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Dead Man’s Chest

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He awoke sometime around three in the afternoon. As his eyes flittered open he was disoriented to the point he wasn’t even sure he was awake. His whole body hurt. It was hard to breathe. Every inhalation brought a deep, stabbing pain in his chest that took the breath along with it. He tried to sit because the realization of his pain meant he was no longer asleep and harsher pain. He looked down at his body and found his shirt drenched in blood.  His legs seemed to be unscathed. He reached for his head and found an immediate soft spot on the top of his skull, drenched in blood. He gingerly opened his shirt to see the cause of so much blood and found three bullet wounds bubbling just beneath the shirts surface. He was shot? With this realization, darkness crawled back up to claim him. When he awoke two hours later, it was to the sound of the ocean slapping against the hull of the sailboat which was currently adrift. Now that he knew what to expect on the pain front, it seemed a lot less intense. He managed to roll over onto his stomach and get up into a crawling position before the pain overcame his ambition. He was in this position for quite some time while trying to get his breathing under control. As his conditioned waned, he was alarmed by the surroundings and their unfamiliarity.  He didn’t know where he was.  Everything his eyes took in seemed foreign. He realized he was in the cabin of a boat by the décor, but who’s?

He looked around until his eyes fell upon a white box mounted to the wall next to the radio, marked “First Aid”. He crawled slowly towards it. He needed to tend to his wounds. He was swimming in and out of consciousness; he needed to stabilize, medically. First, he needed to stop the bleeding in his chest where he had three active wounds, two on the left side, and one on the right.  He gingerly took off his shirt and packed his holes with gauze. He then tightly wound the gauze across his chest and around his back, then over the three bandages that needed constant pressure. He needed to wash his wounds properly, but from what he could tell whoever did this took all of the food and water. The cabin was tossed and the radio smashed.  He needed to find some charts and then get some kind of fixed position to plot a course to the nearest hospital.

He needed to do a bunch of things to assess what his personal situation was. How much food and water? Is there any fuel? Who, the hell was he? The anger welled inside him to the point he stood up to look on deck. When he mounted the three-step riser and took his first look topside, he saw at least three men lying dead. From that vantage point, he could only see the back half of the ship. The entire bow was outside his sight line. He stepped forward and picked up the semi-automatic pistol the dead man had dropped, ejected the clip and saw that nothing had been fired from this gun, and reinserted. Stupid bastard, he thought. After a brief respite to clear his swimming vision, he started towards the bow in a concealed position. There was a soft thumping sound coming from that direction. It didn’t sound natural. Cautiously, he crept forward with his gun leading the way. As he rounded the last impediment to a clear view, he saw her. She was on her stomach crawling towards some kind of bag tied to the railing, bleeding. Once he was confident she was the only other soul on the boat, he stepped forward.  She stopped crawling and rolled over on to her back and looked him in the eyes.

She said “Go ahead you bastard, finish it. You know you want to.” 

“Finish it?”  He yelled at her. “Finish what?  Look. I have nothing against you lady, tell me what the hell happened here.”  He asked.

The woman’s whole demeanor changed. First, she looked confused, or, cautious. Then she opened up to him in such a manner that his first instinct was to run. 

“Darling, put that gun down and help your wife. I need help,” she pleaded.

“Come now, you don’t think I had anything to do with this?  I’m wounded, shot, and I do not have a gun.  You, on the other hand, have one.” she said.

He looked down at his gun and realized how useless it really was. His wife, if that is who she is, was so wounded she didn’t pose a threat. He didn’t know where they were or where they were going, or how long it would take to get there. He would die of thirst before he would succumb to any of her actions. Then, in a gesture of hopelessness, he threw the gun overboard. 

He knew he was bleeding internally,and was getting weaker by the minute.  He took a seat next to his wife, leaving her to fend for her own injuries. He was exhausted and pretty sure it was written all over him like a neon sign, in Times Square.  

“So, tell me, what happened here.  I’m no longer a threat,” he asked her again.

She sighed and said, “What happened was that you arranged for this little romantic getaway so you could kill me and throw my body overboard. What happened, dear husband was you,” she spit back at him.

“Intimate, why would I have planned an intimate anything, then invite the three dead men?  They obviously aren’t the staff? Something else happened, and I want to know what it was before I come over there and start plugging your bullet holes with my thumbs,” he said.

“Why can’t you be the stupid, clueless, bastard you always are?” she asked.

“Look, where I sit now is where I will die. I’m not moving anywhere. So let’s dispense with the crap and lay our cards on the table because by the looks of it, I am your only chance to move from the spot you sit,” he said indignantly.

She looked at him and began to laugh. Not a wounded woman on the bow of a boat kind of laugh, but a gut splitting one. Her laughter was getting softer and softer until he must have passed out again. One minute she was across from him, holding onto her knowledge of what happened like a piece of gold from a leprechauns’ bucket, and the next minute she was gone.  Why didn’t she kill him? Perhaps she thought he was already dead and posed no threat himself.  God, he was so tired. He had never felt this drained of energy in his lifetime.  He fought the urge to go back to sleep because somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he knew he would never wake up. He was at a crossroads, as they say. He needed answers and the answers were never to be revealed to him, fatefully so. He would get his answers. One way or the other, he damn sure would. He marshaled the strength to get to his feet, making sure his right hand was clutching the railing for support. One foot in front of the other is what this moment came down to.  He reached the point he could now see the backside of the boat and the three dead men who still lay prone. She must have gone into the cabin, he thought, and then looked through the port hole that was just below him to see if he could see her. There was no movement in the galley. He stopped and listened for any sounds she made, but all he heard was the gentle lapping of the waves against the hull. He started aft again, coming to a halt in front of the stairs that took you below decks. He was reduced to a game of cat and mouse while bleeding to death. But curiosity is a fickle creature—it can make you do things that you never knew were possible. The unknown to some is a very scary landscape to be in, while others fall headlong into a “curiosity trip.” He knew he was dying, yet he needed his god damn questions answered. To die and not know who you are is unacceptable. He needed to find her and pull the answers out of her. His anger started to rise and in turn his motivation level rose above his wounded body, to participate in the end game. His entire weight accompanied each footfall down into the interior of the vessel as his body was on full automatic. He reached the lower level and stood there, nostrils flaring, looking around the small cabin for her. There she sat, in the corner, dead.

Fog

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The chief of police stood at the window of his office looking at a sky so angry that it matched the mood of the community he had sworn to protect. In the last three weeks, a homicide has occurred each week like clockwork, and he had no idea who was behind them. When the first body of a young woman was discovered, it left no doubt that “homicidal violence” was the cause. The crime scene had a subtle yet dramatic flair to it, giving Rick Masters the impression that it had been staged, yet it didn’t.  Then another body of a young woman turned up, and with it, a little heat from the community. They wanted answers, and a palpable fear began to spread across the sleepy small town nestled in rural Alaska when none were offered. Now, last night, another young woman was killed, and he knew the impending storm would be more turbulent than what he saw outside his window. As he turned away from the sight, the phone on his desk rang, and knew it was the mayor.

“Chief Masters,” he said reluctantly.

“Chief, Mayor Bartlett. First, let me start by saying that the community is up in arms over these killings. Do you have any idea what three dead kids out of a class of fifty looks like?” the mayor complained.

Rick rubbed his temples as he felt one of his headaches screaming down the tracks toward him. Now that it was obvious they had a serial killer operating amongst them. It was only a matter of time before the Alaska State Police would enter the fray. Frankly, at this point he would welcome the help finding this monster.

“Look, Mayor, we processed the crime scenes, so you know what to expect at this point. Unfortunately, the crime scene of the woman we found last night had to be processed in driving rain. I don’t have to tell you what effect that has on trace evidence collection. We did the best we could. Her autopsy should be performed in about thirty minutes, and as soon as I know something, so will you,” Rick said as professionally as possible under the circumstances.

