Good News, Bad News

by Howard Faxon

Copyright© 2015 by Howard Faxon

Fantasy Story: I owned an old police interceptor, and with it I saved an oil sheik from rolling over in a limo accident. I claimed his reward and life spiraled into something that I'd never have believed.

Caution: This Fantasy Story contains strong sexual content, including Fiction   .

A few years before, when I was twenty-seven, I hit up a state police auction for a "new" car. My jeep was making noises like a sick calf every time I hit the gas and the rear differential sounded like a thrash band on PCP. Someone in the State Police garages had emptied out some of their their old storage bays. I lucked into a 1980 Crown Vic with about sixteen thousand miles on the odometer. How in hell? ... I figured that someone had stashed it away for their retirement and either died or was kicked off the force before they could have it marked for salvage.

Nobody wanted it. Except me. Granted, it was so old I'd never find parts for it unless I won the lottery, but it was in primo shape and had the whole interceptor package. Someone had even gone to the trouble of replacing the tires with almost new pursuit tires valued at about $260 each, if you were lucky. It had been stripped, primed and repainted dark blue. I bought it for one dollar over the reserve--$1001.00 ... In other words, I stole it.

There was a bank of switches on the dash that didn't do anything. The siren and lights had been pulled. Rats. No scaring the hell out of little old ladies. The good thing was all the mounts were still there for a short wave radio. I took advantage of this and installed a 7-watt Icom 2 Meter transceiver with a big whip antenna. I loved that car. It had a 455 cubic inch engine, a racing suspension and a slap shifter. I spent the money for a high speed persuit and defensive driving training course so that I could take advantage of such a hot ride. It was like an extension of my body.

I was driving back home from Milwaukee to Mundelein Illinois on 294 on a brisk March morning when all hell broke loose. Right next to me the biggest stretch limo I'd ever seen blew the driver side front tire, crabbed sideways and tried to flip over at eighty miles an hour. It was almost reflex--I slammed up against the driver's side, knocking it back down to all six tires. Then I rode herd on that thing as we did two complete 360's in rush-hour traffic, tying up two and a half lanes. Two semi trucks held back and blocked traffic, either trying to help or out of a sense of self-preservation, hoping that the damned limo wouldn't trash them. We finally came to a smoking, shuddering halt on the right lane curb. I rocked my car back and forth until the limo's bumper wrenched free of my passenger side door. My poor car was fucked. There wasn't any other way to put it. The front right wheel was almost torn off and almost laid flat on the pavement. I sat there and shook for a while as I came off my adrenaline high.

We needed to get professionals working on this mess. I called 911 on my cell and gave them the closest mile marker. Soon we had cops crawling all over the place. I saw that the limo's frame had split. The center of the vehicle was on the ground. That's when I noticed a diplomatic flag mounted to the hood. Awww, shit.

Pretty soon a couple wreckers showed up. I asked the guy that hooked my car to take it to the Ford dealership on 60 in Vernon Hills. He got my insurance policy info and split, leaving me standing there with my thumb up my ass during morning rush hour on the damned Interstate.

The cops were nice enough to give me a lift--to the police station, where I did my best to tell 'em what happened. The last I saw of the limo's driver he was sitting beside his car, heaving his breakfast onto the pavement. He must have realized just how close to buying it he got that day.

I took a taxi to the Ford dealership. I told the service manager to forget about repairing it. I made arrangements to buy a new gray crew cab F250 tradesman pickup with an eight cylinder engine and a reserve gas tank. I made just over sixty five thou a year. I realized that it was going to screw up my budget but I needed wheels, and their big V8s had a very good reputation. They had one on the lot and I needed a ride fast, so they put a rush on doing the final prep. Thankfully they agreed to dispose of the Crown Vic for a hundred bucks. I appreciated it as I didn't need the extra hassle just then. Hopefully someone salvaged that shit-hot crate of an engine. It would be a real shame for it to go to the crusher. Within four hours the truck was ready. I transferred my stuff from the Crown Vic's trunk to the pickup and headed for my apartment. I still had to get some sleep before going to work that night. I tried to put that disaster of a day behind me.

