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Linn Keller, SASS 27332, BOLD 103

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Linn Keller, SASS 27332, BOLD 103 last won the day on October 27 2016

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About Linn Keller, SASS 27332, BOLD 103

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  • Birthday 03/31/1956

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    Firelands Peacemakers

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    Lorain County, Ohio
  • Interests
    History, calligraphy, any game that burns powder
    BOLD 103, Center Township Combat Pistol League
    Skywarn, ham radio, and no idea what I want to do when I grow up!
  1. 150. DANCER'S MOVE Sarah Lynne McKenna was a noted dancer. When an individual seized her upper arm and pulled hard, instead of pulling away, she shoved into the individual, spun as if spinning into his arms. This was not what was expected. Nor was her upraised elbow, which caught the side of the arm-grabber's eagle beak. Hard. Sarah was well practiced at this particular move, which also involved her kicking her foot into the back of the grabber's knee as she spun. Pain and surprise enabled her escape; rage and retaliation prompted his punch. Sarah Lynne McKenna raised her forearm vertical, in front of her face: atop her forearm, a fist: in the fist, the checkered maple grip of a heavy bladed fighting knife, and vertical down from the checkered maple grips, a heavy blade, point down, edge forward. The punch was standard for the day: not with knuckles horizontal, but vertical, to lessen the likelihood of a boxer's fracture when punching an opponent's face. Instead of driving work hardened knuckles into a pretty little schoolmarm's face, he drove a full-on punch into the honed blade of a hand forged, Damascus steel blade, cutting through knuckles, bones, tendons; his good right hand was ruined in an instant -- He'd intended to seize a snooty woman's arm, to take a kiss as he'd taken women before: drink and ill manners are a bad combination, and a bullying nature only adds to poor decision making, and now, now a rough soul with no regard for anyone but himself, realized he'd just been crippled, his hand ruined. The tidy little schoolteacher in her mousy-grey dress stepped back, a second knife appearing in her other hand: she took one step back, two, blades spinning in her grip like dinner plate sized buzz saws, edge-on to her attacker, and her eyes were pale, ice pale, hard as frozen flint and as welcoming as a mountain glacier in winter. Old habit prompted his left hand to thrust into his coat pocket. Old habit prompted a .44 revolver to punch a thumb sized hole through his left ear canal. Sheriff Linn Keller eared the hammer back on his engraved Colt: he knew his shot went true -- the distance was not great, and he'd practiced shooting at small marks, up close, many times -- he turned, slowly, the flesh pale and stretched over his cheek bones: he turned slowly, describing a complete circle, satisfying himself that no one else wished to be hostile, before he eased his revolving pistol's hammer down, then back to half cock, and replaced the fired round. His moves were deliberate, precise, controlled: any who knew him, knew this bespoke a deep, boiling, abiding anger. He eased the hammer's nose down on the empty chamber and holstered, looked up at the splashing sound of a woman stirring a Damascus blade briskly in a horse trough: she wiped the steel clean, carefully, tilting her head a little, as if she were regarding a flower arrangement, instead of the tool that separated a few fingers from their hand. She turned, two knives in hand again: there was the spinning flash of steel in sunlight, and her hands thrust in and down, and the blades disappeared, a magician's move. A very deadly and most capable magician. "Now ladies, I want you to pair off," Sheriff Willamina Keller said: "gentlemen, take your ladies thusly" -- her son held his hand out and palm-up, and Willamina lay her off hand in her son's; Linn's arm went around the small of his mother's back, and Willamina's around his. "Now. I'm going to show you something. Everyone in position? -- all right, ladies, lift your hand, then place your wrist in the gentleman's grip." Linn very delicately closed his grip around his mother's wrist, smiling a little: he knew what was coming. "Ladies, I'm going to show you something." She made a quick pirouette, coming out of her son's arms, pacing in among her students. "The opposable thumb," she said, holding up her hand and wiggling the aforementioned digit, "makes it possible for us to grip and to grasp. The thumb is also the weak point. Watch closely, this is how you break someone's grip when they have you by the wrist -- gentlemen, remember, do NOT grip the ladies' wrist firmly, this is a training exercise, not a wrestling match!" Willamina returned to her son: he gripped her wrist, and she twisted, pulled, slowly, so all could see: a second time, a little faster, then: "Linn, grab hard." Linn grabbed his Mama's wrist like he meant it, and she broke out of his grip, seized her son and introduced him quickly and less than gently to the sawdust floor. "Whoa," two of the football jocks husked -- they'd seen the Sheriff's son in action, they knew how tough a toe-to-toe scrapper he'd been when occasions demanded, and to see this lean, rangy deputy, a head and more taller than his mother, holding her in a grip they were familiar with, suddenly unable to maintain what they knew without any doubt at all to be a strong grip -- and then to be driven face-first into the sawdust... well, they were impressed. "Ladies, you don't have the skill for that throw just yet, so we won't work on that. You will, instead, work on breaking the grip. This is not the only grip you'll learn how to break, but it is the first." Linn came up on all fours, grinning, sawdust all down his front: as he rose, he happily slapped his flat belly, his thighs, causing a woody snowstorm. "Linn will circulate among you and make sure you're getting it down properly, and remember, ladies, we are not learning this until we can get it right." Curious looks and young eyes regarded her with absolute attention. "We're not practicing until we get this right, we're practicing this UNTIL WE CAN'T GET IT WRONG!" Willamina's expression was knowing, and a little amused. "After which we'll study applied physics. Show of hands, how many are taking physics?" One hand straggled upward, was quickly lowered. "We'll be using the principle of Conservation of Motion, and that means you will learn to waltz. Ladies, do you remember what Sister Sarah said about women being finely crafted as precision instruments? -- well, dancing increases your combat effectiveness, because it teaches conservation of motion." She smiled, and they liked that smile, because it generally meant things were about to happen. "You're going to learn how to seriously kick some backsides, and you're going to look really, really good doing it!" The guys looked at one another, not quite sure where all this was going, but they'd learned to trust the Sheriff -- she'd arranged for a Judo instructor for the football team, and thanks to learning how to fall properly, there was a decrease in football injuries, and so they were used to surprises from "Our Sheriff," as they called Willamina. If she was going to teach them to waltz, they reasoned silently, this might have use with the ladies ... and besides, when else would they actually have a chance at pairing off with a cheerleader, if only for a dance? Willamina clapped her hands twice, spun into her son's arms: "Computer! Shostakovitch, if you please, the Second Waltz! Now ladies, place your wrist -- gentlemen, grip gently -- and watch me, once more!"
