The Next President

Back when Obama won the nomination for the Democrats and then the election, I predicted that Hillary would be the next President. When Obama was re-elected despite a horrible record and a strong credible candidate in Romney, I became more convinced that until the country truly fell apart, no Republican would become president.

Here’s my reasoning on the matter…..

1). The Electoral College Map. The east and west coasts of the US are solidly Democrat, as a result, primarily, of the big city populations and their liberal inclinations. The Democrats have also enjoyed growing support in the mid-west states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. So, before the first vote is cast for president, the Democrat candidate enjoys a very likely 237 electoral votes of the 270 needed to become president.
The GOP candidate needs to run the table on all the other states to win.

2). Free Stuff. The Democrats are the party of free stuff. Millions of Americans are addicted to handouts from the Federal Government. Under Obama’s economy, the number of Americans on welfare, supplemental income and/or food stamps has grown to a record 35%. Democrats perpetuate the myth that the GOP is the party of the rich and that they will take away your welfare, food stamps, etc. if you vote the Republican into the White House. Well then, you may ask, “How come the majority of the governorships and both houses of Congress are controlled by the Republicans?” Simple answer…. A lot more dependent people vote in the presidential election than do in the other elections. Also, the Dems make a serious get out the vote effort in presidential elections, not to mention fraud.

3). Voting Blocks. The Blacks vote about 95% for the Democrat candidate. Hispanics about 60-65%, and gays some 70+% pulled the lever for Democrats. According to “MS” magazine, there are some 8 million more women voters than men, and they vote 55% for the Democrat candidate. We could likely expect this percentage to go up for Hillary.

4). Special Interest Voters. I guess you could call these voting blocks too but I think there’s a distinction between the groups in the blocks and these who are more single-issue voters. The biggest of these are the unions. Overall union membership has declined over recent years as industry has migrated to right-to-work states or out of the country altogether. The only growth has been in the public sector unions, and who do they vote for? Certainly not the Republicans that threaten to cut government spending! The teachers unions give big bucks to the Democrats with the understanding that they will fight any effort to restrict their monopoly on education or to hold them accountable for their crappy performance.
The environmentalists (the save the planet crowd) have completely bought into the global warming fraud and believe that the Democrat candidate will keep the money flowing to combat this non-problem. Same with the trial lawyers who donate big bucks to the Democrats and vote solidly for them to guarantee that the litigation gravy train keeps rolling along.
Finally, you have the philosophical liberal/progressive/socialists. They want things moving further left but will vote for the Democrat as the lesser of two evils. The far more conservative Republicans will usually waste their vote by voting for a far right third party candidate who has no chance in Hell of winning. And, of course, you have the youth vote. They have gone through years of indoctrination by the liberal/socialist democrats who teach in public schools and universities. These kids don’t remember the inept Jimmy Carter and the mess he made nor do they know how Ronald Reagan straightened it out.
More than likely their votes will go for Hillary because their friends are voting that way.

5). The Media and Hollywood. It is an undisputed fact that the media leans left and they give favorable coverage to the Democrats. Often they simply ignore stories that are unflattering to the Democrats. Once the Republicans select a candidate, you can be assured that the late night comedians and Hollywood celebs will be ridiculing him and ignoring the scandals that follow the Clintons like a foul odor.

Hillary Clinton is a nasty, conniving, dishonest woman who has never actually accomplished anything meaningful in her privileged life. The email scandal plus the use of her office to enrich herself would be more than sufficient to sink anyone else.
And that whole Benghazi mess? For anyone else, it would be the end in politics. But, she and Bill are royalty in the Democrat Party and they will line up and vote for her no matter what. As for the country, I am not certain that the US can survive eight more years with an anti-war, anti-business socialist in the White House.

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To Frack or Not to Frack?

I used to subscribe to the theory that you need to move every five or six years just so you can keep ahead of the crap that accumulates in your garage. A good weeding out is essential from time to time. Nothing like a purging garage sale to lighten up.

I feel the same way about clearing off the mess on your desk every once in awhile just to see what’s buried there. I did this the other day and found this piece among the flotsam and jetsam that has washed up on my desk over the past few months.

Since I have not posted anything in quite some time I thought it might shock my few readers to actually find something new on the blog. I have been fitfully working on a short story and my version of the “History of the Early Years of VeriFone” but it may take some time before they’re ready.

This was a letter in response to an old friend who is a passionate believer in global warming and vocal opponent of hydraulic fracturing, the modern method of extracting natural gas that has revolutionized the oil and gas business.

***

I’m glad you sent along your “remarks” (more a rant or screed actually) since it will save me the trouble of offering you a bunch of articles or papers with evidence different from your own that you will ignore. This subject is highly personal and emotional to you and that pretty much rules out any rational discussion of the issue. I will, however, offer a couple of thoughts for your consideration.

First, it’s not too often we get naturally occurring experiments opposite each other so that we can compare results and come to some conclusions based on facts and not opinion. It’s social and political science devoid of political spin. This has nothing to do with fracking (we’ll get to that a bit later) but you made some traditional slurs on business, “greedy corporations”, nasty oil companies, etc. This is, of course, the rhetoric of the far left, firm believers in socialism who are absolutely convinced that if only the government ran everything, all would be just peachy.

So let’s talk about North and South Korea. The people of these two countries are genetically and culturally identical, yet after 50+ years or so of communist rule in the North and free market capitalism in the South the results could not be more dramatic. South Korea is a booming prosperous economy and North Korea is in the dark ages. After decades of starvation the average size of the N. Koreans is substantially smaller than their cousins to the south. Only 23% of N. Korean homes have electricity!

<b>North</b> <b>Korean</b> <b>Homes</b>

What about East and West Germany? It’s another naturally controlled experiment between two genetically and culturally identical populations with a similar outcome as Korea. They had to build a heavily defended wall to keep their people inside the miserable East while the West prospered.

The same results can be found but on a less dramatic scale in the comparison of countries around the world: The more socialistic, the lower economic growth and prosperity for its citizens. Even the US states are experiencing this kind of competition and performance. (Why have Buffalo and Detroit, just to name two, lost more than half their populations since we got out of high school.) (See “The Buffaloization of American” on this blog.)

Which brings us to New York and Pennsylvania. I would think that you would agree that the people who live above the Marcellus Shale, that straddles counties on both sides of the NY/PA border, are pretty much the same economically, culturally and even genetically. Yet the differences in income, unemployment, tax revenues and prosperity since PA opened up drilling for natural gas and permitted fracking are substantial. I know you do not give a shit about these facts so I won’t bother to innumerate them, but should you, by some chance, be curious how much money NY is leaving on the table, check out the Manhattan Institute study of 2013.

Beyond economics, fracking has been around for decades and if you really look at the facts, the environmental impact is nominal or non-existent. All the hysteria surrounding it is just political bullshit and I had hoped you would do a bit more critical thinking before embracing that disinformation with such passion.

I will leave you with this final thought, then consider the matter closed. The article I sent you enumerated the benefit to the poorer consumer of natural gas price reductions brought on by hydraulic fracturing. Prior to the boom the price was $10/MMBTU dropping to under $3.00 for a time, and now has settled in at about $3.50/ MMBTU. This is a great benefit to poorer folks who spend a disproportionate percentage of their incomes on heating. This, of course, will be more important as the climate cools and the winters are longer and colder. Dismissing fracking out of hand shows a shocking disregard for poor families. Furthermore, the low cost of natural gas permits substitution for coal in electrical generation. Coal, of course, is the evil incarnate for global warming true believers like yourself.

It seems the residents of New York want to enjoy the fruits of low gas prices without allowing any drilling. If you are faithful to your beliefs that fracking is terrible policy, you should demand that the NY state government tax natural gas up to the pre-fracking price of $10/MMBTU. That would be a true test to see just how worried New York residents are about the environmental threat of fracking.

I will anxiously await your passionate letter to Gov. Cumo insisting he raise the tax on natural gas.

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Patty Cake – Patty Cake

patty cake

The Obama Administration’s handling of two current serious threats reminds me of this innocent childhood game. The Ebola catastrophe in West Africa has now arrived in North America despite the government’s insistence that it would not. The second dangerous situation, but one that has dropped from the front pages of the newspaper, is the advance of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Obama Team’s handling of both of these crisis events is weak and ineffective. Quite frankly, one can only call it half-assed. Often they seem frozen by their own previous positions and statements. In Iraq, for example, Obama promised to end the war there and get the US out. He pulled out the troops without leaving a residual force behind. Yeah, I know, you liberals out there will argue that al-Maliki would not allow it but everyone knows that’s just a weak excuse. Obama wanted out and did not push the Iraqis very hard. The upshot is that the ISIS barbarians routed the Iraqi army; captured most of the weapons left behind by the US and have pretty much taken control. All that blood and treasure expended in the Iraq war effort has been squandered.

Obama had some tough talk about battling ISIS but his actions are anything but. Start with the name of the operation…. “Inherent Resolve”.

Really? That sounds like a treatment for constipation not a military operation.

BHO announced from the start and has repeated it endlessly, “No boots on the ground”. (I am so sick of that phrase!). Instead the US and its partners are engaged in a half-hearted and ineffective bombing campaign.

As Messrs. Gunzinger and Stillion point out in a recent piece in the WSJ called “The Unserious Air War Against ISIS”, the bombing campaign pales in comparison to previous wars. The 43-day bombing campaign of Desert Storm in 1991 saw 1,100 sorties per day flown against Iraqi forces. The bombing of Serbia in 1998 saw 412 sorties and the 75-day campaign in Afghanistan in 2001 involved 86 per day. In the current battle with ISIS we are seeing a pitiful 7 per day. Seven.

The only people willing to engage ISIS on the ground (which everyone admits is the only way to defeat ISIS) are the Kurds. So you would think that the Obama geniuses would give them some weapons to help them do the job. Nope. Why? Unclear.

ISIS has 50,000 Kurdish, Christian and Turkman civilians trapped in the town of Kobani located right on the border with Turkey. Turkey is a member of NATO and has received billions of dollars in financial aid and military equipment from the US. Twenty-one billion in 2011 alone with some $14 billion in military equipment. Over the years they have received these military weapons and used them to kill Kurds a fact that annoyed the US. The Turks have been in a decades long battle with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) and are happy to now let the ISIS barbarians wipe out the Kurds for them. They sit on their US furnished tanks and artillery and observe the battle without lifting a finger. Further, they will not allow transfer of weapons through Turkey. Turkey is no real ally of the US.

A president with gonads larger than a couple of immature lima beans would have summoned President Erdogan to the White House and said, “No help, no more money. And, don’t count on membership in NATO for much longer.”

Kurdish officials predict that if the city falls 5000 innocent civilians will be slaughtered in 24 hours. ISIS wipes out Christians and “non-believers” and that is anyone that does not subscribe to their twisted version of religion. These guys are truly barbarians and have proven it time and again.

Graphic picture

This is not “workplace violence” Mr. President. This is a reigniting of the flames of Holy War that has simmered between the Christians and Muslims since the 11th century. It’s going to get a lot worse unless western civilization steps up and squashes it now. Obama has basically given up on stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Imagine ISIS with one of those toys to play with.

I seriously doubt that these Crispy Christians incinerated by Nigerian Muslims would agree that Islam is the religion of peace. The war on Christians and Jews is intensifying world-wide.