Four days later, 6:30 AM, I walked out of the security door at work. I held down a 3rd shift sysop job managing a big server farm for remote clients. After I drove home I saw a white Lincoln with a diplomatic flag on the hood. I said to myself, 'This can't be good.'.

I was invited to meet with 'the sultan'. I didn't see a polite way out of it, so I climbed in. Down Milwaukee a bit was the Marriott Lincolnshire Inn--arguably the best and priciest hotel around, this side of Chicago. I was shown a pretty nice breakfast buffet and told to go for it. I shrugged, said 'thanks' and had breakfast--my supper. The presence of the steaks surprised me but I wasn't shy--I filled up on an excellent meal prepared by a professional chef.

Afterwards I was shown to a sitting room where I was 'asked' to wait. A slender dark-skinned guy wearing a very nice suit, followed by an entourage filed in. I was informed that I had saved the bacon of the Sultan of Brunei as the guy watched me. We talked for a while on various subjects, which totally confused me. The sultan shook my hand while looking me in the eye and thanked me for his life, then left the room. I was surprised that he had a recognizable british accent. Most of his entourage left with him, leaving only two men behind. I was gestured to sit at a small side table with the gentlemen.

One of them spoke. "The sultan was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the incident. Had the vehicle rolled he undoubtedly would have perished, along with his first wife. The incident has been thoroughly investigated, as have you. We actually have camera footage of the incident from a traffic helicopter that chanced to be near. Your amazingly competent, speedy aid was all that kept it from being a bloody tragedy."

The other snapped open his brief case, retrieved an envelope and slid it across the table to me. "We have been instructed to give you this check. Wear the award within if you ever wish to visit Brunei. You shall be welcomed as a hero and a friend of the royal family."

They stood, as did I. We shook hands all around, leaving me quite stunned. I said my thank-you's and was escorted back to the car. I was returned to my apartment. After letting myself in I sat down at the kitchen table with a beer. It was a good thing I'd just swallowed when I opened that envelope or I'd have spit Modelo Negro across the kitchen.

That damned check had a seven followed by seven zeros to the left of the decimal point. Seventy million dollars, drawn on the Sultanate of Brunei. My ears rang. I realized that I'd stopped breathing. The first thing I did after resuming breathing was to tell myself not to count my chickens. I had to see if it would cash before I could spend it. I sat there breathing deeply, first getting over flight-or-fight, then getting my act together. I looked over at the clock. It was almost ten thirty on a Tuesday morning. The bank was open. I pocketed the check, put on my one sport coat and headed for Citibank.

On the way I kept giggling to myself, anticipating the face of the branch manager when they read the face of the check.

After I walked through the door I stopped at a glass-covered convenience desk and countersigned the check. Then I stood in line like a good little prole. When I reached the teller (sorry, 'customer service agent') I asked to see the manager. She dialed a number and soon a well-dressed lady in a knee-length skirted business suit asked me if I had a problem. "No, but I think you might want to shepherd this transaction through yourself." I handed her the envelope bearing the check.

I followed her back to her office where she sat behind her desk, gave me a little smile and opened the envelope. I gave her full marks for her grace under pressure. She froze for all of seven seconds and took a deep breath. "Well. That certainly improved my day. What are your plans?"

"Please open a checking account in my name and run an electronic funds transfer to clear and post the check. If it clears inquire as to my credit card payoff and take care of it, then inquire as to my truck loan payoff and take care of that as well. I'd like a debit card, an auto-carbon check book beginning at 1201 and information as to your investment advisor services."

She was instantly all business. "Yes, sir." Wondrously, the check was good. I was instantly a multi-millionaire at thirty years old. Within forty more minutes I was debt-free. I couldn't stop smiling. Next I recieved my debit card, a bound commercial check book and a nice leather folder advertising their investment management and other high-end services. I arranged to have the bank's credit processing department call my cell phone to confirm any withdrawl over a thousand dollars. Anne, the branch manager, printed out a sheet itemizing their rates. I'd have to go to their main branch in downtown Chicago to meet with anyone. I had Anne set up an appointment for me on Friday. Meanwhile, I had some purchases to make.

