Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Conspiracy Chick


I didn’t see her coming.

She was good in the city.  I was better in the woods.

She blended in with people like she was born camouflaged.  I stood out in a crowd like a Russian folk dancer at a flamenco club.

But in Elizabeth Park, I thought we’d be on an even playing field.

Between the trees, the picnic benches and the wide bright blue river that edged the eastern edge of the park, it was a good enough place to wait.  I tried to look around for her without looking obvious.  That’s hard to do when you look like me.  Even in daylight I look like someone should call 911 on me.  I look too intense to hang around a place with pony rides.

All I could do was wait.  She knew what I looked like.  I wasn’t sure about her.  You can’t trust what you read on the Internet, much less what you see.  She was a good-looking young woman if you believed her Facebook picture.  Her eyes were light brown and set just wide enough to give her a startled look.  She had hair that she changed from green and yellow to blue and green with bleached white or pink streaks.  Despite that, she said she was a flannel shirt and jeans girl, and Kris told me not to tell Bobby I would meet her.  Girls like her are too hot for their own good, is what she said.  Kris ought to know; she’s the psychologist in the family.

I wouldn’t have gone to meet her at all if she hadn’t dropped Dr. Estes’ name.  I don’t have time for people who go by handles like the Appliance Doctor or the Conspiracy Chick.  It was their way of advertising themselves.  Advertising is better on the radio where you can turn it off whenever it comes on.  Bobby tells me that eighty percent of the Internet is advertising on the news sites.  “People,” he explained, “even get paid to seem like they’re writing about one thing when it’s about something else, like politics.”  

Twenty-year-olds can take the fun out of anything.

We compromised on a meeting place.  Halfway in between.  Two o’clock in the afternoon at the ice cream stand in Elizabeth Park.  Middle of September, most of the kids were in school, so it was a peaceful place bounded by the Detroit River on one side and the city of Trenton on the other.  Lots of walking trails, a bunch of geese set on squawk every other minute and a pony concession.  A nice quiet park if you don’t count the geese.  That’s the way the City Council liked it.  They had to bring in the State Police to clear out the motorcycle gangs a few years back so they could bring it up to paradise standards, but it was better now.  The gray-white clouds looked like fluffed up dirty T-shirts, but the sky was blue enough that even I thought it looked good.

“Don’t turn around,” she said from behind me.

I couldn’t help myself.  We were in a public park, so I turned around.  She would not shoot me in a public place.  I didn’t even get to see her face before she hit me with the Taser and I dropped to the ground with my muscles locked up by electric chains.  


“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I’m really, really sorry.”

“Are you out of your mind?” I gasped.

It’s hard to talk when you’re alternating between muscle spasms and drooling fits.  I was breathing in huge gulps of air and my muscles still shook like I’d had a seizure, which in a way I had.  Ninety thousand volts of electricity can do that to you.

“Everything okay?” asked the teen-aged girl who showed up in the ice cream stand window.  “Should I call 911?”

“No, no, he’s okay,” said the Conspiracy Chick.  “His blood sugar drops like a stone sometimes.  That’s all.  He gets dizzy if I don’t catch him in time and he falls down.”

She was an exceptional liar.  The girl in the window bought it.

“Can you get him a small chocolate sundae?  It really brings his sugar up quickly.”

“Sure, sure,” said the girl.  “My aunt’s old like him.”

She disappeared again to make me a sundae.

I don’t like sundaes.  I don’t even like ice cream.

“Get up, get up,” said the Conspiracy Chick.  “Hurry, we have to get the ice cream and start walking in case they were following me.  I don’t want to be standing here if they show up.”

“Give me a hand, will you?”  I said.

