Monday, December 17, 2012

Here's more of CHAOS:

President Charles Shoemaker gazed out the Oval Office window at the White House grounds. The early afternoon sunshine reflected from the fresh blanket of snow with almost painful intensity, causing him to squint against the glare.
"You know, Hal, even in the dead of winter, the homeless would rather sleep in the park than in the shelters we've provided for them."
Attorney General Hal Pitman rose from the antique cherry wood and brocade chair to join Shoemaker at the window. "I know, Chuck. It doesn't make any sense to me either. They'll cover themselves with old newspapers, and kill each other over scraps of food, but you offer them shelter and hot meals, and many just won't accept it. They cry about losing their freedom. What kind of freedom is that to mourn?"

Shoemaker turned away from the window, his hands clasped behind his back as he paced. "When I was first elected to the Senate, I had no concept of what it takes to run a nation of this size and diversity." He stopped momentarily to pick up a crystal paperweight in the shape of an eagle, turning it absently in his hands. "I thought the will of the people should be the primary law, and that it was their God-given right to decide their own destiny. The older I get, and the longer I have responsibility for this country, the more I can see that most people are incapable of making intelligent choices for themselves."
Pitman picked up a silver caraffe from a tray on the desk, and freshened his coffee. "That's why they elected you for a second term, Chuck. You've done a fine job."
"Damn it!" The crystal eagle flew across the room, glistening shards exploding as the delicate bird struck the wall.
"If only those idiots in Congress would give up their holier-than-thou crusade against our crime bill! You don't know how much I regret the loss of innocent lives their bull headed opposition is costing."
Pitman shrugged, his cup stopping halfway to his lips. "Settle down a bit, Chuck. If you're going to make an omelet, you've got to break a few eggs."
Shoemaker swung to face his Attorney General, his finger pointing accusingly. "We're not talking eggs here Hal, we're talking about lives. Living, breathing human beings!"
Pitman angrily set his cup down on the tray. "You knew what it was going to entail from the beginning. It was your plan, remember?"
"As long as I live, Hal. I know it's too late to turn back, but Lord, how I wish we hadn't been so convinced that this was for the best."

"Listen, Chuck." Pitman laid a comforting hand on the president's shoulder. "This crime bill is what America has needed for years. The people have no need for firearms anymore; this isn't the Old West. Think of all the lives that could be saved when all the guns are collected and destroyed. To implement this, Congress must be forced to enact our bill. The only way to accomplish that is by an outcry from the public too loud for them to ignore. Sure, there are some who will refuse to surrender their guns under any circumstances, and they will have to be dealt with harshly, but most will just cry about their freedom, and the Second Amendment, then line up to turn their damned guns in."
"Except the criminals."
Pitman raised his eyebrows in shock. "What's this, Chuck? Are you having second thoughts about this?"
Shoemaker lowered his eyes. "No, Hal. But there will be a transition period when those who obey the law will be left defenseless against those who don't. We'll have to deal with that eventually, and it's going to be a bitch with the courts as clogged up as they are."
"A hundred years from now, history will remember you as the man who cut the murder rate in half."
Shoemaker returned to the window, his eyes locking on a figure huddled on a park bench, his ragged coat collar turned up against the chill. "I just hope history won't remember me as the man who ripped the Constitution in half as well."

An icy drizzle fell on the line of cars and pickups that followed the black Cadillac hurse toward the cemetery. Murphy and Bendell watched from across the street as the column of twelve vehicles filed solemnly past. Murphy took a sip of coffee from a styrofoam cup. "Not a lot of people at the funeral, was there?"
Bendell wiped fog from the side window with the sleeve of his jacket. "Can't blame people for staying away, Murph. After all, Wallace was a mass murderer. In a situation like this, friendship only goes so far."
"Looks like the only ones that showed are his Nazi pals. I'm surprised they're not blowing their horns and waving flags."
That brought a chuckle from Bendell. "Just make sure your love for those guys doesn't show when we start asking questions. Some of those ol' boys are too damn big to tackle more than one at a time."

The graveside service was short. Reverend Alex Kincaide sent Burl Wallace to his final reward with a minimum of oration, which seemed agreeable to all present. Before the casket had been lowered into the grave, everyone had scattered in different directions, leaving just the reverend and the backhoe operator standing under the green plastic canopy. Three cars and four pickups left the cemetery together, heading back into town.
Bendell pointed with his chin as the group disappeared into the misty rain. "Think we should follow them?"
"Why not? Maybe they'll be in a mood to discuss the dearly departed."

