The Last Straw

when they came and took away his Irish whiskey

he stood up to them and said you can’t do this to me

when they came to take his driver’s license away

he warned them and said I’ll get it back someday

when they came after his ’49 Chevrolet one night

he was waiting for them and they got into a fight

when they came after his marijuana field

he made a deal to share the harvest’s yield

when his freedom was subject to a bogus law

the pending injustice was the last straw

he withdrew from civilization

and went into hibernation

Reasons For Seasons

1000 words –

It wasn’t that Alto Morelli didn’t believe the best revenge was served cold, but at times he was sick and tired of waiting for his chance.

How long had it been since the bastard killed his brother Joey? Two, three years? It seemed like forever. But you can’t just knock off a Mafia capo and expect to live…unless you wait until just the right moment and no one can trace it to you. Rule one for successful revenges; live to tell the tale.

Alto was an independent contractor. He hired out his gun, but never his loyalty to many of the denizens of the underworld in 1932. The press referred to his kind as a “Hit Man.” But very few people in New York, New Jersey, or Chicago knew that he was one. Mostly Mafia crime bosses and leaders of other gangs like the Irish Mob.

The other thing about Alto was no one knew what his last name was. Only his brother Joey knew it, and he was dead now. His killer, Johnny Dancer, was a capo for the Bonnano crime family in New York. He was also a paranoid schizophrenic who surrounded himself with bodyguards at all times. Johnny knew there were plenty of people out there who wanted to see him dead…for a whole host of reasons.

Still, it was hard to wait. Alto was a man of action. At times he felt like a coward, taking so long to extract his pound of flesh because he wasn’t ready to die doing it. It felt like he was desecrating Joey’s memory at times. He shook those thoughts off and forged ahead looking for the perfect opening.

The bible said there was, “… a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.” That encouraged him because he was a Catholic, even if he didn’t go to confession.

Faith in that quote kept him going. He knew there would be a season to kill, and his family burden would be forever lifted.

The season to kill finally arrived when Alto’s paid snitch in the Bonnano family told him Johnny and two of his rich friends were going upstate to the Catskills for a weekend of fishing and hunting. He gave Alto the directions, who thanked him and then shot him point blank! No witnesses. Number Two rule of survival.

Hunting season in the Catskills. How appropriate.

When Alto arrived at the hunting lodge he took his time sizing up how many occupants were there. He quickly spotted Johnny and what he took to be his two rich friends. Not far away were two alert-looking bodyguards watching the three men eat a meal outdoors on the open porch.

It took a few more hours before he discovered the other two bodyguards who were patrolling the perimeter of the lodge. Six people who he had to kill, but it was worth it to get Johnny. He was already envisioning where he would dispose of the bodies afterward. No one would ever know what happened.

His inner survivor briefly questioned if this was the right season, after all the odds were against him. Then he focused upon the task. He waited until late at night, past midnight, and snuck up on the first guard outside the front door, slitting his throat neatly and professionally.

The second guard was nodding in a chair in the living room. He looked up in time to see Alto for a moment, then a hand went over his mouth while his throat was slashed open. Then Alto cautiously went into the first bedroom. Saw someone in a bed. Went right over, checked his face briefly in the light of the full moon streaming through the window. Another guard. Slit his throat.

He went to the second bedroom. This time the sleeper was one of Johnny’s pals. Slit his throat. The next room had the other pal. Slit his throat. That left Johnny and one guard. Was that guard in Johnny’s bedroom? He opened the last bedroom door slowly. Inch-by-inch. His keen ears attuned to any sound.

Then he heard a click! Without thinking he dropped down to the floor as the shotgun blast tore into the door! Alto pulled his .45 Colt Automatic out and fired from the prone position in the direction of the blast! A man screamed and collapsed directly across from him. Then another shotgun blast hastily fired over his head from the right near the bed! When he rose up Johnny was trying to reload, but was fumbling with the cartridge.

Instead of immediately killing him Alto jumped up and rushed him, knocking the old twin-barrel shotgun aside as he grabbed his neck with one hand and hit him alongside the head with the pistol in the other. He stood over the bleeding and semi conscious man and considered how he wanted to kill him.

He thought about when he found his brother, just before he died, and how badly he suffered. His tormentors took a drill to both his hands and feet. They pulled out all of his teeth. There were numerous burns and cuts from head to toe. They blinded him with a hot poker and cut his tongue out.

In the end, he took Johnny outside for a short walk from the lodge and tied him to a tree. Then he cut him from sternum to groin so his guts leaked out while he was still alive. He stayed long enough to listen to and savor his screams which deteriorated to moans as his lifeblood soaked the base of the tree.