She reached down and grabbed me by the arm.  As I got up, I got her in a wristlock and cranked it to get a little respect.  She folded in toward me and I felt a sudden jolt of screaming pain as she kneed me in the balls.  It was like she’d hit my crotch with a flaming porcupine.  I was on the ground again, rocking back and forth with my knees folded up to my chest and swearing before I realized I’d let go of her wrist and she was off and running.  She was out of sight by the time I got back to my feet.  I hoped it hadn’t been caught on a park video security system or by some kid with a cell phone.

I must have landed on a small rock because I felt like I’d been rabbit punched in the kidney, too.  It had been a long time since I’d been handed my ass so quickly and painfully.

I was a long time getting up.  I hurt all over and I was pissed.

“You sure you don’t need an ambulance?” asked the ice cream girl when she showed up to the sliding window with my sundae.  “You don’t look so good.”

She handed the ice cream through the open window like she was passing me illegal drugs.

“I don’t feel so good either, but I’m fine.  Just a bad back.  Hurts like hell sometimes.”

“My grandfather has the same thing.  Where’s your daughter?”

I was going to tell her thanks, but then I thought better of it.  The day I’m happy being compared to somebody’s grandfather is the day I shave my head, wear wife-beater t-shirts and work boots to Elvis concerts.  And as for my daughter…

My phone rang again.

Unknown number.  I was going to teach that girl some manners when we got face-to-face again.

“Don’t say you’re sorry,” I said.

“You like your family?”

It was a man’s voice, the kind you don’t want to hear asking about your family.

“You don’t want to say that again,” I said.

“Stay away from her.  Just stay the hell away.”

“Or what?”

The phone went dead.

Before I could put it back in my coat pocket, it rang again.  Same screen name―unknown number.

“You got anything else stupid to say?” I answered.

“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.”

It was her again.

“I’m in a lot of pain so I can’t hear you.”

“Reflex.  It was all reflex.  I’m on the edge all the time.   I feel so hyper I could scream until my lungs run out of air.  I had like five monster drinks before I left and two espressos.  My nerves are tight as twisted wire.  This is way too big and stuff.  I didn’t know what I was getting in to.  Can we meet again somewhere?  It’s important.”

The world was filled with crazies.  I’d met my share.  I might even qualify as being one.  This one, though, was on a different scale of magnitude.  Like when you run out of tape with your tape measure and have to start measuring things in light years.

“No thanks,” I said.  “Let’s just have our secretaries email each other, okay?  I don’t need to be Tasered again or kicked in the nuts.”

The kid behind the ice cream counter kept looking at me.  I didn’t think she could hear me, but I moved a few painful steps away, anyway.

“You were hurting me.”

“You just finished hitting me with a Taser.  How about I Taser you with ninety thousand volts next time I see you?”

“One hundred.”


“One hundred thousand volts.  And you can pick the spot this time.  Anywhere you want.”

“I just got a phone call,” I said.  “Some macho wannabe just threatened my family if I so much as looked at you again.”

There was phone silence for about a minute before she said, “Oh.”

Not a big response, but I got the point.

“I’ve got a wife and a son,” I said.

“I know.”

“That bothers me.  So, find somebody else.”

I clicked the off button or icon or whatever the hell it was. The ice cream sundae went into the trash, much to the horror of the window girl, but it still hurt to walk so I didn’t care.  While I limped back toward my car, I made a call of my own.

“You on her?” I asked Gregorio.

“She whipped your ass, amigo.”

“I know.”

“I got it on video, man, I couldn’t help it.  And I got her plates and I’m pulling out behind her as soon as it’s cool.  She’s cute, man.  Keep her away from Bobby or you’re going to have premature grandkids.”

“You got it on tape?   Man, delete that.   Seriously?”

I hate electronic shit, I really do.  And not just Gregorio videoing me getting kicked around the park by an eighteen-year-old girl.  Somebody had hacked my phone number, was watching me by remote in the park, and probably buying land in Switzerland on my credit card while I limped.  All I could see were trees, park benches, pony rides and the ice cream place.  That’s the problem with the world now.  The things that are spying on us are invisible to us.  Whatever was going on with the Conspiracy Chick, it was way over my head.

