Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Criminals”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Nineteen – The Conclusion

 

Part 19 – The Conclusion

This was always the best part of any movie. The climax where the bad guy and the good guy stare each other down. Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” Jimmy Cagney in any number of gangster movies, or even Marshall Dillon on “Gunsmoke” every week on TV. Those were fiction of course and nobody really got hurt. This was different. Nate was coming to kill me and I was going to kill him unless cooler heads could prevail, but there were no cooler heads.

Nate was outside and inside was me, Rocky the shifty lawyer, Nate’s weasely little spy the Jockey, and Hailey, the receptionist on what was her first and probably her last day on the job. Matt Dillon at least had Chester, his gimpy deputy, to back him up. I was as alone as I could be.

A lot of people had already died for no good reason. Actually, they had died as a distraction for a cockamamie reason that made less than zero sense. And now I’m roped into the middle of it all as the only person who fought back. More than the Middle – I was there at the Beginning back there in the Mall where I shot Timmy Whathisname, I’m not even sure anymore. I was held hostage by the Middle when that lovely, damaged, girl with a horror movie life, ended hers in my kitchen. Now this was going to be The End, the Third Act, before the last commercials aired.

I looked out of the window toward the van that Nate had used as his firing platform. He was standing by the rear door. He’d left the rifle behind and was carrying two heavy looking pistols – something straight out of a “Dirty Harry” movie.

“Do you feel lucky, Punk?”

I haven’t felt lucky since I was booted off the Force without being indicted.

The others in the reception area saw him too. Rocky tried to go back through the shattered door into his office, but I grabbed him by the collar.

“You’re not going anywhere, Chester. You’re going to try to convince him to turn himself in or die trying.”

The Jockey had crawled into a far corner behind a little makeshift fortress of aluminum and plastic chairs trying to make himself invisible.

The only one who wasn’t trying to hide was Hailey, the receptionist. She had moved back to her desk, sitting there with her bag in her lap. She had a determined look on her face. I imagined that she had lost a number of jobs before and after this one her choices were going to get even poorer. She was not going to make it easy for Rocky, Nate, or me. She was rooting through her bag like she was looking for a way out. She’s the only one I felt sorry for. All she wanted was a job, not playing anybody for anything.

Nate was walking across the parking lot on a beeline to our front door. He cut between the cars ignoring the moving ones, his eyes locked on us, me really, behind the glass. When he got to the last line of cars he stopped, raised both of his elephant guns and fired. The glass panes, weakened, finally shattered and crashed to the ground leaving just air between us now.

“Ellis!” he yelled. I could hear him just fine, even over the screams of some of the shoppers who heard the loud report of his guns and the crash of the panes of glass. “Ellis, you have screwed up everything. You took away my childhood when you took away my Father. When he was dragged away my mother walked away and I was put in an orphanage. An orphanage! I was the only kid there who still had both parents, but that didn’t matter to you, did it?”

“No, Nate, it didn’t. It really didn’t. Your Father would have killed me if he could have and your Mother…well, that happens more often than you’d think, but I didn’t tell her to …” He squeezed off two more rounds. Plaster board wall panels got ripped apart. He still wasn’t aiming. Off in the distance I could hear some sirens. It was about time. I turned to Rocky. “Why are the cops just coming now? This shooting match has been going on for quite a while.”

He shrugged. “It’s a bad neighborhood. Nobody wants to get involved.”

Nate held his weapons down at his side as he crossed the last bit of pavement and stepped through the hole that once held a floor to ceiling pane of glass. We were now all together, the Jockey, the Lawyer, the Receptionist, the Ex-con looking for blood, and me, the guy with a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was seriously outgunned in any way you wanted to look at it.

What we had there was the world’s worst “High Noon” showdown. We were no more than ten feet apart. If he hit me with one of those huge lead slugs it would rip me apart. If I hit him first he would go down like a rag doll. Either way it was going to be ugly. We stared at each other, waiting for some visible signal that one or the other was going to move. Nobody made a sound and I swear I could hear everyone’s heart beating.

“Draw!”

That startled us into action. It came from the corner behind the nest of chairs. The Jockey. Without taking his eyes off of my eyes Nate lifted the gun in his left hand and fired. That ended their friendship. That damned jockey was trying to get us to kill each other yelling out like that.

The silence that followed included a ringing in my ears.

We stood there waiting for the other one to make the first move. It was probably no more than ten seconds, but it felt like an hour. Then it happened.

“Enough!”

A single gunshot. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t Nate’s. He couldn’t miss me being as close as he was. Whoever fired didn’t miss either. I saw the fatal surprise on his face as his brain made room for the piece of fast moving lead that had entered above his left temple.

Where? Who? It wasn’t me. It didn’t come from outside. The Jockey was out of the picture. Rocky hadn’t moved in minutes. A voice spoke up. It was Hailey. Still sitting at her desk she had a Smith & Wesson chromed pistol in her hand. A tuna sandwich wasn’t the only thing she had in that bag. She looked at me standing there with my mouth open.

“I’m sorry Mister, but I wasn’t going to let him or anyone mess things up for me anymore. I’ve had to deal with his type ever since I was sixteen. They don’t think about anybody or anything that isn’t them.” Turning her focus to a stunned Rocky, she pleaded, “Boss, please don’t fire me. I really need this job.”

All Rocky could do was nod.

This young woman, who’d gotten dragged into this picture in the last reel, took charge when the rest of us stood there looking at each other afraid to move. That’s the way these things go. Everybody knows that if they make that first, expected, move that they are likely to die in the process. It is the person who sees that their reality, their life, has been placed in jeopardy who says, “Enough!” and ends the nonsense. Hailey has been fighting all her life and she saw that today could be her last day on earth through no real fault of her own.

“Enough!”

That gal is my hero.

Three up and now three down. No more killing. No more terror.

No more.

Outside the broken windows three Black &Whites pulled up. When seconds counted they were just minutes away.

The End

(Next Week we will be taking a break until…?)

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eighteen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Part Eighteen

“I’ve been meaning to get that squeaky door fixed,” said Rocky. I hushed him, not wanting to give our visitor any clue as to our location. His ignorance was our only advantage.

I could hear footsteps, but they weren’t coming our way. It sounded like someone was opening desk drawers in the reception area. I had to sneak a peek. This wasn’t making any sense. I opened the office door just enough to get a look.

“Oh, for God’s sake. Hailey, I thought I told you to go home or anyplace away from here.”

“Oh, hello again, Mister. I heard you, but I forgot my lunch bag. I fixed a tuna sandwich and I didn’t want to leave it here over night. It would be stinking by tomorrow morning. I’ll just get it and be on my merry way.”

“Good idea.”

I poked my head back into the office to tell Rocky what was going on. With my head through the door focusing on Rocky I heard the door squeak again. I turned around not wanting to be standing there with my back to the door I saw that Hailey and I had company.

“Well, fancy meeting you here Mr. Barry Livingston, Private Detective.” It was the little jockey who shared the headroom with Nate Williams in the attic flat on Wilson Street. This place was getting crowded.

What brings you here,” I asked him. There were too many people and too many surprises happening all at once. I had counted on it just being Rocky, me, and Nate Williams. Now, all of a sudden, it was turning into a crowd with too many guns. I wasn’t sure if the jockey had his pistol on him, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

With all of the voices coming from the waiting area Rocky couldn’t resist coming out to join the party. The look on his face told me that he already knew the jockey.

“Good afternoon, Rendell. Nate asked me to come down here and talk to you. He seems to think you’re setting up an ambush or something.”

The jockey was laying it out correctly. That’s what it was – an ambush. He went on.

“And aside from the cutie pie here,” he said waving his stubby fingers and winking at Hailey. “I know the rest of you and wouldn’t trust you as far as I could drag your dead bodies. So, what’s going on here? I’m supposed to find out and call Nate and let me tell you – he ain’t happy.”

He looked at Rocky, who looked at me, and I looked back at the jockey who by now was looking at Hailey and making gross little kissing noises. Hailey was looking back at him and grinning. I think I know why Rocky hired her.

I walked up to the jockey to get his eyes focusing on me.

“Where is Nate now?”

“I don’t know for sure,” said the little weasel,” But my best guess is that he’s out there somewhere but close enough to see what we’re doing in here. He might have a rifle.” That got everyone’s attention and, as if on cue, a bullet crashed through the glass front window. It wasn’t close to anyone, but close enough.