I told the attendant at Lord and Taylor that I wanted two high-quality comfortable dark worsted wool suits and some nice shirts. I was measured, selected the material I liked and arranged for pick-up late Thursday. Then I bought shoes. Good old Florsheims. They had London Fog overcoats which always impressed me as good quality. I chose a black one with a liner.

I hit a leather shop for their best briefcase then hit a kiosk for the cheapest cell phone available with caller ID. After a decent meal at the mall's Ruby Tuesday's I headed home to my bed.

I sat up at three in the afternoon with a thought and a smile. I called in to work. "Michaelson hosting services. How may I direct your call?"

"Fred Anders, please."

"Hello, this is Fred."

"Hey, Fred? This is TJ. I just called to tell you I retired today."

"What? What? What happened?"

"I saved a very rich guy's life. I'm well repaid for the risk. I thought it would only be polite to let you know rather than just not show up."

"Since you put it that way, yeah, I appreciate the call."

"Bye, Fred. Have a nice life." I gently hung up.

I sighed and smiled. I was out from under. This rat had escaped from his cage. I looked over at the clock. The post office would be open for another couple hours. I got dressed and headed down to apply for a passport. Since I was retired I expected that I would travel. Why not?

Afterwards I got a jump on the dinner crowd and headed to Gugg's Roadhouse. It's a local place with decent spicy ribs, good coleslaw, respectable onion rings and a good selection of draft beer for the days you feel like loading up on the calories.

After cleaning up with a couple lemony wet-knap packs I sat back with a beer, thinking about what to do next. Did I want to stick around the area? Not really. It was just a place I was comfortable with from long familiarity. I could achieve that virtually anywhere.

I spent Wednesday researching population density maps and climate maps. Southern coastal Washington seemed to have the best mix of climate and services. I set my eyes on a place not far from Vancouver. I was looking for some place with few neighbors. Perhaps twenty five miles east was the small town of Stevenson. I'd work outwards from there.

Friday morning I hired a limo to take me to Chicago. I wasn't about to fight downtown traffic or worse, attempt to find a parking spot for a full-sized pickup in the loop. My recent experience convinced me to never ride in a stretch limo again. The driver picked me up in a white Lincoln town car. Cindy was short, very cute with an upturned nose and had freckles. She looked great in her gray sports coat, white blouse, gray skirt and gray hose. She was wearing a pair of black New Balance sneakers to drive in. I told her that I approved of her livery wholeheartedly. She giggled! She gave me a phone number to call that would ring her cell phone when I wanted to be picked up. I wondered what it would take to pick her up...

I was on time for my ten o'clock appointment. I met with a team of four people, one of whom being a lawyer. They had a folder that they had put together for lottery winners. We covered a broad range of subjects from my capital gains liability to FDIC financial exposure. After determining Henry's history and fee structure I put him on retainer as my lawyer. I disclosed that I anticipated moving to the Vancouver, Washington area. After experiencing thirty four years of Chicagoland winters I'd had enough. Henry had no problem with that. Citibank had a branch in the Vancouver metro area which was quite capable of handling my affairs. Under their advisement I directed them to put all but ten million of my remaining funds into high yield investments. I asked Henry to investigate whether my tax liability was certain as it was a gift from the hand of the Sultan of Brunei. He said that he'd contact the state department. We'd talked for over four hours. I was talked out! That was about as much as I could handle at one sitting.

Cindy showed up promptly after I made the call. I asked her if she knew where the Chop House was. The Chop House was no doubt the finest old-school steak house remaining in the Chicago area since Jim Diamond's steak house closed. We were off. As it was after two the lunch rush was over. I invited her in to dine with me. I pigged out on a dry-aged twenty ounce sirloin, garlic mashed potatoes and deep fried onion rings. She went for lighter fare, selecting shrimp and scallops. We relaxed after the meal with coffees and still made it back to the expressway before the evening rush "hour" started at about quarter to four. I tipped Cindy a Benjamin for her excellent service and took a nap after my heroic trencherman performance.

