Archive for December, 2012

24

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A”Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” blast from the past

Part One

Part Two – The following takes place between 1:00 AM and 7:00 AM

1:00 AM – I turned down Marshall Avenue and drove Nicky’s Escalade toward Kirkwood. Amy researched the NSA files on her laptop. “Anything?” I asked her.

“Nothing useful,” she replied. “The names, the Social Security numbers and the lives of the guys who worked in that warehouse are all fake.”

“Does Stilton check out?” asked Dale.

“Perfectly. Found his place of birth, the names of his parents and a JPEG of his birth certificate. And I cross-checked everything. But he’s the only one who’s legit.”

We got to the Kirkwood waterfront and I parked the car. “What are we looking for?” Amy asked me.

“That,” I said, pointing to a boat.

The recently-launched ForNow II laid at anchor, gleaming under the lights. The original ForNow, that legendary Meramecker and the victor over the Daniel Muller in the most celebrated Mississippi Valley boat race since the Natchez versus the Robert E. Lee, had gone down a little over a year ago under mysterious circumstances.

When the news broke, people on both sides of the Mississippi were devastated, official periods of mourning were proclaimed in both Missouri and Illinois and schools and many businesses on both sides of the river closed. U2, Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot all wrote songs about it; Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the ForNow” was far and away the most popular of the three.

“So,” said Amy, pointing to the Jolly Roger flying from the ForNow II’s mast. “That pirate flag is some kind of joke, right?”

“No, not really,” said Dale.

We walked into a waterfront dive. Thick smoke obscured almost everybody. There was a good deal of talking but like every seedy bar I’d ever spent time in, most of the regulars drank like it was their job. The hard-bitten, defeated men in the bar eyed Amy a lot more intently than she was comfortable with so she grabbed Price’s arm and held on hard.

Dale and I ordered bourbons, Amy ordered a beer and the three of us made our way to a corner booth where Captain Edward Romanowski regarded us with his usual bemused suspicion.

“Ed the Roman!” Dale called out with a grin. “The Caymans agree with you, Captain.” Ed had spent the building of the ForNow II at his estate in the Cayman Islands.

“Mr. Price. This is a pleasant surprise. And Mr. Johnson. This must be important.” Then the Captain noticed Welborn and stood up. “Particularly if you bring someone that stunning into this disgusting establishment. Captain Edward Romanowski, at your service, madam,” Ed said, extending his hand.

“Amy Welborn,” she replied evenly, extending hers. Ed the Roman gently kissed the back of her hand and sat back down. “Now then, terrifyingly ugly gentlemen and overpoweringly beautiful lady,” Ed asked. “To what do I owe the honor of this visit?”

“We’d like to know if you’ve done a particular bit of business lately,” said Dale.

“Who’s we?”

2:00 AM – “The three of us sitting here. And Dr. Franklin’s also keenly interested,” I said, taking out a $100 bill and placing it on the table in front of me. I took out the pictures of the three warehouse workers, placed them in front of the Captain and slid the $100 bill across the table. “Did you ship anything for these three gentlemen?”

“As a matter of fact I did, a week or so ago. A very large shipment it was, too.”

“What was it?”

“Don’t know. One hundred 55-gallon drums of something.”

“You didn’t ask?” demanded Welborn.

“Nobody ever asks questions on the Meramec River,” Dale told her, sipping his bourbon. “Did you get their names?”

“Of course,” said the Captain. “But they were fraudulent.”

“Where’d you take it?” I asked.

“Valley Park. One of them had a letter saying to deliver it to a man named Thomas Ilchester.”

Dale and I glanced at each other. “Did you see this Ilchester?” Price asked.

“Briefly.”

“It wouldn’t by any chance be him, would it?” I asked, taking out a photo of William Stilton and sliding it across the table.

“Don’t know. It was a bit dark.” I slid across another hundred. “Now that you mention it, I do recall getting a look at him under a light and that would definitely be the man.”

“Thanks, Captain,” I told him. “We’ve got all we need.”

“Mind if I ask you a question?” Ed asked as an underling brought over a fresh martini. “Is this another Episcopal case?”

“Partially,” I told him. “We think there’s another group involved.”

“Who?”

“The Jesuits.”

It was as if a cold wind suddenly blew through the bar. All talking stopped, all eyes were on us and every single one of these tough, hard men suddenly looked very, very frightened. I thought I heard one of them whisper, “Momma?”

But Ed the Roman didn’t get where he was by being easily thrown. His face expressionless, he made a “calm down” motion to the rest of the bar, sipped his drink, stared into it for several seconds, looked up at me and quietly asked, “How can I help?”

“Have your people keep their eyes open,” I said as Dale and I gave him our cards. “If you see or hear of anything funny, let me or Dale know.”

“Will do. Good luck.”

“Thanks, Captain,” said Dale. “You too.”

3:00 AM – We walked out to the parking lot and got into the car. “You actually trust that guy?!” Amy asked me, dumbfounded.

“With my son’s life,” I said. “Ed the Roman is a lot of things, some of them not as above-board as I might prefer, but Ed the Roman is an orthodox Roman Catholic and a sworn enemy of all forms of liberal Christianity. And Ed the Roman means what he says.”