“Don’t be such a sissy.  Man, that chick can really move.  She’s got one of them Korean cars―Smart cars.  She drives like a maniac.”

“Stay tight.  Don’t lose her.  And they’re German.  Daimler or somebody makes them.”

“No worries.  I’m staying back out of sight.”

“You’ll lose her,” I said.  

I’d finally made it back to my Volkswagen.  Don’t even say it.  It was a rental.  

“Nah, I’ve got the tracker tucked up good under her bumper.  Bobby’s handling all the electronic stuff.”

“Are you kidding?” I yelled into the phone.  “Kris will kill us both, man.”

“Just talk to her.  We’re too old to keep up with this chick.  She’s too smart.  We need Bobby’s help.  And with these guys looking to hunt her down and bury her in little pieces beneath the lawn sprinklers, well, I don’t think we can’t take them without help.  We need more men.  Admit it.”

“Fucked,” I said, “we are so fucked.”

“Yeah, well, we’ve got company,” said Gregorio.  “I think they’re going to try to box her in somewhere on Jefferson between King Road and Pennsylvania.”

“How many?”  I asked.


“How many cars?”

“Eight.  You thought I was talking people?  Man, they’ve got an entire hit squad on her.  Cops let them through, then parked with the flashers on.  They’re steering traffic west on King.  How’d the cops get in on this so quick?  Who is this chick?”

“The Trenton cops can’t be in on this; they’re Methodists.  What the hell is going on?”

“I’m calling Bobby,” said Gregorio.  “Maybe he’s got an idea.  I’m already on King, going west toward Fort.  She’s on her own unless he’s got something better.  Hold on, I’ll merge the calls.”

“Wait,” I said, but it was too late.

“Hey, Gregorio,” said Bobby.  “This is some serious shit.”

“Your dad’s on the line, too,” said Gregorio.


“Yeah, oops is right.  Your mother’s going to kill us all when she finds out you even know about this.”

“Later, jefe,” said Gregorio.  “If we don’t help this chick, she’ll kill us twice.  You got any ideas, Bobby?  I had to turn off onto King.  They blocked West Jefferson going north and I bet they did the same thing with the southbound.  She’s in a box, with nowhere to go but in the river.  You want me to cut over on a side road and walk back to give you install?”

“No need, I’ve hacked two news helicopters on the way.  Plus, I’m in the traffic cams so I can pretty much feed you Intel instead of the other way around.”

“Sound good, jefe?” asked Gregorio.

“I hate it when you call me jefe, you know that?”  I said.  “It always means there’s nothing I can do to change what’s going on and you just do it so I won’t feel like I’ve got nothing to add, which is bullshit.”

“So, you got anything to add, jefe?”

I thought about it.  She was already gone.  They were going to snatch her clean away while we sat there and watched.

“No,” I said.

“Can I say something, dad?”

“Why not?”  I said.  “We lost her and there’s nothing we can do.  We’re just screwed, and she’s tattooed.”

“Well, maybe not,” said Bobby.  “She’s not in that car.  She pulled a bait and switch on you guys and Homeland Security, too.”

“Damn,” said Gregorio.  “Little jefe, you done made me a happy man.  As a genuine descendant of the Aztec warriors―”

“Who got their asses kicked by the Spanish.”

“Who beat the conquistadors but were screwed by the white man’s version of history, I crown you an honorary Aztec ass-kicker.”

“Thanks, Gregorio.”

“Well, where the hell is she?” I said.

“And when we get back to your house,” said Gregorio, “I have a new video of your father in action for you to watch.”

“I hate you, Gregorio.”

“A good jefe hates friends but showers them with gifts of love to keep them quiet,” said Gregorio.  “It’s a Mexican proverb from that drug dealing soap opera.”

“Dad?  You guys might want to pick her up at her rabbit hole.”

“Her what?”

“You’ll figure it out.  Got to go.  Mom’s coming.”

