Friday, September 27, 2019

13 ~ Simple Pleasures

In September, the prompts have been found on Delores' blog: Mumblings. Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years.
1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same;  2 ~ Blazing;  3 ~ Kendall;  4 ~ Two Birds;  5 ~ Fox in the Trees;  6 ~ Peppermint;  7 ~ An Unmasked Truth;  8 ~ Defiance;  9 ~ Tin Lizzie;  10 ~ A Fall From Grace;  11 ~ Airborne; 12 - Trolls

     Blaze knocked on Kendall's office door and opened it a crack to peek in.  Kendall was talking on the phone with several men in suits waiting for him to hang up.  Motioning for Blaze to come in, Kendall continued to listen on the phone, occasionally nodding his head as if the person on the other end could see him, and going "mmhmm," "yes, I understand," or "alright."  When he finally hung up, he put his head in his hands for a moment before looking up at the room full of men, all watching him expectantly.

     "They found the wreckage in two different locations, but they haven't yet found any bodies.  One plane that followed the flight plan filed went down intact just after crossing into international waters.  There was some damage to the wings, but they think that was caused by the impact with the water."

     Blaze looked puzzled.  "Who was on the plane?"

     "Horatio was supposed to be, as well as four other people and the pilot.  But so far, they haven't found any bodies.  Not even the pilot who should have been buckled in his seat and in the cockpit.  The black box indicated that the jet was on autopilot when a door was opened and cabin pressure was lost.  The other location where the wreckage was spotted looks like that jet went down in an explosion.    It was almost 200 miles in the opposite direction of the first jet.  There are body parts strapped into seats, charring on pieces of the aircraft.  It is the exact same type of Learjet that Horatio owned, but no flight path was filed for it."

     "Has anyone seen or heard from Horatio?  Maybe he didn't make the flight."

     "He has apparently disappeared.  These guys are with the FBI and have been trying to track him down since last week.  They got a message from Adelia saying something was going to happen, and now no one has seen him.  She told them that she overheard him talking to someone about leaving that night after a meeting, but didn't know where or when the meeting was, or where he was going afterward.  They had a tracker on his car, but he switched vehicles outside of a restaurant and they lost him."

     "Hmm.  Maybe some justice by gravity?  So what now?  Do you still testify?  Do we still have to go into WITSEC?"

     One of the men in a black suit, with a bland, strictly business look on his face, took a step forward.  "The investigation has changed direction now and we're working with the CIA going directly after the cartel.  Kendall will still testify to his knowledge of what your father was doing based on the information he found, as will Adelia.  But instead of being able to wrap things up quickly, it may take longer since we are now pursuing them internationally and coordinating with agencies in other countries."

     "And me?  Am I still in danger?"

     "Perhaps not.  Adelia never filed the new will Horatio dictated, and nothing was ever changed with regards to the foundation.  In fact, as far as we can determine, the foundation doesn't exist.  The board members may have approved it verbally, but no documents were ever filed."

     Blazed glanced at Kendall and raised an eyebrow.  Kendall shook his head slightly, and Blaze redirected his attention to the man.

     "But I thought Horatio told the cartel that he was laundering all their money through the foundation?"

     "He may have told them that, but there isn't anything documented to back that up.  As far as they are concerned, it was just another lie he told them to throw them off his trail, although it doesn't appear that they bought into it.  They are aggressively searching for him as much as we are.  You may still be in danger, but only because they may approach you trying to find out where he went.  He did give them your name."

     "Great.  So when it gets down to crunch time with the cartel, am I protected or not?"

     A second man, whose left jawline was grotesquely swollen, whispered something to the man who spoke.  Nodding, the first man turned towards Kendall.

     "You'll have to excuse my associate for being rude.  He has a toothache at the moment and is unable to speak out loud.  He suggested that if Mr. Blaze would prefer to go into WITSEC with you, that would now be permitted."
A year later in a federal courthouse ...
     "As you can see, your honor, by these witnesses testifying with their identities and voices disguised they are in fear for their lives because of threats the cartel has made against them in retaliation for their testimonies today.  These witnesses have risked their lives to tell the truth.  We ask that you rule in favor of an indictment."
Two years later somewhere in the United States ...
     There is laughter around a bonfire.  Two couples, one of them with a small child and the other with a very pregnant wife, were enjoying the evening after handing out milk duds to scores of giggling trick-or-treaters who had performed on-demand tricks.  "Dance like a butterfly."  "Say 'abracadabra' six times fast."  "Sing 'Purple People Eater'."