Two novice hunters heard the screams. They followed them through the forest. Both were teenagers and eager to find the source. Suddenly something big burst through the undergrowth and they both panicked and fired their rifles!

Alto spun around when one of the shots hit him in the chest, falling to the ground heavily. His last thought made him grin at the irony, “There’s also a season for dying.”

Relentless

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He made a mistake in not finishing the job when he tried to kill me.

It was a tactical error assuming the bomb in the living room of my house permanently put my lights out. He should have checked closer. Gone through the rubble after the fire died down. But he didn’t, and a police dog discovered me (barely breathing) as the authorities were going over the crime scene.

I spent the next two years going through painful plastic surgeries designed to make my face look halfway human. In addition, I suffered through countless skin grafts for my chest, arms, and legs that were also severely burned. The end result, when they released me, was that I looked like something out of a horror show. But I was alive. Motivated by all-consuming hate, and the opportunity for revenge.

I’m going to back up here for a moment, and give you some background.

My brothers Will and Steve, and I, started a computer software company ten years ago. Against all odds our little start-up was successful and we were barely able to keep up with all the business that came in. We all worked endless hours to make the company a success for three years. By the fourth year we decided to add a partner to the company. He promised to take us to the next level in marketing. The fast-talking computer whiz’s name was Dan Bob Binion. He was already a successful businessman when he met my brothers and I. By that time, Steve and Will were married and homes of their own. I owned a house and had a live-in girlfriend. We sold the house that we were living in and put the money into the business.

Binion was a greedy little weasel that often struck me as a modern-day Ponzi. If it wasn’t for his marketing expertise we never would have brought him aboard. He did have a lot of industry connections and the Midas touch when it came to making good deals. In his first year with us, our profits soared over the year before. The following year my brother Will died in an auto accident. Steve and I mourned him, and set his wife Sally up for life. I remember what a tough year it was to celebrate our profit with Will gone. Binion, who always kept to himself, continued to open up new markets for our latest digital products, a line we started the year before.

In the eighth year of our partnership, Steve was the victim of a hit-and-run in the parking lot of our business building. Despite cameras, the police couldn’t find the gray sedan that struck him. When I found out what happened, I fell into a deep depression and stopped coming to work. Binion kept things going for months as I grieved for my last sibling.

One day I felt good enough to go back to the office and see how things were going. As soon as I opened the door, my office manager (Sally’s sister Trish) got up from her desk and led me over to my office. Closing the door behind her she asked me to sit down. She came right to the point; “Binion ran Steve over!” she hissed.

I was shocked but quickly recovered and asked her if that were true why didn’t she tell the police? She candidly admitted she was afraid of what Binion might do.

“How do you know it was Binion?” I asked.

“Because he owned a gray BMW just like the one in the video. He didn’t drive it into work everyday though, preferring his Corvette. I saw it once before, about six months ago. He pulled it up by the red curb outside and took a box out of the trunk and set it down on the sidewalk. I remember wondering what was in the box.

“You didn’t tell the police this?”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m afraid of him. He’s always given me the creeps. Especially when he first started hitting on me. I asked Sally what to do? She said she’d speak to Will and not to worry about my name coming up in the conversation.

“What happened?

“I’m not sure. Will never mentioned it to me.

As Trish spoke, a thought formed in my mind and I asked her when the incident happened? Her reply made my blood run cold. It was just weeks before Will died in an auto accident. Once that connection was made the ramifications hit me squarely between the eyes. Binion was taking over the company by murdering all of us. It was a simple but scary conclusion that made sense. It also made sense that I was going to be the next victim.

I stayed on high alert for weeks, waiting for him to make a move. Our paths crossed twice, during meetings with our department heads. That he could look me in the eye and smile, told me he was a sociopath (at the very least.) I changed my routines, sometimes canceling appointments at the last minutes. It was a deadly game of cat and mouse and I should have gotten the police involved. I thought I could handle the little weasel now that I knew his intentions. I’d stay a step ahead of him. That was my mistake. It was nearly my last one in this world. When that bomb went off I thought it was. But the gods of revenge didn’t desert me, they only disfigured me.

As I went through my surgeries I imagined that little monster was concerned that I could somehow pin the bomb on him. He tried to visit me twice, but was turned away by the doctor and the guard posted outside my door. When I was finally healthy enough to be released, I rented a room in a luxury hotel near my office and business.

That brings us up to right now.

