Story Starts – Unpolished


Sometimes I experiment with starts of stories. But I quickly run out of energy on it. Here is one…

 

 

The Shield went up at midnight GMT. Every country on the planet had a brand new border patrol. If your country bordered an ocean then the Shield was at your international waters border. The Shield was slightly opaque and shimmered on closer inspection. About every 50 miles a warning was posted – “Nothing Illegal Passes” in huge letters that you could see from miles away. At first everyone thought they knew what that meant, but then the catastrophes started. An airplane starting its landing into Korea when about  50 bolts from the engines suddenly stopped at the Shield, ripping through the engines and effectively plummeting the plane to the ocean below. 300 people perished. The bolts were counterfeit and therefore illegal in some law buried in the official trade documents. A school bus traveling from Canada into the US taking a load of grade school kids on a field trip. The bus driver had brought along his pet parrot as he usually did, but unknown to the driver, the parrot needed to be quarantined by law. The parrot suddenly stopped at the Shield as the bus passed through, the colorful bird seemed to be thrown straight down the center aisle to the back door where it made a large red stain on the glass, and made a lasting impression on a bunch of school kids.

Some in the worlds governments liked this new order. No more illegal immigrants, no more human or drug trafficking, no more refugees crossing the borders. Some in the worlds governments hated this new order. No more spies or mercenaries inserted into hot spots. No more spy satellites. No more peering into other countries business or trying to control them by proxy. No more invasions concealed as land grabs, or police actions, or cross border skirmishes. And no more stealing secrets by internet. In short order governments around the world were passing laws left and right, sometimes to their detriment. But soon, they realized, the Shield had specific intentions. No law could be passed unless voted on by a democratic society. Governments couldn’t hide behind obfuscation and tricky wording. Some governments around the world had to completely revamp what they were doing. No more dictatorships. No more ruling by force. If they wanted to change the laws for the benefit of their country, they had to change their ways. Of course there were some holdouts trying to keep their hold onto a dying country. Killing off the populace through constant internal strife, but they didn’t last long. As a consequence of this, new countries were formed, new governments established, and the people were the ones with the power now. The governments now needed to be transparent in their dealings. Laws needed to be spelled out and explained thoroughly in order to have a chance of passing. In most of the countries with established voting systems this was relatively easy. Newly established countries had a harder time of it. Convincing citizens to vote often was challenging.

In the first few years after the Shields appeared the USA was in turmoil. Unemployment was at its highest levels ever. No need now for border patrol agents. The military had huge cutbacks. TSA, NSA, CIA, Coast Guard, all were cut back or cut off completely. If nothing comes into your country illegally, then we don’t need people looking for it. And since we couldn’t do anything illegal to other countries, whole sub-sections of the military were dismantled. All branches of the military were scaled back to 20% of their pre-existing force. But Bureaucracy! Bureaucracy! That was the job to have. Overnight people recognized that all these new laws and regulations needed people to manage them. To caress them into law. To cajole the citizens to vote often. And so government work ballooned. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created to try to offset the huge unemployment numbers. From the smallest town to the burgeoning metropolises, government employment was a force to be reckoned with. The Newest Deal, it was called. Harkening back to FDRs expansion of government in order to keep citizens gainfully employed. Small local governments and State governments were not affected too much. Some tweaking here and there. But the main government. There were changes there.

The State Department was now the biggest, baddest kid on the block. Negotiating and import/export became the most important section of governing. And it was time consuming and plodding. Both governments had to go back and forth to the constituency to keep everyone informed and to see if there were any additions or subtractions to the matter at hand. Because all items had to be nailed down in one document. Any changes to the document had to go back to a nationwide vote, so it was imperative to get it right the first time. Bureaucracy marches on. Certain factions tried to insert clauses to allow oversight or hidden agendas. But they were always voted out by the citizens. But it didn’t really matter because the other negotiating country also could see these shenanigans and would be negotiated out. Planes and vehicles traveling across borders needed to be extra vigilant. If one of the countries trade papers had a clause about a specific product or standard, it needed to be strictly adhered to. Thus avoiding the catastrophes that happened early on. Hundreds of thousands of people died because someone was negligent in reading paperwork.

