A Walk among the Trees…unedited…

There’s this area I walk from time to time. To get away, to reset my mind and body, to hear something other than the screeching of modern life. In this vast park, I find my soul. 

I’m overdue for a walk among the trees. The serene bubbling of rushing water is calming to my harried mind. These ‘hot button issues’ can wait, the demand for conformity or exile is not more pressing than my mental health. 

Modern life is a major disappointment. 

My imaginings from my youth concerning the future were filled with flying cars, and metropolitan cites built in outer space. Underneath the waves of the oceans, far below the pressures of life, we’d spread out in cities like ants. 

Popular Mechanics fed my fascination with the possibilities of what mankind could achieve. Mother Nature taught me that life is random and far too rushed. It’s in the moments of silence that peace is found. In the bubbling of a stream, dreams play out. 

Peace is a word people throw out with little regard to it’s meaning. The word means, “a state of tranquility or quiet.” In the rushing of modern life, we lose our peace. It’s impossible to secure tranquility when the media is shouting about who we should hate next.

Only in silence do we find peace. I plan to go find some today. My mind needs to relax, my thoughts are scattered. The world sometimes is a horrible place, and people react, and overreact, by saying horrible things. 

As Adam Baldwin said in the film Serenity, “you’re about to damage my calm.” I’m there today. Tomorrow will be better, and if it’s not, I’ll go for a walk.

Thermopolis Konan and The 112th Files…unedited…

I drove us back to the parking garage and killed my truck. Ashley leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek. I grinned like an idiot, but dang if it didn’t feel good. 

“I’ll see you later, Thermopolis,” Ashley said as she climbed out of my truck. “Take care of yourself, and thanks for lunch.”

“Anytime.”

I watched as Ashley sashayed away, then drove to my home on the outskirts of Fredericksburg. After I showered and washed the day’s grime off of my body, I stretched out on the couch. I turned on cartoons and closed my eyes. 

A deep sleep fell over me, but I dreamt of monsters. Some raced naked through the streets, others died strapped to five-gallon buckets and holes shot through their heads. As one lied dying it muttered, “who does such a thing?”

I woke up in the dark of my living room and listened. From outside of my trailer, I heard someone yelling my name. 

“Thermopolis, get up! There’s been another murder.”

“And?”

“What do you mean? You’re expected at the crime scene,” Rama shouted. 

For not the first time, I considered walking away from my career in law enforcement. Where we once were all equal under the law, now, the law didn’t touch those who committed the most egregious crimes, so long as they had enough money to purchase their freedom.

Jail sentences and other penalties only applied to the lower caste, even if the rich or celebrated got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, the worst they’d suffer was a fine or a slap on the wrist.

It was enough to make a man sick. 

The pollution of the justice system had corrupted every aspect of it. Even the highest institutions of the land had been tainted by the demoralization of the system and its caretakers.

“I don’t care, Rama. Go on without me. Text the directions to me.”

“I’m here now, Konan. Why are you being difficult?”

I opened my door and gave him a forced smile. He stepped back and glared at me. 

“Because I don’t trust you, Rama. See you at the crime scene,” I said as I shut the door. 

Snatched…the conclusion…unedited…

Captain Walters led Titus to his quarters. A splendid meal was placed on the dining table. Walters sat at the head of the table and gestured for Titus to sit at the end. 

“When will we arrive in Havana, Captain Walters?”

Walters smiled and cut into the tender meat. He shoved a forkful of it into his mouth and chewed slowly. Titus didn’t like being ignored.

“We’ve got to make a quick stop in Pinar del Rio.”

Titus shook his head and stared at Walters. He took a sip of his wine and cleared his throat.

“Why? What’s in Pinar del Rio?”

“It’s a quick pick-up, and then we will finish our journey to Havana.”

“Okay.”

“Eat, my friend.”

Walters and Titus finished their meal and wine, and then had dessert. Titus put his hand on his head suddenly woozy. He tried to stand but the strength in his legs had waned. Titus looked at Captain Walter’s face, but it danced in his eyesight.

“Relax, my friend. Don’t struggle. Soon, your new life will begin.”

Two crewmen came in and half-dragged, half-carried Titus back to the hidden compartment. They shackled him in chains, and then exited the room.  Captain Walters waited for them on deck of the ship. 

“We arrive at Pinar del Rio in half an hour. Our guest will start his new life as property of Rakeem Mulholland.”

“Who is that?”

“Mulholland is a trafficker. He trades in human beings.”

“So, he’s like us?”

“Wealthier. We will drop anchor and take the ‘priest’ ashore in a raft. We hand him off, get paid, and then it’s to Havana for good food, beautiful women, and great cigars.”

The men chuckled and went back to their duties. Captain Walters went back to his quarters until time to go ashore. Jackson Titus struggled against the drugs that polluted his system. 

Minutes passed by as he tried to ward off the effects of the drugs. The engine speed decreased as the ship began to slow. 

Jackson Titus’s time had come.

The two crew members who’d carried him to his quarters returned and dragged him onto the deck. A group of sailors dropped the raft to the water, a ladder lowered to the watercraft. The driver climbed down into the raft and started the engines, one of the two men carried Titus down to the craft, Walters and another crew man joined them in the boat. 

“My friend,” Walters said smiling at Titus, “soon your new life begins anew.”

Titus said nothing but kept his eyes on the shore, looking for any escape route he might use to avoid slavery. A fleet of cars were pulled onto the shore. A gaggle of people stood to receive the boat. 

Dread filled the heart of Jackson Titus. 

As the craft approached the shoreline, the line was cast out and a man gripped it and pulled them to shore. 

“Captain Walters, this is the man who came to you for help.”

“Yes, Mr. Mulholland. He claims to be a man of God.”

“Hmm. What do you want for him?”

“The usual fare, if it please you.”

Mulholland gestured to a man who brought a suitcase. Walters opened it and checked the money. He nodded and secured it in his right hand. 

“Thank you, Mr. Mulholland.”

“Thank you.”

Captain Walters and his crew returned to The Silent Song. Mulholland turned to Titus and gave him a small smile. Titus’s heart raced with fear. 

“Mr. Titus,” Mulholland said in a cultured voice, “it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve need of someone with your specific skill set. You have a choice. Work with me and get well-compensated for your work or die here. You have two minutes to decide.”

Weapons swiveled toward Jackson Titus; the barrels lined up at his chest. He sighed and nodded. 

“Yes. I accept your offer.”

“Good choice. It’d be a shame to waste such talent.”

Two men escorted Titus to the back of a truck and shoved him into the back of it. Titus leaned against the cab. God only knew what they would want him to do, but it didn’t matter. His new life would soon begin.

Manson and Rankin returned home after not finding any clue of Jackson Titus. A month later, any leads Thermopolis and Lilly had generated dried up.

“We’re not going to find him are we Thermopolis?”

“No. Jackson Titus is gone.”

“He, Bronowski, and Elsa all killed Bradley Freeman, but Bronowski is the only one that will pay for it. This doesn’t feel like justice.”

I turned and faced Lilly and gave her a smile. God bless her. She still believed in justice for the victims, in the concept of balance in the universe and in the power of righteousness.

Her faith in the system was nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s too bad I couldn’t say the same thing about myself. It seemed the more we fought against the forces of darkness, the worse things became.

And things would only get worse.

Snatched…new writing, incomplete…unedited…

Rankin helped the kid up, and led him to one of the ambulances. I walked up to Manson.

“Where’s Lilly? Rankin said she’s okay.”

Manson wrapped her arm around my shoulders and gave me a squeeze. 

“She was conscious when the paramedics whisked her away. They took her to Memorial Hospital to get checked out. Chief Janko went with her.”

“Okay. I’ll head that way.”

“You’re such a softie, Konan. What happened to the perp?”

“He ran into a wall.”

“Yeah. Looks like he ran into it repeatedly.”

“The things people do for attention. I’ll catch you later, Manson.”

I caught a ride with an ambulance headed to Memorial. Janko was in the lobby grabbing a cup of coffee. 

“Slow down, hoss. Lilly’s in the ER.”

“I thought she was okay? You and Manson said she..”

Janko put his hand on Konan’s shoulder. He’d never seen Konan get emotional about anything. Judging from what Janko saw tonight, Konan would be a mess if he lost Lilly.

“The doctor is checking her out for a concussion. She will probably have to stay overnight for observation.”

“I need to stay here with her, Chief.”

“Sure. Take a few days.”

“I don’t need the days off, Chief. I need to make sure my partner is okay, then we’ll wrap this up.”

Janko and Konan sat in the lobby, each trapped within their own thoughts and worries, until a petite doctor stepped out into the hallway. She gave them a tired smile and walked toward them.

“How is she, doctor?”

“Chief Janko, she is in recovery. I expect that with plenty of rest and time to recover, Detective Thompson will make a full recovery.”

“Oh, thank God,” I muttered. Relief washed over me. I turned my head to keep them from seeing my tears. 

“You’re Detective Konan, right?”

“Yes, ma’am. I am.”

“Lilly said you would probably be out here. She asked to see you, however, you shouldn’t stay too long.”

“Are you going to keep her overnight? Can I stay with her?”

“If everything is okay, Detective Thompson will go home in the morning. She will get out of recovery and into a room in about an hour. You can stay in the room with her, if she wants.”

“Thank you, doctor. I’ll go see her now.”

I walked to the recovery room and pushed the double doors open. Lilly looked up from the bed, a bandage wrapped around her head and gave me a tired smile. 

“Hey, pard. How are you?”

“I’m okay, Lilly. How are you? How’s the head?”

“It feels like it stopped a brick.”

I laughed, and Lilly grinned. I took her hand, the one without an IV stuck in it, and held it. We sat that way for a moment. 

“Did you catch the perp?”

“I did.”

“Good.”

“The doc said you’d go to a room in about an hour. Do you want me to stay with you?”

“No. You need to get back to work, Konan. Our city is burning, our people are scared, and someone must find justice for Bradley Freeman’s family.”

“But…”

“No buts, Konan. I’ll return to work as soon as they release me. We need to wrap this up as soon as possible, or there won’t be a town left.”

“ Alright,” I sighed dejectedly.

Lilly’s eyes grew heavy as the medication kicked in. I waited until she went to sleep, then I slipped out. Janko waited in the lobby. 

“Is she okay?”

“Yeah, Chief. She told me to go to work, she’ll return as soon as she can.”

“We do need you, Konan. Fredericksburg needs you.”

“I’ll do what I can, Chief.”

Snatched…today’s writing…unedited…

Jeremiah stood in the living room and watched the thieves disappear in the wee hours of the morning. “How odd,” he thought to himself, “they didn’t even seem concerned that I would call the cops. That’s the strangest robbery ever…”

A noise sounded from the library, and Jeremiah turned. A small smile crept across his face, and he closed his eyes. 

“Get geared up,” Janko snarled. “State patrol is enroute. Tonight everyone is riot control. Let’s go!”

Konan, Lilly, Manson, and Rankin put on armor and jumped into the back of an armored vehicle. Between the television and radio reports it sounded as if the rioters had pushed the police into a corner. 

