A bit of a different snippet…

This one is… for an anthology next year.

Comments/recommendations appreciated as always.

The Grandmaster’s Crypt

Aiden de Monte twisted and turned in the bed, in the grips of either a nightmare or really strange dream. He finally bolted up in bed, gasping. “Damn…”

Sophie, his long-suffering wife, reached over and turned on the light. “Aiden, are you…alright? What was it this time?” After thirty-five years, she knew he occasionally had nightmares resulting from the many cases he’d worked as a detective in the homicide and domestic violence units of the Pulizija ta’ Malta, or as he said, ‘The cop shop.’

Aiden shook his head. “I don’t know…it’s…strange and so real. I could smell the odor of leather and oiled metal, and I could hear the slither of chain mail. It…was a knight. All in black. He was calling me to arms and…” Shaking his head, he went on. “He called me Pietro. Said the crypt had been…miksura, violated, but it was old language. And I was to call out the knights.”

Sophie snorted. “Call out the knights?”

Aiden got up. “Yes, call out the knights. But we don’t have…maybe one or two still here. And I don’t think they do investigations.” He stretched and groaned. “Well, I’m awake, so I think I’ll make some tea.”

She grumped, “You go right ahead. I’m going back to sleep. I don’t have to be up at.” she glanced at the clock on the nightstand. “Four in the morning.”

Chuckling, he walked out of the bedroom as she clicked the light off. He made his way through the dark old house to the kitchen, flipped on the light, and found the kettle. Filling it, he set it on the stove as Gato, the house cat, came in and meowed at him. “No, you don’t get breakfast yet, Gato. You have to wait.” The cat glared at him and jumped up to sit in his usual chair at the table, staring at him over the top of the table as he went about making his tea.

He settled in his chair and sipped the tea meditatively. “Call out the knights! What should I have them do?” he asked himself rhetorically.

Gato suddenly yowled and hissed as he bolted from the chair. Just as Aiden felt the temperature drop and the smell of leather and oiled metal returned. It seemed the room had suddenly gotten darker, and he shivered inadvertently. “If I were to call the knights,” he said softly, “I think I’d have them searching the island, starting with the port for what is missing. I would guess it would be the altar pieces, possibly things from the crypt, and…maybe paintings. But I wouldn’t just search the port, I’d start there, and move up the island. Airport, the towns, and all the coves around the island.” He nodded to himself. “Yes, that would be it. Go forth and search!”

Gato’s chair seemed to rock, the smell went away, and the lights seemed to come back up as he said that. Huh, I must still be dreaming. Well, I’m not going to go back to bed and bother Sophie, that’s something I’ll pay for later, and I have work on my desk I can be doing. Glancing up at the clock, he thought, Sophie doesn’t have to be at work at Mater Dei until seven thirty. Rank hath its privileges, and since she made chief surgical nurse, her hours have more or less stabilized. How did we ever manage to have Mirko when she was at St. Luke’s, and I was a lowly constable? He finished his tea, rinsed the cup, and headed to Mirko’s old room, now his office and closet. Taking out a clean suit, he stripped out of his pajamas, quickly shaved, and took a shower in the second bathroom, dressed quietly, and returned to the kitchen. He looked at himself in the mirror by the door and sighed at the rumpled, portly, balding man looking back at him. I still don’t know what Sophie saw in me, but whatever it was, I’m glad she saw it. He made one more attempt to straighten his tie, petted Gato, who had returned from his sulk and was sitting on the end of the counter, demanding his due as the lord and master of the house.

Down the stairs and out the front door, he squinted and saw that he actually had enough room to get his car out. After a quick check of it, he got in and drove up Santa Monika, then down the hill to the Police Depot. The nice thing about being an inspector was that he could park inside the gate, and he waved to the on-duty officer as he rolled through the gate. Finding what would be a shady parking place, he went in the back door and headed to the break room for his morning tea.