On the Ebola crisis the Administration simply looks inept and untruthful. They act as if the citizens are children and can’t be trusted with real facts. For example, they keep assuring us that Ebola cannot be transmitted except my exposure to bodily fluids from someone who is infected. Yet, two nurses got it while wearing protective gear. And, upon closer questioning they admit that yes, droplets of moisture from a sneeze or cough could transmit the virus from a distance of three feet.

We must not forget that Ebola is a virus and viruses mutate like crazy. As I explained in my blog piece “La Grippe Espagnole” (basically a review of John Berry’s book on the Spanish flu) the pandemic of 1918-19 was not really deadly when it originated in Kansas. But, when it went overseas with the troops in WWI it mutated and when it came back it was deadly. There can be no argument that the longer this Ebola outbreak goes on the more likelihood that the virus will mutate and, in fact, may have already done so.

That’s why it’s so mystifying that Obama refuses to restrict travel to the US from the “hot zone” countries of West Africa. Two-dozen countries have already done it and two international airlines have cancelled all flights to those countries. The US continues to allow up to 150 people from these Ebola riddled countries to come to the US each day. Each day. Look at the problems and number of potentially exposed people one guy with the disease has caused. Does anyone seriously believe that of the roughly 1000 people from West Africa arriving each week that some with the disease are not going to slip through the temperature screening?

The arguments for not canceling all commercial flights and passengers from these Ebola hot zones are laughable. They say it won’t work but they have the tools and while it may not prevent a few to slip through, it’s certainly better than doing nothing.

A lesson from the Spanish flu might be instructive. As the epidemic swept across the continent from both coasts the only communities that were spared were those who blocked the roads and with armed guards refused to allow anyone through from the outside.

The reason the Obama Administration will not implement a ban is the same reason they were unable to profile young Arab men in their screening process for commercial air travel. They are philosophically opposed to any form of profiling and deathly afraid of being accused of discrimination.

I think a lot of this patty cake stuff is inspired by the upcoming election. Obama does not want to offend his anti-war base but wants to appear to be doing something in Iraq. The same thinking prevails with his tepid response to the Ebola threat. A travel ban would perhaps offend those Democrats who might see it as discrimination and profiling.

Despite Democrat fears of losing the Senate because Obama is such an ineffective and untruthful President, I have a feeling that the Dems will hold the Senate. A lot of people don’t vote and if you watch the student on the street interviews by Jessie Waters and before him Jay Leno, you become convinced that these young voters are completely ignorant about world and national issues.

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Instructor Blais

Blais

Nearly 200 fresh-faced sailors and junior officers showed up on 28 December 1964 in Little Creek, VA for Class 33E of UDTR. Some seriously scary Instructors greeted us. There was towering Chief John Bakelaar, a regal and imperious Chief Bernie Waddell, and the impressively athletic Instructor Newell. But, the one who became most feared (at least by me) was Chief Tom Blais.

He was a soft-spoken sphinx of a man who meted out punishment like he was doing you a favor and his disappointment with you simply saddened him. Since I was the lowest ranking of the 22 officers that showed up for Class 33E, I had no officer duties and given the ratty greens and surveyed foul weather jackets we wore allowed me to blend in with the troops in the back of the pack for a while.

One day Instructor Blais discovered my existence and expressed some serious doubts about my suitability as an officer in the Teams. He promised, “Mr. Draper, I am going to make you my special project.” And, of course, he did. Then and every time there was a lull he would seek me out for extra attention.

One afternoon after we had completed our “preconditioning run” 50 minutes or so up and down the sand dunes, led by Instructor Fraley (whose running shoes seemed to leave no foot prints on Mount Suribachi) we were waiting on the beach for the trucks to take us back to the training area. The Instructors, hating a dull moment, had us in the leaning rest position in loose formation while we waited. Instructor Blais was wandering through the bodies looking for me and in a sing-song voice saying, “Mr. Draper, where are you?” It just struck me as funny and as I tried to hide my laughter, Chief Bakelaar spotted me and said, “Ah, Mr. Draper, laughing in the face of adversity.” Of course, Chief Blaiscame over and messed with me something serious until the trucks arrived.

Perhaps the most vivid memory my classmates and I have of Chief Blais occurred on the 4th day of Hell Week. The evolution that day was the “Laskin Boat Trip”, an innocuous sounding day of paddling and a welcome respite for our sore legs from the previous night’s 18 mile run. The simple objective: paddle from Laskin Road down Lynnhaven Inlet to the bay and then up the coast to the base. It turned out to be a day of misery. We fought a 35-knot head wind in our aerodynamically challenged IBLs (the L is for Large, ten man boats). At times, unable to make any head way against the wind we had to get out and carry the boats. It was so cold the water in our water bottles froze and our pants and boots were caked with ice. By then enough officers had quit so I had my own boat but it was the smurfs and there were only 7 of us. We trailed far behind the other boats when we finally came into view of the bridge. There, lined up on the beach in front of a small bar called the Duck Inn, were all the other boats. Naturally, we pulled in there too. The bar was crammed with our entire class ordering hamburgers, hot chocolate and coffee. I had just wrapped my frozen fingers around a hot cup of coffee when the door to the bar swung open and there silhouetted in the fading light stood Instructor Blais.

It was like Clint Eastwood in one of his cowboy flicks, standing there before shooting up the place. It went dead quiet. In a soft voice, he ordered everyone outside where he individually chewed out each boat officer before he told us to paddle across the wind-torn waves to the other side of Lynnhaven Inlet. After a suitable number of boat push-ups, he led us without breaking stride while we struggled in the soft sand carrying the boats the four miles down the beach to the base. While he was feared by the trainees he was also highly respected and we mourn his passing. He was a man among men. RIP

This article was published in the fall 2014 issue of “The Blast”, the Journal of Naval Special Warfare.  

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Political Correctness or Ego Inflation?

Late last fall I happened to be driving in Bellingham and listening to a local radio station. The announcer was giving the results of the state high school football playoffs. I paid attention because our grand daughter goes to one of the local high schools.
The sports guy reported that the Lummi “Blackhawks” had been defeated by their arch rival, the Neah Bay “Red Devils”. Whoa! I knew that these schools were tribal or Indian schools…. or, if you must, Native American schools. One has to assume that the students themselves chose these mascot names for their sports teams, or, at the very least were not troubled by them.
About this time the press and some professional sports blabbers were dissecting Dan Snyder, the billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins football team, over the name “Redskins”. The team has had that name since 1932 when the team was founded as the “Boston Redskins”.
At the time I wondered why they were picking on the Redskins. After all, there are thousands of sports teams, both college and professional, that have Indian related names. Just to name a few: Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks, Golden State Warriors, and Florida State Seminoles.
These names presumably were selected because they suggested the fighting spirit and determination of the Indians, not as an ethnic slur. Anyone who has watched baseball over the years must have seen tens of thousands of Atlanta fans all chanting and doing the tomahawk chop to urge their Braves on to victory. That is hardly a sign of disrespect.
If you’ve ever watched college football you surely have seen the Florida State mascot (Osceola) dressed in full Indian garb charging down the field astride Renegade, a magnificent Appaloosa, and planting his feathered lance in the middle of the field. More than a decade ago the NCAA went on the warpath against Indian mascots for college teams. Some were forced to change by PC faculty and school administrations. Florida State was able to resist partly because the Seminole tribe had no problem with the mascot.
That fact and, as the example of the mascot names for the two Bellingham tribal schools suggests, most Indians have no problem with these names. The natives that do complain are not really offended. They just want to see if they can push somebody’s buttons and they are aided and abetted by the politically correctness industry.
Remember the centuries long effort to correctly address American slaves and their descendants. In the early days they were referred to as “colored” because it was considered offensive to call them “negroes”. Then
It was determined it was fine to call them “negroes”. In the activism of the early ’60 the left decided that the proper term now was “Black”. OK, fine. But, just when everyone got accustomed to the “Black” term, the PC crowd led by grievance whores Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton announced, “Nope, now we’ve decided they must be referred to as “African Americans.” Some Blacks do not like this term as their families immigrated not from Africa but from the Caribbean or Europe.
How many generations removed from the homeland constitutes the statute of limitations on claiming a place as your ethnic appellation? And, what percentage of your genetic make-up must you have to be considered “African American”?
In the case of President Obama who claims African heritage, he is clearly 50% white from his mother but his father is largely Arab, supposedly with an African Black in his past. Some put Obama’s actual percentage of African blood at 6% and his Arab blood at 44%. Whatever the true percentage, the least part of him is African Black. No matter. He claimed to be African American and they claimed him, voting about 95 percent for ‘one of their own’.
A lot of this obsession with this stuff is a result of people with too much time on their hands. My Parisian friend would characterize it with a phrase that translates roughly as attempting to fornicate with flies. I think it stems from a burning desire to feel morally superior to others. In other words, just inflating your ego but believing you are protecting the feelings of others.
Very noble indeed.

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Reluctant Hero – A Short Story

