Jun 23, 2018

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STALKING BULLS read a sample chapter

STALKING BULLS   excerpt:   

 CHAPTER ONE   ‘Oh no! Not again!’

My late-night supper with Aunt Ruth wound up when she announced that it was way past her bedtime and she was turning in.  She said I ought to do the same, but, instead, I elected to go out and spend a little downtime with Zeus, who didn’t mind at all my waking him up.

We went to the Garden Overlook.  I picked the cement bench and sat down on one-third of it; Zeus hopped up to take the remaining two-thirds.  He licked my neck and my cheek for a while and then settled down to lay his massive head in my lap.  Inside the brick mansion Aunt Ruth’s mantel clock in the library began tolling its familiar Westminster Chimes in preparation for the coming strokes of midnight, –Ding, dong, ding, dong . . . Dong, ding, ding, dong.

From this perch, I could look down and make out the streetlights and tree-lined avenues of the city of Gardner –elevation: twelve hundred feet above sea level.

Of course, I had no reason to realize it then, but a mere 60 miles to the east, within the city limits of Boston itself, the weather conditions were drastically different, particularly in that swampy but cultured section of town known as the Back Bay Fens –elevation a mere 2 feet!  Anyone who has ever been there at night and seen it for themselves knows how eerie it can be to watch the fog come stealing up from out of the marshes.

Rising like mist-people, the vapor slowly advances to cover the parkland, then crosses Fenway Drive and sniffs along the back side of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and on to the front side of that other revered institution: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Art.

As the fog swirls, it wraps around the base of the lampposts and continues building upon itself, layer upon layer, like spun cotton candy, until the layers overtop the triads of milky-white globes, whose purpose is to drive away the murk.  But there isn’t much ‘driving’ being done this night.  Not now, not since the fog has stifled their brilliance until they seem like nothing more than clusters of inert white grapes, too insubstantial to ward off a mugger or call in a moth.

In the bell loft of a nearby church tower the same Westminster Chimes ring out, albeit louder.  The fog muffled foundry bells resound in the night air: Bing, Bong, Bing, Bong . . . Bong, Bing, Bing, Bong!

Outside the Gardner Museum the fog continues to thicken, while inside, on its top floor, three grown men are bunched together on a bench inside a locked storage cabinet.

The man in the middle, the oldest and frailest of the three, wearing a cardigan sweater, is cupping his hands over his ears.

The other two are night watchmen whose hands are handcuffed behind their backs.  The oldest of the two, Willard Dunfey, speaks up and says,

“Oh man, I don’t believe this.  This can’t be happening!  Not again!  Not again!”

The other guard –whose name is Ed Spangler— tries to get him to lower his voice, “Mr. Dunfey, not so loud.”

“Why?”

“We need to keep our voices down.”

“What for?”

                                    The elderly professor –whose name is Bernard Welsh– speaks up loudly, “What did you say?”

Ed replies, “Nothing, Professor.  I was just saying we should keep our voices down.”

“What!   I didn’t catch that either!  That gun going off right next to my ear did it . . . I’ve got this loud ringing.  I can’t hear a thing.”

Dunfey muttered, “I’ve got it, too.”

“What?”

“I said: Mine are ringing, too!”

Ed Spangler repeated, “Mr. Dunfey, please!  Not so loud!”

“Well, the Professor has to hear what I’m saying.”

“But if we’re too loud the thieves might hear us.”

“So what.  They know we’re here.  They put us here!”

“But we don’t want to call attention to ourselves.”

Professor Welsh spoke up, “What is he saying?  What?”  He broke off and then, to himself, continued, “Wait, now? . . . That’s a little better. . . The ringing is starting to lessen somewhat.”

Ed Spangler said firmly, “I just want us to keep our voices down.  We don’t want to encourage the guy with the gun to come back, that’s all.”

Willard Dunfey said, He’s not coming back.”

“He might.”

“Why should he?  They’ve got us where they want us.  And we’re going to be here until tomorrow when the next shift arrives!”

To himself again, the old man said, Oh, drat, now it’s returning –Boys, if either of you are talking to me, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

Ignoring him, Ed Spangler addressed Willard Dunfey in a low voice, “Why do you think he fired that shot?  He had no reason to.  We were doing everything he asked.”

“Yes, but not fast enough.”

