Capitalism Sucks: Pt. 2

So, if you follow me on any of the social medias, you might have noticed I occasionally like to write in my favorite bar in Knoxville, Green’s Tavern.

I’ve written a few short stories there and edited a few more.

I wrote parts of The Hungry Dark, snuggly ensconced in one of its booths.

I’ve even written a few of these posts from the comfortable confines of the only geek bar in town.

And it is with a heavy heart, and a burning anger, that I come to tell you of its demise.

Green’s Tavern had to shut down, permanently.

One might be quick to blame the pandemic.

But COVID-19 is a mindless evil.

It makes no choices.

It takes no sides.

And I’ll not blame the mechanics of the trigger over the villain that pulls it.

The villain, in this case, is capitalism.

More specifically, how our government has rigged the system.

The System? Rigged? The hell you say?!

Yes, fellow travelers, the hell I say.

I know people will want to argue that the government provided loans to small businesses.

And those are the types of idiots you don’t even want to bother arguing with. They obviously didn’t watch or read any news or even commentary regarding the subject. And while I am not a stickler for the rules, I’m loath to waste my time on someone who refuses to do even the barest amount of homework on a matter of this level of importance.

(A little gossip cum back-channel info: my favorite tavern has fekkin’ smart owners. I am told, unofficially, that they did indeed apply for a small business loan under the CARES ACT program. I am also told that after 7 weeks, they were finally approved for 1/10th of what they applied for. 1/10th. Imagine a small business, in good standing for 10 fucking years. Now imagine what amount they might have applied for. The actual amount is likely lower than you’re thinking. Then imagine, if you were them, and instead of receiving this reasonable loan, the bank told you all they had for you was 10 percent. After almost 2 months. Well, dear readers, not only wasn’t that amount sufficient to keep the place open, it was low enough to be insulting.)

Everybody knows what happened to that small business loan money.

And if you don’t know, the majority did not, in fact, go to small businesses.

That was our government’s doing.

They set it up. They rigged the system for their rich, corporate friends.

That’s how national chains got small business funds.

(And the only reason any of them gave it back was because of intense social pressure. Take a second and imagine what would have happened if there had been no pressure. Now imagine how many other large companies took funds meant for small businesses but were not caught out by the public. Then take a minute to let your blood pressure drop back down. Go ahead. I’ll wait…)

The law could’ve have been written in such a manner as to preclude large/ national chains. It wasn’t.

And I’ll bet every dime I ever make – less the money for my cremation – that it wasn’t an accident the law was constructed the way it was.

The system is rigged for the rich, because, as Rousseau wrote, the rich write the laws.

What does this have to do with Capitalism?

Why is it not just inept and corrupt governance?

Because Capitalism is what drives the government, and those in control of it, to create the framework of laws that benefit the capitalist – ie: the holder of capital. The rich.

Poor people don’t have capital.

The working class has only the worth of their labor, which Capitalism is geared to exploit.

The nature of capitalism is to drive for profit above all else.

It is only when capitalism is effectively regulated, and its worst tendencies strictly curtailed – as it was in FDR’s New Deal – that it can function for the benefit of the society as a whole, and not just for the few.

And the COVID-19 crisis has shown us that Capitalism run amok is not equipped to deal with anything even resembling an existential threat to humanity.

Capitalism, un-restrained, corrupts the government to its own, profit-seeking purposes.

A government twisted by capitalism neglects the needs of its people.

And my favorite bar is forced to close.

In some other post, I’ll tell you more about Green’s. It deserves a better eulogy than this.

But just now, I’m too fucking angry. So it’ll have to wait.

Until next time…

 

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May Day Safety…

So, I live in Tennessee, one of the many states “opening back up” today.

And this is bullshit.

But some fekkin’ idjits in government have decided the best way for the economy to get going again, is to force poor people to choose between death and starvation.

Fuck them!

According to all the health experts, we don’t have the things we need to open back up safely. We don’t have pervasive testing. We don’t have contact tracing.

And we don’t have a fucking vaccine!

The whole point of flattening the curve was to keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed into oblivion.

It was not for us to wait out the fucking virus!

We can’t wait out the virus.