Over time a mutually agreed set of standards in governing took hold. Negotiating became easier and because nothing was hidden from the voting public, a calm settled across the globe. People were free to travel and transportation became easier and quicker. Tourism and business grew and as more people traveled safely and the costs associated with travel fell, certain countries felt a huge increase in revenue. And with the savings from a downsized military, governments could start looking inward. As the cash cow of tourism increased, governments became serious in corralling graft and petty thefts around any tourist attraction or business areas, big or small. It became important to build up infrastructure. Rebuild or restore ancient treasures and monuments. Rework the roads, railways and bridges. Renew inner cities and build up city centers. Nothing Illegal Passes. Trust was rebuilt. People started looking at each other as someone you could do business with. Commerce was easier. Everything became a bit more relaxed because you knew you could trust the other person across from you. Nothing Illegal Passes through international borders.

But as always, there are those who seem to want chaos and discord. It’s part of their DNA. Part of their psyche. Part of their style. And so underground groups were formed. Some groups were military cast-offs. Made up of those individuals displaced by the new world peace. War and conflict is in their blood and money can be made by continually having some problem somewhere in the world. Some groups were gang based. With no drugs coming into the country from external sources, they had to look domestically for new distribution networks and sources. Some new groups were a bit more obscure. Former diplomats with no countries to continually have deep and meaningless conversations with. Former traveling prostitutes. Former roving slave traders. The list goes on and on.

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Voices


 

London Graveyard

 

She’s not convinced the day is right, it seems too much like yesterday.

The suns the same-the room’s the same-but the echo of the kids seems astray.

She tries to move slowly and truly see what is wrong.

She listens closely to every sound and waits to hear a children’s song.

But the void is real, and it seems, that the children she misses have gone away.

 

She wakes again-yet another day- and the voices again are not around.

The room she is in is small and grey. A tiny prison she is bound.

The memories come slowly now. A terrible thing has passed.

It’s hazy now, these memories, as if in the distant past.

But she moves throughout her day, trying to keep herself aground.

 

People come and people go, she barely notices them any more.

Some give her meds, and some just talk, and she finds it such a chore,

To concentrate on who is there, when her mind is somewhere else.

She can hear them now, the children come, but only to herself.

As time passes the visitors wane, she finds them easy to ignore.

 

Twenty years have come and twenty have gone since that horrible day.

When bad things happened to her children that took them both away.

She sits in her rocker now, and reaches out to passerby.

When old eyes meet she quietly asks the person, “Why?”

Forty years ago was when her children last left to play.

 

The police searched and hunted on, no suspects did appear.

No answers gleaned from years of search, motives were unclear.

The children seemed to disappear from the playground unseen.

A few leads, some questions asked, but the act it was obscene.

Two children gone from the park, never to reappear.

 

When by chance a clue alights and points to a person of interest.

A lady not addressed at first, talks of a man she witnessed.

He walked into the park and led the kids away hand-in-hand.

It seemed so innocent, a father taking his kids for a ride in his van.

But later she finds the story is wrong, and in the police she confides.

 

The man, it seems, is not the father at all, but a man from up the street.

The kids were duped, lied to, and walked away not knowing deceit.

The acts were unspeakable. The children held on as best as they could.

The man, when finished with them, buried them in the wood.

Now forty years and the man has passed, and to the women the police go to meet.

 

The day is new and the room is the same, the ward itself never changes.

Its comfortable for the patients you see, and helps promote exchanges.

They tried to explain, to tell her the truth. But she didn’t seem to hear.

That the puzzle was solved and the bodies were found. She didn’t shed a tear.

For it seems that in her mind the children have been with her all this time as angels.

 

She is gone now, laid next to them. Forever will they be together.

They play again, in the park, and all they will have is pleasure.

For all the time that passed on earth is now but a wink.

And all they time that they have before them now seems to interlink,

With eternity now stretched before them, now that they are all together.

