Friday, May 29, 2015

Just the Facts, Ma’am



   The FBI agents took careful notes as Sean and Mary discussed their activities of the previous month. Mary was careful not to relate any information concerning her ‘supernatural’ powers. The agents were very interested in Roger Ramsen’s computer files and they had not previously made a connection between the dead semi-driver and The Brotherhood. They also noted the suspicious death of ‘Madame Tara’, a case which was being handled by the Seattle Police. They were particularly interested in the gunman who had been hit by lighting on Tina’s farm.

   “Of course, what I’ll talk about next can’t be confirmed,” said Mary, “Use this information as you will, I won’t testify in court about its accuracy, I have no way of verifying it. Before I begin, Sean and I would like to know about Sean’s Aunt Tina—her whereabouts and welfare.  She’s eighty-five years old.”

   “Ms. Carroll has been interviewed and is currently staying with a friend, a Mr. Edwin Duddle, in Decorah. Until our investigation at the farm is complete, we thought it better that she stayed in town,” said the agent.

   As he spoke, Sean’s phone rang, the call ID was Decorah, Iowa.

   “Excuse me,” said Sean, “I think Tina is on the line.”

   “Sean, is that you?” said Tina.

   “It’s me, Tina, how are you? Where have you been?” Sean took the phone out to the balcony.

   “I’m staying with Edwin now,” said Tina, “The FBI talked to me yesterday, I told them what I knew, but didn’t tell them anything that I hadn’t seen with my own eyes. They said that the man hit by lighting was a dangerous Russian agent. They said found a stolen truck they thought was his, abandoned near the where the old bridge used to be. They think he was looking for you and that I’m lucky to be alive. I told them that I’ve been lucky to be alive for quite some time now. How are you and Mary doing?”

   “Well, as a matter of fact, we’re talking to FBI agents right now. They think things aren’t going to get any better soon, although I think they are now on the same page as we are. We’ll let you know if anything comes up. Is there an opening in the assisted living facility yet?”

   “There may be an one soon. They said they’d let me know.”

   “Okay, I’ll save Edwin’s number and call you if anything comes up. Take care.”

   Tina and Sean exchanged goodbyes. Back in the apartment, Sean sat down next to Mary and told her that Tina was doing alright. Mary smiled when she heard that Tina had been staying with Edwin.

   “You are aware that the company I used to own was engaged in what is sometimes disingenuously referred to as ‘data mining’,” Mary began, “As a consultant in the transition, I still have access to the ADR programs, and have been able to obtain a great deal about the organization which calls itself ‘The Brotherhood’. That information, along with some effects which had belonged to Sean’s grandmother, has given us a perspective on where the group originated, what its purpose is, and why Sean has been targeted.”

   The agents looked at Sean and then Mary and then back at Sean.

   “Is Mary involved with this as deeply as you are?” the agent from Virginia asked Sean.

   “More so, in ways that may be hard to understand,” said Sean, “Mary, will you continue?”

   “We were married in Decorah.” Mary began, “We left just before the ‘visit’ from the would-be assassin. We thought that our trip to Iowa was a secret—we told no one where we were going. Evidently The Brotherhood had been searching for us and they thought that an isolated farmhouse would be a good place to ‘eliminate’ us. We had been under surveillance in Seattle for some time. I imagine that the fortune teller, Madame Tara, had been recruited to infiltrate an engagement party for one of the ADR staffers to see if we had returned. Why she was killed is beyond my understanding. Sally O’Donnell may have been killed because of her knowledge of Roger Ramsden’s affairs. I don’t think that The Brotherhood yet knows that she copied his computer files,” Mary paused as she took a sip from her coffee, “O.K., now for the strange part. I’ve been in ‘contact’ with Sean’s grandmother, Emily Carroll, who was last seen in 1946. You could call it a dream or, more accurately, a visitation. As I said, none of this information can be used as evidence. Consider it background, it may help you to ‘connect the dots’ in the future. Emily ‘told me’ that John Regelind Jr., the father of John Regelind III, is also the father of Sean’s mother, Marilyn Carroll. The files we got from Sally O’Donnell confirmed this. Sally also said that The Brotherhood was planning something big. Perhaps that has something to do with the semi-driver who was hauling bomb-making materials.”

   “I see,” said the agent from Virginia. “That information correlates with our investigation. We’ll need some time to put our case together but there is a strong possibility that one or both of you will be the subject of another attack. Is there a place you could go for a few weeks, at least until we start to make arrests?”

