About marshallbutcharmstrong

Words are hard!

The Old Bookstore

It is an unassuming brown, brick building
with vines growing up it’s sides.
Cars and people pass by without
so much as a wink or a nod, but
to the initiated, it is a storehouse
of treasure worth more than gold.

A small bell tinkles as you push
open the faded green door and the
smell that greets you cannot be
described. As you try to put words
to it they fail and you can only
stand for a few moments and
breathe it in like a long lost memory.

An old shop cat languishes in a
ray of sun atop one of the shelves
from a cracked and dirty window as
its tail slowly slides back and forth
keeping the books behind it clean.

You are greeted by a tiny old woman
with snow white hair and dentures
that move ever so slightly as she
presents you with as warm a smile as your
grand mother did when you were young.

And here you will find mystery, and
biography and love. Oh yes love, a
whole section of pastel spined
romance novels just waiting for the
unsuspecting to fall in and drown
among the printed words.

How to and cookbooks, crime stories
and poetry. Auto repair manuals and
history. Science fiction and humor.
And you must touch them, hold them
in your hands and smell them, feel
their smooth, age worn covers with
bent corners and torn edges.

And you want to stay here, ask for
a job so you can come back again
tomorrow, and the next day and never
leave this paradise of the written
word, this sanctuary of knowledge,
this holy shrine of old books.

But you know you cannot. You know
you must leave and resume your life,
and on the way home you dream of
having your own old bookstore one
day. You’ll have a cat and a rocking
chair in the corner and a tinkling
bell on the door. And the door will
be green, and you’ll have gray hair.



I published a poem on December 2, 2012 titled, “Desire.” You can see it here. It was one of the first poems I wrote when I started this blog. The idea of desire has always intrigued me. The word “desire” encompasses many things. What is desire? I suppose the simplest explanation is that desire is wanting something. When you’re hungry, you desire food. When you’re thirsty, you desire water. When you’re lonely, you desire companionship. Simple enough. And it must be said, that all people have desires. Buddhism purports that having desires is the cause of all suffering, and to rid yourself of all desire will bring you to a state of enlightenment or Nirvana. Many religions say if you follow them, you will be brought into a higher state of being where you surpass desires and achieve salvation. The entire consumerist culture is based on fulfilling your desires buy purchasing products, or following plans. We try diets because we want to lose weight. We invest our money because we want to have more. We try dating and marriage because we want companionship or love or sex. We want what we do not have. And what happens when we achieve those desires? Are we satisfied? Or do we simply want more?

Buddhism says, having unfulfilled desires causes suffering. It also says that fulfilling desires causes suffering because nothing is permanent. You get the new car you’ve always wanted and you’re happy. It’s clean and smells wonderful inside. Everyone tells you how beautiful it is. It starts on the coldest Winter days and handles well on the road. Four years later, it’s dirty all the time, there are scratches in the paint, parts are breaking down, etc. Nothing is permanent. Now, that car is no longer fulfilling your desires. Now, you want a new one. So Buddhism says if you rid yourself of desire by following the Four Nobel Truths and living the eight-fold path you can reach a state of enlightenment where you surpass desire. But isn’t desiring to rid yourself of desire just another desire? Aren’t we still seeking to fulfill a desire by trying to rid ourselves of it?

It’s a conundrum, to be sure. Unchecked desires have led to a lot of misery in the world. Countries invade other countries because they want what the other country has. People have affairs because they are unfulfilled in their current relationships. People steal and cheat and lie to get what they want. Some people work themselves into a poor state of health because they want more money. Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can be brought on by desiring things we don’t have and trying too hard to get them. The desire for power and wealth at any cost usually puts those costs on the innocent. The achievement of desires has caused our current climate crisis. It has caused some in our government and country to put their hopes and dreams into a man who is not equipped to lead. The current Brexit situation in the U.K. or the Palestine/Israel situation or the many indictments from the Mueller investigation are perfect examples of desires getting out of hand. What then, is the answer?

I think most people realize that they can never rid themselves of desire. At the very least we desire the necessities of life. Food, water, etc. And I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting a new car. I’m sure some may argue that automobile manufacturing causes lots of pollution so wanting a new car contributes to climate problems. And they’d be right. But the biggest reason I’m able to write on this computer and complain about unchecked desires is because of people having desires. Otherwise we’d still be living in caves, which might not be a bad thing from a certain point of view. However, we don’t live in caves and therefore we have to start where we are. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that we need to keep checking on our desires to see that they don’t get out of hand. We need to seriously try not to hurt others by the fulfillment of our desires. And try not to hurt ourselves either. It takes a bit of introspection to really, honestly look at our own lives. Picking apart the things that we think, do, or say to see if we are being a responsible person. And why not? Why hurt others if we don’t have to? Just to have what we want? I hate to fall back on the so called, “Golden Rule,” but treating others well because it’s the way I want to be treated is not a bad way to keep my desires from harming others. What do you think?

On A Walk

Melting snow and traffic and
dog walkers, walking their dogs.
Wet paw prints and old oak leaves.
The river, taking a walk of its own,
migrating into the park.
The banks unable to hold back
the spring melt.
Barricades and sand bags,
sunshine and people in shorts.
Skateboarders and bicyclers.
Trees and shrubs bare but waiting
to burst with green.
Friends and lovers like
black bears fresh from
a winter’s sleep.
We shake off the cold,
warm tired muscles
and walk outside to find
the world still exists
under the heavy burden of snow.
We remember our lives
as we used to live,
in tee shirts and sunglasses
like they were nothing more
than dreams in sleep.
Dreams we recall on a February
day when the wind howls
and snow pours from the sky.
Remember, we think, remember
when we wore tee shirts outside
and walked with sandals
on our feet?
That’s just a dream, just a dream.

Lets Win!!!

As a retired person, I have more time on my hands than the average American. I try to spend my time wisely, but I also want to enjoy the time I have. I never really saw any other purpose in working other than to enjoy my time away from work. Seriously, what other reason is there to go to a job, and work 40 or more hours every week if it doesn’t contribute to your life away from that job? So once I (luckily) reached the point in my life where I could get away with not working, I quit. Makes perfect sense to me. But that’s not the point of this article. With the current political situation Americans find themselves in, I started thinking back about things I learned about human nature while I was working. I’ve always been an amateur psychologist and sociologist. I find human nature and thought to be fascinating. So here are some random thoughts I have had on politics, and human nature.

First, I’ll tell you a story. I worked as a Medical Laboratory Technician. Which means I worked in a hospital or clinic lab doing, Immunohematology, microbiology, chemistry, hematology, immunology, urinalysis, and phlebotomy. I wore a long white lab coat, with pens in the pocket. At the clinic I worked at, there was a front desk area for the lab where patients would check in for their lab appointment. Occasionally there would be a disgruntled patient who would argue with the front desk women (the front desk always had women workers) about their bill or whatever it happened to be. The patient could be a man or a woman. I was the only man who worked in the lab at that time. While an argument was taking place with a patient, other lab workers (women) would come and go in the area and it did nothing to detract from the argument. If I, as a man in a white lab coat were to walk into the area, the patient would immediately calm down. I learned two things from that. Men and women both treat women worse than they treat men. A woman in a lab coat is not seen as an authority figure by men or women, but a man in a lab coat is.

