Blog category about Larntz Enterprises news
Blog category about Larntz Enterprises news
Sorry I’ve been away for so long, but I’ve been busy, getting on with my new life.
So, we can now vote early here in New Mexico, and a certain Republican has stuck his foot in it, and this whole bit, and he, may become irrelevant any day.
So on the eve of the 2nd Presidential Debate, I give you:
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
November 8th, 2016
In an alternate reality, very similar to our own…
And what will he say on election day, once enough of the votes have been counted, and FOX NEWS has declared he won?
“America, YOU’RE FIRED!”
Long stare into the camera.
“I don’t believe how stupid you are!
“How the hell did this happen?
“So, I’m at this retreat for rich white guys out West someplace, you know, the one run by those two brothers, and a few other rich old, white guys.
“A group of them comes up to me, takes me into a private room, and they says, ‘You know, we think you oughtta do it. You oughtta run for President.’
“I practically spit out my drink, and I says to them, I says, ‘You really think they’d vote for me? You’re crazy. I fake fire people on television. I’ve been bankrupt more times than I can count. I’ve got a list of failed businesses that the American people ended up paying for. I’m a clown. Nobody will ever vote for me!’”
“And they look right back and say, ‘We can do it. We’ll make it happen. All you gotta do is show up, yell at some people that we plant in the crowd for a half hour, 45 minutes, tops. Then you do the speech. Talk about how bad everything is, insult the local politicians, complain about immigrants and illegal aliens.
“‘Yeah, tell `em you’re gonna build a giant wall, y’know like on that Game of Thrones show, all across the Mexican border, and you’ll make Mexico pay for it!’
“And another guy says, ‘Yeah and you gotta really go off on a religion, too. Let’s see… Oh yeah, I got it, Islam. Make all the Muslims nervous, and scare the public with stupid claims about terrorists, and ISIS. Really work the people up. You’re the best at that! Make `em scared, and start your followers lookin’ at those guys funny, like they’re all a buncha criminals!’
“And this little guy pipes up and says, ‘Tell him about the race thing!’
“And the other guy gives the little guy a look like he’s gonna slap him, and says, ‘Calm down, I’ll tell him. We think it’d be fun if you started a race war. You know, start spoutin’ off White Supremacy stuff, get David Duke and some of them White Power militia types on our side. But no Nazis. Too obvious. That’d be too much. Thing would crumble like a house of cards.’
“I says, ‘Guys, this sounds like a bad science fiction novel. Nobody’ll believe it.’
“You know what they said then? Get a load’a this!
‘”If it don’t work out”, they says, `and nobody buys our line of bullshit (that’s what they said, bullshit. Don’t gimme that, they say it on TV!), as long as you can keep it goin’ for a few months, we’ll have lots of footage of your (air quotes) campaign (close air quotes). Then, we just edit all the footage and turn it into a comedy reality show: Your life on the Road to The White House. That’s a pretty good title, eh?’
“`We’ll throw in some family stuff, and plenty of that hot wife of yours, that’s for sure. We’ll do a Real Housewives thing with her and all her hot girlfriends. C’mon, It’ll be a laugh!’ they said.
“A laugh. Are you laughing America? Any of this seem funny to you?”
“See, I was thinkin’, just run it `til April Fools Day and declare the whole thing was just a bad joke. But then it started gettin’ interesting, so I figured I’d play it out. It was a joke!”
Long hard stare right down the throat of the camera with that snarky “You’re fired!” look.
“So America, you get the idea, I never wanted to be President. I just wanted to see just how far you’d go, you idiots! You’re FIRED! I ain’t doin’ it!”
“What, you’re gonna go with my running mate? He’s a bigger idiot than I am. When you let THAT slide, I started wondering how bad it was really gonna get, so I ran with it!
“I’ll do one thing as President. I’ll declare a DO-OVER! Maybe you’ll get it right the second time!
“Then I’ll retire on that $475,000 pension, you morons. You NEVER saw this coming? Seriously?
“You all need help. Hey, there’s my next fortune. Cheap psychiatric help from the graduates of The DRUMPH Psychiatric University! We’ll get Doctor Laura on staff, maybe Doctor Phil, too. Yeah, and we’ll do our own financing. I’ll get rich, AGAIN!”
Mic drop. Walk off stage.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Final (okay, might never be really final) Chapter Two of Savage Investigations, The Novel: AfterMatth
Here it is, Chapter Two, AfterMatth, of Savage Investigations, the novel I started back in February of 2005. I know I spelled AfterMatth wrong but it’s a play on words, using that poetic license us writers have the right to use:
Aftermath Matt, AfterMatth, get it? Of course you do.
Less than a month (actually 21 days) after I finished the final, final (really final) Chapter One.
At this rate, I should have those 5 chapters ready for sale (at 99 cents, a steal) on amazon and at www,larntz.com easily by Christmas.
Dominique is going over it as I type, so any minute now, I will copy that sucker into this post and you can read it for FREE. That’s right, I said FREE. I read that the one thing that gets everybody’s attention is the word “FREE!” With an exclamation point, even more so. FREE!
We found a couple of corrections, so there’s that never gonna be the final, final, blah, blah, blah…
Here it is!
Probably ought to get serious now. This is solemn stuff…
Savage watched with horror as the large monitor went blank. The voice monitor and biometric displays flat-lined. The other monitors displayed the fireball erupting out the top of the blast shield and the smoking hole in the ground where the two kids stood. The blast shield was still erect but covered with bloody fragments of Matt’s body armor and bits of Giovanna’s clothing.
Matt and Giovanna were dead because the primer charge detonated.
Savage sat dumbstruck, wracked with guilt, staring at the blank monitor and the flat line that seconds ago was a beating heart.
He wondered for the first time if the bomb suit would have protected Matt from the smaller charge, a question that would haunt him for the rest of his days.
“My God,” he thought to himself, “did I just kill those kids?”
“Chief?” came the voice from his headset. It was Master Sergeant Orrin Mickelson, Savage’s choice to be the onsite commander.
“I don’t know Johnny, he’s not responding.”
In the background, Savage heard Johnny say, “C’mon Mick, he’s gotta be there.”
“Chief! Are you there? Do you copy?” Mickelson half-shouted into his mic.
Savage snapped out of it.
“I’m here, Mick,” Savage said, unscrambling his thought processes.
“Gather up all the crime scene evidence you can, you know the drill. Set everything up in Hangar 243, it’s empty,” Savage added.
A light on the secure desk phone started to flash.
“Hold on, the secure line is ringing.”
He picked up the receiver.
“Savage. This is a secure line.”
“Savage, do you know who this is?”
“And why I’m calling?”
“I’ve called in the cleanup crew and your people can’t be there when they show up. Clear them out immediately.”
“Oh, and Savage, sorry about your man.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The line went dead.
“Mick, you need to evacuate the site. Leave everything and get back to the base. You know what I’m saying, right?”
“Uh, yeah, we copy.”
“And Mick, Team Building at my place after you get back. Let yourselves in. I’ll be there as soon as I finish up here.”
After an op, Savage and his boys always went back to Savage’s villa to unwind and compare notes. They called it a “Team Building Exercise”. It was especially important when they lost a member of the team.
Savage completed the most painful Operations Report he had ever filed and left the command center.
He made his way home to his villa, Northwest of Sorrento.
Walking through the gate and up to the house, he looked through the window at the men assembled in his living room. The same men, minus one, who just a few hours ago were laughing and celebrating the missing teammate they were here to mourn.
MSgt Mickelson met him at the door with a cup of black coffee.
“I know how close you and Matt were. You okay, Chief?” Mickelson asked.
“Not really, Mick. Sorry I flaked on you, but this hit me pretty hard.”
“No, it’s all good, Chief. You came back pretty quick, considering.”
“I guess you got the call, huh, Chief?” MSgt John Johnston, the team logistician, asked.
“Yeah Johnny, he called so you guys had to bug out,” Savage said.
“So what the heck happened?” asked TSgt Billy Ray Simon, the team weapons expert.
“I reviewed the footage. The primary charge went off before Matt could cut the leg of the ballast resistor,” Savage offered. “I don’t think there was anything he could have done.”
“Yeah, I heard him say something about the crappy soldering job,” Mickelson said.
Staring at nothing in particular, Johnston said, “Makes you think about how quick life can be snuffed out and how unfair it is to a guy like Matt, who may be the nicest guy I’ve ever known.”
“Yeah, but that’s EOD. Walking on the edge of destruction. You’re right Johnny, it’s not fair, but neither is life,” Simon mused.
A cloud of solemnity hung over the rest of the gathering as they swapped stories and memories of Matt, and some even managed a few weak smiles.
It was near dawn when the last man left and Savage fell into a fitful sleep at about four-thirty.