  2. 149. THE JERSEY BULL Barrents eased the bolt forward on his M14. It had belonged to his father, and now it was his: he preferred the larger payload to the issue 5.56, in spite of its greater weight, and the fact that its magazine was considerably bulkier. Barrents liked results, and his '14 gave good results. He felt the Sheriff ... he hadn't heard her, he hadn't smelled her perfume, he felt her come up beside him. "Yes, Boss?" he asked, and she heard the ironic smile in his voice. "We shoot qualification next week," Willamina said, her voice quiet, musical: "I want you to bring your Fourteen." "Yes, ma'am." "I want to find out ... something." Barrents placed the rifle on the table, turned, looked squarely at the pale eyed Sheriff. "Something is on your mind," he said -- a statement, not a question. Willamina's jaw thrust out and she nodded. "This wouldn't have something to do with teaching the cheerleaders how to be bloodthirsty killers?" Barrents teased, his polished obsidian eyes carefully quiet. "You mean the Valkyries?" Willamina laughed. "Dear God, if I believed half the rumors I've starred in --" She smiled, shook her head. "No. No, I'm not teaching them to ride ravens, nor how to harvest souls from the battlefield." "Hm." Barrents' grunt was a little less than skeptical -- but very little less. "I'm causing a broader net of trouble than I'd intended," she admitted. "You?" Barrents asked, pretending to be surprised. "Cause trouble, you? Perish the thought!" "Oh, yes," Willamina sighed. "I'm arranging for Willamina's Warriors to join us." "Now that I can believe." "What, that I'm joining the two?" "No. Willamina's Warriors." Willamina threw her head back and laughed, a good, easy, natural laugh that brought looks and smiles from elsewhere about their Sheriff's office. Willamina ran, every evening, with the football team -- she'd started that nightly run when she saw the football team's conditioning run past her house, and she saw they had stragglers, and she remembered stragglers in the Corps, and how their buddies would drop back and keep them up with the squad. On the second night the football team ran past her house, she ran with them, joining their rear ranks, running in fatigues and boots at first: her arm around a flagging runner, or pacing someone who'd fallen back and looked like he was considering dropping out: night after night, and Willamina ran with them, every night, coming up through the ranks, pacing them, encouraging them, joking with them, then shaping them. She began to sing cadence, chanting those deliciously obscene running songs that young men rejoice to sing; as they sang, they ran with their music, they ran in step: Willamina shaped them, ran them in ranks, ran them in step, until finally she ran with them from their beginning, ran with them as a squad, instead of blending in with them as they passed her house. Willamina's house was about the halfway point on their conditioning run, and her joining their ranks was seen as a good thing by the coaches; their team showed a greater cohesion, their team moved like a team, thanks to the unity she was teaching them on their runs, and so their coaches turned a blind eye to good homemade cookies and water at the halfway point, where the team stopped in their run, and sprawled in the yard, ate cookies and drank water and stretched to keep from stiffening or cramping. Willamina ran in full battle rattle -- fatigues and helmet, boots and ruck and a rifle over her shoulder, and two canteens on her belt, and she recruited from this unorganized militia for special details: two of their number were volunteers with their fire department's squad, which meant they became the designated medics. The medics ran with light kits at first, then more actual medic's packs: their experience at running as part of the football team, was woven into the fire department emergency squad's overall training. One was a ham radio operator: his given Christian name was John Schoendorff, but he became Commo, and ran with two cell phones, two talkies and two extra batteries for each: Willamina saw to it that he acquired a backpack radio and deployable antenna, and that he set it up and used it, with her thumb on the stopwatch stem and his teammates yelling encouragement as he set up under pressure, and fists thrust triumphantly into the air as he made contacts over incredible distances -- the most memorable, an accented voice with an Israeli call sign, a voice who asked if their C.O. was a pale eyed Valkyrie -- which brought a sharp look from the Sheriff, and a nod, tight and carefully controlled: "Ask him if Yoni still likes horses," Willamina asked, and when Commo passed the question, the signal faded, but not until he heard the words, "-- trail ride with Texas." Willamina smiled just a little, and in spite of their few years, everyone listening to the conversation, everyone watching her face, knew there was a story behind that, and every quick young man's mind made a mental note to ask about it sometime. Willamina blinked, and she was back in the Sheriff's office, sitting beside her Chief Deputy Paul Barrents, and she smiled again. "I'm going to teach them how to waltz," she said quietly. "The Valkyries need to understand that they are feminine and graceful, that fighting is not the only thing they learn from me." She looked at Barrents. "What better way than to teach them a genteel and courtly dance?" Barrents nodded, his eyes lowering to the walnut stocked rifle on the table. "The Valkyries," he echoed, his eyebrow raising, and Willamina grimaced. "Oh, hell, I've got to call them something!" She looked at the rifle on the table. "Now about the Fourteen." Willamina reached out, tapped the rearstock with delicate fingertips. "Cousin Ted was in the National Guard back during the Vietnam riots. You might remember hearing about those." Barrents nodded slowly and Willamina felt his walls go up. "Cousin Ted was called to duty. They went to Ohio University, Athens, to handle the college riots, right before Kent State." Barrents nodded, once. "They were issued fourteens with bayonets and four-stitchers." Willamina saw approval in her segundo's eyes. "The four-stitcher was a plate that fit over the end of the bayonet. Jab someone in the backside and it took four stitches to close the wound. It would not kill but it was Jim Dandy to move rioters on down the street." Again the slow, knowing nod. "They were given empty rifles and the rioters knew it. "Cousin Ted was with the troops who formed a line across the street from Brumley Hall