And, so far as we know, there is not enough information to suggest that if you’ve had it and recovered, that you can’t get it again. In fact, there is evidence to suggest you can keep getting it until it kills your ass. And so herd immunity is currently out the window – not to mention scandalous to suggest simply for the number of people it will kill.

Beyond the simple stupidity of trying to “open America back up” is the very real fact that many people will see this as a signal from the government that they no longer have to take the necessary precautions. Already there are too many people out in public not wearing masks and not staying 6 feet away from me.

Incidentally, I’d like that to continue, even after the virus. Please, unless I know you, stay 6 feet away from me at most times.

How many of those annoying-idiot-fucks will come, willie-nilly and unprotected, out of the woodwork?

Pretty much all of them, that’s how many.

And, as much as they get on my nerves, I don’t think ignorance should be punishable by death.

Although an argument could be made for all of the other lives they’ll endanger when they scamper forth like the PPE-free lemmings that they are.

So, it’s May Day.

(Merry Beltaine, by the way!)

It’s also International Worker’s Day.

And as such, many workers, around the globe, are striking and walking out to send a message about their treatment and worth during this pandemic and beyond.

Maybe you didn’t think of yourself as one of them until your state started to reopen, and you realized you were going to be forced to go back to work or lose everything.

Guess what?

You. Are. One. Of. Them.

Most of us are.

Maybe it’s time to organize. To show them what your labor and lives are worth.

To insist on humane treatment and respect.

And by maybe, I mean it definitely fucking is.

Talk to your co-workers. Your power is in your numbers and your ability to stop production.

Use your power.

Don’t go to work. Don’t go out if you don’t have to.

Don’t sacrifice yourself to put money in somebody else’s wallet.

You’re more valuable than that.

Time we made them see.

Keep your heads up, and your guillotines sharp.

Until next time…

 

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The Malaise…

Warning!

If you’ve had enough of the bullshit, or are anywhere near your point of being overwhelmed, maybe skip this one. It gets ranty.

So, I’m standing in my kitchen mug of black coffee in one hand, Solo cup full of dry Lucky Charms in the other, when the malaise hits me.

(as an aside, does anyone else think “malaise” sounds like what happens if you leave mayonnaise out for too long? Just me? Okay then…)

And like, I get it, everybody’s got the malaise recently. Worldwide pandemic. Stay at home orders. Absolute clueless cunts running our government.

Yeah, we got 99 problems and a bitch ain’t one.

I dig.

Like, here’s another thing:

I tend to believe the old adage that 98% of what we think of as Evil is just Stupidity.

I feel that in my bones.

But staying abreast of the news lately has convinced me that a non-zero portion of the broader populace, and a larger portion of our governing body, are actively nudging across the line into that 2% of pure fucking villainy.

Ever have that one friend? You know the one, they have problems, they know what the problem is, they even know of possible solutions, but still, they don’t do a goddamn thing to change their situation?

(Everybody has one of those friends. If you don’t, then it’s you sweet pea. Look into it.)

Prime example:

The vice president went to visit a facility full of COVID-19 patients. I saw it on the news.

And the only person not wearing PPE was him.

Why?

Did he think we wouldn’t recognize his Jonny Quest lookin’ ass with a mask on?

Does that motherfucker think Jesus is his personal protective equipment?

Well, maybe that last one, given the current VP.

But no, he’s just shilling for a particular bullshit piece of propaganda being used to prop up a bankrupt worldview/ policy stance.

And it’s shit like that, and assholes in positions of authority who are consummately bad examples -for any reason, give me the malaise.

It’s examples like that that lead to roughly 75% of the people at my local grocery store not wearing masks or taking any kind of precautions.

Seriously strips away my hope for the human race.

Here’s another coin tossed into the well where we’ve chained hope to die:

Fekkin’ politicians, super-rich cocksuckers, using this crisis to funnel more of the taxpayer’s money into the pockets of other rich cocksuckers, and leaving to poor and middle class to choose between privation and destruction, between staying home, staying safe – and starving, or risking actual death in order to line someone else’s pockets or to help the Stupid-Fucking-Stock-Market™ rebound.