On the way to the scene, Janko briefed the back-up. He stood at the front and held on, as the driver crashed through makeshift barriers and burning husks of vehicles.

“We’re loading the injured officers into our vehicle. Off load, and support the weakest element. Tensions are already high, do not add to it. More people are on the way in,” Janko locked eyes with Konan and said, “try to de-escalate the situation. You understand, right? Bring the situation down a notch or two, DO NOT escalate it.”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“Do the opposite of what you normally do, okay?”

Manson and Rankin laughed, Lilly grinned, and Konan shook his head. “It’s not my fault I live in a society that refuses to listen and take orders,” Konan thought as he checked his weapon.

“Go, go, go,” Janko yelled as the vehicle stopped and the doors banged open. “Bring the wounded,” he yelled at the medics. A lit Molotov cocktail smashed into the armored door, as Lilly stepped out. Konan took aim and fired a beanbag round into the protestor, who crashed to the ground.

In the middle of the throng of people, a row of officers tried to hold off the rioters. The four detectives rushed forward and supported the officers. Punches collided with shields.

“Open,” Konan yelled. The shield bearers separated, and Konan snatched a protester behind the lines. More officers descended and supported the line. Lilly and Rankin snatched another protester behind the lines, Manson shouted, “close.”

The row solidified, as the three detectives handcuffed the perps. As the state patrol rushed into the area, the crowd broke up. A few stragglers tried to fight the good fight but were quickly subdued. 

As the riot police rested in place, Konan and Lilly shucked off their armor. Lilly pulled off her helmet and gave Konan a megawatt smile. 

“We do goo-”

Out of the shadows, a protester threw a broken brick and it collided with Lilly’s unprotected head. She slumped to the ground, her head bleeding profusely.

“Medic,” Manson shouted. “Get a medic over here, NOW.”

The protester raced down an alley, Konan and Rankin hot on his trail. Konan motioned for Rankin to cut the perp off at a cross street, as Konan made a right turn down another alley. The exit was bricked up, and the perp turned to face Konan, a KA-BAR fighting knife held in his right hand. 

“I already killed one cop, and I’m about to put another one’s name right here,” he said motioning to his right shoulder. “What’s your name, boy?”

“Death,” Konan said softly. 

The kid hesitated, and Konan took his shot. His right hook collided with the thug’s jaw, and the knife skittered away. Konan gripped the kid by the throat and slammed him against the wall. 

Holding the perp with his left hand, Konan rained punches into the kid’s face and throat. The perp gasped, Konan slammed back into the wall again, knocking the wind back into him. 

He dropped the kid to the pavement and stood over him. Konan kicked the knife over to him. 

“That cop you clocked with that brick is my partner. You’re not gonna survive this kid. The only chance you have is to pick up that knife.”

“You’ll kill me if I pick up the knife.”

“I’m gonna kill you regardless. You stand a better chance with the knife.”

“Come on, old man. Let’s see what color this little piggie bleeds,” the kid snarled as he grabbed the knife. He lunged at Konan, the blade extended in front of him. 

Konan stepped to the side, caught his wrist and twisted. With a violent yank downward, he broke the perp’s wrist, elbow and shoulder. The perp yelled in pain, as the kid lost his grip on the blade. 

“Konan, Lilly’s alright,” Rankin yelled, running into the alley. “She’s okay.”

Konan stepped toward the kid and soccer kicked him in the ribs and sent him flying into the brick wall. The kid collapsed unconscious to the ground.

“We need another rioter, Rankin. This one is broken.”

Snatched…new writing, unedited, incomplete…

At 0830, Lilly walked into the police precinct and made her a cup of coffee. Konan walked in just as she sat down. She blew on the coffee and watched as he poured himself a cup. 

After taking a sip, she called down to holding and had Bronowski brought up to an empty interview room. Konan and Lilly watched as the guards brought him up. Bronowski glared at them.

“Yep. He remembers you.”

“Are you sure he’s going to cooperate, Konan.”

“No. But I am sure we need him to.”

“Okay.”

An hour after Lilly let Bronowski sit in the empty room alone with his thoughts, she walked in and sat across from him. Bronowski glared at her. Lilly gave him an insincere smile.

The test of wills began. Neither spoke, so I walked in. Both gave me icy glares and then locked eyes again. 

“Lawyer,” Bronowski said.

I turned and walked out, after a moment Lilly followed. 

“He’s a hard-boiled egg, Konan. We’re not going to get anything out of him.”

“Give him what he wants, and we’ll try again.”

Annabelle Aramis walked into the murder room ten minutes later, dressed in the most recent fashion, her sandy blonde hair hung loosely to the middle of her back, her eyes cold and reptilian. 

“I’d like to speak to my client,” she lisped to the desk sergeant.

“Bronowski’s in room #3,” the desk sergeant clipped back. 

She walked around the corner of the desk and locked eyes with us. I gave her a small wave, she turned her nose up at my gesture. Lilly giggled. 

“You must’ve lost your mojo with the ladies, Konan.”

“Nah, man. She’s way out of my league. I can’t afford her company.”

Annabelle heard my comment and glared at me as she walked into the room. She slammed the door.

“Now look at what you’ve done,” Lilly said laughing. “You’ve gone and made her mad.” 

“Ah, she’ll be okay.”

We worked on other leads while Anabelle Aramis and Bronowski spoke. Something had to break, the tension in our town had grown to a fever pitch. 

Thanks to Reverend Alf and his band of goons, it would take time for things to return to normal. “IF things can return to normal,” I thought quietly.

Things worsened before things got better. It was within the natural order of things. The door to the murder room opened, and Mayor Ted Smith walked in.

“Is Chief Janko in?”

“Yes, sir. I can escort you…”

“I know where his office is, sergeant. Thank you.”

Mayor Smith gave Lilly and I a nod as he passed by. I nodded back. Lilly frowned as he walked by. 

“Strange seeing him out of the office,” she whispered. “He was all gung-ho back in the day.”

“Yeah. I reckon his first term had all the drama. His second term has been less drama-filled. I wonder what he wants?”

Nothing good ever came from a visit from Mayor Smith. It wasn’t if it was trouble, it was more a matter of how much.

There was nothing we could do, but wait and see.

Faithless…another new piece of writing…unedited…

We walked out of the Fredericks Building into the warm sunshine. Lilly got in on the passenger side, and I drove us toward the police precinct. 

“Do you think the board members know where the missing Trinity folks are hiding?”

“I think they’re dead.”

Lilly looked over at me and frowned. I gave her my best smile.

“You really think they’re dead?”

“Yeah. I think the killer is playing a game with us. They’ve revealed the first piece already.”

“Travis Franks.”

“Yeah.”

“How do you know this, Thermopolis?”

“It’s a theory. I don’t have anything solid to prove it, yet. However, look at how Travis Franks was killed.”

“His body was found on the tracks. Ashley can’t make heads or tails of it. We’re still waiting on her official report.”

“Exactly. The only thing that stood out at the scene was another set of prints that led to the tunnel. The same prints the rain washed out. Then, there’s also the way the body was revealed.”

“What do you mean?”

“The weather was insane, a Mississippi monsoon. It rained all night, and all the next day, and washed any evidence of foul play away.”

“Leaving the killer free to walk away.”

“Yes. If my theory is correct.”

“It makes a sick kind of sense, Konan. Here’s my question then, why would the board claim to know where the owners are? Why would they make us secure a warrant, and then not be able to show us the Trinity?”

“I don’t know. If it’s a bluff, it’s not a very good one. Unless they were telling the truth to begin with.”

“Well, I agree with your theory, but there’s only one way to know if your theory holds weight…”

“Let’s go get that warrant.”

Chief Janko sat in the Murder Room and waited for Konan and Lilly to arrive. He sniffed and propped his feet up on the detective’s desk. 

“I swear to God, these two are always stirring up something. I should fire them both.”

“Everything alright, Chief?”

Detective Manson stared at Janko, and he nodded his head. He suddenly felt much older than his 61 years. 

“Yeah. I’m just waiting for Thermopolis and Lilly to come in.”

“They’re up to their usual hi-jinks, I take it?”

“Yeah. They’re making me old before my time. Those two…”

“Are better than the rest of your detectives combined?”

“They are good detectives, Manson, but would it kill them to stay out of trouble? Does every day have to start with a calamity?”

Manson laughed and walked to her desk. It was true that the pair did stay in trouble, but Konan and Lilly were beyond competent. They’d solved many crimes in their few short years together. No matter what they had done, the town needed them prepped for the next case.

Even if the town didn’t know it, or the powers that be refused to acknowledge it.

Faithless…new writing, unedited…

“Travis Franks. You remember him?”

“Um, no. I remember Yvonne,” Konan said. Lilly rolled her eyes.

“How could you forget her? You panted after like a dog in heat.”

Ashley laughed, while Konan blushed red. He shook his head no but kept his mouth shut. 

“Okay, I guess we should go let Yvonne know that one of her club members are dead.”

I nodded and walked ahead of Lilly. She loved to give me a hard time, and every once in a while, I ribbed her back. Lilly rushed to catch up.

“Come on, Thermopolis. You can’t get upset that I mentioned that how you acted around Yvonne. You were so cute.”

“Lilly, don’t. Yvonne was reptilian.”

“But she’s beautiful…”

Yvonne was beautiful. She reeked of money and affluence, but along with the beauty was the snooty arrogance that seemed to come with wealth. 

We walked out to the vehicle, and I drove us to the country club. An old black man stood at the gate. He nodded at us when I pulled up. 

“Afternoon, detectives. Long time, no see.”

“Good afternoon, sir.”

“What brings y’all by today?”

“We need to speak to the owners.”

“Well, that might be a problem son. The owners aren’t in. Ms. Yvonne hasn’t been here in six months. The other two disappeared before her.”

“So, who’s running the club?”

“Ms. Yvonne had it set up that in the Trinity’s absence a chain of command so to speak runs it. They ain’t here either.”

“So, there’s no one to speak to in the building.”

“There’s a manager. She’s in.”

“That’ll work fine.”

“Okay. Go on up to the lot detective. The doormen can fetch you to her.”

“Thank you, sir. We appreciate the help.”

I drove the car up to the lot. Lilly stepped out and started for the door. I trailed behind her. One of the doormen put his hands up. 

“Members only. Show me your ID.”

“Mines bigger than yours,” Lilly said as she flipped open her badge. “Go get the manager.”

“Wait here.”

An elderly woman stepped out and fixed us with an ugly look. She gave the doormen a small wave of her hand, and they stepped back. 

“What?”

“Where are the owners,” Lilly demanded. “We need to speak to someone concerning a murder.”

“I am in charge here.”

“For how long?”

“Until one of the owners returns and takes back the power to run the club.”

“Where’s Yvonne?”

Lilly turned and looked at me. The manager shook her head and glared at me.

“She’s not returned, and I do not know where she is. You two need to leave her alone.”

“If you’re lying, you’re guilty of obstruction.”

The manager shrugged and turned to walk away, but Lilly stepped in front of her.

“Travis Franks was found dead. You remember him, don’t you?”