It surprised him to see the deputy commissioner in the break room. “In early, Commissioner,” he said by way of greeting.

The commissioner glanced up from his tea. “Aiden, I don’t know why you’re here, but I’ve got a job for you.”

He groaned silently. “Can I leave, go back home, and have you pretend you didn’t see me?” Aiden asked jokingly.

The commissioner grimaced. “I wish. I know you’re head of CID, but this one is…going to be an issue.”

Aiden got his tea and sat down across from the commissioner. “What’s up, Raffaele? And why CID?”

“Saint John’s Cathedral was robbed this morning. Sometime between three and four. And the Grandmaster’s Crypt was desecrated. We’re still working to get a list of everything that was taken.” Shaking his head sadly, he continued, “The guard, one Clement Sceberras is down in interrogation right now. He’s…having some issues.”

He almost dropped his teacup when he heard that. “Issues? I guess I better go talk to him. Who’s on duty?”

“Curmi and Bonello were the responders. Sergeant Ullo took the original call. He and Bonello are still there with the priest, taking inventory. Curmi is interrogating the guard, or trying to.”

“What’s the issue, Raffaele? Why the…secrecy?”

“You…just need to go sit in. Afterward, come back and talk to me.”

He nodded. “Okay, on the way.” He refilled his tea and headed for the interrogation area. Seeing the light on over interrogation one, he slid into a chair behind the one-way mirror and turned the speaker up slightly as he observed Joseph Curmi and the man, Sceberras, who appeared disheveled, mid-sixties, with a full head of black hair.

“So, tell me again about this apparition you thought you saw.” Curmi said as he leaned back in his chair.

Sceberras leaned forward, made the sign of the cross and said, “I swear on a stack of bibles, the Black Knight came through the front door right in front of me, and motioned for me to go into the church. I…” He slumped back. “I swear I saw him, plain as I see you sitting there. I could smell his armor. That metallic smell! I unlocked the door and he…it…floated down the main aisle and disappeared through the floor into the crypt. I saw the altar had been…disturbed an…he came back up through the floor, then pointed down!” He picked up the glass of water setting next to him and barely held on to it with both hands as he took a drink, slopping some water on the table.

“I went down in the crypt, and the lights were on.” He looked up pleadingly, “There is no switch for the lights down there! They’re up on the main panel!” He shook his head. “And there were things missing from some of the grandmaster’s crypts. I…my radio didn’t work down there, so I ran back upstairs and called it in, then went into the choir room and used the phone to call you. When I went back into the crypt, it looked like it was lit by torches the lights were flickering…and there were a bunch of…knights in armor, and I swear I saw a Roman centurion and…I think a Phoenician sailor with his head under his arm.”

Curmi interrupted, “How do you know it was a Phoenician?”

Sceberras made a vague gesture toward the Knight’s Museum. “It looked like the Phoenician up in the museum. I work up there sometimes during the weekends when it’s closed.”

(C) JL Curtis 2021

Hmmm…

This is rather interesting. A follow up from yesterday’s post.

The Port of Houston, a critical piece of infrastructure along the Gulf Coast, issued a statement Thursday saying it had successfully defended against an attempted hack in August and “no operational data or systems were impacted.”

Full article, HERE.

More and more ships are making the transit of the Panama Canal and coming around to Houston to unload because it is cheaper than sitting and waiting for a west coast port to free up…

Port Houston is positioning itself as a viable option for handling more containerized imports from Asia, thanks to congestion woes for importers on the West and East coasts.

Full article, HERE.

And another article from 2 weeks ago. Bold/italic mine.

Global supply chain woes stemming from the pandemic continue to drag on, creating chaos in international markets. Many companies anticipate the issue will extend into next year. UPS, for instance, recently encouraged consumers to order Christmas presents now. Kroger and Toyota have also voiced concerns, as well as Walmart.

But it’s not all bad news for Houston, the country’s largest export market. In fact, container traffic at the Port of Houston is on track to set a record this year. 