The back wall of the conference room was cleared for him to build his own. He set everything he had collected from the three crime scenes— personal effects, files, and official case notes—on the conference table, then walked over to the blank slate and pinned up the photos of the girls. Regina Carmichael, Isabella Johnston, and now Celeste Criss looked back at him as if they were demanding answers from him also. He shook off that thought and walked to the dry eraser board mounted in the center of the wall. He drew a vertical line across the stark white background, his timeline of the killings. Starting from left to right he wrote, in the order of their deaths, their names and the dates they died. It pained him to leave room on this line for more victims, because at this point it seemed inevitable. Once done, he took a note pad from the tabletop and grabbed one of the chairs, dragging it across the tiled floor making an annoying sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.  He positioned the chair directly in front of the timeline and took a seat to study the information. 

It didn’t take long to see that the killer of these girls is on some kind of schedule because the TOD’s (time of death) for the first two victims were late evening on successive Saturday nights.  He would bet a month of his wages that the current victim will be the same. If Rick were correct, then he had six days until girl number four turns up. He sat staring at the wall and the similarities began to pile up to the point at which he was flooded with information.  The girls were the same age. The girls all went to the local high school. They all had brown hair. When he thought about it, the profile he was building in his head of the killer was “too textbook,” to the point of being cliché.  There was a wealth of information in front of him, but he was a good analytical thinker with an uncanny ability to look past things that are noisy, to see a minute connection screaming at him.  “Forest through the trees,” he muttered over and over again to no one in particular. It bothered him that he already had a “sense” about the case, ever since the first body turned up. It was as if something was nagging at him. There was a familiarity, unseen, but felt instinctually all the same. His head began to ache again.

Deputy Sam Thurston was more tired than he could remember. In a department the size of his, it was bad enough trying to cover the expanse of their territory, but now, the added detective work of the homicides. It was taking a toll. His circadian sleep was already off because it was that time of year when the long Alaskan daylight hours drug on. This was the first time in his young career in law enforcement that he got to work on a homicide. The chief wanted him to compile everything he could on the victims. He got their school records, friends names, clubs, everything. He already had a good start on the first two victims, and he refined his approach with the latest one. The one thing that he has learned from his chief was the old school nature of his superior. This fact gave Sam the ability to grow because he was the polar opposite of the Chief. He brought the chief into the twenty-first century with all its technological wonder. 

For instance, he amazed the chief with his deployment of GPS markers of the crime scene, with the first homicide thus giving him the ability to create a 3D visual recreation of the scene instead of a two-dimensional image of a normal crime scene photo.

He could overlay this information onto a digital topographical map to gain further insights and or clues. This in turn cut down officer transit times when scheduling their physical patrolling of strategic spots while trying to solve the homicides. 

Sam sat at his computer and began the mundane task of entering the data he collected as a result of his efforts today. It took nearly three hours to compile everything electronically until he got to the point where he would push the proverbial “enter” button to start the data crunching wizardry. He hated to admit it, but the third homicide data should provide some good insights. When they only had two victims, they could only draw a line between events, but the third will allow them to triangulate the positions geographically. Geometry is wonderful and sacred knowledge but using it to solve crimes is exciting.  

It didn’t take long before he got a “ping” response. The ping was the result of a complex algorithm he had written the week before. He read the incoming data. The triangulation of all the victims pointed to an exact point in its center, which coincidentally was in the middle of town.  

That spot had an address. 

The address had a history.

That history pointed to Chief Masters.  A chill ran down Sam’s spine.  The chief is right down the hall, in his office.  Sam had no choice but to take him into custody himself.

In the end, everything came together for them all. The town breathed a sigh of relief because they were sure of Rick’s guilt, beyond any doubt. 

It didn’t take long before Sam’s handiwork came to light in the town. The algorithm he had written, and that had filtered all that data, cemented the case. When the address and its history came to light, it was found to belong to the chief’s parents. They both perished in a fire when Rick was a boy. It was determined that he had started the fire intentionally and then tried to blame it on his sister. According to sealed court records, the problem with the boy’s story was that he didn’t have a sister. Ultimately, he was placed in a psychiatric facility until his 18th birthday. According to the law, if he stayed out of trouble, he could request his that records be expunged when he turned 21, which he did. When the chief did this, it was as if his past conviction had never occurred. In hindsight, it would have been extremely difficult for anyone to have known or suspected. The final piece of the puzzle came to light in the form of the victims’ names and the order in which they died.  “R” “I” “C” were the first initials for Regina Carmichael, Isabella Johnston, and Celeste Criss. When the algorithm finished its probability factor, it predicted the next victim would have a name that started with the letter K. School attendance records confirmed a young girl in the same class that fit. Her name was Kayla Rabinowicz. RICK was a mathematical certainty, and the possibility that RICK was someone other than Chief Rick Masters was improbable. 

 

91643-12

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Elois Weismann fell in love under the most impossible circumstances. She would never forget the first time she saw the man she would eventually marry on a day filled with a sky as angry as the guards who worked in the camp. Hyme was standing in the worker section on the other side of the razor wire when their eyes met. She saw sorrow in his eyes from such a long distance until his gaze locked onto hers. The transformation that washed over his face gave her hope.  How could there be any hope in a place called Madjanek, she thought to herself these many years later? Though she did not know him, she knew he shared a singular fate each of them did. As she looked at him he seemed to be oblivious to a guard walking down the line he was in, shooting every third man. She frantically tried to do the math in her head to see if it was his fate to die that day. Her worst fear was realized when she saw that the guard stopped in front of him and raised his pistol to his head, yet his gaze at her did not waver. Her own eyes filled with terror with the realization that he was about to perish when the guard pulled the trigger. Even from the distance she could hear an audible click as the gun dry fired. This angered the guard, so he cleared the chamber and raised his pistol once again to finish his task. The horror and dread she was witnessing was too much to bear.  She looked away as she knew this time would be different. Click.  She looked up and saw the man was gazing at her with serenity that told her he would maintain his human dignity and grace at a time most men would plead for their life. The guard screamed something in German she could not interpret but understood the gist of. Maybe it was the fact that he took too much time off from a tight schedule, or something as simple as losing interest, but the guard decided to beat Hyme with his failing sidearm instead, before moving along the line.

Three weeks later, they were wed in a secret ceremony performed by a former scholar who doubled as a rabbi.  Less than a month later, her husband was transferred to another camp and that was the last time she would see him again.  Hyme Weismann gave her a faintest spark of hope and enabled her to endure her existence until the camp was liberated by the Soviet Army after the war. 

She spent the next 30 years searching for him, but as meticulous as records the Nazi’s kept were, she was unsuccessful in locating him. She never remarried and lost her entire family during those horrific times.

Jennifer Smith moved to Minnesota with her family after her father purchased a farm in order to raise his children in a place safer than New York City. She acclimated to her new surrounding well and was editor of her High School Newspaper her senior year. She wrote articles about her classmates’ achievements, but her real passion was doing human interest stories. When Jack Nesbitt, a fellow senior who also lived on a farm in the neighboring county found a time capsule, she just knew she had to write about it. According to her classmate, he found it by accident when digging a hole behind his house in order to bury his family dog. The contents were over 80 years old because some of the items were newspapers dating back to January 15, 1946. She called Jack the next day and agreed to meet him at his house to view the contents and write an article about what he had found.

