Friday, March 16, 2018

The Mystery of Barbara Allen

I’ve been looking at all the versions of Barbara Allen. The story line has some major gaps in that as all that is told is that Barbara Allen, the Hot Chick in Scarlet Town, where the narrator was born, that every young man from there and far away wants to have her. A well-off young man named William Green, who lived out of town was dying. He sent his servant into town to find Barbara Allen. He must have had an intense fling with her in the past because something happened in a tavern where he toasted all the other women and somehow slighted Barbara. It must have been a pretty bad dis because she was pissed. Whatever he was dying of had consequences concerning her affection for him, for when she came to his death bed she refused to kiss him. Not only that but when he told her he was dying and asked her to kiss him for, in one version, a kiss from her would revive him. But, in any case, she simply refused to kiss him and rubbed it in by saying, “Yep, you’re dying,” and walked away.
Consistent in all the versions is that a red rose grows from William’s grave and a brier from hers. The brier and the rose intertwine to make a lovers’ knot where their love is forever bound.

If we were to write the story of medieval times today it would go somewhere else and would surely put the onus of blame for Barbara's attitude on Sir William instead of comely Barbara Allen. I would tell it this way. Graham is a Scottish surname so I'm making it an Ulster story Protestant nobility vs Catholic peasantry.

Well now, this was the state of the investigation by the cousin of William into William’s and Barbara’s deaths. After a revolt was put down, in which most of the insurrectionists were killed in battle, and one lowly tradesman was hanged at the crossroads. The tradesman's body dangled from the gibbet until it was cut down and spirited away in the night by compatriots.  We uncovered the truth to the popular ballad touted by troubadours to please their masters that the official investigation would not report. 

The Investigation into the Death of Sir William Green that was never revealed.

William was the lord of the manor for what became know as Scarlet Graham town. His cousin, Lord John Graham, found two graves side by side in a corner by the church tower; one older and one fresh. The few months older one lay his cousin, marked Sir William of Graham, and the fresher one for Barbara Allen. He probed around town about the rebellion and what and how his cousin dyed? The towns folk were reticent to say because the consequences could be severe as the revolt was fresh and conspiracies were still afloat from the town tavern owned by Barbara Allen’s father.
He gleaned from the townsfolk that Barbara Allen was the most beautiful woman all around and every bachelor had hoped for her hand. Lord William saw her serving at the tavern while investigating rumors that there was more than ale brewing there and that an insurrection was sure to arise.

 William lusted for Barbara at first sight, and she fell for him also. And after a brief meeting behind the tavern, they kissed passionately, and he forced himself upon her saying he would marry. Being young and naive she believed his promise that he too loved her.
Barbara came to her senses the next time he came to town and refused to bed William again unless they married.
A young tradesman, Jaimmie Mason, that had grown-up with Barbara, loved her dearly, and had been her #1 suitor. The young tradesman, a leader in the insurrection, watched on each occasion as William rode into town and saw that Barbara fawned on him. This sorely upset the young Jaimmie Mason, as his petitions for her hand had been promised by her father once he had acquired enough gold for her dowry.
William’s title made the promised marriage impossible, but he demanded she surrender to him one evening as she served in her father’s tavern. She slapped his face and walked away. He “slighted” Barbara boasting about his past tryst to all in the tavern and toasted to every wench that took to his lap, saying they were of a higher class than Barbara and called her a slut and a whore while she was present. Though many laughed from the pints he bought but Jaimmie Mason, and the rest of the town, were outraged by his behavior.

It was believed the young rebel tradesman, Jaimmie Mason, challenged William in the forest as he rode through on his way to his manor. Lord William could have been pierced by any one of dozens from all around, not just in Scarlet Graham town. But because wounded William had an epiphany and, for shame and the love of Barbara, he wouldn’t say. All who knew wouldn't speak of the crime, sayin' "it could've been a brother or father that done the stabbin'." No one would say nor would William ever. 
It appeared at first that William would survive his wound as it didn’t kill him right away. He came home to the manor and lay a few days before he realized he lay dying. William sent his servant into town to fetch Barbara Allen. She refused to go until after much pleading. When she arrived, he entreated her forgiveness and pledged his love, promising they would marry as soon as he recovered. She believed he wasn’t dying and that this was just a ruse and standing over him she swore, “I hope that you're dying, but I'll never agree to marry.”