He was rousted out of bed at six a.m. by the phone.
“Savage,” he said into the phone, his voice clouded by sleep.
“Chief, this is Captain Armstrong. Colonel Harding requests that you report this morning at o-eight-hundred.”
“Yes sir,” he said, shaking the cobwebs from his consciousness. “I’ll be there.”
He dragged himself into the shower.
He arrived at the outer office of Colonel Richard Harding, the installation commander, and Savage’s direct superior.
“Go right in, Chief,” Armstrong said without looking up from his desk. He wanted to express his condolences, but said nothing because he knew what was waiting on the other side of Harding’s door.
“Thank you, sir,” Savage said as he passed the adjutant’s desk.
Harding’s door, which to Savage’s recollection had always been open, was closed. Savage stopped in front of it for a moment to compose himself.
He stood at full attention and rapped once on the door.
“Enter!” came the brusque reply from the inner office.
Savage took a deep breath and let it out slowly before he twisted the door handle and entered.
He noticed that the two chairs that were always set at 45 degree angles to each other across from Harding’s desk were gone. They had been replaced by a lone straight backed chair, placed four feet away from the front and center of Harding’s desk. In addition, there was a video camera set up on a tripod and an operator a few feet to the side and behind Harding’s desk to record the interview. This was not to be a social visit.
Savage snapped to attention in front of Harding’s desk at 0759 with a sharp salute and a curt, “Sergeant Savage reporting as ordered, SIR!”
“Sit down, Savage,” Colonel Richard Harding said from behind his huge cherry wood desk. As the military installation commander, Harding was responsible for everything that happened with respect to the U.S. military under his command.
“All right then. Let’s get this started,” Harding said. The anger in his voice was palpable. “Mitchell, start recording,” he said to the video technician. The flashing red light on the front of the camera went constant.
“Savage, since this is an official inquiry, you have the right to counsel in your defense. Do you wish to have counsel present?” he asked. The tone of his voice was all business.
Savage sat at attention in the chair across from the colonel’s desk. “No, sir, it won’t be necessary.”
“Let the record show that Sergeant Savage has waived his right to counsel,” he said to the camera.
Harding’s anger flashed in his eyes. He knew Matt and was fond of him, since Matt had often taken the colonel to task on the racquet ball court.
This incident was indefensible.
“Your report on the fiasco that went down last night. The Italian government wants someone to answer for that girl’s death.
“What the hell were you thinking, allowing Swanson to go in without the bomb suit?”
“Sir, as I stated in my report, Sergeant Swanson suggested there wasn’t time to suit up, and in my opinion, the situation warranted the breach of regulations.
“Considering the outcome, the bomb suit would not have been much protection, anyway.”
“All right, I’m willing to overlook that for now, but you and I both know Swanson cut the wrong wire. It’s an obvious mistake, yet there’s nothing in your report that says so. It also states that you want to give him the Air Force Cross? Why?”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
Savage was a Chief Master Sergeant and had achieved as much rank as possible in the enlisted ranks as an E-9. He had five years more time in service than the colonel, and at age 43, was a year older, but Harding was an O-6 and military protocol dictated that enlisted always defer to an officer.
Since they were in uniform and Harding had summoned Savage to report, all military protocols had to be followed. They had become close friends over the years Harding had been the Base Commander. Had they been out of uniform, on the golf course, at the gym, or at the club together, they would have been on a first name basis. “Permission to speak freely” took them off the record.
“Of course,” Harding said, and then to the camera operator. “Pause the recording, Mitchell.”
The red light on the camera pulsed again.
Savage rose from the chair and walked up to the desk. He leaned across the desk on his hands, his face a foot away from Harding’s.
“Rich, I don’t believe it was a mistake. You know—knew—Matt. He wasn’t at fault. I think he is—was—the best EOD guy in the business, with more citations for bravery and excellence than almost anyone I know. He was a professional and died in the commission of his duty. That’s why I’m pushing for the Air Force Cross. If we say he made a mistake, he won’t get it. I can’t let that happen. The only conclusion I can come up with is shoddy wiring, because he never got the chance to make that final cut. Thank God, he managed to disable the vest before it blew.
Harding held up a DVD.
“This is a copy of the events as they happened, recorded from the Ops Center console you were sitting at,” he said, sliding the DVD into the computer on his desk. He used the mouse to activate the video display. The monitor came to life and showed a split screen display of each of the monitors that Savage had seen last night. Harding clicked the mouse again and the displays froze.
“Swanson’s reputation is not the issue here,” Harding said. “Hell, I recommended him for most of those citations. The fact is, somebody is going to get hung out to dry on this. If not Swanson, as the OPCOM, it’ll be you.”
“So be it. I’m responsible. I made the call to go without the bomb suit. I was the one in charge.”
“Drake, be reasonable. Matt’s death was tragic, but he’s dead and you throwing yourself on this sword isn’t going to bring him back.”
“Rich, can I show you something?”
Harding slid his chair away from the desk as Savage walked around behind it and took control of the computer. He sped up the recording to the point just before Matt was about to cut the wire.
“Now watch this,” Savage said. “See how the wires are all the same color? There’s no way for a lay person to tell which wire he was about to cut. In fact, he wasn’t going to cut a wire, but the negative leg of the ballast resistor. Look at those cold-soldered joints. He even said something about the substandard construction job. I don’t think he ever got a chance to make that cut.”
He pressed a key and the static display came to life. His voice came from the computer speakers.
“Matt, if you don’t think you can do it, leave it alone. You’ve disabled the majority of the bomb. We can make her comfortable and bring in somebody else. She’s relatively safe now.”
“Aw shucks, and leave this pretty little girl wired to explode? I couldn’t do that, Chief. Nothing I can’t handle. It’s a matter of pride, y’know? We’ve come this far, you gotta let me finish it.”
He heard his own voice again, “All right, but be careful.”
“Okay, one last thing, and we’ll all go home. Don’t you just love happy endings? Me too.
“Just cut this leg of the ballast resistor, and we can all go home—“
The larger of the displays, Matt’s point of view, showed the open jaws of the wire cutters about to make the final cut.
The larger screen went blank and the other three displayed the event that was now burned into Savage’s psyche. His stomach clenched.
Savage held up his finger.
“There! Did you see it?”
“See what?” Harding said, confused.
“The jaws of the wire snips never closed on the leg of that resistor. Did you see it?”
“I don’t know. Play it again.”
Savage reversed and played the scene again frame by frame, freezing the image at the instant before Matt’s helmet camera screen went blank, clearly showing the open jaws of the wire cutters hovering over the resistor before the other displays showed the explosion.
Savage asked, “Do you see it?”
“I do,” Harding admitted.
“Exactly!” Savage exclaimed. “This is proof that he never got the chance to cut the wire. The thing went off before he could disarm it! It may have been on a timer, or it could have been bad wiring. You can see how sloppy those connections are. Or maybe a remote detonation, but for whatever reason, Matt never had the chance to cut that wire!”
Harding looked thoughtful.
“You might be right, Drake, but she was the Italian Minister of Finance’s daughter. The Italians are still going to want someone’s head for this.”
“Give them mine. We can’t let them have Matt’s,” Savage said. “He doesn’t deserve to go out that way.
“Rich, Matt died trying to save that girl’s life and I can’t, in good conscience, let his death go unrewarded. The least we can do is give his brother the satisfaction of knowing his little brother died a hero.”
Harding stared into Savage’s eyes as he pondered destroying his career.
“Okay, I’m convinced, but we both know what the bureaucrats are going to say happened. He was nervous because she was a diplomat’s daughter and he choked,” Harding insisted.
“I don’t think so. Not once you show them this. He didn’t seem nervous to me. I didn’t hear it in his voice. Matt Swanson’s been part of my team for five years, Rich. His voice monitor showed normal right up until he went for that final cut. You can see it on the biometric display. His heart rate and respiration were perfectly normal.
“You’ve known Matt Swanson almost as long as I have. Did he sound nervous or afraid to you?”
Harding shook his head.
“You and I know better, but the bureaucrats don’t know him. They’re still going to say he caved under the pressure,” Harding protested.
“I believe he knew what he was doing,” Savage said, “and the primer charge went off prematurely. He said it was a poorly rigged device.
“Imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t first disabled the main charge. Instead of a big hole in front of the gate, we would have lost the whole building, half of the block around it, and my team. For that, he is a hero.
“It was an accident. It wasn’t Matt Swanson’s fault. I want him to get the Air Force Cross for gallantry in action. He really deserves the Medal of Honor. I can’t let his memory be tainted on my watch!”
Harding broke in, “Even though we have visual proof that he never cut the wire, videos can be edited, and the Italian government can say the video was tampered with.”
“Then it’s our job to convince them otherwise!”
Savage realized he had balled up his fists. Harding noticed, too.
