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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

  • Birthday 03/31/1956

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    27332
  • SASS Affiliated Club
    Firelands Peacemakers

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    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!

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  1. RIGHT ON TIME! A timid knuckle tapped gently on the doorframe, a timid voice called, "Sheriff?" Retired Sheriff Willamina Keller looked up, smiled: she was in the back office, the researcher's room, in the county library: the shelves were not lined with material for check-out, but rather with reference material, dedicated almost exclusively to either Firelands County, family genaeology, or history of the region: there were sections dedicated to railroading in the region, mining and timbering and businesses: they were carefully catalogued, a separate card catalogue -- outdated, yes, but still worthwhile -- and of course the now-common computers. In the center of the room, behind a broad desk, a pale eyed woman in a tailored blue suit dress. Willamina looked up at the hesitant alarm at her door: she smiled as the librarian came in, a coffee in each hand. Willamina had yet to brew the first pot; this arrival was particularly welcome. The timid, mousy little librarian came around behind Willamina's broad battleship of a desk, handed the retired Sheriff a steaming paper cup of fragrant coffee: two souls communed in silence, enjoying a moment of coffee flavored companionship. It was a quiet morning; nobody else was in-house, elsewise the librarian would never have left her command post, overlooking the entire floor, and to be honest, Willamina welcomed the company. She'd just unraveled a tangled knot of bloodline, thanks to persistence and the chance discovery of two newspaper articles from well more than a century ago. Strong hands gripped the strongbox, hoist it onto a cart: other of the bank's assets were stacked atop it, obscuring the label, hiding its intended destination. The bank, like many of its kind, went belly up during the Great Depression: like many banks, its assets were inventoried, calculated, distributed according to the honesty, or dishonesty, of the bank's managers, or boards, or directors. Another bank received the goods from the first bank. Furniture was auctioned, assets divided, and the strongbox ended up in another vault, behind a wall of files, records, materials, deeds and claims deemed worthy off salvage, and there it slept. Having been initially delivered to the wrong bank for storage, having been set aside and forgotten, having been moved yet again, the strongbox finally surfaced when the new bank was built, when the deeds and papers and records were inventoried. "Here, what's this?" "It's locked, whatever it is." "What's it say?" Pause. "This ... was supposed to be delivered ... to another bank ..." "Is there a date on it?" The strongbox was pulled out, two men grimaced to pick it up, set it on a stout table, nearest one of the strong wooden legs. "Turn on that light, there, thank you." "What does it say?" An envelope, gummed and somehow still attached to the flat lid of the old-fashioned strongbox, was carefully slit, the folded paper within extracted. A man read it, read it again, looked up. "Get the manager." Willamina ran pale eyes over the shelves of books, caressing them with her mind as she had with her fingers: she could almost recite their order on the shelves, for she'd arranged them herself, and referred to them often. "When the strongbox was delivered," Willamina said softly, "I remembered a key on a peg, and the words scratched into the wood above it." She smiled, hands cupped around coffee's welcome warmth. "Someone used a nail to scratch the word "STRONGBOX" above the peg. It was in a shadowed corner and God only knows how it stayed there all these years. "The strongbox was delivered in an armored car, more out of ... oh, probably a sense of propriety than anything else. The guards wheeled it in here on a two wheel cart, for it was heavy! -- I signed for it, and one of them pointed out the note in the envelope, still gummed to the lid of the strongbox. "I waited until they left before studying the old box. I still have it, by the way. It's upstairs, in what used to be Linn's bedroom." The librarian blinked, nodded. Willamina smiled, leaned back, sighed. "Old Pale Eyes loaded that strongbox with gold double eagles and a couple of journals, some documents ... that's how I was able to reestablish the Z&W Railroad. He included deeds that showed original ownership and in-perpetuity rights-of-way, which I've since purchased from the landowners, so there's no longer any right-of-way worries." The librarian nodded, listening carefully. "There were some really rare double eagles ... Coronets, I think they were called. Philadelphia mint." She leaned toward the librarian, continued in a quiet and confidential voice: "I made a bloody fortune off those Philadelphia mint coins!" She leaned back, sighed. "Firelands needed some help when I took over as Sheriff. Old Pale Eyes hit gold and he bought a fire engine and the services of a handful of Cincinnati firemen to run it -- the origins of our Irish Brigade today." The librarian listened silently, nodding a little: she was leaned forward in her chair, hanging on Willamina's every word. "Old Pale Eyes addressed it to the Firelands County Sheriff's Office, with instructions that the contents be given to his family, fifty years hence. Trouble was, between banks going under with the Great Depression, the strongbox going to the wrong bank for storage, after going who knows where, it finally made it back here a hundred fifty years after it left." "Genaeology, local history, cash infusion ... and this." Willamina laid a hand on the desktop: she withdrew it to reveal a Remington double derringer. "That was in there as well. Old Pale Eyes carried that to the day he died. It had been a gift from Charlie Macneil. I've carried it every day myself, and I'll carry it to my own deathday." "Oh, my," the librarian murmured. Willamina laid a hand on the little two-shot pistol, slipped it back into its hidden holster. I wish I could thank Macneil, she thought. His kindness safeguarded Old Pale Eyes and it kept me from harm more times than one! Willamina smiled, looked at her handwritten notes, at data on two glowing computer screens. "That's how I started into genaeology," she said thoughtfully, "and that's how I kept the Irish Brigade in business, and that's how I proved ownership of the Silver Jewel." She swirled her coffee, drank the last of her All-Night eye-opener. "It might have been a hundred and fifty years late getting here, but y'know, it got here right on time!"