Professor Welsh, again to himself, said,There.  That’s better.  Now it’s going away again.”

Addressing Spangler Dunfey replied, “I don’t know why he did it, but he was a fool to; that bullet could have ricocheted and killed any one of us, easy as nothing.”

The Professor spoke up, Are you talking about the bullet?  Did anyone see where it struck?”

Raising his voice, Dunfey said, “No, Professor!  I wasn’t exactly paying attention!  I was more worried if he was going to shoot me.”

To which the younger guard added, “I didn’t hear anything break, though.”

“What?  What did you say?”

Shouting again, the older night guard repeated, Professor!  He said he didn’t hear anything break!”

                                    “Mr. Dunfey, please, keep it down!

“All right, fine!”

Professor Welsh continued, “I just hope it didn’t strike something priceless.”

Dunfey answered, “I wouldn’t bet on it.”

“What?”

“I said, I wouldn’t bet on it!  You can’t swing a dead cat in this place without it hitting something priceless!”

“Mr. Dunfey, for a night watchman, long employed by this Museum, your attitude seems quite flippant.”

Dunfey muttered, “Who cares about the paintings.”

“What?  Excuse me?  What did you say?”

“I said, Professor:  Who cares about the paintings!”

“Willard!  Stop shouting!” said Ed Spangler.

Affronted by the senior night guard’s comment, Professor Welsh responded, “You realize we are talking about irreplaceable objects?”

“Oh, yeah, sure.  They’re ‘irreplaceable’ but I’m not!  I’m very ‘replaceable’ and you can bet I will be too, just as soon as Belacorte gets here in the morning and finds out about this.  He won’t even ask me to sit down before he boots me out the door.  –And I was this close to retirement!”

Professor Welsh said, “It’s not your fault.  I’ll speak to the Director.”

“It won’t do any good.”

“Then I’ll speak to the Board.”

“The Board is powerless.  You know as well as I do that ‘Mrs. Jack’s’ Will gives the Director absolute power to hire or fire anybody he chooses.”

“Mrs. Gardner’s Will states he can fire anyone but the Curator.  And as I happen to be the Curator Emeritus, he can’t dismiss me and he can’t fire me, and I promise to go to bat for you.”

“Thank you, Professor, but you know as well as I do that’s not going to save my job.”  In frustration, the disgruntled guard banged the toe of his shoe against the metal cabinet and raised his voice to the highest level yet, “So, Thieves, you may as well come back and let me out of here so I can go home and get a good night’s rest!  At least take these handcuffs off!  My hands are going numb!”

Ed Spangler tried to object again about his loudness but Dunfey wouldn’t allow it, “Eddie, it doesn’t matter!  The man with the gun is not coming back.”

“But we shouldn’t tempt him.”

“Why?”

“Because you never know what he might do.”

“Such as?”

“Kill us!”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because we’re making loud noises!  Because we are all witnesses to what happened!”

“Oh really?  Witnesses?  To what?  Can any of us really say what happened, because I can’t:   Can we identify our assailant?  No.  He had a ski-mask, he had gloves, he had sunglasses; he was covered head to toe.  All we know for sure is some gun-wielding Ninja sprang out of nowhere, got the drop on us and then put us in here.”

Ed Spangler added, “Yeah, and the embarrassing thing is, it happened exactly at the time when we were supposed to be the most vigilant: during our shift change.”  Jumping to another thought, he wondered, “Anybody have any idea how they got in?”

                                    Dunfey said, “No, but the cameras will show us.”

The Professor Welsh added, “I was up in my office.  I wasn’t even aware that anything was going on until I heard shouts from below.  Then I tried to hide but it was too late . . .”

Near silence descended but for the sounds of their ragged breathing.  The younger guard was the first to break it, “It’s awful quiet.  I’m not hearing anything.  Is that good or bad?”

“Who knows?” replied Dunfey.

“Maybe they left already?”

“I doubt it.”

“How long do you think they’ll take?”

“Who can say?  The first thieves were quick, it took them about 80 minutes, but that’s because they cut the paintings out.  If these thieves follow the same practice tonight, they may be in and out in as little time, but if they try to take them ‘frames and all’ it’s going to take them quite a bit longer.”

Suddenly the Professor spoke up,

“Oh my God!  What was I thinking?  Why didn’t I think to say something?  That gunshot left me so disoriented!  Call them back.  Call them back!  I’ve got to speak to them, I’ve got to warn them . . .”