“I remember him. You say he is dead.”

“Yeah. He was either suicidal and leapt in front of a train, or someone killed him and then threw him in front of it.”

“I’m sorry he is dead.”

“Was Travis Franks married, ma’am?”

“Divorced.”

“Who gives you your orders?”

“The board members. The Trinity was the face of the club, the owners per se, but the board is the muscle behind the Trinity.”

“Where can we find them,” Lilly demanded. 

My partner was in rare form today. It took something drastic to make Lilly irate, but the arrogance seemed to infect everyone that worked here. From the janitor and housekeeper to the manager, they all acted as if it put them out to cooperate with us.

They all acted like mini-Trinity members.

“They are located in the Fredericks Building downtown. You’ll need an appointment to get in.”

“No, we won’t,” Lilly growled. “I’ve about had all I’m going to take of you pricks. All of you are subject to the law. Give me a reason to drag your butts downtown.”

I nodded toward the door, and Lilly stepped from in front of the manager. She stepped toward me, and the old woman turned and looked at us. 

“Next time you have questions, you can take it up with the Trinity’s lawyers. Here is their card.”

I took the card, and Lilly and I walked back to our car. She was muttering when I caught up with her.

“These freaking people,” she muttered. “They think they’re above the law…”

“Are you okay, Lilly?”

“Yeah. Every time we come out here it’s the same ole story. Even the employees are infected with this attitude that we can’t do anything to them. Tia’s gone, Yvonne’s gone, the Trinity may well be dead. And we have zilch to go on.”

I wrapped my arm around her and gave her a friendly squeeze. She plopped her head on my shoulder for a brief second,  then pulled away. 

“I need coffee.”

“Me too. My brain is frazzled.”

You’re what you do…unedited…

It’s funny how writing is sometimes free and flowing, and other times it’s like having all your teeth ripped out without any meds to deaden the pain.

Today is like the latter. 

My eye is drawn to a white envelope upon which I scrawled these words: “You are not what you say you are, you are what you do.”

Writers write. Even when you don’t feel like it, even when every word feels as if you must carve them from a granite slab with a plastic spork. 

I’m carving, I silently growl at myself. 

As is usual with a long piece of writing, A Walk in Darkness has slowed way down. I went to the library yesterday to focus on my mind on my task. 

When out of nowhere, an elderly man came over and made a series of calls. He was polite about it; he kept his voice low. When he was done, he stepped forward to apologize for interrupting me.

He hadn’t, but it was a nice gesture. We got started talking, and before long hours had passed. So much for my muse that lives in the library, or she whom I labeled ‘Library Goon #1.’

It was a nice visit, and I am honored that he chose to sit and talk to me. Come to find out, he was a doctor and traveled the world. We shared an interest in old authors and regaled each other with tales of our past. He was a good thirty years older than me and had lived a much more colorful life. I was entranced. 

After several hours passed, I took my leave and went home. I tapped out a few pages last night, but for some reason, today is just one of those days. 

Every word seems heavy, like wet gravel in a rucksack. Or a mislabeled set of dumbbells. Ah well, consistency is the key to success. 

Besides, if you only write on the days when it feels good, are you really a writer? Champions are defined by overcoming obstacles, heroes are defined by overcoming their archenemy, and writers are defined by writing when it feels as if the world has crashed at their feet. 

So, onward Buttercup! Forward to the next complete sentence, paragraph and page. 

Best of luck to you all. 

A few words of encouragement…unedited…

I woke to this thought this a.m. “We all tried harder when scraps were all we had to offer, but all too often our best efforts ended in failure.”

For some reason, I seem stuck in this point of ‘doing your best.’ This is not the first time I’ve sat at my computer and typed something like this.  I doubt this marks the last time I write about it.

According to a precursory check of the internet, the poverty line for a one-person income is 13, 590 dollars in 48 states, in Alaska it’s 16,990, and in Hawaii it’s 15,630 dollars. I doubt their absolute best resembles anything like mine, or those who reside in the upper brackets of financial security.

But still, each person should put forth their best effort. The question is why should we give maximum effort?

This is where I’m going to speculate and opine. To me, giving your best sets you apart from your peers. Anyone who’s worked in the public sector has seen those who just go through the motions and has probably on more than one occasion had to clean the mess left by these types of folks. 

They whip about all willy-nilly, not caring who they harm or impede. Generally, they’re the first to step on someone else to climb to the next rung of the ladder and are usually unwilling to help someone else in their struggle to improve their standing.

Excellence is a habit. 

I saw a meme a while back, and it was two characters talking to one another. One asked, “what does a new year bring?” To which the other said, “365 brand new opportunities.”

It’s a matter of perspective but that’s the truth of it. Every day we wake up, we have a fresh 24-hours to improve our lot in life.  I’ve followed Elon Musk becoming the majority shareholder in Twitter with some interest recently. He showed up at the building on a Saturday. When everyone else was at home, sleeping or just lazing about, he went to work. 

To me, that’s the difference between success and failure. You show up every day, work toward your goals, and do the things no one else is willing to do, and you will find success. Stephen King once said/wrote, “talent is great, but it won’t carry a quitter.”

It’s okay to take a break. Sometimes, we need to step back and reassess, but there’s a difference between taking a break and quitting. There’s a thin line between making it big, and not finding success. It’s usually found in our willingness to go the extra mile. 

This ‘brief posting’ has gotten long in the teeth, so I will summarize by saying this: Do the work no one else will do, be consistent, and work until your dreams come true. Then, keep going.

I wish you all good tidings and much success. 

Freeman

My trip to the library….unedited…

Good afternoon. 

Earlier today, I posted a piece of a writing about rewriting AWID. Apparently, as I was writing, I received a message on my phone from my local library.

“Larry,” Mrs. Beverly drawled into my voicemail. “Those Civil War books you wanted are now available. We’re closing at three this afternoon, swing by if you have time.”

I swung by. Now, five boxes lie on my rug. Each are filled with tomes of writings stretching from the academic side of the spectrum to humor written by Lewis Grizzard, to the photographed history of the Civil War up to Vietnam. Also in the boxes was poetry by Frost, Whitman, Dickinson and Rudyard Kipling. 

I love my librarians. They’re amazing humans, gatekeepers of the world of knowledge. It might not be an understatement to say I’m a bit spoiled. 

Most of the books I ended up with today hasn’t been checked out since the late 1980s. Some even before then. 

There were even how-to books on how to build a log cabin from scratch, how to cultivate successful gardens, how-to build your own traps and hunting equipment, plus more. 

The threat of wind has arrived. My tin roof is doing the wobble, wobble, wobble. Sometimes it sucks living in a wind tunnel. 

But I’m safe at home, coffee in hand, about to delve into these books and see what new thing I can learn. 

Y’all be careful out there. 

A piece of writing as I take a break from AWID…unedited…

I am in my library trying to rewrite A Walk in Darkness. I’m trying, I really am. 

The memory of my war is still fresh after all this time. I write some, cry, and write some more.

Even as I write this story, again, for not the first time either, people are dying in Ukraine.  The President is meeting with Zelensky. Meanwhile, innocent people are trapped in between two sides ferociously fighting each other. One side is fighting to preserve their way of life, the other side, heck I don’t know what the other side is doing.

Their situation reminds me of Fallujah. 

Innocent people were there too. Trapped between us and the insurgents. Planes dropped pamphlets instructing the innocents to get out of Dodge. I’ve often wondered, where did we think they’d go?

If they tried to leave, the insurgents would kill them. If they somehow managed to get out of the city without dying or losing their family in a hail of gunfire, how would we have known they were who they claimed to be?

I guess I’ll never have an answer to those questions, because no one tried to get out. And what happened there, happened. I’m sure the Ukrainians probably feel the same way those innocent people felt as we closed in. 

I’m too old to fight another war. It hurts to get out of bed, and I struggle to stay asleep. Grouchiness isn’t useful in a war. 

All I can do is pray and send care packages. I hope this crap gets ended, sooner rather than later. But I fear it is only just beginning.

I’m writing about Fallujah in A Walk in Darkness, and I suppose that’s why I wrote this piece of writing. No matter how much things change, the excuses we use to justify violence and murder stay the same. 

Back to writing AWID. You guys take care.

A Walk in Darkness…the nitty gritty…unedited…

Our new home sat on the corner of two major routes through the city of Baghdad. Along one, they built three bases along it. Each camp housed a major Army battalion, along with several other units. Each camp had a specific purpose. The largest sat at the end of the route, and it was an air base. 

For the first couple of months, it was business as usual. I ran convoys along the route, took people to the airport, and escorted civilian trucks to and from destinations. 

Every night it seemed like we got attacked, mostly through indirect fire. As we rode through these neighborhoods, kids would run out to the side of the road and yell, “Mister, mister, chocolate!” I got a kick out of it because they pronounced it ‘choc-o-latte.’

And it seemed like every time they ran out to greet us, something bad followed. IEDs would explode, gunfire rained into the convoys, or the vehicle gunner’s head would get cut off by fishing line underneath overpasses. 

You can only see so much of this crap before it takes a toll on you. I dreaded seeing children. 

Of course, we weren’t the only unit assigned to this corner of hell. Some National Guard types ran convoys from the key air base. More often than not, we had to stop and pick them up because they ended up shot up, blown up, and worse. 

We were hauling unserviceable furnishings left by the previous unit to the air base, when we came upon a group of soldiers huddled in the middle of the road. 

Two of their vehicles had got shot up, the gunners of the two vehicles got trapped between the crew-serve weapon pedestal and the fender well of an unarmored Humvee.

Blood soaked the road, dark pools covered the remnant of asphalt. The soldiers had blood all over them. We stopped and helped secure the site. I crawled in between the pedestal and wheel well and helped dislodge the gunner. His left leg had twisted and broken. He kept saying, “moody.” Or at least I think that’s what he said. 

Three of us helped lift him above our heads and onto some broken washers and dryers. We rushed into the air base in search of the medical tents. Meanwhile, one of our guys shoved tampons into his open wounds. 

We couldn’t find the medics. Finally, we saw a woman running for PT, and we stopped her. 

“Ma’am, where’s the medical tents?”

She stared at our convoy leader like she hadn’t heard him. It made me angry, so I jumped out of my vehicle’s driver’s seat, took her by the hand, and led her to the back, where this soldier cried in pain.

“You see that, you stupid broad? That’s an American soldier that’s wounded. Dig your head out of your butt and tell me where to take him.”

That’s the polite version of what I said. She directed us to the nearest medical tent, and we got him squared away. 

Inside the tent was chaos. Wounded lay on stretchers, groaning, crying for their mothers, wives and children. It hurt me to my core to see it. 

A doctor waved us to an open litter, and we carried the soldier to it. I’d never seen such despair in a man’s eyes before. He looked at me, sighed, and went to work. 

Everywhere I looked, I saw exhaustion. It was on the face of every nurse and doctor. I walked out into the heat and covered my face with both hands. 

“Don’t cry. Keep it in, use it.”

I could smell the blood on my hands. It was on everything. Blood caked the washers and dryers. Crimson had leaked onto the side of the truck. The guy that treated the soldier on route to the tents had blood all over him.