And here’s another-fucking-thing for my heaping helping of the malaise:

Food.

Right. Some basic bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy shit.

Farmers are discarding huge amounts of produce. Literal tons of edible food, being thrown away. (And we already do enough of that when there wasn’t a pandemic on…).

The news telling me that livestock producers are looking to kill hundreds of thousands of animals because too many processing plants have been closed, and they can’t get them to slaughter.

Not for nothing, but did any of you Tweedle-Dee Twats think about just letting the poor animals live?

(Maybe they did, but I’ll bet you a stimulus check – that we’re not going to get again because rich fucks want us to be serfs and indentured servants – that this decision to kill off stock came down to financial considerations rather than humane ones.)

Kill the animals. Let the food go to waste.

When we have hungry people all over this country, and at least some infrastructure, vis-a-vis food banks, to distribute it to them?

And why?

Because of fucking money, that’s why.

Because human greed.

If there ever was a time for Americans to wake up and see exactly how we’re killing ourselves, it’s now.

This is the fucking moment.

All the stars have aligned.

The scales have been yoinked from our eyes.

And still, we don’t.

Some of us won’t.

Fucking WON’T.

And that gives me the malaise.

(Also the fact I kept trying to spell malaise as mailaise this entire post.)

Thanks for listening.

Keep your heads up and your guillotines sharp.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quarantine Recommendations…

…Or, as I like to think of them: Sanity Savers.

Really just a list of entertainments that I dig.

(I’ve been meaning to get around to this for a few months now. Quarantine seems as good a time as any…)

Books

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.

Excellent contemporary fantasy. (probably qualifies as urban fantasy, but whatever). It’s dark, beautifully written, and noir as hell. Also hard to put down. If you weren’t already a fan of the author, you will be within the first few chapters.

 

Jade City by Fonda Lee.

I think this also probably qualifies as urban fantasy, but it’s quite a bit different from what you’ve come to expect from the genre. The writing is, at times, lyrical and poignant even as the action is brutal. Grabs you and keeps you reading.

 

Where Carion Gods Dance by Brad C. Hodson.

This is a collection of dark short stories. Each of then by turns scary and disturbing. If you love the thrill of what might be hiding in the night, get this book. Really. Get. This. Book. You can thank me later.

 

The Nightside Series By Simon R. Green.

There are like 12 books in this series. I’ve gone through 6 or 7 of them at the time of writing. Insane, paranormal noir. Urban fantasy having a menage a trois with Tales from the Darkside and My Life with the Thrill-Kill Cult. Good, violent fun. First book is Something from the Nightside.

 

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig.

Holy hell, this book kicked my ass in the best possible way. Dark, contemporary fantasy. Long as hell, and eerily prescient of our current COVID-19 related circumstances. I don’t know if you’ll thank me for the recommendation, but you’ll enjoy this book regardless.

 

And, if you have any time left after those, there’s always:

Television

Altered Carbon – season 2.

The show got a new showrunner for season 2. And while it is neither as dark, as sexy, nor as violent as season 1, it’s still well worth the watch. (I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a critical breakdown of the season, but I’m naturally lazy, so that may or may not happen.)

 

I’m not Ok with This.

Of all of my TV recommendations, this is probably my favorite. The misadventures of being a high school misfit with burgeoning paranormal powers. Just go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Sex Education – seasons 1 & 2.

Funny. Heart-warming. Tear-jerking. Worth every minute.

 

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – seasons 1, 2, & 3.

Still good. Still funny. Looks like they’ve already been green-lit for season 4.

 

Motherland: Fort Salem – season 1.

This show is currently premiering, every Wednesday. I’m really enjoying the alternate, paranormal history premise. Show’s got me hooked and tuning in every week.

 

Love, Death, and Robots – series 1.

It’s a bunch of animated shorts, only connected by the theme of the anthology’s title. Worth your time, and can be taken in smallish chunks. Definitely enough laughs to get you through.

 

The Kingdom – seasons 1 & 2.

My favorite zombie series.

 

Dracula – BBC Moffat/ Gatiss version.

It’s told over 3, hour and a half-ish episodes. While I have reservations about the third and final episode, on the whole, I still recommend the series.