  2. FATHER AND SON "Hit." Jacob rapped the stem of the saw set with the big ball peen hammer. Linn moved the saw two teeth. "Hit." Jacob rapped the stem again, the sound sharp in the quiet of the workshop. Hammer, saw set, vise and workbench were all older than either of them. Linn couldn't help but think that his Uncle Pete had his Mama on the hammer in a similar exercise, back when his Mama was young. She'd left her drunk of a mother and come west on the bus, she'd come marching up the driveway like she owned the place: she set her suitcase down on the front porch, walked right up to her Uncle Pete and said "Uncle Pete, I'm your nice Willamina, and I need your help." Uncle Pete and Aunt Mary took her in like she was their own daughter. Linn smiled a little as he moved the saw two more teeth: "Hit." If he recalled his Mama saying rightly, the years she spent here, with Uncle Pete and Aunt Mary, were the happiest of her life, at least until she became a wife and a mother. Pete and Mary were long dead, but Pete's work around the ranch still bore fruit: the fence posts he'd set, he set with the phase of the moon, and they were solid as if set in concrete: trees he planted with the signs, were healthy and bore fruit, even this many years after. Linn moved the saw two teeth. "Hit." The ball peen rapped the stem again, rose. Jacob saw his Pa's smile and he knew his Pa was remembering, the way he did when he used Pete's tools. There were folks who said his Pa was a hard man, and when need be, he surely was; on some matters, Jacob's pale eyed Pa could be as inflexible as seasoned white oak, but the son knew the father had a soft streak, and when it came to family, why, the man could occasionally be an old softy. It was something Jacob took pains never, ever to exploit. "Hit." The ball peen rapped the stem. Linn withdrew the crosscut, turned it: he'd set every other tooth, now he turned the blade around and set the first of the un-set teeth into position. "Hit." The ball peen rapped the stem. "Sir?" "Yes, Jacob?" "Will there be a dance tonight?" "Hit." The ball peen rapped the stem. "Yes, Jacob, there will. Hit." Whap. "Something on your mind?" "No, sir." "Hit." Whap. Linn moved the saw two teeth, looked at his son, raised an eyebrow. "Hit." Whap. Jacob frowned, considered, then: "Yes, sir, there is." "Hit." Whap. "What's on your mind?" The saw moved two teeth. Whap. "Sir, do you remember Marnie wanted to Irish dance?" "Hit." Whap. "I recall she did." "Sir, you recall she quit." "I recall she quit, yes. Hit." Whap. "Sir, do you recall why she quit?" "Hit." Whap. "No, Jacob, I'm sorry, I don't know." Linn frowned, withdrew the saw from the saw set, sighted down the row of teeth: half were set one way, half were set the other: he nodded, picked up the file, sat down on a recycled school bus seat. Jacob opened the vise, removed the ancient saw set, replaced it in the wooden dynamite cap box that Uncle Pete used for its storage, replaced it under the bench where it had lived for better than half a century that he knew of. Jacob turned the propane heater so it radiated more directly onto the school bus seat, then he turned and sat beside his pale eyed father, who was carefully, delicately touching the saw with the file. Linn nodded his satisfaction, reached over and laid the saw on the work bench. "Something's on your mind, Jacob." "Yes, sir, there is." Jacob frowned, considered that he wasn't usually so reticent: he pushed through his hesitancy. "Sir, I'm kind of sweet on a girl." Linn examined the file as if it was suddenly the most interesting thing he'd seen in years. "Is she cute?" he asked carefully. Jacob's ears were already red; they steadily incarnidined, until they were an absolutely flaming scarlet. "Yes, sir, she is." "Good," Linn nodded. "She'll be at the dance tonight." Again Linn's slow, thoughtful nod. "Sir, she started that Irish dancing when she was about three." "She's how old now?" "My age, sir." "What's her name?" Jacob wet his lips nervously. "Susie Merckle." Linn leaned his head back, contemplated the straw sticking from between boards overhead. "Manfred's little girl." "Yes, sir." "Irish dance." "Yes, sir." "Does this have anything to do with Marnie quittin'?" "It does, sir." Jacob looked toward the door, lowered his voice slightly. "Sir, I'd not hurt Mama's feelin's for the world." Linn nodded again, thoughtfully, like he'd done before. "Wise," he agreed. "Sir, Marnie found out Mama was expectin' her to dance in a recital and she didn't want to perform in front of folks." "I see." "She danced fine in front of strangers," Jacob continued. "As I recall, she won a couple ribbons she never told Mama about." "Go on." "Susie will be Irish dancing tonight." "Is she any good?" Jacob's grin was quick, a sudden delight, half bashful and half boyish, shone from his face, then he took a breath and assumed his usual impassive expression. "Yes, sir. She's good." Linn nodded, considered his son carefully. "You're sweet on her." "Yes, sir." Linn took a long breath, clapped his hands together, then looked down at them: he reached over, laid the file on the work bench, looked at his son, laughed kind of self-consciously. "I think I'm supposed to give you some real good free advice about now," he said, "but damned if my mind didn't just go blank!" Jacob considered the glowing red face of the propane heater, grateful for its warmth. He looked at his Pa as Linn's hand rested, warm and firm on his shoulder. "I recall when I was first sweet on your Ma," he said, his voice soft, his eyes distant as he remembered. "Yes, sir?" "She said I hypnotized her with my pale eyes, and she said she just plainly melted in her moccasins when I brought her hand up and kissed her knuckles." Linn's hand tightened, very slightly, as his eyes scanned across the clean-swept concrete floor, seeing something that existed in his memory: he shook his head, laughed a little, and continued. "Jacob, I honestly couldn't think of word one to say, so I kissed her hand and I felt like an absolute dunce standin' there lookin' at her, and then the music started and I took her around the waist and we went a-steppin'." Jacob grinned, nodded. Linn's voice was soft with memory, and he had a gentle smile Jacob saw rarely, and only when his Pa was talking about his Ma. "You get what you pay for, Jacob, and free advice is generally worth what you paid for it." "Yes, sir." "Was I to give you some, I'd say if you can't think of what to say, kiss her knuckles and run your arm around her when the music starts." "I'll remember that, sir."