“Look, Drake, somebody is going down for this and I don’t want it to be you,” Harding pleaded. “You’ve had a long and distinguished career. I heard you tell him to leave it alone. He was being insubordinate.”
Savage nodded at Mitchell, who looked at Harding. Harding nodded his consent. The camera’s recording light glowed red again.
“Sir, with all due respect,” Savage said, regaining control and switching back to military protocol to make his point, “neither of us were there, but we have proof that he did not make a mistake. The video record clearly shows that he never had the chance to cut the wire that would have disarmed the device. You can see on the video that the jaws of his wire cutters were open and hovering over the detonation device at the time of the explosion. Sergeant Swanson was the best EOD specialist I’ve ever known. He would not make a rookie mistake like this. Everything was going fine until the bomb went off. I could hear it in his voice. He was not nervous or hesitant. He also said that it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. Consider what would have happened if he hadn’t first disabled the main charge, the vest of explosives. Instead of a big hole in front of the gate, we would have lost the whole building, half of the block around it, and my team. For that, he is a hero.
“Sergeant Swanson gave his life while trying to save the life of another, an innocent, terrified, young girl. That’s what I want the record to state.”
He paused for effect.
“The fact is,” he went on, “I was at fault. I used poor judgment, and as a result, two young people are dead and we are on the verge of an international incident. If the Italian government needs someone to blame, let them blame me. As you said, Colonel Harding, I was the OPCOM. I could have ordered Sergeant Swanson to stand down, but I didn’t. Court Martial me. Give me an Article 15. Force me to retire. Just don’t let my mishandling of the situation stain the honor of a brave young man who gave his life in the service of his country.”
One of the rights and responsibilities of a high-level position in the military such as installation commander is the ability to perform both field promotions and demotions in the form of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 15, Non-Judicial Punishment. Savage’s solution would be the perfect way out of this mess and they both knew it.
The colonel thought for a moment, weighing all the factors. This was already a political hornet’s nest, and could very well become an international incident, unless he could find a scapegoat to give to the Italian authorities. The Black Ops crew had already covered everything up, so a thorough and public joint investigation was going to be out of the question.
On the record, Savage had just offered his own neck for the chopping block and Harding needed to decide whether or not to drop the axe and sever his career.
Given Savage’s spotless record, Harding didn’t want him to be drummed out of the military, but he respected Savage enough to accede to his wishes.
“All right, Chief. If that’s the way you want it. Effective immediately, you are out-processing for retirement, and you are hereby demoted to the rank of E-8.
“End recording, Mitchell,” the colonel said to the camera operator. The red light went out.
“I hope it’s enough to satisfy the girl’s father,” Harding added.
“So do I,” Savage agreed.
One of the less glamorous aspects of being a diplomat was the knowledge that something might happen to a loved one, which is why they are so well guarded around the clock. A covert investigation, which Savage would have been an integral part of, would reveal exactly what happened to the girl’s security people. He knew that since he was no longer privy to such information he would never know the truth because due to the classified nature of the incident, none of the personnel involved in the investigation would be able to reveal any details to Savage as a civilian.
The official story for the media was that a suicide car bomb blew up at the gate of the embassy. The Black Ops cleanup crew, whose job it was to rewrite history and cover up what actually happened, gathered all the evidence, hosed down the site, and brought in a car loaded with explosives with a cadaver behind the wheel. They blew it up at the front gate, taking down the gate and a section of fence, right after Savage’s crew left. An hour later, it was all over the major wire services and television.
The world media all carried the same story.
He heard the news while in the Outprocessing Office at the Military Personnel Flight that afternoon.
“Our top story, Crimson Jihad, a new terrorist group, is claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing of the United States Embassy in Naples last night in retaliation for American air bases and military presence in the Middle East. Fortunately, due to the late hour of the attack, other than the driver, there were no casualties.”
“We are Crimson Jihad. We will no longer tolerate the Capitalist American Invasion. Death to the American pig-dogs who would desecrate our sacred holy lands with their machines of war and destruction. This is our first message. There will be others.” droned the monotone English translation dubbed over the frantic Farsi shouting on the tape.
“Crimson Jihad, eh?” Savage thought to himself. “Probably an Army Captain who’s an Arab translator. And why, with all the modern technology and advances in audio in the world, does it sound like it was recorded in a cave?”
He wasn’t wrong. The voice of Crimson Jihad was a Farsi translating U.S. Army Lieutenant from Kansas, recorded on a cheap cassette recorder, his mouth too close to the microphone, and he was in a bathroom stall. The tape was sent to the embassy and released to the media. The attack would be viewed as another skirmish in the war on terrorism.
Nothing was ever reported in the world news about the abduction and subsequent death of Giovanna Francelli, or the brave young man who lost his life attempting to rescue her. Neither government wanted anybody getting ideas about kidnapping the daughters of diplomats. Only a handful of people knew the truth about what had occurred. Giovanna’s death was explained away as a riding accident.
“In other news,” the Armed Forces Network newscaster solemnly reported, “Giovanna Francelli, age 15, the daughter of Finance Minister, Armando Francelli, died yesterday in a tragic accident when the horse she was riding threw her, sending her over the side of a mountain path to the rocks below, to her death. And now, here’s the weather…” the newscaster said, decidedly more upbeat.
The true nature of Giovanna’s death and the heroic young man who died while trying to save her would be forever shrouded in secrecy. Savage hoped the official Italian investigation might reveal what happened to Giovanna’s security detail, but he would never know.
He was fed up anyway.
“23 years in the military, 18 of it in black ops. I’ve lost enough close friends, and had enough of death, subterfuge, and lies,” he thought with acrimony in his heart. The world and tragically, Matt’s brother, must never know the true circumstances of the bravery and selflessness for which his little brother had given his life.
While he was outprocessing, Savage signed his retirement papers. Harding taking one of his stripes meant he would be retiring as a Senior Master Sergeant, but he would still receive the full retirement pay of a Chief, and “CMSGT / E9” would be displayed in the “PAY GRADE” field on his retiree blue ID card, and he would be receiving more than $3,000 a month for the rest of his life, but that brought little comfort at the moment.
Someone else would have to watch over his boys now. Maybe Harding would promote Mick to Senior Master Sergeant. He was ready.
They all came over to his place for Savage’s final team building exercise. It was a somber farewell gathering, unlike the one they had held for Matt just last night.
“Y’know, they say that those EOD boys just do the job for the crazy thrill of cheating Death every time they go out, but not Matt. He was one the most level headed guys I’ve ever known. No crazy in that boy, that’s for sure,” said TSgt Simon.
“Yeah, I’ve seen him talk guys down off the edge of crazy when they’d been drinking too much, and avoid incidents with the cops,” MSgt Mickelson said.
“And you couldn’t find a nicer, more genuine person, always ready to help out or pitch in,” said TSgt Johnston.
Savage raised his glass for the last time to toast Matt Swanson with the team.
“We are all better men just for having known him. To Matt.”
“To Matt,” the team said as one.
“And here’s to you, Chief. We hate that you’re going, but we know you’ll land on your feet,” said TSgt Anthony “Dollar” Bill, the team heavy equipment specialist.
“Thanks, guys. I’m really going to miss you, too. I have every confidence that you will all go on to greatness in your own ways. If you ever need a reference, let me know. I can lie as good as the next man,” he laughed. “Seriously though, I’ll send you my details when I get where I’m going, and please, keep in touch.”
Savage knew he’d miss the life and the camaraderie that exists nowhere else except the military, but now it was time to move on.
Though unprecedented in his experience, Colonel Harding granted Savage’s final request to take the physical Air Force Cross medal to Albuquerque and personally give his condolences to Matt’s brother, Albuquerque Police Department Detective Sergeant Luke Swanson.
His exit from the military turned out to be a whirlwind affair. The paperwork that normally took up to six weeks was pushed through channels in a few hours.
A transoceanic flight later, Savage had his final out-processing appointment stateside at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Later that afternoon, he would be officially retired and no longer part of the military.
He had a flight to Albuquerque scheduled for 0845 the next morning.
With a little more than forty thousand dollars in his 401K, his future was, for the first time in a very long time, uncertain.
Okay, here you have it.
Now on to Chapter 3!
Do let me know what you think by replying to the post on facebook or send me an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading, and for your support.
To be continued…
Well, here it is, the final rewrite of Chapter One: Goodbyes, I think, dare I say hope?
I’ll let you be the judge…
“Matt, we’ve been through a lot together in the past five years. Are you sure there’s nothing I can do or say to get you to sign up for another hitch?”
“Afraid not, Chief,” Matt laughed. “It’s time for me to be moving on.”
“It’s just that, well, we’ve kind of gotten used to you. What if your replacement turns out to be a jerk?”