I think he suspects that I know he tried to murder me, but is puzzled why I haven’t done anything about it yet. That’s good. I want him to worry. To have sleepless nights wondering when I’ll strike. Wondering if I even suspect him of trying to murder me? I want him to suffer. I’ve got a special location set up for him. It’s in a warehouse that I bought. It was once a slaughterhouse. It still has the hooks hanging from the ceiling where the sides of beef hung and rows of butcher block tables stained with years of blood.

I’ve made arrangements for Binion to be kidnapped today. A couple of friends of Will volunteered to deliver him to me at the warehouse. No questions asked. I’m in no shape to overpower anyone, or I would have done the job myself. It’s a challenge for me to even walk. I can’t wait for them to bring him here, and to see his fear when the blindfold comes off. I’ve got all the time in the world and a set of butcher knives Trish gave me.

What’s that?

Oh! It’s my guest! They’re bringing him in right now! You’ll have to excuse me because I’m going to be busy chatting with Binion as I butcher him!

As It Stands, revenge is best served…slowly.

The Butcher, Cook, and the Candlemaker

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When the Tranker triplets processed a kill nothing went to waste.

The brother’s, and the couple that adopted them,  ran a small inn offering food and a place to sleep for weary travelers hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rude log structure they lived in was two stories high and nearly a hundred years old. Once upon a time, the whole Tranker family lived there with other extended members of the family. But after the terrible slaughter of 1936, the only members left alive were the triplets, Bob, Barry, and Bradley.

The boys were taken in by a distant cousin and her husband after their parents, aunts and uncles were butchered like pigs one warm summer night. They decided to turn the house into a bed-and-breakfast. The boys were eleven years-old during this transition in their lives. The new man in the house, and their stand-in for a father, was Uriah Jones, a hard-drinking hunter who was also a crack shot. His wife Ellie was an excellent cook and house-keeper. She maintained a garden of vegetables, did housework, cooked meals, and assigned chores to the boys every day. There was always wood to be chopped and water hauled. The pigs and chickens had to be fed and cared for. The cow milked every morning. The two-acre wooden fence that formed a perimeter around the house and barn, was constantly in need of repair. There was no shortage of work for the triplets, who were sturdy mountain boys accustomed to hard labor.

With Uriah as a teacher, the triplicates became crack shots and excellent hunters. With Ellie’s help they learned how to cook a great meal, and to grow fertile gardens of vegetables and melons. The years passed peacefully and they were able to make a good living. Travelers came and went without incident.

The boys each had their own hobbies. Barry learned how to make long-lasting candles from animal fat that he fashioned into unusual shapes. Bob, who was the best hunter among them, was best at butchering kills. He made an art out of it. Bradley was the best cook, making simple mouth-watering meals that never failed to please people. Uriah and Ellie were as proud of the triplets as if they were their own.

Uriah and Ellie had a lot to be thankful for. When they had to flee Signal Mountain, Tennessee ahead of the authorities they weren’t sure where to go. If it wasn’t for one of Ellie’s cousins they would have never known about the “family tragedy” and the need for someone to raise the surviving triplets after that terrible night of slaughter. When Uriah arrived in the Blue Mountains the first thing he did was to challenge all the best shots in the valley. None of them ever realized they were competing against a WW I Army sniper with a record amount of kills in his company.

It didn’t take long for Uriah and Ellie to fit in comfortably with the small community. The boys however never strayed from the inn, and refused to go to local square dances and shindigs for the holidays. None of them were comfortable around people, but they all managed to treat guests well enough because there were seldom complaints. They all felt more at ease hunting in the rolling hills, forests, and meadows near the inn.

Truth be told, most of the locals weren’t very comfortable with the triplets. They felt sorry for them, but were also slightly uneasy around them. Dark rumors traveled along the local gossip line for years…rumors suggesting the boys might have committed the gruesome murders themselves. There was never any evidence of that, according to the Sheriff. But the rumors were persistent, as they tend to be when they’re sensational. It didn’t help that the triplicates were anti-social. One of them, Barry, had a lazy left eye that seemed to spook everyone. Superstitious folk claimed it was an evil eye.

Fall was making its mark and the leaves on the trees were a carnival of brilliant colors when a stranger from Tennessee showed up at the inn one day. He was a tall thin man whose baggy suit hung on him like a scarecrow. Barry watched up walking up the road, suitcase in hand and clutching his fedora against the blustery wind. Folks didn’t usually come to stay at this time of year and Barry frowned at him as he approached the porch. Just then Bradley, the most social of the triplets, came out the front door and greeted the stranger jovially.

“How kin I hep ya mister?”

“Lookin fer a place to stay for a couple of days,” the stranger replied while sitting his suitcase down on the wooden porch.

“I reckon we’ve got a spare bed, and a meal. You got cash?