  3. A BIG WHOPPER LIE! Angela Keller swallowed hard, squeezed her eyes closed, took a deep breath. She was halfway up the water tower ladder. Usually there was a cagey gatey thing across the steps that went up to the ladder part but they were open and Angela looked way up and she realized she could get up there quicker than anyone could stop her and so she ran up the steps and through the open gates and past the padlock with the pinched ends that meant bolt cutter and she remembered the bolt cutter on the ground where it'd been dropped and drove end-on into the dirt and fell over and Daddy never treated his tools like that and she was glad she didn't treat someone's tools like that and Angela gripped the painted steel sides of the ladder and set one shiny slippered foot above the other and climbed. Angela grimly considered the green painted rungs, the green painted steel sides of the welded-on ladder, she moved steadily upward -- it was a stretch, the rungs were sized to accommodate a grown man and she wasn't nearly that big, but she stretched and she labored and she got to the catwalk and she climbed up and set one foot, then the other, on green-painted diamond plate steel. Angela placed her left hand flat on the side of the water tower, gripped the railing with the other hand: she closed her eyes again, took a long breath, blew it out: she set her jaw, opened her eyes and walked slowly, carefully, until she could see the girl standing against the railing. "Hi," Angela said, and the girl jumped, startled: she looked at Angela, her eyes wide, her mouth falling open. "What are you doing here?" she blurted. Angela shrugged. "I dunno," she said, sounding very much like a little girl. As a matter of fact, she looked very much like a little girl. Angela's Mommy delighted in dressing her daughter like a girl. Unlike her sister Marnie, Angela loved it when her Mommy dressed her up all pretty, and today she wore a blue-and-white checkered dress and little white anklets and shiny patent slippers, and she had a blue headband in her hair, and she looked very much like a pretty little girl from a Sears & Sawbuck or Monkey Wards catalog, circa late-1950s to early 1960s. "You don't know why you're up here?" "Nope," Angela replied, tilting her head, regarding the girl with interest. "What you doin' up here?" The girl looked over the railing, her face reflecting confusion, fear. "I'm going to jump," she said quietly. "Won't that hurt?" Angela asked innocently, and pale eyes, watching through a good high grade set of binoculars, saw the jumper's head snap suddenly around to regard her pretty young visitor with honest surprise. I don't know what you said, he thought, but keep sayin' it, darlin'! Jacob Keller looked at the ladder, looked at his Pa. Linn lowered his binoculars, nodded. Jacob took two long steps toward the stairs, ran up them on the balls of his feet, leaped onto the ladder: lean young muscles and a jaw-set determination and he swarmed up the ladder considerably faster than his little sister had gone up it. Jacob got about to the halfway point when a stray thought sailed in from left field and brought a moment's smile to the corners of his eyes. If I don't get Little Sis down from there, he thought, Mama is gonna clobber me! Linn watched as Angela got a little closer, as she talked, probably in that soft little voice of hers: if she's speaking softly, that girl will have to concentrate to hear her. If she's not that serious about jumping she'll listen more than thinking about jumping. He raised his talkie. "Firelands Chief One, Firelands actual." "Chief One, go." "Don't run your sirens, come in quiet, no lights." "Chief One to all responding units. No lights and no sirens, acknowledge by the numbers!" Linn listened as pumper, rescue and squad all three gave a roger to the Chief's command. Will stepped up beside Linn. "How we lookin'?" Linn glanced down, his eyes tightening at the corners, the way they did when he approved of what he saw. "Good of you to come in behind and park under the tower. She'll not see you from there." "Saw that's what you did, so I did too." He squinted, unwrapped the strap from around his own binoculars. "Is that Angela up there?" "Yep." "Good God, man, what ever did you send her up there for?" Linn raised his binoculars again. "Wasn't my idea." "My Mama made me this dress." Angela plucked delicately at the hem, held her skirt out to the sides. "Mama likes to dress me like a Barbie doll." The girl looked at Angela, sniffed, wiped at her nose with a soggy paper hankie. "I don't think Barbie ever wore a dress like that." "Oh." Angela frowned. "Say, how come you're clear up here?" The girl leaned back against the side of the elevated obloid, slid down, stuck her legs straight out, until her feet stuck over the edge of the steel catwalk. "I'm going to jump," she said faintly. "Why?" Angela asked innocently. "You wouldn't understand." "Try me!" Angela challenged. "IT'S BECAUSE I'M PREGNANT AND NOBODY WILL UNDERSTAND AND I DON'T HAVE ANYWHERE TO GO AND I'M JUST GOING TO END IT!" Angela blinked, then asked in a sad little voice, "Won't your Mama be sad?" "My Mama said if I got pregnant she was going to throw me out!" "It must be nice to have a Mama," Angela said in a sad-little-girl's voice: she leaned back against the side of the obloid, slid down like the girl had, stuck her little legs straight out. "My Mama's dead." "How'd she die?" Angela's native intelligence -- young though it was -- heard a moment's sympathy, a curiosity. Whether it was lucky accident, whether it was because she'd grown up with a Sheriff for a father and a working paramedic for a mother, whether because her parents' peer group and their frank discussions were her peer group, or whether it was just lucky chance, Angela sensed a gap into which she could interject some leverage. "Mama got beat up bad an' they did bad things to her an' we come back out here an' she was dyin' ub pan-kwee-at-tick cancer," Angela said, and she sounded very much like a sad little girl when she did: she lowered her head, her bottom lip pooched out and she said softly, "I miss my Mommy." She looked at the girl, blinked. "My Mommy hid me so I wouldn't be killed like they wanted to kill her. If I fell off a tower an' got killdid my Mommy would be vewwy sad." Linn raised his talkie. "Firelands six, actual." Jacob stopped his climb, reached up, keyed his shoulder mike. "Six, actual, go." "Hold there, we have movement coming toward you." "Roger that." Will raised his own binoculars, watched as two figures approached the ladder: one small, one larger. "You bedder go down first 'cause I'm scareda heights." The girl blinked, surprised, went down on her knees, hugged Angela. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "And you came all the way up here for me?" Angela nodded, solemnly, regarding the teen-ager with big, sincere eyes. The girl turned, started to back down the ladder without looking. Jacob came down a step. The girl was watching Angela as she backed, as her sneakered foot searched for the rung: she found it, came over a little more, found the next one. She doesn't know I'm here, Jacob thought. I'm close enough for insurance but far enough she won't see me. Angela turned around, reached waaay down with her little foot, keeping the girl's eyes on her. "Just a little more, sweetie, down, there!" Angela came down a little more, gripped the sides of the ladder and not the rungs: her Daddy told her he never grabbed the rungs 'cause they always got dirty and greasy and he held the sides where it was clean and that's what Angela did. One rung at a time, three people came down the ladder, all stepping at the same time, Jacob and the girl hesitating until the one above them had a foot on the next rung down. Below them, the Irish Brigade watched: grown men held their breath, at least until another step-down, breathe, then held their breath again. Jacob got to the bottom. He stepped back, looked to his left as a woman with her hands cupped over her mouth stepped up. A mother seized her daughter -- a maternal voice squeaked "I was so scared!" -- Jacob reached up, took his little sis under the arms, picked her up and swung her into her own Mama's arms. It took some time to debrief, but the full story was finally figured out: Angela looked up at a shaking, pale mother and said, "You gonna throw her out now?" and Linn raised a cautioning eyebrow as Shelly looked at him and started to move toward her little girl: she gave her husband a questioning look and Linn shook his head, very slightly. It wasn't until they'd cleared the scene, not until the Sheriff went back to the firehouse with the Irish Brigade, not until they all sat down at the firehouse table, that Shelly asked their daughter what in the world ever possessed her to climb that tower. "I did worse than that," Angela declared. "I lied to her." "So ... you climbed the water tower and you lied to her," Linn echoed. Angela nodded vigorously. "An' I told a big whopper of a lie an' it worked!" she declared in a happy, satisfied voice, and Linn laughed, ignoring his wife's glare. "Daddy, I didn't want her to jump an' nobody was there yet an' I knew I could get to her first an' if I lied to her just right she wouldn't jump an' it would make a mess an' her Mommy would be very sad an' I don't like messes," Angela said all in a rush, and Linn looked at Shelly and laughed again. "Darlin'," he said, "you saved two lives today, and I count that a good thing!" "Yeah, and you scared me out of a couple of my lives!" Shelly protested. "Young lady, I don't want you climbing towers anymore!" Angela dropped her head and ran her bottom lip way out and said in a contrite little-girl voice, "I sowwy, Mommy." Linn leaned down, his elbows on his knees: "Angela, what kind of a whopper did you tell her?" Angela looked proudly at her Daddy, all trace of the contrite child gone: "Daddy I told her about Marnie's Mama an' how Marnie was vewwy sad an' I made her think it was my Mama an' I lied to her an' it worked!" Jacob grabbed a sweet roll out of the big dish in the middle of the table, tore it in two, dunked a corner in his coffee. "The Supreme Court ruled that the police are under no obligation to tell a suspect the truth," he observed quietly. "Sir, if she's going to do that, might be we need to deputize her!" Shelly's cold glare was not enough to stifle Jacob's broad and boyish grin: he looked at Angela and winked, and Angela giggled and winked back.
  4. Still standing up on my Prayer Bones for both of you! Thank you for the most encouraging update!
  5. Yes, I am maligning the young, and I am allowed to do that. Matter of fact I've been doing that freely and wholeheartedly for the past two days. Y'see, between my ears, I'm still eighteen years old. As I write this, the rest of my carcass thinks that eighteen year old part of me is an utter, absolute, unmitigated, IDIOT!!! Here's what happened. We had snow. My wife was scheduled for a doc's appointment first thing the next morning. Snow was coming down fine and fast, the kind that builds up. I took up the snow pusher shovel, peeled the driveway down to the bare. Twice. When Sailor-dog's 3 AM bladder alarm went off, I rolled out of the bunk and let him out. In fairness, his alarm and mine go off about the same time. I am grateful I can blame the dog for getting up at such an unholy hour. An hour later I still couldn't get back to sleep so I got my glad rags on and cleared the driveway. Again. Then I looked over at the widow woman's drive next door. She's in her 90s and likely she'd have family coming in as they usually did, so I took my shovel and the rest of my ambition and started on hers. Got it down to the bare. Among the various body parts uttering their profound maledictions at my ambition, my back spoke the loudest: I ignored my several physical complaints and finished the job, then I went back over to my own hacienda and peeled the half inch accumulation from my own concrete before I parked the shovel, went inside and took a nice hot shower. Between my ears I'm still eighteen. The rest of me thinks I'm an idiot!!!