After I woke I hit a UPS shop to mail my old cellphone to my ex-boss. I bought a legal pad there before returning home. I had some research to do and needed to make notes. Firstly, I had to pay a visit to the local branch bank to change my phone number. Next, I needed health insurance. Once I had a health plan in place it was time to see a doctor and do a little preventative maintenance. I had developed middle-aged spread from sitting in front of a computer all night and from catering to my gluttony. I didn't have any excuse to eat junk food any more. I needed to start an exercise plan and modify my eating habits.

I'd had a damned nasty dream. It opened my eyes to what could really go bad. I instituted a fall-back code to lock out all signatories on my accounts until I appeared for a finger print scan, power of attorney or not. It consisted of six groups of five alphanumeric characters. It hurt like hell, but I paid a tattoo artist to needle the code into the top of my right foot in ultraviolet ink. I talked the credit card department into contesting every charge on my accounts for 72 hours previous to the triggering of the lock out.

Saturday was my day to research the area east of Vancouver and Portland. I wondered which state was more advantageous from a taxation viewpoint, Washington or Oregon. Hmm. Washington has no income tax, while Oregon has no sales tax. Sounded like a deal to me! That being said, I needed to find a place to buy. I located property that, according to Google maps, was outside of any state or national park yet was heavily forested and on the bank of the Wind River, about five miles north of Carson on the Wind River Highway in the Colombia river gorge. I supposed that it was time to move. I had to locate an agent local to the area to do the nitty-gritty work for me.

I gave my apartment the once over. There wasn't much I really wanted to keep. There were some books, my computer, data switch, external drives and flat screen, some clothes and some kitchenware including my cast iron which I was attached to. I headed out to the mall for a couple suitcases, then hit up a big home supply store for a few big plastic storage crates and a bungee spider to hold everything secure in the bed of the truck. I found a place near Carson to stay and made a month's reservation. I paid in adavance. The online pictures of Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins looked nice. If I found out later that the place was near a sewage disposal plant or an airport I'd move on, but at least I was being proactive.

Sunday I packed and bought some unobtrusive clothing fit for the NorthWest's climate--a water resistant 'barn' coat, some black denims, some dark blue Dickie's shirts and a new pair of Redwing boots. As soon as I got home I treated the boots with mink oil to soften things up. Then I started selecting and packing.

On Monday I called Citibank to get my new phone number recorded for my large transaction verifications. They had a note to put me in touch with my lawyer. It was bad news. I owed uncle sam a capital gains hit of fifteen percent. Come April 15th I'd be out of pocket for ten and a half million bucks. I mailed all my tax records to Henry, leaving my income tax accounting in his capable hands. I made sure he had my new cell phone number as well. Tax day was about a month away. I directed him to have my assets re-balanced, reserving ten million for my expenses and ten and a half for the government while investing the rest.

I had my mail held, arranged to have the apartment emptied and cleaned, then did the final paperwork with the landlord. I contracted with the cleaning service on a pre-pay basis and told them how to get hold of the landlord for access. I was all packed. As I was still on a "Night Owl" schedule I filled the gas tanks and headed west on the interstate. I kept up with traffic so as not to stick out and get a ticket. I stopped when I got tired, usually near a city. There were truck stops with brand name hotels close by outside of every city I knew of. I made it to Omaha the first night, then Cheyenne the next. The third night got me to Bozeman and Yakima on the fourth. From there it was about a half day's travel, west to 99 then south to Vancouver and a half hour east to Carson. I found the place with the cabins in the pines. It looked and smelled wonderful. Yipee! I registered, cleaned up and crashed hard...

I asked the nice manager lady where I could find a diner. She directed me a couple miles north. The place wasn't too bad. At least they did a bang-up job on steak & eggs with a side of hash browns. After eating I read the local paper while sucking down coffee. From the city services listed I knew I'd have to backtrack to Vancouver to find a real estate buyer's agent and an architect. While I was at it, I was determined to pick up a satellite phone. The local cell service sucked rocks.