“Rocky had dived behind a chair and yelled out at the jockey as everyone scattered, “Are you wearing a wire? Did he fire when you mentioned the rifle? I told him to stop with all the shooting.”

I headed for the door into the inner office. Everyone, go into the office. He can’t see us there,” I yelled out to everyone. Again, as if he could hear us a second shot slammed into the wooden door to Rocky’s office. The slug shattered the cheap wooden veneer. He wanted us out where he could see us.

I crawled over to the jockey who was behind a potted plant of some kind.

“I’m asking you the same question. Are you wearing a wire? Can Nate hear us?” He said nothing. He didn’t look scared either. That changed when I put the ugly end of my heavy .45 under his flabby little chin. “Tell me now or I’ll blow your head off and search your dead body.”

It didn’t take him long to weigh the situation and without saying a word he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the small plastic microphone and transmitter. He then pulled an earpiece from under his greasy hair. Not only was Nate able to hear us he had been telling the jockey what to say. That game was over.

I took the earpiece, wiped it on my pant leg and stuck it in my ear. I moved away from the jockey who understood my unspoken warning – that if said one more word it would be his last.

I shifted over beside Hailey’s desk where I could get a clear view outside and into the parking lot. I slipped the microphone into my shirt pocket.

“Hello, Nate. Guess who? This game is over.”

The second he heard my voice and knew that it was now a real two way conversation he unleashed a three shot fusillade into the lawyer’s storefront.

“Is that you, Ellis?” I heard him scream into my ear. “Is that you?”

“It sure is. I thought you were coming down here to see me. Instead you send your little pudgy Munchkin. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of me? I’m older than your father. Do you remember him, Williams? The world’s worst bank robber.”

That earned two more shots through the shattered front window. I dissed him deliberately so he would shoot again. This time I spotted his muzzle flash coming from the back of a Ford van parked on the far side of the lot about sixty yards from the front door. That would be a turkey shoot from that distance. He didn’t hit anybody by choice so far.

“Shut up, Ellis! Shut up! You listen to me. I’m calling the shots here, not you. You killed two of my friends…”

“I killed just one. The other one, the girl, ate her gun rather than go back to you. So, if anything, you killed her, not me.” Another twinkle of light and another round dug into the plasterboard on the far wall. Most of his shots probably went through the thin walls and ended up in Rocky’s office. It was bound to be a mess in there. At least I hoped so.

“Listen, Nate, we’re all getting bored with this little penny arcade game of yours here. I talk you shoot another round into the wall. And so on, and so on. You said you were coming to see me, to kill me. Well here I am. Come and get me – or are you too scared to face me, man to man? Either get your ass down here or go home and play some video games until the cops kick down your door. Make a move, dammit!”

Silence. No gunshots. No speaking. Nothing?

He had to be thinking it over. I’d laid out his only options. It was either me or go home and end up in the hands of a dozen SWAT Team cops dressed in Kevlar who will not be gentle with either him or his bullet riddled corpse.

“Let’s go Nate.” I started to whistle the theme song from that TV game show that’s been on for fifty years.

Silence.

“Nate, you bore me.”

Silence, and then I heard his voice crackle in my ear.

“I’m coming down, Ellis. Get ready to die.”

Next Week – The Conclusion of “Family Matters”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seventeen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seventeen

 

Part Seventeen

 

 

“What did he say he wants?”

“Nate, my friend, he said that he wants to put you in the Gas Chamber.”

Nate Williams must have started yelling because Rocky pulled the phone away from his ear. I could hear him screaming quite clearly.

“What? He’s not a cop anymore. Tell him I’m on my way and that I’m gonna put him in his grave! You hear me, Rocky? Tell him!”

The shyster didn’t have to. I heard every word.

That’s about it. That was the conversation between Nate Williams and his weasel of a lawyer. I said that I wanted to find Nate and now he was going to find me.

Ever since this whole thing began, before anybody died, he’d been telling people that I was his ultimate target. Well, now his target was waiting for him. Unlike the other people who became his targets this target could shoot back.

I suppose I could have called Detective Martindale and had half of the entire Police Department down here when Nate showed up. I could have done that, but I didn’t for two reasons.

1) Nate wanted me and, damn it, I wanted him – For Leslie Ann if nothing else.

2) Martindale would take his 200 to 1 odds over Nate and somehow screw it up. More people would end up dead.

Rocky said that it would take Nate about forty minutes to get down to his office. I figured that was a lie and that Nate would make it in twenty. I had to get ready.

Rocky picked up his bag of liquor and scurried into his office. I went back to my car to make myself survivable. Nate was younger, probably better armed, and nuts. I was more experienced, afraid to die, and probably nuts too.

I stuck two extra magazines in my back pocket. If things got to the point where I needed them I would know I was in big trouble. I expected this thing to end in a matter of seconds, one way or the other. I opened the trunk and took out one of the few things I never returned to the Force when I retired – the body armor that most people call a “Bullet Proof Vest.” The truth is that it’s not a vest. It’s more like a straight jacket, and it certainly isn’t “bulletproof.” It will stop most lower caliber slugs from entering your chest or belly, but not without knocking you on your butt, and making you helpless if the other guy aims for your head. The outdated model I had was pretty much useless against some of the big hand-cannons that were on the streets now. It wasn’t perfect, but it offered better protection than my “Bud Light” T-Shirt.

It was getting warm, uncomfortably so, or maybe it was just me, so I walked back into the lawyer’s storefront. Hailey, the new Receptionist, smiled and waved at me as I went past her and into Rocky’s office. He was stashing his booze supply into his desk. He looked up, saw me standing there and almost dropped his bottle of Rum.

“Oh, no, no no. You get out of here. Go outside. I don’t want you dying all over my rugs. These things are genuine Persian and cost me a ton of money. I don’t want you bleeding everywhere.”

I sat down in one of his nice leather chairs.

“It’s getting hot outside, Rocky. You wouldn’t want me to get heat stroke and pass out in front of your door, would you?”

Rocky was starting to look like he might be the one passing out.

“Don’t you get it? Nate is coming down here to kill you. He’s crazy as all get out. I’m his lawyer, he likes me, but even I’m afraid of him. When he comes in here he’ll start shooting at anything that moves.”

“Then don’t you think you ought to tell Hailey out there in the waiting room to go to lunch or something?” Rocky was no humanitarian.

“She’ll be our early-warning system. I was going to fire her anyway.”

“Rocky, you’re all heart.” I walked out to the empty reception area. “Hailey, get your purse or bag or whatever you’ve got and get out of here. Go to lunch, anything, but do it now. Things are going to get ugly here in a few minutes.”

She looked at me standing there in my “vest” with my weapon in my hand. She didn’t need a second warning. She grabbed her tote bag and was out of the door in seconds. That girl was smarter than she looked.

When I turned around I saw that Rocky was trying to “Get out of Dodge” too.

“Hold on there, Rocky, you’re not going anywhere.”

“Wanna bet? I told you that Nate is a Looney Tune. I don’t want to be Collateral Damage when he blows you to bits.”

If you take one more step, Rocky I’ll ‘Collateral Damage’ your ass all over your Persian rugs. You are staying here and you’re going to try to talk Nate into turning himself into the Law.

“You’re out of your mind. Nate won’t listen to me. He won’t listen to you either. He only listens to the voices in his head and they’re telling him to blow your brains out.”

“We’re going to try, Rocky. We’re going to try or somebody will die here this afternoon.”

We went back into Rocky’s office. I closed the door behind us. Now it was a matter of waiting. We didn’t know if he would come through the door shooting or what.

It was going to be just me, Rocky, and the door to his office between Nate Williams with his craziness and the M.E.’s autopsy table.

I took the leather chair from in front of the desk and placed it in the middle of the room facing the door. When Nate would open that door he would be framed in the light – if he came in that way.

“I meant to ask you this before, Rocky, knowing how deceptive you are, but where is your back door out of here?” He pointed at the closed door that led to his file room. “Get your liquor bottles, Rocky. We don’t want your client sneaking in on us, do we?” He shook his head without making a sound.

We quickly piled up his fresh supply of wine and other hooch right by the door that opened out into the trash and dumpster area behind the office. We spread the bottles around so that if he tried to jump over them he was likely to kick over one or two of them and give us a warning.

I returned to my chair facing the door. Rocky moved his desk chair back a couple of feet so he could dive under his desk if things went south.