 

So, that ought to hold you over for a week or two…

Maybe.

Please leave a comment with your own recommendations, or start a discussion about the ones I’ve mentioned here. I love hearing from you folx.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

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Capitalism Sucks: Pt 1

It seems, as I grow older, I drift further and further left in my politics.

So, let’s intro this subject – which I’ve been compiling a looooong list of rants about – with a little style if not much grace.

I’ve had many a conversation with people I consider learned and thoughtful, and whenever I bring up the failings of Capitalism, invariably they will say something akin to: “There are bad actors in everything. Blame the people that abuse the system, don’t blame the system.”

That sounds reasonable…

…Okay, no it fucking doesn’t. Not if you think it through.

Capitalism incentivizes people to be inhumane to each other.

That guy who bought up all the hand sanitizer at the beginning of this COVID-19 crisis?

He was being a good capitalist.

Those scum-fucks on television, telling us we should all risk our lives to open the economy back up, so their fucking stock portfolios can recover?

Those assholes are being good capitalists.

That circus peanut we call a president, using the office to shovel money into his own businesses?

A. Good. Capitalist.

Capitalism has led those with plenty, with magnitudes more than they need, to keep others – those without even the barest – to live in degradation, squalor, violence, exploitation, and despair.

Capitalism tells companies who get tax breaks or receive bailouts that it is in their better interest to buy back their stocks – thereby raising the price of said stocks and making the company look more profitable than it is – instead of investing in business infrastructure or living wages and healthcare for their workers.

Capitalism tells its practitioners to press the advantage and to take all they can without regard to who or what it damages.

Oh, and one more thing capitalism has done for us:

It has led people and their governments to ignore the existential issue of our age:

Climate Change.

Will future generations have a habitable planet to live on?

Capitalism instructs us not to care about such things if they endanger the ability to make a profit.

(For those of you that would like to argue about the good things capitalism has done, I’ll be happy to refute that idea by showing you that what you’re referring to isn’t capitalism per se, but a severely regulated version of it. Ok, so I’ll do that. But not today. Today is for screaming until you pass out and hoping the dreams you have while unconscious are better than the unlubricated merry-go-round world we are living in at present. Good luck with that.)

Until next time…

 

 

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Apocalypse Now-ish…

APOCALYPSE – a Greek word meaning revelation of things unknown.

First off, calm down.

Seriously.

Calm. The Fuck. Down.

(And wash your damn hands!)

Second: This is not the end.

and louder for those in the back:

THIS. IS. NOT. THE. END!

It really isn’t.

It might feel like it, especially if you’ve watched any of the president’s press conferences.

But it’s not the end.

What it is is a genuine Apocalypse: a revealing of things unknown.

(Now, to whom, exactly, they were unknown is a shifting thing, depending on the subject, but none of us knew them all, so it still counts.)

So, I’m compiling a bit of a list, so that most of the newly known things get out to the people who don’t yet know them.

Things like:

I bet you didn’t realize how often you touch your damn face until you tried to stop doing it.

Okay, so that’s a silly thing, and this list isn’t exactly silly, except when viewed from a severely jaundiced point of view – but gallows humor is a friend of mine, so I indulge it.

Here’s another: Funny which jobs are considered essential services isn’t it? Less funny when you realize medical professionals make up a smaller percentage of that group than say, convenience store clerks, grocery stockers, and Walmart cashiers. Maybe if they’re so essential – which by now you know they fucking are – maybe they should get paid a living wage to do what they do for our society? Maybe, just maybe, if someone works any job for 40 hours a week, they should be able to make a decent living off of it? Something to think about.

Related to that last point: if you didn’t know there were a bunch of Uber-Capitalist scum-fucks willing to sacrifice you and yours on the altar of profit, after watching about 2 hours of any “conservative media” – like, for instance, Hastur, Hastur, Hastur News, or the unfair and imbalanced network that shall not be named – you’ll no doubt have seen the people, including the President, suggesting that you should risk dying, and killing others, including the ones you hold most dear, to go back to work so the fucking stock market will go back up.

I’d have more to say about that, but it makes me too fucking angry.