The Ford's heater took several minutes to defog the windshield, and Murphy leaned forward, staring intently as he maneuvered through the wet streets a block behind Bubba's friends. "Just what I figured they'd do," he said, as the group turned into the parking lot of Tracey's Tavern, a dive next to the railroad tracks. The gravel in the parking lot crunched under the tires as Murphy parked the unmarked Ford next to an ancient International four wheel drive truck. At one time, it had been painted in a camouflage pattern with spray cans, but most of the colors were now replaced with surface rust. 
"I've seen that truck before," Bendell said. "It belongs to Buck Henry. We had it in impound a couple of years ago when we picked Buck up on a D.U.I.rap. His girlfriend at the time called in a spousal abuse, but refused to press charges. The D.U.I. was all we could make stick."
By the time they reached the front door of the little tavern, their hair and the shoulders of their jackets were soaked. Bendell stopped just inside the door, stepping to the side until his eyes adjusted to the gloom before he proceeded into the room behind Murphy.
Seven men were crowded around a table in the far corner near a pot bellied stove that glowed a dull red, heat radiating from it's surface in visible waves. Their hats and coats were spread out on bar stools to dry. Three pitchers of beer sat in the center of the table, and all seven lowered their mugs to the scarred table top as the detectives entered.

Looks of sullen disapproval met the badges Murphy and Bendell displayed as they approached the table.
A big man with shoulder length hair and a dark bushy beard picked up the nearest pitcher and refilled his mug. "What the hell do you want with us?" he growled. His dark eyes seemed to penetrate as they locked with Bendell's.
"Just need to ask you a few questions, Buck," Bendell said, slipping his badge case back into his pocket. "Won't take too long."
"It damn well better not," Buck said, taking a big swallow of his beer. "We just come from a friend's funeral, an' we damn sure don't feel like talkin' to no pigs. 'Specially black ones."
Bendell ignored the taunt, but Murphy stepped forward and leaned over the table, his knuckles against the rough surface. "We can do this the easy way, boys, or we can go downtown and talk it over there for a few hours. It's up to you."
Buck grinned, revealing teeth stained by years of chewing tobacco. "Take more'n you two to take us in."
Murphy looked Buck straight in the eyes, then let his glare drift to the others. "We'll get however many we need to do the job, Buck."
Seeing that they were headed for a confrontation, Cal raised halfway out of his chair, and waved both hands in a calming motion. "Now ain't the time, Buck. Let's just answer their questions, an' send 'em on their way."
Buck glared at Cal for several seconds, then nodded his shaggy head. "Okay, pig. Ask away."

                           *    *    *
Hal Pitman relaxed in the plush softness of the leather executive chair, his feet resting on the edge of his desk. Ray Allen sat on the other side of the desk, a tumbler of brandy in his hand. "How did the meeting with President Shoemaker go, Hal?"
The Attorney General chuckled softly. "He's starting to get cold feet. He was okay with the plan until the media put names and faces on the body count."
Allen turned the glass in his fingers, peering through the amber liquid. "We've almost succeeded, Hal. You're not going to let him blow it now, are you?"
"Shit no. If he blows the whistle, he goes down with the rest of us. Besides, the N.A.A.C.P., the Jewish Anti-defamation League, and several other groups are screaming their heads off. It's only a matter of time before those fools on The Hill will be forced to listen. The N.R.A. is a powerful lobby, but when the death toll rises enough, we can beat them."
"Did Tony get any of that Orange County bunch fired up?"
"He sure as hell did, Ray. Didn't you hear about the Jewish center that got shot up a few days ago?"
"That was Tony's boy?"
"Sure was. The Congresswoman from Los Angeles is here in Washington screaming her head off to anyone who'll listen. They're talking about a ban on ammunition sales, and they've already closed down all the gun shows. It won't take too much more to push Congress into a corner."

"Well, here's to Tony and the boys," Allen said, reaching out to clink the rim of his glass with Pitman's. "And the passage of Shoemaker's crime bill!"

This is an excerpt from a novel I started about 5 years ago, tentatively titled CHAOS. It seems more relevant today than it did then. Watch this site for more!