“What can I say, Chief? I know you and the boys will straighten him out.”
This brought a round of laughter from the others seated around the table.
Chief Master Sergeant Drake Savage was the head of a highly trained U.S. Air Force Special Forces Anti-Terrorism team. Their business was to prevent, if possible, and if not, be the first to respond during and after terrorist attacks in Southern Italy. For the past few weeks, business hadn’t been very good, and that suited them just fine.
They were gathered for Staff Sergeant Matt Swanson’s going away celebration at Franco’s, the little trattoria the team had come to think of as their second home. Franco had closed the place hours ago and they had it all to themselves. He was sitting at another table away from the revelers, doing the daily receipts.
“Yeah, but are you really sure?” Savage asked. “It’s not too late. I can get those discharge papers torn up.”
“Chief, I’ve only got a week before I go back to Albuquerque to be a good cop like my brother. They’re holding a spot for me on the APD bomb squad. I’m gonna miss all you guys, but it’s time for me to move on to the next level. Besides, since our folks passed, you know that Luke’s the only family I have left.”
Having demonstrated an aptitude for Explosive Ordnance Disposal training during the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery testing process, he was the team’s EOD Specialist. Over the course of the last six years, he had devoured any updated training material and the latest techniques in bomb diffusion technology he could find. Matt had become one of the most skilled explosives technicians in the Air Force. He was proud of his many accomplishments and the rest of the team felt lucky to have him. On the job, it wasn’t just his life on the line, and in EOD, there are no second chances.
Savage raised his glass of sparkling water for a toast. Being on-call 24/7, the team didn’t drink, as they never knew when a clear head might be needed.
“Matt, you know I have to keep asking. You’re just too good to let go lightly. I keep hoping you’ll change your mind, but if you won’t, I suppose I can live with it. All I can say is, the Albuquerque P.D. had better know how lucky they are to get you.”
Savage raised his glass higher, as did the rest of the team.
“So, as much as it pains me to say it, here’s hoping you have a long and fulfilling career protecting the folks back home.”
“Hear, hear!” the team exclaimed in unison.
There was a sharp knock at the door, and Franco went to open it.
Peering through the curtain, Franco looked back over his shoulder at Savage, “I think it is for you, Drake,” he said as he opened the door.
A uniformed lieutenant and a major strode into the restaurant, nodded at Franco, and walked up to Savage, who rose from his chair, and snapped to attention. The major spoke quietly with Savage. He nodded, and then addressed his men.
“We’ll have to pack it in, boys.” He turned to Franco, “I’m afraid we have to leave, my friend. We have work to do.”
“Is okay, Drake. Just be careful,” Franco replied with concern in his voice.
Franco had a vague idea what it was that Savage and his team did. He knew they were military and their job could be dangerous. More than just good customers, over the nine years he had known Savage, it was as if he and his crew had become part of Franco’s extended family. Besides, they were excellent tippers.
The team placed a large stack of euros on the table, much more than the cost of their meals and hurried out of the restaurant. They climbed into the government van that was waiting outside.
Savage took the seat behind the driver, facing the rear door, and briefed the team on the five mile trip back to the base.
“Okay, here’s what we’ve got so far,” he began, “Italian Minister of Finance, Armando Francelli’s daughter was kidnapped from her private school in Rome early this afternoon. She’s currently standing a few feet from the curb in front of the entrance gate to the American Embassy in Naples, wearing a vest wired with enough C-4 to blow up a city block. Since this is such a high profile op, all eyes, ours and theirs, are going to be on this job. We have to do it by the numbers.”
He pulled a picture out of a file folder and passed it down.
“Meet Giovanna Francelli. Twenty minutes ago, a white van pulled up to the curb outside the embassy, pushed her out, and drove off. The gate guard took this shot right after she was ejected from the van and stumbled up towards the guard shack. No markings on the van, tinted windows, and the plates were strategically covered with mud.
“She’s technically on American soil since the grounds of the embassy extend to the curb, so it’s our job. We have to assume she’s remotely wired, and the Carabinieri have cordoned off a ten-block area surrounding the embassy. It’s mostly warehouses and office buildings in that neighborhood, so there won’t be a lot of traffic at this time of night. Fortunately, nobody’s called the news services yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
“Matt, you will disable the bomb.”
Matt studied the picture of Giovanna Francelli and winced when he saw the terror in her eyes. She looked so helpless.
“Chief, how old is this girl?”
“She’s 15, Matt, why?”
“And she got picked up how long ago?”
“Around 1330 this afternoon. What are you getting at?”
“I want to do this without the bomb suit.”
“Didn’t I just say, by the numbers? Why would you want to do that? That goes against every regulation in the book,” Savage said.
“Because for one thing, it takes 20 to 30 minutes just to get in the damned thing, and if the bomb’s on a timer, that’s time she may not have. She’s been a hostage for what, more than 10 hours now? Who knows if they fed her. She might be hypoglycemic. Another thing, that much C-4 is pretty heavy so she’s gonna be unstable on her feet. If they have it rigged to a mercury switch, any unnecessary movement will set it off. That may be why they just pushed her out of the van and left. The bomb suit itself is a scary thing, and I’m afraid it would scare the bejesus out of her. This is a delicate op and needs a personal touch. She needs to be able to look in my eyes and I want to see hers. In that thing I look like a cross between the Michelin Man and a killer robot from outer space. The last thing I want her to see is her own distorted reflection in the face mask of the bomb suit. She’s a scared little girl, Chief, and all it will take is just one false move. That much C-4 is gonna blow me and the suit to bits anyway, in addition to everything else within a two block radius.”
Savage had to agree. Behind the face shield, the wearer’s face was completely obscured. The bomb suit itself was clumsy, and the amount of protection it afforded in this case would be nil.
Against his better judgment, Savage allowed the breach of regulations. He knew he’d catch hell for it if anything went wrong, but Matt was right, the personal touch might save the girl’s life, and that would be worth a little bureaucratic butt chewing.
“All right, but you are at least going to wear body armor with a helmet cam and headset,” Savage informed him.
“Yes, sir,” Matt smiled.
Savage always led his team into the fray, but since this was such a high profile operation, he was ordered to stay behind and coordinate from the command center on the base.
They arrived back at the base and Savage said, “Do me proud, boys. Everyone will be watching.”
“Right, Chief!” they all said as one man.
Savage got out of the van and went into the Operations Command Center.
There were two armored transports loaded and ready nearby. His team climbed in and set off for Naples.
At 0137 hours, the team, sans Savage, arrived on the scene and set up a perimeter and a mobile command post.
Matt donned his helmet with the lipstick camera and microphone headset affixed to the side and exited one of the transports.
He stood for a long moment and surveyed the scene, giving Savage a chance to take it all in from the array of monitors at the console back at the command center.
Standing on the sidewalk a few feet from the curb, in front of the entrance gate, the girl looked so alone in the harsh white light of the spotlights that illuminated the embassy grounds.
Giovanna Francelli was tall for her age and a little gangly. She hadn’t yet grown into her height. She had huge brown eyes and over the next few years, would grow into a statuesque beauty, but now, unsure of herself and self-conscious, she always stood somewhat stoop shouldered, hunched over to be closer to the same height as her peers.
Crying and afraid to move, she sobbed softly.
Giovanna still wore her school uniform, a blue, green and yellow plaid, knee-length skirt and white cotton blouse. The blouse was covered by the vest of plastic explosives, and one of the sleeves was ripped. Her white knee socks were torn and dirty, and her once shiny, black, Mary Janes were scuffed. She had a bruise over her left eye where one of her captors had struck her.
Matt saw the bruise and it enraged him. He thought about the coward who had hit her and wished he could get the brute alone.
He pushed down his anger, put on his best thousand watt smile, and walked up to the girl. He stood very close, establishing eye contact, his gaze never wavering from hers. She was terrified and exhausted. He was afraid she might pass out and blow them both to bits.
He thought fast.
“Parlate inglese?” Matt asked in a soothing voice. While not fluent, he tried to at least learn enough of the local language to get by.
The poor girl was trembling.
“A little,” she half whispered.
“Heck, I’ll bet you speak better English than me,” he continued, smiling his warmest, most reassuring smile.
He took a bottle of water out of his pouch and offered her a sip. She flinched like a scared rabbit when he first touched the bottle to her lips, but she drank cautiously. He set the bottle down and reached for her hand, turning up the wattage on his smile. He held her hand in both of his, but said nothing, maintaining his focus on her eyes.
“Thank you,” she said timidly.
“What is your name?” Matt asked, knowing that it would make her think of something other than the situation.
“Giovanna. It means ‘God is gracious’.”
“Yes, Giovanna, He certainly is,” Matt agreed and closed his eyes for a moment in silent prayer, continuing to hold her hand.