Detective Ian Cudney first heard of the mass murder at the Willow Tree Mall as he drove his unmarked police cruiser slowly through downtown London, Ontario traffic.
His radio crackled, “All units, respond to multiple shots fired at 1476 Willow Tree Circle. Unknown number of assailants. Automatic weapons fire reported.”
“Oh shit!” He muttered and grabbed his Fireball portable emergency light and slapped it on the roof. He thrust the plug into the cigarette lighter, flipped on his siren and slowed. As the traffic responded, Ian cranked the wheel, slid into a U-turn and accelerated in the opposite direction. He guessed he was fifteen minutes out with no hang-ups.
The vast mall parking lot was already clustered with police cruisers, Emergency Response Team vans, ambulances and fire trucks by the time he skidded off the access ramp and into the parking lot. He eased up to the perimeter being set up by some uniformed officers and parked. He tucked his badge holder into the breast pocket of his sport coat, grabbed his portable radio and headed for the nearest officer.
The Constable recognized him as he approached. Everyone on the force knew Ian, a twenty-five year veteran, often called Columbo behind his back because of his somewhat frumpy and shuffling manner. He looked nothing like Peter Falk, however, for he was tall and heavy with bushy grey hair and eyebrows. But, like Columbo, he displayed great patience coupled with meticulous attention to detail and keen intelligence. His success as an interrogator rested on his knack of being the genial and gentle bear or, when necessary, a large imposing bastard.
“What’s the situation, Constable?” Ian asked.
“Good news and bad,” he replied. “The good news is that the asshole is down. The bad is that he shot a lot of people before he went down.”
Looking grim Ian responded, “Who’s the ERT leader and what frequency are they on?”
“John Chu is in charge and they’re on Channel 9.”
Cudney nodded his thanks and lumbered toward the mall entrance that was now crowded with Emergency Medical Teams rushing in with stretchers and bags of equipment. He keyed the radio and called, “John, this is Detective Cudney. What’s your location?”
“Hey Ian, this is Chu. We’re about 50 metres down the first corridor on your right. Everything is secure. It’s a god awful mess, but the shooter is down.”
Cudney hustled down the corridor trying not to count the bodies while noting the wounded being treated by EMTs, ER team guys and some Christmas shoppers. Some of the employees and shoppers were peeking out of shops where the metal shutters had been activated. Others had been opened or perhaps never closed, and officers were herding dazed shoppers away from the crime scene toward the far end of the corridor.
He spotted John in full battle gear standing over a black clad body in the middle of the corridor. John was short, perhaps 5’5”, but extremely muscular and fit. “Hey, John, quite a mess, eh?”
“I swear to God, Ian, I will never understand why guys do this shit. This is where it ended.”
Cudney stared at the body, dressed all in black with a black ski mask covering his face. He lay in an awkward pose like he had been sitting and then knocked over backwards. Blood pooled wetly on the terrazzo floor behind his head. A Bushmaster .223 assault rifle lay just beyond his outstretched hand. Ian raised his gaze to the shop directly behind them where an EMT worked frantically over a prone woman. “How many so far?”
“Not sure of the final count, obviously…. But maybe 10 dead with many more wounded.”
“Who shot this asshole? Your guys?”
“Nope. He was dead when we got here. No one should have a firearm in this place. It’s a gun-free zone. There’s a mall cop here but he’s not armed. Haven’t found him yet.”
“Yeah. Well, it looks like two guys had a gun; this asshole and whoever shot him. Any ideas on how this went down?”
“Well, I’m waiting for the Forensic ID Section, but it looks to me like whoever shot him hit him first in the hip just below his body armor. He went down back there. You can see the blood…and he dropped the rifle. From those blood smears on the terrazzo, I’d guess he crawled toward the rifle and when he turned on the shooter, he shot him in the head. Looks like a handgun. Not enough damage for a hunting rifle.”
“Where was the shooter then?”
“Not sure. Up there, maybe,” John replied, pointing to the second floor.
“What? A guy shooting from up there with a handgun? A head shot? You gotta be kidding!”
“Got any other ideas?”
“I’m going up there for a look around.” Ian slowly ascended the stairs like a weary bear and ambled back toward the likely spot where the shooter must have stood. He glanced over the railing and spotted the crime scene crew hustling toward Chu and the fallen gunman. As he searched among the potted plants and trash receptacles he caught the gleam of light off the brass of a spent cartridge. Without moving it, he determined it was a 9 mm.
He peered over the rail and shouted down to Chu, “John, we got spent brass up here. Get somebody up here to preserve this area and send the Forensic Team up here when they’re done down there.” John turned from the CSI crew, waved and shouted at one of his men who came running over.
The young ERT cop jogged up to Ian, who expected him to snap to attention and salute, he seemed so military in bearing. Ian instructed him to protect the scene and not let anyone touch anything. The young officer glanced over the railing at the sprawled shooter, turned back to Ian and said, “Wow. That’s a long way and an awkward angle for a head-shot. Could you have made that shot, Sir?”
“Mind your manners, Son.”
Cudney turned and spotted a well-dressed, middle-aged woman standing in the lady’s lingerie shop behind him. As he started walking toward the shop to see if she might have seen anything, his partner, Traci, bounced up the stairs and hurried over to him. Ian glared at her and rumbled, “About time.”
“Hey, Boss, cut me some slack. This is my day off and I was in the tub when I got the call.”
“Yeah, yeah.”
“I talked to John downstairs briefly and he said somebody capped the bad guy from up here?”
“That’s the way it looks. I spotted some 9 mm brass over there by that planter. I was just about to talk to that women in there and see what she knows.”
Traci nodded and they walked into the shop both holding their badges in front of them. “Hi, I’m Detective Cudney and this is Detective Whitequill. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“Sure,” the woman replied, shifting her gaze to Traci and recognizing her First Nations features and stunning beauty with raised eyebrows. They ignored it and Ian went on.
“Can you tell us what you saw?”
“Well, I didn’t see much, but…I heard shooting on the first floor. I thought it was fireworks or a prank of some kind. But then as it got closer and I heard the whistling sound like you hear in the movies with bullets bouncing off stuff.”
“Ricochets.”
“Yeah, like that. So, I ducked down behind the checkout counter and crawled in that cubby hole there,” she said, pointing to the space.
“Then what happened?”
“Then I heard two really close shots and I really got scared. But, then it got totally quiet and I heard someone walk in the shop. I was afraid to move. I heard some metallic noises over there by that table and then the guy walked out.”
“How do you know it was a guy?” Asked Traci.
“You know, men walk different. He had a limp.”
Traci nodded and walked over to a table marked with a ‘Clearance’ sign and littered with a pile of colorful bras and panties. “Hey, Ian! Check this out.” Cudney strolled over and discovered a handgun with the action open perched on top of a black camisole like a strawberry on a chocolate cake.
“Smith and Wesson Model 5946,” Traci murmured. “Standard police issue.”
“Yep, empty too. Clip’s gone.”
“So, somebody shot the gunman from over there, walked in here, emptied his handgun, left it and walked out? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yeah, and where’s the guy that owns it?”
On cue Ian’s radio screeched, “Ian, this is John.”
Ian keyed his hand held and answered, “Yeah, John. Go ahead.”
“We found the mall cop. He’s dead. On your floor, back toward the main entrance, near the top of the stairs. I’m headed that way now.”
“OK, see you there.” He turned to Traci. “Bag this pistol, get her contact info and then head down there.” And then to the clerk, “Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”
Cudney lumbered back toward the entrance hall and spotted a group clustered around a body lying in a pool of blood. John stood off to the side with his hands on his hips. Ian pulled up next to him breathing heavily and stared down at the body. “Shit!” he exclaimed. “It’s Barney Kaminski.”
“Exactly.” John replied. “Looks like our shooter hit him in the legs and vest knocking him down and then finished him off with shots to the head.”
“Same shooter as the guy laying down there on the first floor?”
“Sure looks like it. There’s .223 brass all over up here. Two dead in there, too.” John swung his head toward the shop behind them. Ian followed his gaze and noticed two bodies sprawled on the floor of the shop and a young woman hunched over sobbing near the entrance. “His firearm is missing,” said John, as he pointed to an empty holster. “He was not supposed to be armed but then Barney always did have trouble following the rules.”
“Hmmm? We found a Smith 5946 in a pile of ladies underwear back there.” Ian replied nodding his head in the direction of where the shooter lay. Chu frowned and stared at Ian.
“If that’s Barney’s side-arm…” He didn’t finish. “Shit. I’m glad I’m just the SWAT guy on this one and you can do that detective crap, Ian.” Traci hustled up and Ian grabbed her arm and guided her toward the shop.
Traci glanced over her shoulder at the body behind them. “That the mall cop?”
“Yep. Barney Kaminski. Poor sap thought he had a cushy job. Let’s go talk to that young lady over there and see if she saw anything.”
As they approached flashing their credentials, the girl stood up and wiped her eyes with a tissue. She was about 18 and painfully thin with her blond hair pulled back in a severe ponytail. She was dressed in what Ian thought of as the ‘teen/hooker style’ skin-tight top, too-short skirt, and high heels. “You work here, Miss?” asked Ian. She nodded and swiped at more tears streaking her makeup. “Did you see what happened?” She shook her head no.
“Maybe you can tell us what you know.” Traci interrupted. “First, what is your name?”
“My name is Lucy Martin.”
“Where were you when the shooting here happened?”
“I was, like, hiding back in the stock room.”
“How come the other girls didn’t hide?” asked Traci bobbing her head toward the two bodies now covered with sheets.
“I don’t know. The man, like, tried to get them to hide too but…”
“What man?” Ian insisted.
“My customer. He had just, like, picked out an outfit for his daughter for Christmas when the shooting started. He kinda pushed me toward the stock room and I heard him telling Heide and her customer to, like, run but they, you know, never came with me.” She started to sniff again as she thought of her friend and Traci put her arm around her shoulder.
“Take your time, Lucy. What happened after you hid in the stock room?”
“The shooting started in the shop and I could hear, like, screams and then they stopped. I could hear more shooting but it got further and further away and then it, like, stopped altogether. After a while, I, like, snuck out of the stock room and saw Heide and the other girl on the floor and had to, like, get out, ya know. All that blood!”
“What about the man…your customer?”
Lucy looked puzzled, “Gee, I don’t know. He was, like, gone.”
“Can you describe this man, Lucy? How tall was he?”
“He was, like, taller than me.” Lucy gestured with her hand over her head.
“How tall are you with those heels on?’ Ian asked.
“I’m, like, 5’6.”
“White guy?” Traci asked.
Lucy stared at Traci fearing she could make offense before responding, “You are, like, totally pretty.”
“Thanks, Lucy, but help us out here. White guy?”
“Yeah, just, like, an average older guy. Not, like, fat or anything; in fact he looked like he totally worked out, ya know?”
“Older guy?” Traci asked. “How old would you say?”
“Not, like, real old…..’bout the same age as my Dad.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s, like, 40…. Yeah, he’ll be 41 in July.”
“What was he wearing?” Ian jumped in.
“A leather jacket, brown, I think. A baseball cap from one of the American teams, ya know. And jeans.”
“Which team?”
“Um, I can’t remember. But I remember wondering if he was, like, an American but, he totally didn’t talk like one.”
“OK. Moustache? Beard? Long hair? Tattoos?”
“Not that I can remember. Just, like, an average guy. Nice guy though and he, like, totally saved my life.” With that she started to sob and Traci put her arm around her shoulder and waited patiently.
“It’s all over now, Lucy. Let’s find your purse so I can get your driver’s license and write down your info in case we need to talk again.” She led Lucy away toward the checkout counter leaving Ian stroking his chin deep in thought.
When Traci returned Ian said, “I don’t think the mall corridors have closed circuit TV recording, but see if they have it in this shop. Maybe we can get a look at this customer of Lucy’s. I have a feeling he figures in this somehow.” As they headed back to the corridor Cudney looked at Traci and said, “That poor cop was carrying a side-arm and it’s missing.” Traci stopped in her tracks and stared at Ian with a mystified look on her face.
“Maybe the ballistics test will clear this up but something seriously does not add up here.”
Cudney and Traci worked their way up and down the corridors trying to find any witnesses who might have any information but once the shooting started, panic set in and people were running in every direction. They headed back to the office and hoped the video surveillance system of the shops would provide something useful.