After school, she had her Mother drop her off at Jack’s house. When they sat down at the dining room table for the interview, she saw a wooden steamer trunk sitting on the floor off to the side. It appeared to be in remarkable condition after spending so much time in the earth. She asked to see what was inside. Much to her amazement there was a treasure trove of old newspapers. She picked up each one and they all had something to say about the aftermath of WWII and the progress of the Allies. When she lifted the last one out of the trunk she noticed two old hat boxes underneath; each was bound with a satin tie. She picked up the first and opened it. There, right on top was an old patch stitched in gold she immediately recognized because the word JUDE was emblazoned on it.  Underneath the word JUDE was the number 91643-12. In addition to these were other personal items that appeared to belong to a man. An old, but worn, pair of shoes wrapped reverently with a striped shirt both worn and filthy, folded neatly on top. Finally, in the other box were beautiful and intricate drawings of a young woman. There had to be at least 30 of them in the box, and though they were hand-drawn, it appeared to be the same woman. 

Jennifer took photos of each of the items in the trunk and completed her in-depth interview about Jack’s story of finding the time capsule. Later that evening, she decided to write her article from the angle of the person who wore the JUDE badge. If she could locate who it was issued to by the number stenciled on it, it would really be an impactful human-interest story. She had some investigative work to complete.

It took three weeks of gumshoe work; canvassing any organization that could identify the JUDE badge, but it paid off. She contacted her mentor at the local newspaper who promised to help and was excited to get his call out of the blue.  He informed her that he had in fact found out who the badge was issued to during WWII. It was issued to a prisoner of war liberated by the Americans from Auschwitz named Hyme Weismann. Her mentor said that wasn’t the only good news as the man was still alive and lived locally with his son and daughter- in-law.  He then offered Jennifer her own byline in the paper because they were interested in the story.  He told her that he made contact with the family and they were invited to their home that night. Arrangements had been made to have the trunk and the young man who dug it up be there. She was excited. She only had a couple of hours to come up with an interview plan, but already knew the angle she’d envisioned since viewing the trunks contents.

The next morning, after the interview, the article ran in the local paper. Within a week it went to all the nationally syndicated papers and newsrooms. The article included photos of the badge, Hyme, and the drawings he made of his young bride that he lost after the war. The article was powerful because of the love gained and lost at the hands of the Nazi’s. It dramatized his own search for her after the war, hence all the newspapers in the trunk and his heartbreaking conclusion that she perished because Majdanek camp in Poland was one of the main extermination camps liberated by the USSR at the end of the war. He failed to get any information out of that government after these many years and finally placed all of the items in the trunk, then buried them in remembrance. 

He had buried his past under a darkened sky, not unlike the day he first saw his beautiful wife standing there that morning on what he thought would be his last day on earth. It was her face amongst hundreds that he found, as though he was pointed to her by God himself to ease his pain in that world. He reminisced that when he saw her for the first time, he was no longer afraid of his mortality because her beauty was so encompassing he was grateful she would be his last vision on this earth. 

Elois Weismann sat in the comfort of her daughter’s home in a rocking chair her son-in-Law had built with his own two hands while watching the news. She was just telling her daughter about her day when she saw the picture of the JUDE star and the number she would never forget. She stopped talking in mid-sentence and could only point to the television set through tear-filled eyes. When her daughter finally broke through to her, the only thing she could say was “Hyme.”

A rental car pulled up in front of a ranch-style home in a quiet lovely neighborhood of Portland, Oregon.  Hyme was helped out of the back seat and started up the walk with the help of Jennifer and her mentor from the paper.  When they were half way to the front door it opened and there stood Elois.  Hyme stopped and looked up at her with that same look he had on the day he first saw her.  He stood there for the longest time, thinking she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen to this day.  That was, of course, before he met his daughter for the first time who was standing next to Elois.  A daughter conceived out of love amongst all the ugliness in unimaginable circumstances.  

What Happens in The Triangle Stays in The Triangle

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The situation was desperate. All of the instruments in the cockpit were wonky and unreliable an hour into the flight to Puerto Rico from Florida. In the captain’s seat was one of the best pilots the Air Force had produced and if anyone could get this C130 aircraft safely on the ground, it was he. Every time the crew made this journey with a payload of small arms, ammunition, and a couple of tactical nukes on board they joked about the “Triangle.” Payload specialist Clive Coleman wore his Halloween devil horns on each and every one of them in spite of regulations about uniforms. Superstition ruled every time. When the problems began, everyone was kind of nervous that maybe there was something to the legend, and those tales of people gone missing without a trace might have a kernel of truth to them, but grown men work the problem. Weather reports showed a clear path to their destination, yet an ominous storm that stretched across the entire horizon was developing directly in front of them. They had no choice but to punch through the storm because of the instrument issue. Turbulence was starting to throw them around and the captain ordered everyone to buckle up and stow any items that might cause a “missile” hazard in the cargo bay. The lumbering nature of this particular aircraft was not suited for hasty and sharp turns, so when the rift appeared directly in front of them, the evasive maneuvers were quite limited and unsuccessful.   

Just as the turbulence couldn’t get any worse, the sky broke into sunshine and they were over land, which should not be. Instruments were still haywire, and now would be a good time to set her down. The captain had trouble locating an open area where they could land, although he didn’t need too much because of the nature of his craft.  He banked, and as soon as he looked to his right, he saw something he could not explain in the distance just off the coast. Ships run aground everywhere, and a lot of them! Some were normal looking, but some were old, hundreds of years old. Most were listing where they ran aground, and some were burned out hulks rusting where they stood.  He leveled off and banked the other direction.  He saw an open patch of ground, but this too was strange because now he saw planes scattered about. Again, some of the planes were old and some fairly recent models!

It was as if he was circling some odd museum, but he didn’t have time to digest any of this as he needed to get on the ground safely and soundly. He reached forward and lowered his landing gear, and then noticed another strange sight, a battlefield with two opposing sides going at it and a great wall of fire between them shooting into the sky. He informed his crew and began his descent.

The plane came safely to a halt, considering the open field as not a smooth one, so he powered his engines down, then off and ordered the crew to break out their side arms because they might have trouble ahead. As soon as they were armed, he briefed them as to what he witnessed as he was landing. He told them there were “hostiles” engaged in some kind of battle and wanted to be ready for any contingency. As soon as the cabin door was opened they saw an armed greeting party heading in their direction. Fortunately, there were only three of them, a man and two women, so if they were to engage them they would have an advantage. As they got closer, the man reached into his back pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief and waived it to show they meant no harm. Cautiously, and from their elevated position within the aircraft, they motioned them forward but kept their weapons trained on them until they were sure it wasn’t some kind of ruse to get their guard down. 

“Hold it right there. Identify yourself and state your purpose.” the Captain shouted.

“Hello, we mean you no harm, but as you can see we are under assault from the Old Ones.  My name is John Lockland, and this is Jenna Frio and Glenda Payton.  We have come to ask your help as we are faced with overwhelming numbers and quickly running out of ammunition. If you noticed on your way down, the only thing keeping them at bay for the time being, is our fire line. Once they breach that they will become your problem too,” he said as a matter of fact.

“How can this be our problem?” the captain asked.

“I wish we had more time for a proper introduction, but if they breach that line and overrun us, you and your crew will be next. Believe me when I tell you they are savages, cannibals actually, that cannot be reasoned with. Is there anything on your craft that can help with the situation? Honestly they outnumber us 50-1 by our estimates?” John stated.

“OK, hold on a minute. Can you tell us where we are?” the captain asked.

“We do not know where or when we are, Captain. We came through that vortex just like you and your crew. I do know that everyone here has done so, at one time or another, which is why we call them the Old Ones. What we do know is that side of the island’s inhabitants came through from an older time period than we.  They came on ships. We, on this side of the island, came in aircraft just as you did.  At the moment, we have a technological advantage in weapons but, by my estimates, we will be out of ammunition and fuel by tomorrow. If that happens, we are all dead, because they just keep coming no matter how many we kill,” John stated.

 “So, what you are saying is this is a real-life “Lord of the Flies” kind of thing?” The captain half joked.