And those aren’t the only carpet-bagger slug snot profiteers out there, no. Plenty of religious and conspiracy nuts are running head-long to Religious Barkers and Professional Conspiracy Theorists, and all of those cocksuckers have something they want to sell you, from supplements, to colloidal silver for you to drink – do not drink colloidal silver unless you’d like to spend the rest of your life looking like a fekkin’ Smurf – to food buckets, to shiny new tinfoil hats. None of which will help you. Neither will essential oils, Himalayan salt, or prayer cloths. Save your money for toilet paper, if you can fucking find any because people are generally easy to spook and panic bought that as opposed to canned food, dried beans, and rice.

Other revelations:

Most of our elected officials are useless panderers.

(I know, most of you knew that before, but some didn’t and they’re getting a brutal awakening during this crisis.)

Most people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about, especially when it comes to the current pandemic. (Always do your own homework, folks. Always.)

Your cable provider is likely not giving you the download speeds you’re paying for.

Oh, and something else, something BIG:

You know how the government and various news stations and your least favorite uncle at the family reunion keep telling you we can’t end homelessness, or hunger, or student debt, or provide healthcare for everyone because “It’ll cost too much!”

Yeah, after the Federal Reserve magicked up 1.5 Trillion to dump into the stock market to shore that up, and then the government passed a 2.2 Trillion stimulus package – which is only supposed to be the first of many, by the way…

Yeah, now we KNOW that’s all bullshit.

We can afford it, if it profits the wealthy. No problems there. No debates. No consultations. No town halls full of questions and the inevitable yelling.

Nope.

Nothing.

Just pulled that shit out of a hat.

(The part that got the argument: the unemployment part. The part that helps poor and working people. That part some of our conservative representatives wanted to argue about – because they thought it was too much. Just fucking take that in for a minute, then go clean the blood out of your eyes.)

And maybe, beyond our government’s incompetence, the fatal profit motive of the super-rich, and other examples of human kind’s general inhumanity to fellow humans, maybe that’s one thing we should remember going forward:

That we have the ability, almost overnight, to summon up the money to end hunger, homelessness, poverty, and sickness. To rebuild our infrastructure, put every American back to work, and avert a climate disaster all at the same time.

We could do it tomorrow.

Easily.

And we don’t.

Okay, one last revelation for you, maybe the most important:

The only value worth voting or working for is whether or not we choose to help and take care of each other. Every other value you can name stems from that simple, basic fact.

This Shitty Apocalypse™ has revealed to us that we no longer hold that truth to be self-evident.

Maybe it’s time we thought about why; individually and as a nation.

I’ve spent a great deal of time pondering it lately.

Now it’s your turn.

Good luck.

Until next time…

 

 

 

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The Hungry Dark – Ch. 3

( If you’re just getting here, go read Ch. 1 and Ch. 2 )

___________________________________________________

“He’s waking up,” a voice said from somewhere above me.

“Yes, he is,” I tried to say, but it came out as more of a collection of sputters and coughs than actual words.

“Don’t try to talk yet,” another voice said.

My tongue felt three feet thick and covered in sand. Not talking, I could do. The rest of me wasn’t in the best of shape either. An ache, dull and throbbing, reached from the soles of my feet to the top of my head.

I’m on my back.

 That much I could tell.

It occurred to me, however dully, that being on my back might be why I suffered from the all-over-ache. My ears rang, and I guessed that the warm wetness on my lips and chin was not drool from my involuntary nap.

A year had gone by since anything supernatural tried to kill me.

Apparently, my streak was over.

The dream was nearly gone, but I could still see the Red Death; could still hear her words.

Something is coming.

“Looks like it’s here,” I said, unfortunately aloud.

“He’s trying to talk,” a male voice said.

“Good,” A female voice said from some distance away. “How’s his pupil response?”

They continued talking about me while I was distracted by a series of bright lights, shining first in one eye, then in the other. I heard sirens in the distance.

“I’m okay. Knock it off,” I said, but the words came out a bit slurred. “Maybe not.”

“Yeah, definitely not,” The female voice said. “Do not attempt to get up. In fact, don’t move at all if possible.”