Full article, HERE.

And there are rumors that the Feds tried to ‘take over’ the Port by declaring it Federal property. I don’t see THAT ending well in Texas right now.

Ouch…

In addition to the problems with getting ships unloaded at ports on the west coast, prices per TEU are up AGAIN!

The cost to transport shipping containers between China and the United States surged to a record high in September. 

Full article, HERE.
For what it’s worth, I’d say order your Christmas presents NOW, if you haven’t already done so. This year is going to be ugly!
And another ouch is the latest Senate approval for the Bureau of Land Managment…

The Senate narrowly approved Tracy Stone-Manning as director of the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday over vehement opposition from Utah’s Republican senators, including one who called her confirmation offensive and insulting.

Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney argued that Stone-Manning, of Missoula, Montana, is unfit for the job because of her involvement with tree spiking more than three decades ago. Both described her as an “eco-terrorist,” and earlier called on President Joe Biden to withdraw her nomination.

Full article, HERE.

She was and still is an Eco-terrorist. If you or anyone you know depends on access to federal lands, I hope they have a fallback… sigh…

In for a penny…

In for a pound…

Busy writing, so you get memes…

Two good ones guaranteed to piss off ‘somebody’…

The ‘joys’…

of living on the Dry Line.

For those that don’t know, the ‘Dry Line’ basically runs from Marfa, TX, through Wichita Falls, and on up to around Wichita, KS. West of the line is ‘dry’ weather, east is ‘wet’ weather…

On the line… well, sometimes it gets ‘interesting’…

Yesterday was one of those interesting days. We’ve been over 30 days without any rain, but things started popping day before yesterday. First two ‘severe’ thunderstorms we got maybe ten drops of rain out of the first, and a 30 second sprinkle out of the second. I walked out and looked south and saw this about six in the evening…

Interesting cloud pattern, confused winds… Surface winds were 15 to 17 kn from the south east, mid-level winds were 15 kn from 270 and the upper level winds were 20 to 30 kn from 180. But it does make for a pretty picture!  OBTW, taken looking directly south.

But it was ‘funny’ in a hair raising way, to watch the little CU cloud moving to the left in the picture, as the winds on the ground blew in the exact opposite direction, and the upper level 90 degrees off from that.

I’m just glad I wasn’t up in that mess, because based on previous experience, that was BUMPY…

Oh, and after two days of severe thunderstorms, we’ve gotten an eighth of an inch of rain, while places north and south of us (less than five miles), have gotten an inch or more.

What is going to happen…

When all the non-compliant medical personnel are fired for not getting the vaccine?

This is just one of many-

A North Carolina-based hospital system announced Monday that roughly 175 unvaccinated employees were fired for failing to comply with the organization’s mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy, the latest in a series of health-care dismissals over coronavirus immunization.

Full article, HERE.

From New York city…

New York hospitals on Monday began firing or suspending healthcare workers for defying a state order to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and resulting staff shortages prompted some hospitals to postpone elective surgeries or curtail services.

Full article, HERE from Reuters.

From NY state…

Last night, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order expanding healthcare worker eligibility requirements, an effort to head off potential staffing shortages fueled by the state’s new COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Full article, HERE.

In Houston-

More than 150 employees at a Houston hospital system who refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine have been fired or resigned after a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over the vaccine requirement.

A spokesperson for Houston Methodist hospital system said 153 employees either resigned in the two-week suspension period or were terminated on Tuesday.

Full article, HERE.

So, some locations are talking about bringing in the National Guard to ‘supplement’ the medical establishment, among other things…

But there are also places that are apparently already putting off  ‘elective’ surgeries again. Which is what killed a shipmate of mine last year… Grrr… Where is this going to end up?

I don’t think anybody actually knows, nor do they know the ‘actual’ impact on the medical system in the US (and if they do have projections, they are sure as hell hiding them well)!