   “Yes,” said Sean, “Iceland,” he thought, “and I can meet my son.”

   “Yes, that would be good,” thought Mary.

   “We’ll leave the country—as soon as we can get a flight, said Mary, “You can contact us through our lawyers.”

   “Is there anything else you can tell that we need to know?”

   “Sean and I expecting a baby, sometime around the end of the year.”




Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Golden Hour



   In cinematography the phrase “Golden Hour” refers to that time of day just before and after sunset when the combination of the reddening sun and the bluing sky and shadows becomes a ‘magical’ moment when colors explode and highlights and shadows create a dramatic scene. In the spring the flowering shrubs appear to be ‘burning’. When shot with my homemade lens, the effect verges on the surreal.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, May 25, 2015

Adventures in Marketing



   This screenshot is from the Amazon Warehouse site. A cute little camera. It is about the size of a deck of cards and weighs less than a pound—a perfect size for my feeble constitution. I've had my eye on this little gem for quite a while, for it will accept (with adapters) lenses from almost any other interchangeable lens camera—SLR, CCTV or even 8mm movie. I’ve got at least a dozen that it will accept.

   Amazon’s pricing algorithms have always been inscrutable trade secrets. This item was no exception. When I first started to price this outfit it ran from about $400 to $600. The Amazon site had a couple which were new but with damaged packaging for about $260, quite a discount! I kept watching the site, and the price would go up and down every day or so. Finally, last Wednesday evening, the price sank to $247. I went for it. Since then the price of the remaining kit has inched steadily upward, as of Sunday it’s nearly $300.


   UPDATE: As of Monday it’s priced at $302.31!

   I don’t understand this marketing plan, but I’ll take the deal I got Wednesday.

   NEW UPDATE: As of Tuesday it’s priced at $317.42!!

   I really don't understand anything anymore.

   NEWER UPDATE: $325.11 as of Wednesday morning!!!

   NEWEST UPDATE: $333.84 as of Wednesday evening!!!!

   NEW NEWEST UPDATE: $340.53 Thursday A.M.!!!!!

   NEWEST NEWEST UPDATE: $357.56  Thursday P.M.!!!!!!

   FRIDAY P.M.: $358.00 (I think it’s peaking!)


By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Friday, May 22, 2015

Advise and Consent



   Back in their old apartment, Mary and Sean were ‘entertaining’ the two FBI agents. The agent from Virginia spoke first.

   “You’ve been off our radar for a couple of weeks. That may have been a good thing,” said the agent from Virginia, “Since your stabbing incident, Sean, we know that there is a certain group of people who wish you harm. We have reason to suspect that they are starting to intensify their efforts, have you been aware of any activities toward you that might be considered part of this?”

   “We are aware of the group and their intent,” said Sean, “The incident in Decorah, for example. Evidently, we just missed being attacked at my Aunt Tina’s farm.”

   “What do you know of that?” said the Seattle agent.

   “I became aware of the incident from news reports,” said Sean.

   “You were in Iowa?” said the agent from Virginia, “May I ask why?”

   “Are you holding Tina in custody?” Mary said as Sean put his wedding ring on.

   “She’s in protective custody,” There was a pause in the conversation.

   “They know a lot more about this than they are revealing,” thought Mary.

   “How much should we tell them?” thought Sean, “I doubt they’d believe anything about your communications with Emily.”

   “We’re going to have to deal with them sooner or later,” thought Mary, “I think we should tell them about The Brotherhood, telling them what we know from Billy’s report and Roger Ramsen’s files.”

   “That will incriminate Sally. We’ll have to get some assurances,” thought Sean, “Do you think it wise to deal with the FBI?”

   “I don’t think we have a choice,” thought Mary, “Go ahead, and talk to them. I’ll keep quiet, it’s best that they don’t know what I’ve been up to. As if they’d believe it anyway. Make sure you get as much information as you give.”

   Sean broke the impasse:

   “I’ll be as direct as possible,” he said, “What can we do for you, and what can you do for us?”

   “Let’s start from the beginning. I’m going to omit some names, but you may already know some of them,” the agent from Virginia continued, “The F.B.I. became involved with you at the request of a certain member of congress who had the cooperation of a sub-director. The entire affair with your half-brother William and the interrogation of Ms. Berenson was done in violation of established department protocols. That sub-director is no longer with the agency. After you were attacked in Virginia, a special task force was created to find the perpetrator and his motivation. We were ready to arrest him when he suddenly died from natural causes. We had some evidence to suggest he was part of a larger group but have been unable to link it completely. As evidenced by the incident at your Aunt’s farm, they are evidently still active and extremely dangerous. There is also evidence that the group has connections with foreign agents, agents who might pose a threat to homeland security. We have come here to warn you, and to seek your help. It is our understanding that you already have some knowledge of this.”