That was a let-down. The closest place that sold sat phones was in Seattle. Screw it. I called a 24-hour place in Florida which advertised over the Internet that they were an Inmarsat dealer. I laid out about eight hundred for the phone and about twelve hundred for a year's service plan. The thing would work as a computer dongle too but, of course, it was an add-on feature I had to buy ... I ordered everything shipped to the cabin via next day air.

When I asked about the property I was informed that it was part of a 160 acre parcel that the owner refused to break up. I asked if there was a site survey available. You're kidding me. No site survey. Fine. I'll do it my way. I got the GPS coordinates of the border corners and headed to the airport. I asked to talk to someone about getting a low-level photo survey done of a site. I talked to a guy that ran a helicopter service. He would survey my 160 acre parcel including elevations for a hundred per five acres plus fuel. I paid the man half up front. He said he'd need eleven days that it wasn't raining. Chances were good that I'd have my map in two weeks. While I was in town I bought a big wall-sized map of the city to get familiar with the area. Then I crossed the Columbia and bought a similar map of Portland.

I called Henry to give him my sat phone number and current shipping address. He promised to inform the debit card security department of my new contact. Man, I'd been running around like a fool. I finally settled down and got some of the big items on my pick list addressed. I bought into a Blue Cross insurance policy then made an appointment to see a general practitioner--a doctor.

After picking up a hand-held GPS unit I drove out to the site I was preparing to buy. I spent a day walking around the woods, listening to the sounds and smelling the air rendolent with balsam and the damp, earthy smell of rotting pine needles. I finally felt as if I were on vacation. The retired bit would come on its own. When I got back to the truck I found a state police trooper parked behind it. He was running my plate to find out if I'd been a bad boy. I told him about retiring young and looking over the property to buy. We talked a bit about the area, bemoaning the fact that cell phone service generally sucked all along the valley. I got busy and opened a post office box to get my mail transferred from Illinois. I put down a deposit for a year's service.

I recieved my sat phone just after ten the next morning. I spent the rest of the day familiarizing myself with it. The next day was built of many frustrations as I changed my truck registration to Washington state. I couldn't change over my driver's license yet because I didn't have a physical address at the time, just a post office box. To make up for the morning's frustration I made a hit on a book store and bought a bottle of bourbon.

A week after Friday I got the call saying my map was ready. It was a big E-size laminated composite color map. We unrolled it on the counter, looking at the elevation lines. "How did you get the elevations?"

"Simple. I mounted a contractor's electronic measure on the bird pointed straight down. I've got a laptop on board that records the GPS coordinates, the copter's height above sea level and the measuring device's reading as I fly a grid. The program exports an.XML which autocad used to plot the overlay."

It sounded damned complicated to me, but the evidence that it worked was right in front of me. I gave the guy a fifty buck tip.

That afternoon I saw the doctor, who put me through the wringer and took blood samples. He explained that he needed a base-line to work from.

The trees on the property were all about the same size. I figured that it had been logged off around the time of the depression. All the foliage colors were identical except for one large patch that was a brighter green. I figured that it probably was a stand of Larch or Cedar trees amid the pines. Where the river turned there was a thirty foot rise that the river had cut through, making a high bank. That rise was part of a ridge that I followed with my finger. I traced a line with a gentle grade out to the highway. I had my road and house site. Now I needed to buy the property and find an architect. I wanted to be in before the snow flew.

It was back to the realtor. I finally found out the asking price. Somebody wanted to retire! they wanted 16 million for a hundred and sixty acres. I counter offered with fourteen million cash. Surprise, surprise. They took it. The agent called the seller down, saying he had a fish, er, buyer. She had to stop off at the bank to retrieve the title first. We pissed around for a while before she almost ran through the door, panting for breath. I signed, she signed, I made out a check for fourteen million for her and one for seven hundred grand for the agent. She looked at me, questions obvious in her face. "Go ahead, go cash it. Ask for an immediate wire transfer. It's through Citibank. I'll wait here." She was out of the door like a shot.