We sat there like two statues for what seemed like an hour, but were most likely no more than five minutes. That was when we heard a car door slam shut right out in front. There was a short moment of silence then the front door into the waiting area opened. It squeaked. So did Rocky.

 

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Sixteen

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Sixteen

 

Three people with pasts I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I may be the kind of person who will give you the benefit of the doubt once, but I’ll never do it twice. These three never, ever, got a square deal in their lives.

Now, through some twist of fate all of them had crossed my path and two of them are dead. One was left and he was the worst. I can’t say that the other two were innocents or harmless. They weren’t. They had both picked up The Gun, for their own reasons, and people died.

It was now down to one: Nate Williams, Junior, and he really was a dangerous man. He killed people with as much feeling as you and I have when swatting flies. He had to be stopped.

Leslie Ann said that he had a plan, a goal, and more people, innocent people, were going to have to die. I was the one, the only one, who was going to be able to stop him. Leslie Ann had trusted me enough to tell me what he was going to do. I owed her.

There was only one person who knew where Nate Williams was holed up – his lawyer. All the cops in the world could lean on him and they’d get nowhere. He’d never break the Attorney/Client Privilege bond for them. It was a matter of Principles – he had none. Any lawyer who would defend Nate Williams and walk with him out of the front door of Police Headquarters was as dirty as his client. The Police can’t touch him. I’m not a Cop and I already feel dirty.

I’ll touch him.

It didn’t take a whole lot of detective work to get that lawyer’s name – Randell…Rockwell Randell. I’ve seen him advertising himself on TV late at night. “When things get rough, call Rocky Randell!”

The man is shameless. His reputation in the Legal Community justifies all of those jokes.

“What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”

“I don’t know. What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”

“A good start.”

Even other “Shyster” lawyers couldn’t stand him and it takes a lot to hit a lawyer’s gag reflex.

With Rendell’s face being so well known, thanks to his infomercials, it was going to be hard to corner him one on one without witnesses. Hard, but not impossible. If I can lean on “Rocky” I can find Nate. And if I can find Nate… Well, that’ll stop all of this nonsensical killing and I can go back to being just another grumpy neighbor.

Rockwell “Rocky” Rendell had his law office in a strip mall in somewhat rundown part of town. He was sitting between a liquor store and a slightly shady gun dealer. He knew where his clients were.

A few decades ago he would have been called an “Ambulance Chaser.” These days he’s just known as the “Most crooked lawyer in town.” He sought out the Lowest of the Low for his client base. He put up a billboard ad that shouted “Just because you’re guilty doesn’t mean you did it!”

He specialized in getting people off the hook on the flimsiest of technicalities. Juries would conflict his clients, but if anybody in the courtroom so much as sneezed during the trial Rendell would find a loophole to get them sprung.

He was a real pimple on the rump of humanity.

***

“I want to see your Boss.”

“You mean Mr. Rendell? He ain’t here. You want to make a, you know, a appointment?”

“‘An’ appointment.”

Rendell sure didn’t spend his money hiring his receptionists. She must have other skills.

“He’s not here? Isn’t that his car outside – the Candy Apple Red Mercedes with the license plate ‘Rocky’ on it?”

A second question must have been beyond her limit.

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m new here.”

There was a name plate on her desk. It read: Natalie Piorkowski.

“Tell me, Natalie, when will Mr. Rendell be back – since he left his car here?”

My name is Hailey, like the comet. That’s the last girl who worked here. She quit or something…and Mr. Rendell said he’d be back soon. I think he’s just next door.”

“Which next door?”

If he was at the gun store I’d come back later. Hailey leaned forward and whispered even though we were the only two people there.

“He’s at the liquor store. He drinks a lot. Expensive stuff too – the labels are in French, I think. So, he should be back in jiffy.”

I’ll tell you what, Hailey, like the comet. I’ll come back later, OK?”

“Okie-Dokie, Mister.”

That girl has a great future. I’m not sure in what field, but I doubt that it’s in the Law. Organ donation maybe.

I stepped outside to wait for Nate’s lawyer to appear. I could see him still inside the liquor store pushing a shopping cart half filled with bottles. Rather than confront him inside the store I just leaned up against his car and waited. I watched him pay for his booze in cash. I never saw the clerk card him.

He came out of the liquor store and saw me sitting on the bumper of his Mercedes.

“Hey! Get the hell off my car, Jackass.”

“Oh, is this your car, Rocky? My Grandmother had one just like this.”

“Your Grandmother? Get off my car before I call…”

I cut in.

“Before you call Nate Williams to come over to save your paint job? Don’t make me laugh, Rocky.”

That took him back a step. He set his bag down on the ground.”You know Nate, Pal? Then you know he is one tough character. I call him and he’ll come over here and…”

“I’d like that. It’d save me a trip. He’s already looking for me and I’m looking for him. Call him. He might save your ego and probably a couple of your teeth. How’s that sound, Rocky?”

Rocky squinted at me like he knew he wasn’t going to be happy with the answer to his next question.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the guy who put his father in prison and now I want to put Nate in the Gas Chamber. Call him.”

He forgot the liquor and reached for his phone.

 

 

Oh, What a Tangled Dark Web We Weave

EVERY TURN I TAKE RECENTLY I AM READING OR HEARING ABOUT THE PERILS AND DANGERS OF “THE DARK WEB.”

Oooooh, it sounds so scary, doesn’t it?

To be truthful the first time I heard mention of a “Dark Web” I thought it was talking about that sticky mess I walked into when I went into the garage. Some poor spider saw me and had hopes for a good meal.

All sorts of products that I see on TV are now are touting their powers to protect you and I from the scourge of the Dark Web.

What is it anyway?

Read more…

When The Revolution Comes…

I HAVE ARRIVED AT AN IMPASSE. I’m not sure anymore that I can define between what is Reality and what is a poorly written Situation Comedy. I watch what is going on around me and I keep waiting for things to cut away to a commercial for a “Wait! There’s more!” infomercial. Let me tell you what is going on here in lovely Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Run that past me again.”) and then you decide if I am in a real place or in a hallucination.

No names will be given because…just because, that’s why.

Read more…

A New Career Might Be In Order

IF I WANTED TO WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT THE EPITOME OF STUPID CROOKS all I’d have to do is go about two blocks away from St. Arbucks. That is IF I wanted to do that. I don’t feel a strong need to do it, but some things just beg to be pointed out in front of the world’s glare.

So…

The other day – at 5:45 in the afternoon – two of the biggest dummies I never hope to meet personally got together to conduct a little illicit business deal. It was to be cash for drugs. But, being crooks, they could not resist the need to act in a crooked manner. Each of them decided it was a good idea to try to cheat the other one. You can already see that this is not going to end with butterflies and tap dancing.

Read more…

Yes! No! Maybe! No! Yes! I Don’t Know!

 

BY AND LARGE TERRE HAUTE (THAT’S FRENCH FOR, “I CAN’T MAKE UP MY MIND.”) is a quiet town that lives life one day at a time – except when it comes to making decisions. The civic power structure of this town can never make up its mind about anything. I’d hate to go to lunch with Terre Haute; it would never be able to pick what to eat.

Whenever the City and its elected officials, are called upon to make a decision it must first go through a lifetime of hemming and hawing. They will make up their minds and then immediately reverse themselves and go back to square one. It is as if the City is being run by a collection of squirrels who are trying to cross the street.

Read more…

No, No, No and No.

Artist’s Rendition

OK…I’M AS FREE THINKING AS THE NEXT GUY and even more so than the guy next to him, but even I have to draw the line somewhere.

Not everyone in the world has good luck in dating and looking for true love.

The perfect, or rather highly imperfect, example of this comes in the person of Mr. Christian Nichols, 21, of Oldsmar, Florida. Mr. Nichols is currently incarcerated for “Looking for Love in all the wrong places.”

Extremely Wrong.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – The Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – The Conclusion

“Where is everybody?”

That was a good question. Ten minutes ago it looked like “Pops” Mulroy held all the cards, but now…? Now it looked like he was “all-in” and holding a dead hand. His two gigantic thugs certainly were. His eyes darted around looking for help. There wasn’t any. It was time for me to show him what I had in my pocket. Now Charlie and I were holding all the Aces.

When “Pops” saw the pistol in my hand it was if all the air went out of him.

“Timmy, is that necessary?”