“Bobby?  Bobby?” I said.  “Well, shit.”

“You know what he meant?”  asked Gregorio.

I was driving in my Volkswagen.  Don’t laugh.  Like I said, it’s a loaner.  Mine is in the shop being analyzed for computer messages.  Cars are a mystery now, like the Hadron Super Collider.  Everything controlled by the car’s computer and only the dealership has the password.  Kris wanted me to buy a Volt, but I was afraid I’d get electrocuted in the car wash right before the rinse cycle.

I was maybe ten minutes behind them, stuck driving five below their stupid twenty-five-mile an hour speed limit.  Trenton was the Miss Prissy town with all the trimmings like pumpkin festivals and the Downriver Cruise festival; it was the town inside the globe you shake where pretty snowflakes come swirling down and where, in real life, they have hidden speakers along Main Street playing Christmas Carols from October to May every stinking year.  And now, traffic was at five below the speed limit during the Let’s Gawk at the New Street Lights festival.

“No, I don’t know what he means," I said. “I never know what he means.”

I knew Bobby was doing it for me. He was trying to help. He knew about Dr. Estes and the missing head.  He was worried about me.

So was I.

“Well,” said Gregorio. “Maybe we should figure it out.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

I liked Volkswagens as much as I liked scabies commercials―which wasn’t very much. They were too small inside. Roomy front seat, my ass. I turned the key in the ignition, put it in reverse, and ignored the electronic voice telling me I was about to back out. That was the other thing.  New cars talk too damn much. And I didn’t trust the backup video. I didn’t like anything that recorded what I was doing. And that could be used in court.

“How do you think she got out of the car muchacho?”

“You got me,” I said. “I just hope they don’t know about us. Whoever they are.”

“Don’t say that,” said Gregorio. “It’s bad luck.”

“I pity the poor bastard that was driving her getaway car,” I said. 

A black SUV with black windows pulled up beside me and the light bar on its roof started flashing all the colors of the rainbow.

“Get lost,” I told Gregorio.  “The Men in Black are on me.”

I threw the phone under the seat and pulled over.  Then I rolled down the driver and passenger side windows and put my hands on the ten and two positions on the steering wheel.  They’d boxed me in.  One SUV in front, one SUV in back.  I was in an SUV sandwich.

“Step out of the vehicle with your hands on your head,” shouted one of the two men on the driver’s side.  They were pointing serious pistols in my face as one of them opened the door.  Two more men covered the passenger door.  The one who opened the door had a head the size and shape of a shoe box with a military buzz cut.  His partner looked like Anthony Weiner with a pompadour.  They were both dressed in black suits and ties and looked like alpha funeral directors.

“What?” I asked.

Instead of answering, they spun me around against the car and handcuffed me.  I saw the two men covering the passenger side of the car peer inside like I was hiding a midget assault team in the backseat under a blanket.  They gave up, then moved around to join the rest of the party.

 I tried turning around to ask them what the hell the charges were, but they Tasered me for good measure and threw my convulsing body into the backseat of the closest SUV.

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Haunting of Hiram Abiff, Vol 1


Chapter 1

Somewhere in Virginia, USA

Present day

“Mr. President.”

“Please, sit down, Miss Corvasce.”

The president waved his hand, and only when she was seated on the rich blue and gold divan did he sit in the leather chair across from her. The royal blue curtains were closed, and the room was lit by only one Aladdin Vertique lamp with a base formed of rich yellow glass shaped like a goblet. She kept her eyes on the man across from her, but it vividly impressed every element of the room into her consciousness. Marla’s back was sore from being locked into place and forced to sit on a metal bench for hours and hours while the blacked-out van drove her to this meeting. They stared at each other, each of them taking the other’s measure. He seemed at ease, but she knew it was an act. 

