Cayo Elina 6
The backstabbing political maneuvers hadn’t changed from before the zombies ruined everything, but the process of justice was much swifter. Elina was on the edge of the village square, keeping one eye on the surrounding brush and on the proceedings as Ramon made his case about Gus before the whole village and the entire council. She could see which was it was going. The other council members were going to side with Ramon. Had she held her tongue earlier with Jack, she might have had him on her side, but Ramon’s silver tongued admonishments about Gus’s character flaws were stacking up and weighing public opinion against him.
The worst thing was the martyr Ramon was making of Mary. Elina knew the woman would be turning over in her grave to hear Ramon extoling her value to the community as a leader for the women and support of the council. Mary hated Ramon and the feeling had been mutual, but you wouldn’t get that from the way Ramon was talking about her now.
‘She is a thousand times more useful to him dead than she ever was alive.’ Elina thought. She had been going to jump in and make a pointed remark about this, but thought better of it. Such a remark could be turned to make Elina look bad all too easily. Saying nothing was probably her best course, however she would speak to mitigate the punishment the council was sure to dole out before the evening was done.
The council members were not sitting apart from the crowd, they mingled in with them, this was something Elina had started so long ago, to keep herself in with the people, not above them. ‘Things were supposed to be different.’ The government was supposed to be better, more reflective and open to what the people wanted. Really a lack of government was what the people needed, not an intrusive set of rules that made no sense. The biggest responsibilities the council had were to divide up the food properly and keep a watch for invaders. Most of the people here were fighters, they had survived countless attacks and could take care of themselves. There hadn’t been a rape or murder on the island since they had settled here.
Fist fights, sure. People fought about everything, women over men, men over women, once there was a fist fight over a chocolate bar. After that fight things had settled down a little. Elina had resolved it by taking the candy from the two men who were fighting for it by dividing it up and giving it to the nearby children. The village had decided to make the incident a running joke and the men involved had suffered with good grace under the social stigma for a few weeks. That was, in Elina’s opinion, exactly the right way to handle the situation.
Ramon’s voice rose an octave as he proclaimed what he felt was a just punishment for Gus for abandoning his post and getting Mary killed; Death.
The whole crowd, including Elina, gasp. Gus was an outsider but he had proven his worth time and time again to the community and several of the villagers rose in outrage over this, yelling and shouting Ramon down.
Ramon, for his part, withstood the storm and calmly explained why he thought the punishment was just. Would anyone argue that Gus hadn’t left the entire village at risk? Would any say that Mary deserved to die for his mistake and Gus should live? The debate went on. Ultimately the council would have to decide Gus’s fate and proclaim it to the rest of the village.
Elina caught Gus’s eye, he was swaying on a hammock strung between two trees. Like Elina he was keeping one eye on the debate and one on the outskirts of the village. When he saw her, he shook his head and placed one finger to his lips. Elina nodded back and waited for the council to be called to vote.
Usually Elina would call out for a vote, but because of her close friendship with Gus she abstained from doing so, allowing the debate to run far longer until, eventually Jack stood before the group.
“I would like to call the council into a recess so we can discuss this very serious breach of security and the appropriate punishment for it.”
“A recess? The council never recesses! You always vote in front of us! There is nothing secret here. Just vote Gus a paddling and let’s get to bed, I have work to do tomorrow.” Called out one man in the crowd.
His sentiments were meant with general approval, but Ramon stood up and called back, “This is serious charge, poor Mary is dead. Listen to us and let us go and discuss the appropriate course of action!”
With a sigh Elina seconded the motion for a recess, which was pretty much all it took. She and the other eight members headed for the shallow bay where the boats were tied fast in the sand. Gus stayed where he was on the hammock, apparently disinterested in the process.
As they made it to the beach the nine councilors, five women and four men, stood in a circle and stared at each other. No one dared to speak for a moment, all of them looked to Elina. Finally she shook her head, “Death is out of the question.”
Ramon started to protest, but was quickly shushed by Roslyn Raymo, “Hush Ramon. Elina is right, we will not let any man’s grudge abuse the instruments of justice to resolve your personal quarrel with Gus.”