As we drove back up Marshall Avenue, Amy opened up her laptop. “I’m running those pictures through LARD. I’ll check back in an hour or so.”

“LARD?” asked Price.

“The Liberals Affiliated with Religion Database,” Welborn replied, mildly irritated. “Try to stay current, will you? That gumshoe crap is so last century.”

Dale looked out the window. “Ilchester. Do you think we’re being played?”

“Doubtful,” I responded. “They had that letter a week ago before they could possibly have known we were on this case. Maybe it’s a signal for them.”

“So,” said Welborn. “They moved the stuff to another warehouse up river and waited until the heat was off?”

“That’s how I read it,” I said.

“Any point in chasing down this second warehouse?”

“No. The stuff’s probably in place already.”

I had just turned east on Big Bend Boulevard. “Chris?” Dale casually asked. “You do see that F-3 fitty with its headlights turned off bearing down on us at REALLY high speed, don’t you?”

“Uh huh,” I just as casually replied. “Hang on. And damn, do I wish you were driving.”

As the truck was almost on us, I turned the steering wheel sharply to the left, praying that I didn’t roll the Escalade. Frantically steering, I got us turned completely around so that we were now motorvatin’ west on Big Bend. I floored it until we got to the Interstate 44 on-ramp.

We sped east on I-44. “Anybody?” I asked Dale.

“We’re clear,” he said. “But we’ve got to get off the road.”

“Any ideas? They’re probably watching my old office.”

“Since the Jesuits are involved in this, a hotel would be a huge risk,” said Amy. “How about a park or something until we figure things out?”

“Excellent idea,” I said.

4:00 AM – I got off the highway at Elm and we drove through Webster Groves until we got to Blackburn Park. “Lots of woods and irregular ground,” I told Welborn and Price.

“Perfect,” said Dale.

I parked the car, picked up my bag and the three of us started walking toward the woods on the east end. My senses were heightened. “How do you suppose they found us?” wondered Amy.

“I don’t know. I don’t like to think that there might be a…” We had just walked out on to a softball field when I saw something in the trees off in the distance. A tiny red light. “Dale? Amy?” I said in a low voice. “Run.”

The moment I finished saying that word, a shot tore into my left shoulder, knocking me to the ground. Price and Welborn started toward me until I hissed at them, “SCATTER!!” jumped up and bolted toward the west.

My objective was a bathroom about thirty yards away. Zigging and zagging as I ran, three shots just missed me and a fourth grazed my left arm. I didn’t know if Dale or Amy could hear me or not but I screamed back over my shoulder, “I THINK THEY’VE GOT NIGHT SCOPES!!

I made it to the bathroom, hid on its western side, took out my Heckler-Koch and leaned against the wall. My shoulder and arm throbbing, I looked up Park Road just west of Blackburn.

And saw another tiny red light.

I dove to the right just as a second shot hit the wall where I had been standing. I fired several rounds in the general direction of the Park Road light. I didn’t expect to hit anything, I just wanted them to know I was armed.

Using the trees as cover as much as I could, I ran toward East Jackson Road, the park’s northern border. Sidney Place looked clear so I sprinted across East Jackson, ran up Sidney, hung a left on Virginia Avenue and ran toward Edgar Road. Just before I got there, I ducked down between two parked cars to reload and catch my breath.

Almost immediately, I felt a gun barrel on the back of my neck.

A hand reached for my Heckler-Koch and I heard a voice say into a walkie-talkie, “I’ve got him. Head back right now. We’ll be there in thirty seconds.” Shielding my bag from my friend as best I could, I very slowly reached in my right hand.

“Stand up!” my friend snarled, violently jamming the barrel of his rifle into my wounded shoulder, bringing tears to my eyes. In tremendous pain, I got to my feet. “Turn around and put your hands in the air.”

With one motion, I turned around, lifted my left arm as much as I could while simultaneously spraying my friend in the face with the knockout agent in my right hand.

He immediately dropped to the ground. I took back my Heckler-Koch, put on my friend’s night-vision goggles, appropriated his Kalashnikov and downloaded the contents of his laptop’s hard drive on to my NICOLE-3000 handheld. Then I cut pieces from his jacket with my knife and bandaged my wounds as best I could.

“Lesson number one, kid,” I said, looking down at him. “Never EVER stand that close.”

I took a quick look around. Nobody was following me so I walked down to Edgar Road, headed south and took an immediate right at East Jackson.

I walked a block west to Selma Avenue where a walkway crossed Interstate 44. Exhausted, I struggled up the stairs and found a spot with highway signs on both sides. Then I put down the Kalashnikov, slowly sat down on the cement, leaned gingerly against a chain-link fence, took out my phone and called Greg.

5:00 AM – “Hello?” Griffith warily answered.

“Greg? Chris.”

For reasons I couldn’t immediately figure out, Greg was stunned. “Merciful Lord Jesus…,” he murmured. Then he loudly called out, “Dale! Amy! Get in here!”

I heard a door close. “What the hell’s going on?!” I demanded. I heard Amy exclaim, “Thank God!”

“We didn’t expect to hear from you any time soon, big man,” Dale said quietly. “What with you being dead and all.”

WHAT?!!

“Just came over the wire. Nothing much in the way of details yet but there’s a picture and everything. You were shot to death in Webster Groves.”