“Sure do.” He pulled out his wallet and peeled off some bills. “Will that do?” he asked.

Bradley took the proffered money, and nodded. “Room upstairs to the right. Got a buck’s head mounted above it.”

“Obliged.”

He picked his suitcase up and stepped inside as Bradley held the door open for him.

“What’s yer name stranger?” Bradley asked him as he started up the stairs.

“Darren.”

There was a pause, then Bradley said, “Mine’s, Bradley. My brother Barry is on the porch, and my other brother Bob is out hunting for tonight’s dinner. Our folks are in town, but they’ll be back tonight.”

“Are you…?”

I reckon so, we un’s all look-alike cause we’re triplicates.

When Uriah and Ellie got home late that night, Barry was still sitting on the porch despite the chilly night.

“You okay son?” Uriah asked.

“We got a border upstairs,” he grumbled.

“So? We uns always have boarders. Ya know that Barry. Git along. Git some sleep now.”

“Don’t like ’em…” Barry’s voice followed Uriah and Ellie to bed.

The next morning.

As usual, Ellie was the first one up in the house making coffee and breakfast while it was still dark outside. Shortly thereafter, Uriah came into the kitchen and sat down at the head of the table. He was sipping his coffee when he heard someone coming down the stairs.

“Must be our new boarder,” he told Ellie.

When Darren stepped into the kitchen, Ellie dropped a plate in fright and Uriah rose up from his chair in alarm. The tall thin man reached under his baggy jacket and pulled out an old navy Colt revolver.

“I knew I’d finally catch up to you two murdering thieves! When you robbed that hardware store in Signal Mountain you killed my pa, but only wounded me! I’ve been hunting for you for a long time!”

Uriah lunged at Darren who leveled his gun and fired at him point-blank! Ellie tried to pick up a knife to defend herself with, but Darren shot her in the head first! It was over in moments. The acrid smell of gun smoke mingled with the freshly cooked rolls on the kitchen counter and the bacon burning in the frying pan.

The gunfire woke up the triplets who slept in the second bedroom downstairs. By the time they ran out of their room Darren had fled. The triplicate’s tortured howls of grief sounded like wounded wolves! The only two people in the world they trusted were brutally executed. Murdered while they slept nearby.

The triplicates knew the area like the back of their hand, and split up after agreeing to a preordained meeting spot at noon. Each had a hunting rifle. They all were expert trackers. It was just a matter of time before they found their quarry.

Barry bagged Darren less than a mile from the cabin in an open meadow. He was limping along and never saw the bullet coming. Barry tied a rope around his ankles and drug his body to the meeting place. When Bradley and Bob showed up they complimented him.

“Good shootin’, brother,” they chorused.

The three brothers took Darren’s corpse back to the barn and hung it from the heels with meat hooks. Bob got his butcher knife and began carving the body up into meaty slabs and hunks. Barry and Bradley built a fire and put a 55 gallon drum with water in it over the flames. Bob tossed gobbets of flesh into the barrel until all that was left was bones and globs of body fat carefully trimmed off the meat. Bradley took the fat and stored it with his candle making supplies. After 24 hours there was nothing left of Darren but boiled meat, which they froze. His bones were ground up into a powder by Bradley.

Nearly two days passed before the brothers agreed to contact the sheriff. When he came out with his deputy he immediately noticed that rigor mortis had set in on the victims, and they smelled real bad! Pinching his nose with one hand, the sheriff indicated they should step outside with the other. As usual the brothers spoke in dull monotones and a minimum of words while being interviewed. They told their story and said the killer got away. The following investigation increased the suspicions of some locals who whispered the boys did it again, and murdered in cold blood like so many years before.

With no evidence, they were exonerated by the law, but not by the locals who feared them. The triplicates got their revenge against Darren, and re-discovered their taste for human flesh. A taste they all developed, and hadn’t satisfied since they murdered their entire family all those years ago!

The Great Goblin Invasion

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In an age of magic, long before mankind learned to walk upright and come out of trees, there was a fairy dynasty, The House of Nim, that ruled in an age of peace and posterity.

It was an era where warrior wizards roamed the land and fought evil where they found it. Goblins gathered in packs and hunted unwary travelers, often just killing them for the sheer joy of it. Forests were homes for ogres who fought one another when there was no one else to attack. The clannish brutes leaders were smart enough to keep their subjects concealed in the vast forests, and not to go looking for enemies.

One of the largest cities at the time, Shambhala, was in the Kingdom of Rathan, ruled by King Auth. It was a trading hub and a crossroad for other communities. The city was surrounded by a great wall and had a castle in the center where the king lived with his large family.