“I don’t know what that means, but they go back to their camp at night before resuming their relentless attacks during daylight. With their numbers, it will be impossible to keep up regardless of the losses we inflict. We are dead, but we haven’t fallen down yet, even if your plane is loaded to the rafters with ammo,”  John said

“Look, right before I landed I saw their camp on the other side, tucked into the cove. I think I have a solution to the problem. If they all, or most, go back to the cove, then I have some ordinance that I can put right into their lap. It is powerful enough to kill them all. The only thing is, we will need to dig some fortifications underground before I set it off. The good thing is, the cove will provide natural containment of the blast, keeping it contained on that side with minimal risk to us. The falling debris is what we need to protect against. Once we set this off, we will never be able to set foot anywhere near there again due to residual radiation that will contaminate that area for hundreds of years. Until it gets dark, we can provide enough small arms and ammunition to hold off being overrun this day.

They have to work ferrying boxes of ammunition to the front lines, and forward positions to help. While the tunnels were being dug, the crew turned the plane around and got it ready for takeoff while plugging into the tactical nuke and entering the firing codes. Just before nightfall, the old ones started making their way back to their camp for the evening and the crew of the C130 took off into the night skies. The bomb was ready and placed at the back of the cargo area.  It was set for an air burst at 50 feet. They would have to drop it from an altitude of 1000 feet in order for them to get a safe distance away before detonation, which would shut them down due to the EMP effect, but with the bomb’s parachute and their air speed, they should miss the aftereffects. Once they climbed to 1000 feet, they changed course to place them right off the coast within the cove. They hadn’t been in this dimension, wherever it was, for more than a day and they were using one of the worst weapons in the history of mankind. They were in position and let her go out the back ramp of the plane, then high-tailed it out of the area. T minus 30 seconds and the nature of this little war would swing in favor of those he met first. Right or wrong didn’t matter because it was in God’s hands now, and you know what they say about letting him sort it out!  

 

The Art of Disaster

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At 3 a.m., the SUV glided to a halt, concealed in one of the clumps of trees dotting the roadside. This far out in the countryside it should remain undetected by any law enforcement or concerned motorist, especially at this time of night. As the crow flies, he was about half a mile north of the crash site, but it would be a quick hike from where he parked his vehicle. He walked around to the hatchback, opened it, reached into the cargo area and pulled a large plastic bin forward. Once opened, he rifled through the contents until he came to the jacket he needed, held it up to the interior light and saw the familiar block letters that read NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board. He pulled the next tote forward and found a matching ball cap among the other federal jurisdiction caps like FBI, FEMA, etc. He has them all.

He then sat back in the driver’s seat, pulled down the visor mirror, and flipped it open. The light surrounding the mirror flickered to life. He spent 5 minutes applying his mustache, gave himself one last appraising look at his image, and got out of the vehicle.

He needed to find the best insertion point at the crash site. Once inside the perimeter, he can blend in with all the other NTSB investigators and go about his work. As he hiked in, he reached into the inner pocket of his jacket, pulled out a laminated badge with his photo and clipped it onto his right collar. He could see some activity ahead and hugged the shadows to get as close to the scene as possible, at which point he would turn on his flashlight to act like he was investigating. Getting onto a formal crash site for civilian passenger aircraft was the easy part. The difficult part would be to get a piece of the fuselage out. The specific part of the fuselage must come from the forward section, just below the cockpit. The Feds tend to get a little nasty when evidence is mishandled, or walks away from an active accident investigation, as, in this case.

But, the ends justify the means, as they say.

After dismantling the part from the aircraft, he then slid the 1’ by 2’ panel under his intentionally baggy jacket. It was time for his exit. The short path out was across the entire debris field and past all of the active investigators. Fortunately, up until now, he didn’t have to interact with anyone. In fact, they haven’t even looked in his direction at all. They are all focused on the task at hand and he was counting on them to stay that course. He chose the short path. He started across the field when he heard someone yell, “hey you”. It was coming from behind him, so he acted as though he didn’t hear it, in case it was meant for him which, it should not be. He didn’t get but a few steps when the voice yelled it again. This time with more authority! He stopped and turned to see if it was for him.  It appears so. The man was not only looking at him, but intently so. 

“I’m sorry, are you talking to me?” He asked him, in order to stall for time and formulate a plan. He was worried that the bulkiness of his package parked beneath his windbreaker, was tellingly suspicious.

“Yes. You! What’s your name?” the official asked.

“Mark Orford, Sir.” He added the “Sir” for effect.

“Mark, good man, I need to get your preliminary report in less than an hour in order to brief the press,” he said. The official looking man then yelled the same instruction to the entire site. Mark turned and simply walked off the accident scene as unnoticed as he had arrived. He delivered the access panel he took to Jacobi, then drove the 150 miles home to sleep.

At 7 a.m., Mark’s cell phone rang abruptly, awakening him from a deep sleep. He rolled over and spied the screen. Maybe he didn’t need to answer it depending on who is calling. It was Jacobi, so Mark answered it. “Yah, do you know what time it is?” he complained.

“Do you have your TV on? If not, turn it on. Turn your television to Channel 6 news,” Jacobi stated.

The on-air journalist was explaining that a piece of space junk had re-entered earth’s atmosphere and struck a building in Honolulu, Hawaii. The news channel speculated that it was the Chinese space station, which had been in an “orbital decay” for quite some time and was the best scientific guess as to what hit Honolulu. The Chinese government has been silent about their space junk for the last three months and all inquiries had gone unheeded. 

The building was an office park complex and was completely destroyed. Jacobi advised him that he needed to get on the next plane to the island because he wanted a charred piece of the debris. Jacobi sent over the size requirements to his phone. Mark confirmed he received it and told him he would be on the next flight. Twelve hours later, Mark was in Hawaii to retrieve the artifact. 

The lights were dimmed to just the right levels for Jacobi’s comfort. At 97-years- old, he needed as much comfort as he could get. He was racing the mortality clock now. On his sprawling estate he now spent all of his time in the studio. The outbuilding was built for an explicit reason and Jacobi had abandoned the comfort of the main house for quite some time  to focus on finishing his latest, and possibly last, work of art, which was a sculpture. 

There was nothing more important to his work than the math. So far, by his account, the current project had a total of 422 souls attached to it. The benefactor who commissioned the piece was someone he could not let down.  Jacobi would never forget the day he met him, not long after his wife passed away. He spent a lot of nights drinking as a form of grief therapy in those days and was on a particularly wicked bender when the man knocked on his door. A lot of that conversation was foggy to say the least, but the gist of the deal was clear. If Jacobi agreed to the art sculpture, then once it was finished he would get to see his wife again. He knew all along that the man was some form of evil incarnate, but the reward for his efforts, were too great to pass up. 

There isn’t another soul on this planet that knows his suffering to this point. Each and every moment he handles a delivered piece of material he sees the horror of the souls attached to it. Forty-eight people die in a coal mining accident and a helmet light from one of the victims now sits atop the nearly finished work.  Jacobi is tired. Not in the normal sense. Instead, his fatigue is at a tipping point.  He has sensed the long arms of death reaching for him, and it is coinciding with his project’s last piece which was to arrive soon. 

My suffering would cease come “hell or high water!” he thought to himself. The eminently disturbing aspect of the piece was it allowed anyone who ran their hands over its contours, the psychic horror imprint would be revealed. A kaleidoscope of images flashed along the path your hand traversed. No one other than the benefactor could find it a pleasure to view. Jacobi hadn’t seen the benefactor in quite some time. Yet, he felt in the hollow of his bones, the benefactor was approaching like a tempest on the horizon. His entire body ached with the arrival. 