“Is he gonna make it?”

“Only God knows, brother. Come on, we’ve gotta move.”

It was just another day in hell. 

The Rainy Ripper…further scrubbing of the opening….

“Rain. Why not? There is nothing like investigating a murder in the middle of a freaking hurricane.” Thermopolis Konan lifted his collar to shield his neck from the deluge. His ride should have been here ten minutes ago. “It’s always the same crap; make the new guy wait.”

An unmarked Crown Vic pulled up next to the curb. The driver rolled down the passenger window about an inch. A curly haired brunette sat behind the wheel.

“Are you Detective Konan?”

“Yeah, the wet version.”

“Get in.”

Konan got in and the brunette extended her hand. Konan shook it.

 “I’m Lilly. They have paired us up for partners. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, you to.”

“Sorry I am late. I stopped to get us coffee, and the bottom fell out while I was inside.” She handed him a lukewarm cup of coffee. “You drink coffee, right?”

“I do. Thanks for making the gesture.” 

She handed him sugar and cream. “I didn’t know what you took in it, so I brought everything.”

“Just sugar. A lot of sugar.”

They mixed their coffees and Lilly made small talk. She looked at Konan from time to time to see if he was listening. He never seemed to be lost. So far, so good.

“So, you came to us from 112th.”

“Yeah.”

“I heard that it’s a great department.”

“No, you haven’t. They are chewed up.”

“Yeah, that’s what we heard over at the 117th. I was trying to tiptoe around it, but you’re like a bulldozer in a trailer park.”

“Let me guess, you were told I betrayed my last partner, right?”

“Yeah, that’s the rumor that’s going around.”

Konan nodded his head. “Figures.” Lilly started the car and drove. The rain had not let up any. Heavy raindrops crashed into the windshield; the wipers slapped it away. Konan listened to the sound of the wipers for a while.

“So, did you betray your partner?”

“No. I turned him in for corruption. He took bribes from politicians, abused his authority, broke all the rules, and tried to set me up to take the fall for all of it.”

“Why did they send you to us?”

“Who’s the victim?”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay.”

Lilly guided the car into an all-night convenience store. The pair walked into the store. Broken liquor bottles littered the floor. The potent smell of whiskey saturated the air. 

A young officer stopped them short of the ticker tape. Lilly forced a smile at him. “I’m Detective Lilly Thompson,” she said. “This is Detective Konan.” The officer broke into a laugh. 

“Conan, you said. If he hit a side pose, he would disappear.”

 A small giggle escaped from Lilly, and Konan sighed. “Nothing ever changes.”

“Wonderful. Another Neanderthal who has confused size with intelligence. Maybe I should reintroduce myself.”

“Sure thing, Conan.”

“I’m Chief Kick-A-Bitch from the Slapaho tribe. Get out of my way.”

 Lilly laughed as the young officer turned red in his cheeks. “That is rather good, Konan. Let’s get in here and check it out.”

Lilly led Konan through the mess. According to what the higher ups had told him, Lilly was the highest ranking, therefore, she would do the talking. Konan was there to watch and learn. Lilly Thompson had a reputation, even at the 112th, as being one of the best homicide detectives. Konan would sit back and observe.

The coolers ran down the back wall and left side of the store. A long hallway led from the front door to the entrance of the coolers. There was a hallway that led to the alleyway. The hall was well lit. Blood covered the floor and walls. Four bodies, Konan assumed they were employees and owner, were lying on the floor. 

Forensics were taking photographs and measuring the scene. Allie Smith, the lead forensic tech, looked up and gave Lilly a nod. Lilly nodded back.

“Have you guys found anything, Allie?”

“Yeah. We have some bloody footprints leading to the back door. We have fingerprinted everything. Who’s your shadow?”

Lilly gestured towards Konan. Allie walked over and pulled off her gloves. She stuck her hand out, and Konan grasped it. 

“This is Thermopolis Konan. He came to us from the 112th.”

“Ah,” Allie said. “You’re him.” Konan raised his eyebrows.

“Him? Him who?”

“You’re the guy that burned his last partner. They sent you here because you betrayed, um, did the right thing.”

Konan took a deep breath and forced a smile. Lilly grimaced. “Definitely not a good impression,” she thought to herself. “It’s bad enough that everyone knew what Konan did. To have it thrown into his face was something else.”

“Nice to meet you, Allie.”

 She seemed happy to ignore her blunder. Allie smiled and nodded. 

“Likewise, Thermopolis.”

“Just call me Konan.”

“Sure thing, Konan.”

“Has anyone checked the cooler?” 

Ally shook her head no. “The crime is out here, Konan. None of us checked the cooler. We started with the bodies.”

“Okay. I’ll check it out.”

Konan pulled the latch on the metal door and stepped inside. The refrigeration unit kicked on. Milk, eggs and cheese were on the left side of the cooler. Konan pulled out a light and shined it on the floor. Bloody footprints led deeper into the cooler. The footprints were tiny, like a child’s footprint would be. 

A noise came from the back. Konan moved quietly through the cooler. He snapped off his light and walked around a stack of soda. Old-fashioned glass bottles rattled in their cases. A small girl shivered from the cold.

Konan knelt beside a small girl. Blood stained her hands and face. Tears stained her cheeks.

“Hi, I’m Konan. What’s your name?”

The child would not look at him. She continued to cry silently. Konan reached for her. His badge came into view and the child screamed. 

“Evil man! Evil man!”

Konan backed up. The door of the cooler opened, police poured in. Konan waved them off. Lilly stood in the doorway.

“What’s going on, Konan?”

“Call child services. We have a witness.”

Konan took a seat on a milk crate until child services arrived. Lilly took the small girl to the bathroom and helped her clean up. Child Services rushed in and spoke to the child in a calm, kind manner. Konan walked out under the yawning. Lilly waited for him to say something. 

“Is she okay?”

Konan shrugged and pulled his collar up to protect his neck from the constant rain.

“I don’t know. She went bananas when she noticed my badge. She kept screaming I was an evil man.”

Lilly rubbed her forehead. “Poor Konan. This is not what he needs. He just got here.”’ Konan and Lilly walked out into the rain. They sat in their car and watched the deluge. 

“Konan, do you think a dirty cop killed those folks?”

“It would seem that way, given her reaction to the badge. However, that means nothing. A lot of folks today do not trust cops. Maybe her parents told her to stay away from police.”

“Maybe, but you don’t believe that, do you?”

“Lilly, I just got assigned to this department. I am not trying to make waves. Nor am I fingering a cop. If the evidence leads us to a dirty cop, then I’ll arrest him or her. Until then…”

Lilly patted Konan’s leg. She winked at him. Konan shook his head in disgust.

“I understand, Konan. We must brief Chief Mathers.”

“Yeah.”

Lilly started the car and pulled out into traffic. Konan gripped the door handle and breathed deeply. Lilly swerved in and out of traffic. Often, she blew the horn to let the other drivers know she was coming through. 

“Relax, Konan. I got this.”

Konan said nothing. He closed his eyes and waited. “God, if I die here, please don’t let me suffer,” Konan prayed silently.

“Are you religious, Konan?”

 Lilly hit the horn and jammed on the brakes before Konan could answer. 

“You moron,” she shouted.

The vehicle in front of them moved over into the other lane. Lilly stared at the driver as she passed.

An old lady lifted her middle finger and shoved it out her open window. Konan grinned, Lilly busted out laughing. 

“You go, Granny.”

A Walk in Darkness…the rewrite…

I remember…

Those two little words are both rapturous and the bane of my existence. My memories have led me to this place, this abyss of depression and anxiety. It’s a mental prison filled with the screams of the past, a place of oppressive darkness.

I sat in the glaring white office of Dr. Wilson Friskers and wondered what was the big deal about extremes. If I told the truth, I tried to lose myself in anything, no matter how trivial, instead of dealing with reality.

Because my reality sucked.

I had enlisted the aid of this quack to help save my marriage. He failed, or rather, I failed. I kept going to him, even after I lost my marriage. He sat there in his Armani suit and high-end glasses and watched me.

“So, you have no desire to get re-married?”

His office was as bland as the doctor I told my problems to. A diploma hung behind his metal desk. His desk was empty of clutter, the lone object on it was his desktop computer. Dr. Wilson Friskers peered over his glasses at me.

“No.”

“Why not? Do you find being single a better choice?”

“No,” I said as I shook my head. ” God put some of us on the planet to be alone. I’m one of them.”

“So, it’s God’s fault you’re not remarried?”

“No. It’s no one’s fault.”

“Then why not pursue love? Are you afraid to try again?”

“I’m not afraid. Why waste my time trying to find someone and going through all the trouble? People aren’t real with their feelings. Why go through all the effort, when they won’t stay? I’ve been in relationships before, they all end the same way.”

“How do they end?”

“Usually, the other party pulls up and leaves like a whimper in the night.”

“They leave? Don’t you stay friends with them?”

“What sense does that make,” I asked. Friskers stared at me like I had taken leave of my senses. “I wish,” I thought to myself. I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t made the leap to full-blown insanity. Part of me wanted to enjoy the full benefits of love. The other part was hell-bent to never have anything to do with that dastardly emotion ever again.

“You sound a bit jaded, son.”

I stayed quiet and thought about what I wanted to eat for lunch. Outside the window a raven sat on the limb of a maple tree. It’s black eyes bored into mine. This conversation had grown tired. 

“Yes. You’re very bitter.”

“For 165 bucks an hour all you can do is state the obvious? What a waste of money.”

“And now sarcasm…”

Dr. Friskers was a middle-aged man. He had a round face and looked as if he’d aged like soured milk. I mean to say that he was chunky and grumpy. He parted his thin hair on the left side, and he kept his goatee trimmed. Doc looked professional. Tired. But professional.

He cleaned his glasses and looked at me. His eyes showed zero emotion. I got the feeling I was only a number to him. At this point in my life, I knew I meant nothing to most of the folks in my life.

Which pushed me to the point I am at today. It was time for a change. Doc Friskers looked at his watch and put his glasses back on. He smiled.

“Our time is drawing short, Fredericks. Is there anything else you would like to get off your chest?”

“No sir.”

“Well, I will see you next week. Does Thursday at 1300 fit in your schedule?”

“Sure.”

He reached for an ink pen and wrote down my appointment in his small ledger. I stood to my feet and turned to go to the door. Friskers stood and extended his hand to me.

“Thank you for your service to our country.”

“Sure. For all the good it did.”

Public Service…new writing, unedited…incomplete…

Our friends stayed with us until almost midnight, at which time, they slowly packed up their gear and headed to their homes. Manson was the last to leave.


As she shoved her rifle into her Pelican gun case, she looked at me and Lilly. “You know,” she said as she buckled the latches, “I understand what chief was saying about not seeking vengeance. There’s no wiggle room under the badge for ‘gangster’ takedowns, but I think sometimes you need to prove you’re not weak.”


“What do you mean?”


Manson hugged Lilly and Gareth and shrugged, “I don’t know, Lilly. Walters doesn’t strike me as one who cares if he does a long stretch in prison. Changing his location to a cage filled with other animals doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent.”