The word came to Barbara that William had suffered long and died after she left his bed. She was glad he was dying, but while serving at the tavern a few months later, all could see her belly was swelling. She appeared at William's grave site with a dagger in her hand. Young Jaimmie saw that she was mourning more than he thought she ought and followed her there. She confessed to him, "I'm with William's child, and I can never marry you. This damned child belongs to William. I've come to to give it back to him." 
With that the Jaimmie Mason cried for her and promised, "I would be the father of your child!" 
But Barbara drew the dagger and pierced her heart for the sake of her Tradesman's love and the crime of William Graham.

Jaimnie Mason, evoked the mob to revenge because William had raped poor Barbara. He later confessed that he had stabbed Barbara Allen. The priest would never allow a suicide to be buried in the churchyard's hallowed grounds next to William. 
Young Jaimmie was hung at the cross-roads for leading the rebellion and further charged with killing both William and Barbara Allen. The truth of that will never be known except for in this tellin’ because, if it was known, the true love of Barbara Allen would be that her grave holds the bodies of two, where the townsfolk placed her Jaimmie Mason with Barbara Allen.
So that was where the Lord John Graham's investigation took him, and it was he who concocted the silly version we sing today of the plight of Barbara Allen. 

It was in and about the Martinmas time,
When the green leaves were a falling,
That Sir John Graeme in the west country
Fell in love with Barbara Allan.

O Hooly, hooly rose she up,
To the place where he was lying,
And when she drew the curtain by,
'Young man, I think you're dying.'
O it's I'm sick, and very, very sick,
And 't is a' Barbara Allan:'

'O the better for me ye's never be,
Tho your heart's blood were a spilling.
O dinna ye mind, young man,' said she,
'When ye was in the tavern a drinking,
That ye made the healths gae round and round,
And slighted Barbara Allan?'

He turned his face unto the wall,
And death was with him dealing:
'Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
And be kind to Barbara Allan.'

And slowly, slowly raise she up,
And slowly, slowly left him,
And sighing said, she coud not stay,
Since death of life had reft him.

She had not gane a mile but two
When she heartd the death-bell ringing,
And every jow that the death-bell geid,
It cry'd, Woe to Barbara Allan!

'O mother, mother make my bed!
O make it saft and narrow!
Since my love died for me to-day,
I'll die for him to-morrow.'

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Luckiest Man in the World's Last Lottery

Leah was at her desk when Jacob left the house that morning for the liquor store where he would buy a one-dollar quick-pic lottery ticket and a six pack of beer as he'd done every Saturday since the lottery began in the eighties. The odds were the same, but it annoyed him when the lottery got big, because lottery fever always made the lines longer. Besides that, though he played to win, he never won anything, not ever.
Leah was but a year younger than Jacob though she had all the moving parts of a woman twenty years younger. Her blood pressure was a steady 115/70 and her vitals were all good. She hadn’t been admitted to a hospital since the birth of their third child.
Jacob’s health was another story. He was afflicted with all the age-related health problems of a man that didn’t take very good care of himself.
Forty years ago, a less fortunate GI tripped the wire to a claymore mine in Vietnam, and, though shrapnel took out half a butt-cheek, Jacob thought of himself as the luckiest man in the world because he met Leah. Tripler Army Hospital wards were full. The odds were a hundred to one against him.  A hundred young men to one or two young female nurses on the ward. It’s not like the movies: the hero catches the eye of the nurse, they fall in love, and live happily ever after. He thought, “Wars aren’t anything like the movies.”
And, neither is life.
She’d been changing his dressing, like she had been doing all morning for dozens of others in the ward. She commented, “it’s going to take a while to heal from this.”
He didn’t know why he said what he did, but he did say, “Well, you gotta play to win.”
She said, “That’s how it goes.”
Leah was married when she met Jacob. Her husband was a handsome US Navy jet jockey. There was nothing wrong with the man. He never abused, neglected, nor disrespected her in any way. But, when she met Jacob, she loved him enough to leave a perfectly good marriage.
Jacob wasn’t a lady’s man either. He was short, thin, and freckled. He never understood why a woman of Leah’s beauty would feign to look his way, but look his way she did and, when she looked his way, she knew she’d met her man. As simple as that.
Jacob returned home that afternoon to spend an average Saturday with Leah and said what he always said, “Dear, I bought us a lottery ticket.”
Leah was at her desk where she’d been paying bills. She didn’t answer.
He laid the ticket next to a note under her hand and pecked her cheek.
Her cheek was cold on his lips. The note said, “That’s how it goes.”
A man on the TV was saying, “You have to play to win.”
The numbers on their ticket blurred.