He needed to be with his wife, he promised her he would. He remembered cherished times spent on perfect evenings. Jacobi could still envision his wife’s face in his mind. Her eyes would look Asiatic every time she put her flowing blond hair in a pony tail. The pressure of the tie pulling her scalp up and back in the process that would, in turn, slightly pull the corner of her eyes in the same direction. Those eyes always sparkled. Despite the pain Jacobi endured, the promise of her was stronger. Jacobi started to replay another memory when he heard his side door opening. The anticipation was killing him. It would either be his benefactor or Mark, with the last piece. Jacobi tucked his thought away and stood to straighten his suit. The sound was coming closer and with it, his expectation of uniting with his beloved. His love had always outweighed the fear of his participation in the deaths of all those people. Jacobi was certain that anyone else in his position would have done the same.

The Big dig: Part II

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Victoria, Arrow (her horse), a pack horse named Skee, and her two dogs arrived at the site at 9 a.m. As she unloaded the pack horse of its burden, Bo and Diddly took off to mark their territories. After she hobbled the horses, she went to see the site, carrying as many of the digging tools as she could. She was satisfied it remained undisturbed, so she went back for another load. When she returned, she sat and dropped her backpack on the ground next to her feet and rummaged through it.  She pulled out the tape measures, rope, and a couple of bundles of stakes. The first order of business, before a teaspoon of dirt is removed, is to survey the site. There were far too many archeological protocols for her to do this absolutely perfectly, and she was only one person, corners had to be cut. It took her the entire afternoon to do grid work and be satisfied it was good. She realized she needed to build a ramp over the grid work to reach the active digging along the stone. This meant she would need to make another trip with the pack horse. In addition, she knew it would draw the attention of others because of the need for lumber.       

She went back to camp to feed the animals and herself. As she sat eating by the campfire, she made her next journal entry, with her dogs nestled at her feet. She had measurements of the size of stone she has uncovered to date, but could not estimate how much larger it is, or what it is. Finally, she also took close up photographs of the exposed carving as well as a panoramic view of the entire area. 

Deciding to forego breakfast, she was back on site early the next morning. It was her goal to expose the complete length and depth of the stone to get an estimate of its true size. Though the carving was tantalizing and she hoped she would see more of them, digging alone will take time.      

Being careful with her digging motions, by taking mindful action not to mar the stone’s surface, she began in earnest. Since she had the top exposed, she dug down to find the bottom of the slab. She managed to dig down, and over for about three feet until finally she hit the spot that exposed another slab in which this one was perched. She was excited, and so she dug down another three feet until the seam was at eye level for her. The hole that she now stood in was very cramped and needed to be extended outward so that she would have room to work. The work was laborious because every ounce of debris taken had to be put aside to go through later with a screen to sift for small artifacts. She ferried these buckets of dirt to a spot about 80 feet away and staged it there. When she came back to continue she noticed for the first time that this was some kind of opening because there wasn’t any stone underneath the slab except the one on the end cap. It reminded her of a mine shaft opening, except it was made of stone, not wood. She took at step backwards to look at the “big picture”. If indeed this was an opening, it meant that wherever the opening led, it had to go into the mounting behind her dig. 

It took her until the end of her second day to expose the stone enough to get its dimensions and with it, answers. It was 4’ high, by 4’ deep, by 12’ long. She included all of this in her journal with the expectation of getting answers at the library.           

When she went to the library, she asked the librarian how she would calculate the size she wrote down in her journal, into weight.  It came up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 tons.  This meant that someone had cut stone, quarried it, then brought it to her site and placed it. But how could this be?

She knew that the stone was cut with such a precision it was almost perfect. When she researched a little deeper, she found all of the stone megalithic sites around the world, but none seem to match, though the ones in South America were close.  Puma Punku, in Bolivia was considered the oldest site known to man. The stonework was similar, but the carvings were not. The stone entry that she had uncovered had three distinct carvings on it, one on the left side of the entry, the right side, and the middle. She realized that she had a lot more digging to do in order to expose the entire entry in order to attempt breaching it, if that was possible. She was tempted to enlist help at this point but decided to give it a couple of weeks and more trips there to see if she can accomplish it alone. 

So, the following two weeks she went back on her camping trips, and now her father was starting to ask questions. He knew something was up because during her summer vacation, she spent five weekends in a row, going “camping”.  She told him she was almost done with her fort and would invite her friends to camp with her soon, but that she needed to make it perfect.  When he asked if he could see it, she told him under no circumstances are boys allowed, including dads. 

She had the entire face of the entrance cleared and found where large rocks were placed, stacked from ground to ceiling, blocking her way. It almost gave her the impression this place, whatever it is, was intentionally buried.  She scurried up the pile of rocks to test their weight. She wasn’t so sure she would be able to handle this portion of the dig by herself. She pulled one from its perch without too much effort and let it roll down the pile. She reached for the next one and did the same resulting in another heavy boulder falling away. She knew she would not be able to carry them to a staging area, so she settled with trying to find a way into the space by peeling them away one by one. She reached for the next one that was exposed by peeling the last one away and it was lodged in so tight it wouldn’t budge. She tried rocking it back and forth, left and right, but it was slow going. She was about to give up and think of another tact to take when the boulder fell into the space beyond, exposing a hole in the pile about the size of her head. 

She shimmied down the pile and ran to her pack to fetch her flashlight. Now she could see what was inside the mouth of the opening.  She was back on top of the stack of rocks, flashlight in hand, and poked her hand into the entrance and switched on the light. She could see that it wasn’t a mine because the floor, ceiling and walls just inside the opening were made of stone. It looked like a mausoleum with smooth and glistening stonework with intricate carvings as far as the eye could see from this vantage point. Whatever doubt she may have harbored that this was an archeological of historic value, was now gone. 

She turned around and sat at the top of the heap with the opening behind her and considered the ramifications, especially if she kept quiet on the find. Her mind was racing about the possibilities. Then, like a clarion call out of the blue, her dogs started to bark off in the distance. It appeared she had guests approaching, but whom?

She leapt from her perch and ran headlong towards the camp and arrived just in time to see her father and ranch manager coming into the clearing in the distance. She ran to greet them. 

“Daddy, how did you find me?” Victoria asked, out of breath from the running.

“Victoria, you should know there isn’t anything that a father doesn’t know about his daughter,” he answered as he dismounted and give her a hug. “This secret of yours isn’t so secretive. With all of the supplies you have been pilfering around the ranch and the multiple trips to camp, I thought it time I saw what my daughter was so focused on.”

Victoria’s anger welled up. This was her place, she found it, and besides her brothers had built forts in different areas of the ranch that her dad knew nothing of.  She stood up for herself and asked, “Daddy, this is MY spot. It is a place to call my own. But, as long as you’re here, I have something I need to show you.” She took him by the hand and walked towards her camp. She told him to wait a minute while she got something she wanted him to see and walked down towards the river.  She came back with a stringer of fish and offered to cook him lunch.

Look What I Found: The Big Dig, Part I

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Victoria Turnbuckle was made of sturdy stock. She was born 13 years ago to one of the largest cattle baron families in the United States. She lived on the family ranch that spanned 100,000 acres. Ever since she could walk, she could ride a horse.  She had boundless energy as a kid and worked hard for her father on the ranch. It was the only way she could spend any quality time with him as he was always immersed in business affairs. Being the only girl in the family, since her mother passed away three years ago, she had to work harder than her brothers to catch her father’s praise. 

Her father, Winslow Turnbuckle, sat her down before her birthday, asked her what she wanted. She pleaded with him to allow her and her dogs (Bo and Diddly) to go camping overnight, she was old enough now. She wanted to go fishing and she would be careful. Besides, both dogs, Australian Shepherds, are trained to get help if trouble arises. He asked where she was going, and she walked over to the wall in his office, where the family map was framed and mounted, and pointed to the location. Her father walked over and gave it a good long look, to make sure it was not too remote. He agreed, and she squealed and hugged him.