“I hope not, but I don’t know what’s going on here either and you might be our ticket out of here.” The man I had trusted slowly shook his head.

“That gun won’t get you – or me – out of here if things have fallen apart. We are all expendable.”

“Then let’s keep walking and find out,” I told him.

I looked over at Charlie who had put away his knife and was holding two Russian semi-automatic pistols, one in each hand. He had a deadly serious look on his face.

“Those big boys don’t need these pieces anymore and they might come in handy if things get nasty.”

I was coming to really like and trust that boy.

It was me, “Pops,” and Charlie standing there all alone. No one else was visible and the plant was dead silent, but that sure didn’t mean that everyone was gone. You can’t hide that many Russians quickly – and what about my men, my Security Team? I knew from the FBI that at least two of them were moles.

And where was Van Swearingin?

If I was going to get any answers we had to get moving to Van Swearingin’s office.

“Ok, let’s keep moving…and one more thing. “Pops,” if you try to call out to your Comrades or get stupid on me – I. Will. Shoot. You.

We moved on through the plant. I was hoping that the Boss would be there in his office – in handcuffs, but I was also hoping that he and everybody else was gone. I didn’t care where. I was one man with a snub-nosed five shot .38 caliber handgun. That’s not much. Not much at all.

There were only two places in the plant where you get everybody together at one time: the Loading Docks or outside. The Loading Dock area would be crowded unless they opened the large bay doors – and then you were outdoors. I wanted to avoid either place until I knew more.

When we got close to Van Swearingin’s office I could see that the door was wide open. I’d never seen it like that before. I had Charlie and “Pops” stay out of the office while I slipped through the door. The Receptionist’s area was empty. The door to Van Swearingin’s private office was ajar. I looked into his office. Van Swearingin was sitting at his desk, his back to me, looking out of his window, the only window in the entire building, onto the desolate landscape of the Salt Flats. I walked in.

“Hello, Tim.” He didn’t turn around.

“Boss? What’s going on? Where is everybody?”

“You weren’t supposed to be here today.” He turned his chair around. He looked like he’d seen a ghost. He was pale and his eyes were lifeless. His hands were empty, but there was a shiny chromed .45 caliber pistol in his lap. I didn’t like that. “Why don’t you give me that weapon, Boss?”

“No.”

I couldn’t reach it and I didn’t want him to start shooting that cannon. We just looked at each other for a few moments. If he was going to say anything I’d have to start the conversation.

“What’s going on, Mr. Van Swearingin? One minute this place is crawling with…” He cut me off.

“What’s going on, Tim? A lifetime of mistakes coming back at me is what’s going on. I trusted people I shouldn’t have. I let them stay even when I knew I should have gotten rid of them. They took my son as a hostage. I didn’t have the courage to fight them. I let my own personal weakness and greed allow me to betray my country. What’s going on you ask me?”

“Where are the Russians?” I insisted. His self-pity didn’t interest me at this moment.

“The Russians? I think some of them are dead by now. I hope so. The FBI stormed in here twenty minutes ago. They must have taken out the guard post before they could warn them here at the plant. A couple of your Security Detail opened fire when the Russians started to fire at the FBI raiders. You trained them well, Tim.”

“Those men were FBI from the get-go,” I corrected him. “I didn’t even know which of my men they were. I have one more question for you.”

“What’s that, Tim?”

I hollered back out of the office.

“Charlie, bring him in here.”

Charlie came into the office walking behind “Pops” Mulroy. He had one of the Russian’s pistols up against the back of “Pops” head. I had no doubt that he would have pulled the trigger if the old traitor had attempted to run or resist.

“Hi, Dad, What’s new?” His voice was as cold as the desert at night.

Van Swearingin looked up at his youngest son like he had never seen him before. “Charlie? Put down that gun!”

“Sorry, Dad, no can do. I had to kill two of your Russian flunkies to get it and this other big one too. Besides, if I put it down your friend here might do something stupid.” He rapped his prisoner’s head with the gun barrel. “Ain’t that right, Grandpa?”

“Easy, Charlie, the FBI has taken control of the plant and I think they’ll want Mr. Mulroy with his head intact. I’m sure they’ll have a lot of questions for him.” I turned back to Van Swearingin. He couldn’t take his eyes off of his son. “I imagine they will have a few questions for you too. But I have just one.” He looked at me and closed his eyes. He was on the verge of collapse.

“Mr. Van Swearingin, You trusted me with your son, why didn’t you trust me enough to call in the FBI, or the Army or whoever, to end all of this before people had to die?

“I had no Trust left. Everyone I trusted ended up betraying me.” He picked up the pistol from his lap. I reached out hoping he would hand it to me.

“Mr. Van Swearingin – don’t! Give me the gun. Please.”

“No. Hear me out. I’ve made some terrible mistakes, horrible mistakes. I’ve caused a lot of pain to people who didn’t deserve it. It’s too late for me to make amends to some of them. I hope that someday they will be able to forgive me.” He closed his eyes as a tear ran down his cheek.

I thought we were out of the woods, but he opened his eyes before I could reach for his gun. He raised his hand and fired one shot across the room and into the chest of his lifelong friend, employee, and ultimate destroyer “Pops” Mulroy.

XXX

I deposited my last pay envelope and then closed my bank account. I bought a train ticket to Maine. I’d never been there, but it was as far from the west coast as I could go and full of green trees. I’d had enough of the desert Salt Flats.

I read in a newspaper that they put Van Swearingin on trial, but he had caved in on himself and ended up in the crazy house for the criminally insane. I don’t know how long he survived. I never read another word about him.

The End

Don’t Insult The Dog

 

IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYDAY THE HEADLINES ARE FILLED with the nefarious exploits of criminal sorts who – how shall I say this – think big? Not content with knocking over a bank they pull off a multibank swindle for hundreds of millions of dollars. Then there are the Bernie Madoff sorts who just feed on the greed of those people who think there are “Something for Nothing” ways to Riches and Rodeo Drive. These are Big City News stories, but I think that there is nothing that can compare with Small Town News. In the Small Town newspapers you are going to find stories that would never make the pages of the New York Times.

Where else are you going to learn about the woman who was arrested for barking at a Police Dog?

Read more…

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fifteen

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fifteen

I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. The one man I felt that I could trust – “Pops” and his two big thugs walked me back to my little office. One of the big guys stayed outside the door. I guess “Pops” didn’t want any interruptions. They didn’t tie me up or anything. What was I going to do? Where could I go? I was trapped and I was alone. The only person within 700 miles or so that I felt I could even come close to trusting was a kid who had once tried to stab me. I was as alone as anyone could be.

“Timmy, I’m sorry you decided to show up here a day early. By tomorrow we would have been long gone and this place would have been a smoking pile of ashes – a black stain on the white salt flats. But, you did come early and I’m afraid you’re going to be a tragic victim of the fire. That’s too bad, I kind of liked you.”

I didn’t like being referred to in the past tense while I was still around. I had to speak up. I knew my goose was cooked, but I had to know…why?

“Can I ask you something, or is this a one-way street?

“Pops” chuckled like a grandfather talking to his little grandson.

“Sure, Timmy, we’re not going anywhere for a few hours. Shoot.”

I could have asked him a thousand questions, but the big one was – Why? Why are you betraying your country? What about Van Swearingin? You’ve known him for almost thirty years. You’ve been friends. Why?”

He pulled over one of the side chairs and sat across from me. He moved the big Russian over into the corner like he was a piece of ugly furniture.

“Let me give you a bit of a history lesson, young man, and then maybe you’ll understand who I am and what I’m doing.

“That is true that I’ve known Van Swearingin for a long time. We were both in the army during the first war. When the Armistice was signed he came home – the young hero. I stayed behind. The Army and the politicians weren’t done with me.

“The ink wasn’t dry on the Armistice papers in Versailles before the U.S. Army shipped me and more than ten thousand other men into Russia. We were there taking sides in their civil war. We were there to back the so-called ‘White Russians’ against the ‘Reds’ who had overthrown the Czar and taken power. We had no right to be there. It wasn’t our fight. It was strictly a Russian affair. I spent more than two years there fighting and killing people I didn’t have anything against.

“Like any war there is a lot of idle time. I got to know some of the Russians I picked up the lingo and I learned how the Russians felt having us and troops from other western nations, there tearing up their country. I came home in 1920 and I was a changed man.”