I didn’t say anything, for I had spent years tracking and killing bad people all over the world and had thought just like her. “You don’t leave your enemies alive so they can hurt you,” Billy had told me. I had used that to justify the horrible things I had done. Cartwright had a similar rule. “Dead men tell no tales, son. When in doubt, kill everyone.”


Manson hugged my neck and whispered, “Take care of your family, Konan. Do what you must to protect them.”


My family and I watched as she carried her gear out to her car. She gave us a wave, and we waved back. I waited until she left before I shut the door. Gareth took my hand, and I looked down at my stepson.


He stared at me not uttering a sound, his big brown eyes locked with mine. His eyes shined with trust, knowing I would take care of any dangers that sought to damage my family, but there was something else in his eyes, something that said I should make sure no one dared try to take from me what God had blessed me with.


When in doubt, kill everyone.


The following morning, Lilly and I dropped Gareth off at the daycare and continued on with our search of the florists. Our agenda for the day was full. We had six florists to check, and Tammy Bowen wanted to see us, but first I needed coffee.


I pulled into The Donut Hole and ordered a dozen mixed donuts and two hot coffees. A pockmarked teenaged female, complete with braces and an attitude, stood in the window and glared at me, while I reached for my wallet.


“Eleven dollars and fifty cents.”


“You’re kidding,” I said as I handed her a twenty.


“No, I’m not kidding, grandpa.”


Lilly snorted and covered her mouth, I glared at the teenager and slammed the shifter into park. The woman tossed my change into the bag and shoved it at me. “Here’s your coffee,” she snarled, as she pushed two large coffees at me.


Hot coffee leaked from the lids and fell upon my hands. I grimaced, not only from the pain of hot liquid burning my hands, but because her attitude was typical of many in the world today.


She was the female version of Scott Walters. A narcissistic nihilist, a thinly disguised vestige of anarchy, a waste of God-given oxygen. I put the car in drive and drove off without tipping her. Lilly grinned and opened the donuts.


“How about that, grandpa? Little Ms. Attitude didn’t put any napkins in here for us to clean off our fingers.”


“There’s some in the glove box.”


Lilly laughed and opened the box. Shoved in on top of individual packets of salt, pepper, sugar and cream, were brown napkins. “Wow,” Lilly said. “You’ve got an entire condiment shelf in your glove box.”


“Yeah, it’s the downside of eating out. No one seasons their food anymore, you’ve got to ask for it. Flavor costs extra nowadays.”


We munched on donuts until we arrived at Annie’s Florist on Third Street. As with the previous two, she had no wolfsbane, nor did she know of anyone who grew it.


“Of course, she didn’t know anything about it,” Lilly muttered as we pulled our seatbelts on. “I bet the next five won’t know anything about it either.”


She was right except for the last one. Out in the woods, next to an old Victorian house, partially hidden from the road and blocked from view by oak and pine trees, wolfsbane waved in the gentle breeze.


Rows of flowers lined the dirt road, orchards of pecan trees, plum trees, and other types of fruit filled the level ground. A white sign informed us we drew near to the agricultural labs of Southern U.
I came to a stop in a dirt parking lot in front of the Victorian home. Lilly and I got out and made our way inside the building. A young woman, her name tag informed us her name was Christy, sat behind the counter doing a cross word puzzle.


“Can I help you?”


“Yes, I hope so,” Lilly said. “I’m Detective Lilly Thompson, eh, Konan. Is that wolfsbane growing outside your building?”


“Yes, it is. You know your plants.”


“Not really,” Lilly said with a grin. “We’d like to speak to whomever is in charge, please.”


Christy smiled a thin, cold smile, her eyes reflected no warmth as she shoved her glasses onto her narrow nose. “May I ask why?”


“Sure you can, Christy. My partner and I need some information about wolfsbane because we’re investigating a series of murders.”


“Dr. Wynette Robbins and Dr. Silas Roberts oversee our day to day operations. I can take you to them.”


She led us into a long hallway and walked to the end of it. An expansive room, a library I’d assume given all the books, with tall windows filled with stained glass, housed two desks-one at each opposite end of the room-and Christy motioned for us to have a seat in front of the one to the left.


“Dr. Robbins will finish her lecture in just a few moments. You can wait here.”

Public Service…today’s writing…unedited/incomplete…

I drove to the town square and sat on the bench and looked at my watch. It was 1145, fifteen minutes prior to the witching hour. Cartwright had sat on this bench with me, so had Billy. Now, of the three, only Cartwright and I remained.


My former boss emerged from the shadows, like a great white shark breaching water off the coast of Africa, I mused. He waddled toward me, a cigar held between his fingers of his right hand, his left hand shoved down into his pocket.


No doubt he held a silenced sidearm, a Walther probably. Cartwright had a fond appreciation for the craftsmanship of the Germans. He came and sat down next to me.


“Long time, no see. How’s the wife?”


“She’s fine. How are you?”


Cartwright shoved his cigar into his mouth and winced. His eyes squinted as he looked out into the shadows. He nodded and looked at me.


“Things are fine. Well, on my end. You have a knack of angering the wrong people son.”


“I always did. What brings you to town?”


“You did.”


“Oh yeah? Are you here to punch my ticket, old friend?”


“No, I’m here to save you. Tia Mathers says hello by the way, and asks you give Lilly her congratulations on your nuptials. Deputy Chief Scott Walters is a vile piece of human waste. Stay out of it, Konan.”


“Look, I don’t even know what the man wants, or what he has planned…”


“You’ve grown soft. Flabby and weak. I envy your love and marriage Konan, but you had to know the past still wants its pound of flesh. You took down Tia, and Walters wants your head for his trophy box. He’s dug around in our time, back when you weren’t a cop, and he plans to release all of this information to the public.”


“Good God, why now?”


Cartwright lit his cigar and sucked the smoke into his lungs. He held it for a second and let it out slowly. He cut his eyes to me, and he still looked like a predator when he did so, and said, “He’s not planning on ruining only you, but all of us. That’s why I am here.”


“You’re here to make sure the past stays dead.”


“Yeah, that’s right. I’m here to facilitate an event.”


“What do you need from me?”


“Nothing, Konan. I was in town and wanted to see my old friend.”


“Billy was your oldest friend, and he caught a bullet.”


“Yes, he was. Konan, he betrayed me. Would you have acted any differently than me? I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, I know you wouldn’t.”


I couldn’t say anything to him about that. Nor could I deny the charges he laid at my feet. In the past, I had exercised a heavy hand with traitors. There’s only one way to deal with traitors. Reprehensible as it might be, death is the only solution for those who deal falsely, for those who play both sides against the middle.


We sat on the bench for several minutes without saying anything, just two old friends catching up on the happenings and non-happenings of our daily lives.


“How does it feel to be married? Is it as blissful as people make it out to be?”


“I’m enjoying it, Cartwright. Lilly’s a good woman, an amazing mother, a fantastic wife.”


“And even better cop,” Cartwright said. “You need to take care of her, brother.”


He stood to leave, but I had one other question to ask my former boss. Cartwright seemed to sense it, so he turned around and looked at me.


“Tia Mathers took Billy’s place, didn’t she?”


“Well, you know me son. I’ve always had a need for talented people. Tia Mathers is talented.”


“Yeah, she was definitely that. I’ll see you around, Cartwright.”


“Not if I see you first, Konan.”


I leaned back against the bench and watched Cartwright disappear into the ether of early morning. The long shadows enveloped him, and I stood. There was no stopping Cartwright, I realized. He had given me a heads up, moreover he had came to Fredericksburg to save my life.


He had called me a softy, but the truth was we had both mellowed out. It’s why people like Scott Walters thought they could act the way they did without consequence, why people like Sasha and her sister paid the price for our softening, and why I had to get my edge back.


The wolves have no respect for sheep, but they respect the sheepdogs. Someone must stand post on the wall and keep the sheep from harm. As much as it pained me to acknowledge it, I needed people like Cartwright on that wall.


Those who would kill every last person if it protected those he loved from harm. Cartwright was a facilitator, a planner, strategist, and executioner. He could do it all, and I trained with him. He had taken me under his wings and taught me how to defend our nation, but also how to go on offense and end the threat.


Lilly needed to know I would do what was necessary to protect our family, and I needed to show her I still had the will to get the job done.

Public Service…new writing, unedited…

Allison Charlene, the first victim, had lived quite a life for her young 26 years on the planet. A professional secretary for the emergent law firm of Ash, Becker, and Curry, or ABC, she had traveled extensively throughout Europe and Southeast Asia prior to taking a job with the firm.
In the last three years though, she began to suffer from depression and anxiety.


She quit traveling and became a homebody. Yet, for someone diagnosed with depression and anxiety, there was no trail that indicated she had sought help for either.


Lilly looked across the desk at me, and I glanced up from the computer. Our eyes met, and I grinned. I knew what she was thinking about, because I had thought the same thing. I cleared my throat and looked back at my screen. Lilly had an impish grin on her full lips, and I took a deep breath.


“Can I see you outside for a moment, Detective Konan?”


Rankin snorted, and Manson grinned as she kept an eye on Sasha. “Sure, Lilly. I have a moment.”


We stood and walked out of The Murder Room. Down the hall, next to the latrines, was an unlocked janitor’s closet. Lilly took me by the hand and pulled me into it.


She threw her arms about my neck and kissed me. Is there anything sweeter than getting a kiss from the one you love? I think not.


“What’s all this about?”


“I wanted a kiss from my husband. I’ve wanted to kiss you all day. As a matter of fact, I wanted to ask you what you planned to do to Scott Walters.”


“I’ve not planned anything, hon. He’s digging his own grave, I don’t have to do anything to him.”


Lilly leaned forward and kissed me lightly on my lips, and whispered, “You’re not the kind of man to take a threat lying down, Konan. I know this, heck, it’s part of the reason I love you. Don’t play me like I’m stupid.”


“I’m not,” I said, as I lifted my right hand in the air. “I have no plans.”


“Maybe you should make some. He doesn’t sound like the type to just go away.”


“He’s not. If things get hairy, we cut and run.”


“No, Konan. That’s not you. You’re thinking of me and Gareth. Do what you must to protect all of us. Even if we must leave town and start over somewhere else, you can’t let this slide.”


I pulled my wife close and kissed her full lips, she let out a throaty growl, and I broke away.


“No, hon. We don’t need to add to our troubles.”


“The mighty Konan is chicken. I never thought I’d see the day.”


I laughed and stepped out of the janitor’s closet. Lilly followed on my heels, and she licked her lips and winked at me.


“Let’s do it again soon,” she whispered.

I watched as she walked past me. Lord help me, I whispered to myself. I’m sure He knew how much I needed Him. Besides, I would need all the help I could get to deal with Scott Walters.


I started to walk toward the office when my phone rang, and I glanced at the screen. The number was unknown. It rang three times and disconnected. Then, it rang again. I answered it on the second ring.


“Hello?”


“Hello, Konan. Do you know who this is?”


“Yeah, I know who you are Cartwright. Why are you calling me?”