Monday, August 7, 2017


There was Communism, Capitalism, and Schism-ism

Why am I trying to sound so fucking academic when I’m clearly not one of them birds and am out of my league when I try to pretend? 
What I’m thinking about is mere observation. I’ve witnessed much of it throughout the years of my generation. 

Youth will always take a stance opposing structures that won’t let them in. And that goes for almost any kind of orthodoxy. I look at the leadership of the Democratic party as a great example of this. And it is true to only a slightly lesser degree among the Republicans.They had four or five candidates under 60. But, sadly, both Parties ended up choosing candidates over seventy years old. The Democrats offered us a leader from the sixties that protested septuagenarians running the show when she was a young radical. Youth today are frustrated by their exclusion and rightly so. However, they have been led by their noses & nipple rings by a paradigm that would have them all believe they inherited a radical heritage that isn’t entirely theirs. That they allowed this to happen is proof that they ceded authority to our generation that apparently brainwashed them into submission. We would have had more than one or two choices of candidates in their forties and fifties... even sixties if this were not so.

It’s a sad commentary that they had no new refreshing ideas to offer other than empty protests like that overly vaunted vacuous media extravaganza called the Wall Street Occupy Movement. I.e. the chants might as well have been: 
"What do we want?" 
"We don’t know, we just don't like you!" 
"When do we want it?" 
The subtext is that it is a form of micro-aggression to even suggest this or ask what that means.

Nobody wanted to step in to pick up that banner. Who would? The core sensibility was a valid one whose original aim was to focus on the Wall Street Casinos but the resulting outcome was that workers were blocked on the bridges from getting to the source of our paychecks… you know, JOBS… (not Steve Jobs)... we saw it as nothing more than a bunch of spoiled brats pooping on themselves and causing us to be late to work. Late to work is okay if you're paid the same (as in a salary or have tenure) but the rest of us get paid by the hour. If only the members in the Democratic Party’s politburo would have given more attention to us... the bread and butter real issues instead of pandering to the fringes, we might not be looking at Donald Trump’s mug every evening on the Rocky Horror Reality Show.

One would have thought we would have organized into a movement more virulent than proposing an octogenarian candidate as an alternative to represent us by 2016 (feeling the Burn yet?). We came up empty because we had all the sound a fury of a legitimate movement but less to offer than the Black Lives Matter Movement and that one only offered an impotent reenactment of the sixties radical Civil Rights protests with a propensity to sack and pillage each other in the inner-cities.

I am of the generation that stepped outside the paradigm of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War (and they were young men compared to Hilary and Donald). We had a good run and accomplished a lot. Now, it's way past the time to step aside but let's not merely pretend to do so by encouraging a younger version of ourselves. I’m not saying we all should head off to Florida yet but rather we ought to loosen up the grips on the reins. 
Young people came out for Barack Obama because he was something new and fresh. Like it or not, he was able to shoot hoops and still make it back to the office the same day. If you are over 50, and can still do that, my hat’s off to you. Try it if you don’t believe me. The younger generation didn't show up for Hilary Clinton and the Russians had little or nothing to do with that. She was old. Doesn't anyone in our generation remember when we couldn't trust anyone over thirty? Or do we want to repeat 2016 in 2020?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