     Occasionally, the two men would exchange a look that spoke volumes in the silence between them.  Neither of them had known what to expect when they had walked away from everything they had known to start their lives over again.  But they hadn't expected to find romance or love.  

     There was an atmosphere of contentment between them, and as they watched the stars flicker in the night sky, a green glow of the Northern Lights made them all appreciate the remarkable beauty in the universe.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

12 ~ Trolls

In September, the prompts have been found on Delores' blog: Mumblings. Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years.

This week my post will still follow the storyline I've been doing for the past 11 weeks, however, I'm going to redirect the story to something that affects all of us in some way.  Trolls and bullies.  Delores (a wonderful person and blogger) came under attack by a troll via her blog and email.  The scum that came from the inside of a Boy Scout camp outhouse hole in lower Alabama in the middle of summer "person" that trolled and bullied her has forced her to leave the Internet and all things computer because of things they said and threats they made ... and carried out.  A pox on you, you worthless troll, may your computer be filled with fleas, mites, and vicious little bugs that chew your fingers off and your eyes out.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same2 ~ Blazing3 ~ Kendall4 ~ Two Birds5 ~ Fox in the Trees6 ~ Peppermint7 ~ An Unmasked Truth8 ~ Defiance9 ~ Tin Lizzie10 ~ A Fall From Grace11 ~ Airborne

     Kendall could hear the sound of the ax falling on wood as he got out of his car and walked to the front door of the cabin.  He could also hear Blaze's voice shouting with each blow words that would have made a Marine Drill Sargent blush.  Entering the cabin, he crossed the living room and stood at the back sliding glass door, watching Blaze chop a piece of wood into nothing more than small pieces of kindling.  Apparently, something had upset him even more than finding out they might have to go into separate WITSEC programs.

     "Dude!  Stop!  Whatever it was that pissed you off so bad isn't worth chopping off your foot or having a heart attack over.  What the heck is going on?"

     Blaze threw the ax as hard as he could towards a nearby tree where it stuck with a force that put almost the entire blade into the wood.  He let out an angry scream that made Kendall take two steps back.

     "Look, man, if it is going to upset you that much, I'll tell the feds we have to go into the same WITSEC program."

     Sitting down hard on the ground, Blaze let out a shaky breath.  He was exhausted, having spent over an hour trying to tame his rage and anger by chopping wood.

     "Tell me something, Kendall.  How hard is it, do you think, to live a life of kindness?"
     "Um...not hard?"
     "No!  Not hard at all!  In fact, being kind to someone is something that really doesn't take much effort at all.  Most people do it without even realizing it.  They say 'please' and 'thank you' and open doors for the handicapped.  They let people break in line at the grocery store when they see someone with just a few items compared to their full cart of things.  They smile at strangers and wave at children in school buses.  They share their blessings by helping those who have less, by listening to a friend who is sad or bringing a meal to someone who is sick.  Being kind is something that comes naturally!"
     "And that is what made you so angry?"
     "No!  It's the trolls and bullies who have to make the extra effort to hurt people.  The ones who find a weakness in someone and use it to push them into a corner where they can do nothing but give up the fight or flight instinct and force them into curling up into a ball and letting the evil in people win."
     "Wouldn't that be considered fleeing from the enemy?"
     "No.  Fleeing would mean that they were still alive, that they were surviving in spite of what was said or done to them.  They might not fight back, but at least they didn't give up.  Giving up means that they just roll over and let the trolls and bullies dictate how they are going to live."
     "What brought all this on?  Do you feel we would be giving up if we did what the feds want us to do and go into WITSEC?  Do you want to fight the cartel?"
     Blaze shook his head and replied gruffly, "No!  This doesn't have anything to do with us.  Not directly.  It has to do with everything and everyone.  It has to do with how much power we give trolls and bullies."
     "Okay.  You lost me.  Start at the beginning."