“But, what about your family and friends, “Pops?”

“They were still my family and friends. It was me who’d changed, not them. I was still the same man on the outside, but inside I was changed. I had been betrayed. Inside I became a Russian, an angry Russian.”

“But for thirty years? For thirty years you were what – a spy? A Saboteur?”

“No, Timmy, for almost thirty years I wanted there to be a payback for what we – what I – had done to the Russian people.”

He stopped talking and looked at me with a sad expression on his face.

“’Pops,’ if you were a part of all of this why did you tell me to call the FBI? I don’t get it.”

“Because my naïve young friend, you tell them what you see – or what I wanted you to see – then they tell you what they are going to do, and then you call and tell me everything. You were my spy inside the FBI.”

I stopped trying to ask him anything else. There was no point. He had been stewing over this for decades and I wasn’t going to change his mind sitting here in the middle of nowhere. I looked at “Pops’ and he looked at me. We both knew that any further explanations were useless. Neither of us was going to change at this point.

For about a half hour we just sat there, me, “Pops”, and the side of beef by the door. We could hear plant noises as people passed by my office or equipment was being moved.

A little before noon the big Russian said something. “Pops” answered him in Russian and the big man opened the door and left us alone.

“He has to go ‘Make a Russian River.” He’ll be back in a minute. One thing I can say about them – they are very loyal.”

I bit my tongue. I wanted to answer him with, “Not like you,” but what would be the point?

After another twenty minutes “Pops” began to look concerned. His large pet and bodyguard hadn’t come back. He opened my office door – the other man was gone too. It was just the two of us now – and my small personal revolver that I had taken to carrying again. “Pops” had been overconfident and never had his gorillas pat me down. I hadn’t seen any weapons on “Pops” so I kept mine where it was. I’d bring it out when it would do the most good.

“Pops” closed the office door. He was not happy. For the first time he looked a little scared.

“Stand up, Tim. Something is wrong. We’re going for a little walk-around. Come on.”

He still showed no weapons, just the threat of one. I came from behind my desk and together the two of us walked out into the plant floor.

We turned right. We were both nervous as we headed toward Van Swearingin’s office. We hadn’t gone five yards before we both saw a pair of shoes sticking out from behind a line of lathes. Two shoes – big shoes and they were attached to the Russian bodyguard who had been standing outside of my office. The big man’s brown suit coat was wet with blood. His throat had been slit and there was another damp area in the middle of his broad chest. I hadn’t seen anything like that since we crossed into Germany near the end of the war.

“Pops” stepped back and quickly looked around. There was no one else in sight. The plant had fallen silent. All of the machinery was stopped. It seemed like we were the only two people in the building – no longer counting the dead Russian.

“What’s going on here, Tim? Who? What is this?”

“The ‘Who’ is me.” It was Charlie. He stepped out from behind a large tool cabinet. He was holding his knife – the one I had told him to stop carrying on duty. There was blood dripping from the blade.

“And ‘What this is” – is the end. Your other playmate is back here. He won’t be joining us.” “Pops” was in a stunned silence. I wasn’t.

Next Week, The Conclusion –

I Think I Remember…

PASSWORDS – LOVE ‘EM, HATE ‘EM, CAN’T REMEMBER THEM. All I can do is forget them.

The discussion this morning at my Play Group (St. Arbucks morning coffee) was all about computer passwords and all of our problems with them. One of the Usual Suspects who shows up every morning for coffee and pointless conversation was wrapped up in mind numbing problems remembering his computer passwords. The ones he could recall were no longer in use and it was bringing his life to a screeching halt.

I tried to help. He’ll get over it and resume speaking to me eventually.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fourteen

 

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fourteen

 

Daily life at the Salt Lake Plant was much like the Salt Flats – the same no matter in which direction you looked. Any changes were hard to detect and if you weren’t careful you could find yourself hopelessly lost and looking Death in the eye. Out on The Flats you could die of thirst. Inside the Plant the biggest danger came from the steely-eyed Russians who were running the show even though Van Swearingin had his name on the pay envelopes.

Men came and went. The men who had been there all during the war were disappearing one by one. That old crew was being replaced with thick-necked men who never smiled and who never left the Plant. They had set up a barebones dormitory in a far corner of the building. Little by little a small part of Utah was being turned into a corner of the Ukraine.

Why I was still there and breathing mystified me. It also scared the daylights out of me. I was afraid to go there and mix it up with any of those Russians, and I was afraid to leave because of those FBI guys. Aside from their haircuts and dental work I didn’t see much difference between them.

It had gotten to the point that the only person I felt I could trust was Charlie, Mr. Van Swearingin’s younger son, who had once tried to knife me. I couldn’t really count on his Old Man even though he was the man who hired me for this job. I may have had a nice job title and a hefty salary, but I was really there to be his stooge. I didn’t appreciate that. I didn’t fight my way across North Africa and Europe to be under anybody’s thumb – American or Russian.

I was reaching my limit. I needed to confront Van Swearingin regardless of the danger. I had questions and I was going to demand some straight answers. When I would do that remained to be seen.

Damn it all.

XXX

 

I guess my idea of what constitutes “Soon” and how the FBI defined it went in two different directions.

It was two weeks later when I got back to Salt Lake. I went in a day early because of some possibly iffy weather and flying in that DC-3 was scary enough in good when flying over the mountains was just like the worst roller coaster on earth.

It was when I came into the Plant a day earlier than expected that I saw something new – and I wasn’t sure what it was that I was seeing.

Even though I had flown in alone Van Swearingin was already there. His office door was closed, but I could hear him and someone else talking – arguing really, with the other voice doing most of the talking. I couldn’t make out much of what was being said, but it was obvious that neither of them were very happy. I didn’t need any of the Russians seeing me outside the office door eavesdropping. I had enough trouble and I was there to stir the pot with the Boss.

I’d promised myself that I was going to confront Van Swearingin. I wanted some answers from him about why he didn’t stand up and be a man – instead of a traitor which is how he was looking to me – more so every day. I understood that his oldest son was missing and that maybe the Russians were holding him, but…

Sometimes you have to risk everything or you’ll be sure to end up with nothing.

It’s called courage.

I’ve seen it a number of times and there were those times when it cost a man everything, except the respect and honor of the men who lived to go home to their families.

Charlie was in my office when I got there. He still didn’t like being stuck in Salt Lake, but he was learning to do his job and to become a man. 

Against everything that the FBI had warned me about keeping my trap shut I felt that it was time to take Charlie into my confidence. He had as big a stake in all of this as I did – bigger even.

Aware that the office was being monitored I dug out the notepad again for our real conversation. Out loud we went over the daily log reports. On paper my words were right to the point.

“Charlie, do you have any idea what’s going on around here?”

“You mean with all those Russian gorillas around here? Yeah, I ain’t blind.”

“And why your father is allowing them to…to, let’s face it, Charlie, to steal whatever it is they are really making here?”

“It all looks like some Buck Rogers top secret gizmos of some sort,” wrote Charlie. I had to agree with him on that. The stuff they were making was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

“Has your father said anything to you, Charlie, about why he is letting them run the show?” I didn’t add my other question: “Why, for crying out loud, am I still here?”

Charlie grabbed the tablet and wrote quickly. “Boss, I don’t know anything about all of that. I know that I’m stuck here just like you I figure, and whatever they’re making must be something special or the Russians wouldn’t have their fat noses into everybody’s business. But there ain’t nothing I can do about any of it.”

I was getting angrier by the minute. I signed on to be here, but Charlie was little more than a prisoner. I kicked my wastebasket across the room. I picked up my pen again. “Charlie, I’m going to let you in on something, but you have to keep it to yourself or people will end up dead.”

Charlie’s eyes grew wide.

I ripped off the paper we’d written on. “Take care of this like last time. Got it?” He nodded. “You do that and I going to go talk to your Dad.

Charlie went one way to burn the evidence of our back and forth. I went in the opposite direction. I pretended that I was doing a plant floor walk-through, for all that was worth. I came around a corner near the machine shop and bumped into a familiar face – “Pops” Mulroy. I couldn’t tell you who was more surprised, him or me.

“Pops, what are you doing here?” I stammered, “You’re the last person I’d ever expect to see here again.”

He didn’t say a word. His surprised look melted away into one that told me we weren’t going to have a picnic in the park. It dawned on me that “Pops” was the other voice I’d heard coming through Van Swearingin’s office door.