Via satellite, Savage was wired directly to Matt’s helmet cam and headset. A secure link to the security cameras atop the embassy presented a full 180 degree view of the front gate where Matt and Giovanna stood, holding hands like a couple of school kids. He zoomed in with the slider switch until both of them filled the three monitors in front of him, with Matt’s helmet cam on the fourth monitor in the center of the array. This monitor was larger and had a full color display, and monitored the stress level of Matt’s voice, showing a biometric display of his cardiac functions. Savage actually had a better view of the scene and was able to assemble more information than if he were on site. Except he wasn’t there, and that troubled him.
It was hard to lead from a bank of video terminals and a headset, but the men on his team were seasoned professionals and he had the utmost confidence in them.
“Boys, let’s get everybody out of that building,” Savage ordered. The team sprang into action.
At that late hour, there was only a skeleton crew working in the building. They were escorted out and to a safe distance two blocks away, loaded on buses, and transported to safety.
A few minutes later, the team had set up a staging area 20 yards from the embassy entrance gate. They set up an eight-foot tall polycarbonate blast shield, surrounding Matt and the girl. In the event of an explosion, the polycarbonate would contain the force of the blast, which would theoretically geyser straight up and not out to the sides. Just outside the door of the blast shield was an explosion-proof bin mounted on a specially made cart with large balloon tires and special shock absorbers.
“Now Giovanna, I want you to take a deep breath very slowly, and let it out. Then we’ll see about getting this thing off you so you can go home and see your Madre e Padre, okay?”
Some of the fear faded from her eyes as she thought of her parents. She nodded, inhaled deeply and exhaled. Her trembling subsided a bit.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ve done this a thousand times,” Matt exaggerated.
The confidence in his voice made her relax a little more.
“Matt,” Savage said into his microphone. “give me a sit rep.”
“Everything’s gonna be fine, Chief. This vest will be a piece of cake.”
Giovanna looked puzzled to see Matt talking to himself.
“Es mi capo, my chief,” Matt said, pointing to his ear. “He’s in my ear.”
She nodded uncertainly.
Matt took off his helmet and placed it on the girl’s head.
On the large monitor her face was now replaced by Matt’s.
“Say hello, Chief,” he said.
In his most calm and comforting voice, Savage said, “Ciao, Giovanna. Non preoccupar. Matt, e molto buon a che cosa fa e lui li conserverà.”
Giovanna’s shoulders relaxed even more.
Matt replaced the helmet on his head. The combination of the confidence in Matt’s voice and the soothing words in her native tongue from Savage had calmed her.
“What did you say to her, Chief?” Matt asked, amazed at the change in the young girl’s demeanor.
“I told her you are very good at what you do and you are going to save her,” Savage said. “Now, don’t make a liar out of me and get to work.”
“Yes, sir,” Matt said, smiling with thousand watt confidence.
Matt looked into Giovanna’s eyes again.
“Here we go. Are you ready?”
“One more deep breath.”
Together, they inhaled deeply and exhaled.
“Now hold very still, Giovanna, and we’ll get this thing off of you.”
From his pouch, he pulled out a self contained, mini ultrasonic scope, similar to those used in hospitals, but on a much smaller scale. It looked like a flashlight with a translucent convex lens on one end, and a three-inch monitor on the back of the scope that he used to locate the wire that connected the detonation device to the vest. It wasn’t a mercury activated switch, but there was a small, featureless, black shape under the vest that he knew housed the detonation device and the chip that was the brains of the device. The drawback of the ultrasound scope was, because of their molecular density, metal, wiring, and electronic components only displayed as black lines and featureless black shapes, while less dense materials such as explosives showed as translucent gray, revealing the electronics behind.
Unable to tell if there was a timer, he worked quickly.
Matt disabled the C-4 laden vest, opened the door to the blast shield and placed it in the explosion-proof bin. Two men raced up and quickly rolled the cart away. Without a firing source, the explosive was only a little more dangerous than modeling clay.
Both Matt and Giovanna breathed a sigh of relief with the deadly vest gone.
Next, he went to work on the primer charge, a plastic box hanging around her neck. He checked it with the scope. Inside were a few wires leading to and from a small printed circuit board, what appeared to be a nine-volt battery with two wires coming from the top, and a black rectangle about the size of a deck of playing cards, the primary C-4 charge.
Ensuring there was no trip switch that would detonate the charge if he removed the lid, he carefully pried the top off the box. Sandwiched between two layers of the plastic explosive was a thin metal conductive plate maintaining continuity with the battery. If he tried to just pull the wire out, it would detonate. He’d have to cut the connection to the ballast resistor connected to the wire to the negative terminal of the battery, breaking the connection, but the battery was completely wrapped in black tape, obscuring the positive and negative terminals.
The other problem was that all the wires were the same color, the color of dried mud.
“Chief, you gettin’ all this?” Matt whispered into his headset. “This is a strange one. Look at this sloppy wiring and these crappy cold-soldered connections. Amateurs, y’know? Must’ve had a sale on brown wire down at the terrorist electronics store, too,” he chuckled.
“Matt, if you don’t think you can do it, leave it alone. You’ve disabled the majority of the bomb. We can make her comfortable and bring in somebody else. She’s relatively safe now,” Savage cautioned.
“Aw shucks, and leave this pretty little girl wired to explode? I couldn’t do that. Nothing I can’t handle. It’s a matter of pride, y’know? We’ve come this far, you gotta let me finish it,” Matt pleaded.
Against his better judgement, Savage agreed, “All right, but be careful.”
Matt withdrew a surgical scalpel from his pouch, cut the tape from between the top terminals of the battery, and peeled the tape back, revealing the negative wire leading to the ballast resistor.
“Okay, one last thing and we’ll all go home. Don’t you just love happy endings? Me too,” he said, replacing the scalpel in the pouch and bringing out a delicate pair of wire cutters.
Matt’s helmet camera displayed the scene as he brought the wire cutters up to the wire he was about to cut.
“Just cut this leg of the ballast resistor, and we can all go home—“
Deafened by the roar of the explosion for a nanosecond, as Matt’s headset and camera were incinerated by the blast, Savage watched with horror as the large monitor went blank. The voice monitor and biometric displays flat-lined. The other monitors displayed the fireball erupting out the top of the blast shield and the smoking hole in the ground where the two kids stood. The blast shield was still erect but covered with bloody fragments of body armor and bits of Giovanna’s clothing.
Savage wondered for the first time if the bomb suit would have protected Matt from the smaller charge, a question that would haunt him for the rest of his days.
Well, there you have it, Kids.
Could you please read it and let me know what you think by sending me an email to email@example.com?
I would sure appreciate to feedback.
Got something that I wrote just a few days after I retired, and yesterday I realized that I hadn’t shared it with you yet.
It’s a little one page, four-panel ditty that would be ideal for “string“, 7000 BC’s we-publish-it-whenever-folks-have enough-new-stuff-they’re-working-on-anthology so folks can see what we’re all currently doing.
It’s based on a line I’ve been using for years to describe what happens when you take a sip of a good, strong cup of coffee (my favorite kind, even if it’s decaf–especially if it’s decaf…). You know, something I’ve been meaning to put down on paper, but just haven’t had the time or the opportunity, and now, I have both!
So, here it is:
CLOSEUP OF COFFEE MUG (OLD TIME DINER STYLE) BEING RAISED TO A PERSON’S LIPS, MAYBE STUBBLY CHIN, MORNING BEARD, OR A WOMAN’S FACE. KINDA LIKE THE STUBBLY CHIN BETTER…
AS THE CUP REACHES THE LIPS, A MIGHTY, BROWN AND SHINY ARM AND FIST MADE OF COFFEE RISES OUT OF THE CUP AND
SOCKS THE DRINKER IN THE NOSE! MAYBE SHOW A BIG “POW!” IN THE CENTER OF A CONCENTRIC STAR LIKE THE OLD TIME COMICS USED TO USE.
PULL BACK TO FULL FACE, EYES WIDE OPEN, COFFEE CUP AT CHIN LEVEL.
“WOW! GOOD COFFEE!”
Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk, eh?
Thanks fer lookin’!
To be continued…
Well, here it is, voting day in New Mexico and several other states, not to mention California, so I just want to remind all of you out there in those states, and everyone here in New Mexico, to get out there and vote for Bernie Sanders, the President we NEED, and the Democrats that support him, because he’s gonna need all the support he can get when he’s elected. You wanna talk about “The Party of NO” with Barack Obama, wait’ll Bernie gets in there and they try to stonewall everything he tries to do that doesn’t benefit the billionaires and the corporations. I know Bernie will stand strong and fight back, something that I don’t think Barack did enough, but it’s in the past now, and it’s a new day, or at least it will be.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and ask that if you are going to vote for Trump, or Hillary, please let me know. Especially Trump, because I want to know why you hate America. Please, let me know why you would want such a dangerous person in charge of the most powerful country in the world.