Dunfey replied, “Forget it, Professor, we’re not calling them back.”

Heedless, the Professor plunged on ahead, “Thieves, come back!  Come back!  We’ve got to speak to you!  I’ve got to warn you of something!”

Ed Spangler tried to shush him, “Professor, quiet!”

Dunfey added, “Professor, he’s right.  Leave it be!”

“Thieves, come back!  Come back!  It’s vital I tell you something!”

“Professor, stop shouting . . .”

“But they mustn’t cut the paintings out; they’ll ruin them!  They’ll destroy their value; they won’t get nearly as much money for them!”

“Professor, don’t you think they know that?”

“But what if they don’t?  The first ones didn’t.  They’ll be making a huge mistake.”

Although the Professor failed to notice, suddenly both guards reacted to the sound of the outer Storage Room door opening a second time.  Urgently, Willard Dunfey nudged the Professor, “Professor, quiet!  Somebody’s here!”

“Good.  Let me speak to them.”

                                    Ed Spangler was beside himself, “Willard, you said they wouldn’t be returning!”

“Well, I didn’t expect this fool would try to call them back!”

Footsteps approached and stopped outside the cabinet.  The same gruff voice as before demanded, “Which one of you knows?”

 Ed answered meekly, “Uh, knows what, Sir?”

“Knows how to get the paintings off the walls?”

In a pleading voice, he replied, “We don’t.  We aren’t told.  We’re just night watchmen.  They don’t tell us things like that.”

“Well, one of you better know!”

Outside the cabinet, the lock was being removed, the latch thrown back and the door swung open; they were once more facing the muzzle of a gun.

The masked robber promised, “I’m going to repeat myself only once more and then one of you gets a bullet to the kneecap.  –How do we get them off the walls!”

Defiant, Dunfey tried to answer, “He told you.  We don’t know.”

But Ed Spangler wasn’t up for putting on a brave front.  Frantically he turned to the Professor, saying, “Professor, tell them how it’s done, you must know?”

Willard snapped, “Shut up, Ed!”  But it was to no avail.  The younger guard continued, blurting out, “Ask the Professor!  He knows.  He’s got to know.  Professor, you know how it’s done.  Tell him!”

Haltingly, the Professor considered his options and grudgingly replied, “. . . I can’t.  It’s too hard to explain.”

“Then come out and show us!  Step out of there!” he said, waving his gun.

“The police will be here soon,” the Professor countered, “You’d better leave.  You don’t have enough time.”

“The police aren’t coming.  So, step out of there.”

Willard tried to intercede. “Look, he’s going to do what you ask him to, but take it easy on him.  He’s an old man.”  To the Professor he counseled “Professor, better do what he says now.”  Back to the thief again he warned, “If you hurt him, you’re going to be in real trouble . . .”

“Whether he gets hurt or not is not up to me.”

Still attempting to negotiate and find leverage, Professor Welsh stated, “Just a minute, now.  I may –now wait!  I said I may do what you ask, but . . . but we have to have an agreement first.  We have to make a deal . . .”

“No deals.  Just do what you’re told.”

“I will.  I may.  I will.  But only if you promise not to harm the paintings.  If you take care of them, if you see no harm comes to them until we can ransom them back –I assume that is your motive— then I will . . . I may, as I say, cooperate . . .”

“I’m going to count to three . . . one . . .”

“Please, I appeal to you.  I know you must appreciate art or you wouldn’t be doing this . . .”

“. . . Two . . .”

“. . . You’ve got to promise me . . .”

Despite being hampered by handcuffs, both guards managed to use their shoulders in a combined pincher movement, lifting the Professor off the bench and forcing him out of the cabinet.

Raising his voice again for the Professor’s benefit, the senior night guard instructed the old man, “Professor, just do what he tells you and he’s not going to hurt you.”

The thief shoved the Professor out of the way and slammed the door shut with a bang loud enough to cause the two guards inside to flinch as though they had been shot.  The lock was re-fastened.  Then they listened as the Professor and his captor exited the room, the Professor continuing his plea.

Then, the Storage Room door closed one definite and final time and that was the end of it.   The sum total of the night’s exchange.

 

 CHAPTER TWO  ‘Called Out of the Bullpen’

 

Testing, one, two . . . one, two, testing? . . . okay, recording . . .

