Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wordzzle 73 - Base 10 works for me

It's at least 10 times easier to understand Wordzzle if you go over to the Raven's Nest and check out the originator of this challenge.

This week's 10 word challenge: riverboat, procrastination, drank, demons, invisible, candle, enough, film stars, summer job, computer

The mini: general demeanor, surprisingly, masked man, reach, standards

This Week's Episode: Amazon Adventures

Jane made her way aboard the "Amazonia Grande" with no special attention paid to her. She booked a hammock berth which was just a space to swing a hammock on the covered top deck of the riverboat. Her general demeanor was that of a native and no one really took any notice of her coming aboard at Santarem, a small town that sits at the juncture of the Amazon and the Tapajos rivers.

Somewhat to her dismay, there seemed to be some procrastination by the captain in getting under way. It turned out that he had a girlfriend there who was late in meeting him at the dock. "Oh well" she thought, "We all have our demons." "It could be much worse" she continued thinking to herself. "He could be one the infamous boat captains that drank or failed to posses the qualifications needed to pilot a passenger boat on the sometimes dangerous Amazon River. While standards in South America might be somewhat lower than in the states, good seamanship was a prerequisite to a successful career on the world’s mightiest river.

No other watershed had the reach and volume of the mighty Amazon. Surprisingly few among modern peoples understood the untamed treasures and vast forests included in Amazonia. Jane was content that she had been among those privileged to live in this wild and wonderful setting for so many years. Her experiences here were not those of the film stars on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, but of an almost invisible yet vital member of the struggling rural healthcare system in Brazil. Jane contemplated this as the riverboat pulled out into the river and headed upstream. She decided it had been enough.

The Amazonia Grande's diesels were by far and away the best part of the small vessel. They were superbly maintained and provided power aplenty to move the boat easily against the current. Jane staked out her space on the hammock deck and settled in for a nap. She didn't awake till she felt the vibration of the engines change. As she slipped from her hammock to look over the side she noticed a powerful speedboat had been tied up alongside. There was just the glimmer of a red-haired woman with a native guide coming aboard before she lost sight of them on the main deck. Jane knew instantly that it must be the supposed Frenchwoman looking for her. Now what could she do? Her choices were few. Three exactly: One - meet the Woman only to find out she was an agent of Constance Lawler and had been at last found. Two - jump in the river and attempt to swim to shore without being seen by anyone on the boat or eaten by anything in the river. And - Three- find a place to hide on board. She chose three.

The next deck down contained the few luxury cabins available. Jane made her way to the ladder and scooted down to the cabin deck. As she started along the outside companionway that held the cabin doors she looked ahead to see if anyone was coming up from the main deck. Each door was tried and found locked. As she put her hand of the last cabin door's knob before the ladder way, she sighted the woman and her companion. She was able to detect the green eyes of Constance Lawler in the reflection in the glass of the wheel house. It sent a shiver down her spine. There was no doubt now. That woman was Lawler and no other, regardless of what she called herself or what color she dyed her hair.

In desperation Jane turned the doorknob and the cabin door opened. She jumped into the small but neat cabin and right into the lap of Martin Heinman, (now known as Mike Henley) and caused Martin/Mike to lose control of his laptop computer he'd been attempting to use. Jane grabbed the laptop just before it hit the deck and handed it to Martin. "Would you mind if I hung out with you in your cabin for a bit sir?" she asked pleadingly. "I think someone just came aboard that means to do me harm" she continued. "I felt the engines idle down momentarily" Martin said. "Who came aboard?" he asked.

"I'm not sure what she calls herself these days" Jane explained. "But when I knew her she was Constance Lawler from South Dakota." "Now it seems she pawns herself off as a red-headed Frenchwoman" Jane finished. "She's looking for you too?" Martin asked. The couple had a quarter of an hour as the dangerous intruders searched the ship to trade stories and attempt to make some sense of it all. When a knock came on the door, Martin put Jane in the small head attached to his cabin and opened the door. There stood the captain and the woman. To Martin's great relief she failed to recognize him. The captain apologized and said the woman and her guide were looking for a relative that might have come aboard in Santarem. "My apologies Senor Henley, are you having a nice voyage so far?" the captain finished.