    “Yes, we are aware of the danger, and we have some knowledge of that group,” said Sean, “That said, much of what we surmise has been taken from sources which would not be considered proper evidence.”

   “Of course,” said the Seattle agent, “In any investigation there is information that, while not admissible in a court of law, nevertheless can help lead to a satisfactory conclusion.”

   “And some of what we know has been obtained from sources who acquired it in ways of questionable legality.”

   “Of course. We are willing to accept anything you may offer as ‘background information’, with no questions asked as to its legality,” The agent from Virginia said. His phone began to ring: “Excuse me for a moment,” and he stepped out of the apartment and onto the balcony. Shutting the door behind him, he began talking. When the agent returned his face, which had been non-committal, now exhibited a grave demeanor.

   “There has been a new complication,” the agent began, “You do know a Sally O’Donnell, from the incident in Iceland?”

   “Of course,” Sean answered.

   “She’s been found dead, not far from here,” said the agent, “Have you been in communication with her recently?”

   “They’re getting closer,” thought Mary, “I don’t trust these agents completely, but I think we don’t have many other options. We’ll need all the help we can get.”

   “I’m inclined to agree,” thought Sean, “We don’t need to protect Sally now, but we should contact Molly.”

   “Does the name ‘The Brotherhood’ mean anything to you in the context of this investigation?” asked Sean.

   The two agents looked at each other.

   “Yes,” said the agent from Virginia.

   “And the name John Regelind III?” said Sean.

   “Yes.”

   “Sean, would you make us some coffee, please?” said Mary. “Gentlemen, fasten your seat belts.  You’re in for a bumpy ride.”




Fiction

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Thursday, May 21, 2015

High School Confidential - Conclusion



   What really shocked the town and the school is the fact that the key & the library situations involved not hoods, but a lot of H—'s finest, & kids of prominent people. The include the newspaper editor's son (me), the homecoming queen, a banker’s son, a prominent insurance man’s son, a real estate man’s son, a dentist’s son, a school board member’s nephew, the deputy sheriff’s brother, a veterinarian’s son, & the boy who is the National Merit Scholar won a $1,500 a year scholarship for 4 years. Perhaps they will now understand that there is a generation gap.

   Anyway, we all have a $50 fine, & 1 months strict probation. After that we are free except that if we get into trouble during the next year it is curtains. Luckily, not everything came out in court, which would be really wild. As you may suspect, I am holding things back, things that would make the hair fall out of your ass.

   I will enclose the latest Shaft, which is most likely the last, because of recent events. If you publish any more, please send.

G—


Note: This was the last communication I received from G—. 
I did see a picture of him in the newspaper a few years later, however. 
He was burning his draft card.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

High School Confidential - Continued



   A group of us, excluding most of the lighting crew, decided to hide the entire library in the maintenance tunnels under the school. The idea was originally well planned & would have occurred at the end of the year. I am sure now that none of us would be in trouble if we had followed the original plan. Instead, the originator of this plan came bombing in to my house the Thursday before Easter & said he would get some guys together Easter night and do it. I snuck out of the house on schedule but they forgot to pick me up, so I walked to the school to see if we were going ahead with it, which is about the dumbest thing I ever did. They let me in a back door & I about crapped to find out that they had girls in there.

   Anyway we got about 12 hundred books down in the tunnel before we ran out of time. So a couple of birdbrains decided to fuck-up the rest, they threw books all over and dumped out the entire card catalog. Then we hauled ass out of there, at about midnight, & just in time too, because the cops made a routine check about 20 seconds later. Since the operation was pulled off at the wrong time & without preparation it didn’t take long for the cops to finger someone, who sang & sang. Now the two original key people are suspended for two weeks, 7 more have detention, and the 13 in the library incident have been to court and have 1 years probation. Except me & one other guy, who are 18 & got 30 days in jail, suspended provided we follow the probation rules of the others, which were set down by an old coot who sits watching TV wearing a cowboy hat & huddled up in a buffalo robe and is hated by about everyone under 65.