Ian had his feet up on his desk wishing he still could smoke in his office as he pondered the contradictions of the mall shootings. His boss, the Deputy Chief of Police, Graham Brantwell, swept into the room followed by a cloud of after shave. He dressed and carried himself like an ambassador and, in fact, harbored dreams of a glorious career in politics. He viewed his time in the police department as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. Tall and handsome with long wavy hair, he never missed an opportunity to get in front of the TV cameras or get his name in the newspaper. This shooting would get national wall-to-wall coverage and Graham drooled at the chance to become a household name. “The Chief has given me the responsibility of conducting the press briefings on this and I’ve scheduled one for 4:00. This incident is a perfect example of what’s going to happen more and more often now that the god damn Conservative government got rid of the gun registry. I expect to emphasise exactly that point in the press briefing. Anyway, Cudney, what have you got for me?” Graham asked.
Ian gave him a bemused expression and slowly swung his feet off his desk and rolled his chair up to his desk. He detested the man and his backstabbing, tyrannical methods. He pushed a sheet of paper forward towards the Deputy Chief. “Here’s the butchers bill. Seven killed, 14 wounded, four critically. Plus the shooter, of course.”
“What about the shooter?”
Ian opened a slim file on the corner of his desk and pulled out a sheet and handed it to Graham. “Brandon Norton, aged 21. We are still investigating, but it appears he’s the typical troubled youth, in and out of mental institutions and a series of minor run-ins with the authorities: drugs, fights, petty crime, and a rocky relationship with his family.”
“How about his parents?”
“His folks are divorced. The dad works up in the oil patch and Mum works as a waitress. She and Brandon had a falling out weeks ago and she claims not to have seen him since.”
“Has the Dad been contacted?”
“Yeah. He’s flying down from Ft. McMurray tonight.”
“What about the mall cop? I understand he was one of ours and retired.”
“Barney Kaminski medically retired after about 15 years. He was a bit of a loose cannon out on the street and was pulled in to ride a desk. Had some personal issues with alcohol and a divorce and was given a medical about four years ago. ”
“Well, I guess he’s the hero of the entire incident. I’ll be sure to build him up in my statement to the press.”
“Possibly. You will have to finesse the issue of why he was carrying a sidearm, I guess.”
Traci slid into the doorway and stopped abruptly when she spotted the Deputy Chief. “Oops, sorry, Sir.” She muttered.
Brantwell looked up with annoyance. “We’re having a meeting here, Whitequill.”
“Oh, lighten up Graham.” Ian interrupted. “This is not the Premier’s office.” Then turning to Traci he said, “Whataya got, Traci?”
She waved a sheet of paper and said, “Thought you might like to see the preliminary ballistics report.”
Ian beckoned her in and took the sheet from her while Graham glared at her. She smiled sweetly, understanding that his animosity toward her stemmed from her rebuffing his advances, telling him ‘to go home to his wife.’ Graham turned back to Ian as he said, “Well, that’s what we figured. The extractor markings on the shell casings we found on the upper deck match those from Barney’s handgun.”
“The slug that hit the shooter in the hip is still in the body and if it’s not too beat up, the ballistics guys should be able to make a positive ID that it’s a slug from Barney’s weapon.” Traci replied.
“How’s it going on reviewing the recordings from the shops?” Ian asked.
“Mary is working on sorting through them isolating the time of the shootings so we can review them without watching the whole recording. I’ll let you know when we’re ready to look at them.” She turned and headed out the door.
“Well, that settles it then. Barney is a national hero. He saved numerous lives and died in the effort. They’ll put his statue in the courthouse.”
“Not so fast, Graham,” Ian cautioned.
Graham ignored him and lost himself in the fantasy of seeing his face on every TV screen and newspaper front page in Canada. He turned and headed for the door. “I’ve got to go prepare my statement.”
“Hold it, Graham!” Ian said loudly. “There’s a problem here.”
Graham stopped and turned. “What problem?”
“Couple of problems, actually. First off, Barney was a lousy pistol shot. He couldn’t hit the broadside of a…..” Ian stopped himself from saying it. “I doubt that Barney improved as a shooter after retiring four years ago and whoever made those shots is a solid expert and knew exactly what he was doing.”
“Maybe Barney got lucky.”
“I doubt it. But there’s a bigger problem.”
“What’s that?”
“Barney’s 9 mm was in a pile of ladies’ undies near where the shots that took out the shooter were fired and that was about 50 meters from where Barney lay dead.”
“I don’t get it.” Graham looked puzzled.
“For Barney to have made those shots he would have had to rise from where he was shot–in the head–walk 50 metres down the corridor, kill the shooter, hide his side-arm, walk back down the corridor and die. He’d have to do all that without bleeding on the floor.”
“So you’re saying some shopper picked up Barney’s handgun and killed the shooter?”
“It’s the only thing that makes sense.” Ian replied.
“That’s murder.” Graham mused.
“Well….. Yeah, technically.”
“Not technically, actually. You kill someone in Canada with a firearm and that’s murder two. You find out who did this and I want him charged with murder. You got me, Ian?”
“Yeah, I got it, but I wouldn’t tell this to the press this afternoon. Not until we sort this all out.”
“Yeah, I suppose. I’ll tell them we’re still investigating and that quick action by the police saved lives.”
“Yes, I’d leave out the murder idea. Emotions are a little raw right now and we need to be sure of what we’re talking about before we open that can of worms.”
Graham marched out hurried down the corridor. Seconds later Traci poked her head in the door again. “We’ve got the videos cued up if you have time to take a look.”
“Anything good?”
“Yep, I think we’ve found our mystery shopper anyway.”
Ian hauled himself to his feet and he joined Traci heading down the hall to the video room. Ian nodded to Mary as they entered. “What have you got for me, Mary?”
“First, here’s the video from Michelle’s, the shop where Lucy Martin works. It’s the one close to where Barney was killed.” Mary started the video and they could see the man described by Lucy ducking behind a rack of long dresses as a man in black carrying a rifle enters the shop. The silent black and white video did not soften the horror of the execution of the two women.
“Christ,” muttered Ian.
The man in the video slipped from behind the dresses after the shooter exited, checked the pulse of the two downed girls and then limped out of the shop.
“With that baseball cap pulled down, you can’t really see his face.” Traci said. “Detroit Tigers cap, if that helps.”
“If he made a purchase in the shop with his credit card there will be a record and we should have his name and address within an hour.” Replied Ian.
“I’ll get right on it,” answered Traci.
Mary interjected, “There another video of the lingerie shop where the handgun was found. Looks like the same guy but still no good look at his face. As the lady said, he’s got a limp.”

Ian and Traci drove through the near suburbs of London looking for the apartment complex on Huron Avenue. “You sure this is the guy?” Asked Ian.
“Well, he used his credit card in Michelle’s about the time of the shootings.” Traci answered.
“But you could find out nothing about the guy?”
“Not much. His name is Peter Gerard and it’s almost like he’s off the grid. Nothing on Google, Facebook or Twiter. Not listed in the phone book. He’s got a driver’s license and a cell phone account but no email address. I could find no social insurance number or any employment record. He’s got a couple of credit cards with BMO and a checquing account. That’s it.”
“So, what’s he do for a living? Sell drugs?”
“I have no idea but I think we better be careful with this guy until we find out what’s going on.”
They found the apartment building and circled around to the back parking lot just as a few snowflakes started to fall gently out of a depressingly gray sky. They walked up to the 2nd floor and found the apartment halfway down the corridor. Standing on each side of the door, Ian rapped firmly.
They heard someone move to the door and say, “Who’s there?”
“Police. Please open the door.”
The door opened to the safety chain and a man said, “Show me some ID.” Ian and Traci pushed their ID wallets to the opening and after a moment the man unhooked the chain and swung the door open. They entered and gazed around the small apartment. It was sparsely furnished but neat and clean. A small flat screen TV flickered in the corner where a hockey game was in progress. A two-foot artificial Christmas tree sat on a table by the window with coloured lights blinking a sad rhythm.
“Mr. Gerard, we’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“What about?” He replied.
“Mind if we have a seat?” Asked Ian. Gerard nodded and motioned toward a tired-looking couch. He remained standing.
Traci noted that he was of medium height, solidly built and in good shape, pretty much as Lucy had described him. He was in his early 40s with short and slightly graying hair.
“Mr. Gerard,” Ian began. “Were you shopping at Willow Tree Mall yesterday?”
“Yeah, sure.”
“Can you describe what happened?”
“I was in a shop picking out a gift for my daughter and some guy in black came in and shot up the place. I hid and then ran out after he left. He shot two of the girls in the place and I could see they were dead so I hauled ass away from the shooting.”
“Did you see Officer Kaminski lying in the corridor when you went out?
“Yes, of course, but I could see the holes in his head and guessed him to be beyond any help from me.”
“OK, Mr. Gerard, what did you do then?”
“I worked my way back to the entrance and got the Hell out of there.”
“You didn’t grab Officer Kaminski’s gun and run down and shoot the bad guy?” Traci asked.
“What? Why would I do a stupid thing like that?”
“Somebody did.” Ian interjected. “Somebody killed that guy and in Canada that’s murder.”
“How do you support yourself Mr. Gerard?” Traci asked quickly. “What kind of work do you do?”
Pete looked at her for a long beat and then said, “I’m on disability. I was injured and am no longer able to work.”
“Where did you work?”
“I was in the Army…. A supply sergeant and was injured in a vehicle accident. I was medically discharged.”
“You don’t look like a supply clerk.” Traci said, doubtfully.
“You don’t look like a cop. You look like a model.” Pete responded. Traci blushed in spite of herself.
“Look Gerard, if you don’t want to give us straight answers we can continue this conversation down at the station.” Ian replied angrily.
“What’s the point? I don’t have anything to add and nothing more to say.”
“We’ll just see about that Mr. Gerard.”
Pete said nothing on the drive down to the station and said nothing for the next four hours despite the various officers who took turns trying to get him to talk. He simply sat there and stared at them. Finally, as Traci came in to take her turn, Pete spoke at last. “I have to take a piss.” He said.
“Well Mr. Gerard, if you answer our questions perhaps we can then take a short break.”
“Bullshit. If you don’t unlock these handcuffs and let me go to the washroom I am going to piss my pants right here. Make sure you don’t delete the video you’re making of this interview. My lawyer will want it for the lawsuit. Last I heard, torture is not permitted in Canada.”
Ian entered the room, reluctantly removed the cuffs and led Pete from the interview room. As Gerard relieved himself with Ian standing behind him Pete said, “Look Chief, I’m done here. I gotta pick up my daughter after swim practice so I need a ride back to my car now.”
“You’re not going anywhere. We have credible evidence that you are involved in this thing and we want a statement from you.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it, Cudney. If you have evidence, charge me. Otherwise, I’m out of here. If you don’t give me a ride home I’ll take a cab.” Gerard walked out of the bathroom and headed down the hall to the elevators. Ian spotted Traci and motioned her over.
“Give him a ride home. He likes you. Maybe he’ll say something on the way.”
Ian sat brooding in his office when Constable Kelly poked his head in the door. “Good news Chief. Your idea paid off. We found the magazine from Barney’s pistol in the one of the trash baskets on the second floor. The techs are trying to pull some prints off it as we speak.”
“Excellent, Kelly! Let’s hope it’s not wiped as clean as the handgun.” Kelly nods and hurries out.
His phone buzzed and he heard the insistent voice of Graham as he answered. “What’s the progress, Cudney?” I hear that you brought in a likely suspect.”
“We got nothing out of him and had to let him go. But, we found the magazine from Barney’s gun. We’re trying for prints right now. Should know something by morning.”
“Good work. Stay on it. I want this murderer behind bars by the end of the week.”
“Yes, sir. We’ll stay on it.” But Graham had already hung up. Ian sighed and looked at the clock. Time for a couple of cocktails and dinner. This case was not how he had imagined his cruising into retirement.
The next morning Ian walked in to find Traci already at her desk. He growled at her, “Anything new?”
“Yes, we got one good thumb print off the magazine and have submitted it to the Automated Fingerprint ID System database. It came back without a match. We also submitted it to the FBI system in the US. The print’s not there either.”
Ian scratched his head. “If the print is Gerard’s or even Barney’s it would be in the database. All the Army guys are printed. Unless maybe the guys in JTF2 are not in the database.”
“JTF2?”
“You know, Canadian Special Forces… like the US Delta Force or Navy SEALs.”
“I suppose we could get Gerard in here and take his prints, see if we get a match.” Offered Traci.
“Yeah, but that would require a warrant and I don’t think we’re gonna get a judge to do that with what we’ve got now.” Ian headed for his office. “I’m going to get on the phone and start calling up the Canadian Forces. See if I can find out anything about our Mr. Gerard. You can stall Graham if he gets anxious.”
After three hours, Ian emerged from his office with anger and frustration clouding his face. He looked into Traci’s cubicle and said, “Let’s go to lunch and then drop in on Mr. Gerard.”
As they settled into a booth at Joe Kool’s and ordered drinks, Ian a pint of lager and Traci a diet Coke, Traci asked, “Well, what did the Army have to say?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I got bounced around and talked to lots of colonels, majors and many sergeants but essentially they were all telling me zip. Never heard of Pete Gerard. Or, so they said.”
“So what now?”
“Well, I’d like to drop it. The guy saved a lot of lives. Norton had over 300 rounds of .223 ammo on him when he got capped. By the time the ERT got there, a lot more people would have been dead.”
“Graham is going to insist that we pick up Gerard and bring him in for printing.”
“I know. I figured we’d do it right after lunch.”
When they got to Gerard’s apartment he wasn’t there and neither was his pickup truck. Nor was he there the rest of the afternoon and night when a patrol car cruised the parking lot. Gerard had seemingly vanished.

