stretched out their arms from their sides in a sign of submission. Using several possible dialects, St. John asked to speak to their elders. Eventually, one of the villagers nodded, turned, and started to walk away. St. John’s party was now surrounded, but walking toward where he knew the village was located.

St. John was well aware that his crew was anxious. He felt Wallace’s hand on his shoulder as they approached a large tent with a young man sitting in the shade. “Sir, I hope this works. I feel uneasy,” Wallace whispered.

“We will be calm. Relaxed. Maybe even submissive.”

“Rodger that,” was the reply. What more could they do?


“Is Waterboarding Torture?” (Part 3 of 3) by Steve Berlioz


Is Waterboarding Torture?  (Part 3 of 3)

Will made coffee when he heard the shower running. By the time a pot was ready, Rick and Jeb walked into the room. It was Jeb who asked. “You okay this morning?”

“You know how it is. Some congestion. You had it, too. Right?”

“Coughed a lot, and did a lot of deep breathing. You’ll clear.”

And then they talked about Oscar. You might guess looking at him that his parentage was from the mid East. In fact, he had been born in Aleppo but had fled as a beginning teen. He ran into a unit of American soldiers who didn’t trust him and treated him badly. He ended up in a hospital in France where a doctor with Medecins sans Frontieres recognized how intelligent he was and, ultimately, adopted him. After graduating from high school in Kentucky, Oscar seemed determined to join the Army. There, because of his language ability, knowledge of Syria, and intelligence, he did well. It was natural that he would be sent undercover into Syria and was successful in assassinating a Russian official. Something went wrong, however. Rick came back with scars across his back and two fingers on his left hand missing. “Oscar will never talk about it,” Rick said. “It’s a “need to know” piece of information is all he will say. Continue reading

“Is Waterboarding Torture?” (Part 2) by Steve Berlioz

Is Waterboarding Torture?   (Part 2)

New Story by Steve Berlioz – “Is Waterboarding Torture?” (Part 1)

A good video – Steve Berlioz