Son of a…listen, let me get back to you.” I immediately hung up and speed-dialed a special number. I set it up in case my wife ever needed to know for sure that it was me.

“Please be asleep, please be asleep, please be asleep,” I whispered until Nicky picked up.

“Hello?” she said groggily. “Chris?”

My relief was overwhelming. “Yeah. Sweetie, listen, I’m sorry to wake you so early but I had to get through right away.

“You’re going to hear some news about me that isn’t true but for the time being, I’m going to need for you to pretend that it is.”

“What news?”

“That I’m dead.”

At that very moment, I could hear Nicky’s sister Anne pound on her door and tearfully tell her, “Nicky, wake up! There’s hundreds of reporters on the front lawn. It’s about Chris, Nicky. He’s been shot. He’s…he’s…dead.”

“Oh God, Chris, what do I do?!!” Nicole whispered.

“Stall. You already know but you don’t want to talk to anybody right now.”

“Annie, I already know! And I don’t want to talk to anybody, okay?! Just leave me alone!!” Nicky’s voice dropped back down to a whisper. “Now what? Chris, what’s going on?”

“A case. Do you have access to the company server?”

“Of course.”

“I need you to run a simulation for me. See if you can figure out the best locations in the United States to put one hundred 55-gallon drums of griswoldium to achieve maximum worldwide coverage. Figure a time frame of up to 9:00 PM tonight.”

“Gr…griswoldium? My God, one hundred drums of griswoldium is the end of the world!”

“I’m also going to need you to stay cool. Keep Paulie out of sight if you can. I don’t want anyone telling him things. If you can’t avoid telling your family, make sure you impress how important it is that they not tell anyone.” I sighed and leaned back against the chain-link fence again.

“You sound horrible. What happened?”

“I took some lead in the shoulder.”

“Oh no! Baby, are you okay?!”

“I’ll be fine. I’ve been shot before (”The Case of the Panicked Presbyterian”). Get the simulation to the server as soon as you can.”

“Will do. I love you. And Paul loves you.”

“I love both of you way more. Hug the big guy for me, okay?” I said, my voice wavering. I hung up and called Greg back. “Two questions. Is this a secure line and are you guys alone?”

“Yes and yes,” Griffith replied. “Where the hell are you?”

6:00 AM – “At Selma Avenue and I-44 in Webster Groves, there’s a walkway over the highway. I’m up there. Have you got a doctor around?”

“Yeah.”

“Has he ever done any surgery?”

“I think so.”

“Tell him to get ready to do some more.”

“Why?”

“I caught one in the shoulder. If you can’t get away, send the doctor along with somebody that reports only to you and tell them not to tell anyone what they’re doing or why. Amy, what did LARD tell you?”

“Two Jesuits, one EPFer,” Welborn told me. “The Jesuits are Tom Clayton and Mike O’Reilly. The Piskie’s a guy named Jake Williams. Nobody knows where he is.

“But CETU picked up Clayton and O’Reilly at a house in Webster Groves and are bringing them in right now. We found two Kalashnikovs and two laptops.”

“Was that house on Virginia Avenue?”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“Lucky guess. See what you can get off the laptops. And shoot whatever you find up to my server. Dale can tell you the way in.”

“How should I approach the interrogation?” Dale asked.

“Remember your shogi, Dale-san.”

“When life gives you lemons…”

“Roger that. Greg, where are you…never mind, I don’t want to know yet. Who’s there?”

“CETU and the NSA people assigned to this case.” Griffith said.

“Do you trust your people?”

“Of course. I personally ran their background checks.”

“Please tell me you have access to the personnel records of the NSA guys there.”

“Yeah. What am I looking for?”

“I need to know if anyone who came on board with Stilton is there with you now.”

“Give me a minute.” After a few keystrokes, Griffith said, “Just one. The guy’s name is Tim Sinclair. Kay Lewis’s aide.”

“Damn. Amy, make sure that nobody knows that you’re doing this but run Sinclair through LARD too, will you?”

Welborn was alarmed. “Why?!” she demanded. “What am I looking for?”

“We were set up,” I said. “Someone at NSA is working for the other side.”

Next week – Part Three

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

Friday, December 28th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 35 Comments

Actor Sean Penn has written something for the Huffington Post.  I have absolutely no idea what it’s about.  It starts out like this:

President Barack Obama, who this week so eloquently spoke for America’s heart and its solidarity with those who suffered incomprehensible human losses at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has reminded us of that spirit of American leadership which so rightly gives us ownership in saying “I’m proud to be an American.” Still, while level heads begin to envision the uphill battle for legislations of necessary gun controls, we Americans and our leadership, must be diligent to the nature of the human brain.

Indeed that thing upon our neck was not created decoratively, and in using our heads with our hearts, must also use our eyes, and set them clearly, not upon one healing mechanism, not upon one prevention, but upon all those connective dots that can allow future generations the possibility of a freedom including peace and safety.

This can, and is, being very easily exampled with newly invigorated discussions with attention on the recognition and treatment of mental health, and certainly that is a priority. And to be responsible to that priority, we too have to recognize its applicability to the mental health of our American community at large.