I turned to the agent. "Now, it's time to earn some of that skim. What's the yearly tax bill?" He got busy on his computer while I used his phone book to look through the listings of architects. Then an idea hit me out of left field. I needed a driver, a gentleman's assistant and bodyguard. I looked up personnel services in the yelllow pages. Didn't find much, either. Then I tried employment agencies. I found some entries, but they all looked like day labor shops. Then I got smart. I called a marine recruiter. I told him that I needed a driver, a dogsbody and bodyguard. Did he know of anyone out of the service that needed a job? Jackpot. I told him I'd offer fifty thou a year, room and board as well as full medical, but I wouldn't take anyone that couldn't pass a DEA schedule I, II or III drug test, excepting ganja and I'd be running background checks. We set up a meet at a local waffle house the next day at one P.M. where he promised to have at least four and maybe more candidates. I hoped that someone would click with me. Hell, I had nothing against hiring several people if things worked out.

I gave the woman an hour before I split. I asked for and got a photocopy of the phone book's architect listings in the area. The yellow pages covered greater Vancouver as well as Portland. I hit one of the coffee shops that cluttered the area and sat down to do some dialling. My regular cell phone had cheaper minutes than the sat phone and coverage was good in the city. I used it. I was still locked into a frugal mentality for the small stuff.

The first four shops were primarily industrial and commercial. I had one question that I asked everyone. "I want to build a large stone and revealed timber ranch home with six attached suites. Want to help?" It seemed to be a pretty good filter because it got to the meat of the matter right off the bat. Finally I contacted a place that did ski lodges and upscale homes. I got an address and made an appointment for later that day.

I have to say that Vancouver has some very good fish restaurants. I treated myself to a nice salad, a grilled sea bass fillet over rice and a little tiramisu for dessert.

I have to admit, I was put off by the building that housed the architectural firm. It was from the East German Concrete school. This did not bode well. Still, on the strength of our conversation I carried on.

When I walked into their lobby it set my mind at ease. They had used timber frame peeled log construction. I had the right place.

"I'm looking for one story, high ceilings, stone walls, pine log timberframe or mortise and tenon construction. I'm looking at eight suites with bathrooms, a large entertainment area including a home theater and a pool table, a separate library, an oversized office, a green house and a master bedroom with an oversized bath containing a hot tub. The place will be on a rise and overlook the wind river so I want triple layer picture windows to take advantage of the view. I want an open kitchen with everything by Viking, Wolf Stoves and Sub-Zero. I want a Grillworks indoor wood-fired grill and rotisserie built into the wall and a fireplace in the lounge. Everything in the kitchen is to be bought and installed to commercial standards. Make sure that there's a kitchen island with a breakfast bar on the side away from the kitchen. Make the place feel roomy and comfortable."

He sat there with his mouth open for about two minutes, then started writing. "High ceiling in the library?" "Yep." "Rolling ladder?" "No. Circular incline. No stairs or ladders anywhere." He nodded. "Got it. I need a site survey and I've got a lot more questions. Roof?" "Concrete tiles." He nodded. "Good. They'll hold up well to the snow." We spent about two hours roughing out the plans. I'd brought along the survey and showed him where I wanted the house and where the natural grade would make road building easier. I left him with a hefty deposit and instructions to get busy. I wanted to be in residence before the snow flew. That made him worry. The snow came early around there. That's why they had ski resorts everywhere. He had a big E-size duplicator that made short work of copying my precious map.

I hit a men's toy store for a slim high-powered laptop that would fit in my briefcase along with the cellphone, sat phone, GPS, checkbook, yellow pad and the laptop's battery charger. Then I took a room at the local Mariott for the night. I figured there was no sense running back and forth to the cabin if I had an appointment the next day.

Several hours later Windows was happy with all of its updates and I'd downloaded Portable Apps as well as an anti-virus program. I was a firm believer in Kaspersky's anti-virus philosophy even though I had to pay for the privilege. I was tired by then so I ate at the in-house restaurant rather than go out to eat. I didn't feel like fighting traffic in an new city while searching for a restaurant.