the the old post office." Willamina's voice was quiet, her eyes distant as she remembered hearing the story from the participant's mouth when she was still a girl at home. "One of the rioters ran up and heaved half a concrete block and caught Cousin Ted just under the knee cap. "He gave a bellow like a Jersey bull, he went down on one knee and hauled back on the bolt and let it run forward." The Sheriff's jaw slid out and her eyes were distant as she remembered her Kinsman's words, at their supper table one night, with her big strong Daddy beside her and her mother looking sour and disapproving. "A Fourteen sounds entirely different when it runs a brass panatela into the breech than it does when it's empty." Barrents' left eyebow quirked up; he well knew that very sound, and he'd brought the bolt back himself, with intent to use, more times than one. The net effect was not as effective on a subject as racking a twelve gauge, but it was almost as good, and he'd worked it to his advantage. "The lieutenant came running over, screaming at Cousin Ted to stand down, stand down, and Ted was hurtin' ... he brought the rifle to shoulder and declared he was going to shoot that rioting Communist son of a sheepherder." Willamina's eyes were veiled and her hands closed, as if around a throat, as she added, "His language was not quite so ... kindly." She looked at her segundo and added, "Funny thing ... when that brass round drove into blued steel, the rioters sort of melted away, really quickly." Barrents grunted agreement. He'd done as much himself, while he wore Uncle Sam's baggy green.
  3. 148. THUS SPAKETH THE NUN The barn was spacious, round and mostly under the overhang of a granite cliff. Its timbers were old, solid, hand crafted and tightly fitted: at one time it had been a garage, but the oil soaked soil was long since dug out and replaced with packed clay, making a tough, almost impervious surface: this was now covered with half a foot of sawdust, and it was on this packed six inches of fragrant fragments that a dozen and a half young women stood. They'd arrived as instructed, they'd worn sweats and sneakers, they'd come expecting to find the Sheriff, and found only the barn, its lights on, the shadows in back keeping their secrets as if jealous: every head turned as a door opened with the slightest of creaks: phones were lowered, eyes widened with surprise as one of the Faceless Nuns glided in. The nun's hands were in her sleeves; the sleeves, wide, voluminous, could have held a peck basket, or so it seemed: the little nun approached them, and they drew back a little as she came near. "And in the beginning," the nun's voice said, her quiet words filling the shadow-roofed barn, "God created man, and God created woman. "This sounds very simple, but we have to look at the original Aramaic. "We have one word for 'snow' but the Eskimo have several: when God created man, the word they used means "God gobbed together dirt and spit and made Man." The cheerleaders giggled a little uncertainly, at least until the little nun removed a hand from a sleeve and raised a finger. "The word used when God created woman means 'He finely crafted this creature called Woman." "So here's the difference. Men are mashed together from creekbank clay and women are precision instruments. Do not ever forget that. Male and female, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we women" -- she spread her arms, palms up, embracing them all with a gesture -- "we are those precision instruments. "Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards, in heels." Most of them seemed to understand the reference, but two of them looked quite puzzled, and a third one asked, "Ginger Rogers?" "Do you think the Sheriff will teach them anything?" Barrents chuckled quietly. "She taught us, didn't she?" "Yeah, she taught me, but you're already a Marine!" Barrents' eyes were quiet, knowing: "She taught me, son, and she taught me things I didn't just not know, I didn't even suspect!" "Yeah, but they're only cheerleaders!" "You see the legs on those girls?" The rookie looked at the old veteran like the Navajo had a fish sticking out of his uniform blouse pocket. "Those lovely legs aren't just decoration. Those are the strongest muscles in the body. When the Sheriff told me she kicked two men to death with her hands tied behind her back, she was not kidding." The rookie's mouth opened slowly, closed, then: "I'm sorry ... she what?" "Oh, ya," Barrents said offhandedly. "Drove her spike heel through one's eye socket so hard she broke it off, then she drove the other heel between the other guy's ribs and kicked him a few more times. Caved in enough ribs he died. I think she ruptured his liver and his spleen. The trick" -- the chief deputy's voice was quiet in the idling, nighttime cruiser -- "the trick is to erupt fast, hard and with absolutely no holdback." The rookie nodded slowly, thoughtfully, remembering that the Sheriff had said exactly that when she was teaching hand-to-hand. "If anyone can turn a bunch of cute, short skirted dancers into killing machines, she can." The nun floated like a ghost on the night breeze, disappeared back through the door from whence she came; a moment later, the Sheriff emerged in combat boots and fatigues, looking around, smiling. "Are we ready to warm up?" she asked brightly. "Let's start with stretches, shall we, then I'll need a hand setting up some heavy bags." Daciana had been a circus performer, an acrobat and trick rider: she did showy gymnastics in the saddle of her trick pony, and she taught Sarah tricks she'd learned from growing up in the circus, tricks about performing and dancing and killing with elbows and feet and any item she could pick up, with teas and poisons and blades and poisoned needles: she taught the Sheriff's pale eyed daughter how to be a very good assassin, and Sarah put many of these lessons to very good use, and Sarah Lynne McKenna practiced in this very barn, kicking canvas bags filled with sawdust, practicing strikes and punches and always under Daciana's critical eye, until she was fast, and she was deadly, and she was very, very good. Sheriff Willamina Keller knew how to kill, and she knew how to not kill, and she knew -- she knew as a matter of gut intuition, with a knowledge not of this earth -- that multiple of these lovely young ladies would need the fell knowledge at some point in their lives, and so she began to teach them. She taught them. She did not teach them until they got it right. She taught them until they could not get it wrong.