Martin found his voice and told the captain all was well. He sat back in the bunk and waited for his heart to stop hammering before he went to the head and let Jane out. "Well how about that?" he grinned, "She didn't even recognize me." Each looked at the other and wondered what had brought them together and how had they escaped the clutches of certain doom. If what Jane had told him was to be believed; every person who had ever wronged the redheaded woman had come to a bad end. It seemed likely that Martin and Jane were the only two people alive that evaded her vengeance. " Amazing" Martin mumbled, "just amazing."

That night it was decided that Jane might be better off staying out of sight for the rest of the trip. While enjoying a candle lit dinner on the main deck they exchanged their histories. At first Martin considered playing the masked man in order to keep from telling Jane about his many and major mistakes. In the end he settled on complete and total honesty instead. Jane took the same tack and by the end of the evening they knew more about each other than any other person on the planet. Martin even admitted to Jane that he had a summer job while in college as bookkeeper for a strip club. It was there that he lost his virginity. His father had used a connection with a friend to get the job for Martin, on the condition he not tell his mother.

For a geeky kid in college that summer was an eye opening experience. That night in the cozy cabin aboard the "Amazonia Grande" Martin showed Jane what he had learned all those years ago. It all came back to him much to the delight and pleasure of Jane. The couple fell asleep in each other's arms. Tomorrow would be soon enough to plan the next step in their escape.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cops and Bloggers - The arrest of Professor Gates

Some of you out there may have heard about a black professor from Harvard being arrested at his own home in Cambridge, MA after a call was made to police about a suspected burglary in progress. You may have even heard the president reply to a question about the incident on his press conference a couple of nights ago.

Right off the bat I might as well tell you that my father-in-law is a retired career law enforcement guy and my overall experiences with the police have been very positive. With the one exception of a couple of dickheads from Reston, VA back when my crazy ex-girlfriend and I were having weekly knock down drag out fights back in the early 70s. But that's just a silly stage I went through.

As it happens, I have had a similar experience to Professor Gates with an entirely different outcome. Back in 1984 my then girlfriend and now wife and I bought our first home in Gilbert, AZ. I was employed as an outside salesman for a window company and came upon a house that was for sale. Little did I know that the next door neighbors had been evicted from this house and were now renting the adjacent property.

I wanted to see the inside of the place and used my considerable knowledge and skills concerning windows to gain entry and check it out. The neighbor's kid ( a teenage mutant, but no ninja turtle) called the cops and one showed up to question me. I explained I was interested in buying the place, was too lazy and too busy to wait for an agent and that yes, I knew that technically I was trespassing and maybe even breaking and entering. Though in fairness to me it should be noted I broke nothing, just used my skills to open a window.

The end result was that I left the house, locked up and secure, in the presence of the officer and we bought it a few weeks later. I wasn't arrested, hassled or handcuffed. How much does this have to do with me being white? A little. How much does this have to do with knowing I was in the wrong and being on good behavior and pleasant to the cop? A lot.

So here's my take on this latest incident and the comment made by our Pres.

Taking the last first. The president's comment is probably correct. The police did act stupidly. You don't arrest someone because they take offense at being accused of robbing their own home. You do calm them down and you do remind them that you're there doing your job. I'm sure the officer did a lot of the second and very little of the first.

From what I can tell of the events, the Professor was pissed at coming home from China only to be locked out of his house. Now to make things worse, after spending what time he needed to gain access to his abode, some cops showed up and wanted him to prove he lived there. From my cranky old man point of view I get where he's coming from. That being said, I don't doubt that he was just a little pissed that the cop didn't know who he was and was basically treating him like a perp or potential perp. (It the cop watched PBS news he would have seen the professor on more than one occasion)

So the Professor assumed that his treatment was due to his being a black man. And that just pissed him off even more. Now the guy is mad. He wants a badge number and a name to go with this persecutor, this frigging Nazi on his doorstep.

The cop assumes the Professor is jerk. Forget black, white, yellow, green. The cop goes into full "Hey, you want to see whose dick is bigger mode" and lets the guy berate him and get all riled up; just enough to make a case for disorderly.

See, if you're nice to cops, don't bullshit em and treat em like human beings, the majority of the time you'll get that back. But in this case BOTH parties went into this with closed minds and agendas that conflicted.

The Cop wants law and order, and Oh, by the way, you don't get to talk about my mother. The Professor wants life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and if you come in my house and hassle me I'll call you and your mother whatever I feel like.

See the basic conflict there?

So, yea the cops did act stupidly, but so did the professor. He is a really smart guy. I know this because I've seen him on the tube and heard him speak. But he comes with attitude, it's his gig. It was incumbent on both parties to act smartly, civilly and with some amount of humility. My bet is that neither party here did that.

