Traces of Evil(Draft): Chapter One: 1923

In the poverty-stricken neighborhood where the Gruener family lived, tuberculosis was a well-established part of life. But in the fall of 1918, something new visited their Frankfurt community that remained until 1920. It began as a fever and sore throat. Headaches, body aches, cough and nose bleeds were common. Doctors advised their patients to take up to 30 grams of aspirin per day. For some, this regime appeared to work as their symptoms improved. Days would pass before this mysterious manifestation returned worse than ever. Aspirin could not help them. In that first October of the influenza outbreak, the Gruener family lost seven of their thirteen children. By the end of 1920, the virus had completed its sweep through Germany and 287 000 Germans had lost their lives.

“Schändlich!” the headline from the Frankfurter Zeitung met Werner’s eyes every morning upon awakening since June 1919. On the wall opposite, tacked there by his father, its coffee-stained appearance bellowed “Shameful!” It was a constant reminder of Article 231, the War Guilt Clause, of the Versailles Treaty. It was deemed a direct attack on Germany. Scrawled on the wall beside it his father had written “November Criminals!” A nickname given to the German politicians who had signed the armistice in 1918. His father’s inebriated screeching voice echoed through his head. “Germany was made to feel inferior, less a country. Why? Because Germany was blamed for the war! I spit on this Weimar Republic.”  

Werner glanced around the one-bedroom, shoe-box-size apartment. The room was empty except for him, but he could still hear the screams of his siblings and his father’s stumbled step as he ascended to their lodging after the tavern closed. Beatings spared no one on payday.

He stretched his neck and glanced at the closed bedroom door. Payback had felt good! he mused. He rolled onto to his side and slowly, very carefully, sat up. Thud! The parallel hardware and serpentine springs gave way. “Ouch! Ouch!” A subdued scream was muffled between tightly compressed lips. His makeshift bed, which masqueraded as a couch during the day, had finally succumbed to the rambunctious trampoline antics of his brothers and sisters. He missed them but for no other reason than they deflected his father’s physical abuse occasionally away from him.

 Barely breathing, more out of fear than the pain which had become his constant companion, Wernerlistened carefully. Except for the occasional snort, snoring beyond the closed bedroom door continued uninterrupted. He combed his fingers through his thick blonde hair and sighed with relief, then slid his lank frame up the inclined cushions until his feet hit the cold, plank floor. Pushing off the couch frame, he stood. Jagged pain stabbed from waist to shoulders. He gritted his teeth and concentrated on breathing while his tongue marked time digging at the freshly punched gap in his upper mouth. Tentatively, his fingers explored the swollen upper lip and cheek before he pulled away.

Boots in hand, he sat at the kitchen table and breathed deeply several times. He glanced around the claustrophobic apartment. Odor of alcohol hung heavy in the air. He laced up his last boot over a stockingless foot and tilted his look toward the bedroom door. A year had passed since his soused mother left with his five surviving siblings. He understood why she left. Why did she not take me? A queried daily ritual that scratched across his mind like a hungry wolf scrapping a tasty morsel from its prey. Neurons flexed their images. He knew his father suspected it was he who had turned him in to police. Jailed fifteen months. That was enough time for his mother to pack up and leave. But why did she not take me?!  The crumbled separation order still lay on the floor where his father had discarded it during one of his drunken rages. A thin wedge of sunlight that slithered between unkempt curtains shone its reminder on it. Werner had learned from a local merchant, that his mother had relocated to Düsseldorf. Information kept tighter than a clam shell within him. Degrees of hate separated him from each parent, feelings sharply skewed in one direction more than the other.

His gaze focussed on the pantry; its scarcity punctuated by blue molds checkered on the outer edge of a half loaf of bread. His stomach rumbled as he put on his cap and jacket. He knew better than to check the ice box for food. Anger ate away at him. Once a good student, the extensive physical violence he suffered at the hands of his father forced him to run away many times. But he always returned to this hellish den. His hand touched his swollen lip and cheek. Not this time. And he knew he meant it. The streets had become his school. He had learned through petty crime how to clothe and feed himself. His home was the streets, and he navigated its nooks and crannies with finesse and purpose. Without looking back, he closed the door softly and descended to the street below.

Thick rolling clouds cast a pall over the late February morning rush while winds swept surroundings with a knife edged chill to its bite. Head down slightly, Werner snaked through the throng of people. His focus on shoes and the threads of the approaching gentry. A few carefully placed bumps later netted Werner four purloined wallets fat with Marks. He turned down an alley and after stuffing the money in his pocket discarded the empty wallets to a trashcan before exiting onto a large expansive courtyard with tenement buildings on its perimeter.

“Werner! ”  Heimrich Schmid, the local dog catcher, waved him over. “What happened to you? Never mind, let me guess. Your old man again. By the way, happy birthday. Nineteen?” Werner nodded. “Nice gift he gave you,” he said, with a scrutinizing glance.    

Reflexively, Werner raised his hand to his face then shrugged it off. “Shut your hole and give me a smoke?”