“You’re in a heap of trouble son. That goes for your pretty wife too, congratulations by the way. Meet me at midnight tonight at our spot.”


“I’ll see you then.”


He was back. I knew after our last meeting, Cartwright wasn’t gone for good. Billy had died at his hands because Billy had betrayed Cartwright. Now, my old boss was back in town.


Fear gripped my heart for a brief moment. I no longer lived alone, my wife and step-son lived with me, and I wanted to keep trouble far from them. I thought I could outrun my past, but it had an ugly way of showing up when I least expected it.


Now, I’m caught between Cartwright and Scott Walters. It was time to make a plan.


Lilly was deep into the life of our second victim by the time I returned to the office. She had brought a white board over to our desk and placed a picture of each victim on it, along with the date of death, cause of death, and location of discovery.


Sam I. Walton, 56, was in no comparison anything like the first victim. He had not traveled outside of Mississippi, in fact, he had not left the Fredericksburg area ever. In fact, the only link between him and Allison was depression and anxiety. Both suffered from these mental conditions, and neither had sought help for them. An interesting fact emerged in our findings though. Both victims had died near a body of water. I didn’t know how this fit together, but for some reason the killer had chosen to take their life near water.


“What took you so long to return?”


I looked at Lilly, and her green eyes bored into mine. She waited, and I couldn’t lie to my wife. For a marriage to survive, thrive even, there had to be a sense of trust.


“Cartwright called me.”


Lilly leaned toward me and whispered, “Cartwright, your old boss?”


“Yeah, he offered his congratulations to us. I’m to meet him at midnight. Manson and Rankin need to come stay with you and Gareth while I am out.”


“Okay, are you expecting trouble?”


“I wasn’t until he called. We need to leave early to prepare. Tell our friends, for her and Rankin to come loaded for bear.”


“What about Janko?”


“I’m going to talk to him now.”


“Okay babe. We will get through this. Just go easy, okay?”


Janko was yakking on the phone when I rapped on his door. His eyes cut toward the door and saw me, then he motioned for me to come in. I pushed the door inward and made my way to his desk. He said goodbye and hung up his phone.


“What now, Konan?”


“I just received a call from Cartwright.”


“Your former boss? The government’s assassin?”


“He’s a facilitator of events, Janko. That’s not important. What is important is that he said I was in a heap of trouble, as is Lilly.”


“Did he say why?”


“No, he didn’t. It doesn’t take a massive leap to figure out what he’s talking about though does it?”


“No, he’s talking about the deputy chief.”


“Yeah, that’s what I think also.”


“Hmm. Scott’s always had a reputation. What does Cartwright want?”


“I don’t know. I’m to meet him at midnight.”


“You don’t think that’s dangerous? Can you trust him?”


“There’s only one way to find out, chief. I need Manson and Rankin to stay with Lilly and Gareth.”


“Of course, done. What about you?”


“I’ll be fine.”


I hesitated and Janko noticed. He nodded his head and said, “Don’t worry, son. We’ll take care of your family. Go do what you must. We will deal with the fallout after the smoke clears.”


Janko dismissed me, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. It was good to have friends you could always count on, it was even better when your friends saddled up with you for the hard times.


Midnight was a ways off, but I needed to get ready for whatever trouble was on its way. Me and Lilly knocked off early. By 1800 Manson, Rankin, and Janko showed up at our home. All came strapped with sidearms, M4 rifles, and extra ammunition.


Lilly kissed me on my lips, and I took a deep breath. It was almost midnight. Time to go make a deal with the Devil’s brother.

Public Service…new writing, unedited, incomplete…

I drove us to the next florist on our list. Lilly’s phone rang and she looked at it, frowned, and turned it toward me. It was Janko.

“Hello? This is Detective Lilly Konan.”

“I know who it is, Lilly. Where are you guys?”

“Interviewing florists and following up on the cause of death, chief. What’s up?”

“You and Konan swing by here before you go any further.”

“Okay, chief. We’re on our way.”

I glanced at my wife, and asked, “What is it?”

“Trouble,” she answered. “We’re in trouble.”

Neither of us was unaccustomed to trouble, in fact, Lilly and I had served suspensions before for pushing too far on a case, or even for rubbing the wrong people in the wrong way. Somehow though, this time seemed to have the ring of finality to it.

“So it begins,” I muttered, as I spun the car around in the opposite direction. “Let’s go get this over with.”

Deputy Chief Scott Walters was unhappy, not that he ever spent much time being happy, instead he found glee in destroying those he despised.

Walters sat at his desk. He had fired his secretary and now had none to answer the phone, to take messages and dictation, and he had no one to bully. It angered him, and of course, he blamed it all on her.

If she had done her job and pleased me…

He took out his tape of Cissy and flipped it betwixt his thick fingers, and then he smiled. After searching for the number of the Fredericksburg Times Online Edition, he set up an appointment with a journalist and promised an exclusive to them.

Walters went to work. He had two previous tapes with Cissy, and he had time to work on his idea. With a little touch up and editing, Walters would find some minute piece of happiness in his cold, cold world.

Cissy Robideux-Monat had spent the best part of the weekend healing up from the bruising that covered her face, and the thick welts where her boss had gripped her by the throat. On the second day, she had called home.

“Hey, sweetie. How are things? How are the children?”

“They’re okay,” Richard said, as he scrambled eggs for their two children. “When are you coming home? Please tell me it’s soon.”

Cissy had gotten choked up. Richard Monat was a good man, a solid husband and father, and while he was not the most exceptional man Cissy had ever been with, he had spent twenty years loving only her and taking care of his family.

She hadn’t even hesitated to throw it all away with Scott Walters, in fact, she had received exactly what she had deserved when he began pummeling her face and abusing her.

“I love you, Richard. I should return to you soon. Give my love to the kids.”

“I love you too, Cissy. We’ll be right here waiting.”

She had hung up the phone and fell across the bed. Alone in this rat-infested motel, she sobbed. Her lamentation went unheard by any human. Only the furry denizens of The Quiet Place heard her sorrowing.

Cissy did not know how to begin to make up for her betrayal to her husband and children, but she knew she must find a way to do so, and she had to do it in a hurry-before her former boss released the tapes and ruined all of their lives forever.

Lilly and I walked hand in hand across the skywalk to Police Precinct 117. Neither of us had said much of anything on the ride over. However, we both knew our time was limited and that the hammer would fall on us soon. I just figured we’d have more time before Walters launched his campaign against us.

It seemed I was wrong.

We took the elevator down to the second-floor, the top floors of the precinct housed the forensic crime labs. As we stepped off the lift, I could see Janko, Manson, and Rankin standing around a blonde woman. It was Sasha.

As Lilly and I walked in, Manson and Janko looked up at us. Rankin handed Sasha a glass of water and a Kleenex. We walked up to them and waited for someone to fill us in.

“Do you two know this woman?”

Janko’s question didn’t take me by surprise, but I did wonder why she had came here, especially since Lilly had given her our numbers.

“Yeah, she’s Sasha Robideux. She works for some online magazine.”

Janko nodded and his mustache seemed to bristle. His mustache was a topic of much in-house discussion between his detectives. Some thought it added weight to an already impressive presence, but I held the opinion that it looked as if he had taped an angry porcupine to his upper lip.

Quills away, matey.

“She has told us quite a story of corruption and abuse of power.”

Lilly sighed and responded with an indignant “oh?” Janko nodded and motioned for the reporter to loop us in. Sasha sipped her water and dabbed at her eyes.

“My sister works for Deputy Chief Scott Walters, or worked for, he fired her on Friday-after he assaulted her. She needs help, but she refuses to trust anyone. Scott Walters threatened to ruin her life.”

I sighed, but Lilly put a fine point on my frustration by asking, “Does your sister have proof of any wrongdoing?”

“You mean besides the bruises and welts from him choking her?”

Sasha’s voice rose, and so did Lilly’s eyebrows. I had my own personal experience with the deputy chief, but no one else had witnessed our confrontation. Still…

“How did the deputy chief threaten your sister, Sasha?”

“He videotaped, um, look, she had an affair with the guy, okay? He shot a ‘home movie’ and has threatened to release it.”

“You can bet he will edit it to where he looks like a victim,” Manson snarled. “Men have no problem with making the woman look like a…”

“It’s not just men who play that game, Manson. I’ve known several women who play it the same way,” Lilly said. “I’m not excusing anyone who does this, but it’s not just the men.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s frustrating.”

“So, there’s a movie, probably more than one, and now your sister wants us to do what? We can’t roll up on him and accuse him without proof,” I said, as I pulled a chair over for Lilly to sit in. I got another and sat down next to her.

“Besides, Lilly and I have our hands full with this double murder. We’ve got six more florists to run down, and we still need to look into the victims.”

Janko sighed and wiped at his forehead. He nodded at Manson and Rankin. “You two take care of Sasha’s sister. We don’t have much wiggle room with this, one misstep and all of us are out of a job. Look into the deputy chief, find out about the movies, and see what you can put together.”

“Will do,” Manson and Rankin said in unison.

They led Sasha over to their desk and began to fill out the pertinent paperwork. Lilly and I went to our desk and began to check into the victims.

Manson’s words stuck in my mind. I couldn’t deny the truth of the words, men do sometimes abuse their power, some do take advantage of those under them in the rank structure, and all too often good men get lumped in with the garbage.

Hence the problem with painting with a broad stroke. Not all men are animals, nor do they behave in a way unbecoming and unwelcoming toward women. People tended to forget that good men exist, and often go unappreciated for being good guys.

Thankfully, I had married a good woman who appreciated me for who I am, not who she envisioned me being. These thoughts kept me company as I began my search of Allison’s past.

Public Service…new writing, unedited…

I woke early and showered, then I walked into the kitchen. For my beautiful wife, the woman who made me a better man without even trying, I cooked bacon, fried eggs, grits, and made coffee. My gesture seemed minute in comparison to the love she gave me, the support in the times of trouble, and the sly humor that kept me on my toes.


Lilly completed me. For years, I was fraught with distrust, never daring to hope I would find someone like her but unable to completely wash my hands of the dastardly emotion known as love. Now, I had secured the greatest treasure a man could find: A good wife.


I carried the plate of food and coffee to a small nightstand next to my sleeping partner. She stirred and sniffed the air, and then rolled back over and faced away from the food. I leaned over and kissed her neck and my affection caused her let out a throaty ‘mmm.’


“Good morning,” she murmured. “You’re up early.”


“Yeah, I wanted to cook you breakfast before we head out this morning.”


She opened her eyes and smiled at me, then rolled over. Lilly looked at the plate and steaming cup of coffee. One of her hands sneaked out of the patchwork bed spread and picked up a piece of bacon.
“You’ve already showered,” she said, staring at me and shaking her head.


“Yeah, I jumped in the shower before I cooked for you.”


She slid from underneath the cover and sat on the side of the bed. My heart raced as my eyes took in her beauty, and she smiled. Lilly leaned close to me and whispered, “Thank you for cooking for me. You’re quite handy in the kitchen, not to mention….”