We are an unhappy country. There is a plague of loneliness and isolation. But for the way video games and in-home electronic communication and entertainment may compliment isolation, those activities might otherwise be similarly represented by the backyard cowboy and soldier games of yesterday. Face to face community engagement is on the wane. We have to recognize the economic hardships that lead to depressions, the fear that leads to the breakdown of intimacies, and the global warming to the destruction of homes and lives in the Northeast. And when we wrap all of these things and their cousins in a bundle, only hard truths will heal our country, and protect our children.

SWAP MEET

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

Because what kid wouldn’t want to give up his favorite toy for a worthless scrap of paper?

A Santa Monica, Calif. peace activist is reinvigorating his push to discourage children from playing with toy guns and parents from purchasing them.

Activist Jerry Rubin’s “Alliance for Survival” peace group is encouraging children and families to say “no” to guns with a “No Toy Guns Merit Award Project” in response to the Newton, Conn. shooting which left 20 children and six adults dead, the Santa Monica Mirror reported.

The group will offer a personalized, frameable certificate to children and families that send the alliance a letter explaining “Why I will not buy toy guns for my children” or for children, “Why I do not like to play with toy guns.”

AND NOW…IDIOTS

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Do you think British education still means something?  Limey douche begs to differ:

After his gun-control views landed him on a petition to be deported from the United States, CNN host Piers Morgan is now contending “it’s time for an amendment to the Bible” because, like the Constitution, it is “inherently flawed.”

In an interview that was broadcast on Christmas Eve, Morgan told evangelical Pastor Rick Warren that due to changing cultural views on gay marriage the Bible, too, must be changed.

The British television host explained that a passage that states adultery is punishable by death proves the Bible is “flawed.” 

“The Bible and the Constitution were well-intentioned, but they are basically inherently flawed,” Morgan said.  “Hence the need to amend it.”

“My point to you about gay rights, for example, it’s time for an amendment to the Bible,” he said.

INSERT JOKE HERE

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 25 Comments

For his outstanding work in dynamiting what’s left of Anglican Christianity, Rowan Williams is to be made a baron:

Rowan Williams will be created a Baron for Life by the style and title of Baron Williams of Oystermouth in the City and County of Swansea.

YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

“Thank you for calling Vatican Tech Support.  All our operators are busy at the moment.  Your call will be taken in the order in which it was received.  Please remain on the line.”

“Grumble.”

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  And when she passes, each one she passes goes…

“Thank you for calling Vatican Tech Support.  All our operators are busy at the moment.  Your call will be taken in the order in which it was received.  Please remain on the line.”

“Ah, son of a…”

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  And when she passes, each one she passes goes…

“Thank you for calling Vatican Tech Support.  All our operators are busy at the moment.  Your call will be taken in the order in which it was received.  Please remain on the line.”

Damn it!!

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  And when she passes, each one she passes goes…

“Thank you for calling Vatican Tech Support.  All our operators are busy at the moment.  Your call will be taken in the order in which it was received.  Please remain on the line.”

@#$%&?{[}]!!

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  And when she passes, each one she passes goes…

“You have reached Vatican Tech Support.  This call may be monitored for quality of service.  My name is Ed.   How may I be of assistance?”

“Oh, uh, hello.  My name is Katharine Jefferts Schori.  You’ve probably heard of me.”

“No, actually not.”

“The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church?”

“The presiding what of the what now?”

“The Presiding Bishop of the EPISCOPAL CHURCH!!  Anyway, I’ve just started out on Twitter and I was trying to follow the Pope’s Twitter feed.”

“Why?”

“So that two spiritual giants could exchange views!”

“The Pope and who else?”

Me!!  Idiot!!  Anyway, I’m being blocked by the Pope for some reason, Twitter couldn’t figure anything out and they suggested that I call you.”

“That’s odd.  As far as I know, the Pope’s not blocking anybody.  Have you checked your TCP/IP settings?”

“How do you do that?!”

“Do you have a PC or a Mac?”

“A Mac.”

“Then its the easiest thing in the world.  But you may want to write this down.  Hit Control, Alt, Shift, Enter, Back Slash, Forward Slash, Forward Slash, Back Slash, Back Slash, Num Lock, Tab, Tab, Tab, Alt, Shift, Control, Alt, Caps Lock, Shift, Shift, Shift and Escape.  What do you see?”

“I see a video of Steve Jobs telling me that prior to his death, he had his essence uploaded to the Internet and now he rules all information for all eternity.  Also, if I own a Zune, he’s coming for my ass.”

“Your settings are fine.  Now what’s your Twitter user name?”

“@BishopKatharine.”

“There’s your problem.  You can’t have terms like “bishop” in your Twitter handle.”

“Why not?”

“It’s a system bug.  Drives us nuts, let me tell you.  But I’ve got a few names you can use that will get you right in, no questions asked.”

“Great!  What are they?”

“I’ve go a friend here in the department that’s set up to go but who spends all his time on Facebook and thinks Twitter is stupid.  You could use his name. ”

“What is it?”

“Harry Teek.  Our social media guy is another one you could use.  His mother’s Greek and his father’s British.  He’s on Twitter but under a different handle.”

“What’s his name?”

“Apos Tate.”

“Got any women’s names?”