Early the next morning, after breakfast and cake, she opened her presents, thanked her parents, and struck out to the horse barn to truss up her horse, Arrow. The ride and hike should only take a few hours, so camp should be up by noon. She set camp in a glen nestled next to a mountain with the river on the other side. Before she put a line into the water to catch her supper, she scoured the area for enough firewood for the stay. New Mexico, at this time of year, is warm during the day and frigid at night. She was almost done after five armloads but decided she needed a little more. She had the time. She headed towards a stand of trees just west of the camp and noticed a strange formation in the outcropping of rock. It appeared to be rectangular in nature with perfect corners.  It was as if someone had buried a column made of stone. She dropped her armload of wood where she stood and went over to investigate further.  She stepped up onto the flat-topped stone and walked its length, toe to heal until she counted 45. It was definitely long and perfectly smooth across its surface. She jumped off the rock and retrieved her wood and took it back to camp. Instead of fishing, she decided to take the folding shovel back to the rock and do a little excavation. 

Working carefully and quickly, she started digging on the end, and before long she had cleared about a two-foot radius without exposing the underside of the slab of marble. By the time she decided to call it a day she had exposed about four feet in depth on both sides. After she washed up at the river bank, she got a fire started and the birthday present her father gave her at breakfast, a journal. She ran her hands over the soft leather binding and put it to her nose and inhaled the possibilities. She reverently opened it and wrote her name and date.

The Turnbuckles had long documented their lives, though not all of them in ordinary ways. Her father kept a pocket notebook that had all of his monthly bills written, ledger-like, with a neat little “x” next to the ones he had paid. This system, though to the casual observer seem obsessive or compulsive, kept a literal journal of his life. He had boxes filled with these notebooks from the past.  Her father also had the business books, but continued the notebooks for his personal life. You would be surprised to learn that you could reconstruct someone’s life with the information documented in these books. 

The opening entry, she decided, would be a hand drawn map to the campsite of this trip. This birthday was her first independent thing signifying transition to being a woman, or so she believed. It must have been very difficult for her father to let her go because it signified for him the loss of her dependence.  She documented her find and decision to unearth it when she could have gone fishing as she had planned. It would be getting dark soon she should feed the dogs, as well has herself before getting to bed. She noticed the dogs were nowhere in sight. She whistled for them to no avail. She called out for them, again, to no avail. She didn’t know why, but she had a strong feeling they were both at her dig site.  She headed over to where it was concealed when she spotted Bo and DIddley sitting perfectly still, yet alert, facing the exposed stone. She walked over to them and started to pet them, yet they did not break their gaze at the object.  She looked to where her dogs were looking and noticed an imperfection on the smooth surface, just at the earth-line, of what appeared to be a carved form. She jumped into the hole and took a closer look to find it was a carving. Using her fingers as a trowel, she dug to expose it further. The carving was roughly a foot tall and resembled a warrior of some form. The warrior had an elaborate headdress with a large dagger in one hand and a long spear in the other.  It appeared to be dancing. 

She knew at that moment she needed to come back again soon, this time with proper tools. She wondered what wonders lie below the undisturbed surface.  She quickly ran back to the camp and grabbed her journal, she needed to draw it.  Maybe, before she returns, she can see if there is anything like it on record at the library. She was definitely excited. 

She made the long trek home, after breaking camp, and had a lot of time to think about her find. She decided to keep it a secret.  It was her place and hers alone.  After all, she was a warrior like her find. No one, as far as she knew, had ever stepped foot there because of the remoteness. Cattle didn’t stray there because of the almost impassible areas and the absence of scrub grass to feed.   

At the end of the week, school would let out for the summer and now she knew what she would be doing. She would take the time before the weekend to plan more precisely. She decided she would also find out what archeologist do to excavate sites. She would do it by the book, in case it led to a being one officially.  She would excavate with care, but the remote nature of the site precluded her from prolonged visits, so she also had to move more quickly than she cared to.  She believed her father would approve of another camping trip this week end. It was then, that she also decided to dedicate her journal to this project alone. It will document everything.

Victoria was right her father gave his permission for another camping trip. When Saturday morning came around she had to hitch a pack horse in order to get everything there. She took stakes and flags, balls of twine for grid work, shovels and hoes, picks and paintbrushes for fine excavating. She also packed a first aid kit because she knew she would need it. All of this would be left on site, but none of the ranch hands would notice them missing. She also brought her dads camera to photo document. 

Identifying the carving artisan was proving to be harder than she thought. The oldest structures anywhere near her were the Aztec ruins, yet the building style was all wrong. The Aztecs built using small bricks and just the amount of the slab she exposed was already larger than those. She didn’t know how long or how big this stone was but will eventually. To make sure, she also brought along tape measures in various lengths including a simple classroom ruler (for photo comparisons). She also took the time to dutifully enter into her ledger, the complete inventory of supplies she would utilize. Before putting her journal into her pack, she reopened it, paused to consider the words she would write, and made an entry. This entry was important to her, a sort of “Mission Statement” if you will, to guide her behavior moving forward.  She was mindful that the site might be from Native American, so she would immortalize this knowledge and promised to preserve completely and intact, whatever she found.  She also vowed to divulge this site to her father if she was convinced it was Native American. Now, onward, to the site.

 

Buddy

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Christine Yellow Hawk is like most little girls who just turned 12, she is headstrong. She is tough and can handle herself as best as they can, from the Reservation that is. There’s certain notoriety in being a Native American that cut both ways. The first, being a part of storied history steeped in mysticism, while the second is kicking it with your “Homies from the Rez.”

In the beginning, opening Casinos on the white man’s land was viewed with distrust by some of the elders who clung to their ancient history, but in the end it enriched all of their lives in big ways. The money allotted to her family, as part of the overall tribe, was like a windfall. Christine’s dad wasn’t like most of the other men of his time, because he was always working and saving to provide a rich and stable heritage. She had all the trappings that a girl would want and a rich allowance that her father made her invest half of, every Friday. She fought it at first and even called it fascistic, but every time she looked at her balance statement each month, it added up quickly. She found a sense of pride for making such good decisions, with her dad’s input, of course.

This afternoon she was going into town with the remainder of her money, to the mall.  There is this new “Palm Reader” business that opened a couple of days before, and all of her friends were talking about it because the owner was not an Indian, but they all wanted to go anyway. 

It was her turn in the chair across from Madame Viola, with four girlfriends squirming in their chairs and giggling at her. She shot them a glance that, given her distinct facial features, made them quiet down so she could have her experience. In anticipation of this visit, Christine had to consider the questions she would ask. This had to be thought out precisely. Asking incorrect questions only ensures the session is, for her, a dull one. Viola reached and took Christine’s hands into hers and bowed her head in concentration. Christine mimicked her every move. When Viola looked up she turned Christine’s wrists over and exposed her “life lines” in her palms.

Christine was about to blurt out her first question because the pregnant pause in Viola’s action caused her to panic, sort of, when Viola said in a loud voice, “Save the Dog.” Again, a pregnant pause! This gave her time to think about the dog vision that just “popped” into the front of her thoughts. The vision was so strong that she could describe him by memory. Suddenly, in all of its horror, she knew what it meant.

He didn’t pick Buddy, the neighbor’s dog, the dog picked him. It was a convenient set up for Christopher, the neighbor, to simply knock on the door at any time without notice and Buddy will have a buddy.  So imagine his surprise one day while he waited for Buddy’s owner to retrieve him when a knock at the door, and three hours later than he would have wanted. He swore as he opened the door, but instead of Christopher with some lame excuse coming off his moving lips, stood a couple of detectives. They filled the entire door frame and gave him a start and mumbled something about soup. That is when they decided to be the ones asking the questions. They informed me they were investigating the death of one Christopher Crowder earlier in the evening. They did so with all the aplomb of a deformed yellow table gourde. I told them I was dog sitting for Mr. Crowder and thought it was him at the door, when you knocked. 