“Tim, what are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same question.”

Standing behind “Pops” were two large Russians. They were always easy to pick out of a crowd. They wore cheap suits and faces that looked like they smelled something bad. These two looked more like bodyguards – “Pops’” bodyguards. When he and I came around that corner and bumped into each other both of those sides of beef behind him reached into their suits. They were there to protect “Pops.’

“Расслабься, парни.”

That came out of “Pops’” mouth. His two shadows stepped back and pulled empty hands from their coats. “Pops” looked at me with a smile on his face.

“I just told these two boys to relax. I suggest you do the same, Timmy-Boy.”

 To Be Continued –

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Thirteen

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Thirteen

 

For all of the care that the Government took to keep that Atom Bomb thing a secret I couldn’t believe that they didn’t know about all of those Russians in Salt Lake before I did. Did they trust Van Swearingin so much that they didn’t keep a closer eye on it all?

When I called into my contact at the FBI a couple of weeks ago I told them that the Russians were getting pretty cocky. They weren’t even trying to stay off the factory floor anymore. They were interfering in everything. More and more of the American workers were disappearing. The Reds had brought in some Muscle and whoever was left of the men I trusted were being intimidated and threatened. It was never a big plant to begin with, but now the number of Americans on the inside was shrinking. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to be able to hang on.

I contacted a couple of the Americans who had been fired or quit and they weren’t too eager to talk to me. They were scared. I don’t know if it was of the Russians or of me. They probably thought I was a plant – one of “them” – a traitor. None of them, not one, felt safe around me. One of the older men hinted to me that he knew a couple of the men who “quit” had actually disappeared. “Disappeared” – he meant killed and dumped out in the desert or up in the mountains. He wasn’t there when I went to his home a week later.

When I got back to San Francisco I walked over to Larkin Street, to the Federal Building. I didn’t think I was followed, but I couldn’t be sure. I had reached the point where I didn’t care anymore. I wanted out.

“You can’t leave now, Tim. Things are getting to a critical stage. We need your eyes in there.”

Getting critical?” I just shook my head. These FBI mugs were killing me. “Men are dying out there. The Russians have completely taken over and I don’t know why I’m still alive.”

“Van Swearingin is protecting you, Tim.”

“Van Swearingin? He can’t protect himself or his own kids. You told me that they’d snatched one of his kids and I’ve got the other one working with me. No – I’m done. I don’t care. If you don’t do something now, today, I’ll walk out of here and then you’ll have to look for me too.” I got up to leave.

The G-Man got up from behind his desk and got nose to nose with me. He was as old as my father, but he was still solid muscle. He stuck his finger in my face like I was a ten year old.

“Listen to me, kid. Don’t you even try to quit now,” He growled at me. “Too many good and brave men have already died out there, more than you know. We are just about ready to come down on that whole operation. Do you think we are stupid? Do you think that we don’t already have that place and everyone there under a microscope?” His face was turning red. I was getting pale.

“I promise you this, Tim, if you foul this up because you’re scared I’ll make sure – me, personally – I’ll make sure that you disappear out there on the Salt Flats too.”

Without another word he grabbed me by my throat, kicked my ankle and dropped me to the floor. The business end of his pistol was on my forehead before I even saw him reach for it. His eyes burned into me.

“Do I make myself clear, soldier?”

I know that I was followed when I left Larkin Street. I don’t know by whom, but he sure didn’t look friendly.

XXX

The sun was coming up over the mountains as the plane dropped down to Salt Lake. The DC-3 flew in with just two passengers – me and Van Swearingin. Neither of us said much. I felt like I was the first prize in a turkey shoot. Win, lose, or draw I was going to end up dead. He looked like what was left of last year’s turkey shoot. That plane felt like it was a hearse.

The usual Lincoln limo met us at the airport and drove us out to the plant. The driver was new. He gave us a fake smile and said, “Good morning, Gentlemen.” He had an accent that sure wasn’t from Georgia – at least not our Georgia.

When we got to the Black box out in the middle of nowhere the shifts were changing. The few Americans left were checking in and the men who were leaving were all climbing on to a bus. That was new. The Russians didn’t even trust their own workers.

When I opened the door to my little office I saw that Charlie Van Swearingin was sitting at my desk. I’d made him my foreman for whenever I was away. He was young, but at least I knew him. He had once pulled a knife on me, but he was the only one I felt that I could trust.

“What’s up, Charlie? Anything new?”

He nodded slowly and held a finger up to his lips, saying nothing until the door was closed. When I sat down next to the desk he started to scribble on a note pad as he finally started to talk.

“No, Boss, same old, same old,” he said as if everything was hunky-dory. On the note pad it was a different story. His pencil scratched out, “This office is bugged. There is a microphone in the ceiling light, I think.” I looked up at the light fixture. I don’t know what I expected to see. Charlie started talking again.

“It’s been pretty quiet. We had one man quit though – Martin, that machinist, the old guy.” He wrote at the same time. “Martin is dead. He got into it with a Russian and backed into a couple of knives out behind the building. They don’t think I saw him get it. It was murder.”

“That’s too bad, Charlie. I liked him,” I said for whoever was listening. “He was a decent guy.” I took the pencil from Charlie and wrote while I asked him about the weather.

“Keep your eyes open. It’s all about to hit the fan. Don’t take any chances.” I underlined the word “any.” Charlie nodded. I kept writing while he ran down the personnel schedule. “Burn this paper and three sheets underneath it. Don’t give them any excuses to take us out back. I’m going to talk to your father.”

 To Be Continued –

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Twelve

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Twelve

If it wasn’t for Salt Lake I can truly say that I kind of liked my job, but going out there was torture. I made up my mind to tell those FBI characters that I’d had it and, like it or not, I was leaving. Let them lock me up. Even Alcatraz would be a better class of people than in that windowless box out on the Salt Flats.

When I got back from the Texas plant I had a two day break in San Francisco. After finally picking up my back pay from Uncle Sam, I had to go to the Federal Building for that, I went from the second floor up to the FBI on Five. They had a better view from up there and maybe they felt a little closer to heaven than the rest of us.

“I don’t care what you want, Tim. You have a patriotic duty to stay in there for us.”

I’ve heard that line before.

“I’ve already done my ‘Patriotic Duty’ – for three years at forty bucks a month. Now that I’ve finally got my money I want to go spend some of it and that ain’t gonna happen in Salt Lake City.”

I had reached my limit with them, with the Russians, with the whole dang thing. I was ready to just walk and I told them in my best GI curse words. It felt good to let it all out.

The G-Men sat there and took it – and then it became their turn.

“Listen to me, you trench foot hero. I don’t care how long you were in uniform. I was in mine longer and I outranked you. I still do. Your cussing doesn’t impress me or intimidate me. I have a seven year old niece who can cuss better than you. So- shut up and listen and you might just come out on the other end of this mess smelling like a rose rather than like the frightened pussy cat you do right now.” He stopped for a breath and I tried to jump in.

“I want you guys to know…” He cut me off.

“Shut up, Soldier. I don’t care what you want. You think the war is over? It’s not – we’ve just switched partners. So, shut and pay attention to what to what I have to tell you.”

I staged a dramatic “Advance to the rear” as the Japanese called a Retreat. I was heavily outnumbered and even though he was about twenty years older than me he looked like he could hog-tie me in a heartbeat. I sat back in my chair and tried to look like this was all my idea. When it became obvious that I was not going anywhere he started to talk, not yell. He spoke in that calm and secure voice that I had only heard come from Generals.

“Your weekly reports are valuable. Keep it up. What is going to happen next is Top Secret. I don’t want you to even talk about it to your pillow.” He paused and took a breath. I thought he was being a bit dramatic, overboard even, like one of those Barrymores.

He wasn’t.

“The Van Swearingin plant in Utah is making some new kind of Radar systems. It has been infiltrated by the Reds. We are not completely sure how deeply Van Swearingin himself is part of it. We suspect that he might be forced into going along with the Russians. He has one son, Phillip, whose whereabouts are unknown. There is some talk that he is being held as a hostage. His other son, Charlie is out at the plant with you. Van Swearingin wanted him there, close by, where he could see him and protect him.

“We have managed to get a couple of our agents in there as well, as part of your Security Detail.”

I held up my hand like I was in the third grade. I had a question.

“What? You have to go pee or something?” He didn’t like interruptions.