Centuries of patriarchal society has done its job. Men and women both will see a man as an authority figure before they see that same thing in a woman. There were times when I sat at the front desk while the regular desk people took a break. I never once had an argument with a patient. Never. And yet people wouldn’t hesitate to start an argument with one of the women who worked the desk. How does this relate to the current political situation I eluded to? We have a lot of women who are running for the next presidency. And we have some men. The women running clearly outnumber the men and yet most of the news coverage is about the men.

Politics, is like sports. I also learned this while I was working. I talked to a lot of patients over the years and the one subject that most people had in common, was sports. And politics is a lot like sports. We want to win. We want our guy to be the best. The smartest, the strongest, the most admirable. I talked with a lot of people when Donald Trump was running for president. I brought up things like the fact that he had no political experience. Or his possible criminal activity. Or sexual assault allegations. Or multiple bankruptcies. None of that mattered to his supporters. Then I started looking at sports figures. Many men in sports have been convicted of crimes. Adultery, abuse, drug and alcohol charges, theft, etc. The list is long. The stories are in the paper and then they’re gone. Nobody cares. As long as they’re team is winning, no one cares about the crimes. As long as the politician promises winning, (who did that?) nobody cares about their behavior.

When I was in grade school, I was skinny and scrawny. No one wanted me on their team. I was the last one picked. And the teachers never saw that as a problem. The team captains were chosen by the teacher and they were always the most popular kids, the most athletic. And they of course always chose the most athletic kids first. All they wanted to do was win. That’s all that mattered. I was always such an outsider, because I didn’t give a damn about winning anything. I didn’t want the glory or the recognition. I just wanted to live, and enjoy life. I always felt sorry for the losers in any competition. Because the winners would run right over the losers and leave them behind. Always.

This is how I see politics today. It’s a competition. In a football game, you make the right plays, throw the ball the farthest, move it the most and win. In politics, you have the politician who is the most popular, (always a man) say the right things, be at the right places to get the most votes and win. A huge part of American culture is devoted to sports. Sports bars, sports channels, billion dollar stadiums, multi million dollar players. In order to make politics more popular, they have to make it like sports. Remember Trump teling you how much winning you were going to do if you voted for him? Americans want to win. At all costs.

“The Scarlet Web” part Four

Over his coffee mug Sam asked, “So, you want to tell me what’s going on?”

Sam and Scarlet had driven for three straight hours before finally pulling off for a gas and bathroom break. Back on the interstate, they drove for a further two hours when Sam took an exit for a local highway. Scarlet said little during the trip. She slept in the seat some and gazed out the window. North of the city there had been farmland dotted by small towns along the highway. Soon the landscape changed. More trees and less farms and towns. For the last hour on the interstate there was nothing but Pine trees. Scarlet had never seen country like this. She was a city girl who had no desire to leave it. They drove another hour on the state highway before turning off on a gravel road. It wasn’t kept up the best and Sam’s car bottomed out a few times on the ruts. Slowing down, Sam turned onto a one track road, defiantly worse than the gravel road had been. This road led, after a quarter mile to a small cabin in the woods, overlooking a lake. Scarlet’s breath caught.

“This is beautiful,” she said.

“I don’t get here as often as I need to. But it’s here when I do. A good place to hide.”

“That’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? Hiding.”

“Yeah,” said Sam. “We’re hiding. C’mon, I’ll show you around.” Now, sitting in the comfortable cabin, Sam thought it was time he found out what was going on.

Scarlet, wrapped in a blanket and with her own coffee, sighed deeply. Six hours North of the city the air was crisp and cool. “I don’t know where to start.” she said. “Okay. First of all, ‘Lee’ is not my real last name. It’s a name I took for myself when I started working in radio. Sounded better than my real name, and my brother thought it would be wise not to use our real name anyway.” That statement raised about a thousand questions in Sam’s mind, but he kept them to himself. “You see my brother, is, well, to put it plainly, he’s a criminal. He started out doing petty stuff like robbery and grifting. He kept getting better at it and started doing riskier stuff. I’ve always loved him and I’ve tried to get him to give it up but he said it was so lucrative that he couldn’t possibly make that kind of money going straight. And he never got caught. That’s what’s so crazy about him. He’s never been caught for the probably thousands of crimes he’s committed. Anyway, we haven’t talked in probably a year or more. I don’t know what he’s into now, but these suits with the fancy car, they want to find him. That’s why they came to me. I guess they found out he has a sister and figured the best way to flush him out is through me.”

“So they smashed your door in and kidnapped you? Why did they let you come back to your apartment? When I was there.”

“They said they didn’t want to draw attention with keeping me hostage. They wanted people to see me. They didn’t count on you being there but you were. They were watching me the whole time. They had a lot of questions about you. By now they probably know more about you than you do. Are you sure they won’t find this place?”

“The property is owned by a corporation I set up that has no connection with my name or business. I tried to trace it after I bought it. The computer trail keeps running in circles back to the corporation. There’s no connection to me.”

“That was smart considering the company you keep,” Scarlet said.

“So your brother must be into something heavy with these people and they can’t find him. Can you find him?”

“Well, maybe,” Scarlet said. “He lives off the grid, nothing connected to him, kind of like you with this cabin. But I have an email address he set up for me. If I need to get in touch, I can email him. I’ve never used it so I don’t know if it’ll work. I don’t suppose you have internet here?”

“No, I don’t.”

“The suits took my smart phone from me so that’s out.”

“Too easy to trace. You wouldn’t want to use it if you had it. I’ve got an idea. About an hour North of here is the Canadian boarder. We can drive up there tomorrow, find an internet cafe or whatever you call those places, and send your email. We can get some clothes while were waiting. You have your I.D.?”

“Yeah I do, and my passport. They went through everything I had on me but gave it all back. I guess they didn’t think any of it was important. Except my phone. That they kept.”

Sam stood and stretched. He loaded some wood into the fireplace and lit a fire. They had picked up some sandwiches and beer when they stopped for gas, and ate those in front of the fire. At dusk, Sam took Scarlet down to the lake. “I’ve fished here a couple times,” he said.

“You, fishing?” Scarlet asked.

“I haven’t always been a private eye you know. I did have a childhood.”

“Ha! I can’t imagine you as a kid,” Scarlet laughed. “You’re always so stoic and serious. What kind of a kid were you anyway?”

“Being a detective and witnessing the kind of world that I work in, has a tendency to sober you up. I was just a regular kid. Rode my bike, went fishing, you know, kid stuff.”

Scarlet laughed again. “Wow. You were a kid!”

They sat in silence for a while, watching the sun go down. Finally, Sam asked, “What is your real last name?”

“It’s McCree. It’s Scottish.”