“Well, thank you. You’re quite the dynamo yourself.”


Lilly giggled and finished eating and walked toward the bathroom. At the door she turned and gave me a smile and motioned for me to join her.


Looks like I’m running late this morning, I thought. Look at her, no flesh and blood male could say no to her. My eyes feasted upon the beauty that was my wife, and I smiled.

An hour and a half later, Lilly and I finally left for work. We had no less than a dozen missed calls between us. As I drove, Lilly returned calls. Manson and Rankin had called six times, Sasha Robideux had called three times, a reporter with the local television network had called twice, and Tammy called.


Manson and Rankin wanted to know how things were going for their favorite married couple. Rankin wanted details. The reporter wanted a comment on the current case, and Tammy wanted us to stop by when we had a chance.


“Where are we going, Konan?”


“We’re headed flower shopping.”


“Baby, I don’t need flowers, you’re all I need.”


Lilly grinned at me and winked, and I felt my blood flush my cheeks red. She knew how to get to me, and complimenting me was a surefire way to cause me to blush, but I freely admit I was thrilled to hear I pleased her. I wanted nothing more than to make Lilly happy for the rest of her life.


“I know sweetheart, but I’m referring to the Wolfsbane. We have a murderer to catch.”


“I haven’t forgotten, although you seemed to forget to tell me what happened at the deputy chief’s office.”


In truth, I had forgotten. Other things had captured my attention, and I um, had had my hands full at the time. I grimaced and said, “Yeah, I did forget. I’m sorry. The deputy chief is a friend of Tia Mathers, and he’s got an axe to grind.”


“What does that mean?”


“Um, he wants to crush me and you. Apparently, he’s got a serious man-crush on our former chief.”


“Did he threaten you?”


“Yeah, but not just me. Deputy Chief Scott Walters threatened me and you for “ruining Tia Mathers life.” I think he meant it too.”


“So, what do we do?”


“A guy like the deputy chief has enemies. We need to find out who has dirt on him, and bury him under his own garbage. Plus, we need to find out who’s doing the killing with the Bella Donna.”


“I thought the killer used wolfsbane.”


“He or she does, wolfsbane is also known as Bella Donna.”


“Okay, smartie. How many florists are there in town?”


“Six in town, two on the outskirts.”


“Let’s find us a killer.”

Our first stop was Wilde Flowers. An older woman with a single mole at the corner of her mouth, black eyes, and wearing a tie-dyed tee and a pair cutoff jean shorts looked up at us as we entered her shop. Her salt-and-pepper hair hung loose about her shoulders, and she smiled at us.


“Hello officers. What brings you by?”


“Hi,” I said. “I’m Detective Konan. I’m looking for the owner.”


“That’s me,” the woman said, as she extended her hand. “I’m Olivia Wilde.”


“Well, it’s nice to meet you Olivia. Is it okay I call you Olivia?”


“Yes, it’s fine. What can I do for you?”


“Do you sell, or grow, wolfsbane?”


Olivia frowned and shook her head no. “Why in the world would I grow that? It’s poison, detective. I sell floral arrangements.”


Lilly walked through the shop while I spoke with Olivia. Pictures adorned the walls, Olivia was in every one of them. Most of the pictures were of funerals, but some covered weddings, anniversaries, and the like. Olivia noticed Lilly staring at the pictures, and she lifted her chin in Lilly’s direction.


“She’s found my shrine. Most of my business comes from funeral homes. I guess that’s the benefit of owning the oldest floral business in Fredericksburg.”


“Any idea who’d grow wolfsbane, or who might sell it?”


“No sir. May I ask why you’re looking for it?”


“A couple of people died from wolfsbane, and we’re trying to track down where they might have crossed paths with it.”


“That’s no way to die, the poor dears. The plant itself is highly toxic, why anyone would want to have it is beyond me. I mean it’s a pretty plant, but it’s deadly.”


“Thank you for the information, Olivia. I appreciate your help.”


“No need for thanks, detective. I hope you catch the person doing the killing.”


Lilly waited for me outside, and I walked out of the building and joined her. We got in the car, and I drove to the next stop.


“What did you see in the pictures?”


“They consisted of Ms. Wilde at various funerals, but a few had her at weddings or anniversaries. Do you think she did it?”


“I don’t know, Lilly. She seemed genuine, but you can’t never tell about folks.”


Our next stop was Flowers-R-Us. It sat the corner of 8th Street and Fitzgerald. A single story building, it had large windows that bore various writing and art on them. I pulled the glass door open, and Lilly walked in. A pair of twenty-something young women stood behind the counter. Both blonde and pretty, they looked at us and gave us mega-watt smiles.


“Hi! Welcome to our shop!”


Apparently being in sync wasn’t an issue for either of them. Lilly smiled and said, “Thanks, you have a wonderful shop.”


One of the women pointed at herself and said, “I’m Ashley and this is my sister Amber. We’re twins. How can we help?”


I ambled about the shop and looked at various plants while Lilly questioned the twins. In the corner of the room a table with dirt scattered on top of it, along with scissors, and a roll of ribbon sat next to the scissors.


“Do you guys carry wolfsbane?”


“No, what is that?”


“It’s a poison plant,” Lilly said. “I believe it’s also called Bella Donna.”


“No, we don’t carry poison. We’ve not been open long. A few days ago made one year, we’ve been open. Why do you need poison?”


“Oh, I don’t. My partner and I are investigating a crime.”


“Oh. Oooh. I see. No, we don’t deal with that stuff. You might want to check out Wilde Flowers.”


“Thank you for your help Ashley.”


I walked up and gave the twins a smile, and something on the back shelf caught my attention. A picture of the twins along with another woman had their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders outside of a ski lodge.


“Nice photo. Is that you guys?”


“Yes, that’s us. We went to Aspen after graduating with our cousin, Sasha Robideux. She’s a reporter.”


“Aspen’s a beautiful place. I always enjoyed it when I went there.”


“Yeah, we had a blast.”


“Well, thanks for talking to us,” I said. “Have a great day.”


Lilly and I walked out together, and she gave me a long look when we got into the car. “I questioned them, and I never even noticed the photograph. I knew that reporter was trouble, Konan.”


“Hold on, Lilly. It doesn’t mean anything yet,” I said, as I scribbled a message into my notepad. “Sasha was bound to have family in the area.”


“Yeah, but Konan she was at both murder scenes, and she was always the last one to leave.”

The beginning of Thrash…unedited, incomplete…

It was the absolute worst of times, a time of war, of sorrow and regret, of wounded and dying, and I stood amid it all. A lone man caught up in the razing of his countrymen, killing those who opposed their government, and ransacking the corpses of those who dared to think for themselves. To my friends and enemies I am known as “The Corpse Eater.”

“Let go of what you can’t control,” my father had said. “There are things that’s not yours to handle.” I hadn’t listened then, and I wasn’t listening now. 

The whine of bullets passing overhead, along with rocket fire and incoming mortar rounds brought me out of my daze. 

“Get behind cover, idiota!”

Behind me, a line of bullets impacted against the portion of wall left standing after the air force had bombed these new ‘bad guys’ into oblivion. Granted, our new enemies were American citizens, those who refused to bow to the incessant demands of our ‘betters.’ 

“Buy this, do that, don’t say that, hate these people,” it wouldn’t stop. The media played the narrative until people believed the lie, and then, they sicced these rabid dogs upon their own, all while they cannibalized the remains of those they despised.

The media kept the lies churning, unrelenting in their quest for complete and total domination of those they hated. Until this moment, I had believed in the ‘righteousness’ of the cause. America had need of its sons and daughters to stand firm in the belief that censorship and government rule was needed. 

We the people are too stupid to figure out what is best for our lives, therefore, we need the government to rule over us.

I had believed that with such fervency the radicals thought me a fanatic. ‘A true believer, that one,’ an old man had said before I shot him between the eyes. Then, I shot his wife, kids, their kids, and even their dog.

There was no room for dissension. No room for freedom of expression, unless of course you agreed with the majority. If you disagreed or refused to have your life upended for no reason, then you had to die. 

Years passed, and I became disillusioned with the game. My dreams of blood, of the taut, wide-eyed rebels we had hunted until we broke the back of the rebellion, never ended. Their screams echoed throughout my mind constantly. My sleep schedule broken, my hallucinations occurred with frequency, and my mind and body neared a complete breakdown. 

One rebel had dared speak to me, and he had asked, “what is your name?” 

“Thrash,” I responded, and then I shot him in the head.  At the time, I thought nothing of it. He was a rebel, and I was hired to kill rebels. Still, his question had lingered in my mind for a while after killing him. Now, I saw him everywhere I looked. 

I had never told anyone my name before. As far as I knew, I had no last name. No one had ever asked me for my name. My mom had told me when I turned six years old, “Trash, keep your name to yourself. Names have power. Remember son, you’re one letter away from Trash.”

Both my parents were rebels. I turned them in when I was nine years old. An old man, Tank, made me watch as he killed my parents.

“This is how you kill those who’d stand against us. Watch, boy.”

Tank pulled a Ka-Bar knife from its sheath and slit the throats of my rebellious parents. After disposing of my parents, Tank handed me the knife. “A bullet is to clean of a death for traitors, boy. From now on, you do your own killing.”

I’d been killing since then. Tank taught me the fine art of blade work, how to prolong the suffering of traitors, how to clean and keep my kit in top-shelf condition, Tank became a father figure to me. Right up until he started a new rebellion.  That’s why we’re here. The Government homed in on Tank’s Headquarters and sent me along with a platoon of hardened killers, to root out the rebellion once and for all. 

Welcome to the Suck.

Public Service…new writing, unedited…incomplete…

“Yes, and because you did your job, my friend languishes in prison. If I had my way, I would have you removed from your position, but because I’m outranked, you’re afforded an opportunity to speak on your behalf.”

“If that’s the case, why am I here?”

“Because I wanted to look you in the eye and see the measure of the man I aim to destroy.”

“Ah, I see. The old intimidation factor. Speaking of Tia Mathers, how is she doing? Is she enjoying her prison sentence? Do you guys’ exchange letters?”

Walters slammed his hand down on the desk, and I shut my mouth. Me and Walters were the sole people within the building. This was a prime opportunity for him to knock me off, if that was what he desired, but I got the feeling he wanted me to live and suffer.

“I’m going to destroy your whole life, boy. When I’m done razing your world to the ground, then I will kill you. Until then, enjoy your pretty little wife while she still lives.”

He gave me a cold smile, and I chuckled, then I slapped him on the shoulder and burst out into laughter. Walters stared at me like I had gone mad, and I had. Scott Walters had the clout and power. If he wanted Lilly dead, there was no end to people he could coerce into killing her. Or even me. Still, I wasn’t worried.

“Well, I better get home then. I’m sure you’ve got things to do, and I’m tired of being threatened. Good day to you, sir.”

I gave him a small wave and exited his office. When I left, he stood where he was and watched me depart. His mouth hung open, as if he’d never dealt with someone he could not bribe or intimidate, which was too bad because he had the weight of an intimidating presence.