  6. I WAS COUNTING ON THAT Jacob seized a saddle blanket, snapped it once, floated it down on a hay bale: he grabbed a second, flipped chaff, hair and anything else with a quick, vicious move: Marnie regarded him with calm eyes as the sudded *POP* startled the barn cat and threw debris into the still air. "Sit," Jacob said, less an invitation than a command. Marnie planted her knuckles on her hips and thrust her jaw out, the very image of contrariness: "Woof," was her quiet-voiced rejoinder. Brother and sister glared at one another in the barn's hush, until they both broke their statue-like contariness and planted their backsides on the bales. "Out with it, Sis," Jacob said quietly. "What's workin' on you?" "I had a talk with Uncle Will." "Go on." "I need a confidential ear, and I spoke in confidence." "Uncle Will is a good choice," Jacob affirmed. "I needed to talk about Daddy." Jacob nodded, frowning a little. "Uncle Will went to Daddy after I talked to him." "You confided in Uncle Will." "I did." She lifted her chin rebelliously, inviting him to dare -- dare! -- to criticize her move. "And he betrayed that confidence." "No." Jacob's eyebrow raised and Marnie laughed to see it: she laid a hand on her brother's shoulder and leaned her head toward him conspiratorially, then she rose a little, pulled the edge of her saddle blanket over until it overlapped his, sat down so she was leaning against him, her arm around his shoulders. Jacob ran his arm around her as she laid her head over on his shoulder. "Jacob," she said quietly, "I confided in Uncle Will because I knew he would take what I said and go to Daddy with it." She lifted her head and he felt her breath, gently puffing warm and soft against his ear. "I was counting on Uncle Will doing just that!" Chief of Police Will Keller looked up at the summoning knock on his office door. "In!" he growled, and the faceted-glass doorknob turned, the door pushed open. A steaming paper cup of coffee set itself down on the paper he was working on, the All-Night's logo on the overlaying don't-burn-your-fingers insulating sleeve telling him of its origin: the fragrant steam told him it was Suth'n Pecan, his favorite flavor, and the hand that set it down told him it was his favorite niece. Will had more than one niece, and whichever one he was talking with at the moment, was his favorite. He looked up and opened his mouth to say something, and Marnie thrust a chocolate chip cookie between his teeth. Will blinked, bit, chewed, caught the cookie before it could fall and scatter chocolate-chip crumbs all over his desk blotter: he considered the relative importance of his paperwork, weighed this against the prospect of a chocolate-chip kaffesklatsch with a favorite niece, and decided the latter was more to his liking than the former. Will took a tilt of his favorite coffee flavor, cooled enough to be drinkable, sluiced the miscellaneous dry crumbs down his throat, set the cup down. "Something's bothering you," he said sternly. "The only time you bribe me is when you need my ear." Marnie spread her hands and in a nasal and truly terrible Bronx accent declared, "Does ya knows me or what!" -- which brought a quiet smile to her uncle's carefully-impassive face. "Out with it," he said, taking another bite of cookie and chewing happily. "It's Daddy." "Mm-hmm," Will acknowledged, opting for more cookie: Marnie leaned forward and set a white-paper sack on his desk and Will raised an eyebrow. "Must be important," he mumbled, swallowing, "if you're going to bribe me with a whole sack full!" "At least you're not as full of it as a sack full of politicians." "No, that would be your Daddy." He regarded the sack full of chocolate chip treasure and sighed. "I suppose this is cheaper than bribing a politician." Marnie spread her hands again, opened her mouth, closed it: "You've heard that line before." "What about your Daddy, sweetheart?" Will asked gently: he'd never had girl children, but he'd buried a son, and he was a man known to have a soft spot for stray kids and lost dogs When his niece came in bearing edibles and confessing to a problem, she knew he would happily give her his undivided. She was right. "Uncle Will, Daddy set me up." "Set you up?" Marnie nodded, looking off to the side, her bottom jaw sliding out: she leaned forward, suddenly, turned her palm up: "Uncle Will, do you realize how much trouble he's just caused me?" "I don't have the least idea, darlin'." "I decided I would allow myself to think about dating." To his credit, Will refrained from blurting "Already?" -- an older man perpetually thinks of the female young of his tribe, as younger than they were: memory will do that, he knew, and he had to discipline himself to realize that Marnie was coming into early womanhood, like it or not. "Uncle Will, Daddy treats Mama like a queen!" "Yes, he does," Will said approvingly. "We've never heard them disagree in front of us. Not once. Ever." Will nodded, slowly: he'd made that same observation himself. "Daddy never once yelled at her, he's never corrected her, he's never demeaned her or run her down, he's treated her like absolute gold!" "A man ought," Will agreed. "I did." Marnie dropped her chin on her fist, frowned. "Uncle Will," she began again, paused, shook her head, tried again. "I've been told children learn more by observation and imitation than by didactic instruction." "I've heard that," Will said neutrally. "Daddy has set an example I don't think I can find." "I don't follow." Marnie chewed on her bottom lip, rubbed her nose like a little girl, looked at her Uncle: he was struck by how much she looked like his pale eyed sister, in her younger years. "He's set me the example of what to look for in a husband." "I would certainly hope so." "He's taught Jacob and the boys how to be men. He's been a man and he's been noble and honorable and strong and upright and he's shown them how a man ought to treat a woman." Marnie shook her head again. "No. No, that's not right." She looked very directly at Will again. "He didn't show them how to treat a woman, Uncle Will. He's shown Jacob and the boys how to treat a wife." Marnie shook her finger at her Uncle Will. "Let me tell you something else he did!" Will leaned forward, interested: he rested his forearms on his desk blotter, all thought of coffee or cookies forgotten. "Uncle Will, I've watched that man since forever. He treats every female as a Lady! until she proves herself otherwise, but --" she shook her head again -- "Uncle Will, I've never seen anyone but Daddy and Jacob do that. When he treats them like a Lady, they behave like a Lady. It doesn't matter how much of a slattern she might be, it doesn't matter who it is or how disagreeable she usually is --" Will nodded slowly. "I've ... noticed that." Marnie's expression was pleading. "Uncle Will, he's shown me what to look for in a husband." Will nodded again, slowly, carefully. "I know I deserve the best, but where in the world will I ever find someone that measures up to Daddy's example?" Will smiled, just a little -- Marnie shook her finger at her Uncle again -- "Don't you dare laugh, Uncle Will," she cautioned, which of course guaranteed that he did -- quietly, with a palm held up to forestall any protest. He leaned back, considered, realized he still had coffee left: he took a pull, took another, set the comfortably warm cup back down on the blotter. "You do deserve the best," he agreed. "I'd like to think the universe is not so miserly as to make only one man with those qualities." "That pale eyed troublemaker," Marnie muttered, rising. "He's set the bar so high I'll be an old maid before I find Mr. Right!" Chief of Police Will Keller rose, came around his desk, took Marnie in his arms: Marnie ran her arms around her Uncle, squeezed. He felt her sigh, felt her nod, her head pressed against his shirt front. "I suppose I just needed a sympathetic ear," she murmured, then looked up. "Thank you, Uncle Will." Will bent down a little, kissed the top of her head. "Darlin'," he rumbled quietly, "anytime you need my ear, just let me know!" "Is that why you and Pa went for a walk after breakfast?" Marnie nodded, looked at her brother, and Jacob was honestly surprised to see a tear running down her cheek. "Jacob, I really didn't mean to make Daddy's eyes leak. He thanked me for letting him know that he'd done at least one thing right in his wild and misspent lifetime!"