     Blaze told Kendall about growing up poor and getting teased in school for the Goodwill out-of-style clothes he wore, his body odor or appearance when he hadn't been able to shower because the water had been shut off, or when his mother couldn't afford to buy him deodorant.  He talked about getting called stupid for failing tests and grades because he couldn't read well or hadn't been able to study when his parents were fighting, and not being able to complete science projects when he couldn't buy the supplies he needed.  Blaze talked about seeing girls bullied in school because of their size or appearance, or anything that made them different.  Even if it was something as petty as freckles, red hair, glasses, or braces on their legs or teeth.

     Bullying in those days was harsh and cruel, but it was in your face.  You could see your attackers, and sometimes that made it easier to deal with because you could also see that they really weren't that different from you.  That sometimes they slipped and fell in the boy's bathroom when the troublemakers thought it would be funny to use the floor instead of the urinals.  But it was still painful, damaging and lonely.  There were times when Blaze wished he could just disappear instead of getting into fights that only got him suspended and sent home.  The bullies that his parents had become were just as bad as the ones at school, only he had no way of fighting back with them.
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     Childhood bullies had grown up to become adult bullies.  With the invention of computers and the Internet, they had morphed into a new kind of bully ... the troll.  They hid behind their monitors in the relative anonymity of screen names, generic email addresses, and IPs.  Their words became harsher, crueler, and eviler.   Words of hate began to spike on the internet.  Trolls tricked, tormented, and much like their namesakes they stole and ate the happy souls of their victims.  Even worse, their victims didn't have to even be someone they knew.  In a hurry to judge, they attacked randomly, discriminating against no one, and including everyone at the same time.  A troll could blindly bully someone on the other side of the world for no other reason than not liking their comments on an article or picture, or because they had a foreign-sounding name.

     Where there had once been a chance to make face-to-face bullies see the error of their ways, often there was no such opportunity for redemption with Internet trolls.  They bounced their IPs off multiple servers so someone right next door could appear like they were in another country.  Or the reverse, a troll in another country could appear to be right next door, adding to the fright they were inflicting on their victims.