Oh, and Xiden is pushing for ANY military to refuse the vaccines to get a Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD), which will impact them FOREVER!

If you REALLY dig, you can find THIS report, from the CDC, about ‘adverse’ events with the vaccines, all three of them.

I believe it is everybody’s right to make their OWN decision about the vaccines. FWIW, I got the Moderna because I’m an old fart and the VA had it for free, but that was ‘my’ decision, not something forced on me.

Now who is lying???

After having watched ‘most’ of the testimony today, I’m less than impressed with Austin and Milley. Gen McKenzie, however, didn’t dodge questions that I saw, and pretty much answered them directly. But to a person, they ALL said they did not recommend a troop withdrawal prior to getting the folks out.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said military advisers were “split” on whether to maintain a presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, despite testimony from top officials Tuesday who were consistent in their recommendations to keep at least 2,500 troops in the region. 

Full article, HERE.

So, did Xiden actually GET the information, who communicated it? Austin? Milley? Somebody else?

The plot sickens… sigh

RIP Shipmate…

I don’t usually do posts on folks that have passed, but I will make an exception in this case. AECS William (Bill) (C/S Scurvy) Rutledge passed away day before yesterday at the VA in San Diego of lung cancer.

Bill was literally a hero. He did three 1 year tours back to back in Vietnam with HAL-3 (Seawolves). I first met him in 1976 in VP-50, and he became a friend because my cousin had been one of his pilots in the Seawolves, so he decided to ‘keep me out of trouble’. Over 1600 combat missions, numerous personal decorations (a lot for valor), two shoot downs (that he would admit to), and at least a couple of purple hearts. He led by example, always looking out for the sailors that worked for him. And on dets, he took care of folks…

We stayed in touch over the years, as he retired and I ended up with a commission. One of my memories was a call from him basically saying WTF was I thinking…LOL

He became very active with the Seawolves association and the USS Midway, always having a humorous story or two cued up… This is one of his from the Seawolves website (it’s a LOT cleaner than the one he told in the spaces)-

Our fire team (Det8), was staging off the Hunterdon County (LST-838) and out of the Rach Gia short strip. We had been flying combat ops between Long Xuyen and Rach Gia and had spotted about a half acre of (VC) watermelons growing on a flat spot above a village which was along a river.

George Decker(GT) and I were the gunners on the heavily armed lead gunship. After checking the area for enemy, our pilot took us down, landed at the edge of the patch, while the trail bird flew high cover for us. GT, being from Louisiana, knew his watermelons and said they looked ripe. I was GT’s nugget and was being trained by him, so whatever he said or did was right.

As we landed, we both jumped out of the right door to confiscate some of those enemy round, basketball sized melons. With no one in sight, we headed for the center of the patch where GT says the best ones would be. After gathering up five or six each we started back for the bird, when out of no where came this old betel nut chewing Granny Mamasan (VC of course), with bright red juice (betel nut juice) flowing from her mouth. With flying hair, and a crazed look on her face, she was armed with a wooden three pronged, curved pitchfork, and came at us screaming.

GT, with fear on his face yelled, “BACK TO THE BIRD!” as we were being pursued by this vicious enemy. We dropped many of the melons as we retreated in face of the enemy attack. Quick thinking GT started throwing Piasters from his flight suit pocket and I did the same, throwing all the money I had. The rotor wash of the turning blades caught the money and blew it everywhere.

She stopped her advance and started grabbing for the money, so we made our escape. We two brave SEAWOLF gunners jumped in the bird like a couple of whipped whining dogs. The pilot had the helo hovering for a quick getaway as we got in, for he doesn’t want to have to explain that we all had been hurt and the gunship destroyed by one old Mamasan while we were stealing watermelons.