After rising I located the waffle house via the Internet. I didn't have anything to read with me so after checking out I patronized a book store and headed for Waffle City and breakfast. I hadn't had a good malted waffle in ages. It went down wonderfully slathered in butter and maple syrup. Lord, but I busted the calorie budget that morning. I gave the waitress a fifty to keep my tea cup filled as I read my way through the morning. I told her I had a one o'clock appointment with several people. The manager gave her the nod. I ate a couple of sweet rolls and a dish of fruit while I waited.

Just before one seven big people came through the door and asked for Mr. James. That's me. Ted James. (TJ) I shook hands all around and asked if they'd had lunch. From the looks I got the answer was no. I told them to sit down and called over the waitress. "Anything they order is on me.". They looked like some hungry bunnies. I suggested steak and eggs all around. They grinned and nodded. I told the waitress, "Big steaks."

After the table was cleared I laid it out in the open. "I saved the life of an oil shiek. I've got almost sixty mil in the bank. I need a driver, a dogsbody to keep me on track and protection. Talk to me."

I talked to Carl, Steve, Charline, Carol, Bernie (Bernice), Troy and Tammy. They all seemed like good people so I did my 'king' thing, waved my hand over all of them and said, "Fine, You're all hired. Fifty thou a year along with room, board and blue cross." It was like watching wind over a wheat field. I about laid 'em out.

Carl was a driver. He had the military equivalent of a CDL. He'd regularly driven Hum-Vees and APCs into combat situations. So did Troy. Steve was skilled in heavy weapons, demolitions and IED removal--EOD. Charline had been a gunnery sergeant. She took the lead. Carol and Tammy were combat medics. Bernie was a logistics pro. She became my dogsbody.

I gave Bernie and Charline the lowdown on my plans, so that they could distribute the information to the rest of the team. Charline suggested that I hire at least another half dozen if not more troopers for coverage. I let her know that when I got the keys to the house she'd get the Okay to hire a dozen more troopers.

I let the architect know that the scale of the house had just taken a hit. The garage had to be increased to house fourteen vehicles and the suite count increased to twenty. We'd also need an armored security suite with a couple of beds and console space to monitor cameras throughout the house and grounds. There probably should be a coffee brewing station or mini-kitchen in there and an attached bathroom was mandatory. I heard "FUCK!" as he slammed down the phone. I don't get ulcers. I'm a carrier.

I made the lady at the campground very happy when I paid up front for eight cabins for six months. I gave her a little peck on the cheek just to see her blush. I think I made her day.

I got everyone registered under blue cross and made appointments with my doc. While I was at the hospital I found the help wanted board in the cafeteria. I posted a note advertising for a dietician and cook for less than twenty and gave the pay figures as well as my sat phone number. I called the place in Florida for another sat phone that was cloned to my number and gave it to Bernie when it arrived. After I thought about it, I talked to my lawyer and signed a power of attorney over me and my estate in case I was incommunicado or disabled.

I spent some time with the architect. Correction--I spent a lot of time with the architect, then the lead contractor. I specified slate floors throughout. I wanted all the lumber that was cut down for the road and the building site to be peeled and stacked beside the road. I explicitly asked for the tops to be chipped and blown into the woods beside the roadway and the stumps pulled then left to dry atop the tree trunks. They'd make for either firewood or a wind-break for the snow.

There was no way to incorporate a garage that big onto the main house. Instead a two-car garage was added to the main building to bring in groceries and keep a truck with a snow blower close to the house. An outlying heated pole building was specifiend for the rest of the vehicles. The house's footprint became too big with all those suites. We had to go to two stories above and one below ground level. An elevator was added to the plans.

We dithered back and forth until we finally agreed on a propane tank farm near the woods and a Generac propane-fed generator in the garage, waiting to take over when the power lines crapped out. The data service lines were buried and therefore pretty robust. Still, I bought into a big four meter dish and satellite internet service to be held in reserve. I was a hacker from way back and felt really uncomfortable at the thought of being out of contact for long periods.

Bernie got used to being my shadow while Charline ramrodded the house build-out, conferring with Bernie every evening to make sure all the hot points were addressed. From the care I was getting I felt like fucking royalty!