     "Blaze, these aren't new problems.  Why is it making you so angry now?"
     "It has always made me angry, it's just now it has happened to someone I know and I'm concerned for her."
     "It's not what you think.  She's a friend I met online while reading a blog I follow."
     "Wait.  You follow a blog?"
     "Are you bullying me for wanting to expand my wealth of knowledge?"
     Kendall smiled wryly, "Relax.  I'm just messing with you.  Go on."
     Sighing, Blaze continued, "Some spineless troll must have hacked her system and planted a keystrokes virus.  They got passwords, account information, and started to send her threatening emails.  At first, she just ignored them thinking it was all some loser's idea of a joke.  Then they started to really mess with her.  She wasn't able to fight back and finally decided to give up and quit the Internet and computers."
     "And that's what made you angry?"
     "The whole thing makes me angry.  That someone would do that to her.  That there was nothing that she could do about it.  That they've taken away something that gives her joy and they probably don't even know what a great writer she is and how interesting she is or what she has to offer the world with her words, pictures, and experience.  That there are asshats like that in the world who just seem to derive so much pleasure from someone else's fear and pain.  That I feel so helpless and unable to stop asshats like that from hurting people I know."
     "So what do you want to do about it?"
     "I don't know.  There has to be some way to stop them.  Some way for all of us to just stand up to them and end bullying and trolling once and for all.  I tell you, Kendall, there is not a hell hot enough, or frigid enough depending on what you believe, for those who prey on others like that."
     "How did Harry Potter stop the troll in the first movie?"
     "What?  This isn't some movie, Kendall.  This is serious.  People have committed suicide because of what some troll told them.  It has to stop.  And Potter did nothing.  The troll got his wand stuck up its nose and then fell on it.  It was pure dumb luck, not magic."
     "Okay, so that was a bad example.  I never actually saw the movie, I just heard about it.  I know that I've never had to experience the kind of bullying that you did or the kind of trolling your friend has.  Private prep schools might not have the same kind of bullies that public schools do, but there are still mean kids who grow up feeling more entitled than others because of their parents' money.  I remember one time getting picked on because my father was dating a girl barely older than me, and girls in school were calling me "the perv's kid."  I couldn't pay one of them to be my date at the winter formal dance that year, and if I had even joked about paying someone to go with me, it would have just added fuel to the fire.  When the chef heard me complaining about it to one of my friends in the dining room one afternoon, she pulled me aside and told me that the best way to deal with an unkind person was to kill them with kindness."
     "I'm not sure telling a 17-year-old to kill someone was a good idea."
     "What she meant was that instead of letting someone's words and actions hurt me, what I needed to do was to counter them with words and actions of kindness.  For example, when everyone laughed because I couldn't get a date for the winter formal and was going to skip it, she suggested I go alone and have a good time anyway.  She told me that there would probably be a lot of girls going by themselves also who never got asked, and instead of having to dance with the same girl all night long, I'd be able to dance with several and not have to suffer the jealous glares of my date because of it.  What I learned was that how you choose to react to someone else's actions can either give them control over you, or it can make you more powerful than they are."
     "How do you mean?  How is that supposed to help my friend?"
     "Start a kindness campaign and not just an anonymous random act of kindness campaign.  Start one with intent.  When you see or hear words of anger and hate, counter them with words of kindness.  If you overhear someone telling someone they are ugly or stupid or fat, tell them that they are beautiful and intelligent.  Everyone has their own ways of being beautiful.  Someone can be book smart but have the common sense of a rock, and reversely, someone can be incredibly intelligent because of their life experiences but have never gone to school."
     "And my friend?"
     "I'm sure she can change passwords and set up protocols that would protect her if someone tried to hack her account again.  She can have her computer wiped and cleaned, and get stronger firewalls."
     "Pretty sure she has tried all that."
     "Okay, but has she deleted all of her social media accounts that expose her to strangers?  Does she monitor the comments on her blog, or restrict them just to certain groups of friends?"
     "I think so."
     "So now work on rebuilding her confidence in herself.  Have you told her how much you respect and admire her writing?  Her photographs?  Have you told her how much you will miss reading her blog?"
     "I've tried in so many words, but I'm pretty sure that she knows all that.  Others have told her too, I'm sure."
     "Then all you can do now is just be there for her from a distance.  Start the kindness movement.  Speak out against trolls.  Counteract what they do whenever and wherever you see it.  It doesn't have to be someone you know.  It just has to be said.  Create a hashtag and use it whenever you counteract a troll's wickedness.  Hashtag killing trolls with kindness."
     "And then shove a wand up their nose?"
     The two men laughed, and Kendall replied, "Whatever works."

Thursday, September 12, 2019

11 ~ Airborne

1 ~ Completely Opposite ...; 2 ~ Blazing; 3 ~ Kendall; 4 ~ Two Birds; 5 ~ Fox in the Trees; 6 ~ Peppermint; 7 ~ An Unmasked Truth; 8 ~ Defiance; 9 ~ Tin Lizzie; 10 ~ A Fall From Grace
     Horatio exited the black limo carrying a silver briefcase and walked into the hangar where two Learjets Challenger 650s were parked.  The driver of the limo opened the trunk and pulled out two large suitcases and placed them in front of one of the jets.  Horatio stood next to them, waiting as a man approached him from the rear of the hangar.

     "Is everything taken care of?"
     "Yes, sir.  Just as you instructed.  Are you traveling alone?  We were told that there would be one other person traveling with you."
     "No, there will be no one else boarding.  How soon can we take off?"
     "As soon as you have boarded, sir."
     "You are certain that no one knows of my plans?"
     "Yes, sir.  I made sure of it myself."

      Opening the briefcase, Horatio took out a thick envelope of cash and handed it to the man before boarding one of the jets.  The man pocketed the envelope, then took out his cell phone.

     "Está aquí."
     "¿Ya está hecho?"
     "Quiero estar seguro de que mi familia está a salvo.  Prometiste liberarlos si hacía esto.  Déjame hablar con mi esposa primero."
     The twin Learjets took off within minutes of each other from a private airport north of New York City.  Only one of them, however, had filed a flight plan with the FAA to Saint Helena Island, stopping to refuel in Miami and Rio de Janeiro.  Shortly after takeoff, the two jets stacked up in the sky so that any radar that happened to catch them would see only one blip on the screen, not two.  Thirty minutes after crossing into international airspace, the pilot and lone occupant of one of them set the jet's autopilot, pulled on a parachute, opened the cabin door and jumped out.  Diving through the night sky, like a peregrine falcon hunting prey, he pulled the ripcord at the last moment and gently floated down to a waiting yacht.