As we got airborne, Mamasan stopped gathering up the money and shook her pitchfork at GT. When the shaking and fear subsided, GT and I started badmouthing old Mamasan like a couple of guys on the block that had their butts kicked and the butt kicker was now gone. We got all brave and bad telling each other what we would have done to Mamasan had she kept coming. I think we ended up with five melons that cost us 30 or 40 dollars. Needless to say, we never did that again.

This is the first time this story has been told on GT for he still awakens, shaking, in a cold sweat from the recurring nightmare that old Mamasan has come to the States with her three pronged pitchfork and is tracking him down. Had we stayed and battled it out with old Granny and got our butts kicked, we would have had to tell a big lie and concoct a story to cover the event.

Headlines in the STARS AND STRIPES would have read:

“LAST WEEK TWO HEAVILY ARMED GUNSHIPS OF THE FAMOUS NAVY SEAWOLF SQUADRON ENGAGED A BATTALION SIZED FORCE OF HEAVILY ARMED, ENTRENCHED VC/NVA NEAR LONG XUYEN, RVN”

“The two Navy gunships, while on routine combat patrol, spotted a heavy enemy concentration harvesting crops in a known enemy stronghold, a free fire zone known as the watermelon patch(not found on any maps). As these brave sailors made their first attack, they came under intense ground fire from automatic and crew served weapons at which the lead a/c suffered battle damage forcing it to land among the enemy positions. The crew exited the bird and engaged the enemy in hand to hand combat.

Although wounded, they continued taking the fight to the enemy, while the trail gunship made low level attacks covering the downed crew with devastatingly accurate fire. The pilot, over the din of the battle, heard the engine still running and jumped back in the helo and found only the warning system was shot up. Getting his wounded crew aboard, he lifted off and under heavy ground fire again exited the area, going back to Rach Gia where the wounded were treated and the bird repaired.

During the follow up investigation, it was determined that the enemy was using a new kind of weapon, for the wounds of the crew were identical to the holes in the aircraft. Three holes spaced evenly apart curving downward and the crew and aircraft smelled of Watermelon.”

In HAL-3 he was the NATOPS door gunner, helluva position but he loved it. Here he is pictured with, as they called it, a PIG with lipstick.

This is the story as related by a shipmate of his-

The Seawolves Det. the worked off the 21 had sixties that were modded by removing shoulder stock, taking a second hand grip assembly and attaching it to forestock with big hose clamps so it stuck out the side, removing bipod, GM’s did some internal mods. No fixed mounts in door, some of those guys were known to climb out on skids to shoot under the bird, or so the story goes. 

I laughed when he emailed this one to me. Seawolf 321 was an actual H-2B that had been configured as a HAL-3 bird. Bill was over 70 in this picture, but in his ‘favorite’ position. On the door with a Ma Deuce.

He was also heavily involved with a local high school that took the Seawolves as their mascot, giving many presentations, tours on the Midway, and speaking for the Navy and Navy chiefs at many events. When I first started publishing my work, he was an early reader and supporter.

RIP Shipmate, you will be missed.

It’s alive!!!

My little western novella is alive! Amazon got it turned around in 4 hours yesterday! Amazing, considering the days I’ve had to wait in the past…

A Rifle A Pistol and A Good Horse

Click on the cover for the link and enjoy!

Many thanks to those who read/commented on the snippets, and the alpha and beta readers who helped make this a better story! And I would be remiss if I didn’t say thanks to Tina Garceau for her cover, and Stephanie Martin for her editing!

I would also be grateful for HONEST reviews… Thank you in advance. 🙂

The things we do…

for friends…

Lawdog going to Narnia…

“I think I just hit Pine trees!”

We were helping a friend with a gun appraisal. The safe was full, and we’d done that, so we thought we were through… But we weren’t… That whole stack to the left of his legs were stacked around the sides of the safe…

But we got it done. 🙂

And in other news, the North Texas Writers, Pilots, and Shooters Association, by voice vote (and with the addition of MOAR people), has changed our name to the North Texas Troublemakers…

Sigh…