He immediately thought about Buddy. So, he asked if he could just keep the animal until things get sorted out, which they were all for. He told them everything I knew about this neighbor, which didn’t amount to anything but passing exchanges involving a leash and a doe-eyed Labrador. Buddy didn’t mind and took it in stride with a stretch of his hind legs as he lay about the couch.

He saw the good detectives on their way and turned to face Buddy as the dog turned completely on his back with legs splayed wide. Looks like a talk is in order, he thought to himself and sat on the couch next to him, and his eyes told him he was happy. He told him about Christopher, his master, dying ,and this was met with a good strong licking of his exposed parts.

Normally, given all possible responses, this display of cleanliness would be inviting but, not so much as it is inappropriate to watch. Buddy then put his paws over his ears, like telling him he has heard enough.  “Ok, some ground rules,” he said out loud, to probably the recliner across the room. 

He was about to sit down for the evening in his favorite chair when he heard knocking sounds coming from the hallway. He got up after the second round of forceful banging coming from his neighbors door.  The sound of his door opening caused the young Indian girl to pause just as her knuckles were about to meet wood for the third time.  She looked older than he knew she should be because the aura she gave off was impressive. 

“Can I help you?”  He offered.

“I’m looking for my brother Christopher, he lives here but I haven’t been able to speak with him. Do you know him?” she asked.

Oh, boy.  When he decided to get to the door instead of plopping into the recliner he had planned on, he wasn’t thinking about having to break the news to a family member of a recently departed brother.  This kind of conversation is to be avoided at all cost, yet he finds himself ready to divulge the bad news and get it over with, because of Buddy.

“Well, yes I know him. In fact, I am still watching his dog buddy. I don’t know how else to tell you, but your brother is dead.” There, he said it!  He got it out into the big blue, so to speak.  As soon as he heard the words falling out of his pie hole, he offended every sensibility there is to mankind.

“Dead?” she cried out, almost tantrum-like.

He motioned for her to come down to his place and meet Buddy and for everyone to remain calm. He would tell her everything he knew about Christopher, and not the detective version. He put his arm over her shoulder to give comfort, when Christine’s brother’s door opened, much to their surprise. The man stepped out into the hallway and immediately set his eyes upon them. He was turning in their direction and produced a gun from his leather coat. 

“Where is the dog”? the man asked forcefully.

They both stood frozen in their tracks with that “deer in the headlight” look in their eyes. Neither spoke to answer the big man’s question.

“Look, don’t give me any crap. I know you have the dog because I overheard you a moment ago. Now, fetch me the dog, I want its collar,” he said as if feigning no interest in the animal itself.

That was music to his ears. He would get the collar and get this man on his way. He ushered Christine inside his apartment and turned to tell the man with the gun he would have his collar in a moment.  Unfortunately, this only angered the man, and he followed them into the apartment, his gun still trained on them. Once inside, the man got antsy, and once he saw Buddy, he shot him down. He walked over and unhitched his collar to heft it, as if to weight it against something in his mind. He stood up and strolled out of the apartment without uttering a single word.

Christine immediately went to Buddy and sat on the floor next to him looking at his wounds. He was still alive. She placed her hands over his body and started chanting, no, channeling her ancestors. Suddenly, beneath her hands, above his wounds, a light omitted brightly. The light kept getting brighter and brighter until it shown like a super nova exploding in the cosmos. It ended in a large flash-like emission, sending the room in semi-darkness again.  Buddy came to life with an exuberance that ebbed out every pore in his body. Someway, somehow, Christine healed his wounds.

The trip to the “palm reader” came to mind, when Viola had said, “Save the dog.” The unusual visit to something so foreign to her heritage actually was the impetus to find her true Indian self, a healer.

It doesn’t matter what path you are on as long as it is true to your heart.  A dark path leads to dark places. Buddy, was her “light.”

From my lips, to your ears

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As Lucinda Johnson waited during her introduction to the packed audience of the National Press Club, she knew her speech would be important. She was the youngest African American female to address the historic venue to be honored. Every US President since Roosevelt has spoken here, as well as monarchs, prime ministers, and members of Congress.  Though only sixteen years old, she understood that in this day and age, she is considered by those in attendance, a “cultural trifecta”. As the thunderous applause ensued after her introduction, she ventured to the podium and tried to hold her head as high as possible. This was an attempt to subdue her fear of having to speak in front of such a large group of dignitaries. She simply stood at the podium, set her speech down, and spoke. 

“I am humbled to be here today. I stand here on my Momma’s shoulders (the audience applauded).  It is said, “we don’t pick our family”.  Ever since I was a young girl (the audience laughed at the irony), I had a lot of time to write because my Momma was always absent. I never knew my Father. My Momma was mentally ill and a drug addict. She just died recently from AIDS. I didn’t know this wasn’t normal. Because of her disability, I was homeless a lot and ate from trash cans. The only escape I had was my schoolwork. The book I wrote, “The Potters Field Project”, is a testament to my Momma in spite of her painful life. When Momma was still alive, I learned my grandfather was living in care home six miles from the condemned apartment we were squatting in. I was 14 when I found out he existed. 

The very idea of having a Grandfather intrigued me enough to seek him out on my own. I found he was in a nursing home for the poor. I cobbled enough bus money to get there and found myself sitting in waiting area. There were old people sitting in wheel chairs everywhere, and the smell of urine bit my nose like the smell of ammonia. The people I saw that day didn’t have a life like we know it, it was as if they were waiting to die. I was saddened by the neglect and fearful for my Granddaddy.

As I waited for the staff to wheel my grandfather out to the common area, I decided to talk to a woman that sat expressionless, facing the window, looking out in the small and unkempt patio area just beyond. I introduced myself and in return received a blank stare. I took a piece of hard candy that I had brought to give to my Grandpa and offered it to her, and this gesture woke her to my presence. The arrival of my grandfather interrupted us, and I gave her a hug and spent three hours that day with Grandpa. He was so happy to get a visit and we talked and talked.

The following Saturday I came back, and as soon as I arrived the woman I had befriended the last time I was there beamed a big smile at me.  I walked over and gave her another piece of candy, which she took with excitement. It seems I had made a friend. We talked the whole time until my Grandfather came into the room. I had learned she use to be a “field nurse” during WWII in Africa. She told a story of the time she saved a young man’s life, only to have the same man die in her arms a year later in the same hospital. She was also a writer like me, but of poetry. Her name was Bernice. Then a funny thing happened. When I arrived at the home, a week later, there was Bernice with another lady, to meet me.  She, like Bernice, had a story to tell about her life. Bernice had befriended the elderly and frail woman during the week since I visited.  Mattie was alone and depressed with loneliness like an elephant in captivity separated from her baby. I cherish those days spent with my Granddaddy, but what started with getting to know him also allowed me to interact with these other people as well. There is almost an order to unintended consequences, for lack of a better term, in allowing me to absorb their life stories. I asked Bernice to help and work with others during the week. I gave her candy and paper to aid in her task. The change in Bernice was remarkable. She cried, in happiness when I asked her to do this for me. It was our little project, and she had a purpose to her time. For the first time in a long time she was no longer lonely. In turn, those she interviewed during the week were also coming to life again. My lips, to your ears!

Management of the center took notice of the dramatic change of atmosphere among their charges. They began offering daily hair care for the patients, and by the fourth week of my visits I could no longer smell the stench of urine. Where once I would have arrived to neglect and apathy, I now found life inside those walls. This is the real story behind the book, the wholesale changes to improve the quality of life for future “Potters field residents”. 

The immediate impact of the unforeseen results I witnessed with the residents also had an empowering effect on me. Standing on my Momma’s shoulders, I realized that in return for the quest to get to know my own family, I found the fascinating and compelling stories of others.  For the first time in a long time, in our own way, we have elevated our elders to a new level of respect and gratitude. Sure, they were poor at the end of their lives, but we all come into this world without a single possession. Allowing them an opportunity to share their stories provided them the means to pass their meaning on to us. What greater gift could we give them than this?