“May I call you Marla?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you. I will only speak with you for a short while, Marla. Please don’t interrupt me with questions. I am not being autocratic, it is only the way it must be because of the situation. So, please listen to what I have to say. More than you know depends on it. Then go with the men who will escort you to your mission location. Everything will become clear when you meet the man to whom you will be reporting. His name is Traverse Nations. He has mission authority, unless you find he has become unstable or determine that he is under the influence of our enemy.”

Marla said nothing, but a warning bell went off inside her mind. For the president even to imply such things was a message of import. 

“Do not ask me today about the situation or its ramifications. Do not inquire as to your resources or limitations. You will learn all of that from Mr. Nations or on your own as you are able.

“Now I will speak to you as your President, then I will speak to you as a fellow citizen and as a human being. When I am through, I will allow you one question before you leave and one question only. I wish it were not so, but it is. If I can answer your question, I will. If I cannot, so be it.”

Filament cameras would be invisible to the eye. The invasive technology had to be accepted. There was little to be done about it. The whereabouts of the security personnel was likewise a mystery to her. They were the ultimate professionals with the most advanced weaponry and tactics in the world, so she did not bother to attempt to locate either them or the monitoring equipment. It would be seen as a micro-aggression, and such behavior would have consequences. They were protecting the leader of the free world, which was difficult enough, but President Mahomed Usman was also the first Muslim president of the United States and the number of men and women his election had enraged caused a staggering increase in their already heightened awareness. 

For the president himself to ask for a private meeting with her was something she could never have imagined. It was unthinkable, unless something of great consequence was at stake. The President did not meet with field operatives. She realized she was being sent to the Middle East, and that whatever was involved was so incredibly delicate and dangerous that he and his advisers thought this meeting was called for. That thought both thrilled and excited her.

“As I said, I have but little time to spend with you, Marla. In fact, I have,” he smiled, “no time at all to spend with you, but here I am. I can tell you with complete surety that only a few people on this earth know where I am at this moment. Our secrecy must be absolute. The brevity of this meeting helps ensure that. After tonight, I will never see you again. You will accomplish your mission and then disappear.”

Marla inclined her head to acknowledge the serious nature of the situation, whatever it was. Do the job. Get gone.

“Good,” he said, steepling his hands before his chest as though praying. “I imagine you have an idea that I am about to send you to the Middle East.”

Again, she nodded.

“That would be wrong. That would be much too easy. Where I am sending you is right here, inside our own country. Its location is kept secret, so you will once again be traveling in the blacked-out van. You have, I am assured, the stamina to do this.”

This time, Marla did not move at all. She’d made the mistake of signaling her thoughts once. There was no way she would make that mistake again. It was difficult to repress the question of where and why, but she kept her mouth shut. He would tell her in his own time.

“Do you know, Marla, that when I became President, a part of me thought my most challenging task would be to stay alive long enough to make a difference? Before that, at every campaign stop we made, I and my security detail, the press and multitudes of others feared suicide bombers and assassins would plague us. The thought of innocents dying simply because I stopped in their towns to campaign kept me awake at night. My campaign handlers would have had a nervous breakdown if it ever leaked that I took sleeping pills to sleep at night and daily doses of Xanax to keep my anxieties under control in those days.

“The reason I am telling you this is because shortly after assuming office, I learned for the first time in my life the meaning of real fear, and it had nothing to do with suicide bombers.”

On the ride over, she had tried desperately to work out where she was being taken to, but had finally given up. She could feel the road’s twists and turns, and make guesses about the terrain, but with a black bag over her head, cotton stuffed in her ears and her wrists and ankles chained to a solidly mounted steel pillar bolted to the van’s floor and ceiling, there was no way to make a good guess.

“I am a Muslim American, Marla. I love this country with a passion that sometimes eludes my fellow citizens and my brethren around the world. It is hard for them to believe that I am both a faithful Muslim and a loyal, patriotic American. If I use the name Allah to refer to our divine creator, many of my fellow Americans are certain I wish to enforce Sharia law across our country. If I use the name God to refer to our divine creator, many of my brethren around the world believe that I am a traitor to Allah. It is an impossible line to walk at worst, and nearly impossible at best. 