“No,” I said, “But who are your men there?”

He shook his head. “There’s no need for you to know at this point. I tell you, you blab it to somebody else, and the next thing you know there are two dead highly skilled agents in shallow graves. You’ll know when you need to know.”

“You don’t trust me?” I asked him.

“No, I don’t.”

XXX

 

“Mistakes were made. What more can I say?”

My weekly check-ins with Van Swearingin usually lasted fifteen minutes with me doing most of the talking. Not today. The minute I sat down he started talking, rambling. It was like he was going to confession or something.

“It all started back in about 1940, before the war, or at least our active part in it. The President made a deal with our allies at the time. We were to help them beat back the Nazis. I and other manufacturers all over the country had to retool to make weapons and ships and all sorts of things. My Salt Lake City plant was ordered to make Russian rifles. That’s how they got inside that facility to begin with. I guess I was naïve.”

I just sat there and listened. He paced back and forth talking and wringing his hands. I was glad that his windows didn’t open or he might have jumped. I’ve seen that look before when a guy couldn’t take the pressure anymore. He would just stand up and let the Germans shoot him. That was his way out.

“It was in ’43 or early ’44 when the Russian “Observer” in the plant began to make threats. They knew everything about me. They knew things that I’d forgotten years ago and they twisted things to make me look like I was a spy or something. They threatened my family, my children. I had no choice.”

He went on like that for forty-five minutes. Russians, The War, Threats on his family. It was scary and kinda sad in a way. Van Swearingin was one tough and powerful man, but for those forty-five minutes it was like he was “Shell-Shocked.” I felt sorry for him.

I knew that I had to let the FBI know about this. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but I knew that some things were going to change.

 To Be Continued –

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Eleven

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Eleven

For a few weeks everything went along smoothly. I had no more run-ins with the Russians, both them and Van Swearingin left me pretty much alone. I called in to the FBI every Saturday from a payphone and Charlie kept his nose clean. Then one day while I was at the California plant I got a phone call from Salt Lake.

Every so often I’d been getting complaints that someone was breaking into the employee lockers and stealing stuff. Nothing big was being lifted and I figured it was either one of the production workers or some Russian who felt he could get away with it. Then I got that phone call. It was from Van Swearingin’s office. Charlie was in the hospital in Salt Lake City. One of the loading dock workers had caught Charlie jimmying open a locker and beat the ever-loving snot out of him. He would survive but it was a sure thing that he wasn’t going to mess with those lockers again. And from the look of his face when I saw him he wasn’t going to be eating corn on the cob for a while either. Of course Charlie denied it all. He said that he’d noticed the jimmied lock and was just looking it over. Nobody bought that.

Charlie’s antics turned Salt Lake into a beehive for me. I was his Boss and everybody was mad at me when he came back to work. I couldn’t fire him. I hadn’t hired him so how could I fire him? Everybody was ticked off. Now everyone was watching everyone else and blaming me. I tried explaining that he was Van Swearingin’s kid and as far as I was concerned they could all take him out onto the Salt Flats and bury him up to his neck.

I complained to my FBI phone contact and all he told me was to shut up and keep listening. He said that Charlie was innocent of the locker business – that they had hired one of the truck drivers to break in to the lockers to stir things up. It sure did that I complained.

“Look, Pal,” the FBI guy told me, “Things are coming to a head there before long” and that I should be ready to “Take action.” He didn’t explain what that meant, but I started carrying my pistol again.

XXX

After he recovered from his beating and realized that he wasn’t going to be allowed to go back to San Francisco Charlie settled into the groove of his new life. He did his job and go around giving everybody a piece of his lip. I don’t think he enjoyed being there, but everyone there looked tougher and meaner than him – especially the Russians. If Charlie tried any of his tough guy nonsense on them, even the three women in their crew, they would have pounded him into the ground like a tent peg.

I met with each of my Security Unit people once a week just to check in and see if there were any problems, Charlie included. Most of the gripes had to do with wanting a raise and petty junk. “Co worker ‘So and So’ is mean to me.” or “Telling people I’m queer.” All of it the same stuff I used to hear in the Army. There were always a couple of complaints about the Russians that they laughed at them and that they smoked on the plant floor when that was “verboten” to everybody else. I passed those problems on to Van Swearingin each week like clockwork – and each week he shrugged and ignored them – and me. It was beginning to feel like my only real function was to keep an eye on Charlie and that was only for the eight hours that he was at the plant. For the other sixteen hours in the day he was on his own.

He drove himself to and from the plant in an old Buick that his father gave him. He lived in an apartment owned by the company in Salt Lake City. I doubt that he could get into too much trouble. Those Mormons run a tight ship and if Charlie tried any of his tricks on them he’d be wishing they were the Russians. At least that was what I was hoping.

XXX

Each week I made my call to the FBI office in San Francisco – always from a different pay phone. I didn’t have much new to report to them. It was usually just Russians, Russians, and Russians. Beyond that I kept telling them that, in my opinion, Van Swearingin was on his way to a breakdown. I think that the Russians were getting to him. His name might be on the letterhead, but, more and more every month, the Russians seemed to be calling the shots. Some of my men who had the most gripes with the Russians disappeared and were replaced without clearing it through me. They were replaced with some thugs who spoke only broken English.

“Everything OK, Mr. Boss You betcha, Da.”

That was the extent of their weekly check-in report with me.

I wanted out of there. I checked with the Army and they had my back pay – a nice tidy sum of almost $600. With that plus what I’d been able to bank from Van Swearingin I could go to some cheaper city than San Fran and have it made. Maybe get some education or open a small business of my own.

Whenever I said anything about that to the FBI they told me to sit tight for just a little longer. They’d been telling me that for almost a year.

Even though Salt Lake was a real thorn in my side I had two other Van Swearingin plants that I had to deal with. Going to them was a relief. The California plant was retooling back to making washing machines just like before the war. There were no Russians there, just a bunch of farm boys and returning G.I.s who were anxious to get back into the civilian life. The Van Swearingin plant in Texas was not much different, except that the flight in that DC-3 was a lot longer. That facility was also going back to pre-war manufacturing too. They were starting to make electric clothes dryers there. I guess that backyard clothes lines were going to be going the way of buggy whips.

To Be Continued –

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Ten

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Ten

 

When you can’t trust anyone what are you supposed to do? I couldn’t trust Van Swearingin or any of the other people who worked for him. I didn’t feel that I could trust the FBI either. One of the first things they said to me was that they could lock me up for years – and why – because I was giving them the heads up on what looked like a bunch of Spies. It wasn’t like I was one of the bad guys. I had on a white hat here.

I wanted to get out of town and disappear, but they sent me back into the middle of it all. Those Russians had already taken my skull for a ride. I don’t doubt that they’d bury me out there in the Salt Flats just for laughs. I was walking on tip toes around that plant. I was there, but trying to be invisible. And then van Swearingin asks me to be the babysitter for his kid who pulled a knife on me. I was starting to feel nostalgic for the peace and quiet of the Battle of the Bulge.

Even though I felt trapped I knew that I still had to show up if I wanted to get paid – and the money was good, very good. For the first time in my life I had a bank account that wasn’t an embarrassment. I put most of my pay envelope in the bank, but I still pushed some of it under my mattress – just in case.

My next trip to Salt Lake was one I was not looking forward to. Monday morning was supposed to be young Charlie’s first day with me. Doing what I wasn’t quite sure. The only sure thing was that I was going to be his Boss.

That Monday morning I was doing my usual routine in Salt Lake: check to see who showed up for work; stay away from any Russians that might be around; and meet up with any new people who were being pushed on me. And then there was Charlie.

It was a little after half past nine. I’d been onsite for two hours already when Van Swearingin walked into my little office next to the employee locker room. He had Charlie with him and neither of them looked too happy. When the kid saw me he tried to leave the room.

“Oh, no! No! I’m not gonna work for this cheap cop of yours. No way!”

His father grabbed him by the arm and pushed him into the chair by my desk.

“Sit down and shut up. You’re here and you’re going to stay here until those characters in San Francisco forget about you. So, shut up. You’re going to work here, earn a pay envelope every Friday and stay out of trouble for as long as I tell you.”

Charlie looked up at his father with a mixture of hate and resignation. It was not respect, but more like he knew that his father was calling the shots and that was that. I just sat there with my mouth shut. The Boss was the Boss.