  4. 147. THE DEADLIER OF THE TWO The cheerleader pulled open the door to the Sheriff's office, stepped inside. She wore the purple-and-white pleated miniskirt of her profession, and the white sweater with a purple megaphone and the ornate, gold-embroidered Firelands diagonally across the speaking cone: she walked up to the dispatcher's desk, a small case in her hand. "Could I see the Sheriff, please?" she asked uncertainly, and Sharon looked up, smiled: she'd known this high school girl since she was freshly hatched, as she liked to call it, and she winked and said "Sure thing, Susie, have a seat!" Not two minutes later, Sharon drew the door shut as Susie stood in front of Willamina's desk: Sharon did not see what transpired, nor was it important: she knew the Sheriff had been a cheerleader, and she knew people of every social strata, at one time or another, asked to see their Sheriff: their petitions were sometimes, significant, sometimes important, sometimes they wanted a sympathetic ear or they had a question about local history. Susie placed the case on the Sheriff's desk and opened it. Willamina smiled a little, tilted her head. "Colt New Police," she said, without touching it: "looks like a .32 Smith & Wesson long." She looked at the serious-faced cheerleader, her eyes a light shade of blue. "Yours?" "It was my Daddy's," Susie said. "He said this was bought right after the Great Chauncey Shootout. He said it was bought right after the Chauncey bank robbery. An officer was shot from ambush and died of pneumonia and the cops carried what they had and the biggest gun in the shootout was a .32 and they were mostly .22s and .25s and the only casualty was a car door and two fenders." Willamina nodded. "I recall reading about that. Happened at the Beaumont Bridge across the mighty Hockhocking." Susie nodded, her ponytails bouncing. "That's what Daddy said." Susie closed the case, fast up the latches. "I want you to teach me to shoot it." Willamina considered, lowering herself slowly into her upholstered, high back office chair. "I don't want to end up like Marnie." Willamina nodded again. Marnie had been a cheerleader. Marnie was young and pretty, popular and smart, and now she was dead, beaten and strangled, brutalized and discarded in a drainage ditch: the murderer was caught and convicted, and her memorial service had been three days ago, attended by the entire Firelands cheerleading squad, in their pleated skirts and saddle shoes: Willamina heard through her sources that she might be approached by a few members of the squad, and she wondered if this was the vanguard, or perhaps the only one who followed through. "Is anyone else interested?" Willamina asked neutrally, and Susie smiled, just a little, and Willamina's eyes smiled a little in reply. When a good looking high school girl in a short cheerleader skirt walks into the Sheriff's office like she owns the place, the men especially take note. When the entire Firelands cheerleading squad -- the entire squad -- walks in, all ponytails and short skirts and well-muscled athletic legs -- well, everyone took notice. Willamina was apparently in on this, whatever it was: the deputies present did not know what it was, nor did they care: it was enough that they didn't have to go anywhere to do their girlwatching, the girlwatching came to them, and as one quietly commented to Chief Deputy Barrents, "I do enjoy a target rich environment!" Sheriff Willamina Keller gestured them into the spacious conference room, looked at Barrents. "I'm going to be teaching some young ladies some very bad habits. Let's start with two dozen assorted and a pot of coffee, and get two dozen assorted for out here." She turned, stopped, turned back. "And have the prosecutor join us." Barrents' black eyes were impassive, or at least he tried to keep them that way, but Willamina knew her segundo very well, and she saw approval in his expression. He'd worked the murder and he knew why the cheerleaders were here. Sheriff Willamina Keller picked up the coat tree, carried it in between the two rows of tables, set it down: her trademark three inch heels were loud on the polished quartz floor as she paced over, picked up the red man suit's helmet, brought it back between the tables and dunked it over the top of the hall tree: she stepped back, planted her knuckles on her hips, then looked around. "Kind of looks like one of my old boyfriends," she commented, and the cheerleaders giggled, a little self-consciously, a little uncomfortably. "Okay, look, I'm the Sheriff, so I carry a gun." She unbuttoned her suit jacket, exposed the black plastic selfloader on her belt. "As a matter of fact, I carry more than one gun." She opened her suit coat further, turned, showing the matching black plastic selfloader in a horizontal shoulder rig. "And I carry more than that." She dipped a hand in a pocket, came out with a little rounded automatic that hid nicely in the palm of her hand. "This isn't much, it's a .32, but punch this in someone's face and pull the trigger six times and you'll stop the fight." She returned the hideout to its fabric home and smiled thinly. "Don't ask me how I know." She turned, scanning the cheerleaders. "Someone asked me why I wear heels. Several reasons. I look good in heels, I dance well in heels, and" -- she spun, drove her left heel through the eye slit of the redman hood -- "I killed a man just like that, back East." The sudden, shocked silence told her she absolutely, positively had their undivided. "I was caught by surprise. I was clubbed across the back of the head. They grabbed me, zip tied me behind my back and threw me in a van. They took me to the abandoned schoolhouse on top of the hill and when they brought me out I pretended to be out cold, until my feet found the ground. "Someone called the town cop to report a lot of screaming. He got there and found two on the ground -- one dead, one wishing he was -- and there I was, madder than two hells and still tied up, and I don't know which made me angrier." Her eyes were pale and her cheek bones stood out with the memory; she closed her eyes, took a long breath, the color returned to her face, but her eyes were still pale. "I don't know whether I was madder because I'd been taken by surprise, or because I couldn't get out of the zip tie, or because I broke the heel off my shoe!" The cheerleaders laughed, a little uncertainly, as the Sheriff