Survivor


He slumps into the restaurant, pulling rain-drenched garments off of him as he walks to a booth in the back. Using one of the benches at his booth, he piles the sodden clothing up. It looks like a laundry bin at the homeless shelter. Smells like it too. Collapsing into the opposite seat, he breathes heavily and deliberately. Years of bad habits and living in big cities have coated his lungs so that actual oxygen has to fight to be absorbed. He pulls up his hand to his face, and slowly slides it up over the top of his head, slicking down his hair and squeegee-ing off the water at the same time. The wrinkles in his face still hold the last remnants of the squall.

 

He looks up just in time to see the waitress looking away from him with a thinly veiled look of disgust. He sees it all the time. That look of dismay and rejection all rolled up into a quick eye-roll and dropping of the chin. As she approaches his table with a mug and a carafe she gets a quick whiff of his fermenting clothes piled up on the bench across from him. Her nose wrinkles involuntarily and she gasps quietly. But he sees it. He sees everything. So attuned to his own situation and its effect on others, he knows. Yes he knows what they think and what they say behind his back.

 

Finishing his third cup of coffee and the barely edible blue-plate special, he starts to work up the energy to depart. Easing up out of the seat, he leaves a small puddle of water on the naugahyde cover.  All the clothing in the musky pile start reassembling themselves back into their previous locations about his body. When fully wrapped, he reaches into his back pocket for his wallet and pulls it out. Unwrapping a large rubber band holding it all together he pulls the appropriate amount out, with a generous tip, and tosses it on the table.

 

Standing at the restaurant door he peers out into the darkness, listening to the storm howl. His body steels itself as he pushes open the door and lumbers out into the fray. A few corners turned and he has disappeared into the world. Completely visible and invisible all at the same time. Skills learned from years in the army. He looks for the familiar alleys and stoops to survive yet another night. Lonely and alone. Scared and scarred. Barely alive but not yet dead. Maybe Death will come tonight. You never know. Sometimes you do get what you wish for.

Gravity Shifts


His feet don’t feel right. They feel weightless and they feel too delicate.

He walks stiffly and without conviction. At times he thinks it may be easier to crawl.

His believes his life is minuscule and he thinks he is lost.

But then something happens, a simple smile by a friend perhaps, and life restores briefly.

We live within 6 feet of the ground. Gravity holds us down and puts weight on our feet.

We will continue to live this way until we are 6 feet under the ground.

And then one day our feet feel wrong. They don’t seem to have contact with the earth.

They feel strange and unique. And life takes on a new hue.

We all have friends. People who we only see occasionally and those we see often.

We have friends with unseen problems and those who speak openly about them.

Some are able to live with and control their issues. And some can’t.

Some call out for help and some bury it deep down. And then suddenly we bury them.

Once upon a time we knew all people were good souls and we embraced that.

But we grew up. And we are forced to take on a harder view. 

Now we know that most people have good souls. And that some don’t.

Now we give attention to the few souls that demand that, and wait for the other good souls. 

When the other good souls don’t ask for the attention. They get lost to gravity.

So sometimes gravity is stronger on some people and lighter on others. 

Some feel the weight of their friends pulling them to an embrace. 

Some feel the weight of gravity pulling them into the long embrace of the dirt under them.

We need to learn to feel the shift of gravity beneath our feet. Concentrate on your feet.

 

Forever Cold – 4


4

Big, dry snow flakes. Accumulating at a very fast clip. The roads already have a foot of snow. Traffic is nonexistent now. All the townspeople were in town earlier in the day stocking up on food and batteries. Being stuck in your home for a few days or a week is not too uncommon. When the boys get out the dump trucks with the blades on the front and start getting all these county roads plowed and sanded, thats when you can drive again.

Silverville has a 3 man crew for town maintenance and snowplowing. All 3 are sitting in the towns maintenance shop drinking coffee and playing cards. No real sense in getting out to plow as long as it keeps snowing as heavily as it is. The blades on the trucks don’t care if the snow is 2 feet thick or 3 foot thick. So cards it is, at least for a while longer.