Am I siding with the police, NO. Am I siding with the professor, a little, but I know he could have made it better. After all, black, white, pink, or purple; the man is always the man. He always has more guns, more bodies and more laws on his side than yours. That goes for everybody, regardless of race. Do the cops make mistakes? Sure they do. But when they do, it's a whole lot better if you can talk to them and fix it on the spot instead of getting arrested and making a national issue out of it.

I feel bad for Professor Gates because I don't doubt for a minute he sincerely feels this was about discrimination. I'm not a sure of that as he is. I think it's more about police power and some abuse of that power.

I'm not sure if I feel bad for the cop or not. He should have handled this differently. I think it somewhat cowardly to hide behind police procedures when he knows damned well he screwed up. Just because he didn't like taking crap off a hothead political professor is not really a good reason to arrest him. On the other hand I bet his fellow cops love it. As far as they're concerned, no one is above the law.

If this was about race, then the cops didn't just act stupidly; they are stupid, and ignorant to boot.

If this was about civility, police powers and two guys with egos, then the cops acted stupidly, but so did the professor.

We'll just have to wait and see what comes out. According to the reports, some of what was said by both parties was broadcast on police radio. It would be interesting to hear that conversation.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wordzzle 72 - A Stitch in Time

Say it ain't sew and go by the Raven's Nest to continue the thread.

The Ten Word Challenge: corn pone, delegation, nectarines, happiness, 12 going on 13, prancing horses, magenta, butterflies, fragmentary, arthritis

The mini challenge: lavender cowboy, over the moon, preparation, zebra, area rug

This Weeks Episode: Coincidence or Karma

Nurse Jane was surprised when she got the word that someone was looking for her. Her life had changed dramatically from the time she left her high school in South Dakota and went to live with her aunt in St. Paul. She'd been 17 that year and her youngest sister just 12 going on 13. Thinking back to the incident gave her butterflies and not the good kind either. Jane realized that her participation in the hazing of Constance Lawler had forever changed her life and in many ways denied her happiness for decades. The loss of her parents and then her sister left Jane with just a fragmentary hold on her life and pushed her into a career of service and sacrifice.

Only later did she learn that all those involved with the Constance Lawler affair were dead. She doubted the coincidence. It had seemed to her at the time that joining the Peace Corps, changing her last name to her mother's maiden name and working overseas would be enough to avoid the fate of the others. Now, at a few years past 50, with the early onset of arthritis spurring her on to an early retirement like a lavender cowboy or cowgirl as the case may be; she had been found. Or at least closely located.

Jane had wisely asked her many patients and friends to alert her if someone should ask after her. This bit of thoughtful preparation had been her savior. She immediately made plans to meet the riverboat heading up river and left word with her friends to tell the Frenchwoman and the river guide she had gone to Macapa for a flight to Peru. The story given out was that she would be looking after a delegation of missionaries in need of an experienced nurse. Jane hoped this would be sufficient to misdirect her pursuers.

She wasn't over the moon about leaving her tiny village in the Amazon. She'd experienced so many things on her travels; the prancing horses of the Argentine plains, some no bigger than an African Zebra. The nights filled with music, the colorful serapes of the Gauchos, (most looking like area rugs with a hole in the middle) woven with startling and brilliant magentas, turquoises and golds and those wide open skies, contrasted intensely with the rain forest canopy environment of her most recent posting. She would miss the gentle villagers and the innocence of the children, but she realized her own not so innocent past had now intruded into her life. She'd always known that there was the possibility of that happening. Jane packed a lunch of the local bread (similar to south eastern American corn pone) and a few nectarines. She said goodbye to her friends and walked away from the village up the trail to the next riverboat stop. There she would take passage to Manaus and make her way out of the country.

Martin was enjoying the Riverboat trip so far. The villages they passed were interesting. At some they docked and at others the villagers would row out in dugout canoes and more modern vessels to offer their wares. He was beginning to think he had done all the right things. After changing his identity to Mike Hensley he'd also changed his appearance. Gone were the eyeglasses, now replaced with contacts. His hair he bleached blonde and he'd acquired a good tan. Surely no one from his old life would recognize him now. Even so, he was taken aback when a fast speedboat passed the Riverboat and momentarily slowed down to view the passengers who were watching it from the railing on the port side. To Martin's surprise and dismay the passenger on the boat was the fiery haired and emerald eyed supposed French lady from Hollingsworth's house. He recalled just at this moment that her accent and voice when she woke him up at his car weren't in the least bit French.