North of Shambhala, were the famously fertile fields of the fairy territory ruled by the House of Nim. They stretched out as far as the eye could see. Fairy’s had been cultivating it since the dawn of time. Most of the inhabitants were farmers who seldom used their wings. The royal family, and select members of the court, not only used their wings, but they also practiced ancient magic to protect their kingdom. They considered themselves warrior-scholars who stood up to enemies, but never sought them out.

Towards the end of the third millennium, before the great asteroid struck and nearly destroyed the earth, ragtag bands of thousands of roaming goblins became organized under a dark sorcerer named Zargot, whose mother was a rogue fairy and father a renown goblin warlord. The combination made him stand out among his peers, and most feared to even be around him. His temper was legendary, but his ability to organize achieved something never attempted before; a united goblin attack against a city, Shambhala. As far back as memory served, the goblins were hit-and-run road bandits with bad attitudes. The times were changing under Zargot.

In the Kingdom of Rathan, the royal family consisted of three sons, and three daughters. All were related to the fairy community of Nim, but did not have wings. Their grand wizards studied under the mages of Nim.

Among the royal children, there was one who was a rebel. His name was Tarn, and he always seemed to do the opposite of his siblings, a passive group. His aggressive personality worried his parents early on, but as he grew older he demonstrated that he could serve in the kingdom’s best interests. He was the only child that wanted to travel so his parents indulged him and made him an ambassador to the House of Nim. He insisted on traveling there by himself, secure in his ability to defend against any attacker.

He traveled light with only a forest green cape, over his plain brown tunic. With a short sword, and a water flask in his broad belt, he set on down the road. Tarn’s knowledge of fruits and plants made it easy for him to live off the land as he walked towards Shambhala. He meditated as he walked, a trick he learned from his master at an early age. The road he traveled twisted like a snake through fields of grain and flowers spread out across the massive plain. As the sun shrugged and slowly went down, Tarn heard something that instantly put him on alert. The sound of grunts coming from nearby were headed towards him! He got off the well-beaten path and slipped into a field of grain. Raising his hands over his head he muttered an incantation of disguise and stood still, becoming one with the tall stalks that surrounded him. Just in time. The goblin army had sent out scouts and they were everywhere. Some passed within inches of him, unwary of his presence.

Tarn listened to their grunts and made out enough to know an army was nearby and moving toward his city! He fought against his natural impatience until he was sure it was okay to suspend the spell, then turned around and ran back home as fast as possible in the darkness. When he approached the gates of Shambhala he called out to the guards, “Open up immediately!”

The commander of the guard doubled the sentries and made sure they were all heavily armed with axes, spears, and arrows. With the goblin watch set up, Tarn went to King Auth and asked for his advise.

“What shall we do, sire?

“We must see how large this army is. Our defenses are set and we are ready, my son. I’m so glad you’re all right, and were able to come back and warn us,” the old king said with pride in his eyes.

In the followings days, thousands of goblins surrounded the city walls. Their numbers increased daily as the defenders looked on. Finally one day the sorcerer Zargot appeared in front of the main gate. He called out to King Auth to surrender and for his subjects to become his vassals. The king, surrounded by his children and wife on the main palisade, drew his sword and waved it high.

“Leave here, with your ridiculous demands, and go back where you came from!” he warned the sorcerer.

Zargot spread his arms beneath his black cloak and flew up to the top of the palisade and hovered in front of the royal family.

“This is your last chance. Resist me, and I’ll share your flesh with my minions!” he roared.

Tarn raised his bow and notched an arrow as Zargot flew back to his goblin army. When he let go of the arrow Zargot turned and caught it in mid-air. He cast a spell and the arrow flew from his hand with a life of its own, back towards the front gate, striking one of the king’s son in his throat! The queens wail of grief was drowned out by the masses of goblins screaming war cries as they ran toward the front gate and the two side gates at once.

The rear wall faced a forest populated with ogres. The stretch between the forest and the rear wall was the distance that a good archer could shoot an arrow. It was a neutral area avoided by travelers, and contained large quicksand pits. Even the animals avoided the area.

The goblins threw themselves at the walls, raising hundreds of ladders and scurrying up them like giant worker ants lusting for blood. The carnage went on until the sun set and darkness descended like a cloak over the countless bodies. The goblins breached the wall twice during the battle, but were turned back both times by counter attacks led by Tarn.

That night a council was held by the royal family and the kingdom’s three wizards. They knew they couldn’t continue to have so many casualties. Over half of the defenders were dead, including two of the king’s sons and one daughter who fought fiercely on the palisades with the warriors. It was decided that Tarn would leave immediately for Nim to get help.