“You have no right to say such..” Ramon started.
“I have every right. You think we don’t hear your whisperings in the dark, the way you are building support for your way of running things. But we do. We are not all on board with your ‘back to the way things were’ solution for life.”
“That is not the issue here!” Ramon said.
“No? Who whispers the most in the other ears after you have gone? Who points out the weaknesses in your arguments to the others? The two biggest opponents are Gus and Mary. Mary is dead and, somewhat conveniently, you are blaming it on Gus.” The old woman surprised Elina with her next sentence, “I propose that Ramon not be allowed to vote on the punishment we set for Gustavo.”
Elina quickly said, “I second the motion.”
“All in favor?” Roslyn called, eight of the councilors said ‘aye’ before she asked, “All opposed?” Even Ramon had enough sense not to voice his ‘nay’. “So you cannot vote on this. You can stay and try and convince us, no more. Do you understand?”
Roman nodded, but his face was a mask of fury, in a tight voice he said, “I propose that you prevent Elina from voting as well. She is his best friend, his lover.”
“I am not his lover.” Elina said. It was all she could do not to step over and throttle the man.
“It does not matter, what Ramon said has truth. You are not impartial in this Elina. I put forward the motion that Elina not be allowed to vote on Gustavo’s punishment. All in favor?” The ‘ayes’ had this one too, but Elina did vote ‘nay’ with Jack falling on her side.
Fuming she could only bring up points in the process, just like Ramon.
Roman stated his reasons for capital punishment for Gus, pointing out that the council had used the means before to kill Cubans who had infiltrated their ranks and that they killed the living ‘all the time’ when it suited them.
Julianne Lollar had long given up the title of ‘Doctor’, she was a professor at the university of Florida in the sociology department. Elina enjoyed talking to the doctor about how to keep the group functioning in difficult times and after participating in a five minute debate she put forward the motion to not sentence Gus to death. It passed with a unanimous decision, once that was off the table Roman seemed more furious than ever, until Julianne placated him by saying, “In older societies, societies not much larger than ours sometimes people were cast out for their offenses. We could banish Gus from the island.”
“You might as well sentence him to death!” Elina said, “Because that is what it is.”
“Perhaps we could set him alone on an island for a period of time, say a month?” Julianne ventured.
“A month? A woman is dead and he spends a month alone?” Ramon asked.
“Gus is not even directly responsible for her death. There is no saying that had he acted differently that Mary would be alive.” Roslyn said.
“He violated the rules of the village, not the first time either. He needs to banish him.” Ramon said.
“So a month may be too short, how about a year? On the mainland? Gus is resourceful he will survive there a year.” Julianne said.
“Still too short for violating our rules and getting someone killed.” Ramon muttered.
“Too long.” Elina said, “If he lives a year out there, what reason will he have to come back? He won’t need us and we could use him.”
“Bah!” Ramon spat out.
“No, I think a year is just right. He’ll come back, I know he will, people like to be around other people, it’s our nature.” Jack said.
Julianne broke off further debate, “I move to exile Gustavo Ranum for one year.”
“I second it.” Jack quickly said.
“All those in favor?” Julianne asked, a series of ‘aye’s rang out, “All those opposed?” Rosalyn was the sole dissenter. “The motion carries. When will the sentence start?”
“I can ferry him to the main land in the morning.” Ramon said.
“He should get a couple of days to prepare, maybe a week.” Said Elina.
“Stop it you two! You’re like different sides of the same coin.” Rosalyn chided them.
“Tomorrow morning should be fine, that gives him this evening to prepare.” Jack said, “There isn’t any point in drawing it out.”
“I’ll take him over at dawn.” Ramon offered. He was nominally in charge of the larger boats capable of making the journey to the mainland.
“I’ll go along as well.” Elina said.
Rosalyn sighed wearily.
“What Elina? Do you think your boyfriend needs your protection?”
“No Ramon, I’m going to make sure Gus doesn’t do anything to you.”