The female voice sounded familiar. The scent of some floral body lotion fled under the pressing weight of newly opened smelling salts. More fingers prodded me from different angles.

The male voice asked me if this and that hurt. I wanted to tell him everything hurt, but not more than I would expect from being…

…What? Attacked by what? My mind wouldn’t wrap a coherent thought around it. I had been there, seen the thing, but I couldn’t process it yet. I didn’t think he’d understand either.

“Okay,” the female voice said. “How are his vitals?”

“They appear stable,” The male voice said.

“Bullshit,” She said.

“Cassandra?” I asked the blurred spot I assumed was the sky.

“Caleb Carson,” she said, still out of sight but somewhere overhead, “What have you been getting into?”

“Trouble,” I said.

I would have laughed, but just breathing hurt enough.

“The other guy?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about that now,” She said.

“Didn’t make it?” I asked.

“No. Was he a friend of yours?”

“No,” I said, “A client.”

It was a small lie, not one that would matter to anyone else, especially to the people responsible for the poor bastard’s demise.

I knew they, whoever ‘they’ were, wouldn’t care that I hadn’t taken his case, or that I hadn’t even believed him when he came to me for help. All they would know is that I was a witness. Thanks to Barbara Hicks and her rag of a local tabloid, ‘they’ would know my reputation. They would know that for paranoid certain. This wouldn’t be the last time I had a run-in with whoever the hell had done this. I needed to be better prepared for the next encounter. But, just then, I didn’t feel prepared.

More like nauseous.

“Could you move the smelling salts a little farther away please?” I asked.

“Huh?” The male voice said.

“Making me sick,” I said, trying to control the urge to vomit.

“Oh,” He said, “Sure.”

He chucked the broken paper container away.

The smell gone, my insides began to calm down. It also didn’t hurt that the world stopped moving.

“Thought you worked nights,” I said, some of the sluggishness easing off my brain.

“Do,” she said from somewhere above. “Just booking some overtime running the rookie around.”

“You let the rookie check my vitals?” I said, only half-joking.

“Seemed like good practice for him,” she said.

“You had a cardiac event,” he said.

“Had?” Cassandra and I asked in unison.

“Yes,” The male voice said, “It’s gone.”

“Are you reading those instruments correctly?” She asked him.

“Pretty sure,” He replied, confusion tinting his voice.

“Pretty sure doesn’t cut it,” she said. “Hold on.”

Before I could ask why exactly I should hold on, everything in my universe jerked forward.

“Get up here and drive,” She commanded.

Somewhere between the sudden, violent stop and ‘drive’ I realized I was in the back of an ambulance. The world that swam back into focus confirmed my suspicion.

“You’ve got to be reading the monitor wrong,” She said. “Even if the event has subsided, there should still be residual effects. Heart rate, BP, something.”

“Check for yourself,” He said, climbing out of her way.

“Don’t start her back up yet,” She said to her rookie, “And kill the sirens.”

“Why the hell…” He began.

“Just do it,” She blurted out. “I’ll take care of the paperwork.”

The rookie raised his hands in surrender and disappeared into the cabin.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Don’t thank me yet,” She said, the usual warmth draining from her voice. “I saw your street. Saw the other guy. No way I’m taking you to a hospital full of patients before I know whatever it was is not going to happen again any time soon.”

I could hear the words, “potential victims” resonating in the way she said patients. I wasn’t about to argue the point.

The memory drifted like a shadow across my mind. Huge, blocking the sun, it swooped down on us in the street — a giant raven, its eyes burning fire; wingtips trailing black smoke. You could almost see through it, like thick, roiling smog. I tried to push him out of the way while grabbing for my pistol. Two shots, I know I hit it. I know I did. Nothing. Then it screamed. And the world exploded in a spray of glass and heat.

How much could I tell her? Cassandra had seen the aftermath of a few of my run-ins with the unknown. She was a good medic and didn’t ask too many inconvenient questions. But the answer to this question might get me tossed in for seventy-two hours psychiatric observation. Seventy-two hours in a psych ward is a long time, especially when something would almost certainly be looking to remove me as a potential problem.

Play dumb.

I’m good at that.

“Don’t really know what happened,” I said, hoping the grogginess lent my tone some believability.