“Tut! Tut!” Heimrich replied with a smile, passing him a pack of Eckstein cigarettes. “Keep’em . I’ve got more,” he said, patting his jacket.

Werner had befriended Heimrich about six months ago, and often accompanied him on his rounds. The torture and killing of the animals caught was the mainstay of their routine.

Werner lit a cigarette and purged the smoke through his nostrils as he peered at the newspaper under Heimrich’s arm. “Anything of interest?” he asked, nodding toward the paper. He knew it would likely be the nationalist newspaper Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Heimrich eyebrows lifted and fell with despair as he held up the paper. The headline read, General Strike in Fourth Week. Below it: Germans outraged by occupation of Ruhr by French and Belgium troops.

He passed it to Werner then came alongside of him and poked his finger at the page. “This here, it says it all.” His words spat out with venom.  “Any great nation that has been driven to despair has always found the ways and means for its revenge.”  He stared at Werner.

“We were stabbed in the back by those who stayed at home and a passive government.” Pensively, he gazed over Heimrich’s shoulder. “Beware of the dog, the beast has spikes.”

“Yours?”

“You really must learn to take in your surroundings, Heimrich,” he chuckled with a hint of distain. On the poster behind you.” He flicked his forefinger to direct his attention. “Boy! Am I famished! Breakfast is on me.”

Heimrich peered at him with a tilt of the head. “Should I be alarmed? Your meagre wage from me and the amount your father steals leaves little to nothing for you.”

“You worry too much,” Werner replied. “Today’s my birthday! I’m celebrating!” Arm across Heimrich’s shoulders, he began to lead him away. His gaze fell on the poster again. “Can I stay the night with you? I’ve got an early start tomorrow.”

“An early start?”

“I’m travelling to Düsseldorf.”

“Düsseldorf?”

“We’ll talk over breakfast,” Werner replied. “Do you mind if I keep this paper?”

“I’ve read all I needed to. But why?’

He winked. “Curiosity killed the cat, Heimrich. You’ll find out soon enough.” 

Numbed by war and its aftermath, many Germans perceived predictability as an ill-wind of illusioned comfort wrapped in a blanket of false security. Only the monied people, the powerful, would have seen it differently. Soon the chaos in the streets would melt into something far worse.

Niflheim, ruled by Hel, next to the Shores of Corpses, where the giant snake Nidhogg resided, was about to cast its long dark shadow across Germany.

Two articles had caught Werner’s attention, one an opportunity, the other a necessity.

When Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow: Chapter Seven

index

When Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow is written by B. B. Wright

Ethan said nothing for a long time. His back pressed against the kitchen counter, he scrutinized the three of them at the table as he crossed one foot over the other. Where the fuck do I begin? He had no idea whether Jeffrey and John had anything to do with that bullet that came through the living-room window earlier; but, he knew he had to establish an answer to that one quickly. As for Louise… well… he knew she knew more than she was letting on. The question was: “How the hell to get it out of her.” Working for two masters is a BITCH! He lamented. He bit his upper lip and let loose a long sigh. How close should I play my cards? Since he and Tom took on this assignment, he had gone from trusting some to trusting none. And now, he was looking at two people-Jeffrey and Louise-who use to be among the some. Too long in the fuckin’ sewers of this world, he thought.

“Ethan?” Jeffrey asked, a smile taking shape from the corner of his mouth. “Do you mind?” He nodded toward the entrance to the dining room. “Maybe I might come up with something,” he suggested with a slight shrug. Receiving only a cold stare and no answer he continued. “I knew Tom was working undercover. It wasn’t until about 6 months ago though that I learned he had also been working for CSIS.”

CSIS is the acronym for Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It was created by an Act of Parliament on June 21, 1984. Its headquarters is located in Ottawa, Ontario. CSIS works closely with the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Though initially its emphasis was combating the activities of foreign intelligence agencies operating in Canada, it has broadened under the CSIS Act to include the worldwide collection of security intelligence related to threats to the security of Canada.

“Tom?” interjected Louise.

His head tilting slightly downwards, Jeffrey turned to Louise, took in a deep breath and nodded. “It was a big surprise to me too,” he replied softly.

“But…how would you even know that?” she retorted. “I sure didn’t! And, if there was anyone who should have known it would have been me. We never kept secrets from each other. NEVER!” She folded her arms tightly across her chest and looked away.

Biting on his upper lip, Jeffrey watched Ethan’s reaction to this exchange between Louise and him from the corner of his eye. “Louise, how do I answer you?  I…I thought you knew.”

“Hang on there for a moment, Jeffrey,” Ethan interjected, pointing the Glock at him. “How did you find out about his CSIS connection? Only a select few including me knew that. It was a closed group and I don’t recollect your name being on that list.”

“You forget that he reported directly to me,” Jeffrey retorted, thrusting out his lower jaw.

“But, only on matters that related to law enforcement. Not national security! So, again, I ask: “How did you find out about his CSIS connection?””

Louise’s jaw dropped. “National security? My Tom? Ethan…what are you talking about?”

Ethan ignored her query and kept his eyes fixed on Jeffrey.”Well?”