In fact, if you’re not voting for Bernie Sanders, the President we NEED, and the Democrats who support him, why not?
He is that most elusive of rare birds, and honest politician. Why would you not want an honest politician as President of the United States? He doesn’t owe anybody any favors, or unlike Hillary, any corporations. He isn’t even a millionaire. He’s just an average person, like you and me, who wants to fix what’s wrong with our country.
If you’re not voting for Bernie, then I suppose the vast wealth inequality in America, is okay with you? It’s okay that a person working three jobs, still isn’t making enough to support his or her family, while the CEO and the upper echelon of those companies is making in more in one hour, than that person makes in a whole month? You think that’s okay?
People not having access to quality health care and dying as a matter of course because they were unable to be treated since they couldn’t afford to pay the most inflated prices in the world for basic healthcare because if it comes to paying for housing (rent or mortgage), gas in the car, and groceries, there’s just not enough left to pay $1000 a month to keep their family healthy. More heinous is the fact that even if you are paying that $1000 a month, that healthcare corporation is routinely going to deny your claim, so unless you appeal, maybe have to hire a lawyer, if you can afford it, so their lawyers can rip your lawyer to shreds if your case even gets to court, but you’re still paying that $1000 a month so you have health care
That’s okay with you, too?
How about the fact that one child in five will go to bed hungry tonight?
Or people are going to die because of the heat this summer because they can’t pay their utility bills?
You don’t have a problem with any of this?
What is wrong with you?
Thanks for joining us.
Today we’re having a “True Confessions” kind of thing goin’ on.
Let me explain:
Ever since I started writing Savage Investigations, my technique for editing is to jump in and start changing stuff and then saving the changed version as whatever day it is when I’m editing. That way the original is still intact, just in case I decide later, “Oh, what a fool I was to change that! Bring it back!” It’s still there, so no worries, even when it kinda sucks or is less than what I really wanted to say. The seed of the idea is still there…
What comes next is the very (or darn near) first draft of Chapter One from way back in the oughts, 2005, to be exact, back when the world was new and so was I…
I read it over last night and realized how far I have come as a writer in 11 years, and thought I would share it with you, warts and all.
Be warned: It’s quite warty, and horribly adjective and cliche-ridden! But hey, I hadn’t read Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing yet and was just starting out, y’know?
I found this early draft quite amusing, and then I realized that this is pretty close to the version of my manuscript that I showed my friend, David Lloyd (Google him), when we first met that July, during Jake’s and my first International Comic Con in San Diego. He was so very kind and offered no criticism, aside from the fact he didn’t like the name, “Drake Savage”. He said “Drake” was too uncommon and folks might not be able to relate to the character, and suggested “Joe” or Frank”, or another more common, and more relatable name, so I set out to justify Drake’s name by having him be an abandoned baby in the wee ours in the lobby of the Drake Hotel in Chicago, and then adopted by Frank Savage, the Night Manager at The Drake and his wife, Lydia, who wanted a baby so bad, but was alas, barren back in 1973, when fertility was a mystery. It appeared that Frank and Lydia would be child barren until the night that Drake’s homeless, unwed mother, left him in a basket on a table in the lobby of The Drake Hotel, with a note pinned to the blanket saying something to the effect of “Please give my baby a better life than I could.”
Back in `07, more or less, I wrote the first eight pages of a comic script called, “Meet Drake Savage” as the first in a series of introductory comics to all the major characters in the Savage Investigations universe. I have a vague outline of how to finish the comic with Frank and Lydia adopting Drake, and the hotel chain owner, Conrad Hilton himself, seeing the P.R. nightmare as a wonderful marketing opportunity, making little Drake the mascot of the hotel, putting Frank and Lydia up permanently in one of the lesser suites, rent free, and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t remember right now (but I know I have it written down in here somewhere…), ending in their tragic death in an elevated train accident, throwing nine-year-old Drake into the Social Services Child Welfare system, resulting in a criminal incarceration at age 17, forced to join the military or go to jail. Drake, being the clever kid he was, chose The U.S. Air Force, where he blossomed into the heroic terrorist investigator that actually brings him to Albuquerque, to become Drake Savage, Private Eye, and owner of Savage Investigations.
Whew! That’s a real House That Jack Built, huh? Hope now that you know the whole story, you’ll still buy the books, or at least, keep it to yourself. Mum’s the word, eh?
Now here’s another little known fact about Drake Savage, and the main reason I wanted to keep the name. He was a character that I created back in the late 80’s or early 90’s as a costume for a party: Drake Savage, International Man of Mystery and Billionaire Philanthropist.
So, without further adieu, let me embarrass myself and bare my practically virgin, creative soul for your reading pleasure and amusement. Please, be gentle, and I hope you’ll still respect me in the morning…
The sign on the door says “Savage Investigations.” While it may sound like he’s an anthropologist, he’s not. He’s a P.I. A private investigator, a gumshoe, a shamus. Even in the 21st century there’s a place for guys like him. People still need other people followed. Husbands want to know if their wives are being faithful. Corporations need to know if their intellectual property is safe, and people like the guy standing in front of his desk, need to know why somebody shot two .45 caliber slugs into his house in the middle of the night, just inches away from his sleeping son’s head.
When he came into the office, a wave of tension washed in with him. He stood nervously in front of Savage’s desk, his face worn and haggard from too many sleepless nights. His shoulders were slumped, as if he were carrying the weight of the world on his back. His gray-green eyes brimmed over with worry and concern as if they might just overflow with tears at any moment. He timidly offered his hand to Savage, who rose to greet the potential client, hand outstretched.
“John Moore,” he identified himself. “As I said on the phone, I got your number from the back page of the Alibi. I didn’t think you’d be open on a Sunday morning, though.”
“We never close,” Savage chuckled. You never know when a new client might come along and since he lived in the back room of office, he was always there. It looked like the ad on the back of the Albuquerque local free newspaper, “The Alibi”, had paid off.
“Please, have a seat, Mr. Moore,” Savage said.
“Please, call me John.
“The police said it was gang violence. While my wife and I were cleaning up the shattered glass in the street—they shot through the windows of our van at the house, taking out the front and rear windows. A little while later, a thug, not from the neighborhood, wearing an expensive leather coat, baggy black pants, long hair pulled back in a ponytail, came strolling down the street. He gave us a hard look as he went by. I could have sworn he was smiling, as if he was checking out the handiwork of his boys.”
“Do you agree with the police, John?” Savage asked.
“I’m not sure. I suppose I do. They know more than we do about this sort of thing. Our lives have been changed by this and all I really want is peace of mind that it won’t happen again.”
“Well, John, these are strange times we are living in. I’ve heard that most gangs don’t hit the same house twice, though,” Savage said, just missing the mark of being reassuring.
Savage could almost see the tears welling up in his eyes as he recalled the event.
“The police officer on the scene told me to contact him at this number.” He produced the business card of an officer Manuel Martinez with the case number, dated over a month ago, and a contact phone number. “But when I called a few days later to get a status on the case, he wasn’t there and they told me that it would take weeks to process the evidence anyway.”
“What kind of evidence did they turn up?”
“They found three .45 caliber shell casings in the street in front of my house and the two slugs they dug out of the exterior wall of our son Johnny’s bedroom. Just another foot higher and they would have hit him. He’s afraid to go to sleep. I’m just not sure that anything is being done to find these guys, Mr. Savage.”
“John, the cold, hard fact is, nobody died. With the increasing crime rate and the recent police budget cuts handed down by city hall, the cops in this town are very busy. Before you hire me, why not see how their investigation goes?
“And you can call me Drake.”
“That’s just it, Drake. It’s been five weeks. I’m afraid nothing is being done and I’m tired of waiting. We’re willing to pay your fee. Jennifer and I have some money saved up and the peace of mind will be worth whatever the cost.”
Savage could tell by the frayed hems on the sleeves of his faded yellow polo shirt, old jeans, and worn sneakers—you can really tell a lot about a man by his shoes–that he was not a rich man. Savage felt bad for the guy. His happy, safe, suburban world had been turned upside down in a matter of a few seconds and now he no longer knew which way was up. So he could continue sleeping at night, Savage would have to give him a break on his usual fee.
As if reading Savage’s mind, he asked, “What do you charge?”
“Well, I usually get five hundred a day, plus expenses, but in your case I’ll knock it down to one fifty, and I’ll eat the expenses, within reason.”
“I appreciate that, Drake. We aren’t rich.” He confessed.
“What do you do for a living, John? Is there anybody who might have a vendetta against you?”
“I’m an IT support tech at the base and Jennifer, my wife, is a database programming analyst. It’s not like we’ve been approached by any nefarious types to sell government information or anything like that.”