The stars came out and Scarlet marveled at the clarity of the night sky and the thousands of stars they could see. Too early for mosquitoes, they stayed out late. Back in the cabin, Sam pulled out some musty smelling blankets. “These will have to do,” he said. “You can take the bedroom. I’ll have the couch.”

A little while later Sam heard the bedroom floor creak and Scarlet opened the door. “Sam?” she asked.

“Yes?” Sam said.

“Will you come here?”

“Sure,” said Sam, as he got up.

At the bedroom door Scarlet asked, “Will you come lay down by me? I don’t want to be alone in here.”

They both climbed into bed, leaving the door open for warmth from the fire, and had the best night sleep either of them could remember in a long while.

The Scarlet Web part Three

Sam drove to the Motor Vehicles office. He had a friend who worked there who sometimes did him favors. “Well Hi Sam, it’s been awhile.”

“Hi Lois,” Sam said. “How’ve you been?”

“Fine. You?”

“Good. Say I wonder if you could do me a favor?”

“That’s pretty much why you come to me, isn’t it?”

“You’ve got a point Lois. I’m looking for a car.”

“We don’t sell cars here Sam. We only license them. You’ll have to locate a dealer,” Lois said sarcastically.

“Right,” Sam said. “Look, this is important. I’m looking for the owner of a gray Bentley.” Andy had given him the color.

“There are a lot of cars in this city Sam. And you know I could get in trouble for this.”

“I know. I’ll make it worth your while. A Bentley is a British car so I’m thinking their might not be a lot of them around.”

“I know the Bentley is British Sam, I work in Motor Vehicles. Let me see what I can find.” Sam waited while she worked her magic on the computer. “Well you’re in luck. There’s only three of them in the city. Let me print this for you.” The printer clicked out a piece of paper. “Names and addresses,” she said. Sam took the paper and stretched out his hand to shake hers. He slipped her a twenty. “Ooo,” she said. “Now I can retire.”

“Best I can do, Lois. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Sam. Be careful.”

“Always,” he said. Which was a lie.

Sam checked out the cars. The first one sat in a driveway partially covered by a tarp. He could see from the street that one side was covered in rust. Couldn’t be the one as Andy had told him the car he was looking for was in perfect shape. The next one was also in a driveway and an elderly couple was just getting out of it with groceries. And it was Blue. The last one he found, was registered to a rental agency. Morrison Luxury Car Rentals. Sam parked and went inside. He asked if he could use the bathroom. The man behind the counter gave Sam a look of disdain and pointed the way. When he came back he asked the man about their rentals.

“We have the most beautiful cars in town,” he said.

“I’m looking for one in particular. I’d like to rent a Bentley. A gray one.”

“We do have one. A limo, in fact, but I’m sorry to say that it’s rented out right now,” the man said.

“I don’t suppose you could tell me who you rented it to? I really need one and maybe I could convince your renter to let me have it.”

Sam noticed the rental book was sitting on the desk in front of the man. Before he could object Sam said, “Oh, by the way. When I was in the bathroom just now I noticed the toilet was leaking.” The man turned his head and saw water running out under the door.

“Oh crap,” he exclaimed as he ran for the bathroom.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Sam said, as he flipped the rental book around. He found the Bentley on the second page, quickly wrote down the information and turned the book back. He left the store before the man could get back from the bathroom. Sam had plugged the toilet up so badly that it would take him quite a while to unstop it.

The address that the rented Bentley was registered to was a hotel. Sam drove through the parking lots but didn’t find the car. Finally, he pulled into an empty spot and sat, thinking. What could Scarlet be into, he thought? He didn’t feel she was a deceiving kind of person as she had always been honest with him. Even when her honesty stung a little. And again, could he be wrong about this whole thing? Scarlet was certainly strong enough to kick in a simple door if she needed to, and who knows, maybe she was dating some rich guy who had a driver and other people working for him. If she was, she didn’t owe Sam and explanation. They were friends, nothing more. Even though he had wanted more, it just hadn’t worked. Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on. The day had been cloudy and gray and now it started to drizzle rain. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw a car approaching. It was the gray Bentley. It pulled in under the carport of the hotel as Sam got out of his car. He had no idea what if anything, he would do. A man got out of the back passenger door and behind him was Scarlet. The man grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her from the car. She tried to push his hand away and he grabbed her with both hands and moved her toward the hotel door. At that moment Sam appeared from behind the Bentley. Moving swiftly to Scarlet, Sam reached for a finger of the hand of the man holding her and bent it severely backward. The man let out a yell on let go as Sam shouldered him out of the way. Pulling out his massive 357 Magnum, Sam grabbed Scarlet around the neck and pulled her away, pointing the gun at her head.

“Alright, everyone just take a deep breath,” he said. “She’s coming with me.” Another man got out of the car and pulled out a pistol, pointing it at Sam. “Uh, uh,” Sam said. “I’ll blow her head all over your expensive suit, pal.” Sam pulled the hammer back on his pistol.

“Look,” the guy with the gun said. “Let’s talk about this. How about we all go inside and sort this out. I’m sure we can come to an agreement.”

“Not happening,” Sam said, and started backing away from them. The guy with the now, broken finger pulled out his own pistol as Sam and Scarlet headed for Sam’s car.

“Don’t,” the first guy said. “Don’t shoot him. We’ll find them. To Sam he yelled, “You’re dead buddy! I don’t care what it takes, we’ll find you!”

Sam stuffed Scarlet into his car and went around to the drivers door. Inside he started the car, shifted into reverse and backed out of the parking lot and onto the street. Shifting into first gear he burned the tires all the way down the street. Shifting into third and then fourth gear he checked his mirrors. They weren’t following.

“Dammit, Sam! What do you think you’re doing?!” Scarlet yelled.

Not looking at her, Sam said, “Maybe you hadn’t noticed but I was saving your ass.”

She pounded her fists on the dash. “Goddammit Sam! You shouldn’t be involved! You don’t know what these guys are capable of. If they catch us, they’ll kill you! Don’t you get it?

As calmly as he could, Sam said, “Don’t you think I’ve faced situations like this before? This is what I do, Scarlet. I put myself in danger nearly every day, doing what I do. If anyone can handle this, it’s me.”

Scarlet sat fuming. She realized he was right, but that didn’t make her any happier. Sam took a series of turns, went down some alleys and finally headed up a ramp to the freeway. No one was following. “There’s no where we can go Sam, that they won’t find us. They’ve got plenty of connections.”

“I’ve got a place in mind,” Sam said. “Don’t worry, they won’t find us.” Sam steered the car into the left lane and hit the gas. They were doing 85 as they headed North, out of the city.