“Sure.  You could use our web designer’s real name.  She’s on Twitter too but I think she’s called @Smokin2375.  You could use her real name, she wouldn’t mind.”

“What is it?”

“Nada Christian.”

“Listen, I’m terrible picking user names and things like that so I really appreciate your help.”

“Glad to be of service.  All in a day’s work for Vatican Tech Support.”

24

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Editor’s note: In lieu of actual content…Merry Christmas!

A “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” blast from the past

The following takes place between 9:00 PM and 1:00 AM

9:00 PM – Had the profession that I invented passed me by? Since my last big one, my few cases, if you could call them that, had barely taken any time at all, an hour or two at most. Other people were getting the run these days; the New York Times called Wannabe the best Christian private investigator in the field and didn’t once mention my name.

Not that I was upset, mind you. Far from it. Because every unsolvable case that Wannabe or Dawn Eden or Mark Sullivan or Brad Drell cracked and every ticker-tape parade in their honor brought me that much closer to my most treasured but most elusive goal. The chance to finally and completely retire, enjoy my wife, watch my son grow up, look after my insanely lucrative side businesses and raise chrysanthemums.

That particular day, Nicky and Paul were gone, off to New York for Nicky’s sister Anne’s wedding; I was to join them tomorrow. I wasn’t alone, though. Dale Price and his family were on their way to Italy except that business had delayed him in Michigan while his family had flown on to New York.

When I told Nicky that, she insisted that Heather Price and her kids stay at Nicky’s family’s Hamptons estate and have a day or two at the beach before crossing the Atlantic (since the St. Louis incident, Dale’s wife has become one of my wife’s closest friends). Heather and the kids were delighted by the idea so Dale flew into St. Louis and he and I planned on flying to New York together the next morning.

Dale and I spent most of that day drinking this and that, playing shogi, the Japanese version of chess that we much prefer to the European version, trying to figure out where the Byzantine Empire went wrong, debating the artistic merits of American coinage and many other vitally important matters when Amy Welborn stopped by.

Amy had been in town for a speaking engagement and was disappointed that she’d missed Nicky and Paul. She was due to fly to New York the next day to catch up with her family so, at my invitation, she decided to hang around.

The three of us spent the rest of that day talking about this and that, MST3K-ing bad movies and eating and drinking whatever struck our fancy. We were just about to make an early evening of it…

When the phone rang.

I answered it, listened silently and said, “I understand. I’ll get back to you on the PC in a little bit.” I hung up the phone, looked at Dale and said gravely, “Greg Griffith says hello.”

Dale stared at me with his mouth open. I said to the two of them, “If you don’t want any part of this, leave now.”

Price, who wanted out of Christian private investigation even more than I did, rubbed his hand over his mouth, tightly shut his eyes for several seconds, looked at me and said quietly, “No. I’m in.”

“Now’s your chance,” I said to Amy.

“What are you talking about?” she asked warily.

“If we’re lucky, it’ll only delay you a day. If. We’re. Lucky.” Dale said.

Welborn understood immediately. She stared at me fearfully for a long time before finally quietly declaring, “I’m in too.”

The three of us made drinks and went into my office where I fired up one of the big-screen office computers and dialed a number. After about a minute, Greg Griffith’s face came on the screen. “Great to see you guys again,” he said “How are your families these days?”

“Couldn’t be better, G-Man,” said Dale. “We’re on our way to Italy. Thought I’d show ’em Rome., introduce ’em to the Pope, that kind of thing.”

“We’re outstanding, Double G,” I said. “I’m heading up to New York tomorrow. Nicky’s sister’s getting married and Paul finally gets to meet some of his cousins so I guess they’ll have him the whole time. How’s your crowd doing?”

FANtastic,” said Griffith.

The ludicrously inept small talk out of the way, I said, “Greg, you remember Amy Welborn.”

“It’s great to see you again, Ms. Welborn,” said Greg. “Your reputation proceeds you.”

“As does yours, Mr. Griffith,” she replied. “Thanks again for the last one. And it’s Amy, by the way.”

“You’re welcome.” Griffith grinned. “And it’s Greg, by the way.”

Amy smiled back at him. “Got it, Greg.”

“What’s up?” I asked.

Griffith looked down, took a deep breath, gulped down most of whatever he was drinking and looked up at us. “One hundred 55-gallon drums of griswoldium have been stolen. According to the threat we received, the thieves intend to turn all of it into gas and release it into the atmosphere some time in the next 24 hours.”

10:00 PM – Dale and I were staggered and couldn’t say anything for a long time. “One hundred…55 gallon…” Price whispered. “Oh my God!!”

“How’s the intel?” I managed to ask.

“Perfect,” said Greg.

“Who made the threat?”

“Two groups. We think. The first are some old friends of ours.”

“The Episcopal Peace Fellowship,” said Dale.

“Yeah. And here’s where it gets tricky. The other group seems to be hiding. There are only hints in the intel here and there about who they are. It’s almost like they want EPF to take all the credit.”

Dale looked at me and said, “Sounds like the Jesuits.” I nodded in agreement.

“That’s our thinking,” said Griffith.

“If they pull this off, do you have any idea as to a potential coverage area?” I asked.

“We’re still working on the analysis,” Greg replied. “But our preliminary estimates indicate that these things can be strategically placed in the United States so that the stuff will spread worldwide. There won’t be any place anywhere that anyone can hide from it.”