In Six Days

The anniversary of Bonnie's passing is coming up. It was on Friday, May 27th, 2016. Her meditation book is book marked to that day so I'm pretty sure... if I can be sure about anything... that Bonnie hadn't planned on departing us the day before she marked the page. 
   She wasn't feeling well when we came home from our Tuesday evening meditation meeting. It was one of the nights we often spent together, made dinner, and watched a movie or TV. We had been doing that throughout our entire relationship. She was my lover and best friend for nine years but we lived separate by choice. We'd spend a few nights at each other's place a couple days a week and take a day or two off from each other at least once a week. 
   That evening she said, "I'm not up to doing anything tonight. Do you want to go home? I won't be good company. All I want to do is sleep."
   When Bonnie felt that way, I was happy to oblige her because we've always wanted what's the best for each of us. It happened now and then, since her mitro-valve replacement, three years before. I have no reason to doubt that she felt the same for me. And, besides, I had a project going at my place and didn't mind at all.
   I feel I should make this point. There was a reason we lived separately. Mind you,I felt at home in her apartment and she was at home in mine. I kept night clothes, robe, extra clothes, and slippers at hers, and she had a night gown and the same at mine. However; we knew, early on, that we would drive each other bananas if we lived together. For both of us, our living space was also our work place.  If we ever lived together we would need to have a house big enough to accommodate the fact that she worked in a beautiful, Zen:clear/clean/ordered environment, and I work in the midst of chaos and clutter. Because of her influence, I'm better at it now but, though I appreciate and admire neatness, will never achieve her spartan aesthetic.
   Bonnie and I had an arrangement, She liked to sleep late in the mornings... sometimes 10:00 or all the way to 11:00 or 12:00. She knew I was most creative in the morning and liked to work until noon. We usually made sure our doctor appointments were between twelve and five.
   She called the next day around two or three, asking, "I don't feel well enough to go to the meeting with you (the Wednesday Sundowners). Can you call and cancel my Thursday's appointments?" 
   I wasn't alarmed, even after she added, "I woke up feeling fine. I went to the place around the block to get my nails done. But then I felt weak on the way home, I almost fell (or she did fall... I don't remember). George, I never get a flu or anything but I must've caught a bug. I'm going back to bed."
   "Yes, you never get the flu... all the time we've been together. Are you sure you don't need anything?" 
   This had happened before with here sciatica and so on but I still kick myself for not connecting the dots... that her heart valve replacement might be giving out. Though I don't know it would make a difference. What could be done about it? The torture of another heart surgery?... damned near killed her the last time. She insisted,"No, I'll be okay. Don't call me. I want to sleep. It has to be a flu." 
   "Okay, Pookie. (yes, we had embarrassing cute names for each other) Have I told you today that I love you?"
   "I love you too, Pooker." 

   She didn't answer her phone the next day and it still was no big deal to me. 
   Her friend Vicki asked, "Should I check on her?"
   I said, "I don't think she wants to be disturbed... at least before noon. But we'll check on her Friday if she doesn't return our calls." 
   I assured Vicki, "Bonnie puts her phone under a pillow when she wants to be left alone. I'll check on her if I don't get a call by eleven. I'll call you before noon and let you know unless you can anytime earlier." 
   I was busy with a final edit on a manuscript and was, frankly speaking, grateful she was giving me the time. 
   Vicki insisted, "Do you think she'd mind if I check on her tonight?"
   "No," I said, "but she would have called if she needed anything. She probably has the phone under a pillow anyway."
   We agreed to see if she needed anything the next morning.

   Bonnie could do that with phones, unhook her landline and put her cell phone under a pillow. It always bothered me that she did that but I also admired her for being emotionally, as well as physically, unhooked from our digital umbilical chord. If she wanted to talk with you, she called or met you in person somewhere. I showed her how to text but she never once sent one that I know of.
   Friday morning, May 27th, around nine-thirty or ten am, Vicki called. She was crying. I knew what she was going to say. I'm honest with myself about it, I was relieved. My first thought and feeling. It's over. Bonnie's suffering is done. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks... You just wish you could have one last second with her.
   "I love you Pookie," would be the last thing she heard from me. 
   I hear her say it now and then, "I love you too, Pooker."

   If I have it in me I will post about that day.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bitter Herbs make for a Bitter Soup

After the Apocalypse of WWII, Andre Malraux insisted, ‘the 21st century will be spiritual or it will not be’(‘le XXI si├Ęcle sera spirituel ou il ne sera pas’) I remember reading  something he wrote while I was in college warning young radicals that our means must be commensurate to the end instead of justified by it. I.e., thinking that winning at any cost... any lie... any evil, can be excused and encouraged if the greater good can be expected to be attained by it. This is a vain pursuit that is most likely to end in tragedy if not tyranny.

Our leaders are but figureheads that come and go, but, the idea that the means are always justified by the end we aim for, will welcome the most ruthless men and women among us to ride in on a white horse. Progressive, liberal libertarian, or conservative, they will bring with them the tyranny we feared in the first place. 