London Chief of Police, Stuart Sims, rummaged through his top desk drawer looking for some antacids. Between the Mayor demanding an explanation for what happened at the mall and the ranting of Graham Brantwell, his stomach boiled with acid. His phone buzzed and his secretary announced, “Chief, there’s a Ms. Smith here to see you.”
“Who?”
“Ms. Smith. She says she has an urgent personal message for you from Ottawa.”
Stuart frowned. Now what? “Send her in.”
The woman entered briskly. Tall and slender, she dressed in a serious business suit with low heels. She wore little make-up and her hair was pulled back in a severe bun. After shaking hands she presented her ID wallet that sported a bright badge and picture ID.
“CSIS? What the Hell do the spooks want with me?” A pained look caused Sims to realize the offense and he quickly added, “Sorry, Ms. Smith. You just caught me by surprise. What can I do for you?”
“Perfectly understandable Chief. I’ll get right to the point. Your department is trying to get information on Peter Gerard.”
Sims nodded. “Yes, we have reason to believe that he was involved in the shooting at the mall two days ago.”
“Yes, we know and I’m here to deliver the message that the government wants you to drop your pursuit of Mr. Gerard.”
“What! Why?”
“What I am about to tell you is Top Secret and revealing any of this is a federal crime. Understood?” Sims nodded and Smith continued, “You may have noted that there is not a lot of history on Mr. Gerard. That’s because that’s not his real name. He was a highly trained member of JTF2 and involved in numerous clandestine operations in Afghanistan. In one highly successful operation, he rescued some very important British civilians who were on a humanitarian mission and were abducted by the Taliban. He was awarded the George’s Cross, their second highest award, by a grateful Britain.”
“Wow!” Sims said. “But why is he in hiding?”
Smith held up her hand. “Gerard killed several high ranking Al Qaeda leaders in a later operation and they issued a fatwa on him and his family. He was seriously injured at that time and retired from service as a result. He received the Cross of Valor from Canada for his actions. In secret, of course.”
“What about the murder charge? Sims asked. “I’m assuming from this that he did it?”
“Of course he did it. But, I think under the circumstances most people would consider what he did a tremendous service, don’t you?”
“Yes, but I’m not the problem. My Deputy Chief is a stickler and has political ambitions.”
“We’re well aware of that. I have a message from the Prime Minister for him. Why don’t we call him in and talk it over?”
When Graham entered the room and Ms. Smith introduced herself Graham looked at her with a haughty expression. He did not approve of the clandestine service or the military so her explanation fell on deaf ears. She produced from her slim folder a hand written note from the Prime Minister explaining the situation and requesting that he back off. Graham stood angrily.

“Ms. Smith or whatever your name is….. I despise this Conservative government and its militaristic ways! When I get to the House of Commons I intend to vote to eliminate your organization, cut funding to the military and re-instate the long gun registry! I will not back off of my pursuit of the criminal that committed murder in my town!”
“Sit down, Mr. Brantwell, before you have a stroke.” Smith pulled a phone from her pocket and punched a speed dial number and set the phone in the middle of the desk. “You’re a member of the NDP, right Mr. Brantwell?” She asked. He nodded as the phone rang. “Maybe you’d like to speak to the leader of your party?”
When the phone was answered Smith spoke loudly. “Hi, Tom. I’m here in London with Chief Sims and Graham who does not think too highly of the Prime Minister’s note.”
Tom sighed. “Hi, Chief. Look, Graham, I don’t agree with Steven on very much but on this subject, we see eye to eye. Gerard is a hero and if we expose the guy and subject him to this, we will do irreparable harm to the party. The Conservatives will beat us over the head with it and we will have the Queen on our ass. A couple of the people he rescued were close to the Royal Family. Graham, I know you have political hopes but I promise you this; if you push this or breathe one word to the media you will never get elected to anything. I will see to it personally! Do you understand?”
With a pout Graham mumbled, “Yes, I got it, Tom.”
“Good. I’ll see you at the convention next summer, buy you a drink and I’ll introduce you around. Gotta go, guys.”
“Thanks, Tom.” Smith chirped.
“Well.” Chief Sims said. “What now?”
“Simple,” Smith answered, “Call in the media and tell them that after investigating you have determined that Barney fought it out with the gunman and though gravely wounded managed to kill Norton before he could murder more innocent Christmas shoppers. Quite frankly, he’s a hero.”
Graham looked glum but the Chief beamed, “Let’s make it happen, Graham.” He then looked at Smith. “I’m going to have to explain to the detectives working this case what’s going on here. They know Barney did not shoot Norton.”
“Yes, you may but you should also remind them of the secret nature of this situation and that if this leaks out I will be back looking for the culprit.”

Epilogue

Three weeks later Traci exited her grimy, ancient Toyota sedan as Pete Gerard drove his beat up F-150 into his apartment parking lot. He looked mildly surprised as she approached him. “Well, Detective Whitequill, what brings you into this neck of the woods? Not here to arrest me I hope?”
She laughed. “You saw that Barney is up for the Cross of Valor?”
“Yeah, I saw that. I’ve got a TV and everything. He deserved it and it will make his family proud. Why are you really here?”
She blushed and said, “I wanted to see if you’d have dinner with me.”
“What?” He looked shocked. “Why? Detective, I’m old enough to be your father!”
“No you’re not. I’m 28, and you can call me Traci.”
“Geeze … ah Traci, a woman that looks like you shouldn’t have any trouble attracting guys like bees to the clover patch.”
“Guys maybe, but not real men. Guys I meet are too full of themselves, only want to get their hand up your skirt and get you into bed. Too many guys with multiple earrings and too many tattoos; guys who wear perfume and moisturize and can’t walk past a mirror without admiring themselves, or married guys looking for a little something on the side. Plenty of guys like that.”
“I’m pretty beat up, Traci. Damaged goods.”
“Hey, I’m just talking about dinner here.” As he stood there considering it, she continued. “You don’t have a daughter in town you have to pick up from swim practice do you?”
He laughed and she liked hearing it. “No, but I do have a daughter. She’s 12 going on 22 and she does swim. She lives with her mum quite far from here.”
“I’ll even buy.”
“Nah, can’t have that. Tell ya what though. I’m a modern guy; we can split the cheque.”

Gun Free Zone

© Richard Draper, August 2015

Post Script:
This story was prompted by my observation that the worst of the mass shootings that plague modern society seem to happen in “gun free zones”. Gun free, that is, for everyone but the armed psycho bent on killing as many people as possible. Like the muslim terrorists, they are essentially cowards and pick the softest targets they can find. Unarmed Christmas shoppers are as easy as it gets. I also wanted to write a story that takes place in Canada, a country with some pretty restrictive gun laws, and to my Yankee readers, some unusual spelling of certain words.
I was helped in getting my facts and terminology about Canadian police procedures correct by RCMP Officer Cst. Janelle Shoihet. True, I had to stretch a couple of facts to fit the story but mostly I think I got it right. And, of course, thanks to the Blogmaster, Karen, for her suggestions in getting the ‘teen speak’ in Lucy’s dialogue accurate and for her thorough editing. Hope you liked the story.
Thanks,
Dick

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Filed under Guns, Short Stories

Purveyors of Apocalypse

Next up on my list of writing projects was a piece on fracking but the recent cold snap bumped this one to the top of the list.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog you are well aware of my long skepticism of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) now referred to as “climate change”. I’ve taken some significant amount of ridicule for that view over the years, particularly from the readers of “The Vancouver Sun” where I offered some thoughts on the subject after the intellectual dishonesty at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was exposed.

So, it brought me no small measure of satisfaction when the expedition to the Antarctic to study the impact of global warming found itself stuck in the sea ice. The ice breaker sent to rescue them also got stuck and then the US sent a huge ice breaker to try to free both ships. True to form, of the first 41 news reports on the incident, 40 of them failed to mention what the Hell they were doing down there and simply referred to them as “tourists” or “scientists”. According to the expedition leader’s website, Professor Chris Turney of the U. of New South Whales, they were there to study the effects of global warming on sea ice. You would think that the media would be unable to resist this rich irony, but of course you would be wrong. They have too much invested in the global warming story.

The news services, however, cannot ignore the cold spell that is now breaking 100 year old temperature records all over the North American continent. Of course, they can cry that this “polar vortex” is just a very unique phenomenon and has in no way disproved global warming, er, climate change. This is the thesis of Jason Samenow, the weather editor of the Washington Post, who has made a career out of pushing the global warming story. It is true. You can’t predict what’s going to happen a hundred years hence by a single weather event. However, whenever a nasty event like a heat wave, tornado, hurricane or drought strikes somewhere on Earth these same guys and gals are loudly blaming it on global warming. Some yahoos have even tried to blame the polar vortex on AGW.

Dr. Roger Pielke of the U. of Colorado is a professor of Environmental Studies and he testified before Congress on December 11, 2013 that hurricane landfalls since 1900 have NOT increased, nor are they more intense or causing more damage. His studies also show the same is true for floods, droughts, tornadoes and forest fires. There is simply no evidence that these extreme weather events have increased in the last couple of decades. Did you see that on NBC Nightly News?

No? Maybe you saw this one? A sea level study by Lennart Bengston, a Swedish researcher using satellite data from the U of Colorado concludes that sea levels have risen an average of 3 mm/year over the last 20 years. This slow increase in sea level continues a trend begun at the end of the last ice age and the rate has not increased in the last 20 years.

To put this in perspective let’s do a little metric conversion arithmetic. There are 2.54 cm in one inch or 25.4 mm. So 3mm equals about 1/8 inch rise in sea levels per year. In 100 years that comes out to about a foot or so…just a tad lower than the 20 foot prediction in Al Gore’s Academy Award winning 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth”. But hey, Al’s made some $200 million dollars since losing his bid for the Presidency. Perhaps winning the prize for Purveyor of Apocalypse of this decade and pocketing the $200 million will be sufficient consolation?