“I came to this office with a campaign promise to restore true openness to our political process and to unite citizens of all faiths and in that, I include those with no faith. This last offends the religious. The religious offend the atheists. Ah, well, there you have it.”

President Usman sat comfortably reclined in the wing backed leather chair. He seemed completely at ease, but Marla had too much time in the field not to notice the haunted look in his eyes. They were restless, flitting about the room as though looking for hidden attackers. That, of course, was impossible. With the level of security at his command she doubted if even a determined ant could have invaded the room. But besides his nervous eyes, his fingers also tapped on his legs. She doubted he realized it. For a man as skilled in statesmanship as President Usman, it would take a lot of pressure to crack his composure.

“Only when I came to office was I informed of something so monstrous there was no responsible way to pull it into the sunlight to be examined and dealt with, if that could ever be accomplished at all. It is a secret our government has kept for just under a century. No one truly knows of his origin. But I can tell you, both as your President and as a citizen, that it is a danger to every man, woman and child in this country and even, I fear, to the entire world. I am at great pains to impart to you that this is not in the slightest an exaggeration. There is a great evil in our country, Marla, and I do not mean terrorists or criminal gangs or foreign agents of espionage. I do not mean an impending natural disaster or a plague or even a nuclear attack. It is something much, much worse. You must stop it. We are all in great peril. Your mission, your only goal is to completely destroy it.”

She did not understand what he was talking about or where he was going with this, but that did not worry her so much as the fact that he’d slipped once and referred to the evil as he instead of it.

“I speak to you now as a husband and father. I love my family. I have two sons and a daughter. They and my wife are everything in this life I value. As a family man, I love this country and the best of what it stands for. As a citizen of the human family, too, I am concerned. You may think I’m making a speech. And I am. I feel compelled to. I am making a speech to you that, I hope, will be impassioned enough to give you strength when you will most need it. As a prudent man, I have many fears about the future of the human race. As a family man, I labor hard to contribute to the peace, the security and the equality of all people. As a man devoted to God, I pray every day that we all turn our hearts to heaven for love and mercy. These are not words from a campaign speech, Marla. They are words from my heart. But from this day forward I will pray for your victory and your safe return, especially, for your safe return. Remember what I say, and it may give you strength in the days ahead.

“Now you may ask me your one question. I remind you, do not ask what I cannot answer.”

For the first time, she noticed what he was wearing. The navy blue sweater with a crew neck. The white broadcloth of his shirt collar stuck up above it. The French vanilla khaki pants, with the crisp pressed line running down the front of each leg. The casual shoes. His thin beard and mustache, his strong chin and unlined face. Even at the age of fifty-eight, he looked able-bodied and fit, thoughtful and intelligent, and, most important, the compassion on his face appeared to be real. Too good to be true, but he was, after all, the President of the United States. Marla knew about politicians, but some were better than others.

“Why me?”

He looked away from her as he answered.

“Because it asked for you,” he whispered in a hoarse voice. “Your grandfather stole something that it wants returned.”

When he turned back he added, “Your files say that you an expert at what you do, Marla, and that your performance in the field is exemplary. You are completely mission focused. I pray that you are much, much better than that, because I do not wish to live to see the total enslavement of humanity.”

With that, he left her alone in the room. 

Seven seconds later they came to take her away.

Monday, November 16, 2020

About Tai Chi

Yue Chia Forms in Action

Warehouse of the Dead


“I'm not going in there first,” Gregorio said, turning up his nose.  “It's dark and it smells bad, like something died.”

“What do you expect, it’s an old mine,” I said.  “Besides, I’m right behind you.”