  7. NE Ohio here and every time I think I'll be able to finally see some interesting celestial phenomenon, clouds move in. Granddad saw Halley's Comet, I eagerly awaited its return, and it was a grand fizzle. Hale-Bopp looked like a fuzzy star. Now it looks like seeing the Green Two-Tailed Wonder (now it has a leading tail), is not going to happen ... overcast predicted as far ahead as I can see. My luck is never dazzlingly good, nor spectacularly bad. It just kind of consistently poor!
  8. Standing up on my Prayer Bones for your honored self and your bride as well!
  9. THE PRICE OF MY FOOLISHNESS "Joseph." "Sir." Fred Jerome looked over his half-glasses, papers almost forgotten in his hands: he'd been looking over the graded tests before handing them back. He paced over to the pale eyed student standing beside his desk, chin up, shoulders back -- not a soldier at attention, just a strong young man, on his feet. "Joseph, you don't have to stand when I address you," Mr. Jerome said in a fatherly voice. Joseph gave his teacher a tired look. "It shows due respect, sir." It was a ritual they went through every single day: Mr. Jerome knew that Joseph had taken his share of raffing for his action, but it was flattering to think that one student, at least, chose to show respect in such a way. Mr. Jerome looked closely at his young charge's face. "You look tired," he said in a surprised voice, and Joseph's grin was quick and contagious. "I am, sir," he admitted. "I'm wore plumb out." Mr. Jerome -- though he taught the English classes -- was not inclined to correct Joseph's grammar: rather, he said quietly, "What happened?" "It snowed last night, sir," Joseph said, "and on my way in, I saw an old man shoveling his driveway. I had plenty of time, so I stopped and pulled his other shovel out of his open garage and the two of us double-teamed half a foot of partly cloudy from his driveway." "I see." "Then he straightened and walked over to the next drive and started on that one. "I know the Widow Balm lives there, so I went over with him, and we tore into that one." Jerome blinked, frowned a little. "I know the driveway," he said thoughtfully. "It's wide and it's long." "And on a grade, too, sir." "That's why you're worn out?" "It is, sir. I was tired enough when we finished the old man's drive, but when he tore into the next one" -- Joseph grinned again -- "I wasn't going to let an old retired man out-work me, and Old Whiskers wasn't going to let a young whipper snapper out-work him. We cut the driveway into sections -- he said a squad is easier to defeat than a company, a company is easier to defeat than a regiment -- we cleared each section in its turn, and ... well, I reckon he'll be sore in the morning." "And you?" Joseph grinned with half his face. "Likely I will be too, sir." He straightened a little more. "I pay the price of my foolishness." Fred laid a hand on Joseph's shoulder, nodded. "Proud of you, son," he whispered. Joseph winked. "Thank you, sir." Fred walked back to his desk, turned. "Old Whiskers?" Joseph laughed quietly. "Yes, sir, but I'm afraid to consider what he might've been calling me!"
  10. SAUSAGE GRAVY AND BISCUITS The youngest Keller looked at her Daddy with big innocent and happily anticipatory eyes. She was holding an inverted sauce pan in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other. Linn dusted flour on the frying, crumbled sausage, stirred it to coat it well, he looked at his daughter and smiled. "Are the biscuits done yet, honey?" the long tall Sheriff asked gently, and Opal swung her head around to the left and to the right and around to the left again, her braids swinging, then she swayed and giggled with the childish dizzies before finally leaning against the cupboard door to keep from falling over. "I used to do that," Linn said softly, remembering a moment in his Mama's kitchen when he'd done the very thing, swinging his head back and forth until he was dizzy ... probably at the same very tender age as his little girl. Opal giggled and staggered back toward the table, trying (with no luck) to see the timer. "I don't hear-it the whis-tle," she said. "Biscuits aren't weady." She frowned, then repeated herself: "Rrready," she said, with a single emphatic nod of her head: satisfied, she looked at her Daddy with a big broad little-girl smile. Linn winked at his little girl, added milk to the frying pan, stirred: Opal winked back, or tried to. Instead of casually dropping one eyelid, she squinted up one side of her face and the other eye squinted shut out of sympathy. "Well now, that's not bad," Linn said gently. "Two for the price of one!" He turned off the heat, kept stirring: when the gravy thickened to his liking, he set the pan on a back burner, just as the oven's timer went off. "Now where'd I put my catcher's mitt?" he muttered, and Opal shook her wooden spoon at her Daddy and scolded, "Daddy, you're supposed to use an ubbin mitt!" "I'll have to," Linn muttered. "Can't find my baseball glove." "Dad-deee!" Linn thrust a hand into an oven mitt, opened the door; Opal stepped back as heat radiated out, as her Daddy reached in, pulled out a cookie sheet of biscuits. He set them on top of the stove, bridging the left hand burners, closed the white-enamel oven door. "That felt good," she said, and Linn nodded, grinning. "Darlin' are you holdin' that sauce pan for some particular reason?" Opal looked at the sauce pan, blinked, as if she'd forgotten it was in her grip: she looked at her Daddy with an absolutely delighted grin and asked, "Now, Daddy?" Linn nodded toward the stairs. "Now." Opal squeaked happily, skipped over to the stairs, stopped and looked up the staircase, then beat the saucepan enthusiastically with the wooden spoon: "COMMINGETTIT OR DADDY'S GONNA FEEDIT TO DA BEAR KILLERS!" Feet young and younger, male and female, came charging down the stairs, complete with two sets of furry paws: youthful humanity charged down the stairs, all but Joseph, who slung a leg over the bannister and slid down, catching himself expertly with near-prehensile feet on the end post, youthful muscles flexing to stop his rapid descent down the polished, varnished bannister that had so far seen uncounted rides by pale eyed young. Their Mama was working tonight, their pale eyed Pa had the day off as well, and at the prospect of sausage gravy and biscuits, none thought to protest. Their Pa wasn't as good a cook as their Mama, but at this one dish, he excelled. Heads were bowed, their Pa spoke to his plate -- Linn looked down at the shining-clean ceramic and said "Hello, plate!" and every one of the Keller young chorused, "You can't do that!" -- Linn looked up, blinked innocently and said "I can't?" -- only then were thanks properly returned, serving bowls passed around: biscuits were thumb-split and laid open, plates passed back and forth, and as Linn received the steaming bowl of buttered peas, he sang -- to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" -- I eeeat my peeas with honey, I've done it all of my life! It does make my peeeas taste funny, But it sure makes them stick to my knife! Little boys grinned, little girls rolled their eyes, all but Opal, who seized the squeeze bottle of honey and drizzled a quick back-and-forth over her round greenies. If it was good enough for her Daddy, she reasoned, it was good enough for her.