smiled. "Now. Sports and coaches be damned, you are athletes, all of you. I know your routine, I know your workouts. I was a cheerleader once and I can still fit in my cheerleader's uniform -- yes, even decrepit old ladies have that vanity!" The laughter was still subdued, but a little more relaxed. "Decrepit" is certainly not a term any of them would have applied to their Sheriff, for she was a known horsewoman, they'd seen her throw a bale of hay across her shoulder and pack it to where it was needed, and she'd been seen using the less than gentle Oriental arts of pacifying thy fellow man, during public exhibitions. "Show of hands. How many of you stretch out every day?" Every hand but one went up; the only holdout followed, hesitantly, its owner looking uncomfortably left and right, as if caught slacking. "Good. I'm going to be corrupting you." She brought her hands together, casually, in front of her, then turned, her arm snapping out: there was a THUMP and the young ladies turned, surprised, to see a hand-forged, Damascus knife with a checkered maple handle, sticking in the left eye socket of a wanted poster's face. Willamina walked over, wiggled the knife free and sighed, "I use up more bulletin boards that way" -- her tone so doleful, her mien so exaggerated, that she got another quiet laugh from her ladies. "Now. Much of what I will teach you, you already know. You all practice high kicks" -- she held out her arm in front of her, very easily kicked her own hand -- "but kicking at someone's face is a little bit different." Two long strides, a spin, and the redman hood and hall tree were slammed back against the edge of the table. The door opened and a younger deputy leaned in, a string tied box in hand. "Save the pieces," he admonished, "and do you want paper plates, ma'am?" "Plates, napkins and we're having coffee, thank you." "Yes, ma'am, it's almost brewed." He placed the white-cardboard box on the nearest table, got a quick head count, nodded. "We do have enough cups." Willamina waited until the deputy left before continuing. "The prosecutor will be joining us. I'm going to have him explain the legal aspects of self defense. I'm also corrupting your diets because I plan to work the calories off you. I will teach you some simple and very effective methods of saying NO and making it stick." "Will you teach us to shoot?" Susie's hand was raised, a little, and her voice was almost that of a hopeful little girl. Willamina's smile was predatory, her eyes veiled. "My father was murdered in the line of duty. I was abducted and brutalized when I was your age. Your friend and classmate was seized, beaten, brutalized and thrown away like so much garbage." Sheriff Willamina Keller's eyes were as warm and welcoming as the frozen heart of a mountain glacier. "You're damned right I'll teach you to shoot." Sheriff Willamina Keller saw approval in every set of young eyes looking back at her.
  5. I banged my Shin Bone on a cast iron pump impeller casing. The casing didn't give one little bit. I gave a pained roar and proceeded to lay a rapid succession of Shakespearean insults upon its rusted carcass, starting with "Cad, bounder, blaggard, bugger, rascal, scoundrel, cur! Bacon-fed caterpillar! Whoreson kave!" -- and then it kind of got some altitude and continued with something about the illegitimate son of a Bessemer blast furnace ... there was silence in the shop when I finished ... no one had EVER heard me raise my voice, let alone cut loose with a good selection of profound language!
  6. "Daaaaad?" My voice quivered a little as I spoke the word. When the Grand Old Man answered the phone, it was with a guarded, "hel-LO," which translates to IT'S AFTER DARK AND THIS HAD DAMN WELL BETTER BE IMPORTANT! -- something I knew before I punched his number into the pay phone. "I used what you taught me," I said, trying to keep my voice from wavering, "and it kept me alive!" There was a looonnnggg silence, and then he said quietly, "What happened?" I'd been driving to Dover on route 250: there's a little town called Wilmot, home of the World's Largest Cuckoo Clock, and a state route crossing 250 at a long angle. I was driving my wife's steel-grey Pontiac Grand Am; I was following an eighteen; I looked to the right, at another eighteen coming down the intersecting road. We were stopped at a red light. The truck ahead of me thought he'd be a good Joe and back up to let this fellow make his swing around that tight refex-angle turn. He didn't see me. I looked in my rearview -- a power truck, a big one, with a bridge I-beam for a front bumper, and he's right on my bumper. No backing up to escape. If I lay on the horn, likely he won't hear me over his engine, and he'll never know he ran right over me. My father, bless him, taught me to drive: he drove truck, he taught me to stop where the driver can see me in his mirror -- why he did not, I don't know, other than a streamlined, steel-grey Pontiac must have camouflaged nicely into the pavement's color -- but dear old Dad also taught me to leave enough room to maneuver. "Engineering," I called, "I want full impulse on my mark. Helm, hard right, PUNCH IT SCOTTY!" -- and my well polished Wellington did its level best to mash the go pedal right through the firewall. I romped the wife's low-slung Pontiac over the curb, across the neatly-mowed tree lawn, into the gas station lot: I swung around, came out behind the intersecting tractor-trailer, threw a grin and a wave to the eighteen that almost backed over me (he was giving me a reeeeally funny look!) -- hard a-starboard, back into 250, and I shook like a whore in church all the way to the JVS, where the Advanced Wastewater adult-ed class was being held that night. My cell didn't have signal enough to do squat, so I punched up the pay phone and told my father that what he taught me, kept me alive that night. Friends, kindred and brethren, if your father yet lives, call him up, go see him, tell him in plain language something that he taught you, that did you a benefit: several times since, I've called or visited, once I showed him a picture on my cell phone, a picture of a floor corner in my bedroom. Dear old Dad taught me to cut a mitered 45-degree angle on baseboard and quarter-round alike: it turned out square and tight, and I showed it to him and said "You taught me to do that," and I could not have pleased the man any more if I'd handed him a hundred-dollar bill.