There have been many predictors of the coming Armageddon who have cashed in on the gravy train. After all, nothing sells newspapers and magazines or loosens the purse strings of governments and rich donors like the end of life on our fragile planet. No one wants the facts to mess up a good story or to obstruct the government grants to universities and think tanks to study the problem. The US has doled out billions to energy related start-ups (mostly to large donors to Obama and the Democrats) for wind or solar farms, electric car developers and solar panel manufacturers. Most have gone tits up.
We also recently learned that the Obama brain trust has given $4.7 billion between 2010 and 2012 to other countries to battle global warming! Draining the public treasury to do battle with a ghost like AGW is one thing but the war on carbon has more dangerous implications when mandated policies like closing down coal fired electrical generating plants and putting unnecessary restrictions on drilling or pipelines is added to the insanity. As this unusual cold snap is demonstrating, electrical grids are dangerously close to their limitations during prolonged frigid periods. Closing power plants because you hate coal and nuclear is simply irresponsible.

It doesn’t seem to matter that past dire warnings of the coming apocalypse have proven hopelessly wrong, the gullible public always falls for the next one. Recently we had the Y2K computer crisis. Some smart computer nerds made a bundle on that one. And what about the Mayan Calendar 2012 scare? Hard to dispute the Mayans were pretty clever dudes for their day. But I did wonder how smart they could be if they sacrificed their prettiest virgins to make it rain? Just sayin’. Here in more enlightened times we just sacrifice tax dollars and economic prosperity.

Nor does being hopelessly wrong about predictions that the world is coming to an end seem to adversely impact a reputation or income. Take Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor of biology who in 1968 appeared on Johnny Carson to promote his book “The Population Bomb” predicting mass starvation in the next 20 years due to overpopulation. This is, of course, the same crap espoused by Rev. Thomas Malthus in 1798.

The population of the earth in 1960 was 3 billion people at the time and Ehrlich and his fellow doomsayers professors John Holdren and John Harte, among others jumped on the bandwagon. They predicted that growing populations would outstrip the food supply and the world would soon run out of everything including oil, copper, iron, tin, etc. This became the “settled science” of the period and governments and journalists called for action to control population growth and resource consumption. The guys selling this apocalyptic vision made a bundle selling books, making speaking fees and with cushy university jobs. Politicians of all stripes jumped on the bandwagon. By 1970 Earth Day had kicked off the modern environmental movement and Nixon created the EPA.

Of course, there were skeptics most notably Julian Simon, an economist and business professor at the U of Illinois. Simon believed that technology and human ingenuity would prevail and that resources were not finite. This led to a very public battle between the two… essentially the apocalypse camp and the optimist camp. Simon proposed a bet with Ehrlich that soon became very public. Simon offered to let Ehrlich pick any five commodities (he chose chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten) and bet that these would not increase in price in the next decade. If they were to become scarce they would obviously increase in price. Ehrlich was assisted in selecting the five by Holdren and Harte.

So, how did the bet turn out? Not good for Ehrlich. All five commodities were LESS costly. (This is all detailed in the book The Bet by Paul Sabin.) What about the mass starvation that was predicted by these guys in 1968? The earth’s population has more than doubled since then and the only starvation is caused by war and political repression. Improved farming practices, seed genetics and mechanization has vastly improved yields. Besides, the UN among others are predicting that the earth’s popu-lation has peaked and will be declining in the coming decades.

Ehrlich and his fellow doomsayers were hopelessly wrong about everything so their credibility as prognosticators should be over, right? Wrong! Like the guy on the street corner with the sign, “Repent. The world ends on July 14th!” When it doesn’t happen he simply changes the date.

Ehrlich is still a Harvard professor and much in demand for his opinions on the serious threat of global warming.

John Holdren who seems to never have been right about anything, is now Obama’s“Science Czar” and helps shape their climate change agenda. John Harte, now a professor at Berkley has written a book called “Climate Shock”.

Ya gotta give it to these guys and their guru, Al Gore; they’re pretty good at riding the latest apocalyptic fad to the bank.

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Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society

In the fading sunlight, Sam Bailey pulled his battered Explorer off the tarmac and on to the gravel track leading to the headquarters of the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society. After unlocking the substantial metal gate, he wound his way back to a large log and stone structure tucked into a grove of white pines. Sam struggled to remove the heavy shutters that covered the windows and slowly unloaded the truck. He started a fire in the cold stone fireplace and poured himself a dark scotch. He sat down before the fire to catch his breath.

As the darkness crept into the cabin with only the snap and hiss of the fire as companions, Sam’s thoughts also turned dark. He struggled to change his mood by remembering the old days and the good times: The deer camps with cards and laughter filling the cabin, along with wood and cigar smoke. The redolent odor of drying wet wool hunting clothes hanging everywhere and exhausted dogs dozing contentedly by the fire. The clink of ice cubes and whiskey-lubricated merriment had echoed off the log rafters.

Most of all, he remembered his friends. But one by one his companions had grown frail and died. Only Charlie remained, housed in a nursing home over in Racine, unable to even remember his own name.

They had all had believed that the next generation would take over the Society, but inexplicably, all the children of the next generation had moved away or were uninterested in hunting and fishing. His own son, Joe, his favorite hunting and fishing buddy in the early years, had too quickly grown and moved to California where he worked for a big software company. His daughter, Sue, had married a Navy pilot and was raising a family in Florida. The offspring of all the other members had similar stories, either moving away or uninterested.

But Sam’s biggest blow had been losing his wife, Martha, two years ago. He had been utterly lost since. He sighed, drained his glass and, struggling to his feet, shuffled to the kitchen area to prepare his supper. A second scotch was required for the meal and a third for the clean up and dishes. It had become a nightly ritual and his doctor didn’t like it one bit. Frankly, he did not give a “fiddler’s fart” as his Dad used to say, what a doctor half his age thought about his alcohol consumption. What was it going to do…. Kill him?

After coaxing the fire back to life in the blackened granite fireplace, he settled into a battered cherry wood rocker. He carefully placed the scotch bottle on the end table next to his Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver and propped his feet on the hearth. This had been his routine in recent nights. Sam was trying to find that elusive niche between inebriation and consciousness where he would find the courage to join his wife and his old friends from the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society. He had yet to find it, but the night was young. Perhaps one more scotch?

***

Dad fly fisherman

I first met Sam Bailey on a sunny mid-May morning on the Big Green River in Southwest Wisconsin. The Big Green runs out of the oak and walnut forested hills of Grant County and into the Wisconsin River about 20 miles up from where it joins the Mississippi on the relentless journey to the Gulf. The limestone soil and outcroppings along the Green’s passage provide the nutrients to produce fat brown trout and also accounts for the impressively solid antlers on the local white tail bucks.

I arrived at the Green a little late that morning and as I approached my favorite hole I could see someone had beaten me to it. It soon became clear he was an older gent and he wore clothes of another era; a checked wool shirt topped with an ancient fishing vest, canvas waders and a battered felt hat. The wicker creel that hung at his side clearly cemented him in another century. I had never seen one of those outside of fancy hunting and fishing stores where they served as wall decorations. In the modern religion of catch-and-release, a creel represented a clear sacrilege.

He worked the water with the easy efficiency of decades of wielding a fly rod, and as I sat down to watch, I could see from the smooth, slow action that it was a bamboo rod. Some Blue Olives started coming off and Sam tied on one of the delicate mayfly imitations.

He quickly hooked and released a couple of smaller fish when he noticed a heavy rise near the far bank where I was sitting. It would be a long cast, perhaps 65 feet, but the old man didn’t hesitate. He stripped long pulls off his reel and made several double hauled false casts before landing the tiny, dry fly soundlessly in the back eddy next to the grassy bank. It disappeared in a slurp and as the line snapped taut, a dazzling shower of droplets were catapulted into the sunlight along its entire length. With the reel screaming and the rod bucking, the trout powered back and forth across the pool before turning and racing upstream like a charging bull. At the end of the pool, it launched skyward and seemed levitated in the sunlight, gleaming gold with black and red spots all surrounded by a halo of sparkling spray. And then he was gone.

Sam reeled in his slack line and carefully waded the river toward me. He plunked down beside me and I could see that his hands were shaking as he pulled a scared briar pipe and worn tobacco pouch from his vest and began the ritual of filling and lighting it.

“Big fish.” I offered in horrendous understatement. “Must have been 5 lbs.”

“Yep.” He replied. “Too big for that tippet anyway.”

“Too bad.” I mumbled lamely.

“Ah well, It was fun there for about 10 seconds.” “By the way, my name’s Sam Bailey.” He offered his big rough hand that bore the wear and spots of many years and too much sun.

“I’m Kurt Jensen,” I replied.

I could see him eyeing my Winston rod and Ross reel with interest. “Nice outfit,” he said. And then looking at me directly in the eyes, “Don’t see many Black guys out here on the rivers.”

He could see that I was a little surprised and annoyed and quickly said, “Ah shit, sorry. I guess you guys like to be called African Americans now.”

“No. Mostly I like to be called Kurt and referred to as a fly fisherman,” I replied a little offended.

He chuckled. “Sorry Kurt. That was rude of me. I apologize. What do you do…? I mean for a living.”

“I’m an attorney in Milwaukee with Bigelow, Linstrom and Meyers.”

“Sure. I know that firm. I used to do a little business with old Bill Bigelow. Good guy. I was sad to hear of his passing.”

“Me too. He was the man responsible for my joining the firm.”

“You hunt?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, love to hunt grouse. Got a setter at home. A few friends and I go out for deer each year.”

“Hmmm,” replied Sam. “Let’s see you wave that high priced piece of plastic, Son. I’ll just sit here and smoke for a bit.” Sam relit his pipe and watched as I waded out into the pool and started peeling off some line. I’ve been fly-fishing since high school and pride myself on my technique, but I must admit that I was a little nervous. After about 10 minutes, I hooked a nice foot long fatty, and after a brief but furious struggle, brought him in and released him. I looked over for some praise from Sam but he had already gone.

***

I was at my desk early the following Monday–as all law associates aspiring to make partner must be–when my intercom buzzed and my secretary, Lucy, announced in her strangled valley girl voice, “Kurt, there’s a Mr. Bailey here to see you.”

I happened to be working on a routine real estate deal at the time so, intrigued, I replied, “Fine, send him in.”

Sam lumbered in, slightly hunched over, and I stood and offered my hand. He was dressed in a brown tweed sport coat that looked like vintage 1980 complete with string tie and tan slacks. His long white hair was slicked back and accentuated his ruddy complexion. He sat and refused my offer of a coffee. After staring at me for a moment, grinned and said, “Surprised to see me?”

I nodded. “What can I do for you?”

“I checked you out this weekend. The Internet is amazing. We never even had a damn phone until I was in high school so I could never have imagined what we have now.”

I just nodded wondering what was coming next. “Go on.” I said.

“I did a Google search on you and checked out your Facebook and Linkedin page. You are an interesting fellow…. Your Dad was a 30-year vet of the Milwaukee police department and your Mom an elementary teacher, three successful sisters. You’re a lucky guy to be born in those circumstances with a family like that. A lot of black kids in Milwaukee are not so lucky.” He paused to see if I’d reacted and I tried not to look pissed. Sam continued, “To your credit, you didn’t waste it. You’ve done well.”

“You have impressive computer skills.”