Burl "Bubba" Wallace shifted uneasily on the seat of his battered Ford pickup. The bulk of his stomach pressed against the steering wheel even with the seat all the way back. He drummed his fingers nervously on his leg as he watched the faithful file into the little clapboard church.
His canvas vest rattled as he picked it up from the seat beside him. He opened one of the capacious Velcro sealed pockets and brought forth a thirty round magazine for the AK-47 rifle that lay on the floor behind his boots. The dull blue magazine was heavy with shining 7.62 X 39 mm. shells, their sharp copper jacketed bullets lined up in a double stack. Bubba whistled an off key tune while he pulled three more identical magazines from the pocket and taped them together facing in opposite directions. This facilitated a quicker reload time by simply flipping the magazines over.
I'll show them sum-bitches! He slid the rifle up onto the seat, the muzzle pointing toward the floor. Them an' their high an' mighty million man marches, an' their laws makin' it almost illegal ta be white anymore. Can't get a damn decent job on account'a them, an them damn Mezkins.

He slammed the first magazine into the weapon's receiver and pulled back the bolt. When he released it, the bolt slammed home, chambering the first deadly shell.
A choir was singing as Bubba slipped the heavy wooden door open and stepped inside the little church. The air was warm and tight, heavy with the smell of perfume and old wood. His vest hung from his hand, concealing the deadly folding stocked rifle from those parishioners who turned at the blast of icy air from the open door.
"Welcome, friend!" An elderly man approached from the end of the last row of pews, his face like wrinkled ebony where his broad smile pulled the skin into valleys and creases. His brown eyes sparkled with the joy of living, and his love of the Lord.
When Bubba swung the barrel of the rifle up, his vest fell to the floor. The old man's eyes widened, and a prayer formed on his lips as Bubba squeezed the trigger. Before the frail body collapsed to the floor, Bubba began to spray death into the congregation like water from a fire hose.
When the rifle's bolt locked back after the thirtieth round, he deftly flipped the magazines, and snapped a fresh round into the chamber. He continued firing without attempting to aim.
The screams of the wounded and dying replaced the sweet harmony of the choir, and adults fell across children in a last show of love, trying to stop the bullets with their own flesh. Some were trampled by others in their mad rush for the safety of the side exits, most being cut down within a few feet of the doors.

When his last bullet had found it's mark, Bubba turned toward the door, the empty rifle hanging from his hand. From the darkness near the door, a shadow emerged, the figure clad in a dark suit and red necktie, his eyes covered by sunglasses even though the darkness was several hours old.
"Bubba," the man whispered, motioning the big man closer.
Bubba grinned, saliva bubbling at the corners of his mouth. "Hey, Ray! What're you doin' here? Did ya' see? I did it just like I said I would. Just like you told me we ought'ta do!"
"Yeah, Bubba, you sure did." The silenced pistol in the man's hand coughed twice. Two 9mm Black Talon bullets tore through Bubba's heart. Their copper jackets flared like petals on a flower as they spun, and tore ever-widening channels through the still beating organ.
Shock showed on Bubba's face as he collapsed on the steps of the little church. His dead eyes stared up at the frigid sky, steam rising from his blood as it formed a spreading pool beneath him. The last sound he heard was the sobs of those inside who had escaped death grieving for friends and loved ones who had not.

Police Chief Harvey Sanders faced the cameras set up to capture the best angle of the rising sun. It was difficult to get the angle right. The dark blotches of blood disappeared when the sun struck them, and the public wanted to see every gory detail.

Yellow crime scene tape decorated the trees and kept the media from trampling evidence in their haste to show the slaughter to the outside world.
Sanders spoke toward the half dozen microphones that were thrust toward his face. "Thirty two dead, twenty five wounded, some critically. If Agent Raymond Allen of the F.B.I. hadn't heard the shots, and risked his own life to stop the gunman, the death toll could have been worse. He is the true hero of this incident."
Agent Allen stepped forward, his dark suit and red tie looking out of place at this hour of the morning. "I only did what I felt I had to do," he said, the rising sun reflecting from the opaque lenses of his sunglasses.

Detective Clint Murphy rubbed his temples, thick fingers scratching the curly dark hair above his ears. His elbows rested on stacks of reports that threatened to topple to the floor at any second. "What the hell's going on around here?" he mumbled.
At forty-seven years old, Murphy was a veteran of what he liked to call "The battle against chaos."  Two ex-wives could testify to his devotion to duty, and his complete lack of empathy for the criminal element. At five feet ten inches, and just a shade above two hundred pounds, he didn't look tough in any respect, but the determination in his pale blue eyes had been enough to change the mind of many thugs who thought about resisting arrest.
Art Bendell, Murphy's partner for the last eight months shrugged. "I guess it depends on what you're referring to."