The Scarlet Web part Two

Sitting in a chair in Scarlet’s living room, Sam Barton was exasperated. He had searched the entire place and found nothing. Not one scrap of evidence to suggest what happened to her. Sam had tried her cell phone several times with no answer. As he sat and thought about the whole thing he had to admit that he didn’t know her that well. The times that they spent together were fun but not very deep. Their’s was more a physical relationship. They drank, made love, saw some movies, listened to some bands play and that was about it. No deep conversations or secrets were shared. In fact, when Sam made a move to get closer by getting to know her better she became somewhat distant and their relationship slowly dissolved. Remaining friends was easy because they hadn’t been that close. And now it seemed, she was in trouble and Sam was completely unable to help her. Hearing the sound of someone coming through the door downstairs and thinking it might be the cops coming back, Sam got up to leave. As he reached for the door, it pushed open at him and he ran right into Scarlet coming in.

“Scarlet? What’s…where have you been? I thought you were…”

“Whoa Sam, what are you, what’s with the crime tape and… what’s going on here?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” said Sam. “I came over to check on you. You didn’t go to work last night, your door was smashed in and you were missing.”

“Did you call the cops, Sam?”

“Yes. It looked like something bad had happened here. You had me worried.”

“Well that’s just great Sam. Thanks for that,” Scarlet said, sarcastically. “Now I’ve got to contend with the cops. Great! What were you thinking?”

“What was I thinking? Your door was smashed in, you didn’t go to work and you were missing! What was I supposed to think?”

“Oh I don’t know, maybe that I have a life of my own and I can do as I please without interference from you? Maybe that’s what you should have thought. So I lost my key and I didn’t want to call you in the middle of the night for your key, which reminds me, I’ll take that key back now that you’re here,” Scarlet said, holding her hand out. “So I kicked my door in and I,” she hesitated, “I’ve been out of town.” Gesturing with her hand she said, “My key, please.”

Sam was floored. This was not the Scarlet he knew. She was extremely agitated, and downright angry with him. Had he made a mistake? Was there really nothing going on here? Sam didn’t think so but neither did he think that this was the time to press it. Taking out his keys and removing hers from the ring Sam said, “Scarlet, you know you can trust me. You can come to me with anything. If, if something’s going on here, if you need help…..” Scarlet waved him off.

“Nothing’s going on here Sam, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Taking back her key, she softened her tone. “Look, I’ve got some things to do Sam, so maybe I’ll see you later. I ah, yeah. I guess I’ll be busy for a few days so we’ll talk again next week or something.”

Sam reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Alright Scarlet, I’ll leave you to it. Do you want me to call the cops and let them…”

“No Sam, I’ll take care of it.”

“You know you can call me, right?” Sam said.

“Yeah, Thanks.” And she shut the door in Sam’s face.

Sam stood outside the door for a few moments wondering what the hell just happened. None of this made any sense at all. As a detective, Sam was pretty good at knowing when people were hiding something. And Scarlet was defiantly hiding something. She was tense and defensive, as if she just got caught doing something she shouldn’t. Her eyes had kept shifting around while she talked, barely looking Sam in the eye. And now he knew the truth. He really didn’t know her at all. And also as a detective Sam knew, he couldn’t leave this alone. He’d have to get to the bottom of whatever this was. Great, he thought. Another case I won’t get paid for. But it was more than that. Scarlet was his friend. Whatever it was she was into, as long as she was hiding it Sam knew it wasn’t good. He’d have to figure it out and help her if he could.

As he drove away, Sam decided to play dumb with the cops. If they contacted him he would say that Scarlet said she would clear things up with them. He wouldn’t reveal his suspicions about what might be going on here. That way he’d be free to investigate without them knowing. After driving around town awhile thinking things over, Sam almost got hit at a four way stop. He realized he wasn’t paying attention to his driving and so he went to a local watering hole to drink. Sam was a regular at this place and knew the bartender, Andy.

“Jameson?” Andy asked as Sam sat on a stool.

“That’ll do,” said Sam. The place was dark and quiet, just the way Sam liked it. A jukebox in one corner mostly played blues and Jazz tunes. A few other regulars were scattered about, minding their own business.

When Andy brought Sam’s whiskey he said, “You look like you’ve got a lot on your mind today, Sam. What’s the trouble?” When Sam told him what the trouble was, Andy remarked, “You know it’s funny. I just saw that woman the other day.” Sam raised his eyebrows, questioningly. “I remember you brought her in here a couple times. She seemed nice, and she does that radio gig, right?” Sam nodded. “Yeah, I saw her getting into a car. Nice one. I mean really nice, like a Bentley or something. Like a, like a limo type. Couple guys in suits with her. Nice suits ya know? Like ah, silk or something. All dark windows on the thing so I couldn’t see inside, but the driver, he held the door for them all, and he was a big dude. Dark glasses. I was walking past ya know, and because I remembered her I guess I was kind of watching ya know, and that driver, he gave me a look like, mind your own business buddy, ya know? I just looked away and moved along. Don’t want no trouble, ya know?”

“Shit Andy, Why didn’t you tell me?” Sam exclaimed.

“What do ya mean, why didn’t I tell you? I’m tellin’ you now! I haven’t seen you in a couple weeks and this just happened the other day.”

“When and where, Andy?”

“Jesus, Sam. Calm down!”

“You know what Andy?” Sam said loudly, rising from his stool. “No one in whole history of being told to calm down has ever actually calmed down! Where and when?!”

“Alright! Christ man!” Andy said. “It was ah, two days back. Yeah, two days. And it was ah, on 2nd Avenue downtown. You know, down where all those office blocks are at.”

“What were you doing down there?”

“Nevermind, Detective, I got my reasons, he said, defensively.” Andy walked away to wait on another customer while Sam thought about what he said. What the hell was that woman into? He never imagined she would have friends that dressed in silk suits and rode around in limos. Unless, unless they weren’t friends. Sam called Andy back over, apologized for getting upset with him and then grilled him for another half hour on everything he could remember about Scarlet, the car and her new friends. And then he left the bar. He had a few scraps of information but nothing too solid. But he knew one thing for sure. He wasn’t going to figure this out sitting at a bar. He needed to be out on the streets.

The Scarlet Web part One, a Sam Barton Mystery

Sam liked the sound that the tubes in his old radio made as they warmed. For a few seconds before the announcers voice came through the speaker the tubes made that reassuring bass hum combined with a high pitched whine. He thought that modern, solid state radios sounded soulless. Even though you could buy a radio today that had perfect high fidelity and distortion levels so low the human ear couldn’t hear them, Sam thought the music sounded lifeless. Those warm tubes were the heart of the radio, and without a heart well, nothing else worked.

It was late in the evening and Sam was finishing up another day of doing almost nothing. He hadn’t had a case to work on in over two weeks. It seemed crime was low in the city these days. Nothing much for a private eye to do. In a world of the internet and cell phones, Sam Barton was a throwback to a 1930’s movie. He called himself a “private eye” instead of a detective, wore a long trench coat and Fedora and carried a powerful pistol in a shoulder holster. And he smoked a pipe. He liked Jazz. An old girlfriend worked at the city’s only Jazz radio station and she was on the air late at night. Her name was Scarlet Lee and she was beautiful. She was thin, five foot eight and had flaming red hair and blue eyes. She and Sam had dated for a while but things hadn’t work out. Remaining friends, they saw each other from time to time and Sam still kept a key to her apartment, just in case he needed a place to stay. Mostly though, they met on the radio. Scarlet talking and Sam listening. He could listen to that sultry voice all night. Which he sometimes did.