A rational, sane, society cannot exist in the Chaos of ideologies that demonize each other. Malraux lived through the oppression of Stalinists and Fascists during the chaos of WWII and knew of which he spoke. I pray that we aren't heading in the direction of further division. Opposing ideas are good but it is the tactic of demonizing each other that I fear the most.

People are angry. I get that. But, I see shout-downs at town hall meetings and hear Democrats, led by Secretary Clinton, making excuses for winning the popular vote but losing the election. Are these alibis why the Democrats also lost the Senate? Did the Russians and Wikileaks accomplish that? It doesn't seem probable, even if it was possible, and I wonder if we'll ever get out of this morass of mutual hatred by throwing gasoline on the flames of honest dissent.

I hope we have the time to get honest with ourselves but I see the Republicans making the same mistakes. 50% of the population cannot be ignored by either side. I don't mean to Rodney King it but it isn't such a bad idea to respect each other even if we hold opposing ideas in contempt.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Loves Labors

   I have to be honest about it today. I'm 70 years old now. I never expected to live this long. I had a dream last night about my wife of so long ago. A conversation as we lay in bed... semi-erotic.
   I believe I started to look for her quite young. I remember fantasizing about finding and embracing some vague notion of a magical potion of love. Not possessive, you understand. It wasn't that I desired to cling to her or an ideal of her, to capture, or win her like in the Song of Solomon... that she could be pried open for the sake of love... 

   She said, "I don't love you."
It hurt but I accepted it as a verdict. After all, one can't be forced to love. I asked, "Did you ever love me?"
   "Yes... maybe no. I'm not sure."
   Thinking of our daughter I asked, "Do you still want to be married?"
   "To me?"
   The hurt... it was "the hurt". I call it "the hurt" like "the hurt" is a thing that possessed me. It wasn't about me clinging to her or feeling as though I was losing control. See, if those were the feelings it wouldn't have been losing a love. That would be more of a feeling of losing a separate thing from her. No, it was quite the opposite. It had become ungrasping. I let go.

   "Why?" I asked.  
   "You are clinging. I don't want to be owned by you. I live in your shadow."
   "I never meant you to."
   "See, that's what I mean. You never meant to do anything with me. We trapped each other without seeing it happen."
   "Sounds like you are saying you still love me."
   "No. I don't hate you. I care about you. I care deeply about you, around you, and sometimes through you, but I don't love you. I never did."
   "What is love if it isn't caring deeply about someone?"
   "I don't know but it isn't love."
   With those words I became owned by "the hurt". I would call it pain but pain is something that goes away. I carried "the hurt" with me in every relationship after that.
   I went on. Some tried to love me but I never tried to love anyone. I no longer cared deeply about anyone for a very long time. I didn't mean to feel that way but from that day on... the real day... not the dream day I bumped into people unattached but longing... longing...
   I ask the sky, "Oh, Buddha, are you full of shit?"
   The sky answers, "Yes, I'm full of shit."

  My second novel is about a man going through what happened to me... how I was opened to beauty and love through the unconscious and unrequieted love of another. This prepared me for what I became able to share with another. I couldn't share that before because all I had to share was "the Hurt" until then. 

   It became such a monstrous being... a horror I had to face. Only then was I ready to allow it to fade. No violins... no rays of light through the clouds... a simple onion soup... an act of kindness was enough...
   Is it gone.
   No. When Bonnie died it came back. It wants to take me down.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Chapter 22. Demons Dancing on the Head of a Pin

 While departing Loch Lomond, we made a show of gaiety for the benefit of the observer in the sedan. I couldn’t make out much more than an outline of his form from where we were but it was too large to be Yuri. He must have wanted us to know we were being watched and my thinking was that he could be with Ryan. That he could be another one of Smerdyakov’s thugs was an alternative I didn’t wish to entertain but had to accept. Regardless, I wanted friend or foe to believe we’d all be staying on the same boat after we set off. Casey insisted we cruise slow enough to arrive under the cover of darkness. At least then, once we split up at the Benicia marina, we had a chance at not being seen. It wasn’t such a bad idea, though the docks would most likely be lit up.
Casey was happier than I ever saw him over the years.
“We trained here… Brown Water Navy, Crash, I know these sloughs as well you do, ya know. Some places here are more like the Mekong than the Mekong.”
It was more than the river, the delta and the sloughs, that made him so damned blissed out … it had to be Anna too. I hoped she wasn’t playing him. It’s a survival reflex for girls in the sex-trade. She could be doing that without knowing. A lonesome man doesn’t know or care that he’s nothing more than a mark to her. If she’s too good at it, she might feel great affection. It isn’t an occupational hazard to believe her own cover but it is one to believe she also cares and forgets her purpose. My problem was to figure out what that purpose must be.