In that morning’s mail I’d gotten a memo from Van Swearingin telling me what to do with Charlie. I was to train him to become part of my Security force – the lowest part. He was still only 17, had no legitimate job experience, and was there against his will. I didn’t have much hope that this was going to anything but a disaster.

Van Swearingin wanted me to work him nights and keep him exhausted so he wouldn’t have the energy to get into any trouble – not that there was a lot of opportunity for that in Salt Lake City. That was the start of my Monday morning, as if I didn’t have other things on my mind.

“Tim, I’m going to leave my son with you now. I have other business to see to.”

He looked down at Charlie slumped in the chair like a ten year old.

“Get him started, paperwork, uniform…”

“I ain’t wearing no uniform,” muttered Charlie. His father slapped the back of the kid’s head.

“Shut up” That was directed at Charlie and then his words were for me again. “…paperwork, uniform, and start his training. As long as I have to hide him here he is going to help pay his way.” He turned and left the room without another word or even a glance at his son.

It was just the two of us sitting there staring at each other. Neither of us was happy with the situation, but there was nothing we could do about it.

“Well, Charlie, here we are. Your Old Man brought you here. It wasn’t my idea. You’re no baby and I’m not going to be your babysitter no matter what he thinks. We’ve had a run-in, you and me, but that’s history as far as I’m concerned. We’re out here in the middle of nowhere so you had better forget our past and try to make the best of it.”

Charlie sat up straighter in his chair and glared at me.

“You’re right about not wanting to be here and I’m not too keen about being stuck with you.”

You’ll survive it – which doesn’t sound like your prospects back in San Francisco.”

The kid grinned. That was the first time I’d seen him do that.

“Yeah, well, there was this girl…”

“I don’t really care, Charlie. I’ve got my own problems. All I want to do today is get you set up so your father won’t be barking at either of us. Is that fair enough? I’m willing to deal with you like anybody else if you’ll let me.”

He shrugged. Maybe he wasn’t as dumb as he looked sitting there.

“So what am I gonna have to do?”

“It’s not a complicated job, Charlie – just keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.”

Charlie surprised me. I was prepared for a battle every step of the way and I hadn’t forgotten that he liked to carry a knife. After the first few days of sulking and his tough guy attitude toward me he resigned himself to the reality. He was stranded out there in Utah a long way from anybody he could push around. He was also a long way from anybody who wanted to take him apart. And I was his Boss.

He hated the uniform that he was forced to wear. I really couldn’t blame him on that point. He was skinny and liked to swagger and in that uniform he looked like a cartoon scarecrow.

As far as the other employees at the plant were concerned – they ignored him, just like they did any of the Security Unit including me. They took their orders from Van Swearingin directly or from a couple of the Russians who spoke passable English. The Russians were like a bunch of mosquitoes hovering everywhere, watching everyone, and becoming bolder every day. They usually talked only to each other or Van Swearingin, but I saw them yelling in Russian at some of the line workers as if they could be understood.

I started out putting Charlie on the overnight shift. It was quieter with fewer opportunities for him to get into trouble. He just had to walk his rounds, punch the clocks, and report any problems in his log book. The plant operated twenty-four hours a day, but at night it was mainly shipping and receiving. Trucks came and went.

When he first arrived I’d told him that he really only had one job – to keep his eyes open and his mouth shut. Being a sneaky little punk made that easy for him and it wasn’t long before he became all but invisible to everyone in the plant. He became my eyes and ears after dark.

 

– To Be Continued –

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Nine

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Nine

 

It was just a few hours since I’d walked out of that FBI office and into their bear trap and now the man they were hoping to snare wanted to see me in his office – alone. He needed a “favor” from me, he said.

I stopped at the Men’s Room and washed my face. I was sweating. Van Swearingin’s idea of a favor might have me floating in San Francisco Bay if he suspects that I’ve ratted on him. I’ve faced the enemy before and walked away. This time though – I’m unarmed.

The walk down the hallway to Van Swearingin’s office felt like it was a mile long. I really wanted to get on the elevator instead, but I knew that if I did that I’d have both Van Swearingin and his Russians and the FBI on my tail, taking turns digging my grave.

The Secretary at the desk outside of the large corner office smiled as I came through the door. She always smiled, but this time it was different. She was smiling alright, but her eyes looked like she’d been crying. Did she know what I was going to run into on the other side of that big Redwood door? Was she a part of all this trouble?

“Mr. Van Swearingin said to send you right in.”

She looked up at me and I could see that more tears were on the way.

“I hope you can help him, Tim. I’ve never seen him like this.”

I had no choice. I opened the office door and stepped into whatever was next. I fully expected Van Swearingin to be at his desk with a gun in his hand – pointed at me. But instead he was standing looking out of the big window behind his desk that gave him a view of San Francisco, with the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance.

He heard me come in, but he didn’t turn around. He kept on looking out at the city built on Gold and the rubble of earlier earthquakes.

“Thank you for coming in, Tim.”

He turned around. His face was flushed like he had been trying hard to keep it together.

“Have a seat.”

Van Swearingin moved to his desk and sat in his big tall back leather chair. I finished crossing the room and sat down in one of the leather chairs across the desk from him. I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t know what to say anyway. He looked at me and took a deep breath. He let it out ending with a sigh.

“Tim, when I hired you I knew that I was taking a chance. You really didn’t have the level of experience that I’d expect from a man for that job. But, Tim, I was impressed by how you did the job you already had and how you handled that…” He struggled to find the right words. “…That idiotic stunt that my son, Charlie, and the neighbor boy pulled that night. A lot of my security guards would have shot first and asked questions later. You didn’t. You took the time to analyze the situation and then used what tactics were called for. They were two boys, not hardened criminals – at least not yet. You impressed me.”

I nodded. I didn’t know what else to do or say. He kept talking.

“Tim, I need your help.”

Here it comes I thought. Was he going to open up and confess to me about what was going on with those Russian characters? Or was he going to tell me that I was up to my chin in all of the shady business with him? Or was he going to shoot me right there and then?

“I need your help and I want you to know that you can refuse, say ‘No’ and there will be no hard feelings. OK?”

Now I was completely confused.

“What is it you want of me, Sir? You want me to kill somebody or what?”

Van Swearingin shook his head.

“Actually, Tim, it’s the opposite. I need you to help me save someone. I need your help to save my son, Charlie.”

“Charlie? What’s going on? He and I haven’t …exactly been friendly.”

“He doesn’t need a friend. He needs a direction and someone to keep him in line – to keep him alive and I think you can do that.”

I didn’t really understand what he was asking me. He wanted me to babysit his kid or be his parole officer or what?

“Sir, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree here. Your son probably hates me. That night in your garage I roughed him up a bit. I don’t see how I can …” I didn’t know how to explain my feelings about this idea of his.

“Please, hear me out. He doesn’t hate you. He respects you. You may have ‘roughed him up’ but you were honest about it. He pushed you and you weren’t intimidated. You pushed back.

“What I want to do is to give him some sort of a job and have you keep him there. He has gotten himself in a real jam with some very bad and dangerous people here in San Francisco and I’m afraid that if I don’t do something…I’ll lose him.”

“But, Sir, I don’t know what I could do. I’m only a few years older than him. All I could do would be to ride him and keep him busy.”

“Tim, that’s what I want you to do. Keep him busy and maybe you can keep him alive. Please, I’m begging you.”

This was going to happen whether I liked it or not and I couldn’t just walk away.

Charlie Van Swearingin may have respected me like his father said, but all I saw from him was contempt and resistance. His father had assigned him to my Security Detail and shipped him off to the Salt Lake City facility. He figured that sticking him out there on the Salt Flats would keep him out of trouble. My job was a combination of Boss and Baby Sitter and I felt lost on both counts. Here I was an Ex-GI hired to do a job I didn’t know how to do; sitting in the middle of what looked like an island of Spies and Traitors; and now I was being asked to keep a smart mouth teenager from getting himself killed.

I had enough trouble keeping myself alive.

– To Be Continued –

Thanks For Playing Our Game!

 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT SO-CALLED “NO CALL LIST?” We have been getting about a half dozen telephone solicitation calls a day lately.

If I am not deranged I am sure that a few years ago there was a legislative stink that resulted in a “No Call List” law that was set up to stop all of these annoying and unsolicited telephone calls.

It didn’t work, did it?

Read more…

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