Tonight however, a man’s voice came over the airwaves. The announcer said that due to Scarlet’s illness, he would be filling in on the night shift. Strange, Sam thought. He couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t on the radio on her usual nights. Sick or not, she was always there. Sam worried that something serious could be wrong but considering the late hour, and if she was really sick, he decided not to call her. With nothing else to do, Sam prepared for bed. He kept a cot in his office thereby keeping his expenses down. Taking off his shirt in the bathroom, Sam noticed a slight pudginess just above his belt line. Age and too much restaurant food was getting the best of him. According to his rental agreement there was no cooking allowed in his office. Considering that he hadn’t seen the landlord in over three years, maybe getting a hot plate and making his own meals wasn’t a bad idea. With that thought, Sam went to bed and dreamed of bacon and eggs.

The next day Sam was up early taking care of some business. He mailed a few letters, bills to clients mostly, and then thought he would swing past Scarlet’s place to see how she was doing. Leaving his car on the street, Sam walked up to the old house. Scarlet rented an apartment in a old Gothic Revival style house built around 1880. The owner had kept it up very nicely and made several apartments inside. Scarlet’s was on the second floor. At the top of the stairs Sam could see Scarlet’s door and knew immediately something was wrong. The door stood slightly ajar and wood splinters lay on the floor. Sam reached into his coat for his 357 magnum, a new one he’d bought after losing his old one during a recent case. Easing his way to the door, Sam crouched low and pushed the door open with his hand. Nothing. It had definitely been forced open. He moved into the apartment keeping low. Five feet in he could see into the living room and kitchen. Again, nothing. No sign of a struggle or anything out of place. A short hall led to the bathroom and bedroom. Both doors were standing open. Peeking into the bathroom first, he found no one there. The bedroom door was wide open and Sam could almost see the entire room. The blankets from the bed had been thrown onto the floor and Scarlet was gone.

After talking with others in the building Sam found that the lady in the apartment next to Scarlet’s had heard a loud noise last evening but thought nothing of it. No one else had heard a thing. Sam called the police on his seldom used flip phone. Scarlet had encouraged him to get a cell phone which he didn’t like using but because of her, he carried it with him. When the police arrived they searched the apartment, checked for fingerprints and took Sam’s story about what happened which wasn’t much as Sam knew almost nothing. They put crime scene tape across the door and told Sam to leave. Sam was considered a top detective in the city. It bothered him that he could find no evidence. As he drove away he decided he needed to go back. Swinging his fully restored 1941 BMW 327 Coupe around the block he slowed as the last police car left. Pulling up to the curb Sam shifted out of gear and sat for a moment with the engine running. The last time he spoke with Scarlet was a week ago and he could think of nothing she said that was out of place. He noticed that she had seemed a little distant when they talked but thought nothing of it at the time. Now he began to wonder. Was there something going on with her? Something she was reluctant to tell Sam. He supposed she had things in her life that she didn’t talk about, they were friends but not that close after their break up. Shutting off the car, Sam got out and headed toward the apartment. He had to find something he could use to help find Scarlet. What it was, he didn’t know.


In anticipation of an event, I wait. I wait for the plumber. I wait in line. I wait for news from a friend. I wait for a call. I wait. We all it seems, wait an awful lot during our short lives. Wait for the harvest. Wait for the school bus. Wait for your plane to arrive. Wait for that package. We wait for Spring. I can’t wait, you say. But you can. You have to. You can’t always get what you want. You have to wait. What a complicated thing, life is. We’ve made it that way. Society, money, love, taxes, government, work, play. All complicated. And you must wait. Wait for it all to happen. You can’t just jump in the car and leave when the weather gets cold. You have to wait for your vacation. Wait for a promotion, wait for a lover. Wait for the game. The game of waiting. And what do we do when we’re waiting. As much as we can squeeze in. Because there’s so much to do. Bills to pay. Food to buy. Things to fix. Snow to shovel. Friends to see. So many things.

Our lives are filled with things. Material things and ideas. We have to manage it all. Get it all done. And then, more things appear. As soon as you finish one thing you were waiting for, you have another thing to wait for. And more. Always and forever. Until the end of your life. And what did you do with your life? You waited. It seems that you should be able to get paid for waiting, seeing how you do so much of it. Unfortunately most of the time the things you are waiting for are things you have to pay for. Waiting for the doctor, etc. Doesn’t seem right some how. Complicated. That’s what it is. We wait for the weekend, those who work, anyway. So we can enjoy time off. And then we grocery shop, and clean, and do laundry, and take the kids to their events. And then Monday morning we go back to work. And wait for the next weekend. Or vacation. Or whatever. We look forward to things we’re waiting for.

Well, the plumber came. That’s what I was waiting for. Now I’ll wait for a clean drain. And to pay for it. And then I’ll wait for the next one to clog up. But that’s okay. I can wait.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Seven

For those of you who have not followed this series, here are links to the first six episodes: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six. Part Seven is the last episode.

Once again, the old red ship in the harbor was as black as night inside. Using his flashlight for just a moment to get his bearings, Sam started off down the corridor. He passed an open hallway to his right but dared not try the flashlight again. Just as he passed it Sam heard a flurry of movement behind him. He crouched and turned in a defensive move just in time to feel the weight of a man drop on him. A heavy man. The air was forced out of his lungs. Gasping and reaching for his pistol Sam felt a fist connect with the side of his head. It was a glancing blow which still hurt, but didn’t put him down. As Sam grabbed his pistol he pulled out the flashlight with his other hand. While the light momentarily blinded his attacker, Sam lashed out with his foot, striking the man in the gut. The attacker dropped to all fours. Sam used his pistol to smash the man in the back of the head, dropping him all the way to the floor. Not getting a good look at his pursuers the first time he was on the ship, Sam wasn’t sure who this was. Monty or Jerry was his guess. Suddenly hearing footsteps approaching, Sam lifted his gun and squeezed off a shot toward where his new assailant had appeared from around the corner.

“The next one goes right through your forehead pal,” Sam said. Shining the flashlight in his direction revealed the new guy to be Michael, Madame DuPree’s right hand man. “Nice to see you again, Michael,” Sam said, sarcastically. Michael stood without speaking. “Chatty as ever, I see,” Sam quipped. Behind the man, Sam could see light spilling from the same room he had rescued Christi from. “Alright Michael, this is how it’s going to go down. You’re going to grab your friend off the floor here,” Sam said, motioning to the first assailant. “You drag him into this room and then we”re all going to have a friendly little talk. Unless you’d rather not. Then I’ll just kill you. Either way works fine for me.” Michael, with just a moments hesitation, walked to the prone man on the floor, scooped him up under his arms and dragged him around the corner and into the lighted room. Sam followed. Inside the room Sam found a surprise waiting for him.