  11. Q: "My kids don't like fish, what should I do?" A: "Trade them for cats. Cats love fish."
  12. IT WASN'T THE I CHING "No," Sheriff Willamina Keller said, leaning back a little in her chair: she was seated behind her desk, maintaining a formal separation from the curious Easterner. "No?" "I understand carjacking is a popular sport back East." Her smile was humorless. "It's not as common out here." "Why do you suppose that is?" "Because I have a granddaughter," Willamina replied. "Because you'll still see trucks with a gunrack in the rear window. Because you'll get killed if you try that kind of thing in my county." "I'm sorry ... you don't have carjackings because you have a granddaughter?" Sheriff Willamina Keller smiled, just a little. "Would you like to see the video?" Marnie Keller hit the ground flat footed. Her right hand reached up, seized the Winchester rifle, stripped it out of its carved-leather scabbard. Her mare turned and followed Marnie across the street. Marnie held the rifle at high port, gaining speed as she ran out of the alley: a quick left-right, she raised the rifle, reversed it, crush-gripping it at wrist and fore-end, and drove it hard into a screaming man's kidneys. "You can't hear it on this video," Willamina said quietly, "but this individual -- he's not from around here -- attacked one of her residents just as she got into her car. He's screaming at the driver and beating her with his fists. She's fighting back, and here" -- she paused the video -- "is my granddaughter." Marnie's rifle butt drove hard into the man's kidneys: she seized the back of his belt, pulled, skipped back a step, drove the rifle's butt into the back of his head, then kicked him behind the knee. "Now at this point," Sheriff Willamina Keller said quietly, "you'll see this trained police horse assisting in immobilization of the guilty party." A steelshod hoof planted itself in the middle of the supine attacker's chest, pinning him most effectively before his pain-hazed vision cleared: a boot stepped hard on his wrist and the muzzle of a rifle swung down to take a good close-up look at his face. "Hold very still," a pretty young girl said, "or I'll blow your brains all over the pavement and they'll give me a medal for doing it." Her smile was as cold and as glacial as her pale eyes as she added conversationally, "I've done it before." "I don't know what he'd taken," the Sheriff said, "but he was not inclined to follow instructions. Our Chief of Police was on scene and had the Devil's own time getting this fellow in irons once my granddaughter had her mare lift her hoof. As a matter of fact, my granddaughter was obliged to -- there -- you can see it on video." The Eastern reporter watched as a pretty, obviously young woman, drove the butt of her rifle into the back of the attacker's head. "After that, he was pretty well compliant." "He looks dead." "She cold cocked him." "How ... old is she?" "Fourteen." "Fourteen? My God, what's she doing with a gun?" "The Chief of Police gave it to her." "And this ... you're saying this is why you don't have carjackings?" The Sheriff sighed. "There's a college experiment," she said patiently. "Rats in a cage. In a big cage, the rats are cordial and cooperative. Crowd them in a small cage and they become hostile, they show the same social deviance we see in your cities back East. Out here we're not crowded. When an Eastern rat comes out here and tries to prey on one of us" -- she thrust a chin at the video monitor -- "we take care of it. That fellow was sentenced to prison. How do you think he'll fare in general population, when the drugs wear off and he's told he was bested by a skinny little schoolgirl?" "Schoolgirl?" Willamina's nonplussed visitor blurted. "What do they teach out here?" "You've heard of the I Ching?" Willamina smiled. "The I Ching? Yes, of course I've heard of it!" "We don't use that." She rose, indicating the interview was ended. We use the "I Cheat."