Conclusion tomorrow…

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Tuesday, May 19, 2015

High School Confidential



May 3, 1968

Dear S—,

   We have only published one Shaft* since I last wrote you, and it will probably be the last one. It was published about 4-6 weeks ago but I have been too busy to send one. Now, however, I find myself in the extremely satisfying and enviable position of being suspended from school for one week, so I had the time to scribble all this out on the stationary I have accumulated (swiped) in the last 2 years. I believe that in my other letter I indicated that I could tell you tales that would make the hair fall our of your armpits. At that time my lips were sealed out of legal respect. I have just shed that legal respect. The matters I am writing about is the control of our school, which is about as security conscious as the Germans on Hogan’s Heroes. For about a year and a half a group of our most ingenious students have gradually been acquiring keys to a number of the rooms in our school. The process is simple. You borrow the key from a teacher for a legitimate reason. While you have it you trace the outline on a piece of paper with a sharp pencil. They you return the key. If you obtain the correct key blank it is not so hard to file out the shape according to the pattern. (Wax impressions don’t work). The key you make may need some retouching but you usually can get it to work. Last spring these students obtained a master key to the whole inside of the the school & since then nothing has been safe. 2 ways were discovered to get into the school at night. One was through a trap door on the roof & one was a broken door that had never been fixed. A lot of weird things happened. Also, a great number of other students knew about the keys. In fact, it was common knowledge & quite a joke on the administration. Although I personally was not involved in most of the episodes, the other two Shaft-types were more frequently.

Our senior class is one of the weirdest to go down in a long time. We had quite a conspiracy until about 2 weeks ago. Weird things happened, & we had the run of the school. We investigated private files, sat around drinking pop in the faculty room, went swimming in the pool, (one guy brought his scuba equipment), and performed a host of other minor pranks. Since most of the guys were the lighting crew for all school events, the action centered around the bridge (light room) above the stage. They had a safe in there with a small stove, a coffee pot, & other utensils. We have pictures somewhere of all the guys eating spaghetti & meatballs, coffee, cocoa, hot dogs, etc. They used to sneak in during their 5th hour study hall. They actually cooked wieners on the electrodes of the big rheostats, which get quite hot. At any rate it was quite a scene until we screwed it up.


to be continued…

*The Shaft was a short-lived underground newspaper in the high school of a small town in western Minnesota.

I received this letter because we had exchanged underground newspapers.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, May 18, 2015

Art-A-Whirl 2015

Another year, another Art-A-Whirl. This event takes place on Northeast Minneapolis, in the manner of art crawls everywhere. This is the 30th, it really hasn't changed much, except for the plethora of food trucks.  I saw this studio-less sculptor in the hallway with a creature made from old iMac parts:




Auto traffic is really quite impossible in places, even with hundreds of bicyclists relieving the parking pressure. ‘Bike-A-Whirl’:




There are a variety of musical groups performing—it’s a lo-key affair—the ‘green room’ is likely to be a loading dock:



But the real fun is making connections with the artists, I had taken a picture of Alexandra Bildsoe last year (on the left), this year I got to participate in her ‘Send a Postcard’ project:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, May 15, 2015

Monster



   “Let’s get out of here. Whoever did this is still around,” Mary said, taking Jo by the arm, “Don’t look back.”

   As they walked back to Jo’s place, Jo began to ask questions.

   “What is going on?” Jo said, “Are you running away from something too?”

   “I’ve become stuck in the middle of something, something monstrous. I am afraid that you might become entangled in this as well,” Mary said, “Simply put, there are a group of men who have an interest in seeing that Sean and I are dead. It appears to be spiraling out of control.”

   “Can you go to the police?” said Jo.

   “No, we don’t have anything tangible to show them. The FBI is interested in Sean, but for different reasons. There have been too many things happening recently that aren’t coincidences, but can’t be explained rationally.”

   “Could they be explained irrationally?” asked Jo, as they walked up to her duplex.

   “You’ve grasped our dilemma. Listen, will you keep an eye out for any suspicious characters lurking around? Do you have a phone?”

   “Yes, it isn’t a smartphone, but I can text you.”

   “Good enough. If you think things are getting out of hand text me. Sign your text ‘Jo from Spo’, and I’ll answer you right away. Hopefully, there won’t be any fallout from this as far as you are concerned. These men are dangerous. It is becoming obvious that they have no qualms about committing ‘collateral damage.’ We could put you up for a while if you needed a place to stay.”

   “I might take you up on that.  I’m more worried about my ex than any conspiracy,” said Jo, “But I can protect myself, thank you.”