“Oh Sam mon! I’m so glad you are here. You’re saving me again!” Christi cried. Christi was once again tied to a chair. Beside her, also tied up was Madame DuPree. Behind the two women was another man. Probably Monty or Jerry, whichever one wasn’t being dragged in by Michael. The man began to raise the 45 in his hand, but Sam stopped him.

“You’ll die for trying buddy,” Sam said, holding his 44 at the heart level of the man. “Lay the gun on the floor and kick it my direction. It ain’t worth it pal, just do it.” The man looked at Michael and then back at Sam. He did as Sam told him. Picking the pistol off the floor Sam kept one on Michael and the other on Monty/Jerry. Suddenly Monty/Jerry lunged. Sam brought both pistols to bear on him but before he could get a shot off, Michael was on him. Michael’s arms wrapped tightly around Sam’s, keeping him from shooting behind him. Sam twisted in Michael’s grip just enough to bring his pistol up and squeezing off two quick shots, landed both bullets in Monty/Jerry’s abdomen. The man screamed and dropped to the floor. Michael reached out and grabbed the gun in Sam’s hand. Twisting it backward, Sam let go with a yell of pain. Michael’s grip had loosened on Sam however, and he twisted out of his arms. Backing up several steps, Sam pointed Monty/Jerry’s gun at Michael. Michael lunged at Sam.

Sam started shooting. Just as he did, several policemen came barging through the door. Behind them was Captain Amos. Everything came to a halt. Several guns came to bear on Michael even though Sam had shot him twice. The big man hadn’t even flinched when Sam’s bullets hit him. But with as many police as there was, his choice was either quit or get killed. He stood quiet as he was being handcuffed.

“You alright, Sam?” The Captain asked. “Good idea for you to wear that wire,” said Amos. “I think if we search this boat, we’ll find what these goons were up to.”

Everyone, except Sam was handcuffed and taken down town. Christi begged and pleaded with Sam and the police to set her free. Sam told her they needed to get everything sorted out and if she didn’t do anything wrong, she would eventually be let out. She was not happy. She screeched and cried all the way out of the ship.

A few days later, Sam sat at his desk. As the workman finished his new glass window he tried to recall how many of them he’d had replaced. “You know,” the man said to Sam. “You’re putting my kids through college with these window replacements. Not that I mind, but maybe you ought to think about a solid door.” Sam wrote him a check and sent him on his way. Just as he was thinking about Christi and hoping she would make out okay, the phone rang. It was Captain Amos.

“Yeah, Sam,” he began, “Looks like your girlfriend’s story checks out. We’re letting her go. She’ll need to stick around awhile to testify but for now, she’s free. Pretty much looks like what you told us. The old lady was selling drugs and the big guy was working for her and selling drugs in direct competition with her. They’re all going to plead not guilty of course so it looks like it could be a lengthy trial. Oh, and your girlfriend wants you to come pick her up. Now.”

“She’s not my girl….” Sam started to say, but Captain Amos had already hung up the phone. Sam was reluctant to pick her up. She was a material witness to the crimes and so was Sam. They were both heavily involved and any contact between them could be problematic. But the Chief sort of okayed Sam picking her up, so… Sam grabbed his coat and started to head for the door when something fell out of his pocket. He stared at the object on the floor. It was a Tarot card. The back was facing up and it had the same design as the deck Madame DuPree had used. Sam sighed heavily, bent down and picked it up. How the heck did that get in my coat, he thought. Turning the card over proved to be a bad idea. It was “The Lovers.”

I Don’t Know

There are many things, that I don’t know. Which candidate will make a good president? I don’t know. When will this Winter end? I don’t know. What will my life be like a year from now? I don’t know. Will there be peace on Earth? Will there be war? Is there life on other planets? Is there a god? What will this summer bring? What will…. well, you get the idea. As a matter of fact, I don’t know most things. Our world is full on knowledge that I don’t know. Throughout my entire life, I have loved learning. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I want to know. Why, you ask? I don’t know. Seems like a paradox, doesn’t it? If I love to learn, shouldn’t I know why? But I honestly can’t answer that question. I’m curious. I want to know how things work. Why things work. But I don’t know why.

I’ve studied philosophy off and on for years. I’m curious about the mind. But is it necessary to know how and why the mind works? Can’t I just be satisfied knowing that it does? Apparently not. Many people go through their entire lives not wondering about these things. For them, it doesn’t matter how the mind works, as long as you can think with it. And they’re just fine with that. But I can’t do it. My insatiable curiosity pushes me to know. And you’d think there would be some kind of reward for my learning new things. Some reason for doing it. If there is, once again, I don’t know what it is. Unless it’s a chemical thing that pumps endorphins into the pleasure centers of my brain. That could be it. But I don’t know.

It seems that there are many people like me. We have to have answers. It’s the main reason why civilization has advanced to this point. People need to know. To discover. Even though discovery is a violent act that destroys as much if not more than it discovers, We as a species still seem pushed to do it. Lately we seem to have a renewed interest in space travel. Private companies are now getting involved with NASA and we will probably know more about space in the near future than we have learned so far. Why? Curiosity. Drive. Ambition. We have a desire to know. There are days however, when I just don’t care to know anything. I can float through my day reading a good novel, watching television, or writing poetry and not have a single care about the world around me. On those days, I don’t leave the house. I spend all day in my sweat pants. I drink tea and I’m lazy all day. And then there are the days that I devour a philosophy text book or spend hours on the computer looking things up, feeding the curiosity monster within.

I have always had a sense of wonder. That childlike quality of bliss upon discovering something new. I remember being young and looking up at the night sky and wondering what was out there, squatting at the rivers edge, turning over rocks to look for crayfish, or seeing how many times I could skip a flat stone across the water. I loved those days as a child, when the world was new and waiting for me to jump in. And jump in, I did. Funny enough, I’ve never lost that quality. I still look up at the night sky and wonder. I still want to go tromping through the woods just to see what’s there. I still want to know.

So I’m glad for that. I’m happy that I still want to know. And I’m happy that some days I don’t. As this Winter winds down to a close I have a renewed sense of wonder. New beginnings. Spring won’t be long now I feel. A time for coming out of my cocoon. Getting outside with my camera and capturing new life brought by warm sunlight and longer days. Walks in the woods without all the heavy gear of Winter. And I think about my wife. She loved Springtime. Curious like me, she loved to learn. Time to learn something new.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Six

Sam had a hard time letting things go. He didn’t like loose ends, and he didn’t like not solving a case. He had gotten his car out of impound with a promise to John Amos the police captain, that he would explain everything. Then he drove to Madame DuPree’s shop. It was closed. A note at the front door let customers know it would remain closed until further notice. The back door was locked. He drove the streets looking for Christi. Considering that she stole his money, he didn’t expect to find her. So he wound up back at the police station and told the captain everything that happened. He had no explanation of how the Tarot card Madame DuPree had given him changed from Death, to the Hermit. The card had been in his back seat since he rescued Christi from the abandoned ship. He also had no idea how he was poisoned. The only thing he could think of there, was that Madame DuPree could have had poison on her fingernails when she attacked him. After giving his statement, Captain Amos told Sam to go home. They would launch an official investigation and Sam was to consider himself, off the case. Before he went back to his office, Sam found another metaphysical store on the other side of town and bought a deck of Tarot cards and a book explaining them. He didn’t go for this kind of thing, but he thought maybe if he understood it, it might help him figure this out.