Savage could see that he wasn’t flush with cash and he liked him. He figured Moore to be the kind of guy that coached his son’s soccer team.
“Look John,” Savage said, “I think I might be able to help. I know a couple of guys on both sides of the law. I’ll ask around.
“Why don’t we give it a few days? Let me see what I can dig up. If it is a gang related thing, I don’t think anything else will happen. Like I said before, gangs, like lightning, don’t usually strike twice in the same place. The other thing is, gang related crime is practically impossible to track down. Too many frightened witnesses and nobody wants to come forward. Which reminds me, were there any witnesses?”
“My neighbor across the street said he heard something, but by the time he got out of bed and looked out the window, they were gone, only taillights fading up the street. He couldn’t even make out the model of the car, and when I got up, I couldn’t see over the next-door neighbor’s hedge, so we never even saw it. Almost everybody on our half of the block heard the gunshots but nobody saw anything,” he said, frustration filling his voice.
“Hmm, that’s not much to go on, but I’d like to interview your neighbors. They might remember something helpful. I know some techniques that are designed to jog a witness’ memory. Don’t worry, I won’t strong-arm anybody. I have a friend who’s a cop and he does all the strong-arming.” Savage chuckled.
Moore smiled for the first time since Savage had met him.
“I’m sure they all want to help. We are a very tight knit little community. We watch out for each other.”
“That’s good,” Savage said. “There’s not enough good will in the world anymore. Everybody seems to be just out for themselves. It’s sad.”
“Yes,” Moore said, shaking his head. “There just don’t seem to be good neighbors anymore–except on our block. I’m sure they’ll do anything they can.”
Savage had enough information to launch an investigation now.
“I’ve got your number, John,” Savage said. “I’ll be in touch.
Savage escorted Moore to the door. They sealed the deal with a firm handshake and he said goodbye. His step was definitely lighter than when he walked in. Savage liked making people feel better.
After Moore left, Savage went to the window to check out what kind of car he drove. You can also tell a lot about a man by the kind of car he drives. He peered through a slit in the blinds and saw him get into a six-year-old, forest green, Honda Passport with a red, white, and blue PLAYSOCCER bumper sticker on the back window. Savage was right. He wasn’t rich.
He sat down at his desk and began to formulate a plan, but since he always thought better behind a good, strong cup of java, it was time to visit Mabel’s for a bit of inspiration in the form of a double shot latte’. Back in the forties, a shamus worked best fueled by strong black coffee by day and whiskey by night. Savage didn’t have much of a taste for whiskey, but he did appreciate a good cup of joe. He developed a love for the coffee bean while he was stationed in Italy, defending America as a Special Forces grunt in the Air Force.
He’d seen some pretty hellish things in his day, usually being first on the scene to investigate the aftermath of terrorist bombings and the like, but his military life paved the way for his present life and it taught him how to survive. He really did hate the nightmares, though. Sometimes he’d wake up in a cold sweat at three in the morning because of the horrors he’d seen.
The shrinks at the VA threw drugs at him, but since he didn’t want to be a drug-addled zombie, he decided to take care of it himself. Sink or swim, and fortunately, he was a pretty fair swimmer. The nightmares weren’t quite as frequent now.
He locked up the office, went down the elevator, and strolled up the street to Mabel’s.
Mabel is a piece of work. She became a single mother after her husband was shot and killed during a robbery 20 years ago. She raised their four kids on her own, working two and three jobs. The family was poor but she raised them right. Her children went to school with clean clothes and clean faces. They knew the value of an education, too. All four went to college on scholarships. Her oldest, Martin, became a doctor. Next in line was Rosa, a lawyer. Then came Russell, now a successful architect. Finally there was Julia, an environmental scientist. Mabel’s kids pitched in and bought her the diner and the building that houses it. They pay the bills. Mabel wants for nothing but she earned it.
Sometimes Rosa hires him to do some work and Mabel’s kids appreciate the fact that Savage keeps an eye on her. He always eats for free.
Mabel was there, sitting at a table reading the Albuquerque Journal. He wondered if she ever slept. It might have something to do with the fact that she lived upstairs, but she seemed to always be there, watching over her café, even when he’s been there at eleven at night. If the doors were open, she was there until they closed.
She looked up from her paper, “Hi, Baby!” she called sweetly. She always calls him “Baby.” She is the only one that can get away with that. It’s an affectionate term she reserves for those who are special in her life, and he feels honored to be counted among them.
Savage smiled and nodded to Tony, behind the coffee bar.
Tony smiled back and Savage knew that in just minutes he’d be enjoying the best latte’ in the world.
Tony Antonio makes the best espresso you ever had. His real name, Ermenegildo di Baldassare Antonio, was a mighty big name for a little Italian guy. It was too hard to pronounce so when he came to America, he shortened it to Tony. He’s old school Italian, from a little town in southern Italy where his family has run a five-star restaurant for generations. His was a big family, and while all of his brothers and sisters became award-winning chefs, Tony concentrated on the perfect cup of espresso. Just the right mix of his own blend of coffee beans, not too strong, not too bitter, but with a bite. A taste that lingers in your mouth long after it’s passed your lips but isn’t overpowering. Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett’s gumshoe, would have loved Tony’s espresso mixed with a shot of rye.
Savage’s usual table was in the back corner. He always sits with his back to the wall and a clear view of the door—more of that military commando training. After all, that’s how they got Wild Bill Hickok.
Tony brought over the steaming cup of latte’, prepared just the way he knew Savage liked it, a thin layer of foam covering the top. He stood there like a wine steward with a $1500 bottle of wine, awaiting the confirmation of what he already knew. Still, the steward needs the assurance of the connoisseur’s delight with the first sip, carefully reading the patron’s face and then delighting in the gleam of the eye that registers satisfaction.
“Perfect, as always,” Savage gave his assent. Another satisfied customer. Tony smiled, and then went back to the coffee bar.
A few seconds later, Mabel materialized to take his order. It was really just a formality—she already knew what he wanted. Even if she didn’t know the customer, she never used an order pad. She knew every single order in the place, who got what, and everything special about the order. She is one sharp lady.
“The usual?” she asked. Since it wasn’t noon yet, she knew he’d want breakfast.
“Yep,” Savage replied. His usual breakfast was three eggs up atop a pile of hashed browns with a side of bacon and wheat toast.
“Billy!” she yelled.
“Yes, dear?” came a voice from the kitchen.
“Coming right up, Drake!” came Billy’s cheery reply.
“Thanks, Billy!” Savage called out.
Billy is Mabel’s cook. Formerly Chef Wilhelm Schach, of a high-class, four-star restaurant in L.A. named Schach Therapy. The restaurant was a huge success and he got caught in the tidal wave of excess that generally accompanies great success, namely cocaine. He seemed to have it under control, or so he thought.
Unfortunately, his business partner was in league with the mob and started skimming money from the take. Soon Wilhelm didn’t have the money to pay the bills and his restaurant failed. He went bankrupt. Suddenly without an income, he started selling drugs for the mafia. Just to get some money together to open up another place, he told himself, but most of his profits went up his nose.
He got caught in a DEA sting operation and was given a choice, a minimum of ten years hard time in Folsom or a reduced sentence for cooperating with the feds. Witness Protection allowed him to do his time in the Santa Fe penitentiary and moved him to Albuquerque when he got out.
He went into Mabel’s to get his first meal as a free man. She could tell he was troubled and inquired as to the nature of his dilemma. He took a chance and told her the whole story. She hired him immediately, as long as he stayed clean. 18 months in prison had cleaned him out physically, but he knew it would only take one episode and he’d be right back where he was when he got popped in the first place.
He’s been cooking for Mabel for five years. She pays him just double minimum wage and she lets him live rent-free in an apartment upstairs next to hers so she can keep an eye on him. She’s stingy with his paycheck because she doesn’t want him to be tempted to fall back into his old ways. The way she sees it, if he can’t afford it, he can’t buy it. Billy’s fine with that. As a recovering addict, he needs all the help he can get.
He has no desire to live life in the fast lane again anyway. He is content to work for Mabel, the greatest boss (and mother hen) in the world.
She gets the best cuisine money can buy. He is a magician in the kitchen and even though it’s American fare, it’s prepared by a four-star chef, making Mabel’s the Best American Restaurant in Albuquerque, as voted by the Alibi, the local free newspaper’s, readers poll, five years in a row.
And of course, Tony’s espresso has been voted as the “Best Cup of Joe” in town.
“You working?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he filled her in on John Moore’s dilemma. Ordinarily, he would never betray a client’s confidence, but there was no one to overhear the conversation and besides, it was Mabel. He had often solved cases just by talking them out with Mabel. Probably ought to give her a consulting fee, but she wouldn’t take it.