By now, Amy was terrified. “Guys?” she shakily asked. “Pardon my ignorance but what is griswoldium?”

“In the late 70’s,” I told her, “some Episcopal scientists, with what may have been a grant from the Jesuits, were working on a way to bypass the fact that people were abandoning liberal Christianity in battalions. They wanted a way to override what people were hearing from orthodox pulpits and reading in the Bible for themselves.”

“After about five years, give or take, they developed a liquid,” said Dale, “that can be turned into a gas if necessary. They didn’t give it a name right away. They tested it first in…where was it?”

“General Theological Seminary and the Episcopal Diocese of Newark,” I said.

“Right. Then St. John the Divine, orders like the Maryknoll, Jesuit houses from one end of this country to the other, Georgetown University, the Episcopal Divinity School and many other places, both Catholic and Episcopalian. There are indications that they tested it at Trinity-Wall Street not all that long ago.”

“That clown eucharist,” said Amy.

“Yeah,” said Price.

“Just what does this stuff do anyway?” Welborn asked.

“It clears your head of whatever’s there,” I replied. “It confuses you. Basically, it makes you believe whatever anyone tells you and believe it like you came up with the idea yourself.

“And it’s permanent. The last Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is supposed to have been an enthusiastic volunteer test subject and you see what resulted.”

“Hence the name they finally gave it about 2001 or so,” said Price. “It’s incredibly potent in liquid form. They only used an eyedropper-full at Johnny the D and it’s still affecting people there.”

“Why?!” exclaimed Amy.

I downed the rest of my drink. “It’s supposed to have a half-life of 975,000,000,000,000,000 years. But here’s the scary part. In its gaseous state, it’s ten thousand times more powerful.”

“My God.”

“Goodbye evangelism. Goodbye coherent Christian teaching,” said Dale, “And goodbye any kind of Christian orthodoxy for everybody in the world and all their descendents for the next 975,000,000,000,000,000 years. And once they get the stuff spread…”

“They’ll make more. And keep on spreading it. Forever,” whispered Welborn.

“Considering how lethal this stuff is,” said Price, “NSA confiscated all the stocks and destroyed them. Supposedly.”

“Speaking of NSA,” said Griffith. “I’d like to introduce you to the person who’s going to be in charge of this investigation. This is Kay Lewis, senior NSA ecclesiastical terrorism analyst. As far as possible, she’ll answer any questions you have.”

11:00 PM – Greg nodded to his right and a stunningly beautiful woman appeared on half the screen. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” she said pleasantly.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Lewis,” I said. “I guess you know Mr. Price and Ms. Welborn.” I looked at Dale. “I think my Michigan colleague would like to start things off.”

“Yeah, one thing,” said Price. “NSA was supposed to have destroyed all the griswoldium stocks in the country. How in the world could you have screwed up this badly?”

“We’re working on that, Mr. Price,” Lewis replied, now distinctly less friendly.

“Where was this stuff stored?” asked Amy.

“At various facilities around the country. The theft occurred at a warehouse there in St. Louis. Mr. Griffith will send you the address.”

“How much griswoldium was stored at the St. Louis facility?”

“Just the one hundred drums.”

“So let me get this straight,” said Welborn. “You not only lose enough griwoldium to cover the entire world, you, for all practical purposes, lose the building it was stored in. How is that even remotely possible?!”

Lewis was about to try to answer when I cut in. “Ms. Lewis? When did NSA decide to seize and destroy the griswoldium stocks?”

“1998. But it wasn’t actually done until 2002.”

“Legal challenges?”

“That’s correct.”

I stood up, poured myself a bourbon-and-soda and began to silently pace around the room for a while, sipping my drink every so often. Then I looked straight at the webcam and asked, “Your section just had some kind of financial audit, didn’t it?” Ms. Lewis, who evidently had no idea just how good I was, looked stunned and silently nodded. “There’s your answer, Dale.

“TEC gets word in 1998 that NSA is coming for the griswoldium. They delay things in the courts long enough to get a mole inside NSA to try to save some of it.

“When the order finally comes down, the mole’s got his own people in place. He fakes expense reports, invoices, job orders, that kind of thing, and records the St. Louis job as done. Then some jobs that are here are reassigned over there and a budget item is moved from this column over to that one.

“TEC gets a free building, enough griswoldium to affect the entire world and people in place to steal it. And nobody’s the wiser until an auditor untangles all this and NSA discovers that there’s still a whole lot of griswoldium out there that it doesn’t control.” I sipped my bourbon. “Is that about how it went down, Ms. Lewis?”

Kay Lewis looked scared; my abilities can do that to people. “Yes,” she whispered. “By the time we got there, the stuff was gone. According to our only witness, we missed them by less than half an hour.”

Dale poured himself another bourbon and asked, “Were there security tapes?”

“No,” said Lewis. “They took them. Tapes from nearby buildings didn’t show anything useful.”

“What did this witness see?”

“A security guard at a nearby company noticed two semis pull up and saw people loading lots of drums. But he was too far away to get any kind of an ID on anybody or anything.

“We immediately put multiple roadblocks up on every road out of St. Louis at least 300 miles away in every direction. Every police force in the country was alerted.