He had to sneak out by the back wall. The other three were too heavily populated with the goblins army. It meant he would have to travel through the forest and circle around towards the Kingdom of Nim. He slipped out a secret door and stopped long enough to cast a simple spell that illuminated the areas where there was quicksand. Passing by them he entered the forest and set a steady pace while listening and looking for ogres.

He heard them before he saw them. The ogres were arguing about something around a campfire. Twice the size of goblins, ogres were powerful but slow. Their fierce appearance was enough to intimidate smaller foes. There was also one other thing about the ogres, they had an excellent sense of smell that was highly attuned to fairy folk and goblins. The same time he saw then, they smelled him and came to their feet. He backed up to a tree and cast a spell of invisibility just before they lumbered past him. Drawing his sword, and relaxing the spell, he came up behind one of them just as he turned around and plunged the blade into his massive chest! His death cry brought the other two over before he had time to disappear. One of them threw an ax at him and barely missed. Tarn charged the ogre before he recovered from the throw and drove his sword into his heart. The last ogre grabbed Tarn by the shoulders and threw him like a doll at a tree! Blocking the pain, he got up and ran for his life. The ogre soon gave up chasing him.

By the time Tarn got out of the forest it was daylight. His whole body ached, but he remained focused on his mission and headed towards the fields of grain that led to the Kingdom of Nim.

The mages of Nim were waiting for Tarn when he arrived.

“We know what Zargot has done. Know then, that he was once one of us many eons ago. But his dark side got the better of him and we forced him into exile on the Island of Narta. However, he grew strong enough in the passing of time to break the spell bonds holding him there. What is happening now is his revenge. We hope you and your people will forgive us for what’s happened. We go now, my fellow mages and I, to confront Zargot and stop this invasion of your city.

“Can I go with you?”

“No. The high magic that’s going to be involved would kill you outright. Instead, lead our warriors to confront and destroy the goblin army that threatens your great city.”

And, so it was.

The great goblin army was destroyed, and the evil sorcerer Zargot was defeated by the mages of Nim. But the story doesn’t end there. Tarn goes on to more adventures and becomes a legend in his time.

As It Stands, I just had to get my fantasy on here. Hope you enjoyed it.

The Last Patriot

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Prologue:

Walter waited for a year for just the right moment to kill Captain Karl Gisborne.

One long year of huddling in bad weather outside of buildings, restaurants, and sky scrapers. One year of following him in taxis, and rental cars around the world. One year of trailing him when he walked in Central Park, and down the sidewalks of New York. Watching. Looking for that perfect opportunity to murder his mentor.

Today, would be that day.

Five years prior.

Camp Peary, Virginia, also known as “The Farm.

After graduating second in his class at CIA University, Walter Molter, did his finishing school at The Farm where he was taken under the wing of Captain Karl Gisborne. He saw something in the young man that he liked. Unquestioning loyalty. Walter felt like he was a patriot, and was honored to serve his country in the best way he could. The thing he liked the most about Walter was he did what he was told without question.

Captain Gisborne personally shepherded him around the international spook community introducing him to contacts in foreign governments and underground groups. He accompanied him on his first assassination attempt.

The target was a German politician suspected of plotting a coup against the current government with the Russian Mafia’s help. The current Chancellor was aware of his adversaries and didn’t want any of his men involved in an assassination attempt. Instead he called on his CIA connection, Captain Gisborne, to eliminate his enemy.

That task became Walter’s assignment. Two days later the German politician came staggering out of a local beer house with two friends after celebrating his birthday. It was dark and there was no one on the street as the three men laughed at their efforts to walk. They never noticed Walter step out from a dark alley and come up behind them. The silencer on his custom 9mm pistol made a slight puffing sound three times. Each bullet striking its victim in the back of the head.

Afterwards, Captain Gisborne joked about getting three for the price of one. “We must have standards,” he chuckled over a shot of Scotch. In that way Walter understood that “collateral damage” could happen, and it would be all right.

One thing Captain Gisborne recognized early on with Walter was he truly believed he was one of the good guys. One of the chosen to protect democracy wherever his country, and Captain Gisborne called on him to go. In order to keep him thinking that way he constantly indoctrinated him – assuring him the country was safer because of his efforts; and how lovers of freedom throughout the nation prayed for men like him.

Walter lost count of how many men, and women, he killed after three years. He lost touch with his parents and siblings and lived alone in a hotel. He had no possessions other than necessary things like clothes and hygiene products. He didn’t read magazines, or books. He seldom watched TV, unless there was a news event on he was interested in.