So he sat at his desk puffing his pipe, with the cards spread out in front of him and read the book. He read about the Major and Minor Arcana. He read about the meaning of the cards and what people used them for. He was just about to take a break when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. There was a white envelope halfway under his office door. Grabbing his 44 he quietly stood and moved to the door. Throwing it open quickly and dashing into the hall, he found no one there. Checking either end of the hall revealed no one either. Back in his office he cut open the envelope and with a tweezers, removed the only thing there, Another Tarot card. This one was the Moon.

Well, one thing was for sure, Sam thought. This case was getting weirder all the time. He had no idea what this meant but he had a Tarot book now so he looked up the card. The book told him the card meant that it was a time of uncertainty. It could also mean confusion or misunderstanding. Who would leave this? The Tarot had been Madame DuPree’s thing, but would it have been her? He didn’t think she would have climbed the stairs to his office and then he remembered how agile she had been jumping on his back during the attack. Maybe it was her. Or Michael. He had no idea, and no idea how to find out. This was one of the most frustrating cases he’d ever had. Sam knew he should just let it go. Mostly because he knew he would never get paid for his time. The old crone had hired him to find her niece but since that had all blown up, well, there’d be no money. Looking at the Tarot cards and admiring the artwork he thought, maybe I’ll try to read them. Why not? I’ve done a lot of crazier things, he thought. So he shuffled the deck and laid out three cards.

The book told him that a three card reading was common. The cards could represent the past, present and future. They could also mean the present, hindrances and help. The question he would ask was; How can I solve this case? He felt a little foolish doing this, as it was way outside what he believed in. Sam believed in what he could see and touch. This metaphysical mumbo jumbo held no interest for him. Usually. But now, because of the strange things that had happened, he wasn’t so sure. Couldn’t hurt to give it a try, he thought. So keeping the question in mind, as the book told him to do, he flipped over the cards. The first card was the Moon. The same one from the envelope. The second card was the Tower, and the third was the nine of cups. He had already discovered that the Moon card represented confusion, misunderstanding or uncertainty. That one he understood. there was plenty of all of that here. He found it interesting that that card came up in the first position. It fit. The next card, the Tower, stood for chaos, change, disruption, and destruction. Destruction he didn’t like. It could be his destruction. The card could also mean liberation. This was getting more interesting. The last card, the nine of Cups was harder to figure out. The book said it was a good card that meant that all is well. Fulfilled desires, well being and good health. He liked that but it wasn’t helping him figure out what to do. Sam wondered about the cups on the card. He dug through the book and found that the four suits, Swords, Cups, Wands and Coins were akin to the four suits in playing cards. And they had meanings. The four suits were associated with the four ancient elements of Air, Water, Fire and Earth. Cups, were associated with water. But how could that help him, he thought? And then it came to him. This whole thing had started on the water. In an old ship in the harbor. Maybe it would end there too. Dropping the book, Sam stood and grabbed his 44. He filled his coat pocket with bullets and just for luck, he put the Nine of Cups card in his shirt pocket. Couldn’t hurt, he thought.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Five

When he woke, colors and shapes swam before Sam’s eyes with the sickening feeling of being tied to the deck of a wind tossed ship. Someone was in the room with him, wherever he was. A hand touched his face and something touched his lips. A voice said, “Don’t be afraid mon, drink this.” He drank. Sam wouldn’t have been able to resist if he’d wanted to. Dark hair and brown skin filled his blurry vision as he slowly faded back to sleep.

When he next came to, Sam found himself in a hospital room. He felt exhausted but surprisingly good. The horrible feeling was gone. Sitting up on the side of the bed produced a small wave of nausea but it quickly passed. Where are my clothes, he thought, as he looked around the room. Standing, Sam moved uneasily toward the small closet in the corner. Inside, his clothes were hung up but his pistol was not in his coat pocket. Why do I keep losing my guns, he thought. After getting dressed Sam peeked his head out the door. No one there. Slipping out, he headed down the hallway looking for an exit. A nurse yelled from the other end of the hallway. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” “Sorry,” Sam said, and slipped down another hallway. An exit sign at the end caught his attention and he quickly made his way to it, and out the door.

By the position of the sun it looked like it was mid-day. The hospital was downtown so Sam hailed a cab and caught a ride to his office. Someone had been there, swept up the glass and placed a board over hole in the door where the latest window had been. Turning the knob, he found the door unlocked. Sam pushed it open and waited. Nothing. Looking in he found the office empty. Stepping inside he closed and locked the door. That’s when he heard the noise.

The bathroom door pushed open and Christi came into the room. “Awe ya gave me a fright mon!” Christi said, holding her hand to her heart.
“I see you feelin’ better. Dots good mon. I was afraid you weren’t gonna make it. Dat crazy ole witch cook up some powerful potions ya know?”

Sam just stared at her in disbelief. Grabbing the bottle of Jameson off the desk he poured himself a drink into a dirty glass. Knocking it back quickly produced a small jolt to his stomach which passed just as fast. He poured another.

“Hey, slow down mon.” Christi said, taking the glass from his hand. “You gonna do yourself in.”

“Right about now, I don’t give a damn,” said Sam. “You mind telling me what the hell happened?”

“Well I’m not sure,” Christi said, in her heavy Jamaican accent. “Seems de old hag slipped you a mickey, as dey say. I found you in de hospital and gave you somethin’ to help. What’s all deese scratches on your neck?” she asked, reaching toward Sam.

Sam backed up a half step. “That’s from your Auntie attacking me after her and her gorilla kidnapped me. Look, I don’t know what the hell’s going on here but I’m real sorry I took this case. I’ve been kidnapped, and beat up, I lost two good pistols and some skin and blood and what looks to be about a day or so I can’t account for.” I need some goddamn answers from somebody and since you’re the one who’s here, maybe you better start talking!”

“Two days.”


“You were in da hospital for two days, mon.”


“Here’s what I can tell you, mon,” said Christi as she sat down on Sam’s cot. “My Auntie is not what she seems. She got people workin’ for her sellin’ drugs. Mostly in the ghetto’s and poor neighborhoods. She a big deal, mon. She got dat Micheal doin’ her dirty work for her, arrangin’ everything. Da guys who kidnapped me, see, you ain’t de only one with troubles mon,” Christ gestured toward Sam. “Dey work for da rival gang. Dey want da ole lady out. But Micheal keeps her safe. So dey kidnap me to try an’ get to her. But den you come along and save me!”