“We searched every truck from Ohio to Colorado and from Michigan to Lousiana and every truck we searched came up empty. We have no idea how they slipped by us.”

“How many people worked at that warehouse?” asked Amy.

“Three. I’ll have Mr. Griffith send their files down.”

“Who was your section chief between 1998 and 2002?” I asked.

“William Stilton. He arrived in 1998 and resigned in 2002. I’ll send his file too.”

I took a contemplative sip of bourbon as Price and Welborn looked at each other. “William Stilton,” said Welborn. “Where have I heard that name?”

“He’s the author of Confessional: Inside the NSA, that best-selling NSA expose,” I replied. “Odd duck, Bill Stilton. Spy and member of the Society of Jesus.

“I believe you’ll find that the Rev. William Stilton is currently a very liberal adjunct professor of European literature down at St. Louis University.”

“Well, that’s one stop today,” said Dale.

12:00 AM – “One more thing, Ms. Lewis. Does anybody in NSA or anywhere else know that you’ve having this conversation,” I asked.

“No one except my aide and I trust him implicitly. Mr. Griffith impressed upon me the value of silence in situations like these,” said Kay Lewis. “And listen…thanks for helping us out.”

“We haven’t helped anybody yet,” I replied. “Let us know the moment you find out anything you think we ought to know. Do it through Greg.”

“You’ve got it,” said Ms. Lewis. “Good luck.” Her face left the screen.

“Do you guys want me to come out?” Griffith asked.

“Not yet,“ I said. “I assume they’re watching. Amy, Dale and I might be working on anything,” I told him. “If you, me and Dale are seen together, they’re going to know. But stay ready. We’ll be in touch.”

“Will do. Good luck, you guys.”

“Thanks. You too.”

The screen went blank. Dale and I refreshed our drinks and then the three of us sat there silently, sipping our drinks every so often. Finally Amy said, “They missed by less than half an hour? How in the world could they have gotten those trucks past the roadblocks?”

“I don’t think they did,” I told her.

“Kirkwood?” asked Price.

“That’s what I intend to find out.” I looked at Welborn. “Is your gun loaded? Because you may have to use it”

“Of course,” she replied.

As I printed copies of the files CETU had sent, Dale asked, “Do you think we should contact our families?”

I stared out the window into the night. “No,” I finally said. “After what happened last time, I want to keep them out of the loop as long as I possibly can. I don’t want to risk putting them through that ordeal again.

“We can easily finesse showing up a day late so I’m not going to call Nicky unless I absolutely have to. Let’s get out of here.”

The three of us gathered our equipment and started for the door when Amy suddenly asked, “Guys? What am I in for?”

“Hell,” Dale and I told her at exactly the same time.

Next week – Part Two

BLOGGING 101

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 | Uncategorized | 36 Comments

One of the keys to effective blogging is knowing when not to say anything.  It’s kind of like jazz or blues; the great players are known by the notes they don’t play as much as the ones they do.  Case in point: seems that in Iowa, being hot can cost you:

A dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an “irresistible attraction,” even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. Such firings may be unfair, but they are not unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.

An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.

But Nelson’s attorney said Iowa’s all-male high court, one of only a handful in the nation, failed to recognize the discrimination that women see routinely in the workplace.

“These judges sent a message to Iowa women that they don’t think men can be held responsible for their sexual desires and that Iowa women are the ones who have to monitor and control their bosses’ sexual desires,” said attorney Paige Fiedler. “If they get out of hand, then the women can be legally fired for it.”

Now if you were just starting out, you might be tempted to say something along the lines of, “This shouldn’t be too much of a problem in Iowa (AKA Saskatchewan’s Plain, Librarian Cousin).”  But any state that can produce a Brenda Warner is not a state which needs to take abuse from people like you, thank you very much.  Since everybody who reads this will have written his or her own joke in their heads long before they get to the end, this is the sort of story you just toss out there and leave alone.

LIVING INSIDE THEIR HEADS

Friday, December 21st, 2012 | Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Is it just me or does Fred Hiltz seem a bit rattled?

The leader of the Anglican Church of Canada has emerged from his Dec. 6 meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury-elect, Justin Welby, feeling “very optimistic about his leadership.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, noted Welby’s “extensive ministry of reconciliation” and told the Journal that, “I get is a sense that he wants to be personally pro-active to build relations.

During his meeting with Welby, Hiltz said he mentioned ongoing concern about efforts by the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to be recognized by the Church of England. Composed of Anglicans who have left the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the U.S., ACNA describes itself as “an emerging Province in the global Anglican Communion.”

Hiltz said he requested that if bodies of the Church of England are to meet with representatives of ACNA, “in fairness, they should also meet with us to get a better picture.” Welby was “very appreciative” of the place of the Anglican Church of Canada in the Communion and the contributions it has been able to make, added Hiltz.

Mind if I indulge in a little totally-off-the-wall speculation?  Doesn’t much matter since I’m going to do it anyway because I run this joint.  Anyway, after reading Fred just now, an idea popped into my head.  That picture I posted here the other day of the Pope meeting with Archbishop Robert Duncan was a signal. 

To Canterbury.