“Why would anybody do something like that? Destroy the sanctity of a family’s home?” she rolled her eyes.
“The police said it was a gang thing and you know, all bets are off when it comes to gang violence.
“I stopped trying to figure it out a long time ago, Mabel. The only thing that gets me through the night is the goodness that is left in the world. It still offsets the evil, thank God.”
“Well, I hope you help those poor folks find peace, Baby. If anyone can, it’s you.”
She disappeared to get his breakfast.
As he sat sipping his latte’, he decided to call Detective Luke Swanson.
He had been stationed with Matt, Luke’s little brother, in Italy. Even though he had 20 years on the kid, there was something about him that Savage liked. He wasn’t like the others on Savage’s squad. There was something special about Matt. He had a truly unselfish attitude and genuine love of helping people in need. Usually after an op, Savage and his boys would go out and blow off some steam. Matt always joined in the fun, but stayed off to the side, watching their backs, preferring club soda to alcohol. Being the only sober one, he’d step in if there was trouble. He was always the designated driver, too. A valuable member of the team.
He excelled in explosives training at the academy and he became the squad explosive ordinance disposal, or EOD, expert.
All Matt really wanted was to come back to Albuquerque when his hitch was up and be a good cop like his big brother. Unfortunately, a terrorist’s bomb cut that dream short.
An Italian diplomat’s daughter had been kidnapped. Since it was such a high-profile op, Savage was ordered to stay behind and coordinate.
The team got the word that she was sitting on the steps of the American Embassy, wired with enough C-4 to blow up a city block. Matt, being the EOD expert, was assigned to disable the bomb.
He was equipped with a helmet camera and headset so Savage could see everything that Matt saw. The girl was still wearing her school uniform. The navy blue jacket was mostly obscured by the vest of explosives. Terror flashed in the girl’s dark eyes. He could almost smell the fear through the monitor.
“Parlate inglese?” Matt asked in a soothing voice.
The poor girl was trembling with fear.
“A little,” she whispered, afraid she might detonate the bomb.
“Good. Now I’m just gonna get this thing off you and then you can go home and see your Madre e Padre, okay?”
Some of the fear faded from her eyes as she thought of her parents. She nodded slowly.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ve done this a thousand times,” Matt said.
The confidence in his voice made her relax a little more.
“Okay, Matt,” Savage said into his microphone. “So far, textbook. How are you feeling?”
“Everything’s fine, Chief.”
“Boys, get the blast shield set up and get everybody out of that building.”
The rest of the team went to work and set up the blast shield. They got all the civilians out and everyone withdrew to a safe distance.
Matt kept his eyes on the girl. Her face was twisted with fear.
“What’s your name?” Matt asked, already knowing the answer. It was in the briefing, but it made the girl think of something other than the situation.
“Giovanna. It means God is gracious.”
“He certainly is,” Matt agreed.
“Here we go. Now hold very still, Giovanna, and we’ll see what we can do about this,” he worked quickly and confidently.
Matt managed to disable most of the C-4, tossing it into the explosion-proof bin next to the blast shield.
“Chief, you gettin’ all this?” Matt said into his headset. “This is a strange one. Never seen anything wired quite like this. They didn’t do a very good job. Just look at this wiring. Amateurs, y’know?”
“Matt, if you don’t think you can do it, leave it alone. The majority of the bomb has been disabled. We can bring in another expert. She’s relatively safe now,” Savage cautioned.
“Aw shucks, Chief, and leave this pretty thing wired to explode? There ain’t nothing to it. Looks like I just gotta cut this—“
Savage was deafened by the roar of the explosion for a split second until Matt’s headset and camera were incinerated by the blast. His monitor went blank.
END OF CHAPTER ONE
To Be Continued…
So glad you could join us.
It’s been awhile since last we spoke, and a lot of things have changed, but we’re nothing if not tenacious (even if it might take a couple of years or 5), and one of those changes is that I have retired. That’s right, on Friday, April 13th (I know, right, Friday the 13th?) I hung up my spurs and screwdrivers, and I’m done riding the dusty trails of New Mexico and El Paso, Texas in search of a computer to fix or a printer to wrangle.
For the first time in just about 50 years, I can completely focus on all things writerly, with no other agenda, except day-to-day life.
I am so looking forward to being able to have the time to sit here:
or here, when I’m feeling more formal:
and just write, all day long, if I wish.
I was chatting with an old friend about being a professional writer (if you look real close at the papers on the picture above, you’ll see that the top one is a check for a whole forty dollars that I got from selling my comics over the past year or so. Of course half of that, after expenses, goes to my artist collaborators, Nathan and Paul, so I’m not “making bank” or anything), and my friend said, “Now all you gotta worry about is writer’s block.”
To which I replied, “No, I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I have enough editing of my novel that isn’t finished, and a whole mess of comic scripts that need to be written, based on that novel, so subject matter won’t be an issue.
“I’ve also got almost 50 years worth of ideas that have been rattling around in my head for other books, stories, and comics to draw from as well, so the imagination well won’t run dry anytime soon.”
The amazing thing is that I can finally do something about it, without any other distractions to prevent me from getting the ideas out my head and into a computer, and hopefully, into your head, my friends, should you choose to join me!
Yup, boredom and writer’s block shouldn’t be a thing…
So, fasten your seat belts, keep your hands and arms inside the compartment, and get ready to BLAST OFF!
Here we go…
Thanks for coming along,
Zoe playing with the doughnut toy for the first time! What a hoot!
We review local resources in order to help you navigate the world, but this resource will probably be going national and/or international soon. Dan Gerry of Soaring Eagle Institute teaches courses on Possibility Thinking, which explore the neuroscience that causes us to stay in our habitual or fearful mindsets. Possibility thinking provides opportunities to break free into creative possibilities in our businesses and in our lives. We hope you will take advantage of a course in Possibility Thinking, or at least catch a keynote address like Dan did for Goodwill on April 21, 2011. He gave the keynote speech tailored to the population of seniors who are needing to find employment at a time in their lives that has been traditionally challenging.
I was able to attend the full course a few years ago, and I am still using and quoting from the information! I think I even quoted back to a colleague of Dan’s something from his speech without realizing it while we were talking through a problem. It was hilarious!
It’s great to find that person who can convey information & transformation in a way that sticks with you, and we here at Larntz Enterprises award Dan Gerry of Soaring Eagle Institute a score of 5 LE-s, our highest recommendation.
Dan Gerry Website: Soaring Eagle Institute
Chuck attended the 2011 Denver Comic Fest as a comic writer and as president of 7000 BC. As in previous years, it was TONS of fun and the Denver folks made him feel so welcome and happy.
Visit Denver Comic Fest Web site to learn more and plan for next year.
We give this comic festival 4 out of 5 LEs.
Written by Chuck Larntz
Illustrated by Nathan Hendricksen
Matt Swanson is saying his goodbyes at his farewell dinner with the members of his crack Special Forces team, led by Chief Master Sergeant Drake Savage. The end of Matt’s enlistment in the Air Force as a bomb disposal tech is only days away. Savage, Matt’s close friend and mentor, is raising a toast to Matt’s new life when the call comes for the team’s services. The Italian Finance Minister’s daughter has been kidnapped and she’s standing at the gate of the American Embassy in Naples, Italy, harnessed with a bomb containing enough C-4 to blow up the embassy and the surrounding area. Matt’s final job on active duty will be to disarm the bomb and save the girl, one last time…
For more on Savage Investigations, Chuck’s novel and now comic series, stay tuned to our Web site updates!
Listed below are the links to the Savage Investigations Comic titled “Goodbyes” (Part 1) for String, Published by 7000 BC, for Free Comic Book Day coming up in May, 2011!
View Online Movie at this link:
JPG Files (right-click and choose Save As):
Photoshop Files (right-click and choose Save As)
PDF Document (horribly large for printing, right click and save)
The event of the year as far as comic and sequential art in New Mexico is the Albuquerque Comic Expo (ACE) on June 24, June 25, and June 26 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. On Saturday, ACE announced the secret guest of honor will be… Stan Lee!
This is shaping up to be spectacular!
Chuck and his daughter, Katie, are going to serve as the volunteer coordinators for the convention. We had coffee with Greg Derrick and his one-and-only last night, and they are working so hard to bring a Seattle-caliber quality to our beloved southwest. (If you have never been to Emerald City Comic Con, aka ECCC, check it out sometime.) New Mexicans and visitors from all over should get their travel arrangements made, and show their support by purchasing their convention passes now.
If you get your convention pass before March 31, you get the deepest discount plus a special edition gift! Check out the ACE Web site for more. abqcomicexpo.com
We are happy to be “opening shop” online! Welcome to our new Web site where we hope to share and contribute to the technology and writing communities.