I am now about to fill you in on everything I know about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum heist.

However, before I go any further, I want to make sure nobody gets confused:  When I say the ‘Gardner Art heist’ I am not referring to the one that took place –what is it? — approaching thirty years ago –and which, as far as I know, is unsolved to this day and may never be solved.  Those thirteen stolen paintings are still missing and those thieves still at large.  I can offer nothing new about that situation beyond the fact that I can say for sure the two crimes were not in any way connected.  –Well, maybe in one sense they were: the many details reported in the Press about how the first heist took place I’m sure gave the second robbers plenty of helpful hints to use in planning their own operation.

But you won’t have to guess about the details of this one.  I am in a good position to give you a full and accurate accounting.  After all, my internship at Boston Police Headquarters began the day after the break-in and my observer status there gave me access to meetings and even allowed me to view the video recordings made at the Museum the night of the break-in.  I was also present at nearly all the important junctures, and, as for the relatively few times when I was not, I was able to receive reliable information from my ‘mole’ on the inside.  Other information I gleaned from talking to Museum insiders and from the love-smitten professor, himself.

Today is Wednesday.  Ten days ago was Sunday and I was having a late supper in the chandeliered dining room of my Aunt Ruth’s winter mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts.  She was sitting up past her bedtime to keep me company.

“Parker, elbows?”

“What?”

“—Elbows off the table, please.  This is the dining room, not the kitchen.”

She returned to what she was saying,

“And, no, I am perfectly okay with the fact that you are going to be staying at Cedar Tree.  After all, it is Cape Cod, with beaches, sailing and swimming.  You won’t be working all of the time, and you should be down there, enjoying the amenities.”

Juggling a mouthful, I said,

“As should you, Aunt Ruth.”

“No.  Fall is my time of year to be down there.  Fall and Spring.  I am not complaining that you are going to be there, but I am simply hoping this is not going to mean I’ll never get to see you at all this summer.”

“You’ll see me plenty, I promise.  Don’t worry.”

“I doubt that.  You’ll be going back and forth between Boston and the Cape.  How often will you come out here to see me?”

“How ’bout, at least once every two weeks?”

“I’m holding you to that.”

“You know, Aunt Ruth, driving-wise, it’s just as far from here to the Cape as it is from Cape Cod to here.”

“Yes, but you know I can’t abide summers down there.  The summer traffic and the rotaries make me nervous.  You come up here to visit me.  That’s why I’m lending you Uncle Max’s car.

“You’re awful nice to be doing that, Aunt Ruth . . .”

“Awfully.”

“. . . But I’m not sure Uncle Max would approve.”

“Nonsense.  Of course he would.  If he were alive he would insist on it.  I’m just sorry you weren’t old enough to know him better; he would have been very proud of you following in his footsteps, attending his Alma Mater.  Besides, your Uncle Max’s motto always was ‘People, not Things’.   He would never have allowed me to turn that car into a museum piece, not if it could be of use to his nephew.”

“But it’s more like a keepsake to you.”

“It can still be that, more so, now that you’re using it.  So, tell me, how were your exams?

“Since I only took the last one this morning, I won’t know for a week or so.”

“I don’t mean your grades.  I mean how were the tests?  Were they tough?”

“They were okay.”

“What was this morning’s in?”

“Hamilton Hall, fifth floor classroom . . .”

“What subject?”

I put on my best oratorio voice,

“‘Masterpieces of the Elizabethan Stage’.”

“Ah, the Bard . . . I remember reading him at Bennington.  Tell me, how did you find Macbeth?

       “Turn right at The Tempest?”

“Smart Aleck, I’m asking, did you like the play?  Did you read it?”

“Yes, I read it.  I liked it.  I found Hamlet to be his best, though.  I enjoyed all of them but my real problem with Shakespeare is, every time I get near him, –like this test this morning—afterwards I walk around spouting like the Bard himself.  I can’t help it.”

“Oh nonsense.”

“I do.  It’s like when you spend a few hours in an art museum and then come out.  For a while, everything you look at is either a painting or a sculpture.”

“I doubt you speak like Shakespeare.

“Forsooth.  Tis true.  I warrant thee.”

Just then we were interrupted by the sound of a large dog bounding up the pantry hallway, his nails scratching and digging against the floorboards.