   After she left Jo, Mary sent Sean a text message:

Bad things happening. Be home soon.


   Sally O’Donnell left her condo to meet with a contact person regarding a project of her real estate consulting firm. Sally had been a consultant on the planning stages of a condominium in the Fremont District; one of the few remaining parcels of land in the area big enough for a building that size. It was in a prime location—just east of the famous ‘Fremont Troll’—and the owner of the final property to be acquired had told Sally over the phone that he was finally ready to talk.

   As she drove to the site, Sally felt good. She was back in Seattle, doing what she liked, and free of Roger Ramsen and his creepy pals. She found a spot to park near the Troll where she saw a man standing with a clipboard, evidently waiting for her.

   “Ms. O’Donnell, I assume?” said the man, speaking with a slight accent, “It is good to meet you at last.”

   “The feeling is mutual, Mr. Devin,” said Sally, “What can I do for you?”

   “Call me Frank,” he said, “I’d like to go over the property lines, and discuss a potential problem you might have with the northern border.”

   “What do you mean?” asked Sally.

   “If you will follow me (you can see it better from across the street), you will see that our neighbor to the North has been using part of my lot as his driveway. I had never noticed it before, but it may become a problem.”

   They walked up a path between the trees on either side of the overpass which sheltered the giant sculpture. As they rounded a bush which cut off the view of the street, the man took what appeared to be an asthma inhaler out of his pocket.

   “Excuse me,” he said as he removed the cap from the device. Suddenly, he collared Sally and shoved the inhaler into her mouth.

   In a few seconds, Sally went limp.

   Within a minute, she was dead.

   The man dragged her body under the bushes and calmly walked away.



   Sean was the bathroom of his apartment, packing his toiletries into a box when Mary came in.

   “Hi,” he said, “I’ve got the keys to the new apartment. I’m packing up my stuff. I got your text. What’s up?”

   “I went to see ‘Madame Tara’, the fortune teller who was at the party last night,” Mary said, “She lived upstairs from where Jo, the woman we picked up in Spokane, was staying. Tara was supposed to meet me at the water tower. When she didn’t show, I went to Jo’s place to see if she was there. When I was talking to Jo, police and EMTs went to the water tower. We went to look at what was going on and we saw them take a body out of the tower. I assume it was Tara. There is something going on.”

   “I found a story about the man who had been hit by lightning at Tina’s” said Sean, “And I also read about the trucker who died on the interstate, there was no word on the identity of the man who was hit by lightning, but a search of our Ramsen files revealed that the truck driver works for one of The Brotherhood members. The truck was full of bomb-making materials.”

   “Have you been able to reach Tina?” asked Mary.

   “Not yet. I was going to look up Edwin’s number and call him.”

   “And warn him,” said Mary, “If they killed Tara, just because she was going to talk to me, and they are shipping bombs to Seattle, there’s no telling what The Brotherhood will do. I’m glad you got the new apartment, I won’t feel safe sleeping here.”

   The apartment’s intercom buzzed. It was the super.

   “You’ve got some visitors. FBI. Shall I send them up?”

   “Do they have ID?” said Sean.

   “It looks legit.”

   “Don’t let them in. Wait for us. We’ll be right down.” said Sean. He turned off the intercom. “If we’re going to be murdered, I want witnesses.”

   When Sean and Mary entered the foyer, Sean recognized one of the agents from Virginia, where he had worked on the ‘Billygate’ investigation. Mary recognized the other agent; he had been in contact with her when Molly had discovered that it was Billy’s, not Sean’s, body in the morgue.

   “Gentlemen. We’ve met before. Shall we go inside? We have a lot to discuss,” said Sean.







Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Flaming Youth

Young hipsters playing Devil Music?


Location unknown, c. 1955

No shortage of attitude in the girls from cabin A:


Camp Seneca, New York, 1954




Found photographs.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, May 11, 2015

Ergot Museum/Finnish Fashion

A Flippism is the Key cultural double-header:


Ergot: a fungal disease of rye and other cereals in which black, elongated, fruiting bodies grow in the ears of the cereal. Eating contaminated food can result in ergotism.
I would have never imagined that there was a museum dedicated to a parasitic fungus, much less one in my home state. In the thirties this facility was built to extract ergot from rye in Dassel, Minnesota. It was active until the early 70s, when the medicinal compounds extracted from ergot were synthesized. The building still stands—it is part of a community center—but does contain much of the ergot extraction machinery in situ:



On a more modern note: the museum recently featured this trippy exhibit of modern Scandinavian textiles and garments:



The exhibit, Deep Roots (Juuret Syvällä), has now closed but will re-open at The Craft Museum of Finland 5 June.