Right now, the Anglican Church in North America has about as much international recognition as the Episcopalians do.  Bob Duncan just preached at the enthronement of Uganda’s new Anglican primate, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali; neither Fred nor Kate would have been allowed in the door in any official capacity.

As far as the GAFCON provinces, the most vital in the Anglican Communion, are concerned, there is only one Anglican primate in North America and his name is Robert Duncan.  Whether it realizes it or not, ACNA is already part of an “Anglican Communion.”  This one just doesn’t have an official name yet.

Throw that picture into the mix and ACNA may be telling incoming Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, “Your predecessor’s actions taught us that the Americans call the shots in the Anglican Communion so we know that any sort of ‘official’ recognition won’t happen any time soon if it ever happens at all.

“And we’re okay with that.  We wouldn’t say no to a Lambeth invitation but if Kate vetoes it, we’d be fine with that too.  Our ‘official’ Anglican friends have always been delighted to invite us to their international meetings and we suppose that they’ll continue to do so.  Bob Duncan will rack up just as many frequent-flyer miles and Fred and Kate.

“As for that picture of Duncan meeting Benedict XVI, we know as well as you do that the Pope meets with non-Catholic Christian leaders all the time.  And we also know that Benedict could not possibly care less who’s an ‘official’ Anglican and who isn’t.

“So isn’t it funny that our archbishop got a photo-op with His Holiness that your two ‘official’ North American primates could not possibly get?  And who knows, maybe we’ll get the same kind of ongoing theological discussions going with the Roman Catholics that you’ve had and continue to have, much to your credit.

“Which would make us…basically the same as you, as far as Rome is concerned.  They talk to you, they talk to us; to the braised-mahi-mahi-in-a-lemon-ginger-sauce-snappers, one Anglican is the same as another.

“What say we bottom-line it for you, Your Grace.  If you don’t want to “officially” recognize us, that’s your call.  But unlike you, we’re winning souls here.  And the other divisions in your army call us brothers so what you think doesn’t matter all that much.”

DOOMSDAY BLUES

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

You know what would really be embarrassing?  If existence as we know did, in fact, come to an end tomorrow, we’re all wherever we go after we shuffle off this mortal coil and we’re greeted by some Mayan yelling, “Hey!  How you like me now, technologially-advanced, civilized Western people?!  Scoreboard, losers!”

We’d never hear the end of that one.

 

TWO REMINDERS

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Not every thought that pops into your head should be written down.  And using sarcasm when discussing the mass murder of 20 little kids can make you look like a real douche:

NEW-SPEAK

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

John Boehner grows a pair:

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU SAY, “SERIOUSLY?”

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

This is apparently not a joke:

A Swedish inventor has created a musical coffin – with an in-built stereo sound ­system.

Fredrik Hjelmquist says his CataCombo Sound System [See what he did there? - Ed] is the ideal gift for music lovers who do not want to rest in peace.

It allows people to compile their own personal playlist before they die so their ­favourite music can be streamed into their grave.

The £18,500 system even allows relatives to update the songs for their dearly departed via Spotify and a Catatomb app, using a touchscreen built into the headstone.

The music is piped into the coffin via two-way front speakers, four-inch midbass drivers, “divine” tweeters and “a hell-of-an-eight-inch subwoofer”, its maker says.

That’s good to know.  I’d hate to shell out all that jack to play music for a corpse only to find out that the speaker system sucked.

ABANDON ALL HOPE

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Europe descends further toward the abyss:

Belgium is considering a significant change to its decade-old euthanasia law that would allow minors and Alzheimer’s sufferers to seek permission to die.

The proposed changes to the law were submitted to parliament Tuesday by the Socialist party and are likely to be approved by other parties, although no date has yet been put forward for a parliamentary debate.

“The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to,” party leader Thierry Giet said.

The draft legislation calls for “the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate.”

Belgium was the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalise euthanasia in 2002 but it applies only to people over the age of 18.

Socialist Senator Philippe Mahoux, who helped draft the proposed changes, said there had been cases of adolescents who “had the capacity to decide” their future.

He said parliamentarians would also consider extended mercy-killing to people suffering from Alzheiner’s-type illnesses.

No possibility of abuse there.  Meanwhile, the French would like their dying population to snap it up.

France should allow doctors to “accelerate the coming of death” for terminally ill patients, a report to President Francois Hollande recommended Tuesday.

Hollande referred the report to a national council on medical ethics which will examine the precise circumstances under which such steps could be authorised with a view to producing draft legislation by June 2013.

“The existing legislation does not meet the legitimate concerns expressed by people who are gravely and incurably ill,” Hollande said.

The report said physicians should be allowed to authorise interventions that ensure quicker deaths for terminal patients in three specific sets of circumstances.

In the first case, the patient involved would be capable of making an explicit request to that effect or have issued advance instructions in the event of him or her becoming incapable of expressing an opinion.

The second scenario envisages medical teams withdrawing treatment and/or nourishment on the basis of a request by the family of a dying patient who is no longer conscious and has not made any instructions.

The third would apply to cases where treatment is serving only to sustain life artificially.

Welcome to ObamaCare.

WHOOPS

Monday, December 17th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Richard Clarke, the new Anglican Primate of All Ireland, gets off to a flying start:

Support The MCJ

Search

Links

Meta