He was right, though.  The smell was so strong that I could taste it.  We were ten miles out of town.  The afternoon sun was about halfway down in the sky, but the heat and humidity were suffocating.  I hated Mexico.  The people were okay once you got past the customs and the language thing, but the country would never be the same for me since Gregorio and I had found the Almacen de la Muerte, which means “the Warehouse of the Dead” as they now called it in the Mexican papers.

Gregorio wiped his wide, dirty forehead with his shirtsleeve.  “How come you always go in last?” 

He was twisting his shoe in the gray and red dust like he was exterminating a cricket with his cuffed and stained work boots.  For once, he had the laces tied.  He did that for good luck, and for some reason that bothered me.

“You got a gun so he’s not coming at you from the front.  He’ll try to hit us from the back.  Don't worry about me, though,” I said.  “I’ll just duck.  Maybe you should duck, too.”

“Asshole.  What if he hits us from the side, like from a branch tunnel we don’t see?”

“Get moving,” I said.  “We go in, see what's there, and get back to the air conditioning. That a plan or what?”

“You know, we should take some more men.”

Gregorio wasn't afraid, he just liked to argue. It was how he worked himself up.  He was a solid man and bigger than me, maybe six feet two or so.  He had a broad nose, wide forehead, and looked like some kind of Aztec warrior minus the dirty jeans and wide leather belt with the Caterpillar Truck logo.  His shoulders were like a construction worker’s, with a narrow waist. His hands were big enough to crush a melon or snap a neck.

We smelled pretty ripe since we’d been out in the sun all day scouting the fields, but neither of us smelled as bad as what was coming out of the tunnel.  I read somewhere that the average temperature in Mexico was 81 degrees Fahrenheit.  They must have averaged that during the Mexican Ice Age.  The average humidity is always too wet.

“You want an army, Gregorio?  I’m telling you, this guy works alone.”

He turned to me and shook his head.  “He’s connected.”

“Come on, will ya?”  I said.  “We're wasting time.”

He did have a point, but I just wanted to keep it simple: find the kids, dead or alive, go home, report in, and collect the cash.  There were worse ways to make a living, but they didn’t pay as much.

I raised the barrel of the twelve gauge to my forehead and pushed back my hat.  The metal was almost as warm as my skin.  I looked directly into Gregorio’s dark eyes and found no fear or hesitation, only a hard shine.

Finally, he shrugged, and slid his red-checkered bandanna up and over the lower half of his face making him look like a Mexican bank robber.  He had his police flashlight in one hand and the black Glock in the other, hanging easily in his grip.  People that are scared squeeze a gun handle so hard their knuckles almost pop through their skin.  I had never seen Gregorio scared.

While he kept an eye out, I pulled my bandanna up over my mouth and nose too.  It didn't stop the greasy smell, but it cut it down a little.

The tunnel, an abandoned silver mine, was set into the side of a small hill of hard-packed red-brown dirt just outside of Guadalajara.  Weeds clung about the mouth of the entrance, their roots like thick fingers grasping the ground.

Gregorio flicked on his flashlight and began walking into the shadows, the beam cutting through the darkness like a light saber as he played it back and forth.

The halogen lamp strapped across my chest sent a circle of white forward and onto the back of his white cotton shirt.  The shadow of my shotgun barrel cut across it, making it look like he was wearing a “No Smoking” sign on his back.

By my calculations, our target was most likely gone or dead, but we walked as quietly as we could anyway. Gregorio had a point.  People died in Mexico and were never heard from again.  It wasn't as bad as in Chile, but it happened. 

Guadalajara was a bad town, even for Mexico.  But the way I looked at it, any country whose favorite vehicle was the Volkswagen Beetle deserved what it got.  You couldn't drink the water unless you'd been vaccinated.  Couldn't sleep with the women unless you'd been vaccinated.  And mordida—graft—was the basic currency of business.  Nothing got done unless you juiced the right people.  If you thought about it, it was a lot like Detroit, only hotter.