While Scott Walters wondered what had happened, I got in my vehicle and drove home. Lilly sat on the porch, a glass of sweet tea in her hand, and watched me pull up in the yard. Her eyes followed me as I stepped out, and her eyes never lost the intensity as she watched me walk toward her.

I opened the door to the porch and walked in. She sat in my favorite rocker, next to my sassafras porch swing. She had spread a blanket out on the swing, along with a couple of pillows, and I grinned.

“Are you carrying me across the threshold, husband?”

“Sure, or we can wait until later…”

Lilly giggled and licked her lips, then she stood and wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me. “I like how you think,” she whispered as she nibbled on my ear. I pulled her close to me and stared into her green eyes, and I lifted her from the ground and carried her to the swing.

In the twilight, Lilly and I got to know one another better, deeper than we had ever done before, and as the lightning bugs danced in the darkness, we sought peace from the craziness of the world in one another.

The creaking of the rusty chains that anchored my porch swing to the ceiling joined the symphony of frogs and crickets long into the night.

Public Service…the beginning of Chapter Seven…unedited…

Cissy Robideux-Monat, former secretary to Deputy Chief Scott Walters aka ‘Big One,’ drove to the outskirts of Fredericksburg to a small pay-by-the-day motel called The Quiet Place. The paved parking lot had potholes large enough to swallow semi-trucks, and from the looks of the motel, it was all but deserted.

From the parking lot, she called her husband Richard. He didn’t answer right away, so she left a message on his voicemail. “Hi. It’s me. Something came up at work, and I’m headed out of town for the next few days. Sorry for such late notice. I’ll try to contact you when we land. Okay, bye.”

The Quiet Place sat off a once busy highway, but with the new addition of a superhighway, few people traveled this way. The motel catered to the unwanted, the drug addicts, escaped felons. If a person sought anonymity, they welcomed them at The Quiet Place.

It’s perfect, Cissy thought. I can rest here and heal up. Then, I can go home and forget this mistake in the loving arms of my husband and child.

She parked at the end of the motel. Her vehicle wasn’t visible from the highway, thus maintaining her cover while she healed up. Cissy walked to the manager’s office and walked in. The office smelled of marijuana, and a young, stringy-haired waif of a man watched a music video on a 13-inch portable television. Cissy rang the bell.

“Help you,” the lanky male said, as he put one hand over the bell. Cissy nodded and said, “I need a room. Way away from everyone else, please.”

“Lady, ain’t nobody here but me. Now, me and you. What room do you want?”

“All the way at the end, please.”

“That’s 13,” he muttered, as he tossed the key on the counter. “How long do you plan on staying?”

“A week.”

“115 dollars.”

Cissy counted out the cash and pushed six crisp twenties toward the human string bean. “Keep the change, bud.” The kid shoved the money into the register and went back to his program. Cissy walked to the end of the parking lot and walked into room 13.

Everything will turn out fine, so long as Deputy Chief Walters doesn’t release the video. If he maintains his promise to keep it to himself, there’s nothing to fear.

Who did she think she was? Who did she think she was dealing with? Deputy Chief Scott Walters sat behind his desk and considered his former secretary. She had known his penchant for roughing up his ‘girls.’ All the women knew of his nature, but they all wanted to rise above their stations, so they tolerated his abuse. He picked up his cellphone and looked at the time. 1615, Thermopolis would arrive any moment now.

I’ll crush him and then ruin Cissy. She’ll serve as an example for the rest of them. None anger me and get away with it.

Scott Walters heard the door to the lobby open, and he stood behind the desk. He knew it was Konan, and he waited until Konan stuck his head into the office before, he spoke.

“Detective Konan, please come in. Thank you for being available to stop by.”

“Thank you, Deputy Chief Walters. Um, I thought your secretary had called me.”

“She did, but she wasn’t feeling well. I gave her the day off.”

“Well, that was nice of you.”

“Ah, you do what you can for your people, you know?”

“Yes sir, I do. You needed to see me?”

Scott Walters sat behind the large hickory desk. It was expensive and elaborate, much more expensive than most of the command staff could afford to buy. However, Scott Walters spared no expense for his image. He was a powerful man, with powerful friends, and it would be unseeming for him to accept anything less than the best. Thermopolis studied the man.

The deputy chief wasn’t a tall man, 5’8, a hefty 230, most of its solid muscle. He looked as if he could sign up for any football squad and become a starter by the sheer mountain of muscle he had. God had shaped Walters like a fridge. From his head to his toes, Walters was square. Heck, even his jaws were square. For all his squareness, Walters had icy blue eyes, a neatly trimmed mustache, with an accommodating goatee. Konan noticed his hands. Short, stubby fingers, each adorned with rings, spoke of power. This was no man to tangle with, Konan realized. Walters wasn’t one to wait for someone else to do his dirty work. If Scott Walters wanted you out of the way, he’d make it happen on his own.

“Yes, I understand you’ve engaged in an inappropriate relationship with your partner. Worse yet, the media ran a story about it.”

“Yes, sir, but it’s no longer an issue.”

“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

“I married her today, sir. My partner is now my wife.”

“Well, congratulations are in order, then. We still have a problem, detective.”

“Why’s that, sir? I thought the issue would resolve itself if the inappropriate relationship were over.”

“Oh, it did. No, the problem is that you and she can’t be partners any longer.”

“Why not?”

“Because I said so, detective. You didn’t think you’d come in here and persuade me to let Tia Mather’s arresting officers have a nice, normal life together without some sort of recompense, right?”

“Tia Mathers? What does she have to do with any of this? Besides, a jury found her guilty of murder and corruption. All I did was my job.”

Public Service…Chapter Six…unedited…

Deputy Chief Scott ‘Big One’ Walters sat at his desk and smiled. His receptionist, a petite blonde who preferred ponytails to stylish hairdos, ruthless men to men of high principles and morals, and chaos over order, stepped into his office and said, “Thermopolis Konan agreed to meet you at 1630.”

“Good,” he snapped, as he stood and grabbed her by the wrist, “then we have time for your next session.” Scott Walters dragged the woman to his side and let go of her wrist. He gripped her face and smashed his lips down onto hers. She sighed and melted into Scott Walters, nonresistant to his forceful desires and loving every minute she basked in his ruthless abuse of power. 

“I’m going to crush Thermopolis Konan, but first, I will punish you.”

Scott Walters shoved his secretary onto his couch and locked his door. Then, he pulled out a carbon fiber tripod and set up his camera. Walters filmed his domination of his conquests, not for future pleasure, but to study the effects of his dominance upon those he detested. His secretary waited breathlessly for her punishment, and Walters cracked his neck as he undressed. 

“This is for Tia Mathers. Soon, I will rip apart the world of those who stood against her.”

The blonde reached for Walters as he drew near, but Walters wasn’t having it. He slugged her in the jaw and proceeded to choke her. His excitement grew as the color drained from her face. “This is what I’m going to do to you Konan. I’m going to choke your world until there is no life in it.”

Walter released the throat of his secretary, and she gasped for air. “What was that?” Her eyes widened when she looked in his eyes, he no longer resembled a human being. Rage filled his pupils, and he slugged her. Blood splashed to the floor as he continued to smash his heavy right hand into her beautiful face until his anger was spent. His secretary choked on the blood coagulation in her throat, and Walters snatched her off the couch.

“Go wash your face. You got it dirty.”

The woman sobbed as she crawled across the floor to the bathroom. He scowled as he wiped up the blood and snot from the floor. He detested all women. Whores, each and every one of the them. They’re to be used and discarded. They serve no purpose other than procreation, an incubator for children, and when they’re too old to bear sons, they’ve outlived their purpose.

The secretary came out of the bathroom, her eyes locked firmly on the floor, and Walters scowled. “You’re fired,” he snapped. “You no longer serve any purpose. Pack your gear and get out.” She walked meekly from the room, fresh tears dripped from her eyes and pooled together at the point of her chin. Her tears angered Scott Walters, and again, he felt rage fill his heart.

“Oh, and don’t even think about filing a sexual assault complaint against me,” he snarled at the woman, as he pressed play on the camera. He played it until she had succumbed to his lustful desire and he paused it. “If you try to take me down, I’ll release this to the media. What will your kids and husband think then?”

Scott Walters looked at the clock on the wall. The time was 1530, he had an hour to clean up and prepare for Thermopolis Konan. This event with his secretary was only an appetizer. The main course was still an hour away.

The media packed up their cameras and microphones after my announcement of ‘no comment at this time,’ except for Sasha Robideux. She watched as I knelt next to the bench. I used a pair of long tweezers to lift the petal trapped underneath the rock. Lilly and Tammy watched as I dropped the petal into an evidence bag and then sealed it shut. 

“What is that?”

“It’s a flower of some sort, Lilly. Tammy, didn’t you say you thought the asphyxiation was brought on by Wolfsbane?”

“I did,” she said, as she took the bag from me and studied the petal. “This is wolfsbane. The leaves have toothed edges, and they grow into spires of deep blue to purple flowers, such as this.”

“How do you know so much about this?”

Tammy searched my face, as if I had subscribed to becoming dense all of a sudden, and she scoffed. “I get paid to know about this ‘stuff’ Konan. It’s my job.”

“I know that, Tammy. My bad. Here’s a question for you, tough guy. Why is that reporter hanging around?”

“I don’t know.”

Lilly waved at Sasha. The young woman nodded at her and turned her attention back to the scene. Lilly walked over to her and said, “Is everything okay, Ms. Robideux?”

“Yes, detective. I hoped you or your partner might have a comment. I mean, I know he said no comment, but I need something to write about for our website. We’re not mainstream media, but the people…”

“…Have a right to know. Yeah, we hear that often. Look Sasha, we have an SOP we operate by, and we can’t just give you a scoop. Give me your card, and if we come across something we can share-without breaching our procedures-I might call you.”

Sasha grinned and nodded excitedly. “Okay, that works for me. You can reach me at either number.” Lilly took the card and looked it over. “Is your information current?” Sasha nodded and said,  “Mmhmm. As of now, everything is current.”

“Okay. We will reach out when we have something.”

Sasha thanked Lilly, and turned to leave. She gave Lilly a small smile and reached into her purse, and then pulled out her phone.

“Hi, sis. What’s wrong?”

Lilly watched as the young woman’s face changed, but Sasha gave Lilly a small fake grin and turned from her.

“Are you okay?”

The young woman walked away, her voice low and secretive, but her posture seemed to morph into full body tension. Lilly watched as Sasha left, and bit on her bottom lip thoughtfully. I walked up to my wife, evidence bag still in hand and waited for her to speak. She said nothing, so I asked, “Are you okay? Are you ready to head out? I’ve got that meeting at 430.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Sasha gave me her card, and I told her we might reach out. She got a call, and something must have happened. Come on, let’s go see what the deputy chief wants with my husband.”

Together, we walked back to our car. Our future was uncertain, as was everyone’s, but I felt things would turn out for the best as long as I had Lilly by my side. For years now, she had stood by my side, in good times and bad, and I knew of no reason why that should change now that we had married. 

It was more of the same ole, same ole. Well, except for this summons to Scott Walters office. That bit was new.