By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, May 08, 2015

Breaking News



   Tuesday morning found Mary was back at ADR, reviewing the system for possible faults. Sean was at the apartment, checking his emails and scouring news feeds. His interest was aroused when he came across a cryptic article on The Chicago Sun-Times site. It was about a man who had been hit by lightning in Decorah. Sean called Tina but received no answer. He then checked the local news and noticed a reference to the semi accident near Issaquah. The area was still closed to traffic, the trailer had been full of fertilizer and other flammables and was considered a fire and explosion risk. The driver was, as Sean had surmised, dead. He was an independent owner-operator from Virginia; his exact final destination was unknown.

   Sean turned his attention to the contents of the jump drive which Mary had made the previous day. Its content was a summation of Roger Ramsen’s files—cross-referenced with Billy’s research on the Senator. The results showed the people, addresses, businesses and other interconnections of The Brotherhood’s organization. On a hunch, Sean re-ran the files with the name of the semi driver included. While the program was running the rental agent called to confirm the lease application Sean and Mary had submitted. Sean went down to the building superintendent’s office and picked up the keys for the additional apartment. When he returned, the computer had finished running: the driver’s name came up. He was affiliated with one of the companies of The Brotherhood’s members.  The fact that the truck was hauling bomb-making materials disturbed Sean greatly.



   At the ADR offices, Mary had run into her old employee Eddie, who had thrown the engagement party the previous night. Eddie looked a little rough.

   “That fortune teller was a nice touch, Ed. Did you hire her to see if she could predict any other engagements among the staff?” said Mary.

   “I didn’t hire her, she must have been a freelancer,” said Eddie, looking at Mary’s ring, “I didn’t hear about any new engagements, but it looks as if you and Sean have been busy.”

   Mary frowned, then quickly smiled: “We decided to forgo the engagement, you could say that the internet made the announcement for us.”

   “Congratulations. We miss having you two around. Have you had any fallout from those pictures on your balcony?”

   “They’re old news now. I thought I looked pretty good. What did you think?”

   “Of course, I didn’t look at them—you know that I’m engaged now, but the other guys were duly impressed,” Eddie said, “Anything coming up on the horizon for you two?”

   “Nothing I can talk about,” Mary said, “That ‘Billygate’ business still hasn’t been resolved. We’d appreciate hearing about anyone asking questions about it, or about us.”

   “We’re cool, we’ll keep our ears open and our mouths shut. Are you going be around here for awhile?”

   “A couple of days. I tweaked the main algorithm a little. I want to keep my eye on it for a while.”



   The new apartment was a mirror duplicate of their old one but turned around so that the balcony faced southeast, toward Mount Rainier, rather than toward Elliot bay. Sean scanned the horizon and was pleased to note that there were no buildings with a direct line of sight into the flat. He was also pleased to see that the WiFi from their old unit reached the new one. He opened an app on his phone—turning the laptop in his old apartment into an instant security camera. As he was scanning the setup to view his apartment his cell rang; it was UPS. They were downstairs, with the boxes from Iowa. Sean went down to take delivery.



   Back in Decorah, Tina was sitting in the Sheriff’s office. They were joined by an FBI agent and a man sporting a Homeland Security patch on his jacket sleeve.

   “You understand that this is a formality,” began the agent, “A case as strange as this one may have unknown ramifications. It appears that it may be related to your nephew, we’re here not only to see to your safety but are also trying to get some background information. You may have answered some of these questions before, we’re only asking them again to be able to construct a timeline and better coordinate our investigations. Any questions?”

   Tina, who had been staying with Edwin in the apartment above his shop, only had one:

   “When can I go home?”



   Mary was waiting for a validity test to finish running. She was curious about the fortune teller so she ran an internet search on any from the Seattle area. There were about a dozen threads, but ‘Madame Tara’ immediately drew Mary’s attention. The picture on the site was definitely the woman she had met the night before. What was even more intriguing was the fact that the address was the same as where she and Sean had dropped off ‘Jo’ the hitchhiker Saturday night.  Mary called the number.

   “Madame T,” a voice answered.

   “We met at King’s last night,” said Mary, “You told me I was pregnant. We need to talk.”

   “But of course, you have the address?”