     The captain of the yacht watched as the pilot took off the parachute harness, then handed him a thick envelope of cash.  As the pilot turned to throw his parachute overboard, the yacht captain nodded to one of the crew members who pulled out a gun and shot the pilot in the back of the head.  Taking the envelope of money from the pilot's inside pocket, the captain waved his hand and the crew members began wrapping the body up in the parachute before it was lifted it up and dropped in the middle of a frenzy of sharks.  The sharks, drawn to the boat by bloody chum that had been tossed overboard just before the pilot landed on the deck, barely realized they were ripping apart something more than just squid and grouper.

     Now miles away in the sky, the two Challenger 650s on autopilot continued to shadow each other until one of them, carrying just a quarter of the fuel necessary for the distance needed, sensed a change in the fuel level and sounded an alarm that could barely be heard over the wind from the open door in the cabin.  Slowly it began to fall back, and sensing a slight change in altitude, the autopilot switched itself off and the jet began to fall towards the Atlantic Ocean.  

     As it dropped, the remaining Learjet continued to shadow it until both were below the radar.   Watching the other jet hit the water, the remaining jet changed course and began to head north to Tenerife Island off the coast of Spain.  Suddenly, the jet exploded and debris began to fall into the Atlantic.  A silver briefcase, now dented and blackened in places, hit the water hard.  It was filled with almost two million dollars cash, and half a million dollars worth of cocaine.

     Body parts, not incinerated in the blast, began to fall.  Horatio's head, slightly charred, his eyes and mouth wide open in surprise rolled end over end before it caught the attention of a shark.  Opening its mouth wide, it swallowed the head without even slowing down as it moved through the water, dodging pieces of aircraft sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

10 ~ A Fall From Grace

In September, the prompts will be found on Delores' blog: Mumblings. Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years. Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some, all, or none of the prompts.  1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same  2 ~ Blazing  3 ~ Kendall  4 ~ Two Birds  5 ~ Fox in the Trees  6 ~ Peppermint  7 ~ An Unmasked Truth  8 ~ Defiance  9 ~ Tin Lizzie

     Blaze sat in the boat considering what Kendall had just told him.  He had met some pretty rough people when he lived on the streets, but none of them compared to what the cartel had done to Muñoz.

     "Why are you telling me all this now?  Is that why you insisted we come out on the boat?  So no one could hear us?  Are there people listening to us now, at the cabin?"

     Kendall looked around the lake at the changing colors of the trees.  This had always been the season that spoke to his heart.  It made him contemplate life, the beauty of it, and how short it could be at times.  In the spring he watched the trees burst forth with life, new leaves, and branches that reached toward the sun.  The whole forest came alive.  

     In the fall, the trees began to change, as if they were trying to catch his attention by shouting out in bright yellows, oranges, and reds.  "Life is short, cherish it!" they called to him.  "See how beautiful it is, how beautiful we are!  Don't forget this time when things are dark and winter comes.  Spring will return, and we will do this dance around the sun once again."

     "I'm telling you this because you need to know Horatio is using us as his exit strategy.  He agreed to the foundation because something went bad and the cartel was angry.  They found out he had been stealing from them, both money and product.  He was using the coke he stole as "appetizers" at parties he threw to get young women, and men, to sleep with him and his friends.  When his party stash got low between the cartel shipments, he would cut it with other drugs.  He didn't know what he was doing and relied on some guy he met to do the cut for him.  He didn't question anything, like what he was cutting it with or where he got it."

     "Holy cow."

     "You remember meeting his secretary, Adelia?"  Blaze nodded.  