His instinct was to run and hide, but at the last minute he decided to brazen it out and see if his disguise was successful. He stood at the railing and waved with the rest of the passengers as the boat slowly passed them. There was never the least bit of recognition in the woman's manner. As the boat moved ahead he congratulated himself on his luck and daring. It seemed his adventure would continue, unabated by the alleged Frenchwoman and her henchman.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wordzzle 71 - Crazy eights

Deal yourself a winning hand by betting on all the other stories and links at the Raven's Nest.

The Ten Word Challenge: sober, spoilage, knight, laugh and the world laughs with you, peak, blueberries, owl, drugstore, lampshade, and keyboard

The mini challenge: economy, Michael Jackson, ladder, clue, structure

This week's Episode: Riverboat gambler

Martin spent just enough time in the internet cafe in Macapa to learn that the mysterious redhead was a local demi-celebrity in nearby French Guiana. What she had been doing in California at his now deceased and disgraced ex-boss's house was questionable. He had no clue as to her motivation or intention, but sober thinking convinced him to avoid her at all costs.

After purchasing a guide for the interior he made his way through the town in search of a drugstore for some malaria tablets and first aid gear, a clothing store for proper jungle attire and some sort of a hotel for a decent nights sleep.

The local economy was able to accommodate his needs, though the hotel room's lighting included a lampshade inhabited by lizards. Martin found the local cuisine to his liking and his fine dinner filled with fresh seafood cooked with expertise and talent. There was no sign of spoilage or tainted shellfish. The staff at the Hotel Ceta provided Martin with cereal and blueberries for breakfast the following morning, though the local melons seemed more appropriate than his standard corn flakes.

The shops were playing Michael Jackson hits in honor of the deceased singer as Martin moved around town to accomplish his preparations prior to boarding the riverboat "Amazonia Grande", the first of its kind to make the run from Macapa to Manaus. Well, at least to the falls just 30 Km below and then there would be a jeep run the rest of the way. Once there, Martin would get to see the beauty and structure of the deep Amazon interior on yet another riverboat, the "River Owl".

The small town of Macapa gave Martin hope that whatever he had inadvertently gotten involved in back in the states would fade into his past. The people were friendly and proved the old adage "laugh and the world laughs with you."

Back in Laughlin, the working group investigating the serial killer murders was being briefed via teleconference from Sgt Johnson in D.C. "So here's what we know for sure" he summarized. "Connie Liplin/Constance Lawler is our serial killer, but we're pretty sure she's changed identities again." We've connected her with the Charles Hollingsworth real estate fraud and believe she may have been in L.A. at the time of the house fire." "Information from the French National Police is that the DNA test on the noblewoman in French Guiana came back negative."

"We've worked our way up the evidence ladder to the top rung and we're just missing one thing; the perp" he finished. "Anyone out there have any ideas?" he added as an afterthought. "How about following up on the real estate angle" McCool replied. "I'd like to talk to the investor that lost billions in the original deal" he continued. "The young Saudi Prince Akim al Hatar ek Farsim will be in L.A. for the opening of the new Art gallery next week and I've got invitations for Jean and me from a friend" McCool continued. "We could drive over for the opening and talk to the Prince while there.''

"What makes you think he'll want to talk with you?" Johnson asked. McCool gave Johnson the breakdown on the Prince and his attempt at entering the California market. The Prince had invested at the peak of the bubble and lost just under five billion dollars by the time Indy Mac failed. Thomas was confident he would get an audience with the Prince and that the Prince would want some justice for the fraud perpetrated on him and others. The group also discussed the revelations concerning the killers M.O. and the lab's finding that the killer was using a combination of herbal and psychedelic drugs to incapacitate her victims.

That ended the conference and Dan punched the exit button on the keyboard. "Well, with you and Jean taking off to rub elbows with the Artsy Fartsy crowd in L.A., perhaps I'll take the opportunity to be Carla's Knight in shining armor and whisk her away to the White Mountains for a refreshing mountain weekend" Dan quipped. "What, you don't want to stick around for 115 degrees this weekend?" McCool smiled back at his partner. The meeting broke up with each member having their own thoughts and mission. No one believed the case would go much farther if they couldn't find the killer.