“Hark!   But soft!  What footsteps come?”

The swinging door burst opened and entered the beast.

“Zeus!  Buddy!   Good Boy!  Good to see you!  Where have you been?”

Zeus was followed by Hilda, Aunt Ruth’s aged and loyal cook.

“Hilda!  You let him out.  I thought we weren’t going to do that?”

“Sorry, Miss Ruth.  I had to.  Somehow he got wind that Mr. Parker was here and he just had to get out and come see him.”

“You mean you just had to let him out. –Zeus, get down!  Parker, make your dog get down.  That is no way for him to behave, licking your chin like it was a salt lick.  It’s unsanitary.  Don’t let him jump up and put his paws on you like that!”

“All right, Zeus, down boy, down.  Stay down.”

One by one, Hilda transferred the dishes from the tray she had brought with her to the table in front of me.

“I cooked you your favorites, Mr. Parker:  Bay scallops, scalloped potatoes, French-cut beans, rhubarb.  And, here’s your catsup and tartar sauce.”

She lowered her voice to confide,

                             “I would have brought you a soft drink too but Miss Ruth says ‘no’.”

Aunt Ruth interjected, “Soft Drinks are a misnomer.  There is nothing ‘soft’ about them.”

                                    Hilda continued, “. . . So I just brought you a glass of pure wholesome milk . . . which has bubbly water and chocolate syrup in it too!”

“A chocolate soda!  Hilda, you spoil me.”

“‘Poisons you, you mean.” Aunt Ruth said.

“That’s what I’m here for,” said Hilda.

“Really, Hilda?  To poison me?”

“Naw.  I would never do that . . . unless I was mad at you or somethin’Anyways, you look too healthy to poison.  Look at you, all tanned up and glowing.

“Your cooking always makes me glow.”

Aunt Ruth chimed in, “And she stayed up late to cook it for you, too.  To make sure you had a hot meal to go to bed on.”

“Well, that makes her a saint because I am totally famished.  The only thing I’ve eaten all day is a half sandwich on the train.”

Aunt Ruth said, “Why only half?”

“I shared it.”

“Oh?  With whom?”

“Nobody.  Just somebody opposite me who looked like they could use it more than me.”

“A stranger?”

“Yes, a stranger.”

Hilda said,

“He always was a good boy, wasn’t he, Miss Ruth?”

“I wouldn’t say always.”

“Most times.”

“Let’s be generous and make it:

Oft’ times.”

“She loves you, Mr. Parker, don’t you worry about that . . .”

I tossed Zeus a treat and he snapped it out of the air.

“Parker!  Do not do that!”

“It was only a scallop.”

“I don’t care what it was.  You know we never feed the dog at the table.  You think because we’re all so happy to see you that it gives you the right to break all the house rules.  –Hilda, take Zeus back now.  Put him back in his kennel.  These two can see each other in the morning.”

I complained, “But I have to get going in the morning.   Uncle Frank said arrive early.”

“We’re going to talk about that.”

       Zeus barked for another scallop.  Aunt Ruth said,

“Zeus, hush!”

I said, “Zeus, no more, that’s all, Boy.  That’s all you get.”

“Hilda, take him back now.”

“Come on, Zeus, back to your pen.  Your master will see you in the mornin’.”

I said, “Good Boy, Zeus.  You’re a good dog.  Go on to bed now.”

Aunt Ruth said, “Hilda, you go to bed now, too.  Those dishes can be cleaned up in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Hilda and thank you again for this totally scrumptious meal.”

“You’re welcome.  I’ll let you in on a secret that applies to Miss Ruth and to Zeus . . .”

“What’s that?”

“It does them both good to have you back in this house again.”

She took the dog and they exited through the swinging door.  I called after her,  “What about you, Hilda?  Don’t I do you good, too?”

No reply.  I looked to Aunt Ruth,

 “She probably didn’t hear me.  Good Ole Hilda.  But she’s getting old.”

“Yes, and slowing down.  Things are becoming more difficult for her.  I try to insist that she do less but she doesn’t take any of my directives very seriously anymore.”

“Never did.”

“Even if I ordered her not to, she’d still insist on being up early tomorrow to make you your grits and soft-boiled eggs.”

“Good Old Hilda.  And Good Ole Zeus.”