     "Adelia would bring her girls, Gloria and Samantha, to the company holiday parties, and I would hang out with them while the adults did their thing.   Easter picnics.  Memorial Day & 4th of July BBQs.  Labor Day pool parties.  Halloween costume parties.  Thanksgivings.  Christmases.  New Years.  Sam was my first kiss on New Year's Eve one year.   She was beautiful, really beautiful.  I had the hugest crush on her for the longest time.  The parties were Horatio's way of flashing his money and trying to get new clients.  As we got older, I think we all stopped going to them and I just lost touch with Sam.
     "A few years ago I heard she got in with the wrong crowd and somehow wound up at one of Horatio's private parties.  She got the attention of someone there and he slipped something into her drink when she wasn't looking.  I think he thought it would make it easier for him to seduce her or take advantage of her.  But he didn't know that Horatio's cut guy had used fentanyl to cut the coke with for that party and she had an allergic reaction and died."

     Blaze shook his head.  "Oh man.  I bet Adelia was devastated."

     "When Horatio saw who it was, he freaked out and made everyone leave.  Then he had one of his guys take her and dump her behind a bar in a bad part of town.  They made an anonymous 9-1-1 call, and at first, no one really knew what had happened to her.  They ruled it an overdose, and everyone thought it was over.  But Gloria wouldn't just let it go.  She knew her sister would never have done any hard drugs, and she started investigating it on her own.  Sam had her faults.  She drank a lot and loved to party, but never did anything more than smoke a little weed.  She'd had a bad reaction one time when she got her wisdom teeth taken out and it had scared her pretty bad, so she wouldn't do anything more than just smoke a joint occasionally.  Eventually, Gloria found out about the party at Horatio's."

     "Did she tell the cops?"

     "No.  She told Adelia, and Adelia told the feds.  She's been turning evidence over to the feds for the past year.  Somehow the cartel found out that there was someone inside Horatio's company that was giving information to the feds, so they started looking closer at what he was doing and found out about the money and product he was stealing.  He got wind that they were onto him and so started trying to figure out how he could get out of it.  That's when we showed up with the idea for the foundation, and he decided that he would dump everything on us and bail.  He's been putting money in a bank on an island somewhere and planning to fake his death in a plane crash in the Atlantic.  Horatio had his will changed to leave everything to me, no trust, no conditions, just the whole shebang so the cartel would come after me for their money.  All while he was living it up in the sun drinking Mai Tai's on a beach somewhere."

     "No way!  How did you find out about all this?"

     "I started seeing some strange entries in the books not long after he started letting me work for him and did my own digging.  I didn't like what I saw, so made some changes that would protect me if what I thought was happening was really happening.  I made sure that my salary was coming from one of the corporation's companies that weren't involved in his drug cartel business, and even then I had it go through a foundation that isn't even related to Horatio.  You know I sit on the board of a few different charitable organizations, right?  So I had my salary from Horatio split between all of them as ongoing contributions to their operating expenses.  In turn, they pay me a nominal salary for being on their boards.  It's all done legally and reported to the IRS, so I'm completely clean from what he does."

     "Geez, man.  I wish I was just one-tenth as smart as you are.  That was brilliant!"

     "Adelia came to me a week ago and told me about Horatio changing his will and trust, and that she was turning evidence for the feds.  She was worried that Horatio was setting me up.  The next day, the feds reached out to me and told me they had been watching me for a while to see if I was involved in what Horatio was doing.  They had actually been bugging the cabin for the last few months."

     "Say what?!?!?  Oh wow.  I'm so glad I never brought anyone home!  That would have been so embarrassing."  The two men laughed lightly.

     "They asked if I would be willing to testify against Horatio.  Adelia had already agreed to testify under the condition that she and Gloria go into WITSEC to protect them from the cartel.  They offered me the same thing, but I told them I needed to think about it for a week, and that I wouldn't even consider it unless they could guarantee that you would be protected also.  See, Horatio told them that all their money was going to start going through the foundation and that you would be overseeing it all.  The cartel has already started putting feelers out to find out more about you.  If Horatio disappears with all their money, the cartel is going to start looking for you to find out where it is."


     "Yeah.  Get this, Adelia told me that Horatio insisted she put a message specifically for me in his new will.  He said, 'Tell him that there are so many ways to say 'I'm sorry' but you know I wouldn't be sincere if I said it, so I'll just say 'Best of luck to you' instead.'"

     "That's so wrong.  So cold and just so wrong.  Would I have to go into WITSEC also?"

     "If you wanted to stay alive you would."