Meanwhile in French Guiana, Charlotte was making preparations to fly into Macapa and meet her contact. They would head up the Amazon to check out the lead. It seemed a nurse for the Peace Corps working in a small village might fit the description of Charlotte's missing tormentor. It would be so nice to get the last one before she closed the deal with the Saudis in L.A. next week.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wordzzle 70 - Lucky times ten

You just have to go link up with Raven at her nest and check out the Wordzzle Action.

The Ten Word Challenge: Florida, spit, child bride, operatic, busy, holding pattern, sunflowers, ginger jars, office, superintendent

The mini challenge: music to my ears, plot, powerful, braggart, super model

This week's Episode: Evidence

Charlotte's talks with the inspector had been very fruitful. Though not especially powerful in local politics, he was a long time member of the police and had good connections. These had allowed her to garner the information she required over a few short days. Inspector De Leschampes was enough of a braggart to be susceptible to Charlotte's wiles and had the ear of the superintendent as well. It seemed there was some family connection that allowed the inspector unusual access to the superintendent's office.

The ever calculating Charlotte used all this ensnare the inspector into her plot to give false evidence. She had devised a way to fake the DNA test that would prove she was not Connie Liplin or Constance Lawler. It was clear from her talks with the unwitting policeman that the investigation would come to that conclusion if she failed to intervene. She told the policeman a tale of child abuse, economic ruin and paternal estrangement that had just enough truth in it to gain his sympathy and cooperation.

The upshot of the meetings was that she would give DNA evidence at her estate. The locals had forensic technicians, but the sample would be sent to Paris and then on to the FBI. This would assure the investigators she was not who they were looking for and keep them from troubling her father, who was in a holding pattern between life and death. The cover story would explain the lack of affection and closeness of father and daughter as well.

The real daughter had died in childbirth along with her premature offspring. The father of the child was the Count himself. Charlotte had kept a tissue sample as blackmail to insure the old Count Vignoire's cooperation. Now it would be used for something else. The tissue was from the Count's real daughter and the details of the circumstances of her death would have ruined the family's reputation and that of the Count.

What only the Count knew and would not expose, was that his real daughter was not thought to be his by blood. His wife had taken a lover when the Count found himself to be sterile. Both had known of it and agreed to the solution. The goal had been to have a male child to carry on the line. Instead, she had borne him a daughter and then died when the child was only seven years old. The young girl grew to be the spitting image of his dead wife and the Count had been unable to control his love for the girl. By the time she was 18 he'd hatched a plan to move with her to Florida and make her his child bride. This did not happen. Instead the young girl became pregnant after their first coupling, causing him to revisit his alleged sterility and the lover supposedly needed for his wife to bear him children.

That's when he learned the truth about his deceased wife and the thing that nearly destroyed him. His wife had simply used contraception and had the doctor fake his potency test for a bribe. In truth, his daughter was really his daughter and he had committed incest. Like some strange operatic event, the Count saw his busy and bountiful life come apart.

It was at this point that Charlotte came into the picture. She had offered the Count a way out. On top of that she'd had the money to bring the family back to its previous standard of living. In explaining why he'd gone along with this in the papers in his will he'd said; "after all the sadness and horror of what I'd done, even if unintentionally, Charlotte's scheme was like music to my ears." What he couldn't know was that the will would never see the light of day.

The "daughter" had been kept incognito for many years till Charlotte needed the identity and then brought forth. The foresight and planning that allowed Charlotte to make that kind of move, years before she needed the cover, was part of what made her truly the super model of a diabolical serial killer. She'd been busy for over two decades setting the stage for her triumph. When the time came she could spit in the eye of those who had underestimated her capacity for reinvention and renewal. She'd had the last laugh on all of her tormentors from High School but one, and that one wouldn't escape her forever.

It would be a simple matter to exchange the DNA swabs with one’s of her choosing prior to their shipment to Paris. Then the famous FBI and Interpol and the former Surete (now French National Police) could all investigate till they were blue in the face. They would never come close to connecting her to any crimes. There were so many and so widely dispersed over the globe that no one would ever put them all together and attribute them to one person or group of people, much less her specifically.

Charlotte looked out over the garden’s gloriously golden sunflowers as she arranged the ginger jars in her kitchen. It was time for her to renew her search for Jane Insterham. She’d e-mail her contact in Macapa. Perhaps she’d even go with him into the interior if he had a good lead. It would just have to wait a couple of days till she gave the DNA and then switched the samples. This part she would do personally. Too much depended on it to do otherwise.