But one business in town is bustling. Mannys, right on the edge of town is one of those one-of-a-kind bars that defy description. It used to be a double screen theatre, when it closed Manuel ‘Manny” Garcia bought the property. The middle of the place is one huge horseshoe shaped bar. One side of the building is devoted strictly to pool tables and small booths and tables. 20 tvs hang from the ceiling placed strategically for easy viewing. This is the Bar side of things. The other side of the place is set up as a family restaurant. Larger tables, brighter lights and less noise on this side. Amazingly both sides are kept pretty busy most of the time. A little busier on the family side with the breakfast and lunch crowd, busier in the evening on the bar side. Manny oversees it all. A large man with an easy laugh and generous to a fault. But if you push him too far, or disrespect a female, you find yourself on your ass outside of the bar. Mannys youth was spent in East LA. running with various gangs, Manny made a name for himself as a no nonsense enforcer. After 10 years in the penitentiary, Manny disappeared from LA never to be seen there again. He had hurt enough people, time for change. And here he was, just 10 years later, clean and respectable, owning a good business and being responsible. A very nice change indeed.

Jack rode the 10 miles into town on his snow machine, fresh snow all the way. Its been a week since Crank was over and Jack needed to get out of the house for a bit. Parking outside of Mannys alongside the other 20 or so machines, he noticed that this was todays mode of transportation. No trucks in the parking lot today. Just snowmobiles, covered in inches of new snow, and the occasional set of cross country skis or snowshoes leaning against the building under the eaves.

Walking into the first set of doors there is the ‘boot room’. This entrance into the bar is where you leave your muddy/snowy boots and coats. If you walk into Mannys with your boots on, all the patrons turn to you and yell ‘Boots!’ like your mom would. It only takes one of those to make you remember to change out in the boot room.  A supply of slippers of all sizes are provided for those with cold feet. The little kids love the Elmo slippers. Its hard to keep them though. They tend to find their way home on 4 year old toes. Manny spends a lot of money each fall restocking the Sesame Street slippers. Jack slides into a nice set of sheepskin slippers and opens the next doors into the bar.

Amazing smells of big green chile burritos, the scent of alcohol, and the fragrance of warm bodies all wrapped in the nice sound of humanity in a good mood greet him. Before he was two steps in the door he hears “Jack, over here!”. He turns and sees Crank in a booth in the distant corner. Walking to the booth he sees a stunning young woman sitting there also. “Crank has a girlfriend” Jack thinks erroneously. “Jack, this is Abby Carmichael, Silverville Sheriff,” Crank says, and then turning to Abby, “And this is Jack Taylor, retired FBI and new citizen of Silverville.”  Abby rises to shake hands and a small spark of electricity crosses through them as they grasp. The friction from the sheepskin slippers probably. “But a nice omen anyway” Jack thinks.

As soon as he settles, Manny walks over. Walks really isn’t the word here. Manny occupies space like a sumo wrestler. He moves with a deliberance. A shift in the force. Manny isn’t fat, he’s just BIG. He nods to Abby, “Sheriff,” then to Crank, “Coroner”. Crank pipes up, “Manny, you’ve known me what, 5 years now? Please, for the umpteenth time, call me Crank.” Manny gives a playful leer, He knows that bugs Crank, thats why he does it. He extends a hand the size of a skillet to Jack. “I’m Manny, nice to meet you.” Jack hides his hand in Mannys. “Jack Taylor, Nice to meet you.” “Just wanted to say hello, I’ll have Chris over here shortly.” With that Manny spins his gravitational force thru its axis and heads to the bar area where, with just a glance, he quiets a table of loud drinkers.

“Jeez, he’s huge” comments Jack. “That he is.” Abby says, watching Manny leave. “Crank tells me you were FBI.” “Yeah, 20 years. Worked my way up to a lead investigator and team lead. Retired about a year ago, moved here for peace and quiet.” “Quiet we got, peaceful is spotty.” Abby adds. Abby looks at Crank and gives a imperceptible nod. Crank starts “Jack, Abby and I need some of your experience. And since some of it may concern you directly, we would like to ask for some advice.”  Abby interjects “All my budget dollars are tied up, Jack. I can’t pay you one red cent without there being some sort of inquisition from the accountants. But we, I, could use some help here.” Jack looks into her big brown eyes, gets lost for a moment, and replies. “I’ll do what I can.”