“That doesn’t help me,” She said, pushing a strand of blonde hair away from her face with the back of her forearm.

“I realize that,” I said, as apologetically as possible. “Just let me out somewhere. I’ll be fine.”

“Doesn’t really work like that,” She said.

“Then leave the back doors open when we get to the hospital,” I said. “Just be momentarily careless. I’ll slip away. My vitals are normal.”

“So?” she said.

“So, I’m in no medical danger,” I said, making it up as I went. “No reason to rush. No codes to call or whatever. Just take your time and I’ll slip away.”

“Simple as that?” she asked, disbelief deepening the creases around her eyes.

“Simple as that,” I said.

I hoped she’d buy the lie. Even if she did, there was going to have to be an explanation of this at some later date, providing I survived until a later date.

And I was just getting used to the idea that I would live to a later date before all this happened.

Do you drink?” I asked her.

“Yeah, occasionally,” she said.

“When this is over, I’ll buy you a drink or three and try to explain it,” I said.

“When this is over, I’ll let you,” she said.

 

At the hospital, the doors to the ambulance were mysteriously left open, and both EMTs went to check on something at the same time. I slipped away. I owed Cassandra one. Oh, she wouldn’t think so. She would think she was doing what was best for the people who might get hurt if whatever happened on my block happened again. No, she wouldn’t think I owed her one, but I did.

I slunk away from the hospital, trying to not look like I was slinking or limping. I hurt everywhere. A cab was in the parking lot, dropping off somebody or other. I slid into the back seat and gave him my address. To the cabby’s credit, he didn’t so much as look at me cross-eyed while I pulled the sticky monitor patches off my chest and ribs. They’d cut my shirt open to place the tabs. I buttoned my jacket to cover the fact. From across the street, I would have looked strange, like a flasher without the courage of his perversions; up close it would be obvious. I just hoped no one would get that close until I had time to change.

Your luck doesn’t run that way.

 No. It usually doesn’t.

 

The cabby dropped me off a block away. I wanted to see how far the damage had spread. That, and I wanted to scout my block and see who was poking around. Justin I could handle, maybe. But if Barb had loosed her hounds to find a scent…

…Well, I didn’t want to be the fox in that hunt.

None of the buildings on the adjacent street were damaged. The glass from all those car windows exploding had made a hell of a boom, but it looked like all it did was rattle the windows on the surrounding blocks.

I am thankful for small favors.

I rounded the corner to see detective Justin Hagen, and a small detachment of uniformed officers walking the scene. No way to slip past them.

Balls first, then.

 I strolled up as nonchalantly as possible and picked my hat off the ground. It lay a couple of feet from where Justin stood, eyeing the area. The back side of the fedora was crushed all to hell. I stood there, straightening it as much as I could, and trying to think up a convincing lie for the authorities. The dead guy would be easy. The block full of blown-out car windows would be a different story. I surveyed the wreckage, trying to think up something plausible. I failed utterly.

The street was covered with pebbles of shattered glass. From one end of the block to the other, no car was spared. I was glad I had parked in a garage down the street. The streetlamps had melted in their cases. A few globs of melted glass hung in stalactites from the charred lamp heads. The buildings had been far enough back from the epicenter that most of their windows survived with only a light crazing. Car alarms should have been going off and weren’t. A smoky slick lightly dusted all the nearby vehicles.

Okay, how the hell do I explain this?

 Don’t.

 I took a few unsteady steps. What was left of my energy rapidly drained through the soles of my feet.

You’ve just been blown down by a giant, supernatural raven. How should you feel?

 Must’ve been some kind of reaction to whatever the big bird was slinging. I hoped it would pass, soon.

“Just the man I was looking for,” Justin said when he noticed me.

“I swear Detective, she said she was eighteen,” I said.

“Funny,” he said, his tone both tired and grim. “What do you know about this?”

“Not much that I can tell you on the street,” I said.

“Okay,” he said and dragged out the word.

“Come up to the office,” I suggested.

He nodded, and we headed for my building.

“The DB?” he asked as we walked.

“A client,” I said. “Well, a former client.”

Justin arched an eyebrow at me, and we ducked inside.

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