Anna, Gabe, Larry and I, lounged aft among the lobster traps, and enjoyed the sunset’s crimson sky past Vallejo. A storm was on its way. No one having any experience at sea believes the rhyme, “A red sky at night is a sailors’ delight.” It rarely is. Once upriver, and away from the lights of the ever-growing Bay Area’s suburban sprawl, I knew we would be shrouded in curtains of rain and the dim shades of night. That’s good for cover but not so hot for amateurs navigating the river’s twists and eddies of currents.
We had the luxury, however, of three experienced river pilots. Casey knew the delta as well as I did but, because our knowledge was based on distant memory, it was decided, Gabe knew it best and would take charge of the boat after Benicia. He was best suited to throw off anyone trying to tail us. It could help too that Larry and I would jump off at the marina and ride the Harley up the other side of the river to join up with them later.
I throttled down as we entered the harbor. It was quiet after dusk among the forest of masts and no one was moving around. The ambient light from a hundred sources on land and sea bounced off the bottom bellies of a thickening cloud-cover.
Gabe asked, “You remember the shed?” He handed me a set of keys before we tied-up to the fueling dock.
“Still there? I would’ve thought the termites took over the lease by now.” 
Distracted by the sedan waiting for us at the top of the boat launch, he ignored my dig. saying, “That’s the same car.”
That our shadower would be waiting for us when we arrived at Benicia hadn’t been one of my calculations. It was about a forty-five-minute drive for him, depending on the traffic, and a short cruise of sixteen miles for us from Loch Lomond… about the same amount of time.
“Maybe, Gabe. Too dark to tell for sure,” I tried not to show any sign of panic.
Gabe had the stature, and authority, of a wise Grandpa, but now he wanted me to take charge. He pled, “We should get out of here now. Forget the Harley. What do you think?”
All those years of avoiding responsibility had been dropping away since Santa Cruz Island.  It was best for all of us to stay calm. I assured him and the rest, “I don’t know. But I have a feeling, we’re okay.”
Gabe wasn’t buying my optimism. Shaken, he asked, “What if it’s not okay?”
 I tried a stoic retort, “The handmaiden of fear is doubt, old man. Look at Anna in there.”
We had been watching Anna inside the cabin, indifferent but not oblivious, to our danger. She’d been cleaning one of the AKs and then busied herself with makeup as though we were on our way to the yacht club soiree. She came out on deck to join us, stopping long enough to remark, “You know, Gabe, Spartans polished their armor and greased-up with olive oil before their last stand. They had to die pretty, you see. If it’s not okay, I’m ready.”
Casey passed the nozzle and hose from the pump over to Anna shouting, “Self-serve… No one’s here!”
Gabe yelled back, “No, Casey, we have enough. Get back on board, we’re out of Dodge.”
I took comfort feeling the Browning in its holster under arm, “Go ahead, Casey, and top her off. We have to take our chances, Gabe. Sometimes, for the mouse, running isn’t the right choice. That cat might have something for me.”
It didn’t take long for them to top off the tank. Larry tagged along with me like a lost puppy that had found a new master as I stepped out onto the dock. We were half-way up the launch-ramp by the time Anna threw the lines from the cleats and leapt, agile as an antelope, back on deck. Gabe shouted for the benefit of anyone within earshot, “See you guys in Sausalito. Have us a crawdad fest!”
Doc was puzzled, “Crawdads? Sausalito? Thought we were going to go to…”
“Doc, it’s a ruse. Don’t mean nothin’. There’s clams but ain’t no crawdads in Sausalito.”
We stood silent listening to the grumble of the Dinky Dao fading beyond the breakwater. The gravel crunching underfoot on the concrete ramp was a conspicuous herald of our arrival to the shed in the still of the evening. The sedan, parked at the top next to the shed, looked empty as we approached. I saw that the hasp had been pried off its sliding barn-door. It was left open a crack. I took the Browning out of its holster and held it two-handed at-ready. Doc and I glanced at each other…. curiosity in my eyes and fear in his.
I gave him a shove ahead of me with a forearm. He whispered, “What are you doing Crash, someone’s in there!”