I sent Carl, then Troy through an advanced evasive driving course. They came back a lot more confident in their tasks. I got all of us on track to secure concealed carry licenses. That required a background check, so it killed two birds with one stone.

The house plans were altered due to Carol's and Tammy's input. We ended up with a four-bed clinic with two operating theaters. Christ, but that was expensive! The beds and monitoring equipment were over ten thou each! I praised my lucky stars that they didn't demand an MRI. Have you ever cost one of those big bastards out? Jebus!

A mesh of tiny little tremblor units got buried around the periphery and the buried data cable bundle led back to the building site, coiled up, tied off and tarped over as it took a long time to do right and could be done at will. Hardened IR cameras were laid in up and down the river inside the property and along the road bed. Steve asked for a large budget. I was afraid to ask what he bought, but I saw some new pits and trenches on the architect's master. "Steve, are you trained on mortars?" "Oh, hell yes. We all are." That answered that. Mortars. I hoped he didn't go balls out and get an 81. An M224 60mm was big enough in my book. 81s were huge The ammo was the killer. I had to ask. "Have you guys thought to post no tresspassing placards and fence the periphery yet?" He looked like I'd dropped his favorite pistol in the mud. "Shit." I said, "Keep it legal, friend. Gotta post before you shoot."

Charline caught me later that night. "Good catch, cap." "Char, You're the cap. I'm the client. Don't look to me for day-to-day direction. That will get us all killed." She kind of nodded and tapped her eyebrow while eyeing me, a half salute.

It was a three-ring circus getting that fence installed. Trees had to be cut down to make the straight runs. We didn't bother with the stumps. The tops were piled up in various places for animal bowers while the trunks were snaked out to help line the road.

The road was cut and rocked in, the building foundations were poured, the services were laid in and the building materials were being stockpiled. After a good look I ignored all of it and ran around like a loose cannon. I got a couple hits on my dietician listing. They were all too goddamned tight-assed and dictatorial. I pulled my ad at the hospital. Instead I put up a similar ad at the local universities in both Vancouver and Portland. I re-worded the ad to include the phrase "laid back" just to be sure.

Jackpot! Tina called me, asking about the job. Keeping to a winning strategy, I set up a meet at the pancake shop. Judy was a cute, curvy little thing, black and the ace of spades. After talking a while I offered her sixty thou as well as room, board and a vehicle. She'd be buying the groceries, after all. Her main squeeze was a big boy, Al, six-eight and two-seventy. He had been a collegiate varsity tackle until an asshole stomped his knee. I said I needed a gardener once we got going. She laughed like hell. Mo, or Maurice came from a family heavily into gardening and nurseries. The man was a walking flora encyclopedia. I hired them both on the spot. When I called my poor put-upon architect I asked for ten more suites to be included in the plans. He laughed. "Already did it. I saw you coming, asshole." My. He was impolite but got the job done. I couldn't ask for more than that. Fuck polite. I took productive any day!

A bit over a month later our concealed carry licenses came through. As a courtesy I paid a call on the local police shop and the state police office in Vancouver to get them familiar with our faces. Then we hit a toy store with a range for pistols, rifles and holsters. I'd shot revolvers before and didn't have a good feeling about automatics, even though they had an edge in reloading speed and magazine size. My personal preference was a S&W model 66 which could take .38, .38 +P or .357 loads. The 'team' were familiar with Glocks from their time in the service. Since select fire was dead out, I looked at another S&W product, a M&P model 15 in .300 blackout. The guys took it out of my hands and replaced it with an M25 in 7.62 NATO or .308. I fell in love! Since I could afford it, I had an aiming laser added to my pistol. I carried it in a shoulder rig while everyone else went for a belt holster. We tested each one on the range to check the triggers, safeties and barrels. One nick in the wrong place and your weapon will give you consistent fly-aways. We had the triggers adjusted and tritium dots applied to the sights. I had a wide-field low light scope attached to my rifle. The others did the same. We had a hundred and sixty acres in which to hunt deer...

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