In Walter’s profession, there was always the chance things could go wrong and he’d get killed. It was a given he lived with. The law of averages finally caught up to Walter, but not quite the way he would’ve guessed.

He found a hand-written note that was slipped under his door when he woke up one morning. He recognized the script as Captain Gisborne’s. It instructed him to meet him in Central Park that night at eleven o’clock. Walter’s inner radar buzzed. This was the first time he ever contacted him with a note under his door. It was out of the norm and his suspicious mind chewed on it like a dog with a tasty beef bone. Up until now, it was always a phone call that summoned him.

He arrived at Central Park at six o’clock, giving him time to explore the area before the meeting at eleven. He was dressed entirely in black with a black watch cap that could be pulled down and had eye holes to see out of.

When he was within seeing distance of Cleopatra’s Needle, a red granite obelisk that stood 69-feet tall, he hid in some dense bushes without anyone noticing. There were just a few people lingering in the cool evening. A man and woman sat on a bench, staring in awe at the mighty obelisk that once stood in the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis in Ancient Egypt around 1450 BC.

Lying down, he made himself as comfortable as possible while keeping a sharp eye out for Captain Gisborne. The note troubled him. He tried to think why he chose that instead of calling. “Calls can be traced,” his suspicious mind suggested. It was after ten o’clock when Captain Gisborne showed up with another man. They stood in front of the obelisk and talked quietly. No one else was around. Beneath the old-fashioned street light at one corner, Walter could see their faces…and read their lips. A skill he picked up years ago.

“Why now? The stranger asked Captain Gisborne.

“He’s become a liability.”

“How, so?” 

“The Russians are on to him. I’m told they have enough information on his assassinations to start a couple of investigations with the French and the Saudis governments. They will try to put him on public trial, and it will be very bad if our “special unit” comes under the scrutiny of the American people.”

“Can’t we hide him? He’s a true patriot and doesn’t deserve this.

“A true patriot,” Gisborne mocked the man, “You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s no patriots nowadays. Just specialists. That bullshit went out of fashion decades ago. You just need to do your job, Clancy.”

Walter saw enough and got up on all fours, pulling out his 9mm sans a silencer. He watched the man called Clancy go over to a tree and hide behind it. He circled around him and shot him in the head before he knew he was there. The shot brought Gisborne to his feet. Clancy was supposed to have used a silencer. When Walter stepped from behind the tree Gisborne didn’t hesitate. He popped off a short series of shots and hit Walter twice! He returned fire and stumbled off into the nearby forest. He almost died that night. If it wasn’t for a Park Patrol officer finding him he would have bled out.

He only stayed in the hospital for a day before leaving despite doctor’s orders. He had one slug removed from his left shoulder and another passed through his chest without hitting a vital organ. A police officer was stationed outside his room, waiting for the doctor’s okay to interview him. He knew it was just a matter of time before someone came looking for him. Despite the pain, he got up, unhooked his IV and got dressed. The officer was talking with a nurse down the hall when he peaked out the door. They were still talking as he casually walked out and went in the opposite direction. He went unnoticed by the busy staff, and made his way out the front door and into the growing darkness.

As he was healing he stayed in a small motel outside New Jersey City. It gave him plenty of time to think about getting his revenge and what being a patriot meant in the 21st century. He thought about all the things Captain Gisborne had told him over the years about what it meant to be a true patriot. He found himself, to his utter disgust, comparing his unquestioning loyalty to Gisborne to the Germans who fought for Hitler in WW II. He thought about the Nuremberg Trails. He grew up believing in the American way. He was a boy scout. A quarterback for his high school football team. So much promise. Then he went into the CIA.

But today was the day he would get his revenge. Gisborne dismissed his bodyguard, a former Seal, and joined other mourners gathered at Arlington Cemetery to honor a former CIA chief from the Bush administration. After the ceremonies Gisborne went to his car, but the driver wasn’t there. Once a spook, always a spook. He realized at the last second that something was wrong as Walter slid out from beneath the Black SUV and pointed a gun at him.

“For America! For honesty and decency!” he shouted while pumping Gisborne full of lead. Before he died in a hail of bullets from the Washington DC police, he cried out once more…”For America!”

Newspaper headline the next day:

“CIA Legend, True Patriot, Assassinated By Rogue Agent.”

As It Stands, the question of what patriotism really means can become muddied by history and reality.

I Run a Ghost Referral Service

mila

Thank you for stopping by.

Before you leave, would you mind filling out the short questionnaire on the desk by the door? I’m always interested in how people hear about me, and my Ghost Referral service.