     "Would we go together, or would we have to go separately?"

     "The feds think it would be best if we went separately.  The cartel knows that you and I are friends and that I stay up here on the weekends and during the summer.  If we go together, it might be easier for them to find us because they will be expecting that.  Separately, they think we have a better chance of really disappearing into our new WITSEC lives."

     There was silence between the two men as they contemplated what that would mean to both of them.  They were more than just friends.  They were brothers.  Family.  Neither of them had anyone they were closer to, and the thought of starting new lives without that bond between them was something almost inconceivable.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

9 ~ Tin Lizzie

In September, the prompts will be found on Delores' blog: Mumblings. Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years. Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some, all, or none of the prompts.
1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees
6 ~ Peppermint
7 ~ An Unmasked Truth
8 ~ Defiance
     Adelia sat in the ladies room stall and typed a text in all caps on her cell phone.  "SOMETHING IS HAPPENING TONIGHT."
     Kendall and Blaze were in a boat at the far end of the lake.  As far away from from the cabin and the blue van as they could get.  Blaze cast a lure with his fishing pole and glanced back over his shoulder at the storm clouds beginning to form behind them.

     "So what's going on?  We can't stay out here forever."
     "The FBI is investigating Horatio's company, and they want me to testify against him."
     "Are you serious?  Testify about what?"

     Kendall took a deep breath and cast his line.  He had been avoiding this conversation with Blaze for years in order to protect him, only now Horatio's actions had forced his hand.

     "It started about ten years ago, right before Horatio approached me about getting my act together to take over the company.  I always thought that he was up to something because he never does anything without having an ulterior motive.  I was going to be more than just his successor.  He was setting me up to be his scapegoat."
      "What do you mean?"
      "Horatio had gone to Willow Springs, California to watch his newest toy, a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 racing a Ferrari F430 Scuderia.  He was betting that the Bugatti would be so fast it would leave ripples in the blacktop.  The Ferrari was owned by a man who had been competing against Horatio for their entire professional careers, and the bet was a large one.  All or nothing."
     "All or nothing?"
     "Their companies, their reputations, their bank accounts.  Everything."
     "Oh.  Wow."
     "Horatio saw it just as an opportunity to eliminate the competition and increase his bottom line.  Everything for him was always about the bottom line.  What he didn't realize was that the other guy, Renaldo Muñoz, was setting him up to be his exit strategy.  See, Muñoz had gotten in over his head with his partners and a business he had never wanted to be in.  Laundering money for the South American drug cartels."
     "How was he going to use Horatio as an exit strategy?"
     "The cartel wanted to move more money than Muñoz was able to do without drawing the attention of the IRS, FCC, Homeland, and the FBI.  And they wanted him to start moving product too.  So he came up with the idea of moving it all through Horatio.  The cartel bought into the idea, but Muñoz said he would only do it with the condition that he could walk away free and clear.  He knew that there was a good chance that the cartel would go back on their promise and kill him, but if there was even the smallest chance that he would be able to just disappear and life the rest of his life in peace, he had to take it."
     "So he rigged the race."
     "He let the cartel rig it so he could have plausible deniability.  They rigged the Ferrari so that when it hit a certain speed, a small device blasted the line for the accelerator and it would lose speed, allowing the Bugatti to win.  On the surface, it looked like just an unfortunate break in the line.  Only someone who knew what they were looking for would see the sabotage."

     Blaze felt a hit on his line and started reeling it in.  A large bass rolled on the surface of the water, and Kendall reached for the net.  Just as he was about to get him in, the bass jumped and spit out the lure.

     "After the race, Horatio's people went scurrying around trying to close the deal and get all the paperwork signed.  Not one of them bothered to look closely at the details of what they were really getting.... hell in a handbasket.  Those first few months were intense ones, especially when the cartel paid a visit to Horatio and explained the terms of his acquisition, and how they would define his success.  To make sure he understood, they sent him a gift the following week."
     "A gift?"
     "The card on the outside of the box had a photo of a Model T Ford on it, and the note inside said 'Do what is expected of you, and you won't have to go the way of the Tin Lizzie.'"
     "And inside?"
     "Muñoz's head.  It had been dipped in molten tin.  While he was alive."