(The center erupted in thunderous applause that turned into a standing ovation) 

If you’ve read my book, you know the rest of the story. In all, over the two years until my Granddaddy died, I had collected 29 life stories. These are our elders, and soon to be our ancestors. We are the legacy of their time on earth.  How far we have fallen to allow people to be erased in the sands of time?  Fittingly, the first story in the book is of my granddaddy.

I stand here before you as a testament to his life. Without him, you would not be sitting here today to hear his words, his stories. We cannot choose who will be our families, but we can choose to learn from them. We can learn from their paths, struggles, and accomplishments to break the cycles we seem hopelessly caught in. Progress does not end with an individual’s life because life marches on. When my Grandfather died in that home, his bed was quickly filled with another story. A story that has yet to be told! 

In closing, I have decided to go to college to earn a journalism degree in order to ensure that our heritage isn’t treated like a warehouse. Thank You!”

Lucinda stood there overwhelmed by the sustained ovation that didn’t subside for five minutes. At the dinner party there was talk of a Pulitzer and offers from colleges (of her choice, including Ivy League).  She was beginning to feel a little guilty about all the big things about to come her way, but was determined to keep telling the stories that needed to be kept alive. She was only 16, and her story is still being written. And she would make sure to show just whose shoulders she was standing on—the name for a foundation came to her: “The Potter’s Field Project”.

 

The Two Lives of Barton Crick

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A confidential informant provided Constable Crick with the crucial piece of information he needed to bring down a gang that had been plaguing his community for a long time.  The nondescript building in the old warehouse district was surrounded by heavily armed men sufficient in numbers to breach the building and arrest those responsible.  It was decided that they would quietly enter through different sides of the building because of the dangerous nature of these particular criminals and their penchant for violence.  They also wanted to bring their leader, Archibald Prentiss, to justice alive if possible.  Things didn’t go as planned.  Shots rang out and chaos ensued.  The remaining men stationed outside stormed the building and joined fray.  Barton Crick was one of those men.  He wanted Archibald all to himself because his blatant disregard of the law was personal, and Crick always got his man.  As soon as he entered the interior, he saw his quarry climbing a metal ladder leading to a catwalk above the floor.  Archibald was not being pursued by any of his men because they were engaged in the violent firefight.  Though shots were whizzing around him, Crick holstered his weapon and began to climb the ladder in hot pursuit.  The older Archibald was no physical match for the younger Crick as he was closing the gap between them.  His men had the situation under control and arrests were occurring on the floor below.  Now he had his man trapped at the end of the catwalk with nowhere to run.  Archibald wasn’t finished yet, and with a tip of his hat in Cricks direction,  as if bidding him adieu, crashed through the window behind him, falling some 35 feet into the cold waters below.  Crick swore under his breath and called for his men to search for Archibald along the river banks.  The sweet hands of justice would have to wait yet again.

Later that evening, as his head hit the pillow, he thought of Archibald and understood his foe was a clever criminal, but in the end, he would pay for his crimes.

Barton Crick had possessed an active imagination since he was a little boy.  At first he thought that they were just wonderful dreams of an imaginary place in another world.  His parents were amused by his tales when he was awake, but after a while they became quite concerned with his mental health.  He really had it good in those younger years, the best of both worlds as they say, but that all changed with the concern his parents had.  He learned to keep his worlds separate as an endless stream of doctors began to invade his waking world.  Those doctors would come and go as they tried to cure him of this affliction.  He was diagnosed as bi-polar; schizophrenic; psychotic, and finally dual personality.  With each doctor that came and went, so did the medications they prescribed to keep his other world at bay.  The medications didn’t work on him, of course, because he didn’t have a mental condition but, a temporal one.  This kind of condition didn’t require a PhD, it required a quantum physicist. 

Each night when he went to sleep he would transport his waking self to this other realm, leaving his body behind as a place mark like you would fold a corner of an unfinished paper novel.  If it weren’t for the other world and its wonder and promise, this world’s troubles would have been a little hard to deal with. 

Sometimes he wished he could sleep forever in this world, so he could be in the other all of the time.  In this world he couldn’t be himself because the medications altered his energy to the point he was nothing more than a 160-pound paperweight.  After a while, his parents had him committed to the Billings Hospital for the mentally ill.  That was fine with him, because he could sleep more and more.  The problem was the more he slept here, the more ambitious his doctors became in their desire to curing his malaise.  The Group therapy sessions as well as the intense individual sessions with psychiatrists were wearing him down to the point that he was starting to believe them when they said his alter ego, and the world it inhabited, was all in his sick mind.  He was no longer the boy with fanciful dreams, but a 30 year old man with serious mental health issues.  In his youthful days it was easy to discount adults because honestly, how could they know what was in his mind?  But, as an adult, he saw things in a different and logical light.  The alter ego, as they called it, smells; tastes; loves; cries and does everything else associated with normalcy.  How could he make them understand it was reality?  The quick answer was ‘he couldn’t.’

He needed to sleep.  Archibald was still at large, or at least he was when he laid his head to sleep in that world.  The only thing that could keep him away from sleep was to stand in line and ingest what was dispensed from a little white paper cup.  While waiting, it dawned on him that Archibald had just lost his base of operations and most of his ill-gotten gain in the raid, so he would be off his game.  Depending on how many men he lost he would be desperate to regain that which he lost, Barton knew his next move, and once asleep, would flip into that world to be where he needed to be.  It was strange because in the other place, he really had the most to lose.  His wife and child resided with him by the purple lake called Epsilon in the house that was built with his own two hands.  He coveted the life that was so rich in everything he lacked in this one.  You would think he would have chosen a safer profession there, but he was incapable of complacency because complacency was his identity here.  He had the ability to fight for what was true and just, and had the reputation anyone here would be envious of.  Not once had he given thought to the consequences of dying in the other perfect world.  What would happen here?  Perhaps he should be a little more careful instead of running around warehouses with bullets flying all around.  It never occurred to him before then. 

The line was going slowly, but he eventually found himself standing on the other side of the dispensing window when the nurse looked up at him from her sheet. “Ah, Mr. Crick”, she said, like a snake hissing prior to striking its prey.  “It looks like we have a change in medication for you today, now that your new doctor has reviewed your charts.”

“I don’t have a new doctor.”  Barton countered.

“Yesterday you didn’t, but today, you do!”  She hissed again.

She tapped the sheet with her sausage-like fingers as if saying paper does not lie. 

“It would appear your current treatment regimen has not improved your condition sufficiently so a new doctor has been brought in.  He is quite an impressive man, very clever you know?  He has all the answers.  The good news is that in an hour you will get to meet him in person.  His new treatment regimen is contrary to everything you have experienced since your arrival.”  She proclaimed proudly.

“I am telling you, I do not have a new doctor and I must go to sleep soon. I do not want to have a session with someone when I should be sleeping.”  He said pleadingly.

He had no choice, as two burly aids standing on each side of him loomed in case of resistance.  He took the pills, downed them, then padded back to the common room and waited.  It didn’t take long, as all of the other patients on the wards on his unit were systematically herded into their rooms like compliant cattle to the slaughter house.  Each and every one of the patients was going to sleep and apparently, he was not.

An hour later, the same two goons who convinced him to take his medicine were there to escort him to meet the new and clever doctor.  While padding his way through the mazelike corridors he noticed that his new medication was having a different effect on him.  He didn’t feel the normal drowsiness that quickly followed his ingestion of medication.  In fact he felt energized, edgy and very alert.  It was this type of affect that would counter his ability to sleep.  Dread crept in with the realization his doctor’s treatment was meant to keep him from sleeping.

He approached the door of his new doctor, which was emblazoned with the name, “Archibald Prentiss, PhD”

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