“Don’t you be ‘Good-Ole-Zeus-ing’ me.  That dog needs disciplining, badly.  Really, I wish you would work on him.   I’ve had to forbid Hilda from giving him any more red meat.  He was becoming too much of a guard dog, too aggressive.”

“Well, that’s what he is, a guard dog.”

“But too much of one.  With no males in this household anymore, he thinks he has to be the alpha.  I was out raking leaves in the garden and he nearly took down the minister.  I had to hit him over the head with the rake.”

“You hit the minister over the head with a rake?”

“. . . He’s getting so he doesn’t listen to anything I say.”

“He listens to me.”

“I know, and that’s the trouble.  He’ll only listen to you.  That’s because you two are alike: all bounce-and-go, with very little look-before-you-leap.  And this, so called, ‘summer job’ of yours that your Uncle Frank has concocted . . .”

“Summer Internship, Aunt Ruth.”

“For one thing, you should be having a real job that earns real money.  Your Uncle Max would be appalled.”

“But this is a unique opportunity.  I’ll be gaining valuable experience.”

“‘Valuable’ experience, my eye:   Hanging around a police station.  Which you have been doing since you were a child.”

“But this is for a well-defined purpose.”

“Define it?”

“Well, Uncle Frank agrees: what I learn this summer will probably truly assist me in making the big decision I have to make.”

“About law school?”

“Yes, law school.”

“Then you ought to be summer clerking somewhere.  You ought to be a clerk at a law firm.”

“Aunt Ruth, many of my friends at Columbia –who are also considering law school— tell me they would kill for this kind of opportunity.”

“To be idle and do nothing.”

“No.  To observe the criminal justice system from the inside.  To see how it really functions and understand all its moving parts –all the while under Uncle Frank’s wise counsel and close supervision.”

“Don’t lay it on too thick . . . You’ll be going out on patrols, I expect?”

“Maybe.  Sometimes.  If they invite me.  But Uncle Frank has made it clear: I am not to be placed in any harm’s way, whatsoever.”

“I see, so you will only go out on non-dangerous patrols?”

“Pretty much.”

“Nonsense.  Policemen never know when danger is going to pop up.  These assurances my brother gives are meaningless.  What influence does he think he has, even if he is the Police Commissioner, in how the criminal element of our society behaves?

“He probably has more influence

than you think . . .”

“Nonsense.”

“Aunt Ruth, I’d really like to try this.   I’ll be safe, I promise.  I’ll work hard to stay away from any dangerous situations.”

“Stop.  I won’t have any special pleading.  I have already made up my mind . . .”

“But, Aunt Ruth . . .”

“. . . And I am not going to say no to you.”

“. . . You’re not?  Oh?  Great!”

“As I already told your Uncle Frank, I am not going to block him on this.  After all, he is your legal guardian too and, as such, he has the right to make some decisions on your behalf.  I have told him I am willing to go along with this but only on a trial basis. Provisionally!”

“Fine.”

“Permission for which I may cancel at any time.”

“I understand.”

“And provided you adhere to all my brother’s rules and stipulations . . .

“I will.”

“And the ones I lay down as well.”

“Scout’s Honor.  I’m going to.  I will.”

“Frankly, I wouldn’t be considering this at all if it weren’t for the commendable way you’ve been conducting yourself at school.  You deserve some confidence placed in you for the responsible way you’ve been handling your college education . . .”

       I love my Aunt Ruth.  She is like a mother to me, which is the role she has tried valiantly to fulfill ever since the night, 16 years ago, when her younger brother, out for a drive on a hot summer night in his open-air roadster, with his wife beside him and his young son asleep in the back seat—failed at holding a curve on a back-country road.  The car flipped.  My parents were seat-belted in; I was not.  Ironically, they both died instantly while I was thrown clear.  My sole memory of that night is lying in the dewy tall weeds, hearing peepers chirrup around me until, gradually, their chorus was joined by a distant, approaching siren.  And then the flashing red lights showed up.

As for my vow to my aunt to avoid all dangerous situations, I had every intention of honoring that pledge.  However, break it I did and in fairly short order.  And although my reasons for doing so were not of my own making, –that is, they arose out of circumstances beyond my control . . . Still, my actions were my own.

Even so, as far as my Aunt Ruth was concerned, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble –but still caused an equal amount of consternation– if I had simply hit the minister over the head with a rake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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