  7. 146. I AM NOT TELLING ANYONE! Jacob Keller's pale eyes narrowed very slightly. He was bellied down behind a thin grass screen, the emaciated trunks of nutrient starved brush helping to obscure what little of him could be seen. Beside him, just as still, a figure, all in black: they were separated by half an arm's length and Jacob could almost imagine he felt his sister's body warmth radiating against his side. It was, of course, his imagination: part of his mind reasoned that, if he felt anything, it was because his pale eyed sister was all in black, and the sun liked to soak into anything black: the rest of his mind was marveling at what he saw before him. Sarah followed her brother into the mountains; he knew she trailed him, though he could not see her: she had the most marvelous gift of invisibility, he'd said once, and though he had no belief in the supernatural, he had to admit that when The Black Agent did not want to be seen ... ... she wasn't. Not her, and not that big black horse she rode. He'd dismissed her from his mind: if she wished to catch up with him, she would, and easily: he had meat on his mind, and he'd gone into the mountains with full intent to take a barren elk. Sarah saw him as he slithered forward along a little swale: she followed, bellied down in the same track he'd pressed into grasses and dirt, until she came slowly, very slowly, up beside him. She raised her head with a painful slowness until she could barely, barely! see through the screening branches and grasses, and her eyes widened with surprise: she looked over at her brother, and she saw this big idiot grin on his face, and they both looked forward again, breathing silently. Jacob still had a good grip on his rifle's fore end, but its weight lay on the ground: he no longer had intent to drop an elk: no, he had intent to watch, and to marvel, and his pale-eyed half-sister was content to help him in this effort. The elk they were watching was big and pregnant. Jacob arrived as the cow elk's haunches sank toward the ground, Sarah arrived as the elk stuck her neck straight out, laid her ears back, narrowed her eyes: visibly straining, they heard the cow's labored breathing, saw the striating neck muscles. They lay there for maybe a half hour, watching the elk labor, watching her strain: Jacob was rejoicing inwardly, his face fairly shining with utter, absolute delight: Sarah's face, too, betrayed her own pleasure, though she took her delight in her brother's joy, especially when she looked forward, just in time for the dam to break, so to speak. Jacob was still, as unmoving as he'd been: Sarah began to scoot backwards, a fraction of an inch at a time, not wanting to intrude further into the moment: Jacob closed his eyes for a long moment, and then began his own retreat. They worked their way backwards until they could safely rise: Sarah rolled over, came up on her toes and fingertips, catfooted down the little draw to where she'd left her big black Frisian mare, beside Jacob's stallion. The mare was nowhere near fresh, so she had no qualms about leaving the two together: they mounted, walked their mounts from the scene, Jacob's shoulders sagging like a man defeated. Sarah waited until they were well down the mountain, and around a bend, safely distant from the grassy flat where elk liked to graze. Jacob's gaze was straight ahead, his expression that of a man somewhere between disappointed and ironic. Sarah waited until he took a long, sudden breath. "You might as well say it," she said quietly. Jacob nodded, chewing on his bottom lip, and Sarah leaned back in her saddle at the same moment Jacob leaned back in his: their bitless mounts stopped, knowing this the signal their riders wished to stop. "Sarah," Jacob said, his voice almost tired, "I grew up in the mountains." Sarah tilted her head a little, looking carefully at her blood kin, listening closely to what might lie beneath his carefully enunciated words. "I have taken elk. I have eaten elk. I have stalked, skulked, snuck, slithered, laid ambush, bush whacked and laid wait. I have shot elk and I never once put a bad shot into one." Sarah nodded, slowly, once, her pale eyes never leaving his; he was looking to the far horizon, remembering as he spoke. "I have birthed foals and calves, I have pulled stuck puppies and one time helped a mama cat birth a stuck kitten. I one time birthed a baby beside a Conestoga wagon." He turned and looked very directly at the Black Agent, his half-sister, blood of his blood, confidante and friend. "I have always wanted to see a fawn birthed," he admitted. "Is that the right ... fawn? Hell, maybe it's a calf." His bottom jaw thrust out and he frowned, looking for all the world just like his father. "And today I watched a big and pregnant cow elk drop her haunches and labor mightily, and ..." Sarah had a pretty good poker face, and she was well practiced at not letting her feelings show, but she was taxed to her utmost to keep an impassive visage at her brother's words. Jacob took a long breath, blew it out, laughed a little, shook his head. "Sarah," he said, "I will give you this in trust that you never, ever tell anyone." Sarah Lynne McKenna, daughter of Old Pale Eyes, Agent of the Firelands District Court, nodded, once, slowly. "Sarah," Jacob chuckled, "that is the very first time in my entire life that I ever saw a constipated cow elk!" Their laughter carried far on the cool mountain wind, and Sarah collapsed against Jacob's lean-muscled frame as she shared his mirth, and finally she looked up and blinked innocently and said, "I saw it too, Jacob. I though the same thing you did." She laughed and patted his chest with a flat palm. "I'm not telling anyone!"
  8. Kind of like a question on the Wastewater 1 state boards exam. It was a multiple guess question and asked how to keep muskrats from burrowing holes in the dike walls of a treatment lagoon. I searched the available answers carefully but I could not find the answer I was looking for: "A twelve year old kid with a .22 rifle."