Christi stood and wrapped her arms around herself. Her eyes began to tear up. “An’ I jus’ wanna go home. Home to Jamaica, mon. My Da, he die of the cancer. He say I’d have a better life in America. But he didn’t know dat de ole hag sell drugs. He didn’t know so, I can’t blame him, ya know? I can’t. But I have people in Jamaica. Dey will help me. I know. I jus’ have to get back dere.” She sat back down on the cot.

Sam sighed a long, deep sigh. Moving to his wall safe, he opened it. He pulled out a 44 magnum revolver, two boxes of bullets and a stack of cash. Closing the safe, he turned to Christi. “Alright. If you want to go back to Jamaica, I’ll help you do that. Here,” he said, pushing a note pad and pen across the desk. write down your clothes sizes. I’ll get you some things while you stay here and clean up. Then I’ll take you straight to the airport and put you on a plane. Alright?”

“Oh thank you Sam!” Christi exclaimed, rushing over and throwing her arms around him.

“I’ll be back in a little while. I’m locking the door, said Sam.

Sam caught a cab to a local department store since he didn’t know where his car was, and bought Christi some things he thought she would like. Bright colors to cheer her mood. Later, he’d have to speak to the police captain to clear some of this up and get his car back. Another cab took him back to his office.

The first thing Sam noticed is that his office door wasn’t closed all the way. He set his packages on the floor in the hallway and pulled out his 44. Pushing the door open quickly and stepping inside reveled two thing. His wall safe was open, and the rest of his cash, and Christi were gone.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Four

I started writing this story back in 2016. I wrote three parts and then life was interrupted by my wife’s illness. The story is a mystery involving my favorite detective, Sam Barton. Here are links to episodes one, two, and three. I’m now in the frame of mind to continue with the story. It’s been sitting, patiently waiting to be told. So here’s part four!

“She says you tried to rob her, Sam!” the police captain yelled. He had been doing this for about half an hour. Sam was driving around in his car trying to figure out what to do about this case when a squad car pulled him over. The police had went to Madame DuPree’s shop after Sam’s call and found the old woman tied up on the floor where he had left her. Taking her to the station, she claimed that Sam had come to the shop and tried to rob her. She said that she had never seen him before.

Pounding his hand on the Captain’s desk, Sam shouted back, “You can’t be serious! You know me Captain! You know who I am. You know I’d never do something like that. She hired me to find her niece. When I found more than she’d wanted, she had her gorilla knock me out and lock me in a storeroom. Look! She gave me this card.” Reaching into his pocket, Sam retrieved the Tarot card Madame DuPree gave him. Christi had tossed it into the back seat of his car after he rescued her and for reasons he couldn’t understand, he grabbed it and put it back into his pocket before the cops stopped him. “Why do you think I’d have something like this, Captain? Where do you think I’d get a Tarot card, if not from her?” Sam flipped the card over to show the Captain the face side, which had been the Death card except now it wasn’t. “What the hell…?” Sam said. “This, this isn’t the right card.”

“That doesn’t prove anything,” the captain said. “You’re not that stupid Sam, and neither am I. Having a playing card in your hand doesn’t mean squat! Now I know you didn’t try to rob her but your explanation isn’t all that convincing. So why don’t we…Sam? Sam!

“Sam looked up from the card and said, “This isn’t the right card. She gave me the Death card, but this isn’t it.” The card Sam was holding was the Hermit card. It showed an old man standing alone on a mountain top holding a lantern in his out stretched hand. “There’s something wrong here Captain…”

“You bet yer ass there is,” the Captain interrupted.

“She only gave me one card, Captain. It was the Death card. This isn’t it. How, how could that happen?

Sam’s vision started to blur. He dropped the Hermit card on the desk and rubbed his eyes. He started feeling nauseous and dizzy. Looking at the Capatin and back at the Hermit card he saw the figure of the Hermit turn it’s head toward him. Sam thought he must be going crazy as the figure began to grow larger in his vision. The Hermit lifted his lantern to illuminate Sam’s face and said, “You’re alone. You’re all alone, with no one to help you! Death will come to you in it’s time but for now, You’re all alone.” Sam fell forward out of his chair, and remembered nothing more.


Imagine if you will, that you woke up one day and possessed the power of telekinesis. The power to manipulate matter with your mind. Imagine you could lift a car from a pinned accident victim. You could stop the flow of a river, redirect the wind. Stop someone’s heart, break someone’s arm. Empty a cash machine of all its money. All just by thinking it. I’ve been watching the Netflix series, “Stranger Things” where one of the characters has this power. The truth is, we all desire power. All of us. Presidents and governments desire power. A farmer desires power. Even a Buddhist monk, who has renounced all desire, has the desire to control their own desire. We all seek power and control, of one sort or another. So you wake up one day and discover that you have this power. You couldn’t use it without someone finding out about it. In today’s world, that would be impossible. What do you think would happen to you, once people found out about your power?

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you won the lottery? We’ve all seen these multi-million dollar lotteries being won by ordinary people and many of us have daydreamed about what we would do if it was us who won. Pay off all your bills, take trips around the world, give to charities, share it with family and friends. (You notice I said “share it” last!) I’ve thought about it. I’m pretty sure most people have. Why? Because we have desires. So what do you think would happen if you suddenly had telekinesis? People who win huge lottery payouts report that suddenly people from everywhere start requesting money. Thousands of people they don’t know want them to give them money. Winners have had to move. Change their phone numbers, hire security. All because other people desire to have what you have or desire to use what you have to achieve their own desires. The reason I’m focusing on telekinesis is because it represents enormous power. And power and control is the most desirable thing in the world.

You would immediately be courted by your government. And probably other governments as well. And private companies and institutions. All of them of course, would have noble and lofty reasons why you should be their ally. You could end war and famine. Bring rain to drought stricken areas, stop forest fires and hurricanes. Heal broken bones and sickness. While all of these things seem great, the underlying desire would be for power. You would be sought as a weapon. A weapon against cancer? Wonderful, right? But a weapon, non the less. What government doesn’t seek weapons? All countries want security. And most of them see security in weapons of force. I know I’m concentrating on the darker side of human nature but all you have to do is pay attention to world news to see the dark side in action. (Sounds like a Star Wars reference.) Everyone wants power and control. Everyone.

So what would you do, if you had this power? It’s kind of like the question of what you would do if you won millions in the lottery. What would you do? Certainly they would start with appealing to your better nature. Look at all the good you could do, they would say, if you were on our side. We only want to help. We only want to make things better. And if you turned them down, how long would it take before they started to use threats and force? We are human after all. We have desires. Jealousy, envy. Am I being too dark? I don’t think so. I think the desire for power and control by governments is so strong that they would be willing to do anything to secure your power for themselves. Look at what’s happening today. Donald Trump was willing to shut down the government, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work, just to get his wall. To get what he wants, others must suffer. Look at other governments and how they treat people. Millions suffer every day so that governments and others in power can have more power. And if you suddenly had great power? What do you think they would do to you?