“Yeah, well,” He chuckled. “Full disclosure, I called my son, a computer nerd, and he walked me through it.”

“That’s all fine, Sam. But why are you here?”

“I’ve got a story to tell you and then a proposition for you to consider.”

***

My phone rang promptly at 8:00 as I was hanging up my coat. “Hello,” I chirped into the phone trying to sound business-like.

“Man, you are so predictable. I could set my watch by when you walk in the door.”

“What are you talking about? I‘ve been here for half an hour working away at my desk.”

“Bullshit, Jeff. I’ve known you since the seventh grade and you never have been anything but perfectly on time in your entire life. Never late and never early. I couldn’t figure out how you always managed to do it.”

It was Kurt Jensen, my best friend for as long as I could remember. We had gone to grade school, junior high, high school and college at the University of Wisconsin together. We had parted in grad school when I took my MBA at Marquette and Kurt had gotten his law degree at UW Madison. We got reunited in Milwaukee when Kurt joined one of our biggest law firms and I started plying my investment banker trade with the money boys on Water Street.

I asked, “What’s up calling me so early?” I thought he might want to set up a game. He regularly kicked my ass in racquetball and I cleaned his clock in one-on-one basketball, a fact that our friends found hilarious since Kurt is black and I am as white as a person can be without actually being blue.

“Lunch? Kurt asked.

“Sure,” I responded quickly. “You buying?”

“OK. Jonah’s on the Water. 12:30.” He hung up.

“That’s odd,” I thought. No quibbling about who was going to buy. Nothing. I sat back wondering.

***

As I sat fidgeting at Jonah’s, nursing an iced tea, Kurt was, as usual, late. Finally, he swung through the door and waved as he spotted me across the crowded dining room. He looked, as always, like a GQ model suddenly set loose in downtown Milwaukee. He sported an impeccably tailored tan summer weight suit, brilliant white shirt and patterned brown and gold tie. It all complimented his smooth light chocolate completion. He carried himself with such confidence that he seemed bigger than his 5’ 10” that I knew him to be, and coupled with his looks and dazzling smile, he caught the attention of every female in the room. I shook my head for it was always the same. I used to tell him… before my marriage, of course…that I would just follow him around and pick up his cast-offs.

He slid into the chair across from me, grinned and asked, “Waiting long?”

“Nope, just the usual 20 minutes.”

“Sorry, Man. Busy, busy, you know.” Before Kurt could continue the waitress showed up and Kurt glanced down at my iced tea and frowned. “Tea is not going to cut it today,” he declared. “Let us have a bottle of the Sterling Chardonnay, 2009 and take this man’s tea away immediately.”

I looked at him curiously. “What’s up Kurt? Did you discover gold in your garden? Is Darlene pregnant again? What’s gotten into you? You never drink at lunch.” I said. “Did they make you a partner?”

“Nah, maybe next year on the partnership. I’ve got an opportunity for the two of us and a few of our close friends.” Kurt raised his hands to halt my coming questions as the waitress arrived with the wine.

We went through the ritual of opening, tasting and pouring the wine and as we clinked glasses in the traditional toast I said, “OK buddy, let’s hear it.”

Kurt started by relating his encounter with Sam Bailey at the Big Green last Saturday and then began, “So Sam shows up unannounced at my office yesterday at 9:00 sharp. He sits down in my office and without much preamble says, ‘You got 6 or 7 pals who are hunters and fishermen and have a few disposable bucks in their pockets?’ And, I say, ‘Sure, so?’ He then proceeds to tell me about how he and 7 of his friends founded the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society 49 years ago.”

“The what?” I ask.

Kurt held up his hand to stop me, “In due time, son, in due time.” He also waved off the waitress who was hovering to take our order. “We’re going to enjoy our wine for a bit.” He squinted at her name tag. “Thanks, Eileen.” He gave her his 1000-watt smile and she blushed and scampered away.

“OK. Cut the flirting and tell me what this is all about,” I grumped.

Kurt sighed and began, “Sam tells me that he’s the last of the Society members still alive. The only other survivor died this weekend at a nursing home. He’s 85 and doesn’t seem to determined to live much longer himself.” Kurt paused and took a hit of his wine. “He tells me that our firm, specifically our founding partner, Bill Bigelow, did the legal work to set up the Society originally. It was started in the early ‘60s during the period when farmland prices, especially for marginal farmland, were in the toilet. Sam and his friends bought 400 acres of bottomland on the Wisconsin River and the surrounding hills for a song from a bank that had foreclosed on the property.”

I took a sip of the chard and raised my hand to slow Kurt down, “Where does this chowder and marching society come in?”

“Whitetail and Chowder Society. Pay attention.”

“OK. Proceed, Councilor.”

“Bill set up this society and made a deal with the Wisconsin DNR, under certain stipulations: That they would provide an easement for fishermen to have access to the trout stream that flows through the property; that they would do no actual farming or grazing on the property and that they would maintain it in a natural state. The society was grandfathered in on a reduced real estate tax rate but the kicker is…if the society ceased to exist the title of the property would revert to the state to turn into public hunting land.”

I sat there a little confused while Kurt let that sink in. “Why is he coming to you? What about the kids of the original members?”

“All gone. Some dead, many moved away and some not interested. I guess the members had a lot of girls. We better have the water supply checked out there,” he replied thoughtfully.”

“So why us? Or more specifically, why you?”

“Us. Sam wants the two of us to recruit 5 or 6 more guys our age to take over the…”

“Marching and Chowder Society?” I interrupted. Kurt gave me the Don’t-Be-A-Smartass look.

“Well, here’s the catch. Sam’s proposing that we agree to use some of the time during the summers to turn it into a sort of camp for under privileged kids from Milwaukee.”

“That’s it?”

“Well, not completely. We have to take over the taxes and maintenance plus continue to follow the obligations of the original agreement with the state.”

“This deal goes on in perpetuity?”

“Nope. It’s a 100-year deal. Expires in 2062.”

“Holy shit! I can think of five guys off the top of my head who would jump at this deal.”

“I can too, but let’s consider carefully because we will be stuck with each other for a long time in this deal.” Kurt refilled our glasses and started to tick off some names. “By the way, he wants to meet us out at the property on Saturday morning at noon when he gets back from trout fishing.” He waved his hand at Eileen who had been keeping her eye on us and she came running.

***

Kurt and I followed Sam’s directions to the driveway of the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society property. He was waiting for us at the end of the dirt track in his dusty Explorer. He started up his truck and motioned for us to follow him.

The classic log and stone house had the look of a structure that had been built in many stages over the years by people who had vastly different architectural theories. Sam unlocked the substantial oak door and swung through the door to turn off the alarm system. “We had a few burglaries and vandalism incidents over the years so we installed a very sophisticated system of video cameras, motion detectors and alarms.”

“Does it work? This place is pretty far away from any police service.” Kurt asked.

“Pretty much. The system rings up a couple of the neighbors who we keep on our good graces with some generous Christmas gifts and word gets around.”

We walked into the cavernous main room, dominated by a huge, rustic stone fireplace that was adorned by a mounted moose head. “You shoot that sucker on this property, Sam?” I asked nodding toward the moose.

“Sure.” He grinned. “I’ll show you the spot up on the ridge later.”

The log living room seemed to be the original cabin with a kitchen and bedroom wings tacked on at a later date. Mounts of huge whitetail bucks, mallards, wood ducks and grouse with a few duck art painting interspersed formed the decorating theme. “You two can wander around and see the rest of the place while I dig out some of the paperwork.” Turning to my buddy, he said, “Kurt, did you bring along the original legal documents setting up the club?”

“Yep. Got them out in the truck.”

“OK, after you’ve had your look around we can sit down and go over everything.”

Ten minutes later we gathered around the dining room table and scattered various files and books between us. “Kurt, you have the signed agreements from the new members, right? These fellows presumably understand their legal, financial and moral obligations that are spelled out in the charter. In addition, here are the Society rules and traditions.” Sam slid a thin, leather bound book across the table at us.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“These have evolved over the years by consensus. Not legally binding, but hopefully things the new members will continue to honor.”

I opened the book and glanced at the first page. “I see the first entry is about gun safety.”

“Yep. Other than failing to hold up your financial end or screwing another member’s wife, violating the gun safety rules is the one thing that can get you kicked out of the Society. Accidental discharge of a firearm, bringing a loaded gun into the cabin, or carrying one in a vehicle are grounds for automatic expulsion.”

Kurt and I looked at each other and nodded. “Sounds good to me.” I said.

“The rest of the stuff is in there and you can read it and pass it on to the other new members. By the way, in the back is the recipe for our traditional chowder. Each year a designated guy has to prepare a large vat of the chowder for the opening day of deer season. It’s for lunch. I’ll show you the hidey hole where we keep that book and some other stuff too before we leave.” He rose and headed for the door. “Come on, I’ll show you the boats and ATVs.”

A large metal pole building stood a short distance from the cabin. Inside stood a substantial pile of fireplace wood, four Lund aluminum fishing boats and three ATVs of various vintages. Sam waved his hand to the corner where three 25-horse Mercury outboards stood on a rack. “None of those have been used in several years so you should probably have them serviced before you let anyone go out on the river. While you’re at it, oughta have the ATVs checked too.”

“Can we get a look at the river access?” Kurt asked.

“Sure. Good idea. If you’re going to bring kids out here this summer there’s pretty good walleye and bass fishing and a nice swimming hole. Probably be a popular spot.”

We strolled about 100 yards down the path leading to a grassy clearing on the bank of the gently flowing Wisconsin River. A rolling dock stood well back from the sandy beach and the deep hole beyond. Sam pointed to one of the wooded islands that checkered the wide river and said, “Those islands out there have some potholes that the mallards love during the migration and you can get some great wood duck shooting early in the fall.”

Sam led us back to the cabin and we stood in front of a large map on the wall. He pointed out another gate on the other side of the county road and the trail leading up to the hardwood covered hills that had been the ancient river bank during the glacial floods. “Nice campsite here by the creek. When you bring kids out that might be a good place to set up. There are some pretty good brown trout in the creek, although it’s tough to fly fish it. The kids used to do well drifting a night crawler down into the deeper holes.”

I pointed to a number of red stars scattered across the map. “What are these, Sam?” I asked.

“Permanent deer stands.” He replied. “You can see there’re not too far off the ATV trails that run throughout the property.”

Sam showed us where all the keys were stashed, gave us the security code and the names of the neighbors and left us to fire up one of the ATVs and take a tour of the property. When we got back, he was gone.

***

We traveled in convoy. Kurt rode with me in my Suburban in the lead and the other six members of the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society followed in two SUVs. Kurt hadn’t said much until we got past Madison and were passing by Barneveld, the site of a nasty tornado that wiped out the town back in the early 80s. “Sam came to me and had me re-write his will shortly after we took over the society.” He said.

“You read the will when his kids were here for the funeral, right?”

“Yep. But he also included a letter to me and that’s the reason we are all going out to the cabin today.”

“I was wondering what all the mystery was about. No wives, no kids, no dogs and all members present on a nothing happening Saturday.” I replied.

I turned on to the country road that paralleled the Wisconsin River and slowed to follow its narrow, winding course. As we passed the entrance to the upland part of the property Kurt glanced up at the sign above the gate that read SAM BAILEY YOUTH CAMP. “I’m glad Sam got to see us get a bunch of kids out here this summer before he passed.” He said.