  9. 145. THAT WAS FUN! Jacob Keller leaned over his saddle horn, just a little, his face carefully impassive. His Apple-horse stood very still, as if knowing any movement would make his rider hurt all the worse. Jacob was a lean and vital man, much like his pale eyed father; he was made of rawhide and whipcord, whalebone and grit, he could walk up to anyone and look them in the eye and invite them to jump right on and make it stick. Few men would cross him nowadays. A few tried; those few may have marked him, but he did much worse in return, and those who sought to take his measure, found their own efforts to be far short of what it would take to bring him down. It was not at all usual, then, to see this lean warrior sitting carefully, sitting the way a man will when he's hurt. He'd ridden his stallion up to the mounting-block, an accessory he'd disdained to use: not once, ever, had he ever used this adjunct to mount or dismount. His wife's eyes were worried as she saw her husband shift his weight very carefully, then swing a leg over and come down on the smooth granite block. He stood there for several long moments before stepping down and leading his Apple-horse to the barn. She busied herself, she and their maid, with setting the table, with setting out supper, with the details necessary for the husband's nightly arrival, and these were not enough to occupy Annette's mind: they were nowhere near sufficient to allay her worry. Jacob Keller managed to walk the return journey, from barn to house, at almost his usual pace: he opened the front door to his own house, and he just stood there for several long moments. No, that's not quite right. He swung the door open and took a half pace forward, he leaned his shoulder into the door frame, and he closed his eyes against the pain. Mother, son and maid all remained on their feet until Jacob was seated. He'd washed up outside, as was his habit; his young son Joseph stood beside his chair, regarding his Pa with pale, worried eyes. Jacob rested his fisted hands on either side of his plate, eyes closed, head bowed a little: Annette saw the flesh blanch a little, at the base of his fists, where he was pressing them hard into the tabletop. Jacob looked up at the several sets of concerned eyes regarding him: their heads were bowed a little, as if uncertain whether he was giving a silent blessing. The maid, behind his left shoulder, leaned over and whispered, "Shall I draw you a hot bath, sir?" and Jacob closed his eyes, nodded, then turned his head slightly, as if even that act was painful. "It can wait until after we've eaten," he said quietly. "Yes, sir." Bill was most at home in the cab of The Lady Esther. He'd driven Diesel-electric locomotives professionally, but his first love was live steam: he'd been a guest in the cab of a Big Boy, he'd regarded its complexity, and as he adjusted a water valve, he gave thanks to God Almighty that his beloved Lady was a simple engine and not a high-pressure compound. The day was unusually clear, the visibility flawless and the scenery spectacular: he tapped the speedometer's glass face, not because it was needed, but simply out of habit: he leaned out the window and regarded the drivers, laboring steadily against the gentle grade, and his listened with more than his ears to his beloved Lady's chant. He knew every sound she made, he knew the undertones, he knew the harmonics: he'd heard it said that when a Ninja grasped the sword that fit his hands, that the Ninja's very soul flowed into the blade, and gave it life, and that's how he felt about The Lady Esther. The track curved a little a gentle bow left, then right, and he frowned, blinked, looked ahead: he knew the far bend, where it went around the mountain and out of sight, was just over two miles away, a trestle between. "Hey Sam!" "Yeah!" The fireman looked up, hooking the fire door closed. "We're the only ones on the schedule!" It was a question and statement both. Sam blinked, confused, then: "Yeah!" "We've got another steamer, head-on!" "My name," she said, "is Bonnie Llewellyn, and we're from Cincinnati." The Ladies' Tea Society was interested in this stranger: she was not one of them, but her name was; each of the Ladies knew Firelands history very well, and when Mrs. Llewellyn was first introduced, the association was instantly made with a certain Sarah Lynne Llewellyn, widow of one of the Irish Brigade, back in the late 1800s or perhaps the very early 1900s, they would have to consult their copies of the Sheriff's journals to be sure. "I've read of your Society and Polly and I" -- she smiled a little at her daughter's sudden, shining smile -- "decided it would be appropriate to dress for the occasion." "I helped!" Polly declared happily, and Mrs. Llewellyn saw smiles spread at her little girl's happy exclamation. "I'm actually here because of a ghost story I read last year. It was in one of those dreadful muck raking magazines that pretends to be a newspaper. I think it was the Pot Stirrer or something equally credible, but there was something about the story that led me to believe I may want to look deeper." She swallowed, looked down at her notes, frowned. "I understand the steam railroad has some original rolling stock." A pale eyed woman nodded, smiling quietly: she, too, wore a McKenna gown, with a matching hat, her hair in the elaborate coiffure of the period they mutually celebrated. "Which ghost story are you interested in?" Mrs. Llewellyn blinked, surprised. "There's more than one?" "Oh, my, yes," Retired Sheriff Willamina Keller laughed. "Was it the one with the haunted roundhouse, the haunted passenger car?" "N-no, actually," Mrs. Llewellyn hesitated, then turned a page, a second one, in the little notebook on the podium before her. "It was the ghost train that prevented a wreck." Bill reached up, seized the whistle lanyard, pulled. The Lady Esther's whistle was tuned: alone, its pitch was intended to carry, with the voice of a damned soul, lost and utterly without hope, shattering off the granite cliffs and forested mountainsides: Bill's pull was hard, urgent, and opened a second valve, to a second whistle, tuned to harmonize with her usual voice: it was at once lovely, and alarming, for he never, ever pulled that second whistle into life unless things were really serious. He knew that, at two miles, and over the sound of an engine, even an engine breathing easy on a slight down grade, his whistle would not be heard, but they might, they just might see the plume of steam punch into the clear air above the boiler. Bill was taking no chances. He backed the throttle down, opened the sanders and began braking. Jacob Keller's voice was quiet as the meal was ladled out, as his plate was loaded. "Shorty had a gorgeous brindle coated gelding some fellow sold him, and the fellow warned that the horse liked to buck, but it was a good looking nag and so Shorty bought it." Annette's big, lovely eyes regarded her husband steadily: she nodded, once, carefully, as if afraid her movement might hurt him from simply seeing her head nod. "Well, I