   “Yes, can we meet somewhere near there?” Mary said. “No offense, but it might be embarrassing for me to be seen going to a fortune teller.”

   “Something to do with religion?” said Madame Tara.

   “Something like that, yes.”

   “Of course, that happens from time to time. Can you meet me at the water tower in Volunteer Park? It’s just up the street from here.”

   “I know the place, Is three o’clock O.K.?” said Mary.

   “I'll be there.”



   When Mary arrived at the base of the massive brick structure there was no sign of ‘Madame Tara.’ She looked into the doorway which led to the inside of the tower and called for Tara. Her shouts echoed up the stairway that snaked its way up between the outer brick wall and the central steel tank. After waiting a few minutes, Mary left and walked down Aloha street to Tara’s house. Mary rang the doorbell without response. When she started pounding on the door, the door of the adjoining duplex unit opened and Jo, the hitch-hiker, stepped out.

   “Wow, what are you doing here?” Jo said.

   “I was supposed to meet with the woman who lives upstairs. She had told me that she would meet me at the water tower fifteen minutes ago. She never showed up.”

   “That’s funny, she left here about a half an hour ago. I was napping on the couch and the sound of the door slamming woke me up,” said Jo.

   Their conversation was interrupted by sirens. Mary could see that a police car and an emergency vehicle were at the end of the block. They walked to the park where a crowd of people had already assembled. They were watching the police enter the tower, followed by EMTs. More police soon arrived and herded the crowd out of the park. After a while, the medical personnel emerged from the base of the tower, toting a shrouded figure on a gurney.

   Mary knew that Tara was dead.



Fiction


By Professor Batty




Monday, May 04, 2015

The Crucible



   In the forty+ years I’ve been attending plays at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater, I’ve had my share of hits and misses. When the new building opened seven years ago anticipation was high; it now had the space it needed to properly support three venues (the old theater relied on remote workshops to build sets, make costumes, rehearse, etc.) and offered the opportunity to become a true cultural hub. I’ve never had occasion to find fault with the acting and the directors were generally competent and often inspired. So why did I approach a gifted ticket to a Wednesday matinee with a sense of duty, rather than that of excitement?

   Perspective.

   I’ve changed over the years but live theater is still capable of giving me a thrill, although it seems I have to travel to Reykjavík to capture it. The Guthrie just isn’t much fun anymore. A big part of that is the architecture of the complex. Designed by ‘starchitect’ Jean Nouvel, the building is a menacing hulk, infected by with dismal lobbies and awkward restaurants. A ‘bigger’ problem is the size of the organization. The building was heavily subsidized with taxpayer money so any play presented has to be ‘safe’: suitable for high school audiences. I told my companion that I doubted that I would ever live to see a play by Bertolt Brecht again performed there.* The plays which are chosen have to be ‘pre-sold’, meaning they must pander to the masses (i.e., Neil Simon). I don't know what the solution to this dilemma is (although I have consistently enjoyed the smaller ‘experimental’ productions in the Dowling Studio.) Because there isn’t so much at stake in that smaller venue the drama, rather than the production, remains the primary concern.

   Concerning The Crucible (the play I saw last week), the production fulfilled the ‘New Guthrie’ criteria: competent, safe and uninspired.

   I think I’ll have give the Guthrie (with the exception of the Dowling Studio) a pass for a while, there are too many other options and not enough time. Maybe it’s me?

*In the late sixties and early seventies, Brecht was a staple of the Guthrie repertory, with many highly acclaimed and successful productions. On a somewhat related note, Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle had its world premiere at the Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1948!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Friday, May 01, 2015

Gypsy Woman



   On Monday, Mary checked into what had been ADR, now a division of Amasales, the internet mega-retailer. After a few hours, she figured out that an Amasales IT had inserted a rigid time marker into the code, negating the ‘float’ which enabled the ADR software to work properly. It would take a few hours to fix, but Mary was in no hurry.  When she and Sean had returned to Seattle Saturday night, Mary found the information from Roger Ramsen’s computer in the old ADR dropbox, where Molly had uploaded it. Mary wanted to put it into the ADR system to crunch it against Billy’s information as well as compiling a dossier on each member of The Brotherhood. The process would be a good test of the system’s integrity.