 

Forever Cold – 3


Please read from #1 to keep up. Comments welcome.

3

Jack Taylor looks out his back door of his modest cabin. He has owned the land for years, but only recently moved in. Located in a small valley high in the Colorado rockies, he has a nice view of a small creek that meanders through his acreage. There is a small pond the stream flows through. Lots of Aspen trees and pine. And visits from all sorts of wildlife are not uncommon. He leases out his 200 acres to a local rancher who runs a few head of cattle and horses. Some of the land the rancher grows hay on for winter feeding. He’s not going to get rich on the lease money, but it pays the mortgage. Jack planted native grasses in his yard instead of grass. Less mowing that way. And it is less of a magnet to the deer. Deer are like big goats. Everything is edible to them. Not many vegetable gardens up here are left untouched by these damn deer. Situated in the back corner of his yard is a wrecked blue sedan. Well, it used to be blue, but now its kind of a dusty brown from all the weathering this past year. Jack rarely visits the car, feeling that the view of it from his back porch is close enough for now. He was close to the car plenty after it was dragged from the lake with his dead wife inside. Its been a long year.

After retiring from the FBI in Denver, Sarah and Jack were going to live in a small town and lead the simple life. But ghosts from his past changed all that. The investigation revealed that Sarah had been targeted. The toxicology report showed drugs in her system from the wine. And her car had been tampered with. Almost all of the safety systems had been altered. There was no way anyone would have survived all that, let alone his diminutive Sarah. Further investigation had led the FBI to look into Jacks past at various cases he had closed. They had narrowed the field of prospective suspects down to about a dozen. But with no real solid clues, it had ended there. The water in the lake had erased more then just his wife’s life. The only real evidence was the yellow sticky note. The few days submerged in the water with his wife had really faded the writing and left the ink so damaged no real forensics could be done on it. But the message was undeniable to Jack. “I’m coming back” is all it said. It made no sense to anyone else. But it made sense to Jack. Not too long after the investigation was finished he bought a small ranch 10 miles outside of Silverville, Colorado. Some said he was hiding. Some thought he was running. He thought he was trying to start anew. Maybe there is truth in all of them.

The engine he heard first. Coming down the long dirt road from the highway was an old Ford pickup. The driver was getting out of the cab when Jack opened the front door. Keeping a 12 gauge within easy reach he leaned on the door jamb. “Jack!” Crank yelled as he saw his old friend in the doorway. “Is that you, Crank?” Jack asked incredulously. They shake hands in the driveway. No guy hugs here. Not this generation. “Come on in Crank.” Jack insists. “It sure is nice to see an old friend.” They work their way up the the porch. The temperature is in the 50s still. Not bad for October. Jack grabs a bottle of Scotch and two tumblers and sits on one of the padded wicker chairs. Crank pours a couple of stiff pulls, and they both settle back.

“Looks like snows coming.” Crank says after a good swallow. “See how dark the clouds are at the edges.” Jack nods and says “I haven’t been here long enough to see those signs.”  Crank nods and they sit silently for a few minutes. “Look, Jack,” Crank says “I came to see how you were doing. I heard about Sarah and I felt there was nothing I could do 300 miles away.” “There was nothing you could do.” Jack offered. “The investigation came up empty. And after all that happened, I guess, well…” Jack tailed off in thought. More silence. Jack then brightened “Hey, I heard you were working here.” “Yeah, got tired of the big city rat race and took the job offer here in Silverville a few years back.” Crank replied. “Pay is a bit less, but the views are incredible. And with only one stop light in town there aren’t any traffic jams.”  “Its a whole lot quieter up here as well.” Jack said. “Sometimes I miss the work, Not the cases I mean, but I miss the people sometimes.”  Crank was ready. “We have a case going on now that has us stumped. We could use a new set of eyes on it, and with your experience, well, who knows what could happen.” Jack cringed. “I don’t know. I’ve been out of it for more than a year now. And after my Sarah was taken from me, I just don’t have the heart for it.”