Looking at Louise and then John, Jeffrey shifted forward in his chair, folding his hands together on the table “Let me dig out that bullet in the wall first. If my hunch is right, that bullet should have a lot to tell us.” Seeing Ethan’s askance look he felt compelled to say more but decided to hold off and just wait for his reply.

Ethan rolled his tongue around the inside of the front of his mouth as he thought about Jeffrey’s request. “You and John must have brought cuffs with you. Right?” Jeffrey nodded. “Cuff them to the chair and slide both sets of keys across the table.” Once they were cuffed and he had the keys, he shifted to a better location to keep an eye on all three. “Now, you can go ahead and dig out that bullet.”

A few minutes later, Jeffrey was rolling the bullet back and forth in his palm. “Hmm!” he repeated several times as he continued to examine it. “Notice anything unusual about it, Ethan?” he asked, holding it up for him to see.

“You’ve got to be kidding? I’m suppose to see something from this distance?”

A wide grin formed on Jeffrey’s face: “Aren’t you CSIS boys the crème de la crème, the exceptional of the exceptional, the…”

“I get it smartass! No need to continue. Let’s have a look.”

Jeffrey dropped the bullet into Ethan’s hand and returned to his seat and sat down, stretching out his legs and crossing his arms.

For a few minutes Ethan said nothing as he scrutinized the bullet. “Well it’s definitely a 9 millimeter.

“And, what else do you notice?” Jeffrey asked.

“It’s both longer and heavier than I expected.”

“And?”

Ethan rolled the bullet between his thumb and forefinger as he looked at it more closely. “Well, I’ll be damned! It has a hardened steel penetrator as its core.” Jeffrey nodded his agreement. “Did either you or John hear the shot?” Seeing a blank stare from both Jeffrey and John he knew the answer was no. “Then they used a silencer.”

Jeffrey straightened up in his chair. “Whoever it was meant business. That bullet was designed to pierce military issue body armor.”

Ethan slid the keys to the cuffs across the table to Jeffrey. “Would you and John be up to checking if the sonofabitch who shot this left behind a cartridge.”

Jeffrey looked across to John as he un-cuffed Louise. “No, I don’t think that will be a problem. Do you have any idea within what perimeter we should scour?”

“Considering the weight of this bullet, I’d say no more than a 400 meters radius. When the trajectory is factored in, it will narrow it down to only a few locations. By the way, you still haven’t answered my question.”

“What question?” Jeffrey replied, over his back as he un-cuffed John.

“About how you knew that Tom had been working for CSIS?”

Jeffrey slowly turned to face Ethan. “Why don’t we leave that for later? Eh? Let’s find that cartridge. It may tell us about what kind’a weapon was used. Unless…Huh!…Unless you already know?”

“A Vinovka Snaiperskaja Spetsialnaya,” Ethan replied.

“Russian?” Louise interjected.

Ethan nodded: “VSS Sniper Rifle.”

“But how would you know that?” asked Jeffrey.

“I don’t. It’s just a guess. You know one of those playing the odds sort’a thing.” Ethan held off Jeffrey’s next question. “You’ll understand later. In the meantime, let’s try to find that cartridge.”

“If that’s the way it’s gotta be then that’s the way it’s gotta be. Later it is. Still…” Ethan’s cold stare stopped him dead and he decided to redirect his attention. Rubbing his hands together, he looked around the kitchen. “Is there any coffee? I could sure do with a cup right now. It looks like we’ve got a long night ahead of us.”

“I’ll make a fresh pot,” Louise piped in. She turned to Ethan with a scowling look. “I think you can put away that gun, don’t you think? And, once you’ve done that put the leftovers from supper in the oven to warm up while I get a coupla flashlights.” She saw Jeffrey eyeing the wine rack. “Are you sure you don’t want something stronger, Jeffrey?”

“Maybe once we find that cartridge. You know… to celebrate,” he chortled, winking at them and shaking his head. “In the meantime, your flashlights along with mine plus coffee to go should do the trick.”

How Corruption Inflicts Psychological Wounds on a Community

“Power-lust is a weed that grows only
in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind.”
― Ayn Rand

“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation,
the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”
― P.J. O’Rourke

Importance of Media

Good quality reporting and disclosure of information enhances political accountability by focusing on the transparency within the day-to-day maneuverings and backroom shenanigans that define a government; but, its interpretation and our attitudes to how it is applied (if at all) lies ultimately with our collective will as a citizenry to act on that information. When that collective will is compromised by a community’s indifference to all things crooked, the law and order which defines our democratic society begins to crumple.

Corruption Left Unchecked

Multidimensional in its impact, corruption—if left unchecked—undermines our political, economic, social and environmental initiatives. When local politicians are corrupt, it casts a stench over the whole community because it directly attacks our democratic system and public institutions in a way that neuters the very offices put in place to protect and serve us. When the misappropriation of resources through fraudulent procurement by a public official goes unchecked, it ripples insidiously through the community as destructive cynicism, stripping the community of its will to meaningfully engage in their rights and obligations within the democratic process. Continue reading