“Larry, it’s too late to whisper. Go ahead and open the damned door.” I gave him another nudge. If anyone was going to get shot, it wouldn’t be me, “Open it!”
He slid the door.
We were greeted by the musty smell of the old shed and decades of oil permeating the packed dirt floor. A man’s familiar voice from a stool at the workbench next a covered bike called out from the gloom, “Holster your piece, Crash. You won’t need it, yet.” The large dark figure pulled the cord on the bare bulb above Gabe’s well-ordered work bench. On the wall above it; every wrench, screwdriver and hammer had its place in outline on the pegboard.
I had no problem recognizing the man, though he’d aged… suit and tie replaced the Hawaiian shirt … silver butch-cut on top of a mask of a face … it was Danang with Ryan… Camp Perry… Langley… a shadowy legend, Harold Baker. I thought he must be in his 70’s by then, the six-foot-five, broad shoulders, an imposing figure of a man, a threatening force to recon with, “Hey, Bird Dog?”
I holstered the piece.
I let the adrenaline rush settle before I asked, “You made a show of yourself back there. Since we’re all alive, do you mind telling us what this is all about?”
Larry stood, frozen at the door.
“Shit or get off the pot, Doc.” Relieving the tension, I laughed, “C’mon in, take a stool at the bench. This guy’s a friend.”
Harold Baker had always been matter of fact, “I wasn’t the only one watching you at Loch Lomond.”
“Thought as much. When you didn’t get out of the car back there you had me wondering.”
 “Enough of that. I’ll get to the point, Ryan called me… he found out you’re in deeper than you can handle alone.”
I slipped the cover off the Hog while he talked and swung a leg over the Harley’s seat, idly twisting the throttle, “Yeh, Larry here got into some nasty shit. How about that Larry? You had quite a party for a while, huh?”
Bird Dog put a hand on Doc’s shoulder like he was calming a frightened dog, “That’s not the half of it. As evil as those pricks are, they wouldn’t normally touch snuff films.”
Larry whined, “I didn’t like them either. They made me do them.”
Impatient with his excuses, any compassion I had for him waned at being reminded what his game was. I checked his denial, “You didn’t like them at first?”
Bird Dog wasn’t interested in our discussion, “I’ve got something in the car for you, Crash. You haven’t told him the whole truth, have you Doctor Spawn? Tell all of it while I step out.”
 It pissed me off that I hadn’t gotten the whole truth out of Larry on the boat. That he was a murderer was one thing but that he enjoyed it, and was still lying about it, blotted out whatever drug induced empathy I still had for the creep. I jerked him by the collar off his stool and tossed him against the workbench, “Whatever you say, Doc… What’s worse than getting your rocks off killing chicks?”
 “Let me finish, goddamn it!” He pled. Backing away he snatched an oversized crescent wrench off the peg-board, “It was transplants. Organ transplants!”
“Fuck you, Doc!” I lunged, twisting the wrench from his hand and slamming him against the shed’s fragile wall, “You made money off it too!”
Larry held his wrist, “Auch! You broke it!”
Bird Dog came back with a small plastic gun case, about ten by twenty. “Calm down everyone. I wanted to slap the shit out of him too but Larry didn’t have anything to do with that part.”
“Sure, he did.”
Larry whimpered, “No, Crash, I thought they were all just acting.”
“Yes, he’s not lying. Larry just supplied the product in his fun dungeon. By the time Yuri was done, fresh organs were in a cooler and on the next flight out of town.”
“You’d have to have a real doctor, a surgeon, to do that, right? I mean, I wouldn’t want to fuck with the Russian Mob. Say, if you cut out a wrong gizzard, for one. Who was the surgeon?”
“Larry can tell you. The Russians can be very persuasive, Crash. Isn’t that right Professor?”
 Larry nodded, “It doesn’t matter now, we buried him a year ago.”
 “So, he must have known they’d kill him. Why would he go along unless he was a sick fuck too?” I asked while opening the case, as though the whole goddamned universe cared.
“Larry isn’t telling you the whole story now either. Doctor Sochenski wasn’t one of Larry’s pervs but they held his daughter hostage as insurance. They both disappeared into a lime pit… they’ve never found their bodies.”
Doc moaned, like he’d just realized how far his little game had gone, “I didn’t know…. Really. She was only six-years-old!”