tried him." Annette's eyebrows raised just a little. "And Shorty was not lying to me, not one little bit." Mrs. Llewellyn read the article aloud, the clipping scissored from the scandal sheet she'd read back East. "The locomotive was a mirror for the one they drove," she read aloud, "her voice piercing the cold, clear air, thrusting urgent fingers of steam fanning out above them, a rapidly fading signal-flag warning of the rolling danger rushing toward them." "I've got it," a woman's voice confirmed, looking up, her finger marking the place. Willamina, too, found it: pale eyes swept left, right, left, right, absorbing the reprint of the hand written Journal. Gloved hand gripping the air valve, Bill hauled hard, hearing air surge through the lines, feeling her slow, feeling composite shoes slam against glass-smooth steel wheels: throttle back, jaw clenched, experienced eyes gauging the oncoming locomotive's speed. Sam leaned out the window, binoculars to his eyes. Gravity was their enemy, momentum their foe: Bill knew he could throw her into reverse, thrashing steel wheels against steel rails, burning sparks as they desperately tried to stop: he hesitated, hauling hard on the whistle lanyard once more. The other engine, as well, screamed her warning: she, too, slowed with all her skill, the two finally stopping: they faced one another, stopped on their passenger line; the old gold-ore line forked off a mile on the other side of the interloper, leaving this single track that passed through what was left of Carbon Hill. Bill opened his gloved hand, peeled off his glove, reached for one of the few modern appliances in the cab -- the talkie -- he pulled out the telescoping antenna, leaned out of the cab, keyed up, and with an utter disregard for the usual radio protocol, shouted "WHAT IN BLUE HELL ARE YOU DOING ON MY TRACK?" Sam swatted him with his hickory stripe cap, swatted him hard. Bill drew back, saw Sam was pointing at something, his mouth working, no sound coming out. Bill shoved out the window Sam was leaning out of. Both men swore, once, and most sincerely. "I'll tell you," Jacob admitted as he tore his sweet roll in two and buttered it, "that horse threw me faster, harder, higher and better than any I have ever ridden!" "But, dearest," Annette said in a worried-but-gentle voice, "after the first time, shouldn't you have let someone else try?" Jacob laughed, remembered the sensation of being slung out of the saddle, knowing he had one, and only one, chance to land without breaking something: he tucked, rolled, landed in a squat, boots flat on the ground: he grunted, he stood, he turned, regarded the gelding, reached for the trailing reins and patted the horse's neck. "Let's try that again, shall we?" "The engineer said the other engine was the very twin of what he drove," Mrs. Llewellyn read aloud: "he said every rivet, every bit of brightwork, down to the roses on the side of the cab, all was identical to his own machine. "He said further that he looked up on the side of the mountain, and he felt the blood chill in his veins." Bill and Sam watched as the landslide cascaded down the mountain, a river of boulders, dirt and timber: they saw one steel rail flare outward, apparently struck right in a joint: they felt as much as heard the dull rumble of mountainside that cascaded down onto their twin steel ribbons, and Bill crossed the cab, thrust head and shoulders out his own window, raised his talkie once more. "Dispatch, here is The Lady Esther," he called. "Close the line, we have track out one mile west of the Carbon Hill cutoff." Sam reached over and swatted Bill again, shouted something, pointed urgently. Bill looked ahead, past the rubble on the track, past the displaced rail. What the man said, does not bear repeating in polite company. It's the kind of a thing a man might say when a locomotive and its three cars, well back from the landslide but too far from the curve to have reversed, simply disappear. Jacob grinned like a little boy. "Every time he threw me, I got right back up, and I thought I might have to give up but by golly now I bucked him out and rode him just as pretty as you please!" "But, dearest, aren't you hurt?" Jacob nodded carefully. "I am, dearest, but" -- again that flash of a grin -- "THAT was FUN!"
  10. Northern Ohio. Snow for two days. Rain. Supposed to frost tonight. Yard needs a haircut. Was supposed to take the Jeep in this afternoon for some dealership work but got pulled to fill half an afternoon shift instead. Coffee hasn't hit bottom. Grr
  11. WARNING: SERMON!Back in 19 and 98, as was my habit, I called Mama and my grandmothers to wish them each a Happy Mommy's Day.Grandma Keller had COPD and she had wind enough for a 30 second conversation ... if I talked for 25 of the 30.I told her "Happy Mommy's Day, Grandma, I love you!"She said "I love you too, sweetie, you never forget me!"Next day she was dead.This, then, is the lesson:Withhold not that one kind word.If I'd not told her I loved her, on that last conversation, that would haunt me for the rest of my entire life!
  12. A friend of mine is staying at the home place while it's up for sale; his family is all moved to Oklahoma, all but one dog, two cats and a handful of chickens. I think the chickens will stay with the property. Anyway, he sent me a text and said if we're coming down today, he was having a Grand Throwing Out Fit before another showing, and ran across our Christmas gift they'd carefully put up so it would not get plundered by curious and impulsive children. I was already getting ready to head out the door when he sent his text so I replied with an inquiry of he needed aught while I was out, and he said he could use lettuce. I stopped at the store. Everybody and their uncle wore masks today, so I pulled up my wild rag -- as usual, I was dressed cowboy -- more to make everyone else comfortable than anything. I admitted to the girl at the register that I felt like Dirty Dan McGrew and she laughed and said I looked like I belonged in the 1880s. "I'll take that as a compliment," I replied, "I'm an historic reenactor and I portray the second Sheriff of Firelands County, Colorado, twenty years after the Civil War." She thought that was delightful. A girl one register over was listening closely and offered, "You look like a gunfighter!" She could not see my smile. If she only knew.
  13. Wa'l now, as a past fire fighter/paramedic along with everything else thank'ee kindly! Such kindnesses to the local FD are most appreciated! It's one thing to say "Thank you" ... but thank you is only words. Baked goods say it better!
  14. "Death Vader" ... I've been exploring different means to keep my spectacles from fogging up when wearing the issue N95 ... ... no worries about that now, I just blew a big snort into the coffee I was drinking when I read "Death Vader" ... ... the spectacles are very clean now ... (As an aside, shaving cream was suggested for fogproofing lenses, don't use it ... tends to peel off things like anti glare coatings!)
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