  Crank thought for a while. “Jack, just think about it. We have a new sheriff who is really smart and she’ll listen to experience like yours.” “She?” Jack shot back. ‘A female sheriff? My how times change.”  Crank answers “She’s good Jack, and cute. Look her up and introduce yourself to her. Just leave my name out of it. Abby will not forgive me if she knew I was talking to you without her knowing.” Jack and Crank stand up at this. Crank makes to leave, but turns to Jack. “I heard there was a note in the car.” Jack paled at this. Crank continued “We have a case which I think you will be very interested in.” “What do you mean?” Jack asked. “There was writing on the bathroom wall, Jack. In the victims own blood.” Crank offered. Jack waited for more. “It said ‘I’m Back.’“  Jack could barely move. The blood rushing in his ears sounded like the ocean. Crank helped him back to the wicker chair. After a few minutes Jack came out of it and said “I’ll look her up, Crank, I’ll find Abby.”

Forever Cold – 2


If you are new here, read the post below first. Comments welcome.

2 – Current day

“Sheriff! Over here!”  Abby scoots around the overturned furniture and slides into the hall towards the voice. In the back bedroom is a scene of chaos. Blood on every surface. Nothing in the right place. And a mans body laying across the bed. Without a head. “Jeez, Mike, you could have said something.” Abby says as she turns her head, coughs a little and tries to hold back the gag reflex. Mike, her 2nd in command, is scribbling in his notebook as the coroner finishes his routine. “The house belongs to Earl Wilson” Mike continues without looking up, “We’re thinking this is Earl, but we’ll wait for Crank.” Crank, the coroner, looks up. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is Earl. I’ll know more later. Assuming you have a head to go with the body.” Abby looks at Mike, “You don’t know where the head is?”. Mike shrugs his shoulders. “Not yet, we’re just starting to look around.” With that he moves past Abby and moves outside with a few of the other officers into the yard. Abby and Crank just stand there looking at each other. Neither one really wants to move around the room much with all of the slippery body fluids on the floor. The sticky, sucking sound as your shoes move through it really tests your stomach.

From the doorway Abby scans the bedroom. All seems to be here, although all on the floor. Dresser, lamps, bed linens, etc. She carefully tiptoes into the bathroom in the far corner. No blood in here. All is neat and orderly. “Obviously a bachelor”, Abby says under her breath. She pulls on her latex gloves and gingerly pulls open the mirrored vanity above the sink. Toothpaste and headache medicines. A few prescriptions. Nothing unusual. Turning to her right she pulls back the shower curtain. Perched on a chair, in the middle of the tub, is Earls head. Eyes open, looking right at Abby. “Mike!” Abby screams and starts backing up. She backs into Crank, and startled by his presence, screams again. Turning towards him “Goddammit, Crank! Let a girl know when you’re behind them will you!” Crank steadies Abby. As Abby is looking at Crank she sees his eyes widen and stare. Turning to the bath again she sees it herself. Written on the back tile of the shower is ‘I’m back’  in Earls blood.

The next day they all meet back at the station. Crank and Mike already have coffee and are sitting at the big table in the break room they all use as a central point. Abby is getting a mug of Earl Grey going when Crank starts. “My initial review shows Earl was slammed in the head with something like a hammer. I don’t know if he died immediately or not. His head was cut off with a regular hand saw. Like you would use on a two-by-four.” Mike and Abby cringe a little at the thought. In a small town like Silverville you don’t get a lot of grisly crimes to harden your emotions. Mike shuffles some papers around. “What?” Abby asks. Mike doesn’t say anything for awhile. “ We’re still looking around the house some. We’ll be there for a few more days. But the boys and I are coming up empty. Not empty in that there isn’t anything there, But empty in that Earl doesn’t exist.” “What does that mean?” asks Crank. “I ran Earls information from his Drivers license and and other IDs through Acuranet and Earl doesn’t exist past 8 years ago.” Mike counters. “I’ll keep trying everything I can, but it seems as though our recently departed has been hiding from something.” “Or someone.” Abby adds. Crank stands up and walks around to the coffee maker. “I used to know someone when I worked in Denver. He retired a few years back and made a move out here. I can contact him if you want.” Abby looks deep into her mug. “I’ll think about it.” Crank nods. Then adds “He was a really good investigator but he’s got a lot of baggage.”