  13. SIDE JOB Two police officers looked up, startled. A smiling woman with an elaborate hairdo, a woman in a corset and face paint, hung out the broken window, waving, smiling: "Boys! Oh, boys!" The two looked at one another, looked at the unmoving pile on the sidewalk. "Could you be a dear and lock this wife beating scoundrel up for us, please?" The Denver cop tilted the cap back on his head and planted his knuckles on his belt, his nightstick dangling from its thong: "Now why would we want t' do that!" he demanded. "Because I said so," the woman smiled -- both with her face, and with her voice -- "and because I outrank the both of you!" "Outrank?" the younger one muttered, at least until the other groaned, strode up to the gasping, lung-shocked man on the sidewalk. "Is yer legs broke then?" he demanded, seizing the recent departure from the second floor of a house of ill repute by the scruff of the neck and hauling him to his feet. "Up wi' ye, then!" They were less than half a block toward the station-house when a black figure slipped out of the alley before them, a figure known to them both: it appeared to be an active boy or a slight man, all in black, with the broad brimmed hat hiding any facial features: black gloved fingers turned over a black lapel to reveal a familiar, bronze shield. "Faith," the older officer breathed, then: "Wha' are ye doin' i' a place like that?" The Black Agent paced silently up to the pair, trademark cut-down double-barrel shotgun swinging casually from one gloved hand: "Side job," came the reply, and the younger of the two was surprised that it was a woman's voice. Then she lifted her head, pushed her hat brim up with the blunt muzzles of her hand held howitzer, looked very directly, very frankly, at the younger of the two Denver street cops. It was a woman's face, and a pretty one, but with a horrible scar running from the corner of one eye, diagonally across the face and down the neck. That was his secondary memory of the moment. What shocked him was the sight of her eyes. Dead pale, glacial in nature, both their hue and their effect on his very blood. "I'll be at station," she said with a smile, and both men shivered a little to see the smile, for there was no humor in it at all. Willamina was very familiar with the section Marnie was reading. "She took a side job in a whorehouse?" "There were regular customers who liked to beat the girls," Willamina explained, "and the madam ran a high class joint. A hellraising customer might be inclined to go fists with a bouncer, but when a woman got the best of him, fast, hard and nasty, it tended to take the fight out of 'em in a hurry." "Especially when she threw them through the window," Sarah murmured. "The Judge was particularly fond of the Madam," Willamina smiled. "The fine went to replace that window." "Window glass was expensive back then." "Very expensive." "Did she describe exactly how she attacked?" "Not in that account. She'd written elsewhere that she used those sharp little heels to climb a man's frame, though it was difficult to get a good climb with her ankles turned in enough to dig." "I'll keep my boots," Marnie muttered. "I liked my cheerleading shoes," Willamina said quietly, and Marnie looked at her, raised one eyebrow. "I sorted through six pair of saddle shoes at the shoe store before I found a pair with a softer sole." "High traction?" "They were all good, but I wanted the best in the house. A football player was less than a gentleman with me, so I climbed him like a lineman gaffs his way up an electric pole. He told me later it felt like I'd ripped all the hair out of his legs." "He was speaking to you afterward?" "In court. I filed criminal charges and subpoenaed two coaches and most of the football team. There's something about being formally served with a subpoena, in class, that takes any reluctance to testify right out of 'em." "You don't play fair, do you, Gammaw?" Willamina laughed. "I never did," she admitted. "Got me where I am today!" "Once you climbed his frame," Marnie persisted, "how did you attack?" "I cupped my hands and clapped his ears as hard as I could. He passed out from the pain and blew out an eardrum." She lowered her head and smiled confidentially at her pale eyed granddaughter. "My daddy taught me at a tender age, 'When in doubt, cheat.' I've never forgotten that and it's never let me down!"
  14. bgavin has said it more clearly, more accurately and more understandably than I possibly could -- and me an old veteran nurse.
  15. SORRY ABOUT THIS, SHERIFF Jacob Keller's fist was white-knuckle tight. It was also wound up in a good handful of a man's shirt front. Jacob Keller's eyes were dead white, his face was parchment pale, and the higher he one-hand pressed this Jack Doe off the ground, the more it looked like his skin was tightening over his cheek bones, until -- by the time he had the man at full arm's length overhead, his elbow locked and trembling just a little, his expression was that of a fleshless mummy intent on reaching into a man's chest and ripping the corroded soul from his living carcass. "Let me know," Jacob said quietly, "when you get tired." Another hell raiser moved -- he must've thought Jacob's attention would be entirely on the luckless soul he was pressing overhead -- Jacob's hand was faster than the punch, and the incoming knuckles drove into the muzzle of a black pistol's muzzle: the fist's owner made a strangled sound, dropped his punching hand, gripped his wrist with the other, backed up a staggering step, his own face losing a good percentage of its color. Jacob turned quickly, translated the vertical velocity of the weight he suddenly released, into horizontal momentum, and bounced the offender off the brick front of the building: Jacob's lips were pulled back a little from his lips, he still had a good wound-up fist full of shirt front, and he wasn't letting go: he turned, drove the luckless hell-raiser toward the horse trough, stepped back as water and what used to be a thin sheet of ice, erupted, and the sinner was baptized in very cold water. Jacob Keller glared at the others who thought it would be great fun to try and bully a stranger. He holstered his pistol, looked slowly around, breathing slowly, deeply, giving the general impression of a contained explosion that was ready to blast them all flat. "Now," Jacob said, his voice quiet, "would anyone else like to try something?" He turned and ducked an incoming fist, drove a punch from the shoulder, ramming his work-hardened fist into the attacker's belly, with full intent to drive his fist clear through the man's guts and bust a hole in his spine out the back. He was not successful in punching a hole through the oncoming abdomen, but he was extremely successful in knocking every bit of wind out of the lungs immediately above the punch. Jacob spun, seized a club coming in, ripped it out of the attacker's hands with a practiced move, drove its end into the third man's ribs, took a two-hand grip and hooked the end behind the man's knee, yanked hard. One man struggled out of the freezing horse trough, a second was on his knees, bent over, forehead almost on the boardwalk; the third was flat on his back, in too much pain to more than groan, and Jacob spun the club like a majorette's baton. His snarl was very nearly inaudible, and this made him all the more frightening. He stopped the spin, used the club as a pointer. "You two," he said, "pick up your wet buddy, get him on his feet. You" -- he pointed at a rat-faced individual trying to hide behind another -- "get him up. I'll take this one. You are all under arrest. Resist or run and you die." On the one hand, Jacob knew that lethal force must meet certain narrow parameters, and shooting a fleeing individual in the back was quite improper. He knew that. He also knew that he'd just reduced three by violent means and the other three by psychological means, and he knew that his sudden violence to pacify a situation, meant he just might be violent enough to kill them if they tried anything at all. Sheriff Willamina Keller turned as the heavy glass double doors opened. She, the dispatcher and two deputies, stared as a clutch of cowed-looking prisoners half-dragged, half-carried two of their own: one was soaking wet and shivering violently, the other with arms crossed over his ribs, an obviously crippled hand carefully held in mid-air. Behind them, a pale eyed deputy, carrying another by the back of the prisoner's belt. The Sheriff turned, raised an eyebrow. "Sorry about this, Sheriff," Linn said mildly. "Didn't have enough cuffs for everyone so I just brought 'em in."
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