My contempt at this performance set in, “You could have found out if you cared, Larry… like the others. They were all someone’s six-year-old daughters, once,”
I was familiar with the weapon tucked in the cutout foam… French used them… a Bullpup they call ‘em; because they’re a short, but fully automatic and accurate rifle, complete with a fold-out stock, night vision scope, and silencer. All of that. I must admit… damned near had an erection looking at it, “Shit, these are hard to come by.”
 I unfolded the stock, took aim at an imaginary target, swung the muzzle to Larry’s face… he shrunk back knowing I would kill him. But my finger wouldn’t… couldn’t… squeeze that fraction of the trigger’s pull between murder and his humanity. I lowered the muzzle, folded up the stock and set it on the table between us.
Larry exhaled.
By this time, I knew exactly what I was doing with him. The effects of LSD are pretty much out of one’s system within twenty-four hours but the psychological effects are long term… especially after a first trip and an overload of paranoia and self-realization exposed all at once. It could drive him to suicide, and, now that my work was done with him, it didn’t matter to me if I sped up the process. Except for a trace of empathy, I might be able to lead myself out of the moral malaise we’d been swimming in but I didn’t know how to do that for both of us. I wasn’t doing so well with it myself, really. The whole affair, since leaving the sanctuary of Anna’s place… the blood… the killing… the low value on life… disgust for us both arose from the gut and stuck in my throat.
Bird Dog closed the case, took off the bench, and put it in the saddlebag of the Harley, “There’s extra clips in there too. I don’t give a damn one way of another if this Yuppie lives. We’re done with him. But you, Craszhinski, have got to get your ass out to Prospect Slough. You remember where Gabe always keeps his trailer?”
 “I know. We already discussed it.”
Bird Dog had his pitch, “Good, stay there.  Under the seat at the table’s a CB. Don’t call out. Wait and listen. Ryan, or I, will contact you. Otherwise, save it for a real emergency.”
 “I know the drill. So, Ryan’s within range. Where?”
He handed me a card. It read, The Island Mansion. “You’re back in the game. You know that much, don’t you?”
“I know I’m dealing with a legion of demons besides all this,” I nodded towards Larry, smiling.
“See, Crash. You know what I mean?” The Bird Dog’s mask saddened. It was as though he was remembering a dream… a vivid one. I never heard him talk like this, or, this much, “Ryan called me because of you and Anna. Smerdyakov… I know him from Madrid… he must be in his eighties by now. I trained Anna and now you’re almost ready. Ryan’s on the job too.” Face set like stone, his heavyweight boxer’s fist shook the table. He hammered home a deliberate affirmation, “I’m almost done but Smerdyakov doesn’t deserve to die of old-age.”
“And I don’t think you’re ready for shuffleboards in Florida either, old man.”
The Bird Dog wasn’t done recruiting me, “It’s never over you and me, Craszhinski. With Glasnost, the USSR is falling apart. Smerdyakov has no rules. A devil far worse than the KGB has been unleashed from Moscow. In a few years, a monster like him will be president of Russia.”
I must have predicted from the bar stool the same kind of things a thousand times. Glasnost, Perestroika, a power vacuum filled by the Russian mob… “You don’t have to recruit me. Like it or not, Anna has me in this up to my ass.”
Larry had been quiet but he must have thought we needed to be comforted and, falling back onto the melodious intonation of a funeral director, he reassured us, “You know, from Saint Francis, to Mohammed, they were all warriors. They turned to God… to a Higher Power.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “Sweet Jesus, Larry, is that you?”
Larry was proud, like he was finally sitting at the adult’s table. “Hey, remember, I’m a Reverend and, to administer to the flock, I’ve read about all the saints. It was my job.”
I chaffed, “You think Bird Dog’s a saint? If there wasn’t a war somewhere, he’d go start one.”
Harry Baker, the man, not the legendary Bird Dog, cracked a smile and nudged me, “Larry’s right. We’re the damned and wouldn’t trust a saint that hasn’t had blood on his hands.”
I stood on the starter peddle, the old pan-head coughed and grumbled from the pipes first kick. I patted the sissy seat behind, revving, and shouting over the rumble, “Climb on Larry, we’re goin’ for a ride.”