Murphy's sport coat was rumpled from three days of climbing in and out of cars, and two nights of napping at his desk. His face was haggard from lack of sleep, and the stubble on his chin and cheeks stood out against his sallow complexion.
The aging detective shook his head. "Had another shooting at a black church last night. I'll bet we haven't had two or three incidents like this in the last fifty years, and now we've got three in the last two weeks."
The lunchroom at police headquarters was deserted at this time of the morning, and Bendell poured a cup of thick, black coffee from the pot on the sideboard. He grimaced when the foul dregs of last night’s pot assaulted his tongue. "Full moon again last night, Murph?"
Murphy reached for a donut from a pink box that seeped melting maple frosting onto the desk. "No. Maybe it would be easier to explain if it was."
Bendell stirred several spoons of sugar into his cup, sipped tentatively, then stirred in several more. "So, what happened this time? I didn't have time to watch the news this morning."
"Some asshole took an AK-47 into a Baptist church. Mostly black folks," Murphy mumbled around a bite of donut. "Moron opened up on the congregation...Took out a shitload of 'em."
"They catch him?"
"Better than that. An F.B.I. agent named Ray Allen stopped his clock for him on the front steps of the church.

Bendell rubbed his chin, then his fingers moved to the back of his neck, working at a kink. "Allen... Why does that name sound familiar?"
Murphy grinned. "Maybe because of the guy from that sitcom on T.V.?"
"Naw. I've heard that name somewhere... Oh, yeah! Remember a couple of years back, the Feds came in here like they owned the place, and demanded our cooperation? That was Allen and his buddies."
Murphy gestured with the half eaten donut. "I was a sergeant then, remember?"
Bendell laughed. "How many times is it now, Murph?"
"Third time's a charm, ol' buddy."

Clint Murphy regarded the gold detective's shield clipped to his belt as being on loan. Twice in the last eight years he had been promoted to detective, and twice had the shield taken back. Murphy was the last thing the new breed of Police Chief wanted on the roster. Descended from a long line of tough Irish cops, Murphy was a thorn in the side of the "politically correct” upper echelon of the department. If subtlety didn't work, Murphy sometimes resorted to brute force. His last trip back to sergeant's stripes had come when the nephew of a city councilman resisted arrest on a felony spousal abuse warrant. When he was released from the hospital, he had filed brutality charges against the department, but was persuaded to drop them after Murphy's demotion. It had taken three years, and a change of chiefs for Murphy to once again gain his status as a detective.
"I almost forgot about that, Murph." Bendell made a show of bending to admire Murphy's badge. "Anyway, this guy, Allen, and several other suits came in one morning and told us they were going under cover in our jurisdiction. Told us in no uncertain terms to keep our noses out of their operation, but be ready to assist if necessary."
Murphy tipped a can of diet cola up to his lips, draining the last drops from the can. "What the hell were the feds involved with out here, drugs?"
"Nope. They were checking out one of the white supremacist groups. Seems this bunch had been selling illegal weapons... That sort of thing." 
Murphy chuckled as Bendell rolled his eyes in derision. "You'd think the damn fools would learn after that mess at Ruby Ridge a few years ago. Killed that fella's wife and son, and couldn't even make the charges stick. He sued their arrogant asses off!"
Bendell helped himself to a donut, licking frosting from his fingers. "And Waco. They went in to save the children from those nasty ol' religious fanatics, and wound up slaughtering almost everybody in the compound. If I'm ever a hostage, Murph, promise me you won't let those guys help, okay?"
"You got it, Pal." Murphy brushed crumbs from the front of his jacket. "Well, it's our case, so I guess we'd better get movin'.
"Whaa... I thought you said the guy was dead?"

"Deader'n hell, but the mayor wants to know why there's been so much of this stuff going on in the last few months."
Bendell shrugged. "It's not just here, Murph. It's been happening all over the country."
"Yeah, but the mayor isn't up for re-election all over the country... Just here."
"Okay, I can see where a mass murder or two could cause Mayor Beech some concern alright," Bendell agreed. He slipped into his jacket and followed Murphy out the door.