   Meanwhile, Sean spoke to their building’s rental agent about getting another apartment.  There was an open unit available, furnished, for which he had the agent prepare a lease. Sean also arranged for the delivery of those items he had shipped from Iowa; he was especially intrigued by what information his mother might have had in her computer concerning The Brotherhood in general and the Regelind Tobacco dynasty in particular. Despite the creepiness of The Brotherhood’s practices, Sean wanted to find out more about his paternal grandfather as well as any other relatives who might be hiding  in that branch of his family tree. He stopped into the Post Office to restart their delivery and picked up the mail which had accumulated during the time he and Mary had been gone.

   In the pile of mail was a hand-addressed letter from one of his old co-workers at ADR. He opened it and discovered that it was an announcement for an ‘engagement celebration,’ to be held that evening at King’s Hardware—a Ballard bar. The letter was postmarked a week prior but there was no R.S.V.P. in the invitation. Sean sent Mary a text message:
Engagement Party 7 pm tonite for Eddie B@ Kings Hrdwr in Ballard. Who'd a thunk it? Are U up for it? 
    Mary had just loaded her data on The Brotherhood and, with nothing to do for a few minutes, was able to answer right away:
That's the place with the patio in back? And the chicken wings? Count me in. I'll take a taxi from here and meet you at 7.
   Sean TM’d his confirmation and then sat down with his laptop to go through his emails. with the letter from Þora and began to read:
 Hi Sean. Thank you for replying to my previous email. I think that the time has come to bring the uncertainty about Vilhjálmur to an end. There are special needs issues with the child and although I am reluctant to ask for your help I need to exercise all my options. Will you consent to a paternity test?  It may be possible to do at a distance, or you may have to come to Iceland. I wish you no harm, I only want to do what is best for the child.
Thank you,  Þora
   Sean made a mental note to talk to Mary and the lawyers about this.



The meeting of The Brotherhood began with the usual call to order. The leader made no pretense of ‘business as usual’ and started directly into a discussion of the failed assassination attempt.

   “Brethren: it is now eight hours since I should have heard from the operative. There was a storm in the area; perhaps his communication was affected by it. I don’t know the details.”

   The group remained silent. Finally, one of the men spoke:

   “What do you know?” he queried. “John, we’ve been behind you on this since Ramsen died, but the things you’ve tried have only made the situation worse.”

   “The operative’s last contact was yesterday, 1800 hours our time. He was leaving Chicago, which would have put him in the target area by 0200 at the latest. He was to have reported back by 900 hours. There has been nothing about an incident at the farmhouse reported in the media or in police reports.”

   “And the Kitsap plan? Is it on track?”

   “The materials are in transit. They should arrive in Seattle sometime today.”

   “We’ll give it another 24 hours. I move we adjourn until this time tomorrow.”

   The motion was accepted and the meeting was adjourned.



  The party at King’s Hardware  was already in full swing by the time Mary arrived. She spotted Sean on the patio and went over to him.

   “How did it go today?” said Sean.

   “No big deal,” Mary said, “Amasales IT thought they could ‘improve’ the algorithm by locking the clock. It was an easy fix.”

   “And the dropbox files?”

   “I did a mass analysis and dumped the results into a flash drive. I’ll look at it in the morning. How did your day go?”

   “I’ve got the new lease, a unit on the other side of the building, a floor below ours. All it needs is your signature,” Sean said, “And I received another email from Þora. She needs some help.”

   “A paternity test?” said Mary.

   “Yes, at least. She mentioned something about the child’s ‘special needs.’ I think you know what they might be.”

   A woman dressed in a Gypsy costume approached the couple.

   “May I read your palms?" she said.

   "Is this part of the party?” asked Mary.

  “Of course,” said the woman,  “Eddie thought it would encourage conversation.”

   “I'll bite,” said Sean, as he surreptitiously slipped his wedding band on his ring finger.

   The woman clasped Sean’s hand and began to trace the lines on his palm. After a minute, she frowned.

   “I see a perilous trip and great danger,” said the Gypsy, “Difficult times lie ahead.”

   “Looks like I’ll be going back to Iceland…” Sean thought, “Do you think she knows what she’s doing?

   Mary had been studying the woman carefully. “She’s not a faker, although she might know who you are, and is making a lucky guess, Mary thought, “Let’s see what she thinks of my fortune.”

   Mary held out her hand. The fortune-teller held it for a moment, frowned, and then dropped her hand as if it were hot.

   “You are expecting a child,” she said, “I wish you the best.”

   With that pronouncement, the Gypsy woman abruptly left the table.

   “I didn’t think I was showing,” Mary thought, “I’m starving. What do I have to do to get a plate of wings?"




Fiction

By Professor Batty