“Me too. I think he got a real kick out of seeing those kids swimming in the river and learning how to fish. By the way, it was a master stroke getting your Dad and his retired cop friends to do the bulk of the work.” Kurt flashed me a grin with those dazzlingly white teeth of his and popped his seat belt as I turned into the driveway that leads to the cabin.

Twenty minutes later we were all clustered around the foot of the dock that extended out into the river. Kurt carried the urn and a bouquet of daisies and I held a polished wooden box. He stepped up on the dock gazed at us and began, “Sam asked me to bring us all down here after the funeral and consign his ashes to the river. He figured they would eventually make it down to the ocean and get back into the food chain. He also said he was looking forward to joining his wife. I’m not sure how exactly those two things work together but that was his wish and we’re honoring it.”

“Sam told me he was glad that all the new members of the Society were joining at the same time and were about the same age. He thought we would develop our own traditions but hoped we’d keep some of the old ones.” He nodded at me. “Jeff.”

I opened the box and started passing out small crystal glasses and then a dark bottle of Hennessey brandy. As I poured a generous shot in everyone’s glass Kurt continued, “Sam explained that somewhere in the early days of the Society they had purchased this bottle and the idea was to open it when the last of the original members died. The thinking was that the Society would be adding members as they went along. Since that didn’t happen it’s up to us.”

He raised his glass. “To Sam Bailey and the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society!”

To a chorus of “Here, Here!” we all downed the amber liquid and grimaced. Fifty additional years of aging hadn’t done it any favors. It might be useful for lighting fires. Kurt handed me his glass and walked to the end of the dock where he opened the urn and began spilling Sam’s ashes into the river. The light breeze scattered some of the dust and Kurt tossed the daisies into the rest. A small swirling eddy of current caught the ashes and flowers and sent them spinning toward the shore.

“Looks like Sam’s in no hurry to leave,” quipped Mike. We all stared at him for breaking the solemn mood and then we all burst out laughing. As we trooped back down the path to the cabin I thought, “Sam would have gotten a kick out of that.”

***

Copyright 2014 Richard Draper

Alert readers may notice that this story is told from different Points Of View as it goes along.  It was intentional.  I had written several short stories before I purchased a book on ‘how to write a short story’.  I’d never really thought about it much…. just did it.  It’s kinda like a golf swing, if you think about it too much you can’t do it.  Anyway, I found the chapter on POV interesting and decided to play with it a bit in this tale.  I did not read far enough in that chapter to find out if switching POV back and forth in the same story is a no-no.  Probably is, but who cares.  Let me know if you find the flipping back and forth confusing or if you think the story is crap.

DD

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Verbal Crutches

In the winter of 1973 we moved to Cold Spring, a small town in central Minnesota where I had recently taken a job. Our kids soon became acquainted with the neighbor kids down the street. We had been there less than a week when Tara, our oldest daughter, says to her younger sister, “Come here once, Karen.”

“Once?” I thought. “Why not twice?”

I soon discovered that it was a local speech custom to attach useless and unnecessary words to the end of perfectly good sentences. Much like Canadians stick an “Eh” at the end of a statement or question. Minnesotans would tack on a “once”, “then” or “hey”.

This is, of course, not all that big a deal and cannot be compared to, say, the Iranians getting a nuclear bomb and wiping out Israel. Nor is it as annoying to certain speech crutches currently in vogue. Repeatedly sticking in “you know” between comments can be distracting and seems to be a common filler for athletes being interviewed by sports reporters. You would think that star baseball or football players who are frequently asked for on camera comments and who make the big bucks would have someone from the team’s media office taking the guy aside and saying, “Look Dwayne, you said ‘you know’ 37 times in that two minute interview yesterday. That makes you sound like a dumb shit and you are a graduate of Notre Dame and make $10 million dollars a year. Can we cut the ‘you knows’ down to perhaps 10 next time around?”

President Obama has a reputation for being a gifted orator, but that depends on whether he is reading his speeches off his teleprompter or not. When he is forced to speak off the cuff things do not go quite so well and he typically sticks in repeated “ah, ah, ahs” in the middle of sentences and phrases. It seems he’s groping for the thought or correct word. I guess that’s why they haul the damn teleprompters everywhere he is going to make even the most unimportant speech.

Some of the stuff that annoys me most is now part of the youth culture propagated by the all-pervasive media. The use of the word “go” as a substitute for “said” when recounting a conversation can be confusing to senior citizens like me. (“So he goes, blah, blah and I go blah, blah, blah and then he goes…..” etc.) In my memory, failing as it is, the verb “go” is not a suitable substitute for “said”.

But, by far the most maddening verbal crutch of recent times is the repeated and unnecessary insertion of “like” into conversation. “Like” is a perfectly useful word but has no place getting stuck excessively and inappropriately into otherwise perfectly fine sentences. Example conversation: “He was like really mad and I was like completely totally like shocked.” You get the drift.

I guess this is not so shocking. Teenagers all watch the same stuff on TV and the same movies and all their heroes talk this way. What really drives me nuts is to hear 40 something celebrities talking like (acceptable usage of the word) teens on Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel. My wife used to count the “likes” on those occasions and often could make it to 30 or 35 before I grabbed the remote and switched channels. Don’t these people ever watch one of their own interviews?

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Clusterfrack

Note: This is not a piece about drilling for natural gas.

The extraordinary events of recent weeks have prompted me to break my personal promise to retire from writing about politics. While these latest developments are unlikely to affect me very much in a direct sense, they will certainly intrude on the lives of my children and grandchildren.

First, let’s talk about ObamaCare. You might notice if you pay attention that Obama and his minions happily referred to the program by that name until it started to turn to crap. Now it is Administration and liberal policy to refer to it as The Affordable Care Act or the ACA. ObamaCare has been banned from the lexicon of the left.

The Democrats in the dark of night pushed through this monster, a radical confiscation of the US healthcare system, by numerous questionable tactics and without one Republican vote. Now the Dems are blaming the GOP for not helping them implement the law! This is the height of absurdity. Remember Pelosi’s famous line? “We have to pass the law to find out what’s in it.” Surprise! It’s like a piñata full of poisonous snakes.

In a brilliant article by Andrew McCarthy in the National Review Online called “The Scheme Behind the Obamacare Fraud,” McCarthy explains why Obama and his supporters lied repeatedly about the plan. Unless you’ve been living in a cave and eating roots and berries you have certainly heard the President assuring folks that “If you like your plan you can keep your plan. Period.” Turns out that was a big lie as millions of people got notices that their plans were cancelled. Obama tried to blame the insurance companies but that would not hold water because it was obvious that HHS had changed the rules. Everybody’s plan had to include buying Sandra Fluke’s contraceptives, abortions, prenatal care and maternity benefits among others. It didn’t matter if you were a 90-year-old male widower who hadn’t had an erection since the Carter Administration; you still had to have maternity benefits in your insurance. With all this added stuff, including accepting everyone with pre-existing conditions at the same price, only a career politician or a liar would assert, “… everyone would save an average of $2500 on their insurance costs.” You’re going to get more and pay less? Yet Democrat apologists continue to assert that people will get better plans on the exchanges for less money.

“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Says Obama again and again. Another lie and they knew it. Doctors are retiring in droves and are being dropped from group plans. More and more are refusing to see Medicaid and Medicare patients. Specialized hospitals and clinics like the Mayo Clinic and Seattle Children’s Hospital (where a couple of my grandkids go) are being cut out of group plans because under ObamaCare, group policies can no longer afford it. Which raises another question in my mind. Why are the insurance companies nailing together their own gallows and tying the noose for their own hanging? It’s pretty obvious that Obama intends to put them out of the health insurance business. They seem to be quietly walking to the scaffolds. Executives of these companies should be screaming their bloody heads off.

The most recent and seemingly unrelated story last week was Harry Reid’s decision to invoke the “Nuclear Option” and change over 220 years of Senate tradition by changing the rules such that instead of requiring 60 votes to approve a judicial or administrative appointment, only a simple majority would suffice. This allows the Democrat majority in the Senate to pack the DC Court of Appeals (and others) with liberal justices. Why is this important? The DC court is the only check on the rules issued by unelected bureaucrats in the EPA, HHS and other intrusive branches of government. It’s a power grab pure and simple. The Senate Democrats are pretty fearful that the voters are awakening from their slumber and realizing that they have been lied to by their Democrat rep and will likely take revenge in 2014.

Getting rid of the 60-vote requirement also allows the Obamaniks to appoint leftists to the IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This outfit, beyond judicial review, will effectively have control over prices, reimbursement to doctors and, essentially, rationing. These guys are what Sarah Palin so accurately called “Death Panels”.

Speaking of Palin… perhaps you missed that Martin Bashir of ultra-liberal MSNBC decided that Ms Palin was not entitled to use the word “slavery” when referring to the national debt being accumulated in the name of our grandchildren. He was so angry about it that he said she should suffer the same fate as the punishment meted out by one of the world’s worst slave owners: That someone should urinate and defecate in her mouth. What did MSNBC have to say about this? How about NBC, the parent of MSNBC? Well, nothing. Not a single word. Paula Dean lost her career because she admitted in a courtroom that she may have used the word “nigger” at some point in the misty past but Bashir did not even get a reprimand.

Nor did NBC have anything to say about the collapse of the ObamaCare website or the millions having their heath care plans cancelled. No interest in the disaster of the $900 million flop of Healthcare.gov or the no bid contract to build it given to Michelle’s Princeton pal’s company. Total silence. If the major networks don’t mention it, it didn’t happen. The media has protected Obama since 2007 and the Obamas have reason to believe that policy will continue.

Speaking of lies and the media…Obama’s re-election hinged on several frauds as well. First, Benghazi. To perpetuate the myth that Obama’s policies had terrorism on the run they had to blame the Benghazi disaster on “a protest of an anti-Islamic video” when it was obviously a lie. Second: It is now clear that Obama used the IRS to harass and silence the Tea Party organizations around the US. Finally, Obama used the Census Department to fudge the numbers to put the unemployment figures below 8%. That, too, was a lie. But for those lies and the untimely arrival of Hurricane Sandy, there would be an honest man in the White House today and the economy would be booming. ObamaCare would not exist.

Getting back to the failing ObamaCare program… McCarthy asserts, and I agree, that it was designed to fail from the start. The “scheme” as he points out, is to get the US to a “single payer” system like Canada, the UK and other European socialist counties. Obama admitted as much in a speech in 2003 and again in a speech in 2007. More people are already being forced into Medicaid and Medicare. The cost and unsuitability of the policies being pushed on the young “invincibles” will not attract enough of them to make the economics of the program viable and perhaps a 150 million more people will lose their employer provided health care at the end of 2014 when the “grandfathering” runs out. With millions uninsured by the private market the liberals will be there with the solution: Government health care. ObamaCare is a carefully scripted program to get the US to a single payer system. To the leftists if lies, fraud and deceit are necessary to get there, so be it. The ends justify the means. If high cost, long delays for essential services, rationing and bureaucrats deciding who lives and dies are your thing, you’re gonna love it.

By the way, the Democrats in the faint hope to cover their asses in the 2014 elections have pushed the release of the costs for health policies for 2014 past the November elections. How cynical is that?

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