My name is Truman Dansforth, III. And, your here to ask me how you can meet with a certain ghost. Alrighty then, let’s get down to business. Please take a seat, as I take notes.

“The ghost’s name?”

“Cindy Mayberry.”

“Family member, or lover?”

“Well… my lover, but her life was cut short in a car accident.”

 “I see. And your name?”

“Jake Harriman.”

“I’m going to ask you to relax Jake, as I step outside the room for a moment to check on my poltergeist contacts in the next room. Would you like a drink?”

“No, thank you.

When I walked to my spirit contact center down the hall, I had an odd feeling about Jake. I’m a sensitive guy who picks up vibes all the time. It’s probably why I have such success with ghosts. I’m use to people being nervous when they come in. But Jake had an air about him like a wounded animal on a mission. Hard to explain.

It didn’t take me long to find Cindy Mayberry. She was stuck in the “in-between.” It’s amazing how many ghosts get hung up with earthly issues that weren’t resolved. She was sitting in the front passenger seat of a wrecked Corvette. She seemed glad to see me and knew why I was looking for her.

“Jake’s at my place and would like to talk with you Cindy.”

For a moment, I thought I saw a spark of anger in her eyes, but it passed when she spoke.

“Dear Jake,” she said sarcastically. “Take me to him.”

When we entered the parlor where Jake was waiting, I noticed a sudden coldness in the room.

“Don’t mind me, you two. I’m going to clean the fireplace and build a fire.”

“Cindy! How I miss you!

“I’ll bet you do Jake. Remember how you use to beat me up when you thought I was seeing someone else?

“Hold on! You were seeing someone. I followed you, and saw you get into a blue Corvette with another man three times in the last month.”

“Your insane jealousy was what use to turn me off about you Jake. Did you ever read the newspaper report about my accident? I doubt it, because if you had, you would have known that was my brother Ron. Now look at me!” she cried.

“I just didn’t want to lose you,” Jake moaned.

“Is that why you punctured the brake lines on his car? Investigators ruled that someone sabotaged the Corvette by putting holes in the double-wall steel tubing that led to the front brakes.”

“How was I supposed to know he was your brother?” he whined. 

“You could have asked! But no, you had to assume the worst and kill both of us!”

“I didn’t know you were going for a ride with him that morning.”

What do you want from me Jake?

Forgiveness… I love you Cindy.”

“I have to go now. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll talk about it,” she said, and nodded at me.

I had a roaring fire going in the parlor fireplace when I walked back to the spirit room with her. I could sense her unrest, and a simmering anger. As I wondered if she was going to share her thoughts she spoke up, “Are there any rules about getting revenge while in the “in-between?”

I had to admit that was a good question. I really didn’t think the negative vibes associated with revenge would help her move on to another level, and told her so.

“What about haunting him? He may even like my attention at first. In time however, I’m sure I could arrange for him to drive off a cliff, or something along those lines.”

“You’re still seeking revenge,” I reminded her.

“I prefer to think of it as justice, Truman.” 

The next day Jake returned. He was more upbeat that the day before, and I welcomed him in to my parlor. He looked like a man who got a good nights sleep and was ready to get on with his day.

After some small talk I went to get Cindy. She was waiting for me in a skimpy outfit. Just the opposite of the jeans and blouse she had on the day before (and what she probably was killed wearing).

I expressed surprise. “What’s this?”

“The haunting begins today,” she said sweetly with hellfire in her eyes.

Jake rose from his chair when we came into the room and approached Cindy.

Wow! I mean…you look different.”

” I’ve got good news for you Jake. I’m going to look different every night for the rest of your life. How about that?”

“In outfits like that, I hope,” he answered.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said with a lecherous smile.

“I can’t thank you enough Truman. Here’s you finders fee.

Three weeks later.

I came home late one night after attending a movie premier with a friend, and found Jake sitting on my doorstep. He looked bad. I unlocked the front door and invited him in.

“I’m going crazy! She won’t leave me alone! Day, or night! I just want some peace. Make her go away!

“I’m sorry Jake, but I run a referral service for people to contact ghosts. I don’t give refunds. You need to find a good ghost hunter to solve your problem. I know there’s a couple of guys in town that offer that service. I don’t provide referrals for them, however. I prefer to deal with putting folks together with ghosts. What happens after that…who knows?

“Oh, by the way, you didn’t fill out your questionnaire yesterday. Do you mind terribly doing it now? Wait! What are you doing? Put that gun back! I’ll refund your money and give you a name of a good ghost catcher if you do.”

The sound of gunfire filled the parlor!

As It Stands, contacting loved ones who’ve passed on can be a jarring experience.