We were the only noise and movement through the heavy air except the occasional rustling of thin leather wings beyond the bobbing haloes of our lights.  The odor grew stronger and I could feel it coating the lining of my mouth.  I had to alternately tense and release my muscles to keep from throwing up into my bandanna.

It wasn't much of a mine.  A couple of four by four by eight wooden braces the color of well-done meat, and crunchy pebbles that ground between the metal rails and our boots with hard dirt walls too low for comfort.  Rusty lanterns hung from spikes pounded in by someone long since dead.

“Used to run train cars in and out of this place, no?” asked Gregorio.

“Looks like,” I said.

 “Pretty crappy mine, eh?”

Gregorio had a pregnant wife and a five-year-old boy named Bruno.  That bothered me as we walked.  My own life was kind of empty since the accident, except for the hit and run types.  I turned a valve a long time ago in a factory now dismantled and sold for scrap.  It killed half the town.  It was like Bhopal, India, except on a smaller scale.  Two hundred and twelve dead taxpayers and twenty-one plant workers all dead except for me.  Hard to hang with a good woman after that.

“You see anything move, you shoot it,” I reminded Gregorio.

“Si, Madre,” he said without looking back.

We found them twenty suffocating minutes into the mine.  There were seven bodies in various stages of decay, bound by chains and manacles and lined up against the packed dirt wall in the cut-away as though they were on display; gruesome, bloated mannequins profiling the latest in death apparel.  They were so swollen from internal gas that their clothes had cut into their skin.  Their necks were truncated in disgusting stumps, with their heads resting between their purple and black bloated legs. I could tell that the skin from the eyebrows up had been cut and peeled back like I had seen before.

Someone had posed them carefully and was proud of his work.  The cut-away was a carved-out space to the side of the tunnel, dug in maybe six feet, and was braced and supported.  I turned and scanned the area constantly while Gregorio checked the bodies.  It was like being a human lighthouse with the lamp strapped across my chest as I turned and turned looking for someone to shoot.

Gregorio was bent over the third body from the left, hunkered down on all fours.  The smell emanating off the bodies that were now rotted carrion, chewed and eaten by cave animals as though they were just meat, was too much for him.  I heard him retch as he pulled down his bandanna, and turned my head as he threw up on a body.

He yanked away from me as I took his arm.  There wasn't any reason for him to be ashamed.  He and I knew it and we both felt like shit, but there it was.  As he struggled to get to his feet, I bent over once again and reached out for his arm, realizing too late my mistake.

The shadows out of the corner of my eye were moving.  Black against black in motion, big and coming toward us quickly.  As I turned, I fired upward at a slight angle, shooting completely by instinct.  The flash blinded me while the noise deafened me.

Later, when I got out of the hospital, I would learn that I had shot him squarely in the crotch, which was some consolation for the miner’s pick that he’d stuck into my right arm.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Alien Diaries


I'm working on two new books now, the "Alien Diaries" and the "Monster Werewolf," and I have to say that I'm having the most fun with the "Alien Diaries."  It's a fun romp with plenty of action, with gargoyles, Bigfoot, aliens, alien crafts, and chock full of government conspiracies.

I got the idea from a Lovecraftian journal entry by someone named Trainor, and I have to tell you that it's a hell of a lot more fun than listening to politics all day long!

Since my stroke, my interest in politics, if I ever had any, has plummeted to zero.  They just seem like so much, as my brother would say, chin music.

Friday, November 13, 2020

It's Nice to Be Back Again!



After having been gone so long after my stroke, it's nice to be back and fully recovered.

It's been two and a half years since my stroke--I had it at a fairly young age, too.  Now I'm ready to go back to work again.

So, stay tuned for more from me, I promise.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

I Just Got Zombies Out on Audible!


I just got my book Zombies back on Audible!  This is very exciting to me as its been a long time since I had one out on Audible.

It's a continuation of the Tainted Blood series. 

Try it, if you'd enjoy the entire city of Detroit being destroyed by Zombies!